First Published on Chaleuria
107 – Class 3.3
The first exam venue was as different from the poor students’ gathering grounds as heaven was from earth.
No students gathered to discuss cheating strategies and nobody was selling answers. The students here were all top students who used every spare minute to go through their books. Even if only one second remained, they would make the most of it and look up another two English words.
When Xie Yu pushed the door open, he was stunned for a second.
He Zhao walked in behind him.
He looked languid and indolent, and a black gel pen was stuffed carelessly in his uniform pocket. He didn’t look at all like he was going to an exam.
Before he reached the classroom doorway, he leaned against the window and greeted the students in the classroom, who he didn’t know. “Hi, friends.”
Nobody present dared make a sound, aside from Xue Xisheng—the Class 3 study rep who sat in the sixth seat in the first column. Although his grades did not rank at the very top, they were solid and he was always among the top 10 in the year.
Xue Xisheng frowned and looked up from his English vocabulary. “Classmate He Zhao, please be quiet.”
He Zhao signed back, No problem.
Xie Yu didn’t have nearly as much to say. He reached behind him, caught hold of the idiot He Zhao’s sleeve, and yanked.
“The exam is about to begin. Students, please put away all materials not needed for the exam—”
The announcement was replayed a few times.
Xie Yu pulled out his chair, which made a light scraping sound against the floor. He felt the girl next to him tremble before he could sit down. “……”
“Am I very scary?”
The invigilating teacher had not yet arrived. Xie Yu leaned back in his chair and whispered, “Why did she look like she’d seen a ghost?”
He Zhao followed Xie Yu’s gaze and saw the girl in the next row. Not only were her hands still shaking, she seemed like she didn’t even dare breathe too hard.
He Zhao thought, How could he be scary? My little friend is so cute.
But before the words left his mouth he was struck by the urge to tease him. “A little. Why don’t you smile to show you’re friendly?”
“I can laugh in your face.” ¹
He Zhao reached out to touch the corner of Xie Yu’s mouth, about to pull his face into a friendly smile.
Xie Yu didn’t know what this guy was doing. He turned his head, about to ask how many pens He Zhao had brought, but He Zhao’s index finger brushed the corner of his mouth and landed squarely on his lips before he could say anything.
Both of them froze.
It wasn’t a drastic movement, but the position was suggestive in an indefinable way.
The girl in the next row over was shaking even harder now. She couldn’t hold her pen properly and it fell from between her fingers, clattering to the desk.
She was internally breaking down. The exam hadn’t even begun and she had already snapped.
To say nothing of the fright…
Why did the two school tyrants look so… the scene should not be spoken of?
Several minutes before the exam bell, the invigilating teacher walked across the corridor carrying the exam papers.
The top students in the first exam venue were only concerned about the exam difficulty, looked only at the exam questions, and didn’t care who the invigilating teacher was.
Their heads were bent as they reviewed and they heard only the clacking of high-heeled shoes coming closer.
A moment passed before He Zhao retracted his hand, some warmth still lingering on the pad of his finger.
“Last time was a fluke.” Somewhat stiffly, he picked up the pen on his desk. Then he continued, “If you don’t believe it, let’s compete again this time?”
Xie Yu smiled slightly. “It wasn’t an accident. Those two points you lost are the distance between you and me.”
More accurately, it was the distance between him and an idiot.
Their abilities were the same. If they were to truly compete, just one or two points would decide who won and who lost.
Xie Yu thought carefully. Ever since he was young, his only interest in grades and year placement—the only thing he considered his goal and fought for—had been the position of ‘bottom of the year.’
The high-heeled shoes stopped in the doorway of Class 2.1.
Xu Xia internally told herself, ‘They’re just two students,’ then pushed open the classroom door and walked in.
Xu Xia’s face was blank. The moment she walked in, she began counting the exam papers.
He Zhao was a little surprised. He glanced at her and stopped spinning his pen for a couple seconds. “…It’s her.”
Xu Xia had split up the papers by rows, then looked up. Her gaze swept across the two people in the first column.
Xie Yu didn’t even glance at her. The exam papers had not even been distributed and he just lay down on the table to sleep.
The person behind him–sitting sideways with his back to the wall, posture languid and careless—met her eyes without hesitation when she looked over.
Awkwardness, shame, and some other indescribable emotion made her avert her eyes swiftly.
The exam bell rang.
She let out a breath.
The Class 1 exam venue didn’t really need to be observed. Xu Xia sat by the podium for a while, then stood up and walked around the classroom twice.
To the sound of the exam papers being flipped, she suddenly thought about the two inexplicably high scores again.
There was a little disbelief in her heart, and curiosity, which compelled her… On her second trip around the classroom, she finally slowed her steps and glanced at Xie Yu and He Zhao’s exam papers, as if by accident.
That glance beat back all the cries of ‘Impossible’ in her heart.
Who knew if the weather was too hot or she really couldn’t breathe.
Xu Xia felt her chest grow heavy for a long time.
Xie Yu hadn’t noticed that Xu Xia was doing such underhanded things things even though she was invigilating the exam. The questions were indeed very difficult on the A City unified exam and there were several where he wasn’t sure if he had answered to the point.
The end-of-term exams spanned two consecutive days.
When the exams ended, the students returned to their original classrooms and everybody compared answers.
“Hao-zi.” Wan Da had just returned from his exam venue and he held the doorway with one hand, face grim. “Sorry, I might not be able to inherit your max-level mage account. I’m going to die too.”
Luo Wenqiang said, “Me too. I won’t make it, either.”
Liu Cunhao inwardly grieved. He hadn’t expected that the heirs to his inheritance would also leave the world one by one. After a period of grief, he raised his voice and kept going. “Zhao-ge, how do you all feel?”
He Zhao was forever full of confidence. “Very good.”
Liu Cunhao said, “Your feelings aren’t accurate. You told me last time you did exceptionally well. It was exceptional. So exceptional, it’s abnormal.”
He Zhao objected to being called ‘abnormal.’ “What’s abnormal about me?”
Xie Yu said, “Think about the handwriting points you lost before you talk. Does such mischief make you happy?”
He Zhao fell silent.
The class quarrelled for a while, then Old Tang walked in and started talking about the vacation and returning to school.
“For these two weeks, everyone, build up your strength and save up your acuity. The coming year will be very arduous. If you go out during the holidays, stay safe.” Old Tang had overseen many graduating classes, and when the subject of Year 3 came up, he couldn’t help worrying for these kids.
The vacation was too short. So short, it was tragic.
It only lasted a few days and students spent most of that time being sent to all kinds of remedial classes by their parents. Nobody had looked forward to this vacation in the least, and they didn’t care much for Old Tang’s reminders, either. “Okay, got it.”
“When you go, make sure to pack all your things. After coming back to school, we won’t be in this classroom any more. We’ll be in the Zhi Yuan building.”²
Erzhong distributed its students well among its school buildings. Zhi Yuan was further from the quad and was therefore relatively more quiet. The third-year students occupied this building every year.
The sign on the door changed from Class 2.3 to Class 3.3.
The vacation-which-might-as-well-have-not-existed passed and everybody still thought it a novel experience on the day they went back for supplementary lessons.
Liu Cunhao had gained a ‘big bro’ attitude from somewhere. He felt that even when he walked he could hold his back straighter. He was living at school this term and he said as he packed his things, “We’re the most senior in Erzhong now! Everybody in Erzhong has to respectfully call me Senior!”
Xie Yu had just finished showering when Liu Cunhao’s voice came from the other end of the corridor.
Barefoot, he kicked He Zhao who had lain down on his bed the moment he got into the dorm room. “What’s going on? They’re all staying at school this semester?”
He Zhao didn’t open his eyes. “They said going back and forth from home wastes too much time. They need every second to prepare for the college exams.”
It would be a riot.
Class 3, all together. And preparing for the college exams. Who knew; they might just mess around every day.
“Are you going to shower or not?” Xie Yu asked.
Outside, the sun was hot and the weather was warm.
He Zhao had intended to down for a while and wait for his little friend to finish showering before he went. Now that the heat had mostly subsided and he was too lazy to move, he replied, “Did you miss me?”
The vacation hadn’t lasted long and they had either video chatted or called every day. Compared to him, Madam Gu seemed to miss this ‘middle-aged ladies’ friend’ even more.
“When he has some time, invite him home for a visit? Mom will cook whatever you want to eat.”
“He doesn’t have time.”
“You didn’t even ask. How do you know he doesn’t have time?”
He Zhao lifted a hand to shield his eyes and rested a while longer before getting up to get a change of clothes and shower.
“Do we have apples in the dorm room?” Halfway through showering, he thought about Wan Da’s housewarming gift. He stuck out his head and asked, “Should we give them some too?”
They had just gotten back to school. How would they have apples?
In the end, Liu Cunhao and the other ‘new residents’ received a piece of A4 paper.
Luo Wenqiang was currently cleaning and he curiously flipped over the paper. “What is this—”
He Zhao said, “Something good.”
Xie Yu leaned against the door. He didn’t really want to look.
On the A4 paper were the two words ‘He Zhao’ in an energetic, flying script. It occupied a lot of space, more than half the sheet.
Luo Wenqiang: “……”
Liu Cunhao: “……”
All the new live-in students: “……”
What was this? He gave them his autograph?
“I thought about it and I didn’t have much to give. How about this? When I’m a meteoric success in future, you can sell this autograph for a good price. Spend the money however you want…”
Before he could finish, the broom in Luo Wenqiang’s hand was already moving.
Not even two hours after returning to school, a large-scale brawl had already broken out in the boys’ dormitory building. It was chaotic and grand. Live-in students from the first to the sixth floors all came to look.
Xie Yu kept his distance and watched this lot chase He Zhao from the third floor to the roof, then down again. They made two round-trips.
“Zhao-ge, stop right there if you’ve got the guts.”
“How shameless are you? Who signs their name—as big as you? Should we frame this and hang it up?”
Amidst the crusade, He Zhao said, tone sincere and deserving of a beating, “Frame it. That’s quite a good idea.”
Xie Yu was still standing in the doorway of Luo Wenqiang’s room. He leaned against the wall and, as he listened, he couldn’t help looking down and smiling.
 Xie Yu’s exact words are ‘I’ll give you a ‘Hur hur’, where ‘hur hur’ is a laughing phrase (like haha/lol) but is usually used online to mock and jeer or end a conversation.
 Zhi yuan: Far-reaching knowledge.