Qiao Luo didn't want to do his homework, but he was pretty sure not doing his homework wouldn't qualify as 'good boy' behavior.
He tugged at the hem of his shirt while mulling over his options. Once he'd wiped all the water on his hands off on his shirt, he heard the doorbell sound out through the house.
Old Man Fu arrived at just that moment to check in on Qiao Luo. It was obvious that he'd called Fu Shizhou back, but he still pretended not to know anything. "Oh? What's this? You came all the way back here and didn't even pay me a visit at home?"
In front of his own grandfather, Fu Shizhou was essentially naked. All the little secrets he held in his heart had been unearthed by Old Man Fu. This little grandpa may have been getting on in years, but he wasn't afraid of getting in on a raucous commotion.
"I was just about to go back," Fu Shizhou said. "But you came over, didn't you?"
Old Man Fu knew Fu Shizhou was still apprehensive about a great many things. He didn't needle at Fu Shizhou any more for the time being, instead focusing his concern on Qiao Luo.
Qiao Luo was immensely grateful for Old Man Fu's timely arrival, which saved him from the homework he didn't want to do. He sat politely with Old Man Fu on the couch, reassuring him and allaying his worries.
After speaking a few words, Qiao Luo snuck a glance at Fu Shizhou, who was sitting alone in the nearby armchair. After speaking a few more words, Qiao Luo snuck another glance. When he glanced over for the third time, he saw Fu Shizhou tapping away on his cell phone.
Answering someone's message.
Qiao Luo instantly thought back to the shi'jie who'd called earlier. Another hard-to-describe wave of dispiritedness came over him, wrapping him up from head to toe. Even the pain of doing his homework was nothing compared to that wave of anguish.
Qiao Luo puffed out his cheeks, then assumed a tone that made him sound like a valiant hero about to martyr himself for a cause: "I'm going to do my homework now, Zhouzhou-gege. Don't you have something you need to do too? You can use the computer here."
"Oh?" Old Man Fu exclaimed, clearly pleased. He instantly started praising Qiao Luo: "Our Luoluo is so eager to do his homework?"
These words managed to provoke two people at once. That 'oh' provoked a blush from Fu Shizhou, while the assertion that Qiao Luo was 'eager' to do his homework made Qiao Luo feel a bit bad.
When he was little, Qiao Luo had often gone over to play at the Fu family's house in order to be near Fu Shizhou. But he really did go over to play. Even if he could only sprawl out at a desk and count his own fingers for fun, he wouldn't get out his own homework unless someone was supervising him.
A spotlight was shining down on his old habits now. Qiao Luo knew to be a little embarrassed as he lied, "I've always liked doing my homework."
Old Man Fu patted Qiao Luo's little head and shot Fu Shizhou a meaningful glance. "Shizhou, go help Luoluo with his homework. Little Qiao's parents are both busy, so little old me will play chef today. I'll make our Luoluo something nice to eat."
Mama Qiao smiled. "We aren't very busy at all, we've already made plans to spend the day with Luoluo today. I'll help you in the kitchen, Uncle Fu. It's been a while since our families have dined together."
Fu Shizhou had a feeling Qiao Luo was still suffering the aftermath of what had happened. And the psychological damage seemed pretty severe—this little idiot was even willing to do his homework all of a sudden.
He watched, eyes filled with concern, as Qiao Luo took out his language homework, then his math homework, then his literature homework, then his English homework… finally, Fu Shizhou couldn't hold it in any longer. He blurted out, "Which class's homework are you going to do?"
Qiao Luo took a deep breath, as though waiting for some sort of divine guidance. Then he took out his cell phone and used an app to roll a die. It gave him a five, which led him to choose his literature homework.
He found a pen and, practically in one breath, wrote 'Answer' under every single short-answer question.
"Pfft." Fu Shizhou couldn't contain a laugh. "Do your math. If there's anything you don't understand, you can ask me."
Qiao Luo nodded solemnly, as though he'd received an order from a higher power. He set his literature homework aside and faced down his math homework instead. Then, using the exact same trick, he wrote 'Solution' under each problem.
Fu Shizhou was close to laughing himself to death. The corners of his lips twitched uncontrollably, but he didn't pay any more attention to Qiao Luo. He went to turn on the computer. After logging into WeChat, he asked his shi'jie to establish a connection.
He kept the WeChat chat window in the lower left corner of the screen, making it easy for him to communicate with his classmates at the office.
The study at the Qiao family's house was quiet. Qiao Luo earnestly started working through his math homework on his scratch paper, and Fu Shizhou tapped away at the keyboard, working on his code.
But the quiet only lasted half an hour or so. Soon enough, Qiao Luo came over with his worksheet and said, "I don't get this."
Fu Shizhou stopped his own work at that. He looked over the question, then took Qiao Luo's page of calculations to explain the solution to him. "Let's go over arithmetic progression again."
Qiao Luo did listen, but he couldn't focus. He kept glancing over at the WeChat window on the computer monitor.
In truth, Fu Shizhou's chat with Qiao Luo was stickied to the top of his WeChat app. But since this was Fu Shizhou's first time logging in on this computer, the WeChat interface only showed the people who had recently communicated with him—and right now, it only showed that shi'jie from his research group. She had sent him a password for the remote desktop connection she'd set up for him.
The shi'jie's avatar was a selfie. Her hair was wavy, her makeup was light and delicate, and she wore slightly oversized earrings. Her smile was sweet and alluring.
Not much could actually be seen in that little avatar. But Qiao Luo became sure of one thing. This shi'jie was super pretty.
After Fu Shizhou meticulously explained all the finer points of the problem, he asked Qiao Luo, "Got it now?"
Qiao Luo was spacing out, staring at the shi'jie's avatar. He didn't answer.
Fu Shizhou looked up at Qiao Luo and followed his line of sight to the computer monitor. He could tell that Qiao Luo was looking at the screen, but he had no idea what Qiao Luo was staring at. It couldn't be that he'd taken a sudden interest in Fu Shizhou's code.
And so, Fu Shizhou asked, "What are you looking at?"
"Your shi'jie," Qiao Luo answered. As soon as he spoke, he turned to look at Fu Shizhou and panickedly added, "No, that's not… I…"
Fu Shizhou's expression had gone as dark as the bottom of a burnt pan. He clearly wasn't happy. He sharply interrupted Qiao Luo's words and asked, "She's good-looking?"
Qiao Luo was feeling especially aggrieved now. Why was this happening? He'd just taken a look, okay? Did Fu Shizhou really have to get so mad about that? And it was just a teensy, tiny little picture that he was looking at. Was that really a problem? If it was, he could very well take a selfie of himself and send it over to the shi'jie in return!
But Qiao Luo only dared to darkly think such things in his own mind. Out loud, he begrudgingly offered some insincere words of flattery: "She's super good-looking. Your shi'jie is beautiful."
In his heart, he added:
Just not as good-looking as me.
Fu Shizhou was so pissed that his head was starting to ache. He'd just been smiling a short while ago, and now his lips were practically quivering with anger. His mind drifted to what Qiao Luo had said yesterday, about a girl in his class giving him a love letter.
The little brat was really growing up fast! He was really just going to stand there and gawk at a pretty girl without moving an inch.
Great, just great!
Fu Shizhou reached out and closed the WeChat interface. He rolled up Qiao Luo's homework and, not too fiercely but not too lightly, bonked Qiao Luo on the forehead. "Stop looking. Even if she's pretty, she's a lot older than you. I'll explain this problem to you one more time. If you still don't get it, I'll whoop you."
Qiao Luo took his own homework back. "Arithmetic progression, n plus one, then use the formula… I get it already."
He trudged back to his seat and finished writing out his calculations one stroke at a time. After that, he didn't feel like doing math anymore. He got his dice app out again and allowed fate to choose his next subject: language. He blindly guessed his way through all the multiple-choice questions, then muttered under his breath, "You don't care about me at all. My groin still hurts, and you're already willing to whoop me."