The streets of Changchuan were very quiet in the afternoon, as if half of the world was taking a nap. Even the street vendors became lazy. Zhao Ge and Nie Qingzhou stood in the shadow of a building. Zhao Ge leaned against the railing, leisurely exhaling smoke, and said, "You got injured this time because you stood up for Xia Yi, right?"

Nie Qingzhou, with his injuries, could only stand straight in place, like a bamboo pole stuck in the ground.

"Not exactly. Her grandma took good care of me. I couldn't just stand by and watch them being bullied, so I wanted to help them," Nie Qingzhou used his hand to support the hot iron railing, and asked curiously, "Zhao Ge, do you know Xia Yi?"

"Know her? No, but everyone in our circles has heard of her." Zhao Ge pointed to the side with the cigarette in his hand, "She had a big fight with Yu Laosan's men. It caused quite a stir."

"What happened?"

"What else could it be, just some brawl between kids that got out of hand and Yu Laosan lost his face to his grandma's house." Zhao Ge squinted his eyes to recall, "Yu Laosan has a nephew who was spoiled by his family and acted arrogantly. He was only in 5th or 6th grade in elementary school but acted like a big shot, going around causing trouble and picking fights everywhere. At the time, Xia Yi's younger brother was in the same class with this brat, being a disabled he was ruthlessly bullied by this kid. When Xia Yi found out, she went and beat the brat up. Ha, serves him right!"

Zhao Ge chuckled and took another puff of his cigarette, looking like he was having fun watching a spectacle. He continued, "Yu Laosan's nephew couldn't stand it and, under the guise of Yu Laosan's name, he gathered a bunch of 15 to 16 year old middle and high schoolers to teach Xia Yi a lesson. But they still couldn't beat Xia Yi. Feeling embarrassed, those kids went and called more people, eventually involving Yu Laosan's men. I don't know what they were thinking, but five grown men going to deal with a young girl - isn't that even more embarrassing?"

"Xia Yi's pretty fierce too. I heard her dad used to do Kickboxing before he went to jail, and even won awards in Yuping. She's like half a professional fighter, taking on five opponents unfazed and scaring them off. Later when Yu Laosan found out, he was furious and scolded those people along with his nephew, forbidding them from going after Xia Yi and her brother again."

After finishing the story, Zhao Ge flicked the cigarette ash and said, "That was her moment of fame."

Nie Qingzhou lowered his eyes, carefully recalling the Xia Yi he had seen. He had never seen her back down. No matter what happened, she always faced it head-on without changing her expression.

How could a child who was only sixteen years old be so stubborn and not even know how to hide?

Nie Qingzhou said, "She's very strong."

Unfortunately, strength often comes from misfortune.

Suddenly, he felt very lucky to be here. Fortunately, he was now her neighbor and classmate, he could do something for her.

This time, she wouldn't have to move anymore.

As soon as Nie Qingzhou returned to the hospital, he was scolded by the doctors and nurses, asking why he ran out of the hospital without permission and what would happen if his wound got infected. He smiled innocently and layed Tai Chi to dodge the questions, then obediently lay down on the bed to have his wounds examined.

Luckily, the fragile wound did not suffer any further injury.

In fact, Nie Qingzhou had considered whether he should just rip off the bandages and let the onlookers see his back full of wounds, to deepen the impression and arouse anger. Looking at the situation back at the hospital, he was glad he hadn't been so ruthless.

Otherwise, he might have had to stay in the hospital for a few more days.

Just after finishing lunch on the weekend, Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning rushed to the hospital to see Nie Qingzhou. Zhang Yukun's face was filled with excitement as he said excitedly, "Zhou Ge! Zhou Ge! Lai Ning and I have prepared a big surprise for you!"

Looking at Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning's expressions, Nie Qingzhou had an inexplicable feeling of bad premonition.

Five minutes later, wearing patient clothing with a coat over it, he stood in the grassy area behind the hospital parking lot. He looked at the balloons arranged on the lawn, the pink and white "LOVE" banner hanging from the camphor tree, and the two party popper tubes next to it. For a moment he was struck speechless.

Facing the expectant gazes of Zhang Yukun and Lai Níng, he struggled to speak, "I remember… today is not the day I'm discharged, right?"

Zhang Yukun waved his hand excitedly, "It's not celebrating your discharge, it's for the confession! Lai Ning and I prepared this confession scene for you!"

Nie Qingzhou took a step back, distancing himself from the tree.


"Yes! Zhou Ge, let me tell you, you just lack a bit of courage when it comes to pursuing girls. Don't be timid! Your bros will give you a push! Now is the perfect opportunity. You got injured helping Xia Yi, girls tend to have some maternal instincts and tenderness. Seeing your pale face and hospital clothes you're wearing, she'll feel distressed for you! Once she feels distressed, you confess, it'll definitely work out!" Zhang Yukun clapped his hands with excitement.

Nie Qingzhou felt that if he weren't injured right now, he would turn around and flee from this scene at the speed of a hundred meters sprint.

Unfortunately Lai Ning was still holding his arm, sincerely saying, "I think Kun's words make sense. I checked the almanac today before coming out, it's an auspicious day, suitable for everything!"

Nie Qingzhou gently patted Lai Ning's shoulder and said, "As successors of socialism, we shouldn't believe in feudal superstitions."

He was trying to persuade Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning to abandon this preposterous plan, and quickly clean up this place. But then he saw Zhang Yukun jump up and wave behind him, "Here, here! Over here! Xia Yi!"

Nie Qingzhou felt like he was struck by lightning. Stiffly, he slowly turned around and saw Xia Yi, Xia Yan, and Zheng Peiqi walking towards them, only about 10 meters away from him. Xia Yi and Xia Yan were carrying fruits, while Zheng Peiqi was holding flowers, clearly they were here to visit him.

How did Zhang Yukun manage to trick them to this grassy area?

In the brief moment of shock in Nie Qingzhou's mind, Xia Yi had already walked up to them. She turned her head to look at the tree and decorations below, and asked, "What are you guys doing?"

"Xia Yi! Zhou Ge has something to tell you! Come, come, stand right here. Zhou Ge, you come here too." Immersed in his own brilliant plan, Zhang Yukun pulled Xia Yi, arranging them in their positions, then slapped his forehead, "Oh! Flowers! I forgot to prepare flowers!"

He turned and saw the flowers in Zheng Peiqi's hands. He took them and said, "Let me borrow these, let me... geez, why'd you bring chrysanthemums? Is this for visiting the sick or the grave?"

Zheng Peiqi was stunned as her flowers were taken away. She said angrily, "These are little daisies! They represent vitality! They're not for grave visits!"

"Alright, alright, there's no time to argue. Having something is better than nothing." Zhang Yukun shoved the bouquet into Nie Qingzhou's hands and raised his hand, saying, "Come on, Zhou Ge, let's get started."

Get started? Get started with what?

Nie Qingzhou felt his blood pressure was still too low. It would be perfect if he could pass out on the spot from anger.

At this moment, he was wearing blue and white striped hospital clothes. To his left was a huge pink and white "LOVE" banner. In his right hand he held a bunch of green and yellow little daisies. And in front of him stood Xia Yi, wearing a white sweater and brown coat, carrying a bag of apples, silently sizing him up.

Nie Qingzhou froze in place, constantly screaming for help in his heart.

"Speak up, Zhou Ge! Say it boldly!"

Lai Ning added fuel to the fire, impatiently urging in a low voice while holding the party poppers.

"I..." Nie Qingzhou lowered his head to look at the small daisies in his hand. He closed his eyes, gritted his teeth and mustered up his courage, "Xia Yi! Actually, I...I'm your fan!"

Xia Yi's eyes widened slightly.

"That is… It was during the 11-day National Day holiday when I heard you play piano, I thought it sounded amazing. And that time in Yuping, I... I really have never heard such a beautiful piece of music in my life! So I made up my mind, I want to be your fan, to support your career! I mean...I hope that you, you, you'll continue to love music, compose amazing songs, and stand on even bigger stages... I really like your music! Keep it up!"

With the determination of breaking the cauldron and sinking a boat, Nie Qingzhou handed the flowers to Xia Yi. [(idiom); fig. to cut off one's means of retreat / to burn one's boats]

Xia Yi looked at him pensively for a good while, then lowered her head to look at the flowers in his hand.

Zheng Peiqi, standing nearby, whispered, "You two... are you two secretly dating?"

"No!" Nie Qingzhou denied firmly.

"Then...what's with that LOVE banner?" Zheng Peiqi pointed at the banner hanging on the tree.

"That's...a fan's love for his idol!"

Nie Qingzhou said earnestly, almost convincing himself. Lai Ning blanked out for a moment and didn't control his hands. He accidentally triggered the party popper and countless colorful stripes shot up into the sky, falling on Xia Yi and Nie Qingzhou, creating a festive atmosphere.

After a moment of silence, Xia Yi slowly relaxed her body. She took her hands out of her pockets and accepted the bouquet of daisies. Her dark eyes reflected Nie Qingzhou, and she said very naturally, "Thank you."

Pausing for a moment, she turned her head to look at him, "Are you feeling uncomfortable?"

It seemed that compared to the absurd scene just now, she was more concerned about his face, which was as red as the apples in her hand.

Nie Qingzhou still hadn't recovered from the excruciatingly embarrassing situation. He was stunned for a moment, then straightened his coat on his shoulders and said, "Ah... I'm fine..."

Xia Yi reached out and lightly touched his hand that was straightening his collar. Her fingertips brushed against the back of his hand for just a moment, and then she let go, saying, "Let's go, you're quite cold."

Then she flicked away the confetti in her hair and turned to Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning. "Shouldn't we tidy up this place?"

Zhang Yukun looked at Xia Yi as if she were an alien. He even doubted for a moment that she wasn't the protagonist of this arrangement, but rather a stand-in actress called in at the last minute. When his gaze shifted and he saw Nie Qingzhou's grim expression and murderous look in his eyes that seemed ready to kill any moment, he finally snapped out of his excitement.

He quickly said, "Yes, yes, let's clean up together."

Then he pulled the hesitant Lai Ning to go pick up the confetti. Zheng Peiqi helped clean up while quietly whispering to Xia Yan beside her, "Can  such an outrageous thing... actually happen?"

Xia Yan was silent for a moment before replying, "Happening to my sister isn't impossible. She's always been outrageous."

"How can you talk about Xia Yi like that?"

"Look at her reaction. Isn't it outrageous?"

Having said that, Xia Yan walked over to Xia Yi and patted her shoulder. "Jie, you should hurry and take Nie Qingzhou back to the ward."

So supported by Xia Yi, Nie Qingzhou slowly left the lawn that would remain etched in his memory for a lifetime. As they waited for the elevator in the hospital corridor, Xia Yi finally broke the long silence.

"I heard that yesterday some people carried a stretcher to make trouble at Aunt Yang's place, and then there's this today. Do you have anything to explain to me?"

Nie Qingzhou pinched the bridge of his nose. He took a deep breath and turned to face Xia Yi, his eyebrows and eyes furrowed together in sincerity and helplessness, "I'm sorry! I went to scare Aunt Yang because I was afraid she would come harass you and you'd have to move again. As for today… It's a long story… Zhang Yukun and Lai Ning thought I was pursuing you."

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