Chapter 60: The New Year’s Eve (Part One)
Ouyang Xiaoleng never frolicked with other boys, so Liu Lingmei assigned him the work of putting up garlands due to his tall figure. Standing on a desk, Liu Lingmei began pasting paper-cut decorations on the windowpanes. Other classes bought their paper-cut decorations, but Liu Lingmei cut them by herself last night. After working late last night, she felt a bit dizzy.
Xia Qiu noticed her fatigue and said, “You look pale. Come down and get some rest!”
Liu Lingmei declined, “I’m fine. Qiu, go and write the words on the blackboard. Don’t mind me!”
Xia Qiu went to the backboard reluctantly; still worried about her friend, she kept glancing back at Liu Lingmei. Once when she glanced back, her gaze turned fuzzy for a second and the boys’ rancor paused, too; when her gaze rested on Liu Lingmei, the latter was standing on her toes to paste a paper-cut on the top window pane. She slipped and fell from the desk.
Alarmed, Xia Qiu wanted to scream for help but couldn’t make a sound. Dumping the chalk in her hand, she ran toward her friend but was dragged back by something. Then she snapped back to reality and found Liu Lingmei was still standing on the desk. She was about to stand on her toes to paste a paper cut onto the highest windowpane.
The scene was exactly the same as she had seen; she knew she had entered Soul Departure a moment ago and seen what would happen in the future. Immediately, she ran toward Liu Lingmei and got to her side at the exact the moment that she slipped. Xia Qiu caught her in time before she fell from the desk.
“What a fright! I thought I’d fall.” Liu Lingmei panted as tears welled up in her eyes due to fear.
“You’re fine now!” Xia Qiu took her hand and found it was icy cold.
“Qiu, I can’t imagine what would have happened if not for you.” Liu Lingmei sobbed.
“Are you okay?” Du He and the others all walked up.
“You guys stop messing around. Lingmei is dizzy. Let her sit down and rest for a while,” Xia Qiu said to Du He.
“Okay!” Du He and the other boys nodded immediately.
“See? They listen to you; he especially!” Liu Lingmei recovered a bit and pointed at Du He with a pout.
“He doesn’t listen to you, but I do,” Dong Haofan handed her a cup of warm water and told her.
“Fine! Don’t be angry!” Du He’s comfort drew laughter from the other boys.
December 31st passed in busy celebrations. As they had planned, Xia Qiu and Liu Lingmei sang an English song at the party. In the evening, she had supper with her grandparents and got prepared to attend the New Year’s celebration in the spirit world. Qianqi had returned to the capital city at noon and came with Ouyang Xiaoleng to Xia Qiu’s home to accompany her to the spirit world.
The capital city had been newly decorated for the New Year’s Eve and all the shops on the business street were open for business. The bustling pedestrians thronged on the street; walking in the slow-moving crowds, Xia Qiu and her friends visited each shop and booth at leisure.
Xuetu had told Ouyang Xiaoleng that she’d meet them in the shop selling masks. Lately, she had been locked in home by her mother Miao Xueyou; after a lengthy persuasion from her uncle Wangyue, her mother finally agreed to let her out on the New Year’s Eve. She pushed her newly bought fox face mask to the top of her head and stuffed snacks she had just bought from food booths into her mouth; in her backpack were novelties that she had treasure-hunted from different shops. She jumped happily when she saw them.
Qianqi warmly recommended the food he liked to Xia Qiu, but in her eyes, some of the food that he mentioned was impossible to eat. For example, the mini water ghosts in a grill shop were palm-sized spirits with the shape of humans; Qianqi tried his best to explain how delicious they were, but she just didn’t want to try even a bite.
When they walked past the liquor shop, a bench had just been vacated. Qianqi pulled his friends into the shop and took a seat on the left end of the bench; Xia Qiu sat down on his right and Ouyang Xiaoleng sat down next to her; Xuetu sat on the right end of the bench. Before they could speak, a horse-faced spirit put four cups before them; taking a long-mouthed liquor pot from the hot water sink, he filled the mugs with spirit liquor. Flower fragrance rose from the petals of sweet Osmanthus floating in the hot liquor.
“Can underaged people drink alcohol?” Xia Qiu asked after some hesitation.
“Yes. Even I can drink alcohol. In the spirit world, people come of age at 12,” said Xuetu with a smile.
“Let’s sit here until midnight and then go to the watchtower on the top of the mountain to enjoy the fireworks,” suggested Qianqi. He hadn’t had hot liquor for a long while and wanted to enjoy himself on New Year’s Eve with Xia Qiu by his side.
“I think you look like someone very much,” Xuetu stuck out her tongue at him and said.
“Who?” he asked curiously.
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