Chapter 11:

Ideal School Life (END)

Gifted Education Project (GEP)

[The time for the diagnostic test has elapsed. Your information has been saved and sent for evaluation. If you opted to write on hardcopy, the invigilator will now proceed to collect your answer sheet.]

When that message appeared on my screen, I heard a collective groan escape Classroom 1-A. Within seconds, the groans turned into chatter, and then the chatter turned into complaining about how difficult the exam was.

Hearing that reaction felt much more gratifying than it should have. Not because I took pride in doing better than others, but because the girl behind me was a significant part of that noise. Her suffering made all the effort I put into the exam worth it.

“…This is disgusting.”

She kept muttering that phrase over and over like it was a “men are trash” mantra. I felt zero sympathy. Whether or not it was petty to feel this way, I didn’t care — all I knew was that she deserved some sort of comeuppance for behaving the way she did.

My spine sends its regards.

Regrettably, before I could turn around and start “discussing” the paper to really drive the point home, Ms. Emi began to yell out instructions from the teacher’s desk.

“DO NOT MOVE.” Her voice was thick with faux-authority. “There will be a mandatory cooling down period for the next five minutes. No exceptions will be given. Go use your phones or sleep, but refrain from physically speaking to other students or leaving your seat. Anyone who breaks this rule will be severely dealt with.”

It felt like an excessive amount of precaution for a written test, but then again, it’s not like you were allowed to immediately talk after a regular exam anyway. I decided to put my gloating to Erica on hold. Instead, I watched as Sakura Emi walked around the classroom collecting the hardcopy scripts, idly fantasising about how I’d—


Bryan turned around from his seat.

“You must be feeling quite confident.”

He made no effort to whisper.

“Um, didn’t Ms. Emi just say we weren’t supposed to—”

“She also said not to talk during the exam.”

He smiled.


“…I’m sorry, what?”

“Oi, Bryan Koh. Listen to my fucking—”

“Sorry, sorry,” Bryan interrupted Ms. Emi in the most sarcastic way possible. “The air was just feeling a bit thin. I’ll go cool down now.”

He turned around again as if nothing happened. So did Sakura Emi. I guess she was in the business of making threats and not carrying through with them, since she evidently didn’t “deal with” Bryan whatsoever. I also wasn’t sure what he meant by the air being “thin”, but I guess jocks say idiotic shit like malapropisms when they’re in heat over a girl.


White knighting asshole.

Marie evidently thought the same thing, because a slip of paper landed on my desk.

Darren!! That test was so hard. I got completely stuck on my first question, and then

What’s up with your friend?

I scribbled something without thinking and sent the paper back.

Her reply was quick.

Sorry. OK, I won’t talk about him. What about you?

I’m fine, I guess.

You sure?

Yeah. Thanks for checking in, though. I appreciate it. By the way, how was the test?

It was okay. FYI, I text faster than I write. 91313340.

I looked at the note, then I looked at Marie. Then I looked at my crotch.


I whipped out my phone faster than I’d ever whipped out anything from my pants before. I was speed. I was the reaction observed between sodium metal and water forming a basic solution. I was an electron moving from the d-subshell to p-subshell. I was explosion. I was greeted by the following once I turned on my phone screen.

[User detected.]

[Neural scan complete. Vitals GREEN, Stress ORANGE. Device will be put into safe mode.]

I was premature.

Uh, there’s something wrong with my phone.

Marie looked puzzled by my note.

What do you mean?

It’s in safe mode or something. It looks like they disabled everything except the emergency functions... said my stress was orange. By the way, what the hell is the Hidden Camera app? Do you think it’s the same one they put in our asses? Hey, do you think I could check the inside of my asshole with it? Do you ever get the urge to check your asshole?

Off-topic, but your handwriting is so neat. I love it.


Sorry, I just thought I’d change the subject.


(a drawing of a cute bunny goes here)


I can’t draw.

Okay. She was acting weird. Evidently, “ORANGE” was some kind of trigger word to the students here I hadn’t figured out yet… or maybe Marie was just the type to swerve conversations away from serious topics. Whatever it was, figuring out that mystery needed to take a backseat for a moment, because Sakura Emi had arrived at Bryan’s desk in the meantime.

Apparently, he’d written on hardcopy.

“Papers, please.”

I was more interested in this exchange than my own. Marie evidently agreed, since she was watching attentively as well.

“Mm, I lost the papers.”

“…They’re right there, Bryan.”

A stack of papers were jutting out from the underside of his desk. Trigonometric equations to the tune of sines and tangents were scribbled all over.

“Can I just not hand them up?”

“…Are you sure? I can see you’ve attempted three questions. Even if you get them all wrong in the end, you’ll still get marks for working.”

“Mm…” Bryan put his head on his desk and faced the window. “No, I’m pretty sure. Thank you, though.”

“Suit yourself.”

At first, Sakura Emi shrugged and walked away, but she went back to Bryan once she checked something at the teacher’s desk.

“I’m sorry, but after taking a look at the procedure I realise it states clearly I’m not allowed to let you keep anything from the exam room. So go ahead and hand in your script.”

“Why? Just give me a zero for the Math portion. I mean, the Math portion and the diagnosis obviously aren’t the same.”

“Bryan, don’t be recalcitrant.”

As Ms. Emi said those words, another slip of paper arrived at my desk. Now I had two notes from Marie.

Sorry for bringing this up again… but seriously, what’s up with your friend acquaintance? Why is he being so dramatic?

“If you want to keep your written response that badly, fine. But you’ll have to deface it so what you wrote during the exam isn’t legible. Put your paper on the table and cancel over everything you’ve written, then let me verify.”

“But what’s the point? Who made these rules?”

“Listen. Rules are rules. Even if you think they’re pointless, they’ve been set for a reason. It’s in your best interests as a student not to question them and simply follow procedure.”

Bryan shot out of his seat. His frame towered over Sakura Emi’s.

“Don’t talk like you’re a legitimate teacher. Please.”

What the fuck was this dude going on about?

I wanted to intervene by asking that exact question. I think most people watching did, honestly — but the difference between genuine kindness and simply craving drama is that a saint doesn’t pause to think about their own self-interests.

“What the heck is your problem?!” Marie burst out of her seat, sending her chair grinding against the floor. “Don’t you realise you’re being unnecessarily rude and dramatic? What has Sakura-chan done to you except ask for your exam script? Huh? You think it’s cool to just start getting angry at everyone because you did badly on an exam? Guess what, I did badly too! Most of us did! Now be a man and apologise to Sakura-chan, you big idiot!”


Bryan versus Boobies versus someone who used “Sakura-chan” unironically.

A retarded Mexican standoff.

Beneath this veneer of comedy, though, I could see Sakura Emi brandishing a syringe by her abdomen, spinning it around her fingertips like it were a balisong knife. She wanted to stab somebody. Marie and Bryan didn’t notice because they were up in each other’s faces — Marie craning her neck at an obtuse angle, Bryan looking like he was about to commit murder, Sakura Emi considering the possibility of delivering an involuntary chemical injection for the second and third time in a day. If I wasn’t wrong, one of the potential side effects from sudden sedation was death.

I needed to act if I wanted to defuse the situation. If I didn’t care about Bryan, which I wanted desperately to believe, then at the very least do something for Marie’s sake. Or so that Sakura Emi wouldn’t have to endanger herself in a scuffle, maybe.

Most of all, I just wanted to prove I could be selfless if it ever came down to it.

But of course, I hesitated.


A familiar voice rang out from behind me.

“You’re all being pathetic for no reason.”

I watched as Sakura Emi slipped the syringe back into obscurity, then turned to see an absurdly beautiful girl tearing sheets of paper like they were petals on an orchid.

“As a disclaimer: I took all the questions at face value. I diligently wrote my answers on these papers for 40 minutes. If I can do that, blondie, so can you.”

The scraps fell like bruised leaves, swaying as they danced to the floor.


Bryan sat back down.

“I apologise for being rude, Ms. Emi. Please take my script. I also accept any punishment that you think is necessary.”

He made no effort to address Marie.

“…Idiotic bully.”

The pink-haired girl huffed and puffed back into her seat.

The blonde teacher went back to the front.

It was like nothing ever happened: just pent-up emotions from a hectic day at Asia’s top pre-university educational institution. Standard fare.

“Sorry for that bit of drama, Group A. Back to business. Everyone, the cooldown period is over — I’ll now be sending the results of the Math test to your tablets, minus the three students who opted for hardcopy. For you three… two, actually, you will receive your results at roughly 1pm at the start of the next lunch break.”

Still, one question was on my mind.

I had no idea what was going on.

What Bryan and Emi were arguing about, how Erica and Bryan had known each other beforehand, why he was angry, what she was rebelling against — I didn’t know. I’d purposefully tried not to figure it out.

I’d purposefully attempted nothing of information-gathering.

“I’ll also be sending the results of the diagnostic test to your tablets. All of you Group A students — including those who submitted in hardcopy — will be receiving a document including the results of every student ranked from 1st to 40th.”

A passive form of acceptance.

Unfortunately, when you see something as absurd as the next document… it’s hard to remain lazy.


Dear TXXXX353J, the following is a summarised excerpt of the Diagnostic Test 1 rubric. The purpose of this information is to provide the necessary context for understanding the rankings within your Group. Some information has been omitted in order to protect the interests of the school. However, do note that this information is not necessary to interpret the Group rankings.


Aim: To measure the examinee’s current ability in various Affinity subcategories dealing with stress.

Scenario: Examinees will be given a set of impossible questions relative to their knowledge of Mathematics. It will be immediately apparent to the examinee that the questions are impossible to solve. Examinees will be given the opportunity to request new questions, but this function will not reduce the exam’s difficulty until the student’s stress level returns to normal. “Normal” is defined as the student’s stress level as measured while they were reading the examination’s instructions. [Redacted: mechanisms used to measure and define stress levels.]

Every two (2) minutes, the oxygen level in the examination room will be reduced by a predetermined concentration [redacted: scientific jargon]. The temperature will also be increased by 0.5°C simultaneously. The lowest oxygen and highest temperature levels will be present from the 30 to 40 minute mark of the paper. If there are a lack of students exhibiting increased stress levels from these measures, the invigilator is allowed to release carbon monoxide into the room not exceeding a concentration of [redacted] starting at the 15 minute mark. Invigilators are also to be as belligerent as possible towards examinees in order to elicit external indicators of stress.

Passing Criteria: The student successfully requests a set of reduced difficulty questions with a timing no greater than 40:00.

Ranking Criteria: The amount of time taken for a student to request reduced difficulty questions. There are five (5) bonus considerations:

1. Logical approach. If the examinee’s drop in stress is related to an attempt of figuring out the examination’s “hidden logic”, a -5:00 bonus will be applied. [Redacted: mechanism used to determine this.]

2. External indicators of stress. If an examinee does not display external indicators of stress, such as but not limited to: unnatural movements, excessive sweating, outbursts, etc., a -5:00 bonus will be applied. [Redacted: mechanism used to determine this.]

3. Return to GREEN. If the examinee’s drop in stress results in a “GREEN” stress measurement, a -5:00 bonus will be applied. [Redacted: mechanism used to determine this.]

4. Giving up. If the examinee’s drop in stress is caused by accepting the exam as impossible, a +20:00 penalty will be applied. [Redacted: mechanism used to determine this.]

5. Perfect score. If the examinee fulfils bonus considerations 1 to 3, and their final timing is below 0:00, it will be reflected as PERFECT in the rankings.

Rewards: Points will be applied and penalised according to the following table:

1. Perfect: +200

2. Top 10*: +100

3. 11th-30th: N/A

4. Bottom 10: -100

5. Failure**: -200

*Students with a timing of greater than 20:00 are not eligible for Points rewards. The reward for placing Top 10 does not stack additively with the Perfect reward.

**The penalty for failure stacks additively with other Point penalties.


1. KOH, Pei Jie Bryan [PERFECT]

2. NGUYEN, Abel [8:42]

3. CHONG, Darren Yong Yi [11:17]

4. (...)

5. (...)

6. (...)

7. (...)

8. (...)

9. (...)

19. LEE, Marie-Anne Min Yi [27:28]

20. CHIA, Janice Catherine [27:59]

21. NGUYEN, Giselle [31:18]

22. (...)

23. (...)

38. KHOO, Rui Min Michelle [55:31]

39. WANG, Shao Wen [57:22]

40. PARK, Jiwoo [N/A]

Total Failures: 18

Average (Mean) Timing: 35:52


Gifted Education Project Database

Batch 8

(Updated on 6 November 2056)

Name: Marie-Anne Lee Min Yi

Sex: Female

NRIC: T4171633A

Class: TBD

Mode of Entry: National Test

Conscripted: No

Affinity Distribution:

Memory: 87 (A) [9th out of 240]

Kinetic: 68 (B) [72nd out of 240]

Logic: 66 (B) [76th out of 240]

Mentality: 58 (C) [101st out of 240]

Interpersonal: 92 (S) [4th out of 240]

Creative: 51 (C) [118th out of 240]

Aesthetics: 77 (A) [25th out of 240]

Combat: 40 (D) [189th out of 240]

Overall: 67.375 (B) [70th percentile within Batch 8]

Israeli Kaiser
Pope Evaristus