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Chapter 2.2 Those Little Stories (2)

Of course, a person could not live in the past. Especially her.

During the school’s earlier years, there had once been many specially recruited students[1] for drama and theatre, and they had essentially been one of the most lovely sights of the school. This group of people had been bored from having too much time on their hands, so they had founded an association called Sunshine Theatre Society. And then, the association had been passed down and down and down until, eventually, it was passed into the hands of one of Tong Yan’s best friends.

Hence, when preparations began for the Welcome Celebration, which was an evening celebration to welcome new students, besides going to classes and working her part-time job, every week, Tong Yan had also been revising the script for the stage drama and watching people rehearse the play in the dance hall of the Student Centre. And now, one more task had been added: every week, she went to Gu Pingsheng’s office for physics tutoring.

Suddenly, her mobile phone vibrated, and she picked it up to take a look.

Gu Pingsheng: This week, I have some family matters to attend to at home. International Commercial Arbitration classes have also been moved to after the National Day holiday[2]. If you don’t mind, you could come to my home for your physics lessons. TK

Tong Yan froze in surprise, staring at her mobile phone’s screen as she read the message three times. After some time, she finally placed her fingers on the keyboard and slowly typed out a few words. Very quickly, though, she deleted them. This was repeated several times before she finally decided to send the message: Since Teacher, you have things to do, physics lessons can also be moved to after the National Day holiday.

When she set down her phone, the several small groups of people inside the rehearsal hall had already started their acting, and lines of script that rose and fell in volume and expression echoed incessantly from all corners. Ai Mi, who had been beside her just a moment ago, was now already standing, arms folded across her chest, in front of several male students and was coaching them.

She watched blankly for a while. For some reason, her heart simply would not settle to allow her to carefully watch them rehearse.

Her phone vibrated again.

Gu Pingsheng: Physics is different from law. Your foundation in it is not good, so it’s best if you don’t break the continuity between lessons. TK

But, there’s just something wrong with going to your teacher’s home, you know? However, although Tong Yan was thinking this, she could not be so frank and say it outright: It’s no problem. This week, I’ll just review and reinforce what I learned last week. I won’t goof off.

Gu Pingsheng: My home is very close to the school’s main campus in the Xuhui District. It is very convenient to get here by the campus shuttle bus. Do you have any classes this Wednesday afternoon? TK

Tong Yan felt awkward but hurriedly wrote a reply: No. He definitely did it on purpose. Every Wednesday afternoon, the entire university did not have class.

Gu Pingsheng: Take the 3:30 campus shuttle. Forty minutes later, I’ll be waiting for you at the library of the main campus. TK

That tone of his. It was apparent the decision had been made. She sighed inwardly and gave an answer: Ok.

Four weeks had passed by now, and she had generally figured out his temperament — gracious, unassuming, polite, and without the airs one might have as a teacher. However, when it involved anything that had to do with intellectual or knowledge-related matters, he would right away resume his role as a teacher.

So serious it was ridiculous.

All of a sudden, she remembered that next week was the National Day holiday. She had planned very early on that she would go home to Beijing to see her [paternal] grandmother. He wouldn’t grab her and make her have tutoring lessons during then, would he? This was perfect, then. This Wednesday, she would go to his home and first request the time off.

His home… Tong Yan heaved another sigh.

When Wednesday actually arrived and she was sitting on the campus shuttle, she suddenly grew a little anxious, though she did not know why. Traffic was rather heavy. She drifted off to sleep until the bus arrived at the stop and a kind person beside her patted her awake. Only after she glanced at her watch did she realize that the trip had taken an hour and a half, or in other words, she was a full fifty minutes late.

Oh no. She checked her mobile phone… And tragically discovered that it was shut off. No wonder she had not received any text messages from Gu Pingsheng.

Fortunately, the location where the shuttle dropped them off was very close to the library, and after getting off and walking for a short while, she saw Gu Pingsheng’s vehicle, a white Range Rover. That day, she had ridden in it the one time. She had once not known of this particular vehicle with the long English name. Later on, however, Lu Bei had liked this brand very much, and so she had followed his suit and remembered the name.

Walking over, she saw that his head was down to look at his mobile phone, and it seemed he was replying to emails. She knocked on the car door. No answer. Seriously, so focused. Tong Yan stood there beside the car window with her eyes fixed on him. The occasional students who walked by would all throw strange glances over at her as she stood there, not saying a single word and only staring at the good-looking guy inside the car…

Gu Pingsheng suddenly lifted his head, and just like that, their gazes abruptly connected.

Only the single layer of glass of the car window separated them. Her heart gave a thump. Awkwardly, she smiled at him. “I’m sorry, Teacher Gu, I’m late.”

He smiled lightly and motioned for her to get into the vehicle.

When she had buckled her seatbelt, she finally asked curiously, “It’s not really hot today. Why didn’t you open some windows? Wouldn’t it be better if you get some fresh air circulating through?”

He handed her a bottle of water. “All year round, I keep my windows closed. City air quality isn’t good.”

Oh, a little bit of a germaphobe.

After he had actually driven out through the university gates, though, quiet fell inside the vehicle again. He was very thoughtful and had turned on some music inside the car. Furthermore, the volume was at a comfortable level, likely because he had specifically asked someone before to set it.

Listening to music that only she could enjoy, Tong Yan watched as the vehicle soon turned into a very quiet street. The street sloped off into the distance, and there were enough London plane trees lining it to provide a covering from the sun.

Both sides of the road were very clean but so unpretentious that not even a bus stop sign could be seen, and there were only one or two little shops. Only when their vehicle had driven into the community compound did she at last see the sign at the entrance. This road was called Hunan Road. Next time, when she got the chance, she really should get out of the car and walk around… So clean here. However, after stepping into his home, she truly understood what it meant to be clean.

As he bent over and pulled out a pair of slippers for her, a woman suddenly dashed out from the kitchen and, with a snowy white towel in her hand, greeted Tong Yan with a smile. “Hello. Wait just a moment. Once I’ve tidied up the living room, you guys can come in.”

Tong Yan stared in amazement at the spotless living room before turning her eyes to watch as the beautiful woman wiped down every corner with the towel in her hand…. Were they all germaphobes in his family?

He briefly introduced them to one another. “My older cousin, Gu Pingfan. This is my student, Tong Yan.” Gu Pingsheng put on a pair of slippers. “My cousin is now a surgeon, so my slight obsession with cleanliness was passed on from her.”

Before he had finished speaking, Gu Pingfan was already laughing and turning her head to protest, “If we’re really going to track things back, you used to be in medicine. How could it be me that passed it on to you? I used to be in law.”

Tong Yan was once again stunned. “Used to be in law?”

It should not be overly difficult for a medical student to switch over to study law. But medicine was definitely a field that you could not simply switch into just for fun. What kind of people were they in his family, huh?…

Gu Pingsheng seemed to understand what she was thinking and explained with a smile, “She had already completed her PhD in Law, but she suddenly felt that what she had studied was very useless and she needed to do something that would help people. So then, she started all over again, studying up from the undergraduate level. This year, she just finished her master’s degree and is now doing an internship at Ruijin Hospital.”

Smiling awkwardly, Tong Yan said, “I actually think that studying law is really useless, too.” But to tell her to study medicine? Even just thinking about the words, “fresh, dripping blood” made her legs go weak.

“Yup.” Gu Pingfan had at last finished wiping all the things that could be wiped. “At the time, I had obtained admission to the bar to practice law in both New York and California, but I suddenly didn’t understand why I had taken law. Later, it suddenly dawned upon me. Healing and saving lives is the most direct way to help others.”

Tong Yan felt even more awkward but still, she politely answered, “Yes. But to have that determination to give up all those years of studying and also those licenses to practice that you had to pass a bar exam for… And then, to start studying medicine from undergrad, that must have been hard, too, right?”

Gu Pingfan’s eyes were squinted, similar to a cat. “It was no big deal. I helped introduce TK to his advising professor, so he had no choice but to teach me the basics, too. He’s the best teacher.” His cousin was very talkative, and in the end, Gu Pingsheng had to bring Tong Yan into the study before they were finally isolated from the increasing number of conversation topics.

The study was arranged and furnished in a very easy and relaxed style. The carpet was very thick and comfortable to step on.

When Gu Pingsheng first started teaching on the topic, her nerves had been taut, but gradually, her mind unconsciously began to wander. What was his reason for switching over to study law? If he wanted to be a teacher, he actually could have just stayed in medical school, and he would have achieved the same. It probably had something to do with his mother, right?… With her chin propped on her hand, her mind drifted for three minutes. And then, she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.

The light from the sun that was nearing dusk caused the entire room to be somewhat dim. Looking at him from this particular angle, she could see from the chiseled side view of his face that there was a shallow dimple in his cheek. If a man had a round face with a dimple in it, he gave off a very fun, happy feeling. But if the man’s face was very slender and it had a little dimple like so, that truly made people feel very… So difficult to describe that feeling.

She was still trying hard to think of a suitable word when she discovered that he had tilted his head to the side and was looking long-sufferingly at her. “Tong Yan, can my face help you pass your exam?”

Startled, she instinctively defended, “I was thinking about how to solve this problem…” However, as she mulled over his words, she could not help giggling. “Teacher Gu, maybe your face really can help me pass my exam.” In the several thousand years since the time of Goujian[3], the “beauty trap” of the Thirty-Six Stratagems[4] had always been successful.

Gu Pingsheng had an ever so brief moment of puzzlement, but shortly after, he smiled, “Your physics teacher was the fiancée of one of my good friends. Later, because one wasn’t willing to leave the country and one wasn’t willing to come back, the two of them broke up on good terms. Nothing to do with me whatsoever.”

She gave a hidden little grin. Right as she was about to say something, she saw Gu Pingsheng pick up a pen and begin speaking while he wrote out the problem. “On a smooth, horizontal surface, there is a fixed, semicircular barrier with a coefficient of friction, u. A ball with mass, m and velocity, v enters from one side along a tangent line…”

She watched as he swiftly finished writing and then stood up. Feeling slightly panic-stricken, Tong Yan asked, “Teacher Gu, you haven’t taught this to me yet, right?”

With both hands in the pockets of his jeans, he bent over slightly at the waist and smiled at her… A face so very close to hers. She could even clearly see that his eyelashes curled slightly upwards.

Her mind was having some problems processing, and she gazed blankly at his moving lips, hearing a voice say, “I want to first understand how strong your foundation is for this particular section. I’m stepping out to take care of some personal things and will come back in a bit.”

Finally, after the door had shut did she dejectedly turn back to stare at that piece of paper. This was absolutely, beyond a doubt his blatant way of getting revenge.

[1]特招生 “te zhao sheng.” These “specially recruited students” are usually exceptionally talented/high-achievers in a certain area that the school is specifically seeking after. Entrance to the school will often be made easier or more appealing (e.g. scholarships, lowered grade requirements, etc.) for these specific students in order to attract them. (It’s akin to athletes who have been scouted by a college and are offered sports scholarships.) In this case, Tong Yan’s university once specifically recruited students with achievements in drama and theatre.

[2] 国庆 “guo qing.” National Day is on October 1 and is celebrated from October 1 to 7 as a week off.

[3] 勾践 Goujian was the king of Yue around 500 B.C., during the Spring and Autumn period.

[4] 三十六计美人计. The Thirty-Six Stratagems is an ancient essay that contained numerous stratagems to be used in politics, diplomacy and war. 美人计 “mei ren ji,” which literally means “trap of the beautiful maiden” and is otherwise known as “the beauty trap,” was one of those. To bring down the enemy, send a beautiful maiden to (usually) the ruler or a senior leader of the enemy side so he becomes so enthralled by her he neglects his duties. One of the classic examples of “the beauty trap” is when King Goujian gave the beautiful maiden, Xi Shi to King Fuchai of Wu.

Fuchai was enthralled by her beauty, and Xi Shi took advantage of this to cause conflict and dissension in the Wu kingdom as well as spying and relaying state secrets back to the kingdom of Yue. (Xi Shi is one of the Four Great Beauties of ancient China mentioned in the footnotes of chapter 1.1.) Here, Tong Yan is joking that Gu Pingsheng could be a “beauty trap” that mesmerizes Zhao Yin with his looks to help her pass physics.

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