Chapter 41 - Chapter 41

When Gu Fei was still in Year 1 before the classes were divided, there was a dumb kid in his class. During self-study, he chatted with a girl who happened to sit next to him in the last row. Maybe there was some elbow touching happening accidentally. After self-study, the kid went to the bathroom.

Supposedly because he got so excited just from the elbow touching that he came in his pants and went to throw away his underwear.

Their class laughed about it for a whole semester.  

At the time, Gu Fei thought it was funny. But now he felt like they were the same.  

He glanced down at his left side. Jiang Cheng's left hand was still on his waist. At first, Jiang Cheng had grabbed him in surprise when Gu Miao scared him. Later, probably because Gu Miao kept holding onto the seat, Jiang Cheng had nowhere to put his hand, so he just left it half resting on Gu Fei's waist.  

This kind of contact that you can barely feel if you don't look was completely normal to Gu Fei. He had given rides to all kinds of people on his bike and motorcycle.

But now it's Jiang Cheng.  

Now when Gu Fei looks at Jiang Cheng, he sometimes can't help but think of Jiang Cheng's either vague or explicit body under Ding Zhuxin's crazy designs.  

His legs, his waist, his back, even his scarred ribs and cut up lips.  

When he sums it up like this, Jiang Cheng's hand on his waist right now is like a bomb.  

If it goes off, it might ruin a pair of his underwear.  

After riding for a while, Gu Fei saw Wang Xu and the others up ahead, with some girls riding on their bikes too.  

Gu Fei reached back with his right hand and squeezed the brake. The bike slowed down, and Gu Miao's face bumped right into his palm. She used her face to push against his hand and slowed down her skateboard too.  

"What's up?" Jiang Cheng asked from behind.

"You carry me," Gu Fei said, looking back at him.

"Tired already?" Jiang Cheng got off the bike. "Your stamina is pretty pathetic. One game and you can't even pedal anymore."

"I didn't realize you were so chatty before," Gu Fei also got off and tossed Jiang Cheng the handlebars.

"I've never teamed up with Er Miao before," Jiang Cheng straddled the bike. "Sure I won't make her fall?"

"If you do knock her over, she'll get out of the way," Gu Fei got on the back. "Let's go."

"It's harder to push off from a standstill, you should wait until I've got some momentum..." Jiang Cheng said.

"Can't wait, my pathetic stamina can't run anymore after one game." Gu Fei said as he took out his phone and started playing.

"Fuck." Jiang Cheng swore softly and had no choice but to push off hard from a standstill.  

Gu Miao glided ahead of them on her skateboard at first, then came back and grabbed the seat again to get pulled along.

Jiang Cheng pedaled hard for a stretch and caught up to Wang Xu and the others.

"You're here," Guo Xu looked back at them. "You guys ride pretty fast."

"Hungry," Jiang Cheng said.

"Jiang Cheng—" a girl called out from the left.

He turned his head. The girl held up her phone with a click. Jiang Cheng sighed, "Don't you know to turn off the sound when you sneak photos?"

"I wasn't sneaking a photo," the girl shyly covered her mouth and laughed for a long time.

The group chatted while riding. It was a decent distance from here to downtown. With their noisy group, they took up a whole lane. When motorcycles and e-bikes passed them, they had to squeeze together and laugh like idiots.

It reallt was an age where you can laugh after eating shit, Jiang Cheng thought as he looked at the people in front and behind him.

In the past, these were all the kind of people he and Pan Zhi would mock for being a country bumpkin and silly. But now, here he was, riding and squeezing on the road with them.

The only difference was that he wasn't laughing like an idiot with them. But he had laughed like an idiot with Gu Fei countless times already.

Gu Fei was quiet as usual, antisocial as always as he looked down playing on his phone.

When the girl tried to sneak a photo, Gu Fei immediately bumped his forehead against Jiang Cheng's back.

"Don't take photos anymore," Wang Xu had Yi Jing riding with him and was full of energy, yelling loudly, "Just say whose photo you want. I've got them both. I even have a photo of Jiang Cheng eating a stuffed pancake!"

"Fuck off," Jiang Cheng looked at him.

"Send it here, let us see!" the girls immediately started yelling.

"Can't just send it, I can't beat Jiang Cheng," Wang Xu said. "Only for sale, 20 bucks a pic."

"For just 20 bucks you'd be willing to take a beating..." Lu Xiaobin said.

Everyone burst out laughing.

"Shut up!" Wang Xu glared at him. "Can you do math? Ten people is 200 bucks already!"

"Oh right," Lu Xiaobin was confused for a moment. "That's a lot. Jiang Cheng has a lot of fans now. If everyone buys one, you'd make a good amount..."

"You guys' IQs," Guo Xu sighed. "A photo can only be sold once, to one person. They can just copy it, who's going to keep buying from you..."

"Fuck off!" Wang Xu yelled. "You think you're so smart huh!"

"Not bad business," Gu Fei said softly from behind. "I've got exclusive high quality ones here, HD, with the face, and..."

"Do you have any professional ethics left as a photographer?" Jiang Cheng turned back and said softly.

"I do, that's why I'm not selling them," Gu Fei said. "I'm waiting for a high price..."

"Do you believe I'll throw you off?" Jiang Cheng said.

"Don't believe." Gu Fei replied.

Jiang Cheng opened his mouth but didn't say anything.

"I'm stuck on a level," Gu Fei held his phone up to Jiang Cheng's face. "Can you help me pass it later?"

"Fuck," Jiang Cheng was speechless. "You're still competing with Li Yan?"

"Mm," Gu Fei kept playing. "He's almost three levels above me now."

"I'll help you pass all three levels later," Jiang Cheng said. "Treating some shitty game like it's your career. What are you trying to save, the planet?"

Gu Fei laughed from behind, "Yeah, eliminate the trash talkers first."

Since Wang Xu had only made the booking on the way there, all the big rooms were taken already. With their group of almost twenty people counting the team and girls, the server ended up pushing three square tables together in one room.

"Squeeze in, squeeze in," the server said. "You young folks, get cozy squeezing together."

"Alright, squeeze!" Wang Xu nodded and started pushing people into the room.

Jiang Cheng pulled Gu Miao to sit in the seat furthest inside next to the wall. He had promised Gu Miao they would sit in a row. Gu Fei squeezed in beside them.

"You're not sitting next to Gu Miao?" Jiang Cheng looked at the seating arrangement. Gu Fei was on the left, Gu Miao on the right.

"Too late to switch," Gu Fei started to get up to change seats, but saw everyone else had already crammed in. He quickly sat back down and said softly, "It'd be girls on both sides if I switch now."

"What..." Jiang Cheng had to hold back a laugh. "Something wrong with you?"

"Nothing's wrong," Gu Fei said. Yi Jing sat down next to him. He subtly shifted his chair slightly towards Jiang Cheng and said softly, "Just not used to it."

"The great boss..." Jiang Cheng poured Gu Miao a cup of tea. "Drink some water, Gu Miao, and take off your coat. Your face is all red."

The room was small. With the rowdy group all crammed in around the long table, it looked like they were having a meeting. Loud and chaotic.

Gu Miao drank a sip of water, then flung off her hat onto the table. Her messy hair stuck up. She took off her coat and put it on the ground next to her.

"Hang it on that hanger," Gu Fei said, pointing to the corner. He took off his coat and handed it to her. "Brother's too."

Gu Miao went over with both coats and hats to hang them up, her messy hair still sticking up every which way.

"Comb your hair a bit," Jiang Cheng said. "You're a girl, pay attention to your image."

Gu Miao gave him a look, impatiently ruffled her hair wildly for a few seconds, then stared at his coat.

"Oh," Jiang Cheng quickly took off his coat to hand to her. "Help Brother Cheng hang it up too, thanks."  

Jiang Cheng watched seriously as she took his coat to hang it up with Gu Fei's on the same hook, since she wasn't tall enough to reach a second hook. Then she turned and sat back down, slowly drinking her tea curled up in the chair.

Jiang Cheng leaned back in his chair against the wall, arms crossed as he watched the noisy group of people who had to yell just to talk in this room. Very noisy, very rowdy. The door had been left open at first, but the server probably couldn't stand it and came to close it for them.

But it was also very lively. He hadn't had a gathering like this in a long time. Back in school, everyone was a study fanatic, and their families were very strict. After school they mostly just went straight home.

As someone who would randomly skip class and not go home if he felt like it, he rarely even had someone to accompany him...

The liveliness before him finally made him feel the warmth that spring should have.

"What to eat, what to eat!" Wang Xu held the menu and started planning. "I got three hotpot bases, all half and half, enough?"

"Enough, enough, enough!" People yelled back in response. "Base doesn't matter, meat matters! Veggies matter!"

"We've got the meat and veggies covered," Yi Jing smiled and patted her bag. "Class funds are already here. Teacher Xu said he'll cover anything extra."

"Old Xu's pretty cool sometimes," Wang Xu said. "Just too naggy, worse than my mom. Saying stuff like 'being so touched'...Lamb, beef, combo meat, come on! Anything else you want to eat, speak up! I'll write it down!"

"I'm sweaty just sitting here," Gu Fei also leaned back.

When they took off the uniforms they wore to play ball, they were in short sleeves underneath. When Gu Fei leaned against him, their bare arms lightly brushed.

At this time of year when they still had to wear jackets, this sudden skin contact gave Jiang Cheng a strange feeling.

Gu Fei probably felt the same. Jiang Cheng sensed him quickly shift away towards Yi Jing, but within two seconds he had squeezed back against Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng thought it was a bit funny and smiled at his tea cup.

"Fuck," Gu Fei also started laughing and fully relaxed against him, legs overlapping his. "Keep laughing and I'll shut you up."

"One rubber band and I can take you down..." Jiang Cheng said with a smile. He glanced under the table at their legs pressed together and suddenly realized his level of comfort with Gu Fei's touches was approaching what he had with his childhood friend Pan Zhi.

And it felt completely different from Pan Zhi.

Of course it was completely different. Pan Zhi was his bro, someone he could share secrets with and trash talk wildly. But Gu Fei was someone of the same kind who had an instinctive attractiveness and allure to him.

Although he had never thought about finding someone similar, much less keeping each other company, he had to admit that right now, just like this moment, in the lively crowd where the mood was a bit overly warm, in those tiny details no one noticed, in the quiet, fleeting intimacy only for this instant, he felt a comfort that he wanted to quietly enjoy.

"What's Da Fei drinking, liquor?" Wang Xu waved the menu at them.

"Mm," Gu Fei responded.

"What about you, Jiang Cheng?" Wang Xu looked at Jiang Cheng. "We haven't drank together. What do you want?"

"...Anything is fine," Jiang Cheng was about to say he wasn't drinking, but looking at the fired up crowd, if he said he wasn't drinking, he'd probably get squeezed to death.

"Alright, anything is fine?" Wang Xu said. "That attitude, as expected of the Three Pointer King."

"You were just saying Old Xu was naggy," Jiang Cheng glanced at him.

"Watch how you speak to your captain," Wang Xu pointed at him. "Back at the start of term I let you off only because of Da Fei."

"Oh," Jiang Cheng nodded.  

"Server—!" Wang Xu pulled open the door and yelled out, "Bring food! And another Erguotou! Fresh juice too!"

Then he looked back at Gu Miao, "Queen Miao Miao, want juice? There's orange and corn."

Gu Miao didn't look up, just shook her head while holding her tea cup with both hands.

"What does she want then?" Wang Xu looked at Gu Fei.

"Beer," Gu Fei said.

"Fuck—!" Wang Xu was stunned for a moment, then turned and yelled, "And draft beer, the queen wants to drink!"

"Stop yelling already!" The server stood at the door. "I'm right here, why are you still yelling..."

"Your brother's happy today—" Wang Xu kept yelling. "Quick, bring meat and alcohol first!"

"I heard you! Meat, alcohol!" The server put down their bowls and chopsticks neatly, then jogged out.

Yi Jing stood up and took a camera out of her bag, waving it at a girl next to Wang Xu. "Juan'er, let's take a group pic first. You shoot from your side, I'll shoot from here after."

"Okay," the girl caught the camera Yi Jing tossed. "Everyone squeeze towards the centre, or I can't get you all in frame."

The room full of people immediately crammed towards Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng's side.

"Squeeze in, squeeze in!" Wang Xu squeezed in next to Yi Jing, one hand against the wall and body leaning over towards them.

Yi Jing laughed and dodged him, shifting closer to Gu Fei.

Gu Fei didn't say anything, just quickly moved in towards Jiang Cheng.

"Fuck," Jiang Cheng had just pulled Gu Miao in and was now squashed tightly with Gu Fei by the people squeezing in from the right. "Time for you guys to lose weight!"

"Hurry up," Gu Fei looked at the girl taking pics.

"Smile!" The girl instructed. "Class 8's Number 1!"  

"Class 8's Number 1!" Everyone yelled together.

The girl clicked the shutter. Everyone had just scattered when she waved her hands anxiously. "Wait! I haven't taken one yet..."

"Call the server in!" Wang Xu pointed at the door. "Get a server to take a pic for us!"

The server came in and was shocked by their sardine packing pose. "I didn't realize there were so many of you..."

"Hurry up and take it!" Jiang Cheng couldn't stand it anymore.

His and Gu Fei's chairs weren't pushed together. Now crammed by people on both sides, both of them were twisted at the waist, and Jiang Cheng had no choice but to brace his hand on Gu Fei's leg. This position wouldn't last long.

"Make a heart! Heart shape!" Wang Xu suddenly said.

"What heart, I only have one hand!" Jiang Cheng was about to go crazy. "I can only use one hand."

"Me too, can't make one," Gu Fei said.

"You each put out a hand, that's perfect!" Wang Xu urged. "Everyone use just one hand, find the person next to you and make a heart together. No one on either side, use both hands! We made a big heart at the game today, let's make little hearts now, fingers looped together! Yi Jing...come on, let's make one!"  

"Oh..." Yi Jing gave a helpless laugh and looped thumbs and forefingers with him into a heart.

"Queen Miao Miao, use both hands, can you make a heart?" Wang Xu was frantic.

Gu Miao held her tea cup leaning against Jiang Cheng, ignoring him completely.

"She can't," Gu Fei answered for Gu Miao, then held out his left hand in front of Jiang Cheng.

Jiang Cheng looked at him, looping his right forefinger and thumb together with Gu Fei's.

"Ready yet?" The server said. "I still need to serve food."

“Ready ready!” Everyone shouted.

“One, two...” The server lifted the camera.

“Class 8 rocks - ” Wang Xu yelled.

“Class 8 rocks -” Everyone yelled messily together.

After the pictures Jiang Cheng tugged his rumpled clothes, back damp with sweat.

Gu Fei rubbed his legs.

Jiang Cheng glanced at him. “So delicate.”

Gu Fei rubbed them a couple more times before laughing. “You're asking for it.”

“I heard you'll shut me up?” Jiang Cheng said.

“I heard you'll take me out with a rubber band?” Gu Fei said.

They grinned stupidly after.

"Come on!" Wang Xu shouted, interrupting their silly laughter. "The drinks are here, let's distribute them! Pour your own fruit juice, girls... Miao Miao, here's your beer!"

Wang Xu put a can of beer in front of Gu Miao. Without saying a word, Gu Miao stood up, grabbed the beer and took a big gulp.

"Oh my gosh," Wang Xu said in surprise, "is she really that thirsty?"

"Is it okay for a kid to drink like that?" Yi Jing asked worriedly in a low voice beside him.

"She'll probably stop after one can," Gu Fei said.

"So bold, this little girl," Yi Jing said admiringly.

"Come on!" After everyone poured their drinks, Wang Xu raised his glass, "Let me say a few words first! Thanks to everyone's hard work, we were able to achieve today's victory!"

"Ahhh!" Everyone clinked their glasses on the table together.

"Thank you, class president, for encouraging us and getting us free food and drinks with public funds," Wang Xu said. "Thank you, Da Fei, for participating in the competition and playing so freaking well! Thank you, Jiang Cheng! Although you just transferred to our class this semester, without your guidance during the competition, we wouldn't have been able to win so smoothly..."

"Drink up," Gu Fei tapped his glass.

"Cheers!" Wang Xu clinked glasses and drank down a cup in one go.

Then several other guys followed, drinking a whole cup in one gulp.

"Whoa," Jiang Cheng said softly. Although the cups weren't that big, they weren't particularly small either. "You all chug like that?"

"You don't have to," Gu Fei also finished a whole cup in one go. "Only Wang Xu and those other heavy drinkers do that. You southern people..."

"I'm not from the south," Jiang Cheng said.

"Everything south of here," Gu Fei gestured with his hand, "is all..."

"Jiang Cheng!" Wang Xu looked at him, holding a bottle of liquor. "You who claimed you can casually drink anything, what are you waiting for?"

Everyone looked over at him. Jiang Cheng was speechless. He had no choice but to raise his glass towards Wang Xu and say in a very low voice, "Cheers to you and your brainless head..."

Then he too poured the whole cup of liquor straight into his mouth.

After downing that one cup, the already excited boys became even more excited. Their voices were all trembling. The server opened the door and peeked in, "Oops, sorry, I thought you guys were fighting..."

"Let's eat!" Wang Xu waved his chopsticks.

With a group of excited people, eating hot pot was simply chaos - plates of meat went straight into the pot, then seven or eight pairs of chopsticks stirred it all up, and the meat was gone in no time.

Yi Jing placed a small plate of meat in front of Gu Miao, "Eat up, little sister."

Gu Miao continued eating with her head down, not forgetting to stand up and bow to Yi Jing.

Jiang Cheng ladled a bowl of soup and before he could set it down, Gu Miao reached for it. He placed the bowl in front of Gu Miao, then took Gu Miao's soup bowl and ladled soup for himself.

He had just sat down without drinking yet when Gu Fei pushed his own soup bowl over, "Please."

"Get it yourself," Jiang Cheng ignored him.

"Let me help you," Yi Jing said.

"No need," Gu Fei quickly grabbed the bowl and stood up, loudly ladling himself a full bowl of soup.

After sitting down, Jiang Cheng leaned back in his chair and laughed silently under the table at him.

"Drank too much?" Gu Fei glanced at him sideways.

"Ah, I did drink a bit recklessly," Jiang Cheng took a deep breath, holding in his laughter.

That cup of liquor was pretty strong. Comparing drinking prowess, he was clearly inferior to this group of people. Wang Xu's side was drinking exuberantly. Without Old Xu to rein them in, it was as if they were trying to prove their adulthood through drinking, each person drinking with an impressive air.

Jiang Cheng didn't have that ability. With just that one cup, he already felt his stomach burning merrily. Combined with the indoor heating, he felt like he was about to fall asleep.

"Hey," Gu Fei nudged him with his arm.

"Hm?" He turned his head, leaning against the wall to look at Gu Fei.

Gu Fei placed a candy in his palm, "Mint, it'll help sober you up."

Jiang Cheng looked at him for a moment. His mind suddenly went blank... Since when did his alcohol tolerance become so poor?

He grabbed Gu Fei's hand, along with the mint, and held on tightly.


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