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In a certain city in China, there was a little known beauty school that consistently produced world-class beauticians. Anyone who graduated from the academy was practically guaranteed to gain glory and riches. 

Of course, it was no easy feat to graduate. Students were pitted against one another in brutal contests of skill. And these contests included not only individual battles between students of the same department but also team battles where students of different specialties battled together and were judged wholistically on their ability to bring out the inner radiance of the model. 

Only the best of the best could withstand the competition and emerge victorious. 

They’re all monsters , Zhang Jiale thought, thinking of his classmates while scraping the blade of his scissors against his sharpening stone. 

Well, maybe he should call them former-classmates, seeing as he dropped out a few months ago.

Zhang Jiale sighed. While he was happy to be back home at his family’s barber shop, he still felt a little regretful that he had left without ever having won one of the academy’s yearly tournaments. He hoped that his sudden departure hadn’t screwed over his team. He had left them without a proper hair stylist. 

The front door then opened with a jingle and a young high school girl with a pair of long brown pigtails wandered in with a timid glance.

“Welcome to Hundred Blossoms Barber Shop,” Zhang Jiale called out from the back. “What can I do for you today?”

The girl flinched at his voice. “H-haircut,” she stuttered. 

Zhang Jiale stuck his scissors in his pocket and ushered the girl to the barber’s chair. He pulled a cape on her and swiveled the chair around to face the mirror. 

“What kind of look are you going for?” he asked, mentally measuring what would be possible with what was given. “Long and layered? Cute and refreshing? Greek Goddess? Pixie cut?” 

The girl blushed and hid her face in her long hair. “There’s this junior who’s been following me around for the past year. I- She’s so cheerful and cute and she’s helped me so much! I want to tell her I support her too, but I just- don’t have any confidence. So I was hoping...”

“You’re hoping that changing your look will give you some confidence.” 

She nodded.

Zhang Jiale felt sympathy for this girl. Many times in the past year he had debated changing his style, as if cutting off his long hair could also cut away his insecurity. But everytime he prepared his shears and stood in front of the mirror ready to lop it all off, he would remember another stylist’s fingers sliding down his silky strands to guide a pair of scissors across. In the end, he could never bear to cut it and would opt for a quick trim instead.

So Zhang Jiale didn’t know whether someone could gain their confidence back by just changing their appearance. It was just that, right now, he wanted to believe that he could make this girl happy and help her convey her feelings to her very important friend.

With an expert twirl of his newly-sharpened scissors and an overall vision in his eyes, Zhang Jiale approached the girl.

“Don’t you worry. I’ll help you add a bit of magic.”

 

Across town, a certain hairstylist-turned-aromatherapist wondered how his former partner was doing.