We’re at the quarter way mark and a competitor for Yun Jin’s affections finally makes an appearance. But what kind of lopsided competition is this that Yun Jin actually has feelings for him?
Anyone would feel alienated in a new environment and Yun Jin was no exception. This big Southern city of China had a distinctive atmosphere which Yun Jin was completely unfamiliar with. But she quickly adapted to the city, or more accurately, the city accepted her magnanimously. She slowly grew to love this city located near the equator where it often rained; this city with its buildings of olden charm; this city bustling with prosperity…
The tan, lithe locals were straightforward and intelligent. People from other parts of the country would adopt the local accent to converse fluently. No one cared about where you came from – if you were local or otherwise.
Her university was the result of a recent union of several schools. Although it wasn’t a top institution, at least it was relatively famous in this city. As the school had a significant slant towards the Humanities, the females outnumbered the males. Moreover, it had a reputation of being populated with beauties so the boys in the neighbouring university would always look over with interest.
Yun Jin was a minority in her degree who had studied the Sciences in senior high. The moment she entered her first undergraduate year, she knew that even as others took it easy and enjoyed their university years, she had to work doubly hard to catch up to their humanities basics.
Fortunately, after school had commenced for a first months, the school finally approved of her bursary application. Her form tutor even recommended her a part-time errand job in the departmental office. Although it didn’t actually pay well, in fact it was barely enough to purchase a pretty outfit, Yun Jin was content.
There weren’t many modules in Year One as compared to Senior Year Three where she only had half a day off weekly. Spare time was aplenty. After she ascertained that she could juggle the rigours of her studies and the demands of part-time job satisfactorily, in the fourth month of university, Yun Jin found herself a tutoring position. Her student was a primary three girl. The pay 15 yuan an hour. The original tutor, who was a foreign language major in the same university, had found the pay too meagre and had advertised the position on the school bulletin. Yun Jin paid a middleman fee of 35 yuan and finally settled into a new routine.
Tutoring was a choice part-time job that most working undergraduates preferred. Yun Jin’s first tutoring experience was easier than she had expected. The student was the only child of a simple, honest family. Although the girl was a little spoilt, she was on the whole obedient. She was easily distracted and had to be supervised as she tackled her assignments. However, her parents were white-collared workers who simply had no time to monitor their child and thus had decided to get a tutor from the nearby university.
Yun Jin was quiet and meticulous and extremely patient. Sometimes the girl would throw tantrums such that even her parents were frustrated but Yun Jin would merely smile. Her tolerant nature earned their favour and appreciation. Thankfully, the parents were reasonable people with decorum so Yun Jin experienced none of the abuse or frustrations trumpeted in headlines that other home tutors suffered. She was able to continue happily with her tutoring, and combining her pay with that of her part-time job at the university, she scrimped just enough living expenses to get by.
Yun Jin’s first undergraduate year passed like this without incident. She was basically only present in class for lessons and was hardly in her hostel too. The clubs and societies that her batch mates took part in actively was something she had no time for.
Her results were average, not outstanding that the professor would take note, but not terrible that she required remediation. She didn’t have close friends in class or in the hostel but maintained good relations with most. She didn’t think she was very much different from the quiet girl back in senior high but now, she was at least happy. All the low self-esteem and dark days of senior high school had ended with the goodbye that fateful night. She hadn’t realised that with her self-doubt gone, she no longer cast her eyes groundwards and this version of Yun Jin shone.
She had a fair complexion with exquisite features, a high forehead and long lashes. While she dressed plainly, she had an enviable figure and was a collected person. Even amongst the many beauties in school, she was not without her admirers. There is a saying that the girl who’s not aware of her own beauty is the most alluring and this was the category that Yun Jin belonged to. When she visited Mo Yu Hua’s campus once, the latter’s classmates tried to dig out more details about her. But seeing that the person in demand had no inkling of her beauty, Mo Yu Hua didn’t bring it to her attention either.
At this juncture, it would be completely remiss not to mention Mo Yu Hua. It was quite odd really. After they received their university admission results, both of them realised they were studying in the same city once again. The only difference was that Yu Hua’s diligence had paid off and was in the city’s top university. Yu Hua had even been accepted into the exclusive medical course and was a source of pride back in senior high as well.
In that graduating batch, Yun Jin’s tablemate Song Ming was the overall top scholar but because he didn’t fill in his university choices wisely, he eventually enrolled into Harbin Institute of Technology. Meng Xue didn’t perform well either but had her wish and was studying in Beijing. Although it was only a third-rate university, at least she was with him in the same city. As for Zhou Zi Yi, he enlisted into a Shanghai university. Regarding this person, Yu Hua never brought up his name again and Yun Jin was determined not to either.
Yun Jin and Yu Hua. Although they had been senior high classmates for two years, they were not particularly chummy. Strangely, it was only upon graduating from senior high school that their relationship became closer. Perhaps the events in the final few months of senior high bonded them. People are often like that, only by sharing their pain and secrets could a deeper bond be forged.
At a quick glance, both were the introverted sort, but in reality their personalities could not have been more different. Yun Jin may be quiet but was sensitive and stubborn. In comparison, Mo Yu Hua was more giving and was more sensible.
Yun Jin regarded Mo Yu Hua as her only friend. Although one shuttled between part-time job and classes while the other spent long hours in the laboratory leaving them little time to meet-up, whenever one needed to unload her worries, she would immediately think of contacting the other.
When the summer vacation began, Yun Jin was on the train on her way back to her hometown when she spoke of Shen Ju An for the first time to Mo Yu Hua.
Shen Ju An was Yun Jin’s faculty senior in his third year. Before she knew him personally, she had already heard of his name during the many gossiping sessions back in the hostel.
She first met him in the departmental office where she ran her errands. Yun Jin would spend all her spare time there tidying up documents, typing and running office errands. On the other hand, Shen Ju An was student body President and was well-liked by the teaching staff and thus appeared there often. Because of their constant meetings, they eventually became friends.
In the beginning, Yun Jin didn’t think much of Shen Ju An. However, after becoming friends, she started to realise that a person couldn’t be this popular without reason. She had never seen a person, who had long bid his adolescence goodbye, with such clear eyes. Yes, if she had to describe him in a single word, it would be pristine.
According to hearsay, his family background was not too well-off and just like Yun Jin, he came from a small county. However, this had no impact on how people regarded him highly. As for his good academic performance, Yun Jin didn’t care for his many medals and trophies. After all, she had seen her fair share of well-rounded individuals. What impressed her was that when he looked at someone, he would give them a warm smile and his undivided attention. Of course, it couldn’t be denied that he was also good looking but this charm was unlike Cheng Zheng’s confidence or Zhou Zi Yi’s boyishness. Shen Ju An was a gentleman and had the ability of making the people around him feel at ease.
Yun Jin did not know when she started taking special notice of him. Perhaps it was that one summer afternoon when she lifted her head from the messy pile of documents she was in and saw his peaceful side profile. She couldn’t help but think to herself: today’s great and life’s good. Then, he must have sensed her gaze as he turned and smiled at her. Yun Jin blushed.
In this manner, the two of them became closer but Yun Jin found that the more she knew of him, the more she did not understand. He was amicable to everyone but there was an invisible barrier between people and him. However, he treated Yun Jin particularly well and occasionally the two of them talked and joked. Whenever Yun Jin was busy with her tutoring and unable to run her office errands, he would voluntarily complete them.
“So, can I take it that you like him?” Mo Yu Hua had asked.
Yun Jin pondered this for a long while before saying “I’m not sure myself. I only know it’s comfortable being around him and that I can envision us growing old together.”
“Growing old together? Then what about Cheng Zheng? What’s it like when you’re with him?” Mo Yu Hua teased.
Yun Jin was taken aback before replying “It’s hell.”
The moment the words were uttered, both girls burst into laughter.