Chapter 23 – Astray Youth (23)

In the afternoon, Chen Luosong went out for a while and sweated a lot. In the evening, with some time to spare, he took another shower. Just after finishing his shower and coming out, he heard a noise coming from the door.

It sounded like something had fallen.

He opened the door, but before he could see what had fallen to the ground, a figure approached from the side and suddenly leaned heavily against him.

It was Zhou Xiaoji, who should have been upstairs with a few classmates.

He was heavy, looking like he couldn’t stand on his own. Chen Luosong, one hand on the door frame and the other supporting the person, asked, “How much did you drink?”

His question was obviously pointless; the person leaning on him couldn’t understand his words anymore. With his face buried in Chen Luosong’s neck, he mumbled something indistinctly, certainly not an answer to the question.

Without any spare hands to close the door, Chen Luosong slowly walked backward, supporting the person until they reached the desk, intending to put him in a chair.

Before he could make a move, the hand supporting the desk was suddenly grabbed, causing him to lose his only support and fall back, hitting his head on the desk, his messy hair spread out.

Right beside him were the stacked documents from earlier and the scattered high school exam papers, quietly indicating their presence.

The person leaning on him seemed oblivious to what he had caused, still sniffing around with his head down.

“No… smell of smoke.”

Chen Luosong, looking at the other person’s slightly dilated pupils, said, “Zhou Xiaokai, get up first.”

The person didn’t get up but buried his head again.

A slight pain came from his shoulder.

In a party, as the night progressed, things started to get out of control. The rules of various games were disregarded, card games turned into a frenzy of grabbing cards, and the purchased alcohol bottles were emptied one by one.

In the midst of chaos, Li Hua stood up unsteadily, stepping over fallen bodies as he made his way to the bathroom. He reached out and pushed the bathroom door open.

Then he exchanged a silent glance with the person inside.

The person inside gestured with the paper in his hand and said, “This place is full.”


After cursing at the person for not closing the bathroom door, Li Hua retraced his steps.

Whether due to exhaustion or alcohol, he was very tired and desperately needed to use the bathroom.

Navigating past people lying on the floor, Li Hua pushed open the door of the room, relying on vague impressions, he stumbled along the wall downstairs.

He hadn’t been to the upper floors, but he remembered there was a bathroom downstairs, though he couldn’t recall its exact location.

As he descended the stairs, he heard faint voices. Following the sound, he arrived at a lit corridor with water cups scattered around.

Bending down to pick up a cup, he heard movement from one side. He turned his head and vaguely saw two figures.


The cup he just picked up fell again. He mechanically moved forward, mechanically used the bathroom, mechanically returned upstairs, and then lay down.

The lively room finally quieted down late into the night.

The next morning, everyone was awakened by an alarm clock.

Someone had finished their exam and forgotten to turn off the alarm clock. It rang precisely at the usual waking time, startling everyone awake.

Li Hua also woke up, noticing that it was still dark outside, and the lights in the room were still on, just like last night.

…Last night!

He sat up abruptly, only to see the water cup still intact on the table and Zhou Kaiji quietly lying on the bed. He breathed a sigh of relief; the alarm clock had been turned off, and he peacefully lay back down with the others.

By the time everyone else woke up again, it was already bright outside.

Their first sight upon waking up was the mess they had created last night. They learned from Zhou Kaiji, who had already freshened up, that someone would come to clean up later.

The mess wasn’t suitable for anyone to see, including the cleaners. So, they started cleaning up as soon as they woke up. They worked diligently, wiping away their sweat, and the room started looking somewhat presentable again.

As they tossed the last bit of garbage into the bin, someone noticed the dark circles under Li Hua’s eyes and his obvious fatigue. They asked, “Hey Li Hua, you don’t look quite right. What’s going on?”

“I had a strange dream last night,” Li Hua replied, eyes wide open. “Luckily, it was just a dream.”

The person asked, “What did you dream about?”

“I dreamt that Zhou Kaiji was downstairs nibbling on people,” he said.

Everyone laughed, and he joined in.

The cup was still there, and so was Zhou Kaiji. It was undoubtedly just a dream.

The person involved heard their conversation but didn’t pay much attention, simply saying, “Breakfast is ready.”

Compared to the person who had the strange dream, Zhou Kaiji looked well-rested last night. At least, he didn’t seem much different from usual, and his complexion was even better than yesterday afternoon.

Curiously, the person asked him, “Do you remember what happened after drinking?”

Zhou Kaiji said he had no recollection.

Despite his appearance suggesting he could handle alcohol well, he was actually a lightweight.

After silently reviewing the events of last night, a few of them headed downstairs.

Breakfast was already on the table when they reached downstairs. Someone glanced around and asked, “Where’s Brother Chen?”

Zhou Kaiji replied, “He’s off to work.”

Others then realized it was a workday and sighed with some regret.


By the time high schoolers who had played late into the night woke up, Chen Luosong had already been at work for a while.

Most of the morning was filled with appointments, and the office saw a constant refill of tea.

The last appointment of the morning was with Yuan Yan.

Just as Zhou Xiaoji sent a message about taking a few classmates home, the internal phone rang.

Yuan Yan arrived a bit earlier than the agreed time and was already there now.

Chen Luosong said he could bring him over directly. The person on the other end asked about tea, and he replied that they could help themselves, then hung up the phone.

He replied to the high schooler’s message, and footsteps sounded outside, followed by a symbolic knock on the door.

He said, “Come in.”

So Yuan Yan was brought in by the assistant, who had been informed not to prepare tea. After bringing the person in, the assistant automatically closed the door and left.

Yuan Yan indeed didn’t need to prepare any tea. He was as familiar with the place as if it were his own office. After placing the things he was carrying on the table, he took a glass and poured himself some water, saying “Good morning” as he drank.

Placing his phone on the table, Chen Luosong stood up and walked towards the sofa.

Yuan Yan also walked over with his glass of water, bending to place the glass on the table. Then, he sat on the sofa, unbuttoned a few buttons on his shirt, rolled up his sleeves, and said, “It’s hot today.”

Chen Luosong didn’t respond.

From getting out of the car to entering the office building, both places had air conditioning, and it was only a few steps in between. It didn’t make sense for anyone to feel hot.

Not getting a response, Yuan Yan glanced at the person sitting across from him. He noticed the person was wearing a dress shirt with all the buttons done up, and the long sleeves weren’t rolled up as usual. He asked, “Are you cold?”

Chen Luosong said he wasn’t.

There were serious matters to discuss today, so the small talk ended there.

The cooperative project had already begun implementation, and the focus now was on resolving a series of issues that arose during the process.

The problems were somewhat complex but not difficult, and there were many solutions. The decision to be made was which solution to choose.

Yuan Yan was usually laid-back, but he was serious when it came to discussing work.

Midway through, he poured himself water twice. By the time the discussion was over, Yuan Yan leaned back on the sofa, showing no immediate intention to leave.

Chen Luosong glanced up.

Meeting his gaze, Yuan Yan sat up again on the sofa and picked up the item he had placed on the table when he first entered the office.

It was a thermos.

Yuan Yan happily opened the thermos layer by layer, saying, “When I called earlier, I also asked your assistant if you had any appointments for lunch today.”

The assistant said there were none, so he promptly scheduled this morning’s meeting.

Not only could they discuss business, but they could also have lunch together.

So, he brought food directly over today.

In no time at all, he had unpacked all the thermos containers and neatly arranged them on the table. It seemed he had firmly decided to have lunch here and would probably not be easily persuaded to leave.

Yuan Yan, relying on his charm, had extended his time for interaction by adding a meal.

After finishing the meal, he packed up the thermos again, drank some water, and fanned himself with his hand.

The central air conditioning in the room maintained a comfortable temperature usually, but after eating, it felt a bit warm. However, the person across from him seemed unaffected, with his buttons still fastened all the way to the top.

Knowing the value of the lunch break, Yuan Yan didn’t linger after packing up the thermos. He stood up with his belongings and said, “Remember to rest after eating. I’ll take my leave now.”

He was indeed familiar with this place, needing no reception nor escort. He conscientiously opened the office door, fanning himself as he walked out. Before the door closed completely, you could still hear him talking with the assistant at the entrance.

Chen Luosong took a sip of water from his cup and then rolled up his sleeves.

“Oh, I forgot to mention something about the old man to you…”

Just as the door was closed, Yuan Yan opened it again, poking his head inside from the doorway. As he spoke, his gaze fell on the freshly rolled-up sleeves of the person sitting on the sofa.

Underneath the sleeves, on the pale arm, a prominent purplish-red bite mark was visible.


The smile on the person standing at the door vanished.

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