The flute sounded bright, and with the resonance of the indoor space, it sounded melodious and agile.
Gu Fei didn't know why some people thought this kind of instrument didn't have the prestige of a piano. Jiang Cheng leaned against the table and stood there with this thin black tube in his hand, looking quite prestigious.
The song he played sounded quite cheerful, but Gu Fei somehow could hear a hint of loneliness, not knowing if it was because of the instrument itself or the player.
After the last note echoed in the flickering firelight and slowly faded away, Jiang Cheng's hand holding the flute dropped down, and neither of them spoke.
After a while, Jiang Cheng finally looked up with a faint, imperceptible smile at the corner of his mouth: "What do you think?"
"Awesome." Gu Fei replied, clapping enthusiastically.
"Speak properly, can you?" Jiang Cheng wiped the mouthpiece of the flute with a small fluffy cloth, "First words out of your mouth and already so slapworthy."
"Very good," Gu Fei replied again, "You must have practiced for a long time, right?"
"Yeah," Jiang Cheng replied with a nod, then shook his head again after thinking about it, "doesn't seem that long, not as long as I practiced piano anyway."
"Not that long and played so well already," Gu Fei said, "As expected from..."
Gu Fei said halfway and didn't continue. Jiang Cheng sighed, "Yeah, study god, when can we stop with this joke?"
Gu Fei laughed for a while before adding another sentence: "But really, you played very well."
"Actually it's not difficult, very easy to get started," Jiang Cheng twirled the flute in his hand a few times and handed it over to him, "Want to try?"
"...Then let me try," Gu Fei walked over to him and took the flute, "Just blow on it directly?"
"What else?" Jiang Cheng asked.
"I mean, do you have mysophobia?" Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng laughed, feeling that he couldn't hold it in all night tonight, and after laughing for a good while he pointed around: "In this environment, who with mysophobia could have come in without having a breakdown already?"
"Makes sense, we just took the dead rat's blanket earlier," Gu Fei looked over the whistle and mimicked his posture, putting his fingers over the holes, "Right?"
"Yeah," Jiang Cheng gently flicked his fingertips, "Press tightly, or it'll sound airy."
After Gu Fei pressed down properly, he tried gently blowing a note.
The flute let out a tight, shrill, screechy sound, and he grimaced and turned his head aside: "Oh, how did it make this sound, gave me a shock."
Jiang Cheng held in his laugh: "Blow more gently, let the air out, don't hold it in, the sound has to come out full to be pleasant."
"Got it." Gu Fei took a deep breath, then blew again.
This time it was much better, the sound loud and long, but listening to it...
"Nevermind," Gu Fei let go of the flute, "Easy to get started doesn't mean you can play nice tunes after a couple blows, with this kind of noise, those who don't know better would think a husky was brought over."
"Still too tense," Jiang Cheng took the flute and casually wiped it on his pants, "Look at my face, needs to be more relaxed."
Gu Fei looked at him quite seriously, and he played a scale: "Understand now?"
"If I say I didn't understand," Gu Fei smiled, "Would you scold me?"
Jiang Cheng didn't speak, just kept playing the flute, scales, short tunes, after playing for a while Gu Fei reached out and poked his face: "This 'relax' that you meant..."
The music stopped abruptly, and Jiang Cheng smacked the flute right onto his hand.
"Fuck!" Gu Fei retracted his hand, waving it while rubbing the back, cursing, "What's wrong with you?"
Jiang Cheng suddenly felt like jumping out the window from embarrassment, not knowing if it was because of the alcohol, or the close face-to-face contact that kept making him feel vaguely sultry all around.
Gu Fei's voice and breathing when he spoke made Jiang Cheng feel somewhat dizzy.
The touch of his fingertip on his face was only a light poke, so small it could be ignored, but this action still made Jiang Cheng overreact somewhat.
At that moment he even had some trouble distinguishing whether this was his conditioned reflex or a subconscious avoidance.
The key was Gu Fei got smacked by him out of nowhere, and he had no way to explain.
Hi, I don't really like being touched by others.
Because I like men, so I'm even more unwilling to be touched by men.
Hi, Wang Xu saying I'm uptight was actually a very correct judgement...
"Wang Xu said you're uptight and don't let people pat your shoulder," Gu Fei looked at him and stole his lines, "You really are quite uptight, huh."
"Oh," Jiang Cheng also looked at him, "You just noticed?"
Gu Fei didn't speak, just glared at him.
Jiang Cheng also didn't know what to say, so he just stood there glaring back at Gu Fei.
After glaring for about ten seconds, Jiang Cheng felt big trouble coming, he wanted to laugh.
Really wanted to laugh.
If something like smacking Gu Fei with the flute then laughing uncontrollably happened, Gu Fei would probably come over to fight him, right?
So, can't casually drink big gulps of alcohol, it easily leads to bad things.
After this round of countless thoughts, he gritted his teeth and held it in without laughing. Gu Fei probably got tired of glaring at him, and rubbed his hand again: "Lucky you aren't a girl, or else you probably couldn't get married."
At that, Jiang Cheng burst out laughing.
Laugh your fucking ass off!
What's so funny anyway!
Just a little bit of alcohol and you turn into an idiot!
Jiang Cheng are you a moron? Yes.
While berating himself like a storm in his heart, he laughed so hard that even the table he was leaning on started shaking.
"You believe I won't smack you?" Gu Fei said.
Jiang Cheng covered his bruised ribs on his side and continued laughing, and Gu Fei finally got infected by his idiocy again and laughed too.
But besides being very idiotic, this round of laughter did have an upside, the awkwardness surrounding Jiang Cheng was finally laughed away.
Just that it made his waist sore from laughing.
"Oh..." He collapsed onto the sand, "Sorry, I must have drank too much."
Gu Fei let out a breath, probably waiting for the laughing fit to pass, then walked over and heavily sat down on the sofa next to him: "Wang Xu said you almost got violent with him when he patted your shoulder?"
Despite its shabbiness, the sofa had quite amazing elasticity. With Gu Fei crashing down on it like a cannonball, Jiang Cheng got bounced up, feeling dizzy like he was about to take flight.
"I have no interest in getting violent with that wimp." He patted the sofa and also crashed down.
Gu Fei on the side bounced too.
"How childish can you be?" Gu Fei said, then got up and crashed down again.
"You started it first..." Jiang Cheng got bounced quite crookedly this time, falling towards Gu Fei's side.
Not a very big sofa, just a two-person loveseat, with this fall, they got squeezed together, heads almost knocking.
"Fuck." Jiang Cheng muttered, bracing against the sofa trying to sit straight.
As he pushed down, it was right onto Gu Fei's hand.
Gu Fei's hand was very warm, the feeling of his knuckles pressing into his palm was extremely clear.
But this time Jiang Cheng didn't have the conditioned reflex, he didn't even know why himself, just froze in place like that.
Gu Fei didn't speak or move either, and when he turned his head his breath brushed past Jiang Cheng's ear.
"You..." Jiang Cheng started but didn't know what he wanted to say.
"What?" Gu Fei asked.
Just this simple two words, under the influence of alcohol and proximity, were like a spark of electricity, and as soon as the voice came out, Jiang Cheng felt all the pores on half his body explode open.
He turned his face and pecked Gu Fei's face.
This was the only content still flashing in Jiang Cheng's mind, everything else was wiped blank.
Even the brain was fucking gone.
Gu Fei still didn't move or say anything more, at this moment the two of them were like frozen statues in some paused space.
Gu Fei had no reaction, and feeling dizzy, Jiang Cheng also couldn't see his expression clearly, so he could only hope a lightning bolt would come strike them both into amnesia.
When Jiang Cheng woke up the next morning, the time on his phone showed 10:30 already, with 3 missed calls from Old Xu.
This was the first time he was late for school since the semester started, a little later and it could count as skipping half a day.
He sat up bracing against the bed, head drooped and eyes half closed.
He didn't want to go to school.
Really didn't want to.
Because of what happened last night.
His last memory was his lips touching Gu Fei's face.
After that, nothing.
Even if he could remember, he didn't remember.
Forcibly drink to blackout, forcibly forget.
If his skills were good enough, he should also forget about this scene.
He hadn't slept well all night, having many dreams that were now faded to grey fog.
It made him feel very tired.
And the first feeling upon sobering up was shame.
Getting to know Gu Fei for just half a winter plus half a semester, and kissing his face when drinking a little... yes, just drunk antics.
That's it, just drunk antics. Good explanation.
His alcohol tolerance wasn't enough to drink a large glass of Erguotou in such a short time, so he got drunk.
Getting drunk led to acting wild.
A perfect explanation.
Jiang Cheng got out of bed and got dressed. This reasonable explanation suddenly reassured him, after washing up he called Old Xu back, then went to school carrying his bookbag.
Going in during the break between classes, Jiang Cheng entered the classroom from the back door carrying his bag.
He had been calm all the way, but upon entering the classroom and seeing Gu Fei hadn't skipped class and was playing his stupid Candy Crush, he suddenly felt uneasy again.
He swore to the god of top students, before kissing Gu Fei's face, he had no other thoughts about Gu Fei, other than normally finding him good looking with nice hands and that kind of mainstream appreciation, he had no other ideas.
But he didn't know if Gu Fei would mind.
Although Jiang Cheng was reluctant to admit it, Gu Fei was the only person he was willing to interact with, considered a "friend", after being in this city for so long.
He vaguely felt somewhat afraid, if his relationship with Gu Fei was cut off, who could he still chat with.
This sudden feeling of emptiness made him inexplicably anxious for some reason.
If he had never intersected with Gu Fei and always kept distant from others, this feeling wouldn't have been so obvious.
"I'm going in." Jiang Cheng kicked Gu Fei's chair leg.
"Oh," Gu Fei looked a bit surprised to see him, "Thought you weren't coming today."
"Slept in." Jiang Cheng squeezed in behind Gu Fei's chair and sat down. Gu Fei looked perfectly normal, which reassured him quite a bit.
Gu Fei took out his flute from the drawer: "You didn't take this yesterday."
"Oh." Jiang Cheng took the flute, the word "yesterday" made his hand almost shake.
"Do you still need the key to the steel factory?" Gu Fei asked while swiping on his phone.
"...Yeah," Jiang Cheng thought about it, "Won't the no-good birds have issues with it?"
"What issues could they have," Gu Fei took out his own keychain and removed one to give to him, "Anyway they're already no-good birds anyway, even if they had issues we could ignore it."
Jiang Cheng looked at him.
"They won't have issues, you're not a stranger." Gu Fei said.
"Thanks." Jiang Cheng took the key.
"Treat me to a meal sometime," Gu Fei continued his game, "Buns from Wang Xu's home is fine."
"...Why?" Jiang Cheng was puzzled.
"I gave you a key," Gu Fei said, "And I still have blackmail material against you."
"What?" Jiang Cheng turned around.
"If you don't treat me I'll tell Wang Xu that you molested me." Gu Fei said.
"I... fuck?" Jiang Cheng felt immense shock, couldn't even feel embarrassed anymore, "I was drunk okay!"
"Ask around, who around here gets drunk off one and a half liang of Erguotou?" Gu Fei laughed for a good while.
"Then I'm the one who gets drunk off one and a half, so what?" Jiang Cheng felt it was very strange, "What, you guys don't allow people with low alcohol tolerance? Still discriminate based on how much one can drink?"
"Makes sense too, you're a southerner after all." Gu Fei said.
"...I'm not a southerner." Jiang Cheng reminded him.
"Anything south of us here," Gu Fei made a line in the air in front of himself with his hand, "is southern."
"What a load of bull." Jiang Cheng said.
"I already let it out, I even agreed you have low alcohol tolerance already, and you still don't agree to let me drop this load?" Gu Fei said.
"I..." Jiang Cheng looked at him.
"Don't laugh," Gu Fei pointed at him, "I'm serious, if you keep laughing I'll really ask to meet you at the school's backdoor."
He probably wouldn't have thought much of it if it wasn't said out loud, but hearing it, Jiang Cheng felt like laughing again.
Luckily Zhou Jing turned around then: "Jiang Cheng, Jiang Cheng? Jiang... hey, want to discuss something with you."
"What is it?" Jiang Cheng sighed.
"Midterms coming up soon," Zhou Jing said, "Let me copy your answers during the exam, 'kay?"
"How do you sit for exams?" Jiang Cheng asked. He had heard this request often before, but exams in his previous school were always taken separately, half a class in the lab or similar places, also random order, not by student ID, managing to copy answers could be considered fate.
Thinking back now, no wonder he and Pan Zhi were so close, every exam they managed to be in the same room, and their papers were always the same too.
"Just space the desks out a bit when testing, how else." Zhou Jing said.
"Do you get different versions?" Jiang Cheng asked again.
"Nope." Zhou Jing replied.
"...Oh." Jiang Cheng felt Pan Zhi must really hope he could come take exams at No. 4 High, this was practically begging people to cheat.
"Just leave it on the desk, I can look myself." Zhou Jing added.
"Oh." Jiang Cheng acknowledged.
Zhou Jing happily turned back to his own desk.
Jiang Cheng looked at Gu Fei, remembering they were talking before Zhou Jing interrupted, but after turning around he forgot what he was going to say.
"I won't copy." Gu Fei looked at him.
"Oh," Jiang Cheng turned away, then looked back at him after thinking a bit, "You write your own exams?"
"Yeah." Gu Fei nodded.
"Do you even know how to answer?" Jiang Cheng felt like Gu Fei's books were always unopened, not sleeping or playing on his phone or listening to music or playing his stupid Candy Crush during class.
"Sure, I'll just pick some answers that look right and fill it in, nothing that can't be done," Gu Fei took out a candy, "Want one?"
Jiang Cheng immediately recognized yesterday's little round candy: "No!"
Gu Fei put a caramel in his mouth and laughed for a good while.
From then on for several continuous days, Gu Fei didn't bring up the drinking night again. Pretty much the same every day, hw was tardy, playing on his phone during class, or going with the rest to play ball.
Occasionally skipping class without an excuse too, Jiang Cheng could feel Old Xu's deep sadness.
Jiang Cheng hung the small key on his own keychain.
His keychain was quite big, old house key, garage key, room keys, drawer keys, lots of them from the past, and he had kept carrying them all along after coming here.
When putting the steel factory's key on, he hesitated for a bit, took off all the old ones. Then he looked at the lone key on the key ring and sighed.
At Li Baoguo's place there was only one key, the room had a lock but the key was long gone. None of the cabinets or drawers inside had locks.
After hanging up the key, Jiang Cheng held it in his fist, clutching it. The feeling wasn't great, but the loneliness and helpless confusion from before weren't as intense.
Time kept moving forward, people kept changing, whether forgetting or adapting, who knew.
Gu Miao didn't go to school for a week after the hitting incident. Jiang Cheng knew very clearly because she'd sneak into No. 4 High every day during 3rd period and stand in the hallway by their classroom door.
Today he came even earlier. When there were still a few minutes before the end of the second class, Jiang Cheng saw her peeking out with a skateboard from the classroom door.
Gu Fei gestured for her to go to the side of the corridor.
She turned around, straddled the handrail and leaned over the edge of the hallway.
Jiang Cheng felt that the fight that day and the fact that she could no longer go to school did not seem to have much impact on her, still the same as before.
He leaned on the desk, looking out the window, but was intercepted halfway by Gu Fei's profile.
Gu Fei was also looking out the window. Bright sunlight spilled in, outlining a very faint halo on his side.
Jiang Cheng was suddenly reminded of that night.
It was already very blurred, and he couldn't even remember what it felt like when he touched Gu Fei's face. This glance brought it all back.
How awkwardly he fell back onto the other side of the sofa, how calm Gu Fei was as he lit a cigarette and even gave him one, how the two of them finished the cigarettes together, and how miraculously they finished the chicken soup together... He clearly remembered all this but forcibly forgot it. It all ran through his mind when he was caught off guard.
Now his mind was so disobedient!
"Stuffed pancake," Gu Fei said.
"Ah," Jiang Cheng came back to his senses and responded. "Ah?"
"When will you treat me? The game is tomorrow." Gu Fei said.
"Let's do today," Jiang Cheng said. "Bring Gu Miao along?"
"Yeah." Gu Fei nodded.
The game was tomorrow?
Jiang Cheng took out his phone and checked the date. It really was. Time seemed to have passed a little fast recently, but he hadn't been paying full attention either. The big red banner for the school competition had been up for several days.
Gu Miao was in a good mood today, circling around them on her skateboard.
"I have to make a call first," Wang Xu said while walking and taking out his phone. "I have to let my dad start on the donkey meat, keep what we need... Oh right, come to my house this afternoon too. Coach Xu lent us the team uniforms for our class' team, we'll distribute them and discuss tactics again."
"Okay." Jiang Cheng looked at Gu Miao. The little girl's hair was growing pretty fast, you could see it sticking out from under her hat, just that there was no style to it. Gu Fei shaved his own ridiculous punk hairdo and his sister was either bald or a mess...
"You've recovered now right?" Gu Fei asked quietly beside him.
"Yeah," Jiang Cheng touched his ribs, "Basically no issues."
Gu Fei didn't speak, but suddenly reached out and patted him on the shoulder.
Jiang Cheng looked at him: "What?"
"Conditioned reflex gone dormant?" Gu Fei patted him again.
Only then did Jiang Cheng react, rendered speechless for a while.