The moment he leapt out the window, the cold wind rushed into his breath, then drilled into his pores, and finally seeped into his body.
The broken glass on the windowsill below made a few crisp sounds under his feet. Jiang Cheng felt that the suffocating feeling he had finally disappeared.
Outside, the sky had completely darkened, there were no streetlights, and the moon was hidden. Only the faint weak light coming from the windows of each house could vaguely reveal that this was the back of a row of houses, with a large area of uncleaned snow.
Jiang Cheng took out his mobile phone from his trousers pocket and turned it on. He walked forward with one foot shallow and one foot deep in the snow, bypassing the back of the building to the end of the alley.
Ahead was a small factory, and there was no road here.
He stopped and stood in the dark.
After the outbreak, he slowly calmed down in the cold wind, and now he was a little confused.
Where to go?
What to do?
No goals or purposes.
He looked down at the time on his mobile phone and pondered what he should do now.
It was so damn cold that he had forgotten to go and put on his coat when he jumped out.
There was a dirty mark on the phone screen. He wiped it with his finger, but the previous mark was not wiped off, but more was added.
It was too dark around him to see clearly what it was. He only vaguely felt that his fingers were wet.
But he realized it very quickly. He held up the phone screen to shine on his fingers.
"Damn it," he said in a low voice.
It was a bit scary, hands full of blood.
His hands were numb from the cold, and he didn't feel any pain. He even had to look around before seeing the cut in his palm.
It was quite deep, and the blood kept gushing out.
Jiang Cheng felt around in both trousers pockets, but didn't find a single scrap of paper, so he could only grab the corner of his sweater and clench it tightly in his palm.
In such cold weather, even the wound didn't freeze.
...Yeah, such cold weather.
Not even a coat.
This could be fatal!
It wasn't until now that Jiang Cheng suddenly felt the piercing cold, as if he had just been sharply awakened.
No coat, no money, bleeding nonstop.
He judged the direction and ran to the intersection leading to the alley next door. Li Baoguo said there was a community hospital there where he could get someone to help bandage it first and also warm up.
After running a few steps, he was so cold that he could barely stand it. He went from running to hopping, and soon he couldn't even feel the warmth in his own breath.
Damn it was so cold!
Li Baoguo said that the community hospital was not very noticeable, and he was right, it was not just unnoticeable. Jiang Cheng had already run past it before seeing it.
The lights weren't even on.
...The lights weren't on?
He was stunned. Weren't the lights on?
He went closer to the closed door and took two more looks before seeing a sign hanging on the door. His eyes were shivering from the cold, and he could barely make out that the doctor had gone home for dinner.
"...You gotta be kidding me!" He knocked on the door twice without any response.
There was also a phone number left on the sign, but he didn't call. Waiting for the doctor to come over after making a call, he estimated he would have frozen to death here.
He frowned, turned his head and looked around.
Gu Fei's shop was only about five meters away, with the lights on.
Although he was very reluctant for Gu Fei to see his miserable appearance again, but...it was so damn cold!
He hopped over, pulled open the door, and lifted the curtain.
The warmth that rushed up made his whole body, which had been stiffened to the point of cramping, instantly relax.
But then he was stunned again, feeling a little awkward.
He didn't know why, but every time he entered Gu Fei's shop, he would feel extremely awkward.
The empty spot where no-good birds had sat last time now had a small table. There was an electric stove burning on the table, and a pot of what was probably mutton soup steaming hot. He could smell it.
Gu Fei was serving the soup to Gu Miao.
And in the position facing the door, there was also a woman, looking like she was in her early twenties.
Apart from the age difference being a bit large, these three people looked like a family of three, making Jiang Cheng suddenly feel that he had appeared at a very inappropriate time.
"You..." Gu Fei was startled when he turned his head to see him, "What's going on?"
"Can you not ask?" Jiang Cheng said, "I just...passed by."
"Your friend?" The woman looked at Gu Fei and asked.
"Yeah." Gu Fei stood up and walked over to Jiang Cheng, his eyes falling to his hand.
The woman also stood up, "What..."
"First aid kit," Gu Fei said over his shoulder.
"Mm." She walked quickly into the small room.
Gu Miao was still sitting at the table without moving, tightly holding a spoon in her hand, her eyes wide open, watching over a little nervously.
Jiang Cheng noticed that Gu Fei moved slightly to the side to block Gu Miao's line of sight. He quickly hid his hand behind him.
"Go into the room," Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng walked quickly into the small room. The woman had already taken out the first aid kit. Seeing him come in, she asked softly, "Your hand?"
"Yeah," Jiang Cheng replied. "The community hospital next door..."
"The doctor is probably eating now," the woman said. "Is it serious? Let me help you rinse it first, disinfect it."
"It's not serious," Jiang Cheng looked at the first aid kit, the stuff looked quite complete, "I can do it myself."
"It's more troublesome with one hand," the woman smiled, "I'll help you and it'll be faster."
"Knife wound?" Gu Fei asked, coming in.
"No." Jiang Cheng hesitated, then released the sweater he had been clutching.
This loosening of his hand frightened himself. The sweater was already stained with a large area of blood.
"You..." Gu Fei frowned at his hand, then glanced at the sweater, and said to the woman, "Let me do it."
"It's okay, can I be scared by such a small wound," the woman smiled and pushed him lightly, "go accompany Er Miao, I saw she was very nervous just now."
"...Okay," Gu Fei hesitated for a moment, turned and walked out. After two steps, he stopped and turned back, introducing them to each other, "My classmate Jiang Cheng, this is my sister, Ding Zhuxin."
"Just call me Sister Xin," Ding Zhuxin smiled and pulled Jiang Cheng's hand over, "Let me see... the wound looks quite deep..."
"Is it?" Jiang Cheng responded.
Zhuxin*? This name doesn't sound very good, the heart of bamboo is empty.
*T/N: The words Zhu and Xin are the characters for bamboo and heart respectively.
Jiang Cheng felt confused about his artistic thoughts today.
"Let me rinse it with saline first," Ding Zhuxin said, "then use iodine later."
"Okay," Jiang Cheng nodded, "thanks."
"Don't keep thanking me." Ding Zhuxin said.
The room was warm and he soon felt warm himself, but the pain from the injury seemed to awaken and started drilling into him.
After Ding Zhuxin rinsed the blood off his hand, he saw the cut was bigger than he thought.
"Must be from broken glass, why so careless," Ding Zhuxin said.
Jiang Cheng didn't reply.
Gu Fei's sister's surname was Ding? Following their mom's surname?
And although Ding Zhuxin was very pretty, with her skin so pale it was nearly transparent, and from Jiang Cheng's angle her long thick lashes covered her eyes completely, she looked nothing like Gu Fei or Gu Miao.
"Are you Gu Fei's sister?" he asked.
"Not blood-related," Ding Zhuxin laughed. "He calls me sister, I used to live upstairs from their home."
"Oh," Jiang Cheng also laughed lightly.
"I watched him grow up, when he was little he followed me everywhere," Ding Zhuxin said as she applied iodine. She took some gauze from the first aid kit to wrap the injury. "This will have to do for now, cover it and see if the doctor can look at it later."
"Thanks," Jiang Cheng stood up.
"Why so polite," Ding Zhuxin put the things back in the kit. "When I patch up Gu Fei he never says thanks."
He is so rude.
Jiang Cheng said to himself again, then felt it was probably because they were too close.
After he entered, although Ding Zhuxin didn't say much to Gu Fei, Jiang Cheng could sense they were very familiar, especially when Ding Zhuxin turned her head and he saw a little music note earring on her earlobe...
He didn't expect Gu Fei to be into this. The woman looked at least four or five years older.
"You're Gu Fei's classmate?" Ding Zhuxin said. "I don't think I've seen you before...but he doesn't hang out with classmates much either."
"I just transferred," Jiang Cheng said.
"I see," Ding Zhuxin glanced at him.
"Done?" Gu Fei pushed the door open.
"Done," Ding Zhuxin said. "Dr. Zhang can take another look later."
"Is the cut deep?" Gu Fei asked.
"How deep can it be from just a slice," Jiang Cheng said.
"Er Miao wants me to ask if Brother Cheng has eaten," Gu Fei looked outside.
"...No," Jiang Cheng answered, somewhat gloomy.
"Then you can eat together, perfect timing," Ding Zhuxin said, walking out and naturally patting Gu Fei's shoulder. "I was thinking they couldn't finish all the lamb I bought today."
"Isn't it inconvenient?" Jiang Cheng hesitated and lowered his voice.
"What's inconvenient?" Gu Fei didn't understand and also unconsciously lowered his voice.
"Um..." Jiang Cheng quickly glanced back at Ding Zhuxin, "Your sister."
Gu Fei was confused for a moment, then leaned against the doorframe with a smile. "Oh."
"Oh?" Jiang Cheng looked at him.
"Nothing inconvenient, Er Miao is here too," Gu Fei went inside and grabbed a sweater from the cabinet, tossing it on the bed. "Change into this, she'll be scared."
After Gu Fei left, Jiang Cheng picked up the sweater and looked at the size, seemed right, so he changed into it.
Then he examined it again. This sweater couldn't have been knitted by Gu Fei himself right...
"Need help?" Gu Fei called from outside.
"No need!" He quickly replied, folding his clothes and putting them on the chair.
As soon as he stepped out of the hut, the rich lamb soup aroma filled the shop. Jiang Cheng immediately felt anxious with hunger.
"Smells good huh," Ding Zhuxin was ladling the soup into bowls.
"Mm," Jiang Cheng went over and sat at the small table.
"First time I've seen Er Miao ask someone to eat together, such progress after just two months," Ding Zhuxin put two lamb chunks in Gu Miao's bowl. "Jiang Cheng, you transferred a while ago right? Last semester?"
"This semester," Jiang Cheng said.
"Ah," Ding Zhuxin looked at him for a good few seconds before smiling and placing a bowl of soup in front of him. "That's surprising."
Gu Miao drank her soup while sneaking peeks at the bandage around Jiang Cheng's hand.
"It's fine now," Gu Fei grabbed Jiang Cheng's hand and held it out to her. "See."
Jiang Cheng had injured his right hand, so he wasn't holding the chopsticks steadily. When Gu Fei grabbed him, the chopsticks flew out and fell on the floor.
Gu Miao very carefully touched his hand.
"Let go," Ding Zhuxin smacked Gu Fei's hand. She picked up the chopsticks. "His hand is hurt, don't grab so hard."
"I'll wash them," Gu Fei reached for the chopsticks.
"I'll go..." Jiang Cheng made to stand up.
"You two sit, I'm not eating anyway," Ding Zhuxin went out the back door.
"She's not eating?" Jiang Cheng was confused, noticing three sets of bowls and chopsticks on the table. He suddenly felt awkward, were there only three sets total? Not enough with him here!
"She doesn't eat at night, hasn't for years," Gu Fei gave Jiang Cheng his chopsticks. "I haven't used these yet."
"No rush," Jiang Cheng said.
"No rush?" Gu Fei tilted his head looking at him. "Your eyes look starving."
"Piss off," Jiang Cheng took his chopsticks and put a lamb chunk in his mouth.
He really must be hungry, this lamb instantly ranked in the top three most delicious foods he'd eaten the past two years.
When Ding Zhuxin returned and saw the chopsticks in Jiang Cheng's hand she paused, setting down the cleaned chopsticks in front of Gu Fei and saying softly, "I'm going."
"Mm," Gu Fei stood up and took her coat from behind the counter.
"Don't you want to eat a little? It's...really good," Jiang Cheng stood up awkwardly.
"You guys eat, have some more," Ding Zhuxin smiled and put on her coat. "I'm dieting."
"Oh," Jiang Cheng hesitated before sitting back down. Gu Miao pointed at the lamb in the pot and he nodded, "I'll get some for you."
Gu Miao pointed at his empty bowl.
"I'm...it's no rush," Jiang Cheng felt a little embarrassed, even this little girl could see how hungry he was. To show he wasn't impatient, he glanced back at Gu Fei and Ding Zhuxin again.
"Keys," Ding Zhuxin held her hand out to Gu Fei.
"Aren't you cold?" Gu Fei took the motorcycle keys from his pocket.
"I was racing bikes when you were still in middle school," Ding Zhuxin took the keys and walked out the shop door.
Gu Fei watched her from the door before coming back to sit down.
After Ding Zhuxin went out, Jiang Cheng inexplicably felt relieved. This was the first time he had felt such a strong sense of awkwardness being with a girl.
Ding Zhuxin was very beautiful, a kind of beauty that was neither flashy nor aggressive. To be honest, if he saw this kind of face on the street, he would look twice.
He picked up a piece of mutton with the chopsticks. His hand still hurt. He didn't dare to use force when picking up the meat, watching his posture as if he was about to detonate a bomb, afraid the meat would fall off the table if his hand shook.
Gu Fei took a large ladle from the side, put it in the pot to scoop up a large scoop of mutton, and handed it to him: "Just watching you makes me feel awkward."
"Thanks." Jiang Cheng scraped half of the mutton into his own bowl, then took Gu Miao's bowl and scraped the rest into her bowl.
"How did you hurt your hand?" Gu Fei asked.
Jiang Cheng didn't answer. He really didn't know what to say. Gu Fei should know about Li Baoguo's family. If he talked about this, it would only give people more gossip, although Gu Fei didn't look like someone who would gossip with others.
He was silent for a while: "Bit myself."
Gu Miao looked at him, stunned for a moment, then laughed.
"Good bite," Gu Fei nodded. "But you still have to learn to cherish yourself and be gentler next time you bite down."
Jiang Cheng smiled at Gu Miao and lowered his head to drink the soup.
"Are you heading back later?" Gu Fei asked again.
"Not going back," Jiang Cheng answered decisively this time.
"Got somewhere to go?" Gu Fei picked two sprigs of greens from a basket and put them in the pot to blanch.
"I do," Jiang Cheng replied, then hesitated and was silent nearly two minutes before forcing out his next words with difficulty. "Do you have money? Can you lend me some?"
"How much?" Gu Fei set his chopsticks down.
Jiang Cheng considered, "500 should do, I can transfer it back on my phone."
"No problem," Gu Fei took out his wallet and counted out 500 yuan.
"Thanks," Jiang Cheng took the money, feeling much more reassured as he got out his phone. "Add me so I can transfer it to you."
"Actually if you go out the intersection and turn right, 200 meters down is a fork, go to the end and there's a Home Inn," Gu Fei took out his phone and tapped a few times. "Won't need 500."
Jiang Cheng looked at him silently, then picked up his bowl and sipped some soup.
Although Gu Fei hadn't guessed wrong, and also couldn't have guessed wrong, since in this situation besides a hotel he had no other options. But saying it so plainly made him lose face.
His phone dinged and he looked at the screen.
It was a friend request from Gu Fei.
Cute Little Bunny.
He nearly spat his soup on the phone seeing that nickname.
"This is you?" He held his phone out to Gu Fei.
"Mm, cute right?" Gu Fei's expression was calm.
'"...So cute," Jiang Cheng was a little speechless. After accepting the friend request, he took another look at Gu Fei's profile picture.
It matched his nickname well, a green rabbit. If he judged correctly, judging from the artistic style and use of color, the artist was probably Gu Miao. "This profile picture was drawn by Gu Miao, right?"
Gu Miao nodded beside him.
"It's...really good," Jiang Cheng reluctantly complimented. Gu Miao's drawing skills were worlds apart from her skateboarding skills.
Just as he was preparing to transfer money to Gu Fei, the shop door rang as someone pulled it open, then the curtain was lifted open a crack.
He glanced over and felt it was a bit strange. It was normal for someone to come buy things at this time, but why lift just a corner of the curtain like they were peeking?
Before he could figure it out, Gu Fei had already thrown his phone on the table and jumped up.
"Huh?" Jiang Cheng was startled, holding up the phone and watching Gu Fei rush out. Was he catching a thief?
He generally didn't get involved in other people's business. He would definitely live to 103 that way. But right now he was at Gu Fei's place, and Gu Fei had rushed out, so he couldn't just sit there.
He stood up, intending to follow him out. He was about to tell Gu Miao not to come out when he glanced down and saw that Gu Miao was calmly eating, as if nothing had happened around her.
"I'll go take a look," Jiang Cheng said and ran out after him.
As soon as he got out the door, he saw Gu Fei grabbing the collar of a struggling man.
The dim light of the long-neglected streetlamp made everything hazy. He could only make out that it was a man around thirty years old, wearing a village-style leather jacket. His tight pants wrapped his thin legs like two toothpicks, making him look disgusting.
"What are you doing! Let go!" The man grabbed Gu Fei's hand and pulled hard, but he was clearly no match for Gu Fei in either height or strength. After struggling for a while without moving Gu Fei at all, he could only shout again, "Let me go!"
"Didn't I tell you not to let me see you again?" Gu Fei asked in a low voice.
"Who do you think you are? I don't care if you said it or not. So what if you did?" The man shoved his face close to Gu Fei's eyes, taunting him. "I'm right here now. You see me, don't you? So what are you going to do about it..."
Before he could finish spewing questions, Gu Fei grabbed his collar and swung him towards the nearby tree.
Like an empty rag doll, the man smashed face-first into the tree trunk.
Jiang Cheng felt his eyes widen with the sound. This was the first time he realized a human body hitting wood could make such a loud noise.
After the bang, the world was quiet.
The man stayed plastered against the tree for two seconds before slowly sliding down the trunk and kneeling on the ground. Then he slumped to the side and lay there motionless.
"Damn!" Jiang Cheng walked over a couple steps. Was he dead?
After staring at the unmoving man for a while, Jiang Cheng turned back to look at Gu Fei, unable to speak for a long time.
Although this guy was thin and not very tall, he was still a man. Yet Gu Fei had flung him into a tree with one arm. If it was captured in a slow-motion shot, it could probably last two or three seconds...
Jiang Cheng suddenly felt a chill down his back. With Gu Fei's fighting skills, killing someone actually seemed plausible.
"Come inside," Gu Fei glanced at him and walked back to the shop. "Aren't you cold?"
"Who is this guy?" Jiang Cheng came to his senses. "You're just leaving him there? What if he freezes to death?"
"If he freezes to death, I'll kill you to keep you quiet," Gu Fei said with a smile.