Title: It’s easier to invite the devil in than to send him away
Since there was an English exam the next day, Han Jia stayed behind to print the test paper school ended for the day.
He laid the stencil paper on the iron plate and began to write the title with a stylus. He was halfway through the process when he heard some movements at the door.
“Han Laoshi.” The person who pushed the door open was the young class monitor from the class next door and he was also Liu Dezhu’s nephew. He had a small box of food in his hand as he walked in and said, “My uncle asked me to give you dinner.”
“Thank you. You can just put it at the door,” Han Jia said and smiled at him.
The small class monitor put down the box of food and watched Han Jia work out the exam questions. He did not draw near and instead stood at the side of the door, hesitating to leave.
Han Jia wrote another question and looked up only to see that he was still there. He asked baffled: “Why aren’t you leaving?”
The young class monitor hesitated, but still asked: “Han Laoshi, I heard that you are leaving?”
When Han Jia did not answer immediately, a hint of urgency appeared on his face. He stared at Han Jia and said: “Han Laoshi, can you not leave?”
Han Jia put down the stylus and turned to look at him. “Of course, I’m not leaving.”
“Really?” The kid apparently did not believe him, “My uncle also said that, but everyone was saying that you are leaving. They said that you and the principal said…” His eyes were red, “Han Laoshi, we will all be broken-hearted. You teach so well and are good to us, don’t go…”
Han Jia smiled: “I’m not leaving, really.”
In fact, he can’t leave.
He volunteered to come here and did not sign an agreement with the school or any other educational departments. Naturally, he can leave if he wanted to leave. But since he had taught here for such a long time, he knew that if he actually leaves, it would bring about changes in the faculty and curriculum, along with a lot of trouble to the school. In the end, he wrote an application of transfer with the intention of discussing it with the principal.
The principal looked at his application and revealed a distressed look. He said to him: “You know the situation that the school is facing already. It is not easy to find a teacher at your level. The time for graduation is about to come again…” and then he sighed, “I don’t know whether what Liu Dezhu said is true or not, but if you really want to distract yourself because of emotional problems, in two days, the school is assigning one person to the province to undertake advanced studies. You can go for one year. If it’s something you want to do, you can go and study and return in a year…”
Han Jia knew that the position was originally meant for Liu Dezhu, so he quickly said: “Principal, I not using this transfer application as a means to gain any benefits.” Then finally he had no choice but to add, “I won’t leave.”
That conversation was also half a month old, unexpectedly, the rumor actually continued to spread.
The petite boy standing in front of him was still looking at him with a dejected expression, probably unconvinced by his words still. Han Jia sighed and pointed to the paper on the table and said, “If I really want to leave, why would I work on this test paper for you guys?”
Junior high school students are only 13 or 4 years old; the children in the mountains are simple and honest. Hearing Han Jia specious proof, he actually believed him and immediately showed a happy appearance. “That’s great!” Then without even a proper goodbye, he cheerfully ran off.
Han Jia smiled and shook his head, and suddenly froze as he stared at the back of the child running for a while.
When he finished the exam questions, he had to print the ink roller on one by one. Suddenly he felt really hungry and opened the small box of food that Liu Dezhu had sent him and saw that the soup inside was already cold. Without a better option, he just had two millet pancakes and hot water and walked home slowly with the food box.
Although the sky had gradually darkened, he could still make out a dark shadow at the doorstep which made his heartbeat speed up unconsciously.
As he got closer, it really was Jiang Xiaoning, looking travel-worn, but not afraid to lean on the dirty wall to look at him with a pile of bags of different sizes at his feet.
When Han Jia stood still, Jiang Xiaoning probably saw his melancholy expression. He smiled and whispered: “Did you finished the things that I brought you last time? I brought you a bit more. At first, I wanted to leave the things here and leave but I really wanted to see you. You… why did you come back to late…”
His voice was hoarse with a hint of grievance. Han Jia’s heart ached as his eyes hung low; he wanted to drive him away, but he couldn’t open his mouth.
Seeing that he didn’t speak, Jiang Xiaoning was silent for a while, and then he sighed. “I came from far away. How about letting me in for a drink of water?”
Han Jia listened to his utterly hoarse voice, saw his dry lips and exhausted face and couldn’t help but be softhearted. He took out his key and helped him carry two small bags inside.
After Jiang Xiaoning entered the door, he went straight to the main house. When he turned on the light, he grabbed the thermos flask and Han Jia’s cup with familiarity and poured the water in. Then, with no fear of the hot water, he took a big sip; the entire process was very smooth and natural as if he had lived here for more than ten years.
Han Jia looked at him with no expression and finally sighed before his cold voice sounded. “Just leave after you’re done. There won’t be a next time.”
Jiang Xiaoning continued to drink the water as if he had not heard anything. He suddenly stopped and pointed to the things on the table and asked: “How come you didn’t drink the syrup that I brought over last time?”
Han Jia did not answer. Jiang Xiaoning sighed again and took the things out of the big bag that was on the floor. “This time, I brought you a bit more, remember to drink it. And these snacks, they’re good for you. There are books too, although I don’t understand much about them. But the associate at the bookstore said that they’re latest and most known.” He got up, grabbed a box and walked over to Han Jia. “When I saw you preparing lessons last time, you kept on flipping through the dictionary, so I bought you an electric one that has dual charging…”
Han Jia frowned slightly and looked at him: “How much was it? I will give you the money.”
He expected Jiang Xiaoning to be irritated by this sentence and then walk away with anger. But he seemed to be prepared so that when he heard him say that, a smiling expression still occupied his face.
“You bought it for me before.” He took a step closer and said fluently, “You had also bought me a lot of things, food, books, stationery, clothes, other gadgets, you took me to a concert, playground… and…” His eyes sparkled, as if he wanted to say something else but resisted and just asked, “Han Jia, if you really want to settle the bill with me then how much money should I give back to you?”
“That’s not the same,” Han Jia said succinctly.
“How is it different?” Jiang Xiaoning immediately asked, then approached him and repeated it slowly and softly. “How is it different?”
Han Jia couldn’t answer this question. He twisted his face and said with annoyance: “Drink the water and leave immediately. Don’t let me say it a third time.”
Jiang Xiaoning stared at him and smiled, and suddenly stepped forward to hug him.
Han Jia pushed him, and Jiang Xiaoning simply let go as if satisfied with that hug. He then slowly said: “Han Jia, I’m so happy. I thought you were gone. And even if you leave, I won’t be scared because I can find you. But you didn’t leave… Han Jia, I’m so happy…”
“I do want to leave,” Han Jia interrupted him coldly. “I have written the application for transfer already. Do you want to see it?”
There was still a smile on Jiang Xiaoning’s face as he looked at Han Jia in silence.
Han Jia pushed him away firmly and went into the inner room, turned on the light, took out that paper and slammed it on the table. “I really want to leave. Jiang Xiaoning, is it interesting having me hide from you?”
Jiang Xiaoning followed after him, the smile had already disappeared. He looked down at the application and ran his fingers lightly over the handwriting before he asked quietly, “Why haven’t you leave?”
“The school doesn’t want me to go,” Han Jia replied.
Jiang Xiaoning still looked at the piece of paper, looking as though he was trying to remember every word. Han Jia did not dare to look at his expression as he turned his eyes and whispered: “Today, a student asked me whether I was leaving or not. Since I teach so many classes, I don’t have a deep impression of him. If he wasn’t Liu Dezhu’s nephew, I would have forgotten his name… but he was afraid that I would go and wanted to ask me to stay.” He sighed, “Jiang Xiaoning, you are like him. You just don’t want to lose the things you are familiar with and do your utmost to detain it without considering whether or not it is worth it.”
Jiang Xiaoning did not speak. He was never good at quarreling or debating, but his expression was stubborn, clearly, he did not agree with Han Jia’s point of view.
“Jiang Xiaoning, by doing these things, you are bothering me and wasting your time,” Han Jia said coldly. “Why not just treat me as a passerby?”
Jiang Xiaoning clenched his teeth and frowned as if he was organizing his words to refute him. In the end, he only said: “You are not a passerby. I don’t want to be a passerby. I don’t want to… be just a passerby in your life. Whether it is worth it or not, is not up to you.”
Without waiting for Han Jian to reply, he bluntly said: “I’ll leave first.”
Then he immediately turned and went back to the main room, slowly took out all the things in the bag, put them on the table and stacked the empty bags into one.
Before he got up to leave, he still walked to the door of the inner room and faced Han Jia. “If the school won’t let you leave, you can totally leave without any regard to them but still didn’t leave. Do you know why, Han Jia?”
Han Jia looked up at him without any expression.
“Because you have to be responsible,” Jiang Xiaoning said slowly. “You go to school, teach and assist the students so you must be responsible for them. You yourself know that you can’t just leave just because you say you want to.” He talked a bit faster, “You came into my life. Together, we… you have done so many things for me… you are responsible for me. Han Jia, you can’t say you want to leave and just leave. You can’t just abandon me like this. Five years ago, you can’t and now, you can’t either.”
Han Jia’s expression became complicated. Jiang Xiaoning glanced at him profoundly then turned and left.