The smell of smoke in the room was choking.
Xu Zhifan occasionally smoked as well, but it really was a bit too much at that moment.
He wanted to open a window, but there were people standing by the window and door.
Any movement from him might provoke some overreaction from these people.
He could only endure it.
Apart from him and his dad, there were five other men in the room.
Aunt Hu’s husband Uncle Li, three of Uncle Li’s friends, and Aunt Hu’s brother in law.
Today’s topic of discussion was no different than the past four months, Aunt Hu’s whereabouts, to find her, or find his mom at the very least, and if neither of those, to return the money Aunt Hu tricked out of the family.
“She left with your wife,” Uncle Li said.
“If she didn’t say she was going with Little Lin, I wouldn’t have let her go in the first place!”
“But…” His dad frowned.
His voice was hoarse, and he couldn’t say anything that was of use.
“Uncle Li, you said it yourself, if Aunt Hu wasn’t with my mom, you wouldn’t have let her go.” Xu Zhifan cut his dad off.
“So you know that my mom is a reliable person.”
Uncle Li frowned, seeming to disagree with his words, but also unable to argue back.
“My mom wouldn’t hurt anyone, much less…” Xu Zhifan couldn’t finish that sentence.
“So what” The brother in law spoke, “Even if your mom is reliable, the reality is that we have no news! She asked for money from the family and then disappeared!”
“And she left with your mom!” One of Uncle Li’s friends pointed at him and raised his voice, “Are you trying to avoid responsibility by saying she’s reliable”
“Uncle,” Xu Zhifan controlled his tone, “We don’t know for sure if it was Aunt Hu who followed my mom, or my mom who followed her…”
“What do you mean by that!” Uncle Li yelled.
“What are you trying to say! That my wife tricked your mom!”
“That’s not what I meant,” Xu Zhifan said.
“I’m trying to say that there’s no point arguing about this right now, the most important thing is to find them.
Her safety is what we should be worrying about.”
“Stop with the nonsense, what do you mean by there’s no point in arguing about who followed who” Another guy said.
“We’re asking you guys for the money because she left with your mom!”
“We’re trying our best as well,” His dad said.
“And we returned a portion of the money.
I don’t have that much on hand at the moment…”
“That’s what you say every time! She’s gone! And we can’t even get the money back!” Uncle Li raised his hand in frustration, smacking the TV on the stand.
The TV was knocked askew, and it wobbled before tipping over.
Right before it landed on the ground, Xu Zhifan shot his foot out and caught it, so it didn’t shatter.
He took his foot away and lifted the TV back up.
Uncle Li was still angry, and he picked up a nearby vase, throwing it to the ground.
“I need an explanation!” Uncle Li yelled.
“I don’t care what’s going on with your family! All I know is that my family is going to be destroyed!”
Everyone raised their voices and started screaming at each other.
The doorbell suddenly rang, and at the same time someone started banging on the door.
All Xu Zhifan could feel was a growing headache.
Uncle Li had come over many times before, but today he was the most emotional, probably because he was at his limit.
Even though he clearly knew that nobody had the answers, he still forced them for an explanation.
Guess it’s his way of venting his frustrations.
Xu Zhifan was a bit worried about who else was outside waiting for them.
His grandma was right on the first floor, what if it scared her
His dad’s health wasn’t very good either.
He was fine usually, but he gets tired easily when stressed.
As Xu Zhifan headed to the door, his feet felt so heavy he could barely move them.
“Xu Zhifan!” He heard someone shout from outside.
He froze, immediately looking towards the screen on the doorbell.
A bunch of people were standing outside, with Huo Ran and Kou Chen at the front, and Jiang Lei, Xu Chuan, Hu Yi, and Wei Chaoren behind them.
They were all there.
Huo Ran and Kou Chen’s faces were distorted by the fisheye lens, making them look like a pair of parentheses.
His mom said before that Huo Ran’s face was the most photogenic out of all his friends, he looks good no matter what.
Now he could see that it was quite true.
If his mom comes back, he could show her the recording.
Kou Chen also maintained his handsomeness even when his face was stretched out like that.
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.
As Xu Zhifan stared at them, he suddenly felt his eyes warm up like a hand warmer was put in them.
His whole head felt warm, and he felt like sniffling.
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Mbiibklcu atja, Bbe Jtfc fcafgfv atf gbbw jcv rbeuta bea We Itlojc’r vjv ab ugffa tlw: “Ll, Fcmif We.”
“Ct, tfiib atfgf.” We Itlojc’r vjv rajgfv ja atf yecmt bo atfw jcv gfqilfv j yla mbcoerfvis.
“It’s a bit stuffy in here, we should open a window.
Better for your health.” Xu Chuan squeezed through two of the men and opened the window.
Cold air immediately breezed through the room, and like an opened can, the warmth and smoke quickly escaped out the window and door.
Everyone was silent, like they were just shocked awake by the cold air.
“What is the meaning of this” Uncle Li suddenly rushed to the door after, “Where’s my daughter”
“Downstairs,” Kou Chen said.
“Talking to Xu Zhifan’s grandma.”
Uncle Li paused and turned to him: “You guys are Xu Zhifan’s friends, right What Are you trying to cause trouble You think we adults are gonna be scared of a bunch of brats like you”
“Oh no, it’s just a misunderstanding.” Kou Chen smiled.
“We’re just here to invite Xu Zhifan out for dinner.”
Huo Ran felt that Kou Chen shouldn’t have smiled.
With the menacing air about him, the smile would look suspicious no matter what.
Although Huo Ran knew that it was only a friendly smile.
And the ‘inviting Xu Zhifan out for dinner’ part sounded a bit ominous as well.
If this were a movie, that sentence could be interpreted as ‘we’re going to kill that traitor Xu Zhifan, he stole our boss’s goods’.
Good thing Huo Ran’s phone rang right at that moment, shattering the nervous tension.
It was an unknown number.
He normally wouldn’t have picked up, but now he was trying to ease the air, so he picked up without hesitation.
“Hello” He said.
“Hello, I’m the rider.” The person on the other side said.
“I’m at your building now”
“What” Huo Ran was still occupied by the nervousness of the atmosphere.
“Nothing’s going on at the bike club today”
“The hotpot you ordered,” They said.
“Two big bags of stuff, you ordered it, right”
“Oh! The hotpot!” Huo Ran realized, “Yes, yes, I ordered it.
But… Can you please leave it with the security downstairs I’m out right now.”
“Alright, it’s two six person meals.
Two pots, and two bags of vegetables.” They said.
“Is that right”
“Yes, that’s right.” Huo Ran said.
After he hung up, the atmosphere felt a bit more relaxed, seeing as the call proved that they were actually going to eat.
But Uncle Li obviously didn’t want his visit to just end like that, so he pointed at Xu Zhifan: “Tell me how you guys are planning to deal with everything, first of all.”
“We already called the cops…” Xu Zhifan said.
“What use is that” Another man cut him off harshly.
“They’re both adults.
There’s no news at all, and no evidence to prove that they’re in danger.
What is the police supposed to do There’s tons of people going missing all the time, do they have the time to look for everyone You’re just sitting here doing nothing!”
“Then what do you suggest we do” Xu Zhifan said.
“I don’t care!” He said.
“You’re the ones that’s supposed to tell Old Li what you plan to do!”
“Uncle Li’s obviously unsatisfied with what we’re doing.” Xu Zhifan said.
The guy was still yelling, and Kou Chen took a small step forward with his expression cold.
Everyone shifted, and the man paused.
Uncle Li motioned for him to stay silent.
He stared at Xu Zhifan, and a long moment later, he turned to Xu Zhifan’s dad.
“If it weren’t for the fact that we’ve been good neighbours for so many years, I wouldn’t have held back.
My family was fine, and now it’s being destroyed like this.
Hurry up with your search.
My son comes back before New Years, and I can’t promise he won’t do anything.”
Uncle Li left with everyone else, and then the room felt a lot emptier.
Xu Zhifan’s dad sank slowly onto the couch, and sighed with his head in his hands.
“You guys…” Xu Zhifan looked at them, not knowing what to say.
“I was the one that dragged them here.” Kou Chen said.
“Huo Ran and I saw you left in a hurry, and we were worried that something might happen to you, so…”
“Thank you.” Xu Zhifan said.
“Huh” Kou Chen started, “Fuck, don’t say out of no where, I’m not used to it.”
“Thank you.” Xu Zhifan said.
“Thank you guys, really.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Huo Ran patted him on the back gently.
He glanced at Xu Zhifan’s dad and lowered his voice, “You **ing lied to me about such a big thing…”
“Wait for me downstairs.” Xu Zhifan said.
“I’ll be right there.”
Huo Ran nodded.
They went down, and stood behind a flower bed by the corner to avoid the wind.
“The hotpot is here” Wei Chaoren asked.
“Yeah, I asked him to leave it with the security.” Huo Ran said.
“We can heat it up at home.
If you guys wanna drink, we’ll buy some on the way, we don’t have any left at home.”
“Are the guards gonna sneak a bite” Jiang Lei asked.
“They can’t be that greedy,” Hu Yi said.
“They’re not named Jiang after all.”
“Hey now, Carrot.” Jiang Lei looked at him.
“I thought we were friends”
“What happened with Xu Zhifan” Xu Chuan couldn’t hold it any longer.
“Can you say It doesn’t look like something minor.”
“He’s coming down soon.” Huo Ran said.
“He’s leaving his dad I saw he didn’t look too good.” Xu Chuan asked.
“His dad’s probably going to bed.” Huo Ran said.
“He’s fine usually, just gets tired easily.”
Kou Chen sighed, and quietly dug a cigarette out of his pocket.
“Gimme one.” Xu Chuan said.
Kou Chen tossed him the pack, and they all took one except for Hu Yi, who didn’t smoke.
“Here.” Kou Chen handed the one he just lit to Kou Chen.
“I don’t see you guys smoke usually,” Huo Ran took the cigarette.
“And now it’s like you’re all addicted.”
“That you don’t understand.” Kou Chen put another one in his mouth, and clicked the lighter repeatedly.
“It’s the procedure.
We’re not doing this to smoke, it’s for the atmosphere.”
“Oh.” Huo Ran looked at Kou Chen.
It was too windy, and he clicked the lighter at least eighty times to no avail.
“Give it back.” Kou Chen grabbed the cigarette he just gave to Huo Ran.
Huo Ran leaned back on the wall and laughed.
“Here.” Kou Chen took a drag and then raised it by Huo Ran’s mouth.
“No thanks,” Huo Ran said as he laughed, “That’s so…”
Hu Yi immediately followed with, “Look at that PDA.”
Huo Ran and Kou Chen both started, and Kou Chen glanced at him: “Look at that, I’ve never expected Little Carrot to say something like that.”
“See, this is the pain of us single people.” Jiang Lei said.
“PDA from two guys even.”
They all laughed.
Kou Chen stopped trying to give the cigarette to Huo Ran, and he finished it himself.
“If my dad ever finds out I carry cigs around, he would beat me to death.”
“If only Xu Zhifan’s dad was like your dad,” Jiang Lei said.
“His dad’s quiet, doesn’t know how to argue with people, he just stays silent.”
They all went silent.
About ten or so minutes later, Xu Zhifan turned the corner.
They all sprang up from where the were leaning or squatting against the wall.
“How’s your dad” Huo Ran asked.
“He has a bit of a headache, so he took medicine and went to sleep.” Xu Zhifan said.
“My grandma’s downstairs playing cards, they’ll see her up when they’re done.”
“So now…” Kou Chen looked at him.
“As we originally planned Hotpot”
“Mhm.” Xu Zhifan nodded.
“Let’s buy some alcohol, we can spend the night.”
“Alright,” Wei Chaoren immediately said.
“Then we can just go back to school together tomorrow.”
“Is there space” Xu Chuan asked Huo Ran.
“Will your parents mind”
“They’re fine with it, don’t worry.
Just sleep wherever.” Huo Ran said.
“I want Huo Ran’s bed.” Wei Chaoren said.
“Gotta fight your Boss Kou for it first.” Xu Zhifan said.
They all laughed.
“…Nevermind.” Wei Chaoren shrank back, “I can’t win.”
As they were waiting for the cab, Xu Zhifan and the others went to buy alcohol, and Huo Ran and Kou Chen waited by the road.
Kou Chen was pretty quiet, probably still recovering from what just happened.
Seeing as they still don’t know exactly what was going on.
“I need to remind you of something.” Kou Chen suddenly said after a long moment of silence.
“Go ahead.” Huo Ran looked at him.
“Let me say this first, I obviously don’t want anything to happen to you,” Kou Chen said.
“But if something does, don’t try to hide it like Xu Zhifan, and don’t try to deal with everything yourself.
You have friends.”
“Mhm.” Huo Ran nodded.
“Even if you don’t tell them, you have to tell me.” Kou Chen added.
“Okay, I got it.” Huo Ran smiled, “Then…”
“Of course I’ll tell you if something happens to me… But I doubt anything will really happen.” Kou Chen thought about it.
“My dad hasn’t done anything to me the past few years.
If he does, I’ll call you right away to come save me.”
“…Do I have to” Huo Ran said.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to win against your dad.
He’s trained, no matter how you look at it.”
Kou Chen laughed: “That’s true, he and his friends go boxing the moment they’re free.
What a healthy lifestyle.”
“Your dad’s so… lively.” Huo Ran said.
“I’m very lively too,” Kou Chen flexed his arm, “Wanna feel”
“…Go ask a girl that.” Huo Ran pushed his arm down.
“Your image is very rapidly fading in my eyes, but maybe you can still get some cheers from the girls.”
“I don’t care about that.” Kou Chen made a face.
“Then what do you care about” Huo Ran said.
“I care about my friendship with you.” Kou Chen said.
“Don’t keep anything from me.
Like today with Xu Zhifan, I noticed, but what if I didn’t What would happen then”
“I got it.” Huo Ran patted him on the back.
Kou Chen immediately turned to put an arm around him, happily patting him return like a puppy that just got praised.
“That’s the spirit.”