Chapter 185: What about Big Xiang Ning then
By communicating with Apple’s assistant, Xu Tingsheng found Apple by the Xihu in the morning.
Observing her for a while, Xu Tingsheng saw her in a numb, lonely state, her movements slow as she dragged her feet. Whenever those men who wanted to lend their umbrellas came over, so long as they tried to insist, they would see an overreaction from Apple, as if they had come over to hurt her.
Xu Tingsheng held up an umbrella for her by the Xihu.
Then, he waved towards the still stunned owner of the umbrella in the distance, “Thanks, bro! I won’t stand on ceremony then! You have a car, anyway!” Xu Tingsheng waved the umbrella he was holding as he yelled.
The man could only wave his arms, gesturing for Xu Tingsheng to hurry up and scram.
Apple finally raised her head from Xu Tingsheng’s embrace.
“What is it? He’s…” She asked.
“Leifeng Pagoda’s new Lei Feng. He’s a new guy. Just because you hugged me once, I won an umbrella,” Xu Tingsheng pinched Apple’s hollowed cheeks as he smiled, “Look at this, why’ve you become so thin? Did your company ask you to go on a diet?”
Apple touched her face before setting her head against Xu Tingsheng’s chest, shaking her head as she smiled awkwardly.
“For whatever reason you became thinner, I still feel that you looked better originally. Let’s get you fattened back up again, okay?”
Xu Tingsheng didn’t intend to immediately reveal that he understood what was up with Apple. If warmth and human company were the best cure, since he was willing to do so, everything else could then come slowly, allowing her to slowly accept it.
With tears trickling down her face, Apple mightily nodded repeatedly.
“I’ll eat more,” She said.
“Good. Let’s go catch up on some breakfast now then.”
Xu Tingsheng handed the umbrella to Apple, turned and bent forward.
Apple hesitantly took the umbrella, “Huh?”
Xu Tingsheng patted his back, “Let me see how much lighter you’ve become.”
Apple slowly put her hands over Xu Tingsheng’s shoulders.
“Jump up, like you did before.”
Apple had once loved to mess around with Xu Tingsheng like this. The current her was no longer used to it as she cautiously jumped onto his back. Xu Tingsheng said, “I’m going.”
“Apple, don’t be afraid. I’ll carry you someplace bright.”
Once, Xu Tingsheng had carried Apple from the dimly lit riverbank back to the bright streets. Now, he hoped to carry her out of the dark swamplands of the night, allowing her soul to regain its former freedom, its former brightness.
After eating breakfast, Xu Tingsheng went out with Apple for the entire morning. Still, it did not feel like it initially had between them as Apple still ever remained in a tense, cautious mood.
“What time is your rehearsal?” After having intentionally eaten lunch at an annoyingly crowded fast food restaurant, Xu Tingsheng asked Apple.
“Around 3pm. I’ve got to wait for the other singers to finish rehearsing first,” Apple said.
“How about you go back to your motel and sleep for a while first? You seem very tired. What if you can’t sing well later? It’s my first time buying a ticket for a live show. If you don’t sing well, are you going to give me a refund?”
Apple vehemently shook her head, a look of fear evident on her face.
“Go to my room to sleep then. It’s just nearby. I’ll stay beside you, so you just sleep for a while.”
In his motel room, Xu Tingsheng helped to cover Apple with a blanket before he sat down on a single-seater sofa by the side, watching over her.
“Xu Tingsheng, do you think I’m sick? Just like my assistant…you actually just pity me, right?”
Apple lay on her side, facing Xu Tingsheng as she sunk into a pillow. A frail, quiet Apple actually possessed a different kind of beauty. It just wasn’t what Xu Tingsheng hoped to see, was willing to admire.
“No. It was great how we were back then, don’t you remember? I just want us to return to how we were before. Go back with me, okay?” Xu Tingsheng replied.
“Okay,” Apple nodded, “You won’t push me away, right?”
“But I just find it a little wrong somehow. Why are you suddenly…”
“Actually, it’s always been like this. It just that I’ve made my decision now.”
Apple thought for a moment, “Then, what about her? The person within your heart-she’s called Xiang Ning, right?”
As Apple mentioned Xiang Ning, Xu Tingsheng pretended to pull the curtains as he faced away from her, “She will have her own life.”
“Will she be okay?”
“She’ll be okay,” Xu Tingsheng thought about Xiang Ning and their interactions in this life, “Her current feelings towards me shouldn’t have reached the extent of love yet. So…she’ll be okay.”
“Right, I heard that you’ve stopped going to school. So, after tonight’s performance has ended, inform your family first. After that, return to Yanzhou and stay over with me for a while…”
Xu Tingsheng had wanted to say ‘Let me take care of you’, but changed his words at this point as he smiled, saying, “You can help me out there. For example, washing clothes, cooking, and you can even help out a little with my education platform.”
“After that, you should be able to calm yourself and consider what you want to do in the future. Like-do you want to continue singing, or do you want to resume studying earlier, or go on vacation? Anyway, just do whatever you want to do that will make you happy.”
Apple finally smiled, “Can I just always wash your clothes and cook for you in the future? Doing nothing else at all.”
Looking at her familiar smile and hearing her joking tone, Xu Tingsheng’s mood eased somewhat as he joked, “That wouldn’t be okay. You should still go to work. Some of the platform’s matters are actually very simple; you should be able to pick them up very quickly. I’ll give you wages…if you don’t work, you’ll only have 10 yuan of allowance money every day.”
“Then, you actually have many friends in Yanzhou. Apart from the few of us, there are also Fang Chen, Yuqing…right, and your spy as well…you won’t be bored.”
“Right,” Apple said, “Xu Tingsheng.”
“I’m so happy.”
“That’s good. Now, hurry up and sleep. Relax, I’ll be sitting right here.”
If it was the past Apple, she would definitely go, “Come on, let’s sleep together.” However, the current her just obediently closed her eyes as she faced Xu Tingsheng’s direction.
Xu Tingsheng looked at her hollowed features, her trembling eyebrows, her forehead that was constantly scrunched up tightly. His heart could not but ache at this.
Perhaps because he indeed caused her to feel peaceful and at ease, Apple finally fell asleep. A really bored Xu Tingsheng sat on the sofa…some things, he really dared not think about now.
However, his handphone rang. It was that old number.
Even though she already knew the new number that Xu Tingsheng was using in Yanzhou, be it an oversight on her part or just out of habit, every time Xiang Ning contacted Xu Tingsheng, be it a call or a text message, she always still used that old number. It was the number that he had once written down on a piece of paper, telling her, “If you need me, just call me, and I will come.”
“Uncle, guess where I am?”
“I can’t guess.”
“Hehe, I’m in Xihu City. Tonight, my cousin will be taking me to Big Sis Apple’s performance. There’ll be many people there. This might be Big Sis Apple’s last time performing. They all say that this is Rebirth’s fault, which is actually your fault, right?”
“Are you still friends then? Will you be coming to watch? Come, okay? If you do, I’ll give you your present a little earlier.”
So, Xiang Ning would be coming to watch this performance. With so many people there, might they run into each other? Xu Tingsheng thought for a moment. Things being how they were, he did not intend to tell her that he too would be present. Even if she wasn’t concerned with that, he himself would mind.
He replied, “I’m too busy. I can’t come.”
“Alright, I’ll give you the present another time then.”
Xu Tingsheng hesitated for a while, “Xiang Ning, would it be okay if Uncle dates someone?”
Xiang Ning only replied after a while, “Dating? Uncle and who?”
Xu Tingsheng said, “An ordinary classmate, for instance. Anyway, it’s just a girl.”
This time, Xu Tingsheng waited for a long while before finally receiving two consecutive replies from Xiang Ning:
“What about Big Xiang Ning then? Don’t you like her anymore? What if she comes back and is looking for you?”
“So, it isn’t okay.”
Xiang Ning said that it wasn’t okay.
Apple woke up, asking before she left, “Do I really ask you on the stage tonight? Where will you be sitting?”
“I’ll be sitting right in front of you, in the sixth row. I bought it through ticket resale. You’ll be able to see me,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“How will you reply then?”
“I’ll raise my hands,” Xu Tingsheng raised his hands, forming a heart shape with his fingers above his head.
“Yeah,” Apple nodded happily.
There had once been a heart just like this. Xu Tingsheng had sprinted along the entire stretch of stands whilst holding it up. The Apple back then had been able to coax herself into believing that that heart…was meant for her. This time, this heart would really be meant for her.