There will always be a way.


Author: Wu Zhe, Translated by Ami <3

         Jiang Cheng never really felt one way or another about Valentine’s Day, but this year when he had an opportunity to feel some kind of way, he ended up not having any time for it.

         Though, he also did not place very much importance on such rituals. He was too busy studying, working through questions and memorizing texts. His vision was filled with study materials from various subjects, but in his peripheral vision, there was his boyfriend sitting on the bed playing with his phone.

         Valentine’s Day was a few minutes away.

         It was snowing outside, he could hear the sharp screeches of the northerly wind as it scraped past his window. Even the sound of it made him feel cold.

         And yet, it was quiet in the room. There was heating, a midnight snack, the sound of him quietly reciting the text to himself, and the scratching of pencil against paper. There was also Gu Fei, who gave him a sense of peace just from a single look at him.

         Compared to gifts and rituals, this kind of down-to-earth scene was what he really wanted.

         Exam on my left shoulder, love on my right.

         Oh yo yo~

         Hello everyone and welcome to the first season of contestant Jiang Cheng’s mental livestream. Recently, contestant Jiang Cheng had put all of his energy into the warming-up portion of the university entrance exams tournament. Instructor X, based on your experience, what do you think of his current state?

         This contestant possesses very strong individual skills as well as strong self-control, and exhibits emotional stability throughout the competition. To many contestants, this competition is a once in a lifetime event. If he can give it his all, I believe he shall achieve a very good score.

         Do you think he has given it his all?

         Clearly he has not, there is something else in his peripheral vision…… Hey, isn’t that the champion from the livestream of the Steel Works Brain-dead Tournament?

         His phone made a sound from its place at the corner of his desk. Jiang Cheng heard it, but it felt as though he hadn’t. The phone immediately went off again.

         For a total of two times. 

         That was Jiang Cheng’s only analysis of the sound when he was in study mode. And as to why his phone had gone off: if it was a text message or WeChat or a news notification, what it would be about, whether he should take a look…… All of these thoughts that would naturally follow did not appear in his head.

         However, after the second notification, Gu Fei clicked his tongue audibly.

         Jiang Cheng immediately came back to reality.

         “Hm?” He looked at Gu Fei.

         “Who is the other one from?” Gu Fei said.

         “The other one?” Jiang Cheng didn’t understand what he meant. He picked up his phone and saw that there were two messages.

         One of them was from Pan Zhi:

         – Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m the first one for sure, automatic sending is exactly on time, no doubt it will trump any lovey dovey person who needs time to draft a romantic prose!

         The second one was from Gu Fei:

         – Look at me.

         Jiang Cheng blinked, then looked up toward Gu Fei.

         “Whether or not it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m always here.” Gu Fei said. “Happy Valentine’s Day, boyfriend.”

         “Happy Valentine’s Day,” Jiang Cheng grinned. “Boyfriend.”

         “Who sent the other one?” Gu Fei pointed at the phone. “Did it arrive before mine?”

         “Ah, yes,” Only then did Jiang Cheng realize, and started cracking up as he stuck the phone in front of Gu Fei. “Pan Zhi.”

         “Fucking,” Gu Fei took one look and laughed. He grabbed Jiang Cheng’s phone and sent a voice message back to Pan Zhi. “Do you have way too much time on your hands huh, Pan Zhi?”

         “I can’t believe you found out already,” Pan Zhi’s voice message quickly came back. “Happy Valentine’s Day, good night! You two hurry up and go play.”

         “He set a timed message?” Gu Fei clicked his tongue several times consecutively. “This guy is maddening.”

         “He’s just bored.” Jiang Cheng laughed as he ripped a piece of air-dried beef. It was the bag they’d bought from the supermarket, that just in the last couple of days had already bottomed out. He had to rip out a tiny piece every time and nibble on it like a sissy, he couldn’t bear to take large bites. “You don’t know the amount of crap this guy has in his phone, it’s at most three months before he has to factory reset, and it takes maybe three resets before he has to change the phone.”

         “Can you take it all in one bite please?” Gu Fei said, looking at him. “We have one more bag, do you have to do that?”

         “There’s another bag?” Jiang Cheng was confused. “I thought we only got one that day?”

         “We bought two,” Gu Fei sighed. “I guess I overestimated your power huh, even you experience memory loss when you study.”

         Jiang Cheng stuffed the piece of jerky into his mouth, “Ayyy——feels so good! Satisfying! Why didn’t you say so earlier! I’ve been nibbling at it like melon seeds for the whole evening, making each piece last eighty bites.”

         “I just realized that you’ve been saving it,” Gu Fei stood up, took the bag to look inside, and pushed it back into Jiang Cheng’s hand. “Bring it with you to eat on the way, let’s go.”

         “Go where?” Jiang Cheng looked out the window, but couldn’t tell how heavy the snow was.

         “To set off fireworks,” Gu Fei walked to the window and took a look. “There’s less snow now, wanna go? I just thought if we do it during the day, there’d be too many people everywhere, but there’s even more people in the evening.”

         “Let’s go, let’s go for a walk, let’s go play.” Jiang Cheng stood up, his eyes still glued to the textbook, and after reading the last passage, finally stretched. “An important mark of showcasing the traditional Chinese culture is the traditional architecture, also known as a solidified form of art, while the invention of the written word is the symbol of humans entering into an era of civilization…… The difference is, han text is an important marker of Chinese culture, and along with historical texts and classical records, are evidence of the Chinese culture’s long historic origin……”

         They both bundled themselves up tightly before venturing outside. They were probably the only two people in the Steel Works neighbourhood who would brave the old north wind and snow to go out and set off fireworks in the middle of the night.

         Luckily, Gu Fei had a magical artifact.

         Jiang Cheng felt a great happiness wash over him as he climbed into the cornstarch bun amid the wind and snow, “Start driving, old deary.”

         “We’re off,” Gu Fei closed the car door and started the engine. “Sit tight, old deary.” [1]

         “Hurry it up!” Jiang Cheng smacked Gu Fei’s back.

         The little mantou set off into the night.

         There was not a single hair of a person to be found on the streets. The only thing out here was the snowflakes dancing in the light of the streetlamps. Jiang Cheng enjoyed looking at the flurry; through them, he could see the paths of the wind.

         Wind is a very special thing, with no shape, colour, or smell.

         And yet you could see it, in the fallen leaves, in the drifting snow, in the swirls of firecracker remnants on the ground. It had the same smell as the yellowing grass, but at the same time it smelled white and cool, and also like the red smoke of gunpowder……

         Even though there was no one else on the streets, Gu Fei still drove them all the way to the riverside. They had not been here since their fight last time.

         The river was dry, only a large swathe of white covered the bank all the way to the middle of the river.

         “If we came during the day, there would definitely be other people here.” Gu Fei got out of the car. “This river is the most romantic place in the whole Steel Works neighbourhood, it just barely has the forced requisite of the water, grass, and trees.”

         “And the two of us are also forcing the romantic activity.” Jiang Cheng pulled his scarf tight and made his way down to the dried river with Gu Fei.

         The ground near the river was covered in soil and rocks, and with the blanket of snow on top, every step felt like their feet would slip out from under them and they’d slide all the way to the bottom.

         Gu Fei reached his hand back. Jiang Cheng took it and said, “Are you afraid that I’ll lose my balance and bowl you right into the river.”

         “No, you were on the school basketball team at some point after all.” Gu Fei looked back at him. “I just wanted to hold your hand, it’s pretty warm actually……”

         Gu Fei didn’t get to finish his words when he stepped on something and suddenly lurched forward.

         Jiang Cheng immediately clutched Gu Fei’s hand tight, then felt a strong forward tug. He tried leaning back to counteract this force, but was not successful.

         His feet couldn’t find purchase on the uneven ground, and he lasted less than half a second before he got dragged down, landing on his butt, his legs immediately taking out the already unbalanced Gu Fei.

         Gu Fei fell on him, and the two of them crumpled into a ball as they slid, rolling and tumbling all the way down the slope to the edge of the river.

         “Fuck!” Jiang Cheng yelled. He felt like someone had taken a stick and gave his entire backside a beating.

         “Did I land on your balls?” Gu Fei seemed to be doing okay, since Gu Fei had Jiang Cheng as a cushion.

         “Would you still be hearing from me right now if you did?” Jiang Cheng leaned against the ground, his butt still needed some time to recover. “What a special Valentine’s Day this is, huh boyfriend……”

         Gu Fei reached out and pinched his leg, cutting off the second half of his sentence. It was right at that moment when he sensed that along the river’s edge, beside them, in his peripheral vision, there was another person.

         Jiang Cheng whipped his head around and froze in place.

         “Fuck.” Gu Fei said in a low voice. He stood up and reached out a hand in front of Jiang Cheng.

         Jiang Cheng grabbed his hand and helped himself up. Then the two of them turned around together to stand face to face with the person who was standing not 10 meters away from them. 

         The atmosphere was more than a little bizarre.

         It was indeed strange for someone else to be here at this time, in this place. But if they could think of coming for a date at this hour at “the most romantic place in the whole Steel Works neighbourhood”, naturally, so could other people.

         It wouldn’t be a big deal if they ran into another person, since not everyone recognized him and Gu Fei, and not everyone had such fantastical imaginations as the divine beings in the Fourth High forum…… Not to mention, ever since he came out to Shen Yiqing that day, Jiang Cheng felt as if he had put down a bag of cement he’d been carrying, and that nothing really bothered him anymore.

         But. This was only one person.

         Moreover, this was a person who definitely knew them, and knew them rather well too.

         From the perspective of studying, Jiang Cheng didn’t want people around him to know about this, for fear of letting it affect him before the exam.

         Therefore…… It was finally time to silence Wang Xu once and for all.

         He was rather surprised that the first one to go wasn’t Zhou Jing, but Wang Xu.

         “What……” Gu Fei was the first one to speak up. “Are you doing here?”

         “Valentine’s Day.” Wang Xu answered.

         Against the chilly wind, Wang Xu’s voice sounded especially desolate and…… sad.

         It was in that instant that Jiang Cheng temporarily set aside the matter of getting rid of Wang Xu. He was shaken by Wang Xu’s spirit, the spirit of a singleton who just had to come out to the river in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day, all so he could stand in the freezing air and torture himself.

         What kind of illness is this?

         “By yourself?” Gu Fei was probably just as shocked as Jiang Cheng. “Or are you waiting for someone?”

         “I thought I was waiting for someone,” Wang Xu’s voice was full of sorrow. “But it turns out I’m spending it by myself.”

         Jiang Cheng was quiet. He only just noticed on the snow-covered ground by Wang Xu’s feet, the fireworks that had been meticulously arranged into the shape of two hearts.

         Now that made sense.

         Wang Xu had painstakingly prepared a romantic setting to profess his love, but the leading lady Yi Jing never showed up.

         “…… Oh.” Even Gu Fei, with his high emotional intelligence, couldn’t find anything to say in response to the scenario at hand.

         The scene once again plunged into silence.

         Jiang Cheng could hear the sound of snow falling on the ground beside him.

         “You two……” Wang Xu stood quietly in the wind for a while, then suddenly looked up and stared at them. “What’s the deal with you two…… Oh, fuck? Don’t tell me you’re…… don’t tell me……”

         According to the way TV dramas usually go, the two of them should be pulling out their guns from their pockets, aiming it at Wang Xu’s head and “bang bang”, before watching him slowly collapse backward into the fireworks on the ground.

         “For Valentine’s Day.” Jiang Cheng looked back at him. At this hour, in this kind of place, facing a Wang Xu who couldn’t be killed off, he no longer had anything else to hide. “You got a problem with that?”

         Wang Xu was probably even more flustered than the two of them were just now. He opened his mouth, but didn’t make a sound.

         “You, me, and him.” Gu Fei said in a gruff voice. “If a fourth person finds out about this, I’ll make certain of your death.”

         It might have been the old northerly wind that just blew past, but Wang Xu shuddered cooperatively, “Oh I won’t tell I didn’t…… so to me this, guy on……guy, I don’t…… don’t have a problem, nope no problem.”

         “Alright then,” Gu Fei nodded. “You can go home now.”

         “Why…… why do I have to go home.” Wang Xu asked.

         “Because we’re going to set off fireworks here.” Gu Fei glanced at him, turned and walked back a couple of steps, and brought over the bag they had dropped during their earlier tumble.

         “Mother……fucker……” Wang Xu leaned in and took a look. “I really fucking gotta hand it to you two.”

         Neither Gu Fei nor Jiang Cheng spoke, as they looked back at him together.

         Wang Xu’s brows were knitted as he stared at the fireworks in the bag, and didn’t speak for a long time.

         The moon wasn’t especially bright, and there were no street lamps near the river, but because of their close proximity, Jiang Cheng still saw the glint of tears in Wang Xu’s eyes.

         “Wang Xu?” He was a little taken aback. 

         “Fuck me!” Wang Xu suddenly yelled out grievously. “Fuck me! Even two guys are able to fucking get together! Why is it so fucking hard for me to just be with someone!”

         “You……” Gu Fei leaned back a little at his outburst. “Yi Jing’s not coming? Did she say anything about it?”

         “Just that she’s not in the mood, and that she has to study, so can’t come.” Wang Xu said in a nasally voice.

         “That’s normal though, an overachiever like Yi Jing, she’s probably busy with studying about this time. We have just over 100 days left.” Gu Fei said.

         “What about overachievers? Isn’t Jiang Cheng also an overachiever? And several levels above her too. When Jiang Cheng studies he doesn’t even move an inch, like he’s been frozen or something.” Wang Xu was not convinced. “But isn’t Jiang Cheng in a relationship?! And with a guy too!”

         “Yell,” Gu Fei looked at him. “Go ahead, yell a little louder. Or maybe I should find you a megaphone so you can go yell it out on the streets too?”

         Wang Xu bit his lips, squatted down, and stopped moving.

         They once again were stuck in a stalemate. Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei couldn’t very well leave, nor could they bear to arrange another set of fireworks on the ground right next to Wang Xu’s, lest it triggered him.

         And so the three of them froze in the northerly wind, staring into the cold together.

         “Were you guys gonna arrange it into a heart?” Wang Xu finally spoke up after a long time.

         “No,” Gu Fei said. “We just came for the fireworks, wasn’t gonna arrange it.”

         “Oh, why don’t I……” Wang Xu rubbed his nose, and pointed at the fireworks he had arranged on the ground. “Give these to you two. It’ll be my blessing.”

         “Ah.” Jiang Cheng blinked.

         “I’ve been here since 11:30,” Still in a crouch, Wang Xu shifted himself over to the fireworks. “I bought some fuse, and strung them all together, you only have to light it once to set the whole bunch of them off crackly crack.”

         “Oh.” Gu Fei answered.

         “Let’s string up the ones you brought too,” Wang Xu wiped his eyes. “The more the merrier.”

         Gu Fei shot Jiang Cheng a glance.

         Jiang Cheng nodded.

         Oh well, string them up then. He couldn’t relate to Wang Xu’s feelings, but this sudden onset of tears left him even more helpless than last time after the basketball game.

         After all, it was Valentine’s Day, and this was certainly a special way to spend it.

         The three of them crouched on the ground and strung up the fireworks they brought to the other fuse.

         After that was done, Gu Fei stood up and clapped his hands together, “So, Jiuri, thank you.”

         “No need to be so courteous with me.” Wang Xu sniffed. “Let’s light it!”

         “Wait,” Gu Fei looked at him. “You’re gonna watch?”

         “I…… have to step away?” Wang Xu was shocked. “You guys don’t want an MC, or witness, or host or something?”

         “We just came to set off fireworks,” Gu Fei’s face was a rapidly shifting kaleidoscope of expressions. “Not to get married.”

         “Oh,” Wang Xu looked at the two of them. “Then I’ll just watch.”

         “What Gu Fei meant was, he’s afraid that you’ll get triggered.” Jiang Cheng piped up.

         “I won’t,” Wang Xu sighed, his face full of profound sincerity. “I’m already numb.”

         “Then, watch I guess.” Gu Fei rubbed his hands together and pulled out a lighter. He was probably too cold to continue wrestling with Wang Xu anymore.

         Jiang Cheng went to stand beside Gu Fei, watching as he bent down and lit the fuse.

         After the initial flash of a spark, the first beam of blue light shot out of one of the cylinders, followed by a second one.

         Gu Fei reached over and grabbed Jiang Cheng’s hand. Jiang Cheng squeezed back.

         The fireworks were of different colours. Wang Xu’s were all gold, while the ones they’d brought were multicoloured. Together it looked especially dazzling.

         Jiang Cheng squinted his eyes against the smoke that had drifted over as he looked at the brilliant light show in front of them.

         “I wish a lasting happiness for you both.” Wang Xu suddenly said amidst his sobs.

         “Thank you.” Jiang Cheng said.

         This Valentine’s Day was indeed different. Even if they redo it more formally next year, it wouldn’t leave as deep of an impression as today.

         Who could’ve foreseen a crying MC coupled with a sincere blessing.

         After the fireworks ended, Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng got ready to go back, but the MC stood there somberly with his head down, and didn’t move.

         “You’re not going?” Gu Fei asked.

         “I…… am.” Wang Xu sighed, and started walking in front of them.

         “How did you get here?” Gu Fei asked.

         “I biked,” Wang Xu said. “But my bike is up ahead, I walked all the way here while looking for a spot.”

         “Want a ride over there?” Jiang Cheng asked.

         “No, I want to have some quiet time.” Wang Xu said. “You guys go…… Oh and I won’t say anything about you two, you can trust me, I’m a man of my word.”

         They sat in the little bun and watched as Wang Xu disappeared into the drifting snow before Gu Fei started the car, “How is this for a Valentine’s Day?”

         “Awesome.” Jiang Cheng smiled.

         “I’m also beyond impressed, that Wang Xu would come here to set off fireworks too.” Gu Fei looked up at Jiang Cheng. “Was it something you taught him? I heard him asking you the other day what kind of gift to give for Valentine’s Day.”

         “How can I possibly think of anything creative right now with my brain like this,” Jiang Cheng said. “I told him to give her a fountain pen.”

         “Ayy,” Gu Fei sighed. “Looks like Wang Xu’s gonna be down for a good while. At least his exam results will probably be the same regardless of his emotional state.”

         “I never knew Wang Xu was so serious about it,” Jiang Cheng leaned against his seat and patted his dirtied pants. “Though with Yi Jing…… there’s probably no chance huh.”

         “Mhm, Yi Jing’s family gets by pretty well,” Gu Fei said. “She’s definitely not going to stay here. While Wang Xu will probably take over running his family’s meat pie shop……”

         Jiang Cheng didn’t answer as he looked at the back of Gu Fei’s head.

         “What I mean is,” Gu Fei seemed to also realize what he said, and turned around to look at Jiang Cheng. “They’re different from us.”

         “What’s the difference.” Jiang Cheng clicked his tongue extra loudly, then scoffed just as loud.

         “Well for one thing,” Gu Fei said. “You like me, and I like you.”

         “What a wordsmith.” Jiang Cheng laughed. “I really haven’t been dwelling on it very much lately. I just think…… Gu Fei.”

         “Hm?” Gu Fei answered.

         “Please keep your eyes forward,” Jiang Cheng said. “We might have fallen over while walking just now, but this here is a car.”

         “Oh.” Gu Fei chuckled as he turned to face the front.

         “Gu Fei,” Jiang Cheng leaned his head back and said slowly. “I just think, there’s nothing really to keep dwelling over. All we can do is continue on, keep going forward, and forward. Some things can’t be planned for ahead of time, so I won’t worry about it, there’ll always be a way.”

         “Mhm.” Gu Fei nodded.

         “There will always be a way.” Jiang Cheng repeated, then closed his eyes. “Even if there really really is no other way forward, even if we have to give up, it’ll have to be after we gave it everything we got…… No. No no no no no, non non non non, that won’t happen, there will always be a way.” 

         “Mhm.” Gu Fei smiled as he reached his hand back and stroked Jiang Cheng’s face.

         Jiang Cheng grabbed Gu Fei’s hand, and gently bit the pad of his ring finger.


Footnotes
[1] Nothing in English quite captures the absolute HEART of 老伴儿, which literally means old companion. It’s something that elderly couples use to refer to each other, whether directly or indirectly, and it’s honestly the cutest thing ever.

Some Stats

  • Raw character count: 5738
  • TL word count: 3942
  • TL time: 6:11:42
  • Edit time: 1:11:53
  • Curse words: 10x fucks

TL’s Notes:
RIP Wang Xu :’)

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