“Look at this mess, if I didn’t know any better I would’ve thought somebody had given you a good whipping.”


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

         Jiang Bin stood at the edge of the court with his arms crossed. Gu Fei and his team were already standing in the center of the court, but Jiang Bin made no indication that he was coming over.

         “The motherfucker must be waiting for Jiang Cheng.” Liu Fan said.

         Gu Fei turned to look at Jiang Bin, but still he stood there unmoving.

         “Are we playing or not?” Gu Fei asked.

         Jiang Bin scoffed and looked down at his black knuckledusters, then finally glanced up after a long pause, “And Jiang Cheng?”

         “Just add his debt on top of mine.” Gu Fei said. He figured that without seeing Jiang Cheng in person, Jiang Bin wouldn’t agree to start so easily. He had been considering how to solve this dilemma, but upon seeing the knuckleduster on Jiang Bin’s fingers, he knew how this could be settled.

         The knuckleduster belonged to Monkey. The fact that Monkey gave it to Jiang Bin meant that the conflict between him and Monkey would also come to some kind of closure today. And though Monkey seemed to be standing up for Jiang Bin, it was only an excuse; Monkey’s target wasn’t Jiang Cheng, it was him.

         This way, it was a much simpler matter.

         “Add it to yours?” Jiang Bin started laughing. “How come I’ve never heard of you taking in a lackey?”

         “It’s not your first day following Monkey around,” Gu Fei said steadily as he readjusted his bracer. “How is it that none of his hardiness rubbed off on you?”

         “Fucking say that one more time!” Jiang Bin was suddenly incensed, as he uncrossed his arms and came over to him in two long strides, and practically jabbed his finger into Gu Fei’s face.

         “There’s winners and losers in every competition. If you want to play the game, then don’t be a sore loser. Hasn’t your cousin ever taught you that?” Gu Fei threw a glance in Monkey’s direction. Monkey stood there watching them wordlessly with a cigarette in his mouth. Gu Fei turned back to Jiang Bin. “You were the one who started it during the game, and as a student, he didn’t so much as say a word back to you, never mind fight back, right? Yet you still wouldn’t let him go. This is not at all like someone who had been around Monkey.”

         Jiang Bin wasn’t bad at fighting and basketball, but when it came to words, it was a little more challenging. Not to mention there were all these onlookers sitting on the bleachers at the moment. None of them were good eggs, but all of them more or less liked to come off as a ‘reasonable’ person. Which is why as Gu Fei finished talking, Jiang Bin’s face flushed scarlet, but still he couldn’t manage to squeeze out a single word.

         At last, he looked in Monkey’s direction furiously.

         “Hurry it up.” Monkey said impatiently around his cigarette.

         “Today it’s just you, and me.” Gu Fei looked at Jiang Bin. “Whoever concedes or doesn’t, let’s get it over with in one go.”

         Jiang Bin glared at him for almost five minutes, then at last squeezed out a word from between his clenched teeth, “Fine.”

         The game was only thirty minutes long, with no breaks or switches in between. Aside from someone tossing the jump ball at the beginning, there wouldn’t be any referee either. There was no score board, that was the job of the audience on the bleachers.

         And if there happened to be a bet taking place, then the score would be kept even more meticulously than any scoreboard.

         Liu Fan and Qian Kai were up for the jump ball. They both kept their eyes locked on the ball, and the onlookers of the game… or rather of the fight, all quieted down.

         The person tossing the ball threw it into the air, then immediately dashed off the court as if running for his life.

         In a game like this, everyone would be ‘carrying’. If he hadn’t cleared the court by the time the game started, there was a chance he could get accidentally hurt.

         Even though the point of this match wasn’t actually basketball, and Liu Fan was the only one on their team who had been arrested, having gone in for a week’s stay at the police station just after the Lunar New Year, he was also the one on their team who most liked to play basketball. All this was to say that Liu Fan’s hand was going straight for the ball. 

         But Qian Kai’s wasn’t. His target was Liu Fan’s arm.

         Just as Liu Fan’s slapped the ball toward Gu Fei, Qian Kai’s hand came down hard, drawing a line from Liu Fan’s wrist down along his forearm.

         Gu Fei caught the pass, and at the same time saw the streak of blood along Liu Fan’s arm.

         He turned with the ball and dribbled down the court toward the basket.

         Behind him, the sound of footsteps quickly gained on him. Gu Fei took another two steps with the ball and briskly shuffled to the side, then jumped up to shoot for the basket.

         Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Jiang Bin dart out from his right and swipe at his side with his left hand.

         Gu Fei felt something scrape hard against his right flank, but didn’t even feel any pain as he landed back on the ground. He stared at the basket and watched the ball sink in, before looking down at himself.

         A gash had been ripped open on his T-shirt, and when he lifted the shirt up, he saw a rough streak on his waist left behind by the knuckleduster. It was only then that blood started to seep slowly out of the uneven wound.

         He grabbed the hem of this shirt and dabbed it carelessly on the wound. It was a fairly shallow cut; other than looking a little grotesque, it didn’t affect him very much.

         Jiang Bin had the rebound, and he passed the ball to Qian Kai. Gu Fei was about to interject, but seeing that Liu Fan had already made his way over, he went straight to the midline to prepare for defence.

         Liu Fan’s arm was still bloody, though it didn’t look that deep either. Before Gu Fei had time to lift his gaze off of Liu Fan’s arm, he heard Li Yan’s voice from off the court, “Da-Fei, behind you!”

         Without turning around, he immediately bent down at the waist. A fist broke through the air above him.

         It was only the first ball, and it had already come to this. Gu Fei figured it would be a miracle to keep this match going for five minutes even if they just took the beating without fighting back.

         And it wasn’t as though they didn’t fight back either. On the other side of the court, when Liu Fan attempted to intercept the ball, he dished it back to Qian Kai in the same way, brushing past Qian Kai’s arm with his ‘stuffed’ bracer.

         Gu Fei couldn’t see very clearly from his position, but he saw the muscles twitch on Qian Kai’s face. It must not have been a light scrape.

         There was no way this match was going to last the whole thirty minutes, or even five. Gu Fei stood up straight.

         He wasn’t familiar with the guy hurling punches at him from behind. He didn’t know the guy by his name or his moniker, therefore he could only follow Jiang Cheng’s lead, and gave the guy the name of ‘Little Hurl’.

         Little Hurl’s punch was aiming for the back of his head. If Gu Fei hadn’t gotten out of the way, he would already be prone on the ground at this moment, with no immediate prospect of getting back up any time soon.

         This bunch was clearly more ruthless than even Monkey’s guys. Monkey was somewhat about the unspoken code of the streets, and would rather not lose face at least on the outside. But these guys were different. With these people around, one had to be careful even when walking, lest an accidental step on somebody’s ego left you face down in the mud.

         Little Hurl’s first punch didn’t land. Without a second of hesitation, he backhanded another strike toward Gu Fei’s face.

         Gu Fei saw the strip of conical steel in his hand. The thing wasn’t particularly sharp; it tapered to a rounded point. But if one got hit by it…… Gu Fei lifted his left hand to block against the guy’s forearm, and used it as a fulcrum to push against his elbow, as his right hand gripped Little Hurl’s wrist and snapped it back.

         Little Hurl paused for two whole seconds, then let out a blood-curdling scream. Gu Fei shoved him off to the side, and caught the ball Luo Yu had just passed to him.

         After charging past two more people with the ball, his path forward was cut off by Jiang Bin, who blocked in front of him. Gu Fei braked abruptly, and prepared to make a three-point shot.

         At the same time when the ball left his hands, Jiang Bin charged in front of him and brought his hand down. The knuckleduster first landed on his shoulder, then followed the momentum down into a slash.

         There was a frenzy of whistling and clapping from up on the bleachers. Even under these circumstances the three-point shot had gone in. Gu Fei couldn’t help but be a little impressed by himself.

         However, the match could no longer continue. Apparently Jiang Bin was incapable of holding it in for very long, and didn’t even bother to put up a facade. If they went on like this, none of them would be left standing by the end, even if they got more points.

         Not to mention under the circumstances of Jiang Bin straight up ignoring the masquerade of the basketball match that was really a fight, even if they won by the sheer number of points, this would be far from over.

         The only way.

         The only way.

         Gu Fei suddenly felt like lamenting. He had learned the only way from his dad. 

         It was to scare your enemy off with one move, so that they dared not touch you again. 

         Whether it was his mom’s dubious suitor, or the Monkey of the past, or Little Hurl just now. Whether he intended to or not, his father’s ways that terrified him to the point of nightmares ever since he was young, had somehow been written into his blood without him even noticing…… 

         When Jiang Bin’s knuckles came at him a third time, Gu Fei lifted his arm, leaned his shoulder and hip into it, and landed a heavy slap on the left cheek of Jiang Bin’s face.

         There wasn’t the usual sharp sound of a slap. Instead, it was a loud but dull bang.

         Jiang Bin was knocked straight off the ground from the force of the strike, and landed on his back on the concrete court. The sound of his head knocking against the ground wasn’t even as loud as Gu Fei’s slap. 

         Everyone on the court froze. There was even a brief moment of quiet from the stands. 

         Jiang Bin lay prone on the ground. It took him several seconds to even start struggling to get back up, which he attempted twice and failed. He then pushed himself off the ground on all fours, and started to vomit.

         “Fuck ME ——” The dozens of onlookers watching the show on the stand started yelling. The sounds of whistles and screaming blended together into an excited cacophony. 

         To them, it didn’t matter who won or lost. It didn’t matter who got stricken to the ground either. They were thrilled as long as somebody was down, or injured, or couldn’t get back up again.

         Everyone on the court had gathered around by now. Qian Kai made his way to Jiang Bin to help him back up. Gu Fei threw him a look, “Are you the one?”

         “…… What?” Qian Kai paused.

         “Are you,” Gu Fei looked at him, his voice so low it was almost a rumble. “Next?”

         Qian Kai didn’t make a sound, only froze in place, not daring to continue forward to help.

         “We’ll stop the match right here then,” Gu Fei turned and slowly one by one, stared at each person in the circle around him. “Let’s resolve this directly. Who else is there, let’s get this over with.”

         The situation descended into an awkward stalemate. One single empty-handed slap from Gu Fei made Jiang Bin unable to even get back up, and even now was still puking himself into a coma on the ground. On the other side was the guy gingerly holding his arm, which looked like it might be broken and couldn’t even be touched due to the pain. No one dared come and face off against him again.

         But this was a ‘once-and-over-with ballgame’ after all. If they really held back now, it meant that after this, they wouldn’t be able to touch him again…… 

         “Help him up.” Monkey’s voice sounded from the behind, and broke the stalemate.

         At last, a couple of guys went over and dragged Jiang Bin up. He was unsteady on his feet, like he was dizzy. It took the two guys propping him up on either side for him to eventually stop swaying.

         Monkey shot Gu Fei a stare, then walked up to Jiang Bin, “How do you feel?”

         “Can’t hear very well,” Jiang Bin coughed. “Ear’s ringing.”

         “Take him to the hospital.” Monkey frowned. “And wipe your mouth.”

         The guys holding up Jiang Bin started to leave, but as they walked past Gu Fei, Jiang Bin struggled a little, and glared at him.

         The tinnitus was to be expected. Perhaps it would be even worse than tinnitus, but at the moment Gu Fei wasn’t very concerned about anything. Unlike Jiang Cheng, who worried whether the guy who collapsed in the snow outside would freeze to death. He had no fear of consequences.

         Gu Fei leaned in closer to Jiang Bin’s right ear, and clearly enunciated, “Consider this done and over with today. I’m not the type who likes to invite trouble, as long as you don’t bring trouble to me, I will not go after anyone.”

         Jiang Bin didn’t respond, it wasn’t clear if he heard. He only glared at Gu Fei for a little while longer, then walked away.

         Once Jiang Bin’s guys had all left, there were only Monkey’s people and Gu Fei’s team left on the court. However, the onlookers were no less enthused. No one dared to gather any closer, but they all stood nearby, waiting eagerly for a potential second round after the first match.

         Wasting their own time, while looking on at other people’s blood. Even though they were all watching from the sidelines, these people disgusted Gu Fei.

         “Still so ruthless huh, always finishing it off with one move.” Monkey looked at Gu Fei. “It’s been almost two years now, and you haven’t lost a bit of your power.”

         Gu Fei didn’t answer.

         To be honest, he wasn’t as utterly unafraid of Monkey as he was of Jiang Bin. Monkey was quite a few years older, and had started messing about on the streets before he even graduated middle school. Unlike the people who fooled around for a few years then went back to the ‘civilian’ life or started working, Monkey was one of those people who stepped solidly into the darkness, and never planned on getting out.

         “I had thought a public high school would teach one to be more self-restrained than a vocational school,” Monkey chuckled a little. “Though normally, I wouldn’t put myself into you and Jiang Bin’s affair. I said this was his own matter to settle, so he has to concede to this result whether or not he wants to. But now it’s different. Since you took this on for Jiang Cheng, it only makes sense that I have to settle this for Jiang Bin.”

         Gu Fei still didn’t say a word.

         “Honestly, I don’t want to do this either,” Monkey raised his arms up in a stretch, then lit a cigarette and put it in his mouth. “But think about it, we could settle our affair at the same time, otherwise I don’t think I’ll ever be at peace.”

         “I have a game the day after tomorrow.” Gu Fei spoke at last. “It would have to be after that.”

         Monkey was one to hold onto grudges. The whole Jiang Cheng thing was nothing but an excuse. When he came to collect protection tolls in the early days, Gu Fei had burst his bladder with a single kick. More than a year had passed since then, but even if he didn’t hold grudges, it wasn’t something that could be so easily forgiven and forgotten.

         To seek retribution after so long required an excuse, and now he had one. Though after coming head to head in a fight today, Monkey knew that he would be no match for Gu Fei. But on the other hand, to have a group of people beating on one person went against his ‘principles’. Therefore, Gu Fei only decided on the time. As to the method by which they would be settling it, that was up to Monkey to decide.

         “A game at the school?” Monkey asked.

         “Mhm.” Gu Fei answered.

         Monkey put on a shocked expression, the over-exaggeration of which made it clear that he and Jiang Bin were indeed related. After a long pause he started laughing, “Then I guess there was some change in you after all. Fourth High is certainly a good place, that even Gu Fei would join a school tournament.”

         Gu Fei didn’t want to engage in his bullshit smalltalk, so he continued to be quiet.

         “Fine then, I’ve always been easy going.” Monkey held the cigarette between two fingers and jabbed Gu Fei’s chest. “The day after tomorrow, 8PM, at the old building by the railway bridge. Let’s play something fair.”

         Gu Fei gave him a look. Beside him, Liu Fan took a step forward, somewhat frantically. Gu Fei reached out a hand to stop him, “OK.”

         “Hurdling.” Monkey said. “You take responsibility for your own consequences.”

         “Fine.” Gu Fei said.

         “Fucking hell!” Liu Fan gave the steering wheel a hard slap as soon as he got in the car. “Why did you agree to the hurdle? Can you not fucking beat his ass in a fight?”

         “Gotta resolve it somehow.” Gu Fei said.

         “Then resolve it by fighting it out! WHY FUCKING HURDLE!” Luo Yu bellowed from the backseat.

         “Is it possible that he’ll agree to a fight?” Gu Fei turned and looked at Luo Yu. “If he’s willing to resolve it with a fight we’d have done it a long time ago, right? Wouldn’t have to wait till now.”

         “THEN JUST KEEP MAKING HIM WAIT!” Liu Fan started bellowing too. “He doesn’t dare go after you, so what’s wrong with just ignoring him……”

         “What if he plays dirty?” Gu Fei interrupted his rant. “What if he goes after someone else? What if he goes after Er-Miao?”

         Everyone else went quiet.

         “Anyway, I’m sick of this.” Gu Fei furrowed his brows as he tugged on his shirt. The material stuck to his body by the congealed blood was suddenly yanked away, and he almost yelped from the pain. “Even if I’m meant to languish here my whole life, I want to at least be on solid ground. I don’t want to live among violence all day every day.”

         “Stop badgering him,” Li Yan spoke up. “He already agreed to it anyways, it’s useless to say all this now. If it can be resolved this way then let’s resolve it. It’s not like anyone will die, at worst it’s a couple months of hospital stay……”

         “Says who! Don’t you watch the news, just a few days ago someone fell down on flat ground and they fucking died from it!” Liu Fan glared at Li Yan.

         “Fucking hell! I spit on your whole family!” Li Yan was anxiously staring back at him. “Hurry up and spit! You dumbass!” [1]

         Liu Fan made a long pause, then at last, slapped the steering wheel again, “Pei pei pei.”

         Gu Fei turned to the window and had a long laugh, “Dumbass.”

         Jiang Cheng was standing in Gu Fei’s convenience store, looking at Gu Fei’s mom who was cracking her way through watermelon seeds behind the counter. He felt a little awkward, unsure whether he should leave or keep standing there.

         “Why don’t you sit for a bit,” Gu Fei’s mom said. “He usually comes to the store around meal time.”

         “I……” Jiang Cheng didn’t want to sit. He pointed at the door, and was about to say “I’ll go for a walk outside”.

         Before he was able to finish, Gu Fei’s mom glanced at the clock on the side, and waved her hand at him, “Aiyoo I didn’t even look at the time, I have to go out. Good thing you’re here, I don’t have to close down then. You just guard the store, OK.”

         “Ah?” Jiang Cheng was shook.

         “Just help with cashing out and stuff, Li Yan helps cash out all the time.” Gu Fei’s mom said as she put on her jacket. “Don’t you know how to work the cash register?”

         Jiang Cheng wanted to say “I really don’t know”, but before he even got to open his mouth, Gu Fei’s mom was already out the door like a gust of wind. He stood frozen in the store for a long time, his mind a tangled mess, then after a while, finally sat down behind the counter. 

         He didn’t know what Gu Fei was up to this afternoon, but it definitely had nothing to do with Gu Miao. He asked as soon as he arrived. Gu Miao was at home drawing pictures.

         He could almost be sure that Gu Fei had gone to the zoo. [2]

         Though where this place was, where one could play basketball and fight at the same time, nobody knew. The only person he could ask was Wang Xu, and since Wang Xu didn’t know, there was no way anyone else would. Beside the people from his class, the only other person he could ask was Ding Zhuxin, but Ding Zhuxin didn’t give him an answer either.

         “If it’s something he didn’t want to tell you, even if I knew, I couldn’t tell you anyway.” Ding Zhuxin was very cordial about it, but didn’t even leave him a chance to pursue the matter.

         Jiang Cheng held his phone in his hand and sat behind the counter, staring off into space. He couldn’t articulate what exactly he was feeling.

         He had been anxious, and infuriated. But the flames of fury had burned down by now, and all that was left was gloom. The kind of gloom that could only be alleviated if he gave Gu Fei a good beating.

         After sitting there staring at nothing for almost twenty minutes, he heard the sound of an engine outside. He walked over to the door curtain, and peeped out.

         A Benben that looked like it might fall apart after another ten meters on the road was parked out front. All the windows were closed, so he couldn’t see who was inside. Though after the car stopped, Gu Fei stepped out from the front passenger side.

         Jiang Cheng had entertained the possibility that perhaps Gu Fei really did have other matters to attend to, that maybe he was overthinking it. But upon seeing the blood on Gu Fei’s collar as he walked over, his rage suddenly jumped to life. It was as though he had a blowtorch inside his body, in an instant the fire burned through the top of his skull and he became a human torch.

         Gu Fei probably never expected that someone would be standing directly behind the curtain. As he lifted the plastic and came through the door, he walked straight into Jiang Cheng.

         “AY!” Gu Fei jumped, and was about to retreat backwards, when Jiang Cheng clutched the collar of his jacket in his grip.

         “What did you do?” Jiang Cheng yanked on his collar and dragged him into the store, then pressed him up against the wall. “Tell me, what the fuck did you do!”

         “What are you doing here?” Gu Fei’s expression was full of shock.

         “I’m asking WHAT DID YOU DO!” Jiang Cheng roared at him.

         Gu Fei grabbed his wrist and tried to pull it away, with no success. He had no choice but to give up, and sighed.

         “Do you want me to give you five seconds to make up a story?!” Jiang Cheng glared at him.

         “I can’t make one up even if you give me ten more seconds,” Gu Fei said. “It’s too sudden.”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t answer, only glared at him some more, then suddenly released his grip. He turned and walked out the door, leaving behind a fluttering curtain.

         Gu Fei frowned, knocked his head back against the wall, paused for two seconds, then ran out after him, “Jiang Cheng!”

         Jiang Cheng was swinging his arms and making long strides in the direction of his apartment. He didn’t look back, didn’t even slow down.

         “Cheng-ge,” Gu Fei ran after him and grabbed his arm. “Cheng-ge……”

         “Cheng what ge!” Jiang Cheng shook off his hand, and turned to stare at him. “I don’t have a son like you!”

         “But I’m calling you ‘ge’.” Gu Fei said.

         Jiang Cheng paused for a second, but it was clear the rage was quickly rekindled. He pointed at Gu Fei, “It’s no fucking use even if you call me grandpa!”

         Gu Fei hesitated for a moment, then grabbed his arm again and started dragging him back toward the convenience store.

         “The fuck??” Jiang Cheng was shook. He attempted to struggle hard a couple times but couldn’t shake off his hand. Just as he was about to put more force into it, he glimpsed the blood on Gu Fei’s collar again. And so the third attempt was suppressed by himself, through clenched teeth.

         All it took was a moment of hesitation, and Gu Fei had dragged him back into the store.

         “Let’s have a little chat.” Gu Fei said.

         “Chat about what?” Jiang Cheng suddenly felt like all his strength had dissipated the moment Gu Fei let go of his arm. His rage had all but died down as well. He leaned back against the wall. “About the psychological journey of your lies?”

         “Mhm.” Gu Fei nodded.

         Jiang Cheng looked him over. Aside from the streak of blood on his collar, there was another streak of blood near his waist, “Let’s take care of your injuries first. Look at this mess, if I didn’t know any better I would’ve thought somebody had given you a good whipping.”


Footnotes:

[1] Basicallyyy, if you said something jinxing, the Western way is to knock on wood, the Chinese way is to spit, or just simply say the spitting sound, which is “pei”.

[2] The zoo, aka wherever Monkey and Wild Boar Head (Jiang Bin) are.

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 5948
  • TL word count: 4512
  • TL time: 5:44:44
  • Edit: 1:40:28
  • Curse words: 11x fucks, 1x shit, 3x ass

TL’s Notes

Violence is not the answer violence is not the answer violence is not the answer but DAYUM that was hot.

If you read between the lines of the last part it’s actually really funny XD.

Post first, more thorough edit later, pls excuse the inevitable mistakes… Updated 9/14 w/edits