Chapter 42 - Chapter 42

Jiang Cheng's grip was quite strong, especially in this state of being a little out of control after being heated up by the alcohol and atmosphere. Gu Fei's palm joints were squeezed together painfully, and the mint hard candy in his palm felt like a small stone rubbing against him.

Gu Fei glanced at Yi Jing. Yi Jing was being pulled aside by Wang Xu to chat while everyone else was eating, drinking and talking enthusiastically. No one noticed what was happening over here. It seemed like Jiang Cheng was determined to crush Gu Fei's hand.

"What's wrong?" Gu Fei asked in a low voice.

Jiang Cheng didn't speak, just leaned against the wall looking at him while still gripping his hand tightly.

Gu Fei held his gaze for a while before turning his head away to stare blankly at the table of food.

He wasn't left-handed. He needed to use his right hand to eat. But Jiang Cheng showed no intention of letting go. Gu Fei could only remain silent as he looked at the food on the table.

He could feel that Jiang Cheng had lost control for a moment at first, but it only lasted a few seconds before he came back to his senses.

Gripping his hand so tightly now, he was awkward, confused, but also unwilling to suddenly let go and seem oversensitive. For someone with Jiang Cheng's sensitive and complicated thoughts, facing this situation now, the twists and turns in his brain were probably being smoothed out.

Gu Fei used his left hand to pick up a soup bowl and took a sip. This was the lamb tripe soup that Wang Xu had ordered specially. The taste was pretty good.

"This soup is not bad," Gu Fei said, turning to Jiang Cheng.

"Oh," Jiang Cheng responded and loosened his grip a little.

"Want to try it?" Gu Fei asked, lightly tapping Jiang Cheng's hand back with his thumb.

"Lamb tripe?" Jiang Cheng asked as he finally let go of Gu Fei's hand.

"Yes," Gu Fei withdrew his hand and after a moment's hesitation, placed the mint candy that was still in his palm into Jiang Cheng's hand.

"I actually don't like lamb tripe soup," Jiang Cheng said softly. This time he didn't grab Gu Fei's hand again, just accepted the candy and slowly unwrapped it under the table. "I like lamb soup, lamb bone soup, lamb cartilage soup, pork tripe soup..."

"You're making me hungry," Gu Fei said as he picked up his chopsticks and put a piece of lamb tripe in his mouth.

"Me too," Jiang Cheng threw the candy into his mouth. After holding it for two seconds, he suddenly whipped his head around, "This isn't one of those weird flavor changing candies, right?"

"No, did you like that one? That was a prank candy my friend brought back from Japan. I still have a whole package left," Gu Fei said with a laugh.

"Give me a couple, two or three is enough," Jiang Cheng nodded. That candy matched perfectly with his and Pan Zhi's moronic style when they were together.

"I'll bring it for you on Monday," Gu Fei said. "Oh right, we have a self-reflection on Monday."

"'s written already." Jiang Cheng sighed.

When a big group eats together, especially guys like them, they would usually finish eating within 20 minutes because everyone scrambles for the food as if they hadn't seen meat after being locked up in a cabbage garden for ten or eight years.

After eating their fill, they would slowly start drinking and bragging.

Jiang Cheng didn't join in the conversation, just listened from the side.

In the past, get-togethers with classmates had a similar flow. There was also a segment for bragging, but the level was far below that of Class 8 here. Jiang Cheng kept feeling like laughing. At least the few girls were still quite enthusiastic, humoring them.

"Jiang Cheng!" At some point after finishing his own bragging, Wang Xu suddenly stood up and thrust his cup towards Jiang Cheng. "Have a drink with your brother!"

"Huh?" Jiang Cheng was startled.

"Let me make a toast to you," Wang Xu had drunk quite a lot, his face was flushed as he swayed and shone brightly. "To our secret weapon!"

"It's not a secret anymore..." Jiang Cheng looked at Wang Xu's expression that said he would definitely force Jiang Cheng to drink if he didn't do it voluntarily. Jiang Cheng picked up his own cup and also stood up. "We're all on the same team, no need to make it seem so grand."

"You're not as adept at drinking as you are at playing ball!" Wang Xu pointed at him.

Jiang Cheng was at a loss for words. He clinked his cup against Wang Xu's, then tilted his head back and downed the alcohol.

"Refreshing!" Wang Xu happily roared and also drank his cup in one go. "Love you!"

"...No need for love," Jiang Cheng sat back down helplessly.

"There's always a need!" Wang Xu tossed his cup very dashingly and waved his arm. "From now on, Brother Xu will cover you..."

"Sit down," Gu Fei pushed Wang Xu's arm that was still raised above his head aside and wiped the alcohol foam splashed on his face.

"Da Fei!" It was as if Wang Xu had discovered a new continent. As he poured himself more alcohol, he shouted, "Let's..."

Gu Fei didn't let him finish speaking or drinking. He stood up, drank a cup of alcohol in one go, then grabbed Wang Xu's arm, "You sit down and eat something."

"Oh!" Wang Xu looked at him, his eyes filled with muddled excitement.

"Don't let him drink anymore," Gu Fei glanced at Yi Jing who kept trying to shrink away, "How will we get him home later if he passes out."

Yi Jing smiled helplessly, "He doesn't listen to me either."

"He does," Gu Fei said.

"Listen!" Wang Xu immediately nodded. "I'll listen!"

Gu Fei ignored him and squeezed out from Jiang Cheng's side.

"Where are you going?" Jiang Cheng asked.

"Wash my face," Gu Fei said. "And grab some fruit for Er Miao to eat."

"Mm," Jiang Cheng looked at Gu Miao who was already asleep leaning against a chair. "Been sleeping for a while now..."

"It's time for her to sleep." Gu Fei put on his coat and squeezed out of the room with great difficulty.

The room was still noisy with laughter, shouting, and eating. The alcohol bottles were all empty. Yi Jing had stopped them from ordering more alcohol.

Jiang Cheng was still in his usual position leaning against the wall with his arms crossed, watching this group of red-faced, laughing people. The atmosphere didn't change but as he watched Gu Fei's back leaving the room, he suddenly felt a little cold.

Probably because he had been squeezing together with Gu Fei earlier, arms and legs touching... Oh right, and held his hand too.

He felt his state today was quite strange. Recalling the scene of grabbing Gu Fei's hand, he didn't plunge into embarrassment for long. In fact, he even felt strangely smug for no reason.

What was there to be smug about? He didn't know. A teenager's mind worked mysteriously. Suddenly becoming shameless!

It was probably because of the alcohol. It wasn't that he had low tolerance. It was just hard getting used to drinking like taking shots.

After each time being forced to drink like this, he would have a feeling like walking on clouds and being high. Last time after drinking, he had kissed someone. This time he had grabbed someone's hand and refused to let go, acting like a drunken pervert.

But this time, the shock and embarrassment he felt over his own actions didn't last long. For example, now when he recalled it... he just wanted to laugh.

It was too frightening how a person's shamelessness could be trained up so easily.

Gu Fei had been gone for a long time without returning to the room. Jiang Cheng had no choice but to stand up. He wanted to use the bathroom. He had wanted to go earlier but felt it was inappropriate to follow Gu Fei since he was just washing his face.

He really couldn't hold it anymore now. He stood up and squeezed out of the room.

"Jiang Cheng!" As soon as he squeezed to the door, Wang Xu shouted in his ear, "Where are you going!"

Jiang Cheng was already a little dizzy and was startled by the shout. He almost smashed his head into the door. He turned around to see Wang Xu's nose bright red, his eyes shining with excitement.

"Bathroom." He patted Wang Xu's arm and went out the door.

"Hurry back!" Wang Xu stuck his head out the door and shouted. "We haven't had a drink yet!"

"Oh," Jiang Cheng waved his hand.

Looks like the "northerners'" alcohol capacity wasn't much better. They were all drunk and the alcohol was gone. What was there left to drink?

He didn't run into Gu Fei in the bathroom. He had probably gone to get fruit for Gu Miao.

Jiang Cheng had just finished washing his hands and was about to head out when his phone rang. He took it out and was surprised to see it was Shen Yiqing's number.

He stared at the number for a long time before finally answering.

"Xiao Cheng?" Shen Yiqing's voice came through.

Although he felt some resistance, after such a long time, his emotions had faded quite a bit. But upon hearing this voice, Jiang Cheng still felt that sense of familiarity this always serious, composed and restrained voice gave him probably could never be erased.

"Oh," he responded.

"Are you at home?" Shen Yiqing asked.

"No," Jiang Cheng turned off the faucet and headed out while taking out a cigarette to light up. He stood by the corridor window. "Out eating."

"Are you smoking?" Shen Yiqing asked again.

"Mm," Jiang Cheng leaned against the wall looking outside. He suddenly felt very refreshed.

Shen Yiqing didn't speak. After a while, she said in a cold voice, "You really manage to maintain your identity no matter where you are."

"Mm, it's not that I insist on maintaining it. I'm just this kind of person, aren't I," Jiang Cheng frowned. "Did you call just to ask this?"

"Li Baoguo called me saying he needed money," Shen Yiqing said. "School fees, meal fees and such..."

"He called you?" Jiang Cheng was shocked.

He never imagined Li Baoguo would call Shen Yiqing for money. The sudden intense shame doused over him, leaving him almost breathless.

"I felt that those expenses should be paid by the parents, so I didn't agree," Shen Yiqing said. "There should still be money in the card I gave you, right?"

"There is," Jiang Cheng gritted his teeth.  

"That money is for you. Although we're no longer family, there are still feelings," Shen Yiqing said. "I hope you can use that money well."

"I got it," Jiang Cheng took a fierce drag from his cigarette.

"I just wanted to say that. I'll hang up now," Shen Yiqing said.

"Mm," Jiang Cheng closed his eyes. The rising smoke stung his eyes.

"I still want to say one more thing," Shen Yiqing suddenly spoke again. "I hope that in your new environment you can recognize your own problems. Don't always feel like your rebellious stage hasn't passed. Grades don't prove anything. It's personality and temperament that determines the path beneath your feet..."

"Don't fucking lecture me," Jiang Cheng opened his eyes, his voice hoarse. "I've had enough of listening. It's already proven your lectures are useless for someone like me! I'm not your twin! We're not on the same frequency! It's always been this way! What I hear from you is lecturing! What you hear from me is provocation! I'm already home now! Is it still not over?!"

Jiang Cheng had shouted out that last sentence.

After shouting, he hung up the phone and glared at the wall for a long time before shoving his phone back in his pocket. He turned around, closed his eyes and leaned back heavily against the wall, taking several deep breaths before finally calming down and opening his eyes again.

As soon as he opened them, he saw Gu Fei holding a large fruit platter standing about two steps away.

He stared at Gu Fei, not knowing what to say.

"Want some?" Gu Fei held out the fruit platter. "Just got the server to cut it up."

Jiang Cheng took a piece of watermelon, "Eating out of season fruit makes you stupid."

"Then will you eat it?" Gu Fei put the fruit platter on a small table nearby and also took a piece of watermelon.

"I'm too smart," Jiang Cheng said. "Eating a few pieces will bring me closer to the average line, striving to match up with my dear dad, Li Baoguo."

"Li Baoguo isn't that stupid either, he's pretty good at counting cards," Gu Fei said with a laugh.

"Pretty good at asking for money too," Jiang Cheng immediately felt stifled again after saying this. He felt like the scolding he had just unleashed at Shen Yiqing had lost all basis and position because Li Baoguo had gone asking for money. He fiercely bit into the watermelon. "Fuck."

"You eat watermelon with the skin on?" Gu Fei looked at him in surprise.

"Shut up!" Jiang Cheng spat the chewed up watermelon skin into the nearby trash can. "Us city folks eat it this way."

"Got it," Gu Fei said with a laugh as he continued eating.

Jiang Cheng felt a little stifled now. He felt his emotions really were quite unstable and easily influenced. The little bit of good mood built up over this happy, relaxed night was entirely destroyed by just one phone call.

He didn't even want to return to the room now. That room full of people who had made him happy earlier could now possibly become the source of his irritation.

Gu Fei didn't say much either and didn't seem to be in a hurry to return to the room. The two of them just stood there by the corridor table eating the fruit platter.

Watermelon, orange, cherry tomatoes... After eating a bellyful of meat, some fruit now was just right to relieve the grease.

It wasn't until they had finished the entire platter that he raised his head to glance at Gu Fei.

"We finished Queen Miao Miao's fruit," Jiang Cheng wiped his mouth.

"Mm, I'll go cut another platter for her later," Gu Fei said.

"Did you hear some more incredible secrets just now?" Jiang Cheng looked at him. His body that had been hot and flushed from the alcohol and heating earlier was gradually neutralized by the cold fruit.

"Wouldn't call it an incredible secret. I already knew about you being sent back to live... Just now, was that your adoptive mother?" Gu Fei asked.

"Yes," Jiang Cheng nodded. His fingers scratched at the empty fruit platter, slowly drawing musical notes in the remaining water. "Li Baoguo asked her for money."

Gu Fei's eyebrows ticked up in surprise but he didn't say anything.

"Gu Fei," Jiang Cheng hastily smeared away the music notes he had drawn. "Have you ever felt especially vexed before? How did you resolve it? You seem pretty nonchalant, doesn't look like an act."

"Drink some alcohol, sleep it off," Gu Fei said.

"Does it work?" Jiang Cheng frowned.

"It doesn't work," Gu Fei said.  

"Are you messing with me?" Jiang Cheng looked at him.

"What solutions could there be? Once you get used to it, it's fine," Gu Fei said. "So many problems, can't get irritated over every single one."

The two were still standing in the corridor with no intention of moving. They blankly stared at the empty fruit platter.

After a while, Jiang Cheng heard the sound of a skateboard.

"Hm?" Gu Fei looked back.

"Gu Miao?" Jiang Cheng looked up to see Gu Miao hugging their clothes and schoolbags, skating over from the direction of the room.

"Oh! Miao Miao, go slowly! Your brother..." Wang Xu rushed out in a fluster holding their coats, looking relieved when he saw Gu Fei and Jiang Cheng standing in the corridor. "Fuck! I thought you two eloped! Let's go, let's go!"

"Leaving?" Gu Fei asked.

"Leave what leaving," Wang Xu said as he put on his coat. "Changing locations! Going to sing!"

"I'm not going," Jiang Cheng quickly said softly.

Gu Fei glanced at him and nodded at Wang Xu, "Alright, let's go."

Everyone else came out from the room, full of chatter and laughter.

Once they were out of the restaurant, the group immediately headed across the street. Judging by how familiar Wang Xu was, he had probably picked this place too.

Jiang Cheng walked at the back. After everyone else had gone over, he saw Gu Fei and Gu Miao still standing by the roadside.

“What’s up?” Jiang Cheng asked.

“Didn’t you say you weren’t going?” Gu Fei said.

“...I said I wasn't going,” Jiang Cheng was confused for a bit. “If you want to go then go, no need to keep me company.”

“Not going, I need to get Er Miao home to sleep,” Gu Fei ruffled Gu Miao’s head. “If you weren't here today I wouldn't have come to eat either.”

“Why not,” Jiang Cheng asked.

“No fun,” Gu Fei stretched lazily after speaking, pushing his bike to a taxi and calling out. “Let’s go Brother Cheng.”

Gu Miao was sleepy. Gu Fei didn't make her skate back, just tossed the bike in the trunk and got into the cab.

“You're going...” Jiang Cheng hesitated the whole way until he saw a street sign. “Straight home?”

“Where do you want to go?” Gu Fei asked.

“I don't know,” Jiang Cheng rubbed his forehead. “Just don't want to go back to Li Baoguo's.”

“Mm,” Gu Fei grunted agreement.

The car stopped at the door of Gu Fei's shop. The lights were still on in the shop, and Jiang Cheng saw Gu Fei's mother was still inside even though it was past nine o'clock. This was the first time he had seen her stay in the shop so late.

"Wait a little for me," Gu Fei said.

"Okay," Jiang Cheng watched as he brought Gu Miao into the shop and handed her to his mother, then walked around the shelves a few times before coming out with a large plastic bag filled with many things.

"What's all that?" Jiang Cheng asked.  

"Things to eat, peanuts, beef jerky and things like that," Gu Fei answered, turning around and walking forward.

"Where are we going?" Jiang Cheng caught up and walked alongside him.

"The steel factory," Gu Fei glanced at him, "You didn't want to go back right?"

Jiang Cheng didn't speak, just gave him a thumbs up.

It looked like someone had been at the small hut at the steel factory in the past couple days, it was cleaned up pretty well. Even the cloth covering the broken legged sofa had been replaced.

"Li Yan is so diligent," Gu Fei put the things on the table and skillfully started a fire in the stove in the middle, "Basically everything in this hut is tidied up by him."

"He doesn't look diligent at all," Jiang Cheng flopped down on the sofa and let out a long sigh, feeling strangely relaxed and unrestrained. "What snacks did you bring? Let me see."

Gu Fei pushed the bag next to him.

In addition to various peanuts and beef jerky, there was also chicken and fish, even ham sausage and instant noodles. The bag was filled to the brim. Jiang Cheng laughed, "This is enough to drink with until tomorrow morning."

"You can still drink?" Gu Fei turned around.

"Don't stereotype us southerners," Jiang Cheng took a pack of peanuts, opened it, and slowly chewed one. "We southerners just drink slower. I'm a fashionable city southerner, so I drink even slower..."

Gu Fei laughed, "Let me see if there's any alcohol left."

"If not, go back to the shop and get some," Jiang Cheng lit a cigarette.

"Yes boss," Gu Fei picked up a few boxes by the wall and rummaged through them, taking out two bottles of liquor. "Hongxin Erguotou, these people have been changing their tastes lately."

"It's all Erguotou anyway, country bumpkin," Jiang Cheng lay back with his legs stretched out, cigarette dangling.

"Should I pour for you too?" Gu Fei looked at him.

"Yeah," Jiang Cheng said, "I don't feel like moving, not in the mood."

"Remember this moment, Brother Cheng," Gu Fei kicked a small table over to him and poured the liquor, placing it in front of him. He took some disposable plates and poured out some of the snacks from the bag onto them, arranging everything on the table. "Other than Er Miao, I've never served anyone like this before."

"Didn't you serve pretty attentively last time we were here grilling?" Jiang Cheng smiled.

"Then let's start remembering from last time," Gu Fei sat down next to him.

"Oh," Jiang Cheng took a sip from the cup. "Really?"

"Really," Gu Fei slowly tore off a piece of beef jerky.

"That's hard to believe. Haven't you ever had a girl...boy... boyfriend or anything?" Jiang Cheng asked.

"No," Gu Fei said.  

"...Oh." Jiang Cheng turned to look at him.

He silently mourned for three seconds the conversation that could no longer continue due to him suddenly asking a question containing inherent awkwardness.


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