Translate: An | Edit: Sae | Proofread: Anasofi
Gu Fei parked his motorcycle in front of the shop and Gu Miao swiftly climbed onto the backseat with her skateboard pressed against her chest. Then she held onto his waist and put her own face against his back.
“Let me see your face,” Gu Fei said as he turned his head around.
Gu Miao lifted her face for him to look.
“There’re still some tears, wipe them off,” Gu Fei said.
Gu Miao used the back of her hands to rub her eyes and then used her sleeves to rub under her nose.
“Ey,” Gu Fei sighed. “Even if you were a boy, you would still be considered the crude kind.”
Gu Miao smiled and stuck her face against his back again.
Gu Fei drove his bike out, with a clear destination that was directed toward the downtown shopping mall. According to Gu Miao, the idea of a feast referred specifically to the barbeque buffet located in there.
This little girl was abnormally persistent on some matters—only willing to eat in that one restaurant when they go out was just one of many.
The most prominent benefit of living in a small city was perhaps the fact that there was only one downtown area. Moreover, it was within reach, taking only a short amount of time no matter which area you were arriving from.
The only thing was, this was also the time of day when the restaurant was the busiest. There were basically no available tables left when they arrived.
“Are there any deals today?” Gu Fei asked the waiter. He pulled out his phone to search for any possible availability of coupons and then gave Gu Miao’s head a flick. “You can go find a table.”
When Gu Miao put her skateboard on the floor and placed one foot on it, Gu Fei immediately placed his foot on it as well. “Walk.”
“Do you want the skateboard behind the counter for safe-keeping?” the waiter asked with a smile.
Gu Miao shook her head and quickly bent down to pick up the skateboard before she hugged it against her chest.
“She’ll take care of it,” Gu Fei said.
Gu Miao ran inside with the skateboard in her arms.
“Fuck, I’m getting hungry from hearing you talk,” Pan Zhi swallowed some saliva. “For real though, I’ll go over and visit you tomorrow, and while we’re at it, you can take me out for food. Here… there’s no way we can get that much food with that cheap of a price.”
“Did your family help with poverty alleviation over the New Year?” Jiang Cheng had his phone wedged between his ear and shoulder, while one hand was occupied by a plate and the other by chopsticks as he sluggishly picked up pieces of pork belly, sliced beef, pork belly, sliced beef… to him, there was actually no point in having a large variety of food since he only liked eating these.
“How can that be the same,” Pan Zhi said with a rather dejected tone. “We had planned to eat barbequed meat together last semester, but now, not only did we not get to eat the meat, even the person is gone as well.”
“Go stay in a hotel once you get here,” Jiang Cheng put down his chopsticks and picked up a plate before he continued to pile on more meat. “You also have to book it yourself, I don’t have the energy to do anything right now.”
“I’m fine with staying at your place,” Pan Zhi said matter-of-factly.
“No you can’t,” Jiang Cheng knitted his eyebrows. He doesn’t even wish to stay any longer in the room he was currently living in. “Book a standard room, I’ll go over.”
“… is the relationship between that biological father of yours not going well?” Pan Zhi contemplated.
“No relationship has been established yet,” Jiang Cheng said casually as he carried two full plates of meat and walked over to grab a bottle of beer. “It’s neither good nor bad…”
When he walked back to his table, he froze.
For a table of four, one chair was occupied by a skateboard, on another sat a little bald-headed person wearing a blue jacket, and on the table, there was a… knitted green hat with little pink flowers attached.
“Gu Miao?” Jiang Cheng looked at her in surprise.
Gu Miao nodded, seemingly not too astonished. She then brought her skateboard down from the chair and settled it under the table.
“You…” He put the plate that was in his hands down on the table and noticed that Gu Miao was already staring anticipatingly at the barbeque plate. He waved his hand back and forth in front of her eyes, “Who are you here with?”
Gu Miao stood up, pointed towards the entrance, and waved her hands a few times.
When Jiang Cheng looked over, he saw the equally astonished Gu Fei.
“Let’s go find another table,” Gu Fei walked over. “This table has already been taken by Gege1.”
Gu Miao looked around, swallowed some saliva and didn’t move from where she was sitting.
“The waiter told me there were some tables left on the other end,” Gu Fei pointed inside. “Let’s go over there.”
But Gu Miao still didn’t move. She looked up to meet his gaze with no expression whatsoever—Jiang Cheng was uncertain of what she wanted to express.
After being left in a deadlock, Gu Fei turned to look at Jiang Cheng
“En?” Jiang Cheng also looked back at him.
“You’re by yourself?” Gu Fei asked.
“En,” Jiang Cheng gave a sound in response and sat down.
The waiter walked over and opened the grill, spread a piece of paper over it and started putting meat in while also getting ready to brush on the seasonings and sauce.
“Then, we…” Gu Fei was seemingly hesitant, and paused for a long time before he finished the sentence. “…can eat together?”
Jiang Cheng lifted his eyes to glance at him. To be honest, he really wanted to respond with, “In your dreams! Go wash the quilt.”
But the big eyes on Gu Miao’s bald head were also staring intently back at him from across, and it became difficult for the phrase to escape his mouth. After the meat was brushed with some sauce, he finally nodded his head.
“Thanks,” Gu Fei said, and pointed at Gu Miao. “Sit here and wait for me, I’ll go get food.”
Gu Miao nodded.
As Gu Fei left, Jiang Cheng laid down two more slices of sliced beef on the waxed paper and asked Gu Miao: “Which do you want to eat between pork belly and sliced beef?”
Gu Miao pointed at the sliced beef.
“The pork belly is also tasty, grilled them until they sizzle with oil… I can eat five, six plates,” Jiang Cheng flipped the meat and brushed on some oil. “Do you eat spicy food?”
Gu Miao shook her head.
Jiang Cheng put a well-finished slice of beef onto her plate and said: “Have a bite.”
Gu Miao was slightly hesitant as she turned her head and glanced in Gu Fei’s direction.
“It’s okay…” Jiang Cheng didn’t get a chance to finish when he suddenly noticed a visible scar on the back of Gu Miao’s head, estimated to be around five centimeters in length. He was somewhat startled.
When Gu Miao couldn’t find Gu Fei, she turned back and stuffed the slice of beef into her mouth then looked up and smiled at him.
“Wanna try a piece of pork belly?” Jiang Cheng asked her.
Gu Miao nodded again.
He then picked up a slice of pork belly and put it in her plate while smoothly picking up the hat that was on the table and laying it on the chair next to him. Unable to contain himself, he tsk-ed and asked: “Who bought you this hat, huh?”
Gu Miao lowered her head and continued to eat without uttering a word.
To remain silent when eating.
This little girl, out of everyone that he knew, was the one person who conducted this fact to perfection.
Gu Fei returned quickly with food, but his ability to pile food was significantly inferior to him—at his first return, he brought back three plates. If he hadn’t been on the phone with Pan Zhi just now, getting six plates in one trip would not have been a problem and then having a bit of fruit, in the end, would be about enough.
The table of four was pushed up against the wall. Gu Miao sat on the opposite side toward the outside savoring the meal, while Jiang Cheng sat on the inside grilling meat with Gu Fei, who hesitantly sat in the seat next to him.
Jiang Cheng was quite unwilling to pick up Gu Fei’s portion to help him grill it. He stretched out his hand and lightly flicked Gu Miao’s head: “Go pick out a beverage if you want to drink.”
When Gu Miao stood up and walked towards the beverage counter, Gu Fei swiftly got up and sat down in the seat across from Jiang Cheng.
Jiang Cheng gave him a look, then continued grilling the pork and beef.
“You’re eating so much grease when you have a fever?” Gu Fei asked.
“En?” Jiang Cheng’s movements stopped briefly as he watched Gu Fei grill some glutinous rice cake. “You knew?”
“You were burning hot when I dragged you in, how could I not know,” Gu Fei answered.
“Dragged?” Jiang Cheng’s imagination wondered uncontrollably to a scenario of Gu Fei dragging him into the shop by the hair like a sack of burlap bag.
“Should I have carried you in my arms otherwise?” Gu Fei then put in two more slices of bacon as the two shared half of the grill each, creating a harmonious atmosphere.
Jiang Cheng was unsure of how to proceed with the conversation, so he stuffed a slice of pork into his mouth.
On her way back from getting the beverages, Gu Miao also brought several cups with her. She placed the bottles of beer down one by one —four bottles— which were already open. There was even a cup of orange juice.
“Well, you’re quite capable,” Jiang Cheng looked at her in amazement. “You didn’t spill any onto the floor?”
Gu Miao shook her head and returned to her seat. She then pushed a bottle of beer and the cup of orange juice in front of Jiang Cheng.
“I don’t…” He was about to let Gu Miao have the orange juice, but just as he opened his mouth, he saw Gu Miao had already picked up a bottle of beer and was pouring it into her own cup. “You…”
Gu Miao raised the cup and took a big vigorous gulp. She then let out a very pleasurable sigh and used the back of her hand to wipe her mouth.
Jiang Cheng glanced at Gu Fei only to notice that he was completely indifferent to Gu Miao’s actions. He didn’t even glance in her direction as he busily wrapped a slice of pork belly inside a piece of Chinese lettuce.
“She drinks alcohol?” Jiang Cheng asked, unable to restrain himself.
“En, only when we eat grilled meat,” Gu Fei brought the rolled-up lettuce leaf in front of Jiang Cheng. “Otherwise, she doesn’t…”
Jiang Cheng looked at the leaf roll.
Without saying anything, Gu Fei simply held it up.
“…thanks.” He had no choice but to accept and bite into it.
“Doesn’t it feel greasy to eat a full meal of pork belly?” Gu Fei questioned.
“It’s not that bad, I quite like it,” Jiang Cheng said.
Gu Fei wrapped two more rolls for Jiang Cheng and then asked again: “You’re not a local, right? Based on your accent.”
“No,” Jiang Cheng answered while the acknowledgment of this fact caused his heart to suddenly react in frustration. The discontent that he forced down with marbled pork and fatted calf was making a great effort to resurrect.
“What’s Li Bao Guo’s relationship with you?” Gu Fei continued to ask.
Jiang Cheng was a bit startled – how did Gu Fei know about Li Bao Guo? But this question was quickly drowned by a rather anxious agitation as he flung two slices of meat onto the grill. “What part of this is your business?”
Gu Fei lifted his gaze to inspect him before he smiled and kept quiet. He picked up a bottle of beer and lightly bumped it against the bottle in front of Jiang Cheng. After taking a sip, he continued on to grill some more meat.
This was the first time that Jiang Cheng ate a meal across the table from someone who he was basically a stranger to. Not keen on having a conversation from the beginning, there was even less to talk about now.
From across, Gu Fei looked like he had also lost all interest to converse while Gu Xiaomei,2 who was likely a real mute, took sips of the beer and bites of the meat, seemingly having quite a cheerful meal.
In the silence, Jiang Cheng ate four plates of meat with a swelling head. Gu Miao was probably just about done as well after Gu Fei went back and forth to pick up food a couple more times.
After Jiang Cheng finished eating, she finally put down her chopsticks, then leaned back against the chair and rubbed her tummy.
“Full?” Gu Fei asked.
She nodded her head.
“You eat more than your brother,” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but conclude.
“How’d you get here?” Gu Fei also put down his chopsticks. “I’ll give you a ride later, we’re going in the same direction anyway.”
“On the motorcycle?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“En,” Gu Fei nodded.
“Drunk driving and overloading?” Jiang Cheng asked.
Gu Fei didn’t utter a sound and simply stared at him for a long time with eyes filled with mockery of some sorts or others of who knows what. In the end, he patted Gu Miao on the shoulder: “Let’s go.”
After Gu Fei left with Gu Miao, Jiang Cheng stood up and brought back another half a plate of meat and a little basket of lettuce leaves.
The pork in lettuce wraps that Gu Fei previously made for him was actually quite good—refreshing and non-greasy.
When he finished the half-plate of meat as well, he felt as though he should walk back as to help digest the food.
However, it was way too cold outside. He shrunk behind the leather curtains and took out his phone, wanting to call a taxi. But even after five minutes passed, no one picked up the order.
Pan Zhi called back again instead.
“This ticket has two stations, the times are different too. Which station should I purchase?”
“East Station,” Jiang Cheng said. “I only recognize the East Station.”
“Great,” Pan Zhi said. “Come and pick me up tomorrow afternoon at four, and send me your address later. I’m going to hunt around for a hotel nearby.”
“There’s probably none,” Jiang Cheng recalled the overall feeling of that area—it just didn’t seem like a place that had hotels. “Just randomly book one, the entirety of this place isn’t even that big anyway.”
After he hung up the phone, someone finally picked up his order for a taxi. When Jiang Cheng sat into the car, his whole body fell into discomfort.
This was probably the feeling of not being acclimatized to the new environment. Someone who seldom caught colds suddenly turned into a dainty, fragile flower from this change in environment. There were no signs of getting better after the full morning of struggles, and even after eating his most favorite food—the flower was about to wither and fall.
He closed his eyes and sighed.
The people that were stuffed inside for New Year all seemed to have come out during these past two days; the road was full of cars and the driver drove quite aggressively with one foot on the gas pedal and the other accompanying the emergency brake, less than ten minutes passed and Jiang Cheng already felt his stomach churning.
Even though the destination was not that far, the whole course was more or less half an hour long. But the moment he saw the intersection to Gu Fei’s house, he could not hold it in anymore. Unable to even speak, he directly slapped at the door a few times.
“Here?” the driver asked.
He nodded his head and tapped the door a few more times.
The driver finally stopped the car. Then, as if he was blasted out by a fart, he opened the door and jumped out, dashing towards the garbage bin on the side of the street before he started to vomit painfully.
This scene was so miserable that even Jiang Cheng himself did not have the heart to imagine it.
Peace finally came after a series of earth-shattering gut cleansing, leaving the aftermath of a head that was aching like it was about to explode. With his weight supported by a hand on the wall, he searched his pockets for a kleenex, but no kleenex turned up.
Just as anger started to rise from the soles of his feet, a small arm reached out from the side with a few kleenexes.
He grabbed the tissue and wiped his mouth back and forth a few times before glancing to the side.
There was truly no lack of coincidences in this universe.
Gu Miao stood right by his side, wearing her green hat. Three steps away stood Gu Fei, wearing an amused expression as he waited for an entertaining show to play out.
“Thank you.” Jiang Cheng nodded at Gu Miao. This shameful yet inescapable situation where he couldn’t even turn around and leave or say, “the fuck are you looking at” felt quite stifling.
Gu Miao reached out her hand and grasped his, pulling forward—possibly wanting to support him.
“There’s no need,” Jiang Cheng took out his hand.
Gu Miao grabbed his hand again, still wanting to support him.
“Really, it’s not necessary. I’m okay,” Jiang Cheng said.
When he was about to take out his hand once more, Gu Miao grasped his hand tightly and held on.
“Er Miao…” Gu Fei started to walk over.
Gu Miao still refused to let go.
Jiang Cheng was unsure as to how he should communicate with her. With all sorts of irritation building up, they caused his temper to rise and he forcefully threw Gu Miao’s hand away.
“I said I don’t need help!”
Gu Miao didn’t move, her hand was still raised mid-air—frozen.
Before Jiang Cheng had a chance to feel any twinges of guilt, he suddenly felt his throat tighten as Gu Fei grasped his collar from behind and pulled him back hard enough for him to stumble.
“Fuck…” He turned around and at the same time struck back with his elbow.
Gu Fei caught his elbow with his spare hand, and the hand on his collar tightened, therefore Jiang Cheng had no choice but to lean intimately against Gu Fei.
Being constricted by the neck made him want to vomit again.
“She really likes you,” Gu Fei said with a lowered voice against his ear. “But sometimes she can’t really understand other people’s sentiments. So please, pardon her.”
Jiang Cheng wanted to say, “I fucking lived for 17 years and have never seen someone make a request in such a fashion”, but he didn’t have the chance to utter that many words. All he could do was force out three words between the gaps of his teeth: “… gonna throw up.”
Gu Fei loosened his hand.
He held himself up against the wall and retched a few times, but nothing came out.
When Gu Fei passed him a bottle of water, he grabbed it and twisted open the cap, taking two gulps.
Once he recovered, he looked at Gu Miao, “I’m okay, there’s no need for help.”
Gu Miao nodded and retreated back to Gu Fei’s side.
“I’m going back.” He threw the half-finished bottle of water in the garbage can, turned around and started walking towards the intersection up ahead.
The moment he opened the door after arriving at Li Baoguo’s, Jiang Cheng was able to sniff out the scent of a cooked meal.
Li Baoguo was standing in the kitchen, holding a phone and dialing.
Jiang Cheng was just about to speak when the phone in his pocket started to ring. He took it out and saw that it was Li Baoguo’s number: “You…”
Li Baoguo heard his phone ringing and turned his head. Then he shouted with a loud voice: “Yo! When’d you get back? I was calling you!”
“Just came in,” Jiang Cheng closed the door. “You… didn’t hear?”
“My hearing isn’t good,” Li Baoguo pointed at his own ear. “I can only hear clearly when I have my head tilted towards the sound.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng responded.
“Where did you go?” Li Baoguo entered the kitchen and brought out a pot of soup, “I was waiting for you to come back to eat for a while now.”
“I…” Jiang Cheng hesitated for a moment and didn’t bring up the fact that he had already eaten at a grilled-meat buffet by himself. “… went to the hospital.”
“You went to the hospital?” Li Baoguo started to immediately make a commotion and as he yelled, he stretched his hand over to touch Jiang Cheng’s face. “You’re sick? Where do you feel uncomfortable? Fever? Is it because of the sudden change in environment?!”
“I took some medication already, it’s not a big deal.” For the sake of this meal, Jiang Cheng held himself back from reacting to the black-ish yellow hand that exhausted a heavy odor of cigarette smoke, by not instantly slapping it away.
“Let me tell you – if you’re feeling unwell, don’t go to the hospital. There’s a community clinic on the street beside our’s, they’re quite professional,” Li Baoguo said. “It’s just that the front door is a bit caved in and not easily recognized, it’s beside the small supermarket.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng pondered on it, “A small supermarket? The one Gu Fei…”
“How do you know Gu Fei?” Li Baoguo turned his head and looked at him in surprise. “You just arrived and already got along with him?”
“No,” Jiang Cheng wasn’t in the mood to explain, “I went to the store to buy some stuff this morning.”
“Let me tell you,” Li Baoguo’s voice increased in volume. Even though his voice was loud on a regular basis, it was even louder now. “Don’t drift along with him, that kid is bad news.”
“… oh,” Jiang Cheng took off his jacket and threw it into his bedroom.
Li Baoguo looked at him, probably waiting for him to ask why. But after waiting for a while with no other response, he moved closer with a face full of narrative.
“You know why I say he’s bad news?”
“Why?” Jiang Cheng was not actually interested in knowing these things, but he still asked to be cooperative.
“He murdered his own father!” Li Baoguo said, standing even closer now which made his spit spray on half of Jiang Cheng’s face from excitement.
Jiang Cheng vigorously stood up to dodge it before he wiped his face intensely. As he was about to erupt with anger, Li Bao Guo’s words suddenly registered.
“What? Killed who?”
“His biological father!” Li Baoguo said, semi-shouting, “He drowned his own father.”
Jiang Cheng looked at him quietly only to see Li Baoguo’s expression in high spirits; f Jiang Cheng wanted, he could probably use this style of gossip to chitchat for the whole afternoon.
Unfortunately, Jiang Cheng didn’t believe his words.
“Does he not have to sit in prison for killing his father?” He sat down in the chair beside the table and rubbed the slightly swelling area in between his eyebrows.
“It happened so many years ago, what prison is there for him to sit in,” Li Bao Guo sat down too. “Plus, there was no eyewitness.”
“No one saw ah…” Jiang Cheng laughed.
“But everyone knows what the truth is. When the police arrived, his father was in the lake and he was on the shore, that expression…” Li Bao Guo let out a string of tsks, “One look and you’d know he did it… go on, eat, see if the dishes are compatible with your taste?”
Jiang Cheng made no sound, but he picked up a piece of spare ribs.
“It was for his Er Miao,” Li Baoguo could probably see that Jiang Cheng didn’t believe him and, as if he was trying to emphasize on the credibility, he added to the explanation. “Her head was covered in blood after her dad smacked her around and she lost the ability to talk since then.”
“Ah.” Jiang Cheng replied as he took a bite into the spare rib and thought back to the ghastly sight of a scar behind Gu Miao’s head.
1 “Ge Ge” – 哥哥 meaning older brother. It is a polite way of referring to someone from the same generation as you but older.
2 “Gu Xiaomei” 顾小妹 – meaning Little Sister Gu – mostly seems like an endearing nickname.