Chapter 35: Understanding
Xu Tingsheng told Xiang Ning to go home, but she refused.
“I wasn’t taking leave to go home in the first place,” Xiang Ning said.
“Well, why were you running blindly about then?” Xu Tingsheng asked sternly.
Xiang Ning shot him a wronged look before she pouted, explaining, “Tomorrow’s the sports meet, and many people applied for leave. I want to eat some seafood noodles, so I just applied for leave along with them.”
She was indeed still a child. Xu Tingsheng touched the back of his head, coming away with a hand full of blood, “You go back to school first. I will bandage this up and then buy your noodles for you. Half an hour later, come to the guardhouse to collect it.”
After saying so, Xu Tingsheng left quickly in big strides. Xiang Ning ran a few steps after him, but was glared back by him. She could only hang her head and return despondently to her school.
“What’re you so fierce for, even fiercer than the teachers… If not for your bleeding head, I’d totally ignore you, you big liar.”
“Still saying that you’d buy noodles for me, but also not asking which store and which flavour of noodles I like.”
“Forget it, seeing that you are injured, no matter what noodles you buy later, I’ll just pretend that I really like it.”
Half an hour later, sporting a bandaged head, Xu Tingsheng arrived at the school gates. As Xiang Ning emerged from the guardhouse and took the noodles, she found that it was her favourite flavour of seafood noodles, from the longtime noodle store that she liked the most.
Over the next few days, Xiang Niang would always get to eat her favourite seafood noodles. A few different flavours were chosen, but the ones that she hated never appeared at all.
This felt very miraculous, as Xiang Ning felt that this big liar seemed to understand her a lot. Yet, he also seemed reluctant to converse too much with her, hurriedly coming and leaving every time he delivered the noodles. Therefore, she was unable to pry further into it.
“Is that very handsome uncle pursuing you?” Xiang Ning’s good friend asked her.
Xiang Ning’s little heart skipped a beat as she felt nervousness as well as some sort of strange, indiscernible emotion. Was it really like that for him?
“But he’s too old,” Her friend continued, “It’s better to find a classmate, like me. We can attend lessons together; learn together.”
The nineteen-year-old Xu Tingsheng didn’t know that he was being looked down on due to his age, didn’t know that that mischievous little girl was planning to test him.
Today, after he had delivered the noodles, Xiang Ning asked, “Can you really be my brother?”
Xu Tingsheng paused for a moment before replying, “I won’t be your brother. Also, I have to remind you that there are many bad people in our society. Actually, you shouldn’t even talk casually to strangers, much less eat the food that they buy for you.”
Xiang Ning felt very wronged, “But it’s not like you’re a bad person.”
“Would ‘bad person’ be written on their faces?”
Xiang Ning felt that things were not like this, that she had been wronged. How would she usually not ignore strangers? Otherwise, why would she have let herself get bullied by those hooligans, just not giving them her QQ number?
Still, she was unable to explain it, because it was true that for some mysterious reason, she had believed in this person before her who was similarly a stranger.
“I know, big liar.”
Xiang Ning stuffed the noodles back in Xu Tingsheng’s hands, returning angrily to her school. Only when she had passed through the doorway did she sniff, tears beginning to fall from her throbbing eyes.
“I definitely won’t cry in front of him, that big liar.”
“Still saying that you won’t be my brother; like I’d want that. I was just testing you, and look, you indeed were a bad guy.”
Xu Tingsheng felt troubled by the fact that the curiosity of that little girl was just too great, with her vigilance low as a result. He was happy because of how close she behaved with him, but it was also because of this that he felt worried.
Another problem that left him feeling conflicted was this: Was he getting too close to her?
In the next few days, Xu Tingsheng no longer delivered the noodles, and Xiang Ning no longer appeared at the guardroom.
“Looks like that little girl really is angry,” Xu Tingsheng thought.
“Looks like that big liar really isn’t coming,” Xiang Ning thought.
Xu Tingsheng loitered by the road to Xiang Ning’s home for a few more days, during which he did not see those hooligans again. On 19th June, Xu Tingsheng bought a bowl of noodles and left it at the guardroom before leaving for Jiannan City.
Before returning to Libei County, Xu Tingsheng toured Jiannan City for a day.
He went to the school in which he had taught for four years in his previous life, seeing some familiar old teachers there.
He went to the small alley in which he had opened his final store in his previous life. That place was currently still a store which sold children’s clothing, and he knew that it would stay open for very long, all the way till the year 2014.
He went to the riverside where he had had his first date with Xiang Ning in his previous life. The dams there had still yet to be constructed.
He intentionally went to many places, but there was one place which he went to by accident, a three-way crossroad. In his previous life, he had ‘died’ here.
“Perhaps there is a door here, and stepping through it, I’d return to the world of my previous life.”
“Are they two parallel worlds, or did the entire world regress with me by a whole 12 years? …Let’s hope it is the latter; otherwise, how sad would mom and sis be… What about Xiang Ning, would she know?”
Trembling, Xu Tingsheng used all his strength and courage to walk to that position. He stood there for a few seconds, a car that passed by honking at him, its driver sticking his head out of the window, scolding, “Standing in the middle of the road in a daze like that, are you looking to die?!”
Xu Tingsheng apologetically moved aside.
“There’s no door there; nothing brought me back. So, it’s not two different worlds; it’s that the entire world regressed alongside me,” Xu Tingsheng told himself.
Afterwards, he escaped from that place, not willing to think about it any longer, because, he really would be unable to bear the existence of that other world, if it existed.
On 20th June, Xu Tingsheng returned to Libei.
His two uncles had already returned, bringing along with them some experts in renovation, officially beginning the renovation of the shopping mall. Because these experts all had experience in renovating large scale supermarkets, also having brought along blueprints, other than giving some general proposals based on his impressions, Xu Tingsheng did not get involved any more deeply.
One of his key proposals was to delegate an entertainment zone for children.
The experts were opposed to this, because 2000 square metres was actually already rather small for a large scale supermarket. If such an entertainment zone still had to be delegated, the amount of space they could use would decrease yet further.
Still, Xu Tingsheng insisted on it. Even if the scale of the supermarket were to be slightly smaller, it would still be sufficient for Libei County. Meanwhile, the existence of this entertainment zone for children would be like the shopping trolleys that could sit little children at their front, in that it would be symbolic, giving people the feeling: Now this is just like those large scale supermarkets we see on television.
After all this had been settled, Xu Tingsheng learnt from his uncles Mr Xu’s situation. After having contacted the experts in renovation, Mr Xu had first entered a large scale supermarket to work, learning to keep inventory. Next, he had changed supermarkets once every few days with a job in another area. Xu Tingsheng guessed that his father would definitely have been rejected many times, but he would definitely not give up just because of that.
As for Mr Xu’s motive in doing so, Xu Tingsheng was clear on it as well. On one hand, it was to understand the operation of large scale supermarkets, while on the other, and more importantly as well, Mr Xu was also searching for targets for cooperation, or rather to establish an alliance with.
“Now, dad should already be in the midst of negotiations, right?”
Xu Tingsheng made a trip back home before returning to Libei County once more. He then called Huang Yaming, Fu Cheng and Song Ni out to eat dinner together.
Over dinner, Huang Yaming and Fu Cheng finally received the answer they wanted, as Xu Tingsheng admitted that he had fallen in love with a person from outside.
Afterwards, Fu Cheng and Huang Yaming spoke about Ms Fang’s matter.
Xu Tingsheng sighed in relief.
“You were in Ms Fang’s room for an entire night?” This was what Xu Tingsheng was most surprised by.
“Don’t think untoward thoughts,” Fu Cheng warned him.
“Then, do you think there’s hope for you now?” Xu Tingsheng asked.
Fu Cheng shook his head.
The trio changed the topic, asking Song Ni, “Has that Chen Yulun still come looking for you?”
Song Ni said that he had not.
Afterwards, Song Ni said that she did not intend to go to university, because her results might only be good enough to get her into a higher vocational school, and it would be hard for her to find a good job afterwards even after graduating. Therefore, she still thought it best to just start working already.
“Study-study accountancy,” If you can’t find a job in the future, you can come help manage our supermarket. I’ll let you be a manager.”
Song Ni covered her mouth, laughing.
Xu Tingsheng said, “I’m serious.”