Chapter 24 — Then try hurting me. I’m not worried.
“What are you looking at?” Tao Yu inquired upon seeing her stare spellbound at her phone.
Xia Wei stowed away her phone and smiled at him, saying, “It’s nothing. Quite a lot of classmates are sighing in lament about how we studied at a fake high school.”
Tao Yu smiled as well and commented, “We have not caught up on the good times.”
“Yes, we did not even have cell phones back then, unlike now—when primary school students secretly turn them on in class.”
The smile in Tao Yu’s eyes grew, although he changed the topic. “Later, I’ll take you to the knowledge pavilion to see the stray cats. Also, the cafeteria has roasted lamb kebabs. Do you want to eat some?”
“Then I’ll treat you to lunch.”
“…” Although it felt a bit elaborate, she had not eaten the cafeteria food in a very long time, so this was very valuable!
The program continued for another two hours. Midway through, Tao Yu stood up from his chair and gestured for Xia Wei to sit down. Xia Wei shook her head, too embarrassed to take the seat. “This is your chair; you should sit in it.”
“I don’t mind. I stand all day in class anyway, so I’m used to it. You’re wearing high heels, so just sit for a while.”
Xia Wei’s legs were indeed becoming somewhat tired from standing. She did not decline a second time, but just as she sat down, a student turned his head to praise Tao Yu, “Teacher Tao, you’re so considerate!”
The entire row of students one after another began whispering, causing a disturbance. Tao Yu adopted the imposing manner of a homeroom teacher, causing them to quieten down. “Watch the program. If you really don’t want to watch it, then I can give you physics material to work on.”
This method was very effective. As soon as he mentioned physics work, all the students fell silent. Ultimately, the class monitor beside him got up and said to him, “Teacher Tao, you can take my seat. I’ll share with Wu Fei Fei.”
“It’s alright. You don’t need to look after me.”
The class monitor hesitantly looked at him and sat back down. Xia Wei sat in Tao Yu’s seat, inevitably feeling like a turtledove taking possession of a magpie’s nest.1 “Teacher Tao, how about you sit down.”
Tao Yu glanced down at her and asked with a smile, “Do you also want me to give you a physics problem?”
Xia Wei: “…”
Forget about it. Even if she had returned to school, she did not want to review anything from it.
Once the performance on stage was finished, Xia Wei seriously felt the elegance of high school students nowadays. Even if she was given another chance…she would not go through high school again. The sports teacher stood on stage and organized each class of students to leave the celebration area in order. Tao Yu told his students when in the afternoon to meet up in the classroom and then led Xia Wei to the cafeteria.
“Let’s take advantage of students returning to the classrooms one by one to eat first.”
Hearing Tao Yu say this, Xia Wei couldn’t help but laugh. “Teacher Tao, you’re still fighting with students over food?”
Tao Yu said, “I actually do not care, but if we’re too late, the lamb kebabs will be sold out. I won’t take responsibility for that.”
Recalling how the lamb kebabs back when she studied here were very popular, Xia Wei quickened her steps unknowingly.
There were very few people in the cafeteria at present. Tao Yu led Xia Wei to the familiar kiosk that sold lamb kebabs. The cafeteria master recognized Tao Yu and enthusiastically called out to him. “Teacher Tao, you’re coming to eat so early today?”
“Mn, I want ten lamb kebabs.” He took out his food card and swiped it before turning his head to ask Xia Wei, “Do you still like adding a lot of chili to it?”
“Mn!” Truth be told, Xia Wei was a bit surprised. She had not expected him to remember that she liked to add a lot of chili. The kiosk master also shifted his gaze to glance at Xia Wei before asking Tao Yu, “Teacher Tao, is this your girlfriend? How come you’re treating her to eat at the cafeteria?”
Xia Wei stifled a laugh to the side as Tao Yu calmly replied, “She is an alumni and wanted to eat in the cafeteria.”
Xia Wei: “…”
What?! She could buy lamb kebabs and then go eat at a banquet! Do not use your straight guy thinking to guess a young lady’s thoughts!
The cafeteria master appeared to be touched. He didn’t expect this alumni to love the school so much. He generously added a lot of chili to her lamb kebabs.
After buying the lamb kebabs, Tao Yu also went to buy two containers of food and brought it over to the table. By then, Xia Wei had already finished half a lamb kebab and wondered what she had eaten since she had graduated, as she felt that these lamb kebabs were not as tasty as she remembered.
They seemed inferior to the ones Mr. Jiang from downstairs made.
Adhering to the social norm of not speaking as they ate, Xia Wei earnestly buried herself in her meal. Against her expectations, Tao Yu suddenly asked, “Have you thought about coming back to D City?”
Xia Wei was stunned and pondered for a while. “When I was thinking that I might need to close my nail salon and look for work somewhere else, perhaps, but that’s resolved now. For the time being, I shouldn’t need to return.”
Tao Yu fell silent for a moment before asking her, “What’s so good about A City?”
Xia Wei’s eyes flashed. Good about A City? There actually wasn’t much worth mentioning. That city was cold, detached, crowded, and bedazzled with paper and gold. Yet at the same time, it flourished with splendor and brimmed with temptation.
“There are not many things that are good about it. Although the economy is developed, the environment is not as good as D City. The winter there is also quite smoggy.”
“Then why are you not thinking about coming back? These next few years, D City will be developing quite rapidly.”
“Mn, I know. I just feel…” Unexpectedly, she did not want to give up everything of hers in A City. But, what did she even have in A City? That nail salon of a dozen or so square meters?
Tao Yu looked at her, appearing as if he realized something. “Did you get a boyfriend in A City?”
Pfft. Ke—ke— Xia Wei did not expect him to ask this abruptly and choked on her rice due to her surprise. Tao Yu, upon seeing this, went to get her a bowl of soup and placed it in front of her. “Drink some soup.”
“Mn, thanks…” Xia Wei brought the bowl up and drank a mouthful, which cleared her throat. “I don’t have a boyfriend right now. Even though I previously had a few boyfriends, we ultimately broke up each time.”
“Why did you break up?”
“Mn…it’s probably strange to talk about this, haha.” Xia Wei set down the bowl and smiled at him. “I might be unsuited for dating. If my relationship with someone else becomes too intimate, I feel uncomfortable. Ai, it does not matter. I’ve just accepted the situation and moved on. At worst, I won’t date, just to avoid hurting others.”
Tao Yu heard her explanation and fell silent for a while. He seemed to be digesting the new information. Xia Wei picked up her spoon again, thinking that the conversation has come to an end, only for Tao Yu to suddenly say, “Then try hurting me. I’m not worried.”
Xia Wei’s hand stiffened in midair. She stared blankly at him, not even breathing. Tao Yu’s expression was absolutely serious, the same single-minded devotion he had in the past when tutoring her. She remembered how she had liked him the most with such an expression on his face.
The two of them sat on the small wooden bench in the cafeteria. After staring at him for a dozen more seconds, Xia Wei then broke the stifling atmosphere. “Haha, don’t joke around.”
“I’m not joking.”
Xia Wei: “…”
She knew he wasn’t joking. He would not joke about such a matter. Only, why did he speak up now? If he had told her this ten years ago, perhaps they would have long been married by now, with a child who would already be able to buy soy sauce?
That day when they had to write down their top three aspirations, she had returned a physics workbook she had borrowed from him, with a love letter carefully slipped in between the pages. She had already taken the college entrance exams, so if he rejected her, it would not have mattered, right?
Unfortunately, that love letter she had written, the only one she ever wrote, had not gotten a response. That summer, she felt disappointed, but the life of a university student rapidly came upon her, allowing her to gradually forget about this matter.
She had not expected that, after so many years, it would be him confessing this time.
Xia Wei didn’t want to look into why he did not respond ten years ago, as that had already lost all meaning. She simply smiled apologetically at him and giggled at herself. “I’m sorry, I really do not want to date right now. Moreover, I like someone else.”
Once she said this, Tao Yu’s face changed imperceptibly. He remained silent for quite a while before asking her, “Since you like someone else, why do you not want to date?”
“Mn…because I am in his ‘most disliked’ category.” Xia Wei laughed. “Moreover, I cannot guarantee that I will stay with him for a long time. Even if he accepted me, it might end up like how it did with my previous boyfriends. Ultimately, I’ll be cast aside. Haha, I sound like a real slag; as a result, I’ll just remain single.”
Tao Yu countered, “Who can guarantee staying together for all of eternity?”
“You say that, but I can’t do anything about my aversion to becoming too intimate with other men. Ah, perhaps I should go see a psychiatrist.”
Twelve o’clock neared, and more people began trickling into the cafeteria. Tao Yu tidied up his meal and held it in his hands as he said to Xia Wei, “Let’s go look at the stray cats at the knowledge pavilion.”
“Okay.” Xia Wei also packed up her meal and walked out of the cafeteria with him.
Today, the sun was shining brightly. In twos and threes, stray cats lounged on the benches at the knowledge pavilion. Some were napping, whereas others were licking their fur. Xia Wei took out her phone and crouched down to take photos of them. A white cat turned to face the camera and meowed at her before going back to licking its fur.
“So cute.” Looking at these cats, Xia Wei recalled the stray dog, Sunshine. She did not know if it had eaten anything for lunch today.
Tao Yu had brought some cat food, so several kitties jumped down and began crowding around to eat.
“Do you come to feed them every day?” Xia Wei asked Tao Yu.
Tao Yu nodded and said, “When I go to eat lunch in the afternoon, I feed them on my way.”
“Oh, our neighborhood has a lot of stray cats. I also fed one, but it’s now being raised by Mr. Jiang at his place.”
Tao Yu tilted his head to look at her, asking, “Who is Mr. Jiang?”
Xia Wei replied, “He is the person who lives downstairs of me, a super annoying straight guy.”
Tao Yu thought for a moment and then asked, “Is he the one that you like?”
Xia Wei: “…”
Was she that obvious? Was a straight guy’s intuition this sharp?
She stood up from the ground and walked to sit down on a nearby bench. “At the very beginning, I really disliked him. We fought often, but later…I discovered he was not that annoying. Last time, when I was feeling especially sad, he roasted lamb kebabs for me.”
“Last time, was it because of the issue with your nail salon?”
“Mn, I ran into an especially bad string of luck at that time. I wanted to eat lamb kebabs, but I was never able to buy any. Only later was I finally able to eat some. To me, those lamb kebabs were like spinach to Popeye. After eating them, I felt myself brim with strength; I could keep on fighting.”
Tao Yu stood to the side and looked at her, remaining silent. Minding her own business, Xia Wei watched the kitties eat. She then stood up and said to him, “I’ll return first then. You still have things to do this afternoon. I won’t disturb your lunch break.”
Tao Yu muttered to himself irresolutely for a brief moment before finally nodding. “Mn.”
Xia Wei waved goodbye to him. Tao Yu kept watching until her figure disappeared into the school building, turning around to leave after. After Xia Wei left the school, she uploaded the pictures she just took. 「The stray cats of the the knowledge pavilion, our school’s famous tourist spot 『laughs up sleeve』」
One after another, alumnis liked the post, praising how adorable the kittens were. A moment later, a new comment appeared.
Jiang Zhi Zhou: 「Not as cute as our neighborhood’s stray cats.」
Xia Wei: “…”
She replied to Jiang Zhi Zhou’s post. 「Right right right, especially your Tangeriney, the second most adorable thing in the universe :)」
Jiang Zhi Zhou posted a reply. 「Why not first?」
Xia Wei commented: 「Because I’m first :)」
Jiang Zhi Zhou’s reply to her: 「……」
Because their dynamic conversation in the comments could be seen by the public, their conversation immediately caused everyone to gather close and watch with rapture.
「Is Jiang Zhi Zhou your boyfriend? 『puzzled』」
「Xia Wei, when did you get a boyfriend?!」
「Yeah! I saw you with Tao Yu at school today!」
Xia Wei: “……”
Indeed, she should have posted on Moments instead.
Double! Update! Tomorrow! This includes a little side story from Tangeriney’s perspective! Isn’t this a nice surprise?! Aren’t you excited?!
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