Chapter 111: You chose me in my previous life
Xu Tingsheng entered the room and closed the door, sitting on the chair beside Xiang Ning in front of the desk. He was so nervous that he did not say anything. Perhaps he had not earlier considered the first thing that he would say.
Should he say, ‘Good afternoon, student Xiang Ning’ or ‘Dearest one, I’ve come. Thereon, I will be fully participating in your growth as well as life’?
Xiang Ning had her elbows on the desk, her hands pressed against her cheeks as she looked at Xu Tingsheng. She was smiling, communicating through the smile at the corners of her mouth as well as the light within her eyes through which a hint of mischief could be seen. And perhaps it appeared just that little bit threatening as well.
This was certainly not the first time Xu Tingsheng had seen Little Xiang Ning, nor was it the first time that he had been so close to her.
Back on that stormy night, they had stood even closer whilst sharing the same umbrella. Afterwards, standing under shelter, he had shielded her from the elements, she standing behind him.
However, it still felt different from back then, because this time, Xu Tingsheng had finally properly made up his mind to fully participate in Little Xiang Ning’s growth and life.
He had once been conflicted and bewildered over whether or not he should do this. However, that previous arduous process had changed his mind.
From when Little Xiang Ning had said that she felt afraid back on that stormy night to when she had called Xu Tingsheng’s phone for the first time afterwards, that entire semester that had passed had seemed like a whole, excruciating century for Xu Tingsheng. He had felt panicked, helpless, uneasy…
Therefore, he wasn’t going to be concerned with all that stuff any longer.
“Uncle Liar,” Xiang Ning said in a hushed tone.
However, there was no response. Xu Tingsheng’s mind had drifted away.
There had once been a scene just so similar to this. Back then, unable to argue against Xiang Ning, Uncle Xu Tingsheng had accompanied her for a meal in her university. There, he had been bombarded with questions by her inquisitive roommates. Afterwards, they had gone to the self-study room in the library together, sitting at the last row just before the wall.
In the self-study room, Xu Tingsheng had felt completely like a fish out of water. Meanwhile, Xiang Ning had been just like how she currently was, her hands against her cheeks as she smiled at him, her smile containing a bit of triumph, a bit of mischief and also happiness.
“Uncle, you look really cute when you’re nervous,” Xiang Ning had said back then.
“Uncle, wouldn’t it be great if we could be like this everyday? Everyday, we would be able to eat together, study together, tour the sports field together,” Xiang Ning had said back then.
“We still have to tour the sports field together?” Xu Tingsheng had replied with a troubled look on his face.
“Yeah. After more people have left, we’ll cut across the sports field hand-in-hand, you sending me back to my dorm,” Xiang Ning nodded before suddenly smiling mysteriously, “Oh, but there’s still one thing before that. Uncle, do you want to kiss me now? In…here, the self-study room.”
“Many university couples have kissed secretly in the self-study room before. I’m about to graduate, but I still haven’t yet. Hey, Xu Tingsheng, are you kissing or not?” Xiang Ning directed a threatening stare towards the uncle who didn’t know how to read the mood before turning her face to the side towards him.
Xu Tingsheng looked at the room full of university students, with quite a few of them who knew Xiang Ning perpetually sneaking a glance in this direction…he said, “I think…we’d better not.”
“Aww,” Xiang Ning said in a sad tone before shifting over with a smile, “But, I want to kiss you.”
She had only just finished speaking when her lips had already pressed down onto Xu Tingsheng’s face, touching down gently like a dragonfly on the water’s surface before escaping in a flash…that was the first time Xiang Ning had kissed Xu Tingsheng in his previous life.
On that day, the twenty-two year old Xiang Ning had, in a rare spate of willfulness, forcibly dragged Xu Tingsheng along in fulfilling the many desires and expectations that she had regarding campus romance.
From his previous life to the current, Xu Tingsheng had always cherished the memory of that day, that warm blissfulness.
And now, she was fifteen.
“Uncle Liar?” Little Xiang Ning tugged on Xu Tingsheng’s sleeve.
Xu Tingsheng broke out of his reverie, turning to look at Xiang Ning, who blinked. This was just like that scene in <A Chinese Odyssey Part Two> when Zixia had blinked towards Joker…
Xu Tingsheng shook his head, regaining his clarity of mind. He could not afford to forget that he was here for a competition selection today.
“Yeah. I’m going to start my lesson now…the senior high entrance examinations, you won’t have to worry about them at all…the university entrance examinations, you also won’t have to worry about them at all, if it’s possible,” Xu Tingsheng said rather incoherently.
Actually, he had withheld his next sentence, which was, “In this life, you won’t have to worry about anything at all.”
The reason for this was something Xiang Ning had once said: When I was worrying over the entrance exams for senior high and university, why didn’t you appear and help me to revise?… Xu Tingsheng, Mr Xu?… Just knowing how to care about other girls, hmph.”
Now, Xu Tingsheng, Mr Xu, was here.
The lesson Xu Tingsheng had prepared encompassed three segments, Mathematics, Composition and English.
Xu Tingsheng spoke in a gentle tone, Xiang Ning listening quietly to him. Time passed in the most blissful state possible…
Mr and Mrs Xiang looked at their watches, discovering that the tutoring time spent by this teacher was much longer than the previous. They got up and pressed their ears to the door.
Xu Tingsheng was in the midst of practising intonations with Xiang Ning.
Little Xiang Ning’s intonations were…in truth, not worth mentioning at all. Still, when Xu Tingsheng chose some verbs and said them, she was still generally able to understand their meaning. When there was one she could not understand, Xu Tingsheng would stop and dissect its meaning as well as its Mandarin equivalent, write those down on a piece of paper and explain it to her before instructing her to review it afterwards to be checked on by him next time.
Outside the door, a very satisfied Mr and Mrs Xiang walked away.
Xiang Ning looked down, memorising a few verbs as Xu Tingsheng watched on by the side. Afterwards, Xiang Ning looked up at Xu Tingsheng and the conversation resumed, to be restarted by him. Lost in those eyes, he said, “Eu amo-te.”
Little Xiang Ning opened her eyes wide, saying, “I don’t know this one.”
Xu Tingsheng did not explain this time, just saying, “Um, I said this one wrongly.”
Eu amo-te, Portuguese for ‘I love you’.
Two hours later, the lesson ended.
Xiang Ning stretched lazily, commenting, “Whew, I’m beat.”
Xu Tingsheng considered before saying, “We’ll arrange for a break in between next time.”
“Next time? Uncle, it seems like I still haven’t chosen you yet,” Little Xiang Ning said craftily.
“You will,” Xu Tingsheng said calmly but decisively.
“Why?” Little Xiang Ning asked quizzically.
“Hmmm…because I’m good,” Xu Tingsheng smiled, neglecting to say, “I know you will choose me, because, you chose me in my previous life.”
Little Xiang Ning changed the topic, “Uncle Liar, why did you become a home tutor? Was it because of me?”
Little Xiang Ning was asking: ‘Was it because of me?’
“Duh! Otherwise, why else would your uncle go to all this effort? If not for you, why would your uncle shamelessly make that whatever 5-Star home tutor account, even sealing someone else’s account? If not for you, why would your uncle who makes some hundreds of thousands per minute come to be a home tutor? If not for you…” Xu Tingsheng thought emotionally.
However, what he instead said was, “No, I didn’t even notice that it was you initially.”
Then, Xu Tingsheng narrated the harsh days of his previous life to Xiang Ning. Back in university then, he had had to work painstakingly for his and his sister’s school fees and living expenses. He spoke of how he had once distributed flyers out on the streets despite the pouring rain, how he had only been able to drink free purple vegetable soup in the cafeteria…
The uncle very shamelessly drew on Little Xiang Ning’s sympathy, buying an additional layer of insurance for himself.
Xu Tingsheng understood Xiang Ning too much. She was just that kind-hearted a person.
After his narration, her eyes glistening with tears, she looked at Xu Tingsheng, saying, “Sorry, Uncle Liar.”
“Yeah, because you’re so poor and I, I still ate so many of your noodles, and dumplings.”
Xu Tingsheng had overlooked the possibility that this might happen. Seeing Xiang Ning blaming herself, he hurriedly coaxed her for a bit. Only when the tears were gone from her face and she was smiling did he, with her parents in mind, reluctantly stand up, turning to leave the room.
“Uncle, I will choose you,” Xiang Ning said from behind him.
“I know,” Xu Tingsheng said.
Facing away from Xiang Ning, he felt a little close to tears himself. This sentence of Xiang Ning’s had been regarding the matter of the home tutor selection. Yet, what Xu Tingsheng had heard was ‘In this life, I will still choose you.’