Chapter 24:

Week of exams

The Day I Forgot About You

On the following day, Neo pondered over what Len had asked. Why was he interested in Neo's feelings for Saya? He looked underneath the bunk bed, trying to find the boy, but the bed was empty. Where had he gone? He wasn't on the bunk bed the day before either. The week of exams began, and the students' tension escalated even further. The worry and heavy atmosphere in the hallways were noticeable.

Neo, on the other hand, didn't feel that tension at all, he found it foolish. He understood that life was defined by such things, but being afraid or nervous would hinder more than help. So, he focused on the fact that he had studied and would respond based on what he knew.

The first test of the day was math. The entire class was gloomy when they received the test. As Neo answered the questions and did the calculations, he didn't see the horror that the other students did. He enjoyed talking to Professor Ântonio and took the opportunity to clarify doubts with him whenever he could. He also liked math a lot. Thus, numbers and calculations were fun for him.

During the next few days, Len was never present when Neo was awake, which increased curiosity about his whereabouts. Despite this, Len always get on time in class. The rest of the week was a repetition of the first day, except for Saya giving some treats to Neo since he was injured and his reaction to each test:

Tuesday: Biology and Geography. 

For the former, he struggled to recall some flower names and biological processes, and for the latter, he always confused it with history, which was a significant issue since the subjects weren't similar in practice.

Wednesday: English and Physics. 

What a terrifying combination. Neo truly struggled on that day. Despite physics resembling math, it wasn't the same, and it confused him greatly. He only fared better in English due to Saya's help as his mind was filled with her explanations.

Thursday: Portuguese and Philosophy/Sociology. 

Two subjects that were easy for Neo. He had a certain ease with Portuguese, and the other subject was always on his mind, haunting him, so he knew it well.

Friday: History and Chemistry. 

Neo found history very interesting. While he struggled with exact dates, he could follow a logical sequence easily. On the other hand, chemistry was easier when it involved more numbers than words, but that wasn't the case on that day.

And so, the week of exams ended. Neo's twisted ankle had healed, so he went to the doctor to have the cast removed right after school. He returned to the dormitory exhausted, just lay down on his bed, and fell asleep.

Saturday was so warm. He woke up early, considering he had slept early too. He felt as if it were a miracle and a relief to have nothing to do during the day. Nevertheless, he was excited.

He got up, undressed, and went straight into the shower to refresh himself and shake off the sleepiness. He emerged from the shower in just a towel, it had been refreshing. Neo was startled when he saw Len sitting on the bed, looking at him.

"It seems like you finally woke up. You could at least finish getting dressed before leaving the bathroom," Len commented.

Neo looked at him annoyed. "I've been living here alone for quite a while, so I'm not used to having someone else around."

Len was taken aback by that statement and continued arranging his things. Neo changed his clothes in the bathroom and, when he returned, he couldn't help but ask, "What are you doing here? I never see you when I wake up."

"Well, you always sleep too much. You're like a cat with how much you sleep," Len replied.

Neo chuckled, thinking of himself as a cat. "You might be right about that." He then pondered over the week. "And how did you do on the exams?"

"Very well."

Neo doubted the response, it didn't make sense. "Even though you weren't at school?"

"I have my ways," Len said confidently.

"It sure seems that way," Neo replied, still suspicious of the answer.

"And you?"

"I hope so," Neo said, remembering that he hadn't done well on some tests.

Len finished getting ready, stood up, and went to the door. "Now I have to go. We'll talk later."

Len left, and Neo remained behind, sitting on the sofa, contemplating what he would do that Saturday. He hadn't planned anything. The silence grew, and his curiosity took over.

"Where was Len going every day so early?"

With that, Neo left the dormitory and began following Len.

Len walked for a long time, to the point of leaving the city. He entered a trail and climbed up to the highest point of the mountain until he reached a clearing with a small house.

Neo continued observing as Len left what he was carrying inside the house and then assumed a fighting stance, performing sequences of strikes in the air. The boy was focused and practiced various different forms. It was evident he had been doing this for a long time, as his movements were swift and precise. He suddenly stopped after a while.

"Now that you've seen my secret, I think it's only fair for you to tell me yours, Neo..."

Seeing that the words were directed at him, Neo emerged from his hiding spot and appeared in front of Len. "I'm sorry for following you and watching you. I was curious."

"Well... I don't mind that you saw. But, it's good because now you can tell me about yourself."

"That's fine... seems fair," Neo hesitated for a moment out of embarrassment, then took a deep breath. "I'm in love with Saya, if that's what you wanted to know."

Len looked at him without changing his expression.

"You don't seem surprised," Neo said, puzzled.

"Because it was obvious, though I wanted to hear it from you."

"Why? If you already knew, I didn't need to say anything," Neo replied irritably.

"Well, you talking about it proves that you trust me. But the secret I want to ask you about is something else."

"What other secret? As far as I know, that's the most important thing."

"Who is Mia?"

That name caused a certain pang in Neo, he felt a shiver down his spine, but can't remember who was. "I don't know. Why?"

Len wasn't convinced by the response. "You're not lying, are you?"

"Of course not."

"You don't seem like you're lying. It's a name you said while you were sleeping."

Neo asked, "Why are you so interested in knowing about me? This is strange."

"I'd like to be your friend."

"You want to be my friend? How can I trust you?"

"What would be a proof of trust for you?"

He thought for a moment, trying to find a way for Len to demonstrate trustworthiness, but he couldn't think of anything. "I don't think there's something that proves trust. It's something you build over time through small actions."

Len smiled, seeing that he was right. "That's true."

Neo surprised him by suggesting something else. "But since you insist on something, would you let me punch your face? If you let me do it without reacting, that would prove to me that you're somewhat trustworthy."

Len was slightly uncomfortable with the idea, but he still agreed. "Fine. If that's what it takes to prove something to you..."

The boy assumed a fighting stance but remained still. Surprised that Len had actually agreed, Neo prepared to throw the punch, looked into Len's eyes, measured the distance, clenched his fist with all his strength, and pulled it back. "Alright, hold still."

Len nodded, and Neo continued gazing into his eyes, which remained calm. However, that didn't stop Neo, he swung the punch with all his might, aiming at Len's face. Neo's fist came dangerously close, but it didn't hit. Nonetheless, Len didn't react, and Neo's open hand brushed against his face. "Powwww!"

Len had a puzzled expression. "Aren't you going to punch me?" he asked.

"Like I said, that wouldn't prove anything. But the fact that you didn't even flinch and remained calm the whole time, that's enough for me."

"I see... so... are we friends?" Len asked, wanting confirmation.

"We are... But I have to warn you, if you betray my trust, then you really will get a punch in the face."

Len was impressed.

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