Chapter 30: Not from the Same World
Translated by Fefe of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After that day, Tang Heng deleted Li Yuechi’s number and stopped participating in his uncle’s project. He didn’t see Li Yuechi again. His life abruptly reverted to how it had been before meeting Li Yuechi—for some reason, Tang Heng felt like it was a long time ago, so long ago that it felt unfamiliar.
It was August now. There was one month left of summer break, but Wuhan’s summer seemed to be endless. Tang Heng took a TOEFL exam and his score was enough for him to apply to all his dream schools. He was one step further in his study abroad plan. After this, he became completely free. It was too hot, so he only went out in the evening—either to practice, to perform, or sit in a live house or bar with Jiang Ya and An Yun to listen to music.
Tang Heng saw Tian Xiaoqin a few more times. He didn’t know how Li Yuechi explained to her, but when they met, Tian Xiaoqin didn’t ask anything like, How come you don’t come with us anymore? She was always so gentle, like nothing had ever happened.
Perhaps, indeed, nothing had happened for her. Perhaps it was the same case for Li Yuechi.
On one summer night in early August, the three of them were eating with Tian Xiaoqin again. It was the dapaidang again: crayfish, noodles, fried clams and plates of barbeque. The four of them were sweaty as they ate, partly because of the heat, partly because of the spiciness. They finished the drinks on the table, so An Yun volunteered to buy new ones. Jiang Ya put on an act, saying, “How can we make a girl do that? Let me go!” But his ass stayed glued to the seat, not budging.
An Yun always acted hardworking before Tian Xiaoqin, so she played along and said, “I can go. What do you guys want to drink?”
“I want cola!” Jiang Ya said. “Iced!”
An Yun rolled her eyes and said gently, “Xiaoqin, what about you?”
“Iced red tea is fine,” Tian Xiaoqin replied warmly. “Thanks.”
“Tang Heng, you’ve changed!” Jiang Ya glared. “You always drink cola like me!”
“Cola kills sperm,” An Yun jested. “You should hold back.”
Jiang Ya didn’t know how to react. “Huh? Really?”
“No big deal,” Tang Heng said. “I’ve just had enough of cola.”
Tang Heng was never a talkative person, but he was even quieter now. An Yun went to buy drinks, so only Jiang Ya and Tian Xiaoqin talked at the table.
“How come An-ge is so testy these days,” Jiang Ya mumbled.
Tian Xiaoqin grinned at him. “Actually, I’ve been meaning to ask…”
“Why do you call An Yun ‘An-ge’?”
“Oh, she’s one year older than me. I’m the same grade as Tang Heng.”
“But why ‘ge’…”
“Ha, that’s a long story.” Jiang Ya grabbed a skewer of beef tallow. “The three of us met because Tang Heng and An-ge were forming a band and needed a bassist, so I went.”
“But aren’t you the drummer?”
“I just wanted to test my luck. What if they needed a drummer?” Jiang Ya laughed dumbly. “So I went and An-ge said they’re not looking for a drummer because she can play the drums. I had a smart mouth, so I said, ‘Never seen a girl who can play the drums well,’ so An-ge got mad and wanted to battle with me. I said, ‘Fine’ and An-ge said that whoever lost had to bow in apology and call the other one ‘ge’.”
Tian Xiaoqin laughed. “So immature!”
“We were seriously stupid.” Jiang Ya laughed too. “I lost in the end and apologized to her. I called her ‘ge’ too… After that, the three of us formed the band. An-ge let me play the drums and she switched to bass.”
“You three are great.” Tian Xiaoqin sounded envious. “All my friends graduated.”
“You mean your undergrad friends?”
Tian Xiaoqin nodded. “Yeah. One went home to be a teacher, one went to work in Shenzhen. Only I stayed in Wuhan.”
“You can hang out with us,” Jiang Ya said immediately. “An-ge keeps talking about you to us. And that classmate of yours, Li something…”
“Yeah, not a bad dude.” Then Jiang Ya said generously, “Call him along for my birthday!”
Tang Heng listened to them talk with lowered eyes, not joining in.
“Sure,” Tian Xiaoqin said. “But Li Yuechi is very busy recently…”
“What’s he busy with?” An Yun returned with the drinks. “Is it still Teacher Tang’s project?”
“No, we finished the visits and Yuechi quit the group.”
“Huh?” An Yun glanced subtly at Tang Heng. “Why?”
“He said he has something else to do, so he asked for leave from Teacher Tang.”
“So you’re the only one working on it now?”
“Me and two masters’ students from the economic department. It’s mostly processing the data now, which they’re better at.”
“Mm.” An Yun passed the drinks to everyone. “Economic majors? Indeed.”
Tang Heng grasped the cold Sprite and commented, “Doesn’t Li Yuechi know how to process data?”
“Yeah, but he said he doesn’t have time.” Tian Xiaoqin looked a bit confused. “Actually, it’s a pity for him to quit now.”
Tang Heng didn’t say anything else.
After eating, the three brought Tian Xiaoqin home first, then they went to Jiang Ya’s place. They planned to sit in Long Love, but there were suddenly a few muffled claps of thunder in the night sky. It was probably going to rain again. Indeed, rain started splattering against the window as soon as Jiang Ya turned on the film projector.
They watched Wong Kar-wai’s My Blueberry Nights. It was one slow scene after another and the entire mood was muffled. Not even halfway through the film, Jiang Ya had fallen asleep on the sofa. The rain outside the window had subsided, but it continued drizzling, irritating Tang Heng.
Jiang Ya started snoring. An Yun lowered the volume and suddenly asked, “How are you and Li Yuechi?”
Tang Heng stared at Norah Jones’ face on the screen and muttered, “How else can we be?”
“Which means, you two… broke up?”
“We weren’t close in the first place.”
An Yun scoffed and didn’t reply. A while later, when the jazzy theme song played from the speaker, she said, “You shouldn’t get involved with him.”
“You’re not from the same world.”
“Really… Look at him, his life is so tiring. We can’t help either. Just don’t add more trouble.”
Tang Heng turned to look at An Yun. “What do you mean?”
An Yun shrugged. “Just, stop caring about his business.”
“What exactly are you trying to say?”
“I…” An Yun sighed. “Whatever, you’ll find out later.”
Tang Heng prepared mentally because of An Yun’s words, but he didn’t realize that later would be so soon. Two days later, Professor Tang called Tang Heng to his office.
When he arrived, there were already two other guys sitting in the office. One was tall and thin, looking scholarly with glasses; the other was much shorter and smaller. He also had glasses and an eye-catching mole on his forehead. The tall, thin guy was Pan Peng. The one with the mole was Zhang Baiyuan. They were the economic students who’d joined the group.
“Tang Heng, work on the data with these two shixiong,” Professor Tang said cheerily. “Ask them if you need help.”
“We’re the ones who need to learn from Shidi,” Zhang Baiyuan said modestly, flattening his lips. “We don’t know a lot of sociology knowledge.”
“Focusing on one field will keep you isolated. You youngsters have much to chat about, so I won’t get in your way.” Professor Tang got up and pulled a paper bag out of a drawer. “Baiyuan, help me give this to Dean Zhang. It’s the Guo Lin Ding Yang poem that I promised I’ll write for him, haha.”
“No problem.” Zhang Baiyuan sounded pleasantly surprised. “Can you write something for me too? I’ll bring the book next time.”
“Of course,” Professor Tang said with a chuckle. “I’m the one showing off embarrassingly everywhere.”
Tang Heng listened to their polite small talk while wondering who this Dean Zhang was—he pondered to no avail. After all, the surname Zhang was too common.
When they finished speaking, the two master’s students went back.
Only Professor Tang and Tang Heng remained in the office. “Which Dean Zhang?” Tang Heng asked.
“Zhang Jianlong who’d just gotten transferred to the economic department,” Professor Tang said. “That Zhang Baiyuan is his son.”
“How come the economic department is doing our project?”
“It’s us working for them! This project will be under Dean Zhang’s name in the future.”
Tang Heng was silent for a moment. “So you kicked Li Yuechi out?”
“You brat!” Tang Heng slammed his hand on the table and demanded in mock anger, “What kind of person do you think your uncle is?”
“Then why’d he quit?”
“Why are you asking me? Go ask him!”
“He quit by himself?”
“Indeed,” Professor Tang said a bit helplessly. “I really don’t understand what you kids are thinking. It’s such a great chance, but you drop it just like this.”