Translate: Sae | Edit: Ice | Proofread: Anasofia
That night, Jiang Cheng slept rather soundly. Before he fell asleep, he had thought that he might be plagued by a dream or two, but it was all a blank sheet, and he slept straight through to the next day, only waking up from the bitter cold.
The sky outside was bright – he guessed that it was probably around seven or eight o’clock in the morning. The fire in the room had already died out, and the wind freely flowed in from the cracks in the windows. Jiang Cheng immediately let out a series of sneezes the moment he opened his eyes.
He stretched his hand out to the side and felt around, but there was nobody there.
He turned his head and discovered that Gu Fei was no longer beside him.
But before he could be surprised by the fact that Gu Fei had actually gotten up so early in the morning on a weekend, he froze as what had transpired the night before dawned on him.
Jiang Cheng sat up and reached his hand into his hair, roughly grabbing at it.
The alcohol had worn off.
The insanity had also worn off.
But the awkwardness, strangely, hadn’t settled in yet.
Now, the only thing surrounding him was a vague sense of panic.
Jiang Cheng, what the hell have you done?!
The point is, what’s done is done, but now, the person that you did it with has gone so far as to run off without leaving even a hint of his shadow so early in the morning… what the fuck?! What kind of fucking person is this?!
Jiang Cheng jumped off the sofa and circled the room twice, checking to see if Gu Fei’s clothes, schoolbag, and everything else were all gone. That cowardly son of a bitch fled without leaving a trace?
Did he have to go that far?!
Even if it was just a casual hook up! There’s no need to flee in panic like this!
Wouldn’t that just make it awkward…
The only feeling that Jiang Cheng felt right then and there was that of utter fucking shame!
“Fucking piece of shit!” He cursed silently to himself and grabbed his phone, dialing Gu Fei’s number after sneezing a couple of times.
After barely two rings, he suddenly heard the sound of a cell phone ringing from the other side of the door.
Who is it?!
Bu Shi Hao Niao?
Or maybe Ding Zhuxin?
Fuck, has the crime scene been cleaned properly?
When he finally realized that the ringtone outside the door was actually Gu Fei’s, he had already gotten a back full of cold sweat from shock.
The door was pushed open, and Gu Fei came in carrying two steaming hot boxes of fast food: “Did you call me?”
“Ah,” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“Hurry up and eat, it’s pho.” Gu Fei placed the boxes on the small table, “Li Yan just called me to go to the shop, so I went over to unlock it first.”
“He’s at the shop right now?” Jiang Cheng questioned.
“Not yet. He’ll head over in a bit though,” Gu Fei said.
“So, you just left the door to the shop open like that? With no one there?” Jiang Cheng asked yet again.
“En,” Gu Fei replied. “There won’t be anybody going in to steal at this time of the day, the thieves are all asleep by now after keeping themselves busy through the night.”
“… oh.” Jiang Cheng sat down.
Gu Fei took a small and long packet from his pocket and threw it in front of him.
“Wasabi?” That was Jiang Cheng’s first response.
“You even add wasabi when you’re eating pho?”1 Gu Fei lowered his head and started to eat the noodles.
Jiang Cheng took a closer look and saw that it was actually an individually packaged mouthwash: “Your shop also has this kind of thing, huh?”
“What? My shop is pretty in vogue,” Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng laughed for a long time, then went to the bathroom to wash his face, rinsed his mouth, and sat back down to eat his noodles.
A silent atmosphere encased them as they ate, but that didn’t matter since Jiang Cheng didn’t really feel like talking at the moment – his previous speculation about Gu Fei actually made him a little embarrassed.
Besides… he actually hadn’t felt too awkward when he got up. Maybe it was because he was too busy sneezing, being shocked, and getting angry to even care.
Now that he was quietly eating the warm pho, the restlessness and panic in his body boldly showed its head.
“Are you going back home?” Gu Fei wiped his mouth after finishing the noodles, “It seems Li Yan needs me for something today. If he doesn’t find me in the shop in a bit, he might come here. I have to head back now.”
“Then hurry up and go,” Jiang Cheng hastily said the moment he heard that. He didn’t want to be seen by others regardless of who it was or whether or not they had the ability to tell what had happened here. “I’m leaving too.”
“En.” Gu Fei stuffed the snacks on the table in a bag and tossed it into a cardboard box on the side, then put the garbage in another bag.
Jiang Cheng followed him out the door, prolonging the silence the entire way.
After having something warm, he discovered that it really wasn’t all that cold that day. But for some reason, even though the wind wasn’t strong at all, he didn’t know why he had the chills.
When they reached the intersection leading away from the steel mill, Gu Fei stopped. He needed to go to the left, but Gu Fei’s place was to the right.
“Umm,” Gu Fei glanced at him. “You’re going back home?”
“En,” Jiang Cheng nodded, took two steps to the small road on the left, then turned around and slowly backed up. “Um… I’ll leave now.”
“En,” Gu Fei sounded in response but didn’t move.
After a few steps, Jiang Cheng cleared his throat, not knowing what else he could say. So he waved at Gu Fei, turned, and walked down the road.
When he reached the downstairs of Li Baoguo’s place, he saw Li Baoguo walking in with quick steps from far across the street.
As soon as he saw this person, he immediately thought of the phone call from Shen Yiqing the day before. There was a knot in his heart that rose almost directly to the top of his throat, so he stopped in his steps, wanting to wait for Li Baoguo to come back and fall asleep before entering.
But as Li Baoguo approached, he noticed two women following behind him, wearing matching clothes that appeared to be salesman uniforms.
“Uncle.” A young woman jogged up on Li Baoguo and said, “Uncle, it was indeed our mistake for making the wrong call, but you can’t just deny it!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I never picked up any calls!” Li Baoguo said with a loud voice while waving them away, “Don’t follow me anymore!”
The other woman was a bit anxious: “Just look at how old you are now! How can you be so uncultured?!?”
“Who’s uncultured? Who’s uncultured?” Li Baoguo whipped his head around and glared straight at her, “Every single day, you both keep on saying that I took your things! How cultured are you, framing people?!”
“Uncle, how did we frame you?!” The young woman cried with a sobbing tone, “We called you by mistake, but why did you say that you bought it? And even let us send it over! Our driver still remembers that it was you who took the goods, ah!”
“I don’t know any driver!” Li Baoguo entered the corridor, which was then followed by a ringing clang sound from when he entered the apartment and shut the door.
“How can there someone be like this?!!” The young woman stood at the entrance of the corridor and wept out loud.
Jiang Cheng stood there and watched for about a minute, then slowly walked over to the two women, feeling as though there was a sandbag being dragged under his feet.
“Excuse me,” he looked at the older woman, “Da-jie,2 this… what’s going on?”
“Do you know that person?” This Da-jie immediately asked, pointing to Li Baoguo’s door, “Can you help us?”
Jiang Cheng didn’t say that he knew Li Baoguo, but the Da-jie still told him the situation.
They were two saleswomen from a tobacco and alcohol wholesale store, and an old customer had requested some cigarettes and liquor. The new girl accidentally called the wrong number and reached Li Baoguo, who asked for the goods to be sent to the intersection, but then he left without paying.
“Normally, it’s alright for our older customers to pay after they have received the goods,” the Da-jie said. “But, in this case, we only realized this mistake when that customer called later in the evening to ask when it was going to be delivered.”
“It’s my fault,” the young woman said, crying. “But he can’t take things that aren’t his and then not admit it. Those things cost over 2000 yuan. If he doesn’t return them, then I have to compensate for the loss…”
Jiang Cheng only felt a chill overtake his entire body. After he turned his head to sneeze a few times, he felt his brain had swelled up – it felt uncomfortable everywhere.
“Leave a number with me,” he said. “I’ll sort things out with him and contact you guys.”
“Do you know him?” That Da-jie quickly asked, “Who are you to him? Are you his son?”
“… yes.” Jiang Cheng nodded with difficulty.
“Then, you have to help this young lady, you’re both young people. She hasn’t even been working for two months yet, and her monthly wage isn’t even enough to compensate,” the Da-jie said. “Her family is having a pretty hard time as well. It’s not easy for her ah.”
“I’ll contact you guys after I have sorted out the situation,” Jiang Cheng said.
The young woman kept crying while the Da-jie continued to plead with him repeatedly. Jiang Cheng didn’t know what else he could say, so he could only repeat the same sentence.
After the two finally left, he opened the door and entered the place in exhaustion.
“Why did you bicker with them for so long?” Li Baoguo was standing in the living room, immediately shouting at him in displeasure the moment he saw him enter. “You don’t have to pay attention to them!”
“Did you take those things?” Jiang Cheng threw his schoolbag on the sofa.
Li Baoguo was still shouting: “It doesn’t matter whether I took them or not, this matter…”
“I asked if you took them!” Jiang Cheng cut him off and roared in rage.
“I took them! So what!?! They’re the ones who called and wanted to send it over to me!” Li Baoguo glared at him and roared back, “What about it?! What does it have to do with me?! That’s their own mistake! They have to bear the consequences!”
“Return them,” Jiang Cheng scowled at him.
“Have you lost your mind? Why would you return something that came to you for free? It’s not like I took the initiative to trick them!” Li Baoguo had an expression that appeared as if he was looking at a fool, “Let me tell you, they’ve already checked the surveillance camera! Even went all the way to the police station! And guess what, the police didn’t give a shit! Let them figure it out themselves!”
It would have been fine if Li Baoguo hadn’t said those words, but once he actually said them, Jiang Cheng felt he was about to blow his lid. “You’re quite proud, huh? Even the police can’t afford to offend a thug like you! You must be pretty happy, aren’t you?”
“You’re spouting bullshit, watch your fucking mouth around Laozi!”3 Li Baoguo’s anger also rose as he pointed at him. “Look clearly at who you’re talking to! You’re talking to your father!”
Jiang Cheng suppressed the anger in his heart and stared at him for a few seconds before he turned his head and walked into Li Baoguo’s room.
“What are you doing?” Li Baoguo immediately followed and grabbed his arm, pulling him out.
Jiang Cheng turned around and violently shook off his arm: “I told you! Don’t touch me!”
“So, what if I touch you!” Li Baoguo roared, “I fucking ejaculated you out. Don’t mention grabbing you, even if I beat the crap out of you, it won’t be your turn to talk bullshit!”
Jiang Cheng’s hands were shaking. He ignored him and bent down to look under his bed; there was a pile of rubbish but no cigarettes or liquors in sight. He then went to open the closet.
“If Laozi doesn’t teach you a lesson today, then you won’t know who’s in charge of this family!” Li Baoguo rushed over and gave his back a hard shove.
Jiang Cheng hadn’t expected that. The sudden shove slammed his face directly against the closet door – he felt a burst of pain on his nose.
Immediately after, Li Baoguo punched him in the face: “You really think that you’re the young master of some family!”
Throughout his life, Jiang Cheng had been scolded by his parents, made to stand in punishment, and even made to kneel – he had been through it all. But this was the first time he was ever beaten by a ‘parental figure’.
Li Baoguo’s fist was considerably heavy, so heavy that he found it hard to believe that Li Baoguo was beaten to the ground to such a degree that day based on this fist alone.
Everything before him became blurry – Li Baoguo’s third move soon followed with a rough kick to his stomach.
This kick brought Jiang Cheng directly to his knees. He was practically unable to utter a sound from the unbearable pain.
Fuck, your, ancestors.4
As Li Baoguo kicked his shoulders, Jiang Cheng clenched his teeth and grabbed a stool from the side, swinging it severely at his lower leg.
Li Baoguo probably didn’t expect him to retaliate and even shouted angrily in pain.
Jiang Cheng held his stomach and stood up. He grabbed the stool, swung it at his arms, and smashed it repeatedly on his body.
“Fuck you, son of a bitch.” Jiang Cheng glared at Li Baoguo through gritted teeth.
Maybe Li Baoguo, who was only a coward when outside and became a tyrant when at home, had lost too much face from getting consecutively punched twice by him, thus, he rushed forward and launched a series of attacks.
After Jiang Cheng had struck him twice, he had no intention to keep going; even if this person wasn’t his father, he was still an older adult halfway to his grave, who was also coughing all day long… when Li Baoguo pounced over again, he only pushed him away.
But Li Baoguo was riled up. If he didn’t teach him a lesson until he conceded, he probably wouldn’t stop. He didn’t appear to look like someone that possessed a coughing frenzy at all.
Jiang Cheng had to push him away again and again, from his room to the living room, until he finally bumped against the living room door.
“You must want to kill me, huh!” Li Baoguo bellowed, “Come on! Come on! Come! Kill me!”
Jiang Cheng didn’t want to respond to him and only stared at him in silence.
“Lao Li! What’s going on?” The voice of the neighbor next door sounded from the other side.
“My son wants to kill me!” Li Baoguo shouted and reached back a hand to open the door. He rushed toward a few of the neighbors standing outside and yelled, “Everybody look, just look! My son wants to kill me!”
“Why are you…” Jiang Cheng’s shock had already overwhelmed his anger, so much that his voice started to tremble a bit, “So shameless?”
“I’m shameless?” Li Baoguo turned to look at him, “I’m shameless? I have to raise you, provide you with food, water, and education! I just took a little advantage of something sent to me for free, and you call me shameless?”
Jiang Cheng felt so pissed that his breath was almost caught in his throat. He wanted to directly turn his back towards this person.
“It hasn’t been easy for your dad…” an uncle standing outside said.
“Shut the fuck up!” Jiang Cheng yelled.
These neighbors, whose expressions were filled with the anticipation of watching a good show, could be seen at a glance that not a single one of them really held a hint of empathy. If they actually came to placate them, then they wanted nothing more but to catch sight of Li Baoguo’s spectacle.
“Hey!” an aunt shouted loudly, “What’s wrong with this kid?!”
“What?!” Li Baoguo suddenly shouted at her, “What’s wrong with my son! What does it have to do with you? Who are you to shoot your mouth off?!”
“You psycho!” The aunt glared at him, stomped her feet, and cursed as she made her way up the stairs, “You’re a family of psychos! Even the pharmaceutical companies would shut down from how much drugs your family needs to take!”
Li Baoguo swung the door shut.
He turned to face Jiang Cheng, and after staring at him for a long while, he finally opened his mouth: “I’m going to die soon…”
“Don’t talk to me.” Jiang Cheng suppressed his voice, “I’m already dead.”
Li Baoguo reopened the door and walked out.
“The things?” Jiang Cheng asked from behind him.
“Sold them,” Li Baoguo said.
“The money?” Jiang Cheng asked again.
“Spent it all,” Li Baoguo answered.
“From now on,” Jiang Cheng uttered. “You won’t have me as a son anymore! You never did, and you never will!”
Li Baoguo stood still outside the door.
“I’m moving out,” Jiang Cheng said. “You don’t have to raise me, provide me with food, water, nor education any longer.”
Li Baoguo looked back, gave a cold laugh, and directly left without saying a word.
Gu Fei sat behind the cash register playing on his phone while Li Yan leaned on the front of the counter and watched as Li Baoguo walked back and forth around the shelves.
“This discounted item, has it expired?” he asked, pointing at several containers of yogurt in the freezer.
“Just about,” Gu Fei said. “There are still two or three days left before they expire.”
Li Baoguo took a container and placed it on the checkout counter: “Check me out.”
“Li-shu,5 you still eat yogurt?” Li Yan asked.
“En, I never had it before,” Li Baoguo said. “I want to try it.”
“Charge it to your account?” Gu Fei asked.
“I have cash.” Li Baoguo took out a bill.
“You’ve been pretty lucky lately?” Gu Fei smiled and gave him some change after receiving the money.
“Not bad, not bad,” Li Baoguo said and walked out carrying the yogurt.
Li Yan sat next to Gu Fei and watched as Li Baoguo left: “He’s really Jiang Cheng’s biological father?”
“En,” Gu Fei played on his phone.
“Fuck, the impact of this environment on people is tremendous,” Li Yan said, stretching out his body. “Just look at Li Baoguo, and that family of his… he actually has a son like Jiang Cheng.”
“How long are you planning to stay here?” Gu Fei didn’t go on with that conversation and continued to swipe his finger on his phone screen. “This weekend has been completely wasted in your hands, so annoying.”
“I’ll go back whenever my mom gives up on making me go on blind dates,” Li Yan replied.
“Ugh.” Gu Fei threw his phone on the table, “Why don’t you just buy my shop?”
Li Yan leaned back into his chair and laughed for a while: “Some friend you are!”
“Are you going to be here again tomorrow?” Gu Fei asked, “If you are, I’ll tell my mom she doesn’t need to come. You can just watch the shop and keep an eye on Er Miao along the way.”
“En. No problem,” Li Yan said.
“Also, help me get the goods?” Gu Fei glanced at him, “The place where I got the frozen dumplings last time, you’ve been there.”
“Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, leave it to me.” Li Yan sighed.
Li Yan wasn’t old – he wasn’t even 23 years old. But because he never had a girlfriend before, he made his mother who wished to hold a grandson since he was 15 extremely anxious. This son of hers idled all day and could barely handle a regular job – at this point, she desperately wanted him to get married.
Sometimes, Gu Fei felt helpless for Li Yan.
This time, Li Yan was probably forced to his limit, so he simply turned off his phone and stayed here without returning home for the last two days.
Gu Fei didn’t have any hearts left in his Craz3 Match game. Jiang Cheng had said that he would help him pass three levels, but he had only passed one. Since then, he hadn’t been able to pass the remaining two levels in the past two days.
He sighed and quit the game, then opened his Moments and slowly browsed around.
There wasn’t anything worthwhile. The girls were posting selfies with so much filter that their noses were missing, as well as the stuff that they bought, bought, bought, and the boys were just gaming and pretending to be cool.
Jiang Cheng was simply a breath of fresh air amidst all that.
Cheng-ge: I’m so rich.
Gu Fei looked at those words and laughed for a long time before he pressed like.
Jiang Cheng hadn’t contacted him for the last two days. Although they weren’t in contact much on the weekends before either, after all, something that made them unable to look at each other straight in the eyes did happen just two days ago. But he was actually alright… he was just a bit worried about Jiang Cheng’s state of mind.
But looking at this Moment, there didn’t appear to be any problems.
It was only when he saw Jiang Cheng on Monday that he noticed his sallow complexion, however, his mood was considered normal.
“Here.” Jiang Cheng handed him two sheets of folded paper.
“The self-reflection papers?” Gu Fei asked.
“En.” Jiang Cheng nodded, “There shouldn’t be any words that you can’t read.”
Gu Fei laughed: “It’s not like a xuezha6 is illiterate.”
That day was the day that they all had to go on stage to read their self-reflection papers; Lao Xu gathered them to the side of the podium before the whole school assembled. The students from Class 5 didn’t come, leaving only the few of them to stand on the stage like a bunch of idiots before the flag was raised.
When the flag was finally raised and the Principal and the teacher on duty that day had finished speaking, it was their turn to get on the stage. They felt a “it’s finally our turn to come out” sort of feeling.
“Gu Fei, you’re first,” the Principal said.
There was a round of applause in the audience below.
“What is there to applaud for?” the teacher on duty yelled, “What is there to applaud for? Is a self-reflection paper something worthy of being applauded for? All of you be quiet!”
Gu Fei unfolded the paper that Jiang Cheng had given him and stood in front of the microphone.
“Self-reflection paper,” Gu Fei spoke according to the shit-like words that Jiang Cheng wrote. “Teachers and fellow classmates, I am Jiang Cheng, from Second Year Class 8’s…”
All the students standing slightly below them suddenly exploded into laughter after a brief second of silence, accompanied by countless shrieks. The Principal and the teacher on duty next to them both turned their heads towards him in utter shock.
“Fuck.” Gu Fei suddenly swerved his head back to look at the row of people behind him.
Jiang Cheng had lowered his head and was searching frantically in his pocket, and it was only after some time that he finally managed to find the two other folded pieces of papers and hurriedly handed them over to Gu Fei in only two steps.
He gave the one in his hand to Jiang Cheng and muttered: “You’re too awesome. You can even mistakenly give something like this?”
“You’re pretty awesome yourself,” Jiang Cheng also lowered his voice. “You don’t even know your own name?”
Sae: The amount of hate we have for Li Baoguo is over the roof!
Ice: I spat a fishbone at him and was then unable to reenter the document for 10 minutes… it’s Li Baoguo’s revenge…!! The curse of the fishbone!! *angry ice cube noises*
1 Pho, (牛肉粉); lit. rice noodle soup – a Vietnamese soup consisting of broth, rice noodles (bánh phở), herbs, and meat (usually beef) (phở bò), sometimes chicken (phở gà). Pho is a popular food in Vietnam where it is served in households, street stalls and restaurants countrywide. Pho is considered Vietnam’s national dish.
2 Da-Jie大姐 = elder sister, big sister
3 I (老子) – he actually used ‘laozi’ – “I, your father” (in anger, or out of contempt) / I (used arrogantly or jocularly)
4 Fuck, your, ancestors. 我，操，你，祖，宗。is ‘short’ for 操你祖宗十八代, fuck/screw your ancestors to the eighteen generation.
5 Li Shu (叔) – shū means ‘uncle’ so Uncle Li, I’ll leave it in Chinese pinyin
6 Xuezha (学渣) (coll.) unenthusiastic, mediocre student / underachiever – I had originally translated ‘xuezha’ literally but I’m changing it to the pinyin form to counter Jiang Cheng’s xueba, thus, our Gu Fei us now a xuezha