The bus route from the cemetery back home was very long, circling around half the city. Gu Fei leaned against the window shaking back and forth and fell asleep after just a couple of stops.
When he opened his eyes there was still one stop before his home, but the time was already past eight o'clock. He took out his phone and glanced at it. Jiang Cheng hadn't sent any messages yet, he probably hadn't arrived yet.
There was also a message from Gu Miao, just two words.
- I ate.
The neighbor downstairs set up a small dining table. Sometimes when he came home late without having made dinner, Gu Miao would go eat at the neighbor's place by herself, and Gu Fei would settle the bill with the neighbor again at the end of the month.
But occasionally when his mom was in a good mood she would also cook a meal or two. His mom was a great cook, and he and Gu Miao both loved to eat her food, it was just very rare for it to happen.
- Did you eat downstairs?
Gu Fei put his phone back in his pocket as he stood by the bus door waiting to get off. This little girl was getting cooler and cooler, the words she used even for texting were sparing.
After eight o'clock, it was already quite late at night at the old city blocks, and for their extra old streets it was basically the middle of the night already. The shops closed at this time, and there were hardly any people still out and about, except for the ones playing cards.
As Gu Fei walked towards his shop, from far away he could see someone standing at the door. He could make out in the dim light that the person was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk, like they were dancing.
He quickened his pace walking over, and saw that it was indeed Jiang Cheng hunched over with his hands in his pockets, jumping up onto the storefront steps and bouncing back down.
"Damn it!" Before he could say anything, Jiang Cheng glanced to the side and saw him. Whether it was from the cold or as a threat, he said in a low suppressed voice, "Why the hell aren't you only coming tomorrow!"
After saying this last part, Gu Fei confirmed he was shivering from the cold. His voice was trembling and his teeth were chattering.
"Sorry," Gu Fei said as he took out his keys, "the bus was slow."
"No," Jiang Cheng pointed at his closed shop door, "you run a really casual business here huh."
"Hmm?" Gu Fei glanced at him.
"The doctor next door who just left said you didn't open the shop this afternoon." Jiang Cheng said.
"Is that so," Gu Fei opened the door and the indoor heating rushed out, "my mom was here this afternoon...probably had something to do and left."
"Let me in, let me in..." Jiang Cheng followed behind him and pushed him aside to get into the shop. He stomped in place for a good while before heavily sitting down on a chair, "Damn, freezing to death here."
Gu Fei put an electric heater next to him and turned it on. "When did you get here?"
"Seven fifty." Jiang Cheng threw the bag with clothes onto the checkout counter.
"That early." Gu Fei was surprised.
"I," Jiang Cheng pointed at himself, "was raised to be punctual since I was little."
Gu Fei looked at him for a while before saying, "You arrived but didn't let me know?"
"Would you have been able to come even if I told you?" Jiang Cheng said, "Plus my phone died from the cold and wouldn't turn on."
"Why didn't you just go back first," Gu Fei took a cup, put a lemon slice in it, poured some hot water and handed it to him, "I could've gone to pick it up too."
"Why are you asking so many useless questions." Jiang Cheng took the cup and drank some water, glaring at the heater.
Gu Fei didn't ask anymore, "I'll bring your clothes to you tomorrow morning, brought them back to wash."
"Huh?" Jiang Cheng looked up at him, "Aren't they hard to wash, there's blood on them."
"It's fine, anyway they're already washed." Gu Fei said.
"Thanks." Jiang Cheng said.
"You're welcome," Gu Fei sat down behind the checkout counter, propping his legs up on the table, "mainly because it'd be too gross not to wash them, you didn't take them with you."
"......Damn," Jiang Cheng said, "I forgot about them."
After that neither of them spoke again.
Gu Fei was very comfortable half-lying behind the counter playing on his phone. Jiang Cheng didn't have a phone to play with, so he just sat there spacing out.
He knew that around this time all the shops on this street would be closing except for the ones with card games, and Gu Fei was probably waiting for him to leave so he could close up.
But he didn't want to leave.
Today it had been very lively at Li Baoguo's house. He didn't know why Li Baoguo had suddenly gone crazy, calling over a bunch of people to play cards at his place.
At noon Li Baoguo had very skillfully fixed the two broken windows that he had punched through. Jiang Cheng was quite impressed, when it came to handyman skills, the older generation was much more capable.
But before he could even finish the ten dumplings that Li Baoguo had claimed to make for him, suddenly five or six men and women squeezed into the room.
Surrounding him from all sides, asking him all sorts of questions and openly gossiping.
What a bargain, someone else raised their son to adulthood for them.
You can just tell kids who grew up in big cities are different!
Your adoptive parents must be quite wealthy right!
Definitely rich, look at how he dresses and carries himself, tsk tsk tsk...
The last middle-aged gossipy woman said, he clearly looks blood-related, look look look, he looks so much like Baoguo! Identical!
Jiang Cheng was already clenching his teeth and on the verge of bursting. As soon as he heard this he couldn't hold back anymore.
Like hell! Identical my ass!
He pushed through these people and went straight back to his room, slamming the door shut. Only then did they give up.
Then they ate up the entire pot of dumplings, even the three left in Jiang Cheng's bowl that he didn't get to eat.
Jiang Cheng felt like nowadays he was constantly surrounded by all kinds of "unbelievable" things, looking left it was inconceivable, looking right it was unimaginable, he couldn't even breathe properly.
When he walked out of school in the afternoon, he could already tell from the noise that the crowd was still there, clearly planning on staying the night. He didn't even go inside and directly turned back around.
He went to the dumpling shop that he had wanted to go to the other day but didn't get to eat at, and ate dumplings. After messaging Gu Fei he did all his homework at the shop. By the time the whole lobby was empty except for him, only then did he get up to leave.
He had a kind of unspeakable feeling of loneliness.
He couldn't go back to his previous life, and he couldn't integrate into his current life either. Suspended outside all sorts of unfamiliarity, without family, without friends, without a place he could settle down.
His whole being was like hanging in midair.
After spacing out for almost half an hour in Gu Fei's shop, Jiang Cheng glanced at Gu Fei. He was still the same as before, head lowered looking at his phone screen.
"You're waiting to close up right?" Jiang Cheng asked.
Gu Fei didn't respond, still looking at his screen.
"If you're in a hurry to close up I'll leave," Jiang Cheng said, "if not I'll stay a while longer."
Gu Fei still didn't make a sound or move.
What game could be so absorbing? Jiang Cheng hesitated for a moment before getting up and leaning over the counter to peek at his phone screen.
Stupid match-3 game!
"Damn it." He couldn't help muttering under his breath. How could someone be so focused on playing this kind of game that they couldn't even hear people talking!
He looked at the level, it was quite hard, just three moves left, but every move had to count or else he wouldn't pass this level. Gu Fei was probably calculating it.
Leaning over, he also calculated it out. He quickly figured out which piece to move first, but upholding the gentleman's code of observe but don't speak, he stayed silent and waited.
Gu Fei still didn't make a move.
Jiang Cheng leaned over the counter for almost five minutes already, but he still didn't move. Adding the time from before, he had been spacing out here calculating these three steps for almost half an hour...
Jiang Cheng remembered what Old Xu had said this morning, Gu Fei was quite smart...this was considered smart?
He really couldn't stand it anymore, and reached out a finger wanting to point out an obvious move, "Can't you see here?"
His fingertip had just passed Gu Fei's view without touching the screen yet, when Gu Fei suddenly jerked his head up. Then he grabbed Jiang Cheng's finger and twisted it backwards.
"Ow!" Jiang Cheng yelped, the force wasn't great, but it scared him badly. He immediately became enraged, and smashed a fist at Gu Fei's chest, "What the hell is wrong with you!"
Gu Fei let go of his hand.
"Is there something wrong with you!" Jiang Cheng shook out his hand. Luckily he had used his left hand to point, if it was his right hand, his wound probably would've torn open.
Gu Fei stood up and Jiang Cheng watched his movements closely, wondering if the guy had some weird temper and was getting ready to pick a fight.
"I..." Gu Fei tossed his phone aside, poured half a glass of water and drank it. "I just fell asleep."
"What?" Jiang Cheng was confused.
"Sorry," Gu Fei looked at his hand, "Did I hurt you?"
"You sleep with your eyes open?" Jiang Cheng asked.
"Then I must have spaced out, didn't hear you speak," Gu Fei sat back down and checked his phone. "You wanted to tell me about the next move?"
"Mm," Jiang Cheng looked at him.
"What's the move?" Gu Fei asked.
"Figure it out yourself," Jiang Cheng said.
Gu Fei looked down for a bit, then swiped the screen and immediately frowned with an "Ah."
"Dead?" Jiang Cheng watched him.
"Mm," Gu Fei grunted agreement.
"Are you..." Jiang Cheng didn't finish the second half of his sentence.
"An idiot?" Gu Fei finished for him. "It's an idiotic game I'm playing."
"No, didn't you see you could make a vertical bomb in the top right? With a bomb of the same color you could've used one move to get the one below..." Jiang Cheng said.
Before he finished, Gu Fei nodded, "Oh."
Then he tapped and swiped the screen twice.
Jiang Cheng glared at him.
"Passed it," Gu Fei breathed out in relief, turning to look at him. "Thanks."
"Piss off," Jiang Cheng was a bit speechless.
Gu Fei tossed his phone on the counter and stretched lazily. "Homework today?"
"Obviously," Jiang Cheng said. "You guys ever not have homework?"
"Did you do it?" Gu Fei asked.
Jiang Cheng just looked at him silently.
"Let me copy it," Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng continued looking at him. Asking to copy homework with a classmate he wasn't that close to, who he'd shared a desk with for just two days and hadn't seen for a day and a half, Gu Fei's tone didn't have a hint of pleading.
"Please, homework," Gu Fei sighed. "Let me copy it, thanks."
Jiang Cheng also sighed, then felt a hint of amusement after.
"Lots of homework today, it'll take a while to copy," he took out several workbooks and test paper from his bag, tossing them on the counter. "Bring them back tomorrow morning."
"Don't need the test paper, I didn't get one," Gu Fei flipped through the books. "Your handwriting doesn't look like a top student's at all."
"Just copy if you're copying," Jiang Cheng said. He had no objections to this, his handwriting was ugly. One line looked like a drunk boxing routine. "Beggars can't be choosers."
Gu Fei stood up and paced around the shop twice before dragging his schoolbag out from the corner. He had just put the notebook down on the table when his phone rang.
He pressed it, it was a voice message, and the speaker was on, so Jiang Cheng sitting to the side could hear it clearly.
"Big bro! Bro...ah damn! I'm wrong! Big bro I'm wrong...I'll stay as far away as I can from now on...ah! Don't hit me, stop hitting! Damn it stop hitting or I'll die...a violent death!"
The person in the voice message was screaming and begging for mercy. It made Jiang Cheng frown in surprise.
"That's enough." Gu Fei picked up the phone and said.
Jiang Cheng looked at him for a long time, "That was the guy stuck to the tree yesterday right?"
"Yes," Gu Fei said as he dug through his schoolbag, it took at least ten tries before he finally fished out a pen. He scribbled a couple lines but it was out of ink already. He looked at Jiang Cheng, "Got a pen?"
Jiang Cheng handed him a pen.
There were levels even among bad students. Pan Zhi was also a bad student, but compared to Gu Fei, he was almost a pure and innocent bad student. At least Pan Zhi had pens, more than one.
Gu Fei lowered his head to start copying homework, very focused as he copied. If you didn't know better, you'd think he was very hardworking.
Jiang Cheng sat for a while, but really couldn't stay any longer. He couldn't just sit here waiting for Gu Fei to finish copying homework.
He stood up, "I'm leaving."
"I thought you didn't have anywhere to go." Gu Fei said as he copied.
Congratulations! You're correct!
Jiang Cheng didn't say anything, feeling a helpless shameful bitterness.
"Just stay here if you don't have anywhere to go, when Li Yan and Liu Fan have nothing to do they also lounge around here." Gu Fei said.
"I'm leaving." The thought that in others' eyes, he had already fallen to be seen as an unsavory character, made Jiang Cheng's heart stuff up instantly, he almost lost his temper.
He fiercely flipped aside the door curtain, and crashed into someone rushing in.
"Bastard!" The person he crashed into was a woman, before they even separated she was already cursing, "Bastard!"
Jiang Cheng was so shocked he even lost his anger, staring wide-eyed at this woman.
"Don't block the way!" The woman shoved him forcefully aside, "Gu Fei you scumbag!"
Jiang Cheng staggered several steps back from her push, by the time he could get a clear look at this woman's appearance, he was stunned.
No need for introductions or guessing, with one look you could tell this was definitely Gu Fei's mother. Their eyes and noses were identical.
"What's wrong with you." Gu Fei threw down his pen and stood up, frowning.
"What did you do!" The woman rushed forward and slapped Gu Fei.
Gu Fei grabbed her hand, glancing at Jiang Cheng.
"Umm..." Jiang Cheng was so awkward he didn't know where to look, "Auntie, I'm leaving."
"Why are you leaving!" The woman turned back and rushed over to grab his arm, "You're in it together with this bastard! You can't leave either!"
"Wha...what?" Jiang Cheng was stunned.
"What did you guys do!" The woman slapped his arm.
Jiang Cheng didn't dare grab her hand like Gu Fei did, after all this was Gu Fei's mother. He could only grit his teeth and take the slap.
To be honest, this woman was very beautiful, but he really couldn't understand her crazy state.
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself?" Gu Fei grabbed her arm and flung her onto a nearby chair. Pointing at her face, "Go crazy again, I dare you!"
The woman finally didn't leap over again, but suddenly started crying, "Am I not your mother! I find a boyfriend and what's wrong with that, you go and beat him up so badly he doesn't dare see me again...do you want me to stay a widow forever!"
Gu Fei's expression was very ugly, his hands were even shaking slightly.
Jiang Cheng felt that if he wasn't here, Gu Fei might have slapped his mother.
But in this situation, even if he left and Gu Fei's mother got slapped, he still had to leave. He could roughly sympathize with Gu Fei's mood, just like how he didn't want others to see his relationship with Li Baoguo.
He retreated towards the door, when Gu Fei looked over, he gestured at the door.
Gu Fei tiredly nodded. He quickly slipped out the door.
The overwhelming awkwardness and commiseration dissipated bit by bit in the cold wind outside.
Damn, what the hell kind of mother!
He frowned, was there even one normal person in this damned place?
Behind him came the sound of wheels scraping the ground, a very familiar sound. He hurriedly looked back, and sure enough saw Gu Miao skateboarding over.
Passing by the shop door, she probably heard the noise inside and paused for a second, but didn't stop. With one push off the ground she flew over like the wind.
When she reached Jiang Cheng she waved, before Jiang Cheng could warn her to be careful, she had already kicked off and leapt up, swooshing past Jiang Cheng. She landed steadily in front of him, then beautifully spun around and stopped.
"Why didn't you go home?" Jiang Cheng looked at her, knowing she definitely wouldn't answer.
Gu Miao didn't say anything, just lightly kicked the skateboard and it slid to Jiang Cheng's feet.
"Letting me ride it?" Jiang Cheng asked.
Gu Miao nodded, adjusting her hat.
"I can ride, just haven't in a long time." Jiang Cheng said, rubbing his hands.
Gu Miao still didn't speak, only looking at him.
Jiang Cheng unexpectedly saw a trace of provocation in her eyes, and couldn't help laughing, "You're challenging me huh?"
Gu Miao leaned against a nearby lamppost, hugging her arms as she watched him.
"Yo," Jiang Cheng threw his schoolbag onto a nearby snowdrift, stepping onto the skateboard, "Pretty cool chick."
Gu Miao lifted her chin slightly, signaling him to hurry up.
Jiang Cheng used to enjoy playing with things like rollerblades and skateboards in elementary and middle school, but after that his mother eliminated all these "irrelevant to studying" items for the high school entrance exam.
He took a deep breath, pushed off with his foot, and slid out.
The speed wasn't high. He wasn't familiar with the terrain here, but luckily Gu Miao had a twin-tip board, the type he was most familiar with, so it was relatively easy to get used to.
After sliding a distance, he heard footsteps behind him. Looking back, he saw Gu Miao running after him. Seeing him look back, Gu Miao immediately clapped her hands, though he couldn't tell if she was applauding him or hurrying him along.
Still, the fact that a little girl could keep up while he was on a skateboard...it was pretty amusing.
Gu Miao hopped as she ran, mimicking a tiger jump.
Can't lose face in front of a little girl. He steadied himself and pushed off the board, leaping over a small snowdrift ahead and even managing to point at Gu Miao.
Gu Miao's eyes lit up and she jumped excitedly, snapping her fingers crisply.
Her finger snap made Jiang Cheng feel inadequate. Very crisp.
After landing he kept sliding until he reached the street corner. This time he slid very quickly, and Gu Miao didn't follow. She stood where she was, watching him.
When he slid back, he even dared to jump onto and down the steps with the risk of falling on his face. Luckily he didn't fall, just wobbled a bit.
Skateboarding is a good way to relieve stress. Riding the board, gliding past people like the wind, leaving behind all that's annoying, boring, vexing.
Although doing this in the cold winter wind is pretty chilly, it feels awesome.
The road back sloped slightly, and his speed increased considerably. His feel for it was also slowly coming back.
He glanced at Gu Miao. She was watching him full of anticipation. Keeping his eyes on the ground, he planned to leap over the large snowdrift as he passed Gu Miao.
His current speed was just right. Jiang Cheng sped forward with the wind. The snowdrift quickly drew near.
Just as he was about to jump, he noticed a small brick on the ground ahead.
The brick was right in his path. With his currently rusty skills, avoiding it would be hard. He could only jump early, but might still land on top of the snowdrift.
...It all depended on how high he could jump.
He stomped the board and leapt vigorously upwards.
But luck wasn't on his side.
Maybe it was too cold, or he was too nervous. Anyway, he didn't exert enough force or pull his legs up high enough... He already knew where he would land.
The nose of the board would likely spear into the top of the snowdrift.
As for himself, he would probably crash onto the sidewalk ahead.
Come on! Fly! Youth!
After the brief flight, the board nose speared into the snowdrift as he had predicted. In the instant he crashed out, he suddenly noticed someone in front of him.