When Xiao Chi woke up, it was already noon the next day.
Huo Ren was sitting by his bedside, reading a book. He reached out and touched Xiao Chi’s forehead when he sensed movement.
“Still have a headache?” he asked.
Rubbing his head, Xiao Chi felt a bit confused. “…Huo Huo? Why are you here?”
Suddenly, images flashed in his mind, and he sat up abruptly. “Me! Him! Yesterday!”
The young man hurriedly threw off the blanket and checked his body. Mei Shengyao and Xie Lianyun walked over with a hot towel and breakfast.
“As long as your head is fine,” Xie Lianyun lazily said, “those guys have already been beaten to a pulp.”
Xiao Chi got off the bed and went to the mirror, making sure everything was in order. Holding his head, he asked dazedly, “What happened yesterday?”
“That little punk put a large dose of hallucinogens in the tissue he gave you,” Huo Ren looked guilty. “I almost couldn’t find you.”
Xiao Chi sat back on the edge of the bed, lost in thought as his temporarily lost memories slowly returned.
Mei Shengyao leaned over to help him wipe his face and whispered, “Jue-ge stayed by your side until late at night and refused to sleep.”
“The doctor said there’s no major problem. Just ventilate the room and drink plenty of water. We’ve taken care of everything else.”
Xiao Chi sat with his head down for a while, then suddenly spoke up, “I will never wear pink again.”
Mei Shengyao: …?
But Xiao Chi seemed to have made a sudden determination. He opened his wardrobe and started throwing out clothes, one by one.
His actions were akin to a rabbit digging a burrow.
He was not yet twenty, and his appearance was delicate and gentle. He always looked good in light colors.
Xie Lianyun was still messaging Long Jia when he suddenly had a pale green jacket thrown at his head. He reached out, adjusted his glasses, and looked like a composed masked figure. “This one looks good on you, don’t throw it away.”
“No!” Xiao Chi rarely showed a bit of temper. At this moment, he even grabbed the pajamas with rabbit ears from the closet. “I won’t wear them anymore!”
He continued throwing things, and Mei Shengyao played along, catching the clothes like playing catch, with his arms and neck covered in t-shirts, windbreakers, and small jackets.
“I like this one,” the young man grinned. “If Chi-ge won’t wear it, then give it to me.”
“He said I look like a girl when I wear pink!” Xiao Chi exclaimed in frustration. “I’m a boy!”
Xie Lianyun took off the three baseball caps from his head and put one on Xiao Chi.
“Do you know what these people consider masculine?” he asked.
“Greasy hair, stubble, slouching in an internet cafe drinking and smoking, and revealing half of their belly while constantly scratching themselves—-they think that’s what being a real man is.”
Xiao Chi suddenly stopped and held onto a mint green sun-protective jacket, reluctant to throw it away.
“But,” he said dejectedly, “but…”
Huo Ren walked up to him, took the jacket, and helped smooth and fold it neatly before putting it back.
“It’s not that pink clothes are bad,” he said calmly. “It’s those people who are bad.”
“If they want to humiliate you, they can find a reason even if you shave your head and wear a tank top.”
Mei Shengyao stood in front of the mirror, comparing the jacket. “I think I look pretty dashing in pink, don’t you think?”
Xie Lianyun tossed the last hat like a frisbee and it landed on Shengyao’s head. “Oh well, you fell for it.”
“Is Xiao Chi hungry?” Huo Ren calmly put the clothes back in the closet. “I just made fish belly congee in the kitchen. It’s still hot.”
Xiao Chi’s attention quickly shifted. “Captain personally made the congee!!”
At least this matter turned out fine.
The troublesome little entertainer never expected Zheng Lu wouldn’t protect him. The empty promises he had received earlier had already gone down the drain.
He had originally planned to please his benefactors and rise to success with good resources. However, Zheng Lu’s beating and intimidation had made him panic. The next day, Zheng Lu personally accompanied high-level executives to Long Corporation to apologize. If it weren’t for the fact that Young Master Long, dressed in a suit and shoes, was absent from the meeting room, he would have been called an ancestor.
— How could he still have the time and energy to protect this kind of small fry?
The little entertainer finally realized that he had been used and discarded once he served his purpose. In the middle of the night, he rushed to SPF headquarters and wailed and begged Uncle Jiang outside the closed office door, saying he still wanted to stay in the entertainment industry.
Uncle Jiang, with a cigarette in his mouth, was focused on working overtime to revise the plan.
“The entertainment industry?”
“Go fuck off to the goddamn donut industry.”
Although Xiao Chi finished the bowl of fish belly congee, he was still sulking and deliberately wore black clothes for several days in a row.
He also put away all the sparkling diamond jewelry and hung a white skull on his earring.
“I’m going to change my persona in the future.” He sat by the dining table, looking sullen. “I’ll be Gothic Xiao Chi!”
Bo Jue covered his forehead. “Who applied that deathly eyeliner on you?”
Mei Shengyao raised his hand. “I’m not skilled yet, so Chi-ge said I can try a few more times.”
Xie Lianyun struggled to hold back his laughter, his shoulders shaking uncontrollably.
Huo Ren sat next to Xiao Chi and examined the gold chains and silver tassels on his black jacket.
Xiao Chi stared at him. “Captain, am I cool?”
Huo Ren sipped his coffee and gave an honest assessment, “…Kind of cute.”
This matter went by without a ripple, both online and offline. No one heard a whisper about it.
In reality, more people’s attention was focused on the upcoming grand celebration.
Corona’s captain was about to celebrate his 20th birthday.
It was not just a birthday but also a coming-of-age ceremony, marking the beginning of endless glory.
Before their debut, birthdays were just celebrated casually. But after their debut, due to their explosive popularity, they had to split their birthday parties into gifts for their fans.
This industry was indeed different from ordinary life.
While everyone worked on weekdays, they worked too.
While everyone rested during holidays, they worked overtime.
While everyone could have fun on their birthdays, they celebrated with everyone on their own birthdays.
Huo Ren was the core of Corona, and his 20th birthday and coming-of-age ceremony held special significance and importance.
The fan support stations had been jointly planning since the beginning of the year. From charity work to billboards in various cities to fireworks displays, they wanted to present every possible gift from all fields.
The grandeur of the occasion might appear ostentatious and could have a counterproductive effect on the outside world.
SPF never expected fans to spend money to such an extent, so they privately advised against it.
“Spend less, it’s not necessary, really not necessary—”
After considering the suggestions from the fan support stations, they decided not to spend too much and instead sent extravagant jewelry, coats, and perfumes as gifts to Xiao Chi. They arranged airport and skyscraper billboards in cities of all sizes, maintaining a low-key and sophisticated feel.
Additionally, they lovingly sponsored multimedia classrooms in twenty primary schools across the country.
This plan was set at the beginning of the year, and they steadily prepared for it. But unexpectedly, they had a chart-topping achievement in February and another explosive moment with a concert in July.
The Glass Chair Dance not only trended among fans on various platforms but also went viral among the general public. A large number of “color enthusiasts” fell for it, and many dance groups spontaneously cosplayed the boy band’s dance. Black suits with bright red accents became a popular item on Taobao.
New fan support stations sprouted up like mushrooms, eagerly wanting to gather more gifts for their beloved idol.
They then jointly planned to sponsor love-filled lunches for twenty impoverished schools in mountainous areas, lasting for nine years, nine months, and nine days.
A lasting commitment, never giving up, and sharing his light with the whole world.
Uncle Jiang had already arranged the birthday party schedule, and they had secured 666 tickets and the venue, aiming for a fresh, steady, and classy atmosphere.
Sixty percent of the tickets would be given away through promotional lotteries organized by long-term brand partners. Thirty and a half percent would be reserved for the company’s album promotion and concert programs, and the remaining half percent would be used for networking purposes.
“Oh, by the way, is there anyone you want to invite for your birthday?” Uncle Jiang casually asked while organizing the list. “Although it’s biased towards fans, it’s still your 20th birthday, a coming-of-age ceremony.”
Huo Ren pondered for a while, disguised himself, and went to the hospital, where he met Chen Xiao Yan and Aunt Lu.
Chen Yan passed the college entrance examination and was now preparing for the TOEFL exam. He had gained some weight and became darker.
Aunt Lu was taken to a private room through Uncle Jiang’s connections. Although she hadn’t had a transplant yet, her condition had improved significantly.
Huo Ren wore a mask and a wig, but the nurses still recognized him before he even knocked on the door.
They hesitated to approach him and blushed uncontrollably, covering their faces while ecstatically jumping around.
Huo Ren, while waiting for Chen Yan to arrive, suggested taking some autographs and photos.
Chen Yan rushed over from the elevator, exclaiming, “Huo Huo—”
They hugged each other tightly and laughed, “Did Huo the handsome guy miss me? It’s been a year and a half since we last met, right?”
Huo Ren handed the pen back to the male doctor beside him and walked into Aunt Lu’s hospital room with Chen Yan.
“It has been a long time indeed,” he rubbed his forehead and said, “The company is organizing a birthday party. I don’t know if you guys want to come.”
“I won’t go,” Chen Yan waved his hand. “Last time, I took several concert tickets to accompany my girlfriend, and I felt so embarrassed about it.”
Thanks to Chen Yan studying at a local university, he had spare time to visit Aunt Lu occasionally. During holidays, he brought his girlfriend along to keep her company and have conversations to prevent her from feeling lonely.
Huo Ren was cautious and rarely attended such public events. He didn’t dare to come into contact with too many people.
Fortunately, the entrance and exit were strictly regulated here, and the doctors and nurses adhered to professional ethics, so no incidents had occurred so far.
Aunt Lu had just prepared a fruit platter for them and chuckled, “Huo Huo, you’re still so thin, not a trace of fat on your face.”
“It’s the fashion now. A pointed chin looks good on camera,” Chen Yan took an apple and took a big bite. “I can’t come to your birthday party, but I’ve prepared a gift.”
As he spoke, he pulled out a small photo album from his backpack.
He had forgotten to remove the price tag, which read forty-five yuan.
Huo Ren accepted the gift and opened it to find many old photos of himself from the age of four or five until middle school.
The Chen family and their family used to have a close relationship, and the two kids grew up together.
Chen’s mother had organized these photos and even handwritten a long letter to him.
She didn’t understand the life of a star and an idol, nor did she realize how popular her child had become.
Every line was filled with sincere advice and blessings.
Be cautious of unwarranted kindness, be grateful to everyone who has supported you.
Remember to eat on time and take care of your digestive system and health.
When you can’t sleep, soak your feet, and don’t forget to wear long johns in winter.
After looking at the childhood photos in the album, Huo Ren reached out and hugged Chen Yan tightly.
“Thank you,” he whispered, “I know I’ve thanked you many times, but it never feels enough.”
Chen Yan winked at Aunt Lu beside them and grinned, “We’re brothers, no need for thanks.”
Aunt Lu had been hospitalized for years, and she would knit scarves and gloves for him in her spare time. Huo Ren obediently wore them.
“You’re turning twenty,” the woman’s voice aged, her smile gentle. “If you have the chance… you should still go and visit your mother.”
“If she knew that you’ve become such an outstanding person, she would be very happy.”
Huo Ren’s gaze paused, and he lowered his eyes. “I dare not.”
That was the one thing he couldn’t do.
His place of residence could be changed if exposed, his phone number could be sold and replaced.
But the place where his mother peacefully rested must not be disturbed by anyone and must never be discovered.
He even asked the Chen family not to visit her grave because those two words, “what if,” were simply too much of a gamble.
“I haven’t visited her in two years,” Huo Ren’s voice trembled. “Before my debut, I went to bring her flowers on New Year’s Day, but on the way back, the paparazzi followed me. It almost got exposed.”
Aunt Lu’s expression became somewhat melancholic. “Sigh…”
“It’s okay, Aunt Lu.” The young man looked up at her. “Once I win that award, I will resign from this identity and spend every month accompanying my mother.”
Chen Xiaoyan patted his shoulder forcefully. “We’ll go together then!”
The photo album was brought back to the dormitory on the seventeenth floor and quickly passed around for everyone to take a look.
“Huo Huo, you didn’t smile in any of the childhood photos!!! Were you always so cool?”
“Captain, you were so cute in the big red coat with a woolen hat when you were a child!”
“Ah, ah, ah, nine-year-old Huo Huo was still eating sugar-coated haws!!”
Huo Ren’s face was suddenly rubbed by his teammates, trying to regain his dignity. “I don’t eat sugar-coated haws. It was my childhood friend Qiang who gave it to me!”
His teammates nodded. “We’ll buy you another one tomorrow!”
“No, I’ll go downstairs and buy one now!”
The birthday party was held at Rainforest Mansion, a spacious venue with complete lighting facilities and excellent performance effects.
Although the birthday party lasted only two hours, they had prepared two group performances, while Huo Ren needed to solo three songs.
The three segments included interactive games with the fans, unwrapping gifts from each teammate on stage, and envisioning the direction for the future together.
He had grown accustomed to interacting closely with his fans, wearing the mole on his face with grace, engaging in calm and steady conversations. He looked every bit like a team captain.
The venue was decorated as a flowing deep gold starry sea, with reflections of dolphins and whales roaming on the dome.
Once the screams and cheers reverberated enough within the balloons and ribbons, it was finally time to unwrap the gifts and cut the cake.
The CP fans who were watching outside the screen instantly became spirited.
What day is it today?
It’s a great day for the Huo and all members to celebrate the Lunar New Year together!!!
Brotherly love, comradeship, colleagueship, and love—-all can be celebrated together! It all depends on what they will be giving as gifts!!
Long Jia was the first one to step onto the stage.
He was almost twenty-three years old, and the word “youth” no longer described him.
Tall, elegant, and maturely cheerful.
“I have five letters here,” he raised his chin towards his teammates behind him and handed the differently colored envelopes to Huo Ren. “You can read them to everyone later; they’re all written very briefly.”
Huo Ren was momentarily stunned, and he suddenly stepped out of his professional state.
The cameras around them no longer mattered.
“Come, let’s start with unwrapping gifts.” Long Jia took the half-sized tall box that Mei Shengyao brought and smiled, showing his big white teeth. “Mine is the biggest for you!”
Bo Jue whispered, “Idiot.”
Huo Ren had already reverted to a childlike state, swiftly untying the ribbon and unwrapping the box.
The first layer of shiny gold packaging revealed shock-absorbing foam.
After removing the foam, there was a layer of satin paper.
After unwrapping the satin paper, there was a wooden gift box.
Huo Ren struggled and asked, “Bro, where’s the lock of this box?”
Xie Lianyun covered his face beside him.
What kind of extraordinary teammates do I have…
The gift was gradually unveiled, like peeling layers of an onion, revealing a bright red guitar.
Huo Ren’s eyes instantly lit up. “It’s so cool!!”
Long Jia proudly said, “Bro, I know what you like the most. This is your first guitar in your life.”
Previously, they had been using the shared instruments in the music room, but even if the sound quality was the same, there was a fundamental difference.
Huo Ren fully immersed himself in his birthday mode, quickly adjusted a few notes, and started strumming the chords.
It sounded so good that it felt like he was giving a collective auditory treat to over six hundred people in the audience.
The fans in the audience covered their chests and sobbed, “I can die happy now that I’ve had sugar—”
Another pair of dark horse teammates!! Another big brother-little brother combination!! It works for both younger and older fans, ahhhhh!!!
The second person to give a gift was Bo Jue.
The long-haired big brother always maintained a serious demeanor, and the gift was a cylindrical tube about the size of a mineral water bottle.
Huo Ren shook the wooden tube a couple of times and asked, “Can I open it?”
Bo Jue smiled and nodded.
The gift packaging was adorned with classical European silver and red scroll patterns. After unscrewing the cylindrical tube, a roll of parchment paper was revealed inside.
The camera zoomed in as the hand-drawn sheet music was slowly unfolded.
“You have so much to learn, and you always strain your brain too much,” Bo Jue whispered, “I’ve written a Baroque classical piece for you. You can listen to it while sleeping or reading.”
Baroque music, continuo bass, sixty beats per minute.
The low amplitude and low frequency can stimulate the brain and effectively reduce tension and fatigue.
Long Jia whispered, “Little Bo is so thoughtful. I’m so envious.”
Chi Ji curiously looked at the sheet music, “I almost forgot that Jue-ge is from a classical music background…”
Huo Ren carefully examined the sheet music and smiled at Bo Jue, “Bro, does this piece have a name?”
“A name…” Bo Jue was too busy composing the melody in the past few days and forgot about it. He came up with a name on the spot, “Let’s call it ‘Wishing Dear Huo Huo a Happy Twentieth Birthday. Remember to eat on time, pay attention to moisturizing and hydrating, take care of your face, don’t stay up too late while writing songs and practicing dancing. Bo Jue gege loves you.'”
Huo Ren nodded silently, “I’ll remember.”
Bo Jue was satisfied, “So what’s this piano piece?”
“‘Wishing Dear Huo Huo a Happy Twentieth Birthday. Remember to eat on time, pay attention to moisturizing and hydrating, take care of your face, don’t stay up too late while writing songs and practicing dancing. Bo Jue gege loves you,'” Huo Ren repeated the entire name. “I’ll listen to this while writing songs and reading, while doing face masks.”
Bo Jue ruffled his hair, “Good boy.”
The teammates came one by one in the order they met him.
Xie Lianyun was dressed in a lazy and carefree style today, with dark blue earrings dangling tassels that swayed. He looked nothing like the seasoned otaku he usually was in the dormitory.
As soon as he stood next to Huo Ren, the fans below erupted into a frenzy, screaming wildly as if they were using loudspeakers.
“Wuwuwuwu yiyiyiyi ahhh!!”
Xie Lianyun helplessly said, “Calm down, everyone. We’re just teammates.”
The fans of the genius duo CP restrained their emotions by pinching each other’s hands. “Control!! Calm down!! Collect yourselves!!”
“I remember when I first met you, I used to call you ‘senior’ every day,” Huo Ren laughed. “What gift did my senior give me as a coming-of-age present?”
“Bluetooth monitoring headphones, hifi high fidelity lossless compression, perfect for recording and making songs,” Xie Lanyun said with a serious expression. “Top-tier, absolutely top-tier.”
Those involved in music practically needed good headphones every day, so this gift was perfectly timed.
If the manufacturer hadn’t skipped out on the advertising fee, he could have promoted this brand for another twenty minutes from a professional standpoint.
“Huo Huo, happy twentieth birthday. Remember to break in the headphones before using them,” Xie Lianyun coughed.
Bo Jue cleared his throat.
Xie Lianyun couldn’t help but be mischievous, “Breaking in headphones is a mystical art. Actually, it’s about breaking in your ears. Remember to listen to white noise—”
Bo Jue cleared his throat for the second time.
“The voice control data and music package collection are also stored in the USB drive attached to the headphones. Remember to use face masks and take care of your skin. Love you lots!!”
Xie Lianyun went off-topic but returned to the topic when he saw Huo Ren wearing the silver-blue headphones and even reached out to touch them. He thought the matte texture was really cool.
The fans in the audience gasped, “Ah—”
“Don’t get too excited, calm down!” Xie Lianyun waved his hand, gesturing for Chi Ji to come up and present the gift. “Take it slow, there are steps here.”
All the fans exclaimed, “Ah!!!”
The fans had evolved from pinching each other’s hands to covering their mouths.
Can’t contain it anymore!!! Xie-ge, are you really not straight after all?!!
Chi Ji and Mei Shengyao came up together.
Chi Ji had preserved their group photos from the first picture they took together to every magazine cover, and compiled them into a gold-stamped album. Underneath each photo, he wrote a lot of words.
The crown on the cover sparkled.
“Huo Huo’s favorite is definitely Corona,” Chi Ji said seriously. “I’m the same.”
Before he finished speaking, Mei Shengyao tiptoed and placed a gold hollow crown on his head.
“The diamond seems to be slightly crooked,” he whispered to Huo Ren’s ear, “Ren-ge, don’t mind.”
Huo Ren’s eyes became a bit teary.
“How could I mind,” he said earnestly. “I will definitely keep it well.”
The other brothers started cheering along.
“Read the letter, read the letter!!”
“You’re blocking the camera, can you please pay attention to your positions??”
“Shouldn’t we cut the cake first—”
Backstage after the birthday party.
Pei Ruye took one last look at the young man surrounded by everyone on stage and retrieved the letter and gift.
“Let’s go, to the airport.”
Assistant Zhang hurriedly followed and said in confusion, “Aren’t we supposed to leave after the birthday party ends?”
They spent months carefully selecting the gift. Now they’re just not going to give them?
The man turned and walked towards the exit, the congratulatory letter folded and crumpled in his hand.
He was only twenty years old, everything had just begun.
He was his teacher and should protect him from wind and thunder, not become the danger itself.
Having developed personal feelings, it might be better not to see each other.
=Letter from all CORONA members to Huo Ren on his coming-of-age ceremony=
Hey. Actually, I haven’t used a pen in years. It would be easier to print this for you… but your Jue-ge, insisted on me writing it, so here it is.
When I first joined SPF, I was only eighteen. Now you’re already twenty. Time flies.
I always thought of you as a reliable and intelligent friend, quick to learn anything. Keep up the good work at twenty!!!
When we turn thirty, let’s still be together!!! Big brother is waiting for you to study abroad together!!
Huo, this letter was forced upon me by Uncle Jiang and the long-haired monster. Just bear with my terrible handwriting.
Happy birthday! May your new song be a big hit!
Actually, winning the Crown Award is really difficult. It’s like the Asian Oscar for popular music. Huo Huo, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Long Jia’s words are all meant to encourage us. We gather together to enjoy making music, whether we win an award or not, whether our popularity is high or low… I think it’s unnecessary to force it. Just live life to the fullest.
You have to take care of us three older brothers and also look after the two younger brothers. I can tell you’re always thinking about many things. Keep your anxiety at bay and soak your feet often when you have free time.
If you’re feeling down, let’s go out and have some skewers together or order takeout. My treat, my treat, but don’t tell Uncle Jiang (marked out here).
Happy twentieth birthday!
Huo Ren, today you turn twenty, and we’ve known each other for over four years.
Wishing you safety, happiness, and the ability to overcome any difficulties.
Life after coming of age is not easy, with many concerns and burdens to bear. Other people’s coming-of-age ceremonies symbolize formally leaving their parents and embarking on an independent life. But Huo Huo, you have us.
Big brother would rather you never have a coming-of-age ceremony.
Sometimes I think, if you had stayed fifteen forever, learning piano with me and dancing with Yao Yao and Xiao Chi, leading a simple life, that would have been nice too.
You’ve worked so hard these past few years. Sometimes don’t carry so much on your own; we can share the burden together. When working on albums or choreography, don’t rush for results. When the company asks for progress, it’s just about checking in. Give yourself some leeway in your work.
Now that you’re twenty, the world you face will become increasingly complex, but your life will surely move toward a brighter and more brilliant future. We’ll face both the good and the bad together.
Happy coming-of-age ceremony, Jue-ge loves you.
In less than two months, it’ll be my coming-of-age ceremony too. Brother, can you play the guitar for me?
Ren-ge, you will definitely become an incredibly strong and dazzling person!
I feel like you’ll look great wearing the crown made by Yao Yao. His hands are covered in glue, but I’m sure it’ll be special.
Let’s always be together!!
Chi Chi loves you! MUA!
[There’s a simple sketch of a fan giving a cake to a wolf spirit]
Warmest wishes and love on your birthday and always~!
Wuwuwu, Ren-ge, you’re both turning twenty!! Why am I still not eighteen? I want to grow up so badly!!!
I don’t want to be a kid anymore!!!
Ren-ge, happy twentieth birthday!!! Eat lots of cake today and have a great time!!! The concert is going to be so exciting. Even though the new album isn’t finished yet, I’m already looking forward to the New Year’s countdown!
What are you planning to give Xiao Chi for his birthday? I bought a pair of small crown earrings, but they feel a bit heavy when worn. Thanks for eating potato chips sneakily while reading this letter—-I saw you!
Ren-ge, so many things happened this year. Thank you for protecting our crown. It’s our home.
I love you so much. You’re the best><