In the early morning of a winter day, the sky slowly brightened.

The road outside Nancheng District Third High School was quiet and empty.

It was past six o’clock in the morning, the canteen opposite the school hadn’t even opened yet, and the small cart selling breakfast was still missing.

The mist was hazy, and the trees on both sides of the road were bare. Occasionally, a few birds jumped on them, shaking the branches, then returning to stillness.

Song Yan pulled Xu Qin along and ran across the middle of the road, the mist he exhaled was scattered in the wind like balls of cotton wool.

The Ba Yan Qiao Public Security Bureau was close to their high school, so the two ran along the empty street.

It was very quiet in the school, even the gatekeeper was still asleep.

Song Yan brought Xu Qin with him and ran along the curb to the courtyard wall.

Xu Qin grabbed the railing and climbed up. Song Yan supported her legs and buttocks, and protected her while she climbed up slowly. At one point, she had to test whether her feet could reach the crossbar, at another point, she had to choose where to step next to be able to bear her force. At another point, she had to listen to his instructions “step here, grab there”.

She moved clumsily, and managed to turn over onto the other side of the railing, the way down was even more difficult.

“Be careful.” Song Yan whispered.

“En.” Xu Qin slowly lowered her center of gravity, hugged the thin rod, and slid down like a little raccoon.

She breathed a sigh of relief, she was sweating from all the climbing up and down.

She was about to wait for Song Yan, he was on the other side. He took a few steps back, suddenly sped up, jumped up, stepped on the railing of the fence in two or three steps, flew over from above, and landed.

Xu Qin: “……”

Song Yan patted the dust off his hands, and looked at her: “What’s wrong?”

“……” Xu Qin shook her head immediately.

She suddenly remembered that it was the same when she was a teenager. He and his group of friends gathered around the railing, looked up and pointed, protected her clumsy, uncoordinated self while climbing over the wall, and waited for her to slowly land. That group of teenagers huffed and slid across the railing one by one like the wind blowing leaves.

He patted the dust off her clothes again: “What are you thinking about?”

“Thinking about the time when we were in high school.” Xu Qin took his hand, “Where is that group of people, are they still in contact with you?”

“We got together last month, while I was on break after the earthquake.”

“How are they doing now?”

“They are all doing pretty well.” Song Yan said.

Xu Qin pursed her lips and stopped asking further.

She turned her head and found that the campus was not much different from ten years ago.

The stone pavilion, playground, steps, bamboo forest, and teaching building were the same as in her recollections, the only change was that it was probably a bit more dilapidated than in her memories.

Walking around the bamboo forest and going up the steps, they entered the teaching building. The aged feeling became more and more obvious, the paint was peeled off on the handrail, the stairs were potholed and cracked, the plaster was mottled on the walls, and the green paint on the corners were faded. Even the air was filled with a slightly rotten smell.

Xu Qin thought, she didn’t come for ten years, the building grew old here alone.

The fourth floor was their classroom. Xu Qin looked in from the window. The tables and chairs were not neatly arranged, and there were still chemistry problems on the blackboard.

While she watched, Song Yan pried the window open in two or three tries, turned over into the classroom, and opened the classroom door.

Xu Qin’s eyes lit up, she rushed in, looked around, feeling a little emotional: “Why does the classroom feel so small, the tables and chairs are also small.” She turned and sat on the seat in the first row, looking left and right excitedly.

“Do you still remember your seat?” Song Yan asked.

“It’s been so many years, how can I remember? Besides, I recall having my seat changed.”

Song Yan walked to the second row of the first group, stepped over the chair with his long legs, sat at the window seat, and said: “When the first year of high school began, you sat here.”

As he spoke, he looked out the window.

The eastern sky had already revealed the morning glow, there were faint sounds of birds singing in the botanical garden, but the campus was still quiet.

Everything was peaceful.

She followed and leaned over: “Let me sit.”

He got up and stepped out into the aisle.

Xu Qin scuttled over and sat down, looking around, as if feeling something: “Ooh, I have some recollection, I have sat here before.” She turned her head, “I remember your seat was at the back.”

Song Yan smiled, walked to the last row of the second group, pulled out a chair and sat down.

He looked at Xu Qin, she gave him a bright smile, then turned to look out the window.

Since entering school, she had been very happy.

Presumably the years of staying here were good memories for her.

Song Yan couldn’t help curling his lips. He sat in his seat for a long time, looking at her from the distance of a classroom away.

Memories came to mind inadvertently and clearly.

In those years of high school, he looked at her from a distance like this; every class was like this, as if he would never get tired of watching her.

Obviously he had a very noisy personality, but looking at her could make him quiet for a long time.

It was also in this narrow aisle in front of him, she passed under his eyelids with her schoolbag in her arms and her head lowered. She was clearly just passing by, but she walked into his heart.

Why is she the one he likes?

She’s the only one he likes.

He liked her softness and fragility when she was bullied, liked her loneliness and pity when she was excluded, liked her dependence when she obediently walked over and held the corner of his clothes, as if he was the only one in the world who could protect her and that she could cling to.

It seemed that only at that time, did he really exist, truly exist in this world.

It was as if he had never really existed before meeting her.

When Song Yan was a child, he only had a father and no mother.

In his memory, his father was a very handsome man, but he was an alcoholic and violent. When he was drunk, he would be caught and beaten, scolding his mother with dirty words; when he was sober, he hugged him and cried bitterly, apologizing.

Song Yan had never hated him, the child’s subconscious could distinguish between cause and effect. He knew that his father was just a poor man who was abandoned by his wife and whose self-esteem had been crushed to pieces.

He could also understand what adults would say, and knew that his mother had gone to be a mistress for a rich man, so no matter how violent his drunk father was, he never hated him, but just felt sorry for him.

Father and son lived like this until one night when Song Yan was seven years old, his father came home drunk, fell down and hit his head on a stone.

When Song Yan opened the door and saw him the next day, the poor man was already frozen and stiff.

Little Song Yan pushed him and called his father a few times, but he didn’t respond.

The little child walked a long way to knock on the door of his uncle’s house and said: “My father is dead, please help me collect him, I can’t move him.”

Later, he was taken in by his uncle, and he was shielded from all the grievances from his parents’ generation.

But no matter how they tried to hide it, children would devise every possible method to eavesdrop. It turned out that his mother had already given birth to another child long ago, but that child had regarded the legitimate wife as his mother since young, had never met her, nor did he know of her existence. But even with this kind of treatment, she refused to come back. She lived in a villa like a canary.

When he was ten years old, Song Yan secretly went to find his mother.

He collected information bit by bit and found her house. When he went there, there was no one at home. He waited outside for a long time, and when he was about to fall asleep, there was the sound of a car.

It was the first time he saw his mother, she was even more beautiful and mature than in photos, leaning into the arms of a stranger, her body was soft like a snake.

He stood on the side of the road watching, like a homeless child.

The couple passed by without noticing him.

But the woman turned her head, gave him a brief look, and disappeared into the house.

Without any reason, he was sure, sure she knew who he was.

But she didn’t take a second glance at him.

He turned and walked away, spitting at the car as he walked.

He never went to find her again.

For a long, long time later, Song Yan felt that he was a dispensable person in this world, not needed by anyone, nor wanted by anyone, just like his useless father.

No, he was more pitiful than his father, and even more dispensable. At least he still needed his father, but his father didn’t need him, not to mention his mother.

Even when he was in rebellious adolescence, because of his handsome appearance, there were more girls around him, he felt a deep sense of disgust, and something that his arrogant self would never have admitted at that time – a vague fear.

His father was equally handsome, but look how that turned out.

He would also turn out the same way, because he had nothing.

Until that day, through the window, he saw a thin girl with her head bowed and her schoolbag in her arms entering the classroom, timidly passing by before his eyes.

There seemed to be a ray of light flashing by his heart.

If it was said that when he wrote the name “Song Yan” on the school uniform and handed it to her to wear, it was just his wishful thinking to declare his protection and possession of her,

Then when she returned the ink-stained school uniform to him and asked him to re-sign it, she acknowledged his protection and conquest of her.

It was at that moment that he was trapped in by her.

The bond that bound the two became two-way.

And the bright hole in his heart was getting bigger and bigger, it was no longer controllable.

“Song Yan, I’m afraid of falling.” You have to support me.

“Song Yan, I can’t move anymore.” Carry me on your back.

“Song Yan, I’m cold.” Hug me.

“Song Yan, I’m a little sad.” Come coax me.

“Song Yan, that boy touched my hand.” Go hit him.

“Song Yan, I can’t do it alone.” I need you to accompany me.

“Song Yan, hurry up and sneak me out.” I just want to be with you, no one else.

“Song Yan……”

She fussed about in different ways, as if she lacked something in her heart, constantly wanting to prove something from his actions, whether it was to prove her importance to him or his love for her. She seemed to be insatiable, and kept asking for it from him.

And he was fully benefitting, responding to her again and again, giving her everything she wanted. The more she relied on him, the more she trusted him, the more she needed him, the more he was trapped in it, unable to extricate himself.

The unknown side she showed in front of him was something that only he could enjoy exclusively.

Only he could make her happy, set her free. And that fact, in turn, made him extraordinarily content and stable.

The two children, who seem completely different to outsiders, had lived inseparably for three years like this.

The empty hole in his heart was filled little by little.

Until the day of the break up, he was emptied all at once, as if the childhood nightmare imposed on him by his parents was repeated again.

Song Yan’s thoughts stopped immediately.

He lowered his eyes, looked at the traces of the knife scratches on the desk, and pursed his lips slightly.

There was no need to mention that time of parting anymore, fortunately, even though the journey was difficult and bumpy, they had now reunited.

He sensed something and looked up.

On the other side of the classroom, Xu Qin was leaning on the desk, looking at him with a smile, her eyes sparkling: “Are you in a daze? I’ve been watching you for a long time.”

Her smile soothed everything with ease.

“En—” he touched his nose, “I’m thinking about work.”

He lied a little, and quickly changed the subject: “Have you ever gone back to school after graduation?”

Xu Qin shook her head: “What about you?”

He just smiled and didn’t answer.

He had been here many times, each time was in the early morning or at night, or during winter and summer vacations, avoiding the students going to school every time.

In the huge campus, he would be alone, wandering alone.

Watching the grass and trees on the playground wither and turn yellow, watching the walls of the teaching building gradually mottle, watching the stone bricks on the steps slowly form cracks……

For more than ten years, the school had been a quiet and lonely city for him, filled with countless memories about him and her, aging silently in time, but not fading away. Day after day, it stubbornly waited for those who had lost their memories to come and look for it.

A ray of sunlight pierced through the mist and shone on Xu Qin’s hair. She squinted her eyes and blocked the light with her palm: “Ah, the sun is out.”

She asked: “Do we need to leave? The students will be here soon.”

“Let’s play for another two minutes.” Song Yan said, got up and walked to the podium, and wiped the corner of the blackboard with a blackboard eraser.

Xu Qin was curious, and followed him: “What are you doing, are you writing?”

“En.” He took out a piece of chalk from the chalk box and turned to write on the blackboard.

Xu Qin stretched her neck to look, and just saw the word “Xu”, Song Yan covered her eyes with one hand: “Go write on the side!”

“Petty!” Xu Qin snorted, deliberately distanced herself from him, and took the blackboard eraser to wipe the other corner.

After wiping, she patted the dust on her hands, and reached for the chalk in the box.

The moment her fingertips touched the bottom of the box, she was completely frozen.

She still didn’t quite believe it, she lowered her head slowly, there was no chalk on her finger, but a silver ring was hooked on it.

Fine dust couldn’t hide the sparkle of diamonds.

There was a thought in her mind, in an instant there was no sound at all, only the sound of her shallow breathing in the golden sunlight.

The sun had risen, the sunlight shone through the bright windows and filled the classroom from ten years ago. Dozens of empty tables and chairs reflect the morning light. It was here, back then, the boy sitting in the last row curled his lips and looked at the girl sitting by the window.

Xu Qin’s heart was beating wildly, she looked back at Song Yan in a daze. He lowered his head slightly and wrote on the blackboard. The white chalk swiped vigorously at the end of a stroke to draw a completed period.

On the blackboard was written: “Xu Qin, marry me.”

Song Yan put down the chalk, looked at her sideways, and gazed at her seriously. After a while, he smiled slowly. That smile seemed to have traveled through thousands of mountains and rivers, and said:

“Xu Qin, give me a home.”