Oh gosh, what terrible situation for Gu Pingsheng to be in. And can you imagine the guilt Tong Yan must be feeling?
Chapter 19.1 – During That Season of Time (1)
Gu Pingsheng went into the bathroom, held a towel once again under warm water, and then wrung it out, giving it to her to wipe her face. Throughout the entire time as she spoke, he watched her quietly, and after she had finished saying everything, he finally lay back onto the bed and patted his arm.
Tong Yan understood and lay down as well, nestling herself into the crook of his arm.
“These are things that need to be resolved. It is just a matter of sooner or later.” He closed his eyes to rest and in a gentle tone, stated, “Since this is ‘a son repaying his father’s debts,’ then our elderly grandmother’s money should not be used. This weekend, I will give three hundred thousand to your father.”
Tong Yan put her hands on the bed, wanting to push herself up to sitting, but he reached up with his arm and pulled her back down so she was pressed against his front. “You don’t need to fight me for this. Everything of mine is yours.”
His chin rested on top of her head, and it would rub against her hair as he spoke. “Today, I learned a saying from my assistant. ‘Gold and jade adorn the exterior, rot and decay fill the interior.‘ That’s actually my situation. From the outside, I look to be pretty good, but when you truly live with me, you will become aware of all my real shortcomings. Just now, when I pushed open the door to come in and saw you crying, my heart ached so much.”
He paused for several seconds, then repeated, “My heart truly did ache.”
These words of his not only twisted the meaning of the idiom, the way he said them also so very saddened the listener.
She understood that he was not only speaking about what he had felt emotionally but also physically as well. Enclosing her arms around his waist, she wrote with her finger on his back through the thin fabric, “Sorry.”
She contemplated quietly for two days. As Gu Pingsheng had said, this situation was a reality, and it was simply a matter of whether it would be resolved sooner or later. A sickness of the body could be treated, but a burden eating away at the heart was difficult to cure. If Grandmother was going to fill her mind with worries all day about this, it would actually affect her body and health anyway.
In the end, she accepted Gu Pingsheng’s suggestion to pay back the money for her father.
“If you give the money directly to my dad, I’m worried he’ll just take it and throw it into the stock market …” Tong Yan’s gaze was somewhat evasive. These words that brought her such shame were ones she had never thought she would one day say aloud. “How about I personally go repay the money to them and get the IOU slip back?”
“Alright. I have a very important meeting on Saturday morning. When it’s done, I’ll come home to pick you up and go with you there,” Gu Pingsheng told her unhurriedly.
“How about I go myself?” She did not want him to also have to face the harsh, derisive words of people.
His answer, of course, was no.
Fortunately, the situation turned out to be much better than she had imagined. After all, regardless of how great the disputes in the past had been, someone was still personally bringing over three hundred thousand to make up a debt that had nearly become a sore on the heart. That former colleague of her father even very ruefully told Tong Yan, “Your dad was quite a good guy before, but once he got involved in the stock market, he changed.”
Tong Yan smiled wordlessly, not wishing to speak a single word more than necessary.
In the main lobby of the bank, many people were lined up waiting for their number to be called. There, the of them sat in a row, maintaining an awkward silence between them. Electronic announcements that politely and mechanically called out numbers were constantly sounding out. There were people standing up from their spot in the waiting area while there were also others who could wait no longer, and crumpling in their hand the paper with their number and tossing it into the trash can, they would get up and leave.
She counted along with the numbers, praying in her mind that their turn would come quickly, that they could quickly transfer the money and quickly put an end to this matter. Reassuringly, he patted the back of her hand.
Tong Yan smiled and was about to ask him if he wanted to step outside to get some air when, out of the blue, someone spoke up from behind them. “Teacher Gu?” The voice was rather hesitant and could even be said to be disbelieving.
Tong Yan turned her head to look. Following her movements, Gu Pingsheng also shifted his gaze in that direction, and to his surprise, he recognized the boy standing behind them. “Dong Xiaofeng?”
This boy named Dong Xiaofeng made a sound in acknowledgement, his eyes fixed on both their faces.
Her dad’s colleague suddenly stood and with a smile, asked, “Xiaofeng, you know each other?”
With an “mm”, the boy answered, “… This is my university professor.”
“University professor?” The creditor was also somewhat incredulous. After taking quite some time to recover, he finally smiling said to Gu Pingsheng and Tong Yan, who had risen to their feet, “My apologies. This is my nephew … Teacher, please don’t take offense. It was just that, the last time I went to Tong Yan’s home to … pay a visit, I ran into a ruffian kid who beat me up so that I ended up staying in the hospital. I was worried I would run into a thug again this time, so I asked my nephew to come help out. If I knew the person coming today was a university professor, I definitely wouldn’t have told him to come.”
That man’s wife also stood, all the while throwing meaningful looks at the man as she smiled and smoothed the situation over.
That family was putting in great efforts to be ingratiatingly friendly, likely because they were worried that in the future, Gu Pingsheng would try to make things difficult at school for the boy.
As she listened to these words of her dad’s colleague, who was trying with all his might to explain, she did not actually dare even to look at Gu Pingsheng’s face. She only heard him give a few sentences in response, and nothing unusual or wrong could be perceived in them. Had he not wordlessly given a gentle squeeze to her hand, she would absolutely have fled this place.
Such a cruel coincidence, to have shoved him into such a humiliating circumstance.
After the procedures were completed, she no longer had a sense of a weight being lifted from her shoulders, and in fact, she felt even more dismayed.
The bank was very close to his university, and on their way back, Gu Pingsheng suddenly said that he needed to stop by the school to pick up some material. The two followed the sidewalk and turned into the main gates of the university, strolling down the pathway that led to the administrative offices.
The campus during the weekend did not have many students. On the corners of the flower beds by the wayside, there were several piles of snow that had long since frozen into humps of ice.
Her hands were in her jacket pockets as she followed Gu Pingsheng’s footsteps. With her head lowered, she focused entirely on walking, and it was only when she heard the noise of a basketball hitting the ground that she realized she had already arrived with him at the basketball courts.
On each of the six half-courts, there were groups of twos and threes taking shots at the hoop. The most eye-catching group was on the right side where several boys, all wearing proper athletic shorts and shirts, were playing a game of three-on-three in the biting wind. Surrounding the edge of the court were quite a few people. Some of them were hopping and covering their faces to block out the wind while cheering on the players, and others who looked as if they knew what they were doing had brought over a chalkboard and were keeping score.
“Is this your faculty’s tournament?” She recognized some familiar faces.
“It’s a school-wide tournament. This university’s law school is bigger than your school’s. Each year has seven to eight separate classes of students, so they are having an internal basketball competition first.”
“My school? That used to be your school, too, eh.” Tong Yan felt an unexplainable sense of jealousy. “Gee, some people forget their roots once they’re in one of the top law schools of the country.”
Gu Pingsheng sized her up for a moment and then, in a slightly musing tone, remarked, “You, as my student, are being jealous?”
She shot back an “of course.”
Several students had already noticed them and were excitedly waving with cries of “Teacher Gu, Teacher Gu!” as if they were very surprised that he would come watch the faculty’s basketball competition.
Gu Pingsheng walked over to them and asked with a smile, “Who’s winning?”
“Right now it’s Class No. 2.” The student in charge of keeping track of scores flipped through his notebook. “But the third year students haven’t even started playing yet. I’m guessing that in the end, our senior brothers [senior male fellow schoolmates, in this case, faculty-mates] will be representing our faculty in the tournament.”
“Teacher Gu, do you know how to play basketball?” One of the people resting on the sidelines downed a few mouthfuls of mineral water as he asked this.
“I do.” Gu Pingsheng casually made a motion like he was shooting a ball into a hoop. “When I was in university, I often played basketball as a pastime.” His action had very beautiful form. Even Tong Yan, as a complete outsider to basketball, could tell that his posture and form were not a bluff.
All around, the students instantly became animated, and they began rowdily crying for some of the players who were resting to play with Teacher Gu.
“Teacher Gu, we will absolutely be courteous and gracious when we play. No need for a ref. We’ll just score by totaling up the number of baskets made, how about that?”
The students knew he could not hear, so naturally, they thought of an effective way to play.
Gu Pingsheng did not have a preference one way or the other, and after stressing that he could only play a ten-minute scrimmage with them, he removed his down jacket and handed it to Tong Yan. When he took off his glasses, Tong Yan rather worriedly gave a discreet tug on the corner of his shirt and inaudibly mouthed to him, “Is it really okay for you to do this?”
“Occasionally exercising for ten minutes won’t cause any issues.” He placed his glasses into her hand. “I heard Zihao mention, the college girls in China particularly like boys who play basketball?”
After saying this, he turned only the corners of his lips up slightly, but this still could not hide his good mood.
“It seems that really is the case.” Infected by his smile, Tong Yan made a show of seriousness as she recalled, “I’ve watched a lot of basketball games, too, all played by students who were recruited by the school specifically for basketball. Such a pity. Back then, if I had fallen in love with one of them, then there would be no chance for you later on.”
“Is that so?” His smile was unruffled.
A ball happened to be tossed their way at that moment, and catching it with a single hand, he headed directly onto the court.
Tong Yan stood amongst a group of female students, facing into the sun as she watched the game. It seemed, since she had met him, he was either the proper and dignified doctor or the university professor, and it was rare to see him in such a moment, where he was so active. It was still a game of three-on-three, and he, dressed in his thin dress shirt, was mixed in with several boys who were wearing sleeveless basketball shirts.
Possibly due to the cold weather, he had not been warmed up at the start, so the way he held the ball was not very smooth. But after only a minute or two, he had become the main driving force on his team, constantly making mid-range jump shots and three-point shots.
Every turn, jump, and breakaway captivated people’s attention. Watching him against the background of light, it seemed as if there was always sunlight surrounding him, blurring the outline of his body and giving a warm, soft feeling.
“Little Shiniang,” the girl beside her could not help nosily inquiring, “back then, was it because you saw Teacher Gu playing basketball that you fell completely in love with him?”
Tong Yan feigned a sigh and replied in a soft voice, “Very sadly, this is also my first time seeing him play basketball …”
Gu Pingsheng was unquestionably a person with self-restraint. When he saw Tong Yan signal to him, reminding him that the time was up, he immediately stopped all motions with the ball in his hands.
After the game had ended and the people had dispersed, Tong Yan was still absorbed in the various marvelous images in her mind of him taking shots at the hoop. She handed him a moist towelette, then tilted her head slightly to the side and stared adoringly at him like she was gazing at her idol.
“What’s up?” He took it from her.
“I must say, not only are your basketball skills good, they’re also very suitable for just watching and admiring.”
He chuckled, wiping his fingers with the towelette as he asked, “Are you extremely happy, then, that you didn’t fall in love with someone else and, instead, persevered in waiting until I arrived?”
金玉其外，败絮其中. This saying, “gold and jade adorn the exterior, but rot and decay fill the interior,” is describing something that looks wonderful on the outside but is actually broken, of no use, inferior, etc. upon closer inspection. This can be used to describe things or people, for example, an object that is beautiful but impractical, or a duplicitous person who purposely looks good to people but is hiding an ugly heart, etc. Gu Pingsheng has a twisted understanding of this saying because, when applied to describe a person, it generally is describing “moral rot,” someone who may look good on the outside but his ethics and morals are ugly. It’s definitely not meant to describe a situation where someone may look healthy but in reality, his health, a factor completely out of his control, is not ideal.
1 of 1 Prologue
56 of 66 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogue segments