Day 11 07:10
The following day was April 13th, a Friday.
Early in the morning, Bubu opened his eyes. The first thing he did was climb out of bed with his bottom sticking out, run barefoot out of the bedroom, take down the flip calendar hanging on the living room wall, and colour in the footprint inside the 13th’s square with a bright lemon hue.
Then he sprinted back, clumsily crawled back onto the bed, nudged Song Ran awake with his shoulder, and held up the flip calendar in his hands for the other to look at, his finger pointing to one footprint after the next. “One, two, three, four, five! Big Brother, there’re five days left before Dad comes home!”
He was particularly excited; his fluttering little eyebrows nearly floated up to the ceiling.
“That’s right, he’s coming back.” Not yet fully awake, Song Ran reached out to hold Bubu in his arms and casually dropped kisses on the child’s forehead with his eyes closed. “Once he returns, he’ll pick you up and take you back.”
“And you too! Dad will also take you back too!”
Bubu was so unusually worked up that he rubbed vigorously against Song Ran’s chin and neck, then got out of bed with his head of short hair mussed and planned a wonderful blueprint of the future for Song Ran. “Big Brother, there’s a big bed in my room, so once you move in, I’ll give half of it to you for sleeping in. I also have a big wardrobe, and my own clothes are super small, so they only take up a little space. The rest of it can all be yours!”
“But…” Song Ran sleepily rubbed his eyes. “Your dad already gave half of his bed to me.”
When Bubu heard that, he angrily raised his little eyebrows. “How is this okay? Dad is an adult, and I’m still a child! How could he fight with me for Big Brother?!”
He securely wrapped himself around Song Ran’s arm, crying as he wiggled his little bottom, “Big Brother, sleep with me, sleep with me!”
Song Ran saw his big eyes that resembled shiny black jade and his heart instantly softened, but fortunately, He Zhiyuan’s warning that ‘spoiling children is prohibited’ from last night hadn’t yet reached the end of its shelf life; the words rang out, dignified and forceful, and promptly hardened this heart that had softened into cotton candy back into a hard stone.
“I can’t. Big Brother has to sleep with your dad at night.”
Song Ran held firm.
Seeing that he couldn’t win by acting spoiled, Bubu sniffed and pouted; it was about to rain heavily on the spot.
What Song Ran feared seeing the most in his whole life was crying children. Before the ultimate technique was released, Song Ran panicked first; holding Bubu’s small face in his hands, he hastily said, “Look, from when you return from the kindergarten to when you go to bed, aren’t I keeping you company the whole time? It’s different for your dad. Your dad has to go to work during the day, and when he returns at night, he often has to work overtime. Only when Bubu has fallen asleep do I have a little time to keep him company. If I sleep with you at night, then what will your dad do?”
Bubu was duped by his long string of words; he felt wronged, but he also thought that he wasn’t being reasonable. With his little cheeks puffed out, he strenuously pondered for a while, then reluctantly gave in. “All right then, Big Brother can sleep with Dad and Bubu will sleep alone.”
After he finished saying it, he was very unhappy. With a loud humph, he turned around, facing the back of his head towards Song Ran, then picked up the rabbit doll next to the bed and chomped down on its long ears with his four little canine teeth.
Seeing that he had gotten angry, Song Ran felt somewhat guilty as he lowered his head and sighed.
It’s not that I don’t want to sleep with you, I just… I just don’t want to be a lifelong virgin…
In the morning, Zhan Yuwen gave Song Ran and Bubu each a minor examination, the results of which were very optimistic. After issuing them a few words of advice for chickenpox aftercare, he drove off with Lin Hui.
After seeing them out, the family went back to consisting of one adult, one child, and one cat.
Bu Doudou stretched out to its heart’s content, then flung itself on the one-metre-high sisal hemp pole and sharpened its claws in a frenzy. Bubu sat next to the coffee table, amusing himself by assembling a small steam train; as he inserted wooden axles, pasted paper on, and applied colours, his attitude was exactly as strict as a little artisan’s. And Song Ran, having recovered quickly from his sickness, once again returned to his work table and started his everyday illustration work.
First of all, he had to formally break up with the Infiniti god.
This strange thought had suddenly popped up when he pulled open the drawer and saw the picture frame containing his god neatly placed inside. Although his relationship with his god only existed in his ‘one-sided imagination’ and they hadn’t interacted at all in reality, he truly had sincerely liked the other person for more than forty days. During that time, he had yearned day and night, lost his appetite, and his heart would stop whenever he recalled the scene of their first meeting. He thought, even if it was for Mr He, he himself also had the obligation to take the initiative in ending this unrequited love.
Therefore, he wiped the work table clean, opened the picture frame, took out the sketch of his god, and laid it out flat on the tabletop.
This man… was truly very good-looking.
Song Ran reached out with a hand, and his fingertips touched the blank space on the paper along his god’s hair a little bit at a time. He said softly, “It was only thanks to you that I was able to meet my current boyfriend. He also lives here, and he’s a very, very good person and has a very, very good little darling, so… let’s break up.”
His god kept silent, but on the paper, he smiled gently at Song Ran.
“After parting ways, I hope that every one of your days will be very happy and that your family’s little darling will also grow up safe and well, just like our Bubu.”
After Song Ran finished saying his farewell blessing, he picked up the drawing paper with both hands and stared at his god for a long time but then dithered on taking the next step. He knew it was time to crumple this drawing into a ball and throw it into the garbage bin, but… he truly couldn’t bear to do so.
What should he do?
If he kept it without permission, would Mr He get angry?
He hesitated for more than two minutes, stubbornly resisting all the urges to crumple the paper. In the end, he simply gave up this idea. Snatching up his pencil, he drew another male outline without facial features on the paper and labelled it with the word ‘He’.
This was his Mr He.
After that, he wrote down the word ‘former’ next to the Infiniti god, then wrote down the word ‘present’ next to Mr He and encircled him with a beautiful heart shape to show who his heart belonged to.
Like this, even if he was careless and got found out, the vinegar jar wouldn’t be overturned, would it?
Of course, he didn’t intend to give Mr He the opportunity to find out.
He would slip the portrait of his god into a blank watercolour sketchpad, hide it in the bottom drawer, pile a stack of unopened watercolour sketchpads on top of it, then cover it with a heap of paintbrushes and paints to ensure that Mr He wouldn’t have any interest in rummaging through it.
It was foolproof.
Right when Song Ran was plotting out the particulars of this plan, a loud crashing sound suddenly came from the balcony.
He hurriedly turned his head and saw Bu Doudou crouching on the plant rack, front paws suspended in the air as it stuck its head out to look downwards—a pot of ivy arum growing in water that had originally been placed at the edge of the plant rack was nowhere to be seen, while glass and baby fish were on the ground along with snapped roots and broken leaves floating in a pool of water.
“Bu! Dou! Dou!”
Exploding with anger, Song Ran slammed the drawing paper onto the table and rushed onto the balcony with wide strides.
As a cat who had been spoiled rotten, Bu Doudou had never felt any guilt for its wrongdoings. Even as it faced a formidable foe, it still calmly crouched at the scene of the crime, then lowered its head to lick its right forepaw that had gotten wet from trying to catch fish. As it licked, it moved its eyes to watch Song Ran brandish a broom to sweep the broken glass, dead baby fish, and ruined ivy arum into the dustpan, then brandish a mop to clean the sopping-wet floor.
It had behaved well and deserved to be praised.
“The ivy arum that I worked so hard to nurture! And the fish! Do you have any conscience or not, huh?”
Song Ran lifted a clothes-drying pole and acted as if he were going to beat it, but Bu Doudou was indifferent. Swishing its tail left and right, it leaped down from the plant rack and, with its lithe cat footsteps, boldly walked away.
Song Ran begrudgingly watched it leave, then hurled the clothes-drying pole to the ground.
He walked back to the living room, planning to continue putting his interrupted concealment plan into action, but he saw with extreme astonishment—at some point, Bubu had run over to the work table, stood on tiptoe, and pulled down the drawing paper. He pondered for a little while as he faced Song Ran’s Infiniti god, and then he opened his eyes wide, showing an inexplicable excited expression on his face.
Song Ran thought that he was done for now—though the elder hadn’t seen it, the son saw it first. In the future, if Bubu ran into his god on the elevator and exposed it with a single sentence in Mr He’s presence, then it would be truly useless no matter where he hid the portrait. He couldn’t stand that mental image, so he bolted over to Bubu, pinched the edges of the portrait, and tugged upwards in an attempt to rescue his final hope.
He didn’t expect that Bubu would be so strong despite his small size. He fisted it, unwilling to let go, and blinked his shiny black eyes as he asked, “Big Brother, did you draw this?”
Worried that the portrait would tear from being tugged, Song Ran didn’t dare to forcefully snatch it, so he could only let go.
“Yes, I drew it.”
“Wow, it’s such a great drawing! Just like the real thing!” Bubu praised loudly, then lowered his head and earnestly admired it again before hopefully begging, “Big Brother, can you give it to me?”
He wanted a drawing of Dad so much!
Song Ran decisively refused him, so anxious that his forehead started sweating.
Little ancestor, you don’t even know my god, so what do you want his portrait for? To trace it for fun? If I really give this to you upon your request, in the future, it’ll be an indeterminate ticking time bomb that may explode at any time.
Song Ran couldn’t bear the risk of He Zhiyuan blowing up the vinegar jar, so while Bubu’s attention was not focused, he snatched the portrait back with a deft yank, then opened a sketchbook and swiftly tucked it inside before guarding it in his arms, not allowing Bubu any opportunity to take advantage of.
Bubu lost the portrait, and his little shoulders drooped. “Why not?”
“Because…” Song Ran hesitated for a while, then explained, “Because Big Brother likes this drawing very much, I want to keep and treasure it myself. I can’t give it to others.”
Bubu’s lips flattened, and he asked in a very aggrieved way, “You can’t give it to others? Not even me?”
After all, that’s my dad!
Song Ran was stumped by the small child’s strange obstinacy and momentarily didn’t know how he should reply. After thinking about it over and over, he could only patiently coax, “Bubu, it’s not that I’m unwilling to give it to you, I’m simply afraid of your dad seeing this picture. If I give it to you and you put it in your own room, sooner or later your dad will discover it. When that time comes, I’d be in trouble.”
“Why can’t you let Dad see it?” Bubu didn’t understand. “Aren’t you both… both… oh!”
His little brain spun a few times and seemed to drill through some kind of key point. Suddenly enlightened, Bubu forcefully nodded twice and held out a hand to point at Song Ran, laughing out loud, “Big Brother is shy!”
He had sneakily drawn Dad and hid it to not let people see, but he had been caught by clever little Bubu—how embarrassing.
It must’ve been like this!
After hearing the child jabber, Song Ran rapped his forehead with his knuckles. “Nonsense, what do I have to be shy about?”
This feeling of mine is guilt.
He changed the manner of his conciliation. Squatting down, he held Bubu’s fingers and curled them back in, and his eyes curved smilingly. “Bubu, Big Brother will bargain with you, okay? You pretend you haven’t seen this picture and don’t tell your dad, and Big Brother will tell you an extra story every day in the future. How does that sound?”
Unmoved by the bribery, Bubu lifted his chin, stubborn to the end. “No!”
“Don’t be like this.” Song Ran’s tone softened, and he implored while rocking Bubu’s little hands, “Darling, promise Big Brother, okay?”
Bubu turned his face to the opposite direction and raised his chin even higher, then swiftly jerked his head around, slipped away from Song Ran as if the soles of his feet were smeared with oil, and happily ran towards the living room, laughing as he ran, “Big Brother’s face is red. Big Brother is shy, oh my, he’s super duper shy!”
Song Ran could only watch him hop all over the room, hating only his own lack of magic power that rendered him unable to suppress this spoiled-rotten child.
He sat back down in his chair, flipped open the sketchbook, and bitterly looked at his god with his chin propped on his hand, inexplicably feeling a sense of helplessness akin to that of having been photographed nude in the midst of an affair.
What was he to do now? Come clean to Mr He once more?
This was too stupid!
To prevent Bubu from exploding the bomb, Song Ran formulated a rigorous surveillance plan: when Mr He called tonight, he would not step an inch away from Bubu’s side, and as soon as he discovered the suggestion of something amiss, he would immediately cover Bubu’s mouth, seal his throat, drag him away, and ‘silence’ him, showing absolutely no mercy. This plan’s feasibility wasn’t bad, but he had miscalculated the most important point—based on Bubu’s patience, he wouldn’t be able to wait until night at all.
In fact, that very afternoon, in the very brief span of time that he took his afternoon nap, Bubu eagerly lit the bomb fuse.
The little scamp looked left and right, having finally waited until Song Ran had fallen asleep, and nimbly rolled off the bed. With back arched and on tiptoes, he stealthily approached the work table, dug out the sketchbook from the first drawer, and found that portrait sketch. Then, holding it as if he was holding a treasure, he quietly opened 8012A’s front door and slipped back to his own home across the hallway.
Ten minutes later, the unlocked door was pushed open and Bubu came in, his eyes filled with the bright radiance of excitement.
The little bandit’s actions were watertight; he replaced the portrait sketch inside the sketchbook and put it back in the drawer just as it was before, perfectly restoring the original scene, then silently crept into the bedroom, crawled onto the bed, obediently covered himself up with the little blanket, and pretended that he had been sleeping like usual the whole time.
Song Ran didn’t notice the movement near him at all. He mumbled in his sleep, sluggishly turned over, and unconsciously scratched at the crotch of his pants.
At the same, a new email was sent to He Zhiyuan’s personal mailbox with a beep.
At the time, it was 10 p.m. Pacific Time. He Zhiyuan, not yet done with the day’s work, was still toiling away at the Hammer Theatre near the company. In a few days, the company would be officially launching their seventh generation of products here. The conference hall was more than half set up, the various aspects had entered the coordination stage, and people came and went, the sounds of their voices noisy; everything was as disorderly yet neat as the electric wires being dragged on the ground.
Carl Kraus, who was used to wearing T-shirts and flip-flops for thousands of years, had also put away his leisurely bearing for once and changed into formal wear today. He gave a complete practice speech on the main stage, then confirmed the details with a group of the company’s SVPs one person at a time after stepping down from it.
As one of the speakers, He Zhiyuan was scheduled to go on stage after Carl.
He was the company’s technical partner in its early days, but giving speeches was by no means a shortcoming of his. On the contrary, from small occasions with three or four venture capitalists to big occasions at press conferences with thousands of people, he had nine years of experience in this regard. What resulted from the accumulation of much experience was a calm and unhurried comportment on stage and statements with clear key points along with the bonus of his own looks.
He played the American-style jokes flawlessly, befitting the scene and appropriately-scaled.
When he stepped down from the stage, Carl raised both hands high to give him two thumbs up.
He Zhiyuan smiled. Returning to his own seat, he drank a mouthful of black coffee to perk himself up, then opened his laptop and checked for new emails. The highlighted priority inbox in the menu bar gently jittered, and an icon badge appeared: 1.
It was a new email from Little Q, and the content was—his family member had left a fifty-two-second-long video message.
In Little Q’s current database, 8012B had only two family members, so ‘his family member’ could be none other than Bubu. Bubu was living very well in the flat across the hall, so why would he suddenly send a video message to him?
He Zhiyuan switched user interfaces and clicked to open that video that was saved in the cloud.
“Dada, can you see me?”
Bubu appeared in the middle of the screen, waving his hand at the camera lens; his little face was reddened, and he looked three parts nervous and seven parts excited. He held a piece of 16K1A Chinese paper size. See here for more information. drawing paper with both hands as though he were holding a huge celebration cracker that he was ready to pull open at any time to give him a colourful pleasant surprise.
“Dada, I-I-I want to tell you a secret!” Bubu said excitedly. “Once you know, you’ll definitely be super happy!”
This little stutter… How was he resembling Song Ran more and more?
He Zhiyuan chuckled.
Bubu puffed out his little chest, probably making mental preparations, then opened the drawing paper with a swishing sound. He put the blank side close to the camera lens and said with a mysterious tone as if he were performing a magic trick, “Dada, this is the drawing that Big Brother Song Ran drew, so look well. You aren’t allowed to blink! I’m going to flip it over!”
He Zhiyuan composedly stared at that sheet of paper, not believing that this strange little child could truly bring out something extraordinary.
But three seconds later, the calm expression on his face shattered.
He Zhiyuan’s pupils contracted, his body leaned forward, and he abruptly slammed the spacebar to pause the video. His gaze was firmly locked on that sketched portrait on the screen, and he practically wanted to snatch it from Bubu’s hands.
Of course he knew who it was that Song Ran had drawn.
That was his own face.
Frozen in a certain incidental moment beneath the sunlight that even he himself had no impression of whatsoever.
Apart from the portrait, there were also some scattered words and scribbles on the paper: former, present, He, a simple heart… After He Zhiyuan gradually understood what that meant, his intense joy was like a tsunami more than ten metres tall fiercely slamming into his heart.
He remembered what Song Ran had once said: I moved here because I wanted to see someone.
He looked to be around 1.86 metres tall.
A pretty good physique.
Very good-looking when he smiled.
And he had a cute child.
He Zhiyuan leaned back; his body, which had been tense for the entire day, abruptly relaxed.
This was a very difficult-to-describe comfort and contentment.
He lowered his gaze and looked at the back of his own hand. A gentle smile gradually rippled outwards from the corners of his lips, flooding the corners of his eyes and eyebrows. A moment later, he softly sighed and smiled with utter helplessness. “Song Ran, you’re trying to have me wrapped around your little finger, huh.”