“I just want to get a clear look at the kind of person you are.”


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

         Gu Fei seemed fairly normal, Jiang Cheng figured he wasn’t too seriously hurt. But he still frowned when Gu Fei took his jacket off, and he saw the tear in the shirt near his waist. 

         “This is from the ballgame?” He asked.

         “Mhm,” Gu Fei tossed his jacket to the side and glanced at him. “You haven’t eaten yet, right?”

         “No appetite.” Jiang Cheng replied.

         “I’m a little hungry.” Gu Fei took out his phone. “I’m going to order two rice bowls, will you make do and have some?”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t answer.

         “Beef with green peppers,” Gu Fei looked down at the screen. “What do you want? There’s also brisket with potatoes, tomato scrambled eggs, braised eggplants……”

         “Tomato scrambled eggs.” Jiang Cheng let out a sigh.

         Gu Fei finished ordering the takeout and took out a medical kit from a little cabinet on the side. He gave Jiang Cheng a look and hesitated for a few seconds, then reached up and pulled his shirt off. 

         “What the flying fuck,” Jiang Cheng was startled when he saw the two large bloody gashes on his shoulder and flank. “Why didn’t they just finish you off.”

         “Who can kill me?” Gu Fei chuckled a little and walked to the inner room. 

         “ …… Need help?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “Thank you.” Gu Fei said.

         “Is thank you a fucking yes or a no?” Jiang Cheng stood up.

         “Yes.” Gu Fei turned back and looked at him.

         There were only two wounds on his body, which wasn’t that bad, all things considered. Jiang Cheng walked into the room and leaned in close to check out the wounds. Only, the edges of the wounds were very uneven; the tool that made these wounds was likely not at all sharp, which meant the wounds were practically torn open. Jiang Cheng could feel the pain just by imagining it.

         He opened the medical kit and brought out the rubbing alcohol, then pondered for some time before asking, “Was it Monkey? That… knuckleduster of his.”

         “Shit,” Gu Fei looked at him, more than a little shocked. “You can tell? I didn’t know genius overachievers have this kind of secondary ability…… It wasn’t Monkey, it was Jiang Bin.”

         “I guessed.” Jiang Cheng held the cotton ball in one hand and the bottle of rubbing alcohol in the other, and stared at Gu Fei’s wounds, trying to figure out how to go about cleaning a large wound like this. If he dabbed at it with the alcohol…… a gash this long would take him ages to clean, and he tried out a few different positions but found them all awkward to hold. “Maybe you should go next door and get it looked at?”

         “Nope. There’s always a bunch of grandpas and grandmas gathered there in the afternoon and evenings for their nutrition IV drip. It’d be a gossip central right about now. If I go, by tomorrow everyone around these parts will know how I was knifed by someone, and died from it too.” Gu Fei said. “It’s not like this is some serious injury, it’s enough to just disinfect and wrap it up in some gauze.”

         “Oh.” Jiang Cheng answered.

         “You can just……” Gu Fei didn’t get to finish his sentence. Jiang Cheng lifted his hand and poured the alcohol directly onto the wound on his shoulder. He froze for two seconds, then abruptly drew in a sharp breath. “The fuck??”

         “We should go ask for a bottle of saline…… hurts a lot doesn’t it?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.

         “What dost thou think?” Gu Fei frowned.

         “The stinging from the alcohol should pass soon,” Jiang Cheng blew a little on the wound. “I just wanted to give a rinse.”

         “ …… Oh,” Gu Fei peered at the wound. “Done rinsing now?”

         “Mmn,” Jiang Cheng rummaged around the kit again and pulled out a vial of iodine solution. “I’ll disinfect again with this and it should be done.”

         “Does this also get poured on me?” Gu Fei asked.

         “Yup,” Jiang Cheng nodded. “With a large gash like this, do you know how long it would take to dab a little at a time with a cotton ball.”

         “How care-free of you.” Gu Fei said.

         “Maybe don’t go tempting death if you wish to be comfortable, why don’t you try not getting hurt if you’re so good.” Jiang Cheng said as he poured the iodine solution onto the wound as well, then used the cotton to spread it around evenly.

         “To be honest… It’s not that I didn’t want to bring you,” Gu Fei leaned against the wall and lifted his arm to give Jiang Cheng access to the wound on his side. “But the thing is, this… doesn’t really have to do with you.”

         “Mhm,” Jiang Cheng understood what Gu Fei meant, he had guessed as much. Jiang Bin was a sore loser who wanted to take it out on someone, but Monkey, who was his support, was the one who had a problem with Gu Fei. “But I was the catalyst. If it wasn’t for you willingly taking this on for me, Monkey might not have had the chance to go after you.”

         Gu Fei didn’t say anything. He hadn’t expected to run into Jiang Cheng as soon as he got back, so he never had a chance to mentally comb through what had happened, much less make up an excuse.

         Though Jiang Cheng had him marvelling. Even through a fit of anger, Jiang Cheng still quickly figured out what had happened based only on a tiny fragment of information. No wonder he was an overachiever. With logic like this, surely he should go into the STEM field.

         “This is trampling on my ego,” Jiang Cheng liberally splashed some rubbing alcohol onto Gu Fei’s side. “I……”

         “Hey!” Gu Fei couldn’t help but yell out. “Can you give me a warning before you pour it on!”

         “Sure I can,” Jiang Cheng gave him a look. “Here comes the second splash.”

         “You……” Gu Fei didn’t manage to get his sentence out before Jiang Cheng splashed more iodine solution on the wound. He sucked in a breath. “You’re taking the opportunity to get back at me?”

         “Done.” Jiang Cheng dabbed at it with a cotton ball. “I got a couple of tubes of those wound closing ointment last time at the hospital, I’ll bring one for you tomorrow. It’ll heal faster that way.”

         “ …… Mmn.” Gu Fei answered.

         Even though Jiang Cheng didn’t touch him throughout the entire process, the slightly painful touch of the cotton ball gently dabbing on his wound still left him feeling tingly and weak over half of his body. But as Jiang Cheng finished splashing on the rubbing alcohol, his mind suddenly emptied of all sinful thoughts, it was practically a desert of purity and abstinence.

         The takeout arrived as Jiang Cheng finished applying the gauze to the wound. He went to bring in the two orders of rice bowls, and Gu Fei set up the little dining table and sat down.

         It was only then, that Gu Fei felt the tensely wound nerves of the afternoon slowly loosen.

         “This restaurant,” Jiang Cheng opened his order of rice bowl and stared at it for a long time. “Would most certainly close within a year.”

         “Hmm?” Gu Fei opened his container and took a look, it smelled pretty good to him. 

         “Every time I see a dish of tomato scrambled eggs where the tomatoes are chopped in chunks larger than your face, and one egg is split across eight orders,” Jiang Cheng said. “I say this.”

         Gu Fei stared for a while at the tomato scrambled eggs in his box, and couldn’t contain his laughter. He finally stopped after some time, and pushed over his own box of beef with green peppers, “Wanna trade?”

         “It’s alright,” Jiang Cheng peered into the other box. “The way they only spared one cut for each green pepper and eighty cuts for one slice of beef, this restaurant would certainly close within a year.”

         Gu Fei kept laughing as he ate. Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything more, and kept his head down as he ate with a displeased expression.

         After several minutes of quiet eating, Gu Fei raised his head and put down the chopsticks, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to lie to you.”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t answer, just stared at the chunk of tomato on his chopsticks, and after a while he finally put it in his mouth, “Is the problem resolved?”

         Gu Fei hesitated a little, “I set a time with Monkey for the day after tomorrow, after our game.”

         Jiang Cheng lifted his eyes at him.

         “This time it really is between Monkey and me,” Gu Fei said. “Even without you as a catalyst, it was bound to blow up sooner or later. Might as well get it over and done with.”

         Jiang Cheng said nothing as he put his head down and continued eating.

         The food was pretty bad. The juice hadn’t been drawn out of the tomatoes during cooking, there weren’t enough eggs, and the rice was too soft and mushy. He was only able to eat half before he set down his chopsticks.

         “If you can’t finish, just put it on the ledge in the backyard.” Gu Fei ate quickly, his container already bottoming out. “There are stray cats that will come and eat it.”

         “Oh,” Jiang Cheng stood up, took his leftovers to the backyard, and set it on the ledge. He stood there and waited for a bit, but didn’t see any sign of cats, so he returned to the store. “I didn’t see any cat.”

         “The one that usually comes is a scaredy cat, it never comes out when people are around.” Gu Fei threw away his empty container and cleaned up the table. He then lit up a cigarette and leaned against the front of the cash.

         Jiang Cheng sat on a chair and swiped back and forth on his phone aimlessly.

         “I know you’re annoyed that I didn’t call you up today.” Gu Fei said with the cigarette in his mouth, staring down at his feet. “And if it was only Jiang Bin, I would’ve. But Monkey was there…… so I thought never mind.”

         Jiang Cheng gave him a look.

         “There are some things, that if you can avoid touching it, if you can avoid participating in it, you should try your best not to.” Gu Fei blew out a puff of smoke. “More trouble than it’s worth.”

         “Mmn.” Jiang Cheng replied.

         “You asked me the other day, why not go to a technical college or vocational school or something,” Gu Fei glanced at him. “Wanna hear about it?”

         “Alright.” Jiang Cheng nodded.

         Gu Fei went to close the door, and pulled the rolling shutters halfway down, then pulled up a chair and sat down across from Jiang Cheng.

         “I used to be pretty, you know.” Gu Fei was quiet for a few moments before starting. “In elementary school I would… get into fights all the time. Even now, if my old classmates from back then see me on the street, they would give me a wide berth.”

         “King of the school, huh.” Jiang Cheng fixed his gaze on him.

         “Either way it’s like…… at home I got beaten up by my dad, so outside my home, I’d beat up other people.” Gu Fei let out a little smile. “I didn’t like to talk very much back then, whenever I ran into a problem, I preferred to use my fists. And when the people I injured came around looking for reparations, my dad would give me another beating.”

         Jiang Cheng let out a quiet sigh.

         “Then in the first year of middle school, I pushed my deskmate out of a classroom window, from the second floor.” Gu Fei stretched his legs out and stared at the tip of his toes. “To be honest, my dad had also thrown me like that once, and I wasn’t very seriously injured……” [1]

         Jiang Cheng stared at him in silent shock.

         “But that kid was hurt pretty bad. His arms, legs, and ribs were all broken. The school went to my mom… my dad had just died around that time.” Gu Fei’s voice was very low. “The school already thought it wasn’t suitable for me to keep going to a regular middle school in the state I was in. So after that, they wanted me to go to a reform school.”

         “What’s a reform school?” Jiang Cheng asked, then noticed that Gu Fei seemed to be lost in his own thoughts, so he searched it up on his phone.

         Reform Schools are special educational institutions set up by the People’s Republic of China for underaged offenders who have commited minor crimes or violations of the law, and are not within the jurisdiction of administrative sanctions or the penal system.

         “What the shit?” Jiang Cheng was shook.

         “A lot of them were scrapped.” Gu Fei swung the tip of his feet around gently. “The one I went to was eventually repurposed into a vocational school. There weren’t very many students even when I was there.”

         “Oh.” Was Jiang Cheng’s response. He didn’t know what to say.

         “To be honest, the principal at the time also recommended that my mom take me to see a psychiatrist, he figured I had some serious violent tendencies.” Gu Fei threw his cigarette stub on the ground and stomped it out, then pulled out another one and lit it. “But my mom refused. Er-Miao was already like that, she didn’t want to hear talk about how I had problems too…… so I went to the reform school.”

         “Are they all students like you?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “In there, people like me are considered one of the good kids,” Gu Fei chuckled a little. “Spending time with the reform school kids will teach you what unsalvageable really means. You can’t even imagine if you tried, how terrible a person in their mere teens can be. I stayed there for a year and a half, and I don’t want to have anything to do with those people ever again.”

         “Give me… a cigarette.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “You’re out again?” Gu Fei pulled out his pack. “Next time you run out just go and help yourself to one from behind the counter.”

         “I just happen to be out.” Jiang Cheng took one and lit it up. His brain was a muddled mess.

         Frankly, judging by the way Gu Fei normally carried himself, he could’ve guessed at the kind of backstory Gu Fei would have, but he didn’t think it was this serious. Just the story about Gu Fei ‘murdering’ his father alone took him a long time to process, and now he felt like he had been reformatted yet again. He felt like his brain was buzzing. 

         “I think I went off-topic just now.” Gu Fei said.

         “Ah.” Jiang Cheng looked at him, his thoughts not quite collected yet.

         Being thrown from the second floor by your own father was a fact he struggled to process. Throwing your deskmate out of a second floor window was equally shocking. 

         “A second floor classroom is higher than the second floor of a residential building.” He said.

         “Hmm?” Gu Fei was a little confused, then after a long pause eventually realized what he was talking about. He turned to the side and burst into laughter. “Cheng-ge I feel like you’re super good at focusing on the key point.”

         “What the hell are you laughing about.” Jiang Cheng had been holding his lit cigarette in his hand this whole time, and only just now remembered to take a drag from it. “Did you go off-topic? What was the original topic?”

         “In the second half of my third year of middle school, the school was repurposed into a vocational secondary school. After graduation, most of the other students stayed there and went to the vocational school,” Gu Fei said. “But I wanted to go to a public high school. I really don’t want to continue hanging around those people, I don’t want to cross paths with any of them ever again.”

         “So you applied to the Fourth High?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “Mhm,” Gu Fei nodded. “Fourth High sucks, it’s one of the easier ones to get into.”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything. He took two drags of the cigarette, then breathed out a long sigh, suddenly unsure of what to say.

         “Cheng-ge,” Gu Fei stood up, grabbed two bottles of beers from the fridge, and took a couple of sips after opening one with his teeth. “You’re not like the people here, you have no idea how troublesome it’ll be once you get mixed up with these people.”

         Jiang Cheng looked at him.

         “If you get in a fight and lose, some people will think you’re a pushover. If you win, there’ll be some who think you’re a smug bastard. So no matter what you do, you’ll end up getting tangled up in the mess.” Gu Fei said. “When it comes to these people, the further away you are from them the better. Do you understand what I mean?”

         “ …… Mhm.” Jiang Cheng closed his eyes and drew in a breath, then slowly exhaled.

         “You’re not Wang Xu, or Jiang Bin, and more than anything you’re not Monkey. You’re a good student,” Gu Fei said. “Attend your classes, learn your stuff, then write your exams and go to your dream school. Don’t let yourself get dragged into these things.”

         Jiang Cheng stubbed out his cigarette in silence and rubbed his hands over his face, then leaned back in the chair.

         “I didn’t let you go, not because I want to take anything on for you.” Gu Fei said. “I just don’t want you to be trapped here. If it was anyone else I wouldn’t have bothered, because no one else has ever said something like ‘I wouldn’t rot here’ to me, only you have. You’ve got to live by your words. Don’t feel like I did you a favour or anything. You don’t have to talk about yiqi with me either.” [2] 

         Jiang Cheng still didn’t say anything, but he suddenly stood up and walked in front of Gu Fei, then stroked the top of his head.

         “ …… If it was anyone else touching my head like this I would beat them up.” Gu Fei lifted his head and gave him a look.

         Jiang Cheng stroked his head again.

         “Fuck.” Gu Fei laughed.

         Jiang Cheng cupped the back of Gu Fei’s head with his hands, and held him close.

         “What are you doing?” Gu Fei’s whole face was pressed against Jiang Cheng’s stomach, so he could only ask in a muffled voice.

         “Stop talking.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “But I need to breathe.” Gu Fei said.

         Jiang Cheng ignored him and held on for several more seconds before letting go, then fell back into his own chair and looked at Gu Fei. He suddenly felt like laughing. He gazed across at Gu Fei in a fit of giggles.

         Gu Fei was about to take a drink from his beer, but after a couple of attempts of raising the bottle to his lips and stopping, he finally set the bottle on the ground and also started laughing.

         “So me,” Jiang Cheng said as he continued to laugh. “I’m actually a very serious person.”

         “Me too,” Gu Fei took a big gulp of beer and suppressed the giggles. “I hope you don’t get the wrong impression.”

         “Mhm,” Jiang Cheng nodded, and kept on giggling for a while longer before he finally caught his breath and let out a long drawn-out sigh. Only after a long pause did he speak again. “Can you tell me how you’re going to resolve this thing with Monkey?”

         “Why are you asking?” Gu Fei asked.

         “If it’s just a matter of fighting it out, there’s no way he can beat you,” Jiang Cheng said. “It can’t be a one-on-one. And last time Wang Xu and I were trapped, he was able to play it off as a favour to you, so it’s unlikely that they’ll gang up on you, right?”

         “Mhm.” Gu Fei smiled.

         “So how are you going to resolve it?” Jiang Cheng stared into Gu Fei’s eyes.

         Gu Fei held his gaze, and seemed to hesitate, before eventually saying in a low voice, “Hurdling.”

         “What the what?” Jiang Cheng gave him a perplexed look.

         “It’s our own Steel Works tradition around these parts,” Gu Fei said. “An established way of conflict resolution.”

         “What’s the hurdle? How do you hurdle?” Jiang Cheng asked again.

         “Did you change your idol recently?” Gu Fei took a swig of beer.

         “What?” Jiang Cheng was confused.

         “Didn’t your idol used to be Xiao-Ming’s grandpa,” Gu Fei said. “Is it not the case anymore?” [3]

         “ …… Fuck off.” Jiang Cheng felt around in his pocket and took out a pack of cigarettes, he pulled one out and put it in his mouth.

         As he was about to light it, Gu Fei tsked, “You have your own, yet you still take mine?”

         “Hmm?” Jiang Cheng glanced at the cigarette in his hand. He did have some. He must’ve been really out of it just now.

         He stared at his pack for a while, then took the cigarette out of his mouth and put it back in the pack, and back in his pocket. He then reached his hand out to Gu Fei, “Give me one.”

         Gu Fei didn’t know what else to say but tossed his pack into Jiang Cheng’s hand.

         “How do you go about this hurdling?” Jiang Cheng held the cigarette in his hand but didn’t light it. He asked again.

         “The shop where you bought your bike, if you continue straight down that road, there’s a railway bridge,” Gu Fei said. “Beside it is an old residential area. After the factories moved away, somebody bought the land, but never developed it. All the buildings are structural hazards……”

         “Fuck,” Jiang Cheng cut him off. “Jumping buildings?”

         Gu Fei looked at him.

         “Hopping from one building to another?” Jiang Cheng stared at him. “Am I right?”

         “Mhm,” Gu Fei replied. “Until someone gets injured or quits.”

         “Is there something wrong with your air quality here around the Steel Works? Are you all brain damaged from the lack of oxygen?” Jiang Cheng had no words to describe what he was feeling at the moment. “Why don’t you just say until someone falls and dies?”

         “There’s generally no deaths, the gap isn’t very big.” Gu Fei smiled and said.

         “Morons,” Jiang Cheng clicked the lighter a few times but wasn’t able to light up his cigarette. Every time the flame got close it would be blown out by the puffs of air from his nose. Eventually he tossed both the lighter and the cigarette onto the stool beside them. “There really are such moronic people in the world, I’ve certainly expanded my horizons!”

         Gu Fei leaned over and lit up the cigarette, then handed it to him.

         Jiang Cheng gave him a glance, and put it in his mouth. 

         Neither of them spoke again, it was very quiet inside the store, there were no sounds from the street outside either. The only thing Jiang Cheng could hear was the sound of his own heavy breathing.

         For some reason, he felt like raging. Not at Gu Fei, or even Monkey; he didn’t know who it was directed toward, nor what he wanted to rage about. He was simply incensed.

         He lifted his eyes and glared at Gu Fei. Gu Fei looked back at him with an utterly calm expression.

         He suddenly felt a pang in his heart.

         Gu Fei was his perfect partner, his deskmate with whom he shared an unspeakable secret. But now, all this was suddenly shoved away by things he had never even given a thought to, that he had always considered was in a far distance, a chaotic darkness. Gu Fei had all of a sudden become an unreachable shadow to him.

         He lamented for Gu Fei.

         The cigarette was quickly finished amidst the silence, but it provided no satisfaction at all. In fact, he felt a little unwell, his throat was getting dry.

         He stubbed the cigarette and extended his hand in front of Gu Fei. 

         Gu Fei looked at his hand, somewhat unsure what his intention was. Gu Fei hesitated for a moment before putting his own hand in it.

         Jiang Cheng grasped it tightly and gave it a hard squeeze before letting go.

         “When is it? The brainless building-hopping?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “After the final match.” Gu Fei rubbed his hand, which had gone a little pale from being squeezed.

         “I want to go watch.” Jiang Cheng said. Gu Fei was about to say something, but Jiang Cheng cut him off with a wave. “I won’t let anyone know I’m there, I just want to see.”

         “See what?” Gu Fei asked in resignation.

         “See what kind of person you really are.” Jiang Cheng gazed back at him. “I just want to get a clear look at the kind of person you are.”


Footnotes:

[1] In China, most elementary schools cover grades 1-6, and middle school (初中) last from grades 7-9, and high school from grades 10-12. So when Gu Fei mentions first year of middle school, he’s talking about year 7.

[2] Yiqi (义气): here it refers to an unspoken code among friends to do the right thing for each other, a sort of honour of friendship I guess, but I’m a little reluctant to use that word. It’s a nuanced concept and doesn’t really have a Western equivalent, but doesn’t have much to do with the story, since the idea is almost opposite to a romantic relationship, which is obvs what’s actually going on here.

[3] Xiao-Ming’s grandpa is a bit from earlier chapters, but also a common joke. It goes something like this:
I saw Xiao-Ming eating ice-cream, and out of concern, I went up to him and said, “It’s not good for your health to eat this on such a cold day!”
Xiao-Ming told me, his grandpa lived to 103 years old.
I asked, “From eating ice-cream?”
He said, “No, my grandpa never meddles in other people’s business.”

Moral of the joke: don’t stick your nose where you don’t belong, and you’ll get to live as long as Xiao-Ming’s grandpa.

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 5756
  • TL word count: 4206
  • TL time: 5:56:23
  • Edit: 1:15:53
  • Curse words: 6x fucks, 2x shit

TL’s Notes

they need better recreational activities at the steel works =_= (maybe i should start a cigarette count as well… don’t smoke cigarettes kids)