The initial stirrings of the heart died under the following years of doubt.
Song Yuan’s colleagues were quite happy lately. It was because of nothing else but that after working the five day week after Christmas, they could have three days off.
It was truly wonderful this time. New Year’s was on Monday, so they could have a three-day weekend.
Song Yuan had already submitted a resignation. She was a bit reluctant. After all, her uncle was the company’s boss, so no one dared to give her a hard time1. None of her colleagues were demons who liked to make trouble, so everyone got along extremely well. And since her uncle was the boss, her salary was a bit higher.
She was just a bit reluctant to resign. Due to the residence registration issue, the family of four had had a meeting. In the end, they decided to take Rong Ting to B City.
Although this city was also a first-tier city, when it came to the educational and medical aspects, B City was still better.
Song Yuan was a local, but her permanent residence was registered as B City. B City and S City registrations were always popular. This was all thanks to the foresightedness of Grandfather Song. Grandfather Song had been assigned to work in B City when he was young. Even though he was just an ordinary employee, he also received relocation compensation. Grandfather Song then settled down in B City, bringing along the entire family. Later, when Grandfather Song retired, he returned to his hometown, but his registration remained listed as B City. At the time of Song Haiping and Chen Linjing’s divorce, the court had given custody of Song Yuan to Chen Linjing. For the sake of her daughter’s future, this woman who didn’t tolerate the slightest discomfort2 did not change her daughter’s registration.
Song Yuan used to think that it was a pain to go to school in her hometown while her residence was registered as B City. Her best friend Xie Ya told her that those who was blessed did not appreciate the blessing.
Now that she had graduated from university, she suddenly rejoiced that her permanent residence was registered as B City. At least it solved the issue of Rong Ting’s enrollment.
Song Haiping had made the correct decision in purchasing two houses in B City several years earlier. It solved their issue of housing. Practically everything was ready3.
Rong Ting had no opinion regarding where he was to study, but during the family meeting he made a small suggestion that had nothing to do with the topic at hand. “Gu does not wish to attend kindergarten. Gu has seen it; everyone is a child, and it is noisy and bothersome.”
This suggestion was disregarded and shot down by the entire family.
The break would begin tomorrow. Song Yuan cleared up her desk and found a box to hold her things.
“Yuanyuan, no get-together for your last day4? The financial manager gave the OK to use the company card.”
Song Yuan shook her head. “No need. I know that Old Liu and some others were anxious to return home for the three-day break, so they definitely won’t be there at the get-together. How’s this? I’m not going to B City right away, so let’s wait until next week and find a day when everyone is free, and I’ll treat you all to a meal. Why don’t we all go karaoke again?”
Even if Song Yuan was usually low-key and didn’t flaunt her wealth, her colleagues at the company knew that she was a rich second generation from a wealthy family.
But they also didn’t have faces as thick-skinned as city walls. “How can we do that? We’ve all agreed that everyone will go Dutch and treat you to a meal and karaoke.”
“Okay, I’ll treat everyone to afternoon tea!”
This was Song Yuan’s first job after graduating from college. Her work days would be considered peaceful, nothing like the schemes and trickeries seen in workplace TV shows. She had told Rong Ting that she would be coming home late, mainly because she wanted to wait until everyone in the office left, so she could put little gifts on her colleagues’ desks to thank them for their care during her time at the company.
It wasn’t a very expensive gift. Seeing that this year was especially cold, she bought some super cute hand warmers online.
After finishing this little errand, Song Yuan picked up her box and got ready to head home.
She didn’t drive today, either, but she didn’t know that when she stepped out of the elevator, she would spot a familiar figure in the lobby.
Although Ji Junpei had been studying abroad the last few years, he would come back once a year, and they would meet up. The last time they had met seemed to be a year ago. He wore a black down jacket and a pair of gold-rimmed glasses. When Song Yuan first met him, he had still been a cheerful and straightforward student. After several years abroad, he now seemed a lot more mature and stable.
Song Yuan hadn’t expected Ji Junpei to come looking for her. It seemed that he was more interested in her than she had imagined.
She was very self-aware about many things. She didn’t delude herself about how much Ji Junpei liked her; if he really did like her, they would have been together during the past few years.
No matter what the reason for him being interested but not confessing was, there was no avoiding the point that he didn’t like her that much.
“Yuanyuan, I’m back.” There was a smile on Ji Junpei’s face as he walked up to her. “I wasn’t supposed to be back until tomorrow, but I changed my flight.”
Song Yuan felt that the biggest reason why she didn’t resent Ji Junpei was that she didn’t like him that much, either.
Otherwise, how could she not feel anything for him after not seeing him for only a year?
The initial stirrings of the heart died under the following years of doubt.
“Welcome back.” Song Yuan smiled.
Ji Junpei reached out to help her with the box, but she moved away, smoothly laughing, “It’s not much.”
“Yuanyuan, I have some things I wanted to consult you about. You haven’t eaten dinner yet, right? I’ll treat you.” Ji Junpei didn’t seem to notice her movement.
He had stopped her at the company. Song Yuan thought back on their previous friendship–even if they hadn’t become a couple, they still used to have friendly sentiments–and found it rather difficult to refuse, so she hesitated and said, “I should be the one treating you to a meal for returning. It’s just that my boyfriend is on a business trip.”
Ji Junpei didn’t take these words to heart. He and Song Yuan had mutual friends. Although her post from before was suspicious, he also knew that she didn’t have a boyfriend at all.
“That’s all right. I don’t plan on leaving anymore, so there will be plenty more opportunities in the future. It’s my treat today.” Ji Junpei smiled. “I missed hotpot while I was abroad.”
Since he said this, Song Yuan felt it would be impolite to refuse, so she agreed. There were many restaurants near the company, and the two of them went to a nearby hotpot restaurant. Song Yuan was absentminded, her mind still on the child at home. Ji Junpei saying that he wanted to ask her for some advice was just a pretense; both of them were well aware.
The two of them chatted for a bit. Ji Junpei was no fool; he wouldn’t formally ask her out when she used the excuse of having a boyfriend.
He also had his pride. His family background was ordinary, and he had accidentally found out that Song Yuan’s family was rich. At the same time he found out, someone had deliberately said something unpleasant to his face. He held in his anger and decided to wait until he made some achievements before confessing to Song Yuan. He also wanted to prove that he was not some phoenix man6 who wanted to find a rich girlfriend in an attempt to lessen his struggles by twenty years.
During the time he was abroad, he worked hard to find profitable projects outside of his studying. Only after gaining a few achievements did he dare to express his intentions.
“Xuezhang, when my boyfriend comes back from his business trip, we’ll invite you out to dinner again,” Song Yuan politely spoke as the two emerged from the hotpot restaurant.
Ji Junpei placed his hands in his pockets, his posture casual. “I can do that. Yuanyuan, it’s pretty late, let me send you back.”
Of course, Song Yuan wouldn’t let him do that.
The meal could be considered a meeting between alumni and friends. Allowing him to send her home would change the mood.
And regardless of whether her boyfriend was real or not, supposing that she really did have a boyfriend, would it be appropriate to be walked home by a man with whom she’d had an ambiguous relationship? How was that appropriate!
Ji Junpei didn’t force her, and he watched her leave for a nearby bus stop.
Song Yuan finally released a sigh of relief and headed toward the bus stop. When she was a few meters away, she saw Rong Heng standing at the bus stop.
Spotting the white-haired handsome ge with whom she had had several encounters, Song Yuan quickened her pace to reach him. She took the initiative to greet him. “Hi!”
Rong Heng seemed to have just spotted her. He looked surprised. “Overtime today again?”
Song Yuan felt as though she truly had some fate with this white-haired handsome ge. She seemed to have run into him nearly every day during the work week. Why hadn’t she met him before?
“No overtime today. I had dinner with a friend. And you? Why haven’t you gone home yet?” They had run into each other and sat together on the bus a few times, which made them familiar with one another. Even if they didn’t know each other’s names, they could chat as comfortably as friends.
“Something came up last minute. I was eating with a client.” Rong Heng shrugged in helplessness. “Clients are hard to deal with.”
Song Yuan deeply empathized with his complaints about clients. “Yes, clients are really hard to deal with these days. One of my former clients would call me every day at 11 or 12 at night to ask me to respond to their emails. Every single one of them is like an uncle7.”
Rong Heng gave a slight smile, amused by her words. “It’s been hard on you8.”
Just as Song Yuan was getting ready to continue complaining about customers, a man’s voice came from behind her. “Yuanyuan!”
She turned her head. It was Ji Junpei, who had chased after her. He jogged up to her and handed her a paper bag, smiling. “I forgot to give this to you until just now. It’s a gift for you. I didn’t know what you’d like, but I got you some cosmetics. I also bought some perfume for Auntie9. Please give it to her.”
Ji Junpei was considerably thoughtful, buying a gift not only for Song Yuan, but also for Song Yuan’s mother.
Not waiting for Song Yuan to open her mouth to politely refuse, Ji Junpei added, “Don’t refuse. Given our friendship, it’s only right for me to get you a gift. I also got one for Xie Ya.”
“…Alright, then, thank you.” Song Yuan accepted the paper bag and placed it in her cardboard box.
Ji Junpei was not a relentless stalker, but even if he was, he wouldn’t show it. “Then Yuanyuan, see you. Let’s meet again.”
“En, goodbye.” Song Yuan smiled at him.
Just as he was about to leave, he noticed Rong Heng standing next to her. Seeing the other’s excellent features and temperament, as well as the eye-catching white hair, he couldn’t help but be taken aback.
Of course, what surprised him the most was that the other party seemed to be sizing him up. Those eyes made him feel uncomfortable, like being watched by a viper. His entire body felt cold. When he took a closer look, the other party smiled politely at him.
But he was sure that the chill that had run down his back was not his imagination.
Did they know each other? Was there bad blood between them?
 小鞋穿: lit. (to give someone) little/small shoes
 眼睛里容不得沙子: lit. to be unable to put up with sand in one’s eyes. Can be used to describe someone as picky, although I don’t think that’s the exact meaning in this context
 万事俱备只欠东风: lit. everything is ready, all we need is an east wind; fig. lacking one tiny crucial item
 Last day was in English in the raws
 AA制: to go Dutch, or to pay for one’s part of the expenses in a group activity
 凤凰男: lit. phoenix guy/man; slang for a man of rural or impoverished background who makes a living in the city through hard work. Based on what I’m reading, the stereotypical view of phoenix men is that they are smart and hardworking (which is why they’re able to make a living in the city) and filial, but they’re also stingy, conceited, conservative/traditionally minded, and have inferiority complexes, so the overall meaning of the term has become pretty negative or derogatory in connotation
 大爷: could refer to one’s father’s older brother (paternal uncle), a general term used to refer to an older man, or an arrogant idler or self-centered show-off. My first guess is that Song Yuan is using 大爷 as it means in the third meaning, unless she means that the customer has to be respected and flattered like one would an older uncle?
 你辛苦: can also mean “you’ve worked hard”
 阿姨: referring to Song Yuan’s mom
Cheese: was super excited about chilling out during the three day weekend this week but wouldn’t you know it? the weather just so happened to go “hey, i think now’s a good time to hit the three digits” absolutely disgusting