Translate: Ice | Edit: Sae
Jiang Cheng had quite a firm grip, especially in a state where he was feverish to the point of losing control from the alcohol and the lively atmosphere. The joints in Gu Fei’s hand were in extreme pain from being squeezed together, and it didn’t help that the mint candy in his palm was also pressing into his flesh like a pebble.
Gu Fei glanced at Yi Jing out of the corner of his eye; Yi Jing was currently being dragged into a conversation by Wang Xu, and the room full of people were eating, drinking, and chatting in full swing… nobody noticed that on this side, Jiang Cheng seemingly intended to crush his hand to pieces.
“What’s wrong?” Gu Fei asked in a low voice.
Jiang Cheng didn’t respond. He continued to only gaze at him with his head pillowed against the wall, still keeping a tight grasp on his hand.
After maintaining eye contact for a while, Gu Fei turned his face away and stared in a daze at the table full of dishes before him.
He wasn’t left-handed; he needed his right hand to eat, but Jiang Cheng currently had no desire to loosen his hand. All he could do was stare at the food on the table in silence.
To be honest, he was able to sense that Jiang Cheng had already started to lose his inhibitions in the beginning but was able to snap back to his senses three to five seconds later at most.
The hand that maintained such a death grip now, without an inkling of letting loose, brought awkwardness and a sense of loss. However, there was also the thought of not letting go so suddenly for fear that it may appear all too deliberate. For someone like Jiang Cheng, who was both pensive and sensitive, when confronted with a situation like this, the water-stricken gullies in his mind would have soon flattened out.
Gu Fei used his left hand to pick up the soup bowl and took a sip; this was a mutton tripe soup that Wang Xu especially ordered – the taste wasn’t bad.
“This soup isn’t too bad,” Gu Fei turned around and said to Jiang Cheng.
“Ah.” Jiang Cheng made a sound, his hand showing signs of loosening.
“Want a taste?” Gu Fei asked and lightly tapped the back of Jiang Cheng’s hand with his thumb.
“Is it mutton tripe?” Jiang Cheng asked, finally letting go.
“Yes.” Gu Fei withdrew his hand and hesitated for a moment then pressed the mint candy that was still in his hand into Jiang Cheng’s hand once more.
“I actually don’t like mutton tripe soup,” Jiang Cheng whispered. He didn’t grab his hand this time, and instead, accepted the candy and slowly peeled the packaging open under the table. “I like mutton soup, mutton bone soup, femur soup, pork belly soup…”
“You’re making me hungry.” Gu Fei used his chopsticks to pick up a piece of mutton tripe and put it in his mouth.
“Me too.” Jiang Cheng tossed the candy into his mouth, and it in for two seconds before he then whipped his head around. “Is this one of those fucking flavor-changing candy?!”
“No, do you like that one? That was a prank candy that Liu Fan’s friend brought back from Japan. I still have a whole bag of them at my place,” Gu Fei said with a smile.
“Give me some, just two or three pieces is enough,” Jiang Cheng said and nodded. Those candies were very much consistent with the way he and that mentally retarded Pan Zhi could get when they were together.
“I’ll give it to you on Monday,” Gu Fei said. “Ay, we have to read our self-reflection papers on Monday.”
“… I’ve finished writing them,” Jiang Cheng sighed.
When a large group of people eats together, especially if they were young adults, everyone would usually end up being full within twenty minutes because they had all contended to shove food in their mouths as if they had been trapped in a vegetable garden without a sign of meat for eight to ten years.
And now that they were completely full, the time to slowly drink and boast started.
Jiang Cheng didn’t join the ranks of people chatting and just sat by the side and listened.
It was about the same as the gatherings he went with his classmates in the past, which had also included a segment for bragging. However, theirs was incomparable to the ones that Class 8 brought up before him now. As he listened to them blow to their own trumpets, Jiang Cheng kept on wanting to laugh; on the contrary, the few girls present appeared to be absorbed in the scene, seemingly giving them a lot of face.
“Jiang Cheng!” Wang Xu, at some point, had finished singing his own praises. He suddenly stood up and raised the cup in his hand towards Jiang Cheng, “Drink a shot with Ge!”
“Ah?” Jiang Cheng was dumbfounded.
“I’m making a toast to you.” Wang Xu had already drunk a lot, and his entire face was currently so red it glowed, “A toast to our secret weapon!”
“I’ve long stopped being a secret…” Jiang Cheng looked at Wang Xu’s stern expression, which clearly declared, ‘If you don’t drink, then I promise to pour it all down your throat,’ so he picked up his own cup and also stood up. “We’re all one team here. Let’s not be so serious, alright?”
“You aren’t as good at drinking as you are in basketball!” Wang Xu pointed at him.
Jiang Cheng was speechless. He knocked his glass against Wang Xu’s and threw back his head, downing the alcohol.
“Now, you’re a good sport!” Wang Xu cheerfully shouted and also drank his alcohol all at once, “Love you!”
“… I don’t need your love,” Jiang Cheng sat down, feeling helpless.
“I still must love you!” Wang Xu swung his cup very charismatically, “If you ever run into any problems, Xu-ge will protect…”
“Sit down.” Gu Fei shoved aside Wang Xu’s arm that had been hovering over his head and wiped away the foam that landed on him.
“Da Fei!” Wang Xu acted as if he had just discovered the New World as he poured more beer into his cup and shouted, “Let’s…”
Gu Fei didn’t wait for him to finish what he had to say, nor did he wait for him to finish drinking. He stood up, grabbed his cup, and gulped down the entire content before he caught his arm. “Sit down and eat something.”
“Oh!” Wang Xu stared at him with an excited yet confused expression.
“Don’t let him drink anymore.” Gu Fei turned to look at Yi Jing, who had been trying to stay out of their way, “Otherwise, how are we going to bring him back if he passes out?”
Yi Jing gave a weak smile: “He doesn’t listen to me either ah.”
“He listens,” Gu Fei responded.
“Listen!” Wang Xu immediately nodded his head, “I listen!”
Gu Fei ignored him and squeezed out from Jiang Cheng’s side of the table.
“Where are you going?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Wash my face,” Gu Fei replied, “And get some fruit for Er Miao to eat along the way.”
“En.” Jiang Cheng glanced at Gu Miao who had fallen asleep on the chair beside him, “She’s been asleep for a while now…”
“She always falls asleep when it’s her bedtime.” Gu Fei put on his jacket and squeezed his way out of the crowd with a lot of effort.
The inside of the room continued to be filled with clamor, from laughing to shouting to eating… the beer bottles were basically all empty. Yi Jing tried her hardest to prevent them from ordering more beer.
Jiang Cheng remained in his previous posture of leaning against the wall. He held his arms as he gazed at the mass of people laughing with red faces. The atmosphere didn’t change but looking at Gu Fei’s back as he opened the door and walked out, he suddenly felt a little colder.
It was probably because he had been squeezed beside Gu Fei the entire time before this, with their arms next to each other and legs touching… oh, he had also grabbed his hand.
He felt that his behavior that day was absolutely unbelievable. Even as he recalled the scene in which he grabbed Gu Fei’s hand, he actually didn’t sink deeply into embarrassment and had even felt an inexplicable sense of triumph – immensely pleased with himself.
What the hell was he so proud of ne? He didn’t know – the thought process of a youth’s mind was precisely this obscure, and just as suddenly shameless!
It was probably because of the alcohol. His alcohol tolerance wasn’t particularly low – he just couldn’t adapt to this hardcore style of drinking.
Every time he finished downing the hard liquor, he would feel a sense of bliss as if he was stepping on clouds or had taken the wrong medicine. The last time he drank, he had kissed the person on the cheek, now he had grabbed that person’s hand and refused to let go. This was practically someone using his own drunkenness to act shamelessly.
But the shock and awkwardness he felt toward himself for his behavior didn’t last long this time. For instance, when he thought back on what had happened now… he only wanted to laugh.
How scary, the fact that a person could so quickly and easily train their skin to grow so thick.
Gu Fei had already left the room for a long time without returning. Jiang Cheng had to get up whether he liked it or not now… he had to use the bathroom. He had wanted to go for a while now but thought that it was a bit unfitting if he followed after to urinate just right after Gu Fei went to wash his face.
But now, unable to no longer hold it in, he stood up and also squeezed his way out of the room.
“Jiang Cheng!” As soon as he managed to get to the door, Guo Xu roared at the top of his lung by his ear. “Where are you going?!”
Jiang Cheng was already a bit dizzy at first, now that he was given a shock, he almost rammed his head against the door. He turned around only to see Guo Xu’s bright red nose and the excitement sparkling in his eyes.
“To the bathroom.” He patted Guo Xu on the arm, then opened the door and walked out.
“Hurry up! The two of us haven’t had a drink together yet!” Guo Xu pulled open the door, poked his head, and shouted.
“Ah.” Jiang Cheng waved his hands.
It seemed like these “northerners” weren’t all that with alcohol, after all. They had all drank to the point of madness and had already run out of alcohol, what the fuck was there even to drink.
Since he didn’t bump into Gu Fei in the bathroom, he had probably already gone to get Gu Miao some fruits.
When Jiang Cheng finished up in the toilet and was washing his hands, his phone rang. He took it out for a glance, and to his surprise, the number he saw was Shen Yiqing’s.
He stared at the number for a very long time before deciding to accept the phone call in the end.
“Xiao Cheng?” Shen Yiqing’s voice came from the other end.
Despite his bit of resistance— and the feelings having also become numbed by a lot over time — when he heard this voice, Jiang Cheng still felt that the familiar feeling brought to him by the unchanging seriousness, calmness, and restraint carried in that voice would probably never fade in this lifetime.
“Ah,” he sounded in response.
“Are you at home?” Shen Yiqing asked.
“No.” Jiang Cheng shut the faucet and felt for a cigarette as he made his way outside. He stopped by a window in the corridor, “Eating outside.”
“Are you smoking?” Shen Yiqing asked again.
“En.” Jiang Cheng leaned against the wall and stared outside, suddenly feeling very carefree.
Shen Yiqing didn’t respond for a long time then finally replied in a cold voice: “You really do stay true to yourself no matter where you go.”
“En, it’s not that I’m keeping it up, I’m just this type of person, aren’t I?” Jiang Cheng twisted his brows, “You called just to ask this?”
“Li Baoguo called me. He said he wanted some money,” Shen Yiqing explained. “For tuition and food and the like…”
“He called you?” Jiang Cheng froze.
He had never expected Li Baoguo actually to call and ask Shen Yiqing for money – the overwhelming sense of humiliation that overtook him made it difficult for him to breathe.
“I believe that these expenses are something that should be provided by one’s parents, so I didn’t agree.” Shen Yiqing continued, “Is there still money in the card that I gave you?”
“Yes.” Jiang Cheng clenched his teeth.
“That money is for you. Even though we aren’t a family anymore, the feelings are still there.” Shen Yiqing said, “I hope that you can make good use of that money.”
“Got it.” Jiang Cheng took a hard drag of the cigarette.
“I just wanted to say that. I’ll hang up then,” Shen Yiqing said.
“En.” Jiang Cheng closed his eyes – the rising smoke made his eyes hurt.
“I just want to say one more thing.” Shen Yiqing suddenly spoke again, “I hope that you can see your own problems clearly in the new environment, don’t always think that your rebellious stage hasn’t already passed. Your grades don’t actually determine anything. It’s your personality and temper that ultimately decides how your path…”
“Don’t fucking lecture me!” Jiang Cheng snapped open his eyes, his voice hoarse, “I’ve heard enough! It has already been proven a fact that your lectures are useless to someone like me! I’m not my little brother! I’m not on the same path as you! It has always been this way! Everything you say sounds like a lecture to me! And everything you hear from me just sounds like thorns! I’m already home now! Are you still not finished?!”
Jiang Cheng had screamed the last sentence.
After that, he hung up and stared at the wall in a daze for a long while before he put his phone back in his pocket. He turned around, leaned against the wall, and raised his head with his eyes closed, taking several deep breaths before he finally calmed down and opened his eyes.
The moment he opened them, he saw Gu Fei standing two steps away from him with a big plate of fruits in his hands.
He stared at Gu Fei, not knowing what to say.
“Want some?” Gu Fei handed him the plate, “I just had the waiter cut some.”
Jiang Cheng took a piece of watermelon: “You’ll get brain damage from eating out of season fruit.”
“Yet, you’re still eating it?” Gu Fei put the plate on a small table next to them and then also took a piece of watermelon.
“I’m too smart,” Jiang Cheng said. “So, I have to eat some to become a little more average. I’m striving to be able to think on the same level as my biological father, Li Baoguo.”
“Li Baoguo isn’t that extremely stupid. He’s pretty good at counting cards,” Gu Fei said, smiling.
“He’s also pretty good at asking for money.” Jiang Cheng felt another wave of suffocation once the words left his mouth. He thought that the outburst directed at Shen Yiqing just now had solely stemmed from Li Baoguo having demanded her for money, making him lose his confidence and standpoint. He harshly bit at the watermelon, “Fuck.”
“Do you always eat the watermelon rind?” Gu Fei stared at him in shock.
“Shut up!” Jiang Cheng spat the watermelon rind that he had chewed into the trash can beside them, “This is how us city people all eat.”
“Got it.” Gu Fei laughed as he ate.
An air of melancholy surrounded Jiang Cheng, weighing heavily on him at the moment. To him, his emotions felt distinctly unstable and easily affected, and all the happiness that was amassed from the initially pleasant and relaxing evening was all lost with a single phone call.
He didn’t even want to return to the room now. The room full of people that had made him feel happy may just become a source of his irritability now.
Gu Fei didn’t say anything unnecessary and acted as though he wasn’t in a hurry to return to the room. The two of them quietly stand next to a table in the corridor and eat away at the fruits on the plate.
Watermelon, oranges, cherry tomatoes… having eaten a full stomach of meat, eating some fruit to relieve the greasiness was the perfect remedy.
It was not until they had wholly devoured all the fruits that he looked up and exchanged a glance with Gu Fei.
“We just ate all of Queen Miao Miao’s fruit,” Jiang Cheng wiped his mouth.
“En, I’ll get her another plate,” Gu Fei said.
“Did you just overhear another unbelievably big secret?” Jiang Cheng peered at him. The cold fruit gradually neutralized the slightly feverish feeling in his body caused by the alcohol and heat.
“It doesn’t really count as some big secret,” Gu Fei said. “The fact that your adoption was reversed is something that I already knew about… just now, was that… your adopted mother?”
“Yeah.” Jiang Cheng nodded, drawing strokes on the plate then using the remaining water to draw a series of notes slowly, “Li Baoguo asked her for money.”
Gu Fei arched his eyebrows in surprise but didn’t say a word.
“Gu Fei,” Jiang Cheng recklessly wiped away the notes, “There must’ve been times when you’re especially troubled, right? How did you deal with it? The way you live so carefree1 all the time, it doesn’t seem like you’re pretending.”
“Have some alcohol and a good night of sleep,” Gu Fei answered.
“Really?” Jiang Cheng frowned, “Did it work?”
“Nope,” Gu Fei replied.
“Are you kidding with me?” Jiang Cheng glared at him.
“What solution could there be? It’ll be fine once you’re used to it,” Gu Fei said, “There are way too many things to worry about in this world, I can’t be bothered with all of them.”
The two were still standing in the corridor, neither having the intention to move as they just stared in a daze at the empty plate together.
After a while, Jiang Cheng heard the sound of a skateboard.
“En?” Gu Fei turned his head around.
“Gu Miao?” Jiang Cheng looked up to see Gu Miao sliding out of the room, hugging his and Gu Fei’s jackets and school bags in her arm.
“Ay! Slow down Miao Miao, your brother…” Wang Xu ran out in alarm, and chased after her, with his jacket in hand. He let out a breath of relief when he spotted Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng standing in the corridor, “Fuck! I thought the two of you had eloped! Hurry up, let’s go, let’s go!”
“We’re done here?” Gu Fei asked.
“Done, my ass!” Wang Xu explained as he put on his jacket, “We’re changing locations! We’re going to karaoke!”
“I’m not going,” Jiang Cheng quickly said in a low voice.
Gu Fei glanced at him then turned to give Wang Xu a nod: “Alright, let’s go.”
Everybody had come out of the room; now, it was noisy and exciting outside.
After leaving the restaurant, everybody immediately made their way across the street and seeing how familiar Wang Xu was with the road, he most likely picked this place out as well.
Jiang Cheng walked at the very back. After everybody made it across the street, he saw Gu Fei still standing on the side of the road with Gu Miao.
“What wrong?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Didn’t you say that you weren’t going?” Gu Fei questioned.
“… I said that I’m not going,” Jiang Cheng paused. “But if you want to go then go ah, you don’t have to keep me accompany.”
“I’m not going either. I have to take Er Miao back to sleep.” Gu Fei ruffled Er Miao’s head, “If you weren’t here today, I wouldn’t even come out to eat.”
“Why not?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“It’s meaningless.” Gu Fei said and stretched his body before pushing the bicycle to a taxi at the side of the road. “Let’s go, Cheng-ge.”
With Gu Miao already sleepy, Gu Fei didn’t make her continue skateboarding the way home. He stuffed the bicycle in the trunk, and they took a taxi back.
“Are you…” Jiang Cheng hesitated for a long while and only when he spotted the street sign at the intersection, did he finally squeezed out a sentence, “Are you heading straight home?”
“Where do you want to go?” Gu Fei asked.
“I don’t know.” Jiang Cheng rubbed his forehead, “I just don’t want to go back to Li Baoguo’s place.”
“En,” Gu Fei made a sound in response.
When the taxi stopped in front of Gu Fei’s shop, the lights were still on – surprisingly. Jiang Cheng got out and immediately saw Gu Fei’s mother inside. After all this time, this was the very first time that he saw her staying in the shop past nine o’clock.
“Wait for me,” Gu Fei said.
“Oh.” Jiang Cheng watched as he took Gu Miao into the shop and handed her over to his mother. He then walked around the shelves a few times and came back out with a big plastic bag in his hand filled with many things.
“What’s all this?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Stuff to eat, peanuts, jerky, and whatever else. Gu Fei replied as he turned and walked ahead.
“Where are we going?” Jiang Cheng caught up and walked beside him.
“The steel mills.” Gu Fei glanced at him, “Didn’t you say that you didn’t want to go back?”
Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything, only giving him a firm thumbs up.
From the looks of it, someone had come to the small room in the steel mill in the past few days. The room was so clean that even the cloth on the sofa with the broken leg had been replaced.
“Li Yan is so virtuous and considerate.” Gu Fei put the bags of things on the table then skillfully lit a fire in the stove that was in the middle of the room. “He basically cleaned up everything in this room.
“He doesn’t look virtuous at all.” Jiang Cheng plopped down on the sofa and let out a long sigh of relief. He felt his body relax by a lot for some inexplicable reason. “What did you bring to eat? Let me see.”
Gu Fei placed the bag beside him.
In addition to all sorts of peanuts and beef jerky, there were also a bunch of chicken and fish fillets, and even sausages and instant noodles; the bag was filled to the brim. Jiang Cheng laughed, “This ration is enough for us to drink till tomorrow morning.”
“You can still drink?” Gu Fei turned around.
“Don’t be prejudiced towards us southerners.” Jiang Cheng opened a bag of peanuts and put some in his mouth, slowly chewing on it. “We southerners just drink a little slower, especially a fashionable southern city boy like me, we drink even slower…”
Gu Fei started laughing: “Let me see if there’s any alcohol left.”
“If not, then let’s go back to the shop to get some.” Jiang Cheng found a cigarette.
“Yes, boss.” Gu Fei picked up a few cardboard boxes by the wall and shifted through them. He pulled out two bottles of white liquor, “Hongxing Erguotou2, those guys have changed their tastes recently.”
“It’s still erguotou either way, uncultured boy.” Jiang Cheng stretched his legs with a cigarette hanging in his mouth.
“Should I also pour it for you?” Gu Fei looked at him.
“Of course,” Jiang Cheng replied. “I don’t want to move, not in the mood.”
“Remember this moment well, Cheng-ge.” Gu Fei kicked the small table over to the side of his legs, poured the liquor, and placed it in front of him. Then he got some disposable plates, opened a bunch of snacks, and dumped them out. “Except for Er Miao, I have never served someone like this before.”
“Wasn’t the service pretty good the last time we ate barbecue here?” Jiang Cheng smirked.
“Then start engraving it in your memory from last time,” Gu Fei sat down beside him.
“Oh.” Jiang Cheng picked up his cup and took a gulp, “Really?”
“Really.” Gu Fei picked up a piece of jerky and slowly tore at it.
“That’s hard to believe. Haven’t you ever had a girl… boy… boyfriend or girlfriend or something before?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“I haven’t,” Gu Fei simply answered.
“… Oh.” Jiang Cheng turned to look at him.
He gave himself three seconds of silence for suddenly raising such an inherently awkward question and being unable to continue the conversation.
The author has something to say: Resting tomorrow, will continue on Friday.
Since there’s no time then I won’t be forcibly acting cute. o(╯□╰)o
I haven’t proofread or anything yet, I’ll proofread after a couple more chapters. ⊙▽⊙
Ice: This is torture. Actual torture. QAQ
Sae: My brain is malfunctioning from all these translating and editing lol
1 Carefree (云淡风轻)- Idiom literally translated to “The clouds are pale and the breeze is light” meaning that nothing matters
2 Hongxing Erguotou – a brand of Erguotou which is a type of light-aroma baijiu made from sorghum; since they’re northerner, they’re more used to the Niu Er brand.