“If this isn’t you, I will start livestreaming a shit-eating mukbang right this second.”


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

         When Gu Fei got back to the classroom, the bell had already rung. As he sat down in his seat, Jiang Cheng was half folded over his desk, peering at him.

          “There’s no surprise, as expected.” Gu Fei said. “First place.”

          “You really went and asked?” Jiang Cheng was a little baffled.

          “Yeah,” Gu Fei nodded. “Very calmly.”

          Jiang Cheng started to laugh and didn’t reply.

          “But I didn’t ask how much the total was,” Gu Fei said. “We can add it up after it’s published today, I feel like……”

          He looked up and glanced in Yi Jing’s direction, “Her highness the class leader might be pretty far off.”

          “Is she second place?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Mhm,” Gu Fei said. “She tends to be either first or second place, but has never gotten a perfect score. She’s our genius overachiever of Fourth High, but she’s no match against someone like you from a key high school in the big city.”

          Jiang Cheng didn’t reply.

          Pan Zhi had just sent him an email and attached the scanned test papers from their midterm exams this year. He had briefly skimmed over the English test, the difficulty of which was not just a one or two levels higher than that from Fourth High. He suddenly felt a little uneasy, and made a mental note to work through this set of tests after school to see where he was at.

          – My mom agreed to let me visit you for May 1st, prepare to receive me [1]

          Pan Zhi had sent him another message.

          – OK, you don’t have to stay at a hotel this time, I’ve moved out

          – Fucking what? What’s going on

          – I’ll explain in person

          – Alright then, Lao-Yuan wrote a letter to you, I’ll bring it with me

          – ……

          – He just sighs whenever he mentions you

          Jiang Cheng put the phone back in his pocket, and somehow felt like sighing too.

          Lao-Yuan was his old head teacher, a pretty good guy too. He wasn’t in the best of moods when he left, so he never went to say goodbye to Lao-Yuan, and never contacted him again either.

          Aside from Pan Zhi, he hadn’t felt like contacting any of his family, teachers, old classmates, or friends. He was afraid of being asked how he was, afraid of hearing words of sympathy, and afraid of recalling the past through these people.

          During the last period of the morning, there was a small commotion in the classroom. There were still two subjects that haven’t revealed the scores because they didn’t get to have the classes yet, but somebody already got their hands on the total score.

          “The fuck?” Zhou Jing clutched his phone and turned around. “Jiang Cheng, Jiang Cheng, Jiang……”

          “Have you really never gotten beat up before for being a repetitive machine?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.

          “Have you guys checked the forum?!” Zhou Jing peered at him, then glanced at Gu Fei, then moved his gaze back to his face. “Someone made a post, you’re the top of our year!”

          Zhou Jing’s deskmate also turned around, “Your total score is upward of 680! That’s almost 100 points higher than Yi Jing! She’s 599!”

          “Fuck yeah! 686!” Zhou Jing’s eyes were practically coming out of his face. “I don’t think there’s ever been such a high total score in the history of the Fourth High! Fuck yeah Jiang Cheng, you really are the man!”

          Jiang Cheng was a little surprised himself. In the past he’d simply been in the top ten of his year, with some occasional shifting up or down. If he fell out of the top five, Lao-Yuan would call him in for a talking-to. He had gotten first place before too, but never with such a big gap from the second place……

          This news didn’t excite him, but rather made him a little anxious. Judging by the current circumstances, it wouldn’t be hard to take first place in every test thereafter, but exactly how much was this first place worth?

          Though when school let out at lunch time, and Wang Xu and the others gathered around him eagerly as if they were the ones who got top of their year with a gap of more than 80 points from the second place, Jiang Cheng had no energy to spare to worry.

          The group of them first squeezed to the front of the crowd that was gathered around the bulletin board, where the red notice list was posted. The first and second place of their year were both from Class-8. These were all slacker students, but even slacker students were proud of this achievement. After all, they were slacker students with a sense of collective honour.

          “I think this is still not scientific enough,” Guo Xu said. “They should post up the total scores too. Just the placements aren’t enough to demonstrate Jiang Cheng’s epicness.”

          “I think it’s enough,” Wang Xu quickly said. “We don’t have to step on the second place to cheer for the first.”

          “Right,” Lu Xiaobin said. “After all, the second place is Yi Jing.”

          Wang Xu gave him a deathly glare, but didn’t say anything.

          After they finished ogling at the notice, they walked out of the school gates together. In a few days was the final game of the basketball tournament, Wang Xu wanted to drag them to practice some more in the nearby technical college.

          “Damn, who posted this?” Wang Xu stared at his phone while walking. “This was taken in the staff office, Lao-Xu hadn’t even finished writing the red notice when this photo was taken……”

          “I wonder who it was that passed by,” Guo Xu said. “I don’t believe for a second that it’s just an accident. So many girls have their eyes on Jiang Cheng right now, it must’ve been an intentional visit.”

          “But this username can’t possibly be a girl,” One of their substitute players chimed in. “Could it be an enemy trying to stir up trouble?”

Jiang Cheng stared at this substitute for almost two minutes before remembering his name was Zhang Yuan.

          Zhang Yuan’s words piqued his curiosity. He finally couldn’t resist, and also pulled out his phone to open up the Fourth High forums.

          At first glance, he noticed the ‘hot’ post at the very top of the page… What the fuck is this “officesecretcam”? Not to mention the “.avi”?

          Before he even opened up the thread, he swept his gaze over the poster’s username, and immediately swung his head around to stare at Gu Fei, who was walking at the very back of the group.

          “Hmm?” Gu Fei looked at him with an absolutely stoic expression.

          “This is your fucking side account isn’t it? Mr. Freestyle_Handsome?” Jiang Cheng asked in a low voice.

          “Who?” Gu Fei’s face was a picture of innocent confusion.

          “Hotness_Overload,” Jiang Cheng was thoroughly impressed with Gu Fei’s naming skills. “If this isn’t you, I will start livestreaming a shit-eating mukbang right this second.”

          “Don’t,” Gu Fei laughed. “For the sake of you not having to eat shit, even if it isn’t me, I’ll have to admit it’s me.”

          “It fucking has to be you.” Jiang Cheng looked again at the time the photo was posted. “After the first period, you went to talk to Lao-Xu. Did you even come out of the office when you posted this?”

          “I did.” Gu Fei said.

          “What…” Jiang Cheng found the whole thing very hard to comprehend. “I mean, what are you doing this for?”

          “Just showing off,” Gu Fei said quietly, looking at the group walking in front of them. “It’s not like I have much to show off normally, so I’m seizing this opportunity to show off my desk-mate.”

          Jiang Cheng stared at him without a word.

          For some reason, when Gu Fei said show off his desk-mate, the phrase was extremely satisfying to his ears; it came with a faint sense of intimacy.

          It wasn’t very far to the technical college from their school. They grabbed something to eat on the way, and used the rest of the distance to walk it off.

          Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei stayed at the back of the group the entire time, neither of them speaking. They watched the group of people in front of them, who were all excited and relaxed now that the exams were over and who all got not-so-bad scores because of Jiang Cheng’s answers.

          The days were warmer now, Jiang Cheng wore only a T-shirt with a thin jacket on top. As he walked shoulder to shoulder with Gu Fei, their arms occasionally touched. This accidental contact that all of a sudden became clearer to him was also very enjoyable.

          He couldn’t pinpoint what exactly it was, but simply found it very pleasant.

          Over the length of the street, subconsciously or not, he knocked into Gu Fei’s arm numerous times. He was beginning to think there was something wrong with himself.

          When they got to a turn in the road, Gu Fei all of a sudden knocked against his arm.

          He turned to look at Gu Fei, and found that Gu Fei was also looking at him. Gu Fei then bumped his arm again.

          “What do you want?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “I’m vindictive as hell.” Gu Fei said.

          “But I’m not bumping into you on purpose.” Immediately after he said that, Jiang Cheng felt a sudden wave of embarrassment.

          “I’m doing it on purpose.” Gu Fei smiled, then lifted his arm to bump into him again.

          “You’re still going?” Jiang Cheng felt like laughing, so he returned the bump.

          Gu Fei bumped him right back.

          “Wha…” Jiang Cheng couldn’t help it. “How old are you exactly?”

          “Either way I’m younger than you.” Gu Fei said as he bumped him again.

          “Fuck.” Jiang Cheng was speechless, and jabbed him with an elbow.

         Gu Fei swiftly returned the jab.

          He bumped again.

          Again, Gu Fei returned the bump.

          Are we idiots?

          Dumb?

          Animal feed got into our brains?

          One by one these fly-by comments flitted across Jiang Cheng’s mind, but that didn’t stop his movements. He and Gu Fei continued to bump into each other the whole way there.

          There wasn’t much time at lunch, so they didn’t split into two proper teams for practice, only focused primarily on teamwork. Wang Xu the captain was a slightly more capable leader than before; he could at least perceive everyone’s weaknesses, and when handing out training exercises, did not devolve to giving out random orders.

          “I’ve thought about it a lot over these last couple of days,” Wang Xu said. “I really think we should be mentally prepared. I’ve watched videos of Class-2’s games many times; it might be a little difficult to win against them.”

          “Just giving our all is enough.” Jiang Cheng was crouching by the edge of the court. “At this point, our goal is not to win first place.”

          “What is our goal?” Wang Xu asked.

          “…… To not get cavities.” Jiang Cheng started giggling midway through the sentence. [2]

          Then everyone else started laughing and couldn’t stop.

          “We never thought about getting first place from the start,” Jiang Cheng continued after he finished laughing. “We just wanted to be the dark horse in the race.”

          “That’s right!” Wang Xu waved his hand. “And now we’ve already become the dark horse!”

          Jiang Cheng gave him a thumbs up, “And now, we just need to give our all, and that’s enough. The outcome no longer matters.”

          Gu Fei’s phone rang in his pocket. He tossed out the ball in his hands and landed it in the basket.

          When he pulled his phone out, he was surprised to see Monkey’s name on the call display.

          Just as he had told Jiang Bin, he didn’t have much of a relationship with Monkey. Though he had his number, they didn’t usually contact each other. Now that Monkey had called him directly, he figured this time he really wasn’t going to let it blow over.

          “Hello.” He answered as he walked away to the side.

          “You guys left pretty early today huh,” Monkey’s voice came through the receiver. “We went to the school but missed you there.”

          “What,” Gu Fei frowned. “Are you trying to get our classmates in on it too?”

          “That’s not necessary,” Monkey chuckled, “I don’t usually make trouble with students. I was just coming to invite you and that Jiang Cheng boy over to play. You two have big renown, of course I must go in person.”

          “When.” Gu Fei asked.

          “This afternoon,” Monkey said. “I’ll be waiting for you two at the usual spot. Aside from that Jiang Cheng, it’s up to you to bring whoever you want to help out. Am I being sincere enough?”

          Gu Fei turned and directed a glance toward Jiang Cheng, and saw that Jiang Cheng was looking his way as well.

          “Alright.” Gu Fei said. “Jiang Bin has to be there, I want to get it done in one go today.”

          “No problem.” Monkey said and hung up.

          Gu Fei texted Li Yan a message, telling him to call up the other guys, then set an alarm on his phone. After that he kept his head down and stared at the screen for some time. He only put the phone back in his pocket after the screen had turned dark, then he headed back to the court.

          Wang Xu and the other guys were in full swing with their training, nobody noticed him. All except for Jiang Cheng, who walked over and stood in front of him, “Who was that?”

          “Monkey.” Gu Fei said.

          “It’s arranged?” Jiang Cheng asked.

          “Mhm.” Gu Fei nodded. “It’ll be after our final game.”

          Jiang Cheng considered it briefly, “Who else aside from us two?”

          “Li Yan, Liu Fan, and the other guys.” Gu Fei said. “Our group often played basketball with them, we’re all familiar with their moves.”

          “This actually doesn’t have much to do with you, does it?” Jiang Cheng said after a few seconds of quiet.

          “Doesn’t have much to do with anyone.” Gu Fei crouched down and rested his arms on his knees. “The fact that Class-7 got Jiang Bin to help is already looking for trouble. Since they got him here, the guy can’t possibly take a loss, especially a loss on the court.”

          Jiang Cheng didn’t reply, and after a while also squatted down in front of him, holding his gaze, “If they attempt any more tricks during the game, we’ll just put up with it.”

          “Mmn.” Gu Fei nodded.

          “At most we’ll take a few light injuries,” Jiang Cheng said. “Better than to have it go on and on.”

          “Mmn.” Gu Fei continued nodding.

          “I’m finding it a little off that you’re being so obliging?” Jiang Cheng stared at his face.

          “I’m just agreeing to everything first.” Gu Fei quirked a smile.

          “Do not take this on for me again.” Jiang Cheng said. “I’m serious, otherwise there’s no end to it.”

          “Got it.” Gu Fei nodded.

          Neither of them spoke, just looked at each other in silence for a moment.

Gu Fei felt something flying at him from one side, and right after, heard Wang Xu’s shouts.

          A ball. One had to wonder what kind of move it would require to pass the ball to this corner of the court, where there was obviously no one to receive it. Gu Fei sighed.

          He was about to lift up a hand to block it, but Jiang Cheng already turned and caught the ball for him.

          “This reflex of yours.” Gu Fei marvelled as he laughed.

          Jiang Cheng passed the ball back to Wang Xu, then stood up and clapped his hands together as he got ready to join their practice. After a few steps he paused again, and turned to look at Gu Fei, “Don’t you go by yourself.”

          “I know I know.” Gu Fei waved his hand somewhat exasperatedly.

          They spent the whole lunchtime practicing, and still felt the urge to keep going even when the time was up.

          “I do think basketball is quite fun.” Zhang Yuan said. He was only a substitute player, but over the course of this tournament and the two instances when he actually played, he still grew to become very excited about the game.

          “After the tournament we can still play on our own. We can get in some practice on the side, then compete again next semester.” Wang Xu slung his jacket over his shoulder, and said with a flourish.

          Everyone nodded in agreement.

          “You can also take some time to teach the girls too,” Jiang Cheng said. “This way they won’t just come out for a one-day walking tour next time.”

         “That’s right!” Wang Xu’s eyes suddenly brightened. “I think Yi Jing and the others rather liked playing, they just don’t have anyone to teach them……”

          When they almost reached the school gates, Gu Fei’s cell phone rang. He answered, “What is it? Oh…… I forgot, now is good, I’ll head back right now.”

          “What is it?” Jiang Cheng asked immediately.

          “I have to take Er-Miao to get her physical examination this afternoon. I made an appointment with the doctor a while ago, but forgot.” Gu Fei said quietly. “Cheng-ge, tell Lao-Xu for me will you? Otherwise he’s gonna bombard my phone again with calls.”

          “Mmn.” Jiang Cheng nodded. “Should I tell him the truth?”

          “Tell him the truth.” Gu Fei smiled.

          Gu Fei watched as Jiang Cheng and the other guys walked into the school together, then went to get his bike from the parking shed, and rode back to the convenience store.

          Liu Fan’s crappy little Benben was already parked outside the store. [3]

          He opened the car door and peered inside, “Is this car even operational?”

          There were four people squeezed into the backseat. Three of the ‘Not A Good Bird’ and Li Yan, who had to sit on Luo Yu’s lap.

          “Hurry up,” Li Yan said. “I’m stuck in horse-stance here.” [4]

          “Just put all your weight on me, I won’t be repulsed by you.” Luo Yu said.

          “I’m repulsed by you.” Li Yan said.

          Gu Fei sighed and got in the car.

          “You didn’t bring Jiang Cheng?” Liu Fan started the car.

          “Can you stuff another person into this car?” Li Yan said. “He can make his own way over.”

          “I didn’t tell him.” Gu Fei said.

          Everyone in the car suddenly became very quiet. Liu Fan turned the car around, then gave him a look, but didn’t say anything.

          There was a long bout of silence, then Li Yan finally said in a very quiet voice, “Fuck.”

          The “usual place” that Monkey talked about was an old outdoors basketball court. It was remote, so not many people went there, not that normal people would go. It was occupied year round by delinquents of all generations, no normal people in their right mind would come here looking for trouble.

          After Liu Fan parked the car, Gu Fei didn’t hurry to get off. He looked at the two concrete courts in front of him surrounded by tattered old wire fencing. Every time he came here, he got a feeling that he was walking into a place of high walls. [5]

          None of the guys in the car moved either. They all watched him.

          “Regarding this matter,” Gu Fei said. “It’ll be fine if I take it all upon myself, you guys……”

          “What kind of bullshit are you farting out, I fucking thought you were about to make some kind of pre-battle inspirational speech.” Liu Fan opened the car door. “If Monkey is coming after you, he’s coming after all of us. If it’s obviously a fight you can maybe call it a one-on-one, but he set up a game, that’s clearly counting all of us in there. The fuck you take it on for.”

         “Come on.” Li Yan clapped his shoulder.

          There were quite a few people gathered on the courts already. Gu Fei had a cursory look around, and found that he recognized most of them. Normally, nobody would come here to play a proper game, mostly just casual pickups. Or even just hang around here without playing, chatting to each other if the mood suited them, otherwise turning to fists.

          Whether it was a game or a fight, the crowd was riled up just the same.

Monkey and Jiang Bin were already standing on the edge of the court. Monkey was leaning against the wire fencing with a cigarette in his mouth. As they entered, he tipped his chin at them.

          Monkey wouldn’t be coming on to play. He didn’t like to play basketball, but he had to be here. Even if this wasn’t his younger cousin and underling’s game, just from the fact that he’d been waiting for an opportunity to take care of Gu Fei, he had to be at this game.

          Gu Fei didn’t think that he was coming from some place of greatness, to want to shoulder this on Jiang Cheng’s behalf. He simply figured that this time, the conflict between Monkey and him had become unavoidable, so he might as well resolve it once and for all. He would rather not drag Jiang Cheng into this lowly and meaningless feud.

          “Pick your players, then get on the court.” Monkey looked at Gu Fei. “Half an hour, the team that scores the highest wins.”

          “Rules?” Gu Fei took off his jacket.

          “None.” Monkey said.

          Gu Fei said nothing more. He turned and walked to the side with Li Yan and the others, “Li Yan doesn’t go on, the five of us will play. Li Yan, you keep an eye on their guys.”

          “Mhm.” Li Yan folded his arms.

          Since this kind of game had no rules, then naturally anything goes. If they didn’t leave someone to keep an eye on things from the side, it would be hard for the players on the court to attend to everything.

          “Da-Fei,” Up on the bleachers, somebody leaned on the railing and called out to Gu Fei. “Need some help?”

          Gu Fei turned around, it was a couple of familiar faces they used to play ball with. He shook his head, “No rules today.”

          The other guys nodded and didn’t say anything else.

          If it was a normal game, even if it wasn’t entirely clean, there would still be general rules to follow. In that case it wouldn’t be a problem if others wanted to join in and play. But once the game dropped the rules, then everyone knew exactly what kind of game this was.

          There were five players on Jiang Bin’s side, all people they had played with in the past. They all roughly knew the skills of everyone on either side, but for a game like this, nobody could say for sure. After all, they never went head to head in a group brawl before.

          The guys on their side all had things stuffed in their wrist bracers. But Gu Fei didn’t. He wasn’t accustomed to the usage of tools under these circumstances. If they really were to get physical, he would much rather use his fists.

          At the notion of which, a rather amusing thought suddenly popped into his head. If Jiang Cheng was here, he could actually arrange for him to not come on the court. He only needed to find a place to hang out on the bleachers with his slingshot……

          Gu Fei was amused by his own mental image. He put his head down and let out a couple of giggles.

          “Hey,” Li Yan looked at him. “Be a little more serious, we’re fighting here.”

          “Understood.” Gu Fei let out another couple of giggles before turning to go on the court.

          Jiang Cheng was folded over his desk. At the front of the room, Lao-Lu was in the middle of a passionate lecture. Since the afternoon’s classes were of the main subjects, the whole roomful of people exhibited very little signs of life, even the chatterers were quiet.

          Conversely, Lao-Lu was actually more animated than usual, perhaps because Jiang Cheng’s perfect score put him in a cheerful mood. They were already halfway through the class, and he still hadn’t started with his usual tirade.

          Jiang Cheng wasn’t listening either. He was looking down at his phone, at the tests that Pan Zhi had sent him. He began answering the questions when class started, and it was now 20 minutes in. His answering speed was noticeably slower than when writing the Fourth High midterms.

          During recess, he didn’t stop as he continued to sit flopped over his desk, answering the questions all the way through the self-study period.

          When he finished the whole test, he took a picture of the answers and sent it to Pan Zhi, asking him to bring it to his English teacher to check.

          He was actually not in the best state of mind this afternoon. It wasn’t because he was tired from the practice at lunch, nor was it from poor sleep the night before.

          He looked at Gu Fei’s empty seat beside him. It was because of Gu Fei.

          For some reason, since after he went to Lao-Xu to ask for leave for Gu Fei, he had been feeling a weird sense of unease. Currently he was flopped over his desk again, repeatedly going over in his mind Gu Fei’s actions from when he got the call during practice to when he went home afterwards, scrutinizing every little detail.

          There didn’t seem to be any issue. Everything appeared normal. But still, he couldn’t get rid of the nagging feeling that left him ungrounded.

          He mulled over it restlessly for a long time, then finally couldn’t stand it anymore. Before the period was even over, he took out his phone and called Gu Fei’s number, skipping over the messaging option altogether.

          Gu Fei had certainly been rough in the way he took care of Gu Miao, but to forget an appointment with the doctor? At this moment, he just didn’t buy that.

          The call connected, which means Gu Fei didn’t turn his phone off.

          However, nobody picked up either. The ringing continued until it hung up automatically at the end. Gu Fei didn’t answer the phone.

          Jiang Cheng frowned and called again.

          Still nobody picked up.

          “Fuck.” All of a sudden it was impossible for him to sit still any longer.


Footnotes:

[1] May 1st is a national holiday in China: Labour Day. It usually extends past just the one day, depending on its proximity to the weekend.

[2] “What is our goal? To have no cavities!” is a slogan from a toothpaste commercial for kids hahaha

[3] Benben: A cheap Chinese car brand

[4] Horse-stance: a common posture in Asian martial arts and takes its name from the position assumed when riding a horse.

[5] A place of high walls: alludes to prison

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 6052
  • TL word count: 4405
  • TL time: 4:55:48
  • Edit: 1:22:16
  • Curse words: 12x fucks, 3x shit

TL’s Notes

It’s about to go downnnnn \(º □ º l|l)/