First Published on Chaleuria
069 – When you have problems in school, I can only watch you get frustrated but I can’t help you at all
He Zhao was still reading the question, following each of the notes Old Wu had written in red chalk. After doing the arithmetic, he considered several ways of approaching the question.
The concept Old Wu had explained in class was quite straightforward, but even simple concepts became more complicated when they were tested using functions.
He Zhao wanted to grab a piece of scratch paper and draft an answer.
Xie Yu glanced at He Zhao and noticed that he was looking at the blackboard even more intently than he had been looking at his game.
He Zhao wasn’t very enthusiastic about gaming. He tapped here and there but didn’t get invested.
Rather than liking gaming, it seemed more that he was bored and had nothing to do.
But he was good at the game and had a lot of tricks up his sleeve. During evening self-study, Wan Da and the others often invited He Zhao to play with them, or asked him which server he was on.
He Zhao always responded, “I’m not playing with you today. I’m playing a couples’ formation with my deskmate.”
Wan Da doggedly kept on inviting him, hoping to get a good player on his team. “Yu-ge? That’s more like a solo suicide mission, right? Don’t you want to play in an actual team?”
Xie Yu finally reached out and tapped on He Zhao’s phone screen.
On the game interface, ‘Handsome He’ dodged an attack and swung his sword in a counterattack before running off to the side, still trailing blood.
Xie Yu retracted his hand, then asked, “What were you thinking so hard about?”
“Look at these conditions to determine the boundaries of the question.” Old Wu laid out the critical points and drew a diagram, then rapped on the blackboard with a ruler. “Take a few minutes to think about this…”
Old Wu wanted to call someone up to the blackboard to solve the question, but glancing around the class he found that only Xue Xisheng was actively trying to do the question. He said, “Study rep, come up and solve it.”
Xue Xisheng pushed up his glasses, got up, walked to the blackboard, and wrote the word ‘Solution:’ practically tucked away in the upper left corner of the board.
He Zhao quickly gave his avatar a healing potion and fell silent.
Surely, he couldn’t say, Old Xie, this extension question is quite simple. In the last minute, I thought of three different ways to solve it. Do you want to hear them?
Thankfully, Xie Yu didn’t keep asking.
Xie Yu wrote down several solution steps in his notes app, ordered his thoughts, then deleted the note. He opened his calculator app and started to do the arithmetic.
Neither of them were well-versed in love, but many of their peers had gotten into relationships early.
Based on Wan Da’s rumors alone, all the couples in school lined up might be able to circumnavigate the school grounds twice. He went on about which students from which class had just gotten together, but that person from that class had just split up with that other person… there were all kinds of reasons for breaking up. They seemed to be dating just for fun.
The biggest scandal had happened last year. Even Xie Yu, who didn’t listen to gossip, knew about it.
There had been a girl with good grades, the literature rep of her class. The sort of girl who gave speeches at the yearly parent assembly, and who looked well-behaved and demure. But she had gotten into a relationship with a transfer student who led a messy life.
After a while, the transfer student had wanted to break up but the girl had staunchly refused.
When they broke up, they made a big scene in the corridor. The transfer student said, pained, “We’re not compatible. Forget it. When you have problems in school, I can only watch you get frustrated but I can’t help you at all.”
“If I run into something I don’t understand, I can ask the teacher—”
“No, you don’t get it. This isn’t something that a teacher can solve. This is a communication gap between us that we can’t bridge.”
This story was still making the rounds on Erzhong’s school forum to this day. The thread was highlighted in red and pinned.
Xie Yu solved the math problem, then cleared his notes app again. He thought, No rush. We can take our time.
But he had no idea that He Zhao was also thinking, No, if there’s too big a gap my little friend might become self-conscious.
Xue Xisheng had picked a complicated solution, and his notes covered half the blackboard. He had also made a mistake: while solving for x, he had forgotten to consider the range of validity.
Near the end of class, Old Wu briefly went over the solution to the problem.
He Zhao was still on his phone game, and he glanced up at the blackboard while the game was loading. During class, he had finished all the missions currently available to him when he saw a team invitation from Shen Jie as he was about to go offline. Reflexively, he hit accept.
Wu Zheng reminded the class rep to collect homework from the faculty office later on, then packed up his things and went to the class next door.
Xie Yu had just put away his phone when he heard He Zhao curse.
Xie Yu initially thought he had lost a round, but when he moved closer and glanced at He Zhao’s screen, he noticed that one of the characters on the screen was female, wearing a skirt and with long hair.
He Zhao had earbuds in and had probably turned on team voice chat. Xie Yu reached out and took one of the earbuds, putting it in his own ear, and heard a girl’s soft voice. “I don’t really know how to play this game. Can you protect me later on?”
Xie Yu wound his finger around the cord. He drawled, “You’re living the good life, ge. Even helping girls.”
He Zhao had his own difficulties.
When Shen Jie had invited him to join the team just now, he had asked him to help a new player, saying this concerned his lifelong happiness but he had a stomachache and needed to go to the toilet.
Before He Zhao could refuse, Shen jie had added the girl to the team and run off.
“No,” He Zhao immediately explained. Xie Yu’s jealousy was obvious, and although He Zhao quite liked the look of his boyfriend being jealous, he still immediately turned off the mic and explained. “I don’t know her. This is a girl Shen Jie is teaching. I really don’t know her.”
Xie Yu said, “If you don’t know her, then why did he ask you to help?”
“He went to the toilet and needed someone to hold the fort for a while.”
Xie Yu continued, “He asked you of all people. You do this a lot, do you?”
He Zhao was speechless.
Xie Yu didn’t keep picking at it, either.
Seeing that He Zhao was trying so earnestly to explain himself, Xie Yu continued talking for a while but didn’t ask He Zhao to leave the team. In fact, he started up his own copy of the game. “Add me, quick. Class is about to start.”
The girl was still talking, but He Zhao heard none of it.
His mind was full of, Damn, my boyfriend’s usually so cold but when he throws a tantrum he’s too damn cute.
The girl’s handle was a string of emojis. She was clearly interested in He Zhao, even though He Zhao hadn’t said much.
[Emoji]: “Gege, are you from Erzhong too?”
[Emoji]: “Do you have a girlfriend?”
After hanging around Xie Yu for so long, He Zhao had learned some of his mannerisms, although he didn’t use them as harshly as Xie Yu did. Xie Yu would have said, “None of your business,” so He Zhao said, “I have a boyfriend.”
A long time later, the round ended. He Zhao immediately exited the game, worried that Emoji would ask him to start another round.
Xie Yu slumped on his side of the desk, looking at He Zhao. “You’re not worried she’ll tell Shen Jie?”
He Zhao put away his earphones and looked at the timetable. There was one class period left. “No need for her to tell him. He already knows.”
The classroom was very noisy.
Liu Cunhao and Wan Da were making a ruckus. When they passed Xie Yu and He Zhao, Liu Cunhao collided with Xie Yu’s desk. The table shook and the sound of it moving reached Xie Yu’s ears.
Xie Yu blinked. “He knows?”
“He found out on the class trip.” He Zhao flipped through his text messages. “I’m looking for it and you can see it for yourself.”
Xie Yu took the phone and glanced at it. He saw Shen Jie’s anxious questions and He Zhao’s reply.
He Zhao’s reply was very confident, and even had a hint of pride.
Xie Yu, my boyfriend.
Xie Yu had never imagined He Zhao would be so forthright.
It wasn’t convenient for them to spread the news of their relationship like other people who might easily say, ‘I have a partner.’ Unlike other young couples, they couldn’t hold hands openly around the school as long as they avoided the teachers.
Xie Yu considered it for a while. In He Zhao’s shoes, he might have done the same.
Shen Jie returned from the toilet. On the way back he slipped into Class 3 through the back door, patted He Zhao’s shoulder and said, “How did it go? Are you done helping her?”
“Help her, my ass.” He Zhao kicked him. “I have a boyfriend and you pushed me into a fire pit.”
Shen Jie dodged and said, “Yeah, I asked because I know you have a boyfriend… if it were someone else I might not have trusted them.”
He Zhao tossed a bottle of mineral water at him.
“Okay, okay, I won’t ask you next time.”
Shen Jie picked up the water bottle and put it back on the desk. “I’ll ask Old Xie. I trust him, too.”
He Zhao said, “…I think you’re tired of living.”
Over the last few days, Shen Jie must have properly processed the news of their relationship, because he didn’t react oddly at all when he looked at them both.
He was quite calm.
“What would you ask me for?” Xie Yu said. “So you can experience solo play while on a team?”
Shen Jie: “……” He had nearly forgotten Xie Yu was a lone wolf sort of player.
They chatted for a while longer, then the class bell rang and Shen Jie went back to Class 8.
Before Shen Jie left, he paused after noticing the red bands on both their wrists. He did a double-take, then said out of nowhere, “It’s good. It’s nothing, and I wasn’t surprised at all.”
Going by his Zhao-ge’s EQ, he was doomed to be forever alone, so the fact that he had found a boyfriend was already a miracle.
He Zhao smiled and said, “Get lost, now.”
The last class period passed. The people participating in the arts festival stayed for another half an hour to practice.
The classroom was almost empty and only the students on duty remained behind.
Xu Jing played their selected song on the classroom computer. In the middle of the song was a section where the performers had to pair up. They split up, two to a group. The dance moves were rather intimate, and one of the pair had to hold the other’s waist.
Xu Jing and Xu Qingqing demonstrated.
He Zhao stood behind Xie Yu, his hands on Xie Yu’s waist pulling him closer. He didn’t want to let go. “Are you coming to evening self-study later?”
Xie Yu, still thinking of what He Zhao had done, asked reflexively, “You’re not coming?”
“Not coming to class,” He Zhao said. “I want to be in the dorms coming on something else instead.”
Xie Yu had noticed that that He Zhao’s mind was getting dirtier and dirtier lately.
Luo Wenqiang was tall, and his waist being held by an equally tall boy created a very strange image. Xu Jing considered going up to help guide them, but nearly burst out laughing.
Luo Wenqiang sighed stiffly. “Jing-jing, you didn’t say there was a section like this.”
Xu Jing replied, “Just relax. Look at Zhao-ge and Yu-ge, and how natural they are…”
Wan Da waved a hand dismissively. He had already noticed. “They’re different.”
After rehearsal, they made a chat group. They titled it Coolest Guy Group in the Universe, and sent some instructional videos as well as notifications for their next rehearsal time.
Discussion in the chat group was lively all through evening self-study. Their phones kept vibrating with notifications, like they were performers preparing for a debut.
All of them wanted to look impressive on stage and instantly become famous..
[Luo Wenqiang]: Last year, someone from the class next door played guitar and many girls wanted to be friends with him afterwards.
[Luo Wenqiang]: I don’t need that many. Just one is fine.
Xie Yu showered, then walked out drying his hair. His notifications had hit 99+. He swiped on his screen with a still-damp finger, dismissing them, then noticed a familiar green apple notification at the bottom of the drag down list.
Question King Tournament.