Right after Xiaoxi spilled a bowl of soup, she became public enemy number one at the Tech University. This was how it happened.
Male students at the engineering and technology universities all enjoy playing soccer. Tech U's soccer team is ranked second in the city. Sometimes the Engineering U would surpass the Tech U, if they happened to have a genius forward that year.
But for the past two years, Tech U didn't give the Engineering U any chance to win. It's all because they had a genius center, Kan Yaonan. That's right, not a forward, but a center. Just like how a car cannot run without its engine, the team couldn’t hope to win without Kan.
Kan's specialty was his banana shaped free kick, which sent the ball straight toward the blind spot of the goal.
People always say that if only he wasn’t ..., he could be in the National Team already.
No, no, no, not that kind of level of the Chinese National Team. Anyway, Yaonan's skills could rival Beckham!
But this year, Tech U lost, badly. They were shaved bald. All because Yaonan was a no-show; Yaonan couldn't play. Why? Because Yaonan got hurt!
He was injured by that damned Sui Xiaoxi! A bowl of piping hot veggie soup of hers spilled all over Yaonan's left hand!
Four days later, during the final match, the coach had no other choice but send someone else to replace him. And the result was as expected.
Wasn't it strange though, Yaonan only burned his left hand, his feet were without a scratch. Why couldn't he play?
As for this question, Sui Xiaoxi actually pondered over for quite some time. But, why?
Sui Xiaoxi is an easy going girl, though sometimes oblivious of her surroundings. She has no interest in sports whatsoever; and never went to any school sporting events. Her only interest is her burgeoning literary writing career.
Why is a female technology student interested in literature? She got confused and checked the wrong box while filling out her school selections.
Well, never mind that. Let's find out what happened that fateful day. Xiaoxi and her good friend Mu Xue went to the cafeteria after class. They talked about the article Xiaoxi had posted online two months ago, which had just reached 200 hits.
Xiaoxi was excited as usual, "You know, the hit rate increased rapidly these last two days! Two days ago it only increased by 1 hit, yesterday 5 hits, and today 20 more hits! Maybe my article will be popular soon, hahahaha......"
She's always so optimistic, but Mu Xue's having difficulty navigating. Since this bowl of veggie soup was thick, simmering with white smoke, filled up to the rim of the bowl, Mu Xue was holding it extra carefully for fear of spilling it. At the same while, she tried to make sense what Xiaoxi was talking about. She was in a awkward posture, stretching her ears while holding her body back.
Xiaoxi was holding a bowl of hot veggie soup, too. Mu Xue walked slower, Xiaoxi unknowingly moved ahead of her, turning her head to talk to Mu Xue.
Everything went on innocently. Finally, Xiaoxi concluded, "My writing will be more than hot!"
After uttering those words, Xiaoxi turned her head around energetically, ready to go forward. Right at that instance, she bumped head on into --- Kan Yaonan.
Xiaoxi had been turning sideways to talk to Mu Xue while Kan Yaonan was laughingly chatting with his teammates. If they just brushed by each other, nothing would have happened. But it so happened that when Xiaoxi turned around, that bowl of hot veggie soup came right in front of Kan Yaonan. He couldn't stop himself in time.
So the inevitable result, a whole bowl of hot veggie soup spilled all over his left hand.
All of sudden, Xiaoxi froze instantly. She couldn't even make a sound to apologize. The guys of the soccer team were all big guys. They watched the soup spilled over Yaonan, the long dark green strips of veggie leaves hung from Yaonan’s left arm like string. Fortunately, it's almost winter time and people all wore heavier clothes in layers. There were of course issues to wearing too many layers. It would be a pain to remove and wash all the pieces of soiled clothes.
Yaonan had a painful expression on his face. His teammates surrounded him and used their sleeves to brush off the hot veggie strips so they wouldn't get burned themselves. It looked like his clothes were soaking wet, his wrist was swelling and turning reddish. The teammates made a quick decision; without waiting for Yaonan's reaction, two of the teammates helped him to go to take care of the wound.
Three of the teammates stayed. They furiously yelled at Xiaoxi, "You idiot! You hurt his hand! How can he kick the ball now?!"
"If anything happens to Yaonan, we absolutely will have you pay!"
Afterwards, the three stared sharply at Xiaoxi like wanted to kill her. She was shaken somewhat, couldn't respond, and didn't even notice that those three had walked away when she came to her sense.
The onlookers also gradually dispersed. Xiaoxi dejectedly bent down to pick up her soup bowl. Just as she was about to leave with Mu Xue, she saw there was a bowl full of rice and food set on the table next to her. Did the food belong to the student whose hand just got burned by her? She wondered.
She paused a bit, then picked up the rice bowl. She thought to herself, she would use returning the bowl as an excuse to find that guy and apologize to him. Just now, she was so scared, she couldn't even bring herself to make a sound to utter the word "sorry."
She was in no mood to eat at the cafeteria anymore. She went back to dorm with Mu Xue. She's shaking her head, what they just said---didn't make any sense! He injured his hand, why couldn’t he kick the ball anymore? Maybe he's playing handball? But handball is played with two hands, why did they say kick?
She was so baffled and hungry. Without realizing what she was doing, she picked up the rice bowl and started eating. It didn't dawn on her that her food was all over the cafeteria's floor. Whose food was she eating, then? Yack!
A soccer team without a center is like a person without a soul, a car without an engine. The coach changed the game plan to a more conservative one, from the original 4-4-2 formation to a 5-3-2 formation. Unfortunately, this defensive formation at the end still lost to the opponent, 1 - 0. Tech U lost the match.
Almost the entire soccer team blamed the loss on Xiaoxi's spill.
Lao K was cursing while changing the dressing for Yaonan. "Damn, that girl is really something. Now you’re hurt, the team lost, and she acts like nothing happened. Not even one “sorry”. If she wasn’t a girl, I would have slapped her already!"
Yaonan tried to calm him down. "I'm ok now. My arm is only swelling with some blisters."
"Yaonan, don't pretend like it’s nothing. I was burned when I was little, the pain was unbearable. It felt like I was burning the whole night!"
Yaonan laughed. " Yeah, last night I was twisting and turning because of the pain. So you should say happy words to cheer me up!"
Lao K gave in. "Alright, alright, I'll stop. I'll talk to the professor later to let you turn in your project a couple of days late."
Lao K and Yaonan were both second-year students in the Master's program of Computer Science.
As they were talking, another roommate came back, with a devious grin on his face.
"Er......that trouble making girl is at the gate trying to make friends with the security guard. She was talking so fawningly......"
"What are you talking about?" asked Lao K.
So the roommate impersonated Xiaoxi. "Dear security guard, do you know which dorm is Yaonan living in?"
Yaonan chuckled at his roommate's girly impersonation. "This girl's kind of funny."
Lao K was not amused. But before he could make any comment, there came a clear and crisp female voice. "Yaonan! Yaonan! Yaonan......"
Lao K frowned, what was she doing pretending to be a close acquaintance? He stamped his foot and said to Yaonan, "I'll go down and take a look."
Technology and engineering colleges are always nicknamed "the monks' temple." It is quite normal to have an 8 to 2 male to female ratio at the Tech U. For easy management of the male students, the school built several dorms for male students spreading over a large lot. At the main gate, there's a security post and Xiaoxi was right here trying to get some information from the guard.
Not only did she sweet talk the guard, she had also brought a gift too: a large bunch of bananas. The guard knew her from the time when Xiaoxi was still madly in love with her ex-boyfriend. She used this same tactic to get the better side of the guard.
"Dear security guard, it's building no. 23, right? Then I'm going in now!"
Xiaoxi walked right into the "monk" zone without any sense of embarrassment. Actually she should've felt somewhat uneasy; a beautiful young girl walking into the territory of animalistic men. But Xiaoxi had no such concept. Probably because she had followed her ex in and out this place too many times. All those head-turning boys and whistles didn't bother her at all.
She yelled for Yaonan for a while; as for why exactly she called him in such an informal manner, it's because she didn't know who he was at all! She only heard the other boys call his first name that day, and she was too embarrassed to ask around about him. That's why she called him awkwardly like they were close friends. She thought about asking Mu Xue about him, but Mu Xue wasn’t into sports either and didn't know anything about the soccer team. Xiaoxi felt very remorseful to the school soccer team. She decided she had better come to apologize in person.
After a while, a man came out from the building. Xiaoxi looked at him and asked, "Where's Yaonan?"
Yaonan was quite handsome and evidently Xiaoxi remembered how he looked clearly. She certainly could tell who is or is not Yaonan.
Lao K said coldly, "What are you doing here?"
"I came to apologize." Xiaoxi answered matter-of-factly.
"What kind of attitude is that. There's no need. Don't let me see you again from now on!" Lao K said angrily.
Xiaoxi wasn't too happy by now either. "I came to apologize alright, but isn't this Yaonan a bit fake? His hand got burned, why couldn't he kick a ball? I think he just used it as excuse......"
Lao K glanced her icily, in no mood of saying anything more to her. He saw that she was holding a bowl in her hand and grabbed it from her without saying a word.
"Hey, how can you grab other people's stuff like that?!"
"Isn't this what you brought over to return to Yaonan?"
Lao K didn't want to say anything more. "Alright, that's it. I don't have time to listen to your babbling. Don't come by anymore!"
He turned around to go upstairs after saying that.
Xiaoxi was put on the spot. She was planning to use returning the bowl as an excuse to apologize to Yaonan face to face. Now, not only did an awful person lash out at her, the bowl was taken away from her, too. The excuse was already gone, but she hadn't apologized yet. Xiaoxi didn't know how to make sense of her own feeling right now---that day at cafeteria---that day---
Alright, she admitted, Yaonan was quite handsome.
Since Xiaoxi was already inside the men's dorm, how could she retreat without accomplished her mission? Never! After the 17th boy walked into Yaonan's dorm, she made a decision.
She went a few steps back away from the door, then put her hands on her waist, took a deep breath, and shouted.
"Yaonan, sorry! I'm sorry that I hurt you! I sincerely apologize with all my heart!"
She shouted so loud that a lot of heads stretched out of the windows, waiting to see what would happen next.
By this time, Lao K was already back in the room ready to give the bowl back to Yaonan. Xiaoxi's shouting came loud and clear from downstairs.
"Damn, this woman's way too shameless! She's not embarrassed at all! I feel abashed for her!"
Yaonan on the other hand, listened carefully for a while. Afterwards, he commented, "She's kind of interesting!"
Lao K gave him a long face. "Yaonan, be careful. Maybe she's playing some prank ...... or maybe she's trying to seduce you?"
Yaonan stood up. "I'll go down and take a look. She sounds sincere."
"What! Sincere just by screaming and yelling?"
Yaonan, already by the door, turned back towards Lao K. "Can tell by listening to it."
Xiaoxi shouted for quite some time, repeating the same few words. After a while, she almost forgot what she was doing there after mechanically shouting for so long. She planned to shout three more times, demonstrating her sincerity, and then go back.
Suddenly, she saw a shadow at the staircase. She looked more closely, a tall man walked to the doorway. The door’s threshold seemed too low for him. He had to lower his head when coming out the door.
She looked into his eyes at the instant he raised his head. There was no trace of anger or annoyance in his eyes. They were sophisticated like savory wine. Xiaoxi ran over to him and stopped in front of him just to discover that she couldn't even reach his shoulder line.
She suddenly, without realizing why, felt her heart racing, her face turned red; she got really nervous all of sudden. She grabbed her sleeves standing in front of him, but couldn’t properly speak.
Yaonan wore a casual thick cotton jacket. The jacket's style was old, but it didn't diminish his graceful charm.
Xiaoxi now truly felt sorry. Such an outstanding person (a graduate student? a star player of the soccer team? --- that was all the information Xiaoxi was able to gather), got burned on his hand by the hot soup that she had spilled. If, by any chance, there was any bad side effects ...... Xiaoxi wouldn't dare to think any further. When she saw his left hand wrapped with dressings, secured by a sling, resting at the front of his chest, Xiaoxi felt a blow to her heart. She sincerely apologized. "I'm truly sorry, xuezhang."
"Well, it's alright. The soup wasn't that hot. After a few day's treatment, I will be fine."
Xiaoxi lowered her head and said in a small voice, "I caused your team to lose the most important player and the match. Your teammates are so scary!"
Uhm, this wasn't what she was here for...... why did she complain to him?
Realizing that she was acting a bit more coy than she intended, she cleared her throat and assumed a serious tone, "Then does this mean you have forgiven me?"
Yaonan smiled and nodded his head. "Don't think too much of it. They just haven't gotten over their anger yet. They are actually all nice guys."
Xiaoxi smiled happily too. "En. Then you take good care of yourself. I'll go to your next match to cheer you guys on!"
Yaonan accepted Xioaxi's apology, turned around ready to go back upstairs as Xiaoxi called to him again. "Actually, xuezhang......"
He turned back again, question marks in his eyes.
Xiaoxi took out a tube of ointment from her pocket. "Xuezhang, this is for you. It's an herbal ointment for burns."
"It's ok. The ointment from the school's clinic isn't bad......."
"But it hurts badly when applying it!" Xiaoxi said with certainty. "Take this, otherwise I'll feel really bad. My father is a doctor of Chinese medicine. This ointment is really good. It doesn't hurt at all when you put it on and can quicken the healing process. It's good really!"
Yaonan felt a sharp pain when he tried to move his left hand. He had a slight expression of helplessness on his face.
Xiaoxi eagerly said, "It's really good. Don't be a stranger, take it!"
Xiaoxi felt she had to put the tube into his hand to make sure he took it. Without thinking too much, she held the tube in one hand and tried using the other hand to grab Yaonan's right hand so she could put the tube into it.
There was nothing. There was no hand.
All of sudden, it became so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. His heavy breathing, her rapid heartbeats, all seemed so clear.
Under his heavy jacket, she grabbed onto an empty sleeve. His right arm was gone below the elbow.
"You better go." His face was now without any expression.
: The Chinese national team has a bad reputation. Aside from not being able to play soccer that well (compared to other nations), a lot of the Chinese professional teams are plagued by corruption and controlled by gamblers. (i.e. they will lose on purpose because people are betting on the opposite team). So somewhat good players don't want to be associated with the professional teams.
: In China, students take a nation wide test to enter college. They select which universities they wish to enter and are admitted if they score high enough on their test. Sui Xiaoxi in this case marked the wrong schools while selecting.
: For those who aren’t aware of how soccer is played, players are arrayed in 3 lines: attackers, midfielders, and defenders. WIth 1 goalie defending the mouth of the goal. Obviously more aggressive formations have more attackers while defensive formations have more defenders. Here's a picture to help!
: XueZhang is a phrase used for upper classmen, it is the Chinese version of senpai if you are familiar with japanese.
: En is an onomatopoeia in Chinese used to signify acknowledgement or understanding.