Would You Mind If I Play? - Chapter 48 - A Brand New Zhang Jun[Updated at: 2021-01-11 03:57:29]
Chapter 48: A Brand New Zhang Jun
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
It was a fine Sunday. Many Luoyang citizens, not willing to let the day go to waste crowded the streets― especially the couples. They were either holding each other intimately or ignoring the oncoming stares as they bit into their partner’s ear.
A long time ago, a person once said that love belonged to the night and lovers, like vampires, were afraid of light. But now, it was an entirely different picture―those same lovers were publicly displaying affection as far as the eyes could see in broad daylight.
As people quietly admired the scenes and the infinite power of love, they forgot about the torturous sun, hurtful ultraviolet rays, vehicle emissions, noisy street and so forth. It was a private but immersive world.
However, there were exceptions.
“I really don’t understand why girls love to go out!” Zhang Jun wept. He had been dragged away from his soft bed by Su Fei, his plans to sleep until lunch hour foiled. “Hey! There are scars and bruises all over my feet. Won’t walking around like this aggravate it?”
“Hehe!” Su Fei smiled in response. “Those are just scratches, so stop being dramatic!”
Zhang Jun sighed. Her smile was well-known in the team; it was charmingly pure on occasion and chillingly devilish during others. He was really envying his teammates right now. They may not have the company of a beautiful girl, but at least they would enjoy long, peaceful naps.
Looking at Su Fei, who was leaping around and humming a tune, Zhang Jun was curious. “Why are you so happy today?”
Su Fei replied while she played hopscotch on the tiles of the street. “Because I found a brand new Zhang Jun!”
Zhang Jun froze. “A brand new me?”
“Yeah!” Not turning behind, Su Fei continued her leaping motion. “It’s been a year since our first high school year, but I’ve just discovered a whole new you… How do I say this… Before, you would surprise people on occasion, but also appear useless and annoying.”
She suddenly stopped and smiled at her the still-stunned neighbor. “But, I saw an entirely different you yesterday!”
“…Why?” Zhang Jun asked, finally reacting after some time and staring at her closely.
“Because you chose to take responsibility all by yourself!”
Su Fei turned her attention back to the tiles and focused on her prancing.
Amid the busy crowds under the brilliant sun, there Su Fei was in front of him; leaping around, her hair glinted a beautiful gold as it rose and fell; that beautiful back and unforgettable, tuning smile.
Zhang Jun thought that he was in dreamland again as everything else apart from Su Fei blurred. However, before he could bask more in the sensation, a voice rang, breaking the mood.
“Haha! Beauty and the beast!”
He sighed inwardly.
“Still not changing your bad habits even after becoming a national champion, Zhang Yang?” It was Zhang Lintao this time.
“Hmph! Would I still be Zhang Yang if I changed?”
Since they were both here, that meant…
And there Li Yongle was, smiling but not saying anything.
“You three are always together.”
“Heh, that’s for sure. We’re the three merry bachelors.” Li Yongle smiled.
Zhang Jun and Su Fei dared not say a thing out of a sudden sneaky pang of guilt.
“Although we’re single now, you won’t stop our right to pursue beauty!” Zhang Yang declared righteously. “We are the legendary ‘wife-hunting trio’!”
Li Yongle quickly waved it off and retreated, creating a line between him and his old friend. “I never said that!”
“I don’t know him!” Zhang Lintao added, ignoring Zhang Yang’s death glare.
After the jokes were over, Li Yongle went straight to the point. “I heard about your game yesterday.”
“From a friend.” Li Yongle recalled the night before when he met Ah Yuan, who patted him on the back after summarizing the match for him.
The hoodlum said, “Flame Kid, I’ve never doubted your eyes. Even during your day of street fighting, you always picked the best opponent, and it’s the same for you now in soccer.”
Knowing that Ah Yuan was never one to be praiseful towards people he was not acquainted with, Yongle smiled.
“So? What do you think? It’s towards the end of both games that we’ve barely managed to―”
“I’m looking forward to our final now!” Li Yongle stopped him with a smile, and Zhang Jun was left speechless.
Typically, such a scene or atmosphere was fitting for the meeting between two frenemies. They would share meaningful smiles, meaningful conversation filled with arbitrary lines that would make the blood boil.
However, there was never a lack of mood-killing individuals on this planet.
“Aren’t those the Shu Guang cowards?” A stomach-churning voice immediately tarnished the chivalrous atmosphere.
Quite the number of acquaintances they were bumping into today! Zhang Jun did not need to turn to see who it was; both him and Su Fei did not reply to the obvious jab either, merely responding with a dirty look.
Still, Ma Ni was never a keen observer of human facial expressions. “Really! You guys actually made it to the final 16; that’s some bullsh*t luck right there. Kai Ta and Yang Guang are quite the thrash teams…”
Catching the smaller boy unaware, Zhang Jun grabbed his collar in a single move and spoke in his face chillingly, “Keep barking, while you still can! Our match will come after the next round, I hope you guys don’t get knocked out first! I won’t give you a chance to cry when the time comes!”
Releasing his grip after that, Zhang Jun left without so much as a glimpse behind. Su Fei glared at Ma Ni once before following in Zhang Jun’s wake.
Li Yongle could not tell what happened between them merely from the scene earlier. Still, the other guy did drop himself before scoring in their friendly match―twice. Therefore, Li Yongle did not have a good feeling about the guy either and started turning to leave.
“If it isn’t Li Yongle? Hehe, I’m the striker from Yingcai High, Ma Ni!” Ma Ni extended his hand to Yongle.
But Yongle looked everywhere else, and only looked down at the offered hand after checking out literally everywhere else. “Oh, it’s you!” he cried in surprise. “And here I was wondering who it was! No wonder I didn’t see anyone after looking everywhere!”
Everyone was putting in extra effort during Monday’s training. There were a few reasons for this.
The grueling battles against Kai Ta and Yang Guang were over, and after the average Guan Lin High School in their next game, they would finally play against Yingcai. Most of them were raring to teach that “B*tch-reared Ant”―the new nickname An Ke awarded Ma Ni.
Naturally, Liang Ke was unaware of the feud; he looked well and truly happy at the sight of his confident as well as motivated players.
According to the match arrangements, Shu Guang would only meet Zhongyuan in the finals; Yingcai awaited them in the final eight round. There was also a high chance they would encounter Luoyang’s “Uncrowned Kings”―Dingding High School in the final four.
Yingcai were very much the dark horses of the year, scoring four in each of their two games and conceding none! The only other team who had similar results was Zhongyuan; even the likes of Dingding and Shu Guang had conceded a goal each.
That was how these numbers became victims of the analysts, prompting headlines such as “How Did Ying Cai High, Who Have Been Anonymous for So Long Rise to the Top in Such a Short time?”, ‘Is This the Era of Dark Horses?” and “Shu Guang Last Year, Yingcai This Year”.
Analysis notwithstanding, anyone would understand the reason behind Yingcai’s rise when they saw their match. Their goalkeeper, the 197-cm Sima Hongxin had a pair of huge hands, which could shield a gale―his hands allowed nothing to escape. They also had the diminutive striker, Ma Ni who was active up front; he had scored all eight of his team’s goals and held the position of top scorer for the time being.
With the addition of the pair this year, Yingcai was essentially carried to the top, prompting an unprecedented ascension in their ability. However, because the duo was so outstanding, the only trust they had was reserved for themselves. Their teammates were surplus in their eyes―the others were only there to make up the numbers as per regulation.
In both their games, Shima Hongxin stood guard alone while Ma Ni made attacks all on his own; all the others had to do was pass them the ball and look on. Nevertheless, they still managed to secure their record of eight goals for and 0 goals against on their way to the final sixteen―proving just how impressive they were.
On the other hand, Dingding were an established giant in Luoyang. They never lacked talent, albeit never getting the chance to show off because of Zhongyuan’s very presence. Thus, they could not reach the nationals proper. It was the source of their melancholy, one of the the Zhuge Liang–Zhou Yu fashion.
The year before, they welcomed the greatest soccer talent in their history―Fan Cunjie, whose dribbling and passes were artistic as well as a joy to watch.
His weakness however, lay in his constant pursuit of perfection―which allowed Zhao Defeng to dominate against him. Furthermore, the other team members were not able to push themselves any further; it was a helpless thing for any team in a sport where winners were kings.
Hence, acknowledging that he could not change a thing, Fan Cunjie insisted on his own beautiful brand of playing.
Even with the endless praise critics showered on the star, such as “How good is Fan’s technique”, “The elegance in Fan Cunjie’s soccer style”, “Watching Fan Cunjie play is an enjoyment” and “He’s the indisputable king of techniques in the high school scene”, Dingding could only watch their arch-rival Zhongyuan enjoy the limelight in the nationals every year, moan. It was as the old saying, “O God, since thou made Zhou Yu, why did thou also create Zhuge Liang?”
That being said, Shu Guang’s own meteoric rise did not grant them the right to say things like, “Dingding High School? The ‘Uncrowned King’ that never actually entered the Nationals?”.
The same applied to any other team in Luoyang for that matter; those who underestimated Dingding always paid for it dearly. Even if they did not have such a leader like Fan Cunjie, the depth of their squad was always near the top of Luoyang―even Zhongyuan paled a little in comparison to their forward and defensive lineups.
Furthermore, the team always played calmly and offered little openings, making them a very difficult opponent save for the steadier Zhongyuan. In Liang Ke’s mind, they were the harder test before their rematch against Zhongyuan. Whether his boys could beat such an established squad would depend on how much they had grown.
Their own feet decided their future.
Zhang Jun threw aside the current issue of High School Soccer. He did not want to read it as soon as he saw the “Ant” on the cover.
There was no doubt that the contents would be introducing “The Biggest Dark Horse of the Year”. It had been a trend, which started since the last few issues, complete with long passages that talked endlessly about the team and its players―especially that gigantic keeper and that Ant.
The sight of the latter’s disgusting smile made Zhang Jun feel like the Ant was getting one over him without doing anything.
Out of the blue, he remembered the player wearing Yang Guang’s No. 10 jersey, whose name he never did learn in the end. While his dirty tricks were disgusting, he did put up quite the performance towards the end―and Zhang Jun knew from that alone, he was not a bad person.
At the very least, he truly loved soccer.
What could he be up to now?
Yang Guang High School.
“Wow! Brother Yong is actually studying!”
There was a chorus of gasps.
Zhang Jun would go on to miss the Shu Guang–Yang Guang match report. It read:
“…Shu Guang defeated Yang Guang comprehensively with a 3: 0 score line. The match star was once again Shu Guang’s No. 11, Zhang Jun. After coming back to life in the last game, he scored two goals while he assisted in one to eliminate Kai Ta.
“And although the opposition proved sly and full of dirty tricks in the next round, he was there again to break the stalemate. When his teammates were beginning to feel frustration and weakness against Yang Guang’s game of fouls, he came to the fore again with two goals and an assist to help them progress.
“After missing out due to an injury and watching as his team lost to Zhongyuan Technical, as well losing himself during the Kai Ta match, he has gradually matured―it was observable in each game he played.
“This Zhang Jun would prove to be unstoppable…”
The essay was paired with a photograph that captured Zhang Jun’s second goal from an angle behind the Yang Guang post. It perfectly captured the determined expression and stunning will he had on his face, evidence for readers that validated every word of the article.
Meanwhile, in a luxurious mansion, someone punched the redwood desk in front of him viciously.
“Shu Guang thrash! Underestimating me! I’ll have them pay for their faux pas!”