Class 2.3 had a private group chat.
Almost every class made a private group chat. The point of that was to guard against teachers and enforce freedom of speech. In the schoolwide group chat, the various subject teachers were all present and some things couldn’t be said. Some teachers got along with the students and were all right, but a middle-aged woman like Xu Xia who was often very stern and unsmiling, one could tell at a glance that there was a deep generational gap between them.
Class 3’s private group chat was a little different.
Not only did they have to guard against the teachers, they also had to guard against a certain two characters who tyrannized the school.
[Anonymous A]: …I heard He Zhao beat up Yang Wenyuan?
[Anonymous B]: My friend is in Yang Wenyuan’s class. He said he was beaten up so badly he’s still lying in the hospital now.
[Anonymous C]: Yang Wenyuan from Class 8?
The private group chat kept sending notifications. Liu Cunhao looked at the words, “Yang Wenyuan,” and the scene in his memory that had once scared him down to his guts gradually merged with this name.
“Don’t hit me… I was wrong…”
He Zhao grabbed the guy’s hair and said softly, “Didn’t I warn you. Didn’t I fucking warn you.”
Yang Wenyuan knelt on the ground. He was a very skinny person and his face was covered in acne, all pits and bumps. The toilet’s tiled floor was not clean and there were puddles of water on it. He cried as he said, “Please let me go.”
When Liu Cunhao told He Zhao to go to the faculty office, Shen Jie was visiting from the other class. He had found himself a chair and sat beside He Zhao, and didn’t seem to feel at all like he was someone from another class: “…Hey, you by the window, could you please close the blinds?”
He Zhao said, “Who are you ordering about? Go close them yourself.”
Shen Jie stood up, closed the blinds, and sat back down. He had gym class next and was very bored. Seeing He Zhao holding his phone and not putting it down, he asked out of curiosity, “Zhao-ge, what game are you playing?”
He Zhao ignored him, scooched over to Xie Yu, and showed him the screen. “Ace, come up with another strategy for me?”
Xie Yu delivered two words to him: “Get lost.”
Shen Jie was impossibly curious. “Let me see. I’ll do it. I’ll find you a strategy.”
“Get lost,” He Zhao said. “Go back to your own class, it’s cooler there.”
Shen Jie was persistent and didn’t give up, and finally he caught a glimpse of it. A pink interface. A cartoon girl with long loose hair wore white underwear and stood beside a closet, blinking.
Shen Jie was stunned speechless. “This… is this that… that…”
“The dressup game countless elementary school girls are crazy about,” Xie Yu said calmly.
He Zhao played the game through the whole class period, and Xie Yu was also pestered by him for the whole class period.
Every time He Zhao confidently finished matching up an outfit, his score was unsatisfactory. He tried one level many times and eventually tossed his phone in front of Xie Yu: “Deskmate, help a guy out?”
Matching clothes was like playing cards: both needed a little luck. Xie Yu was annoyed beyond belief and picked several pieces at random. “Are you stupid… A game like this? ID SoftLittleCutie? You’re going very far with this act.”
Xie Yu finished his selection. When the score appeared, it was unexpectedly high.
“Ace,” He Zhao’s praise was sincere. “This set of clothes looks so ugly but it got such a high score.”
Shen Jie felt the world waver around him. He would rather believe something was wrong with his own taste. “Ah? This game… is fun? What’s special about it?”
He Zhao was minutely scrutinizing the next set of clothes and ignored him.
Xie Yu copied the homework, closed his textbook, and said, “What’s so special? It’s especially idiotic.”
Liu Cunhao entered the classroom through the back door and stood in front of He Zhao. “Go to the faculty office. Miss Xu’s looking for you.”
He Zhao made a noise of assent and ignored him completely. After a while he looked up and found Liu Cunhao still standing in front of him. “…Was there anything else?”
Liu Cunhao had held his words in for a long time, and finally he plucked up the courage to say: “Don’t think you can do as you please.You beat up Yang Wenyuan this badly…”
Shen Jie hurriedly cut in: “Wait. Yang Wenyuan? What?”
The classroom was very noisy during the ten minutes between classes and nobody noticed what they were talking about in the corner.
He Zhao had understood. He smiled, put his phone away, and said thoughtfully, “Ah, so it’s like that.”
Shen Jie: “…Like what?”
Xie Yu considered himself an uninvolved bystander and didn’t react at all.
Liu Cunhao was very scared, but he was determined. For quite some time he had chastised himself for not putting a stop to things when he saw his classmate being bullied. His first reaction had been to turn tail and run. His new dislike stacked with his old grudges and he felt a rush of determination.
He Zhao’s expression was chilly and Liu Cunhao was terrified that he really had provoked him.
But He Zhao just tossed his phone to Xie Yu. “Help a guy out, play two more rounds for me. I have to beat that person, Creme Brulee, in my friends list.”
Xie Yu had the phone in his hand, and before he could refuse, He Zhao left.
The bell chimed, signalling the start of class.
Shen Jie dragged his chair out of the classroom, murmuring in confusion: “…Beat up what person? When did Zhao-ge beat up Yang Wenyuan? He didn’t. Am I losing my memory?”
After He Zhao left, he didn’t come back to class all day.
When he came back the next day, it was as if nothing had happened.
A teacher couldn’t bear it and asked Xu Xia, “Miss Xu, that matter with He Zhao from your class—what happened? Is it settled?”
Xu Xia said tiredly, “He’ll die before he admits it. What can I do with him?”
At the faculty office, He Zhao’s expression remained blank. He had asked the inspection officer to ask Yang Wenyuan for the medical report and describe clearly how he had gotten each of his injuries.
Yang Wenyuan was so terrified he couldn’t speak.
Xu Xia felt that this matter didn’t warrant investigation at all. Anyone with a brain could tell at a glance what had happened. She asked He Zhao to admit his mistake, apologize, and write a reflection essay. After this punishment, the matter would be concluded.
He Zhao was clearly unwilling. Although he smiled, his tone was cold beyond belief: “Apologize for what? Goody-two-shoes Yang, you’re very good at touching porcelain.
¹ The moment your lips touch, you say I beat you up.”
Xu Xia couldn’t take thinking back to the situation any more. She waved a hand: “Let’s not talk about him. When we talk about him, my chest hurts.”
“Have you beaten Creme Brulee yet?” He Zhao was very focused. The moment the class bell rang, he walked in through the rear door, stood next to Xie Yu, and crooked a finger. He bent over and knocked on Xie Yu’s side of the desk. “Hey.”
Xie Yu always used the morning self-study period to catch up on sleep, and now he got a headache from the knocking. “Beaten, my ass. Go play it yourself.”
He Zhao sat down and asked, “So where’s my phone?”
Xie Yu dug in his desk drawer, found the phone, and tossed it over.
He Zhao caught it with one hand. When he tried to turn it on, he found it was out of power.
Yesterday’s incident between He Zhao and Yang Wenyuan caused a ruckus in their class year and rumors flew all around.
Rumor had it that these two school tyrants always caused problems, but usually their conflicts were with people outside school. These fights weren’t happening right next to them, so people could treat them as rumors and discuss it over lunch, exclaiming, “badass,” several times.
But He Zhao had now shown his entire hand and the person he had beaten up was someone recognized by the whole year as a good student.
[Anonymous A]: He came to class today… Wah, he’s talking to Xie Yu.
[Anonymous A] □□ and with Xie Yu at that. Fearless. Terrifying. I don’t dare move.
[Anonymous B]: Yang Wenyuan got out of the hospital today. Shen Jie grabbed him by the collar in class and called him shameless… Is there really some hidden goings-on?
[Anonymous C]: What hidden goings-on can there be? Embarrassment and frustration just turned into anger, that’s all. Shen Jie isn’t a good student, either.
Xie Yu slept through the morning self-study period.
He Zhao had borrowed a portable phone charger from someone and sat off to the side with his head bowed, playing on his phone.
The class after morning self-study was Xu Xia’s class. The moment she entered the classroom she pointed at He Zhao and said, “You go outside and listen to class from there. Stand in the doorway and don’t come into the classroom.”
When the students in class saw Xu Xia’s manner, their guesses as to what had happened in “the fighting incident” became more and more certain.
Most likely, He Zhao was indeed the culprit.
He Zhao didn’t much care. Without a word, he took his phone and the phone charger and walked right out.
Xie Yu glanced at his departing back. It was the same school uniform the entire school wore, but He Zhao still managed to cut a figure of a good student in it. Narrow waist, straight back, clean clothes, and he didn’t do as others did and pull the jacket zipper down low. Only the phone he held in his hand and the long charging cord betrayed his true nature.
He Zhao might have felt someone looking at him, because when he got to the doorway he glanced back.
Before Xie Yu could turn away, he heard Xu Xia say from the podium, “Xie Yu, you miss your deskmate that much?”
Xie Yu, who had taken the bullet even though he was innocent: “…the fuck?”
“If you miss him so much, then you go out, too. Go and stand with him,” Xu Xia continued. “Go.”
In the doorway of classroom 2.3, two people stood throughout the first morning period.
“Quite faithful, aren’t you.” He Zhao had found a corner, and as the phone charged he kept playing the dressup game. He looked down as he said, “Missed me?”
Next to him, Xie Yu really wasn’t sure what to say. He replied with a single sound, pregnant with meaning: “Heh.”
He Zhao: “……”
Xie Yu didn’t much want to look at Xu Xia whose resentment was written all over her face.
Since the day he came back to school, he had felt it. This form teacher clearly had preconceived notions about them. Regardless of what actually happened during He Zhao’s incident, and who was in the right and who was in the wrong, she had already used this incident to draw conclusions about Xie Yu, this as-yet unexploded dangerous material whom she didn’t like the look of, either. She felt that these two were of a kind.
Looking at Xu Xia rolling her eyes at them nonstop, he worried she’d injure her eyes.
“Ace, take a look. Is this checkered skirt better or that pink one?” He Zhao was so dedicated to this dressup game, it was almost touching. “Or a different outfit entirely?”
Xie Yu watched him play for a while and came to a conclusion about a ‘rule’ that couldn’t really be termed a rule. “Pick the uglier one.”
He Zhao asked, “Are you serious?”
Xie Yu: “I think that with your aesthetic sense, if you play this game backwards, you might get some unexpected results.”
It was clearly a diss, but He Zhao actually took it to heart. He thought about it for a while and said, “Damn, I think this approach of yours is not bad.”
“You have some pretty good ideas.”