Day 06 08:00
For the sake of giving Bubu a perfect trip to Happy Valley, Song Ran spent most of the night studying. He printed the sightseeing strategy he devised on both sides of a sheet of A4 paper; with the timings accurate down to the minute and expenses accurate down to the dime, he believed himself to be prepared for anything.
On the morning of the next day, He Zhiyuan sent a black Mercedes-Benz SUV to pick them up. Song Ran picked up his backpack, brimming with confidence as he got into the car with Bubu, but once they arrived, he was instantly dumbfounded—Happy Valley’s weekend opening was comparable to the flood discharge of a typhoon. The densely-packed visitors were a mighty army that swiftly engulfed every attraction, performance stage, snack stand, and souvenir shop. Before Song Ran had taken a single step, the queuing fence had already been jam-packed as far as the eye could see.
If an aerial photo was taken, the image would be just like a big glob of ink expelled by an octopus—all of Happy Valley was darkened.
Bubu, who wasn’t aware of the gravity of the situation, looked all about, then clapped his hands and marvelled, “Wow, there’re so many people!”
Song Ran concurred, “Yes, so many people.”
At this rate, they’d be waiting in lines until they died.
Lin Hui, who had ridden the subway alone to get here, sent a meeting spot to Song Ran’s cell phone. Song Ran was afraid that Bubu would get trampled, so he lifted Bubu up onto his shoulder and had him find the way while riding his neck. The two of them made an arduous journey, but after many difficulties, they finally cut through the throngs of people and met up with Lin Hui next to a certain statue without any mishaps.
Today, the young lady had applied delicate light makeup. With rosy lips and white teeth, she looked pretty and charming.
It was an April day and she didn’t fear the cold, so she wore a pink and white lace dress. The tips of her Rinka hairstyle were ironed to be even more curly than before, bouncing and swaying next to her cheeks. In addition, two flashy white cat ears grew out of her head.
As soon as the three of them met, Lin Hui pulled out two more cat ear headbands as if by magic, one big and one small, and put them on Bubu and Song Ran. “As soon as other people see the cat ears, they will know that the three of us are together, and we won’t need to be afraid of getting separated.”
She made a heart shape with her hands near her chest and cast a flirtatious look at Song Ran.
Song Ran’s heterosexuality antenna was still out of service, so he failed to receive the signal. Simply thinking that she was cosplaying a catgirl and selling meng, he fervently praised, “Your pose is pretty cute.”
Lin Hui was smacked in the chest by the boomerang she personally threw, and she felt even more enamoured.
Bubu liked the cat ears very much. He flicked the ones on top of his own head, then flicked the ones on top of Song Ran’s head, and counted one by one with a little finger outstretched, “One Bu Doudou, two Bu Doudou, three Bu Doudou!”
Bubu tried hard to raise his head, wanting to see how he looked while wearing the cat ears. After several attempts, he realized this was impossible, and his eyebrows drooped with regret.
Song Ran swiftly pulled out a small mirror from his backpack, flipped the cover open, and held it in front of Bubu.
Bubu cheered at the mirror, “Wow, I’m really cute!”
The three ‘really cute’ Bu Doudous entered the park together, hand in hand.
In the park, the streams of guests flowed hither and yon. Song Ran was afraid of Bubu getting separated, so he pulled out a sheet of white paper, a roll of double-sided tape, and a pen from his backpack, made a simple bracelet, and wrapped it around Bubu’s wrist. He then neatly wrote his own name and cell phone number on it.
Lin Hui was struck dumb. “You even brought double-sided tape?”
Song Ran made a face as if it was obvious. “It’s mandatory.”
Lin Hui felt despondent.
The small mirror from earlier was considered a daily essential – there was one in her bag too, so it wasn’t at all surprising – but bringing a roll of double-sided tape when going out… She had no way of understanding this brain circuit of his.
At this time, Lin Hui hadn’t yet realized that for the entire rest of the day, she would fully appreciate Song Ran’s skill in caring for children.
After writing down the contact information, Song Ran solemnly confirmed the safety knowledge once with Bubu. “If you can’t find Big Brother and Big Sister, what should you do?”
Bubu raised his small hand up very high, perfectly parroting back, “I should find the policeman uncles in uniforms and show them the bracelet!”
“That’s correct, our Bubu is so smart.” Song Ran rubbed his face. “We can go now!”
In fact, this seemingly-worthless backup plan really wasn’t unnecessary; it nearly came in handy.
Lately, Bubu’s natural instincts had run unchecked. After entering the park, he was just like a loach burrowing into the dirt, running here and there and scampering about even more deftly than a monkey. Song Ran’s 2.0 vision wasn’t effective either—there were many times when, as soon as his mind wandered, the child ran off and almost disappeared. Fortunately, the cat ears that Lin Hui gave them were white and therefore sufficiently eye-catching in the crowds as they bounced and bobbed. Only by chasing after this smudge of bright colour as though he were playing a game of Snake did Song Ran avoid the situation of waiting for a call from the police while in a panic.
Today’s leader was Bubu. Song Ran and Lin Hui themselves didn’t play very much; they spent most of their time on children’s attractions such as the Ocean Park and Gold Mine Town. Bubu expressed great interest in every single attraction, not even passing up the public square with the fountain. Taking advantage of the fact that Song Ran and Lin Hui were in line to buy ice cream, he rushed in and got entirely drenched in water.
“Bubu, what are you doing?!”
Having spotted him with eagle eyes, Song Ran shoved the ice cream he had just bought into Lin Hui’s hand and quickly ran over.
As a result, Lin Hui held an ice cream in each hand as she watched the soaked-through Bubu get hauled out by Song Ran. Instead of giving him a scolding, Song Ran simply opened his magical Doraemon four-dimensional pocket, dug out a towel, securely wrapped the mischievous child from head to toe, and began to wipe him dry with great force.
After wiping him down, Song Ran examined Bubu, then furrowed his eyebrows and said to Lin Hui, “Wait ten minutes for us.”
Lin Hui’s gaze followed them as they entered the public restroom.
Ten minutes later, Bubu came out from the restroom, having already changed into a new set of clean clothes that even included shoes and socks. Only his hair hadn’t been blow-dried; locks of it were plastered to his forehead.
Lin Hui was thus sincerely convinced, thinking that when it comes to taking care of children, Song Ran and she were on completely different planes of existence—she was a nanny where even a salary of three thousand per month was considered robbery on her part, whereas Song Ran was the kind where a monthly salary of ten thousand yuan would be considered stingy on the employer’s part.
All girls had unique criteria for what would arouse their interest. Some were face-cons, some were voice-cons;1’Con’ = shorthand for ‘complex’ Lin Hui’s preference was rather surprising: she was a dyed-in-the-wool caretaker-con—she liked men who could take care of children, and thus a whole host of good feelings towards Song Ran violently emerged. In her eyes, he had already become a god; even his appearance as he squatted down and tidied the backpack was enveloped in divine light.
It was a pity that such a good god had no interest in her.
The only thing that allowed Lin Hui to feel a little comforted was this: she had a sweet appearance, and Song Ran also looked very charming, so the two of them matched from looks to temperament. When Bubu stood in the middle, it looked just like a young married couple bringing their child to the amusement park—in particular, the kind with particularly outstanding genetics. Deriving a little satisfaction from the envious gazes of the people around them, she calmed back down and fully enjoyed herself.
At noon, they went to a children’s restaurant to eat. Unable to hold back, she strove for one last chance.
At the time, Bubu was playing with other children in the bouncy castle. Lin Hui and Song Ran selected a table near a window, facing each other as they ate hamburgers and fries.
She rubbed her fingers together and asked sincerely, “Song Ran, that… I seriously like you. The going out thing I mentioned before, can you think about it again?”
Song Ran smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry.”
Lin Hui once again suffered a blow. The corners of her eyes reddened, and it looked like she was about to start crying. “Wh-what is it about me that you don’t like? If you tell me, I’ll change it, okay?”
Song Ran sighed.
Chances were that this young lady was spoiled from childhood. She was barely twenty and had just left school; her feelings were fresh and pure, wanting to get together as soon as she encountered the right man; and with a straightforward attitude, she was unwilling to easily give up and occasionally emitted a feeling of aggression. Although he was the party being pursued, it didn’t mean that he was in a superior position. The girl had already humbly offered herself to him, so he could not be completely indifferent.
“Lin Hui, you aren’t lacking in any way. The reason we can’t have a relationship is because of a problem with me.”
Song Ran picked up a fry. Pinching one end with his left hand and the other end with his right hand, he bent it into a curve right in front of Lin Hui.
Lin Hui blinked in confusion. “Huh?”
Song Ran: “I’m homosexual.”
Lin Hui: “…”
After a few long minutes passed, Lin Hui still did not speak.
She started taking large bites out of her hamburger – devouring the beef, cheese, and slices of tomato, and even stuffing the lettuce pieces that fell down back into her mouth one by one – as if she wanted to stimulate the production of her gastric juices via overeating so as to digest Song Ran’s words.
Song Ran was stunned by the sight.
Perhaps this news was pretty shocking, but was it really necessary to react so strongly?
I’m homosexual, not a woman!
After the meal that was so difficult she was on the verge of choking to death, Lin Hui furiously slurped half her cup of Coke. Finally managing to breathe, she curled both hands into fists and rested them on the table, face full of despair. “Honestly speaking, Sir Song, in these past few years, I’ve chased a total of three guys, and you are the third gay.”
Song Ran wasn’t sure if he should laugh or cry. “Then… your eyes are pretty treacherous.”
Lin Hui viciously bit down on a fry, saying with great indignation, “Could it be that I can’t earnestly pursue a straight guy in my entire life? The one before last was gay, the last one was also gay. Fine! I bitched about this with them and they expressed that it was very fateful and said they wanted to become mutually acquainted. Then, before knowing each other for even two days, both of them were unexpectedly taken off the market, and they feed me dog food every day. I planned to find a boyfriend and feed them dog food in return, but as a result… as a result, you were also homosexual!”
Song Ran tore open a packet of ketchup and gave it to her. “When you put it like that, my conscience feels very tormented.”
“No need to torture yourself.” Lin Hui had already given up on herself. “If I’m fated to be unable to find a straight guy, it means I’ll get to know more gays in the future, so I can introduce them to you and help you find a partner.”
Song Ran smiled and waved a hand. “That won’t be necessary, I already have a god.”
“That’s right, you have a god.” Immediately becoming even more dispirited, Lin Hui flopped onto the table and earnestly imparted upon him some of her life experience. “Song Ran, I’m telling you, before you chase him, you have the most important obligation—figuring out his orientation. Don’t be like me, chasing people and finding out afterwards that your orientations are incompatible. That would be a disaster.”
These words from Lin Hui jabbed Song Ran right in his sore spot. The words ‘incompatible orientations’ were like a precise arrow piercing straight through the centre of his heart. He covered his chest with a hand and likewise flopped onto the table in despair.
Was his god anything besides straight?
He got married early on, and even the child was able to buy soy sauce now.2‘Buying soy sauce’ is a Chinese slang phrase for minding one’s own business or to be disinterested in something
The two of them rested their chins on the table, eyeing each other dumbly. Lin Hui noticed Song Ran’s uncomfortable expression, and her eyes gradually widened. “It… it can’t be, right? He’s really straight?”
For this reason, Lin Hui reached out and forcefully shook hands with Song Ran to express the revolutionary sentiment of sharing weal and woe. “It seems like you don’t have it easy either.”
They looked at each other without speaking and silently polished off the fries one by one.
Very soon, there was only one fry left on the plate.
Lin Hui snatched it up and stuck it into the ketchup. Then, with her left hand holding the ketchup and right hand holding the fry, she held them both out in front of Song Ran. “Which one are you?”
With a reddened face, Song Ran covered his eyes and embarrassedly pointed to the ketchup.
Lin Hui shook her head pityingly and patted Song Ran’s shoulder, comforting him. “As the saying goes, nine out of ten gays are bottoms, and it’s hard to find even one top. Although reality is cruel, you are so outstanding that you can definitely find a little top for yourself very soon. You must have complete confidence in yourself.”
Song Ran didn’t have even a bit of confidence, so he could only mumble, “From your lips to God’s ears.”
When they walked into the restaurant, they were still a pair of potential lovers. When they walked out of the restaurant, they had already become fellow sufferers.
Both Song Ran and Lin Hui felt the direction of the plot had gone off-script. They didn’t know how to look at each other, so only Bubu was joyful the whole time as he pulled them to ride the roller coaster, the Flying Fish3https://www.bilibili.com/s/video/BV1Jv41167Sx, and the submarine in addition to watching the various children’s performances everywhere as though he were an A-list actor running from one film set to the next.
Before leaving, they browsed through a souvenir shop. Bubu took a fancy to a lop-eared rabbit doll and was so fond of it that he carried it in his arms, unwilling to put it down. He wanted it, but didn’t dare to speak up; as a result, he wandered back and forth in front of Song Ran with all his might while holding the rabbit, hoping that Song Ran could take the initiative to buy it for him.
Song Ran bent down at the waist and asked him, “You want the rabbit?”
Bubu nodded. “Mm-hm.”
“Then how should you explain to Big Brother? Use a complete sentence.”
Bubu thought for a while, then mustered up all his courage and said, “Big Brother, I… I want this rabbit doll.”
“Okay, Big Brother will buy it for you.”
Answering with a smile, Song Ran held Bubu’s hand in his own and took him to pay.
Children who lack a sense of security will all have preferences for plush toys to some degree. When Song Ran was young, he lacked both father and mother and had no toys on his bed, so he eventually developed a problem of being touch-starved, always longing for someone to hug him. Up to this day, whenever Song Ran saw a large-sized Winnie the Pooh plush, he couldn’t help feeling tempted by it. He understood Bubu’s desire for the plush rabbit better than anyone else.
After all, the same child resided in his own heart.
The cashier took the doll, scanned the barcode using the machine, and politely said, “That will be 199 yuan. Thank you for your patronage.”
Song Ran pulled out his wallet and opened it; three thin red bills lay inside.
He was very astonished. After counting a few times, he determined that there truly were only three bills left and scratched his chin in distress—recently, his expenses had increased compared to before, but how could he have carelessly become this poor?
Song Ran pulled out two red bills and settled the accounts. The cashier took out a paper bag, preparing to wrap up the doll and put it in, but Bubu stood on tiptoe and impatiently held his arms wide open.
Song Ran hurriedly said, “No need to wrap it up, he likes to hold it himself.”
Consequently, the lop-eared rabbit once again returned to Bubu’s embrace.
Bubu buried his little face into the rabbit’s soft fur, happily kissing and rubbing it. After a while, he contentedly raised his head, his pitch-black eyes sparkling just like the stars at dawn. “Thank you, Big Brother.”
Song Ran also smiled at him. “As long as you like it. No need for thanks.”
On their way back, Bubu and Lin Hui both became sleepy. They flopped this way and that, pushing against the safety belts and snoring loudly while squeezed together in the back seats.
Still thinking about the matter of his bank savings, Song Ran used his cell phone to check the remaining sum on his bank card. The amount was even less than he had expected—only four thousand and change remained. After subtracting the amount for next month’s rent and utilities, it might be a challenge to even eat, let alone help raise Bubu.
He actually could ask for money from Mr He, but he was stopped by his own sense of self-respect.
While Mr He really did agree to pay him a salary of fourteen thousand, that meant the accounts should be settled after he returned home. Song Ran could not speak up to ask for money on the very first day of raising his child—it really was too intolerable.
He switched to Wechat, clicked on the profile picture belonging to Sister Qiu from the publishing house, and sent a request for help.
[Ode to Joy]:4Play on words here—the Chinese translation of ‘Ode to Joy’ uses the same character as Song Ran’s surname Sister Qiu, I sincerely request you to give me some commercial drafts. Will draw whatever is requested, all are welcome, and absolutely won’t talk about moral integrity (/wheedle)
[Qiu Mi]: Short on money again?
[Ode to Joy]: Dirt-poor, never been well-off before (/cry)
[Qiu Mi]: I do have some commercial drafts here, but I previously assigned you around ten or so. If you accept any new ones, can you finish them this month?
[Ode to Joy]: Task completion guaranteed, definitely won’t procrastinate!
[Qiu Mi]: All right then. Based on your high credibility, I’ll spare some for you.
[Ode to Joy]: Thank you, Sister Qiu! Sister Qiu is even better than my blood sister! (/weep)
[Qiu Mi]: Always so silver-tongued. Give Big Sister a kiss, come.
[Ode to Joy]: Mwah!
After begging for work and selling meng, Song Ran exited Wechat, then looked at the silly yet cute chipmunk on the home screen for a few seconds. He smiled, thinking that it was time to get everything done in one go with this burst of energy; he should diligently paint pictures and earn some more money for living expenses.
He still had such a cute Bubu to look after.