Paraspinal muscles, or commonly known as tenderloins.


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

          It would appear that this ‘deranged caveman’ ensemble wasn’t the main focus of the line. Gu Fei only snapped a couple more photos of it before sending Jiang Cheng off to change again.

          Left alone in the room, Gu Fei collected all of Jiang Cheng’s spent wooden ammo and put them back on the table.

          He was reminded of the pain on his arm, and rubbed it again. That one was particularly painful, it would probably leave a pretty serious bruise. He sighed. It had been a while since someone had hurt him to the point of leaving a mark on his body, but the first half of this semester alone he had already been bitten once by Jiang Cheng, not to mention he had just been hunted down with a slingshot.

          Although… Gu Fei stretched, he was actually in a pretty good mood. 

          The only people around him who knew about his family background were Li Yan and Ding Zhuxin. He didn’t like to talk about it because it made him uncomfortable. He was not used to receiving words of comfort or sympathy from other people.

          But now that he told Jiang Cheng, he suddenly felt a sense of relief.

          Perhaps it was because he witnessed Jiang Cheng’s secret first, so it was only fair to trade. Or maybe he just wanted to talk about it with someone.

          Jiang Cheng hadn’t expressed any obvious sympathy, and his efforts at consolation had been a mess, but it made Gu Fei feel comfortable.

          He wasn’t teasing Jiang Cheng. He had felt pretty crappy, and it was Jiang Cheng’s so-called words of consolation that made him break out in laughter.

          .

          “What’s this one supposed to be?” Jiang Cheng finished changing, and walked in.

          “I feel like you ask this with every outfit.” Gu Fei chuckled.

          “Does Ding Zhuxin have her own brand? Is the brand called ‘WTF Is This’?” Jiang Cheng spread his arms and showed off the garment. “What’s the vibe here?”

          This outfit was still made of some kind of linen; the bottom was a pair of loose fitting pants. Spread all over were countless vertical cuts in the fabric of various lengths, his leg could be seen through the slits when he walked. 

          The top was a normal shift, but the long sleeves had been partially cut in the middle, leaving the bottom halves of the sleeves on the forearm like long Victorian gloves.

          “Looks pretty good.” Gu Fei lifted up his camera and looked through the viewfinder. “This set gives off a kind of wilful feeling.”

          “Alright then,” Jiang Cheng turned toward the set. “You tell me what this wilfulness is supposed to look like.”

          Once Jiang Cheng turned around, Gu Fei noticed that there were several long tears on the back of the shirt as well, and when he moved Gu Fei could see the well-toned paraspinal muscles underneath very clearly… he cleared his throat.

          To turn around and have a reaction to someone’s back so soon after divulging his tragic backstory… It must be Spring time, the adolescent hormones are acting up.

          Gu Fei turned away, pretending to fiddle with the camera, and tugged on his pants. He was wearing a pair of thick sweatpants that day, so it shouldn’t be a problem. He didn’t want to have to keep going to the bathroom to ‘meditate’.

          Paraspinal muscles, or commonly known as tenderloins. [1]

          He raised the camera. If he thought about it that way, then suddenly any and all sense of aesthetics was gone.

          .

          “Hold your arms up,” Gu Fei said after a couple still shots of Jiang Cheng standing with arms by his sides. “Both of them… No not like you’re surrendering, act like you’re blocking out the sun…”

          “I never block the sun,” Jiang Cheng raised his right arm and held it in front of his forehead. “Just say like I’m wiping sweat from my brows.”

          “Mhm, lower the other arm a bit, so one is higher than the other. I only need to see your eyes.” Gu Fei said. “OK, now don’t move, let me find a good angle.”

          Jiang Cheng held still, “Do I need to look wilful or something?”

          “The way you looked just now when hitting me with a slingshot is fine,” Gu Fei said as he adjusted the distance. Jiang Cheng’s eyes had always had this air of conceit, and when focused on like this, they were very imposing. Wilful… not exactly, but no doubt alluring. Gu Fei cleared his throat again and bent a little at the waist, then pressed the shutter. “Very good.”

          “That’s it?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.

          “A little lower, I wanna get a full body shot with only your mouth showing.” Gu Fei said.

          ”Mm.” Jiang Cheng kept his arms up.

          Gu Fei backed up a few steps and clicked the shutter again, “And turn, with your face forward, no movement necessary.”

          Jiang Cheng did as instructed.

          After that he went out to change again. Gu Fei tugged on his pants. Tenderloin tenderloin tenderloin…… 

         .

          The number of outfits were on par with the ones from yesterday, but since Jiang Cheng was more practiced at it, they were able to finish up earlier, even accounting for the time spent in intermission for fighting and the exchange of secrets.

          Gu Fei drove them to a nearby eatery in the little bun for a bowl of surprisingly good noodles.

          On the way back from dinner Gu Fei didn’t forget to remind him, “Remember to write the admonition for me.”

          “Hold on,” Jiang Cheng stared at the back of his head. “When did I agree to that?”

          “It doesn’t need to be long, otherwise it’ll suck to have to read it out loud.” Gu Fei said. “I’m guessing you don’t have prior experience of reading these out loud in front of the whole school?”

          “…No,” Jiang Cheng sighed. “And no experience of cleaning the bathroom for a whole week either.”

          “Just going through the motions is fine, the bathroom gets cleaned regularly anyway.” Gu Fei said. “You know how to sweep the floor?”

          “Are you under the impression that I’m a desolate young master thrown out by some large prominent family?” Jiang Cheng was a little speechless. “My family… my adopted parent’s household is just one of slightly better than average salary income family. Including me there are only four people, do you think we have a maid or something?”

          “Are you still in contact with them?” Gu Fei asked.

          “No,” Jiang Cheng knitted his brows into a knot. “We haven’t spoken since last time when they sent all my stuff over. What is there to say anyways, should we talk about how terrible life has been for me in this shitty place?”

          .

          “Has it been that terrible?” Gu Fei chuckled.

          ”To be honest… it’s alright. At first I felt like I couldn’t spend a single second here, one second longer and I might start a fight with Li Baoguo, but what’s the use? I’ve adapted now I think, there’s nobody to keep an eye on me now, it feels about the same as living on my own.” Jiang Cheng stared out the car window. “I’m also lucky to have gotten to know you.”

          Gu Fei tilted his head.

          “Err… gotten to know you all: you, Gu Miao, Jiuri…” Jiang Cheng rushed to explain. “Lao-Xu is really nice too, and Lao-Lu…”

          Gu Fei started to laugh, then said after a while, “I never thought I would get to know someone like you one day, you’re unlike any of my other friends and classmates.”

          “Is that so?” Jiang Cheng pondered. “Is it because I’m more handsome than you?”

          “I was born and raised here,” Gu Fei lifted an arm and drew a circle in the air around them. “I’ve never left this place before high school, not to mention travel. All my relatives are here too, so I don’t even have the excuse to leave and visit family.”

          “You never left the city before high school?” Jiang Cheng was a little taken aback. To be honest, he wouldn’t be surprised if Wang Xu or Zhou Jing had never travelled before, but Gu Fei didn’t seem like someone who had grown up trapped in a place like this. 

          “Mm, I skipped class a few times in high school to travel around.” Gu Fei said. “Didn’t go far though, I didn’t have enough money and I couldn’t be gone for too long. It was mainly to take photographs… Oh, and I went into a Starbucks once, but I didn’t know how to order.”

          Jiang Cheng burst out laughing, and said after a minute, “Hey, I’ve actually never been to Starbucks either. So do you know how to order there now?”

          “Yep.” Gu Fei laughed and turned his head around to look at Jiang Cheng. “I’ll teach you if we get to go one day.”

          “Yes.” Jiang Cheng nodded solemnly.

          They burst into laughter again. After a while, Jiang Cheng finally recovered and said, “Have you ever thought about leaving this place?”

          “Of course,” Gu Fei said. “How could I not.”

          “Oh.” Jiang Cheng replied. The barely discernible note of sadness in Gu Fei’s tone made him feel bad.

          .

          “I’ll see if there’s a chance of that eventually,” Gu Fei said. “When Gu Miao is older. She’s very stubborn at the moment, and can’t really accept change. A lot of times I can’t figure out what she’s thinking. You give her new clothes, a new hat, and she’s happy. But if you change her duvet cover to a brand new one, she’ll get mad and cut it to shreds. You can’t touch her skateboard at all, she’s this close to going to sleep with it in her bed. If the wheels are broken you can only replace the wheels, if you buy her a new board she’ll smash it on the ground until it’s in pieces… I have no idea what she can or cannot accept. Just look at how long she’s known Li Yan and the guys, but she still doesn’t pay them much attention. But you, she likes after only meeting once…”

          “So that’s why, when I called you and said I have your sister here, you didn’t believe me at all?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Mhm, she wouldn’t be with a stranger.” Gu Fei smiled and said. “She actually has a set route for her skateboard, she’s very stubborn about it. Even if she went to the train station, there’s no way she’ll get lost, she knows how to get back from there… You have no idea how much you sounded like a scammer at the time.”

          “At the time I thought you were a lunatic.” Jiang Cheng smiled too, but he thought he could also sense Gu Fei’s helplessness. “Can she be treated?”

          “It’s hard to see any substantial changes,” Gu Fei said. “We can only take it slow. It might be several years before there’s even a small improvement. Look at how good she is with the skateboard, but she can’t figure out simple arithmetic involving two digit numbers, and sometimes gets it wrong even when it’s under 10.”

          “Ayyy…” Jiang Cheng pulled out a cigarette and lit it. “I like her, I don’t think she’s weird at all, she’s got swag.”

          “More so than me?” Gu Fei asked.

          “Have some shame please, you’d compete with your own baby sister?” Jiang Cheng was bemused. “Why are you like this.”

          “Can’t I? I’ve always considered myself rather handsome.” Gu Fei said with a serious face.

          “Yeah yeah, you’re freestyle handsome.” Jiang Cheng stuck his thumb out and waved it beside Gu Fei’s face. “The handsomest.”

          “Thank you.” Gu Fei said.

          “No…” Jiang Cheng bit back the next word.

          .

          Li Baoguo’s place was still empty when he returned, but Jiang Cheng preferred it that way. He didn’t want to be alone with Li Baoguo, it was still unpleasant even if it wasn’t awkward.

          He remembered the woman from earlier today again, his birth mother. He didn’t even get to ask what her name was, not that she gave him a chance to ask.

          Jiang Cheng wondered if she would go looking for him at the school again, the very thought of that scared him, he briefly considered climbing over the perimeter fence again the next day.

          Once he was back in his own room with the door closed, he sat down at the desk and started working on the day’s homework.

          There were relatively few homework assignments at the Fourth High, it didn’t take him very long to finish. He sometimes thought it was somewhat illogical the way the homework was assigned, a lot of the important points mentioned during class never showed up in the homework.

          He sent a message to Pan Zhi when he was done, asking him to take a photo of the list of required texts they had for the semester. He was planning to buy the material as well.

– I’ll ship them to you directly. Gramps are you gonna get the highest test mark at Fourth High this time?

– Shouldn’t be a problem

– No wonder you’re my gramps, I like this confidence!

          What his score was, how he placed, Jiang Cheng wasn’t too particularly hung up on that point. He was more concerned with whether he was able to do the work, and how much he really understood; marks came after that. Of course, the higher it was the better. After all, his reputation as the genius overachiever had already spread, there were already people who teased him about it. A high test score would shut them up once and for all. 

          Jiang Cheng put his homework away and started to review.

          He opened a textbook and said quietly to himself as he skimmed his notes, “Overachiever Jiang Cheng is going to start his revision now, beginning with English. He’s always been very good at planning out his revisions… By starting with his most proficient subject, it’s easy to build up the positive mindset of ‘I got this’… OK now we will keep quiet and see what exactly he’s got in his neural network…”

          .

          Jiang Cheng revised until past 1 am before going to bed, but he still felt rather invigorated the next morning. Maybe it was the fact that he hadn’t been able to sit down and study quietly like this in a long time, he felt as though he was finally back in his old rhythm.

          He looked towards the general direction of Gu Fei’s home when he got to the main street. No Gu Fei. Considering Gu Fei’s usual schedule, he must still be in bed at this time.

          Jiang Cheng was relieved to see that his mother wasn’t waiting for him by the school gates, but he figured he should find a chance to ask Li Baoguo about it. He had to put an end to this problem, living in constant fear was a surefire way to premature baldness.

          Handsome as he was, he couldn’t risk that.

          Gu Fei missed the first period. By the time he finally made his way into the classroom through the backdoor, it was already ten minutes into math class, and Jiang Cheng was writing the self-admonition letters while half listening to the lecture.

          He glanced up for a second when Gu Fei sat down beside him. Suddenly, it felt like there was a weird… intimacy between them. 

          Perhaps it was because they had been interacting with each other more than anybody else, maybe it was because they knew more secrets about each other, or maybe it was their echoed sentiments the day before that ‘getting to know you was an accident but a happy one’… 

          /

          “This afternoon’s game may be a little tricky,” Gu Fei said quietly. “I just saw reinforcements outside for Class-7.”

          “That’s really a thing?” Jiang Cheng was stunned. “Have they no shame?”

          “It looks like there are two of them. I’ve faced them before, they play dirty, so be careful this afternoon.” Gu Fei said. “Let’s get Jiuri and the guys out for another practice session at lunch.”

          “Mn, doesn’t the referee care?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Not really, as long as the game is exciting.” Gu Fei said.

          “Then we should…” Jiang Cheng was interrupted by the teacher before he was able to finish.

          “Jiang Cheng, you seem to be having a lot of fun chatting away, why don’t you come up here and solve this.” The teacher glared at him, vexed. 

          /

          The math teacher had a habit of calling people up to the board to solve problems, and so most people tend to be a little more reserved during math class. After all, nobody wished to stand up there with a piece of chalk for minutes on end like an idiot, then receive a scolding for their troubles.

          Jiang Cheng stood up and slowly walked toward the front of the classroom, reading through the question as he went.

          Gu Fei swept his eyes over Jiang Cheng’s side of the desk. There was only a sheet of unfinished self-admonition on it, he hadn’t even opened his book.

          Was it finally time to show off his overachiever abilities?

          Jiang Cheng walked to the front, grabbed a piece of chalk and broke it in half on the podium, then proceeded to stand there reading the question.

          “What’s wrong, do you need to take a language class first? Can’t understand the question?” The teacher said with his arms folded.

          “Language class was last period.” Jiang Cheng said.

          There were sounds of quiet laughter from the rest of the class.

          Just as the teacher’s temper was about to flare, Jiang Cheng finally began writing on the board.

          From Gu Fei’s slacker point of view, he couldn’t even figure out what the question was asking, let alone how to go about an answer. He watched as Jiang Cheng made rough notes on the side while working through the problem, it didn’t take him very long before he was done. He even took the time to wipe away his notes before turning to walk back to his seat.

          Jiang Cheng’s handwriting in chalk was hideous, even more so than his fountain pen writing, one could tell at a glance that it wasn’t the writing of a trueborn son. However, he could tell by the expression on the teacher’s face that Jiang Cheng answered perfectly.

          “You really should work on your handwriting.” The teacher said.

          “…… This is what it looks like after I already worked on it.” Jiang Cheng said.  

          The whole class erupted in laughter. The teacher was baffled for a moment, before he recovered and knocked hard on the podium, “Quiet! Is everybody this eager to come up and answer questions?”

          “I thought you won’t be able to do it, since you were writing the admonition and not paying attention.” Gu Fei bowed his head and pulled out his phone to play his idiotic Ai Xiao Chu.

          “It wouldn’t be a problem even if I’ve been playing an idiotic game the whole time.” Jiang Cheng said.

          Gu Fei chuckled for a good while, “You’ve not no less shame than me.”

          /

          The plan was to head to the court right after class to warm up for the afternoon’s game, but the Guidance director ambushed them at the door just as they were leaving.

          They had to go clean the washrooms first.

          Those whose transgressions were less severe were assigned to the staff washroom, whereas serious offenders such as Jiang Cheng and the dumbass were designated to the general student washroom, where even breathing is a mistake.

          Jiang Cheng usually held his breath when coming to the washroom and quickly finished his business, but he did finally get to experience the full extent of the washroom’s aromas on that day.

          They were all so casual in their washroom habits, not to mention unreasonably proud of their ability to piss on target. Though inexplicably when it came to the school washroom, there was always urine near and around the urinal.

          Jiang Cheng grabbed a mop out of the cleaning supplies stall, and the dumbass immediately snatched the only remaining mop. This left his poor lackey with rags as his only choice.

          Jiang Cheng could not bear to look at his agonizing expression of pure martyrdom as he reached for the rag.

          /

          Mopping the floor was a relatively easier task, at least they didn’t have to touch anything with their hands, Jiang Cheng and the dumbass each took a side and started mopping. Usually around this time, going by the dumbass’ temperament, they would be far into the trashtalks, but even breathing was a cruel exercise at this moment. 

          There were a few other students in the washroom, and they all had a moment of shock when they saw who it was mopping the floor and wiping the walls, but that very quickly devolved into laughter.

          “What are you laughing at!” The Guidance director stood at the door. “If you think this is funny then go ahead and take their place! Or maybe start a fight right here right now, I’ll find a mop for you.”

          Jiang Cheng had mopped the floor at home, but it was always at a leisurely pace with multiple phone breaks in between. This was the first time in his life that he concentrated his entire being into speed mopping.

          When he got to the innermost stall, the door to the stall opened.

          He was just about to move the mop out of the way, but the person inside had put their foot down on it.

          Jiang Cheng straightened up and gave this person a once over.

          Nope, don’t recognize.

          /

          “Ah, it’s the god of three-pointers, what a coincidence,” The guy looked at him with the biggest fake grin. “I suppose you train your body by mopping bathrooms? I never would’ve guessed.”

          Jiang Cheng gave the mop a tug, but the guy leaned his weight onto it, and he wasn’t able to just pull it out with ease. He shot a glance at the guy’s foot, “Move your trotter.”

          “So you think you’re pretty impressive huh?” The guy continued flashing his shit eating grin.

          Jiang Cheng didn’t want to continue a conversation in this environment, so he just held the mop and watched him without a word. 

          “At Fourth High, it’s not your place,” The guy pointed at Jiang Cheng’s face. “To represent yourself through basketball.”

          Jiang Cheng always thought of himself as a little derp at times, though he was content to revel in it and didn’t intend on changing. But today, staring at this guy who had just walked out of the last stall of the washroom, he had a whole new understanding, that someone can be this level of derp.

          “I usually represent myself with words, not with a basketball.” Jiang Cheng said, and endured for now the finger pointed at him.

          “You think you’re so funny?” The dude was clearly irked by this, and jabbed a finger against Jiang Cheng’s shoulder. “Dumbass.”

          This jab happened to land directly on Jiang Cheng’s ‘on’ switch.

          He reached out and yanked hard on the mop handle, the mop got pulled out abruptly from under the guy’s feet.

          The guy pivoted backwards unexpectedly, stumbled a few steps, then steadied himself against the wall to avoid falling into the squatter. Once he collected himself, he immediately jumped out with an expression of rage on his face, “I’ll fucking…”

          “Stop fucking this and fucking that.” Jiang Cheng extended the mop handle forward and pushed the tip against the guy’s throat, forcing him to brake suddenly.

          Spring is such a moist and humid time of the year, so why is everyone acting like they have an explosive fuse on their head?

          Jiang Cheng sighed in his mind and grabbed the guy’s collar with one swift motion. He kept his voice low so the Guidance director standing right outside wouldn’t hear, “You’re from Class-7 right? You wanna let the game speak for you? I’ll be waiting for you to come talk to me this afternoon.”

          When he released his grip, the other guy still wanted to make a move. Jiang Cheng immediately called out at the door, “Director! I’m done mopping, can I go now?”

          “Let me check!” The Guidance director came in.

          The guy could only give him a dirty glare before he smoothed out his shirt and left.

          /

          Gu Fei and Wang Xu were waiting outside the washroom when Jiang Cheng walked out.

          Wang Xu greeted Jiang Cheng as soon as he saw him, “Did you run into Hu Jian just now?”

          “Hu Jian?” Jiang Cheng almost couldn’t help but remind Wang Xu that it’s Fujian [2], but paused and realized that Hu Jian was the name of that guy. “Mhm, what about it?”

          “He looked pretty mad when he came out just now,” Wang Xu said. “We’re gonna have some drama this afternoon.”

          “Not a problem.” Jiang Cheng said. “All that drama can’t beat a win on the court.”

          “Now that’s what I’m talking about!” Wang Xu gave him a thumbs up. “Let’s go, we’ll go practice in secret at the vocational school next door. I already told my friend there to hold the court for us.”

          The bunch of them walked out of the gates together, chatting loudly.

          Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei walked side by side behind everyone else, listening in synchronized silence as Wang Xu talked excitedly about their battle strategy.

          What’s so synchronized about silence? Jiang Cheng was a little weirded out by his own thoughts.

          /

          “The one-on-one blocking isn’t gonna work this afternoon,” Wang Xu said. “They have outside help, at least one extra person, maybe two…”

          “That’s fine if we can’t each have a target, but make sure you keep your eyes on us.” Gu Fei said. “Class-7’s skills aren’t comparable with Class-5, even if they have reinforcements, they’re probably not going to work together that well. After all, we’ve been training together all this time…”

          “Exactly! Our teamwork is great now.” Wang Xu waved his hand around. “So what’s our play this afternoon?”

          “Put all your energy into assisting Cheng-ge and I to score.” Gu Fei said.

          It suddenly got quiet, everybody turned in unison to look at Gu Fei.

          Even Jiang Cheng was stunned.

          “Me and…” Gu Fei cleared his throat, and pointed at Jiang Cheng. “Him.”


Footnotes:

[1] Not technically true, tenderloins are actually… somewhere else. Gu Fei could not possibly have been staring at Cheng-ge’s ‘tenderloins’ that would’ve been highly inappropriate…
But let’s forgive Gu Fei for thinking this, he’s not in his right mind :’D

[2] Omg it’s a Fujian/Hujian joke hahahaha. Fujian is a province in the southern part of China, the stereotype (which as someone from Fujian I can confirm) is people there tend to have accents that make it hard to differentiate between their ‘f’ and ‘h’ consonants, especially ironic since there’s an ‘f’ in the province name. So when people say they’re from Fujian, it sounds like “I’m from Hujian”.

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 6103
  • TL word count: 4490
  • TL time: 5:11:47
  • Edit: 2:02:15
  • Curse words: 3x fucks, 5x ass, 1x shit

TL’s Notes

!!! Today marks the start of the three day marathon as a countdown for Cheng-ge’s birthday on July 12th, so you will see another chapter here at this time tomorrow and the day after!

(don’t get used to it)

Thanks for all the comments since last chap! Stay safe out there, love you <3