“From now on I’m just a fucking orphan.”


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

          Holding this new version of the self-admonition letter that Jiang Cheng had just handed him, Gu Fei unfolded it and made double sure that the name written on it was Gu Fei, and not Wang Xu or some other random person. Only then did he start reading it out loud, “I am Gu Fei of Year-2 Class-8. As a member of Fourth High, I did repel…… repeatedly go against the…… something set in place… rules set in place…… Tender… tardiness is…. a serious affect… offence, whereas driving over the fences… climbing over the fences after being late is even noic… worse……”

          Jiang Cheng had written large enough, but that didn’t take away from the sheer grotesquery of his handwriting. It was quite hideous really. Gu Fei struggled along the text, as sounds of suppressed laughter continued to emanate from the audience.

          “In this key… moment, only half a semester away from year three of high school,” Gu Fei stared at the page, unsure of what was so key about entering year three. “I will make sure to change the error of my ways, abide by the rules of the school. I will not arrive late or leave early, will not… will not climb fences and step on… branches……”

          What the hell did branches have to do with anything!

          He finally let out a breath of relief as he arrived at the last line, “Sincerely signed, Gu Fei.”

          “Gu Fei, go stand there on the side. Next up,” The teacher on duty scanned the row of students on the stage. “Jiang Cheng!”

          Another round of applause sounded from below. The teacher was so furious her face turned green, she pointed at the students below, “Who wants to come up here and recite with him? I’ll give you this chance!”

          Jiang Cheng stood in front of the microphone and pulled out his copy of the self-admonition. He flipped it to the second page and glanced briefly at the writing, then folded the pages back up and put it in his pocket.

          “I am Jiang Cheng of Year-2 Class-8.” He looked out at the audience. “Last week, due to a small squabble, I got into a fight with……”

          Jiang Cheng stared at the audience in silence for two whole seconds, then turned to the row of people behind him, “What’s that guy’s name again?”

          He didn’t manage to keep his voice down for this question, but neither did the audience with their bursts of laughter.

          “The fuck?” Wang Xu was astonished, and quickly told him. “It’s Luo Yi!”

          “I got into a fight with my fellow student, Luo Yi of Class-5.” Jiang Cheng turned back and continued calmly. “This sort of behaviour seriously violated the rules of this school, and is not conducive to the promotion of teamwork and unity among my fellow students and classrooms. As the one who started the fight, I did not provide my classmate Luo Yi an opportunity to apologize and explain, but instead created a conflict between the two classrooms. This led to a very unfortunate outcome. In the past few days, I have conducted an intensive reflection of my own impulsive behaviour. Violence is never the answer……”

          Watching Jiang Cheng’s back, Gu Fei was thoroughly and profoundly impressed by this overachiever who refused to pass over any opportunity to show off, even when reciting a self-admonition. Not to mention throughout the letter, he not only admitted to his own wrongdoings, but managed to push a majority of the blame of instigation onto Luo Yi.

          Though while he was listening, Gu Fei finally realized why Jiang Cheng didn’t look so well this morning. He seemed to have caught a cold; when he spoke his voice sounded stuffy.

          “Fuck me,” Wang Xu mumbled quietly beside him. “What the hell is this guy trying to do, damned if he’s not more of a showoff than I am. Even with something like this……”

          “You can only admit defeat.” Guo Xu said with his head down. “Just this right here. Forget about the writing, there’s no way I can even memorize the whole thing.”

          “I will continue to seriously reflect on myself, work on amending my past mistakes, promote unity among my classmates, and learn to control my impulses……” And so Jiang Cheng finished reciting the entire self-admonition without so much as a stutter. “Sincerely signed, Jiang Cheng.”

          He gave a little bow, then turned and joined back in the rank of his gaping classmates.

          Next up was Wang Xu. He took out a crumpled ball of paper from his pocket, opened it up, and started reading from it with a booming exuberance, “My dear teachers and fellow students, GOOD MORNING! On this WARM Spring day where the flowers are BLOOMING, on this GLORIOUS day when Spring has returned to the world! I’ve committed a grave sin……”

          Gu Fei let out a big sigh, and was barely able to hold in his laughter. He quickly put his head down.

          “Without context, you’d probably think he’s committed some kind of Spring-related sin…..” Jiang Cheng said quietly.

          Their entire row immediately started shaking with laughter.

          The principal cleared his throat behind them, and after much effort, they finally managed to stop laughing out loud.

          “I can’t believe you memorized your letter?” Gu Fei turned his head slightly and glanced at Jiang Cheng.

          “I didn’t,” Jiang Cheng answered in a low voice. “I didn’t think we would go so close together. The two copies I wrote were almost exactly identical, what with admitting past mistakes and all that. It would’ve been too obvious……”

          “What the fuck,” Guo Xu was stunned. “So that was you winging it on the spot?”

          “It’s called going off script.” Jiang Cheng corrected him.

          “…… Oh.” Guo Xu’s face was still a picture of amazement.

          After Class-8, it was Class-5’s turn to read their letters of admonition out loud.

          Each of them stammered through it with great difficulty, tripping over every other word. They took up so much time that by the time it was all done, the principal didn’t even want to bother wrapping up, and ended up dismissing them directly.

          When they got back to their classrooms, everyone gathered around Jiang Cheng to pay their regards.

          “Now you’ve really made a name for yourself,” Zhou Jing gave him a thumbs up. “Jiang Cheng, you’re really……”

          “Shut up.” Jiang Cheng said as he turned away and sneezed.

          “Did you catch a cold?” Gu Fei asked.

          “Mhm.” Jiang Cheng nodded, then pulled out a mask and put it on.

          Perhaps it was the sudden realization that the cold might very well have been because they spent that one night together under one comforter, in that room where the window was open and the fire was out…… 

          The conversation abruptly came to an awkward halt.

          It was only after class started, that Gu Fei continued, “Didn’t I tell you to wait for me and come to school together?”

          “…… I forgot.” Jiang Cheng was slumped forward on the desk with his eyes half closed.

          “Let’s leave together after school.” Gu Fei said.

          “Mmn.” Jiang Cheng mumbled in reply.

          Gu Fei didn’t say anything more. He saw that Jiang Cheng probably wasn’t feeling too well, so he lowered his head down and continued playing with his phone.

          When class ended, he set his phone down and glanced toward Jiang Cheng. Jiang Cheng had fallen asleep on the desk with his mask still on, looking like he was in deep slumber too.

          “Gu Fei,” Lao-Xu called out to him when he passed by their classroom after finishing up a lecture next door. “Come here for a sec.”

          Gu Fei gazed back at Lao-Xu and sat there unmoving.

          “I have to talk to you about something,” Lao-Xu beckoned him. “Come here!”

          Gu Fei put his phone away in resignation and slowly walked out of the classroom, following behind Lao-Xu.

          After walking down the stairs, Lao-Xu turned straight for the direction of the staff washroom. Gu Fei stopped, “How about we talk first and then you can go to the washroom?”

          “Not into the washroom,” Lao-Xu said. “There’s less people over there.”

          Looking at Lao-Xu’s expression of ‘this is a big secret’, Gu Fei had no choice but to follow him and sat down on a stone bench outside the washroom.

          “I want to ask you a few questions, but you have to keep it a secret.” Lao-Xu said.

          “If it doesn’t have to do with me then you can save it; I don’t want to meddle in other people’s business, and I don’t want to keep anyone’s secrets.” Gu Fei reached for his pocket out of habit, but took one look at Lao-Xu and stopped. 

          “Ayy… go ahead and smoke, just don’t let the Guidance Director see you, otherwise I’ll have to write a letter of admonition too.” Lao-Xu sighed, then continued speaking after the cigarette was lit. “It’s true this doesn’t have to do with you, but it has to do with Jiang Cheng. I’ve noticed that you two are pretty friendly with each other… so I want to talk this over with you.”

          Gu Fei kept his head down for a while, then finally asked, with the cigarette still in his mouth, “What do you want to talk about?”

          “Did you know that Jiang Cheng ran away from home?” Lao-Xu asked.

          “Huh?” Gu Fei looked up in surprise.

          “Ayy, you don’t know either?” Lao-Xu let out a heavy sigh. “His father came to me.”

          “Ah, Li Baoguo?” Gu Fei said. “He came to the school?”

          “No, he called.” Lao-Xu said. “He knew me from before. His eldest son Li Hui, he used to be my student too.”

          “Oh.” Gu Fei replied.

          Ran away from home?

          Lao-Xu said quietly, “Lao-Li didn’t say why Jiang Cheng ran away either, only said that there was conflict, and that Jiang Cheng just wanted to rile him up……”

          “You can’t trust what that man says.” Gu Fei said.

          “That’s why I came to ask you. If I went to Jiang Cheng directly, judging by his temperament, he’d never say.” Lao-Xu’s face was full of worry. “Such an exceptional kid like him, if these things aren’t dealt with properly, it would surely affect his studies.”

          “I don’t know, he didn’t mention it to me.” Gu Fei said, but Lao-Xu stared at him with an expression of disbelief. He extinguished the cigarette. “I can’t help it if you don’t believe me.”

          “OK fine, ayy…” Lao-Xu shook his head. “Don’t go asking him about it either. I’ll talk to Lao-Li again to find out what exactly happened. Tomorrow is the midterm exams, we’ll deal with it after that.”

          Gu Fei didn’t say anything more, just stood up and headed back to class.

          Jiang Cheng had been lethargic all morning. After getting some cold medicine from the nursing station, he came back and went right to sleep on the desk, all the way until noon when class ended.

          Gu Fei had to give him several nudges to get him to wake up, “Hey, it’s time to go.”

          “Oh,” Jiang Cheng opened his eyes and said with a stuffy voice. “I’m not going home for lunch, you… go on by yourself.”

          “Not gonna eat either?” Gu Fei asked.

          “I’ve got no appetite, don’t feel like eating.” Jiang Cheng closed his eyes again.

          “Alrighty.” Gu Fei didn’t say anything else. He walked out of the classroom while still playing with his phone.

          As soon as he walked out of the front gates, he spotted the small cluster of people squatting by the side of the streets across from him. There was a motorcycle beside them, and on it sat Jiang Bin.

          Gu Fei didn’t pay them any attention. He kept walking as he started composing a text message to Jiang Cheng.

– Jiang Bin is here, don’t come out

          Before he sent it, he went back and changed the ‘Jiang Bin’ to ‘wild boar head’. Jiang Cheng already had trouble remembering people, and now that he was all groggy from the cold, odds were he wouldn’t remember who the hell Jiang Bin was.

          Jiang Cheng’s reply came surprisingly fast.

– Are they bothering you

                 – Nah

          Jiang Cheng stopped replying. Gu Fei figured he likely fell asleep.

          When Gu Fei got on his bicycle, Jiang Bin also started his motorcycle and parked it right in front of him, blocking his way.

          Wang Xu and the others were also fetching their bikes at the same time. When they saw this, they immediately stopped what they were doing and collectively directed their stares in this direction.

          “Got a minute?” Jiang Bin asked.

          “You want something?” Gu Fei rested one foot on the ground.

          “It’s been a while since we played ball together,” Jiang Bin said. “How about a game some time?”

          “We’ll see,” Gu Fei said. “I have exams tomorrow.”

          “Aiyoo,” Jiang Bin put on an expression of exaggerated amazement. “The famous Gu Fei has to do exams?”

          This was followed by a smattering of laughter.

          “We’ll see after the exams.” Gu Fei didn’t pay any heed to the laughter.

          “Fine,” Jiang Bin pointed at him. “I’ll give you that. After your exams I’ll come find you.”

          Gu Fei made a sound of agreement.

          “And bring that Jiang Cheng guy along too.” Jiang Bin said.

          “That, I can’t guarantee.” Gu Fei said.

          “Fuck,” Jiang Bin spat on the ground. “I said, bring him with you.”

          “Don’t get cross with me,” Gu Fei gave him a look, and said steadily. “If you want to pick a fight with me, get your cousin to come with you.”

          “Gu Fei,” Jiang Bin revved the engine on his motorcycle. “I’m not my cousin, I don’t have the kind of rapport with you that he has……”

          “Your cousin doesn’t have that kind of rapport with me either.” Gu Fei interrupted him. “If you want to play ball, come find me after the exams. If you want to get Jiang Cheng, then call up your cousin.”

          After he said this, Gu Fei stepped on the pedal, and squeezed by from beside him.

          Wang Xu and the others immediately caught up to him on their bikes, “What’s going on? Are they here to bother you?”

          “What’s it to you,” Gu Fei said. “If you’re itching for trouble, you can go up to him right now.”

          “Fuck you,” Wang Xu was offended. “This whole thing started because of our game! It’s a matter for our whole team! This is our collective……”

          “Find another use for your collective honour.” Gu Fei stepped hard on the pedal a couple of times and darted forward on his bike. “Go home.”

          When he got back to the store, Gu Miao was playing on her skateboard outside. She didn’t so much as spare him a look as she blew past him like the wind.

          Gu Fei noticed the little girl seemed to have grown taller. The height that had stagnated for a whole year was finally starting to show some changes. Her head was now almost reaching to his waist.

          Li Yan was inside, and so was Liu Fan; Gu Fei guessed that Li Yan probably got bored and dragged him along. The two of them were boiling some water in preparation to make noodles.

          Before he even opened his mouth, he suddenly heard the boom of Li Baoguo’s voice, “Ah Da-Fei, you’re back from school?”

          “Li-shu,” Gu Fei was a little surprised to see Li Baoguo standing there by the shelves. “Here to do some shopping?”

          “He’s come to ask you about Jiang Cheng,” Li Yan said from the side. “Said he ran away from home.”

          Gu Fei hardly knew what to say. He was looking for Jiang Cheng in such a way that even Li Yan knew about it. If Jiang Cheng found out about how Li Baoguo was making such a big fuss, he would probably never agree to go back.

          “Did he go to school today?” Li Baoguo asked in his usual loud voice.

          “I don’t know,” Gu Fei said. “I wasn’t at school today.”

          “Don’t you help him hide from me!” Li Baoguo said in obvious displeasure. “I know you bunch of delinquents all like to cover for one other!”

          “I really didn’t go to school today.” Gu Fei said.

          “That brat. Growing up in the city certainly gave him a big temper! It’s all from being spoiled by those people! Can’t chide and can’t even touch!” Li Baoguo complained loudly. “If he’s wrong, as his father am I not allowed to teach him a lesson! Only a few words and he just ran off. Wouldn’t even acknowledge this father of his anymore! If it weren’t for his old man! Where would he be!”

          “When did he leave?” Gu Fei asked.

          “On Saturday; probably ran off right after having it out with me!” Li Baoguo’s expression was full of anger. “I came back after my card game, and he already took all his stuff and left! Big balls on that kid! If it weren’t for your teacher Xu stopping me at your school, see if his legs aren’t broken right this very second!”

          Gu Fei didn’t say anything else.

          Li Baoguo stood in the middle of the store and had a full-on tantrum with curses and yelling, before finally stomping out, still rambling on as he went.

          “Fuck me,” Liu Fan sat down by the table. “That man really is unbelievable. If it was my dad going around cursing me out like that, I would never go back home ever again.”

          “Isn’t that what Li Hui is doing now, not going home.” Gu Fei sat down as well. “Oh yeah, in a couple days after my exams, let’s go play some ball.”

          “Basketball? At your school?” Li Yan asked. “You guys are pulling for external support too?”

          “No,” Gu Fei said. “Jiang Bin’s asking.”

          Liu Fan leaned back against the chair and started laughing. It was a long time before he was finally able to stop, “That dickwad, where did he get the face to issue this challenge?”

          “Why not,” Li Yan’s expression was a picture of nonchalance. “We hardly ever get a chance to beat them on the court anyway, this time we’ll just take the loss so they can recover some ego.”

          “He specifically asked for Jiang Cheng to go too.” Gu Fei said.

          Li Yan froze for a moment, “That sounds like more than just basketball then.”

          “Mhm.” Gu Fei nodded.

          “Are you planning to take this on for him?” Li Yan asked.

          “What do you mean ‘take this on for him’,” Gu Fei said. “Jiang Bin counted me in there too.”

          “Let’s all go together then.” Liu Fan stretched lazily. “It’s been a while anyway since I last exercised……”

          When Gu Fei arrived at school in the afternoon, class hadn’t started yet. Jiang Cheng still wore a mask, and was hunched over the desk playing with his phone, looking half dead.

          When he sat down, Jiang Cheng finally lifted his gaze in surprise, “I thought you weren’t coming back.”

          “There’s nowhere to go,” Gu Fei said, and looked him over again. “Should you go get an IV drip or something for your cold?”

          “No need,” Jiang Cheng said. “It’s not that serious. I’m just drowsy is all; I didn’t sleep very well last night.”

          “Ah.” Gu Fei didn’t know what else to say. He wanted to mention that Li Baoguo went looking for him, but thought that it probably wasn’t the best time to mention it. And after a long stretch of silence, he decided to extend the silence even further.

          The afternoon’s self-study period had been cancelled and replaced; the teachers of various different subjects used it as last minute battle grounds to highlight key concepts for the upcoming exams.

          Gu Fei already found regular lectures to be tedious, not to mention this endless highlighting of key concepts. He put headphones in and listened to music as he started aimlessly browsing around on his phone.

          There was already a post in the forum regarding the debacle of the big name switcheroo from this morning. It had been bumped to the top as the hottest trending post, and had even been starred.

          <Rational Diskhorse, has my OTP been made officially canon by their IRLs?>

          Gu Fei tapped into it and skimmed through. The flurry of excited memes, hearts, keyboard smashing, and all the people exploding on the spot accompanied by exclamation marks made him laugh. He couldn’t tell who everyone was, but could guess that there were members from the school reporters club. There were quite a few of them running around with cameras during the game.

          He even found an account that looked suspiciously like Wang Xu’s: ‘CaptainXu’. It was probably a newly registered side account. Looking at this name, he probably looked through a Chinese to English dictionary quite diligently in order to find this word…… 

          Five seconds before the last bell, the math teacher barged into the classroom, “I’ve got a mock test here…..”

          A string of drawn out complaints resounded through the room. Most people simply ignored what the teacher had to say and streamed out in a hurry.

          “You coming?” Gu Fei asked Jiang Cheng.

          “Mhm.” Jiang Cheng stood up and walked over to pick up a mock test from the math teacher first.

          “Such a model student.” Gu Fei went to pick one up as well.

          “And what are you doing with this?” The math teacher looked at him.

          “You’re just giving it out anyways.” Gu Fei folded the pages up and stuck it in the pocket of his pants.

          When Jiang Cheng got to the bottom of the stairs, he headed first to the sink to wash his face, then switched on a new mask, “You… do you have time?”

          “Why?” Gu Fei asked.

          “That bike store you mentioned,” Jiang Cheng said. “Can you take me there? I can’t be bothered to walk, I’ve been dying from congestion the whole day.”

          “Sure.” Gu Fei nodded.

         Jiang Bin wasn’t waiting for them at the school gates, and neither was Monkey. Though Gu Fei was fully conscious of the fact that Monkey would no doubt stick his nose into this matter. Despite his less than chummy relationship with his cousin, when all was said and done, Monkey was still the top dog around these parts. He was different from the likes of Wang Xu, who was still struggling on the path of the class-leader-wannabe. Monkey had a reputation to protect. 

          Not to mention, Monkey had barely tolerated him for a long time. Every time he claimed to do him a favour, who knew just how much he was seething inside. Even if it wasn’t for Jiang Bin, this was bound to blow up at some point.

          Though if they really insisted on dragging Jiang Cheng into it, that was something he could not accept. Jiang Cheng was different from all the rest of these people. Just from that off-script incident alone, he wasn’t someone who should be stuck in this place. And even more so, not someone who should be stuck here and be plagued with trouble. 

          “Hey, I forgot to ask you.” Jiang Cheng was sitting on the backseat of the bike. “Is that place expensive? I can probably only afford something under 500 bucks.”

          “Mr. City-man,” Gu Fei turned his head slightly. “The most expensive bike they have is probably no more than 350 bucks.”

          “…… Oh,” Was Jiang Cheng’s reply. Then after a moment he clucked his tongue. “Wouldn’t it be extremely ugly then.”

          Gu Fei squeezed the brake and kept one hand on the handle, while his whole upper body twisted around in an effort to shoot a glare at Jiang Cheng.

          “I’m… just saying.” Jiang Cheng said.

          Jiang Cheng wasn’t actually too picky about his bike. He didn’t buy the most expensive 400 yuan model either, but ended up choosing one that was priced at 250 yuan. He even used the excuse that 250 sounded terrible to haggle the price down to 220 yuan. [1]

          Gu Fei figured it was likely that Jiang Cheng really didn’t plan on going back to Li Baoguo’s place again. The way he was prudent with money now was a noticeable change from before.

          “How is it?” Gu Fei watched as he rode back and forth a few times on the sidewalk.

          “Not bad.” Jiang Cheng nodded. “Only thing is that it’s too ugly.”

          “Hurry up and pay so we can go.” Gu Fei said in resignation.

          After Jiang Cheng paid for the bike, the two of them pedaled back leisurely toward the direction of home.

          When they were almost at the intersection, Jiang Cheng turned to Gu Fei, as if he had just made up his mind, “I’m not living with Li Baoguo anymore.”

          “Why not?” Gu Fei asked.

          “I’m not sure how to explain.” Jiang Cheng sighed. “I’ll drop by your store in a bit to buy some stuff.”

          “Daily necessities?” Gu Fei watched him. “Where are you staying now?”

          “It’s not too far.” Jiang Cheng said. “I heard about this place from the owner of that inn I stayed at last time. It’s a side lane just a little further down from your street……”

          “The towel factory dorms?” Gu Fei asked.

          “Not sure, though the state of the building is pretty comparable to the one Li Baoguo lives in. There’s one bedroom, and the rent is pretty cheap.” Jiang Cheng said.

          “What do you plan to do from now on?” Gu Fei asked.

          “I hadn’t thought about it.” Jiang Cheng turned and sneezed, then said sniffling. “Either way I’m not going back there again. I’m nobody’s son. From now on I’m just a fucking orphan.”

          Gu Fei didn’t reply.

          The two of them rode forward in silence for a while, then Gu Fei said, “Orphan boy, how about I buy you dinner later.”

          “Sure.” Jiang Cheng showed a little smile.

          “Let’s go somewhere near the towel factory dorms.” Gu Fei said. “On the way there I’ll show you the places where you can go to buy stuff.”

          “Alright.” Jiang Cheng nodded.

          When Gu Fei turned to look at him, he tugged on his mask and hastily turned his face away.


Footnotes:

[1] Two hundred and fifty = erbaiwu = slang for someone who’s a dumbass

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 6011
  • TL word count: 4374
  • TL time: 6:56:25
  • Edit: 1:49:33
  • Curse words: 7x fucks, 1x dickwad (•‿•)

TL’s Notes

Thanks to everyone who left comments ( ̄∇ ̄) , pls let me know if there’s any mistakes or typos orz

Edit 2: done