Chapter 2: The Only Thing that Matters is Hard Work


As you’re probably guessing, I’m a typical high school student, mixing and churning in the endless sea of bodies.


My looks are normal, my sports are normal, and my grades are normal.


The word “dull” defines myself, and many others like me.


My family is the type of middle-class that don’t need to worry about food or utilities, but can’t afford expensive luxuries. I grew up in the warm love of my parents, and had a blissful childhood.


My mother works as an editor.


I never know what she’s doing in her office. She’s the type of person that you can’t just pull away from the computer screen.


She would pull all-nighters frequently in order to keep up with her work. Even though my mother works really hard, I’ve never heard of any famous articles she’s written. Maybe she just simply corrects other people’s mistakes.


Thanks to her, I learned to cook at a very young age. Since Mother’s hands were dedicated to literature, her dishes looked like neatly inked paper. It was nice to look at, but it didn’t really taste good in the back of your throat.


As I started growing up, I finally worked up the courage to tell her.


“Please let me cook from now on, it’ll really help, thanks.”


With every glittering, sparkling dish she makes, the hellish, dark flavor follows without fail. I finally stood up to this blasphemy.


When I told her I wanted to cook, my mother cheerfully complied, much to my amazement. She cautioned me about the dangers of the kitchen, and bought a few cooking books for me to read.


The first time I tried to cook, I couldn’t even look at it. The surface was scorched, black as soot.


But, as the saying goes: When there is a will, there is a way.


With a few more years of practice, not only was I familiar with the nearby supermarkets’ discounts, I also could determine the freshness of an ingredient just as well as any housewife. My cooking also began to lean towards my own tastes.


Due to his job, my father was always on some business trip. He earned the same salary as any other office worker, but he came home to be with us whenever it was possible.


He applauded at my cooking prowess, and told me I was catching up to my mother.


But the glaring truth was, I didn’t just catch up to Mother. I’ve already left her a couple blocks behind. Since my health was at stake by her food, learning to cook was essential to my survival.


As for my sister, childhood friends, and idiot classmates, they might as well be nonexistent.


Don’t ask why. This is my modern reality, not some flashy anime world.


When I was born, my parents had to abide to the government law: Only one child per family. * My neighbors were fairly private, and to this day I have no idea what any of their names are.


*This notorious law, the One Child Policy, stood in China for quite a long time. It was only repealed in 2013, where it relaxed to two children per family. Parents who birthed more than one child had to pay the government extra money as a “fee”. Twins, triplets, etc. were excluded. It was only enforced in densely populated areas, anyways. My own parents never stressed about this law since I was born in America, but plenty of my old classmates’ parents in China did consider this policy at some point in their lives. If you want to know more, Google it. 


At least in school, I can speak up a little more. I used to be the star of my grade, after all.


In my old middle school, my mugshot is still pinned in the “Honor Roll” board.


The toil I went through for my middle school exam paid off, and I scored to the nearly the top of our school. As expected, I was offered by my dream high school, which was critically acclaimed in the state.


Then why did I say my grades are average?


That was quite a while ago. My renowned high school is filled to the brink with talented, highly intelligent people. My scores plummeted with every test. But even so, I’m not giving up.


Now, looking at the same names over and over on the leaderboard, I started to believe that there are some geniuses on this world that nobody can quite catch up to.


My motto became: “The dumb bird has to fly first.” *


If I am to walk the same pace as geniuses, I must be advancing faster than the average person.


Even though I comfort myself perpetually, I always lament, why am I not one of those geniuses who can achieve everything so easily?


I sighed, wiped the sticky sweat off my brow, and knocked on the door.


“Fan, what took you so long getting home?”


The weary-eyed lady at the door asked.


“I got in a little accident on my way back.”


I didn’t tell my mother about the near-death experience. She would kill me.


“Why are you so dirty?”


She closely observed my clothes.


My shirt and pants were caked in black dust. I looked as if I were rolling around in the mud.


“The bruise on your elbow….”


My mother’s sharp eye immediately caught on to the bruise left by the girl.


“My head hurt because of the heat. I just tripped on the stairs, I’m fine.”


I assuredly glanced at my mother’s worried expression.


My mother probably wouldn’t believe that the saved injured the savior, anyway.


Because I wanted to live a peaceful life, I even faked my personal details to the police officers.


I would never tell them my name is Lu Fan, and wait for them to give me some award at my traumatic high school.


No matter what type, attention always felt like a searing pan. As a student, I should really focus on my studies.


However, my mother still glared at me suspiciously. I confidently stared back.


Soon, the atmosphere became charged and serious.


After a minute of eye contact…


“Fan, be honest with me. Did you have a fistfight?”


Finally, my mother suspected something was wrong.


Does your son really look like a delinquent? My heart shattered to pieces.




I quickly denied.


“Did you win?”


My mother suddenly hopped with joy, and slapped my shoulder.




My brain couldn’t catch up.


“High school boys should really let loose sometimes, fistfights were common in my time. For me, your father once….”


She fell into a state of bliss, reminiscing in her incomprehensible memories.


Mom started to describe her high school life merrily, and I didn’t take in a word of it.


“I won, and beat that guy so hard he scrambled to the ground looking for his teeth.”


I gave up, and made a half-assed, triumphant expression.


“Son, I’m proud of your victory!” She didn’t seem like a parent at all.


I had to make dinner for the both of us. No time for idle chat.


“I’m starving, dear. Little Fan, make something for your mother to eat.”


At least, she didn’t forget to eat.


“Okay, what do you want today?”


“It doesn’t matter. I’ll have whatever Fan makes…. I forgot to eat breakfast and lunch.”


Mom made an awkward expression.


“Mom, if you don’t eat your meals accordinly, you’ll get really sick!” I reproached.


“I slept off and forgot, I’m so sorry. But I still tasted Fan’s dishes in dreams, y’know.” My mother didn’t seem to take in my criticism.


She can’t really do anything about her job. My mother still works hard for this family.


I should give her some cakes later as a midnight snack.


After dinner, I still had some studying to do. Tomorrow is Monday, and I couldn’t relax for even a second. A couple hours of work could really pay off for someone dimwitted like me.


Maybe you’ll think of me as a study-crazed nerd. Unfortunately, a portion of that is true. But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to do outside of school.


I enjoy anime, and follow some series on a basis. My allowance is often spent on paperback novels.


Sometimes, I’ll write a short story and post it to a number of websites, begging for criticism. Even though my heart is always crushed by toxic reviews and dwindling clicks, I didn’t want to give up.


What’s more, it worked just fine as something to hone my literary skills.


I opened my story post, and peeked at the stats. I closed it immediately, afraid that I might go back on the promise I set myself.


Before going to bed, I lightly pushed open my mother’s door. She didn’t turn her head from the glaring computer screen.


Maybe I just wasn’t trying hard enough. If I worked half as much as my mother, this dumb hobby probably wouldn’t affect me as much.


“I’m just throwing some stuff around.”


“You can’t even throw straight, idiot.”


I set the instant coffee and the discounted chocolate cake by my mother. It sat there like a statue, perfect but lonesome.


I left the room.