MINT-STAINED SHIRT

Chapter 36

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Ming Shu had been feeling bad all day, in so many different ways. Getting to watch his gege's basketball game should have made him happy, but that happiness seemed to be blocked up inside him. And Ming Shu had no idea how to get it unblocked.

Now that he'd blurted out his accusation of Xiao Yu'an's schoolyard romance, he started to feel a little better.

But he froze as soon as the words left him. They fell to the ground between him and Xiao Yu'an like a heavy stone, and there was a part of Ming Shu that wished he could pick them up and hide them away.

Xiao Yu'an had been able to tell that this weird little kid still had something he wanted to say, but he never could have imagined this was the sort of accusation Ming Shu had kept bottled up.

It was true that the second year of high school was the prime time for students to engage in taboo, premature relationships. Lots of kids in Xiao Yu'an's class had gotten together, and they all helped one another hide their forbidden relationships from their teachers. Xia Zhong was only a first-year in high school, and he was already claiming to be in love, though he stubbornly refused to say who he was crushing on.

In short, at First High, nearly everyone was either in a relationship or daydreaming about getting into a relationship.

But Xiao Yu'an wanted nothing to do with those premature schoolyard romances. His homeroom teacher didn't even worry about him, in that regard. And here he was, being scolded by the little didi who followed him around like a tail.

Faced with such an outlandish accusation, Xiao Yu'an found he couldn't even stay angry. He almost wanted to laugh. It was just too funny.

He pointed at himself. "Who am I dating?"

"Tong Yu!" Ming Shu shot back bitterly. "I saw you in the botanical garden today. She gave you some drinks, and you took them. I saw everything!"

Xiao Yu'an already knew all that. While they ate lunch, Ming Shu had even taken those drinks out of his bag and set them aside.

But Xiao Yu'an hadn't given it much thought earlier that day. He'd figured Ming Shu was just being childish. Ming Shu did seem like the sort that wouldn't want a stranger's stuff mixed up with his own.

It wasn't the first time Ming Shu had done something like that. Ming-ge had acted that way even before he became Ming-ge. And after he was crowned Ming-ge, he'd only grown more overprotective of his things.

"Ai, don't run away," Xiao Yu'an ordered. He looked at Ming Shu out of the corner of his eye and nodded sharply, indicating for Ming Shu to stay put. "You want to throw out a filthy accusation like that and run off? Get back here."

Ming Shu hadn't planned on running away at all. He'd just taken a subconscious step back after yelling too hard. He wasn't Du Hao. He wasn't a coward. He definitely wouldn't run. When his gege called him back, he shuffled closer again.

Xiao Yu'an lifted a hand to Ming Shu's head and roughly tousled his hair. "What exactly do you think you saw?"

Ming Shu was startled. He hadn't expected his gege to actually lift a hand. Back when Ming Shu first learned to fight, he'd gone out picking fights left and right. His gege had told him back then that he needed to be reasonable; he couldn't just beat up anyone he pleased.

In Ming Shu's heart, his gege was the most reasonable person in the world. So he never anticipated this surprise attack from Xiao Yu'an. When he lifted his own hand to retaliate, he was quickly caught and stopped, which left him squirming with the unfairness of it all. "I said I saw everything! You took her drinks! You're dating while you're still in school! Dating in school is wrong!"

"Does accepting a drink from someone mean we're dating?" Xiao Yu'an asked as he released Ming Shu. "Who taught you that sort of nonsense?"

Ming Shu had been left dazed and disoriented by the aggressive tousling he'd received. He wobbled a bit before steadying himself, and it was a long moment before he said, "Ge, you aren't dating?"

"Tsk." Xiao Yu'an leaned back in his chair and prodded Ming Shu's forehead. "Classmate Ming, are you disappointed? Seriously, what are you thinking? You're not happy about me dating in school, and you're not happy about me not dating in school?"

"I'm—!" Ming Shu wanted to blurt out that he was obviously super happy that his gege wasn't dating already, but before the words came out, he suddenly felt the need to confirm the truth for himself one more time. "Ge, you… you really aren't dating Tong Yu?"

She was their class flower!

Xiao Yu'an was starting to think this weirdo could go star in a drama with all these exaggerated expressions he was making. After heaving a sigh, he said, "I'm really not."

Ming Shu almost started jumping for joy.

He'd gotten worked up over nothing. He'd gotten angry without knowing the truth. Now, hearing his gege say that he wasn't dating anyone, that he really wasn't dating anyone, Ming Shu felt relief wash over him. He suddenly felt lighter and brighter.

He was pretty afraid of his gege starting to date so early. His gege belonged to him, and he'd followed his gege around ever since he was little. Whenever his gege got anything good, he thought of Ming Shu and shared with him. If his gege started dating, then he would always think of his girlfriend first.

A girlfriend would be way more important than a didi who acted like his tail.

Ming Shu wasn't happy about that.

He would hate anyone who started dating his gege so early.

Besides, relationships between students were strictly forbidden by teachers. That meant schoolyard relationships were wrong, and Ming Shu's gege couldn't do something that was wrong. Because his gege was his role model.

Knowing all that, Ming Shu had given himself a perfectly good and valid excuse to oppose the idea of his gege getting into a relationship at school.

But all that was moot, because his gege hadn't actually been dating at all.

Ming Shu was happy now, but his face was still a bit hot with embarrassment. Hadn't he just wrongly accused his gege?

Xiao Yu'an leaned in closer and poked Ming Shu's forehead a few more times. "Classmate Ming."

"Yeah?" Ming Shu answered obediently.

"Is there anything else you want to say?"

At school, Ming Shu had gotten full of himself after being called 'Ming-ge, Ming-ge' all day. But at home, he was still a sweet and well-behaved little didi.

And as a good little didi, he was allowed to be shameless.

After thinking about it for a moment and realizing his gege didn't seem to be angry anymore, Ming Shu shifted a bit closer. Then he shifted in a bit more. Finally, he sprang up and leapt onto his gege, sweetly and simply confessing, "Gege, I was wrong."

Xiao Yu'an had known what Ming Shu was going to do as soon as Ming Shu started inching towards him. He'd even correctly guessed that Ming Shu would look up and bat his eyes.

This irritating thing was really good at annoying people, but he was good at smoothing things over as well. Whenever he did something bad, he would run over and play the part of a good boy, making it hard for anyone to stay mad at him. That was a skill Xiao Jincheng lacked. When Xiao Jincheng was Ming Shu's age, he'd only known how to piss people off without pacifying them later. That had made him universally disliked in their family.

But Xiao Yu'an didn't intend on spoiling Ming Shu this time.

For one thing, Ming Shu's homeroom teacher had had a very serious talk with Xiao Yu'an. And for another year, Xiao Yu'an could only watch over Ming Shu for another year or so. No one knew for sure what would happen after high school. Xiao Yu'an had to correct all of Ming Shu's bad habits while he was still around to keep an eye on the kid.

"Go stand over there," Xiao Yu'an said, pointing to a spot next to his desk.

Ming Shu froze. Confusion and a renewed wave of panic bubbled up within him. Usually, his gege would have forgiven him by now. Why was his gege still giving him a punishment?

But since his gege had given the order, Ming Shu obediently shuffled away and stood by the desk, staring at his gege with big, wide eyes.

"Starting from today, I'm going to check your homework," Xiao Yu'an said. "When you need to memorize a passage or write something from memory, do it here and I'll sign off on your assignments. After you finish your homework, you'll practice writing characters."

Ming Shu instantly scrunched up his face. "Huh?"

"What's that 'huh' for?" Xiao Yu'an retorted. "You've been so busy being Ming-ge. What kind of test scores did you get last year?"

Ming Shu couldn't argue against that. His grades had their ups and downs. When he focused on his schoolwork, he got good grades and test scores. In fourth grade, he had even been selected for an Olympiad class, and his homeroom teacher had praised him for his intellect. But after becoming Ming-ge, he'd placed his focus on training up his underclassmen. His grades plummeted, much like Xiao Jincheng rolling down a grassy slope.

"I have no problem with you protecting the weak," Xiao Yu'an said. "But you have to act within your means. And you absolutely can't skip class."

Hurriedly, Ming Shu asked, "I can't skip class even when it's for you?"

Xiao Yu'an let out an exasperated laugh. "I'm your excuse for skipping class?"

Ming Shu gave it some serious thought, then earnestly answered, "Yes."

For his gege, he could do anything. He could justify anything.

Xiao Yu'an fell silent for a moment.

It was really hard talking to elementary school kids.

But the real challenge was still to come.

 

After being lectured and made to stand for a while as punishment, Ming Shu was sent home to 'reflect upon his actions'. But in the end, he didn't really learn from his mistakes. He just came away thinking he had to bring up his grades.

His homeroom teacher hadn't been wrong; Ming Shu really was smart. It wasn't much of a challenge for him to catch up on the schoolwork he'd neglected. But Ming Shu decided good grades weren't good enough. If he took home a win with his Olympiad class, his gege would surely praise him.

That weekend, Ming Shu used his own pocket money to buy some cakes, milk tea, and Olympiad workbooks. He brought them all over to his gege and had his gege help him with the advanced problems in those workbooks.

At first, Xiao Yu'an was pretty pleased that the little rascal was taking his studies so seriously. But after tutoring Ming Shu for a while, he started to get fed up.

Maybe high school students and elementary school students just couldn't coexist in an academic sense. They would sometimes get to a problem that Xiao Yu'an would explain a dozen different ways. Ming Shu would listen, but his brain just wouldn't process what he heard. After mumbling to himself for a long while, he would scribble out a 'solution' and look helplessly up at Xiao Yu'an.

Was tutoring an elementary school student really this hard? Xiao Yu'an couldn't help but think that this was a hundred times more difficult than solving his own Physics Olympiad problems.

Xiao Yu'an had patiently explained every step to Ming Shu at first, but eventually he lost track of the number of times Ming Shu turned to him and asked, "Gege, how did you do that last step again?"

And eventually, Xiao Yu'an's patience ran out. After one such question from Ming Shu, he lifted a hand and gave the back of Ming Shu's head a light whack.

Ming Shu instantly yelped and threw down his pen, clutching the back of his head. "Ge! Why did you hit me?!"

Xiao Yu'an hadn't really meant to hit Ming Shu, and that soft little slap hadn't carried much force at all. There was no way it could have hurt.

But Ming Shu still wasn't going to let him get away with it. How could his ge hit him? And his head, at that!

"Gege!" Ming Shu forgot all about his schoolwork. To him, this was an awfully serious matter. He was going to give Xiao Yu'an a proper lecture. "Hitting people isn't right!"

Xiao Yu'an turned and rested his arm along the edge of the desk. "Then what do you want to do about it?"

Ming Shu balled his hands up into fists. "I want to hit you back."

Xiao Yu'an fell silent.

Tsk!

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