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Translator: EndlessFantasy Translation Editor: EndlessFantasy Translation
“Papa, Papa, wake up Papa, it’s all because of me!” Bai Wu cried and shouted while shaking Xu Lan.
A huge gasp escaped Xu Lan’s mouth and he coughed a few times.
Breaking free from the river’s current, he plopped himself on the shore and was awoken by Bai Wu’s tiny fist energetically punching him.
“Little buddy, are you alright?” He was so tired that his eyes could hardly stay open, but he could not be at ease until he asked if the boy was alright.
“I…I’m okay. Papa, I’m sorry, Papa. Don’t sleep Papa, I’m scared.” Like the mountain springs, his tears instantly started flowing after hearing Xu Lan’s voice.
The boy knelt guiltily beside Xu Lan. The child wiped off his tears with one hand, while the other held onto Xu Lan’s thick broad hand.
“Don’t be scared, don’t be scared. I’m here okay? I’m too tired, I need to rest for a bit.” Xu Lan strenuously stretched out his hand and pat the boy’s back.
“Aren’t you tired?” he asked. He moved his left hand away to create an empty space and patted the area, beckoning the boy to come and sleep there.
“No, Papa! We can’t sleep here!” Bai Wu firmly tried to lift Xu Lan up to find someplace else to go.
There was only one thing in his mind: they could not continue to stay there. As long as his Papa fell asleep, no one knew where they would end up once he awakens.
Xu Lan walked and staggered behind Bai Wu’s back. They had been walking for quite some time. Looking at the boy’s thin figure from behind, seeing how difficult it was for Bai Wu to find a way out, Xu Lan wanted to place the boy on his shoulders and walk with greater strides. However, the last strand of strength from his body had disappeared after being soaked in the cold river water. To top it off, his pajamas had been given to Bai Wu, for he feared that Bai Wu would be too cold.
Bai Wu cried as he walked and apologized profusely to Xu Lan. The boy fell a few times, causing Xu Lan’s heart to feel an unexplainable sense of compassion. He promptly carried the child in his arms.
“Mm?” When the boy was in his arms, he was already panting, trying to catch a breath. He sat on the ground and waited for his energy to recover.
“I’m taking a break, I won’t sleep,” Xu Lan said, thinking that the boy was afraid he would fall asleep.
Bai Wu bit his own lip and laid against Xu Lan’s chest, thinking. Having thought for a while, he finally asked a question in a decisive manner.
“Papa, when we were in the lake, why didn’t you let go of me? I must be heavy, that’s why you used a lot of energy.”
As he said that, Bai Wu buried himself in Xu Lan’s chest. Hearing that low muffled voice, Xu Lan immediately felt a gush of warmth in his heart.
“Hey, what are you saying? You’re an adorable little kid. Why would I want to let you go? I can’t even lift you up high, how could I throw you away?”
Xu Lan instinctively thought of the boy’s scars. Such a smart and obedient boy. Surely the attitude was a direct result from the treatment that he had suffered from back then. Only God knows how much beating he had endured, and how much suffering he had to go through.
“But, if Papa does that, Papa will die.” Bai Wu lifted his head and said guiltily. Tears were still flowing from his eyes.
“Haha, how can that be? I ‘m feeling good right now! Everything I eat will taste good too 1 !”
Following a hearty laugh, Xu Lan stood up and looked at the riverside, which stretched as far as the eyes could see. The scene in his dreams was slowly overlapping with the scene in the river. The corner of his lips curled up 2 more so than before, and remained in that position from then onward.
He kept thinking of ways to wake up. The dream felt too real! It was practically causing him to go mad! He wondered if it was because of the mental stress that he suffered during the past few months.
“Papa, this isn’t a dream,” said an apologetic Bai Wu after seeing Xu Lan’s demeanor.
The boy then lightly bit on Xu Lan’s chest. Numbness immediately set in Xu Lan’s brain, rendering him unable to continue thinking.
“One more time. Harder,” he said as he pressed on Bai Wu’s head. It was only until the moment when he felt a sharp pain did his mind begin to clear. Finally, he believed that it was not a dream! In that case, what about the murder that happened the night before?
He placed the boy down and looked at the latter with a never-before-seen solemn expression.
“What’s it all about? And how do you know that?”
“Because…because it was all my fault,” said a scared Bai Wu. His voice was soft and he was looking down.
“Continue.” Xu Lan’s brows creased, and the scar looked menacingly at the boy.
“Papa, if I tell you the truth, you don’t want me anymore, right?” Bai Wu lifted his head up, and tears began to well in his eyes.
With a sigh, Xu Lan squatted down and rubbed the boy’s head, saying, “Whatever it is, you still have to let me know.”
“It’s because…because I bring people to other places ever since I was young. And all those places are dangerous, but I don’t know where those places are. Like last night, I saw Papa in danger, and I only wanted to bring Papa away. I didn’t think we’d fall down in the river.”
Immediately after he finished, Bai Wu looked up to see Xu Lan’s response. He was afraid that surprise and fear would emerge from the man’s eyes. Up till then, Bai Wu had seen too many people with that kind of expression, after which they would beat, scold, and persecute him before throwing him away.
It jolted Xu Lan’s mind, and his speechlessness was a clear indicator of his shocked feelings. Then, he noticed the rapid contraction of Bai Wu’s pupils. The boy hastily started backing off and fell bottom-first onto the ground.
Xu Lan immediately looked over his shoulder but found nothing. At that point, he realized that the boy was afraid of Xu Lan himself! He could not help but let out a chuckle.
“You’re still scared even though you have such a skill? I can’t believe it.” He stretched his hand and picked the boy up, then patted away the soil on the child’s body.
“Papa! You said you’d never hit me!” Bai Wu was practically roaring. His eyes were shut tightly and he was shivering with cold.
“Did I say that I wanted to beat you now? And, didn’t I say that if you behave, I won’t beat you? If you keep throwing a tantrum, don’t you think I should teach you a lesson?”
Xu Lan chuckled and smiled. To Bai Wu, those actions seemed to be as radiant as the sun, rendering the boy unable to open his eyes.
“Papa, aren’t you scared of me?” he cautiously asked while holding Xu Lan’s pinky finger.
“Scared? Well, if what happened last night was real, then yes, I’m really scared,” Xu Lan said solemnly as he squatted down and held the boy’s cold hands in his own.
In reality, he had suspected that the problem was with Bai Wu, that the boy could see things normal people could not. He never thought that the truth was far worse than simply seeing things.
“Even so, I now have a cute little kid and I’m still happy because of it.”
Before Bai Wu could even cry, he was promptly lifted up by Xu Lan.
After that, he began walking along the river’s edge to find a way out.
If it was not a dream, then they might as well stay there and make the best of it.
“You don’t know where we are?” It was all water before Xu Lan and mountains facing his back. The place was incredibly remote. Where was that place? Would they even find a way out?
Bai Wu meekly shook his head. He noticed that Xu Lan did not see it, so he gently responded with an ‘mm’.
“In that case, we’ll just continue walking along the river. Surely we’ll bump into someone,” Xu Lan thought.
On that cold winter day, the sun was warmly suspended in the sky. A pair of pajama pants, made dry by the heat of his body temperature, was all that Xu Lan had on him. He could only rely on his mortal body to resist the cold.
“Little buddy, when did you start having this power?” Though he was a skeptic, Xu Lan was still curious about Bai Wu’s ability.
“…since I was one,” Bai Wu softly and hesitantly said.
“And you’ve always had the same experiences like the one last night?” Xu Lan’s brows were now tightly creased as he kept his tone of voice low.
“Mm,” replied the boy in an even softer tone, so much so that Xu Lan felt as though the child had not even said anything.
The man’s heart thumped for a moment as he unknowingly tightened his grip on the boy’s hand. To think that the child had always been in such a predicament. No wonder…
“Haha! Can you say ‘Papa’?” asked Xu Lan in a relaxed manner.
“That’s too soft! I can’t hear you.” He said after hearing the mosquito-hum of a voice.
“Papa!” With all his might, Bai Wu faced Xu Lan’s ears and shouted.
“Ayyy –” Xu Lan responded while holding in a chuckle. It marked the first time he positively responded to Bai Wu.
The boy was clearly stumped. His tears then streamed down Xu Lan’s hair, all the way to Xu Lan’s neck and chest.
During the time Xu Lan had just become a stepfather, he did not dabble in the popular knowledge of being a stay-at-home dad. He did not know the real reason behind the boy’s tears, which far surpassed that of a girl’s. He recalled having cried much lesser when he himself was still a kid.
If any other boy on the street was bawling his eyes out, Xu Lan would have felt annoyed. With Bai Wu, it was different: those tears made his heart twinge. It was as if those tears denounced Xu Lan for not being a good protector.
While he was thinking of all that, he suddenly realized he spotted someone!
“Hey! My brother, wait up! There are people here, there are people!” shouted Xu Lan the moment he spotted a person pushing a boat. He was afraid that Bai Wu would fall, so he took the boy down from the shoulders and held the kid in his arms, letting the boy hug him by the neck. Xu Lan was doing three things at once: running, waving, and shouting.
After huffing from being out of breath, he said, “Thanks, uncle.”
Xu Lan held the boy by the thighs and panted by the side of the river. Lifting his head up, he saw an old uncle with ash-grey hair covering the temples. The old man looked at him as if he was a madman.
“Uncle, where are you going? Can you bring us along?” Xu Lan asked.
“This is a ferry. I can only go to the other side.” The uncle stared at the bare-chested Xu Lan and pointed to the other side.
Why then, did Xu Lan run like his life depended on it?
“Hehe, that’s fine. We’ll go to the other side.” Xu Lan embarrassingly chuckled and scratched his head.
“Five bucks.” Then the uncle looked at the child and said, “Kids ride free.”
An awkward Xu Lan looked at his own pair of creased pajama pants. There was no money on him.
“Do you want to go or not? If not, I’ll be starting the engine. Other people are waiting.”
Xu Lan then stared into the old uncle’s eyes. A pair of down-to-earth eyes stared back at him, causing his hairs to stand on end.
There was no other choice, so Xu Lan finally let the boy ride on the boat, while he himself swam to the other side. The old man looked at him suspiciously, and that look could be translated as: do people still do this kind of thing?
It was only when both of them were reunited at the other shore did Xu Lan felt his energy return. The kind of deep mountainous forest where no human traces existed was truly frightening.
Soon after, Xu Lan once again sank into despair. Regardless of how he asked them, the people knew nothing of China or the twenty-three provinces.
Their country was called Huaxia, was it?
As he held Bai Wu’s hand, he did not say a word. His expression though, betrayed his thoughts: who am I? Where am I? What should I do?
Then a growling sound came.
Of all times, why did his stomach have to sound at that moment?
“Papa, let’s go and get something to eat,” said the boy. He saw how blurry Xu Lan was, and immediately held the man by his hand and headed toward a nearby coffee shop.
“But, buddy, I don’t have any money.” Feeling embarrassed, he looked at Bai Wu. Whiffing the smell of steamed buns, the man’s belly began growling even more excitedly.
“When I was on the boat, an uncle and auntie pitied me and gave me some.”
Bai Wu fished out the money from Xu Lan’s pajama shirt and handed it over.
“Haha! Good boy! Now say ‘Papa’.” Xu Lan carried the boy, gave a tiny kiss, then headed into the coffee shop.
In a quiet and muffled tone, Bai Wu tucked himself into Xu Lan’s chest and said, “Papa…”
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