Chapter 8: Reunion
There was something moving under the swaddling clothes, and Ji Huan glanced at both of Grandfather’s dim eyes. After a long time, he slightly uncovered the scarf being used to keep out the wind, and the “little baby” in the swaddling clothes that Ji Huan had been hugging firmly finally revealed one side of his face.
An extremely frightening face.
Looking just like a mass of black fog, no matter who took a look at his face, they would all not think that it was the face of a human infant. The “black fog” had two white rings within it, and when Ji Huan uncovered the scarf, the two “rings” pointed straight at Ji Huan. And when Grandfather approached, the “rings” quickly shifted to the old man’s direction.
The two “rings” were the child’s eyes.
Compared to his body, the child’s eyes were strangely large. The sclera was abnormally white while the pupils looked just as black as night.
It was the face of a small child that would make anyone who saw it get goosebumps all over.
When he clearly saw the child’s appearance for the first time, Ji Huan didn’t sleep for a whole night. Sleeping made him have nightmares, and when he woke up to see that child again, it was really like another nightmare.
Anyone with common sense would know that this child wasn’t right. Ji Huan naturally knew this as well, but the thought of this being the child that his older sister had entrusted to him, and the thought of this being the child that his older sister had left behind, and Ji Huan ——
He bought a very sturdy backpack, then walked into a mother-and-baby product store.
Without even a bit of hesitance in his mind, he brought back this frightening child.
“I can’t see very clearly… This child, doesn’t it look a little dark?” When Grandfather hesitantly said those words, Ji Huan was, for the first time, glad that the old man couldn’t see.
“Mm, he’s a little dark.” Ji Huan remained calm as he spoke.
“Black spots are okay. Your older sister was also dark when she was born. Later, when she grew up, she was white. He needs to drink more milk. Right, did you buy him cow milk? Oh! That’s wrong, children these days all drink powdered milk. I heard that domestic powdered milk has many problems, you have to buy imported…” The old man didn’t know how long he had struggled with the tragic news of his granddaughter’s death. Perhaps, his eyes had become blind after weeping over the bad news. At that very moment, the child that Ji Huan had brought back was the old man’s only comfort, just like a life-saving straw that had appeared before his eyes. The old man impatiently yet carefully reached out to touch the child’s small face.
The old man’s rough, wrinkled fingers gently ran over him. Suddenly, a small, black painted claw stretched out from under the swaddling clothes, and the old man’s index finger was captured instantly.
This claw was truly a “claw1“. Though they could hardly be seen, there were five fingers. However, there were sharp fingernails on them. If looking at it over a human child’s small hand2, it really looked as if it was the hand of some monster in a ghoulish legend!
However, although it was such a frightening little claw, Grandfather, who had let it grab him, was laughing.
Deep wrinkles squeezed out of the corners of his eyes, and Grandfather very joyfully laughed.
“This child is truly strong.” The old man laughed until tears came out.
Seeing Grandfather laugh, Ji Huan was startled. Then, he also laughed with his head lowered. He smoothly grabbed the little black claw, stopping the little fellow’s impulse to explore with his claws just in time. Ji Huan couldn’t resist stuffing the small hand back into the swaddling clothes. Then, he once more wound the scarf around the swaddling clothes twice. So, the next time from inside, the little fellow in the swaddling clothes wouldn’t be able to find a way to stretch out his sharp claws anyway.
Yes, this child was born with fingernails. Not only that, they were very sharp as well, and several times, Ji Huan was scratched by the claws when he was feeding him. Not wanting Grandfather to get hurt, Ji Huan chose to confine the little infant.
“The weather is cold, both of his hands are chilly.” To avoid attracting Grandfather’s attention, Ji Huan looked for a very reasonable excuse.
“Ah! Right, right, right! The weather is so cold, it isn’t good for children to freeze. I’ll go turn on the heater. That’s right, I still have to boil hot water. Does the baby also drink powdered milk? Xiao Hua should’ve not eaten either…” Sounding like a broken record, Grandfather hurriedly turned around. One hand stealthily wiped away cloudy tears from the corner of his eyes, and then he wanted to walk to the kitchen.
Ji Huan hastily pulled him to a stop.
Confirming that the small baby was completely fastened inside the swaddling clothes and that there was no way for him to move, Ji Huan placed the swaddling clothes in Grandfather’s arms and picked up Grandfather’s apron from the back of a chair. He pulled up his sleeves, and walked into the kitchen in the back.
Wash the vegetables, cut the vegetables, light a fire, heat the pan, put them in oil.
Ji Huan’s actions weren’t very fast. Grandfather hadn’t let him cook before.
However, he frequently helped out3 in the kitchen and watched a lot. The steps for cooking were all very familiar in his mind. While he heated up the oil, Ji Huan also boiled a pot of water. After the two vegetable dishes were arranged, the water was boiling as well.
Two plates of vegetables and hot rice was served on the table. At the very end, Ji Huan loaded three portions of the meal and placed them in front of the shrine. This time, Ji Huan prepared incense for three people. After thinking about it, he also added one more.
The originally empty, cold and lonely hall in the room was full of the fragrance of sandalwood and the savoury smell of food. It was instantly warmed up.
Right after, the boiling water was mixed in with the room temperature water that Grandfather had boiled earlier. Ji Huan opened the luggage bag that he had taken when he left, and the bag that was originally old packed one-third of the way with things was now completely full. It was full of goods for babies.
Finding an opened bottle of powdered milk inside, Ji Huan seriously poured the hot water into the bottle of powdered milk according to the feeding instructions on the bottle.
Finishing this, Ji Huan then carried the milk bottle over to the dining table.
Under the dim yellow hanging light, Grandfather was still in his original sitting posture by the dining table. Ji Huan hadn’t come back, and he didn’t want to eat first. The old man gently swayed the small swaddling clothes in his arms, his wrinkled face looking tranquil and serene.
Where the old man couldn’t see, the baby he was holding hadn’t blinked once and was staring at his face. Two white rings were aimed with fixed eyes at the old man’s position, looking very strange.
“Grandpa, eat. Give me the child, he should drink milk.” His voice even, the youth carried the small swaddling clothes from Grandfather’s arms, and then sat across from Grandfather.
The two white rings turned to lock on to him.
Expressionlessly watching the child in his arms, he looked at him face-to-face for a moment. Then, Ji Huan picked up the milk bottle and skillfully aimed it at the approximate location of the mouth of the baby in his arms. Seeing the milk inside the bottle continually drop, he knew that the other had already started to drink the milk, and as a result, Ji Huan stopped watching him. His left hand held the swaddling clothes, and his right hand picked up a pair of chopsticks. Ji Huan put cabbage in Grandfather’s bowl with the chopsticks.
“Grandpa, eat some of my fried vegetables.”
this is kinda a short one but a cute one! i wanted to get the next chapter done too, but i ended up sleeping all day instead. 💦 i’m going to try finish it by tomorrow, but it’ll probably be tuesday/wednesdayish.
on another note, i recently finished reading the first arc of Misplacement Game and i really enjoyed it! i don’t wanna say too much, but if you’re into survival horror game stuff (with the twist of the protagonist playing a completely different game), check it out!
1 The two “claws” mentioned are technically different, but they’re pretty much the exact same thing. The first, 爪子, is implied to be an animal claw and it’s usually the one mentioned, while the second is just 爪, which I’m guessing is the generalized term. Doesn’t really matter, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
2 怎么看也和人类婴儿的小手挂不上边: Not an exact translation since I wasn’t sure how to convey it, but as always, the sentiment is the same.
3 打下手: Lit. “to act in a supporting role”