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    The beginning of summer has passed, and the lush greenery casts deep shades. The alleyways are adorned with roses in full bloom, their branches full of vibrant flowers.

    At the entrance of the alley, the fruit stall is already selling cherries and watermelons. The warm sunlight filters through the leaves, scattering on the ground. A young man stands before the fruit stall, carefully selecting the ripe, red cherries. He picks them out meticulously and hands over a small bagful to the elderly man running the stall.

    As he’s about to pay, his phone rings. Seeing the caller ID, his eyes light up with a smile. Answering the call and hearing the voice on the other end, his lips curl into a smile as well.

    “I’m in the alley next to the school,” he says, taking the bag of cherries and walking towards the alley’s entrance. “Yeah, I see you.”

    The vicinity of the school on the weekend seems somewhat deserted, making the man standing at the school gate particularly conspicuous.

    In the eyes of Lu Changting, Shen Li, walking towards him, is equally eye-catching. Dressed in a simple shirt and jeans, he looks exceptionally handsome. With a striking appearance and confident stride, he seems to outshine everything around him. Lu Changting watches him approach, step by step.

    When he gets closer, Lu Changting ends the call. “Have you been waiting long?”

    “Just arrived,” Shen Li replies, showing him the cherries in his hand. The dew-covered cherries look plump and shiny under the sunlight. “Bought some cherries.”

    Glancing at the time, Lu Changting remarks, “How long would you have waited if I hadn’t come early?”

    The appointed time was twelve o’clock, and it’s now just a little before eleven forty. It seems Shen Li arrived half an hour early…

    Shen Li smiles. “I couldn’t let you wait.”

    He couldn’t bear to keep Lu Changting waiting either.

    Lu Changting looks at him with a hint of helplessness. “Let’s go eat.”

    “Grandma’s Home Cooking” remains the same as always. Wooden tables and stools, simple decorations, and a list of dishes and desserts hung on the wall. The tea set and porcelain bowls bear traces of time, slightly different from the memories, but still familiar-looking.

    Lu Changting habitually walked towards the table by the window, and Shen Li took the seat opposite him. The elderly man, slightly hunched, walked over with a kindly smile on his face, asking them what they would like to order.

    After glancing at the menu on the wall and consulting Shen Li’s opinion, Lu Changting ordered three home-style dishes, along with a cold dish and two desserts.

    Shen Li asked in a low voice if he could use the kitchen to wash the cherries. After receiving permission, he got up and headed to the kitchen. When he returned, he was carrying a disposable transparent plastic box filled with clean cherries.

    There were still droplets of water on his wrist, and the red rope, soaked with water, had turned a dark red, making the wrist appear even whiter. The blue veins were clearly visible. Lu Changting stared at his wrist for a moment before handing him two tissues.

    “Thank you,” Shen Li said, taking the tissues to wipe his hands. He then smiled and asked the elderly man if he wanted to try some cherries.

    Watching him chat amiably with the elderly man, Lu Changting found their interaction oddly familiar, which puzzled him.

    Despite having graduated for many years, even if Shen Li often came during their school days, it shouldn’t have led to such familiarity with the elderly man.

    The elderly man took a few cherries and went to the kitchen with unsteady steps. Then, with a beaming smile, he brought back some desserts and snacks. “This green bean cake is complimentary. Enjoy.”

    Shen Li thanked the elderly man and placed the green bean cake in front of Lu Changting. “It’s taken from the fridge. Try it.”

    “You seem quite familiar,” Lu Changting commented, taking a bite of the green bean cake. “Did you used to come here often during school?”

    Shen Li lowered his head to take a sip of the sugar water, lightly stirring the red bean and white fungus soup with the white porcelain spoon. “Students from No. 1 Middle School wouldn’t have not visited this place.”

    His response was straightforward, leaving no room for criticism, but it added another layer of confusion to Lu Changting’s mind.

    “I can’t understand why I don’t recognize you,” he confessed. He had been pondering this question for a long time. They were in the same grade, on the same floor, and Shen Li was so sociable and adept at networking. Why couldn’t he remember him?

    “It’s normal,” Shen Li said calmly, smiling faintly. “I was very different in high school than I am now.”

    He explained, “I didn’t have many friends in high school, I was introverted, and somewhat insecure, belonging to the type of person with very low visibility.”

    He was the opposite type of person compared to Lu Changting.

    The person standing in the darkness yearns for the sunlight. That’s why he moves towards the light, getting deeply entangled in it…

    Upon hearing this, Lu Changting was somewhat surprised. “It’s hard to imagine.”

    It was difficult to imagine what the reserved and somewhat self-conscious Shen Li would be like.

    Curiously, Lu Changting asked, “Then why did you open a bar?”

    With that kind of personality, how could he run a bar business, welcoming guests with open arms?

    “Well, ‘Gujiu’ used to be a bar before. The owner was a friend of my mother’s. However, he wasn’t good at managing, and the bar business was never really thriving. There were some family changes at that time, and he urgently needed money, so he decided to sell the bar,” Shen Li explained. “I happened to major in management in college, so I borrowed some money from my mother, took out a loan, and bought the bar.”

    Also, because Lu Changting once casually mentioned to a friend, “Inheriting family business is so tiresome. I’d like to open a bar in the future, where no one persuades you to drink, and no one bothers you when you’re drunk, just living a carefree life.”

    During his youth, Lu Changting had only dreamed of being a carefree and wealthy person, with a mild temperament and a dislike for restrictions. However, he ultimately followed the arrangements of his family to study abroad and inherit the family business. Almost every step, he followed the family’s plan.

    Born into the Lu family, it was his responsibility.

    Shen Li didn’t know how to get closer to him. In the period of confusion after graduating from university, he finally decided to carry out this playful idea.

    Opening a bar, where he could drink without persuasion and be taken care of when drunk.

    Over the years, under Shen Li’s management, “Gujiu” slowly developed into the most prestigious high-end bar in S City. The initial capital was repaid, and the profits had been consistently good.

    He had transformed from being reserved and introverted to being adept at socializing, and had made many friends, including people from the Lu family.

    Almost every step, he was moving towards Lu Changting.

    He worked hard to make himself outstanding, to become adept at everything, and to become strong enough. This was perhaps the positive significance of this unrequited love.

    Lu Changting took a sip of the sugar water, looking at him with a hint of scrutiny. “So, you really didn’t know me before?” He added jokingly, “As a classmate from Yizhong, there’s no way you didn’t know me.”

    Shen Li remained silent for a moment.

    Outside the window, the wind blew, carrying the laughter and playfulness of children from deeper in the alley, the rustling of leaves, and the chirping of cicadas hidden in the green shade. Everything seemed to weave together into a net, enveloping him.

    “I knew you,” he replied softly after a pause. “How could I not?”

    “But there’s nothing much to say about it,” he added.

    Lu Changting sensed the implication in Shen Li’s words—among thousands of classmates, their acquaintance didn’t hold much significance, and he didn’t need to cling to it.

    This person always managed to make him feel moved time and time again.

    Lu Changting casually smiled. “What was your impression of me back then?”

    Thinking of the teenage Lu Changting, Shen Li’s tone softened. “You seemed upright and virtuous, but in reality, somewhat rebellious.”

    “I remember I was a model student from childhood to adulthood,” Lu Changting raised an eyebrow. “How did I become rebellious in your eyes?”

    Model students don’t engage in puppy love.

    Shen Li’s eyes dimmed slightly as he continued, “Well, you seemed obedient and well-behaved, but I felt your obedience was due to good upbringing, while your rebellious nature was your true essence.”

    Lu Changting chuckled softly. “And what about now?”

    Shen Li looked up at him, a gentle smile flickering in his eyes. “You’ve become more mature and stable than before.”

    And you’ve learned to control your emotions and instincts better.

    Lu Changting looked at him for a long time before lightly asking, “Do you think it’s disappointing that I ultimately accepted the family business without any resistance?”

    “Not at all,” Shen Li replied without hesitation. “Everyone has their own path to take. Some live leisurely lives, while others devote themselves wholeheartedly. I think the latter is more admirable.”

    He continued, “Whether it’s being rebellious or mature and stable, I think you’re fine just the way you are.”

    In life, there are always many things beyond our control. Lu Changting is more constrained than anyone else, so he can only restrain himself and grow older with each passing year… The family business of the Lu family, spanning several generations, will have to pass down from his hands.

    How could such a Lu Changting be disappointing? Clearly outstanding, he fills Shen Li’s heart with emotions named admiration.

    “This, I’ll take it as you praising me.” Lu Changting smiled as he took a sip of sugar water. The sweetness spread from his tongue to his heart, and his eyes were filled with Shen Li’s gentle gaze. His heart was filled with joyous emotions. He felt a bit unsure whether it was summer or spring, only feeling that the best season was probably right at this moment.

    The sunlight was warm, the breeze was gentle, and sitting opposite Shen Li, chatting and laughing, this moment was the best.

    Author’s Note:

    “Rebellious and unrestrained”: “Rebellious” means indulgent or dissolute; “unrestrained” refers to a person’s body. It refers to acting without being bound by social etiquette, being open-minded and straightforward, and acting in an unconventional manner. Usually used as a commendatory term.

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