Chapter 48: Carry me someplace bright
There was a team dinner after the football match. Xu Tingsheng got intoxicated, this being the second time he had gotten drunk since his rebirth. The first time it had happened, he had forgotten his fears somehow or other due to having been by Mr Xu’s side, in the end drinking muddledly along and getting drunk.
After that had happened, Xu Tingsheng had actually been worried for a few days, only calming down after not having noticed any abnormalities in Mr Xu, having been no different from his usual self.
This time round, his drunken state had nothing at all to do with the people around him. Or to put it another way, these people were not able to give him that sense of security. Yet, he had still gotten drunk. He had been exchanging cups with his own youth, toasting to its honour.
This game of football had kicked his soul back to its younger days.
While he had recovered his teenage body earlier, Xu Tingsheng had still been living with the mentality of a 31-year-old, harbouring fear. Even despite his having been reborn, the feeling of fear had still permeated his mind. This was the mentality of a failure, for such was what he had originally been-a complete, utter failure. It was to the extent that he had even fallen to being a coward who could only let go of love, helplessly watching it go.
The arch of his right foot propelling the ball lightly had allowed his youthful energy from long ago to reunite with his reborn body.
At the very least, sometimes, he would want to immerse himself completely into the identity of a teenager living amidst his youth.
In the rebirth stories that he had read in his previous life, the protagonists were always full of caution, always pushing desirously ahead at all costs, even resorting to unscrupulous means as they just desired to have everything within their grasp. Whether or not these things really belonged to them, they wished for it all.
As for Xu Tingsheng, he did not wish for much. Just family, Xiang Ning, friends, and himself. He wanted to live a hearty, carefree life, for such was a life that he felt would not be a wasted one.
Fu Cheng fell into a drunken state as well. He staggered off by himself, saying that he wanted to look for Fang Yunyao to finish yelling the rest of the words that he hadn’t finished conveying earlier.
Xu Tingsheng shook his head and remarked that he didn’t believe Fu Cheng would dare to go.
Fu Cheng replied, “Then I will find a corner to yell through the phone.”
Fu Cheng had not been gone for long when Xu Tingsheng also took his leave. He staggered a full round about the school, humming a short ‘gangster’s lullaby’ he had created back in his previous life when he had still been young and messing about:
“Lady, you are so effing beautiful, setting my heart aflutter…”
Female juniors walking past waved energetically at him, and Xu Tingsheng reciprocated with even greater energy until the little ladies were scared away.
Exiting the school gates, Xu Tingsheng very unexpectedly crossed paths with someone – Apple.
To be honest, amongst the girls whom Xu Tingsheng had crossed paths with ever since his rebirth, Apple was the one he had the least respect for. Xu Tingsheng had very carefully looked after the feelings and emotions of many people, but he had not done so for her.
To raise a most straightforward example, while Apple had given Xu Tingsheng her number quite some time ago, when Xu Tingsheng had sent out messages to inform his acquaintances of his new phone number upon purchasing a new mobile phone, she was one of the rare few who had excluded from this.
Truth be told, she hadn’t actually done anything wrong.
She had come to watch his football match today. He had seen her there.
“Xu Tingsheng, you…are you drunk?” Apple asked..
“Yes, a little. What are you still doing here so late?” Xu Tingsheng responded as tried his hardest to keep his mind sober.
“I’ve been waiting for you, actually. I wanted to tell you that I’ll be returning to Shenghai City tomorrow. My mom’s over there,” Apple said.
“You come from Shenghai? That’s quite a nice place.”
“No, I don’t come from there; it’s just that my mom’s there. It’s not a nice place at all.”
Apple’s parents had divorced, and her mother had gone off to work in one of the two most prosperous metropolises in the country, also renowned as the two municipalities which were like heaven to those taking their university entrance examinations. While Apple had followed her mother there to live and study, she had not been qualified to sit for her university entrance examinations there.
She had lived there for close to ten years, but had still remained an outsider. Her classmates had seen her as a mere village girl. The teachers had seen her as an inconsequential student who had nothing to do with the passing rate of the cohort. Her studies were not good, and her family was not well-to-do…She yearned for respect, even simply for a friend, but for her, this could only be achieved through certain methods and schemes.
This was, perhaps, the reason for her current personality. She had been forced to maintain rational thought at all times, calculating benefits and detriments, using those as the benchmark for all of her actions.
Xu Tingsheng had yet to answer her when Apple continued, “Walk with me?”
She was different from usual today, without the bewitching gaze, the rough manner of breathing, the blatant or covert teasing. As Xu Tingsheng looked at her, she appeared just like a most ordinary girl.
Therefore, Xu Tingsheng said, “Okay.”
The two of them walked along the street, somehow ending up at Jiangbin Road. This place was a very suitable location for a date. There was the sound of water and the wind, and also the dim yellow street lamps and silhouettes outlining those blissful couples everywhere.
The two of them sat down on a stone bench by the river.
As her long hair was blown messily by the wind, Apple tucked away the loose strands of hair on her forehead.
She said, “I’m so hungry. I actually haven’t had dinner; I was waiting there for you all this while.”
She went on, “Xu Tingsheng, even though I know that nothing will come out of this, even though I know that you may look down on me, I still want to tell you that I seem to…no, not just seem to. Really, I like you. When you held up a heart and ran along the stands today, I coaxed myself, telling myself that it was meant for me…did you know? I am especially good at deceiving myself; it’s been like this ever since I was a child.”
Xu Tingsheng stood up, saying, “Actually, it may not be love. It may be that you simply yearn too deeply for protection. Maybe you just wish that there can be someone whom you can rely on, such that you will no longer have to face as well as fight for everything on your own, having to remain cautious at all times in all that you do….”
Having said a few ‘maybes’ in succession, Xu Tingsheng then continued, “It just happened that in this time that you saw me, I appeared very awesome and capable in some matters, therefore causing such a feeling to well up within you..Actually, were it sometime else and faced with some other matters, I might be an incompetent, spineless coward, a complete and utter failure…can you believe that?”
Having finished, Xu Tingsheng strode away.
Apple called after him, “You’re leaving?”
Xu Tingsheng laughed, “I’m off to get you something to eat. Just consider it…my gratitude and reciprocation to a beautiful lady’s love and admiration.”
Xu Tingsheng returned with some food which Apple promptly ravenously devoured, wolfing it down with a total lack of concern for her image. This Apple was truly not the least bit like Apple.
There were also a few cans of beer in the bag that Xu Tingsheng had brought back. Apple opened a can and handed it over to Xu Tingsheng.
Then, she opened one for herself and raised it up, clinking cans with Xu Tingsheng, “Cheers, thank you.”
The two drank and chatted. Apple soon became tipsy, even more quickly than Xu Tingsheng who had already been drunk beforehand.
She leaned on Xu Tingsheng’s shoulder, saying, “It seems very worth it.”
“My seduction was not in vain. Such treatment from you-even Yao Jing didn’t have it, right? Your junior didn’t receive it either, it seems. So, it seems to have been very worth it.”
Xu Tingsheng abruptly became aware that this was indeed true. He had not been with this way with Yao Jing or Wu Yuewei. So, why was he now suddenly treating Apple, whom he had originally least respected, this way? Why had he, out of the blue, suddenly thought to show Apple some care and warmth, some respect and concern?
Perhaps it was because she was just like how he once had been, living under a state of constant struggle and fear.
Xu Tingsheng said, “It isn’t like this…do you have any other requests? Say it now; you should really be going home soon. There’s still that bus to Shenghai City tomorrow to catch.”
Apple pursed her lips and thought for a while before standing, swaying as she climbed onto the stone bench, her arms spread wide in greeting of the incoming winds, “Carry me someplace bright.”
Carry me someplace bright. Everyone has had their dark times, has experienced times alone with no one to reach out to. At such times, you would wish that there could be someone, carrying you someplace bright.
Xu Tingsheng carried Apple on his back and walked back to the main street. After that, Apple got off and walked by herself. She hopped and skipped along like an extremely foolish yet merry little girl, one who knew not any worry or fear.
Apple turned some additional bends, walked them around in circles…She wished that this stretch of road could be a little longer, yet even longer, for there were very few occasions when she could be so happy and at ease.
Yet, the two still eventually reached the alleyway beside Apple’s house.
“I’m not going home,” Apple said in a shameless tone, turning as if to walk back to the street.
Xu Tingsheng grabbed hold of her, saying, “I’ll watch you go up.”
“Huh, bad guy,” Apple sighed, furrowing her brows as she said, “I really want to seduce you a little this once more…this one’s house is really empty, this one is really scared, this one is really…leaving tomorrow.”
It turned out that having changed ‘I’ to ‘this one’, a completely different feeling was given off.
Xu Tingsheng smiled bitterly as he took out his handphone and dialled Apple’s number, trying his utmost to remain composed as he said, “Save my number, let’s be friends from now on. If there’s anything I can help with, tell me about it.”
“You have to mean what you say.”
“I mean it.”
As Xu Tingsheng was on the road home, his phone began to vibrate.
Apple said: I just remembered something. There’s actually really something I need your help with.
Xu Tingsheng replied: Say it.
Apple said: Help me solve a physiological problem…awww…this one here is all alone at home, and also just drank…so lonely, how i wish….
Apple said: My house’s number plate is 402. I’ll be waiting.
Apple said: Hurry up…. ohhh…. this is so excruciating…
Xu Tingsheng was in great pain. Demoness…at the end of the day, she was still a demoness that he could not afford to provoke…