Back on campus again. Some things have changed, while some things are as before. 🙂
Chapter 11.3 – The Past is No More (3)
When she pushed open the door of her dormitory room, Shen Yao coincidentally happened to be heading out the door, but seeing that she had returned, she straightaway grabbed her hand. “You’re finally back …” Before Tong Yan had a chance to reply, Shen Yao could already feel the ring on her finger. Her eyes instantly widened, and she barked, “Tong Yan Wuji, it’s only been one winter break where we haven’t seen each other, and you’ve already completely got yourself set for the latter half of your life?”
Unable to conceal it, she could only, in low tones, tell her a little bit of her and Gu Pingsheng’s story.
Immediately, Shen Yao tried to get the gossip by asking her many questions, all regarding the details on how she and Gu Pingsheng got along with each other. She even threw her arms around Tong Yan’s waist and persistently whispered the question of whether she had already did “it” with him …
Outside, someone unexpectedly called Tong Yan’s name. Opening the door, she stepped out for a look, and to her surprise, it was Zhou Qingchen.
“What’s up?” Through the stainless steel security bars, she gazed puzzledly at President Zhou.
Zhou Qingchen was somewhat hesitant as he handed her an exquisitely wrapped gift box through the bars. “Could you give this to Xiaoru for me?”
She was even more surprised by this, and taking it from, she asked, “Didn’t you break up with Xiaoru already? I heard that you and Jingjing are together now.”
“Wen Jingjing is a really nice girl. Truly, a really nice girl,” Zhou Qingchen replied. “This is just a birthday present for Xiaoru and nothing else.” With such an ambiguous answer from him, in the end, she still did not understand. She walked back into the room and shut the patio door.
“Continue with what you were saying.” Shen Yao took the gift from her hand and tossed it onto Xiaoru’s desk, still exhilarated over the news of her and Gu Pingsheng.
Tong Yan omitted many things, such as their first meeting many years ago as well as many of the things that had occurred in Beijing later on. After being condensed down to such a brief account, their story really did seem to be one of good, old-fashioned love at first sight … When she spoke of the latter parts of their story, because she had left out too much, Shen Yao expressed her solemn protests, and then finally the topic was changed.
“Why is Prez Zhou still giving a gift to Xiaoru?”
“Don’t bother sighing over it. Jingjing knows that Prez Zhou likes Xiaoru, and she is completely willing to accept whatever comes.”
Tong Yan could not help glancing at the gift on Wang Xiaoru’s desk. That night, in the hospital emergency room, Wen Jingjing had said so much to her.
Some of it she had forgotten, some of it she could still clearly remember. What Wen Jingjing had said aloud and even what she had not expressed into words had mostly been about the “unfairness” of life. But did such “unfairness” in a relationship truly not matter?
“She sought it, she got it.” Shen Yao ripped open a package of cucumber-flavoured potato chips in passing as she stated, “Some people only seek after the feelings side of things, for example, me. Some people want to be a person who is exalted above others and don’t care who they step on to get there, for example, Wang Xiaoru. Wen Jingjing needs someone who can completely alter the course of her life. Whom Zhou Qingchen likes is not important. The important thing is, his girlfriend is Jingjing, so that means the person most likely to accompany him in the future when he goes abroad will also be Jingjing.”
Only a winter break had passed. Why did it seem as if everyone had grown up? Tong Yan bit down on the potato chip that Shen Yao was holding up to her lips.
“Of course, you’re the type that Heaven is smiling down on, the type that you don’t even have to ask and you have a beauty falling at your feet.” Shen Yao gave her final summary, then passed the entire bag of potato chips to her. “I forgot. I’m trying to lose weight. You finish it.”
She made a face and began unpacking her luggage.
If Heaven really was smiling down on her, then some of the details were really just too sad and were worthy of woeful sighs. If his past experiences had not been so similar to hers or if he had not experienced that SARS epidemic, perhaps the two of them would never have met. Or perhaps they would have met but would not truly have chosen to be together and disregard even their relationship as teacher and student.
For the second semester of third year-university, besides the one core course from their faculty, the remaining course load consisted only of any individual courses that people had previously failed and needed to re-take.
On the first morning of the semester, their entire class did not have any lectures to attend. During a routine internal meeting of their class, the class sponsor finally brought up that Gu Pingsheng was taking a long leave this term and would not be teaching the Maritime Law course anymore.
Before he had finished this announcement, the entire classroom was already filled with wails of anguish.
Shen Yao put on an expression of poorly feigned obliviousness, and picking up her pen, she wrote a line in her notebook: Your man is just too popular. I swear there are definitely people in our class who have a crush on him.
Tong Yan grabbed her pen as well and, in a half-joking manner, wrote her a reply: As long as it’s not you, I will annihilate anyone else.
Raising her eyebrows, Shen Yao rapidly wrote back: The warrior’s got the mightiness and fierceness a warrior should have.
The internal class meeting ultimately turned into a meeting with “Teacher Gu” as the main topic.
The class sponsor was pressured by the class until he could not handle it anymore and finally revealed that Gu Pingsheng was at Administration today to complete the procedures required for leave of absence. Class Prefect immediately was stoked and with simply a few words, he spurred the entire class to go bid their farewells to him …
While Tong Yan was hesitating and trying to figure out how she could avoid going, Shen Yao had already quietly murmured to her that it would be fine and that she would help cover for her. She, however, pointed at the band on Tong Yan’s ring finger. “Should you take that off first?”
Tong Yan shook her head, feeling that doing so would be very inauspicious.
“It should be fine if I just keep my hand in my pocket, right?” She demonstrated for her.
Shen Yao pondered for a moment. “That could work, too. After all, nowadays, couples are giving this kind of thing all the time, and no one really pays attention. Look at our class prefect. Even he’s been forced by his girlfriend to wear a ring. There’s nothing that stands out about yours. People shouldn’t be able to tell.”
In the end, due to their classmates’ over-eagerness, downstairs of the university’s Administration Building, she and Shen Yao could actually only stand outside of the circle formed around him by twenty-odd people and watch him from a distance.
She gazed on as his arm was repeatedly hugged by different people, as he took photographs with groups of twos and threes, and even as someone brought her books and notebooks to him, asking for his autograph.
When the notebook was handed to him, for fear that the pen might slip, he deliberately pulled off one of his black leather gloves to take the pen. Inside the front of the book, he wrote out those few characters in an elegant and bold script. While he was handing the pen back, several of the more sharp-eyed girls suddenly noticed the ring on his hand.
“Teacher Gu, you’re married?” one of them could not resist asking nosily. Immediately, all the other people stepped closer, surrounding him and peering.
Shen Yao clutched her arm, an expression of “we’re participating in an evil secret together” showing on her face …
Tong Yan felt a strange nervousness in her. Looking at him from this angle, she could see only less than half of one side of his face. Then, she heard him state, “Yes. Married now. It happened over this last winter break.”
Another round of howls and weeping rang up.
Everyone began incessantly throwing out inquiries: Who was this shimu [teacher-mother]? Was she pretty? Where was she from? … Basically, whatever they could think of, they would ask. The more Tong Yan listened, the more uncomfortable she felt, but the more Shen Yao listened, the more ecstatic she became. Gu Pingsheng, on the other hand, merely smiled and remained silent, sidestepping this topic completely.
At the end, when the class prefect pulled out a camera and called everyone together for a class photograph, Gu Pingsheng finally cast a deliberate glance at her. Shen Yao instantly picked up on his intention. Leading the charge, she towed Tong Yan along and fought their way through to the front of the group where she shoved Tong Yan up to Gu Pingsheng’s side.
Shen Yao’s push had been a little too forceful, and she nearly fell into Gu Pingsheng’s chest. And then, his hands were there, firmly supporting her. Immediately, with an air of utter propriety, she murmured, “Thank you, Teacher Gu.”
After saying this, a very weird feeling caused her to freeze self-consciously. Why did it seem like they were acting in some sort of spy drama? …
Gu Pingsheng was evidently much more immersed into his role than she was. Releasing his hold, he very naturally stood in a pure, harmless posture and put his arm around her shoulder. At the same time, Shen Yao was protectively holding onto his other arm, intercepting any girls who had intended on coming near him.
“Hey, I’ll say. You two …” Class Prefect was dying with laughter, and holding the camera, he joked, “Just now, you guys were doing quite well pretending to be reserved and ladylike, but when the critical moment comes, you are definitely warriors. Even fighters for democracy aren’t as keen as you two … Alright, alright. One, two …”
Tong Yan sensed that he was looking at her and instinctively turned to return his gaze.
In that moment when their eyes locked, the class prefect pressed the shutter.
“Tong Yan Wuji …” Class Prefect’s head was lowered as he carefully examined the results, and instantly, tears sprung to his eyes. “Can you please focus? Teacher Gu is married. Please put away your adoring thoughts …”
When the class prefect spoke this, his head had been down, so Gu Pingsheng, of course, did not see what he had said.
All around, from high and low, people started chiming in along with him, much like the scene during Gu Pingsheng’s first in-class quiz. Everyone was helping to stir up a disturbance, but they were also deliberately not allowing him to see what they were saying …
“D*mn!” A voice from a corner muttered quietly, “Tong Wuji, I could tell right from the start that you were up to no good.”
“Tong Yan, you’re too late already. Definitely too late.”
“Pretty Lady’s Bane is such a nice catch of a man, but in the end, an outsider’s the one who gets this benefit …”
The entire time, Tong Yan did not utter a word, acting as if she did not hear anything.
“Teacher Gu, we will have to trouble you to take another one.” Class Prefect had finally raised his head again, and grinning, he looked at Gu Pingsheng, “This time, no matter what little movement or action Tong Yan makes, just ignore her.”
Tong Yan could only cry a tearless cry over all these words about her.
“Alright.” Gu Pingsheng gladly played along and replied with a smile, “I will pay no attention to her for the time being.”
Only two people understood the other meaning behind his sentence.
From behind, Shen Yao gave Tong Yan’s waist a fierce pinch, and the connotation in that action was very clear: Hey girlie, the little secret you’re hiding under this smokescreen really evokes envy.
Tong Yan’s mouth opened in a grimace from this pinch, but under Class Prefect’s exasperated glare over her failure yet again to meet his photo expectations, she hastily squeezed out a smile. And so, this photo with him was perfectly taken.
A photo of the Law Faculty’s 2008 entering class taken with Gu Pingsheng. And, their second photo taken together.
1 of 1 Prologue
34 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments