(I made the executive decision to change “this prince” to gu. I’ve been debating whether or not to do this since last week (hence the qotw), and I think for consistency sake (since I want to keep zhen) and to give the “Gugu/gu” running joke a little more understandable to potential future readers (? are there any??), it makes more sense to me to do so. Not sure if I want to go back and make all the changes in previous chapters though…)
One wish is for Empress Mother to always smile, and another is for Empress Mother to live a long life.
When Song Yuan woke up, it was still five minutes before seven, and the alarm clock hadn’t gone off yet.
She sat on the bed, half-conscious. The dream was too intoxicating, and its effects hadn’t worn off even now, leaving her immersed in the dream. She strained to get a good glimpse of the man’s face, but she couldn’t see it clearly. She forgot many details upon waking up, but that sentence of never letting her down still echoed in her ears like a chant.
Why did she have such a strange dream ne? The important point was that she was unable to help thinking about many things. Such as what Gugu said.
For now, she didn’t dare to think too deeply. There were too many things that couldn’t be explained.
Although she felt that the Empress Mother from Gugu’s mouth was quite likely not her, there were still many points of suspicion. If it weren’t for the real-life child in her home, with her character, she absolutely would want to play dead.
Today she would bring Rong Ting to take the maternity test. Song Yuan’s heart was truly in a state of unrest.
On the one hand, if Rong Ting wasn’t her child, then where could she go to find his family ah? Wouldn’t this child be very disappointed ah?
On the other hand, if Rong Ting really was her son, then what should she do?
And that dream…
The ringing of the alarm clock finally woke Song Yuan up, and her consciousness gradually returned. She felt as though she’d have a nervous breakdown one of these days. Before, when she’d had a dream about going out with one of her idols, she hadn’t been so up in the clouds ah. It was definitely Rong Ting’s influence.
This kid called her Empress Mother every day and would make use of every opportunity1 to mention his Emperor Father. Although he didn’t have strong persuasive skills2, she still felt a lot of pressure. She constantly felt that this child was lobbying her, wanting to bring her back to the ancient times that had no cell phone, no computer, no Internet, no pads3, and no beverages4.
Song Yuan suddenly remembered something that happened in college. At the time, the topic of reincarnations was very popular, and it was said that if you shut your eyes and listened to music, you would slowly start to see your past life. She was timid, and when she saw everywhere on the Internet not to rashly attempt it, she didn’t try it, but the other three girls in her dorm had. One said that she had been Consort Zhen5 in her past life, one said that she was a concubine6, and another said that she was Consort Zhen…
She thought there could only be one Consort Zhen ah?
Later, when the females in the class discussed amongst themselves, there were even two Consort Dong’e’s7.
After hearing about so many reincarnations of Consort Zhen and Consort Dong’e, Song Yuan, who had originally somewhat believed in the idea of reincarnations, immediately lost interest…
In the end, the class monitor mocked them for being too fond of reading brain-dead novels, for each and every one of them fantasizing that they were the consort who monopolized the emperor’s love8.
Song Yuan turned off the alarm clock and temporarily tossed that dream into a recycle bin.
She got out of bed. Rong Ting had already dressed and finished his morning routine, and was sitting upright on the sofa, holding the graphic novel of The Art of War with both hands.
Seeing her emerge, he merely looked up once, then withdrew his gaze.
Rong Ting’s hands-on ability must be quite good. Clearly he had people who served him for all sorts of purposes in ancient times. He hadn’t even spent a few days in modern times and he could dress himself, bathe, brush his teeth, and wash his face.
The appointment with the paternity testing institution was at 9 A.M. Afraid that she would be late, Song Yuan didn’t have breakfast at home, and brought Rong Ting to the breakfast shop9 just downstairs.
Rong Ting looked down at the plate of xiaolongbao and soymilk with an expression of disdain.
Song Yuan let out a sigh. “I’m actually quite lazy, and I rarely make my own breakfast in the morning. Naturally, making lunch and dinner are also rare. I usually eat outside or order takeout.”
The number of times she cooked in the kitchen these past two days was almost the same as the number of times she had in the past month!
She was quite impressed with herself.
Rong Ting hesitantly glanced at her.
Song Yuan felt her scalp go numb from this gaze, and she made a “stop” gesture. “Alright, if you want to ask me again why I wanted to leave your dad and live a miserable life ba, don’t ask. I just really like this kind of life!”
Rong Ting did not know what had happened between his Emperor Father and Empress Mother.
It was clear that the love-hate relationship between adults was far beyond the limits of his comprehension.
In the end, Rong Ting sighed the same way she had just done. “If Empress Mother is unwilling to respond, then gu will not force you. Empress Mother, gu only wishes for you to be happy.”
Yesterday, Song Yuan had Rong Ting write on a scroll that she was planning to frame. After all, this was also an ancient text. Not to mention value, its significance was on a completely different level.
The Gugu child stood at the desk, brush in hand, pondering for a long time. At last, he took up his brush, brandished his ink, and wrote four large characters on the paper10–live long in prosperity11.
One wish is for Empress Mother to always smile, and another is for Empress Mother to live a long life.
Song Yuan was quite touched when she heard this. After several days of living together, it had even crossed her mind that if Gugu truly was her son, then she could accept it.
The two finished breakfast and set off for the institution.
There were quite a number of people who did DNA tests these days, and it was rather simple. After collecting the two parties’ hair and hair follicles, as well as drawing a bit of blood, you could directly download the results off the app after several business days. The paper report could be picked up, or the organization could send it through the mail. It was extremely convenient.
Song Yuan also measured Rong Ting’s height and weight.
On the small slip of paper was written, height: 114 cm, weight: 22 kg, which was standard.
If it weren’t for Rong Ting’s aversion, she also would have measured his head circumference.
The institution was not far from the downtown area. Seeing that it was nearly eleven or twelve o’clock, she discussed with Rong Ting and settled on a nearby restaurant for lunch.
Rong Ting very much enjoyed drinking Yakult, but he didn’t say it. When he heard that he had to eat out, he initially had a few things to say. But when Song Yuan took out a bottle of Yakult from her bag and handed it to him, he immediately had nothing to say. His resolve was quite shaky.
Song Yuan didn’t dare to go to a restaurant with a good reputation and high popularity. Rong Ting didn’t like crowded places, and he was still rather tense. He would monitor their surroundings, as though an assassin would rush out in the next second. In order to let the child eat and relax, Song Yuan avoided the Pizza Hut that was packed with children and brought him to a deserted restaurant. It was almost as though she’d reserved the entire hall.
The taste of the food was average–not outstanding, but also not disastrous12. Rong Ting seemed to love sweet food. Song Yuan guessed that he usually had to restrain his nature, but still very much loved them, so she ordered a mango pomelo sago13 for him.
Rong Ting went all out to demonstrate what it meant to do a “clean sweep.” The most outrageous thing was that after eating, his face clearly showed a satisfied expression, but his mouth said: “Just barely acceptable to eat.”
Song Yuan teased, “Since it’s not delicious, I won’t order it next time.”
Rong Ting anxiously looked at her and very awkwardly said: “Gu never said it wasn’t delicious.”
Realizing that Song Yuan was teasing him, he wasn’t as annoyed as before. Instead, he was more so helpless. “Empress Mother seems to enjoy teasing gu.”
“I’m just wondering where you got your awkward and tsundere temper from, your dad?” Realizing that she had just taken the initiative to bring up His Majesty the cucumber, she quickly changed the topic. “Alright, let’s not talk about that. Let’s go for a walk to help digest our food. I have to go to work tomorrow, and I really can’t ask for time off; if I ask for leave again, my uncle will be furious. And when I go to work, you have to stay at home. I need to buy some fruit snacks to keep at home for you, so we’re going to the supermarket to stock up.”
Rong Ting didn’t know what it meant to go to work at first, but after getting a bit of context, he could make a vague guess. He asked: “When Empress Mother speaks of going to work, is it to serve as an official14?”
“An official?” Song Yuan laughed. “Of course not. But my mom and dad did want me to be a public servant at first. But even if you pass the civil service exam, you still won’t be considered an official; to become one is very difficult.”
“It’s truly not to serve as an official?” Rong Ting didn’t know if he was confused or doubtful. “Gu thought that in Empress Mother’s hometown, women can also be enrolled in school and become officials.”
“Of course they can ah! We have a woman in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and she’s very powerful!” Then she began to gush praise about her goddess.
After talking and talking, Song Yuan also noticed something strange. “Did you say ‘also’? Is it also possible over there?”
Rong Ting looked at Song Yuan for a long while, then smiled and shook his head. “At first it was not possible. The previous year, Emperor Father resisted pressure from all sides, as well as memorials from the hundreds of military and civil officials, and insisted on abolishing the old system. Emperor Father said that there were also talented people among women, and they should not be restricted by gender. Women can be enrolled in school, take examinations, and if they are a person of talent, they can also attend court as an official.”
Song Yuan was still astonished. Although she was not a history buff, she still knew that there weren’t that many dynasties that allowed women to attend court.
“Then in that case, your Emperor Father can be considered a mingjun.” Song Yuan couldn’t help but sigh with emotion.
Rong Ting gave a smile at her words. Then the smiling expression on his face faded and turned serious. “Empress Mother, if Emperor Father heard these words, he would be delighted.”
“That’s a given. Any emperor would want to hear later generations appraise them as a mingjun. Of course, there are some emperors who would prefer to have no accomplishments, but also no failures. Your Emperor Father’s decision would be considered a great advancement in thinking at that time. In the past, many men looked down on women and felt that women should remain in the rear courtyard15. To be able to accept that there are talented people among women–no, a person who expresses this point of view is quite good.”
But Rong Ting shook his head. “Not so.”
“What do you mean? Do you doubt that women are not inferior to men?” Song Yuan’s tone already hinted at danger. If Gugu did not look her in the eyes and he answered “yes”, she was going to teach him a good lesson on ideology today.
But on second thought, for someone from the ancient times to have such an opinion, was it that strange? But the child was already here in the modern age now, so he had to adjust his thoughts accordingly.
“’There are also talented people among women, and they should not be restricted by their gender, nor should they be confined to the rear courtyard.’ This point of view did not come from Emperor Father.” There was a proud light in Rong Ting’s eyes. His voice was clear and steady. “The bangyan16 is a woman. Emperor Father once spoke with her at the Xuan Dao temple. Gu was also present, and gu heard Emperor Father tell the bangyan–” he paused and cleared his throat, seeming to want to imitate his Emperor Father. “‘Empress Ren De17 once told zhen18 that talented people exist among the women. If they were constrained by their gender and the rear courtyard and were unable to display their literary talents and their might19, it would be a great pity. Abolishing the old system today was zhen’s wife’s20 lifelong wish.’”
 见缝插针: lit. to see a gap and stick in a needle; to make use of every second and every inch
 强势安利: 安利 is the sales company Amway. To Amway something is to recommend something enthusiastically, in reference to the overwhelming volume of Amway endorsements on WeChat
 As in menstrual pads
 肥宅水: lit. fat house water. Any drink that’s considered unhealthy/high-calorie, including soda, fruit drinks, milk tea, etc. Coca Cola specifically is literally “fat house happy water”
 珍妃: seems to refer specifically to Consort Zhen, a consort of the Guangxu Emperor, and also known as the “Pearl Concubine. Known for her independence and adoption of some western habits, as well as her interest in photography. She had an antagonistic relationship with her mother-in-law, Empress Dowager Cixi, because she often encouraged the emperor to be more independent (and therefore not under the control of the very politically influential Empress Dowager), and was generally very liberal in behavior and thoughts. Had a tragic end and died from drowning in a well
 小妾: lit. little wife. Could be referring to any level of concubine, but could also be an old term for a young female slave? Most likely means the first definition in this context
 董鄂妃: Consort Dong’e, the consort of the Shunzhi Emperor. She entered the palace in 1656 as a fourth(?)-rank consort (a gui fei) and was promoted to an imperial noble consort (one rank below the empress) just one month later, which was practically unheard of. She later died of illness, and the emperor died the following year
 弱水三千只取一瓢: lit. (although) the Ruo River is three thousand li long, one only drinks one ladle of water from it; fig. to be loyal and dedicated in love, or to choose only one companion out of all potential partners. In Dream of the Red Chamber, Jia Baoyu uses this phrase to describe his love for Lin Daiyu (Ch. 91)
 早餐店: a store that sells (who would’ve guessed) breakfast, or sometimes brunch. I guess a breakfast diner like Denny’s or IHOP might be a decent equivalent. A fast-food chain like McDonald’s which offers breakfast menu items but doesn’t primarily sell breakfast foods would not be considered a breakfast shop
 宣纸: again, I didn’t mention this in the previous chapter, but the author is specifically referring to Xuan paper/rice paper. It’s known for its soft and fine texture, which is conducive to Chinese calligraphy and painting
 长命百岁: the original phrase was four characters. Lit. may you live a hundred years. A blessing that hopes the recipient(?) lives to a ripe old age
 踩雷: lit. to step on a landmine; usually used when stocks (like, the economy) tank despite good trends and good ratings, but it can be used as a general term to mean that something bad happened
 杨枝甘露: lit. poplar branch sweet dew. Mango pomelo sago, a chilled dessert from Hong Kong whose main ingredients are mango (yum), pomelo (a citrus fruit, ancestor to the grapefruit), sago (a type of starch that can be made into pearls, as with tapioca), coconut milk, cream, and sugar
 Song Yuan uses the term “上班” (to be on duty, on the clock, on shift, etc.), while Rong Ting uses the term “为官” (to work/serve as + official/officer/officeholder”)
 后宅: lit. back/rear residence. The part of the household where the women lived
 榜眼: lit. eyes positioned alongside; the second-place scholar at the court exam (the highest and most distinguished level of the imperial examinations)
 仁德皇后: titles of nobility were assigned with a name bestowed by the emperor himself, and these were the titles used to refer to the person holding that title. You typically did not call the other person by their given name unless you had a close relationship with that person, and even then, it would be inappropriate to do so in a formal setting. In this case, Song Yuan’s given/personal name is Song Yuan, but her title is Empress Ren (仁, benevolence) De (德, virtue), and that was how she would be referred to if anybody addressed her using her full title
 朕: the royal “we”. I’ve tried using both zhen and “we” in other translations (MGCH arcs 6? And arc 12?? I think??)
 施展才华, 大展拳脚: to fully use one’s literary/artistic talents, to extend one’s hands and feet (which usually refers to one’s martial arts skills)
 发妻: first wife, or legal wife
Cheese: is there a preference for small heads in chinese culture? also, how i imagine sy’s reaction at the end there when she thinks rt doesnt believe women can also be skilled:
question of the week: if you were in sy’s shoes, what would your impression of the emperor be at this point, after hearing about the emperor supposedly doing this to fulfill her lifelong wish? a loving husband? an emperor who doesnt actually love his wife but pretends to?