May we both be as brave as each other.


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

         There were at least three levels to the haunted house. The intro outside said the entire course should take about 40 minutes, but this 40 minutes probably didn’t take into account the time visitors spent standing in one spot screaming their heads off. Either way, Jiang Cheng felt that during the time they’ve been making all sorts of screams that could easily scare off a ghost, they had already walked from one room of flashing lights to another for almost 20 minutes, but still didn’t walk on even one flight of stairs.

         “Should we be looking for a way to get upstairs?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “I’m looking,” Pan Zhi answered from the very front. “Have we been in this room before?”

         “No.” Gu Fei said.

         “We wouldn’t have gone through that door either,” Pan Zhi pointed at a closed door ahead. “Maybe that goes……”

         Before he finished his sentence, a round of children’s giggling drifted by behind them.

         Even though Jiang Cheng could tell from the static background noise that the laughter must’ve been broadcasted from a speaker hidden in a corner of the room, it didn’t stop him from getting goosebumps all over his body.

         “There’s a ghost behind us?” Li Song asked.

         “Come on let’s go……” Xu Meng tugged on Li Yuqing’s hem, and kept her head low, not daring to look around.

         As she was talking, another round of childish giggles rang out.

         “AHH——” They all started screaming at the same time, and tried to squeeze past Pan Zhi as they threw themselves at the door .

         “Don’t freak out don’t be scar……” Pan Zhi was shoved until he was unsteady on his feet, so he rushed to pull open the door. This was immediately followed by a sudden explosive howl. “AHHH——”

         Outside the door stood a ‘ghost’, who might very well be passing by, or might have been waiting outside this whole time. The pushing and shoving landed Pan Zhi right in the arms of the ‘ghost’.

         Amidst all the chaotic screaming, even the ghost was pushed against the wall, and had no choice but to forcefully shove Pan Zhi away.

         “AHH——” They turned and raced away.

         There was another door behind them. The party in their panic, didn’t give it so much as a glance before charging at the door like the world was ending. With a swift movement, they pulled open the door and rushed in.

         The bright and glaring sunlight shone down on the world even as they screeched and howled.

         The group of them stood under the sun, letting their screaming go on for a few more beats, before finally stopping with faces full of confusion.

         “The fuck?” Pan Zhi squinted his eyes in shock. “How are we outside?”

         “We came out before even going upstairs?” Jiang Cheng turned back and looked at the little door. “Is that a fucking emergency exit?”

         Gu Fei stood at the very back with his arms crossed, and cleared his throat.

         “Hm?” Jiang Cheng turned back and looked at him.

         Gu Fei signaled to the side with his eyes. They all followed his direction, and suddenly wanted to sprint right back into the haunted house.

         About 30 m to their right was the lineup for the entrance. About 30-50 people were standing in line, all looking this way. The expressions on their faces were hard to describe, but a few were already bent over in laughter.

         “What the fuck, who led the way!” Pan Zhi asked, devastated.

         “Craycray?” Li Yuqing said.

         “Not me,” Hu Feng spoke up right away. “I came out behind Da-Li!”

         “Me?” Li Song blanked out for a while all confused, even gestured for a while with his hands. “I might have done a…… door opening action?”

         “Idiot!” Pan Zhi jumped on him and gave him several thumps in a row. Under his lead, they each went up and gave Li Song a whack.

         Now that they were out, there was no way to get back in again. They could only straighten their face and put on an expression of “we simply went the wrong way”, as the gazes from the people in line followed them away from the haunted house.

         “Let’s go check out the ancient tower?” Xu Meng suggested. “It’s a cultural attraction, should be pretty interesting.”

         “Mhm,” Gu Fei took out his phone and checked the time. “After we come out of the tower…… it should be just about time to go eat something. I think there’s a place in the park that’s pretty good, let me just ask where it is.”

         “Do you also have no sense of direction,” Li Yuqing asked laughing. “You can’t even remember where the food place is?”

         “It’s not that,” Gu Fei said as he dialed a number. “The last time I was here was during the Spring trip in elementary school.”

         “Hah?” Li Yuqing was baffled. “I saw there’s an amusement park area here, and even a zoo. If it was me I’d probably come here several times a semester.” [1]

         “Which just goes to show that your mind is not yet fully developed.” Pan Zhi said.

         “You’re the one who’s not fully developed!” Li Yuqing gave him a glare.

         Gu Fei walked to the side, probably calling Liu Fan’s brother again to ask where the food place was.

         Jiang Cheng looked at his silhouette, casted in shadow.

         Whether it was the movie theatre, or the amusement park, Gu Fei’s leisure activities seemed to have been left behind in the past. Even though Jiang Cheng didn’t much like going to the park himself, he had still been more than a few times with classmates and friends. After the school stopped organizing the Spring and Fall trips, they went out by themselves all the time.

         Whereas Gu Fei’s life was only in the Steel Works. Other than the couple times he bailed on school to venture out by himself, it seemed like he had always stayed in and around the Steel Works.

         These past months that Jiang Cheng spent here would’ve been the same, if it wasn’t for Gu Fei. The world around him seemed to be frozen in time, everybody walked along the same few streets under their feet, as they stayed trapped in this tiny space.

         Carrying on a dull and feeble existence.

         This kind of life could be tolerated for one or two days, endured with teeth clenched for one or two months, but after one or two years he might just implode. Jiang Cheng walked to a nearby garbage can and lit up a cigarette in his mouth. But as time passed, one might start getting used to it — whether there were still feelings of resignation or reluctance — and eventually sink down.

         The old tower was next to a small lake in the park, the lake water wasn’t exactly the cleanest, but the tower was very beautiful.

         It was a tall tower, standing at the top, one could look down and see the streets outside the park and the cars in the traffic. At the same time, it was also easier to get a clear look of the grey and grim aura of the city under the sunlight.

         “Let me just take down the description,” Pan Zhi said as he took photos of the introduction on the wall with his phone. “Quite a few words too, I’ll copy some of this when I get back, and my weekly journal will be good!”

         “That’s not a bad idea.” Li Song also started taking pictures.

         “I’m telling you guys,” Pan Zhi looked at the others who had also taken out their phones and started snapping at the wall. “Don’t all go and copy the same things as me.”

         “It’s fine, we’ll just clarify that it’s a reference, of course the reference has to be the same.” Hu Feng said.

         “It’s real sad if you think about it,” Pan Zhi sighed. “A weekly journal of only several hundred words, but probably only the last line is written by ourselves, everything above will be referenced from the Ancient Tower tourist iIllustration.”

         They all doubled up in laughter.

         “It’s been a long time since I’ve written a weekly journal,” Jiang Cheng leaned back on the railing and stretched. “Lao-Xu never asks for these kinds of things.”

         “Nobody would do it even if he asked,” Gu Fei said. “If you asked me to write one of these things every week, I wouldn’t be able to write it for sure.”

         “Not necessarily, you’d probably be able to,” Jiang Cheng chuckled. “You can write poetry.”

         Gu Fei laughed, “Oh yeah.”

         “Hey I have to tell you,” Jiang Cheng turned and leaned over the railing, peered over at Pan Zhi, then turned back and said quietly. “The grandson Pan has probably…… figured it out.”

         “Mhm, I figured that he figured it out,” Gu Fei lowered his voice as well. “Will that be a problem?”

         “No,” Jiang Cheng said. “I just haven’t decided how to break it to him, but since he figured it out, that’s good too. Saves me the trouble of finding the words.”

         “He had always known about you right?” Gu Fei asked.

         “Mhm,” Jiang Cheng nodded. “He’s the only one…… Of course, now you know too.”

         Gu Fei laughed, “I’ve got leverage on youuu.”

         “I’ve got leverage on you toooo.” Jiang Cheng gave him a side-eye.

         Gu Fei kept laughing and didn’t say anything.

         “Although,” Jiang Cheng was quiet for a while. “To you, this doesn’t quite count as a leverage, does it?”

         “Is it for you?” Gu Fei threw the question back at him. 

         “I don’t know, I guess,” Jiang Cheng furrowed his brows. “I’m not sure. I don’t like to be stared at, to be the topic of other people’s discussions, I especially don’t like to be…… chastised.”

         Gu Fei looked at him, and Jiang Cheng paused for a moment before continuing, “‘You shouldn’t be doing that, you’re doing that wrong, here’s what you need to correct, here’s where you need to improve’. I hate being scolded and told that I’m doing this wrong and doing that wrong, I’ve heard way too much of that growing up, I’m just…… really……”

         “I know,” Gu Fei said. “I know what you mean.”

         “I wasn’t planning on talking about this,” Jiang Cheng sighed softly and hunched over on the railing. “I don’t want you to think that I’m…… cowardly.”

         “This doesn’t have much to do with whether you’re cowardly, does it.” Gu Fei also hunched over the railing beside him. “Being brave doesn’t mean broadcasting this matter for the whole world to know, just like I don’t mind people knowing what kind of underwear I’m wearing, but it doesn’t mean that I’ll walk around everywhere in only my underwear.”

         Jiang Cheng cocked his head to look at Gu Fei, then after a moment couldn’t hold in his laugh anymore, “What kind of shitty example is that.”

         “I already tried my best.” Gu Fei said.

         Since coming out of the haunted house, Pan Zhi hadn’t talked to Jiang Cheng about Gu Fei. Until the holiday was almost over and they had to go back on the evening train, in the afternoon after they had lunch and went back to Jiang Cheng’s apartment. Pan Zhi finished packing his bags, and finally said, “You and that Gu Fei……”

         “Hm?” Jiang Cheng was sitting back on the sofa.

         “So when did it start?” Pan Zhi asked.

         “Not very long ago,” Jiang Cheng said. “Do you have some suggestions for me?

         “Nope,” Pan Zhi grinned. “What’s there to suggest, the rain’s gonna fall and the grandpa’s gonna date, how normal is that, how could I hold you back?”

         Jiang Cheng laughed and didn’t say anything.

         “But to be quite honest, I’m kinda surprised.” Pan Zhi said. “I just didn’t expect you to come here and actually find love.”

         “Why?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.

         “What do you mean why,” Pan Zhi sat down beside him. “I just figured you wouldn’t be in the mood, given the circumstances.”

         “Mmn,” Jiang Cheng leaned on the armrest, and rested his chin on his arm. “I wasn’t expecting it myself.”

         “But it’s totally understandable,” Pan Zhi thought for a moment. “I was pretty worried about you before, then I saw that you didn’t break down or anything…… It’s gotta be better than sitting here by yourself.”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t answer. He stared at the ceiling and spaced out for a long time, then turned to Pan Zhi, “Pan Zhi.”

         “Call me something else.” Pan Zhi rubbed his arm.

         “Grandson.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “What’s up gramps.” Pan Zhi turned to him.

         “Dating, and going on dates,” Jiang Cheng said. “What do you think is the difference?”

         “Is this a brain teaser?” Pan Zhi asked.

         “Tease your great uncle.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “You gotta ask me this?” Pan Zhi looked at him. “Doesn’t seem like your style.”

         “I just want to hear what a person with relatively low intellect thinks about it,” Jiang Cheng pulled out a cigarette and kept it between his lips. “Us high intellect folks tend to overthink.”

         “Isn’t it just the difference between overthinking and brainless, I want to go on dates,” Pan Zhi said. “For example me, I just want to go on dates, with Huang Hui, if not, then……”

         “No,” Jiang Cheng cut him off. “Let’s change up the wording. What about ‘want to date me’, versus ‘want to go on dates with me’?”

         “Goddamn,” Pan Zhi knitted his brows. “So fussy. If they’re both about you, then whether it’s dating or going on dates, it all has to be with you.”

         Jiang Cheng gave him a thumbs up.

         Jiang Cheng was a little surprised at Gu Fei’s meticulousness. Whether it was dating or go on dates, they were both preceded by Gu Fei himself. Whichever answer he chose, they were both him.

         The corner of Jiang Cheng’s mouth curled up. At least on this point, Gu Fei knew his thoughts.

         It wasn’t that Jiang Cheng felt very lonely, or isolated, that he needed to find a random whoever in this place to begin a relationship with. It was only because the other person was Gu Fei. Whichever kind of relationship it was, the premise was that it had to be Gu Fei.

         He had been mulling over this line for the last couple of days, and to be honest, he’d long figured out what they meant.

         He also understood what Gu Fei really meant when he said “I will keep on liking you until you don’t need me to like you anymore”.

         He had to admit, Gu Fei really had considered much much more than he had. Jiang Cheng didn’t think of himself as a very impulsive person, but after all, the reason he went for it was only because ‘I like you’ and ‘I want to be with you’.

         I want to date you, not just go on dates. With you, and nobody else.

         That was the reason Gu Fei ended up outside his building waiting for him that day.

         If there comes a day however, when the road runs out from beneath them, Gu Fei’s choice will probably be  “let’s end it here”, but what would Jiang Cheng choose?

         That was the question Gu Fei wanted him to answer.

         Gu Fei must be used to thinking of everything. The environment he grew up in, his family, his past experiences, these all made it a habit for him to think of all the possibilities, and find a corresponding method to deal with each possibility. 

         But Jiang Cheng was different.

         He didn’t have the environment that required him to think and to ascertain everything like this. Even if he was suddenly thrown into a place like this, he still didn’t think very much about it. He would deal with each problem as they came up.

         I’m not their biological son, this is what my real mom and dad are like, my environment has changed from heaven to earth…… He hadn’t probed very deeply into any one of these matters, all of his actions were based on what was directly in front of him. Over there is a boulder, how should I get around that, here is a ditch, how do I cross it.

         On this point, he and Gu Fei’s ways of thinking were entirely different yet similarly ingrained. 

         “Is that something he asked you?” Pan Zhi asked beside him.

         “I asked him.” Jiang Cheng picked up the ashtray on the side table and set it on the floor by the sofa, then flicked some ash into it.

         “No way,” Pan Zhi looked at him. “I know you too well.”

         “Then watch that you don’t get permanently silenced by me one day.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “So the feeling he gives me,” Pan Zhi also pulled out a cigarette from the pack on the side table and lit it. “Is like…… How do I say this, when I see him I just want to call him ‘ge’.” [2]

         “He’s younger than you.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “…… I’m just saying,” Pan Zhi tsked. “You’re younger than me too, but I call you grandpa. What I mean is, he just gives off the impression as…… someone who’s shouldered a lot of things.”

         “Really.” Jiang Cheng sighed softly. It was a pretty accurate assessment.

         “Some people you just know right off the bat, there’s this air around them, it’s something you can sense.” Pan Zhi said. “Even though in the haunted house…… But at first glance I just felt the urge to call him Fei-ge, you know what I mean, right.”

         “Yeah.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “But that’s not why I call you gramps.” Pan Zhi continued.

         “You don’t have to provide a clarification on that.” Jiang Cheng said.

         “Cheng-er,” Pan Zhi took a drag on the cigarette, and pondered for a long while with a very solemn expression. “What you and Yu Xin had didn’t count as dating, it didn’t even count as ‘going on dates’.”

         “Ah.” Jiang Cheng answered, and also gazed back at him with a solemn expression. 

         “So,” Pan Zhi was quiet again for a long time. “Gu Fei is your first love.”

         “Fuck,” Jiang Cheng laughed out loud. “You’ve been brewing for all this time, I thought you were gonna say something big. If you gotta fart at least make it a loud one.”

         “I’m not done, not done!” Pan Zhi looked at him grumpily. “Can you please slow down your mockery of me from a sprint to a saunter, will you die if you slow down!”

         “Saunter, I’ll saunter.” Jiang Cheng nodded. “Do please go on sir.”

         “So generally speaking, first loves usually…… tend to hurt a little, after all we’re…… still young.” Pan Zhi held the cigarette as he tried hard to find the right words, and struggled as he blundered on. “I’m just saying, don’t let yourself get hurt too badly, you know what I mean? Just…… gramps, looking at that…… my grandm…… my other grandpa I guess, he seems like the kind of person who already knows how to protect himself very well…… is all I’m trying to say.”

         “Ah.” It took Jiang Cheng a long time to gather from this tangle of chaotic addresses the meaning Pan Zhi was trying to express.

         “Don’t think that my words are uh, inappropriate.” Pan Zhi said.

         “Thank you,” Jiang Cheng stubbed out his cigarette, then got up and patted Pan Zhi on the shoulder. “I understand.”

         “Mmn.” Pan Zhi nodded.

         “Put the ash in here,” Jiang Cheng set the ashtray down in front of him. “If you flick it onto the table again I’ll make you lick the whole table.”

         “The fuck!” Pan Zhi froze. “I was fucking puting it on a napkin OK!”

         “That’s why I’m not making you lick the table right now.” Jiang Cheng laughed as he fell back into the sofa.

         Gu Fei did not participate in the activity of taking Pan Zhi and the others to the train station. He hadn’t really participated in all the activities over the last few days, but to Gu Miao, he was still not spending enough time at home. Therefore that evening Gu Fei was taking her for some meat pies at Wang Xu’s place.

         Jiang Cheng took Pan Zhi and the others to the station, and said, “Alright, don’t go making any farewell speech, I can’t take the cheese.”

         “We won’t,” Hu Feng said. “Come back and visit during Summer break alright, let’s not be strangers, what do you say?”

         “…… This I really can’t say for sure.” The thought hadn’t really crossed Jiang Cheng’s mind all these months. Whether it was going back, or what he was going to do if he went back there, he hadn’t considered it at all.

         “Or we can make a plan to go somewhere together.” Li Song said.

         “We’ll work out the details when the time comes.” Pan Zhi said.

         “Oh right, Gu Fei had been playing tour guide for the last few days, and we didn’t even get to say thanks.” Li Yuqing handed Jiang Cheng the bag she’d been holding. “Didn’t he say the other day that he has a little sister, it might not be appropriate to buy something for him directly, so we got a doll……”

         Jiang Cheng smiled and accepted it, “No need to be so courteous.”

         He figured if these people had met the little sister, none of them would think to buy her a doll.

         After they went into the station, Jiang Cheng turned to walk to the bus stop, and very frugally took the bus back to his apartment.

         When he got home, he took a picture of the doll and sent it to Gu Fei.

         – my classmates got it for Gu Miao

         Gu Fei quickly sent him a message in reply.

         – they’re gone?

         – mhm, you guys still at Jiuri’s place?

         – yep, are you coming

         – nah, i’m a little tired, gonna lie down for a bit and rest my old back

         – backmassage.jpg

         Jiang Cheng laughed for a long time, then walked around the apartment a few times to see if Pan Zhi had left anything behind, before walking back to his room. It was still early, there was enough time to…… do another set of test questions.

         Jiang Cheng stood in front of his desk, and felt a profound reverence for the choice he just made.

         This, is the property of the overachiever.

         Kneel.

         The phone rang once again, Gu Fei sent over a picture of Gu Miao.

         In the photo, Gu Miao was holding a meat pie with a confused expression on her face.

         – i showed her the picture of the doll, this is her reaction

         – hhhhhhh, what a great brother you are, that this is the face of a little girl seeing a doll

         Jiang Cheng picked up the twisted bundle of covers on the bed and shook them out. Even though he was going to do some test questions, the environment was also important, it had to be clean and organized…… He saw the corner of a black box peeking out from under his pillow.

         He picked it up, and after a brief glance opened the lid, though he already guessed what it was when he saw the box.

         But when he opened it and saw that it really was a fountain pen decked in a very provocative red colour lying inside, he was still a little shocked that Pan Zhi would actually gift him a pen. [3]

         There was a tiny slip of paper inside with a line of writing on it.

         You’d mock me for sure if I give this to you in person, so I’m leaving it here. I’m giving you a pen, so you can always remember that you are a genius overachiever.

         Jiang Cheng sat down in front of the desk with the pen, and laughed for a good while.

         After thinking it over some more, he sighed in amazement. He was friends with Pan Zhi for a reason. This guy enjoyed the grandson’s treatment while fretting like a grandpa. 

         He grabbed a piece of paper and randomly scribbled down a few characters with the pen. The only problem was with his handwriting, it was impossible to show off how good the pen was no matter what pen he used.

         He stared at the paper for a while, then slowly took in a few breaths, and wrote down a line of words.

         May we both be as brave as each other.


Footnotes:

[1] In China, when they say “park” it more often than not refers to a place built with a purpose, whether it’s themed, has rides, or some other attraction, with fences around it and clear entrance and exits. It usually does not simply refer to a plot of land within a city with trees and grass and benches, where people go to just sit and look at birds.

[2] Hahaha don’t get the wrong idea, ‘gege’ and ‘ge’ has very different … nuances. ‘Gege’ is used to show intimacy, while ‘ge’ is used to show deference, often employed in more ‘macho’ settings between actual bro-y bros. In this case it’s because Gu Fei seemed so mature, that Pan Zhi felt compelled to call him big bro.

[3] Fountain pen is kind of a common/stereotypical/old fashioned gift to give to a friend who is moving away.

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 5769
  • TL word count: 4091
  • TL time: 4:12:32
  • Edit: 1:07:32
  • Curse words: 6x fucks, 1x shits

TL’s Notes

MAY WE BOTH BE AS BRAVE AS EACH OTHER.