A normal reunion should be full of hugs and tears, right?
Junjun would definitely hug me tightly and maybe even cry her eyes out until her face was a mess. Even Dàgē would probably join in and make it a group hug, and although he was truly as impressive as a general, even his eyes might grow moist, too. Meanwhile, I'd be so relieved that I'd melt into their embrace and let them spoil me to death.
So, what is with the current scene?!
"T...Throw him away!" gasped my cute Junjun.
While there plenty of teary eyes in the room, the child in my arms easily took the spotlight.
Xiaotian was nearly the spitting image of a miniature Dàgē if not for his long, white hair. When I said I'd picked him up on my way back, and that I'd discovered that he was Dàgē's illegitimate kid, Shujun's first reaction had been to throw him away.
Junjun, how can you bear to throw such a cute kid away? Come on, Xiaotian is the height of adorableness! There's no winning against a child's natural cuteness! Just look at him!
Junjun was indeed looking at him, but unlike I had hoped, she did not melt into a pile of goo from having a miniature Dàgē stare back at her. After Junjun pulled on my arm so that Xiaotian would be facing her, they were now having a staring contest. Neither was willing to be the first to look away. Both were way too adorable for words.
"Junjun, I know you don't approve," I began, "but he's only a child. He hasn't done anything wro..."
I trailed off. Oh hell, who am I kidding? Xiaotian has done plenty or else he wouldn't be stuck like this. Stupid Xiaotian for not caring about his own health! But since I couldn't say all that, I did the next best thing. I looked beyond Junjun and gave my dàgē a disappointed look instead.
He just shrugged helplessly at me. He probably didn't even remember all the people he'd slept with over the years, but he didn't look the least bit surprised at having a kid show up out of nowhere, just like what Xiaotian had predicted. Dàgē, we seriously need to put you on a leash! Junjun is right to want to you to settle down!
Eyes still locked on Xiaotian, Junjun addressed our dear brother behind her accusingly, "Dàgē, you promised us you would only have children with your future wife!"
Dàgē nodded, but there was nothing he could say in response, as there was clearly a kid in my arms who looked just like him.
It's a bit too late if Xiaotian already happened... Wait, why am I thinking of him as Dage's actual kid?
No matter what he looked like, he definitely wasn't a real kid.
I mean, this was the Ice Emperor we're talking about. The Ice Emperor! Although his body was that of a child's, he really didn't act like one at all, especially when he got to speaking. What kind of kid goes around telling his "dad" not to fall in love early? And please, never call me your dad again! Not only was the content too strange, the tone was just as bad.
Just like now, Xiaotian opened his mouth and lamented, "Junjun, you've grown up so much."
Way to sound like an old geezer! Just like some elderly relative you only ever see at family gatherings, cooing over you and going, "Look at you! You're all grown up! Are you married yet?" Although Xiaotian is more likely to shout, "No puppy love!" than want her to get married.
But I couldn't blame him for marveling at how much she'd grown. This was his lovable younger sister he hadn't seen in ages. In that other world, he'd never gotten to see her again after the apocalypse arrived. He'd given everything to have the chance to reunite with her and his Shuyu. While I couldn't give him his Shuyu, at least I could let him meet Shujun again.
I tightened my arms around Xiaotian. Gods, Xiaotian, don't make me cry buckets here.
Our "lovable" younger sister, however, pursed her lips and snapped, "You don't get to call me that!"
She even walked over and plucked him right out of my arms to put him on the floor so that she could throw her arms around me instead. All of a sudden, I had an armful of Junjun, who squeezed me so tightly that I could barely breathe. Since when has she gotten so strong? I could only pat her on the back as she told me how much they had all worried about me and missed me.
On the floor where he had been placed, Xiaotian looked stunned. It took him a moment before he lifted his head and caught my gaze, seemingly asking, "Since when has Junjun gotten so fierce?"
Come on, Dàgē, if you had been home more, you would know that Junjun is no dainty wallflower! But again, I couldn't blame him. Ten years. It'd taken him ten years and a trip to an entirely different world to get to this point. Even if he'd been home more often, his memories of Junjun would still be ten years out of date.
I couldn't even bear to imagine what those years had been like for him. If I had been in his place, estranged from my family for ten years.... If, after getting kidnapped by the bird, I ended up not able to make my way back to my family... Dear gods. Ten years without Dàgē? Without Junjun? It'd be unbearable.
I squeezed Junjun back and murmured into her hair, "Èrgē missed you too, every single day."
Shujun just nodded and buried her head against me. She even sniffed. There's the hug and tears I thought this reunion would come to. Even though I had been expecting it, I still couldn't bear to hear Junjun cry.
Nor could I bear Xiaotian's forlorn gaze, watching us like an outsider. He's part of our family, too!
I whispered, "Junjun, won't you accept Xiaotian? If he hadn't been with me, I don't know if I'd have been able to make it back."
"Don't even speak about not making it back!" Dàgē growled.
I just shrugged helplessly at him, but shrugging was pretty difficult with Junjun imitating a koala.
Okay, "not making it back" was stretching the truth a ton, since if Xiaotian hadn't been with me, I'd probably have left the MORC alone altogether and returned much earlier. But by doing so, I'd have missed out on pertinent intel for our future safety, and I'd be much weaker than I was now without the training he put me through.
"But..." Junjun protested and turned her head to glare at Xiaotian. Xiaotian stared up at her, his gaze still forlorn. Such a look on a little kid would make anyone's heart go out to him! But all Junjun did was turn and bury her head harder against me and turn to shoot smug glances at him, as if she had won some battle over Xiaotian for being the one in my arms instead of him.
Junjun, you're not a little kid... no matter how hard you ram your head against me, I can't carry you like how I was carrying Xiaotian earlier!
I shared a glance with Xiaotian, a silent question in my eyes. Can I tell them?
I really wanted to tell them. I wanted them to know how much Xiaotian had suffered to come to us. I wanted him to be a true part of our family. I wanted there to be no secrets between us. Even when I had been deathly afraid of Dàgē, afraid that I wasn't Jiang Shuyu, I had still told him what I thought was the truth. Dàgē and Shujun were too important to me to let secrets come between us. I never wanted another case of bitter coffee.
But Xiaotian just shook his head at me. Even with Junjun's rejection of him, he wasn't going to change his mind.
He didn't want them to know who he truly was.
Ice Emperor Jiang Shutian, are you really all right with this?