(A/N : Introducing Liang's character in this chapter. I adore that kid.)
mandarin : excuse me, sorry
He walks into the cafeteria, looking for one face and one face only.
But then he freezes in his spot, his disbelieving eyes fixated on her.
She is talking. With the other boy.
A familiar rush of anger wells up in his gut. He thought he had taught the boy a lesson; well, apparently, he was wrong.
Liang pokes him in the ribs. "Don't," he whispers.
Cheng starts. "What're you talking about?" he demands.
"You know what I mean. Don't—"
But Cheng is already moving. He is moving faster than he thought he could; and before he knows it, his hand is reaching up and pushing the lunch tray into the other boy's face—
"—do that," Liang finishes in vain, his face pallid.
Sauce splatters all over the boy's orange shirt. Cheng smirks again—until he sees the rage on Mei Ying's face.
He gets into trouble, but so does the new boy; and that was all that mattered.
"That probably wasn't the best way to apologize," Liang observes.
"Quiet," Cheng says, but doesn't mean it. It's his way of saying 'continue,' and Liang knows it.
"Just ignore him next time. He's not worth noticing." Liang pauses. "It's not like she fancies him or anything."
Cheng clenches his jaw. "Quiet," he says, and means it.
Liang quiets. Cheng's sauce-spotted chopsticks are starting to look more and more formidable.
The lunch bell rings. The two quietly stand up and make their way to their next class.
"Hold on," Liang says, dumping his tray on a rack. "I forgot something."
Cheng raises his eyebrows, but doesn't question him. "Don't be late."
"I won't," Liang promises, and scurries away.
Cheng sighs, shoulders his backpack, and wishes that he was at the kung fu studio kicking dummies instead of school attempting to apologize to overemotional girls.
Mei Ying wishes she could stay angry at Cheng, but she can't. He has just been her friend for too long.
She knows that his moodiness is a method of self-defense, and she wants to know what has been bothering him. No matter how much she tries to blame him, she knows that he wouldn't have bullied someone for no reason at all. No, he has a reason; and that reason had better be good, or she will never forgive him.
Of course, after walking out on him, she can't just go and ask him what's wrong. She still has some pride, after all.
So instead, she sends Liang. She trusts that Liang is crafty enough to ask questions that are subtle enough so Cheng wouldn't spot any suspicious activity, and Liang is the one that she trusts the most. If she were to place her life in anyone's hands, it would be Liang's.
She waits underneath a large flowering tree in the school quad, waiting for Liang's intelligence, when she sees Cheng. He is strutting down the cement path, laughing, joking with Qiao and Xi Wang and Liang, when he catches her eye. She is unable to tear her eyes away from his ebony-brown gaze, and he freezes in place; Xi Wang almost full on runs into him. After a few frozen moments of heavy silence, Cheng jerks his head and struts away. She watches him leave, not even noticing Liang's presence until he clears his throat.
She starts. "L-Liang! I'm sorry. I didn't notice you were here."
"So I see," Liang quips. "Can't keep your eyes off him?"
Mei Ying blushes as bright as the sun. "I—I'm just waiting for him to apologize!" she stammers.
"Mmhmm. Sure you are," Liang replies, amused at her reaction. "You're as red as a rose, by the way."
Mei Ying absentmindedly pats her cheeks. "I—I am? It's—I'm just—just angry."
"And I'm a cow."
"What if you are a cow?"
"You're calling your only source of information a cow?"
"No, no, not at all," Mei Ying laughs. "What do you have, Liang?"
A sly smile flicks across Liang's face. "Don't you think it's rather obvious, Mei Ying?" he asks primly, fiddling with his polo shirt collar.
Mei Ying only cocks her head in confusion.
Liang laughs. "Should I leave you to figure it out!"
Mei Ying stares in horror. "Oh, no, no, Liang!" she cries. "You have to tell me! You can't do that to me!"
"Aww. Fine then." Liang pulls a face and leans closer. "He fancies you."
Mei Ying starts. "He—he what?"
"He. Fancies. You."
Mei Ying shakes her head so fast that she swears she can hear her brain clattering inside her skull. "He loathes me," she snickers. "I think you're overlooking a few of his actions, Liang."
Liang snickers back. "I'm his best friend, Mei Ying. I know what to look for," he replied sagely.
"But we're twelve!"
"He's near thirteen."
"So? We're too young!"
"Approaching the years where you fall madly in love." He gives a dramatic sigh and bats his eyelashes.
Mei Ying flicks his shoulder. "Stop that, Liang! That's disturbing!"
"I'm giving you valuable intelligence, woman! It's not my fault whether it's disturbing or not!"
"Your behavior is disturbing. Your information is perturbing."
"Aren't they synonyms?"
"Doesn't matter. Apparently even love and hate are synonyms in your book, if you think Cheng fancies me. What makes you think he doesn't hate me?"
Liang gives another dramatic sigh, as if about to explain something incredibly simple to a young child. "One: he only hated that American kid from the start because he was making the moves on you. Two: I've never seen him bully someone so harshly in such a short period of time. Three: he'd made a promise to you and wouldn't have broken it if the American kid hadn't disturbed him so much. Four: he can't stop looking at you."
"He always has such anger in his eyes!" Mei Ying protests. "He hates me!"
"But he still can't stop looking at you," Liang replies cheerfully. "Five: just a while ago, he was bullying the American kid again—"
"WHAT?" Mei Ying screeches.
"Quiet!" Liang says. "Just let me continue. Anyway, his main message to the American kid was 'Just say away from us. All of us.' I assumed he meant you, too, and that's the whole reason why he's beating up the poor American kid."
"Dre," Mei Ying adds. "His name is Dre."
"Tray? That's an odd name. Just don't let Cheng hear that, or he's gonna have more reason to tease—"
"Dre, not tray!" Mei Ying emphasizes.
Liang waves a hand in the air. "Same difference. Oh! I have an idea. Now that you know the reason behind his rather violent actions (and it is a rather good reason, if I do say so myself), why don't we roleplay?"
"Roleplay?" Mei Ying murmurs, shaping the foreign word around her mouth.
"Basically, I pretend to be Cheng and you pretend to be yourself—scratch that, just be yourself—and you apologize to me. Ready?"
"No buts! Ready? Go!" Liang shoves his hands deep into his pockets and plasters an incredibly surly look on his face.
Mei Ying nearly falls over in laughter.
"Okay, okay, I won't get an acting award any time soon, but you have to admit, that was a pretty passable imitation, wasn't it?" Liang flashes her a cheery smile.
"Liang," she chokes, "if you go looking like that, I'll never be able to apologize."
"Right. Sorry." Liang clears his throat and neutralizes the expression on his face, assuming a flat, bored countenance.
Mei Ying clears her throat. "Um... duibuqi, Cheng... um... HOLD ON!" She bolts upright. "Liang! You sneaky little—"
"What?" Liang asks innocently. Too innocently.
"Are you trying to get me to apologize for something I never did? Isn't Cheng supposed to apologize?"
"I swear I didn't try!" Liang cries, throwing his hands up in the air. "I just got sidetracked! Sidetracked, I tell you! Okay, roleplay reverse. I'm apologizing to you. Ready? G—"
Mei Ying once again nearly falls out of her chair, but this time, in shock. Cheng is standing right behind them.
"Ack! Cheng!" Liang taps his fists together nervously. "You—you're here—how long have you been here?"
But Cheng doesn't respond. He's only staring at Mei Ying.
"I can't promise it won't happen again," he says quietly, "but I can promise that I'll always have a good reason." And without another word, he turns and wheels back into the school building.
Liang breaks it. "You have to admit, he's a master when it comes to the stealth department."