Jiang Cheng glanced at him, then pressed his thumb and forefinger together with Gu Fei’s.


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

          In the first year of high school, before they were all sorted into different streams, Gu Fei was still in Class-1. There was a moron in his class who was chatting with his new girlfriend in the last row during a self-study period, there was probably some mutual elbow contact as well. Then after the self-study period, the dude went to the washroom.

          According to rumours, the guy was so full of pent up thirst that he came just from the elbow touches… and he went to the washroom to dispose of his underwear.

          Their whole class laughed about it for more than a semester.

          Gu Fei also found it very amusing at the time, but now he figured they were not so different after all… 

          He lowered his eyes and peered at his left side, Jiang Cheng’s left hand had stayed on his waist. At first, Jiang Cheng was startled by Gu Miao, so he grabbed Gu Fei for balance. Then, perhaps because Gu Miao kept holding on to the backseat, he didn’t have anywhere else to put his hand, so he just left it there, on Gu Fei’s waist.

          To be honest, Gu Fei would ordinarily be immune to this sort of contact that he would not even notice unless he was looking directly at it. He had carried plenty of people on the backseat of his bicycle and his motorcycle, male and female alike; this sort of contact was nothing if not typical.

          But the person at this moment was Jiang Cheng. 

          When he saw Jiang Cheng these days, he would instinctively think of the body he saw half hidden under the bizarrely tattered Ding Zhuxin designs.

          His legs, his waist, his back, even the scar on his side and the cut on his lip.

          In conclusion, Jiang Cheng’s hand on his waist at this moment, was like a grenade.

          When and if it exploded, he too might lose a pair of underwear to it.

          After pedaling for a while, he caught sight of the rest of their team ahead… and the girls sitting on their back seats.

          Gu Fei extended his right arm with his palm facing backwards, then squeezed the brakes. As soon as they slowed down, Gu Miao’s face crashed right into the palm of his hand. She kept her face braced against his hand and used the force of it to decelerate on her skateboard.

          “What is it?” Jiang Cheng asked from the back.

          “You carry me.” Gu Fei put a foot on the ground to steady them and turned to look back at him.

          “Tired already?” Jiang Cheng got off the bike. “This stamina of yours is quite worrying, one ball game and you don’t even have the energy to pedal a bike.”

          “Why did I not realize before just how much you talk?” Gu Fei got off too and shoved the bike into his hands.

          “I’ve never coordinated with Er-Miao before,” Jiang Cheng swung himself onto the seat. “Will she be OK?”

          “If you crash, she’ll get out of the way,” Gu Fei sat astride the backseat. “Let’s go.”

          “It’s so much work to take off from a complete stop, can’t you wait till I’m……” Jiang Cheng said.

          “Nope. My stamina that can’t even withstand pedaling after a ballgame will not allow me to run.” Gu Fei said as he pulled out his phone to play with it.

          “Shit.” Jiang Cheng cursed quietly, but had no other choice but to try hard and pedal from a stop.

          Gu Miao first rode on her skateboard a couple steps away, then after a while came back over and grabbed hold of the backseat again.

          Jiang Cheng rode hard for a stretch and caught up with Wang Xu and the rest of them.

          “They’re here,” Guo Xu glanced back at them. “You guys ran off pretty fast.”

          “Got hungry.” Jiang Cheng said.

          “Jiang Cheng.” He heard a girl’s voice call out to the left of him… 

          He turned, and the phone in her hand ‘clacked’. He sighed, “Don’t you know to turn the sound off when sneaking a photo?”

          “I’m not sneaking though.” The girl covered her mouth a little sheepishly and giggled to herself..

          The group of them chatted away on their bikes as they went. It was not a short distance to the city center, but they took up an entire lane noisily, and if a motorcycle or scooter needed to get by, they simply squeezed into a smaller cluster and giggled like idiots.

          It was truly an age where one could burst into laughter even after eating shit, Jiang Cheng thought as he watched the people around him.

          These people, if it was before, would have been subjects of ridicule between himself and Pan Zhi. They were a little country, and to top it off were not just a little derpy. But now, here he was riding along with them, squished together on the road.

          He did not join in on their mindless giggle fits, though there were already countless examples of that with Gu Fei.

          Gu Fei had stayed quiet, being his usual anti-social self, and kept his head down playing on his phone.

          When the girls wanted to sneak photos of him, Gu Fei simply put his forehead right up against Jiang Cheng’s back.

          “Stop with the photos, just tell me which one of these two you’d like pictures of,” Wang Xu had Yi Jing on his bike. His voice was booming and he looked full of energy. “I’ve got it all, I even have a photo of Jiang Cheng eating a meat pie.”

          “Your great uncle.” Jiang Cheng glared at him.

          “Send it to me, I wanna see!” Immediately, one of the girls piped up.

          “Can’t share it so easily, I won’t beat Jiang Cheng in a fight.” Wang Xu said. “I’ll only sell it, 20 bucks a picture.”

          “You’re willing to endure a beating for just 20 bucks…” Lu Xiaobin said.

          Everyone burst into laughter at that.

          “You shut up!” Wang Xu glared at him. “Do you even math? If ten people buy it, that’s 200 bucks!”

          “That’s true…” Lu Xiaobing was stunned. “That’s quite a lot then, if everyone bought one…. You’d be making bank.”

          “The brains on you lot…” Guo Xu sighed. “One photo might be sold once at most. If you sell to one person, they can just make copies, why would they keep buying from you…”

          “Go away!” Wang Xu shouted. “You’re the only one with the brains OK?”

          “That’s not a bad business idea,” Gu Fei said quietly from the back. “I have here different shots of face included, high res, no pixelation……”

          “Can you have a smidgen of ethics as a professional photographer?” Jiang Cheng turned around and said in a low voice.

          “Sure, that’s why I haven’t sold it,” Gu Fei said. “I’m waiting for a high enough offer…”

          “You wanna bet I’ll fling you off the bike?” Jiang Cheng said.

          “Nope.” Gu Fei answered.

          Jiang Cheng opened his mouth, then closed it again. No sounds came out.

          “I can’t get past this level,” Gu Fei held up the phone next to his face. “Pass it for me when we get there?”

          “……Damn it.” Jiang Cheng didn’t know what to say. “You’re still trying to one-up Li Yan?”

          “Mhm,” Gu Fei went back to playing. “He’s already three levels ahead.”

          “I’ll get all three levels for you in a bit,” Jiang Cheng said. “Just a stupid game and you treat it like some great endeaver, as if we’re waiting for you to save the world.”

          Gu Fei started chuckling behind him, “Yeah you’re right, in that case I’ll get rid of the shit-talkers first.”

          Since Wang Xu only called before they left to reserve the room, all the bigger rooms were already gone. Including the team and the girls, their group consisted of maybe 20 or so people. At last, the server pieced three tables together into a room for them.

          “Try to squeeze,” The server said. “Young people, right, the closer the merrier.”

          “No problem! We’ll squish!” Wang Xu nodded and pushed them into the room one by one.

          Jiang Cheng dragged Gu Miao into the innermost seat by the wall; he promised Gu Miao he would sit beside her. Gu Fei squished in right after them, and sat himself down next to Jiang Cheng.

          “You don’t wanna sit beside Gu Miao?” Jiang Cheng looked around him: to his left was Gu Fei, and to his right was Gu Miao.

          “It’s too late to switch,” Gu Fei stood up to change seats, but when he saw that everyone had already squeezed in, he sat back down immediately and lowered his voice. “If I keep switching I’m gonna end up with girls on either side of me.”

          “Wait,” Jiang Cheng found it amusing. “What exactly is your problem?”

          “No problem,” Gu Fei said. Yi Jing had just sat down on his left, he quietly inched the chair even closer to Jiang Cheng, and said quietly with his head turned, “I’m just not used to it.”

          “A boss type such as you……” Jiang Cheng poured a cup of tea and set it down in front of Gu Miao. “Gu Miao, have some water first, and take your jacket off, look how your face is flushed from the heat.”

          The room was small, their group all huddled around a long table as if holding some kind of meeting; it was noisy and hot.

          Gu Miao took a sip of water, then flung her hat off onto the table and threw her jacket on the ground. Her mess of hair stuck out in all directions.

          “Put it up on the hanger there.” Gu Fei said and pointed at the clothing rack in the corner, he also took off his own jacket and handed it to her. “Hang big brother’s up for me too.”

          Gu Miao took the clothes and the hat and went to hang them up, still sporting what looked like a bird’s nest on her head.

          “Fix your hair a little,” Jiang Cheng said. “You are a little lady after all, you gotta pay attention to your image.”

          Gu Miao gave him a look, and with some indignation, combed her fingers through her hair at random, then stopped and stared at his jacket.

          “Ah,” Jiang Cheng immediately took off his jacket and handed it to her. “Hang it up for Cheng-ge too, thanks.”

          Gu Miao brought his jacket over to the hanger with the most solemn expression, and since she was not tall enough to reach the higher hooks, she stacked his jacket on top of Gu Fei’s on the same hook. Then she sat back down and curled up in her seat, sipping slowly away at the tea.

          Jiang Cheng pushed his chair back so it leaned against the wall, and with his arms folded, watched this roomful of rowdy people. They were very hyper and very noisy. The door to their room was open, but the server must have had enough and came to close it after just a few minutes.

          However, it was also quite nice. It had been a long time since he gathered with a bunch of people like this. Everyone in his previous school was a studyholic, with strict parents too. Most people went straight home after school ended.

          Someone like him who skipped class at will and even stayed out all night, it was difficult to even have a companion every single time… 

          The lively scene in front of him finally allowed him to feel the warmth and comfort associated with Springtime.

          ”What are we eating, what are we eating!” Wang Xu opened the menu and got busy. “I ordered three pots with soup bases, all 2-in-1s, is that enough?”

          “Enough enough!” Somebody shouted in reply. “The pot isn’t important, what’s important is the meat! The ingredients!”

          “You can have as much of those as you want,” Yi Jing laughed and patted her backpack. “I brought the class funds, Xu-zong said he’ll make up for any that’s not covered by it.”

          “Lao-Xu ah… he certainly does come around sometimes.” Wang Xu said. “He just nags too much, even more so than my mom, and would move himself with his own speech before anything else…… Lamb! Veal! Pork belly! Come on! Anything else you’d like to eat just say it, I’ll put it down!”

          “The heat in here is making me drowsy.” Gu Fei also leaned back with his chair.

          Since the group of them came straight from the game, once they took off their jackets they only had short sleeves underneath. When Gu Fei leaned closer, their arms brushed together ever so slightly.

          In a season that was not quite yet suited for short sleeves, this sudden skin on skin contact awakened a strange feeling in Jiang Cheng. 

          Gu Fei must have felt the same, as Jiang Cheng felt him immediately shifting a little toward Yi Jing, but not two seconds later scooched right back over.

          Jiang Cheng found the whole thing kind of funny, and giggled at the tea cup in front of him. 

          “Shit,” Gu Fei also started laughing, and proceeded to relax his posture and lean against him, putting his leg against Jiang Cheng’s as well. “You keep laughing and I’ll shut you up for good.”

          “One elastic band and I can get you right back……” Jiang Cheng glanced at their legs resting side by side under the table as he laughed, and suddenly realized that his tolerance of physical touches when it came to Gu Fei was almost at the same level as his grandson Pan Zhi.

          Not to mention this feeling was entirely different than with Pan Zhi.

          …… But of course it’s not the same; Pan Zhi was his bro, a secret-sharing shit-talking bro. Whereas Gu Fei, Gu Fei was someone like him, who also possessed all the qualities that inherently attracted and enticed him.

          He had never thought to seek out others like him, and furthermore never considered the idea of huddling for warmth. But he had to admit the way they were right now, in this very moment, among the excitement of a big group and the atmosphere that was just a little too toasty, in the minute details unnoticed by anyone else, in these tiny ambiguous tensions that existed only in this moment unbeknownst to others, he found comfort in the quiet enjoyment.

          “Da-Fei, what are you drinking? Something white [1]?” Wang Xu waved the menu at the two of them.

          “Mhm.” Gu Fei answered.

          “What about Jiang Cheng?” Wang Xu turned to Jiang Cheng. “We haven’t drank together before, what are you drinking?”

          “… Whatever.” Jiang Cheng was going to say he wasn’t planning on drinking, though looking at this roomful of people all in such high spirits, it wasn’t enough that they just won a game, but there were several girls present too. If he didn’t drink today, they would tease him to death.

          “Really now….” Wang Xu said. “Whatever? Listen to this, living up to your title of 3-pointer king.”

          “And you complain about Lao-Xu being naggy.” Jiang Cheng gave him a side-eye.

          “You watch your tone when speaking to the team captain,” Wang Xu pointed at him. “That time in the beginning of the semester, I only let you off easy on account of Da-Fei.”

          “Ah.” Jiang Cheng nodded.

          “Server——” Wang Xu opened the door and hollered into the hallway. “Hurry up with the food! And a thing of Niu’er [2]! And some freshly squeezed juice——”

          He turned to look at Gu Miao, “Queen Miao-miao, you drink fruit juice? There’s orange and corn [3].”

          Gu Miao didn’t even look up, only cradled the teacup in both hands and shook her head.

          “What does she want to drink then?” Wang Xu turned to Gu Fei.

          “Beer.” Gu Fei said.

          “…… Fuck me.” Wang Xu was stunned, but he turned around anyway. “And a pint of beer for our queen here!”

          “Aiyoo stop yelling please!” The server stood in the doorway. “I’m right here and yet you’re still yelling…”

          “This big bro is in a good mood today——” Wang Xu continued to shout. “Hurry, bring the meat and alcohol first!”

          “Got it, meat! Alcohol!” The server laid the bowls and chopsticks down for them and jogged out of the room.

          Yi Jing stood up and got a camera out of her backpack, then waved it at the girl on the other side of Wang Xu, “Juan-er, let’s take a group photo. You take one from that side, then I’ll take one from this side.”

          “Alright,” The girl caught the camera and said as she backed up. “Everyone squeeze in, otherwise I can’t fit you all.”

          The roomful of people immediately converged on Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng.

          “Squeeze together, squeeze!” Wang Xu squeezed next to Yi Jing and leaned over with one hand on the wall.

          Yi Jing laughed and tried to get out of his way by shifting closer to Gu Fei’s side.

          Gu Fei didn’t say anything, but he very quickly scooched toward Jiang Cheng.

          ”Shit,” Jiang Cheng had just pulled Gu Miao over, and right away got crushed into Gu Fei by the people pressing in from his right. “You all need to lose weight!”

          ”Hurry.” Gu Fei said to the girl with the camera.

          “Smile!” The girl instructed them. “Class-8 number one!”

          “Class-8 NUMBER ONE!” The group roared in unison.

          The girl pressed the shutter. They were about to disperse when she gestured a little frantically, “Hold on, I didn’t take it yet…”

          “Get the server!” Wang Xu pointed at the door. “Ask the server to take the photo for us!”

          The server was startled at the sight of them squeezed into a cluster, “Why does it feel like there weren’t so many of you just a minute ago…”

          “Hurry and take the photo!” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help but rush.

          There was a gap between his and Gu Fei’s chair, the result of which was they both were in very awkward and twisted positions. He had no choice but to brace his hand against Gu Fei’s leg, there was no way they could hold this for very long.

          “Make a heart sign! Make a heart!” Wang Xu suddenly said.

          “I’ll make you a double-yolk egg!” Jiang Cheng was going mad. “I only have one hand!”

          “I also have only one hand, no can do.” Gu Fei said.

          “You can each use one hand, that’s perfect, come on!” Wang Xu hurried them. “Let’s everyone use one hand, and make a heart with the person beside you, use both hands if you have no one beside you! We made a big heart today during our game, let’s do a small one this time with your hands. Yi Jing… here, we can make one together!”

          “Ay…” Yi Jing could only laugh and go along. She pressed her thumb and forefinger against Wang Xu’s, and together they formed a heart shape.

          “Queen Miao-miao, you can use both hands, do you know how to make a heart?” Wang Xu was practically working himself to death.

          Gu Miao just held on to her teacup and leaned against Jiang Cheng, as if she didn’t hear him talk.

          “She doesn’t.” Gu Fei answered for her, then stuck out his left hand in front of Jiang Cheng’s face.

         Jiang Cheng glanced at him, then pressed his thumb and forefinger together with Gu Fei’s.

          ”Is everyone ready?” The server asked. “I still have to go bring the orders out.”

          “Ready ready!” Everyone shouted.

          “One, two…” The server held up the camera.

          “Class-8 is the BEST——” Wang Xu yelled.

          “Class-8 is the best——” Yelled everyone together in a chaotic chorus.

          After the photo, Jiang Cheng tugged on his clothes that had been wrinkled from being squished. There was even sweat on his back.

          Gu Fei rubbed his leg where Jiang Cheng’s hand had been.

          Jiang Cheng gave him a look, “Aw, aren’t you delicate.”

          Gu Fei rubbed at his leg again, but failed to hold in his laughter, “Aw, aren’t you cheeky.”

          “Aw, heard you want to shut me up for good?” Jiang Cheng continued.

          “Aw, heard you plan to get me back with one elastic band?” Gu Fei said.

          Then they both burst into giggles but hid their laughter under the table.

          “Come, come now!” Wang Xu’s loud voice interrupted their idiotic giggle session. “The alcohol’s here, distribute! Pour it out for everyone! Girls, pour your own fruit juice… Miao-miao, your beer!”

          Wang Xu set a pint of beer down in front of Gu Miao. She stood up without a word, picked up the glass with both hands and took a big gulp.

          “What the…” Wang Xu was taken aback. “Is she just thirsty?”

          “Is it OK for a kid to drink like this?” Yi Jing asked in a quiet voice from the side.

          “She’ll stop on her own after about a glass.” Gu Fei said.

          “… What a cool little gal.” Yi Jing said thoughtfully.

          “Come on!” After everyone filled their glasses with alcohol, Wang Xu raised his glass in the air. “I’ll say a few words first! Thank you to everyone for your collective efforts, it’s the reason we have our win today!”

          “Ahhh——” They all banged their glasses on the table.

          “Thank you to your highness the class leader for cheering us on, and for getting us the class funds for the meal.” Wang Xu said. “Thank you Da-Fei, for joining our team this time and bringing your damn impressive skills! Thank you Jiang Cheng! Even though you just transferred here this semester, but if we didn’t have you to guide us in the competition, we never would have won so easily…”

          “Hurry and drink.” Gu Fei tapped his glass.

          “Ganbei!” Wang Xu knocked his glass against the table, then tilted his head back and emptied the glass in one gulp.

          Following his suit, several other boys also emptied their glasses.

          “Fuck,” Jiang Cheng said quietly. The glasses weren’t very big, but they weren’t shot-sized either. “You guys all just slam it down like this?”

          “You don’t need to.” Gu Fei downed a glass too. “Only Wang Xu and the others who can drink are like this, you southerners…” 

          “… I’m not a southerner.” Jiang Cheng said.

          “South of here,” Gu Fei drew a line with his hand. “Are all…”

          “Jiang Cheng!” Wang Xu stared at him, bottle in hand. “You’re the one who said you’ll drink whatever, how come you still haven’t moved?”

          The whole table looked over at them, so Jiang Cheng had no choice but to raise his glass at Wang Xu and said under his breath, “Here’s to you with your ridgeless brain…”

          He also downed the entire glass in one gulp.

          Now that they had some alcohol in them, the already excited guys got even more excited, their voices practically boomed. The server opened the door and peered in, “Oohh, sorry, I thought you guys are fighting in here……”

          “Eat!” Wang Xu beckoned with his chopsticks.

          Eating shuan meat [4] with a bunch of excited people was not a pretty sight. The plates of meat were dumped directly into the pot, then seven or eight pairs of chopsticks reached in and stirred up a frenzy, and before long it was all gone.

          Yi Jing got a small plate of meat and placed it in front of Gu Miao, “Little sister, eat up.”

          Gu Miao had her head down and focused entirely on eating, but did not forget to stand up and give her a bow.

          Jiang Cheng filled a bowl of soup, and before he got to put it down, Gu Miao reached out her hand, so he set it down in front of her and took her empty bowl to fill another for himself.

          Just as he sat down to eat, Gu Fei shoved his bowl at him too, “If you would be so kind.”

          “Do it yourself.” Jiang Cheng paid him no attention.

          “I’ll help you.” Yi Jing said.

          “No need.” Gu Fei quickly picked up his bowl and stood up, then frantically filled a bowl of soup for himself. 

          After he sat down, he saw that Jiang Cheng was leaning back in his chair, laughing uncontrollably at something under the table.

          “Had too much to drink huh.” Gu Fei gave him a look.

          “Ah yes, that must be it.” Jiang Cheng took a deep breath and tried to hold in his laughter.

          Though, that glass of alcohol really was strong. If they were to compare the sheer savageness of their drinking habits, he would no doubt lose to this group of people here. Over on Wang Xu’s side they were busy drinking up a storm. Without Lao-Xu here to supervise this time, it was as if drinking was their way of proving themselves to be grown men, each of them downing their cups in flourishes. 

          Jiang Cheng did not have that skill. Having only downed one glass, he already felt a lively burn in his stomach, combined with the heating in the room, he felt as though he could fall asleep right there.

          “Hey.” Gu Fei nudged him with his arm.

          “Hmm?” He turned his head to look at Gu Fei while leaning against the wall.

          Gu Fei pressed a piece of candy into his palm, “Mint candy, it’ll make you feel better.”

          Jiang Cheng looked at him, but his mind had gone temporarily blank… Since when did his alcohol tolerance become so pathetic?

          He took Gu Fei’s hand in his own, and along with the candy, clutched it in a death grip.


Footnotes:

[1] White alcohol = baijiu [白酒] aka hard liquor commonly made from sorghum

[2] Niu’er is short for Niulanshan Erguotou. Niulanshan is a cheap brand of Erguotou, which is a baijiu/hard liquor made from sorghum grain, much like vodka but Chinese.

[3] For those unfamiliar with corn juice, it’s cooked corn, blended with water, sugar, and milk. It’s very common as a non-alcoholic beverage in restaurants and it’s delicious I swear!

[4] Shuan meat: hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces

Some Stats

* Raw character count: 6088

* TL word count: 4274

* TL time: 7:39:52

* Edit: 1:07:13

* Curse words: 2x fucks, 6x shit

TL’s Notes

Only checked for formatting, sp and grammar, will do a more thorough edit later orz

Edited! I just realized all the footnotes in this chap are food-related (゚¬゚)