Chapter 200: Those who’ve never seen you wouldn’t understand
Little Xiang Ning was like a joyful little chatterbox.
Actually, she was just voicing out the matter that she was currently pondering about.
When she finally asked, “I was clearly there just now, but why was it that you told your friend that Xiang Ning had already left?”
Xu Tingsheng found a box of old albums in the car, retrieving one before next playing a song. Jonathan Lee sang with his voice that definitely couldn’t be considered passable yet just had such a unique flair to it:
“Someone asked me what exactly is good about you
It’s been so many years but I still can’t forget
The spring wind can’t compare to your smile however beautiful
Those who’ve never seen you wouldn’t understand
Even if I’ve been blinded by unseen spirits
Even if it’s the karma from my previous life
Little Xiang Ning unsystematically hummed along line by line, “The spring wind can’t compare to your smile however beautiful, those who’ve never seen you wouldn’t understand...even if it’s the karma from my previous life…”
Xu Tingsheng wasn’t exactly clear on when the profession of ‘touching porcelain’ had appeared, but he still encountered it.
Around two to three hundred metres from the Xiang Family home.
When that middle-aged man collapsed incomparably slowly right by the front of the car, it was truly too fake such that even the naive Xiang Ning didn’t feel it to be an accident as she asked extremely earnestly, “Why’s that person suddenly fainted? Should we send him to the hospital?”
Xu Tingsheng explained things to her a little before getting off the car.
“Arghh, it’s broken, it’s broken! I can’t live anymore. How do you even drive?”
Seeing Xu Tingsheng get off the car, the man began twitching on the ground, moaning in agony.
“Did I hit you?” Xu Tingsheng asked.
“Duh? Can’t you see how injured I am? Either you give me 500 yuan, or I call the police.”
The man pointed at a red, swollen patch on his ankle.
“Let’s just call the police then. We can both get our wounds examined. I’m injured too,” Xu Tingsheng said.
The man scoffed derisively, “Hah, you’re injured. As the one driving, you’re injured? Hah…”
Xu Tingsheng opened his mouth and vomited out a mouthful of blood, spraying over the man’s entire face. He had suffered consecutive blows to his stomach area earlier, his intestines having been injured as a result as they had thus been impeded by this mouthful of blood which he had been repressing all this time…
Because of what had happened earlier, he knew that it was destined that he would have increasingly fewer chances to dote on and accompany Xiang Ning like this in the future.
This was great timing. He had almost already been unable to keep it repressed.
The man was instantly stunned where he was, staring dazedly just like that as Xu Tingsheng slowly, carefully wiped the bloodstains off the corners of his mouth with the back of his hand. Playing so ruthless? This was the first time in all his years of ‘touching porcelain’ that he had ever seen someone responding to his ploy this way.
“What’re you doing?” The man sounded like he was crying as he spoke like he had been wronged.
“Vomitting blood!” Xu Tingsheng answered calmly.
“It hasn’t got anything to do with me, right?” He asked.
“How can it have nothing to do with you? When you fell, I hurriedly slammed on the brakes and got slammed in the chest. I’m already this injured, can’t you see? I probably can’t live anymore,” Xu Tingsheng spoke mournfully and regretfully like he was already a ‘gone case’.
“500 yuan, or I’ll call the police, I guess.”
The man crawled up, taking to his heels as he fled.
Xu Tingsheng smiled, getting back onto the car where Xiang Ning was looking at him.
“It’s just a bit of internal bleeding. It isn’t anything serious; I’ll go the hospital after I’ve sent you home,” Xu Tingsheng told her.
“I’ll go with you,” Xiang Ning was crying.
“You go home first,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“I…” Xiang Ning sobbed even as she spoke, “Xu Tingsheng, can I tell you the answer to that question from earlier? When Little Xiang Ning’s grown up, she will have become…”
“Little Ning,” Mrs Xiang’s voice called.
Ever since having jointly witnessed that scene that afternoon, Mr and Mrs Xiang had been in a worried, restless mood. They had called their policewoman niece and related everything which they had seen that afternoon. Her answer had exacerbated their worries.
After waiting at home for a while with Xu Tingsheng still having yet to send Xiang Ning back home, the couple had gone outside to wait for her.
Mrs Xiang saw Xu Tingsheng and Xiang Ning through the car window.
She waved, shouting, “Little Ning, get off! Come on home!”
Xu Tingsheng originally hadn’t wanted to appear in front of Mr and Mrs Xiang this day. He had already taught Xiang Ning a cover story to deceive them over what had transpired earlier. But now, it seemed this would no longer be possible.
Xu Tingsheng got off the car. Just having wiped off her tears, Xiang Ning was dragged off the car by her mother.
“Uncle, Auntie, I…”
Mrs Xiang interrupted him mid-sentence, “You should go home.”
After saying so, Mrs Xiang carefully examined Xiang Ning all over, seeing if she was injured.
“Today…” Xu Tingsheng persisted in trying to explain things.
“You should go home,” Mrs Xiang repeated.
Leading Dongdong off the backseat, Mr Xiang came over beside Xu Tingsheng, saying in a low tone, “It’s like this. This afternoon, we rushed over afterwards as well...so, Little Ning’s Mom got frightened...to be honest, we’re simple, honest folk, used to just living out our lives in peace…”
“Tingsheng, can you give Uncle a reasonable explanation for why you became Little Ning’s home tutor?”
At this moment, Xu Tingsheng already knew that just as that policewoman cousin of Xiang Ning’s had said, those previous reasons of his...had all just been completely invalidated now.
He could only shake his head.
“You should go home first then. Thank you for today’s matter. Still, we really hope that such a thing will never happen again. I’ll call you later,” Mr Xiang patted Xu Tingsheng’s shoulder.
“Okay, Uncle. Then...goodbye.”
With a hand on the car door, Xu Tingsheng turned and glanced at Xiang Ning who stood beside Mrs Xiang, ignoring her mother’s words as tears gushed down her face. Xu Tingsheng thought that he would remember this current look in her eyes, would remember it for the rest of his life.
She still didn’t know what had happened here. She just knew that her mother who had always liked Xu Tingsheng a lot was suddenly speaking to him in a cold and indifferent tone, just knew that Uncle had warned her very solemnly that the afternoon’s events definitely couldn’t be told to her parents.
Xu Tingsheng waved goodbye to her.
Xiang Ning wanted to wave back, but was dragged along by her mother back into their house.
The Golden Retriever Dongdong wagged its tail, turning its head and barking a few times.
Music was still playing in the car:
"The spring wind can’t compare to your smile however beautiful
Those who’ve never seen you wouldn’t understand
While no one can know what the future has in store
Isn’t saying goodbye now just too early
The spring wind can’t compare to your smile however beautiful. Yet at that final moment, tears were gushing down your face.
Xu Tingsheng stopped the car by the roadside, lighting up a cigarette, “Maybe I went about it all wrong right from the start. I was too blind, appearing in Xiang Ning’s life too early on, even appearing in front of her parents...
He had always felt worried that such a day might come. And today, it had finally truly come.
Mr Xiang had said that he would call Xu Tingsheng. The call came very quickly.
Xu Tingsheng picked up the call.
Mr Xiang said, “Tingsheng, if you haven’t gone far, come back for a while.”
Xu Tingsheng felt rather emotional as he hurriedly said, “I haven’t gone far, not at all...I’ll be right back. Uncle, give me a moment. I’ll be there in a jiffy. Real soon.”
Less than ten minutes later, Xu Tingsheng pulled up just outside the Xiang Family’s house.
There was just Mr Xiang who stood waiting for him in front of the door. Xiang Ning wasn’t there, and neither was Mrs Xiang.
Getting in the car, Mr Xiang handed Xu Tingsheng a cigarette, “I’d already discovered that you were a smoker long ago. I saw it before after you left, although, truly...you wouldn’t have a wisp of smoke about you every time you came to my house.”
Xu Tingsheng lit up the cigarette rather perturbedly.
“I remember you saying before that you have a little sister at home?” Mr Xiang suddenly asked.
“Yeah,” Xu Tingsheng replied.
“She should be older than Little Ning, right?”
“Older by two years.”
“Therefore, you should be able to understand what Little Ning’s Mum and I are worried about, right? If it were you, could you rest assured? After you’d gotten famous last semester, those relatives and friends of ours who knew that you were tutoring our Little Ning were already speaking rather nastily, saying that we’re selling our kid when she’s still just so young…”
“Now, I don’t intend to ask why anymore. It’s simply that you can’t explain it, while we too can’t understand it. That way, it’s better just not to talk about it; that might instead be inappropriate. Then, I as a father and Xiang Ning’s mother as well have already come to a decision on this.”
“Let’s have it this way,” Mr Xiang said, “From next semester onwards, get someone else to be our Little Ning’s home tutor. I think that that Ms Li Linlin who subbed you last time is just fine.”
“Right. I’ll make the arrangements,” Xu Tingsheng said.
“Also, please don’t contact Little Ning again in the future. Take it like Uncle’s begging you,” Mr Xiang took out the phone that Xu Tingsheng had just bought for Xiang Ning, placing it beside him, “Little Ning’s Mum just discovered it. You should take it back.”
“...” Xu Tingsheng silently clutched the phone tightly, that phone which Xiang Ning had still been holding on to just a while earlier, which she had loved so much.
“Also, Little Ning still has two weeks of lessons at the training institute remaining. We’d originally intended for her not to go, but you know how stubborn children are...there’s no way for us to get this to her straight...so, we can only find you, hoping that you...won’t teach Little Ning anymore.”
“There’s one last thing that Uncle must ask of you.”
“Just say it, Uncle.”
“I hope that you don’t tell Little Ning that this was our decision. She’s currently in the rebellious phase, and will also be attending ninth grade soon. I’m afraid that she might be unwilling to part with and over-reliant on you, thus throwing a tantrum at us with her studies being affected as a result...so, if she really has some way to get into contact with you and asks you about it, just say that you’re too busy, and haven’t the time to come. As time goes on, she’ll eventually be fine.”
“For Little Xiang Ning’s good, give Uncle a guarantee.”
“...I guarantee it.”
“Tingsheng, sigh. To be honest, in this half year’s time, Uncle’s nearly become addicted to the food you cook. Actually, if Little Ning were a few years older, Uncle...would really like you. Let’s have it this way-after Little Ning’s results get her to a senior high, Uncle will treat you to a meal.”
Mr Xiang got off the car.
Xu Tingsheng began driving away.
Xiang Ning chased after him, leading Dongdong behind her.
Xu Tingsheng stopped driving away.
“Uncle, take Dongdong with you! They know that Dongdong’s caused trouble. Mum wants to give Dongdong away, and she’s even confiscated my phone...sigh, you should take Dongdong away. Help me to take care of him. I can still secretly come to see him during the weekends.”
The Golden Retriever Dongdong yelped a few times as Xiang Ning shooed it onto the main passenger seat. Perhaps it knew as well that it had been abandoned.
Actually, there was just Xiang Ning now who didn’t know anything at all, not knowing what had happened, not knowing what would be happening. Meanwhile, Xu Tingsheng having promised Mr Xiang, he would not be divulging things to her.
“Remember to hurry and go to the hospital!”
“Help me to take good care of Dongdong.”
“I’ll be going back first then. Mum’s so fierce today, and Dad’s also not helping me. See you next week!”
Xu Tingsheng drove off, slowly, slowly leaving that street. Little Xiang Ning waved to him in the back mirror, all the way till the car rounded a bend, upon which she was finally no longer visible.
After randomly driving around for a bit, Xu Tingsheng still unconsciously ended up stopping the car at the bus station where the two of them had separated for the last time in his previous life.
The photos on the phone remained undeleted. In them, Little Xiang Ning held Xu Tingsheng’s arm, leaning her head over; rode on Xu Tingsheng’s back, pulling his hair...in all of them, she was smiling brightly like a flower…
All of this had only just happened, just…
Xu Tingsheng looked at all of them one by one, covering his mouth as he noiselessly sobbed…
The Golden Retriever Dongdong barked mournfully by the side.
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