Chapter 22 - Chapter 22

Although Jiang Cheng scored a very cool and technically superb goal. 

And shouted very impressively.

But after all he's not a great player plus Li Yan and Gu Fei's long-term cooperation level is far better than him and the other three on his team, and Li Yan's own skills are much stronger than the others on their team. In the first half they only got 15 points.  

Jiang Cheng got two three-pointers, the rest were basically goals scored by Gu Fei, only Wang Xu got 1 point from a free throw. Jiang Cheng was very surprised that Wang Xu could make a free throw with his weird shooting form like an elementary school student.

At halftime he glanced at the scoreboard, 28:15. This kind of score was really sad. With this kind of skill and teamwork, there was absolutely no way to catch up. If this was a formal game, in the second half they could probably only play with the noble mentality of "not letting the point difference get bigger".

"Change two people," Li Yan said sitting on the court floor, "Luo Yu and Zhao Yihui rest, change to two of their substitutes to play for a bit, let everyone practice."

"I think that's good," Team captain Wang Xu nodded, "We can't keep playing without substitutions, I don't think Class 2 has this level either, the opposing practice team is too strong, playing makes me lose all my confidence."

Jiang Cheng didn't say anything as he sat there. When he took the shot just now he only felt the wound hurt, after landing he didn't feel much, but now after resting for two minutes, he felt the wound was burning hot again like it was on fire. 

He looked at his excited teammates, he didn't say he wanted to substitute either. If he was replaced, Gu Fei would be the only one left, they wouldn't even be able to coordinate plays, there was no point in practicing like that.

Also he didn't want Wang Xu to know he was injured, Wang Xu had an obsessive attachment to the "you got in another fight with the Monkey gang" scenarios, he couldn't handle it.

"Want to rest?" Gu Fei asked him softly.

"No need," Jiang Cheng said, standing up to stretch his arms, "Let's play it through first."

"Ok," Gu Fei looked at him and called several team members over, "You're used to it after half a game, have a sense of it now right. Second half I'll go from the sideline to under the basket, you guys continue the man to man defense, pass the ball more, don't keep dribbling. Give the ball to Jiang Cheng, I'm responsible for scoring."

"Good, do as Da Fei says," Wang Xu as team captain wasn't able to assign tasks, he could only forcibly agree. 

Jiang Cheng felt Gu Fei was playing a little restrained in the first half, as if he was testing Wang Xu and the rest's skills. In the second half from the start he was different from before, playing excitedly.

Only then did Jiang Cheng realize Gu Fei's movement speed was quite amazing. Liu Fan and the others knew him well but still couldn't keep up with him on defense.  

His path was very simple, drive straight from the sidelines to under the basket, take the pass and shoot, if someone tried to block him he would pass the ball out to Jiang Cheng or another teammate, and Jiang Cheng would pass it back to him in the end.

This style suited Jiang Cheng very well, but he had some trouble keeping up. He had to pay attention to everyone's position on court at all times, and also watch out for Gu Fei's passes thrown without even a glance.

The score did catch up by five or six points, but Jiang Cheng still couldn't help saying: "Look where I am when you pass the ball, ok?"

"I did look," Gu Fei said. 

"I was still ten steps away and you passed already." Jiang Cheng lowered his voice.

"But you got there right?" Gu Fei said. "Didn't lose the pass either."

"....What if it was lost?" Jiang Cheng was a little speechless.

"That would be my bad." Gu Fei answered very calmly. 

"Cut the crap," Jiang Cheng said, "Does the point not count if it's your fault?"

"Brother Cheng," Gu Fei smiled and looked at him, "You used to be captain of your school team right?"

"What's it to you," Jiang Cheng also looked at him, "I'm just telling you to watch it."

"Got it." Gu Fei said.

Gu Fei did make some changes after saying he got it. He would glance at Jiang Cheng's general position with the corner of his eye, but even after that glance, his passing style remained the same. As long as you tell me to see where you are, I'll take a look, and after looking I'll still pass however I was going to pass.  

Jiang Cheng was too lazy to say any more. Gu Fei and the No-good Birds played basketball with a streetball style, no discipline. They forcefully demanded perfect coordination from teammates, and played excitedly as if high on drugs. In less than ten minutes they committed three fouls.

"Pay attention to limits," Jiang Cheng said helplessly, "We only have so many people, if all of us graduate do we let Old Xu come on?"

"Awesome!" Guo Xu ran past him waving his arm.

The game continued, Jiang Cheng didn't have time to care about more things, and followed along. 

Wang Xu intercepted the ball from a teammate subbed in on the opposing team, and immediately shouted excitedly as if a god had descended: "Ah----"

Seeing him holding the ball reveling in excitement and seemingly having no intention of passing or attacking, Jiang Cheng had no choice but to clap his hands: "Pass the damn ball!"

Wang Xu came back to his senses and swung his arm to pass the ball out.

Jiang Cheng suddenly felt his heart clench. He had finally shaken off that Chen Jie's entanglement. No one was guarding him now, so any normal person would know this pass was to him.

He never expected Wang Xu to swing his arm and pass to Gu Fei, when Gu Fei was currently tangled by Liu Fan to the point they were almost dancing cheek to cheek.  

Jiang Cheng could only watch this scene speechlessly. 

Gu Fei probably also didn't expect this situation and that he would get passed to. Amidst all the chaos he reacted very quickly, reaching out and slapping the ball before Liu Fan could touch it.

This volleyball-like slap changed the ball's trajectory, flying straight at Jiang Cheng's face.

"Fuck!" Jiang Cheng was startled, feeling like his heart was going to jump out of his rib injury.

Luckily he reflexively raised his hand and the ball landed right in it.

"All blind as hell!" He cursed and took the ball, too lazy to care about anything else. He carried his anger and charged to the basket like a tank.

Anyway time was almost up, no time left to adjust tactics.

When he got to the basket he found he had no chance for a shot. Liu Fan's close man-to-man defense skills were super seasoned. He followed all the way here and with a turn boxed Jiang Cheng in tightly.

In Jiang Cheng's peripheral vision he didn't see Gu Fei, only the heavily guarded Wang Xu and Lu Xiaobin. And at this time he also couldn't turn his head, Liu Fan's hands were waving in front of his eyes. The ball would be stolen with the slightest distraction.

"No time left----" someone shouted from the sidelines.

If he didn't shoot now they would lose the two points. Jiang Cheng had no other choice but to guess Gu Fei would be there to get the pass, not under the basket but behind him.

So he hooked his hand back and passed the ball out. Right after that he braced against Liu Fan and turned his head.  

Gu Fei stepped over, smoothly receiving the ball. Seamlessly chaining moves, he jumped up for a three-pointer. The ball traced a long arc in the air. 

"It's in! Fuck!" Wang Xu shouted loudly, "Three points!"

Jiang Cheng gave a thumbs up. Although this shot didn't change the situation of the game, it was beautifully done.

The whistle blew, game over.

"Not bad, not bad! I think it was great. Although the score...." Wang Xu wiped the sweat off his forehead and looked at the scoreboard, "Damn still down by 11? But still really good!"

Everyone echoed agreement while wiping sweat.

"Coordination needs work," Jiang Cheng pulled at his clothes. He felt the wound was a bit painful, probably because of sweating. It was scalding hot. "Eyes not on teammates or opponents, only on the ball. This needs to change."

"Right, well said," Wang Xu nodded and repeated the summary, "Look at your own people, look at opponents too, don't just look at the ball."

After completing the practice opponent task, the no-good birds left. The group excitedly discussed as Old Xu came over.

"Hurry and clean up, change clothes," Old Xu said, "I got you guys ten minutes off next period's politics class. Don't affect other students when you go back to the classroom."

Everyone went to the gym bathroom, some to wash faces, some to pee.

Jiang Cheng waited until everyone was done before going in. After washing his face, he lifted his clothes and looked in the mirror. 

"Fuck your grandpa," seeing the blood seeping through the bandage over the wound, he couldn't help cursing softly, "You, fucking, grandpa."

He had nothing to treat wounds on him now, and didn't want to go to the school doctor either. The school doctor would have to report this kind of injury. Who knew what Old Xu would do to 'educate him with love' if he knew....

A whistle sounded behind him.

Jiang Cheng hurriedly pulled his clothes down and glanced in the mirror. Gu Fei was walking in.

"Got bandaids?" He relaxed. 

"Use bandaids for that wound?" Gu Fei said. "I'll...go get some gauze from the school doctor for you."

"That's not good right," Jiang Cheng frowned, "What if the doctor asks?"

"No one will ask if I go get it," Gu Fei looked at his wound again, "Why didn't you say yesterday it was hurt this badly?"

"What's there to say about it." Jiang Cheng said.

"Wait here for me." Gu Fei turned and left.

Jiang Cheng sighed leaning on the sink. At first when playing ball his attention was diverted so he didn't feel too painful. Now relaxing, it felt scalding hot in waves, with stabbing pains mixed in.  

He carefully peeled off the bandage and looked. Slightly red with some blood seeping out, but it didn't look too bad.

He hadn't gotten a bloody wound like this in a long time. In high school he fought a few times too, mostly just bruised. Suddenly seeing blood on himself felt pretty depressing.

Was this for Li Baoguo?

Didn't seem like it. He was too lazy now to even ask about Li Baoguo's situation.

The crux was that since yesterday until now Li Baoguo hadn't contacted him either, off playing cards again probably, or intercepted by those people again, who knew.

Thinking carefully, he started feeling uneasy again. What exactly did Li Baoguo do? Was this trouble resolved or not, would there be other troubles in the future?

This time he was beaten on the street. Next time would they find his home?  

Smash things to pieces or beat him bloody?

Just thinking about it made him feel cold.

Gu Fei came back pretty quickly. He held a small bag coming into the bathroom, with alcohol, iodine, gauze, medical tape and such inside.

"I'll help you?" Gu Fei asked.

"I' it myself." Jiang Cheng took some cotton balls and poured alcohol on.

Ever since realizing his interest in men was greater than for girls, he didn't really like physical contact with others. Aside from Pan Zhi, being touched by anyone made him uncomfortable. 

Especially someone good-looking like Gu Fei with nice hands. He was always worried he might have some extra thoughts.

But trying to lift his clothes in one hand while treating the wound with the other wasn't easy to control. When changing cotton balls he would let go and his clothes slid down rubbing the wound.

"Wang Xu said you're uptight." Gu Fei watched and commented.  

"Oh," Jiang Cheng answered, "What, you wanna give him a like?"

"Yeah you are pretty uptight," Gu Fei said, "Trying to show your indomitable spirit?"

Jiang Cheng sighed and glanced at him holding the alcohol bottle: "I'm afraid you don't know your own strength, you play ball pretty thoughtlessly."

"I've been treating my own wounds since I was four," Gu Fei took the bottle from him and poured some on the cotton as he talked, "I'm a skilled worker."  

Jiang Cheng didn't speak.

Four years old? 

What a braggart. He didn't even have memories at four.

But Gu Fei's motions were quite skilled, the cotton barely hurt the wound, and he was very fast. It was done before he even felt pain.

Jiang Cheng kept his gaze on the faucet beside them. 

"This wound won't heal by the match," Gu Fei put the gauze over the wound, "Press on it yourself a bit."

"No major issue really." Jiang Cheng pressed the gauze down and quickly glanced at Gu Fei's fingers. Gu Fei had long fingers, especially the pinky, very suitable for piano......He continued looking at the faucet.

Gu Fei quickly taped the gauze in place: "Done, take these and change it yourself later."

Returning to class, the politics teacher was yelling from the podium.

But the buzz below wasn't suppressed by her yelling. The "basketball team" members just played a game and were extremely excited now.

"Old Xu is simply unable to distinguish priorities!" The politics teacher slapped the podium, "Don't plan on passing the midterms I guess! Going to play basketball! Actually using class time to play ball! It's not that I look down on your class, with how you guys are...."

Jiang Cheng lowered his head and swiftly sat in his seat. As a top student, he usually showed teachers respect. When teachers were angry and yelling, he would act meeker. 

But Gu Fei was not so cooperative. Amidst the teacher's scolding, he slowly sauntered back to his seat. He neatly arranged his jacket before sitting down.

"Hey Da Fei," Zhou Jing leaned over and whispered, "Hey Da..."

Before he finished talking, the politics teacher slapped the podium: "Zhou Jing! Get out!"

"Huh?" Zhou Jing was stunned.  

"Out!" The teacher pointed at him and kept yelling.

Zhou Jing hesitated, then stood up, took his jacket and went out to stand in the hallway.

"You two in the back! Out too!" The teacher pointed at Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei, "Everyone else is back already, just you two last to return! Looks like you don't want to take class! If you don't want class then stand outside!"

Jiang Cheng looked at the teacher. Though he was always distracted in class, cutting too, this was the first time a teacher singled him out and drove him from the classroom.

Gu Fei was very obedient, more than when told to listen in class. As soon as the teacher finished, he stood up and left, standing by Zhou Jing leaning on the hallway railing.  

"You!" The teacher kept pointing at Jiang Cheng. 

Jiang Cheng sighed speechlessly and got up to leave too. He didn't even need to take his jacket, hadn't had a chance to take it off.

"Wang Xu said you guys are really awesome now?" Zhou Jing wasn't downcast at all about being kicked out. He continued his earlier question leaning on the railing.

"Awesome my ass." Jiang Cheng said. 

Captain Wang Xu asked everyone to act like hopeless losers, but he couldn't help bragging at the slightest thing.

"Da Fei, did you play?" Zhou Jing asked. "Wang Xu said you didn't agree even when Old Xu begged you."

Jiang Cheng nearly laughed out loud hearing this. Wang Xu was still sticking to the plotline of Gu Fei not playing, but really made people want to interview him about where he got these ideas.

"Yeah," Gu Fei turned his head, "I'm a person without any collective honor." 

When Gu Fei turned his head, his breath brushed Jiang Cheng's face. He quickly dodged and bounced in place twice, inconspicuously circling around Zhou Jing to cling to the railing and look downstairs.

"Really?" Zhou Jing looked doubtfully back at Jiang Cheng, "You're not kidding me?"

Jiang Cheng looked at him. Zhou Jing wasn't a bad person but one look and you could tell he was the blabbermouth type. Telling him anything would probably spread as soon as he turned around.

"Mm." Jiang Cheng nodded.

"But Wang Xu said you guys are really good's that possible, it's not like I haven't seen them play," Zhou Jing frowned, then his eyes lit up, "I get it! This is your strategy right? Telling everyone you're super good!"  

Although Jiang Cheng really wanted to ask what the point was of such a bluff and intimidation, he still nodded.

"Ah..." Zhou Jing wanted to say more but Gu Fei's phone rang, interrupting him.

It was his mom calling. Gu Fei picked up, "Hello?"

"Are you out of school?" Mom's anxious voice came through, "Something's wrong with Er Miao..."

Upon hearing Gu Miao's screams, Gu Fei felt his heart clench suddenly: "I'm on my way back."  

After hanging up, he turned around and rushed straight down the stairs.

There were several possible reasons for Gu Miao's screams. In recent years, it was usually because of water, but that didn't always elicit a reaction, only occasionally. And Mom knew about it too, she was always careful.  

Given Gu Miao's reaction now, it probably had nothing to do with water. So what was going on?

He rushed out of the school gate. The guard tried to stop him to ask something but didn't even have time to raise his hand.

Riding his bike home, Gu Fei felt very tired. This feeling of fatigue always came on so suddenly, in an instant he felt like he could fall asleep until the end of time if he closed his eyes.

He didn't feel physical fatigue, he didn't feel like he had gotten tired at any point. Only the mental fatigue was something he couldn't get rid of. He could ignore his mom, even yell at her to vent his frustration, but he couldn't do that with Gu Miao.

He was extremely cautious, trying to help Gu Miao defend herself against all kinds of potential harm, while also protecting and watching out for her, guarding against accidents that could happen anytime.

Running up the stairs, he could hear Gu Miao's screams through the door.  

The old lady from across the hall opened her door, looking at him worriedly: "Er Miao, she..."

"It's fine," Gu Fei said as he opened the door and went in.

His mom was hugging Gu Miao on the couch. Gu Miao had buried her face in her chest, screaming incessantly. 

"Er Miao, don't scream anymore. Look, your brother's back," Mom patted Gu Miao's back, "Gu Fei is back..."

Gu Fei went over and took Gu Miao from his mom's arms, patting her back with one hand and massaging the back of her neck with the other: "It's okay now, Er Miao, it's okay."

Gu Miao hugged his neck, still screaming, her body shaking a little.  

Gu Fei frowned. Gu Miao wasn't scared, she was angry.

"What happened?" Gu Fei said softly, "Tell your brother, why are you angry?"

"Angry?" His mom looked at him puzzledly.

He pointed at Gu Miao's schoolbag. His mom brought the bag over. As he flipped through Gu Miao's books and notebooks, he asked, "Is it a book? Or your notebook? Did someone tear up your book?"

Gu Miao's screams quieted down but she was still vocalizing, mixing in two indistinct words: "Draw pictures."

Gu Fei opened up her vocabulary notebook, and after just a couple pages, he saw one page covered messily in red ink, with a crudely drawn figure falling down, next to what looked like a skateboard. There were also words written on both sides.

Pig, mute, idiot...

"Er Miao, stop," Gu Fei put down the notebook and held Gu Miao's shoulders, "Look at me, look at me."  

Gu Miao finally stopped screaming. She looked up at him, eyes wide open.

"Do you know who it was?" Gu Fei asked.

Gu Miao nodded.

"For this matter," Gu Fei looked into her eyes, "should I handle it for you? I'll go talk to that classmate."

Gu Miao stared at him for a good while, then shook her head.

"No?" Gu Fei asked.  

Gu Miao continued shaking her head.

"Then what are you thinking?" Gu Fei asked, "Tell your brother."

It took Gu Miao a very long time before she said very softly: "Myself."

Gu Fei didn't know how she planned to handle this herself, but no matter how much he asked, Gu Miao didn't say anything more or respond to him again. She turned around, went into her room, and closed the door.

"What has my life come to..." Mom covered her face as she sat on the couch sobbing softly, "Married a scumbag, can't even raise my own kids properly... must've done something bad in my previous life... even trying to find someone again is..."

"Mom, go back to your room first," Gu Fei said.

"Even my son is so heartless to me..." Mom covered her face as she cried while going back into her room. 

Gu Fei pinched the bridge of his nose.

The room became very quiet, with no sounds at all.

He peeked through the door crack and saw Gu Miao hugging a quilt on the bed, seeming to have fallen asleep. There was no noise from his mom's side either.

He sat back down on the couch and closed his eyes.

After resting for about half an hour, he opened his eyes and made a call to Ding Zhuxin: "Sis Xin, are you free to hang out tonight?"


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