Translate: An | Edit: Sae
Jiang Cheng crouched in his room trying to assemble a small bookshelf, but even after he fussed with it until his whole body was covered with sweat, the shelf was still not complete.
Out of all the times that he had given his money to Daddy – Jack Ma1, this was probably the time where it was most well-spent.
For such a small bookshelf that was over five hundred yuan and dead heavy, the high-end texture signified that it was indeed on a whole other level with each piece that passed through his hand. The problem was that there were quite a few pieces, plus the fact that it had an irregularly shaped frame, and none of the pieces were identical.
Jiang Cheng stared at the instruction manual for a long time before finally piecing together the legs and the board underneath; screws also had to be added and the holes were tiny, making it difficult to screw in, hence, he had to hammer it in with… a hammer.
“You bought this thing online?” Li Baoguo pushed open the door – his voice ringing all too loudly.
From a young age to now, once the door to his room was closed, no one would enter from simply a push on the door. Once Li Baoguo’s yell rang out, Jiang Cheng felt as if his heart was going to jump out from his mouth and stick against the wall.
The hammer in his hand immediately clattered clang and landed against the thumb of his left hand.
He gritted his teeth and endured the radiating pain that eventuated from his fingertips a second later.
“It’s a bookshelf right?” Li Baoguo asked again.
“Yes,” Jiang Cheng managed to let the word escape from his gritted teeth.
“How much was it?” Li Baoguo walked in and bent his back to look at the scattered pieces of boards lying on the ground. “And you even have to set it together yourself?”
“Yes,” Jiang Cheng sucked in some air, finally feeling he had overcome a bit of the pain. He watched Li Baoguo, “Can you knock the door first the next time you come in?”
“Knock the door?” Li Baoguo was awestruck, then started to laugh as if Jiang Cheng had said something absurdly hilarious. After laughing for quite a while, he finally laid a hand on his shoulder, “Knock what door! My son’s room, I need to knock on my own son’s door before I enter his room? I ejaculated your whole being!”
“Wh… at?” Jiang Cheng was severely startled.
“Just kidding!” Li Baoguo continued to laugh loudly, pointing at him, “You silly boy, even this scares you?”
“No,” Jiang Cheng stared at the boards lying on the floor. Not to mention continuing with the assemblage, he didn’t even feel like lifting his eyelids at the moment.
“Let me tell you, this household doesn’t have that many rules, a room full of rough folks can’t fake the demeanours the rich people put up,” Li Baoguo said. “Look at you, can’t even put up a bookshelf… not that it matters, your studies are good. Kids who are good at studying just aren’t good at things like this, you only have time to nurture your brain.”
Jiang Cheng listened to the speech that had no particular logic; all he could do was to remain silent – an attempt on using silence to repel Li Baoguo in hopes that he would leave once he had said enough.
But Li Baoguo was not beaten back – he squatted down by Jiang Chang’s side and said: “Let me have a look.”
When Jiang Cheng didn’t budge, he simply took over the board for a closer look and then examined the finished product on the instruction manual. “Okay, just move to the side and I’ll handle it.”
“Mm?” Jiang Cheng twisted his head to look at him.
“This is easy,” Li Baoguo picked through the pile of boards, took out two pieces, then grabbed a twisted wooden beam and started to assemble. “Let me tell you, this is just a waste of money. I could have just picked up a few boards at a construction site and made this sort of thing for you in two hours.”
Jiang Cheng watched his dexterous hands work soundlessly – in this moment, Li Baoguo looked a lot more pleasing to the eye then he normally did at the gambling table when his eyes were fixed on the cards.
In less than half an hour, Li Baoguo had already finished assembling the bookshelf, and he hadn’t even taken a single glance at the instructions manual.
“Okay,” he clapped his hands, looking at the shelf. “This thing sure is ugly, you buying this… how much did you spend?”
“… three hundred,” Jiang Cheng originally wanted to say four hundred, but subtracted a bit after some hesitation.
“Three hundred?” Li Baoguo bellowed in surprise. “This sort of wooden structure cost three hundred? You good-for-nothing boy, spending so recklessly ah!”
Jiang Cheng did not reply, he honestly was not sure if saying two hundred or saying one hundred would make Li Baoguo scream like this also.
This shelf was certainly not cheap, but one, the quality was pretty good, and two, it was a style that he liked. In a room that he did not belong to before nor would he find a sense of belonging in the future, he needed “something of his own”, only then would he feel at ease.
But this was something Li Baoguo would not understand nor was he able to make Li Baoguo understand.
“My son sure has the tycoon swag,” Li Bao Guo sighed, “This father of yours still has to live on credit from buying the smallest things.”
“What’d you put on credit this time?” Jiang Cheng stared blankly.
“Remember the fish cakes I bought the other day, the ones that you said tasted quite good,” Li Baoguo said. “And that bottle of… ai, that kid’s eyes are simply too sharp, otherwise, I wouldn’t have to pay for that alcohol… but there are other things on credit from before, this bit of money is nothing.”
Jiang Cheng stared at him, feeling as if his own eyeballs were about to roll out, he kept on wanting to cup his hands and catch them.
“How ‘bout…” Li Baoguo looked at him with an expression full of awkwardness and embarrassment, “Son, do you have some money… on hand?”
Jiang Cheng really wanted to answer no, but it was undeniable that during the half an hour in which Li Baoguo helped him put up the bookshelf, he fell in a trance, even feeling somewhat touched.
Although he felt now that the true motives behind Li Baoguo’s voluntary actions to help him assemble the shelf may just be an exchange for Jiang Cheng to pay his debt… he still nodded his head: “I do.”
“My son sure is reliable!” Li Baoguo slapped him on the elbow.
“Which store did you put them on credit?” Jiang Cheng asked. “How much in total? I’ll go pay it back now.”
“Just that small shop on the street next to us… you should know it, Gu Fei,” Li Baoguo replied. “The store that Da Fei’s family owns…”
“What did you say? Gu Fei?” Jiang Cheng did not wait for him to finish before interrupting him – his voice almost cracking when he spoke.
“Yeah, he seems to know you too,” Li Baoguo said. “Just say that I told you to go… hey, he also goes to Si Zhong, you must know that right?”
Jiang Cheng did not reply; amidst a moment of disbelief and chaos as well as an underlying and inexplicable embarrassment, he grabbed his jacket and walked out the door.
That’s just too fucking much… of an embarrassment!
His own father! Had debts in the shop of a deskmate that he had a fight with not too long ago!
Being in debt was actually no big deal since Li Baoguo’s way of life was after all perceivable, but from the sound of it, he owed debt while stealing things!
And he was caught by Gu Fei!
A chain of fucks…
Why was he returning the money himself?
Wasn’t it the same if he handed the money to Li Baoguo for him to return?
Yes, why go there only to receive the embarrassment first-handedly, Jiang Cheng turned around and headed back.
Just as he arrived at the head of the hallway, he heard Li Baoguo’s voice echoing, seemingly chatting with the upstairs neighbor: “My youngest son is a promising kid! Once he heard that I had unsettled accounts at the store, he immediately went to pay up!”
“Ya,” the neighbourhood aunt said, “Then you’re quite blessed, effortlessly picking up a son like this.”
“How is it called ‘effortlessly’! It’s also my seed ah!” Li Baoguo very joyfully replied in a loud voice, “This kid is better than Li Hui, he couldn’t even bear to have me run down to the shop!”
“Look at your face full of smiles,” the aunt said. “You should live properly then, drinking like that every day, wait ‘til this son of yours also starts to ignore you!”
“Pei!2 In this whole building you’re the only one who doesn’t know how to talk properly, asking you to talk nicely is like asking you to drop dead on the ground!” Li Baoguo shot back.
“Then what are you showing off to me for – for you to not show off is also like asking you to drop dead!” The aunt started to scream.
Jiang Cheng didn’t stay to hear the ending of that conversation. He finally knew how these daily fights between neighbors started – just based on the structure of that conversation alone, a fight was bound to erupt in minutes.
He glumly leaned against the outer wall to the stairwell, pulled off his hat in annoyance, and scratched his hair.
After five minutes of fighting an inner battle, he gritted his teeth and once again headed toward the street on which the Gu family shop resided – mainly because it was so cold that his face was already numb after his battle.
It was really no big deal actually, he was just going to pay back some money, not to create more debt, also not to steal things…
If he was happy later on, he might even add interest!
Walking through the fork road, the door to Gu Fei’s family shop was practically facing the intersection directly, hence, standing at the intersection, he could immediately see Gu Fei standing at the doorway while chewing on a cigarette and playing on his phone with his head lowered.
It was likely that because he had never done something so embarrassing, Jiang Cheng’s zealous thought of “adding interest if he was in the mood” instantly disappeared as if it was running for its life the moment he saw Gu Fei.
And by the time Gu Fei raised his head and noticed him, Jiang Cheng felt as though his arms and legs were out of coherence as he walked.
So fucking embarrassing, how could Li Baoguo live in such a shameful manner…
Gu Fei watched him walk over without much expression on his face, and only when Jiang Cheng crossed the street and walked toward him did he take the cigarette out from his mouth and asked: “Coming to buy pots again?”
“… talk inside,” Jiang Cheng saw a staff walk out from the pharmacy next door.
Gu Fei turned into the store with Jiang Cheng following him from behind.
“Mm?” Gu Fei turned around to look at him.
“Li Baoguo left debts here right?” he asked.
“Mm,” Gu Fei nodded, leaning against the cash register. “Though, not much really, I don’t have anything too expensive here anyway.”
“How much,” Jiang Cheng took out his wallet. “I’ll give it to you.”
Gu Fei glanced at him as he reached his hand back toward the ashtray to extinguish the cigarette. He pulled open a drawer, took out a notebook and flipped through the pages, all the while asking: “Your own money?”
“What else would it be,” Jiang Cheng said. “He probably wouldn’t use credit if he had money.”
“If he didn’t gamble, he wouldn’t need to buy on credit,” Gu Fei handed him the notebook. “Two hundred sixty-eight, have a look.”
“No need,” Jiang Cheng didn’t reach for the notebook, he straightforwardly handed three hundred yuan to Gu Fei.
He didn’t want to witness it at all, this type of life that Li Baoguo lived… no, and his gambling friends, they were actually people who could live this sort of life with no foreseeable end.
“He leaves debts every month,” Gu Fei flipped through the drawer for change, and with a hand on the table surface, he looked at Jiang Cheng. “Are you gonna pay for him next month too?”
Jiang Cheng looked back at him and stuffed the cash back into his wallet in annoyance: “How the fuck is it your business.”
“What I mean is that you should let him pay it himself,” Gu Fei continued. “He basically has enough to pay them all.”
Jiang Cheng looked at him, can pay them all? But based on Li Baoguo’s speech earlier, he meant that he couldn’t pay them.
“But if there is someone willing to pay for him, of course, he doesn’t have to waste energy on this,” Gu Fei sat down on the chair. “You can’t even see through this game of his?”
“… no, my eyesight isn’t good,” Jiang Cheng sighed. “It’s not like I wear glasses to show off.”
“Those are my nearsighted-glasses,” Gu Fei swept his gaze across his face.
“Became nearsighted from playing that retard Craz3 Match, right?” Jiang Cheng answered with a question.
“What the,” Gu Fei laughed. “Where were you living before, the attitude of the people there is quite peachy, huh?”
Jiang Cheng looked back at him without a word.
“Just this sour attitude of yours, if you weren’t my deskmate, no, if Er Miao didn’t intake the wrong medications and see you pleasing to the eye,” Gu Fei pointed at him. “I would have smacked you so hard a long time ago to the point that Xiao Ming’s grandfather wouldn’t have been able to recognize you.”
“You?” Jiang Cheng laughed coldly. “How would you smack me, pinch my palm?”
“That’s true, I’m not as capable as you,” Gu Fei pushed his sleeves up, and showed Jiang Cheng his wrist.
Jiang Cheng glanced over and saw a shallow red mark.
“Oh fuck,” he was quite surprised. “It’s still not gone after having been bitten so long ago?”
“Your teeth are quite remarkable, if I knew you had the ability to bite off a zipper, I would’ve stayed clear,” Gu Fei said. “Your bite left a chain of bloody holes, and the scab only just fell off.”
Jiang Cheng didn’t respond – he honestly never thought that such a careless bite from the other day could leave such a mark on Gu Fei.
But if Gu Fei didn’t pinch his wound…
He suddenly really wanted to laugh – he had actually fought such a stupid fight with Gu Fei.
He tried to contain his laughter while glancing at Gu Fei, however, even Gu Fei’s expressions were obviously also contained; the corner of his mouth wasn’t even stretched tight enough as it was already arching upwards.
“Fuck,” he said.
And simultaneously, he and Gu Fei, broke out in hysterical laughter.
Foolish laughter was a contagious illness, the less you wanted to laugh, the more severe your laughter became, and it was unstoppable.
Before, when Pan Zhi was scolded by their homeroom teacher, he would say that his heart was convulsed with fear, yet for some reason, he just couldn’t stop laughing. In the end, when he was kicked out into the hallway, he was always laughing deeply with his head thrown in the air – very carefree.
Jiang Cheng didn’t want to laugh at this exact moment either seeing as he wasn’t in too good of a mood and his sentiments were low… neither did he want to be laughing with Gu Fei.
But he just couldn’t stop.
Gu Fei leaned against the chair, Jiang Cheng leaned against the storage rack, and their laughter lasted for almost a solid minute. In the end, his anger roused from his feet due to the uncontrollable laughter; he lifted up the curtains and walked out.
“Fuck!” As the cold winter wind blew into his face, he finally stopped his crazy laughter and swore.
He didn’t turn to go back into the store after swearing, and instead, simply walked down the road toward the intersection with his hand in his pocket.
It was quite depressing – this sort of hysterical laughter could only last so long, once the sound of laughter stopped, he immediately returned back to reality.
He suddenly became a bit flustered. If he continued to suppress himself like this, would he end up catching onto some illness….
When Zhou Jing mentioned the spring basketball competition, the information was quite accurate.
Lao Xu called Jiang Cheng into his office, and the second he saw the basketball on Lao Xu’s desk, he immediately knew what Lao Xu had called him over for.
“I don’t know how to play basketball,” he said.
“Ah, this kid,” Lao Xu brought over a stool. “Sit down, let’s chat.”
Jiang Cheng sat down. To tell the truth, he wanted to play ball, but only to find a few people and have a go at some leisure game. He didn’t want to be formally called down by Lao Xu only to be informed in such a formal way that he had to carry such responsibilities.
“You used to be on the school’s basketball team, right?” Lao Xu asked.
“How about we stop with these fake useless questions, Lao Xu,” Jiang Cheng sighed. “I feel like you’d already looked into eight generations of my ancestry.”
“An all-rounded xueba finally comes to our school, of course I’d have to study you,” Lao Xu started to laugh. “Actually, before I called you over, I kind of knew you’d reject it, but I still wanted to give it a try.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng responded.
“Our school hosts basketball competitions every year, not just once and also, the principal likes to play basketball,” Lao Xu continued. “Regardless, I’ve always led our class, but no matter what sort of tournament or contest, we’ve never won even once…”
Jiang Cheng was quite surprised, he had seen Gu Fei play ball, so even if no one in the class was able to cooperate with him, it was still unlikely that they hadn’t won even once.
“Isn’t Gu Fei quite good at playing?,” he couldn’t stop himself from letting out.
“That kid,” Lao Xu sighed. “Is really unreliable, he never attends any class-related activities, it’s already good enough that he doesn’t help the other classes play against us.”
“Then, what did you call me over for? It’s unlikely that I can win a game by myself,” Jiang Cheng said.
“How ‘bout you be the team captain,” Lao Xu said. “I feel like you have the abilities to…”
“Where’d you feel that from ah?” Jiang Cheng was starting to feel pretty helpless.
“From your soul,” Lao Xu replied.
“Ai-yo,” Jiang Cheng couldn’t refrain from rubbing the area over his heart.
“If you agree,” Lao Xu smiled. “I’ll go and talk to Gu Fei, you two, plus Wang Xu, Guo Xu, Lu Xiaobin… at least gather together five people, and then find some time to practice everyday, I feel like we have a chance.
Jiang Cheng didn’t answer – he didn’t even know who Guo Xu and Lu Xiaobin were.
Yet Lao Xu continued to persuade him in a very honest manner, and Jiang Cheng could find no reason to reject him at the moment.
“Xu Zong, I only have one request,” he said. “I’m definitely not going to be captain, my soul probably caused you to misunderstand that. Change it to another person, and it’ll all be the same if I just play along.”
Once Jiang Cheng agreed, it was as if Lao Xu got high on chicken blood3 – he immediately called over Gu Fei during the self-study period.
“Gu Fei, come to my office for a second,” Lao Xu knocked on his desk.
“I haven’t been late or skipped class for a while now,” Gu Fei said, his forehead resting on the edge of the table as he played his retarded Craz3 Match game.
“It’s not about that,” Lao Xu knocked on the desk again.
“I don’t play basketball,” Gu Fei continued.
“Not about this either,” Lao Xu said. “Come on.”
Lao Xu turned around and walked out of the classroom, Gu Fei persisted and finished this round before he finally stood up unwillingly and slowly swayed out of the classroom.
“Hey Jiang Cheng, Jiang…” Zhou Jing seemed to have remembered something after calling out twice and didn’t continue to call. “Lao Xu called you two to talk about the competition, right?”
Jiang Cheng made no sound.
“Ai, one look and I knew you definitely knew how to play ball, right, you know how to play basketball right?” Zhou Jing continued to ask.
“Your class never won a single game during the competition?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Yeah, never won,” Zhou Jing replied. “We’re a humanities class right, it’s normal we can’t win.”
Jiang Cheng eyed him: “Fucking nonsense.”
Gu Fei returned to the classroom ten minutes later, and once he sat down, he pulled out his phone and continued to play his game.
Jiang Cheng thought he would say something, yet in the end he didn’t utter a word – looked like Lao Xu failed.
He looked toward where Wang Xu sat, if Gu Fei wasn’t there, and he had to play with a dumbass like Wang Xu… it was quite boring when you thought about it.
“Who would’ve thought such a tender old uncle like Lao Xu would learn to lie one day,” Gu Fei uttered in a small voice.
“Mm?” Jiang Cheng turned his head around. “Lie to you about what?”
“He even said it wasn’t about playing basketball,” Gu Fei said as he continued to play. “He said that you’re going to play, is that true?”
“… mm,” Jiang Cheng responded. “He sounded really pitiful.”
“Everyone looks pitiful to you,” Gu Fei said.
“Mm, you look pretty pitiful to me too,” Jiang Cheng glared at him.
“Pity me that I play Craz3 Match?” Gu Fei asked.
“Pity you play Craz3 Match and haven’t been able to get through a single level in four days,” Jiang Cheng caught on.
Gu Fei put down his phone and turned around to look at him: “I find that you’re really looking for a beating4 ah.”
Jiang Cheng piled on a face full of fake smiles and turned to face him: “You can shut your mouth if you can’t outspeak me, it’s not like bickering back and forth is any fun.”
“What position did you play before?” Gu Fei lowered his head and continued on with his game.
“Defense,” Jiang Cheng replied in reflex.
“Then let’s give it a try,” Gu Fei said. “I didn’t answer Lao Xu definitely.”
“No, like,” Jiang Cheng thought that this was somewhat out of the blue. “Isn’t it just to play a game, it’s not like you were asked to be executed for sacrificial purposes, is it that difficult?”
“It’s annoying,” Gu Fei said. “Just think about it, a guy like Jiu Ri5 is gonna be on court too.”
“What’s wrong with him going on court,” Jiang Cheng looked over at his classmate, Wang Jiu Ri, he was currently leaning back with his arms folded, acting like a boss with his eyes closed – resting his spirit.
“Every class has this sort of person… fuck!” Gu Fei threw his phone into the opening on his desk, probably from failing this level again. “Fine on court, yet who knows what goes on off court, I’m annoyed with that.”
“Are you playing or not?” Jiang Cheng asked. “I’m annoyed too, give it a fucking6 try, fuck ah – either play, or don’t fucking play at all.”
“Sure,” Gu Fei said. “I’ll play if you play.”
Please take note of who the translator is for each chapter, thank you!
1 (Daddy) – Jack Ma (Ma Yun: 马云) is a Chinese business magnate, investor, and politician. He is the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, a multinational technology conglomerate. Ma is a strong proponent of an open and market-driven economy; Jiang Cheng probably bought that bookshelf from Alibaba, thus, calling him Daddy as a joke
2 Pei! – pah! / bah! / pooh! / to spit (in contempt)
3 High on chicken blood – 打鸡血, lit. to inject chicken blood / (coll.) extremely excited or energetic (often used mockingly)
4 Looking for a beating 欠 (欠揍) – But not quite…like…he needs to mind his own business, and asking for trouble at the same time
5 Jiu Ri 九日 – refers to Wang Xu; the characters to his name in Chinese is王旭, the second character is composed of 九 (jiu) and 日 (ri), to which Gu Fei just split them apart for his own entertainment purposes.
6 ‘Fucking’ – originally written as ‘J8’: (jiba) dick / penis (vulgar)