Day 2 06:42
Because of He Zhiyuan’s late night phone call, Song Ran did not sleep well for the entire night. When he got out of bed the next morning, his face bore large dark circles under both eyes. He rubbed at them while facing the mirror, but they stubbornly remained even after rubbing for a long time, almost as if he had purposefully applied eyeshadow.
To be precise, the root cause was that the influential power of Papa He’s voice was too great. Song Ran was stuck in that ‘marriage proposal’ mood and completely unable to snap himself out of it. After having a sci-fi dream in the first part of the night, a romantic dream swiftly followed in the second part.
In his dream, the Infiniti god wore a stiff black suit and held a bouquet of fiery red roses in one hand as he slowly approached from amidst a sea of flowers. After getting down on one knee, he pulled out a ring and asked for Song Ran’s hand in marriage. Song Ran agreed, face full of starry-eyed infatuation; his nose bled like a fountain and formed a red river. Then the suit, vest, shirt, and underwear were all taken off… The two people stripped until not a stitch of clothing remained. In the sky filled with flowers, hand in hand, they earnestly acted out a gay porn video filled with details that were unable to be shown.
When he woke up in the morning, he completely fell to pieces after touching his underwear.
What the fuck?1Originally written in English
It had only been a few days since he last rubbed one out. Had his reserves of moral integrity already fallen to this state?! What had happened to his restraint and dignity?
He turned to look at the deeply-sleeping Bubu, and a thought occurred to him—he who comes into contact with vermilion will be stained red, he who comes into contact with ink will be stained black. If little Bubu didn’t get a more reliable paternal figure, he would follow in his father’s footsteps once he grew up. With his own playful spirit, he would stir up people wherever he went, and cause peach blossoms2Metaphor for love affairs to bloom all around him. A pure and harmless small seedling would be destroyed!
That pure and harmless seedling opened his eyes, pupils shining brightly.
“Big Brother, good morning!”
Bubu greeted him.
Song Ran was startled into replying immediately. “Good… good morning, Bubu!”
“Big Brother, did you have a bad dream?” The good seedling scooted closer, looking at him with concern. “I just woke up a little while ago, and saw Big Brother panting very hard!”
Song Ran firmly denied it. With one hand covering his crotch, he shamefully buried his face in between the pillows.
At 7:30 a.m., while Bubu washed up in the bathroom, Song Ran boiled a pot of piping-hot meat wontons in the kitchen. He added some ribbons of beaten egg and nori, and then sprinkled in a few fragments of spring onion.
Bubu inhaled it all without hesitation, finishing off his breakfast with big slurping gulps. Then he sat on Song Ran’s old bicycle, ready to go to kindergarten.
Song Ran’s bicycle had been purchased second-hand from a garage for two hundred yuan. Because the original owner had children, there was a leather cushion on the back seat. Shouldering his backpack, Bubu sat on it while holding onto Song Ran’s waist. He was full of curiosity about this kind of old-fashioned and slow transportation method.
The wheels had rusted a bit, so when they rotated, they produced a soft rhythmic sound. Occasionally, when the bicycle ran over some small pebbles, it would unexpectedly jolt a couple of times, causing Bubu to exclaim “Ah!” and hold onto Song Ran even more tightly.
The morning air was fresh and cool, with a pleasant breeze. A broad expanse of verdant French plane trees rustled overhead. Near daybreak, S City had experienced some light rain, and moisture had gathered on the leaves. When shaken, the droplets spilled and soaked into the pair’s clothes.
The city had not become genuinely lively yet, with pedestrians on the street few and far between. A scavenging stray cat crouched on the enclosing wall of the old house next to the road, while a sanitation worker clad in a blue uniform pushed a small cart along while sweeping the street.
Bubu cheerily waved at him.
Upon hearing the sound of humans, the stray cat warily looked back before jumping off the wall, but the sanitation worker, with broom in hand, turned around and smilingly waved back at Bubu.
The bicycle passed a long stretch of graffitied wall, upon which was sprayed colourful geometric figures, English letters, and Arabic numerals. Before, when Bubu sat in his dad’s car, they would pass by in the blink of an eye, but because he was sitting on the bicycle today, he clearly saw every single detail of the graffiti for the first time.
He reached out and pointed to the wall, calling out in pleasant surprise, “Big Brother, look quickly, there are so many drawings on the wall!”
Up ahead was a street corner that they needed to turn at, so Song Ran slowed down the bicycle’s speed and instructed him, “Hold on tight, don’t let go.”
When the bike gently jolted, Bubu cried out in surprise and drew back his small hand to once again tightly grasp Song Ran’s T-shirt.
The kindergarten that Bubu went to was located on Sinan Road, and consisted of a few exquisite garden villas. It was about fifteen minutes away from Jadewater Bay by bicycle. When they arrived, the affectionate old woman who served as the director was at the doorway welcoming the young children.
Song Ran stopped the bicycle and helped Bubu down. Hand in hand, they walked up to the director.
The director kindly looked at Bubu and bent down to ask him, “He Yueyang, who brought you here today?”
“It’s Big Brother!” Bubu replied, “Dad is not at home, so Big Brother brought me here.”
Song Ran explained, “I live across from He Yueyang’s home. Normally, our relationship… um, it’s pretty close. Mr He is on a business trip these days and can only return after half a month, so he requested that I help drop off and pick up Bubu.”
“So that’s how it is. Then, how about we have our little friend go in first, while Big Brother stays behind for a moment.” The director was all smiles. “I’ll be taking up a bit of your time, so please write down your identifying information.”
Song Ran replied, “Okay, okay.”
Bubu bid him goodbye and happily scampered into the kindergarten, where he inserted himself into a gaggle of girls, chattering up a storm with the delicate little ladies.
It was clear to see that from a young age, he already displayed an innate gift for charming girls.
How deeply unfortunate, that he took after his father in this regard.
Song Ran surreptitiously passed this judgement in his mind.
He pulled out his ID card, wrote down his cell phone number, and smiled brightly at the director to ensure that she remembered his face favourably. After that, he pedalled his bicycle to the nearest vegetable market.
Raising children was a difficult task, and raising other people’s children was an even more difficult task.
Last night while answering the phone, Song Ran was essentially in a sleepwalking state and hadn’t thought too hard; he simply felt that Bubu was cute and obedient. On top of having countless worries, he also could not bear to hand over the responsibility to others, and was determined to personally raise Bubu. Only today, after truly falling into the pace of being a male nanny, did he discover that he was truly unsuited to raising children.
The reason was because he was poor.
In S City, even white-collar workers with monthly salaries of twenty thousand yuan dared to call themselves poor, but Song Ran’s poverty was the real thing. Straightforward to a fault, he was impoverished to the point where he could not squeeze out even half a drop of water. He only had one bank card, and its balance fluctuated in the four-digit range all year round. Occasionally it went up to five digits, when the draft fees that were a few months tardy finally landed in his account; however, the rent payment would mercilessly slash it back down to four digits again on the very next day.
When he had just taken on responsibility for Bu Doudou, he saw the pile of Innova Evo cat food cans in 8012A. After going online to check the price, he recognized the master’s lofty status and became a staunchly loyal cat slave.
Song Ran himself was accustomed to a life of poverty. When buying apples, he bought only the cheapest Gala variety. Strawberries were limited to one or two jin, which he bought from Qingpu’s greenhouses only during their peak season to satisfy his cravings. He hadn’t even touched cherries for over two full years. Eggs had to be the kind with white shells; he definitely wouldn’t buy eggs with brown shells… When faced with insane deadlines, he’d make do with instant noodles and sausages for a month. All the money he saved was spent on paper and pigment instead.
Now that he had little Bubu in his home, Song Ran changed from his previous penny-pinching approach to buying vegetables, handing out red bills one at a time.3100RMB, the largest denomination bill
The eggs must be free-range, beef could only be fillet cuts, prawns had to be live, and only the middle sections of chicken wings were acceptable; even picking and choosing four carrots took five minutes. The old crone who set up the stall watched him with a face full of disdain, and asked him if his wife had become pregnant. Song Ran was stunned. He said he didn’t have a wife yet, but he did have a child; the crone immediately clicked her tongue twice, the corners of her eyes drooping down as she became even more scornful of him.
Song Ran had replied wrongly. Unable to clarify matters to defend himself, he awkwardly paid for the carrots.
“What, the little tot’s mama scarpered? Having a tot at such a young age, yer pa and ma dunno how to discipline ya!”
The old crone nagged him, and fished out a dime from the jar of change with great reluctance. Glaring at Song Ran, she asked, “Want yer change or not?”
Her eyes radiated what could only be called a killing intent.
How could Song Ran still dare to ask for change? He exclaimed, “No need, no need!”
As he replied, he picked up the plastic bag and bolted.
Little virgin Song Ran had innocently walked into the vegetable market, but left bearing the label of an unmarried parent, with the word ‘maligned’ written boldly on his forehead.
He cycled back to Jadewater Bay with a basket full of vegetables, fruit, fresh meat, and milk. Turning became a test of strength, and as he passed under Building Five’s covered parking area, he was almost unable to stop.
About a dozen or so cars were parked there. As usual, Song Ran looked around at each one.
The silver Infiniti wasn’t there.
From when he had moved in to today, he had seen a wide variety of luxury cars at Jadewater Bay. It was only the humble Infiniti that, apart from the very first time, he hadn’t had the chance to spot again.
Not even once.
The tiny lick of flame burning in Song Ran’s heart weakened; it was nearly out of fuel.
A few days ago he had the strange notion that perhaps the Infiniti god didn’t live here at all. That day, his god was only bringing his child to pay a visit, and had been coincidentally spotted by him. Without verifying anything, he had unthinkingly snatched the key and moved in, but ended up with nothing to show for his troubles.
In order to verify this hypothesis, Song Ran once went downstairs at 4 a.m. to look for the car. Two days in a row, he turned up empty-handed.
As a result, he immediately started to lose sleep.
S City had a population of more than twenty million. In the face of this massive sea of people, both effort and destiny were so insignificant as to be not worth mentioning. If the Infiniti god really didn’t live here, then… in this lifetime, Song Ran would not be able to meet him a second time.
How could this be?
Song Ran gripped the bicycle handlebars as he stared disconsolately at the basket of groceries. He thought to himself, within the span of just one night he had gone from a single man to a baby daddy, but deliberately skipped the most anticipation-worthy romantic part in between—wasn’t it a bit too wretched? Other people were all able to go through the four seasons. He always punctually turned in his drafts and paid his dues, and never owed Heaven anything, so why was it never his turn to experience springtime?
After putting everything away in the refrigerator, the clock hand already pointed to 10 o’clock.
The sunlight was pleasantly warm, and the living room was brightly lit; it was perfectly suited for him to start painting.
As Song Ran arranged the paper, brushes, and painting palette, the soft and tubby furball came calling, rubbing against his shins in circles and begging for food. Song Ran opened a can of tuna and used a spoon to scoop it into the cat food bowl. Bu Doudou was extravagantly wasteful, lowering its head to lap up only two mouthfuls before sauntering into a patch of sunlight to wash itself. Song Ran could only wrap the remainder of the can in cling wrap and put it back in the fridge.
He sat back down at his workbench and opened the topmost drawer to pull out a wooden picture frame.
Inside the frame was a profile-view portrait sketch. Within the sketch, the Infiniti god gazed straight ahead. The corners of his lips lifted up in a smile, conveying that slightly lazy, yet alluring, sex appeal.
Song Ran looked at him, and his heart rate once again went out of control.
This scene was engraved too deeply within his memory, as if the hottest branding iron had been cruelly pressed against the most tender piece of his heart—at that time, the body of the car had just turned a slight angle; soft sunlight poured down and pierced the windshield, outlining the man’s deep and handsome facial features like a spotlight on a model’s face.
Abruptly screeching to a halt, the gears in Song Ran’s brain rusted over and his thoughts jammed up, rendering him incapable of being rational.
After hurrying home, when he went to draw, even the hand that held the pencil was trembling.
The memory of when one falls in love at first sight is always vividly lifelike, but at the same time the precise details are blurred due to being in a heightened state of emotion.
When Song Ran closed his eyes, he could visualise every single hair on the back of his god’s head. But as soon as he put pencil to paper, it seemed like everything was concealed behind blocky mosaics. He felt flustered, but also did not dare to stop to think in detail. He was afraid that for each second he stopped to recall, a minute’s worth of his memory would slip away, so that the breathtakingly fleeting chance encounter would gradually become more and more distorted until he could no longer recall it.
Sketch the outline, flesh out details, apply shading.
After hurriedly sketching the portrait, Song Ran looked at it all over, dissatisfied with everything. He felt that the lines were a complete mess, the shading was too horrible to look at, and the blending was not fit to be seen. It could not express even a single percent of the god’s handsomeness.
Seized by a brief impulse, he nearly crumpled it up and threw it away.
After the impulse passed, Song Ran objectively evaluated it, and felt that his own work was actually quite remarkable. The reason why he was so dissatisfied with every aspect of the drawing was entirely because he was in a state of frenzy, which made his requirements impossibly high. Never mind a sketch, even a 1:1 scale holographic projection wouldn’t be enough—only the god himself personally standing before him.
So Song Ran preserved this sketch and framed it, treating it as a memento. Every day before starting work, he would take it out and scrutinize it for five minutes, pretending that he was currently dating the god whom he secretly admired.
“Ahem, since it’s past 10 o’clock already, I’m going to start working now.”
Separated by the glass of the picture frame, Song Ran touched the god’s cheeks and put on the air of a magnanimous wife. “Today, your work must be more hectic than mine, so I won’t bother you for now. I’ll talk to you… talk to you again in the afternoon.”
He pulled open the drawer and put the sketch neatly back in its place.
After closing the drawer, Song Ran suddenly felt incredibly ashamed of his own behaviour. Covering his face with one hand, he pondered that this month, he had probably caused his god to sneeze often, right?4There is a Chinese superstition that when you sneeze, someone is talking about you
Ah, I’m sorry!
This new lease on life was so hard to come by, so please just forgive me, okay?
Song Ran put both hands together and bowed his head apologetically towards his beloved god.
At same time, in SwordArc’s technical department on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the code monkeys who were currently working overtime heard their CTO sneeze three times in a row, each one louder than the last.
“Bless you, He.”
“Bless you, He.”
“Bless you, He.”
For a moment, the whole room was filled with the warm sound of well-wishes.
He Zhiyuan reached out for a tissue. He stared at the cooled cup of coffee before him, and felt that it was time for him to go steep a cup of hot ginger tea.