Arc 1: Did You Say That Children Are Cute?!
"You descended in front of me...just like a God. From then on, you became the center of my whole world."
The atmosphere in the funeral home was low and depressing. As if the sky was grieving along with the pair of husband and wife's death, it sprinkled down light drizzle, enveloping Earth in a cold hue amidst spring.
Five-years-old Ren Zexi kneeled beside the caskets, his round eyes staring blankly. The concept of death was still vague in his mind. However, from the discussion he had heard these past few days, he understood one thing; his parents had left him behind. They wouldn't return ever again. Forever.
Not far from him was a woman he had only seen twice. Wearing an elegant black gown adorned with pearls, she cried mournfully in front of the casket. "Cousin…Cousin-in-law. How can...How can you both leave just like this? How about your son, Ren Zexi? What about me?"
The plump auntie behind her, Lin Jiao, supported her by arm. "Aiyah, Miss Ling." The auntie's expression looked sad, however there wasn't much to see in her eyes. "Let bygones be bygones. The dead can't return and the living have to live on."
Ling Hanying dabbed her eyes with a handkerchief, the rims of her eyes reddened. "Auntie, you're their neighbor right? How can…How can they die so suddenly like this?"
Lin Jiao sighed and shook her head. "You haven't heard of it? There seems to be a gas leak in the kitchen. The wife collapsed before she could call for help and the husband died in his sleep. Aiyah, only Little Zexi is left because he was at school. Is it fortunate or unfortunate?"
On one side was a weeping woman while on the other side, sat the deceased's relatives on a long table. Five people glanced at each other meaningfully. "How is it?"
"The land deed is in the house. Old Ren and his wife didn't even see this coming, did they? There isn't even a will."
A snicker followed thereafter, "What can they leave in their will? The shabby restaurant?"
"Shush, even though it's shabby, the land itself is precious. In the next few years, it will surely be worth a fortune. I am Old Ren's maternal cousin, the land deed should go to me."
"Hah! If based on family ancestry, then I am his blood related elder brother. Isn't it me who qualified the most?"
"Talk ah. Keep talking about the land deed. If you want to obtain it, then you should feed his son too!"
Silence followed after the last sentence fell. That's right, there was still Old Ren's son, Ren Zexi who was still very young. Regardless of what had happened, the child needed a guardian. There was so much to take care of. School fees, food and clothing, and many other expenses…
Moreover, without any guidance, it was easy for him to be rebellious in the future. If he grew up crooked and went down the wrong path, who would be patient enough to care for him?
They were greedy for the land deed, but not the son that would come together with it.
For a while, the five people couldn't come to an agreement. They shoved Ren Zexi to each other as if he was only an unwanted commodity and not a living human with real emotion and feeling.
Their voices weren't even restrained at all. Every single sentence fell on Ren Zexi's ears. The small, fragile shoulders gave a tremble and a layer of moist formed on his eyes. Ever since his parents' death, his world has plunged into darkness. There wasn't anyone who would come and wake him up with kisses, nor would there be the fragrant smell of food from the kitchen. He also couldn't smell the soft detergent and sunshine on his father's sweater and feel the warmth of his mother's embrace anymore.
Everything was gone.
It had only been a few days, but he had missed them terribly.
A drop of tears slid down his cheek down to the tatami mat and disappeared without a trace.
All of a sudden, a faint ruckus came from the entrance of the funeral home.
"Hey, look at that!"
"Oh my—God! Am I dreaming?! That is…Lu Yizhou? The Lu Group's CEO Lu Yizhou?!"
"What?! That conglomerate Lu Group?! What is he coming here for?"
The depressing air vanished, turning into an excited uproar. Eyes surrounded the man who had just stepped in. Wearing a limited edition three piece suit, his presence was utterly commanding, making everyone subconsciously hold their breaths. The clothes hugged his tall and proportional body. Coupled with that otherworldly attractive face, he resembled Adonis that had just graced Earth with his holy presence.
Amidst the small, dark and cramped space, it was as if he was surrounded in a halo. Two burly bodyguards followed him in, alertly scanning around for any potential threats.
The man didn't care about the ruckus he had created. He looked around, seemingly searching for something, then his eyes landed on the child who was kneeling like a statue beside the caskets, unaware of the situation around him.
Sighing, Lu Yizhou lifted a hand and the bodyguard swiftly handed the exquisite bouquet over.
One step after another, he walked forward, ignoring the two women who gawked at him and bowed to pay his respect.
For a moment, the noisy funeral home became strangely silent.
Lu Yizhou slowly opened his eyes. Then, he approached little Ren Zexi and stood in front of him, perplexed.
Ren Zexi's eyes were only nailed on the ground throughout the funeral, his eyes and mind blank. Then suddenly, a pair of expensive, black and polished shoes appeared in front of him. Numbly, he craned his head up, following the man's figure up to his face.
He was so tall, it was Ren Zexi's first impression of Lu Yizhou. Much taller than Papa. And shining so bright too…
Due to the lights, he had to narrow his eyes, trying to make out the man's obscured features.
Until many, many years later, Ren Zexi would still vividly remember the scene when he had first met Lu Yizhou. The man descended in front of him like a God, his light brown hair — almost golden in color — fluttered with his every movement. Amidst his dark world, it was like lightning had struck in by force and illuminated the space with blinding lights.
So fierce. So imposing. So breathtakingly beautiful.
Sensing the boy's discomfort, Lu Yizhou finally snapped out of his senses and crouched down. A face so pale that it resembled moonlight entered Ren Zexi's sight; sharp eyebrows, high bridge nose, thin pale lips. The man's eyes were so light, silvery, staring straight at him.
Lu Yizhou gingerly reached out his hand. It was such a beautiful and perfect hand without any callouses yet Ren Zexi reacted as if the man had scalded him. He shrunk his neck and shut his eyes fearfully, shoulders trembling. He resembled a newborn, fearful kitten that was drenched in the rain, pitiful and lovely.
Lu Yizhou froze and his fingers curled into a loose fist.
Everyone thought that he was starting to get angry—or even humiliated—by Ren Zexi's excessive reaction, snickering at the child's misfortune. In fact, he was talking to someone in his mind. No, not someone. But a system.
[Why is he so scared of me? Am I that terrifying?]
[666: Host is handsome! Host is mighty! 666 likes Host the most! How can Host be scary? He's just so pitiful huhuhu. Before the funeral, he stayed in his uncle's house and everyday, the man would beat him up and only remembered to feed him once a day. Look at how skinny he is now!]
Lu Yizhou didn't feel any fluctuations in his heart. After all, this was only a simulator world.
[This is this world's villain?] Lu Yizhou looked at the trembling child with a complicated gaze.
[666: Yes, 666 will not be wrong about this! He's Ren Zexi, the son of Ren Zexian and Huang Yahui. According to the plot, if you don't appear, then Ren Zexi would be adopted by his uncle and his father's restaurant would also land into his hands. Ren Zexi would be severely abused and starved so badly that he got malnourished. On one occasion, that bastard uncle even poured boiling hot water on him, creating many huge heinous burn marks all over his body! Look at this handsome and cute face! How can anyone dare to hurt him?! Are they still human?!]
[Stop.] Lu Yizhou pinched the bridge of his nose. [You're too noisy. Please just give me relevant information and refrain from adding unnecessary comments.]
Lu Yizhou gave a sigh. Hearing that, Ren Zexi flinched in horror. His round eyes brimmed with tears and he looked at Lu Yizhou as if he was a monster.
Well, right now everyone around Ren Zexi was pretty much monsters.
He recalled his uncle's twisted face and how he would go to sleep with his body aching in all places and his tummy growling. He didn't dare to cry out loud because he had been beaten up once because of that. Thus, he could only bite the blanket to muffle his sobs whilst crying for his mama and papa, begging them to come back and take him along with them.
Mama, I am scared…Ren Zexi shut his eyes, large teardrops pouring down his eyes. The dampness made his curly eyelashes look darker than usual. He braced himself for the oncoming slap yet what he got was a…soft pat on his head, gently messing his hair up.
Ren Zexi looked up, bewildered.
"Don't be afraid." The man's deep, magnetic voice traveled to his ears. It was cold with no fluctuation but somehow, it managed to calm Ren Zexi down. "I am your father's friend. My name is Lu Yizhou. You can call me Uncle Lu."
"Uncle…Lu?" The child's tender, milky voice called out gingerly.
"That's right. From this day on, you will live together with me." Lu Yizhou once again offered his hand. "How about it?"
The area instantly exploded into a huge ruckus. Lu Yizhou was Old Ren's friend? Since when did a shabby restaurant owner become friends with Yi Group's Big Boss?! Damn it, this Ren Zexian really hid too well!
Ren Zexi hesitated. He had never seen this uncle before and his experience these past few days had forced him to become wary of strangers. Nevertheless, there was something in the man's eyes, the way he looked straight at him, that compelled Ren Zexi to trust him.
Lu Yizhou patiently waited and observed the rapid changes in the boy's face. He could even hear the gear turning in that little head of his.
He had waited like this once before. When he baited the stray kitten to come out from the dirty sewer, he also held a fish in his hand. Once in a while, the kitten would pop its head out to observe him. Then, after ensuring that he wasn't dangerous, it slowly waddled closer, sniffed the fish in his hand, opened its mouth and took a small bite.
…Only then would Lu Yizhou carefully pat the kitten's furry and tiny body.
A slight smile made its way to his face before it swiftly disappeared.
Just as he expected, Ren Zexi was really similar to his cat who had died a week before his suicide.
The child peeked at Lu Yizhou from behind his eyelashes then tremblingly touched Lu Yizhou's hand for a split second before recoiling due to reflex.
His face instantly drained of all colors and he stared at Lu Yizhou with wide, fearful eyes. Seeing him unaffected, Ren Zexi slowly let out a sigh of relief and once again reached out and held onto the man's…pinky finger.
"Good boy." Lu Yizhou stroked his head once again.
Ren Zexi's eyes were fixed onto his face, dazed.
Snapping out of his senses, Ren Zexi's eyes gradually lit up and his courage soared. From the man's pinky finger, he held another finger, then another. Until he finally clung to Lu Yizhou's broad palm tightly.
Lu Yizhou brought the little boy into his embrace and patted his back, standing.
"Boss," The bodyguard stepped forward. "Your body—How about you give him to me?"
Seeing another scarier uncle, Ren Zexi's body stiffened and he subconsciously buried his face on Lu Yizhou's shoulder. The child's warm body stuck to him and the sweet fragrance of milk wafted into his nose. It smelled very pleasant and pure.
Lu Yizhou shook his head and patted Ren Zexi's back in comfort. "No need. You go and take care of the matter here."
He ignored the people who scrambled to approach him only to be held back by his bodyguards.
"C—CEO Lu! CEO Lu, that's my nephew ah! How can you just take him away like this?!"
"CEO Lu, how did you know our Old Ren? We're Old Ren's family and Little Zexi is also our family!"
"No…" Ren Zexi tremblingly nuzzled closer as if he could hide from the whole world this way, sobbing. "I don't want to go with them, Uncle Lu…"
Lu Yizhou didn't say anything except patting his back once again. However, it was as if little Ren Zexi could hear what the man was trying to say.
—Don't worry. I will not hand you over to them.
Ren Zexi clung to him and cried softly, venting all of his sadness, fear and grievances. Lu Yizhou didn't do anything but let him cry. But for little Zexi, it was already enough, more than enough. He hugged the man's neck tightly and felt the long lost warmth permeating his chest.
It was unknown how long he cried for when his whole body gradually relaxed and his eyelids fluttered shut. It took no time at all for him to doze off, still with tears hanging on his eyelashes.
Within Lu Yizhou's embrace, Ren Zexi felt very, very safe and secure.