SWFM 183

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Chapter 183: No borrowing umbrella at Xihu

 

Apple told Xu Tingsheng that the concert they had agreed upon that she had been anticipating and striving towards for so long might not be coming. Her final performance would still be a rotational style commercial performance. Several singers would be taking turns to go up on stage where they would each be singing two or three songs.

Yet, she still hoped that Xu Tingsheng could come, because she wanted to sing once for him.

Fu Cheng discovered Xu Tingsheng in a daze as he clutched his phone in his hand.

“What is it?” He asked.

Xu Tingsheng handed his phone to him and asked after he had finished reading the message, “Will you be going?”

Fu Cheng said, “I won’t be going, but you should go…this is Apple’s farewell, not her farewell to being a singer, but a farewell to you. After Yunyao got into an accident back then, after you had met, she told us that her dream is to sing in a mass concert, just once, and you would be there.”

“She has tried hard. You haven’t seen her for a long time, right? Song Ni said that she’s almost 20kg thinner now, just her flesh over her bones. Looking at how she is now, some people from the media even speculate that she’s on drugs.”

“Now that she’s lost, she only wants to bid you farewell. You should go.”

“Actually, a true farewell is only possible when there is no one left to say farewell to.”

Xu Tingsheng was smiling as he said this sentence. He was trying hard to say these brutal words as if they were a joke. In bidding someone farewell, the farewell itself acts as fetters.

“Xu Tingsheng, why do you have to hurt people to this extent? I don’t know what exactly is so good about that Xiang Ning of yours, I really don’t. I don’t even know what kind of person you are anymore.”

Fu Cheng sounded like he was trying hard to repress something from the very bottom of his heart.

Xu Tingsheng hesitated for a while before asking, “Has she talked about her future plans? When will she be returning to university?”

Fu Cheng tried hard to calm himself as he said, “Song Ni said that Apple applied for two years of leave from university. It’s only been half a year now. She doesn’t intend to go back too early. Maybe she’ll find a music bar and sing there for a year before deciding what to do next.”

Xu Tingsheng did not speak. He knew that if he could be ruthless this time, Apple would have a new life of her own. In the future, there would no longer be a person named Xu Tingsheng in her tale. Perhaps she would be hurt for two years before she managed to rediscover her former self.

Xu Tingsheng remembered her former life trajectory that he knew of. That rumoured romantic, gentlemanly British baron, pastures with warm sunlight in Australia…it was he who had pushed her onto a completely different path, a completely different trajectory.

Stopping would be irresponsible.

Continuing would be a responsibility that he could not bear.

“I might not be able to come,” Xu Tingsheng replied to Apple.

“Right,” Apple said.
……

The taxi stopped by the roadside. Xu Tingsheng thought that they had reached the motel, but it wasn’t so.

“I want some alcohol.”

Fu Cheng pulled Xu Tingsheng off the taxi. Right in front of them was a small music bar named ‘Flowers Blooming’. Today, they had gone from ‘Spring Warmth’ to ‘Flowers Blooming’, yet had not seen any brightness.

The two were stopped at the door of the small bar.

It was a plainly dressed woman in her early thirties who stopped them, “Our music bar’s theme is old Taiwanese songs. As the two of you look unfamiliar, I should first make it clear that if you don’t like this, you can consider going somewhere else.”

“It’s alright,” Fu Cheng said.

Perhaps because it was so late or because the theme was less mainstream, there weren’t many people in the bar. Most of them were seated in comparatively darker corners, drinking quietly by themselves. There was only ever a smattering of applause every time a song had ended.

A middle-aged man had just finished singing Leslie Cheung’s<Devoted To You> up on stage.

Next, it was that woman from before who ascended the stage. She smiled as she sang <Only Love You>. From the sweetness in her smile, it could be felt how happy a life she lived.

Xu Tingsheng and Fu Cheng were seated at a corner by a wall on which messages were written. As the two of them drank their alcohol, they read the messages left behind on it.

Xu Tingsheng found a sentence that gave him some consolation as he now recited it out loud:

“Gratitude to him for not marrying me that year.”

The date written beneath this sentence was the year 2004.

Fu Cheng did not speak.

“I was the one who wrote this.”

Xu Tingsheng and Fu Cheng turned. The speaker was the woman who had just finished singing. With a glass of wine in her hand, she sat down at the table beside them.

“2004?” Xu Tingsheng asked her.

“I wrote it three years ago. Three years ago, I told myself-three years are enough. Three years later, I will thank his departure. That’s why it was the year 2004 that I wrote below. It’s this year,” The woman said calmly, happiness still visible on her face.

“What about now?” It was Fu Cheng who asked her this.

“I’m still waiting for him to return,” The woman said.
……

Morning at Xihu City, by the side of the Xihu(West Lake).

Apple had not slept the whole night. Then, as the sky had begun to brighten, she had gone for a walk along the Xihu.

It started to rain.

Even with sunglasses, a face mask and a cap on such that no one could tell that it was her, Apple was still a woman who held great allure. She had just rejected the sixth man who had positioned an umbrella over her head.

Xu Tingsheng stopped this man, asking, “What’s this?”

“A beautiful woman, just that there isn’t a chance,” The man said.

“What do you mean?” Xu Tingsheng asked.

“I said I’d lend an umbrella. She said no borrowing umbrella at Xihu,” The man said rather despondently.

“Why?”

“Don’t you know the story of the White Lady and Xu Xian?”

“Hmmm…lend me your umbrella. I’ll try.”

“Don’t waste your time like this. I was already the sixth.”

“I’ll try.”

“Fine. If you’re able to do it, this umbrella is yours.”

Another umbrella appeared over Apple’s head. What was different this time was that the man behind her didn’t say anything, didn’t say ‘Let’s get to know each other’ or even just a ‘I’m just afraid that you might catch a cold. I don’t mean anything else’.

“Thank you, but no borrowing umbrella at Xihu,” Apple said.

“Really?”

As the man behind her spoke, Apple was rooted to the spot just like that. She wanted to turn yet just dared not do so. She found this voice just so familiar. Yet, she still lacked the courage to turn, afraid that she would turn around and find that it wasn’t him.

The man who had lent the umbrella gazed over from a distance away. He saw Apple saying no borrowing umbrella at Xihu, and he saw that guy still shamelessly standing there. “This fella’s skin really is thick! Indeed, one needs to be shameless to pick up chicks.”

“You really don’t want it? Not even…Superman and his umbrella?” Xu Tingsheng asked.

“Xu Tingsheng?” Still facing away from him, Apple asked.

“Yeah,” Xu Tingsheng said.

Apple turned.

“I thought that Xu Tingsheng didn’t care about me anymore,” She said.

“Did you ask him?”

Apple shook her head.

“What do you think the second half of that sentence he sent to you is?”

“I don’t know.”

Apple took off her sunglasses and face mask.

“Superman and his big umbrella will always be standing behind you,” Xu Tingsheng said.

Apple was silent, perhaps for a few minutes, perhaps for even longer, before she burst into tears and hugged Xu Tingsheng, burying her head in his embrace, wiping it full of tears and also snot.

The man who had lent the umbrella was utterly stupefied, “That also works? …Is there heavenly justice in this world? Why does that woman look like Apple! Who’s that guy? The heck, I just…”

“Take note of your image, okay, pop star?” Xu Tingsheng said.

“I don’t want to,” Apple said.

“Xu Tingsheng, do you like me?” Apple asked.

“Save that question for tonight, on the stage,” Xu Tingsheng said.


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