Chapter 9:

Ideal School Life (2)

Gifted Education Project (GEP)

I hung out with Bryan over the remainder of break. We talked about a bunch of stuff and ended up having a good time between bros — it turned out the guy was actually pretty cool after all. Bookmark here

Unlike me, Bryan could apparently remember every event that led to him being enrolled into the school, as well as his reasons for choosing such a place.Bookmark here

“It was a straightforward choice,” he explained over bites of a chicken puff. “I’m terrible at studies, so getting into a good high school was out of the question. And even if I could somehow qualify, I wouldn’t be able to afford it till graduation.”Bookmark here

“Ah. You came from a poor family?”Bookmark here

“No, DC. Worse than that. I’m an orphan.”Bookmark here

DC was the nickname he decided to give me. Calling other guys by their actual first names while being in close proximity just felt too weird, so we settled on this as a compromise. Speaking of nicknames…Bookmark here

“I see.”Bookmark here

My solution was to not address him by name at all. If I ever needed his attention, I decided I’d just yell loudly in his direction or call him “dude”. Better to be confusing than to let a guy’s name leave your lips. It also went without saying we were sitting adjacent to each other instead of opposite, given that eye contact is a strict no-no between straight men.Bookmark here

Bryan continued his lecture. “At this school, you need to be a genius in at least two Affinities to get in. I don’t know how they quantify someone as possessing genius-level talent, but that’s what their public-facing policy is.”Bookmark here

I nodded.Bookmark here

“In my case, I have genius-level talents in Kinetic and Aesthetics. The school implied there’s one more I have the potential to be a genius in, but to be honest, just scraping the cut-off’s good enough for me.”Bookmark here

“So you’re good at sports, then?”Bookmark here

“I’m decent. I can dunk a basketball.”Bookmark here

“…Hm.”Bookmark here

In Asia, the average 15-year-old barely grazes the backboard with a sprinting start. Getting your entire arm above the rim and putting a size-7 ball through would easily put you on the radar of any sport’s Olympic youth academy, especially since Bryan was only 6 feet tall. Maybe except for swimming or badminton.Bookmark here

“What about you, DC? What do you think you’re a genius at?”Bookmark here

“A genius..?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. You got into this school, after all.”Bookmark here

“…I’d rather not think about it. I just want to live a normal school life.”Bookmark here

Bryan’s eyes widened for a moment, then he took a bite of his pastry.Bookmark here

“My bad for asking.”Bookmark here

***Bookmark here

When we got back to class, Sakura Emi was standing at the teacher’s desk next to a cart of gigantic touchscreen tablets. On the projector screen behind her were the words “DIAGNOSTIC TEST: ACADEMICS” in bolded Times New Roman font.Bookmark here

“You’re both late,” she said. “Get your asses into your seats.”Bookmark here

Bryan gave a small bow of apology, I scoffed at Boobies, and then we both walked to our desks. On the short stroll there I spotted Erica violently snapping her head towards the window just as I was about to make eye contact with her. Just another Monday, I guess. I was starting to feel a little pathetic giving her so many free passes for her shitty behaviour, but then again, I figured I’d be pretty mad too if someone insisted I was gay for two minutes straight whilst fervently scissoring their hands. So no, I decided not to get mad at my fake girlfriend of twenty minutes.Bookmark here

Instead, I sat down drama-free, and by the grace of Cum-Exodia was rewarded by the scent of strawberries.Bookmark here

“Darren! How was your break?”Bookmark here

Calf-flex: ON.Bookmark here

“Eh, it was okay. I skipped the cafeteria ‘cause it looked crowded.”Bookmark here

“Oh! No wonder I couldn’t find you. I was... waiting for you, actually.”Bookmark here

“You were?”Bookmark here

“Totes!” she beamed. Calf-flex: Gear Second. “I wanted to pick your brain over how you managed to memorise Emi-chan’s lecture without taking any notes. That was super cool.”Bookmark here

“Ahaha…”Bookmark here

Emi-chan. if it were anyone but Marie, I would have instantly shat my pants.Bookmark here

“By the way, could you tell me your friend’s name, if you don’t mind? The one you entered class with.”Bookmark here

“Bryan… and uh, it has a Y.” I quivered slightly as another man’s name left my lips.Bookmark here

“I see. Bryan, Bryan… Thanks! And his last name?”Bookmark here

“That one, I don’t know.”Bookmark here

Kobe Bryan, I suddenly thought. Rest in peace.Bookmark here

In the midst of half-paying attention to Sakura Emi’s lecture, I looked at Marie scribbling down something. Apparently, she was curating a Group A seating plan by assigning names to boxes in an 8x5 arrangement. I counted 18 of the 40 seats being filled out. It was equally impressive how she already knew 18 of her classmates by the very first break as much as it horrified me.Bookmark here

There’s… definitely an official Group A namelist somewhere. She knows that, right?Bookmark here

Well, who knew. Maybe Marie was an airhead and didn’t consider asking Ms. Emi for one. Since Bryan explained to me that the school had a wildly different set of criteria for enrolment compared to regular schools, there was a good possibility the average person here was an idiot. Or maybe I was the idiot and simply didn’t understand the school’s mechanics as well as Marie.Bookmark here

After quickly looking over the 18 names on Marie’s list, some which included last names and others not, I turned my attention back to Ms. Emi.Bookmark here

“I will now be handing out your student tablets,” she droned. “As previously stated, all academic related matters will be handled on this device, so make sure to take care of it. After you have logged in, the relevant diagnostic test for this period, Mathematics, will automatically open. Follow the instructions on the screen. For your answer sheet, you may either write on your tablet or submit a hardcopy, but do note that diagnosis will take longer if you choose the physical option. That is all.”Bookmark here

Ms. Emi then began pushing the cart and handing out tablets to each student, starting from the front. Marie was still hard at work checking her seating plan against something on her phone, so I decided to give her a pointer in exchange for information.Bookmark here

“My last name’s Chong,” I said. “Like Chinese for ‘bug’. And the girl behind me is Erica Park.”Bookmark here

“Park? Erica Park?” Marie batted her eyelashes exaggeratedly. It was obviously an act, but I didn’t care. She was cute.Bookmark here

“Uh, yeah. Fu— I mean Park.”Bookmark here

“Ohh.” Marie seemed to realise something. “You mean Park.” I swore she’d said the exact same thing as me, but it sounded infinitely smoother and sexier and made me want to buy her bathwater.Bookmark here

“Wait. You’re Korean?”Bookmark here

“Ahaha. Nothing like that,” she smiled. “I just watch a lot of K-Dramas… Teehee. Thanks for your help, by the way!”Bookmark here

“Wait, not yet. I scratched your back, now you scratch mine. Do you have any idea why they’re testing us on Mathematics if it’s irrelevant after orientation?”Bookmark here

“Hmm…”Bookmark here

She put her hand to her lips. Bookmark here

“Nope!”Bookmark here

“…”Bookmark here

Wow.Bookmark here

I felt disappointed watching her excitedly pen down “Erica Park (with a heart over the ‘i’)” onto her A4 sheet.Bookmark here

Holy shit, I just doxxed Erica for nothing.Bookmark here

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I turned around. The girl was still looking out of the window.Bookmark here

A few minutes of waiting nervously later, Ms. Emi placed a tablet that was at least 50 centimetres wide on my table. Once she saw that I’d successfully logged in, she wished me a perfunctory “good luck” and pushed her cart towards the lesbian that sat behind me.Bookmark here

[Neural scan complete. Vitals GREEN, Stress YELLOW.]Bookmark here

[Take a deep breath. Welcome back, TXXXX353J.]Bookmark here

Racist tablet.Bookmark here

Anyway, just like Ms. Emi said it would, a long list of instructions popped up on my screen.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Diagnostic Test: Mathematics IBookmark here

This diagnostic test takes the form of a normal examination. Do not purposefully attempt to communicate with or distract other students during the test; doing so will result in automatic failure. Bookmark here

You have 40 minutes to complete the paper.Bookmark here

No form of calculator or graphing aid may be used. They will not be necessary to attempt any of the questions.Bookmark here

The number of marks given for each question is denoted in square brackets [ ]. There are 40 marks given in total.Bookmark here

The questions in the diagnostic test are scaled to your relevant Affinities. If you find that the questions are too difficult, you may request a new set of questions by physically turning over your device. No additional time will be given if questions are reset in this way.Bookmark here

If you wish to use the washroom at any point, you will be required to physically turn over your device before leaving the room.Bookmark here

The examination will begin when all students have read and acknowledged this message. Press the “READY” button when you have done so.Bookmark here

Ready Check: 38/40 students. Bookmark here

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Aside from the third-to-last paragraph regarding the question resetting and Affinities, it seemed like a regular Math test. That wasn’t good. From what I’d gathered so far of this luxurious school and its inhabitants, then there was some kind of catch to everything, and being unaware of those catches put you at a significant disadvantage. Or maybe I was just being paranoid. Math exams are normal and part of the ideal Asian school life, after all, even if the exam was coming from an institution that outright stated they didn’t teach Math.Bookmark here

Okay, whatever. The last time I thought this hard about school, I ended up needing to get jabbed in the neck. Grow, study, make friends. That’s all there was to this place.Bookmark here

After taking a few deep breaths, I took out the stylus pen from the side of the tablet and clicked on the ready button. I didn’t actually feel that way, obviously. It flicked over to 39/40. Then, after hearing a click of a screen from the seat behind mine, a countdown began.Bookmark here

3.Bookmark here

2.Bookmark here

1.Bookmark here

Information capture starting…Bookmark here

At 0, a PDF document popped up on one half of the screen, while a blank piece of writing software appeared on the other. In the corner was a timer counting down from 40:00.Bookmark here

39:59.Bookmark here

39:58.Bookmark here

First things first, I tentatively attempted writing and erasing some stuff on the screen with my stylus. Darren Chong. T4113353J. Once I confirmed it was as smooth as writing on hardcopy, I shoved the foolscap pad I’d received from Boobies under my table and began reading the questions on the PDF.Bookmark here

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QUESTION 1: Zeckendorf’s Theorem states that every positive integer can be represented by the sum of non-consecutive Fibonacci numbers. Write 400 as the sum of non-consecutive Fibonacci numbers, and using a suitable method of presentation, hence prove Zeckendorf’s Theorem. [8 marks]Bookmark here

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Haha. Schmeckledorf.Bookmark here

I contemplated flipping the tablet over then and there, but out of curiosity decided to take a look at the next few questions before resetting it.Bookmark here

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QUESTION 2: Obtain a four-term Taylor polynomial approximation valid near x = 0 for each of the following:Bookmark here

a. sin(2x) [4 marks]Bookmark here

b. ln(1+3x) [4 marks]Bookmark here

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This one was objectively impossible. I didn’t even know what a Taylor polynomial was.Bookmark here

Questions 3, 4, and 5 were basically the same. Some were word salads that made sense individually but became mush the moment I tried to think harder about them — like Zeckendorf — while others required me to use formulas I’d never even heard of. If my gut was right, these questions were designed to be impossible for high schoolers.Bookmark here

It’s okay. That was the point, right? Getting people to flip their tablets.Bookmark here

I scanned the room to see if other students were going through the same thing. Just as expected, almost everyone was resetting their papers. Marie had her signature “divorcing parents” look on her face, whilst Bryan kept scratching his crotch over and over like he had crabs. This was good. This meant I wasn’t dumb.Bookmark here

But was resetting the questions really the right approach?Bookmark here

I decided to wait for the student behind me to act given how loudly she was tapping on the floor, and soon enough, she did. Erica raised her hand and signalled for Ms. Emi to attend to her.Bookmark here

“Madam, may I have the formula booklet for this exam?” Erica asked.Bookmark here

Ms. Emi’s reply was curt. “There is no formula booklet necessary.”Bookmark here

“But—”Bookmark here

“If the questions are too difficult, simply reset the paper. That is all.” And then she walked away.Bookmark here

37:51.Bookmark here

Get dicked on, I thought. But after basking in Erica’s suffering for a bit, I realised I was the one getting dicked.Bookmark here

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QUESTION 1: Two chipmunks, Alvin and Theodore, have collected 1999 acorns for the winter. Alvin numbers the acorns from 1 through 1999, and digs 1999 little holes in a circular pattern in the ground around their favourite tree. The next morning, Theodore decides to reorder the acorns by performing a sequence of 1999 moves. On the n-th move, Theodore swaps the positions of the two acorns adjacent to acorn n. Prove that there exists a value of n such that, on the n-th move, Theodore swaps some acorns a and b such that a < n < b. [8 marks]Bookmark here

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I roughly understood everything until n came in, and then I didn’t. I also had a strong suspicion Alvin and Theodore needed to go fuck themselves.Bookmark here

I wasn’t about to facilitate gay chipmunk sex, so I flipped the tablet over again.Bookmark here

37:12.Bookmark here

I still wasn’t worried at this point, but upon receiving the third set of questions I realised the difficulty of the questions had basically gone unchanged. They were still word salads or incomprehensible formulas. Maybe I was just overestimating their difficulty for some reason, so I forced myself to attempt one of the easier looking problems. No dice. Aside from copying the question onto the right side, I couldn’t make any progress. I flipped again, and again, and again, and again. By the 8th flip or so, I realised no other student was flipping their tablets aside from me.Bookmark here

What the hell?Bookmark here

33:01.Bookmark here

I glanced at the timer. I’d wasted 7 minutes doing nothing. Meanwhile, Marie was writing away diligently, and even the self-proclaimed idiot Bryan was coasting based on his body language. Are they just grinding away at impossible problems? I glanced over at Marie’s tablet for an answer, but what I saw just confused me even further.Bookmark here

How is her paper so fucking easy?!Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.