"I'm so full." Under the dim lights of the noodle shop, Cheng Chu put down her big bowl and squinted in satisfaction.
Her porcelain-like cheeks were flushed from the heat, and her lips were moist and glistening, indescribably alluring.
Gu Miao's hand trembled as he held his chopsticks. He pursed his lips and pulled out a tissue from the side, handing it to the girl.
Cheng Chu took it, wiped her mouth, and propped her hand up to look at the gloomy sky outside.
Her always sparkling peach blossom eyes seemed to blend into the clouds, dimming a bit.
"Are you, unhappy today?" Gu Miao hesitated for a moment, then put down his chopsticks and asked.
She wasn't as lively as usual today, and her smile was less frequent.
"No." Cheng Chu lowered her gaze, her eyelashes fluttering like butterfly wings.
Without pressing further, Gu Miao stood up and went to the cashier to pay.
"Let's go," he said to the girl who was still looking down. "I'll, take you out, for a walk."
They left the noodle shop and stepped into the night, the bustling city now quiet and serene. Gu Miao sat on his bike, looking thin but exuding a sense of calm. Cheng Chu sat on the backseat, grabbing onto his coat. It was made of soft material that felt like feathers.
After a few beats, she asked, "Where are we going?"
Gu Miao's body stiffened like a rock, and he trembled as he spoke, "Wherever you want to go."
"I don't know," Cheng Chu couldn't help but adjust the hem of her coat, feeling the soft fabric under her fingers. "You decide."
The night wind in the coastal city was cold and biting, but the slender figure of the young man in front of her was like a wall, shielding Cheng Chu from most of the chill.
Occasionally, a gust of wind would sneak in, lifting the stray hairs on her cheek.
Amidst the howling wind, she heard the young man's hoarse voice, barely containing his emotions. "Hold on tight, we're almost there."
Cheng Chu obediently tightened her grip on the handlebars.
The cold wind blew against Gu Miao's face, his forehead covered in sweat, while his cheeks were frozen like ice.
But a surge of heat rose from his waist, spreading throughout his body, making him unable to resist the urge to pedal faster.
After a moment, they arrived at the mall and the young man spoke in a low voice, "We're here." Cheng Chu stared at the bustling shopping mall in front of her, feeling a bit stunned as she got out of the car.
Is he really taking her shopping?
The young man led her into the mall and up to the second floor, where they finally stopped in front of the entrance to a game arcade.
"Want to play some games?" he asked, his eyes downcast. The clean marble tiles of the mall reflected his nervousness.
While working at a bubble tea shop, he had heard a coworker talk about a game arcade in this mall. He had promised himself that he would bring his girlfriend here to play once he found one.
The thought made his ears turn red again.
Was he being shameless by bringing her to this romantic date spot?
Would she think he had ulterior motives?
A sense of panic rose in Gu Miao's heart. He clutched his hands tightly at his sides and dared not look up at her.
"If you don't want to play, we can..." his tone was low.
"Okay, let's go inside."
The words "go back" were already at the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed them down.
The girl's voice was calm, with a hint of cheerfulness.
There was not a hint of displeasure.
Gu Miao breathed a sigh of relief, his clenched hand finally loosened, and he finally mustered the courage to look up.
The mall was filled with a strong fragrance, but Gu Miao only smelled the girl's light fragrance, which seemed to carry a hint of winter chill, refreshing his heart.
Her clear eyes shone with light, and she looked straight at him. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing, nothing." Gu Miao's heart was beating fast, and he couldn't help but stutter, "I, I'm going to change some coins."
He was flustered and didn't even know he was fumbling with his hands and feet. Cheng Chu watched his somewhat comical figure disappear and all her frustration vanished, unable to help but laugh out loud.
Luckily, the noisy sound effects in the arcade drowned out her laughter, and the boy didn't hear it.
Before long, he came back with a pile of game coins in his arms.
"What should we play first?" Cheng Chu picked two game coins and asked.
Gu Miao shook his head.
He had never been to a place like this before.
As a young man, he had already tasted the bitterness of life.
While the boys in school were playing basketball, video games, and discussing the latest sneakers, he was riding his old bike, braving the cold winds of the city, just for a job that paid ten yuan an hour.
He had cooked noodles, handed out flyers, washed dishes, and even carried bricks on construction sites.
But he had never played a game.
Cheng Chu looked at the handsome profile of the young man, his high nose bridge still supporting the old black-framed glasses, giving off a strong scholarly vibe.
He must have never been to a place like this, working so hard on his studies and part-time job.
Cheng Chu sighed, hiding the bitterness in her heart. "Let's go play that one first."
The young man followed her pointed direction and saw the two-person dance machine.
The lights in the arcade were chaotic, and the two people in front of the machine were dancing wildly. They were obviously experienced, stepping on the buttons with precision and their dance moves were cool and stylish.
Gu Miao clenched his fingers and instinctively wanted to refuse, but seeing the girl's shining eyes full of anticipation, he couldn't bring himself to say no.
He tightly pursed his lips, his expression showing his dilemma.
"Wow, that guy on the dance machine is so cool!" The guy in the black hoodie and backwards cap spun around at the end of the song, and Cheng Chu couldn't help but admire him.
"Okay, let's go play," Gu Miao's dark eyes were fixed on the two guys who had just stepped off the dance machine in the distance, and he answered without hesitation.
He didn't seem at all bothered like he had been a moment ago when he was biting his lip.
Cheng Chu was surprised by how readily he agreed, and couldn't help but look back at him.
Amidst the noisy music, the young man stood tall like a small poplar tree, and his dark eyes gradually lit up with a fierce determination.
"Great, let's go! We can even be dance partners," Cheng Chu happily walked forward.
The dance machine was located in the center of the arcade, and there were always people gathered around to watch.
The two boys had just finished playing their game, taking off their hats and casually wiping the sweat off their foreheads.
They looked extremely handsome.
A nearby girl let out a restrained gasp of admiration.
A few bold individuals even approached them, stuttering as they asked for their WeChat accounts.
The two politely declined, took a few deep breaths, and were about to turn around and continue playing when they noticed two people standing on the dance machine.
The girl was very pretty, the kind that could be spotted in a crowd. The boy, on the other hand, was a bit lacking.
Although he was tall and had a handsome face, he wore a pair of dull black-framed glasses, giving him a nerdy appearance.
The prelude music was quite rhythmic.
Cheng Chu swayed slightly to the beat of the music, glancing at Gu Miao.
Gu Miao stood there, dazed, his feet seemingly glued to the ground, not moving at all.
"You need to move a little, like me," Cheng Chu couldn't help but whisper.
Gu Miao mechanically waved his hand, looking like a robot in a bank lobby.
His pale face turned slightly red with embarrassment, his thin lips tightly pursed, but he stubbornly moved his hands and tentatively stretched out his feet, stepping on the button in the upper left corner of the screen.
Clumsy yet adorable.
The gradually increasing music drowned out the laughter of the people around them.
Cheng Chu couldn't help but look at Gu Miao.
In the cool music, the usually cold and silent young man blushed and awkwardly stretched out his foot, taking a step back.
The flashing lights reflected on his cool face, as if he couldn't feel the mocking gazes of those around him. His pitch-black eyes were faintly shining.
Cheng Chu couldn't help but laugh. The music gradually stopped, and the little figure on the screen jumped and displayed a score.
Surprisingly, it was two points higher than the 94 from the previous two players.
The machine's small opening at the bottom spit out many prize tickets.
Cheng Chu squatted down excitedly, stacked the tickets neatly, and turned around to show the boy behind her: "Look, so many."
The small prize tickets stacked together were as thick as a thumb, and the girl looked up with a clear voice full of joy, like a lark jumping on a branch in spring.
Even the dazzling lights in the game hall were all reflected in her eyes.
It was so beautiful.
"Mm." Gu Miao nodded, still panting, with sweat on his forehead and his Adam's apple rolling up and down. "Wait, we can, exchange for gifts."
He lowered his eyes slightly and looked at the girl's smiling face, feeling that even the ridiculous dance just now was so worth it.
As long as she's happy, anything goes.
The two boys watching on the side were stunned.
How could this robot's score be higher than theirs? Although the girl's dance was pretty good, this was just unfair.
Cheng Chu held a small basket of game coins, feeling more and more playful. She turned to Gu Miao and said, "Let's go play the claw machine."
"Okay," Gu Miao replied decisively.
Playing the claw machine was much easier than dancing.
The girl, already happy from his response, walked ahead while Gu Miao gathered his thoughts and hurried to catch up.
As they passed by the two boys, Gu Miao paused for a moment and casually glanced at them.
'Not that handsome,' he thought to himself.
"Hurry up, Gu Miao!" Cheng Chu arrived at the claw machine area and saw Gu Miao not far away, staring at two passersby. Unable to resist, she called out to him.
"I'm here." Gu Miao's lips curled slightly as he walked towards the girl.
Perhaps the most attractive thing for teenage girls in the arcade was the row of claw machines in front of them.
Various types of dolls were piled together, each machine with a different theme.
Cheng Chu's eyes wandered, looking and looking until she finally chose a machine with Doraemon as the theme.
She stuck to the transparent glass, looking and looking until she finally set her sights on her target - a Doraemon doll in the middle, holding a taiyaki.
After inserting two game coins and moving the claw over the target, she eagerly pressed the confirmation button. The silver claw reached straight for its target, but the next second it slipped away like it had no bones.
Cheng Chu was unwilling to give up. The doll was already halfway in the claw!
She tried a few more times, but all ended in failure.
Beside her, Gu Miao watched the gradually disheartened girl and tentatively said, "How about I try?"
"Sure." Cheng Chu handed him a small basket of game coins.
"Which one do you want, the one in the middle?" Gu Miao asked.
Cheng Chu nodded and pointed, instructing, "The one holding the taiyaki."
"Got it." Gu Miao agreed.
He first moved the claw above the target, then gently swayed it, his eyes fixed on the prize. When he found the opportunity, he pressed the confirmation button with a "snap."
In an instant, the boneless claw machine seemed to come to life.
Not only did it grab the doll, but it also flung it out with great force towards the exit.
"Wow, that was amazing!" Cheng Chu held the doll close to her chest and looked up at him with starry eyes full of admiration.
Her naked adoration was reflected in Gu Miao's eyes. The intense gaze burned into his heart, causing him to feel embarrassed as he lowered his eyes. His black lashes trembled uncontrollably.
"Um, do you want another one?" The redness that had just faded from his ears returned, and he nervously stuttered.
"The one with the bamboo dragonfly on its head," Cheng Chu blinked her starry eyes and looked up at him with a face full of longing.
Gu Miao's heart felt like it had just collapsed. He wished he could empty the entire claw machine for her right now. He steadied his trembling heart and focused on analyzing the movements of each doll.
Before long, the doll machine was almost half empty.
Cheng Chu could barely hold all the dolls in her hands, so she asked the staff for a bag and carefully placed the dolls inside.
"Want another one?" A smile spread across Gu Miao's face as he looked at the satisfied girl, feeling the humiliation he had just experienced at the dance machine disappear in an instant.
Gu Miao pointed to a giant doll machine in the distance and said, "How about that one?"
Cheng Chu followed his gaze and saw a huge doll machine in the distance.
Several fluffy and round bears were lying peacefully inside, and the clamps hanging from the top were shining silver under the lights.
"That one is too big, I don't think I can carry it home."
The staff who had just handed the bag to Cheng Chu overheard and they kindly explained, "That's our top-level claw machine in the arcade. If you manage to catch something, we can deliver it to your home for free."
"How great!" Cheng Chu's eyes lit up again. "Let's go, let's go."
"But it costs 20 game coins to play once," the staff said.
Cheng Chu looked down at the small box with only half of her game coins left. She counted them and realized she only had enough for one play.
"Are we going?" she asked Gu Miao, lifting her gaze.
The young man's eyes seemed to ignite with a flame, and a dazzling light filled them. "Let's go," he said.
The two strode towards the top-level claw machine.
As they approached, people in the arcade gradually gathered around, curious to see this brave warrior heading towards the machine.
Cheng Chu squatted down and inserted 20 game coins into the doll machine before looking up at Gu Miao.
The bright incandescent light in the machine shone into the young boy's eyes, and his cold expression slightly furrowed as if he was solving a difficult math problem.
It seemed like every detail was under his control, and he was like a king surveying his own territory. With a wave of his hand, his army charged forward in an instant.
Cheng Chu clenched her fists tightly, her gaze fixed on the silver hook that seemed to hold the key to life and death.
Under the bright light, it slowly slid down, tightened, and suddenly came to life, grabbing the plush teddy bear in the middle and slowly moving it back to its original position.
With a loud "pop," the huge plush bear slid down like it was on a slide from the exit. "Ah, ah, ah!" Cheng Chu bent down and picked up the teddy bear that was half her height, jumping up and down in place like a child who had just received candy.
"You're amazing, Gu Miao."
The girl's face was blocked by the huge stuffed bear, but her lively and joyful voice penetrated Gu Miao's heart.
The staff on the side were all stunned. He had been working here for so long, but he had never seen anyone successfully grab this doll.
In the dazzling lights of the arcade, the girl struggled to carry the teddy bear on her shoulder, revealing her delicate little face.
Her eyes were bright and shining.
The almost overflowing joy instantly infected Gu Miao, and his lips curled up, unconsciously revealing a smile.
"I'll help you. Hold on, to it and let them, send it to you later."
As soon as he finished speaking, the staff took the teddy bear and said, "Follow me and fill out your address."
The other people in the arcade looked at them enviously.
Cheng Chu proudly lifted her chin and followed Gu Miao to the counter, even her steps exuded pride.
The staff worked quickly and after registering their address, politely asked if they wanted to exchange for more game coins to continue playing.
Cheng Chu looked at the time, it was almost 9 pm. She looked at Gu Miao and hesitated, "Let's go back early and come back to play another day."
Gu Miao nodded, "Okay." Thinking about the next time, he looked at the girl's beautiful profile and felt a quiet joy rise in his heart.
"Shall I walk you home?" he asked.
Cheng Chu had originally planned to have the driver pick her up, but when she saw the young man's hopeful expression and heard the cautious tone in his voice, she couldn't help but soften her heart, no matter how cold and hard it was.
"Okay," she nodded.
As they walked out of the mall, the dim streetlights quietly sprinkled down like a beautiful canvas.
Cheng Chu sat in the back seat of the young man's bike, the cold night wind blowing her loose hair. She watched the young man's back and gradually felt a warmth rising in her heart.
"Thank you, Gu Miao," she said.
Just as the bike was turning a corner, an old lady on the other side of the road was slowly crossing with a cane.
Gu Miao stopped the bike and asked, "Why are you thanking me?"
"I'm actually not in a good mood today," Cheng Chu lightly tugged on the boy's shirt corner, her tone carrying a hint of cheerfulness. "I had a fight with my mom. She wouldn't let me go to Haiyin, so I got angry and ran out."
She ended up telling him everything she didn't plan on saying.
Cheng Chu's tone gradually became a bit guilty, "You're so tired from work, yet you're willing to accompany me and play. Thank you."
"I'm not tired." The boy's slightly hoarse voice carried some warmth. "I'm actually very happy."
Being with you, I never feel tired.
The old lady had already crossed the street, and Gu Miao pedaled on, carrying the girl into the vast night of the seaside city. The howling night wind seemed to blow into his heart, and every pore on his body opened up with joy.
He felt as if he had been infused with infinite strength, and he pedaled faster and faster.
"Gu Miao, please stop!" Suddenly, the girl tugged at his clothes with urgency and panic in her voice.
Gu Miao thought she was scared by the speed, so he quickly slowed down and stopped the bike by the roadside.
"I-I'm sorry," his face stiffened in the night wind, and even his speech became somewhat awkward. "I'll ride, slower."
"It's not because of that," Cheng Chu crouched down on the bike seat and whispered, "I think I just saw my brother's car."
Gu Miao's hand on the handlebars stiffened. "What should we do? Where is he now?"
"I don't know. I dare not look," Cheng Chu said in a hushed voice. "He was just..."
"It seems like they've passed us, we should stop at the traffic light ahead," said Gu Miao, his throat tightening.
He planted his feet on the ground and leaned forward, seeing two cars stopped at the traffic light - a taxi and a black business car.
"Is it a black Mercedes business car?" he asked.
"Yes, yes, is it still there?"
"It's there." Gu Miao's hands were trembling.
Cheng Chu's grip tightened even more, her heart racing with nerves. She felt like neither going forward nor turning back was the right choice.
"How about we turn around now and take the side road?" Cheng Chu whispered.
Gu Miao obediently pedaled and turned the bike into a nearby alleyway. In the darkness, only a few dim streetlights illuminated the narrow alley.
After a moment, Cheng Chu said, "I'll call a car to take us back now."
Gu Miao stood straight and nodded. He didn't expect to bring her so much trouble and felt guilty and regretful.
This area was a commercial district, and it was very convenient to call a car. The car was not far away, and it showed that it would arrive in three minutes.
Cheng Chu still held a whole bag of dolls, and as she looked up, the bright moonlight slowly spilled over the sky.
"You should go back early and be careful on the way," she softly reminded him.
Gu Miao pursed his lips, and his dark eyes lit up slightly.
"Okay, you too."
After he finished speaking, he frowned somewhat uneasily, "Write down the license plate number for me."
After writing down the license plate number, the car arrived.
Cheng Chu got into the car, and her little face poked out of the window, showing a serious expression, "Go home early and drive slowly."
A smile gradually spread across Gu Miao's face as he listened to the girl's incessant instructions, feeling warm and fuzzy inside.
"Okay," he waved goodbye to the departing taxi.
The spot where he had parked wasn't far from Cheng Chu's house, and he arrived in just twenty minutes.
Fu Rong had just sent a text asking where she was.
Although Cheng Chu was still angry with her, she replied that she was on her way home.
Fu Rong didn't reply again, probably feeling at ease and going to sleep.
When Cheng Chu returned home, the garden lights were still on, and several plum blossoms were blooming beautifully in the shimmering light.
Carrying a bag of stuffed animals, Cheng Chu entered the house to find the living room in complete darkness.
She breathed a sigh of relief and turned on her phone's flashlight, carefully feeling her way into her slippers and then tiptoeing up the stairs.
The wooden floorboards made a faint sound that was almost imperceptible. As she walked up to the second floor, the dimness of the surroundings greeted him. The faint light from outside seemed to reflect into the room, creating an eerie atmosphere.
In the midst of the haze, Cheng Chu noticed a figure sitting on a chair. The flickering orange light seemed to float in the darkness, and a faint smell of tobacco filled the air.
Suddenly, the light bulb flickered on with a loud "pop".
Cheng Yue was lying on the chair, with a half-smoked cigarette between his fingers.
He sat up straight, extinguished the cigarette in the crystal ashtray, and looked up at her.
With a calm tone, he said, "You ride your bike pretty fast."
The author has something to say:
Gu Miao: What if she gets scolded by her brother because of me?
Translations during sleepless nights. I can sleep when I'm dead! ...Please let me sleep. Happy readers keep me awake, and lots of love and a huge thank you for supporting my hobby!
Give me feedback at moc.ebircssutol@ypeels.