The weather was already quite cold.
Although Kou Chen was wearing a longer coat, the wind blowing into the alleyway chilled him.
But Huo Ran was still in a daze sitting on the bench, silent and unmoving.
He seemed to have stopped crying, but the corners of his eyes were still wet, and it would occasionally drip down to his chin.
He wasn’t speaking, and Kou Chen couldn’t find any words either.
He just stood there like that for many minutes.
Huo Ran was wearing even less than him, he was probably freezing by now, but Kou Chen didn’t dare speak.
No matter how you looked at it, he was the one that caused the whole thing.
If he didn’t pick the brat up, his aunt might not have said those words, and Huo Ran would be fine.
But the brat was just too annoying, and his cousin kept arguing with Huo Ran under the pretense of lecturing the brat, and he couldn’t help it.
If it weren’t for the sausage threat that more or less still scared him, and the fact that they were Huo Ran’s relatives, he would’ve gone straight for the brat’s father.
His thoughts were a mess, and he couldn’t form any sentences.
One, he didn’t know how to comfort Huo Ran, and two, he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about what his aunt meant by what she said.
Many more minutes later, Kou Chen couldn’t take the cold anymore.
If he couldn’t speak, then he might as well use his actions.
He mustered up the courage and slowly reached out, lightly tapping Huo Ran’s chin.
Huo Ran’s chin was still wet, and even with his touch, Huo Ran didn’t say anything.
He hesitated, before taking the mask out of his pocket and wiping Huo Ran’s chin with it.
Huo Ran finally moved, looking up at him: “You don’t have tissues”
“Nope.” Kou Chen felt a bit awkward.
“This is a different coat.”
“Oh.” Huo Ran dug around in his pockets, but he also only found a mask.
He sighed, and then took a corner of Kou Chen’s coat to wipe his face with.
“You’re wearing my clothes too,” Kou Chen said.
“I did.” Huo Ran looked at his sleeve, “Might have snot on it too… Do you mind”
“No,” Kou Chen said.
“But if you really got snot on it, you didn’t have to tell me.
Even though I don’t really mind.”
Huo Ran laughed, before going to wipe his eyes again.
Kou Chen felt a bit uncomfortable.
Before when Wei Chaoren’s three year old bird died, he sat there miserable with Wei Chaoren the whole afternoon, forget Huo Ran’s current state.
He took his coat and wrapped it around Huo Ran, holding him like that inside.
That way it blocks the wind, and he could let go and cry.
But Huo Ran seemed to have cried enough already.
Just a few moments later, he patted him on the butt.
“Are you okay now” He let go and looked at Huo Ran.
“I’m fine.” Huo Ran stood up, put his mask back on, and took a deep breath.
“I have to get to the hospital and give my grandma her stuff.”
“I’ll get a cab.” Kou Chen got his phone out, and then added, “I’ll go with you.”
“It’s fine…” Huo Ran said.
Kou Chen suddenly felt dejected, so much that he couldn’t even speak.
But Huo Ran paused, before changing his mind: “Okay, come with me.”
Kou Chen looked up at him.
“But you better not tell my parents about what just happened.” Huo Ran said.
“Mhm.” Kou Chen nodded earnestly.
He wanted to ask what his aunt was talking about, but give him eight hundred balls and he still wouldn’t dare.
He was afraid Huo Ran would direct his earlier pent-up anger at him.
But what he didn’t expect was Huo Ran saying as he walked out of the alleyway: “I’ll explain after we go to the hospital.”
“Actually…” With that, Kou Chen felt a bit embarrassed, in case Huo Ran was worried about him overthinking after what happened with Xu Zhifan’s ‘privacy’.
He hesitated, “It’s fine if you don’t want to say it.”
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.
Although he really wanted to know, it was obviously something that was extremely unpleasant to Huo Ran, based on his earlier reaction.
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“Gbc’a wbnf,” Leb Ejc rjlv.
“Cgf kf reqqbrfv ab wjxf sbe ufa kjafg obg er”
“I’ve never met this friend of yours.” His grandma said.
“You’ve never met any of his friends.” His mom said.
“This one is handsome.” His grandma said.
“Are all the kids so good-looking these days”
“Not all of them,” Huo Ran said.
“Next time I’ll bring an ugly one for you to see.”
His grandma laughed at that.
Kou Chen sat down by the bed: “Of course there’s ugly ones, but I’m definitely the most handsome.”
“That’s right.” His grandma nodded.
Huo Ran’s dad wasn’t in the room, and the nurse put all of the clothes they brought into the closet.
Off to the side, Kou Chen was a bit nervous.
Compared to how calm he felt when he met Huo Ran’s dad last time, right now he felt guilty, like he just bullied Huo Ran and then ran into his mom.
“Uncle Huo talked about you last time, you’re pretty strong, right” Huo Ran’s mom looked at him.
“Good at fighting”
“Not at all,” Kou Chen rubbed his nose and smiled, “Not as good as Huo Ran.”
Huo Ran glanced at him.
“That’s not good at all, if you can’t even beat Huo Ran.
Huo Ran’s not very useful.” Huo Ran’s mom hugged Huo Ran and rubbed his head.
Huo Ran’s hair was rubbed into a mess, and he sighed: “My friend is here, save me some face, can you”
“Alright now, you two can go play.
You don’t get breaks like this every day.
Your grandma will be fine here.” Huo Ran’s mom said.
“Get something to eat for dinner.
If you don’t want to be alone, you can invite some friends over.”
“I’ll go.” Seeing the opportunity, Kou Chen immediately perked up.
“Then that’s great,” Huo Ran’s mom got her purse and stuffed a few bills into Huo Ran’s pocket.
“Buy some snacks and fruit and stuff to eat while playing games or watching movies later.”
“Mhm.” Huo Ran nodded.
It was completely dark outside when they left the hospital.
Kou Chen glanced at his phone: “Where do you wanna go What do you wanna eat”
“Can you get hotpot as takeout” Huo Ran asked.
Kou Chen paused: “Yeah, you want hotpot”
“Mhm.” Huo Ran pulled the collar of his coat up.
“The air is terrible, I don’t wanna stay outside anymore, my eyes are starting to hurt.”
“Okay,” Kou Chen called a cab.
“To… your house”
“Yup,” Huo Ran said.
“You can just stay the night.
I always invite Xu Zhifan and the others over, but Hu Yi’s not feeling great these days, and Xu Zhifan… is busy.”
“Okay.” Kou Chen suddenly felt a lot happier.
When the hotpot arrived, Huo Ran was shocked.
He thought it would’ve just been the soup base and some vegetables, and you would have to boil the water yourself.
He didn’t expect a huge… takeout bucket.
Inside was a bowl of already cooked soup, and a big bag of veggies and sauces.
“This is convenient.” Huo Ran said.
“Where’s your pots” Kou Chen called from the kitchen.
“I’ll get them.” Huo Ran went into the kitchen and got out all the pots and pans, as well as spoons, chopsticks, and little saucers for the sauce.
Kou Chen followed behind him, unable to really help much.
After everything was put on the table, Kou Chen finally got his chance.
He broke the chopsticks apart and rubbed his hands together: “Ah, I’m alive now.”
Huo Ran glanced at him: “Do you do any work at home”
“I do,” Kou Chen sat down, watching Huo Ran fiddle with the stove.
“Auntie Wang gives me the bowls, and I set them out.
The same with all the dishes.”
“I didn’t see you do anything just now.” Huo Ran said.
“You didn’t give me anything.” Kou Chen said.
“Oh!” Huo Ran exclaimed, “Your model doesn’t have a setting to automatically take the bowls, right”
“…What the hell” Kou Chen laughed.
“Wanna drink” Huo Ran asked.
“Up to you.” Kou Chen said.
Huo Ran got a bottle of Chhaang out: “Try this, it’s been sitting for years.
Kou Chen studied the bottle, and then poured two glasses.
Huo Ran didn’t bring up the earlier situation, and Kou Chen didn’t ask.
The two of them sat listening to the news as they ate and talked.
A whole bottle of alcohol later, Huo Ran put his chopsticks down and went to drink some water.
He sat down on the couch: “Do you know how to clean up”
“Yup.” Kou Chen said.
Of course he didn’t know how to do it.
Usually, he waited for his dad to pile up all the plates, and then he would take them to the kitchen.
He was good at putting everything into the dishwasher.
But Huo Ran was watching TV and not looking in his direction, so he didn’t see him almost drop everything as he headed towards the kitchen.
“Just leave them there.” Huo Ran said.
“But you have a dishwasher” Kou Chen saw it in the kitchen, so he loaded it up and started it before coming back out.
Huo Ran was staring at his phone.
“Who is it” Kou Chen collapsed beside him.
“My uncle.” Huo Ran said.
Kou Chen froze, before turning to him: “What does he want”
“He’s apologizing.” Huo Ran frowned, and then threw his phone onto the coffee table.
“I don’t even want to talk about it anymore, can’t he just leave it”
Forget privacy now, Kou Chen thought as he looked over like a dog with a bone in its mouth.
-I’m apologizing for your aunt, we all know what happened with your brother was an accident
Below that was the sentence Huo Ran typed but hadn’t yet sent.
-Forget it, I don’t want to talk about it, okay
Kou Chen stared at it until the screen went dark.
He turned and asked softly: “Your brother…”
Then he immediately shut his mouth, remembering the unsent message.
Huo Ran didn’t want to hear it, didn’t want to talk about it.
Kou Chen felt that he might be lacking in the IQ department.
But Huo Ran didn’t get mad.
He didn’t give much reaction, and his voice was pretty even: “It’s fine, I don’t mind if it’s you asking.”
“Oh,” Kou Chen let out the breath he’d been holding.
He sat back and put an arm around Huo Ran.
“I don’t remember anything about it.
Everything is from what they said.” Huo Ran stared at the TV.
“They say I had a little brother, who died before his first birthday.”
Kou Chen didn’t move, didn’t make a sound.
“He fell off my grandma’s bed.” Huo Ran said.
“My mom said it was an accident, she feels terrible every time it’s brought up.
But they still talk behind her back.
To whoever has a second child, they say: ‘Look at Huo Ran, he pushed his brother off the bed and killed him…'”
Huo Ran tried to control his voice, but it still trembled near the end.
“Fuck.” Kou Chen was shocked, and he didn’t know what else to say at that moment.
“They were all there when it happened, they knew I was asleep when they went into the room.” Huo Ran’s voice was cold.
“But they still say it was because of me.
Maybe it brings them joy or whatever, and it’s more interesting when they tell the story to other people.
Since it wasn’t their kid who died.”
“You don’t have to say anything more.” Kou Chen tightened his arm around him.
Before, Huo Ran told him that his mom almost divorced his dad over the ditch incident.
He didn’t really understand, then.
Didn’t think it was that big of a deal.
Now he understands.
They had already lost one child.
“An incident that I didn’t even know, a brother I can’t even remember.” Huo Ran said.
“In their eyes, it’s a topic for discussion.
No matter how my grandma tried to stop them, saying it’ll scare me, it was no use.
They only stopped after I was four or five years old.”
Kou Chen didn’t know what to say, and he rubbed his arm in comfort.
It would scare him
Huo Ran was scared of dark rooms, scared of ghosts…
“My aunt said, he’s just a kid, we’ll just stop talking about it, he won’t remember.” Huo Ran said.
“What do you mean I was four or five when I got stuck on the fence, and I remember that as clear as day.” Kou Chen said.
“Is your aunt stupid Or maybe your cousin is stupid, that’s why she thinks you won’t remember.”
Huo Ran glanced at him.
First the corners of his mouth twitched, and then he couldn’t help but smile: “Can you not bring up how you got stuck on a fence at a time like this”
“It was just an example.” Kou Chen raised his hands.
“Do you want chestnuts” Huo Ran suddenly said.
“There’s a place out in the back, and they do delivery.
It’s pretty good.”
“Sure.” Kou Chen said.
Huo Ran got his phone, and the first thing that appeared when he turned it on was the earlier message.
He pressed send, and then blocked his uncle.
He exited the app smoothly, and then called the chestnut place for two bags of sugar roasted chestnuts and two cups of hot chocolate.
“Did you block him” Kou Chen asked.
“Yeah, I have a bunch of my relatives blocked.” Huo Ran said.
“If anyone pisses me off I’ll insult, then block them.”
Kou Chen laughed.
“If you didn’t stop me, I might’ve punched my aunt.
It was too sudden, and I was angry.” Huo Ran said.
“My dad probably didn’t expect her to say that either, or else he wouldn’t have told me to go.”
“Mostly because… You looked really upset, you even… cried,” Kou Chen felt a bit awkward, and he didn’t even know why.
“When did I cry” Huo Ran said.
“Huh” Kou Chen started, not knowing why he would ask that.
But he still thought back to the moment, “When I dragged you into the alleyway, you suddenly went quiet, probably crying.”
“Yeah,” Huo Ran nodded, “Out of anger, not because I was upset.”
“Anger” Kou Chen started again.
“When you’re really mad, you really want to punch someone, to slap them,” Huo Ran looked at him.
“And then someone suddenly picked you up and ran away, won’t you be angry”
“…Fuck!” Kou Chen finally reacted.
“Are you serious I really… thought you were upset, and I didn’t want you to stay in that place any longer.
Do you know how much regret I felt If I didn’t **ing pick up your stupid nephew, your aunt wouldn’t have said that…”
“Who knows what she was on, probably because you…” Huo Ran looked him up and down and laughed, “Fuck, you really looked like a mafia member back there today.”
“That’s how I get when I’m mad,” Kou Chen said.
“I was really mad, and your cousin was talking his mouth off.
If you said he was adopted I would’ve smacked him on the spot.”
“Not adopted, or else how could he be just like his mom” Huo Ran said.
Kou Chen paused, before laughing out loud.
Huo Ran only chuckled at first, and then the two of them were laughing together on the couch.
“Kou Chen.” Huo Ran called him after he was done laughing.
“Hm” Kou Chen turned to him.
“Come.” Huo Ran said.
“Come what” Kou Chen didn’t wait for him to reply before puckering up his lips, “Want a kiss”
“Are you the kissing monster” Huo Ran laughed as he sat up.
He grabbed him into a tight embrace, “Kou Chen, thank you.
Don’t worry about me, I don’t usually think about it.”
He hugged him for another long moment before finally letting go, to plant a rough kiss on Kou Chen’s forehead: “MUA!”