“I don’t have to mention it to Mr.
Yuan, or your parents.” Tao Rui said as she tidied up.
“But you won’t be able to hide it either, even a blind person can see the bruise on your face.”
“Is it bad” Xu Zhifan stood up to go look at himself in the mirror, but his injuries forced him to keep still for a few seconds.
“It looks pretty bad, but it’s not too serious.” Tao Rui sighed.
“Did you get kicked in the face How could your friends not ask”
“They know.” Xu Zhifan walked to the mirror for a look, before going back to sit in the chair.
“Can I stay here for a bit I have to think about how I should tell them.”
“Did something happen” Tao Rui poured him a glass of water.
“If it’s something big, then I still suggest you tell the school or your parents.
You’re only a second year student, some things you can handle by yourself, and some things you can’t.”
“My dad knows,” Xu Zhifan said.
“It’s something at home, I didn’t cause any trouble.”
“You don’t look like someone that would cause trouble anyways,” Tao Rui breathed a sigh of relief and smiled.
“If it was someone like Kou Chen who said that, I might not believe it.”
Xu Zhifan laughed.
What if it were someone else, another family, going through the same thing, how would they deal with it
He didn’t know.
In the end, it was his family’s problem.
There was no point in what ifs.
It had already happened no matter what.
They couldn’t hide from it, and there was only one way to deal with it.
“Has the thing with your ex-boyfriend been resolved” Xu Zhifan asked.
“What, trying to change the topic” Tao Rui laughed.
“Yes, I ended up telling his parents.
Our families know each other, so I didn’t want to make such a big deal out of it, it would be too awkward.”
“That’s true,” Xu Zhifan nodded.
“Dealing with people you know is always the hardest.
“Do you want to talk about it We can’t say we know each other very well.” Tao Rui said.
“It might make you feel better Of course, if you don’t want to, we can talk about something else.”
“About your new bag” Xu Zhifan glanced at the bag she left on the table.
“Your eyes are sharp,” Tao Rui grabbed the bag.
“Limited edition, just this one.
I’m friends with the employee, so I got it.”
“Are you only out working for some extra spending money” Xu Zhifan said with a laugh.
I’m lucky my family is well-off.
It doesn’t matter how much I make, and I don’t have to worry about it.” Tao Rui said.
“But I also want to have my own life.
Working versus not working, that’s the important part.”
Xu Zhifan gave her a thumbs up.
The cafeteria would start to serve food today, and most people tried to get back to school before dinner.
Old Yuan said that it was just like a group of puppies having more fun eating squeezed together with everyone else.
The Seven of them excluding Xu Zhifan were all here.
As they headed towards the cafeteria, Huo Ran got out his phone: “I’ll text Xu Zhifan.”
“Don’t,” Wei Chaoren said.
“If he doesn’t want us to know, then we should probably pretend we don’t”
“You and your brain,” Kou Chen poked him in the back of the head.
“We have to text him and ask because we’re pretending we don’t know.
Normally, if he weren’t here by now, we would ask him, right”
“Oh, right,” Wei Chaoren nodded.
“You guys are the smart ones.”
“Not that smart,” Huo Ran said as he texted, “Just a bit better than you.”
They all laughed, and Wei Chaoren sighed: “I thought you would be nicer once we’re friends.”
“That means that if you weren’t friends, he would’ve roasted you to ash by now.” Jiang Lei said.
“You’re not that much better,” Wei Chaoren said.
“You just didn’t say it out loud.”
-we’re going to the cafeteria, where are you
-almost at school, I’ll meet you guys there
“He says he’ll meet us in the cafeteria.” Huo Ran put his phone away.
“With a bruise on his face” Xu Chuan asked.
“It’s not like he can hide it,” Huo Ran said.
“Probably can’t come up with much of an excuse anyways.”
Indeed, he couldn’t come up with much of a believable explanation.
As Xu Zhifan walked into the cafeteria with the bruise on his face, he waved at them when he saw them: “Let’s get food first, I’ll explain later.”
“I’ll go get it for you, go get us seats.” Huo Ran said.
“What do you want”
“Same as Kou Chen.” Xu Zhifan said.
“Why” Huo Ran started.
“He eats more meat than you.” Xu Zhifan laughed.
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.
“Today I want braised pork leg,” Kou Chen announced, “And braised pork, steamed pork with rice powder…”
Leb Ejc abbx We Itlojc’r mjgv jcv gertfv abkjgvr atf obbv.
Snfgsatlcu kbeiv yf ubcf lc afc wlceafr.
“Cirb, jirb,” Bbe Jtfc ibbxfv ogbw yftlcv tlw, “Memx, P kjca j wfja qjaas abb.”
“Jjc sbe olclrt la jii” Leb Ejc rlutfv.
Qtfc atf qfgrbc lc ogbca bo tlw ifoa, tf tjcvfv We Itlojc’r mjgv bnfg jcv aegcfv ab Bbe Jtfc, “Xb jtfjv.”
“It’s been a while, Auntie.
I want pork leg, braised pork, steamed pork with rice powder, and a meat patty.” Kou Chen said.
“No vegetables” The lunch lady asked as she scooped the food.
“Vegetables” Kou Chen frowned for a while, “Half a serving of cabbage then.”
Even Huo Ran wanted to laugh at that.
He handed his own card over and asked for two meat dishes and some vegetables.
“One more for me, the same as I just said.” Kou Chen grabbed Xu Zhifan’s tray and handed his own card over.
“You’re not allowed to get food for others!” The lunch lady said.
“Jie,” Huo Ran leaned onto the window, “It’s for Zhifan, Xu Zhifan, do you know him The one with really good grades, he mopped the floors really clean for you last time.
He got hurt today, he can’t even stand up.”
“Oh, how did that happen… Alright then,” The lunch lady got a tray and pressed a few buttons on the register.
“The same as yours”
“Yup.” Kou Chen nodded and went to tap his card.
Huo Ran froze as he was about to leave with the two trays.
“No money” Kou Chen tapped the card again.
“Use this one then.” Before Huo Ran could say anything, Kou Chen took his card from his hands.
Huo Ran wanted to say something, but the trays were really heavy, especially Xu Zhifan’s one.
He could only fast walk to their table.
“…Is this two dinners in one” Xu Zhifan started when he saw the tray.
“You said you wanted the same as him.” Huo Ran laughed.
“He’s eating this much too… He doesn’t even have any **ing money left in his card and he’s ordering all this.”
“Who Kou Chen doesn’t have any money left” Jiang Lei came over with his tray.
“Even he can run out of money”
“The money in his card is from last semester, he didn’t top up yet.” Xu Chuan said.
“Rich people indeed.
He still has money left over after eating and drinking like this along with treating us for a whole semester.” Wei Chaoren said.
Kou Chen came over with his tray, put Huo Ran’s card in front of him, and sat down beside him.
“You used Huo Ran’s card” Xu Chuan started, “Can’t you just go top up”
“There’s no time for that, didn’t you everyone **ing behind me in line were guys” Kou Chen said.
“I wouldn’t have ** left to eat if I left to go top up.”
“Can you finish it all Xu Zhifan stared at the food on his tray.
“Give it to me if you can’t finish.” Kou Chen said.
“…I’ll try, I’m kinda hungry.” Xu Zhifan said.
Huo Ran looked at Xu Zhifan.
Actually, they all turned to stare at Xu Zhifan after they came back with their food.
Xu Zhifan had a black eye, and a split lip.
The back of hands were swollen, and there was a scrape by his wrists.
He couldn’t fight back.
He could only curl up on the ground and try to soften some hits.
Or he didn’t even want to fight back in the first place.
“What happened” Huo Ran asked.
“We can’t just ignore it when you’re like this.”
“Aunt Hu’s son came back.” Xu Zhifan said.
“Her daughter came to warn me, and I pretty much guessed he would come find me.”
“How many” Kou Chen asked.
“I don’t know.” Xu Zhifan said.
“I didn’t look up, couldn’t see.”
Kou Chen didn’t say anything.
His brows were furrowed and the spoon in his hand bent from how hard he was holding it.
“Kou Chen.” Huo Ran reached to hold his hand, squeezing it.
“Don’t be rash.”
Kou Chen still didn’t say anything.
He threw his spoon to the side and took Huo Ran’s to start eating.
Kou Chen preferred to eat with a spoon.
He spoon repeatedly clanked against the bottom of the tray as he ate, and you could tell he was really unhappy.
“I’m fine…” Xu Zhifan said.
“I just went to the infirmary, it’s nothing serious…”
“What if it was serious” Kou Chen cut him off.
Xu Zhifan smiled and didn’t say anything.
“How unreasonable can they be Were you the one that **ing got Aunt Hu into a pyramid scheme, were you the one that **ing cheated them out of money Kou Chen lowered his voice.
“Were you the one that **ing kidnapped her”
“That’s how I feel too.” Xu Zhifan said.
“But to deal with the situation, we have to face each other and think about it.
Or else if we’re all so tense, nobody will be able to figure it out.”
“But nobody can be sure that it was your mom who took Aunt Hu with her.” Huo Ran said.
“Right,” Xu Zhifan took a bite of pork leg, “But if it really was…”
“That’s why you’re letting her son beat you up Okay.” Kou Chen said as he bent Huo Ran’s spoon as hell.
He even pinched it further into a U-shape.
“Then with that logic, if it wasn’t your mom’s idea, they’ll have it coming.”
“Exactly.” Jiang Lei nodded.
“Just they wait.
They think nobody’s on Xu Zhifan’s mom’s side”
Xu Zhifan turned to him.
“This time,” Wei Chaoren smacked the table, “We’re all on your mom’s side.”
Xu Chuan was about to say something, but at that, he couldn’t hold back his laughter.
They all started laughing.
Xu Zhifan sighed as he pressed the bruise on his face, “I really can’t laugh right now, enough with you guys, my face hurts.”
Back at school, they wouldn’t be able to cause any more trouble for Xu Zhifan, but Huo Ran was a little worried about his dad and grandma.
That evening, as they were heading over to the other dorm to play cards, Huo Ran called Xu Zhifan: “Did anything happen to your dad Are they okay”
“Yeah, I asked him.” Xu Zhifan said.
“He said nobody went looking for him, I’m guessing… Li Ling will stop them.”
“Do you think you owe her an apology or something” Huo Ran said.
“Not really,” Xu Zhifan lowered his voice.
“She’s angry too, but she’s just calmer than her dad and brother.
I’m guessing that even if it’s all resolved, we’ll be strangers from then on.”
“Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, forget strangers or not.” Huo Ran said.
“You two were just kindergarten classmates, and in elementary she confessed to you but you rejected her because you wanted to focus on your studies.
And then it’s not like you really had any contact, you’re pretty much strangers even now.”
Xu Zhifan laughed: “You have a unique way of understanding people.”
“It’s the truth, precocious people like you just overthink things.” Huo Ran said.
“Be more like Kou Chen.
He’ll insult if he has to, fight when he has to, brag when he has to…”
With a hand on his face, Xu Zhifan couldn’t stop laughing.
“Don’t act so much like a man, be more like a boy.
It’s no big deal if you’re a bit more rash and careless.” Huo Ran thought about it, “Young, wild, and free, and all that.”
“I got it.” Xu Zhifan nodded.
“I know saying all this is useless,” Huo Ran headed towards the door, “But I still think I should say it.
Tell us if anything’s going on.
Don’t think that you’re burdening your friends.
Your friends at 17, 18, are different than when you’re 27, 28, or 37, 38.
In a few years, you won’t be able to make friends like this any more.”
“You’ve never said it like that before.” Xu Zhifan followed him.
“Too much has happened lately,” Huo Ran said.
“I’m just feeling some things, and I wanna express them.”
Xu Zhifan patted him on the shoulder.
The next day, Huo Ran felt like he wasn’t as specific with his words as he should’ve been.
Amongst all these friends, there was one kind that was special.
Just like the one in front of him.
“Auntie,” Kou Chen stood in front of the register.
“I want chicken drumsticks, meat patties, spicy chicken, and mapo tofu.”
“No vegetables Just meat dishes” The lunch lady asked.
“Mapo tofu isn’t a meat dish.” Kou Chen said.
“There’s ground meat in it.” The lunch lady said.
“No difference.” Kou Chen replied resolutely.
The lunch lady laughed and scooped his food.
“Use this one.” Kou Chen took Huo Ran’s card and tapped it, before handing it back to him.
Huo Ran watched as he went off happily with his tray, and felt speechless.
Friends like these are the most special kind.
They belong in their own category.
“Don’t forget to top up.” Huo Ran said.
“Do you still have money left Did you run out”
Kou Chen didn’t say anything, and he got his phone out as he ate.
He opened Alipay and checked his balance.
Just over $1000.
Then he opened WeChat, tapped on Kou Xiao, and there was a history of money transfers and red packets.
“I have money, don’t worry.” Kou Chen said.
“Oh.” Huo Ran nodded.
At dinner, Kou Chen stood behind him as usual.
Huo Ran turned to look at him.
“What Hurry up.” Kou Chen nudged him forward.
Huo Ran didn’t say anything, only shuffling forward slowly along with everyone else.
He had a bad feeling about this.
“Auntie, twice-cooked pork, braised ribs, scallion fried lamb, mashed potatoes.” Kou Chen listed.
At that, Huo Ran picked up his plate and made to run away.
But with a tray in his hands, he didn’t get far before Kou Chen plucked the card out of his hands.
“You still haven’t topped up” The lunch lady said.
“Did you run out of money”
“No,” Kou Chen smiled, “Huo Ran and I are using one card now.”
Huo Ran turned and glared at him.
“Come on.” Kou Chen waved him on as he picked up his tray happily.
Huo Ran sighed.
Kou Chen’s gluttonous heart was resolute.
In the beginning, he took the card from his hands, then from out of his pockets, and now he just kept it in his own pockets.
“Are you not planning to top up” Huo Ran laid on the desk and listened to Old Yuan talk about the schedule for New Year’s break.
But they had their own plans already.
They aren’t going home, they’ll be staying at school to keep Xu Zhifan company.
“I will.” Kou Chen said.
“When” Huo Ran asked.
“Is your card unlimited” Kou Chen tsked.
“…Oh.” Huo Ran sighed.
“As usual,” Old Yuan said.
“Stay safe, and don’t just play.
Remember to study at least a little bit.
Your final exams are coming up, and you have to pass that before you can relax, right”
“Ah…” Everyone groaned.
“One more thing I can remind you about first, about the parent teacher conference.” Old Yuan said.
“I know everyone hates it…”
“So we’re gonna be cancelling it” Kou Chen immediately asked.
“In your dreams.” Old Yuan laughed, and everyone groaned again.
Old Yuan knocked on the desk, “We can’t cancel the parent teacher conference, but we can go about it in another way… I’ve mentioned it to the other teachers, and for this parent teacher conference, there will be no praise nor criticism, no recap of the semester, and I will not answer any parent’s questions about their child’s performance in school…”
Everyone started to whisper amongst themselves.
“Then what’s the point” Kou Chen whispered, “Isn’t a parent teacher conference just a place to insult your children”
Huo Ran laughed, and patted his leg: “Your family is really… My condolences.”
“Everyone can write a letter to your parents.
Write down anything you want to say, and you don’t have to sign your name…” Old Yuan said.
“Write a letter to my parents without my name… And my mom’s not gonna know it’s from me” Jiang Lei was confused.
The class erupted in laughter.
Old Yuan laughed along with them: “Listen! No names, and they won’t be going to your parents.
I’ll mix them up, and hand them out to other parents.
Write down what you’re unhappy with, what you’re looking forward too, and even any grievances, about yourself, your parents, anything… This time, we’ll show your parents what other people’s kids are truly like.”
“Damn That’s pretty interesting,” Kou Chen was surprised, “I’m gonna write one insulting my dad… Just thinking about it makes me happy… What part of him should I insult”