T/N: Had to rush a bit on this week’s update, so please let me know if there are any typos or other mistakes!
Since 8012B and 8012B’s layouts were symmetrical, Song Ran quickly found the bedroom that ought to belong to Bubu—but when he opened the door, he was stunned silly.
Could something like this also be called a child’s room?!
With grey and white tones and simple lines, it was designed in the same style as the living room, running completely contrary to children’s desires for colours and shapes. The only things that showed a little bit of warmth were the Lego bricks scattered across the floor, an oil painting of sunflowers that hung at the head of the bed, and a giant coffee-brown stuffed teddy bear.
Even the bed was a standard-sized twin bed with a round pillow added—the child usually slept alone.
Song Ran looked around, unable to describe the taste in his heart; all in all, he felt unbearably suffocated. He was getting ready to close the door when Little Q rolled into the door, determined to follow them inside, and got stuck; he could only let it pass.
After all, this was the little angel that Mr He had assigned to protect Bubu, and it had safety monitoring capabilities to a certain extent. Song Ran thought it was rather appropriate for him to remain under its watchful gaze.
Little Q automatically found a corner with a good view and soundlessly started to work.
The small child still hadn’t finished crying. He lay in Song Ran’s arms and sobbed intermittently, voice thin and tender. It sounded extremely piteous, and Song Ran’s heart accordingly quivered with pain.
He held Bubu and sat down on the bed. The child’s small hand was shaken, and the children’s cell phone landed on the bed with a thump.
The screen momentarily lit up, then quickly dimmed again. The conversation duration of twenty-six minutes and fifteen seconds flashed by, still continuously accumulating second by second.
But Song Ran did not notice.
In his eyes, there was only a red-nosed crying child.
The little crying bundle was the embodiment of a rain god. After a torrential rain came a drizzle; he cried generously for another ten minutes before the tears magically receded at last. All throughout, Song Ran accompanied him without hurrying him or trying to encourage him. After the child had cried himself out and finished venting his emotions, Bubu felt slightly embarrassed instead.
He shyly lowered his head, leaned against Song Ran, and squirmed in his embrace. “Big Brother.”
It carried a hint of an aggrieved feeling as well as a hint of spoilt childishness.
Song Ran couldn’t help laughing, “What are you crying about? If you cry like this, Big Sister won’t dare to praise you in the future.”
Bubu showed a perplexed expression and blinked a few times, blinking away the last hanging droplets of tears that hadn’t yet fallen.
Song Ran said, “Bubu, don’t you know? Just now, Big Sister was praising you for being obedient.”
“But, but I obviously heard…” Bubu sniffled, “Big Sister said I was ‘abnormal’.”
Song Ran pinched his small cheeks and warmly said, “‘Abnormal’ isn’t always a bad thing. Actually, it just means ‘different’. For example, Big Brother bought an apple that’s very big and very sweet, so it’s ‘different’ from all the other small apples. Or, for another example, Big Brother met a small striped cat that’s especially cute and especially lively, so it’s ‘different’ from other striped cats. Now, when Big Brother looks at Bubu, he thinks that Bubu is very obedient and very sensible, so he’s ‘different’ from other naughty children.”
Bubu was bluffed into a stupor. “Is… is that what it means?”
“Of course it is.” Song Ran smiled magnificently, showing two cute dimples which made the authenticity of his statement difficult to distrust. “Bubu, think hard about it. Didn’t all the aunties, teachers, grandpas and grandmas, and others that you met before always praise Bubu for being obedient and smart?”
Bubu spent two seconds recalling, then sweetly replied, “Mm!”
Song Ran continued by saying, “See, everyone knows that Bubu is a good child. Big Brother could tell from the very first time I saw you, so of course the new Big Sister could also see it. Therefore, the ‘abnormal’ that she said to your dad was referring to how Bubu is more likeable than other children—it’s the good kind of ‘abnormal’.”
Bubu smiled through his tears, jet-black eyes lighting up. But in just a short while, the smile on his face disappeared and that hard-won light also dimmed.
“It’s not the good kind, it’s not.” He shook his head and said sadly, “Big Brother, do you know? Every time you praise me, you smile and your eyes curve up, but when Big Sister talked, she wasn’t smiling, so… it’s the bad kind of ‘abnormal’, not the good kind…”
The lonely child’s voice transmitted to the other end of the call. He Zhiyuan’s breathing tightened up as his heart, which had just relaxed, became uneasy once more.
This didn’t seem like something Bubu would say, not at all.
It was far too sensitive.
He found it difficult to believe that there was yet another side to this cheerful child who loved to laugh.
In the receiver was a silence that stretched for over ten seconds; He Zhiyuan realized that even Song Ran was stumped. Right as he became uneasy and thought that the lie was finally about to be seen through, Song Ran spoke up. “Bubu, the reason why Big Sister wasn’t smiling wasn’t because Bubu isn’t good enough, but rather because your dad told her over the phone that she shouldn’t praise Bubu for being obedient or for being sensible—he doesn’t like hearing it.”
“Why wouldn’t he like it?”
The child tilted his head, a puzzled look on his face.
Song Ran said, “Because your dad will be distressed. Bubu is so good that you won’t speak up even if you’re wronged and hide everything in your heart instead. You know, children’s bodies are small, so their hearts are also small; in such a tiny palm-sized space, if you wanted to hide so many things, of course your dad will feel distressed.”
“Liar, liar!” Bubu lifted his chin, glaring at Song Ran. “Dad would never be distressed. Dad only likes good Bubu.”
Song Ran was stunned. Then he hurriedly said, “How could that be? It’s fine no matter if Bubu is good or bad—your dad will love you all the same.”
But Bubu determinedly shook his head. “Big Brother, you don’t understand. Dad only likes good Bubu.”
Facing Song Ran, the young child revealed his innermost self, even more plain than white paper. “Dad’s busy with work and doesn’t like being disturbed. He always looks at the screens and doesn’t look at me. If I ask him to come play with me, he’d say ‘Bubu be good, don’t fuss’. Only when I’m good and don’t disturb him, he’ll come pat my head and praise me when he’s free, so…”
Bubu scooted closer to Song Ran’s ear and whispered to him as if sharing a secret, “So I always have to be a good Bubu.”
He Zhiyuan sat on the bed with a heavy expression, supporting his forehead with one hand. Pressing his index and middle fingers close together, he forcefully rubbed the area in between his brows. After a moment, he lowered his head and covered his face with his hands, threading all ten fingers deeply into his hair.
It was like this?
When he worked, he unexpectedly ignored his child like this?
It seemed… that it was true.
He Zhiyuan had always thought of himself as a qualified father—apart from a few occasional circumstances, he never stayed at the office to work overtime until late at night. Every day, he personally picked up Bubu after school, and they would even have dinner together.
But afterwards, he dedicated nearly all his time to his study.
He had frequent work calls, video conferences scheduled until one o’clock in the morning, and new emails that would be in the triple digits if he didn’t check his inbox for a few hours… Four monitors on the desk occupied his busy line of sight: one screen for coding, one screen for research papers, one screen for the database, and one remaining one that could be used at any time. When he truly became busy, he wasn’t even able to pay attention to what time Bubu went to bed.
But Bubu never made a fuss.
This child always quietly minded his own business in places where He Zhiyuan couldn’t see. Only when he began to rest, then he would ‘coincidentally’ appear in his field of vision and cleverly approach, sweetly acting spoiled for a while like a piece of affectionate candyfloss.
He Zhiyuan had always thought that this was a tacit understanding between father and son, but only now did he realize that what he thought of as tacit understanding was entirely Bubu’s one-sided suppression of his natural childish instincts, strenuously pursuing his father’s rhythm.
Bubu was only four years old.
It turned out that every single thing Song Ran said that day… was correct.
Heaven hadn’t granted him special treatment by bestowing upon him a good child that he didn’t need to worry about. Instead, his child was simply forced to learn how to keep silent and turn into a small mute. Yet, as the biological father, he unexpectedly had no choice but to get in touch with his child’s hidden innermost thoughts via another person.
An intense frustration came over him, causing him to be at a loss as to what to do.
He Zhiyuan grabbed his cell phone and sprinted down the stairs, taking the last five steps practically in one leap.
The laptop was placed on the living room coffee table. He continually pressed the keyboard a few times to wake up the screen, then remotely logged into the management system of Little Q at home. In the moment that he logged in, a large number of newly-generated data logs began to synchronously load, one line after another rapidly appearing on the left side of the page and causing the scroll bar to swiftly shrink. This was originally the content that He Zhiyuan cared about the most, but now he didn’t even give it a glance; instead, he directly cut over to the monitoring feed and selected OmniVision.
Within 8012B’s bedroom, Little Q’s ice-blue indicator lights slowly dimmed, then slowly brightened, completing a gentle alternation of light and dark. The camera on top was turned on; a high-speed video stream passed over the wireless network as the monitoring feed projected onto the four surrounding white walls.
In the twinkling of an eye, He Zhiyuan’s living room transformed into the bedroom that was ten thousand miles away. Two metres in front of him was the child’s bed; on the bed sat one adult and one child, currently nestled together and speaking softly.
Bubu’s eyes and nose were reddened from crying. He tightly snuggled into Song Ran’s arms like a badly-shaken little rabbit; on the other hand, Song Ran had wrapped his five fingers around Bubu’s small hand, head lowered to look at him with an especially affectionate gaze—the colours and proportions of this image were very realistic, as if he only needed to take a few steps to be able to open his arms and hug the two of them.
He Zhiyuan stood in the living room, attentively watching them.
Song Ran’s sound was no longer confined to the distortion of the cell phone receiver; instead, it was now transmitted in stereoscopic surround-sound. “Bubu, Big Brother wants to ask you a question, okay?”
Bubu nodded. “Okay.”
Song Ran asked, “Can you guess what Big Brother is thinking about right now?”
Bubu shook his head.
Song Ran asked again, “Then, can you guess what the big sister outside is thinking?”
Bubu continued shaking his head.
Song Ran consequently guided him step by step. “If Bubu wants to know, then what should you do?”
Bubu chewed on his finger and thought for a while before shaking his head for the third time.
Song Ran smiled. He tugged Bubu’s finger out of his mouth and gently held it in his palm, saying, “Bubu, you should ask us. Once you ask, we will answer. Wouldn’t you know after we answer?”
Bubu scratched his head, feeling a little embarrassed. “Right.”
“Therefore, Big Brother wants to tell you that people can only hear the things hidden in your heart if you say them out loud. Bubu can’t guess what other people are thinking, and other people are also the same—they cannot guess what Bubu is thinking. For example, your dad cannot guess how wronged Bubu feels.” Song Ran looked into the child’s eyes as he sincerely said, “It’s not that your dad doesn’t love you, but rather that his work is too busy, so he’ll occasionally be unable to hear the voice in your heart. As a matter of fact, he wants to understand you more than anyone else. Bubu, you need to help your dad by voluntarily telling him what’s in your heart; that way, you won’t feel upset, and your dad can also know what you are thinking.”
Song Ran’s tone of voice had a kind of healing magic; it was like a ray of sunlight leaking in from a crack in the window: pale, warm, and soothing.
He Zhiyuan gazed attentively at him, heat radiating from his chest.
Bubu asked hesitantly, “I only need to tell Dad, and he’ll be with me?”
“Mm, he will.” Song Ran nodded. “Bubu is a child, and children have privileges. You can act spoiled and naughty. Your dad loves you so much that as long as he hears what is in your heart, he will definitely think of a way to satisfy you.”
Bubu sat upright with a bounce, his eyes glowing. “Really?”
Song Ran smiled. “Really.”
Bubu tilted his head and pondered for a little while. “Then… I want Dad to keep me company more after work.”
“And I also want to build cars with Dad!”
“Before sleeping… Before sleeping, I want to hear Dad tell me stories!”
“And I want to have a kitty!”
The more he talked, the more excited he became. Song Ran couldn’t help laughing, and he reached out to pinch his nose. “You aren’t afraid that Bu Doudou will become jealous? How about this? I’ll let you borrow Bu Doudou to play with, so you won’t need to get a new kitty. Okay?”
For a while, Bubu acted as if he felt conflicted, his small mouth forming a pout as he deliberately showed a reluctant expression. Then, he said, “Okay, okay, then it can only be like this!”
The two looked at each other for a second before simultaneously starting to laugh, falling onto the bed together.
He Zhiyuan looked at the vivid projection on the white walls, deeply moved and full of gratitude towards his partner Carl Kraus—several months back, it was Carl who overrode his proposal, insisting on retaining Little Q’s panoramic viewing capability.
The panoramic monitoring was originally intended as a specially-designed capability for the outdoor series T7 and S7. During the R&D meeting for the home edition Q7, taking the protection of data security and privacy into consideration, He Zhiyuan’s attitude was strict; he firmly required that the panoramic monitoring be removed, preserving only the frontal view wide-angle lens. He thought that, with regards to Q7’s usage requirements, this was already sufficient.
But Carl was opposed to it.
They led their groups in a heated dispute for a full two hours, but Carl triumphed in the end.
At that time, he had said with great sentimentality, “California was a land without snow. If I happen to be unlucky one year and have to spend Christmas here, at least Q7 can let me see Chicago’s heavy snows and fireplace and my grandmother knitting tea cosies while sitting on the upholstered sofa.”
“Always be with your family. In memory, or in SwordArc Q7.”1Originally written in English
He said this sentence as if it were an advertising jingle.
Today, a few months after that, He Zhiyuan stood here and watched his child and that brightly-smiling youth from a short distance away. At last, he finally understood what Carl had been so insistent on back then.