In the midst of the faint scent of incense, Ye Lanting closed her eyes and let the beautician gently rub the moisturizing lotion on her carefully maintained skin.
This was a relaxing moment that soothed her mind and body at the same time. Her thoughts drifted away and her gorgeous red lips gradually spread in a smile.
She was very satisfied with her current life.
Under the patient guidance of several tutors, Pei Yan had made great progress in many aspects. He basically improved his bad posture of bending over and having a hunched back and also became familiar with the set of etiquette processes when dining. At the very least, he started looking like a child of the family.
Unfortunately, in school, Pei Yan’s grades weren’t outstanding. The regular cultural classes were passable but the courses with an artistic specialty were a mess.
Ye Lanting knew that what the fired tutor said was correct. This was a child without much aura. He had intelligence and purity that were enough for ordinary people, but he seemed bleak and mediocre in this class that emphasized talent and means.
Fortunately, Pei Yan worked very hard. He often stayed alone in his room to study late at night, learning everything he didn’t know.
Regardless of whether diligence could make up for one’s weakness or not, at the very least, Ye Lanting was satisfied with this child’s obedience. It was completely different from the rebellious and stubborn Pei Qingyuan. This was her ideal child.
She could always teach him.
After instructing the maids at home to prepare a late-night meal for Pei Yan every night, Ya Lanting started to return her life to its previous trajectory with peace of mind.
Socializing with women whose lives were equally empty, picking and choosing seasonal new clothes that luxury brand managers regularly sent to her door, beauty and skin care, going to art exhibitions together, listening to concerns…
The beautician’s technique became slightly rough, causing Ye Lanting to emerge from these expensive and beautiful memories and open her eyes.
Then she suddenly realized the strange silence that spread around her.
The women around her who were receiving messages didn’t talk happily about the gossip they heard as usual. All of them were restraining their voices and no one spoke. Their faces seemed to have complicated expressions of wanting to say something but hesitating.
A trace of uneasiness surged in Ye Lanting’s heart.
She remembered the last time the atmosphere was unusually quiet when she did beauty treatment with these women. It was after they heard that Pei Qingyuan wasn’t related to her.
This was a seemingly polite silence, but the noisiest curiosity was hidden behind it. The moment she asked, ‘What’s wrong?’, the voyeuristic desires wearing masks of hypocritical concern would eagerly emerge.
However, she had to ask.
“This incense smells good.” Ye Lanting broke the silence in an affectionate tone. “Manning, I remember it is similar to the fragrance you use at home. What is the smell?”
She couldn’t show her timidity, even though she knew there might be an abyss ahead.
The woman called Manning hummed and said softly, “I don’t know. My husband is in charge of this.”
The foreboding in Ye Lanting’s heart became stronger when she heard the other person inexplicably mentioning her husband.
She gritted her teeth and obediently steered the topic in the direction that everyone expected.
“You have good luck. My family’s Minghong doesn’t care about anything.”
The moment she spoke, the air surged with belated excitement.
“Speaking of Minghong—” Someone raised their voice. “Ah Lan, you have to be careful. I don’t know if I should tell you this…”
The beautiful woman at the center of the topic finally used the expected tone of surprise. “What’s wrong?”
The smell of incense became more and more blurred.
Early on Sunday morning, Pei Yan wanted to sleep for ten more minutes before getting up again for class. However, he was woken up by a sharp argument from the next room.
It was the first time he heard his parents arguing in this huge house.
It was also the first time he heard Pei Minghong’s voice on a weekend morning.
Pei Yan hugged his knees, nestled on the bed, and listened silently.
“You called me home early in the morning just for this type of thing?”
Pei Minghong’s deep voice was filled with anger that couldn’t be suppressed.
“Home? Where is your home? Is it your home with some woman?”
Pei Yan knew that Pei Minghong had an apartment in the building where the company was located. In order to save time on the road, he usually lived there and didn’t often go back home. The time when Pei Yan just came back was already the most diligent period of time for him to return home.
“What are you crazy about?” Pei Minghong scolded. “Is this what you usually say? Why are you so wrong today?”
“You say you are staying in the company every day but who knows what you are doing? I occasionally go to the company to see you but you think I am too troublesome.” Ye Lanting sneered. “I bet you aren’t working overtime in the company at night, but seeing a woman, right? How else can you have another child?”
Pei Yan shrunk into a ball under the quilt and looked out the window with some trepidation. An earth-shattering key word almost made him think he was dreaming.
The cool morning breeze flowed in through the open window and a brightly colored bird landed on the window sill, quietly looking at him. It was really like a dream.
“What a mess!” Pei Minghong lost his patience. “Do you know how much money I could’ve earned in the 10 minutes I wasted here? Sober up!”
“I’m not sober? This family is supported by me alone. Where were you when Yan Yan couldn’t get used to school life?”
Then the noisy voices gradually decreased. Pei Yan faintly heard his mother’s crying voice. In front of the tears, Pei Minghong finally controlled his anger and said something in a low voice.
He was worried that the next whisper would be related to him so Pei Yan tried hard to get closer to the wall. However, he could only pick up a few intermittent fragments.
“Yes, I swear I didn’t mess around outside. How could I have the time?”
“I just asked yesterday. Dad’s health is almost better and he will return from abroad soon… don’t struggle over this and first think about how to deal with Dad. Qingyuan’s affairs are still hidden from him…”
“…There are two very important meetings in the morning. It is late so I’m going to the company.”
Soon, hurried footsteps were heard in the corridor and the sobs disappeared.
Everything returned to tranquility.
The distraught Pei Yan stared at the bird that stopped to listen. It took a long time before he got up to wash up and rushed to the study to attend class.
He was absent-minded and full of random thoughts during all the tutoring sessions.
He finally managed to get a break in the evening but Ye Lanting had gone somewhere. In the huge Pei family, Pei Yan had only one person he could speak to with confidence.
“Dad, he… does he really have another son outside?”
Pei Yan hesitantly asked Xiang Jinyang, who was playing a game in the room.
He thought this close friend would comfort him with the words, ‘Don’t worry, that won’t be the case.’ It was just like the words of reassurance he said every time Pei Yan was worried he would be behind forever in school.
But this time, Xiang Jinyang put down the game controller and shook his head expressionlessly.
“I don’t know.”
He wore an expensive gift on his watch, which was a gift Pei Yan bought with his pocket as thanks for helping him integrate into this world. Pei Minghong was generous to the biological son he lost and recovered, so he gave Pei Yan a jaw-dropping amount of pocket money and company shares.
It wasn’t just the watch. Pei Yan also gave Xiang Jinyang many other gifts, such as the high-end gaming console in front of him that Xiang Jinyang had mentioned enviously. Unknowingly, this good friend almost became like his brother.
Pei Yan repeated his answer in astonishment. “You don’t know?”
“Who can say with this type of thing?” Xiang Jinyang shrugged easily when facing his surprise. “It is too common. I have a useless uncle who is entirely supported by his wife but he secretly raises a woman outside. Look at the conditions of Uncle Pei. Forget one illegitimate child. I wouldn’t even find it strange if there was a group of them.”
Pei Yan’s eyes widened when he heard this. He wanted to refute it but he didn’t know what to say. “B-But…”
Seeing his incoherent appearance, Xiang Jinyang couldn’t help laughing. “This matter came from Qin Yujie, do you know? I heard about it before from Aunt Ye.”
Pei Yan was quiet for a moment before realizing it. He had met too many people after he came back. It took him a long time to find the handsome but slightly listless face from his memory and match it with the name.
“I have to say he is good. Do you know how many girls his parents dealt with because they got pregnant?” Xiang Jinyang said surprising words. “Some of them were due to his negligence and failure to do a good job. Some were the intentional actions of the woman.”
“However, his parents didn’t blame him and just told him to be careful. It is because he was born because his mother pricked that thing in advance.”
Under Pei Yan’s shocked eyes, Xiang Jinyang spoke faster and faster.
“Uncle Qin originally gave money to get rid of the trouble after a one-night affair. Unexpectedly, the two sons his wife gave him became sick when they grew up and their lifespan wasn’t long. The examination said it was a recessive disease caused by his wife’s genes. At that time, Uncle Qin’s best age had passed and it was too late to have another child. He was afraid that the quality wouldn’t be high, but there are so many properties that must be guarded by a son. That is why Qin Yujie’s mother rose higher.”
“Now their son has embarked on this path and the couple doesn’t feel like it is a problem. After all, who will say what will happen in the future? There might be a sickness or a mental illness.”
“What do they call this—” Xiang Jinyang thought for a moment before suddenly saying, “Oh yes, diversification. All eggs can’t be put in the same basket.”
“The world is like this.” He said in a casual tone. “At least for now, you are the only egg. No one else will get a turn as long as you don’t have an accident.”
A lot of secrets of the wealthy smashed down at once, making Pei Yan dizzy. In the end, he only remembered a few words.
Not high quality, diversification, the only egg.
The parent-child relationship that Pei Yan thought about was just an investment game that exuded the smell of money in Xiang Jinyang’s mouth. People were commodities that carried functions that needed to be evaluated urgently.
He wasn’t quite used to this way of thinking. He was just trying to force himself to accept and remember. After all, that was what he did most often now.
But… was he really the only one?
The shadow that had always been dormant in Pei Yan’s heart rose again.
Why would a child suspected of being his father’s illegitimate son appear at that person’s side?
Why did his parents hide the departure of that person from the grandfather he hadn’t met yet?
Why didn’t they let that person change the surname Pei that didn’t belong to him?
His thoughts drifted as he walked alone through the long corridor and returned to the room.
The two people who argued in the morning weren’t at home and there was only silence around him.
His father went to work but where did his mother go?
Did she really believe his father’s explanation?
Pei Yan was too puzzled. His eyes subconsciously fell on the empty window sill, covered with the golden glow of dusk.
The little bird, who had listened to his parents’ quarrel with him, somehow crossed the cold window pane and flew away.
Trapped in the sunset glow that occurred every time, he almost couldn’t remember the bright colors of the bird.
Pei Yan froze for a moment. Finally, he didn’t have too much time to waste.
He had so much to learn.
He took a deep breath, cleared his throat and quietly leaned toward his desk. He opened a thick book filled with knowledge that was far beyond the realm of high school.
On the branches filled with autumn leaves, the birds quietly raised their emerald tail features. It was like an emerald growing in brilliant gold, reflecting the yellow dusk and warm colors of the world below.
On Pei Qingyuan’s first day working at Xingyue Bakery, the flow of people suddenly increased by 57%, the average time spent in the bakery increased by two minutes and the per capita consumption nearly doubled. The frequency of the store owner He Shiwen wiping his sweat increased to once every five minutes.
The above were real-time statistics from a professional system.
He Shiwen hadn’t expected that Pei Qingyuan’s part-time job at the store would bring such great popularity. Even when he was making a video call to share the good news with his daughter, his daughter in kindergarten ended up clamoring to see the big brother who flashed by in the camera. His wife watched the fun from the side with a smile and really sent his daughter on a special trip to the store.
In the bakery where people came and went, He Shiwen and Pei Qingyuan busily greeted customers. The little girl called Xingxing sat obediently in a corner, nibbling on a lollipop. Her eyes were like sunflowers as they chased after the good-looking big brother.
At the same time, the little robot had been affected by the smell of baking all morning and followed him around in the garden.
The moment Pei Qingyuan took the plate full of pastries from the guest, Ji Tong was busy reporting the name of the dish in his mind. “Exploding custard croissant, cranberry mochi, caramel sea salt crisps…”
Then he ended with the standard concluding sentence, “Ruan Ruan, the bread is delicious and business is good.”
After listening to it all morning, Pei Qingyuan skillfully understood what he meant. “Are you hungry? Uncle He has ordered lunch. Let’s eat it together.”
The hungry Ji Tong immediately rushed to the wardrobe when he heard this and didn’t forget to emphasize, “I am data. Data won’t get hungry.”
He caught a glimpse of the little girl in the corner moving back and forth like a sunflower. He tried to take the opportunity to refuse. “I’m afraid that Uncle He will think I’m a good-looking talent and set up a baby marriage for me and Xingxing.”
“No.” Pei Qingyuan smiled. Something heavy seemed to have been removed from between his eyebrows as he showed focused concern. “Come out quickly.”
He turned toward He Shiwen and asked, “Uncle He, my brother’s child care class is over. Can I pick him up so we can have lunch together?”
“Yes, that’s great. He can accompany Xing Xing. Just go and pick him up. I’ll quickly order a few more dishes…”
Pei Qingyuan walked out of the store and headed toward an unoccupied corner, waiting for the magic to appear.
The birds stopped on the treetops and flapped their wings. In the warm sunlight, a child carrying a small school bag and waving at him happily appeared in front of Pei Qingyuan’s eyes.
He felt as if he was beginning to have a real home.