T/N: I translated this several weeks ago and had forgotten that it was the Daddy Kink Chapter™ until now. Anyway, happy reading!
Day 04 05:00
At 5 a.m. on the second day, when the sky was just beginning to glimmer with the first rays of dawn, the alarm clock stuffed under the pillow started ringing. Its owner, who hadn’t managed to fall asleep at all during the night, turned it off, silently got out of bed, and went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
Bubu wanted to drink thick, concentrated, and fragrant porridge, so he needed to boil it for longer than usual.
The April weather was still somewhat chilly. After draping a fleece jacket over himself, Song Ran washed the rice in cold water, put it in the pot, and set the oven’s cooking timer for half an hour. While he was soaking the rice, he rubbed his hands together for warmth. Then, he picked up that cute bright yellow children’s cell phone and paced in a circle around the kitchen; he wanted to press the button, but also didn’t dare to.
He still wanted to strive for one more chance.
Song Ran had an inexplicable faith in Mr He; he thought that the other was not a capricious and callous man. As long as he sincerely apologised, acted a little spoiled like before, and begged for mercy, perhaps Mr He would still generously allow him to watch over Bubu. Bubu was haunted by too many of Song Ran’s past shadows; it was fine when he previously hadn’t seen them, but once he saw them, he really could not let them go.
Of course, this was not the only thing he could not let go of, but he was temporarily not yet aware of the other one.
He wanted to hear He Zhiyuan’s voice.
It was a kind of subtle yet earnest feeling that was difficult to put into words, which arose in the span of three short phone conversations—the youth with a lonely lifestyle had encountered an unfamiliar mature man.
The damaged child in the young man’s heart had not yet received comfort. That man was a father, and the sound of his laughter contained doting affection for children. Like an unfolded pair of warm feathered wings, it sheltered Song Ran’s young childhood self within.
This throbbing feeling had only just sprouted. Perhaps it could not yet be called love, but it was full of an attachment that was difficult to let go of.
Essentially, Song Ran was still a child that lacked love, unable to let go of fatherly affection.
He calculated the time difference three times to confirm that it was two o’clock in the afternoon where Mr He was—a suitable time to pick up the phone. He held his breath and pressed the dial button.
The call dialled successfully, and the ringtone played twice. Before Song Ran could put the cell phone to his ear, however, the ringtone suddenly cut off in the middle.
Four words popped up on the screen: Call failed to connect.
The other party hadn’t hesitated for even a second, instead choosing to hang up right away.
Song Ran’s face was expressionless as he stared for a long time at those four words before the screen completely darkened and reflected his pallid face. The fingers beneath the apron gradually curled up, forming a fist—his fingertips dug into his palm, horrifyingly ice-cold.
Pour the grains of rice into the pot, add six times the amount of boiling water. Boil over high heat, drop in a little oil, then lower the heat. Dull blue flames flickered up and the contents began to simmer slowly. Song Ran used a wooden spatula to stir it in circular motions until the grains of rice swelled up; the surface of the porridge turned sticky and started to bubble thickly.
At 6:30 a.m., he called He Zhiyuan a second time, but this time the other party hung up even more quickly, so much so that the ring tone only sounded once.
Song Ran was shocked; the furious blaze of mortification expanded to fill his chest in an instant. After a few seconds, he abruptly flung the spatula into the sink with grains of rice still stuck to it. “To be a person you must have a basic sense of courtesy—these are your own words! Courtesy is… is picking up the phone first and then personally telling me to piss off, instead of not even answering the phone!”
His obstinacy had been triggered; he pressed the dial button once again.
This time the ring tone simply couldn’t be heard at all. Only a cold and robotic female voice replied to him—We’re sorry, the phone you have dialed is turned off.
Song Ran propped himself up against the counter with both hands and his head slowly drooped as he felt an overwhelming sense of self-loathing wash over him.
It has really… been a while.
It has been a while since I’ve been so detested by somebody.
Children from welfare institutions were prone to a certain sickness of the heart—low self-esteem. Song Ran had stayed in that dye vat for ten years, and likewise couldn’t escape the fate of self-deprecation. In the span of time immediately after leaving the welfare institution, he constantly faced problems relating to his entire set of ideas regarding social interactions. His mental state had also deteriorated to a complete mess, and he was close to being moderately depressed.
After arriving in S City, the place where Song Ran had settled down was rather close to F University. When he didn’t have anything else to do, he would go audit the general elective courses offered by the psychology department. Blending in with a bunch of privileged people, he completed a semester of self-cognition and emotional management classes. After those ended, he even had the cheek to chat with the professor and honestly recount his personal circumstances. The professor, who was quite a jovial old man, brought him to the Xiyuan Pavilion and chatted for a while, treating it as preliminary psychological counseling. Just before parting ways, he even gave Song Ran a long list of books. Song Ran spent several years following the book list carefully; after he finished reading, he wrote approximately a hundred pages of self-analysis and finally developed a thin pelt of self-confidence.
Even though the pelt was newly grown, it was extremely tough and wear-resistant.
For the sake of making a living, Song Ran had suffered quite a bit of ill will in these past few years, but his temperament was unyielding; the more bitter life was, the more clearly he understood the importance of optimism. On the contrary, like smelting ore to produce pure gold, he tempered an extremely amiable disposition. The publishing house’s aunties and older sisters would smile upon seeing him and touch his head and rub his face at the drop of a hat. With kisses and hugs, they doted on him like some sort of mascot.
Song Ran understood his own importance very clearly. He wasn’t money—how could he be liked by everyone? It would be enough if most people he met liked him; the occasional one or two who disliked him were not worth minding.
He had constantly maintained this way of thinking all the way up until today.
Until he discovered that he could not accept Mr He’s ‘dislike’.
The dismissal from Mr He had become an unbearable weight upon Song Ran’s narrow shoulders. Simply with the unforgiving words ‘You can’t’ and merely one instance of turning off his cell phone in annoyance, he had practically demolished Song Ran’s painstakingly-built fortress of confidence.
“Oh, Bubu, your dad is really…” Song Ran lifted his head to gaze at the kitchen light, a hint of distressed helplessness showing on his face. “Really… too fierce.”
White marble dining table, cream-coloured cotton tablecloth. A bowl of thick white porridge, a plate of refreshing pickled cucumbers, a salted duck egg in chili oil, and a clump of pork floss from a well-established brand.
This was the simplest S City breakfast.
Bubu’s appetite today was very good. He held the small soup bowl in both hands and enthusiastically drank the porridge. Scooping up a small portion of salted egg yolk with his little spoon, he put it into his mouth and made an exaggerated ‘mm’ to show that the food perfectly suited his tastes. Halfway through the meal, Song Ran told him in a roundabout manner that his dad had found a new auntie for his sake, so from today onwards, the new auntie would be in charge of dropping off and picking up Bubu.
Bubu instantly became unhappy, flopping onto the table and squirming back and forth. “No, no, I want Big Brother!”
Song Ran picked up a piece of meat floss and put it into his bowl, deliberately putting on an air of mystery to entice him. “This time, the new auntie is different from the one before. She’s one that your dad thought hard about and specially picked based on your preferences.”
Bubu bit off a chunk of pickled cucumber before curiously asking, “Then what’s she like?”
Song Ran began describing, “The new auntie is particularly beautiful, just like a flower. She knows how to tell children’s stories, and she can also wrap wontons. She can do everything that Big Brother can, and can even do things that Big Brother can’t—she’s an even more capable person than Big Brother.”
“But the one I like is Big Brother!”
Bubu jumped down from his chair, rounded the table, and clumsily crawled onto Song Ran’s knee, confessing with a sweetly childish tone of voice, “I don’t want a more capable new auntie, I only want Big Brother!”
The child was profoundly skilled; his honeyed words were at level ten. Charmed by his one sentence, Song Ran felt soft and warm from head to toe—even his heart had melted into a puddle. However, Bubu then showed a distressed expression. Furrowing his little brows, he said, “But Auntie was picked by Dad, and I also want to listen to Dad.”
What a dilemma.
With Dad on the left and Big Brother on the right, the precious four-year-old child looked back and forth; he wanted both.
No longer able to hold back his laughter, Song Ran lightly kissed him on the forehead. “It’s all right. Think about it—doesn’t Big Brother live right across from you? After the new auntie comes, Big Brother won’t also move away. Whenever Bubu misses Big Brother, you can come over and knock on the door, and Big Brother will welcome you in as a guest. It’ll still be the same as these past few days where we’ve been colouring, listening to stories, and taking baths.”
Upon hearing that he could double-dip, Bubu was immediately all smiles again. He leaned into Song Ran’s ear and excitedly said, “Then I’ll sneak out every day to find you, and I won’t let Dad know, okay?”
Song Ran readily promised as he linked pinky fingers with Bubu.
After finishing breakfast, Bubu went downstairs with Song Ran. He climbed onto the bicycle’s back seat and role-played as a majestic little general, commanding Big Brother to steer in an S-shaped path and steadily proceed to the kindergarten.
While passing by the wall of graffiti, Bubu pointed to a row of colourful geometric fingers and clearly articulated, “Square, rectangle, circle, triangle, trapezoid!”
“Bubu is so great! You correctly named each one!”
Song Ran praised him.
Yesterday, he had offhandedly taught them to him once; this child was intelligent from birth and immediately remembered them well.
After being praised, Bubu made additional efforts. He pointed at the line of uniquely shaped English letters that followed and read out loud, “A, B, C, D, E F, G…”
Under He Zhiyuan’s influence, Bubu’s English pronunciation was extremely proper. Song Ran was ashamed of his own inferiority, and praised the child until he was out of breath. “Bubu recited them very well.”
After the letters came a string of Arabic numerals. Each one was drawn to resemble the shape of an animal, and they were all very cute. After already being praised twice by Song Ran, as a result Bubu recited even more loudly, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine… ah!”
The bicycle hastily braked. Bubu’s head smacked into Song Ran’s back, and his small face squished into a chubby round blob.
Cursing himself inwardly, Song Ran hurriedly came to a full stop, and anxiously turned around to look at him. “Are you okay? Does it hurt anywhere?”
“No… no, it doesn’t.” Bubu exaggeratedly rubbed at his own cheeks and extended his neck, poking his head out and looking ahead, “Big Brother suddenly stopped—did you hit something?”
But the road ahead was completely clear. Bubu didn’t see anything at all.
“It’s so strange.”
He let out an exclamation.
Song Ran didn’t know how to explain his uncharacteristic action. Right as he was tensing up, a small striped cat unexpectedly appeared at the side of the road. Following along the red base of the old house’s wall, it ran far away. Bubu assumed that he had found the answer, and giggled as he said, “So, it was a kitten. Big Brother is really careful!”
Song Ran finally let out a sigh of relief. He rang the clear and melodious-sounding bicycle bell and cycled towards the kindergarten with Bubu in tow.
On this day, after delivering the child to the kindergarten, Song Ran didn’t immediately leave. He stood outside the kindergarten’s door and followed Bubu with his gaze as the child happily jumped and skipped into the main room, handed over the small backpack and children’s cell phone to the teacher, changed his shoes, and turned to scamper into the classroom before disappearing behind the glass in the entryway.
Song Ran thought that the fate tying himself and this child together had more or less reached its end. Apart from that minor unexpected loss of control, these three days… were actually very wonderful.
He hoped that after today there would still be opportunities to hug Bubu and hoped that eventually, when he ran into Mr He in the corridor one day in the future, he would still have the opportunity to personally apologise.
Young children walked past him one after another. Some were accompanied by their dads, some were accompanied by their moms, and some were even accompanied by their grandparents. Song Ran gazed at their youthful and lively small faces before laughing with his head hung low. He then kicked up the kickstand and cycled away from the kindergarten.
Right at the moment when he left, the children’s cell phone in the teacher’s hand started to ring.
Today was Thursday.
Every Thursday afternoon from 2:00 to 3:00, SwordArc Inc. would convene a regular meeting with all the department heads. Due to the imminent press conference for the new generation of the Q7, S7, and T7 product lines, there were too many affairs that needed to be coordinated across the company; as a result, the meeting was extended to 5 p.m.
Once the last item on the meeting agenda was underway, He Zhiyuan felt around for his cell phone and pressed the power button to turn it on.
When Carl Kraus, his college roommate and entrepreneurial partner, asked if he needed to make any follow-up statements, He Zhiyuan exchanged opinions with his technical department subordinates before shaking his head and replying in the negative.
After the projector signal was cut off, he pressed the call button at the very second that the meeting was adjourned.
The round meeting room returned to a relaxed atmosphere. Dozens of seats were pushed back one by one as the VPs closed their folders, picked up their coffees, and left. A German engineer holding a report on the final sensor compatibility test walked over to He Zhiyuan’s side and said there were still a few items that needed to be discussed with him in private.
He Zhiyuan’s cell phone pressed lightly into his palm as he held it while politely explaining, “Family matters, please wait a minute.”
The other party responded with an understanding smile, backed up a few steps, and made a gesture to go ahead. Consequently, He Zhiyuan got up and walked over to the French window that was filled with sunlight.
As a model high-ranking technical executive, he was actually supposed to lead by example and refrain from taking care of personal matters during work hours, but he convinced himself that since this phone call was related to his child, it should be the highest priority task among all his simultaneous obligations and ought to be treated with tolerance.
While he waited for the call to go through, his palms began to sweat a little; perhaps it was because the sunlight was too harsh.
He knew that the two declined phone calls from before must have been made by Song Ran—even the other’s motive could also be roughly guessed. In truth, yesterday evening after he said the two words ‘You can’t’, as soon as Song Ran’s desolate voice reached his ear, his heart had immediately softened—young people were always easily agitated and thus found it difficult to avoid speaking rashly; this was not really such an unforgivable mistake.
That time, he wanted to give Song Ran a chance, so he postponed hanging up the phone and waited for Song Ran to explain; he thought that he might as well also take advantage of the current opportunity and let bygones be bygones.
But it was very unfortunate that Song Ran hadn’t spoken at the time, instead deliberately choosing to call during today’s meeting.
He had no other choice but to hang up.
Hanging up the phone was a kind of action that could be considered hurtful. Due to the lack of communication, it was very likely to result in a severe misunderstanding that could have been otherwise avoided. As the party who actively refused the calls, He Zhiyuan believed he needed to explain himself clearly.
The phone call went through. He Zhiyuan was pressed for time, so he didn’t wait for the other party to speak before saying, “Song Ran, I’m terribly sorry for just now. I was in a meeting, and it wasn’t suitable for me to answer the phone. Let’s discuss Bubu’s matters later tonight, okay?”
The other side seemed to be a bit dumbfounded. After a few seconds of silence, he heard the voice of the kindergarten teacher. “Hello, may I ask if this is He Yueyang’s parent?”
He Zhiyuan was stunned. “Yes.”
He swiftly lifted his wrist, and his gaze swept over the watch face—5:10 in the afternoon, which would be approximately 8 a.m. back in China. The kindergarten opened at 8 a.m., a time that was neither early nor late; he estimated Bubu had just been dropped off at the kindergarten.
He was one step too late.
The teacher, who could not accurately grasp his intention, asked, “He Yueyang has already gone into the classroom. Do you need to speak with him?”
“It’s no longer necessary. As long as he has safely arrived at school, it’s fine,” He Zhiyuan replied briefly. “Teacher, you’ve worked hard.”
After the standard exchange of greetings, he ended the call and turned back to pick up the laptop that had been arranged on the table, then motioned to the waiting German engineer to go into the small conference room next door so that they could discuss the problems.
After barely missing Song Ran twice, He Zhiyuan felt a rare hint of irritability.
He originally hadn’t meant to hurt that sensitive youth; nevertheless, the explanation that could not be conveyed made him sink into feelings of guilt and deep worry—even tonight’s overtime work obligations seemed more burdensome.