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happy birthday, our son

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If asked, Wei Yuan would happily say that he was a content seventeen-year-old. Living in a small bed and breakfast named Suibian, tucked away in a quiet area of Yiling, Wei Yuan and his father, Wei Ying, provided temporary shelter to travellers who passed through the area. If asked, Wei Yuan would deny wanting anything more than his current life with his father, for he was as happy as he could be; however, if pressed, Wei Yuan would admit there was one thing he wished for.

A month before his eighteenth birthday, Wei Yuan was sorting through the mountain of things in the storage room that his father had accumulated over the years.

“Why do you want to sort through that stuff?” Wei Ying huffs, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Why do you want to hoard all of those things?” Wei Yuan retorts, mirroring his father’s pose. In response, Wei Ying laughed loudly, shaking his head at his son.

“I should have known you would learn all my habits, bad as well as good!” He pauses before continuing, scratching his chin in contemplation, “I guess age has made me sentimental, I can’t bear to let go of them.”

“But you don’t even look at any of those things, they’re simply collecting dust in the storage room!” Wei Yuan refutes. “How about I sort them out for you and we can clean up a little?” he suggests.

“Fine, fine, but don’t throw anything away without asking me!” Wei Ying says, “I have guests to attend to, but I guess there’s not much else for you to do today so you can go ahead and start on your little project.”

And that was how Wei Yuan had managed to get his hands on his father’s diary, an old leather-bound journal that was clearly well-used, the edges tattered. There was a lapel pin attached to the front cover, a motif of flowing clouds in a light blue that somehow had stood the tests of time and shines brightly in contrast to the dulled leather. Wei Yuan’s fingers brushed along the side of the diary, temptation to open and read the contents increasing by the second.

It wasn’t that he was particularly interested in finding out his father’s secrets or anything of the like. His curiousity stemmed from a more selfish reason. Wei Yuan has always known that Wei Ying was his adoptive father, the latter making sure to explain it to him at a young age because he did not want Wei Yuan to be shocked if he were to find out much later. But what he does not know is who signed the adoption papers alongside Wei Ying, because his father has made sure that no traces of him has remained in Suibian. Wei Yuan knows that he technically has two fathers; he has noticed that Wei Ying, when talking about certain stories of a younger Wei Yuan, would catch himself in the middle, when he notices himself about to slip up.

“When you were younger, you used to grab onto my leg and hang onto it as I would walk around! And not just me, you would also hang onto- I mean, no, it was just me! What was I about to say,” his father laughs bitterly, swallowing back the words that had almost escaped his lips. “Who is there in this small home, other than you and me, my A-Yuan?”

“You used to act so spoiled, but it wasn’t my fault! I wasn’t the one who bought you everything that you asked for,” his father says, shaking his head with a fond smile.

“Then who did?” Wei Yuan had asked innocently, but his father’s smile faltered, and he remained silent.

“Ah! Would you look at the time, I have places to be!” he had simply stated in response. And yet his father did not move from his place for the next ten minutes, lost in memories as he dusted the same vase over and over.

If asked what his one wish would be, Wei Yuan would admit that he wished he could meet his other adoptive father, the one who had wanted to start a family with Wei Ying, the one who - for some reason - was not with them.

So for selfish reasons, Wei Yuan decides. He opens the diary, but from the back. Just to get some names, that’s all I’ll look for, he promises himself.

 

xx/xx/xxxx

Wen Ning came to visit today! I’ve missed him, and it was good to have him spend time with me and A-Yuan, even if he’s been too busy to drop by recently. But I can trust him to always be by my side, he’s always been one of the most loyal people in my life!

Wen Ning. That was one name to look up later. He doesn’t remember meeting anyone with that name, but then again, he had been very young at the time. If his father trusted this Wen Ning to be at his side always, there was a high chance that this man was his other father. But Wei Yuan didn’t want to take any chances, so he continues flipping through the diary. Wei Yuan stops when he sees a different name, reading the passage.

 

xx/xx/xxxx

You wouldn’t guess who called me today! Jiang Cheng! I haven’t spoken to him ever since his (our?) family kicked me out after they found out that I had spent all of my savings on Suibian… Although the call consisted mainly of him lecturing me about coming home, I don’t understand why he can’t see that Suibian is my home now? Well, at least I’m happy to know that our relationship isn’t completely broken like I thought it was…

Jiang Cheng. His father had called him family, which meant that the chances of Jiang Cheng being his other father was incredibly high. They didn’t have the same last name, so he can’t be related to Wei Ying, Wei Yuan concludes. Although admittedly, Wei Yuan knew very little of Wei Ying’s past since his father was quite tight-lipped (a rarity for him) when it came to his past, and Wei Yuan was not going to pester him about it. All that mattered was the present.

Just one more name, third time’s the charm, right? Wei Yuan thinks as he flips through the pages of the diary once more, landing on another page with a different name once more.

 

xx/xx/xxxx

Lan Zhan showed me around this bed and breakfast today and I fell in love! It’s the perfect place to make mine, and I’m so happy that Lan Zhan found it for me. In fact, it fits all of the requirements I asked for…. I must say I’m rather suspicious that Lan Zhan managed to find such a perfect place. But the esteemed architect wouldn’t have bothered designing something just for little old me… right? Anyways, I’m signing up for this place and I’m calling it Suibian! Lan Zhan is sure to scoff at me when I tell him the name, but it’ll be worth it to see his expression!

Lan Zhan. Wei Yuan couldn’t gather much of him from Wei Ying’s writings other than that this Lan Zhan was an architect, but his excitement over Suibian was clear. And since Suibian holds a special place in his heart, surely Lan Zhan does too? And Wei Yuan had to agree; everything in Suibian was built for Wei Ying, from the style of the decor to the heights of the furniture that seemed to be perfect for his stature. It was a little too suspicious to be a coincidence.

Wei Yuan closes the diary, putting it aside and rolled his sleeves up.

“Time to actually get to work then,” he sighs, eyeing the rest of his father’s belongings and putting the diary at the back of his mind.

 

~

 

After sorting through all of the things in storage, Wei Yuan finally finds himself back in his room, making sure to lock his door to keep his father out, opening his laptop to search for the three prospective fathers that had been mentioned in Wei Ying’s diary. Wei Yuan almost laughs at the thought that he had three potential fathers to look for, if not for the nagging worry that none of them were actually his second adoptive father and that he was on a wild goose chase.

He searches for Wen Ning first, and is shocked at how easy it was to find him. Living in a place rather far away from any big cities, Wei Yuan was surprised that his father knew someone famous enough to have articles written about him. In the first article that popped up, Wen Ning was stood on the front of a small boat, oar in his hands, a nervous smile on his lips. After his successful book release, Wen Ning has revealed his desire to travel through the different regions to collect inspiration for his next novel. A writer, and a traveller? Interesting, Wei Yuan thinks, although his shy demeanour is quite the opposite of adventurous traveller. Upon reaching the end of the article, Wei Yuan is relieved to see that the journalist had included a link to Wen Ning’s personal website. He is greeted by the cover of Wen Ning’s latest book, black chains criss-crossing across the screen on a light grey background, the words ‘The Ghost General, a story following the life of an honourable and loyal man undefeated even by death.’ standing out in white cursive writing. Wei Yuan finds the contact page from the menu and is glad to see that there is an address for letters. He had considered sending emails to each of the three, but it would be more difficult to send the emails posing as his father; whereas a letter could easily be sent in Wei Ying's name. Wei Yuan wanted to increase the chances that these three men that he had noted down as prospective fathers would read the letters and come to his birthday celebration.

Moving on to Jiang Cheng, Wei Yuan is once again surprised by how quickly he came up in the search results. As it turns out, Jiang Cheng was a prominent banker working at Lotus Banks, where his father was the president and his mother the vice-president. In the various articles about their family, Wei Yuan reads that Jiang Cheng only has an older sister, and there is no mention of a brother - confirming in his mind that when his father had said in his diary that the two were family, they were not brothers. Wei Yuan figures that it would be difficult to find a home address to send the invite to, so instead, he notes down the address of the main branch in the hopes that his letter would reach Jiang Cheng that way.

And finally, Lan Zhan. In the diary, his father had mentioned that this Lan Zhan was a famous architect, so Wei Yuan added it to his search, to narrow down the results. Instead of a photograph of the man, the first few searches were of various buildings; ranging from an elegant hotel with a white and light blue colour scheme flowing across the lobby, to a sleek-looking office building with glass windows covering each side, to a refined teahouse with a traditional interior. Even with Wei Yuan’s untrained eye, he could understand why his father had referred to this man as an ‘esteemed architect’. Wei Yuan finds out that Lan Zhan is currently working at Lan Infrastructure, a family business that not only covers architecture but also the implementation of infrastructure in a wider network. Again, Wei Yuan notes down the address of the main branch, figuring that it was the best way to get his letter to Lan Zhan.

With all the information he needed in his hands, and a piece of paper with his father’s scribbles, Wei Yuan begins to painstakingly reproduce Wei Ying’s barely legible handwriting. Once he is satisfied that his letters can pass off as being written by his father, he sends off the invites to each of the three prospective fathers. He can only hope that they come in a month’s time; and that his father does not find out his plans before then.

 

You are invited to Wei Yuan’s 18th birthday

Date: January 12th (Sunday)

Location: Suibian, Yiling

Please come on Friday, any time after noon, we would love to spend more time with you before celebrating my son’s special day, and there will always be a space for you at our bed and breakfast!

Wei Ying