WITHDRAWAL

Chapter 4

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Qiao Luo's summer vacation arrived right on schedule.

As a reward for his entrance exam scores, his parents took him on a trip around Europe.

At first, Qiao Luo really, really, really wanted Fu Shizhou to go with him. But Fu Shizhou really, really, really didn't have time. In the end, Qiao Luo could only board the plane with just his parents.

On the day of their arrival, Qiao Luo was airsick and not totally acclimated to the new environment. He threw up until up felt like down and black felt like white. He was so green around the gills that he had no choice but to go back to the hotel and rest.

Qiao Luo sprawled out in bed and slowly sipped some lightly salted water through a straw. He opened WeChat and threw all the blame on Fu Shizhou: It's all your fault. You didn't come, and now I'm sick.

Qiao Luo's little body was really quite delicate. Whenever he caught a cold, he would be laid up in a hospital bed for days. When Qiao Luo was little, Fu Shizhou would always sit beside his sickbed. Fu Shizhou wouldn't say much to him, but he would always hold his hand.

This was the first time that Qiao Luo had been deprived of Fu Shizhou while sick. And not only was Fu Shizhou not there, he was so, so far away.

Fu Shizhou answered very quickly: What happened?

Luo Qiao replied: I feel bad. o(╥﹏╥)o

Then he added: Wanna hear you talk. o(╥﹏╥)o

On the other side of the conversation, Fu Shizhou thought for a moment before giving him a WeChat voice call.

Qiao Luo was tired to the point of wilting. As soon as the call connected, he put it on speakerphone and tossed his phone aside.

Whenever he was sick, his voice became exceptionally soft and exceptionally sweet. Aggrieved, he complained, "Zhouzhou-gege, can I see you when I get home?"

Just because of that name, Fu Shizhou had stewed in anger for several days. Hearing the little brat weakly call out to him like that now, with such a soft and sweet 'gege', Fu Shizhou's anger instantly dissipated. But his voice was still taut with tension as he gave a mostly indifferent answer: "Mm. Rest well."

"Comfort me," Qiao Luo whined.

When they were right next to each other, Fu Shizhou would know exactly what kind of 'comfort' Qiao Luo wanted—he would just want Fu Shizhou to wipe the sweat from his face, to help him drink some water, and to hold his hand until he fell asleep.

But now they weren't anywhere near each other. What kind of comfort was Fu Shizhou supposed to offer?

Fu Shizhou was stumped for a moment. After a while, he awkwardly said, "Go to sleep."

But when Qiao Luo started throwing a fit, there was no end to it. He whined again and complained, "I don't feel good. I can't fall asleep."

His voice quivered with the obvious threat of tears. "Zhouzhou-gege, comfort me, okay?"

Hearing that watery waver in Qiao Luo's voice was almost enough to make Fu Shizhou's head explode. Fu Shizhou could practically see Qiao Luo's big, wet eyes staring up at him in aggrievement. He threw his pen aside and paced out into the hallway. His voice was still a little strained as he ordered, "Don't cry."

Qiao Luo wasn't crying yet. It was just his stomach that felt unwell. Hearing those fierce words, he felt his temper flare up. "You're being mean to me."

Fu Shizhou massaged his own temples. "I'm not."

Qiao Luo thought about it for a moment, then made another request: "Then say this. Say, 'Luoluo is such a good boy. Zhouzhou-gege will be with you when you get home.'"

He waited for a short while, then urged impatiently in his soft voice: "Hurry, hurry. Say it."

Fu Shizhou took a deep breath and eventually spat out two words: "Good boy."

Qiao Luo was satisfied. After reminding Fu Shizhou of his promise to let Qiao Luo see him after this trip, he finally let Fu Shizhou off the line.

When Papa Qiao came back from buying medicine, Qiao Luo was already happily dozing in bed.

Mama Qiao whispered to her husband, "If we'd had a daughter, we could have married her off to the Fu boy."

She lifted her head, gesturing towards Qiao Luo with her chin. "He just had a call with that boy and went straight to sleep. No fuss at all."

 

That Fu boy was in the middle of some serious business.

He and a few of his peers had developed a game, which had been pretty well-received. A gaming company had already taken interest in their creation, and they were in the middle of talking out a contract with that company.

Their contact from the gaming company was an alumnus of their school. He was friendly, and the atmosphere of the meeting was warm and cordial. Once Fu Shizhou got back from taking his call, their contact even asked, "Girlfriend?"

Fu Shizhou nearly choked on his own spit. Helpless, he said, "Kid from back home. Got sick. Bothering me."

All his classmates froze in shock.

"Wait, no—Old Fu, you have a kid?"

Fu Shizhou was silent for a moment before he answered: "…my di."

He was typically a man of few words, but an inexplicable need to brag possessed him now. He added, "He's stuck to me ever since he was little. Not having me around when he's sick upsets him."

 

A certain kid, who had indeed been rather upset, slept comfortably after being comforted by his Zhouzhou-gege. The next day, he was back in perfect health.

It was Qiao Luo's first time traveling abroad, and he was at the perfect age for it. He was captivated by everything he saw.

He hung a camera around his neck and took pictures everywhere he went.

…that day, Fu Shizhou's phone didn't stop vibrating from day to night.

Qiao Luo's camera was linked to his phone. The camera roll and the gallery on his phone were synchronized. He would take seven or eight pictures at every location, then pick the best one and instantly send it over to Fu Shizhou.

Fu Shizhou looked at each and every photo before saving them. He even created a special folder just for those photos before finally writing back to Qiao Luo: Stop. No more.

Instantly, Qiao Luo responded with a miserable-looking reaction meme and asked: Why?

Fu Shizhou answered: Ugly.

Qiao Luo lifted his cell phone and—CLICK CLICK CLICK—took a bunch of selfies in a row. Then he asked: What about these?

Fu Shizhou answered: ……

Qiao Luo was brimming over with energy now. He sent three more texts in a row:

Do I look good?

Do I look good?

Do I look good or not?!

Fu Shizhou silently asked himself why he had to go and provoke this little brat. Then he wrote back: Watch where you're walking. You'll complain to me again if you fall.

But Qiao Luo didn't give up. He refused to let Fu Shizhou change the subject: Hurry up and tell me, is Luoluo good-looking or not!

Half an hour later, Fu Shizhou still hadn't responded.

Qiao Luo had almost forgotten about the whole thing when his cell phone vibrated again.

Fu Shizhou had written: Good-looking.

Qiao Luo nearly tripped over his own feet.

 

When it came to his looks, Qiao Luo was actually pretty confident. But whenever he asked Fu Shizhou that question, Fu Shizhou refused to answer him.

There was only once—

Back in fifth grade, when Fu Shizhou tossed Qiao Luo into the bathtub.

That time, Qiao Luo had just been outside playing soccer. It was his first time, and he'd taken several falls. He ran back inside like a muddy monkey and instantly flung himself into Fu Shizhou's arms.

Qiao Luo had been picked up and flung into the bath after that. He even felt a bit of pain, after being thrown in and aggressively scrubbed down. But that wasn't important. After the bath, he anxiously asked, "Is Luoluo good-looking?"

Fu Shizhou was still covered in mud and grass stains. He was so angry that smoke was practically rising from his ears. Irritably, he snapped, "You're so fucking ugly."

Qiao Luo had been shot down so bluntly that he didn't dare ask Fu Shizhou that question again for many, many years.

 

By now, Qiao Luo had grown much more self-assured. He was fully prepared for Fu Shizhou to call him 'ugly' again. He was having a great time on his trip; even if Fu Shizhou shut him down once more, Qiao Luo  knew his mood would recover quickly.

But in the end, Fu Shizhou had said—

Good-looking.

Qiao Luo was so excited that he started jumping up and down in place, right there on the sidewalk. Then he bounced right off the sidewalk and took a big fall.

While he rubbed his aching butt, Qiao Luo thought, If he says I'm good looking, he must not have a crow's mouth after all.

 

Author's Notes:

Ah, our bratty Qiao'er is growing up… if Qiao'er didn't have such a big heart, a certain someone would never get a little wife.

 

Translator's Notes:

Having a crow's mouth (乌鸦嘴) is a figure of speech referring to someone who has a tendency to jinx things and/or foretell disaster.

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