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“Senior. I… I love you!” Turning back the wheels of time, a certain girl stood blushing in a secluded nook of the archery hall, her eyes rushing with emotions as she uttered those fateful words to Hao Jian
“I’m sorry. But I like lolis more.”
Her brows knitted in confusion. “‘Loli’? Senior, I’ve watched you for ages. Your grace and poise here at the hall… it’s simply magnetic.”
“I’m truly sorry, but I really, really like lolis.” Bowing, Hao Jian left those words behind as he walked off to a neighboring room.
The very next day,
“Senior, lunch’s on me today.”
As days blended into weeks, the girl’s ardor for Hao Jian intensified. Her commitment was unwavering; soon she found herself not just a member but the vice-president of the archery club.
In the quiet of his room, Hao Jian slid a ‘loli’-themed DVD into his cabinet, his expression contemplative. Facing a crossroads, he grappled with his adolescent passions and the looming reality of graduation. Family voices echoed, chiding him for his childish love for archery and anime.
However, the magnetic pull of the animated tales remained steadfast. And so was his love for the bow.
Dressed in his archery attire, Hao Jian stepped onto the shooting range, soaking in the familiarity. The sands of time were shifting; he’d soon leave this cherished haven of two years.
Drawing a deep breath, he seamlessly nocked, aimed, and shot. His technique, impeccable. The well-worn target hinted at myriad practices. Its slight wear, however, didn’t bother him.
As dawn unfurled its hues, engulfed in nostalgia, Hao Jian resolved to linger in the hall that morning, yearning to solidify his memories.
Wrapping up, he moved to the storage, attentively caring for each bow. Few among them sparkled from frequent use. He paused at a striking deep blue bow, wiping it down, a smile of mixed emotions gracing his face.
That evening held a certain significance for him. The thoughts whispered in his mind, “Tonight is my last chance…”
“After graduation, I’ll work diligently and eventually open an archery hall.” Though archery halls weren’t renowned for bringing in wealth, the concept remained his singular pride. Other than the times he spent shut in his room reading manga or watching anime, he dedicated his entire university life to the bow.
In that tranquil era, archery was more of a passion than a profession for him. He often mused – in a different era, might he have been a celebrated general?
His barefoot steps echoed along the wooden corridor, its once gleaming surface now dulled by a fine layer of dust. His cleaning enthusiasm had decreased, especially with his imminent departure. Maintaining such a vast hall on his own would’ve taken him the whole day.
The elegant bows, the pride of the school, were set to be sold for a mere pittance. He pondered whether they would once again gleam in the hands of another enthusiast or end up in a neglected corner, decaying with time.
“Wan Yun, meet me tomorrow morning. We need to talk.”
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After the call disconnected, a steely resolve settled on Hao Jian’s face. He’d never been the type to delay issues, and their messy, undefined relationship demanded closure. Tomorrow was the chosen day.
The afternoon class turned into a blur for Hao Jian, who drifted into intermittent naps. After class, he returned to the archery hall, sleeping until the morning light. Rejuvenated by his morning routine and a revitalizing shower, he sat at the heart of the hall, awaiting Wan Yun.
Her footsteps, light yet determined, filled the silent room. Wearing a pristine archery uniform and with her hair styled impeccably, Wan Yun emanated an ethereal beauty.
For a moment, Hao Jian was caught off guard by her radiant appearance, as he searched for the right words.
Sitting opposite him, Wan Yun’s eyes, filled with anticipation and a hint of shyness, met Hao Jian’s. Throughout their time together, she had evolved – from culinary mishaps to refined grace, from chaotic days to meticulous ones – all to align with his tastes.
Lost in her feelings, Wan Yun pondered their shared future. Marriage proposals, children, perhaps twins? Were they accelerating things? The vast landscape of their young lives lay ahead. And what about Hao Jian’s parents? Would they share his strict demeanor?
“Wan Yun, let’s end this.”
His words interrupted her train of thought.
“It’s been a long time coming, Senior. I’ve always hoped…” As she reached out for him, Hao Jian took a step back, his gaze soft yet distant.
“Senior,” Wan Yun’s voice wavered, a mix of hope and despair, while the growing gap between them filled with unspoken words and questions.
“I’m genuinely sorry, Wan Yun. You deserve someone who can reciprocate your feelings.” He stood upright, gave her a courteous bow, then began to walk away.
Wan Yun felt a surge of emotions. Tears brimmed and cascaded down her cheeks, her strength wavering. Hao Jian paused for a split second, torn, but ultimately continued his walk.
Wan Yun took a moment to compose herself before leaving the hall. As her steps faded, Hao Jian moved closer to the door, ensuring she was okay from the sounds of her departure.
Out of nowhere, a blood-curdling scream shattered the silence. “Open the door, Senior! Please!”
Initially, Hao Jian assumed it was just another emotional outburst from Wan Yun. But as her pleas became increasingly desperate — “Why won’t you open the door? Even though I loved you so much– why?!” — doubt began to creep in.
As he hesitated, a sudden shadow leapt into view.
“Wan Yun! What’s going on?”
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Wanyun, usually impeccable in her archery attire, now appeared disheveled and distressed. Torn sections of her outfit revealed fresh wounds, while her silhouette was strangely crowned with a tail and feline ears.
Silently, she inched closer to Hao Jian.
“Wan Yun? What…” Hao Jian stammered, retreating as he noticed the unusually sharp, claw-like nails on her fingers.
Her lunge was sudden, but Hao Jian’s archer reflexes kicked in, allowing him to sidestep her advance and sprint toward the archery hall.
Heart pounding, Hao Jian made it into the hall with Wanyun hot on his heels. Desperate for a defense, he snatched up a bow and arrow.
“Wan Yun, stop!” Hao Jian’s voice was thick with panic. “There’s something wrong with you. Maybe an infection? Just… stay back.”
But Wan Yun continued her menacing advance, the once-pristine wooden corridor bearing scars of her destructive path. Hao Jian’s eyes darted to hers, now a haunting shade of red.
In a moment of desperation, he released an arrow, striking her right leg.
“Wan Yun, I didn’t want this. I warned you,” he whispered, breathless. But any hope of her retreat vanished when he observed the blood oozing from her wound morphing from red to a sinister black. With adrenaline fueling his actions, he let loose a barrage of arrows.
“Stay away!” Arrow after arrow found its mark, yet she seemed unfazed.
As the last arrow left his bow, dread washed over him. Cornered and defenseless, Hao Jian watched in horror.
Suddenly, a tortured cry ripped from Wan Yun’s throat, her hands flying to her head. And then, as unexpectedly as her transformation had begun, she fled the archery hall. Shaken, Hao Jian managed to stand, muttering in disbelief, “What happened to you, Wan Yun?”
Several days later, a somber Hao Jian sat through the school principal’s announcement, each word weighing on him heavily.
After a few more days, he sought refuge in the company of Lin Feng. Their unexpected meeting on campus grounds was a balm to Hao Jian’s frayed nerves.
Days turned to a week, before Wan Yun emerged once more, her bow and arrow at the ready. There she stood, head clutched in her hands, as if in pain, though it didn’t hold her back from lunging at Hao Jian. This time, his arrow found its true mark.
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Upon hearing Hao Jian’s recount, a heavy weight settled over Lin Feng’s features. It appeared the predicament was even more intricate and heart-wrenching than Hao Jian could fathom.
While Hao Jian concluded that Wan Yun had simply lost her mind that day, Lin Feng’s encounters with Zhang Yicheng and Froggy suggested otherwise. It seemed Wan Yun may have clung to a shred of her consciousness, her drive towards Hao Jian perhaps a desperate attempt to remain close to him. Regrettably, he interpreted her advance as a threat, retaliating in defense. In her confusion, her emotions spiraled, only ceasing her onslaught upon witnessing the stark fear in his eyes.
Thereafter, she encountered them and recognized her bow amongst Lin Feng’s belongings. This reawakened fragments of her past, drawing her back to the archery hall. That was the moment Hao Jian committed a heartrending error.
The cruel whims of fate, Lin Feng mused with a pang of bitterness.
Attempting to shift the somber atmosphere, Lin Feng playfully offered a distraction. “Fancy a tail petting?” he quipped, flicking his tail toward Hao Jian.
“They do say petting a cat heals,” Hao Jian responded, a ghost of a smile gracing his lips as he reached out.
“Ouch! At least stroke it properly!” Lin Feng, tugging his tail back.
Their playful exchange was abruptly halted by the entrance of Liu Mengqi, whose eyes narrowed seeing the duo’s intimate banter. “Seems like you two are getting quite cozy.”
Lin Feng, a bit flustered, tried to divert her attention. “Oh, Mengqi! Isn’t it just a splendid day?”
“It’s time to eat,” she declared pointedly, tugging Lin Feng away, all the while shooting a cautionary glance at Hao Jian.
Unaware of the reason behind her hostility, Hao Jian laughed, “Your sister’s quite the character.”
“I’m actually her elder brother,” Lin Feng corrected with a smack to his head.
A playful smack from Liu Mengqi followed. “Enough with the head smacking, you two!”