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between the shadow and the soul

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The clock strikes at the same time Xiao Zhan wipes his hands on the bathroom towel. The noise of students appears within a few minutes: young people walking down the hall, murmuring, talking about new students, jobs, stories, fresh gossip, social media topics, a new magazine, TV show, or what they’d eat during the break. It’s the same thing every day. They’re all like a bee hive, too close of one another, confusing intimacy with proximity.

It was almost two in the afternoon. It was just the beginning. 

The days used to go by predictably, from Monday to Friday; sometimes he’d help students on weekends, those who were struggling with projects. Since he entered that university, nothing has changed: his classes were calm, and his routine could be called dull (Xiao Zhan liked the application of routines, dull or not). 

It was enough to say that he didn’t consider himself a bad professor, much less felt that he should complain about something. Well, until two months ago, at the beginning of the semester, when that young student, Wang Yibo, started teasing him with every opportunity he had.

Xiao Zhan sighs. Even thinking about him brought an uncomfortable headache, an itch on his face when he remembered his unpredictable pick-up lines. The boy was terrible, in every way a person could be. Incorrigible, it seemed. 

Upon leaving the teachers' bathroom, he carries his briefcase and heads to room 13, where first-year students were waiting. He greets them casually: “Good afternoon.”

Most of them greet back; others are too concerned talking to each other. Some still have their heads lying on their desks, dozing, even though it’s past lunchtime. Wang Yibo's voice, as always, is the loudest of all, and he says his “good afternoon” with a petulant intonation. 

Xiao Zhan sets his things on the table, then cleans the board, trying to ignore his gaze. “Well, as I mentioned in class last week, we’ll talk about poetry this month ━ romantic poetry, to be specifical. I asked all of you to read about it, and separate the poem you liked best. Does anyone want to share?”

One of his most studious students, Jing Yan, raises up and recites Shakespeare, one of his best-known poems from Romeo and Juliet , typical for those who were starting classical romantic literature. Particularly, Xiao Zhan didn’t know what to feel about the verses. 

When he shall die / Take him and cut him out in little stars, / And he will make the face of heaven so fine / That all the world will be in love with night / And pay no worship to the garish sun,” his voice travels through the class, some still sleepy, others completely inattentive. 

The words make an echo, lost. The dilemma of working with education was having the insecurity of not knowing how exactly to touch their hearts, how to let the words become a soul balm instead of just another insignificant heap. 

Philosophers, poets and writers were all right. Sometimes he felt like he was doing something wrong, and would sigh in silent agony. Educating the mind without educating the heart was nothing, right? 

“Very well,” Xiao Zhan starts, when Jing Yan sits down, smiling. “If you could define this poem in one word, which word would it be?” 

The girl is deep in thoughts for a minute, before answering excitedly: “Passionate!”

Some students agree. Passionate, for sure. However, analyzing how the protagonists ended up, if he were to define the poem in just one word, Xiao Zhan would choose melancholic.

A familiar laugh rumbles in his ears.

When he looks up at the back of the class, Wang Yibo is laughing with two friends, the popular Kim Sungjoo, a transfer student from Korea, and Li Wen Han, captain of the basketball team. 

“Passionate?” Wang Yibo pronounces, getting up. “Professor, is that right? In my opinion, it’s a very sad poem. ”

The boy's eyes were fixed on him, intent and bold. Xiao Zhan had to catch his breath before saying: “Explain.”

In his notebook, he had made a plan to recite poetry with his students until the end of the month, when his time with them would be over. Nonetheless, seeing Wang Yibo standing there, hands tucked in the pocket of his slightly torn pants ━ unsuitable for that environment, by the way ━ with a solemn expression, he predicts that it’d be better to remove the idea from his head. 

With the boy in his class, the focus would always shift, and his attitudes were just too malicious. “Professor, as far as I remember, Romeo and Juliet don’t die in the end? Is this poem not an omen of the tragedy to come? For those who have read it completely, it sounds so cruel.”

Xiao Zhan sighs, since he used to do that when he didn't know what to say (it happened quite often when it’s about Wang Yibo). Jing Yan tries to cut him off to say something, but he intervenes: “And have you separated a poem, as I asked?" 

Wang Yibo lights up, smiling for him. “Yes, I read some interesting poems this weekend. Can I recite one for you, Xiao-laoshi?”

“You may recite for the entire class,” he points out. 

It’s only at that moment that Wang Yibo realizes that there were other students staring, making a buzz while they talked. “Oh, well. If that's what Xiao-laoshi wishes...”

The boy clears his throat, walking around the desk with a reflective posture, exactly like an intellectual. Now, if you ask Xiao Zhan how he could stand being near him every day, seeing him behave so straightforwardly, he wouldn't be able to answer. He couldn’t. 

Wang Yibo recites: “Desire to us / was like a double death, / Swift dying off our mingled breath,” and Xiao Zhan immediately recognizes that it wasn’t a convenient poem. Even so, the boy ends naturally: “Evaporation of an unknown strange perfume / Between us quickly / in a naked room.”

Most of the students present get confused. Was that brat intention to have Xiao Zhan expelled from the school? Heavens, Wang Yibo was looking at him with a mischievous smile as if that was exactly what he wanted. 

“I thought I asked for a romantic poem, not an erotic one,” he points out, frowning disapprovingly. 

Wang Yibo laughs shamelessly, sitting back at his desk. “And many people confuse romance with desire, isn’t that right? Isn’t Xiao-laoshi experienced in this matter?”

He gets silent, wondering if he meant experienced in the sense of romance or desire. Did it really matter, after all? Beside the boy, Kim Sungjoo touches his shoulder. 

“Forgive his behavior, professor,” he says. “Yibo likes to joke around sometimes.”

A joke. The word itself bothers him. The students seemed to have fun every time Wang Yibo got up to disturb him  with his audacity, patient when it came to flirting, and, frankly, he was grateful that it still hadn't reached the principal's ears. 

Right now, everyone was quiet, just listening in taciturn silence. If only they said something to change the focus, he could feel that the air inside the room wasn’t as hot. Instead, they were probably all by Wang Yibo's side. 

Wang Yibo. A nineteen-year-old boy who makes jokes that mean nothing. Jokes that shouldn't be taken to Xiao Zhan's foolish heart. A guy who acted like a clown, even when he knew well that he was smart; smart enough to get the best grades, if he wished. The one who had the world in the palm of his hands  ━ the rich boy who was only there to annoy others. 

Wang Yibo, whom he couldn't even think of the name without feeling something light up inside his chest. 

“Don't worry, Xiao-laoshi,” he says, provocatively. “Sungjoo doesn't know what he says. You’ll never be a joke to me,” and the boy blinks. Blinks without fear of being judged.

The students whistle, the same commotion since he first interrupted the class to mention that “it seems that all the poems were written for Professor Xiao's beauty” , in the first week of class. Damn, it should be over by now. What more reaction did he want to culminate? 

“Sit down and be quiet,” Xiao Zhan asks, and Wang Yibo obeys, glad to be addressed, at the very least.

Some days, he’s not even able to look him in the eye. Those were the worst days. Jing Yan asks more questions, Wen Han leaves early to play basketball and Wang Yibo stays until the end of class, when the clock strikes again, announcing six o'clock in the afternoon. Wang Yibo stays, because he’s a terribly irritating person ━ so, he walks around the room while Xiao Zhan starts to correct exams. 

“Go away, Wang Yibo,” he says, when the boy starts to wander around his table, looking very innocent. 

“My driver isn’t here yet,” the boy replies, leaning his arms over the papers he was writing on. “Keep me company." 

His mouth, his eyes, his body, all turned to Xiao Zhan's side, as flashy as a rose in a daisy garden. Since he had arrived, he didn’t know what was going on in his head, and that mystery was infuriating.

“You don't seem to need company.”

“But I want yours,” he argues. “I always want yours.”

When the young man gets closer, he moves away. Wang Yibo, he knew, belonged to a wealthy family, business owners in South Korea, where the boy, incidentally, had already studied as a child. He probably knew several places in the world, had seen many people and learned different languages. 

Meanwhile, Xiao Zhan had nothing. His family always had just enough so that none went hungry. The snacks he brought weren’t from the best market. His wallet was constantly empty. 

What could a guy who had everything in his hands want with him? Casual sex? An attraction game? Just an unintentional joke?

“You know, when I was your age, I wanted to have everything you have now,” he comments, sighing. “You’re smart. Why don’t you use that intelligence for something good, for a change?” 

“Because it would be boring, Xiao-laoshi,” Wang Yibo laughs. “I wouldn't have the chance to see you frustrated. Don't get me wrong, but I really like to see you frustrated,” after a pause, the boy winks. “I like to see you in general.”

Xiao Zhan wasn’t a man who liked to make impulsive acts, much less being at the mercy of others. He replies, quietly, “Be silent.”

Yet, Wang Yibo, of course, just laughs at his self-control. “Sorry,” he tells, but smiles in a way that says he’s not sorry. “Close to Professor Xiao, who’s so beautiful, how could I not be excited?”

Xiao Zhan doesn’t answer, and continues to pay attention to what he was correcting. The boy, bothering him to the limit, acted like a 10 year-old child, and he thought that if he resisted as a mature person, someday his little games would lose effect, and he’d get tired.

“Hey, how about I give you a ride today?” Wang Yibo asks. “Isn't your house far away?” 

“No,” he lies. “Thank you. I can take the bus.” 

“What do you prefer, that I ask my driver to take you or that I take you home alone?”

Wang Yibo's driver seemed very convenient. Whenever he needed to stay after class to correct exams, he was busy with something and would pick his boss hours later. Too convenient, they both knew. 

“None of the options.” 

Wang Yibo isn’t content with his few words. “I could take you home any day with my motorcycle as well. Xiao-laoshi like motorcycles?” 

“I have no particular opinion about it, other than that they’re dangerous.”

Of course, he knew that Wang Yibo liked motorcycles. It was what students liked most to comment on: “Oh! Wang Yibo! The Wang's youngest son! He's so good, isn't he? Have you seen him arriving with his bike? No?! You have no idea how sexy it is!”

“I’m very careful!” he argues, and brings his face close to Xiao Zhan's suddenly, causing him to lose his line of reasoning. 

The letters now seem too small, far from him, incomprehensible. Everything is tangled, out of order, as if his mind doesn't know how to calculate anything other than the color of his eyes. His hands were shaking slightly, but he squeezed the paper, preventing himself from having an outbreak there. 

Fortunately, Wang Yibo starts talking, trying hard to maintain that dynamic; Xiao Zhan, sitting, pretends not to listen, unwavering. The younger man keeps commenting on how sometimes he was jealous of his older sister, that there would be a motorcycle competition next month, that his father had promised to give him a brand new car when he’d start making progress in literature, which for Wang Yibo was absurd, since he hates reading. 

He tells about the fight he had with his mother last week, about how he had fun at karaoke with his friend Seung-youn and drank a little too much. He tells about several things, without asking if it was a bother or not. No shame he had. 

In some moments, he feels an urge to ask him: “Hey, are you human? Why don't you be quiet for a second?” , but it was possibly too intimate. He couldn't provide him that kind of interaction which would fill him with hope, precipitating into an uncertain path. It was wrong. 

Finally, after a good time, his phone rings, warning that his driver was already waiting at the university’s gates. They look at the clock: 19:35. 

The boy looks disappointed for a fraction of a second, until he picks up his blue backpack and smiles. “See you tomorrow, Xiao-laoshi,” he says. “Think of me, okay? You think of me, don't you? I can see that. I represent to you all the sins you didn’t have the courage to commit, or something like that. So think of me. I think about you all the time.” 

Xiao Zhan, once again, hesitates. His throat makes that choked motion, looking like he had swallowed a rock. So many words he had already swallowed when it came to Wang Yibo that he’d be able to form a dictionary in his heart: “All the things he wanted to say, but never did, nor he knew how to” ━  unique edition. 

“See you, Wang-laoshi,” Xiao Zhan replies, in a miserable whisper. 

Wang Yibo, whether he realizes the effort he had to put together to answer, at least doesn’t comment on, and smiles again before leaving the room. 

Another day, at last. Another day passes in that indescribable agony. 


Two hours go by quickly. In the meantime, Xiao Zhan tries to calm down, correcting stuff, scheduling materials and projects, disciplines that’d help students feel how poetry could be revitalizing. In some moments, he can even forget Wang Yibo was there in the first place; in others it’s very difficult, for his perfume has infiltrated the room. 

As he leaves the place, Liu Huaikan, the university coordinator, is in the hall, looking at the clipboard in his hand. His eyes go up when she sees him, and his glasses are carefully removed. “Complicated boy, that Wang, isn't he?” 

Xiao Zhan is startled by the sudden subject. “For sure,” he says, making Liu Huaikan smile. “Since he arrived, he hasn't seemed willing to do anything, nor has he been interested in any topic.”

“From what I was told, he seems very interested in you,” the coordinator replies, looking at him. 

Xiao Zhan blushes momentarily. “Oh, well, Wang Yibo just likes to make jokes. It’s difficult to explain.”

Liu Huaikan stands beside him, walking calmly towards the end of the hall. Their partnership was never intimate; they didn’t usually talk, unless it was about an important matter; he was too loyal to the university’s director, Zhu Zanjin. 

As far as he remembered, the last time he brought up a subject, it was the first week Xiao Zhan had arrived at the school, just to make him fit in with other professors. That conversation took him by surprise, and he didn't know what to think, only felt his nerves blossoming.

“I see,” Liu Huaikan makes a suspicious expression. “Even so, his basketball skills were very well noticed. I heard he’s very good at sports.”

“He must be,” Xiao Zhan smiles.

The coordinator observes him for a moment, before nodding tentatively. “I just ask you not to give up teaching him. Wang Yibo can be tough to deal with, but he’s a good boy,” he comments. “His family puts too much pressure on his back.”

Xiao Zhan gets silent. He knew the Wangs were strict, since he heard from their students' conversations, but was it that serious? 

Beside him, Huaikan sighs, putting his glasses back on. “Anyway, I have to go.”

“Sure,” Xiao Zhan straightens the briefcase. “See you tomorrow?”

The coordinator waves. “Of course. See you tomorrow, Professor Xiao.”


He takes two buses to get to his apartment. Two full buses, more than two hours waiting and half an hour walk to his neighborhood. Throughout the journey, Wang Yibo doesn’t leave his head. Throughout that period of time, the troublesome kid decides to infiltrate his thoughts indefinitely, lodging himself inside his chest. 

Even when he takes a shower, he can't forget his smell. Even when he’s finally in bed, almost asleep, he cannot forget the feeling of his eyes on him. 

The next day, the torment continues: half an hour of walking, two buses and two hours of waiting. And Wang Yibo appears as soon as he's walking through the gate, driving his motorcycle and pretending not to notice the female buzz following him. 

His eyes meet Xiao Zhan's. Damn it. 

“Xiao-laoshi!” he shouts, opening a cheerful smile as he parked his motorcycle. “Are you okay? How was lunch? I missed you so much!” 

Some students murmur, talking about them, but Xiao Zhan decides to walk vigorously towards his classroom, ignoring the boy. However, Wang Yibo is agile and soon runs to where he is. “Zhan-ge, don't ignore me!” 

He sighs, quickening his pace. “My lunch was good. I am fine.”

“And didn't you miss me too?”

“Don't be self-centered, Wang-laoshi,” Xiao Zhan snorts at the idea. 

Of course he hasn't missed him. Of course he hasn't thought about him all night. Obviously he didn’t. 

Wang Yibo laughs. “Well, then tell me about you. I always want to know more about Xiao-laoshi,” he insists. “Actually, what do you think about me taking you out when you're free?” 

Xiao Zhan stops, like a deer caught in headlights. They had already walked into the university, where people comes and goes with their buzzing ━  bee hives!

In the classroom it was normal to hear him flirting. At that particular moment, in public, it was new and uncomfortable. 

“Are you aware of how inappropriate this is?” Xiao Zhan whispers, stunned, checking around. “Stop asking me out, stop flirting. I’m your professor.”

Wang Yibo isn’t interested in where they are, and smiles dizzily. “You can be something else of mine too, if you’d accept.”

Irresponsible kid. Immature. A pervert, and so many other things. Xiao Zhan resumes walking again, feeling his ears go red. “Stop talking nonsense.” 

“I talk nonsense because I'm human!” he shouts at the corridor, running to get closer, and makes him want to disappear in embarrassment. “Xiao-laoshi, don't you know how much I strive to impress you everyday? Don’t you know already how much I want you to look only at me?”

Xiao Zhan doesn't respond, and keeps walking instead. Wang Yibo doesn’t get as quiet as he wanted: “Xiao-laoshi! Can I call you Zhan-ge?”

“We are not intimate,” he replies. 

The brat looks at him. “But it’s not time or opportunity that is to determine intimacy, it’s disposition alone! I’m at total disposition!”

During normal classes, he had never done anything right. He had never made a quote, nor suggested a particular author, much less seemed happy to talk about classical literature. When there was a project, Wang Yibo would stick with his friends and do everything with them. Which probably led to cheats. 

Xiao Zhan even allows himself to smile a little, although he remains silent, marching to his office, deciding to ignore

Beside him, Wang Yibo laughs. “I want to see Zhan-ge smiling more. If you don't want to go out with me, come and see me play basketball, at least? I play well. I’d play like never before if you were in the audience.”

He thinks about refusing, or maybe maintaining silent. They had already come close to room 13, from the literature course, and there was no reason to keep that conversation going. He thinks there was a lot that should separate them, and refusing was the right thing to do. He thinks about refusing, surely. 

But he doesn’t. 

“When is it?” 

Wang Yibo beams. “Next tuesday! Today I have practice at the end of the class, will you be there?”

“Now you're asking too much,” he sighs, making him smile more. “If I’ll watch your game, you stop horsing around in class, just promise me that.”

“I like how you play,” the boy nods. “See how I do everything for you?”

Wang Yibo, happy with the answer, acts fast like a leopard and places a kiss on his cheek before running into the room before. The kiss tingles in his skin. Xiao Zhan needs to take a short while before finally entering, feeling limp, burnt out. 

The boy was a living flame; his interior burned when he was close. Certainly, it wasn’t a good sign. 

The class goes smoothly, with some pauses for Wang Yibo's flirtations, which many students watched, having fun with that torment. Wei Fang recites Dickens, Lou Qiying tells the biography of Lao Zi, and Li We Han reads his favorite poem by Emily Dickinson. 

Wang Yibo is quite behaved, compared to other days. His eyes don’t hide his mischievous soul though, and a few winks are directed at him. 

“I'm nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody, too?

Then there's a pair of us ━ don't tell!

They'd banish us, you know.

 

How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!”


“I can't take it anymore,” Xiao Zhan says. “Every day, it's the same thing. Do you know how hard it is to concentrate with that boy in the room? I wonder if it would be better to just quit. ”

He was sitting in the professors' room, next to Yu Bin, the history professor, and Meng Ziyi, professor from the med course. They had lunch calmly, discussing the new semester. 

Yu Bin smiles, typically shy. “Xiao-laoshi like him?” 

They both glanced at him, waiting for his answer. What should he say? If he says yes, it would reveal too much, and, once again, a relationship with a student would never work. If he answers no, they certainly wouldn't believe it anyway. 

“I... that's not important,” he sighs. “I admit that he’s smart, handsome and everything else they say, but this is so inappropriate I can't even put into words” ━ Wang Yibo really was an eccentric boy, extremely beautiful and witty, much more than he had imagined. Nevertheless, his youth would soon be over, and he’d regret ever being interested in Xiao Zhan (that is, if all his jokes were indeed true, and not just platonic impulses). He concludes: “I am his teacher. He's my student.” 

Meng Ziyi snorts, tapping him on the shoulder. “What are you saying? It's only for 3 months, isn't it? This is the last month that you’ll stay here.”

It didn’t entertain his concerns. 

About 5 months ago, just before the semester started and he met Wang Yibo, Xiao Zhan had accepted a job offer in Sichuan. A new place for him; a famous university that offered health insurance, food and a higher salary than what he was currently receiving. 

The director of Sichuan University, Wang Yizhou, had declared that his accommodation would be close to his workplace, and he’d no longer have to take buses. Without a bus, without two hours of walking, without tiredness, completely simple, and Xiao Zhan would be silly if he hadn't accepted. Therefore, he would transfer at the end of the first quarter of the year, when another professor of literature was hired. 

And then, Xiao Zhan would start a new life elsewhere, and his former troublesome student, Wang Yibo, would become nothing but an empty memory of compacted days. A vacuum in his years of life. Nothing more than a boy for whom he once felt like having for himself; passion has always been as fleeting as light rain on sunny days. 

That was just what they’re supposed to mean. Nothing more than an unimportant young passion, which would end like all the others; practical and simple. Only the rest of that month was enough. Xiao Zhan believed he could make it until then.

He takes a sip of his tea. “Anyway, if someone finds out, it would still prevent me from working anywhere else. It would stain my résumé.” 

“Not exactly,” Meng Ziyi shakes his head. 

“We’re six years apart,” Xiao Zhan gives them another good reason. “He’s not even 20 years old yet!”

Yu Bin looks at him in a way that makes him feel extremely stupid. His friend didn't usually face people so easily, unless they were saying something so dumb even he could see it. “Now aren't you just inventing excuses?”

Xiao Zhan feels like hiding. Those two couldn’t be trusted. “Ya, whose side are you guys on?”

Yu Bin laughs. “We just want to see you well,” he says, and Meng Ziyi nods. “Since Wang Yibo entered university, you have become more talkative, more agitated. Whether you like it or not, he stirs something in you, doesn't he?”

Xiao Zhan knows. The kid does stir something in him, in a way he didn't like at all. 

Before they met inside the classroom, with Wang Yibo making a horrible pick-up line in the first few minutes their eyes met, Xiao Zhan was depressed, barely talking to his colleagues, and refusing every chance he had to go out with them. He didn’t drink, nor did he feel particularly affected being a professor. 

Everything has changed, he’d say. The boy arrived like a hurricane, a torment ━ it was a cliché, he knew, but there was nothing to resemble Wang Yibo if not a natural phenomenon, capable of destroying all the principles he had cultivated for 26 years.  

“It makes no difference,” he replies. 

Meng Ziyi doesn't trust his answer much. “It does, and it does a lot.” 

“No,” suddenly, Xiao Zhan feels bored. How many times had he not thought about the consequences of being carried away by desire? 

So many things he had already decided. Before, he was so excited to go to Sichuan. Since Wang Yibo came into his life, in addition to having been more restless (enough for his friends to notice), the thought of leaving seemed unpleasant. 

“It’s up to you to decide if this is worth continuing, Xiao-laoshi,” Yu Bin comments. “I hope you at least accept it.”

Xiao Zhan fails to understand. “Continue something we haven't even started?”

They stare at him for a moment, before breaking down in those intimate laughs he quite disliked, filled with a knowledge he didn't know about, making him feel stupid once again.

Meng Ziyi happily tells him: “Everyone at the university is talking about you two. Everyone already believes that you’re dating each other. Only you can't realize.”

When they finally leave the professors’ room with slightly suspicious looks, Xiao Zhan keeps drinking his tea, wondering what others used to say about them, and feels his ears burn. 


At the end, he finds himself standing on the basketball court, where a practice is taking place. Wang Yibo is the epitome of youth: shining wherever he ran, handling the ball with skill. His skin seems to glow under the sun, and the smile that hovers in the corner of his mouth extends when he realizes that Xiao Zhan was watching. 

The basketball uniform fits him very well, by the way. It circled his sweaty body with grace, driving the girls crazy. 

Wang Yibo lights up on the court, very differently from how he behaved in the classroom; literature wasn’t really his style, truly. A boy like him shouldn't be sitting at a desk talking about books, no matter how important for history they were. 

A boy like him should be seen . A boy like Wang Yibo was born to flaunt his youth, run, dance, play sports, use his infinite claw to achieve incredible things. 

He understands. A person like Wang Yibo shouldn’t be interested in a person like Xiao Zhan. 

When the game ends, the night had already arrived, and that popular player ignores the girls' cries to run up to him: “So, Xiao-laoshi, did I impress you this time around?”

Only for that moment, he’d allow himself to be sincere. “You’re very good.”

Good enough to drop out the literature course and focus on sports instead. That he wouldn’t say, for he knew family matters prevented him. 

Wang Yibo grins. “Thanks, Zhan-ge! Won't you say I should use my enormous intelligence to study your subjects instead of focusing on games that could harm me?” 

“You should use your intelligence to study my subjects instead of focusing on games that could harm you.”

The boy laughs, looking pleased, and Xiao Zhan's heart leaps. “Typical. But that's okay, because I like when you care about me,” he says, then comes over to whisper: “Xiao-laoshi, let me take you home?”

He shivers, and waits with all his might that the kid didn't notice that reaction. “It’s far. I'll take the bus.”

“I'm on a motorcycle, I'll take you.”

“I'm not going to ride a motorcycle with you,” Xiao Zhan replies in a hurry, the idea itself making him dizzy.

“Hey!” the boy shouts indignantly, his eyes a bit upset, like those of a small, abandoned puppy. “I drive very well, you know?!”

“That’s not my concern,” he says. 

The concern was having to hold on to Wang Yibo in that minimal space on the way. The concern was not knowing how to hide from what he felt for him. 

“Zhan-ge, why are you so stubborn?” the boy sighs, taking Xiao Zhan's arm, grabbing him without shame. “Let me take you to the bus stop, and wait with you then. Is it too far from here?”

His mouth is expressing an irresistible pout. Xiao Zhan tries very hard not to freak out right there, to pull his arm back and maybe run. In the end, he doesn't move, and just replies: “Not much.”

For the first time, he wanted the bus stop to be more far. Wang Yibo doesn't let go of his arm, like a girl in love from old books, throwing himself at any given moment. He takes him beyond the university’s gate.

“Let's go!” 

And Wang Yibo follows him happily, touching his arm without fear someone will catch them together, causing Xiao Zhan to dodge a few times, hesitant. 

Along the way, Wang Yibo tells him about his mother, his sister, his father, whom he did not have a good relationship with; he tells everything about him that Xiao Zhan didn't know yet, like his fear of ghosts, darkness and insects; his desire to pursue a career as a biker and how he dreamed of becoming a professional dancer when he was younger. 

Xiao Zhan asks a few questions during his speech, but other than that, he just lets him be who he is, talkative, young and messy. He listens carefully, since he liked to hear stories, whatever they were. 

There were places Wang Yibo would like to go to, and other sports he’d like to try, usually dangerous things that made Xiao Zhan's frown. On snowy days, he loved snowboarding, and on sunny days he loved surfing, even though he was yet inexperienced. 

He liked skating, playing with lego and watching action movies (the horror ones were terrifying for him). He especially loved his mother's food and used to argue with his sister about silly matters. 

“Xiao-laoshi,” he calls, when he has finished telling his whole life. “If you weren't a professor, what would you want to be?” 

Xiao Zhan thinks for a second. No one had ever asked him such a question before, whether out of politeness or not. When he looks around, realizes that, unfortunately, they were getting close to the bus stop. 

“I wanted to be a painter,” he laughs, heart in hand. “I like painting and drawing.”

Wang Yibo smiles, looking at him as if Xiao Zhan was a deity who has descended from the skies. “For real? Would you let me see something you drew?” 

He wants to laugh. Laugh, and maybe pull him closer ━ but he doesn't. “No.” 

Xiao Zhan thinks to himself that his teaching career was exhausting. Often, in fact, you lose childish dreams for high wages, and he had done the same. 

“Zhan-ge is so cruel,” Wang Yibo complains, slightly punching him in the shoulder. 

“I have been painting and drawing since I was a child,” Xiao Zhan decides to say, sighing. “Before entering the literature area, I wanted to do graphic design. But I thought about it, and I don't want to lose the pleasure of sitting in my chair on a quiet Sunday and just draw or paint whatever I want, you know? We don't necessarily need to look for a career with everything we like, otherwise we’ll lose our hobbies. We just need to find something we don't bother doing on a daily basis,” he says, and realizes that Wang Yibo listened well, eyes shining. “And I like to teach. I like poetry, philosophy, literature… I like to read.” 

If they were anywhere else, he’d never tell him all that. The words would stop in his throat. However, in that place, walking with Wang Yibo's arm touching his, close as if they were two lovers, he couldn't hide anything. 

If the kid asked an inappropriate question, he wouldn't even be able to lie. Not with his playful smile that makes his heart almost come out through his mouth. Not with the way his hands were sweating. 

“So artistic, Xiao-laoshi,” the boy finally says. “I learn so much with you.”

Xiao Zhan laughs at the irony. “Are you serious? You don't learn anything during my classes. You don’t even pay attention to what I say.”

Wang Yibo suddenly freezes. He doesn't walk. Instead, he looks at Xiao Zhan as if he's grown four heads. 

“What is it?” he asks, worried about that reaction. 

Wang Yibo comes out of his state of petrification only to smile at him beautifully, cute cheeks spreading. His loving eyes are directed at Xiao Zhan. He says: “Just watch a man laugh and you'll find out a lot about his soul, won't you? If he laughs well, he's a good man. You’re a good man.”

It was his turn to freeze. On second thought, lately he hadn't laughed in the classroom, much less around Wang Yibo. Not knowing what to say, Xiao Zhan just cleared his throat. 

Now back to normal, the boy walks three steps more to accompany him. “Well, going back to what Xiao-laoshi said, I like to pay attention to other things,” he replies, holding his arm again. “How could I pay attention to classic authors when you’re so much more beautiful than any poem they could have written?” 

A wind passes at the bus stop, and they are standing waiting. Xiao Zhan's chest is filled with affection; a huge emotion runs through your body. 

They’re pleasantly silent for a few minutes, until Xiao Zhan whispers, “Wang Yibo, you… you can't keep saying these things. You know you can’t.” 

“Why couldn't I?” Wang Yibo glares, making him realize that they’re closer to each other than ever. “I like to admire beautiful things. I’m always sincere, Xiao-laoshi. Whatever I say to you, I'm always being sincere.”

He sighs. “That's what I'm afraid of.”

“Are you afraid of me? Or afraid of how you feel about me?” Wang Yibo comes closer to his face, eyes glued to Xiao Zhan's lips.

Both. He was afraid of both. Yibo himself, as he had said, represented all the sins he didn’t have the courage to commit. All those risks were too huge to take. 

Xiao Zhan can feel his breath close to his, but resists, and mutters: “I fear because you're young.”

Wang Yibo holds Xiao Zhan's face tightly, holding it in place, preventing him from moving away. “You’re also young.”

“I’m your professor, Wang-laoshi,” he laughs bitterly, unable to resist the touch.

His body didn't seem to belong to himself. He felt the tingling of the boy's hands on his skin like a fire spreading. Xiao Zhan's arms act unconsciously and go around Wang Yibo's body, pulling his waist close to his. 

His throat is dry. The brat looks at him with longing written in his eyes. “I don't care about your profession,” he whispers, mouth close to his ears. “You can be mine, just mine, and nothing else afterwards. I want to be yours, but not your student six years younger, undisciplined and all that shit, I just want to be yours. Is that too much to ask? Don't you feel the same way?” 

His voice disappears. The only thing he feels is a hot wave going through his body, bringing ridiculous impulses, thoughts that shouldn't exist ━ thoughts he had suppressed very hard. 

Wang Yibo pays no attention to any of these things, and just brings his mouth closer to Xiao Zhan's mouth. “Xiao-laoshi... don't you feel the same?” 

Oh, he should have known. He should have known he did. 

Without softness, Wang Yibo finally kisses him, lips joining Xiao Zhan's. The arm that held him around the waist gets firmer, and the younger man invades his mouth with a bold tongue. The kiss becomes more desperate, a sweet, intoxicating taste invading him.  

His hands, thick and larger, travel Xiao Zhan’s body, from his face to his chest, then his abdomen. The brat moans shamelessly, pulling him in, deepening the kiss even more, and Xiao Zhan punishes him with a bite. 

However, Wang Yibo likes the pain. He bites back, although sweetly, and drops his hands down to his pants; down to his belt. 

The worst thing is that he’s unable to stop; he can't stop kissing him. Xiao Zhan doesn't want it to end. He wants to continue, wants to take him home and kiss his whole body, in parts that others couldn’t see ━ he wouldn’t let anyone else see. 

He wanted Wang Yibo's hands. He wanted his mouth, his face next to him; he wanted him in his bed, naked. He wanted so much, so many things. 

Yet, a noise makes them separate. His lips, his taste, are gone suddenly. When the bus arrives on the street, stopping for people to get off, the kid throws him a sexy smile, and says: “Good night, Xiao-laoshi.” 

He gives him a peck and runs away, turning the corner, disappearing from view within a minute; leaving him with a tremendous feeling that all of that could have been a fever dream. 

Xiao Zhan is left out of breath. With the poor, foolish heart beating faster than a hare, he gets on the bus. The entire way home is filled with inappropriate thoughts of what might have happened if he had prevented Wang Yibo from leaving his arms. 


It was midnight, and he could no longer read. His eyes were tired, and his body could only feel the tingle of a kiss, the sensation of hands around him. 

It wasn’t cold, on the contrary, the heat was terrible inside the room. Xiao Zhan lies down, but doesn’t fall asleep. He overthinks, as always. He can't take his mind off the boy; brown eyes as powerful as a lion's, ready to attack, if necessary. 

When it came to them together, at least, Wang Yibo became a kitten, with fluffy eyes, pouting mouth. 

He can't take it anymore. 

Xiao Zhan's hands travel over his hips calmly, until it reaches the length of his dick, hard just to think of vigorous hands tracing the path from his back to his member. 

When he decides to rub his erection, feeling strong waves of pleasure pulse through his body, Xiao Zhan thinks of Wang Yibo on the basketball court, in his thin ━ thin, although athletic ━ sweaty body, shining with the sun, touching his. That smile would be taken from his mouth by Xiao Zhan's lips, and his hands would have, at last, approached his boxer. 

His hands work on his body without shame, fidgeting and sometimes squeezing, making him tremble in bed, unable to suppress moans. In his mind, Wang Yibo's hands are holding him, and his provocative expression would take an even  more lascivious shape as he’d take Xiao Zhan's cock in his mouth, licking it happily while calling him “Zhan-ge”. 

“Zhan-ge,” he would say, and Xiao Zhan would ask him to keep going, keep going hurriedly, until his body cannot take it anymore and collapse. 

In his mind, Wang Yibo kisses him, slowly undressing for him, showing all the parts he wanted to see. His length would rub Xiao Zhan's length. While imagining, he moves his body, almost not lucid, lost in the dream of that irresponsible kid sucking his whole dick, faster, faster, deeper. 

Xiao Zhan trembles uncontrollably. His moans can no longer be suppressed. Faster , he thinks, increasing the speed of his hands. 

And Wang Yibo is there, in his bed, taking his breath away, smiling at him, calling him “Zhan-ge” and sucking him out of control, that bold tongue licking his member. 

The wave of pleasure arrives greatly, and Xiao Zhan comes on the bed, feeling in heaven. His legs were wobbly; his body was shivering. 

That intoxicating sensation was terribly dangerous for him, truly. He takes a long time to recover, and when he finally does, he doesn't even take Wang Yibo's brown eyes off his head, meeting his; not even the coldest water would shake the intensity of his lust. 

When he lies down on bed again, Xiao Zhan falls asleep quickly, caught by that heady feeling.