Chapter 26: 14 days and nights
The middle-aged man collapsed onto the ground. Never having hit someone with a brick before, Xu Tingsheng was a little nervous. He checked his breathing. Good, he was still alive.
Amidst the cheers, there were also some who harboured complex feelings, such as Bao Ming, who said to those beside him, “Look, I told you this guy’s a nutjob. There isn’t anything that he wouldn’t do.”
The mad cheers of those in the classroom buildings were soon followed by thunderous, deafening applause.
Those girls who had originally been scared witless were jolted awake by the applause, shrieking as they wanted to run towards the classroom buildings, but an authoritative voice now resounded from elsewhere, “Those few students over there, please remain where you are…please remain where you are.”
Xu Tingsheng pulled back some girls who were thinking to run, smiling genially, “We won’t be able to leave, but I can assure you that this person doesn’t have SARS, and we won’t get it either…believe me, if I wasn’t confident of that, how would I possibly have come over here?”
“He’d actually already passed through the most dangerous period in which the disease would manifest; he was just scaring himself. Let’s just wait here for a bit. After those from the hospital arrive and give us a checkup, it’ll be fine…”
Only after quite some time had passed did Xu Tingsheng finally manage to properly calm those girls down. They began to believe his words, the best proof for such being his very presence here. It was like he had said-if he wasn’t certain, how would he possibly have dared to approach a possible SARS patient?
There was only one person here who didn’t buy Xu Tingsheng’s explanation at all. Wu Yuewei felt that Xu Tingsheng surely didn’t have any certainty of it at all. There were so many who were uncertain, were scared. What basis could he possibly have to the contrary?…However, even though he had lacked certainty, even while he might be afflicted with SARS as a result, he had still come. He had come for her.
Wu Yuewei cared not about anything. She cared not about embarrassment, cared not about Xu Tingsheng’s earlier words, cared not about the teachers or the students as in direct view of more than a thousand pairs of eyes, she lunged right into his embrace.
Xu Tingsheng did not think too much about it. The way he saw it, Wu Yuewei was just afraid, urgently needing comfort and someone to rely on. Therefore, he did not push her away, gently patting her back with one hand while leaving his other arm just hanging loosely by the side due to not knowing where to place it, resembling a single-armed warrior embracing his woman.
Whistling resounded from the classroom buildings all around them.
Xu Tingsheng comforted Wu Yuewei in a gentle tone, “Don’t be afraid, it’s really fine. Trust me.”
Wu Yuewei nodded shakily within his embrace as she sobbed, “I’m not afraid.”
It was around half an hour before a medical squad and some armed police, fully suited up, arrived at the scene. After they had gotten a grasp on the situation, the middle-aged man was hoisted up the ambulance, following which Xu Tingsheng and the girls were sent up another vehicle.
Actually, Xu Tingsheng had lied. Having been examined at the hospital, they would then be directly sent to the quarantine wards. Having come in close proximity with someone possibly afflicted with SARS, how would the hospital release you so easily.
Some of the girls began crying again, and this time, however the ‘fraudster’ Xu Tingsheng tried to comfort them, it was also in vain.
Having kept a careful distance from the accompanying nurse the entire journey, Xu Tingsheng smiled to her after having been settled into his ward, “Hi…don’t be afraid, I’m not coming over. I just want a bottle of water, and can we make calls here? Also, can I have someone send my books over?”
Covered within layers of protective clothing, the young nurse answered ‘please wait a moment’ in a muffled tone, then left the room.
Upon her return, a hot water bottle in hand, she told Xu Tingsheng, “You can make calls however you like. I’ve asked for you regarding your books; they should be arriving after a while.”
Xu Tingsheng thanked her before taking up the phone, making a call to his parents at home and patiently comforting them, also making a call to Fu Cheng on his handphone, asking him to help pack up the books that he would need, handing it to the people sent by the hospital later on.
His parents cried for a long time on the phone. Fu Cheng scolded Xu Tingsheng for a bit, before Huang Yaming snatched his phone from him and scolded him as well. Actually, they seemed to have cried as well.
Yao Jing’s voice sounded over the phone, “Are you alright?”
Xu Tingsheng said, “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking about anything else at the time. What I mean is-if you were there, I would have gone as well.”
His explanations were actually getting more and more convoluted, because there was already no way for him to properly explain this, short of him saying that he had the power to predict the future. Otherwise, he would be unable to explain it to Wu Yuewei, to Yao Jing, to anyone at all.
Yao Jing said, “It’s fine, I know. Don’t be too nervous.”
Xu Tingsheng smiled over the phone, “Like I’d be nervous. It’s you who ought to make sure that your studies aren’t affected. Your current results are still worse than mine.”
Yao Jing said, “I will work hard.”
Afterwards, some others, including Old Zhou, Song Ni, Vice-Principal Lou and the principal,
received the phone and spoke with him as well.
After hanging up, Xu Tingsheng found that the nurse was still outside the door, “You can go rest; I’m fine here.”
The person beneath the protective gear seemed to be smiling as she said, “Oh, but this is a rule, a new rule implemented since that person ran away.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “Rest assured, I won’t run away.”
The nurse said, “I can tell. Right, how are you not worried at all?”
Xu Tingsheng could only say, “I’m actually very worried as well, but it’s just that I’ve people to comfort. As a nurse here, your family members should be very worried for you as well, right?”
The nurse replied, “Yeah.”
The two conversed partitioned by that door all the way till the phone to Xu Tingsheng’s room rang.
“Hey, it’s me. I asked the nurse for your number. She said it’s an internal line, and we can use it however we like.”
“Right. Feeling scared?”
“No, I’m not scared. I’m just in your neighbouring room.”
“If you are scared, you can call me.”
“Yeah. How about we talk for a while now?”
“Right, what shall we talk about then?”
“…do you still do your ocular exercises?”
The first time Xu Tingsheng had seen Wu Yuewei was when she had come to his class to check up on them doing their ocular exercises. Xu Tingsheng had accidentally opened his eyes once and seen her. From then on, Xu Tingsheng had never done his ocular exercises properly again. Every single time, he would open his eyes wide and stare at Wu Yuewei. Wu Yuewei would say ‘This student, if you don’t do it properly, I’m going to have to deduct marks’. Xu Tingsheng would reply ‘But I want to look at you’, to the reply of ‘…hoodlum, marks deducted’.
Now, Wu Yuewei was asking on the phone, “Do you still do your ocular exercises?”
Xu Tingsheng asked, “Will marks still be deducted?”
Wu Yuewei answered, “Yes…hoodlum.”
Xu Tingsheng said, “I was really immature back then.”
Wu Yuewei asked, “Can you not say such things here?”
At this point in time, stuck in this predicament, Wu Yuewei was not like Xu Tingsheng, already knowing that everything would end properly and well. To her, this concerned their very life and death, being the first time in her life facing death right in the eye like this. Therefore, as she made such a request, Xu Tingsheng was unable to reject it.
Thus, he said, “Alright.”
What would they do now? Deepen their relationship? Separated by a wall, Wu Yuewei wanted to do so, but how did couples deepen their relationship? She didn’t know.
“When your books are sent in, how about I tutor you in mathematics? Get them to take along that notebook I gave you; I’ll guide you according to it,” Wu Yuewei offered.
Indeed, so this was how study queens advanced into steady relationships.
“Studying mathematics again?” Xu Tingsheng had no way to say that he had already given up on mathematics. In numerical order, this was already the third person to be tutoring him in mathematics. If he really got even mathematics down…he might even become the top scholar?
Xu Tingsheng agreed, “Okay.”
The next day, the books arrived.
Xu Tingsheng made a call back to his home once every day, also calling Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng once in a while, using his maturity and optimism to gradually put everyone at ease. Other than that, he also listened to Wu Yuewei’s tutoring through the phone. The scariness of a study queen showed in that the full set of notes she had sorted out seemed to be completely etched within her mind, coming in exactly the order she had written them with the examples and analogies perfectly elaborated, no flaws present at all within.
After having finished revising, they would talk about some random, inconsequential things. Once in a while, Xu Tingsheng would tell Wu Yuewei some ‘clean’ stories, listening to her laughter from the other end of the phone. Gradually, she seemed to have forgotten to be afraid.
Separated by a wall and established on a telephone line, this relationship was perhaps far deeper than that with intimate actions like the holding of hands and hugging. Xu Tingsheng clearly knew that the consequence of this would be that it would be even harder for him to turn away afterwards, but he didn’t know how to break it off. Or perhaps it could be phrased this way: Xu Tingsheng himself was also greatly enthralled by this mild feeling of warmth and and sense of synchrony between them.
From a certain perspective, he was the loneliest person in this entire world.
At other times, Xu Tingsheng would converse with the nurse outside the door. After reciting some ‘clean’ stories and attracting her attention, he would suddenly throw out a dirty one, hearing her grind her teeth and scold him from outside.
However, Xu Tingsheng gradually discovered that despite the scolding, she actually still wanted to hear out those stories. Even clearly having realised that it was a dirty story, she would pretend only to have discovered it afterwards, only scolding him all red-faced after the story had concluded.
As time passed, the number of young nurses coming outside the door of Xu Tingsheng’s room to listen to his little stories everyday gradually increased.
This was very interesting. Xu Tingsheng’s thoughts grew mischievous once in a while, thinking about what might happen if he told a dirty story to the pure Wu Yuewei…how would it turn out? Thinking about it, he only grew more and more tempted to do it.
Finally, one day, Xu Tingsheng said on the phone, “There was a woman who couldn’t get married because her breasts were small. She want for many matchmaking sessions, but all of them were unsuccessful. One day, she went for matchmaking during winter. She was wrapped up in thick cotton clothing, but she was very honest as she asked the man, “Do you mind if my breasts are small?” The man hesitated for a while before asking, “Are they the size of buns?” The woman replied, “Yes”….Afterwards, they got married. On the night of consummation, the man rushed out of the bridal chamber with two streams of hot tears running down his face, kneeling as he cried out towards the heavens, “Little Want Want buns are still buns?!”
It was silent over on the other end of the phone. Wu Yuewei did not laugh, but she did not scold him either.
Xu Tingsheng regretted it, hurriedly explaining himself, apologising, admitting his mistake…
Wu Yuewei finally opened her mouth, murmuring softly with a bit of a stammer, “Actually…mine are not small.”
On the 7th day, the nurses were over the moon as they brought over good news-it had been confirmed that that middle-aged man had not been afflicted with SARS.
Laughter reverberated about the entire corridor. The nurses and the girls hugged each other and jumped for joy, laughing as though they had been reborn.
Wu Yuewei said to Xu Tingsheng, “It was really nothing.”
Xu Tingsheng replied, “Yep. Are you happy?”
Wu Yuewei said a little desolately, “But the tutoring is still not done yet; but…I like how it is now.”
Xu Tingsheng did not speak.
Wu Yuewei said, “After we leave, you will be back to senior Xu Tingsheng again?”
Xu Tingsheng still did not speak.
The girls packed up their belongings, preparing to go home.
The nurses said, “There are still 7 more days.”
“But hasn’t it been confirmed that that person was fine?”
“That’s right, but the rules state that quarantine is for 14 days.”
“But that person is fine.”
“That’s right, but the rules are very strict.”
In the next 7 days, the girls began intruding into one another’s rooms, while the young nurses sometimes came collectively to Xu Tingsheng’s room, listening to him tell his stories. One of them secretly brought in poker cards, drawing Xu Tingsheng into playing cards with them. While the stakes were very low, at the end of things, virtually all of the nurses owed him a good several hundred.
Wu Yuewei did not come over. The two of them were still separated by that wall, their relationship established on that one telephone line.
Finally, when the permitted time within the ‘rules’ to leave had arrived, the young nurses hid in the restroom, not coming out.
Xu Tingsheng knocked on the door from outside, “Beautiful ladies, relax. I’m not here to chase you for money. I’m about to leave-aren’t you coming to give me a goodbye hug?”
That day, Xu Tingsheng embraced many beautiful, adorable young nurses.
Standing at the end of the corridor, Wu Yuewei said, “Give me a hug today too.”