Summer draws to an end and with it comes the final year of high school and impending gaokao. Zhang Yuan has helped He Luo believe in herself, but now she needs to convince the people around her.
It’s the end of the summer and He Luo and Zhang Yuan are at the arcade again. This time, He Luo starts beating Zhang Yuan at their video game. She’s so excited that he starts watching her toward the end of the game instead of playing.
They sit near the shore and hang out afterward. He Luo calls Zhang Yuan out on never acknowledging her skill or ability, so he throws her a small compliment, then denies it when she calls it out as a compliment. He Luo wistfully laments how the summer is over and they won’t be able to play video games together anymore. Zhang Yuan tells her to save the last game token for after the next midterm so that they can go to the arcade together again.
He Luo’s mother shakes out her clothes in order to do laundry and the video game token falls out. She picks it up and glances back at He Luo who is at her desk in her room, then pockets it.
School starts and He Luo manages to score in the top 20 students in her whole year on the first midterm. She’s so happy that she can’t stop laughing. Meanwhile, Chang Feng tries to get some recognition for not having the lowest score on the exams, but everyone ignores him. Teacher Lin hands out a college declaration form, saying that it’s good for everyone to start thinking about where they want to apply to school. Zhang Yuan glances over at He Luo.
He Luo buys ice cream bars for Cheng Jie, Chang Feng, Tian Xin, and Yun Wei and they hang out in the track stands to talk college. Yun Wei says that she would have to go somewhere close to home and where she can get a scholarship, because she has to care for he grandmother. Her friends tell her she should consider setting her sights higher. Chang Feng says he’d even pay for her grandmother to be taken care of. Chang Feng says that he doesn’t really care where he goes — his father will be the one to decide and get him in anyway. Cheng Jie at first doesn’t want to say where he wants to go, but after his friends nag at him, he says that he wants to go to an arts school. Everyone teases him, but his eyes are on Tian Xin.
He Luo and Zhang Yuan walk together after school. Zhang Yuan scored a 110 (out of 150) on the latest English exam. He Luo is eager to take credit for his success.
He Luo’s mother is waiting outside the school to pick her up. Her uncle is back from America and wants to invite them out to dinner. He Luo greets her uncle with a flying hug. At dinner, He Luo receives a call from Zhang Yuan. Her mother insists that she pick up the call there when she tries to leave the room. She tries to keep the call short.
He Luo’s uncle tells He Luo that she should go to college in the United States. He’s already lined up a place for her at Wellesley College and has a place for her to stay in Boston. He Luo’s mother agrees and says that she’s already talked to her father about it.
At home, He Luo tries to convince her mother to talk her uncle out of sending her to college in the U.S. But her mother doesn’t believe she can make into Hua Qing, calling it a dream, and instead asks her about Zhang Yuan. She pulls out the video game token that she found earlier and says that a friend saw He Luo with Zhang Yuan at KFC earlier in the summer. She thinks that all He Luo was doing all summer was running around and playing video games with Zhang Yuan. He Luo tries to tell her that Zhang Yuan is helping her study but she refuses to hear it.
He Luo and Zhang Yuan are the last ones to leave their chemistry class the next day. Zhang Yuan sees He Luo lost in thought and calls her over to show her some magic with water and a dry-erase marker. (Are dry-erase markers really such a novel occurrence?) He asks her what was on her mind earlier and she tells him about going to America. At first he thinks she’s just talking about going for a summer, but when she says that she’s going there for school, his face falls and all he says is, “Oh.” She asks him if she should go and he tells her that he should make her own decisions.
She doesn’t like his answer and starts telling him about her manga penpal. He asks which manga, but she doesn’t tell him, saying he wouldn’t know anyway. She continues and says that he was always very encouraging, but recently they haven’t had any exchanges and he probably gave up. Zhang Yuan asks if they’ve met and He Luo says no. But, she says, she’s pretty sure he’s male and that he’s probably pretty good looking, like Daniel Wu. Zhang Yuan nods with raised eyebrows at this and says he thinks that’s very likely. He asks her what her penpal’s name is, but she just asks him why he wants to know. She says that her penpal calls her a god, because he sees qualities in her that Zhang Yuan has clearly been blind to. He cracks up at this then tells her that she should ask her penpal if he looks like Daniel Wu.
He Luo goes to the manga cafe and begs Brother Wang for the latest volume of her Summer Records manga. He says that they haven’t been able to get the most recent edition because the whole company got sick and couldn’t get better because they don’t have banlangen (this Chinese cure-all for colds) in America. But he’s just messing with her and hands her the most recent volume, innocently asking if she wants to see the manga or something else in the manga.
He Luo flips open the manga and finds an envelope. It’s the same envelope that she had used to blackmail Zhang Yuan. She opens the letter to find a note from her penpal, saying that he’ll help her chase her miracle. She rushes to find the older volumes of the manga and compares the handwriting. It’s the same!
She runs out the door and right into Zhang Yuan. “Do I look like Daniel Wu?” He asks with a smile. She hits him lightly and asks why he never told her that he was her penpal. He responds saying that he didn’t know it was her until the other day. He jokingly says that he always thought that his penpal was an all-around talented individual, but the reality is much more disappointing. She takes offense to this and tells him that she spent a lot of long nights translating for him, and he agrees that his English did get much better because of her. He says he’ll treat her to a meal.
As they walk, He Luo asks what her penpal would think of her going to school in America. Wouldn’t it be kind of ridiculous for a poor student like her to go to a top school like Wellesley? Zhang Yuan says that this is a pretty good opportunity. He Luo nods and then starts walking, her expression changing into a frown. It’s not the answer she wanted.
But, Zhang Yuan says as he hurries after her, there are a lot of “pretty good” opportunities in the world and that doesn’t mean that she has to take all of them. Besides, they already agreed to go watch the Olympics together in Beijing. This makes her smile. But she hides it and turns to him, asking if he filled out his college declaration form. She never told him what she wrote. They have a back and forth where they each ask the other to guess what they’re thinking but neither will say it out loud.
When He Luo gets back home, she sits her mother down and tells her that she won’t go to America. She says that she’s never worked so hard for a goal before, but this time she’s seeing that she can get results. She shows her mother her score on her most recent midterm (where she scored in the top 20 overall). She asks her mom to believe in her and support her in her goal of getting into Hua Qing. Her mom relents, but says that she has to call and tell her uncle herself. Her mom is also worried that she’s secretly dating Zhang Yuan and will get distracted and tells her that she’s not to hang out with him anymore.
In an anime scene, the heroine finally learns how to use her power. She hugs Kino in her excitement, then jumps away shyly. To her surprise, Kino pulls her back in for another hug.
The next day, everyone is in class when suddenly everything starts shaking. It’s a mild earthquake for them, but the news soon spreads that the center of the devastation was in Sichuan. (The 2008 Sichuan earthquake, for those who don’t know.)
Everyone is distracted for the next few days and a TV in the classroom keeps the news on. He Luo is especially worried because her father was just transferred to Wenchuan (epicenter of the quake). The situation there is bad and she wishes she could help. Chang Feng says that they should just go and volunteer as rescue workers, but Yun Wei responds that officials are telling people to avoid the area. If they go, they’ll just be causing more problems for the emergency workers trying to do actual work.
Zhang Yuan puts a supportive hand on He Luo’s shoulder. “You want to help?” He asks. She looks up at him and nods.
I was right! About Zhang Yuan being the manga penpal even though just last episode I said I hoped I was wrong. I actually really like how it was handled, despite my earlier misgivings. It had the potential to get really crazy cliche, but I feel like at this point Zhang Yuan and He Luo are such good friends that the manga penpal connection doesn’t do anything except add something for them to laugh about and feel a little more connected about.
It’s a bit hard for me to tell whether these anime scenes are a product of He Luo’s imagination or actual narratives from the manga she’s reading. I’m inclined to believe they’re from the manga, but perhaps framed in a way that’s heavily influenced by He Luo’s mood and life.
I’m not really sure where the drama is going with the Sichuan earthquake, but I’m assuming they’re trying to hit all the key moments of recent history while also throwing in a good dose of students working for the civic good. We’ll see what happens!