“No way, you’ve never had a girl… boy… boyfriend or girlfriend or something?”


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

         Jiang Cheng had a rather strong grip, especially in his current slightly-out-of-control state of mind, influenced by the alcohol and the lively atmosphere. The bones in Gu Fei’s hand were in pain from being crushed together, and the mint candy in his palm pressed into his flesh like a pebble. 

          Gu Fei glanced at Yi Jing out of the corner of his eyes, she had been pulled into a conversation by Wang Xu. The roomful of people were busy eating, drinking, and chattering away. Nobody noticed that in this corner Jiang Cheng was about to crush his hand into pieces.

          “What is it?” Gu Fei asked in a low voice.

          Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything, just backed his head against the wall and stared at him, hand still clutching his.

          Gu Fei maintained eye contact with him for a while, then turned away and stared in a daze at the table of food in front of him.

          He was not left-handed, he needed his right hand to eat, but Jiang Cheng didn’t seem at all willing to relinquish his grip anytime soon. All he could do was stare at the food in silence.

          To be honest, he could tell that Jiang Cheng did lose control at the start, but he must have recovered just three or four seconds later.

          Therefore the justification for his continued death grip in this moment was one part awkwardness, one part panic, and one part the reluctance to suddenly let go for fear of appearing too deliberate. For someone like Jiang Cheng, who was sensitive and tended to overthink even on a regular day, when presented with a situation like this one, the gears in his brain were probably spinning so hard they were ground down to dust.

          Gu Fei picked up the soup bowl with his left hand and took a sip. Wang Xu had ordered this lamb tripe soup specially, it tasted pretty good.

          “The soup isn’t too bad.” Gu Fei turned and said to Jiang Cheng.

          “Ah…” Jiang Cheng said in reply, his grip loosened a little.

          “Wanna try some?” Gu Fei said, and tapped his thumb gently on the back of Jiang Cheng’s hand.

          “Lamb tripe?” Jiang Cheng asked, and finally let go.

          “Yes.” Gu Fei took back his hand, paused for a moment, then placed the mint candy back into Jiang Cheng’s palm.

          “I actually don’t like lamb tripe soup,” Jiang Cheng said quietly. He didn’t grab Gu Fei’s hand this time, only accepted the candy, and unwrapped it slowly under the table with his head down. “I like lamb soup, lamb bone soup, femur soup, pork tripe soup……”

          “You’re making me hungry.” Gu Fei picked up a piece of lamb tripe with his chopsticks and put it in his mouth.

          “Me too.” Jiang Cheng put the candy in his mouth, then two seconds later whipped his head around. “This isn’t one of those damn flavour changing candies is it?”

          “No, did you like that one? That was one of the joke snacks that Liu Fan’s friend brought back from Japan; I still have a whole bag of it at my place.” Gu Fei laughed and said.

          “Give me some, a couple pieces is enough.” Jiang Cheng nodded. Those candies were very befitting of the way he and his moronic grandson Pan Zhi spent their time together.

          “I’ll give it to you on Monday.” Gu Fei said. “Hey, we have to read our admonitions on Monday.”

          “…… It’s done.” Jiang Cheng sighed.

          When having a meal with a big group of people, especially half-grown young men like these, everyone usually got full in the first 20 minutes, because they all fought and competed for the food, as if they had been locked in a vegetable garden for a decade and hadn’t ever seen meat before.

          And once they were full, that was when the bragging and drinking really started.

          Jiang Cheng didn’t join in on the idle conversations, only sat there and listened.

          It was similar to gatherings with his classmates in the past, which also included these over-elaborate tales of adventures and misadventures, but they were not half as riveting as the stuff these Class-8 guys came up with. As he listened, Jiang Cheng kept having the urge to laugh, though the few girls present seemed genuinely enthralled, and very cooperative with their reactions.

          “Jiang Cheng!” Wang Xu had at some point finished telling one of his grand stories; he stood up suddenly and extended his glass at Jiang Cheng. “Let’s go!

          “Huhh?” Jiang Cheng was puzzled.

          “I’m toasting you,” Wang Xu had had quite a bit to drink, and his face glowed with red light. “Here’s to our secret weapon!”

          “It stopped being a secret a long time ago……” Jiang Cheng watched Wang Xu’s face, which clearly expressed the sentiment that ‘if you didn’t drink I would pour it down your throat’, and stood up with his own glass in hand. “We’re all on the same team, so let’s do away with the formalities, huh?”

          “You’re not nearly as smooth a drinker as you are a ball player!” Wang Xu pointed at him.

          Jiang Cheng had nothing to say to that, so he clinked Wang Xu’s glass with his own, tipped his head back, and emptied the alcohol down his throat.

          “Now that’s a straight shooter!” Wang Xu shouted cheerfully, and downed his own cup. “Love you!”

          “…… No need for love.” Resigned, Jiang Cheng sat back down.

          “No no, it’s necessary!” Wang Xu waved his cup with a flourish. “Know that you’ve got Xu-ge to protect you in the future……”

          “Sit down.” Gu Fei pushed away Wang Xu’s arm that had been hovering above his head, and wiped his face of the alcohol scented spittle that had landed there.

          “Da-Fei!” Wang Xu was like a man who had just discovered the new world, he shouted as he poured more alcohol into his cup. “We should……”

          Gu Fei didn’t wait for him to finish talking or drinking. He stood up, grabbed his own glass, and downed it in one motion, then grabbed Wang Xu’s arm. “Sit yourself down, and eat something.”

          “Oh!” Wang Xu looked at him, face dazed with excitement.

          “Don’t let him drink any more,” Gu Fei turned and looked at Yi Jing, who had been trying to get out of their way. “How are we gonna get him home if he passes out?”

          Yi Jing smiled in resignation, “It’s not like he’ll listen to me.”

          “He will.” Gu Fei said.

          “Yes listen!” Wang Xu nodded his head right away. “I will listen!”

          Gu Fei stopped paying him attention, and squeezed out from behind Jiang Cheng.

          “Where are you going?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Gonna splash some water on my face,” Gu Fei said. “And get some fruit for Er-Miao on the way.”

          “Mmn,” Jiang Cheng glanced at Gu Miao, who was fast asleep on the chair next to him. “She’d been asleep for a while now……”

          “She gets sleepy when it’s her bedtime.” Gu Fei put on his jacket, and with some difficulty, made his way past the group of people.

          The merriment continued inside the room, with laughter and yelling and eating. The alcohol bottles were almost empty, and Yi Jing stopped the guys from asking for more. 

          Jiang Cheng still leaned against the wall in the same posture, watching these flushed-face laughing people with his arms folded. The atmosphere in the room hadn’t changed, but watching Gu Fei’s back as he opened the door and walked out, he suddenly felt a little colder. 

          It was probably because they had been squished together before this, with arms next to each other and legs touching…… Oh, he grabbed his hand too.

          He thought the way he was today was nothing short of extraordinary. Even when recalling the way he held onto Gu Fei’s hand just now, it surprisingly didn’t make him want to crash headfirst into the awkwardness. Strangely, he even felt a little gleeful at having gotten away with it. 

          What the hell was he proud of? Not sure. The inner workings of a youth’s mind was mysterious like that, and just as shameless!

          Probably, it was due to the alcohol. He wasn’t exactly a lightweight, but was simply not used to the hardcore way these people went at it. 

          Every time, when he had a lot to drink all at once, he would get a delightful feeling as if he was stepping on clouds and took the wrong medicine. The last time this happened he kissed the guy on the cheek, and this time he wouldn’t let go of his hand. It was a picture of someone using his own drunkenness to be shameless.

          But this time, his embarrassment and shock at his own behaviour did not last very long. For instance, when he recalled it now…… he only wanted to laugh. 

          How scary, the way a person’s skin could grow so thick and sturdy so easily.

          Gu Fei had been gone a long time. Jiang Cheng stood up reluctantly, he needed to use the bathroom. He wanted to go for a while now, but he thought it might be a little unseemly if right after Gu Fei went to wash his face, he followed him to the bathroom as well. 

          But now, not being able to hold it any longer, he stood up and squeezed his way out of the room.

          “Jiang Cheng!” Guo Xu roared in his ears just as he got to the door. “Where’re you going?!”

          Jiang Cheng was already a little dizzy, this sudden outburst of sound startled him so much that he almost smashed his head into the door. He turned around and saw Guo Xu with his bright red nose and sparkles of excitement in his eyes.

          “Just to the washroom.” He patted Guo Xu’s arm and walked out the door. 

          “Well hurry up! We haven’t had a drink together yet!” Guo Xu poked his head out the door and yelled.

          “Uh huh.” Jiang Cheng waved his hand.

          It would appear that these ‘northerners’ weren’t such tanks after all; the drinking had made them loopy. They already ran out of alcohol, what the hell were they gonna drink?

          He didn’t run into Gu Fei in the washroom, so he was probably getting fruit for Gu Miao.

          When Jiang Cheng was washing his hands at the sink, his phone rang. He was surprised to see Shen Yiqing’s number on the display.

          After staring at the caller ID for a long time, he ultimately decided to answer.

          “Xiao-Cheng?” Shen Yiqing’s voice came from the other end.

          Though he was resistant—and the feeling had faded a lot with time—but when he heard this voice again, Jiang Cheng still thought perhaps he would never be able to completely erase the familiar feeling brought to him by this voice that was always full of coolness and control.

          “Uh huh.” He answered.

          “Are you home?” Shen Yiqing asked.

          “No,” Jiang Cheng turned off the tap and lit a cigarette as he walked out; he stopped at a window in the corridor. “Having dinner outside.”

          “Are you smoking?” Shen Yiqing continued to ask.

          “Mhm.” Jiang Cheng leaned against the wall and looked outside, suddenly feeling very carefree.

          Shen Yiqing didn’t speak for a while, then continued in a stony voice, “You certainly do stay true to yourself, regardless of where you are.”

          “Mmn, not that I’m keeping it up on purpose, but that’s just the kind of person I am, right?” Jiang Cheng frowned. “You called just to ask about this?”

          “Li Baoguo gave me a call and said he needed some money,” Shen Yiqing said. “For tuition and food and such……”

          “He called you?” Jiang Cheng was shook.

          He never in a million years thought Li Baoguo would call Shen Yiqing to ask for money. The intense mortification that suddenly overcame him made him struggle for breath.

          “I was thinking, these types of expenses are usually the parents’ responsibility, so I didn’t agree.” Shen Yiqing said. “There’s still money on the card I gave you, right?”

          “Yes.” Jiang Cheng said through gritted teeth.

          “That money is for you. Even though we’re not a family anymore, the sentiment is still there,” Shen Yiqing said. “I hope you hold on to that money.”

          “Got it.” Jiang Cheng took a hard drag on the cigarette.

          “That’s all I wanted to say. I’ll hang up then.” Shen Yiqing said.

          “Mmn.” Jiang Cheng closed his eyes, the smoke that rose up made his eyes sting.

          “But I still want to remind you,” Shen Yiqing suddenly added. “I hope in this new environment, you can see your own faults more clearly; don’t keep thinking that you never got over your rebellious period. Marks don’t actually prove anything, your own character and temper is what ultimately decides how your path……”

          “Don’t you fucking lecture me,” Jiang Cheng opened his eyes, his voice was hoarse. “I’ve heard enough of that. The fact is, your lectures have no effect on someone like me. I’m not my little brother, I’m not on the same frequency as you! It’s always been this way! Everything you say sounds like berating to me, and everything I say sounds like thorns to you! I’m home now, isn’t that enough?!”

          That last sentence came out as a roar.

          After that, he hung up the call and stared at the wall for a long time, then stuffed the phone back in his pocket. He turned and leaned against the wall with his eyes closed, and took several deep breaths before he was able to calm down and open his eyes… 

          … And saw Gu Fei standing two steps away from him holding a large platter of fruit. 

          He stared at Gu Fei, not sure of what to say.

          “Want some?” Gu Fei offered him the plate. “I just got it from the server.”

          Jiang Cheng grabbed a slice of watermelon, “You’ll get brain damage from eating off-season fruits.”

          “Yet you’re eating it anyway?” Gu Fei put the platter on a side table nearby and also picked up a slice.

          “I’m too smart,” Jiang Cheng said. “Gotta eat some of these to get closer to the average, I’m striving to be on the same level as my real dad Li Baoguo.”

          “Li Baoguo’s not that dumb, he’s pretty good at counting cards.” Gu Fei laughed.

          “Pretty good at asking for money too.” Jiang Cheng said, then felt dejected all over again. He felt the outburst he had just unleashed on Shen Yiqing become hollow and baseless due to Li Baoguo’s request for money. He took a bite out of the watermelon forcefully. “Fuck.”

          “You always eat watermelons with the peel?” Gu Fei looked at him in shock.

          “Shut up!” Jiang Cheng spat out the chewed up watermelon peel into the garbage. “That’s how us city folks do it.”

          “Understood.” Gu Fei chuckled and kept eating.

          Jiang Cheng was a little disheartened at the moment. He felt that his emotions really were erratic; it was quite easily influenced. The bit of good mood accumulated through a relaxed and jovial evening had gone down the drain, all because of one phone call. 

          He didn’t even feel like going back to their dining room right now, since all those people who had made him feel happy just moments before, could now become the source of his irritation.

          Gu Fei didn’t say anything else, but didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get back either. The two of them simply stood by a little table in the hallway, working their way through the fruit platter.

          Watermelon, orange, cherry tomatoes…… With a stomach full of various meats, this was the perfect antidote to the greasy food.

          It was not until they finished the entire platter of fruits, that he looked up and exchanged a look with Gu Fei.

          “Ah… we ate all of Queen Miao-miao’s fruits.” Jiang Cheng wiped his mouth.

          “Mhm, I’ll go get her another plate in a minute.” Gu Fei said.

          “Did you happen to overhear another epic secret just now?” Jiang Cheng looked at him, the feverish feeling in his body caused by the alcohol and the indoor heat was slowly being balanced out by the coolness of the fruits.

          “Doesn’t really count as some huge secret,” Gu Fei said. “I already knew that your adoption was reversed…… Was that… your adopted mom just now?”

          “Yeah,” Jiang Cheng nodded, he slowly traced musical notes in the empty platter with his finger. “Li Baoguo asked her for money.”

          Gu Fei arched his eyebrows in surprise, but didn’t say anything.

          “Gu Fei,” Jiang Cheng wiped away the musical notes. “You must’ve had times when you’re really troubled, right? How did you deal with it? The way you’re so nonchalant and carefree all the time, it doesn’t seem like an act.”

          “Alcohol and a good night’s sleep.” Gu Fei said.

          “Really,” Jiang Cheng furrowed his brows. “Does it work?”

          “Nope.” Gu Fei said.

          “You playing with me?” Jiang Cheng glared at him.

          “How else could I manage? It’s no big deal once you’re used to it.” Gu Fei said. “There are way too many things to worry about, I can’t afford to be so bothered with every little thing.”

          The two of them were still standing in the corridor, staring at the empty platter together, and it didn’t seem like either of them planned on moving any time soon.    

          After a while, Jiang Cheng heard the sound of a skateboard against floor tiles.

          “Mm?” Gu Fei turned around.

          “Gu Miao?” Jiang Cheng looked up to see Gu Miao rolling out of the room holding their jackets and backpacks. 

          “Hey! Miao-miao, slow down, your brother……” Wang Xu ran out the room in a panic, and chased after her, jacket in hand. He let out a breath of relief when he saw Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng standing in the hallway. “Shit! I thought you two eloped together! Come on let’s go, let’s go!”

          “We’re done?” Gu Fei asked.

          “What? No,” Wang Xu said as he put on his jacket. “We’re moving places! Let’s go sing!”

          “I’m not going.” Jiang Cheng quickly said in a low voice.

          Gu Fei glanced back at him, then turned and nodded at Wang Xu, “Sure, let’s go.”

          Everyone had come out from the room now, it was loud and bustling again.

          Coming out of the restaurant, they all immediately headed across the street. Judging by the familiar way Wang Xu was leading the way, he probably picked this spot as well.

          Jiang Cheng walked at the very back. When everyone had crossed over, he noticed Gu Fei still standing on the side of the road with Gu Miao.

          “What’s wrong?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Didn’t you say you weren’t going?” Gu Fei said.

          “…… I did say I’m not going,” Jiang Cheng was surprised. “But you can go if you want, no need to keep me company.”

          “Nah, I gotta get Er-Miao home for bed anyway.” Gu Fei ruffled Gu Miao’s hair. “If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t even come for dinner today.”

          “Why not?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “There’s no point,” Gu Fei stretched and pushed his bike toward a taxi parked on the side. “Let’s go, Cheng-ge.”

          Gu Miao was already sleepy, so Gu Fei didn’t let her skate back on her board. He stuffed the bicycle in the trunk, and they took the taxi back.                     

          “Are you…” Jiang Cheng hesitated for almost the whole way, until he saw the street sign at the intersection, did he manage to ask, “Are you gonna head straight home?”

          “Where do you want to go?” Gu Fei asked.

          “I’m not sure,” Jiang Cheng rubbed his forehead. “I just don’t want to go back to Li Baoguo’s place.”

          “Mnn.” Gu Fei answered.

          When the taxi stopped in front of Gu Fei’s shop, Jiang Cheng saw that the lights were still on inside. He got out of the car, and saw Gu Fei’s mom inside. All this time, and it was the first time he saw her in the shop past 9 pm. 

          “Wait for me here.” Gu Fei said.

          “Oh.” Jiang Cheng watched as he took Gu Miao into the shop, handed her to his mom, then circled the shelves a few times. When he came back out he was holding a large plastic bag filled with various items.

          “What are these?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Snacks; peanuts and jerky and stuff.” Gu Fei answered as he turned and walked ahead.

          “Where are we going?” Jiang Cheng caught up and walked side by side with him.

          “The Steel Works.” Gu Fei glanced at him. “I thought you didn’t want to go back?”

          Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything, only gave him a thumbs up.

          It appeared that someone had dropped by their room in the Steel Works recently, and cleaned it up pretty well too. Even the sheet that covered the legless sofa was changed for a fresh one.

          “Li Yan sure is nice and domestic,” Gu Fei tossed the bag of stuff onto the table and started to make a fire in the firepit in the centre of the room. “Pretty much everything in this room was sorted by him.”

          “He doesn’t look domestic at all.” Jiang Cheng collapsed on the couch and let out a long breath; for some reason, he already felt much better. “What did you bring to eat? Let me see.”

          Gu Fei set the bag next to him.

          Other than all sorts of flavoured peanuts, there was also a bunch of beef jerky, some chicken breasts and fish filet, even sausages and instant noodles; these things filled up the whole bag. Jiang Cheng chuckled, “This setup is enough for us to drink until morning.”

          “You’re down for more drinking?” Gu Fei turned around. 

          “Don’t be prejudiced against us southerners,” Jiang Cheng opened a bag of salted peanuts and put one in his mouth, chewing on it slowly. “We southerners are just slow drinkers, especially a fashionable southern city-dweller like me, we’re even slower drinkers……”

          Gu Fei started to laugh, “I’ll check if there’s still alcohol here.”

          “If not, just go back and get some from the shop.” Jiang Cheng pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

          “Yes, boss.” Gu Fei picked up the cardboard boxes by the wall, and after going through them, brought out two bottles of baijiu. “Hongxing erguotou [1], these guys changed their tastes recently.”

          “Either way it’s erguotou, country boy.” Jiang Cheng said with the cigarette still in his mouth, and stretched out his legs. 

          “Should I pour it out for you too?” Gu Fei looked at him.                    

          “Yeah,” Jiang Cheng said. “I’m not in the mood to move.”

          “You better engrave this moment into your memory, Cheng-ge.” Gu Fei kicked the side table to Jiang Cheng’s side, poured out the alcohol, and set it in front of him. Then he got some disposable plates and dumped all the snacks out. “Other than Er-Miao, I’ve never taken care of someone like this.”

          “Weren’t you pretty accommodating when we ate barbeque here last time?” Jiang Cheng grinned.

          “Then start the memory from last time.” Gu Fei sat down beside him.

          “Oh,” Jiang Cheng picked up the cup and took a sip. “Really?”

          “Really.” Gu Fei picked up a hunk of beef jerky and tore at it slowly.

          “No way, you’ve never had a girl… boy… boyfriend or girlfriend or something?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “None.” Gu Fei said.

          “…… Oh.” Jiang Cheng turned to look at him.

          He held a moment of silence in his mind for their conversation, which had suffered a premature death due to his impromptu and inherently awkward question.


Footnotes:

[1] Hongxing (红星): one of the most common brands of erguotou, but since this is northern China, the guys were probably used to drinking Niulanshan (mentioned in last chapter)

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 5753
  • TL word count: 3943
  • TL time: 3:52:12
  • Edit: 0:55:56
  • Curse words: 2x fucks, 1x shit

TL’s Notes

SQUEEEE~ THE HAND, here’s a sketch I made to accompany the meal ( ꈍᴗꈍ)

Nothing else to say except it’s a more funny/bantery chapter in typical Wuzhe fashion, I just hope that I got the tone across properly orz

2020/08/04: updated for some grammar and tone edits