“I got a boyfriend.”
Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3
Jiang Cheng didn’t want to take the call. Ever since he had arrived at this place, no, ever since he realized he was adopted, he had found it difficult to face Shen Yiqing, nor did he wish to face Shen Yiqing.
There was no significant conflict between him and that home, but the strict, almost oppressive disciplines, the frosty atmosphere that prevented him from truly relaxing even when he was at home, plus the hidden nature of Li Baoguo’s imprint within himself…… Perhaps it was because of all this, he had entered a so-called rebellious stage probably since he started elementary school, and continued ‘rebelling’, not stopping until his eventual departure.
He did not know what the family dynamic was like at home when he was not there, but as soon as he stepped through the door, he could sense the irritation in the air, which would reflexively activate all the thorns around his body.
The warmth, the ease, and the sense of being grounded that that home gave him was far from that provided by Pan Zhi’s home, with his parents who spent most of the week playing mahjong.
Other than academic achievements, there was probably not a single thing about him that satisfied his parents. His relationship with them was as if he was forcefully conscripted into a war, with them commanding the other side, while he never once won a single battle.
It was why he put such an importance on his grades. No matter how much he ‘acted out’ normally, he would always give his all when it came to tests and exams. In the almost twenty years of this war, this was his sole stronghold.
Alas, that final explosive argument finally did sever the last thread of bond between him and that home.
He had always thought that his dad’s……or rather Jiang Wei’s stay at the hospital from pneumonia had nothing to do with him, it was a coincidence that it happened after their argument that had almost escalated to a physical fight. As for the subject of that argument, it was nothing more than another skipped class. He harboured a lot of resentment for the fact that Shen Yiqing had always blamed the incident on him.
Now that he thought about it, perhaps it was not entirely unrelated.
Perhaps, it had been from a chronic suppression and buildup over time. It must’ve been tiring, that the child they had adopted never fitted into the family, always rebelling under their tutelage like a bomb that might go off at any time.
Jiang Cheng grabbed his phone from the bed, the screen had already darkened. He was quiet.
If he did not know that he wasn’t their biological son, if he had not come back to this place, perhaps he would continue like he did before, emboldened to keep struggling in that home, to fiercely rebel.
Now, it was as though he had finally jumped out of a part of the story. When he stood on the sideline and looked back on the past, it was as though there was finally an answer to everything, whether it was his own actions or those of everyone else in his family.
His phone rang again, it was still Shen Yiqing.
Jiang Cheng picked up the phone, looked at it for a while, then swiped at the screen with one finger and picked up the call, “Hello?”
“Is this Xiao-Cheng?” It was Shen Yiqing’s voice.
“Yes.” Jiang Cheng answered.
Gu Fei got up and walked out of the bedroom, gently closing the door behind him.
Jiang Cheng leaned back against the chair. If he counted the days, it had not been very long since they last contacted each other, but Shen Yiqing’s voice on the other side suddenly sounded unfamiliar to him.
All at once, he felt a little dejected. Almost twenty years and they had failed at building a close relationship, while it was this easy to become like strangers.
“How are things with you right now?” Shen Yiqing asked.
“Pretty good.” Jiang Cheng answered.
“Then……what about Li Baoguo?” Shen Yiqing continued.
Jiang Cheng frowned. He didn’t want Shen Yiqing to know about this, he was afraid of being asked to recall it: what happened, why, and then what happened……
When Shen Yiqing did not get an answer, she said, “Did he……commit suicide?”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng answered.
“What happened?” From her voice, he could imagine the way she was furrowing her brows as she spoke.
“I don’t know,” Jiang Cheng shut his eyes briefly, then opened them again. “He got lung cancer, and couldn’t afford treatment.”
Shen Yiqing was quiet for a while, then spoke again, “Did it have anything to do with you?”
“What?” Jiang Cheng was stunned.
“His suicide, did it have anything to do with you?” Shen Yiqing asked.
“What the fuck?” Jiang Cheng had never felt so shocked.
A sigh came through the receiver that expressed Shen Yiqing’s displeasure at his cursing, “Tell me the truth, even though you’re not part of this family anymore, but……”
“What truth?” Jiang Cheng felt maybe his brain was a little muddled from memorizing text passages all night, he could make no sense whatsoever from Shen Yiqing’s question. “What truth should I tell? What truth do you want to hear?”
“Xiao-Cheng,” Shen Yiqing said. “Your older brother already called me.”
“Who the fuck is my older brother?!” Jiang Cheng yelled. The utter confusion of realization yet not quite understanding anything at all made him want to blow up right this very moment.
“Calm yourself down!” Shen Yiqing also raised her voice. “I don’t want to hear you shouting hysterically anymore!”
Li Hui had called Shen Yiqing. That wasn’t surprising.
What did Li Hui say to Shen Yiqing? No idea. Whatever it was, it would not be surprising.
Whatever Li Hui had said, Shen Yiqing had not believed him.
But what had made Jiang Cheng suddenly blow up, was that Shen Yiqing did not believe him either.
She called only to confirm.
Why was it that less than a year after he came back, Li Baoguo had killed himself.
Why would Li Hui call her and say……
“Sure, I’ll calm down.” Jiang Cheng took in a deep breath, patted his pockets, and did not find any cigarettes. He got up and opened the bedroom door.
Gu Fei was standing by the living room window looking at the moon, and at the sound of the door, he turned around.
Jiang Cheng walked up and found a pack of cigarettes in Gu Fei’s pocket, then put one in his mouth. Gu Fei took out a lighter and lit it for him.
“Can you first tell me what Li Hui said?” Jiang Cheng turned back into the bedroom and closed the door.
“You……” Shen Yiqing might have heard the sound of the lighter, and could also tell that he was speaking with a cigarette in his mouth.
“Yes I’m smoking,” Jiang Cheng said. “Sorry, I can’t help it right now.”
It was probably the single thing he had said the most at home. Every time he failed to gain the higher ground, he would say this first.
As time passed, and as the number of times he said this increased, the words “I’m sorry” would often take on a note of anger, like that day by the river when he roared out a strand of “I’m sorry” to Gu Fei, as if venting. Like right now, when he told Shen Yiqing sorry as he was almost bursting with irritation.
In certain situations, “I’m sorry” had become a way for him to express his emotions.
It was laughable.
“Li Hui said you took thirty thousand from Li Baoguo,” Shen Yiqing stopped going in circles and said plainly. “The money that would’ve saved his life. Is that true?”
Even though Jiang Cheng could pretty much guess what Li Hui had said — it could not possibly be anything other than money money money and more money — still, hearing Shen Yiqing say it out loud like this, it made his chest feel tight.
There was a buzzing in his mind and a stuffiness in his chest, to the extent that it made him want to laugh.
And then he felt a little nauseous. At the sudden intense urge to throw up, he quickly picked up the cup on the desk and gulped down some cold water.
“It’s not like you’ve never met Li Baoguo before,” Jiang Cheng took a breath in and tried to keep his emotions under control. “When you adopted me, and when you reversed the adoption. You know very well what kind of person he was.”
Shen Yiqing did not say anything.
“Forget if he even had thirty thousand yuan, but is it plausible that he would put the money anywhere within my reach?” Jiang Cheng took in two long drags of the cigarette. “Even if you don’t know what kind of person he was, at the very least you raised me for seventeen years, even if you raised a dog you’d know when it would wag its tail and when it would bite people!”
“Xiao-Cheng,” Shen Yiqing sighed. “I understand that asking like this makes you feel uncomfortable. But it’s important that some things be clarified so I can make a judgment on where I stand.”
“I’ve never touched his money, and his suicide has nothing to do with me either. When he was sick I gave him money, and after he died Li Hui asked me for money, I gave it then too.” Jiang Cheng said.
He suddenly felt very sorry for himself as he said these words, his nose twinged.
He had to explain to this woman he had called mom for the past seventeen years, a truth that he thought she should already know.
Even though that was exactly the kind of person Shen Yiqing was. Still, at this very moment, Jiang Cheng was once again deeply disappointed.
Perhaps he was too naive. In his own naïveté, he innocently thought that the ‘mother and son’ bond of almost two decades would more or less still remain. He assumed that where a mother ‘stood’ never depended on any sort of prerequisite of truth, that choosing to believe in your own child was simply second nature.
However, that kind of second nature clearly did not exist between him and Shen Yiqing. Shen Yiqing logically required a ‘truth’ before she could decide what side she was on.
Jiang Cheng understood, but found it hard to accept.
All the bitterness from over years, that he had spent so long to force himself to stop thinking about and brooding over, was once again being turned to the surface.
“Xiao-Cheng, to be honest even though you……but I still thought there was no way you’d touch his money.” Shen Yiqing said. “It’s only because Li Hui had said it so sincerely, he even cried, that’s why I wanted to ask you about it first.”
“It’s fine,” Jiang Cheng let out a little laugh. “You don’t know the people here at all. If you were face to face with him, he might even cut his wrist to prove his own earnesty.”
“Where are you living now? Did you move out?” Shen Yiqing asked.
“I’m renting my own place.” Jiang Cheng answered.
Shen Yiqing sighed quietly, and was silent for a spell. Jiang Cheng felt like he could already guess what she wanted to say, and why she was hesitating. After all, this was the only person he ever associated with the word “mom” in his mind, he knew her well.
“I’m doing well right now,” He stubbed out the cigarette in the ashtray. “I……I’m fine where I am.”
“You’re all alone there……” Shen Yiqing was still hesitating.
Jiang Cheng interrupted her, “I’m not alone.”
I’m a dog. 
He summoned all of his willpower to keep himself from blurting out this last sentence.
But he suddenly wanted to laugh.
And so he did.
“What’s so funny?” Shen Yiqing was baffled by his sudden laughter, and her tone of voice reflected her obvious displeasure. “Why are you still so casual toward your own life?”
“Casual?” Jiang Cheng stopped laughing. “No, I am not at all casual with my life. Right now, I know very well what I need and what I don’t need.”
“Fine,” Shen Yiqing likely did not wish to continue the conversation. “If that’s what you think, then I won’t interfere.”
“Thank you.” Jiang Cheng said.
“One last thing I’ll ask,” Shen Yiqing went back to her usual cool demeanor. “You said just now that you’re not alone?”
“Mhm,” Jiang Cheng glanced at the closed bedroom door. “I’m not alone.”
I’m a dog.
Jiang Cheng didn’t know what got into him, it was like his brain had been filled with glue, he couldn’t let go of this joke.
Even though he was angry and annoyed, he still wanted to laugh. He wanted so much to laugh that he had to bite his lips to keep himself from cracking up like some deranged fool.
“Did you get a girlfriend?” Shen Yiqing asked.
Shen Yiqing had never come right out and told him it was forbidden, but how she felt about it was clear from the disdainful comments she made about Pan Zhi, who was always in the middle of various ‘premature romances’.
Jiang Cheng stood up, walked to the bedroom window, and looked out at the night scene that was already tinged with a neglected bleakness, but was now affected by a hint of autumn air. He suddenly felt an impulse to shake off everything that binded him.
Even though he did not even know what exactly they were. Still, he wanted to scream out, to rip his clothes off, to make a leap, to take a step into thin air.
“No,” He looked at the especially round moon hanging in the sky, closed his eyes, and took a breath in. “I got a boyfriend.”
He couldn’t make out Shen Yiqing’s reaction on the other side, nor did he wish to hear it. All he felt was a gust of wind whistling through his mind, his body, and in the shifting shadows that appeared ever more dark in contrast to the brightness of the moon outside.
The breeze made him feel refreshed all over.
“Thank you for raising me all these years, for all the energy you spent,” Jiang Cheng closed his eyes. “But I never did bring you any happiness, and I’m very sorry for that. Though there’s no way of making up for any of it now, with everything that’s happened over the years, it can’t be fixed. I’m sorry. You don’t need to look out for me anymore, I’ll be alright. No matter where I am, I have ways of proving my own worth to myself.”
Whatever Shen Yiqing was saying, he couldn’t hear, the wind was too loud.
“You should change your number, I really don’t want you to be harassed again by scoundrels like that on my account. Don’t tell me the number either.” Jiang Cheng said. “Also, just this once, I hope you’ll believe me when I say, I really can live a very good life.”
When the bedroom door opened, Gu Fei was about to light a cigarette. He had already moved back and forth at light speed between the bedroom door and the window at least seven times.
Every time he thought Jiang Cheng was about to come out, he would hurry and move to the window, and calmly pretend to light a cigarette. And when there was no sign of movement, he would go over and listen, then go back to the window and pretend to light a cigarette again.
Although this time, he really was intending to light one, and Jiang Cheng really was coming out.
He was even holding the thermos with the chicken wings.
“Done with the call?” Gu Fei set the cigarette and lighter down on a nearby table.
“Mhm,” Jiang Cheng nodded. “Forgot to close the lid before, it might be a little cold now, should we heat it up?”
“Here,” Gu Fei took the thermos. “I’ll just dump it into the pot to reheat.”
Jiang Cheng followed him to the kitchen, and leaned against the wall as he watched him work.
Gu Fei took a little pot, washed it in the sink, then dumped the chicken wings inside, before setting the pot on the stove to heat up. The whole time, Jiang Cheng leaned against the wall without a sound.
Gu Fei didn’t ask either. The reason for Shen Yiqing’s call was obvious, it must’ve been because Li Hui had called her. Nobody would be in a good mood after a chat like that.
“Starting from today.” Jiang Cheng suddenly said, his voice calm.
“Ah.” Gu Fei turned to him.
There was an air of solemnity about Jiang Cheng, with an expression as though he had made some big important decision.
“I will go to sleep one hour later every night.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Huh?” Gu Fei still couldn’t catch up. “Sleep one hour later for what?”
“To study of course.” Jiang Cheng said.
“……Oh!” Gu Fei didn’t expect this to be his big important decision, and all of a sudden didn’t know how to respond. “Oh!”
“You sleep later too, you can quiz me, until 1 a.m. is fine.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Alright.” Gu Fei nodded.
“Thanks for the hard work,” Jiang Cheng clapped his shoulder. “Xiao-Gu.”
Gu Fei quickly reached out and felt Jiang Cheng’s forehead. No fever.
“What’s the matter Xiao-Gu?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“……Nothing Xiao-Jiang,” Gu Fei said. “The wings will be ready soon, will you have a bottle of milk too?”
“Okay.” Jiang Cheng nodded and walked out.
And then Gu Fei heard the sound of Jiang Cheng’s unrestrained laughter coming from the bedroom.
He hesitated for a moment, turned the stove off, and also went into the bedroom.
Jiang Cheng was lying on the bed, laughing so hard that he couldn’t stop.
“Are you alright, Xiao-Jiang?” Gu Fei bent down with one knee on the bed, and stroked his face.
“I’m fine, it’s just for some reason,” Jiang Cheng looked at him as he continued laughing. “I suddenly really wanted to laugh. I could hardly hold it in during the call just now.”
“If you want to laugh, then laugh,” Gu Fei gently squeezed his chin. “And when you’re done you can get back to studying.”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng nodded.
Jiang Cheng laughed for at least a whole minute, before he suddenly stopped and sat up with a frown. Before Gu Fei could get a word out, he suddenly jumped off the bed and dashed out of the room without even his slippers.
“What’s wrong?” Gu Fei shouted after him.
“Barf!” Jiang Cheng ran into the bathroom.
By the time Gu Fei followed him into the bathroom, Jiang Cheng was already doubled over with one hand against the wall, vomiting like there’s no tomorrow.
Gu Fei hurried back to the bedroom and brought Jiang Cheng’s cup, and waited beside him with a wet towel.
“Fuck me,” Jiang Cheng finally managed to regain his composure after several minutes of vomiting. “What the fuck is this reaction of mine.”
“Dunno,” Gu Fei thought his voice sounded alright, so he handed the towel over. “If this was a TV show, then someone in your situation would probably clutch at his chest, black out, then spray out a mouthful of blood. But right now you’re malnourished, so you can only barf out some recently ingested food.”
“Screw you,” Jiang Cheng cracked up laughing into the toilet, then let out a long drawn-out sigh. “Ayyy——”
“Cheng-ge,” Gu Fei looked at him. “I’m a little worried.”
“A little?” Jiang Cheng flushed the toilet and turned to look at him.
“I’m very worried.” Gu Fei immediately corrected himself.
“I’m fine, really.” Jiang Cheng leaned over the sink, turned on the tap, and splashed water on his face. “I’m just mad, I really was furious, but I didn’t bottle it up, I later combed through and smoothed out my channels and meridians all on my own.”
“Did Li Hui call them and say that you took Li Baoguo’s money?” Gu Fei asked.
“Mhm, because I took the money that was supposed to save Li Baoguo’s life, which was why he jumped off the roof and killed himself.” Jiang Cheng said as he rinsed his mouth. “Gu Fei, do you know where Li Hui lives?”
“You wanna go find him?” Gu Fei blinked.
“Mhm, find him.” Jiang Cheng said. “I need to clear away all of my obstacles.”
“What obstacles?” Gu Fei asked.
“Obstacles that would affect my mentality while studying.” Jiang Cheng gave him a look.
“……Oh!” Once again Gu Fei had no response to that, so he nodded vehemently.
Gu Fei couldn’t shake the feeling that Jiang Cheng only seemed calm on the surface, that his emotional state was still a little unsteady.
Even though by his miraculous memory, he got every single question right when Gu Fei quizzed him, he was still a little abnormal. For example, he asked Gu Fei to take him to Li Hui’s house at 1:30 in the morning, apparently to familiarize himself with the location.
“Didn’t you say it wasn’t far? That it’s still in the Steel Works neighbourhood.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Mhm,” Gu Fei answered, he got out one of Jiang Cheng’s coats from the closet and handed it to him. “Put this on, it’s getting cold.”
“You put one on too.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Alright.” Gu Fei took out another jacket, and the two of them went out.
The night breeze was already strong enough to pierce through two layers of clothing and onto one’s body. As soon as they stepped out the door, both of them zipped all the way up out of reflex.
There were no pedestrians or cars on the road at this time. They walked along under the street lamps that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t, the stark surroundings made it feel like they were walking in some parallel dimension.
Li Hui’s building was right up ahead, it was among the cluster of low-rises at the very edge of the Steel Works neighbourhood.
“It’s up there,” Gu Fei stopped and pointed. “The one with the 7.”
“Mhm.” Jiang Cheng also stopped and looked that way.
The wind was a little stronger by now, Gu Fei shuffled closer, pressing his arm against Jiang Cheng’s.
“Honestly, I just wanted to come take a look.” Jiang Cheng said quietly. “I wasn’t planning to pick a fight with Li Hui, I’m not here to threaten him or yell at him or beat him up, he’s not worth it. I just wanted to come take a look, as a way of clearing the obstacle in my own mind.”
“Mhm.” Gu Fei answered.
“A guy like that,” Jiang Cheng said. “That’s all he is. I will no longer let myself be affected by these people. From now on, I cannot be disrupted again.”
“Mhm.” Gu Fei rubbed Jiang Cheng’s lower back with his hand.
“After all, I’m the guy who has to treat you to 800 yuan worth of vermicelli plus 200 yuan worth of meat,” Jiang Cheng said. “I have to stay focused.”
“You can definitely do it.” Gu Fei smiled.
He was just about to ask Jiang Cheng if he wanted to take a walk somewhere else to clear his mind, when a torrent of shouts sounded from the direction of building 7. There were curses of a man and screams of a woman, the noise activated all the corridor lights in the two adjacent buildings.
Jiang Cheng paused, and was about to take a couple of steps forward to check it out, but Gu Fei with his discerning Steel Works Radar pulled him into the shadow on the side of the road.
They’d only just stood still when they saw a figure come charging out of building 7.
A pale mass.
A man, naked from head to toe.
He came charging out like that, all the while screaming and crying, sheathed only by the wind.
“Li Hui.” Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng knitted his brows and didn’t speak.
There were a few others behind him, all of them clothed.
They all carried weapons in their hands. Aside from sticks and clubs, Jiang Cheng also noticed the shimmering glint of metal. It could be a metal rod, or it could be a knife.
Li Hui on the other hand, had nothing on his entire body other than the parts he was born with. He managed to take a few steps before he was pushed to the ground by the group of fully dressed people behind him.
And then he disappeared from their sight.
“I CALLED THE COPS! I ALREADY CALLED THE COPS!” A woman screamed as she ran out from the stairwell, wearing only her underwear and bra.
The people who had Li Hui surrounded seemed not to have heard her, one of them brought his hand down hard.
“Let’s go.” Jiang Cheng turned his head. They were beating him like they wanted him dead. “Let’s go take a stroll.”
“Okay.” Gu Fei answered.
They walked down another road for a long time, until they could no longer hear the noises behind them. Jiang Cheng threw his head back and took in a deep breath, and sang quietly, “I want to, step on the unknown, and walk through time……”
“Didn’t you say you only knew one line?” Gu Fei asked with a smile.
“I was lying,” Jiang Cheng arched his brow. “I want, you on my left shoulder……”
Gu Fei quickly moved from his right side to his left. Jiang Cheng glanced at him, and continued with a laugh, “A smile……”
“A smile on your right.” Gu Fei quickly switched back to his right side, and sang with him in harmony.
: I’m alone [我一个人] in Chinese taken literally, means “I’m one person”, and so this is basically a “dad I’m hungry” “hi Hungry I’m dad” joke but “you’re alone” “no I’m dog” ↩
- Raw character count: 6443
- TL word count: 4428
- TL time: 4:58:40
- Edit time: 0:55:31
- Curse words: 4x fucks
Since we’re in the exam prep arc, I’d just like to throw in a little more background about the university entrance exams in China. TLDR if you don’t care XD
高考, or Gao Kao, used to be (and still is) seen by many Chinese people as the great equalizer, a true meritocratic rite of passage, that one can use to get ahead in life, to go from remote countryside to the big city, from an impoverished family to an elite university. There’s the belief that if you tried hard enough in high school, studied hard enough, all of which will pay off when you get into a good university, which promises better career prospects in a better city, because The Test is the same for everyone (kind of), and regulations around it are so strict that there’s no way to cheat. That’s probably how it used to be at least, when a Bachelor’s degree was actually prestigious enough to guarantee a pretty good job right out of school.
These days, the competition is so high, that increasingly companies are asking for a higher levels of education from more elite schools and/or more experience, for the same positions as before. But I digress. All this is to say, because of the competition at the higher level, the university entrance exam has also become more contentious. In lieu of all this, cram schools have cropped up all around the country, offering classes at extremely high rates with promises of highly qualified teachers who will drill your child until they’re good enough to get into the top universities. Furthermore, the high school student (especially in the senior year) becomes someone whose sole purpose in life is to prepare the exams, which means they need someone to take care of them, to a larger extent than they’ve been taken care of before. This often means the student’s mom will quit her job or work less hours to support the high school senior child: to make extra, nutritious meals; to take them to and from cram school; to be their counsellor, confidante, when the pressure becomes all too much. This is all so that the student, preparing for the exams, don’t have to spare a thought to anything else other than studying. You may see where I’m going with this.
Essentially, The Test is not as equal as it’s made out to be. A harmonious family, caring parents, one parent who can be the sole economic provider for the household while the other one takes care of the student 24/7, disposable income to afford the ridiculously high rates of cram schools, the cost of extra study materials/textbooks/question banks, a good school environment that encourages learning, and an actual good physical home environment in which to study (i.e., the student having their own room and desk), these are all advantages and privileges that not everyone has.
Still, it doesn’t stop students and parents from wearing themselves to the bone in preparation for this ‘single most important event of their life’, many families even book hotel rooms near the test center for the week of The Test, just to minimize the possibility of anything going wrong.
Anyways, that’s the background, though I’m sure it’s not that unique of a situation, as many countries, especially in Asia, are probably also like this. I’m SO. Glad. that I didn’t have to go through this lol
If you haven’t yet, this is a good time to buy the novel on jjwxc; 撒野 is the title to search for if you’re using the app, and here is a step-by-step tutorial from Cuchallain to guide you through it! If you run into any problems, feel free to dm me on twitter @amidstwoods :3
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