Chapter 289: Give me a bowl of noodles, Boss
The old noodle restaurant had already in business for decades. The store was in a cramped old house with a rather low ceiling which had basically not been renovated at all. The tables and chairs had been weathered by the ages. The most unique feature about old things was generally their sturdiness and how they were still robust despite their surfaces already being mottled. Luckily, they were still considered clean.
Every time mealtime came, the customers would have to queue up.
Those who failed to get a bowl in time could only leave and rush over earlier next time.
Logically speaking, they should really open a branch store considering how things were, but they had not. Xu Tingsheng knew that they this would still be the case even in the year 2011. Also, the store would not even be renovated, the old tables remaining how they were even a decade later. Anyway, they hadn’t been ‘pretty’ in the first place.
It was just that in the year 2001, the tides had started to reverse and return. People began to value nostalgia, watching nostalgic movies of their youth and liking old things and old stores. They felt that playing with their phones and taking selfies before taking a snapshot of an old bowl of soup in such a place relentlessly weathered by the ages was even more stylish than visiting Starbucks or whatnot.
And so it was that the old noodle store had met all transformations with unflinching passivity, remaining greatly popular throughout.
When Xiang Ning had taken Xu Tingsheng here in the year 2011, they had been very fortunate in not having had to queue up. With the torrential rain that day, few patrons had visited the store.
Xu Tingsheng had carried Xiang Ning, wearing canvas shoes, off from the taxi. After they had finished eating the noodles, he had carried her again by the roadside in waiting for another taxi, holding up the legs of his pants as he stood in the rain for around half an hour.
Yet afterwards, during those three years, Xu Tingsheng had actually come alone again once, to her city and her favourite noodle restaurant to eat the noodles that she loved the most. Yet, he had…been afraid that she might show up then.
That day, the skies had been clear at first but a downpour had soon descended.
After that torrential rainstorm, having finished eaten his noodles, Xu Tingsheng had discovered that he ‘could no longer turn back’.
When the number of customers had lessened, Xu Tingsheng crossed the road and entered the old noodle restaurant, standing by the counter as he ‘domineeringly’ told the boss there, “Boss, give me a bowl of noodles. Add shrimps, takeaway.”
Looking at him, the boss smiled knowingly.
Back then, he had asked this person before him to choose between a cup of wine and a bowl of noodles. This person had taken the noodles away. Gazing over, he had then discovered that the cup was also empty.
That night, Xu Tingsheng had walked around the entire perimeter of Xinyan Junior High twice. In the end, he had sat all alone by the roadside and gobbled down that bowl of noodles which had already gone all cold. That night, as Fang Yuqing had bravely travelled a thousand miles for a proposal, Xu Tingsheng had been mere inches away yet had not dared to go forward at all.
Perhaps the boss had gone the extra mile for Xu Tingsheng as the noodles came very quickly.
“Thank you,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“Bring her along to eat next time! Let me take a look at her,” The boss smiled.
Xu Tingsheng replied nervously, “Well, we’ll see, we’ll see.”
The boss had definitely seen Little Xiang Ning before. If he were to bring her along with him…
Carrying the noodles.
Xu Tingsheng placed a soft pack of premium Chunghwa cigarettes on the security guard’s desk.
When Little Xiang Ning emerged, Uncle was trembling slightly.
This was just like the love between youngsters, he going to look for her for the first time after coming to know of her feelings for him, feeling uneasy and out of his element in this first date, worrying greatly whilst also looking forward to it greatly as he inevitably felt nervous and tense.
This was the state that Xu Tingsheng was currently in right now. He was like a little boy who had managed to win the heart of the girl he liked with great difficulty.
Wearing her school uniform, Little Xiang Ning walked over from the distant stairwell.
She was nervous too, Xu Tingsheng could see that, because as she walked…her left hand was coordinating with her left leg and vice versa.
“Thank you, security guard uncle.”
Little Xiang Ning passed through the security room and left through the door. As if by tacit agreement, the two walked to a corner that was a blind spot for the security guard. Leaning against the wall, Little Xiang Ning smiled as she looked at Xu Tingsheng, also puffing up her cheeks as she just continued smiling throughout.
Xu Tingsheng smiled too, albeit nervously.
He was as nervous as he had been during their actual first date, when he had been the first to speak and blundered amidst his panic, “How come you’ve got pimples?”
Miss Xiang had bore him a grudge for a long time over that.
There was a period of time in which Miss Xiang had been harmed very badly by pimples. Uncle had virtually never had pimples since young, even during puberty. This made the damage even worse.
Once, they were out on what had originally been a very romantic date. All of a sudden, Uncle had clumsily taken out a necklace which he had specially chosen for Miss Xiang and put it on her from behind.
Miss Xiang had joyfully turned, asking, “Does it look good on me?”
Staring at it, Uncle had replied, “How come you’ve got pimples again?”
Miss Xiang had ignored Uncle for the rest of that day. She had taken out all the chillies in the dishes and thrown them into Uncle’s bowl, staring fixatedly at him as if daring him not to eat them. Tears streaming down his face, sweat profusely dripping down his back, Uncle was therefore forced into eating them all.
Yet, he had still not grown any pimples.
In order to make Uncle grow pimples, Little Xiang Ning had once devoted a great amount of time and effort, poring over a great amount of resources and carrying out many experiments. Still, she had ultimately been unable to succeed.
Eventually, Uncle had clashed with the dreaded ‘period’ for N consecutive times. Every time he managed to spare some time to return to Jiannan and go to Yanzhou with great difficulty, he would cross paths with Miss Xiang’s period which had been lying in ambush for him as it suddenly came ahead of time or was delayed.
Uncle finally grew pimples.
Miss Xiang had been so triumphant at that.
Xu Tingsheng had dubbed that period of time: period tribulation.
Xu Tingsheng looked unconsciously at Little Xiang Ning’s face.
“You, what’re you looking at?” Little Xiang Ning asked nervously.
Xu Tingsheng had grown smart this time as he said, “You look nice.”
Little Xiang Ning said, “Dirty ruffian.”
After a while, she saw the noodles that he was holding.
Little Xiang Ning gazed over at it, “It’s just like back then.”
Back then, Xu Tingsheng had still been Uncle Liar whom Little Xiang Ning felt curious whilst also afraid of. Back then, he had delivered noodles to her too. After that, he had become her home tutor. After that, he had come here and performed specially for her. After that, they had gradually drifted apart, because of Xu Tingsheng, and also because of Mr and Mrs Xiang…
Only this young girl before him had not done any wrong at all.
Even in his previous life, she had not done any wrong at all. Yet…she had been forsaken.
“Will you take it home to eat, or?” Xu Tingsheng asked.
“I’m having evening self-study now,” Little Xiang Ning said softly.
Little Xiang Ning brought Xu Tingsheng along and found a quartzite rock whereupon they sat down. Illuminated by the dim lamplight, the surrounding darkness was a little mild. He watched her as she quietly ate, raising a hand and pushing her stray strands of hair behind her ear from time to time.
“Why do you know all that I like to eat? Even knowing to add pure rice vinegar?” Little Xiang Ning suddenly asked.
Xu Tingsheng had no way of answering this question as he replied, “I guessed it.”
Little Xiang Ning did not pursue the matter as she continued, “Why didn’t you bring a portion along to eat with me then?”
Xu Tingsheng had no way of telling her that he did not like eating seafood in the first place.
He also hadn’t dared say it in his previous life.
“Next time,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“Okay,” Little Xiang Ning said, “That day…”
“That day, were you actually saying that you like me?” Xu Tingsheng cut to the chase, the answer to this being something that was so important to him, something that he so looked forward to hearing.
“Return me the noodles.”
“…You shameless, ruffian.”
Little Xiang Ning caught a prawn between her chopsticks and hesitated for a moment before bringing it over to Xu Tingsheng’s mouth, asking, “Want it?”
Xu Tingsheng nodded and ate the prawn.
Then, Little Xiang Ning’s face was flushed entirely red.
Xu Tingsheng thought for a moment before venturing, “Indirect…”
“Hey, you can’t say it! I hadn’t thought of it earlier.”
“Well, think about it now then.”
Perhaps because she had just eaten dinner not long ago, Little Xiang Ning was unable to finish eating the noodles in the end. Xu Tingsheng looked down and gobbled up the rest of the food in a few goes. With that, her face turned even redder as she took her hand and fanned it.
Little Xiang Ning finally got up and said ‘I’ve got to go’.
Like a young boy on his first ever date, Uncle was unable to bear parting from her as he now asked very shamelessly, “Hey, can you, like that day…give me a hug?”
Little Xiang Ning said not a word as she walked over, silently and delicately hugging him.
“Will you be coming again soon? I won’t eat dinner then,” She said after a long time.
“I may be unable to come for quite a while following this,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“Why? Because you’ll be too busy?”
“I’m going to go handle a couple of things. Wait for me.”
Right, Xu Tingsheng was going to go handle a couple of things. She was already walking closer towards him. Xu Tingsheng wanted to return to that simplest blank slate with nothing tying him down whatsoever such that when she finally arrived by his side, there would be nothing that could hurt her.