As the years passed, we gradually got accustomed to life in the city. The bookstore I had renovated and put back into business was doing fairly well. I hired a general manager who also did the finances, and a middle aged lady to manage the counter.
I also made a lot of friends in the city, mostly housewives I met in the marketplace. From them I heard all kinds of gossip, ranging from the recent fashion trends to the squabbles of the inner palace.
It was refreshing to speak to people who were uninhibited. In Heaven, I was used to people refraining from speaking their minds for fear of the consequences, and I was glad the mortals didn’t know I was a deity. It was also thanks to these friends of mine that I easily blended into this mortal life.
When they asked me if Jin was my child, I had refuted them solemnly. I said, with my voice dripping with all the sadness I could feel in the world, “My best friend had a child out of wedlock, and could not raise him well. She entrusted him to me for safekeeping until she returns, but I have never heard from her since.” I sobbed crocodile tears against my handkerchief, and the mothers took their turns soothing and calming me. They never asked about his background again, and I started dancing in my heart in relief.
I was cutting up apples for Jin to eat, when I accidentally sliced the side of my finger, causing a thin thread of blood to ooze from the laceration. It was unprecedented, as I thought of myself as a culinary expert, but my eyes had been occupied by Seiran, who had suspiciously crept closer to the fish pond with hungry eyes. I had instructed him to change his form to be inconspicuous in the city, and he turned himself into a white cat. I didn’t doubt that his form affected his appetite as well.
“Juu!” Potato Jin was two years old, and when he saw my bleeding hand, his eyes started turning red. In an instant, big droplets of water rolled down his round cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” I asked, bewildered.
“Juu is hurting.” He started bawling.
I could actually heal myself with magic if I wanted to, but I didn’t want Jin to see something this extraordinary. I didn’t want to reveal to him that I was a hidden deity. I wanted to live my life as a normal mortal who did normal mortal things, but of course that was on the outside. When no one was looking, I would often finish things with magic whenever I got lazy. It seemed I was lazy most of the time.
I hastily wiped the blood from my finger, and I hissed at the stinging pain. I wasn’t used to feeling pain as a deity, because our sense of pain was diminished, and I reveled at the fact that even this small wound would cause me to tear up. I planned on healing it properly later.
“See? Juju isn’t hurt anymore,” I said as I kneeled beside Jin, who was squatting on the floor. I wiped his tears with my sleeves, but snot was beginning to drip down his nose. I honestly did not want my sleeves to be snot covered, so I took a towel from the bathing room and wiped his nose with it.
“Lemme see,” Jin demanded as he earnestly tugged on my left hand. He saw that the shallow wound had left a gash across my index finger, and he furrowed his eyebrows in concern. “Hurting!”
“If you kiss it, it’ll disappear,” I said teasingly. “But it only happens if it’s a good boy who kisses it.”
“I’m a good boy!” He was alarmed. Hey potato, I’m not accusing you of being otherwise?
Then to my surprise, he actually pressed his lips against the edge of my wound!
“Not that way!” I still felt like teasing him despite my evident shock. “You should close your eyes and wish with all your might for the wound to heal.”
He pressed his eyes tightly with his brows drawn together in concentration. His lips puckered towards my wound as his chubby fingers gripped my hand. I could almost hear his silent chants, and I stifled my laughter. I didn’t want to see him disappointed when he opened his eyes, so I cleared my wound with magic, making it seem like he had been the one to heal me.
“You can open your eyes now,” I said gently.
He opened his eyes slowly, as if fearing that his determination was not enough. In just a split second, as he saw the clean finger, his mouth formed an ‘O’ in shock with his eyebrows shooting up towards his hairline. I was so amused by his reaction that I couldn’t stop kissing his face in laughter.
His chubby hands turned my left hand over and over, not believing his eyes. Then he took my right hand, turning it over and over as well, as if the wound had magically transferred somewhere else.
“Didn’t you say you were a good boy?” I cupped his potato face in my hands. He nodded vigorously, his cheeks bouncing against my palms. Ahhh…two pieces of siopao have landed in my hands…
I made sure I was never hurt that way again in front of him, as to avoid him trying to kiss wounds (it didn’t sound very hygienic to me). However, for some reason, every time I started cooking, he would sit on his stool beside the kitchen counter and watch me attentively. It was like he was waiting for me to cut myself?
I had honed my sewing skills over these few years, and although I had made clothes for Jin and myself, they were not very fashionable. I simply copied the style of the majority of the people in the city, and I have to say, it was very bland. I didn’t hold it against them, as the common people did not like spending so much on frivolous things, but I still wanted to make things of aesthetic value.
Since the normal cloth used by the people in the city was cotton, I did not want to deviate away from the norm and have them be apprehensive towards me. Jin and I had already lived in the biggest house in the square, and I didn’t want to attract any more unwanted attention by dressing up so gaudily.
But as I passed the fabric store one afternoon, I saw a cloth that caught my eye. It wasn’t easy for material goods to please me (since I naturally had high standards, if you had Heaven as a comparison), but this fabric amazed me. It was rainbow hued, with the colors changing with every movement one made. I bought it without any hesitation, for a staggering 2 Jade coins per meter, and didn’t regret it.
It was Jin’s fourth birthday in two weeks (the day I found him was the day I set his birthday to) , and I wanted to surprise him by making him pajamas to wear at night. It was tough hiding from him as I sewed, and I had deliberately made Seiran play with him for distraction. I had given Jin a ball of yarn, and told him that Seiran liked following the string around.
Inside the house, it was then a usual sight to see Seiran hopping from one place to another as a devious yarn would completely evade his paws. Sometimes the thread appeared above a chair, in the garden, on the tree (get down from there this instance, mischievous potato!), or under the table, but Seiran didn’t seem to mind. On the contrary, I think he was enjoying the chase much more than I expected. Jin’s childish laughter filled the house and my heart, and I continued working on his pajamas diligently.
On the eve of his birthday, he had been playing so much that he was exhausted. He had fallen asleep right on the floor with Seiran snoozing in the nook of his arm, the white tail twitching back and forth. I found them that way after I wrapped his gift in a box. I didn’t have the heart to wake them up, as they both looked so peaceful, so I decided to read one of my newly bought romance novels in the corner until it was midnight.
“Juu,” the potato called softly.
“Yes?” I turned my face towards him, but it turned out he was still sleeping. I saw the potato suddenly lifting his lips to form a smile. What dream was this potato currently having?
“Wuv Juu,” he sighed as he rolled on his side, squashing Seiran who was flattened awake. Because Seiran had yowled so loud, he had awoken Jin in the process. Seiran quickly dashed to the upper floor where my bed was situated. I could see his tail flicker back and forth petulantly as he climbed up the stairs.
“Happy birthday, little potato!” I said cheerily as I picked him off the ground. He rubbed his eyes sleepily and smiled.
“I’m four now!” He pressed four fingers towards my face.
“Well aren’t you a smart brat?” I said affectionately, kissing his cheeks. “I’ve got a present for you.”
“Where?” His eyes glowed and he clutched his hands together excitedly. I would most likely spoil him everyday if that would mean seeing this adorable expression of his every time.
I put him down on the floor and placed the box in his hands. He looked up at me with a goofy grin, asking for permission to open it.
He carefully opened the box, and he reverently pulled out the rainbow cloth. Even in the night, with the lamps offering a dim glow, the vibrant colors of the rainbow was almost palpable to the touch.
“Hey, slow down!” I chided, as he started stripping his clothes hastily. But when he started touching the pajamas, his movements slowed down. He looked dispirited, afraid that he would accidentally tear it.
I chuckled. “Don’t worry, the material is from spider silk so it’s definitely not easy to tear.”
His face lit up as he smoothly wore the rainbow pajamas. He kept turning around and around, looking at his sleeves, then at his pants, then arching his back to have a better glimpse of his own profile. This kid was like a comedy show.
“Well I’m glad you like it!” I was happy that he liked it so much. Spider silk was actually quite hard to sew, as the material could not be cut by ordinary means. I also had to use thread made from spider silk as well, due to the fact that using ordinary thread would not be able to hold the pieces together.
Jin was so happy that he was speechless. He raised his arms upwards, wanting a hug. I crouched low and accepted him. He circled his pudgy arms around my neck and kissed me everywhere on the face.
“S-Stop it!” I was laughing so hard. His little kisses were tickling me, and I already felt sticky from his saliva. But he didn’t stop until he too started laughing with me.
After I had given him the pajamas, he didn’t change his clothes for so many days that I was getting angry. I was flattered, of course, that he loved it so much, but how could he not allow me to even give it a wash? He still took his daily baths, but every after bath time, he would always find the pajamas in places I hid them in, even if it meant running around the house naked in despair.
“Jin! Change your clothes right this instant!” I raised my voice as I would chase him around the house.
His rainbow clad figure would suddenly stop running, and then just as I was about to catch him, he would sprint away with all his might, giving me false hope of his capture. What was this tactical ploy of his!
This went on until the sixth day when he accidentally soiled his pants. He came to me of his own accord, crying tearfully. He started resentfully undressing himself. “Sowwy, Ju.”
“You stink, you little brat.” I helped him tug his shirt off his head.
“Sowwy, Juu,” his voice was a little louder.
“Take a bath now, I’ll take care of your clothes.” I stroked his head to calm him down.
“When can I wear them again?” He asked between snivels.
“When they’re dry.”
“Okay!” He stopped crying and marched towards the bathing chamber, butt naked.
When potato Jin turned five, he suddenly asked me a question while I was in the kitchen making wonton soup.
“Are you my mother?” He asked, with a little pout on his lips. I almost dropped the bowl of soup in my hands.
Out of all times he had to ask, why was it now? I had been vague about my presence in his life, just showing that I was not a direct family member, but akin to a caretaker…or housewife. I liked the sound of the latter.
I placed the bowl on the counter and turned around. Seiran rubbed against my legs. I didn’t allow him to speak in front of the mortals, but I could feel him laughing so hard in his heart.
“Jin, what makes you say that?” My smile twitched. How was I ever going to get his romantic interest if he were to see me as a mother?! I felt my soul cry out in despair. Seiran fell back on the floor, wriggling with mirth. Damned cat!
“If you’re not my mother, then why are you taking care of me?” He asked me with those big dewy eyes of his. Ah, stop it. Don’t turn me into a pedophile.
“I did tell you I found you on the mountain, right?” I drilled this knowledge into his head as soon as he could comprehend words. I really did try to place a firm line between romantic and familial love even from the start.
He nodded his head, but looked solemn. “Why was I abandoned?”
“Ah?” I choked on words. Think, think, think! I didn’t want him to feel down. What if the wrong things I say would affect him emotionally, thus triggering his future downfall? The thought drove me crazy.
“That’s because…” I smiled slyly after I thought of a perfect response, “I’m your wife! When you grow older, you’re going to marry me!” I closed my arms around his small body, and he wrapped his arms around my neck. “You weren’t abandoned. Your parents just knew I was going to pick you up on that mountain.”
He pressed his warm, chubby cheek against mine. “Oh. That’s good. I thought you were my mother.”
Wait, was that a bad thing or a good thing? I really didn’t understand what he was trying to convey.
There was a certain period where he wouldn’t eat his vegetables. He needed vegetables to grow healthily, so I scolded him every time he left his greens at the edge of his plate.
“But they don’t taste good!” He pouted as his chopsticks picked the limp cabbage hesitatingly.
“Not everything that tastes good is healthy, and not everything that tastes bad is actually bad,” I wanted to sound like a learned scholar, but I wasn’t so sure my made up proverb would create such an impact.
A lightbulb suddenly lit in my head. I thought of another way to get him to eat his vegetables, and it involved surreptitious threats.
“Seiran, come here,” I called him over. He trotted towards me, his tail wagging. He could sense food was involved.
“Eat this.” I took a small bowl and filled it with vegetables for Seiran. Seiran ate anything that was edible and didn’t have a specific preference (fish aside). He finished the bowl in less than a minute, and he looked up at me for seconds, his eyes glistening as he licked his lips.
“Good kitty,” I cooed. I could hear Seiran barfing telepathically. I picked him up and puckered my lips. “Because you’re such a good kitty, I’m going to give you a kiss!” Seiran desperately tried to claw his way out of my grasp, and I genuinely believed he would start barfing on my face.
“I’ll eat, I’ll eat!” Jin said hurriedly as he finished his vegetables in the speed of light.
I placed Seiran back on the ground, and later on he refused to go near me for a week. He told me he would start to gag every time he saw my fat lips, and I nearly drove him out of the house with a fish.
“Where’s my kiss?” Jin asked, looking at me expectantly. He had finished another bowl of vegetables.
I smacked his cheeks with my lips, but he had the gall to look disappointed! After some thought, he closed his eyes and pushed his thin lips outwards. I smacked him on the head.
“Perverted brat! It’s too early for that. Ask me that when we’re married!”
Despite Jin’s peculiar attitude, I was extremely impressed by his intelligence. When he learned how to read and write (with me being the excellent teacher), he would go over to the bookstore and pick out books to bring home for himself. Sometimes I would read to him at night, and he would listen to me obediently with a disposition that was too mature for his age.
When I asked if he wanted to play with the neighbor’s kids, he would always decline, saying, “Juju will be lonely.” Although this line melted my heart, I still thought I was hindering his formative years of childhood. But if he said he didn’t want to, I didn’t have the right to force him.
When he was seven years old, I told him that it was the right age for him to go to school.
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.” I stroked his head lovingly. “There are so many things you can learn in school that I can’t teach you. This will be better for your future.”
He suddenly hugged my waist. “You won’t miss me?”
I wanted to laugh out loud. Really, this kid! Was he putting his moves on me?
“Who says I won’t? I always do, even if you’re just across the room.” I laughed, patting him on the head. “And I’m curious, have you thought of your future profession?”
He looked up at me with a pondering look. After a few seconds passed he suddenly said, “Your husband!”
“I’ll become your husband in the future!”
Didn’t this potato have any aspiration at all, ah?!