Days went by and a week quickly passed since Shum Deil's transfer. Fortunately, Sae and the boy did not get involved any further with each other. That did not mean word about Shum Deil had lulled down though.
As it turned out, the unruly transfer student commuted to and fro from school on bike. That alone was nothing special, but he rode like a real lunatic. Occasionally, as Sae was walking to school a blurry figure would whizz by, leaving nothing but a whoosh of cold air, the power of it tousling his hair. Girls whispered when they saw Shum Deil locking up his bike inside the school gates. Seeing this, even boys thought he was a bit cool from time to time, skidding like a madman while spraying gravel everywhere.
Whenever this happened, Sae only adjusted his earphones with a blank look, passing by without a glance.
In that one week's time that Shum Deil started at the new school, he had gotten himself into trouble a lot. He fell asleep during class, got caught playing on his phone, did not have a change of clothes for physical education, kicked a trash bin over in anger, and so on and so on. Not once did he wear the school's uniform. He talked back to teachers, was brazen and loud. Things like this happened on a daily basis.
No one said a word, as everyone knew they could make these same mistakes...well, some of them. But surely, even if they did, they could not match the arrogance of repeating these offences continually for the duration of their entire first week!
It was like Shum Deil had a mission to make a terrible first impression on every one of their teachers.
On Thursday, the first lesson after lunch break was biology for class C. This month they covered pioneer species.
A biology class fresh after lunch wasn't the brainiest idea of the academic administration office. Previously, the biology teacher had voiced her grievances many times about this topic, not that anyone came up with a better option.
It was too hard to teach effectively at such a time in the afternoon! When the weather turned hot, every person sitting in class looked ready to lie down then and there, using the warm classroom's floor to nap.
To avoid such accidents, the biology teacher liked to showcase a lot of extra materials on the projector to spark the students' waning attention.
Ten minutes after the lesson had started, they delved into lichens’ reaction to air pollution while watching a short clip on the projector. Out of the blue, the screen froze. The abrupt silence made the half asleep crowd more attentive. A few nappers raised their heads. Many kids turned to each other to mumble in hushed tones while the teacher was otherwise occupied.
After a few
tries, and some fiddling with the laptop, the biology teacher let out a sigh.
She glanced up, and her gaze found a student sitting in the second row.
"Saering, please go to the administration office and ask for another
Sae nodded and stood up, ready to go.
In the corridor, before the classroom of science class II. a familiar figure loitered with hands touching the floor while squatting next to the wall. Seeing this scene, Sae knew the other person caused trouble again and got sent out of the classroom. Sae had few principles regarding what was considered good conduct, and he was not the most zealous to keep the school's regulations. Still, in his eyes, what Shum Deil proceeded to do and not do these past days counted as nothing but being purposefully frivolous.
As he neared the stairs, Shum Deil pushed up from the floor and watched him pass. The boy did not say anything but Sae could feel the eyes following his every move until he turned the corner, finally out of sight.
were rolled up a fraction, exposing his wrists. His gait was unperturbed and
he did not glance over once while passing. In the administration office, he
quickly got what he came for, said thanks for the assistance, and returned to
the biology lab.
On the way back, the other boy was nowhere to be seen.
Similar occurrences happened many times in the following days. Sae would see the boy and feel an oppressive aura following his person. Every time he looked up, he could catch Shum Deil staring from some corner of the courtyard, the corridors, the dining hall.
Sae's face was
naturally inexpressive, his eyebrows strong and almost straight; his eyes cold.
Probably because of this, it seemed like the muscles of his face froze even if
the slightest thing in his line of vision felt bothersome.
Shum Deil never said anything to him, never tried to approach him, but he stared, as if waiting for something.
"Hey, Sae!" After gym class, the boys walked towards the main building with bags slung over their shoulders. Teo caught up to Sae with the intention to talk. "Do you know Shum Deil?"
Sae frowned and walked ahead.
"You don't?" Teo was somewhat puzzled. "Did you do something to him?"
"No.” Sae thought about it. “What's the issue?"
stared at you throughout class." The boys had joined gym period, while the
girls shared theirs with the female students of science class II.
Shum Deil still lacked suitable clothes and did not participate in class. So, the teacher made him sit near the field where the boys exercised. He obediently did just that, up to ten minutes before the end of class when he strolled up to the teacher, exchanged a few words, then promptly walked off.
Sae stopped at the soda machine to buy a bottle of water. While he put the coins in, Teo blabbered next to him. "You really don't know him?"
I know him?"
It was a reasonable question. Most of the kids in their class were from the same neighbourhood, meaning they had known each other from very early on in their lives. If one of them had relations with anyone from other schools, it was inevitable that someone from their circle would know about it.
Teo shrugged and dropped the topic. He asked Sae, "Hey. Will you go home straight after classes today? I want to ask you something. It's nothing big, you don't have to worry."
Sae's tone turned wry. “I don’t have to worry, huh. What do you want?"
help.” Teo bent down to retrieve the bottle from the machine. He hooked an arm
over Sae's shoulder and steered them towards the main building.
Still in the courtyard, they walked under the eaves behind the sports building.
“My mother threatened me! She said if I fail the upcoming exams––" Teo didn't finish as if the threat was too inexplicable to say out loud. His mum’s treatment was understandable, they were about to graduate at the end of the year.
Sae hummed, his tone bored, "I'm not letting you use me as a cheat sheet."
"No, no. I wouldn't dare, but... can you teach me some?"
"You mean, teach you every topic we've covered in every class since the start of term?"
Teo looked at him with eyes as big and shiny as saucers. Sae stepped aside and slipped from his half-embrace. "You don't have the money."
"You! How can you be so heartless?" Teo sulked but it only made Sae laugh out loud.
The same bullshit again!
He tried the exact same trick every time, never getting tired of it.
"Can't you help a poor classmate out? Just share your notes then. Am I asking so much?"
Sae looked on, unimpressed. "Yes." He moved to grab his bottle of water. The other boy jumped back and pleaded. "Please, please have mercy. I, I'll pay! … Some."
"Bullshit. Where do you have money? What if your mother finds out?"
"Ah!" Teo yelled as if lightning struck him. "That’s it! What if I tell my mother you agreed to tutor me?"
"Quit the bullshit and give me the water.” Sae held out a hand. “We both know I'm not tutoring you."
"But my mother doesn't know that!" The bottle passed between Teo's hands and out of Sae's reach. Teo jumped around. His eyes shone but their glimmer struck foreboding in Sae's heart.
"Teo," he warned him.
"Just a few lessons' key points. Draw it in mind maps, I know you like them. I don't need everything, like, let’s be reasonable here, how could I learn all that now? Catching up in what... a bit over a month? Like five weeks' time? It's impossible!"
"So, how is that my problem?"
Probably because they were arguing while moving around, but the boys left the path to the classroom and carried on the footway leading to the back gate without noticing it. The sports field spread out to their left. Dense shrubs and outbuildings scattered their path.
In the beginning, Sae only felt exasperated with Teo. Who on earth confiscated something of the person they were asking a favour from? Any other time he would have been a hundred metres away by now, turning his back the moment he was treated in such a childish manner. But he was truly thirsty, and those were the last of his coins fed to the soda machine. Other than that, he only had his mum's card on him.
The two bickered back and forth.
Teo plunged at Sae, locking his neck in the crook of his arm. "Please don't let me die!" he wailed. They tumbled down a few steps and were almost at the back fence now.
dying?" Sae struggled to get away, laughing miserably. He so wanted to
punch the annoying little brat. His right hand grabbed at the front Teo's
t-shirt and pulled. Falling out of balance, the other boy suddenly leaned
forward, loosening his hold on Sae's neck. Sae shifted sideways, then twisted
Teo's arm behind his back extorting a loud yelp out of his mouth.
"Are you dying now? Huh?"
All of a sudden, the boys heard a skidding noise coming from their left, near the base of the fence. They stopped and simultaneously looked over.
At that moment, three people stared at each other.
At the back gate
of the school, squatting down next to the wall, Shum Deil pulled his eyebrows
into a scowl. A cigarette dangled between his long fingers. He was wearing his
old school uniform without the jacket, the sleeves of the shirt folded up to
Sae furrowed his brows when the sight registered in his mind.
A thin line of smoke rose from the cigarette while Shum Deil's breaths could be seen in the chilly air.
As if he only remembered to do it now, Teo continued to wail, making a fuss. To this, Sae slapped his back and shut him up. He let go of Teo's arm and pushed him away.
The bottle rolled on the ground, stopping at a distance from them. Sae went to pick it up.
"You can't smoke in school!" Teo told Shum Deil while squeezing his arm – the skin taking on a warm pink shade.
Shum Deil stretched his legs out and slowly straightened up. He pointed to the ground with the cigarette pinched between his ring finger and thumb. "I'm outside of school." His voice was very clear and not one bit quiet.
Teo’s neck turned this way and that. He glanced around as if he wanted to say, Was this kid crazy? Who the hell was he shouting for?
At this time, Sae picked up his bottle and turned around. His eyes swept over the person outside of school limits and the corner of his lips almost curled up in a cold smile. He scoffed.
Shum Deil heard this scoff and his face hardened. "Hey––" he started, but by then, Sae had already shifted his attention.
Sae nodded at Teo, indicating for them to go.
"Hey!" Shum Deil yelled again.
Teo nervously looked between the two sides.
"You're not coming?" Sae asked over his shoulder. He was already a few paces away, so Teo scrambled to catch up.
"Hey!" Another call echoed behind them, but Sae didn't stop. Teo glanced back and saw Shum Deil wanting to chase after them, with fire blazing in his eyes. He realised the boy was still holding onto the cigarette. Shum Deil threw the half smoked stub on the ground in anger.
By then, they were already a safe distance away.
In the end, Shum Deil did not follow them.