First Published on Chaleuria
071 – Whoever doesn’t show up is a dog.
Xie Yu’s hand was still sticky. He read one notification, then put his phone aside to clean his hand with another two tissues.
The hem of the sweater he had just put on after showering was stained with something. It looked suggestive, and the smell mixed with the scent of detergent.
As Xie Yu cleaned his hands, he thought again of how He Zhao had been unable to control himself. When He Zhao had climaxed at the end, he had bitten down on Xie Yu’s shoulder, teeth sinking bluntly into flesh.
Xie Yu’s hand jerked.
Given how awful this app was, the notifications were probably official announcements such as, To celebrate the return of the Question King app, we’re releasing thirty limited-edition problem sets,’ or ‘Prizes for completing questions! Let us soar above the sea of knowledge.
Xie Yu carefully finished cleaning up, then picked up his phone again. A private message titled ‘Question King Offline Meetup’ caught his eye.
A reward for loyal players! On the long road of studying, do you feel alone? Do you feel lost? Have you searched high and low for companions who will study and grow with you?
We have decided to organize an offline meetup! To reward our loyal players, anyone who registered as part of the Question King family during this past summer vacation can join this gathering. Let us share our studying experiences face to face and meet even more like-minded friends who share this heartfelt love of studying.
Xie Yu calmly opened the next unread private message.
It was an invitation specifying the time and location of the meetup, along with the agenda.
10 a.m. that Saturday at Century City.
The agenda was packed. There were group homework sessions, peer tutoring sessions, sessions to share favorite mock papers or study materials, and other similarly strange programming. There was even an event where they would watch The Birth of Einstein in a mini-theater.
At the end of the invitation was neatly written, We hope to see you there.
Go, my ass.
Xie Yu glanced at the next few lines and didn’t have the patience to keep reading.
The remainder of the notification was probably details for the in-person meeting. Instinct told him that the whole group of madmen in the forums would all be there.
As he expected, the Question King chat was very lively.
When considering meeting online friends in person, normal people probably thought about what to wear and how to present themselves in order to give their online friends a good first impression.
But this lot was different.
[ServeTheHomeland]: Has everyone decided which mock paper to bring to the meeting?
[ForABetterTomorrow]: Of course. It has to be the Five Years of Mock Papers and Three Years of College Exams.¹ This set has extraordinary power. Once you open it, you won’t be able to stop your hands from doing all the questions at a mad pace.
[StudystudystudythatsallIdo]: Then I’ll bring 38 Heavenly Sets and we can exchange.
[EnglishClassRep]: Me? I like Guide to College Exam English. It covers all the content points and is a very different study experience. With the guidance of this famous teacher, we break through all our misunderstandings.
Xie Yu sat on the side of his bed and took off his sweater. He was going to take another shower.
Beneath the weak lighting in the private bathroom, he let the water flow over his shoulders. There was a very faint pain and only now did Xie Yu realize that that idiot had really broken skin.
Then He Zhao’s words about the future echoed in his ears again.
A future with you.
Xie Yu shut his eyes and sighed.
Perhaps because the shower he had taken had been cold, he now felt much more awake. Now that he was no longer sleepy, he thought about going into Question King and doing some practice questions.
After refreshing the app, he saw that the question archive contained a set of ‘Real Questions from Top Instructors.’ The app’s developers had likely invited top instructors to write questions and come up with these unique problem sets.
In the time it had taken Xie Yu to shower, the Question King chat had started in on a different subject.
[Ilovestudying]: Is the rivalry between God X and Shameless still ongoing?
[FightingUpstream]: Yes, and the devs haven’t announced who the real Question King is yet.
[StudystudystudythatsallIdo]: Didn’t you see the announcement? The devs sent them both PMs and said they’d follow up.
At this, Xie Yu’s hand stilled on his mock paper.
In the pile of private messages he had given up reading, there had indeed been a notification from Question King. Xie Yu scrolled down and saw a notification titled ‘Summer Tournament.’
Dear esteemed jsdhwdmax, in the Summer Tournament, you scored equal points to User ‘Question King.’ Since the tournament season has ended, we hope that you can settle this with ‘Question King’ privately.
Xie Yu read it twice to be sure he hadn’t read wrongly.
Settle this privately.
In his friends list, ‘Question King’s profile picture and username were both grayed out, and his status was offline.
Xie Yu thought that would be the end of it. Maybe the madman had deleted the game. But the next day, when he was awoken by the broadcast and went online, he found a message from Question King.
It had been sent after 11pm last night and the first line consisted of only two words:
[Question King]: Forget it.
Mad Dog was still delivering his rah-rah announcement over the intercom. There were no upcoming tests but that didn’t stop him from anticipating the end-of-term tests. “Don’t think you still have time! If you keep saying, ‘Tomorrow,’ the endless tomorrows will bury you. Friends, today! Today! Take action today!”
Xie Yu hoisted himself on one arm into a sitting position. He and Shameless had had the same thought.
There was nothing to settle. Nothing to fight about.
Then Xie Yu kept reading. There were two more lines
[Question King]: Admit defeat.
[Question King]: I’ll let you off.
The message was only three lines long but it dripped with arrogance.
Xie Yu was so mad he started laughing. He was already in a bad mood from having to get up early, and he had been sleeping well before that. He was ready to fight anyone who approached him now and was primed to explode at anything.
When Zhou Dalei came looking for him in the morning, if Xie Yu hadn’t gotten up, he didn’t even dare enter the house. He shouted for Xie Yu from outside, and turned and ran when he was done.
So all the Question King users currently online now saw something unprecedented. The stoic and silent God X had typed something into the chat.
[Jsdhwdmax] to Question King: Idiot.
[Jsdhwdmax] to Question King: Saturday, Century City. Whoever doesn’t show up is a dog.
Xie Yu was annoyedly tapping out the last punctuation mark when He Zhao knocked on the door.
The distressed cries were still sounding outside the door.
Mad Dog’s rah-rah speech had gone longer than five minutes. Now he had started talking about his own youth and jumped from topic to topic. “When I was in high school, I got up at 5 a.m. to memorize vocabulary. No matter how cold it was, my bed couldn’t keep me…”
The occupants of the dorm room diagonally down from him were already yelling and pounding the wall. “Stop! Just let the endless tomorrows bury me already.”
And the soul-deep cries of other students: “Why was I so adamant about living at school?”
Xie Yu wore a thunderous expression when he pushed open the door.
He Zhao leaned against his doorframe, not surprised at all. He very naturally raised a hand to smooth Xie Yu’s ruffled feathers. “My little friend is always so annoyed when he gets up in the morning.”
Xie Yu said, “I met an idiot and I want to punch him.”
He Zhao didn’t understand. “What idiot?”
“Nothing, someone online.” Xie Yu turned around, about to go back and wash up, before saying, “Come in and close the door.”
Xie Yu did not like chatting online.
He Zhao had seen his QQ account. It resembled a side account. Wan Da had tried to add him several times but never succeeded. Eventually he had plucked up the courage to ask Xie Yu directly, only to find out that Xie Yu didn’t even look at his friend requests.
Wan Da had nearly broken down down. “Yu-ge, I sent you eight friend requests! You didn’t see a single one of them?”
Xie Yu said, “I really didn’t pay attention.”
He had more friends on Weixin.
Considering all this, He Zhao concluded that his boyfriend had likely encountered some exciting news or commentary that morning. “There are all sorts of people online. Some are going to be idiots.”
Xie Yu washed his face and hung up his towel again.
He Zhao lay down on Xie Yu’s bed out of habit, watching him look through his closet for clothes.
Xie Yu hadn’t washed his school pants from yesterday, and the other pair was not yet dry. After looking for a while, Xie Yu had to wear his casual clothes. Then he picked up a sweater.
By the time Xie Yu was done changing, He Zhao concluded that he was bad at minding his own business.
Why the hell had he gone looking for Xie Yu for so early in the morning?
Xie Yu put on long pants. His casual pants were not as baggy and shapeless as the school pants, and they outlined his straight and slim legs. His zipper was still down and he rested a finger on the zip, letting the pants hang at his waist.
Xie Yu pulled the zip up little by little and asked, “Are you still sleeping?”
“I was going to,” He Zhao said, “…but not any more.”
He Zhao and Xie Yu went to the cafeteria for breakfast. When they walked upstairs to class, Luo Wenqiang was cleaning the classroom.
Xie Yu went to the back door, then stopped. “What’s gotten into him?”
Luo Wenqiang held a washcloth in his hand, swinging his hips as he cleaned the windowsill. As the dance moves from yesterday surfaced in his mind, he hummed along, “La la, la la la, la…”
He Zhao: “….”
“Oh, hello.” Luo Wenqiang saw them and stopped shaking his butt. “Morning.”
People came and went through the corridor.
Xie Yu had the sudden impulse to sever all ties with his classmate Luo Wenqiang.
But He Zhao adjusted quickly. He smiled and said, “Gym rep, good moves. Elegant posture. If I was a girl, I’d be enraptured…”
Xie Yu said, “Quit acting. Let it go.”
The first class of the day was English.
Xie Yu finished his writing-from-memory assignment, then lay down on his desk to sleep. But he couldn’t fall asleep, so he fished his phone out from under his desk.
Now that he was awake, he thought that what he had said to Question King in a fit of anger had been a bit much.
There was no reason to be mad. ‘Question King’ was probably a die-hard diligent student whose glasses were thicker than a beer bottle. Were they really going to do mock papers face to face when they met?
Xie Yu opened the app and found that the forum had exploded. Even now, it was still going.
[StudystudystudythatsallIdo]: Damn, they’re going to go face to face?!
[TopTenInClass]: God X is fantastic!
[TsinghuaPekingUIsNotADream]: So strong!
: God X, remember what you said! Fight to the death! Whoever doesn’t show up is a dog!
Xie Yu: “……” Fuck.