Chapter 4:

Teenage (END)

Gifted Education Project (GEP)

Once I mentally recovered from the toilet interrogation, I realised that I still hadn’t given my boss an excuse for skipping work. I decided to drop him a quick text to fix that.

Sorry, I’m having a family emergency. Can’t report for my shift today.

I was deciding between that, “I had a migraine,” and “I’m having really bad diarrhoea,” but the family emergency excuse resonated the most with me at that particular moment. Truth be told, I could have just shown up for work and forfeited the first hour of pay, but life’s all about sticking to your guns and committing to a decision.

Actually, no. Not really.

There was no logical rationale or philosophy behind this. Only emotion. Sometimes, you just don’t want to go to work after almost losing your cock and balls to blunt force trauma.

“Looks, intelligence, personality. Can’t have all three. Should’ve guessed she was psycho.”

No, somehow that didn’t feel cathartic enough.

“Crazy fucking foreigner bitch.”

Much better.

“I hope I never see you again.”

With that being said, I put my phone to airplane mode, hopped on my bike, and began to cycle home. As I paddled, I made sure to cherish the sensation between my thighs in case I ever lost it in the future.


Forty-five minutes later.

I had left the National General Hospital and arrived at a rented studio apartment which I called home.

Saying it looked like a mess was an understatement — clothes balled with other clothes to form some sort of unwashed cloth mountain in one corner, mildew was growing in the others, and aside from the part of the room closest to the window, there was a faint scent of gamer gunk that constantly attacked your nose. It did have a working shower and toilet, at least, but even those technological marvels sounded more and more creaky with each passing day.

The apartment was actually in decent condition before Aunt Huiling got hospitalised. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that having a boy live by himself often results in corners being cut when it comes to housework. On rare occasions, you even get the miracle of no corners being cut because nothing is attempted at all. Of course, Aunt Huiling would always remind me to maintain a minimum standard of cleanliness whenever I visited her, but working a part-time job on top of school wears you out as a still growing boy.

And it’s not like she could check up on me, anyway.

I could just lie to her indefinitely.

“I’m home,” I said to no one.

Despite there being no discernible difference between the floor of my house and the void deck outside, I took my shoes off. Aunt Huiling used to get exasperated whenever I tracked dirt into the house. Even if she wasn’t here in person, I wanted to respect her wishes just in case superstitions were real and mothers felt heartburn whenever their sons weren’t being filial. If I could help it, I didn’t want her to suffer.

That was the only reason I still felt alive, really.

Not that I wanted to kill myself. I simply had no interest in subjecting myself to 15 years of education only to become a corporate slave, grinding my soul into dust for a wage that’d never be able to afford my dreams. If there was no such thing as a conscience, no such thing as family ties, then I’d much rather be one of those dissenters writing about the terrible state of our society in their unlicensed homes. I’d live a much shorter life, of course. And it’d also end at the barrel of a conscript’s gun rather than around sons and daughters I haven’t met yet. But at the very least, I’d be living out something I’ve chosen rather than a fate predestined by birthright.


You’re being serious again, my guy.

If you’re serious, then you’ll think.

If you think, you’ll notice the problems.

Acknowledging a problem is the first step to solving it, but ignorance is also bliss. If both are true, then maybe some things don’t need to be solved. Just think like you don’t notice. No one will bother you, and you might even trick yourself down the line that a government-approved existence was what you wanted all along.


I slapped my cheeks, then looked at the crusty laptop resting on my frameless bed.

“Time to jerk off to some K-Pop idol deepfakes.”

I dropped my bag on the floor and took a few measured steps towards my bed, fantasising about the cum-laden sexventure of a lifetime I was about to experience. Jizz, so much sticky jizz on Park Jiwoo’s face. I lay down in bed, pulled down my pants, and—

Knock knock.

This next sentence might seem so out of context (given that you are probably imagining me with penis in hand) I can only apologise, but my apartment didn’t have a doorbell. The door had no peephole either.

I also never ordered deliveries (lack of money), door-to-door marketers avoided poor neighbourhoods (lack of money), and I had a non-existent social life (lack of money). In fact, I’d never heard anyone knocking on the door in the two years I lived in this shitty apartment, so—

Knock knock knock knock.

Fucking stupid idiots constantly interrupting my—


“Okay! Fine! I’m fucking coming!” I violently swung open the door. “What? What’s your problem, huh? What the fuck do you— oh.”

Shoulder-length blonde hair (dyed), emerald eyes (contacts), and an exaggerated figure (probably silicone).

Shelly Lam with a scowl on her face.

“Do you not check your phone?” she asked.


Her sudden appearance left me all frazzled. Going from the interior of my crummy apartment to her was the equivalent of visual whiplash, but it wasn’t just the contrast between disgusting and beautiful. Something about her presence felt completely off.

“Actually, I apologise.” Her frown peeled off to reveal an uncharacteristically serious look. “That was a rhetorical question.”


“I’ll try my best to be patient.”

You can’t just joke this away.

Jiwoo was trying to tell you something.

“Is this about the scholarship?”

Shelly smiled as if she were impressed by my deduction. Whether or not her reaction was genuine, I couldn’t tell — all I knew was that the nanoweave skinsuit she was wearing was likely bulletproof.

“Oh? And how did you figure that out?”

“Shelly, I told you I’m not interested.”

“Why’s that?”

I immediately slammed the door on her, but—


—her steel-rimmed boots caught the flimsy panel with ease.

“Can I come in?”

“Definitely not in that get-up, no. Did you just come from BDSM-con or something?”

“But I bought you dinner.”

I heard the ruffle of a plastic bag.

“Mincemeat noodles. Your favourite.”

“Look, Shelly. I’ve said this to you in the office, and I’ll say it again: I’m not interested in whatever this scholarship offer is unless you actually tell me what it entails.

“And if I did, would you let me in?”


“Not even for mincemeat noodles?”

“I’m not eating your drugged food.”

“That’s a pity,” she sighed.

Because I’m not allowed to tell you anything.

And then the door burst open.

Sometimes I wish I spent more time working out, because looking into the mirror every morning and seeing exposed ribs was depressing. I never realised that those emotions were just foreshadowing the moment I’d get overpowered by a woman for the second time today.

No, girl.


Fuck, who even was Shelly Lam at that point?

“Hi,” she cooed.

It was all so wrong.

Her dye-job was as beautiful as ever, and so was her perfect complexion — but as I lay on the floor feeling pain sear through my body, I also saw a ceiling caked with dirt and her acrylic nails wrapped around the trigger of a pistol.

“Darren, I’ll give you a word of advice. Listen to what I’m about to say carefully, because I’m only going to say it once. Whatever you do, do not attempt to run away.”

“As if I would when you’re pointing a fucking gun at me.”

“Ahaha. Oh, Darren, you’re so cute when you’re angry.”

“Please don’t pull this shit on me right now.”

Chh chh.

Shelly cocked her pistol.

She actually intended to shoot that thing.

“To reiterate, don’t try to run.”

“I thought you were only going to say it once?”

“Darren,” she smiled.

“Fine, fine. Fuck you.”

“Alright. Then let’s—”

“But I want to say one thing first. I just find it funny that you— no, that your organisation couldn’t even give me one day to think it over. I show some resistance, and immediately I’m held at gunpoint for not going along with some badly veiled government project. Fucking kill me for being a person with free will I guess. If you’re going to use money to sway me, then at least let me talk to the person I’m going to use that money on, you idiotic pieces of shit.”

Shelly blinked.

“Emo much?”

“Piss off.”

I heard her genuine laugh for the first time.

“You are so cute.”

“Piss the fuck off.”

“You’re not wrong though,” she admitted. “This wasn’t supposed to be how it went down. And I know it sounds patronising, but as someone who’s gotten to know you for the past three years… I genuinely am sorry.”


What is this bitch going on about?

“Check your phone,” she said.

“The fuck did you just say?”

She ignored me. “Your phone. It’s on airplane mode, so go turn that off. You’ll understand why I had to expedite things very quickly.”


It’s not like you can say no to force unless you’re willing to die in the moment. And I obviously still had something to live for.

So no matter how stupid Shelly’s instruction was, I listened to her. I dropped my hand into my pocket and fished out my phone, all the while being trailed by her eyes and her gun.

“Remember,” she said. “Don’t try to— sorry, I should make myself more clear. Please don’t run.”

The screen turned on.

I got the tiny wings on my phone to fuck off.

“Is that reverse psychology? Do you just want an excuse to shoot me?”

Shelly smiled.

“No Darren, I need reasons not to shoot you.”

Okay, whatever.

I’d had enough deciphering of women’s speech habits for a lifetime.


31 missed calls.

Unsurprisingly, my phone flooded with notifications once it reconnected — skipping work with a clearly bullshit excuse will do that to you. The only problem with that logic was that the contact with my boss started and ended with one text that simply read “get well soon”. In other words—

“I can see the gears turning in your head, Darren.”


In other words.


Sorry, maybe it’d be better if I just rambled.

I recognised the landline that called me. It was the number that the ICU used. Not that I’d received any calls from them or saved their number before. No, I simply remembered it the same way I remember that cocking a SG-21 pistol chambers a round from the magazine and marks the bullet with the firing pin ever so slightly such that it can no longer be reused. I remembered it because I saw it once. You’d have to squeeze the trigger or discard the round entirely after that; it won’t cycle properly if you load it into a new magazine. In that sense the bullet is considered spent. In that sense you might as well shoot it. I might as well be shot. I wanted Shelly to shoot me. But I also wanted to kill her. So I started recalling all the places—


—you could hit someone to disorientate or potentially kill: off the top of my head, the neck; throat; solar plexus; liver or kidneys. Sadly her outfit was designed for blunt force protection against rioters, so then I thought about the distance between my current location and connector kitchen; all the places I could stab a woman to keep her alive but bleeding painfully; whether or not a rusty knife that hadn’t been used in two years could pierce ST Engineering nanoweave. Questions of that sort.

…your relative SXXXX636J CHONG HUI LING is in critical condition. You are strongly advised to call the government hotline for further information.

But then I remembered that Jiwoo was at the hospital today. I realised I’d never seen her there before.

“Hey, Ms. Lam.”


“Can I go somewhere? I just want to leave the house and do one final errand, I’ll sign the papers or whatever after I do it.”

“No,” she said, her barrel still trailed between my eyes. “And you’re being awfully calm… Are you sure you actually saw the message?”

“I did. That’s why I want the scholarship, duh. So please? You can keep my phone.”

“Uh… still, no.”


“I’m sorry, I can’t.”

“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“…Darren, let’s talk about the scholarship offer first, okay?”

“I can’t go to the hospital to see my aunt?”


“Are you going to answer my questions or not?”

“Please, Darren.”

Now she was the sad one. It’s so ironic.


I guess Shelly was the emotional type. She cried so long as she saw someone else crying, even if she was part of the reason for it. Aunt Huiling was that type of person too. So was Mom, and I wonder if Jiwoo is like that as well.

No worries, all four of them would be together soon.

“You know, I never thought the day Aunt Huiling died would be like this. I expected to be more upset. Right now I just feel a little empty, and a little angry at you.”

“Darren, I’m so sorry.”

“Huh. But now I’m starting to feel kinda shitty as well.”


“This is going to sound weird, but… can you hug me?”

“Darren, I—”


Her aim wavered a bit, and as it did I hurled my phone with all my might at

“For fuck’s sake, Darren… I told you not to run… I told… fuck.”

[Welcome to the Gifted Education Project.]

[Student 120.]

[Darren Chong.]

[Glory to the Republic of Singapore.]


Gifted Education Project Database

Batch 8

Name: Darren Chong Yong Yi

Sex: Male

NRIC: T4113353J

Class: TBD

Mode of Entry: Recommendation

Conscripted: Yes

Affinity Distribution:

Memory: 100 (S) [1st out of 240]

Kinetic: 41 (D) [165th out of 240]

Logic: 93 (S) [4th out of 240]

Mentality: 36 (D) [207th out of 240]

Interpersonal: 55 (C) [115th out of 240]

Creative: 62 (B) [100th out of 240]

Aesthetics: 68 (B) [71st out of 240]

Combat: 55 (C) [115th out of 240]

Overall: 63.75 (C) [65th percentile within Batch 8]