48 Hours a Day - chapter-34
Zhang Heng did not avert his gaze immediately. He was thinking of a way into the primary mission when voilà!—the cue was right in front of his eyes!
This group of so-called bosozoku were markedly car-tuning enthusiasts. If he could somehow be involved in their circle, he should be able to be acquainted with all sorts of underground street races. Building a good relationship with one or two people, he might just get the person to teach him some racing skills.
But there was one problem—he could sense Ameko’s discrimination of these people. Without her to help him translate, he had no way of communicating with them.
Should he try convince Ameko to help or should he just drag her in?
Zhang Heng did not have a lot of time to dilly-dally. The moment the headbanded guy glanced over, he lowered his head and avoided eye-contact. The other customers pretty much reacted the same. The group of bosozoku appeared to have a sense of superiority over the average person, whistling and laughing loudly as they sauntered to an unoccupied table at the back.
At the last minute, Zhang Heng decided to go against breaking friendship with Ameko, purely because this bunch of people was too dim-witted. If he were going to associate himself with them, he would have to lower his intelligence to match theirs.
Zhang Heng did not have any masochistic tendencies and decided to abandon that decision instead. He knew that this wasn’t the only way to get involved in street racing, not to mention learning nothing at all from this bunch of goons.
For the next two weeks, Zhang Heng spent his time learning Japanese and working at the western restaurant. There were no developments on the racing front, but his relationship with Ameko was getting better. The pair worked together, with Zhang Heng helping correct Ameko’s Mandarin pronunciation, and in return, Ameko tutored his Japanese. On top of that, Zhang Heng started to realize Ameko’s growing fondness of exchanging text messages with him.
After getting to know her more, he realized that Ameko was the kind of girl who could really talk. From Momo the cat, the stray dog on the road, to the supermarket bento discounts—everything she saw, she would send him a text telling him about them!
During his Japanese class, he would receive Aemko’s text:
Ah! Today, the Chinese language teacher is wearing an extremely adorable floral skirt that does not suit her age at all! Everyone is shocked.
While he was having his meal, he would get:
Big news! This is a disaster! Did you know that the school’s dog Matsuko is actually male?!
Or before going to bed:
Zhang-san, don’t you think that the world would be a horrible place if cats don’t exist?
The one that he received nearly every day:
Oh no, am I too keen on sending messages? Do you hate me? Yes? No?
Zhang Heng put down the rollerball pen he was using and rubbed his eyes.
“No. I was revising today’s lesson.”
He had not been loafing about even though he was unable to find out about the covert night street race. It felt like he had gone back in time to his senior year in high school. For the sake of picking up Japanese as soon as possible, or at least be able to understand the dullest everyday conversation, he went all out—paring down his sleeping time to just 5 hours to tirelessly practice his language skills. He even kept a book of Japanese basics next to the piano in the restaurant.
The whole thing undoubtedly was like attending extracurricular classes instead of playing a game!
“Zhang-san, you’re too industrious. Compared to you, I feel like I’m wasting time,” Ameko said admiringly.
“I’m just doing what I have to.” Zhang Heng smiled bitterly. Truth be told, he was not very interested in learning languages. But on the second evening here, he received a prompt from that mysterious voice again.
It confirmed that his return time had been extended to 420 days. Some things could be planned in advance, though. He could not possibly rely on Ameko to be his translator for such a long period. Moreover, she had already applied to be an exchange student in China and may not be around for the next school year. Zhang Heng decided that he needed to be independent.
A fourteen-month long study tour like this was hard to come by. If he did take advantage of it and pick up the local language, it would be a waste of opportunity.
Zhang Heng had a sneaking suspicion that if this game continued, he would have to learn all mainstream languages of the world first.
Ameko still kept up with her prattling messages about trivial things, and after one week of bombardment, Zhang Heng could read between the lines of her message today that she was in low spirits.
So, he typed:
What happened to you?
But before he clicked send, he erased the message and then dialed her number. “Ameko, have you been in some sort of trouble recently?”
The girl was shocked to hear from him! Her voice was a little hoarse as if she had just cried not a while ago, and she was sniffling. “Zhang-san. I’m sorry for worrying you. It’s nothing actually. It’s just a family affair, no, not really a family affair—that person left us six years ago.”
“You’ll feel better if you talk about it. If you’re want to, you can tell me. I can keep it a secret for you. After all, other than you, no one else here understands what I say.”
The upset Ameko chuckled and then proceeded to tell her story to Zhang Heng. It turned out when she was younger, her father became addicted to betting on horseracing. He lost the entire family’s fortune. When her mum could not stand it anymore, they got divorced.
After they had broken all relations, her mother married her stepfather and had Ameko’s younger brother. Their lives had been very harmonious until she started university. Somehow her father found her and reached out.
The first time they met, he asked her to lend him money. At first, he said that it was because his business was trouble and needed some turnover money. But if there was one time, there would be a second. After a few more, Ameko grew suspicious. She found out that not only was he still gambling, he also picked up a terrible drinking habit. f
The father and daughter broke into a fight and stopped contacting each other for a few months. Then during the afternoon an hour ago, Ameko received a call from her father saying that he had been beaten up by debt collectors and did not have any money to see a doctor. Having learned her lesson, though, Ameko did not send her hard-earned money right away. Her father called her ungrateful and even said that he did not have a daughter like her!
Ameko broke into tears, and asked Zhang Heng who was on the other line, “Zhang-san, am I very cold-blooded?”
“Err, I think your father is extremely unreasonable. From the looks of it, he’s most likely lying. But if you’re worried about him, I can go with you tomorrow.”
“Really? Isn’t it unbecoming of me to trouble you for my family’s problem?” Ameko felt abashed.
“No! Recently, I feel like I’m nearing my limits as well. If I’m not learning Japanese, I would be playing piano at the restaurant. It just so happens I need to a breather.” Zhang Heng blurted all these from the heart. If he had to look at another one of those kana1 syllables again, he might just throw up.
“It’s Saturday tomorrow. Let’s go after work then!”
“Thank you so much, Zhang-san!”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Ameko’s problem was just a brief interlude. Zhang Heng did not mind it at all.
After he hung up, he began thinking about how to improve his driving skills again. It was already 15 days into the second game and had still not started on the main mission yet. If another player were in his shoes, they would be panicking already!
But because he had fourteen months, Zhang Heng was not in too much of a hurry. But he could not continue to squander time away so rampantly. It would be better for him to set a deadline for himself—if he were still unable to find a way to improve his driving skills, Zhang Heng would have no choice but to try getting involved with this bosozoku.
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