After this intimate moment between mother and child, the young woman resumed staring out the window. The only problem was… She was still holding Hei.
‘If you could just let me down, that would be great.’
Hei guessed that if left alone, his new mother would no doubt stare out the window all day. He didn’t want to be restricted by her for all that time, so he decided to struggle a bit.
He pushed at her stomach with his foot and looked at her.
She turned to him and looked for a second before turning back to the window.
‘Too subtle I guess.’
This time he pushed at her twice and motioned to the bed with his little baby arms.
His new mother seemed to get the hint. She placed him down on the bed before turning back to look out the window.
‘What is she looking at that she can’t turn away from?’
Hei decided to take a look. He saw that they were fairly high up. He could see for a great distance several buildings and people going about their business. But there was nothing of note.
‘Whatever, I guess she just enjoys people-watching.’
Hei decided to continue in his efforts to grow comfortable moving around. He now knew it would take a long time, so he didn’t try to do too much. He stuck to his crawling about.
After a while, the sky started to change colour. The sun was setting in this new land that he had found himself in. Hei crawled over to his new mother and looked out the window with her.
Noticing him, she picked him up and placed him on her lap. They gazed out the window together.
Hei didn’t know what she was looking at, but he felt something as he watched the sunset. His heart was a little heavy thinking of his parents.
‘It’s going to be a long time until I can get back home.’
“It’s going to be a long time until I can get back home.”
Hei heard his new mother say the same thing he was thinking.
‘But… Aren’t you already home?’
Hei now realized why this new mother of his felt so familiar to him.
‘She’s in the grey.’
Her eyes had the same feeling of being away from what one loves. Being away from home.
‘But she is married with two children. How can she be in the grey? What’s going on here?’
Hei never imagined such a scenario could happen.
‘Is she here against her will? This… I can only ask after I’m able to speak.’
Hei prepared himself to take on his new mother’s problems for himself. Depending on what kind of person he evaluated her to be, he would spare no effort to resolve her issues. It was only right for a son to help his mother.
‘Hm. So who is her husband? Why hasn’t he come here all day? I remember someone mentioning something about a patriarch. Maybe he is very busy with his work.’
Hei wanted to meet his new father. He was very interested to know how a man could let his wife suffer like this. Depending on the answer…
‘But right now I’m just a baby, I can’t seek justice for anyone. But I should put effort into learning to speak.’
After the sunset, his new mother stopped gazing out the window. It was too dark to see much anyway.
She got up, taking Hei with her and walked towards a door in the room.
This door was more similar to the ones Hei was used to. It was only around two meters tall. After the door was opened, Hei saw what looked to be a bathhouse. It was very similar to what he had seen in anime. There was a large bath at the end and a mural behind it with floral patterns. In front of the bath, was a pillar with two shower heads on it.
‘This… Are we going to… Wait a minute, I’m a grown man!’
Hei was a little flustered. He didn’t particularly want to bathe together with his new mother.
To his relief, his new mother went to pick up a basin and scooped water from the bath into it.
She then removed the cloth she had clothed Hei with and placed him in the basin.
‘It’s warm. How do they heat it up? She didn’t enter this place all day, and there aren’t any other entrances.’
Hei was interested in how these things worked. Surely if the water had been in this bath all day, it should have cooled down. How was it still warm? Was the whole bath heated? Wouldn’t that be a tremendous waste of energy?
Deciding to ignore these things for now, Hei watched as his new mother attentively bathed him.
She used a pleasant smelling soap to clean him. The whole experience was actually pretty nice. He wasn’t too concerned about being naked in front of his new mother. He was a baby after all.
After rinsing him off, his new mother emptied the basin and placed him back inside.
‘So… What exactly is happening right now? Aren’t I already clean?’
Hei was slightly confused. He had never heard of such a procedure. Usually, after someone was clean, they would be dried with a towel and then clothed. What did it mean to be put back into the basin?
‘This couldn’t be the Throwing Out The Baby With The Bathwater legend, could it? I didn’t think our relationship was so bad.’
Being slightly anxious Hei watched as his new mother picked up the basin, with him still in it, and walked over to the bath. She then placed the basin in the bath and turned to walk away.
‘W-Wait a minute. There’s no need for this. How am I supposed to get out? I swear I won’t bother you. Just, just let me out!’
Hei was bobbing up and down in the basin which was now a boat. He was now thinking this new mother was trying to drown him.
His new mother went over to a certain place in the room and started to disrobe.
‘I-I see, she is also going to…’
Hei decided that he had seen enough. He decided to lay down in the basin and enjoy the motions, waiting until it was all over.
After a short while, he heard the shower. Evidently, his new mother was now bathing herself.
‘Lalala. Isn’t a baby’s life miserable? Can’t do a darn thing on your own. Just fantastic.’
Hei was joyfully singing a sorrowful song in his mind. He wasn’t quite happy about the situation he was in, but it wasn’t all bad. Most people wouldn’t even be able to experience life as a baby, they would have forgotten most of these things by the time they had the thought to relive them.
After a while, he heard a splashing sound and the basin rocked more for a while. Clearly, his new mother had entered the bath. But this had nothing to do with him. He would continue to stare at the ceiling until all of this was over.
‘So… How was your childhood?’
Hei asked this in his head. He really had no idea why he was doing this, but it felt right. He was just about to laugh at himself when all of a sudden.
Nothing in particular happened.
So he laughed at himself.
‘Hahaha, looks like I should really practice talking. It wouldn’t hurt.’
‘So… How was your childhood?’
‘The heck was that?’
Hei was surprised at how his words came out.
‘It shouldn’t have been altered to that extent, should it?’
Hei wasn’t the only one surprised. He saw a hand grab the side of the basin, and he was pulled over.
He could see his new mother’s face over the basin looking down at him.
‘Oh, never mind me.’
He said this while waving his hand. It was a strange sight to behold. A baby laying on his back in a basin, speaking while waving his hand in a shooing motion.
His new mother let go of the basin and let it float freely. Hei was wondering what she was thinking as he slowly drifted away.
‘So… That happened… Maybe I should save my talking for when I’m not confined to a basin.’
Hei resumed his silent floating. After a while, he heard his new mother leave the bath. A while after that, she picked him up from the basin and wrapped him in a towel.
She was now fully clothed again and had a towel wrapped around her head, presumably to dry her hair.
They soon left the bathroom and she placed Hei on the bed. She then put a new cloth around him and went to get some more bread.
After getting the bread, she sat on the bed and turned her gaze to Hei.
‘So after the sunset, you have nothing better to look at than me? Well, I suppose it’s attention.’
Hei decided to go about his business. The way he saw it, the more he crawled about, the sooner he would be able to walk. By the same line of reasoning, he was constantly talking in his incomprehensible baby speak.
‘It’s a baby’s life for me.’
“Mi ma mami ma mo mi”
‘It’s a baby’s life for me.’
“Mi ma mami ma mo mi”
‘Oh how wonderful, it’s a baby’s life for me.’
“Mo ma maamo ma mami ma mo mi”
Hei was enjoying himself ‘singing’. It wasn’t the most brilliant performance, but it was adequate for him.
He took a look at his new mother, who also seemed to be enjoying his performance. It was a substantial difference from how she was looking out the window earlier.
‘Three birds, one stone.’
This continued for a while before he heard his new mother’s voice.
“Alright, that’s enough. You must be tired. It’s time to rest.”
‘Lady… You know you’re talking to a baby right? Am I supposed to understand what you’re saying?’
Hei was confused for a while before remembering something his mother taught him. Some people believed that speaking to a baby helps them to learn the language faster and that they may be able to understand the intent behind the words. There were all sorts of unknown psychological factors to a child’s development.
Thinking this, Hei decided to respond.
“Then I’ll switch off the lights…”
His new mother gave him a strange look before going to turn off the lights.
After they were turned off the room became dark, but there was a dim orange glow coming through the windows. It was the lights of the city.
‘Oh, that’s interesting.’
Hei enjoyed looking at the difference in the environment, but after a short while, he became bored of it.
His new mother picked him up and placed him on the bed. She then lay down beside him.
She placed her arm over his body and pulled him close to her.
‘Um… This is nice I suppose but what if you roll over and crush me? Are we not concerned about this possibility?’
Hei wanted to say something, but she was already asleep.
‘Wow, that’s even faster than me! I suppose sleep is your only time of rest when you’re in the grey.’
Hei knew how it felt. He would also fall asleep very quickly back in his university days.
‘Well I’m too weak to wriggle out of this, so I guess I’ll just sleep as well.’
With that Hei fell asleep. The two rested peacefully until the sunrise.
The next day, Hei was woken by someone knocking at the door.
‘Eh? This easily? It looks like I’m a lighter sleeper now.’
Hei would have never been woken this easily in his previous life.
“Lady Xiulan, may I enter?”
Hei heard the voice of a woman coming from the other side of the door.
“If you want.”
He heard his new mother respond.
‘Eh? She’s at it again? And I heard the name Xiulan again.’
Hei was still in the bed. He was being suppressed by the immense weight of the blanket covering him, It was extremely difficult to move so he was unable to change his line of sight but he could tell Xiulan was at the window again.
‘She really does this from sun-up to sun-down? Sigh. Tragic.’
“Then if you’ll excuse me.”
Hei heard the door open followed by footsteps and the door closing again.
“I have brought your bread, Lady Xiulan, and also some clothes for the young master.”
“Then I shall take my leave.”
The door opened and close again.
‘That was a pretty fast transaction. It seems this happens a lot.’
Hei was kind of surprised, but also not. This was similar to the conversations he would have with people in his previous life.
After the woman left, Hei felt movement on the bed. He also heard the sound of footsteps going away from and then back to the bed.
After a short moment, Xiulan picked him up and placed him down on his back.
She removed the cloth and let out a surprised voice.
‘Mm. Come to think of it, I haven’t needed to relieve myself, and I didn’t feel anything in the cloth myself. Strange.’
After a short moment, Xiulan placed a new cloth on Hei and dressed him in some of the clothes that she just received.
She then turned away and headed to the table in the corner and picked a piece of bread before heading back to her usual spot.
‘Hm. This is pretty nice. The material is quite soft.’
Hei noticed the quality of the clothing he was wearing. It didn’t cause him any discomfort whatsoever.
‘I guess I should resume my training.’
Hei then tried to crawl around. Luckily Xiulan had placed him on his stomach and not his back, otherwise he would have to go through a great amount of trouble.
‘Eh? What’s this?’
Hei noticed a significant improvement in his ability to move from yesterday. He was now able to move his head slightly easier and moving around was also a little easier.
Don’t get me wrong. Before, when I said he was crawling, what I meant was, he was shuffling around on the bed by moving his arms and legs. It was not like he was on all fours. So, though he was still shuffling around, this was a decent improvement.
‘If my movements have improved, what about my speech? It’s a baby’s life for me.’
“Mi ma mami ma mo mi”
‘Nope! Looks like speaking isn’t so easy.’
Hei wasn’t too disappointed. He felt like he was making decent progress.
The rest of the day proceeded much like yesterday, minus the visit from an aunt.
The next day, Hei noticed further improvements in his ability to move. He found this very satisfying. He still didn’t need to relieve himself.
The two both found this very strange, but they chalked it up to his Innate Shadow Physique.
The two’s lives continued like this for a few months. Hei would move around while speaking his baby nonsense but he was improving little by little.
Hei noticed that Xiulan never left her room. Her husband was nowhere to be found, and he wondered where his brother Tianlan was all this time. Why did he never visit their mother? Her only visitor was that maid that would deliver bread daily.
Also, Xiulan ate a lot of bread. In fact, she only ate bread, for every single meal.
Hei found it strange, but it was none of his concern. He didn’t seem to be malnourished, so neither should she, who is his source of nourishment.
Over three months Hei’s ability to move improved drastically. He still couldn’t speak properly, but he could walk on his own and was no longer confined to the bed.
He even started to bathe himself which left Xiulan surprised.
Another three months later, and Hei was now able to speak comprehensible-ish words, though they were still mostly baby talk.
“Ish a babysh liewh who me.”
Every now and then Xiulan would hum along with Hei as he sang his song.
The two grew closer as time went by. Xiulan would spend more time talking to Hei and less time looking out the window.
Hei saw this as a good thing. It meant he was pulling her out of the grey.
Another three months passed by, and Hei was now able to speak clearly for the most part. There were just a few sounds he couldn’t make properly.
He was now too big for the basin to keep him afloat, so he started walking around in the bath. He would be very careful to keep his line of sight away from Xiulan.
After three more months, it was Hei’s birthday. Nothing much happened that day. They basically just lived a normal day up until sunset.
‘I guess they don’t celebrate birthdays here.’
Just as Hei thought this, he heard Xiulan’s voice.
“You were born a year ago today Little Hei. Happy birthday.”
She said this with a gentle smile while looking at Hei, who was across the room jogging.
‘Eh? So she just forgot? Or… Never mind.’
He gave a simple response back.
“Coincidentally, it is also your big brother’s birthday. He should be coming to visit.”
‘Oh? Tianlan is going to show up? I’ve been wanting to meet him.’
“Okay, then I’ll wait for him.”
Hei walked over to Xiulan and sat beside her.
“When is he going to come?”
As she said that, there was a knock at the door.
“Mother. I am here.”
“Come, Tianlan. Say hello to your little brother.”
After Xiulan said that, the door was opened.
Hei turned to look and what he saw left him stunned.
“H-How can it be him?”