When Tang Zheng walked out of the doors of the examination center, almost everyone looked straight at him. He was the first one to come out, and so early as well.
Immediately, people started talking amongst themselves. Quite a few had already recognized that he was the star of the event from earlier. In just a few minutes’ work Tang Zheng had attracted even more stares.
Without question, he was the focal point of the group. He stood upright without any discomfort, trying to prove to everyone that the guy everyone else had thought was a loser and last place could do something awesome.
Liu Qingmei asked with concern: “Tang Zheng, how are you out so quickly?”
“I’m finished with the exam.”
“Finished?” Liu Qingmei found it hard to believe. Even several of the teachers and parents looked surprised. Finishing the whole Chinese test within an hour was nothing short of amazing.
“Really?” someone asked with suspicion in their voice.
Tang Zheng smiled but didn’t respond to them. Liu Qingmei wasn’t satisfied with his answer: “Did what happened with Wu Cuihong distract you? Dammit, I’ll make sure she never hears the end of this. I’ll sue her if needed.”
Liu Qingmei’s character was cool and she rarely got angry, but without question what Wu Cuihong did had crossed a line with her.
Seeing how concerned she was and how ashamed her expression seemed, Tang Zheng lowered his voice. “Mei, believe me. I did well on the test, or I wouldn’t have handed it in so early.”
Hearing her own name stunned Liu Qingmei. She stared straight at him. Seeing that he didn’t seem to be joking, she began to recall his previous deeds and began to believe what he said. With a nod, she said: “Okay, I believe in you. Let’s get you ready for the afternoon’s exams, or you could take a rest.”
“No need for that. I’ll just wait here for Shishi,” said Tang Zheng.
“Then let’s chat for a bit.” A charming smile rippled across Liu Qingmei’s face. She had began smiling more and more recently, although the change had been so subtle that even she herself hadn’t realized the shift.
After an hour, people gradually began handing in their examinations and exiting the center to compare answers. Those who got things right cheered aloud, while those who didn’t hung their heads in disappointment.
Strangely enough, Tang Zheng seemed like the most carefree one. Looking at him, Liu Qingmei couldn’t help but poke fun: “You seem even less stressed than I am. That’s not the look of a student at all.”
“I have confidence in myself,” said Tang Zheng quietly.
Liu Qingmei laughed. “I rarely see anyone as confident as you are. Those who didn’t know better might say you were being cocky.”
“Even the cocky have to have something to show for it.”
“Sure. I can’t win against you in an argument.”
Seeing Ye Dingdang walk out, Tang Zheng asked casually: “How’d you do?”
“Not bad. Did you find your pass?” asked Ye Dingdang.
“When did you come out?”
“An hour ago.”
Ye Dingdang’s eyes widened in disbelief. “That’s so early!” She knew Tang Zheng had been hiding his true abilities, but never expected his level to be so exaggeratedly high. Handing in the exam within an hour!
The other students who had heard about his achievements stared at him like he was a monster. Some tried to talk him down: “He’s usually the last place anyways. Maybe this time he just gave up and filled in some nonsense answers before coming out?”
Several people seemed to have the same idea about Tang Zheng, and the eyes fixed on him garnered a more complicated light. But one person watched Tang Zheng with an even more complicated look, fear mixed in with hostility. Gao Dazhi had finished his exam as well and sat far to one side, watching Tang Zheng quietly.
Gao Dazhi had never been the type to mix with crowds, so no one came to him asking to compare answers. He lurked there in the corner like a poisonous snake.
Tang Zheng didn’t notice his gaze. If he had, he might have a familiar sensation.
Feng Yong came out of the exam center, running toward Tang Zheng as soon as he spotted him. “Hey man, did you get into the exam?”
“Of course I did. How’d it go?”
Feng Yong laughed. “I knew you’d be able to make it in. It would be a loss to the country if you couldn’t make it. I did pretty well, although there were a few questions I wasn’t so sure about.”
Tang Zheng patted him on the shoulder, saying, “You got this!” before heading off to welcome Fang Shishi, who had just walked out. She took his hand with excitement, “You handed in your exam so early, I was so worried about you.”
“Haha, there wasn’t much to do in there anyways. I’m nowhere near as patient as you are. When I came out I noticed that you were also almost finished. What gives, why are you only out now?”
“Of course I was checking my answers. I didn’t want to make any careless mistakes.”
“Hm, that’s a good habit you should keep up,” said Tang Zheng with a tone of admiration.
Everyone piled into the car to get lunch, then rested after lunch to prepare for the afternoon’s exams.
Word about Tang Zheng’s exam pass had spread through his classmates. Feng Yong spoke up in anger: “Man, that old witch is awful! I can’t believe she would try to put you down like that. We can’t just let this go.”
Even classmates who didn’t know him so well pitched in. “Tang Zheng, you need to investigate this to the root. Teachers like this are any student’s worst nightmare!”
Grasping Tang Zheng’s hand, Fang Shishi couldn’t believe that he had gone through such a complicated chain of events and couldn’t help complaining on his behalf: “Exactly, we need to find out everything about this. They tried to pin something on you that you didn’t even do.”
Tang Zheng moved closer to her ear and said in a whisper, “The old witch was actually right. My exam pass was fake.”
“What?” Fang Shishi jolted back in shock. Seeing others stare at her, she hurriedly covered her own mouth. “What happened?”
“Tian Chanzi made a fake one with illusion magic.” Tang Zheng pulled out his exam pass. No matter how hard she looked, Fang Shishi couldn’t tell it apart from a fake one.
But if Tang Zheng said it was fake, then there was no question about it. Illusion magic was really something out of this world.
“Master is amazing! We need to thank him once we get back,” said Fang Shishi happily. Suddenly, a thought moved through her head: “Wait, but how did Wu Cuihong know that it was fake in the first place?”
Tang Zheng snorted. “That’s exactly what is so suspicious about all this. I think she has something do to with me losing my exam pass in the first place.”
“Could she have stolen it?” Fang Shishi couldn’t believe her ears.
Tang Zheng nodded. “More likely than not. She had a bet with me and was worried that I would be able to get top ranking. In the past she wanted to force me out of school with the whole tuition thing. This time she tried to cheat me out of attending the entrance exams so that she wins the bet.”
“What a slimy, shameless person,” Fang Shishi couldn’t help but flame up in anger. “We can’t let her just get away with this. We need to teach her a lesson!”
Seeing her like an enraged lioness made Tang Zheng chuckle. “No need to get so riled up over it. She’s just a jumping clown–she won’t be able to cause any real waves.”
Fang Shishi shook her head firmly. “No way. She treats my boyfriend like this–I can’t just look away.”
“Then what do you want to do?” asked Tang Zheng, genuinely curious.
Fang Shishi’s face flushed red. After a moment’s thought, she spoke. “Beat her up.”
Tang Zheng almost wanted to laugh out loud. “You’ve never beat anyone up.”
“I don’t mind trying it for once, if it’s for your sake.” Fang Shishi’s expression was as determined as ever.
Tang Zheng patted her on the hand. “You don’t have to worry about it. I’m going to see her during lunch break.”
“I’m going with you.”
After lunch, all the other students headed to the hotel near the exam grounds to rest. The hotel had been booked by the international school, a standard procedure for exams. The school wasn’t short on money; to create the best environment for its students, it provided a hotel setting for students to rest in.
Tang Zheng and Fang Shishi quietly left the hotel and returned to the international school, walking straight toward the teachers’ dorm.
During college entrance exams, the school was on break. There were no students, and not even that many teachers. Tang Zheng had gotten the scoop that Wu Cuihong had been brought back to her dorm.
Peng Chen International School treated its teachers well, even arranging dormitory living for them. Still, many teachers didn’t live here, instead treating it like a temporary resting station.
Wu Cuihong didn’t live here either, but did come to the dorms for her noon rest.
Climbing the staircase stealthily, the two of them didn’t encounter anyone as they arrived at Wu Cuihong’s dorm entrance. With his exceptional hearing abilities, Tang Zheng could detect everything going on inside.
Wu Cuihong was mumbling to herself: “The exam pass was with me. How could he have another one? The one I have is real.”
She just couldn’t puzzle it out. Just now she had examined the exam pass a thousand different ways. After years of entrance exams, she knew from experience that this one was real, which meant that the one Tang Zheng produced earlier had to be fake.
But how could he deceive the workers? And why would he have it prepared? It was almost as though he could predict her actions.
Wu Cuihong realized that Tang Zheng was gradually growing harder and harder for her to read.
This student who had once won her much honor, she had challenged him again and again over his household conditions.
Instead of thinking back on her own attitudes toward him, she concerned herself with the exam pass.
“No. This time he made me look bad in public. Even the principal thinks less of me for it. That, and that little bitch Liu Qingmei stirring up trouble…I can’t stay at this school anymore. Whatever, I have other offers. If I can’t stay, I might as well make life harder for Tang Zheng. He’s only taken one exam now–I need to find a way to stop him from attending the rest of his exams.”
She kept mumbling to herself as if possessed, a dark look flashing through her eyes. Suddenly, an idea came to her: “I’ll put something in his food that’ll stop him from going to his exams.”
Her eyes lit up. With a stride, she turned to exit her room before realizing that there were two people before her. Tang Zheng and Fang Shishi stood there, their jaws clenched, their eyes livid.
The two of them had crept close without a sound and heard everything she was planning. With each word she spoke, a chill ran down their spines.
So she was sticking to her cruel nature, so much so that she even wanted to poison Tang Zheng. Tang Zheng only felt relief now; if it wasn’t for Fang Shishi’s reminder, he wouldn’t have come looking for her and overheard her devious plan.
If Tang Zheng had been poisoned, he didn’t know if his body could take it. It would have affected his exams negatively, and that was something he couldn’t tolerate even the thought of.
“How did you…get in here?” Wu Cuihong’s plan had been disrupted. Her face turned ashen as she stared at the two incredulously.