Chapter 3: “My Deskmate, Drowning in Fish Spit”
As I wrote the last of my notes, the bell rang, just as I predicted.
“Alright, we’ll stop here for today. Class dismissed.” The teacher set down his textbook.
The class president stood up and shouted.
The entire class rose and bowed. The screeching of chairs echoed through the halls.
“Goodbye, students. Be careful on the road.”
The teacher smiled, and left the classroom.
My nearby classmates let loose a collected gasp. The heavy, classroom atmosphere was immediately broken by the jovial tones of students.
Because it was the last class of the day, everyone tiredly took up their notebooks, and copied down the homework written on the blackboard. Pencils were stowed, backpacks were slung, and they started filing out of the room.
The assigned student custodian* stood and left to get mops and buckets. They had to fetch water, clean the blackboard, and clean the floor in the shortest time possible.
*In Chinese (and also other countries, I believe) elementary, middle, and high schools, random students are assigned to clean their classroom after the day ends. There’s different ones every day, and they usually take about half an hour to finish. Think of it as jury duty. It’s random, and you have to do it. I myself was randomly chosen a couple times in elementary school.
Normally, I would have left for home by now. But since final exams were approaching, the school planned an assembly at the end of the day. So, everyone still had to go to the lecture hall.
The only people left were me, and… my desk-mate.
That’s right. He’s the one right beside me: with his hands over his head, snoring quietly.
The most common sleeping stance of high-schoolers.
What’s more, he didn’t move for the entire afternoon.
Some people might assume that my desk-mate would be a girl, the most popular in the class.
And next, I’ll somehow win her heart, building companionship and developing her trust.
Hot-blooded teenage stories like these are quite common in novels. Sadly, I only have teenage, but no stories.
“Class is over, Guotong.”
I pushed him.
It’s quite obvious that he isn’t a girl, but I’m fine with that.
In middle school, I had a girl for my desk-mate. At the start of the semester, she slammed her pencil on our shared desk, and dragged it across the middle in hatred.
From then on, I started to have doubts about girl desk-mates.
“Your elbow crossed the line!”
She hit me without batting an eye.
I apologetically turned the other way.
“Your elbow crossed it again!”
Ouch! My eyes started to burn.
“No, I didn’t!”
I innocently stared at the pouting girl.
My elbow hovered in the air, but didn’t rest on the desk.
“Idiot! Midair counts, too!”
The girl desk-mate held my arm, and took out a ruler. She carefully drew a line following the tip of my elbow.
It did seem to cross over an inch or two.
There were more atrocities: stolen erasers, lost pens, graffitied notebooks…. These strings of outrage killed all future hopes for a girl desk-mate.
Compared to anime girls, women in reality are certainly harder to cope with. But if anime stuck closer to real life, nobody would like it very much. They are what people strive and dream for, after all.
Sadly, Guotong is the most compatible desk-mate for me in the whole class. Even though we’re not very close friends, he could still be relied on if I needed anything.
He doesn’t seem to have many pros, but he definitely is full of cons.
Humans are like this. Their hearts always judge others- especially their weaknesses.
Gaming? That’s right, Guotong is the typical teenage gamer. He always finds some way to borrow an ID * and pull all-nighters at the internet cafe. These days, his trips are more frequent than ever.
*In Asian countries, there exists a common service called Internet cafes. These are rooms full of computers, and you can rent one at about two dollars an hour. You can stay there as long as you want, as long as you pay. However, only people over 18 can go in. I remember seeing an article about a man who stayed in a cafe 24/7 and only ate instant noodles. He never came out, and died after a month.
He recently became addicted to a new MMORPG*, called “Republic”.
*Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game
Don’t get confused, this is nothing like ancient Greek philosopher Plato’s Republic. Besides sharing a name, there’s nothing in common between them at all.
Under Guotong’s insistence, I registered an account in the weekend, and installed the game.
It was a fantasy/adventure role-playing game.
To defend against numerous forces, the Republic of Humans must recruit heroes. Players have to choose classes, form guilds, kill monsters, and wipe all threats known to man. Once a guild has defeated all menaces, they will receive the ultimate glory as the strongest guild.
The art was simple, and pleasant to look at. It was obvious that the studio hired foreign artists to design the game.
The classes divided into Warriors, Thieves, Mages, Hunters, and Shepherds. Under Guotong’s request, I picked Shepherd.
He told me that his new guild lacked Shepherds. If I were to play, that’s what I had to choose.
The class is quite rare among players, since most people enjoy playing front-line, and slaughter monsters with great swords and axes. The Shepherd, however, could only heal his allies from the back of the team, providing support. For a hot-blooded player, this class was useless.
I felt sorry for the class. If I were to be beaten within an inch of my life everywhere I go, then the game would be ruined.
Equipped with the right gear, a team could push through just fine without a Shepherd, anyway. So what’s even the point of the class?
I suspected that Guotong was trolling me. But I didn’t expect to play for long, so I didn’t really care. I clicked the Shepherd icon.
A box popped up.
“Please enter your username.”
Username? What username is good? I thought for a while.
I suddenly remember a hate comment for one of my stories. A comment that I couldn’t retort.
I clacked my keyboard with a sour expression.
*Directly translated, it’s actually “Fish Drowning in Spit”, but I figured Drowning Fish Spit flows nicer.
I appeared at the tutorial, and met a cute fox NPC. After getting killed three times in thirty minutes by that stupid fox, I shut down my computer.
Besides the bogus reviews on the Internet, I couldn’t imagine why someone would play something like this.
“Haha… Fan… How long did I sleep…”?
Guotong finally straightened up, and yawned.
“You slept for a century.”
I caught him as he almost slid out of his chair.
“Shit, that long?!”
He looked at me in exaggerated surprise.
“We gotta go to the lecture hall. There’s an assembly today.” I reminded him.
“Such a drag, can’t I go home?”
Guotong swiveled his head, and stared at the passerby in the hall.
“Didn’t you hear the teacher say at lunch? Once class is over, there’s an assembly by the school board addressing the final exams.”
I creased my brows, and repeated it one more time.
With my description, you all must be thinking that Guotong is one of those students stuck at rock-bottom—Addicted to gaming, pulling all-nighters, sleeping entire classes off, and not listening a single word.
This guy is definitely the eyesore of teachers, don’t you think?
Every student at this high school has at least a bit of talent, and they all revolve around studying.
Guotong’s style is to cram right before the tests. One week before finals and midterms, he devotes his gaming enthusiasm entirely into studying.
He sleeps during the day, but crams all night long. Using seven days’ worth of time, he learns a whole semester’s worth of material, and produces surprising results.
The homeroom teacher has told him too many times to drop the habit, and study every day. If he did, he would be at the top of the charts.
Every time, Guotong smiles and promises everything the teacher asks him to, but doesn’t change one bit. His scores are often above the class average, too. Exasperated, the homeroom teacher tried to use the one move that never fails: parent conference.
But when his father looked at his report card, nothing was out of place. So, he lightly scolded him, and let the matter go.
At last, even the iron-wrought teacher relented, and Guotong became the only person in the class allowed to sleep.
Even though he sleeps every day, and copies my homework, his grades were always still above me. However, I didn’t feel one bit of envy.
If I were to do that, my body would definitely collapse. I wouldn’t be able to keep up at all, and hit bedrock.