“Are you a fucking idiot?”
When autumn came officially and the school uniforms became long-sleeved, Tan Ruikang had already gotten to know quite a few people in the class. All the classmates liked him a lot, including Zhang Zhen. After school Zhang Zhen often called on Tan Ruikang to play soccer together, which gave Yaoyuan a feeling of having his friend stolen, pissing him off.
Tan Ruikang could keep up with the class—during the period he dropped out he did some self-study, and he basically understood all the math, physics and chemistry, especially chemistry. Practically the entire back half of the class was copying his homework, and he became another big supplier of homework answers in addition to Yaoyuan and the Study Representative, Lin Zibo.
After class when everyone was taking a nap at their desk, Tan Ruikang would even take the initiative to clean up around the garbage can in the class, picking up the papers and trash that had missed the bin. If anyone asked him for anything he always granted their request, and aside from never going out to eat and drink with others he was very popular with everyone. He was no longer as unsophisticated as when he first came, his skin was still very tanned, but he had learned to untuck his shirt, unbutton his collar, and roll up the sleeves of his uniform like the other boys.
He wore a jade pendant that was a family heirloom, it was strung on a red string around his neck. The homeroom teacher knew that he had lost both his parents, so didn’t ask him to remove his accessory. She only roughly explained it once that he needed to button up his collar during the raising of the flag or whenever he saw the Grade Leader.
Tan Ruikang learned to spin his pen like the others, and he was pretty good at it, and his awkward vernacular always humoured the girls around him.
Others in the class sometimes copied the way he talked as a joke, but he never minded. Whenever he smiled he would show his neat row of teeth, and with his bronze-like skin he had that handsome air to his appearance.
He was patient, tolerant, and older than everyone else in the class by two years; plus he was good friends with Zhang Zhen, making them appear like two older brother-type characters.
On the other hand, Yaoyuan continued his young master's behaviour, the kind that spent 500 yuan a week as his living expenses. He paid for the food and drinks of whoever was close to him, and was like the well water to Tan Ruikang’s river. When they rode the bus together he wore his earbuds, they only went to school and left school together, sometimes they would chat for a bit.
The mid-term exams were here, everybody separated their desks, Tan Ruikang’s expression was full of nerves, sitting in the last row reading the English book. His English was so bad it made his hair stand on end, and had a history of having his four essays and twenty reading comprehension questions all marked as wrong. According to the English teacher: “Even if you guess you should be able to get two right, to be able to get a zero is its own kind of skill.”
As soon as Tan Ruikang was nervous he liked to drink water, and once he drank water he needed to go to the washroom, back and forth, the movement extremely loud.
Yaoyuan was still turned around looking at him, when Qi Huiyu also turned around from his spot in front of Yaoyuan.
“Hey, Yaoyuan, I heard the cutest girl in First Year Class 3 of the high school likes you…” Qi Huiyu said quietly.
Yaoyuan frowned, and Qi Huiyu deadpanned: “Your… brother, uh-huh, she likes your brother.”
Qi Huiyu laughed out loud, and Yaoyuan pushed his head down to hit him. Qi Huiyu said, with his face pressed against the desk: “Hey, listen to me, they kept asking about your relationship with your brother, asking how old he was, how come he has to repeat a year, and said they would buy me a bottle of Xianchengduo.”
Yaoyuan leaned in, his lips close to Qi Huiyu’s lips, and said in a quiet voice: “You get her to shut up, and I’ll buy you a whole box of Xianchengduo.”
Qi Huiyu made a suggestive move like he was about to kiss Yaoyuan, then without flinching, said: “Oh yeah, how are you spending your birthday? Should we invite them?”
Yaoyuan: “Do you want to go sing karaoke? We should go have some conveyor belt sushi, invite Zhang Zhen and Lin Zibo and them, then invite some more girls, and after we eat we can go to Cashbox to drink and sing karaoke.”
Qi Huiyu: “Sure, there’s still half a month…”
The teacher brought over the exam paper, passed them out, and conducted the listening test.
The exam room was silent, the only sounds being the flipping of pages and the occasional cough. The exam proctor took off her heels, rubbed her two feet together, sat for a while staring off into the air, then got up to go stand outside the room.
The chatter inside the room began.
“Shh…” Qi Huiyu swapped his question sheet with Yaoyuan’s, the answers marked on it in pencil. The question sheet won’t be collected, only the answer card and essay sheet. Yaoyuan exchanged it with quick hands, and Zhang Zhen asked from diagonally behind him: “What’s the answer for the sixth listening question, goddamn, Qi Huiyu’s English is so good, why does he need to copy the answers?”
Yaoyuan: “Starting from the fifth question, CADAA…”
The teacher turned around from the doorway, the exam room quieted down.
Yaoyuan wrote a note and threw it at Zhang Zhen, the teacher returned to the exam room and all the students acted like nothing had happened, continuing to flip through the exam.
Yaoyuan glanced backwards and saw that Tan Ruikang’s expression was not so good, he didn’t know if he was just nervous or if he was flunking.
The exam proctor left once more.
“So many of your fill-in-the-blanks were wrong!” Yaoyuan reached his hand under the desk to pinch at Qi Huiyu’s butt.
Qi Huiyu jumped, then turned back and said: “I was right, you’re the one who’s wrong.”
“You remembered all the tenses for perfect tense wrong!” Yaoyuan said: “Fill it in based on mine!”
The teacher returned again, everything went back to normal.
“Five more minutes until time’s up,” the teacher reminded them.
The sound of flipping pages filled the room, Zhang Zhen speedily copied down the answers from the note, erasing his answer card and correcting his answers. The bell rang, the exams were handed in, and everywhere were the sounds of: “Wasn’t it A? I chose C!”
“Ah, no! Three points again!”
“It’s over, it’s over, I failed!”
And so on and so forth.
“CDBBA…” Tan Ruikang and Lin Zibo were checking the reading comprehension answers together.
Lin Zibo said: “Why was mine CDAAB… no way!”
“You’re checking the answers with Kangkang?!” Zhang Zhen said: “All his answers are wrong, if you check with Yaoyuan you’ll get the right answers.”
Everyone burst into laughter, Yaoyuan laughed so hard he almost cried. He checked the answers with Lin Zibo, thankfully it was more or less the same. Tan Ruikang smiled a little self-deprecatingly and said: “I only got those two Bs wrong, not too bad…”
Yaoyuan didn’t know who took away his exam paper, multiple people crowded around him to ask him to go to McDonald’s for lunch. The mid-term exams were very lax, there were three and a half hours of study time between the last exam in the morning and the first one in the afternoon.
“Tan Ruikang, let’s go together.” Yaoyuan said: “Let’s go study at McDonald’s.”
Tan Ruikang said in a rush: “No thanks, I’ll just stay in the classroom.”
“They’re locking up the classroom, let’s go.” Zhang Zhen said: “Drink some coffee to have more energy in the afternoon.”
Tan Ruikang couldn’t resist hard enough, so he could only follow the group of boys out. The six of them got to McDonald’s, all of them middle schoolers with huge appetites, and according to convention it was Yaoyuan who paid the bill. All the burgers were ordered in groups of five, Yaoyuan asked Tan Ruikang: “What are you eating?”
“I… I’ll get it myself.” Tan Ruikang said: “I can’t always make you pay.”
The rest of them were visibly displeased, Qi Huiyu said: “It’s okay, Milk Boy is my wife.”
Zhang Zhen had brought his girlfriend, and said: “Yeah, yeah, Milk Boy is my little wife, we’ve known each other for even longer than my wife and I.”
Zhang Zhen’s girlfriend was also very cute, her voice was soft when she said: “Actually, Milk Boy is the bigger wife.”
“Yeah, yeah.” Everyone said in succession: “Milk Boy is my wife.”
Lin Zibo pushed up his glasses and said: “Milk Boy is my… let him be my husband, mn.”
The inside of the McDonald’s exploded with laughter, a bunch of half-grown middle schoolers overjoyed, their laughter brimming with youthfulness.
Yaoyuan didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry: “Stop messing around! What are you eating! Hurry!”
Tan Ruikang’s gaze had an indescribable overtone, he said: “I’ll do it myself.”
He went to the side to order, both hands on the counter, and pressed on the sixty second timer. He called on the server in perfect imitation, already different from the country bumpkin he used to be when he first arrived.
Yaoyuan felt like he had just lost some face, and felt extremely pissed off. He counted the food and passed them out, Zhang Zhen gathered up his girlfriend and went to the corner to eat in their world of two while Yaoyuan ate and chatted with his dissolute friends.
Tan Ruikang ordered a large Coke, fries, and a box of chicken nuggets and sat reading off to the side, not using any ketchup with his fries.
They were getting tested on math in the afternoon; there wasn’t much to review for math. You either ace it or flunk it, so Yaoyuan never studied for math. But Tan Ruikang was extremely diligent, still reviewing the questions before the exam.
Lin Zibo also felt that it was very dangerous to review questions before the exam, as it was easy to mix up the questions, so the rest of them merely chatted.
“Wife.” Qi Huiyu had his arm around Yaoyuan’s shoulders, and quietly said: “Are they from Second Year Class 6? Look, they’re looking at you.”
Yaoyuan nibbled at his fries, and said: “What? They’re probably looking at you.”
Lin Zibo adjusted his glasses weakly, the three of them turned to look. The group of girls were jostling with each other and laughing.
“They’re looking at you.” Yaoyuan patted Qi Huiyu’s handsome face. Qi Huiyu had once voluntarily given up the title of the most handsome boy in the class for Yaoyuan, the group of them were all pleasing to the eyes, even the scholarly Lin Zibo. They all had handsome, warm, and clean looks.
“Feed me, feed me.” Qi Huiyu said: “Let’s perform some fry-feeding for them to see.”
Yaoyuan put a fry at the tip of his tongue, Qi Huiyu hung off Yaoyuan’s shoulder, head turned. He leant in, stuck out his tongue, about to lap up half of the fry.
Lin Zibo very cooperatively turned sideways, leaning out the field of view. This game of feeding fries was a common occurrence whenever they went out drinking or karaoking.
“Ah—!” the girls screamed quietly in the distance.
“Mmf—” Qi Huiyu gestured for Yaoyuan to close his eyes.
Tan Ruikang heard the screaming, turned to look at the three girls, then followed their gazes in confusion to see Yaoyuan and Qi Huiyu, upon which his face immediately changed.
“Xiao Yuan!” Tan Ruikang roared.
Everyone jumped. Qi Huiyu dropped the fry on the ground, and began laughing uncontrollably while slapping his thigh.
Tan Ruikang’s face was green one moment and white the next, got up and came over to seize Qi Huiyu’s collar in a grip, and coldly said: “What are you doing? What are you guys doing?”
Qi Huiyu was only joking around in the beginning, but Tan Ruikang was strong and tall, and his actions were clearly trying to pick a fight. He immediately pushed Tan Ruikang off and said: “What are you doing! It’s none of your damn business! Fucking idiot!”
Yaoyuan said: “Don’t touch him! We’re just joking around! What’s it to you!”
Tan Ruikang looked at Qi Huiyu, then looked at Yaoyuan, and Yaoyuan said: “Hurry up and sit down! Are you crazy? Stop being embarrassing!”
Zhang Zhen got up and came over, asking: “What happened?”
Tan Ruikang was speechless for a long time, Zhang Zhen hadn’t seen the beginning, so offhandedly said: “It’s nothing, everyone’s friends, if a joke goes too far we can just laugh it off. Don’t be angry, Ruikang.”
Yaoyuan pushed Tan Ruikang back into his seat. The more Qi Huiyu thought about it the angrier he got, and he gave Tan Ruikang the middle finger. Without looking at him, he said: “Fucking idiot.”
“Are you a fucking idiot?” Yaoyuan said, smiling.
Qi Huiyu said: “You’re the fucking idiot.”
Yaoyuan: “You’re a fucking idiot—”
The two of them continued to go “you’re a fucking idiot, you’re a fucking idiot” back and forth until Lin Zibo said: “You guys are both fucking idiots.”
“You’re the biggest fucking idiot.” Yaoyuan grabbed Lin Zibo, and the three of them picked up the hamburger boxes to hit each other with, beating each other in a group.
The exam started in the afternoon. This time nobody cheated, not because no one wanted to, but because there was no time to!
Yaoyuan felt a little bit crazy, there wasn’t enough time for this exam! He wrote for a while, stopped to look at his watch, somehow there was only half an hour left. He hadn’t finished a single of the last three major questions, there were only ten minutes for each question now, what does he do? He’s going to fail, he’s going to fail, it’s over this time.
Probably not, if I don’t know it then everyone else probably doesn't know it either.
Yaoyuan turned his head around to survey his surroundings. Everyone else had their heads buried in the exam. Lin Zibo’s forehead was full of sweat, nudged his glasses, and caught Yaoyuan’s eye when he turned his head. He mouthed the words—”So hard.”
Yaoyuan sighed, then looked behind, and Zhang Zhen said quietly: “Wife, the multiple choice, the multiple choice.”
Yaoyuan mouthed the words “go away,” thought for a bit, then still decided to copy down his multiple choice answers and throw him the note. When he glanced back he realized that Tan Ruikang wasn’t touching his pen, but was looking at his exam quietly.
No way, he’s done already?! Yaoyuan was in a bit of disbelief, maybe he was stuck and was just thinking? But he didn’t look nervous at all…
“Half an hour left,” the exam proctor said.
All the students let out frantic groans, those who were flipping through the sheets flipped their sheets, those who were sighing sighed. Tan Ruikang didn’t pick up the pen, instead he flipped to the first page.
He. Had. Finished. He was checking it over. It was as if Yaoyuan had been struck by lightning from a clear sky. He was afraid to let his imagination run any further, and rushed to bury his face in his exam.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Kapsoura.