Translate: An | Edit: Sae | Proofread: Anasofi
The bus ride from the cemetery back home was a long one that circled over half the city. Gu Fei leaned against the window, allowing the bus to swing him around, and not two stops had passed, he was already swung to sleep.
It was only within a few stops before his house that he opened his eyes, but it was already past eight o’clock. He fished out his phone for a glance at the screen, Jiang Cheng hadn’t sent any messages – probably hadn’t arrived yet.
There was one message from Gu Miao though, containing only three words.
– I already ate.
When he came home late and didn’t have time to cook dinner, the neighbor downstairs would set up a small table and Gu Miao would go downstairs by herself to eat with them. At the end of the month, Gu Fei would pay them the bill.
Sometimes, when their mother was carried away by a whim, she would also cook them a few meals. Their mother’s dishes were all very delicious, he and Gu Miao both enjoyed them, except the opportunities were rare.
– Did you eat downstairs?
Gu Fei dropped his phone back into his pocket, then walked to the side of the door where he waited to get off the bus. This little girl was becoming more and more cool, even her text messages were reticent and words so few were cherished as gold.
Eight o’clock in this old part of the town was already considered late for its winter season, and for these streets that were described as the old within the old, it was basically considered midnight. The shops along the streets all closed at this time, and there was rarely anyone outside except for those out playing cards.
As Gu Fei was heading toward their family shop, he spotted someone standing at the entrance from quite a distance away. From the dimly cascading streetlight, he could tell that the person was jumping up and down on the pedestrian sidewalk, almost like they were dancing.
He increased his pace and walked over to see that it was indeed Jiang Cheng, jumping up and down the stairs of the store entrance with his neck shrunk into his jacket and hands dug deep in his pockets.
“The fuck!” Before he could make a sound, Jiang Cheng had already seen him approach. He wasn’t sure if it was due to the cold or his menacing tone, but his voice had lowered greatly. “Why don’t you just show up tomorrow!”
When this last sentence escaped his mouth, Gu Fei was able to confirm that it was due to the coldness. Jiang Cheng’s voice quivered and there was also the sound of teeth clashing together.
“Sorry,” Gu Fei said as he took out the keys. “I was on a bus that was going extremely slow.”
“No, like,” Jiang Cheng pointed toward the shop door. “Your family business is looked after quite carefreely ah.”
“Mm?” Gu Fei gave him a glance.
“When the doctor from next door left, he said that you guys didn’t even open this afternoon,” Jiang Cheng replied.
“Is that right,” Gu Fei opened the door, the warmth from inside cascaded them. “It’s my mom’s turn to be here today, this afternoon… something probably came up and she left.”
“Move, move…” Jiang Cheng was right behind him as he pushed Gu Fei aside and stepped into the store. After jumping on the spot numerous times, he finally settled his butt on the chair. “Fuck, I’m freezing to death.”
“When did you get here?” Gu Fei brought over an electrical heater and turned it on beside him.
“Seven-fifty,” Jiang Cheng casually threw the bag containing the jacket on the cashier counter.
“That early,” Gu Fei froze.
“I,” Jiang Cheng pointed at himself. “Received an education that taught me to be on time from a young age.”
Gu Fei stared at him, and only after a while did he finally say: “Why didn’t you tell me when you arrived?”
“Would you be able to suddenly appear if I told you?” Jiang Cheng replied. “Also, my phone got too cold – it powered off.”
“Then why didn’t you just go back for today,” Gu Fei brought over a cup and dropped a slice of lemon inside, then poured a cup of hot water and handed it to him. “I could’ve also gone to pick it up.”
“Why do you have so much nonsense to say,” Jiang Cheng received the cup and took a sip, glaring at the heater.
Gu Fei didn’t continue the conversation: “I’ll return you your clothes tomorrow morning, I brought them home to wash.”
“Ah?” Jiang Cheng raised his head to look at him. “It’s difficult to wash, there’s blood on them.”
“It’s okay, it washed off fine,” Gu Fei said.
“Thank you,” Jiang Cheng said.
“You’re welcome,” Gu Fei sat down behind the cashier counter and propped his legs up on top of the counter. “It’s just that it’s too disgusting to leave them unwashed, and it’s not like you took them with you.”
“… Fuck,” Jiang Cheng said. “I forgot, okay?”
Neither of the two had much to say afterward.
Gu Fei very comfortably nestled himself on the cashier counter and started to play on his phone. Jiang Cheng had no phone to play with, hence he just sat there and stared blankly into space.
He knew that at this time, most stores in the area – except the card gaming room – had already closed for the day. Gu Fei was probably waiting for him to leave so he could close.
But he didn’t want to leave.
Li Bao Guo’s house had been very lively today. He wasn’t sure what madness Li Bao Guo was possessed by, but he had called over a bunch of people to play cards.
At noon, Li Bao Guo very proficiently fixed the two panels of the window that he had smashed open. Jiang Cheng quite marvelled at that trait – if one was to talk about hands-on abilities, it was their parents’ generation that was highly skilled.
Before Jiang Cheng’s wandering thoughts could return back to earth, he didn’t have the chance to eat even ten of the dumplings that Li Bao Guo had ‘apparently’ boiled for him when the room was suddenly crowded with five-six men and women.
They crowded around him on four sides and stared – all sorts of prying and gossiping happened right in front of his face.
How profitable, someone else raised your son to this size.
Look, a child raised up in the big city sure is different ha!
Your adoptive parents must be quite rich, right?
Of course, they’re rich, look at his attire and his temperament. Tsk, tsk, tsk…
In the end, a woman in the style of a middle-aged internet meme said this: one look and you can tell their biological relationship. Look, look, look at this, his features look so similar to Bao Guo ah! Exactly the same ah!
Jiang Cheng was already gritting his teeth and suffocating himself to the shape of a bell pepper – once this sentence travelled to his ears, he instantly couldn’t take it anymore.
Similar… to hell with you! Exactly the same my ass!
He pushed aside this group of people, and only when he returned to his own room and slammed the door shut did they finally give up.
Then they finished all the dumplings in the pot, even the three leftovers Jiang Cheng didn’t get the chance to eat and left in his bowl were not spared.
Jiang Cheng felt as if he was caught in moments of disbelief on a daily basis. To the left: fathomless, and to the right: inconceivable – he lived in an atmosphere where it was utterly difficult to breathe.
When he walked through the hallway of the apartment complex after class ended in the afternoon, he could tell that those people were still there just from the sound alone, and based on their behaviour, it appeared that they didn’t have any plan to leave tonight either. Jiang Cheng didn’t bother to enter the doorway and made a U-turn without hesitation.
He headed toward the dumpling restaurant he didn’t get the chance to go the other day, sent Gu Fei a message and finished his homework inside. In the end, with only him left, Jiang Cheng finally stood up and left.
There was an inexplicable loneliness.
He couldn’t return to his previous life, nor was he able to fuse into his current life. Drifting amongst a sea of strangers, no relatives, and no friends – there was not one place trustworthy enough for him to rest.
He felt as if his entire body was pending in mid-air.
Staring blankly for almost half an hour in Gu Fei’s shop, Jiang Cheng turned his head to look at Gu Fei. Like before, he had his head lowered, looking at his phone screen.
“Are you waiting to close?” Jiang Cheng asked.
Gu Fei stared at the screen, ignoring him.
“If you’re in a hurry to close then I’ll leave,” Jiang Cheng continued. “If not, then I’ll stay for a bit longer.”
Gu Fei still didn’t utter a sound, nor did he move.
What is so encaptivating? Jiang Cheng hesitated before he stood up and leaned over the counter to peek at his phone.
Retarded game, Craz3 Match!
“Damn,” he was not able to refrain himself from uttering. How can there be such a person who plays a game like this to the point that they can’t hear others talk!
He examined this level, it was quite difficult, with only three moves left. If he didn’t waste any of these steps, the level could still be passed – Gu Fei was probably calculating his moves.
He hung over the counter and calculated with him. Quickly enough, he determined which piece should be moved first. But based on the moral that a person watching chess is a true gentleman when he refrained from speaking, Jiang Cheng waited in silence.
Gu Fei remained still the entire time.
Jiang Cheng continued to hang over the cash counter for almost five minutes and Gu Fei still hadn’t moved. If the time from earlier was added, he had been frozen there calculating these three moves for more than half an hour…
Jiang Cheng thought back to what Lao Xu had said this morning, ‘Gu Fei, is actually quite smart…’ This is called smart?
Unable to contain himself any longer, he stuck out a finger wanting to draw out a path for Gu Fei. “Can you not see this?”
His fingertip had only passed the corner of Gu Fei’s eyes – not having even touched the screen – yet Gu Fei suddenly raised his head and grabbed his finger, flipping it backward in a continuous movement.
“Ah!” Jiang Cheng yelled out loud; his movement was not too harsh, however, it surprised him greatly. Jiang Cheng’s anger suddenly hit the roof and he threw a fist right at Gu Fei’s chest. “Do you have a fucking problem!”
Gu Fei released his hand.
“You have problems right!” Jiang Cheng swung his hand around – thank goodness it was the finger on his left hand, had it been his right hand, the wound would have torn right open.
Gu Fei stood up. Jiang Cheng paid special attention to his movements, unable to determine if this guy had some devil flame burning within him and was looking for someone to fight with.
“I…” Gu Fei tossed his phone to the side, brought over a cup and poured himself some water, “I fell asleep just now.”
“What?” Jiang Cheng froze.
“Sorry,” Gu Fei looked at his hand. “I didn’t injure you, did I?”
“You sleep with your eyes open?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Then my mind must have drifted, I didn’t hear you speak.” Gu Fei sat back down and took a look at his phone, “Where did you say to go next?”
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“Where?” Gu Fei asked.
“Feel it out yourself,” Jiang Cheng replied.
Gu Fei looked down, then swiped across the screen which was soon followed by an “ah” sound and scrunched eyebrows.
“Dead?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“Mm,” Gu Fei answered.
“Are you…” Jiang Cheng swallowed the other half of the sentence.
“Retarded?” Gu Fei finished for him. “You said I was playing a retarded game anyways, didn’t you?”
“No, like, did you not see that line of horizontal red jelly beans1 on the top right corner,” Jiang Cheng said. “With that gone, there’s also similar colors on top, with one more move then you can get the bottom one…”
Before Jiang Cheng could finish his sentence, Gu Fei nodded his head. “Oh.”
Then he swiped his finger across the screen twice.
Jiang Cheng stared at him.
“Passed,” Gu Fei let out a breath of air, turning around to look at him. “Thank you.”
“Asshole,” Jiang Cheng was speechless.
Gu Fei threw his phone onto the counter and stretched his back. “Is there any homework for today?”
“Bullshit,” Jiang Cheng said. “Is there a time when you guys don’t have homework?”
“Did you write it?” Gu Fei asked.
Jiang Cheng looked at him in silence.
“Let me copy it,” Gu Fei asked.
Jiang Cheng continued to look at him. This person was asking his unacquainted desk-mate of two days, including one and a half in which they didn’t see each other, to copy his homework. And his tone wasn’t even the least bit entreating.
“Please, give me your homework.” Gu Fei sighed, “So that I can borrow it to copy, thank you.”
Jiang Cheng also sighed, and after sighing, he suddenly felt the urge to laugh.
“There’s quite a lot of homework today, it’ll take you a while to copy.” He pulled out a few notebooks and a question sheet from his bag and threw them onto the counter. “Just bring it back to me tomorrow morning.”
“I don’t need the question sheet, I don’t have it.” Gu Fei picked up the notebook and flipped through it, “Your calligraphy really has nothing in relation to being a straight-A student.”
“If you’re gonna copy, just copy,” Jiang Cheng shot back. This sentence meant nothing harsh though – his calligraphy was indeed ugly to look at, one line of words was enough to perform a drunken fist dance. “A beggar disliking that the rice is coarse.”
Gu Fei stood up and circled around the shop a few times before finally picking up his school bag from a small corner. Just as he laid down his books on the table, his phone rang.
He pressed on the screen, it was a voice message, and on speaker mode too. Jiang Cheng, sitting to the side, heard the content loud and clear.
“Da Ge!2 Bro… ah fuck! My mistake! Da Ge, it was my mistake… I’ll be as far away as… possible from now on…ah! Stop hitting, stop hitting! Holy fuck, stop hitting, I’m about to… die!”
The person in the voice message screamed in agony and begged for forgiveness. Jiang Cheng froze as soon as the sound traveled to his ears.
“Good enough,” Gu Fei picked up the phone and returned a message.
Jiang Cheng stared at him for a long moment: “That was the person you stuck onto the tree yesterday, right?”
“En,” Gu Fei flipped through his bag for more than ten rounds before eventually taking out a pen and scribbling a few times only to discover that there wasn’t even ink inside. He turned to look at Jiang Cheng, “You have a pen?”
Jiang Cheng pulled out a pen for him.
In terms of underachievers, they also came in different levels. Pan Zhi was also an underachiever, but compared to Gu Fei, he was certainly a tender, cute little slacker; at least Pan Zhi had his own pens, and even more than one as well.
Gu Fei lowered his head and started to copy his homework. He was quite engrossed in copying – if one didn’t know the full story, they’d think he was actually hardworking.
Jiang Cheng sat for a while longer, and until he felt that he was no longer able to sit still – he couldn’t just sit there doing nothing but watch Gu Fei copy homework – he stood up. “I’m leaving.”
“I thought you had nowhere else to go,” Gu Fei said while writing.
Congratulations! You are correct!
Jiang Cheng didn’t reply – there was a certain helpless and shameful bitterness to the truth.
“Just stay here if you have nowhere to go. Li Yan, Liu Fan and the others all come here to lay around when they have nothing to do,” Gu Fei said.
“I’m leaving.” Realizing that he was beginning to be considered alongside the same standards as those ‘Bu Shi Hao Niao’ in the eyes of others, Jiang Cheng suddenly felt his heart congest – he almost wanted to spaz.
He aggressively pushed aside the door curtains and smashed right into someone who was equally trying to get in.
“Bastard!” The person he collided into was a woman, they hadn’t even separated from one another before she started swearing. “Bastard!”
Jiang Cheng’s anger was completely knocked out by the shock, his eyes opened wide to stare at the woman.
“Don’t block the door!” The woman pushed him aside with great vigor, “Gu Fei, you asshole!”
Her push caused Jiang Cheng to stumble and back up a couple of steps. Once he looked up to clearly see the woman’s features, he froze once again.
There was no need for introductions nor a need for guessing – just from looking one could be certain that she was Gu Fei’s mother. Even their eyes and nose were exactly the same.
“What are you spazzing about,” Gu Fei dropped his pen and stood up, his eyebrows scrunched.
“What did you do?!” The woman dove toward Gu Fei with her palm aimed at his face.
Gu Fei caught her hand midair and glanced toward Jiang Cheng’s direction.
“Um…” Jiang Cheng felt so awkward he didn’t even know where to land his eyes. “A-Yi,3 I’ll be leaving.”
“What are you leaving for?!” The woman wiped her head toward Jiang Cheng before she charged toward him and grabbed him by the elbow. “You and this bastard teamed up on this, right? Don’t you leave!”
“Wha… what?” Jiang Cheng froze on the spot.
“What did you two do?!” The woman slapped him on the elbow.
Jiang Cheng didn’t dare grab her hand as Gu Fei did. This was, after all, Gu Fei’s mother. All he could do was straightforwardly take in the slap.
To be honest, this woman was quite beautiful, but Jiang Cheng really did not understand her current, seemingly batshit crazy state.
“Don’t you feel ashamed of yourself?” Gu Fei grabbed her arm and threw her onto the chair nearby, his finger pointing at her face. “I dare you to try and spaz again!”
The woman finally stopped trying to dive toward them, yet she suddenly broke into tears. “Am I your mother or not, what’s wrong with me trying to date? You just had to beat them up until they’re too scared to even see me… are you that eager to see me widowed for the rest of my life!”
Gu Fei’s complexion was very unsightly, even his hands were shaking.
Jiang Cheng felt that if he wasn’t there right now, Gu Fei would have very likely slapped his mom across the face.
But under such circumstances, even if he was to leave and Gu Fei’s mom was to be slapped, he still had to leave. He could sympathize with Gu Fei’s current feelings – it was the same nature as not wanting others to detect his relationship with Li Bao Guo.
He backed up a few steps towards the door, and when Gu Fei looked in his direction, Jiang Cheng pointed at the door.
Gu Fei nodded his head in an exasperated manner, Jiang Cheng quickly lifted up the curtains and dashed outside.
That awkward, uncomfortable atmosphere hit too close to home – only after the cold winter air bashed him around a few times did it gradually start to fade.
Fuck, the frick’ kind of mother is that!
He scrunched his eyebrows, does this hell of a place have not one normal person?
The sound of wheels rubbing against the concrete floor came from behind him. This sound was very familiar, he quickly turned his head. Sure enough, it was Gu Miao heading toward him on her skateboard.
As she passed by the shop entrance, she probably heard the voices inside, hesitated but did not stop. Instead, with a push against the ground, she flew toward him like the wind.
She even waved at Jiang Cheng as she flew over. Jiang Cheng was just about to warn her to be careful, however, she had already leaped into the air with a step onto the board, flying past and solidly landing in front of him. With a beautiful turn of the body, she stopped.
“Why didn’t you go home?” Jiang Cheng looked at her, even though he knew she wouldn’t answer.
Gu Miao didn’t speak. She got down from the skateboard, her foot lightly kicked the skateboard and the skateboard rolled beside Jiang Cheng’s foot.
“Want me to skate?” Jiang Cheng asked.
Gu Miao nodded her head and pulled lightly on her hat.
“I do know how,” Jiang Cheng rubbed his hands together. “It’s just been a long time since I last did it.”
Gu Miao still made no sound and just continued to look at him.
Jiang Cheng unexpectedly detected the tiniest hint of provocation through her gaze and couldn’t hold a smile back. “Are you challenging me for a match?”
Gu Miao leaned against the lamp post and looked at him with her arms crossed.
“Yo,” Jiang Cheng threw his bag toward a pile of snow nearby and rested a foot on the board. “Little chick’s got quite the swag.”
Gu Miao lifted her chin, signaling him to hurry up.
During elementary and middle school, Jiang Cheng actually loved playing with these sort of things – rollerblades and skateboards related. But due to preparations for high school entrance exams during grade nine,4 his mother erased all the topics “that had no relationships to studying” from his life.
He took a deep breath as his foot pushed against the ground and he rolled out.
His speed was not high, he was unfamiliar with the land formation here, thank goodness Gu Miao’s board was a classic skateboard – the kind he was most familiar with, hence it was comparatively easier to adjust to.
Skating out a few meters, he heard footsteps sounding behind him. He turned his head to see Gu Miao running behind, and upon seeing him turn, Gu Miao clapped her hands simultaneously; though he was not sure if she was applauding for him or telling him to hurry up.
However, skating on a skateboard and still having a little girl capable of catching up to him… was quite amusing.
Gu Miao ran and skipped at the same time, performing an Ollie.
Not wanting to lose face in front of a little girl, he shifted his center of balance and with one foot on the board, he jumped right over the snow pile in front of him – he even made the time to point a finger in Gu Miao’s direction.
Gu Miao’s eyes instantly brightened. She jumped with excitement, raised a hand and snapped her fingers.
This finger snapper of her’s put Jiang Cheng to shame – it was really sharp.
After landing, Jiang Cheng continued on until he reached the street intersection. This time he increased his speed, Gu Miao did not follow behind him, instead, she continued to stand at her previous spot to look at him.
When he turned around to skate back, he risked the shame of falling on his face again and jumped on the stairs before coming back down – his luck wasn’t too bad since he didn’t fall, only his movement faltered a bit.
Skateboards were quite the diversion strategy. With his feet on the board, whipping past strangers on the street like the wind, the disgust, boredom, and annoyance were all left behind.
Even though doing this sort of thing in the dead of winter was quite cold with the wind blown into his face, it still felt pretty awesome.
There was a slight slope to the road heading back, his speed started to accelerate dramatically, and the familiar excitement slowly came back.
He glanced at Gu Miao, who wore an expression full of anticipation as she stared back at him. He returned his gaze back to the ground, contemplating on jumping over that large snow pile as he passed Gu Miao.
The current speed was just right. Jiang Cheng rushed forward with the wind in his arms as he approached the snow pile rapidly.
The moment he was preparing to jump up, he spotted a small piece of brick lying on the ground in front of him.
This brick laid on the spot that was his only path to the snowbank, with his current rusty skill level, it was impossible to dodge. He could only make an early jump, but that would mean that he would land right on the snow pile when he descended.
…. it all depended on how high he could jump.
With a step on the board, he firmly jumped up into the air.
Unfortunately, he was not so lucky this time.
Possibly due to the cold weather, also possibly because he was too anxious and did not contract his legs enough either… he was already able to calculate his landing spot.
The nose of the board would probably stick right into the peak of the snow pile.
And as for him, he would probably smash right onto the pedestrian sidewalk in front of that snow pile.
Come on! Fly! Youth!
After being momentarily airborne, the nose directed right toward the snow pile as he had predicted. But the moment before he was thrown out, a person suddenly appeared before him.
1 Red jelly beans – these two □□ was in the sentence, so unsure of what it means, we just put jelly beans – if anyone knows, you can inform us! Thank.
2 Da Ge 大哥 – eldest brother, big brother, gang leader, boss – in this instance, it should mean boss here
3 A-Yi 阿姨 – aunt, auntie; a polite way to refer to females who are older than you – the same generation as your mother.
4 Grade nine – Middle school in China consists of three years – 7,8,9 and high school three years – 10,11,12