T/N: An early sweet treat for those of you who celebrate Halloween~
In the midst of his internal breakdown, Song Ran banged the back of his head against the wall, and it collided with the light switch. With a ‘click‘, warm-hued elegant light flooded his field of vision.
The room that he barged into was not too big, and the furnishings within were simple. At first glance, Song Ran saw a cream-coloured carpet with a high pile, along with alcove lighting set into the ceiling and floor on either side of him that extended to the opposing white wall and cast dim subdued light. The white walls were bare; apart from a large black frame of unknown significance, there were no other decorations. The ceiling was inlaid with a certain number of small LED lights that were exquisite and cute, but had low wattage; as soon as the stately window curtains were drawn shut, they would intertwine into a patch of vast star-studded sky.
The only furniture in the room was a set of camellia-red upholstered sofas heaped all over with big fluffy pillows; regardless of the colour or material, all of it was very tempting to the mildly touch-starved Song Ran.
After slowly walking over and nestling into a corner of a sofa, he picked up and hugged a pillow, silently burying his face in it.
Knock, knock, knock.
After a few minutes, three knocks sounded from outside. Lin Hui stuck her head inside, joyfully waving the children’s cell phone. “Song Ran, Mr He is looking for you!”
Unexpectedly, she even knew his name now.
Song Ran lifted his head, an unnatural expression on his face. “Oh.”
“Don’t be so pessimistic, it’s fine!” Lin Hui used her hand to cover up the microphone, leaned close to his ear, and whispered, “Mr He really is a pretty nice person. As soon as I apologised, he forgave me, so he’ll definitely forgive you too! Good luck!”
She patted Song Ran’s shoulder as she talked, then gave him a thumbs-up and cheerfully ran out.
Just then, she had been holding a wolf by the ears, answering the phone with the determination to meet her maker; sure enough, she died a glorious death ten seconds later, having been fired by Mr He.
Although the news was disastrous, it seemed that in order to deliberately corroborate Song Ran’s ‘not a vicious person’ claim, Mr He had expressed himself in such an euphemistic manner that at first, Lin Hui had even thought that, rather than getting fired, she would be given a pay raise instead; she even pondered where the misunderstanding arose from.
Mr He’s manner was very mild. He expressed that it was difficult for young girls new to working life to avoid making mistakes, but as long as she promptly reflected on herself, it would be enough to not repeat the mistake again.
Lin Hui was moved to tears.
Then Mr He said that he understood in this regard and would provide the housekeeping company with a proper reason for dismissal that would not harm Lin Hui’s reputation. In addition, he was also willing to pay twenty percent of the original salary, as a ‘reward for apologising’ to her—for Song Ran’s sake.
He used this method to reinforce Song Ran’s lesson, hoping Lin Hui would come to genuinely understand the value of apologies.
Lin Hui’s tears burst forth. She held the cell phone and repeatedly gave her thanks, thinking that Song Ran did not deceive her and that Mr He was simply the epitome of a good man who couldn’t be found anywhere even with the help of a kilowatt spotlight.
What was referred to as ‘honey to one and arsenic to the other’ was Mr He making Lin Hui feel moved to the point of not wanting it on one hand, while making Song Ran so frightened that he couldn’t even clearly say a few short words on the other hand.
Unsteadily holding the cell phone, Song Ran stuttered badly.
He Zhiyuan smiled and got straight to the point. “Song Ran, I was at a meeting this afternoon.”
“A… a meeting?”
Song Ran blinked a few times, his brain not making the connection.
He Zhiyuan explained, “This afternoon, didn’t you call me twice? Unfortunately, right at that time, the company was having one of its regular high-level meetings. I had to be there for the entire duration and couldn’t get away from it at all, so I hung up both times. If it was a typical departmental meeting, even if I couldn’t leave, I would at least take the time to reply to you via text… I’m truly very sorry about that.”
“So it was like that!” Both happy and sad, Song Ran crashed headfirst into the sofa cushion. “And here I was thinking that you, you…”
I was thinking that you were really giving me the cold shoulder.
The half-finished sentence was cut off in the middle. He Zhiyuan couldn’t hear it to the end, but the relieved tone let him know that the pressure this small misunderstanding caused Song Ran was even greater than he had imagined.
Feeling deeply guilty, he explained, “The meeting went on for quite a while and it was already past 8 a.m. in China when it ended. I was afraid that you were uncomfortable, so I called you back. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch you in time, and so it was the kindergarten teacher who picked up instead. Song Ran, you must believe me, I’ve never put you on the blacklist.”
“Ah, that… that was me thoughtlessly speaking nonsense.” Song Ran was very embarrassed. Smiling with a reddened face, he blatantly corrected himself, “You are so magnanimous, you definitely wouldn’t quibble over such trivial matters with me… I-I just wanted to complain, so I said that to Lin Hui.”
After expressing it openly, upon looking back and thinking on it, could this matter that he wrestled with for an entire day really be considered significant? It was no more than differing views between friends, a mere quarrel over the phone.
If this kind of trivial matter were to be presented to Mr He, he probably wouldn’t even register it. The other party was endlessly busy and really didn’t have the time to blacklist him. Because Song Ran suffered a hit, his self-confidence was reduced by half while his anxiety was doubled; he automatically thought of all the worst case scenarios and thus forgot that ‘it’s not convenient to answer the phone’ was the most likely possibility.
Song Ran felt rather ashamed.
How old was he, to still be acting as immature as a young child and troubling Mr He to personally humour him?
He hugged the big pillow in his arms, squeezed it with his legs, and then squirmed another centimetre deeper into the corner of the sofa.
He Zhiyuan knew that the other had a harsh tongue and thin skin, so he thoughtfully allowed him to save face, refraining from exposing the lie. He asked, “Was there something urgent for you to call me at 5 a.m.?”
Song Ran shook his head. “It wasn’t much, just that you didn’t forgive me yesterday evening, so I thought perhaps my attitude wasn’t earnest enough. That’s why I called again this morning, wanting to sincerely apologise to you one more time. Mr He, I shouldn’t have forced you to acknowledge my opinion of family. It’s just as you said—everybody goes through different experiences, and it’s very normal to have varying opinions on family, so there should be mutual respect. I’m willing to put aside our differences now, so can you forgive my discourtesy from the other day?”
He Zhiyuan smiled slightly. “I can. I’ve forgiven you.”
His answer was too relaxed, to the point where Song Ran was still ruminating over what he should say next. After hearing the words ‘I forgive you’, he froze up for a while at first, then slowly relaxed.
“Uh, other than apologising, there’s still… I still wanted…” Song Ran bit his lip to the point where his teeth left two shallow indents as he nervously made his second request. “It may be a bit late to say this now, but I… I really like Bubu. In the future, if you are busy with work in the evening and don’t have time to play with him, can you allow him to come over to play? I can help you look after him, tell him stories, teach him how to draw, and give him a bath before bringing him back to sleep.”
He Zhiyuan said, “That’s fine.”
Having gained a little bit of confidence, Song Ran carefully took another step forward. “That… and, when Lin Hui goes on leave in the future, can you ask me to be a temporary nanny? I volunteer to work for free, guarantee that I’ll be on duty at all hours, and won’t take a cent!”
At this time, he did not yet know that Lin Hui had been dismissed. The reason was obvious: when Lin Hui gave him the cell phone, she was radiant with joy, looking delighted as though all her sorrows had been dispersed while she repeatedly praised Mr He’s benevolence. Tacitly understanding that she had been forgiven, Song Ran simultaneously felt happy for her while also feeling sorry for himself. He narrow-mindedly envied her for three seconds—everyone plainly made mistakes; the only difference was that Lin Hui made the small one cry, while he infuriated the big one. As a result, Lin Hui was fine, but he unluckily lost his job. One could see the reality of life and how screwed up it was.
Unable to hear the grievance in his heart, He Zhiyuan asked laughingly, “You like Bubu that much?”
Song Ran nodded. “I like him.”
If he were straight, his life’s biggest dream would be to have a child as cute as Bubu to hold in the palm of his hand, lavish with affection, and dote upon until they could fly into the sky.
He Zhiyuan asked, “What do you like about him?”
Song Ran said, “I like how he is reliant on me.”
“Reliant on you?”
He Zhiyuan originally thought he would hear descriptions such as smart or cute, or innocent and pure; this ‘reliant’ word was truly not within his imagination.
“Mm.” Song Ran gave a slight nod. “I know that saying this may be a bit narcissistic, but… Bubu seems to be pretty reliant on me. The expression with which he looks at me is a very intimate one, without any sense of distance. Normally, he likes to throw himself at me and latch on without letting go. He’ll also cry in front of me and bare his heart to me—perhaps he thinks that I can understand him more or less. Being relied on by such a little angel, I think ‘I’m so fortunate’ and that I should diligently protect him well, so as to not disappoint him.”
He Zhiyuan was silent for a while as he held his coffee cup and slowly drank most of it. “Song Ran. Frankly speaking, I have a hard time imagining how you and Bubu could establish this kind of intimacy within the span of two or three days. It exceeds the scope of my understanding. But I must admit, the fact is—Bubu is very reliant on you, and you are aware of many details that I overlooked. Therefore, regarding the argument from before, I also must apologise for some things.”
Song Ran didn’t foresee that he would say this.
He Zhiyuan gave a self-deprecating laugh. “I was obviously too confident in myself. At my age, most of my co-workers already have children. Each day, I’d hear them complain that their children are troublesome, making mischief during the day and crying at night; those who were raising two children would even have to deal with fights. However, from a young age, Bubu was not like that—he was especially good at allowing me to be free of worry. I never gave serious consideration as to the reason, simply thinking that I was more naturally gifted than other parents as I raised a child without external guidance. Now, it appears that it was me who thought of things too simply.”
Reproduction is a kind of instinct, but bringing up offspring is not.
The process of bringing up offspring is more like a period of sugar-sweet experiences and practice. From childbirth, the start of the journey, there are no self-taught shortcuts.
“Song Ran, your perceptiveness and straightforwardness have helped me a great deal. Stemming from parental motivations, I hope even more strongly to leave Bubu at your side and have you look after him.” He Zhiyuan said, “The entire day, all hours, at your home.”
Song Ran’s eyes widened. “You… you mean…”
“I mean, through receiving the legal guardian’s approval, Bubu will be yours from now on.”
Happiness arrived too abruptly, like a torrential rainstorm that burst forth without warning in the summer, and splashed Song Ran with a face full of sweetness. Thinking that he was dreaming, he squeezed the pillow in his arms very hard. “You mean it, you’re serious, you’re telling the truth, and not joking around or teasing me?”
He Zhiyuan laughed, “I guarantee that I mean it, I’m serious, I’m telling the truth, and not joking around or teasing you. If you feel uneasy, I can formally entreat you one more time.”
He cleared his throat and said, just like before, “Song Ran, in my family there is a four-year-old child named Bubu. Would you be willing to help me…”
“I’m willing, I’m willing, I’m willing!”
Song Ran answered enthusiastically, so happy that he was about to faint.
He and Mr He had reached a marvellous reconciliation. For the next ten or so days, there would be an additional cute little shadow next to him—adorable, soft, chasing him all over while calling him ‘Big Brother’, asking him to brush his hair, feed him meals, and bathe him. Every morning, he’d eat the wontons that Song Ran wrapped before sitting on his bicycle to go to kindergarten, and every evening, he would cling to Song Ran and ask for stories. At night, Song Ran would hold him, and they would sleep together; when he lowered his head for a sniff, there would be the soothing sweet fragrance of milk.
And then there was Mr He.
He had received hard-won forgiveness from the other party. After Mr He returned home, if they coincidentally met outside someday, at the minimum he could give a friendly greeting.
After thinking up to this point, Song Ran’s heart was filled with satisfaction, and he rolled around on the sofa in a very unbecoming manner. Then, once he was done rolling around, he felt intensely that it was unbelievable. “So… it’s settled now?”
“It’s settled.” He Zhiyuan replied, “Was it faster than you expected?”
Song Ran enthusiastically made a sound of agreement. “Much faster—I had thought that I would need to wait until my next life.”