“Ilovestudying”: This guy X is in third place already.
“StudystudystudythatsallIdo”: Almost caught up to second place.
“EnglishClassRep”: Looks like there’s gonna be a good show. Bets, anyone? I think this X is definitely a late bloomer. Dark horse among dark horses. And up till now he hasn’t said anything. High and mighty to the end. Can tell at a glance that he’s someone who does great things. Not a simple person.
“ForABetterTomorrow”: What shall we wager?
“ServeTheHomeland”: I wager a personal treasure. The fifth textbook, “Language,” from 1982’s middle school curriculum. You can only come across something like this by luck.
“Ilovestudying”: He must be someone who spends all his time studying. Looks like he does nothing but study all day, so neither glory nor humiliation fazes him. He doesn’t concern himself with any other entertainment. I feel extremely ashamed to even have the spare time to be chitchatting here.
Xie Yu had done questions for a good few nights. After getting onto the leaderboard, the user ‘jsdhwdmaX’ had become a hot conversation topic people didn’t tire of.
To this group of players who loved to study, the leaderboard was like their class ranking. It was a symbol of glory and the goal to which they aspired. In their daily lives, they strove to become top students and encouraged themselves to follow in the footsteps of top students: read more, see more, memorize more, and do more.¹
A player’s overall score in Question King Tournament was determined by their average score in the various subjects, so it was useless to only be good in one subject. The names on the leaderboards were all all-rounders, and the ranking had almost never changed since the beginning of the game.
In a single night, a newcomer had rushed up. This name, which was impossible to remember, was even changing its position on the leaderboard every day: he effortlessly climbed upwards, as if climbing a ladder.
“StudystudystudythatsallIdo”: High and mighty, alright. Shameless already cast a long shadow in my heart. Now every time I see the system announcing someone PKing someone and losing, I’m just afraid the next words in the chat are going to be, “1 kill.”
“EnglishClassRep”: His record is 14 kills in a night. I feel like he’s playing the wrong game [/tears running down face]
“ForABetterTomorrow”: Damn, he’s really that annoying? After PKing someone, he says in the chat, “1 kill 2 kills 3 kills?” Is he the Shameless I know?
“EnglishClassRep”: It’s him. Who else could it be? To tell the truth, I really want to know what he’s trying to achieve by doing this.
“StudystudystudythatsallIdo”: I don’t know. How can mortals like us understand?
”Ilovestudying”: Of all things, the most important is studying. Gossip is meaningless. Everyone, look at top student X. Come to room 4008. Waiting for your challenge.
The Question King hadn’t come online very often after securing his territory, but his legend had still spread throughout the game.
Xie Yu occasionally glanced at the chat, and each time his understanding of ‘Shameless’ was renewed. So many tricks? This crazy person.
He did questions until it was past 2 a.m. and accepted several PK battles. After getting his points, he prepared to log off and go to sleep.
He had only slept several hours before being called awake at seven in the morning by Gu Xuelan. “The tutor is almost here! Tidy up, tidy up and wash up, then come down and eat breakfast. Quickly.”
She said the first few sentences normally, but by the end she saw Xie Yu’s uncooperative attitude and grew angry again. “Did you hear me?”
Xie Yu got a headache from her shouting: “…Got it.”
Gu Xuelan was a woman of her word and had really hired a tutor. This person had quite a reputation in the world of private tutoring and had cured many wayward youth. All in all, he was talked up as if he were a god and there wasn’t a student he couldn’t teach. He had a pair of hands that could turn rot into miracles, stones into gold, and discover the hidden intelligence in every child…
Xie Yu wanted to laugh when he heard it. He wanted to laugh mockingly.
But Gu Xuelan was very hopefully anticipating this tutor’s arrival. This woman, who usually rigidly controlled her food intake to preserve her figure, had even eaten a few more bites of breakfast out of happiness. “I heard Madam Chen’s son’s grades improved a few dozen points in a summer.”
Zhong Guofei smiled and said to Xie Yu, “Did you hear that? Work hard and don’t disappoint your mother.”
Xie Yu was focused on eating his congee. He didn’t even raise his head and just said, “Mm,” in acknowledgement so the matter would be over.
But someone wasn’t happy.
Zhong Jie sat opposite Xie Yu and said in a lukewarm voice: “People are different. Just because someone else’s son’s grades got better by a few dozen marks doesn’t mean your son’s will, too. Don’t give him too much pressure. If he can’t, he can’t.”
The moment these words emerged, the atmosphere at the table, which had been cordial until now, instantly dropped to freezing point.
Gu Xuelan awkwardly put down the soup ladle and wasn’t sure what to say.
“Can you speak?”
Xie Yu leisurely finished his congee, then looked up, looked into Zhong Jie’s eyes and repeated, “Can you speak?”
Gu Xuelan hurriedly tugged at Xie Yu’s clothes.
The words, “None of your business,” were on the tip of Xie Yu’s tongue, but in the end he didn’t say them.
”Am I wrong?” Zhong Jie smiled wider and wider. “You cheated on the high school entrance exams. Are you going to cheat on the university entrance exams too?”
If not for Gu Xuelan restraining him, Xie Yu would have put Zhong Jie in the hospital—the sort of ‘landing in the hospital’ that meant he’d be bedridden for a month and not be able to take care of daily life matters.
Zhong Jie looked very similar to Zhong Guofei, but how they treated people and things were poles apart. Zhong Jie always did things with acrimony and meanness.
He was about to enter university. His grades weren’t good enough for a top-tier school, but Zhong Guofei had connections. Even though he was more than ten points short, Zhong Guofei had still gotten him into Nanjing University. This placement gave him the pride and confidence of “A student of a famous university.”
“How I do on the university entrance exams is nothing you need to be concerned about.” Xie Yu wiped his mouth and stood up. He walked several steps before stopping to ask again, “Right, have you eaten your fill?”
Zhong Jie wasn’t sure what he meant by this.
Xie Yu continued, “If you’ve eaten your fill, I hope you can find something to do.”
Zhong Jie: “……” Was Xie Yu insulting him by saying he squanders his energy on pointless things?²
In the end, the meal ended on an unhappy note.
After the meal, Zhong Jie and Zhong Guofei left the house together to go to work. Gu Xuelan stayed at home to wait for the private tutor and took the chance to talk to Xie Yu. “Although that kid Xiao Jie wasn’t right, you still shouldn’t talk to him like that.”
“That kid?” Xie Yu said, “If that person is a kid, then surely so am I?”
Gu Xuelan wasn’t sure how to continue either. She simply didn’t want the house to be full of drawn swords and notched arrows all the time. “You… you’re already familiar with what his personality is like. Just bear with it. If you take a step back, things will be much easier to resolve.”
Xie Yu was so annoyed he couldn’t take it. “Based on what? He has a dogshit temper and I still have to put up with him?”
“Your Uncle Zhong has already reprimanded him. Be politer next time. Your mom is begging you, all right? Most of the time you live at school anyway and Mom can’t see you even if she wants to. Now that you’re back home for the holidays, be good and listen to me.”
As she spoke, the doorbell rang.
The home tutor stood in the doorway holding a black briefcase. He was young, with gold-rimmed spectacles, and had the bearing of a good man. “Madam Zhong, young master Zhong.”
Seeing he had arrived, Gu Xuelan ended the conversation, got up, and went to the hall to welcome the guest. The two sat on the sofa and chatted for a while about Xie Yu’s bad grades among other things.
Xie Yu sat opposite them, extremely bored, and picked several grapes from the coffee table.
The home tutor was surnamed Huang, had graduated from a reputed university, and spoke eloquently about educational matters. Xie Yu had almost begun to believe that Mr. Huang’s legendary power of turning rock into gold was really something special, but he hadn’t imagined that it would be extremely boring. He started to get sleepy after listening for a while.
“Interest is a student’s best teacher. My pedagogical philosophy is to lead students to develop an interest in learning. When they are interested in learning of their own accord, then one can teach according to the student’s need, and help the student by finding the study method that best suits him. After finding the right study method, the work becomes much easier, achieving double the results with half the effort.”
The hair on Mr. Huang’s head was coated in a thick layer of hair gel and he had a habit of using his fingers to push up his spectacles when he spoke.
The grapes were sweet and sour. Xie Yu picked up a tissue to spit the seeds out.
He surreptitiously opened his phone messages and located Lei-zi. While Gu Xuelan and the teacher were chatting up a storm, he one-handedly sent a text: Call me, quick.
After many years of deep friendship, a text like that was instantly understood.
Zhou Dalei’s phone call came the next second.
Xie Yu stood up: “Mom, Mr. Huang, I’ll take this call outside.”
On Zhou Dalei’s end was the sound of a keyboard clacking. Xie Yu was about to say, “You’re at an internet cafe, right?” when he heard Dalei suck in a deep breath and then raise his voice, yelling righteously, “Fuck your grandpa! You steal my loot, I kill your whole family!”
Xie Yu: “……”
Zhou Dalei cursed up a storm for a while, threw his mouse to the floor, and almost followed up with the keyboard. But the internet cafe boss hurried over: “Lei-zai, calm down, calm down. If you smash this, you’ll have to pay for it. Things in games are temporary, just like clouds and smoke passing by. Take it easy. All sorts of things happen…”
”Can’t calm down. I’m not done with this.” Zhou Dalei was very stubborn. “Relationships, go ahead and steal them. Limited edition violet weapon, no way.”
Zhou Dalei now remembered that his phone was still connected to a call. “Boss Xie? I tell you, I’m so mad right now my balls hurt.”
Xie Yu asked: “Limited edition violet weapon?”
“Yeah! Our team killed this boss and the drop rate is only 0.1 per cent. We’ve been grinding this secret boss for days now. Damn, it was right within our reach and then they snatched it from right under our noses,” Zhou Dalei said. “This lot plays too dirty. Really damn dirty.”
Zhou Dalei said, “I challenged them to a duel to the death. Whoever doesn’t show up is a grandson.³ Are you coming?”
Xie Yu: “I don’t play your fantasy games.”
“Not in a game. On Nanjing Street.”
He can fucking invite them out just like this?
Zhou Dalei: “They’re in A City. We’re in B City. I got a map, drew a line, and picked the center location. Two hours from now, the quad in the middle of Nanjing Street.”
Xie Yu glanced back at Madam Gu who was still talking to the home tutor. “All right. Wait there and big bro will come support you.”
Gu Xuelan and Mr. Huang had chatted for about twenty minutes. By the time she realized something was odd, Xie Yu had already left.
He said he was taking a call, but it had been a long time since he left to take the call and he still hadn’t come back.
“Where is he?”
Seeing the madam’s expression go dark, A-Fang hesitated and wasn’t sure what to say: “… L-left. Second young master said before he left to tell you not to waste your effort.”
Gu Xuelan almost dropped the ceramic teacup in her hand.
Xie Yu was the last to arrive.
When he got to the central shopping center, the two groups of people had already formed two lines facing each other. From the looks of it, they were trying to hash things out first before fighting.
More than a dozen people, quite a crowd.
Xie Yu had no intention of fighting; he was only there to mind his own business. So he picked the most scenic spot, in the shade away from the sun, and hung around.
It was a muggy and hot summer day, and the two groups of hot-blooded guys whose ages averaged fifteen or sixteen endured the 10:30am sun. For the sake of a piece of equipment in a game, both sides ‘greeted’ each other’s whole families.⁴
Zhou Dalei took the lead. His voice was loud: “You still fucking dare talk? Was that equipment yours?”
The opposite group didn’t show weakness: “It’s ours. How could it not be ours?”
“How shameless are you, big bro? It’s just a game. Don’t play so dirty.”
“Opportunities are for the prepared. To get the goods, we hid there for three or four days. What do you know?!”
“Yo-hei, you’re quite arrogant. Looking for a beating, are you?”
“Come on then! Who’s scared of who?!”
Zhou Dalei was so mad he almost expired. He took a breath and grit out: “You’d better hand it over while I can still talk to you calmly. Hand the goods over and I won’t make things difficult for you. We’ll treat this like it never happened.”
Xie Yu observed someone in the crowd, who was originally standing at the back of the line and wearing a black mask, slowly walk forward. He stood out among the crowd. The people surrounding him cooperated smoothly to clear him a path.
Through the cloth, that person’s voice was muffled and low: “We got the equipment with our own skill. Why should we return it?”
 ‘do more’: do more questions.
 the CN expression for wasting one’s energy is ‘after eating one’s fill, one starts rowing [a boat].’ Xie Yu is invoking the first part and assuming Zhong Jie will fill in the rest.
’Grandson’ is a derogatory cuss here.
‘greet the whole family:’ curse the whole family