Chapter 37 - Chapter 37

“Oh! Yeah! Thank you, thank you.”

“Contestant Jiang Cheng has decided to increase the difficulty again! He has decided to increase the difficulty again! Wow - "

"Coach X, do you think this time it was a mistake or were his skills not good enough?"  

"I think there is still room for improvement in his skills..."


The room was still very quiet, but Jiang Cheng's voice was already all over Gu Fei's mind, with various split personalities, various tones, a fully committed performance.

Gu Fei, who was always good at dealing with tense situations, felt at this moment that he was facing a dead end, as if he could see the road to getting beaten up unfolding before his eyes.

No one knew Jiang Cheng had a slingshot. The only time he had shown the slingshot was probably by the lakeside, empty. Without. A. Single. Person. By the lakeside.  

He didn't even have a chance to make up an excuse to deny it.

Jiang Cheng didn't say anything, just stood there looking at him, without even an expression on his face. The momentary shock was gone, and he had been expressionless ever since.

He couldn't even guess Jiang Cheng's emotional state right now.

"Well," but he still had to speak up, "that day..."

Jiang Cheng didn't speak, seeming to be waiting for him to speak.

"I was passing by." Gu Fei said.

"There are no roads around that lake," Jiang Cheng said, "I walked around it."

"I did have something to do there," Gu Fei finally found a more mitigating thing to say, "I just saw you playing with the slingshot there, we weren't that close then, so I left without saying hi."

Jiang Cheng glanced at him, flipped the slingshot, and it spun twice before landing back in his left hand. Gu Fei saw his right hand reach for the table next to him. 

Not good!

He knew there were a lot of clothing accessories on that table, and...buttons.

What Jiang Cheng grabbed was buttons.

Gu Fei turned to run towards the set behind him.

Those were not ordinary small buttons. Ding Zhu's designs used all kinds of "back to simplicity" materials. Those were bead-shaped buttons, simply perfect companions for a slingshot.

"This is what you mean by being an bystander?" Jiang Cheng said.  

Gu Fei heard a swoosh, then a pain in his thigh where the bead had hit him.

He looked back to see Jiang Cheng pulling back the slingshot again, standing in place aiming at him.

"You..." Before he could finish, Jiang Cheng let go, and he yelled, "Ah!"

This time the button hit him in the belly.

To be honest, Jiang Cheng didn't use much force. If it was the same force as hitting the ice hole that day by the lake, he probably wouldn't have been able to yell now.

"You said this slingshot was a subpar product that couldn't shoot accurately!" Gu Fei jumped over the sofa, hiding the lower half of his body behind the backrest. 

"Depends on who's shooting," Jiang Cheng said, taking another bead and aiming at him, "I can shoot accurately with two fingers plus a rubber band."

"Don't..." Gu Fei didn't finish speaking. Jiang Cheng's hand released again, and the button hit his arm. It hurt a lot this time. He rubbed his arm vigorously several times, "Damn!"

"The bystander you spoke about," Jiang Cheng pulled back the slingshot, looking at him through the two wooden prongs, "that's what you mean by being an bystander, right?"

"It was just a metaphor," Gu Fei was hit three times in a row, he really couldn't take it anymore, and raised his voice, "Can't you be reasonable!"

"What reason!" Jiang Cheng yelled, his hand shaking badly, "What reason is there to talk about? How cool is it for you to be a detached observer, what reason! There is no reason to speak of in this world! Is there any reason I was adopted? Is there any reason that as soon as I learned I wasn't their biological child I got sent back to this goddamn place? What fucking reason!"

"Brother Cheng," Gu Fei came out from behind the sofa, "I really didn't mean to..."

He didn't finish speaking. Jiang Cheng's fourth button hit him in the chest.

"Ah!" He jumped and stumbled back into the sofa. He simply stayed there and yelled at Jiang Cheng, "Come on come on come on marksman Jiang Cheng! Come on! Keep shooting until you feel better! If these buttons aren't enough there are more outside! Not just wooden ones, there are stone ones too, iron and copper ones too, why don't you just use the iron ones!"

"You saw everything," Jiang Cheng glared at him for a while before dropping his hand with the slingshot and buttons onto the ground, "Right, you saw everything."

"I saw it." Gu Fei replied.  

"From when to when?" Jiang Cheng asked.

"From you hitting the ice hole to Coach X to you crying," Gu Fei said, "I saw it all, when you started crying I left."

"Oh." Jiang Cheng responded.

Saw the whole wonderful split personality performance plus the bonus scene of a grown man sobbing his heart out.

Jiang Cheng didn't know how he felt right now.

From shock to embarrassment, then feeling ashamed, to the humiliation of having his secret peeped at, and finally to anger.

And now, all feelings were gone, leaving only misery behind.

He slowly squatted down against the wall, bowed his head and hugged his own head with his arms.

Just this posture.

From young till now, not just when he was crying, but whenever he felt bad, depressed, unhappy, he liked to use this posture, trying his best to curl up, shrink up, and not let anyone see him. 

It made him feel safe.

Similar to sticking your head in the sand, not that he really thought people wouldn't see him like this, just that he didn't want to see anyone or anything.

Can't see, can't hear, that's good enough.

"Brother Cheng." At some point Gu Fei had walked over to his side and called him.

"What fucking Brother Cheng," Jiang Cheng buried his head between his knees and arms, his muffled voice said, "Are you fucking younger than me?"

"A month younger." Gu Fei said.  

"Damn you," Jiang Cheng was so shocked by this he couldn't keep his head buried, looking up, "You even know my birthday?"

"When you fainted from your fever last time, I saw your ID," Gu Fei said, "I got some random guy in my room, of course I had to find out who he was."

"Don't bother with me next time." Jiang Cheng buried his head in his knees again.

"Do you want that?" Gu Fei asked.

Jiang Cheng peeked out from between his arms. Gu Fei was holding a cigarette pack. He closed his eyes, waited a few seconds before reaching out to take a cigarette from the pack.

"Smoking here needs to be kept secret," Gu Fei also took a cigarette and lit it, passing him the lighter, "This studio is non-smoking, everything's flammable."  

Jiang Cheng didn't speak, lit the cigarette then glanced towards the security camera in the corner.

"It's fine, she usually doesn't check the cameras." Gu Fei said.  

"Did you laugh?" Jiang Cheng asked, his voice a little hoarse, as if greatly wronged. He cleared his throat uncomfortably and asked again, "When you were peeping?"

"Laughed inside," Gu Fei said, "It was pretty funny after all, if I said I didn't laugh you wouldn't believe me right."

"Yeah," Jiang Cheng sighed softly, "I often play like that alone, in the past when I played the flute I did the same, now presenting non-famous flautist Jiang Cheng to perform for us."

Gu Fei laughed, laughing so hard ash fell off his cigarette. He grabbed an empty bottle over and flicked off the ash.

"You never played like this before?" Jiang Cheng asked.  

"No," Gu Fei shook his head, "But there must be many who relieve boredom like this. Previously on the No. 4 High  forum someone started a post saying they can't sleep every night if they don't put on a full performance while they're lying in bed, and quite a few people replied saying they have the same hobby."

"Is that so." Jiang Cheng laughed.

"But it's good you know I saw it too," Gu Fei gave him a thumbs up, "At least now I have a chance to tell you, Jiang Cheng you're the most amazing slingshot player I've ever seen."

"......Thanks," Jiang Cheng looked at the slingshot tossed aside, "This is probably just a prop, not meant for people to use."

"But you shot me pretty accurately." Gu Fei said.  

"Not accurate, just able to hit," Jiang Cheng said, "When I shot your leg I was aiming for your butt."

"Oh," Gu Fei turned to look at him, "Why."

"More flesh on the butt," Jiang Cheng said, "Less likely to injure." 

"I noticed you're always quite...careful, you won't let your anger get pent up, and won't make things into a big mess either." Gu Fei flicked ash into the bottle.

"Us study gods do everything in moderation," Jiang Cheng said around his cigarette, "Would never chuck someone into a tree."

"Damn." Gu Fei laughed.

Jiang Cheng stared at the cigarette butt for a while: "What were you doing at the lakeside that day? It's freezing cold, with no roads leading out."

"That day..." Gu Fei stopped, after a long pause he continued speaking softly, "That day was the anniversary of my dad's death, I went to burn some paper offerings. 

"Oh." Jiang Cheng was surprised.  

"He drowned there." Gu Fei's fingers lightly tapped the bottle.

"Oh," Jiang Cheng continued looking surprised, then added, "I thought the water wasn't very deep there."

"It's not deep, that day he was drunk, if he hadn't been drinking," Gu Fei's tapping fingers stopped, "I'd probably be the one who drowned."

Jiang Cheng abruptly looked up, staring at Gu Fei.

When Li Baoguo said Gu Fei killed his dad Jiang Cheng didn't believe it at all. When Gu Fei said his dad drowned, he only thought "ah so it was an accident". But when he heard Gu Fei say this, he was so shocked he couldn't believe his own ears.

"My dad was pretty awful," Gu Fei spoke very calmly, "I always hoped he would die, if Li Baoguo was my dad, I wouldn't think this way." 

Jiang Cheng was silent, his mind a little chaotic.  

"He didn't gamble like Li Baoguo, but could hit much more than Li Baoguo," Gu Fei smiled, "My mom married him because she thought he was handsome, after that her life was just being hit, drinking then hitting her, not drinking also hitting her, I always felt my dad's only form of expression was probably his fists."

"I heard Li Baoguo say..." Jiang Cheng recalled Li Baoguo's words, "He hit Gu Miao."

"Yes," Gu Fei bit his lip, previously he had been very calm, only showing expression when mentioning Gu Miao, "Gu Miao was a little different from other kids since she was born, probably because he was always drinking...of course he wouldn't think that way, he just felt she was a huge nuisance, couldn't speak clearly, couldn't learn things."

"So he hit her?" Jiang Cheng was getting somewhat angry hearing this.

"Yeah," Gu Fei turned his head aside, "Grabbed her and swung her against the wall, after that time Gu Miao never spoke again."

"Fuck!" Jiang Cheng yelled, at that moment he felt like digging up Gu Fei's dad's grave to whip his corpse.  

Gu Fei didn't speak further, both of them silently stared at the bottle.

After a very long time, Gu Fei softly spoke again: "Me chucking people onto trees, was probably learned from him..."

"Don't talk nonsense." Jiang Cheng immediately interrupted him.

"This tone," Gu Fei laughed, "Why is it so much like Old Xu?"

"What tone should I use then, Old Lu's? I don't have that sort of energy," Jiang Cheng leaned against the wall, sighing, "This place really is insane."

"Your adoptive parents actually protected you pretty well," Gu Fei said, "Although you're like a loose cannon, you are...pure."  

"Probably," Jiang Cheng said softly, then tried asking, "Why did Li Baoguo say you...forget it."

"That I killed my dad?" Gu Fei said.

"Ah," Jiang Cheng suddenly felt it was inappropriate to ask this now, "You don't have to mind, I didn't believe it either, I just...forget it, pretend I didn't say anything, don't mind it."

"Not straightforward at all," Gu Fei gave him a thumbs up, "Actually there's nothing much, it's just rumors, all kinds of them here, I'll tell you more when there's time."

"Mm." Jiang Cheng nodded.

"When my dad dragged me to the lakeside then, some people saw it," Gu Fei said, "When they came over my dad was already in the lake, he wasn't moving anymore and I stood at the side. It looked a lot like a murder scene, the murderer didn't even cry, it was too vicious." 

“That was probably...being scared stiff then,” Jiang Cheng frowned, not daring to imagine such a scene. How old had Gu Fei been?

“Don’t know, maybe,” Gu Fei lit another cigarette. “What I’m about to say might scare you.”

“Go ahead, scare me,” Jiang Cheng said.

“I couldn’t save him, I couldn’t swim and was nearly frozen,” Gu Fei lowered his voice. “But I just hoped he would die. I stood there watching him go still bit by bit, I watched him sink down, just...watched with eyes wide open.”

Jiang Cheng suddenly felt a little breathless. He tried to take deep breaths twice but didn't succeed, as if something was constricting him.

"Scary right," Gu Fei's voice was very soft, with a slight tremble, "I was very scared, if I saved him, I was afraid he would still try to kill me, afraid he would kill Er Miao, kill my mom...I didn't save him, I just watched as he slowly died...every year on the day he died it's like my skin is getting flayed off, I can't get over this for the rest of my life..."

Gu Fei's shaking hand holding the cigarette trembled violently, and even the rising smoke seemed to be struggling.  

"Gu Fei," Jiang Cheng didn't expect Gu Fei to have such a story. He was already shocked and at a loss, and seeing Gu Fei's state completely different from his usual calm, his hand also started shaking, didn't know what to do, "Gu Fei..."

Gu Fei turned to look at him.

Didn't cry.

Good, Jiang Cheng breathed a sigh of relief, although he felt Gu Fei probably wouldn't tear up easily like him, crying at the drop of a hat like a fragile old woman, he was still a little worried.

Gu Fei looking at him rendered him even more at a loss. He raised his hand hesitantly, hovering for a long time before finally placing it on Gu Fei's shoulder, hugging him: "Brother Cheng's giving you a hug."

Gu Fei didn't struggle, only lowered his head, forehead leaning on his knees...of course, most people wouldn't recoil like him from a simple touch as if stabbed by a knife.  

"Actually...forget it I also don't know what to say," Jiang Cheng had never comforted anyone before, didn't want to comfort people he wasn't close with. Pan Zhi who he was closest with never needed comfort, he was easygoing enough to get over anything and could sleep it off after eating a pile of shit. 

He could only keep lightly patting Gu Fei's back, then rubbing it a few times, "It's okay, it's all in the's normal to feel afraid, but it's all in the past now."

Gu Fei remained motionless with head bowed.

"So," Jiang Cheng hugged his shoulders, rubbed his arm a few times, "With this experience, you're someone who's been through a lot now, right, my mom...I mean my adoptive mom, she always said, every experience in life has value, good or bad..." 

Gu Fei still had his head lowered.

Jiang Cheng was desperately thinking of words in his mind, anxious that his knowledge reserves in comforting people didn't seem to match his top student title. 

Just as he was out of words, only able to keep stroking Gu Fei's back and arms, about to spout childish comforting words like "pat pat don't be scared", Gu Fei finally moved, turning his face sideways.

"You..." Jiang Cheng quickly looked at him, shocked at first glance, Gu Fei was smiling, mouth hooked up. He hastily withdrew his arms and yelled, "You have no humanity! You're actually laughing?"

"Ah," Gu Fei laughed even harder, "My first time experiencing such low level comfort, I just couldn't hold back, I was so sad at first..."

"Piss off!" Jiang Cheng yelled, jumping up from the floor, "Don't think I won't beat you sad right now!" 

"Don't don't don't..." Gu Fei also stood up, swiftly kicking the slingshot away.

"No, I was really worried about you just now. I was so anxious I almost started patting you, you know!" Jiang Cheng was speechless. "You really enjoy messing with people. Should I give you a round of applause...?"

"Thank you," Gu Fei said.  

"You're welcome," Jiang Cheng reflexively responded. Coming back to his senses, he didn't even want to speak anymore. ".....Screw you."

"Really," Gu Fei raised his hand and lightly tapped him on the shoulder.  

Jiang Cheng didn't say anything, inexplicably glancing at his own shoulder.

"Thank you," Gu Fei leaned in to hug him. "Really."

Unlike the celebratory hug on the basketball court, Gu Fei hugged him quite tightly this time. Jiang Cheng's delayed reflexes didn't even have a chance to react.

"Also," Gu Fei said softly while hugging him, "think about what I meant by 'bystander' with that smart brain of yours. Don't keep misunderstanding."

"I definitely didn't misunderstand," Jiang Cheng said. He could smell Gu Fei's faint scent of tobacco blending into his embrace, and suddenly felt very comfortable with the hug. He couldn't quite articulate if this comfort was shameless, reassuring, or something else entirely. In any case, he didn't have any urge to push Gu Fei away. "When you saw me by the lake, you felt like a bystander, watching others cry, laugh, and fall apart."

Gu Fei laughed for a good while: "Fine, I was observing for a bit, I didn't think much else, and didn't ridicule you."

"That's more like it," Jiang Cheng said. "Being sincere makes the world brighter." 

Gu Fei patted him on the back and released him. "For a second there I thought you were going to kill me today."

"No to that extent," Jiang Cheng sighed. "But I'm a little worried...I think I know too much..."

"No worries," Gu Fei picked up his camera and checked it. "I have your underwear pics."

"What?" Jiang Cheng glared at him.

"I have," Gu Fei shook his camera, "your, underwear pics. With your face. HD uncensored." 

"You shameless bastard," Jiang Cheng pointed at him. "I shouldn't have comforted you just now. Do your classmates know you're so perverted?"

"My deskmate knows." Gu Fei smiled.  

Jiang Cheng kept a straight face, then broke into laughter after a while.

Gu Fei patted him on the back again. Whether or not Gu Fei actually had his underwear pics wasn't a huge deal to him. After all, it was just underwear pics, not like he was completely naked. Comparatively, what he cared more about was...

"Also pics of you running like a chicken," Gu Fei said.

"Delete those!" Jiang Cheng yelled.

That's right - compared to underwear pics, he cared more about the pic of him running like a chicken. It would be downright embarrassing for anyone to see that.

"Sure," Gu Fei readily agreed. "Help me write Monday's self-criticism."

Jiang Cheng glared at him, then said somewhat helplessly: "Can't you even write a self-criticism? With your conduct, you must have written countless ones growing up?"

"I really can't write one. I've had Li Yan and Zhou Jing write them for me before, I've used up everyone I could grab." Gu Fei said.

"Huh," Jiang Cheng drank some water. "To be honest, I really admire you. Just coasting through like this, even getting people to write your self-criticisms, what will you do about the college entrance exam?"

"You're thinking way ahead, there's still over a year left," Gu Fei said. "I've never thought about the exam. I just want to coast to a diploma."

"Wouldn't it be better if you went to a technical school?" Jiang Cheng glanced at him. "At least you'd pick up some skills."

"But I have skills," Gu Fei shook his camera again, then smiled thinking about it. "In middle school I did think about testing into a university, but later felt it was meaningless." 

Jiang Cheng didn't respond. He felt Gu Fei didn't truly see it as meaningless, but with his family circumstances, he likely had no way to leave for university. There were no decent local universities to test into either...

"You should be able to get into a great university," Gu Fei said. "But after two years at a trash school like No. 4 High, will it impact you?"

"It won't," Jiang Cheng drank the last of his water. "It's just textbook knowledge, doesn't matter who teaches it." 

Gu Fei gave him a thumbs up.

"Maybe it's to spite adoptive mom," Jiang Cheng frowned slightly. Although she wouldn't know, "I won't rot wherever you put me. I'll get far away from this place."

"Yeah," Gu Fei stretched lazily. "No one wants to stay in this dump."


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