SWFM 25

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SWFM25: The feelings with that brick

 

Xu Tingsheng used the three periods of evening self-study to properly sort out the methods and paths of thought regarding autonomous learning, also doing up a few examples, including outlines, guiding questions, and so on, all having their own templates.

Afterwards, he brought Fu Cheng along in sending it over to Mrs Fang.

At night, in the dormitory, some people continued studying under the light of their torchlights while others conversed in low voices. Xu Tingsheng already very seldom participated in such bedtime talk. Every day, he would make use of this time to reminisce, as well as think of the future ahead.

It had already been a month since he had last seen Xiang Ning. Had she received the package, had she been unhappy recently, had she…this was a very silly and fruitless thing to do, but Xu Tingsheng never tired of it. Still, at the end of the day, one’s imagination was limited. He wanted more than what lay in his memories, more than those few minutes in which he had seen her at the school gates previously, having already been etched within his mind. He wanted more-even if he could not participate too much in Xiang Ning’s life and growth, at the very least, he wished that he could always guard silently by her side. Just looking at her would be enough.

The next morning, a flustered Old Zhou reported the news of a person who was suspected of being afflicted with SARS having escaped from the quarantine ward.

This time, whether it was the government or the school, neither of them chose to conceal this incident, because a panic was already definitely going to happen. If rumours cropped up all around, things could be blown far out of proportion. Other than that, another necessary consideration was that if that person who had escaped was really afflicted with SARS, if the general public were to come into contact with him totally unawares, leading to a large scale spread of the epidemic, no one would be able to bear such a huge responsibility.

The entire school fell into a panicked state, with even some students and teachers who had yet to reach school calling and refusing to come.

To make a not really accurate comparison, this was like uncaged zombies out loose and roaming the streets. Who wouldn’t be afraid of receiving a bite and being turned into a zombie?

Only Xu Tingsheng felt nothing about this at all, because he knew for sure that that person had actually not been afflicted.

The doors of the school were shut tight, the atmosphere greatly repressed, the students beginning to get rather oversensitive, a number of conflicts even occurring during mealtimes.

It was under such a situation that Bao Ming and his gang came to the door of Class 10. Already feeling much too repressed, they could no longer tolerate someone having a hold over them.

Xu Tingsheng, Fu Cheng and Huang Yaming saw them at the doorway.

“If I say that we’ve already deleted all of it, would you believe it? I can hand you my phone to check,” Fu Cheng said.

Bao Ming’s group hesitated for a while, one of their number now saying, “Who knows how many copies you have made and stored elsewhere?”

“That’s why, isn’t it. That’s why there is already no way to resolve this matter, because whatever we say, you would also not believe it,” Fu Cheng said, “If you just want a fight, that’s fine, but if you want to resolve the matter, I can’t see any way to do so.”

Xu Tingsheng looked at Bao Ming’s gang, their expressions visibly conflicted.

He took a few steps forward, pulling Bao Ming to the side by his shoulder whereupon he went through the motions of quietly whispering yet speaking too loudly for such, “At the very least, I can tell you one thing. Your face was not captured in any one of those photos.”

Bai Ming raised his head joyfully, “For real?”

Xu Tingsheng nodded, “I have no need to lie to you on this, because at the same time, I can also tell you that the faces of all of your bros were basically captured clearly. That is to say that this matter still cannot be resolved with such. I have no need to lie to you on this…you should make proper consideration for your bros.”

The expressions on the faces of Bao Ming’s gang all grew strange and varied.

As the bell for class rang, Xu Tingsheng returned to the classroom alongside Fu Cheng and Huang Yaming.

Huang Yaming asked Xu Tingsheng, “Why did you suddenly say that just now?”

Xu Tingsheng explained craftily, “Let me put it this way. What I did just now can be classified under ‘how to destroy a group from the inside’. With this, Bao Ming’s gang will basically have collapsed.”

Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng whispered a little, comprehension very quickly dawning upon them.

In truth, the matter was actually very simple. Firstly, Xu Tingsheng’s words had covertly yet also naturally reiterated the existence of the photos that they possessed, and when he had told Bao Ming that his face had not been clearly captured in any of them, Bao Ming should have avoided revealing that joyful expression on his face at all costs. After that had happened, should his gang mention the problem of the photos again, if Bai Ming proposed resolving it through force of arms, the others would think: because you weren’t captured in the photos, you aren’t afraid of going to jail, and don’t care whether we live or die?…Conversely, if Bao Ming no longer mentioned this issue or refused to resolve it through violence, the others would think: because you weren’t captured in the photos, there is nothing for you to worry about, and you can let this matter go just like this?

Therefore, this bunch of people was basically done for.

After dissent had arisen amongst them, amidst the passing of time, it might really be that no one would recall this incident again, unless they prepared to harass Wu Yuewei, in which case a warning bell would sound within their hearts. And if Bao Ming happened to move closer to Wu Yuewei some particular day, especially intense emotions would be evoked amongst ‘his group of bros’.

The next day, Wu Yuewei made a trip to Class 10, handing Xu Tingsheng a notebook.

Rushing alongside Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng to take care of their cigarette addiction in between breaks, Xu Tingsheng did not refuse her, receiving it and thanking her before leaving. Only having reached the roof, opening the notebook as he smoked, did he begin to feel a bit of regret.

Seeing that his expression was not right, Huang Yaming took the notebook from him and perused it for a moment before returning it to him, saying emotionally, “You, the debt that you owe is really great. This is not some notebook from lessons. Every single word here has been carefully reorganised. That junior must not have slept yesterday night at all.”

Right, Wu Yuewei had given Xu Tingsheng a completely new mathematics notebook, having attempted to sort out according to his ‘teacher’s method’ every piece of required knowledge, formulae, formula variations, examples, easily mis-answered questions…

Not only must she not have slept, perhaps she hadn’t paid attention to today’s lessons at all.

Xu Tingsheng closed his eyes and thought back, remembering that Wu Yuewei’s eyes had indeed been somewhat bloodshot when she had handed him the notebook. This was the first time he was truly feeling conflicted over this girl. Originally, he had thought that things between them would just end with his departure after the university entrance examinations. Now, however, he was feeling rather at a loss.

Xu Tingsheng leaned back against the terrace, raising his head as he exhaled a puff of smoke. Most of the time, boys smoking on the roof would not go near the terrace. While an iron lattice was installed there and there was no chance of accidents happening, there was the disadvantage that those down below would be able to very easily spot that someone was smoking on the roof.

Perhaps following Xu Tingsheng’s lead, or perhaps due to their mentality of the university entrance examinations being right around the corner, with not caring about such things rather a liberating thing, a few other boys who were smoking came over to sit as well. They were rather more daring, hanging their legs over the edge and swinging them as they smoked and talked, some even whistling at the girls who passed by down below.

It was under such a situation that Xu Tingsheng learnt one thing. As that butterfly, you could not haphazardly flap your wings.

Xu Tingsheng had not known much in his previous life about that escaped patient suspected to be afflicted with SARS, not having seen him before. However, he could confirm at the very least that this person had not had drawn any relation with Libei Senior High at all. He had also not heard rumours of him once having entered Libei Senior High. Perhaps he had, or perhaps he hadn’t. As long as he had done so without anyone being alerted, there would not have been any problem at all.

A boy beside him panickedly spat out the cigarette in his mouth, pointing to the little thicket behind the security room at the school gates, “Look over there, that person, in hospital garb…”

Xu Tingsheng leapt up in fright, but before he was able to prevent it, that boy had already leapt up, yelling loudly, “Heck, that SARS has come; that SARS has run into our school.”

It was not just him who began yelling. As the voices resounded from the roof, even if some had not heard it clearly the first time, after a few more times, they would definitely have registered it. Shrieks began resounding about the entire school grounds, everyone fleeing wildly about directionlessly, because they did not know where specifically that person was located.

What was worse was that that person heard it as well.

He had originally been quietly hiding within the thicket, stiff, at a loss, not doing anything at all. However, now that he knew that he had been discovered, he scurried out from behind the thicket, beginning to run like everybody else.

Perhaps he was just afraid of being captured or sent back, or perhaps he hadn’t actually been thinking of anything at all, just having jumped out and began running.

He was actually already very exhausted, very weak, so he didn’t run very quickly. However, upon his approach, some girls had their legs grow weak as they were rooted to the spot. Seeing them blocking his way, with faces full of panic, fear, and even tears, he stopped, beginning to explain to them:

“I don’t have that disease.”

“I won’t die.”

“I don’t want to die.”

“You have to believe me. I really don’t have that disease; I really won’t die.”

The remaining students had already fled back within the classroom building, the timid ones hiding in the classrooms and shutting the doors tight, the rather more courageous boys moving tables and chairs to block the stairway at the first floor before returning to the corridor of the second floor, looking at the situation down below.

In that open space between buildings, some girls were either sitting limply, dazed or weeping, while not far from them, that middle-aged man in hospital garb was hysterically rambling, “Don’t be afraid; I don’t have that disease. I won’t die.”

He was too scared to even let the word SARS out of his mouth.

Xu Tingsheng pushed through the crowd and looked down below. There, amongst the girls, he spotted a certain person, Wu Yuewei. Having just finished passing over the notebook, she had been in the midst of returning from the twelfth grade building to the eleventh grade building. She had been in a reverie, her head lowered as she walked. Then, she had been jolted to her senses by the panicked crowds, afterwards being trapped along with the other girls over at the empty space between buildings.

Xu Tingsheng rushed downstairs. The current situation was that everyone else was afraid that the girls had been afflicted with SARS, while what he was afraid of was that Wu Yuewei might be harmed by the man. Xu Tingsheng was very certain that this middle-aged man suspected to be afflicted with SARS was currently in a state of mental instability. Otherwise, no one would have been unintelligent to the point of escaping from the quarantine ward. Anyone who could still think properly, however afraid or despairing they were, would know that remaining in the hospital was the best choice for them. If it really was SARS, there would be no meaning in fleeing at all.

In having escaped, even having leapt off a building and injured some nurses in the process, it was already clear that he had already completely lost his rationality. He was currently equivalent to a scary person with a mental illness.

Vice-Principal Lou stood upstairs, shouting at that person, saying things like ‘You’re only a suspected case, and have already gone past the dangerous period’ and ‘Don’t make one mistake after another; don’t harm the students’.

However, his words clearly had no use at all. Nothing he said would have any effect. If the other party could have taken in his words and performed rational thought, he would not have escaped from the quarantine ward at all in the first place.

He began pulling on the girls’ arms, wanting them to affirm his words, wanting them to say that he was not afflicted, to say that he would not die.

Vice-Principal Lou scolded ‘mother’, turning as he was about to rush downstairs, but was hurriedly grabbed by the teachers around him, one even saying things along the line of ‘don’t give away your life for nothing’.

Currently, in the eyes of virtually everyone here, that was a person afflicted with SARS. Fear had already caused them to forget that it was just a suspected case, and even if there were some who still remembered this, there was nobody who would be willing to take such a gamble. SARS could be transmitted through the air-who would dare draw near? Who didn’t value their life?

“Then what about those students?” Vice-Principal Lou roared.

The teacher beside him did not release his grip, instead advising him, “Wait for the people from the hospital; wait for the cops.”

Actually, there really was a person here who was not afraid at all, because he had already long since known the results. Xu Tingsheng descended the building, picking up a brick in the pile of materials from the uncompleted sports hall…

Some more alert students nearly lost control of themselves and cried out, next hurriedly covering their mouths.

Then, virtually everyone repeated this same movement. They were surprised, taken aback, but they still knew that they could not let out a sound at this time. Otherwise, that brave figure’s ‘sacrifice’ would have been for nothing.

Right, in everyone’s eyes, Xu Tingsheng was like Huang Jiguang, Qiu Shaoyun and Dong Cunrui, having rushed forward with the mentality of being prepared to ‘sacrifice’ himself.

Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng were left at a loss, while Yao Jing was overwhelmed by emotions. Actually, everyone who knew Xu Tingsheng here, Vice-Principal Lou, Old Zhou, Fang Yunyao and the other subject teachers, the students of Class 10, Wu Yuewei’s closest female friend, as well as many, many others were all like that as well, being at a loss, at the same time also overwhelmed by emotions.

Some were touched by his actions; some found him to be a fool; some found it unexpected.

Xu Tingsheng himself, though, was calm and leisurely as the simple breeze. The reason he had taken that brick was that he was afraid that that mental patient might suddenly go crazy out of nowhere and injure someone. Otherwise, he would be very willing to go up and interact with him for a bit.

In this current situation, Xu Tingsheng thought it best that he directly take the person down.

A brick in hand, the other hand empty, Xu Tingsheng did not quicken his footsteps, nor did he bend his body and stealthily creep over. He just walked ordinarily forward just like that, strolling from behind towards that middle-aged man in hospital garb who was currently rambling endlessly on to the girls.

He arrived behind the man.

Everyone held their breathing.

“Bang.”

Very straightforwardly, the brick slammed onto the back of the middle-aged man’s head before breaking apart. The man’s body toppled limply forward, Xu Tingsheng hurriedly supporting it as it fell.


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