16th -【Only me】
Chu Yu quietly and seriously walked as he followed behind Lu Shi.
It had rained last night, and thus the dilapidated cement walls on either side of the alley had both deep and shallow traces of moisture. The corners were covered with a layer of moss, and the ground was greatly dirtied by the passing pedestrians. He hadn’t even taken that many steps but fragmented, black mud spots had already splashed across the surface of his white shoes.
Chu Yu remembered the night when it had rained heavily.
Underneath the streetlamp, Lu Shi had walked over with an umbrella to protect him from the rain.
He’d also softly touched his hair while telling him that humans were more terrifying than monsters.
So, even if he really did become a monster, there was nothing to be afraid of.
Chu Yu knew very well, deep down, that when it came to Lu Shi, it wasn’t just their special connection through bloodsucking that he was fond of, it was more of Lu Shi’s unchanged attitude as well as that tiny bit of warmth and comfort.
He subconsciously wanted to get closer to Lu Shi.
But, he instinctively felt scared at the same time.
Not just because of Lu Shi’s absurd strength and his unfluctuating eyes when fighting.
Rather, it was Lu Shi’s body that seemed to exude a sort of gloom that couldn’t be dispersed. It was like layers of black clouds covering the sky.
This was something that Chu Yu had never encountered before in his life.
His steps unconsciously slowed as he watched Lu Shi’s back. Chu Yu found that the other party was akin to a black hole engulfing a nebula; infinitely drawing him in.
It made him shudder, but he also couldn’t help but want to approach.
Seeing Lu Shi turn around, Chu Yu realized that he’d been walking too slowly and had already fallen greatly behind.
He quickly caught up with Lu Shi in a few haste steps, much too embarrassed. “I just tuned out.”
While following Lu Shi, Chu Yu didn’t dare ask where they were going.
The two walked until they were opposite the beef house where they had eaten last time. They passed through the door of the auto repair shop and walked in, ultimately stopping in a small courtyard.
The yard was quite small, yet there were a lot of chaotically piled up tires, oil canisters, plastic water pipes, and even some equipment which Chu Yu didn’t know of.
In the barely remaining space was an assembled square table.
Chu Yu first looked at the steaming hot pot on the table and the plates of roughly cut side dishes that were laid out, then at Wei Guanglei and Zhu Zhifei who were sitting around the table, a little stunned.
Wei Guanglei and Zhu Zhifei were also surprised.
Zhu Zhifei pushed up his glasses and took another look before sitting down and pulling the tab of a cold can of beer. He glanced at Lu Shi who had already started drinking, confused about the situation.
What is this and how?
Weren’t Lu-Ge and the young master not amicable? Why did he suddenly bring him here right now?
Wei Guanglei didn’t think as deeply since he always had a very good impression of Chu Yu, and now he’d even been brought here by Lu Shi himself. He kicked a blue plastic stool over and beckoned him. “Long time no see, is that stool next to Lu-Ge fine with you?”
Chu Yu was still in the middle of a daze, but after hearing Wei Guanglei’s question, he nodded at once. “Yes, it’s fine. I can sit anywhere, thank you.”
“Don’t thank me, it’s no big deal and just calling me Shitou is fine.” Wei Guanglei took out a bowl and chopsticks and placed them in front of Chu Yu.
Zhu Zhifei slowly came out of his reverie and spoke to Chu Yu, “It’s really fate. Your mouth has chanced upon splendid food today, this hot pot has an extraordinary history!”
Chu Yu was very cooperative. “What’s its history?”
“For a week, our Chef Shitou pretended to pass by the old hot pot restaurant on the corner every day and stole their recipes. He bought the hot pot base ingredients, preparing them himself, and also personally boiled the soup base. Observe the uneven thickness of the sliced potato and this lotus root that our chef himself cut!”
Wei Guanglei kicked Zhu Zhifei’s foot and scolded with a smile, “Get outta here! Where the fuck is it uneven? Open your eyes and look closely, they’re obviously very even!”
As someone who had never cooked himself, Chu Yu sincerely complimented, “That’s so awesome!”
Wei Guanglei was a little embarrassed by the praise. He swept his crew cut hair and opened the fire. “Alright alright, quit yakking. Come on, let’s hurry and eat so we can taste it.”
With that said, he put the meat and vegetables into the pot.
The bottom of the pot bubbled, subsequently producing steam which had a hot and numbing spicy fragrance to it.
Chu Yu took a sip of the soy milk to relieve the spiciness, and stealthily watched Lu Shi through the steam.
Lu Shi had finished drinking a can of cold beer. He grabbed another can from Wei Guanglei’s hand, bent his knuckles, and pulled open the tab with a ‘pop’, causing thin white vapor to appear.
His chin was slightly raised and his eyelashes drooped as the liquor freely flowed past his lips and teeth. When he gulped, his Adam’s apple would roll— it was kinda nice.
Chu Yu always felt that the Lu Shi in school and the Lu Shi on Qingchuan Road greatly differed.
In school, Lu Shi seemed to conceal all of his edges and sharpness in a shell labeled ‘Frosty Study God’.
He was unlike Zhang Yueshan and Li Hua who sat in front of him. There were always people looking for them in between classes to discuss and exchange top student ideas.
But no one ever went to Lu Shi to ask about a problem.
Occasionally, Zhang Yueshan and the others would quarrel over the solution of a problem, and if they couldn’t come to a consensus, they would show Lu Shi the problem and let him judge who was right and wrong.
Or if many top students were stumped with a question and no one could solve it, Zhang Yueshan would be their representative to ask Lu Shi for his solution to the problem.
Spectator Chu Yu reckoned it was probably because Lu Shi gave people a sense of alienation.
Either way, no one dared to approach him.
Meanwhile, Qingchuan Road’s Lu Shi had sharp, icy thorns with raised points and would beat people at every turn, as if he had no thoughts of hiding the hostility that overflowed from his bones.
Chu Yu drank the soy milk. Its taste wasn’t much, but it moistened his throat.
He thought again, maybe this is common?
Just like his mother who needed to wear a professional suit while sitting in the office strategizing, but also sometimes changed into luxurious, elegant evening dresses, all in order to hold up a wine glass and chat cheerfully and wittily under mutual deception.1lit. you hoodwink me and I deceive you.
Each environment required its own method for survival.
Maybe on Qingchuan Road, if one didn’t fight or use violence, and wasn’t fiercer than others, they would be bullied and wouldn’t survive.
Wei Guanglei specially grabbed a pair of serving chopsticks and a clean bowl, then picked up a few pieces of beef and put them in front of Chu Yu. “You’ve barely eaten. Look at Zhu Zhifei, if you don’t grab it, no meat will be left in the pot!”
Chu Yu wasn’t very good at rejecting the kindness of others, but he’d only just drank Lu Shi’s blood and had no appetite. He simply couldn’t eat so much meat.
While he was conflicted, a hand stretched over from the side and took the whole dish of beef away.
Wei Guanglei was baffled. “Lu-Ge, if you want beef there’s still some in the pot. I’ll get you a ladle so you can fish them out, this is—”
“Too much, he can’t eat it.”
Lu Shi explained and placed the beef in front of himself.
As soon as this sentence was uttered, Zhu Zhifei directly choked on the soy milk which went down the wrong pipe. He turned sideways and covered his mouth as he coughed intensely.
The serving chopsticks in Wei Guanglei’s hand almost fell to the ground.
“Ai, so that’s it, I see.” Wei Guanglei gradually returned to earth and faced Chu Yu, who was similarly wearing a dumbfounded expression, to say, “Then- then whatever you want to eat, just pick it up, there’s no need to be polite.”
Chu Yu swallowed the cucumber piece in his mouth. “Um, okay.”
The dishes were consumed very quickly. Wei Guanglei was wearing a sleeveless camo shirt, and his exposed arms and shoulders looked sturdy and strong. Naturally, his appetite would be large.
What surprised Chu Yu was the seemingly tall and thin Zhu Zhifei who wore glasses, appearing refined. He didn’t expect that when it came to eating and drinking, his appetite would actually be on par with Wei Guanglei’s.
The two of them were like a hurricane2风卷残云: lit. wind sweeping away the remnant clouds. that quickly wiped clean everything off the table.
Most of the beer cans in the case under the table were gone too.
Chu Yu didn’t drink alcohol, and instead, quietly nibbled at fruits as he listened to them chat. Lu Shi rarely spoke so most of the conversation was just Wei Guanglei and Zhu Zhifei talking.
“That new auto shop that opened on the street over couldn’t stop the three of us, so they schemed of straightforwardly disabling Laozi to force my family into taking the initiative to move out of Qingchuan Road. Those shitheads lacked a fix up, so after beating and sorting them into obedience, they didn’t dare mess around anymore.”
Wei Guanglei finished the remaining beer in his can and threw away the empty tin. “It was also fortunate that Lu-Ge was there, otherwise we’d only be able to rely on the two of us to stay warm.”
Zhu Zhifei smiled and said, “Exactly, my glasses were almost fucking broken!” He finished eating the last piece of mutton. “Shitou, haven’t you been watching, did that store finally shut down?”
“It closed, only stayed in business for a month. They were unable to pay the rent, so either they moved or are waiting to be kicked out.”
Chu Yu interrupted, “Are you talking about… the day school started?”
Zhu Zhifei nodded repeatedly. “Yeah yeah yeah, that’s why we were late that day. I was just crowning Lu-Ge with the brilliant title of a hero!”3见义勇为: lit. to see what is right and act courageously.
“It’s true though, that he’s brave and righteous. Lu-Ge saved both us trash noobs4It took some time before I figured out what 辣鸡青铜 is. It was spicy chicken bronze; the spicy chicken meant trash and the bronze meant the starting level in a game, the noobs. Hence, trash noobs. all by himself.”
Wei Guanglei perspired from all the eating, so he wiped the sweat off his forehead and held a beer can against it to cool himself down.
He caught a glimpse of Chu Yu reaching out to grab a fruit from the fruit bowl. It was too far away and his hand fell short, but then his Lu-Ge easily passed the entire fruit bowl to Chu Yu.
The whole plate of fruit sat in front of Chu Yu.
The heck? When did Lu-Ge become so helpful and caring towards his classmates?
Chu Yu picked a small, plump tomato to eat. Thinking of something, he hesitated before asking, “By the way, the auto repair shop you guys mentioned, is it called… Hengxiang Auto Repair?”
Zhu Zhifei answered, “Yeah, that’s the name! But how did you know?”
Chu Yu subconsciously glanced at Lu Shi first and then replied, “I… passed by it once before and vaguely remembered it.”
In fact, when he ran into Lu Shi’s fight earlier, he’d unwittingly noticed that two of the people on the ground were wearing the same dark blue T-shirts with the exact words ‘Hengxiang Auto Repair’ printed on them.
But it seemed that Lu Shi didn’t want to talk about it.
So Chu Yu continued to silently eat tomatoes and didn’t talk any further.
Eating hot pot always created the mood for chatting.
Hence, Wei Guanglei and Zhu Zhifei chatted away.
For a while, they discussed how the boss of the black internet cafe5 the label black means a store/cafe/shop that has been secretly established without the consent of relevant state departments. Simply put, they don’t have business licenses and they don’t pay taxes (smart XD). on the corner of the street had finally replaced the old machines and installed new ones. The elementary school students along the street had all gone crazy with joy.
Then they talked about the continuous rain and how Qingchuan River, not that far away, was full of water. Two days ago, Uncle Yang from across the road had cast a net and caught an abundance of fish that were then divided to two per household.
Finally, they complained about the multiplayer6开黑: where there’s voice or face-to-face communication with (selected or not) teammates when playing games. game last night, which Lu Shi didn’t participate in. Wei Guanglei and Zhu Zhifei had lost four rounds in a row; they both shirked the blame, disliked the other party and disliked their incapability, cussing each other out.
Chu Yu was holding his bottle of soy milk while listening, full of zest.
The meat and vegetables had been eaten clean.
Zhu Zhifei got up and rubbed his stomach. “I’m heading to Uncle Yang’s across the street to ask for his grease-dissolving tea, and to take a stroll to digest in the process. Who wants to come with me?”
Chu Yu responded, “I’ll go with you.”
He felt that he’d been freeloading and just couldn’t sit still and do nothing.
“OK, let’s go.”
Lu Shi and Wei Guanglei were left in the courtyard.
After Wei Guanglei put down his empty beer can, he stooped down to take out the last can from the case and opened it.
Lu Shi held out his beer can and lightly knocked it against Wei Guanglei’s.
After taking a big sip, Wei Guanglei pondered for a few seconds before asking with a tentative smile, “Last time I saw you, didn’t you really hate this young master? The word ‘dislike’ was practically written on a wooden sign and hung all over your face.”
Lu Shi took a sip and put down the can. He didn’t deny it. “Hm.”
Wei Guanglei had poor grades and was still young, so he’d started helping out in the auto repair shop at home. He’d had a lot of dealings with many people so his mind was a bit more complex compared to Zhu Zhifei.
He could see that Lu Shi’s attitude towards Chu Yu wasn’t quite right.
But he couldn’t tell what was wrong.
Besides, even though they had known each other for such a long time, he still couldn’t get a hold of Lu Shi’s temperament.
When Lu Shi first came to Qingchuan Road, he’d fight almost every day.
But even though there were several people in the area, how could there be so many fights?
After watching him for a while, he discovered that while there were originally a lot of fights, Lu Shi would also deliberately mock and provoke others. Sometimes he’d open his mouth and the words would jab the other’s lungs, causing them to explode and jump at him in anger.
He figured Lu Shi probably had a backlog of hostility in his heart and was using these battles as pretext to vent it out.
Perhaps, if he didn’t have a way to vent, it would overwhelm him.
Now, seeing Lu Shi’s unusual attitude towards Chu Yu, Wei Guanglei became worried.
“Lu-Ge, this young master isn’t the same type as us, he’s simply not in the same world. It’s easy to tell that he’s a sort of precious and delicate flower in a glass case; pampered and guarded by his family, meticulously waited upon while growing up.”
He didn’t say too much, just touched on the topic and left it there.
After drinking two more sips of beer, Wei Guanglei watched Lu Shi’s dark brows and eyes. He hesitated for a while, but still asked, “Lu-Ge, don’t think I’m meddling in your business. I’m just asking, you… towards this young master, what are your intentions?”
What are his intentions?
Lu Shi held the cold beer can with his fingers and shook it lightly. There was the sound of beer sloshing inside.
He seemed to hear the sound of thundering rain back in the botanical garden and Chu Yu’s unconsciously breathed sigh of satisfaction while he tightly clung to his back and dug his teeth into his shoulder to greedily suck his blood.
Lu Shi leaned back against the chair he was sitting on as he cast his eyes down and absent-mindedly fiddled with the empty can of beer.
His voice was contaminated by the alcohol, making it slightly hoarser than usual.
“I want him to need me, rely on me, and be inseparable from me.”
- 1lit. you hoodwink me and I deceive you.
- 2风卷残云: lit. wind sweeping away the remnant clouds.
- 3见义勇为: lit. to see what is right and act courageously.
- 4It took some time before I figured out what 辣鸡青铜 is. It was spicy chicken bronze; the spicy chicken meant trash and the bronze meant the starting level in a game, the noobs. Hence, trash noobs.
- 5the label black means a store/cafe/shop that has been secretly established without the consent of relevant state departments. Simply put, they don’t have business licenses and they don’t pay taxes (smart XD).
- 6开黑: where there’s voice or face-to-face communication with (selected or not) teammates when playing games.