“He killed his own dad!”


         Gu Fei brought the motorcycle around outside the store, and Gu Miao deftly climbed onto the backseat with her skateboard in her arms, then grabbed onto Gu Fei’s sides and pressed her face against his back.

         “Let me see your face.” Gu Fei turned around.

         Gu Miao tilted her face up at him.

         “There’s still tears, give it a wipe.” Gu Fei said.

         Gu Miao rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand, then rubbed her nose with her sleeve.

         “Ay……” Gu Fei sighed. “Even if you were a boy, you’d be the most rough and tumble kind.”

         Gu Miao smiled and pressed her face against his back again.

         Gu Fei set out with the motorcycle, heading straight for the shopping centre downtown. For Gu Miao, a so-called feast could only mean the all-you-can-eat barbeque in the shopping centre.

         The little girl had a remarkable stubbornness when it came to certain things, one of which was the insistence on only ever eating at one restaurant when they went out.

         One of the benefits of a small city was that there was only one downtown, which didn’t take very long to get to, no matter which neighbourhood you were starting from.

         Although at this hour, it was the busiest time in the barbeque restaurant. There were hardly any free tables left by the time they got there.

         “Do you have any specials today?” Gu Fei asked the server, and pulled out his phone to check for coupons. He flicked Gu Miao’s head once. “You, go find a table.”

         Gu Miao set the skateboard on the floor and put one foot on it, but he quickly stepped on it with his own, “Walk.”

         “Do you need to keep the skateboard at the front counter?” The server smiled and asked.

         Gu Miao shook her head, swiftly bent down, grabbed her board, and held it tight in her arms.

         “She’ll hold onto it herself.” Gu Fei said.

         Gu Miao ran inside with the skateboard.

         “Geez, you’re making me hungry.” Pan Zhi gulped and said. “I’m serious, I’ll go visit you in a couple days, and you can take me out to eat. There’s no way we can get all that food here at that price.”

         “Did your family donate all their money to charities during the New Year or something?” Jiang Cheng held the phone between his head and his neck. He had a plate in one hand, a pair of tongs in the other, and was methodically filling his plate: pork belly, fatty veal, pork belly, fatty veal…… Frankly no matter how wide the selection was, it was all the same to him. These were the things he most liked to eat.

         “That’s not the same,” Pan Zhi said, his voice sounded down. “We agreed last semester to eat barbeque together, but now not only did I not get the meat, you also went ahead and disappeared on me.”

         “You can stay at a hotel when you get here,” Jiang Cheng put the tongs down, stacked another empty plate on top of the one piled with meats, and continued. “And book it yourself. I don’t have the motivation to do anything these days.”

         “But I can just stay with you.” Pan Zhi said.

         “No,” Jiang Cheng frowned. Where he was living now, he didn’t even want to stay there any more than he had to. “Just book a standard room, and I’ll go find you.”

         “……Is your relationship with your biological dad not so good?” Pan Zhi thought about it for a second.

         “There is no relationship to speak of just yet,” Jiang Cheng carried the two plates of meat, and went to grab a bottle of beer. “So there’s no telling if it’s good or bad……”

         When he got back to his own table, he froze.

         The table was a four-seater, which currently had a skateboard on one of the chairs, and a bald little person in blue clothes on another. On the table was a…… green knitted hat adorned with pink flowers. 

         “Gu Miao?” Jiang Cheng looked at her in shock.

         Gu Miao nodded, and didn’t seem at all surprised. She took the skateboard and put it under the table.

         “You……” He set his plates down on the table, and noticed that Gu Miao was already staring at the grill in anticipation. He reached out a hand and waved it in front of Gu Miao’s eyes. “Who did you come with?”

         Gu Miao stood up and pointed toward the door, then waved her hands.

         When Jiang Cheng turned toward where she was pointing, he spotted an equally surprised Gu Fei.

         “We’ll find a different table,” Gu Fei walked over. “Gege is already sitting here.”

         Gu Miao took one look around, gulped, and continued to sit without moving.

         “The server just told me that there’s still a few tables over on that side,” Gu Fei pointed to the inside. “We’ll go sit over there.”

         Still, Gu Miao sat without moving. She tilted her face up and held his gaze with no expression on her face, who knew what she was trying to say.

         Gu Fei remained in a deadlock with her for a few seconds, then turned and glanced at Jiang Cheng.

         “Hm?” Jiang Cheng looked back at him.

         “You’re by yourself?” Gu Fei asked.

         “Mnn.” Jiang Cheng answered, and sat down.

         The server came and turned on the range, then laid down some paper. He picked up a few slices of meat and placed it on the grill, getting ready to brush on some marinade.

         “Then how about……” Gu Fei seemed to be hesitating, it took him a long time to finish the sentence. “Together?”

         Jiang Cheng lifted his eyes and peered at him. To be quite honest, he very much wanted to say “aha in your dreams why don’t you go and wash the duvet cover first”.

         But Gu Miao was still sitting across the table with her two large eyes on her newly shiny head looking at him, so he couldn’t very well let those words come out. He brushed some marinade onto the meat, then nodded.

         “Thanks.” Gu Fei said, then pointed at Gu Miao. “Sit here and wait for me, I’m going to get food.”

         Gu Miao nodded.

         After Gu Fei walked away, Jiang Cheng placed another two slices of fatty veal onto the grill, and asked Gu Miao, “Which one do you like? There’s pork belly and fatty veal.”

         Gu Miao pointed at the fatty veal.

         “Pork belly is good too, wait till it’s sizzling hot with grease seeping out…… I can eat five or six plates of it.” Jiang Cheng flipped the meat over, and brushed on some oil. “Can you handle spice?”

         Gu Miao shook her head.

         Jiang Cheng put a slice of finished veal on the place in front of her, “Eat up.”

         Gu Miao was a little hesitant. She turned and looked in the direction where Gu Fei went.

         “It’s fine……” Before Jiang Cheng finished the sentence, he noticed with a start a line of very obvious scar on the back of Gu Miao’s head. Just eyeing it, he figured it was at least 5 centimeters long. He was shocked.

         Gu Miao didn’t spot Gu Fei, so she turned back around and stuffed the slice of veal into her mouth, and smiled at him. 

         “Try a pork belly?” Jiang Cheng asked her.

         Gu Miao nodded.

         He picked up a slice of pork belly and set it down in front of her, and put the hat that was on the table onto the chair beside her. He couldn’t help but cluck his tongue, “Who bought this for you?”

         Gu Miao kept her head down and munched on the meat silently.

         Thou shalt not speak while eating. [1]

         This little girl was probably the only person he had ever met who executed this policy to perfection.

         Gu Fei quickly came back with their food. Though he was clearly not as skilled as Jiang Cheng when it came to grabbing food, one trip and he only managed to bring back three plates. If Jiang Cheng wasn’t talking to Pan Zhi on the phone just then, he could easily have taken six plates, throw some fruits in there at the end and that was that.

         Their table was next to the wall, Gu Miao was happily eating away on the aisle seat across from him, while Jiang Cheng was sitting in the seat by the wall. Gu Fei hesitated for a moment, then sat down next to him.

         Jiang Cheng was just about to reluctantly take his food and grill it for him, when Gu Fei reached out and gently poked Gu Miao on the head, “If you want drinks go get it yourself.”

         After Gu Miao stood up and walked toward the drinks counter, Gu Fei quickly got up and sat down across the table.

         Jiang Cheng glanced at him, then continued to grill his pork belly and fatty veal.

         “You’re eating such greasy foods while still running a fever?” Gu Fei asked.

         “Hm?” Jiang Cheng stilled his hands, and watched as Gu Fei grilled his rice cakes. “And you know?”

         “You were burning my hand when I dragged you inside, how could I not.” Gu Fei said.

         “Drag?” Uncontrollably, an image popped up in Jiang Cheng’s mind of himself being dragged by the hair into the store like an old sack.

         “What, was I supposed to bridal-carry you instead.” Gu Fei picked up two pieces of bacon and placed it on the grill. They each took up one side, and appeared to be in harmony.

         Jiang Cheng wasn’t sure how to continue the conversation, so he ate a piece of pork belly instead.

         Gu Miao came back with a few bottles in her arms. She set the bottles of beer one by one onto the table, all four of them, all opened, plus a glass of orange juice.

         “Quite impressive, you are.” Jiang Cheng looked at her in surprise. “Didn’t spill it all over the floor?”

         Gu Miao shook her head and sat down by the table, then pushed a bottle of beer and the glass of orange juice in front of him.

         “I don’t……” He was just about to tell Gu Miao to drink the orange juice herself, but as he opened his mouth, Gu Miao already grabbed a bottle of beer and poured it into her own glass. “You……”

         Gu Miao picked up the glass and took a big gulp, let out a satisfied sigh, and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

         Jiang Cheng looked to Gu Fei, and found that he was in the middle of wrapping a lettuce leaf around a piece of pork belly, without so much as a glance in Gu Miao’s direction.

         “She drinks?” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but ask.

         “Mhm, only when eating barbeque,” Gu Fei held the rolled up lettuce wrap in front of Jiang Cheng. “Normally she doesn’t drink.”

         Jiang Cheng stared at the lettuce wrap.

         Gu Fei didn’t speak, just continued to hold it.

         “……Thanks.” He could only accept it and take a bite.

         “Doesn’t it feel greasy to eat pork belly by itself?” Gu Fei asked.

         “It’s alright, I quite like it.” Jiang Cheng said.

         Gu Fei put together two more wraps for Gu Miao, then asked, “You’re not from around here, right? Based on your accent.”

         “No.” Jiang Cheng answered. At the mention of this, he suddenly felt a slight irritation. The annoyance that had so reluctantly been suppressed by pork belly and fatty veal was trying hard to rear its head once more.

         “What’s your relation to Li Baoguo?” Gu Fei continued to ask.

         Jiang Cheng paused, how did Gu Fei know about Li Baoguo? But this confusion was quickly overcome by his annoyance, “What’s it to you?”

         Gu Fei lifted up his eyes and peered at him, then smiled without a word. He raised up a  bottle of beer and clanked it gently against the bottle in front of Jiang Cheng, took a sip, then continued grilling meat.

         It was the first time Jiang Cheng sat down to eat at a table face to face with a stranger. He hadn’t felt like talking, but now he really had nothing to say.

         Across the table, Gu Fei didn’t seem to be in a talking mood either, while the little sister Gu appeared to be an actual mute; she was quite happy alternating between bites of meat and swigs of beer.

         In silence, Jiang Cheng finished four plates of meat while feeling like his head was about to burst. It seemed like Gu Miao ate about as much as he did, Gu Fei had to go top up several times. 

         Only after Jiang Cheng finished eating did she put down her chopsticks, leaned back in the chair, and rubbed her belly.

         “Full?” Gu Fei asked.

         She nodded.

         “You can eat way more than your brother.” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but dole out this judgment.

         “How did you get here?” Gu Fei set down his chopsticks as well. “We can take you back, it’s on the way.”

         “Motorcycle?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “Mmn.” Gu Fei nodded.

         “Drunk driving and over capacity?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         Gu Fei didn’t answer. He stared at Jiang Cheng for a long time with what seemed like mockery or some other stupid thing in his eyes, then at last patted Gu Miao’s shoulder, “Let’s go.”

         After Gu Fei left with Gu Miao, Jiang Cheng got up and filled another half a plate with meat, and took a small basket of lettuce leaves.

         The pork belly lettuce wrap Gu Fei made him earlier was pretty good, it was crisp, refreshing and not greasy.

         After finishing this half plate of meat, he figured he might have to go back on foot in order to walk all this off.

         But it was way too cold outside. He shivered behind the thick curtain at the door of the shopping center, and took his phone out to call a rideshare, though five minutes went back and nobody accepted his fare.

         It was then that Pan Zhi called him again, “There’s two stations on this line, with different times too, which station should I buy the ticket for?”

         “East,” Jiang Cheng said. “I only know the East Station.”

         “Alright,” Pan Zhi said. “Come pick me up tomorrow afternoon at 4 o’clock. Send me your address later, I’ll look up the hotels nearby.”

         “There probably aren’t any,” Jiang Cheng recalled the general vibe of the area, and felt like it didn’t seem like a place that would have hotels. “Just go ahead and book anywhere, it’s not a very big city anyway.”

         After he hung up, a driver finally picked up his fare. As Jiang Cheng sat down inside the car, he felt unwell all over. 

         This must be what they called the condition of acclimatizing to the environment. He, a person who rarely caught colds normally, had suddenly become a delicate flower after a change of environments. After fumbling around all morning and even eating his favourite foods, he was still showing no sign of getting better, he was practically wilting at this point.

         Jiang Cheng closed his eyes and sighed.

         It would appear that everyone who hid inside over the New Year were coming outside these days, the roads were jammed with cars. The driver was trigger-happy with the gas pedal, alternating frequently between accelerating and hard-braking. Not even ten minutes into the ride, Jiang Cheng already felt his stomach churning.

         It wasn’t a long journey, perhaps half an hour in total, but as soon as he saw the intersection that led to Gu Fei’s store, he simply could not take it anymore. He couldn’t even open his mouth to speak, only managed to slap the inside of the car door a few times.

         “Here?” The driver asked.

         He nodded, then banged the door a couple more times.

         The driver stopped the car, and he bounded out the door as though propelled by the power of farts, then rushed to a garbage can by the side of the road and started puking.

         It was such a devastating scene that he couldn’t even bear to watch.

         After this topsy turvy bout, he felt like his insides had finally calmed down. The only thing that remained was an explosive headache. Leaning against the wall with one hand, he fished for a pack of tissue in his pocket, but after rummaging for a minute he still couldn’t manage to pull anything out.

         Just as his temper was about to flare all the way from the sole of his feet, a small arm reached in from one side, with a few pieces of tissue in hand.

         He grabbed the tissue, covered his mouth, and wiped it a few times before glancing off to the side.

         The universe certainly was not lacking in coincidences.

         Gu Miao was standing beside him wearing her green hat, and three steps behind her stood Gu Fei with an expression like he was watching something entertaining.

         “Thank you.” Jiang Cheng nodded toward Gu Miao. It was rather dispiriting, to be in this place where he was embarrassed, but couldn’t simply turn and walk away, or say something like “what the fuck are you looking at”.

         Gu Miao reached out a hand and grabbed his, pulling it forward, probably wanting to help him walk.

         “That’s not necessary.” Jiang Cheng pulled his hand away.

         Gu Miao grabbed his hand again, still trying to help.

         “It’s really not necessary, I’m fine.” Jiang Cheng said.

         When he tried to take his hand away again, Gu Miao held on tight and didn’t let go.

         “Er-Miao……” Gu Fei walked up to them.

         Still Gu Miao didn’t let go.

         Jiang Cheng had no idea how to communicate with her, the various little irritations had converged to this point, and he forcefully shook off Gu Miao’s hand in annoyance, “I said I don’t need your help!”

         Gu Miao didn’t move, her hand was still raised in the air; she was frozen in place.

         Before Jiang Cheng’s guilt had time to spread and fester, he felt a sudden pressure on his throat, as Gu Fei yanked on his collar from behind and forced him to stumble.

         “Fuck……” He turned, and at the same time his elbow went back in a strike.

         Gu Fei caught the elbow with one hand, and tightened the grip on his collar. Jiang Cheng had no choice but to back up close and cozy with Gu Fei.

         The choke on his throat made him feel nauseous again.

         “She likes you a lot,” Gu Fei said into his ear in a low voice. “But sometimes she has trouble reading other people’s emotions, I beg your pardon, and ask that you try to be understanding.”

         Jiang Cheng wanted to blurt out that I fucking lived for 17 years and had never before seen someone beg my pardon in this manner, but that would be too many words. Instead, he only managed to squeeze out four words from between his teeth, “I’m about to puke.”

         Gu Fei let go.

         Jiang Cheng braced himself against the wall and dry heaved a couple of times with no result.

         Gu Fei handed him a bottle of water, he accepted it and took in a couple of big gulps, then after recovering looked over at Gu Miao, “I’m fine, I can walk on my own.”

         Gu Miao nodded, and retreated to Gu Fei’s side.

         “I’m going.” He threw the half finished bottle of water into the garbage, then turned and walked toward the intersection ahead.

         Fuck!

         When he got back to Li Baoguo’s place, the first thing that hit Jiang Cheng when he opened the door was the aroma of food cooking.

         Li Baoguo was standing in the living room, calling someone on this phone.

         Jiang Cheng was just about to say something, when the phone in his pocket rang. He pulled it out and saw that the caller ID belonged to Li Baoguo, “You……”

         Li Baoguo turned around when he heard the ringtone, and yelled with his usual loud voice, “Hey! When did you get back, I was just calling you!”

         “Just walked through the door,” Jiang Cheng closed the door. “You…… didn’t hear?”

         “My hearing isn’t the best,” Li Baoguo pointed to his ears. “Gotta turn my head toward the sound to hear clearly.”

         “Oh.” Jiang Cheng answered.

         “Where did you go?” Li Baoguo went into the kitchen and brought out a crock of soup. “I’ve been here waiting for you to eat lunch for a while.”

         “I……” Jiang Cheng hesitated, and didn’t mention that he already ate AYCE barbeque. “Went to the hospital.”

         “The hospital?” Li Baoguo immediately started hollering again, as he reached over and felt around Jiang Cheng’s face. “You’re sick? Where does it hurt? Got a fever? Is it because you’re not used to the new environment?” 

         “Already took some medicine, it’s not a big deal.” Considering this meal in front of him, Jiang Cheng tried hard to tolerate the dirty yellow hand that stunk of cigarettes, and didn’t slap it away with his hand.

         “Let me tell you, if you’re not feeling well, you don’t have to go to the hospital. There’s a community clinic on the next street over, it’s pretty good,” Li Baoguo said. “Only the exterior is a little too far in to be noticed easily, it’s next to the little grocery store.”

         “Oh,” Jiang Cheng pondered for a moment. “The little grocery store? Is it Gu Fei’s……”

         “How do you know Gu Fei?” Li Baoguo turned and looked at him in shock. “You just got here, and already you’re hanging out with him?”

         “Nah,” Jiang Cheng couldn’t bother to explain. “I went there to buy some stuff this morning.”

         “I’m telling you,” Li Baoguo’s voice got louder, even though his voice had always been pretty loud, this time it was especially boisterous. “Don’t get mixed up with him, that little fella is bad news!”

         “……Oh.” Jiang Cheng took off his jacket and tossed it into his room.

         Li Baoguo watched him, probably waiting for him to ask why. After a while, when he didn’t say anything, Li Baoguo leaned in again, and said with his face full of gossip, “Do you know why he’s bad news?”

         “Why?” Jiang Cheng really had no interest in all this, but still went along and asked.

         “Because he killed his own dad!” Li Baoguo said. Since he was leaning a little close, his excited spittle sprayed over half of Jiang Cheng’s face.

         Jiang Cheng jumped up from the chair to get out of the way, and roughly rubbed his face a few times, then just as he was about to erupt, it suddenly registered in his mind, “What? Killed who?”

         “His own dad!” Li Baoguo said half yelling. “Drowned his own father.”

         Jiang Cheng looked at him in silence. Based on the gleeful expression on Li Baoguo’s face, he knew that if he wanted to, they could spend a whole afternoon talking about this kind of gossip.

         Too bad Jiang Cheng didn’t believe it.

         “Wouldn’t he have to go to jail for patricide.” He sat back down by the table, and pinched the area between his brows, it felt distended.

         “It was all those years ago, what jail,” Li Baoguo also sat down. “Plus there were no witnesses.”

         “Ah, so nobody saw it……” Jiang Cheng smirked.

         “We all know what happened, when the police arrived his dad was in the lake, and he was standing on the shore, with that expression……” Li Baoguo clucked his tongue several times in a row. “It’s obvious that he did it…… Come on and eat up, see if the food is to your taste?”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t respond, just picked up a piece of short rib.

         “He did it for their Er-Miao,” Li Baoguo probably saw that Jiang Cheng didn’t believe him, so he added as a way of boosting his credibility. “His dad slammed her so hard there was blood all over her head, after that she didn’t even know how to talk anymore.”

         “Ah.” Jiang Cheng answered as he chewed on the rib, and recalled the shocking scar on the back of Gu Miao’s head.


Footnotes:

[1] A Confucian teaching

Some Stats

* Raw character count: 5551

* TL word count: 4048

* TL time: 3:42:25

* Edit: 0:42:47

* Curse words: 4x fucks

TL’s Notes

Ha, what a grumpy boy