“It’s impossible for people to never make mistakes. Isn’t that right?”
By this time, all the office workers had already left work. Today was Friday, as well as Christmas Eve. Most youths had gone to celebrate, so the bus was empty.
Song Yuan and Rong Heng got on the bus and looked for a seat. They sat in the back row, with Song Yuan seated by the window.
Song Yuan had originally thought that Rong Heng wouldn’t sit next to her. After all, they weren’t very familiar with each other. She didn’t expect that as soon as she sat down, he took the seat right beside her. When she looked over, he said with a faint smile, “You don’t mind me sitting here, do you?”
“No, no, I don’t mind.” Of course she didn’t mind. It wasn’t like the bus was her home.
Song Yuan felt a bit embarrassed. Rong Heng had given her two apples. On Christmas Eve, many businesses would give out apples, and on Valentine’s Day, there would be people giving out roses at the subway station. Nobody would refuse such a small gift–it brought in fortune, after all.
It was just that she didn’t have any apples to give him, which was more or less embarrassing.
She unconsciously rummaged around in her bag, only to find a pouch of strawberry milk1. The rest were necessities. They were both adults; it’d be rather awkward to give him a carton of strawberry milk.
She gave him a sidelong glance. He was looking intently out the bus window.
From the angle, if she had been more narcissistic, she would think that he was looking at her.
“What is it?” he asked her with a light smile.
Song Yuan hurriedly shook her head. “Are you a local? You don’t sound like you have an accent.”
“I’m not a local. I just came here to do something–” Rong Heng paused, “–to meet someone I want to see.”
“No wonder I thought you had a B accent. Are you from B City?” Song Yuan smiled. “My grandfather worked in B City when he was young, and I used to go there often when I was little, so I’m familiar with the accent.”
Rong Heng seemed lost in thought. “By geographical location, I should be considered to be from B City.”
Song Yuan was amused by his solemn explanation.
While they were in the middle of talking, Song Yuan’s cell phone rang. It was a video chat request from WeChat. She took out her phone from her bag and saw it was a video chat request from Rong Ting.
The facts proved that intergenerational parenting2 was real and true. She had bought Rong Ting a children’s smartwatch, and her father later took him to go shopping and unexpectedly bought him an iPad. Her father was extraordinarily self-justified, saying that all his friend’s grandsons had tablets, and his grandson naturally couldn’t lag behind others.
WeChat was downloaded on the iPad, and her father helped Rong Ting sign up for an account.
Rong Ting knew when her lunch break was and would occasionally video chat with her. He found it very peculiar.
Song Yuan gave Rong Heng an apologetic smile, then accepted the video chat.
As she accepted the call, Rong Heng silently turned to the side, as though not wanting to disturb her chat.
It was only a small gesture, but Song Yuan felt this man was way too much of a gentlemanly, good-looking ge, worthy of meeting her aesthetic standards.
The video connected to show Rong Ting, who had already seemed to have washed up. He wore fluffy, yellow chick-printed pajamas, and he was lounging on the sofa. “Empress Mother, where are you?”
Song Yuan lowered the volume. “On the bus. I’ll be home in about half an hour. Have you eaten? Has the auntie left?”
“Ate.” Rong Ting looked tiny in the camera. “Gu saw that it was late and let the auntie leave first. Empress Mother, have you eaten? What did you eat?”
Sometimes, Rong Ting was awkward and arrogant, and other times, like now, he was like a warm little padded jacket.
“Ate. I wanted something hot today, so I ordered some claypot noodles3, which were very delicious.”
Rong Ting frowned. “Empress Mother…”
He began to unceasingly reprimand her. Song Yuan was very embarrassed. After all, there was an outside sitting next to her.
She immediately cut him off. “Let’s not talk about this. I ate everything. I‘m outside right now and the signal’s not very good. Let’s talk when I get home, okay?”
Although Rong Ting was dissatisfied, he nodded in assent. “Empress Mother, be careful when you are going out. The ground is slippery today.”
“Okay okay okay!” After she hung up the video call, Song Yuan let out a sigh of relief.
Nowadays, when she was at the office, she hid while she took video calls from Rong Ting.
It wasn’t that she was afraid that other people would discover that she was a mom. From the moment she acknowledged Rong Ting, she had already been mentally prepared. It was just that Rong Ting still spoke like someone from the ancient times. He had his pride and refused to freely refer to himself with “I.” He also refused to call her “Mom” and was only willing to refer to her as “Empress Mother.” But if this were heard by other people, they would find it odd.
She was just about to put her phone back in the bag when she heard the man next to her ask her, a smile in his voice, “Do you have kids?”
Song Yuan whipped her head around and met with Rong Heng’s clear eyes. She hesitated, then nodded her head. “En.”
Rong Heng just smiled and didn’t say anything more.
Song Yuan sighed in her heart. It wasn’t easy to bump into someone who fit her aesthetics. They had no fate together.
The other didn’t look old, nor did he seem to be married. Although it was quite realistic to say it, in the past she never would have considered someone with a child. Not just her, but her parents would also have opposed. To put it from another perspective, if other people lost interest in her because she had a child, she could understand. Alright, she should stop getting ahead of herself4. This handsome ge with the white hair wasn’t even interested in her in the first place…
Song Yuan was extremely good at consoling herself, and very quickly she regained her composure.
What romance, forget about it! The least she could do was wait until Rong Ting accepted it.
She got off at the bus stop, and Rong Heng followed suit. She knew that he lived nearby.
There was a middle-aged man selling roasted sweet potatoes next to the bus stop, repeatedly announcing into the megaphone “Roasted sweet potatoes, savory and sweet roasted sweet potatoes.” With such cold weather, the roasted sweet potato business was good. Song Yuan, unwilling to owe others, said to Rong Heng, “Um, please wait a minute.”
Saying this, she jogged over to the sweet potato stand and asked the shopkeeper to choose a sweet potato that was roasted to the point that it dripped with honey.
The sweet potato was wrapped in a paper bag. It was still warm, and you could catch a faint whiff of the sweet aroma.
She smiled and handed him the sweet potato. “This is for you. Thank you for the apple, and Merry Christmas Eve!”
Rong Heng looked dazed. It was unknown what he thought of, but he laughed.
His temperament was really strange. When Song Yuan first met him, she had only thought that this person’s aura was strong and that he even had a dignified and restrained bearing. After a few interactions, it seemed that her impression that day had just been an illusion. He was clearly clean and gentle, just like the warm sun in winter.
He seemed to be quite happy. The corners of his lips were raised slightly. “Thank you.”
“It’s nothing.” Song Yuan waved her hand, revealing dimples as she smiled. “Then goodbye. The child is still waiting for me at home.”
Song Yuan remembered that tomorrow was Christmas and a holiday and was in a relaxed and happy mood. She walked with a brisk pace. Even if you didn’t know her, you could see she was in a good mood.
Rong Heng watched her leave, then looked down at the sweet potato in his hand.
After she’d left, he hadn’t dared to stir up the past or reminisce. It was only now, when she had shown up in his world once again, that he dared to miss the past a bit.
That year had also had heavy snowfall. He had been in the palace, with no intentions to go out, but when he saw the palace maid brewing tea, he remembered she had once said that her favorite line of poetry was “The night for snow doth pine/Care to drink, friend of mine5?”
Truthfully, at that time, he had been drawn to her because she had his good friend and the general’s estate supporting her. He hadn’t had any intention of crowning her as his empress after ascending the throne–her background was not fitting for such a position. His plan had been to first accept her as his ce fei6. If the general’s estate provided truly valuable assistance, he could make her a noble consort7 as a show of favor.
That day, he left the palace–using his good friend as an excuse, of course.
He and his friend sat in the pavilion, and his friend ordered the servant to boil some wine. The land was shrouded in white, and the pavilion was warm and quite pleasant.
He saw her coming from the bridge, wearing a red cloak. Amongst the vast white, there was only this spot of red.
She approached with a smile and had the servant girl behind her pass on the sweet potatoes.
His friend stood up and brushed the snow off her cloak, his mouth reproachful but his actions doting. He asked her why she didn’t remain in her room in such cold weather. What would she do if she got frostbite?
When she smiled, shallow dimples formed at the corners of her mouth. “I heard that gege was in the pavilion drinking wine, and I wanted to come, too. Ai, you are truly enjoying yourselves. I forgot the full version of the poem. Gege, one should drink when it snows. Can I have a cup?”
His good friend had no way to stop her. “Can I drive you away now that you’re here? But you can only have one cup.”
She wasn’t familiar with how to drink. She only took a sip, and with a strange and adorable expression, she refused to drink more.
When Rong Heng raised his head, several snowflakes drifted through the sky. Her figure was no longer visible.
Back at the hotel suite, the driver, Sun Qiming, arrived. He stood by the desk, his expression cautious and his tone holding a trace of respect that he wasn’t aware of. “Boss, I’ve investigated the backgrounds of those two people from that day. The man is the son of the owner of a restaurant chain in B City. He’s twenty-five and is currently unemployed. His private life is rather messy and he’s made some mistakes, but they were all dealt with by his family. The woman is his girlfriend. Actually, she can’t really be considered his girlfriend–just a female partner. She comes from an ordinary family background, and her parents are ordinary employees. She met the man at a dinner party when he had still been her friend’s boyfriend. The two are now in conflict–the man wants to break up while the woman is unwilling.”
He had thought that the traffic accident that day was just a little incident. He hadn’t expected that that night, the boss would have him run a background check on those two people.
He didn’t know what the boss wanted to do, but those two people were probably in big trouble.
“Write it down. Continue monitoring.” Rong Heng was reading a book. The fingers that turned the page were fair and slender, their joints clearly distinct. He said lightly, “It’s impossible for people to never make mistakes. Isn’t that right?”
Sun Qiming lowered his head and didn’t speak.
In the silence, he heard the boss speak again. “You’ve been by my side for several years. I can rest assured with you.”
Sun Qiming abruptly lifted his head, not understanding what he meant.
Rong Heng turned a page. On the desk sat the roasted sweet potato that was completely at odds with his image. “People will do anything for money8. Most people will do wrong for fame or fortune. If the people by my side make a mistake for these things…” He paused and looked up at Sun Qiming, a smile forming on his face, “I will be very disappointed.”
Sun Qiming didn’t know what to make of his words. Was it a rebuke or a warning?
The boss was clearly still that boss, but he didn’t know why when he was stared at like this, and he heard these words, his back was dripping with sweat on this cold day.
He didn’t know why he was like this.
But he no longer had the courage to take advantage. He didn’t dare to trick the boss anymore.
 三角草莓牛奶: strawberry milk in a triangular pouch/carton. To be honest, my immediate thought was the Milk (S) you find in Rune Factory games. You have to admit, they’re similar.
(is that… cheese-flavored milk…?)
 隔代亲: intergenerational parenting? Seems to refer to when a child has a closer relationship to their grandparents than their parents, or when grandparents help raise their grandchildren because the parents are unable to. There’s a similar phrase in English (intergenerational transmission of parental behavior), but it doesn’t refer to the same phenomenon.
 砂锅土豆粉: LOL I gave up on finding a translation for this. Lit. earthenware pot/porcelain bowl + potato + powder. Probably noodles made from potato flour?
 自说自话: to talk to oneself [without considering objective facts or circumstances]
 晚來天欲雪, 能飲一杯無？: (apologies in advance)This line comes from the poem “问刘十九” (Inviting my Friend Liu/Visiting Mr. Liu), written by poet Bai Juyi of the Tang dynasty. The poem is composed of 4 5-character stanzas, and the speaker invites his friend to a drink on a snowy evening. Here’s a rough translation (butchered horribly by yours truly); Song Yuan’s favorite verse(s) is(/are) in bold. Here are some less butchered/more well-informed versions: here, here
綠螘新醅酒，(I’ve a freshly brewed rice wine,)
紅泥小火爐。(simmering on a little terracotta stove.)
晚來天欲雪，(The night for snow doth pine,)
能飲一杯無？(Care to drink, friend of mine?)
 侧妃: the secondary wife of a prince (wang). I believe a ce fei is still considered a concubine, but she is higher ranking than any other concubine of the prince estate (fu)
 贵妃: what the heck did I translate this as again…? Noble consort?? Two ranks below the empress and the second-lowest rank of consorts (the ones who have their own palace and can refer to themselves as bengong)
 人为财死鸟为食亡: human beings will die for riches, just as birds will do for food; a man will do anything in his means to become rich
Cheese: the weather’s been awfully hot lately… and since we can’t go sit out the heat in a cafe or the mall or something it’s been tough staying motivated/cool enough to translate hahaaaaaaaa
(i wish i had A/C *crying emoji*)