Chapter 4: Past Matters & Arrogant Words
Xu Tingsheng’s home was in the rural outskirts of town. So, along with the majority of rural students in Libei Junior High School, he was a resident of the school dormitories.
The hushed nighttime conversations which Xu Tingsheng had reminisced fondly upon for many years thereafter were currently proceeding once more. Lying in his room, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling in the darkness as he listened, he heard of some matters related to himself.
For instance, Huang Yaming said, “That junior girl has been spending her days mingling with an undesirable bunch of hooligans lately.”
Xu Tingsheng thought for a moment: “Who?”
Huang Yaming leapt to his feet, “The hell, that’s too cold hearted! It’s that 10th grade student who jumped out and stopped you on the road on our first day of 11th grade! What was she called again?… I forgot; anyway, I’m just asking if you still remember her.”
The conversation got loud. Hostel manager Old Yao appeared outside, knocking the door and yelling, “Any more noise and this old man will set a fire to burn you all to death!”
After that, the sound of a lighter wheel being spun could be heard, and everyone in the dorm felt their blood run cold.
Old Yao had the appearance of The Beast, but <Kung Fu Hustle> had still yet to air at this time, and everyone had still yet to discover this. He enjoyed carrying a large mug in his hands while patrolling to enforce the bedtime of the students. The large mug would be filled to the brim with high quality white wine which he would drink as he patrolled, his voice correspondingly growing louder as he drank.
After Old Yao had become drunk, he would patrol throughout the entire night, during which all sorts of words might be spoken, all sorts of things might be done.
The school had wanted to fire him before, but he had hung a noose at the door of the principal’s office, and so he had stayed.
Xu Tingsheng recalled that on their graduation night, he and Huang Yaming had flung a string of firecrackers into Old Yao’s work room.
With it having grown silent outside the door, Huang Yaming resumed his lively bustle, throwing a cigarette to Xu Tingsheng from across the room as he continued, “Liqun brand, I bought two sticks of it at a store today… I suppose you’ve remembered that girl? Do you care at all?”
Xu Tingsheng recalled that currently, the school store did indeed sell cigarettes, the store’s boss purportedly being a relative of the principal. Here, the teachers were catching smokers like there was no tomorrow, while over at the shop, he was selling the cigarettes openly and blatantly.
In the last few years of his previous life, Xu Tingsheng’s smoking habit had developed to the point of having to smoke a pack a day, but having reborn, he seemed to have been rid of that desire for nicotine. Unexpectedly, some days having passed, the thought of smoking had yet to cross his mind.
Xu Tingsheng asked for a lighter, and lit up his first cigarette of after his rebirth.
Huang Yaming tossed a lighter over, asking where Xu Tingsheng’s own was. Xu Tingsheng replied that he couldn’t find it. He really couldn’t. Who would be able to find a lighter they hid more than ten years back?
During this time, there was a rumour that smoking affected ‘that’ ability, and this rumour had caused quite a panic amongst the boys. Xu Tingsheng and Huang Yaming had privately discussed this issue in depth, and Huang Yaming had unconcernedly remarked, “No problem, it just happens that I am particularly strong in that area.”
Events had proven him to be right. In his previous life, Xu Tingsheng had witnessed Huang Yaming marrying and having children, having struck it right with a single go and entered a shotgun marriage. Having seen him as a 30-year-old man, already a husband and a father, now seeing him as a slovenly 19-year-old once more, it appeared extremely miraculous.
Huang Yaming prompted again: “So have you remembered or not?”
Xu Tingsheng finally put some thought into recalling that girl, and it did come back to him. When he was in junior high, he had nearly got into an early romance. The girl was that kind of unsophisticated and pure village child. Able to make the extremely rustic school uniform look very pretty on her, this was already sufficient proof on how outstanding her appearance was. She was Xu Tingsheng’s junior by a year, and they had agreed to enter a proper relationship once they had gotten to senior high, as they had both felt that they were too young back in junior high, and would be grown up in senior high.
Xu Tingsheng had entered senior high one year earlier, and they had initially still communicated with each other. However later on, Xu Tingsheng had entered an ‘infatuation with tomboyish girls’ phase, so he no longer responded to her.
The girl had written him a few letters, but seeing that no replies were forthcoming, she had eventually given up.
Later, she had enrolled into Libei Senior High as well, and on the first day of school, tears in her eyes and biting her lip,she had blocked Xu Tingsheng’s way, asking, “Xu Tingsheng, do you still remember me?”
At that time, the short-haired girl Xu Tingsheng had been infatuated with, Yao Jing, had been by his side, so he had replied, “Sorry, I don’t remember you.”
She was now spending her days with a bunch of hooligans?
Xu Tingsheng thought for a moment, then told Huang Yaming, “No need to worry. In junior high, her grades ranked first in the year as she was always able to beat the second ranked student by 60 points. In the future, she will be able to enroll into Jianhai University.”
In his previous life, Xu Tingsheng had seen her once more, in a very unexpected encounter many years later at a distant cousin’s wedding. She had just completed her postgraduate studies at Jianhai University, and was the bride of that wedding.
Jianhai University was ranked 5th in the entire nation. Of the married couple, the groom had wealth and looks, while the bride had ability and looks. All had turned out very well, so there was indeed no need to worry.
Right, Xu Tingsheng could recall her name. She was called Wu Yuewei.
Huang Yaming said, “The hell, you really are cold-hearted…looks like you really are dead set on Yao Jing, and I can see that it is that way with her too. Have the two of you decided to begin after the university entrance examinations or now?”
Consequently, Xu Tingsheng began thinking about Yao Jing again. She was a tomboyish girl, and many boys would go through a strange phase of being attracted to this kind of girl in their lives.
In his previous life, after his university entrance examinations, Xu Tingsheng had been together with Yao Jing for a month, only to realise that the two of them really were incompatible. Afterwards, they had broken up on friendly terms.
The current Xu Tingsheng, actually the 31-year-old Xu Tingsheng, actually already no longer liked this kind of girl as he answered, “She’s obviously the same gender as us, okay. Totally a male, no chest no butt, nothing I’d want.”
Huang Yaming was like he’d choked on a fish bone as he only replied after a long pause, “You’re really retreating? Messing around with people like this is not a good thing to do, okay…never mind, I suddenly noticed that you’ve been all strange ever since you returned from that trip. Good night.”
Xu Tingsheng felt an abrupt chill run down his spine as he silently warned himself, “I’d better be careful with my words and actions in the future. The butterfly effect-although I can never be sure whether it applies, it is a very scary prospect. The minds of others are even scarier.”
Xu Tingsheng certainly did not think that Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng might cause trouble for him, the same way he knew his parents and sister would never harm him. However, he also believed the saying: If you really love your family and friends, never give them those things that could possibly be fatal.
This was just like if you had a gun. You could use it in times of necessity to protect your family and friends, but there was absolutely no need for you to even show them the gun, much less hand the gun over to them…in doing so, you might very possibly be harming others as well as yourselves.
And what Xu Tingsheng had was no mere gun. It was even more terrifying than an atomic bomb.
After his morning lessons, Huang Yaming went off with his girlfriend Tan Qingling. The two of them had just gotten together, and so were very affectionate.
Xu Tingsheng naturally knew that they ultimately would not end up together. After Tan Qingling had headed north for university, she had very quickly dumped Huang Yaming. It had instead been Huang Yaming who had been unable to get over this relationship, due to which he had been left greatly pained and down in the dumps for a very long time afterwards.
It was even to the extent that even many years later, when drunk, Huang Yaming would still yell Tan Qingling’s name, uttering stuff like: Tan Qingling, you are the love of my life… ah… ah…I really miss you.
Still, Xu Tingsheng did not have any intention of interfering with their relationship or dishing out any advice. Even if things were to develop the same way they did in his previous life, so what? Was this not just the typical teenage romance, complete with a dejected, abandoned, broken heart? What a beautiful affair. For many years later, when your heart has become numb and no longer throbs, you will realise that actually, pain is also worth reminiscing on.
Fu Cheng lived off campus, eating before he came to school.
Therefore, Xu Tingsheng went to the cafeteria alone.
Libei Senior High’s new campus was occupied even as it was constructed. The corridors from the classrooms to the cafeteria were still yet to be cemented, covered with sand and stones as grinding noises were visibly audible to those who walked by.
As Xu Tingsheng walked by, an increasing number of eyes began to focus on him.
“That’s the guy our Class 7’s form teacher was talking about during morning lessons.”
“What did she say?”
“That guy said in the staffroom that he will enter the top 20 in the entire year for the next monthly tests. After that, our Class 7’s form teacher came over during morning lessons to say that others are not treating our special class as existent, and we’ve got to step up our game and put up a good show lest others look down on us.”
“Wow, freaking cool… who is he? Which class is he from?”
“Class 10, Xu Tingsheng. He usually ranks from the 20th to 30th, but that is just within his class alone. He ranks around 140th in the entire year; there’s no way to know where all that confidence is coming from.”
“I don’t know any Humanities students.”
“This world is so vast, I wish to experience it.”
“So it’s him, huh. This guy is so fun.”
Xu Tingsheng had not anticipated that the first problem since his rebirth would be the result of such a careless action. Actually, having made that promise, it was because he had been moved by Old Zhou, this feeling having accumulated over the years, only having been truly understood when he himself had become a teacher. In his previous life as a form teacher, Xu Tingsheng had liked telling his students about Old Zhou’s weathered cloth slippers and electric kettle. He knew that he himself was unable to match this level of dedication.
Old Zhou had said ‘based on your brotherhood’, so Xu Tingsheng had wished to provide him some reassurance, to give a boost to his mood.
As for Class 7’s form teacher, Zhang Xiuyan, Xu Tingsheng knew that she was an intense, competitive person who was not on good terms with many other teachers. However, she was also not a bad person. In his previous life, when Xu Tingsheng’s Combined Humanities had suddenly bloomed, there was once when she had waited for him outside his classroom for the sake of inviting him to Class 7 to interact with everyone on his method of studying Combined Humanities.
This was a person whom, her forceful goal-oriented nature aside, did not have many bad points-her heart was solely focused on her students. Having announced Xu Tingsheng’s words to her Class 7 during morning lessons, it had likely been an attempt to encourage the class to work even harder.
Nevertheless, through this, she had forced Xu Tingsheng up Mount Liang.
Xu Tingsheng considered his circumstances, and felt that this Mount Liang was not very high, nor would he consider it dangerous. Since he had already been pushed out into the open, it was fine if he just remained where he was.
In the cafeteria that was familiar whilst also foreign, Xu Tingsheng ordered a plate of flat noodles, relying on flattery and tender face to prompt the cafeteria aunty into giving him an extra big bowl of soya sauce before finding an empty spot to sit down.
As they walked by, familiar schoolmates(should be familiar, although Xu Tingsheng had already forgotten many of them) came over to greet him.
“Tingsheng, did you really say that you’ll get into the top 20 in the year?”
“Dang! Perhaps that was a little too dumb of you. Couldn’t you just have kept that goal within your heart; now that you have said it out loud, what if you are unable to achieve it…?”
“I will be able to.”
As the number of people asking questions increased, Xu Tingsheng pulled Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng into the picture as well, saying that they had said that they would definitely get into at least the top 50. Now, this was really like throwing them into a pit, for their current results were still quite a bit worse than Xu Tingsheng’s at this point in time.
Carrying two bowls of lean meat porridge, Yao Jing sat down opposite Xu Tingsheng. She sported a blouse with a fine red and black lattice, tight-fitting jeans rolled up to reveal her spotlessly white ankles and sleeves casually rolled up her arms, her short hair resembling the sea as she flung it on the occasion.
Xu Tingsheng looked at this girl whom he had liked for more than two years and dated for a month in his previous life. Yao Jing was a really dashing and elegant girl, and furthermore had a pretty and delicate face. If she were to join cheerleading, she would definitely be a very popular lead “T” cheerleader, although, these things had still not yet become trendy.
In this life, they were destined not to have that kind of relationship anymore. Xu Tingsheng felt a little strange looking at Yao Jing as he gave an awkward smile.
He had forgotten that in the two years prior, he had already very clearly conveyed his feelings for her, and Yao Jing was already right at the brink of agreeing to a relationship. How could she know that all of the sudden, his ‘heart had changed’.
“Have some porridge,” Yao Jing nudged a bowl of lean meat porridge towards him.
While she was tomboyish, her body was actually very slim. She should originally have bought this bowl of porridge with Xu Tingsheng in mind.
“I’m full,” Xu Tingsheng shook his head.
“Throw it away then,” Yao Jing said with a very straightforward wave of her hand, next patting Xu Tingsheng’s shoulder in a very bro-like manner as she softly said, “I know why you said that. You wanted to force yourself to go all out, right?”
“Huh?” Xu Tingsheng replied.
“Last time, I said that your lazy attitude could not be changed, but…I meant no malice. Now, however, you have intentionally let out big words, cutting off your path of retreat with no choice but to give it your all…I’d not expected it, but I feel that it’s great, and admire it greatly.”
Xu Tingsheng did not reply to her words, and Yao Jing too did not continue. She dipped her head, drinking her porridge, a rarely seen blush on her face as she wore a very feminine, shy expression. Occasionally, she raised her head to look at Xu Tingsheng, only to hurriedly look back down.
Xu Tingsheng had a vague foreboding of what was to come.
Yao Jing finished drinking her porridge and stood up, next hesitating for a moment before she resolutely and delicately stamped her feet, “Uhh…I can promise you. After the university entrance examinations are over, we…we can begin dating. This world is so vast, I’ll accompany you in experiencing it.”
This world is so vast, I’ll accompany you in experiencing it… Xu Tingsheng’s head nearly plunged right into his bowl. In his previous life, it had clearly only been later on, during the evening graduation party after the university entrance examinations, when Yao Jing had agreed, and that had had only been due to his drunken, shameless, confessions!
How had this been brought forward?
“Shouldn’t you only be agreeing after graduation?” Xu Tingsheng blurted out.
“Wasn’t it you who said that if I agree now, you will be able to focus better on your studies, also getting more motivation?”
Yao Jing bit her lip and shot Xu Tingsheng a wronged look before she left, her face reddened.
Xu Tingsheng felt disgusted with his past self to the point of being a little nauseated.
Also, what was to be done about this?