“Since in my case, I’ve people depending on me, hm? I need to stand on solid ground, and make sure that every step is steady.”
Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3
“Are you guys high school seniors?” The driver asked while driving.
“Yes.” Jiang Cheng replied.
“From Fourth High?” The driver continued.
“Mhm.” Gu Fei answered.
“Good luck! Try not to stress, it’s just a uni entrance exam, eh? Nothing to stress over. You can only do well if you’re not tied up with nerves.” The driver said. “I graduated from Fourth High myself. Back then, I didn’t do well on the exams, all because I was too nervous.”
“Ah.” Jiang Cheng responded with a smile.
“Really, trust me.” The driver glanced at them through the rearview mirror. “You two probably don’t get very good grades, huh? You have even less reason to be nervous then. If you try to go about it with a relaxed mindset, maybe you can even outperform yourself.”
“Oh.” Gu Fei started laughing as he squeezed Jiang Cheng’s hand.
“Uh huh, then I’ll try to relax, see if I can outperform myself.” Jiang Cheng said as he laughed.
When they arrived at the examination center, the driver did not take their money. “This here is an Exam Fleet of Compassion,” He said. “We’ve been giving all the examinees free rides! Hurry up and go in!”
There was still ample time before they were due to enter the examination center, but crowds were already gathered outside. There were many people and cars here to see the students off, as well as several police cars and ambulances, beside which were parked free exam shuttles.
Even ones who were not nervous would get nervous upon seeing a spectacle like this.
“Here! Over here!” Lao-Xu started waving as soon as he spotted them from afar, his voice already starting to get hoarse.
The two of them walked over and retrieved their admission cards. Quite a few students and parents were huddled around Lao-Xu, each of them with solemn expressions on their faces; especially the parents, who seemed a lot more solemn than their kids.
“How did you rest?” Lao-Xu asked.
“Pretty well.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Try to relax, you will have no problems for sure. Don’t drink a lot of water during the exam,” Lao-Xu said as he pointed to one side. “And go to the washroom first before you go in.”
“Mhm,” Gu Fei smiled. “You should save some for later, if you wear your voice out now, how are you supposed to continue yelling?”
“I have lozenges.” Lao-Xu said in a hoarse voice, then took out a lozenge from his pocket and put it in his mouth.
Since it was not yet time to enter the examination center, they found a spot outside away from the crowd where they could wait.
Gu Fei crouched by the side of the road with a cigarette in his mouth, and Jiang Cheng stood beside him, spacing out while staring at the top of his head.
For some reason, he was a little nervous now. Not because of the exams, but because of a baseless feeling of anxiety that he could not pull Gu Fei into his arms in broad daylight in public.
Of course, the reason he wanted to hug Gu Fei was probably due to exam nerves.
Get a grip, Cheng-ge.
You already threw down the gauntlet, that you will be able to prove yourself no matter what, Contestant Jiang Cheng.
“Hey,” Jiang Cheng glanced at the time; there was more than 10 minutes left. He kicked Gu Fei. “Let’s go to the washroom.”
“Do you need to go,” Gu Fei stood up and looked at him with a smile. “Or are you nervous?”
“Just in case,” Jiang Cheng turned and started toward the washroom, then after a few steps, turned around again. “But really I’m just nervous. Holy shit, I’m so fucking nervous that I want to bounce around right now. What’s wrong with me?”
“So even you overachievers get nervous.” Gu Fei laughed as he caught up to Jiang Cheng, and walked side by side with him. “But it’s the University Entrance Exam after all, very rarely are there people who don’t get nervous.”
“Are you nervous?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Sure I am,” Gu Fei said. “I can’t let myself fail no matter how much I mess up, so I’m also nervous.”
Miraculously, there was no one else in the washroom. Jiang Cheng backed up a step to peek outside and saw that the people behind them were still a good distance away. He dashed quickly into the washroom behind Gu Fei, who was standing at the urinal about to pee, and wrapped his arms tightly around him, trapping Gu Fei’s arms to his body.
“Ahh the fuck!” Gu Fei jumped in surprise, then turned slightly and said in a lowered voice. “I was pulling it out, you almost made me strangle it!”
Jiang Cheng burst out laughing while still holding him. It wasn’t until he heard the voices outside come closer that he let go and stepped to the side.
When they came out of the washroom, Gu Fei reached out and rubbed Jiang Cheng’s back. “Hey, Cheng-ge.”
“Hm?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“You da best~!” Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng cracked up again, “Muack-muack~!”
It was soon time to enter the examination center. As they started walking inside, all the students around them fell into silence. The word “nervous” was plastered on every one of their faces.
Jiang Cheng however, suddenly felt a calm wash over him. He was often like that—once the matter was actually before him, he would not be so stressed about it anymore.
Over the past year or so, he had not skimped on all sorts of quizzes and tests, most of which were pretty high on the difficulty scale. He had gotten through them all, and not once was his score especially low.
Ever since he was small, Jiang Cheng had never experienced the phenomenon of severely underperforming below his own skill level. There were only a handful of times when he did not do well on tests, and even then it was only because he did not prepare properly. Not to mention, the so-called ‘not doing well’ was only where his parents’ expectations were concerned. If it was to Pan Zhi’s standard, it would still be classified as overperforming.
After going through the checkpoint, Jiang Cheng sat down in his designated seat and laid out his things at the corner of the desk according to regulations. Then he looked around him, but did not see anyone he recognized.
Leaning back in the chair, he closed his eyes and took in a deep breath and released it in a drawn-out exhale.
Alright. Let’s begin.
From the second the invigilating teacher started to recite the exam hall rules to them, Jiang Cheng seemed to be isolated in his own little bubble.
The teacher’s voice quickly disappeared; the tiny sounds of papers rustling, the miniscule thumps of pencils against the desk when everyone picked up their writing utensils, the quiet dragging of chairs on the floor, the low coughs…… Any and all sounds vanished from his hearing.
With the exam paper spread out in front of him, he picked up his pencil, twirled it once in his hand, and started to quickly look through the questions.
The person sitting in the seat in front of him was wearing a yellow top. In Jiang Cheng’s peripheral vision, it looked almost like the yellow light bulb that lit up his nightly study sessions at his desk. The familiar state that had persisted for almost a year returned to him in an instant.
There were many books piled up to the right of him, and on his left were all kinds of test papers and notes. And to the left of that, at the corner of the desk, was usually his boyfriend. Leaning there, the boyfriend sometimes had one hand propping up his head and the other hand playing with his phone, and sometimes he was slumped over the desk, watching him.
And when Jiang Cheng said “quiz me”, his boyfriend would immediately pick up a book and flip it open.
After looking through the essay question, Jiang Cheng flipped back to the first page and started answering the questions.
The essay question was not especially difficult. He had not written on that topic before, but he was able to quickly decide on a theme and, searching his memories, found similar content that he had written before, that could be used on this.
If he could finish the essay question in the set amount of time he allotted himself, then he could answer all the questions before that with ease.
Before his eyes were rows and rows of questions, in his ears was the scratching of his pencil on the answer card, and the sound of his own quiet and even breathing.
All was calm.
A benefit of having done a lot of question banks was that he had a very accurate grasp of the timing. He did not need to look up at the clock, he could pretty much guess how much time had passed just by his own speed going through the questions.
Every time Gu Fei timed him on the mock tests, and when he did the practice exams, he would always start the essay question within 5 minutes of his own designated deadline.
Today was the same. He briefly reviewed the other questions after he finished them. Then when he looked up at the time, he saw that indeed, his timing was on point.
Contestant Jiang Cheng’s grasp of the time demonstrates just how powerful a master’s psyche is in a face-off.
At this moment, Contestant Jiang Cheng is in a perfect frame of mind. You can tell by the speed at which he reviewed his completed answers. There were very few questions he was unsure about. It would seem that Contestant Jiang Cheng had prepared well for this battle.
Alright, now we will see his analysis and interpretation of the essay section.
Now let’s direct our attention back to Contestant Jiang Cheng’s battle status.
Jiang Cheng quickly made a rough outline on his draft paper, and made note of the points he wanted to include in the various sections, then after he looked once through it to make sure nothing was amiss, he started writing.
Contestant Jiang Cheng’s handwriting was kind of ugly. He had been training himself pointedly in the last little while, but when the writing covered large areas like this, it was still a challenge to give the judge a good impression right off the bat……
If he wanted to keep the writing neat, he would have to compromise on his speed. This was also why Contestant Jiang Cheng gave himself more time than usual on this section of the competition.
It would appear that contestant Jiang Cheng is a person with a plan!
As Jiang Cheng wrote down the last full stop on his essay, he glanced at the clock. There was still time, enough to check over all the other answers one more time.
He gently twirled the pencil a few times between his fingers and quickly went over the questions from the top. He remembered the few he was unsure about, and focused most of his time on those during his check.
However, even if he had a different answer upon a second look, he would not easily change the answers. The first judgment was made at a time before his brain was scrambled by everything else, and was often the most accurate.
He only changed one answer during the second check, and left the rest untouched.
It was only when the invigilating teacher announced that they had 5 minutes left, did Jiang Cheng slowly come back from his isolation bubble.
The objects around him gradually regained their colours and movements, and sounds started to drift back into his ears little by little. The tiny breeze that broke through the air when the teacher quietly walked past him; the sounds of papers shuffling all around him; the anxious last minute corrections; an eraser rubbing against the page, gently rocking the desk with it……
The ringing of the bell that signalled the end of the exam was especially clear.
Jiang Cheng let out a long breath upon hearing the chime, and swiftly sealed all materials related to the exam away in his mind. Whatever the result would be, it was over. 
Walking out of the examination hall, he spotted Gu Fei immediately.
Even from a long ways away, Gu Fei gave him a big grin and arched his brows, the smile contained in his eyes jolted Jiang Cheng wide awake. When he returned the smile back to Gu Fei with his face that had been without any expressions for the last two hours, he felt a thoroughly pleasant feeling spread through him, as though he was stretching out his whole body.
“How was it?” Gu Fei asked.
“Feeling pretty great about myself.” Jiang Cheng spread his arms out and stretched hard. “Nothing I was really unsure about. I feel like the difficulty of this one is on a similar level as the second practice exam… What about you?”
“It was alright,” Gu Fei said. “I feel pretty much the same about any exam anyway; I just write what I know and make up the rest.”
“Did you make up a lot?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Not too much, I more or less have a vague impression. I’ve been studying with my boyfriend every day after all.” Gu Fei quirked a smile.
Lao-Xu was waiting for them outside, and encouraged his students one by one, “Good job, you all did a good job! No need to think about it now that you’re done. Take a break and get some rest. Good luck in the afternoon, I’ll still be waiting for you at the same spot as I was in the morning…… Jiang Cheng! How was it!”
“Didn’t you say to not think about it now that we’re done?” Jiang Cheng said.
“…… Oh right, right.” There was a brief moment of disappointment in Lao-Xu’s expression, but he quickly went back to his high spirited tone. “Don’t eat anything too greasy for lunch, and don’t get too full, make sure to rest well……”
“It went pretty well.” Jiang Cheng interrupted him with a smile.
“You little rascal!” Lao-Xu blinked, then a grin spread so wide on his face that it could hardly be contained. “How can you tease me at this time! I knew you wouldn’t have any problems!”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng smiled and nodded at him.
“And what about Gu Fei!” Lao-Xu turned to Gu Fei. “You little rascal probably look the same no matter how you do, I can never tell with you.”
“It was alright,” Gu Fei said. “At least I did all the questions, and wrote a full essay too.”
“That’s good! You’ll be just fine then!” Lao-Xu clapped him on the shoulder. “Keep it up in the afternoon!”
They did not plan on going back home at lunch time. Jiang Cheng could never nap after lunch, whenever he napped, he would sleep like a pig, especially in this kind of weather. If he got up after a 30 minutes nap, he would need a full hour to go back to full consciousness. For the sake of keeping his brain in working condition, he must not sleep.
“Should we have dumplings?” Jiang Cheng said. “It’s simple and tastes good, add on a couple of plates of marinated beef slices……”
“Chilled marinated beef slices?” Gu Fei asked.
“No shit of course, the cold ones taste better.” Jiang Cheng gulped. After a whole morning of wound up nerves, he was past famished at this point.
“You can’t have cold ones, it might not be clean.” Gu Fei shot down the idea without a second thought.
“I’ll just have a few cloves of garlic with it.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Then go back to the exams with a mouthful of garlic smell?” Gu Fei glanced at him. “Just dumplings, nothing else.”
“…… Cruel and inhuman.” Jiang Cheng glared at him.
“If you don’t like it, keep it to yourself.” Gu Fei turned away from him.
“Don’t copy the way I talk.” Jiang Cheng pulled him back.
“I just did, you got a problem?” Gu Fei turned back and retorted once again viciously. “Keep it. To yourself.”
Jiang Cheng did not speak as he maintained eye contact and stared back at Gu Fei, but after a while he couldn’t help but burst out laughing, “Ah fuck.”
“Come come come,” Gu Fei opened his arms. “C’mon, ohhhhhh……”
“You shut up,” Jiang Cheng looked around. Everyone around them was either frowning or had a grave expression on their face. They were the only ones who giggled as if they had already finished all of their exams. “Have some dignity will you?”
“Nahhh, what good is dignity? As long as I have you.” Gu Fei said.
“Aiyooo,” Jiang Cheng sighed. “Fine then, dumplings it is.”
There was quite a crowd inside the dumpling restaurant, a lot of them examinees. They had only just sat down when the boss lady came by the table, “Just finished an exam, huh?”
“Yep.” Gu Fei nodded.
“Here, take your pick,” The boss lady set the menu on their table. “Auntie’s giving all you examinees half off for the next two days.”
“Thank you.” Jiang Cheng smiled.
Gu Fei still insisted on not getting any cold dishes, but seeing how desperate Jiang Cheng was for some meat, he ended up ordering a plate of sautéed beef.
Halfway through their meal, Jiang Cheng’s phone rang; it was Pan Zhi, “Gramps! How was it! Have you straight-up ascended yet!”
“Yeah, you better hold onto my legs,” Jiang Cheng said. “And what about you? Have you taken off?”
“Taken off my ass, aren’t I supposed to be on the ground holding onto your legs?” Pan Zhi seemed to be in a pretty good mood, though the biggest strength the guy had was that his mood could not be shaken even when he got 17% on a test. “Me, I’m just the same old, no way for me to take off without some sort of miracle.”
“Have you eaten yet? Your mom must’ve prepared a big feast for you, huh?” Jiang Cheng laughed.
“I’ll be eating in a minute. I just wanted to see how you’re doing, so I can report back to Lao-Yuan.” Pan Zhi said. “I think he wants to ask but is afraid to, in case it affects your mood.”
“You can tell him for me, it was pretty good. I performed as well as I usually do and my mind is calm.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Okay,” Pan Zhi replied. “Keep soaring in the afternoon.”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng laughed as he stuffed a dumpling in his mouth.
The businesses around the examination center were all very considerate. The two of them strolled along the street for a while after lunch, and saw a coffee shop that offered itself as a free rest stop for examinees and their parents.
They went in, found a booth to sit down, and the server even brought over a jug of freshly squeezed juice. Gu Fei asked if they could have a warm drink instead, and the server happily changed it to hot fruit tea.
“You old mammy.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Keep your opinions to yourself.” Gu Fei poured a cup for him. “Drink this and take a good rest.”
Jiang Cheng smiled as he took a sip, then leaned back in the seat and stretched his legs, looking out at the gradually emptying street outside.
There were fewer pedestrians and cars now that the examinees and their parents had all left. Some had gone to eat, and some to nap, so the once bustling street all of a sudden quieted down.
The sunlight had become a little too stifling, much like the anxiety and restlessness that had begun to seep through after the calm of having finished one subject.
Only when he turned to look at Gu Fei, sitting beside him with his eyes closed and arms crossed, did he feel his heart suddenly unclench.
Due to the excellent rest he had at lunchtime, Jiang Cheng felt like he was filled with energy. Besides, since he had already finished one subject in the morning, he was now used to the unfamiliar and tense atmosphere of the exam. When he was once again seated in the exam hall, he was very much relaxed.
Especially since compared to language arts, he was much more confident about math. Moreover, he did not need to expend energy to focus on his handwriting.
It was easier for Jiang Cheng to get into a flow state when doing math problems, he could not even hear the sound of his own pencil scratching against the paper.
The only thing he could hear was the incessant mumblings in his own mind as he worked through each question.
Contestant Jiang Cheng etcetc……
Contestant Jiang Cheng really is a flawless master of problem-solving. He may have chosen the Humanities stream, but one can still see his excellent STEM abilities from the way he works through the math problems……
Jiang Cheng kept his old habit while doing the math exam. The first time through, he quickly solved all the questions that were immediately clear to him, then went back and worked on the ones that made him hesitate, using the third time to check over his answers while redoing the few he was still unsure about.
Near the end, his brain was turning so quickly it could stir up a gust of wind. Even the teacher’s voice announcing the time was blown a far distance away, almost like a voice calling to him from outside of a dream.
He was still in a bit of a daze as he walked out of the hall after the exam. Only when he walked all the way to the gates did he finally say to Gu Fei, “I think my math exam went pretty well too.”
“Fucking hell,” Gu Fei said quietly, his voice filled with relief. “You finally talked. You almost scared me to death.”
“Ah,” Jiang Cheng turned to him and started laughing. “I just took some time to come around.”
“The way you were acting, it’s like you missed all of the compound questions at the back or something,” Gu Fei let out a long breath. “I didn’t even dare ask.”
“My bad,” Jiang Cheng laughed as he slung his arm over Gu Fei’s shoulder. “Let’s find somewhere away from people so I can give you a good smooch.”
“…… Let’s go back home and smooch,” Gu Fei gave him a look. “Can you hold it for that long?”
“Yes.” Jiang Cheng snapped his fingers.
Lao-Xu was still waiting for them outside, but Jiang Cheng noticed that he clearly did not look as cheerful as he did in the morning; even his words were a little different.
“Relax, don’t pressure yourself.” Lao-Xu said to him. “Just treat it like a normal test. Make sure you go home and eat properly, and go to bed early. Relax, relax!”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng did not know why Lao-Xu made a point of telling him to relax, though he did feel pretty relaxed at the moment. The Humanities comprehensive exam tomorrow was a little more difficult, since there was too much to memorize. However, he had been memorizing so much that it was enough to make a god cry, not to mention the English exam the next afternoon was his strong suit, so he had nothing to worry about there.
There were many taxis and shuttle buses parked near the examination center, offering free service to the examinees. The two of them found a vacant taxi and climbed into it.
The driver had so much to say over the entire journey that the cab itself could hardly contain his words; he was full of all kinds of encouragement, well wishes, and laments over how he should have studied harder way back when.
His rant was only cut short when a call came in on Gu Fei’s phone.
“Da-Fei!” It was Wang Xu’s voice on the other end, sounding like he was about to cry.
“What’s wrong?” Gu Fei was stunned, and immediately anxious. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Yi Jing’s done for! Her exam this year is totally done for!” Wang Xu actually started crying.
“What do you mean? Don’t run your mouth,” Gu Fei said. “What do you mean done for, you’re not even done for, what does she have to be done about?”
“She fainted again during the math exam,” Wang Xu sobbed as he said this. “She got sent to the hospital halfway through!”
Wang Xu shouted the last sentence into the receiver, so Jiang Cheng heard it very clearly on the side. He turned to look at Gu Fei in shock, “Yi Jing?”
Gu Fei nodded and asked a few more questions before hanging up.
“You’re not going to console him some more?” Jiang Cheng said. “The way he’s crying.”
“…… I don’t know how to console him.” Gu Fei sighed.
That much was true. It was rare for Gu Fei to give someone a warm expression, let alone provide consolation. Jiang Cheng frowned, “I wonder what’s going on with Yi Jing. No wonder Lao-Xu looked upset just now.”
“You and Yi Jing are his biggest hopes,” Gu Fei put his phone back in his pocket, before turning to him. “But you shouldn’t worry about this, don’t think about……”
“Don’t worry,” Jiang Cheng quirked a smile at him. “It’s not going to affect me. I just think it’s too bad for Yi Jing.”
“Too much pressure probably,” Gu Fei said. “Since she’s always wanted to get into a good school……”
“And leave this place, right?” Jiang Cheng smiled. “So she gave it everything she got, all of her effort and energy, on top of all the pressure.”
“Mhm.” Gu Fei nodded.
“You don’t have to worry about that for me.” Jiang Cheng thought about it for a moment, then turned to him, saying in a very low voice. “Since in my case, I’ve people depending on me, hm? I need to stand on solid ground, and make sure that every step is steady.”
- Raw character count: 6035
- TL word count: 4476
- TL time: 6:45:31
- Edit time: 55:59
- Curse words: 4x fuck, 2x shits, 1x ass
Poor Yi Jing :'(((((
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