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The overall atmosphere seems to have taken a change. What do you think has caused it?
Chapter 5.1 – The Real You and Me (1)
One week after the gala, it was the week of midterm examinations.
By now, it was approaching late autumn, and the classrooms were frightfully cold. Consequently, the library, which was fitted with year round central heat and air, had naturally become a high-demand piece of turf.
Tong Yan’s upper body was slumped on top of the table as she studied for Jurisprudence, and her head was spinning from all the Latin terms. The teacher for this particular course insisted that if one was to study law, then one must learn Latin. He had directly handed out a self-written handbook that consisted completely of Latin terms with the corresponding English equivalent, proclaiming that half the final examination would be in Latin. Hence, Tong Yan had no choice but to plow through that handbook until she was about to go nuts.
“Philosophy, philosophia. This stupid one here cannot figure out the difference.” Tong Yan sighed, “Why is it that, even as I’m being tortured by the CET-6 English test, I have to memorize Latin, too?”
Shen Yao was sprawled on the table as she worked on advanced math practice test problems. “I think the most unlucky law students in the entire country must be us. Have you ever seen any law students have to re-take advanced math over and over again?”
Wen Jingjing pulled her head out from the International Commercial Arbitration textbook. “And let me add: out of all the law schools in the whole country, how come ours is the only one that teaches completely in English from third year onwards? I haven’t even passed my CET-4 yet …” After saying this, she rubbed away at her tears of misery.
When Tong Yan’s eyes caught sight of the textbook for International Commercial Arbitration that Wen Jingjing was holding, she unexpectedly thought of Gu Pingsheng. Last week, he had again said that there were matters to attend to in his family and had not given her any physics lessons.
Her gaze inexplicably brushed over the textbook in Wen Jingjing’s hand again, and suddenly, she really wanted to send a text message to Teacher Gu and ask him whether he was going to tutor her this week … But after taking a glance at her phone, she grew hesitant again.
Maybe, he was very busy.
The place they were seated was separated from a staircase by only the wooden railing, so when all of a sudden, a large number of people upstairs started walking down, their gazes were naturally drawn in that direction. It seemed that they were all teachers, and in groups of twos or threes, they chatted as they walked.
“Hey, isn’t that Tong Yan’s Goddess of Nightmares? She knows Teacher Gu?” Shen Yao’s eyes were sharp and swiftly caught sight of the potential for a love affair.
When Tong Yan looked over, Gu Pingsheng was walking side by side down the stairs with the Goddess of Nightmares, Zhao Yin. From somewhere within the crowd, someone called out, “Teacher Zhao.” Zhao Yin tapped the back of his hand lightly, motioning to him that somebody was looking for her.
As Gu Pingsheng looked over at Teacher Zhao, he also happened to see the three of them as well. But, it was only a brief, single glance.
After quiet was restored at the staircase, Shen Yao also put away her advanced mathematics papers. “I have advanced math at three o’clock this afternoon. I’m heading out first.” Wen Jingjing also abruptly took a look at her watch and then cried out that she was going to be late for her elective class.
Soon, they had both left, and Tong Yan was not in the mood to stay here any longer either. While she was considering going back to the dormitory room, someone suddenly set a paper cup down beside her hand. A cup of purified water with a faint white cloud of steam rising from it.
She turned around. It was someone who should have been long gone by now — Gu Pingsheng. It seemed as if, regardless of when or where, he always liked to give her water. Such a very healthy habit.
“Memorizing Latin terms?” He cast a glance at the handbook in front of her.
She nodded. “Our Jurisprudence exam questions are going to have Latin in there for sure. Not memorizing is not an option.”
He took a seat beside her. “Just now, I was letting Zhao Yin know about your progress. She’s agreed to help me out and continue your physics tutoring. Do you have her contact details? Email, or phone?”
Tong Yan was taken aback for a moment, but quickly, she answered, “Yes, I have her email.”
With a smile, Gu Pingsheng told her, “In terms of proficiency and qualifications in this field, she is the true physics teacher. Plus, every teacher has her own way of doing things. You’ve taken her class for such a long time now, and if you get her one-on-one help, next semester, you should pass easily.”
Because he needed to speak to Tong Yan, he had turned slightly to the side. He was completely swathed in the sunlight shining in through the window, which softened and blurred the outlines of his features.
Nodding, she said, “Thank you, Teacher Gu.”
Then, the two of them had nothing more to say.
Speedily, she put her books away. “I still have class this afternoon. Teacher Gu, if there’s nothing else, I’m going to go first.”
Gu Pingsheng nodded, then suddenly chuckled, “Remember, learn and study diligently, and not just for my course.”
When he said this, he had used a seldom-heard serious tone. Tong Yan gave an “mm” in reply.
As the two of them finished their conversation, they both rose to their feet at the same time. However, when they discovered the other person was leaving, they simultaneously halted their actions. For some reason, she sensed a strange awkward atmosphere between them. Fortunately, someone behind them addressed Gu Pingsheng, which gave her the chance to say quietly, “Bye, Teacher,” and dash down the stairs, hugging her books to her chest.
She ran very quickly, and her heart was beating very quickly, as well. But, she dared not reflect on the reason for this.
On the last step of the stairs, though, she unexpectedly tripped over herself, and her entire body tumbled onto the marble tile floor. The books in her arms scattered everywhere. This mishap that rose so abruptly stunned her, and for a long moment, she did not snap out of her shock.
A hand reached out and pulled her back up. “Hey, missy, what are you thinking about?”
Sighing, Ai Mi set down her own pile of books and began to help her gather her fallen ones. “Falling here in the library? Are you waiting for a hero to come rescue the fair damsel in distress?”
Tong Yan rose to her feet, rubbing her knees as she explained, “I suddenly tripped on myself.”
Ai Mi handed her books back to her. “I haven’t seen you in a long time. Hey, celebrity of the moment, what have you been up to these days?”
“Studying. Diligently studying.”
“I really admire you.” Ai Mi gave another lengthy sigh. “That night at the gala, it felt like a drama being acted out and, morever, definitely one of those trendy idol dramas … But now, everything’s back to normal. Everyday, besides going to class, it’s taking tests. Do you ever feel like it’s really hard to get used to?”
She laughed, “I’ve been used to it for a long time. It’s not as if that was my first time up on stage emceeing.”
“Not the same. It was not the same as any of your other times.” Ai Mi made an effort to examine the expression on her face. “Tell me in secret, do you and your Teacher Gu have especially good ‘rapport’ and click especially well with each other?”
“That day, we were co-emcees. Of course we needed to have rapport.”
Ai Mi put on a mysterious grin, gently pinching her arm as she whispered, “Just now, when I saw you fall and ran down here, someone else also ran down the stairs. Such a pity … You didn’t see.”
She felt an inexplicable sense of guilt, like she had been found out, but she forced herself to pretend not to understand. “Someone else?”
Ai Mi shushed her. “It was Great Beauty Gu.”
Right as Tong Yan wanted to say something, Ai Mi placed one hand on each side of her face and turned her head so that she could see, not far away, Gu Pingsheng just stepping out of the revolving glass doors. “I was correct, right? It’s Pretty Lady’s Bane, isn’t it?”
Within the revolving glass door, there was the glow of refracted sunlight as well as that very familiar figure.
Answering with an “mm-hmm,” she bowed her head to look at the books in her arms, wanting to inspect them to see if she had missed any. Her mind, however, was already in a slight state of chaos. From when he had stated that he would not tutor her any longer, to when she had taken her fall a moment ago, to Ai Mi’s teasing tone now, she had felt unsettled the entire time and did not know what she should actually be thinking.
Ai Mi carefully eyed her over, and then, her tone suddenly grew serious. “Tong Yan, a joke’s a joke. Don’t scare me for real. Five or six years ago, a teacher-student romance was definitely a taboo thing. Even though nowadays, the overall tone of the school is a lot more open, if you can avoid it, then avoid it. Didn’t you notice that, the couple in the Faculty of Architecture, their relationship didn’t come out in the open until graduation? And even so, the school wasn’t too happy about it and terminated the contract with that teacher.”
Tong Yan’s heart lurched, and she kicked Ai Mi’s foot. “Don’t talk nonsense. I still want to graduate without any hitches.”
Another eleven weeks to go. Seventy-seven days. Half of the semester was over already.
On Saturday, the university held a conference on international environmental law.
The invitees were from internationally famous law schools or were part of the United Nations Environment Programme. Simply the list of participants was enough to cause the people in their class to clamour over one another for the chance to be a guide and host to the esteemed guests.
Naturally, with Shen Yao’s gift for languages, she easily obtained one of the dedicated host positions. For two days straight, she had had her eye on the person from the United Nations Environment Programme, planning on, by the end, having things completely taken care of with an academic recommendation letter in hand to provide to universities.
She had now turned her nose up at Wharton School of Business. Law — more precisely, only the law program at Yale Law School — was now Shen Yao’s dream.
Tong Yan was happily watching everything when she saw Gu Pingsheng, dressed in a very simple sport coat, accompanying several people and talking cheerfully with them as they walked into the conference area. She could not hear what they were saying, but from his expression, she knew that they must be his good friends.
When lunchtime arrived, Shen Yao very loyally ran out to keep Tong Yan company at the reception table, where they ate their boxed lunches together.
In reality, her job here was the most arduous, yet also most thankless one. The four students who knew two foreign languages had all been selected to be dedicated hosts and guides and could have direct contact with the various honoured guests. All the remaining students had found excuses to turn down the odd, little tasks. She, however, had been wheedled by the class prefect into being an unimportant receptionist in charge of check-in and registration.
The class prefect’s original words had been, “The conference centre is in the middle of a garden, so of course, the reception table will be set-up in the bamboo grove. It’ll set such a nice mood.” Sure, a rainy day in November had such mood that people could die from the cold.
“I’m telling you, this afternoon, when there’s nothing really going on at the reception table, you hurry on back to the school, head to the bathroom, and take a warm shower. The air in this bamboo grove is so damp and chilly, and you’re wearing a skirt, too. The class prefect wasn’t worried at all about you freezing to death, it seems.” Shen Yao’s shoulders were hunched forward from the cold as she very unashamedly took her chopsticks and plucked out an entire soy-sauced pork chop from Tong Yan’s boxed lunch. “Tell you some gossip. There are two people inside who know Gu Pingsheng. They say they’re his old friends. When people were chatting just now, I heard them say, the tattoo on Teacher Gu’s arm, he did himself with his left hand, and he didn’t even apply any anesthetic.”
Tong Yan was eating the soy sauce-stewed egg from her boxed lunch. The yolk was somewhat dry, and she grabbed her bottle of mineral spring water and took a drink. But then, the little bit of heat she had finally managed to accumulate in her body was forced back down again by this one mouthful of cold water.
While Shen Yao was chewing away on her meat and sighing exaggeratedly, Gu Pingsheng happened to step back outside, seeming as if he was looking for someone.
Noticing the two sitting at the reception table, his gaze halted. “Why are you eating out here? There’s a buffet meal in the dining room.”
“I’m keeping Tong Yan company.” Shen Yao immediately took a drink of water. “She has to stay here and keep watch the whole lunchtime. Poor us, eh? Teacher Gu, considering that the three of us once collaborated on a song together, you should provide some feedback to the school and tell them to give us some extra credits or something for this …”
He glanced around at the bamboo grove, which was rustling sounds from the wind blowing through it, then looked over at Tong Yan. Before he could speak, however, she hastily jumped in, “It’s no big deal. There’s no real reception work that needs to be done this afternoon, so I’ll be heading back to the school.”
As she said this, a nipping wind suddenly gusted up. Her bare legs were pale from the cold.
He took a glance at his watch and said, “At this sort of hour, you don’t need to stay here anymore. I’ll take you both to have something hot to eat.”
Hearing this, Shen Yao instantly set down the boxed lunch that was still more than half uneaten.
Gu Pingsheng quickly stepped back inside, likely asking someone to call a taxi.
Tong Yan tugged on Shen Yao’s arm. “If you want to eat, just go inside and have the buffet. Why do we need to specifically go out somewhere to eat?”
“You’re so cold your bones are about to turn to ice. Buffet food won’t warm you up. The soups and other stuff in Chinese cuisine are what can warm up a person.” Shen Yao snatched the boxed lunch out of Tong Yan’s hands and tossed it into a paper bag. “In the future, whoever ends up marrying Teacher Gu can be considered to have no regrets in life. He’s so thoughtful.”
1 of 1 Prologue
13 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments