WITHDRAWAL

Chapter 5

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For that one 'good-looking', Fu Shizhou paid a heavy price.

Qiao Luo's ego exploded. He brimmed over with confidence and positivity.

Every morning, after washing up, he would take a selfie and send it to Fu Shizhou with the message: Good-Looking Luoluo is reporting in! Good morning!

Every night, before going to sleep, he would send another selfie and report: Good-Looking Luoluo is signing off! Good night!

And they had a time difference, too. Fu Shizhou was disturbed by those messages at all hours of the day. He was starting to feel like his head could explode at any second. He weathered the storm for a week, and when he just couldn't stand it any longer, he replied:

If you send me another one of those, you won't be good-looking anymore.

Qiao Luo sent a crying emoji and earnestly wrote: I've sent you so many selfies already. How come you haven't realized you're supposed to send me one in return?

Fu Shizhou furrowed his brow.

He switched his cell phone's camera into selfie mode and spent a short while trying to find a good angle. Then he quit out of the camera app, switched back to WeChat, and wrote back: What are you babbling about? Go to sleep.

Qiao Luo answered: Oh.

However, this exchange didn't have a big impact on Qiao Luo's mood or behavior. He stopped sending selfies, but he continued to report every single detail of his trip to Fu Shizhou, live.

Fu Shizhou felt like he had practically been forced to take a stroll around Europe, through a cell phone.

Luckily, Qiao Luo's trip that lasted nearly twenty days was coming to an end. Fu Shizhou's camera album would have exploded if the trip went on any longer. He'd secretly saved all the photos Qiao Luo sent, including the selfies that Fu Shizhou had expressed his discontent with at one point.

 

Papa Qiao was an extremely romantic man. That was reflected not only in his relationship with Mama Qiao, but within the dynamics of the Qiao family as a whole as well.

The Qiao family had a tradition that was practically set in stone: Whenever someone left home and traveled, they had to bring back a souvenir for the other members of their family. The size and price of the gift weren't important. All that mattered was the recipient's joy.

However, their whole family had gone out together this time. Papa Qiao suggested that each person in their family buy gifts for the other two, to be exchanged once they got home. They would keep their gifts a secret until then.

There wasn't a single person among them who didn't like surprises. Qiao Luo and Mama Qiao immediately agreed to that idea.

And so, Qiao Luo obtained a credit card.

When he took stock of the gifts he choose, he had—

One for his paternal grandmother, one for his maternal grandfather, one for his aunt on his father's side, one for his mother, one for his father, one for Grandpa Fu, one for Zhouzhou-gege, one for Zhouzhou-gege, one for Zhouzhou-gege, one for Zhouzhou-gege, one for Zhouzhou-gege, and one for Zhouzhou-gege.

 

Since Qiao Luo had already become airsick once, Mama Qiao made sure to prepare medicine and a motion sickness patch for him in advance. They flew home without any further troubles.

Qiao Luo was in high spirits upon returning to the warm embrace of their homeland.

What made him even happier was the sight of Fu Shizhou at the airport's arrivals terminal.

Fu Shizhou was nearly 1.9 meters tall. He stood at least half a head above most of the people in the crowd at the terminal. His handsome, expressionless face was insanely cool. In his jeans and white t-shirt, he looked insanely good.

Qiao Luo picked up his own little leather suitcase and jogged over, as giddy as a little bird who'd just been freed from a cage. He flew to Fu Shizhou's side and nudged his arm. "You came to pick me up?"

Then he added, "It's been so long. You missed me to death, didn't you?"

Fu Shizhou took Qiao Luo's suitcase, but he didn't answer the self-aggrandizing Qiao Luo. He took a few steps forward and picked up Mama Qiao's suitcase too, smiling as he greeted, "Uncle, Auntie. I'm going home to visit my grandpa today. Since you were getting back today too, Grandpa asked me to pick you up."

Qiao Luo's parents had watched Fu Shizhou grow up. He was as dear to them as their own son. They laughed and smiled and chatted with him as they walked out to the parking lot.

"Shizhou is getting more and more handsome."

"You're not busy at school? Since you're visiting, why don't we drop our stuff off at home, pick up Uncle Fu, and go out to eat?"

Before Fu Shizhou could answer, Qiao Luo grabbed hold of Fu Shizhou's arm and said, "Sure, sure, sure! It's settled, let's do that."

Fu Shizhou was silent.

He took in Qiao Luo's complexion. It was only after he confirmed that Qiao Luo wasn't about to die of airsickness that he said, "Mm. Okay. Then I'll tell our housekeeper not to cook tonight."

Qiao Luo waited for Fu Shizhou to finish making that call before he complained, "Why did you ignore me?"

Fu Shizhou was deeply vexed.

A person could gradually adjust to something like airsickness, but it was a process. And considering Qiao Luo's frail little body, Fu Shizhou had figured his second flight wouldn't go much more smoothly than the first.

In his car, he'd secretly prepared car sickness patches, soothing ointments, sour plum juice, plum candy, bread rolls, and so on and so forth—everything that could be good for nausea or motion sickness. He'd done all that just in case he wound up picking up a sickly little tail.

But the little brat had landed with way too much energy. He was brimming over with it, filled up with good health from head to toe. He had enough energy to nag Fu Shizhou to death. No matter how Fu Shizhou looked at him, Qiao Luo just didn't seem airsick at all.

Fu Shizhou started to deeply, strongly suspect that Qiao Luo had faked his first bout of airsickness.

This wouldn't have been the first time the little brat lied to him.

When Fu Shizhou just started college, Qiao Luo couldn't get used to suddenly not having Fu Shizhou right next door. Just half a month after the school year began, Qiao Luo sent Fu Shizhou a message saying he was sick.

Fu Shizhou could still recite that message from Qiao Luo from memory, forwards and backwards.

Qiao Luo had said:

Poor me, poor me. I'm dying, but I can only write to you with my cell phone. I can't see you. I can't touch you. There's no one here for me to hug.

Although this little kid's own mother and father were always close at hand, he would always whine to Fu Shizhou as soon as he got sick. He had plenty of little problems that Papa Qiao and Mama Qiao didn't even know about.

For example, when the little brat was on an IV drip, he would be quiet and sluggish, and his little hands would be as cold as ice.

For example, the little brat would always get a stomachache when he ate too much cold stuff, yet he still always sneakily ate ice cream whenever he could.

For example, the little brat liked to have something sour when he felt nauseous or otherwise unwell. He especially liked a certain brand of dried plums.

Back then, when Qiao Luo claimed he was 'dying', Fu Shizhou hadn't gotten his driver's license and car yet. He'd rushed home by subway, spending nearly two hours on his cross-city trip, only to find Qiao Luo doing the splits in his dance practice room. Qiao Luo's cheeks were ruddy with a healthy glow. In short, he looked like he couldn't possibly have been healthier.

This was what he called 'dying'?!

Fu Shizhou was so pissed that he'd ignored Qiao Luo for a month.

And in truth, that had been enough to scare Qiao Luo into never uttering a single word of a lie to Fu Shizhou again.

But in Fu Shizhou's eyes, a boy who cried wolf once could never again be trusted. Qiao Luo had been left with an indelible criminal record.

Fu Shizhou took a deep breath and said, "Don't you get airsick? Be good and stay still for a while. Don't mess around."

Qiao Luo lifted up his own slightly-long hair, revealing one of his soft and round little earlobes. He twisted his head around to show something off to Fu Shizhou: "Look! Airsickness patch!"

Fu Shizhou fell silent.

So the kid really hadn't lied to him.

Fu Shizhou only hummed his acknowledgement, then reminded: "Put on your seatbelt. Don't look at your phone. The car stereo is preloaded with music. Flip through if you get bored."

Qiao Luo obediently buckled up his seatbelt and reached out to start scanning through the songs. He even innocently asked: "Oh? The singer I like? Didn't you say his songs are all intolerable? There are so many of them here."

Fu Shizhou was silent for a beat. "…don't listen if you don't want to."

Luo Qiao's reaction was quick. He instantly started bouncing his skinny little legs in the passenger seat, so elated that his whole form practically buzzed. "I'll listen, I'll listen, I'll listen."

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Chapter 5

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