The next time I saw Zhong Yuan was in the school cafeteria.
My last class of the afternoon was originally political ideology. I couldn’t fall asleep, so I headed over to the library for some light reading, and then I went for an early meal. That’s when I saw the… absolute of evils.
Zhong Yuan hadn’t noticed me yet. He carried his sweet and sour pork ribs and shredded pork with bamboo shoots as he found a seat. Fortunately, it was far away from me. When I saw him, I couldn’t help thinking of that short-lived Grandpa Mao, which naturally reminded me of that disgusting image of him chomping on chicken wings. And so, when he left his seat to get a drink, I snuck over and grabbed the biggest piece of sweet and sour rib, placed it in my own bowl, and slipped back to my table.
Everything happened silently and stealthily. Indeed, I had the talent to be a thief.
I sat back down in my seat, but when I looked up, I saw Zhong Yuan walking over with his tray of food…
He sat down opposite me and tilted his head, like he was recalling something. Then he smiled and asked, “Number 3… Blockhead?”
I stabbed my chopsticks into the tofu and cabbage in front of me, as if it were Zhong Yuan’s head.
Zhong Yuan seemed intrigued by the tofu and cabbage dish at the center of my tray. He lowered his head and looked at it. With a waggle of his brow, he asked, “Junior Blockhead, dieting’s hard, isn’t it?”
What?! It’s all your fault! Wait… Junior Blockhead?
Zhong Yuan wasn’t receiving the anger-filled signals I was sending out. His lips curved up and he pushed his sweet and sour ribs over to me. “Would you like some?”
I swallowed. I looked away and pushed the plate back. “An… An honest woman doesn’t take handouts…”
Zhong Yuan’s eyes swept over the large pork rib in my bowl, and he asked profoundly, “Oh really?”
I stared at the lofty piece of meat in my bowl. Suddenly, I had the thought that it would be better if a lightning bolt just struck me dead right then and there…
It was so embarrassing! That’s why they say thieves will meet their judgement.
Zhong Yuan was being generous for once and didn’t call me out directly. He just said, “Actually, this is to thank you for the chicken wings last time.”
The thought of chicken wings brought me despair, so I left behind my courtesy and grabbed the plate of pork ribs. Feigning confidence, I said, “OK then, I’ll give you some face.” I was sweating inside from anxiety.
So I ate. Zhong Yuan was eating unhurriedly as he asked me, “Junior Blockhead, are you free tonight?”
I grew alert and looked at him. “Wh… Why?”
Zhong Yuan smiled. His smile was definitely carrying some kind of malicious plan. “You’re not thinking that I’m asking you on a date, are you?”
I coughed awkwardly and then turned my head to the side.
It’s not because I’m a narcissist. It’s because of your tone and how you asked…
Just then, Zhong Yuan gave me a comforting look and said, “Don’t worry. I’m not so hungry as to be a beggar.”
I was speechless.
Being looked down on by someone whom I look down on. What kind of feeling is this?
Zhong Yuan said, “I just wanted to ask for your help with something.”
I found that a bit ridiculous. “With what? How do you know if I’ll even help you?”
Zhong Yuan smiled slightly. “In return, I’ll give you a reward.”
My interest was piqued, but I still gave him a doubtful look. “Well… What are you trying to do?”
Zhong Yuan said, “You just need to go to the coffee shop across from the school’s West Gate and tell the guests at tables 2, 10, 15, and 23 that ‘Zhong Yuan isn’t coming today. He’s never going to come.'”
I didn’t quite understand. “What does that mean?”
Zhong Yuan replied mysteriously, “You’ll figure it out when the time comes… You name the price.”
My spirit was ignited with that single sentence. I calculated my month’s expenses and then clenched my teeth. I cautiously asked, “How’s 300 sound?” If he didn’t agree, I could drop it a bit.
Without so much as a blink of his eyes, Zhong Yuan nodded. Deal.
I wiped my sweat. Was this guy that rich? I was still uneasy, so I said, “Um… Pay me first.”
Zhong Yuan replied, “I don’t have that much cash on me.”
Aha! I knew he was trying to cheat me. I shook my head. “You have to pay me first.”
Finding the situation difficult, Zhong Yan pulled out his wallet. Finally, he said, “How about this. I’ll let you use my meal card for an entire month.” As he said that, he graciously handed the card over to me.
I shook my head without accepting it. “Don’t try to pull one over on me. How much money is on it?”
Zhong Yuan pointed to the card reader and said, “You can check it.”
Still suspicious, I took the card and checked it. And then tears streamed down my face.
Mother… The amount of money on his meal card was more money than I had in my bank.
And so, the deal was completed. I took the heavy meal card, but something still felt off. I asked, “But why are you asking me to do this?” I stressed the ‘me’ bit. Zhong Yuan and I were hardly friends by any measure. Enemies maybe.
Zhong Yuan smiled and replied, “It just happened that I met you.”
I had no words.
That was some strange logic, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. But with a month of free food, I also couldn’t be bothered to care too much. I just had to say a few words. The easiest thing in this world was talking crap.
At that thought, I felt relieved.
The coffee shop across the street was very pretty, but everything was really expensive, so I didn’t go often.
When I arrived, I took a cursory look around. There was a person sitting at table 2, a girl. She sat there, looking bored, stirring her coffee and checking her phone every so often.
I walked over imposingly, and I lowered my head to tell the girl, “Zhong Yuan isn’t coming today. He’s never going to come.”
The girl looked up at me in surprise. But that quickly turned to anger, tinged with grievance. She held herself back and then asked, “You’re Zhong Yuan’s…?”
I’m his enemy.
Of course, I only thought that to myself. After all, Zhong Yuan and I made a deal. Two sentences for a month of meals. If I said anything more, I would be losing out. And so, without another glance at the girl, I walked over to table 10 and repeated my words.
When I completed my task, I came to the astonishing realization that sitting at each of the four tables was a woman—just one…
Could it be that Zhong Yuan had a date with each of them? How formidable. Four dates at once?
If my supposition was correct, then that meant that he asked me here to reject all of these people?
Continuing with that line of thought, that meant that Zhong Yuan was pretending to be a good person and having me become the bad guy and reject girls for him?
This… Zhong Yuan, you’re too bad.
I turned back to see that all four girls were still sitting in their seats, reluctant to leave. They were glaring at me, as if I’d been the jerk who told Zhong Yuan to reject them.
I’d simply walked around this coffee shop, but in an instant, I’d offended four beautiful ladies. That was a lot of pressure to put on me.
I really felt that I needed to explain things to them, so standing at the exit, I shouted back to them, “It wasn’t my idea. Zhong Yuan told me tell you!” And with that, I didn’t even dare look back as I jetted out of the shop.