Our leads are apart, but you can really see the maturity in their relationship. And, this chapter answers some of the questions that a lot of you have had regarding Tong Yan’s past relationship.
Chapter 10.2 – Wanting Only to Be Together (2)
Afterwards, he and Grandmother talked for a long time downstairs.
Through the window of the third floor corridor, Tong Yan watched them from afar. Even though Tong Yan could not hear their dialogue, she understood that Grandmother would never agree to their relationship. But what would he say? How would he say it?
She was unable to guess.
The discussion that occurred after she was back inside her home was, in her memory, the first time her family member had expressed a stance on her relationship with Gu Pingsheng.
“During the school years, there will always be many students who hold a special type of reverence for their teacher. After you are out of school, you will discover that he is just like any other ordinary person, and he is not for you.”
Although Grandmother had been a primary school teacher, because of the uniqueness of that type of career, she still would always hear many stories of teacher-student romances. The majority of these were about a female student who became infatuated with a male teacher, and eventually, this not only affected her studies; the impact it brought about to the entire school was also very negative. In short, they were all examples that brought about sighs in people of what should not be done.
“He is one of your schoolteachers and furthermore, a teaching instructor of one of your classes. Were it not for the fact that I can tell he is a good boy, I certainly would not have even said anything to him. Yan Yan, in the teaching profession, there are many things that are not allowed. The relationship between a teacher and a student … can only ever be teacher and student.”
The entire time, she did not say anything.
From when her parents divorced in her first year of middle school, she had lived with Grandmother. She had once had a two-year period of rebellion in which, day in and day out, she had roved aimlessly outside, not caring about her studies, and her elderly grandmother had secretly wiped away many, many tears because of her. Later, she had gradually matured and learned, and she had once resolved to herself that she would never again sadden the one and only kin who had ever poured herself wholeheartedly into her.
And so, now, she would not argue.
Only when Grandmother stated that she would bring her to their relatives’ home for the winter break did she finally hesitantly ask, “When will we be back?”
Grandmother went to heat up a bowl of rice porridge for her. Setting a pair of chopsticks on the bowl, she replied, “After the Lunar New Year.” She set another small plate of pickled vegetables beside the bowl of rice porridge and even very thoughtfully sprinkled it with some freshly diced cilantro. “We will come back when it’s about time for you to start school.”
With her chopsticks, Tong Yan picked up a big bunch of pickled vegetables, mixed it in with the rice porridge, and began to eat, one mouthful at a time. Her mobile phone in her pocket lay very still. He had not sent her any messages.
It was past one o’clock before she finally returned to her room. In that moment when she pulled out her phone, she suddenly grew nervous. What had he said? What decision had he made?
Pulling back the window curtains on this particular side of her home, she stared out upon the blocks of buildings that were covered by a veil of darkness and sent a text message to him: It seems, the outcome was not very ideal?
A text was very quickly returned: As I had expected. TK
What did you expect?
There is no such thing as a free lunch in this world. You need to pay for your meal. TK
Tong Yan stared wryly at her mobile phone: Did a math teacher teach you your Chinese?
Even though his statement was not at all fitting, it did manage to ease her downcast mood somewhat. Turning on her table lamp, Tong Yan chatted back and forth with him for a little while before asking him whether he was home yet.
Gu Pingsheng nonchalantly replied with one sentence: I’m still near your home.
Tong Yan paused in surprise for a moment and then automatically looked out the window. There was no car.
After searching hard for a while, she realized she had confused her directions. He should be on the living room side. When this thought floated up in her mind, her heart seemed to follow along and started beating more heavily. It was fortunate that Grandmother was already asleep at this hour of the night.
Opening her bedroom door, she carefully slipped through the narrow living room and walked over to the window.
She pulled open the curtain.
This was the side of the building that was facing the road.
The traffic was as before, the lights were as before, and the position of that car was as before.
He had put on his coat now but was still next to the vehicle. As if he could sense that she would appear there, when the corner of the curtain was lifted up, he quickly brought his right index and middle fingers together and touched their tips to his forehead.
Someone walked by him and curiously followed his gaze to look up at the building …
Tong Yan could not see the expressions of the people, but she felt that those onlookers must be jealous of her.
Fine. With him around, she always had a valid reason to be a little narcissistic. It was because he was always so wonderful.
The corner of her lips could not help curling upwards. She leaned her forehead against the window, and for once, she felt that the cold touch of the glass in the winter was so very comfortable. Perhaps it was because there was a warmth in her heart.
The following day, Tong Yan went to Tianjin. Because she was with Grandmother for long stretches of time, she could not simply pull out her mobile phone at any time to communicate with him. It was not a long train ride, and the entire train compartment was brimming with the excited joy of being able to return home. Grandmother was smilingly conversing with a mother beside her, who was holding her child.
Tong Yan opened her insulated mug and took a drink of hot tea, remembering what he had later told her.
He had said, he wholly understood this reaction coming from someone who had once been a teacher. Even he had once resisted such a relationship, and for a very short period of time, he had tried to run from it.
He had said, nothing would truly be an issue.
He had said, “I will wait in Beijing for you to come back.”
She rested herself against the window and closed her eyes. Never before had she felt as she did now, where she longed to be able to graduate immediately.
It had been many years since she saw this relative who lived in Beijing, but that relative seemed to have long since heard that she was studying in a prestigious university. Holding Tong Yan’s hand, she pulled her along to introduce her to every person, and incessant praises were heard. Tong Yan could only smile and listen until someone asked her a question along the the lines of whether she had a boyfriend or not. She wavered on how to answer, but before she had an opportunity to speak, Grandmother had already interjected with a smile, “Her studies are the utmost priority.”
And then, what followed was the occasionally lively, occasionally quiet lifestyle that comes during the Lunar New Year period.
When Lunar New Year’s Eve arrived, the family reunion dinner was surprisingly a ten-table banquet held in a hotel. A Spring Festival celebrated with more than ninety people. In all her years of memories, this was a first for her.
Tong Yan had a distant cousin, three or four years younger than her, who had once stayed at Tong Yan’s home when she was a child. As a result, when she saw Tong Yan, she was rather warm and affectionate and insisted on dragging Tong Yan out with her to the hotel lobby, where they sat on a sofa, watching fireworks and chatting.
The conversation topics of young girls, no matter how they may twist or stray, always seem to end up being about romance and relationships.
The last time this little girl cousin went to Beijing, Lu Bei had been the one who had taken her around everywhere, so her impression of Lu Bei had always been especially good, and she could not resist asking Tong Yan how this “big brother-in-law” was doing.
Tong Yan quickly stated that they had broken up.
Her little cousin was astonished by this. She seemed to be thinking, he was such a good person; why would they break up?
Tong Yan watched as a flash of light rocketed up into the sky, rapidly exploding apart and blossoming into a giant firework.
Perhaps it was because, for so many days now, she had been missing someone greatly. Or perhaps it was because she had run into a person who knew the Tong Yan and Lu Bei of the past, but in a certain sense, this person’s life also did not intersect with hers, so this finally gave Tong Yan the desire to pour out some of the things in her heart.
“When he was in high school, he was driving and got in an accident and killed someone. Even though that person was the one in the wrong and had been jaywalking, the other side would not accept any out of court settlements and was adamant that he must go to jail. That family had people who worked in the municipal taxation department, so of course their tone and stance were uncompromising. His family asked for help from many people, but to no avail. So, at the time, everything had already seemed inevitable. He would first go to reform school for one year before being sent into prison.”
“And then what happened?”
“And then,” Tong Yan fell silent for several seconds before she carried on, “very much like out of a drama, one of my high school classmates said she wanted to help him. Later, after a lot of things … the problem was resolved smoothly. And then, he and my high school classmate got engaged. Last year, they were married.”
She could remember every word his mother had said to her.
She also remembered that, in her time of despair, when this scene, which had seemed as if it had been taken from a drama, unfolded before her eyes, she had even felt that she must be in a dream. Fang Yunyun had stated that Lu Bei was a rare type of man and that she absolutely had to marry him. It had been that simple.
That was the first time she discovered that a vast gulf truly can exist between different types of people.
While she was merely crying all day long, a girl of her same age could actually sob and whine, simply because there was a boy she wanted for herself, to have her family pull strings and utilize connections to higher up authorities to pressure others to resolve the issue.
“A privileged family is the deciding factor for everything.” Her younger cousin heaved a long sigh.
“Oh yes.” Tong Yan grinned and continued, “And so, I lost my love.”
And so, just like that, her first love came to an end.
Perhaps it had simply been too dramatic and the shift in events in this story had been too great, for to this day, when she thought about it, she still found it unbelievable.
The image of Lu Bei on that night — the night of his engagement — where he had sat on the roadside, his head buried in his hands as he sobbed disconsolately, would likely be etched into her mind for the rest of her life. That night, she had even wondered, had she been born simply to suffer? Although she had never experienced extremely impoverished days, time after time, life had stripped her of the love and care that should have rightfully belonged to her and that she should not have to beseech for.
“It’s no big deal.” Her younger cousin waved her hand at this, trying hard to console her. “My big sis is pretty, sings well, and is graduating from a prestigious school. She will definitely marry a good man.”
Tong Yan leaned back into the sofa, her thoughts turning to Gu Pingsheng.
“And what about your current boyfriend?” Her cousin quickly switched the topic. “Don’t tell me you still don’t have one. I won’t believe you.”
Tong Yan looked at her with a smile, not giving any answer. After a while, she pulled out her mobile phone and sent a text message to him: Happy Spring Festival. How was your day today?
Happy Spring Festival. I spent the whole day eating with people. So tired from eating. TK
More than ten days had slipped by where they had not seen each other.
This winter break that had originally been all planned out had, just like that, ended up being wasted. She thought about the many plans she had made: They would use a few days to visit the scenic places and historical sites, then another several days to be close and snuggly with one another, and then … She imagined he would not find it boring if they just kept on snuggling together like that.
But, for some reason, things had ended up as they were now.
Because Grandmother had been by her side all along, even their messaging had been very limited.
I miss you.
She suddenly very honestly sent out this message.
Very shortly, he called her on her mobile phone.
Tong Yan answered it directly.
Against the deafening sound of firecrackers in the background, his voice was extremely unclear.
“The temperature in Beijing these last few days has been around ten degrees below zero. I checked the weather report for Tianjin, and I think it said it’s snowing there. Make sure you dress warm. Don’t catch a cold.” After these simple caring instructions, he paused briefly and then carried on again. “These last few days, I have been communicating with the dean. A teacher has been found to take over teaching next semester’s Maritime Law. I will not be teaching your year anymore and will assume responsibility for some second year courses.”
Since picking up the call, she had not said a single word.
Her cousin looked at her somewhat puzzledly and silently mouthed to her, “Is it some call from the Intermediate People’s Courts? Don’t believe it at all. They’re all scams.”
Tong Yan shook her head at her.
“I won’t say much more. There are a lot of other people in the room, and if they see me talking on the phone, they’ll find it very strange.” An obvious smile could be heard in his voice. “I miss you, too. Very much.”
Tong Yan could not hold back the smile that broke across her face. And then, she saw her younger cousin’s even more baffled expression.
The call was very quickly hung up. She brought her mobile phone back down from her ear, still thinking about the words he had said. The topic of changing courses had come up so suddenly, yet it also seemed as if this was something he had planned long ago to do.
“Who was that? How come you didn’t say anything the whole time?”
Tong Yan pondered for a moment before answering with a show of seriousness, “A really, really, really good-looking guy who sings better than me and who went to a better university than me was just professing his love to me.”
团圆饭 “tuan yuan fan.” The “family reunion dinner” is the dinner, usually on Lunar New Year’s Eve, in which the family gathers together to celebrate the upcoming New Year.
 春节 “chun jie.” In China, the Lunar New Year period is also called the Spring Festival and lasts from the first to the fifteenth day of the new lunar year.
投胎好 “tou tai hao.” This cousin had actually said, “a ‘good’ reincarnation decides everything.” When you say someone 投胎好 or “reincarnated well,” you are essentially saying they were lucky enough that this life, they were born into a good family with power and/or wealth.
“… time after time, life had stripped her of the love and care that should have rightfully belonged to her and that she should not have to beseech for.” My heart broke for Tong Yan at this line.
So there you have it. As Tong Yan said, her and Lu Bei’s ultimate separation played out rather like a TVB drama. You cannot help but pity Lu Bei. He was not at fault for the car accident, yet he was the one who was proclaimed guilty. He did not want to be with Fang Yunyun, yet when he was in a circumstance where he could not even express his choice, his family decided this for him. He was released from the crime he didn’t commit, but the price paid was being tied to someone whom he doesn’t love nor made a choice to be with. He needed to follow through on his family’s decision for his marriage because if he didn’t, the ramifications of getting on the bad side of people who had such power and authority would likely be very grave, not only for himself but for his family as well.
I’ve said before in comments that I don’t agree with his current pursuit of Tong Yan because, no matter what the reason behind his marriage is, Tong Yan does not want to be involved with a married man and he should not drag her into it. He needs to sever that part out before he goes to find her, and if that is not possible, he really needs to let her go and give her her freedom. However, you can also understand why his heart does not want to accept this. How could he when everything was forced on him? While Tong Yan has clearly and firmly told him her stance, she can never be mean to Lu Bei because she knows that, in the end, she and he and their relationship were all victims.
This novel really holds a theme of how sometimes, circumstances in your life are just not in your control and life is sometimes just downright unfair. With Tong Yan, there’s her family situation and her past love. With Gu Pingsheng, it’s his health as well as other things you’ll find out about later. With Lu Bei, it’s being forced to give up the girl he loved. In each character, we see how they make their choices, whether they dwell upon the past or try to make the best of the future. I admire Gu Pingsheng and Tong Yan because they picked themselves up, continued walking down life’s path the best they could, treasured the beautiful things they had, and tried their best to learn to let go of what was not theirs or caused them pain.
1 of 1 Prologue
30 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments