Translate: Sae | Proofread: Anasofi
After spending almost two hours at the local police station, the matter was finally dealt with.
The beaten boy did not admit that he had provoked Gu Miao and only said that she chased and struck him without reason at all. Gu Miao remained silent as she lay on Gu Fei’s shoulder with her eyes closed, which made it difficult for this accusation to be confirmed.
Jiang Cheng, for one, did not believe the kid’s words; with Gu Miao’s condition, she would be bullied no matter which school she was placed in.
However, the focus of this incident was not the reason for Gu Miao’s action, and even if the boy had bullied her, there was not much the officer could have done; the focus was that Gu Miao had smashed his head, resulting in two stitches.
Fortunately, there were no other serious matters. And when the parent pressed for compensation – one that was simply daylight robbery – Ding Zhuxin pressed back in a semi-reasonably, semi-threatening demeanor; midway through, the officer had even warned her several times to watch her words.
Gu Fei hadn’t spoken much, and his attention was only on Gu Miao.
Li Yan, and the others, took on the job of folding their arms and looking hard, a look that perfectly matched Ding Zhuxin’s threat—displaying an aura of “if you dare to act recklessly, we will definitely be reckless as well; look at us, we don’t look like good people anyways.”
Finally, when the arrangement was finalized and the officer let them go, Jiang Cheng let out a long sigh of relief.
At that moment, his stomach woke up and cried out in starvation – though he didn’t have an appetite for any food whatsoever.
When they walked out of the station, it was the rather cold and cutting wind that greeted them.
“You guys should go back, it’s been hard on you all.” Gu Fei glanced at Jiang Cheng, “We can just call for a taxi and go with Wang Xu.”
“Okay,” Jiang Cheng nodded.
After they split with the others and got into the taxi, no one uttered a word. Jiang Cheng was a bit gloomy and reckoned that Gu Fei was also not in any mood to speak, and Wang Xu didn’t so much as mention the basketball game, though he cursed and sighed heavily, only suppressing his voice immediately when Gu Fei gave him a glance.
“You guys haven’t eaten yet, right?” Gu Fei asked as the taxi approached the street.
“Don’t worry about us, just hurry up and go back,” Wang Xu said. “And there’s no need to have the taxi turn around, I’ll get off here since my house is just around the corner… Jiang Cheng, are you coming over to eat stuffed flatbreads?”
“Forget it. I don’t want to eat anything right now,” Jiang Cheng said.
Once they arrived at the crossroad, Gu Fei carried Gu Miao out of the taxi while Jiang Cheng held onto Gu Miao’s skateboard. After they walked for a few steps, Gu Fei turned his head: “Thanks for today.”
“There’s no need to say that,” Jiang Cheng looked at Gu Miao. “Have her ask for two days of leave. I saw three little boys earlier today, and those two didn’t take a beating. I’m not sure…”
“Even if she doesn’t ask for leave, it doesn’t necessarily mean she can still return to school anymore.” Gu Fei sighed, “In the morning, please ask Lao Xu for a leave for me. I have to go to Er Miao’s school.”
“Alright, and the reason?” Jiang Cheng nodded.
“I have a fever,” Gu Fei touched his own forehead. “So hot it burns the hand, and it will last from the afternoon of today until midday tomorrow.”
“… okay,” Jiang Cheng laughed.
As Gu Fei carried Gu Miao in one hand and the skateboard in the other, then turned around and walked ahead along the road, Jiang Cheng looked at his back, feeling somewhat moved.
Before, he had always thought that Gu Fei lived very casually—casually letting his sister tread on her skateboard all over the street, casually being late to class or cutting class altogether, casually playing basketball – everything as he wished, without suffering any scruples.
But now that he thought about it again, perhaps, that was not the case. In his family, Gu Fei seemed to be the one who handled everything – alone. Such a person, how could he actually do as he desired…
No one could do as they desired, Gu Fei couldn’t and he couldn’t either.
It was like how he didn’t want to stay at Li Baoguo’s place, didn’t want to stay in this strange and broken city, didn’t want to face his current life, but he had no other choice.
Every change—even the slightest—would affect everything else.
Even if he had the habit of staying out all night before, now he could not do it so casually.
Because he had no place to go.
Not many people could actually do whatever they wanted without care and just “be themselves”.
Li Baoguo did not go out to play cards tonight. He was home coughing the entire night. Even the constant snoring would turn into a cough. He would smack his lips, and teeth grinding – a ruckus so loud it could provoke mortals and gods alike.
Jiang Cheng – in his not completely soundproof room – could clearly hear whoever was upstairs either wearing slippers or sneakers, walking around in their place, which kept his eyes open all night.
When he woke up in the morning, he felt so tired that even as he walked, he felt he was floating.
“Do you want to go have a checkup at the hospital?” he said to Li Baoguo, who was putting on his shoes, wanting to leave as soon as possible to catch the early gambling get-together. “You were coughing pretty badly, is it pharyngitis?”
“Look, look! This is my son!” Li Baoguo said happily in a very loud voice, “It’s nothing, I’ve been coughing for many years. It’s a chronic illness. There’s no need to go to the hospital since there’s no problem!”
Jiang Cheng wanted to say that there were faults in his wordings, but he ended up not saying anything. Li Baoguo had already swung the door in a haste and left.
Shit, so be it if you want to be sick. Li Baoguo being like that made him feel as if he was a hypocritical weak woman.
On the way to school, Jiang Cheng went to the pharmacy to purchase a small box of American ginseng drop as eating it could lift his spirit a bit. He used to eat it quite often when he studied for exams.
Now that he had eaten it, at the very least, he wouldn’t be that dead asleep when he slept during class. He didn’t want to end up snoring in class – how embarrassing.
As expected, Gu Fei did not attend class in the morning. After the morning self-study period, he went over to Lao Xu’s office and repeated what Gu Fei had told him as his reason for being absent.
“It was so hot he thought he could die, and it started yesterday afternoon and will remain so until it can finally recede at noon today.” After Jiang Cheng said that, he thought that a night of sleeplessness had severely affected his intelligence.
But Lao Xu did not seem to take note of his peculiar expression, instead, he was happily immersed in Gu Fei requesting for a leave and not simply bunking classes.
“Look, I knew that he could still be saved,” Lao Xu said, with emotion. “Just look, isn’t this a request for leave!! I just know how to communicate with you kids ah, this was certainly something that needed attention and careful skill…”
However, Gu Fei did not come to class by noon, and it was in the last class of that afternoon, which was Chinese language and literature, that he finally entered the classroom.
Lao Xu looked at him with concern, “Didn’t you have a fever? You can come after the afternoon.”
“Better now,” Gu Fei said.
Lao Xu nodded his head and knocked on the podium and said high-spiritedly, “Next, we’ll continue with the content just now…”
“Did you sleep?” Gu Fei sat down and looked over at Jiang Cheng.
“…… is it that obvious?” Jiang Cheng half-lay on the table; his eyes seemingly unable to stay open.
“Mm,” Gu Fei said. “Can’t look straight at you anymore. Those who don’t know would think that you’ve had a fever all day.”
“Didn’t sleep well last night,” Jiang Cheng said in between a yawn.
“Sorry,” Gu Fei whispered, “For taking up quite a few hours of your time.”
“It’s not because of Gu Miao’s matter.” Jiang Cheng waved his hand, “Li Baoguo… he didn’t go out gambling yesterday and coughed all night. It was so loud that it was impossible to sleep.”
“Oh,” Gu Fei fished through his pocket, took out a small box, and placed it in front of him. “Want some?”
“What…” Jiang Cheng opened the small box and saw a handful of milk candies inside. He was lost for words all of a sudden, “Milk candies ah?”
“Mm, don’t you like to eat this?” Gu Fei took out another peppermint candy from his pocket and put it in his mouth.
“I never said I liked them. I was just hungry that day,” Jiang Cheng said.
“So, it’s like that huh,” Gu Fei looked at him with an exaggerated expression of surprise, then recollected his expression before taking away the candies in front of him. “Then give it back to me.”
“No,” Jiang Cheng glared at him. “I just realized that you’re really quite interesting~.”
“Just say whether you want it or not,” Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng opened his mouth, and after what seemed like half a day, he finally said: “Just give me a peppermint to freshen up.”
Gu Fei glanced at him and then felt around in his pocket for a while, grabbed a handful and then used his finger to lightly push them around in search of one. “There’s no more. How about eating this one, it can also keep you awake – quite refreshing.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng took the little round candy that he had pointed at from his hand.
The candy had a tangerine flavor, and there was nothing particularly refreshening; Jiang Cheng wrapped his tongue around the candy. What the freaking hell would a tangerine flavor refresh, at the very least, let it be lemon…
He hadn’t finished that thought when the tip of his tongue suddenly tasted a faint sour flavor, perhaps the tangerine coating on the outer layer turned out to be a bit sour inside?
Without waiting for him to react, this sour taste scuttled out.
His eyes widened like saucers in seconds.
Sour, sour, sour, sour, sour, sour, sour, sour, sour, sour!
What the fuck, it was deadly sour!!
The sourness that saturated his mouth filled him with a bitterness that assailed his inner core and his tear gland. He was in such pain, he was losing the will to live.
“This…” Gu Fei said, and watched him sit up sharply.
But before he could finish, Jiang Cheng had already spit out the candy from his mouth – quite ferociously.
The candy was like a small bullet as it flew out with great speed and hit Zhou Jing, who sat in front of them, in the back of his neck.
“Ahhh!!” Zhou Jing screamed out loud, so frightened that he also sat up straight. He turned around and reached back to touch his neck, then suppressed his voice and asked: “Shit, what is this? It fell into my shirt!!”
Jiang Cheng remained silent; although the candy was no longer in his mouth, the traces of its existence had not disappeared – the bitter sourness that lived in his mouth still could make anyone tremble uncontrollably from its taste.
“Sit properly,” Gu Fei said.
“Classmate Zhou Jing,” Lao Xu said from the podium. “Pay attention to the classroom’s discipline.”
Although the students in this class paying attention to the classroom’s discipline put together did not amount to a basketball team, Zhou Jing still sat up properly.
After two seconds, he turned around his head again: “Fuck, why is it sticky? What the hell is this?”
“Candy,” Gu Fei said.
“… are you two sick, huh?” Zhou Jing was much aggrieved. He pulled and shook his clothes for a long time until that candy fell on the chair.
“Sorry,” Jiang Cheng said, and after finally regaining back some strength, he turned to look at Gu Fei.
Gu Fei had lowered his head to play on his cellphone, but Jiang Cheng could clearly see the grin that he was suppressing on his face.
“Are you fucking seeking death?” Jiang Cheng said in a low voice.
“You said you wanted to freshen up.” Gu Fei dragged his finger on the screen of the phone, “Are you still sleepy now?
“What the *** is that!” Jiang Cheng cursed.
“Not sleepy, right?” Gu Fei tilted his head to the side to look at him.
“How about I write a certificate of merit for you?” Jiang Cheng stated.
“There’s no need for that.” Gu Fei turned back to play on his phone, “No one could understand that handwriting of yours even if you wrote one.”
Jiang Cheng had to admit that he was completely refreshed and the sleepiness had faded.
However, the urge to punch Gu Fei a few times made him lose his mood to even ask him how Gu Miao’s school situation was handled.
When the class dismissal bell sounded, Gu Fei put his phone down. “I’ll treat you to a meal, thanks for helping out yesterday.”
Jiang Cheng looked at him without saying a word.
“At noon or in the evening, whichever is more convenient for you,” Gu Fei said and then added, “Do you have time?”
“… you don’t have to be so polite,” Jiang Cheng said.
“It’s not being polite,” Gu Fei said. “If it wasn’t for you yesterday, who knows what would’ve happened to Er Miao. Just thinking about it traumatizes me.”
Jiang Cheng went silent for a moment: “Then, in the evening. I want to catch up on sleep.”
“Okay,” Gu Fei nodded.
As usual, they practiced basketball during the self-study class in the afternoon. During this time, the self-study lessons were probably some of Wang Xu’s favorite lessons.
At noon, Jiang Cheng went to the hospital to change the medicine on his wound and asked the doctor to use what was reportedly imported adhesive.
For the afternoon, they mainly practiced cooperation with no formal game; his wound was okay and he honestly didn’t feel anything.
“I think we have a chance this time.” At the end of the practice, Captain Wang Xu crouched at the side of the court, and jabbed his finger at the floor. “Based on the current situation… but our secret operation must still proceed and let everyone remain as before, that is, to not pay attention to us.”
“Just don’t go around bragging everywhere,” Jiang Cheng said.
“Don’t worry,” Wang Xu said, not in the least concerned. “As long as you and Gu Fei remain hidden, no matter how much I brag, no one will believe it anyways.”
“… oh.” Jiang Cheng looked at him, and for the first time, he thought that Wang Xu was rather sincere. He was also slightly amazed that he could actually face the cruel reality so directly.
“Da Fei,” Wang Xu turned to look at him. “Whenever there’s free time, ask those buddies of yours to come and practice with us. I think that the result is pretty good.”
“Mm,” Gu Fei sounded.
“Alright, let’s disband.” Wang Xu waved his hand, “The other class should be coming in a bit, just remember what our motto is!”
“Motto?” Lu Xiaobin was taken aback, “We also have a motto?”
“Oh, I haven’t said it.” Wang Xu said, “Our motto is——we have a secret weapon!”
Jiang Cheng did not react even after he said that this was his motto. He just froze, trying to contain the mad laughter that wanted to burst out.
Everyone went completely silent as they looked at Wang Xu.
“We have a secret weapon!” Wang Xu repeated once more and then waved his hand again, “Disband!”
When he walked out of the school gate once school was dismissed, Jiang Cheng turned to look around out of habit. He didn’t see Gu Miao, who had often held her skateboard like a little boss while waiting for Gu Fei at the school gate.
He glanced at Gu Fei, and Gu Fei didn’t explain anything. He casually placed his hands in his pockets and walked along the road.
“Didn’t ride your bike today?” Jiang Cheng asked, noticing that he didn’t go to get his bike.
“Mm,” Gu Fei turned up his collar. “I only rode the broken bike halfway in the morning before the wheel became completely out of shape.”
“What?” Jiang Cheng didn’t catch on to what he said, “How is it out of shape, no one tore it…”
“… you’re so cute.” Gu Fei looked at him, “The bike isn’t really out of shape, it just started acting up.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng quite admired himself.
“You’re killing me,” Gu Fei sighed.
Jiang Cheng looked at him and said nothing. If it was Pan Zhi, he would have definitely applauded and celebrated this moment.
“What do you want to eat?” Gu Fei asked as they walked.
“Don’t know. There’s also nothing in particular that I want to eat, and you don’t have to be so formal,” Jiang Cheng said. “It’s fine to eat what you normally eat with your friends, not like it’s a thank-you party.”
“My friends and I huh…” Gu Fei laughed, “ We eat very wonderfully. I’m afraid you won’t be able to endure it.”
“What? Eat… shit?” Jiang Cheng blurted out. He was used to squabbling with Pan Zhi, and the two had many habitually boring and childish conversations.
Sometimes, he felt that if no one could see them, people would think that they were two seven-years-olds.
“No,” Gu Fei said. “Though I can arrange it for you if you want.”
“Let’s just eat something normal,” Jiang Cheng sighed.
Now he would sigh when he thought of Pan Zhi —this problem was really unbelievable.
Recently, Pan Zhi’s grandfather was hospitalized, and the whole family had been taking turns to accompany him; the two hadn’t had much contact. Sometimes, when he looked at his silent phone, Jiang Cheng felt utterly lonely.
“Let’s go to the supermarket first,” Gu Fei said.
“Supermarket?” Jiang Cheng froze, “To buy what?”
“To buy what we’ll eat,” Gu Fei said. “Ingredients and stuff.”
“Making it ourselves?” Jiang Cheng was very surprised.
“Mm,” Gu Fei nodded. “My friends and I normally make it ourselves, but if you want to eat the ready-made food, we can…”
“No need.” Jiang Cheng thought that it was better to have it according to what Gu Fei was used to. He had never thought to ask for a meal from Gu Fei because of yesterday’s situation. “But I have to say first that I can only make instant noodles if I make noodles.”
“It’s okay: simple, barbeque,” Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng was surprised again, in this kind of weather, making our own barbeque? Where would we go?
As they walked around in the supermarket, Gu Fei bought chopped chicken, some beef and lamb for barbeque, and two bags of dumplings.
“How do you grill dumplings?” Jiang Cheng stared, quite perplexed..
“The dumplings will be boiled,” Gu Fei explained to him with a serious face.
“I know that dumplings are boiled. I just… forget it, I’ll just wait to eat them,” Jiang Cheng said.
“What do you want to drink? Alcohol or soft drinks?” Gu Fei asked.
“I don’t want to drink anything.” Jiang Cheng’s mind was crammed with a vision of them standing in a wasteland with the cutting northern wind, and guarding a pile of firewood and a dying fire as they froze half-dead. At this moment, just thinking about what to drink, he could feel chills.
After everything was bought, Gu Fei took them in the direction of their homes.
He thought that if Gu Fei wanted him to barbeque at his place… that was something he was not unaccustomed to. He and Gu Fei had had many interactions with each other recently, but the feeling was still of unfamiliarity. If he went to his house, it would be fairly uncomfortable – he wouldn’t even go to Pan Zhi’s house.
Gu Fei did not stop when they reached his family’s shop; he only glanced at it and continued walking ahead.
Jiang Cheng also glanced over, and through the glass window, he could see a woman standing at the cash register. From the hairstyle alone, it should be Gu Fei’s mother.
As they moved forward, this street merged together with the street of Li Baoguo’s place.
Jiang Cheng had been here before; it was quite desolated. After walking past that abandoned factory up ahead, there was a road leading to a lake with no water… he shivered. If Gu Fei wanted to barbeque by the lakeside, he reckoned that he would choose to invite Gu Fei to eat at a restaurant.
But Gu Fei directly entered the abandoned factory from a small door.
“Here?” Jiang Cheng followed in, “This is some sort of factory, right?”
“Mm, it was previously a steel mill.” Gu Fei said, “It has been closed for a long time… many people have worked in this factory before, Li Baoguo as well.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng looked around.
After entering the door, he discovered that this factory was pretty huge with everything still inside, and though it appeared rather sturdy, it had already become a wasteland; certainly no one had cleaned it either since the ground was completely covered in ice.
Gu Fei continued to lead him in, and after they passed through a few basketball courts, they entered a building that appeared to be an old office building.
“Me and… bu shi hao niao,” Gu Fei said as he walked up the stairs. “When we don’t want to stay in the shop, we normally gather here.”
“There’s no electricity here, right?” Jiang Cheng looked at the mess under his feet.
“We bring our own wires,” Gu Fei said. “In fact, it’s quite lively in the summer here. There are lots of open spaces outside, the elder men and ladies hold their street dancing activities here.”
“Street dancing?” Jiang Cheng repeated.
“Mm, there are even dance battles. It’s quite fashionable and at the peak of its time.” Gu Fei went up to the third floor and took out a key to unlock the door.
Jiang Cheng glanced inside and saw that it was an empty room that was very clean and tidy with a brick stove in the center. There were also many low stools and cotton cushions to the side along with a legless sofa.
Beside the wall was a barbecue grill and an induction cooker, as well as actual pots and piles of bottles of oil and salt and other things.
“The fuck?” Jiang Cheng was utterly shocked, “You can practically live here.”
“How is it, pretty fun right?” Gu Fei placed the goods they bought on the table. “We fitted the lock ourselves. If you want, I’ll give you one. When you don’t want to go back or have nowhere to go, you can stay here. Li Yan and the others usually come over on the weekends —no one’s here the rest of the time.”
Jiang Cheng didn’t speak as he leaned against the wall and looked at Gu Fei. He was a bit depressed by how his frequent circumstances of “having nowhere to go” was summed up by Gu Fei in one sentence.
Although it felt bad, he unexpectedly wasn’t angry. He only felt that the fact that even a deskmate could tell what his circumstances were was really… too laughable.
Please take note of who the translator/editor/proofreader is for each chapter, thank you.
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1 Daylight robbery – This isn’t used to describe actual robberies – whatever time of day they might take place. It is a figurative phrase that associates an instance of unfair trading with actual robbery. Not just any old robbery, but one so unashamed and obvious that it is committed in broad daylight. https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/daylight-robbery.html
2 would affect everything else | 牵一发而动全身 – lit. pull one hair and the whole body moves / fig. a slight change will affect everything else / the butterfly effect
3 American ginseng drop – a member of the ginseng family that is native to North America. American Ginseng is extremely popular in Asia. It contains saponins similar to those found in Panax Ginseng (Asian ginseng) as well as dozens of unique saponins. American Ginseng is considered to be a Yin tonic herb, especially nourishing to the lungs, skin and stomach. Because of its cool and moistening nature, it can be used by most people, and even by those who do not tolerate Asian Ginseng well. We use premium grade Wisconsin cultivated Panax quinquefolium roots, all personally selected and approved by Ron Teeguarden each autumn. All ginseng roots have been growing in the ground for at least six years to assure maturity and balanced saponin content.
4 Street dancing (街舞) – refers to as square dancing or plaza dancing: is an exercise routine performed to music in squares, plazas or parks of the nation’s cities. It is popular with middle-aged and retired women who have been referred to as “dancing grannies” in the English-language media. Due to its low cost and ease of participation, it has been estimated to have over 100 million practitioners, according to CCTV, the country’s official television network – I’ve already joined them before though my skills were quite lacking compared to theirs!