Bai Huo didn’t meet with Ji Bei again.
The two tacitly added each other as friends on WeChat, while tacitly maintaining zero communication.
Not long after returning home that day, Bai Huo received an anonymous express package that was 3 inches thick. It was a variety of documents needed to resolve the household registration problem. It also included a list of all the materials he needed to prepare himself.
The household registration ID card was the easy part, the troublesome part was having to go to the neighborhood committee to find someone to write out all the certificates.
Bai Huo went on a work day, deliberately put on a worn-out outfit, and ruffled the little dragon cub’s hair into an unkempt mess before going out, cheerfully carrying the child to the certification office.
The person responsible for receiving guests in the neighborhood committee office today was a young woman, an obvious fresh graduate. When she saw Bai Huo, her face turned red before he’d even opened his mouth to speak. As soon as she heard that he needed certification to register the child, she hurriedly asked what was wrong.
”Well…” Bai Huo laid out the tragic backstory that Lin Ke had written out for him. Tears gathered in his eyes as he spoke, prompting the young woman to weep, nodded repeatedly: “That’s so touching. I’ll write it for you, I’ll definitely write it for you. What’s this child’s name?”
Bai Huo suddenly froze.
God, he’d actually forgotten about this.
”You haven’t thought about it yet?” The young woman asked, wiping her tears.
”No, I’m just thinking about the past.” Bai Huo lied without blinking. “Whenever I think about this name, I remember the moment we first met…”
There was a timely gust of wind outside, the evergreen trees outside the window rustled. Today was a sunny day, the sun was warm and gentle, there were puddles on the pavement, and the clear water rippled, reflecting the brilliant sunshine.
The moment we first met…
By the creek, under the trees.
”He’s called… Li Lin Xi.” Bai Huo suddenly looked back.
The young woman nodded, still sniffling: “The child won’t take your surname?”
Bai Huo seemed to think of something, he tilted his head and smiled: “No.”
Seeing the young woman’s imagination obviously running wild, Bai Huo said frankly: “Bai doesn’t have a very good meaning.”
”Okay, I’ll write it up for you right away.”
After the certificates were completed, Bai Huo dropped off all the materials into the express delivery slot.
By the time he walked out, the little dragon had already fallen asleep in his embrace, his thick and curly lashes clearly defined in the sunlight.
Bai Huo patted his back and happily said: “Let’s go home.”
Two months later, the Xi City Daily published a complete report on the murder cases. After giving it a cursory glance, Bai Huo laughed, carrying the newspaper directly to the mahjong table.
”Little Bai, you’re not a college student, right? Do you not work every day?” The mahjong parlor’s boss was in her early thirties and was a successful businesswoman. When there were too many guests, she wouldn’t sit at the tables, only serving the guests some tea. Seeing Bai Huo running over here every day, she was very curious about this fair-skinned young man.
”Isn’t this work?” Bai Huo played mahjong while urging the winner to give change. The nimble technique, the slick tone, except for his mahjong skills, he wasn’t inferior to the crafty old foxes at the next table.
Bai Huo was a senior member of the Civilian Mahjong Career Development Committee and Director of the Poverty Alleviation Office. He was a strange man with a combination of messy skills and bad luck. After ten years of losing money at the mahjong table every day, and using mahjong to actively respond to the nation’s policy of fighting against poverty, he has contributed to the improvement of the quality of life of many mahjong friends, and has greatly contributed to the stabilization of relationships between husbands and wives.
In the old forest district, no matter how irreconcilable the conflicts between family members might seem, as long as they sat down and played a few rounds with Bai Huo, they would smile widely, shake hands, and love each other again. Over time, the neighbors kindly gave him a respectful title: Director Bai.
”Yo, Director Bai’s here,” An old friend grinned and came over, switching tables. “How come I haven’t seen you for a few days ah, where did you go?”
”My kid is too young, I had to stay at home to look after him.” Bai Huo indifferently stacked mahjong tiles.
”A kid?” The proprietress was astonished, she eyed Bai Huo carefully. “Are you married? When did you tie the knot?”
Before Bai Huo could answer, the wind resistant curtains at the door were lifted open, and a two-year-old child ran in like a whirlwind, holding steamed meat buns in his hands. He glanced at the lady boss vigilantly as he passed by, and hugged Bai Huo’s leg.
”You’re back?” Bai Huo smiled and pulled the child up onto his lap. “Come and help daddy read the tiles.”
The lady boss looked at the rosy and cute little dragon, her eyeballs almost falling out in alarm: “Is this your son?”
”Yeah.” Bai Huo stacked mahjong tiles and threw her a smug look.
The proprietress wanted to say something but hesitated, leaving with an embarrassed smile.
The little dragon raised the meat buns, pressing one to Bai Huo’s mouth.
”For me?” Bai Huo was happy, he lowered his head and took a bite, hurriedly nodding, “Mmhm, delicious – Peng!”
The little dragon sat on Bai Huo’s knees and leisurely rocked his legs back and forth, completely ignoring the indignant shrieks from the fat bird outside the door.
In the past two months, the little dragon had grown up a lot, it was like the child had been fed fertilizer, changing day by day. The clothes Bai Huo bought him for one week, couldn’t be worn the next week. In order to curb suspicion, he couldn’t frequently buy from the same store. In the past two months, he’d visited almost all the children’s clothing stores in Xi City.
Since the new year had just begun, the kindergartens hadn’t re-opened yet, and some parents brought their children to the parlor. A little chubby toddler who seemed to be a similar age to the little dragon was eating chocolate at a nearby table. Despite looking occupied with eating, he’d somehow noticed the little dragon and slowly walked over, sitting in the chair next to Bai Huo, he repeatedly glanced at the little dragon.
There has always been a natural attraction between children, sometimes comparing themselves with each other, sometimes curious, but most of the time, they just wanted to attract the other party’s attention.
The little chubby child first observed Bai Huo, and, sensing that the adult was completely immersed in the mahjong game, he mustered his courage to lightly kick the little dragon’s shoes.
The little dragon’s tail rolled up in his trousers, but he continued nesting in Bai Huo’s embrace, as if he completely hadn’t noticed.
The other child wasn’t reconciled, and once again kicked him.
This time, the kick was a little heavier, and the little baby dragon’s leg swayed. He expressionlessly glanced down at the little chubby child, paused, then he silently slid a few centimeters down Bai Huo’s knees.
As expected, almost as soon as he moved, Bai Huo pulled a hand off the mahjong table and fished him up into his arms: “Behave, sit straight before you fall off.”
Bai Huo had long legs, after pulling the little dragon up, the little dragon’s whole body was on his lap and out of reach.
The other child’s legs could no longer kick the little dragon, so he pouted in dissatisfaction. He ran a short distance away, spinning around crazily, sneakily peeking at the little dragon. Seeing that the latter was truly not paying any attention to him, his face reddened in embarrassment, but he was still unwilling.
The adults were unaware of this two-player drama, and were still chatting and playing mahjong.
The little chubby child drooped his head and finally chose to give up his irritation strategy. He reluctantly took out the last piece of chocolate in his pocket and walked over, carefully handing it to the little dragon.
The little dragon cub sized him up at a glance, still indifferent. He gave him a very cold look, the meaning was clear, “We’re different.”
The other child had given it all he got and still couldn’t get a response. With no other way, he finally cried out.
His parents were immediately attracted to the sound.
Bai Huo, who was the closest adult, extended his hand and smiled: “What’s wrong little guy? Why are you crying?”
The child cried even more energetically when he saw that the adults were watching him.
”Aiyo,” Bai Huo shifted the little dragon to one arm and crouched down, rubbing the chubby child’s head. “Don’t cry, don’t cry, do you want candy?”
From beginning to end, the little baby dragon never looked at the other child, instead, he stared at Bai Huo’s actions, anxious and irritated. Seeing Bai Huo about to pick up the other child, he quickly straightened his legs and slipped away from Bai Huo, pulling the other child along.
”Hey, where are you going?”
Bai Huo followed two paces, seeing that the two children had merely ran outside to play, he smiled and teased: “Little imp.”
The fat bird looked at the little dragon’s tensed gloomy face, and gloatingly hopped around on the building’s roof beams, thinking to himself, serves you right child.
Suddenly feeling eyes on him, the fat bird shook its feathers and saw Bai Huo gesturing to him with a wide smile, mouthing out: “Watch him.” Then he turned around, returning to play mahjong.
Humph, this father and son, there’s not one good thing about them! The fat bird thought resentfully.
Remembering that the little dragon cub had to go to bed early, Bai Huo didn’t dare stay too late. After a few rounds, he took the child home.
On the way back, Bai Huo continuously felt that the little guy in his arms seemed a little upset, neither nuzzling his face with his hair, nor poking him with his horns like usual.
”Are you still hungry?” Bai Huo asked, baffled.
The little dragon didn’t answer, only reaching out to hug Bai Huo’s neck tightly, looking aggrieved.
Bai Huo was at a loss, thinking for a long time, he suddenly frowned: “Did someone bully you?”
The little dragon slowly let go of his neck and turned to look Bai Huo in the eyes, opening his mouth, he spit out a single syllable.
Bai Huo froze, staring blankly.
The little dragon’s first word, the sound wasn’t much louder than a sound a fish would make. The pronunciation wasn’t clean, it sounded a bit like “Peng”, and a bit like “Pang”. Although it wasn’t very clear, this short word gave Bai Huo a feeling far beyond shock.
He also felt moved, finally understanding the mentality of parents who spent all day sharenting on social media.
”My child ah,” Bai Huo faced the night wind, almost in tears, “I can’t take you to play mahjong with me anymore. If your first word is “Peng”, just what kind of man will you be when you grow up ah.”
The small dragon cub heard this and immediately hugged Bai Huo tightly, saying softly: “No.”
This time, the word was very clear, Bai Huo paused his footsteps, realizing that the child could really speak.
Bai Huo finally couldn’t bear it; he ran to He Ling’s bar and drove the guests away. On his way over, he’d kidnapped Lin Ke from his girlfriend’s house, now he was opening several bottles of valuable wine and making a toast.
Lin Ke and He Ling were resting their chins on the marble countertop, two pairs of eyes staring at the little dragon cub on top of the bar counter: “So that’s why you had us make up that story…”
A faint child-like excitement appeared on He Ling’s immortally frozen face, she gently poked the little dragon’s horns with her fingertips, briefly commenting: “It’s so small.”
Lin Ke’s brain was already facing an incoming storm. He looked at Bai Huo, who was wandering about with a bottle of wine, his face glowing with happiness, and thought to himself: Director Bai’s dominatrix must be f#cking amazing. Forget about the chain play and vampire play, in just a few days, there’s suddenly a child!
Bai Huo turned around and grinned: “Is it surprising, unexpected?”
He Ling and Lin Ke both nodded vigorously.
He Ling: How fun!
Lin Ke: How perverted!
”Cute and smart,” Bai Huo smiled and raised his chin, his amber eyes were shining bright like a diamond. “My son I mean, not you two, bahahaha…”
He Ling: “….”
Lin Ke: “…”
By the time Bai Huo calmed down, the little dragon had already fallen into a deep sleep on the counter top. Because of his unreliable dad, the child had already developed a skill called “Sleeping wherever, as long as my dad is there.”
”Right, Director Bai,” Lin Ke remembered to get down to business. “Someone from the association came over, they said that they needed to find you for something.”
”Don’t care.” Bai Huo waved his hand lazily, turning away.
”It was Chong Wen-dage.”
Bai Huo nearly tripped, he spun around, his face revealing a rare splash of panic: “Zhou Chong Wen?”
Lin Ke looked down at his watch: “Oh, he should be here in about two minutes.”
”Just say I’m not here!” Bai Huo moved as quick as lightning, he grabbed his coat and threw it over the little dragon, then climbed out the window.
“Huh?” Lin Ke was dumbfounded.
It was currently 4:30 in the morning, except for the bar, the rest of the building was closed, and inside was pitch-black. There was a shop upstairs, Bai jumped in and hid by a window, looking down.
A black car slowly emerged from the darkness and stopped by the bar, a single man got out.
The moment he saw that figure, Bai Huo reflexively looked away and stood against the wall.
Step by step, the man approached downstairs.
Underneath him, in front of him.
Open the bar door, close the bar door.
The screeching sound the door made sounded like a hacksaw, cutting at Bai Huo’s nerves. When he heard the door close, he sighed heavily and leaned against the wall, the constant buzzing in his mind gradually dissipating.
In the sudden quiet, it was much easier to hear some strange, almost inaudible sounds.
In the darkness, a few lights flickered, Bai Huo held his breath and looked over. He saw three middle school-age looking children sitting side by side on the ground, staring unblinkingly at the small TV in front of them. The strange sound was coming from this TV set. Bai Huo glanced at the screen, and immediately understood why these three students had sneaked out here in the middle of the night.
But that aesthetic, those scenes… even if it was censored, it still stirred people up.
As evidenced when one of the students couldn’t bear it anymore. He frantically ran to the bathroom, covering his crotch. He didn’t come out for a long time.
Bai Huo’s mischievous heart suddenly awakened. While the other two were still captivated, he silently walked over and sat cross-legged where the previous student sat, sighing.
”What’s with the sigh?” One student asked, not looking away from the screen. Red-faced, he was very engrossed, he didn’t even notice that a third person had come in.
”It’s nothing, I just feel like donating some money to the actors.”
”What do you mean?”
”Can’t you see? They haven’t made eye contact since the beginning. There are even a few shots of them frowning. In my opinion, their faces are saying three words.”
”Bow to necessity.”
After looking at an AV, he could immediately tell that the actors wanted nothing to do with it, he really was worthy of being the great Director of the Poverty Alleviation Office.
The completely unappealing video on the TV came to an end with a scream from the female actress. The two students were still keyed up, lying on the ground, their bodies felt hollowed out. They looked to the side and jumped up in fright, discovering that the spot was empty.
“Who was talking just now?” The two boys looked at each other in horror.
Outside the window, the black car had already left. Bai Huo’s heart calmed down, he jumped out the window, landing lightly.
After picking up his son, he’ll head home, sleep peacefully, and when he woke up, he could listen to his son’s tender voice speak again. Thinking of this, Bai Huo smiled faintly, a bounce in his steps.
”Bai Huo.” Someone called out from behind him.
Bai Huo trembled.
”It’s you.” The man’s voice was deep.
Bai Huo paused, reluctantly turning to look at the gentle and refined man behind him, his smile waning: “…Shige.”
Li Lin Xi: Li- generic surname, Lin – to be near, Xi- creek. His name means near the creek
Bai: Means white, and white dragons are taboo
Peng”, and a bit like “Pang”: LLX says ‘Pang’ which means fat, as in, the fat child was bullying me. But BH thinks he said ‘Peng’, which is a move in mahjong. BH is worried about LLX growing up to be a wastrel, so he says he won’t take him to the parlor anymore, but LLX says ‘No’, as in, you ain’t going anywhere without me b#tch.
Is it surprising, unexpected? – a meme phrase, usually said sarcastically when a show has too many melodramatic plot twists
How perverted: 牛屄-niubi can mean awesome / capable (vulgar) / arrogant / cocky / bastard. Perverted seemed like the best fit, especially since LK thinks BH is some super masochist
Dage: Eldest brother
Bow to necessity: forced by life’s circumstances
Shige: Senior martial brother, they have the same master
If you guys don’t get the whole Director Bai joke, he sucks at mahjong so much, that he helps ‘alleviate the poverty’ of the other gamblers. If you feel depressed, come to Director Bai to win some free cash.