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Just Smile at Me

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A sigh comes like a thunder before the storm. Bai Yu braces for it as he watches the prefect of discipline of his university turns towards him with his arms crossed over his chest and deep frown. The man is usually kind but as expected there is much he can take and let slip. As if calming himself down, he straighten up his seat and drums his fingers against his arm. Bai Yu stood there quietly and guilty.

“You can’t do this,” the prefect tells him, “you can’t keep brawling with students with other university especially after competitions!”

“But you didn’t hear what they told Yang Rong!” Bai Yu grumbled.

A flare of annoyance filled him recalling the memory. Bai Yu and Yang Rong both finished their competition that day, representing the fencing club of their university in an inter-college competition when Yang Rong excused herself for a second to find somewhere to buy some refreshment. When she took a longer time to return, Bai Yu looked for her only to find her cornered by two male competitors from another university. The two male made scandalous remark that were loud enough for Bai Yu to hear even when he was standing more than five feet away from the three. The blatant disrespect and disgusting display made Bai Yu see red. The next thing he knew, a security guard of the building and his coach were holding him back while the two male students tries to get back at him to no avail, bruised and bleeding.

“Yang Rong told me, which is why this you’re only getting a reprimand now.” The prefect looks at Bai Yu and for a moment his eyes soften, “I applaud you for standing up for your peers Bai Yu, but you cannot just resort to violence every time especially when you’re out there representing our university. Do you like fencing or not?”

Bai Yu’s eyes widen, “I—Of course I do!”

“Then think this over.” The prefect says, “You got disqualified for this competition, and I’m afraid this is not the first time you got in trouble. The next time we cannot let you slip off the hook. This is your last warning, the next time you get in trouble with others, you know what will come right?”

“Disciplinary action and suspension from athletic activities.”

“I’m glad we understand each other.” The prefect sighs before nodding at this. He looks up to meet Bai Yu’s guilty eyes, “You’re a good kid, but rules are rules.”

Bai Yu nods before finally allowing to be excused. He gathered quite the reputation due to several fights he was involved in and out of school, some of them he has no good excuse but most of it were due to reasons like this. He couldn’t stand idly and watch others humiliate, disrespect or bully another and often confrontation leads to fight. If it were left to his own choice, Bai Yu would rather rest with a few reprimands but mostly the offending party would have the audacity to add fuel to fire or justify their action by blaming their victim. At such point, Bai Yu often found himself unable to resist the temptation to shut the other party by good punch to their faces.

 

When Bai Yu leaves the campus’ main building the sun is beginning to set. Before heading home he checks his phone and sends Yang Rong a quick message inquiring how she is fairing. Being cornered like that and spoken with such disrespect is surely traumatizing for anyone. Bai Yu would never wish for something like that to happen to anyone and not just his teammate. After sending the message, Bai Yu heads out with his bag slung to his shoulders.

Most days he’d take a bus down to his apartment, but today he felt like walking. The cool air brushes against his skin and he watches as blue paints over the orange of the sky slowly disappearing over the horizon. Bai Yu has always been a people person, he enjoys other people’s company but sometimes he feels urge to go for a long quiet walk and be alone with his thoughts. It wasn’t as if he doesn’t want to share his mind with others, he is just not used to asking others to sit down and listen to his woes. He wouldn’t mind if others ask, he will answer but those times are rare.

Often he is the one who people calls when they needed someone to spill their woes with and Bai Yu doesn’t mind that. He liked the fact that his friends find him trustworthy of their secrets, their worries and little victories. He felt for them and with them, but sometimes even he fears that he could become too bothersome or his problems insignificant to the grander scheme of things.

He liked the university’s fencing club and even got a partial scholarship because of it, he worked and trained hard to get to where he is. To think that he could lose that, it scares him. It scares him how quick all those years and effort could come to a screeching halt. Suspension is just a breath away from ban, and with after his disqualification in such major inter-collegiate competition, he doubts there will be another if he becomes suspended.

However, Bai Yu couldn’t say he regretted his actions.

Yang Rong their only female member of the fencing club, had been target of malicious remarks during competition and Bai Yu is sick of it. He couldn’t simply watch in the side and do nothing, their sports teach discipline and respect, how can he call him an athlete if he couldn’t even stand by its motto?

His train of thoughts flicker Bai Yu’s irritation again, he couldn’t help the feeling every time he remembers the confrontation. He couldn’t stand men who think they can speak like that to women just because they’re men. He couldn’t imagine such thing happening to his sisters or mother. Grumbling to himself, he stops from walking and takes a lungful of air to calm down. He swore he won’t let himself be swayed by again by irritation, he has to make an effort at least.

When Bai Yu felt less irritated, he continues his walk only to stop again upon spotting a convenience store. Staring at it, a thought pops in his mind, ice cream. Bai Yu hums to his good idea and goes with it. He crosses the street with a jog and walks into the convenience store. Just as he thought, the small store is filled with students alike hanging out and buying snacks. Bai Yu passes them and heads to his target.

He meticulously chooses among the available flavors of ice cream before finally settling for a mango flavour. He takes the last two mango flavoured ice cream and heads to the counter to pay. The cashier looked at him with a tired but polite smile before punching in his purchase, Bai Yu quickly pays and heads out.

Standing outside the store he takes one of the ice cream cup, he takes the plastic spoon that came with it and promptly took a bite of the cold sweet. Sweets are Bai Yu’s little happiness, he doesn’t indulge in it too often but when he does it never fails to make him feeling a little better than he is. Eating in silence he found himself inside his little bubble, ignoring the flood of students coming in and out of the store. By his third spoonful, he’s calm enough that he could possibly just sleep when he gets home. Well, a rest would be idea—

“Ha! Well look who we have here!”

Before Bai Yu could look up to see who the boisterous voice is from, his cup gets knock off from his hands falling to the floor. When Bai Yu manages to look up he finds a familiar bruised face in front of him. The student grabs Bai Yu by the color and uses the momentary shock from Bai Yu to push him against the wall by the neck knocking the wind out of him.

“You have some nerve you little shit.” The other student says standing behind the one holding Bai Yu. “You got us good, now it’s payback time.”

Bai Yu chokes as the one holding him presses the heel of his palm against his airway. In the moment of haste and panic with his reduced air, Bai Yu sneaks a kick between his captor’s legs causing him to hiss in pain and let go. He coughs and rubs his sore neck trying to fill his lungs with air once more before looking up. He felt anger stir inside him again, his hands curling to a fist as he regains control of his body but as he does a voice in his head resounded, this is your last warning, it says.

He couldn’t, he tells himself, he can’t be involved in a fight again. He is still in his university’s uniform. If someone finds out he’ll be done. Before Bai Yu could finish contemplating, the second student comes up to him and grabbed him by the collar. It was too late to dodge when he sees a fist raised across him, Bai Yu instinctively sucks in a breath to brace himself for the impact.

It never came.

Bai Yu stares at the back of the hand that just caught the punch aimed square for his face. With an impressive strength, the hand forces the other to lower.

“Isn’t this quite unfair.”

Bai Yu’s eyes widen at the steady and deep voice from his side, he turns to look at his rescuer and finds a student in a similar uniform with him. Unlike Bai Yu, he looks impeccable. His uniform is clean and free of any creases or dirt. His dark and thick locks were parted slightly to the side with his fringes hanging just slightly below his perfectly naturally shaped eyebrows. Wow, was what Bai Yu’s slightly oxygen deprived brain came up as soon as the full image comes to his view. Was there anyone who looked this good attending his university and if they have, where has he been all Bai Yu’s life?

“Who the fuck are you?” the other says through gritted teeth as he fought to free his fist. “Mind your own goddamn business.”

“He is my underclassman, it is my business.”

Bai Yu felt shivers down his spine at his rescuers tone, deep, firm and almost threatening. Good looking people really are threatening, his mind unhelpfully supplies as he watches his rescuer gives a little more force to his hold pushing the other student away from Bai Yu. When the student staggers back, he steps in front of Bai Yu blocking him from the view of the two students. In comparison, he’s a little shorter than Bai Yu but with his stance and his impressive display earlier, Bai Yu doubts he isn’t prepared in case this blooms to a fight.

The confidence of Bai Yu’s rescuer however doesn’t translate the same to the two students across them and instead of leaving they seem to simmer more, growling and glaring at them.

“You’re going to regret that you little shit!” one of them exclaims before the two dramatically charges forward.

CLICK

The loud sound of a camera shutter interrupts the commotion, the four students turn their heads to the source of the noise and there another student stood holding his phone up seemingly taking pictures. Bai Yu quickly noticed the fact that the said student is also wearing similar uniform with him under his dark red jacket. Almost as if stupefied, none of them speaks for a moment until the fifth student lowers his camera showing his face and his sinister smirk, he turns to his phone and began flickering something on the screen and finally putting the phone to his ear.

“Yes, police station? I would like to report a group of students causing trouble in front of a sto—“

“Fuck! You—“

The student glares at them but after a swift consideration, the other pulls his schoolmate and makes a quick run. Bai Yu looks at their retreating back and their cartoon-ish jog as they rush to cross the other side of the street.

“Are you okay?”

The question cut through Bai Yu’s thoughts like a sharp knife to paper. He looks back at his rescuer and realizes how close they are with each other now. Bai Yu couldn’t help but notice his long thick eyelashes framing his chocolate brown eyes.

“Yes.” Bai Yu answers eyes wide and possibly entranced.

“What’s with those kids anyway?” the student with the phone, Peng Guanying, asks as he approaches them. “You wanna go to a hospital?”

Bai Yu blinks and shakes his head, “I-I’m fine, thank you.” he says.

“Ah, bullies, huh.”

Bai Yu purses his lips unsure of what to say. We’re they bullies, or perhaps Bai Yu was simply reaping what he sow?

“Regardless of their reason,” Bai Yu’s rescuer says, “is it right to hurt someone like that?”

Oh, Bai Yu thinks, he’s not just a pretty face he’s also kind.

“Oh yeah? And what were you trying to do?” Peng Guanying raises an eyebrow at Bai Yu’s rescuer. “Ah, Zhu Yilong don’t deny it, you’re definitely going to square up with those punks, aren’t you? If I didn’t come up with something you’d be having a meeting tomorrow with discipline office and paying medical bills of two scums.”

Zhu Yilong, Bai Yu quickly takes note of his name. Yilong, what a suitable name for him, elegant and upright.

Zhu Yilong rolls his eyes at his friend ignoring his comment. He then turns to Bai Yu, for a moment he looks at him as if assessing if he has any injury, when he sees none he looks up and meets Bai Yu’s gaze. Just as Bai Yu think he couldn’t get any more handsome, Zhu Yilong’s lips purses and slowly curves to a gentle smile, his eyes bright and warm.

“I’m glad you’re not injured.” Zhu Yilong says, “Can you go home like this…uh…”

“B-Bai Yu. I-My name, I mean, it’s uhm, Bai Yu.”

Zhu Yilong’s smile grows, “Bai Yu. Are you alright to go home or if you’re worried we can call someone, a friend or family, to walk with you?”

Bai Yu nods, “Thank you. I-I think I can.”

“Bai Yu?” Peng Guanying quirks an eyebrow, he lightly pushes Zhu Yilong aside before leaning towards Bai Yu studying his face. After a moment, a flash of recognition crosses his face, “Aha! You’re that Bai Yu! The kid from the fencing club, they got nerves to bully you, you should have just stab them with your pointy sword and swoosh!

Zhu Yilong rolls his eyes, pushing Peng Guanyin off Bai Yu’s personal space. “Don’t listen to him,” he says.

Bai Yu nods sheepishly.

“I owe you.” Bai Yu says lowering his head to a small bow, “I-I’m also sorry for causing you both trouble.”

“Pft,” Peng Guanying waves a hand, “What trouble?”

“You’re a freshman, right?” Zhu Yilong asks.

“How did you know?” Bai Yu asks curiously, he does remember Zhu Yilong telling the two students earlier that Bai Yu is his underclassman.

“I’m familiar with almost everyone’s faces, but I don’t think I’ve seen you before. You’re wearing the school uniform though so I guessed you must be a freshman.” Oh, he’s smart too, Bai Yu thinks. “Ah, I’m Zhu Yilong.”

“Ha! We’re your Gege!”

“Go away,” Zhu Yilong sighs exasperatedly at his friend before turning his attention back at Bai Yu. “You don’t owe us anything, we’re just glad you’re okay.”

“Are you sure?” Bai Yu asks, “I-I mean, uhm should I—uhm…”

Peng Guanying waves his hand, “Ah, no worries, no worries. Just go home safely little Bai.”

Bai Yu feels a little guilty for some reason, having troubled the his upperclassmen this much and leaving just like that. However, thinking carefully now, Bai Yu doesn’t have much to offer anyways. His money is short to even offer a meal at a cheap noodle house.

“Well if you insist.” Zhu Yilong says cutting through Bai Yu’s line of thoughts. Bai Yu tilts his head to the side waiting for Zhu Yilong to continue. Zhu Yilong points towards the fallen plastic bag beside Bai Yu’s feet revealing his unharmed cup of ice cream. “Can I have your ice cream then?”

Peng Guanying sighs dramatically, “Aiyo, this is extortion Zhu Yilong.”

“Oh, n-no. I-It’s not I offered!” Bai Yu says in Zhu Yilong’s defense. He picks up the plastic bag and looks at the content “But it already fell, if you want I can buy you new ones.”

Zhu Yilong shrugs and takes the plastic from Bai Yu’s hands. “This one’s fine.”

Peng Guanying laughs when he sees Bai Yu’s complicated expression.

“Don’t mind his quirk,” he says, “he likes mango ice cream a lot, and there’s none inside so…”

Bai Yu’s eyes widen at this, Zhu Yilong also likes the same flavour of sweets as him? Unable to form any coherent speech, Bai Yu simply nods and to this Zhu Yilong rewarded him with another smile. Bai Yu tries not to inhale too loudly as he feels a squeezing feeling in his chest.

“You’re gonna be okay?” Zhu Yilong asks again.

“I…Yes.”

Zhu Yilong pauses for a moment looking at Bai Yu’s face. After a second, Zhu Yilong murmurs something to Peng Guanying as he passes the plastic bag containing his pressure ice cream to take something out of his bagpack. Zhu Yilong offers Bai Yu a soft blue handkerchief folded neatly.

“There’s dirt on your cheek.” Zhu Yilong says.

Bai Yu feels the warmth of embarrassment rush to his cheeks, “Uhm, t-thank you.”

Accepting the handkerchief, Bai Yu attempts to remove said dirt but it only caused Peng Guanying to laugh and Zhu Yilong to sigh fondly. Unsure of what he’s doing, he begins to feel self-conscious. He feels like a silly child now which possibly is what both Peng Guanying and Zhu Yilong think too. However, to his surprise instead of mocking him, Zhu Yilong steps forward and gently leads Bai Yu’s hand to the lower side of his face.

“You are indeed little Bai.” Zhu Yilong says with a little laugh.

Bai Yu is staring and he really shouldn’t because he knows that’s weird but how can someone be so soft, strong and perfect all at the same time? Despite his weird staring Zhu Yilong doesn’t say anything about it, or perhaps he’s used to receiving so much attention Bai Yu could only guess. The warmth of Zhu Yilong’s fingertips lingers against Bai Yu even as he steps back.

“Ha, Zhu Yilong you sly dog! You broke the poor kid!” Peng Guanying says teasingly which causes Bai Yu to blush as he deliberately avoids looking at Zhu Yilong.

Zhu Yilong however doesn’t take this comment to heart and simply rolls his eyes at his friend before taking the plastic bag from his hand.

“Stop it,” Zhu Yilong tells Peng Guanying. After securing his ice cream, Zhu Yilong turns at Bai Yu. “Take care little Bai.”

“Oh…I-I will.” Bai Yu stutters.

“Go straight home!” Peng Guanying says to Bai Yu as he hooks an arm around Zhu Yilong. “We’ll go ahead!”

Zhu Yilong politely dips his head to short bow. “We’ll see you in school.”

Bai Yu nods and murmurs a soft goodbye to the two who returns the gesture as they finally head out. Bai Yu quietly watches as they turn their back and walk away. He sees Peng Guanying murmuring something to Zhu Yilong and the other shaking his head. After a second he hears Peng Guanying laughter. He stands there quietly watching as the two disappears from his sight as they turn to a corner street.

What just happened, Bai Yu asked himself as he reaches towards his chest rubbing over it. He felt his heart stutters as he recalls Zhu Yilong’s warm smile and deep voice. It doesn’t take too long for Bai Yu’s cheeks to grow warm again realizing his predicament—

He has a crush!