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Shen Wei had not expected Zhao Yunlan’s mother’s first words to him to be “Did he drug you?”

“I beg your pardon?” says Shen Wei.

“Blink twice if he’s mind controlling you,” says Mrs Zhao.

“MAAAAA,” howls Zhao Yunlan.

His mother smacks his head like a lioness disciplining her cub. “You think I don’t know what sort of useless child I’m burdened with? And you bring home a professor willing to put up with you? Of course I wonder!”

“Zhao Yunlan is a wonderful person,” says Shen Wei quickly, which makes Zhao Yunlan smirk in vindication and his mother look even more dubious.

“He must have bullied you into it,” she decides. “Quick, run away and I’ll punish him. My awful child won’t bother you again, sir.”

“Mother,” says Zhao Yunlan, covering his face with his hands, “I’m begging you. I am literally begging you to stop this. You can be as mean as you want after I–”

“How could I face his mother at the wedding if I didn’t warn him?” says Mrs Zhao.

Wedding? thinks Shen Wei. He feels shockingly warm and happy suddenly. “I don’t have a mother.”

Zhao Yunlan snorts and then has to duck another slap, but Mrs Zhao’s face is rippling through a variety of emotions, from pity to what Zhao Yunlan could tell him was a ravenous delight at the realization that ALL holidays and ALL grandchildren will be hers without the need to share them with another mother. Finally she settles on smiling at him in a way that seems to be meant to be loving but actually reminds Shen Wei of Zhao Yunlan tricking someone successfully so strongly that he takes an involuntary step back. “I’m so sorry for mentioning it!” she lies.

“Mrs Zhao–” begins Shen Wei.

“Oh no, please call me mom!” she says.

“What the fuck,” says Zhao Yunlan.