The weather was cold in winter and Shen Shian prepared hot pot at home.
The soup base was stewed with bones and a chicken rack. It was simmered with a gentle fire for more than two hours. The bone marrow was soaked like milk and the aroma was strong enough to kill people. The clear soup contained mushrooms, red dates and a few pieces of tomatoes. Then a bit of authentic hot pot red oil was placed into the hot soup. The induction cooker was plugged in for a while and the shabu-shabu organized so half was milky white and half was fire red.
Shen Shian and Yun Feiyang were two young and strong men, plus there was the little Xiao Hei. The two big adults and a small child could eat, so the dishes must be prepared adequately. There were boxed fat beef rolls, fat lamb rolls, slippery shrimp, tripe, spam and various types of beef balls and seafood balls. In addition, there were frozen tofu, fried gluten balls, bamboo and enoki mushrooms. The various coloured dishes made the large dining table full.
The beef and lamb rolls were cut thinly. After the soup was boiled, they were cooked by moving them through the soup with a pair of chopsticks. The fresh soup was hot and spicy and filled with fresh and delicious meat. No matter the taste, it made people not want to stop. This was the first time that Xiao Hei ate such spicy food. He sat on a chair that was specifically raised and poked out his tongue. He was so hot that his mouth was red and his head was sweating, yet he still stared at the red soup. He saw Shen Shian grab some clear soup and his face wrinkled with dissatisfaction as he let out some complaints.
“Children should eat less spicy or you won’t grow taller.” Shen Shian filled the bowl in front of the child. “Eat slowly. No one will take it from you.”
The home was heated and it was easy to sweat when eating hot pot. Shen Shian took over his sweat and only wore a long-sleeved t-shirt. The white cotton fabric was soft and complaint, Shen Shian’s movements showing his exquisite shoulder blades and thin waistline. The person looked so good that he was pleasing to the eye even when cooking tofu.
After turning around and discovering that Xiao Hei was only eating meat, he gave the child two pieces of lettuce. “Eat more vegetables. Don’t be a picky eater.” He used to be a dog but now he was a child. How could a little child of this size not eat vegetables? Shen Shian unscrewed the lid and added a glass of juice.
Yun Feiyang sat across the child and watched Shen Shian attentively taking care of the child. He was unaware that he was like an old mother as he worried about his friend, “An An, are you really going to raise him as a son?”
Shen Shian and Xiao Hei were staring at each other in a confrontational manner. He didn’t raise his head as he watched Xiao Hei reluctantly eat the lettuce and replied, “Yes.”
“But…” Yun Feiyang searched for words. “But you have to worry about what the other person thinks. What if he doesn’t want to stay here and would like to go home to his parents?” Kidnapping a child of less than 10 years, his brother absolutely couldn’t think of it!
Shen Shian lowered his head and asked Xiao Hei, “Would you like to live with me?”
Xiao Hei nodded with full cheeks.
“Do you want to go home and find your parents?”
Xiao Hei shook his head. He grew up naturally. Where did his parents come from?”
Shen Shian looked up. “See.”
Yun Feiyang, “…” See what? This was kidnapping! His heart became more sorrowful and he started biting the chopsticks.
Shen Shian guessed what was going on in his friend’s mind and guessed this person was creating an image of a criminal who intended to violate the law. If he wanted to live with Xiao Hei then he had to solve this problem in a safe way.
“Feiyang, there is something I haven’t told you yet.” Shen Shian put down his chopsticks, his tone hesitant. “I think that this child didn’t accidentally become lost.” If he was trafficked and sold by a trafficker, it was reasonable to pick up the child for a short period of time. Even if the police cooperated with the investigation, they would’ve been able to find Xiao Hei’s parents. It might be a troublesome point in the adoption process but it was a logical thing.
“What do you mean? He ran out of the house by himself? Didn’t you pick him up at the mall? It is likely that his family is near the mall!” Yun Feiyang looked at Xiao Hei. “Hey, do you remember where you live? What are the names of your mother and father? What is your name?’
The questions were like stones sinking into the sea. Xiao Hei only cared about eating meat and didn’t answer this person.
“Hey, why doesn’t this child talk?” After thinking about it, Yun Feiyang had never seen him speak. “Can’t you speak? A three year old child should at least know his own name.” Unless…
Yun Feiyang focused on Xiao Hei. The child didn’t use chopsticks and was using a child’s fork specifically prepared by Shen Shian. He probably wasn’t happy with the fork and threw it aside, directly burying his face in the bowl. He occasionally used his hands to help and soon his face, chin and fingers were covered with oil.
This type of animal nature in Shen Shian’s eyes was innocent and a bit cute. In Yun Feiyang’s eyes, it was slightly… mentally disabled.
Shen Shian saw the other person’s expression. It was somewhat different from the script he envisioned but this didn’t prevent him from guiding his friend to follow the other person’s thoughts. Thus, he sighed and said, “This time, you should understand.”
It was like a lightning bolt flashed through his brain. A three year old child who couldn’t talk, ate with his hands, looked fierce, liked biting, didn’t know his parent’s names and didn’t want to go all… all these abnormalities rapidly rotated inside Yun Feiyang. With his superb detection and analysis capabilities, he finally cracked the only truth.
“This child is a fool!”
Shen Shian held down Xiao Hei’s head and patted it reassuringly. He quickly used one hand to block the small fangs that shone coldly and couldn’t help sighing.
Yun Feiyang was more convinced of his reasoning. “Then this child’s parents abandoned him at the mall?” No wonder why he would willingly follow Shen Shian, a stranger home to eat. He must’ve been hungry at home and it was unknown if he had been hurt or not.
He stared at Xiao Hei with eyes full of sympathy. “He is very cute, like jade, but his brain isn’t good. Do you want to take him to the hospital for a check? Perhaps it can be treated.” It seemed to be the child’s good luck to be picked up by An An.
In just a few minutes, Shen Shian changed from a lost youth going down the wrong path to a hero saving people from fire and water. Not to mention, the hot pot’s steam added some redness to Shen Shian’s face. His appearance as he took care of the child did exude some maternal… ah, no, the brilliance of fatherhood.
Shen Shian spoke vaguely. “I will definitely check him but only after a while. He is… I will raise him for some time.” What if becoming a human was only temporary and he would return to being a dog in a few days? It was also unknown if the current physical data was in accordance with human standards or dog standards.
Yun Feiyang’s heart was tight. Oh, it seemed that this child was indeed abused. The sympathy in his eyes increased and he gave some lamb to the child. “Eat, eat a bit more. If you follow An An then he will give you spicy food in the future. The past has gone. Who will dare bully you in the future? Uncle Yun will help you beat him to death.”
Xiao Hei glanced at this person, grabbed the lamb with a fork and mercilessly threw it in the bin.
Yun Feiyang didn’t care. This child was a fool. Why should he care about a fool?
He grabbed a few mouthfuls of meat, sipped the hot soup with a grin and stared at Shen Shian through the white steam. “Would you like to give him a new name? He can’t remember his previous name and it isn’t necessarily a good thing to remember. If you give him another name then he can start anew with the name.”
Shen Shian also had this idea. The dog had become a human and couldn’t continue to be Xiao Hei. However, what name should be given? It was difficult to decide.
Yun Feiyang drank some cold beer. “I have a good idea. Do you want to call him Lele? You are An An and he is Lele. Together it is peace and happiness (Anle)…” He didn’t finish talking because as someone in the pet industry, he was sensitive to a certain word. Yun Feiyang closed his mouth in time and smiled at Shen Shian. “I’ll change it, change it.”
The meal was drawing to a close when Shen Shian made up his mind. “I’ll call him Shen Xun.”
“Shen Xun? Which Xun exactly? The Xun that means searching?” Yun Feiyang’s mouthed it several times as he pondered on the meaning. “It is fate that you found him in the sea of people! Is it this meaning?”
Shen Shian didn’t answer. His mother believed in Buddha and believed that fate was determined. There was a fixed number in the underworld. As for whether he found Xiao Hei or Xiao Hei found him, who could tell?
He got up and grabbed a hot towel from the bathroom before calling out to the child. “Shen Xun, come and wipe your hands.”
After dinner, Xiao Hei—he should be called Shen Xun now, held a fruit plate and sat on the sofa to watch TV. Shen Shian was ready to wash the dishes and Yun Feiyang raised his sleeves to help.
Yun Feiyang glanced at the child sitting on the sofa in the living room and leaned towards Shen Shian, lowering his voice, “An An, I know you kindly picked him up and want to raise him. If it is your decision then I will support you. However, he has parents after all. I am wondering if you should call the police first and take the child there. Once the police investigate, they can give you a certificate. It will add support if you want to adopt him later or want financial assistance. Things will be fair and bright after going through the formal procedures. Otherwise, what if you raise the child to be fat and healthy, only for the parents to come to your door and make trouble? What will you do if the parents want the child back?
Shen Shian had considered this. His thoughts weren’t in the same direction but they weren’t much different. He didn’t need to worry about the parents finding him but Xiao Hei needed a legal identity if he wanted to live normally in this society after becoming a person. Shen Shian wasn’t good in these matters and would probably have to find Mr Gu.
Yun Feiyang also thought of this. “Has Mr Gu contacted you recently?”
Shen Shian nodded. They originally kept in contact once a week but the frequency increased since his car accident. Now Mr Gu called every two or three days. The contents of every call were similar and it was nothing more than Mr Gu’s usual inquiry. Shen Shian gave a formulated answer every time. In fact, even if he didn’t answer, the two bodyguards had probably reported his situation to the other party.
Yun Feiyang glanced at Shen Shian’s face, felt his mood wasn’t bad and couldn’t bear it anymore. He cautiously asked, “An An, what happened with Mr Gu and your mother?”
He had known Shen Shian for three years and combined with the relationship between Grandfather Shen and his parents, he always treated Shen Shian as a brother. However, he didn’t know much about the family affairs. He only knew that Mr Gu was Shen Shian’s biological father but his relationship with the Shen family wasn’t good. An An took his mother’s surname and every time father and son met, Shen Shian’s attitude to his father was indifferent.
Yun Feiyang was an outsider and it wasn’t good for him to ask about this matter. In addition, it involved his mother who died young so Shen Shian wouldn’t take the initiative to speak. Yun Feiyang had heard many rumours but they were obviously to satisfy gossip and the words were filled with jealousy. He didn’t believe a single one of them.
It was inevitable for him to be curious. The curiosity had been buried in his heart for a long time and the atmosphere tonight was too harmonious. Once one of the protagonists was mentioned, it accidentally slipped out. The moment Yun Feiyang spoke, he realized he was too arrogant and instantly regretted it. He quickly apologized, “It is my fault. Don’t worry if it is inconvenient to say.”
Shen Shian placed the clean dishes on the draining rack, picked up a towel and dried his hands. Then he spoke with a bland expression, “There is nothing to say.”
To tell the truth, this was actually a very rotten dog blood story. It was like a real version of small stories in the 1980s or 1990s.
Mr Gu’s full name was Gu Jingchen and he was part of the N generation of a powerful family in the capital. His family had a deep foundation but wanted to go further. Thus, when Mr Gu got older, his family arranged a marriage for him.
An arranged marriage was a normal thing for sons born with his family background but Mr Gu was different from others. The pride of relying on his own abilities made him unwilling to use marriage as a bargaining chip. He violated his parents’ orders and went all the way to H City, prepared to make a living on his own and prove himself with his results.
In this way, he met Shen Qingran at the library of H City. She was Shen Shian’s mother.
It was love at first sight and the love between the two people must’ve been vigorous and infinitely beautiful. It was because even at the end when she was lying in bed, Ms Shen’s beautiful eyes would be full of smiles when she recalled that time.
The sweet and free love lasted for more than two years. During this period, Mr Gu met the Shen parents and won their approval. At Ms Shen’s birthday party, the marriage proposal was successful and a simple, warm and romantic engagement ceremony was held. It was just that marriage was a matter between two families. It definitely wouldn’t work without the consent of the Gu parents. Thus, Mr Gu returned to the capital. Before leaving, he promised to Ms Shen that he would handle his parents and return for a clean wedding.
At this time, transportation was very convenient. There was a high-speed rail train between H City and the capital. Mr Gu went quickly and came back quickly. In less than five days, he reappeared in front of Shen Qingran with red eyes and a strange ring on his finger. according to China’s citizenship information, he was already married.
The wife who appeared out of thin air was the marriage partner arranged by the Gu family, surnamed Qin. According to Gu Jingchen, once he returned home, he was placed under house arrest by his parents. His parents repeatedly tried to convince him and once it didn’t work, they tranquilized him and took his ID card to the Civil Affairs Bureau to register the certificate. A wedding was held while the groom was unconscious.
“Qingran,” Gu Jingchen held her, panicked eyes wet with tears. “I love you, I only love you. You are the person I want to spend my life with. Please don’t blame me, I didn’t expect them to do that. By the time I regained consciousness, the wedding was over and the marriage certificate registered. I didn’t do these things voluntarily.”
Shen Qingran was originally devastated and filled with a strong shock. Five days ago, Mr Gu was her fiance and the two of them discussed the wedding with full enthusiasm. They talked about which guests to invite and the decoration style of the wedding room. Yet in just a few days, her lover became the legal husband of another woman?
She was deeply in love with Mr Gu and believed Mr Gu when he said this marriage had been involuntarily forced by the family. However, what should they do?
Mr Gu took her hand. “Don’t worry and leave it to me. I have already submitted the divorce procedures and signed the divorce agreement. Once the marriage is lifted, we will immediately get a certificate and I won’t return.”
Shen Qingran spoke with some difficulty, “Divorce? Will Miss Qin agree?”
“She doesn’t agree!” Mr Gu gritted his teeth and spoke hatefully, “I don’t know her at all. I only met her before the wedding. How can we have a husband and wife relationship? I don’t know what she will get from this wedding but in any case, I will get a divorce. The Gu family thinks that I am greedy for family power and can only be controlled by them. In fact, I don’t care at all. I wish they would sweep me out of the family quicker! Qingran, rest assured. Once I break away from the family and lose the value of marriage, there is nothing they can use to threaten me.”
Mr Gu’s firm and unwavering attitude calmed Shen Qingran’s feelings. The two of them were waiting for the ridiculous marriage to end when she found herself pregnant.
Shen Qingran had a congenital heart disease which meant that pregnancy and childbirth were extremely risky and could be fatal for her. She knew this and Gu Jingchen also knew it. Thus, the two people were careful and took the necessary protective measures.
They didn’t expect it to still happen.
The arrival of this life was too unexpected and it was surprising to the two people. Shen Qingran was very happy and started counting down the days. She was looking forward to Mr Gu’s divorce finishing as soon as possible, looking forward to entering the marriage hall with the person she loved and later raising this child together.
However, the divorce proceedings of Mr Gu and Miss Qin didn’t reach the last step. Miss Qin appeared on a night that was raining heavily. At the time, Shen Qingran was suffering while eating because of the strong morning sickness. Whenever she ate something, she would turn around and vomit it out. Mr Gu coaxed her to finish a bowl of porridge and was holding her sleepy self in his arms when they were shocked by the piercing doorbell.
Miss Qin was standing drenched outside the door. She handed over a document to Mr Gu.
It wasn’t divorce papers but a doctor’s diagnosis.
“Jingchen.” She didn’t look at Shen Qingran and only smiled shyly at Mr Gu. “I am pregnant.”
Once Miss Qin left, Shen Qingran shut herself up in the bathroom and vomited. After a long time, she came out and whispered to Mr Gu, who was paler than her. “Go back.”
Mr Gu’s lips trembled but he seemed too stunned to give any explanations.
Shen Qingran might be gentle but she was tough and stubborn. Her love was so hot that she wouldn’t tolerate any lies or betrayals. After making a choice, she deleted all contact information and refused any incoming calls or text messages. She had broken up with Mr Gu and there would be no further involvement.
Gu Jingchen didn’t return to the capital. He bought another house in the building that Shen Qingran was staying and followed Shen Qingran’s schedule. He accompanied her to work every day, went out to buy things together and walked back and forth with her in the community for exercise. Shen Qingran didn’t want to get involved with him so he walked far behind her, being careful not to let her or her family see him.
He understood Shen Qingran’s physical condition and knew the risks she bore were 100 times more than other pregnant women. Thus, after first learning the news about her pregnancy, he thought about having her terminate it. However, Shen Qingran disagreed. This was their child and she wanted to give birth to him. She even thought of a name. He would be called Gu Shian. Bodhisattva would bless him and he would grow up safely and in a healthy manner.
She had placed his hand on her lower abdomen, a smile on her face and her eyes sparkled like the stars. “Do you think he will be more like me or like you when he grows up?”
Gu Jingchen had no way of rejecting her.
He had invited the best cardiologist and gynecologist to H City for a joint consultation. After repeated discussions, a comprehensive treatment plan and pregnancy care plan were created to minimize the risks and ensure the safety of mother and child.
At the time, he never thought the pregnancy plan and treatment plan would go forward as scheduled but he couldn’t be part of it.
In the sixth month after Mrs Gu appeared, Shen Qingran gave birth to a baby boy at the hospital in H City. In this period, two first aids were implemented and she safely turned the corner, but she was greatly hurt.
12 years later, Shen Shian stood in front of a hospital bed and watched her stop breathing.
The story wasn’t long but it was inevitably sad since it involved life and death. Shen Xun detected that Shen Shian’s mood wasn’t quite right and rushed over to bare his teeth viciously at Yun Feiyang. Then he turned and hugged Shen Shen Shian.
Yun Feiyang patted Shen Shian’s shoulders in an embarrassed manner. He once again deeply regretted bringing up this topic. After listening to the whole story, many doubts in his heart were resolved. or example, why was Shen Shian so indifferent to Mr Gu, why didn’t Ms Shen and Mr Gu marry and why did An An have the surname of Shen, not Gu?
However, there were still some doubts. “Hey, since Mr Gu said that he and Mrs Gu only met before the wedding, is it possible the child isn’t his? Or was it just a fake pregnancy?” The TV dramas loved plays like this.
Shen Shen Shian shook his head. “It was a true pregnancy and the child was indeed his.”
After four months, amniotic fluid from the fetus could be taken for a paternity test. The identification report showing that the probability of a father-son relationship was more than 99.9% was directly sent to Shen Qingran. After her death, Shen Shian accidentally discovered the carefully preserved documents.
“Ah.” Yun Feiyang scratched his head and couldn’t speak. He thought about it and still felt there was a problem. “No, your mother and Mr Gu were lovers first and that lady was the third person. It is already shameless enough for her to seize the superior position. It is enough for her child to have the family name. What is she still doing with you? She even dared to create a car accident to harm you. You should be the one hating her!”
Shen Shian felt his arm suddenly become tight. He bowed his head and met a pair of dark green eyes. Shen Xun seemed very angry as his soft face was wrinkled like a ball. Perhaps it was because he was angry that his language became more confused. “…Car accident… injured… who… harm you… woof!” He was so angry that he even barked.
Yun Feiyang was very surprised. “Hey? This fool can talk! But what are the vague words? I didn’t hear a single one.”
Shen Shian understood and his heart softened. There was a smile in his eyes as he rubbed the child’s head. “I’m not hurt. I’m fine and it’s nothing.”
Then he glanced back at Yun Feiyang and answered the previous question. “The Gu family is big and several generations are said to be part of the royal family in the feudal period. The family has deep roots and some old-fashioned and traditional ideas have been passed down from generation to generation. For example, the family attaches great importance to the name of the eldest son. The reason why Mr Gu is favoured by his family and is considered to be the best candidate for marriage is because he is an orthodox descendent. Mrs Gu became pregnant two months after my mother but I don’t know why, the child in her stomach was born before me. He is a month older than me and I heard that because he was a premature body, his body is too small and weak. Mrs Gu probably put the blame on my head.”
These words were too much and made people want to curse, but they didn’t know where to start. Yun Feiyang was stunned for a long time and his face was red before he spat out, “Fuck.
After a long time, he took a deep breath and hugged Shen Shian. “Brother, you experienced too much bitterness.”
Shen Shian only spoke briefly but it was impossible for Ms Shen’s early death to have nothing to do with Mrs Gu. To some extent, his mother was forced to die by the other side and Shen Shian was in danger enough that he had to be constantly protected by bodyguards!
If Ms Shen was still alive and knew that An An had suffered so many grievances then it was unknown how sad she would be.
He paused before continuing, “To be able to marry Mr Gu, Mrs Gu’s family must be powerful. I don’t know what to do and don’t want to talk big. I know that I’m just a dead bug compared to other people. However, if the wind and water turns over, I will declare it here. If God opens his eyes and there is a day when Mrs Gu falls in my hands, you can rest assured that I will definitely help you report this hatred.”
Shen Shian was silent for a moment. “…Why are you comparing yourself to a buy? Can’t it be a mosquito? Bugs smell too bad and their stench lingers. The stench of a dead one is disgusting.”
Yun Feiyang, “…” Did he have to say such words?
That night, Shen Shian lit incense for his mother as usual Once he returned to the bedroom, he found the quilt bulging and a small head appeared on the pillow.
It had been a few days of sleeping in the master bedroom and Shen Xun was no longer self-conscious. He finished taking a shower and ran to Shen Shian’s bed, wrapping himself in a tight bundle so he couldn’t be taken away. At this time, he saw Shen Shian enter and even opened the quilt with a protagonist’s attitude. “…Come on…”
Shen Shian, “…”
He walked to the other side of the bed and lay down. He had just covered himself with the quilt when a soft head burrowed into his arms. “…An An…”
Shen Shian gently flicked the child’s forehead. “Call me Father.”
Shen Xun pretended not to hear and continued to arch in his arms. “…An An…”
Shen Shian turned off the lights. Every time the dog ran in to sleep, he left a small night light on at the head of the bed to exude a soft light. “What is it?”
“…The person who hurt you in the car accident… Mrs Gu… what is her… name…”
Shen Shian looked down at him. “Why are you asking this.” In the faint light, the dark green eyes reflected a shallow layer of fluorescence. It was so close that Shen Shian could see strange lines on the iris, like the surface of a planet. This human-like yet different features looked more mysterious in the quiet darkness.
“…I want to know…” Shen Xun was unrelenting and pulled at the buttons of the other person’s pyjamas. “…An An… tell me…”
Shen Shian held the child’s hand and didn’t allow him to move. His thick eyelashes drooped for a moment before he whispered, “Qin Shu, the Qin of the Qin Shi Huang (first emperor of China and founder of the Qin Dynasty) and a family with a literary reputation.” The tone was very skilled, as if he had repeated it tens of thousands of times in his heart.
Shen Xun was satisfied. He hugged the other person’s hand and took the initiative to close his eyes. “…Sleep… sleeping…”
A few hours later, Shen Xun determined that Shen Shian was sleeping and quietly opened his eyes. He released his hand and turned the palm over to lie flat. He spoke some words as his tender white hand drew a circle in the air.
His movements caused a cold, white and bizarre pattern to slowly emerge in the air. Each stroke contained a complex mystery and vaguely formed the outline of an ancient beast, surrounded by a perfect circle.
The centre of the circle suddenly contained the words ‘Qin Shu.’
Once the pattern was completely formed, Shen Xun bit his finger and a drop of blood fell on the pattern. It was like ink dropping into water as the entire pattern turned a sinister red. There was a light murmur and it exploded into countless sparks before disappearing.
Shen Xun licked his injured finger, hugged Shen Shian’s hand again and closed his eyes.
「 Humph, daring to move against my people, I will draw a circle to kill you! 」
The author has something to say:
January 20th, 2019. There are still 2 months and 13 days before the outbreak.
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