Chapter 51: That final parting
Xu Tingsheng would not be attending the university that he had studied in his previous life. This entailed that the days ahead would become special once more. At the very least, it had once again become unknowable in many areas.
If he had again encountered those classmates and roommates whom he had known well in his previous life, he could then have known who he should establish close ties with, who he could treat as a brother, and also who he should best keep a healthy distance from. Still, apart from that, in dealing with people as well as handling matters, he would have to rely to a greater extent on his personal experiences as well as abilities.
Xu Tingsheng would be studying Chinese this time round, this also being somewhat related to the History he had studied in his previous life. After all, History and Chinese Literature were deeply connected at their root.
In his previous life, it was Chinese that Xiang Ning had studied. After they had met, in order to find more common topics between them, Xu Tingsheng had initially even masqueraded as a Language teacher for a time.
If such a day came once more, this time, there would be no need for him to lie.
In Xu Tingsheng’s previous life, he had told too many lies, owed too many debts as well as forsaken too much. Therefore, little Xiang Ning held a position in his heart that she might never ever guess at-she was the biggest debtor of Xu Tingsheng’s present lifetime.
She could ask for a lot, perform many misdeeds, do many, many things. Even so, Xu Tingsheng would accept and bear all of them, because all of those were part of what he originally owed her.
Yanzhou University would be commencing its academic year on 12th September, and Huang Yaming and Song Ni would begin class at around the same time as well. However, Xu Tingsheng did not wait for them. He went off ahead on his own first.
This was because the first day of junior high was 1st September.
Everything had been settled at home, with business booming at Happy Shoppers. Under Li Xiu’s highly efficient management, let alone Xu Tingsheng, even Mr Xu was very free now. During the previous month, Xu Tingsheng had specifically asked Li Xiu to pay some special attention to grooming a few talents in management amidst the operation of the supermarket. This included Song Ni, having been on an ‘internship’ in the supermarket at the time.
From his words, Li Xiu heard ambition. This was something she was happy to see. As a ‘founding Elder’ of the mall, who wouldn’t look forward to their boss developing and growing mightier, achievements only rising thereon?
Li Xiu was very satisfied with Song Ni’s performance. While lacking a strong aura, this girl possessed many outstanding traits, such as her perseverance and tenacity as well as her stable, competent style of handling things.
Li Xiu had even said, “If this Song Ni weren’t going to attend university, just having worked here for a year and gotten familiar with the various aspects of management as well as developed a proper aura, she could then be directly dispatched as the manager of our next branch.”
Xu Tingsheng had replied at the time, “There will be many branches, and many managers will be needed. Don’t be too hung up on Song Ni. After she’s graduated from university, if we’re doing sufficiently well, she will end up in your hands sooner or later.”
Xu Tingsheng’s statement that Song Ni would end up in Li Xiu’s hands sooner or later put her greatly at ease. He would not be showing favouritism to those closer to him, placing Song Ni in a position above her.
“Song Ni will be at least a manager, and since Little Boss says that she will be under me, what position would I have then?” Thinking like this, Li Xiu was filled with anticipation.
Xu Tingsheng had shown this person they were currently most reliant on sufficient respect, also having drawn out a sufficient piece of the cake to her.
Thus did peace reign in all matters.
On 1st September, Xu Tingsheng carried the two big bags his mother had packed and headed off on his premature journey to Yanzhou City.
Going from Libei to Jiannan and then switching buses, Xu Tingsheng felt like the bags on his shoulders were incomparably heavy. Taking a look within, Mrs Xu had actually even packed a stand for drying clothes as well as a brush for washing them with. Indeed, the son travels a thousand li to the worry of his mother. The love from his mother was heavy indeed.
He wanted to lessen the burden, but how could a mother’s love be so easily thrown away?
Xu Tingsheng could only shoulder the two heavy bags the entire journey. When he arrived in the vicinity of Xinyan Junior High and found a motel to stay in, the bones of his entire body were already almost ready to fall apart.
As it was already quite late and he was exhausted, Xu Tingsheng didn’t go to the school gates to wait for Xiang Ning today. Herein actually lay a more important reason as well-this being the first day of school, Xiang Ning’s parents would likely be sending her there. Xu Tingsheng thought that if he did not want to be beaten up, he had best not make an appearance.
He did not know whether Xiang Ning had told her parents about ‘Uncle Liar’ over the summer holidays. Perhaps, unbeknownst to him, Mr Xiang was at this very moment searching everywhere with a metal baton, looking to arrest him.
“Little girl, I’m coming…to accompany you as you grow up,” Lying back on the bed, gazing at the distant field and classroom buildings of Xinyan Junior High through the window, Xu Tingsheng said within his heart.
He had come here twice before, but it was only this time that he had truly come for good. Even if thereon, he would only be able to gaze at her from far away, silently concerned for her, he would still be by her side, guarding her silently from beside her, accompanying her in gradually growing up day by day.
On 2nd September, there was a heavy downpour.
Xu Tingsheng woke up before 6am. Not having brought along an umbrella, he hesitated at the entrance of the motel for a while. Still, he eventually chose to brave the pouring rain. After buying an umbrella, he travelled a long way and queued up at an ultra-famous longtime shop of Yanzhou City to buy some fried dumplings.
Naturally, it had been Xiang Ning who had brought him over to this dumpling shop in his previous life. He had only been here once, because back then, he had already known long beforehand that it would be their last time meeting. It was just that Xiang Ning had not been aware of this.
They had been very happy together those few days. Xu Tingsheng had pampered Xiang Ning the best he could, while Xiang Ning had brought him along in traversing the various streets, vast and narrow, of Yanzhou City. Amidst their travels, she had told him many things about herself- interesting things, tasteless things, ‘tragic’ things, all her blissful childhood memories.
She had brought him to this dumpling shop, saying how she felt that it sold the best fried dumplings under the heavens. That had been the last time they had sat together eating breakfast.
Therefore, this time, Xu Tingsheng had come to buy fried dumplings for her.
Actually, when Xu Tingsheng had come back then, his company had already collapsed, leaving him penniless and heavily laden in debt. Xu Tingsheng had come prepared to vanish from Xiang Ning’s life for good. He had thought: For the last time, let me properly accompany her, properly pamper her once more.
Xu Tingsheng had also considered telling Xiang Ning frankly about his sorry plight before. However, if he did so, that girl might not be willing to let him go, and she might be burdened by this for her entire lifetime as a result.
“Rather than leaving her in love and in yearning, conflicted and in pain, why not let her be resolute in hate, thereon forgetting me as she goes about her own life.”
Therefore, till the very end when Xiang Ning had sent him to the bus stop, Xu Tingsheng had not said anything about it at all, just saying, “My phone is nearly out of battery, you won’t be able to call through later…don’t worry. Also, take good care of yourself. Remember, whatever happens, I will always be thinking of you everyday, wishing everyday for your joy and happiness.”
Xiang Ning said, “Uncle…you’re so mushy.”
She gently kissed Xu Tingsheng’s face.
Xu Tingsheng kissed her forehead, just like the first time he had kissed her.
Back then, Xiang Ning had said, “Oho, Uncle, your eyes are really discerning. These are the highest grade Fuxi bones under the heavens, representing great wealth and longevity.”
Xu Tingsheng had replied, “Girl, can’t you be a little more shy? You’ve totally ruined the mood.”
This time, Xiang Ning did not ruin the mood as she gently hugged Xu Tingsheng, saying, “I’ll miss you.”
Xu Tingsheng was unable to speak as he left Xiang Ning’s embrace and went up the bus. Once seated, he lowered his head beneath window level, covering his face and weeping soundlessly.
Tears flowed down through the gaps between his fingers. Xiang Ning’s smiling face as she waved at him from outside…he dared not respond to it. Just a single glance more and he would never be able to part from her again.
At that moment, Xiang Ning was still yet to know that she would never be able to call through to that number ever again.
After having left back then, Xu Tingsheng had never again returned.