Qiao Nan took a deep breath and then raised her hand.
"What is the matter?" The invigilator walked to Qiao Nan's side.
"Teacher, I brought three pens, they are all broken and I can't write with them. Can I borrow a pen?"
"Well… "said the teacher awkwardly. "I only have a red pen. Does anyone have a spare pen to lend?"
Faced with the invigilator's question, the exam hall was silent, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was busy writing their essay and nobody answered. Some students even secretly hid their spare pens in case the invigilator asked.
Seated in the same exam hall but only a few would be winners, everybody was a competitor, who would lend their spare pen?
At least in this exam hall, nobody was willing to.
"Well… " said the invigilator, faced with this situation, the invigilator was at a loss of what to do. He had to invigilate and could not leave, if the other students were not willing to lend, he could not force them to lend either.
Qiao Nan took a deep breath, pursed her lips and said, "Teacher, if there is no other way, could you lend me your red pen?"
"That will not do, this essay's rules state clearly that it must be written in blue or black ink, red ink will not do," replied the teacher sympathetically. The teacher pitied Qiao Nan for being so unlucky, she could not participate in the competition she did not have a pen.
Qiao Nan's eyes started to well up. She had not thought of participating earlier but now that she was here at the competition, she was faced the possibility of giving up because she did not have a usable pen. Qiao Nan was very unhappy and unwilling.
Most importantly, she had prepared three pens, there was a new one and the rest were her usual pens.
The pens were clearly still working last night yet it was broken today. If somebody had told her it was a coincidence, she would never believe it. Somebody must have plotted against her!
"Teacher Zhou, what is the matter?" A voice came from the few people standing outside the classroom.
"Principal." Teacher Zhou spotted an old man and hurriedly walked over. Teacher Zhou explained, "That student's pens are all broken and other students do not have spare pens to lend. At this rate, she will not be able to participate."
The old principal paused before continuing, "Oh my, the children these days. Whilst academic results are important, moral education should also not be neglected."
"Use mine." Zhai Sheng said rather nonchalantly before taking out a pen. Zhai Sheng had his eyes fixed on Qiao Nan and he noticed her sweating profusely due to the anxiety.
Today, Zhai Sheng had come to the school on behalf of his father and unexpectedly met Qiao Nan.
Even more surprisingly to Zhai Sheng, Qiao Nan seemed to be very unlucky. In the few times that he has met Qiao Nan, Qiao Nan was always in trouble.
However, Zhai Sheng looked at the students in the exam hall and his eyes were filled with disapproval.
"I thank you on behalf of that student." The Invigilator replied with a relief. He had really felt pity for Qiao Nan.
Looking at the attention given to Qiao Nan by other teachers earlier, the invigilator deduced that she must be a good student and her essay writing skills should be up to par too.
"Do not mention it."
"Here is the pen you wanted, use it quickly without further delay." The invigilator handed Zhai Sheng's pen over to Qiao Nan. The invigilator gently reminded Qiao Nan, "This is a fountain pen, pay extra care when you write. Wait for the ink to dry or else it will smudge when you put your hand over it."
"Thank you Teacher!" Qiao Nan's eyes lit up.
"Don't thank me. The pen was loaned to you from him. When you finished, remember to return it to him." The invigilator pointed to Zhai Sheng. This pen was quite heavy and had a good feel, it must be pretty expensive.
"Zhai Sheng?" Qiao Nan had spotted Zhai Sheng. "Okay, teacher, noted."
"Alright, make full use of your time, the other students have already written a lot." said the invigilator.
"Okay," replied Qiao Nan. She was already late by more than 10 minutes.
Fortunately, she had a draft in her mind, otherwise given the situation, she would not be able to continue writing.
Qiao Nan actually preferred writing with a fountain pen and coupled with the fact that Zhai Sheng's pen was of a high quality, it allowed Qiao Nan to write swiftly in tandem with the ink flowing smoothly out from the nib of the pen. It was even faster than if Qiao Nan had used a ballpoint pen.
In no time at all, Qiao Nan had caught up with the progress of the other students.
Due to the pen incident, the invigilator paid extra attention to Qiao Nan and stood by Qiao Nan for a moment.
The invigilator saw that Qiao Nan had written so much in such a short period of time, his eyes lit up as he was taken aback. When he further read the contents, coupled with the elegant writing of the fountain pen, he was genuinely surprised.
Before the bell rang, Qiao Nan had already finished with her essay.
When it was time to exit the exam hall, some of the students had not finished and were making a scene.
Qiao Nan walked out relaxedly and wanted to find Zhai Sheng to return the pen.
Qiao Nan had only taken a few steps when Teacher Lee came up and asked, "Qiao Nan, how do you think you fared in the competition?"
Qiao Nan replied, "Similar to the usual."
"That's good," Teacher Lee said with a sigh of relief. If Qiao Nan was able to perform normally, she should at least be able to receive a third prize minimally.
"Qiao Nan, what are you doing here?" A voice rang out from behind Qiao Nan.
"I came to participate in the provincial composition competition." Qiao Nan turned around to face Qiao Zijin.
"You, you also came to participate?" Qiao Zijin stammered, somewhat shocked. She had never heard that Qiao Nan was participating.
"Hi Zijin, it's you. You also came here to participate?" Teacher Lee asked. Teacher Lee was somewhat shocked, Teacher Lee knew the standard of Qiao Zijin's essay. How was Qiao Zijin able to participate? Wasn't the school afraid of wasting a nomination slot?
There were merit points for winning a junior high school essay competition, and of course the same for a high school competition.
As such, the high school competition's nomination slots would be more keenly contested.
Qiao Zijin's words had coincided with Teacher Lee's. Qiao Nan smiled and replied, "I had heard from Father and Mother that you were participating but I did not expect us to be in the same school participating."
Qiao Zijin forced out a smile and said, "Such is fate. Nan Nan, how did you fare?"
"Not too bad," said Qiao Nan, who raised her eyebrows whilst noticing Qiao Zijin's increasing discomfort. She deduced in her mind that Qiao Zijin had not performed well in the competition, otherwise why was her face so pale?
"Alright, it is getting late, we should get going." Teacher Lee said whilst patting Qiao Nan's shoulder. Teacher Lee did not speak much to Qiao Zijin.
Qiao Nan followed Teacher Lee, nodded to Qiao Zijin and then simply left.
Once Qiao Nan had left, Qiao Zijin's face turned downcast and quickly went to find her classmates. Qiao Zijin asked, "I heard that for this competition, junior school students are also here, do you know what their essay question was?"
"I think it was the same as ours." The classmate replied before adding, "The teachers are too lazy, setting the same question for junior school and high school. They did not even make the effort to think up another question."
"Qiao Zijin, did you manage to finish your essay?" Qiao Zijin's Chinese teacher walked happily towards Qiao Zijin. The teacher added, "I read your previous essay, that would have been suitable and you need not think up a new essay. Did you use that essay for submission?"
Even the Chinese teacher was surprised by Qiao Zijin.
Qiao Zijin's normal performance was average but she did demonstrate a flair for writing when it came to essays.
Otherwise, how would Qiao Zijin be able to participate based on her academic results?
"It was submitted," Qiao Zijin replied dryly without a hint of happiness.
Only heaven knows that when Qiao Zijin saw the essay question, she was so happy that she wanted to let out a scream. The heavens were on her side!
She had not expected her luck to be so good. She had used Qiao Nan's essay for submission earlier and won the nomination slot for the competition. Even more unexpectedly, Qiao Nan's essay was also suitable for the exam question.
She could fully make use of one essay from Qiao Nan!
However, once Qiao Zijin saw Qiao Nan, the good mood dissipated.
Qiao Nan must be here to participate in the essay competition. Both junior school and high school questions were the same, surely Qiao Nan did not write the same essay?
Impossible, she should not have.
Qiao Nan had written this casually, surely she would not be able to regurgitate and she would write a new piece?
The more Qiao Zijin thought about it, the more guilty she felt. Her mind was hurting from all the thinking. She prayed silently that her essay and Qiao Nan's essay did not coincide.
Qiao Nan was very good at essay writing, she could easily write a new piece. Surely, she would not be so lazy to regurgitate an old piece?
After the competition, Qiao Zijin could finally go home. However, on the way home, Qiao Zijin's mind kept going through the various scenarios, it was very torturous.
"Zijin, you are back. How was the competition? Are you confident?" Ding Jiayi asked excitedly, warmly welcoming Qiao Zijin home.
"Mom, where is Nan Nan?" asked Qiao Zijin.
"She is reading in her room," replied Ding Jiayi.
"Mom, I have to find Nan Nan first. Talk to you later," Qiao Zijin replied. Once Qiao Zijin heard that Qiao Nan was back, she threw her schoolbag to Ding Jiayi and went to Qiao Nan's room. Qiao Zijin said, "Nan Nan, I have something to talk to you about."
"Go ahead," Qiao Nan said. She threw away the three broken pens into the dustbin.
When Qiao Nan came back and inspected the pens, she found that the pens had signs of being thrown which led to them being broken.
Anyone who uses ballpoint pens knows that once you smash the pens onto the floor, the pens will be broken easily and you cannot write with them anymore. The pens were obviously smashed onto the floor by somebody.
Qiao Nan's schoolbag was on the school bus all this while, the person who did it was surely not from another school and the teacher would not do it either. Could it have been one of the other four people who joined her in the competition today?
Such bad behavior at such a young age.
"Nan Nan, what was your essay question today?" Qiao Zijin asked. If the question was different, then there was nothing for her to worry about.
"Teacher Lee told me that the question for junior school and high school is the same" Qiao Nan replied pointedly.
It was really the same…
Qiao Zijin's face froze. "Nan Nan, what did you write for the competition then?"