Chapter 30 - Chapter 30

“I’m saying, you...” Gu Fei seemed confused by his “ah”, not knowing what to say, “Do you want to earn some pocket money?”

“Huh?” Jiang Cheng looked at him, pocket money? For some reason it sounded strange.  

“Just...take some photos or something...” Gu Fei explained.

Jiang Cheng knew Gu Fei wouldn’t really have anything weird to introduce him to do, but having just played a crazy game of basketball, his brain was a little hypoxic and he fell into the quagmire of “this is a malicious trap” and couldn’t get out. After a long time he finally blurted out, “I’m a decent person.”

“With your IQ like this, you’re still the top student?” Gu Fei really couldn’t stand it anymore, “You must have gone to a remedial school before right?”

“Oh!” Jiang Cheng finally came back to his senses, “Take photos? Take photos of what?”

“Product photos,” Gu Fei said impatiently, waving his hand as he took out and lit a cigarette, “Get sober first then we’ll talk.”

“I’m sober now...” Jiang Cheng glanced at the cigarette in his mouth and was stunned. He knew Gu Fei often went to the bathroom between classes to smoke, but didn’t expect him to just light up like this on the open field under the sun.  

“Want one?” Gu Fei asked.

“No thanks.” Jiang Cheng decisively refused. Although he and Pan Zhi sometimes hid in the bathroom to smoke, overall they were decent people.

“What photos?” Wang Xu, who was walking ahead, suddenly turned around, “Did someone take photos of us...Of course there would be people taking photos! We were so handsome today! Check the forums when we get back, I’m sure there will be all kinds of poses...”

“I’ll get someone to come specifically to take photos of you next game.” Gu Fei said.

“Really?” Wang Xu laughed, “Yeah right, stop kidding me...”

“Gu Fei—” someone called from behind.

“Oh,” Wang Xu looked up, “Class president.” 

Jiang Cheng turned around and saw Yi Jing running over holding a small bag.

“Calling me?” Gu Fei also turned around.

“This...” Yi Jing handed the bag in her hand to Jiang Cheng, “I just got it from the infirmary, alcohol and stuff. You fell during the game right, check it later.”

“Oh,” Jiang Cheng was a little surprised. His elbow was stinging but they had all worn t-shirts under their jerseys today. When he scraped his elbow on the ground it was through his sleeve so it shouldn’t be serious. He took the bag, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Yi Jing smiled.

“You got stuff for Jiang Cheng, what did you need Gu Fei for?” Wang Xu had a meaningful smile.  

“I couldn’t remember Jiang Cheng’s name for a moment.” Yi Jing was a little embarrassed as she brushed her hair back and walked away.

Wang Xu tutted at her back: “Only remembers Gu Fei’s name huh?”

“Just can’t remember Jiang Cheng’s name.” Gu Fei said.

Old Xu and Old Lu were quite generous. Since today’s game was so unexpected they called several cars to take everyone out for all you can eat BBQ.

“Head Teacher Xu,” Gu Fei stopped Old Xu before going in, “This is too expensive. Any normal, casual place is fine. The main thing is to get together, it's nothing special.”

“Get together, what get together,” Old Lu said. “This is a celebration. Go in Gu Fei, don’t worry about it. Head Teacher Xu and I can afford this bit.”

“Good kid,” Old Xu said emotionally, grabbing Gu Fei’s arm. “Such a good kid! Knows to think of the teachers! I knew you...”

“Still had hope.” Gu Fei finished for him and went inside.  

Jiang Cheng followed, trying not to laugh.

There was an extra large private room in the restaurant, it probably didn’t get much use normally but fit their group perfectly.  

“Get some food first,” Old Xu leaned on the table like during class. “Eat your fill today, enjoy it. You can take alcohol too, but how much you drink needs my approval!”

Everyone crowded out again to get dishes.  

Jiang Cheng took off his coat, about to check his elbow, when his phone dinged. 

He took it out and glanced at the notification for 100 yuan deducted for the monthly bill.

He didn’t usually feel like it was much, but looking at the text now he suddenly felt a bit pained. Should he switch to a cheaper plan? But then he'd lack data. Li Baoguo's place had no should he run an internet cable? That was another expense.

He frowned. His card had money but with no income he felt uneasy. All Li Baoguo provided was a room, nothing else. Now he had to grocery shop weekly, cooking simple meals from the fridge.

He sighed and went to get food.

Gu Fei was ahead of him, holding a plate staring blankly at the meat in the freezer counters.

Jiang Cheng went over and grabbed a plate. He used tongs to pile it high with pork belly, fatty beef, lamb...stacked it atop Gu Fei's and grabbed another to continue loading up.

"How do you stay in shape eating like this?" Gu Fei looked at him.

"I run when it gets warm," Jiang Cheng said. "I don't eat like this normally." 

"Oh," Gu Fei grunted.

"What you said earlier..." Jiang Cheng glanced around, no other students, "about that photo...what was that about?"

"It's Sis Xin," Gu Fei held the tongs, debating for ages before putting some shrimp on his plate. "She has a menswear shop, wants someone to model some shots."

"Ah," Jiang Cheng considered. "Don't shops like that have regular models?"

"Just one, the rest are temporary. He's unavailable," Gu Fei said. "New inventory came in the past two days with no one to shoot it. She asked me to help find someone suitable." 

"I see," Jiang Cheng hesitated. "I have no experience, is that okay?"

"No problem, you've got the looks and build. And you're photogenic," Gu Fei said. "In the past Liu Fan's helped shoot too, if he can do it you definitely can."

"What kind of clothes?" Jiang Cheng asked.  

"I'll show you later," Gu Fei nodded towards the food counters. "Help grab some greens, all meat is too heavy."

"Mm," Jiang Cheng took a basket and filled it with greens.

When they returned to the room, most who'd gone for food were back. Steam rose inside. 

As soon as they entered, Old Xu stood with a glass of alcohol, "Quick, heroes take your seats. I have something to say."

After Jiang Cheng and Gu Fei sat down Old Xu raised his glass: “Thanks to everyone today. I’ve been with you since your first year, though some only since this year...Our class 8 couldn’t even place in the morning exercises but today we finally got some payback! It wasn't easy! I believe with your current level you’ll have no problem making the finals! Cheers! Drink up!”

Everyone clinked glasses and drank. Just as they took a sip Old Xu spoke again: “Also need to thank Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng for their hard work today...”

“Old Xu, Old Xu,” Old Lu called him twice, “That’s enough, let them eat first, they’re hungry. If you keep going on you’ll make yourself cry.” 

“Cheers!” Wang Xu tipped his head back and downed his glass.

Jiang Cheng glanced at the glasses, all beer except Old Xu and Old Lu’s white liquor.  

He drank along with them.

“The girls play tomorrow,” Wang Xu said. “Wonder how that’ll go.”

“No chance. Our girls always just go to lose a match to complete the task. The ball gets passed and no one wants to play basketball.” Guo Xu said.

They lamented the girls' team for a bit before discussing the upcoming matches.

“Take a look,” Gu Fei looked through his phone for a while then passed it to Jiang Cheng, “More or less this style. Pretty niche.”

Jiang Cheng took his phone and flipped through several of Liu Fan’s photos which looked quite stylish. He flipped further and there were different people - probably the regular model Ding Zhuxin normally used. Comparing them, the difference was clear.

“Steam punk?” Jiang Cheng asked.  

“Other styles too, all kinds of vintage retro,” Gu Fei said. “What do you think? Can pay by piece or day, professional model rates. She’s in a hurry to shoot so can pay more than usual.”

Jiang Cheng barely hesitated. Money was money after all. He nodded, “Okay.”

“I’ll let her know we’re free the next couple afternoons and evenings since there's no games,” Gu Fei said. “We can go shoot.”

“Mm,” Jiang Cheng looked at the photos again. “Do people actually buy these clothes? You’d get surrounded if you wore them out right, might even get beaten up trying to show off...”

Gu Fei laughed: “Why are you worried about that?”

“I’m pretty kind-hearted.” Jiang Chen said.

Management at No. 4 High was pretty loose. No afternoon classes if there were games, people who wanted to watch went to the field while people who didn’t just left without issue.

But Jiang Cheng still called Old Xu saying he hurt himself a bit yesterday and wanted to get it checked at the hospital. Old Xu approved and lamented again what a good student he was.

Actually Jiang Cheng never asked for leave when skipping class before. Just that Old Xu, as a mother hen class teacher, made him feel a bit bad not saying anything.

“It's a bit far but it works out getting there by bus,” Gu Fei took Jiang Cheng to the station. “She has a small studio slash warehouse slash bedroom slash studio there.”

“Oh.” Jiang Cheng nodded.

A bit nervous. He wouldn’t be if it was just helping someone cheat for money. But modeling for was too out there for him, he’d never considered it before.

Boarding the bus he noticed Gu Fei had a backpack instead of his schoolbag, looked pretty heavy. He asked, “What are you carrying?”

“Camera, lenses.” Gu Fei went to the last row and sat.  

“You...photograph?” Jiang Cheng was surprised.

“Mm.” Gu Fei tugged his sleeve to get him to sit next to him instead of the uncle squeezing in.

“You photograph?” Jiang Cheng asked again.

“Yes, why’s that surprising? It’s not like you haven’t been photographed by me before.” Gu Fei looked at him.

“I didn’t mean it that way, I thought there would be a photographer.” Jiang Cheng explained. Gu Fei did photograph after all. He had seen his photos and Gu Fei often posted photos on his feed, all very professional quality.  

“Ding Zhuxin has her own photographer. When they’re too busy I help out,” Gu Fei said. “I’ve always helped people with photos.”

“...Oh.” Jiang Cheng looked at Gu Fei.

Jiang Cheng didn’t speak again after the bus started moving. The heated bus ambled along, murmuring voices and laughter in his ears while the scenery outside constantly shifted even as the people inside remained still.

Times like these made him feel hazy and sleepy, especially in the afternoon. Just looking at the warm sun made his eyelids droop.

Gu Fei also stayed silent. Jiang Cheng glanced over and saw he had his arms crossed and eyes closed.


He had been holding out but seeing Gu Fei already asleep made him feel like he couldn’t keep his eyes open. He pulled his jacket hood up and lowered his head, closing his eyes too.

Not real sleep of course, just drifting in and out. Blurred sounds and shadows passing by.

He didn’t know how long he dozed before feeling a weight on his shoulder. Pushing the hood back he saw Gu Fei’s head had somehow ended up leaning against him.

Gu Fei had quite long lashes, though not as thick as Gu Miao’s.

Though he felt nothing in particular for Gu Fei, especially with the possibility of his suspected girlfriend Ding this moment his heart still inexplicably felt itchy.

This itch slowly crept from his shoulder like a fluff of fur warmed by the sun, spreading through his body.

He closed his eyes again.

The feeling of loneliness, he had always been able to sense it. Since the day he realized his attraction to men exceeded that to women, and he had to strictly keep this secret to himself.

The feeling of loneliness came and went.

Pan Zhi knew his secret but it didn’t reduce the pressure he felt because of it.

When he had family, parents and brothers, classmates and friends, this loneliness existed but he was unaware of its depth.

It gradually pressed down on him after coming here.

He didn’t need those like him, didn’t need the kind who casually leaned together for warmth. But the attraction was real, to Gu Fei and his current unconscious position.

It made him vaguely feel the warmth of “two people”.

Hard to describe the feeling.

“We’re here,” Gu Fei lifted his head after the bus announcement, “Next stop.”  

Seeing Jiang Cheng’s shoulder he paused two seconds before saying: “Sorry, too sleepy.”

“It’s fine,” Jiang Cheng rotated his shoulder. “Showing off yesterday must have been tiring.”

Gu Fei smiled and stood up, “Let’s go.”

Jiang Cheng followed him, just that short doze made his legs feel weak...probably from pushing himself too hard with the game yesterday. He hadn’t had that much exercise since winter started.  

The wind outside the bus invigorated him as the weakness slowly faded.

Ding Zhuxin’s studio slash warehouse slash bedroom slash studio was on an artsy street, with graffiti, painted manholes and phone booths and utility boxes everywhere. The shops on both sides were pretentiously decorated.

It wasn’t a long or large street but Jiang Cheng was surprised a rundown dingy town like this had a place like it.

Gu Fei took him into a building like a normal small office building, though the exterior was quite old. But looking at the floor indicator the company names were all deliberately obscure. 

Waiting for the elevator Jiang Cheng glanced over them. He couldn’t read a single one, letters from who knows what country, even the Chinese ones were still incomprehensible at a glance.

“What is this place, everyone’s reaching for the heavens, the cables can’t even hold them up.” Just the two of them in the elevator he couldn’t help but say.

“This area’s called ‘90s Hub’,” Gu Fei leaned against the lift laughing. “Wanted a place for young people to gather, really hip and trendy. Missed the mark, no one comes except to show off, but rent is cheap.”

Ding Zhuxin was waiting at her studio. As soon as they walked in she smiled, “Knew you would ask him to come.”

“Oh really,” Gu Fei dumped his bag on the floor. “You’re acquainted, no need for introductions.” 

“Have some of this,” Ding Zhuxin brought over a pot of fruit tea, pouring Jiang Cheng a cup. “I brewed it myself, threw in all sorts of stuff, pretty tasty.”

“Thanks.” Jiang Cheng accepted the tea and looked around the studio.

Messy, fabric and posters everywhere, lots of unopened boxes probably clothes. But through the mess the industrial minimalist base was visible - cement walls, cement lights, cement worktops, exposed bricks and criss-crossing pipes.

“Hurry it up,” Gu Fei sprawled on the sofa. “Let him see the clothes first.”

“Here,” Ding Zhuxin led Jiang Cheng to some clothes racks, pointing at the clothes hanging there. “This collection’s theme is back to basics, all knitwear...” 

“Knitwear?” Gu Fei interrupted. “You got me to find a ‘bad boy’ for this style?”  

"Knitted material," Ding Zhuxin leaned against the rack, "the design is going for a bad boy look which will be a bit difficult for the model..."

Ding Zhuxin looked Jiang Cheng up and down: "But he can do it."  

"You're the boss," Gu Fei sat up and opened his bag, starting to get the camera ready.

"Let's aim to shoot 30 outfits today," Ding Zhuxin said, "what do you think?"

"...Okay," Jiang Cheng looked at the clothes hanging on the rack, just hanging there in a row. Other than the so-called knitted material, he couldn't make out anything about the design Ding Zhuxin mentioned, they just looked like a lot of long coats to him.  

Besides, he had never worn this kind of thing that he always thought was just for old men and middle-aged artists with long hair.

"Get changed," Gu Fei walked over and said, "the underlayers are all matched up already, just put them all on directly."

"You..." Jiang Cheng turned his head, before he could get the words out, Gu Fei raised the camera towards him and started clicking away. "Spare me."

"Go change," Gu Fei pointed to a room off to the side, "we'll shoot in there later, she'll tell you what kind of feeling and poses she wants, I guarantee I'll make you look...very handsome."  

"Oh," Jiang Cheng responded, looking at the clothes on the rack, "any of them is fine?"

"Any of them," Gu Fei said.  

"Mm," Jiang Cheng responded again. He took off his jacket and threw it on a chair to the side. When he was about to take off more, he felt a little awkward again. Gu Fei standing there with a camera was one thing, but Ding Zhuxin was also standing to the side, holding her elbow and sipping tea while staring at him.

If it was just changing jackets, he wouldn't feel anything, but looking at the racks, he would basically have to strip down to his underwear.

Gu Fei glanced back at Ding Zhuxin and waved his hand at her.

Ding Zhuxin smiled and turned around, walking into the small inner room. "Come in when you're changed. You have a good foundation, just simple makeup, and Da Fei can touch it up later."

"There's makeup too?" Jiang Cheng asked, taking off his shirt.

"Yep," Gu Fei raised his camera towards him. Looking at Jiang Cheng's fit, well-exercised upper body through the lens, it was indeed the result of consistently working out, very toned. "Or it would look flat under the lights."

"Can you not point that thing at me?" Jiang Cheng said, as he undid his belt.  

"From now until tonight," Gu Fei still held up the camera, "this thing will be pointed at you the whole time."

Jiang Cheng resignedly took off his pants and put on the clothes. "I'm telling you, the only reason I'm not punching you is because of the money."

Gu Fei smiled.  

Jiang Cheng had straight legs, just as toned as his upper body. Gu Fei looked at him through the lens after he had put on the top: "You actually suit this style pretty well."

"No way," Jiang Cheng looked down doubtfully at himself, "I've lived nearly 18 years and never worn anything like this."

Gu Fei didn't respond. He took a few steps back with the camera, looking through it at Jiang Cheng. Ding Zhuxin really had a good eye, as soon as Jiang Cheng put on these clothes, his whole vibe changed.  

He had always felt long knitted coats made anyone, man or woman, look like they could go out on the streets banging a bowl asking for change. But when Jiang Cheng put on the coat and turned to look at him, he froze for a moment, his breathing halted.

This temperament really wasn't something you could find among the people around him every day.


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