Chapter 33: Seeing Xiang Ning once more
Xu Tingsheng arrived in Yanzhou on a Thursday. As it was already quite late, he didn’t visit her school, instead finding a motel to stay in.
However, even so, he felt all different inside, because she was close. The closer he was to her, the closer he was to that anticipation that beset him, as only now did Xu Tingsheng realise how appropriate his earlier phrase of ‘going to experience the world’ had been.
Because Xiang Ning was Xu Tingsheng’s entire world. The closer he was to her, the more intense this feeling became.
Xu TIngsheng lay on the bed, recalling the scenes of when they had first met. Thinking of his own distress and helplessness at the time, he could not help but laugh embarrassedly.
“Uncle, you’re very useless,” Xiang Ning had once said in his previous life.
Xu Tingsheng felt that he really had been pretty useless back then. But what about this time? Try to say something to her? Even asking for directions would be fine…right?
The first ‘acquaintance’ whom Xu Tingsheng met was not Xiang Ning but her form teacher Mrs Liu, Liu Xueli, whom he had come to know during his previous bus journey here. Afterwards, Xu Tingsheng had even sent her some indigowoad root as well as white vinegar.
Accurately speaking, it was Mrs Liu who first discovered Xu Tingsheng, having been lurking furtively near the gates of Xinyan Junior High at the time.
Mrs Liu still remembered Xu Tingsheng. She greeted him, eliminating his chances of escaping.
“Have you come to see your cousin? Xiang Ning…do you want me to go back in and call her for you?” Pushing her bicycle as she was about to set off for home, Liu Xueli asked warmly.
Actually, things having progressed to this stage, it was actually already very troublesome. Whether or not Xu Tingsheng met with Xiang Ning now, however he dealt with the matter, the possibility of Mrs Liu consequently bringing up this cousin of hers when speaking with her would be very high.
Fabricate a lie-that was all Xu Tingsheng could try to do right now.
“Right, Mrs Liu. Did you receive the indigowoad root and white vinegar that I sent to you last time? That…everything’s good, right,” Xu Tingsheng said.
Mrs Liu hurriedly stopped her bicycle by the roadside, saying gratefully, “So it was you who sent it! How come your name wasn’t on it, I could only guess…thank you, it’s all good, all good.”
Xu Tingsheng intentionally scratched his head somewhat perturbedly, “About that, I actually sent some to both you and Xiang Ning back then, but because of some special reasons, I didn’t leave behind my name on either.”
Being around forty years old, precisely an age to be interested in all sorts of gossip, Liu Xueli immediately became interested as she pressed, “Special reasons, what special reasons?”
Xu Tingsheng told Mrs Liu an actually rather improbable tale. He told a tale where due to tensions between their relatives of the previous generation, Xiang Ning’s parents had already cut off all ties with their Xu family, while the Xu family had always felt guilty about this. Therefore, Xu Tingsheng could not appear directly before Xiang Ning as her cousin, yet he still wished to do something for her.
This was an extremely lousy, convoluted tall tale. Whether Mrs Liu would believe it would have to depend on whether she liked to watch those kind of even more convoluted family dramas.
Fortunately, she believed it.
“No wonder even Xiang Ning’s parents couldn’t figure out who sent the things over last time,” Mrs Liu said, “Therefore, I can’t tell Xiang Ning about this-is that right?”
“Right, right,” Xu Tingsheng nodded repeatedly, “I’ll have to bother Mrs Liu on this. I think that it’s still better to go slow; after all, the tensions between our two families have already persisted for so long.”
“That’s also true. So what brings you here this time?”
“I just came out to play with some classmates having finished with my university entrance examinations. Passing by here, I just dropped by to take a look.”
“Can you recognise Xiang Ning then?”
“Yes, yes. I’ve seen her photos over from our other relatives.”
The two continued chatting for some time, talking about the university entrance examinations and Xiang Ning amidst other things. After a while, as the students were released from the school, Mrs Liu rode off on her bicycle. Before she left, she repeatedly reminded Xu Tingsheng to definitely come to her house for a meal the next time he visited.
Xu Tingsheng didn’t continue waiting by the school gates. The looks the guards were sending him were already getting rather problematic.
Xu Tingsheng found a piece of rock to sit on at the road Xiang Ning had left by the last time he came, and waited patiently. For all he knew, that untamed girl might have been kept behind by her teachers again. Before Xiang Ning appeared, Xu Tingsheng thought alone about the Xiang Ning that Mrs Liu had spoken of.
“Everything else is still good, but she really doesn’t work hard,” Mrs Liu said.
“Huh, could she been having an early relationship or something like that?” Xu Tingsheng asked hurriedly.
“It’s not like that. She’s just lazy, and loves to play.”
“That’s good then.”
Finally, Mrs Liu had said, “Based on her current results, there’d be no hope of her entering a first-tier school. I’d estimate her to enter a second-tier senior high.”
These words gave Xu Tingsheng a massive hint, “Second-tier senior high, early romance…then, what if Xiang Ning enters a first-tier senior high?”
Xu Tingsheng had always been disturbed greatly by the fact that Xiang Ning would get into a relationship when in senior high. And now, he finally seemed to have found a solution to it. There was no need for him to damage their relationship, no need for him to actively obstruct them from getting together-letting her go elsewhere would already be fine. For two people to not enter a relationship…what more straightforward method was there than for the couple to not have met at all in the first place?
The remaining problem was how to push Xiang Ning to enter a first-tier senior high.
Xu Tingsheng knew that that girl was actually very smart, just that like Mrs Liu had said, she was not hardworking at all. Meanwhile, with his current identity, there seemed to be no way for him to spur her on to work hard. He had already long since and repeatedly asked Mrs Liu to assist if possible in this area, but it was evident that Mrs Liu wouldn’t be that volatile factor that could lead to change. Only Xu Tingsheng himself would be the best, greatest volatile factor.
Before the ‘volatile factor’ Xu Tingsheng was able to think up a plan, the little slacker Xiang Ning appeared.
This time, there was already no longer the lone plait that shot skywards. Perhaps it was due to her change in hairstyle, or perhaps it was because her hair’s growth rate was very high, but seeing her two months later, Xiang Ning’s hair had already reached her shoulders, falling onto them without any accessories whatsoever just like that.
“Still, you’ve got to continue working hard and quickly grow into that long, straight, black hair, alright? Afterwards, put on a hairpin and brush those cascades; a true beauty isn’t afraid to show her forehead,” Xu Tingsheng thought resentfully as he remembered the Xiang Ning in his memories.
This time, Xiang Ning was alone, her face expressionless as she moved leisurely along, wearing a white short-sleeved shirt with Xinyan Junior High printed on it as well as a baggy pair of track pants. This was the standard for school uniforms in China.
“With this, it can’t even be seen how beautiful her legs are,” Xu Tingsheng thought resentfully again.
My Xiang Ning’s long legs…currently, they should still be thin, insipid little legs, right? No, thinking like this is much too immoral…
Xu Tingsheng hurriedly put away such thoughts of his.
Closer, closer, now already less than twenty metres away. Xiang Ning was right about to brush by Xu Tingsheng.
“Should I speak?” Xu Tingsheng felt his throat grow dry as he was nervous to the point of utter helplessness.
Xiang Ning was beside him.
“This student,” Xu Tingsheng said, his voice virtually squeezed out of his throat.
Xiang Ning hadn’t heard him.
“This student,” Xu Tingsheng said again, more loudly this time.
“Huh?” Xiang Ning swivelled her head over to look at him.
Being gazed upon by this pair of eyes, Xu Tingsheng was enraptured.
“Being in your eyes, is so great.”
‘Huh?’- so this is the first thing that she said to me in this life; it seems a little short.
“Is there something?” Xiang Ning asked.
Xu Tingsheng was abruptly jolted back to his senses. Then…then, he felt into a daze again. She had spoken again, and this time was longer, with three words. Still, this girl…hasn’t your mom ever warned you not to talk to strangers before? Especially men, especially men like who are clearly ‘harbouring untoward intentions’…it really is a dangerous thing!
“About that; you are a student from Xinyan Junior High, right? I want to ask: How do I get to Xinyan Junior High from here?” Xu Tingsheng asked.
Xiang Ning’s gaze suddenly turned vigilant as she furrowed her brows and thought for a while before earnestly replying, “But I saw you in front of the school gates last time, in that little shop. You were crying.”
Xu Tingsheng was shocked silly, not knowing whether to smile or to cry, whether to feel happy or feel depressed.
“Xiang Ning remembers me; she remembered me with just that one glance,” Xu Tingsheng thought, “This is called destined to meet on a narrow path; this is called because i just glanced at you once more amidst the crowd of people…right, it’s precisely like this. No wonder she will fall in love with me eight years down the road.”
This thought left him joyful beyond compare.
But what was to be done now? He’d just been exposed on the spot!
“Xiang Ning, why didn’t you wait for me? Gosh…so tiring.”
As Xu Tingsheng was pondering on how to explain himself, that long-haired girl who had appeared together with Xiang Ning at that small provision shop last time ran over, grabbing Xiang Ning’s elbow as she panted heavily.
Xiang Ning pressed her lips together, saying with a sense of grievance, “Who asked you to have a boyfriend; I thought that you’d already gone home together with him.”
The long-haired girl shook her head, “Like I’m the sort of person who’d prioritise boys over friends…who’s this person?”
The young girl finally discovered Xu Tingsheng, standing by the side.
Xiang Ning answered, “Come to ask for directions…No, a liar. He’s that person who was crying inside the provision shop last time.”
The young girl tilted her head to the side and thought for a bit, then, not remembering the person whom Xiang Ning spoke of, glanced at Xu Tingsheng a few times more before turning to ask Xiang Ning, “He isn’t an accomplice of those hooligans who stopped you on the street asking for your QQ number last time, right? …Let’s go, quickly.”
She dragged Xiang Ning along in quickly leaving. As Xiang Ning left, she turned back and glanced at Xu Tingsheng, sending him an apologetic look.
Xu Tingsheng smiled, waving goodbye.
In their second meeting, Xu Tingsheng and Xiang Ning spoke to each other. Even though the process had been rather awkward, even though he had been taken for a liar, at the very least, they could be considered acquainted now.
What Xu Tingsheng was more concerned about was that other matter, the one which that long-haired girl had spoken of, regarding someone having stopped Xiang Ning on the road asking for her QQ number. Honestly speaking, such matters were still rather common in this day and age. Still, since it was Xiang Ning who had been troubled by it, as Xu Tingsheng saw it, it was a major incident that could not be any more severe.
On his way back to the motel, Xu Tingsheng entered a few stores. Not finding something that especially caught his eye, he finally bought a necklace and placed it inside his bag.
For the next few days, he intended to stand guard before and after school till those people whom the long-haired girl spoke of appeared.
Back in Libei, Huang Yaming finally extricated himself from his days of warmness. He was the first who had left the trio, but in the blink of an eye, looking for Xu Tingsheng and Fu Cheng, he suddenly discovered that the two of them had suddenly become hard to get hold of as well.
Huang Yaming made several calls before he finally managed to find Fu Cheng and arrange a meeting with him.
Seeing Fu Cheng covered completely in dust and mud, Huang Yaming asked him, “What’ve you been doing?”
This was not something to be kept from Huang Yaming, as Fu Cheng told him all that Xu Tingsheng had said. This was what he had been spending all his time on these past few days.
Stalking, taking secret photos…Huang Yaming immediately grew excited as he quickly asked, “Have you managed to catch him doing anything?”
“No, it’s been pretty normal so far.”
“What do you intend to do then?”
“I’ll follow him for a few more days. Anyway, I’ve nothing else to do.”
“I’ll accompany you.”
“You’re free? Aren’t you doing that…”
“7 days break,” Huang Yaming said, “Actually, doing that everyday can also get…rather stale. Right, where’s Tingsheng?”
“He’s gone to experience the world again.”
They chatted a bit about Xu Tingsheng, talking about him and Yao Jing, and also that junior, Wu Yuewei. Huang Yaming felt that Xu Tingsheng was behaving rather strangely in this area. He had painstakingly pursued Yao Jing for two years, but in the end, when the other party had agreed, he had no longer wanted it. That pretty study queen junior as well; with her having gone to that extent, he had actually still managed to harden his heart.
Fu Cheng said, “Maybe he already has someone he likes.”
Huang Yaming said, “If he has someone he likes, how would he not tell us? He wouldn’t really have been seduced by that Apple, right? That one is a demon; who can bear it.”
Fu Cheng thought for a bit before answering, “Perhaps it’s someone we don’t know. Let’s ask him about it next time.”
Huang Yaming thought about it for a moment, then no longer continued dwelling on this topic as he dragged Fu Cheng off in going to take those secret photos.