Chapter 17 – Astray Youth (17)

After a while with no sound coming from the other end, Zhou Kaiji lowered his eyes and prepared to hang up the phone.

Just before hanging up, he heard the person on the other end say, “Who are you?”

The voice became completely serious, unlike at the beginning.

“I am…” Zhou Kaiji started to speak but hesitated.

He suddenly realized that he had never thought about his relationship with Secretary Chen, nor had he thought about who he really was to Secretary Chen.

They were not friends, not like family, but also not family.

In the momentary pause, it seemed like something was noticed, and the person on the other end suddenly laughed and said, “You’re Secretary Chen’s friend’s younger brother, right?”

“I didn’t expect him to bring you on the team-building trip,” the tone of the other person instantly relaxed, saying, “Remember to let Secretary Chen see the message later, little brother.”

The tone shifted from serious to relaxed in an instant, and Zhou Kaiji listened as the other person kept calling him ‘little brother’, his fingers gripping the phone tight.

Letting out a silent breath, he glanced towards the bathroom and said, “If Secretary Chen wants to see it, he will, Uncle.”

The call ended.

Watching Yuan Yan put down his phone, the friends who had pretended to be polite and kept their distance suddenly leaned in, curious, “What’s up?”

They asked, but by looking at the other party’s expression, they could already guess that the call hadn’t been pleasant.

Putting the phone aside on the table, Yuan Yan said, “Secretary Chen didn’t answer the call.”

His friend thought he was lying, “But you were just talking to someone on the phone.”

After his friend spoke, he himself realized something was off. It was late at night, Secretary Chen didn’t answer the phone, but someone else helped out, and the situation was quite clear.


His friend quietly patted Yuan Yan’s shoulder, while some other friends began pouring him drinks, opting for strong liquor.

“It’s not what you think,” Yuan Yan brushed his hand away, saying, “It was a kid who answered.”

His friend was shocked, “Secretary Chen has a kid already!”

His feigned surprise earned him a solid punch.

As his friend rubbed his shoulder trying to ease the pain, Yuan Yan briefly recounted the phone call from earlier.



After a brief moment of quiet, sitting in a circle, the friends who had been listening attentively burst into laughter.

The friend sitting beside him still felt the pain in his shoulder but couldn’t help joining in, “You’ve also reached the day when a high schooler calls you ‘uncle’!”

“You call someone ‘little brother’, and they call you ‘uncle’, this little brother is quite something,” someone laughed so hard they couldn’t straighten their back, “Rounding it up, you’re almost at that age yourself.”

Another friend leaned in seriously and asked, “Should we start calling you ‘Old Yuan’?”

Yuan Yan wiped his face, taking the drink already poured on the table.

He could already predict these people’s reactions.

After finishing his drink, his rowdy friends finally had enough laughter and leaned in amicably, saying, “Why did you suddenly decide to pursue Secretary Chen?”

When they met a few times last time, they always thought their friend wanted to find trouble with that person. But recently, the whole circle had been gossiping, saying he was pursuing someone, and Old Master Yuan had gotten so angry that he broke his cane he’d had for years.

After another inquiry, it turned out he was trying to pursue Secretary Chen, and they instantly understood Old Master Yuan’s reaction.

A perfectly fine person bends in such strange ways, insisting on pursuing Secretary Chen, almost equivalent to condemning oneself to singledom.

Thinking this, the friend couldn’t help but pat Yuan Yan’s shoulder again, saying, “Why do you have such unreasonable thoughts.”

Secretary Chen’s qualifications were indeed top-notch, but he was also incredibly difficult to pursue. If he had a temper or a distinct personality, it would be manageable, at least his thoughts would be written on his face. But for someone like this widely acknowledged ‘smiling tiger,’ it’s hard to read emotions, let alone understand preferences, let alone pursue.

Yuan Yan just drank, not saying anything.


After hanging up the phone, Zhou Kaiji bent down and gently put down the phone, sitting on the sofa, his body still tense, his gaze continuously shifting towards the now quietly restored phone.

He hadn’t fully understood his relationship with Secretary Chen, but Secretary Chen seemed to have already defined it clearly.

— Friend’s younger brother.

A title that sounded somewhat intimate but also too distant.

The sound from the bathroom ceased.

Chen Luosong finished showering, wearing a shirt and trousers, with a towel draped over his head to dry off. As he walked past the living room, he happened to see the high schooler sitting quietly on the sofa.

He casually ran his hand through his hair and walked over, asking, “Why are you sitting here?”

After that, he also casually asked about the phone call from earlier.

Zhou Kaiji said, “It was a meaningless call.”

Chen Luosong guessed as much.

Standing by the sofa, he leaned over and took a sip of water from the table, saying, “Go to your room.”

The high schooler didn’t stand up as usual, still sitting there with eyes cast down.

Putting down the towel he was using to dry his hair, Chen Luosong asked, “What’s wrong?”

As soon as the words were spoken, there was a shift in the atmosphere.

The high schooler grabbed the corner of his shirt, looked up, and said, “Brother Chen, I don’t want to be your little brother.”

Chen Luosong lowered his head, “Hmm?”

That night, Yuan Yan, still immersed in alcohol with his friends, heard the notification sound from his phone. He quickly grabbed the phone, unlocked it, and upon reading the message, his slightly drunken eyes widened in an instant.

[Don’t call him little brother.]

Yuan Yan almost cracked his phone.

That high schooler actually went to complain, it seemed like he complained right after hanging up the phone.

Several friends, noticing that the usually sleepy-eyed Yuan Yan had suddenly become wide awake and visibly angry, also sat up.

The angry man furiously tapped on his phone, but because he had drunk too much, it was hard to type out a complete word, so he ended up sending a voice message.

So, his friends heard him say:


And then, “Remember, don’t let him call me ‘uncle’ again.”


He actually went to complain, using a tone that had never appeared when talking to them.

Several friends exchanged glances, staring blankly at each other, instantly reaching a consensus.

This person was beyond help, in many senses.


Snow Mountain, Hotel

The next morning, when he woke up again, the sky was already starting to brighten, looking like it would be a great day for skiing.

Chen Luosong didn’t go, letting Zhou Xiaoji and the others go together.

These employees were delighted to be with the handsome younger brother, feeling like they had become younger themselves.

Without the most familiar person by his side, the handsome younger brother was noticeably quieter than usual, which they attributed to shyness, and they made efforts to get him to speak more.

Because many of them had never skied before, this team-building trip was grand, hiring several coaches to teach them step by step, starting from wearing equipment.

During the team-building days, Chen Luosong didn’t participate much, spending most of the time at the hotel, occasionally going out for a walk and coming back before late afternoon dinner.

He didn’t ski, but he got updates every day about what happened during skiing. The team-building had coaches and photographers, catering to the employees’ desire to have something to remember from the trip. Apart from the photographer, the employees themselves loved taking photos and videos, uploading them promptly every day to the team-building group that included everyone.

Unlike the usually quiet work group chat, this team-building group was lively from morning to night.

He didn’t pay much attention to the group chat messages, but the employees who were usually quiet offline were very active online, often tagging him.

The photographer also took pictures of Zhou Xiaoji, or rather, seemed to enjoy photographing him, sharing different photos and videos every day.

Zhou Xiaoji had a good sense of sports, and after learning for a few days, he was already quite proficient, the snow mist rising as he skied, covering the lens directly.

Chen Luosong probably also guessed. According to the original plot in the book, Zhou Kaiji had a talent for fighting and seemed to have better athletic abilities than the average person.

Zhou Xiaoji, with his athletic abilities, was a trainee for the first two days and then half a coach for the next few days, becoming the busiest person in this team-building group.

On the way back in the car, the high schooler, who usually had a lot of energy and never napped, leaned to one side and fell asleep. Chen Luosong couldn’t help but smile, nudging the person’s head towards his side and asking the person sitting in front, “What did he do?”

The employee in front turned around and briefly listed a few things and then offered some snacks again.

Chen Luosong listened and chuckled.

No wonder the high schooler always came back with a bunch of snacks, and occasionally, snacks were found stuffed in his hat.

It turns out those were his hard-earned rewards.

When Zhou Kaiji woke up again, he was awakened, his vision blurry at first, and he faintly heard the cabin announcement.

“We’re almost there.”

The person sitting beside him initially wanted to habitually ruffle his hair, but then seemed to realize he had grown taller, making it less convenient, so he switched to patting his shoulder.

Still groggy, eyes not fully open, without thinking, he habitually lowered his neck, making it easier for the person to pat.

Chen Luosong then ruffled his hair a couple more times.

The plane landed smoothly, and the passengers disembarked one by one. Walking in the aisle, Zhou Kaiji had his backpack on, he turned around and saw the person walking on one side rubbing his shoulders twice. He then turned his head and saw the inexplicable smiles around him. After meeting his gaze, he turned his head again.

After arriving at the airport, personnel were counted, and then everyone could leave on their own.

The driver was already waiting outside, ready to leave as soon as they exited the airport.

Once they got in the car, Chen Luosong reached to undo his scarf and said, “I’m going to nap for a bit.”

So Zhou Kaiji remained quiet.

When they came down from the plane, it was already completely dark outside, with lights flashing intermittently. Zhou Kaiji turned to glance and saw that the person who said they were going to nap had already closed their eyes.

Secretary Chen looked quite tired.

As he averted his gaze, his phone in his pocket vibrated, and he picked it up to check.

It was a message from a friend added yesterday, with a photo attached.

The photo was of him and Secretary Chen. He was asleep, leaning against Secretary Chen, while Secretary Chen was looking down at the phone.

There was a new message following it, saying: [Secretary Chen let you lean on him for over an hour.]

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