[NW] Picked Up A Small Cannon Fodder Chapter 30 – New Year's Special: Call From A Mysterious Person

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NOTE: This is a special Chinese/Lunar New Year's episode that has nothing to do with the plot in the previous and following chapters! ALSO, the Big Brother that appears is Feng Hao! Jiang Fang does appears during a video call with Li Jiyue, but otherwise, it's all Feng Hao! New Year's is a time for family gathering, so Jiang Fang is celebrating with his mother out of the country, while Feng Hao is back home! IDK why the author doesn't use his name a single time in this chapter, considering parts of it is from his perspective, not Li Jiyue's.

ANOTHER NOTE: There is baby talk in this chapter that I've opted to keep as baby talk. In the original Chinese, Li Jiyue 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.

FINAL NOTE: Towards the end of the chapter, Li Jiyue calls someone, but only his side of the conversation is shown. I kept the formatting of each line as per the raws, to show that he doesn't say all of it all at once: he pauses between each line as the other person responds.

On New Year’s Eve, the entire family hurriedly drove to Grandma’s house.[1]

They were originally supposed to arrive yesterday, but Feng Tingyun had too many things to take care of at the office to leave then. He had wanted Wei Xue to go first with the kids, but the two kiddos both decided to wait for Dad first.

On the last day of the year, Feng Tingyun finally manage to put aside the never-ending pile of work. Auntie Zhang, too, had long since left for her parents’ home. [2] After pasting traditional Chinese couplets[3] by the door and decorative window cutouts[4], the family finally set off.

Last year, they’d gone to the Feng family’s ancestral home[5]. This year, therefore, they would visit the maternal grandparents.

This was even Baby’s first time visiting his maternal grandparents. Previously, due to his poor health, he had never gone far from home; once he started kindergarten, they did not have the time. Now, they finally had the chance to take Baby to visit.

Early in the morning, Little Laba changed into the Little Cow onesie that Auntie Cui had made for him. To show off his clothes, he even especially video-called big brother Jiang Fang, who was out of the country to celebrate New Year’s with his mother.

As soon as the video call connected, Little Laba’s eyes glued themselves to the screen. There was a table filled with snacks. Jiang Fang changed display to the front camera; the snacks disappeared from view, replaced with Jiang Fang’s face.

Little Laba began to salivate. He swallowed with an audible sound, and said, “Big Brother, you look so tasty.” Realizing his mistake, he held his hands up. “No, no, Baby means the snacks on the table look so handsome!”

It was wrong either way. Jiang Fang understood immediately. “When I come back, I’ll bring these for you.”

Little Laba nodded shyly. “Okay, thank you Big Brother.”

In keeping with New Year’s festivities, Jiang Fang was wearing a red sweater. Cui Yuanli had also decorated her house the way she would in China, with festive red strewn everywhere.

Little Laba hadn’t forgotten his reason for video-calling. He asked his mom to hold the cellphone for him, then began wriggling about in front of the camera. He even wriggled out of the camera’s range, so that Jiang Fang could only see the corner of his red clothes.

The kiddo was still smugly yelling, “Big Brother, isn’t it pwetty!”


Little Laba was smug for a while before properly sitting down again. Only then did Jiang Fang finally have the opportunity to take a few screenshots of the little darling being still. His little face was round like a sticky rice dumpling; together with his bright red clothes, he was as cute as the children in traditional New Year’s art prints[6].

Wei Xue had Little Laba wish Big Brother a happy new year early. As he greeted, he began to feel hungry. With a confused look, he asked his mom, “Why gweet the dates?” [7]

Wei Xue swiped under his nose. “You little glutton.”

Little Laba shameless collapsed flat on the chair. He cradled the cellphone as he watched Big Brother. “Big Brother, when are you cwoming home!”

Jiang Fang counted out the remaining days. There were at least fifteen more. “About half a month.”

Half a month? Baby grew unhappy. “Can’t you fly home in a whoosh?”

He heard his dad say that Big Brother had flown out of the country on a plane. Since Big Brother could fly, couldn’t he fly home and play with Baby, kiss Baby, praise Baby’s cuteness?

Clad in his new clothes, Baby really wanted everyone to praise him.

Jiang Fang said apologetically, “Big Brother can’t celebrate New Year’s with you, I have to celebrate with my mom.”

The child patted his little stomach. Though he was a bit disappointed, he still magnanimously said, “It’s okay, Baby will...”

He paused to think. What was that phrase again? He scratched his head. His teacher had clearly taught him before.

Jiang Fang watched as the child racked his brain, then suddenly smack his palm against his forehead. “Baby remembers now, Baby will undress, Baby doesn’t mind.” [8]

Jiang Fang laughed out loud. “Are you a little delinquent?” [9]

Baby felt he was being bullied. He poked angrily at the screen, as if to poke a hole right through Jiang Fang. “That’s what Teacher taught Baby, why are you laughing at Baby.”

Wei Xue covered her face in embarrassment, unable to watch her son continue to make a fool of himself. She tugged the child’s ear. “It’s called being understanding and empathetic!”

Little Laba confidently retorted, “Baby understands, Baby was just simplifying!”

It’d be weird were he to actually understand. After chatting for most of an hour, the little darling at last reluctantly ended the video-call.


At Grandma’s house, people were already busy preparing New Year’s food. Grandpa had specifically gone out to buy a big fish for his signature steamed fish dish. Grandpa only knew how to cook fish; as for anything else, Grandma’s food was tastier.

When the family arrived with New Year’s goods [10], they had prepared about half of the dishes they’d need. Feng Tingyun and Wei Xue did not even have time to rest; as soon as they put the goods down, they went into the kitchen to help the grandparents cook.

As for the little kiddo, this was his first time visiting Grandma’s house. He was curious about everything. Still, he knew he couldn’t be impolite, so he looked to Big Brother. “Can Baby look around?”

Of course, this was Grandma’s house! [11] Big Brother held Baby’s hand; though he himself had been here before, it was a long time ago, and he only had some vague impressions. He told Little Laba not to break Grandma’s things.

Little Laba visited every room, from the entrance to the balcony. He even went into the washroom, insisting on checking out whether it was the same as the one at home.

There was one tightly closed door that drew Little Laba’s attention though. What was inside it? Was it hiding a big beast? But Big Brother said not to open closed doors. It was as if there were little kitty claws gently scratching inside Little Laba’s heart. He really wanted to see what was inside!

He pressed his little ear against the door. To his surprise, there was the sound of something scratching the door. Little Laba staggered back a couple steps. There really was a monster inside!

Wei Xue was carrying a dish out of the kitchen when Little Laba stumbled quickly over to her and quickly wrapped himself around her leg. “Mommy, Mommy, a big beast! Hold Baby, Baby’s scared.”

Wei Xue patted Little Laba’s back. “Don’t be scared, there are no beasts here.” She looked at the direction Little Laba ran from and smiled. “Let’s go, Mommy will introduce you to a new friend.”

She opened the tightly shut door. There wasn’t any beast inside like Baby was imagining. Instead, a small, chubby yellow thing came out. It had finally obtained freedom, and jumped a little in joy.

It was a month-old golden retriever puppy they had just adopted.

The puppy sat down at Baby’s foot and began gnawing at his shoe. Baby cried out, “Puppy!”

The child liked dogs. He slowly bent down, and carefully petted the dog. The two of them got along instantly. The puppy licked Baby’s hand, while Baby giggled happily.

Soon, the two were fast friends. Baby moved a stool in front of the TV to watch cartoons on. The puppy watched along with Baby.

The sky slowly darkened. It was time once more for the Spring Gala[12]. This year’s Spring Gala, however, was very different. Little Laba’s first Spring Gala began broadcasting: the main venue was at Grandma’s house, with side venues at Grandpa's house [13] and Big Brother Jiang Fang’s out-of-the-country house.

All three families joined in a group video call. Inside the “broadcast,” Baby sang and danced for everyone. What a happy occasion!

After a while, Baby grew tired. He flopped down onto the sofa. As Mom wiped his sweat away, he grabbed for her phone.

Wei Xue, bemused, asked, “What is it?”

Baby replied childishly, “Baby’s making a call!”

Wei Xue handed over her phone skeptically, but the child really did make a call. The phone rang for a long time before the other party picked up. Wei Xue pricked up her ears to hear who could possibly be on Little Laba’s mind, even on New Year’s Eve.

It turned out to be a young girl’s sweet voice.

Little Laba sulkily said hello. “You... How cwome you answer Baby’s call so late!


“Eating? Fireworks too loud so you didn’t hear?”

Baby pouted. “Okie okie, I fworgive you.

“What are you eating?

“Is there meats!

“Eat lots okay?

“Baby’s not hungry, Baby just wants to knyow what you are eating.”

Fireworks began to explode outside, visible through the living room’s decorated windows[14]. Little Laba watched the colourful display and momentarily went into a trance.

The other party promised seriously to eat well, and to eat lots of meat. Only then was Baby satisfied. Both of them went silent for a few second, before simultaneously, as if by silent agreement, wishing the other happy new year in unison.

Baby’s face went red. Wei Xue felt as though a hundred thousand kittens were gently scratching inside her heart. Who was this other person? How did Baby meet her?

Baby tugged bashfully at his pants. “Okie, okie.

“Baby’s fwine, just misses you.

“I hweard someone call you, go eat.

Little Laba held on to the phone, waiting for the other party to hang up first. At the last second, he put his mouth right at beside and made a loud “mwah” sound.

Little Laba dove into Mommy’s arms bashfully. His two little feeties were even dangling.

Wei Xue petted his bright red little ears. Little Laba wished he could hide himself away.

He actually had one more little wish he didn’t say. He wished...he could share Baby’s good luck with the girl, and for the girl to always be happy. [15]

  1. 1. Specifically, the maternal grandmother. In Chinese language, the maternal side of the family is called 娘家 (bride's family), and the maternal grandparents' home (and also the maternal grandparents as a unit) is 外婆家 (maternal grandma's home), with insistence on the female line, because the bride's mother is the family member the bride ought to be the closest to. This is in stark contrast to the paternal side ––which is the side that you, as the child, officially belong to (compared to the maternal line which is considered as outsiders, barring the bride who marries into her husband's family)–– where the house/family unit is said to belong to the paternal grandpa (爷爷).

  2. 2. In this context, the word used here (老家) means either the house/place where your family traditionally live (assuming that your paternal line has stayed in the same place for at least 1 generation, i.e. yours) or the region/city your paternal line originated from. Since family registries can be hard to trace and China was extremely poor up until very recently, both meanings will usually apply. A 老家 can be an actual house or it can be a location (maybe even an entire village) that all of the family members will return to; for the latter, this means that a bunch of family members are already living there, and you might encounter people you are only distantly related to. Note that the head of the family (which is sometimes the Matriarch!) does NOT have to live there!

  3. 3. The duilian (对联) are couplets of poems or well-wishes (New Year, newlyweds, just general good health/fortune, etc), or well-wishing poems, that are pasted vertically on either side of the front door/gate (on the side that faces outwards). Sometimes pasted directly on the door itself, sometimes there will be a 3rd one pasted horizontally on top of the door. Often there will be a chunlian (春联) pasted in the middle of the door, often upside down. These are more obvious as bright red New Year's or wedding decorations, but you will actually find them carved into doorways too, in which case the characters might or might not be coloured.
    (image in which a man is putting up the optional horizontal 3rd line, having already put up the necessary 2 couplets)
    (here's another image featuring an outdoor version)

  4. 4. Chuanghua (窗花), window decorations usually made out of paper. These can be in any shape or patterns, and you can actually paste these on walls and doors too if you wanted to.
    3812b31bb051f81905f3be42dab44aed2f73e7e0 (Baike Baidu image showing a particularly fancy one wishing for fortune/happiness)
    d790ea659c1b440890a39078bca533b0 (Sohu image showing what they'd look like in action)

  5. 5. Again, this doesn't have to be where the family patriarch/paternal grandpa lives, but it is the case for the Feng family. In this particular instance, the word used here (老宅) does indicate an actual house/building, which is not necessarily the case for the "home" in Auntie Zhang's case

  6. 6. Lots to unpack here. 年画 (New Year art) is a very specific type of art (originally block print!) dedicated to New Years, and the children in these prints (年画娃娃) are also depicted in a specific way.
    Some 年画娃娃 cosplay photos, in regular and New Year's clothes:
    Some traditional depictions of these kids: peaches for longevity
    A modern version: oranges for auspiciousness/prosperity

  7. 7. A Chinese wordplay that doesn't work in English. There are 2 parts at play. First, the Chinese word 拜 means to greet, but also "to wish something positive upon the other person." Second, 早年 (early New Year) sounds somewhat similar to 枣泥 (date, the fruit, in this case actually a dried fruit/dessert), although only a small child would ever mistake the two. Wei Xue is asking Li Jiyue to tell Jiang Fang "happy early New Year" (拜早年). Li Jiyue misunderstands this (and also mispronounces this) as "拜枣泥" (happy dates, or more accurately, greet the dates).

  8. 8. Another wordplay. 善解人意 (which Wei Xue says below) is an idiom for someone who is empathetic and/or who understands of another person's thoughts/feelings/intentions. Li Jiyue misremembers the phrase and/or shortens it to 解意 (understand intentions), which he then misunderstands as 解衣 (undress) because it's pronounced the same way. And then he adds 服 to turn the entire thing (解衣服) explicitly into "undress."

  9. 9. This term (流氓) is often used to mean pervert, but not necessarily in a deviant way. For example, a little kid who'll go around naked because they don't give a crap about modesty/societal rules (see previous chapter). Or the anime trope of a dude who gropes women's butts. Basically, a troublemaker. Note that 流氓 (delinquent) by itself, without the "little" (小) descriptor, can also mean gangster.

  10. 10. New Year's themed gifts, and ingredients and decorations. They might have brought items from only one of the three categories, but it could also be a mix of two or all three categories.

  11. 11. Meaning that Grandma's home is also his home, he doesn't need to be polite.

  12. 12. An annual program sponsored by the government, The CCTV New Year's Gala, a special annual program that is televised/aired simultaneously. Though there is an official central version, each major region in China has its own version, that also airs at the same time. It starts on New Year's eve, lasting about 4 hours, and features all sorts of artistic performances: songs, comic skits (usually relating to New Year), traditional crosstalk/相声 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xiangsheng), dances, traditional Chinese opera, etc. The show ends with the countdown to New Year. The program has an official Youtube channel (at @CCTVGala) that uploads each year's Gala in its entirety.

  13. 13. Paternal grandpa here.

  14. 14. Decorated with the same 窗花/window decorations as above.

  15. 15. DISCLAIMER: I WELCOME CORRECTION ON THIS POINT. I don't actually know who the girl he's calling is, so I don't know who he's talking about here. The author also uses both sisters/姐姐们 (plural) and sister/姐姐 (singular) in this sentence, and I don't know if that's a typo (because the way the sentence is constructed, it could mean he wants to share his luck in general AND he wants this specific girl to be happy always). Because of that, and because the word 姐姐 (sister) is pretty ambiguous, he could be talking about a pair/group of actual sisters who happen to be older than him, or he could just mean two or more girls (who can still be related but not sisters) who all happen to be older than him. I don't know if he's talking about more than one girl (the one he was on the call with), and if there is indeed more than one, if the girls are sisters. But I went with the generic singular "girl" since it seemed like a safe bet, and there's no mention of more than 1 girl in this chapter. ↩︎

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