Chapter 23: Warning Sign
In the end, before this youngblood’s story could even begin, it died a premature death at the young man’s tactful decline.
Archery was just a hobby for Zhang Heng. He had no plans to make a living out of it.
In fact, he knew better than anyone else that his archery skills were simply a culmination of time. He did not possess any unique talents. He might perhaps be able to become master among the amateurs, but if he had gotten involved in the professional circle, it would be challenging, to say the least, for him to rise to the top.
On top of that, this was the second time Zhang Heng had rejected his instructor. The latter finally recognized that the young man before him had no intention of mixing in this circle and could not help but feel that it was such a shame.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. He could not put a gun to Zhang Heng’s head and force him to make him his coach.
After a few more shots, and Zhang Heng got his answers and stopped training.
The morning had classes in store for him. Thank goodness it was at 9.45. Depositing his bow, he promptly returned to school.
The moment his peers spotted him in the classroom, they shot him knowing, sassy smiles. Zhang Heng did not know how to explain himself, so he blurted that he had actually spent a year and a half stranded on a deserted island, before finally finding another man.
The lesson was underway when Wei Jiangyang snuck up to the seat next to him and tried to make him confess. In spite of that, Zhang Heng did not appear to be lying, nor did he blush or react suspiciously.
When he finally accepted that nothing of the amorous sort had befallen his friend the night before, Wei Jiangyang quickly changed the subject.
“Xiao Xiao and her roommates are thinking of going camping next week, but I’m concerned about their safety. I’m looking for some guys to join. Chen Huadong has already agreed to come. Not so for Ma Wei. How about you?”
Xiao Xiao was Wei Jiangyang’s girlfriend. If Xiao Xiao wanted to go camping, it was without question that Wei Jiangyang would want to join her. One lone male, however, was not strong enough. Also, wherever the couple went, they would always attract flak – his girlfriend’s roommate and the other girls would definitely make fun of them. Instead, Xiao Xiao gave her boyfriend the task of recruiting more people to join them.
Wei Jiangyang was not very hopeful. Zhang Heng was the kind of person who stayed away from large groups and rarely joined group activities. This guy had his own rhythm in life.
However, to Wei Jiangyang’s surprise, Zhang Heng agreed!
Previously, Zhang Heng would never be caught red-handed participating in activities like this. But after spending such a long time away from society, he needed lively environments to ‘heal’ himself. Although Ma Wei had opted out, he was most likely to spend his entire day in the library, only returning to the room at lights out – like he did every day. So, if Zhang Heng were to stay, he would have to spend the whole weekend alone in the dorm.
“That’s great!” Wei Jiangyang chirped. “Other than Xiao Xiao, all her other roommates are still single. Don’t say I never gave you the heads up. The Shen Xixi performing in this year’s welcoming party tonight is also from their dorm. Oh, I forgot you’re not going. Anyway, what you need to know is that whenever she sings, the boys would fall head over heels for her. She’s the most popular girl in her department.”
It was obvious Zhang Heng bore no interest in these departmental celebrities. With so many things happening one after the other, he was not inclined to think about romance. He agreed to the camping purely for the fun of it.
Considering he did not have any classes scheduled on Friday afternoons, Zhang Heng decided to prepare ahead of time for the game next month. Back at the express hotel, he had already completed preliminary planning and made adjustments to his schedule.
After lunch, he found a 24-hour gym nearby, and immediately signed up for a membership card.
On top of that, he had also increased his rock-climbing and running hours. Since he did not know what he would be facing next, the safest option would be to improve his physical fitness.
Also, in every game, he would be using his own body. In other words, different levels of physical fitness could bring completely different gaming experiences.
For example, during the Desert Island Survival game, where the players were given the option to save the people drowning in the ocean, the person with an average fitness would be able to save Ed, whereas those who were stronger could save the guy in shorts and Bell who were further away. Of course, the most pitiful ones were those who did not know how to swim at all. As a result, they could only watch from the safety of the shore.
For the most part, Zhang Heng’s fitness was considered average among the students of the university as he had never undergone any targeted science-based training. But he did have his own advantage, having double the preparation time compared to the other players. They only had a month between each game, but he had two.
If the two months were used well, he could improve his fitness by a lot. The thought of joining Taekwondo or boxing classes did cross his mind, but one couldn’t rush these kinds of things. He would have to tackle them one by one, starting by working on his foundation first. After all, those skills could be practiced in the game as well.
The following week was spent with a full schedule.
He had begun training the strength of his waist, back, arms, and legs. He even took up flexibility training in the gym. On top of his endurance-training long runs, he included sprints that tested his explosive-force in his training plan.
He also made time to visit the Sex and the City bar during still time1.
That place was filled with secrets. Having been inside the game himself, Zhang Heng was naturally intrigued and wanted to know more about it. Since he got only scarce information out of the bartender lady, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
He should at least be able to uncover some clues from the furnishing and decoration of the sheet-metal room and the collection behind the bar. Also, he really wanted to find out if the rule about not seeing the other players still applied during still time.
However, when Zhang Heng arrived at the bar, an inexplicable feeling of panic overcame him, which only grew more intense the moment he placed his hand on the handle of the metal door.
Zhang Heng hesitated for a moment when he suddenly decided to let go of the handle.
He did not know where this warning came from, but the message it conveyed was very clear – do not attempt to enter the game venue at siesta.
Even though he was burning with curiosity, Zhang Heng decided to play it safe; after all, whatever he was facing could not be explained with logic.
That was how Zhang Heng’s first secret exploration was brought to an end, not managing to gather much useful information.
It was already Monday when during class, his phone suddenly vibrated. Glancing at the message, it turned out to be from customer service.
“Your item has been delivered to your desk in your room. This is a notification message. Please do not reply.”
Zhang Heng put his phone under the table and typed as stealthily as he could, “What about my game checkpoint service list?”
He tapped on send and after a while, the bartender replied, “Oops! I forgot. I’ll send it to you once I’m done dealing with the matter at hand.”
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