Qiao Luo was starting to understand how Fu Shizhou had felt upon receiving that dinosaur ornament—he seriously wanted to fight Fu Shizhou.
But Fu Shizhou had gone to the trouble of visiting, and Qiao Luo didn't actually want to argue with him. He could only lament, sadly, "Fu Shizhou, you did this on purpose, didn't you?"
He didn't want to fight Fu Shizhou, but Fu Shizhou suddenly felt like giving him a good whack.
This little brat had completely lost all sense of reason. If he wasn't going to call Fu Shizhou 'gege' anymore, fine. But he even had the balls to call him by his name?!
Fu Shizhou fixed his gaze on Qiao Luo's little face, unable to vent his anger. The little brat had aggrievement written all over that little face of his. Fu Shizhou was absolutely certain that one harsh word from him would make the little kid start bawling.
So Fu Shizhou could only huff and say, "Study hard."
Qiao Luo threw the book onto Fu Shizhou's bed and pouted. Then he made a demand: "If I have to study hard, then I'll study hard. But you have to come back and play with me over summer break."
Fu Shizhou choked back his anger and patiently asked, "What could I possibly do with you? Don't you have your own friends? When I was your age, I liked going out to play with my classmates. Why are you still sticking to me like glue?"
Qiao Luo instantly retorted, "I don't have any friends. When I was little, I only stuck to you. I only got to know you and your friends."
This little brat never got tired of using the same few tricks, and now he was even openly lying through his teeth.
Back when Fu Shizhou graduated from high school, he and his friends had wanted to go to a karaoke bar. Qiao Luo had just graduated from elementary school, and he was hanging around the Fu family's house every single day. He threw a little fit and demanded to go along.
The reason he'd given:
I've always stuck to you, ever since I was little. I don't have any other friends.
At the time, that was the truth.
When Qiao Luo was in kindergarten, the Qiao family had driven both Qiao Luo and Fu Shizhou to and from school. They would basically always go to school together and get out of school together.
After school, Fu Shizhou had homework. And Qiao Luo was, admittedly, very well-behaved. He would sit off to the side, quietly practicing the splits while watching Fu Shizhou do his homework.
Once Fu Shizhou finished his homework, Qiao Luo would scoot and scoot and scoot until he was close enough to burrow in against Fu Shizhou's chest—that's right, his chest. He would look up with his round and pudgy mochi dumpling face and sweetly ask, "Zhouzhou-gege, can you watch cartoons with Luoluo now?"
Naturally, Fu Shizhou always said: "No."
At which point Qiao Luo would shamelessly pout and insist: "Luoluo is a good boy, Luoluo is so cute. Luoluo stayed while Zhouzhou-gege did homework."
Fu Shizhou would naturally argue: "You could always choose not to stay."
Qiao Luo reached out and wrapped his arms around Fu Shizhou's neck. Once he was secured in place, he relented, "Okay. Then Zhouzhou-gege can do whatever he wants. Just take Luoluo with you."
What else could Zhouzhou-gege possibly do?
Zhouzhou-gege could only watch cartoons with the little brat.
So he did, but with such a disgruntled expression that even their closest family members didn't dare approach him.
Fu Shizhou couldn't stand to think back on those years. While other kids his age spent all their free time playing video games, he'd had to watch kindergarten-level cartoons with a little sprout.
The content of those cartoons were an absolute insult to his IQ.
But Fu Shizhou had begrudgingly kept Qiao Luo company just like that for five whole years. His excuse was that he had to repay the Qiao family for driving him to and from school. He was only able to free himself from cartoon-watching duty when he started middle school, at which point he no longer needed the Qiao family to take him to school.
…in truth, it was simply that Qiao Luo stopped liking cartoons.
After entering elementary school, Qiao Luo did make a few friends.
But after class, whenever his friends invited him over to play video games, he would say, "My Zhouzhou-gege is really good at video games. I'll go play at home."
When those friends invited him to play with them at the park over the weekends, Qiao Luo would say, "My Zhouzhou-gege will scold me if I go wild over the weekends. I have to report to him."
On his birthday, Qiao Luo did invite some of those friends over, but he spent the whole time following Fu Shizhou around, mumbling, "Where's Luoluo's birthday present? Zhouzhou-gege, did you get me something or not?"
Zhouzhou-gege, Zhouzhou-gege, Zhouzhou-gege. With every breath he took.
As a result, no one liked playing with him.
Fu Shizhou's friends, on the other hand, all got used to Qiao Luo. Whenever they saw him, they would tease Fu Shizhou: "Oh? Your little tail is here again?"
Since Qiao Luo was cute and well-behaved, Fu Shizhou's friends all liked him.
They especially liked doting on Qiao Luo—
"Here, Zhaozi-ge bought you some ice cream."
Fu Shizhou would frown and tug his human-shaped pendant back to his side. "He's not allowed to have any. He'll act up again if his stomach starts to hurt."
Zhaozi-ge would watch as Qiao Luo reluctantly looked away from the proffered ice cream and said to Fu Shizhou, sweetly and obediently, "I won't have any."
And so, Fu Shizhou could believe that Qiao Luo didn't have any friends before Fu Shizhou himself graduated from high school.
But now, it had already been three years since Fu Shizhou graduated from high school. He'd already left his tail at home for three years. Three years! And Qiao Luo wanted to claim he still hadn't made a single friend? Who did he think he was fooling?!
Fu Shizhou had skipped a grade in elementary school. He'd been ranked in the Top 10 of his middle school class. His college entrance exam scores were among the top in the nation. How could he be fooled by a little brat?
Just as he was about to open his mouth to call Qiao Luo out on his lie, he saw Qiao Luo lift a hand and start to count names on his fingers:
"Zhuozi-ge, Chubby-gege, Ziheng-ge…"
With every name Qiao Luo ticked off on his fingers, Fu Shizhou's expression darkened a little more.
All of them were still 'ge' and 'gege'? Meanwhile, he had already become 'Fu Shizhou'?!
Fu Shizhou took a deep breath. Then he took another. He coldly interrupted Qiao Luo's monk-like recitation: "All these gege are in their third year of college now. None of them are coming back over summer break. If you want to play with someone, there's just me."
Qiao Luo didn't seem to have the faintest clue that his recitation of those names had nearly sent Fu Shizhou into an apoplectic rage. He gleefully rolled around in Fu Shizhou's bed and declared, "Just you is enough."
Fu Shizhou smacked him on the butt. "Get up, go shower."
Qiao Luo took advantage of every opportunity that came his way. He climbed every ladder. Give an inch, and he'll take a mile. He kicked his pale, skinny legs and made a mess of Fu Shizhou's bedding as he whined, "I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go, I don't wanna go."
Fu Shizhou swept his gaze over his own mussed up bed and darkly menaced, "You won't go?"
Qiao Luo pressed the pillow down over his own face and continued to wreak havoc on the bed. "Won't go, nya-nya-nya!"
The little brat was out of control. There was no way he could be allowed to get away with this.
Fu Shizhou yanked his own pillow away and threw it aside. Then he grabbed Qiao Luo and hauled him out of bed. "It seems you've forgotten about the time I threw you into the bathtub in fifth grade."
That threat was like a bolt of lightning, cracking across a clear blue sky. Qiao Luo instantly came back to his senses.
He quietly steadied himself on his own two feet, slipped into a pair of slippers, and slunk off into the bathroom.
…when Fu Shizhou said 'threw', he really meant 'threw'. And after throwing Qiao Luo into the tub back then, he had roughly yanked off his clothes without a hint of mercy.
In fifth grade, Qiao Luo wouldn't have thought much about being chucked into a tub and plucked like a chicken. But now, at sixteen, he knew to feel a little embarrassed.