“Go ahead and shout then!” Jiang Cheng threw his head back. “AHHH——”
Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3
“What a wonderful winter jasmine, don’t we love it so……” Gu Fei had been singing along with the music in the supermarket for a long time as he pushed the shopping cart along. “What a wonderful winter jasmine that welcomes light back to the land; what a wonderful winter jasmine that blooms in every home……” ▶
“You may all recall the person singing right now as the shining star of the Steel Works brain-dead event from last time.” Jiang Cheng walked behind him, his hand holding up his phone as he recorded a video. “Let us come along today on his supermarket excursion…… To be quite honest, the Cantonese pronunciation of this shining star sounds pretty okay to our inexperienced ears, it may just give Pan Zhi a run for his money……”
“Bring a branch of the winter jasmine and let the fragrance spread to a thousand homes; bring a branch of the winter jasmine and let us all rejoice……” Gu Fei glanced back at Jiang Cheng as he sang. It was then that the loudspeaker music changed, and without missing a beat, he pinched his voice and started up again. “The god of wealth comes knocking at my door, the god of money comes knocking at my door, the god of prosperity comes knocking at my door, come children let’s light up the lanterns……” ▶
“Shit!” Jiang Cheng started laughing. “Don’t tell me you know how to sing all of them.”
“Yep, and I won’t get any of the words wrong either.” Gu Fei said. “I even bought CDs of these New Years songs, we played them in the store every year.”
“How come I don’t see you playing them now?” Jiang Cheng pointed the camera at him.
“The player’s broken, it’s been that way for the last few years.” Gu Fei said, then pinched his voice and continued. “May you all have great great great fortune in this New Year, may you all have great great great fortune in this New Year……”
The song after that was “Every Step Higher” which didn’t have any lyrics, so Gu Fei finally stopped following along and said, “Are there any snacks you want to eat? I have to get some for Er-Miao.” ▶
“Dunno, let’s go have a look.” Jiang Cheng put away his phone.
There were a lot of people at the supermarket. Many people who didn’t get a vacation until that day were in there doing last minute looting, and many shelves were emptied before the stores had a chance to restock them.
“Do you eat walnuts?” Gu Fei held up a box and examined it. “Nourishes your brain.”
“Nope.” Jiang Cheng’s answer was decisive. He didn’t much like these kinds of things, he preferred things like pork jerky.
“Nourishes your brain.” Gu Fei repeated.
“My brain is quite outstanding already thank you very much, the ridges are much deeper than those on the walnuts.” Jiang Cheng said.
Gu Fei didn’t say anything else. He put the box of walnuts in their shopping cart and continued walking slowly forward.
“Wait,” Jiang Cheng took a look at the price label. “This thing is way too expensive, do you know how much these are at the market? They’re all the same thin-skin varieties too.”
“The market’s closed already,” Gu Fei said. “You can pick at these as snacks for the next couple of days.”
“I want pork jerky,” Jiang Cheng said. “And air-dried beef, and tiny mala fish, and……”
“Didn’t you say you’re tired of eating meat?” Gu Fei interrupted.
“And mala green peas.” Jiang Cheng swiftly held back the salt roasted chicken wings he was about to say, and changed it last minute to green peas instead.
“Grab some then,” Gu Fei smiled. “Get all of it.”
“Just a couple bags are fine,” Jiang Cheng picked up a bag of air-dried beef, looked at the price tag and threw it back in shock, then grabbed the regular beef jerky beside it. “Wow, it’s real fucking expensive.”
“Get it, it’s fine.” Gu Fei picked up the air-dried beef and put it in the cart. “I have a gift card, 500 bucks.”
“Hm?” Jiang Cheng blinked.
“From Li Yan.” Gu Fei said. “In previous years there’s even more, but this year he’s fighting his mom remember, and the fight’s not over, so his mom only gave him one.”
“I guess it’s not a very intense fight then, since she still gave him 500?” Jiang Cheng chuckled.
“He’s the precious son after all.” Gu Fei picked up a bag of jelly pudding cups.
“Don’t you have those in your store? Buy something you don’t have.” Jiang Cheng said.
“Er-Miao won’t eat the ones in the store.” Gu Fei said. “I told her before, the things in the store are for sale, she shouldn’t eat them willy nilly. Since then she’s pretty much stopped eating them, she’ll only eat bought things.”
“Oh.” Jiang Cheng replied. “Can’t refute that logic.”
“Besides, the ones in our store aren’t as fancy as these,” Gu Fei said. “It’s New Year’s, let’s eat some expensive things.”
After they got everything they wanted to buy, they walked toward the cash. Jiang Cheng froze after he got a glance from a long way away, then immediately started running, turning back as he did so to say, “What the fuck, I’m gonna go line up first.”
The line had already extended from the cash registers to the aisles, where it took a turn. Every person in line had a shopping cart piled with things, it didn’t help at all that Jiang Cheng sprinted over a tiny bit earlier.
By the time Gu Fei reached him, a few more people had lined up behind Jiang Cheng, but he didn’t even have the courage to count how many people there were in front of him.
“I feel like we won’t be able to get out of here before noon.” Jiang Cheng said.
“No worries,” Gu Fei pointed at the prepared meals section. “I looked, we can eat there.”
“…… You’re pretty calm?” Jiang Cheng chuckled.
“Of course,” Gu Fei said while leaning on the cart. “If it was just me, I’d just drop everything and go, but with you beside me, it doesn’t feel like a big deal…… although it may be eating into your studying time.”
“Nah,” Jiang Cheng quirked his eyebrows and pulled a stack of thickly folded paper from his back pocket. “There isn’t a place where I can’t study.”
“Oh shit.” Gu Fei was astonished. Jiang Cheng was holding a set of English mock exams in his hand.
“I didn’t wanna be so unbelievably cool either,” Jiang Cheng dug a pencil out of his other pocket. “The thing is, we only have a few days off, and these mock exams, even if evenly spread, would have to be done two a day.”
Gu Fei laughed for a while, then lifted a case of yogurt drink from the cart and set it atop the child seat, “You can write on here.”
“Mhm,” Jiang Cheng bent down and tried it. “Maybe a little higher.”
Gu Fei stacked another case of orange juice on top, “Like this?”
“That’s good.” Jiang Cheng put his papers down and started to write.
It was a rather fantastical feeling. Gu Fei kept one hand on the shopping cart and stared at Jiang Cheng’s profile. The guy had gone into a focused state in less than a minute, he probably couldn’t hear or see the noisy crowd around him anymore, there was only his pencil and his ugly…… his no longer so ugly handwriting.
The line shifted half a meter forward, but Gu Fei didn’t move, this tiny bit of distance meant nothing. Besides, his boyfriend was busy scribbling down his deconstructed hieroglyphics, he couldn’t move now.
An auntie behind them grew impatient, she slammed Jiang Cheng’s butt once with her shopping cart, “Move forward why don’t you, keep up!”
Jiang Cheng didn’t stop writing, as if he didn’t feel a thing.
Gu Fei glanced at the auntie and went to stand in front of their cart, taking up that half meter of space, then looked at the auntie again, “Move where?”
The auntie gave him a glare, then turned her head away and started to curse quietly.
After a little while, Jiang Cheng stopped writing and nudged the cart forward, “Let’s move up.”
“I thought you didn’t know?” Gu Fei moved out of the way and pushed the cart forward one small step.
“I heard it, but in times like these my brain is a one-way street, I can’t process other information. I don’t exist in this world when I’m doing questions.” Jiang Cheng said quietly as he looked through the next problem. “But as soon as you opened your mouth, I exist in this world again. I only came back to reality after I heard you speak.”
“How magical.” Gu Fei smiled.
“Episode one of ‘Cheng-ge Shows You the World: The Magical Honour Student’.” Jiang Cheng twirled his pencil. “Subheading…… Answering Questions, or In a Trance?”
Jiang Cheng finished one side of his question bank page and the people in front of them, who had pretty much come to move the whole supermarket to their home, finally finished paying and left. The two of them moved up to the edge of the checkout counter.
In one fluid motion Gu Fei picked up a little box from the shelf by the counter and tossed it into their cart.
Jiang Cheng glanced at the little box as he folded the papers back up again.
Those four words made him suddenly drop his voice, “You’re getting that?”
“What?” Gu Fei looked at him, and also lowered his voice. “There’s no more.”
“…… Can’t you buy it from the pharmacy?” Jiang Cheng looked at him.
“It was right there, and we have a gift card.” Gu Fei said.
“With all these people watching, does good sir not feel even a teensy bit embarrassed?” Jiang Cheng flicked the box with his finger, disappearing it into the crack between all the other things they bought.
“No,” Gu Fei laughed. “If you’re embarrassed then don’t use it.”
“Sooner or later you’re gonna corrupt me.” Jiang Cheng sighed. “Sooner or later.”
After finishing up the New Year’s purchasing activity, the two of them took everything back to the convenience store and quickly stuffed themselves with some food, then Gu Fei took Jiang Cheng back to his apartment.
“I have to do some tidying around the house today, cleaning and stuff,” Gu Fei said. “Then I’ll come tonight and tidy your place.”
“My place is pretty tidy already, I don’t even have anything.” Jiang Cheng looked around.
“A bit of dusting then, you don’t need to worry about it,” Gu Fei gave him a kiss. “Go do your studying.”
“This dinner’s still gotta have some meat, you can’t skimp on meat just because there’s a feast tomorrow. There’s gotta be vegetables and some meat.” Jiang Cheng urged him. “You don’t need to make it fancy, pork belly slices tossed with cabbage leaves is fine.”
“Got it,” Gu Fei cracked up. “What’s with this craving.”
Jiang Cheng sat down at his desk after Gu Fei left, and leaning back in the chair, lifted his arms in a stretch as he listened to the north wind gusting outside. It was just past noon, but the sky had already darkened. It looked like another snow storm was coming.
On days like these, when the chilly weather outside was frightful, to be inside and warm, it gave him a feeling of ease in the midst of all the desolation.
What’s with this craving.
True, and maybe it was because of this peculiar feeling. Even if it was bone-chillingly cold outside, there was someone who would satisfy all of his little wishes. He could be a little bossy, a little unreasonable, he no longer had to keep everything buried deep in his heart.
I want to eat this, and that; I want to do this, I want to do that.
He no longer had to stop himself from speaking up for fear that his thoughts would be refuted.
“Ahhh……” Jiang Cheng drew out an exclamation, and stretched again. What perfection.
Gu Fei would surprise Jiang Cheng in a lot of different ways, but when it came to tidying, there were no surprises there. He was a slacker student after all, and had no method to speak of when tidying up.
Compared to Jiang Cheng, who had been required to tidy his room into a clean and orderly state ever since he was young, Gu Fei tended to just gather everything up in one place and stick it somewhere where it couldn’t be seen, like the drawer or closet, and be done with it.
If there was anything to be tidied here at Jiang Cheng’s place, it would be the books and study materials piled up everywhere.
Gu Fei gathered them all up in one stack, and subsequently became a little lost, “What to do now? There’s nowhere to hide these things.”
“I was gonna use it, what are you hiding them for.” Jiang Cheng sighed.
“Never mind then,” Gu Fei flopped down on the bed. “Hey, I realized there’s really nothing to tidy at your place. You’ve been here for a pretty long time, and it’s not messy at all.”
“I usually just tidy as I go, and put things back in their places.” Jiang Cheng said. “I don’t like tidying, which is why I try not to make a mess so I don’t have to take time to clean it up.”
“I’m always too lazy to put things back.” Gu Fei smiled.
“Ah but then you have to clean, it takes one second to put it back, but when you accumulate the mess it’ll take several hours to tidy up, which one is more worth it?” Jiang Cheng gave him a side-eye. “No wonder you’re a slacky slack slacker……”
“I don’t have the time, and when I do, I really don’t feel like moving.” Gu Fei sighed.
Jiang Cheng didn’t say anything else. That was true. Gu Fei carried a lot on his mind, it wore on him day in and day out, so he couldn’t be bothered with maintaining these small details.
When will he not need to be so tired anymore?
Jiang Cheng stared at the pages in front of him. Ah, soon he would be writing the exams.
Ah, soon he would be leaving.
Ah, soon they would be separated.
And ah, the “after” that neither of them could find an answer for, was also coming.
Jiang Cheng was blasted awake by the sound of the firecrackers first thing in the morning on New Year’s Eve. Upon entering the twelfth month, it was common to hear what sounded like cannons going off practically every day. There was no ban on pyrotechnics here in the Steel Works area, so everyone set off firecrackers from morning till night: one strand for breakfast, one strand after lunch, and one strand for dinner. And of course, extra strands if they were feeling bored.
Only, the one this morning was hung from a stick, reached out from the window upstairs, and when it was lit next to the window of Jiang Cheng’s living room, the impact of it almost made Jiang Cheng bounce from his bed to the floor, he felt as though the building would collapse in the next second.
“Ayyy!” Jiang Cheng turned over in bed in resignation.
Gu Fei sat up, then after a moment of daze, got off the bed, “Cheng-ge.”
“Mmmm……” Jiang Cheng answered from beneath the covers.
“I’m going to head over to the store, Er-Miao’s probably there already.” He said as he put on clothes. “I have to go prepare the ingredients first, you can come right over for breakfast when you’re up.”
“Alright,” Jiang Cheng turned his head. “I’ll help you wrap dumplings later.”
“Why don’t you keep Er-Miao company,” Gu Fei said. “You haven’t played with her much lately, just yesterday she was asking after you.”
“What did she ask?” Jiang Cheng flipped over his whole body again to look at him.
“Just, ‘Cheng-ge’.” Gu Fei tugged his pants up.
“…… That’s it?” Jiang Cheng blinked.
“That’s it, you’re lucky she said anything at all.” Gu Fei said.
“Does she only talk to you?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Mhm,” Gu Fei nodded. “She doesn’t speak much to me either, just occasionally, it wasn’t long after she started to talk that…… I feel like she never really got to learn how, so this is pretty good already.”
“Yeah……” Jiang Cheng sighed.
“Why don’t you doze for a little longer, it’s just past 8 o’clock.” Gu Fei jumped on the bed and gave Jiang Cheng’s head a kiss. “Remember to bring your books when you come, overachiever.”
When the overachiever reached the door of the convenience store on his bike, along with his books, the shop next door happened to be lighting a firecracker. It exploded behind him just as he got off his bike, and he all of a sudden felt like he had stepped into a war zone.
Then, he saw a bright red figure fly out from the hutong between their convenience store and the community clinic, and with a sharp whistle, dash into the fiery smoke behind him.
“Er-Miao!” Jiang Cheng yelled.
Gu Miao was dressed especially jovial today, with a little red puffer and green form-fitting pants—even her boots were red, and she dragged a long white scarf behind her.
After diving headfirst into the cloud of firecrackers, Jiang Cheng could no longer see her clearly, he could only see a vague red shape moving around. A few seconds later, Gu Miao popped out once again from the smoke, with excitement written all over her face.
“Er-Miao!” Jiang Cheng opened his arms and stood in front of her.
Gu Miao braked hard, the head of her board pivoted to one side as she stopped sideways in front of him. She grinned and reached out a hand, snapped her fingers, and held up a thumb.
“Happy New Year!” Jiang Cheng also responded with a snap and a thumbs up.
Gu Miao hopped off her skateboard, kicked up the skateboard, caught it in her hand, and dragged him into the store.
The woolen curtain over the doorway was not able to keep out the smoke from the firecrackers, and the smell of gunpowder was everywhere inside, filling the store with the New Year smell.
Gu Fei was just coming in from the back courtyard, holding a large tub with his flour covered hands.
“Is it time to wrap dumplings?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Not yet, I just finished kneading the dough.” Gu Fei pinched off a small clump of the dough and handed it to Gu Miao, who was waiting with an expression of anticipation, then pointed at the food warmer nearby. “Want some meat buns? There’s also milk and soymilk.”
“Alright,” Jiang Cheng nodded, opened the food warmer, and took two meat buns. “How come you still got these today, surely nobody would come buy them now?”
“I got them just for you, there’s no time for anything else.” Gu Fei smiled. “Go ahead and pick from the milk and soymilk, there’s hot ones too.”
“When does your mom get here?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Soon,” Gu Fei looked at the clock on the wall. “Li Yan and Liu Fan are coming in the afternoon.”
“In the afternoon?” Jiang Cheng paused. “They’re not gonna eat dumplings at home?”
“They’ve each got big families, it’s a whole mess around the holidays, with the younger people running all over the place.” Gu Fei glanced out the door, then suddenly froze, his face immediately darkened a little.
Jiang Cheng quickly followed his gaze outward. The curtain had been lifted, and Gu Fei’s mom was standing outside with…… the ponytail guy they saw the other day.
The guy was still wearing a ponytail, along with a pair of shades.
It was a cloudy day, with tufts of snow occasionally drifting down from the sky, and the streets outside were covered in clouds of smoke from the firecrackers. With such dark sunglasses sitting on his face, Jiang Cheng almost wanted to go out and hand him a walking stick.
“Come on in,” Gu Fei’s mom said. “This is my son Gu Fei, you haven’t met yet right? That’s my girl, Gu Miao. And that’s his classmate Jiang Cheng.”
“Happy New Year auntie.” Jiang Cheng greeted her, then nodded to the ponytail guy. He couldn’t bring himself to say “uncle”, the guy wasn’t very old, but da-ge also sounded annoying, so he opted for silence.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Gu Fei clapped the flour off his hands and asked.
Jiang Cheng locked his eyes on Gu fei, ready to jump in to intervene whenever Gu Fei decided to make his move. It was the holidays after all, both Gu Fei’s mom and the ponytail boy had dressed well, clearly looking like they had put in a lot of effort to prepare for the occasion. Perhaps it was for meeting the son, perhaps it was for a date, either way it was unsuitable to beat someone up at this time.
“We’re just gonna have a meal together,” Gu Fei’s mom grabbed Gu Fei’s arm and dragged him toward the back courtyard, speaking quietly. “Don’t give him attitude.”
“He was the one who hit you last time, right?” Gu Fei asked loudly, making it clear that he wasn’t cutting anyone any slack.
“It wasn’t him……” She continued in a quiet voice.
What they said after they went out to the courtyard, Jiang Cheng could not hear.
Besides, the atmosphere suddenly became a little awkward.
The ponytail guy stood about two meters in from the doorway, while Jiang Cheng and Gu Miao stood in front of the cash register. Since Gu Miao had no understanding of what was going on, she still held her skateboard in one hand and squeezed on the dough ball with the other, all the while staring without a blink at the ponytail, with her extremely cool and extremely cold eyes.
Jiang Cheng, due to brain overuse in recent days, could only stop himself from staring like Gu Miao, but other than that, could not find a single appropriate thing to say.
“I didn’t hit her,” The ponytail guy said. “It was her ex-boyfriend, I already settled it for her.”
“Oh.” Jiang Cheng replied, still having absolutely nothing to say.
The ponytail guy didn’t speak again either. He stood stalk-straight, with his face slightly tilted up.
Jiang Cheng leaned against the counter, and mentally serenaded him with “me and my unyielding heart”. 
Me and my last stubbornness, tighten my hold and never let go, whether the next stop is really paradise, do not despair in the face of disappointment…… ▶
Halfway through, he suddenly realized that he could also dedicate this song to Gu Fei.
Gu Fei and his mom finally came back in. Gu Fei stayed quiet, but she beckoned, “Come on, hurry up and get busy.”
The ponytail guy nodded and followed her out to the courtyard.
“Busy with what?” Jiang Cheng was confused.
“Cooking, my mom brought a cook to make food.” Gu Fei said, then suddenly cracked up laughing. “I can’t even get mad.”
“That guy’s a cook?” Jiang Cheng asked.
“Mhm,” Gu Fei laughed, then sighed. “If he wants to cook then let him cook, whatever.”
“That’s nice,” Jiang Cheng squeezed his hand. “It’s gotta be better than what you make while checking your phone the whole time, right.”
“Yeah,” Gu Fei nodded. “I really can’t bother anymore, just let it be.”
“Anyways, the more people the merrier during the New Year.” Jiang Cheng considered for a moment. “How about we go play with fireworks.”
“Alright,” Gu Fei clapped his hands. “Er-Miao!”
Gu Miao turned her head, and he bent down to her, “Shall we go set off fireworks?”
Gu Miao nodded forcefully.
Gu Fei had bought a bunch of firecrackers and fireworks a few days ago, almost two cases of them, all stored under the counter. They filled a bag with them and took Gu Miao out to the street.
Lots of families had started their meals already, the explosive bangs in the street were so dense that it was hard to hear people talk.
They had originally wanted to find a relatively smoke-free place to set off the fireworks, but after walking down the length of the street, they realized there was no such place at about this time. Jiang Cheng set the bag on the ground, “Let’s just do it here!”
When Gu Fei took the fireworks out and laid them on the ground, Gu Miao started to excitedly circle them round and round on her skateboard.
The moment the vibrant flares bursted out, Gu Miao gave out a loud whistle.
“IS IT PRETTY!” Gu Fei yelled in Jiang Cheng’s ear.
“Yeah!” Jiang Cheng looked at him. “Why did you shout? We’re setting off fireworks, not firecrackers!”
Their surroundings at this moment was actually quieter than before, so Gu Fei’s shout rang especially loud.
“I DON’T KNOW!” Gu Fei continued shouting. “I JUST WANTED TO SHOUT!”
“Go ahead and shout then!” Jiang Cheng threw his head back. “AHHH——”
“AHHH——” Gu Fei also threw his head back.
 A popular song by Mayday: Stubbornness (my translation) ⤴
- Raw character count: 6208
- TL word count: 4349
- TL time: ??????
- Edit time: 0:53:52
- Curse words: 2x fucks, 2x shits
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