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  • Feigned Pity

    Chapter 33

    Gu Jing Yuan looked through the shops that Shen Chen Chen gave him. He was overwhelmed by the plethora of designs and styles. How he wished that there was only a handful of designs to choose from and he could just buy all of them in their various shades of color.

    Feeling mentally exhausted, he continued on to the next store. 

    On the homepage, a pink down jacket caught his eye. Around the collar of the coat, there was a circle of soft fur. It made the coat look extremely warm. 

    He imagined her wearing it. The pink would compliment her while the soft white fur would hide half of her delicate and beautiful face. Coupled with her big dewy eyes and the tiny mole under her left eye, it would make her whole person look even softer. 

    As if possessed, he added it to the cart.

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    He also included a few other down jackets and woolen coats into the cart.    

    Recalling how cold her hands were, he continued to add some gloves and thick socks as well.  

    His monthly allowance was completely used up. The balance remaining was only 0.78.

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    **

    Gu Jing Yuan slowly got on the right track.

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    After removing his aversion towards studying from the equation, it seemed that studying was not so unacceptable after all.

    He was twirling his pen. After solving one of the questions, he referred to the answer key and realised that he got it wrong. Wanting to turn and ask her, he found that she was frowning as well. It looked like she was also stumped by one of her own questions.  

    Slowly retracting his book, he did not want to disrupt her concentration. 

    After lessons, she rushed for her competition class leaving him no opportunity to ask his question.

    Initially, he was the one who requested her to tutor him. However, seeing how busy she was, he did not have the heart to disturb her.

    And every time, he could only watch on through the classroom window as she consulted Chen Ze on her questions. 

    Whereas for him, not only was he of no help to her, he was adding on to her burden.

    He rejected another gaming invitation. On the computer that used to only store his video games, he silently downloaded one of the online lectures she sent.   

    As the days crept closer to the competition, Tao Xi Yi was met with the last screening test. 

    In the short span of a month, she had worked extremely hard. But she was able to tell that she had made tremendous progress.

    Tao Yi Xi was once again seated behind Chen Zhen. By the time he placed down his pen, she was only one last question away from completion. Her state of mind was tranquil.

    Chen Ze was very outstanding and with all the practice she put in, she was not too bad either. 

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    Withdrawing her attention from him, she carefully examined each written answer. 

    This was her first step towards the future she worked so hard for. Every step had to be flawless.

    **

    With how efficient the teacher was, the shortlist for the competition was announced the very next day.

    Chen Ze and Tao Yi Xi’s names appeared together once again, keeping a steady pace with one another. 

    Their names had never been separated since the beginning.

    Gu Jing Yuan felt sour but at the same time, he was also happy for her.

    Everyone was sighing that the top student was indeed deserving to be at the top. And how she was able to so effortlessly remain there. But only Gu Jing Yuan knew how much work she put into getting to that spot. 

    “Congratulations.”

    “Thank you.” Tao Yi Xi finally gave a cheerful smile.

    This time around, she had far surpassed the third position by 10 points, and the gap between Chen Ze and her was only 2 points. This was within a range that she could accept.

    Having come in contact with people like Chen Ze and Gu Jing Yuan, she has to admit that they were indeed God’s favorites.

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    There were times that she would secretly envy them. Alas, this was destiny. But she believed that with enough hard work, she would be able to catch up to them, or even surpass them. 

    Heaven rewards diligence and hard work without deception.

    When the math teacher spotted Tao Xi Yi, he broke into a grin. 

    “Yi Xi, so coincidental to see you here. Can you go to Class Eight and call Chen Ze? I need both of you to come to the office to see me.” 

    “Okay.” Tao Yi Xi then turned to wave at Gu Jing Yuan, “Ge-ge, I’ll be going first.”

    Gu Jing Yuan was about to leave when he heard the whispering amongst the teachers in the office and he inadvertently stopped to eavesdrop.

    “With Chen Ze, who is always our best student, and Tao Yi Xi, this dark horse, our school stands a very good chance to clinch the National Gold Award this year.”

    “I have a hunch that it’s definitely in the bag. Just not sure who will be the one bringing it back.” 

    “Chen Ze’s thought process is more flexible. But Tao Yi Xi’s advantage is in her cautiousness. These two students fill what the other lacks, they seem to complement each other really well.”

    “Ain’t that the truth. The two of them have good grades and are pretty good-looking too… hahaha.”

    On the surface, the teachers might be against the notion of students engaging in puppy love. However, it had no conflict with them forming their own CPs. 

    With so many years of teaching experiences under their belts, they had seen a few cases where their students would get together after graduation and end up marrying each other as well. As their teachers, being invited to the weddings made them very happy. 

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    “If both of them win this competition, it would most probably guarantee their admission to the same university.” 

    “If that happens, they’ll really be a match made in heaven.”

    Gu Jing Yuan clenched his fists tightly and had nowhere to vent.

    He strode back to class but Tao Yi Xi had yet to return despite the amount of time that had passed.

    He hastily grabbed a book and rushed to the teacher’s office again. The moment he pushed open the door, he spotted the two of them standing side by side with half an arm’s length apart; the distance was not considered to be close.

    He made his way towards the form teacher’s desk that was in close proximity to where they stood. Gu Jing Yuan’s tall figure blocked the light, casting a big shadow onto the form teacher’s table.

    “Ah, Gu Jing Yuan?”

    “I’m here to ask a question.”

    “?” The form teacher was baffled. After recovering from his stupor, he took a few more seconds to grasp the situation before clearing his throat and asking, “What question do you need help with?” 

    The practice paper was covered in his beautiful handwriting. It seemed that he really did attempt to do it.  

    “This question.”

    “Actually, your thought process is on the right track. But you cannot express it this way. When it comes to scoring well for Chinese, you need to…” The form teacher when on to ramble on points to take note of.

    From the corner of his eyes and blocking out what the former teacher was saying, he could faintly make out what the math teacher was telling them. The math teacher was giving them pointers and things to take note of when they go to the competition this coming weekend. 

    “Don’t forget to bring your pens for exam use. Teacher will be waiting for you at the entrance.” He patted them both on the shoulders while comforting, “Relax and do your best. With your standards, this city competition should be a piece of cake. Alright, return to your classes now.”  

    Tao Yi Xi glanced sideways. Gu Jing Yuan quickly retracted his gaze in a panic as his heart beat erratically.

    Chen Ze was waiting for her at the door. Gu Jing Yuan heard him asking, “Tao Yi Xi, do you still want more mock test papers?”

    He also heard her reply, “Yes, please.”

    The two of them gradually moved out of his field of vision.

    His breathing paused for a second and the chatter ringing in his ears became chaotic.

    Chen Ze had noticeably become much more familiar with her. Between males, there was always the subtle awareness when one spotted their love rival.

    “If I explain it this way, do you understand?”

    “Yes.”

    The form teacher observed Gu Jing Yuan’s lowered head and upright posture; the other Gu Jing Yuan he thought that he knew felt like a lifetime ago. 

    The form teacher still remembered the first time he laid eyes on Gu Jing Yuan. At that time, Gu Jing just finished engaging in a brawl and there was a scratch on his face. From head to toe, it screamed unruliness and defiance. From that one look, the form teacher knew that this student was not to be trifled with and was even more difficult to handle. 

    He never expected there to be a day when this student would approach him to ask for assistance with a question. He suddenly felt a deep sense of gratification.

    “You’ve made great improvement recently. If you keep up the hard work, you’ll definitely improve even more. If you encounter any other questions you need help with, just come and look for me, I’ll be more than willing to help you. Why don’t I give you my number? If you need help with other questions, you can reach out to me.” 

    Gu Jing Yuan numbly received the form teacher’s name card. A question was running circles in his heart. 

    “Form Teacher, would those that participated in the math competition be guaranteed admission to Tsinghua University?”

    “It’s not that easy. There’s only a limited amount of slots and many from various provinces are vying to get in as well. The competition only gives the students an additional edge in this race. Other than Tsinghua University, there are also many other good universities to consider.” 

    Recalling how resolute she looked when thinking about wanting to get admitted into Tsinghua University, he hesitated momentarily.

    “Then, do you think I can get into Tsinghua University?”

    The form teacher was stunned. When he realised that Gu Jing Yuan was serious, he laughed in spite of himself.

    “Student Jing Yuan, you shouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself. Apart from Tsinghua University, there are many other universities that are equally good but require lower admission scores.” 

    Although the form teacher did not state it clearly, Gu Jing Yuan understood.    

    It was impossible.

    Clenching tightly onto the paper in his palms, he continued, “What if I only want to enter Tsinghua University?” 

    The form teacher sighed. He felt that Gu Jing Yuan’s change was a bit too drastic.

    The school delinquent wanted to get admitted to Tsinghua University. Just the thought of it sounded outrageous.

    “If that’s the case, you can set Tsinghua University as your target. After taking the examinations in your third year and with a more stable grade, you can re-evaluate which university you want to apply to.” The form teacher also did not want to hurt the child’s self-esteem.  

    “If I made it into the top ten, would it be possible then?” 

    “Maybe, but that’s not enough to guarantee admission. It would be better if one scores at least 700 points.” 

    To score over 700 points, in their cohort, there were only two students that managed to do so. One could only imagine how difficult it was.

    “I see. Thank you, Sir. I’ll head back to class first.” 

    When he returned to the classroom, her seat was still vacant.

    He carelessly placed down his book and was stuck staring at the same page for a very long time.

    Gu Jing Yuan was very distracted and immediately noticed that Chen Ze sent Tao Yi Xi to the entrance of their classroom.

    Tao Yi Xi was holding onto a piece of paper covered in handwriting that was obviously not hers, it was extremely eye-catching.

    After returning to her seat, she asked him, “You went to ask a question just now, did you understand the form teacher’s explanation?”

    After tutoring him for a period of time, she could tell when he was distracted.

    “En.”

    “You can always ask me if there are things you don’t understand.” Tao Yi Xi was also able to see how much hard work he had put in recently. Although he had wanted her to tutor him, the number of times he sought her out for help had been few and far in between.

    “Um,” his attitude was surprisingly cold.

    “You, what’s wrong?”

    “Nothing, continue with your studies.”

    He was just angry, he was sulking because of himself.

    That night, as he stared at the cold brew coffee sitting inside the fridge, he stood there for a long time. Finally, he reached out and took a bottle out. 

    Cheers to his future.

    Fuck! So bitter!

    What a slap to his face. It was later than expected, but it still happened.  

    **

    That weekend, she put on her previous coat, took her bag, and was ready to hail a ride.

    Gu Jing Yuan rubbed his hazy eyes. His voice was still hoarse and gruff, “Tao Yi Xi, the chauffeur is waiting for you outside.”

    “Ah, there’s no need to trouble him.”

    “It’s currently rush hour, do you want to be late?”  

    She took a look at the time, it was still early.

    “Still not leaving?”

    “I know. Thank you, Ge-ge.”

    “Tao Yi Xi.”

    “Hmm?”

    “Do your best later. You’re pretty amazing.”

    This was the first time he praised her. So it turned out that he actually know how to speak human words.

    Tao Yi Xi gave him a big grin, “I will.”

    The seventeen-year-old girl still retained a bit of her baby fat in her cheeks making her facial features look delicate and cute. When she gave him such a cute and soft smile, it caused others to want to bring her into their embrace and caress her head. 

    With all the thoughts circulating in his head, it turned into action as he stretched his large hand and vigorously rubbed her head twice. Her long hair was instantly messed up due to his actions.

    “Gu Jing Yuan!”

    As a middle schooler who needed to use her brain constantly, every strand of hair was precious. She did not want to experience premature balding!

    Having heard his full name called out by her, he released a chuckle.

    Her calling him by his name was fresher than being addressed as ‘Ge-ge’. 

    He liked it.

    “Remember to eat your breakfast before you leave.”

    Tao Yi Xi carefully rearranged her hair, “I know.”

    Gu Jing Yuan stood on the balcony, calmly watching as she left. The first glimmer of dawn sprinkled a layer of gold dust on her being as if giving her their well wishes. 

    Her brilliance was about to be witnessed by even more people.

    But he, was still stuck in darkness at the very bottom.


    (๑◕︵◕๑)


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