Translate: Sae | Proofread: Anasofia
The set of clothes for the ‘demented primitive man’ was probably not the main hit of the collection; after only a few shots, Gu Fei had Jiang Cheng changed.
In the inner room, he found all the wooden buttons that Jiang Cheng had deployed and placed them back on the table.
As he thought about it, he ended up rubbing his arm again – that shot was a seriously hard one that would probably bruise at the very least. He sighed. How long had it been since someone hit him to the extent of actually leaving a mark on his body… yet in just half a semester alone, Jiang Cheng had not only unexpectedly bitten him but also chased to kill him with a slingshot.
However… he stretched his body – he was actually in a relatively good mood now.
Li Yan and Ding Zhuxin were the only two people around him who knew the details of the situation in his family. He had never wanted to speak of this past with anyone as it made him feel uneasy – on edge. And, he wasn’t accustomed to receiving sympathy and comfort from others.
But now that he had told Jiang Cheng, he suddenly felt extremely relaxed.
He didn’t know whether it was because he had seen Jiang Cheng’s secret and needed to exchange, or he just wanted someone to talk to.
Jiang Cheng hadn’t displayed any obvious sympathy and his attempt to comfort was a hideous mess, but it had made him feel completely at ease.
He wasn’t teasing Jiang Cheng.
He was truly sad at first, but it was also truly Jiang Cheng’s so-called ‘comfort’ that had actually made him unable to contain his laughter.
“What the hell is this thing?” Jiang Cheng came in after changing.
“I feel like you have to ask this sentence for every outfit,” Gu Fei said laughing.
“Does Ding Zhuxin have her own brand? And is the brand called, ‘What the hell is this?’” Jiang Cheng spread open his arm to show the outfit, “What sort of mood are we trying for here?”
This outfit was still made of burlap material; loose-fitted pants that were ‘designed’ with countless vertical cuts that were long and short, revealing his legs through the small and large slits every step he took.
The top was a normal shirt, but the long sleeves had been snipped off, and those ‘snipped off’ sleeves were instead wrapped on the arm like gloves.
“Looks pretty good.” Gu Fei lifted the camera and looked through the lens, “This outfit gives off an aura of stubbornness.”
“Fine then.” Jiang Cheng turned and walked toward the set, “Why don’t you tell me what this aura of stubbornness is?”
The second Jiang Cheng turned around, Gu Fei noticed that there were also several long slits on the back of the shirt, and when he moved, he could very clearly see his sturdy paraspinal muscles1… Gu Fei cleared his throat.
Just after divulging such a tragic past only for him to then react to someone’s back with a turn of his head, Spring really had come – the heat period of youth had arrived.
Gu Fei turned around, pretending to play with the camera while actually tugging on his pants. He was wearing a thick pair of sweatpants that day; it shouldn’t be possible to make out anything. He didn’t want to keep on going to the bathroom to ‘meditate’.
Paraspinal muscles, or commonly known as tenderloins.2
He raised the camera; thinking of it in such a way, all sense of aesthetic suddenly disappeared.
“Raise your arms,” Gu Fei said after a couple of static shots of Jiang Cheng standing with his arms to the sides. “Raise both of them… not a surrendering posture, more like you’re blocking the sun…”
“I’ve never blocked the sun.” Jiang Cheng raised his right arm and held it in front of his forehead, “You could have just said the posture of wiping sweat.”
“En, lower the other arm a bit so that one is higher than the other and only expose your eyes,” Gu Fei said. “Good, don’t move. I’ll look for a good angle.”
Jiang Cheng stood still: “Do you want a stubborn look?”
“That look in your eyes when you hit me with the slingshot just now.” Gu Fei adjusted the distance; Jiang Cheng always had an aura of disdain, and when given prominence like this, it was very imposing, stubborn… no, but quite erotic. He cleared his throat again then bent his waist a little and pressed the shutter.
“Done yet?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“A little lower. I’ll take a full-body shot with only your mouth showing,” Gu Fei said.
“En.” Jiang Cheng kept his arms raised.
Gu Fei took a few steps and pressed the shutter: “And turn, with your face to the side, don’t move.”
Jiang Cheng complied.
After those consecutive shots Jiang Cheng went out to change again, Gu Fei tugged on his sweatpants once more, tenderloin, tenderloin, tenderloin…
The number of outfits that day was about the same as the day before, but because he was already quite proficient, and even if they had spent some time fighting and exchanging secrets, they were still able to finish up earlier.
Gu Fei drove the small bun and took him to eat a bowl of noodles at a small shop nearby that was pretty good.
On their way back after eating, Gu Fei didn’t forget to again say: “Remember to write my self-reflection paper ah.”
“What,” Jiang Cheng looked at the back of his head. “When did I agree to write it for you?”
“It doesn’t need to be that long, otherwise it will suck big time to have to read all of it on stage,” Gu Fei said. “You probably don’t have any experience in reading a self-reflection paper in front of the whole school huh?”
“… no.” Jiang Cheng sighed, “And also no experience in cleaning the bathroom for a week.”
“It’s fine to just give it a casual clean here and there. The bathrooms are normally kept clean anyways,” Gu Fei said. “You know how to sweep the floor?”
“Do you think I’m a distressed young master of a wealthy family that’s been thrown out or something?” Jiang Cheng was a little dumbstruck, “My family… my adopted parents’ family is only slightly better off than the average-income families, there’s four of us including me. You actually think there’s a housekeeper?”
“Are you still in contact with them?” Gu Fei asked.
“No,” Jiang Cheng’s brows twisted. “After the last time my things were sent to me, we haven’t been in contact since. What’s there to talk about anyways, how difficult life has been for me in this shithole of a place?”
“Has it been that difficult?” Gu Fei laughed.
“To be honest… it’s not too bad. At first, I felt like I couldn’t stay for even a second, and any second longer, I could have fought with Li Baoguo, but what’s the point? I’ve actually gotten a bit used to it by now. No one cares about me anyway. It’s almost like living alone.” Jiang Cheng looked outside of the window, “It’s also pretty fortunate of me to have known you.”
Gu Fei tilted his head.
“Uh… knowing you all, you, Gu Miao, Jiuri…” Jiang Cheng quickly added, “Lao Xu is also very nice, and Lao Lu…”
Gu Fei started to laugh then said after a while: “I never thought that one day I’d ever meet someone like you. You’re different from my friends and classmates.”
“Really?” Jiang Cheng thought about it, “Is it because I’m better looking than you?”
“I was born and raised here.” Gu Fei raised an arm and drew a circle in the air, “I’ve never left this place before high school, let alone traveled, and with all my relatives being here, there’s literally no chance to go out to visit them.”
“You never left this city before high school?” Jiang Cheng was a bit surprised, and frankly, he wouldn’t find it strange at all if Wang Xu, Zhou Jing, or the others had never left, but Gu Fei’s temperament was not like that of someone who was confined in this rotten city since he was a kid.
“En, I cut classes a few times in high school to travel around,” Gu Fei said. “But not too far though since I didn’t have enough money, and I couldn’t be out for too long either. It was mainly to take photographs… oh, I went to Starbucks once, but I didn’t know how to order when I got inside.”
Jiang Cheng started to laugh, and after laughing for a long while, he patted his own leg: “Ayyy, I’ve actually never been to Starbucks before. Do you know how to order there now?”
“Yeah.” Gu Fei laughed and turned his head around to look at him, “If we have a chance to go one day, I’ll show you.”
“Alright,” Jiang Cheng nodded with earnest.
The two laughed once more and then after a moment, Jiang Cheng finally recovered: “Have you thought about leaving this place?”
“I have,” Gu Fei said. “How could I not.”
“Oh,” Jiang Cheng responded – the faint sense of loss in Gu Fei’s tone made him feel very sad – depressed.
“Let’s see if there’s any chance in the future,” Gu Fei said. “Perhaps, when Gu Miao is a bit older. She’s very stubborn at the moment and can’t accept changes. A lot of the time, her thoughts are a complete mystery to me. You give her new clothes, a new hat, and she will be happy but if you change her comforter to a new one, she will get mad and cut them to pieces. You can’t touch her skateboard at all, she’s literally this close to hugging it to sleep. If the wheels break, you can only change the wheels, and if you buy her a new one, she will immediately smash it to the ground until it’s completely broken down… I don’t even know what she can or can’t accept. Just look, she has known Li Yan and the guys for so long and she still doesn’t really acknowledge them but with you, she likes you so much after only meeting once…”
“So, that time I told you that your sister was with me, you didn’t believe it at all?” Jiang Cheng asked
“En, she wouldn’t stay with strangers,” Gu Fei said with a smile. “In fact, she has a fixed route for skateboarding and is rather stubborn about it. Even if she goes to the train station, she won’t get lost. She knows how to get back from there… you sounded like a complete liar at the time.”
“I thought you were like a psychopath,” Jiang Cheng also smiled but thought he could perceive Gu Fei’s helplessness. “With her like this, can she be treated?”
“It’ll be difficult to see any significant changes,” Gu Fei said. “We can only take it slowly. It may take a few years for there to be a bit of progress. You can see how good she is at skateboarding, but she doesn’t comprehend two-digits additions and subtractions and sometimes even gets it wrong with numbers under ten.”
“Ay.” Jiang Cheng took out a cigarette and lit it, “I quite like her, and I don’t think she’s strange at all, not even a bit. She’s very handsome.”
“More handsome than me?” Gu Fei asked.
“Have a bit of shame, alright, comparing yourself to your own little sister.” Jiang Cheng was amused, “How can there be a person like you.”
“Why can’t I compare? I’ve always thought that I’m quite handsome,” Gu Fei relayed in all seriousness.
“Sure, sure, you’re ostentatiously_handsome .” Jiang Cheng stuck out his thumb and waved it beside Gu Fei’s face. “You’re the most handsome.”
“Thank you,” Gu Fei said.
“No…” Jiang Cheng bit back the last two words.
When he returned to Li Baoguo’s place, there was still not a soul in sight, but Jiang Cheng thought that it was quite good this way. He didn’t want to stay alone with Li Baoguo, and even though it wasn’t awkward, it was dreadful – nonetheless.
He thought of the woman from earlier that day, his biological mother. He didn’t even get a chance to ask her what her name was, and she also didn’t give him a chance to ask.
He wondered whether or not she would go to the school again to block him, and just the very thought of that scared him. He had even thought of climbing over the wall to avoid having to enter through the main gate.
He went into his own room, closed the door, sat down, and then started working on the assignments for that day.
With not many assignments in Si Zhong, it wouldn’t take him long to complete. Even Jiang Cheng sometimes felt that the way the teachers assigned their assignments didn’t make too much sense and many of the key points discussed in class never actually appeared.
After he finished his assignment, he sent a message to Pan Zhi, asking him to send images of all the materials used this semester – he planned on purchasing all of them.
– I’ll ship them to you directly. Grandpa, are you going to get the highest score at Si Zhong this time?
– It shouldn’t be a problem.
– As expected of my Grandpa. I like this confidence!
Jiang Cheng was honestly not that concerned about what his score or ranking was; he cared much more about whether he could actually do the work and how much he really understood, and only then, would he consider the score – naturally, the higher the score, the better. After all, his title as a xueba had already circulated and some people would even use it to tease him – a high score could make them all shut up completely.
He put his assignments away and prepared to start his revision.
He opened his book and while looking at the notes, he quietly said: “Now, our Xueba Jiang Cheng is preparing his revision, starting with English. His revisions have always been well planned out… starting with the most proficient subject will make it easier to establish a mental state of ‘everything is under your control’3… alright, we will now maintain silence and see what sort of content is in his brain waves…”
That night, Jiang Cheng looked at the materials until the early hours of one in the morning before he went to sleep, but when he woke up the next day, he was still energized. Perhaps, because it had been a long time since he had quietly studied like that that it felt as though he had returned to his old rhythm of life.
When he got to the intersection, he glanced toward Gu Fei’s home but didn’t see Gu Fei; based on the time that Gu Fei normally arrived at school, he probably hadn’t even gotten up yet at this moment.
His biological mother wasn’t waiting for him by the school gate to block him, which made Jiang Cheng quite relieved, but he still needed to find a time to ask Li Baoguo about it. He had to resolve this matter – living in fear and on edge every day was an infallible mean to baldness.
As handsome as he was, he couldn’t afford that.4
Gu Fei missed the first class, and only after ten minutes into the second class, math class, did he wander in from the backdoor. Jiang Cheng was listening to the lecture while writing his self-reflection paper at that time.
When Gu Fei sat down next to him, he glanced at him and suddenly felt an inexplicable sense of… intimacy between the two of them.
Maybe it was the fact that they had interacted more than with others, or perhaps it was the fact that they knew more of each other’s secrets than the others, or maybe it was because the day before they both had the feeling of “meeting you was an accident, but it was an incredibly lucky one”.
“This afternoon’s game may be a bit difficult,” Gu Fei whispered. “I just saw external help outside, Class 7’s”.
“They actually found help?” Jiang Cheng was stunned, “Isn’t that too shameless?”
“I guess there’s only two of them. I’ve played against them before, and they used underhanded methods so be careful this afternoon.” Gu Fei said and then added, “Let’s gather Jiuri and the others out for another round of practice at noon.”
“En, the referee doesn’t care?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Not really. The game being exciting is what matters,” Gu Fei said.
“Then, we…” Jiang Cheng was interrupted by the teacher at the podium before he could finish his sentence.
“Jiang Cheng, you seem to be quite lively chatting over there. Why don’t you come up and solve this problem,” the teacher looked at him with an unhappy expression.
The math teacher often called people up to solve problems, so everyone tended to be more restrained in this class, after all, no one wanted to foolishly stand up there for a few minutes with a piece of chalk only to then get scolded at.
Jiang Cheng stood up, and very slowly, looked over the question on the blackboard as he walked toward the podium.
Gu Fei glanced at his desk; the book wasn’t even open and only a page of the unfinished self-reflection paper was on it.
Was it time to reveal his xueba abilities?
Jiang Cheng went to the front, picked up a piece of chalk, broke it in half, and then continued to scan over the question.
“What’s wrong, do you want to take the language class first? Can’t understand the question?” the teacher said with his arms folded.
“Language class was last period,” Jiang Cheng said.
The very low sound of laughter came from the class.
Just as the teacher was about to get angry, Jiang Cheng began to answer the question on the blackboard.
From the perspective of a xuezha like Gu Fei, he didn’t even know what the question was asking or what he needed to do. He just watched as Jiang Cheng worked out the problem, simultaneously jotting down rough notes on the blackboard to the side, and after a few moments, he completed it. He had even neatly erased the side notes before turning around and moving away from the podium.
Jiang Cheng’s handwriting was very unsightly, even more unsightly than with a fountain pen. It was clear at a glance that his words were adopted,5 but from the teacher’s expression, he could tell that Jiang Cheng had answered perfectly.
“You should practice your handwriting,” the teacher said.
“… this, it’s the result of having already practiced,” Jiang Cheng said.
The whole class suddenly burst into laughter, and the teacher was stunned for a long while before he knocked on the podium: “Quiet! Are every single one of you that excited to come up to answer some questions?”
“I thought that since you were writing the self-reflection paper, you wouldn’t be able to answer it.” Gu Fei lowered his head and took out his phone to play that Retarded Craz3 Match game.
“Even if I was playing that retarded game the whole time, I could still answer it,” Jiang Cheng said.
Gu Fei laughed for a while: “That shamelessness of yours is no less than mine.”
At first, they wanted to practice after the noon classes ended to warm up for the afternoon’s match, but the Director of Academics blocked them at the door.
Everyone had to clean the bathrooms first.
Each was dealt according to the severity of their actions; those that were deemed as not serious had to clean the staff’s bathroom but for serious wrongdoers such as Jiang Cheng and the Fuckhead, they had to clean the students’ bathrooms where even breathing was hard.
Jiang Cheng normally held his breath when he had to use the bathroom – quickly urinate, quickly leave – that day, he had finally experienced the taste of the bathroom.
Each and every single one of them all went to the bathroom in such a casual manner. Moreover, he usually prided himself on being able to urinate both stably and accurately. He didn’t know why every time he went to the school’s bathroom, there would always be someone who managed to urinate outside of the urinal.
Jiang Cheng took a mop out of the stall where the cleaning supplies were placed, and the Fuckhead immediately snatched the other one; any of the Fuckhead’s people that went in could only grab a rag.
Jiang Cheng couldn’t bear to see any more of the tragic expression on his face – the kind where one was soon to die a hero’s death – as he held the rag.
Mopping the floor was relatively easy since there was no need to directly touch anything. Jiang Cheng and the Fuckhead started to immerse themselves in mopping on either side of the bathroom. Normally, at this time, they should already have a battle of words based on the Fuckhead’s character, but even breathing was a cruel action at this moment…
In the bathroom, there were a few other students who were at first shocked seeing the two of them mopping the floor and wiping the walls but soon they started to laugh.
“What are you laughing at?!” The Director of Academics stood at the door, “If you all think it’s funny, then go and take their place! Or just start a fight right here! I’ll get you a mop.”
Jiang Cheng had also mopped the floor at home; just slowly dragging it a few times as he played on his phone. Now was the first time in his life that he had been that engaged in quickly mopping the floor.
When he dragged the mop toward the innermost stall, the door opened.
Just as he was about to move the mop out of the way, the person inside stepped on it.
Jiang Cheng straightened up and glanced at this person.
Yeah, definitely don’t know him.
“Ah, it’s the god of the three-pointers, what a coincidence.” The person looked at him with a smirk, “You get the strength in your hands by dragging the mop in the bathroom as practice, huh? I could’ve never imagined this.”
Jiang Cheng gave the mop a tug, but the guy put his weight on it so he wasn’t able to easily pull it away. He looked at the guy’s foot: “Move your hoof.”
“You think you’re pretty badass, huh?” The guy continued with that loathsome smile.
Jiang Cheng didn’t want to speak in this kind of environment, so he held onto the mop without saying a word and just looked at him.
“In Si Zhong, if you want your basketball skills to speak for you,” the guy pointed a finger at him, “It’s far from your turn.”
Jiang Cheng had always felt that he, himself, was a bit self-centered6 sometimes; although he took pleasure in it and didn’t want to change at all, that day, looking at the guy before him who had just walked out of the very last stall in this bathroom, a new understanding rained on him — there was someone that self-centered.
“I usually use words to speak for myself, not my basketball skills,” Jiang Cheng said, putting up with the fact that the guy had pointed at him.
“You think you’re so funny huh?” The guy was obviously enraged, and once more used his finger to jab Jiang Cheng’s shoulder, “Stupid cunt.”
This jab just so happened to land directly on Jiang Cheng’s ‘on’ switch.
He raised his hand and firmly yanked on the handle of the mop, abruptly pulling the mop from under the guy’s feet.
The guy swiftly swiveled backward and staggered back a few steps and balanced himself against the wall to avoid falling into the squat toilet. When he returned to his senses, he immediately pounced over with an expression hot with fury. “Fuck, I’ll…”
“Stop with this fuck this, fuck that crap.” Jiang Cheng stuck out the handle of the mop and pushed the very tip against the guy’s throat, forcing him to suddenly brake.
Spring was such a humid time ah, why was each and every single one of them behaving like there was an explosive fuse on their heads…
Jiang Cheng sighed to himself, roughly grabbed the guy’s collar in one swift move, and kept his voice low as to not be heard by the Director of Academics that was standing outside. “You must be from Class 7? You wanna let your basketball skills speak for you, right? I’ll wait for you to speak to me this afternoon.”
Once he released his grip, the guy still wanted to come at him; Jiang Cheng immediately shouted toward the door: “Director! I’m done mopping, can I go?!”
“Let me check!” The Director of Academics walked in.
The guy could only glare at him then tidied his clothes and turned to leave.
When he came out of the bathroom, Wang Xu and Gu Fei were waiting for him.
As soon as he came out, Wang Xu greeted him: “Did you run into Hu Jian just now?”
“Hu Jian?” Jiang Cheng almost wanted to remind Wang Xu that it was Fujian7, but after a moment of stupor, he realized that Hu Jian was the name of the guy just then. “En, what’s up?”
“He looked pretty pissed when he came out,” Wang Xu said. “There’s gonna be a good show this afternoon.”
“Don’t worry,” Jiang Cheng said. “No matter how good the show might be, it won’t matter as much as winning a game.”
“Well said!” Wang Xu gave him a thumbs up, “Let’s go. We can go to practice in secret at the vocational school next door. I told my friends over there to leave a court for us.”
Soon, a group of people walked out of the school gate, walking and chatting.
Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei walked side by side behind everyone else, listening to Wang Xu excitedly talking about their tactics in tacit silence.
What’s there to be tacit about silence, Jiang Cheng felt that his own thoughts were a bit mysterious.
“A man-to-man defense probably won’t work this afternoon,” Wang Xu said. “They have external help, at the very least one person, maybe two…”
“It’s fine if we can’t do that but you have to keep your eyes on us,” Gu Fei said. “Class 7’s skills aren’t as good as Class 5’s, and even if they have help, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll work well together. After all, we’ve been practicing together for so long…”
“That’s right! Our teamwork now is pretty good,” Wang Xu waved his hand. “Then, how are we going to play this afternoon?”
“Make every effort to guard Cheng-ge and I so that we can score,” Gu Fei said.
After the sound of those words faded, everyone went silent and turned in harmony to look at Gu Fei.
Even Jiang Cheng was stunned.
“Me and…” Gu Fei cleared his throat and pointed at Jiang Cheng. “Him.”
1 Paraspinal muscles (竖脊肌)- are the “action” muscles of the back. When they work, the result is the obvious movement of your spine. They course down your back and spine and help to move your spine into extension, rotation, and side bending. The technical name for the paraspinals is the erector spinae; needless to say, many people have difficulty with the pronunciation. This may be why the word “paraspinals” and the term “paraspinal muscles” are commonly used to refer to this important group of back muscles.
When my Anatomy class comes handy years later! I remember these muscles on my exams, also finally got to use that Essential Anatomy program hahahah… within the intermediate layer you have three paraspinal muscles: iliocostalis, longissimus, spinalis
2 Tenderloins (里脊肉) In a cow, beef tenderloin is cut from the loin of a cow. It comes from the short loin, or the psoas major of the beef carcass. Because the muscle is not weight-bearing, it contains less connective tissue, which makes it tender. (Poor Gu Fei had to think of meat)
In humans, the ‘tenderloin’: (Psoas magnus) is a long fusiform muscle on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the lesser pelvis. Others claim that it’s the ‘paraspinal muscles’ (the ones that Gu Fei were looking at on JC) that lies beneath the serratus and dorsi muscles
3 ‘everything is in the palm of my hand’ 一切尽在掌握
4 As handsome as he was, he couldn’t afford that. (他这么帅，不能秃.) He was so handsome, he couldn’t afford to go bald. (Yes, you are very handsome indeed!)
5 it was clear at a glance that his words were adopted ( 一看就是领养的字 ) – basically Jiang Cheng’s handwriting is smth “not favoured, not the best, not cultivated, very crappy,” and well… it’s just emphasizing on how ugly it is… fugly. (burned by Ice, the irony)
6 Self-centered – ‘self-centered’ is used to describe the term zhōng èr itself and not the actual translation which is ‘eight-grade syndrome. We can technically just translate it as “Jiang Cheng had felt that he was always a bit ‘zhong er’.
Chūnibyō (中二病) in Japanese is a colloquial term that translates to “middle two disease”, i.e. “middle-school second-year syndrome” or “eighth-grader syndrome” or “year-nine syndrome”, typically used to describe early teens who have delusions of grandeur, who so desperately want to stand out that they have convinced themselves they have hidden knowledge or secret powers.
In Chinese: 中二病 [zhōng èr bìng] n. Eighth grade syndrome, describes adolescent egocentrism and intuitive, emotional thinking. Adults with this syndrome are imaginative at best and self-centered at worst. “zhong’er, the word for ‘high school sophomore.’ Like moody insecure teenagers, zhong’er think the world revolves around them, proclaim to be all-knowing and all-wise, and try to put down those who they feel threatened by.
7 Fujian – a province on the southeastern coast of China; bordered by Zhejiang (I live there for a year – beautiful!) to the north, Jiangxi to the west, Guangdong to the south, and the Taiwan Strait to the east. In Fujian accent, the initial h- pronounced as f-