When the cab arrived, Huo Ran and Kou Chen were whispering to each other.
Huo Ran reminded Kou Chen to not ask too many questions if Xu Zhifan didn’t want to talk about it.
“I know,” Kou Chen said.
He was facing the wind, and it felt like even his eyelashes were trembling, so he put his head down on Huo Ran’s shoulder to block the wind.
“Don’t worry, I’ll know when to stop.”
“Mostly because it has to do with his mom, and he’s really close with his mom.” Huo Ran said.
“Mhm, I get it.
I’m close with my mom too.” Kou Chen said.
“But sometimes my mom thinks I’m annoying.”
“I think you’re annoying all the time.” Huo Ran said.
“That’s why you’re not my mom.” Kou Chen said.
At that, they both stood in the wind and laughed, before someone suddenly called to them: “Hey, stop hugging now, did you call for a cab”
Kou Chen turned without getting up from his position: “Is it”
“Yeah,” Huo Ran glanced at his phone and pushed him away, “White car, 617… Are they done yet”
Kou Chen went inside to call the others as the second cab arrived too.
The others quickly ran out of the store with a pack of alcohol.
He could see the sales flyer stuck to it, and Huo Ran was worried that they would all have to skip class tomorrow.
He opened the car door and got inside, saying to the driver: “Just a second, we can go after they put the stuff away.”
The driver nodded: “That’s fine, I can park here.”
After saying that, the driver kept staring at him, albeit not directly, but Huo Ran was sensitive to that sort of thing and could feel it.
He turned to stare back at the driver.
“Students these days,” The driver leaned onto the steering wheel and said while looking forward, “They know how to have fun.
Very brave, and open.”
“Huh Wha…” Huo Ran didn’t understand what he meant, but halfway through his question he suddenly realized, “No, no, no… that’s not…”
“Come on,” Kou Chen got onto the car, “Thanks for waiting, can you drive a bit faster please We’re starving.”
“No problem, take your seat.” The driver said.
Xu Zhifan followed him in, and Huo Ran gave up trying to explain.
No, I’m not, that’s not it… It’s not like he’ll ever see the guy again anyways.
The driver started the car, and even put on an Adam Lambert song.
“Ah, I like his songs.” Xu Zhifan said.
The driver laughed warmly and happily.
The smell of hotpot floated out of the security room, and seeing Huo Ran, the security guard almost cried: “You’re finally back, hurry and take your food away.
Why can’t you wait until you’re home to order… Who knew there’s even hotpot takeout now…”
“Grab a bowl, sir,” Huo Ran said.
“I can get you some broth and veggies.”
“Oh, no, no, I already ate.
The boss will be here soon, and we can’t eat hotpot in here anyways.
Besides, it’s probably not even enough for all of you guys.” The guard said.
“Just take it away, out of sight, out of mouth…”
They grabbed the food and went up the elevator.
“Can we drink the broth first” Jiang Lei asked.
“It smells great, what kind is it”
“One is bone broth, one is spicy.” Huo Ran replied.
“I’ll take some bone broth soup first.” Jiang Lei swallowed.
“Never heard of anyone drinking the broth first.” Kou Chen said.
“Are you that hungry” Wei Chaoren said.
“You never left the free samples section in the store.”
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
“How much can I get from just samples A bottlecap of yogurt,” Jiang Lei complained, “A small piece of meat on a toothpick.
And it’s not like they’ll give me more than one.”
“Tbe tjnf ab xcbk tbk ab vb la.” Qfl Jtjbgfc rjlv.
“Jjii tfg Cecalf jcv rtf’ii ulnf la ab sbe.”
“Mbgufa la, P mjc’a rjs atja.” Aljcu Ofl.
“P’w cba ilxf Bbe Jtfc.
Dfrlvfr, ktb mjc mbqs Bbe Jtfc’r wjolj rasif xlcv bo meafcfrr”
“Ktfc mbqs Leb Ejc,” We Jtejc ijeutfv,” Ubxf sbeg tfjv atgbeut atf klcvbk, jcv atfc Alf, mjc P ufa akb qlfmfr bo wfja”
“Right.” Everyone nodded.
“Fuck off.” Huo Ran tsked.
“If I were the lady,” Kou Chen said.
“Forget two pieces, I’ll give him the whole pot.”
Huo Ran’s living room was pretty big, with a big table, two stoves and two pots, they didn’t even get another plate to put the veggies in, they just put it directly in.
They ate some first, and then Xu Chuan got out the alcohol, pouring everyone some.
“About what happened today,” Xu Zhifan picked up the glass, “I won’t say any more thank yous.
You guys were great today.”
Then he tipped his head back and downed the glass.
“Just don’t get mad at us for it,” Xu Chuan said.
“It’s not like we can help with anything major anyways.
All we can do is back you up in a fight and ease the atmosphere.”
Everyone knocked their glasses together, and poured some more after they finished their glasses.
You shouldn’t drink too much, but alcohol is a great opener.
It burns down your throat, and relaxes you, melting down your last wall of defense.
Xu Zhifan’s situation had been going on for quite a while already.
Apart from Huo Ran, he hadn’t told anyone else.
Anything out of the ordinary he would cover up.
His mom and the neighbour Aunt Hu went together to another city.
At first they said it was a vacation, and they were out for two months.
After that, Aunt Hu called home and said they found a business opportunity, and asked them a couple times for money.
Then she disappeared.
And Xu Zhifan’s mom only said that she would be taking a vacation for a while, and then they couldn’t contact her.
“I didn’t want to say it out loud to my dad, and he never wanted to bring it up either.” Xu Zhifan took a drink.
“They obviously ran into a **ing pyramid scheme, you don’t even have to think about it.”
“Right.” Kou Chen nodded.
“Aunt Hu said that my mom invited her out with her.” Xu Zhifan said.
“If that’s true, then it’s my mom who dragged her into a pyramid scheme.
Who wouldn’t be angry”
“Did your mom really do it” Jiang Lei asked.
“I don’t know.” Xu Zhifan gripped his glass.
“I don’t know.
But they’d been friends for years, and most of the time it’s my mom who comes up with everything.
Aunt Hu isn’t very opinionated, she asks my mom before doing anything… I’m just really… scared.”
Kou Chen didn’t say anything, only reaching out to pat his shoulder.
He grabbed his glass and clinked it against his: “You can’t be sure of it unless you heard it for yourself.
Besides, that’s not what’s important now.
What’s important is where they are right now, and if they’re safe.”
“That’s right,” Xu Chuan said.
“It’s not too late to debate it after there’s news about them.
Forget money, all that’s important is for them to get them back.”
“That’s what I told Uncle Li.” Xu Zhifan lit a cigarette.
“Open the window, I want to smoke.”
“It’s fine.” Kou Chen said.
“That’s what’s annoying about you.
Don’t worry about it too much, smoke if you want.
If we feel stuffy then we can open the window ourselves.”
“Or we’ll yell at you for smoking inside.” Xu Chuan said.
Xu Zhifan laughed along with them, and took a drag before sighing: “That’s what I told Uncle Li, but to be honest, I don’t know what to do… If it was really my mom who dragged her off… But why would my mom…”
Huo Ran rubbed his back.
He knew how Xu Zhifan felt.
Earlier at the door, he could feel Aunt Hu’s daughter’s hatred and coldness within her disappointment, even just as Xu Zhifan’s classmate.
If it was really Xu Zhifan’s mom’s idea, then he might not be able to face the neighbours ever again.
“Their phones and everything are turned off” Wei Chaoren asked.
I can still message her on WeChat, but I don’t know if she can see them or not.” Xu Zhifan said.
“I kept sending messages, nothing too much about the situation, just telling her to come back.
That dad and I will help with whatever she needs, but she hasn’t replied.”
Xu Zhifan’s eyes went slightly wet at that, and he closed them to tilt his head and drink again.
When he opened his eyes again, they were back to normal.
Kou Chen looked at him, thinking that Xu Zhifan was really different from them.
If anything like this happens again, he’d probably still try to shoulder everything himself first, not wanting to drag his friends into it.
Then he looked at Huo Ran.
Good thing he was like most of them in that area.
All of his troubles would be written on his face, like Hu Yi’s situation with his parents’ divorce, he’d been down for the past few months.
Xu Zhifan’s acting skills were the best among them.
He’s gotta be a PhD student in acting.
“Maybe…” Hu Yi gently tapped his glass against the table, “You can go look for her Do you have any clues Something more specific than the city she’s in”
“I asked Aunt Hu’s daughter,” Xu Zhifan said.
“She said the last thing Aunt Hu posted was a photo of a park, saying she’s travelling around, with the location.”
“Then you can look there.” Hu Yi said.
“For real,” Xu Chuan said.
“If it really is a pyramid scheme, there has to be somewhere they’re brainwashing everyone, a meeting location or something.
It might be that park.
Maybe there’ll be more clues there.”
“I… planned to go during break.” Xu Zhifan said.
“Fuck,” Jiang Lei pointed at him, “I asked you to do dungeons with me during winter break, and you **ing said you were going to your grandma’s, why don’t you go play ‘the birth of a dramatist’”
Xu Zhifan laughed: “I’m telling you now, aren’t I”
“If Kou Chen didn’t follow you back home, would you have told us” Jiang Lei complained.
“You would’ve just **ing left by yourself!”
“Why don’t we go with you” Kou Chen said.
“I always go out when I have the chance anyways during New Years, it’s Kou Chen beating season.”
“What” Even as the concerned party, Xu Zhifan ended up straying off topic on that important question, “Your dad does How come I don’t feel like he’s that kind of person”
“That you don’t understand.
It’s not my mom and dad who are the scariest, it’s the **ing relatives,” Kou Chen made a face, and lit a cigarette.
“Apart from my dad, my two uncles all studied abroad, and their children are all cream of the crop students also studying abroad or preparing to.
And me, like this in high school… Even having to pay to transfer…”
“So you’re basically a defect” Jiang Lei looked at him.
“I’m warning you, Leilei.” Kou Chen put a piece of mutton on his plate.
“Even though we’re good friends, I’ll still beat you up for disrespecting me like that.”
“No, wait,” Jiang Lei said, “You were the one disrespecting yourself.”
“Isn’t that nonsense!” Kou Chen smacked the table, “Respect comes from others! From you, from him, from everyone! Right, Ranran”
Huo Ran was in the middle of mixing his dipping sauce, and paused as his name was suddenly called.
“Yup,” He nodded.
“In my opinion, so what if they studied abroad All you need is to live handsomely and coolly, just like Kou Chen.
Xu Zhifan couldn’t hold back his laughter, and he choked on his drink.
“Aye!” Kou Chen gave Huo Ran a thumbs up.
“See that, that’s my Ran, he knows what’s up.
Why would I like him so much otherwise I don’t have a girlfriend, but if I did, she would come after my Ran.”
“How does that matter then He’d still be at the front with or without a girlfriend.” Xu Chuan said.
“It’s just an example.
You’re no fun, Chuan-ge.” Kou Chen said.”
“You’re going by yourself to look for your mom” Xu Chuan asked Xu Zhifan, acting like the only sober one in the group, to stop the off-topic conversation.
“Or with your dad”
“By myself,” Xu Zhifan said.
“My dad has to look after my grandma.
All she has is my aunt and my dad, but my aunt just had surgery, so she can’t.”
“But it’ll be dangerous alone,” Xu Chuan glanced at Kou Chen.
“Kou Chen can go, and I’m also free…”
“I’ll go too.” Jiang Lei said.
“Take me with you too.” Wei Chaoren said.
“I’ve never been over there before.”
“You think this is gonna be a field trip” Hu Yi laughed.
“I’ll go too.
New Years is boring at home now, I don’t wanna stay there.”
Xu Zhifan clasped a fist in the other hand and raised it to them without saying anything.
Then he picked up the glass and downed it.
“Let’s wait and see, there’s still two months left.” Huo Ran said.
“Maybe she’ll come back before then.”
“Right!” Kou Chen knocked the glass.
“That’s right, maybe she’s on the way back.” They all knocked their glasses on the table.
Two six person meals was enough food for them, and they even added some more veggies to it.
Who would’ve thought, not only are The Seven of them fierce when fighting, they’re also just as fierce when eating hotpot.
After the glass noodles, there wasn’t even a drop of broth remaining.
They also drank quite a few bottles of alcohol.
As one with a pretty good tolerance among them, even Huo Ran was beginning to slip down on his chair.
As for Jiang Lei and the others with tolerances even worse than their grades, they were already laying on the ground.
Jiang Lei sat on the carpet, hugging Xu Zhifan’s legs: “Zhifan, we’re your friends, so tell us anything… You know, if you don’t say anything, we’ll be hurt…”
“Why does he always cling onto me every time he gets drunk” Xu Zhifan sighed, and dragged Jiang Lei to the couch by the arm.
“Chuan-ge,” Jiang Lei turned and hugged Xu Chuan, “Don’t you agree”
“Yup,” Xu Chuan’s tolerance was a bit better than Jiang Lei’s, but he was slurring his words too.
“Zhifan, you’re wrong.
He’s not that drunk yet, he can still recognize us.”
“What are we doing for beds” Xu Zhifan looked around the room.
“My mom just changed the sheets in the guest room, it’s a big bed, throw three of them in there.” Huo Ran said.
“Two can sleep on the couch…”
“And two more in your room.” Xu Zhifan dragged Jiang Lei towards the guest room.
Jiang Lei, Wei Chaoren, and Hu Yi were thrown into the guest room, lined up on the bed, and covered with blankets.
“I doubt they’ll wake up by six tomorrow.” Kou Chen looked at them.
“It looks like they’ll sleep until the afternoon at least.”
“Smack them awake if we have to.” Xu Chuan came back to the living room and laid down on the L-shaped couch with Xu Zhifan.
“Huo Ran, got any more blankets”
“Yup, I’ll go get them.” Huo Ran grabbed two thick blankets from his parents room for them.
Xu Zhifan and Xu Chuan weren’t doing so well either.
When Huo Ran returned with the blankets, they were already snoring away softly.
“Okay,” Huo Ran clapped his hands, and then stood with them on his hips in the middle of the living room.
“What about me” Kou Chen supported himself on the table with one hand and pointed at himself with the other.
Just looking at him Huo Ran knew that he was pretty much at his limit.
Without the table as support he’d probably fall.
He pointed at his own room: “My room.”
“Okay,” Kou Chen pounced onto his back when he turned around, hanging off of him.
“Take me to wash up.”
Huo Ran sighed.
Because he was also a bit dizzy, he didn’t want to speak, so he half-dragged Kou Chen into the bathroom.
“Does Your Majesty want to wash up or pee first”
“Wash up first,” Kou Chen said.
“It’s so impolite to pee in front of my darling concubine, I can’t do that.”
Huo Ran squeezed out the toothpaste for him, and handed him the toothbrush: “Steady, if you get toothpaste on me I’ll kill you.”
Kou Chen leaned against the wall with a smile, and brushed his teeth slowly.
He mumbled: “Darling concubine…”
“Concubine your grandpa.” Huo Ran squeezed toothpaste for himself.
“Grandpa concubine.” Kou Chen said.
Huo Ran paused, and tried to hold his laughter back, but he really couldn’t.
He ended up leaning over the countertop and bursting out into laughter.
Kou Chen laughed with him, before suddenly stopping: “Did I **ing swallow the toothpaste”
Huo Ran felt his knees go weak with laughter, and he sat down on the toilet seat.
A long while later, he finally wiped away the tears that were laughed out: “I’m so **ing happy to have met you.”
“Right” Kou Chen continued brushing his teeth.
“You finally realized it.”