Translate: An/Sae/Ice | Proofread: Anasofia
Even though Jiang Cheng scored a really cool and difficult ball…
And let out such an imposing roar…
With Bu Shi Hao Niao and Li Yan having had long-term cooperation that strengthened their abilities—greatly surpassing that of his and Gu Fei’s—and skills that were undoubtedly better than the three other players on their team, they only scored 15 points during the first half of the game.
Jiang Cheng scored two three-point shots while Wang Xu got one point from a free-throw, and the rest were basically racked up by Gu Fei. With Wang Xu’s uncanny looking butt-raising posture that was like an elementary school student launching a ball at the hoop with two hands, Jiang Cheng was eager to express his surprise when the free-throw actually scored.
During the half-time break, Jiang Cheng eyed the scoreboard – 28:15 – that sort of score really brought upon some sorrows. There was no way they would be able to catch up with such a gap relying on this level of skill and cooperation. If this was a formal competition, they could probably only harbour the thought “we can’t let the score gap stretch even further” during the next half of the game and then act noble and fight forth.
“Switch off two players,” Li Yan said while sitting on the ground of the basketball court. “Luo Yu, Zhao Yihui, take a break. Switch in two of their subs for a rally too, let them all practice.”
“Good idea,” Captain Wang Xu nodded. “The game can’t go on if they don’t switch, I don’t think Class 2 has what it takes, and these trainers are so hardcore that even my confidence has shattered to pieces.”
Jiang Cheng sat to the side in silence. When he went up to the basket just now, he had felt his wound aching and once he landed on the ground, he didn’t feel much. But after resting for two minutes, the burning sensation from his wound eventually settled in.
He looked over at his enthusiastic teammates, opting to not ask to be switched out with a substitute. If he did, they would only have Gu Fei to rely on, and without anyone to even cooperate with, there really wouldn’t be any reason to even practice.
Besides, Jiang Cheng didn’t want to let Wang Xu know that he was injured since he seemed to be ridden with such an immense obsession toward the scenario of “you and Hou Zi fought again” that he found it a bit intolerable.
“Wanna switch off and rest?” Gu Fei whispered in front of him.
“No need,” Jiang Cheng said as he stood up to stretch out his arm. “We’ll see after this game is over.”
“Alright,” Gu Fei gave him a glance and then called a few members over. “After getting used to the first half, everyone knows what’s coming now, right? For the second half, I’ll go up to the basket from the sidelines, you guys continue to guard with a man-to-man defence, pass the ball frequently, don’t travel too much, they’re all sharp at stealing. Pass the ball to Jiang Cheng and I’ll be in charge of scoring.”
“Okay, execute according to what Da Fei just said.” Wang Xu, being the team captain yet not being able to give out orders, could only forcefully jam in a conclusion.
During the first half, Jiang Cheng could feel that Gu Fei was restraining himself, almost as if he was experimenting with Wang Xu and the others’ skill level. But during the next half, he was significantly different from before – like he was frisking about.
Only then did Jiang Cheng realize that Gu Fei had surprisingly fast transitional speed. Even though Liu Fan and the others were very well acquainted with him, they were still not able to guard him on the court.
His route was very simple: from within the sidelines, straight to beneath the basket, then catch the ball and shoot. If there was someone blocking him, he would pass the ball to Jiang Cheng or some other team member, and Jiang Cheng would eventually pass the ball back to him.
This sort of ball play felt incredibly satisfying but it somewhat exhausted Jiang Cheng. He had to be mindful of everyone’s positions on the court as well as pay attention to Gu Fei’s unobserving ball passes.
The score did catch up by five-six points, but Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but say, “Can you take a look to see where I am first before you pass the ball?”
“I looked,” Gu Fei replied.
“I was ten steps away and you already fucking passed,” Jiang Cheng muttered.
“But you got there, didn’t you?” Gu Fei caught on. “The pass didn’t miss.”
“… what if it missed?” Jiang Cheng was somewhat speechless.
“It’s on me then,” Gu Fei answered calmly.
“My ass,” Jiang Cheng shot back. “Is a lost point not lost once it’s been counted by you?”
“Cheng Ge,” Gu Fei smiled and gazed at him. “You were previously the captain of your school’s basketball team, right?”
“What does it have to do with you?” Jiang Cheng looked back at him. “I’m just saying you should look around.”
“Got it,” Gu Fei replied.
After Gu Fei said that he got it, there was a slight change. He would sweep a glance toward Jiang Cheng from the corner of his eyes to roughly approximate his location, but even if that glance was fully carried out, he was nonetheless quite methodical – in the sense that ‘since you let me see where you are, I’ll look, but how the ball will be passed is how it was going to be passed.’
Jiang Cheng was already not in the mood to repeat himself. Gu Fei and this gang of Bu Shi Hao Niao had the same street basketball demeanour: they didn’t have many rules, forced team members to have a 100% tacit understanding, and they played ball as if dogs were let loose in the park – even the two substitutes they brought along acted as if they had been snorting on drugs, ten minutes in and they already counted three fouls.
“Be mindful,” Jiang Cheng became somewhat helpless. “There’s only so many of us, if we all graduate, should Lao Xu play?”
“Nice!” Guo Xu waved his arm as he ran past him.
The game continued, and Jiang Cheng did not care much about the time and followed.
Wang Xu intercepted the ball from his opponent’s substitute player and then shouted as if God had descended: “Ah——”
When Jiang Cheng saw that he was holding the ball and immersed in the excitement with no intention of passing or going into offence, he had no choice but to clap his hands. “Pass the fucking ball!”
Wang Xu returned to his senses and swung his arm, passing the ball over.
Suddenly, Jiang Cheng had an illusion that he was about to have a heart attack. He had ridden himself of Chen Jie’s entanglement with great difficulty, and with no one tailing him at this moment, any normal person should know that this ball had to be passed to him.
Who could have expected that Wang Xu’s swing of the arm was to pass the ball to Gu Fei… Gu Fei who was in the midst of an annoying embroilment with Liu Fan to the extent that they were almost doing a Lambada dance.1
Jiang Cheng could only look at this scene dumbfoundedly.
Gu Fei did not expect Wang Xu to pass the ball to him under such circumstances, however, he actually responded quite quickly for being busy. He reached out and smacked the ball before Liu Fan could touch it.
That smack was akin to a volleyball spike as it changed the trajectory of the ball and flew over to Jiang Cheng’s face.
“**!” Jiang Cheng was startled, feeling as though his heart was about to jump out of the wound on his rib.
Fortunately, he raised his hands out of reflex and the ball happened to land in… his hands.
“You must all be fucking blind!” He cursed, took the ball and wasn’t in the mood to care about anything else as he angrily charged straight toward the basket-like a tank.
Time was almost up and there was no room to make any adjustments.
After charging toward the basket, he found that there was no opportunity for him to shoot. Liu Fan’s tight-knitted, man-to-man defence technique was enacted with great proficiency, following him along, with a full-body turn that strictly shaded him.
Jiang Cheng did not see Gu Fei from the corner of his eyes; there was only Wang Xu who was being hunted and Lu Xiaobin. It was impossible for him to turn around at this moment since Liu Fan’s hands were swaying before his eyes. If he was distracted, the ball would be snatched.
“There’s no time——” someone shouted from the sideline.
If he didn’t shoot, the two points would be gone. Jiang Cheng had no other choice and could only surmise that Gu Fei should be coming to support him at any moment – if not under the basket, then behind him.
So he hooked his hand back and passed the ball back before immediately standing up to Liu Fan, and turning his head around.
Gu Fei stepped forward and received the ball with much steadiness, then seamlessly cast a three-point jump – the ball made a long arc in the air.
“It went in! **!” Wang Xu’s throat-ripping shout rang: “Three-points!”
Jiang Cheng put his thumbs up. Although this ball didn’t change the course of the game at all, it was indeed beautiful.
The whistle sounded, concluding the match.
“Not bad, not bad! I think that it’s pretty good, although the score…” Wang Xu wiped the sweat on his forehead and looked over at the scoreboard, “Damn, we’re still 11 points behind? Hey, it’s still good nonetheless!”
One by one, everyone agreed while wiping their sweat.
“Cooperate a bit more,” Jiang Cheng tugged at his clothes, feeling that the slight pain emitting from the wound was probably intensified due to the sweat. “Not looking at your teammates or your opponents, and only at the ball… this must change.”
“Mm, that’s right.” Wang Xu nodded and repeated it once more, “Look at your teammates and also your opponent, do not look only at the ball.”
After the training mission ended, Bu Shi Hao Niao took their leave and a bunch of people excitedly discussed it over with Lao Xu.
“Hurry up, gather your things and change your clothes,” Lao Xu said. “I’ve already asked for a ten-minute leave from your politics class so don’t disturb the other students when you return to class.”
Everyone went to the gymnasium’s washroom to wash their face and take a leak.
Jiang Cheng waited for everyone to come out before he entered. After he washed his face, he lifted his clothes in front of the mirror and looked at it.
“Fuck | your uncle.” He could not help but curse in a whisper when he saw blood seeping from the gauze. “Fuck, your, uncle.”
At that moment, he didn’t have anything to treat the wound and he also didn’t want to go to the school doctor either. The doctor would certainly report it with just a glance, and if Lao Xu knew, not only would he try to use love or something to influence him…
A whistle sounded from behind him.
Jiang Cheng immediately pulled down his shirt and looked into the mirror to see Gu Fei walking in.
“You have band-aids?” He let out a breath.
“You use band-aids on this sort of wound?” Gu Fei asked. “How about I… go over to the school nurse office to get you some bandages.”
“Is that okay?” Jiang Cheng scrunched his eyebrows. “What if the nurse asks?”
“No one will ask if I go,” Gu Fei eyed his wound again. “Why didn’t you say your wound was like this yesterday?”
“What’s there to say,” Jiang Cheng answered.
“Just wait for me a bit,” Gu Fei turned around and walked out.
Jiang Cheng held onto the sink and sighed. At first, he was distracted during the game so he didn’t feel much pain, but now that he was relaxed, he could sense the scorching heat, and in the middle of it all, there was a sharp pain shooting up his spine.
He carefully peeled the gauze and took a look; it was slightly red with some blood seeping out, but it looked fine.
It had been a long time since he saw a wound as bloody as this. Since starting high school, he did get into a few fights, but most of the time they only left some bruises on his body. Seeing this sort of bloody wound on himself was pretty depressing.
Could this be considered to be for Li Baoguo?
Forget it, whatever condition Li Baoguo was currently in, he was disinclined to go and ask.
What was concerning was that from yesterday till now, Li Baoguo wasn’t ever with him. Whether he went gambling again or was beaten up by that bunch again, he didn’t know.
Thinking more carefully about it, he started panicking a little. What could Li Baoguo possibly be doing? Was this problem solved or not? Would there be more problems arising in the future?
This time, he had gotten beaten up on the streets, next time would people come knocking at their door?
Would they smash everything into smithereens or hit them till their heads broke and bled?
Thinking about it made his body go cold.
Gu Fei returned incredibly quick, entering the bathroom with a plastic bag in hand. The inside contained iodine, gauze, elastic tape and the like.
“Should I help you?” Gu Fei asked.
“I’ll… do it myself.” Jiang Cheng took some cotton pads and poured some iodine on it.
Ever since he learnt that his interest in men was greater than that toward girls, he wasn’t very willing to have any physical contact with anybody. Except for Pan Zhi, if anybody touched him, he would be uncomfortable.
Especially somebody like Gu Fei who didn’t look bad – his hands were rather pretty too. He was always worried that he would start thinking about unnecessary things.
But trying to lift your clothes with one hand while swabbing at your wound with the other was not very easy to manage. If he loosened his hand when changing a cotton pad, then his clothes would slide down and touch the wound.
“Wang Xu said that you’re troublesome,” Gu Fei stated as he watched from the side.
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng sounded. “What, do you want to give him a like?”
“Yeah, you’re really quite troublesome,” Gu Fei said. “Are you trying to show that you can keep going without rest?”2
Jiang Cheng sighed, he held the iodine bottle and glanced at him. “I’m afraid that you are reckless with your hands since you’re pretty reckless when you play.”
“I started treating my own wounds when I was four years old.” Gu Fei took a hold of the bottle in his hand, pouring on the cotton pad as he spoke, “It’s familiar work now.”
Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything.
Four years old?
No way, he couldn’t even remember anything from when he was four years old.
However, Gu Fei’s actions really were well-practiced. The contact of the cotton pad touching the wound was very light and very fast, he barely felt any pain and it was already over.
Jiang Cheng moved his gaze to the faucet beside him.
“This wound won’t heal by the time of the tournament.” Gu Fei placed the gauze over the wound, “Press on it a bit.”
“It shouldn’t be much of an impact.” Jiang Cheng pressed down on the gauze and quickly stole a glance at Gu Fei’s fingers. Gu Fei’s fingers were really long, especially the pinky, and were really suitable for playing the piano… he continued to stare at the faucet.
Gu Fei quickly fixed the gauze in place with the elastic tape. “It’s good now. Just take these with you, so you can change them yourself.”
When they returned to the classroom, the politics teacher was in the middle of raging at the podium.
Yet the noises in the classroom weren’t suppressed by her rage. The ‘basketball team’ had just finished a game – this was precisely the time for nonstop excitement.
“Your Xu Zong can’t tell what’s more important!” The politics teacher slapped at the podium, “I see that none of you plan on having any marks for your midterms! You all might as well get tested on basketball instead! Actually using my class time to go play basketball! It’s not that I look down on your class, it’s your class being like this that…”
Jiang Cheng lowered his head and quickly sat down in his own seat. For a xueba like him, he would generally give the teacher some face; if the teacher was angry and scolded him, he would display a more well-behaved demeanour.
But Gu Fei wasn’t that cooperative; amidst the teacher’s scolding, he very slowly went to his seat and even properly arranged his jacket before sitting down.
“Hey, Da Fei,” Zhou Jing leaned to the side and whispered, “Hey, Da…”
Before he could finish, the politics teacher turned and slapped the podium: “Zhou Jing! Get out!!”
“Huh?” Zhou Jing was shocked.
“Get out!” The teacher pointed at him and continued to shout.
Zhou Jing hesitated for a moment, but still stood up and put on his jacket, then walked out to the corridor from the back door.
“The two in the back! You can also get out!” The teacher pointed at Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei, “The others came back, but you were the slowest! From the way I see it, you don’t want to attend class! If you don’t want to attend class, then just go stand outside!”
Jiang Cheng looked at the teacher. Although he had been inattentive and absent from class, this was the first time ever that a teacher pointed at his nose and kicked him out.
Gu Fei was very obedient, much more obedient than when the teacher told him to attend classes and pay attention. As soon as the teacher finished speaking, he nonchalantly stood up, grabbed his jacket, walked out, then leaned against the railings in the corridor with Zhou Jing.
“You!” The teacher continued to point at Jiang Cheng.
Jiang Cheng sighed with some speechlessness and got up to leave. He didn’t have to grab his clothes since there wasn’t even time for him to take off his jacket.
“I heard Wang Xu say that you guys are really awesome now?” Zhou Jing did not feel depressed at all from getting kicked out of the classroom. He splayed across the railings and continued his previous question.
“Awesome, my ass.” Jiang Cheng snorted.
Captain Wang Jiuri demanded that everybody act like hopeless players, yet he himself couldn’t hold back and started bragging.
“Is Da Fei going on the court?” Zhou Jing asked, “Wang Xu said Lao Xu ordered you and you didn’t even give an answer.”
Jiang Cheng almost couldn’t hold back the truth upon hearing this. As it turns out, Wang Xu was still holding onto the setting of Gu Fei not playing, but he was needlessly adding so much drama that it really made people want to interrogate him.
“Yeah,” Gu Fei turned his head. “I am a person without any collective sense of honour.”
Gu Fei was standing at Jiang Cheng’s right side. When he turned his head, his breath brushed past his face. He hastily dodged to the side, bounced two times from where he stood, subtly went around Zhou Jing, and leaned against the railing and looked down at the floor beneath them.
“Really?” Zhou Jing looked at Jiang Cheng with some suspicion, “You’re not lying to me?”
Jiang Cheng stared at him; Zhou Jing wasn’t a bad person, but you could tell at a glance that he was the gossipy type of person. If you said anything to him then you wouldn’t even need to do anything for the news to spread.
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng nodded.
“But Wang Xu said that you guys are really awesome now… how is that possible, it’s not like I haven’t seen them play before.” Zhou Jing frowned. After thinking for a while, his eyes lit up, “Fuck, is this your battle tactic? Telling people that you’re really awesome!”
Even though Jiang Cheng really wanted to ask him what bragging about how awesome they were to intimidate the opponent could possibly achieve, he still nodded his head.
“Ah…” Zhou Jing still wanted to say something, but Gu Fei’s phone sounded, interrupting his words.
The call was from his mother. Gu Fei picked up the phone, “Hello?”
“Have you been dismissed from school yet?!” His mother’s anxious voice rang out, “I don’t know what Er Miao…”
When Gu Fei heard Gu Miao’s screams, his heart lurched. “I’ll be back immediately.”
Once he hung up the phone, he immediately turned and ran down the stairs.
There were several reasons that could cause Gu Miao’s screaming. In the past two years, it was usually because of water, but it was not definite that she would have a reaction to that. It was only occasionally, plus their mother knew, so she would usually watch out for that.
Gu Miao’s reaction now should not have anything to do with water, so what could it be this time?
He rushed out of the school gates; the security guards wanted to hold him back and question him, but they didn’t even get the chance to reach out their hands.
When he got on the bike to rush back home, Gu Fei felt incredibly exhausted. This sort of feeling would always suddenly rise up every single time. For a moment, he felt like if he closed his eyes, he could sleep until he grew old.
He didn’t feel the tiredness in his body. He never really felt tired anymore – only the weariness in his heart was something he couldn’t get rid of. He could care less about his mother. He could yell at her a few times to vent, but he couldn’t do that to Gu Miao.
He was always careful about her; on one hand, he allowed Gu Miao to fight against all sorts of harmful things that could possibly appear on her own. On the other hand, he also had to constantly protect her in case any accidents that would suddenly appear.
As he ran up the stairs, he could hear Gu Miao screaming from behind the door.
The old lady across from them opened the door, looking at him with a face full of concern, “Is Er Miao…”
“Everything is fine.” Gu Fei opened the door and entered the house.
His mom was currently holding Gu Miao as she was seated on the sofa. Gu Miao had her face buried in her chest and was screaming non-stop.
“Er Miao, Er Miao, don’t cry anymore. Look, your brother is back,” their mother patted Gu Miao on the back. “Gu Fei is back…”
Gu Fei went over and picked up Gu Miao from their mother’s embrace; one hand rubbed her back and the other gently squeezed the back of her neck, “It’s alright now. Er Miao, it’s alright now.”
Gu Miao held onto his neck, still screaming and her body trembling a bit.
Gu Fei frowned. Gu Miao wasn’t scared, but angry.
“What happened?” Gu Fei asked lightly, “Tell your brother, why are you angry?”
“Angry?” Their mother looked at him with some confusion.
He pointed at Gu Miao’s backpack and their mother brought the backpack over to his side. He took out Gu Miao’s books and notebooks, shuffling through them as he asked, “Is it the books? Or the notebooks? Did someone tear your books?”
Gu Miao’s screams lowered in volume, but she was still screaming. A word got mixed up in the middle, “Drawing.”
Gu Fei opened her character book.3 He didn’t flip past two pages before he saw that one of the pages was messily scribbled all over in a red pen. There was a small wrestling person with what you could tell was a skateboard drawn beside it, and there were even words to go with it on either side.
Pig, mute, idiot…
“Er Miao, stop.” Gu Fei put down the book and grasped Gu Miao’s shoulder, “Look at me. Look at me.”
Gu Miao’s screaming finally stopped. She raised her head and looked at him, her eyes opened wide.
“Do you know who it is?” Gu Fei asked.
Gu Miao nodded her head.
“This matter,” Gu Fei looked into her eyes, “Brother will help you deal with it, okay? Brother will go find this classmate and have a talk with them.”
Gu Miao stared at him for a long while, then shook her head.
“You don’t want me to?” Gu Fei asked.
Gu Miao continued to shake her head.
“Then what do you want to do?” Gu Fei asked, “Tell your brother.”
After a long period of time, Gu Miao only lightly said one line, “Myself.”
Gu Fei didn’t know how she planned on dealing with this matter, but no matter how he asked, Gu Miao wouldn’t speak anymore. She didn’t give him any more answers. She turned to enter her room and shut the door.
“Why is my life so…” His mom covered her face and sat on the sofa to quietly cry, “I married a bastard, can’t even take care of my own child… did I do something bad in my last life… is wanting to find another significant other again also…”
“Mom, go back to your room first,” Gu Fei said.
“My son is also so harsh to me…” His mom covered her face as she cried while entering her room.
Gu Fei squeezed the area between his brows.
The house was silent, there wasn’t a single sound.
He discretely took a look at Gu Miao from a crack at the door and saw Gu Miao holding a blanket and lying on it, seemingly asleep, and their mother’s side was also silent.
He sat on the sofa and closed his eyes.
After resting for around half an hour, he opened his eyes, took out his phone, and gave a call to Ding Zhuxin. “Xin Jie, do you have some time at night to come around?”
Please take note of who the translator is for each chapter, so that your questions can be properly answered, thank you.
Translator’s Note: Ice: There are these moments when I’m translating this book that gets me in a really sombre mood. One of these moments was when I was helping translate the latter half of the chapter; it was another one of those times when I’m prompted to have little flashbacks of my own- his feelings of exhaustion is something I understand too well. (´._.｀)
1 Lambada dance – a partnered Latin dance that has a slow-quick-quick rhythm, danced to a 1—3-4 beat. It incorporates elements of other Latin dances such as Merengue, Samba, Rumbo and Maxixe. It is distinguished from other forms of Latin dance through the wave-like motion of the dancers’ bodies, which gives the dance its name: Lambada is a Portuguese word referring to the wave-like motion of a whip. When dancing Lambada, the dancers’ hips are closely positioned and create a fast-paced swaying action from side-to-side. Its association with ‘dirty dancing’ is fiercely protested by professional Lambada dancers, who insist that the moves are graceful and should not have any sleazy overtones.
2 …show that you can keep going without rest (自觉努力进取，不懈怠，不停止) means, “To take the initiative to strive for progress, to not slack off, and don’t stop”.
3 Character book – a book where Chinese students would practice their characters