After entering high school, Shen Shao continued to make time for specialty classes and studied calligraphy and piano whenever he was on break and had nothing else to do.
Although he didn’t have much talent in piano, he had a good memory.
His skill level in class wasn’t bad.
Of course, it wasn’t like he was competing in Grand Prix competitions.
That wasn’t what mattered to him.
Being able to play piano was just a dream he wanted to fulfill.

He still remembered an incident that happened in his last life when he was sixteen.
He and his coworkers in the hotel delivered a special VIP meal to a family on the second floor.
When he arrived at the door, he saw a young man with a straight back playing the piano beside a floor-to-ceiling window.
He couldn’t remember ever seeing anything so elegant.

But he didn’t have time to envy it for long.
The young man stared at Shen Shao like he was some type of insect.
It felt like cold water was being poured on his head, and he immediately woke from his reverie.
Maybe he was too young back then, or maybe it was because he had such a good impression of the young man at first.
Although many other people looked at him the same way in the future, the eyes of that young man remained in his memory.

Later on he became fixated on the idea of learning piano.
Now that he had the financial means, he began to learn the instrument he’d come to regard as particularly refined.
But after studying for three years, his original obsession had long since disappeared.
Piano was just one of his usual pastimes now.
Of course, he was only good enough to impress amateurs.
It was only a hobby.

Compared to piano, Shen Shao preferred calligraphy.
In his last life, he used to practice calligraphy when he had free time, but he only learned from manuals, not from a teacher.

In this life, he found that the more seriously he studied, the more he appreciated Chinese culture as wide-ranging and profound.
He even felt that no matter how much time he put into it, he was only scratching the surface.

His current calligraphy teacher, surnamed Tong, was a retired professor from a famous university.
There were only about ten students in his interest class.
Before students were allowed to enroll, they had to pass an assessment.

Shen Shao had a good foundation in calligraphy and was able to join the class without any issues.
Although Professor Tong was strict, he liked hard-working and serious students.
In his spare time, he gave Shen Shao additional guidance one-on-one.

After interacting with him several times, Shen Shao learned that Professor Tong was a retired professor of Chinese studies.
Because he felt a little bored at home and was still in good health, he’d signed up to teach his nephew’s calligraphy interest class.

“To practice calligraphy well, hard work isn’t enough.
You also need vitality, energy, and soul.” After looking through Shen Shao’s calligraphy homework, Professor Tong gave a reluctant nod.
“As the saying goes, written characters are like people.
That doesn’t mean the shape reflects the personality of the person who wrote it.
Rather, it means you can see the state of mind they were in from their brushwork.
Your characters have some shape, but they don’t have enough soul.
They’re a little bit rote.”

Shen Shao nodded.
He knew this was a habit he developed from copying calligraphy in his last life.
His calligraphy was lacking some personal style.
“Thank you, teacher.
I’ll pay more attention in the future.”

“En.” Professor Tong was satisfied with Shen Shao’s serious attitude.
His face relaxed a little.
“You’re taking your final exams in a few days, so you might not be able to come here to practice calligraphy for a while.
But that doesn’t mean you can slack off from practice.
As the saying goes, three days without practice makes the hand rusty.
Calligraphy is a matter of perseverance.
I don’t want you to study calligraphy because you want to show off.”

Shen Shao nodded again.
He knew Professor Tong was saying this for his own good.
After listening to the man’s instructions, he thanked him seriously.
“Thank you, Teacher.
I’ll remember.
When the joint final exams are over, would it be possible to learn more about Chinese studies from you?”

Professor Tong was about to agree when he remembered that Shen Shao was an external student.
He frowned.
“It’s winter break.
You’re not going home to celebrate the New Year?”

Smiling, Shen Shao shook his head.
“There isn’t anyone at home, so it doesn’t matter where I spend the New Year.
I’d prefer to stay here and learn more from Teacher, but I don’t want to disturb your rest.”

“If you want to learn, as your teacher I’m more than happy.” Because Shen Shao’s expression was so ordinary, Professor Tong assumed Shen Shao’s parents were migrant workers or doing business abroad and didn’t have time to go home.
He didn’t think anything else.
He patted Shen Shao’s shoulder and said with satisfaction, “If you have questions, feel free to come and ask me.”

“Thank you.” Shen Shao smiled and made plans for the New Year.

As the joint final exams approached, the other students in class reduced their extracurricular activities too.
Everyone spent more time studying, striving for a good score.

By now Shen Shao’s study notes had become a hot commodity in class.
A lot of students asked to borrow them to make copies.
It wasn’t that they didn’t study hard on their own, but they wanted to learn Shen Shao’s problem-solving techniques to improve their own efficiency.

When the students from other classes heard about it, they envied the students in Class 15 a little.
After all, not every student who was ranked first in their class was as generous as Shen Shao and willing to lend their notes.

“Shao Ge, why can’t I figure this out?” A boy came up to Shen Shao and pointed to a complex geometry question.
“Help me figure out what I’m doing wrong?”

After studying it for a moment, Shen Shao drew two lines in pencil on the geometry diagram.
“Calculate the area of the shaded part first.
It’s easy after that.”

“That really makes it a lot easier.
Thanks, man.” The boy redid the math, thought about it a little more, and patted Shen Shao on the back.
“Shao Ge, your brain is so handy.”

Shen Shao patted him on the shoulder.
“There’s no need for thanks between us.
But is IQ the kind of thing you can just envy?”

“Get a little praise and you’re so proud!” The boy grinned, kicked Shen Shao’s chair, and scampered away like a monkey.

Nearby, Liang Cheng watched Shen Shao banter with the other boy and gave a somewhat melancholy sigh.
Shao Ge was the highest-ranked student in class.
Why didn’t he have any of the cold and lofty temperament that traditionally belonged to first place students?

Liang Cheng didn’t know this was Shen Shao’s way of integrating into the class.
It seemed his approach was going well.
Anyway, he had a good relationship with the other boys in class.

The final exams quickly approached.
After passing the trial by fire, the students of Class 15 finally arrived at their long-awaited winter vacation.

When Zhou ZeYu saw the excitement on his classmates’ faces, his feelings were a little mixed.

Shen Shao was the first student he met in this class, and after hanging out with him for several months, Zhou ZeYu had learned that Shen Shao lost his parents a long time ago.
For other students, winter vacation meant reuniting with their extended family members, but for Shen Shao, it only meant staying alone in an empty house.
Zhou ZeYu was worried Shen Shao would have to welcome the new millennium alone this year.
It wasn’t a happy thing to look forward to.

On the day before the holiday began, Zhou ZeYu deliberately avoided the other students in the class, pulled Shen Shao to a corner, and said with some hesitation, “Shen Shao, my parents decided to move to Furong City.
If you’re not going back to Peng County for winter break, why not come to my house for the New Year?”

When Shen Shao heard this, he smiled with gratitude.
He knew Zhou ZeYu was worried about him, but Spring Festival was a time for families to be together.
How could he, an outsider, go to someone else’s house and spoil the atmosphere? Zhou ZeYu repeated the invitation several times, but Shen Shao refused his kindness.

When Zhou ZeYu saw that Shan Shao was determined, he knew he couldn’t drag the person to his home.
He emphasized that his house was close to where Shen Shao lived, and to make sure to tell Zhou ZeYu if something happened.
Then, when Shen Shao wasn’t looking, he went over to Liang Cheng and asked him and his family to keep an eye on Shen Shao.
After all, Liang Cheng and Shen Shao lived in the same community, right?

Liang Cheng certainly wasn’t going to refuse.
Shen Shao was his most admired idol.
If his idol was going to spend Spring Festival alone, he naturally felt a little worried.

Shen Shao had no idea he’d become a precious object to be protected in the minds of his two friends.
This winter vacation was of great significance to him, because it was when Professor Tong officially accepted him as a disciple.

This wasn’t the superficial relationship between teacher and student in the specialty class, but a formal disciple who officially offered tea to his master.
It was only after becoming Professor Tong’s personal disciple that Shen Shao learned how profound Professor Tong’s knowledge was.
He finally learned why others called him a master of traditional Chinese studies.


Tong ZhengHua only found out Shen Shao was an orphan with no parents after he decided to accept him as a disciple.
When he thought about Shen Shao’s usual behavior, he didn’t act at all like a child on his own.
Professor Tong thought his attitude towards life was rare and valuable.
Sometimes it didn’t matter how talented a person was.
If they didn’t have the right mindset, they’d never achieve great things.

Shen Shao was different.
He had character as well as talent.
Moreover, he was young and had so much determination.
Clearly, this was a rare good seedling, and Professor Tong didn’t want to miss out.

Nowadays, due to the collision of Western ideas, some young people blindly pursued Western culture and ignored their own traditions, but that wasn’t true only of young people.
There were also some mature people in China who were proud of pursuing Western culture.
They gradually forgot that China itself had many traditional cultural treasures.

As a professor of Chinese studies, Professor Tong felt sad and helpless when he observed the current trends.
Therefore, when he saw that Shen Shao was interested in traditional knowledge and had a good memory and understanding, how could he not cherish his talent and accept him as his personal disciple?

Of course, such a major decision had to be discussed with Shen Shao’s parents, so Tong ZhengHua told Shen Shao he wanted to meet them.
That was when he learned about Shen Shao’s life history, directly from Shen Shao.

After Shen Shao left his home, Tong ZhengHua sipped his tea.
“That child doesn’t have it easy,” he lamented to his wife, who was sitting beside him watching a TV drama.
“Good-natured and so down-to-earth.
It’s hard to find such a disciple.”

His wife of many years, Ms.
Ning, didn’t turn her head.
“He’s a lot more dependable than you were at that age.” She and Tong ZhengHua were childhood sweethearts.
In his younger days, Tong ZhengHua went through a period when he was wild and arrogant.
When his wife thought about it now, he was just a young rascal.

Tong ZhengHua: …

OK, let’s just ignore this black history.
Weren’t they talking about his disciple? How did he get dragged into it?

Women really were such strange creatures, but there was nothing he could do about it.


Tong ZhengHua let out a deep sigh.


TL Notes:

vitality, energy, and soul – 精气神 – jīng qì shén, the three energies of Chinese medicine

Between us there’s no need for thanks – from 咱俩谁跟谁啊 – Refer to Ch 9 for the note on 谁跟谁啊 (“Who is with whom ah”)

is (IQ the kind of thing) you can just envy – 是羡慕不来的 – Even if you envy what someone else has, you can’t have it yourself (Baidu)

Get a little praise and you’re so proud – 给点阳光就灿烂,美得你! – Give you a little sunshine and you’re so brilliant – Praise someone a little and they get arrogant.
It can also be used as a compliment for people who are content with a little praise or do well when given resources/sunlight (Baidu)

young rascal – 青头愣子 – black-haired (青头) meaning young


Transliterated names, places, and titles—new in this chapter:

(surname) Tong – 佟

Professor Tong – 佟教授 – Tóng jiàoshòu

Tong ZhengHua – 佟正华

Ning – 宁老师 – Níng lǎoshī

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