Teenagers spent most of their time on campus, working on the homework they couldn't finish at home. In their spare time, they thought of the future.
"My friends, your homework… do you have a lot?" Qi Jun asked. They were only halfway through their barbecue when he thought of the pile of homework still waiting for him. Sorrowfully, he lamented, "This is only the second term of our first year. Where did all this homework come from?"
"We don't have that much," Qi Zhu said. To him, homework was a piece of cake. It wasn't anything to fret over.
"You're a high school student. If you don't want to study, what do you want to do?" Jiang Ying chided. As soon as he finished speaking, he realized that these words were immensely familiar to the ear. They were the exact words his deskmate often used to lecture him.
That realization instantly filled Jiang Ying with discontent. He turned to glare at Qi Zhu, only to find that Qi Zhu was already glaring right back at him. It seemed this person was immensely displeased to hear those words coming out of Jiang Ying's mouth.
Jiang Ying blinked.
Qi Zhu blinked back.
"I want to travel the world. You only live once. I want to go out and explore, I want to live my life on my own terms. I want to do something meaningful and not waste this life of mine." The homework-hater Qi Jun picked up a skewer and waved it around as he continued to sink into his fantasies, completely ignoring his two companions and the hostile atmosphere that rose from them every so often.
"Forget about it," Jiang Ying said. "What kind of delusions are you entertaining, Little Qi-zong? You're going to have to inherit your family business. Qi-zong won't let you wander around the world so easily."
Qi Jun was his family's only child, and his family had very high expectations for him. Jiang Ying knew that very well.
"Forget about it," Qi Zhu echoed. "You just don't want to do your homework."
He'd ruthlessly hit the nail on the head.
When these two teamed up to attack others, they were always on the same page.
"What's the point in thinking so much, anyway?" Jiang Ying stood up and clapped Qi Jun on the shoulder. "Look how sad you are. You can consider this meal my treat."
Qi Jun hadn't finished eating yet. He hugged his plate protectively and said, "You guys go first. I'm gonna eat some more."
Though he said that, he couldn't help but feel uneasy when Qi Zhu also got up to leave. Qi Jun had to add, "You two, can you stay nice and civil on the way home?"
"Do you think we're elementary school kids? You think we'll fight while walking home? How old do you think we are?" Jiang Ying turned to push open the front door, throwing a wave back at Qi Jun. "Bye-bye."
Qi Jun shrank his neck towards his shoulders and nodded, but neither of the two people, about to head out, paid any attention to him.
'Nice and civil' wasn't totally possible for the two of them, but they wouldn't actually lift a hand against each other. Jiang Ying and Qi Zhu had grown up together ever since they were little. They would have a little fight every three days, and a big fight every five days. They only ever fought over small, trivial matters, and it was nearly always Jiang Ying who started the fights, but Qi Zhu was perfectly capable of retaliating and holding his own.
Still, Jiang Ying was pretty sure their relationship couldn't be described as 'nice and civil'.
For example, right now—
The two of them passed the Maserati from Qi Jun's family. Their school was a fair distance away from both their homes, so the two of them looked at each other. They stayed locked in a moment of 'you looking at me, me looking at you' until—
"How about you call a car from your family?" Qi Zhu asked.
"No way. The uncle who drives for us would definitely snitch. You get your family to send a car."
"No." After a moment, Qi Zhu added, "…do you really think it would make any difference? My house is pretty close to yours, you know."
"Oh? Since there's no difference, why can't you get a car from your family?"
The two of them bickered back and forth in front of a Starbucks for a long while, ultimately unable to reach a compromise. In the end, they decided to squeeze onto public transport to get home by bus.
That little street of food stalls was located right near their school campus, and it was right around the time everyone got out of school. The area was filled with students in school uniforms, milling about.
Jiang Ying followed Qi Zhu. They walked forward step by step, until a little stone from a little garden at the side of the road was kicked up by Jiang Ying, flying up and striking Qi Zhu's heel.
Qi Zhu stopped. Jiang Ying wasn't able to bring himself to a halt quickly enough, so he wound up crashing into Qi Zhu's back.
The two of them began speaking at the same time—
"Do you want a spanking?" Qi Zhu asked.
"Do you even know how to walk?" Jiang Ying demanded.
They were both good-looking, and they were even wearing identical school uniforms. Once in a while, someone would glance their way as they walked. Now that they'd stopped in the middle of the street, they drew even more attention from onlookers.
"Then if you know how to walk, you take the lead." Qi Zhu nodded towards the street ahead of him with his chin, gesturing for Jiang Ying to go ahead.
The little street was lined with all sorts of alluring shops. Jiang Ying picked up some pig's trotters and some cotton candy. He bickered endlessly with Qi Zhu as they walked towards the bus station. To kids his age, anything was better than studying, especially spectating fights on the street.
It was only a short stretch of road from the barbecue place to the bus station, but it took Qi Zhu and Jiang Ying thirty minutes to make the trip.
The station finally came up ahead of them. It was packed to the gills with students waiting in line.
[Qi Jun Isn't Fat]: I'm done, burp.
[Qi Jun Isn't Fat]: That really lifted me up. I can study again.
[Qi Jun Isn't Fat]: I'm home now. Doing homework. Have you and Class Monitor gotten home yet?
[I Think I Really Like Crabs?]: Nope.
[I Think I Really Like Crabs?]: I'll talk to you when we get back. We're taking the bus now.
[Qi Jun Isn't Fat]: ?
[Qi Jun Isn't Fat]: You two aren't fighting again, are you?
[Qi Jun Isn't Fat]: You're gonna squeeze onto the bus at this time of day?
The two people who'd squeezed onto a bus were silently regretting their decision now. But neither of them were willing to admit defeat. They clutched the handrails on the bus, standing perfectly straight and still while misery roiled on in their hearts.
The bus driver managed to make the trip feel like a rollercoaster ride. He braked fiercely at a striped crosswalk, making every single passenger clutch tightly to the nearest railing.
Jiang Ying, who was in the middle of texting Qi Jun, jolted.
When the driver suddenly braked, Qi Zhu hadn't been able to grab hold of Jiang Ying in time. Jiang Ying had instinctively reached out to Qi Zhu instead. His little claw managed to find Qi Zhu's pocket, and immediately afterwards—the sound of ripping fabric sounded out.
The two of them got off at the next stop. Qi Zhu stepped off the bus with half a pocket on his uniform missing. He expressionlessly helped Jiang Ying dust off the filth that had gotten on his pants when he fell.
In the end, Qi Zhu gave in. He called home to ask for a driver to pick them up.
"Little Ying, did you fall asleep?" Someone lightly patted Jiang Ying's shoulder. "I'll carry you to bed? Don't sleep here, it isn't comfortable."
A warm light filtered in through Jiang Ying's dreams. The dizzying dreamscape slowly parted, and Jiang Ying gradually stirred. "When'd I fall asleep?"
Those school days, buried deep in his memories, had turned into the nostalgic dreams of an afternoon nap.
"I don't know," Qi Zhu said. "You were sleeping soundly when I came in. What were you dreaming of?"
"Dreaming of you." Jiang Ying spotted the article of clothing that he'd draped over himself before falling asleep. He let out a laugh.
He'd dug out Qi Zhu's old high school uniform jacket from the back of the closet. He'd slept too late last night, and he was fiercely drowsy throughout the day, so he'd wrapped himself up in that jacket and dozed right off.
Qi Zhu took note of the jacket as he listened to Jiang Ying laugh. He seemed to remember something as well, and also started to laugh along.
"This was all thanks to you," Qi Zhu said.
Back then, Jiang Ying had taken a tumble on the bus, and he'd torn open Qi Zhu's pocket on his way down. His butt had ached for several days afterwards. The little troll felt that incident was a violation of his code of honor. He refused to just let it pass, and instead insisted on helping Qi Zhu patch up his jacket.
Of course, Jiang Ying didn't know how to sew or mend a piece of clothing, but he was smart and resourceful. He bought some waterproof superglue and helped Qi Zhu stick his torn pocket back in place.
The two of them had fought about that for over half a month. Jiang Ying could still remember the look on Qi Zhu's face when he received his 'mended' jacket.
Many years later, the two of them were faced with that jacket again.
The room filled up with the perpetrator's wild, raucous laughter.
"Still laughing?" Qi Zhu rapped his knuckles against a certain someone's head. "I just found these earlier."
Two card holders, carrying two student IDs. One belonged to Jiang Ying, one belonged to Qi Zhu. Their ages, classes, and school ranks were printed neatly within.
They were the IDs that had appeared in Jiang Ying's dream.
"I can't believe you found these."
Qi Zhu's student ID was still neat and clean. Jiang Ying's, however, must have been dropped all over the place. It was all beaten up on the outside, and it had some water stains inside. His registration information had six crabs doodled on the page, each one bigger than the last. But the youth in the photo, dressed in a school uniform, was smiling brightly at the camera with a light in his eyes.
Jiang Ying rummaged through a drawer and pulled out two other red booklets that they'd gotten just a few days ago. He slapped them down on the table.
There were photos in those booklets too, but the people had changed. Those booklets certified a new stage of their relationship.
"I'm way better looking now. I was too soft in the past." Jiang Ying held up their marriage licenses and started to diss his past self. Qi Zhu didn't let him just toss the licenses anywhere he pleased; he took the two licenses and their school IDs and placed all four documents in a glass case.
Those were symbols of their past and their present. They captured the vigor and confusion of their youth, and they captured the long road to their future—a happy future, free of regret.
Back then, school IDs. And now, marriage licenses. I love this sort of development, ahhhhhh! (´▽`〃)