Chapter 21.1 – Astray Youth (21)

In the center of the square stood a clock tower, and when the hands pointed to the hour, the bells rang.

Chen Luosong looked up at the clock tower and heard faint shouts amidst the booming bells. This time, he turned around.

In the distance, amidst the crowd, a stubborn hand reached high above the rest. The person behind the hand jumped up and down, trying to stand out in the crowd while shouting, “Brother Chen!”

The shouts came from there.

This time, there was no timely interception. Zhou Kaiji could only look towards the distance with a smile on his face.

The shouts came from Li Hua and a few others who he claimed to be busy with something.

They jumped up and down like the characters in a Whack-A-Mole game.

They made their way through the dense crowd. As soon as Li Hua approached, he greeted them and then gasped for breath, saying, “I saw you guys earlier, but then you disappeared. I thought we wouldn’t meet.”

Obviously, the previous shout had also come from them.

Good Brother next to them looked at Zhou Kaiji standing aside and said, “Weren’t you busy today?”

They had been calling this person out to play for the past few days, and this morning they had asked again, but he had given the same answer about being busy.

It turned out being busy meant going out to play with Brother Chen.

Li Hua playfully punched someone’s arm and said, “You should have said you were going out to play with Brother Chen.”

Since they all knew each other, they decided to play together, making the group bigger and more lively.

A few energetic high schoolers, as it was already noon, actively looked for a place to eat.

They first inquired about Brother Chen’s opinion, and since he had no objections, they let their creativity flow and found a nearby restaurant.

The restaurant they found was a simple eatery. After ordering, they put down the menu.

Li Hua’s gaze shifted slightly forward, catching sight of a phone on the other side of the table. He also noticed the yellow dog-shaped charm hanging on the phone and exclaimed, “Hey, isn’t this Guangsheng’s charm?”

The others looked over curiously as well.

Facing their gazes, Zhou Kaiji turned to the person sitting beside him.

Chen Luosong slowly sipped on warm water from his cup and said, “You guys know about this?”

Li Hua spoke truthfully, “Saw it online.”

During school days, they were cut off from the world, but during breaks, they were at the forefront of online trends. A couple of days ago, Guangsheng had its annual meeting, and the news had spread about several hundred thousand to over a million worth of prizes being given away one after another during the event.

Later, it was said that the gift boxes given at the annual meeting were of high value, and many people wanted to buy them, which eventually turned into high-priced purchases of the phone charms that were given as prizes during the lottery. Only Guangsheng employees had these charms, and if you wanted one, you had to buy it from an employee.

Firstly, Zhou Kaiji didn’t work at Guangsheng, and secondly, he wouldn’t spend money on such small things. After ruling out all possibilities, the high schoolers looked at Chen Luosong, who was quietly drinking water, and said, “So Brother Chen works at Guangsheng?”

Chen Luosong smiled and confirmed.

The waiter started serving the food, and the conversation ended there. They began discussing where to go in the afternoon while eating.

Chen Luosong didn’t join the discussion, quietly eating his food and pushing the cherry tomatoes to the side.

Li Hua and the others discussed eagerly. As Li Hua glanced up, he saw the person sitting across deftly taking the cherry tomatoes from someone’s plate and eating them.

The person across noticed his gaze and looked over while munching on the cherry tomatoes.

Facing the other party’s gaze, Li Hua searched for words for a while before finally saying, “So Brother Chen doesn’t like cherry tomatoes, huh.”

Zhou Kaiji acknowledged with a nod.

Li Hua tactically took a sip of water.

Something felt strange, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on what it was.

After finishing their meal, the afternoon passed by quickly.

As the sky gradually darkened, the lights of tall buildings came on, and the small colorful lights wrapped around the trees on the roadside grew brighter.

The small stalls in the square were already set up one by one, and the evening crowd was even more bustling than during the day, mostly heading towards the riverbank and the central clock tower in the square.

Fireworks would be set off tonight, and these two places were considered the best viewing spots.

Instead of following the crowd forward, Zhou Kaiji found a less crowded spot with the people around him.

Li Hua and the others had initially been walking with them, but they got itchy hands and wanted to play the small games in the square, so they split up, planning to contact each other later using their phones.

Standing under the twinkling lights, Zhou Kaiji reached into his pocket and long-pressed the power button to turn off his phone.

The phone volume was already turned down to the lowest, and when it was switched off, it went off silently with just a shake, after which there was no sound or movement.

As it approached dawn, the fireworks began, following the road from one end to the other. After checking out all the various stalls in the square, Chen Luosong glanced at the time in the light and then turned to Zhou Kaiji beside him, saying, “It’s about time to regroup.”

Zhou Kaiji nodded and took out his phone, then put it back, saying, “It’s out of battery.”

A dead phone at a time like this meant no way to contact anyone.

With no way to contact them, there was nothing they could do.

The fireworks rose from the riverbank, illuminating the river with dazzling colors before dispersing with the ripples on the water surface.

Standing in a less crowded spot, Chen Luosong leaned against the railing, looking up at the fireworks bursting in the sky, the vivid colors blooming in his eyes.

Feeling a weight on him, he could guess it was the humanoid self-walking pendant that had attached itself to him again. He turned slightly and asked, “What’s up?”

The surrounding crowd began to stir, voices rising amid the bursts of fireworks in the sky.

The last few seconds before the new year began, people in the square started counting down.

Amidst the enthusiastic countdown, he heard someone behind him whisper something in his ear.

When the clock chimed the hour, he nodded slightly and said, “Alright.”

As the fireworks came to an end, snowflakes began to drift down from the sky, landing on people’s hair and shoulders.

The crowd that had gathered in the square gradually dispersed as all the lights came on, making it easier for those who got separated to find their companions.

They encountered Li Hua and the others at one of the stalls in the square, where several high schoolers were enthusiastically playing games, surrounded by onlookers.

According to the onlookers, these individuals were both inexperienced and fond of playing, celebrating the New Year while playing games and achieving nothing.

Zhou Kaiji didn’t comment on this.

One could only say it was very much in line with their personalities.

By the time they headed back, it was already late, far beyond the usual bedtime, but the streets were still bustling with people and vehicles, seemingly not intending to sleep.

It wasn’t until the vehicles turned onto the street not far from home that the streets quieted down, with no one in sight.

As they approached a corner, two vehicles coming from the opposite direction slowed down.

The car lights flashed, and Zhou Kaiji saw the person sitting in the back seat of the car opposite them.

It was a woman wearing a hat adorned with pearls. The brim of the hat was too large, obscuring her facial expression, but she seemed somewhat familiar.

He remembered seeing this person before, seemingly at the cemetery.

In the brief moment of passing, lasting only a few seconds, both cars moved forward again.

The vehicles disappeared completely from view, and he turned to look at the person sitting beside him.

The person wearing a scarf sat quietly on one side, his eyes lowered, fingers tapping quietly on his coat, lost in thought and completely unaware of the passing cars.

When they returned home, the butler was still awake, and the high schooler was promptly sent upstairs to sleep.

Once the footsteps upstairs had faded, the butler handed a cup of warm water to the person sitting on the sofa, unwrapping his scarf, and said, “The board members waited here for a couple more hours today, just left not long ago.”

“They’ll probably come back,” he continued, “Do you need to…”

“I saw them on the way back,” Chen Luosong said, “No need, they can’t do anything for the next six months.”

The butler looked at the person calmly holding the warm water, as usual, and didn’t say much, just acknowledged and said, “Alright.”

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