Xuan Cheng said, “My dream is to become an extremely distinguished historian.”
Pig Head smiled until his face looked like it was going to split open. “Do you know what the most important quality of being a historian is?”
“I know, having delusions.” Xuan Cheng’s response was decisive. He raised his eyebrows, throwing Pig Head a flirtatious smile. “To indulge in the flights of fancy, to dream of splitting the heavens, to yearn for the day and night, and carve in information in the bones and engrave it in your heart.”
“Hmph!” Pig Head jeered. “With your kind of delusional thinking, you aren’t going to amount to anything except trash. Think realistically!”
Xuan Cheng ignored him, reaching for the copy of Chen Yinke’s Lectures on History of Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties near the bed’s headboard. In response, Pig Head extended a hand, turning off the light.
“Even if you read all of Chen Yinke‘s books, you aren’t going to become him.”
“Yang Pig Head!” In the darkness, all that could be heard was that ear-piercing howl.
Xuan Cheng was not unlike most other youths his age. He was 24 years old, and a gifted fourth-year student in Nanjing University’s history department. Every day he would be seen either carrying some ostentatiously thick book or an ancient manuscript that was on the edge of falling apart. The school was really too stingy; though it advertised itself as an old and well-established university, while the books inside the history department should have been rich and full of information, most of what was available in the library was easily found on the internet. Furthermore, the amount of dust in that space could easily fill a good number of buckets.
Xuan Cheng also wanted to complain that even though he was so smart and accomplished, for the past four years he had been stuck living with a bunch of losers inside a crowded dormitory. One of them had a fat face with large ears, another one was unhealthily thin and yellow, and yet another one was small and helpless-looking. And so the nicknames had come like that: Pig Head, Little Yellow, and Radish. Xuan Cheng himself was very beautiful, and kept a long head of silky black hair. Every morning he would announce narcissitically, “Alas, with someone as beautiful as me, how come there isn’t any men chasing me yet?”
Although Little Yellow’s nickname held , his personality was upright and serious. Hearing Xuan Cheng talking like that, he would immediately try and kick some sense into his roommate. “Though we’ve lived together for so long, I’ve never noticed you were so gay!”
“Sister Xuan ah, right now people have a very fashionable English word to describe people like you,” Radish said, earnestly speaking. “Gay, G, A, Y, gay¹, do you understand?”
Xuan Cheng didn’t laugh.
At this time, Pig Head looked at him, his fat eyes filled with doubt. “Don’t tell me you really are gay?”
In March, as spring arrived, the willow trees drooped down their branches, the winter jasmines poked up their heads, and the little river by the university began to merrily bubble. Xuan Cheng invited the three bumbling fools to join him in a small grove. As the wind blew gently, his long black hair billowed around him, causing a passing group of graduating girls to shout, “How handsome!”
Pig Head was tall in both height and width; simply by standing up he could block all of the lecherous stares coming their way. Bending down, his large flower-pot sized face faced Xuan Cheng, slyly asking, “Tell me, which of those girls over there is yours?”
Xuan Cheng didn’t bother to acknowledge him. Instead he confidently turned around, his slender waist twisting sexily. “Hey, the little sisters over there, this big brother wants to take a picture with you guys.” He pointed to the mountain-sized person next to him.
Shocked, the girls immediately scattered away in fear.
These years, sex appeal was everything. Ugly people had no place in this world.
Xuan Cheng could only helplessly shake his head. “They said that this bro over here had flavor, but why does this bro think that Pig Head has more flavor instead?”
Pig Head stood up with thundering footsteps. “You have the flavor of a woman, and I have one of a true man.”
Radish interjected at the best moment. “You have the flavor of scaring away sisters by being an ugly man.”
Pig Head was just about to erupt in fury when a sudden gust of wind blew against the willow tree above them, sending a branch directly onto Pig Head’s face. With a shriek of pain, Pig Head grabbed the offending branch and pulled it off, furiously brandishing it. “From now on if anyone insults me again, see how I’ll use this to whip you to death!”
At once there was silence.
“Oh, Xuan Cheng.” After a while, Radish spoke again. He gave a side-eyed look to Xuan Cheng. “Have you chosen a topic for your paper yet?”
Their school curriculum was relatively fast. Last year every student had been ordered to choose a topic and a mentor. At the time Xuan Cheng had chosen military wars and conflicts in ancient times, which had been immediately rejected by his mentor. When asked why, the mentor explained that this topic was an incorrect one.
He shouldn’t, the mentor chastised him. “Such an outstanding student like you should know that this material is deterministic. Why would you make such a mistake so close to graduation?”
“A deterministic material?” Radish said, thinking out loud to himself. “The mentor might have been saying that the topic you chose is a very controversial topic. This kind of topic might have already been passed over when they were assigning them.
Pig Head nodded his head, his hands still carrying that recently plucked willow branch. “By deterministic material, I think that Professor Liang was saying that you are too opinionated and narcissistic. The topic has to fall under a prerequisite, or else it will be too easy to go into delusions and fantasies.”
Xuan Cheng looked at him, amused. “How can I be opinionated? Haven’t you ever heard of the saying ‘wisdom prevails over nature’?”
¹Talking in English