Zhang Yang hugged the book to his chest. “Can you lend it to me?” As he looked up, he recognized the girl’s face. Before she could even get a chance to reply, Zhang Yang jumped up as if his entire body was a spring, and he disappeared into the dorm’s stairwell.
“My book—my book!” she yelled. “Zhang Yang, you should just die! You weirdo! You lunatic!”
Without stopping, Zhang Yang rushed up the stairs to the fifth floor. As he pushed off the last step, clutching the book to his chest with his hands, Zhang Yang felt his heart beat push through the book and into his hands. The girl’s yells still pounded in his ears from below as he held the math book tighter to his chest.
Naturally, Zhang Yang was too cowardly to go back downstairs and return the book to that girl. After all, she was his number one enemy on campus. In the hundreds of photos that he had uploaded, that girl had been featured in over half of them. Furthermore, a few of those pictures were very revealing.
Rumor had it that she had already issued a threat: if she got her hands on Zhang Yang, torture and death would be the only outcome.
It didn’t help that the girl’s background was terrifying. Her family name was Xiao. Her name was Yi Ran. She didn’t have any parents—only a brother that treated her like a precious treasure. There was a rumor among the people of C City that her brother had considerable status in C City’s underground society. Exactly what he did, Zhang Yang didn’t know. Still, all his peers agreed that Yi Ran’s brother was dangerous. But Zhang Yang didn’t have any interest in the specifics. Information about the underground society had nothing to do with him.
Zhang Yang slipped along the fifth floor like a wisp of smoke and entered his dorm room and tightly shut the door. Stillness and quiet saturated the room, his roommates deep asleep.
He climbed into bed, his heart thumping hard against his chest. Zhang Yang managed to calm down after a long time, longer than he’d like to admit. That girl’s brother gave him way too much pressure. They say that rumor was often more terrifying than reality. And from everything that Zhang Yang had heard, Xiao Yi Ran’s brother was a cold-blooded man.
After regaining his calm, Zhang Yang’s spirit made a swift recovery, “Shit. I, your father, just won’t go out of the school gates.  I don’t believe that you’d kill your way inside,” he said to himself, ensuring that he gave off an unconcerned aura. After all, a dead pig wasn’t afraid of boiling water. 
Zhang Yang’s thoughts travelled back to the math book in his hands as a faint fragrance of ink wafted toward him. It was a brand new book! He opened the cover to see Xiao Yi Ran’s signature scrawled across the page with the date of purchase written out.
“Wow—she just bought it in August.” But Zhang Yang shrugged. “Who cares. This uncle will read it first.” As he gazed upon the book, any lingering fears he’d felt were thrown outside the nine heavens. Zhang Yang very quickly immersed himself into the wondrous world of mathematics, his furious reading pushing all of his fears and frustrations far away.
It had to be said that this book was well-written and very popular. It gave a deep and moving analysis on the foundation of mathematics as well as the basic concepts.
As time slowly passed, Zhang Yang became so immersed that he unconsciously picked up a pencil and started to write various markings into the book. He underlined important bits and occasionally even wrote his own thoughts into the margins which included alternate solutions. He had completely forgotten who the actually owner of this book was.
Unbeknownst to Zhang Yang, time passed quickly. He didn’t even notice the coming and goings of his dorm mates. He was completely immersed in the world contained within those words. In that world, he was the executioner. He was a godlike being!
“Zhang Yang, what novel are you reading? Have you eaten yet?” A dorm mate asked as he carried a lunchbox into the room.
“Food…” A wave of exhaustion and hunger attacked Zhang Yang. The fragrance coming from the lunchbox forcibly pulled Zhang Yang out from his immersion in the world of mathematics. Zhang Yang felt so weak that he could faint at any moment.
“What time is it now? I haven’t had breakfast yet.” Zhang Yang had forgotten to eat breakfast after running into Xiao Yi Ran.
“Breakfast?” His dorm mate’s face filled with surprise. “It’s already this time and you still say breakfast? I’m about to eat dinner.”
“Dinner?!” Zhang Yang surged to his feet, grabbed his lunchbox, and charged toward the cafeteria. He’d actually lounged in bed and read for an entire day, even missing breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Shit, since when did he love studying so much?
As soon as Zhang Yang left the room, his dorm mate picked up the book Zhang Yang had left on the bed. “Let’s take a look at what erotic novel our voyeur prince was reading…wait, what?! A Basic Study on Thoughts and Methodology…this brat…since when did he love studying? He can actually read such an advanced text for a whole day?”
“Let me take a look.” Another dorm mate who had been lazing about in bed took the book and flipped through it. “Fuck me, you’re a bit too oblivious. ‘He’s studying,’ my ass. He’s trying to get with a girl. Didn’t you see the name on the cover? It says Xiao Yi Ran. Huh, it was just purchased in August…weird, so weird.”
“That guy and Xiao Yi Ran are sworn enemies. Since when have they been a thing? Plus this book was bought at the end of August, yet it’s already in Zhang Yang’s hands. Don’t you guys think this is weird? Not to mention, Zhang Yang disappeared for the entire summer break. These three years, he’s always worked in C City over the summer while living in the dorm.”
“Yeah, that is really strange.”
“Unless… unless…they went from enemies to family?  Isn’t Zhang Yang afraid of Xiao Yi Ran’s brother killing him off?! In these three years, I haven’t seen anyone dare to court her.”
Somehow, idle gossip turned a mathematics book into a love relationship between Zhang Yang and Xiao Yi Ran.
As his name was being slandered by a bunch of gossips, Zhang Yang was charging toward the cafeteria, lunchbox in hand. However, after only running halfway, he shoved to a stop. His wallet was still missing. His meal pass was missing. And, most importantly, his only bank card was in his wallet.
Should he go find that girl from the train? Or should he find a friend and take care of his immediate survival needs?
After thinking for a bit, Zhang Yang came to a decision. Going to the girl’s dormitories at this hour to look for that third-year student…wasn’t that the same as courting death? It was better to first find Liu Biao and take care of his hunger.
Liu Biao was Zhang Yang’s only good friend in school. He was arrogant and domineering. He was also a C City local and liked to mess around with some of the shadier people outside of school. If he wasn’t fighting, then he was hooking up with a girl. What made everyone feel like their eyes were falling out was how Zhang Yang, a solemn, frail, and cowardly person managed to get mixed up with that gorilla.
Zhang Yang was an introvert. He normally liked to keep to himself. If he would just ask, he could borrow money from anywhere, but Zhang Yang would rather look for Liu Biao than ask his dorm mates or peers.
If Zhang Yang hadn’t done that earth-shattering thing back in his junior year, which spread across the entire country, then it would be realistic to say no more than five people in the entire XX College of Arts and Science would even know Zhang Yang. There were over forty people in Zhang Yang’s class alone. Zhang Yang’s social circle was small. These three years in college, outside of going to class, Zhang Yang only worked. Even on the weekends, he would work part time jobs in the city. If he had nothing to do, he lingered in the net cafes in the city and immersed himself on the Internet. This was also one of the reasons why he tried to maintain a good relationship with the door guard, Uncle Wang.
Zhang Yang slipped into the guard station, his face lit up with a smile. “Uncle Wang, let me borrow your cell phone to make a call.” In the entire school, there were only a few people that didn’t own cell phones and Zhang Yang was one of them.
 “Your father” a.k.a. “Lao Zi” is an arrogant way to refer to oneself.
 “A dead pig isn’t afraid of boiling water” is a Chinese idiom that means Zhang Yang doesn’t care or is unconcerned about the outcome.
 In China, suggesting that an unrelated couple are “family” is a way of saying they are dating.