First Published on Chaleuria
023 – Complete Guide to Exorcism
After evening self-study, He Zhao stuck to Xie Yu as they returned to the dorm.
He even tried to get Wan Da on his left side, so that Xie Yu and Wan Da would be on either side of him, but Wan Da dodged his attempts, very self-aware: “This-this-this isn’t good, you two can be affectionate together.”
Xie Yu was a little annoyed: “With which of your eyes are you seeing affection?”
Wan Da internally said: With both eyes, actually.
He looked at He Zhao who was clinging to Xie Yu with his whole body and didn’t say anything.
“Do you want to come to my room and play games?”
“There’s a game tonight. Interested?”
They had arrived at their doors. Xie Yu opened his door with his key, but He Zhao didn’t move, refusing to give up or get out of the way: “The monthly exams are soon. Maybe we could review together?”
Xie Yu said nothing and simply shut his door.
Xie Yu finished chatting with Zhou Dalei and glanced at the time: 1 a.m.
The knocking always came between 12 a.m. and 1 a.m. It happened on a different floor every night, but always between the first and third floors. Perhaps “it” was also wary of trouble and didn’t want to venture further upwards, so the fourth floor and above were safe, for now.
If someone really was pretending to be a ghost, this person was also quite determined, forgoing their sleep in the middle of the night.
Xie Yu picked up an English mock exam paper. He opened the door and went out. The knocking had stopped and there was nothing at all in the corridor.
The motion-sensor light didn’t work too well. The weak light flickered on and off.
Xie Yu knocked on the door of the room opposite his and heard something crash into the other side of the door. Then He Zhao’s voice came, sounding like he was on the verge of a breakdown: “Are you still not done?! I dare you to knock again!”
Xie Yu knocked twice more.
The interior of the room went quiet.
He Zhao wrapped himself in his blankets, phone in hand, cursing internally ten thousand times, “fuck.”
He had offhandedly baited the ghost out loud, and this thing had actually understood him.
It even played along for his benefit.
Xie Yu waited a long time. Once he eliminated the possibility that He Zhao was looking for a weapon to fling open the door, rush out, and run headlong into a fight, he said conciliatorily: “Open the door, it’s me, your grandpa.”
Half a minute later, the door opened.
He Zhao wore a calm, unbothered expression as he opened the door. Full marks for acting. “Why are you here?”
Xie Yu wondered if He Zhao had intentionally tousled his hair. Aside from his hair, his wide-open collar was also suspicious. His eyes had been viciously rubbed, like he was trying extremely hard to look like he had been sleeping.
He Zhao didn’t let him down. He leaned against the doorframe, body curving, and scratched his head: “…Ah, I was sleeping.”
Xie Yu looked at him and felt a headache coming on.
Someone like He Zhao… if he died one day, it’d be from over-acting.
After a moment, Xie Yu said: “Sorry for disturbing.”
He Zhao straightened up. “Ah?” He wasn’t following the script?
Xie Yu felt that he should mind his own business. If He Zhao died then so be it.
“You woke me so you have to take responsibility for me.” He Zhao grabbed on and didn’t let go. He caught a glimpse of the thing in Xie Yu’s hand and said, “…English mock paper? Did you want to study with me? Welcome. You don’t have to be shy. Which questions can’t you answer? I definitely can, and I definitely won’t laugh at you.”
He Zhao: “You can rest assured if you’re studying with me.”
Oh, screw off.
Xie Yu thought it, but didn’t say it.
He Zhao’s dorm room was actually quite comfortable.
He had just moved in this semester and didn’t have many things, so it looked quite empty. Xie Yu had pegged He Zhao as the sort who would leave his living space in a mess and didn’t like tidying, but he was surprised by what he saw.
He Zhao put away a shirt hanging over a chair, then slapped the back of the chair and said, “Sit.”
There was only one chair in the room. He Zhao sat on the bed with his legs crossed, right beside the desk, so that the two could look at the paper together.
“One moment, I’ll find a pen.” He Zhao swung his long legs off the bed and stepped into his slippers.
Xie Yu opened the mock exam on the table. Under the faint light of the desk lamp he saw a stack of brand-new textbooks at the side of the desk, probably untouched since the day they were handed out. Beside the books was a metal box for sweets, inside of which were lollipops.
…This habit of his.
Xie Yu turned away and caught sight of the phone He Zhao had put on the side of the table. The screen was still lit.
Five words on the screen were especially eye-catching.
The Complete Guide to Exorcism.
He Zhao looked for a long time and finally found two pens. Xie Yu took them, not quite sure what they were going to do with them, considering He Zhao’s English level and Xie Yu’s ‘current level.’
As if they could really do the questions.
“Which question shall we start with?” He Zhao removed the pen cap with his teeth and held it in his mouth as he asked.
Xie Yu: “You pick.”
He Zhao circled a multiple-choice question like he was choosing from a harem. “This one.”
Xie Yu had no objections. He Zhao stared at the question for a long time, thinking about something.
Xie Yu thought about He Zhao’s previous performance in English class. “Give up and go to the next question?”
He Zhao didn’t hear the mockery in these words at all and happily agreed: “I think that’s all right. Let’s look further down then.”
Xie Yu: “……”
He Zhao gave up pretty quickly. They didn’t touch their pens at all before going on to the next page.
“Let’s do the reading comprehension,” He Zhao said. “This one is easy. Trust me. If you have a feel for the language, it’s guessable.”
He Zhao’s confidence as he said these words… Xie Yu could almost feel it surge out and splatter over his face.
“You have a feel for the language?”
He Zhao: “I do. If there are three short options and one long one, pick the long one. That kind of feel for the language.”
In the end, even He Zhao felt that doing questions like this was too irresponsible. Of course, he might also have been worried the paper would be finished too soon and he would have to hug the Guide to Exorcism to survive the long night. So he suggested that they do the questions properly.
“Feel out the intention of the question writer.” He Zhao pulled up Baidu Translate and put in the terms one by one. “First, understand the meaning.”
The duo split the work, each translating a part.
Xie Yu recognized all the English terms on sight, but he still had to put on a show. He started to wonder if He Zhao was really mentally impaired or if his own acting wasn’t good enough yet.
Damn, was this the world of a genuinely bad student?
Xie Yu turned and looked at He Zhao, who was sitting on the bed and chewing on his pen cap, totally irreverent.
“This person wrote letters to his friends from America, describing China’s culture and specialties,” He Zhao translated. “The Great Wall, China’s iconic construction… this… wants him to see the Great Wall, if he comes to China.”
Even reading off the translation He Zhao still got the logic muddled.
Xie Yu was a little dazed. Holding the pen, he suddenly remembered the day he first stepped through the Zhong family’s front door.
Zhong Jie had straight up thrown something, then gone upstairs without another word. Zhong Guofei had followed him upstairs, and father and son had talked in the study for a long time before Zhong Jie reluctantly came down for the four to eat an extremely awkward lunch.
Zhong Guofei really did treat Gu Xuelan well, and Xie Yu did believe those two were really in love.
But that was Zhong Guofei’s love for Gu Xuelan.
That didn’t necessarily mean that Xie Yu would have a share in it.
“That kid Zhong Jie… he wants to be strong and be better than others at everything.” When Zhong Guofei looked for Xie Yu to talk, his expression held both pride and worry. “Especially after his mother passed. He hasn’t been coping well.”
He said these words very diplomatically, and Xie Yu wasn’t an idiot. The meaning in it was clear.
The day of the wedding, Gu Xuelan was very happy. Xie Jiang had left a pile of debt for them, so they had been hiding and running for their lives for the last ten years. Xie Yu had never seen her smile like that before.
Gu Xuelan, wearing her wedding dress, got a little shy as she looked at her reflection in the mirror. “I… these clothes…”
Zhong Guofei’s arms encircled her from behind: “Very beautiful.”
That day, Xie Yu had hidden in the bathroom and smoked a cigarette.
“She’s indeed quite beautiful. Who knows how Old Zhong got to know her. This woman isn’t simple.”
“The child she brought with her isn’t simple,” another person said. “If he’s mediocre, that’s all right, if not… can’t guarantee what thoughts he’ll have.”
“Doesn’t look like him, does he?”
“The Zhong family has a big business. Even if she has no intentions now, this might not be the case in the future. Didn’t the same thing happen to the Huang family? That stepson usually keeps a low profile, but in the end he still made a big scene and tried to snatch the company.”
“The Huang family?”
“Don’t you know? A while ago, a few shareholders got together…”
“So the answer to this is definitely B!”
He Zhao picked the answer with full confidence. The circles he made around his chosen answer looked like a pile of dung. After circling B, he crooked a finger and flicked Xie Yu’s forehead. “Hey, what are you thinking?”
Xie Yu came back to himself and looked down at the circle.
This guy, He Zhao. He had done research on Baidu Translate for nearly half an hour… and still managed to pick wrong.