“This matter must not be known to outsiders!”
Chen Linjing and Song Haiping arrived when the mother-son pair finished their meal. Song Haiping absolutely loved beef chow fun1 and ate a large plate of it by himself.
Just like the saying “the merging of strengths2,” Song Yuan’s good looks were due to both of her parents, who were also amazingly good-looking. Chen Linjing was now in her forties, but because she was rich and single, she was willing to spend money on her face and body. The young Song Haiping was handsomer than idols, and this person did not let himself go even until he was middle-aged–he wasn’t bald3, and he didn’t have a beer belly. He had the looks of a rather handsome uncle4. It was no exaggeration to say that when Song Yuan went out together with Chen Linjing, others would mistake them for sisters. There was also a time when Song Yuan took Song Haiping to a medical examination, and the nurse had thought that they were brother and sister. After all, their last names were both Song.
Four people–all of whom were highly attractive in appearance–sitting at a table would naturally attract other people’s attention.
Song Yuan was going to pay the bill when she was stopped by Song Haiping. He said with a stern face, “With Dad here, how can you still be allowed to pay?”
“Leaving out Rong Ting, this meal comes out to be for three people. I’ll pay for my portion,” Chen Linjing said calmly, wiping her mouth with a napkin.
Song Haiping: “…”
Fine, he understood his ex-wife’s temperament. If it weren’t for their daughter, his ex-wife would have wanted nothing to do with him5.
From the hotel, Song Haiping drove them to the supermarket to buy groceries.
Song Haiping wasn’t bad at cooking, but the number of people who could eat his cooking was low. There were many people out and about on Christmas, including in the supermarket.
In the snack aisle, the four were split into two factions.
“I’ve never seen such harshness on a child. What little kid doesn’t eat snacks?” Song Haiping’s voice grew heated. “Rong Ting is so pitiful; he’s never eaten snacks in the past!”
He grabbed several bags of potato chips, seaweed snacks, and milk candy6 from the shelves.
“You too, Yuanyuan. When you were little, you always pestered me to buy you malt balls7, wahaha. How did you forget? You would gulp them down all at once, wahaha, but Dad would buy you boxes and boxes.”
Hearing these words about Song Yuan, Rong Ting looked at her accusingly.
Song Yuan was backed into a corner. It was useless for her to madly study up on parenting methods. Other people were new moms, while she was a newbie who didn’t have a transition period and couldn’t educate children at all, not to mention that in front of Rong Ting, she felt as though she had no credibility as a parent.
Chen Linjing sneered. “So it was you. Yuanyuan used to like eating meals, but because you would buy her snacks, she doesn’t like to have meals anymore. Can’t you see that she’s as thin as a bamboo pole now?”
Song Haiping was speechless.
He also thought that his precious daughter was too thin.
In the end, they compromised8. Rong Ting was allowed to eat snacks, but not too many. Only one back of potato chips, one bag of seaweed snacks, and two bags of White Rabbit candy were left in the cart.
Song Yuan followed Chen Linjing to go choose coconuts. Song Haiping pushed the shopping cart, helplessly saying to Rong Ting: “Rong Ting, don’t blame Grandpa. Grandpa tried very hard, but the enemy is too overbearing.”
Rong Ting nodded with a grim expression. “Gu understands. The enemy is not only domineering, but also powerful.”
Rong Ting originally wasn’t all that interested in Christmas. But after a day of eating hot pot with Mother Empress and his grandfather and grandmother; going out again in the afternoon to watch a movie; watching businesses have people dressed as Santa give out presents, and seeing Mother Empress become even happier than him when he received a gift, he felt that this holiday with dubious origins wasn’t so bad.
Perhaps people just needed a pretext to have a meal with the people they loved.
On Sunday, Song Yuan took Rong Ting out to the bakery to buy cake. When they passed by the bus stop, she couldn’t resist looking over, but she didn’t see that white-haired handsome ge. She didn’t see him at the bakery, either. She couldn’t tell if the emotion she was feeling was disappointment.
But Rong Ting was keenly observant. He tugged on her hand and asked in a low voice, “Is Mother Empress looking for someone?”
Song Yuan was startled. Rong Ting’s question made her realize. Was she actually looking for him? But they had only met a few times.
“No, no!” Song Yuan decisively shook her head.
Rong Ting carefully measured her up.
“What are you looking at me for?”
“No reason. It’s just that gu feels that Mother Empress is acting a bit strange today.”
If Gugu found out that she was unconsciously looking for a man, he would roll his eyes and ask her with a stern expression how she could behave in that manner when she was the empress and the mother of a nation.
Song Yuan shook off the thoughts that she shouldn’t be having and pointed to a display case to shift Rong Ting’s attention. “Come pick. Do you want strawberry cake or chocolate cake? You can only choose one.”
As planned, Rong Ting’s attention was easily diverted. He came over to the display case and looked at the beautiful cakes, sinking into an agonizing dilemma.
Song Yuan was supposed to go to work on Monday, but she remembered she had someone important to do, so she asked her supervisor for a half-day off.
She had seen some mothers complaining on the owners’ group chat, saying that recently there was a wave of influenza cases. They didn’t dare to take their children out to play, lest they accidentally catch it.
Song Yuan came to a sudden realization. It had been several months! She had actually forgotten to take Rong Ting to get his vaccines!
Although she had never been a mother before, she had heard from colleagues that children had to receive some vaccines at one’s own expense on top of the ones received for free. It would be difficult to go to school without them.
Rong Ting had been living in ancient times in the past; he definitely wouldn’t have received any vaccines.
Fortunately, he already had his residence registration, and it wasn’t difficult to get his vaccinations, but he had already lost at the starting line. She heard that most babies nowadays were vaccinated when they were born.
“Vaccination?” Rong Ting was clearly unfamiliar with this term.
Song Yuan nodded her head, serious. “It’s my fault. I can’t believe I forgot. We’re going to go get the flu vaccine today. Nowadays, many children are getting the flu. Although getting the vaccine doesn’t protect you fully, I’ll feel more reassured if you have it.”
Rong Ting didn’t have any objections. “Oh, alright then.”
If Mother Empress could rest assured, then he would get vaccinated. But what was a vaccine?
Song Yuan gave Rong Ting a brief explanation of vaccines.
Given Rong Ting’s cleverness, he naturally understood very quickly. He sighed deeply in admiration. “A deed that greatly benefits the country and its people. How praiseworthy.”
The snow hadn’t completely melted, so Song Yuan didn’t drive. She called a taxi9 and brought Rong Ting to the local disease prevention center10. As soon as they entered, they heard the sound of heartbreaking cries.
Rong Ting retreated two steps in fright, not knowing what had happened.
“Some children are very afraid of getting shots. They’re still young.” Song Yuan led Rong Ting back inside and took a number slip at the entrance. The slip of paper indicated that there were four people waiting in front of her.
Essentially all the children coming to get their shots were babies. They went in smiling and came out crying shortly after.
While Song Yuan took her account book to go pay the fee, Rong Ting went over to the vaccination area. He spotted a tiny baby being undressed by its parents, revealing an arm as white as lotus root. Immediately after, a nurse came over with a syringe and expressionlessly plunged the needle into that tofu-like arm. As the solution was injected, the baby, who was originally confused and had no idea what was going on, suddenly began bawling.
Next to the baby, an adult, who should be the baby’s parent, even took out their phone to film.
Rong Ting: “…”
Song Yuan took the receipt and waited for the vaccination area to call her number.
Rong Ting pointed to the baby and asked Song Yuan: “Must gu also undress 11?”
Song Yuan nodded. “Of course. Otherwise, how could you get a shot? Don’t be scared. It’s only for an instant, so it’s not very painful.”
“Gu does not fear pain.” Rong Ting’s expression was stern. “How can gu expose himself to outsiders?! Gu will not receive a vaccine.”
Song Yuan was quite helpless. “Everything else can be up to you, but not this one. Obviously you need to get your shot. Besides, no one will stare at you. Be good, it’s just for a split second.”
But Rong Ting stubbornly refused to speak.
Fortunately, this was the vaccination area. Babies were crying, and parents were coaxing, so nobody was paying attention to them. Otherwise, Song Yuan didn’t know what she would do.
Song Yuan began to earnestly persuade him–
“How is it immoral? Other babies are doing it. And besides, it’s just exposing a bit of your shoulder–you can barely see anything. Moreover, aren’t you a boy?”
“Be good. There are no civil or military officials here; I promise that everyone here will keep your secret. No one will know!”
“Gugu, be good, I really don’t want you to catch the flu. You’d suffer a lot.”
It was only when their number was called and Song Yuan’s mouth was dry from talking that Rong Ting reluctantly followed her to the vaccine area. He couldn’t help emphasizing, “This matter must not be known to outsiders! Mother Empress must keep it concealed for gu!”
“Okay okay okay!”
Song Yuan helped Rong Ting take off his downy jacket, then his sweater, layer by layer, under Rong Ting’s expression of utmost endurance. The nurse, seeing his expression like that of a hero in the face of adversity12, couldn’t hold back a smile. She whispered: “Little boy doesn’t need to be nervous or scared, it doesn’t hurt.”
Rong Ting didn’t bother to explain that he wasn’t afraid of pain.
When the needle went in, Rong Ting was stunned.
Liar! Who said it didn’t hurt? It clearly hurt! This was no ordinary pain. But he only furrowed his brows and didn’t howl and bawl or want to roll on the ground like the two-year-olds before him.
“He must be monitored for thirty minutes,” the nurse reminded Song Yuan.
The disease control and prevention center also had an observation area. This community was quite good; it had a lactation room, and the observation center had a slide and swings for children to play on.
Song Yuan took the booklet given by the disease control center and brought Rong Ting to sit over there. “I don’t know if you can get the five-in-one vaccine13 right now, but no matter what, you need to get a lot of vaccines besides the flu shot. There’s hepatitis A and hepatitis B and DPT and chickenpox–anyways, there are so many vaccines you need!”
“Which means, gu must bare his skin many times in front of the common people?”
“…You could say that.” Song Yuan couldn’t bear to say it: what’s this little thing? When summer comes, you have to wear shorts and short sleeves…
Rong Ting suddenly had a soulless expression14.
He must not acquiesce to something he was not willing to agree to. Once he acquiesced, once he compromised, he could no longer firmly refuse. Father Emperor truly didn’t lie to him!
 干炒牛河: stir-fried noodles with beef. I believe fun refers specifically to the wide and flat noodles? As opposed to round noodles like you’d see in, say, spaghetti or ramen.
 强强联手: usually means to combine forces, but here it’s probably used to say something along the lines of “best of both worlds” or “like father, like son”
 地中海: lit. Mediterranean Sea. I’m unsure if it refers to any particular balding look (e.g. sides are okay but the top is not, or a circular bald spot, etc.)
 大叔: probably used as a title for older men and not actually for a family member
 老死不相往来: basically, to cut off all contact with someone
 薯片、海苔，奶糖软糖: unless I’m missing something, I can’t see dried seaweed being in the snack aisles…maybe the author is referring to snacks made with nori? 奶糖软糖 could refer to toffee fudge or milk candy
 麦丽素: a specific brand of chocolate-covered malt balls. Americans might be more familiar with Whoppers? And I think the British counterpart would be Maltesers (but Wiki says that each brand uses slightly different ingredients depending on region, which, you know, makes sense considering they’re all different brands with different formulas)
 求同存异: to seek common ground, putting differences aside
 快车: the dictionary says express bus/train, but that doesn’t really make sense. I’m guessing either an Uber equivalent or a taxi?
 防疫站: CDC institutions?
 裸1露: not sure if this is slang, but it sounds like the term for exposing oneself
 (壮士)扼腕: lit. wring/clench + wrist. A term used to express strong emotions like anger, excitement, sympathy, etc. The English equivalent (apparently) is “to wring one’s hands,” but it doesn’t sound right to me, so I took some liberties here
 五联疫苗: also known as the pentavalent vaccine. The most commonly used example is DPT-HepB-Hib, which protects against Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus, hepatitis B, and diphtheria
 生无可恋: nothing left to live for
Cheese: i dont think ive ever been scared of needles to the point of crying but they sure are unpleasant
lmao @ the parent taking a video of their kid getting a shot tho