MINT-STAINED SHIRT

Chapter 50

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Canxin Elementary was located in the outskirts of Yancheng. It was a gated boarding school.

Ming Shu was a transfer student. After being sent to Canxin by Wen Yue and Ming Haofeng, he was unable to attend school for a while.

Because he was unable to accept that he had been torn away from his gege.

Canxin was a private school. They had state-of-the-art facilities and a large roster of extremely impressive teachers. The campus was much bigger than the school where Ming Shu had spent the past four and a half years. Each dorm room housed two students, and the dorms were extremely clean and tidy.

However, on the day of Ming Shu's arrival, he broke a window. He smashed everything he could possibly smash. His roommate, a boy even fatter than Du Hao, had crawled out of the room, shaking with fear and crying as he begged to switch rooms.

After that, Ming Shu lived alone.

The school contacted Wen Yue and Ming Haofeng several times, asking them to come attend Ming Shu's psychological counseling sessions.

Ming Haofeng was extremely busy with work and almost never attended those sessions. Wen Yue was completely unwilling to come, but she still complied with the school's requests in the end.

She didn't want to see Ming Shu, but she couldn't change the fact that Ming Shu was her biological son. What happened at the Wen family's house over winter break, and the bicycle crash, made Wen Yue realize she had to pay some attention to Ming Shu.

But even after discussing things with Ming Haofeng and deciding to bring Ming Shu to Yancheng, Wen Yue couldn't live with Ming Shu. She couldn't have him at her side all day and night.

The education system in Yancheng was exceptional. There were three well-known elementary schools, including Canxin Elementary. Wen Yue had ultimately chosen Canxin Elementary, and not the school closest to her residence. She explained this to Ming Han by saying the teachers at Canxin were more outstanding, and the dorm life could help Ming Shu adjust his psychological problems.

But the real reason for Wen Yue's decision was evident to Ming Haofeng. If Ming Shu went to school closer to their home and came back from school every day, forcing them to play the part of a happy and harmonious couple, they would go crazy sooner or later.

Every time she attended the counseling sessions arranged by the school, and every time she interacted with Ming Shu per the doctor's request, Wen Yue felt as though she were standing on nails. She was close to regretting her decision to bring Ming Shu to Yancheng.

She wasn't ready to be a mother. She wasn't ready to face the living proof of her failed marriage.

It took from the end of winter break to the start of summer, but Ming Shu finally realized that his struggles were futile. Ming Haofeng and Wen Yue were dead set on keeping him there. He wouldn't be allowed to return to the familiar residential community where he'd grown up. Even if he managed to leave Canxin, he wouldn't be able to see his gege.

He walked through life in a daze for a while, then straightened himself out and donned an obedient facade.

He put an end to his aggressive outbursts. He studied, ate, and rested calmly, without stirring up any more trouble. The doctor eventually told Wen Yue it was no longer necessary for her to continue visiting the school.

Wen Yue breathed a sigh of relief.

There was only half a month left in the second term of fifth grade. Ming Shu finally walked into a classroom and took an empty seat in the back row.

He had already become the focus of everyone at Canxin.

His former roommate was in his class. Word of Ming Shu's violent outburst after his arrival had already spread like wildfire. When they heard he would finally start attending class, his peers were both scared and curious. They couldn't wait to see what kind of boy would be so aggressive.

But they lost interest in him within a few days.

Because Ming Shu didn't have any more crazy outbursts, and he didn't go out of his way to distance himself from his classmates. He was the most ordinary transfer student imaginable.

He paid attention in class. He participated in team sports and class activities with a moderate amount of enthusiasm—he wasn't overly interested, and he wasn't over disinterested. Whenever there was something he didn't understand, he would gently nudge the person who sat in front of him and ask. Anyone who helped him received a soft word of thanks, and Ming Shu would gift them a drink the next day.

Good looks always gave a person a natural advantage. Ming Shu never caused trouble in class, and he was good-looking. The rumors of his violent nature disappeared very quickly. The boy who sat in front of him, Fu Ying, became his first supporter at Canxin.

"I think the guy who sits behind me is pretty cool," Fu Ying said. "Where did you guys hear all that nonsense about him? When he talks to me, he isn't aggressive at all. Last time, I didn't finish my math homework, and he even let me copy his…"

Finals came soon after that. Although Ming Shu missed most of the semester, he managed to rank in the Top 5 of his class.

The teacher called Wen Yue in again and proudly placed Ming Shu's tests in front of her.

"I've studied up on Ming Shu's academic records," the teacher said. "He used to always place in the middle of his class. You made the right decision, sending him here. It isn't easy to teach a child well. As soon as they encounter a distraction, they'll lose their focus. Ming Shu is very smart. He simply didn't place his focus on schoolwork in the past. Now that he's learned to concentrate, he's getting results."

Wen Yue thanked the teacher, but she didn't display any of the joy that a normal parent would have shown.

She didn't have very high expectations for Ming Shu. Whether or not he got good grades was secondary. As long as he didn't turn into a violent monster, Wen Yue could relax.

But now finals were over, and the long summer break would begin. Ming Shu would be sent back to live with Wen Yue, and her life would be ruined once more.

When they were presented with Ming Shu's test results, Ming Shu was just as calm as Wen Yue.

It was true that he'd never scored so high before, but he wasn't surprised or excited.

Over the past few months, he'd only had one way to distract himself from thoughts of 'home'. He'd had no choice but to throw himself into his studies, his practice problems.

Last term, his gege had supervised his studies. His gege had taught him everything a fifth grader was supposed to know, but Ming Shu often only listened half-heartedly. Sometimes he would get distracted sneaking glances at his gege, and sometimes he would plead with his gege to play with him. Once, he'd even irritated his gege enough that they got into a scuffle—but, of course, that was only playful roughhousing.

Everything Ming Shu hadn't understood back then, he'd figured out for himself.

He now understood that there was an unbridgeable gap between him and his parents. He couldn't free himself of them by fighting and resisting their whims, so if he behaved and became obedient, perhaps they would lighten their control over him.

He would be a good student. He would get good grades. And over the summer, they would surely send him home.

But when Wen Yue took Ming Shu home from school, she took him to a villa in the bustling heart of the city.

 

Upon learning Ming Shu had transferred to a new school, Xiao Zhengyun personally paid a visit to the Ming family's house and had a few words with Ming Han.

"Ming Shu did hurt someone. It wasn't appropriate for him to stay with me any longer." Ming Han shook his head. "I can't control him. If he started middle school here, he would have been even harder to control. Haofeng said he wanted to give Ming Shu a change in environment, and why not? They called back and said Ming Shu was adjusting well.

"Old Xiao, you should just worry a little less. Go back and tell those grandkids of yours, too. Ming Shu has his own parents. Those kids don't need to worry about him."

As for where Ming Shu was studying now, Ming Han refused to say a word.

At first, Xiao Yu'an had wanted to impulsively take time off school to find Ming Shu right away. He knew exactly how Ming Haofeng and Wen Yue treated Ming Shu.

But when he heard they'd allowed Ming Shu to see a psychiatrist, Xiao Yu'an hesitated.

Ming Shu, in his current state, truly did need proper guidance. It was good for him to talk to a psychiatrist. If Xiao Yu'an charged in rashly, he could have done Ming Shu more harm than good.

A month after the start of the term, Xiao Yu'an's school got serious about the upcoming Olympiad competitions. They gathered the cream of the crop for every subject and placed them under intensive training. For a while, Xiao Yu'an didn't even have time to attend any of his other classes.

The physics teacher placed the whole school's hopes on Xiao Yu'an's shoulders. As a result, Xiao Yu'an had no time to worry about anything else.

The preliminary round was in March, and the finals were in May. Xiao Yu'an gave a strong performance at every stage of the competition, and he was expected to participate in the nationals as well. But when Ming Shu didn't return even after the start of summer break, Xiao Yu'an couldn't help but worry.

Xiao Yu'an and Xiao Mu'ting both had cell phones by now. Xiao Yu'an could at least call Ming Han and ask how Ming Shu was doing, but Ming Han wouldn't even tell him that much.

However, before long, he received a letter from Ming Shu.

Xiao Yu'an had watched Ming Shu like a hawk when he practiced his handwriting, but Ming Shu always cut corners. Even now, his writing wasn't very good. His characters tended to be wobbly and crooked, so Xiao Yu'an could tell that this letter truly had been written by Ming Shu.

In his letter, Ming Shu said that he'd ranked in the Top 5 of his class that term. In fact, he was one of the top students in his whole grade. He hadn't gotten a single problem wrong on his math test, and he'd already made a lot of new friends.

He wrote that his gege didn't need to worry.

Ming Shu also wrote that he had a lot of activities planned for the summer, which he'd voluntarily signed up for, so he wouldn't be able to go back to his grandfather's house. Elementary school students weren't allowed to have cell phones, so he didn't have one. If his gege wanted to contact him, he could write back.

The address Ming Shu left belonged to a company owned by the Wen family, and the recipient was Wen Yue. That meant all letters would pass through her.

Xiao Yu'an read the letter three times, from beginning to end. He couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right. Ming Shu sounded too well-behaved in this letter, and in all the time Xiao Yu'an had known Ming Shu, he'd never known anything good to come from Ming Shu being too well-behaved.

This was a defense mechanism that Ming Shu had been forced to construct for himself.

The last time they saw each other in person, Ming Shu's emotions had clearly still been unstable.

But Xiao Yu'an didn't know if this change was an effect of a psychiatrist's help.

If Xiao Yu'an looked on the bright side, he could say that Ming Shu seemed to have gradually changed in his parents' company. He seemed to have shed some of his negative ways of thinking. But if Xiao Yu'an looked on the other side of things…

Well, how bad could it be? If Ming Shu was in a worse state now than he'd been over winter break, he wouldn't have been able to write a letter like this.

Xiao Yu'an wrote back to Ming Shu. As soon as the letter was mailed, he boarded a flight to the national Olympiad competition.

When Ming Shu received the letter from Wen Yue, it hadn't been opened. Wen Yue didn't even glance at it. She seemed completely disinterested in its contents.

Ming Shu opened it right away. As he read, the dusty gloom that had filled his eyes for a long time finally began to disperse. A faint, distant light returned.

His gege had won an award in his academic competition, and he would even be going on to participate in the nationals. Ming Shu was as happy about that as if he'd won an award himself.

In his letter to his gege, Ming Shu had written that he was doing well. He'd written that he got along with his parents, without any more conflicts, and that he'd made a lot of friends at school.

On the surface, all that seemed to be true. In less than half a month, Ming Shu had dispelled his classmates' negative perception of him. And he no longer angered Wen Yue. But, truthfully, Ming Shu wasn't happy or comfortable when he put on this act. It was just that he knew this was what the people around him wanted, so he wore a face that he knew everyone would like.

The letter, which he'd written of his own accord, was part of that act.

Ming Haofeng had only visited once, and he'd told Ming Shu in no uncertain terms that Ming Shu would not be going back for the summer. Ming Shu had to stay there in Yancheng and take extracurricular classes like the other kids his age.

Ming Shu secretly cried once, but he didn't let Ming Haofeng or Wen Yue find out. He didn't want either of them to see any of his weaknesses anymore.

Writing that letter to his gege, and only talking about the good, was for the sake of not making his gege worry.

His psychiatrist was a warm and gentle old man. Ming Shu had learned one thing from him—he couldn't allow the people who loved him to suffer.

This was supposed to make him think of his parents, but Ming Shu thought only of his gege.

Ming Shu was already old enough to understand some things. He would resolve his issues with his parents on his own. Then, when everything was settled, he would go back and see his gege.

Until then, Ming Haofeng wouldn't let him go back anyway, so Ming Shu at least wanted to make sure his gege wouldn't worry.

Worrying was a kind of suffering. He couldn't let his gege suffer.

Xiao Yu'an placed second in the nationals, and his intensive third year of high school started shortly after that. Ming Shu thought he would definitely be able to visit over winter break. New Year's took place over winter break, after all. But this year, Ming Haofeng and Wen Yue went against tradition and took Ming Shu back to the Wen family's home.

And that winter, Xiao Yu'an's maternal grandfather passed away in the company of his loving family.

Many years in the future, Ming Shu and Xiao Yu'an would sometimes speak of their childhoods. And they would always bring this up as a deep, lasting regret—

Ming Shu never got a chance to personally meet the kind old man who'd sent him so many gifts.

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