On the day of the finals, his father invited friends to watch the game at home. Fang Pingping rarely stubbornly learned beside them and was unable to be dragged away. His mother couldn’t do anything to him and had to let it go.
The middle-aged men drank beer and ate braised meat. This made the day feel like it was late at night.
Fang Pingping sat in the corner of the sofa and stared at the TV screen. His eyes were reluctant to blink.
The elementary school student Fang Pingping still didn’t understand the advanced vocabulary, ball style, feel and techniques… All he knew was that the great game made his heart pound.
The team he supported was temporarily at a disadvantage. His father and friends shouted and Fang Pingping clutched the pillow nervously.
The coach called a pause and discussed tactics. The camera followed the most high-profile star player in the team. His expression was calm and he was seemingly unaffected by the lagging score.
In between the coach’s speech, he raised his head to look in a certain direction in the audience. He stretched out his hand and clenched it into a fist and raised it there, as if to greet someone.
The camera followed at the same time and the scene in the auditorium flashed by. Still, Fang Pingping recognized them.
His eyes widened and he couldn’t help calling out, “Brother Ji Tong?!”
In addition, Brother Pei Qingyuan!
Their seats were so far forward!
The middle-aged men were startled by the cries of the children. “What’s wrong?”
Fang Pingping was so excited that he was incoherent. “There are people, I recognize, and now. They are on T-TV! Hello! I see—”
He had a hard time speaking and now it sounded even more difficult to understand.
Father Fang knew that he liked the player on the screen at this moment. He thought Fang Pinging was talking about this and waved his hand with a smile. “Okay, okay, I know that you adore him.”
Fang Pingping’s favorite player, Fu Chengze.
At the age of 17 or 18, when basketball rookies should’ve become famous, Fu Chengze was still spending time in an ordinary high school team. This was until the school team suddenly emerged in his third year of high school, played well in the provincial league and was noticed by club scouts.
Fu Chengze joined a club that wasn’t too strong. In just two or three years, he quickly became the core of the team. Then he led this team to repeatedly create miracles. He rose from the middle and lower reaches of the league all the way to the finals.
Last year, he lost and finished as the runner-up. This year, he vowed to win the championship.
Fu Chengze was a native of the city so there were many people shouting his name in the stadium at this moment.
Fang Pingping’s face turned red with excitement. “No, it is me. The people I know, I know them!”
Just now, Fu Chengze must’ve been saying hello to Brother Ji Tong!
He saw Pei Qingyuan waving in response!
Adults just treated the child like he was joking and didn’t take it seriously. “Okay, okay, watch seriously.”
Fang Pingping stopped talking. He didn’t want to miss every second on the TV.
After adjusting tactics, Fu Chengze’s team gradually narrowed the score gap. They had always been very calm but the opponent who was constantly being chased for points became vaguely impatient.
The situation was reversed and the cheers in the venue were like waves. Fu Chengze’s expression was always calm and resolute.
He grabbed the most rebounds in the game.
The championship was no longer in suspense.
The moment the whistle blew, the commentator excitedly announced the final score. The stadium was full of streamers and the atmosphere was exciting. The winning players and coach hugged warmly.
Fu Chengze walked toward the tsunami-like audience. He clenched his fists again and greeted the most familiar faces in that row.
His parents, Coach Xu of his basketball team in high school and every teammate who sweated side by side laughed or cried over his victory.
Once the game was over and the camera moved away, Fu Chengze was finally able to hug each old friend vigorously.
Coach Xue rubbed his hair heavily with red eyes. Fu Chengze was already taller than him so he bent down in cooperation. He didn’t forget to show his original teammates, “I am now the national champion. It is amazing, right!”
Everyone rushed up to rub their heads together. Only Pei Qingyuan and his boyfriend didn’t do it.
For this game, Fu Chengze called all the important people who made him become a professional player, as well as their relatives.
But he faintly felt that there was still one person missing.
He just couldn’t figure out who was missing.
During the post-match party, all the players and their respective friends and loved ones filled the entire hot pot restaurant.
In the hot aroma, Ji Tong couldn’t help thinking of that day five or six years ago. After Fu Chengze agreed to the scout’s invitation, he couldn’t wait to invite everyone to dinner together.
That day, Fu Chengze held a Coke and vowed that he would try to pass the trial training and strive to let everyone see him play on TV in the future.
He toasted everyone one by one. Once it was Ji Tong’s turn, he deliberately crouched down to clink glasses with him and seriously made an agreement, “If I really do it, remember that you have to come and see me play at that time!”
The child Ji Tong drank the Coke and promised seriously. “I will try.”
Much later, the adult Ji Tong kept his promise.
This was even though Fu Chengze no longer remembered him and all the members of the basketball team didn’t remember him.
During the noisy dinner, Ji Tong whispered to Pei Qingyuan, “He must be more than 185 cm now. So tall.”
It was worthy of being Brother Gao.
The corners of Pei Qingyuan’s lips raised slightly. He put the freshly cooked meat and vegetables into his bowl.
The friend next to him saw it, shook his head and sighed. “I used to never be able to imagine what it was like for Brother Pei to fall in love. Today, I finally saw it. It seems to be similar to ordinary people.”
Someone immediately laughed. “How about it? Has Brother Pei grown three heads and six arms?”
“That isn’t it. How to say it? I always feel like I have seen this scene somewhere…”
Pei Qingyuan, who had always been cold, carefully took care of the smiling person around him.
Fu Chengze felt the same way.
This was the first time he had officially met Ji Tong. He had only seen photos in Pei Qingyuan’s Moments in the past. He had been busy training before and didn’t hold a private party, so he always wanted to meet those old friends again after he got results.
He obviously hadn’t seen Ji Tong, but looking at him eating seriously at this moment, there was a familiar feeling in his heart.
Fu Chengze was stunned for a while. Then he said in a strange way, “I seem to have eaten a small hot pot in the gymnasium of the high school before. I can’t remember exactly. Brother Pei, do you remember?”
Pei Qingyuan nodded. “I remember.”
They ate hot pot with the child who cheered for the players from the audience.
He was the only one who remembered.
Fu Chengze said with emotion, “At that time, I was young and could really make a fuss.”
Ji Tong, who was beside Pei Qingyuan, looked at him with a smile. “That small hot pot must be delicious.”
His smile had a familiar clarity and purity.
There was steam rising from the hot pot in front of him and it was as if a regret had been lifted.
Even with the restrictions of the world’s rules, he still remembered the friendship that spanned ages in the midst of the smell of food.
Fu Chengze no longer felt that something was missing. He saw that Ji Tong’s cup was empty and handed the Coke over, as if they had known each other for a long time. “Yes, it must be delicious.”
Everyone quickly became familiar with Ji Tong.
Once the meal was over, the identity of this couple changed from Pei Qingyuan and his boyfriend Ji Tong to Ji Tong and his boyfriend Pei Qingyuan.
During the chat time after the meal, Ji Tong asked Fu Chengze, “Can we take a photo together? I want to post on my Moments.”
“No problem, feel free.”
Fu Chengze readily agreed. At the same time, he seemed to have heard this sentence somewhere before.
Ji Tong pulled Pei Qingyuan, who had a slightly helpless expression because he knew the inside story. They happily took a group photo.
At that time, Fu Chengze often bought all types of delicious foods for Ji Tong and took photos with the cute child who ate happily, sending it to his Moments. Then there would be many cute girls who liked and commented on it.
Feng shui came around. Now Fu Chengze had become the tool man.
However, compared to Fu Chengze, a smelly high school student who had to rack his brains to think of a caption, Ji Tong’s accompanying text was more direct.
[Ji Tong: You can make a f*k sound now ⊙o⊙]
Many people in his Moments had watched this afternoon’s wonderful finals. Then they turned around to see the photo of the MVP eating hot pot appearing on their phones and their hearts were indeed filled with ‘f*k.’
[Ouyang Yu: F*k? My dimensional wall is broken…]
[Huang Wen: F*k! I remember! He was on the same high school basketball team as Brother Pei, right?!]
[Xie Yuchi: !!! I just said it wasn’t an illusion! I definitely saw both of you on TV!!]
[Qiao Yunhe: F*k f*k f*k. Can you help me get an autograph?]
Fang Pingping, who finished watching the game and was excited all day, saw this photo on his phone in the evening and was even more convinced of the scene he saw in the afternoon.
Brother Ji Tong and Brother Pei Qingyuan really knew Fu Chengze.
He was so close to his idol.
Looking at the party photos over and over again, Fang Pingping originally had many excited things to say. He stuttered when he talked but now when he typed.
Then after thinking about it, he controlled his mood and silently gave it a like.
After a while, Ji Tong took the initiative to send him a message.
[Brother Ji Tong: Pingping, do you want Chengze’s signature?]
Fang Pingping jumped up from his chair in surprise.
[Fang Pingping: Is it really possible? He is my favorite player!!]
The child sent a long line of exclamation points.
[Brother Ji Tong: That’s just right.]
[Brother Ji Tong: Are you at home? In that case, I will quietly deliver it to the window of your backyard an hour later.]
[Brother Ji Tong: In addition to the signature, there is also a letter from someone else.]
The child sent a long row of sincere thanks.
An hour later, he received a gift from Brother Ji Tong at the backyard window.
Fang Pingping watched the two brothers walk toward their house at the other end. He waved at them unceasingly, wanting to laugh and cry.
Ji Tong had given him a large square box. He eagerly ran back to the room with it and carefully opened it.
Inside the box was a brand-new basketball.
Fang Pingping ran to wash his hands and dried them carefully before he dared to hold the basketball and take it out.
On the basketball was the signature of his idol Fu Chengze. There was a short and powerful message: See you on the court.
Fang Pingping was stunned for a long time before his mind returned and he looked in the box.
There was a white envelope underneath.
Fang Pingping opened the envelope with the same care, but inside it wasn’t letter paper. It had a very special texture with a simple line of words written on it.
[Fang Pingping, you have to grow up well.]
This line of words wasn’t as elegant and beautiful as the signature on the basketball. It was the type of character that would be criticized by the teacher for being bold and unrestrained and the structure of the characters was messy. It wasn’t correct at all.
It was also written on magical material that was between silk and paper. Fang Pingping had never seen this type of paper before. It seemed to come from another time.
But Fang Pingping inexplicably liked this piece of paper and this sentence.
There was a mysterious charm.
It should’ve been written by the child who was around his age and entrusted Brother Ji Tong to give him the basketball uniform.
This was the most important day in Fang Pingping’s life.
He looked at the basketball and read the letter for a while. He couldn’t get tired of reading it. Time passed both quickly yet slowly.
It wasn’t known how much time passed. Fang Pingping held the basketball, held the soft paper in the palm of his hand and fell asleep on the bed.
Moonlight shone on the satisfied, smiling face of the child.
The similar-looking terraced house was plunged into the same tranquility.
The same moonlight spilled into another room.
The snow-white cat lightly crossed the pastel-painted piano and entered its cozy nest. His wobbly butt with a love heart was covered with a small blanket.
In the bedroom upstairs, the thin air conditioner was turned on low and there was a small sound from it.
“Am I like Santa Claus today?”
Ji Tong rested his head on the shoulder of the person beside him and asked the question seriously.
It was a pity that there was no chimney or he would’ve asked Fang Pingping to go to the fireplace to receive the gift.
Pei Qingyuan also answered seriously, “It isn’t particularly similar.”
Ji Tong’s short hair rubbed against his neck, causing a subtle itch. He was afraid of itching and wanted to push his head away a bit, but Ji Tong moved even more.
Pei Qingyuan had to change his words. “It is similar.”
It was only then that Ji Tong moved his troublesome head away. “I also think so.”
He rolled away on the bed with the quilt, lay on the pillow that belonged to him and closed his eyes. “Good night.”
Pei Qingyuan turned his head to look at the soft lines of his face and said in a low voice, “I don’t have a quilt to cover me any longer.”
Ji Tong continued to pretend to sleep motionlessly.
After a while, Pei Qingyuan’s eyes showed a smile.
He stretched out his arm and pulled the person into his arms.
Ji Tong opened one eye and looked at him. “What are you doing?”
Pei Qingyuan said concisely, “The quilt.”
Ji Tong whispered, “It isn’t cold.”
“But this is warm.” He hugged his lover and coaxed him. “You look a lot like Santa Claus today.”
Ji Tong was finally satisfied. He picked up the quilt and gave him half of it. “Let me go back. I want a pillow.”
Pei Qingyuan didn’t let go.
The fluffy warmth covered it and the skin touching each other made him drowsy.
Ji Tong gradually forgot about the pillow. He nestled in a familiar embrace and was about to fall asleep.
Pei Qingyuan saw his moonlit eyelashes trembling and his complexion was white.
He loved hugging Ji Tong like this.
In the beginning, he said that Ji Tong wasn’t particularly like Santa Claus. It wasn’t to deliberately anger him but an instinctive reaction.
It was because compared to Santa Claus, Ji Tong was more like the gift that was sent to him.
People always wanted to hold precious gifts in their arms for a long time, which was the place closest to the heart.
Pei Qingyuan’s heart kissed the moonlight that was close at hand. The moonlight fell asleep peacefully, bringing him to sleep, just like every quiet night in the past.
So as usual, he kissed the top of the head of the person in his arms and said softly, “Good night.”