A/N: One-shot, vignette string. Exams suck, by the way.

-

"Already, I know I'm going to regret asking. It will probably ruin my opinion of you, and probably I'll never be able to be friends with you again. But…Ichigo-kun, when you take your exams…you got eighteenth while trying your very hardest, right?"

Ichigo looked at Keigo for a long moment. "Not really, no. Probably studying more would help. And not missing about four on purpose." And not being a part-time Shinigami…having such a strenuous job isn't exactly helping my schoolwork.

"Hey…just for kicks…why don't you try your very hardest…study like crazy and everything…for your senior finals. Hah, it'd be hilarious if you came up outta nowhere and beat Ishida-kun, yeah?"

Kurosaki tilted his head in mild interest. "Eh, maybe I will."

-

Yeah, alright, so I actually do remember why I'm studying so hard for finals. That doesn't mean that it's fun, or satisfying, or some nerdy shit like that.

Right. That's why he couldn't stop smiling when he rattled off the capitals of the major countries in the world.

He didn't know that studying could be so easy. He knew all of this crap back to front. The day of finals arrived, and Ichigo had been sleeping almost as much as he was studying in preparation. He sped through the exam, actually managed to check it three times, and handed it in just after Tatsuki, who gave a wry grin to him on their way back to their desks. Orihime, Ishida, and the rest had finished long before. Hell, even Keigo was finished, but Keigo didn't check his work at all.

Probably that accounted for at least ten of his errors.

Once he reached his desk, Ichigo promptly put his head down and fell asleep. He wouldn't be allowed to do anything other than sleep anyway, and fretting about his test grade wouldn't change anything. Sleep…sleep was good.

-

Ishida Uryuu was, as usual, first to the score-list for the test. He started at the bottom of the fifty names to make his anticipation longer. He knew he'd do the best in the class, naturally, but it always gave him the slightest feeling of victory when he read his name next to a number "1". Sado-kun had eleventh place, he must have studied a little harder than usual. Inoue-san was third place again, she always did very well. Usually he saw Ichigo's name somewhere in the twenties, but maybe he had missed it.

He glanced down before reading the top two, a little confused. No, Ichigo wasn't anywhere else on the list. Finally, he broke down the kanji of the top names. 2 – Kunieda Ryo. 1 – Ishida Uryuu, as usual. He was about to return to his seat when he noticed a little tie-mark, and a name above his. 1 – Kurosaki Ichigo. Something pulsed in his throat that might have been revulsion, and might have been physical bile. Whatever it was, he swallowed almost compulsively for half a minute, then straightened and returned to his desk, eyes still staring as if he could see the phantom scoreboard just before him.

"Waaaaaaaah! Ichigo how cooooould yooooooou!" moaned Asano. Ishida's eye twitched.

"Remember that little thing you asked me a while back? Kinda disappointing, I thought I could actually beat him. Ah, well."

Ishida's eye twitched again.