(edit 2020/04/18: added an explanation for a translation that was previously incorrectly translated (footnote 15), as well as some other footnotes that I felt would be nice to have (footnote 6))
“Gu doesn’t wish to answer.”
“Do you know what cell phones are?”
“Do you know what mobile phones1 are?”
“Do you know what a TV is? Do you know what air conditioning is? What about ballpoint pens? ABCDEFG2?”
Song Yuan asked a number of questions one after another.
Rong Ting frowned. “Mother Empress need not ridicule gu’s lack of knowledge.”
Song Yuan’s heart dropped. She didn’t expect that the most unlikely possibility had really happened. Transmigration novels were a well-traveled road3; all elementary students knew Ma’ertai Ruoxi4. But everyone knew that the plot was made up by the author. Now an example of something like crossing through time and space was right before her eyes. She also wondered whether the child’s spirit or mind was abnormal, but Rong Ting’s eyes were bright and clear, even giving off the aura of an extraordinary person.
She felt that she was also crazy. Going so far as to consider ancient to modern transmigration, and even subconsciously thinking it was real!
So long as she had a bit of doubt, she wouldn’t believe such an absurd thing.
Song Yuan very much wanted to ask about the particulars, but she also knew that Rong Ting was already very unhappy. This little boy also might not know what happened to him, and her mood could affect him. They still had to eat and go visit the mall supermarket5 today; they couldn’t not do anything.
As a matter of fact, Song Yuan was an extremely timid person. According to logic, if she encountered such a thing, her first reaction would be to send Rong Ting to the police station. It was just too strange, after all. But for some unknown reason, she seemed to have an inexplicable connection with this child, and it made her unable to bear seeing him sad.
“I’m not ridiculing you.” Song Yuan gathered her thoughts and managed to calm down. She smiled at Rong Ting. She was very good at controlling her emotions, but this time she really was relaxed.
She couldn’t stop what would happen.
“I was just trying to figure it out. Except for you, I haven’t come in contact with children, and I don’t know what topics you’d be interested in. Just ask about something you don’t understand and I’ll explain it to you, la.”
Although Rong Ting’s heart didn’t believe her excuse, his body was more honest. The look on his face lightened up, different from the hurt expression from before.
Children were easier to coax, so long as adults had a little more patience.
“Let me tell you about this car first, ba.” Song Yuan started the car again, explaining as she drove, “It’s the same as the carriages you’ve seen before.”
Rong Ting: “Mother Empress mustn’t deceive gu. Carriages are nothing like this.”
“It’s the result of many many years of improvement. What is the farthest place you’ve gone to?”
“Gu has once been to Xiayang with Father Emperor.”
“Wu, Xiayang, ah, I don’t know it. How long have you traveled by carriage?”
“Four days and four nights.”
Song Yuan thought, then answered: “If you take my car, it would take half a day.”
Rong Ting wanted to object, but he glanced at the scenery outside the car window and didn’t speak.
Mother Empress didn’t seem to have lied. This carriage’s speed was just too fast.
The two made small talk as they traveled. Song Yuan drove into the shopping mall parking lot and after she parked, she took the initiative to open the back door. She was driving an SUV, and it wouldn’t be easy for a child to get off. She lifted Rong Ting out of the car.
Rong Ting was not used to such intimate contact, but he didn’t say anything. His ears slowly flushed red.
After getting out of the car, he wanted to tell Song Yuan that mothers and sons should also observe propriety, and she shouldn’t treat him like a child, but the words on his lips were swallowed back.
In any case, Father Emperor wasn’t here, nor was that annoying scribe6, so it was fine!
Rong Ting was no stranger to the elevator. He had a vague idea of its function.
Quietly standing, his body as stiff as a board. He was not unknowing, and he also wasn’t full of curiosity.
There were other people in the elevator. These days, there were many who liked ancient era clothing, and as an era of rapid development, people were becoming more and more tolerant. Most people were already accustomed to seeing hanfu and lolita dresses7.
It was very interesting to see a small child wearing a period costume. Rong Ting wore a white robe embroidered with gold thread, and his hairstyle was like those in ancient era dramas. It attracted a lot of attention.
Stepping out of the elevators, some people took out their phones, wanting to take photos of Rong Ting.
Song Yuan smiled at the girls as she shook her head in a gesture of refusal.
The girls understood her meaning and felt somewhat embarrassed.
After all, it was a bit awkward to take photos of another family’s child and be caught by the guardian.
Nobody thought that Song Yuan was Rong Ting’s mom. It was only that they looked very similar, so they must be brother and sister.
This shopping mall had supermarkets, restaurants, movie theaters, and brand-name clothing stores. It was a weekday, so there were no people. There were very many people on the weekends.
Song Yuan hadn’t bought new clothes in a long time. Knowing that Rong Ting wouldn’t have the patience to accompany her as she shopped, she led Rong Ting straight to the children’s section.
After Song Yuan brought Rong Ting into the children’s clothing store, she was drawn to the girls’ skirts.
“Girls’ clothes nowadays are so beautiful, ba!”
“Seeing it makes me want to have a daughter!”
Rong Ting didn’t expect that the dignified, kind, and gentle Mother Empress spoken of by the old maid would be so silly8.
She was different from what he imagined, but such a Mother Empress was also very good. At least she looked happy.
“Some officials had written memorials once, suggesting that Father Emperor lacked heirs, with only gu by his knees9, and hoped that Father Emperor would draft more beauties and expand the rear palace. Father Emperor was furious.” Rong Ting came over to Song Yuan and lowered his voice: “Since Mother Empress wants to have a princess, why leave Father Emperor?”
Song Yuan felt her scalp numb at these words, but she still reached out to pat Rong Ting’s shoulder, “Little boy, don’t ruin my shopping experience, the consequences are very serious.”
Don’t say such words that would fill her brain with phrases from dog blood transmigration novels, save it for when you go home!
Rong Ting secretly sighed in his heart. He didn’t know what conflict there was between Father Emperor and Mother Empress, for Mother Empress to have this appearance of not wanting to hear any mention of Father Emperor.
This girls’ clothing in this children’s clothing store were all very pretty, but the boys’ were mediocre. Song Yuan only chose two sets of clothes for Rong Ting. In case of the weather turning cool, she also bought a down jacket.
Rong Ting originally wanted to say that he wouldn’t wear such strange apparel, but when he looked at what Mother Empress wore, he resolutely decided to shut up.
This should be Mother Empress’s native land.
Mother Empress’s native land was also his native land. It was proper to follow the customs of the land. He also should not be too stubborn, lest he wound Mother Empress’s heart and she mistakenly think that he disliked her hometown.
“Do you like it?” Song Yuan also bought children’s underwear and socks for him. It was a rather abundant harvest, as though the person being bought clothing was her. She gleefully asked Rong Ting.
“Gu doesn’t wish to answer.”
If he told the truth, Mother Empress would be upset.
But gentlemen could not lie.
Song Yuan felt very familiar with Rong Ting and pinched his ear. “Such a cute child!”
She considered Rong Ting cute, mostly because of his looks.
This truly was a society that looked at faces, ah.
“G-gu…” Rong Ting was taken aback by Song Yuan’s actions, and his following reaction was to become even more embarrassed, saying “gu,” “gu” for half the day, without any further continuation.
If it were someone else, he would have already said they were audacious.
Rong Ting didn’t want to act like a country bumpkin. He said in a cold voice: “Are you a prophet?”
“How did ancient era people survive without ice cream and air-conditioning, ah?” Song Yuan bought two cones. The clerk was a young woman. Seeing Rong Ting dressed in a period costume and liking it very much, she took a few more glances. Not many people would be able to resist such a cute child. When Song Yuan saw the very tall cones, she couldn’t help but tell Rong Ting: “It’s the first time I’ve seen such a tall cone.”
So many swirls12, ne!
As expected, it was very useful to be cute. In fact, just now at the clothing store, the employee gave her many bibs, although she couldn’t use them. And just now, the dessert stand’s clerk gave so much ice cream. There was no harm if there was no comparison13. She didn’t remember being given such treatment as a child, ne.
Rong Ting took the cone. Seeing that Song Yuan was already beginning to eat, he suddenly remembered an important matter. “There’s no poison tester?”
He had been so angry this morning that he had forgotten about it!
If someone wanted to poison them, what would happen to him and Mother Empress!
“Mother Empress, don’t eat it!!” Rong Ting shouted loudly.
The little boy’s voice was very loud.
The passerby shopping in the mall turned in their direction, not knowing that had happened. Even Song Yuan looked blankly at Rong Ting, not understanding why he was so agitated.
Rong Ting’s face was pale. The old maid had once told him that the imperial concubines14 in the palace were very jealous of Mother Empress and often harmed her time and time again. Fortunately Mother Empress was blessed with great fortune and great talent and escaped calamity. While he grew up in the palace, Father Emperor had never gone half a step in the rear palace. But he occasionally saw those imperial concubines, each carrying themselves with a solemn, virtuous, and gentle attitude. In reality, they were especially vicious on the inside.
It was easy to dodge a spear in the open, but difficult to avoid arrows in the dark. If his whereabouts were known by those imperial concubines, and they followed him here to frame Mother Empress, then what could he do!
“What’s wrong?” Song Yuan asked. Naturally, she didn’t dare to lick the cone again.
Rong Ting grew more and more afraid. He pointed to the dessert stand’s employee, saying: “Mother Empress is too careless, are you not afraid of this person poisoning you?”
The “shady” employee with a question mark face15: “???”
What did she do wrong to be suspected by this child…p, poison? How did it come to this?
“Mother Empress, quickly spit it out!” Rong Ting threw the cone in his hand and hugged Song Yuan’s legs, looking up at her with red eyes. “Don’t be afraid, Mother Empress, gu will take you back to the palace and have the best imperial physician detoxify you!”
He’d finally found Mother Empress after much difficulty. He absolutely would not allow others to harm Mother Empress or snatch Mother Empress away!
If someone really did poison her, he would cut them to pieces!
 大哥大: Song Yuan is using the old term for an early model cell phone (iykyk), also known as a brick phone. The term she used in the first sentence was 手机, which refers to the smartphones we know and love today. Here’s a picture of an old handheld, if you’ve never seen one before:
 This novel is originally in Chinese, and I believe that English is compulsory in elementary school in China? So any child raised in modern times would know that it’s the English alphabet
 烂大街了: lit. worn-out street; fig. something that has been done many, many times. This term implies that the thing in question is very commonly used, to the point that it’s not original or fresh
 马尔泰若曦: Ma’ertai Ruoxi, a character in the TV drama Scarlet Heart. 21st century girl Zhang Xiao transmigrates into and lives out the rest of her life in this body. Some K-drama fans may also recognize the name; both the Chinese drama and the Korean adaptation were based on the same novel.
 超市商场: shopping mall/department store + supermarket. I’m assuming this is referring to supermarkets that are located inside a larger commercial building? I’ve only ever seen this in big cities, particularly in areas with a high population of Asians and limited space; most suburban or non-Asian supermarkets I’ve been to are not located inside a shopping mall.
 史官: someone who records the emperor’s words and deeds, as well as the court’s political affairs
 汉服, lo装: ancient Chinese and lolita fashion, respectively. I’ve only heard that there’s been a recent revival and interest in hanfu amongst the youth, but apparently it’s been a thing since the early 2000s. Lolita fashion is mainly influenced by Victorian era clothing, but the subculture itself originates from Japan
 跳脱: used to describe someone who is abrupt or hard to follow/understand
 膝下: refers to children. Posture-wise, think of a child laying their head on their parent’s knees as a gesture of respect/filial piety, dependence, etc.
 Again, another misunderstanding between Song Yuan and Rong Ting. Rong Ting is using “gu (孤)” to refer to himself, while Song Yuan is using “gu (咕)” thinking that he’s talking about his nickname
 甜品站: a dessert station that’s located nearby (like within 800 m. of) the main food establishment. It’s usually about the size of a stall or a small corner store
 旋: Song Yuan uses the word for loop/circle, so I’m assuming this is a soft-serve ice cream and not the scoop-based one.
 没有对比就没有伤害: a commentary on how we make ourselves unhappy by comparing ourselves with others
 嫔妃: (gosh darn how I hate looking up harem rankings) different dynasties used different rankings, and some emperors would add extra titles, but I think this is based on the Qing dynasty ranking system. If so, this would be referring to the rank of imperial concubine, above which would be the (1) empress, (1) imperial noble consort, (2) noble consorts, and (4, give or take, like, 75 LOLOL) consorts. It is also the lowest ranking for which one could refer to themselves as ben gong, have their own residence within the palace, and be addressed as niang niang.
 黑人问号脸: lit. “black man question mark” face, in reference to the meme “Confused Nick Young”. At first I thought this was in reference to mystery/detective cartoon shows where the suspect is like a shadowy, indistinct figure (I’m looking at you, Detective Conan), but by a happy accident I came across the slang meaning. Since the OG translation isn’t super far off from the intent, I’ll be keeping it as is
Cheese: do yall even look at the footnotes? i like having them because it helps me understand slang or nuances that get lost in translation, or clarify subtle/easy to miss things in the story, but sometimes i wonder if most people find them annoying, unnecessary, or dont have any opinion on them
also: i have taken the liberty of changing imperial mother/father to mother empress and father emperor, in both this and previous chapters. now that rong ting has mentioned harem ranking, it distinguishes his status as the son of an empress (rather than any old imperial consort or concubine). also it sounds better to me lol
side note: if you were song yuan (or the poor employee, for that matter), how would you react to what is supposedly some stranger’s child shouting at you about poisoning via ice cream?