First Published on Chaleuria
072 – I’ll give you a three-question head start.
God X sending a challenge in the public chat was really shocking and sent the chat into a frenzy. The future pillars of society, who held the hopes of their country, were all secretly sending messages while in class.
After a period of chaos, the chat finally calmed down.
[ConqueringPekingU]: Alright, I can’t any more. Class is starting and I have to listen. Nothing must keep me from paying attention in class.
: I’m holding my phone right now. Every word I type makes me feel ashamed to face my school and my teachers. I’ve betrayed all their hopes for me. Goodbye. Chat after school.
[Ilovestudying]: This English class… this is the first time I’m looking at my phone in class since elementary school. I really feel guilty.
Right now, Xie Yu felt that he had dug a pit for himself while he wasn’t quite awake, and now he had fallen into it and had to stay there.
The English teacher led the class in reading the new vocabulary words aloud. Then she asked them to pair up and read them again to familiarize themselves with the words, and turned to write the topic on the board.
While the classroom was filled with the sound of people reading out loud, Xie Yu turned off his phone and threw it back into his desk with a thud.
It was a muted sound and wasn’t very noticeable.
He Zhao was at an important point in his game. Hearing the thud, he assumed the noise was keeping Xie Yu from sleeping, so he subconsciously reached out to cover Xie Yu’s ears.
He kept fighting monsters one-handed, using one hand in place of two. He asked, “Too loud?”
Xie Yu was slumped on his desk. He Zhao’s palm lay next to his ear, He Zhao’s fingers gently threading through his hair. His voice was slightly muffled and sounded far away.
Xie Yu was about to say, “No, I’m not sleeping,” but before the words left his mouth, they somehow turned into an, ‘Mm,’ of assent.
The skill board was split into two, and even though He Zhao had quick fingers he couldn’t play properly with only one hand.
After the class had finished reading vocabulary, the classroom quieted down. He Zhao had forgotten where his hand was and Xie Yu forgot to remind him about it, too.
He Zhao often did tiny, unnoticeable things like that.
Like sunlight streaming in through the window, he quietly smoothed down all Xie Yu’s feelings of frustration.
The English teacher finished writing down the topic, then summarized every paragraph. She split the board into several sections, put down the chalk, dusted off her hands, and said, “Are you finished reading? Now I’ll call someone up…”
She glanced around the room and her gaze fell on the last row of seats.
She was speechless.
“You all are very touchy-feely, aren’t you. Your love for your classmates can move the heavens and earth.” After this bout of sarcasm, she tapped the table with the blackboard eraser, then called Xie Yu and He Zhao by name. “The two of you, get up. Stand up, stand properly. Read the chapter vocabulary words out loud. No one is to help them.”
Xie Yu slowly stood up, opened his book, and said, “I can’t read them.”
Following the pronunciation guide, he deliberately read them wrong. It sounded terrible.
“All right, you can’t. What were you doing while I was going over them? Now you say you can’t?” She then looked over at Xie Yu’s deskmate, who was flipping through his book. “He Zhao, you read it.”
He Zhao asked, “Teach, which page?”
The English teacher: “……”
She didn’t keep putting them on the spot. If she pursued the matter every time, she would probably faint every class period from sheer anger. She made them remain standing, then called Xu Qingqing to read it before letting them sit.
Xu Qingqing held up her book and read aloud according to the pronunciation guide, every word perfect. Clearly, she had prepared at home beforehand.
He Zhao, standing up, was in just the right position to see Luo Wenqiang secretly eating biscuits in the row in front.
“Old Xie.” He Zhao elbowed Xie Yu. “Look.”
“Look at what?”
Xie Yu was a little tired of standing. He stuck his hands in his pockets, glanced over, and saw Luo Wenqiang with his hand held carefully in a lotus position. He pulled out a piece, then waited for the English teacher’s attention to shift before swiftly stuffing it into his mouth.
Xie Yu watched for a while. “He didn’t eat breakfast?”
He Zhao said, “He said this morning he ate six whole meat buns… but maybe he’s hungry again?”
Xu Qingqing finished reading. As He Zhao sat down, he also picked up the pen cap on his desk and threw it at Luo Wenqiang.
Luo Wenqiang had not swallowed the piece of cookie in his mouth and nearly choked. He looked back to see who had thrown it.
He Zhao smiled as he leaned back in his seat, whispering, “Share?”
So Luo Wenqiang’s biscuit tin was passed down from the first row.
When it passed by Wan Da, he took two pieces. By the time it got to them, there would probably only be crumbs left. Wan Da wasn’t really hungry; he just had itchy fingers and also wanted the fun of secretly eating in class.
The box of milk peanut cookies was carefully smuggled across the classroom.
When the box was about to reach them, Liu Cunhao caught sight of it, waved to Wan Da, and waved. “What is that? I want some too.”
The English teacher was still analyzing the sentence on the blackboard while the box continued circulating through the classroom.
After the box was passed back across the classroom and finally reached them, it was already empty.
Xie Yu took the box. “Animals, the lot of you.”
He Zhao looked, too. “Damn, not a single one left?”
Luo Wenqiang, having watched his cookies leave him one by one, couldn’t pay attention to class any more. “……”
Fuck, those cookies.
“Where shall we rehearse today?” After class let out, the Coolest Guy Group in the Universe gathered around the last row of seats.
“Gym class later? Let’s just practice in the quad.”
“No, we can’t reveal our skills so soon.”
Xie Yu didn’t pay close attention to the discussion.
He sat to the side, and when he got bored he tapped on the Apple of Knowledge icon again. After logging in, he found two messages on his home screen.
[Question King] to [jsdhwdmax]: Sure.
[Question King] to [jsdhwdmax]: Whoever doesn’t come is a dog.
Xie Yu now understood how Zhou Dalei had picked a fight with someone over a violet weapon.
The Coolest Guy Group in the Universe had planned to practice in the quad, but when they arrived, there were too many people there. Of course, this was because there were two very famous personages in their midst.
Just by standing there, Xie Yu and He Zhao were already subjected to the treatment of performers making their debut appearance.
After starting the music, they couldn’t bear the stares and stealth photography from all the onlookers and decided to go back to their classroom to practice.
Before they started practicing again, Xu Jing asked, “Is everyone free on the weekend?”
Liu Cunhao said, “Yup, yup.”
Luo Wenqiang said, “I can be.”
Xie Yu said, “No,” then heard He Zhao also say, “I have something going on, really sorry.”
Nearly half the group couldn’t make it, so they had to drop the idea of weekend practice.
Xu Jing turned around to adjust the sound settings, and Xie Yu whispered, “You’re going home over the weekend?”
He Zhao had not gone home since the start of the school term. It was about time he made a trip back.
“Nothing important.” He Zhao sat on his desk, looking unworried. “Call me ge and I won’t go.”
Of course, Xie Yu didn’t.
The week passed in the blink of an eye.
Homework accumulated, Old Tang lectured, and the weekend arrived.
“Students, when you leave for the weekend, stay safe.” The classroom had mostly emptied and only the unlucky students on classroom cleaning duty were still there. Old Tang was still improvising his speech. “Finish your homework on time. When studying, reviewing old material will give you new insight…”
Xie Yu packed up his things and leaned against the rear doorframe, waiting for one of the students on duty.
He Zhao was still cleaning the blackboard. He could reach the top of the board if he stretched his hand up.
Xie Yu, watching him, was mesmerized.
Xie Yu had logged into Question King several times over the last few days, discussing with Shameless how they would compete on Saturday. Although they had agreed to meet face to face and have it out, there needed to be rules to this confrontation.
After discussing it, the only viable option was doing a mock paper and grading it on the spot.
Shameless had no objection. Any mock paper, any subject.
Then he added, I’ll give you a three-question headstart.
He was really asking for a beating. In Xie Yu’s entire life, the only other person he had ever heard such provocative words from was the idiot currently cleaning the blackboard.
On some level, his boyfriend actually had a few things in common with that good student whose glasses were probably thicker than the base of a beer bottle.
[Ilovestudying]: Is everyone on their way? Is God X on his way?
[StudystudystudythatsallIdo]: On the way. I and my 38 Ultimate Strategies are on the way to Century City.
[TopTenInClass]: On the bus. I stayed up all last night and wrote a 5000-word study reflection essay discussing my study strategies. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful.
[FightingUpstream]: I’m on my way too. Very excited! I want to do some questions on the bus! And I can’t wait for God X and Shameless’s showdown!
Early the next morning, the Question King chat was refreshing madly with messages from this lot.
Xie Yu was still looking through the suggested route on his phone maps app.
Century City was very popular and people would often hold events such as class gatherings there.
It had all sorts of facilities and amenities, the most famous of which was a private hall with AV equipment. This was probably the first time the AV equipment would be used to screen The Birth of Einstein.
Xie Yu didn’t want to bother changing buses, so he took a direct bus.
He had brought a mask with him when he left, to cover his face. He sat in the rearmost seat and glanced down at a private message Question King had sent him.
[Question King]: I’ll get to the point, my friend. You can still back out now.
[Question King]: Even if I give you a three-question head start, you won’t win.
After another half hour, Question King sent another message.
[Question King]: I’m here. Century City entrance.
Xie Yu was sleepy, and typed with his eyes half closed. He thought, What’s the point of telling me you’re there? Who the hell knows who you are in this crowd. So he asked, What are you wearing? Any identifiers?
[Question King]: Forget what I’m wearing. I’m the most good-looking one.