"Hey, classmate, how did you do on the Chinese exam? What was your score?"
"The one with the highest overall score" scratched his head and said shyly, "It was around 80..."
All the underachievers gathered around him as if they had found a savior. They swarmed him, and someone even stuffed cigarettes into his pocket, saying, "Big brother, please accept this small token of my appreciation. Don't be polite."
"I've only seen an 80 on a Chinese exam in my dreams. How could someone with such good grades end up in our exam room? You're a talented person who has been overlooked and has fallen into the hands of the common people."
"You're really amazing. Later, I'll give you a signal, and you can throw some answers to me."
"Don't worry, I've been wandering in these waters for over a decade, there's absolutely zero risk. Even if I swallow the answer, I won't let it fall into the clutches of the invigilator."
The boy was surrounded by his peers was praised to the skies, and thought to himself that he should strive to stay in this exam room next time...being the big brother felt pretty good.
He felt his whole body filled with strength!
No one had ever praised him for his failing score before!
Xie Yu sat in his seat, twirling his pen, waiting for the invigilator to enter the classroom.
With three fingers holding a black pen, he absentmindedly spun it round and round. He squinted his eyes slightly, feeling a bit sleepy from waiting.
He Chao poked Xie Yu's right shoulder with his pen, "Little buddy, do you want the answer?"
Xie Yu's pen fell with a clatter. His fingers were slender, with particularly prominent knuckles, maintaining that posture without moving.
"You?" Xie Yu propped his head up with one hand and turned to look at him, saying, "Forget it."
He knew Xie Yu had misunderstood. He leaned back and smiled, extending his hand with his index finger curled, lightly tapping Xie Yu's forehead. "What are you thinking? Of course it's not mine, it's that little brother over there who's has a 60 in math and an 80 in Chinese..."
The tap was really light, as if just brushing past.
Xie Yu instinctively rejected this kind of contact, or rather, he was not used to it. He stood up, propping himself up on the desk with one hand, leaning forward, and really wanted to smash He Chao's head in: "Didn't I tell you not to keep touching me?"
He Chao sat in the last seat, with some distance between his seat and the wall. He retreated a few steps with his chair.
"You've got quite the temper," He Chao said. "...Okay, okay, calm down. Don't make a scene."
Their commotion had attracted some attention, and others were glancing over to the corner, wondering what the two of them were up to. It looked like a fight, but not quite.
"What are they doing?"
"I heard from a student in Class 3 that Xie Yu and Brother Chao are a bit more than just friends."
"I didn't believe it at first..."
"Which student in Class 3, Mr. Know-it-all? He's always spreading rumors. Just ignore him."
At that moment, the bell rang again.
Head Teacher Jiang's voice came through the loudspeaker: "Attention all examinees, there are five minutes until the start of the exam. Please return to your designated seats. The first subject is Chinese."
The announcement up to this point was very formal and the tone was gentle, probably to ease the nervousness of the test takers. But halfway through, Head Teacher Jiang suddenly stopped and the tone changed. His voice suddenly raised, "Hey, which class are you from?! You're still fooling around here when it's time for the exam. Stop right there, come here, you little rascal, how dare you run away..."
The broadcast was interrupted and some students heard the sound of high heels in the hallway. They quickly reminded everyone, "Shh, the invigilator is here."
The noisy classroom instantly quieted down.
He Chao had no idea how to be quiet. He poked Xie Yu with his pen and said, "I'll pass you the answers later."
Xie Yu coldly spit out two words, "No thanks."
He Chao asked, "Why not? It's an 80-point Chinese score."
Xie Yu thought, why the hell would I want these answers, what if I accidentally end up scoring higher than you.
"No need to worry," Xie Yu came up with a reasonable excuse, "The score is too high and not suitable for me."
The two invigilators who came in were Tang Sen and Xu Xia.
It was really a coincidence, that these two people both had close ties with Class 3.
Xu Xia was probably transferred to this class at the last minute. When she walked to the door, she even asked, "Is this the class?" Old Tang answered her, "Yes, that's right."
Tang Sen held the unchanging middle-aged goji berry health tea in his hand. As soon as he came in, he put down the tea cup, opened the sealed test paper bag, and counted the number of test papers.
Xu Xia brought a cushion and a book. She scanned the room and when she saw He Chao, her expression stiffened for a second and then she looked away.
"Oh, Xu Xia," a student recognized her.
"I don't know her. How is she, is she strict during exams?"
"She used to be the homeroom teacher for Class 3, but she got transferred...You can ask Brother Chao, he probably knows better."
"Brother Chao, Brother Chao."
The student sitting closer to He Chao whispered, as the level of strictness of these two invigilators directly affected their fate: "I know about Old Tang, but what about this female teacher next to him? Is she strict?"
He Chao smiled and threw his pen onto the desk: "Her?"
He Chao only said this word and didn't say anything else.
The student scratched his head, not understanding, but feeling that He Chao's smile seemed a bit cold.
Regardless of whether the invigilators were strict or not, they still had to cheat.
This group of students didn't have great grades, but they were bold and willing to take risks. They couldn't hesitate for a moment when the opportunity arose.
They acted like it was a big action movie.
"There's half an hour left before the exam ends, hurry up and answer the questions. Those who haven't started writing their essays need to speed up."
Xu Xia walked back and forth a few times before sitting down and reading a book. Tang Sen held a water cup and wandered around the classroom. "Behave yourselves, we come to school not just to learn knowledge, but more importantly, to learn how to be a good person..."
As Tang Sen spoke, he suddenly turned around and a balled-up answer sheet flew past him from behind.
"I hope everyone will not cheat and show their true abilities. It's okay if you don't know, there's nothing shameful about it...You just need to work hard to understand it in your future studies..."
The paper ball landed perfectly on the corner of He Chao's desk.
Regardless of what question it was, He Chao's practice was to "give up, move on to the next question", except for Chinese. At least he could understand Chinese and wasn't illiterate, so he always filled his Chinese exam paper to make up for the regret of not knowing how to approach other subjects.
After finishing the previous questions, he began to write his essay with passion, scribbling so vigorously that the squares couldn't contain his words.
Seeing Tang Sen about to turn around, He Chao calmly reached out and grabbed the crumpled paper in his hand.
Sure enough, Tang Sen turned around and stared at He Chao's paper for a while, his expression somewhat complicated. In the end, he didn't say anything and walked away with his hands behind his back, muttering on, "...The basic requirements is for your writing to be legible, you shouldn't let this to be a reason for your points to be deducted, take note of this."
As the twenty-odd people were relying on one set of answers, they discussed for a long time and finally came up with a conveyor belt-style answer passing mode. The operation route went from the front to the back of the line, and then passed forward again from the second row.
The one who passed the answer sheet to He Chao hinted at him to pass it on after he had finished copying.
He Chao confidently made an "OK" gesture, reassuring him.
Xie Yu was still thinking that it should be okay if he got a score of around 40-50 points in this Chinese exam. Half of his test paper was blank, he didn't plan to fill in the answers for these questions that he wasn't planning to score points from.
He couldn't help but feel inferior to He Chao's ability to blindly answer questions with his eyes open.
During the Chinese language class before the exam, Old Tang handed out two reading comprehension papers as in-class assignments, which he would collect at the end of class. He watched helplessly as He Chao diligently filled in all the blanks, but with completely unrelated answers. At the end, his answer sheet was passed around the class and became a source of laughter for everyone, especially Liu Cunhao and his friends.
The essay topic for the upcoming exam was "Back View".
Xie Yu was struggling not to stay on topic and was getting a headache from trying to do so. Suddenly, he heard He Chao calling him in a whisper.
Then, he felt two pokes on his back.
"Old Xie," He Chao whispered, "give me your hand, under the desk."
"What?" Xie Yu asked.
"It's the answer, just give me your hand," He Chao replied, holding a crumpled piece of paper. He leaned forward, his left hand hidden under the desk and against the wall, very discreetly. If Xie Yu reached out slightly, he could take the paper.
Xie Yu leaned back without changing his expression, propping his hand on the edge of the table and closing the distance between them. He lowered his voice and said, "I already said no."
"But the guys up front are still waiting to copy," He Chao tapped the table with his fingertips, urging him on. "Their fate is in your hands. Do a good deed and contribute to charity."
The noise from the ceiling fan in the center of the room drowned out their conversation. A slightly stuffy breeze blew in from the window, rustling the extra test papers on the podium and making them flutter as if they were about to take flight.
Reluctantly, Xie Yu let his arm drop and reached behind him, fumbling around for a moment.
"Where is it?"
"Right down there."
"No, it's not," said Xie Yu.
"It's there, try again," urged He Chao.
Xie Yu wanted to gather some intelligence on his competitor, so he asked while feeling around, "Did you copy?"
"Me? I didn't," replied He Chao. Then he remembered Xie Yu's earlier comment about being unable to afford it and added, "...I thought about it, and I can't afford it either."
Xie Yu was getting frustrated. He tilted her head back a few more degrees, thinking that if he couldn't catch it this time, he would give up and let them all fail. What copying, if they didn't know then they should just leave it blank...With this thought, he grabbed onto He Chao's fingertips.
Both of them froze.
The fan continued to creak and turn.
There were only a few leftover chalk stubs in the chalk box, and their weight was no match for the wind that blew the test papers off the podium. Xu Xia hurriedly closed her book and bent down to pick them up.
Xie Yu didn't let go, and He Chao didn't pull his hand away.
After a brief standoff, He Chao suddenly moved his finger, lifting his index finger slightly and placing it right on the palm of Xie Yu's hand.