Changchuan First Middle School soon ushered in the monthly exam after the midterm exams. On the day when the grade rankings were posted, a bustling crowd gathered around the bulletin board, eager to see the result, and Nie Qingzhou was also among the crowd.

As soon as he saw the rankings, Nie Qingzhou snapped his fingers in a relaxed manner and turned to the nearby Wen Zhong, smiling, "I've given your spot back, ranking first in the grade."

Wen Zhong's complexion didn't look very good, on the contrary it got worse. Xu Zihan, who was next to him, retorted, "It's all because you missed it, yet you're portraying it as if you intentionally stepped aside."

Nie Qingzhou simply chuckled in response.

Wen Zhong angrily retorted, "Enough."

With that, he turned away with a scowl, leaving Xu Zihan standing there with an aggrieved expression. Zhang Yukun rested his hand on Nie Qingzhou's shoulder, mockingly saying, "Aiyou, hot face on someone else's cold ass, and there are still people who are rushing to it."

Xu Zihan shot a glare at Zhang Yukun and then walked away.

Lai Ning chimed in, "Zhou-Ge, you did well. You're third in the class this time. You're five points lower than Wen Zhong and three points lower than Xia Yi while fifteen points ahead of the fourth place. The previous top two defaults are now going to become the top three defaults. Who would dare accuse you of cheating from now on?"

Nie Qingzhou waved his hand, not responding. Instead, he bent down and carefully scanned the grade ranking list, searching for something.

Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning followed suit, crouching down beside him, peering at the lower half of the list with puzzled expressions. Zhang Yukun raised an eyebrow, "Zhou-Ge, what are you looking for?"

"Looking for your rankings."

Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning were stunned. They exchanged a glance, then Lai Ning immediately grabbed Nie Qingzhou's arm, saying, "Zhou-Ge, let's go back. It's time for class."

But it was too late. Nie Qingzhou turned his head back toward them, extending his index finger and tapping on the ranking list, "Zhang Yukun, 745, moved up ten places. Lai Ning, 831, dropped four places. Have you both reviewed the study guides you bought last time?"

Lai Ning withdrew his hand, stammering for a moment, and said, "Zhou-Ge, you're starting to sound like my mom."


Xia Yi stood on the balcony of the classroom, looking down. Nie Qingzhou was standing in front of the bulletin board, seemingly talking to Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning. The cold breeze of early autumn blew, causing him to shrink his neck.

Although she couldn't hear their voices, Xia Yi still stood on the balcony, watching them from afar. She continued to watch them until they were out of her sight, and then she turned around and walked into the classroom. Her desk was a bit different today, as another desk was placed right next to it

Starting from today, she had a new desk mate.

Her new desk mate, Zheng Peiqi, had only spoken to her once since the beginning of the school year, that too about two months ago, when she said, "Someone is looking for you outside." At that time, when Xia Yi looked up, she saw Nie Qingzhou waving some papers.

She was able to have a desk mate because Zheng Peiqi, like her, had been isolated.

This petite and adorable girl, with fair and delicate skin, pitifully clutched a stack of books in her arms and timidly glanced at Xia Yi. It seemed as if she wanted to explain why she was there, and said fearfully, "The teacher asked me to sit here."

Just like everyone else in the class, she harbored a certain fear towards Xia Yi. After all, there were so many rumors about her, and she always had a cold expression and rarely spoke.

Xia Yi nodded without extending a warm welcome to her new desk mate nor did she show any signs of aversion. Zheng Peiqi hesitated for a while, then finally sat down at the seat beside Xia Yi.

Zheng Peiqi was just as her appearance suggested: a delicate girl. Due to her poor health, she had been excused from military training. Her voice was sweet, which led some in the class to say she was intentionally acting weak and coquettish. She usually looks timid, but suddenly erupted occasionally. The last time she had a conflict with someone, she poured a bottle of milk over their head.

After this feat, Zheng Peiqi immediately burst into tears.

Following this incident, she was completely isolated. No one wanted to partner with her in group activities, and even her former desk mate ignored her, requesting a seat change from the teacher.

In the end, due to all the fuss, Zheng Peiqi ended up being assigned to the seat next to Xia Yi.

As Zheng Peiqi tidied her own desk, she quietly stole glances at Xia Yi. The weather had turned slightly chilly, but Xia Yi still rolled her sleeves up to her elbows. Her slender arms were placed on the desk, flipping through a soft-covered notebook.

When that notebook's pages turned, Zheng Peiqi seemed to catch glimpses of something resembling musical notes. Then Xia Yi's gaze shifted toward her, Zheng Peiqi startled and quickly lowered her head to silently organize her school bag.

During the lunch break, Nie Qingzhou held a vocabulary book and stood in front of a vending machine, contemplating the various beverages. He was calculating how much pocket money he had left this month after paying the installment to Grandma Xia. This was a small garden behind the Zhixing Building. In the evening, some couples would secretly hold hands and stroll here. The grade teaching coordinators would occasionally appear like ghosts to catch puppy love. But right now, it was lunchtime and broad daylight so there were only two or three people who were lazily loitering around.

Nie Qingzhou did the math and thought he still had some leftover money for a few more drinks. So, he reached out and pressed the button, buying a can of coffee.

"Nie Qingzhou" had a smoking addiction, while he himself had a coffee addiction. When he was studying and working, he consumed too much coffee while pulling all-nighters, which had become a habit. Now that he had changed his body, the physical addiction was gone, but he still felt an itch whenever seeing it.

He picked up the cold coffee that had rolled out of the vending machine and peered around to the back of the vending machine. As he expected, he saw Xia Yi.

——When I first met Xia Yi, she didn't like staying in the classroom during lunch break. She would either be at the laboratory building or in the small garden. So If I look for her, I could definitely find her in those two places.

After the incident of him running up to the seventh floor in one breath, he belatedly recalled hearing Nie Qingzhou say this in a variety show ten years from now. It was the future version of himself, transmitting some information to his present self. However, due to the editing of the variety show, many details might not have been conveyed.

Every time he thought about this, he felt incredibly strange, as if he had become a Möbius loop.

Nie Qingzhou sighed and pressed the vending machine button once more, buying another can of coffee. Holding two cups of cold coffee, he approached Xia Yi, who was sitting on a bench, and used the iced coffee to gently touch her face.

Xia Yi flinched and looked up at him. A segment of her camel-colored cotton shirt collar peeked out from her school uniform jacket, and her eyes were a deep, jet-black.

Nie Qingzhou couldn't help but sigh inwardly. At the beginning, Xia Yi had been so cautious around him, always making sure to step out of his reach before turning away. But now, she didn't even notice him approaching.

He handed her the coffee and chuckled, "Creditor, please accept my bribe."

Ever since he discovered that Xia Yi was more receptive to his kindness when he referred to her as a "creditor," he had started calling her that quite often.

Xia Yi glanced at him, then unceremoniously reached out and took the coffee from him, before turning her gaze away.

In the direction of her gaze, Zheng Peiqi sat huddled into a small bundle on a large bench under a tall gingko tree. Her shoulders trembled from time to time, and the blue bow in her hair swayed along with her movements. She held a tissue and wiped her tears with shaky hands.

Nie Qingzhou followed her gaze and exclaimed in surprise, "Hey, were you just looking at her? Isn't she your desk mate? Is she crying?"

"How do you know she's my desk mate?"

"I passed by your classroom. Who's been bothering her?" Nie Qingzhou wouldn't admit that he often observed Xia Yi from across the building.

Xia Yi looked at Zheng Peiqi's profile from a distance and shook her head, saying, "I don't know."

Perhaps it was no one, or perhaps it was everyone.

Xia Yi looked at the iced coffee in her hand, remained silent for a moment, then raised her hand and offered the coffee to Nie Qingzhou, saying, "You give the coffee to her."

Nie Qingzhou pointed at himself, "Me? You've been watching her for quite a while now, and you want to pass on this good deed to me?"


"But that might not be the best idea. The young girl might misunderstand."

"Misunderstand what?" Xia Yi asked straightforwardly.

Nie Qingzhou frowned slightly. He leaned forward a bit, pondering how to explain the normal psychology of girls her age to Xia Yi. However, he noticed a subtle change in her expression.

She suddenly leaned closer to him, the tip of her nose almost touching his neckline. Startled, he straightened up and took a step back in fright. But Xia Yi also stood up and advanced toward him, step by step.

"What are you doing? If you act like this, I might misunderstand," Nie Qingzhou kept retreating.

"There's a bruise under your collarbone," Xia Yi said.

Nie Qingzhou's expression changed, and he reached up to tug at his collar, laughing, "I accidentally bumped into something."

"Why haven't you been going home with me these past few days?"

"Oh, didn't I mention that I wanted to get home early during this period to tidy up my house. I got this injury while I was moving a cabinet."

Nie Qingzhou swiftly countered. He swayed the unopened coffee in his hand, shifting the topic, "Since you want to do good deeds, you surely need to use your own stuff. So, what's your take on this act of generosity?"

With that said, he held his coffee and strode towards Zheng Peiqi in the distance.

Watching his departing figure, Xia Yi's gaze grew heavy.

Nie Qingzhou reached Zheng Peiqi, who was seated on the bench. She was taken aback, tremblingly raised her head to look at Nie Qingzhou, her eyes were as red as a bunny.

He held the coffee in front of Zheng Peiqi and gently shook it, saying, "Someone has been watching you cry here for a while and asked me to give this to you."

Zheng Peiqi was stunned for a moment, then somewhat dazedly accepted the coffee. However, the cold sensation made her hiss.

"Use it to soothe your eyes. Having swollen eyes during afternoon classes wouldn't make the people who bully you any happier, would it?" Nie Qingzhou smiled and whispered, "That person didn't want me to tell you who she is, but you can look back and see."

Zheng Peiqi turned her head and after a moment of searching with her eyes, she asked in surprise, "Xia Yi?"

Nie Qingzhou just smiled and said nothing. He straightened up, waved to her, and walked away.

Zheng Peiqi stared blankly at the can of iced coffee for a while. Then, she pressed it against her eyes. After a moment of stillness, she pursed her lips and suddenly burst into even louder sobs.

During the evening self-study session, Zheng Peiqi had been sneakily glancing at Xia Yi, hoping to find the right moment to thank her. However, Xia Yi seemed somewhat absent-minded, her gaze always drifted towards the window. Zheng Peiqi looked over, finding that Class 13 across the way had already been dismissed. The lights were dimmed, but one person remained seated.

As that person began packing up their bag and belongings, Xia Yi also began to tidy up. Then she turned to the teacher overseeing self-study and said, "Teacher, I'm feeling a bit unwell today. I'd like to head home early."

Xia Yi never asked for leave. The teacher inquired about her health briefly before allowing her to leave. Zheng Peiqi watched in astonishment as Xia Yi disappeared at the classroom door.

In a dark alley in Changchuan, a loud rumbling sound echoed.

"You hide ah. Weren't you hiding pretty well the other day? Let me see where you can hide now!"

Another crashing sound echoed, as if something had been kicked.

In the darkness, Nie Qingzhou stood against the wall, his bicycle toppled at his feet. The pedals continued to spin from inertia. He raised his chin slightly and said, "Qian Fengyang, do you have a screw loose in your head?"


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