vol. 1: chapter twenty-six – building confidence

Li Xinwen arrived at Sun Xiao’s school by taxi, and because he remembered Sun Xiao was feeling self-conscious earlier, he decided not to wait by the front entrance. Instead, he asked the driver to go to the back entrance and then sent Sun Xiao a message to inform him of his arrival. Li Xinwen didn’t have to wait long before Sun Xiao appeared, and Li Xinwen opened the door from the inside.

“Xin-gege,” Sun Xiao greeted him with a shy smile. “Did you wait long?”

“Not at all! Just got here myself.” Li Xinwen said before he turned to the taxi driver and advised, “Sir, please go to Oceanzone shopping mall.” Li Xinwen wanted to avoid suspicious looks but after learning from his experience earlier that day he decided not to wear his disguise. Despite this, the driver would occasionally glance at his rearview mirror to look at Li Xinwen, as if itching to confirm something.

“Sir, please forgive me if this question would… offend you but, are you the actor that got into an accident not too long ago?” the driver asked.

Upon hearing this question, Sun Xiao frowned but Li Xinwen just smiled. “Yes, I’ve just recently been discharged from the hospital. I’m currently on vacation in order to recuperate,” Li Xinwen answered calmly.

“I knew it! I knew I recognized you from somewhere! My daughter kept on talking about you and her room is full of your posters. She even has a shrine in the corner of her room dedicated to you!” the driver shared with a hint of excitement in his voice. “Mr. Li, is it alright if I ask for your autograph later? When my daughter heard that you were in an accident, she was so depressed and cried for a whole night. Then, the news of your successful surgery made her so happy. But it didn’t last long because of the news that you were in a coma,” the driver related in a slightly somber tone.

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“Mr. Li, you see, my daughter is not very bright. Her marks have always been below average and as a father, I have always worried about her future… But then she suddenly said she wants to be a surgeon! A neurosurgeon to boot! I was truly surprised!” the driver continued to speak. “At first, I thought she was just saying it for… you know, for the sake of it. I mean, when I asked why she wanted to be a neurosurgeon, she said it was because of you. But ever since she started her last year of high school, she has really worked hard and her marks are now within the top 100 of the whole nation!” at this, Li Xinwen could sense how proud the man was of his daughter. “So, Mr. Li, can you please grant my wish and give me an autograph addressed to my daughter?” the driver asked with a pleading expression.

“Alright. I’ll give her an autograph,” Li Xinwen said with a small chuckle. Working hard for someone you look up to was normal even in Long Xing. Back then, Li Xinwen also had a few disciples in the Soaring Heaven sect who idolized him and Li Xinwen would sometimes reward them by either giving them advice as a form of encouragement, or pills to help them with their cultivation. Plus, Li Xinwen felt indebted to his sect. The stronger their disciples were, the better it was for the sect.

The rest of the drive was filled with small chatter between Li Xinwen and the driver which made Sun Xiao feel a little neglected. He lowered his head and started playing with his phone when suddenly he felt a warm hand on top of his head. Looking up, he saw Li Xinwen gazing at him with a warm smile.

Ah‘Xiao, what’s wrong?” Li Xinwen asked.

In Sun Xiao’s eyes, Li Xinwen’s smile was very dazzling and he felt his heart race once again. He didn’t understand why he was feeling nervous every time he was faced with his adoptive brother’s smile recently. He had never felt this way before.

Ah‘Xiao?” Li Xinwen called out again. This time his tone was laced with worry.

“Xin-gege, you won’t leave Ah‘Xiao?” Sun Xiao asked in a low voice.

Hearing this, Li Xinwen showed a helpless expression. His hand moved down to caress Sun Xiao’s cheek before he lightly pinched the soft flesh. “What are you thinking, hmm? Why do you always think ge will leave you?” he asked. “Didn’t ge already promise you? Sun Xiao, even if the world wants to abandon you, ge will always be by your side,” Li Xinwen told the young boy. Sun Xiao’s insecurity had always been there when Li Xinwen looked at the original’s memories before. He believed that this was the reason why Sun Xiao was this way now.

Sun Xiao responded by moving closer and wrapping his arms around Li Xinwen’s waist to hug him. Li Xinwen also didn’t ask anything further and just comforted the young boy. ‘Sun Xiao’s gloominess… how do I change this?’ Li Xinwen thought to himself before remembering how excited the boy became whenever martial arts was mentioned.

Ah‘Xiao, how about we go browse some martial arts books later?” Li Xinwen asked as he looked down to gauge the younger boy’s reaction. Sure enough, at the mention of martial arts, Sun Xiao’s previous gloominess disappeared, and his eyes shone with excitement.

“Are we going to buy martial arts books?” Sun Xiao asked and Li Xinwen nodded his head.

“Will ge also learn martial arts with me?” he asked again, getting another nod from Li Xinwen.

“Let’s go now?”

At this, Li Xinwen let out a small chuckle and patted Sun Xiao’s head. “Not now. Later. First, we must go eat and fill our bellies,” Li Xinwen told Sun Xiao. “Remember, one cannot fight with an empty stomach. That’s your first lesson!”

“Okay!” Sun Xiao nodded his head as he committed the first lesson Li Xinwen told him into memory. “Ge, if that is the first… Then, what’s the second?”

“Second? Hmm… practicing martial arts requires confidence and discipline. So, you will have to work on your confidence Ah‘Xiao, or else, it will be hard for you to learn,” Li Xinwen said.

“Confidence…?” Sun Xiao looked at Li Xinwen, his eyes seemingly showing a sense of loss. “Xin-gege, how do I work on my confidence?”

***

At this question, Li Xinwen didn’t know how to answer. Luckily, at this time, the driver announced that they had arrived, and Li Xinwen suddenly had an idea. Taking out his wallet, he handed it to Sun Xiao. “The first step in building your confidence is to overcome your shyness! Ah‘Xiao, try and pay the uncle driver,” Li Xinwen told Sun Xiao while he glanced at the driver, signaling the other to help him.

Since the driver owed Li Xinwen a favor for the autograph, he naturally agreed to help. “Little brother, the fee will be 100 yuan,” the driver said with a friendly smile on his face.

Sun Xiao felt nervous and almost broke under pressure after suddenly being put in the spotlight. Then, he felt a warm hand on his back, gently stroking him. Looking up, he saw Li Xinwen with a smile, waiting for him patiently. Taking a deep breath, he carefully opened Li Xinwen’s wallet and took out the bill to pay for the fare. “Umm… here, uncle driver,” Sun Xiao said as he handed the bill to the taxi driver.

“Alright, thank you for your patronage!” the driver said with a smile. With some hesitation, he turned to Li Xinwen and reminded him of the autograph. “Mr. Li…” he said as he took off the chauffeur cap he was wearing as if to show respect and acknowledge the fact that he was talking to a celebrity and the favor he was asking could not be obtained easily. “…uhm the autograph? And would it be too much to ask if I also ask to take a selfie with you? I’m sure my daughter will be very happy and will work even harder in her studies…” the driver continued, his eyes filled with embarrassment and his demeanor that of a father who has set aside his pride for the sake of his daughter.

Seeing this, Li Xinwen could not help but admire the driver. ‘This filial affection… your family is very lucky to have you as their head family…’ Li Xinwen thought.

“Of course!” Li Xinwen responded. “I don’t have anything to write with at the moment, so why don’t we take the selfie first?”

The cab driver was elated and immediately took out his phone. It was an old model of a smartphone. From the looks of it the model came out around 5 years ago, but the camera had a decent pixel specification. The image it captured would be clear enough to discern the faces of the individuals in the picture. The cab driver smoothed out his hair and straightened his collar and gave the happiest smile that he could muster while Li Xinwen and Sun Xiao happily showed a simple smile.

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“Thank you so much Mr. Li! I appreciate this a lot and will forever cherish this favor you have given me and my daughter.” he said, tears of joy slowly pooling at the corner of his eyes. “Oh yes the autograph!” the cab driver immediately went through the car’s glove compartment to look for something for Li Xinwen to use. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could use other than the taxi company’s receipt book.

Seeing this, Sun Xiao felt that he should try to help, so he simply offered: “I… have papers and a pen marker with me…”

After saying this, Sun Xiao rummaged through his backpack and then took out his sketchbook and his pencil case. He handed the sketchbook to Li Xinwen before taking out the pen marker from his pencil case. Seeing this, Li Xinwen felt that the boy was making good progress and he couldn’t help but smile at Sun Xiao.

“Thank you, Ah‘Xiao,” Li Xinwen said before he flipped through the sketchbook reach an empty page. Then, he signed his name in accordance with the original’s memories. “Sir, what’s your daughter’s name?” Li Xinwen asked, and the driver carefully told Li Xinwen his daughter’s name word by word. Li Xinwen nodded his head and wrote a small note for the driver’s daughter to encourage her more. After giving the autograph to the driver, both Li Xinwen and Sun Xiao alighted from the taxi and Li Xinwen stared at the huge building before him. There were also a lot of people walking around, so he put on his disguise before he took Sun Xiao’s hand in his.

“Stay close, don’t get lost,” Li Xinwen said before he pulled Sun Xiao into the shopping mall.

Their first destination was, of course, a restaurant. On the ground floor, there were a lot of restaurants and cafes as well as different kinds of fast food chains. Li Xinwen was not a picky eater, so he simply asked Sun Xiao, “Ah‘Xiao, where do you want to eat?”

Hearing the question, Sun Xiao looked around until he saw a traditional Chinese restaurant. “Let’s eat there…?” he said as he pointed to the restaurant.

Li Xinwen saw where Sun Xiao was pointing and immediately agreed. They walked over to the restaurant and were welcomed by the waitress. “Good afternoon, sirs! A table for two?” the waitress asked with a smile on her face. Li Xinwen was just about to answer when he remembered that since he decided to help Sun Xiao build confidence, he should let the boy answer. He lightly elbowed Sun Xiao’s side, signaling the boy to answer in his stead.

Sun Xiao stared at Li Xinwen for a while before understanding what his brother was trying to do. Feeling nervous, he turned to the waitress before he opened his mouth to answer. “Table for… two people, and can we… have a seat near the corner?” Sun Xiao was timid, but his voice was loud enough for the waitress to hear.

Seeing this, the waitress couldn’t help but feel that Sun Xiao was very cute. “The seat near the corner? Please wait a moment while I check,” she said before she pulled one of her co-workers aside and asked about the seats. Once she got her answer, she turned back to Li Xinwen and Sun Xiao with a smile on her face. “Luckily, there is one! Let me lead you to your table,” the waitress said as she began to walk deeper into the restaurant.

The area near the corner was not crowded and it gave the two of them a sense of privacy. The waitress handed them the menu and Li Xinwen began browsing the selection. There was a lot of food that looked familiar and Li Xinwen felt his mouth water.

“Miss, I’ll have this,” he said as he pointed at the mouth watering picture of the braised beef noodle. Sun Xiao, who sat opposite him, quietly glanced at what he ordered. When he saw what Li Xinwen was pointing at, his eyes widened before he grabbed Li Xinwen’s hand.

“Xin-gege! You can’t eat solid food!” Sun Xiao reminded, his eyes filled with worry.

Ah‘Xiao, it’s alright. As long as Hu-jie doesn’t find out,” Li Xinwen winked at Sun Xiao. “Plus… Your brother is really hungry, ah! You can’t expect me to only eat soup or porridge, right?” Li Xinwen gave Sun Xiao a pitiful look and the younger boy felt himself wavering.

“I…” Sun Xiao stared at Li Xinwen for a while, then he remembered Li Xinwen’s state for the past few months as he lay on the hospital bed and he quickly steeled his heart. “No, Xin-gege must not eat solid food yet. Doctor says no, so we must listen… Xin-gege promised not to leave Ah‘Xiao, remember?”

This time it was Li Xinwen’s turn to waver, and seeing Sun Xiao’s resolve in his eyes, he could only sigh. ‘Well, since he can make this expression, that means it won’t be that hard to build his confidence,’ Li Xinwen thought as he browsed the menu once again.

The waitress who was attending to them suddenly felt as if she was wearing a hat shining very brightly while being fed dog food by these two customers of hers.

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