Liu Cunhao and his friends eagerly submitted their manuscript and on their way back, they greeted He Chao across the running track, "Come on, Brother Chao, we have a surprise prepared for you!"
There weren't many people who signed up for the long-distance race, only one or two from each class, and they were all forced to participate. No one wanted to run so many laps. In a short sprint, they could show off their speed, but what about a 3,000-meter race? They would be gasping for air and struggling to survive in front of everyone.
He Chao stood at the back of the line, the most eye-catching person in the crowd.
When he heard someone call his name, He Chao turned around and casually made a "no problem" gesture with his hand, then asked loudly, "Friend, share a little of the surprise?"
"It's a secret," Wan Da shook his finger, "you'll find out soon enough."
Luo Wenqiang shouted, "Don't forget, you still carry Brother Yu's spirit with you!"
He Chao stood still as he watched several active and enthusiastic classmates from Class 3 walk back to their seats. His gaze involuntarily shifted to someone sitting in the back corner.
Xie Yu was looking down at his phone, scrolling through his social media feed. He absentmindedly liked a few posts, only to have them immediately screenshotted by Dalei and sent to the "No Violence" group chat with the caption: "Hello, missing person @xy."
It was then that Xie Yu realized he hadn't updated his own social media in a long time.
He didn't have the habit of documenting his life, but now various sounds filled his ears as each class cheered on their athletes. There were screams and words of comfort: "It's okay, you're already doing great, it's all about participation..."
Xie Yu clicked on his camera, intending to take a photo just to add to the collection. As he lifted his phone and prepared to adjust the angle, he saw a certain He Chao, a big shot, right in the center of the lens: "..."
This big shot's movements and expressions were quite exaggerated. Facing the camera, he pulled at his collar with his right hand, a three-point smile at the corner of his mouth. It was obvious that he was posing, confident and cool.
He was quite skilled at posing.
Xie Yu's finger trembled, almost turning off the camera.
What a lunatic.
This person really loved to put on a show.
...Who the hell wants to take a picture of you?
Xie Yu gritted his teeth, resisting the urge to smash his phone. But he watched as He Chao maintain this pose for half a minute without moving, his willpower was impressive. In the end, he pressed the shutter button.
Afraid that He Chao would become addicted to posing and continue to show off with more poses, Xie Yu quickly put his phone back into his pocket after taking the photo.
After a while, when He Chao lined up on the track, Xie Yu took out his phone again, unlocked it, and the screen displayed the photo he had just taken.
The lighting was against him, making the figure a bit dim, but the young man in the center of the picture was still shining brightly.
"Men's 3000 meters, get ready--"
With the sound of a gunshot, the horn for the 3000-meter race was sounded.
Over a dozen athletes stood on the starting line, their toes touching the white line, and at the moment the gun went off, they charged forward.
"I'm not worried about the others, but there's a guy in the next class who has great endurance. He used to be on the school team, that one, the fifth one," Luo Wenqiang peered out with some concern. "...How come Brother Chao started running so fast? He needs to control himself."
Wan Da interjected, "Sports committee member, let's change our thinking. It's because he's strong."
"Strong my ass," Xie Yu finished editing his post into his friends circle and just happened to hear Wan Da's words. He looked up and said, "He's just showing off."
Liu Cunhao clapped his hands and said, "I can't argue with that."
He Chao was running ahead, leading the others by half a lap. The whole school's attention was on him as he circled the track.
A few girls from the neighboring class were gathered together, talking non-stop.
"Is it really only three kilometers? I want to watch a few more laps. He's so handsome."
Xie Yu leaned back and squinted his eyes, feeling a bit annoyed for some reason.
...What's so good about watching this.
"Here he comes!" Luo Wenqiang moved a chair and sat behind Xie Yu. Every time He Chao ran by, he would lead the whole class in cheering and encouragement. He was so excited that his butt involuntarily left the chair and he crouched down, starting the countdown. "Let's show our class spirit and cheer together!"
As He Chao approached, Luo Wenqiang led the chant: "Class 3 is the best! He Chao is unbeatable!"
They shouted it thrice.
When He Chao passed by their class, he slowed down and grabbed his clothes. He had been running for four laps and was probably feeling hot. As he ran, he took off his hoodie, causing the girls in the stands to scream.
After taking off his clothes, He Chao shouted, "Old Xie!"
Before Xie Yu could react, He Chao threw his clothes towards him like a pass. The hoodie landed right at Xie Yu's feet. He Chao wiped his sweat with his thin undershirt and said, "Hold onto this for me."
The hoodie still had He Chao's body heat and a hint of laundry detergent.
Xie Yu held He Chao's clothes and waited until there was only one lap left in the 3,000-meter race. Finally, the broadcast script from Class 3 was drawn, although it was likely that there were no other submissions left to read and they had no choice but to read out this terrible one.
"From Class 3, Victory belongs to Brother Chao, belongs to Class 3," read the script by a student council sister with a lively voice, deliberately imitating the tone of a broadcaster. She paused here and hesitated for a few seconds before continuing, "Thank you to the other long-distance runners for participating. It's a pity, um, it also can't be helped..."
After the senior sister finished reading, the whole venue fell silent.
When He Chao heard the words "supporting role," he immediately stopped about 100 meters from the finish line, striking a victorious pose and waving apologetically to the crowd below, perfectly in sync with the class's broadcast script.
It seemed like he wanted to put on another show.
But since He Chao was already half a lap ahead of second place, Liu Cunhao and the others were happy to play along with his performance.
So the whole school watched as He Chao stopped in front of the finish line, hands on his knees, gasping for breath, and asked in a hoarse voice, "Who's in first place?"
The Class 3 students shouted, "He Chao!"
"Louder?" he asked.
He Chao was clearly fully immersed in his role, and he even managed to drive the entire Class 3 crazy, boosting their morale to unprecedented heights and giving them a near-blind confidence.
Xie Yu couldn't bear to look, so he lowered his head and edited the photo he had just taken by adjusting the lighting. When he looked up again, he saw the formidable opponent from the neighboring class, who took advantage of the craziness of Class 3 and ran faster and faster, quietly passing a certain drama queen and heading straight for the finish line: "..."
Although Class 3 didn't take first place, they still made a name for themselves and were unexpectedly recorded in the history of Liyang No. 2 High School's sports meet with an embarrassing moment.
Xie Yu glanced at his seat and the distance between him and the neighboring class, seriously considering whether to move his seat closer to them...he really was too embarrassed by that person.
The Class 3 homeroom teacher, on the other hand, took it all in stride. Tang Sen smiled throughout the whole thing and said, "Interesting, young people, interesting."
A few moments ago, the ones who were cheering most loudly were now hunched over in their seats, burying their faces in their knees, trying to hide their embarrassment.
"What's so interesting?" exclaimed Luo Wenqiang, holding his head. "Oh my god, this is too embarrassing."
Wan Da's voice came out muffled, "It's so awkward, it's suffocating."
Liu Cunhao added, "Stop talking, I'm already dead."
He Chao went to the bathroom to wash his face. Due to excessive sweating, he also rinsed his head with cold water. Water droplets trickled down his neck, and when he returned, his collar was already half wet. He Chao sat down and said, "Listen to me, this was an accident. My skills..."
Xie Yu directly threw a bottle of mineral water into He Chao's arms and said, "The skill of being shameless?"
He Chao took the bottle and downed more than half of it, saying, "It was really unexpected, but I'm still very strong. Did you see me leading by half a lap? I was simply unbeatable."
"Brother Show-off," Xie Yu said, "can you please shut up?"
Finally, it was the school-wide teacher's competition.
Most people were just there to watch the show, since they usually only saw the teachers in each subject giving lectures on the podium.
"This also counts towards class points," He Cha squeezed the bottle and leaned towards Xie Yu, "if Old Tang can get first place, our class might have a chance..." There might be hope.
Xie Yu said, "Think about what Old Wu is like when he plays ball, and take that into consideration."
"..." He Chao changed his tune, "Forget it, I never said anything."
Class 3 had no unrealistic expectations for Tang Sen.
As the other teachers finished their 400-meter run, their class's Old Tang had only completed half of it. But no one seemed to think anything was wrong.
Embarrassment came and went quickly, especially for He Chao, who had no shame and led the whole class in selective amnesia, cheering on Old Tang: "Come on! Finishing the race is victory!"
In the end, Old Tang lived up to everyone's expectations and secured the last place.
As the end of the school day approached, all the events came to a close.
Liu Cunhao stood up and shouted, "Everyone, make sure to clean up all the trash around you!"
Luo Wenqiang reminded everyone to hand over their number tags and pins.
The sound of chairs being dragged back to classrooms echoed around them.
The phrase "the end" often gives people a strong sense of unreality. Xie Yu sat in his seat, watching as people around him left and the chairs were moved back, leaving the room emptier and emptier.
It felt like the sports meet had just begun, yet it also felt like it had never started at all.
Lost in thought, He Chao patted the back of his head.
"Come on, little friend," He Chao lifted a chair with one hand and extended the other in front of him, "let's go back to the classroom."
"In fact, our class did pretty well this time, ranking third or fourth," Luo Wenqiang said while collecting the sports cards in the classroom. "Hey, when I came back, the sports committee member of the next class mocked me, saying that we didn't get first place."
The sports meet was over, and now everyone just laughed when they talked about it. No one knew who started it, but the whole class burst out in laughter.
He Chao couldn't help but cover his face with one hand and lean back, laughing for a long time.
Wan Da has started to reminisce about the past with a nostalgic tone: "That scene at the time...my goodness, I dare not even think about it. I was really, really excited. I closed my eyes and howled for Brother Chao to come in first. But when I opened my eyes, that kid from the next class had already crossed the finish line..."
Xie Yu tried to suppress his laughter as he buried his head in his homework, but his handwriting was a bit shaky.
Head Teacher Jiang heard the commotion and came over. He had only shown half of his face at the window, but his expression was serious and his gaze sharp. He Chao reacted quickly and grabbed Xie Yu's hand, pulling it along with his homework book: "Mad dog."
The Mad Dog walked in and circled around the classroom several times. "I knew you couldn't control yourselves. You play when you should be studying, and you don't have any self-discipline. I've emphasized the importance of discipline so many times. Are you really that happy? If so, tell me about it and let me share in your joy."
Xie Yu's homework and hands were pressed against the desk by He Chao. Since the whole class was sitting still, and the Mad Dog happened to be nearby, He Chao couldn't move either.
Xie Yu's palms were pressed against the homework book, while the back of his hands began to heat up.
Perhaps because both of their expressions were unnatural, or perhaps because the Mad Dog finally noticed the two students in the back row with their hands overlapping and stuffed in their desks, unable to see what they were doing.
The conversation about discipline came to a halt as the Mad Dog asked, "What are you two doing?"
He Chao didn't know what came over him, but in order to cover for his desk mate who was copying homework, he placed their intertwined hands from under the table onto the surface and said in front of everyone, "We're...holding hands."