They stood till the end of class. Xu Xia finished the lesson and picked up her materials to leave the room, and He Zhao even said good-naturedly, “See you, Miss Xu.”
Xu Xia’s chest was tight and she found it hard to breathe. She ignored it and kept walking.
“Do you know why she’s angry?” He Zhao was in quite a good mood. He put a hand on Xie Yu’s shoulder and they walked to class together. “She’s preparing to transfer to the Experimental High School, a municipal key school. Made all her connections and everything. Now, a good student under her tutelage—which is to say, me—is standing in her way…”
Xie Yu was uninterested in gossip. “Take your hand off me.”
He Zhao felt that this deskmate of his was really cruel.
He had initially just put a hand on Xie Yu’s shoulder. On hearing Xie Yu’s complaint, he slung his whole arm around Xie Yu. From an outsider’s point of view they might have been hugging. “Not letting go.”
Xie Yu was about to kick him when He Zhao buried his head in Xie Yu’s neck and laughed. “Calm down, friend.”
“Calm down, your grandpa.”
[Anonymous A]: Classmates, there’s a situation in the three o’clock direction.
[Anonymous B]: Damn, I saw it. What are they doing?
[Anonymous C]: I’d rather believe that the two of them are fighting….
Xie Yu, who wasn’t yet aware of the private group chat, thought their new class was a little strange.
Sometimes everyone in the class went quiet at the same time and the classroom would be entirely silent. When they were done with the silence, they would raise their heads and look at each other with a sense of tacit understanding. Very mysterious.
He Zhao had borrowed the portable phone charger from a boy in the next row. He went to return it but the boy didn’t dare to take it, looking like he wanted to just offer up the charger and be done with things.
He Zhao put it on the desk: “Thanks.”
“…No, no problem.” The boy spoke in a high-pitched whine. His hands were under his desk, hiding something, and his whole body was extremely tense. He Zhao didn’t hear what he was saying and was about to ask, but the moment he opened his mouth the guy gave a full-body flinch.
He Zhao: “……” Am I that terrifying.
Only after He Zhao had walked away did the guy carefully take his phone back out.
In the blink of an eye, two weeks had passed since school started.
Xie Yu watched wide-eyed as He Zhao got better and better at the dressup game. Everything he matched up got a high score.
It was unimaginable.
Had his offhand remark really let He Zhao discover the path to enlightenment?
“Nah. I tried your tactic and it didn’t save me.” He Zhao he took a screenshot of his highest score to date, then exited the game. Calmly, he said to his deskmate, “I paid.”
He Zhao continued, “I, your deskmate, am the legendary Renminbi player.”¹
Xie Yu: “……”
He Zhao: “I’m so strong now I even scare myself.”
Xie Yu said mockingly, “SoftLittleCutie, you really surprise me.”
“I paid fair and square. Is it so shameful to pay?” As He Zhao spoke, the shoulders of the guys in the row in front of them started shaking.
They sat very close to the row behind and clearly heard everything Xie Yu and He Zhao said to each other.
They had listened in for two weeks. Sometimes, they really wanted to laugh till they couldn’t stop. But they were worried that they’d laugh too much and catch the big bros’ attentions, so they endured it.
Time passed and the two of them felt that the school tyrants were nothing like the rumors made them out to be. They were even… kind of cute.
When the school tyrants slept in class, they asked their deskmate to help keep an eye on the teacher. Tyrant Xie usually ignored Tyrant He, but every time the teacher called He Zhao to stand up or stand in the doorway as punishment, He Zhao always had a hundred excuses and made Xie Yu back him up.
After this happened several times, Xie Yu finally started taking He Zhao’s unreasonable requests seriously. When a teacher passed by, he rolled up his book and gave He Zhao a hard greeting to the back of his head: “Get up.”
As He Zhao spoke, he opened QQ and posted a status to brag about his battle record: [/Image][/Cool]
He sent the message, then something occurred to him and he rapped on Xie Yu’s side of the desk: “Add me?”
Xie Yu refused politely: “I don’t want the words SoftLittleCutie to appear in my friends list.”
He Zhao choked: “…Who said SoftLittleCutie is my account?”
“That’s my little sister,” He Zhao continued. “You misunderstand me very deeply. All along I thought that with my tall and imposing image I shouldn’t have to explain this sort of thing.”
He Zhao had a little sister who had just started middle school.
This girl was obsessed with dressup games, but she only got an hour of time to play phone games at home. From Monday to Friday, which were school days, she didn’t even get to touch her phone. She said she was very envious of her good friend Creme Brulee’s level and score. Besides, in their class, whoever’s level was highest in the dressup game was the one who was admired and loved in class.
Xie Yu’s temple began to throb.
He Zhao said: “I think this girl might have tricked me.”
He Zhao’s QQ name was his real name. Surprisingly formal.
After accepting the friend request, Xie Yu didn’t change the settings on the contact. He just tossed him in one of the categories and left him there.
He Zhao, the maniac, on the other hand: he was sitting right there but still sent Xie Yu a text. “Are you a GG or a MM?”²
“Are you stupid?” Xie Yu said, holding back the impulse to block him.
He Zhao put away his phone, smiling. “One has to be polite when socializing online. Everyone says hi like that.”
“Quiet—” During the break between classes, Xu Xia walked in. It was noisy in the doorway and she had to raise her voice when she spoke. “I have something next class period, so Miss Wang will substitute. I won’t be around in the afternoon, either, so if you have any questions, go to the class rep and the class rep will report to me tomorrow. Class rep, remember to maintain order in the class, do you hear?”
[Anonymous A]: What happened now?
[Anonymous B]: …To tell you the truth, if she keeps getting substitutes she should at least explain to them where we are in the curriculum. Every time we go to class it’s awkward.
[Anonymous C]: Did something happen at home for Miss Xu?
Xu Xia’s family was doing well. Since starting school, she had been preparing for the transfer.
Their class was the one with the worst grades among the culture classes, and their situation was also unusual. When the school had given this class to Xu Xia, it was because they believed in her ability… but Xu Xia stubbornly believed the school was giving her a hard time.
This “elite teacher” who was about to go to an important school to teach naturally didn’t look kindly upon this class, and didn’t give much more thought to it. The students in the class weren’t blind, either, and their distaste towards her grew day by day.
The phone under the desk vibrated twice and He Zhao glanced down at it.
Zhao-ge, Yang Wenyuan has been in Xu Xia’s company these few days. You’d best be careful.
If Xu Xia doesn’t settle this matter with you, the Experimental High School definitely won’t let her transfer in that smoothly. They’ll say she can’t teach, and even that relative of hers won’t be able to protect her. She’ll probably to do something about this matter of you beating up Goody-two-shoes Yang.
When the last class of the morning let out, Shen Jie slipped in through the rear door to ask He Zhao to the cafeteria for lunch. When he entered, he saw that He Zhao’s seat was empty. He turned and asked Xie Yu, “Big bro, where’s Zhao-ge?”
“Him?” Xie Yu said. “He skipped class.”
Shen Jie looked at Xie Yu hopefully, indicating for him to continue. “Mm…?”
Xie Yu sat in his seat. He planned to go to the cafeteria after the crowds had thinned. He was halfway through a rhythm game and had turned the sound off, but not being able to hear the rhythm of the music didn’t stand in his way at all; his fingers tapped on the screen at an incredible speed.
Shen Jie internally said, Of course I know he skipped class, but where did he go after he skipped class?
Xie Yu finished the game and found that Shen Jie was still standing there.
“You wanted to ask where He Zhao went?” Xie Yu remembered, then continued, “How would I know? None of my business.”
“Not humane at all.”
“Like an emotionless killer.”
Shen Jie searched from the toilets to the rooftops and finally found He Zhao in the boys’ dormitory. After a long spiel of complaints he finally concluded: “Your deskmate is really heartless.”
When Shen Jie finished, he noticed that He Zhao didn’t react.
He closed the dorm room door and turned to see his Zhao-ge sitting in a chair, one long leg bent at the knee with his foot on the edge of the chair. He had undone quite a few buttons of his school uniform and looked absolutely wild.
Shen Jie asked, “Wild Boy?”
“Wild my ass. Whether my deskmate has a heart is not for you to say.” He Zhao had slept through two class periods and had just crawled out of his blankets. He ruffled his hair, then asked, “What are you doing here?”
“Asking you to lunch, of course. If I have lunch with you, I don’t need to stand in line,” Shen Jie said. “The feeling of schoolmates letting you cut the line is really good, isn’t it?”
He Zhao was clearly in a bad mood. After ruffling his hair, his hand fell back to his side and paused before going to the box of lollipops on the table.
“Smoke these.” Shen Jie stuck out his hand and pushed the box full of lollipops away, then pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and handed them to He Zhao along with a lighter. “It’s all right to smoke occasionally. Even if you’re quitting, take it slow.”
He Zhao held the hard paper box. After a moment, he tossed the cigarettes back and Shen Jie was fast enough to catch them. “…Ah, you throw quite accurately. You’re really not gonna smoke?”
He Zhao said: “No.”
“Didn’t think Zhao-ge was actually a person with principles.”
“I’ve always had principles, all right?” He Zhao picked a lollipop, unwrapped it, and tossed it in his mouth. “Don’t tempt me. It’s no use.”
After Shen Jie caught the box, he himself picked out a stick and smoked it.
He lowered his head and held the cigarette close. The lighter clicked and he took a deep drag. After some silence he said: “I got the news, too. Yang Wenyuan, that bastard. I really can’t stop thinking about killing him. The moment he heard Liu Yuan was transferring schools, the bastard started making trouble and even tried to drag you into the water. He’s tired of living.”
He Zhao, with the lollipop in his mouth, said nothing.
“Your form teacher is an idiot, too. She taught Yang Wenyuan in first year, and after seeing that his grades were good she treated him like her own son. She doesn’t even see what this good student’s true colors really are. Now her own resume isn’t exciting enough and she can’t get into the elite school, so she wants to offer you up as a sacrifice?” Shen Jie flicked off cigarette ash and continued, “If I may say, Zhao-ge, you might as well spill Yang Wenyuan’s dirty laundry and be done with it. If he has the guts to fall on the barrel of a gun, no one can say who’ll die in the end.”
“Spill what,” He Zhao said. “The matter with Liu Yuan, we can’t talk about it..”
Shen Jie took his last drag on the cigarette and sighed. “…Fuck.”