First Published on Chaleuria
081 – They’re upstanding best bros!
Actually, Erzhong’s students didn’t know the legendary ‘school tyrants’ all that well.
Although He Zhao and Xie Yu both had bad reputations, it was not often that one would actually run into them. Most people had only heard a load of rumors and their strongest impressions of the two big bros were from the blurry candid photos on the school forum.
Less than a week after the anniversary celebration, the threads on the school forum concerning the two of them gained another dozen posts.
At first, the tone of the new posts had been quite normal. “School anniversary celebration videos, HQ! The blood banks are empty.” “The two of them are way too good-looking.” “Damn, just look at Xie Yu’s waist.”
As the posts went on, they sounded more and more like CP posts.
During lunch break, the Coolest Guy Group in the Universe put their heads together and carefully scrolled through the school forum.
“Hao-zi, look at this one.” Luo Wenqiang scrolled downward on his phone screen and quietly read aloud, “Remember the red string on He Zhao’s wrist when he did the opening? Look at 3:15. Surprise there for you.”
3:15 was the timestamp of He Zhao and Xie Yu high-fiving. A red string was showing on Xie Yu’s wrist, too. Someone had magnified the image and it looked like the same bracelet.
Liu Cunhao now remembered the idiocy he had spewed before.
Bracelet charms to guarantee passing the exams?
Pass, my ass.
Liu Cunhao rubbed his forehead and steadied himself, then said, “Reply to the thread, now! Tell them everyone in Class 2.3 has one of those bracelets and it’s nothing special. Don’t let them read too much into it.”
Luo Wenqiang said, “This excuse of yours is really…”
Wan Da: “……”
That evening, they squatted outside the multi-purpose building and chatted for an hour. They all thought this was unexpected, but within reason. They had joked before that if He Zhao and Xie Yu kept being gay with each other then sooner or later something would really happen, but none of them had expected things to happen so fast.
They were the first couple in Class 2.3 and their situation was rather special, at that.
Liu Cunhao and the others discussed it and decided unanimously that since He Zhao and Xie Yu hadn’t said anything, they would pretend not to know about this for the time being and also try to help them hide it.
Xie Yu had planned to sleep during lunch break, but he hadn’t shut his eyes for very long before he opened them again. His gaze swept the front row, across the back of Luo Wenqiang’s head, then landed on the corridor outside the window. He muttered, “Not again.”
There were always several girls hanging around outside Class 3’s doorway. Now, the girls numbered in the double digits and came during every break between class periods.
A few days ago, several very bold girls had held up their phones and taken candid photos. Xie Yu had gone straight up to them and told them to delete the photos. He had said, through the window, without any mercy at all: “Delete them.”
The girls were so scared they nearly dropped their phones on the ground.
“What’s the matter?” He Zhao was doodling on a piece of paper. Halfway through a calculation, he put down his pen and turned to look at Xie Yu, reaching out to knock on his side of the desk. “…Too noisy?”
Xie Yu thought, this idiot has probably still not noticed that among the mob of girls outside, half came to see him.
Xie Yu, still lying down, blinked. “What practice problem is this?”
He Zhao pushed his draft over. Then he realized that Xie Yu probably wouldn’t understand what he had been doodling and explained, “It’s the extension question Old Wu put on the board this morning. I was bored, so I tried it out.”
Class 3 was a science-stream class, but based on their exam results it was probably best that they secure their fundamentals first and score all the points they could there, before attempting the more challenging questions.
Xie Yu leaned over, trying to recall the question, and could barely make out He Zhao’s work on the paper.
“But I think, look at this…” He Zhao was about to say he had found a mistake in his work and that there was a simpler way to calculate it, but someone picked that moment to walk noisily in through the back door, footsteps drawing closer, so He Zhao changed the subject. “…This skill doesn’t have a high attack, but it’s good for co-op. It’s very important to use it properly. You should practice the movements more.”
Xie Yu: “……”
The two students walked past them, talking and laughing, and accidentally knocked against the edge of their desk as they passed. They did not notice anything amiss about the two big bros seriously discussing video games in the back row. “Sorry, Zhao-ge.”
He Zhao replied calmly, “No problem.”
Xie Yu, still lying on his desk, waited for them to leave, then couldn’t hold back his laughter any more. Half his face was buried in the crook of his arm and he couldn’t stop laughing. “Are you sick?”
“Are you done laughing?” He Zhao said. “It isn’t very nice to mock your boyfriend.”
He Zhao’s knack for hiding his true abilities had been honed so deeply it was engraved in his very bones.
And He Zhao had hung out with Lei Jun and the others for a while, so he understood, better than anyone, the ins and outs of how bad students passed their days.
Xie Yu sometimes still forgot that the person next to him was ‘Question King,’ someone who could think up three solutions to a long-answer question in ten minutes.
He Zhao, too, thought that he had done quite well, smoothly putting on an act just now. He looked down and laughed to himself, then reached out for the scratch paper he had handed over. The moment he touched it, Xie Yu’s hand closed over his.
Xie Yu was still in the same position and only his eyes were visible. But there was no longer a smile in his eyes. His fingers rested on the scratch paper that had been scribbled onto until it looked like a ghost-summoning talisman and asked, “Then when will I no longer need to mock my boyfriend?”
He Zhao had to think for a while before realizing what Xie Yu meant.
“What were you thinking?” He Zhao smiled. “I’ve thought about it… if I were to suddenly shoot up to first place in the year, to say nothing of Old Tang, the study rep will faint on the spot.”
Xie Yu let go.
He Zhao took back the scratch paper, folded it twice, and stuffed it into his math textbook.
He had faked it for so long—from the day he started high school—and he couldn’t just drop the role so quickly.
Most likely, someone would think he had been bodysnatched and he would never be able to explain himself. Someone might drag him to the hospital for a checkup to see if something was wrong with him.
Xie Yu, listening to He Zhao’s explanation, thought that it did sound like something He Zhao would do.
He had even made a detailed plan to turn his situation around. It was so detailed, it even planned for improving twenty class placements during the end-of-term exams.
“And I want to keep getting punished with you,” He Zhao looked into Xie Yu’s eyes and said. “I’m worried you’ll get bored playing phone games alone. Twenty places seems like a bit much… ah, how about just two goddamn places.”
As He Zhao kept talking, he struck out the zero at the end of his plan and made the number a single ‘2.’
Xie Yu kicked him lightly and couldn’t help laughing. “Two places? How long are you going to spend improving?”
He Zhao had delivered his speech so naturally that Xie Yu had forgotten, for a moment, that every time he had been punished with standing in the corridor, it had been because of He Zhao.
Who was accompanying whom here?
Then He Zhao suddenly called out, “Old Xie.”
Xie Yu glanced at him.
“Do you recall the idiotic game I was playing before?”
Xie Yu said, “You’ve played more than one idiotic game. Which one?”
He Zhao choked and had to pause for a while before saying, “Treating her nicely in the way I want to… might not be what she wants.” Although sometimes love does mean offering up everything one can think of, and everything one has to give.
Stubborn and wishful thinking.
Xie Yu leaned back and said nothing.
Lunch break was ending and someone banged on their table. “Ah—next period is gym, isn’t it? Our happy gym class?”
The end-of-term tests were drawing closer and the gym class periods had mostly been taken over by other teachers. No one had any hope, but today they hadn’t yet heard news that a teacher had commandeered the gym period. So hope flared again in their hearts. “Gym rep, do we still have our gym class period?”
Luo Wenqiang, who was usually sensitive to the words ‘gym class,’ didn’t raise his head until someone called him for the second time. “Yes, we do, we do.”
“Speaking of gym class, that sure was some fight.” Wan Da grew enthusiastic and sat with his leg up on the chair as he said, “Originally, the English teacher took the class, but Old Tang fought for it and they nearly started quarrelling in the office. Old Tang won in the end, but he actually wants us to go to gym class. The English teacher nearly expired from anger.”
The fight had been intense and Wan Da had come back to class specifically to invite them over to listen.
Xie Yu was reluctant to tag along. “Take care. I won’t see you off.”
Wan Da said, “It’s really exciting. You definitely wouldn’t have expected Old Tang to be that bossy.”
“Let’s go.” Eventually, He Zhao pulled him up. “Let’s go listen.”
From the doorway they could hear the English teacher saying, “I haven’t finished my lecture for this chapter! And there are some homework problems I have to go over with them today!”
Old Tang said, “Youngsters need exercise. A healthy body is the foundation for studying well.”
There were five or six classes occupying the courtyard. After running two laps around the quad, they could do whatever they liked.
The gym teacher had a toothpick in his mouth and squatted by the finish line waiting for them. He was bored with nothing to do, so he twisted the stopwatch in his hand. “If you need to get equipment, go and look for the gym rep.”
The gym teacher paused, then continued, “Xue Xisheng, your English vocabulary book is sticking out of your pocket. Can you show me a little respect? How about this. Come over later and I’ll play two rounds of badminton with you.”
Everyone else, hearing this, started laughing.
He Zhao laughed, too. Then he bent close to Xie Yu’s ear and said, “The study rep really isn’t human.”
After dispersing, only the study rep wore a sour face. Everyone else was so happy they could have jumped for joy, especially Luo Wenqiang, who retrieved equipment for the others and then dragged Liu Cunhao and the others onto the basketball court for a game.
Luo Wenqiang said on the way, “There’s an extra ball. Anyone want it?”
There weren’t many people on the court and it looked deserted. Xie Yu, interested for once, rolled up his sleeves and motioned to Luo Wenqiang. “Toss it over.”
Luo Wenqiang, a little surprised, took two steps and tossed the ball over.
Just then He Zhao walked over from the convenience store, holding a bottle of water. He had only taken two sips from it and had not yet put the cap back on. Seeing Xie Yu take the ball, he smiled. “Little friend, a match?”
As He Zhao spoke, he re-capped the bottle and tossed it aside.
They went a few rounds, one attacking, one defending, without much structure.
Xie Yu’s movements were all clean and elegant. He carried the ball past his opponent, the free throw line, and landed the basket… he didn’t dither at all. It was very exciting.
Eventually, both of them shed their jackets. He Zhao only wore a light sweater inside. Halfway through the game, he didn’t catch Xie Yu’s pass, instead catching Xie Yu’s waist and leaning close to say something.
Then Xie Yu turned and threw the ball out of court.
Luo Wenqiang was doing warm-ups to the side and really couldn’t bring himself to look at them.
He was halfway through a leg stretch when he heard a girl shouting not far away. “They’re really compatible. My god.”
“Bracelets, see them? The same style, even.”
Wan Da elbowed Luo Wenqiang. “Are we going or not?”
Luo Wenqiang turned and asked Liu Cunhao, “Going, Hao-zi?”
The two girls did not have gym this class period. Class 2.3’s class schedule had been put up on the school forum several days ago and closely analyzed. If someone wanted to run into them, they just had to come to the quad at this time and walk around.
But before the girls could look through the metal wiring again, they saw three guys walk out of the court and towards them.
The muscular one in front held a basketball. The three guys surrounded them.
Liu Cunhao coughed and took the lead. “Girls, girls, you can eat what you want but you can’t just say things like that.”
Luo Wenqiang said, “Our classmates are best bros! Upstanding best bros!”
Wan Da said, “Do you know what ‘best bros’ means?”