Chapter 12: Promise
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
On Sunday, every magazine and newspaper worked overtime so that they could get more comprehensive, detailed and newsworthy stories over their competitors. Indeed, the battle for news began as soon as the last fixtures of the day ended. But with the entire industry collectively overlooking Shu Guang before, it was fated that they would not get a chew out of the biggest piece of news.
Chen Huafeng himself was also fairly exhausted after working through the night. It would not have been as tiring for him otherwise. However, he did spend almost two hours trying to convince the chief so that he would allocate a 10-page editorial for Shu Guang.
It was after a long while that High School Soccer eventually decided to publish Chen Huafeng’s considerable amount of data on the Shu Guang players as a single-issue special. Since this would be circulated while the other papers diligently echoed each other in their reports of the Shu Guang-Zhong Xin match, High School Soccer ‘s very own distinctive report would definitely stand out.
With the booming popularity of the high school soccer scene in recent years, numerous corresponding magazines and papers popped up like mushrooms after the rain—and High School Soccer really felt the severe pressure for survival. So, getting news that captured much attention became the very objective of the job.
Huafeng submitted his article and photographs of the Shu Guang team to his editor. Since all that remained was for his colleague to put on the finishing touches, he could head home for some nice slumber. Even if he did work through the night, he felt bliss whenever he recalled the expression on Sun Liang Liang’s face as he treated everyone to midnight snacks. “Underestimating my observational skills? Hmph! That’s what you get!”
The stands were silent. All eyes were on one man—Zhong Xin’s No. 10, Shui Huajun. He was going to make a free-kick—the last kick on regular time. It was a matter of life and death.
In one breath, Shui Huajun ran up and struck the ball!
It curled intensely over the wall towards the upper left corner!
“I will win this!”
“Are you kid―” A hand reached out; it was An Ke, who had came diving in.
Oh! He couldn’t get it! It was so close! The ball went in! The ball went in! The relentless Zhong Xin team had equalized the score! An Ke dropped to the ground. Looking at the celebrating Zhong Xin players and his languishing teammates, he felt as if the sky was collapsing on him!
“Argh!” An Ke yelped. He opened his eyes but found that he was on the floor of his room, his blanket over him―it was just a dream.
“Having such dreams even after winning the game! What misfortune!” The keeper grunted as he crawled up, the dream ridding him off any drowsiness. He looked at his watch; it was almost noon, but his house was quiet―his parents must have gone out for mahjong again. Seriously? And, it was still so early in the day!
Nonetheless, he could not let a beautiful Sunday go to waste by doing nothing. With a little grooming, he left the house and wandered aimlessly across the streets before a familiar figure came into view.
“Ren Yu De!” He called out excitedly when he finally met someone familiar.
The other turned to him. It was indeed Ren Yu De; he was in full casual mode, walking through the streets alone.
“Why are you here?”
“I’m bored! Couldn’t sleep,” Ren Yu De replied, looking around and surveying their surroundings.
“Me too. Alright, with the two of us partnering up, we may find two equally bored, hot babes around!”
Still, Ren Yu De trotted alongside his teammate, with the goalie chattering non-stop all the way. He was preaching about the “An Playbook.”
“I’m telling you, whenever you walk the streets you have to hit the commercial and boutique districts. Avoid marketplaces or little alleys. It’ll just be a waste of time. But be picky and don’t just enter any shop even if there are plenty of tails. Avoid trade centers and supermarkets; those places are too large and you’ll hurt your feet without seeing more than a handful of babes. Go to boutiques, souvenir shops and specialty outlets. Why? There are usually a lot of beauties working there. Even those who enter are usually hot. Of course, we’re not there to buy clothes; you have to pretend like you’re looking at something while peeking for any pretty faces. Don’t delay and make your escape to the next shop if there aren’t any! If you find a girl you fancy, stick close by, listen to what she’s saying and find an opportunity to chat with her. But don’t rush it or you’ll look like a stalker. That’s disgusting and all your hard work will go to waste. You must also be well-groomed beforehand. That’s what the saying, “clothes maketh man” means. When you dress up nice, the girls will look at you more and everything will be easier! Yup, your getup today is not bad, but it’ll be even better with shades. With that and the right pose, you’re a lady-killer!”
Just as he said that, An Ke glimpsed a girl up front―even from the back, she looked drop-dead gorgeous. But with the hot girl population in their immediate surroundings being too few, he did not want to risk it and told his partner for the day, “Target acquired! Direct front, 10 m!”
Ren Yu De, who felf uplifted by An Ke’s flattery earlier replied, “I’ll go!” With that, he took out a pair of sunglasses from his chest pocket and slowly made his approach.
The smell of perfume wafted from the girl as he made his approach, almost overwhelming him. He did his best to calm down and asked softly, “Lady, would you like to have some tea with…”
He promptly stopped, stunned by the face he saw as the girl turned towards him. “Ack, Su Fei?”
“Who are you?” Su Fei was not sure who the boy with shades was, so Ren Yu De quickly removed his glasses.
“Ren Yu De!” she exclaimed.
Shortly after, two guys came over to them. “What’s up?” Zhang Jun asked.
“Bumped into him.” Su Fei pointed at Ren Yu De.
“Oh, what a coincidence!” Yang Pan said with two ice cream cones in his hands.
“Another one’s here,” Zhang Jun added. He was holding an ice cream cone in one hand and holding out the other at Yang Pan.
“Give me some dough! For one more ice cream. Can’t you see that we have another person joining us?”
“Why my money? Don’t you have any?”
“All of them are huge banknotes. It’s not easy to get change!”
“No need to fight, the two of you.” Su Fei smiled. “Ren Yu De said he’s treating us to some tea!”
“Really?” The pair glanced at her.
“He did say it, I heard it. There’s no mistake!”
“Fantastic! Ren Yu De is so generous!” Both Zhang Jun and Yang Pan held on to their teammate intimately.
Looking at Su Fei’s luscious smile, Ren Yu De finally understood the meaning of the saying, “vile is the heart of a woman.”
An Ke, who had been eavesdropping from a corner, stood up. “Ah! What a coincidence! What? Ren Yu De is treating us to drinks! Wonderful! He is a rich heir! Come, come, I know where the best tea is!”
Ren Yu De stared daggers at him but could not resist as he was being wrestled by the group into a huge tearoom with expensive decorations. Thus, the lamb fell into the wolves’ trap.
The five of them took seats near the window, enjoying the street view while chatting over tea; with its fragrance drifting in the air, a warm and relaxing smell flooded them. It was a nice place for idle conversation.
“So, you guys can’t sleep too!” An Ke asked the trio who were sitting on the opposite side.
“Who said so? I was dragged from my bed by this one!” Zhang Jun said between yawns as he pointed at Su Fei.
“What!?” An Ke and Ren Yu De stood from their chairs simultaneously. “Su Fei dragged you from your bed? Why would she pull you out of bed? Why is she in your bedroom? What’s the relationship between you two? You brat, were you even wearing pants when you were sleeping? What did you do to Su Fei?”
The pair’s synchronized questioning was like a Gatling gun, which punched numerous holes through Zhang Jun. Meanwhile, Su Fei merely hid a smile.
Nonetheless, it was Yang Pan who answered, “Please be seated you two, and hear me out.”
“So, here’s how it goes; I don’t think it’s so important that it needs to be kept private. As you all know, I live near Zhang Jun since we were toddlers! But Su Fei’s place is even closer to Zhang Jun’s! How close, you ask? There’s only a wall between them! Don’t eyeball me like that, eyeball them. In a nutshell, they are… neighbors! Don’t go imagining wild things! Su Fei just moved here a month ago, right next to Zhang Jun’s home.” Yang Pan clapped his hands together. “Face-to-face!”
An Ke and Ren Yu De yelled exaggeratedly,”Face-with-face?!”
“You two suck at English! That’s face-and-face!”
“Isn’t that the same!”
“Su Fei, how do we describe ‘living opposite’ in English?” Yang Pan turned to Su Fei.
She smiled. “Door-to-door!”
“Yes, door-to-door! Living next door! Understand?”
“You’re no better!”―Zhang Jun poked―”and you still have the gall to poke fun at others!”
Yang Pan gave his friend a sideways glance. Then, he leaned in mysteriously towards An Ke and Ren Yu De. “I’ll let you guys in on a secret: Zhang Jun has a habit of sleeping naked!”
The accused sprayed his tea on the floor. The pair who just joined them showed immediate interest. “Really?!”
“I swear this on my 16 years as Zhang Jun’s friend. Every word is true, nothing is false!” Yang Pan said, his hand held up in solemn declaration.
Su Fei quickly interrupted them. “That’s enough!” she said. “Aren’t you guys tired after the game yesterday?”
“Yeah!” everyone else replied, as spread themselves across the table.
“I’m so excited!” She continued passionately, “I couldn’t sleep at all last night. Whenever I closed my eyes, I would remember the game. The sounds in the arena and how all of you looked like on the pitch, I remember all of it. It plays out like a recording, non-stop every time my eyes are closed. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt like this. It’s great!”
The four of them watched her cheerful expression without a word. Maybe they had felt the excitement so many times that they became apathetic or simply forgot the sensation entirely; they were speechless at the sight of Su Fei’s excited expression.
Today, Su Fei made them remember all those feelings.
Zhang Jun stood up and told her in a serious manner, “Rest assured, we will make you as happy as you were yesterday.”
She looked up at him.
“I’m going to the toilet.” Yang Pan stood up to leave.
“We’re going too, wait for us.” Ren Yu De and An Ke followed in his wake.
After the others left, Su Fei asked, “Really?”
Su Fei held out her baby finger. “Pinky swear!”
Taken slightly aback, Zhang Jun pulled out his finger too. “Pinky swear.”
“Cross my heart and hope to die!”¹
Zhongyuan Technical High School. Two kilometers and four bus-stops away from Shu Guang High School.
“Li Yongle!” Zhang Yang called out. He held up a magazine as he trespassed into the first year’s classroom, ignoring the stares.
“Bro, this isn’t your classroom!”
“So what? All students are family!” Zhang Yang responded, flamboyantly pulling out a chair from his side and plonking himself on it.
“That’s a skewed reasoning!” Li Yongle retorted exasperatedly. He was used to his friend’s behavior since their time in middle school; Zhang Yang, otherwise known as Swanky Zhang, a name that fitted the bill.
Zhang gestured at a few guys on the magazine cover. “Take a look!”
Li Yongle was left dumbfounded for a few moments. “Them again?”
“Yup. Zhang Jun, Yang Pan… It’s them again!”
“Who?” Zhang Lintao said as he came by with a comic in his hand. “Zhang Jun and Yang Pan?” Picking up the High School Soccer magazine, he adjusted his glasses as he poured over it. “It’s the Shu Guang High School jersey. They went to that school? What a waste! If they came to our school, it would be… tut!”
He mumbled to himself, leaving the other two confounded.
“What are you eating there? Your mouth never stops moving!” Zhang Yang said, snatching the magazine away with a swipe.
“Me? I’m not eating anything!”
“He’s saying ‘what are you talking about?'” Li Yongle translated. “We don’t get it.”
“Oh! It’s natural that you guys wouldn’t know,” Zhang Lintao explained. “The Shu Guang soccer team is like a grain of sand in the Luoyang zone. They’re nothing special at all. They would join in on the qualifiers every year but never get past the first round.”
“That bad, huh!” Zhang Yang was at a loss.
“That’s why I’m saying that it’s a waste for them to enter that school. Just think about it, with Zhang Jun and Yang Pan up front alongside our captain, they would make a divine combination. They’ll raid fortresses and burn towns with us at the back staving off any attacks. It would be nigh impenetrable. If that happens, we won’t only be the kings of Luoyang, the seventh national title would be as good as won!”
Zhang Yang touched his chin thoughtfully. “Exactly! Exactly! But, they still went to that school. Now, the two of them are dead and bellied².”
“It’s buried!” Zhang Lintao corrected him.
“Who cares! Since they are buried, won’t they be belly up!”
Li Yongle flipped the pages of the magazine as the two argued.
The first page introduced the opening ceremony of the nationals; but starting from page two all the way to page ten, it was all about Shu Guang! There were long essays and intricate details written about the players as well as rich photographs.
The feature photo for the first editorial pictured the entire Shu Guang team celebrating a victory. The report was titled:
“3 : 2, The Shocking Defeat of a Giant, a Dark Horse Born in Turning Tides!”
“Listen to this! ‘3 : 2, The Shocking Defeat of a Giant, a Dark Horse Born in Turning Tides!’ What a great title!” An Ke held the new issue of High School Soccer and read it out loudly, “Oh, there’s another one: ‘Shu Guang Takes Its First Steps Towards the Dawn of a New Era!’ Wow, there’s even a picture of me!”
But his voice was largely unheeded by everyone―they all held the same issue of the publication in their hands. They were fully engrossed, busy looking for photos and columns about themselves.
Zhang Jun entered the activity room before promptly retreating. He thought he was in the wrong place and that he had ended up in the literature club. He looked up at the class label to check that he was indeed in the right place before going in again.
The first thing he saw was a thick and straight red line sketched on the huge match schedule, which was on the wall. It pointed Shu Guang High School towards their next match. He remembered the scene yesterday where he made the pinky promise with Su Fei and looked at his own pinky―he had unknowingly taken up another responsibility and it was too late to walk away. He put down his schoolbag, picked up a clay pot near the wall and clubbed it with a wooden stick.
(1) A Chinese equivalent of the typical pinky swear.¹
(2) Zhang Yang made a pronunciation mistake of the Chinese word for “buried” in the original text.