Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 3[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:15]
Chapter 3: The Gathering
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
When evening came, the school grounds turned very quiet. Since Shu Guang High was not a boarding school, most of the students and teachers had gone home by then. The remaining ones were either students staying for their after school activities or staff members still working behind the scenes. The lack of human activity made the school feel more like a park instead of an actual school. It was so peaceful and serene that even the buildings seemed to be enjoying themselves, taking a break from all the buzz and clamor of the day.
Suddenly, a pained cry echoed through the air and a student came limping out from the male washroom near the school garden. He appeared to have been roughed up and was slightly injured. However, that did not stop him from desperately trying to get away from the toilet as quickly as possible. As soon as the boy limped to his escape, another student came out from the booth. His uniform was undone, revealing a t-shirt with odd, flashy designs. He also had a lit cigarette in his mouth.
“This place really is more trees than school. Even the air in the toilet smells fresh!” the student said as he stretched himself.
But before he could finish his stretch, a few strong male teachers leaped out from the bushes nearby and charged at him like a rugby team! The student was taken by surprise, but everything happened so fast that before he could even react to the ambush, he was already tackled and pinned down to the ground.
“You punk! Just a few days into the new school year and you’re already fighting!”
“And you’re smoking!”
“Hold him down tighter! Don’t let him break loose!”
Later, in the office of Shu Guang High’s Student Affairs Department.
“Ren Yu De!”
The angry shout came from a man in his forties, who was glaring angrily at the student. The veins on his neck and face were popping up, making him look like he was about to explode. Wen Jiu Chen was the Department Head of Shu Guang High’s Student Affairs Department, and it was his job to deal with problematic students like this one. It took a handful of teachers to drag Ren Yu De into his office for fighting and smoking on school grounds.
“What have you got to say for yourself? Just how many days has it been since the start of the new school year, huh? And you’re already fighting and smoking in school! Your homeroom teacher tells me that you don’t even pay attention in class. You’re rude to all of your teachers, and look at you! You don’t even dress yourself properly for school. Tell me, just which part of you looks like a student?” Wen Jiu Chen said angrily. “If it wasn’t because your dad and I go way back, these crimes alone are enough to warrant your expulsion many times over! Are you even listening to me?!”
Ren Yu De just let out a light, “Mmhmm” as if he was not taking things seriously at all. That made Wen Jiu Chen’s face turn crimson with anger.
Oh, why do I even bother?
He could have just made this easy for himself by writing up a report and expelling this delinquent! But the educator in him kept telling him that the boy was not always like this. He was just in desperate need of a guiding hand to point him in the right direction. Thinking about how this kid was his old friend’s son also made him feel much more generous into giving the boy a second chance.
“Listen, if a student fails more than three subjects in his finals, the school requires them to be held back for another year. Now, this is the law and there’s nothing we can do about it. However, in the pursuit of a more liberal education system, we have decided to make one exception to this rule: If a student demonstrates outstanding performance in any club activity, then he will not be subjected to repeating his school year. And if a student can achieve a top four rank in any activity that’s on a state or national level, bonus points will even be awarded for his final exam. So there! Don’t say that I didn’t give you any chances! It’s now up to you what you want to do about it!”
A gleam of hope flashed across Ren Yu De’s eyes, telling Wen Jiu Chen that he was not about to give up on his future just yet. The boy secretly thanked his father’s friend for not giving up on him and giving him a chance. Seeing that the boy understood him, Wen Jiu Cheng dismissed him from his office, and as Ren Yu De walked away, he looked at him from his office window, wondering if he had made the right decision.
“Do you think it’s possible?”
“Sure, of course. Who would doubt you, the Head of the Student Affairs Department?” Liang Ke replied as though he had been standing behind him all along.
“I’m not talking about him, I’m talking about the soccer team. Do you think they can make it to the final four?”
Liang Ke was slightly taken aback by his superior’s question, but quickly responded, “That won’t be a problem!”
“Hmm… Then, I’ll give you the benefit of doubt.”
“…Have a little more faith will you?”
Yang Pan had already joined the school team, and he would not be in the last two periods of class every day. He was training with the other team members on the school field at this point. The classroom also got noisier during this time as their homeroom teacher, Liang Ke, who was also the school’s soccer coach would be out of the class, supervising the team’s training instead of the student’s revision.
Zhang Jun was doing his revision when suddenly, a note was slipped onto his desk. It was a note from Liu Qi.
“Stop pretending to be a good student! Come over and hang out for a bit. I’m lonely,” the note said.
What the hell? Why should I go over there? Can’t you come over here instead? And what’s with the note? Why can’t you just get your lazy a** over here and hang out with me instead?
But eventually, he decided to humor his friend and replied with a note as well.
“No, I’m busy studying!”
A moment later, another note found its way to his desk. “Wanna go watch the soccer team practice? Yang Pan said he’s gonna reveal his secret weapon during training today.”
Zhang Jun of course, knew what his best friend’s “secret weapon” was. “I’ve seen it a thousand times! Now, stop bugging me unless you’re gonna help me with Math!”
And after that, another note came back with a reply on it, “Fine! Go do your Math. And btw, f*ck you!”
Zhang Jun crumpled the note, threw it back at his friend and continued with his Math.
Meanwhile, on the field.
Yang Pan’s kick left everyone speechless. Even the goalkeeper just stood where he was while he stared at the goal post. It was still vibrating from the shot.
“A long range kick from 30 m away… Such kicking power… Is he even a freshman?” Liang Ke asked himself.
Everybody on the field was quiet for a good while.
Watching Yang Pan, a bold plan started taking shape in Liang Ke’s mind.
The next day, Liang Ke told them that class was canceled and that he needed them to do him a favor. So there Zhang Jun was, on the field, wondering why all his female classmates were screaming one person’s name, “Yang Pan! Yang Pan!” He had absolutely no idea what this was all about. But since the other boys were all not included in this task, he went and found himself a soccer ball and played with it on his own.
“Zhang Jun! Look at my spinning shot!” Liu Qi shouted as he quickly made a backspin jump shot. The ball hit the hoop and bounced off the basket. “Sh*t! This hoop’s crooked!”
Zhang Jun paid him no heed. He simply kicked his ball, sending it high up into the air and perfectly into the basket without even hitting the rims. A perfect shot!
Liu Qi was dumbfounded. “No way! For real?”
“I was lucky.”
“Zhang Jun, someone’s looking for you!” A classmate called out from the classroom’s entrance. He seemed very excited for some reason. Zhang Jun went out to find Su Fei waiting for him. She looked radiant in her light colored uniform, like a blooming lotus out of the sea of students.
Su Fei noticed him and smiled before handing him a letter.
“I’m here on behalf of the school team,” she said.
Zhang Jun hesitated before taking the letter.
“They… Ah, excuse me. We!” Su Fei covered her mouth in embarrassment for making that mistake, and the cuteness of her actions made Zhang Jun smile.
“We want you to join the soccer team. We really need you!” Her expression when she said it made Zhang Jun wonder just how many times she had practiced her lines.
“There’s practice this evening. Please, come and join us,” she continued while looking at him.
“I’ll take your silence as a yes! See you later during practice!”
She turned around, and was about to leave after completing her task when Zhang Jun called out to her, stopping her in her tracks.
“Can I ask you a question?”
Su Fei nodded.
“The school team is really terrible, so why did you sign up to become the manager? What are you getting out of this?”
Su Fei was surprised by his question, but she still smiled back.
“Nothing really, I just love soccer!”
In the following gym class, Liang Ke split the boys into two teams for a soccer match. Zhang Jun and Yang Pan were assigned to different teams, and their performance greatly contrasted each other’s. Yang Pan was full of energy. With his skills and speed, he was constantly attacking the other team’s goalpost. Zhang Jun on the other hand, seemed to have a lot on his mind. His movements were sluggish and he kept messing up, especially during crucial moments of the game.
Since Yang Pan was now an important member on the school team, his classmates kept passing the ball over to him. The “King of Assists” of the National Middle School Soccer Championship had become their new “Scoring General”. On the other side of the field, Zhang Jun, who kept messing up his plays did not look too good. His teammates eventually decided that he was all bark and no bite. They began to avoid passing the ball to him. During the start of the game, Zhang Jun played offense and he was always in the opponent’s half of the field. But as the match progressed, he was gradually moved backwards until he eventually ended up in the backline. The “Sharp Shooter” of the National Middle School Soccer Championship was now just a defender.
Even though it was just a practice game, many of the members on Zhang Jun’s team were clearly not happy about losing this much. When Yang Pan scored another goal and passed by Zhang Jun, the whole team started blaming him for not defending well.
When it came to his team’s turn to attack, they finally got the ball all the way into the penalty area. But then, the ball got intercepted and deflected by a defender. Zhang Jun then came sprinting out of nowhere, shouting, “Mine!” as he intercepted the ball and aimed for the goal. His sudden change of confidence stunned everyone, especially Yang Pan who had not seen his best friend like that for a very long time.
Zhang Jun took aim and kicked!
The goalkeeper was about to dive in the direction where the ball was supposed to go. But then, he realized… there was no ball coming!
Zhang Jun missed the kick!
Yang Pan was the first to react. He quickly intercepted the ball and carried it halfway through the field, kicking it forward. Zhang Jun’s team watched helplessly as Yang Pan scored another goal. They were not sure if they should laugh or cry at this point.
Zhang Jun’s face turned red due to embarrassment as he awkwardly stood there in the middle of the field. He kept hearing Su Fei’s voice saying, “I just love soccer!” in his head. Almost 10 years of playing the game, and his love for the game seemed less than hers. He felt so ashamed for claiming that he loved soccer! The more he thought about it, the more frustrated he became, and he kicked the ground hard in anger.
Zhang Jun clutched his foot and fell, sitting on the ground. In anger, he looked at the spot where he had kicked and saw a brick popping out from the ground.
Meanwhile, in Class 5 of the first year students…
“An Ke, I’m going to hand in the student activity list after class. Have you decided on what club you’re joining yet?” the class president asked a tall, male student sitting next to the windows.
“Pres, I’ve already told you, I’m not joining any clubs!” An Ke was annoyed. “Why do you keep asking me? I’m not the only student who’s not joining any clubs in our class!”
“Well, I just think that with your body and height, it’s a shame that you’re not on the basketball or soccer team.”
“Thanks, but no thanks!”
“Okay. The soccer team’s practicing this afternoon on the field. You going?”
“That’s… Why are you even telling me this?”
Liang Ke had once again asked the female students from his class to go cheer for the boys during their practice in the afternoon. So, by the time soccer practice began, their cheers could already be heard from afar.
An Ke was making his way towards the field, continuously telling himself, “I’m here for the girls! Not the school team! Just the girls!” And when he made it to the crowd, he could already see everything in front clearly because of his 188-cm height.
The school team was having a drill. They had to try to score a goal using any means necessary (except anything against the rules).
“Yang Pan!” Liang Ke shouted. “You’re up!”
Yang Pan raised his hand in response to the coach and made his way to the ball. As he did that, the girls all started to scream, “Yang Pan! Yang Pan!”
An Ke felt his pride as a man being shattered. He had always considered himself a ladies’ man and this was rather damaging to his pride.
“What’s so great about him?” he said softly. His voice was soft, but still loud enough for the screaming girls to hear. They all turned around and faced him angrily.
“What’s so great about you! You look stupid!”
“That’s right, you pointed mouth chimpanzee! You look like a piece of sh*t!”
“Why don’t you look at your own reflection in your own piss!”
Poor An Ke. The girls did not stop throwing insults at him. Their constant barrage of mean words was enough to make a healthy bull foam in the mouth and die, or even make the goddess, Guan Yin want to murder them. Even the venerable Tang San Zhang from Journey to the West would have ended up kneeling in front of these girls and saying, “My admiration for you is like that of a river: It is unstoppable and never ending; And not just any river, it is as powerful as the Yellow River! So please, please, please, please, please, I beg you all, please say no more!!!”
An Ke had never been insulted this much by any girl before, let alone a whole group. He was usually the kind to smile and act in a gentlemanly manner when dealing with the ladies. But right now, he was boiling with so much anger, he was unable to maintain his usual charm. He made his way through the mob of girls onto the field and shouted, “Yang Pan!”
The whole field became silent.
Yang Pan turned around.
An Ke pointed his right finger at Yang Pan and shouted, “I challenge you to a one-on-one! You attack, I’ll defend! The loser has to listen to the winner’s request! How about that? Are you man enough to accept my challenge?”
The crowd turned to look at Yang Pan.
Yang Pan simply smiled and said, “Sounds fun!”
His response drove the girls crazy again and they all screamed excitedly.
An Ke quickly got changed. He put on a pair of gloves and got in front of the goal.
“You set the challenge, I set the rules. I’ll keep attacking and you’ll keep defending until either you save the ball by hugging it or I score. Any questions?” Yang Pan said.
Amid the girls’ cries of “Hit him in the face!” and “Show him how useless he is!”, An Ke who was still fuming did not think much about Yang Pan’s conditions. “Fine, whatever! Enough chat! Come on!”
The two boys stared at each other.
Despite being frustrated and annoyed, the moment An Ke got into position in front of the goal, he still showed the qualities of an excellent goalkeeper. He was extremely alert, yet very calm. He observed Yang Pan’s every move with a keen eye, ready to react to any of his attacks.
But Yang Pan did not shoot. Instead, he carried the ball further until he was about 30 m away from the goalpost. An Ke had no idea why he was doing that, but the crowd in the stand knew that Yang Pan was going for his signature long-ranged kick.
Yang Pan distanced himself from the ball before sprinting towards it and kicking it with all his might. The ball shot through the air like a cannonball!
An Ke saw the ball being kicked into the air and when the small black dot rapidly grew bigger, he became very shocked. He instinctively put both his hands out to block it.
Everybody heard the loud sound of An Ke blocking the ball, but An Ke flew into the goal himself. Zhang Jun, who was watching from afar was dumbstruck! This was his first time witnessing Yang Pan’s secret weapon being blocked!
An Ke was still lying inside the goal and the ball he blocked had been deflected back to the field. Yang Pan sprinted towards the spot where the ball landed and kicked the ball hard, sending it towards the goal again. An Ke could only watch as the ball hit the netting. There was nothing he could do about it.
Even though this was his second time seeing Yang Pan’s kick, An Ke could still feel the immense pressure from trying to defend against it. An Ke was now very sure that Yang Pan was extremely gifted, and he would no doubt become the star of Shu Guang High’s soccer team!
Yang Pan then made his way to An Ke.
“I lost, so I’ll do whatever you ask me to,” An Ke said dejectedly.
“Great! Welcome to the soccer team!” Yang Pan extended his hand.
“Huh?” An Ke was confused.
“Well, you said that you’d do whatever I want. I want you to join the team. Everybody here can be a witness.” Yang Pan pointed to the crowd.
“…Why do I feel like I just got conned?” An Ke said as he looked at the crowd.
“You better not go back on your word!”
“That’s right! We’re watching you!” The crowd shouted.
“Who said I wasn’t gonna keep my word? Fine, I’ll join! What’s the big deal?” An Ke got up angrily. Yang Pan finally laughed. He was quite wary about An Ke going back on his promise. An ke kept rubbing his left hand, which was still in pain from making that block.
“Man, you must be joking! That kick was weak! Go train some more!”
“Come on, let’s go meet the rest of the team!” Yang Pan dragged An Ke over to the other team members. An Ke’s height caused quite a commotion among the team members. Many of them kept asking him silly questions about how he grew so tall and if he had played basketball before.
Liang Ke looked at them and thought to himself.
Now all that’s left is you, Zhang Jun!
He then turned to look in the boy’s direction, just to find that he had already left.
Zhang Jun took off his shoes. His foot was not as swollen as he thought it was after all. He then moved it around a little, and felt that it was not hurting him as much as it did before.
“Has it healed?” His father asked.
Zhang Jun’s dad, Zhang Wei Guo was a freelance photographer and he had not been getting proper work for a while now. Ever since Zhang Jun could remember, his dad had always been running around with a camera in his hand. Almost every photograph in their house was taken by his dad.
“Not so sure.” Zhang Jun did not want to stress about it too much.
“You’ve been kicking balls for almost 10 years. You should be able to tell the difference between a ball and a brick,” his dad joked as he applied some ointment on the injured foot. He was also the other soccer addict in the family as well as the one responsible for Zhang Jun’s soccer training.
“Zhang Jun, do you still want to play soccer?” his dad suddenly asked him in a serious tone.
“I do! If I wasn’t playing, I wouldn’t have injured myself like that,” Zhang Jun replied with a smile.
“I mean, seriously.”
Zhang Jun became quiet. For the past few weeks, he had been quiet when it came to soccer.
“Do you love playing soccer?” his dad asked again.
Zhang Jun nodded.
“Son, you’ve never given your mom or me much to worry about ever since you were young. But, you tend to care too much about what people think.”
“I don’t! I—”
“I’m not finished! I’m your dad! How would I not know my own son?” his father continued. “You keep caring too much about what other people think and you’re just going to end up hurting yourself. So, go do what you want to do!” He patted Zhang Jun on the head and left.
Zhang Jun used his uninjured foot and played with his soccer ball. He missed the familiar feeling. He suddenly remembered a memory from a long time ago when he was just four years old. It was his first soccer practice. The coach was talking to a group of 10 or so kids who were about four to five years old, “If you want to play well, then you have to treat the ball like your girlfriend!” The kids were too young to know what a “girlfriend” was, but right now, Zhang Jun suddenly realized just how unfaithful he had been to his “girlfriend”.
“Team, we have a new member joining us today,” Liang Ke said. “Zhang Jun!”
“Hi!” Zhang Jun greeted everyone.
The team clapped and cheered. “Welcome! Welcome!”
And amid all of their greetings, Zhang Jun noticed Su Fei smiling broadly at him while standing next to Liang Ke.