Sponsored Chapter by: dedicateddourly
The morning air is fresh and the heat is not yet pervasive, while the leaves are bright green and glowing in the sunlight.
The two had no words the whole way. The person in front rode in silence, and the person behind hummed softly.
Yang Xuan did not know how his half-brother suddenly became like a different person. It is clear that the eyes that looked at him last week were still averted and gloomy, but now they have become happy and lively. Such a look appeared on his face, which at first glance looked harmless, causing him to think of the little kid who always followed behind him as a child.
This thought made him slightly annoyed, and he felt that he had gotten himself into trouble—The one sitting behind his car seat, humming happily, was probably not a little trouble but a big one.
The flag ceremony is held every Monday morning, and sports students are not required to train in the field. The two of them walked into the classroom one after the other, and just as they stepped in, they heard Feng Bo shouting at the top of his lungs, “Xuan is awesome!”
“Brother Xuan— please carry me!” Chen Hao’s voice doesn’t fall short.
Yang Xuan looked at them and walked to his seat with his face as usual and put his book bag on the table.
“Hey! Brother Xuan of the provincial team!” Feng Bo got up and leapt next to Yang Xuan, “Please treat us to dinner! Please treat us to dinner!”
Chen Yu, the boy at the front table, also turned around to join in the fun: “If you want to invite, invite the whole class!”
“Invite the whole class? That would require bringing the Varsity basketball team, right?”
“Let’s not just bring the varsity basketball team, let Brother Xuan bring the provincial team over and teach us a thing or two!”
Ying Hui also got up from her seat and came over, waiting for the others to finish coaxing, before looking at Yang Xuan and asking, “When are you going to report?”
“Oh hoh—” a boy called out in a strange voice, “Can’t let go, huh?”
“Early July.” Yang Xuan leaned against the empty table in the back row and said in a flat tone.
“Wouldn’t that mean you don’t have to take the final exam?” Wangxin Chun caught the point.
Feng Bo raised his hand high: “I would like to apply to escort Xuan to the provincial team!”
“I’ll go too, I’ll be guarding you on the left and he’ll be guarding you on the right.” Wangxin Chun laughed.
“Off to raise the flag downstairs, people!” The class president walked to the front of the podium and tapped the table with a board eraser.
People around Yang Xuan quickly dispersed while Feng Bo and Wangxin Chun, and a few people still followed him and asked questions.
At the beginning of July…Tang Junhe thought as he descended the stairs. There was only half a month left and time was running out.
In the evening after school, all the people in the classroom have left. Tang Junhe stayed until the end as usual. He did the test paper for a while, and then he started to be a little distracted.
He finished his paper, went to the window sill and watched Yang Xuan, who was sweating on the basketball court. After some thought, he went back to his desk, packed his bag and walked out of the classroom.
He went downstairs with his backpack and went straight out the back door of the school building and walked to the back of the school.
The summer night falls slowly as twilight deepens and the setting sun haloes the sky in crimson color.
The dense woods in the back of the hill, shaded by the sun, are rarely visited, except for the senior students who run laps around the school during class, and the sanitation workers hired by the school clean it regularly.
Tang Junhe walked out of the back door, looked up at the location of the Science 3 classroom and made a parabolic line in his head based on how hard he threw that basketball, then without much hesitation, ran quickly towards the presumed location.
The large backyard was full of trees, and he wove his way through the trunks, looking down for the lone basketball. The light of the setting sun was cut into tiny dots of light by the shadows of the trees, casting a faint shimmer onto the top of his hair and shoulders.
Where would it be …… he muttered in a low voice, turning almost all the possible areas with no luck in finding that basketball.
Maybe it was picked up, Tang Junhe thought with some frustration. If it was really a basketball signed by an NBA all-star, they would have picked it up quickly. Moreover, even if they didn’t come looking for it, the sanitation workers would have picked it up by now… There’s really no point in doing this, is what he thought.
Tang Junhe feels his IQ has dropped so much.
He walked down the road with his head down and sighed. The soles of his shoes were stained with some mud, and when he returns home later like this, Tang Xiaonian will certainly ask questions. He fished out some tissue paper from his school bag and squatted to wipe his shoes.
He took the dirty tissues, went around to the trash can and threw them in. He was about to go back around the same way when his eyes swept towards the front and then suddenly brightened up—the basketball!
Tang Junhe rushed over to that corner, where the sanitation workers’ cutting tools were piled up, thinking they picked them up and put them there, waiting for the students to find them.
He picked up the dirty basketball—after months of exposure to the elements, it had deflated, faded, and looked about half old rather than new.
Tang Junhe held it like a baby and put it on the ground, squatted down and used the remaining tissues to wipe the sludge off the surface of the basketball, then picked it up and ran to the field.
The practice game was not yet over, Yang Xuan was blocked by two people and was looking for an opportunity to make a break for it. Tang Junhe, holding the basketball, stretched out his finger across the barbed wire fence at the side of the basketball court and poked the substitute who was squatting on the side of the fence watching the game.
The person turned his head, raised his face and saw clearly that the person poking him was the young white guy who had just transferred to the school a few months ago and was quite popular with the girls, looking puzzled: “Do you need something?”
“Um,” Tang Junhe, who is not very sociable and rarely takes the initiative to talk to people, gulped a little nervously and said, “Do you know where I can inflate a basketball?”
The person looked at the deflated basketball he was holding in his arms and extended his arm to point in one direction: “The equipment room over there will do.”
“Thanks.” Tang Junhe got the answer and walked away with the basketball in his arms.
He had never inflated a basketball, nor had he ever seen a pump to inflate a basketball. He squatted in the equipment room, fished out something similar to a bicycle pump, studied it for a while, then aimed the valve at the basketball’s air hole and tried to inflate the basketball the first time.
Tang Junhe filled the deflated basketball to a hard state with a flourish, placed it on the ground and pressed it, then pulled out the air needle. Holding the basketball with sufficient air, he patted it on the floor of the equipment room a few times, and only then was he satisfied to hold it up.
On the field, the PE teacher who acted as the referee had already started counting down: “Three minutes left!” Yang Xuan saw the gap, jumped in front of two people’s defense, made a fake, and then stretched out and sent the basketball to the hoop with his hands—another goal!
Tang Junhe held the basketball and ran to the bathroom on the first floor of the school building. Turning to the faucet, he put the basketball under the water and rinsed it, rubbed it and then turned off the faucet and used a paper towel to wipe the water off the surface of the basketball.
With a completely clean look, he picked up that basketball with some joy.
Yang Xuan’s practice session ended. He walked toward the wire fence with sweaty hair and bent down to pick up a bottle of mineral water.
“You’re good!” The squatting senior stood up and lazily walked over, “No wonder so many people from the city league were there. Heck, even the provincial team had their eyes on you. Hey, you’re not getting in through the back door, are you?”
Yang Xuan was only concerned about filling his throat with water and didn’t have time to pay attention to him.
“Old Suntou will have to give up even if he doesn’t want to this time.” The man continued.
The water dripped down his chin; Yang Xuan raised his arm and rubbed it, saying, “He didn’t give it up.”
“Did you forget when you were a freshman in high school, your dad came over specifically to ask you to quit the basketball team and Old Suntou panicked?”
After drinking enough water, Yang Xuan began to pinch the bottle, leaning against the wire fence, drinking a sip every now and then.
“By the way, that little pretty boy in your grade, came over here with a dirty basketball and asked me where he could pump it up,” the man said, jokingly mentioning what had just happened, “I laughed my ass off, with those thin arms and legs, can he even play basketball?”
“Who?” Yang Xuan asked casually.
“The one who transferred here a while ago,” the man said, hooking his finger in the wire, “what do you think the girls like about him? I really don’t understand the aesthetics of those people.” The man finished and looked regretfully at the protruding biceps on his arms.
“Hey!” A crisp voice suddenly came from behind him.
Both men turned their heads, but Tang Junhe only faced Yang Xuan, his forehead showing bright sweat and his fair face flushed as he ran, holding in his arms the basketball that had barely recovered after a toss.
“Er…” after being caught red-handed, the man touched his head and stammered, “Y-You…f-finished?”
“Can you come out?” Tang Junhe looked at Yang Xuan and said, “Or do I go in?”
“Come inside.” Yang Xuan looked at him and said after some thought.
Holding the basketball, Tang Junhe walked around to the main entrance of the basketball court and went in.
If he hadn’t been clutching the half-used basketball like a treasure, Yang Xuan wouldn’t have remembered that it was his own – he no longer remembered the origin of the basketball, which might have been a birthday present from someone. Since it appeared, it had been placed in the corner of the classroom, and before it could go through the hoop, it was thrown out of the window by Tang Junhe.
—and now he picked it back up.
Tang Junhe walked up to him and handed him the basketball with both hands, the sincerity in his eyes seemed almost naive: “I pumped up the air, it should still work.”
The third person in the area stared at the scene with jaws dropped.
There is no doubt that this is a basketball that shows goodwill. Tang Junhe tilted his chin slightly to look at Yang Xuan, with a hint of expectation hidden in his gaze.
“If I don’t pick it up, that expectation will be extinguished, right?” Yang Xuan thought.
He bent down to pick up his school bag, flung it over his shoulder, and walked straight towards the main entrance of the basketball court. Feeling Tang Junhe’s eyes on the back of his head he said, “I don’t need it, you can keep it.”