Shen Jie's grades were on par with Wan Da's, and this time they were seated in rows next to each other, one in the front and one at the back, but the order was slightly reversed.
After the two sat down according to their exam numbers, they stared at each other for a while before exchanging a smile.
Shen Jie: "Brother, you know what to do."
Wan Da: "I know, I know. Let's work together."
After finishing the exam, the two began chatting on a piece of paper. They didn't finish talking during the Chinese exam, so they continued during the second half of the English exam.
- After the exam, let's go eat together?
- Where should we eat?
- The cafeteria. Where else can we eat at.
- The cafeteria's food is a bit scary today...Should we invite Brother Chao and the others?
- Even if it's not good, we don't have a choice. Let's invite them all. We'll stick together through thick and thin.
Brother Jie, speaking of which, how long have you known Brother Chao?
They were chatting just fine about their meal, then Wan Da suddenly changed the subject. Shen Jie opened the note and saw the words written on it. He knew that Wan Da's gossipy nature was like a wildfire that could never be put out.
Shen Jie thought carefully and realized that he had known He Chao for almost three years.
At that time, the game "Dancing Revolution" was popular, and the streets were filled with non-mainstream culture. Shen Jie was usually well-behaved at home, but he would sneak out with money to go to the internet cafe and have an online relationship with a girl who used a lot of slang.
Most of these illegal internet cafes were hidden in residential areas, with winding paths leading to them. After finding the address, one would have to bend down and slip through a small door to enter a world of non-mainstream teenagers who were mostly underage.
For three yuan, they could enjoy an hour of internet use.
Although it was fun, these internet cafes were quite dangerous and could easily be reported to the authorities.
If caught by the police, it would be more serious than failing an exam and they would have to call their parents to come pick them up.
Shen Jie still remembers to this day that after paying, he wandered around the room looking for machine number six. Among a group of non-mainstream people with bangs covering their eyes, he saw someone sleeping in front of the computer.
The person was wearing a black and red jersey, had short hair, and had arrogantly shaved the letter "n" near their ear. There were several cigarette butts piled up in the ashtray next to him.
Just looking at his back, Shen Jie felt that this person was too careless, yet particularly eye-catching.
Machine number five.
Machine number six was right next to this cool and handsome guy.
Shen Jie sat down cautiously and after pressing the power button, he found that the mouse pad was half pressed by this person next to him. He wanted to quietly pull out the mouse pad, but accidentally woke the person up.
The headphones on the man's head were already loose, and as he looked up, they completely slid down and hung around his neck.
"..." Fuck, what is with his face value.
Shen Jie was startled.
The handsome guy didn't say anything and continued typing on his keyboard after waking up.
On the screen was the popular dance game that even Shen Jie had gritted his teeth and spent some money on to buy fashionable clothes.
For them, a cool and stylish outfit was a matter of pride when playing games. In the game, everyone called each other brother and sister, but the person next to them was wearing an ugly starter outfit with a game name that read "Do not add as a friend."
Despite playing a fast-paced game, the man still found time to open a can of Coke and drink it with one hand.
Shen Jie had heard that there were often gangsters who targeted underage internet cafes like this one to collect protection fees, but he had never encountered one before.
Until a man with a stick swaggered in and kicked the door open.
It was the middle of summer, and the man wore a Hawaiian shirt with a beer belly so large that the buttons couldn't be fastened, leaving it wide open. He looked sleazy and greasy.
The man in the Hawaiian shirt walked in, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, and banged his stick on the computer desk as he spoke, "I'm a bit tight on cash lately, so be more cooperative...and hurry up."
Most people thought that giving him some money would solve the problem, and when the man reached Shen Jie, just as he was about to pay up, someone suddenly grabbed his hand.
He Chao stood up, having finished his Coke, and squeezed the can with a little force, causing it to dent deeply. "What do you think you're doing."
Recalling this moment, Shen Jie wrote on paper: Brother Chao is my idol.
It was the last exam room.
Xie Yu didn't know how to respond for a while. He wrote "you are an idiot" on a piece of paper and then crossed it out.
During the second half of the English exam, the movements of several students in the back row became increasingly exaggerated. They were on the verge of throwing the answers at the invigilator's head. Tang Sen simply moved a chair to the back and sat there, next to He Chao.
Xie Yu folded the note, but still couldn't find a suitable opportunity to pass it on.
He Chao didn't wait either. He lay his head on the desk and fell asleep in no time.
When the bell rang and the papers were collected, the room became lively again.
He Chao was sound asleep, so Xie Yu called out to him a couple of times when collecting the papers, but he didn't respond. He even turned his head and buried his face in his arms.
Xie Yu casually helped him hand in his paper and, before doing so, scanned his answer sheet from beginning to end. He found that He Chao could probably get about 35 points for this exam.
As people around him hurried to finish and hand in their exam papers, some were still trying to squeeze in a few correct answers. "For this question, is it c? And this one, is it b?"
Xie Yu calmly changed a few of his own answers to the wrong ones.
The monthly exam only covered three subjects: Chinese, math, and English.
After finishing the math exam in the afternoon, the entire second year class had two periods of self-study while the teachers graded the papers.
Liu Cunhao and his friends planned to sneak off to the basketball court to play, and He Chao didn't want to stay in the classroom either. He stood up and said, "I'm going too, let's go."
Luo Wenqiang said, "You always just watch us play...is your ankle still not healed?"
He Chao replied, "I'm too strong, I'm afraid I'll hurt your confidence."
Liu Cunhao retorted, "Nonsense."
He Chao continued, "Really, I don't want to hurt you guys."
After chatting for a while, they decided to go to the basketball court.
He Chao took a few steps out, then turned back and asked, "Old Xie, are you going?"
Xie Yu didn't even lift his head: "Goodbye."
"That's a yes." He Chao directly grabbed his hand.
Xie Yu felt completely bewildered. He had refused so clearly, where did the yes come from.
Xie Yu: "..."
Before they even reached the basketball court, they were stopped by Head Teacher Jiang. The man in his forties opened the office window and stuck his head out, shouting, "What are you doing on the basketball court during class time? You're all from Class 3, aren't you, get up here!"
Head Teacher Jiang's loud voice was extremely penetrating.
Wan Da stumbled with the ball at his feet, "Damn, why are we so unlucky? Doesn't the Mad Dog have to grade papers? Isn't he a math teacher?"
These people stood in a row at the entrance of the disciplinary office.
Head Teacher Jiang asked, "Explain yourselves."
As the sports committee member, Luo Wenqiang felt obligated to speak up at this moment: "We are practicing basketball, our class has formed a basketball team..."
"Wait," After hearing the reason, Head Teacher Jiang was even more furious, "There is no competition, what are you practicing for?!"
Luo Wenqiang couldn't say anything else.
It was He Chao who calmly gave a five-word answer: "To keep fit and healthy?"
So, all the students in Class 3 of the second year watched as the few people who had agreed to go play basketball on the court, ran circles on the exercise ground under the scorching sun.
Xu Qingqing's seat happened to be by the window, and she watched for a long time without understanding what was going on: "...What are they doing?"
Other classmates also expressed their confusion and guessed, "Warming up?"
Head Teacher Jiang didn't leave. He stood in the shade and counted circles for these children, saying, "Don't you all love sports and want to be healthy? Run, there are still fifteen circles left...If you can't finish, don't bother going back to the classroom."
The weather was hot and dry, with only the wind brought up by running and the sweat slowly trickling down from their foreheads.
"Fifteen circles, if you're a man, you'll run fifteen circles," He Chao said while running. "Old Xie, can you handle it?"
Xie Yu couldn't be bothered to respond.
He Chao became more and more enthusiastic as he ran, running directly in front of Xie Yu and then running backwards, saying, "Do you want to bet on who finishes fifteen circles first?"
"Don't you have anything better to do."
"Do you dare or not?" He Chao challenged.
Head Teacher Jiang had only said fifteen circles to them as a formality, and he didn't really want to make things difficult for them. After watching them run three circles, he left, essentially allowing them to return to class.
The exercise ground had been baking in the sun all day, with a strong smell of plastic in the air.
As soon as Head Teacher Jiang left, Liu Cunhao and Wan Da leaned on each other and walked over, saying, "Thank goodness that's over."
Apart from the sports committee member, who seemed to enjoy running even in this heat, only He Chao and Xie Yu were still running.
"Have they gone crazy..." Wan Da sat by the flagpole, watching the two of them chasing each other, feeling a bit confused. "Do they really want to run fifteen laps?"
Liu Cunhao was extremely thirsty and thought that the two of them hadn't realised that Mad Dog had left. He shouted a couple of times, but when he realized that no one was paying attention, he gave up and said, "They probably really want to get fit. Let's go buy some water."
Running can be addictive, especially when you're doing it lap after lap.
With sweat pouring down and an unrelenting pace, Xie Yu could empty his mind and just keep running, pushing himself to the limit.
Even when he was exhausted, gasping for breath and tasting blood in his throat, he kept going.
He ran until his back was soaked and his clothes flapped in the wind.
All he could think was to keep pushing forward, his whole body on fire.
Two runners crossed the finish line at the same time.
He Chao ran a few more steps before finally stopping.
He stood there for a moment, wiping the sweat off his face and revealing his waistline and abs. Sweat dripped down his neck as he complimented Xie Yu in a hoarse voice, "You're amazing, really impressive."
He raised his hand for a high-five, still catching his breath. Xie Yu bent over, breathing heavily and with a slight ringing in his ears, unable to hear He Chao's voice clearly.
He Chao was also tired, so he just lay down on the playground and looked up at the vast sky.
For some reason, maybe because his brain had just been in a state of extreme emptiness, after stabilizing, strange images flashed before his eyes.
"...He Chao, just focus on reviewing. The high schools in this City A, with your grades, which one can't you get into? Here, Teacher has a set of mock exams. Finish them and I'll go over them with you."
He Chao grabbed his hair, not wanting to think about it anymore, and couldn't help but curse under his breath, "Fuck."
After a while, Xie Yu recovered and sat down next to him, propping himself up with his hands on the ground and kicking him with his foot, "Hey."
It took He Chao a while to respond, "What."
Xie Yu said, "If I called you a dumbass, would you just agree?"
He Chao didn't know why he suddenly said this, "...You're the dumbass."
"So," Xie Yu took the opportunity to lie down, their voices a bit hoarse after intense exercise. They were close, and he could smell the scent of laundry detergent mixed with sweat on He Chao's body. "Don't ask others, ask yourself."