When Shen Shao inquired about Furong No.
3 Senior High a while ago, he learned that the school only offered one hundred places to external students, but there would be thousands of applicants.
The students who came to sign up for the admission test usually had excellent grades, otherwise they wouldn’t even be able to register.

It was like picking a marshal from a group of generals.
Shen Shao was mentally prepared, but when he saw the entrance to the school swarming with an army of students who were there to take the exam, he still lamented a little.
Here were thousands of troops, all trying to cross a single-plank wooden bridge.

The test consisted of three subject exams over two days.
The first exam was English, which was difficult enough to sink a lot of students in the sand.
Shen Shao looked at the complicated vocabulary in the reading questions and sighed to himself.
How was this a high school admission test? It was more like a battery of fiendishly difficult English problems.
Native English-speaking students might take this exam and not even get a high score.

After finishing the English test, a lot of the examinees’ faces were a desperate gray color.
During the physics exam in the afternoon, Shen Shao looked at the test questions which were comparable to the International Physics League and gained a new understanding of the perverse level of test questions for the No.
3 High School.
The poor student next to him was pale with anxiety.

After the physics test, the examinees, who were originally so confident, were shaken to the core.
As they left the exam room their voices were weak.

Shen Shao thanked heaven for giving him a good brain.
He couldn’t guarantee that all his answers were right, but at least he was able to finish all of the questions.

The next morning, Shen Shao took the last exam for mathematics.
It was yet another extremely difficult test, which far exceeded the normal knowledge level of junior high school graduates.

When the exam ended, some people were happy and some were sad.
Shen Shao checked out of his hotel and took a bus to the Taoxiang District of Furong City.
Although the Taoxiang District was part of Furong City, its economy wasn’t well-developed.
A lot of people who worked in other parts of the city weren’t optimistic about the economic prospects of the area.

For example, there was a large bungalow with a yard, but no one wanted to buy it even at an asking price of thirty thousand yuan.
Houses with asphalt shingle roofs cost even less.
Unfortunately, no one wanted to buy a house in this kind of place.

Shen Shao saw a lot of announcements about houses for sale, and the prices were unbelievably low.
If you showed these ads to people a few years later, they’d jump to buy ten or eight buildings immediately.
Even if they didn’t do anything with the houses, the land alone would be worth a lot of money.

Shen Shao decided that buying a few of these houses would be a good memento of how low housing prices were in Taoxiang District at the moment, before it developed.
If he didn’t take advantage of the opportunity he’d feel unworthy of himself.

Shen Shao stayed in Taoxiang District for a few days and looked at several houses.
In the end, he spent a total of 110,000 yuan on five large bungalows with yards.
Although they didn’t have many other advantages, they were sited on big lots and the asking price was low.

At the moment, real estate documents weren’t as complicated to deal with as they would be in the future, so Shen Shao quickly completed all the paperwork.
When he was done, he was clearly recorded as the owner of the houses.
If the properties were eventually demolished and relocated, it would have nothing to do with the previous owners.

After finishing up his affairs in Taoxiang District, Shen Shao went to the No.
3 High School to see the results of the exam.
He found that the results had been posted a few days ago.

The full score for the physics and English tests were 100 points each, and the full score for mathematics was 150, which meant the highest possible score was 350.
But in fact, there were very few students who got more than 260 points—not even ten people managed it.
As a result, Shen Shao’s score of 323 points was particularly conspicuous at the top of the list, just like a main tank who pulls aggro in a game.
Anyone who looked at the results would immediately feel disgruntled or envious.

“What school is Shen Shao from? He got more than three hundred points on such a horrible exam,” a sturdy-looking boy said in a resigned voice to the woman next to him.
“Mom, look, my score is similar to what everyone else got.
Why do you think I’m so bad?”

“Even if it was difficult, someone still scored more than three hundred points,” the woman said.
She tweaked the boy’s ear with a hand wearing a jade bracelet and two jeweled rings.
“Why are you satisfied with fortieth place?”

“But second place only got 280 points.
You can’t just look at the highest one.
You have to look at everyone else.” The boy grinned and covered his ears.
“Mom, other people are here too.
Don’t poke.
Save me some face at least.”

The woman turned around and saw Shen Shao standing behind them.
She lowered her hand from her son’s ear, gave Shen Shao a smile, and moved aside to let him look at the results.

Shen Shao didn’t think he did very well on the test, and he felt stunned for a few seconds.
Then he saw a notice on the bottom of the score sheet.
It said that the top forty students on the exam would be assigned to the three experimental classes, and the 41st to 100th students would be assigned to parallel classes, otherwise known as ordinary classes.

“Classmate, how did you do on the test?” When the boy saw Shen Shao reading the notice, he smiled and said, “It says you can enroll starting today.
I’m going to sign up and go back home.
Do you want to sign up with me?”

“I did OK.” Shen Shao wasn’t familiar with the No.
3 High School, so he decided to go with this boy to sign up.
“I still have things to do back home.
I’m glad we can sign up now.”

When the boy heard this, he smiled and went with Shen Shao to the registration office.
His mother followed, clacking on her expensive high-heeled shoes.

On the way to the registration office, Shen Shao learned the boy’s name was Zhou ZeYu.
He came from Guo City like Shen Shao, but they weren’t from the same county town.

It was the afternoon, and there weren’t many people in the registration office.
The teacher in charge of registration saw Shen Shao and Zhou ZeYu and greeted them with a smile.
“Two students are here to register.
Did you bring your registration materials?”

Shen Shao and Zhou ZeYu both nodded.
After Zhou ZeYu handed over his admission ticket and League member certificate, the teacher looked at his file and said, “That’s right, this year more students signed up for the exam, and the questions were harder.
You still got fortieth place, which is very good.
It’s obvious you’ve been studying hard.”

The teacher recorded his enrollment information and said, “At first we were going to mail the acceptance letters out before letting people register.
However, we heard that some external students were waiting here in Furong City for their test score, and we didn’t want to force people to make multiple trips in hot weather.
That’s why we decided to let students sign up now as long as their results are in the top one hundred.
We’ll send a notice to your home later.”

After finishing the registration, the teacher asked Zhou ZeYu to go to the side to pay the fee, and then said to Shen Shao, “Student, do you have your registration materials?”

Shen Shao took out the documents from his backpack and handed them to the teacher.
The teacher looked at his name and admission ticket number and became a lot more eager.
“Are you Shen Shao?”

Zhou ZeYu, who’d already gone to the side, did a sudden about-face.
This was the guy who got more than 300 points on the exam? He looked so gentle and easy to talk to.
He really didn’t seem like the exotic genius Zhou ZeYu was imagining.

“Yes.” Shen Shao glanced around and looked at the registration teacher in some confusion.
“Why, is something wrong?”

“Nothing, nothing.” The teacher quickly finished registering him, and then took out a form and put it in front of Shen Shao.
“Our school has a policy.
If external students score in the top five on the admission test, they’re exempted from tuition and miscellaneous fees.
Please fill out this form.”

“Thank you, teacher.” Shen Shao didn’t know Furong No.
3 High School had this type of preferential policy.
He took the form and sat down to fill it out.

“You have nice handwriting.” The registration teacher looked at his writing and praised, “Do you practice calligraphy at home?”

Shen Shao nodded.
After filling out the form, he politely thanked the teacher.
When he turned around, he saw Zhou ZeYu looking at him in surprise.
He gave the boy a polite smile.

“Report to school on August 31st.
Classes begin on the first.” The registration teacher put away the form, saw Shen Shao’s well-behaved appearance, and couldn’t help but give him more advice.
“After school starts, the school will issue seasonal school uniforms.
The school requires all students to wear uniforms during the school day.
External students like you don’t need to bring too many coats.
When the school year starts, a lot of people show up, and it’s not convenient to take too many things on the bus.”

“Thanks, teacher.
I see.” Shen Shao smiled gratefully at the registration teacher.
After saying goodbye, he got up and left the registration office.

When he left, the registration teacher said to the other teacher sitting nearby, “That student had the highest admission score in years.”

“This year’s questions were a lot harder than in previous years.
That kid has a good brain,” the colleague said with a sigh.
He watched Shen Shao leave and smiled.
“I guess we can expect good results in the national competitions for the next few years.”

They looked at each other and laughed, but they both knew it was a joke and didn’t take it seriously.
After all, a score on the admission test only proved a student’s current ability.
After entering high school, it wasn’t uncommon for a child to change from a top student to an underachiever.
They knew not to have too many expectations.

Shen Shao walked out of the registration office and stood outside for a few minutes.
Zhou ZeYu and his mother came out a moment later.
When he saw Shen Shao waiting there, Zhou ZeYu immediately smiled and walked over to Shen Shao.
“I didn’t know you were the genius who got first place on the exam.”

Shen Shao smiled with embarrassment and downplayed it.
The only reason he was able to answer so many questions was because he had a good memory and had seen a lot of similar questions in reference books.
A real genius would have gotten at least 340 points out of 350.
He was far behind that level.

Zhou ZeYu and his mother invited him to travel back with them to Guo City, but he declined because he still needed to find a place to live near school.
However, he agreed to meet Zhou ZeYu at the school gate on August 31st.

At the present time, communications technology wasn’t very convenient.
Although some people had begun to use pagers or cell phones with unstable signals, ordinary people thought of cell phones as something far away.

Not many knew that in a few short years, cell phones would spring up in the Chinese market like mushrooms after a rain.
In the end, there would be almost one phone per person, making China the largest market for mobile phones in the world.

After several days of looking, Shen Shao eventually decided to rent a small apartment with a kitchen, a bathroom, and a bedroom in a community with good public security near the school.
The appliances inside were complete, and it was a bit like a small apartment for single white-collar workers.
Shen Shao was satisfied with the safety of the neighborhood, although the rent was higher.

For the time being he wasn’t short of money, and he had no intention of skimping on his accommodations.
The three years he would spend in high school were extremely important for his education.
He wanted to ensure a good learning environment for himself.

Money can always be earned again, but the chance to educate yourself is rare.

With a stroke of a pen, he signed a three-year lease and began a new chapter of his life.


TL Notes:

external students – 外地生 – foreign students, outside students – Refers to students live outside the school’s standard recruitment area

single-plank wooden bridge – 独木桥 – single-log bridge, a difficult path

sink in the sand – 汉英大词典 – with broken halberds [arms] buried in the sand; a disastrous [crushing] defeat

houses with asphalt shingle roofs – 盖着玻纤瓦的房子 – houses covered with fiberglass tiles – Refers to shingles that have a fiberglass mat as the matrix, dipped and coated in asphalt, usually with colored mineral granules on one side and insulating materials on the other.
In non-fiberglass shingles the mat can be made of a material like cellulose fibers (Baidu)

main tank who pulls aggro in a game – 就像是游戏里拉仇恨的MT – This is gaming jargon.
The main tank (“MT”) is the player in a party who concentrates on keeping the NPCs focused on him and attacking only him (“pulling aggro”), while other players concentrate on damage dealing or performing other duties (WoWWiki)

weren’t from the same county town – 只是不在同一个县城 – This seems to mean that both Shen Shao and Zhou ZeYu lived or went to school in Guo City, but they come from different villages/hometowns nearby

League member certificate – 团员 – Refers to the Communist Youth League of China, a membership organization for youth between the ages of 14 and 28 (Wikipedia)


Transliterated names, places, and titles—new in this chapter:

Taoxiang District – 桃香区

Zhou ZeYu – 周泽宇

Guo City – 果市 – fruit city/market – This is the city where Shen Shao went to junior high school.
Its name wasn’t mentioned before

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