TW// Slight Transphobia
„Three days of extracurricular volunteer work, the both of you!! And Xie Lian, you copy the university protocol of appropriate behavior BY HAND, I want it on my desk by 10 AM tomorrow, not a single second later! I’m warning you, I’m setting an alarm, and I’m a VERY precise person! I do hope I‘m making myself clear.“
With demure poses and their heads lowered, Xie Lian and Shi Qingxuan had their lips pursed in faked shame and annoyance. This dean was the single greasiest, most unloving human on this planet, they were both sure. Her eyebrows twitching, Shi Qingxuan couldn‘t help herself.
„Sir, with all due respect, that does seem a bit—„
„AM I making myself clear, GENTLEMEN??“
Eyes widening at this comment, Xie Lian felt like the air suddenly froze over. Slowly, he lifted his head to stare at the short, fat man in front of him. He wasn’t sure what expression he was making, all the blood seemed to drain from his limbs and left them cold with fury.
But before anything more happened, a tender hand covered his clenched fist and returned some warmth to it. Xie Lian looked sideways and met Shi Quinxuan‘s somber gaze. Letting out a shaking breath, he signaled that he understood and relaxed his tensed stance. Shi Qingxuan crossed her hands in front of her respectfully and smiled politely.
„No problem sir, we understand perfectly. We apologize, it won‘t happen again. Now, if you would excuse us.“
The appalling dean huffed once and waved his hands dismissively. The both of them bowed deeply, then turned around and walked out through the dark mahoganey doorway. Closing the heavy door behind them, they both sighed in unison.
What a major pain in the ass.
Walking through the crowded hallways, the two evil deviants of university protocol made their way to their lockers. Unfortunately, lunchtime had just begun, and the masses of people were getting denser by the minute. Suddenly, Shi Qingxuan started talking in a serious tone.
„Xie Lian, earlier...“
Xie Lian quickly shook his head and looked at her apologetically.
„You don‘t need to tell me, I know. Had I responded to his provocation, he would have won, he‘d have the satisfaction of victory, we would‘ve gotten into more trouble, he would never stop with the taunting, he‘d make our lives hell. I know, but... I couldn‘t just leave it be either. Those snide comments, when will they stop? These are grown ups for pete‘s sake! They don‘t act like adults at all! Maybe THEY should copy the protocol of appropriate behavior!“
Xie Lian continue to huff angrily, but looked about as threatening as a newborn kitten.
Watching her friend ramble on ceaselessly and standing up for her, Shi Qingxuan‘s serious expression slowly changed into a cheeky grin, inflating her cheeks and coloring them rosy. In the end, she also started tirading with amusement hidden in her tone, gesticulating wildly.
„Yeah, who do they think they are? And what‘s up with this punishment, “three days of volunteer work“, what, do they think this is highschool?? Just for two days of absence? We‘re fucking adults!! They should be challenging us to drinking battles if they had the balls! But they don‘t, and frankly, they wouldn‘t stand a chance against me, She who pours wine, hahahaha!!!“
They both burst out laughing, shoving each other jokingly and giggling all the way back to their lockers.
While loading off their morning lecture textbooks and picking up the ones for the afternoon, Shi Qingxuan asked Xie Lian casually: „By the way, have you ever found out who brings the flowers?“
Xie Lian looked over from behind his locker door, puzzled. „Huh? What flowers?“
Shi Qingxuan returned his gaze, confused, „What other flowers would there be? The white ones you‘ve been finding in your locker for a while now, of course! You definitely have a secret admirer. You—- don‘t tell me you‘ve never bothered finding out?? It‘s been over a year!“
A dumb expression overcame Xie Lian, and he lifted his hand to scratch the back of his head. With infuriating honesty, he said: „Well, I thought... everybody else got flowers, too...“
Her mouth hanging open with a sheer loss for words, Shi Qingxuan harshly shut her locker door, slowly raised both her arms and squished Xie Lian‘s head inbetween her palms.
„YOU... You‘re an idiot!!!! I can‘t believe I‘m friends with such a monumental, colossal, mind-blowingly stupid idiot!!!“
Xie Lian didn‘t resist and stared at Shi Qingxuan with glazed puppy eyes and a pout.
He then muttered weakly: „It could‘ve been possible...“
Shi Qingxuan gave up. She released his head in exasperation and facepalmed. She then looked at Xie Lian from behind her hand with a different expression.
„So... do you have any suspects? Anybody who you think could have had a crush on you for at least a year- no, more like two years?“
Xie Lian smiled faintly and shook his head. He had not the slightest idea. He didn‘t even like himself these past years, how could he have ever fathomed that somebody else could?
All the way to the cafeteria, Shi Qingxuan read down a list of names faintly familiar, but not familiar enough for Xie Lian to see a face behind them. Eventually, Shi Qingxuan had to give up again and promised to keep a look out from now.
From the hallway they had just left, an invisible wind was carrying away a shapeless shadow, leaving behind only the scent of rain and flowers.
A few days later.
„Feng Xin, who the fuck are these people?? Why do I have to meet them? I swear to god, if you are wasting my time I‘ll fucking kill you, rip out your guts one by one and feed them to your fucking dogs.“
Xie Lian‘s face twitched as he smiled awkwardly. This person’s personality was way beyond what he had expected... but if he thought about it, there had been clear warning signs. For example their very brief text message exchange, which went like this:
Xie Lian: „Hello, pleased to meet you!! My name is Xie Lian! I hear you are CALAMITY‘s fan, is that correct?“
Mu Qing: „Fuck off.“
Mu Qing: [BLOCKED]
The end. After that, Xie Lian had to thicken his skin and go ask Feng Xin for an in-person meeting. No matter how hostile this person seemed, he had valuable information on CALAMITY: in exchange for that, all degradation was worth it.
In response to Mu Qing‘s vulgar threats, Feng Xin crossed his toned arms, obviously flexing his muscular limbs as if mocking him. „I‘d REALLY love to see that, Mu Qing, your broomstick-looking ass tearing me apart. Also, extremely funny of you to assume that should you succeed, my dogs wouldn‘t rip you to pieces in my place. Your empty threats sound a bit like insecurity to me, no?“
Xie Lian nearly choked on his rooibos tea and had to cover his mouth with a tissue. He was extremely surprised at this retort; Feng Xin hadn‘t struck him as a person with a sassy attitude. He already feared that if they continued on this path, the bickering would never come to an end. So he gathered all of his courage and stood up, sliding his chair back audibly as to gain their attention.
Fortunately, it worked, the two stopped arguing. Xie Lian now had two pairs of eyes on him, one spewing with animosity, the other neutral. Xie Lian‘s hands were starting to cover with sweat, but he clenched them and started to speak with as much confidence as he could muster.
„Ah w-well, thank you for coming to this meeting- no, gathering of a sort. My name is Xie Lian, we briefly conversed online“, he said while adressing Mu Qing, earning another sneer from him. Smile faltering a bit, Xie Lian continued: „... and this is my friend Shi Qingxuan, who just got into CALAMITY recently, but would also love to know more about them. For that matter, we had hoped that you could tell us more, Mu Qing, if you would be so kind.“
Xie Lian tried to be polite, but all the niceties seemed to put Mu Qing off even more. Looking bored and arrogant, he stirred his black coffee and mutely looked out the window.
Xie Lian couldn‘t help but wonder. Was this person really a medical student?
To be fair, maybe he did pick a slightly too-fancy cafe for this impromptu gathering of strangers. The chairs were all lined with white velvet, their legs coated in gold paint. The floor looked like it was made out of pure marble, and in even intervals, chandeliers adorned the ceiling. Looking at the interior from their window table now, it seemed unbearably posh, and extremely unsuitable for a heated conversation about death metal. But here they were. No choice but to see it through to the end.
When Mu Qing didn‘t answer or even aknowledge Xie Lian‘s request, Shi Qingxuan of course couldn‘t just sit by idly. Smiling sweetly, she leaned forward on the table to face him. Putting on a playful and coy tone, she started to speak.
„You see, I really just got into the band a few days ago, but I just completely fell for them!! I admit, I‘m a newbie when it comes to death metal, but I think music speaks to the heart, and oh, they just ravaged mine mercilessly!!“ She sighed for dramatic effect, ignoring the growing discomfort on Mu Qing‘s face.
Xie Lian immediately understood her scheme and sighed inwardly with helpless amusement.
It was to disgust Mu Qing into surrender.
Shi Qingxuan continued with crocodile tears in her eyes, clutching at her chest: „You don‘t understand how they torment me day and night, keeping me awake, making me BEG them to spare my poor soul, but alas... it is too late. My heart has been lost to them, and now a curse has befallen me, oh!!! My life now has no meaning if I don‘t know more about my tormentors, do you understand??“
Acting desperate, she tried grasping Mu Qing‘s hands, but he pulled away as if he touched something infected with disease. Shi Qingxuan was relentless.
„I need to be freed from this torture, this curse is trying to take my soul to the abyss!! Mu Qing PLEASE, I‘m begging you on my knees, you need to tell me!!!“
With this last outburst, she really stood up and looked like she wanted to prostrate in front of Mu Qing, making the dishes on the table clink and clatter. Her voice had been increasing in volume for a while now, and with this grand finale, she had several tables of guests around them looking at her with disapproval. This is exactly how she wanted it.
Feeling his skin crawl with revulsion, Mu Qing furrowed his brow and seemed to want to escape... but before he could even stand up, he noticed that he had accidentially chosen the most disadvantageous seat at the table, being wedged in from all four sides by a window, a table, a big potted plant behind him, which left his only possible escape route... Xie Lian on his right.
Spinning his head around in near-desperation, Mu Qing looked at his target... but was met with an impenetrable defense. Xie Lian sat in his chair in a demure pose, wordlessly staring at him with glassy puppy eyes as big as his fucking balls.
Mortified, Mu Qing tried his luck one last time by looking at Feng Xin on the other side of the table, but he might as well have been staring at a brick wall.
Grinding his teeth in frustration, Mu Qing finally relented. With little elegance, he released his tension and fell back into his seat with an exasperated breath.
„Okay, OKAY, Jesus fucking Christ!!! I fucking got it, okay??? Who the fuck are you people?!“ He clicked his tongue some more in irritation, but he had surrendered.
Slowly backing off and finishing her masterful act, Shi Qingxuan was wearing a smug expression and discreetly winked at Xie Lian. Xie Lian couldn‘t help but return her smile and gave her a mental thumbs-up.
Mu Qing sighed one last time, then pushed up his glasses higher onto his tall nose and took a sip of his coffee.
„So, shoot. What do you want to know?“
Now finally being able to gain the information he had been so desperately searching for, Xie Lian couldn‘t contain himself anymore. He burst out:
„Who is the lead singer of CALAMITY??“
„And the lead guitarist“, Shi Qingxuan quickly added.
Mu Qing stopped midway during his sip and looked at the two like they were three-year olds. He dramatically rolled his eyes and put down his cup.
„Okay, let‘s make this easier. Obviously you two don‘t know shit about anything, so I‘ll just tell you everything I know and you‘ll leave me alone after that, deal?“
Xie Lian and Shi Qingxuan exchanged a glance, then nodded. They would hopefully still get the information they were looking for, and this way was a lot faster. Xie Lian answered: „Sure, it‘s a deal.“
Mu Qing then finally took a sip of his coffee, then started talking.
„Okay, first of all, don‘t ask me how I know all of this, but trust me when I say the information is legit.
The band consists of four members, singer, guitarist, drummer, bassist, the standard occupation. They all have stage names, so unfortunately I can‘t tell you who they really are. Franky, I‘ve never even seen their faces, neither in real life nor in photos, since they‘ve never released any official albums or merchandise. The identity of the members is the biggest mystery around this band.
Some say they‘re a satanic cult worshipping the devil, but that is complete bullshit. They‘re a death metal band, nothing more. They‘ve formed a little over two years ago, but recently their reputation, or rather notoriety has reached the far corners of the music industry, making people wonder if CALAMITY is going to be the next juggernaut of the underground music scene.
People dismiss them as an edgy, temporary phenomenon, but in reality everybody wants a piece of them, wants to unravel the secret behind the rumors and legends. But where to start? All that exists of them in this world are dubious hear-says and unlabeled tapes, and not many of them. But get this.“
At this, a flash of excitement washed over Mu Qing‘s face, making him look completely different from just a minute ago. He leaned closer to Xie Lian and Shi Qingxuan over the table and continued to speak with a lowered voice, as if he was disclosing a great secret.
„I hear that a week from now, they‘re going to have their debut liveshow!! The venue and time is completely unknown, and nobody has a clue as to how to find out. It‘s a complete mystery.“
Mu Qing stopped speaking to drink more of his coffee, and Xie Lian‘s ears seemed to be muffled with cotton. A prickling sensation slowly spread from his stomach, making his heart beat faster and faster.
A performance. They‘re gonna perform.
He‘ll see the singer, hear his voice, personally, face to face.
„... Lian? Xie Lian?? Are you okay?“
The deep voice calling his name tore Xie Lian back into reality, making him gasp in surprise. It was Feng Xin, who had been silent this whole time until now.
Staring at him, Feng Xin said: „Are you okay? Your face is all red, and I‘m not sure but, is that steam I see coming off your head?“ Obviously he was joking, and sipped at his milkshake with an amused smirk.
Over his redness, Xie Lian blushed even more in embarrassment and averted his gaze. He saw that Shi Qingxuan probably had similar thoughts to his, clearing her throat with a shy pinkness resting on her cheeks. But then, Xie Lian became contemplative.
„So... how do we find out where and when the performance‘s going to be? Mu Qing, do you know?“
Mu Qing didn‘t look at him and continued to sip at his coffee. Xie Lian was convinced that his cup must be empty by now and that he was just avoiding his question.
That meant he knew.
Mu Qing side-glanced at him and knew what Xie Lian was thinking from his expression. He rolled his eyes in annoyance.
„I‘ll tell you, but I have conditions. One, you will not disclose this information to ANYBODY else, period. Two, you will delete my number and never even think about texting or calling me anymore. Three, you‘ll pay for my coffee. Do I have your consent?“
Xie Lian agreed without a second thought. He‘d have bought him a hundred cups of coffee if he had asked for it.
Mu Qing continued with his voice lowered.
„There are certain cassettes the band has distributed over the years with a special type of label. If you peel it off carefully and turn it around, the information should appear after a chemical reaction with blood.
In other words, you need to sacrifice your blood if you want to attend their concert.“
Xie Lian and Shi Qingxuan stared at Mu Qing completely speechless. You need to do what?? Pour your blood on a label in the hope that it‘s one of the few which carries the information? All for a single performance?
Xie Lian uttered a strained laugh and continued to look at Mu Qing in disbelief, waiting for him to say that it was a joke.
But Mu Qing didn‘t say anything more. He had said all that he knew. It wasn‘t a joke.
Distraught, Xie Lian lowered his gaze to look at his hands. I guess CALAMITY isn’t a normal band after all, he thought while swallowing hard. In a last attempt, he asked Mu Qing one more question:
„Is there no way to determine which cassettes carry the information? I‘d rather not risk my life trying to find out the hard way...“
To his surprise and relief, Mu Qing answered: „There is.“
Xie Lian and Shi Qingxuan listened attentively.
„It’s said to be hidden within crimson cassettes.“
——TO BE CONTINUED——