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Together Forever - Chapter 6


Published at 2nd of March 2016 11:24:44 PM

Chapter 6

Quietly Advancing and Retreating (1)


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Today was Friday .

After this weekend, there were nine weeks remaining . Sixty-three days .

The entire week, it had been raining on and off, and the classrooms were damp and chilly .

She clasped her hands together to warm herself and then started to copy down Gu Pingsheng’s notes on the blackboard .

Gu Pingsheng had very beautiful blackboard writing . When she was in primary school, she had intensely practiced her calligraphy, and she recognized that he was writing in slender gold script[1] style . At the time, she had only felt that this particular script was free and unrestrained and carried its own type of charm .

“Those who like to write with this type of script are usually people who tend to display their abilities ostentatiously . ” Her calligraphy teacher had once stated this .

But in no way could he be associated with the idea of “displaying his abilities ostentatiously . ”

At this moment, his right hand was in the pocket of his trousers and his left hand was loosely grasping the white chalk, fluidly writing out a row of Chinese characters while using English to give the introduction for today’s class .

Gu Pingsheng was the only teacher this semester willing to teach his course as a bilingual one . Even those teachers who had returned from Japan still persisted in writing their blackboard notes in their out-of-practice English .

In fact, when the university was enrolling students after their college entrance examinations, specific attention and importance had been placed upon their grades in English . At the end of her second year, there were only three people in their class who had not yet passed their CET-6 English tests yet . He did not at all have to go to such trouble for so few people . But, in these small, insignificant details, he still always put careful thought and consideration .

 

“Liu Yi . ” After finishing the introductory words for today’s class, he turned around to look at the class prefect . “Where’s Shen Yao?”

The class prefect choked on a response for a long while and turned his eyes to Tong Yan . Those girls in Tong Yan’s dormitory room were all experts at playing hooky . Most Fridays, they were not around . Who knew where they had gone today?

“Teacher Gu, Shen Yao’s rehearsing with the school orchestra and requested a leave of absence from today’s class,” Tong Yan braced herself and fibbed .

“What about Wang Xiaoru?” Gu Pingsheng’s voice was very neutral .

“Wang Xiaoru … had something suddenly crop up in her family and also got a leave of absence . ”

His eyes scanned over the classroom once, quickly distinguishing between those who were simply sitting in to listen and those who truly belonged to this class .

“Wen Jingjing did not come either?” His gaze was on her again . This time, even the students who were simply sitting in on the class were starting to whisperingly discuss this .

Tong Yan gripped her pen, not even able to avoid his gaze . She was the only one from her dorm room who had come to class, yet she was the one who had become the target of attack …

She could feel that her cheeks had grown a little hot . “Wen Jingjing is sick . ” She really wanted to stress that this one was the truth and she was genuinely sick .

“Next Monday, have the three of them head over to Administration and go to my office . ” His tone remained unperturbed .

Tong Yan’s heart dropped . Oh man, they were in trouble this time .

After class, the class prefect, who had also broken out in a cold sweat of fright, walked over and said to Tong Yan, “Even a rabbit will bite when it’s cornered . Teacher Gu can already be considered to be really good-tempered, and your dorm still managed to force his anger out . ”

Class Prefect was brandishing a textbook in his hand and nearly hit Gu Pingsheng, who was walking by .

Gu Pingsheng merely raised his arm slightly to block the incoming book, but Class Prefect’s temper was in the midst of flaring and he immediately whipped his head around and barked, “Class meeting, now!” And then, the classroom fell into total silence .

Those who had only been sitting in on the class froze in shock before quickly grabbing their books and leaving .

Gu Pingsheng was also slightly taken aback, and in a soliciting tone, he asked him, “Need me to participate?”

“N-n-no . ” Class Prefect immediately shut down his firepower .

With head lowered, Tong Yan packed up her own books . Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him walk past her desk and then out of the classroom .

 

She went to the library to study and did not return to her dormitory until the sky was dark .

This morning, as she walked out the room, the curtains had been pulled shut, and now, they were still as they had been when she left . She called out “Jingjing” once, but nobody made a sound in response . Feeling slightly concerned, she removed her shoes and climbed onto Wen Jingjing’s bed, only to discover that she was still asleep with her covers pulled up completely over her .

She stretched out her hand to touch Wen Jingjing’s forehead . Burning hot .

As she retracted her hand, it brushed against the pillow . Why was it so wet? Had she sweat that much?

Tong Yan patted Wen Jingjing awake, helped her change her clothes, and got her off the bed .

Finally, after an arduous bicycle ride, she brought Wen Jingjing to a hospital off the university campus . This was one of the university’s designated hospitals, and because it was not in the core of the city, there were very few people there at night .

The doctor on duty was very young but very attentive, and at the end, when Wen Jingjing started her intravenous treatment, that doctor even specifically came over to check on her and ask a few questions about her condition . As Tong Yan watched him, she suddenly wondered, if Teacher Gu had not changed careers, would he have been like this as well?

Inside the intravenous treatment room, there was only a mother and son pair — a forty plus year old son with his old and feeble mother .

If Grandmother suddenly fell ill in Beijing, what should she do?

She all of a sudden felt a sense of unease . Every so often, this type of unsettled feeling would arise in her, and she would not be able to shake it off .

 

“Yan Yan, thanks . ”

She pulled her attention back . In her arms was a small bag of mandarin oranges she had bought outside the entrance to the hospital . Pulling out a larger one, she peeled it and stuffed it into Wen Jingjing’s hand . “You had such a high temperature . Why didn’t you text me?”

Wen Jingjing held onto the orange and after some time, finally said, “Yan Yan, Jia Le broke up with me . ”


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Tong Yan paused in surprise . “Haven’t you guys been together for six years?”

She remembered that boy . Very plain and unassuming, and when he smiled, he looked a little shy .

“He’s in his fourth year of university this year and looking for a job . He’s really stressed out, and we were always fighting . ” Wen Jingjing told her, “Yesterday, he was quarrelling with me over the phone again, and then he said my family doesn’t have much money and I still have a pair of twin younger brothers in high school waiting for us to provide for them …”

She did not finish and Tong Yan did not press further . Tong Yan had more or less discerned the situation in Jingjing’s family . Thinking that this topic had come to a close, she lowered her head and continued peeling oranges .

“I feel like life is particularly unfair . ” Wen Jingjing spoke up unexpectedly . “My English isn’t good . I finally was approved for doing a double major with the second major in Japanese, but I couldn’t even pass my midterms . But just look at Xiaoru . She never goes to class but can still effortlessly get first-class scholarships . Yao Yao’s the same . In the entire class, she’s the only specially recruited literature and art student, but she does even better than me in all the academic courses . ”

Tong Yan raised her head to look at her .

“And then there’s you, Yan Yan . Every time I see you emceeing or singing, I’m so envious . ” Wen Jingjing’s complexion was showing the paleness that comes after a fever has subsided . “Even Teacher Gu treats you so well . I would always see him in his office browsing through physics teaching materials, and then I found out later that he was tutoring you in physics .

“Yan Yan, where I’m from, I was the only one who got into a top-ranked university . But now, my old classmates are all starting to apply to master’s programs abroad while I’m still here struggling to get through my undergrad . I have two younger brothers who are going to be taking their college entrance exams soon . They’re actually not very mature or sensible, and their grades are really bad … Yan Yan, when I think about all this, I feel like even if I continue with my studies, it won’t change anything . Even if I endure all the way to the end, the result will still be the same . Where I came from is where I’ll still have to go back to . ”

The intravenous treatment room was very quiet . Wen Jingjing was not speaking loudly, and her tone could not get any flatter than it already was .

Tong Yan split apart her mandarin orange and ate a segment . Due to the cold weather, the orange was ice-cold inside the mouth when eaten . It was sour and icy and really could not be considered tasty .

She had never once poured out her heart like Jingjing was doing to anyone before, nor had she ever dared to . The pain and sorrow that had been accumulating since she graduated from primary school, that feeling that she had completely lost her dignity and self-respect, and that family that caused her heart to quiver in pain simply from thinking about it — how could she possibly speak out about these?

“My ex-boyfriend’s parents are both high school teachers . Because he was pampered on and spoiled, he never put any efforts into school and was extremely rebellious . But, he was especially good to me . One winter, there was a day where my stomach hurt so badly I couldn’t even walk . Without saying a word, he ran out and bought me a bowl of noodles from somewhere by the front of the school and forced the person to sell him the bowl that the noodles came in, too . That day, it was really cold, and just like that, he walked with a bowl of noodles in his hands from the front gate of the school all the way to the door of my classroom . I’m guessing he probably had been walking really hurriedly because the soup had sloshed out and his hands were covered in it . But no matter how good our relationship had been, we still ended up breaking up . ”

She remembered, that bowl of noodles had cost something like six yuan . At the time, she had thought that was so expensive . But later, when she went to eat it again, it did not have that same taste anymore .

 

Quietly Advancing and Retreating (2)

“So, Jingjing,” she said, holding the last segment of orange up to Wen Jingjing’s lips, “there’s nothing about me worthy of your envy . I also lose in love, also get sick, and also have lots of secrets that I don’t want others to know about . ”

She tilted her head upwards and took a glance . There was not much left in this bottle, but on the IV pole’s metal hook, there was still another full bottle that need to be finished tonight .

“I remember, one time when I was a kid, we needed to run eight hundred metres in gym class . Someone stepped on my shoe from behind, and I took a huge tumble . There should have been about three or four classes right then that were having gym out on that sports field, and they all saw . At the time, I felt so humiliated . How could I have such awful luck? So terrible, practically like the sky had fallen . But now that I think about it, it was just a fall, right?” She stood and was about to go find the on-duty nurse .

“You must have felt something like that before when you were a kid, like the sky was falling on you . Jingjing, five years from now, when you look back, it’ll also just simply be like you took a fall . Pull yourself back up, change into some clean clothes, and treat it like nothing ever happened . Family and background, natural talent — there’s so many things that you’re just born with . Just like anyone can be envious that Liu Xiang[1] won the World Championships, but it’s only just envying for a bit . ”

 

That night when she went back, Tong Yan started to show signs that she had caught a cold . By Monday, it had completely turned into a bad case of the cold .

There were not many people at the on-campus medical clinic during noontime . After she was prescribed some cold medicine and was walking back down from the second floor, someone unexpectedly tapped her on her shoulder . Turning, she discovered it was that Shen, um… Class Rep Shen . He was standing beside another boy . When Tong Yan turned around, that boy’s eyes immediately flickered away, and he beamed, “I’ll go out and wait for you . ” After saying this, he gave a wicked grin and darted away .

Shen Heng unconsciously pushed up his glasses . “You’re sick? Is it serious?”

Tong Yan smiled, “It’s just a cold . ”

“That night’s Anniversary Gala, I watched the live broadcast inside my dorm room . ” Class Rep Shen seemed to be searching for the right words, and he paused briefly before saying, “You did such a good job emceeing . ”

“Thanks . ”

If it were any other time, she would have said a few more casual words to help pass through the moment . However, the whole previous night, her nose had been stuffed up so she had not slept well, and now, she simply did not have any energy to talk .

Fortunately, this boy was quite shy, and he walked down the stairs with her in silence . At last, when they were standing by the doors of the university medical clinic, he finally hesitantly asked her, “You really don’t look so good . How about I take you back to your dorm?”

He spoke this in a very polite manner, with a slight sense of probing in his voice .

“No, it’s alright . I still have to wait here for my classmates . ”

Putting on a look as if she was waiting for someone, Tong Yan watched as Shen Heng and his classmate left, and then she breathed out in relief . She felt in her pocket, pulled out a pile of neatly folded toilet paper, and began to wipe her nose …

All of a sudden, she received a text message .

She reckoned that it was likely from Shen Yao . Those three girls had left the dorm at the same time as her, and they should have been in Gu Pingsheng’s office just now receiving their chastisement . She had not expected that, when she pulled out her phone, it was actually a text message from Gu Pingsheng: You’re sick? Is it serious? TK

These exact same words, Shen Heng had asked just a moment earlier .

But now that it was him asking them, her lips unconsciously turned up in a smile .

Those three girls from her dormitory must have mentioned her when they were being reprimanded in order to try to change the topic . The last text message in her inbox was actually the one he had sent her three weeks ago .

Standing there at the doors of the medical clinic entrance, she hesitated for three seconds and then, for some reason, as if guided by a supernatural force, she wrote this message back: Mm-hmm … It’s a little serious . The school doc said it’s best if I go to a hospital off campus … But it’s so far . Don’t want to go .

When she sent it, her heart suddenly started thumping hard — thumping her straight into a fluster .

Every time Shen Yao was in a phase with a boy where she was wondering whether she should start a romantic relationship with him or not, she would always probe like this, trying to feel out, did he care about her? Would he get anxious for her? If the boy was all anxious and concerned, that meant there was room for them to progress the relationship further . If his reaction was calm and lukewarm, then she would act as if nothing had ever happened .

Each time she saw Shen Yao beaming while she was text messaging with an amorous expression on her face, Tong Yan would find it very funny . But now, she, too, was waiting nervously for his response .

Several of the school doctors walked past her, chatting and smiling and looking as if they were going for lunch . When that group had exited the main doors and had walked far enough away that she could not even glimpse their shadows, her mobile phone still lay in silence . There was not a single reply . Feeling somewhat dejected, Tong Yan tucked her mobile phone into her schoolbag and walked back along the walkway by the medical clinic .

 

Lunchtime was the period when there was the most people out on campus . She hesitated over whether she should go have some lunch or head straight back to the dormitory and make a pack of instant noodles instead . All of a sudden, someone slapped her on the back from behind her .

Tong Yan turned around and looked up into Shen Yao’s grinning face . “And here I was saying that we should go back to the dorm to find you . Teacher Gu said he’s going to treat everyone in our dorm room to lunch . Why is your phone dead?”


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Standing not far behind Shen Yao was Wang Xiaoru and Wen Jingjing, as well as … Gu Pingsheng .

There was no International Commercial Arbitration class today, and so his attire was slightly more casual . Light blue jeans with faded white marks and a casual black top . Plain and simple . He did not look at all like he had come deliberately to give these three girls an admonishment .

Wen Jingjing was speaking to him right then . He gazed directly at Wen Jingjing until she finished speaking and then said something to her in response before turning his head to look in Tong Yan’s direction .

“Teacher Gu . ”

He nodded in acknowledgement but did not speak . He was behaving as if he had never sent her the text message and never received anything either .

When Shen Yao brought up that Gu Pingsheng was treating them to lunch, her entire being was completely radiant . Tong Yan knew that she was thinking again how she could swindle an expensive meal out of Gu Pingsheng, and immediately, she grabbed Shen Yao by the arm . “Let’s just go eat in the east dining hall . My head’s all heavy and dizzy . I don’t want to go too far for lunch . ”

Shen Yao let out an “ah,” but before she could say anything further, she was dragged directly into the university dining hall .

Originally, Shen Yao had wanted to order some feature dishes or a mini hot-pot or something along those lines, but Tong Yan expressed that she and Jingjing were still sick with colds . And as a result, she successfully managed to lower the class of the meal by another level, such that it really was not all that different from what they would normally do, where everyone simply each ate their own food . The only difference was, Gu Pingsheng, the one who was like “sunny spring days and white snow[2]” [exceptionally handsome in a clean way], was with them .

Throughout the entire meal, Shen Yao was especially loquacious . Gu Pingsheng only managed to take a couple of bites at the very beginning, and then very soon, he set down his chopsticks and quietly watched them speak . In the end, Tong Yan could not stand watching this situation any longer . Tugging on Shen Yao’s arm, she reminded, “You’ve been talking the whole time . How is Teacher Gu supposed to eat?”

“Huh? Ah!” Shen Yao all of a sudden clued in . “Teacher Gu, go ahead, have more to eat . You don’t need to watch me talk the whole time . ”

He told her that it was alright and then began drinking his water in large swallows .

Tong Yan scanned his meal that was in front of him . It practically had not even been touched it . She had eaten with Gu Pingsheng a few times now . Compared with other men, the amount he ate most certainly could not be considered a lot, but neither was he like some girls who would eat so little it was like a little kitten taking two or three nibbles .

Shen Yao wanted to say more, but after raising her wrist for a look, she yelped, “Only another five minutes until one o’clock . Time for class! I’m doomed! Why am I always late when it comes to advanced math class?”

She picked up her bag and started to run, taking two or three strides forward before doubling back to say, “Teacher Gu, ‘listening once to your wise words is more valuable than ten years of studying . [3]’ So now, I’ve finished the ‘studying’ part . It’s time to go do some math problems . Farewell, farewell . ”

And after saying this, she hastily raced off .

With her departure, everyone else could only put down their chopsticks, contemplating how they could take their leave as well .

 

“You guys go first . I need to discuss some things with Tong Yan . ” He finally set down his glass of water .

When everyone had left, Gu Pingsheng finally truly looked at her . “I’ll take you to the hospital this afternoon . ”

So he had received the text? She continued to poke and stir at her noodles with her chopsticks . There were actually just a few strands left, mingled with some chopped scallions inside the soup .

“If you got the text, why didn’t you reply?” she murmured under her breath .

“Tong Yan?”

She raised her head . “It’s okay . I just went and filled a prescription for some medication . I’ll go back and take some, and I’ll be fine . ”

“Let me see the meds you were prescribed . ” From her bag, she pulled out several medications, handing over two boxes and one bottle of cough syrup . He took them from her, turned the boxes over to the back, and fixed his attention on the rows of small print .

Tong Yan was quite perplexed over what he could be looking at, but unfortunately, she was sitting in front of him and could not sneak a peek .

He was truly so focused and serious in his reading, and Tong Yan, unable to restrain her curiosity, eventually reached over and waved her hand in front of his eyes . “What are you looking at?”

“I’m looking at the composition of these meds,” he answered . “When you got the prescription, did you specifically request the doctor to give you these particular medications?”

Startled, she nodded . “I get colds and coughs really easily . I got used to taking medications, and now, only if I take these few brands will I get better . ”

He smiled, “I noticed . These ones you asked for are all ones given to patients with serious conditions . ” He picked up the cough syrup . “The codeine content in this one is relatively high . ”

Tong Yan stared blankly in surprise . Recalling that Shen Yao always liked to say that cough syrup could be addictive, she asked, “You’re talking about the type that can cause people to become addicted? Shen Yao always says that if I take cough syrup, I’ll definitely develop an addiction to it one day . ”

“It’s not that serious . ” He gazed amusedly at her . “But if you drink several dozen bottles of them a day, that might be possible . ”

 

They were sitting at a long rectangular table that could seat more than a dozen people, and each seat was directly opposite another one .

When the start time for class had passed, there only remained the two of them, sitting in the seats closest to the floor-length windows, and another couple sitting in the far outside seats .

Sunlight shone through the thick glass and cast a comfortable warmth upon their bodies . Demonstrating a spirit of learning, Tong Yan asked several more questions about the topic . The two of them chatted casually with no real specific topic to their conversation .

By the time one of the wait staff came over and took away the plates on their table, they had already been talking for a long time .

“Teacher Gu, what did you want to talk to me about?” She remembered his initial reason for asking her to stay behind .

“I had originally wanted to take you to the hospital . ” He put away her medications . “If it’s just a simple cold, then don’t be in a rush to take meds for it . Drink lots of warm water . Usually, you’ll be better within a week . Tomorrow, I’ll go get some appropriate medications for you, and if you’re still not better after a week, then you can take them . ”

Tong Yan nodded, her heart suddenly seeming to beat rather softly .

Ever since she was a child, she was the type of person who would only report good news and would hold back any news that was unpleasant . For a long period during middle school, she had lived with her mother, and she had always simply rummaged through the medications in the medicine cabinet herself, read them over to know basically which drug was anti-inflammatory, which was for colds and flus, etc . and then would just indifferently find one to take until gradually, she got better . She had only ever gotten simple fevers, colds, or flus and never any serious illness, so she had always felt that she could take care of everything herself .

This was the first time anyone had ever taken her medication from her and even carefully read through the specific composition .

 

When she returned to the dormitory room, she was the only one there .

Tong Yan pulled out her charger and charged her mobile phone . The instant she turned her phone on, six or seven text messages all came in at once . One was from Gu Pingsheng and the remainder all came from a number she was not familiar with .

She first opened up a text message from the unknown number . It turned out to be a notification message informing her she had a missed call . This particular function had actually been included for free from her mobile services provider, but she had never used it before and had long forgotten about it .


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There was one missed call from Shen Yao . The remaining five missed calls were all from Gu Pingsheng .

If it had been a normal person, after hearing the operator prompt stating that the mobile phone he was dialing was turned off, he would definitely not call again .

Sitting there on a chair, she stared at her mobile phone . She could even imagine Gu Pingsheng, who could only keep his eyes fixed upon his phone’s screen to determine whether she had answered the call or not, but unable to hear the voice inside the receiver saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, the phone number you have dialed is currently turned off …”

From out in the hallway, bursts of laughter could be heard, but inside her room, it was unusually quiet .

Only after a long time had passed did she carefully and hesitantly open up the one and only true text message . There was only a short row of words: Don’t be pouty[4] . I’ll take you to the hospital . TK

 

Quietly Advancing and Retreating (3)

Tong Yan contemplated for another long while before sending her text in reply: My phone battery might have died when I left the hospital, so I didn’t see your reply .

A text came back very quickly: No problem . I understand . TK

A very normal response, but coming from him, she could not help mulling repeatedly over it .

As she thought about those five phone calls, she quickly sent another text: As long as my phone is on, I will always answer any calls . Next time, if the screen doesn’t indicate that the call’s been answered, that means my phone must be shut off .

Gu Pingsheng: Alright . TK

Such a concise reply . He was probably busy? She set her mobile phone down on her desk and pulled out a textbook to read, only to discover that the one she grabbed was her International Commercial Arbitration Law textbook . Fine, arbitration it was, then . She would treat it as early reviewing for her final exam . Right as she was about to settle into serious studying, her mobile phone unexpectedly vibrated again .

Have you drunk warm water yet? TK

Yup .

Is your throat sore? TK

A little …

Tomorrow morning, if it’s still sore, send me a text and I’ll go get you some antibiotics . TK

Mm .

When she finished typing this one word, she could not refrain from adding another question: Teacher Gu, you’re home now?

But after she had written “Teacher Gu,” she suddenly deleted it again and changed it so that she simply wrote, “You’re home now?”

I’m still in Administration . I’m talking to the dean about the courses I’ll teach next semester . TK

Next semester?

Next semester, Maritime Law . TK

Tong Yan remembered, he had once said that he might only be teaching for this one term . Now, however, he was discussing his courses for next semester, so that meant he would be continuing to stay in Shanghai and continuing to stay in their school? Oh, why was she all of a sudden feeling so happy?

 

After several days, this news had basically spread throughout the entire faculty, and the ones most thrilled about it were the students . During Wednesday’s Commercial Arbitration class, a few of the female students simply could not hold it in any longer and forced the class prefect to personally ask Gu Pingsheng .

At the end of class, Class Prefect grinningly raised his hand . “Teacher Gu, one last question . ”

Gu Pingsheng was holding a black thermos flask and drinking water from it . Seeing his raised hand, he nodded at him to speak .

“Teacher Gu, we want to know, what are you teaching next semester?” Class Prefect seemed to feel that his behavior was a little too eager and so, with a very proper expression, he added, “It’s so we can buy the learning materials in advance . ”

“Maritime Law . But you guys don’t need to get any learning materials . Next semester, I intend on printing out the materials, so you will not need to buy any additional textbooks . ”

From down below, a string of “whoa, yeah, whoa” rang up from the class in low cries of approval .

Since first-year university, for each course, the teacher would provide in advance a list of any required textbooks or references . Those who had the money would go buy them and those who did not would borrow the books to photocopy . In reality, they discovered in the end that it really did not make much of a difference whether you had the books or not because there were the notes taken in class anyway … But, out of respect for the teacher, they still needed to make the preparations .

It seemed that only courses like Marxism or Intro to Maoism would have the same textbooks year after year that were passed down as if they were antiques .

For the specialized courses, a teacher like Gu Pingsheng who provided all the learning materials himself was absolutely a marvel and an oddball .

Tong Yan lowered her head and kept her eyes fixed on her class notes, as if she was checking for errors or omissions .

“You don’t even know, yesterday, a few girls in our faculty from a lower year were asking me about Commercial Arbitration . ” Shen Yao lamented in a quiet voice, “I even told them, what was their rush? They still had two semesters to go . But …” she sighed, “but looking now at Pretty Lady’s Bane, I really can’t bear the idea of him teaching other people . The good thing is, he doesn’t need to sub in to teach the double major students or those law courses open for non-law students, so at least he belongs solely to our faculty . ”

Resting her hand on her chin, Tong Yan replied with an “mm” as she caught a glimpse of him still continuing to drink his water .

“Such a pity, though . ” To the left of them, Wang Xiaoru also gave a seldom-heard sigh . “Next semester is our last term . We’re going to be on internship for our whole fourth year . ” Turning her head to the side deliberately so that she was facing the outside of the classroom, she raised her voice and announced, “Fellow classmates, whoever has a secret crush on our teacher, you’d better hurry up and profess your love . There’s not much time left . Don’t give away this benefit to the girl classmates coming up after us . ”

 

After this Sunday, there were only another five weeks . Thirty-five days .

With her pen, Tong Yan crossed off Saturday on her calendar . As she stared at the row after row of black pen markings, she suddenly realized that she did not need to count down the days to Gu Pingsheng’s departure anymore .

Since that day she had her bad cold, he had text messaged her everyday in concen and asked about her symptoms . Then, they had arranged to meet privately, and he had brought her many different medications . Gradually, the two of them began to send text messages to each other to simply chat casually . But today, from when class finished this morning to now, he still had not sent her any messages …

When Shen Yao saw that the lights had turned off, without prompting, she also shut off her music .

Tong Yan had just started to fall into a muddled, half-asleep state when the ring of a telephone suddenly sounded out . It was the middle of the night, yet the landline phone in the dormitory room was actually ringing … Right as she was about to pull her covers over her head and continue sleeping, she heard Shen Yao call her . “Yan Yan, Yan Yan, dearie, phone call for you . ”

Shen Yao dragged the telephone receiver over to Tong Yan’s bedside and, with a peculiar expression on her face, handed it to her .

Taking the receiver from her, Tong Yan said a “hello” into it .

“Tong Yan, don’t sleep . Wake up, wake up . ”

That voice sounded so familiar . She pondered for a moment and then remembered who it was — her high school classmate and also Lu Bei’s best friend, Cheng Yu .

“Mm . Go ahead, talk . ”

Cheng Yu first said some polite niceties, stating that he was planning to come to Shanghai this Christmas and while he was here, he wanted to get together with Tong Yan .

Without even needing to think about it, Tong Yan declined his invitation . On the other end of the line, there was a long silence before he said, “Tong Yan, I promised Lu Bei I’d keep you company over Christmas . What’s the deal? Is it because, now that you’ve been accepted over to Shanghai, you’re looking down on the people who went to Hunan University? I seem to recall that our law faculty is supposed to be better than yours . ” Cheng Yu deliberately used a joking tone .

For a long moment, she was quiet before finally saying, “Don’t try to force me . You know me . ”

After getting her mobile phone number from her, Cheng Yu soon hung up the call .

While she was trying her best to bring back the sleepy feeling, Shen Yao had already put the telephone back, walked over to stand beneath Tong Yan’s bed, and arched her head back to look up at Tong Yan . “Tong Yan Wuji, I’m in love . ” Tong Yan stared perplexedly at her . With an expression that showed she was reveling in her thoughts, Shen Yao continued, “I’ve fallen in love with that man’s voice . You’ve got to play matchmaker for us . I can’t stand it . I’m honestly in love with him . ”

Tong Yan was thoroughly awake now .

“Is he a university student? An old classmate of yours?”

Tong Yan was at a loss over whether she should laugh or cry at this . “Yes . In the law school at Hunan University …”

“Oooh, one with a long historical standing … Definitely much better than our law school that’s only been around for three years . ” Shen Yao’s eyes were sparkling . “Did he say he was coming to Shanghai for Christmas? Can you bring me along?”

“You listened in on my call . ”

Tong Yan had not finished speaking, though, before Shen Yao had already kicked off her slippers, climbed up the ladder onto Tong Yan’s bed, and lifted up the covers to huddle together with her under them . “Hurry and give me all the details about him . You don’t even know, earlier on, when he just said hello, my heart leapt out of my chest . How can there be a man who sounds soooo nice when he talks?”

Under Shen Yao’s persistent pursuit for more information, Tong Yan, who was squeezed up against the wall, began nonstop to answer all sorts of different questions . However, she purposely avoided anything related to Lu Bei .

 

Shen Yao was wearing a serious expression that indicated she had plans to carry out a long talk through the entire night, and resignedly, Tong Yan picked up her mobile phone to glance at the time .

To her surprise, there was an unread text message .

“What does he look like? Do you have a picture?” Hugging a pillow against herself, Shen Yao leaned herself up against the wall . “You know I don’t really ask for anything in terms of looks . I just want to know what he looks like . ”

It was not only looks that she did not really ask anything of; she basically did not have any requirements for anything . That was opposite to Xiaoru, who measured everything up against her set criteria .

“No photos, but he’s really quite good-looking . I’d give him a score of eighty or more . ”

Inconspicuously, she opened up her text message inbox .

Gu Pingsheng: Are you asleep? TK

Tong Yan: Not yet . I’m chatting with Shen Yao .

Gu Pingsheng: I’m chatting with Pingfan, too . TK

Tong Yan: Don’t tell me it’s about relationship issues, too? Shen Yao just answered a call for me … She said she’s fallen for the boy who called . It’s just one phone call . That’s too fast .

“Tong Yan Wuji!” Shen Yao slapped her firmly on her arm . “This is about the future happiness of the rest of my life . Can you treat this more seriously? Who are you texting with, smiling so lustily?”

After saying this, she immediately leaned in closer to Tong Yan .

Panicked, Tong Yan clutched her mobile phone to herself . “You keep trying to look and I’ll kick you down off of here . ” Shen Yao soon yielded and simply continued prattling off all kinds of questions .

Tong Yan discreetly changed the name “Gu Pingsheng” in her mobile phone to “TK . ” But after thinking about it, she decided it still was not good enough and eventually changed it to her own name, “Tong Yan . ”

This way, no matter who happened to see, they still would not be able to guess whom it was .

A reply soon came back from Gu Pingsheng: Perhaps it has to do with personality . Some people are cautious and will assess and weigh out everything . Some people tend to simply throw caution to the wind . TK

It could have been because it was late into the night, or perhaps it was because Shen Yao had out of the blue fallen into a baffling romance, but their conversation had somehow managed to slip into this type of topic . Over these last two weeks, although they had communicated frequently, it had all been on very ordinary subjects .

Tong Yan talked to Shen Yao for another little while before she finally mustered up the courage to, in the most nonchalant tone possible, ask him: What about you? What are you like?

Quite a length of time passed before he replied with a sentence written in English:

The longer you have to wait for something, the more you will appreciate it when it finally arrives . TK

 

“Eh?” Seeing an open opportunity, Shen Yao swiftly took advantage of it and swept her eyes over the message . Instantly, a suggestive grin spread across her face . “Who’s that, huh, saying he’s going to wait for you?”

Tong Yan immediately stuffed her mobile phone under her covers . “Off the bed, off the bed . I need to sleep . ”

“Calm down, calm down . ” Shen Yao quickly raised her hands in surrender . “I didn’t see anything . ”

Another text message seemed to have come in on her phone, but she dared not read anything in front of Shen Yao anymore . Afterwards, Shen Yao continued another long stretch of talking, but she only absentmindedly responded to her . Over and over in her mind, all she could think about was that one sentence .

When she was at last lying back down on her bed, she pulled out her mobile phone again . The glow of the phone’s screen was especially prominent against the darkness: To put it a little simpler, the longer you wait for something, the more it deserves to be cherished when you get it . TK



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