The Seven of them returned triumphantly after their ocean licking rescue mission five days later.
Even though they were just having fun for four of those days, they still felt like they just accomplished something big when they got off the plane.
Their strides even reflected that, though their luggage got in the way a bit.
They all changed back into their winter clothes in the bathroom, and then walked out valiantly.
A minute later, they all turned back around.
“Is your sister here yet” Huo Ran asked Kou Chen.
“Dunno, I’ll call Old Yang,” Kou Chen said.
“She should be on the way.”
Actually, all of their families wanted to come pick them up, but since they were still basking in their heroicness, they refused and decided to all go back together with Kou Xiao and Old Yang.
To be specific, Kou Xiao and Old Yang would be dropping them off one by one.
“Are you guys tired” Xu Zhifan asked.
“Not really,” Xu Chuan stretched his arms.
“I had a great time, I don’t even feel tired.”
“It’s almost New Year’s.” Xu Zhifan tapped on his phone, probably texting his family.
“How about the third or fourth day When are you guys free”
“Treating us to lunch” Kou Chen called Old Yang’s number and hung off Huo Ran’s shoulders to ask.
“Yeah, let’s get together at my place, or else we might fight for the bill.” Xu Zhifan laughed.
“And I won’t even be able to win.”
“Fuck.” Kou Chen laughed.
Old Yang picked up the phone and Kou Chen could hear the music playing in the car.
“Are you here yet We’ve been waiting for ages.”
“We’re in the parking lot.” Old Yang said.
“You guys can come out now.”
“Let’s go,” Kou Chen hung up the phone, “They’re in the parking lot.”
Old Yang and Kou Xiao left the airport separately, with the ones that lived on the same route in one car.
Huo Ran and Kou Chen were with Xu Zhifan.
They lived closer to the airport, and Kou Xiao had to work that night so she drove them back.
The group of them were together for the last couple of days and they were really loud.
All the way to the parking lot they were still chatting like they were bickering.
Now that they were separated and seated in the cars, it suddenly became quiet, and Huo Ran started feeling tired.
He glanced at Xu Zhifan beside him, still typing on his phone: “Texting your mom”
“She bought a bunch of stuff for New Year’s, she’s still in the store now.” Xu Zhifan nodded.
“She wants to buy me underwear, seriously, does that even count”
“It does if it’s red.” Kou Chen laughed from the passenger seat.
“In my family everyone wears red underwear, my sister even has like ten shades of red.”
“Kou Chen!” Kou Xiao yelled, “What’s wrong with you!”
Huo Ran turned his head and laughed silently.
“I’ll forget it immediately.” Xu Zhifan said with a laugh.
“And he complains about me beating him up all the time.” Kou Xiao said.
“He’s just asking for it.”
Huo Ran glanced at Kou Chen.
He was still laughing with his head tilted back, and he looked like Shuaishuai.
Xu Zhifan got off at the store near his place, saying he’ll just go find his mom there.
“Text us later.” Huo Ran said.
“Remember to free up a day to meet up.” Xu Zhifan closed the door and ran into the store.
Kou Xiao was about to drive off again, when Kou Chen opened the door and exclaimed: “Wait, wait, wait…”
“What” Kou Xiao looked at him and stepped on the brakes.
“You need to pee”
Kou Chen didn’t say anything.
He got out and back in beside Huo Ran: “Okay, we can go now.”
“Ranran’s gonna be sick of you.
Not even a dog is that clingy.” Kou Chen started the car.
“Says who” Kou Chen leaned onto Huo Ran.
“Shuaishuai’s gonna jump on me when we get home, he’s gonna sleep in my room tonight too.”
It wasn’t that far from Xu Zhifan’s place to Huo Ran’s.
As they neared the neighbourhood gates, Huo Ran suddenly didn’t want to get out of the car.
It felt like he hadn’t had enough fun yet.
And he stayed in the same room with Kou Chen the past few days.
They got up together, left together, played together, came back together, and then they chatted at night.
He was already getting used to the more frequent and close contact compared to at school.
After suddenly realizing that it would all be ending in a few moments, he was reluctant to let it go.
“Do you guys travel for New Year’s” Kou Chen asked.
“No,” Huo Ran said.
“All of our relatives are here, so we just go around to their places… What about you”
“Sometimes we’ll go back to our hometown, but not this year.” Kou Chen said.
“My grandpa and the others came here.”
“The old man is so annoying.” Kou Xiao sighed.
“He’s up and in the backyard at five in the morning! AH! AH! AH! Non-stop yelling for half an hour, what is he even doing”
Kou Chen started laughing: “He said he’s working on his lung capacity.
It wasn’t that long before, only ten minutes.
Maybe it’s because he thinks it’s peaceful out there.
Just tell him he’s waking you up.”
“Forget it.” Kou Xiao said.
“He’s not gonna be here for long anyways.
It’s New Year’s, whatever makes him happy.”
“Is it busy at home” Kou Chen sat up and turned to Huo Ran.
“I’m not.” Huo Ran looked at him, “Do you wanna come over”
“Damn,” Kou Chen gave him a thumbs up, “Are you reading my mind”
“I doubt it.” Huo Ran said.
“You were really obvious.”
Kou Xiao started laughing in the driver’s seat.
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.
“Ktfc P’ii mbwf bnfg rbwfalwf” Bbe Jtfc lucbgfv Bbe Wljb’r ijeutafg.
“Ztw.” Leb Ejc cbvvfv.
“Dea vbc’a pera rtbk eq, mjii wf olgra.
Pc mjrf P’w cba ja tbwf.”
“Pa’r cba ilxf sbe’ii yf ja tbwf fnfc lo P mjii sbe atfc.” Bbe Jtfc rjlv.
“Po sbe’gf mbwlcu bnfg atfc P pera kbc’a ub bea.” Leb Ejc rjlv.
“Holy **! Hear that Kou Xiao!” Kou Chen kicked the back of her seat happily, “Hear that If I’m going over then he just won’t go out!”
“All I’m hearing is you about to get beat up!” Kou Xiao yelled.
“Kick me again, I dare you.”
Kou Chen laughed as he took his leg back.
He reached out and rubbed Huo Ran’s leg harshly.
Huo Ran still felt the heat from it even as he got out of the car.
When he got home, his mom and dad didn’t greet him with too much excitement, seeing as he always went out when there was a break.
Though his mom was very satisfied with all the goods he brought back.
“My son is amazing,” His mom squeezed his cheeks, “You even bought back New Year’s goods.”
“It’s not New Year’s goods.” Huo Ran felt like his cheeks were gonna get squished out of shape, and he had to pucker his lips to speak.
“There wasn’t really anything to buy, so I just got some local specialties.”
Because his mom looked so happy, Huo Ran endured it for ten seconds before tugging his mom’s hand away and escaped to his room with his bag.
Like a thief, he put the bag on the ground and covered it with his body before quickly taking out the sparkly shell lamp.
He hesitated, and then put it beside the nightlight he usually used.
There’s no way he’ll turn it on, but it’s there.
Besides, the lamp looks a lot nicer when it’s off, it at least looks like a seashell.
“Little Ran,” His dad called him from outside the door.
“Hm” Huo Ran turned his head.
“For New Year’s Eve dinner this year…” His dad paused.
“Are we going to my aunt’s place” Huo Ran immediately realized.
His grandma was living at his aunt’s, and it’s not like they could make grandma go back to her old house for everyone to gather there.
It made sense to go to his aunt’s.
“Yes.” His dad said.
“Did something happen again last time you went”
“Fuck,” Huo Ran couldn’t hold in the anger that suddenly rose in him.
“What, she told you”
“She brought it up, but not in detail, and I never asked.” His dad said.
“If you feel uncomfortable, we don’t have to go.
We’ll go to your other grandma’s.”
Huo Ran really wanted to say that’s great, but then his grandma would be sad.
They always went back and forth between his two grandmas each year.
“No, it’s fine.” Huo Ran said.
“It’s just dinner, I want to see grandma.”
“Mhm,” His dad nodded.
“We’ll leave after dinner.”
“It’s fine, we can do what we always did… Dad.” Huo Ran looked up at him.
“Actually… just, how do I put this, you guys don’t need to… coddle me so much.”
“We’re not,” His dad said.
“You can’t say that just because we don’t hit you we coddle you, right”
“But we have to,” His mom yelled from the living room, “My son is so cute, I have to coddle him—”
“Ah…” Huo Ran lept face down on the bed and groaned.
The days leading up to New Year’s were very busy, and Huo Ran felt like he didn’t do anything, and yet he had no free time.
He cleaned his room, went with his mom to the market twice, and then the whole family went to the mall.
On the other hand, the group chat was very lively.
Nobody had time to meet up, so they could only text when they had some time.
Kou Chen seemed pretty idle.
He was there all the time.
Every time, Huo Ran wanted to tap on his profile and DM him individually, but he never did.
He couldn’t say why, it just felt a little awkward.
They’d pretty much never texted privately before after all, and then add on all the frenzy of New Year’s.
A bit of loneliness always hides in the liveliness of New Year’s.
-kou chen, do you have nothing to do
He still asked in the group chat.
-say’s who I walk shuaishuai everyday, and I have to walk my grandpa too, the old man never goes out for less than two hours, wild as hell
Below that was everyone laughing.
Huo Ran looked at the screen and laughed along.
On New Year’s Eve, Huo Ran and his parents went to his aunt’s house.
They were the last to arrive, the other uncles and cousins were already there.
They were hit with the sound of loud talking as they opened the door, along with his aunt’s darling brat screaming.
Huo Ran’s mood immediately dropped, but when he spotted his grandma’s smiling face among the crowd, he felt a lot better again.
“Grandma, you’ve gotten fatter.” He went and touched his grandma’s face.
“How annoying,” His grandma laughed, “That’s the first thing you say to someone”
“You shouldn’t be skinny,” Huo Ran said.
“It’s better to have a little weight, you’re perfect right now.”
“Aren’t you a flatterer” His grandma said.
As Huo Ran was about to speak, something suddenly hit his leg.
Quite hard too, it kinda hurt.
He turned around and saw the brat running towards the kitchen holding a hammer.”
“Who **ing gave that brat a hammer!” Huo Ran yelled in anger.
“Oh my, what’s going on” His aunt poked her head out of the kitchen.
“Take the hammer away,” One of his cousins pointed at the brat who was now running towards the bedroom.
“It’s too dangerous, where did he get it”
“Give me the hammer!” His other cousin grabbed his darling son, “Where did you get it!”
The brat gave his dad the hammer, and then glared at Huo Ran.
Should’ve beat you up with your dad last time.
Huo Ran glared back.
Or I should’ve let your Grandpa Kou throw you on the floor.
“Good boy, don’t play with it anymore,” His cousin said.
“Or else people will call you a brat.”
“That’s just a fact, it has nothing to do with the hammer.” Huo Ran said.
His cousin turned to look at him.
Huo Ran ignored him, and he took some candy from the table to eat.
Not as good as chocolate.
He looked back at the table, but he didn’t see any chocolate.
Right then, he really missed Kou Chen…’s endless supply of chocolate.
“You spoil Huo Ran to no end, his temper is getting worse and worse.” His aunt walked out of the kitchen and said with a frown as she passed his dad.
“Who doesn’t spoil their children” His mom was eating sunflower seeds.
“You guys spoiled Little Jun too much and now he’s like this.
He’s still young now, but let’s see if he can match up to his uncle in a few years.”
His aunt paused, and was about to speak when one of his uncles laughed: “Huo Ran’s personality really is a lot like my sister-in-law’s.”
“Boys take after their mothers,” A cousin said.
“Huo Ran looked so much like his mom when he was little, then he started looking like his dad in middle school.”
The topic suddenly shifted to whether children take after their moms or dads.
Little conflicts happened who knows how many times at every family gathering, so nobody minded it.
Huo Ran sat down beside his grandma and played on his phone.
There was nobody talking in the group chat, only Jiang Lei and Wei Chaoren sending photos of their food like it was a competition.
And in between that was a drooling emoji from Kou Chen.
Huo Ran laughed, the emoji that was completely ignored between Jiang Lei and Wei Chaoren’s photos of food looked both cute and pitiful.
After going through the timeline and the group chat, Huo Ran was even more bored.
More and more firecrackers were being set off outside.
Every year they were told not to set them off, but nobody listened.
They would throw them onto the ground and run, so nobody knew who did it.
Their family was obedient on the other hand.
At dinner, his uncle got his phone out and played some firecracker sounds through the bluetooth speaker.
Huo Ran was amused by his creativity, so he recorded a clip and sent it into the group chat.
Nobody replied this time, they were probably all eating.
His aunt and the others were done too, so they got the chairs out and the food on the table.
Everyone laughed and cheered, having a round of drinks right after they sat down.
It was nice that it was so lively, but Huo Ran felt a little distracted.
He kept glancing at his phone every so often.
Halfway through dinner, he couldn’t help it.
He was bored out of his mind, so he sent Kou Chen a text.
-are you eating
It was a very boring message.
His boredom shone through each letter, and it was even more boring and boredom itself.
“Little Chen really does look a lot more settled now.” An uncle looked at Kou Chen and nodded.
“Transferring schools did you good.
The environment plays a big factor.”
“Pretty much.” Kou Chen was laying on the couch with Shuaishuai on top of him for him to pet, “I just got a misdemeanor this semester.”
“A misdemeanor” His uncle started, frowning.
“The one from before is still there, right” One of his cousins asked.
“Yup.” Kou Chen smiled.
“You still have the nerve to smile” Another uncle looked at him.
“Hehe.” Kou Chen continued.
“You…” His dad started glaring.
“It’s your turn!” Kou Xiao smacked a mahjong piece on the table.
“Have some competitive spirit and respect your opponents, can you If you’re playing mahjong then play mahjong, stop worrying about other things.”
“This mouth of Xiaoxiao’s.” The uncle sighed.
“Gives me a headache.”
Kou Xiao reached back and tossed him a box of pills: “This works, I brought it back from Japan.
Good for any sort of pain.”
Kou Chen held Shuaishuai as he burst out into laughter.
“Aren’t you annoying.” His uncle laughed along.
“What’s annoying is my dad not taking his turn!” Kou Xiao said.
“Yes, yes, yes.” His dad played his turn.
“Pung.” Kou Xiao said.
Kou Chen stood up and stretched, looking out of the window.
Firecrackers weren’t allowed in his neighbourhood, and the security patrolled the areas, so it was pretty quiet.
But it was already pretty hazy.
He put his phone in his pocket and headed for the door.
“Where are you going” His mom asked.
“Going for a walk.” Kou Chen said.
“Are you bored” His dad said.
“Why don’t you play a few rounds for me”
“Nah,” Kou Chen said as he put his shoes on.
“The stakes are too low, it’s boring.”
His dad laughed, “Listen to that.”
Everyone all laughed, and his grandpa smacked the table, “I told you you were all too stingy.”
As he walked, Kou Chen’s phone dinged.
He glanced at it, it was from Huo Ran.
He immediately tapped on the notification.
-are you eating
-we ate ages ago, playing mahjong now
-oh, have fun then
Kou Chen tsked.
-what miss me
-I’m so bored
Kou Chen hesitated.
He patted his pockets, then he opened the door and got the keys from the shoe rack.
“What are you doing” His mom’s eyes were sharp, she zeroed in on him immediately, “What are you gonna do with the motorcycle keys”
“Going out.” Kou Chen said.
“It’s too cold,” His aunt yelled, “You’ll catch a cold, forget the motorcycle! Your cousin can drive you!”
“It’s fine.” Kou Chen closed the door and ran to the garage, getting the motorcycle out.
His dad and uncles chased him out, so Kou Chen drove all the way to the street before stopping to reply to Huo Ran.
Then he got out his helmet and gloves, along with knee pads.
-I can come find you
Huo Ran pretty much replied immediately.
-you’re crazy, are you gonna walk here or what
After dinner, Huo Ran stepped outside with his grandma.
She said she wanted to smell the scent of the new year.
About thirty seconds later, his grandma went back in: “Oh my, I’m freezing…”
Huo Ran laughed, and watched his grandma go back in before he took a small jog around the building.
It was pretty cold, but he really didn’t want to go inside.
Even though there was nothing much to see outside, and he couldn’t see anything anyways, it’s not like he had much to do back inside anyways.
And Kou Chen still hadn’t replied to his text yet.
He stood there for a bit, and was about to go back in, when he heard the sound of a motorcycle.
Following the sound, he saw a very cool Harley driving over through the fog, stopping by the road.
Must be an idiot.
Driving a motorcycle in this weather Who are they showing off for
Huo Ran really couldn’t understand.
He should probably introduce this person to Kou Chen, they should have a common hobby.
The person on the motorcycle put their foot on the ground and fumbled around for their phone.
Huo Ran watched.
He could literally see the person trembling even in such visibility.
Why don’t they find a place to warm up first instead of calling someone
Calling your lover from a past life
That person raised the phone to their ear.
Huo Ran’s phone started vibrating in his pocket.
He paused, what the hell
He got his phone out and saw Kou Chen’s name.
“Hello” Huo Ran could hear the wind blowing from the other end when he picked up.
He immediately looked up and stared at the person on the Harley.
“Holy **,” Kou Chen’s voice trembled, “Guess where I am.”
“Outside my aunt’s building” Huo Ran asked in shock.
“How did you guess that” Kou Chen was also shocked.
“Are you **ing crazy!” Huo Ran was speechless, and he yelled, “Do you know how cold it is And you’re driving a stupid motorcycle out!”
“Fuck” Kou Chen paused, “Where the ** are you You can see me”
“Right here!” Huo Ran hung up and put his phone back in his pocket before running towards the motorcycle, cursing as he did: “Idiot!”
Kou Chen turned his head and pushed the visor of his helmet up.
He waved at him: “Hey—”
“Hey your grandpa!” Huo Ran rushed to him, “Are you stupid!”
“Surprised” Kou Chen laughed.