And so Yaoyuan understood, this thing was full of something known as love.
The scores weren’t out yet on the first day after the mid-term exams, but the teacher went ahead and worked through the questions on them with the class.
Yaoyuan’s heart was thumping wildly, and marked a 122 on the English exam questionnaire. There were still 25 marks for the essay that haven’t been added, so that means if he gets 18 points for the essay, he’ll have a 140 in English! That score would surely be the highest in the class!
He looked at Lin Zibo out of the corner of his eye, trying to guess Lin Zibo’s score, then began to filter out the remaining scores of potential competitors in his mind: Wang Fan the Math Representative, Jiang Tingting the bookworm, Ye Nan the Literature Representative…
“How many did you get wrong for the reading comprehension?” the classmate diagonally to the left asked Yaoyuan.
“Three… Three.” Actually Yaoyuan didn’t get a single one wrong, and guiltily asked in return: “How about you?”
“Then you’re probably the number one for English.” The person replied with great bitterness and resentment: “Lin Zibo got so many of the fill-in-the-blanks wrong, if I’d known I would’ve copied yours.”
Yaoyuan noticed that the English teacher was looking at them, then rushed to gesture: “Shh…”
Although they don’t have specializations during the third year of middle school, there was still a disparity between the arts and sciences. Usually only those who study both the liberal arts and the sciences can get a good score on the overall ranking. After the whole morning had passed and they finished going over the questions for literature, chemistry, English, and physics, Yaoyuan was over the moon. Although he lost the army and the general when it came to math, it felt like the whole class did about the same as him… so that’s okay.
After the morning classes ended, Yaoyuan asked his deskmate Qi Huiyu to bring him lunch, then took his exam questions and dashed directly to the teacher’s office. On the surface he was there to ask questions, but in reality he was actually trying to find out the scores and rankings.
The teachers were extremely busy, and an extra pair of hands was just what they needed. The English teacher said: “Yaoyuan, come help me record the scores.”
Yaoyuan was the English Representative, so obviously he was unwilling to pass on his responsibilities. He immediately sat down and helped the English teacher mark down the scores.
“The subject representative did very well.” The English teacher smiled: “You got the highest score in the grade.”
“Thank you, laoshi!” Yaoyuan’s vanity immediately shot sky-high. He looked at the exam, 144 points, first in the class! Whoa, nothing could surpass this as the happiest moment in his life. The English Representative from Class 2 ranked behind Yaoyuan by one point.
The English teacher was chatting with the teachers from the other classes, and couldn’t help but become cocky when it came to mentioning the pride of all their students, Yaoyuan. Yaoyuan felt extremely pleased, finished recording all the scores for their class, and noted down the scores of a couple of his close friends as a text on his phone. Qi Huiyu had copied off him and gotten 128 points, it was a score good enough to be proud of.
Zhang Zhen had gotten 115, also not bad. Lin Zibo got 130…
Yaoyuan flipped to Tan Ruikang’s score, and was dumbstruck.
138! Tan Ruikang got 138 points in English? That’s too outrageous! Only six points behind himself?!
“Yaoyuan also did well on the physics exam.” The physics teacher said: “Second highest in the whole class.”
Yaoyuan’s tail had perked up all the way up towards the sky, and smiled humbly. The math teacher, however, was angry: “Can you take math more seriously? Two of the three major questions were taught in class, and questions similar to the last one were in the practice booklets, there was only one person who scored above 145 in the entire class! Even Lin Zibo got it wrong. What should I do with you guys!”
Yaoyuan stuck out his tongue, then lowered his head, afraid to speak up. He finished recording the English scores, then went over to look for the Math Representative.
“Your brother had the highest score in the class for math.” The Math Representative was a girl, she said in a small voice: “A perfect score, I heard he ranked first in chemistry as well, tsk tsk tsk.”
Yaoyuan said: “That’s impossible, let me see!”
The math teacher said: “Tan Ruikang is a steady student. Here, Yaoyuan, look at yours, then look at his.”
The math teacher took out Tan Ruikang’s exam, then took out Yaoyuan’s exam. Yaoyuan had gotten 115 points, Tan Ruikang had 150.
Yaoyuan was really about to faint, and yelled in his mind how is this possible! The homeroom teacher said from behind him: “Tan Ruikang is too biased in his studies, he doesn’t do as well in either literature or English.”
The math teacher grunted in agreement and didn’t say anything else. Yaoyuan thought, this dude really hit the jackpot. He dug out his phone, noted down the scores of several people, shuffled around, then looked at physics again. He was second in the class for physics, and didn’t rank for chemistry,
As for literature… literature was okay, Lin Zibo was first in the whole grade with 128, Yaoyuan was only three points behind him. Tan Ruikang had scored 115, but there were several people in the top tier of literature, so Tan Ruikang definitely wouldn’t be able to rank.
Leaving after recording all the scores, Yaoyuan’s heart was like a sea of surging waves. Getting all the English reading comprehension questions correct was because he had bought good practice booklets. The last couple reading comprehension and fill-in-the-blank questions were almost all passages he had read before—excerpts from Mark Twain and New Concept English.
He had just finished them in the couple days right before the test, Tan Ruikang had even borrowed them to read!
He was able to score that high only because of the practice books that Yaoyuan had bought! If he had known he wouldn’t have let him borrow it… dark thoughts rose up in Yaoyuan’s mind.
Yaoyuan compiled his own rankings and compared it to his competitor’s ranks, then estimated how high he would probably be able to place this time. As soon as he returned to the class people rushed up to him, asking one after another: “Did you see the scores?”
“How did I do?”
Yaoyuan took out his phone and read from it: “You got 122 in English, 113 in chemistry…”
A round of ahs and ohs sounded throughout the classroom, girls clasped their hearts and collapsed onto their chairs in pain.
Yaoyuan gave out all the scores he noted down, there’s nothing he can do about the ones he didn’t note down; the scores were coming out in a few days anyway. He sat down to eat the lunch that Qi Huiyu had left on his desk, but Qi Huiyu himself was nowhere to be seen.
Tan Ruikang was back, and those who had stayed behind at school during lunch were talking about scores; he listened for a while and asked in surprise: “The scores are out?”
“Yeah.” The girl who sat in front of him said: “I bombed English.”
Tan Ruikang comforted her: “Xiao Yuan has a practice book, we’d both done the last couple reading comprehensions from it already. It’s a really good book, I’ll bring it for you guys to read tomorrow, there’s a lot of similar questions in it.”
“Really?!” The area in the back of the class burst into gasps of surprise. When Yaoyuan heard it he almost spat out his food.
Go fucking die! How could you tell other people! Yaoyuan was about to go crazy, once you say that then others will know that I only have good grades in English because of luck, I just happened to have done those exact reading comprehension questions before!!
Tan Ruikang hadn’t yet realized that he’d done something dumb, and continued to say: “Yes, Xiao Yuan works very hard to study, everyday he studies until 11 o’clock.”
Yaoyuan almost popped a vein and keeled over to die. The smart reputation he spent years working hard to cultivate had been completely decimated by Tan Ruikang. He really wanted to throw his lunch directly into Tan Ruikang’s face.
Yaoyuan’s stomach was filled to the brim with anger, Tan Ruikang then came to sit in Qi Huiyu’s seat and asked: “Xiao Yuan, did you see the scores? How did I do?”
Yaoyuan: “Don’t call me Xiao Yuan!”
Yaoyuan really hated him to death, and didn’t want to say a single word to him. Tan Ruikang rushed to smile and say: “Okay, okay, I’ll be careful from now on… did you see the scores?”
With a dark expression, Yaoyuan dug out his phone and glanced at it, saying: “You got 138 in English, 142 in chemistry, in math…”
Yaoyuan played a trick, and said: “115 in math.”
Tan Ruikang: “.........”
Yaoyuan continued to say: “You also strayed from the question in your literature essay, you only got 30 points.”
In an instant, Tan Ruikang was startled, and said: “I only got 115 in math? How is that possible?”
Yaoyuan said maliciously: “Why would I lie to you? You got the last question wrong in physics, but your score is alright, you got 120. Be happy with that.”
Tan Ruikang sighed, then nodded, and said: “How about you? You did very well, right?”
“I guess.” Yaoyuan packed up the lunchbox perfunctorily then went to throw out the trash, ignoring him.
Qi Huiyu came back before the noon break, bringing with him a pearl milk tea for Yaoyuan, and said: “I forgot to get a drink for you, so I went back out again for it. How did you do?”
“Okay, I can probably score in the top ten.” Yaoyuan said: “Let me see your scores.” He took out his phone, and thought that Qi Huiyu was still the best. He took a sip of his milk tea, then took a bite from Qi Huiyu’s chocolate pudding. The two of them have always been close, aside from kissing and sex, they’ve done pretty much everything else. They always drank directly from each other’s drinks, not afraid of each other’s saliva.
“Where’s your brother?” Qi Huiyu said: “I ran into Lin Zibo outside the cafeteria, he said your brother did really well on the exams.”
Yaoyuan stuck his middle finger out at him, not saying a word.
Qi Huiyu put the chairs together to act as a bed to rest his legs, then put his head on Yaoyuan’s thigh to take a nap. Yaoyuan took his school jacket to put over him like a blanket, and then began the noon break individual study. From time to time he snuck glances at Tan Ruikang, who had been silent the entire noon break. Tan Ruikang’s expression was gloomy, sighing occasionally and spacing out while looking at his notes.
The girl in front of him gave him a few words of comfort. The class returned to silence, apart from the fan on the lowest setting, slowly spinning.
Yaoyuan began to try and guess what Tan Ruikang was thinking about. Probably feeling like he had let down Yaoyuan’s dad? He spent so much money to go to school here, then bombed on the first exams, the pressure must not be light. There were a few times that Yaoyuan wanted to go over and tell him he had actually gotten a perfect score in math, but Qi Huiyu was resting on his thigh, so he couldn’t move.
Tan Ruikang silently read for a bit in the classroom, then walked into the hall and leant on the railing to look over the sports field in front of the school. He stood there for almost half an hour.
All the way until after the noon break was over, when Lin Zibo the Study Representative was back, which led to another round of asking about scores.
“You got full marks in math.” Lin Zibo said: “I went to take a look just now, the rankings are out. Number one is Li Juan from the neighbouring class, number two is Tan Ruikang, you’re ranked first in our whole class.
The class exploded, and Tan Ruikang was dumbfounded.
The noise was too loud, Qi Huiyu woke up drooling, got up and said: “It’s noisy as hell.”
Yaoyuan’s face was dark, his jealousy rising. He didn’t realize Tan Ruikang would rank second in the entire grade, but it made sense when he thought about it, just based on his perfect score in math he’d left everyone more than 10 points behind in the dust. Additionally, chemistry was a new subject in the third year of middle school, which meant most people didn’t put that much effort into it, including Yaoyuan himself.
Qi Huiyu composed himself and said to Lin Zibo: “Four-eyes, how about us? What’s our rank?”
“Your raw score is ranked 47th in the grade.” Lin Zibo said: “Milk Boy is ranked seventh.”
Only then was Yaoyuan a little less upset. Compared to the final exams from second year he’d dropped three places from fourth to seventh in the entire grade, but it was still acceptable. As long as he didn’t drop out of the top ten, fluctuating was pretty normal.
It was as if Tan Ruikang had been reborn, he grabbed Lin Zibo and asked: “You didn’t see it wrong did you? It’s real?! How come Xiao Yuan told me I strayed from the question in literature? Are you for real!”
“Don’t call me Xiao Yuan!” Yaoyuan said, annoyed.
Tan Ruikang rushed to apologize, then excitedly interrogated Lin Zibo for a while, his lips trembling. After thinking for a bit, he ran to the teacher’s office.
What a nutjob, Yaoyuan thought.
After school the teachers had a meeting, so the evening self-study was temporarily cancelled. Yaoyuan was packing up his things, Tan Ruikang came over to punch him with a smile, saying: “Xiao Yuan, I almost got scared to death by you, you’re so sly.”
Yaoyuan didn’t say much, lazily replying: “Let’s go home.”
The group of boys left in a clamour, stopping at the 7-11 in front of the school to buy sodas, eat oden, and get a Slurpee each. Of course it was Yaoyuan once again paying for it all, the boys and girls laughing and making a racket. This time even Tan Ruikang joined in, laughing and talking.
Yaoyuan also bought a pack of Marlboros, and gave everyone two each, they all sat under the tree in a line and smoked while snacking and waiting for their rides. The ground was covered in fallen leaves, the autumn sunset illuminated the Southern streets, the taste of youth permeated the air.
Zhang Zhen took his girlfriend and was the first to leave, then Lin Zibo’s ride came and he also left. The remaining boys took off for their own homes; pushing his bike, Qi Huiyu walked Yaoyuan to the minibus stop, then waved in farewell.
Only Yaoyuan and Tan Ruikang remained.
Tan Ruikang was still giddy over his number two ranking in the grade, and was in the middle of telling Yaoyuan about the uncertainty in choosing politics questions. But Yaoyuan was finding him annoying, extremely annoying.
“Milk Boy,” a girl’s voice said.
The girl was Xie Yuting from the neighbouring class, trying to drag another girl from under the tree. She seemed to be a second year in middle school, and was not budging an inch. Finally she hugged the tree and screamed: “You go! I’m not going!”
Tan Ruikang: “What’s happening?”
Tan Ruikang ran a few steps towards them, the girl hiding behind the tree ran off, and Yaoyuan said: “Don’t get involved!”
Xie Yuting came over to say: “My sister wants to borrow your English textbook to photocopy, is that okay?”
Yaoyuan: “Sure.” He pulled over his satchel and dug out his English textbook, Tan Ruikang rushed to say: “Use mine instead.”
Yaoyuan furrowed his eyebrows in displeasure, which shut Tan Ruikang up immediately. Yaoyuan knew Xie Yuting, although they didn’t talk much usually, but they were still in the same grade. He offhandedly asked: “You have a sister?”
“My sworn sister.” Xie Yuting took the book, then dug out a very nicely decorated box from her bag and said: “She’s not very brave, but this is her gift to you, here.”
Yaoyuan took the wrapped box, Xie Yuting said: “She’ll return the book to you tomorrow. I’m gonna go, bye—”
Yaoyuan then remembered the girl behind the tree, she was the prettiest girl from the middle school Second Year Class 2. She was a small one, and looked very cute and adorable. There was one time right when school started when a couple of girls from Second Year Class 2 were watching him by the basketball court, and it seems like that girl had bought a water for him. At the time Qi Huiyu had made fun of him, which Yaoyuan had punched him for, and the two had left.
He opened the wrapping when he got home, there was a metal box of milk candies inside and a sticky note stuck to it. From the sticky note to the wrapping paper to the milk candies, the whole thing was brimming with a young girl’s feelings, delicate and romantic.
And so Yaoyuan understood, this thing was full of something known as love.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Kapsoura.