Shen Jie received He Zhao’s call at nearly one in the morning.
He sleepily reached for his phone. He fumbled for a while but only found a puddle of saliva by his mouth. He sat up in a bad mood, his head fuzzy. “…It’s the middle of the night. Who is it?”
He had been rudely awakened from a sound sleep; anyone would be a little frustrated. But when Shen Jie saw the words “Zhao-ge” on his phone, his mood immediately changed.
“Zhao-ge, what are your instructions?” Shen Jie turned on the light and sat up. “In this quiet night, do you want thirteen spices crayfish or Yang Yuan Road’s famous fried buns? Or a chat service?”
Shen Jie had prepared to go through fire and fury, but his Zhao-ge only said, “I have a question for you.”
“Ask! Ask away!”
“Do you think, Xie Yu… that is, the Xie Yu you know.” He Zhao wasn’t quite sure how to say it. He scratched his head and hesitated, then asked something that left Shen Jie unable to sleep for the entire night. “Do you think he’ll let me hug him while I sleep?”
Shen Jie felt a shock go through his entire body. “Hah?”
Shen Jie had not visited Class 3 very much recently. Had he missed something important?
How had things developed in such a strange direction?
Was he dreaming? Maybe he wasn’t awake yet?
“Zhao-ge, I think that whether it’s the Xie Yu I know or the Xie Yu you know… he won’t agree.” Shen Jie stammered. “I can’t even imagine the number of ways you’ll die.”
He Zhao: “Is it really that definite?”
Shen Jie: “Definitely. More definite than definitely.”
As Shen Jie finished, he felt Zhao-ge hang up with disappointment. It wasn’t an ordinary sort of disappointment; it also contained many mysterious emotions that Shen Jie couldn’t quite comprehend.
The next day, He Zhao didn’t knock on Xie Yu’s door to ask him to breakfast.
Before Xie Yu left, he glanced at the room across the hall. The door was closed tightly and there was no movement. After a moment’s hesitation, he didn’t knock and went straight to class.
“Speaking of which, our school dormitory building is really strange.” The moment he walked into class, he heard Wan Da spreading ridiculous news again. “Didn’t I say I heard knocking on the second floor a few days ago? Last night, it disappeared. It’s really strange. A lot of people heard it, and it’s definitely not a hallucination.”
Liu Cunhao didn’t live at school and wasn’t moved by this talk of strangeness. “Don’t stand around scaring yourselves. It’s nothing of the sort. Believe in science, all right? Say it with me. Believe in science.”
Xu Qingqing said, “Know-It-All, saying it once or twice is enough. You don’t have to keep repeating it. Why doesn’t anything of the sort ever happen in the girls’ dorm? If it really came to knock on my door, I’d just open the door and hit its head so hard it cracks.”
A boy slowly raised his hand: “I… I heard it too. It’s real. Last night, on the third floor, there was knocking.”
He Zhao hadn’t arrived, but Shen Jie ran very fast towards Class 3.
Shen Jie sat down in He Zhao’s seat. “Where’s Zhao-ge? Not here yet?”
Xie Yu looked at him and let him savor it.
Shen Jie had savored the look: Xie Yu was calling him rubbish. But he was genuinely curious whether He Zhao had executed his strange and dangerous thought or not. “Last night, how did you sleep?”
The news of knocking on the third floor spread like wildfire. Xie Yu straight up assumed Shen Jie was one of the nosy ones and retorted, “What do you think?”
“I think… maybe you might have suffered some… mm… disturbance?”
Half the morning classes had already passed when He Zhao arrived.
“Zhao-ge, Mr. Tang said to come to his office at noon.” Liu Cunhao had just returned from the faculty office and saw He Zhao leisurely walking into class. He paused. “—Those eyebags of yours are quite heavy.”
He Zhao had gotten up in a hurry and hadn’t tidied himself too well. He was currently looking down, stuffing the red string of his necklace into his collar. “Got it.”
Tang Sen had received a subject teacher’s report that morning, saying his class always had absentees. Did they think this was their own home, coming to class when they wanted to and not coming when they didn’t? Tang Sen had good-naturedly apologized for today’s absentee in order to soothe the fires of the subject teacher’s rage. “Yes, I’ll definitely talk to him properly. This is too unbecoming.”
When the absentee arrived, Tang Sen had already prepared a long lecture. He was going to have a good chat with the student.
“He Zhao, please sit.”
This was the first time He Zhao encountered a teacher who invited him to sit down. In half-disbelief he sat down. Tang Sen said, “…Because the contents of our chat might be a little long.”
Half an hour later, He Zhao understood just how much longer ‘might be a little long’ meant.
“I know that young people like you have your own way of thinking, and it’s normal not to like learning.” Tang Sen stopped to take a drink of water and continued. “I fully understand, but even if you’re not interested in a subject, running away isn’t a good solution. A man must have fighting spirit, bravely accept challenges, and scale to the peak with courage.”
He Zhao cut him off. “…How much longer are you going to talk?”
Tang Sen glanced at the outline of his speech and told the truth. “I’ve covered three parts out of five. There are still some big pieces of content to come.”
In the end, Tang Sen stopped when the class bell rang. “Let’s stop here for today.”
Before he had finished, He Zhao was already standing up and preparing to leave. Then Tang Sen’s words took a sharp turn as he continued, “Those dark circles of yours…”
He Zhao had one hand on the door. For the first time, he felt that being called into the office by a teacher really was annoying. “We youngsters have rich night lives.”
When He Zhao returned, he lay on the desk, put his head down, and slept.
He hadn’t done up his top button and his collar lay open, the red string at his neck hanging out. Xie Yu accidentally caught a glimpse and thought it really ruined He Zhao’s image.
A few girls were standing in the corridor, pointing their way and whispering behind their hands with excited expressions.
Since school started, this group of girls had stuck together. Each had a water bottle and they would come over after class to get hot water, then stand in the corridor holding their water doing god knows what. Someone in class started a betting pool that they had come to see someone, and Wan Da had put fifty bucks in. Later, he grew too anxious and came to find He Zhao, hoping to get him to help check.
At that time, He Zhao had said, “Of course they’re here to see me,” but when he walked to the window and leaned against the windowsill, the group of girls ran away with their faces buried in their hands before he even said anything.
Wan Da jumped up and yelled, “I won! Yeah!”
He Zhao hadn’t understood. “What did you win? Who on earth did they come to see? Running away without saying anything… is very rude.”
Wan Da recovered from his joy and noticed that something wasn’t right. “Zhao-ge, you… your comprehension ability when it comes to girls’ hearts…”
Xie Yu called.
He Zhao didn’t react.
Xie Yu leaned back, picked up his English book and rolled it up, then hit He Zhao on the head.
“……” He Zhao opened one eye. “What?”
Xie Yu pointed at his chest. “Wear your clothes properly.”
He Zhao hadn’t reacted, “Ah?”
Xie Yu said, “Burns my eyes.”
He Zhao said, “You’re blind, right? My figure’s especially good,” as he did up his buttons.
Xie Yu said, “You didn’t sleep last night?”
He Zhao lifted his head: “So we haven’t been deskmates for so long for nothing, after all. Are you concerned about me?”
“Yeah,” Xie Yu mocked without holding back. “Concerned about whether you were so scared by last night’s knocking you couldn’t fall asleep.”
He Zhao thought, I was nearly scared to death.
He really wasn’t scared of much, but ghosts were the exception.
His mom had read him horror stories like they were Grimm’s fairy tales. As a result, rather than developing an immunity to it, the shadow of his childhood lingered incredibly deeply. Fear was almost a reflex at this point.
But he wanted to save face.
“That’s not possible.”
He Zhao repeated again, “It’s not possible.”
“What are you chatting about?” Wan Da walked over, picked a nearby empty seat, and sat down. “To be honest, there’s something I want your help with.”
Liu Cunhao also ambled over and said, “Can you let us see your crib notes?”
In the next period, the students had to transcribe an English paragraph from memory.
Their English teacher was very particular about correctness. If their writing wasn’t up to standard, they had to pick a time to go to her office and do it again.
Classmates had already made ‘notes’ on their desks. All of them had done something—some more, some less. Wan Da and Liu Cunhao were arguing over whose notes were better: “Look at mine. Definitely won’t be found. But yours? That’s out of date…”
Liu Cunhao covered the notes he had written on the desk with his book; he was satisfied with what he had done. “What do you know? I’ve used this method for a long time.”
As the two fought, they noticed that of the worst two students in the class, one of them was sleeping and the other was on his phone. Impossibly calm.
“Maybe they already made their crib notes?”
“Actually, I think it’s not very safe to write on the desk. Let’s ask them? Those two have more experience.”
“Their cribbing skills must be legendary.”
Under the heated, hopeful gazes of both Wan Da and Liu Cunhao, He Zhao gave the perfect answer. “Why bother with that? Just open the book and copy.”
Xie Yu: “……”
Wan Da stood stunned for a while before reacting. “No crib notes beats crib notes.”
Liu Cunhao: “Badass, badass.”
But the facts proved that He Zhao wasn’t as formidable as they thought he was.
After opening the book, he couldn’t find the vocabulary word.
“Where?” He Zhao flipped back and forth. “Why is it in English for a while and Chinese for a while? Is it really a vocabulary word from this chapter?”
Xie Yu had thought that his performance of a bad student was well-forged in fire. But now he discovered that he was still very far from good. A genuine bad student was far more idiotic than even he had imagined.