Chapter 1:

New Beginnings

My School Life is Rife with Strife


This is a story about school life.

No, seriously. If the title hadn’t given it away, then I honestly don’t know what to say. In any case, despite my reluctance, I ended up agreeing to Shu Bai Chun’s request.

“So you’ll let me come back to life, and I’ll protect your granddaughter from strife?”

“Essentially, yes.”

“What happens once we graduate? Do I die and return here late?”

“Nope. You get to live your life however you want to.”

That sucked. I was really hoping I wouldn’t be mired in misery after my little mission, but then again, I could always take my life after I graduated. Yay for being pro-choice.

And so, I found myself waking up in my own bed. Blinking and staring at the ceiling, my vision all blurry, I sat up and fumbled for my glasses on my bedside desk. Putting them on, I was relieved when my eyesight sharpened once more. Glancing at my smartphone, I checked the date.

February 7th 2022. A week before my accident.

The bastards didn’t just resurrect me. They sent me back in time. Holy f. This was a chance for me to redo everything…avoid the confession on Valentine’s Day and the embarrassment that followed. I had thought that by giving flowers and chocolate to my crush, I would be able to win her heart.

The only thing I won was the award for being the biggest idiot in Chong Hua High.

Sometimes I wished we followed Japanese culture and have the girls give chocolates to the guys they like on Valentine’s Day. That way, I would have gotten the hint that Shen Ai Qing didn’t like me when she didn’t give me any chocolates (even the obligation ones). Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it worked, and I took a big gamble. Only to lose big time.

Well, lesson learned. I wasn’t stupid enough to do the exact same thing this time. If I did, then I deserved to be run over by a truck for a second time, but I doubted Shu Bai Chun would be happy about that.

“Hell, yeah!”

Being the greedy and calculative bastard that I was, I had managed to wrangle a deal from Shu Bai Chun. When he heard that I suffered an embarrassing death after I screwed up on Valentine’s Day, he had offered to send me back in time.

“It’s a chance for you to redo your school life,” he had explained. “Take this opportunity to make friends and become popular.”

Making friends and becoming popular appealed largely to me, especially after I self-destructed in such a humiliating manner. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to redo one’s life and correct one’s mistakes? This time, I vowed not to commit the same errors. My new goal was to make as many friends as possible and to avoid the same shameful demise that I suffered in my first time around.

Still, I didn’t expect Yan Luo Wang to really pull it off and send me back in time. The underworld was clearly capable of miracles.

Too bad they didn’t possess a miracle that could send me to another fantasy world. Then I could avoid going back to school. Knowing my luck, though, I would end up in some magic academy on that fantasy world, anyway.

Seemed like all teenagers across the multiverse were doomed to go to school, no matter what. The horror.

“Cong, get up!” Dad called from outside my room, knocking on my door. “If you don’t hurry, you’ll be late for school!”

“I’m sorry! Don’t worry! I’ll be up!” Suppressing the desire to cheer gleefully, I jumped out of bed and headed to the bathroom. Washing up, I then headed to the dining room for breakfast. Dad and mom were giving me strange stares when I hugged them.

“What’s this, all of a sudden?”

“Nothing, just a bad dream. I’m better than I seem.”

“It’s just a dream,” dad assured me with a smile. He ruffled my head. “Don’t worry. With us around, nothing will happen to you.”

If only he knew. If only he knew…

“Speaking of which,” Dad said with a frown as glanced at his smartphone. “Be careful. I heard that there is a disappearance of a female student at your school, so make sure you come home early. Don’t stay out too late.”

That was…strange. I didn’t recall any disappearance of any female student during the week before I died. Where did that come from?

Nonetheless, I shrugged. “Don’t worry, I’m not a girl. I’ll chase them off with a whirl.”

“That’s not the point.” Dad gave me a stern stare. “Just be careful, Cong.”

“All right.”

For now, I relented, but I resolved to find out about this new incident. It might be related to Shu Bai Chun’s granddaughter and whatever he wanted me to protect her from. Though I wondered how I was supposed to fight ghosts. Hopefully, my fighting spirit would suffice.

After breakfast, I changed to my uniform. Stopping in front of my wardrobe, I stared balefully at the stylish brown jacket, white shirt and gray pants. I dreaded putting it back on, for it meant I would have to leave the house and walk to school.

And I really, really didn’t want to return to school. Not after what happened in what was previously the future. It hadn’t happened yet, but the embarrassing memories remained. I couldn’t help but feel traumatized.

“Damn it.”

Taking a deep breath, I steeled my resolve and reached for my uniform. Reminding myself that this was my chance to redo, I began planning Operation Friendship.

*

Once again, I reiterate.

This is a story about school life.

In other words, my going to Chong Hua High School was inevitable. It was only a matter of time. So I might as well get it done and over with.

Stopping outside the gates leading to hell…uh, school, I glanced up and shook my head. Even though I didn’t expect anything different, I was still taken aback by how Chong Hua High resembled the same academy I remembered before I died. It made no sense whatsoever, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I had spent what seemed like an eternity in the underworld, so there was a strange sense of déjà vu.

“Ugh…”

Exhaling, I forced myself to enter. That chilling premonition intensified, causing me to look around like a fuzzy…I mean, frightened, rabid bunny. My ears would have stood up if they were long, but I was no rabbit.

I just had bad habits.

I trudged to my classroom, led more by muscle memory than active will. In some corner of my heart, I was relieved that nothing had changed. My schoolmates passed by, excitedly chattering to each other. I barely registered their words, but I could tell that they were the usual conversation topics that dominated teenage life. Latest television shows, the most popular idols, sports teams and games.

Despite my desire to join their conversations, I recalled my mission. The whole reason why I was allowed to redo my life was because, in exchange, I agreed to protect a schoolmate. I wasn’t very familiar with her, but I had best find out more. For an unintelligent person like me, gathering intelligence was vital.

“Where did Shu Bai Chun say his granddaughter was again?”

On my way to my classroom, I stopped by the classroom belonging to Shu Hong Qiu. Peering through the windows that lined the walls of the corridor, I caught sight of her. She was as her grandfather had described, an elegant beauty with long, flowing red hair, sparkling green eyes, jade-white skin and a dignified demeanor.

His words, not mine. I swear, the old man read too many cultivation novels or something. Jade-white skin? Really? Who the hell used that to describe a girl’s skin color these days? Honestly, I was more worried about Shu Hong Qiu’s health when I saw that she was really that pale. She looked like a ghost.

No wonder she was being haunted. The ghost around her probably thought she was one of its own.

I couldn’t deny that she was beautiful, though. Speaking of which, I still remembered Shu Bai Chun’s warning in my head, as clear as day.

“If you have any funny ideas about my granddaughter, I’ll personally leave hell during the seventh month and drag you back in myself.”

Excellent. That gave me about four to five months to enjoy my high school romance with her before I had to return to being dead. Yay. Apparently, even if the dead couldn’t communicate with the living, they could still haunt and kill them. Which was why I was sent back in the first place.

“Hey, Ming Cong! Are you looking at girls again? Let me join in!”

I turned at the familiar voice. Yun Shan waved at me, striding forward in a confident manner. Honey brown eyes gleamed and well-toned muscles uncoiled like a predator. Even before my death, I knew Yun Shan pretty well. The number one star in the basketball team. Towering over me at 1.8 meters. Boisterous, strong and loud. Stylish short hair, with bangs hanging over a strong, handsome face. Super popular with the girls. Earned the title of “Campus Prince.”

To the guys, however, she was known as the tyrannical tomboy.

She slapped me in the back so hard that I was almost sent sprawling across the floor. I glared up at her as I gingerly rubbed the bruise that was spreading across my shoulder.

“No.”

“Oh, excellent choice!” Yun Shan gushed as she shoved me away to peer through the window anyway. Jerk. She grinned and winked at me. “You have great taste!”

…as if I needed her approval.

Also, she had misunderstood everything. Not that I was going to explain. She would never believe the truth.

“Not only is she the daughter and heiress to the Shu Corporation, a multibillionaire electronics company, she’s also the most beautiful girl in school! She counts among the four school flowers, the Red Rose. As her name suggests, she might be elegant and beautiful, but she has pretty sharp thorns. All the guys who had confessed to her so far have been shot down without exception. You chose a super difficult target, buddy.”

Yun Shan frowned.

“I thought you like Shen Ai Qing, the Green Carnation? What’s this? You moved on so quickly already?”

I cringed at that. Another reason why I dreaded returning to school. In my past life, I had proclaimed my…uh, undying love for Shen Ai Qing. Of course, that love ended the day I died…quite literally, I might add. I had wanted to dig a hole and disappear underground forever, but I guess getting hit by a truck was not a bad alternative.

“Don’t misunderstand,” I said with all the dignity I could muster, though I knew I wasn’t fooling anyone. Yun Shan simply looked amused, so I sighed and struggled to think of an excuse. “Her late grandfather asked me for a favor, and I was trying hard to be her savior.”

“Shu Hong Qiu’s grandfather? Isn’t he supposed to be long dead?” Yun Shan raised an eyebrow skeptically. “What sort of favor?”

I knew she wouldn’t believe me.

“Nothing big. Just to pass on a message to her.”

“Why would he ask you? No offense, but it’s not like you have any links to the Shu family.”

“He appeared to me in a dream,” I replied seriously. Yun Shan stared at me for a moment before she burst out laughing. Delivering another slap that knocked me over, she shook her head in disbelief.

“You really are desperate, aren’t you?”

“No, I really…” I sighed and shook my head. Why was I even bothering to explain all of this to her? “Never mind, she might want to scream.”

“I’ll help you out a little.” Yun Shan winked suggestively. She nodded toward Shu Hong Qiu. “Shu Hong Qiu is the top student in mathematics.”

“No wonder she’s so calculating,” I muttered under my breath. Yun Shan stared at me, and I smiled weakly in response. “Doesn’t that, uh, count as a compliment?”

Choosing to ignore me, Yun Shan continued by jabbing a finger in my chest.

“Aren’t you good at math too? I remember you were among the top five scorers in our class for the last math exam. Since you have that in common with her, you should use that to your advantage.”

Right. A date where Shu Hong Qiu and I traded equations and swapped formulae while poring over past year papers. How romantic.

But since Yun Shan was providing me love advice out of goodwill, I didn’t have the heart to brush her off. Besides, my goal during this redo was to make friends and prevent my being ostracized this time around. There was no reason why I shouldn’t start by befriending Yun Shan. I regretted not socializing with her more in my previous life. Time to fix that. So I nodded.

“I’ll think about it,” I said. “Thank you for the tip.”

Fortunately, I didn’t have to hit the panic button just yet. I figured I should just color my approach appropriately and pray that Shu Hong Qiu didn’t see red.

Otherwise, come the seventh month, there would be hell to pay.