Translate: Sae | Proofread: Anasofia
The second Gu Fei agreed to play in this basketball competition, Jiang Cheng could perceive that the degree of Lao Xu’s excitement was no less than as if Gu Fei had passed the entrance examination into Beijing University.1
After the class was dismissed in the afternoon, he called the five team members that he had hand-picked to his office.
Jiang Cheng gave them a glance, finally, he could fit the names to their faces for Guo Xu and Lu Xiaobin.
“No subs?2” Wang Xu asked, “Only the five of us playing the entire time?”
“Just see for yourselves if there are any suitable substitute players among your classmates,” Lao Xu said. “The team’s captain is…”
When Lao Xu uttered those words, his eyes subconsciously flitted over to Gu Fei, however, Gu Fei put his thumbs down nonchalantly and then pointed at Wang Xu: “Him.”
Wang Xu promptly looked up, a face flaring with reluctance: “Yah, I’m no good… I don’t want to be the captain, so annoying, ugh.”
Jiang Cheng wanted to laugh from just looking at his appearance, your acting is really shitty.
“Then Wang Xu it is, you guys can start practicing tomorrow.” Lao Xu took the basketball off the table and passed it over to Wang Xu, “This is a good ball. I went to look in the equipment room of our gymnasium earlier, and all the balls there were pretty bad so I bought this one for you – a new and good ball will definitely be used in the game as well; we have to also use a suitable one for practice.”
“Thank you, Xu Zong.” Guo Xu took the ball from Wang Xu’s hand and bounced it on the ground twice.
Jiang Cheng observed his movements, not bad, although he felt that it was not that impressive, he could play, at the very least.
Wang Xu looked quite smug, he should also be able to play and perhaps thought he could play pretty well. The other person, Lu Xiaobin, hadn’t spoken a word the entire time. He was the tallest, about 190cm with a visual assessment and he was quite robust, just like a wooden plank door – pretty good.
Substitute players were easy to find. Though this was a humanities class, there were many male students, and Captain Wang Jiuri (Xu) needed only to call the few 180cm’s in the back row – complete.
Many people wanted to participate, after all, they did not need to attend the self-study class, and could go and play ball.
Lao Xu had helped them reserve a court already; just by seeing his energetic air, Jiang Cheng was honestly tired for him: a chaotic class in a rotten school, grades that wouldn’t increase and a physical education system with this moral integrity, however, the point was that even with all those, Lao Xu was still brimming with enthusiasm.
“I’ll take a look at all your levels first.” Wang Xu held the ball with the swag of a captain as he stood in the middle of the basketball court.
“How many times over have we played together,” someone said. “What levels are there still left to see huh?”
“We must know each other well!” Wang Xu pulled a long face, repeatedly looking at Jiang Cheng who was crouching to the side of the court. “Jiang Cheng, how about you give it a try first since you just transferred here, I’m not too clear about your actual level.”
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng stood up and took off his jacket. “What do you want done?”
“Get the ball past me,” Wang Xu threw the ball over and then arranged himself in an interception stance.3
“Okay,” Jiang Cheng caught the ball, bounced it twice to get a feel of the ball’s elasticity before he dribbled the ball head-on toward Wang Xu.
Wang Xu stood at the same spot without moving; by the time he reached out to block him, Jiang Cheng had already flown by his left side and made a three-step layup4 – scoring beautifully.
“Not bad!” Guo Xu shouted.
“Hold on!” Wang Xu looked a bit displeased, “I didn’t say ‘start’ yet, you sneak attacked.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng took the ball and returned to standing in front of him.
Wang Xu once again put on his posture and lifted his chin: “Come!”
As soon as Jiang Cheng moved, he rushed over and waved his arms to not only block him but also attempt to snatch the ball. Jiang Cheng hesitated though then he directly took a jump shot5 for the basket – scored again.
“Three points,” Gu Fei said while sitting on a stool to the side.
“Awesome! There is hope for our class this time!” Someone shouted excitedly.
The expression on Wang Xu’s face was a bit unsightly, and just as he was about to speak, Gu Fei interrupted him: “Just hurry up6 I, it’s cold.”
The central heating system in the gymnasium was no good; now with everyone having had taken off their jackets, leaving just their shirts on, Wang Xu could only nod: “How about this, let’s split into two teams and try for a half-time7 I to get a sense of things?”
Everyone expressed their agreement.
Lao Xu, who had been watching from the sideline, came over at this exact moment: “Have Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng on either side.”
“Why?” Wang Xu asked, “The two are great, let them cooperate.”
“It’s not difficult for them to cooperate but the point is that if they’re together, there is literally no need for us to play ah,” Lu Xiaobin said. “With both of them split into either team, everyone can practice.”
“Alright, geez.” Wang Xu did not put on a captain’s attitude this time as he split the members evenly.
Lu Xiaobin, Guo Xu, and two others that Jiang Cheng did not know; on Jiang Cheng’s side were himself, Wang Xu and three others that he also did not know.
It was then that Jiang Cheng finally understood how bad his recent emotional state was – such a long time had passed, yet he did not recognize any of those people, at all.
With ten people on the court and five of which he did not recognize, he relied solely on their clothes, and it didn’t help much that he had just distinguished two of them today….8
Lao Xu grabbed a whistle and walked to stand at the sideline: “I’ll be the referee then.”
“What’s there to referee in a half-time game,” Gu Fei said.
“A half-time game also needs to abide by the rules,” Lao Xu had one hand on his hip and the other holding the whistle. “From the start of the ‘jump ball’9, it’s a very brief moment, everything else will work accordingly.”
“Okay,” Wang Xu called the people on his side together. “Man-to-man defense10, and also keep an eye especially on Da Fei. If you have the ball, give it to Jiang Cheng, don’t hold onto it yourself. Once Da Fei approaches, pass the ball immediately, he’s fucking great at steals11.”
“Okay,” several people nodded.
“Scoring points will depend on you.” Wang Xu raised his hand, intending to pat Jiang Cheng on the shoulder, but just as it was about to land, he pulled back. “I forgot that you have a problem with not being patted.”
Jiang Cheng sighed.
The jump ball was not unexpected at all – Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei were to jump for it.
Lao Xu stretched his hand out, placing the ball between the two of them: “Focus your attention, I’m going to throw the ball now.”
“Which referee would even say this…” Gu Fei said.
“Pay attention!” Lao Xu gave him a glare.
Jiang Cheng looked at Wang Xu who stood behind him, wondering how this kid would react.
He had always played defense, never having jumped for the ball in a formal game – in truth, this ball was estimated to be taken by Gu Fei’s side of the team.
Lao Xu tossed the ball up.
Jiang Cheng stared at it, calculating where it would land before he jumped.
When he jumped, he honestly felt that he had a good grasp of the timing of his takeoff, but when he reached out to touch the ball, Gu Fei’s hand was already on it.
By the time Jiang Cheng landed on his feet and turned around, the ball had already been received by Guo Xu who was swiftly dashing toward the basket.
And Wang Xu was following him, Jiang Cheng indeed felt speechless with just one glance at the whole scenario. He had said to employ a man-to-man defense just before the game started yet once the ball was deployed, not only had Wang Xu followed him, there were also two others following the ball-handler12 and only a player wearing blue was following beside Gu Fei.
He, on the other hand, was strictly marked by Lu Xiaobin.
Guo Xu was pretty good. His dribble was very stable, though the speed was inadequate. When Jiang Cheng chased after, he had just entered the three-point line, preparing to pass the ball.
He reckoned that their plan was the same as Wang Xu’s: obtain the ball and give it to Gu Fei.
Jiang Cheng glanced at Gu Fei’s position then suddenly shifted to the side as he feinted13 at his opponents, Lu Xiaobin and another person, before forcibly charging smoothly past between the two of them.
This advancement was pretty good; when Guo Xu caught sight of him, the ball had already been shot.
Jiang Cheng swiftly reached out and blocked the ball.
“Go back, go back!” Wang Xu reacted quickly and immediately ran back.
Jiang Cheng wound around to bring it back, but Lu Xiaobin blocked him at once.
This guy was too big; as he closed in, Jiang Cheng could sense an earth-shattering presence. He took two steps, watching for an opportunity to pass the ball to Wang Xu from the side.
But Wang Xu, this flipping blockhead, was unexpectedly so engrossed in advancing that he did not see the ball.
“Wang Xu!” Jiang Cheng could only shout.
Finally, Wang Xu hurriedly turned around and chased after, grabbing the ball just before it went out of bound.
Jiang Cheng took advantage of the moment that Lu Xiaobin twisted his head to look at the ball to break free from him and ran toward the basketball hoop. And with no one currently blocking Wang Xu, if he could bring the ball back, he could find a chance to score.
As a result, Jiang Cheng hadn’t taken two steps yet when Gu Fei flew over to block him from the front. At the same moment, Wang Xu passed the ball over, even shouting: “Jiang Cheng!”
The fuck was that shout for huh! Did you intend to pass this ball to Gu Fei!!
Jiang Cheng was simply speechless. At the same time that he caught the ball, he saw that Gu Fei’s hand had already reached over – the speed was astonishing.
He hurriedly lowered the ball and dribbled between-the-legs, maneuvering left and right, back and forth. After adjusting a bit, he reduced his center of gravity with the intention of passing by.
But Gu Fei did not give him such an opportunity. He practically moved at the same time with him, and his feinted jump didn’t fool Gu Fei in the slightest, even a fucking shift didn’t work.
Fortunately, not only he had incompetent teammates -Gu Fei also had them.
There was no one following the player in blue at the moment, that inadvertently allowed him to actually come up behind Gu Fei effortlessly – Jiang Cheng passed the ball to him from between Gu Fei’s legs.
“Fuck.” Gu Fei turned, only to see that the player in blue had already reached the basketball hoop. He was probably quite speechless as well.
Having received the ball, the player in blue was however hesitant; with just a glance at his appearance as he stood at the hoop, Jiang Cheng could see that he wanted to pass the ball.
“Shoot it directly!” Jiang Cheng shouted.
It was then that the player in blue jumped and shot the ball.
Jiang Cheng knew that it wasn’t going to enter – it was considerably lucky enough to have the ball shot out of the baseline with that posture.
The ball smashed the backboard and bounced off – it was still eight hundred miles away from the hoop.
A group of people all jumped to grab the rebound, some fast and some slow, several hands confronted the ball as if it was an irreconcilable adversary that cannot coexist – members were actually snatching the ball from their own teammates. Jiang Cheng took the ball that eventually fell between them and went to the sideline.
But at that moment, three opponents surrounded him in a semicircle. He needed a teammate to come.
“Pass the ball,” someone said from the right.
Jiang Cheng rapidly passed the ball over from the sideline.
It was only when the ball had flown in the air that he suddenly reacted – fucking hell, that was Gu Fei’s voice!
Sure enough, as he turned his head for a look, Gu Fei was holding the ball firmly in his hand.
“The fuck!” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but curse out loud.
This bitch is so devious!
Gu Fei smirked.
“Jiang Cheng, what are you doing?!” Wang Xu roared.
“Keep an eye on him!” Jiang Cheng was not in a good mood, “He’s running the entire court alone, why don’t you freaking follow him!!”
But it was too late to take him down in a man-to-man defense. Gu Fei was extremely quick with the ball, and with Jiang Cheng being pestered by two people, that made it difficult for him to make it over. By the time his incompetent teammates went to block Gu Fei, he was already at the free-throw line.14
Jiang Cheng looked on unfeelingly as he jumped with his hand gradually extending before the ball was lightly tossed and entered the hoop.
With this ball having been personally delivered straight into Gu Fei’s hand by him, Jiang Cheng wanted to simply go over there and drag Gu Fei by the collar – how can you be so cunning!
“Jiang Cheng, look clearly at who the person is,” said a teammate wearing yellow running shoes. “You haven’t been able to distinguish us yet?”
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng said, “Sorry.”
“Pass the ball to your teammates,” Captain Wang looked at him, “Not pass the ball to your deskmate!!”
“You better stand where I can pass the ball.” Jiang Cheng swept a glance his way, “The openings were all theirs to take, even if I didn’t pass it to the deskmate, I can only throw it out of bounds.”
Wang Xu raised his brows with a fairly unpleasant expression, and just as he was about to speak, the ball bounced over from the side.
“Hurry up,” Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng caught the ball and passed it to Wang Xu, “You pass the ball, I take it over, you block the others and don’t let Gu Fei come near me, annoy the fuck out of him, pull his arm or kick his feet – even if you get a foul, don’t let him be open15 at all.”
“Mm,” Wang Xu glared at him.
Lu Xiaobin was probably the most loyal to his responsibility of all the team members. When Wang Xu started with the ball, Lu Xiaobin stayed next to Jiang Cheng the entire time, inadvertently making it so that he could not throw the ball over for the longest time.
Jiang Cheng finally had no other choice as he suddenly charged for it and ran in front of Wang Xu, allowing him an opportunity to pass the ball to him.
But Wang Xu could play ball fairly well. As Jiang Cheng maneuvered the ball through the court, Wang Xu remained guarding him at his side while Lu Xiaobin pressed toward him so closely that if it lasted any longer, the two of them would surely break into a brawl.
This time, Gu Fei did not come to block him; the player in a blue shirt and the player with yellow shoes kept Gu Fei clamped between them – nearly just a hand away from a hug – but after Jiang Cheng passed the half-way line, he saw that Gu Fei had found an opportunity to break away from those two.
There was no time to slowly enact a layup, thus, bearing the fiery hot anger directed at none other than Gu Fei – that devious and cunning outlaw – Jiang Cheng made a beeline to the three-point line16, and without stopping to adjust the ball, he shot it right before Gu Fei jumped to block it.
The ball was cast remarkably high, drew a huge arc in the air, and then descended into the basketball hoop.
“Holy shit, nice shot!” Wang Xu roared.
Jiang Cheng let out a relaxing breath of air and gave Gu Fei a glance.
“Beautiful,” Gu Fei said.
There wasn’t much feeling at all in playing a half-time game, especially playing in a team that wasn’t coordinating with each other, using a tactic of running around the whole field chaotically appeared to be hardworking, but obtaining points was rather pitiful.
After Lao Xu whistled, he clapped his hands: “Pretty good, pretty good!”
Jiang Cheng especially wanted to ask, which part was pretty good?
“Right now, we have two strong generals in our ranks,” Lao Xu said. “But you’ve played for a long time without even breaking a rule, that’s no good! Break the rules, be brave! Be bold! Gu Fei, how do you think the game went?”
“A big mess,” Gu Fei said.
Lao Xu was not very satisfied with his answer, hence, he turned to look at his Jiang Cheng: “Jiang Cheng, what do you think?”
“Same,” Jiang Cheng replied freely.
“Today is only the first day of training,” Lao Xu continued to say to himself, “There is still a lot of room for improvement! Have confidence in yourself! Do you have it or not?!”
No one said anything.
“Yes or no?!” Lao Xu waved his arm, “Answer me out loud!”
Still, no one spoke.
In fact, having played this half-time game, Jiang Cheng had more or less seen it all – aside from him and Gu Fei, it was obvious that the others didn’t normally play basketball at all, and the few that could play were just average.
“Yes or…” Lao Xu continued encouragingly.
“Yes,” Jiang Cheng honestly didn’t have the heart to look on as Lao Xu worked so hard only to not receive a response, thus he answered.
“Yes,” Wang Xu also uttered.
A group of people voiced, “yes” all the way through, half-dead.
“Exactly! That’s right!” Lao Xu smiled happily at once, “Our goal this time is to reach the semifinals! Are you confident?!!”
Everyone continued to voice, “yes”, half-dead. Lao Xu nodded with satisfaction: “There’s half a month left until the competition. We still have enough time; besides gym class, you can also practice in the afternoon during self-study.”
The appeal of this incentive was resplendent nevertheless, and the group immediately expressed their enthusiasm toward practicing properly from there on forth.
From that time onward, Captain Wang did not have them continue to play, but rather: three-on-three, scoring was considered a win, and the losing side would switch out a player.
Gu Fei did not take the court again and instead sat on a stool to the side watching them.
Although there was nothing great about these people’s skill levels, Jiang Cheng had indeed not relaxed in such a long time – he unexpectedly felt that the game was quite enjoyable.
“Don’t block, craaapp!!” Guo Xu held the ball grudgingly, “Jiang Cheng, do you want to take a rest?”
“Jiang Cheng, go rest,” Wang Xu said. “If you’re still in, there won’t be a need for subs.”
“Alright,” Jiang Cheng laughed and switched for Lu Xiaobin to go in; he sat to the side next to Lao Xu and watched on.
“How is it?” Lao Xu asked.
“How is what?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“This team,” Lao Xu replied.
Jiang Cheng went silent, though he could still sense an intense surge of expectation exuding from Lao Xu.
“Tomorrow, the two of you can team up and see how it goes?” Lao Xu asked.
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng nodded his head.
“It’s difficult to enter the semifinals, don’t have too much hope,” Gu Fei said from the side. “Let’s see which class we’ll go against in the knockout competition, if it’s class two, just immediately go home.”
“Be optimistic!” Lao Xu said.
“Mm,” Gu Fei looked at Lao Xu, “Ha, ha.”
Once the dismal bell rang, many people entered the gymnasium.
“Let’s go,” Wang Xu said. “They’re all here to train, we must maintain secrecy.”
“Maintain what secrecy?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“The secrecy of our strength. We must maintain the image of noobs in the eyes of the other classes,” Wang Xu said, dead serious. “Also, we can’t let anyone know that Gu Fei is in the game, and that Jiang Cheng is a great ball player.”
“That’s right, we have two trump cards now.” Everyone nodded one after another, silently boring faces that endured humiliation as part of this important mission.
“Everyone that came in just now saw me here,” Gu Fei said.
“No worries,” Wang Xu said. “We’ll put on a show.”
Gu Fei sighed and stood up to put on his coat, turned, and went to the doorway.
“Fuck!” Wang Xu’s scream broke out from the depth of his throat, startling Jiang Cheng to the side. He glared at Gu Fei’s back, “Can’t you fucking have a collective sense of honor!”17
Gu Fei did not turn around, he only stuck up his middle finger from behind.
“Wang Xu,” a person that had just come in took off his jacket while laughingly saying: “There’s progress this time ah, at the very least, Da Fei came, right.”
“Go,” Wang Xu got up and took the lead to walk out of the gymnasium.
Jiang Cheng simply wanted to applaud Wang Xu. This show was excessive, and the acting advanced by leaps and bounds, and it was a hundredfold stronger than when he pretended to evade the captain’s position.
“Gu Miao isn’t here to wait for you today?” Jiang Cheng did not see Gu Miao hugging her skateboard at the entrance of the school.
“She doesn’t necessarily come every day, sometimes she goes out to play by herself,” Gu Fei said. “Are you going to walk back now?”
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng answered simply.
“I’ll take you?” Gu Fei asked.
Jiang Cheng hesitated for a moment, “Oh.”
When Gu Fei went to get his bicycle, Jiang Cheng once more recalled the phrase that he had said during the game, “pass the ball”, and suddenly he became a bit angry: “Ai, I’ve found that you’ve very devious.”
“I just said it casually,” Gu Fei got on the bicycle and peddled over, “Who would have imagined that you would actually pass it.”
“Did you have nothing better to do than to casually say those damn words huh!!” Jiang Cheng followed and also got on the bicycle, “You’re insane.”
“It’s convenient to use during a game, just in case some fool on the other side passes it over,” Gu Fei said.
“Shit!” Jiang Cheng cursed.
“I’ll call a few people to come practice tomorrow,” Gu Fei said. “It’s really pointless to keep playing like this.”
“Call who?” Jiang Cheng remembered the ‘shi-niao’ that Gu Fei brought to play ball last time and asked, “Them, Bu Shi Hao Niao?18”
“What?” Gu Fei stared blankly.
“…… nothing,” Jiang Cheng quickly answered. “The few that played with you last time?”
“Who is Bu Shi Hao Niao?” Gu Fei laughed, “Have you also taken me as a boss?”
Jiang Cheng went silent.
“Yes, them.” Gu Fei didn’t question further, “Bu Shi Hao Niao.”
Jiang Cheng sighed.
The two did not speak along the way. Jiang Cheng was lost in thought, staring at the piles of snow on the roadside; recently he had constantly been like this, when it was peaceful, his mind wandered – thinking trivialities over this and that – he would not be like this before, his mind wandering was just his mind wandering, and wherever it went, he never knew.
He was unsure of when he could finally break free from this emotional Mariana Trench.19
With Gu Fei pedaling rather speedily, it did not take long to reach the street. He squeezed the brake, and after the bicycle slowed down, Jiang Cheng jumped off: “Thanks.”
Gu Fei didn’t speak and instead looked toward the street.
At the same time, Jiang Cheng heard shrieks and screams travelling from the street of Li Baoguo’s place. He turned around only to catch sight of several people on the side of the street, trampling and kicking a fallen person on the ground.
“Shit,” Jiang Cheng knitted his brows, this street was truly chalked with endless chaos every single day. “What now…”
Gu Fei stopped the bike, locked it up beneath a tree to the side, and looked at him: “The person on the ground is Li Baoguo.”
Please take note of who the translator is for each chapter, thank you.
1 Beijing University (Peking University 北大) – (abbreviated PKU, colloquially known as Beida) is a major research university in Beijing, China, and a member of the elite C9 League of Chinese universities.
2 Subs (替补) – substitute players
3 Interception (stance) (拦截的姿势) – In ball-playing competitive team sports, an interception or pick is a move by a player involving a pass of the ball—whether by foot or hand, depending on the rules of the sport—in which the ball is intended for a player of the same team but caught by a player of the team on defense, who thereby usually gains possession of the ball for their team.
4 layup (上篮) – is a two-point shot attempt made by leaping from below, laying the ball up near the basket, and using one hand to bounce it off the backboard and into the basket.
5 Jump shot (跳投) – a player may attempt to score a basket by leaping straight into the air, the elbow of the shooting hand cocked, ball in hand above the head, and lancing the ball in a high arc towards the basket for a jump shot (colloquially, a jumper).
6 Half-time (半场) – the name given to the interval between the two halves of the match. Typically, after half-time teams’ swap ends of the field of play, in order to reduce any advantage that may be gained from wind or a slope to the playing surface, for example; in basketball, it is 15 minutes.
7 Distinguish the two of them today… – ten people on the court, Jiang Cheng does not know five of them and only knows Gu Fei and Wang Xu and had just met Guo Xu and Lu Xiaobin.
8 Jump ball (跳球) – at the start of every game, the referee throws the basketball up in the air, and one player from each team tries to hit it to their teammates, that is called a “jump ball.”
9 Man-to-man (人盯人) – each defensive player is responsible for marking a player on the other team
10 Steal – a steal occurs when a defensive player legally causes a turnover by his positive, aggressive action(s).
11 Ball-handler – the offensive player who is in possession of the ball on that given play
12 Feint (假动作) – a movement made in order to deceive an adversary; an attack aimed at one place or point merely as a distraction from the real place or point of attack
13 Free-throw line (罚球线) – free throws or foul shots are unopposed attempts to score points by shooting from behind the free throw line (informally known as the foul line or the charity stripe), a line situated at the end of the restricted area. Free throws are generally awarded after a foul on the shooter by the opposing team. Each successful free throw is worth one point.
14 Hurry up (抓紧时间) – to snatch time / to rush / to hurry (up) / to seize the moment
15 … don’t let him be open – as in be free to roam and have a chance to get the ball
16 Three-point line (三分线) – the line that separates the two-point area from the three-point area; any shot converted beyond this line counts as three points. If the shooting player steps on the line, it is counted as two points. Any foul made in the act of shooting beyond the three-point line would give the player three free throws if the shot does not go in, and one if it does.
17 Collective sense of honor – “Reconstructionist Confucianism”, community-directed – honor, disgrace, and shame can only be understood within a cohesive appreciation of communal interaction.
18 不，是，好，鸟 (Bù, shì, hǎo, niǎo – not, a, good, bunch) is kind of like a slang where people normally say, 一看你就不是什么好鸟 which basically mean, “they look troublesome”. (in case you forget hahaha)
19 Mariana Trench (马里亚纳) – deepest place on Earth, located in the South Pacific Ocean at 11,000 meters (36,198 feet) at its deepest – deeper than Mount Everest is tall and anything living there has to survive the cold water and extremely high pressure. The depthness of the trench is used to depict the depth of Jiang Cheng’s despair, basically that he had fallen into a hole of despair, and it’s hella deep. (An)