Chapter 23 - Chapter 23

Gu Fei skipped his politics class directly and left without even taking his schoolbag. The politics teacher was so angry that he went to the office and scolded Old Xu. Old Xu came to the classroom after school.  

"Jiang Cheng." He stopped Jiang Cheng who had just picked up his schoolbag and was about to leave.

"I don't know." Jiang Cheng answered. He knew Old Xu wanted to ask about Gu Fei, but he really didn't know anything.

"There must be a reason why he suddenly ran away?" Old Xu said.

Jiang Cheng only knew that Gu Fei received a phone call and said "I'll be right back", he didn't hear anything else.

However, he didn't want to tell Old Xu. Who knows what's going on with Gu Fei and whether he's willing to let Old Xu know about this. He didn't want to gossip.

However, Zhou Jing obviously didn't think as much as him. As soon as Old Xu asked, he said, "He received a phone call saying he had to go home, so he ran away. It must be something going on at home, right?"

"Is that so?" Old Xu frowned. After Zhou Jing left, he grabbed Jiang Cheng again, "Zhou Jing knows about it, how come you don't know?"

"Does it matter if I know or not? Don't you already know now?" Jiang Cheng took his schoolbag and walked out.  

"Are you going to send Gu Fei's schoolbag back to him?" Old Xu said from behind.

"No," Jiang Cheng turned back, "Teacher Xu, if I ran away from school halfway without taking my schoolbag, please don't ask anyone to send it back to me."

"Why?" Old Xu asked.

"Because it's annoying," Jiang Cheng said. "Not everyone is willing to let others touch their stuff and send it back home. Seriously, if he wants to take it, he'll come and get it himself. Even hoodlums can get into the school, how could a student not get in?"

Old Xu looked at him and seemed a little confused.  

Jiang Cheng didn't say anything else, he just turned around and left.

Old Xu was like an old lady, caring too much about trivial things. But teenagers like them needed this kind of motherly care the least. 

Especially someone like Gu Fei who was obviously spoiled.

Jiang Cheng felt that Old Xu would definitely call Gu Fei later, but Gu Fei definitely wouldn't answer him. With the current emotional intelligence of Old Xu, this teacher-student relationship really couldn't be improved.

In this regard, Jiang Cheng suddenly missed his previous head teacher a little bit.

Just as he started reminiscing about the past, he quickly raised his head and took a deep breath, cutting off that train of thought.

At noon, he actually wanted to go to Wang Xu's house to eat stuffed buns, but he felt a little awkward about suddenly showing up and having nothing much to say to Captain Wang. He didn't want Captain Wang to keep talking excitedly to him about tactics either.

So he just had a bowl of noodles at a street shop.

When he returned to Li Baoguo's house, he was a little surprised to find Li Baoguo actually at home, sitting on the sofa smoking, and holding a piece of paper, reading under the dim light.

Li Baoguo's house was sandwiched between the front and back buildings, in a concave structure, so the light was very poor. Although it was sunny outside, once indoors it was like dusk.  

Every time Jiang Cheng came in, he felt oppressed. He reached out and turned on the living room light.

"Oh," Li Baoguo seemed startled and looked up, "Chengcheng, you're back?"

"Yeah," Jiang Cheng glanced at him. His face was bruised and his mouth was still swollen. It looked like he was beaten up badly yesterday. If Jiang Cheng hadn't been there, Li Baoguo might have had to go to the hospital by now. "You...are you okay from the fight?"

"It's fine, it's fine," Li Baoguo touched his face, "What's a little bruise compared to back when I used to work in the factory, I didn't need more than one hand to take care of those young punks back then..."

Jiang Cheng interrupted his words, "I already ate, go eat something yourself." Then he went into the back room.  

Jiang Cheng had just taken off his jacket and was about to lie down on the bed for a while, when the door was pushed open.

"Chengcheng," Li Baoguo stuck half of himself in, "you're okay right, from yesterday?"

Jiang Cheng was a little helpless. He didn't have the habit of locking doors, because from childhood until now, as long as he closed the door, no one would randomly open his room door. It seemed that now he had to remember to lock the door.

"It's fine," Jiang Cheng said, "I want to sleep for a while."

"Your dad is useless," Li Baoguo said, not intending to close the door and leave, "Your dad got beaten on the street, and still needed you to come save him. Aren't you ashamed?"

Jiang Cheng didn't speak. When Li Baoguo said "your dad" referring to himself, Jiang Cheng's first reaction wasn't to think of Li Baoguo.  

"But don't worry," Li Baoguo continued, "No matter what happens to your dad, he won't drag you into it!"

"Okay, I know," Jiang Cheng said patiently, "I'm a little tired, I want to sleep."

Li Baoguo nodded and left, but didn't close the door.

Jiang Cheng had to get up and close the door himself. He hesitated for a moment before deciding not to lock it, since Li Baoguo was right outside and would hear the lock click, which would be awkward.

Lying on the bed, he felt extremely tired, though he wasn't sure if it was from playing basketball with an injury or not sleeping well last night.

At noon today, Li Baoguo unusually didn't go out to play cards. All afternoon Jiang Cheng could hear him coughing in the living room. Several times he wanted to tell him to go to the hospital to see if he had pharyngitis. His cough had persisted since the winter break until now nearing the midterm exams, and still hadn't gotten better.  

It was impossible to fall asleep while listening to that sound during an afternoon nap. Plus the upstairs neighbors were beating their child again, not the ones from yesterday, but another family. There were several families with children in this building, and they took turns beating their kids, your family today, my family tomorrow, together if it lined up.

Every child screamed in agony, and if a neighbor couldn't stand it anymore and came out to persuade them, they would get yelled at together. If the one being yelled at got angry, it would escalate into a shouting match.

In short, the old buildings here were very lively every day, full of a liveliness that Jiang Cheng had never experienced before.

Li Baoguo's coughing finally disappeared along with a thud from the living room door, and Jiang Cheng glanced at his phone to see that it was time for him to get up and go to school.

Gu Fei didn't come to school in the afternoon either.  

Since the start of the semester, Gu Fei was either late or skipped classes, as if it was normal. The other students weren't curious and the teachers didn't ask much either.

Only Old Xu would persist in asking questions.

After school, Jiang Cheng was stopped by Old Xu again. 

"Jiang Cheng, do you not like communicating with teachers?" Old Xu smelled of alcohol.

Over this time, Jiang Cheng also noticed that although Teacher Xu didn't get drunk, he often smelled of alcohol. Zhou Jing said he'd drink a couple mouthfuls even with breakfast.

He'd been called out by the principal in front of the whole school for it, but it never seemed to rein him in.

"In this one way, he's pretty 'jianghu'," Zhou Jing said.

Jiang Cheng didn't know if it was because of this that Old Xu was especially fond of Li Bai*, often going off topic in class. No matter the lesson content, he could divert it to Li Bai.

*T/N: A famous poet who wrote 'Drinking alone under the moon'.

"Speaking of this xx, it makes me want to talk about Li Bai," was his typical opener. "That old Li Bai..."

"Have you been drinking?" Jiang Cheng asked.

"Had some at lunch," Teacher Xu chuckled. "Jiang Cheng, I saw you coordinate well with Gu Fei playing ball, you're on good terms normally too right?"

"We just play ball, anyone who can play knows how to cooperate." Jiang Cheng said.

"I called Gu Fei several times this afternoon and he didn't answer any of them," Old Xu said, "Previously I didn't care enough about him..."

Jiang Cheng impatiently interrupted him, "Alright I get it, after school I'll go to his family's shop to take a look, there's nothing else I can do, I'm not that close with him, and I don't even know where his family lives."

"Okay, okay," Old Xu nodded very happily, "Let him come to class tomorrow...Actually I was going to ask Wang Xu to go, but he doesn't live as close to you, and that bastard is unreliable..."

"Got it." Jiang Cheng nodded.

Going to Gu Fei's family's shop to take a look was no big deal, but if it wasn't for Old Xu persistently looking for him, he definitely wouldn't have gone. Who would enjoy being watched by teachers and classmates all the time, and going to someone's family to inquire about them?

He strolled out of the school and looked at the bus stop sign outside the gate.

Today the wound opened up again during training. If practice continued like this every day, his injury wouldn't heal by the time of the match. He wanted to go to the hospital to change dressings and get some wound adhesive or something that could help him heal faster.

There was a bus from the bus stop that went directly to the hospital area. After waiting less than a few minutes, the bus came. 

He wrapped himself among the No. 4 High students and squeezed onto the bus, which was empty at first. After passing this stop, it was half full, and the next stop was some vocational school. After passing those two stops, no one else could get on the packed bus.

The bus was filled with chatting, laughing students.

Jiang Cheng was squeezed against a pole by the rear door. Every time the person behind him moved, he got knocked into the pole, and after less than two stops he was so annoyed he wanted to shove the people around him to the floor.

They passed another school up ahead, Jiang Cheng looked over and luckily it was an elementary school. Elementary school students all had people picking them up, so no one would crowd onto the bus, plus school had been out for them for quite some time now.

He leaned his forehead against the pole, his headphones were in his backpack, no way he could take them out now, so he had to rest with his eyes closed, listening to the surrounding students either bragging or gossiping.

After going halfway, he heard a commotion in the carriage and opened his eyes.

"Yo! Even elementary schoolers are so fierce nowadays!" Someone said.

"Ouch, hit in the head like that and it'll crack open!" Another person said while laughing.

Jiang Cheng looked out the window and was stunned.  

Three young boys were screaming and cursing as they ran, chased by a...little girl with a skateboard.

Even without looking closely, Jiang Cheng knew this skateboarding girl was Gu Miao.

Gu Miao chased them a few steps, but the boys ran too fast and she couldn't catch up. So she put the skateboard down, stepped on it a few times, then kicked forward and rushed ahead.

As she passed by the bus, Jiang Cheng saw an expression on her face that he had never seen before, seemingly cold or angry. His heart skipped a beat.

The bus was moving slowly. Luckily after not too long a distance it arrived at the stop, and the hospital was still three stops away. But Jiang Cheng hurriedly squeezed out and got off the bus at this stop.

Gu Miao and the three boys were nowhere to be seen. He quickly followed the direction the children had disappeared in and came to a fork in the road, going straight was the main road, turning right was a shabby small street.

Just as he was wondering which way to go, he heard shouting coming from the right.

As soon as he turned his head, he saw two of the three boys run out of an alley, and the other one had fallen to the ground somehow. 

And Gu Miao, she was riding on top of him, swinging her skateboard and smashing it down at his head.

"Fuck!" Jiang Cheng was so frightened his legs went soft, and he immediately ran desperately towards them.

People from the nearby shops had come out, first screaming in shock, then some tried to pull Gu Miao away, but whenever anyone got close, Gu Miao would swing her skateboard at them, and two people in a row failed to get near her.

The boy pinned under her also stopped struggling, just hugging his head and crying loudly. 

Gu Miao took the chance to smash the skateboard down on his head again.

This time a man hugged Gu Miao from behind and lifted her up.

Gu Miao began to struggle violently, shrieking sharply.

By the time Jiang Cheng ran over, the man holding her was a little at a loss what to do, he couldn't throw her down but couldn't keep holding her either. 

"Gu Miao!" Jiang Cheng ran over and shouted.

Gu Miao's eyes were closed, seemingly oblivious to anything, only kept shrieking, still clutching tightly to the corner of her skateboard refusing to let go.

"Er Miao!" Jiang Cheng yelled, "I'm Jiang Cheng! I'm Brother Cheng!" 

"You know her?" someone asked. "What's wrong with this kid! Has she gone crazy!"

Jiang Cheng glanced at the crying little boy being picked up from the ground, he could see blood on his head.

"Give her to me," Jiang Cheng said to the man holding Gu Miao. "Give her here."

"You can't leave! Is this your family's kid? Beating someone else's child like this! We need to call the police, get your..." the man said.

"I said give her to me!" Jiang Cheng shouted, glaring at him.

Gu Miao struggling and screaming like this was a sight he'd never seen, looking deranged but also heart wrenching. Jiang Cheng knew she had issues, seeing her like this immediately worried him.

The man was startled into silence by his yelling.

Jiang Cheng went over and grabbed Gu Miao into his arms.

"You can't leave!" More and more onlookers gathered, surrounding them in a circle.

"Call the police then," Jiang Cheng held Gu Miao whose screams had lowered in volume but whose body still shook uncontrollably.  

The boy's head injury wasn't too serious. A lady came over with some alcohol to clean the wound. He had a small cut on the back of his head, but it was unclear if there were other issues.

Someone called the police.

Jiang Cheng held Gu Miao tightly, vigorously rubbing her back to soothe her, while taking out his phone with his other hand to call Gu Fei.

But it only rang half a tone before disconnecting. 

This bastard had his do not disturb on!

He could only send Gu Fei a message.

- Gu Miao's in trouble, contact me quick.

Then he called Wang Xu.

"Yo!" Wang Xu picked up very quickly. "Jiang Cheng? You bastard, calling me?"

"Go find Gu Fei right now," Jiang Cheng lowered his voice. "Right this instant! His sister's in some trouble! He's not picking up!"

"Huh?" Wang Xu reacted in shock, but Jiang Cheng could hear him start running. "Wait wait, I just got home, I'll go out again! I'll go find him! Where are you?"

"Don't know, at an elementary school now...who knows where we'll be after the police get here." Jiang Cheng looked around at the furious shocked crowds, feeling if he wasn't protecting her Gu Miao would be getting beaten now.

"Got it!" Wang Xu yelled and hung up. 

The police arrived quickly and were immediately surrounded and filled in by the crowds.

"Take the child to the hospital first," an older officer said, then looked at Jiang Cheng again. "Are you the girl's guardian?"

"No," Jiang Cheng said. "I'm her brother's classmate."

"Notify her family," the officer said. "You come with us to the hospital for now, then the station."  

"Alright," Jiang Cheng held Gu Miao and went to pick up her skateboard, then walked towards the squad car.

Gu Miao had gone silent, just clinging tightly to his neck, her fingers digging in painfully at the back. Her nails almost pierced his skin.

"Gu Miao, Gu Miao?" Jiang Cheng said softly. "You're going to pinch all the meat off my neck. It's fine now, don't be scared. Your brother will be here soon."

Gu Miao didn't react at all, her grip still tight, body still shaking.

This state of Gu Miao that he had never seen before made Jiang Cheng extremely worried. First, he didn't know what was going on with her right now, why she had beaten up that boy so badly, and second, after all he wasn't Gu Miao's relative, so he didn't know if his handling of this was right or wrong... If he didn't handle it properly, would Gu Fei come seeking revenge from him...

Jiang Cheng paid the hospital fees first, for treating the wounds and various checks. The money wasn't too much, the main trouble was the other child's parents.

As soon as the child's parents arrived at the hospital, they rushed over like crazy wanting to beat Gu Miao and Jiang Cheng, and when the police came to stop them, they almost fought the police too.

"Don't stop me!" The man roared, "Compensation! Compensation! Look what she did to my son, I'll do the same to her! Crazy child! Psychopath! I'm telling you, I know this crazy girl, she's my son's classmate! Psychopath! If she's in the class I said there'll be trouble! Let her go out if she dares! I'll beat her every time I see her!"  

"How this matter will be handled will be up to the police," Jiang Cheng knew Gu Miao was definitely in the wrong here, but what the other side said really provoked him, so he suppressed the anger rising up inside and said, "If you hurt her, I'll hurt you, this matter won't end."  

"Fuck!" The woman screamed, "Officer! Listen to what he's saying!"

Gu Fei's phone call finally came through: "Where are you? I'm on my way."

"The hospital, hurry." Jiang Cheng said.  

As soon as the other parents heard that there was a parent coming over on this side, they immediately became agitated again. When Gu Fei arrived, the police were about to take them to the police station.

"What's the meaning of this!" As soon as that man saw Gu Fei he shouted, "Are you trying to start a fight?!"

Behind Gu Fei followed Li Yan and Liu Fan, as well as Wang Xu and Ding Zhuxin.  

"Gu Miao, your brother is here." Jiang Cheng said softly to Gu Miao.

"Er Miao?" Gu Fei came running over.  

Upon hearing his voice, Gu Miao finally let go of Jiang Cheng's neck, glanced at him, then threw herself into his arms and hugged him tightly.

"She beat that kid," Jiang Cheng explained softly, "The skateboard hit his head."

"I'm sorry," Gu Fei turned his head and looked at the couple, "My sister..."

"Sorry for what! What good is sorry!" The woman immediately pointed at him, "I'm not done with this unless I give her a beating!"

Gu Fei looked at her silently for a few seconds, then said: "Come on then."  

The woman seemed frightened and took two steps back: "My god! What kind of attitude is this! What kind of attitude is this!"

"Let's go to the police station first," Ding Zhuxin walked over, "Listen to what the police say, handle this matter however it should be handled, medical treatment, compensation, as long as it's reasonable, we'll cooperate."

"You..." The woman wanted to say something more but was interrupted by Ding Zhuxin.  

"Sister," Ding Zhuxin looked at her, "You're making such a fuss even the police can't get a word in, if you don't want to handle this through proper channels, we can also cooperate with that, then you definitely won't get the better end of things."

"Watch how you talk," The officer warned Ding Zhuxin.  

"Sorry," Ding Zhuxin smiled apologetically at the officer, "The child got hurt, we're all anxious, but we will definitely cooperate, but cooperation can't rely on just one side cooperating, right?"

The police took the group back to the station, Gu Fei asked: "My classmate doesn't need to go right?"

"He needs to go too." The officer looked at Jiang Cheng.  

"Okay." Jiang Cheng acknowledged and looked at Gu Miao leaning on Gu Fei's shoulder, she seemed much calmer now, without the previous mad and cold fury.

"Thank you." Gu Fei looked at him.

"Don't mention it yet," Jiang Cheng said, "Gu she okay? I saw her just now..." 

"She's fine," Gu Fei hesitated for a moment, "I'll find time to explain to you slowly."

"Okay." Jiang Cheng acknowledged and followed the officer out.  

After walking a few steps, Gu Fei called to him from behind: "Jiang Cheng."

"You..." Gu Fei pointed to the back of his neck, reached out and tugged at his collar, "It's torn here."

It was probably from Gu Miao choking him, such strength from a little girl.  

But Jiang Cheng didn't have time to think about this, Gu Fei's gesture of pulling his collar made him reflexively slap Gu Fei's hand away.

"..It's fine." He said somewhat awkwardly.


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