A long chapter. Now that Gu Pingsheng’s sorted things out in his mind, he’s actually not that slow in progressing their relationship. But unfortunately, Tong Yan has to first deal with Shen Yao’s good intentions but terrible results.
Chapter 6.4 – Quietly Advancing and Retreating (4)
Her fingers held between them the mobile phone that had already grown dim, and she unconsciously slid them over the screen and keys. Because her electric blanket had been heating it, her phone was a little hot, like this row of words that was silently burning into her heart.
After a long while, she at last began to type out a text in response.
But she had only just inputted the word, “I” and then unexpectedly, her bed began to shake. Shen Yao had crawled up onto it again. “This won’t do. I forgot my electric blanket again this week. Tonight, the two of us will squeeze together and share a bed, okay?”
Tong Yan started in alarm and ended up sending off the text message as it was …
“Go over to Xiaoru’s bed to sleep. Her bed has an electric blanket on it.”
“No. I’m so hyped up I can’t sleep.” Shen Yao slipped under the blankets, and like an octopus, she clung onto Tong Yan. “Who sent you that text just now? I seem to remember I saw that sentence in some movie? That person’s so romantic.”
With a bunch of “mm-s” and “ah-s,” Tong Yan managed to sidestep this subject.
As a result, it was not until early the following morning when Tong Yan awoke that she finally had the chance to clarify that very weird text message she had sent. Shen Yao was deep in slumber with her back facing her. Quietly turning onto her side, Tong Yan pulled out her mobile phone from under her pillow.
Yes? What’s wrong? TK
The time sent was one o’clock in the morning.
Tong Yan gloomily typed up her text message: Last night, Shen Yao interrupted me. I actually wanted to say …
She did not even know herself what she wanted to say.
After quite some time had passed, she finally continued typing: I may not have passed my CET-6 yet, but I can still understand the meaning of that sentence.
She had just sat up to go get some clothes when her mobile phone vibrated again.
“Who is it? So early …” Shen Yao rolled over and instinctively felt around for her phone.
“It’s my phone, not yours.”
While saying this, Tong Yan glanced at her inbox: I just stepped off the campus shuttle. Interested in joining me for breakfast? TK
He did not have any classes to teach today. Why did he come to the school? Wearing a thick down jacket, Tong Yan pondered on this while she walked towards the dining hall on the west end of campus. Soon, she saw Gu Pingsheng standing alone by the campus shuttle stop, his two hands in his pants pockets, reading the newspaper that was pinned up on the news board.
It was eight o’clock, the time the first class of the day started. Those who did not have class during this period were mostly still sleeping in. This time of the day was when there were the least people out on the campus grounds.
She was about to walk up to him, but at that moment, a student happened to come over to change out the newspaper on the news board. The person unlocked the glass covering over the board while, at the same time, sneaking glances at Gu Pingsheng. Feeling guilty, as if she was caught doing something bad, Tong Yan stayed standing at a distance not too far away until the student had finished changing out all sixteen of the display panels. And the entire time, Gu Pingsheng had stared at the newspaper in the first panel and had not moved his eyes away. After the student changing the newspapers had left and walked far away, she finally stepped up behind Gu Pingsheng.
It was a news article on a medical mishap.
Before she could read through it in detail, Gu Pingsheng had already noticed her presence. “What would you like to eat?”
Tong Yan thought for a moment. “Just go to the dining hall. It has everything.” She quickly added, “Let’s go to the west dining hall.”
The east and south dining halls were both near many teaching buildings. There would be too many students in those ones.
When the two of them arrived at the dining hall, many students who were late were dashing hastily out the door with a bun or something between their teeth. Tong Yan looked over at the row of windows. Feeling that it would be inappropriate to send Gu Pingsheng to personally buy pan-fried pork buns, savoury tofu pudding, or other things along those lines, she selected a remote table beside a window and asked him, “Teacher Gu, what are you used to eating? I’m more familiar with how it works here, so I’ll be able to buy it faster.”
In a relaxed tone, he answered, “Whatever you like to eat, just buy me the same.” He was relaxed, but Tong Yan was not able to relax.
In fact, there really was nothing novel or unique to eat in the university dining hall, but in order to take into consideration that there were students from both the northern and southern parts of the country, there was a great variety of foods. In the end, she still simply bought the few most common ones – sweet ones and salty ones, healthy ones and unhealthy ones …
Looking at those plates of varied sizes in front of him, Gu Pingsheng instantly chuckled, “Is it, after we’re done eating all of these, we won’t need to have lunch?”
Sheepishly, she grinned, “I just wanted to let you have a taste of everything.”
“I don’t like wasting food.”
After he said this, he seemed to sense Tong Yan’s discomfiture, and in an unhurried voice, he added an explanation. “When I was younger, I was actually particularly wasteful with food. If I didn’t like to eat it or if I didn’t feel like eating, I wouldn’t force myself. Later on, I saw lots of people who wished to eat but didn’t have the money to, as well as people who had lost the physical ability to eat, and I learned to not waste food anymore.”
When he finished speaking, he wiped his hands with a moist towelette, and then after handing the package to her, he began quietly eating his breakfast.
After hearing a person who seemed almost perfect in terms of moral character say these words, her little bit of nervousness suddenly faded.
“I was the same.” She took a bite of pan-fried scallion pancake. “In primary school, I was especially picky. Breakfast every morning was eggs cooked in milk, but later, I had eaten it so much that I really didn’t want to have it anymore. And so oftentimes, while Grandmother wasn’t looking, I’d pour the milk into the toilet.”
He pretended to heave a sigh. “Indeed, what a waste.”
“But,” she smiled, “I wasn’t like you where you saw a lot of things of the world. I just grew up and naturally, became more mature.”
Now, every time she thought of how she used to wrack her brain to try to find ways to get away from Grandmother, she would feel awful.
With a spoon, Gu Pingsheng took bite after bite of his savoury tofu pudding.
Earlier, when she had bought this one, she had specifically instructed the server to put extra dried shrimp in it, and now, seeing that he seemed to very much enjoy eating it, she fell into an unexplainably good mood.
The sun was also shining brightly today and gave a nice, warm feeling when it landed on people’s bodies.
Only when she saw him raise his head did she instinctively shift her eyes away. In her peripheral vision, she could see him looking at her.
She had thought he would soon move his gaze from her, but he did not. Therefore, she had no choice but to hold on like this for a little while longer before eventually pretending that she had not seen anything. Turning back to him, she asked. “Taste good? I’ve always felt that the tofu pudding from the school’s dining hall has a very authentic, local flavor.”
“It tastes very good.” Amusedly, he exposed her by saying, “You like to look at people using your peripheral vision, don’t you?”
Tong Yan straightaway denied, “No, I don’t.”
But the red glow that instantly flooded her cheeks exposed her fib.
“When I was a little, I had peripheral vision phobia.” He was taking great pleasure in his eating as he casually chatted with her. “I would always feel that I was doing things poorly and people were looking at me because of that. For a long period of time, I would carefully observe the people in my peripheral vision, and I’d have problems concentrating.”
Tong Yan looked at him in shock. “Peripheral vision phobia? Now that you mention it, I seem … to have had it when I was a kid, too.”
Always unable to have a settled mind while doing anything and unable to control herself from observing with her peripheral vision the people around her.
Gu Pingsheng brought out his moist towelettes again and handed them to her. “Don’t worry. Lots of people have had it during their adolescent years. It’s often caused by insecurity and caring too much about what other people may think.”
He spoke about this in a completely unconcerned manner. Tong Yan pulled out a moist towelette and began to wipe her mouth and hands thoroughly.
So, he also had times when he was insecure. But he came from a very good, well-off family, and he was so talented and outstanding himself. He should have been that type of person who had a great sense of self-pride. Why would he be insecure? Tong Yan set her towelette down on the tray and watched him wipe his hands.
Teacher Gu … Gu Pingsheng, Teacher Gu …
Her face suddenly began to heat up slightly, and as a result, she propped her chin on her hand and once again turned to look out the window. There, in that position where he could not see her from his angle, the corner of her lips curled upwards.
After a little while, she finally asked him, “Teacher Gu, why are you here today?”
He finished off the remainder of his tofu pudding and then continued on eating, picking up a pan-fried pork bun with his chopsticks and dabbing it in some vinegar. “I was worried about you, that there might be something wrong, so I came here directly.”
Might be something wrong? Tong Yan suddenly realized what he meant. Feeling apologetic, she explained, “I accidentally fell asleep afterwards.”
Breakfast time had passed, and there were not many people inside the dining hall anymore. The two of them chatted aimlessly until, eventually, he was the one who glanced at his watch, said that he still had some matters to attend to that morning, and ended this simple breakfast.
Tong Yan walked with him alongside the dining hall building for quite a long ways until she at last came to a stop. “I want to go check something out in the library.”
In reality, she really wanted to walk with him all the way to the campus shuttle stop, but she was worried that her classmates would see them.
He did not say much to this, and only as she was turning away did he seem to suddenly remember something. “Next Friday is the CET-6 exam?”
Tong Yan turned back again. “Yes, I’m taking my CET-6 that afternoon.”
He actually did not need to ask so far ahead of time about next week. After all, there were three Commercial Arbitration classes in between.
“What time does it end?”
“It starts at 3:00 in the afternoon and finishes at 5:30.”
After answering the question, she remembered what that particular day was: Christmas Eve. This year’s scheduled time for the CET-4 and 6 examinations … very much deserved to incur the wrath of gods and men.
“You will have missed the times that the campus shuttles run, then.” He said to her, “When you’re finished your exam, take a cab to come find me. I’ll reimburse you for it, how about that?”
She paused in surprise but then quickly said, “It’s no big deal. I still have my living expense money. Plus, last time, you…”
“It’s just for that day,” he smiled. “I actually wanted to drive over to pick you up, but traffic will likely be very bad. If I come over to the campus first and then drive back out to the core of the city, it may end up being very late before we get there.”
Just for that day … Tong Yan finally nodded. “Alright. After I’m done and out from the exam, I’ll send you a text.”
Could this be considered … their first date?
Tong Yan opened Shen Yao’s computer and searched “peripheral vision phobia” on Baidu. In a very focused and serious manner, she began to read through the various descriptions and explanations.
All of a sudden, there was a slap on her shoulder.
“What are you looking at?” Shen Yao swept her eyes across the computer screen. “You switched over to study psychology?”
Jumping in surprise, Tong Yan twisted her head to the side to look at Shen Yao. “It’s Sunday today. How come you haven’t gone home?”
The look in Shen Yao’s eyes could definitely kill someone. “Don’t you remember, I already arranged with you that next week, I’m going with you to see dear Cheng Yu?”
“Christmas, right? But, isn’t that next weekend?”
“I’m pumped, okay? This week, I’m not going to go home.”
Tong Yan had thought that after she woke up, she would snap out of it herself. But now, seeing her genuinely besotted expression, she finally understood that Shen Yao was utterly serious. Hence, the anxious mood that had been brewing in her just moments ago completely dissolved away with Shen Yao’s intrusion.
Unable to prevail over Shen Yao’s wheedling and pestering, she helped her empty out her entire wardrobe and kept her company as she tried on each piece of clothing, arranging them again and again into different outfits …
She had to continually provide all sorts of opinions until, eventually, she was thirsty from all her talking.
She poured a cup of water and held it between her palms.
Many years later, Tong Yan would still remember this day.
On that cold winter day inside their dormitory room, her good friend, who had bafflingly fallen in love with a voice, was shivering incessantly as she changed into all sorts of outfits and freely imagined the upcoming first meeting. But as for herself, she simply held that cup of hot water in her hands and breathed in the hot, steamy air rising up out of it, quietly concealing in the deepest reaches those feelings of love she had just discovered.
Teacher Gu. Gu Pingsheng.
To her, the meaning behind those had started to evolve to something different.
For the entire week, he carried out his lectures for Commercial Arbitration as normal.
The maddening part was, she spent more than half of the time taking notes and did not dare at all to lift her head and meet his gaze. In the end, she even glumly started to grumble silently, why had they set the day of their date so far ahead of time?
On the day of the examination, she finished writing her test half an hour earlier than the set end time.
After repeatedly checking over her multiple choice answer sheet and essay, she did the unprecedented by handing in her test paper early. She had just walked out of the examination room and turned on her mobile phone when she saw a countless number of text messages flood in. They were all from Shen Yao.
“Oh god! I was sleeping when Cheng Yu showed up downstairs of our dorm. Oh god! His looks totally appeal to me.”
“I can’t take it. The way he talks is so cute. I’m going to lose my mind.”
“How come you’re still not done your test?”
“Hurry up, hurry up. I’m waiting for you at Remembrance of Roots Lake, on that open field next to the library.”
“Tong Yan … hurry.”
Uncertain whether to laugh or cry, Tong Yan deleted each message one at a time, clearing out some space in her inbox. The last message she received, however, left her somewhat mystified: Cheng Yu and I have prepared a huge surprise for you.
Surprise? She and Cheng Yu? They didn’t need to progress their relationship that quickly, did they?
Following the walkway beside the lake until she reached the front entrance of the library, she saw Shen Yao beaming and talking to two boys. She and Cheng Yu had been high school classmates for three years, so naturally, he was easy to identify. That other slender, tall figure, though, caused her footsteps to come to a halt.
At the time, when she had been accepted to come here to Shanghai, she had felt that 1400 kilometres was a great distance and would allow her to temporarily be far away from her parents and Lu Bei.
So then, how was it that he had suddenly showed up here on the campus of her university?
She stared at him as if he was a hallucination.
Because of the lack of any explanation from Cheng Yu, Shen Yao was completely regarding Lu Bei as Tong Yan’s real boyfriend and was being ridiculously warm and friendly to him. Tong Yan was unable to find an opportunity to talk to him, so when Shen Yao suggested that they all head into the city core together, she could only intentionally walk a little slower with Lu Bei. Shen Yao and Cheng Yu hit it off straightaway and did not seem to pay attention to them anymore. Tong Yan at last found her chance. “This time, you’re here … with Fang Yunyun to have some fun together in Shanghai?”
Carrying a very large paper bag in his hand, Lu Bei walked side by side with her but did not give any response to her deliberate reminder.
There was a long period of silence before he finally said, “Tong Tong, I’ve worked really hard over this last year. I had actually wanted to tell you this in Beijing during the National Day holiday. I’ve improved my student records, and this year, I’m in first year at CUPL [China University of Political Science and Law]. Wait for me, until I graduate from university, okay?”
Though she did not speak, she still was surprised by this.
He, the one who had always hated studying, had finally come around? But he had skipped three years of high school. Would he really be able to finish university?
Seeing that she had not spoken, he handed the paper bag to her. “They all say that Shanghai doesn’t have interior centralized heating, so it’s really cold. I bought a down jacket and a cashmere blanket for you.”
She did not take it from him.
“Tong Tong.” He called her name.
Shen Yao all of a sudden turned around and grinned, “You guys having a quarrel? That’s not something that can be made okay by just giving some random gift. Say some nice, flattering words. I’ll take all of you to Xintiandi [New World district] to go drinking, my treat. We’ll get Tong Yan drunk and then everything will be easy to take care of.”
It was wintertime in late December. The sky had already grown completely dark.
The street lamps happened to turn on right at that moment, illuminating Shen Yao’s beaming face and also casting their shadows beside each of them. Tong Yan adamantly refused to accept the gift, and right when they were both refusing to yield, an alert abruptly sounded out from her mobile phone.
For a moment, she stared blankly, before suddenly remembering her promise to Gu Pingsheng.
Sure enough, after she pulled out her mobile phone to check the time, she saw it was already 5:40 pm: Did your exam go well? TK
 百度 Baidu.com is a Chinese web services company, similar to Google, with services such as a search engine, images, etc.
 学籍档案 “xue ji dang an.” Student records for students in China contain information such as grades, rewards and punishments received during your entire duration as a student, the ideologies the student expressed, and just an overall assessment. Lu Bei was a rebel in high school, so he would have had poor grades and assessments of him. For him to have changed his student record means he probably did something to upgrade his grades and improve his overall performance.
 新天地. Literally, this means “New Heaven and Earth,” although this place is often referred to by its name in pinyin, Xintiandi or by the English name, New World district. Xintiandi is a pedestrian only shopping and entertainment district in Shanghai. The area is very affluent and bustling and is often listed as a “must visit” location for visitors.
I just had to gush over how sweet Gu Pingsheng is. Tong Yan’s reply to his text from the previous chapter where he had stated he had waited for her and cherished her, was cut off. This worried him enough that he came to the school first thing in the morning to make sure she was okay. ❤
1 of 1 Prologue
19 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments