Translate: An | Edit: Sae
Gu Fei was riding his motorcycle toward Liu Fan’s house when his phone sounded. He plugged in an earbud and answered the call; Ding Zhuxin’s voice resonated from the other end. “Not bad, kid. You’re really not showing up?”
“No, I…” Gu Fei then remembered the message Ding Zhuxin had sent a while ago. “Forgot. How about I head over now, where are you?”
“It’s okay. It was an informal performance anyways,” Ding Zhuxin replied. “I was at WildFire just now, so I called you. I’m out drinking with friends now, a place you definitely won’t appear at.”
“En,” Gu Fei answered.
“I bumped into Xiao Bing and his group at the entrance just now,” Ding Zhuxin continued. “Their lead vocalist changed again.”
“They didn’t ask for you to go back?” Gu Fei said.
“I wouldn’t go back even if they asked,” Ding Zhuxin laughed. “A tough nut like me.”
“You were at your greatest potential when you were together with them,” Gu Fei said. “You don’t have to compete with them because of me. It’s been three years now, right? It’s about time to finish it.”
“Then, are you ‘finished’”? Ding Zhuxin asked.
“I bear grudges. I’ll remember this sort of thing for the rest of my life,” Gu Fei answered.
“Then, that’s alright,” Ding Zhuxin said. “I don’t bear grudges, I just find it disgusting… oh right, whenever you’re free, take some photos for me?”
“Of you?” Gu Fei made a turn and saw Liu Fan walking along the sidewalk with two large bags in his hands. He pressed down on the rear brake and whistled.
“Fuck,” Liu Fan turned his head. “I was just about to see which dumbass is brave enough to molest his uncle like this.”
“You went to pick them up on foot?” Gu Fei asked.
“They had dropped it off at the intersection.” Liu Fan saw him with an earbud in, “You have a call?”
“En, Xin-jie.” Gu Fei turned his head slightly with his foot on the ground. “Get on.”
Liu Fan straddled onto the seat behind him: “Drive slow, the wind is freezing cold at night.”
“Not for me,” Ding Zhuxin replied on the other end. “The photographer I hired for my shop went back to his hometown to get married. I’m not sure when he’ll be able to come back, and the model I was used to working with also… come and help me with this urgent matter. I have a pile of clothes that haven’t been photographed yet.”
“En, sure,” Gu Fei said. “Do you need me to find a model as well?”
“Yeah, just find a temporary person who we can shoot for these goods. Just don’t ask Liu Fan, though he does have a nice figure…” Ding Zhuxin said.
“But not a good face?” Gu Fei laughed.
“He doesn’t meet the requirements. The goods that I have this time are quite “badass”, and Liu Fan looks too honest. He’s like an old gangster, not a bad boy,” Ding Zhuxin said. “Do you have anyone suitable in mind? Time is tight, so I’m paying much more than usual.”
“I’ll look around,” Gu Fei answered. When Ding Zhuxin said ‘bad boy’, Jiang Cheng’s face flashed before his eyes for some unknown reason.
Of all the people he was acquainted with, very few of them were not “bad”. But for some reason, if it was the term “bad boy”, only Jiang Cheng was the most fitting.
The basketball competition was quite the occasion at Si Zhong. It started in the afternoon during the second period, yet aside from the seniors, the first and second years were already piled onto the bleachers during the first period.
Four ball courts were all surrounded by people.
Aside from those who grew a sudden interest in basketball because of the competition and were fooling around on the court, the teams from many other classes were already starting to warm up… or more accurately, already starting to show off.
The uniform Gu Fei brought was definitely way better than the prison uniform and Noodle Fresh Soy Sauce1 sold at the Five Star Farmer’s Market – red in color, and aside from a number on the back, there was only an imprinted ‘Fei – 飞 – character designed in blaring flames.
“Are you naming the team after your name?” Wang Xu took off his own clothes and shrugged into a uniform. “Not bad.”
Jiang Cheng hurriedly scanned the surroundings, except for them being in the classroom, no one else was there; they had already gone to the court.
“I recommend you wear a t-shirt underneath,” Gu Fei looked at him. “Let’s not have our Captain freeze to death before the competition even begins.”
“Everyone, change. Gu Fei, Jiang Cheng, cover up tightly,” Wang Xu said as he changed. “These two won’t be going on the court at the beginning, secret weapons should be hidden for as long as possible. They will only play when we can’t hold on anymore.”
From the beginning, Wang Xu was persistent in saving the “secret weapons” for the grand finale, but once the competition chart was published yesterday, he instantly became aghast. Class 2 had almost won against the sophomore team last year but had also almost lost to Class 5 along the way.
“I think,” Guo Xu was somewhat restless. “Let’s not drag it on for too long before they go on the court because if the gap in the score stretches too far, it’ll be difficult to catch up. It’s Class 5 ah, they’re a strong team.”
Wang Xu didn’t answer, but after some thought, he solemnly slapped the table. “Fuck! Who knows how this competition chart was made. Lots should have been drawn by separating the strong and the weak! At the very least it should be a lousy team with a strong team; only that can ensure that the competition will be amusing to watch ah!”
“Captain, there is no problem with the lot. The strongest team is Class 5.” Gu Fei finished changing and pulled on a sweater, pointing around the group of people on either side of him, “We are the lousy team.”
“We…” Wang Xu stretched out his neck, unwilling to submit, and sighed after a pause, “Ay.”
Lao Xu was also very excited. He ran back to the class, urging them to go on the court.
When the group walked out of the classroom, Jiang Cheng followed from the very back. He felt as though every one of them walked with traces of the wind carrying them afloat. It was as if this whole time, they had been looked down upon by the common people, yet today, they were a bunch of floor-sweeping monks about to become known by the world from the battlefields…
“The Center2 from Class 5 is sharp,” Gu Fei said in a small voice while walking alongside him. “Wider than Lu Xiaobin by a full diameter, like a tower. If the ball ends up in his hands, we basically have no chance of getting it back.”
“En,” Jiang Cheng nodded his head, eyed Lu Xiaobin walking in front, and tried to imagine the build of that other Center. “You only need to be in charge of going up to the basket, and I’ll guard…”
“Do I still need to look at where you are when I pass the ball?” Gu Fei asked.
Jiang Cheng turned his head to look at him, and only after a while did he answered. “No, I can get there.”
Gu Fei gave him a thumbs up.
Class 8 had always upheld the image of a weak little chick – the presence of the other team on the court caused a bit of commotion by the audience, but when their team walked by, only their class waved at them under the lead of the class representative, Yi Jing.
The audience had no interest whatsoever in the team members being led by Captain Wang Xu… actually, this was not accurate, there was someone who perked their interest – Gu Fei.
In order to exercise Captain Wang Xu’s “secret weapon” plan in full length, Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei did not enter together with their team. When they arrived at the edge of the court, quite a few girls raised their phones and made no move to conceal their action of taking pictures of Gu Fei.
“Stay away from me.” Jiang Cheng couldn’t handle it anymore. The girls from his previous school also liked to gather together and gossip about who was handsome from so-and-so class. He also had pictures taken off him. But those girls would at the very least be embarrassed by the action and opted to take photos in secrecy – at the very least they would act as if they were taking selfies.
But now there were at least four to five phones raised toward him from a single pod. He suddenly felt a bit awkward.
“They’re not all taking shots of me,” Gu Fei smiled carelessly. “Do you not know that people had started to poke around about you on TieBa3 since the second day you enrolled?”
“… your school has a TieBa?” Jiang Cheng was greatly surprised, and his emphasis was even skewered.
“Of course, you can go look,” Gu Fei said. “It’s quite lively with all sorts of gossip, arrangements for fights, being pretentious pricks, and also failing at being said pricks.”4
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng sat down on the chair alongside the court.
“Stand up, stand up.” Wang Xu walked over and waved at him with a smug expression. “This is the resting spot for team players, the audience has to move to the side.”
“The fuck?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“Secret weapons,” Wang Xu shot him a meaningful look, trying desperately to control his mouth from moving while talking. “Cooperate for a bit.”
“Ay…” Jiang Cheng sighed in exasperation and found a chair to sit down somewhere in the back.
His previous school had an audience stand. Si Zhong had many courts, but if you wanted to watch a game while sitting down, you had to carry your own chair over. Thank goodness that although the team from his class was so-so, the logistics service was strong, and a lot of chairs were carried over.
“If we can’t keep up later, Jiang Cheng, you will go up first.” Wang Xu instructed from beside him while stretching his arms and legs.
“That won’t do,” Jiang Cheng replied. “I have to enter with Gu Fei. I can’t cooperate with just myself on the court, there’s no use to that.”
“Da Fei?” Wang Xu looked over at Gu Fei.
“Listen to him,” Gu Fei replied.
“Fine,” Wang Xu jumped up and down. “You guys be prepared, I’m kind of nervous…”
“What are you nervous about?” The state he was in made Jiang Cheng want to laugh.
“Because I suddenly feel like we won’t last for more than ten minutes before you two have to go up,” Wang Xu answered.
“Take the time to show off your true color,” Gu Fei said.
“En!” Wang Xu nodded his head then skipped to the edge of the court and did all sorts of warm-up poses to the side.
As Jiang Cheng eyed the area he was standing in, he immediately laughed; a teacher was nearby, circling around the court with a camera aiming everywhere as he took shots.
Today’s opening match was probably used to draw attention. The sophomores had their two strongest teams scheduled together with Class 5 on court one and Class 2 on court two. Their rival teams were the number one weakest chicken Class 8 and Class 3, the comparatively less weaker chicken as opposed to Class 8.
Once the courts were assigned, the match began.
The people from Class 5 were screaming and clapping enthusiastically while Class 8 had a much weaker vigour in comparison – possibly because their “secret weapon” was so well hidden that even the people from their own class didn’t harbour an inkling of hope.
Only Lao Xu stood along the sidelines with his hands on his hips, shouting toward Wang Xu and the others. “Play well! Play to your greatest potential ——show ‘em what you got!”
Jiang Cheng quite admired Lao Xu — during an atmosphere when everyone thought Class 5 was only here to put up a demonstration match, he could still scream as if Class 8 was the future champion.
“Relax and play! Let loose and play!” The sound of a loudspeaker suddenly blasted out from behind them.
The sound was quite loud. Jiang Cheng jumped in surprise, and everyone turned around together and saw Lao Lu standing in the back row with the microphone he used during class in hand.
“Lu Laoshi!” someone shouted from the referee’s seat. “Lu Laoshi! Don’t use a microphone, it will cause distractions to the competition.”
“The game hasn’t even started yet!” Lao Lu said into the microphone.
“Put it down you, put it down,” Lao Xu pointed at Lao Lu. “Watch the game in peace.”
“Do you want to use this?” Lao Lu continued to speak into the mic.
Yi Jing stood up and walked up to Lao Lu. She said something smilingly and Lao Lu handed both the microphone and loudspeaker to her, then walked toward Lao Xu to stand with him along the sidelines with their hands on their hips.
“Lao Lu has quite the confidence in Wang Xu and the others?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“He has a good relationship with Lao Xu,” Gu Fei answered. “They’ve been partners for years. If Lao Xu was the homeroom teacher for Class 5, then he’d definitely find confidence in Class 5.”
The game started, Lu Xiaobin and the Tower were in position for a jump ball.
The Tower had a name, Gu Fei had said it once, but Jiang Cheng didn’t remember it.
As the ball was thrown into the sky, Jiang Cheng knew Lu Xiaobin had no chance at touching the ball. Though the Tower had a large built, he was not slow to react, and was even taller than Lu Xiaobin by half a head length.
As the ball fell, it undoubtedly landed in the hands of Class 5 who immediately sped across the court and arrived at the basket. Class 5, who sat across the court, erupted into a sea of cheers.
Jiang Cheng was speechless as he watched them throw the ball into the basket with ease, scoring two points with little to no defense.
“Zhou Jing,” Gu Fei kicked the leg of the chair in front of him which belonged to Zhou Jing, who was feverishly slapping his own thighs. “Go scream, tell them to guard.”
“Okay,” Zhou Jing instantly leaped over a few chairs and screamed toward the court. “Guard them! You guys, guard them to death! Quickly return to defense! Make an effort to steal the ball ah!”
Zhou Jing screamed for a while with heightened energy.
But Wang Xu and the others were very visibly nervous from the moment they stepped onto the court and were not able to loosen themselves up. The opposing team was able to score under a few seconds, and from then on, they were continuously oppressed. The people on the sidelines were all screaming, but it was as if they couldn’t hear a thing and continued to play in a disorderly fashion.
Within less than five minutes, Class 5 had already scored four baskets. Wang Xu and the others had no way of refraining the Tower from obtaining the ball, henceforth, they had no way of refraining him from scoring. When they finally got their hands on the ball and reached the basket, the people from Class 5 hissed and booed from all around; the ball hadn’t even left their hands before it was stolen.
“The fuck,” Jiang Cheng stared at the time and score shown on the scoreboard. “They’re not even this lousy normally.”
“Li Yadong has been charging towards the basket right from the centre line, and no one is able to stop him, plus his movements are excessively arrogant,” Gu Fei said and hugged his arms as he leaned back against the chair. “The first half of the game is going to continue on like this. It may even be possible for Wang Xu and others to score zero points.”5
“You have to also take the centre line later.” Jiang Cheng watched Wang Xu, growing more and more agitated as the game continued. “Kill their ego a bit.”
“I’d be threatened by both sides of the centre line,” Gu Fei said.
“There’s me,” Jiang Cheng replied.
After Wang Xu looked toward Gu Fei for the third time, Gu Fei stood up.
Wang Xu then immediately made a hand gesture, requesting for a break at Lao Xu.
Even though the time for a break hadn’t reached yet, the few people on the court who saw Wang Xu’s hand gesture immediately acted as if they had been injected with a blast of cardiotonic that even their jogs increased in speed.
Gu Fei hadn’t even stood up for more than two minutes before the audience around them started to notice. Some instantly yelled: “Fuck, Class 8 has Gu Fei this time?”
“Gu Fei, Jiang Cheng, get ready,” Lao Xu approached them and said.
It was only then that their class seemed to understand and erupted into cheers as they all stood up and started to scream.
Jiang Cheng looked over at Gu Fei. He was starting to feel excited for some inexplicable reason – a feeling he didn’t even harbour when he was playing in competition with his school team before.
It was probably because Wang Xu had brainwashed them with notions of the “secret weapon” during this period of time that when he stood up, he instantly felt as if he and Gu Fei held the weight of a historical mission on their shoulders.
The referee called for a time-out.
Jiang Cheng started to take off his pants and immediately felt himself bathe in utter stupidity.
Gu Fei was a wondrous character enshrined in a mysterious atmosphere at school – the big boss who roamed the edges of the earth, battled no one, and no one dared to provoke him. He never attended any group activities, and yet at this moment, he was going on court to play in a competition.
Everyone’s gaze turned their way. The teacher that was taking photos outright stood beside them, and there were also numerous phones aimed at them.
However, at this moment, he and Gu Fei stood between two rows of chairs, taking off their pants instead.
This moment couldn’t get any better…
“I’ll start the ball,” Jiang Cheng said. “Wang Xu will come get the ball, and just like how we’ve cooperated during practice, we run lots and guard them to death. Lu Xiaobin, you just tangle yourself to the Tower. You have good stamina so just make sure to be wherever he is. Don’t worry about the ball.”
“Tower?” Lu Xiaobin asked. His stamina was indeed quite well, he wasn’t even breathing harshly at this moment.
“Li Yadong,” Gu Fei answered.
“En,” Lu Xiaobin nodded his head.
“Pass the ball from below,” Jiang Cheng continued. “We have no height advantage compared to Class 5.”
Wang Xu held no grudge against Jiang Cheng for stealing his role as Captain. He simply stood to the side and nodded his head furiously, and even walked back onto the court without even remembering to make a concluding statement like he normally did.
As soon as Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng walked onto the court, the members on both teams, including the audience on the side, experienced a complete change in atmosphere.
Class 5’s team members were completely unclear about Jiang Cheng’s skills level, but they had perfect knowledge of how Gu Fei played.
The rest of the people from the classes that were not participating in a match at the moment all gathered around Court 1.
The sidelines were suddenly crowded with people, the cheerleading squad elevated in volume, and the people who regarded Class 5 as the rival class all started to cheer for Class 8 – the court was filled with screams.
“Captain,” Jiang Cheng called out to Wang Xu from behind.
Wang Xu suddenly grew very cheerful and whipped around expectantly. “What’s the matter?”
“This ball is very important,” Jiang Cheng said. “We’re relying on you.”
“Rest assured,” Wang Xu answered steadily.
Jiang Cheng walked to the edge of the court and took the ball from the referee. He dribbled it on the ground a few times to get a sense of it and – it felt pretty good.
At the sound of the whistle, Wang Xu ran past the other team members and charged toward Jiang Cheng. But just as Jiang Cheng was about to pass him the ball, the shortest member from Class 5 suddenly blocked himself in front of Wang Xu.
This person’s style was very similar to Li Yan: quick-paced and agile. This ball couldn’t be passed to Wang Xu anymore, so Jiang Cheng raised his eyes to scan the centre of court – Gu Fei was blocked by the Tower.
But Lu Xiaobin was very loyal to his responsibilities, and quickly squeezed through.
The moment Gu Fei escaped, he reached his hands out toward Jiang Cheng, and Jiang Cheng threw the ball over to him.
Once he got the ball, Gu Fei did just as he had previously said. He turned around and charged toward the basket from the center line.
The volume around the court must have instantly increased by at least twenty decibels – they were screaming as if a large tide was rolling in.
Jiang Cheng increased his own speed and followed. From behind, Wang Xu yelled in a really upset tone: “Fuck, why didn’t you pass to me?!”
“Follow them!” Jiang Cheng said.
Wang Xu suddenly sped forward as if he was kicked in the back, blasting past Jiang Cheng like a gust of wind. He secured a spot right behind Gu Fei and got tangled in a mess of “you push, I push” with the other two people from Class 5 who were in charge of guarding Gu Fei.
The team from Class 5 returned to defense6 very quickly, almost at the speed of light in comparison to Class 8’s returned defense. By the time Gu Fei eye-catchingly rushed straight to the basket from the center line, their people had already pushed back to the three-second lane.7
Gu Fei’s path to the basket was completely blocked by two people. As he backed away, he simultaneously passed the ball from behind his body; Jiang Cheng leaped forward with a big step and caught the ball. He dribbled past Li Yan No.2 and someone else, and once Gu Fei was able to squeeze back in through an opening, he threw the ball back to him.
It can’t be denied that the Tower from Class 5 was much more capable than the Tower from their own class. Lu Xiaobin was a step away from constraining him with a hug, yet he still managed to slip away.
When Gu Fei received the ball, the Tower was like a large duvet that covered in front of Gu Fei.
Jiang Cheng quickly maneuvered to refrain from anyone locking dead onto him. He glanced at the timer, there was still time, Gu Fei would probably still pass the ball at this point.
But at the next second, Gu Fei suddenly jumped.
Fuck! Jiang Cheng quickly prepared to intercept and return to defense. The Tower jumped along with Gu Fei and pressed down on him like the weight of Mount Tai. If the ball was to leave Gu Fei’s hands, it would doubtlessly be blocked.
Unless… he played a stunt, then there would still be a chance.
Sure enough, Gu Fei’s hand violently dropped in the air.
And now, he needed only to hook around the Tower’s arm – the ball probably had a chance of going in.
These two points were very important as they could arouse the momentum for Class 8.
But Gu Fei’s next move made Jiang Cheng swear about a big yellow dog in his mind. The guy was making a fucking pass!
Although Jiang Cheng instantly understood Gu Fei’s intentions as the ball flew toward him, he still couldn’t refrain himself from swearing.
“Fuck!” He caught the ball then quickly backed a few steps out of the three-point line, and without hesitation, he delivered the ball high toward the basket.
The instant the ball fell through the net, the tides rolled in around the sidelines again. The people from Class 8 jumped up and screamed until their throats were about to burst.
“Beautiful!” Nobody knew when Lao Lu had gotten his hands on the microphone again as he yelled into it. “Beautiful shot!”
“Fuck!” Wang Xu shouted in Jiang Cheng’s ear with trilling excitement. “That felt so good!”
With this seamless corporation plus the three points, everyone instantly broke out into wild cheers as if they were high on drugs. When they returned to their end of the court, it was as if their feet were attached to slingshots.
“You got a problem?” Gu Fei asked as he ran past Jiang Cheng.
“No problem, I’m just watching you swag,” Jiang Cheng answered.
“Since we’re already on the court and already playing,” Gu Fei said. “Then let’s have them die thoroughly.”
“En,” Jiang Cheng responded.
As he ran back along with the others, he suddenly remembered Pan Zhi’s message from yesterday.
It really did feel a bit like… the previous feelings had come back to him.
1 面条鲜 – Noodle Fresh Soy Sauce – is a specific brand of soy sauce typically used on mixing noodles to enhance flavour. Its glass bottle is wrapped around by a red “uniform” as a brand indicator.
2 center (C), also known as the five, or the big man, is one of the five positions (point guard (PG), the shooting guard (SG), the small forward (SF), the power forward (PF), and the center (C)), in a basketball game. The center is normally the tallest player on the team, and often has a great deal of strength and body mass as well. In the NBA, the center is usually 6 feet 10 inches (2.08 m) or taller. They traditionally have played close to the basket in the low post.
The traditional description of an archetypal center role on a basketball team, it would look something like:
– Tallest player of the five on the court. – Offensively, comfortable playing with their back to the basket (i.e. “posting up” their man on the block). Also, proficient in setting good screens… and grabbing an offensive rebound once in a while would be a nice bonus. – Defensively, they are your rim protector. This means clogging up the lane and discouraging smaller players from attempting drives at the hoop (out of fear of being blocked) as well as preventing bigger players from establishing good post up position.
What makes this question interesting though is that the real answer is “it depends”. There are many variables to consider, some major ones being:
– The skillset of the player being designated “center” – The collective skillset of the other 4 players on court – The collective skillset of the opposing team – The system the coach wants to run – The system the opposing coach wants to run
3 TieBa 贴吧 – is an online platform created by Baidu allowing for people with common interests to group, form communities and socialize through the internet. There’s about a billion grouped categories of personal interest one can search up and find people with similar traits you can converse with. You can also form groups of your own – which is what their class did – and post pictures, raise topics and whatnot within the group.
4 Pretentious pricks (装逼) this sentence can also translate to “… fronting, and also failing at fronting.” – the word fronting is a bit more accurate
*fronting is a slang: appear or make oneself seem more courageous, resolute, or dauntless than one really feels.
5 It may even be possible for Wang Xu and others to score zero points. (王旭他们打个蛋出来也有可能) – slang. because an egg looks like the number 0, by saying you’ll get an egg on a test or an egg amount of points, it basically means that you’ll get zero (nothing).
6 Returned defense – Return to the guard position or guarded state. For example: “Our team missed the shot and the ball was snatched by the opponent. All the players immediately returned to defense without giving the opponent an opportunity to attack.”
7 three-second lane: The three seconds rule (also referred to as the three-second rule or three in the key, often termed a lane violation) requires that in basketball, a player shall not remain in the opponents’ restricted area for more than three consecutive seconds while that player’s team is in control of a live ball in the frontcourt and the game clock is running.