Others’ comments of herself that Tao Ting would most commonly hear were quiet and elegant, in addition to withdrawn and boring.
When she was young, such a personality might have been lovely. However, as she grew up, she was less and less able to integrate with her peers.
When her roommates discussed cosmetics, she retreated to the side, holding onto an original English novel; when they talked about male celebrities, she listened to the unfamiliar names in confusion, unable to contribute to the conversation.
Her style, speech, and behaviour had a maturity that does not match her actual age.
Tao Ting’s ideal career was as a current affairs journalist. Everyone who learnt of her dream would nod approvingly and tell her, “That’s great. You’re perfect for it.”
Although she was not good at interpersonal communication, she understood social norms. She could differentiate between praise and criticism and knew which their words were.
Tao Ting was quiet, calm, and someone who would make no mistakes. She was always an orderly and efficiently operated machine.
Of course, machines were emotionless and very dull.
“Tao Ting, I’ll have to trouble you for this. I’ll bring you back milk tea later!”
Hanging up the phone, Tao Ting put back on her jacket she had taken off halfway, dismissed the idea of taking an afternoon nap, and packed her notebook and pencil box into her bag.
The school arranged many seminars. To ensure the attendance rate, one had to register their attendance at the event even after they had signed up for it.
The list was passed from the front, and Tao Ting took the paper and neatly wrote down her roommate’s name.
There were still ten minutes before the seminar started. She looked up at the screen on the back of the stage. “The Power of Branding: How to Design and Market” was a topic that she was not interested in. Fortunately, she brought along an assignment with her, so the next two hours would not be a waste.
Applause rang out in the venue, and Tao Ting followed by clapping perfunctorily, her attention focused on the book in front of her. Once she was engrossed in something, she would automatically put up a barrier.
An hour later, Tao Ting stopped writing. She had completed the script for the speech she had to give next week.
She rubbed her right hand’s purlicue (the space between the thumb and the forefinger) and stretched her back slightly, covering her mouth as she yawned.
She inadvertently raised her head and met the eyes of the person on the podium. Tao Ting froze and scrambled to avert her gaze.
“Was what I said not very interesting, or were some students staying up late studying the night before?”
When he said that, he looked at her.
She was thin-skinned, and her cheeks immediately turned scarlet at being teased.
“I’ll talk about something interesting then. Should I tell all of you about my experience in Germany?”
The man leaned back on the chair, changed into a casual posture and began to speak leisurely.
Tao Ting did not dare let her mind wander off again. She smoothed her hair and focused her attention.
He went off-topic for about half an hour, talking about the Germans’ smug humour, about the saxophonist on Königssee (a lake), about the ten ways to make potatoes, and finally, from environmental protection, magically brought the topic back to his company.
Tao Ting subconsciously wandered off, her eyes straying from the screen to the man’s face.
His name is Xu Linyue, a senior from several batches before. After graduating, he went abroad for further studies and was currently a senior executive at a German company. Since he was back in China for a business trip, the university invited him to speak.
Such a glittering persona is eye-catching enough to anyone, not to mention a decent-looking young man.
She now finally understood what the girls beside her had been whispering about.
Realising that, Tao Ting’s heart fluttered at the eye contact she had with him earlier.
The seminar should have been boring, but Xu Linyue always managed to insert a couple of jokes at the appropriate places. The assembly hall was constantly full of laughter, and the atmosphere was excellent. When he was speaking about specialised topics, he also tried to use layman’s terms so that the audience could keep up with the content.
Tao Ting also realised that he had a small habit in his speech. Xu Linyue liked to use questions as if everything was negotiable.
“Let’s talk about the difference between trademark and brand next, shall we?”
He must be a gentle and kind leader, Tao Ting thought to herself.
As the seminar drew to a close, the emcee took the stage. The last ten minutes were left for a question-and-answer session.
Several students raised their hands, asking questions related to studying abroad and employment.
Tao Ting licked her lips, repeatedly revising the question in her notebook. After reading it silently several times to ensure that there were no mistakes, she took a deep breath and was just about to raise her hand when she heard the emcee say, “Then let’s give this girl the last chance.”
Tao Ting was not very disappointed as she watched the microphone go to someone else’s hand. She lifted the corner of her mouth and clenched her right hand as she placed it back on her leg.
There was suddenly a huge commotion in the venue. Tao Ting was not listening carefully and asked the student next to her confusedly, “What did she just ask?”
The student smiled ambiguously and raised her voice to answer, “She asked if Senior Xu has a girlfriend and wants to know his ideal type!”
Tao Ting looked up towards the stage. The man had maintained his polite smile as he snapped his fingers to signal everyone to quieten down.
Then, he gave an answer that was a model as it could be, “I’m currently busy with my career, but I can answer your other question. I like girls who work hard.”
Everyone was obviously not satisfied with his answer, but Xu Linyue had already said his final piece. Smiling, he got up and bowed, turned around and left from backstage.
She pushed open the door of her dormitory. Her roommate had already returned. Seeing Tao Ting, she asked, “How was the seminar? I heard it was a handsome guy. Is it true?”
Tao Ting smiled, neither affirming nor denying.
Her roommate continued to grumble, “If I had known, I would not have gone to the game. My boyfriend’s team even lost. I’ve lost out by missing the chance to meet a handsome senior!”
Tao Ting sat down in her seat, raised her eyes and looked at herself in the mirror. She suddenly opened her mouth and asked, “Jing Jing, what kind of person do you think I am?”
Her roommate was stunned, thought about it for a while and replied, “Outstanding, smart and hardworking!”
When she heard the last word, the corners of Tao Ting’s mouth spread into a smile.
The more her roommate looked at her, the more she felt that Tao Ting was unusual, “What’s wrong? Why are you suddenly asking?”
Tao Ting shook her head, schooled her expression and turned it back to her usual indifferent look, “Nothing.”
When cracks in the hard steel appeared, millions of rays of light would shoot in once the fragments were peeled off, encasing a soft and sensitive heart.
When bored people long for change, their dull lives will gradually brighten up, as they follow after a particular person and move towards a better place.
Tao Ting’s main focus was still on her studies and future and would only pay attention to Xu Linyue’s activities in her spare time. When Weibo started becoming popular, she found his account and occasionally looked through it, leaving brief comments under posts with which she shared similar thoughts.
This cannot be considered a crush, and he cannot be considered an idol.
This person was simply a distant star that she took the liberty of quietly saving in her eyes.
There was a lot of pressure to go to graduate school, and Tao Ting began to feel anxious with the increasingly fierce competition among her peers.
At night, she could not sleep and opened Weibo to find a certain person under her “frequent visits”.
There was a six-hour time difference, and it was evening from where he was.
Three minutes ago, Xu Linyue posted a new Weibo post with a picture of a dimly lit background and two glasses of whiskey on the bar, filled to the brim with ice.
Tao Ting guessed that he should have just gotten off work and was now having a small gathering with friends.
He captioned the picture with the phrase: The day’s troubles are all gone.
Tao Ting rolled over in the dark and wrapped herself in her blanket. Her troubles were still present.
Her feelings were in a mess, and she did not have the clear-headedness and calmness of the daytime. Like how a drowning man would clutch at a straw , she desperately needed a place to vent.
The clitter-clacking of the keyboard sounded as she clicked away. Only after she sent out the comment did Tao Ting then realise what she had done on impulse.
A paragraph of words that did not logically connect; a comment made up of exclamation marks. When summed up, the key point is only one sentence – “So annoying, why is everyone else so outstanding!”
Tao Ting regretted it after commenting. She was just about to delete it when she found a reply under her comment.
“You’re great too. Isn’t it already past midnight in China? Go to sleep.”
He did not know who she was and simply gave her some comfort in passing out of kindness.
However, it was like the most precious elixir in the world, curing Tao Ting instantly.
The anxiety, confusion, and pent-up unhappiness in her chest were all dissolved with just a few words.
Tao Ting re-read it again and saved a screenshot of it in her photo album. She finally put down her phone and closed her eyes to go to sleep without worries.
After that gloomy period passed, life became more orderly.
Tao Ting successfully completed her studies and got an internship at a company. She made some like-minded friends and even had a few not-so-spectacular relationships, but still considered beautiful.
At the age of twenty-eight, when Tao Ting was about to be promoted to a supervisor in her original company and her career was about to go to the next level, she turned down the opportunity, left her employer of five years and changed jobs.
She saw on Weibo that Xu Linyue was returning to China as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Xique China.
From submitting her resume to the second interview, Tao Ting was calm and collected, without the slightest bit of anxiousness.
In the end, the interviewer asked her, “Compared to the original company you worked for, Xique is still a novice in China . Why do you want to join us?”
Such questions were easy to answer. For example, she could say that she was optimistic about Xique’s prospects or that she wanted to take on a new challenge.
But Tao Ting lifted her lips a little and decided to tell the truth, “I want to stand somewhere where he can see me without looking back or looking down.”
 病急乱投医 (bìng jí luàn tóu yī), literally, to “turn to any doctor one can find when critically ill”. It is used to describe someone who is in a very difficult/desperate situation and would do anything to improve it. The English equivalent would be the saying, “a drowning man will clutch at a straw”.
 蹒跚学步 (pán shān xué bù), literally, to “wobble with faltering steps as one has just started learning to walk”. It is usually used to refer to a toddler. However, it can also be used to describe starting something new.