Translate: An | Edit: Sae
Even in elementary school, Jiang Cheng never had a chance to pick out candies like this since his parents basically never allowed them to eat candy or any junk food and soft drinks. He always felt as though he lived the life of someone that practiced Daoism1 to the extent that he still doesn’t quite like eating snacks or sugary products right now—it was Pan Zhi who had always stuffed him with a bunch of food that he found tasty.
And now that Gu Fei had scattered a handful of candy on his desk for him to pick out, he suddenly felt very refreshed by the idea.
Coffee candy, milk candy, mint candy, fruit candy… and there was even a difference between soft and hard candies. He stared at them for a long time contemplating before finally picking up a milk candy.
Just as he peeled the wrapper open, Gu Fei reached out again and took away the remaining ones left on the desk.
“Fuck?” Jiang Cheng froze, remembering that Gu Fei had said “pick for yourself’ and not “it’s all for you”; such tightly-woven logic made him momentarily convinced. Yet, he could not help but look at him, “Are you gonna have Wang Jian Lin2 riding on your coattail tomorrow from your stingy ways?”
Gu Fei made no sound as he looked down at the candies in his hand, picked out the other two pieces of milk candy and placed them in front of Jiang Cheng before putting the rest back into his own pocket.
Jiang Cheng peeled open all three milk candies and jammed them into his mouth, not sure what else he could express.
The English teacher had a surname of Lu and his class was much more controlled than Lao Xu in the sense that he made sure everyone was focused and quiet as birds. This was because he roared at people, hence his effectiveness in class was better than Lao Xu.
Even though Jiang Cheng felt that the teachers he had met today were incomparable to his previous teachers, Lu Laoshi3’s class was exceptionally overdriven. He would wave around his pointer at anyone who dared to scratch their itch and even asked if they needed help. It has been a long time since Jiang Cheng was this concentrated on a lesson and he would instantly be startled back to reality from the slightest distraction.
The class erupted in excitement after the dismissal bell rang and as if they had been greatly suppressed, there were even people who let out a few howls and wails while stretching their backs.
“You!” Lu Laoshi suddenly pointed his pointer to the back of the classroom, “Come with me.”
This “you” and this “point” stretched over quite a wide range of possibilities. Everyone’s head rolled to the back of the class as if they were passing on hot-potatoes again but Jiang Cheng paid no attention when he felt their gazes fall on him. He was a newly transferred student and the teacher couldn’t even put a name on him yet…
“Gu Fei!” Lu Laoshi roared once more.
“… ay,” Gu Fei had his head down and was on his phone, but this sudden outcry made his phone fall directly onto the floor. He raised his head to look at Lu Laoshi and then twisted his head slightly to the side in Jiang Cheng’s direction, “He’s calling you.”
“Hm?” Jiang Cheng froze, “He’s calling me?”
“Yes, you! Gu Fei’s deskmate!” Lu Laoshi pointed his pointer in their direction again and the few heads underneath the path of his pointer all quickly dissipated.
Jiang Cheng had no choice but to stand up, unsure of what this English teacher wanted from him.
Just as he was walking toward the classroom door, he turned around to look at Wang Xu and saw that the guy had also stood up—presumably, if the teacher hadn’t called Jiang Cheng away, the two would have already been at war.
“Jiang Cheng, right?” Lu Laoshi turned to walk downstairs.
“En,” Jiang Cheng replied and followed him down the stairs. “Do you need me for something?”
“Xu Zong was even flaunting you in front of me before, saying that a Real ‘dot’ Xueba4 has arrived…” Lu Laoshi said.
“What? Real ‘dot’?” Jiang Cheng didn’t understand.
“A real, dot, Xueba.” Lu Laoshi gave him a look as he explained the meaning, “You don’t even understand this?”
Real · Xuébà.
“… now, I do.” It was the first time that Jiang Cheng knew there were people who actually pronounced the dot out loud.
“Our school was a regular high school before, later it was turned into a vocational high school, and much later converted back to a regular high school again,” Lu Laoshi said. “So this can’t be compared to your previous school. I hope you won’t be affected – however you studied before, you can continue to do so in the same way now.”
“Oh.” Jiang Cheng thought about how he studied before and felt that this teacher did not know much about him.
“People like Wang Xu ah, Gu Fei ah, don’t provoke them too much, they’re all a bunch of dawdlers,” Lu Laoshi said. “If I didn’t bring you out, he’d be giving you trouble right now. His mission wouldn’t be accomplished without receiving a punishment, also, he already has a few records of demerits on him.”
“… oh.” Jiang Cheng nodded and thought this Lu Laoshi cared quite a bit for his students.
“You’re not going to thank me?” Lu Laoshi looked at him rather displeased.
“Thank you,” Jiang Cheng replied.
“Your score for English is pretty top-notch. Just come and be my class representative,” Lu Laoshi quickly added. “The current English Representative in your class is Yi Jing who is also the Class President and concurrently the Language Class Representative…”
“En?” Jiang Cheng was surprised, then quickly shook his head, “No.”
“Why not,” Lu Laoshi was quite surprised. “I heard from Lao Xu that you were actually the Class President before, you can’t think a Class Rep is too tiring, right?”
“I was only the Class President for one semester anyway,” Jiang Cheng said.
“Why’s that?” Lu Laoshi asked.
Jiang Cheng looked at him: “Fighting and cutting class.”
Lu Laoshi stared at him with wide eyes, his mouth opened but no words came out.
“Then, I’ll head back to class?” Jiang Cheng said.
“You… wait a minute,” Lu Laoshi gave it a thought. “How about helping me prepare lessons during your free time?”
Jiang Cheng mentally sighed and very much wanted to say, ‘I don’t have a computer right now’, but this Lu Laoshi seemed pretty chill – it would be bad to reject him again after the first time, so he nodded.
“Okay,” Lu Laoshi smiled. “You can go back to class now.”
“Fuck, taking so long to come back.” Wang Xu was sitting on Jiang Cheng’s desk, “He’s probably avoiding laozi5, but he can’t beat the odds forever!”
“Lao Lu6 probably needs him for something,” Zhou Jing said.
“Something my ass, have you ever seen Lao Lu need anyone for anything! Probably no more than to ask about his situation because he’s a new transferred student. They’ve likely finished talking already but the sucker’s too scared to come back to class!” Wang Xu said.
“You want to resolve it here?” Gu Fei, who was quietly playing games on his phone the whole time, finally popped a question.
“Bullshit!” Wang Xu pushed lightly at his hair, with anger coming from no specific direction. “Fuck!”
Gu Fei put down his phone, raised his head and peered at him.
“… where else can this be resolved,” Wang Xu became hesitant.
“I don’t care,” Gu Fei said, “Don’t fight around me. Geez, don’t you find it bothersome?”
“How about you let it pass,” Zhou Jing said. “You both got a chance at revenge already, so it’s even.”
“Even my fucking ass!” Wang Xu turned his head and glared at Zhou Jing.
“If not in the fields then do it outside of the school.” Gu Fei continued to play his hand game, “Just not near me, it’s annoying.”
“He’s back,” Zhou Jing said.
Gu Fei looked up as his gaze swept through the front of the room to see Jiang Cheng slowly make his way back with his hands in his pockets and eyes on Wang Xu.
“Hiding from me?” Wang Xu sneered, “The class bell hasn’t even rung yet you have the nerve to come back?”
“Three things,” Jiang Cheng said firmly.
Wang Xu stared at him, appearing to not have registered what he had said.
“One, get down,” Jiang Cheng stuck out a finger, then stuck out a second finger. “Second, the person that ditches first is a jackass.”
When Wang Xu finally recuperated and bulged his eyes wide open to speak, Jiang Cheng had already raised a third finger to interrupt him. “Three, how you want to resolve this – give it to me straight but if it’s just fighting with your mouth7 then I surrender.”
After he finished talking, the class that was waiting for a bustling scene suddenly fell silent.
Everyone was waiting for Wang Xu’s reaction.
Gu Fei’s bent his head back, leaned his body against the back wall and let out a low whistle.
Based off of Gu Fei’s many years of experience in being a melon-eating audience8, Jiang Cheng’s words and the manner in which he delivered them instantly made Wang Xu’s road to becoming the big boss muffled to a blur.
With that, the expression on Wang Xu’s face changed enigmatically. Jiang Cheng could not determine what he was thinking but the immediate movement of his gaze towards Gu Fei’s direction did not go unseen by him.
Wang Xu was afraid of Gu Fei, or at least, he unconsciously regarded Gu Fei as his defender.
Since the moment he saw the four ‘bu, shi, hao, niao’ in Gu Fei’s family shop, Jiang Cheng knew that Gu Fei’s seemingly mild, well-mannered and state of ‘it’s none of my business’ was all a facade.
Bluffing as an old immortal free-roaming the universe.
“I’ll wait for you after school at noon.” Wang Xu jumped off the desk and pointed back at Jiang Cheng while walking back to his own seat, “In due time, don’t run.”
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng replied and sat down.
After giving it some thought, he leaned his head to the side and asked Gu Fei: “Is this guy the big boss in your class?”
From this distance, he was suddenly aware that the rest on the left side of Gu Fei’s undercut had three dots, a thirty-two beats rest.
“Basically,” Gu Fei answered.
“What does ‘basically’ mean?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“It means that if anyone disagrees then he’ll fight them.” Gu Fei was still staring at his phone, his fingers actively swiping at the screen.
Jiang Cheng could distinguish that he was actually playing Craz3 Match – a mini-game he played during middle school because there was nothing better to play when he needed to kill time.
Aside from watching videos, Gu Fei was unexpectedly not only entirely occupied by this game, but also quite devoted too – how retarded.
“You still play that?” Jiang Cheng could not help but ask.
“Mm, wastes no brain power,” Gu Fei said, “It’s not like I’m a straight-A nerd.”
Everything Jiang Cheng’s seen this morning has caused his mood to become sour already, now having heard this sentence, he almost landed a punch straight on the thirty-two beat rest on his undercut.
He gritted his teeth to refrain from moving his hand – one reason was that Gu Fei helped him when he fainted, two because he just finished eating three of Gu Fei’s milk candies… does this even count as a reason?
“To have the ability to directly confront your watery brain can be considered a courageous act,” he said. “I have faith in you.”
Gu Fei turned his face over to look at him; his face was expressionless, but his tone was exceptionally slap-worthy. “Good luck at noon oh~”
‘Oh~’ you fucking sick dog!
Jiang Cheng did not pay much attention to the lesson afterward, his heart felt suffocated – after blacklisting the family of three, he still couldn’t help but feel the urge to reopen their -Moments-.9
Their relationship was indeed rough and certainly tense as well, but nonetheless, it was the “home” he resided for decades and they were the “family members” he had come face to face with every day – these were not sentiments he could castaway within the next second.
But it seemed as though no one was affected by his absence or even the likelihood of never meeting again… maybe they just didn’t express it?
This form of peacefulness made him feel even more depleted than being kicked out of the home he had lived in for years.
Deciding to forget it and sleep for a bit, he lied his head on the desk, pulled down his hat to cover his forehead and closed his eyes. He never had trouble sleeping in a new environment, but he had been unable to sleep soundly after his arrival.
Li Baoguo’s house was too decrepit, in addition, the person himself was overtly sloppy, therefore not only were there cockroaches and spiders, but there were also mice. For the entire night, he listened to the sound of mice roaming the space of his room, causing him to have the misconception that he was sleeping within a pile of garbage.
The teachers at Si Zhong were a lot more understanding than the ones at his previous school. Jiang Cheng slept directly through the break in between classes without a raise of his head, and not a single teacher came over to disrupt him whatsoever.
That was until the bell indicating an end to the last class of the day had rung and Wang Xu’s palm slapping the surface of his desk did Jiang Cheng finally straighten his body with a yawn, aching all over.
“Let’s go,” Wang Xu glared at him.
Jiang Cheng did not make a sound. He shoved his textbooks and what-not into the slot below the surface of his desk, then picked up his school bag and stood up.
Wang Xu turned his body around with swag and walked toward the door. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was wearing a down-filled jacket and the lack of wind indoors, there would definitely be an aura of “here comes the big boss.”
There were also three to four people tailing him and based on the excitement on their faces, it was plausible he brought his little sidekicks along as well. The others who wanted to catch a good show had yet caught up to them.
“Hey,” Jiang Cheng called Wang Xu from behind.
“Chickening out?” Wang Xu immediately answered.
“Are these your teammates or the cheerleading squad?” Jiang Cheng asked.
Wang Xu looked at the people beside him and glared back at Jiang Cheng, “Why, scared?”
“A cheerleading squad doesn’t matter,” Jiang Cheng’s gaze swept across them and as he continued forward, he added: “If it’s to get physical then you guys should arrange a numbered order within yourselves.”
“You guys, stop following.” Wang Xu waved his hand.
“Are you gonna go watch?” Zhou Jing bumped at the desk.
Gu Fei was still playing the Craz3 Match game that only people without a straight-A student’s intelligence loved to play, only having passed a level did he finally stand up. “Nope.”
“Let’s go and take a look, aren’t you afraid something will happen?” Zhou Jing said.
“Does it look like whatever happens will happen to me?” Gu Fei put his phone inside his pocket, turned around and left.
When he walked down to the ground floor, he arrived just in time to see Wang Xu’s little followers gazing fixedly toward the direction of the back gate. Jiang Cheng and Wang Xu’s shadows were nowhere in sight.
“Da Fei…” someone immediately inched over when they saw him.
“Shh,” Gu Fei stuck his index finger vertically in front of his lips. “Don’t annoy me.”
The elementary school students had yet to start school today which meant that Gu Miao was definitely waiting for him in front of the front entrance an hour ago, therefore, he didn’t have the leisure time to see Wang Xu get beaten up.
Indeed, Gu Fei’s arbitrary judgment was definite that when Wang Xu clashed with Jiang Cheng, it was his fate to receive a good, good beating.
The indifference in Jiang Cheng’s eyes was something Wang Xu did not possess and his whole body was also tightly woven with an air of irritation that could scare a claustrophobic to death. If it wasn’t because he had recently come across some unhappy circumstances, then this person had a long-term psychological irregularity.
How could Wang Xu, a patient with Zhong Erbing10 who dreamt of being a master in the great Jianghu11, compete with a moody psychopath?
Once he exited the school gates, a green head whizzed past him like a sharp blow of wind – a “whoosh” sound emitted from all around.
Gu Fei walked toward the bicycle racks to retrieve his own bike but just as he swung his leg over the seat, Gu Miao once again passed him like the blowing winds – only stopping by his side for approximately two seconds to steal a handful of candies from his pocket.
As he rode his bike to the intersection, Gu Miao was standing on the sidewalk peeling open a candy wrapper – all the fruit candies had been specially picked out for herself.
“You want me to give you a ride?” Gu Fei asked. “Or do you want to follow behind?”
Just when Gu Miao picked up her skateboard and was getting ready to straddle the backseat, Gu Fei stopped her and held up her chin to look at the scratch mark on the corner of her eyes. “Was this a scratch from somewhere or did you get into a fight?”
“A scratch,” Gu Miao said.
“Get on,” Gu Fei didn’t ask again.
Gu Miao brought the skateboard to her chest and sat down in the back with her arms wrapped around his waist.
Maybe it was a scratch, maybe it was a bruise left from fighting with someone, but whatever the case was, this little girl was dead stubborn. There was no point in asking and you couldn’t overly meddle in her affairs – she had to solve her own problems, even if it meant getting beat up.
“How ‘bout I take you to buy a new pair of gloves,” Gu Fei peddled the bike. “The little leather gloves you wanted last time?”
Gu Miao immediately took off the mucky down-filled gloves that were currently on her own hands, stuck up a thumb and waved it in front of Gu Fei.
Si Zhong’s back door was more prosperous than the front entrance – it was quite the miraculous sight.
Most likely because the back door was connected to a small narrow street and the management was quite poor with all sorts of food cars12 lined up one after another; the main point was, the food was very well-favored.
As Jiang Cheng caught scents of the deliciously smelling aromas while he walked alongside Wang Xu, he almost wanted to make the suggestion of treating him to a meal first….
But seeing that Wang Xu’s appearance was full of enmity and his gaze full of persistence, Jiang Cheng stopped himself, not wanting to anger the guy into tears.
Might as well treat this as a tour then and come back to eat later.
There sure was a lot of things he wanted to eat – all sorts of barbequed items that is: fatty beef, marbled lamb meat, kidneys, tendons.
Jiang Cheng subtly swallowed his saliva.
As they walked out of the narrow streetway, the savory scent also evaporated. Jiang Cheng was unsure of where in the world Wang Xu wanted to go.
“Are we having a hiking match?” Jiang Cheng asked out loud, extremely irked due to an empty stomach.
Wang Xu ignored him, but then he came to an abrupt stop after taking a few more steps, his eyebrows scrunched together as he looked ahead.
Jiang Cheng followed his gaze and looked ahead.
From a distance of approximately half a meter stood three people, all of whom had their hands in their pocket and was staring back in their direction. After he and Wang Xu both turned their gaze to glance back at them, the three slowly made their way over.
Wang Xu reached his hand inside his pocket.
“What’s wrong?” Across from them stood a tall, lean guy who looked as if he had been in hunger for tens of years, smiling at them. “Are you going to call Gu Fei? The guy left just a second ago with his little sister, he probably won’t have the mind to meddle in your lame business.”
“What do you want?!’ Wang Xu asked with a raspy, impatient voice.
“Yo,” the tall, lean guy dramatically put on a display of astonishment. “You’re quite tough today, not gonna run?”
Then he swept his gaze over Jiang Cheng’s face: “Did you find a new buddy? He must be a kick-ass, with him here you don’t even need to run anymore.”
“Before, it was actually a crowd of them running away with the wind picking up as they passed,” a person behind the tall lean guy added sardonically.
The tall lean guy displayed a face full of mockery as he looked at the two, “How about I count to three and you two…”
Jiang Cheng smashed a fist right at his nose.
This fist not only smashed the guy’s speech to pieces, but it also smashed the opposing team members to confusion.
Jiang Cheng did not stop there – this sort of thing was all about fighting a quick battle and arriving at a quick closure.
After throwing a fist, he grabbed the tall lean guy by the hair along with his hat and pulled him downwards before letting his knee collide once again with the guy’s nose.
The strength he used both times were minor. With Jiang Cheng’s experience, the guy’s nose bridge won’t run into major problems, but his nose bleed will explode from within to create the effect of ketchup being smeared all over his mouth.
As expected, when Jiang Cheng released his hand and brutally shoved the tall lean guy aside, the blood in his nose instantly flooded out and he instinctively went to wipe it…
Jiang Cheng looked to Wang Xu, then as he took a step forward, his elbow smashed upon an arm that was presumably reaching for a knife, so taking advantage of the position he was in, Jiang Cheng smashed the guy’s nose with his cranium.
The person let out an “ow” and grasped his nose in pain.
“Run, you stupid cunt!” Jiang Cheng yelled at Wang Xu as took to his heels and break out into a run toward the direction ahead.
Wang Xu remained dazed for a moment before hurriedly charging behind Jiang Cheng.
“This way.” When they arrived at the intersection, Wang Xu pointed toward the left side.
Jiang Cheng followed behind, twisting and turning into an alleyway and then made two more turns until they finally stopped in front of an empty space in front of someone’s fenced backyard.
“What is this place?” Jiang Cheng glanced around his surroundings only to realize that this was a dead end. All three sides were fenced in by residents, decrepit and tattered, the floor was piled with the build-up of snow and fallen tree branches – and littered with all sorts of garbage.
“This is…” Wang Xu inhaled heavily for a moment, “The place where I schedule fights with people.”
“Your taste is quite unique,” Jiang Cheng commented.
“Umm,” Wang Xu looked at him and after hesitating for a long time, he finally said: “For just now… thanks.”
“Thank me for what,” Jiang Cheng fished out a cigarette from his pocket and dangled it in his mouth after it was lit. “It’s not like I meant to help you.”
Wang Xu stared at him: “Fuck, are you really a straight-A student?”
“Let’s resolve the issue between us now,” Jiang Cheng said matter-of-factly as he checked the time. “I’m hungry, hurry up and end this, I want to eat.”
“It’s resolved,” Wang Xu sat down on a chair nearby that was dilapidated to the point of looking like a prop used in a haunted house. “There’s no issue between us now.”
Jiang Cheng clicked his tongue: “Then I’m leaving.”
“Wait a sec,” Wang Xu stopped him. “Hou Zi13 is definitely still around this area. They have more people, you’ll run into them if you go out now.”
Jiang Cheng did not respond.
“For real, you saw only three just now. Since you beat up Hou Zi until his face was covered in blood, there definitely won’t be just the three of them anymore if you leave and bump into them again. I… I’ll call someone over to help.” Wang Xu took out his phone.
Jiang Cheng thought back to what the tall lean guy said previously and then with scrunched up eyebrows he asked: “Who are you calling?”
“Da Fei,” Wang Xu said.
“The fuck? Gu Fei?” Jiang Cheng immediately felt the skin on his face swiftly fall to the ground.
Our Jiang Cheng is a beast!! Images of from when Jiang Cheng encountered Hou Zi and his gang, thank you artist!
1 Xiuxing – practice Buddhism or Daoism
2 Wang Jian Lin 王健林 – the owner of China’s Wanda Group, this group has a foot in just about everything – real estate, international trade, constructions, petrochemicals, chemicals, rubber production, cables, finance and banking… Jiang Cheng is basically asking him if Gu Fei thinks he will become richer than Wang Jian Lin from being stingy.
3 Laoshi – Teacher, we will keep it in Chinese
4 (真· 学霸 Xuébà) – Real Brainiac, straight-A student; more positive than bookworm, leaving in the Chinese unless circumstances force a change
5 Laozi – I/me (used arrogantly or jocularly), in anger or out of contempt – it will remain in Chinese form since I don’t think there is a word strong enough to convey it in English
6 Lao Lu – Lu Laoshi (Teacher Lu), Lu means old so Old Lu; the homeroom teacher is Lao Xu (old Xu) so on
7 Fighting with your mouth – like talking bullshit but can’t back it up
8 Melon-eating Audience 吃瓜群众 – refers to a mass who sits to the side and watches a scene unfold before them in sanguine manners, not interfering in the scene and merely watching for entertainment purposes.
9 Moments 朋友圈 – On the highly popular social media app among the Chinese population “WeChat”, an important part of it is being able to post your feeds on “moments” – kind of like Instagram. All the friends on your WeChat can see what you post and heart it, although you can also put specific restrictions on people who you don’t want to see your updates. A social feed for friend updates.
The basic layout of “Moments” – this is just an image I picked off from google, not mine XD. The WeChat app started in 2011 and is a project developed by Tencent (also the developer of QQ) and has turned into a multi-purpose messaging, social media, and mobile payment app (WeChat Pay) all in one – with 902 million daily users. Ever since it became a payment app, I think most people stopped using wallets – cards, bills and all. In 2018, WeChat was identified as one of the few potential competitors to Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
10 Zhong Erbing ( Eighth-Grade Syndrome) 中二病 – refer to immature teenagers at the rebellious age who daydreams naive, childish thoughts and commit actions that lack a second thought.
11 Jianghu (江湖) literally translates to “rivers and lakes” but it means so much more. Jianghu is the name of the brotherhood of outsiders that existed in old China, the pugilistic world. It is the counterculture society of workers who made their living with the skill of their own two hands: craftsmen, beggars, thieves, street performers, fortune tellers, wandering healers, and many martial artists. In ancient China, where education was valued over physical ability, this was the lowest rank of social order. Mainstream society belonged to the Confucian scholar-officials. Its underbelly was the jianghu. Jianghu tradition still influences martial arts to this day. Chinese fiction has captured that image very well through books, movies, and TV series. “Wuxia”, the Chinese name was given to martial art fiction, is about martial arts and the way people lived through the pugilistic world of ancient China.
12 To get an idea of the street food cars that are lined up at the school entrances, usually even more of them than the picture indicates. They’d be lined up on both sides of the street around the time when school ended – questionable health-wise but I remember it being the one thing you’d look forward to at the end of the day.
13 Hou Zi, the name of the tall lean guy which also means “Monkey/Ape”