Chapter 324 Spring Cleaning
The incident of the unconscious man on the train was no more but a small episode that quickly passed. After discussing the matter for a while, the passengers quickly shifted their attention back to what they were doing. Before contacting Why Do You Always Look Unhappy (# 0′), Zhang Heng checked out the train, using the excuse of filling up water. However, he saw nobody behaving abnormally. The person who had attacked the middle-aged man was most likely not on the train.
After returning to her seat, the TOEFL girl still chatted enthusiastically with Zhang Heng. Zhang Heng’s thoughts, however, were still on what happened earlier. Obviously, the matter wasn’t so simple. This wasn’t the end, since the three major guilds had been offering handsome rewards to capture the mysterious woman that appeared suddenly at that night’s auction.
Everyone present at the auction got played by her, and the three major guilds wanted her to pay for what she did to them. More important for them was to retrieve the Grade B-game item, Dreamland of Death from her. Since they still couldn’t locate this weapon of mass destruction, nobody from the guilds felt safe. After all, nobody knew if they would end up like Silver Wing’s former guild leader.
Zhang Heng had been playing solo for some time, and when the participated in his only single-player-with-competitive-mode quest, no one else ended up alive. Thus, he should be relatively safe for now. Under normal circumstances, he shouldn’t be a prime target. It was simply a coincidence that the killer chose the man next to him since he changed seats with the boy earlier.
Nothing extraordinary happened until the train arrived at the next station.
The TOEFL girl wanted to get Zhang Heng’s contact, but she was too shy to ask. As she watched him disappear into the crowd with a backpack and suitcase, she could not help but feel a sense of loss. She knew that they would never see each other again.
Zhang Heng did not bother his granddad to pick him up from the train station. However, his grandpa came anyway with his old Volkswagen. As they met, he hugged his grandfather outside the exit before placing his luggage in the trunk before entering the passenger’s side. This reminded him of another incident. He was an apprentice of Takeda in the Tokyo Drift quest, managing to learn some rather impressive drifting techniques from him. And he even won a death race. Yet, he still couldn’t drive in the real world.
It was because he did not have a driver’s license yet. Perhaps it was time to get his licence once and for all.
“How is school life?” Grandpa asked while driving
“It’s not bad. Same old.”
Even without warnings from the weird man in the Tang costume, Zhang Heng couldn’t possibly tell his granddad about what happened to him recently. Let alone making anybody understand and accept such things, there was nothing the old man could do but worry if he knew about it.
However, after the Zavilcha incident, Zhang Heng wondered if he should remind his grandpa to look over his shoulders for any threats. After contemplating for a while, though, he knew how difficult a normal person would react even if they knew about in advance. And as a part of the older generation of intellectuals, grandpa held a firm belief in Marxism. He wasn’t one to get involved in such matters.
“You seem to have matured a lot recently,” smiled grandpa as he looked at Zhang Heng through the rearview mirror. “Very well, don’t be as frivolous like your father. A man should look like a man. Speak less, and do more.”
“Why then, did you let him marry my mother in the first place?” Zhang Heng asked while opening a box of CDs. He took one out called “Qi Li Xiang”, an album about the same age as this car, and inserted it into the player.
After a while, the catchy tunes of Jay Chou started to play over the stereo.
Grandpa harrumphed, “Your mother’s always had a bad taste since she was a child. Inherited it from your grandma…”
Zhang Heng smiled and said nothing.
Half an hour later, the car arrived at his grandpa’s residence. This area was made up of old apartments, and due to the fact that it was built decades ago, underground parking wasn’t on the minds of the builders at that time. Later, the government added more parking spaces on the roadsides.
After grandpa parked his car, Zhang Heng got off and took his suitcase with him. While walking toward the apartment unit, he ran into a few residents of the same building. A long time ago, everyone worked the same job. Hence, Zhang Heng’s granddad was very close to them. Besides, he used to run around the courtyard when he was a little kid and had visited most of the units.
At a time like this, Zhang Heng was obligated to chat with them for a while. When they finally returned home, grandpa warmed up a pre-prepared meal for him. As they ate, the conversation moved to Zhang Heng’s parents. During Christmas, Zhang Heng received a call from them, saying that they would be back this year for Chinese New Year. They did not tell him the specific date back then and he got to know that they hadn’t bought their flight tickets until a few days ago.
The two would take a flight to meet Zhang Heng in four days, after a stopover in Shanghai. Although Grandpa was still dissatisfied with their reluctance in returning to China, he still valued the family reunion a lot. Weeks ago, he had started preparing a variety of ingredients, even bringing out his precious Maotai which he kept away for a long time.
It always felt good to be home, especially for Zhang Heng. For the past six months, he had endured a complicated and arduous journey. After taking a shower, he took his backpack and walked into his bedroom. The switch on the wall was flicked, and the lights immediately came on. After glancing around, Zhang Heng realized that nothing much had changed since he left.
Except for the new bedsheets and quilt, everything else remained the same as before. Above the shelf beside his bed, two superhero figures of Hulk and Spiderman he bought while in junior high were in their Bruce Lee and Altland poses. The PSP stuffed at the bottom of the drawer was now an antique. He even found several posters of S.H.E and Jay Chou in his drawer.
Zhang Heng threw his backpack in front of the desk and collapsed on the bed.
Finally, at a time like this, there was no need to think about the previous quest. He did not need to guess the thoughts of those around him as well. This was probably the true meaning of returning home.
Zhang Heng got up at ten, had breakfast, and started helping his grandfather clean up the house before the Chinese New Year. They started decluttering the study room, taking out the trinkets and boxes that were stuffed all over the place. After wiping them clean, they were sorted out.
As the cleaning proceeded, Zhang Heng found an unopened pager under the bookcase and was thinking about how he should deal with it when he saw Grandpa standing on the other side. It appeared the elderly man was deep in thought as he held a photo album in his hands.
Zhang Heng put down the pager and walked over to him.
The album must be quite old, seeing how yellowed the photos were. However, one could still make out the faces of the people on them. It was a girl with a sweet smile and a young guy with a serious look.
“She looks beautiful,” Zhang Heng said.
“Yeah, which is why I always said she had bad taste. Back then, many young men pursued her, but she chose me instead.” Grandpa wiped his glasses and continued, “I was a very ordinary boy back in school. It’s safe to say that I’m a nerd that doesn’t understand what love is. I can still remember how I got so nervous while taking the picture. The people in the photo studio asked me to relax, but I just couldn’t smile anyway. Hence, my face on the picture. After that, she always said I looked arrogant in this picture.” As grandpa spoke, a photo slipped out of the album.