Chapter 521: Rumours

Chapter 521: Rumours


Xu Tingsheng returned to his school for a visit. Knowing that he had been in Yanzhou over this period of time, Vice-Principal Niu had asked that he come over to chat. Yet, upon his arrival, he was instead dragged off by Old Niu right away to participate in Yanzhou’s opening ceremony for this year’s National University Football Competition.

Yanzhou University presently took its football team very seriously.

Thanks to Xu Tingsheng’s killer sure-hit goals back in his first year of university, Yanzhou University had solidly suppressed Jianhai Technological University for the first time in the qualifiers for the Yanzhou district. While they had lost to Jianan University in the following match and unfortunately failed to make it to the main round, it had still been a historic breakthrough for them.

Last year, Yanzhou University had easily defeated Jianhai University whose entire midfield had collectively graduated in the preliminaries and managed to draw a weak seed in the next match. For the first time in the university’s history, they had carved out a path to the main round of the National University Football Competition.

Xu Tingsheng had been one of the team members back then. Still, after that game, he had ceased to participate in the school team’s training and competition because he was busy.

While not expressly stated, he had already effectively withdrawn from the school team.

Their first appearance in the main competition had not been all that outstanding as they had been eliminated in the group stage with two draws and one defeat. Still, like China gaining a place in the World Cup for the first time, this was already consolation enough for their elders back in Yanzhou.

The spirited higher-ups of Yanzhou University had made a pretty unexpected decision this year. They had applied to host the main competition for Jianhai Province in the National University Football Competition. Then, they had actually succeeded.

Xu Tingsheng had learnt about this way back. The school had approached him straightaway after their successful application, expressing their hope that he would return to the school team and represent Yanzhou University in participating in the competition this time.

In the words of Vice-Principal Niu, if Yanzhou University could not even make it out of the group stage as the host, they would have no face so to speak of.

Having been relatively busy back then, Xu Tingsheng had made the excuse that the competition schedule clashed with his internship and declined to participate.

The hot-tempered Vice-Principal Niu had adamantly refused to budge.

Vice-Principal Niu had said that he would exempt him from the internship. Xu Tingsheng had replied that this was no good as he had to accumulate experience. Vice-Principal Niu had said ‘hah, I don’t believe you’ll really go to a school for an internship’. Xu Tingsheng had said that he had to right to choose where to go for his internship. Vice-Principal Niu had said that he had the right to judge if he had passed or failed his internship. As for entering a student in a competition, that was also well within his rights.

And so, the young dude and the old dude had engaged in a lengthy discourse, all till...Xingchen Technologies and Hucheng Tongcheng had joined hands to sponsor the matches for this year’s National University Football Competition in Jianhai Province.

This was effectively killing two birds with one stone.

Firstly, what was presently most noteworthy as a source of pride for Yanzhou University were two of their current students, Lu Zhixin and Xu Tingsheng. Due to Lu Zhixin’s actions in the gutter oil affair, her reputation and recognition in society even surpassed Xu Tingsheng’s somewhat right now.

A huge wave of public discussion resulted as the enterprises of these two students who had yet to graduate sponsored the competition for Yanzhou University together. It was akin to an epic tale as bureaucrats from the country’s Education Ministry even expressly praised Yanzhou University in calling it the cradle of youth with aspirations and promoted it as a model for university entrepreneurship. 

In other words, not only had Yanzhou University tangibly benefited, it had gained face too.

Next, Xu Tingsheng finally found an excuse not to participate-it was still okay if the sponsor came, personally participated and then lost. But what if he won? How much contention and speculation might arise as a result?

The honest, upright Old Niu was most averse to happenings like that. He was truthfully much more afraid than Xu Tingsheng himself with regard to possible support by the committee and the contention and speculation that might arise afterwards as a result.

It was because of this that Comrade Old Niu had let Xu Tingsheng off the hook.

Having believed that he had completely circumvented this, never would Xu Tingsheng have thought that he might be fooled by Old Niu into attending the opening ceremony. Yanzhou University’s higher-ups were truly meticulous when it came to showing off their students.

Even the matches themselves would be a pretty major event for Yanzhou University as many turned up at the opening ceremony. As the fourth years were off looking for jobs and those in the third years were doing their internships, with most of them also not being very enthusiastic about such things, most of the attendees were juniors in their first or second year of university.

The absolute meritorious general of two years ago, the mainstay and assist king of a year ago and the sponsor of this current competition...most importantly, he was actually still a third year student here, having yet to graduate.

What an inconceivable university life indeed.

Be it students from their university or school teams or cheerleading squads from the various other universities, whether they had seen him before, the most gazes and most enthusiastic discussion were all directed towards Xu Tingsheng who was hiding in a corner, an awkward expression on his face.

“Hmm, I wonder if Senior Xu Tingsheng has a girlfriend yet.”

While most of the female freshmen present had heard of Xu Tingsheng before, this was nevertheless their first time seeing him in person. Also, girls were often more prone to romanticism at this age.

One of them had just wondered this aloud.

Someone beside her who knew a bit more said, “Wasn’t he together with Senior Lu? Confession on the football field, starting a company together…”

Someone else said, “That ended long ago, alright? Didn’t you hear? To make up for the breakup and him breaking her heart, Senior gave her Hucheng…”

“How I wish I could be in a relationship with Senior, and then break up! How rich would I be!” Another female freshman’s eyes shone with dollar signs as she mused yearningly aloud.

“Hah, dream on. Senior has already had a girlfriend since way back. Otherwise, how would it even fall to you bunch of little vixens to dream about this?” A second year female senior joked, mercilessly dealing her juniors a mental blow.

“Huh, he does? Who?” The other party did not mind as she inquisitively enquired at once.

    

“A young lady, around sixteen or seventeen of age.”

“Apple.”

“A young lady. Senior brought her to our school to attend an event before.”

“Apple. People were already talking about it on the internet before, alright?!”

“...”

Hence commenced an argument.

Actually, whether Xu Tingsheng’s girlfriend was an unknown younger girl or Apple, both were hot topics for discussion. One was difficult to understand, which often came when things felt kind of inconceivable. The other was obvious, Apple being a superstar in the music industry.

More and more people joined in the discussion which was continually expanding in scale…

Till finally the emcee on stage announced: this year’s image spokesperson for the National University Football Competition, Apple Cen Xiyu...will now come to the stage and sing a song.

“Wah…”

“Apple, Apple actually came?!!!” 

“Those who didn’t come today are probably going to regret it to death.”

“They probably didn’t inform us beforehand because there’d be chaos.”

“I’ve got to hurry up and call my roommate. She’s Apple’s diehard fan.”

“Outside...seems to have been cordoned off by security. They’re not letting anyone else in.”

Being extremely popular amongst university students, Apple was actually still one herself. Besides that, she also loved sports and was hailed a marathon goddess by many. It was appropriate indeed that she was their spokesperson for the National University Football Competition.

Still, shouldn’t she only appear in the final stage of the national competition? Was she, somehow or other, going to every single district where it was held...was she that free?

Really, that was out of the question and much too far-fetched. In truth, only Jianhai Province was blessed with this fortune. It was because the school running this year’s competition here was Yanzhou University, and Yanzhou University had a student by the name of Xu Tingsheng.

Everyone knew that Apple had a special affinity with Yanzhou University. She had even deigned to perform at their freshman welcoming ceremony before.

Apple  had been continually embroiled in a fierce inner conflict over whether she wanted to see Xu Tingsheng or not. Therefore, she had decided to just take a gamble and leave it to the heavens to decide this time. She would go to his school, and whether or not she would see him there would be left to the will of the heavens to dictate.

The chance of this had originally been low, what with Xu Tingsheng technically currently being in the internship stage and all. Still, coincidentally, this had truly come to pass. Thanks to Old Niu's craftiness, at this exact timing...he had returned, and appeared on the main stage too.

And so, beneath the gazes of thousands, both concerned parties of the rumours were on the same stage.

Xu Tingsheng had not expected Apple to be here.

It had already been a very long time since the two last met.

Was this not the will of the heavens? This was fate.

Apple was over the mood as she took to the stage with a radiant smile on her face and sang a theme song which was more sports-oriented. The cheers from the audience never ceased throughout.

Then, unavoidably, the two exchanged greetings as the opening ceremony finally drew to a close.

Apple attended the dinner party that night. Xu Tingsheng, however, did not attend.

After returning to her hotel room, Apple was a bit drunk and also felt a bit bitter and pained inside.

Was this the will of the heavens? It was like nothing had changed, and nothing could be done.

Sitting alone in the room, she turned on her laptop and searched for news about him. This was a daily habit of hers, a drug that she could not be weaned from-first a search on Baidu, and then one more on Weibo.

Today was somewhat more special. Apple was in a hurry to see if there were any pictures online of earlier that day. She wanted to look at those photos that had captured the both of them...to see where his gaze was directed within.

Her mind in a bit of a daze, her vision a little foggy, Apple typed 'Xu Tingsheng' in that empty space and pressed enter.

...

Ring, ring...Bang, bang, bang, bang!

The doorbell rang, and soon frantic knocking ensued.

Apple clambered up in a bit of a daze. She rubbed her eyes and went to open the door.

Seeing her agent Li Juan outside with a frantic expression on her face, she inquired, "What's wrong, Sis Juan?"

Li Juan angrily shoved her back into the room, closed the door and replied, "What's wrong? You still dare ask me what's wrong?! Do you know what you just did?!"

"I, I was sleeping."

"And before you fell asleep?"

"I...searched his name," Apple did not conceal the facts as Li Juan knew all of this, being virtually the only person whom Apple could confide in and pour out her troubles to regarding Xu Tingsheng.

Raising her head to look at her, Li Juan sighed, feeling exasperated yet also sympathetic, "Did you get drunk?"

"Yes, a little," Apple admittedly quite awkwardly before she asked, "What exactly did I do wrong, Sis Juan? You look so worked up."

"You posted on Weibo just now. There were only three words you typed…" Looking at Apple, Li Juan revealed exasperatedly, "Xu Tingsheng."

The newly ascended celebrity queen Apple had posted on Weibo in the middle of the night just three mere puzzling characters: Xu Tingsheng. Xishan Tower's Xu Tingsheng, young, handsome business magnate Xu Tingsheng...what exactly did this mean? It seemed everything was gonna blow?!

"Huh?! I…" Apple dashed frantically towards the laptop that she had not shut down or closed.

An hour ago, the bleary Apple had booted it up and erroneously taken the Weibo posting block for the search bar before entering the same three characters as always: Xu Tingsheng.

She had pressed enter.

And fallen asleep.

"I already helped you to delete it," Li Juan said from behind her.

As Apple's agent and most trusted confidante, she knew the password to Apple's Weibo account.

Apple stopped and sighed in relief, "That's good then, that's good then.

Li Juan shot her an exasperated look before walking to the screen and starting up Weibo, saying, "Still, it was already too late by then."

She pointed at the Weibo bar for most trending searches. Ranked first were two names: Apple Cen Xiyu and Xu Tingsheng.

"When I learnt of this, more than twenty minutes had already gone by. Then, I contacted our company and liaised with Xingchen too before coming over to look for you," Li Juan said.

She immediately clicked on the topic and the page refreshed. The entire screen was filled with various threads on the topic…

Some, thinking that they were going public with their relationship, congratulated them.

Some speculated that Apple was hinting at something.

Some consolidated this with Apple's earlier programme and thereby attached numerous photographs of when they had been on stage together.

Gossip was dug up…

Some exposed scoops…

Some broke out in rebuke…

……

Apple sat lethargically on the bed.

"What should I do now, Sis Juan?"

As she looked at her, a hint of slyness could be seen at the corners of Li Juan's mouth, "Whose opinion do you want to hear?"

"Huh?" Apple was a bit bewildered.

"Xingchen is preparing to forcefully suppress the matter, deleting posts on a large scale to diminish the effects of the matter...they're probably reporting it to Xu Tingsheng right now, making the final decision regarding the actual implementation."

"Our company's stance is that if you and Xu Tingsheng don't mind, we can completely treat things as using rumours to drive up knowledge on you. Xu Tingsheng's image is very good, and the two of you go way back and are very suited to each other. So, even the rumours can still be positive, not being harmful to you in any way."

"The company is probably communicating regarding this issue with Xu Tingsheng now."

Apple hesitated for a while, "He's definitely very angry."

"Well then, you can release a clarification post on Weibo recounting your relationship as ex-classmates and friends, highlighting that you know his girlfriend with whom you are on good terms. Finally, give a plausible enough explanation for what happened tonight. In coordinating with the PR of Tianyi and Xingchen, redirecting and suppressing public opinion on the internet, this affair should die down very quickly," Li Juan said.

Apple hurriedly nodded after hearing this, "That's good then, that's good then. In that case, I'll post on Weibo right away...no, Sis Juan, you should help me to do it. You're more meticulous with words."

Li Juan looked at her like she was a wastrel, "No rush. Before you post on Weibo, I'd like to ask: What if you don't take him into consideration? What I mean is to not be concerned about him and just be concerned about yourself. How do you wish for things to develop?"

"Me?" Apple thought about this and shook her head, answering in a low tone, "I don't know."

Her eyes were filled with bewilderment and helplessness.

"Would you like to hear my opinion then?" Li Juan's rather crafty smile reappeared.

Apple nodded and replied, "Okay."

She had already lost her own initiative at this point. Li Juan was her initiative.

“If it was me, knowing that I would never be able to give up on a man no matter what, rather than being hesitant and conflicted everyday,” Li Juan paused and looked at Apple, finding that the latter’s gaze was fixated beseechingly at her, “In that case, I would make a gamble in forcing his hand…”

Li Juan didn’t want to pay Xu Tingsheng’s little girlfriend, or even Xu Tingsheng himself any concern. She was concerned merely about Apple, who was even closer than a sister to her. Having already witnessed too much of her pain, she hoped that she could find happiness.

Apple hesitated for a moment before asking, “What do you mean by that, Sis?”

Li Juan got a bit vehement, “Prick at his heart a little, and force him to express his stance. See if his heart aches or not...we’ll both do nothing, turn off our phones and vanish somewhere to play for a few days. Let’s see how he deals with it.”

“But won’t that…”

“Won’t what what? Could the relationship between you and him be any worse than it is now? Don’t you want to know if he still has a soft spot for you? If he truly doesn’t, we can put this behind us...on the contrary, so long as he wavers for the least bit, you should just go for it.”

“I…”

“Alright, stop you-ing. I already know your answer, you want to,” Li Juan walked over to Apple, took her phone and turned it off, “Come, have a good sleep. I’ll accompany you tonight. I’ll get someone to buy plane tickets for tomorrow and turn off my phone too. From tomorrow onwards, the two of us are on vacation.”

Li Juan flung their phones to one side and climbed onto the bed, hugging the still uneasy Apple as she comforted her, “Relax, don’t overthink things. Who cares if the heavens overturn and the earth flips over? We’re women! What need is there to be so rational?!”

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