Chapter 32 - Chapter 32

Gu Fei's building was newer than Li Baoguo's. Although it was also built along the street with no enclosing walls or property management, and should also be a unit building, it looked much more pleasing to the eye. 

It didn't have that particularly strong mundane atmosphere. The walls in the corridor were still white, without any cobwebs.

But it was similarly not very tall, without an elevator. Once inside, you had to climb the stairs, all the way up. By the fifth floor, Jiang Cheng couldn't help asking, "Which floor is your home on?"

"Seventh floor, the top," Gu Fei turned his head and glanced at him, the corners of his lips curved up in an indistinct smile, "What's wrong, can't climb anymore? Or do you want me to give you a piggyback ride?"

"Forget it, you're not much stronger than me. When you pee it takes you three minutes to get anything out," Jiang Cheng said. "Probably kidney deficiency, right?"  

Gu Fei looked at him for a while longer without speaking, then turned and continued climbing upstairs.

There were four households on the seventh floor, Gu Fei's home was the one furthest inside. When he opened the door, Jiang Cheng steadied his mind. He still remembered the way Gu Fei's mother had erupted at the shop that day.

As soon as he entered, he saw Gu Fei's mother standing in the living room. She was making a phone call with a cell phone in hand, a cigarette pinched between her fingers. Seeing the two of them come in, a somewhat surprised expression flashed across her face over Gu Fei's shoulder as her gaze fell on Jiang Cheng.

"Hello, auntie," Jiang Cheng hurriedly greeted her.

"Put out the cigarette," Gu Fei said.  

"You're back so late," Gu Fei's mother pinched out the cigarette and hung up the call to size the two of them up. She looked at them for a while before focusing on Jiang Cheng's face again. "You were the one at the shop last time, right?"

"Yes," Jiang Cheng nodded. He hesitated over whether to take his shoes off or not. "My name is Jiang Cheng."

Gu Fei took out a pair of slippers from the shoe cabinet and tossed them by Jiang Cheng's feet, then turned to look at her again, "Is there still food left?"

"There is. I kept quite a lot, enough for both of you to eat," Gu Fei's mother replied.

"Sit for a bit," Gu Fei said to Jiang Cheng before walking to a door next to the living room and pushing it open a crack to peer inside.  

"Looking in on Er Miao," Gu Fei's mother explained to Jiang Cheng, "Our Er Miao... he fusses over as a brother more than a dad would."

Jiang Cheng smiled but didn't say anything.

“Not asleep yet?” Gu Fei leaned in the doorway, speaking through the crack. “Brother Cheng's here, want to get up and say hi?”

The sound of slippers shuffling came from inside the room after a few seconds. Then Gu Miao poked her head out from the door in her fall clothes.

"Good evening," Jiang Cheng said with a smile.

Gu Miao was expressionless. She hurriedly ran over to sit down next to him on the sofa.

"It's almost 10 pm and you still haven't slept yet?" Jiang Cheng looked at her and smoothed down her messy hair. "You'll have dark eye circles tomorrow."

Gu Miao rubbed her eyes and smiled.

The little girl's hair had grown much longer now. Although it was still a mess with strands sticking out every which way, compared to when she had a shaved head and looked like a little boy, she was so much prettier.

The siblings resembled their mother. Gu Miao especially would become a classic beauty when she grew up a bit more and dressed herself up.

"Eating now?" Gu Fei's mother said to Gu Fei as they walked to the kitchen together. "I'll heat up the dishes for you."  

"Okay," Gu Fei responded. "Is there rice?"

"There is," Gu Fei's mother said, then looked back at Jiang Cheng again. "Is this child Li Yan's boyfriend?"

Her voice wasn't loud, but Jiang Cheng still heard it. He jerked his head up in shock. What? The wind is too loud, I didn't hear clearly. Can you repeat that?

"...He's not," Gu Fei said. "What are you thinking?"

"Then why is he wearing makeup?" Gu Fei's mother said.  

"What does wearing makeup have to do with Li Yan? Li Yan doesn't wear makeup either..." Gu Fei poked his head out from the kitchen. "Jiang Cheng, use my mom's makeup remover and stuff to wash up."

"Oh," Jiang Cheng stood up.

Gu Fei's mother brought him to the bathroom and handed him makeup remover. "Use this, it removes cleanly. Use the face wash on the top shelf, that's Da Fei's."

"Thanks, auntie," Jiang Cheng looked at the makeup remover.

"The makeup removal pads are in that pink case..." Gu Fei's mother looked at him. "Do you know how?"

Jiang Cheng really wanted to say he knew how, so she could leave more quickly and stop staring at him. But if he answered "yes", it might lead to more "Li Yan's boyfriend" speculations, although he didn't know what Li Yan had to do with makeup... In the end, he could only honestly say, "No."

"Er Miao," Gu Fei called from the kitchen, "go help your brother Cheng remove his makeup."

Gu Miao quickly ran in. After Gu Fei's mother left, she tiptoed to take down the pink case holding makeup removal pads, took out two pads, poured some makeup remover on them, and waved Jiang Cheng over, indicating for him to squat down.

"Then what?" Jiang Cheng squatted.  

Gu Miao looked at him and deliberately blinked her eyes rapidly before staring fixedly at him.

"Close my eyes, right? Okay." Jiang Cheng closed his eyes.

Gu Miao began dabbing at his face with the pads.

Gu Fei and his mother didn't say anything more in the kitchen. 

But "Li Yan's boyfriend" still echoed in Jiang Cheng's ears. The way Gu Fei's mother had said it so ordinarily, as if saying Li Yan's girlfriend... Li Yan is...? And it seems quite open too?

If that's the case, Gu Fei who spends time with Li Yan every day should know very well about this. So! Damn! Jiang Cheng suddenly opened his eyes wide.

Gu Miao frowned, pinching the pad in her hand, and shook her head.

He hurriedly closed his eyes again.

If Gu Fei interacts with this kind of person, is exposed to these kinds of things... then that peck he had given Gu Fei the other day would have an additional explanation!

It probably wouldn't be understood simply as him being drunk and acting out.


If that's the case, things would become very awkward!

Gu Miao helped him remove his makeup then left. He picked up Gu Fei's face wash and looked at it - Refreshing, not tightening... bullshit, he's used this before, still tightening. If it's refreshing then it must be tightening.

After washing his face and coming out, his skin did feel quite tight. Seeing Gu Fei again, he could barely even open his eyes, he was so tense.

"Do you have any creams, emulsions, toners, stuff like that?" Jiang Cheng asked. "My skin is going to crack."

Before Gu Fei could respond, Gu Miao swiftly ran back to her room and brought out a bottle of children's cream for him.

"Oh ho," Jiang Cheng took it. "You're quite vain, to have something like this."

"Li Yan bought it for her. She recommends it to everyone all the time but never uses it herself, finds it too troublesome," Gu Fei said.

"Do you know Li Yan?" Gu Fei's mother asked Jiang Cheng again.

"...Not very well," Jiang Cheng replied as he applied cream to his face. He was starting to feel a bit helpless.

"They've only met two or three times. Li Yan doesn't have a boyfriend either," Gu Fei was probably also quite speechless. "Go to sleep... Er Miao, go back to your room to sleep too."

Gu Miao obediently went back to her room to sleep. Gu Fei's mother kept glancing at Jiang Cheng several more times as she dialed on her phone before returning to her own room and closing the door.

The dishes Gu Fei's mother had cooked were unexpectedly delicious, even though they were leftovers that had been reheated. The ribs in particular were amazing - Jiang Cheng ate four or five pieces in a row before finally stopping because he was too embarrassed to continue. 

"Eat up," Gu Fei said. "I was too hungry and can't eat anymore."

"I'm also..." Jiang Cheng hesitated, then put another piece in his mouth.

"My mom's cooking is pretty good, right?" Gu Fei smiled.

"Mm," Jiang Cheng nodded. He thought for a moment then sighed again, looking at the food left in his bowl. "It's been a long time... since I've eaten a homemade meal."

Gu Fei didn't say anything.  

Jiang Cheng didn't speak anymore either, just kept eating with his head lowered.

Ever since coming here, he had basically been eating takeout or random street food. Now to save money he cooked for himself, usually just boiling noodles. 

Wolfing down such delicious "home cooking" made his heart suddenly sour. He tried hard not to be so sentimental, but still couldn't control it as his nose also started to sting.

Luckily Gu Fei got up then to take his bowl to the kitchen to wash it. Jiang Cheng quickly raised his hand to wipe his eyes, and took several deep breaths to slowly tamp down his emotions again.

After eating, he didn't fight Gu Fei to wash the dishes either. He didn't want to move.

"If you're tired just sleep in my bed," Gu Fei opened the door to another room. "I'll sleep on the couch."

"No need," Jiang Cheng stood up and followed him into the room. "I'll take the couch, I can sleep anywhere... Your room is really... not bad."  

One look at the decor of Gu Fei's living room showed it was in a style from 10, 20 years ago that hadn't been renovated or updated since. Although much better than Li Baoguo's home that would be considered outdated even 50 years ago, it was still just extremely ordinary and couldn't be considered a wealthy family's home.

But Gu Fei's bedroom surprised him a little. 

The room wasn't big and had no renovations, just a coat of white paint on the walls. But every piece of furniture looked carefully chosen.

The bed, bookcase, desk, chair, lazy boy sofa, small carpet, the hammock by the window - there were a lot of things, but it didn't feel cluttered. Instead, there was a warm, comfortable vibe.

"Want tea?" Gu Fei picked up a small electric kettle on the desk and put in some tea leaves. "Or just boiled water?"

"Boiled water," Jiang Cheng sat on the small sofa. "Drinking tea will keep me awake."

Gu Fei put a lemon slice in the cup and poured in some hot water for him.

The steaming lemon water, soft sofa, and the comfort and warmth of the room that he hadn't experienced for a long time - Jiang Cheng hugged the cup and didn't even want to talk.

"My mom has low EQ and doesn't think before she speaks," Gu Fei sat at the computer to connect the camera memory card. "Just listen to her, don't take it seriously."

"Mm," Jiang Cheng made a sound of acknowledgement, then still couldn't help asking after a pause, "Li Yan..."

"Li Yan really doesn't have a boyfriend," Gu Fei said, glancing at him and then laughing. "But it's true that Li Yan... likes men."

"Oh," Jiang Cheng held the cup to block his face with the rising steam. "Does everyone know that he..."

"His friends know. My mom somehow found out too, but won't talk about it to others," Gu Fei said as he transferred photos. "No one wants everyone to know something like this."

"Yeah," Jiang Cheng sighed.  

He had just sighed when he abruptly realized it and quickly cleared his throat, trying to gloss over that sigh. 

Gu Fei looked at him but didn't say anything.

Jiang Cheng truly couldn't control his urge to overanalyze that look, the awkwardness that hadn't appeared between him and Gu Fei for a long time now strongly wrapped around him again.

He had to hug the cup and stand up to pace around the room.

But the room wasn't big, and he could only take three steps before hitting a wall, making him feel he looked foolish flailing around. It was even more awkward than just sitting.

Finally he stopped in front of the bookshelf.  

"Can I look at the bookshelf?" Jiang Cheng asked.

"...I don't even know how to respond now," Gu Fei turned to look at him. "Why do you need to ask to look at a bookshelf?"

"Ah," Jiang Cheng smiled. "Habit." 

"Your family's teachings were a bit too strict, huh," Gu Fei said.

"Maybe. My whole family was very strict about rules, etiquette, manners, education," Jiang Cheng looked at the books on the shelf. "I was obtuse too. I should have realized long ago I'm not one of them - a whole family of five, and I'm the only one without any class..." 

"You're fine as you are," Gu Fei watched the progress bar of the photo transfer.

"Here, I'm probably fine," Jiang Cheng thought about Li Baoguo's family and the crippled woman he saw. That's right, in an environment full of this kind of life, this kind of living, someone like him could be considered "good", huh.

"Some things can be seen clearly without needing to compare," Gu Fei smiled and took a sip of tea. "Whether someone is truly 'good' or not, just look at that person. Don't need to consider where he is or who he's with."

"...You," Jiang Cheng looked at him in surprise. "You don't seem like someone who turns in blank test sheets right now."

"Nonsense, when have I ever turned in a blank sheet? I've always filled them completely before handing them in," Gu Fei said.

"Oh," Jiang Cheng couldn't help laughing.  

Gu Fei picked up the camera with the lens aimed at him.

"Haven't you gotten tired of shooting so much?" Jiang Cheng said.

"Won't get tired of shooting you," Gu Fei said. "When you smile you look...good."

The smile froze on Jiang Cheng's face. Gu Fei cursed himself in his head.

When he had said the first half of that sentence, he already felt it wasn't quite appropriate, especially after Li Yan's sexuality had been "exposed". Saying something like that was too ambiguous. 

But just to smooth things over, he went and said more. Before he even finished speaking, he was regretting it already. Each sentence was more inappropriate than the last, but he had to persist in finishing it or it would seem even faker.

After saying it all, he and Jiang Cheng both froze up.  

He held up the camera to block his own face, not knowing what else he could say to dispel the awkward atmosphere.

For someone who was never awkward or cared what others thought, being in such a dilemma itself was enough to render him speechless.

"After this shoot, Ding Zhuxin will probably ask you to model for other things," Gu Fei still held up the camera, staring at Jiang Cheng's face in the frame. "If the pay is agreeable, you can continue working with her long term. She's always unsatisfied with the models in some way, but today she liked you a lot."

"Oh," Jiang Cheng looked left and right, then at the camera lens. "So, um, can I ask, that... what... I mean, she and you... uh, is she your..."

"Girlfriend?" Gu Fei interrupted him. "No, like I said, we grew up together, I call her older sister." 

"Oh!" Jiang Cheng responded loudly, as if trying to break free of the awkwardness.

"So difficult," Gu Fei sighed for him. "I thought you were going to ask about me and Li Yan."

"Huh?" Jiang Cheng was startled, looking quite shocked at him. "You and Li Yan? Are..."

"No!" Gu Fei put the camera down. "Hey, Li Yan and I are just friends. Do we look like a couple?"

"Don't know," Jiang Cheng leaned against the bookshelf, seeming a bit helpless about this line of conversation now. "Doesn't seem like it. I feel he looks more like a couple with Liu Fan." 

Gu Fei laughed for a long time leaning in the chair. "Liu Fan would be upset hearing you say that."

"...Is that so," Jiang Cheng glanced at him and smiled, but didn't say anything more.

The no-good birds and Li Yan and Gu Fei, the few of them often hung out together and also had a shared hangout spot at the steel factory.

But from Gu Fei's words...even good friends like them, some still wouldn't accept it right?

Yeah, Pan Zhi was right. 

Open-mindedness and tolerance only existed in fantasy. Reality was ruthless.

Then what about Gu Fei?

Jiang Cheng leaned his head back against the glass cabinet door, looking at Gu Fei playing with a camera in the chair.

His attitude was clear, he didn't mind, he could accept it.  

What about beyond that?

That day when Jiang Cheng kissed Gu Fei's face, he didn't react at all. At least Pan Zhi would have paused, then mocked him for it.

Although Gu Fei wasn't expressive with joy or anger, that calmness between two people not close enough to get so drunk was still somewhat abnormal.

And thinking back now, his reaction the next day was also too natural.

Too natural.

Jiang Cheng sipped his lemon water. 

Gu Fei was a bad student, but a smart bad student.

Jiang Cheng suddenly felt a weary sense that everything had already been seen through.

Gu Fei possibly knew everything already. This newest bit of information left him unable to cope, unable to even continue chatting calmly.

The photos finished uploading, Gu Fei made a folder, marked the date, then started editing.  

The mouse slowly moved over the dense thumbnails, he didn't like editing in order, he liked to pick and choose.

The mouse finally clicked on the one where Jiang Cheng had his finger hooked in his collar.

When the photo opened, he leaned back a bit. Compared to the fleeting moment in the original shot, this kind of sudden clarity blown up was more impactful.

He rested his elbow on the arm of the chair, fingers pressed to his temple, and let out a soft whistle.

"What about you?" Jiang Cheng suddenly asked at this time.

Gu Fei reflexively thought he would say "Shut up", when he realized Jiang Cheng didn't say that line, he didn't even dare turn his head to look at Jiang Cheng.

"Hm?" He minimized the photo to full screen, adjusted the curves a bit, "I... what?"

"Are you?" Jiang Cheng asked.

To be honest, Gu Fei was completely surprised that Jiang Cheng who was usually awkwardly evasive would suddenly be so direct, his tone already completely undisguised. 

"Are you?" Gu Fei turned his head.

"Whether I am or not, you know," Jiang Cheng looked at him, "Now I'm asking you."

Gu Fei was unwilling to answer this question. 

Whether Jiang Cheng was or wasn't, he hadn't actually thought about it carefully himself, it didn't make any difference to him, even if he had any ideas he would always keep it to himself.

But Jiang Cheng wanted to know, which made him a bit afraid to give an answer.

Not knowing about each other, or knowing but pretending not to know, this kind of relationship would be relatively easier to maintain. If everything was suddenly laid bare, with all the attraction and attention clearly directed, it would contrarily make one flustered instead.

At least that's how he would feel, he didn't have any intentions to do anything, but once these matters became transparent, every word, every look of his, might become intentions to do something.

"Forget it," Jiang Cheng sat on the sofa holding his cup, head tilted back as he let out a long breath, "Don't say it, I know now."

Gu Fei looked at him.  

"Da Fei," Jiang Cheng turned his head to look at him too, "I actually don't mean anything else, I just want to tell you, if you know, keep it secret for me, I don't want...anyone to know."

"Mm," Gu Fei nodded, it was seemingly the first time Jiang Cheng didn't call him Gu Fei.

"Just like you also don't want anyone to know," Jiang Cheng drank some water.

"Threatening me?" Gu Fei laughed.

"Yes," Jiang Cheng smiled with a nod, "I have something against you in my hands."  

"I'll keep it secret," Gu Fei said.


Every chapter whispers secrets; every coffee sip fuels the journey. Let's embark on another chapter, powered by everyone's support! >.<

Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@skcitshsif.