Chapter 29: The Graduation Yearbook & the Farewell Dinner
The second day was Combined Humanities in the morning followed by the English in the afternoon. During this time, no more unpleasant surprises cropped up.
The university entrance examinations, the culmination of 11 years of hard work throughout primary school, junior high and senior high, thereby drew to a close.
Regardless of one’s performance in the examinations, with the ringing of the final, concluding bell, everything was flung aside, for graduation had finally arrived and it was now time to face and cherish this moment of farewell. At this moment, at least, no one was in the frame of mind to fret over the results of the university entrance examinations that were set to be released not long from now.
Gathered in the classroom of Grade 12 Class 10 were all its students and teachers. No one was discussing the examinations, all instead saying the same thing to their classmates or teachers, ‘Pen down some words for me in my yearbook, will ya’.
Xu Tingsheng joined in the fun too, getting people to write for him whilst also writing for them in return.
In Xu Tingsheng’s previous life, Fu Cheng had written this line in his graduation yearbook: Unable to have you by my side, I will remember your wisecracking words.
Many years later, whenever Xu Tingsheng gazed again upon this line, tears would always rush unbidden to his eyes. At that point, Fu Cheng should already have known that he had mucked up his test, furthermore in the worst way possible. He must have been aware that this was a farewell, that they would never be able to be together like this again. He had wanted to tell Xu Tingsheng that he would always fondly recall and miss the blissful days when they had laughed and messed around together without a care in the world.
“His state of mind is different this time round. I wonder what he will write?”
At the same time Xu Tingsheng was thinking about this, Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng were scrawling on his yearbook together.
When Xu Tingsheng got his yearbook back, he noticed that a great chunk of words had been penned down and later erased. Amongst them, he could faintly make out ‘grateful’, ‘fortunate’, ‘if it weren’t for’…such phrases.
These were their words of gratitude.
It was a good thing that they had erased these, or perhaps Xu Tingsheng would have been really disappointed.
Xu Tingsheng looked down at the very last sentence that had not been erased: We’ll not be thanking you here-what’s more significant is our reluctance in parting. We should by right be wishing that you get good grades, but this prospect really just leaves one despondent. We’d think how wouldn’t it be great if you weren’t so massively overpowered; anyway, there’s definitely no chance of us being in the same school next time… Unable to have you by our side, we will remember your wisecracking words.
Signed: Huang Yaming, Fu Cheng.
Xu Tingsheng could barely hold back the tears from welling up within his eyes.
The students gradually dispersed, packing up their belongings before changing into their best clothes in preparation for the evening’s graduation dinner, also known as the Farewell Dinner.
Xu Tingsheng sat in the classroom with Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng, smoking. Other than the trio, there was also one additional person, Old Zhou.
The cigarettes had been distributed by Old Zhou.
Old Zhou said, “Regardless of the final outcome, thank you for your diligence.”.
The three of them stood up and bowed to Old Zhou together, “Thanks, Boss.”
Old Zhou roared in hearty laughter, hiding the tears that were threatening to overcome him, “Remember to come back and visit me next time.”
A little while after Old Zhou left, Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng left as well, both planning to make a quick trip home. As Xu Tingsheng’s house was far away, he would be unable to complete that round trip in time, thus deciding to hang around by himself for a while first.
He walked out of the classroom.
Wu Yuewei stood there.
“You’re leaving,” Wu Yuewei said.
“I am,” Xu Tingsheng answered.
“I sent you off once when you graduated from junior high, but it turned out that I had sent you away,” Wu Yuewei said, “You liar.”
Xu Tingsheng showed an awkward smile. This time, he might be leaving for good.
“Where is your graduation yearbook?” Wu Yuewei asked as she extended her hand.
Xu Tingsheng handed his yearbook over. Wu Yuewei flipped to a blank page, fished out a pen and wrote for a bit. She then returned the book to Xu Tingsheng, turned and left.
Xu Tingsheng opened the book and flipped to that page:
This time, it’s one year yet again. One year later, I will ask you yet once more: Senior Xu Tingsheng, do you still remember me?
For some female students, this graduation Farewell Dinner was their first time drinking alcohol.
First time drinkers are more prone to getting drunk.
Drunk people are more prone to crying.
The Farewell Dinner had not commenced for long when one after another, people began to weep disconsolately, clutching on to their friends.
This time, Xu Tingsheng did not drink much, for the happenings of his previous life were still fresh in his mind. Back then, amidst his drunken reverie, he had made a scene shamelessly demanding for Yao Jing to accept him. If he drank too much again this time, while that scene might not replay itself, there was no telling what he might say out loud.
The secrets he held were too many, and way too over-the-top.
However, Yao Jing drank a lot. She was led along by some cheering classmates and also some girls whom she was closer with to sit in the position beside Xu Tingsheng, because as they saw it, the two must have been awaiting this day for a long time.
Yao Jing was not acquainted with Xiang Ning, but she knew Wu Yuewei.
She eyed Xu Tingsheng in silence, and Xu Tingsheng was unsure of what to say as well.
This gloomy silence dragged out for a while.
Now, Xu Tingsheng poured himself a glass of wine, then poured another glass for Yao Jing, asking her, “Can you still drink?”
Yao Jing nodded and raised her glass.
“Exchange glasses, exchange glasses, …” No crowd ever finds a commotion too large.
Huang Yaming, the only one here aware of Xu Tingsheng’s true preferences, stood up to shoo everyone from the enclosed room. “Let’s give these two some personal space, shall we?” he declared to everyone.
“You do as you see fit,” Huang Yaming told Xu Tingsheng, patting him on the shoulder before walking out as well.
In the empty, enclosed room, the two of them drained their wine glasses.
The truth was that Yao Jing actually already understood.
She said, “If I had known earlier, I wouldn’t have let you chase after me for as long as two whole years.”
Xu Tingsheng chuckled, “Actually, it’s a good thing I put in all that effort. In the future, you can tell your kids that their mom was fiercely pursued in her youth.”
Yao Jing laughed, then fell silent once more.
After a while, she asked, “Do you like that junior more? … That’s also right; I am more like a boy.”
Xu Tingsheng hurriedly shook his head, “That’s not it, it’s not that junior… It’s that my heart has been set on one particular person the both of you are not acquainted with. I saw her ‘for the first time’ back when I skipped classes for five days to experience the world.”
Yao Jing remarked, “So that’s how it is, love at first sight…then, I wish you happiness.”
“I wish the same for you too.”
The expression Yao Jing wore on her face as she walked out of the room frightened the students waiting to cheer outside, in spite of her best, earnest efforts to smile.
Fu Cheng came over and said, “Huang Yaming says to say that he’s busy right now. He’s currently comforting the crying Tan Qingling. Apparently, she didn’t perform very well in this time’s exams. She says that she is prepared to repeat the year.”
“Tan Qingling is prepared to repeat the year?” Xu Tingsheng was very astonished.
In his previous life, the one who had repeated 12th Grade was Huang Yaming. After Tan Qingling had gone to university, she had very quickly broken up with Huang Yaming. Was the scenario to be reversed this time?
In that case, in what way would things change? Would Huang Yaming be the one to have a change of heart?…After all, it was true that a great many temptations would exist in university. High school sweethearts whose relationships were able to persist amidst such separation were extremely rare.
Matters of the heart are the most unpredictable as well as the hardest to control. Xu Tingsheng was helpless in this aspect, nor did he wish to interfere.
He turned and asked Fu Cheng, “What about you? You’re not going to confess?”
Fu Cheng tilted back his head and laughed uproariously, “And who would I confess to?”
Xu Tingsheng was not yet drunk, but he was already beginning to feel slightly tipsy.
In stages of semi-intoxication, people are prone to becoming more brazen with their words, so he said this time, “Ms Fang, of course. Fang, Yun, Yao. You’re not waiting till you graduate from university, right? By then, Ms Fang should long since have gotten married.”
Everything froze in place for a moment.
Fu Cheng did not deny it, simply asking, “How did you know?”
“I observed it from when Ms Fang sat beside you for the meal and also when we went to pass the thesis materials to her.”
Fu Cheng nodded, “But it seems like it’d be futile; it’s pointless even if I confess.”
Actually, Fu Cheng’s words made a lot of sense. Still, Xu Tingsheng just wanted to help him achieve a conclusion to the matter, not wanting to again see him end up hopelessly in limbo as had occurred in his previous life.
Thus, he replied, “At least let her know then. Having done that, there’d surely be less to regret afterwards.”
Fu Cheng buried his head, hesitating.
“Xu Tingsheng, they said you were here. Let’s have a drink together; I’ve still yet to thank you for the thesis. Oh, Fu Cheng is here too!”
Fang Yunyao suddenly appeared at the doorway. Presently, most of the students were already in the hall chatting and singing karaoke. As she wanted to express her gratitude to Xu Tingsheng over the entire thesis affair, she had asked and promptly found out from the other students that he was still in the enclosed room.
Fu Cheng downed a glass of wine before raising his head, confessing, “Ms Fang, I like you.”