First Published on Chaleuria
095 – If you’ve got the guts, when school’s dismissed tomorrow evening, don’t leave.
“You like breaking the rules, right?” Halfway to the court, He Zhao bent down and picked up the ball Wan Da had accidentally thrown out of bounds just now. He dribbled the ball several times and his feelings were indiscernible from his tone of voice. He said, “Keep breaking them.”
Xie Yu said nothing.
He jumped right over the guard rail, bracing his hands on the rail and pushing himself off and over it. Amidst the shouting, he walked neither slowly nor briskly toward Class 3’s team.
The two teams stood face to face.
He Zhao tossed the ball to Class 4 and it landed next to Liang Hui’s foot.
When Liang Hui said he was not afraid of the school tyrants, he was definitely lying.
Although he was a loud voice in his own class, he only dared be loud on his home ground. Typical bully who picked on the weak and feared the strong. But under the audience’s gaze, with so many pairs of eyes staring at him, his rapidly swelling pride and competitiveness made him forget about all of that.
The referee blew his whistle another few times. He stood in between the two teams, keeping them apart for fear they would start fighting. The audience was still fanning the flames and blindly raving.
Class 4 was also completely riled up. They stood and yelled, “Hui-ge, go!”
The referee was getting a headache. “You all calm down. What are you doing? Are you playing basketball or fighting? …The competition is secondary. Friendship comes first.”
At first, Liang Hui didn’t understand He Zhao’s words of, ‘Keep breaking them.’
But when He Zhao and the rest of the re-assembled team stood to the side, finished their last-minute tactical discussion, and rejoined the court, he finally understood. So what if you break the rules?
We won’t even give you a chance to break the rules.
He Zhao had watched for ten minutes from the audience stands and had gotten the gist of the tricks Class 4 was playing. “Later, back uph Old Xie… He’s good at breaking through a line, and he’s fast at offense, but he’s not a team player when he gets going so we can forget about working together… Don’t get in his way or you might get hurt. Gym rep, you spot No.6 and I’ll spot Liang Hui. We won’t let them get away.”
They couldn’t cure the referee’s blindness, so they had to prevent Class 4 from gathering together to hide each other’s rulebreaking and earn their points back in the second half.
Luo Wenqiang was shocked by He Zhao’s acute observations of the match. He froze for a couple seconds, then kept nodding. “Sure. I’ll keep an eye out. I won’t let Yu-ge hurt me.”
Xie Yu wasn’t too happy and frowned. “Me?”
“What about you?” He Zhao rested one hand on Xie Yu’s neck, drew closer, and said, “You, solo player, eternal lone wolf… don’t think about it.”
Now that He Zhao was on the field, he put together an aggressive plan of attack. Xie Yu led the show. Class 4 had never met such a powerful attack before and momentarily couldn’t react.
He Zhao had his eye on Liang Hui, who could only watch with his eyes wide as Xie Yu got the ball and passed two people, not giving anyone else a chance to get close at all.
His attack was so relentless even two people ganging up couldn’t block it.
No.6 from Class 3 had taken great pains to break free from Luo Wenqiang’s guard, but still didn’t make it to Xie Yu in time to block him. In a panic, he yelled, “Block him!”
Liang Hui cursed and thought, Block, my ass. He Zhao was guarding him like he was guarding a thief and he couldn’t get past at all.
The ball landed true. The moment it fell through the net, all of Class 3 in the audience stand stood up and cheered.
Xie Yu wasn’t that bad of a team player.
Since they had started preparing for the basketball tournament nearly a month ago, he had played several matches with them. In that time, Luo Wenqiang’s defensive tactics had improved by leaps and bounds from training one-on-one with Xie Yu for several matches.
Xie Yu had landed a basket. He took two steps backward and ended up right next to He Zhao, and they exchanged a high-five.
He Zhao pulled at his collar, fanning himself, and smiled. “My little friend is so cool.”
Xie Yu changed his position and prepared to go on the defense. He said, in a low voice only the two of them could hear, “…My boyfriend is very cool too.”
Luo Wenqiang had nearly twisted his ankle. Now, standing beneath the hoop, he flexed his ankle during the short break. He noticed his eyes were a little wet. Damn. This is a man’s hot blood.
“You’re so cool! Go get them!”
Hearing these calls, Liang Hui silently sneered. His chest heaved and he bent over slightly, dribbling the ball, his gaze dark. “Fuck.”
Class 3 was on the defense and Class 4 was starting to take the lead.
Liang Hui took the ball and attacked. He thought he could turn the game around, but he did not expect Xie Yu to defend using offense and snatch the ball right out of his hands. Xie Yu did not even bother with blocking him and skipped right past that step.
After this happened twice, Liang Hui gradually came to understand Class 3’s war tactics. Two people could not block Xie Yu, so they would try three. “Block him! Fucking damn it! Block Xie Yu and we can deal with everyone else.”
Liang Hui had calculated well. He wanted to handle Xie Yu and maintain the current point disparity between the two teams. This way, he could suppress Class 3 and they would not catch up too quickly.
But this landed him square in He Zhao’s trap.
Class 4 had thought Xie Yu was the main offense and He Zhao was the rear guard who directed the team. But after they guarded Xie Yu, He Zhao took over this round of offense.
He Zhao was good at feinting and tactics. He played like he was toying with them and, over several rounds, he brought their score back up.
In the audience stand, only Class 3 was cheering now. Class 4’s morale was dropping lower and lower.
“Good play.” Xie Yu was sweating and he pulled the zipper on his jacket low, the zip getting stuck at his chest. Then he remembered to look at the scoreboard on the sidelines. “Still short one point.”
He Zhao said, “Just need another minute.”
There was half a minute left on the clock and they were short just one basket.
Class 3 picked up the pace.
Nobody noticed that while Liang Hui was defending, he also threw a weird glance at the person in the No.6 jersey. No.6 quietly nodded. He had still been blocking Xie Yu, but now he screamed, backed away, and fell onto the floor.
From the ground, No.6 yelled, “Referee, he ran into me!”
Liang Hui said, “He ran into him holding the ball!”
Xie Yu had not imagined they really would be this shameless. “You fucking…”
“So you stopped breaking the rules and started playing fake injuries instead. You all fake it pretty well, huh.” He Zhao took the ball from Xie Yu and then stopped. ”Say it again? Who ran into you?”
The situation was out of control. Both classes came down from the audience stand and joined the group, pushing and shoving each other.
“Don’t fight! Don’t use force! Friendship first!” The referee blew his whistle several times but couldn’t regain control over the chaos. Whistle in mouth, he yelled again, “—Friendship first!”
Twenty minutes later.
The two classes stood outside Mad Dog’s office, two long lines in the corridor.
“What happened with you two classes, huh?! Basketball is so exciting that the whole court isn’t enough for you to show off? What is the meaning of this? Do we have to set up a boxing ring for you all? Organize a free-for-all fighting tournament?”
Mad Dog had been on his way to a conference room for a meeting and had all his things packed up. He had not expected something to happen at the basketball tournament again. This time, it wasn’t just a conflict between two teams. It was two whole classes, 40-odd students, fighting.
After Mad Dog had gotten in a few words, Class 4, dissatisfied, started yelling, “They started it first…”
Xie Yu was annoyed beyond belief by this lot and was about to retort when He Zhao nudged him with an arm. “Don’t say any more.”
“You haven’t had enough?” Mad Dog’s face was thunderous and he brought out the words he had used many times last year. “Basketball tournament? To hell with it. You can forget about it from now on. Go on, run off and kick shuttlecocks now—”
The two of them stood at the end of the line. Xie Yu finally realized what He Zhao had meant by, ‘Don’t say any more.’
Mad Dog had taken great pains to bring back the basketball tournament for them, but now this had happened.
Several gusts of wind blew through the corridor and the breeze made Xie Yu very alert.
Class 3 all kept their heads bowed and stayed quiet while Mad Dog kept yelling at them, getting fiercer all the time, as if they were really in the wrong.
Mad Dog nearly had an aneurysm. Next class period was about to start and he did not want to keep the two classes from attending lessons, so he steadied himself and eventually said, “You all reflect on yourselves. Go back and write a reflection essay each. Turn it in tomorrow morning at my office. Two thousand words. If even a single word is short you can carry your heads in your hands when you come to see me.”
Mad Dog left. The two classes had also gotten sick of staring at each other. Xie Yu was about to go back downstairs when he heard Liang Hui sneer behind them.
Xie Yu’s footsteps paused.
He Zhao held on to him, worried that with his little friend’s hot temper he would throw Liang Hui on the ground without another word. “That’s enough. Old Tang’s class is next.”
But Liang Hui drawled in a weird tone, “Your Old Tang, who got fired from a prominent school for harassing a student.”
He Zhao let go. “What the hell are you bullshitting about?”
When Old Tang had transferred to Erzhong last semester, it had been a hot discussion topic that spawned all kinds of rumors.
Some said Erzhong had paid a lot for him to come over but there was also a version of the story where he had done something wrong at his former school. That version had been popular on the school forum for a while, then the moderators deleted it. The story had come and gone like the wind and nobody thought it was true.
Liang Hui tossed this dirty water, but once he was done, he didn’t have the backbone to really fight them outside the student affairs office.
Just now, he had already suffered on the basketball court. Xie Yu’s flying fist had caught him in the stomach and he was still in some pain. “If you’ve got the guts, when school’s dismissed tomorrow evening, don’t leave.”
Xie Yu raised his eyebrows. The way Liang Hui picked a fight sounded very familiar, and he was about to reply, ‘Where?’ when Liang Hui rattled off the name of a game, a place, and a time.
“—Genesis, 9 p.m. at night! Cliff of Lost Love! See if your class has the guts to show up!”
All of Class 3: “……”
Genesis was an MMO that had gotten popular over the last couple of years. It spread through all the schools like wildfire and nearly everyone had an account.
Xie Yu remembered that during summer vacation, Zhou Dalei had been obsessed with Genesis and had gone out to pick a fight with someone over a violet weapon. He had accidentally met He Zhao there and they had sat face to face in the police station writing reflection essays.
Looking at Liang Hui’s face, Xie Yu found himself growing more and more unsure what kind of shit was contained in this idiot’s head.