Translate: Sae | Proofread: Ice/Anasofi
This room was the reception room of the former steel mill, and it came with a bathroom. Even though this place was abandoned, it still had an owner; there was always water, so back then, the first room that Li Yan snatched was this room.
This place appeared quite desolate, but it was actually pretty lively—save for the time when the weather around the mill was warm. It was not like nobody came around this area, it was just that those who wanted to find a place to idle around like them weren’t as quick to come.
Gu Fei didn’t come here often, but he wanted to invite Jiang Cheng out for a meal today. He didn’t want to be too far away from home and with no decent restaurant nearby, he thought of coming here when Jiang Cheng said that it didn’t matter.
“There’s no heater?” Jiang Cheng sat on the sofa and stomped his feet.
“Make your own fire.” Gu Fei took the lighter from the table and tossed it over to him, “There’s a bag of coal to the side of the sofa, find some rags outside, and… can you make a fire?”
“I can.” Jiang Cheng got up and went out; after two seconds, he suddenly knocked his whole body violently against the door and entered, holding a rag in his hand with and wearing a stiff expression.
Gu Fei, who was holding a bag of disposable plates and separating the food, was startled by the sudden move. “What’s wrong?”
“Fuck,” Jiang Cheng pinched the rag with two fingernails. “I just picked up this thing… there was actually a dead rat underneath! Scared the shit out of me!!”
“And you still held onto it that firmly?” Gu Fei didn’t quite understand it.
“I thought that it was useful, so I…” Jiang Cheng threw the rag into the brick stove, “That should be enough to keep it going.”
“You could have just walked ten more steps and find something else to light the fire, the kind with no dead rat underneath.” Gu Fei continued to move the food onto the plates.
“It’s too freaking cold. I don’t want to move.” Jiang Cheng squatted in front of the stove, “I think I’ve gotten used to it since the pots at Li Baoguo’s place have cockroaches in them.”
“He usually doesn’t cook since he’s too busy gambling to care about food,” Gu Fei said.
“I can tell,” Jiang Cheng lit that rag, “If we’re talking about a place to sleep then he could probably also sell his home.”
“It can’t be sold,” Gu Fei took the pot and washed it under the faucet in the bathroom before he carried out a pot of water. “The buildings have been the mill’s right from the start; the majority of the people here are so poor that all they have are themselves.”1
“… oh.” Jiang Cheng added two lumps of coal in the fire. He stared at it, seemingly entranced.
After the coal was ready, Gu Fei placed the pot of water on the stove then smashed two pieces of ginger and threw them in, followed by a small packet of wolfberry and jujube.
“Are you making soup?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Mm,” Jiang Cheng took the lid. “Do you like eating soup or eating meat?”
“… what do you mean?” Jiang Cheng looked at him, a bit perplexed. “You’re cooking a pot of chicken and then only let me choose between eating soup or eating meat?”
Gu Fei sighed, “It’s not that. If the chicken meat is placed in cold water, the soup will be thicker, and it will taste better. If you place the chicken in when the water is boiling, the chicken will taste better.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng answered in surprise. “Why?”
Gu Fei thought that Jiang Cheng’s reaction perfectly reflected the quality of a true xueba, without common sense but with a curious mind. He did not want to explain it to Jiang Cheng at all. “Just say which one you like.”
“Soup,” Jiang Cheng simply answered and took out his phone.
“En.” Gu Fei placed the chicken meat into the pot and covered the lid, “The chicken is cooking. Let’s grill something to eat first.”
“Okay,” Jiang Cheng looked at his phone as he stood up. “What should I do?”
“Eat,” Gu Fei answered.
Li Yan and their gang especially liked to grill, hence, practically everything was here. After Gu Fei set up the grill, he took some coals from the stove and put them in; everything bought today was ready-made meat and only needed the ingredients to be brushed on before grilling them – very simple.
“Put the chicken in cold water, the flavor of the chicken will gradually be released as the temperature rises, so the soup will be very thick.” Jiang Cheng sat by the stove, keeping an eye on the fire while reading out from his phone. “Put the chicken in boiling water, the skin of the chicken will be cooked in an instant, sealing the flavor inside. In this case, the chicken will taste stronger… right?”
“… right,” Gu Fei glanced at him. “Do you still want to take notes?”
“This kind of thing doesn’t usually require recitation of the original text, just understanding the meaning is enough.” Jiang Cheng also looked at him.
Gu Fei turned his head and brushed the ingredient on the meat. When Jiang Cheng said this sort of thing, he had the swag of a xueba – the type where once he spoke, there was nothing much for you to say.
“Do you guys always gather here? Everything’s here.” Jiang Cheng stood up and stood beside the grill, “There’s even cumin?”
“Cumin, ground pepper, chilli powder, they’re all here though I’m not sure if they’re expired since I don’t know when they bought them.”
“… fuck,” Jiang Cheng took the bottle, “Let me see… the shelf life is 36 months, there shouldn’t be a problem. You guys must have not come here to eat these over thirty months ago, right?”
“36 months is how long ago?” Gu Fei took the bottle without lifting his head and started to sprinkle the powder.
“Three years,” Jiang Cheng said.
“At most, half a month ago,” Gu Fei said. “You’re so particular. I normally smell it, and if it is not odd, I’ll eat it.”
“You must’ve just eaten it as it is because you don’t quite understand the shelf life,” Jiang Cheng said.
“That’s right,” Gu Fei swept a glance his way. “Can’t compare to a xueba’s meticulous life.”
The meat skewers began to drip oil after a while, and the smoke pervading the room began to emit a strong fragrance.
Skewering meat was not a technically difficult job, and with Gu Fei appearing remarkably skilled, Jiang Cheng did not help him and sat back down beside the chicken soup to maintain the fire.
There was silence outside the room—the sky had completely descended into darkness, and the open window resembled a cataclysmic black cloth that made you feel rather cold, but the stove and barbeque grill in front of them showed a bright and utterly steady fire.
This kind of feeling was absolutely wonderful, just like sitting in the small cornmeal-coloured bun that day—outside were the purely cold streets shrouded with the freezing wind, and inside the car was silence.
Outside the window was the unknown and unsettling darkness, yet before them was brightness and warmth.
Jiang Cheng quite liked this kind of feeling.
It had been a long time since he came here with depression and anger, perplexity and confusion, and all kinds of discomfort. Until today, until now, he suddenly felt that he had a steady footing on the ground.
Although this feeling might only be temporary, or maybe it was only an optical illusion, he nevertheless could not help but want to experience it quietly at this moment.
“Can you eat spicy food?” Gu Fei asked.
“Just a bit is okay, not too much,” Jiang Cheng answered.
Gu Fei sprinkled a bit of chilli powder then handed him a few meat skewers on a plate. “Try it, I like it a little charred, these aren’t charred at all.”
“I also like it slightly charred.” Jiang Cheng took a bite of a meat skewer, “It tastes pretty good.”
“I thought a xueba like you didn’t eat charred food… if you need to look at the shelf life, are you not worried about getting cancer from eating charred food?” Gu Fei continued to grill the meat skewers.
“Aren’t you being annoying?” Jiang Cheng said while eating, “How much resentment do you have towards a xueba for you to bear a grudge like this?”
“I’ve lived for nearly 18 years and this is the first time that I’ve met a true xueba, it’s hard to stay calm.” Gu Fei placed the remaining skewers together on a plate, piled them high, and then put them on a wooden box that was turned upside down and used as a table at the side of the stove. “A xueba’s mouth is actually pretty foul.”
There was a very delightful type of enjoyment in guarding the fire and eating meat skewers on a cold day. Jiang Cheng did not want to bicker with Gu Fei at the moment, so he gave no voice and simply immersed himself in eating.
“Do you want a drink?” Gu Fei looked through a cardboard box to the side, “I remember that the liquor from last time wasn’t finished.”
“A white one?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Nonsense, do you drink beer on such a cold day?” Gu Fei took out a bottle of liquor and placed it on the wooden box, “At a time like this, a bottle of Niu Er2 liquor is what hits the spot.”
Jiang Cheng looked at the bottle; he hesitated for a moment but then nodded: “Alright, just a little.”
As Jiang Cheng watched Gu Fei pour the liquor, he was utterly shocked as the paper cup was filled to the brim. He had never drunk liquor like that before, but seeing as how he and Gu Fei could choke each other at any time given the way they talked, he didn’t speak and quietly watched as Gu Fei placed a full cup of liquor in front of him.
“Perhaps, you think it’s not necessary to say ‘thank you’,” Gu Fei picked up his cup, “But it’s still proper to say thank you once more.”
“Perhaps, you think it’s not necessary to say ‘don’t be so polite’…” Jiang Cheng also picked up his cup, “But I still have to say, there’s no need to be so polite.”
Gu Fei laughed and bumped his cup against his and then drank a mouthful.
Jiang Cheng glanced at his cup, this bastard drank a cup of liquor as if he was drinking beer, thus, in accordance with the norm, he also had to drink almost a mouthful.
The liquor burned all the way down from his throat to his stomach and then rose all the way back up, setting aflame his neck and the root of his ears.
Gu Fei glanced at him, “You don’t normally drink liquor?”
“I don’t drink liquor like I do beer,” Jiang Cheng said, lowering his head to take a bite of meat. In fact, taking such a bite while guarding the fire on a chilly day like this was immensely satisfying.
“You could’ve just taken a sip or two at random,” Gu Fei said. “Aren’t you still injured?”
“I don’t feel anything today.” Jiang Cheng pressed the wounded area – he indeed didn’t feel anything. He hesitated for a moment and then asked, “Gu Miao… how is she?”
“Staying home for the time being,” Gu Fei drank another mouthful. “Yesterday, those parents called the parents of the other two kids and went to cause a ruckus at the school together.”
“What the fuck!” Jiang Cheng’s brows twisted, “They must have done something for Gu Miao to react that way since she normally doesn’t even look at people straight on.”
“They drew in Er Miao’s notebook before.” Gu Fei lifted the lid of the pot and saw that the soup inside had already come to a boil. He tasted it and added salt and msg. “Er Miao wanted to handle it herself, so I never went to ask about it at the school. I also never thought she would handle it like that.”
Jiang Cheng could almost imagine what kind of things would appear—for such a big child, hearing “he’s still just a kid”, coming from an adult’s mouth, was the cruellest thing.
He could still remember that when he was in elementary school, there was a child with a lower IQ in the class who was excluded and bullied by almost the whole class. He had even participated in it, as if afraid that if he looked different from the majority, he would have been treated the same.
“Did the school let Gu Miao return home then?” Jiang Cheng said, “Regardless of the cause and effect? Even if it is wrong to hit someone, they shouldn’t go so far as to not let her go to school!”
“At first, the school wasn’t willing to take her back, but I asked the principal for a long time.” Gu Fei paused, and after a long moment of silence, he glanced at him again. “Er Miao should go to a special school.”
“… is that so.” Jiang Cheng had guessed that Gu Miao had some sort of problem, but when Gu Fei said those two words, “special school”, he did not know how to proceed.
“She was born… with a little bit of a problem.” Gu Fei sprinkled a bit of cumin on a bunch of meat skewers, “She couldn’t speak and was only able to when she was around three years old, though the two or three words that bounded out were all jumbled up. She couldn’t learn anything, and it also seemed she couldn’t express herself either since she would only shriek when she was hungry, thirsty or in pain.”
“Then she…” Jiang Cheng opened his mouth but didn’t say anything. Gu Fei kept staring at the things in his own hands when he said all those things, and although he appeared to not care in the least, Jiang Cheng could perceive his depression.
Jiang Cheng didn’t ask any more and Gu Fei didn’t go further either. What issues Gu Miao had, and how the scar on the back of her head came to be, was it truly because Gu Fei’s father had dropped her like what Li Baoguo had said…?
Also, were the jianghu-like3 rumours regarding Gu Fei real or not?
He was curious about these, but he didn’t plan to ask anymore.
The chicken soup was delicious. In fact, he didn’t know if it was because of the cold but the hot chicken soup looked especially captivating. With just a sip, he felt so warm that his head became a bit dizzy.
“This chicken soup is really satisfying,” Jiang Cheng lamented.
“A xueba like you is too proper,” Gu Fei took a sip of the liquor and waved the cup in front of him. “What’s really satisfying is this.”
“… oh,” Jiang Cheng paused, picked up his cup and also took a drink before nodding. “That’s right.”
Although the strength of this liquor was high, and Jiang Cheng didn’t normally drink liquor, a paper cup of liquor was nearly gone as he ate and drank this time around.
He didn’t know if it was because of this reason, but he suddenly wanted to laugh really bad, like when he brought up their fight in the shop the other day and laughed foolishly—right now, he really wanted to laugh… foolishly.
“I…” He turned to look at Gu Fei.
Gu Fei was drinking a sip of soup but after glancing at him face-to-face, he slanted his head and completely spurted out a mouthful of soup.
With this spurt, their foolish laughing was turned on.
Jiang Cheng laughed so intensely that he couldn’t even hold his chopsticks, and they fell on the table. He wanted to place them properly but they rolled to the ground. He laughed, and while reaching out to pick them up, he picked up a small wooden stick and placed it at the side of the bowl.
Gu Fei held the bowl with both hands, and with just a glance of that small wooden stick, he laughed so much that half of the soup in the bowl spilled out.
“I’m dying,” Jiang Cheng laughed and pressed on his wound. “I’m a wounded person, I can’t laugh like this…”
Gu Fei didn’t speak as he leaned against the wall behind him and continued to laugh mischievously for a while longer. Finally, he took in a deep breath: “I almost couldn’t breathe.”
Once it came to an end, Jiang Cheng originally thought that because the wind blew in from the open window, his back occasionally felt a trace of coldness, yet now, his back was sweating.
“Hey,” Jiang Cheng fished around in his pocket, looking for a tissue to wipe his mouth but even after a while, he couldn’t find any. “I’m dead tired.”
“Looking for tissue?” Gu Fei pointed at the table behind him, “There’s some there.”
Jiang Cheng turned around and saw that there were rolls of paper on the broken table behind him.
When he reached out far enough and grabbed over a roll, a piece of paper was brought down from the table and fell near his feet.
When he picked it up, wanting to place it back, he stopped and froze as he looked at the thing on the paper.
This staff-printed kraft paper, ripped from a book of staff paper, was something that he was incredibly familiar with. Kraft-paper coloured staff-paper books were a favourite of his.
There was nothing unusual about the ledger line of the musical staff. For an unenthusiastic student like Gu Fei, it might have been bought as an English book…
But what surprised him was the writing on the paper.
It was more than half of a musical score.
“Fuck,” Jiang Cheng blinked as he held onto the edge of the table for support and tried to align the double vision before him. Then he hummed a tune, “It’s pretty good, what song is this?”
Gu Fei was still leaning against the wall and stared at him for a while before finally speaking: “You also know scores?”
“Nonsense.” Jiang Cheng took the score, leaned back against the table legs and looked down. “For a xueba, anything is… this, who wrote the song?”
Gu Fei said nothing.
Jiang Cheng looked at it for a while, looked up at him and then pointed his finger at him: “You wrote this?”
“Mm?” Gu Fei took a sip, “Why me, do I look like a person that can write songs to you?”
“You don’t look like one, but…” Jiang Cheng flicked the paper, “But this tonal mark, look at this ‘b’, it’s the same as what you wrote and it’s a bit longer underneath, like a one-handed akimbo.”
“What the hell,” Gu Fei laughed.
“Did you write it? Or did you copy it for someone?” Jiang Cheng pinched the paper and waved it in front of him, humming a bit more, “It’s really nice.”
“A xueba is a xueba. You must have learned musical staff in middle school, huh and you can still remember it.” Gu Fei did not answer his question.
“Fuck, don’t look down on a xueba.” Jiang Cheng stood up and slapped the paper on the table, thinking that he was probably actually invigorated by the drink. He held his head high in a good mood and even his words had swag. “I’ll show you something eye-opening.”
“Are you going to sing a song?” Gu Fei was also in a good mood as he stood against the wall and applauded him.
“Wait,” Jiang Cheng went to the sofa and picked up his own school bag, “I’m not sure if I brought it… I normally do… oh, here.”
Gu Fei watched Jiang Cheng rummaging through his bag for a long while, eventually pulling out a semi-transparent and slender plastic case, a bamboo flute?
The fact that Jiang Cheng knew the musical score and could immediately hum it surprised him tremendously—for someone like Jiang Cheng, even if Lao Xu said that he was a xueba, it was unlikely that many people would believe him if his grades didn’t come out. Fighting and taunting others was an asset, being good at basketball wasn’t strange, but knowing how to read music was really a surprise.
Just like him, even if he wrote the songs and stamped the composer as Gu Fei, an unfamiliar person would have thought that he beat the composer and stole it.
Jiang Cheng was probably excited because of the liquor. One paper cup of liquor was probably two and a half glass, and Jiang Cheng’s cup was already empty; for someone who didn’t normally drink, having two and a half in their stomach at this rate was an almost revolting behaviour.
“A flute? So meticulous.”
“Mm, a tin whistle,” Jiang Cheng cleared his throat. “An Irish tin whistle. I really like it, though I don’t play often. I didn’t play it at my previous home either.”
“Why?” Gu Fei asked.
“Because it doesn’t look as posh as a piano,” Jiang Cheng laughed. “My mom… anyways, she doesn’t like it, said it was noisy and that she likes the piano.”
“You can play the piano?” Gu Fei looked at Jiang Cheng’s hands. He didn’t pay attention to them before, and now that Jiang Cheng’s fingers were pressed on the finger holes4, they were pretty long—the knuckles connecting to the long, slender fingers were clear but not obtrusive.
“Yes, do you want to kneel down? I think there’s a cushion on the sofa. You can bring it over,” Jiang Cheng pointed to the ground in front of him with the tin whistle, “Just kneel here.”
Gu Fei laughed as he felt for a stick of cigarette and let it hang in his mouth.
He thought to himself that he probably had never heard a tin whistle before, but after Jiang Cheng played out that short section, he reacted. For a short period of time, Ding Zhuxin really liked Celtic music and would listen to it all day long; there were various recorders and bagpipes.
He didn’t know what Jiang Cheng played, though it sounded familiar.
Just as he was lamenting that Jiang Cheng could also play this and played it rather well, with his fingers leaping nimbly on the finger holes… Jiang Cheng suddenly stopped, tilted his head to the side and coughed. “Sorry, let me start over.”
Gu Fei had to applaud again.
Jiang Cheng glanced at him then placed the whistle back to his mouth once more. His eyes hung low before his fingers soon jumped, and the notes slipped out again.
This was the first time that Gu Fei had ever heard someone play the whistle in front of him— there was an indescribable feeling.
Jiang Cheng’s usually uncomfortable and irritated face disappeared when the first note leaped out, and his slightly shaking lashes appeared calm and peaceful.
At this second, Gu Fei wholeheartedly accepted Jiang Cheng’s setting as a real xueba.
The author has something to say: Continuing tomorrow.
The time to show off your talents has arrived; “Da Fei please make sure to focus on staring at the shining-all-over Cheng Ge yo~” The author, who now has a small heating coaster and has been drinking hot coffee this entire time, says extremely happily.
“I will share the song that Cheng Ge played on Weibo today, you can give it a listen to better integrate yourself.” The author who felt that they are incredibly considerate pulled out a small black cashmere cushion from the closet and patted the fur while talking.
“A private space and alcohol! This is precisely the author’s scheme!” The small black cashmere cushion cried out as it splayed on the ground.
Please take note of who the translator for each chapter is, thank you.
IT’S ONE OF THE STEEL MILL SCENES. IT’S FINALLY ONE OF THE STEEL MILL SCENES AFtER aLL tHe SExUaL TeNSiOn. (It’s midterms for me these two weeks so I won’t be able to do much translating, all I can do is help around every so often… I feel bad for leaving everything to Sae but I will try to be back for chapter 27…! (ง •̀_•́)ง) – Ice
Sorry for the late update, I have some family emergency so I stepped away from translating and editing for a bit. I’ll try my best to maintain a schedule and be more stress free and update properly. – Sae
Do you want to support me and my team, if you do please donate to help push this blog into a .com (so we can have things like inline comments, no ads, and etc.) or buy us a cup of coffee as we translate/edit/proof. Thank you. ❤
1 Belongs to the steel mills – basically when there’s a mill/factory, there’s usually a community or smth beside it for the workers to live and those buildings belong to the mill/factory thus none of the people that live in them have rights to them so they can’t be sold.
2 Niu Er (牛二) short for Niulanshan Erjiu（牛栏山牛二酒）(a kind of second distillation liquor or erguotou) – is a type of light-aroma baijiu (white liquor) made from sorghum. The most famous brands are Red Star (红星, Hóngxīng)and Niulanshan (牛栏山). It is available in various strengths, the average being 50% alcohol by volume or 100 proof.The name “second distillation” indicates its level of purity. It is a clear, potent spirit and takes six months to produce. It is one of the most commonly drunk baijiu in Beijing, and thus has a deep cultural association with China’s capital and beyond. They have previous drank the Red Star brand in chapter 9 hahaha
Also, “白酒” baijiu – , pronounced bye-j’yo—is a drinks category that encompasses all traditional Chinese grain spirits. Baijiu is most commonly distilled from sorghum, but can also be made from rice, wheat, corn and millet. Made across China, a country that is roughly the same size as Europe, it is a diverse range of beverages. Baijiu production techniques differ significantly by region and style, and different types of baijiu can be as distinct as whiskey is to tequila. It is the world’s most popular liquor by volume, with annual outputs that exceed the combined total of vodka and whisky. Baijiu and Western spirits, broadly defined, are fundamentally different alcohols. In a global context, baijiu is remarkably new and under-examined.
3 Jianghu-like: basically meaning very wild, very unbelievable
4 Finger holes – where you move your finger on the whistle to produce different tones