“What’s going on!” Jiang Cheng turned to glare at Lao-Xu.
Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3
For this year’s Sports Days, it seemed as though every senior class except for Class-8 had one of their students participate. Though the reason Class-8 didn’t contribute anyone wasn’t because they were all working hard to prepare for the University Entrance Exams. It was simply that Class-8 had no chance of winning any of the activities.
The way they played in the last basketball tournament could probably go down in the school annals as the time the losers striked back.
Gu Fei was rather looking forward to the Sports Days. It spanned from Friday to Sunday, which meant that starting from this afternoon, he could skip class with the excuse of watching the games. For the self-study class and the cram school on the weekend, it would be a miracle if there were even ten people in the classroom at that time.
The loudspeakers continued to report on the status of the various games since school started in the morning, as well as the announcement scripts submitted by each class. They all sounded the same. Gu Fei thought it was no different from the class announcements he heard in elementary school.
On this crisp autumn day, we say welcome to our Fourth High’s somethingeth annual school Sports Days. Colourful flags flutter on the field, crowds converge, there is excitement in the air. Everyone is rubbing their hands together in anticipation to show off their skills and secure honour for their class. Just look, on the racetrack of the 100 meter dash……
“Are you not coming to school this afternoon?” Jiang Cheng asked beside him.
“Mhm,” Gu Fei turned to him. “I’m gonna try to get a set of photos out this weekend. Of the street scenes. The weather’s nice these days, I’m going to walk around this afternoon.”
“Is it for a magazine?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Yeah, some newly established little magazine. I know one of the editors, he’s from around here. I used to learn photography from him.” Gu Fei said quietly. “If they use it……it’s a pretty big spread this time, with good pay too.”
“That’s great,” Jiang Cheng looked happier than he was. “What’s the theme?”
“‘What you don’t see of the small industrial city’. The shuttered factories, laid off workers, that kind of stuff.” Gu Fei said. “I feel like it’s made exactly for the Steel Works.”
“Will you still be taking photos tomorrow?” Jiang Cheng said. “I wanna come along and watch.”
“Watch me or watch me take photos?” Gu Fei asked.
“Mostly you, and the photography on the side.” Jiang Cheng smiled. “Try to keep a low profile.”
Gu Fei also smiled with him and nodded, “Alright.”
Sunday afternoon was the award ceremony and the concert. For the last couple days, Wang Xu had been dragging Jiang Cheng off to practice every chance he got. He was very enthusiastic and determined when it came to showing off, especially since this time he would be showing off something positive. It’d be a big help in improving his score in Yi Jing’s mind.
Frankly Gu Fei wanted to ask how Jiang Cheng could have time to watch him take photos, but he didn’t.
He still hadn’t brought up the concert to Jiang Cheng. He figured that if he did, the conversation would veer off in the direction of “why don’t you want to participate”, on which he had no way of adequately expressing himself. Besides, his boyfriend had said, if he really didn’t want to say something, then he should keep it to himself and keep it well. And so he had no choice but to comply.
Saturday was cram school. Jiang Cheng did not skip it. Only, looking at Gu Fei’s empty seat beside him, he felt a little hollow.
There were quite a few empty seats in the classroom. Most people were outside watching the games or had already left the school to frolic on their own. Even if the whole class was empty, he wouldn’t have felt anything. His eyes only flitted back and forth between the lectern and the seat beside him.
Sometimes when he stopped to think about it, it felt a little scary. It was only a day or two of not seeing Gu Fei, and he was already not used to it. Once he finished writing the University Entrance Exams next year, they would probably have to be apart……
He wasn’t afraid of the long distance, but he was afraid of not seeing Gu Fei whenever he turned around.
The melodrama and panic were probably common to a first romance, especially the start of a first romance.
How powerful it had to be, that it turned a whole grown guy into a sissy, that thinking about his boyfriend was all he did.
And the boyfriend?
The boyfriend was out taking photos. Who knows if throughout the whole morning, whether he had thought about anything other than composition and lighting and what not.
His phone vibrated once.
Jiang Cheng glanced down. Good Little Bunny.
– Wanna see some photos?
– No shit, show
Good Little Bunny sent over a few photos. Jiang Cheng took only one look and froze.
The photo showed a few dilapidated buildings. In the sun, shards of broken glass reflected speckles of glittering light. Junk was scattered haphazardly all over the rooftop, but it didn’t look dirty, only deserted. It was a scene of bleakness under the sunlight, a quiet without any sign of life.
Jiang Cheng was very familiar with this place. It was where the Steel Works Morons went building-hopping before.
And Gu Fei must’ve taken the photo from the rooftop where Jiang Cheng hid.
– you went there?
– mhm, look what I found
Good Little Bunny sent him another photo. It was of Gu Fei’s stretched open hand. In the palm was a walnut.
Jiang Cheng was a little shocked. He must’ve dropped this on the rooftop when he was taking walnuts out of the bag. After all this time, Gu Fei was able to find it.
Not to mention……
– you have such pretty hands
– ……where is your focus eh overachiever
Jiang Cheng laughed at himself as well. He looked through the photos again, then sent another message.
– how many did you find?
– two, i’m keeping them
– they’ve probably gone bad already, what are you keeping those for
– it won’t rot if i preserve it, and i can look at it whenever i miss you
Jiang Cheng stared at that line for a long time. It took Lao-Lu bellowing at Wang Xu to rock his mind back to the present. He swiftly sent back a reply.
– you can look at me whenever you miss me, what the hell are you looking at walnuts for
– then take a photo of yourself and send it over, i’m missing you right now
Jiang Cheng hesitated for a moment and opened up the camera app. He might be a narcissistic overachiever, but he rarely took selfies, especially in class. He had never done such a dorky thing before.
Although, when he was with Gu Fei, it would seem that he had done more than his share of these dorky things, so what’s one more? Only, when he flipped the camera to the front, the sudden appearance of nostrils and a gigantic face almost made him drop his phone.
Flipping scary it was.
Front facing cameras really are the perfect stealth weapon.
After a moment to gather himself, Jiang Cheng set the phone on the desk in front of him. He might not be a frequent selfie taker, but he understood very well which angle most flattered him. At the moment, he was the only one in the last row, and didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing him.
He adjusted himself for the camera, then pressed the shutter.
Since Lao-Lu had just finished his bellowing, the few people left in the classroom were quieter than usual. This “click-clack” sounded practically like a burst of thunder in Jiang Cheng’s ears.
Though it might not sound quite as loud in his classmates’ ears, still when it happened, several people turned around.
Jiang Cheng quickly flipped his phone down to the desk and directed his eyes forward stoically.
Zhou Jing chose this moment to turn around, “Jiang Cheng, hey, Jiang Cheng are you taking……”
Upon reflection, Jiang Cheng realized it was unfortunate that he had overlooked Zhou Jing’s presence. As someone sitting one desk in front of him, not to mention someone who was bored out of his mind, he would cease to be Zhou Jing if he didn’t turn around and ask.
Jiang Cheng picked up his English textbook and swatted it at Zhou Jing before he could finish his sentence, “Shut up.”
“I!” Zhou Jing blinked, his expression shocked.
“ZHOU JING!” Lao-Lu bellowed. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING! ARE YOU TRYING TO TAKE LESSONS FROM THE HONOUR STUDENT! LET ME CLAP FOR YOU THEN! COME ON, HOW ABOUT YOU GO STAND BESIDE MR. JIANG THERE AND LEARN FROM HIM!”
Zhou Jing quickly turned back and flopped down on his desk, then began to scribble furiously.
– you better appreciate this photo, i went through a lot to get it
Jiang Cheng couldn’t even bear to look too closely at how the selfie turned out before he sent it to Gu Fei. Then he reached into Gu Fei’s desk drawer, took out a piece of chocolate, and tossed it onto Zhou Jing’s desk.
– Cheng-ge, with this level of skill you really can only take photos of yourself, no one else’s face could stand up to this
A few minutes later, Gu Fei sent him another photo.
Jiang Cheng only took one look, before he quickly saved the picture into the folder on his phone named “Gu Feifei”.
It was a backlit silhouette of Gu Fei’s profile. He couldn’t see his expression, but against the bright background, Gu Fei’s straight nose, slightly open lips, elegant jaw, and the tiny burst of exposure centered around his lips……
Compared to Gu Fei’s selfie, his own was as unsightly as comparing buyers’ photos to the seller’s photos.
Though of course, Gu Fei was using a DSLR.
Come lunchtime, Gu Fei was still out taking photos. He sent a message to report on his progress. Looking at his plan, Jiang Cheng figured he would be lucky to finish by dinnertime.
Although he couldn’t eat lunch with Gu Fei anyways. Wang Xu had already leapt to his side as soon as the bell rang, “Come on come on let’s go! I sat here for a whole morning just to get two hours of practice in with you at lunch.”
“Wasn’t it so you could stare at Yi Jing?” Jiang Cheng stacked his textbooks together and stood up.
He had pushed all his study materials and books to Gu Fei’s side. There were probably less than 20 people with a stacked desk like this in the entire school, let alone this classroom.
He remembered Pan Zhi had once posted a set of pictures in his Friend Circle, lamenting about his tragic senior year of high school, the entirety of which was wasted on studying. Those desks in the classroom were stacked so high with textbooks and notes that it was enough to bury a person. It made Jiang Cheng feel a surge of panic.
Then looking at Class-8’s classroom, his own desk was especially prominent. A stranger looking in would think all the books in the class were piled onto his desk alone.
“This is my last opportunity.” Wang Xu looked at him. “An overachiever as well as a good looking guy like you probably can’t understand how I feel.”
“Let’s go,” Jiang Cheng said. “Hurry, I have to study in the afternoon.”
“I’m just saying, Jiang Cheng,” Wang Xu followed him out of the classroom. “Are you planning to toil like this all the way until the University Entrance Exams? There’s still almost a year left. If I was you I’d burn out for sure.”
“Which is why you’re not me.” Jiang Cheng glanced at him.
There was not much else to work on for the song. Wang Xu had dug out a whole lifetime’s worth of concentration and brainpower for this show off event. He was now able to accurately accompany Jiang Cheng, and even added more lines for himself. Aside from the chords Jiang Cheng gave him, he also added a section of interlude in the middle.
“Don’t be nervous tomorrow,” Wang Xu said. “If you’re nervous you’ll make mistakes. If you can’t find the right place to come in when I’m playing this part tomorrow, I’ll give you a look as signal.”
“No need,” Jiang Cheng sighed. “I know where to come in without even listening.”
“Pfft, sure you can.” Wang Xu scoffed.
“You don’t need to fight me,” Jiang Cheng glanced at him. “You just have to concede.”
“Shit,” Wang Xu didn’t know what else to say after the shit, so he plucked the strings a few times, then looked up and said excitedly. “Hey, let’s get Gu Fei to take some photos of us tomorrow with his high-end camera?”
“Hm?” Jiang Cheng blinked.
If Wang Xu hadn’t brought it up, he never would’ve thought about it. Although…… To participate on his own in an event Gu Fei didn’t wish to participate in, and furthermore collaborate with someone else, and then get Gu Fei to take pictures?
It was true that this whole thing started because Gu Fei didn’t want to join, but to ask Gu Fei to take photos……it was also true that he couldn’t bring himself to ask.
“The school would probably have someone take photos, right?” Jiang Cheng said. “Look how excited Lao-Xu is, he’ll probably take some pictures too.”
“How can the school’s camera compare to his!” Wang Xu said. “Anyway, he only bought that camera to look cool, never did see him having anything to show for it. What a great opportunity for him to bring his camera out for a walk.”
“……We’ll see,” Jiang Cheng thought about it. “For a performance like this, moving media is more interesting than static. You have to combine the music and the performance to show the three dimensionality. The main focus for your showing off shouldn’t be for the photos, it should be the live performance.”
“Ah, really?” Wang Xu was a little lost.
“Yi Jing will be sitting right there in front of the stage,” Jiang Cheng said. “But you want to show her photos of it after? She won’t be able to hear it even if she could see. Isn’t it more important that she’s watching you in that moment?”
“Ah, right! She’s gonna be sitting right there watching!” Wang Xu slapped his own leg. “Fuck! She’s gonna be sitting right there!”
“……Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about this?” Jiang Cheng felt like he could probably hear some echo if he reached over right now and knocked on Wang Xu’s head.
“I knew it this whole time, but when you suddenly put it like that,” Wang Xu rubbed his leg. “I’m a little nervous. No. A little excited.”
“One more time through, then I have to go study.” Jiang Cheng sighed.
There was no official class scheduled for the afternoon, it was all self-study periods. The teachers sat at the front of the classroom in case anyone wanted to ask questions. Though usually, only Yi Jing and a couple of other students would go up and ask. The teachers were always as lonely as a cloud.
Jiang Cheng had also gone up a few times to ask questions, but he didn’t today. He was slumped over the desk memorizing passages.
Half of his brain was memorizing passages, while the other half was lost in a mess of contemplation.
Yi Jing would sit in the audience and watch Wang Xu put on a performance. A performance that on the surface looked like he gave everything he had just to show off, but was in reality for her eyes only. It was kind of romantic.
Gu Fei would probably be sitting in the audience as well. Even if he didn’t participate, at the very least he would come watch.
However, he had no idea with what expression and what emotions would Gu Fei watch him.
He had never done anything like this before.
He figured Gu Fei had probably not gone through anything like this either.
Let it be a memory then. That year, I played the music you wrote. That year, you were my audience.
“Your performance will be the third one.” Lao-Xu showed Jiang Cheng the program. “All the senior students’ performances are scheduled at the beginning. Don’t be nervous, give them a good show!”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng swept his glance briefly over the program. The two performances before them were a chorus and a solo vocalist.
There was still an hour before the concert was due to start. The auditorium was already set up, and students had started to file in according to their classes.
Jiang Cheng sat in the classroom and glanced at Wang Xu across the aisle. The performers didn’t need to enter with the audience. They all waited outside the auditorium, and only went to wait backstage when it was almost their turn.
“Should we be heading over after they’re all inside?” Wang Xu asked.
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng nodded.
“How’s my clothes?” Wang Xu tugged on his T-shirt. The silver dragon sprawled across it was enough to blind Jiang Cheng’s eyes.
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng nodded. He refused to wear matching clothes with Wang Xu, instead opting for the clothes he usually wore: a white T-shirt and jeans. Wang Xu had nagged him for a long time because he thought it was not hip enough.
“Should we put some makeup on?” Wang Xu suddenly asked. “Once the stage lights come on, will it make me look washed out?”
“Fuck off.” Jiang Cheng answered simply.
His phone pinged once. He glanced down at it.
– I’m in the auditorium, when is your act?
– we’re coming on third
After replying to Gu Fei’s message, Jiang Cheng stood up and hopped in place a little: “Let’s go, captain.”
The auditorium was already packed with students, and music streamed out of the speakers. Fourth High had no affinity for academics, but never lacked when it came to these things. Jiang Cheng even saw someone testing the track lights on stage.
“I’m nervous.” Wang Xu said.
“You won’t be when we go on.” Jiang Cheng walked to the entrance of the auditorium and looked inside. He didn’t even need a second glance to see Gu Fei sitting in the third row, in the seat nearest to the door.
Gu Fei also saw him. His mouth curved into a smile in Jiang Cheng’s direction.
Jiang Cheng stepped back outside. As soon as he turned around, someone got in his face with a camera and snapped a bunch of pictures.
Next, even the girls beside them waiting to go on stage started to take pictures and videos of him with their phones. He had no choice but to hide behind Wang Xu.
After the first act started, Jiang Cheng and Wang Xu walked into the auditorium.
“Oh fucking shit, there’s so many people.” Wang Xu said quietly.
Jiang Cheng glanced toward the audience. It was a dark mass of heads. When he spotted Gu Fei by the door before, he hadn’t noticed that there were so many people inside. Looking at them now, he finally started to feel some pressure.
He immediately glanced over to Gu Fei’s seat. Gu Fei was aiming his phone in this direction, probably to record a video. Jiang Cheng was a little disappointed at first that the guy didn’t bring his DSLR, but he quickly realized Gu Fei’s camera was in the hands of Yi Jing, who was sitting beside him.
Yi Jing was very intently taking photos of them.
Jiang Cheng smiled.
Gu Fei gave him a thumbs up.
There were quite a few people backstage. Lao-Xu was also there, talking with the teacher in charge of the sound. Jiang Cheng figured Lao-Xu must have really gotten into it this time. The banner on stage with the huge words “Fourth High Concert” was written by Lao-Xu himself, and now he was backstage helping out with every other thing.
“Xu-zong!” As soon as he saw Lao-Xu, Wang Xu lunged at him like he was a dear family member. “I’m nervous.”
“Don’t be nervous don’t be nervous,” Lao-Xu patted him. “I’ve listened to you guys practice numerous times, there’s not a single fault to be found. It’s perfect. Just play like you normally do!”
Jiang Cheng hadn’t been very nervous at all, but with Wang Xu beside him stressing the point over and over, it made him a little nervous too. He instinctively reached in his pocket for a cigarette, but fortunately there was nothing in there.
“How’s it going back here?” Lao-Lu came out of nowhere and joined them, a staff badge around his neck. “You two are going on third, right?”
“Yeah.” Jiang Cheng nodded.
A stupid little school concert has staff badges? And Lao-Lu’s wearing it so obediently too……
He suddenly felt like laughing, and was at once not nervous anymore.
“Nobody’s ever played piano at our school concert before,” Lao-Lu said. “Jiang Cheng here is the first.”
“Well, probably no guitar either huh.” Wang Xu felt a little ignored.
“Nope, there were, quite a few too.” Lao-Lu said. Then after a moment of thought he patted Wang Xu’s shoulder. “But this is the first time for piano and guitar.”
Wang Xu grinned, satisfied.
“I saw Yi Jing with a DSLR just now. How can she only shoot from the audience with such a great camera.” Lao-Lu was a little displeased. “When you two go on later I’ll tell her to go on stage and film you from there.”
“Yes! Great idea!” Wang Xu was instantly beaming from ear to ear.
After the chorus of the first act, the two overly dressed up MCs went on and recited a segment of not at all funny jokes, then announced the solo vocalist for the next act.
A wave of applause and screams sounded from below. It was only then that Jiang Cheng realized the singer was Wild Boar Head.
As soon as Wild Boar Head opened his mouth, the clapping and screaming started again. Jiang Cheng sighed. If this was the reaction they gave to this level of skill, then once he and Wang Xu go on later……tsk tsk.
“Is Jiang Cheng from your class going to play piano?” Another teacher chatted with Lao-Xu on the side.
“Yep,” Lao-Xu answered happily. “Wang Xu’s going to play guitar.”
“Wow, not bad, Jiang Cheng arranged the music too?” The teacher looked down at the program.
“Uh huh,” The smile on Lao-Xu’s face was no less bright than Wang Xu’s. He lowered his voice and said to the other teacher. “The music was written by our own Gu Fei.”
“Oh?” The other teacher was surprised. “Kids these days huh, impressive.”
Jiang Cheng frowned and looked in Lao-Xu’s direction, but he and the other teacher had already directed the conversation elsewhere, so Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything.
“Hey Jiang Cheng,” The MC who had been fixing her makeup in a little mirror on the side called out to him, and smiled as she said. “I thought you’d be performing the act with Gu Fei today.”
“When has Gu Fei ever participated in something like this,” Wang Xu cut in. “No one can convince him to.”
“Ayy… I’d love to hear him sing a song or something.” The MC’s expression was one of disappointment. She was probably one of Gu Fei’s fangirls from another class, but her makeup was so thick that Jiang Cheng couldn’t tell who she was.
Although, Jiang Cheng wouldn’t have recognized her anyway without the makeup. Even within Class-8, he still had a hard time telling everyone apart.
Another round of applause rang out from the audience. The Wild Boar Head finished his song.
“You two get ready,” The MC lifted up her skirt and walked toward the stage, all the while reminding them. “Good luck Jiang Cheng!”
“What about me?” Wang Xu asked.
The MC didn’t have time to answer him as she walked onto the stage.
“The shit?” Wang Xu was a little unhappy.
“Good luck.” Jiang Cheng patted Wang Xu’s arm, and gestured to the side with his chin. “Yi Jing’s here.”
Wang Xu turned and saw Yi Jing coming in from the side door to backstage, holding the camera. He suddenly hopped in place, “Jiang Cheng, you better not drag me down later.”
“Alrighty.” Jiang Cheng smiled.
The MC prattled off a bunch of useless words on stage before announcing the next act, “Next up we have a very special performance, a format that’s never been done at our school before, a duet of piano and guitar. Is everyone excited to hear what that sounds like?”
Jiang Cheng sighed. He felt like telling her that piano and guitar was an extremely common standard combination that could be seen practically everywhere.
The applause and cheering was clearly much more enthusiastic than when Wild Boar Head went on stage earlier. This pleased him.
“Then let us enjoy the performance together! Coming from Class-8: ‘Sa Ye’; piano and arrangement by Jiang Cheng; guitar by Wang Xu……”
Jiang Cheng closed his eyes and focused his mind.
Amidst the nonstop applause and whistles, the MC added, “Composer: Gu Fei.”
At first the auditorium was a little quiet, then came a wild burst of applause and screams that was enough to take the roof off.
Jiang Cheng snapped open his eyes. He stared in a daze for a second before grabbing the program on a table beside him.
Arrangement and piano: Jiang Cheng.
Guitar: Wang Xu.
There wasn’t a third line.
“What’s going on!” Jiang Cheng turned to glare at Lao-Xu, and asked in a lowered voice.
Lao-Xu was also caught off guard, “I don’t know.”
“Jiang Cheng,” Wang Xu tugged at him. “We have to go.”
Jiang Cheng couldn’t tell how he felt at this moment. When he passed by the MC and saw the smile on her face, Jiang Cheng had an urge to hit a girl for the first time in his life.
He didn’t know the reason behind Gu Fei’s refusal to participate in the concert, but Gu Fei probably wouldn’t mind if he played his song. However, now with the sudden addition of composer Gu Fei……
The uncertainty and unease in his heart made his hands cold. He had no idea how Gu Fei would react to something like this.
When he followed Wang Xu onto the stage, he couldn’t bother to pay attention to the intensity of the audience’s enthusiasm. He swiftly shot a glance over to Gu Fei’s seat.
Then it was like his whole body sank abruptly in dread.
The seat was empty. Gu Fei had left.
- Raw character count: 6595
- TL word count: 4509
- TL time: 4:25:42
- Edit time: 0:41:06
- Curse words: 3x fucks, 5x shit
To everyone who cried last chapter, I love you all _:3_L
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