[NW] Picked Up A Small Cannon Fodder Chapter 29

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NOTE: There is baby talk in this chapter that I've opted to keep as baby talk. In the original Chinese, Li Jiyue (and some other kids) mangles the words by mispronouncing them, which the author portrays by using characters that approximate the sound he'd make, in place of the proper ones.  This is difficult to translate directly, so I've chosen to render it as the pronounciations of a little kid who has trouble with "r" and "l" sounds.

If a word seems nonsensical, that's because it is! Try to pronounce it out loud, and you should be able to guess what word Li Jiyue is purposefully mangling.

Little Laba’s singing immediately stunned all of the little kids. What song was this? How come we didn’t wearn this?

Teacher Huo hurried up the stage in two strides. “Wait, little Li Jiyue! You’re singing incorrectly!”

Little Laba blinked large, teary eyes, and looked pitifully at the teacher. “Baby... Baby doesn’t we-member the words.”

There were too many people below. Baby couldn’t we-member how to sing anymore.

Teacher Huo said helplessly, “Is Baby too nervous?”

Little Laba nodded vigorously. He scratched his chubby cheek with a fingertip, and said, with an extremely embarrassed demeanour, “There are so many people down there. Baby suddenly fworgot everything.”

The kiddo looked so pitiful that Teacher Huo couldn’t bring himself to say anything else. Coincidentally, it was at this moment that the principal came by. She stopped by Teacher Huo’s side and said, “It’s okay, little buddy. Let’s try again, okay?”

Little Laba shook his head. “Baby’s scared!”

Teacher Huo thought a bit, and said to the principal, “The kid’s just too young. Why don’t we swap in a student from an older grade?”

The principal had also considered this before. She said, a bit embarrassed herself, “For this competition, the choir’s ability level is one thing, but appearance is important too. The other kindergartens have carefully and methodically picked out their lead singers, and even spent big money on ordering them performance outfits. We can’t trouble our kids’ parents. Since we already decided to participate in school uniforms, our outfits definitely won’t compare to theirs, but we still have to pick an outstanding lead singer.”

The principal didn’t mean the other little darlings weren’t good enough. Every little darling was the cutest. But after considering everything, just one look at the pale and chubby Little Laba made one feel happy. Perhaps this was what the elderly meant by the saying, ‘a face that breeds happiness.’ [1]

The principal felt that if there weren’t any major problems, then they shouldn’t swap out Little Laba. Things like forgetting the lyrics could be fixed.

Little Laba thus could not duck out of being the lead singer. Teacher Huo, sympathetic as he was, could not help. He could not disobey the principal.

“Little Li Jiyue, let’s try again, okay? This time, Teacher will accompany you.”

Little Laba pouted. “Can I not sing?”

“C’mon, let’s try, maybe this time Baby will sing super well!”

Teacher Huo gave the kiddo a big confidence boost. Little Laba proudly puffed out his stomach, as if he could already hear himself singing beautifully. “Then, okay! Baby will try again!”

Teacher Huo started the accompanying music once more. This time, rather than walk away, he stood right beside Little Laba. With him there, Little Laba seemed to do much better than before.

But while the kiddo managed to sing successfully this time, the other children dropped the ball. Each child had their own way of thinking: they sang out of synch, some loudly, some quietly, and even at different speeds. Some shouted at the top of their lungs, while others sang as if they were crying.

Altogether, Teacher Huo had only one thought: maybe... we should withdraw from the competition.

Children didn’t understand things the way adults did. Even though everything had seemed fine before, when it was time to sing, they still did whatever they wanted. It was so chaotic one couldn’t make out any of the lyrics. Teacher Huo was extremely grateful there was still a month before the competition. If they were to compete now, they’d lose immediately. [2]

The teacher spent the afternoon explaining. Everyone sang together three times. Each attempt was worse than the last.

When Wei Xue went to pick up her son, she found that the kindergarteners all seemed listless.

Jiang Fang found it curious. “What’s with you guys?” He took hold of Little Laba’s backpack, which was heavy and filled with who knows what.

Wei Xue opened the water bottle. Little Laba drank from the bottle in her hand.

“Today, we did group singing!”

If the school hadn’t forbidden the parents from visiting during choir practice, Wei Xue would have wanted to record[3] Little Laba’s group singing. Luckily, parents could attend the competition, so Wei Xue could record to her heart’s content then.

Wei Xue helped wipe Little Laba’s face. “Baby, how was the group singing?”

Little Laba said honestly, “Baby sang wrong the first time!”

Teacher Huo said what he sang wasn’t the song that the school chose for the competition, but an uncle.... an uncle-hurting song.... [4]

Wei Xue and Jiang Fang were both dumbfounded. “Uncle Teng?”

Wei Xue looked at her son, eyes filled with confusion. “Shen Teng released a single?”

Little Laba pouted. Baby didn’t know either, this was what the teacher said.

Wei Xue and Jiang Fang, still with some doubts, brought Little Laba into the car. The driver went directly in the opposite direction of the usual way home.

Baby looked outside. This wasn’t right! He worriedly tapped against the back of the driver’s seat. “Uncle, uncle, this isn’t the way home!”

Wei Xue got a huge fright from Baby. She actually forgot to buckle in the children’s car seat! Xue Wei hurriedly tugged the little darling back and buckled in the car seat’s seatbelt. “Baby, be good. Today is a special day, so Mom and Dad are taking Baby out.”

Little Laba asked curiously, “What special day?”

If it was this special, how come Baby didn’t know?

Jiang Fang thought it was probably Uncle and Auntie’s anniversary. Only so many dates could be termed special: birthdays, holidays, all sorts of remembrance days. Birthdays seemed unlikely; Jiang Fang remembered that Little Laba’s entire family coincidentally all had their birthdays in the winter.

Wei Xue stroked the silly child’s head. “Today is Mom and Dad’s anniversary.”

He was right!

Jiang Fang felt uneasy. “Auntie, I shouldn’t intrude on you and Uncle’s anniversary.” He could always go home by himself first.

Wei Xue smiled at him. “No can do, I especially need you today!”

Once they arrived, Jiang Fang finally understood what Wei Xue meant by that. He and Little Laba were ushered into a restaurant, that Wei Xue booked in its entirely.

“Your Uncle Feng and I met in this very restaurant.”

At the time, both of them were attending university. Both were extremely independent in university. Rather than ask their family for money, they worked to pay the tuition fees themselves. During National Day her sophomore year, Wei Xue had found a part-time job distributing flyers for a newly-opened restaurant.

Coincidentally, like her, Feng Tingyun had also come to distribute flyers. Both of them wore mascot costumes.

That day had been somewhat stuffy. Wei Xue’s Little Bear mascot costume was both thick and heavy. Who knew how many had worn it previously, but it stank of sweat.

The Little Bear managed to hand out half of the flyers before starting to wobble. A Little Pig mascot came over to help the Little Bear into the shade, and then took the rest of the Little Bear’s flyers to hand out.

It was dark out by the time all the flyers had been handed out. To express her gratitude, Xue Wei invited her helper to a meal.

That Little Pig was indeed Feng Tingyun. The day they met would later become their anniversary date.

Little Laba, who was listening to Mom reminisce, grew unhappy. He looked at his mom angrily. “If Mommy doesn’t have money, why not come find Baby!”

Baby had saved up a lot of allowance money! Daddy really was useless, and could only help Mommy distribute flyers. If Baby was there, Baby would give Mommy a credit card to spend as she liked!

Xue Wei didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “At the time we didn’t have Baby yet!”

Little Laba grew angrier. “Then where did Baby go?!”

Baby really was good for nothing. How could Baby not be around at such an important moment?!

Xue Wei really didn’t how to answer this question. Luckily, the little darling came to an answer by himself. “Baby definitely went out to play at the time!”

Little Laba and Jiang Fang’s duty today was to help the young couple reminisce. Wei Xue had specially prepared a pair of rings as gifts. In a bit, Little Laba and Jiang Fang would bring the rings over. To add to the atmosphere, they would be wearing miniaturized versions of the Little Bear and Little Pig mascot costumes as they walked before everyone.

Jiang Fang changed his clothes, his heart filled with anxiety. Auntie gave him this responsibility because she trusted him. In a bit, not only would he have to walk carefully and present the rings to the couple, he would also have look after Little Brother and not let him go astray.

While in the staff changing room, Little Laba had a handsome young staffer help him change clothes. He had stripped himself completely save for his underwear.

The young staffer was dumbstruck. “No, not like this.” He was only gone for a brief moment, to put down the mascot costume. How did this kid take off all of his clothes in that short amount of time?

Jiang Fang, who had come over to ask the staffer help pull up his zipper, saw this scene instead. The staffer stood awkwardly to the side. Little Laba, grinning widely, was shaking his butt, singing, “Little piggy, little piggy, tiny little piggy, today’s Baby is a piggy baby~”

  1. 1. This phrase (面相好) is meant to describe a face that makes you feel better just by looking at it. In this case, Li Jiyue is so cute that other people feel cheered just seeing him. ↩︎

  2. 2. This specific competition is one that is open to all, regardless of qualification, in order to select the best. I'm pretty sure Teacher Huo's implication is that their group would not otherwise be able/allowed to compete, and in this specific case, they would immediately lose even if they were able/allowed to compete. ↩︎

  3. 3. The word used here (拍) could mean either photograph or video-record, and even both at once. I went with the latter since it's a performance, but current smartphones are able to do both at once, though there is no word for that. ↩︎

  4. 4. This is a wordplay that only works in Chinese. 疼叔叔 (to hurt an uncle) is pronounced the exact same way as 腾叔叔 (Uncle Teng). In this case, what Li Jiyue says is "A song that hurts Uncle" (疼叔叔的歌) but what Wei Xue hears is "Uncle Teng's song" (腾叔叔的歌). Notice that the place of the "的歌" (song) is the same in both case. ↩︎

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