Translate: Sae | Edit: Ice
When Gu Fei returned to the classroom, the bell that signaled the start of class had already rung. He sat back in his seat while Jiang Cheng, who was resting half his body on the desk, watched him intently.
“As expected, there was no mishap,” Gu Fei said. “You’re first.”
“You really went to ask ah?” Jiang Cheng was a bit taken aback.
“Yes,” Gu Fei nodded. “And very calmly too.”
Jiang Cheng laughed and didn’t say more.
“But I didn’t ask what your total score was,” Gu Fei said. “We can calculate it once the announcement comes out later. I think…”
He lifted his head and glanced over at Yi Jing: “The class representative-daren’s1 score probably differs from yours by a lot.”
“Is she second?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“En,” Gu Fei said. “In any case, if she’s isn’t first then she’s second. But she never really got full marks before… She’s a xueba from Si Zhong, not even close to being an opponent for a xueba from a big city’s key high school like you.”
Jiang Cheng couldn’t say anything in response.
Just the moment before, Pan Zhi had sent him an email; he had scanned and sent over images of the exam papers they had for this midterm exam. He roughly skimmed over the English portion and noticed that the difficulty was more than just one or two levels higher when compared to that of Si Zhong’s. Suddenly overwhelmed by a sense of restlessness, he planned to work on these exam papers once he got back to see just how much more difficult they were.
– My mom agreed for me to go see you on Labour Day,2 so be prepared to receive me.
Pan Zhi sent another text message.
– En. We won’t have to stay in the hotel this time, I moved out.
– Holy fuck? What happened?
– Let’s talk about it when we meet up.
– Alright. Lao Yuan wrote a letter for you, I’ll bring it along and give it to you when I get there.
– He sighs whenever he thinks of you.
Jiang Cheng placed the phone back in his pocket and felt the urge to sigh as well for some reason.
Lao Yuan was his previous homeroom teacher; he was quite a good person, but because he was in an awful mood when he left, he never went to bid farewell nor contacted him.
Aside from Pan Zhi, whether it be his family, teachers, classmates, or friends, he was reluctant to contact any of them again – afraid of being asked about his current situation, afraid of hearing words of comfort, and afraid of recalling the past because of those people.
During the last class of the morning, there was a bit of an uproar in the classroom. Although there were still the scores from two subjects that hadn’t been announced because they hadn’t taken the classes yet, there were already some people that had managed to inquire about the total score.
“Fucking hell?” Zhou Jing whipped his head around as he clutched tightly on his phone, “Jiang Cheng, Jiang Cheng, Jiang…”
“Have you really never been beaten up from acting like a repeater3 before?” Jiang Cheng shot him an irritated look.
“Have you guys read this post?!” Zhou Jing glanced at him, then glanced at Gu Fei, and then switched his gaze back to his face once more before continuing to stare at him. “Someone made this post… You’re placed first in the entire grade ah!”
Zhou Jing’s deskmate also turned back his head: “Your total score is more than 680! That’s almost 100 points higher than Yi Jing! She got 599!”
“Yeah! Fuck, 686 points!” Zhou Jing’s eyes were almost popping out of his face, “There has probably never been such a high total score in the history of Si Zhong! Fuck, Jiang Cheng, you’re awesome ah!”
Jiang Cheng himself was also caught a little off guard. He was also in the top ten of his grade in his previous school, moving up and down among those ranks with Lao Yuan calling him over for a discussion whenever he fell out of the top five, and had also taken first place before… but he had never encountered a difference of almost a hundred points between him and the second place before…
This news didn’t excite him whatsoever, on the contrary, it made him a little flustered. According to the current situation, it wasn’t a problem for him to get first place in every exam, but how much worth does this first place actually amount to?
However, when school was over at noon, Wang Xu and the rest of his gang surrounded him with excitement, as if they themselves were the ones that had taken first place while putting such a big difference between themselves and the second place, which made it so that Jiang Cheng didn’t even have the chance to muddle in his worries.
A mass of people crowded in front of the bulletin board to look at the red announcement list that had been posted. The first and second place were both from Class 8. Although everyone was a xuezha,4 for this kind of matter, even if they were xuezhas, they were still very proud. After all, they were all xuezhas with collective senses of honor.
“I don’t think this is scientific enough,” Guo Xu said. “They should also write all the total scores with the rest of it. Just writing the ranks isn’t enough to highlight Jiang Cheng’s wildness.”
“I think that it’s already fine the way it is,” Wang Xu quickly followed up. “You don’t have to step over the second place just to praise the first.”
“That’s right,” Lu Xiaobin said. “Yi Jing is second.”
Wang Xu glared at him but couldn’t find a way to retort.
After checking out the red announcement list, the gang walked out of the school gate together. The finals for the basketball game was two days later so Wang Xu dragged them to the technical school to practice.
“Shit, who the hell posted this?” Wang Xu swiped through his phone as he walked, “This was in the office ah. The picture was taken before Lao Xu had even finished writing the red announcement list…”
“Who knows who had passed by at the time,” Guo Xu said. “But I don’t believe that whoever posted this just happened to pass by. Give me a break, there are so many girls interested in Jiang Cheng right now, one of them must have gone to ask about it.”
“It’s impossible for it to be a girl judging by the name,” one of their sub-players said. “Do you think it’s our opponents trying to start shit?”
Jiang Cheng stared at the substitute player for two minutes before remembering that his name was Zhang Yuan.
Zhang Yuan’s words aroused such a curiosity in him that his control finally cracked. He took out his phone and opened Si Zhong’s forum.
He immediately caught sight of a post that was already tagged as a hot topic… how the hell did they manage to take a sneak shot of this in the office? And it was even □□i?5
Before pressing into the post, he spotted the name of the poster and immediately swung his head around to look at Gu Fei who was walking at the very back.
“En?” Gu Fei looked at him, unperturbed.
“Isn’t this your fucking side account? Mr. ostentatiously_handsome?” Jiang Cheng interrogated in a low voice.
“Who?” Gu Fei had even changed his expression to one of bewilderment.
“Devastatingly_handsome,” Jiang Cheng simply had to give Gu Fei’s naming abilities his utmost admiration, “If this isn’t you, I’ll immediately live broadcast myself eating shit.”
“Don’t.” Gu Fei cracked into a smile, “For the sake of not letting you eat shit, I’ll have to say it’s me even if it isn’t.”
“It’s fucking you.” Jiang Cheng took another glance at the time stamp of the post, “You went to look for Lao Xu the moment our first class ended. You must’ve made the post before you were even out of the office, right?”
“I was already out,” Gu Fei answered.
“No, wait.” Jiang Cheng found something very difficult to understand. “Why the hell are you doing this ah?”
“Just to show off a little,” Gu Fei responded quietly, then took a quick look at the group of people walking in front of them. “I don’t usually have anything worth showing off, so now that there’s a chance, I just wanted to show off my deskmate.”
Jiang Cheng stared at him in silence.
He didn’t know why but the words ‘show off my deskmate’ that Gu Fei uttered made him feel very blissful – there was a faint sense of intimacy.
The distance from their school to the technical school wasn’t very far, they had even stopped to eat something along the way, and the walk there could be considered both an exercise and an activity for digestion.
Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei remained in the back during the entire way there. Both of them opted to remain silent and gaze at the group of people that were in a rather jovial mood from finishing their exams and Jiang Cheng’s exceptional scores.
It was getting warmer by the day, and on this day, Jiang Cheng only sported a T-shirt with a thin jacket over top. When he and Gu Fei walked side by side, their arms would occasionally brush by each other’s. This sort of fleetingly palpable contact brought him a sudden sense of contentedness.
He didn’t know how to clearly phrase it, but it just made him feel very blissful.
As they walked across the street – whether intentionally or unintentionally his arm bumped against Gu Fei’s several times. He wondered if there was a problem with him.
When they reached a turn, Gu Fei suddenly knocked his arm against his.
He turned to look at Gu Fei, who also turned to look at him, and then hit him with his arm again.
“Really? What are you doing?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“I am very vindictive,” Gu Fei replied.
“It’s not like I hit you on purpose.” Jiang Cheng suddenly felt a faint stab of guilt after saying that.
“Well, I’m doing it on purpose.” Gu Fei smirked and hit him again with another raise of his arm.
“You’re still going at it?” Jiang Cheng felt a rising urge to laugh, so he also bumped him back.
Gu Fei bumped back again.
“Geez,” Jiang Cheng couldn’t hold back anymore, “How old are you, huh?”
“Younger than you are in any case,” Gu Fei said and knocked against him once more.
“Fuck.” Jiang Cheng grew speechless and jabbed him with his elbow.
Gu Fei swiftly returned the favor.
He knocked against him again.
Gu Fei did the same once more.
Are they retards?
Had their brains gone to shit?
The comments on Jiang Cheng’s inner video6 barrage flew out by one by one, but his movements didn’t stop. And just like that, he and Gu Fei continued with this ‘if you hit me, I’ll hit you back’ game all the way there.
There wasn’t much time at noon, so the gang didn’t formally divide into two teams to practice and mainly trained and strengthened their cooperation. The captain, Wang Xu, was now slightly more reliable compared to before. At the very least, he could spot everyone’s weaknesses and didn’t just randomly give commands when assigning exercises for them to practice like before.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot for the past two days,” Wang Xu started. “I think we still have to be mentally prepared for this coming match. I watched the video recordings of Class 2’s gameplay many times, and in my personal opinion, I think we can win against them, but it’ll be difficult.”
“We just need to do our best.” Jiang Cheng squatted at the sideline, “Right now, our goal isn’t to get first place anymore.”
“Then what’s our goal?” Wang Xu asked.
“… not to get our teeth smashed.” Jiang Cheng replied with amusement.
The entire team laughed for a long while.
“We never thought of getting first place in the beginning anyway,” Jiang Cheng continued after laughing. “All we wanted was to be a dark horse.”
“That’s right!” Wang Xu waved his hand, “We’ve already become the dark horse now!”
Jiang Cheng shot him a thumbs up: “All we have to do now is play with all our strength, the result isn’t important anymore.”
Gu Fei’s phone went off in his pocket. He tossed the ball in his hand and it fell into the basketball hoop.
He took out his phone to take a brief look and was surprised to find Hou Zi’s name displayed as the caller ID.
It was just like what he had said to Jiang Bin, he and Hou Zi weren’t on friendly terms. Even though they had the other’s number, there were never any exchanges. Now that Hou Zi had actually called, he reckoned that this matter couldn’t be dragged on anymore.
“Hello.” He walked to the side to answer the call.
“You guys left pretty early today ah,” Hou Zi’s voice sounded from the other side. “We went over just to be met with an empty lot.”
“What?” Gu Fei’s brows knitted. “You want to drag in the people from our class as well?”
“Well, that’s not necessary.” Hou Zi laughed, “I don’t usually like to make it difficult for students. I just went over to ask you and that Jiang Cheng to come and play. Since you two are so arrogant, I had to personally go and ask myself ah.”
“When?” Gu Fei asked.
“This afternoon,” Hou Zi said. “I’ll wait for you two at the usual spot. Apart from that Jiang Cheng, you can choose to bring anyone else you want. Aren’t I generous?”
Gu Fei swept a glance over at Jiang Cheng just as Jiang Cheng had turned his head to look over at him.
“Alright,” Gu Fei answered. “If Jiang Bin wants to show up, then let’s finish it once and for all today with just one round.”
“No problem.” Hou Zi finished and hung up the phone.
Gu Fei sent a message to Li Yan, telling him to notify the others, and then set an alarm. After setting it, he looked down at the screen and froze. Only when the screen finally went black did he put the phone back in his pocket and returned to the court.
Wang Xu and the others were currently practicing at the height of their enthusiasm, so no one noticed him. Only Jiang Cheng walked over, stopped in front of him, and asked: “Who called?”
“Hou Zi,” Gu Fei answered.
“He arranged a time?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“En,” Gu Fei nodded. “After the competition is over.”
Jiang Cheng contemplated for a while: “Who else is going besides us?”
“Li Yan, Liu Fan, and the others,” Gu Fei said. “We often play with them together so we’re all familiar with their tactics.”
“This doesn’t actually have anything to do with you, right?” Jiang Cheng spoke after a moment of silence.
“It has nothing to do with anyone.” Gu Fei stooped down to his knees, “Class 7 was basically looking for trouble when they brought Jiang Bin into the game. When that person came, he wasn’t going to accept any losses, let alone lose the game.”
Jiang Cheng didn’t respond. After a while, he squatted down in front of him and peered at him: “If they try anything funny during the game, just bear with it.”
“En.” Gu Fei nodded.
“At worst, we’ll just receive some small injuries,” Jiang Cheng continued. “It’s better than having this dragged out.”
“En.” Gu Fei continued to nod his head.
“You’re being so obedient that something feels a little off…?” Jiang Cheng studied his face.
“I’m giving an answer first before doing anything else.” Gu Fei laughed.
“Don’t try to get even for me on this matter anymore,”7 Jiang Cheng warned. “I’m serious, otherwise, it’ll never end.”
“I got it.” Gu Fei nodded.
Neither of them spoke another word, just continued to look fixedly into each other’s eyes for a while.
Gu Fei felt something flying over, followed by the sound of Wang Xu’s shout.
He didn’t know what kind of posture it took to pass such a ball to a place where nobody could possibly pick it up – Gu Fei sighed.
Just as he was about to raise a hand to block it, Jiang Cheng had already tilted his head over, reached out, and caught the ball.
“This conditioned reflex of yours.” Gu Fei sighed again, this time with a smile.
Jiang Cheng passed the ball back to Wang Xu then stood up and dusted off his hands. He was about to go to practice with the others but after walking just two steps, he stopped and looked back at Gu Fei. “Don’t go alone.”
“I know.” Gu Fei waved his hand with some impatience.
After practicing for the entire noon, everyone still felt an urge to continue after the time was up.
“I think playing ball is very interesting,” Zhang Yuan said. Even though he was just a substitute, he was also left in a state of excitement after the previous match where he had only gone onto the court twice.
“We can still play by ourselves after the competition is over. We can practice a little during ordinary times and play again next semester.” Wang Xu said coolly as he flung his jacket on his shoulder.
Everyone nodded one after another.
“You can also find some time to teach the girls,” Jiang Cheng said. “That way, they won’t have to go on a day trip next time.”8
“Yeah!” Wang Xu’s eyes suddenly lit up, “I think Yi Jing and the others actually really like to play, but no one teaches them…”
As they approached the school gate, Gu Fei’s phone rang. He answered the call: “What? Oh… I forgot. I’ll do it now then. Okay, I’ll head back now.”
“What’s wrong?” Jiang Cheng asked soon after.
“I have to take Er Miao to her medical checkup this afternoon. I forgot that I made an appointment with the doctor the last time we were there.” Gu Fei said in a low voice. “Cheng-ge, help me tell Lao Xu, otherwise, he’s going to call me until my phone blows up again.”
“En.” Jiang Cheng nodded, “Are you telling me the truth?”
“It’s the truth,” Gu Fei laughed.
After Gu Fei watched Jiang Cheng, Wang Xu, and the rest of them enter the school together, he went to the parking lot to get his bicycle and rode back to the shop.
Liu Fan’s lousy Benni9 was already parked in front of the shop.
He pulled open the car door and scrutinized the interior: “Can this car still move?”
There were four people in the back seat: the three Bu Shi Hao Niao, and Li Yan, who had been squished to the point he had to sit directly on Luo Yu’s lap.
“Hurry up,” Li Yan said. “I’m basically squatting here.”
“I’m not going to be repulsed by you if you just sat down,” Luo Yu casually said.
“But I’m repulsed by you,” Li Yan retorted.
Gu Fei sighed and climbed into the car.
“You didn’t call Jiang Cheng?” Liu Fan started the car.
“Can this car even fit another person?” Li Yan stated. “Isn’t it fine if he goes there by himself?”
“I didn’t tell him,” Gu Fei spoke.
All the people in the car suddenly fell silent. After turning the car around, Liu Fan glanced at him without speaking.
After some time, Li Yan finally let out a soft: “Fuck.”
The ‘usual spot’ that Hou Zi mentioned was an old outdoor lighting stadium. It was a rather remote place that not many people would normally go to, nor would any normal person actually go. The place had long been occupied by all sorts of wayward youths and middle-aged men – no person in their right mind would willingly come here to look for trouble.
After Liu Fan parked the car, Gu Fei didn’t get out. He gazed ahead at the two concrete courts that were surrounded by shabby wire fences – every time he came here, he felt as if he was walking into an encirclement of high walls.
The handful of people in the car didn’t make a move to get out, they all quietly stared at him.
“This matter,” Gu Fei started. “I’m fine with taking care of it by myself, you guys…”
“What the fuck are you talking about, I thought you wanted to talk about some battle plans or something,” Liu Fan retorted, opening the door. “Hou Zi coming at you is the same as him coming at us. If he was looking for a fight then you could say it’s your one-person thing, but to arrange a ball game, he’s obviously dragging us in too. Take care of it by yourself my ass.”
“Get off.” Li Yan patted him on the shoulder.
A lot of people had already gathered on the court. Gu Fei surveyed the people around them and pretty much recognized every single one of them. There usually wouldn’t be very many people who would choose to play a serious game here; most of the time, people would just play casually, or maybe they wouldn’t even be playing. They would just hang around here and if they find you pleasing to the eye, they would talk to you. But if they don’t, then they would use their fists.
Whether it was playing ball or fighting, the audience would be equally fired up.
Both Hou Zi and Jiang Bin were already standing on the sidelines. Hou Zi leaned against the barbed wire fence with a cigarette in his mouth and nodded at them when he saw them coming in.
Hou Zi wasn’t going to go on. He didn’t really like to play, but he would certainly be spectating. Not to mention that it was his xiaodi10 and his younger cousin that were going to play this so-called ball game. Just based on the fact that he had always been waiting for a chance to sort him out, coming to this ball game was a must for him.
Gu Fei definitely didn’t think that he was taking things on for Jiang Cheng because of any glorious intentions, he just felt like since they couldn’t dodge the trouble that Hou Zi was giving them this time. He might as well solve it all in one breath. He didn’t want to drag Jiang Cheng into this kind of low-level, meaningless fight.
“Start playing once you’ve picked your people.” Hou Zi looked at Gu Fei, “We have half an hour. Whoever scores the most points wins.”
“Are there any rules?” Gu Fei shrugged off his coat.
“No,” Hou Zi answered.
Gu Fei didn’t respond. He turned around and walked to the side with Li Yan and the others: “Li Yan isn’t going on. The five of us are going to play, and Li Yan will be in charge of keeping an eye on their people.”
“En.” Li Yan sounded and folded his arms together.
There were no rules in this kind of game. Naturally, all kinds of petty tricks would be used since there wasn’t anyone on the side to referee, and those on the court couldn’t bother to care.
“Da Fei,” someone in the stands leaned over the railing and called out to Gu Fei, “Need help?”
Gu Fei turned around; they were a couple of familiar people that he had played with before. He shook his head: “There are no rules today.”
Those people nodded, not saying anything else.
If it was a normal game, there would still be general guidelines to follow even if everybody played dirty, so it would be fine if there were people that wanted to go up and play together. But when the game had no rules, everyone knew what kind of game it really was.
The five people on Jiang Bin’s side had all played with them before, so everybody had a somewhat clear idea of the others’ skill sets. But for this game, no one was clear on the ins and outs. After all, they had never fought together before.
Several of them had something hidden in their wristbands, but Gu Fei didn’t. He wasn’t used to utilizing any props in these kinds of situations – if they really were to start something, then he preferred to use his hands.
Thinking up to that point, Gu Fei suddenly had a rather funny thought. If Jiang Cheng was here, he could arrange for him to not go on court, but to find somewhere to stay in the stands and use his slingshot to…
Gu Fei was amused by this thought of his, thus he lowered his head to laugh.
“Aye,” Li Yan looked at him. “Be serious, it’s a fight ne.”
“I know.” Gu Fei laughed a few more times before turning toward the court.
Jiang Cheng was sprawled over his desk as Lao Lu gave a vigor-filled lecture at the front of the class. Their major course was in the afternoon; the class-full of people were completely lifeless – even the number of people chatting had reduced.
Lao Lu was even more impassioned than usual, most likely because Jiang Cheng’s full marks had put him in a cheerful mood. Even after half a class, he hadn’t started cursing even once.
Jiang Cheng wasn’t listening to the lesson either. He had his phone in hand and was looking through the exam papers that Pan Zhi had sent over. He had started doing the questions since the start of class, and now it has already been 20 minutes. The speed at which he answered the questions was significantly slower than when he was taking Si Zhong’s midterm exam.
He didn’t stop during the breaks between classes either; but continued to answer the questions as he laid flat on his desk, even using up his entire self-study period.
Finally, after he completed all the questions, he took photos of all the answers and sent them to Pan Zhi, asking him to help take them to the English teacher to be looked over.
His mood wasn’t that particularly good that afternoon – but it wasn’t because of the ball game nor that he didn’t sleep well.
He looked briefly at the empty seat beside him… it was because of Gu Fei.
He didn’t know why, but since he had finished helping Gu Fei ask Lao Xu for leave, he was inexplicably restless. Now he was draped over his desk as he repeatedly contemplated every detail that occurred since the phone call Gu Fei had received during practice until the moment he went home.
There weren’t any problems, and everything appeared to be very normal, but he couldn’t help the gnawing sense of unease from welling up in his guts.
Even after fidgeting in his seat for a long time, Jiang Cheng couldn’t hold himself back. He didn’t even wait for the class to end before he took out his phone and, without bothering to send a message, he directly dialed Gu Fei’s number.
Gu Fei has always been very meticulous when taking care of Gu Miao, but now he forgot the time that he had booked with the doctor? He just couldn’t believe it.
At least the call went through – Gu Fei hadn’t turned off his phone.
But nobody picked up. The ringtone rang until it automatically hung up… Gu Fei didn’t answer the phone the entire time.
Jiang Cheng frowned and redialed.
Still, no one answered.
“Fuck.” Jiang Cheng suddenly couldn’t sit still any longer.
The author has something to say: Continuing tomorrow.
“The long comment in the previous chapter was very interesting, oh. ⊙▽⊙.” Said the slightly anxious author as she rubbed at her coffee cup, her legs shivering furiously.
“Cheng-ge, do you want to go take a look?! o(≧口≦)o” The black furry spirit that was pressing against the cabinet door shouted.
The translators have something to say:
Sae: You know what I like about the gang of Wang Xu’s friends that hang around Jiang Cheng, they are proud of his xueba title lol love it!
There should be Eng sub ^_^
Ice: This ice cube recalls its glory days… where it was ranked first in the entire grade and had a history score that was 98%, the person in second place having a score that was 11% behind it… then the next year, it was only in the top 15… and finally the last… *cries into a puddle* ahhhh the glory days… QvQ
(ice cube has fallen behind in the past two years…)
1 –daren (大人）title of respect toward superiors
2 Labour Day – May 1st is China’s Labour Day, and is one of the slightly bigger national holidays. Every year, schools and workplaces are required to give a three-day break (May 1st-3rd), thus making it one of the peak times for travel during the year.
3 Repeater – students who repeat a course (I’ve personally heard held-back)
4 Xuezha – (coll.) unenthusiastic, mediocre student / underachiever (the opposite of our Jiang Cheng being a xueba)
5 □□i – the official text has this as ‘avi’ though we are unsure of what that means… I was thinking of .avi videos hahaha
6 Video barrage – (弹幕) basically the streams of comments flooding the screen in videos and broadcasts like on bilibili.
7 Don’t try to get even for me on this matter… 这事儿你别再给我出头 – we’re not 100% sure because it can also mean ‘don’t interfere and try to help me’; or ‘surpassing the other’ like “dont try to show off too much” cos they’re already unhappy about being shown up.
8 “That way, they won’t have to go on a day trip next time.” I’ll take it as that the girls weren’t good and their game was just a free vacation for them and a free win for the other team
9 Benni or BenBen (奔奔) – The Changan BenBen (Chinese: 长安奔奔; pinyin: cháng ān bēn bēn) or sometimes Changan Benni is a 5-door city car hatchback produced by Changan Automobile.
10 Xiaodi – (小弟) lit. means little brother but it also means ‘lackey’ or underling, though Gu Fei is not Hou Zi’s xiaodi. Hou Zi was technically saying that GF could be counted as someone under his wing though doesn’t work under him.