Translate: An | Edit: Sae | Proofread: Anasofia
When Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei exited the school gates one after another, he really wanted to tell Gu Fei, I’m doing it for Gu Miao, not you.
But Gu Fei didn’t turn back to look at him at all, so he didn’t get the chance to say anything.
When they finally stood next to each other, there was no chance to say much either. Gu Miao was sitting on the pedestrian fence with her skateboard in her arms and legs swinging side to side.
When she spotted them approaching, she instantly jumped down and threw her board on the ground in front of her. Then with a few light jogs, she leaped onto the moving board and appeared in front of them before reaching her hands into Gu Fei’s pocket, grabbing out a handful of candy.
Jiang Cheng stared, watching Gu Miao pick out only the fruit candies from the pile of candies.
These candies were actually prepared for our little friend Gu Miao on a daily basis?
Gu Miao peeled open a candy wrapper and popped it into her mouth. She then dashed out in the other direction on her skateboard, moving on the very edge of the pedestrian sidewalk – plausibly considering to not bump into other people.
Jiang Cheng could only watch from behind. Even though Gu Miao was quite agile with top-notch skills, in the end, she was still an elementary school student…yet her brother actually turned around to fetch his own bike, not even giving a single glance in her direction.
Gu Miao skated ahead for a good moment before stopping and turning around to look back at him.
“What?” Jiang Cheng hurried a few steps to catch up beside her.
Gu Miao jumped off the skateboard and moved to the side.
Jiang Cheng really wanted to say to her that ‘the fight with your brother yesterday has left me sore all over’, and that he had no will to skate, but seeing Gu Miao stare back at him with her large round eyes, he couldn’t bring himself to disappoint her.
“Sure,” he sighed, took a step onto the board and slowly started to slide out.
Thank goodness that after a turn away from the main street onto the next street, there were fewer people.
Gu Miao ran along behind him, suddenly clapping her hand.
When he turned his head, Gu Miao ran even faster towards him, making a hand gesture as she ran, telling him to get off.
“You sure know how to play…” He understood Gu Miao’s intention and jumped off the skateboard.
Gu Miao arrived beside him just in time and with a leap, she landed right on the board – borrowing energy from this moment of inertia, she zoomed out onto the street. With a few more kicks of her feet, she then turned around to look back at Jiang Cheng.
“Ah…” Jiang Cheng was really quite tired, but he still ran forward. “Why don’t you ask your brother to do this sort of thing with you…”
Gu Miao jumped off the board. He immediately followed suit and jumped on the still moving board and continued down the road.
Just like this, they continued down the street one after another.
It was actually quite fun, Gu Miao didn’t speak, neither did she need him to speak, he only needed to cooperate with her. The point was that her skills were superb, Jiang Cheng didn’t even have to worry about the chances of her falling.
During the entire time, Gu Fei rode his bike a few dozens of meters behind them with one leg sweeping along the ground as he maneuvered forward, rhythmically staggering in a fast and slow pace while playing on his phone and not looking at the road – not looking at his little sister.
Jiang Cheng was waiting, hoping he would fall into some sewer that was missing a cover – then he could clap.
Unfortunately for him, even though this defeated little old city was rotten, its management was quite good; there wasn’t even a single brick missing on the pedestrian sidewalk. Gu Fei arrived on the street they lived at, safe and sound.
“Okay,” Jiang Cheng jumped off the skateboard with a body full of sweat from running. “I’m going to head back the other way.”
Gu Miao stepped onto her skateboard and waved goodbye.
He also waved back.
Gu Miao put her hand in between her mouth and whistled. Gu Fei looked up and his eyes swept her way and then with a sudden kick on the pedal, his bicycle flew out. As it was passing by her side, she reached out a hand toward the backseat – looking as though she was gliding on ice, she was pulled away by Gu Fei.
“… lift off.” Jiang Cheng looked after them speechless.
Gu Fei probably didn’t have a father, his mother’s conditions made it hard to judge, so Gu Miao was most likely raised like a dog by Gu Fei.
If the same situation was placed in his family, and his mother caught sight of someone’s brother raising up his little sister like this, she could probably talk about it for half a year.
…some things were like an obsessive-compulsive disorder, you would uncontrollably think back to them.
Jiang Cheng raised his head and vigorously sucked in a lung-full of cold air, only then did he feel himself relax a bit.
Once he returned to Li Baoguo’s house, the card players were no longer here yet the living room was a wild mess; the uncollected cards and scattered ashtrays left on the table made him sick with just one glance.
Jiang Cheng entered the kitchen. He couldn’t order take-out for every meal, and since he no longer had an allowance to spend, there was only money going out and none coming in: he had to be conservative.
He immediately wanted to smash things when he stepped into the kitchen. After Li Baoguo made those dumplings yesterday, he left everything laying out in the open, nothing was washed and nothing was put away, and there was still half a pot of leftover soup sitting there.
Jiang Cheng wanted to wash the pot but just as he picked it up, he immediately froze on the spot.
A cockroach had drowned in the soup.
This scene stunned him to the point that he couldn’t even throw up from disgust. Just like this, he stood still in the kitchen with the pot in his hand as if his whole body was covered with crawling insects. He felt a disgusting itch spread throughout him from the mere thought of it.
He must have stood there for two minutes until finally, with gritted teeth, he dumped the noodle soup into the toilet. He then put the pot on the floor and pointed the water hose at it for a long time to rinse it clean, and then with the detergent, he aggressively rubbed at it before he finally filled it with water and placed it onto the stove to boil.
He left the gas blazing even after the water started to boil as he stared at the rolling water until the last bits of the cockroach remains vanished along with the steam. Dumping the water down the sink, he then boiled another pot of water, preparing to make himself a bowl of noodles.
There was a fridge in the kitchen, a stench flew out as the door opened. There were only a few red peppers inside, and based on its appearance, they must have been in there for at least a month.
No meat, no eggs – there was nothing.
Fuck! Was the meat that Li Baoguo used to make the dumplings measured accordingly with a weight? Not a cent overpaid!
Facing the pot of water, Jiang Cheng fell into a momentary daze before he eventually turned off the gas.
After Jiang Cheng carried out a furious mind-battle between the choices of eating out, ordering takeout or going out and buying some vegetables so he could come back and make his noodles – he chose the latter.
He had no ability to change the current environment he lived in, the only thing he could do was to adapt. Though it sounded easy, to actually perform it was as hard as reaching the sky.
He picked up his wallet and cell phone, then left the house to buy groceries.
He should have gone to the market, yet… he had only been here for a while and had passed through the majority of the streets, but he really had yet to spot a grocery market anywhere.
He wanted to ask a pedestrian for directions, but even after he arrived at the end of the road, there wasn’t a single person in sight. It was lunchtime right now; everyone was probably idling at home.
He glanced at the street next to him with scrunched eyebrows.
Gu Fei family’s slightly fake-looking market definitely had what he needed. Even if there were no leafy vegetables, there should at least be something along the lines of sausages, canned fish…was it because he had been living too miserably lately that thinking about these things, he actually had to swallow back his saliva – he was hungry.
Jiang Cheng just look at how promising your future is!
After completing his self-reflection, Jiang Cheng made a turn onto the street beside him.
Jiang Cheng was developing a psychological trauma from constantly lifting up the curtains to Gu Fei’s family shop – it felt awkward every time. After that one fight, they had only spoken three sentences to each other, yet here he was, running here to buy groceries – that was even more awkward.
As the curtains lifted up, he instantly felt a cluster of eyes fall upon him.
There was actually no awkwardness from this, except he was almost scared off his feet.
Seven people, fourteen eyes, the Gu’s siblings plus bu-shi-hao-niao and Li Yan.
Gu Fei seemed somewhat surprised. With chopsticks in his hand, Gu Fei turned his head around to look at him without a word and since he didn’t make a sound, neither did bu-shi-hao-niao or Li Yan.
Only Gu Miao stood up and waved her hand at him.
He gave Gu Miao a smile and walked inside: “I’m buying some stuff.”
“Go ahead and get what you need,” Gu Fei said.
“Just… sausages and whatnots, where are they?” Jiang Cheng looked on inside, Gu Fei’s family shop was fairly large with numerous rows of shelves placed side by side.
“The row next to the window, at the very end,” Li Yan answered him.
“Thanks,” Jiang Cheng glanced at him and walked inside.
There was quite the variety to choose from: hot dogs, sausages, sliced red sausages; he took one of each and then also grabbed a can of marbled pork and a can of fish.
He took a few steps over to the register, but after giving it some thought, he rounded back to the shelves and grabbed all sorts of spices and seasonings. Li Baoguo’s kitchen was just too horrifying to imagine. Indeed, he had developed a psychological fear toward everything in it.
“Getting everything all at once,” Li Yan stood behind the cash register, talking as he rang up the bill. “Gonna cook?”
“En,” Jiang Cheng hesitated momentarily, “Are there…pots and pans?”
“Pots?” Li Yan blinked, then looked toward Gu Fei’s direction. “You have pots?”
Gu Fei also blinked, then stood up: “What pot?”
“‘Just…pans for stir fry, pots for soup.” Jiang Cheng replied.
“Yeah,” Gu Fei said. “But the ones sold in the shopping center have better quality.”
“‘It’s fine, as long as you have them,” Jiang Cheng said.
Gu Fei looked at him, then turned to walk to the far back corner and from a pile of buckets and tubs, he pulled out two pots, one frying pan, and one soup pot. Gu Fei waved them in front of him: “This size?”
“Sure,” Jiang Cheng nodded and took them from Gu Fei.
“Why not just eat with us,” Li Yan leaned against the cash register. “It’s only a matter of adding another chopstick.”
Jiang Cheng took out his wallet and thought that Li Yan’s words were quite kind, but as he lifted his gaze, he realized Li Yan’s eyes held some not-so-friendly aggression.
Jiang Cheng was most annoyed by the type of person who would randomly work up a fit of anger toward him. He pulled out some cash and threw them on the counter, and then with hands pushing against the counter, he stared back at him.
“‘Your eyeball is about to fall out,” Gu Fei walked over and sat back down on his stool, “Take the money.”
Li Yan gave him another look before he moved his gaze away and picked up the money before staring at him some more as he handed him the change.
Jiang Cheng could see that Li Yan had no intention of getting him a bag, hence, he eyed the side of the cash register and pulled out two plastic grocery bags from the nail that hang at a bundle, put the things inside and turned around to walk out the door.
“Do you have a problem,” Liu Fan looked at Li Yan.
“I don’t have a problem,” Li Yan sat down, picked up a bottle and swallowed a gulp of beer. “I don’t know why either, the kid just doesn’t fit right with me.”
“Oh, because he doesn’t fit right ah?” Liu Fan said. “For someone who didn’t know better, they might’ve thought you fell in love at first sight, with the way you were staring so intently I thought you were gonna lick him.”
“Do you know how to have a conversation?” Li Yan glared at him.
“Yan Ge isn’t in a good mood today ah,” Luo Yu laughingly said as he gnawed on a rib.
“And how’s that your business,” Li Yan eyed him. “Remember that I made this meal. If you don’t want to eat your food nicely then you can go to the backyard and boil yourself some noodles.”
“Hey, I’ll say, the large bones you bought today are seriously good Li Yan,” Liu Fan said. “Fresh.”
“I got my mom to buy them,” Li Yan said. “I kept on wanting to eat meat because of the cold weather that my eyes were shooting out green light…Er Miao wipe the oil from your mouth, you’re a pretty little beauty at the very least, watch your image a bit.”
Gu Miao grabbed a napkin and swiped it over her mouth, lowered her head and continued to eat.
“Oh right, that person didn’t come back right?” Liu Fan asked.
“En,” Gu Fei dropped some vegetables into Gu Miao’s bowl.
Gu Miao quickly picked up the vegetables, wanting to drop them into Li Yan’s bowl, but Gu Fei’s chopstick immediately gripped onto her chopsticks: “Your face is so dry that the skin is peeling off.”
Gu Miao could only drawback her hands and stuff the leafy greens into her mouth.
“Your skin must be peeling because you probably don’t use facial care,” Li Yan maneuvered over and looked at Gu Miao’s face. “Er Miao, have you been using the facial cream Yan Ge brought you last time?”
Gu Miao didn’t respond.
“She thinks it’s too much of a hassle,” Gu Fei answered for her.
Li Yan tsk-ed: “Where did this rough personality come from, your mom, your brother or…”
He stopped mid-sentence and was stuck on the spot for quite a bit, then picked up a single strand of vermicelli and put it into his mouth.
“It’s fine,” Gu a Fei took a sip of soup.
Li Yan bought groceries and prepared their meal today. Having a couple of loafers as friends had its benefits – when their mother was unreliable, they would be there to help.
When Gu Fei didn’t skip class, his mom would usually be in the store. But within a week, there would be at least two days where she wouldn’t stay for more than half the day and during those times, Li Yan would come in to fill the spot, to look after the shop as well as cook them a meal.
The dishes weren’t exactly that great: it was just a matter of throwing a bunch of different vegetables together and randomly boiling them in a pot; they all tasted exactly the same, yet he was still willing to buy the groceries. Every time the pot was stuffed to the point the food could no longer be contained, they had to call over the other guys to eat along with them.
After dinner Liu Fan and the others left, leaving only Li Yan leaning against a chair with his head raised and his hand rubbing his belly: “Er Miao, leave the dishes for me to wash, Yan Ge needs to digest, I ate too much.”
Gu Miao picked up the skateboard and looked at Gu Fei.
“…go ahead.” Gu Fei was somewhat helpless.
Gu Miao’s passion for the skateboard was like an obsession, she was only a step away from hugging the piece of board to sleep.
“Da Fei.” After Gu Miao left, Li Yan opened his eyes and looked at Gu Fei, “When the weather warms up, let’s go hang out1 somewhere.”
“Go where,” Gu Fei asked.
“Don’t know, how ‘bout asking Xin Jie,” Li Yan said. “Go out somewhere with her band.”
“Forget it,” Gu Fei lit a cigarette and dangled it in his mouth. “I don’t plan on going out any time soon, I still have a record of bad behavior that hasn’t been removed.”
“And you care about that?” Li Yan laughed.
“I have to get the graduation certificate, at the least.” Gu Fei replied.
“If your relationship with this xueba gets even closer, you might even be accepted into a good university,” Li Yan looked at him.
Gu Fei eyed him: “There’s shit in your brain, right?”
“Actually,” Li Yan thought carefully while looking up at the ceiling, “If that guy wasn’t so arrogant and self-contained…he’d actually be quite charismatic.”
Gu Fei didn’t speak.
“I quite like this type,” Li Yan added.
“With this type, you would be beaten up until not a speck of you was left,” Gu Fei said. “Idiot.”
“The pattern has grown unclear,” Li Yan looked at his hair. “Wanna fix it a bit?”
“Are you uncomfortably bored,” Gu Fei blew out a mouthful of smoke.
“Yes,” Li Yan nodded his head.
Gu Fei repositioned the chair and turned with his back to him.
Li Yan took out a toolbox from under the cash counter: “How long do you plan on keeping this pattern for, do you want to change to a new one?”
“No,” Gu Fei turned his head to the side and leaned against the backrest.
“Ding Zhuxin really is your goddess,” Li Yan took out the tools and very carefully started to trim the rest symbol on the left side of his head.
“My goddess is Gu Miao,” Gu Fei said. “Quit putting me and Xin Jie together, especially in front of her.”
“Yeah I know,” Li Yan nodded. “You’re not her little follower anymore, you also no longer look up to her, you just quit liking women altogether.”
Gu Fei wanted to laugh: “Is she paying you salary?”
“No, I just think she’s quite silly when she clearly knows that you…yet she still likes a thing like you,” Li Yan sighed. “Even changing her name, who knows what she’s thinking.”
Gu Fei didn’t speak.
Ding Zhuxin’s name used to be Zhuyin, later she changed it herself to Zhu ‘Xin’.2
‘Bamboos’ have no center.
Yeah, what was she thinking.
When he was young, he quite worshipped Ding Zhuxin, thinking that she was really cool and unrestrained by life. During the few years that he was helpless and disoriented, the support that Ding Zhuxin gave him greatly outweighed what his own mother was able to offer. Even now, he still held great appreciation toward her character, yet he could never have foreseen for so many things to change – these changes would occur bit by bit and when he had finally awakened to his surroundings, everything around him had taken on an indistinguishable new appearance.
With his phone in hand, Jiang Cheng fussed with the GPS for an hour before finally arriving in front of the storage company that had previously called.
When the staff pulled his things out on a flat cart, he was greatly startled – numerous huge boxes piled up to form a small mountain.
“Have a look and verify them, they’re all numbered,” the worker handed him a list.
Jiang Cheng quickly went out to find a moving truck after he signed the papers, but the driver was unwilling to help him lift the boxes onto the vehicle, not even when money was offered. Jiang Cheng had no choice but to use his one and a half hand to haul and lift the boxes onto the truck himself.
Right now his whole body felt unbearable, achingly sore – one fight made it seem like he had run ten thousand meters.
After the boxes were all loaded, the driver told him to ride shotgun, but he refused as giving it some thought and climbed into the back.
He could no longer wait to see what his mother had mailed him.
After he left that family, what his mother would mail to him…he felt that after having seen what was inside, he could more clearly understand what his mother was thinking.
The boxes were sealed tightly. He used a knife to cut open the heaviest box.
It was a whole box full of books.
The novels and comics he had bought and the magazines he had subscribed to were all neatly and tightly packed together. Jiang Cheng scrunched his eyebrows as he pulled out a few books from the top layer and looked down into the lower layer.
There he saw his high school entrance examination study materials.
He closed the lid over the cardboard box, his mother most likely mailed him all the books on his bookshelf without a single one left behind – the box below was also packed with books.
He didn’t especially love reading books, neither was there a lot of them on his bookshelf, but with the addition of his studying materials, it was enough to make these two boxes weigh dead-heavy – exactly like his current mood.
After a moment of hesitation, he also opened the slightly smaller box situated beside him.
Inside it was his little gadgets and toys, the things that were previously scattered on his desk and inside his drawers, ornaments and decorations, interesting small toys, handicrafts, alarm clock, pen holders, small framed mirrors, there was even an old, empty lighter.
He closed his eyes as his hands harshly scrubbed his face a few times before he finally rested it against his forehead to support the weight, not wanting to budge again.
Looking at his surroundings, his mother most likely didn’t leave behind much of his things, probably aside from that piano, the rest were all mailed to him peremptorily.
For a while now, he was constantly feeling depressed, constrained, difficult to understand and incapable of accepting everything. There was hatred and anger, but the moment he saw these things, he felt irrevocable sadness.
The cold war he was having with his family, getting cursed at by his mother and father, being sent back to his birthplace, all had left him heartbroken. But seeing these things, mailed back to him without a trace of distinguishment or thought toward whether he wanted them by his mother as if she was finishing off a mission – this hurt him the most.
This sadness hit him stronger than any other feelings he had, inescapable and intense.
When the driver stopped the car he almost couldn’t stand up.
Numerous boxes of big and small size were emptied off the trucks. As the vehicle drove off, Jiang Cheng lightly kicked at the box near his feet and sighed.
As he leaned against the boxes, Jiang Cheng stared at the snow that had been stomped to black muddy mushes by the passing pedestrians until a middle-aged man on a three-wheeled bike passed by collecting waste products.
“These two boxes of books,” Jiang Cheng pointed at the box.
The man looked: “The price we give now for the books are the same as paper waste.”
“Sure, take them,” Jiang Cheng said.
After the man weighed the books, Jiang Cheng opened the box full of his little toys again and took out the only thing he wished to keep: his large black slingshot. Then asked: “How ‘bout these?”
“Let me see,” the man roughly rummaged through the box, taking out the things inside for a better look. “These are pretty useless things, they can’t be traded for much…thirty yuan.”
“Take them,” Jiang Cheng said.
“The thing in your hand could be worth a bit too,” the man said, “twenty?”
“This isn’t for sale,” Jiang Cheng put the slingshot in his pocket, thinking how black-hearted the man was, an item worth two hundred when purchased, yet only twenty yuan was able to escape his mouth.
There were two boxes containing his clothes, the man still had interest to collect them: “How ‘bout the clothes?”
“What do you think?” Jiang Cheng said.
The man laughed lightly, took out some cash from his pocket and handed it to him along with a name card: “If you have anything else you want to sell, just give me a call ah, I live close, I can get here quick.”
“Sure,” Jiang Cheng stuffed the name card and money together into his pocket.
The two boxes of clothes felt like two boxes of metal after he moved them into the house, they were very heavy.
Though he wasn’t sure if they were actually heavy, or just that he no longer had energy.
With two boxes of clothes that could miraculously be kept inside the room, he sat down on the edge of his bed and looked at the boxes in front of him.
These many things were mailed to him using a large amount of money and energy, yet in the end they were sold as waste products. Jiang Cheng could no longer contain his laughter, how smart of a brain, xueba.
He took out the handful of dirty, crumpled cash from his pocket and though they were all loose change, there seemed to be a lot.
Such heavy, such large boxes became only a few tiny pieces of paper.
Sooooo, now we know that both boys are into…boys. :))))))))
1 “…hang out” – he means to go somewhere far away-ish for a picnic or a two-day, one-night camp trip or something
2 Zhu Yin, Zhu Xin 竹音 – 竹心: Zhu is the character meaning “bamboo”, Yin is the character meaning “sound”, “tone” or can be related to “music”. Whereas Xin is the character meaning “heart”. Yet Zhu Xin together means the “center of the bamboo”…which is hollow…