d out of his chair, “I do, I do, I do, don’t, don’t, don’t… Thank you Mr.
Yuan, I really do, I still have money left over from last semester.”
“Oh.” Old Yuan looked at him, “Don’t force yourself, let me know if you run out.”
“I promise.” Kou Chen nodded.
Old Yuan tucked away his wallet and swept his gaze across all of them: “I believe that you’re telling the truth, and I have to say it’s great that you’re all fighting against injustice.”
They all waited for the “but”.
“But the problem is in how you chose to deal with it.” Old Yuan said.
“I know that kids your age think that ‘telling the teacher’ about everything is embarrassing and cowardly, but stuff like this you should still report it to us first.”
They stayed silent for a moment, before Xu Zhifan cleared his throat: “Actually, I just felt like nothing would come of reporting it.
It’s not like they were beating her up, Hu Yi saw them kick her once but she was probably fine.
And He Hua hadn’t asked for help, so it wouldn’t look so serious… Li Jiaying gets good grades and is a class representative, Mr.
Lu looked completely surprised about it, so he probably still thinks she’s a good student.
So if we really reported it, who knows what would come out of it.”
Old Yuan didn’t say anything.
He nodded after a long while, before sighing: “Your thoughts… as for students not trusting in the teachers, is something we as teachers should be reflecting on.
But I still have to stress that while I can’t promise the same for other teachers, I assure you that I won’t let you down.”
Old Yuan stood up and patted them on the shoulder one by one.
“We still have two years, we can grow closer little by little and learn to trust each other.”
They chatted for a bit after that, and then they left the office.
It had already been ten minutes since class began, but there were still people waiting outside for them, mostly from their class.
Out of the corner of his eye, Huo Ran saw Kou Chen start walking properly again, like he came with background music playing.
“What happened?” Someone whispered.
“Nothing much,” Jiang Lei whispered back, “We’ve been let off…”
“Go back to class first, you can talk about everything later.
Aren’t you scared the Dean will hear?” Old Yuan said.
“I’ll come find you if we need anything else.”
“Are we going to get punished?” Jiang Lei.
“It’s been many years since Fuzhong has seen such a serious fight.” Old Yuan looked at him.
“You should all prepare for your parents to be called.”
Leaving the office building, Huo Ran glanced at the Dean’s office.
The Dean was scarily intimidating, and Liu Yu and the others had their heads down.
Two of them squatted on the floor because there weren’t enough chairs.
The scene looked familiar.
It would be even more familiar if they held their heads in their hands.
“I guess the fallout was too serious even if we had good intentions.” Jiang Lei said.
“Probably can’t escape punishment now.”
“Who’s scared of that?” Wei Chaoren, “If we get punished then we get punished.”
“I’m not scared…” Jiang Lei said.
“He’s just excited.” Xu Zhifan said.
“All he dreams about is getting punished.”
“If it isn’t for my best bro.” Jiang Lei stuck his thumb up at him, “You get me so well.”
“Kou Chen, do you need to come hide out at my house if your dad finds out? I feel like he’s gonna come to the dorms and hunt you down to make into sausages.” Wei Chaoren looked at Kou Chen.
“It’s fine.” Kou Chen said.
“I’ve gotten punished like this before, he’s used to it.”
“Damn, what for?” Huo Ran was a bit surprised, so he blurted out, “For hitting a teacher?”
Kou Chen glanced at him, and raised an eyebrow.
His voice took on a show-offy tone inside the unbotheredness: “That’s nothing.”
“Pretend I didn’t ask.” Huo Ran said.
He’s not gonna forget to brag even at a time like this!
The problem wasn’t even resolved after the whole afternoon, but Old Yuan didn’t call them for anything else either.
That meant Li Jiaying and her gang couldn’t come up with a good enough excuse.
They wanted to go visit Humanities 3 to thank Lu Huan, but after talking about it they were afraid it would cause trouble.
“One of you guys send her a message,” Huo Ran said.
“We can’t not say thank you.”
Kou Chen took out his phone.
He found Lu Huan in the old class group chat and added her: “A model student like her would probably only check her phone after school…”
Before he could finish, his phone dinged.
Lu Huan had already accepted his friend request.
“Not that model after all, it looks like.” Jiang Lei said.
“What should I say?” Kou Chen stared at the screen.
“Just… Thank you?” Huo Ran thought about it, “And…”
Halfway through his sentence, Kou Chen had already typed out the two words and sent it over.
Huo Ran looked at him: “Just like that?”
“We can treat her to a meal?” Kou Chen asked.
“Just that feels awkward as hell.”
-No problem it’s the right thing to do
Lu Huan replied.
Huo Ran looked at the awkward and polite messages.
He didn’t know what else to say, so he could only wave it off: “We can talk to her after school.
During the last class, some of them couldn’t resist any longer so they ran over to the Dean’s office, bringing back the news that they weren’t there anymore.
Old Yuan came over to them as they made their way to the cafeteria after school: “You guys, call your parents over for a chat after the break.”
“Is it resolved?” Xu Chuan asked.
“It’s not that simple.” Old Yuan said.
“Don’t dwell on it too much, but you absolutely cannot resort to such violence in the future.”
“We know…” They sighed.
At dinner, neither Li Jiaying or He Hua showed up in the cafeteria.
The Seven of them picked a seat at the very edge but were still surrounded by people.
Huo Ran wasn’t really used to being surrounded like this.
He never felt nervous seeing everyone crowded in the stands when he played basketball, so he could only try to tune everyone out.
“Kou Chen,” Wei Chaoren drank his soup, “What if Li Jiaying really did hit your face?”
“That’s impossible,” Kou Chen, “She slaps like it’s in slow motion.”
“I’m just saying, what if!” Wei Chaoren said, “Would you hit her back.”
“Nonsense, who cares if it’s a guy or girl when you get slapped in the face.” Kou Chen said.
“In a fight, there’s three types of people.
Man, woman, and the ones that hit my face.”
Huo Ran laughed and almost choked, turning around to cough.
Kou Chen smacked him on the back a few times: “How did you become basketball captain when you can’t even eat without choking?”
“Fuck off.” His smacks made him cough a few more times.
“Today’s quite memorable,” Jiang Lei said out of nowhere, “Although we were in a fight today, it was for the sake of justice!”
They all stayed silent for a few seconds, before collectively nodding their heads.
“Lu Huan.” Wei Chaoren suddenly stood up, waving at the door.
They all turned around, and Lu Huan walked over with a smile.
“Are you guys okay? Did they say how they’re gonna deal with it yet?”
“We have to call our parents over after break.” Xu Chuan said.
“Thanks for today, also… Didn’t you say some other people were willing to speak up too? Who were they, we have to thank them too.”
“It’s nothing.” Lu Huan was a bit embarrassed, “I didn’t have the time to call anyone then, it’s my roommates who all know, so they can speak for you too.
I’ll just tell them later.
A lot of people know anyways, it’s just that no one wanted to say anything.”
“Good for you,” Jiang Lei said, “You made it up on the spot?”
“I was worried it would take too long to gather other people,” Lu Huan smiled shyly.
“Besides, I was pretty excited too, so I wasn’t thinking about it.
My hands were even shaking when I knocked on the door.”
Lu Huan glanced behind her.
There were a couple girls saving her a spot and looking over.
She took a few steps away before turning back: “I’m gonna go eat now, everyone thinks you guys were really cool today!”
Jiang Lei turned back to them as she sat down, banging the table softly: “Kou Chen, Kou Chen.”
“I’ll add you in the group chat, you can add her yourself.” Kou Chen glanced at him, taking out his phone.
“You’re so understanding.” Jiang Lei rubbed his hands together.
So he could take the newbies camping in peace, Huo Ran planned to tell his parents about the fight at the end of the break.
He wasn’t worried about his dad, but if his mom knew, she would probably buy a satellite phone to nag at him.
“Stay safe.” His mom said.
As opposed to fighting, his mom was fine with him going hiking and camping alone.
She didn’t have much to say apart from the ‘stay safe’.
His dad was thorough, and asked about the route, the destination, the rest stops, everyone’s phone numbers, and then he looked over all the equipment.
“With newbies, you should find a campsite if you can.” His dad studied the map.
“There’s an abandoned one at the creek, and one here at Baimao Hill, we’ve been here before.”
“Mhm.” Huo Ran nodded.
He’d been there before.
Most newbies didn’t know of this place, it was a resting ground for veteran campers.
The two times he and his dad went, they ran into other people.
It made you feel pretty relieved to see other people out there in the middle of nowhere.
Huo Ran left the house at eight, biking over to Kou Chen’s.
They would pass by Kou Chen’s house on the way, so Huo Ran told them not to come pick him up, he would go to theirs first.
That way it was easier.
He’d prefer not to take detours.
The journey started the moment he stepped out the door.
Every step was an adventure, even if it were just in the neighbourhood, in the city.
Kou Chen lived in the best neighbourhood up north.
Huo Ran wasn’t shocked, seeing as he was someone who threw out handfuls of money without even counting it.
At the entrance, he called Kou Chen.
Not even a minute later, Kou Chen came running out: “Did you eat breakfast yet?”
“Yeah.” Huo Ran said.
“Come on,” Kou Chen looked at his bike, “Can you take another person along on your bike? Someone can stand on the back wheel?”
“You’re too heavy.” Huo Ran said.
“Fuck, I’m not fat.” Kou Chen said.
“Get off, let me ride it.
I have to start saving my stamina.”
“…Don’t you think your stamina is a bit too low?” Huo Ran got off his bike.
“Fighting is tiring work.” Kou Chen got on and pedaled slowly.
“Don’t bring up the fight to my family, I haven’t told them yet.”
“Mhm.” Huo Ran nodded.
Huo Ran’s mental image of Kou Chen’s dad was like a butcher.
Since Kou Chen always went on about how he’s gonna get ground up into sausage meat.
But he didn’t see him today.
Only his mom stood outside the garage.
She looked a lot like Kou Xiao, you could say they were sisters even.
“It’s Ranran, right?” Kou Chen’s mom asked.
“Good morning, Miss.” Huo Ran answered, trying to correct her, “I’m Huo Ran.”
“Ranran,” Kou Xiao threw her bag into the car and called to him, “We have to park in some village and then hike into the mountains, right?”
“Yup.” Huo Ran sighed.
“Ranran,” Kou Chen’s mom took his hand, “Come inside and sit?”
“It’s okay, Miss.” Huo Ran said, “We’ll go as soon as everything is loaded, it’s better to leave early.”
“I see, then I’ll get you guys some fruit to take with you,” Kou Chen’s mom patted his hand and went into the yard.
“Ranran,” Kou Chen walked over, putting an arm around his shoulders, “You can put your bike in the garage.”
“…Okay,” Huo Ran looked at him, “What did you call me?”
“Ranran,” Kou Chen repeated haughtily, but he took his arm back and asked, “Wanna see my dog?’
“Yes,” Huo Ran immediately answered, attention successfully taken off of the problem of what he had just called him.
Kou Chen put his fingers to his mouth and whistled.
A dog barked, and right after that an Alaskan jumped over the fence.
It was a large dog, and it jumped right over without falling.
“This is your Gege!” Kou Chen pointed at Huo Ran.
The dog wagged his tail and barked at Huo Ran.
“He’s pretty trained,” Huo Ran said, “Can I pet him?”
“Sure, this dog’s an idiot, he’ll let anyone pet him.” Kou Chen rubbed the dog’s ears.
“Let Gege pet you.”
“What’s its name?” Huo Ran reached out, letting the dog sniff his hand first.
“Kou Shuaishuai, we call him Shuaishuai,” Kou Chen said.
“Good name, right?”
“…Ah.” Huo Ran looked at the… Kou Shuaishuai who just put its head next to his hand.
He pet the top of its head.
Kou Chen even spoke such a name proudly, “You’re so good at naming things.”
Kou Shuaishuai flattened his ears happily.
Huo Ran couldn’t help but take its head in his hands and start rubbing.
Kou Shuaishuai loved the attention, eyes narrowing into slits, rubbing his leg.
“Is it a boy?” Huo Ran kneeled down and hugged it, burying his face into its neck.
“Mhm.” Kou Chen kneeled down too, squishing the dog’s paws.
“Isn’t he cute?”
“Cute.” Huo Ran nodded.
“He has another nickname,” Kou Chen said.
“It’s Little Cutie.”
“Fuck off!” Huo Ran hissed.
Kou Chen couldn’t stop laughing.
Kou Chen’s mom probably had some misconceptions about their trip this time.
Apart from the fruit, she had shoved quite some food into the car.
Huo Ran even saw a box of milk.
“We have to keep all that in the car,” Huo Ran said as they drove out of the neighbourhood.
“We can’t carry it all.”
“It’s fine, we can just leave it in the car.
That’s just how my mom is.” Kou Xiao said.
“She has no concept of camping.”
“Aren’t you the same?” Kou Chen was still the same as ever.
He leaned against Huo Ran and took out his phone.
“You would’ve brought ten pounds of makeup and skincare if I hadn’t stopped you.”
“I didn’t even bring sunscreen, okay?!” Kou Xiao was unhappy.
“We’ll be in the mountains most of the time.” Old Yang comforted her.
“There won’t be much sun.”
“I tan really easily.” Kou Xiao said.
“It doesn’t even take me half the summer…”
“Here.” kou Chen nudged Huo Ran, placing a piece of chocolate in his hand.
Huo Ran temporarily gave up on the thought of pushing him away, instead peeling off the wrapping and putting it in his mouth.
“Look over here,” Kou Chen snapped his fingers, “I’m taking a picture.”
“Wha…” Huo Ran turned around, seeing that Kou Chen had his phone pointed at him.
He immediately raised a hand to block it, “What do you want?”
“We gotta take a picture to remember this moment,” Kou Chen adjusted the angle, fitting them both into frame.
He poked his chin, “Turn your head a bit.”
“Are you dumb?” Huo Ran was a bit speechless.
He rarely took selfies when he went out.
Kou Chen didn’t answer, snapping the photo.
“Let me see.” Huo Ran said.
He never took selfies, but seeing as the picture was already taken he had to check it first.
“Handsome.” Kou Chen showed him his phone, and started singing, “Why am I so good-looking…”
Huo Ran threw his phone back at him: “Shut up.”
Kou Chen was pretty restless the whole way there.
One second he was sitting up and the next he was lying down.
Huo Ran felt like there was a dog next to him shuffling around.
At their destination, Kou Chen’s restlessness had gone down a bit as he caught sight of the path into the village.
“We’re taking this path?” He asked.
“Mhm.” Huo Ran sent his location to his dad.
“The car won’t fit through.”
“There’s villages you can’t drive into?” Kou Chen said.
“I thought all villages had roads?’
“There’s another road on the other side, it won’t take us to where we want.” Huo Ran took out the map and pointed it out to him.
“We’re right here, the other road is over here.”
“Where are we going?” Kou Chen asked.
“This way, ideally.” Huo Ran pointed at the village he hand wanted to go to for their chicken.
“It’s pretty far,” Kou Chen looked at it, “How many days would it take?”
“In reality, here.” Huo Ran didn’t answer his question directly, only pointing at a spot around the middle.
Kou Chen studied the map: “Then aren’t you sacrificing quite a bit?”
“It’s fine,” Huo Ran said.
“It’s not like I have to take you every time.”
“Really?” Kou Chen asked.
“Really.” Huo Ran nodded.
There were three paths into the mountain.
Huo Ran picked the one that was a bit longer, but had great scenery and was relatively smooth in comparison, seeing as he was taking the newbies along.
“I think this path is pretty good,” Kou Xiao was full of confidence, “It’s not that hard.”
“How long is this path?” Kou Chen whispered in Huo Ran’s ear.
“About five kilometers.” Huo Ran whispered back.
“And then there’s a small trail by a river, I feel that that’s where your sister’s gonna give up.”
“Don’t say that,” Kou Chen laughed, “She’s gotta last through the night at least.
I’ve never slept in a tent outside, just thinking about it is exciting.
I feel like my sister could make it too.”
Huo Ran sighed, thinking about the two-person tent in his bag.
At the end of the dirt path, Huo Ran led them to the neighbouring trail, a stone path going downhill.
Oly Yang and Kou Xiao walked in front, looking as energetic as ever.
“What’s this path for?” Kou Xiao asked.
“To let the cattle out?”
“It was a river before,” Huo Ran said.
“Now it’s dried up… There’s a pretty big pit up front, be careful, go from the side.”
Old Yang went first, and then he reached out for Kou Xiao: “Here, be careful.”
Huo Ran watched as Kou Xiao stepped down swiftly, a lot better than he expected.
He jumped down from the rocks on the side, and glanced back at Kou Chen.
“Come.” Kou Chen was about to jump, but seeing him turn around, he immediately stopped.
“Come what?” Huo Ran was a bit confused.
“Come give me a hand,” Kou Chen said.
“What if I dislocate something?”
“I’ll pop it back in for you.” Huo Ran said.
“If you can dislocate something from this height I’ll piggyback you the rest of the way.”
“Damn,” Kou Chen laughed, “That’s gonna make me wanna throw myself down.”
“Then do it.” Although Huo Ran said that, he still braced himself against the nearby pile of dirt.
That way he could stop Kou Chen if he really did throw himself down, seeing as he was an unpredictable mental case.
“I find that,” Kou Chen hopped down and stared at him.
“When you’re playing basketball, and right now, you’re different from how you usually are.”
“You’re pretty cool.
If it were a girl, they would be falling for you right now.” Kou Chen patted the leg he had braced against the dirt pile, and walked away whistling.
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