Chapter 4 – Astray Youth (4)

On Monday, Zhou Kaiji arrived at the classroom right on time.

The first morning back from vacation was always the busiest time; the classroom was filled with hardworking and tired figures.

“Hardworking and tired” refers to those frantically copying assignments and because they couldn’t find homework to copy, they were sweating profusely.

When Zhou Kaiji sat down at his desk, his deskmate was still looking around for homework to copy and returned empty-handed in the end.

Completed assignments were like scarce resources, already taken by those who arrived early, leaving the later ones with nothing to do but watch.

In the chilly morning, the deskmate sat down and fanned himself with his test booklet, then turned around to realize that Zhou Kaiji, who usually only arrived after the flag-raising ceremony on Mondays, was already in his seat.

Feeling that this person seemed much more unfamiliar than before, before his brain could catch up, he watched as his deskmate took out a pile of test booklets and notes from his backpack.

Already completed test booklets and notes.

Deskmate then proceeded to perform a standard gesture of asking for notes.

Deskmate’s passionate performance earned him notes x1, and he was moved to tears on the spot, copying vigorously while feeling touched.

The person who lent notes was considered the greatest person in the world; from being ordinary classmates to forging a friendship through copying assignments. Deskmate unilaterally believed that their relationship had made a qualitative leap.

After finishing copying the notes, he lay his head on the desk and turned to ask, “How did you remember to do the homework this time?”

He was just curious and meant nothing else by it.

He didn’t pay much attention to his deskmate, who was usually buried in his desk most of the time, but he also knew that whenever the class monitor collected assignments or the teacher checked them, the person next to him always had blank papers and test booklets.

Zhou Kaiji wasn’t used to talking to people like this and simply answered briefly, “I had time this time.”

Starting from Friday after class, he rushed off to work, stayed until the early hours of the morning, then got up early in the morning again. He didn’t have time to do homework, nor did he have the energy to do homework after returning home.

During this weekend, he could allocate most of his time to do homework, and sometimes Secretary Chen would sit by and take a glance when he had free time.

Deskmate said, “Oh,” and then asked, “What were you doing before this?”

This person not only came back from weekends looking dead tired, but he was also absent during all the evening self-study sessions, disappearing right after class in the afternoon.

Zhou Kaiji replied, “Working.”

Deskmate was stunned, momentarily unsure of what to say, and awkwardly asked, “So you’re not working anymore?”

Zhou Kaiji finally lifted his head slightly, his pupils shifting towards the tree shadows peeking into the classroom from the window, and said, “Not working anymore.”

In just a few days, classmates in the class noticed that the person who used to sleep on the desk and had a low presence seemed to have undergone some slight changes recently.

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly changed; he still had a blank expression, rarely spoke, but there was a subtle difference compared to before.

Other changes were hard to identify, but the most noticeable change was that he didn’t leave during evening self-study sessions and continued to stay for several days in a row.

Deskmate had originally planned to walk a part of the way back with his newly made friend, but every time after class, this seemingly silent and calm person walked away swiftly, leaving the classroom at an unprecedented speed.

Zhou Kaiji walked fast because someone was waiting for him.

After work, Secretary Chen would come by to pick him up from school, standing not far from the school gate.

Here, after evening classes and on Fridays when school ends, it was very similar. There were many parents waiting at the gate, looking inside anxiously.

Zhou Kaiji had never attended evening self-study sessions before, as he was working at the store during that time. These past few days, he realized that the school gate was also bustling in the evenings.

Walking among the crowd, Zhou Kaiji glanced to one side, looking past the other moving people, and saw someone standing by the wall not far away.

The person standing under the streetlight by the wall wore a scarf. He also looked over, waving his hand as usual. When the wind blew, the bright streetlight cast a light from behind, illuminating the tousled hair that lifted up. He slightly lowered the scarf, as if saying something.

Although he couldn’t hear the words, Zhou Kaiji could already guess what the other person was saying.

If nothing unexpected happened, the person across from him should be calling out, “Zhou Xiaokai.”

In these few days, his name had changed from “Little Classmate Zhou” to “Zhou Xiaokai,” sometimes even “Zhou Xiaoji,” depending on the other person’s mood.

Before the person across from him could speak again, he jogged over.

The person under the streetlight reached out, and he instinctively lowered his neck, allowing the person to easily put their arm around his shoulder.

Leader Chen Luosong patted his shoulder and asked, “Do you want to go for supper on the way back?”

Zhou Xiaokai agreed.

The auntie at home had already prepared some warm supper for them on their way back.

During the meal, Chen Luosong said, “I have a meeting tomorrow. I probably won’t be able to pick you up in the afternoon.”

Tomorrow would be Friday again, with afternoon dismissal, but he couldn’t make it due to the meeting.

Zhou Kaiji nodded in agreement, showing no particular emotion.

The next morning, Chen Luosong still dropped him off at school.

The contemporary high school students’ schedules were too inhumane, and he still hadn’t adapted after such a long time. When Zhou Xiaokai got out of the car, he had already learned to wave goodbye on his own initiative. Chen Luosong half-opened his eyes, with most of his face buried in the scarf, and waved slightly.

As the car door closed, the person buried in the scarf yawned, the dim pupils reflecting the light cast by the streetlamp. He lazily leaned back against the back seat, slowly reaching out to untangle the scarf wrapped haphazardly around him.

The driver glanced at the rearview mirror and slightly raised the temperature inside the car.

Underneath the scarf and thick coat was a white shirt and a loosely tied tie, tied in a very rough manner, clearly done while half-asleep, resembling a red scarf at a glance.

Chen Luosong loosened his tie, looking down, and asked, “Has anyone been lurking around that old building these past few days?”

The old building he mentioned was the residential building where Zhou Kaiji used to live. That building was quite old, deserving of being called an old building.

The driver replied, “No sightings so far.”

Chen Luosong said, “Continue to keep an eye out.”

Since Zhou Kaiji moved out of the old building, he had obtained contact information for all the creditors on the surface. Things were almost settled, but there were still some less legitimate creditors left. Compared to making phone calls, these people were better at coming in person to collect debts. It was almost time for the next payment, so it was about time to start keeping watch downstairs.

In the books, Zhou Kaiji veered onto the wrong path because of these debt collectors.

One wrong turn was enough.

Chen Luosong carefully tied his tie and picked up the folder placed aside.


On Friday after school, after enduring the morning, as the last class approached, everyone in the class was packing their bags. Contrary to usual, the person who usually left the classroom first remained seated.

Deskmate put down his bag and said, “Why weren’t you actively preparing today?”

He struggled to process this in his mind and asked again, “Is there no one picking you up today?”

He had always wondered why this person ran so fast after class, but recently he heard from another classmate who also left class promptly that they saw this person at the school gate, saying someone was waiting outside to pick him up every day.

The person who brought the news hesitated, as if wanting to say something more, but ultimately said nothing.

Deskmate clenched his fists in jealousy and closed his eyes.

Every day someone picked him up, no wonder he ran so fast. If it were him, he would run too.

At first, Zhou Kaiji shook his head, then he pondered and said, “Sort of.”

The driver would still come today, but Secretary Chen wouldn’t.

Deskmate’s eyes instantly lit up.

He wanted to buy the limited edition series of gashapon that was only available for a limited time today. Each person was limited to one gashapon, and just when he had accepted fate that he could only buy one, the God of Homework smiled upon him again.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime request, please, please, I really want two gashapon.”

Deskmate chanted at lightning speed, but Zhou Kaiji, holding a pen, remained focused on his work, unmoved.

Deskmate said, “The place that sells the gashapon isn’t far, it’s in the square near the Guangsheng Building.”

The constantly moving pen finally stopped, and the person doing the work finally lifted his head slightly.

Guangsheng Building, the headquarters of Guangsheng Group.

After contacting Secretary Chen and the driver, Zhou Kaiji finally agreed to his deskmate’s once-in-a-lifetime request. After class, they took the bus together and arrived near Guangsheng Square.

This area is the central business district (CBD) and economic center, very large, with tall buildings located in the center of the construction seen from any side.

That’s the Guangsheng Building.

The glass of the tall buildings reflected the light, creating an extremely oppressive feeling. The people coming in and out of the building were dressed brightly, contrasting sharply with their school uniforms.

Deskmate looked up at the tall building and said, “It would be great to work here in the future.”

Not getting a response to his sigh, he turned his head and saw the person beside him still looking at the building entrance, scanning past every person coming and going.

It looked like he was looking for someone.

Deskmate asked, “Are you looking for someone?”

Zhou Kaiji withdrew his gaze and said no.

Deskmate felt that this person was not being honest. His eyes were almost piercing through the building, yet he still denied it.

But the kind-hearted Deskmate chose not to expose him and turned to lead him towards the gashapon store.

Today’s gashapon was unusually popular, with the line stretching from inside the mall to outside, including both high school students and other people.

Deskmate stood in line, repeatedly counting the people ahead and the remaining gashapon, sweating nervously in the cold weather.

Zhou Kaiji didn’t count. His phone in his pocket vibrated, and he took it out.

He only had one contact on WeChat, and only one person would message him.

The person on the other end sent a photo of two scarves and asked him which one looked better.

He lowered his head and looked at the photo carefully.

As he replied to the message, Deskmate, who had finished counting, tapped his arm, signaling him to look up.

On the railing of the second floor, there was a person leaning lazily with a phone in hand, slender in figure, with lowered brows and eyes, and most of his face buried in a scarf.

Zhou Kaiji widened his eyes slightly, “…”

Deskmate nodded in satisfaction at his reaction and whispered, “Isn’t that person really good-looking?”

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Zhou Xiaokai, Zhou Kaiji – Zhou Little Kai, Zhou Little Ji

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