Jiang Cheng hadn't been this picky with candy even when he was little. His family basically didn't let him eat candy or snacks or drink soda. He always felt like he was living an ascetic life, so much so that even now he didn't really like snacks, candy, and things like that. Whenever Pan Zhi ate something tasty, he would shove a bunch to Jiang Cheng.
Now Gu Fei put this handful of candy on his desk and let him pick for himself. He suddenly had a novel feeling.
Coffee candy, milk candy, mint candy, fruit candy...some were soft and some were hard. He stared at them for a good while before taking a milk candy.
Just as he unwrapped it, Gu Fei reached out and took away the rest.
"The fuck?" Jiang Cheng was dumbfounded. He remembered Gu Fei had said to "pick one yourself", not "they're all for you". His logic was airtight. Jiang Cheng had to admit defeat and couldn't help but look at him. "Are you that miserly? Will Wang Jianlin* hug your leg tomorrow?"
*T/N: A top businessman in China, known to be very stingy.
Gu Fei didn't make a sound. He looked down at the candy in his hand, picked out two more milk candies and put them in front of Jiang Cheng, then put the rest back in his pocket.
Jiang Cheng peeled all three milk candies at once and shoved them in his mouth. He really didn't know how else to express himself.
English Teacher Lu's classes were more effective at keeping people focused and quiet than Old Xu's, because he would yell at people. The classroom discipline was better than Old Xu's classes.
Although Jiang Cheng felt that none of today's teachers could compare to teachers from his previous school, Teacher Lu was very energetic for the whole class. If someone so much as scratched an itch, he would wave his teaching stick and ask if they wanted help scratching. Jiang Cheng hadn't been this attentive in class for a long time, the moment he zoned out, his spirit would be shocked back into place by him.
When the bell rang to end class, the classroom instantly became noisy, as if they had been holding it in the whole time. Some people even yawned loudly several times while stretching.
"You!" Teacher Lu suddenly pointed his teaching stick toward the back of the classroom. "Come with me for a bit."
The "you" and his pointing covered a wide area. Everyone played hot potato again with their gazes. When Jiang Cheng felt a wave of eyes on him, he didn't think much of it. He was a new transfer student, so the teacher didn't even know his name...
"Gu Fei!" Teacher Lu yelled again.
"...Oh," Gu Fei had been looking at his phone. At his shout, the phone fell to the floor. He glanced up at Teacher Lu, then tilted his head toward Jiang Cheng's side. "He means you."
"Huh?" Jiang Cheng was startled, "Me?"
"It's you! Gu Fei's deskmate!" Teacher Lu pointed his teaching stick at him again, and the heads under it quickly moved away.
Jiang Cheng had no choice but to stand up, not knowing what the English teacher wanted with him.
However, as he walked toward the classroom door, he glanced back at Wang Xu. The jerk had also stood up. If the teacher hadn't called Jiang Cheng away, they probably would have started fighting already.
"Your name's Jiang Cheng, right?" Teacher Lu turned and walked downstairs.
"Yes," Jiang Cheng followed him downstairs. "What do you need me for, Teacher?"
"Earlier your Head Teacher Xu boasted to me, said a true capital study god had come..." Teacher Lu said.
"What? Capital study god?" Jiang Cheng didn't understand.
"True. All caps. Study God." Teacher Lu looked at him and explained, "You don't even understand this?"
TRUE STUDY GOD.
"...I understand now." This was Jiang Cheng's first time hearing someone enunciate the capital letters.
"Our school used to be a regular high school, then changed to a vocational high school, and now changed back to a regular high," Teacher Lu said. "So we can't compare with your previous school. I hope it doesn't affect you, just keep studying the same way you did before.?"
"Oh," Jiang Cheng thought about how he used to study and felt the teacher probably didn't know him well enough.
"Those students like Wang Xu, Gu Fei and the sort, don't provoke them. They just muddle along, if I hadn't called you out here, he'd be looking to cause you trouble right now. He won't rest until he gives you some problems, he's already got a demerit on record."
"...Oh," Jiang Cheng nodded. He felt this Teacher Lu was quite concerned about the students.
"Aren't you going to thank me?" Teacher Lu looked somewhat dissatisfied at him.
"Thank you." Jiang Cheng said.
"Be the representative for my class, since your English grades are outstanding," Teacher Lu immediately said. "Your class rep right now is Yi Jing. She's the class president and also the Chinese class rep..."
"Hmm?" Jiang Cheng was startled, but quickly shook his head again. "No."
"Why not," Teacher Lu was a bit surprised. "Old Xu told me you were class president before. Being a class rep wouldn't be too tiring for you, right?"
"I was only class president for one semester before I stopped." Jiang Cheng said.
"Why?" Teacher Lu asked.
Jiang Cheng looked at him: "Fighting and cutting class."
Teacher Lu stared with eyes wide, mouth agape but no words came out.
"Can I go back to class now?" Jiang Cheng said.
"You...wait," Teacher Lu thought for a moment. "When you're free, help me make some class materials?"
Jiang Cheng sighed inwardly. He really wanted to say he didn't have a computer right now, but felt Teacher Lu was pretty nice and it would be bad to turn him down twice after already rejecting him once. So he nodded.
"Good," Teacher Lu smiled. "Go back to class."
"Fuck, gone so long," Wang Xu sat on Jiang Cheng's desk. "Is he hiding from me, huh? Think he can hide?"
"Teacher Lu probably had something to discuss with him." Zhou Jing said.
"Bullshit he had something to discuss! When have you ever seen Teacher Lu need to discuss something with someone! He just asked about his situation as a new transfer, then when he's done this coward didn't dare come back to class!" Wang Xu said.
"Are you going to settle this here?" Gu Fei, who had been quietly playing a mobile game, suddenly asked.
"No shit!" Wang Xu angrily combed his hair again with his fingers. "Fuck!"
Gu Fei put down his phone and glanced at him.
"...Then where else can we settle it." Wang Xu hesitated a little.
"I don't care," Gu Fei said. "Don't make trouble here, it's annoying."
"Or just forget it," Zhou Jing said. "You guys are even at one hit each."
"Fuck being even!" Wang Xu glared back at Zhou Jing.
"Either the sports field or off campus," Gu Fei went back to his game. "Don't do it next to me, it's annoying."
"He's back." Zhou Jing said.
Gu Fei glanced forward to see Jiang Cheng ambling back with his hands in his pockets, eyes on Wang Xu.
"Hiding from me, huh?" Wang Xu gave a cold laugh. "The bell hasn't rung yet, and you dared to come back?"
"Three things." Jiang Cheng said.
Wang Xu seemed to not understand what he was talking about.
"One, get down," Jiang Cheng held up a finger and spoke, then held up two fingers, "Two, whoever cast the first stone is the guilty party."
Just as Wang Xu regained his senses and was about to speak, Jiang Cheng cut him off by holding up three fingers: "Three, say directly how you want to resolve this. I'll admit defeat if you're just going to curse."
When he finished speaking, the classmates who had been waiting to watch the excitement fell completely silent.
Everyone was looking to see Wang Xu's reaction.
Gu Fei tilted his head back against the wall and gave a long whistle.
Based on his many years of experience as a melon-eater, Jiang Cheng's words and their forceful delivery had made Wang Xu's road to bosshood suddenly very blurred.
Wang Xu's expression was a bit complicated. Jiang Cheng couldn't tell what he was thinking, but he distinctly saw Wang Xu glance toward Gu Fei first.
Wang Xu was afraid of Gu Fei, or subconsciously treated Gu Fei as his backer.
Since seeing the Not a Good Bird combo at Gu Fei's shop, Jiang Cheng knew Gu Fei's seeming mild-mannered politeness and "none of my business" attitude were only pretense.
Pretending to be some carefree immortal.
"Meet me at noon after school ends," Wang Xu jumped off the desk and walked back to his seat, pointing at Jiang Cheng. "Don't run then."
"Mm." Jiang Cheng responded and sat down.
After thinking for a bit, he turned and asked Gu Fei: "Is he your class boss?"
Only now did he notice the sharp on Gu Fei's left ear was a thirty-second note with three dots.
"More or less." Gu Fei said.
"What do you mean more or less?" Jiang Cheng said.
"He'll fight whoever says he isn't." Gu Fei kept staring at his phone, fingers busy swiping.
Jiang Cheng saw he was surprisingly playing Candy Crush, a little time-killing game he would only play in middle school when he was bored with nothing else to do.
Gu Fei was either watching videos or fully invested in this game. What an idiot.
"You still play this?" Jiang Cheng couldn't help but say.
"Yeah, doesn't take much brain power," Gu Fei said. "I'm not a study god."
Jiang Cheng was already irritated from everything this morning. Hearing this, he nearly smashed a fist straight into the thirty-second note.
He didn't hit him for two reasons. One was that Gu Fei had helped him when he fainted. Two was that he'd just eaten Gu Fei's three candies...but was that really a reason?
"Being able to admit to your own water-filled brain is a kind of courage," he said. "You have my respect."
Gu Fei turned and stared at him. His expression was blank, but his tone was extremely annoying: "Do your best this afternoon, yo."
What goddamn 'yo', you giant yellow dog!
Jiang Cheng didn't pay much attention in the remaining classes. He felt indignant, and kept wanting to unblock his family and check in on them, even though he'd blocked all four.
The relationship was bad, the atmosphere tense, but that was the "family" and "home" he'd spent over a decade in, the "family members" etched into his memories that he saw every day. He couldn't easily discard these feelings.
But it seemed no one was affected at all by his absence, possibly a permanent goodbye... Or maybe they just didn't show it?
Sensing such calm made him feel more lost than being shut out of the home he'd lived in for over ten years.
He lay his head down on the desk, using his hat as a cushion, and closed his eyes. Forget it, he'd get some sleep. Although he wasn't picky, after coming here he hadn't gotten any proper rest.
Li Baoguo's old house not only had cockroaches and spiders but mice too. He could hear mice scurrying around all night, making him constantly feel like he was sleeping in a garbage dump.
No. 4 High's teachers were much more understanding than his previous school's teachers. He slept right through until the bell, without a single teacher coming to bother him.
Not until the end of last period's bell rang did Wang Xu slap the desk to wake him up. Only then did he give a big yawn and straighten up, his waist sore.
"Let's go." Wang Xu looked askance at him.
Jiang Cheng didn't speak, just shoved his books and notes into his desk, grabbed his bag, and stood up.
Wang Xu turned very coolly and walked toward the rear classroom door. If not for his down jacket and lack of wind, there definitely would have been a "wow, the big boss is coming" vibe.
Three to four people followed him, looking excited. They were probably his lackeys. The rest who wanted to watch the fun hadn't caught up yet.
"Hey." Jiang Cheng called out from behind him.
"What, chickened out?" Wang Xu immediately responded.
"Are they your teammates or cheerleaders?" Jiang Cheng asked.
Wang Xu looked at the people around him, then glared at Jiang Cheng. "What, you scared?"
"It's fine if they're cheerleaders," Jiang Cheng glanced at them and continued walking forward. "If you want to fight, sort out a queue number amongst yourselves first."
"Don't follow us." Wang Xu waved them off.
"Going to watch?" Zhou Jing nudged the desk.
Gu Fei was still playing Candy Crush, the game no study god would play. Not until he finished this round did he stand up. "Not going."
"Let's go watch, what if something happens?" Zhou Jing said.
"Even if something happens, what's it to me?" Gu Fei put his phone in his pocket and turned to leave.
When he got downstairs, Wang Xu's lackeys were peering toward the back door. Jiang Cheng and Wang Xu were nowhere to be seen.
"Da Fei..." Someone noticed him and sidled over.
"Shh," Gu Fei put a finger to his lips. "Don't bother me."
The elementary schoolers didn't have school yet today, so Gu Miao must have been waiting at the gate an hour ago. He didn't have time to watch Wang Xu get beat up.
That's right, he arbitrarily decided Wang Xu would definitely get beat if he fought Jiang Cheng.
Jiang Cheng's nonchalance was something Wang Xu lacked, and the dissatisfaction he was radiating, just dissatisfaction on top of dissatisfaction, could probably scare someone with trypophobia to death. If he wasn't dealing with some recent unhappy event, then this guy had long-term mental issues.
How could someone with a severe chuuni syndrome like Wang Xu possibly be a match for this mentally ill guy in a perpetual bad mood?
The moment he stepped out the school door, a green head swept past him like the wind, and "whoa"s rang out all around.
Gu Fei went to the parking area, got his bike, and had just mounted it when Gu Miao blew past him like the wind again. She grabbed a handful of candy from his pocket in the 2 seconds she stopped beside him.
When he rode to the intersection, Gu Miao was standing at the roadside unwrapping candy, picking out all the fruit candies.
"Want me to take you home, or are you following me?" Gu Fei asked, braking the bike.
Gu Miao hugged her skateboard, about to get on the back when he stopped her with one hand and pinched her chin to look at the scrape by her eye. "That from falling or fighting?"
"Falling." Gu Miao said.
"Get on." Gu Fei didn't ask further.
Gu Miao got on the back holding her skateboard and hugged his waist.
Whether it was from falling or fighting someone, this stubborn girl would insist on handling it herself and taking the hits she got.
"Let me buy you those gloves you wanted," Gu Fei pedaled. "Those little leather gloves?"
Gu Miao quickly took off her dirty down gloves, thumbs up.
The back gate area of No. 4 High was more bustling than the front. Quite strange.
Probably because the back gate side was a small street with looser management, and all kinds of umbrella-covered stalls lined up, mainly food stalls, very lively.
Following Wang Xu through the tempting smells, Jiang Cheng almost said why don't we eat something first...
But Wang Xu looked furious, eyes resolute, so he didn't speak up. He was afraid the guy would cry from anger.
He'd just treat it as sightseeing for now and come back to eat later.
There was a lot he wanted to eat, all kinds of grilled foods, beef, lamb, pork belly, tripe.
Jiang Cheng swallowed.
After they left the small street, the aromas also disappeared. He didn't know where Wang Xu intended to go at all.
"Are we hiking somewhere?" he asked irritably, hungry.
Wang Xu ignored him, but after walking forward a few more steps he suddenly stopped, frowning at what was ahead.
Jiang Cheng looked ahead.
A few meters away, three people stood by the roadside looking their way, hands in pockets. After he and Wang Xu looked over, they slowly walked toward them.
Wang Xu's hand went into his pocket.
"What's up?" The tallest and thinnest opposite them smiled. "Gonna call Gu Fei? He just went home with his sister, probably won't bother with your business."
"What do you want!" Wang Xu asked impatiently in a gruff voice.
"Oh," The tall thin one exaggeratedly acted shocked. "So tough today, not running away?"
He glanced at Jiang Cheng again: "New buddy? He must be awesome for you to not run away."
"You used to run away in a gust of wind." Another person behind the tall one laughed.
The tall thin one mocked them: "Or how about I count to three and you guys..."
Jiang Cheng punched him straight in the nose, interrupting him and stunning both sides.
He didn't stop, because for things like this, speed was key.
After punching him, he grabbed the skinny guy's head with his hat and hair and yanked it down, then kneed him in the nose again.
The force of the two blows wasn't too great. Based on Jiang Cheng's experience, the nose bone wouldn't be hurt, but blood would certainly gush out, creating a ketchup-smeared mess all over his face.
Sure enough, when he let go and shoved the skinny guy away roughly, blood poured from his nose, and he reflexively wiped it away...
Jiang Cheng glanced at Wang Xu, then rammed his shoulder into the arm of another guy who seemed to be reaching for a knife. He followed up by headbutting the guy's nose.
That man let out an "Ow!" and covered his nose.
"Run, dumbass!" Jiang Cheng yelled at Wang Xu, then took off running forward.
Wang Xu was stunned for a moment before hurrying to catch up.
"This way," Wang Xu pointed left when they got to the intersection.
Jiang Cheng followed his zigzagging lead through a side alley, taking two more turns before stopping in a small open space formed by the back walls of several houses' courtyards.
"What is this place?" Jiang Cheng looked around. It was a dead end, surrounded on three sides by other people's walls, dilapidated, with piles of snow and fallen branches and all kinds of garbage strewn on the ground.
"This is..." Wang Xu caught his breath, "where I meet people to fight."
"You've got unique taste," Jiang Cheng said.
"Um," Wang Xu looked at him, hesitating for a long while before saying, "thanks for just now."
"Why are you thanking me," Jiang Cheng took out a cigarette and lit it, holding it in his mouth, "I didn't do it to help you."
Wang Xu stared at him: "Fuck, are you really a top student?"
"Let's get this resolved," Jiang Cheng checked the time, "I'm hungry, hurry up and finish this so I can go eat."
"It's resolved," Wang Xu sat down on a nearby three-legged chair that was as tattered as a prop from a haunted house, "we don't have any issues anymore."
Jiang Cheng clicked his tongue. "Then I'm leaving."
"Wait," Wang Xu stopped him, "Monkey and the others are definitely still around here somewhere. There's a lot of them, we'll run into them if we go out."
Jiang Cheng didn't say anything.
"Really, there were just three that we saw earlier. If you run into them again after beating Monkey's face bloody, it definitely won't be just three people. I'm...calling someone over to help." Wang Xu took out his phone.
Jiang Cheng frowned, remembering the skinny guy's words from earlier, and asked, "Who are you calling?"
"Da Fei," Wang Xu said.
"What the fuck? Gu Fei?" Jiang Cheng immediately felt like he was losing his dignity, and his face was falling in pieces to the floor.