Chapter 31: Pan Peng
Translated by Fefe of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
So Li Yuechi really had quit voluntarily? Why? Tang Heng thought back to Tian Xiaoqin’s words. She’d said that Li Yuechi was too busy—busy making money to treat his girlfriend’s illness?
But this had nothing to do with him anymore.
“I’m going back,” Tang Heng said.
“Wait! What’s the hurry?” Professor Tang rose and closed the office door tightly. He lowered his voice, “I’m telling you, Tang Heng, that Zhang Baiyuan is a good kid and Dean Zhang has a good relationship with me. You have to put more effort into this project.”
“Got it,” Tang Heng said.
“Don’t just say it.” Professor Tang sounded helpless. “You think I don’t know? How many of those interview visits did you go on? But those visits don’t take much skill but are too taxing, so it’s fine you didn’t go.”
Don’t take much skill? Tang Heng thought back to those days of climbing stairs while his sweat rained down and Li Yuechi’s sweaty face appeared before his eyes again.
Tang Heng stood without speaking. He knew his uncle meant well—his uncle and aunt were dinks and viewed him as their own son—he didn’t want Tang Heng to do the physical tiring work. It was normal.
Professor Tang patted Tang Heng’s shoulder and said meaningfully, “You’re about to graduate and you’ll start your master’s next year. Then you’ll be part of this circle. You have to work on building up experience and connections.”
Tang Heng had heard similar messages countless times before. He nodded without caring. “Mn, got it.”
“Alright, go back and contact Zhang Baiyuan.” Smiling, Professor Tang continued, “Come home for dinner this weekend. Your aunt misses you.”
Tang Heng left the office, but he didn’t hurry downstairs. Instead, he walked to the balcony at the end of the hallway. He felt irritated, for some reason, and felt that he needed to calm down.
As for why he was irritated? Tang Heng thought it was probably because of this project. Without warning, he was handed this project. He was going to process the data that Li Yuechi had collected—why did this guy keep haunting him? He’d already had it all planned out. After summer break, he’d apply for the school’s exchange program. The sociology department had an exchange program just for third- and fourth-year students to Tokyo for eight months. It wasn’t exactly to hide from Li Yuechi. It was just that he’d had enough of Wuhan and getting to avoid Li Yuechi was nice too. Eight months later, he’d come back, work on the graduation matters, do band stuff with An Yun and Jiang Ya, then he could go abroad again for his masters. He’d planned everything in detail, but now, he had the slight frustration of things turning messy.
Fortunately, Li Yuechi had quit the group already.
Tang Heng stood on the balcony for a bit and got two mosquito bites. Jiang Ya texted him, asking if he wanted to join the fun at Long Love tonight. There was a new band. Tang Heng replied, No, and Jiang Ya called. “You’re busy tonight?”
“Mn.” He didn’t actually have anything, so Tang Heng randomly said, “An appointment with a study abroad agent.”
Jiang Ya freaked out. “No way, are agents so professional now? Doing business talks at night?”
“They work overtime at night.”
“Can’t you reschedule? Heng~” Jiang Ya simpered. “An-ge went to flirt with her meimei again. Us two lonely guys should accompany each other. Can you really bear to see me by myself…”
Tang Heng went downstairs while listening to Jiang Ya’s rambling with furrowed brows. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to watch the show with Jiang Ya. He just didn’t want to go to Long Love. As for the reason, he couldn’t explain to Jiang Ya.
“Then hurry up with your talk with the agent and we go over at eight. Would that work?”
“Nope. We have to revise—” A figure flashed past and Tang Heng halted.
Tang Heng held his phone without reacting.
The other stopped as well. He turned and looked at Tang Heng.
He was still wearing that Youth Grad School Tutoring shit and a pair of fitted navy jeans, making him seem thin yet tall and upright. It was close to evening and the sky had darkened, but the hallway lights hadn’t turned on yet. Tang Heng was slightly nearsighted, so he couldn’t see his expression clearly.
The two stared at each other for a few seconds. Li Yuechi was the first to speak, his voice still so calm. “Xuedi.“
Xuedi? Yes, Tang Heng had called him xuezhang that night—he’d thought that Li Yuechi would accept his money this way.
Tang Heng turned to leave, but Li Yuechi said, “Xuedi, wait.” Then he sped over, got closer. Tang Heng was abruptly reminded of how they’d kissed that night and couldn’t help but take a step back.
But Li Yuechi acted like nothing had happened and said emphatically, “There’s something you have to pay attention to when processing the data. Luoxin Neighborhood in South Late Hongshan District has a group of relocated households. Their income should follow the rural—”
“Why aren’t you doing it anymore?” Tang Heng interrupted.
“I have other stuff.”
Li Yuechi paused. “Private matters.” Then he added politely, “Sorry to everyone for the inconvenience.”
His expression was like nothing had ever happened. From the start, he’d never helped Tang Heng in the fight, his back had never gotten injured by the beer bottle, he’d never eaten ramen with Tang Heng in that hot and humid room; he’d never said, I’ll wait for you, never said, Your singing is good, never asked if Tang Heng had sang Summer Night’s Breeze; of course, he’d definitely never run into Tang Heng when getting beaten up, never ate that cold meat floss bread, never drank cola—never kissed.
Tang Heng scoffed. He turned and strode away. Li Yuechi didn’t chase after him.
The next day, Tang Heng, Zhang Baiyuan and Pan Peng met up in the research office. It was only 10 AM, but Zhang Baiyuan had already ordered three food deliveries: Starbucks, cakes from Kengee, and lunch from some French restaurant. He’d brought his laptop, but he’d only opened a Word document and noted some numbers that seemed to have problems for the show. Pan Peng happened to be more reliable. He’d prepared the formulas beforehand and had attentively verified the numbers from the survey scans.
“Lao Pan, Shidi, stop working,” Zhang Baiyuan called enthusiastically. “Come take a break and eat something!”
“I’m not hungry yet,” Tang Heng stated. He was sure now that Zhang Baiyuan was just a noob and didn’t know how to do anything.
Pan Peng took a cream puff. “Shidi, Baiyuan and I are going swimming in the afternoon. Wanna come?”
“Yeah, yeah, come with us,” Zhang Baiyuan said. “I booked the entire place. It’s huge.”
Tang Heng stared at the screen. “You can go. I’ll keep working on these surveys.”
“What’s the hurry?” Zhang Baiyuan sipped his coffee and drawled, “The first report is in October. There’s time. Plus, we have Lao Pan. He’s fast with this stuff.”
Pan Peng chuckled as if he was embarrassed. “Yeah, I don’t have anything else to do.”
Tang Heng shook his head. “I’m in a hurry.”
His tone wasn’t polite, but Zhang Baiyuan didn’t seem to notice and was still eating happily. Pan Peng clearly noticed, so he stopped chatting. He wiped his hands and got to work.
At one o’clock, Zhang Baiyuan took his leave first, saying he had to take a nap so he had energy to swim in the afternoon. He ordered four cups of juice before leaving, telling Tang Heng and Pan Peng to have fun drinking—he said it was made from fresh fruit and didn’t have any additives.
Pan Peng and Tang Heng were the only ones left in the room. Pan Peng let out a long exhale and said quietly, “Shidi, sorry for the trouble.”
“It’s nothing.” Tang Heng was expressionless. “Let’s hurry up.”
“This is just how Baiyuan is. You can’t count on him to work, but he’s nice.” Pan Peng scratched his head. “Don’t get mad.”
“I’m not mad.” Indeed, he wasn’t. But more accurately, his bad mood had just continued since last night.
“I thought I’d be the only one working,” Pan Peng continued. “It’s great that you’re with me.”
Inside, Tang Heng thought, Great my ass.
“It should’ve been Li Yuechi, right?” Pan Peng said while typing. “Thank god he quit because he thought the pay’s too low.”
Tang Heng stopped and looked at him. “Li Yuechi quit because the pay’s not enough?”
“Yeah, you only get around 800-kuai per month in aid for this work.”
“So he just threw away all responsibility?”
“You’re not familiar with him.” Pan Peng chuckled. “We were undergrad classmates. I know him.”
“Tell me.” Tang Heng grabbed a cup of orange juice. “I’m a bit tired now anyway.”
“That’s not good… Oh, don’t tell anyone. I’m just warning you in private. Be careful of this guy.”
“This guy, well, he’d do anything for money. During undergrad, he even took exams for people. The 1.5-kilometer run for the physical exam, he did it three times a day just for money—isn’t he crazy for money?”
“Oh really.” Tang Heng looked down at the bright juice in his hands. “He works pretty hard.”
“Rural villagers never seen money before!” Pan Peng shrugged. “I really can’t respect people like him. They only see immediate benefits.”