After “jiejie1” popped out, the surroundings went completely still for a moment; even Zeno himself was a little surprised. He had worked hard for a long time, hoping to have a “heart to heart” exchange with his protagonist, but slow laryngeal muscle development had made this wish difficult to achieve. At best, he could only babble messy, meaningless syllables. Perhaps, because he had been diligently practicing for so long, he was able to succeed this time.
Zeno’s blood drained from his face as he turned to look at Xi Wei. He found that he had returned to complete calm. Deep within, his heart was silently trampled by a herd of cattle, as he mourned the disastrous waste of his first words.
Clearly he wanted to call out to the protagonist first ah! How could Xi Wei not get sucked in by the meng, you do not understand! (t/n: oh yes we do )
Instead, he did not expect to give a response to Xiao Wu, who, full of excitement, was trying to make Zeno speak to her again.
But, the heartbroken Zeno had already released the hand holding her braid, and buried himself in Xi Wei’s shoulder, full of grief and indignation. Not willing to have any interaction with Xiao Wu, Xi Wei did not say a single word and turned to leave immediately.
Due to their mutual dislike, Xi Wei seemed disinclined to conceal his character. He was simple and crude, and he really did not care if he was exposed. If you could not hide the broken pot, you might as well throw it away2.
Xiao Wu was shocked when he treated her like air. She had probably never met anyone who refused to give her face. Her cheeks flushed deep red, and she stomped off in a huff in the opposite direction.
Although they had not been outside for long, the recent excitement left the cautious Xi Wei reluctant to stray out in the open. As soon as he felt they were not safe, fear and uncertainty would drive him to return to the safety of their home.
Zeno began to reflect on what had gone wrong, and all of this could only be attributed to the Elf Queen!
Hua Li often went out, not returning until the moon reached its zenith. She spent much of her time in the boat speaking to Zeno, which sadly sounded a bit like she just talked to herself all the time. Because Zeno was still like a foreigner to this world, every time she shared her stories he listened very seriously.
The little tot’s small, round, black eyes focused intently on Hua Li when she spoke. This made her so happy that she began trying to teach Zeno to say “Jiejie”, but unfortunately she was unsuccessful.
If the Elven Queen found out that all of her efforts for so long had mistakenly been paid off to Xiao Wu so easily, what kind of expression would she show?
Closer to home, they returned to the small, broken boat around noon. Xi Wei dug out some of the wild herbs from the corner of the boat cabin that they had not eaten before, mashed up the fresh heartleaf, pulled out some collected grass juice and combined it all for Zeno to eat; this was lunch.
Although the taste was not outstanding, compared to the winter food, Zeno was very satisfied. This fresh kind of meal in a life spent half-hungry was unforgettable.
Small children were always more sleepy. Lying on his side while enjoying watching his protagonist eat his own meal, Zeno’s eyelids began to grow heavy.
Through his drowsiness, an already familiar voice sounded, followed by a cold but reassuring hand brushing across Zeno’s short, fluffy hair, “Do not sleep.”
Zeno immediately knew something was happening, and looked up into Xi Wei’s impenetrable gaze. He instinctively felt a little guilty, wanting to retreat back. However, Xi Wei easily gripped the back of his clothes and pulled Zeno up. He fixed him within his extremely oppressive line of sight and uttered, “Talk.”
Zeno’s brain received the signal to speak, and the conditioned reflex of his mouth was to blurt out, “Jiejie.”
He wished he could slap his own face the second that word left his mouth. Even if he could only speak one sentence, it was better not to say that!
Xi Wei thoughtfully stared at his crying face for a long while, then reached for a small piece of wild herb that he had gathered earlier. He held it out towards the little one, “Cai3.”
Zeno did not even know what he should cry about at this point. Protagonist, can we just take this step by step; if you throw a difficult line at me it will not happen just like that.
The truth was, even though he could somehow understand the language the people of this world spoke, Zeno did not actually know it. The pronunciation was impossible when compared with the language he spoke on Earth. For example, when it came to the continent, the Chinese pronunciation of Hong Yue was “%# ¥”. Before Zeno came to this world, English was a major weakness for him; learning a new foreign language was bound to have the same results again.
In the meanwhile, the rookie father was but a child with no parenting experience—neither taking care nor receiving. All he could do was repeat “cai” to Zeno’s face continuously.
It’s not that I do not want to cooperate with you ah, I’m seeking to reduce the difficulty.
Just like that, one taught and one learned, half the day passing without any accomplishments.
Zeno began to hate the common virtues of all the protagonists of the X family. Perseverance and patience came in full force, as Xi Wei apparently did not have any impatience, nor did he speak coldly. Rather, he worked hard and encouraged him conscientiously to say ‘cai’.
Finally, Zeno felt that he needed to do something. He reached with his two small hands, pulled the herbs out, holds the protagonist’s delicate hand, and in good faith shouted, “Baba!”
Thanks to the language system of the Hong Yue Continent, just like any language in any world, no matter how complicated it was, the pronunciation of mom and dad were all very similar. Here was no exception.
Xi Wei’s fingers stiffened.
No matter which 10-year-old it was, when a kid is suddenly called ‘dad,’ he must be thrown into a very complicated mood.
Xi Wei finally stopped trying to compel Zeno to speak; he had found something new to do.
That is, to teach Zeno to walk, as well as how to speak properly. This has reminded Xi Wei that he could not tie Zeno to himself his whole life, so he began to seriously address the issue of his ‘education’.
Above their broken boat was a nearly abandoned arch bridge that people rarely walked on. Although it was very old, there were no safety issues. From that day onwards, after they finished eating, the protagonist took Zeno up onto the arch bridge. He had Zeno hold onto the bridge railing for support on one side while he stood on the other side of the bridge, and then signaled the little one to move towards him.
Zeno, filled with melancholy, was reluctant to move away from the railing. Ever since he blurted out ‘baba’ that day, it was like opening the door to a new world for Xi Wei. He now had ‘passion’ and goals to aim it towards.
The chill of early spring still hung in the air, and a cold gust of wind blew by. Zeno sneezed, taking a look at the other end of the bridge where the protagonist waited, then lifted one short little leg while trembling.
One step, no problem, another step, plop—on the ground.
After the nth fall, Zeno remained laying on the ground, seriously thinking back to how, in his last life, he had learned to walk.
These were skills that he always took for granted. Trying to pick them up again from scratch was very difficult.
Fortunately, his protagonist lived in a world where mercenary soldiers could go three days and nights with nothing to eat or drink, survive an ambush, and still fight bravely. So, these little set backs, he would not let them get him down.
Once again, Zeno was placed in position, and Xi Wei turned to head back to his side of the bridge. Zeno wanted to complain; we are not the Cowherd and Weaver girl seeking a way across the universe4.
But he did not dare, and could only rely on his own efforts.
Xi Wei took two steps, then felt a little pull on his leg. When he looked down, a cute little smile with four neat little white teeth peeking out met his eyes. Two tiny hands clutched his pants, while the baby stood unsteadily, looking like he could fall down at any time. He was still, in a sense, walking.
Xi Wei maintained his facial paralysis completely as he and Zeno looked at one another. Unrelenting, he did not allow this type of cheating shortcut, and mercilessly broke the grip of the little one.
A soft ‘blonk’ sounded as Zeno fell to the ground again.
Xi Wei continued towards his position.
Through it all, Zeno would not admit defeat. He made the same move every time Xi Wei brought him back, and every time he was repositioned.
Xi Wei was not annoyed by this move. Any person could tell that the protagonist could actually avoid the baby each time, but he deliberately slowed down, pretending not to know a thing.
Time passed quietly, and Zeno quickly gained the skills of speaking and walking while enjoying the fundamental advantages of being richly endowed by nature. He did not have to worry about keeping face, shouting “Baba” all day long, but could still depend on his older sense of consciousness to learn faster.
After all, they were not far from Fenhong Street, if they sincerely want to do so, they could find anyone. What was more, the scar-faced man’s forces in Ye Sa City were also some of the best5.
Recently, Zeno was distressed, and was faced by a major problem. That was, as he grew up day by day, his dirty clothes became progressively tighter. The protagonist even cut his clothes in various areas so they opened up, in order to prevent them from being too constricting. In the end, his clothing was basically just rags, but fortunately the weather was getting hot so he was not chilled.
If this continued, he would just be a streaker!
These days Xi Wei would go with Zeno to practice walking often. He was now able to walk steadily, but it was still necessary to walk and exercise. After being carried around for so long, Zeno had grown quite bored.
“Little one, wait up,” screamed a little girl from far.
Zeno grabbed Xi Wei’s little finger and turned to see Xiao Wu. When Xiao Wu saw that Xi Wei intended to ignore her she was immediately disgusted with him. She quickly ran and touched Zeno’s little head, satisfied after getting her ‘jiejie’ greeting.
Xi Wei remained silent. He took Zeno’s hand and walked back and forth over the arch bridge. He did not care about the hostility directed towards him by Xiao Wu, and did his own thing.
Xi Wei always acted this way. He did not want to be in touch with Xi Lun or Xiao Wu; he maintained constant vigilance towards them. However, he knew very well that with his own abilities he could not get away from them, and could only choose a silent refusal.
Hua Li was always trying to avoid him, and Xiao Wu was on the verge of confrontation, always searching for some fault. Xi Wei simply ignored their naive provocations. What to do?
Zeno, on the one hand, was in awe of the protagonist’s meng side—he was so cool! On the other hand, he was worried that if he acted so cold he would not find a good sister for the future!
Which sister would like her sweetheart to be so cold!
Xiao Wu often encountered the boys after that day. She usually brought some delicious food. Xi Wei never took any food, but he did not stop Xiao Wu from giving it to Zeno.
Today, Xiao Wu uncharacteristically raised a paper bag, looking Zeno over mysteriously from head to toe, feeling more and more satisfied. She reached into the paper bag and pulled out some clothes. Although they were a bit old, they were clean and in good condition.
Zeno was relieved; he would not end up being a streaker.
Returning to the boat’s cabin to change clothes, a confused Hua Li was driven out to where Xiao Wu stood waiting. Since Hua Li was familiar with her, the two little girls shared a common language. Elves were actually sensitive to human malice if it was directed towards them, so the Elf Queen had become very fond of Xiao Wu and her purity.
Zeno excitedly followed Xi Wei onto the boat to change clothes, while Xi Wei remained deadpan. When it was time to change, Xi Wei paused strangely before he helped Zeno into the clothes. Zeno thought that his protagonist was perhaps unskilled because of a lack of experience in dressing children, so he paid it no mind.
After changing, Xi Wei pulled the little baby out of the boat cabin. The waiting Xiao Wu and Hua Li were positively sparkling, and their eyes were all stars.
Zeno suddenly felt that something was wrong; they were just too happy. He finally looked down only to find a bow. The clothing looked nice and it was very comfortable, but this was a dress ah!
Xiao Wu started to explain excitedly, “I got baba to bring out my childhood clothes, and I just knew that they would be the perfect fit for this little cutie.”
Zeno faintly looked at the two over-excited sisters, helplessly struggling between streaking and wearing women’s clothing.
I wanted to get this out faster, but I couldn’t. C’est la vie! I’d like to shout out to the random day when the country with the second highest number of hits was Kuwait. That was pretty neat to see. I still love seeing where people read from. Have a great week. Thanks as always to the people in my discord group for all the help with the tricky parts.
- I didn’t add it last time, but on the off chance you don’t know, this means older sister. Referring to female friends or relatives. ↩
- Just me, using vague context clues to make up sayings again. I always: ask opinions, google the Chinese characters, google some combination of the English, and then if nothing works either leave it out or make it up. I’m pretty bad huh. ↩
- Cai – 菜 – vegetable or wild herb. While it makes sense to try to teach a baby the monosyllabic cai, vegetable is a bit of a mouthful. So, I left the pinyin in. ↩
- A Chinese folk tale. Many variations, Vega and Altair are the stars used, but they were lovers banished to opposites sides of the universe (galaxy). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cowherd_and_the_Weaver_Girl ↩
- These lines seem to be completely unrelated to what was being talked about. I left them there, but I don’t know why he suddenly talks about this. ↩