SWFM13: Answering questions as if performing a surgery
On 11th April, amidst SARS, amidst a sour feeling amongst the entire school population, the passing of time towards the university entrance examinations did not cease, never resting.
Libei Senior High’s monthly tests gradually caught up to the first mock examinations of Jiannan City, naturally having to give way to them.
The examination grounds for the mock exams would be allocated according to the results of the students in the previous monthly tests. Xu Tingsheng was allocated to the 6th examination ground, with Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng a little further behind.
It was a day of torrential rain, the sky dim and overcast.
The lights were turned on in the classroom, shining down on the students, all wearing masks as they clutched their pens, silent and focused, answering questions as if performing a surgery.
First came the Language examination.
Before the examination began, a boy sitting behind Xu Tingsheng said: let me have a look at the multiple choice questions later.
Xu Tingsheng had forgotten his name, only vaguely remembering that he was a former classmate from 10th grade.
“Oh, okay,” Xu Tingsheng said.
During the mathematics examination in the afternoon, the boy said the same thing.
Xu Tingsheng said, “Don’t, you’ll be done for if you do.”
The boy said angrily, “You don’t have to be so petty?”
Xu Tingsheng said, “You’ll understand later.”
After the examinations began, Xu Tingsheng earnestly did the questions that were related to geometry before taking out an eraser, using a penknife to smoothen its rounded edges. Next, he inscribed A, B, C and D, ‘roll again’ and ‘same as above’ on the six respective sides of the eraser.
Xu Tingsheng began rolling his dice.
The boy behind him was shocked for a moment before he resolutely erased the answers for the two geometry questions that he had copied earlier.
After finishing rolling the multiple choice questions, Xu Tingsheng handed in his paper.
The morning of the next day was Combined Humanities.
Xu Tingsheng turned back and said on his own initiative, “This time, you really can look at mine.”
The student behind him sighed, “Bro… don’t mess around.”
The final paper was English, Xu Tingsheng having told Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng before entering the examination grounds, “Believe in your first impressions.”
“What if there’s no impression at all?”
“If it’s three short and one long, choose the longest. If it’s three long and one short, choose the shortest.”
After the examinations had ended, the two were very happy. Asking them about it, Xu Tingsheng was told that this was the first time that they had felt like they understood the meaning of some comprehension passages.
This was the effect Xu Tingsheng had wanted. He had gotten the two to work on recognising words rather than focusing on spelling because there already wasn’t much time left. If they could recognise some of the given words, the duo would be able to project the general content of the comprehension passages based on them, next connecting it to the words that followed. Purely guesswork based on that would also be good, because with a framework and clues, their answers would naturally end up closer to the correct ones.
What remained, would be their luck.
In truth, this was perhaps one of the most unusual university entrance examinations in history. SARS left many people in fear and on the brink of collapse, and this applied even with these examinations. With this batch of examinees facing the joint pressure of both SARS and the university entrance examinations, many people’s minds were near their breaking point.
The mock examinations let everyone understand how close the actual university entrance examinations were, causing them to feel even more pressurised.
During that same period of time, news beging spreading within the school that similar symptoms had appeared within Libei County.
Xu Tingsheng had also heard this rumour in his previous life. He also knew that six days later, due to fear and depression, this suspected victim of SARS who was not actually afflicted would break open and flee through a window of the isolation ward where he was quarantined. In the process of fleeing, he would injure two nursing personnel, two young, courageous nurses.
His escape had led to panic within the entire city, the entire Libei County resembling a dead town as stores closed their doors and schools sealed their gates, no one daring to leave to house, even fewer daring to go near any strangers.
On the third day after he fled, he was captured. Afterwards, it was discovered that he had only been in a feverish state due to a common flu.
Having escaped SARS, he had not been able to escape the fate of being imprisoned in jail.
Xu Tingsheng had no way to stop this from happening. Of course, he also did not have the intention of doing so. This incident had not led to any serious consequences, the two injured nurses even having being greatly honoured, their occupational problems also resolved as they were promoted from temporary workers. Ther policemen who had captured the escapee had also received a commendation.
As for the schools and their students, ever since the first mock examinations, there were finally some who could no longer bear this repressed atmosphere.
A female student who was usually very obedient answered back very defiantly to her teacher during evening self study, and when her teacher forgave her, she said that university entrance examinations are dog****, and all you teachers are also dog****…finally, she lunged into her teacher’s arms and collapsed weeping.
A usually optimistic male student suddenly stood up during evening self-study, leaving the classroom as he ignored all around him. He went to the toilet, burying his head in the sink, letting water run over his face for half an hour before he returned, apologising to his teacher and classmates and sitting down to get back to studying.
The ‘twilight loves’ of senior high also began to increase greatly in number.
Love could indeed bring people courage, or perhaps release.
Under such circumstances, a female student, Song Ni, who was on very good terms with the trio of Xu Tingsheng, Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng, embarked on her first love.
Song Ni was a very ordinary girl. Her appearance was ordinary, her family background was ordinary and her results were also ordinary. Still, she had a very good personality, being silly as well as kind and gentle. The male student was from Class 7. His family background was not good, but his results were excellent and he was bright and handsome.
Song Ni and the boy had been classmates in junior high, and she had always liked him. Her one-sided affection, having already gone on for six whole years, had long since no longer been a secret to anyone.
Two days ago, Song Ni had duped a few packets of indigowoad root from the trio to give to that boy.
When she returned, she had said that the boy had been greatly moved. Then, with a joyful yet embarrassed smile, she had told the trio that she was now in a relationship, that that boy had finally accepted her, that it was the boy who had confessed to her on his own accord.
The first night of the mock examinations, Song Ni had fled from evening self study. When Xu Tingsheng’s trio had found her after the second period of evening self study was over and they had been released, she had obviously just cried, her hair dishevelled and her clothes stained with mud and grass.
Fu Cheng had asked her what had happened, but she had been unwilling to answer, packing up and quietly slinking back to her room.
That night, the boy had asked Song Ni to meet him in the small thicket behind the dormitory building. That would be their first date, and Song Ni had specially worn a beautiful yellow blouse and long skirt there.
There had been moonlight that night, and everyone else other than the two had been in the midst of evening self study. With the small thicket hidden and quiet, it was very suitable for a date.
They had conversed for a while. He had said that he felt very repressed, and then hugged her.
Submersed in happiness, Song Ni had hugged him tight with one hand as she stroked his head with the other, as if comforting a helpless child. She had never seen him so helpless before.
The boy had begun kissing her, frenziedly and also passionately.
This was Song Ni’s first kiss, going from clenching her teeth tight to responding hesitantly. Even though she felt that this seemed a little too fast-they had been together for just two days-she had not the heart to reject him.
The boy’s hand began straying, scaring Song Ni a little. When his hand was about to reach beneath her clothes, she pressed it down.
The boy said, “Please.”
Song Li looked into his eyes, seeing the blazing fire within. She loosened her grip, biting her lips, her face hot as if it was burning.
The boy’s hand reached beneath her skirt.
Song Ni leaped up like a frightened rabbit, shaking her head, “No.”
He said, “Please.”
Song Ni thought about it, “After graduation; after graduation, okay?”
With tears in his eyes, the boy said, “Please, I feel very repressed now, I really need it…give it to me, I will take responsibility for you. I will go to your home and meet your parents after graduation, and I will take you to see mine as well. We will go to university in the same city, and get married after we have graduated.”
Song Ni hesitated for a moment, still shaking her head.
He knelt down, “Please, I’m almost going crazy. I really need you.”
Song Ni understood the meaning of his words. He needed to vent; he needed release.
But she really loved him, so she nodded as she cried.
He said, “You’re really the best’ and ‘I love you’, ignoring the tears on Song Ni’s face as well as her struggling, pained expression, wasting no time at all as he flipped up her skirt.
Then, a hand had struck over at lightning speed…