The phone rang and vibrated for the second time at the small of his back.
Huo Ran looked up, there was still about 50 meters of hill left.
He ignored his phone, and rode to the top through the vibrating music.
“We’re different! We’re different!”
“We’re different! We’re different!”
“Fucking hell.” Huo Ran reached back and dug around for his phone, before tugging off his fanny pack, picking up the phone before ‘we’re different’ repeated for the fourth time.
“Were you the one that changed my fucking ringtone?”
“…Do you look at the caller ID before picking up? Or do you not even have my number saved?” It was Jiang Lei’s voice.
“I’d recognize you even if you were chopped up into fucking mincemeat.” Huo Ran said.
“And you still accused me of changing your ringtone?!” Jiang Lei exclaimed.
“How many times have we even met this whole summer? The last time was half a month ago! I changed your ringtone? Are you serious?”
“Then who did it?” Huo Ran frowned.
“How am I supposed to know?” Jiang Lei frowned too, pausing before asking, “Changed it to what?”
“The one you sing all the time, not an extra word.” Huo Ran said.
Jiang Lei immediately started: “We’re different, diff-”
“If you don’t need anything I’m hanging up.” Huo Ran interrupted him.
“I’m halfway through.”
“Cycling again?” Jiang Lei asked.
“Didn’t you go cycling the day before?”
“I’ve been riding since the day before, idiot.” Huo Ran looked back, he didn’t see anyone else, only the flag stuck on the back of his bike.
Who knows who designed that thing, two words ‘Elite Riding’ were printed in yellow on a green background.
He sighed, “I have the flag today, too.”
“Are you first? What club are you competing against?” Jiang Lei asked.
“Conquer the World,” Huo Ran felt that this name was even more embarrassing than ‘Elite Riding’ when he said it out loud.
“I’m first right now, but they have a 14 year old girl that’s really…”
Before he could finish, that 14 year old girl turned the corner on a road about 500 meters away.
She waved at him, whistling.
“Fuck,” Huo Ran fastened the fanny pack back around his waist, keeping his phone held between his cheek and shoulder.
“I have to go now, this kid’s hacking.”
“Hey, I haven’t said my thing yet!” Jiang Lei said.
“I’ll call you back.” Huo Ran hung up before he could say anything.
Putting his phone back, he pushed off with his right leg.
The path goes downhill next, the kid hasn’t even gotten up the road yet, there’s no way she can catch up.
But he still hurried anyway.
This was the first time he was being chased by a kid like this, she could even whistle after all that.
“He hung up?” Xu Zhifan asked.
“Yeah, he said he’ll call me back.” Jiang Lei stared at the phone.
“Then what was the point of that three minute call?” Xu Zhifan asked.
Jiang Lei was silent.
“Let me call next time.” Xu Zhifan looked at Jiang Lei.
“You’re the type of corpse that gets shot at 7, dies at 8, and we still don’t know who the murderer is.”
Jiang Lei glared at him for 10 seconds before opening his mouth, “Fuck off.”
“Call Hu Yi and the others to come eat,” Xu Zhifan fiddled with his phone.
“I wanna put on some fat for the fall.”
“Isn’t it a bit too early for that?” Jiang Lei asked.
“There’s no ‘too early’ when it comes to fate.” Xu Zhifan dialed a number.
Jiang Lei picked up his phone and took a picture of the class list posted on the bulletin board, sending it in the group chat.
-you went to school?
-damn, why didn’t you call us if you were going out?
-you guys come out too, we’re going out to eat.
i’m with xu zhifan
-hold on, I just saw the main point on the list, kou chen, xu chuan, and wei chaoren???
“Yeah, the trio.” Jiang Lei sent a voice message.
“In the same class as us.”
“Holy shit, that’s something.” Hu Yi sent a voice message back.
After deciding where to eat, Jiang Lei and Xu Zhifan walked towards the school gates.
Jiang Lei looked back at Kou Chen’s name on the class list, “I feel like they’re gonna start a fight on the first day.” He said seriously.
“Not necessarily,” Xu Zhifan said.
“They haven’t fought before.”
“That’s exactly why.
Now that they’re in the same class, how could they resist?” Jiang Lei rubbed his hands together.
We’re sorry for MTLers or people who like using reading mode, but our translations keep getting stolen by aggregators so we’re going to bring back the copy protection.
If you need to MTL please retype the gibberish parts.
“Cr ibcu jr sbe mjc tbiv yjmx Leb Ejc, la’ii yf olcf.” We Itlojc rjlv.
“Llr jcufg bcis ijrar atgff rfmbcvr.”
“Qtja jybea Bbe Jtfc?” Aljcu Ofl jrxfv.
We Itlojc uijcmfv ja tlw, “Qjrc’a Leb Ejc atf bcf ktb rajgafv la ijra alwf?”
“…Tbe’gf gluta.” Aljcu Ofl cbvvfv.
There was no one behind him as Huo Ran pulled up to the top of the hill.
Laying the bike over, he plucked the flag off and stuck it in some dirt.
The air was great up on the mountain, slightly cool and refreshing.
Huo Ran took a deep breath, taking in the scenery from a rock at the edge.
It was a sunny day, with high visibility.
He could see the horizon line from where he was.
Though with all the hills, it wasn’t very straight.
Soon after, he heard the sound of a bike braking.
He looked back to see the girl hop off it.
He looked back to stare at the horizon.
“How long since you got here?” The girl asked.
“An hour.” He said.
The girl laughed, “Yeah right, your sweat hasn’t even dried yet.”
“Mhm.” He nodded.
“Gege, do you have any water?” The girl asked.
“I drank all of mine.”
“On my bike.” Huo Ran pointed.
The girl poured water in her mouth with her head tilted back, drinking half the bottle in seconds.
“Why didn’t you drink water? There’s still so much left.” The girl said.
“Because you’re drinking all of it.” Huo Ran said.
The girl froze.
“You can have it.” Huo Ran jumped off the rock.
He knew there was a small Daoist temple with a spring not far up ahead.
Walking towards the temple, he stopped, realizing the girl was following behind him.
“Looking for the bathroom?” He asked.
“Yeah.” The girl looked a little embarrassed, “Are you going to the bathroom too?”
Huo Ran swallowed back the “I’m going to drink water” he was gonna say, and continued walking.
“I’m not going to the bathroom.”
“Then…” The girl stopped.
“Come on.” Huo Ran said.
“It’s just up ahead.”
After taking the girl to the Daoist temple, he scooped up some water to drink before getting his phone to call Jiang Lei back.
“At the peak?” Jiang Lei asked.
“…Mhm.” Huo Ran said, “What were you calling me for?”
“The class lists were posted,” Jiang Lei said.
“Xu Zhifan and us are in Humanities 1.”
“Nice, we’re in the same class again.” Huo Ran nodded.
“Guess who else is in our class?” Jiang Lei lowered his voice and asked.
“Kou Chen.” Hearing him, Huo Ran could pretty much guess the answer already.
“Fuck, you’re boring, couldn’t you have let me reveal it?” Jiang Lei said.
“Two more people, guess again?”
“Xu Chuan, Wei Chaoren?” Huo Ran asked.
“You couldn’t give me a chance to reveal it?!” Annoyed, Jiang Lei raised his voice.
“It would make me look stupid if I waited for you to say it after such obvious clues.” Huo Ran said.
“Those three exactly! Kou Chen! Xu Chuan! Wei Chaoren!” Jiang Lei repeated the names.
“How could it be such a coincidence?”
“Dunno.” Huo Ran dipped his hands in the spring, the cool water comfortable on his hands.
“You guys went to look at the class list today?”
“Yup, we’re going out to eat now.” Jiang Lei said.
“Let me tell you, Xu Zhifan told me to remind you to not pick a fight with Kou Chen when time comes.
You each mind your own business and all that.”
Huo Ran tsked.
He never intended to get into Kou Chen’s business, they just clashed a few times when playing basketball.
He spat out a curse as they were about to lose, and Kou Chen rushed to claim it was all.
Apart from that, they had no other interactions.
He didn’t know much about Kou Chen.
Only that he transferred to the school in first year, and that he and his two friends were an arrogant little group.
The rest were all rumors.
Rumors that he wasn’t from around here.
Rumors that his family was well off.
Rumors that he transferred after hitting a teacher, because the teacher was too annoying.
Rumors that he’s really good at fighting.
But to this day, he’s never seen Kou Chen fight.
Wei Chaoren lit a cigarette, continuing to rub the tiles in his hands.
“Hurry up, you’re gonna rub them blank.” Xu Chuan knocked the table impatiently.
“Hey,” Wei Chaoren laughed, throwing down the tiles in his hands.
“I really did rub them blank.”
“Pung.” Kou Xiao picked up the tiles.
“No way Jie?” Wei Chaoren was shocked “Even this?”
“Put out your cigarette.” Kou Chen said.
“What?” Wei Chaoren turned to look at him.
“Are you blind?” Kou Chen glanced at him.
“I’m telling you to put out your cigarette.”
“…What does that have to do with if I’m blind or not?” Wei Chaoren put out the cigarette.
“Can’t you see that my sister’s here?”
“Sorry Jie, it wasn’t on purpose, just out of habit.” Wei Chaoren clasped his fist in the other hand in apology.
“It’s fine, it’s fine.” Kou Xiao waved her hand, throwing down a tile, asking, “Did your class list come out yet?”
“Yeah.” Kou Chen nodded.
“I went to look,” Xu Chuan said.
“Nothing special, just that, that one, Huo Ran, I thought he was gonna be in Sciences, but he’s in the same class as us.”
“Which Huo Ran?” Kou Chen asked.
“The one that talked shit when we were playing ball last time.” Xu Chuan said.
“The one you said was cute.”
“Ohh.” Kou Chen said.
“I’ll take back the cute part.”
“How come?” Xu Chuan laughed.
“His fucking temper’s way too bad.” Kou Chen said.
As opposed to the rumors about Kou Chen, Huo Ran’s temper being bad is far from being a rumor.
Not only do the students know, even the teachers did.
At the end of every term, he would receive advice from them, saying ‘Fix your temper’.
At the beginning of every term, his mom would follow behind him and say, “Don’t get angry.”
“…I’m not angry.” Huo Ran sighed.
“Little Huo.” His mom called again.
“Ah?” Huo Ran turned.
“Stay safe.” His mom smiled.
“…Yeah.” Huo Ran nodded, carrying his bag on his back, pushing his bike towards the elevator and pressing the button.
His mom didn’t go back inside nor close the door.
She leaned against the wall and looked at him with a smile.
Huo Ran stared at the elevator for a bit, before finally giving in to the urge to look back at her, “What is it?”
“My son’s so good-looking.
Cute.” She said.
“Ah——” Huo Ran yelled out.
Glancing at the elevator’s floor display, he picked up his bike and ran down the fire escape as his mom laughed.
Jiang Lei circled around the flowerbeds on his little electric bike, moving over as he saw him come out, staring at the bike he pushed along.
“Is this the bike you just worked on? Lemme try.”
“Our crotch heights aren’t the same, you might not find it comfortable.” Huo Ran said.
Jiang Lei parked his electric bike.
“Fine, just say that my legs aren’t as long as yours, what’s with the ‘crotch heights’ and all that.”
“What if your legs are longer? The crotch height is still different.” Huo Ran said.
“My ass, I’m half a head shorter than you, what do you mean my legs are longer.” Jiang Lei picked up the bike from the frame.
“Holy shit, it’s so light.”
“Carbon frame.” Huo Ran sat down on his electric bike.
“Ten or so pounds.”
“Let’s go!” Jiang Lei kicked off on the bike.
“Straight to school, or?” Huo Ran followed on the electric bike.
“Xu Zhifan’s still waiting at the beef noodle place.” Jiang Lei said.
There was a beef noodle place in Xu Zhifan’s neighborhood.
Huo Ran thinks it’s disgusting, it’s a pitiful amount of meat and noodles with a ton of MSG soup.
But Xu Zhifan and Jiang Lei loved it, forcing him to go there every time.
All he gets after eating there is a mouthful of MSG flavor, nothing else.
But Xu Zhifan was still wiping his lips happily as they got to the building.
“Don’t you think Humanities classes are being treated a bit too harshly?” Huo Ran glanced at the building up ahead.
“Putting us in the haunted building?”
“We Humanities have to experience the importance of history like this.” Xu Zhifan said.
“Not putting us in the real haunted building is good enough…” Jiang Lei rubbed his arms.
The school was an old school, having been around for a century.
There were many buildings like this one, with wooden floors from the stairs to the hallways to the classrooms, ceilings peeling to reveal the wooden boards under them.
They were all said to be haunted, and this particular one was the only one still in use.
It was said that they’ll knock it down and rebuild it next year.
The paint on the floor has long since peeled off, but it was made of solid wood.
Who knows how many pairs of feet have walked on it in its history.
Knots in the wood protruded, giving off a sense of nostalgia when you stepped on it.
“Humanities 1, second floor.” Huo Ran looked at the sign.
There were a total of four classrooms in the building, Humanities 3 and 4 were on the floor below.
“No assigned seats?” Jiang Lei said as he walked, “Let’s sit together, us and Hu Yi.”
“Mhm.” Xu Zhifan nodded, “Let’s sit towards the back.”
“Last row.” Jiang Lei said.
Huo Ran climbed up the stairs.
The classroom only had one door, facing the front of the room.
From it you could see the backs of a bunch of heads.
“Having the door behind you gives no sense of security at all.” Xu Zhifan sighed.
Most people were already there, he recognized them all, although not necessarily by name.
“Two or three rows from the back.” Huo Ran said.
The back row was already full, but there were empty spots further up.”
“Okay.” Xu Zhifan followed him.
As Huo Ran walked towards the second last row, someone sitting at the back suddenly stood up, if Huo Ran didn’t put his arm out, they would’ve collided, but it made him step on a wood knot and almost twist his ankle.
“Fuck.” Huo Ran frowned, feeling annoyed.
“Watch where you’re going.”
The person in front of him didn’t speak, nor did he move.
Huo Ran looked at his face, and he also stopped moving.
It was Kou Chen.
Perhaps it was because the whole school knew about the time they almost got into a fight playing ball, and now they’re facing off on the first day of school, the whole class grew excited.
Huo Ran could literally feel it suddenly go quiet, and he knew what they were all thinking.
“Huo Ran.” Xu Zhifan called his name softly from behind.
He knew what he was trying to say.
Although Kou Chen’s attitude staring at him like that was very unpleasant, he still decided to bear it.
He paused, and said: “Move.”
Right as he opened his mouth, Kou Chen’s body already swayed to the side slightly, evidently about to get out of the way.
Huo Ran sighed inwardly.
Of course, after hearing him, Kou Chen moved again.
Standing in front of him, with no sign that he was about to move out of the way.
Huo Ran narrowed his eyes, looking at him.
Kou Chen stayed silent, only meeting his eyes, looking as calm as ever.
They stood like that for a few seconds, before someone walked up and cleared his throat.
Huo Ran knew him, it was the trio’s Xu Chuan.
Xu Chuan patted Kou Chen on the shoulder, “Kou…”
Before he could finish, a cracking sound came from the floor.
Still not having processed what just happened, Kou Chen’s face disappeared from his line of sight.
He looked down in shock, saw that Kou Chen was still there, but had one leg stuck in the crack in the floor, and an arm supporting himself on the desk, shock evident on his face.
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