Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 28[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:22]
Chapter 28: Spring―When the Others Fool Around
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
The team stopped their training at the sign of first snow in Luoyang. Everyone made their final dash to prepare for the semester’s finals and welcome a joyous spring.
“Really can’t get used to getting home so early.” Yang Pan looked up at the night sky, which was dyed crimson by the city lights.
“This is early? The sky’s already dark!” Zhang Jun retorted.
“The team isn’t training anymore and it’s just half past five. Zhang Jun, let’s play some PS?” his best friend suggested.
“No way! Our exams are coming,” Su Fei protested at once.
Zhang Jun glanced helplessly at Yang Pan.
“Fine! Fine! Study well and improve every day!” His best friend pouted.
“It’s going to snow again tomorrow.” Zhang Jun sighed at the sky.
“This year is weird though. It’s already January but there hasn’t been a single snowstorm, just a few snowflakes floating around,” Yang Pan countered. “The traffic police have it easy but it won’t feel like the snowy season.”
“I hope that it snows hard tomorrow.” Su Fei smiled. “That way we could make snowmen and have snowball fights! Heh!”
“And you just mentioned the finals.”
“Work hard, play hard! And it’s been a long time since my last snowball fight!”
“Ah! Double standards! Not fair!”
Heavy snowfall hit Luoyang the next day; and so, the traffic police met their formidable enemy. But in schools, the 10-minute break between classes became golden hour. There were raucous groups everywhere who had snow ball fights, built snowmen and played soccer on ice.
In this season of chilliness, schools were the warmest place.
The frantic as well as busy moods dissipated after three and a half days of examinations. In turn, a scene of “carnage” was left behind―a whole layer of paper slips scattered across the floor.
Different students had different attitudes towards the exams; there were the calm ones and the busy bees.
There were two types of people who would be relaxed; the first was usually studious. For them, exams were simply an extension of their routine tests as they progressed towards their final goal of the high school examination. In that journey, they would face any other exams on the way under their usual calm.
The other calm type were the failures. Their scores would not change regardless of what they scribbled on their test papers. Their parents and teachers were already jaded; the exam hall was just a place they walked past.
Nevertheless, a majority of students fell within the category of busy bees. Their results tended not to be bad, but they did have a softer state of mind and therefore, were easily flustered―it showed in their results. They would be even more flustered if their parents held high expectations.
It was not even the day of the holiday ceremony yet but the students were already yelling, “It’s the holidays!” and beginning to enjoy their pre-winter break. Not one of them thought of distasteful things like report cards and parents; springtime was painfully short – it had to be cherished in its entirety!
With Su Fei’s help, Zhang Jun managed to pass the finals. Yang Pan’s results had always been excellent and this time was no different. An Ke and Ren Yu De had their own special tricks up their sleeves. Nonetheless, they were also headed for a joyous New Year. Regardless of what else transpired in the semester, it ended on a good note.
Zhang Jun’s family were not locals, but after staying there for nine years, they were almost Luoyang natives. Still, they were spared the pain of visiting local friends and relatives along with the need to prepare more ang pow money.
Su Fei’s family went to her grandmother’s home in Chengdong while Yang Pan and his mother traveled to Xinxiang to meet his father.
Zhang Jun’s daily life became a mess. He would sleep late in the mornings, switch on the TV for China’s special traditional programs, indulge in gluttony and sleep in the dead of night. Many days passed in this manner until one day, he looked into the mirror and found the reflection of a life form that closely resembled a bovine. He knew then that it was time to stop pigging out and start exercising.
The weather was good with the sun shining warmly. Zhang Jun decided to play soccer, but even before he reached the pitch in his neighborhood, a loud noise could be heard―someone else was already playing.
“When did you get back?”
“This morning? Bastard! Not one call when you got back!” It was then Zhang Jun noticed that Yang Pan was playing unusually. There was not much noise and the ball did not deflect much off the wall.
“Been a long time since I’ve seen you play with this ball.”
“Since our second year in middle school.” Yang Pan drove it towards a wall 30 m away.
“So, you can’t let it go, even more than yours truly.”
“Rubbish! Go pick it up for me!” Yang Pan pointed a finger at him. “Look at you, eating so much that you’re like a pig’s relative now! What’s going to happen if you don’t exercise?”
“Mind your own business!” Zhang Jun said despite the fact that he was already running over to get the ball. He picked up the soccer ball, which was filled with grains of sand inside and flung it firmly at Yang Pan.
Yang Pan caught it with a volley and the ball hit the wall like a cannonball, ringing heavily.
“Such a nostalgic sound…”
“Auntie, Uncle, Happy Chinese New Year!”
“Su Fei’s such a good girl! Here you go! Here’s an ang pow for you!”
“Thanks, Auntie and Uncle!”
“How much did you get?” Zhang Jun asked his neighbor, whose face was of pure bliss.
Su Fei pulled out two fingers.
“Two hundred, each.” She smiled.
“And they gave just a hundred a piece to their own son….”
“Hey! The match is starting, are you guys watching?” Yang Pan increased the TV volume.
Su Fei sat beside Zhang Jun.
“Seriously! That kid’s doing well in the National Championships, but he still has the gall to call us and have us watch him. It’s a provocation ―plain as day!” Zhang Jun complained.
“It’s fine. We’re scouting out the enemy,” Su Fei offered. “We have to play them this year anyway.”
A commentator’s voice sounded from the TV, “China Central Television, Beijing TV Station. Good afternoon, dear viewers. We’re now at the Beijing Olympic Stadium, bringing to you live―the Grand Finals of the 14th National High School Soccer Championship.”
“The teams are rivals of yesteryear: Zhongyuan Technical High School, Luoyang’s giant and Guang Ming High School, hailing from the ‘Town of Soccer’, Dalian.”
“How grand!” Su Fei could not help but gasp at the sight of the crowded stands in the stadium and the overwhelming cries of the crowd.
“It is the National Championship after all…” Zhang Jun remembered the finals of the nationals back in middle school; the venue was a random middle school. The stands could only accommodate up to a thousand, there was no live broadcast and photographers as well as writers were pitifully scarce. “…There’s no point even in becoming that sort of champion…”
“Many believe this to be a grudge match for Zhongyuan, but the highlight of the match is Zhongyuan’s defensive midfielder, Li Yongle. He’s a first-year student who managed to seal a spot in a team as formidable as Zhongyuan; Sharp interceptions, inexhaustible stamina, powerful physicality, ferocious challenges, precise long balls and excellent goal-scoring.
“In this year’s championship, he has fully proven his depth. Remember his face, people. In a few years time, he’ll be an international star!” At those words, the screen showed a photo of Yongle’s face.
“Looking good!” Yang Pan remembered the middle school championships too. The difference was as stark as the difference between heaven and hell.
The match started at the referee’s whistle.
There was not much worth mentioning about the game itself; anyone could see that Zhongyuan held complete advantage with Zhao Defeng’s organization, Zhang Yuchao and Zhang Yulin’s dashes up the wings, their absolutely invincible defense as well as the extremely lively Li Yongle.
In contrast, Guang Ming, who had lost their key players could only defend. They had triumphed in the nationals last year.
“The nationals seems to have empowered everyone.” Yang Pan pointed out. Even Zhang Yang was not as brutish as before―he appeared to have matured. Zhang Lintao’s goalkeeping also became much steadier. As for Li Yongle…
He made a long shot 34 minutes into the first-half, blowing a hole in Guang Ming’s goal; it was that curved shot of his.
And so Zhongyuan was in the lead as they went into break.
“His first shot and… looks like he’s really mastering it.”
“Is An Ke watching the game? I wonder.”
An Ke was “on the hunt” in town at the time.
“Miss, would you like to have a cup of tea with me?”
“Hey missy, want to go ice-skating?”
In the fifty-fifth minute, Li Qiang took it home, 2: 0.
In the seventy-eighth minute, Zhao Defeng received an exquisite pass from Li Yongle and fired home from a tight corner, sealing the game with a score of 3: 0.
It was the final score as Zhongyuan completed their victory over Dalian’s Guang Ming High. At long last, the Luoyang team repaid them for their defeat last year and earned their seventh crown in the process.
As soon as the match was over, all the reporters who had been waiting pitch-side crowded into the field. Li Yongle, who scored one goal and assisted one naturally got most of the attention―he was completely surrounded by journalists.
“Tsk! There’s nothing to watch in the victory scenes of others!” Yang Pan threw the remote control at Zhang Jun and stood up to leave.
“Li Yongle, how do you feel after becoming a national champion straight off your first year?”
The reporter’s question was as plain as plain could be nonetheless, Li Yongle’s response lit it up.
“A little regretful,” he answered.
“I have a person I wish to defeat, but I couldn’t meet him this year.”
Yang Pan stopped at his tracks and turned to glance at Zhang Jun.
Suddenly pointing at the camera, Li Yongle proclaimed, “Just you wait! Next time, we’ll decide the victor between us once and for all on the field!”
Su Fei followed the direction of his finger and turned to glance at Zhang Jun.
“Hey! What are you guys looking at me for?”