Chapter 140: Old friends
On Saturday, apart from the still trending discussions on the forums, things were strangely quiet between Zhang Xingke and Hucheng, or should it be said Xu Tingsheng.
Over the past few days, both sides had launched repeated moves, the battle of public sentiment that had gone from acting and suppressing to reversal and yet another reversal having left some people who were merely in for watching the commotion considerably entertained.
To them, the peaceful day that had passed just felt rather flavourless. Had things really ended just like that? Various news which were either completely fabricated or somewhat reliable began spreading non-stop.
“Insider news! The school’s going to intervene.”
“I’ll say that even the government is going to intervene. What a load of bull.”
“It’s fine if you don’t believe it. Just wait and see.”
Great winds forewarned of a powerful storm that was soon to come.
Yet, the weather was actually very good today. This was so in Yanzhou City, and in Jianan City as well.
Being rather considerate for once, the Yanzhou University coach allowed his charges who were tired out from travelling to sleep the entire afternoon away. Of course, it could be that he was simply afraid that their training session would be spied upon, their greatest trump card thus being revealed.
What was Yanzhou University’s greatest trump card? Naturally, it was vehemently defending and dragging on the match to the last.
Comparatively speaking, Jianan University’s side was much more nervous. Having been given a fright by Xu Tingsheng the previous day, the vice-captain of the team had returned and told them all that had happened. As a result, all of them, from the players to the coach, had begun feeling uneasy: How is it that Yanzhou University actually has such a thorough understanding of us?
Another reason for their nervousness was that they didn’t understand Yanzhou University at all. Never having watched a match that Yanzhou University had played in before, all they knew was that Yanzhou University had unexpectedly eliminated Jianhai Technological University in the pre-qualifiers. Meanwhile, Jianhai Technological University was somewhat competent, possessing quite a bit of fame.
Just like this, facing a ‘lamb to the slaughter’, Jianan University really scared themselves good.
In the afternoon, Yanzhou University finally arranged for a training session. However, apart from slow jogging and some randomly kicking the ball about, they was nothing else which the person Jianan University had dispatched to spy on them saw. They thought that Yanzhou University was hiding something, yet how could they have known that in truth, all Yanzhou University actually knew how to do was kick the ball about randomly.
After the training session had ended, Xu Tingsheng did not directly return to rest with his teammates. Having turned around, he had just happened to see the group of people in the distant basketball court. They were his past roommates.
After hesitating for a while, Xu Tingsheng walked over. On the basketball court, his roommates were playing three against three, with Zhang Fengping, the remaining of the seven, sitting by the sidelines and smoking.
In Xu Tingsheng’s previous life, Zhang Fengping had been the troublemaker of Room 408. Xu Tingsheng still remembered how he had gotten drunk on the night of their graduation dinner, having sung to a girl on the way back to their dorm: Girl, looking really freaking beautiful, looking till my heart’s all flustered. Tonight, whose bed will you warm, can you also let me on…”
In the end, that girl had turned out to be a graduate as well. Also, her similarly drunk boyfriend had led his roommates along in rushing straight for them…that night, a drunken brawl had occurred between the two sides.
Waking up the next morning, Yu Yue who remembered nothing of their drunken escapades had even asked, “Where did I fall when I was drunk yesterday? My face hurts…oh no, it’s swollen.”
“Bro, lend me a light.”
Handing over a cigarette, Xu Tingsheng sat down beside Zhang Fengping.
“Heck, nice cigarette!” Zhang Fengping yelped, passing over the lighter.
Xu Tingsheng lit up first his own cigarette and then Zhang Fengping’s before he smiled, “It’s great at the start of the month when there’s money. Slightly worse ones will do when it’s the middle of the month. When the month’s ending, it’s fine as long as there’s some. Otherwise, there’s still the cigarette butts.”
Zhang Fengping was taken aback, “Bro, your situation’s…exactly the same as mine.”
Xu Tingsheng smiled, “It’s actually more or less the same for everyone, really.”
Yet, he was actually thinking: Exactly the same as you? It’s you I’m talking about. In my previous life, I owed you many good cigarettes, and those were from the start of the month when you had money. You owed me many inferior cigarettes, and those were from the middle and the end of the month…there were also those ashtrays that we flipped over together in the past. We were always arguing that that longer cigarette butt was our own.”
Now, those out on the court stopped, one of them yelling, “Tired, change!”
Xu Tingsheng looked at Zhang Fengping, “Bro, can I play for a while?”
“Sure. You play, I’ll smoke,” Zhang Fengping replied.
After Xu Tingsheng got on court, he found himself on the same team as Yu Yue and also Zhong Ming whom he had called in the past pretending to be from the National Security Agency. On the opposing team were Wang Yu, Yang Xiaofeng and another roommate.
In this world, the things through which people became most easily acquainted were smoking, drinking, playing ball and music. As they played, the sweat-laden Xu Tingsheng seemed to have returned to the times of back then, forgetting himself amidst this reunion of lives both past and present.
“Yu Yue, here!”
Hearing the voice, Yu Yue stopped for a moment to look at Xu Tingsheng who was calling for the ball with his hands outstretched, next looking back at the smoking Zhang Fengping as he thought that it was probably him who had done the introductions. Otherwise, there was no conceivable way the guy there might know his name.
As he hesitated, the ball was stolen away by Wang Yu.
After Wang Yu had stolen the ball, there was no one back defending the court at all. However, he just loved to act cool whenever there were no opposing defenders, looping the ball about his waist before naturally bringing it up, jumping and shooting in a single motion.
Xu Tingsheng hid behind him. When he looped the ball around…he stole it away.
“What the heck? What happened?” His hands catching nothing but air, Wang Yu was greatly despondent.
“Who asked you to pose,” Yu Yue said.
“If you guys were the ones who stole it, fine. You all know that I like to pose. But this bro, how come he knows it as well?” Wang Yu said.
Xu Tingsheng was unable to say: Your big bro here has known it since many, many years ago.
He thought for a moment before smiling, “I watched you play for a while earlier. You’re really too much of a poser.”
“Well said, bro,” Yelled Yang Xiaofeng, another former roommate from beneath the hoop.
Xu Tingsheng swivelled his head and looked over at him, not speaking.
Actually, Xu Tingsheng harboured rather complex emotions towards Yang Xiaofeng. Having quit his job as a teacher in his previous life, he had started a business together with Zhang Fengping and Yang Xiaofeng, jointly running a construction materials company.
When the company had finally plunged into hard times, it was precisely Yang Xiaofeng who had swept away all the remaining funds and fled all on his own.
Even though he had left behind an incomparably sincere, pleading letter back then, narrating his predicament and how he had had no other choice, Xu Tingsheng had still hated him, hated him for many long years till he had met with an accident in the end.
Now that he had been reborn, Xu Tingsheng had been trying his hardest not to think about this part of his memories all along. The two were destined not to have any such interactions in this current life. Why then should he be held back by matters of the past?
It was just that Xu Tingsheng had originally thought that he might still not be able to stand the sight of him when they eventually did meet once more. He might hate him, feel furious at him.
Yet, meeting him again now, from when he had first spotted him till now, he had actually not felt any hatred, only feeling at a loss as he knew not how he should face him. Thus, at this moment, Xu Tingsheng didn’t say anything, just passing the ball over as the match continued…
After more than an hour of basketball, Xu Tingsheng had already gotten to be on very good terms with his roommates of the past. Just like how it had been back then, they all had very compatible temperaments. After sitting down and chatting for a while, they too learnt why it was that Xu Tingsheng had come.
“What a pity. I’d still thought that you were from our school. We’d have been able to hang out together after this,” Zhang Fengping said, “Seeing that you’re just gonna be here for a couple of days, how about you come over to our dorm to play tonight?”
“Okay,” Xu Tingsheng replied without any hesitation whatsoever.
“C District Block 7 Room 408. Can you find it?”
“It should be fine. We’re staying right in the C District’s guest building.”
Taking the basketball, his former roommates left.
Xu Tingsheng gazed at those familiar backs. In those four years they had spent together, they had once laughed together, cried together, fought together, been beaten up together. Some of them had put on their backpacks and departed into the distance beneath his gaze. Some of them had personally sent him over to the train station after graduation, waving their hands on the platform all the way till his homebound train was out of sight.
There were those who had led happy and stable lives later on in the future. There were also those…
“Yu Yue!” Xu Tingsheng could not stop himself from yelling out.
“What?” Yu Yue looked back.
Xu Tingsheng very much wanted to loudly tell him what would happen to him in the future, what he should do to avoid it. However, there was nothing at all that he could do.
“Nice basketball skills,” He finally said.
“Thanks! Remember to come over to play tonight,” Yu Yue said, “Do you play Counterstrike?”
“We’ll wait for you then, LAN…we’ve recently been fighting against those from Economics every day, and it’s really a fierce struggle. If you’re an expert, you can also help us out,” Yu Yue said.
“Well then, see you later,” Yu Yue waved, turning to leave.
“See you later, and not just merely this one time.”
Xu Tingsheng fell silent. Since there are some things that I can’t tell you, let me do them for you.