Chapter 5: Tang Xiao Tian enlists to the army (pt. 2)
Three days later, Shu Yawang receives her results from the college entrance examinations. She earns a 438 in liberal arts and a 282 in specialized comprehensive test in arts. Her scores allow her to enroll in T Univeristy. Teacher Cao looks at her acceptance letter then looks at her.
“You’re just six points away from getting into S University.” She shrugs her shoulders and takes her acceptance letter back.
“T University is alright, it’s closer to home, so I get to save the money from dorming.” Teacher Cao nods his head in agreement.
“T University is good, continue to study hard.”
“Teacher, admit that you’re biased. Both of us got admitted to T University, but you scold me and praise her!” Zhang Jing Yu complains.
“So what? Normally you can score at least 150 on the math section, but on the actual exam you scored a 110, if I don’t scold you, who will?” Their math teacher who is standing nearby agrees with Teacher Cao.
“You embarrassed me, did you cheat on my exams?”
“Come on, the questions on the exams are harder. Someone scored just a 5 on it!”
“It’s not counted for me though.” Shu Yawang smiles smugly. Zhang Jing Yu grabs his acceptance letter.
“Whatever, at least I don’t need to take it again.”
“Yes, agree!” Shu Yawang extends her hand out for a handshake. Jing Yu extends his and they both shake hands.
“Please take care of me well, my future university friend.” They both walk out of the teacher’s office laughing, heading towards the internet cafe and staying there until nighttime.
In the evening, Yawang tells Xiao Tian that both she and Jing Yu got accepted to the same university when he telephoned her.
“That’s good that Jing Yu is there to look after you. Now, I’m not as worried.”
“Look after me for what?”
“Alright, so you don’t trust me.” She mutters out, twirling the phone cord with her fingers.
“No, not at all.” He denies.
“Huh, I’m mad.”
“Yawang…” He tries to say something to convince her, but someone in the background cuts him off.
“Hey, the guy in the front, your five minutes are up, hang up already.” In the new recruits’ dormitory area, there are six telephones. They can only use it in the weekends during six to ten in the evening. To be fair, the recruits agree to not have phone conversations longer than five minutes.
“Yawang, don’t be mad at me, I definitely do not-”
“The guy in the front, it’s been six minutes!”
“Okay, I’m hanging up.” Yawang listens to the do-do-do tone while chuckling and shaking her head. This poor guy, he can’t even use the phone. Is he a soldier or a prisoner? She hangs up and is about to walk back to her room when the phone rings again. She picks it up immediately.
“Hello, is this Yawang?” The voice on the other line is a man, his voice sounds low and melodic to her ears.
“Who are you?”
“Huh.” The man chuckles. She raises her eyebrows from his reaction. “I’m Big Brother.”
“Yeah, Xiao Tian wants me to lend one minute to him. Seeing how unfortunate he looks, I let him use it.” After he finishes speaking, Yawang hears some static before Xiao Tian speaks.
“Yawang, I was just spitting words out carelessly. It’s not that I don’t believe you, I just want Jing Yu to take care of you in my place-”
“Okay, okay, I’m not mad at you, I was just teasing.”
“Hey, I’m not afraid of you getting mad at me.” Yawang smiles, imagining how Xiao Tian’s face looks like.
“Huh, I’m hanging up then. Big Brother needs to use the phone.”
“Oh, what’s Big Brother’s name?” Yawang asks out of curiosity.
“He’s called Qu Wei Ran.”
“Qu Wei Ran?” She repeats his name. “His name sounds nice.”
“Well, sounds better than mine. Anyway, I’m going to hang up now. Big Brother is waiting for the phone.”
“Okay.” She laughs before hanging up. Xiao Tian listens to the do-do-do tone, not wanting to hang up.
“How did you guys change the topic to me?” Qu Wei Ran asks. Tang Xiao Tian turns his head and smiles back.
“Yawang asked me for your name.”
“Oh, and then?”
“She said your name sounds nice.” He gives a smile.
“Her name sounds nice too.”
“Yes, yes.” Xiao Tian’s eyes twinkle as he nods his head.
The summer of her senior year: she don’t have any homework to do, no tests to study for, no nagging from her parents, nothing at all. It should be one of her most blissful summers in her life, but because of Xia Mu, it’s a hectic summer.
She can’t believe her eyes when she looks at his report card. It’s all red and he did not earn higher than a 50 in any of his classes. She flips the report card back and forth to make sure it’s his report card and not someone else’s. She lifts her head and looks at the boy in front of her. This handsome, dark-haired boy, no matter how you look at him, he looks like a smart child.
“Xia Mu, your report card looks more worse than mine when I was in junior high.” Xia Mu stares at her blankly. She turns frustrated and slams the report card onto the table.
“What kind of attitude is this?! How can your grades be this horrible?! Looks is not everything, at least have some brains too!” Xia Mu glares at her, and she glares back.
“I never paid attention in class nor read any of the textbooks, but I still have higher grades than you. Look at this, how can you get a 40 in Chinese? Let me look at your test so I can see how you can have such a low grade.” Xia Mu slowly takes out his exam papers from his backpack. Excluding the multiple choice section, his exam papers are blank.
“Did you copy the answers to the multiple choice questions?” He shakes his head.
“Then how did you get everything correct?” It’s not only in Chinese, but for his other classes, he answered every question correctly in the multiple choice sections in the exams.
“Guessed?!” She glares at her angrily and throws down the papers onto the table before pulling Xia Mu to have him sit onto a chair.
“From today on, I’m going to tutor you. See if you dare to not listen to me!” He looks at her and purses his lips, nodding his head silently.
This marks the beginning of the two month-tutoring. Every day in the summer, she will go to Xia Mu’s home to tutor him. They eat together and take afternoon naps together. Xia Mu feels he is getting closer with Yawang during the summer; he will sometimes start the conversations. Sometimes when Yawang is too tired, she will hand him a test to do while she takes a brief nap on his bed. He lays his head onto his palm, looking at the mirror on his desk. The mirror reflects her body, her dark, long hair spread all over his white bedsheet and her silent breathing comforts him. When her eyelashes start to flutter, he quickly shift his eyes onto the test paper. She walks up behind him while fixing her hair and looks at his progress. When she sees the blank test paper, her beautiful eyes flashes anger.
“You did not write anything at all!” She grabs a red pen on his desk and draws out six whiskers onto Xia Mu’s face. She sees his bored expression and gives a satisfied smile.
“The next time I catch you slacking off, I’ll draw a turtle on your face.”
When she tutors Xia Mu, she is more serious compared to when she is studying for her classes. When she explains, she will draw on her notebook at the same time in case it’s too hard for him to understand. He will sometimes look up to her face and just stares at her. When she catches him daydreaming, she will pinch his cheeks.
“Daydreaming again?! Did you understand everything I just said?” He nods his head.
“Fine, then do these.” She quickly writes out a couple of complicated math problems, thinking that he will not know how to solve it and she will be able to draw a turtle onto his face. He lifts up his pencil and looks at the questions, then lowers his head while writing out solutions. This boy, he’s not stupid at all! Even I can’t figure out how to solve these problems. Fine, I admit I’m bad at math, but…Yawang looks at him in suspicion.
“Hey, don’t tell me during the test, you…” Xia Mu looks up at her.
“Are too lazy to write out the answers to the other test questions?”
“Mmm.” His eyes shift back and forth in denial.
“Don’t lie to me.”
“I’m not, you teach well.”
“Huh.” Yawang is stunned from his reply, then smiles widely. “I guess I have the talent of being a teacher! Alright, let’s go to the next section!” Xia Mu looks at her smile widely then lowers his head, the corner of his lips lifting up to a smile.
At the end of the summer, Xia Mu improves dramatically. He scores a 100 in every test Yawang throws out to him and she treats him to a huge meal afterwards to compliment him. However on the first day of school when they are taking a test to see which class they will be assigned to, he only completes the multiple choice section. Yawang’s body shakes in anger when she sees Xia Mu’s test grade.
“You completely wasted my time!” She throws his test back at him and turns around to leave. She may not notice it since she is angry, but Xia Mu’s face crumpled for a second. Yawang walks back home and starts to pack her luggage.
Their university is holding a freshman orientation, and the destination this year is in Yunnan. It’s going to be two weeks long, but they’re going to be spending one week alone on walking. There are four majors in the arts departments, a total of eight classes. All of the young men and women starts to interact with each other after the first two days. Since Yawang is a commuter student, she is not really close with the other students. It’s been two months since school started, but she can’t remember any of her classmates’ names. She don’t mind though, she’s not planning to make friends in college. Yawang thinks that the heart is small, it can only hold up a limited amount of people. If she’s close with the friends she made in college, her high school friends will slowly move out from her heart, and she don’t want that to happen. She wants to live with the friends she have right now, with no changes.
She sits near the window and read the short novel in her hands. When they reached Yunnan, everyone grouped together in pairs or three’s and she will stand alone, drawing on her sketchpad. It’s a pretty cold December in Yunnan, it’s really windy, and her sketchpad will shake from the wind. Yawang protects herself with a thick hat. The orientation that is half a month long soon ended, and many couples are formed then. Love, for some people, is pretty easy to obtain. She ignores them and continues to draw with her black pen onto her sketchpad.
On the first page of the sketchpad, she titled the drawing, “Taking You to See the Scenery Together”- Shu Yawang. She stuffs the drawing into a manila envelope and writes down Xiao Tian’s address before mailing it in Yunnan. When the wind picks up again, she raises the collars of her jacket and looks out to the front. The wind blows her hair, making it look like it’s dancing in the wind. She smiles lightly when she imagines his reaction when he receives her mail.
When Yawang arrives home, it’s already eleven in the evening. Her mother takes her luggage for her.
“How’s Yunnan? Was it fun?” Yawang nods her head.
“Mmm, pretty fun. But I’m so tired.”
“Go take a shower first, Mom will heat up some food for you.”
“Okay.” She walks to her room and rummages for some clean clothes to wear when her mother shouts from the outside.
“Go call Xia Mu. He’s been looking for you everyday. When I asked him what he’s doing, he won’t answer me. Such a weird child.”
“It’s eleven already, he’s probably asleep. I’ll call him tomorrow.” She goes to sleep right away after taking a shower and eating the heated leftovers.
The next morning, Yawang opens her eyes slowly and have a blurry vision of Xia Mu standing in front of her.
“Xia Mu, your dark circles got more worse.” She smiles softly. Xia Mu sits by the corner of her bed, holding onto her bedsheet tightly with both hands.
“Next time, I’ll complete everything.” He says as he turns his head away.
“Complete what?” Yawang have no idea what he’s talking about.
“Oh.” Her eyes brighten when she realizes what he’s talking about. This kid, coming over to apologize. Is he scared that I’m going to ignore him? So adorable!
“Xia Mu, you’re so adorable. Let Jiejie give you a hug.” Xia Mu quickly gets off the bed, making Yawang hugging the air.
“Xia Mu, you haven’t seen me for half a month, don’t you miss me?” Xia Mu purses his lips, not shaking nor nodding his head.
“You don’t miss me?” He turns his head to the other side.
“No, you don’t even call me.” And he said he don’t miss me! Such a huge grudge he’s holding…
“Haha!” Seeing Xia Mu acting like this makes Yawang happy. Xia Mu glares at her and turns to leave, but Yawang quickly grab a hold of him.
“Aw, don’t be mad! Jiejie is wrong.”
“You’re not my jiejie.”
“Then I’m your what?” Xia Mu looks at her, and spits out this word coldly.
“You brat.” She pinches both of his cheeks and threatens him.
“Try to call me auntie again.”
“Auntie, auntie, auntie.” He forcefully spits out. Yawang nods her head in reply.
“If I don’t teach you a lesson today-” Her mother who at that time passes by her room and sees what she’s doing.
“Yawang! Don’t bully Didi (little brother)!” She turns her head to her mother.
“He’s not my didi.” Her mother looks at the two children in surprise. Are they in a fight?
“He’s my nephew.” Neither her mother nor Xia Mu says anything.
“What? It’s not funny to you?” Yawang laughs. Her mother ignores her and goes to retrieve some money out from her coat pocket.
“Your dad and I are going out today, here’s some money for food.” Yawang retrieves the money happily.
“Okay, go have fun.” Her mother wears her coat and heads out the door. Yawang puts the money into her wallet and counts how much money she have in total.
“Nephew, let’s go out. Auntie will buy some candy for you.” Xia Mu lets out a short laugh. They both leave the house around noon, Yawang wearing her gloves before getting her bicycle.
“Nephew, let Auntie take you.” Xia Mu glares at her and grabs onto the handlebars, pushing the bicycle out. Yawang laughs from behind, she didn’t realize that he is a bit taller than her now. This kid, he grows up so fast! Almost 1.7m tall, if I were to fight him again, I think I’m going to lose.
“Nephew, now that you’re taller than Auntie, you better not bully me.” Xia Mu sits on the seat and looks at Yawang.
“Get on the bike.” He says coldly.
“Okay, thank you nephew.” She sits on her side in the back, holding onto the sides of Xia Mu’s waist with both hands. Xia Mu’s mischief makes the bike wobble as he tries to steer, and Yawang shouts at him.
“Steady, steady!” When the bike finally stabilizes, Yawang lets out a sigh of relief.
“Nephew, your biking skills are not that great. Let Auntie take you.”
“Shu Yawang!” He yells out.
“What is it, nephew?”
“Stop calling me nephew.”
“But nephew, you call me auntie, so of course I will call you nephew.” Xia Mu bites his lower lip.
“I’m not going to call you auntie.”
“That won’t work. Once an auntie, forever an auntie. You can’t deny it, nephew.” Xia Mu is so angry that he can’t say anything. He steers the bike as fast as he can with Yawang sticking her tongue out behind. Haha, you want to beat me? There’s no chance, kiddo.
When they arrive to the city, there’s a huge crowd of people walking around. Since it’s a few days before Christmas, all the stores have all their Christmas decorations up, making the city more lively with the bright colors. Yawang brings Xia Mu to KFC, taking the coupons out from her bag.
“What do you want to eat, nephew?” Xia Mu gives her a warning glare.
“Shu Yawang.” She knows that Xia Mu is close in getting angry at her so she gives him an apologetic smile.
“Go order.” He lowers his head and orders the food. Yawang pays at the counter and they eat their hot lunch once their order arrives. Right next to KFC is S City’s largest shopping center, so Yawang decides to bring Xia Mu in there to look around. She will go grab beautiful clothes for Xia Mu to try on, hats and scarves included. She walks around the aisles like a moving Barbie doll, putting all the beautiful clothes onto Xia Mu. She will clap her hands when she sees his transformation, making the saleswomen attracted to Xia Mu.
After spending the whole afternoon walking, they take a break in the shopping mall benches. She leans her body onto Xia Mu while eating her ice cream. Right across their bench is a jewelry store, and the store display is filled with shiny, sparkling accessories. The one that catches Yawang’s attention is a necklace of two fishes kissing. In between the two fishes is a small crystal bead. She walks up to the window to take a closer look at it. Being a Pisces herself, she loves the style of the necklace, but she gasps when she sees the price tag.
“Why is it so expensive?”
“What are you looking at?” Xia Mu asks, walking towards the window.
“Nothing.” She shakes her head as she looks away from the necklace. It’s so pretty, I wonder will the necklace still be here by the time I receive my Lunar New Year’s money. Xia Mu glances at what she’s looking at before, the necklace capturing his attention. She eats the last bite of her ice cream from the cup and taps Xia Mu’s shoulder.
“Let’s go.” He nods his head and follows behind Yawang, turning his head to look at the necklace one last time. During the ride home, Yawang leans herself onto Xia Mu’s back, wrapping her arms around his waist and closing her eyes. The person in front smiles and pedals slower and slower.
Yawang picks up the calendar that is sitting on top of her bedside drawer and counts the days. 1, 2, 3, there’s 391 more days. Ah, no it should be 390 more days. She corrects herself, marking today’s date with a blue pen. She places the calendar back and rolls around on her bed. Then, she grabs her cellphone and starts texting.
Only 390 more days. After a short while, her phone beeps and she goes to take a look.
Started the countdown already? She smirks and starts typing back.
I miss you, I really want to see you.
Really? You really want to see me?
Yes! It’s true! She nods her head while typing her reply.
Okay, when there’s an opportunity, Xiao Tian and I will both see you. Her smile stiffens when she read the latest text. She forgot that the number she is texting to is Qu Wei Ran’s.
Three months ago when both Tang Xiao Tian and Qu Wei Ran both got chosen to join the special forces, the department disciplines them really strictly, making their recruits have little to no communication to the outside world. Qu Wei Ran’s father, who missed his son so much, bought him a cellphone and secretly sended to his son through a close friend working in the department. Since it’s breaking the rules, the phone will be locked in a drawer during the day, and he will use it at night after all the lights are out. Since he and Xiao Tian are very close, he lets him use his phone to contact Yawang. Whenever Yawang texts him, it’s always Xiao Tian who replies back, so it’s a shock for her when it’s Wei Ran that replies instead.
Oh, it’s you. Haha.
Xiao Tian got called by the instructor, so I’ll return the texts in his place.
“Oh.” What does he mean by returning the texts in his place? He shouldn’t do it in place of Xiao Tian, making me express my emotions to the wrong guy, so embarrassing…
Are you mad?
Why are you not saying anything?
I have nothing to talk to you about. After her text, there’s a long pause. She scratches her head, thinking if whether she is too harsh at him.
Why are you not saying anything? Are you mad?
No, it’s just that I have nothing to talk to you about. She twitches the corner of her lips as she reads his reply. Such a stingy man.
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