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Together Forever - Chapter 21.4


Published at 24th of June 2016 10:36:47 PM

Chapter 21.4

Final Chapter (4)


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He never did return again .

When it was time for her graduation ceremony, Tong Yan went back to the university .

 

She had arrived in Shanghai one day prior and completed all the necessary formalities for graduating from the school . That night, she stayed at Shen Yao’s home and arrived at the university the following day .

Of the twenty-three students in her class, twelve were admitted directly or by recommendation into other universities for graduate studies . Five or six of the remaining students had received offers from the prestigious schools they had desired . Shen Yao’s wish was fulfilled, and she truly was accepted into Yale .

Zhou Qingchen, on the other hand, was not going to continue studying and rather, had obtained a job working in the Singapore government . Jingjing, hence, had unexpectedly become like the swallow that had flown up to the top of the branch and transformed into a little phoenix[1] [a woman who has transformed from rags to riches], busily accompanying him to carry out the formal procedures and paperwork while incidentally also making her own preparations to go abroad with him .

Graduation was a fork in the road of life, but there were no road signs .

After July, everyone would begin embarking along his or her own road, moving towards utterly different lives .

Very early on, during the internship period, the dormitory had basically been half emptied .

The beds were empty, their deep green metal frames as well as wooden bed boards bare and exposed, just as they had been when they first entered university . The shelves were also bare, a layer of dust cloaking them . Shen Yao stepped in but strolled only one circle around the room before she broke down, left, and began going to every other place to find people to say goodbye to .

Unable to sit there in the dormitory room, in the end, Tong Yan could only head over early to hang around in front of the auditorium, waiting, with nothing to do, for the ceremony to begin .

The previous night, she and Shen Yao had squeezed together on one single-size bed to sleep, and now she finally felt that her lower back was a little sore .

She sat down on the steps and drew her legs up to her chest, resting her chin on her knees as she watched the people going in and out of the main doors of the auditorium to prepare for tonight’s graduation celebration and party .

She remembered the previous year’s celebration had been outdoors, and she and Shen Yao had stood crammed against the entrance of the library, joining in on the excitement . Time had passed with a “whoosh,” and now it was her turn .

Apparently, the previous couple of days had been gloomy with continuous rain, but today the weather had cleared . The morning breeze blew in her direction, carrying a touch of moisture on it . Her arms were wrapped around her calves while his name repeated over and over again in her mind .

So much time had passed, yet she could still remember, that day, the weather had been very nice . The morning sunlight had shone in through the window, and he had been completely enveloped in its glow . Casually, he had held the chalk and written his name: Gu Pingsheng .

Four or five people walked out from inside the auditorium, all of them junior schoolmates who were part of the Sunshine Theatre Society .


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And there was also Ai Mi, who had already started a job at a television station .

 

After the numerous commendations of “congratulations on graduating,” Ai Mi stayed and sat down side by side with her . “So, what will it be? Is your future one of a great lawyer or a judge? Or maybe a prosecutor?”

“Don’t know . ” Tong Yan genuinely did not know . “I don’t want to do anything that has to do with law . I really, especially don’t . ”

If it was possible, she truly wanted to be willful and give up what she had majored in .

Because it was connected to him .

“You were in the liberal arts stream . If you don’t work in your field of study, you’re not going to be worth much when you head out into the real world, right?”

“It seems that’s the case . ” She pondered seriously for a moment . “Other than reciting and memorizing from books, there’s not much I know how to do . Now that I think about it, the sciences and engineering are better . At least you’ll come out with specialized knowledge or skills . ”

“You know how to sing . ” Ai Mi laughingly reminded, “And what’s more, your singing is particularly nice to listen to . Go take the Putonghua Proficiency Test[2] . I’ll put in a recommendation for you to do an internship at the TV station . ”

She gave an offhand answer, continuing to rest her chin on her knees and stare vacantly ahead .

Beginning tomorrow, she would start again to consider matters about the future . Today was the last day of being a student .

 

The graduation ceremony lasted for two hours, and wearing her bachelor’s gown, she stood at the very back, her shirt inside completely dampened . When at last the conclusion of the ceremony was announced and all the graduation caps were flying into the air, Tong Yan’s first action was to remove her gown to allow herself a breather .

Her sweat-soaked, short-sleeve shirt clung to her body . As she bowed her head to pull out a tissue, Shen Yao, who was standing behind her, sudden gave her a hard nudge on the arm .

“Gu Pingsheng . ”

She had not even had the chance to react before Shen Yao was already dragging her to the outer perimeters .


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From this particular angle, they had a view of all the teachers of the Law Faculty as well as the dean . He really was standing there beside the dean, watching the elderly gentleman speak . He was dressed in a very simple, casual button-up shirt, his complexion fair and the outline of his facial features distinct, his expression still collected as before . In this way, she stood and gazed upon him from afar . Each subtle motion, in her eyes, was infinitely magnified .

Whatever Shen Yao said afterward, she did not hear at all .

Soon, the more than three thousand people in that courtyard began to disperse, and the scene was even more crowded and hectic than the train station . Embraces of farewell, photographs taken together and signatures being signed, tears and laughter as well as wild, senseless fun .

The once most-popular teacher had returned on this day of the graduation ceremony, and naturally, memories were evoked in many people .

Apart from Shen Yao and her, almost everyone stepped up in their bachelor’s gowns to take a photograph with him as a keepsake .

The esteemed, elderly dean of the Law Faculty had hence become a supporting role, standing beamingly to the left of all of the students, while Gu Pingsheng was inundated with various requests and obligingly accommodated memento photographs .

Her classmates all thought that Gu Pingsheng had purposely come today to be with her, so naturally, they also presumed that Tong Yan was keeping such a far distance to avoid rousing negative attention . Several classmates who were relatively friendlier with her had, after fulfilling their photograph wish, even approached Tong Yan and expressed their “apologies” for occupying Great Beauty Gu .

In the end, she was the one who left first .

 

Without any place to go, she stepped into the auditorium to watch the final rehearsal for the night’s celebration .

She was a former master of ceremonies, so of course no one would stop her from entering .

When it was time for the Sunshine Theatre Society’s act, she was backstage and standing behind the immense stage curtain, watching seven or eight students use an artistic type of voice to act out a scene of graduation and departure from school . The audience seats in front of the stage were largely empty, with only some of the cast and crew sitting in them and observing .

A few people coming from the side stage curtain at the back unexpectedly looked in her direction and politely called out, “Teacher Gu . ”

Tong Yan suddenly grew nervous…

Behind her, someone answered, “Thank you for your hard work . ”

It was not his voice .

Even her hands had gone somewhat weak, but she was thankful that it truly was not him .


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The teacher behind her seemed to be the new supervising teacher for the Students’ Union and did not know Tong Yan, only communicating in low tones with those students about the plans for the evening celebration . While she continued watching the onstage people whom she knew rehearse the play, an alert all of a sudden rang out from her phone .

She lowered her head and glanced at it . It was a text message from Gu Pingsheng:

I had originally wanted to say a few words to you, but I realize now that that is not a very easy thing for me to do . Student Tong Yan, congratulations on your successful graduation . TK

“Who has their mobile phone turned on backstage? Don’t you know the rehearsal rules?”

Since this was the rehearsal for a stage play, there was a sound system and speakers on stage, and the sound of these words was enough to disturb everyone .

The eyes of all the people backstage turned toward her . As she stared at her mobile phone, Tong Yan dimly realized that she had committed a wrong . Lifting up the stage curtain, she confessed apologetically, “I’m sorry, Teacher Du . It was me . ”

“Oh, it’s Tong Yan . ” When Du Half-A-Beat saw it was her, his face quickly transformed into a smile . “Our school gala master of ceremonies of previous years . I think this is your graduation year . So how about it? Are you heading into graduate studies?”

Shaking her head, she exchanged a few words of pleasantries with this teacher whom she had collaborated with for several years .

That night, she directly departed from Shanghai without going to watch that graduation celebration that belonged to her .

 

Her ticket was for a sleeper berth on the train . In the middle of the night and unable to sleep, she stepped out into the corridor to take a seat on one of the chairs there . Text messages were coming in incessantly from Shen Yao, telling her how many people had jumped into the lake as a way to commemorate this graduation and how many people had posed with the statue of Venus to take a photograph . This way of bidding farewell to one’s era as a student was truly both wild and heartrendingly poignant .

The rumble of the train speeding over the tracks was mechanical and rhythmic .

She read and read until she fell asleep, sprawled on a little table . When the sky was beginning to lighten at five or six o’clock in the morning, Tong Yan awakened . The corridor already contained early risers who were starting to move about . She had just pulled out some toiletries from her bag when she received a call on her phone from Pingfan . Pingfan’s voice was still friendly as before, and she did not say very much, only that she was coming to pick her up at the station .

Tong Yan could surmise that she was coming regarding matters related to Gu Pingsheng, so she did not refuse her .

Pingfan’s vehicle was stopped opposite the railway station, separated by a road . Though she had thoroughly prepared herself mentally, when she saw Pingfan, she still felt extremely awkward .

Pingfan could detect her apprehension, and after she was seated in the car, she quickly said, “Don’t put too great a load on your mind . I told you before that no matter what choice you make, I will understand . ” Saying that, she pulled out a stack of printed documents from the back seat and handed it to her . “TK personally wrote this up and requested that I bring it to you . ”

Tong Yan took it from her . It was a home purchase contract . The seller was Gu Pingsheng, and the buyer, of course, was her .

“When I got this, I was actually very perplexed . Why did he not choose to gift it, and rather, he made it a sale?” Gu Pingfan’s tone was intentionally light, and with a smile, she jokingly mocked him . “He said that it is relatively complex to gift it and would require that he is present before it can be conducted . A purchase and sale transaction is much simpler . You only need to sign your name and then I can help the both of you carry out the remainder of the procedure . ”

As Pingfan stated this, she was already handing a pen over to her . Tong Yan did not take it .

“Yan Yan, he is doing this because he is respecting you . In our hearts, we already view you as his wife . Even though the two of you have to separate, this is also something that he must do . And trust me, if you won’t accept it, he will certainly also persist and just change to find a different way to give this apartment to you . ” Pingfan set the pen on top of the document and smiled, “You know that he’s really stubborn . It’s pretty annoying . ”

“Let me think about it,” she answered .

“Also, I’m going to open a joint account and transfer all the money you kept with him into the account that you and I will jointly own . I will, right off the bat, provide my authorization for any withdrawal and use of considerable amounts, so in reality, I’m just a safeguard that’s there in name only . ”

Pingfan continued with all her explanations, regardless of how large or trivial the matters were .

The air conditioning inside the vehicle blew against her skin . So cold . His every arrangement was very well thought-out and did not have a single flaw .

After Pingfan finished saying everything, her eyes were already noticeably reddened . Spreading her arms, she wrapped Tong Yan into her tight embrace . “Alright, I still have a lot of other things I need to do . That little bro of mine who spares me no worry has never let me just relax . ”

Tong Yan hugged her back . “I’m sorry . ”

“Don’t say that . ” Pingfan told her, “Although the ending wasn’t good, we still were once family, after all . ”

Family . She had once so greatly yearned to have a whole, intact family .

If he possessed a healthy body, how wonderful that would be .

She would unquestionably cast off all heed regarding matters of her family and shamelessly attach herself to him . After all, Gu Pingsheng genuinely was very outstanding and would be very capable of earning money to support the family anyway . But the reality was, his health was so poor . Perhaps there were only twenty years remaining in his lifespan, but as a result of throwing himself into work, it would be shortened by another five or ten years or even more .

This kind of consequence was one that she dared not even think about .

The best now would be if he could leave and go to any other place, one where he did not need to have too much  in savings and also did not have too many burdens weighing down on him .

Even without romantic love, for the many people in his family who loved him, he would still take good care of himself .



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