T/N: (*´∀`*) <- My reaction to last week’s comments, knowing what happens in this chapter… LOL
Day 04 23:18
Song Ran became profoundly conflicted.
Examining his own consciousness, he asked himself: did he want to see Mr He?
Did he dare to press the switch?
He didn’t dare.
The two answers were clear beyond a doubt, but they were deliberately incompatible. Song Ran himself didn’t understand why and agonizingly wavered, but before he made a choice, the door opened unexpectedly. Clad in the little yellow duck pyjamas, Bubu appeared in the doorway, his lip stuck out in a pout, nose sniffling, and eyes swimming with tears as he glared at Song Ran.
Song Ran was bewildered. “Bubu, what’s wrong now?”
“You big liar!” Bubu accused him. When he blinked, a few tears fell. “You said after waking up, I’d be able to see you. I… I already woke up twice!”
He puffed out his chest and his mouth puckered up even more, causing his little face to screw up into a wrinkly old man’s visage. In a moment, black clouds loomed with flashes of lightning and rumbles of thunder, once again on the cusp of transforming into torrential rain in a split second.
Earlier, Song Ran had agreed to sleep next to him, but halfway through making amends with Mr He, the conversation made him feel so happy that he had forgotten about the child. As soon as Bubu cried, guilt pricked at his heart like a needle. How could he still think about Mr He? He picked up the child and gently soothed him, wiping away his tears while apologising.
Bubu knew that Song Ran doted on him. Counting on this hard-to-come-by doting affection, he let out all the temper tantrums that he never dared to show in front of his dad or the nanny. Making a huge, unrestrained fuss, he only stopped crying after a good while, but even then the small and short weeping sounds didn’t stop, showing that he was still unhappy and that he was holding a grudge.
“Big Brother knows he was wrong. I’ll accompany you to sleep now.” Song Ran put on a pitiful look. “How about you forgive Big Brother this once, okay?”
With teary eyes, Bubu raised one stubby finger. “Just once.”
“Once, just once!”
Song Ran hurriedly carried Bubu back to the bedroom, turned off the light, tucked him in, and coaxed him to sleep in the tranquil darkness. It wasn’t until the child started letting out even breathing sounds while clinging to his arm that he remembered Mr He seemed to have been tossed aside into a corner along with the cell phone.
Oh no, his points would be deducted again.
Song Ran first moved his arm, then his leg, and sneakily slipped out of bed before creeping out of the room with his back hunched. The children’s cell phone had been discarded in the home cinema. He picked it up and pressed a button; the call hadn’t been disconnected, and the total time displayed on the screen had already increased to two hours and twenty-three minutes.
“Hello, Mr He, are you still listening?”
Song Ran asked softly.
The reply from the other side was swift. “I am.”
The tone of voice was even, without impatience or any hint of anger.
Having settled down somewhat, Song Ran said apologetically, “I’m sorry, Mr He, I need to accompany Bubu to sleep. How about we… we… uh, talk over the phone again next time?”
He originally wanted to say ‘video call’, but in his heart, he felt indescribable shame; the two words were stuck in his throat for a long time, unable to be pushed out for no good reason.
He Zhiyuan took the initiative to say in his stead, “Video call is also fine.”
Song Ran’s face reddened. “O… okay.”
Since the conversation reached this point, the next step should be ending the call. There was a peaceful silence in the receiver for a few seconds as neither party said anything but also didn’t hang up. Song Ran was an emotionally sensitive person, so he was at a loss while he held the cell phone. He Zhiyuan held back a smile as he said, “I’ve troubled you today. Go rest early, so as to avoid Bubu being unable to find you again after waking up… Goodnight.”
When he said the word ‘night’, He Zhiyuan had let out an exceedingly tired yet sensual vocal fry. Song Ran’s ears itched, an intense tingling sensation travelling along his spine down to his belly, and his jeans became noticeably tighter.
He hung up the phone in a panic, and his breathing sped up.
On a certain day in the future, it would also be in this home cinema where Song Ran leaned against Mr He’s shoulder as they watched an old film. While the closing credits rolled, he asked, “That day… it was the fourth day that we knew each other. Supposing I really pressed the switch and saw you, would there be anything different between us?”
He Zhiyuan lowered his head to look at the other, his eyes dark; the love contained within them flowed like the ocean at night.
He said, “Supposing you really pressed it, we would have had a perfectly ordinary first meeting. I was wearing pyjamas, hadn’t brushed my teeth, hadn’t washed my face, and hadn’t shaved, as unappealing as any other slovenly man. You would have suddenly discovered that, in private, the god in your mind’s eye didn’t seem to have any charm and was totally ordinary—just with a bit of flashy clothes, a bit of top-quality costumery. Consequently, you wouldn’t have been captivated by me any longer.”
Song Ran hooked his arm around the other’s neck, defending his precious first love. “I wouldn’t!”
Song Ran insisted, “Really!”
“Then that would be even worse.” He Zhiyuan lifted Song Ran’s chin, his touch lightly brushing over the younger man’s lip. “Once you’ve seen that ‘me’, you probably would have become as timid as a mouse, hidden the real Song Ran, and turned into a particularly obedient outstanding1Originally ‘三好学生’ which refers to having good morality, good grades, and good health student. Afterwards, you would have followed a prescribed pattern, trembled with fear, and calculated how to earn impression points from me all day long. You wouldn’t have been able to give voice to your complaints, and the words cursing me for being a scoundrel would also have been swallowed back down, to say nothing of being able to hear your unbridled cute chatter. Thinking of it like this, it’s actually pretty terrible, don’t you agree?”
Song Ran instinctively wanted to dispute it; the words were at the tip of his tongue, but then he felt that what He Zhiyuan said was correct—the him from that time was still far from being suited to meet ‘that Mr He’.
No matter how fanatical he was about the appearance, from start to finish, an infatuation based on superficialities was too shallow. He hadn’t been mature enough, and he also hadn’t gotten rid of his inferiority complex. ‘That Mr He’ had obliterated his sense of reason with only his face; if they had talked face-to-face, he did not dare imagine what kind of reaction he would have made at all.
Perhaps he would have kneeled, looked up to, or blindly speculated about Mr He’s preferences in his confusion, then made himself fill in a seemingly-ideal mould and play the role of what he believed to be a ‘qualified suitor’. He would have been afraid of making mistakes, yet repeatedly make mistakes. In the end, his actions would have the opposite effect of what he intended, just barely brushing past the tender regards he would have otherwise been able to earn.
Not only terrible, it would have been completely tragic.
Feeling afraid after the fact, Song Ran gnawed at his shirt collar and squirmed into He Zhiyuan’s chest, doing his best to squirm his way into the other’s scorching embrace. He Zhiyuan held him; both parties pressed close together, their fingers interlocked like gears, and their body temperatures permeated through every gap in the sweater yarn. Warm light radiated from overhead and the camellia-red sofa material reflected off their skin, causing large patches of pale pink to appear.
While stroking the back of He Zhiyuan’s hand, he softly asked, “If I really hid, would you still like me?”
He Zhiyuan was amused. “What, you think that once the rabbit hides in its den, I wouldn’t be able to catch it anymore?”
After hearing this, Song Ran’s lowered eyelashes quivered, and then quivered some more. Without raising his head, he only held onto He Zhiyuan’s long, slim fingers even more tightly. After a while, he let out a huff of laughter, bent his knees, and forcefully nudged them into the side of He Zhiyuan’s waist, saying, “You’re the rabbit!”
On the fourth night since they had become acquainted with each other, Song Ran wasn’t able to see his Mr He.
This was an April spring night; the air still carried a trace of wintry chill, but S City’s magnolias had already begun to blossom. The scent of flowers thickened, pervading the roads devoid of people beneath the street lamps. On the twelfth floor of Jadewater Bay’s Building Five, Song Ran lay beneath the cosy eiderdown quilt, holding little Bubu as he dreamed a dream with watercolour-like consistency.
The dream was tinged with washes of colour and a bright mood. Sunlight penetrated through the French windows to fill every corner of the living room. A kitten stretched out its limbs and lazily wiggled its chubby little waist, alternately sunning each side.
Close to the ear was the twinkling sound of a music box, and a ballerina standing on her tiptoes spun around within the box.
The coffee table in the living room was covered with stars, two fairy tale books, and three cute animal mugs. The mugs were a complete set, modelled after a family of three chubby chipmunks. Dolls and pinecones lay scattered across the carpet; Song Ran kneeled in the middle of them all, accompanying Bubu to build a castle out of building blocks. In the kitchen not far away, dishware clinked softly. A tall, straight-backed, and broad-shouldered strange man was standing in front of the countertop, brewing coffee while frying eggs.
With his back facing Song Ran, his face was obscured, but Song Ran knew that if he turned around, he would definitely like that face.
While Song Ran indulged himself in his dreams, a new day had just started on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Swordarc Inc.’s employees discovered to their amazement that their CTO was in an extraordinarily good mood today.
At nine o’clock in the morning, accompanied by the loud noise of tires screeching against the cement floor, all the employees on the ground floor witnessed a car drift magnificently into the garage. Its black, red, and gold logo flashed in a dazzling arc beneath the blazing sun, looking incomparably ostentatious. In reality, drifting into the garage wasn’t particularly strange within the company because this was Carl Kraus’s everyday regular arrival show, but the person emerging from the car this time turned out to be He Zhiyuan, which was a bit unbelievable.
It turned out that the rumours of He Zhiyuan crushing Carl around the bends weren’t fake after all?
The roguish Mr Carl drifted in at 9:08 a.m. and was received by unusual sounds of consolation that he couldn’t understand even after ruminating over it, and even his chestnut-brown hair looked slightly duller. Listening to the news about He Zhiyuan as he made his way to the R&D Department and stepped inside, he spotted the man himself leaning against a table and holding a cup of coffee, one hand stuck in his pants pocket as he happily chatted with some subordinates.
After the subordinates left, Carl beamed with joy and forcefully pulled at He Zhiyuan’s shoulder. “Let me see. Guatemalan coffee beans, two sugar cubes, a honey muffin, and the leisurely frame of mind to chat with people before work… I dare wager that your soul has already been exchanged with my grandmother’s.”
He Zhiyuan smiled slightly. “Then your grandmother’s drifting technique is superb indeed.”
Overjoyed, Carl gave a thumbs-up as he said, “You can’t hold back anymore, right? How about a round after the press conference is over? Usual rules, Sonoma Raceway, tuned cars.”
He Zhiyuan shook his head. “This time, I really can’t. Bubu is still waiting for me to return home, so I can’t stay even one extra day.”
Carl shrugged his shoulders in disappointment.
Bubu’s infancy was actually not very free of worries. As He Zhiyuan’s close friend, Carl had once thrown away countless articles of urine-soaked clothes, which left behind a bitter psychological shadow and caused him to abandon the idea of wanting to raise a child of his own. But due to a fast friendship between classmates, he was still very fond of He Zhiyuan’s precious little one.
“No problem, I won’t make our good dad feel stuck in a tough spot.” Carl skipped over this conversation topic, then continued to interrogate. “So, you’re this happy today. Did you turn a profit from your stocks?”
He Zhiyuan spread his hands in a shrug. “AI concept stocks have already been growing steadily for half a month.”
Carl’s thoughts travelled in a different direction, and he thought of another possibility. “Could it be that all the technical issues have been resolved? Tsk, tsk, it doesn’t seem so.”
He turned his head and looked around at the numerous R&D Department members surrounding them, still maintaining the same evaluation as before. “A living hell.”
“That’s enough, quit guessing and pay more attention to your own work. If there is good news, I will share it with you first.” He Zhiyuan put down his cup and smacked away Carl’s hand that was draped on his shoulder. “I’ll see you in Conference Room Two in ten minutes. I sincerely hope that those two inappropriate jokes from last time have already been deleted from your speech. Otherwise, for the sake of redeeming the company’s image, I can only poke fun at you in my own segment.”
Carl was devastated. “You really can’t stay?”
He Zhiyuan smiled politely. “I can’t.”