I know it’s the wrong novel, but happy anniversary to Zhousheng Chen and Shi Yi. ❤️
Haha. I’m quite amused by the task that Mrs. Gu made Mr. Gu do for her. And Teacher Gu is a sly one, isn’t he?
Chapter 17.3 – When You Listen to Me Speak (3)
Prior to the New Year’s holiday, anyone who hung around in a school would not be able to escape going to a lively evening celebration.
No matter where he was, Gu Pingsheng was always the most popular teacher. In order to ensure that he could indeed attend, the students of his faculty had specially told several of the ones who knew Tong Yan to call her and invite her as well.
She hung up the phone and silently calculated. She was clearly only twenty-two years old and a fourth-year university student, but with all these addresses of “Shimu” and “Little Shiniang” [“Little Teacher-Mother”] coming from his students, she was nearly starting to doubt her own age.
“I’m still just on internship.” She ran a deep brown wooden comb unhurriedly through her hair. “Teacher Gu, after being together with you for so long, I’ve become old and serious …”
Gu Pingsheng leaned back into the couch and glanced at his watch. “You should go have your afternoon nap now.”
He had completely ignored her protests.
In her bare feet, Tong Yan jumped down onto the floor, and amid Gu Pingsheng’s tireless voice cautioning her that she would catch a cold that way, she brought out a stack of glass bottles and an entire box of cotton swabs from the bedroom, dropping them onto the couch in a colourful display.
“Which colour do you think is nice?” she asked him.
Gu Pingsheng really did not have much of a good opinion about these sorts of unhealthy products, but he knew that all girls liked to prettify themselves and occasionally allowing some leniency was necessary.
“This rose-coloured one.” With reluctance, he made himself offer an opinion.
“Do you know how to apply nail polish?”
“No.” He gave her a look of incredulity. “Do you think I should?”
Tong Yan suppressed her grin and answered seriously, “Of course not. Mr. Gu may be a beauty, but he is not a girly man.” She opened up that particular bottle, meticulously wiped the excess nail polish from the brush onto the inner rim of the bottle, and handed the brush to him.
Gu Pingsheng fell into silence and stared at her for some time. With a grim expression, he took the tool from Tong Yan, picked up her hand in his, and lowered his head to study where would be the best place to begin.
Tong Yan suddenly stretched out her finger and hooked it under his chin.
“What other instructions does Mrs. Gu have for me?” Gu Pingsheng’s eyes curved into crescents, and his voice carried a soft teasing tone.
Tong Yan gave a pleased nod, advising him, “If you hold onto the entire hand, your nail painting is going to turn out to be a disaster. You need to prop up and hold the finger individually. Remember, make one stroke through the middle first, then swipe the brush along the two sides. Also never, never get polish onto the sides of the fingers. But if you do get polish on the sides, I brought out some cotton swabs and nail polish remover, so I’ll be able to clean it up.”
He gave an “oh” and continued to look down with head bowed. At last, he began to carry out his task.
She had been utterly prepared for all scenarios, but she underestimated Gu Pingsheng’s care and attentiveness. Basically, after getting through the pinky finger, he settled completely into the correct rhythm. Tong Yan stared gloomily at him. She had originally wanted to make things difficult for him, just for fun, but contrary to her expectations, this turned out to be simply child’s play for him.
However, remembering his classic story of how he had practiced julienning potatoes, she soon relaxed and let it go. Sure enough, some characteristics in people were simply innate.
In bare feet, the two of them sat cross-legged, facing one another. He was extremely careful and detailed, and therefore, she had plenty of time to observe him. Sunlight was the best adornment. Compared to the light reflectors and strong, artificial lighting in a studio, sunlight was much softer. She tried with all her might to find an inherent flaw in his features, and if there really was some sort of regret, then it was only one small one — he had monolid eyes.
“Are monolids hereditary?” She was waving her left hand incessantly to allow the nail polish to dry as fast as possible.
“Double eyelids are a dominant trait and monolids are recessive. Putting it a little simpler, the probability of monolids is lower.” Gu Pingsheng’s eyes swept over the remaining glass bottles, and he was struck with a sudden notion to have some fun. “Want to change to another colour?”
“Okay.” Like a good girl, she held her right hand out to him. “If that’s the case, then you must have two of the recessive gene, and I am either one dominant, one recessive gene or two dominant genes? So in the future, if we have kids and they have monolids like you, then it’s for sure your fault …”
“What’s wrong with being like me?”
“There’s nothing wrong with being like you … But if they have monolids like you but everything else looks like me, then quality would seem to have gone down quite a bit.” Tong Yan had always considered herself to be quite nice-looking. However, the eyes of the masses were sharp and discerning, and the difference between “quite nice-looking” and “extremely good-looking” was still significant.
The two of them talked about many things, most of them very pointless, but she liked talking about worthless stuff with him. This game of turning an outstanding person into someone just as boring and nonsensical as she was something that would always amuse her and she would never tire of.
Resting herself into the soft cushions, she looked at her two hands with its two different colours and sighed, “If I didn’t have you, I would definitely not even bother living. I simply can’t find anyone better than you.”
He twisted the glass bottle’s lid closed and set the bottle down on the dark-coloured coffee table. “Without me, you should still be able to live a life that is very good.” His voice was languid and was partially joking, partially serious.
“Yes, you can be assured that, regardless of what tragedy or calamity strikes, even without you, I will still keep on living — and live well — because I still have many people I need to take care of.” Biting down on her lower lip, she seriously pondered, why had the topic suddenly become so somber?
Gu Pingsheng bent his finger and flicked her forehead lightly with it. “That’s more like it.”
Tong Yan gathered those bottles up once again and jogged two steps away, but then she turned around and glared at him.
“That’s not right either. How come that makes my love seem so fickle?” Bending over at the waist, her brows creased into a frown as she said, “Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Even though you may be older than me by nearly ten years, that does not mean I’m going to live longer than you, right? If I’m not with you, you definitely will keep on living well, too.”
Without waiting for any response from him, she gave a smug smile and went back into the bedroom.
The summary Zhou Qingchen once provided was still clearly etched in her mind.
“… pulmonary fibrosis, cerebral infarction, and osteonecrosis of the femoral head are all common problems that may develop. And there’s also complete damage of the immune system, loss of mobility, heart failure, and all sorts of others … So basically, in one sentence: they’re alive, but they’re incurable, yet at the same time, they’re not at the point of death either. And plus, only a few years have passed. No one knows, further down the road, what kind of other complications and side-effects will arise …”
An undying cancer. A very direct and plainspoken summary.
But never had she worried about anything happening to him. This was not a blind optimism, but rather, it was because she understood that life was fragile. Perhaps the one you thought most likely to leave this world first would end up being the last one remaining. Who could say with certainty?
Fortunately, the reason the two of them could so calmly and unreservedly be together and not be fearful of all those things of the future was that characteristic of their personalities that was most similar between them: love was not everything. No matter what, a person was actually not a completely separate entity, and therefore, for someone, regardless of whom it might be, they would both continue living their lives.
But, something would still be different. For example, this type of love they shared was so rare and beautiful that it was not something that could even be sought after in a lifetime; how could there possibly be a second time?
On the day of the New Year’s party, Gu Pingsheng happened to have a class to teach.
At their arranged time, she took a taxi alone to his university. By the time she arrived at the main gates, the sky had already darkened. He sent a text message to her, saying he was not yet finished class and that she should head directly to the Student’s Centre.
Though Tong Yan had roamed about this campus since she was a child, she had not, after all, graduated from this school, so after standing in a daze for a few seconds, she began to walk and inquire for directions along the way. By chance, she asked a girl who was a law student, and even after the two of them had walked and arrived together at the first floor of the Student’s Centre, the girl still thought she was actually a student from another school here to find her boyfriend.
“We’re there. Is your boyfriend in third or fourth year?” The girl very warmly slipped her arm through Tong Yan’s and suggested, “Tell me and we’ll see. Maybe I know him.”
Tong Yan felt awkward, not knowing still how she should explain …
That was, until they had walked up the staircase to arrive at the second level, where several male students were sitting on a sofa in the hallway and chatting. Seeing Tong Yan, they all jumped to their feet and grinningly jogged over to greet her with cries of “Little Shiniang,” striking the girl silly with shock.
The greatest concidence was, as she stepped up onto the floor of the second level, he was already making his appearance in the main entrance hall of the first level.
As a result, amidst the commotion, he step by step followed the staircase up and then rightfully swept in like a hero rescuing the beautiful maiden, pulling Tong Yan out from the group of students into the circle of his arm. Against the rowdy jeering and heckling that fell incessantly on the ears, he led her into the banquet hall first.
He could not hear, but that did not mean that she could not hear. In the end, Tong Yan’s ears burned a crimson colour, and while she took a seat with him in the front row that was reserved for teachers, she told him in a low voice, “I have a bad feeling about this.”
He glanced at her puzzledly. “What sort of bad feeling?”
“Usually, in these sorts of parties where everyone is together and there are no real distinguishing lines based on hierarchy or authority, the popular people who are always the focus of attention end up having jokes played on them to embarrass them.”
Gu Pingsheng gave an “oh” and, seeming rather interested, asked, “What sort of jokes?”
“Don’t know …”
Tong Yan said some silent prayers.
He began to greet the teachers who were, one after another, coming over and taking their seats. One of his hands reached across himself and rested on his leg as, the entire time, it clasped Tong Yan’s hand in its palm. As if it was perfectly natural and right, he truly seized every opportunity to declare to everyone that he was “not available” anymore.
In the beginning, she had felt self-conscious, but eventually he had rubbed off on her. Now, she simply rested her head on his shoulder, watching the various performances put on by the students. Since the party this evening was only an internal celebration of the faculty, the decorations essentially were only a red banner and balloons of all different colours, and attire was self-provided. Though it could not be considered an exquisitely put-together event, there was a great New Year’s atmosphere to it.
Right when she was being thoroughly tickled by one performance on the program, where the genders of the various roles were cross-cast, and was laughingly whispering something to Gu Pingsheng, the female student who was one of the masters of ceremonies suddenly turned the focus of her words on them. “Teacher Gu?”
Tong Yan quickly gave him a tug on his shirt.
Gu Pingsheng turned his head to look at the two student emcees.
“We were thinking … Since you were the only one who brought your wife with you today, you should give us some sort of unique surprise, right? How about you guys sing ‘Husband and Wife Together Return Home’[song from a Huangmei-style Chinese opera]?”
Before these words were even finished, the entire banquet hall was already roiling with enthusiasm.
If they could force this perfect man and his wife to sing this sort of song together, the feat most certainly could go down gloriously in the history books of the Law Faculty.
Actually, although they had offered up these particular terms partly for some humorous entertainment, the main reason was that they were still being considerate to him. When this sort of operatic theatre song was performed for comical purposes, no matter how it was sung, it could not be botched up too badly.
Alas, the subject of the teasing, Gu Pingsheng, did not even know what “Husband and Wife Together Return Home” was. With only a mere sweep of his eyes over the room, though, he could approximately deduce that it was not an amusing thing for him.
He was silent for several seconds before stating in a musing tone, “Next semester, the 2010 students will have one class taught by me. I have discussed with the dean already. Marks from moot court will likely account for sixty percent of the grade.”
Moot court? It was obvious he was intentionally tipping them off.
The three classes of 2010 entering students immediately shut down their heckling and wagged their tails to demonstrate how well-behaved they were.
With a “hee hee,” the male master of ceremonies grinned, “I shall represent all the girls in the three classes of 2010 entering students in saying, ‘I love you, Teacher Gu.’”
Tong Yan rolled her eyes and glanced him. Seriously … Such an abuse of power.
However, there was still more as he cleared his throat. “The foreign-based law firm that I’m at has lately begun implementing their summer student plans. The targeted group is third year students in each of the major law schools, and potential candidates need to have obtained the top grade in their year.” As his words reached this point, he deliberately slowed down his speaking. “Supposedly, there will be a relatively large number of projects that I will be responsible for, and depending on things, I should have three to four summer student slots.”
The entire group of students who entered in 2009 instantly covered their mouths, their eyes growing wide.
Even Tong Yan felt all sorts of stabs of jealousy, envy, and hate. If her own classmates ever found out, they probably would start wailing and scratching at the wall …
With two such temptations laid before them, most of the people had ceased their firepower of teasing.
Despite this, a smile that declared, “these are no concerns of mine” still graced the lips of the female master of ceremonies. “Teacher Gu, I’m from the 2008 entering class. It’s already been confirmed that I’ll be heading straight into doctorate studies, and on top of that, it won’t be in this university …”
Her eyes drifted over to glance at Tong Yan, then drifted back to rest on Gu Pingsheng again before continuing, “But since Teacher Gu has demonstrated such sincerity, we won’t make things difficult for you either. You choose your own act to perform, how about that?”
This type of lively atmosphere reminded Tong Yan of her first year, when she had just entered university. The New Year’s evening party had also been like this, where they had made their teachers bow and cry for mercy. It seemed, only after you entered university did you have the sense that your teachers were no longer people who were superior and sititng up on high. They were your friends — friends who could share with you knowledge and experience you had never before even heard about.
 小师娘 “xiao shi niang.” Similar to shimu, shiniang also means “teacher-mother” and is another way to address the wife of one’s teacher. The 小 “xiao,” which means “little” is added because of Tong Yan’s relatively young age.
《夫妻双双把家还》. This is a song from the Huangmei-style Chinese opera, 天仙配 Marriage of the Fairy Princess (also known in English as Marriage to a Goddess, Fairy Couple, etc.). This song is sung by the couple who, after having endured hardships, are now together, and they sing of returning home as husband and wife, forever living happily, side by side with one another. While there have been more modern remakes, this is still an old-fashioned Chinese song, and as someone born and raised overseas, Gu Pingsheng is not familiar with it.
While I’m a sucker for love and romance, I agree with our leads’ perspectives that romantic love occupies only a part of one’s life, though it is a significant part. That nail polish scene really strikes home. They both know that without the other person, no, they will not die, nor will they choose to give up and let their life spiral away. They will keep on living and try to live their best life because they have other people in their lives who care about them and need them. But without the other person, though life will go on, there will always be a hole in the heart. “But, something would still be different. For example, this type of love they shared was so rare and beautiful that it was not something that could even be sought after in a lifetime; how could there possibly be a second time?” That hole would never be filled — it would be impossible to fill — because they have loved so deeply that it is not possible to love like that a second time.
1 of 1 Prologue
52 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments