Chapter 67: Dowry
The routes traversed by the green train were mostly desolate, hills and long fields continually passing by them. Sometimes, wild, untamed grass would hit the train’s windows. It was cramped, noisy and even noticeably smelly inside, the stewards and stewardesses on board finding it rather hard to push their trolleys back and forth.
Some were loudly trying to sell godly dishwashing appliances in the train carriages. Of course, if you didn’t need these, there were actually other godly appliances as well!
Huang Yaming, Fu Cheng, Song Ni and Fang Yunyao played cards on the train.
Because there were many hills and mountainous areas in Jianhai Province, the train would always pass through some hollowed-out tunnels of varying lengths. Every time it turned dark, Huang Yaming would begin secretly discarding or swiping some cards off the table. Thus, he always won.
Fang Yunyao was so anxious at her consecutive losses that she ignored the ringing of her phone, just taking a quick glance each time before rejecting the call. In the end, she just directly turned off her phone.
Xu Tingsheng and Apple meanwhile played aeroplane chess and chatted.
The little boy on the neighbouring seat watched on as he chewed on a banana. Apple teased the kid a little before chatting with his parents. The couple actually felt safe handing their child over to her just like that as the two of them then hooked their arms together and fell into deep slumber.
They had already spent four days and nights on this train, having come over to work from a faraway, out of the way city.
Apple put the rather smelly and dirty little boy on her thigh, with it not looking forced in the slightest as she put in much effort in coaxing him, pulling out all kinds of tidbits for him to eat.
Xu Tingsheng smiled from his seat beside her.
“Help,” Apple said.
“He looks like he wants to go pee.”
“…Not helping. If you can’t even do this, how can you be someone’s mum next time?”
So Apple hugged the boy and traversed the crowds to get to the toilet. She returned more than ten minutes later with a triumphant look on her face, seeming as if she had just managed to accomplish a great feat.
Amongst the four of them playing cards, Fang Yunyao began winning, entering a strong winning streak.
Once, after she had finished using all her cards, Huang Yaming went to check the cards in Fu Cheng’s hand before complaining resentfully, “How are we supposed to play this? This is too much. Someone’s holding on the the Rocket but doesn’t want to play it, letting another play a small two before leaving the game with a trio with pair.”
Fu Cheng explained, “How could I have known that she would be able to put out all those five cards at once?”
Huang Yaming said, “Scram! Right at the start of the last game, when I still had all my cards in hand, you bombed me just as soon as I put out a single ace! When I put out a J later on, you bombed me as well, bombed me till I really felt like doubting life.”
Everyone laughed, the little boy on Apple’s lap chortling along as well.
Huang Yaming said to Xu Tingsheng, “Switch, you play. Otherwise, there’d be no way to play this anymore. How is this even playing cards? It’s literally a confession…”
When Xu Tingsheng replaced Fu Cheng, there were only two white rabbit candies that remained before him, while there were whole piles of it gathered before Fang Yunyao and Huang Yaming.
Xu Tingsheng said, “Don’t worry, watch how I win it all back for you.”
Afterwards, when the train moved through the next tunnel, another card-swiper was present at the table.
After clashing intensely for a bit, Xu Tingsheng and Huang Yaming finally came to a tacit agreement. Soon, not even a single white rabbit candy remained before the two girls.
7 hours into the train ride, tired out from their earlier exertions, they began leaning back on their seats one by one and falling into deep slumber.
Xu Tingsheng received the little boy from Apple, saying, “You get some sleep; I’ll take care of him.”
Apple laughed slyly and said to the little boy, “Be good, baby. Mum’s going to sleep for a while. Play with Dad for a bit, okay?”
Xu Tingsheng counterattacked, “Let’s get baby fed before you sleep. Come, baby, it’s time for milk.”
Apple stomped on his foot beneath the table before ignoring him and going to sleep.
What was bad was that the little boy began continuously asking of Xu Tingsheng, ‘Milk, milk…’, his hands scratching uncomfortably at Xu Tingsheng’s chest.
Also, he soon had to pee again. Looking at the peacefully slumbering faces of Apple and the kid’s parents, Xu Tingsheng could only stifle his discomfort and perform the first such duty of both his entire lives.
As the train neared Jiannan, Xu Tingsheng woke everyone up one by one. The little boy’s parents awoke as well, chatting with them for a while before very gratefully gifting them with a bag of homegrown sweet potatoes.
In the evening, Xu Tingsheng treated everyone to a meal. He had not called them over in treating his roommates yesterday, having intended to do so on a different occasion. After all, the natures of these two meals were intrinsically different.
After dinner, Xu Tingsheng led them in walking the streets of Jiannan City.
Familiar place, familiar people. It was just that Xu Tingsheng had no way of saying to Huang Yaming or Fu Cheng: Back then, I stayed in a rented flat in that small building right there. Every time the two of you bastards came here to take the civil servant exam, you would ask me to take care of all the arrangements for you. Every time you passed by here, you would freeload at my place for a few days. Have you both forgotten all of it?
Huang Yaming had even discovered the old underwear of the previous female tenant in a crevice in the toilet’s wall.
He wondered if she had already moved into that flat.
He really wanted to see how she looked like. After all, due to the dimensions of that piece of underwear he had found, Huang Yaming had enjoyed many pleasant fantasies. If she actually turned out to be a big dinosaur…
The next morning, the 6 of them took the bus back to Libei.
Fang Yunyao returned to her old home in Hunan the afternoon after having arrived in Libei. This girl who spent most of her time all year out solitarily of home would be spending this entire 1st October holiday(Golden Week) by her parents’ side.
Therefore, Fu Cheng could only follow Xu Tingsheng and Song Ni in helping out in the supermarket.
Huang Yaming tried to call Tan Qingling out for a date a dozen times, but only managed to get her out once. The two chatted casually for a while before Tan Qingling went home. Thinking that she must be facing great pressure in having to sit for the university entrance examinations once more, Huang Yaming naturally found this to be understandable.
It was just that Xu Tingsheng had already detected some abnormalities therein.
Tan Qingling did not love Huang Yaming. With him not meticulously taking care of her by her side, with his halo from their final phase of twelfth grade having faded, change would inevitably come.
Over this period of time, they attended a few old classmate gatherings together.
Xu Tingsheng inadvertently came across Ye Yingjing in one of these gatherings, and he saw Wu Yuewei in the supermarket once as well.
Apple remained at her grandma’s, accompanying the elderly woman. As promised, Xu Tingsheng stopped by the place for a visit.
The old woman was already almost completely blind. She stayed alone in a low, dim house, and when mealtime arrived, Apple’s aunts would take turns coming to set a bowl of rice before her.
One on each side, Xu Tingsheng and Apple supported her in walking out of the house and bathing in the sun’s rays.
The old woman, who called Apple lassie, tugged on Xu Tingsheng’s arm and said, “Good child, be good to lassie. Be good to lassie…to lassie. You must be good to lassie.”
Apple said to Xu Tingsheng in private, “Grandma has already forgotten my age. Maybe she even thinks that I’m already married! Don’t mind her…”
“Also, you definitely can’t let Grandma touch your chin. Otherwise, she’ll say: No hair on mouth, no reliability to trust. Young men are unreliable…Grandpa had a big moustache. He died a few years ago.”
Like this, when Grandma tried to touch his chin, Xu Tingsheng could only dodge away and clasp her hands, reassuring her, “You can rest assured, Grandma. I will definitely be good to lassie.”
Xu Tingsheng helped to make dinner for Apple and her grandmother. Having lived alone for 7 years in his previous life, he was actually rather proficient in cooking. It wasn’t just Apple who cried out excitedly at his culinary skill; even her grandmother ate an extra half bowl of rice as well.
Sending Xu Tingsheng off from that small village, Apple said by the roadside, “Grandma hasn’t had a good life, and Mum has it very tough as well. After I graduate, I want to ease the burden on Mum as well as bring Grandma out of here…I don’t know if she can hold on till then, though.”
“Therefore, all along, I’ve always wished that I could be a little more useful…actually, being useful is equivalent to being rich, right?…”
“Therefore, I’d always thought before that I definitely had to make it into a good university. But I’m not good at studying…Afterwards, I discovered that the only thing I’m good at is looking beautiful. Therefore, I thought that I would definitely marry a rich guy based on my beauty before leading a good life afterwards…Back then, I was very hateful, right?”
Xu Tingsheng very earnestly shook his head. His understanding of it was actually the same as well.
He could not arrogantly deny the importance of money in this society. It was just like the difficulties he, his mother and his sister had experienced in his previous life, just like how he had chosen to leave Xiang Ning in the end. He had hoped that she would be able to lead a better life rather than being burdened by him, having to suffer through all that hardship together.
While base, it was still a very real logic. Money. If Xu Tingsheng had had money in his previous life, perhaps his fate would have changed as well. Perhaps that precious relationship would not have turned into a tragedy by his own hands.
Perhaps there would not have been this rebirth then.
“You’re not allowed to go back on what you promised Grandma,” Apple said.
“You’ve got to ‘be good to lassie’.”
“Alright. When lassie gets married, gets married to someone who loves you and someone whom you love, I’ll prepare a very big dowry for you, big to an extent you won’t even dare to imagine.”
The meaning concealed within these words was actually very hurtful. However, Xu Tingsheng knew that over these past days he had spent with Apple, he had somehow already unconsciously allowed their relationship to reach a tipping point. Just a step further, and there would be no turning back.
He would only be harming himself, whilst harming her as well.
Therefore, he had no choice but to come down swiftly and decisively on this.
Xu Tingsheng thought that Apple would be hurt, having already steeled his heart in preparation of facing her sadness, perhaps even her tears.
However, Apple said, “Trying to get rid of me with just a dowry, you wish…”
“You should diligently earn more money, which will then all come to be mine in the future…”
“Sigh, for our blissful future lives, I’ll just let you stay arrogant for now…when the day comes that you fall in love with me, this dame will repay it a hundred times over, abusing you so much you’ll wish you’re dead…humph.”