Chapter 21: Cheerleaders
Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
Zhang Jun pushed away the textbooks in front of him in one swoop. He did not have the heart to keep going in the face of those mathematical formulas; it was intoxicating―everything seemed to swirl and his eyelids became heavier the more he looked at them.
His gaze then rose to the soccer ball on the wall. It had not been three days since he last played, but the ball seemed to have gathered decades worth of dust within that period. He ambled over, took it off its perch and played a few kick-ups with his left leg―it felt alright. Then, looking at his now less-swollen right ankle, he decided to test how far it had recovered.
But as soon he touched the ball, an agonizing pain struck, overwhelming his foot. Zhang Jun gritted his teeth as he suffered through the pain; the ball bounced a few times before it landed near the door, where a hand picked it up.
The team manager held the ball in her arms as she entered. “Didn’t the coach say you’re not supposed to touch a ball without his permission?”
“My leg’s feeling an itch to touch it. Isn’t it okay to scratch it a little? Coach won’t see it anyway.”
“How’s the injury?”
“It’s almost recovered!” Zhang Jun smiled. “Anything you want from me?”
“Really?” He glared at his neighbor.
“‘It’s nothing. I’m just a bit tired from studying, so I came here for a spin.'”
Zhang Jun smiled.
Su Fei turned to the scattered books and papers atop his desk. “Can’t finish your homework?”
She sat down beside him, took up a pen and some scrap paper, then pointed at the questions on the book. “This is not the way. You need to set up z + 1 = y, and then return y into the original formula…”
Zhang Jun stared at Su Fei as she explained question after question; although he managed to keep up at first, his attention soon wandered away entirely.
In his mind, he was wondering why, in just two months of knowing each other, he had such a cozy relationship with Su Fei? Whenever they were together, there was a feeling of rapport. Why was that? Was it possibly God’s arrangement for such a coincidence that she would move into the house next door? But what did he feel about her? And what did she feel about him? Ah! It’s all so incomprehensible! Boy-girl relationships were so complicated and a much bigger headache than 10 Math problems.
“Zhang Jun! Zhang Jun!” His neighbor noticed that his attention had fled. “What’s in your head?”
“Me? Oh! Just some mental arithmetic.”
“Did you get the answer, then?”
“Why aren’t you seeing your girl today?” Zhang Jun asked Yang Pan, who was beside him.
“‘Cos, I miss you!” His friend beamed.
“Go away! I’m not gay!”
“Neither am I!”
“Two more days.” Su Fei sighed.
“What’s in two more days?”
“The match. With his injury, it’s still not certain if Zhang Jun can play. Our opponents were runner-ups of the nationals last year! And Yang Pan, look at your silly, smiling face all day. Aren’t you worried at all?”
“Worried? What use is there to worry? I don’t believe that we’ll lose for certain; we may not be as good without Zhang Jun here, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll lose.”
“Only you believe that―even the coach has been smiling a lot less these few days; he usually smiles a lot.”
“As a coach, he has to be stoic anyway. If others can guess what he’s thinking, how can he be a coach?”
“Does that mean you know?
“I’m just guessing.”
“I think Shu Guang’s not so bad! Ren Yu De’s technique, An Ke’s diving saves and our seniors are always so diligent, so hardworking. It’s been proven in the last few games.”
“You’re not wrong. But, I’m still feeling anxious.”
Zhang Jun suddenly felt a chill from the autumn wind.
“Hey! You guys… I’m not dead yet…”
The trio parted ways by the stairs to Zhang Jun’s home. Su Fei and Zhang Jun went up together while Yang Pan still had to walk three blocks to his home.
“How will you feel if you can’t play?” Su Fei asked Zhang, who had been quiet for a while.
“It’d be a pity.”
“Yeah. The opponents are good and I want to play against them. What’s wrong with that? I know what you’re thinking, but I won’t fall into despair.”
Su Fei turned towards him.
“Want to come by my house, there’s good food!” she smiled.
“Good food?” Zhang Jun remembered the occasion in which he visited her home last week. She cooked him some noodles when he got hungry. There was no way to link her beautiful expression to the taste of the noodles; it was as if the food was cooked by a demon. It was simply inconceivable. A good daughter in front of her parents, a brilliant student in the eyes of their teacher, a charming girl to her classmates yet, her cooking skills were simply horrible.
He shook his head frantically. “No thanks, my mom’s prepared something for me.”
But taking out his keys and opening his door, he found that the dining table was not filled with warm dishes. Instead, a single note lay on top of it and it read:
” Zhang Jun,
I’m heading to Guangzhou for a delivery and won’t be back for a week. I’ve discussed it with Su Fei’s parents; go eat with them for the time being.
“Really?! Dad just left for two days and now Mom’s gone too. Fine, I’ll just eat at Su Fei’s. Auntie’s dishes are fine!”
Knocking on her door, the scene that greeted him was Su Fei, who held another note in her hand. “Mom and Dad just went off to Grandma’s,” she said. “They’re only coming back tomorrow.”
Zhang Jun had a bad feeling about this.
“My mother’s off to Guangzhou for a delivery and she won’t be back for a week. She told me to eat here… Umm, did your parents cook something before leaving?” he asked, poking his head into the dining room.
“Not yet, looks like they went off almost as soon as they came home. The vegetables they bought are still on the kitchen floor.”
“Then… let’s go somewhere cheap… Uh, what are you doing?” Zhang Jun said, noticing that Su Fei was putting on an apron.
“Cooking! Finally, a chance to show my chops!” Like a rabbit, she hopped into the kitchen.
Yang Pan saw the pair on their way to school the next morning. Zhang Jun had a forlorn expression on his face.
“What’s the matter? Didn’t sleep well?”
“Nope, I was decimated!” Leaning on Yang, Zhang whispered a summary of “the portrait of hell” into his ear.
Yang Pan turned pale. “That horrible?”
“You wanna try?”
Quickly holding his hands, Yang Pan expressed his heartfelt sympathy. “I pity you!”
Su Fei asked awkwardly, “Is my cooking that bad?”
“Yes,” Zhang Jun replied.
“Although I haven’t tried it firsthand, I believe in my friend,” Yang Pan added.
Su Fei became quiet.
“Ahem!” Zhang Jun coughed. “But, you don’t have to be sad, Su Fei. It’s not like you’re useless at everything just because your dishes are horrible!”
“Then, what am I good at?” Su Fei raised her head.
“Dieting,” her neighbor answered seriously.
When they arrived in school, they saw Liu Qi, who was being mobbed.
“Bro?!” Zhang Jun shouted.
Parting the mob, Liu made a dash for them. “With your injury, you can’t dodge now!”
Prodding Su Fei who was beside him, Zhang retorted, “Who wants to dodge anyway?”
“Liu Qi!” she exclaimed.
Despite his plumpness, Liu Qi managed to perform an inconceivable emergency brake and he stopped right in front of her. “What’s up, Su Fei?” He smiled.
“What a swift change of expression!”
“Mind your own business!” Liu Qi glared at Zhang, who stuck out his tongue.
“What’s with the mob?” Su Fei asked.
Gesturing at the notice board behind him, Liu answered, “I’m recruiting cheerleaders for the Shu Guang High School soccer team now!”
The trio looked in unison; there was indeed a recruitment poster on the board.
Glancing at the crowd, Su Fei challenged him. “That’s so ostentatious. Do you have the school’s approval?”
Liu nudged her and pointed his finger away from her. “That’s a meaningless question.”
They then noticed that Liang Ke was also there, handing out registration forms to the crowd.
“It’s nothing to be surprised about; it was our principal’s suggestion in the first place,” Liu explained. “He said that with the team being so impressive, a cheerleading team should be formed to show support and boost the team’s morale. How else would I dare to do it? Just look at the noise. It’s a revolution!”
Upon the sight, Su Fei threw her bag at her neighbor and dashed over. “I’m helping!”
Her appearance doubled the crowd size in no time. “Darn it!” Zhang Jun pouted. “What is this? Harlotry?”
“But, it’s effective.”
“That said, aren’t you a fan of basketball?” Zhang asked Liu Qi. “Why are you in the soccer cheerleading business now?”
“The basketball team didn’t want me. They complained that I had dead feet.” There was a deformity in Liu Qi’s right leg, which caused him to limp. The cause was unknown to Zhang. He would not ask about something so private anyway.
“And, the principal did name me captain of the cheerleading team!” Liu then added proudly.
“You better believe it!” the plump boy said as he assumed a bodybuilding pose. “I have good build, great strength and a wide vocal range that can compete with the sopranos!”
He was in the mood for a song, but Zhang Jun quickly stopped him. “Don’t! You’ll scare away the crowd attracted by Su Fei’s hard work!”
When school ended in the afternoon, Liu Qi almost had a hundred applications with him. Aside from his classes, he spent the entire afternoon talking to the applicants.
Seeing him pull his weight upstairs and downstairs, left and right, Yang Pan mumbled, “Getting into character already, huh.”
He then remembered Liu’s right foot. “He likes basketball, not soccer! Really, he’s so happy with just becoming captain of a cheerleading team.”
“Such words! You’re feeling touched, right?”
“Me? Why would I be―”
Stopping Zhang Jun’s retort, Yang Pan went into a monologue, “To be frank, we’ve been playing our last few games only for ourselves―just to prove that we weren’t wrong in transferring to this school. Now, we even have cheerleaders. So from now on, this is not just about ourselves. With so many people watching, we are going to get an earful if we play badly!”
Leaning against a railing, Yang Pan gazed upon the school grounds where Liu Qi was weaving in and out with that “fit” body of his.
“To think that the basketball team would let go of such talent… What a waste!”