First Published on Chaleuria
066 – Don’t love me. It’s pointless.
The subject line of the email read: Face the college exams and escape low scores.
He Zhao put his pen down and glanced at the sender field. He didn’t know them. The QQ email account was newly created, and not on his friends list.
His first thought was that it was spam.
When school had started, He Zhao had put down his own phone number as the parental contact number.
Who knew where after-school tutors got students’ personal information. Every few days he received annoying texts, and the advertisements got even more aggressive during exam season. Hello, parent of He Zhao. This is XXX College Exam Prep Class. We understand how your child is doing in school and sincerely recommend our 80-day boot camp. Our capable teachers will tutor your child one-on-one…
At the entrance to Erzhong, various tutoring organizations also distributed flyers and occasionally conducted surveys.
The last time he had gone out with Xie Yu to eat, he had run into one.
Several people holding clipboards stood at the gates, looking around. Seeing the two students emerge from the restaurant around the corner, they had approached. “Hello, can you…”
Xie Yu instantly replied, “No.”
They had stood there stunned for a while. They had probably never met someone like him.
Nevertheless, they refused to give up, and tried again. “If we could have a moment, we are…”
“I don’t want to know,” Xie Yu said. “Can you move? You’re blocking the road.”
Remembering this, He Zhao wanted to laugh again. He thought, My little friend must be salespeople’s worst nightmare.
He didn’t even give them a chance to finish.
He really was chilly.
He Zhao opened the email expecting it to be spam, but it was not quite the 80-day boot camp advertisement he had expected.
—It really was an email containing study materials.
Without a single word of advertisement.
The email consisted of several sections organized by subject, covering the contents on the main exam. The guides were very straightforward and logical, without a single unnecessary word.
He Zhao glanced at it twice and didn’t notice anything complicated. It looked like a guide for bad students to learn the basics.
In sum, this was a near-perfect foundational guide.
Xie Yu had stayed up all night compiling the critical points of each subject for He Zhao and was about to go to sleep, but his head had just hit the pillow when the class group chat exploded again.
At the head of his bed, his phone vibrated several times.
[He Zhao]: @v=s*h, study rep, what are you doing?
[v=s*h ]: I’m memorizing English words.
[Luo Wenqiang]: Study rep, what time is it? You’re still fighting?
[v=s*h ]: It’s still early. You sleep so early? I can’t sleep, and the more I read the more energy I have.
[Luo Wenqiang]: All right, that’s enough. You’re the most impressive.
[He Zhao]: No, I mean what did you email me in the middle of the night for?
Xue Xisheng had no idea what was happening.
[v=s*h ]: What email?
[He Zhao]: Study guide?
[He Zhao]: What’s that question mark for? It wasn’t you?
The mysterious study guide incited a burst of enthusiasm in everyone from Class 3. It was the middle of the night but they all didn’t sleep, looking instead at He Zhao’s screenshot and letting their imaginations run wild.
[Liu Cunhao]: Might it be Old Wu?
[Xu Qingqing]: No, Old Wu wouldn’t make a new email. He would have just sent it.
[Liu Cunhao]: Shall we just ask him? @Mr. Wu Zheng
After ruling out the study rep and the math teacher, none of them knew who else in their class would do such a thing.
[Wan Da]: Maybe it’s like this…
Eventually, they came up with a story of a besotted girl who had had a crush on He Zhao for a long time. She couldn’t have him, but loved him to death and had watched him from afar.
[Xu Qingqing]: That’s definitely it. And from the study guide we can see that this girl gets good grades. Very logical. For instance, the explanation for this example is very structured.
[Wan Da]: Yes, yes. Her love, usually repressed in her heart, finally bursts forth on a thoughtful night like this!
[He Zhao]: Ah, is that so.
“……” Xie Yu, lying on his bed, put one hand to his forehead. He forced out, “Idiot.” He wasn’t sure if he was cursing He Zhao or himself.
After Xu Qingqing and the others had analyzed it, this strange and twisted love story really did sound like it could be true.
Xie Yu had not completed the study guide and had only sent He Zhao the basics. Although Class 3’s imagination left him speechless, he continued to write the study guide.
The examples and facts in the basics version were not nearly sufficient. The college exams were much more difficult than that.
The next day, after Xie Yu got out of bed, he made another guide.
As with the previous document, the guide was divided into sections. It covered several common trap questions and the various ways a single content point could be tested.
“Don’t stay in your room all day.” Near noon, Madam Gu knocked on his door. “Come downstairs for lunch.”
Xie Yu said, still typing, “Got it.”
Gu Xuelan sighed. “Got it, got it… I don’t think you get it at all.”
Madam Gu waited outside the door for a while. Xie Yu saved the document and used the same QQ email account from before to send the file to He Zhao.
[Email sent successfully.]
At lunch, Gu Xuelan kept pressing the topic. “What are you doing in your room?”
Xie Yu took a piece of pork rib and put it in Gu Xuelan’s bowl, then said, “Studying.”
After passing over the pork rib, Xie Yu took some of a vegetable dish for himself and said nothing more.
He was always like that. Although he never studied, he always made the excuse that he was studying.
He always said that he wasn’t coming home on weekends because he wanted to focus on studying in school. And then his grades were second from last in the year anyway. Who knew what on earth he had been studying.
Gu Xuelan eventually concluded, Forget it. The meal would be ruined if they kept talking about it.
Xie Yu finished his lunch, went back upstairs, and was about to log out of the QQ account when he saw a little red dot next to his inbox.
He opened it and saw a new email.
The subject line was five words: Don’t love me. It’s pointless.
Sender: He Zhao.
The body of the email was even more of the same, something along the lines of, “I already have a partner.”
I have a very close relationship with my partner.
Friend, I don’t know who you are, but I hope you understand that it’s impossible between us.
Do you understand what I’m saying?
It seemed that He Zhao had absorbed every word Xu Qingqing and the others had said yesterday.
Xie Yu sat in front of the computer staring at the rejection letter for a long time, unsure how to react.
“Damn.” Xie Yu closed out of the page, then murmured to himself, “…I’m that partner.”
He Zhao was usually so annoying Xie Yu was very tempted to block him, but he was quieter this weekend.
Xie Yu accompanied Madam Gu to a nearby park for a walk. They didn’t have much to talk about, so he mentioned some things from class and Madam Gu seemed quite happy.
It was past 1pm when he next got a call from He Zhao.
“I held it in for very long before I called you.” It was noisy on He Zhao’s end of the phone—he was probably outside. “Thought you mightn’t be up yet.”
Xie Yu stepped into his room and leaned against the door. “What do you think I am, sleeping until this time of day?”
“You’re the damn pig.”
“All right,” He Zhao said. “I’m a pig.”
They chatted for a while and Xie Yu heard someone on He Zhao’s end say, “68 yuan. Cash or credit?”
He Zhao was holding his phone and couldn’t scan a QR code, so he reached into his pocket and said, “Cash, and can I have a bag? Thank you.”
Xie Yu waited for him to pay before asking, “You went out?”
“Mm.” He Zhao stood in the bookshop, two copies of The Complete Guide to the College Exams on the counter. He had shopped around for a long time before carefully selecting this extra-curricular study material for his boyfriend. He said vaguely, “…Came out to buy something.”
Xie Yu thought that He Zhao was probably at a convenience store getting something to eat. Not many students stayed at Erzhong over the weekend and only one stall was open at the cafeteria, offering a small selection of food. Probably incomparable to home cooking.
Students who stayed over the weekend usually went out to eat or bought some instant noodles and snacks to tide them over.
The cashier counted out He Zhao’s change, put the books in the bag, and gave both to He Zhao.
He Zhao pushed open the door, carrying the bags, and glanced down at the red string on his wrist. He asked Xie Yu, “Are you still wearing the bracelet?”
Xie Yu glanced at his own wrist. The red string still hung there, the red bean with the Z carved on it resting on his wristbone. “Yes. What about it?”
“Nothing, just asking.”
Although they weren’t physically together, strangely, linked by the red line, they both felt that the other was near.
As if they were breathing the same air.
The weekend passed quickly and it was Monday again.
Xie Yu glanced at the time as he waited for the bus back to school. It was that time of morning when ‘Loyalty to the Country’ would usually resound through the air. He then thought of Dean Jiang’s daily encouraging speech which had never skipped a day and the daily groans of misery that echoed through the dorm building.
Xie Yu thought about it, then called He Zhao.
“Are you awake?”
“How can I sleep?” He Zhao had been freshly woken by the broadcast and his voice was still hoarse. He sat up and asked, “You’re on the bus? When do you get back?”
Before Xie Yu left, Madam Gu had pushed a can of milk into his hands and made him promise to drink it on the bus to aid nutrition. The milk was still warm and he bit on the straw as he said, “…Half an hour.”
Xie Yu’s voice was muffled and gentle, a little soft.
He Zhao asked, “Are you eating something?”
Xie Yu said, “Drinking milk.”
Thinking it sounded strange, Xie Yu added, “Cow’s milk.”
He Zhao cursed on the other end of the line.
Xie Yu asked, “Are you sick?”
He Zhao replied, “Does morning wood count as sick?”
As a guy, He Zhao was prone to specific biological reactions. He was imagining his little friend quietly drinking milk and gave himself a hard time.
When Xie Yu got to the classroom, He Zhao had not yet arrived.
Wan Da and the others had arrived early and were huddled together, copying homework. No one dared leave any questions blank, so even if they copied only the formula steps, they still wrote something for every question. Wan Da glanced up, saw Xie Yu, and greeted him. “Yu-ge, you’re early… where’s Zhao-ge?”
Xie Yu said, walking to the back row, “He’s taking a shower.”
Wan Da asked, “Showering at this time?”
Xie Yu was about to go on, but then he saw the two copies of The Complete Guide to the College Exams on his desk and stopped. “……”
What the hell was this?