“If he truly liked you, then he wouldn’t have kept this relationship between friends and lovers for so long.”
Once the waiter left, the compartment was quiet.
If nothing else, everyone knew that Song Yuan and Ji Junpei had an ambiguous relationship, though they weren’t a couple. The reasons Ji Junpei returned to China and acted as their host for dinner were one, to reminisce about the past, and two, to be together with Song Yuan. Everyone knew this, but they hadn’t expected a Cheng Yaojin to show up suddenly along the way1. This person had paid for the bill, and he’d even done it in Song Yuan’s name–their relationship must not be ordinary.
Song Yuan broke the silence. “Well, are you all going to go to karaoke later? I’m not going, I have some things to do at home.”
Those present, including Ji Junpei, could see that Song Yuan was, indeed, a bit distracted today.
It wasn’t their style to force her to go to karaoke with them. Everyone was quite easygoing–if Song Yuan didn’t want to go, then they wouldn’t force her.
But Ji Junpei offered, “I’ll send you home.”
Song Yuan was a bit annoyed. Not with Ji Junpei, of course, but with their complicated relationship.
“No need, I drove over myself.” She paused, then added, “You all go and have fun. There’s someone waiting for me at home.”
She didn’t dare to lie to them that it was her boyfriend. One of the female upperclassmen was very direct and outspoken. If she asked her to call her boyfriend over to sing with them, who would she call?
Hearing that Song Yuan had come over by car, Ji Junpei had no excuse to send her off. After all, although he had a driver’s license, he hadn’t had a chance to touch a car during the few years he was abroad. He hadn’t driven on the roads until now, and he wasn’t someone who would do things halfway. Surely it couldn’t be that he would drive her? It would be dangerous.
Song Yuan headed for the parking lot as she called Rong Heng.
She guessed that he was the one who paid for the bill. It was logical to call and ask about it.
The call connected very quickly, and the other’s voice was as gentle as ever. “Hello, Miss Song.”
“Was it you who paid for our bill today?” Song Yuan asked him directly.
“En. I came to eat dinner with a client and happened to see you go in. I figured you were eating with friends and paid the bill for you after remembering the room number.”
For a friend he had just gotten to know, this behavior was a bit overly enthusiastic.
Song Yuan was naturally embarrassed. “How is this appropriate? It’s not good to let you pay our bill.”
Whose money wasn’t money? It wasn’t like money grew on trees2.
Rong Heng paused, then asked her, “Are you still in the area? Do you have anything else going on?”
Song Yuan knew that he wouldn’t ask her this question for no reason. She thought about it, then responded with a question of her own. “Are you still here? My friends are all going to karaoke, and I don’t really want to go, so I’m about to drive home.”
“Then if it’s convenient for you, could you give me a ride home?”
“You’re really still here? Okay, I haven’t left yet. I’m in the parking lot.”
“Okay, I’ll go to you.”
“Right, then I’ll wait for you at the exit of the parking lot.”
Song Yuan wasn’t an oblivious person, but she didn’t think that Rong Heng was interested in her in that way. After all, ever since the two of them became acquainted, they’d always gotten along as friends. He also knew about her situation. In short, it was unlikely that he was interested in her.
He should be the kind of person who was warm to friends and even to strangers.
He took the initiative to give his seat to the elderly on the bus, and he would patiently answer little children’s questions. He was always the first to step up and help someone in need.
Even though people in modern times were becoming more apathetic, Song Yuan believed that there were still many good people in this world, and he was one of them.
Rong Heng came very quickly. He opened the car door and sat in the passenger’s seat. Today he was wearing a black coat, and he looked to be in good spirits.
“Sorry to bother you.” Rong Heng looked helpless. “It’s not easy to get a taxi here. Fortunately, you were nearby.”
“It’s really a coincidence.” Song Yuan started the car and paid attention to the road. “Also, how much was it? I’ll transfer the money to you.”
“No need.” Rong Heng shook his head. “I was merely riding on the coattails of another’s favor3. A partner invited us to dinner, and he was very enthusiastic. When he heard that I had a friend who was eating here, he said he wanted to help pay for the bill.”
“That wouldn’t be appropriate, would it?” Song Yuan insisted on transferring the money to him.
“There’s really no need. It’s all the same if you invite me to dinner next time,” Rong Heng said smilingly. “Bring your son with you.”
If it weren’t for this latter sentence, Song Yuan wouldn’t have been able to help but believe that Rong Heng was pursuing her, but since he asked her to bring her child, she just felt that she was projecting4.
Although Rong Heng said he didn’t need it, Song Yuan resolved to transfer money to him on WeChat when she got home.
The place Ji Junpei had picked was a middle-price-ranged restaurant in the city. They had ordered quite a few dishes, and the cost would have amounted to at least several thousand yuan5.
“Were you having a reunion with classmates today?” He asked her.
“Sort of. We were all members of the same club in college.”
“That’s nice. It’s good for fellow classmates to get together and talk occasionally.” Rong Heng pretended to casually mention, “I saw the friend who talked to you at the bus stop that day. At the time I wasn’t sure if I’d seen right, but after I saw you again today I was sure.”
When Ji Junpei was brought up, Song Yuan was silent for a moment.
“What’s wrong? You don’t seem very happy. Did you not eat well?”
Song Yuan shook her head. It was only to Rong Heng that she could speak the thoughts in her mind, such as her relation to Rong Ting. Sometimes, people could be more open to strangers. She wasn’t the type of person who hold it in, and in the past, she would have told her friends. But if she tried to now, her friends would ask her, don’t you have a good relationship with Ji Junpei? Don’t you not have a boyfriend? Why don’t you give it a shot? She’d be left at a loss.
“It’s not, that he’s a friend… he should be my… en, if I say that he’s somewhere between a friend and a boyfriend, would you understand?”
While she concentrated on driving, she didn’t notice that the smile on Rong Heng’s face had already faded. Even the expression in his eyes had grown dark and gloomy.
“En, I probably get it.” But the voice was still gentle.
“He’s my university upperclassman. He went abroad shortly after we got to know each other, and we stayed in contact. I’d always thought that I’d be together with him. But a lot of things have happened since then. It doesn’t have much to do with my son; I just think I don’t like him anymore, and originally I didn’t think he liked me that much, either. Of course, I still think that way. But he came back. I lied and told him I had a boyfriend, but he didn’t seem to get it, and he also seemed to know that I was lying to him. Things are the same as before, and it bothers me a bit.” When Song Yuan said this, she laughed. She’d always been good at comforting herself. “But it’s not a big deal, since I’ll be moving to B City soon, and we won’t be in contact anymore.”
“We can only say that fate plays us for fools6.” Rong Heng commented. “At the very least, he’s not good enough for you.”
“Maybe. I feel much better after telling you. You know, he and I were never in an official relationship, but we really seemed like boyfriend and girlfriend for the past few years. He’s never been in a relationship. Other people said that he came back because of me. I don’t really believe it, but…”
“Is it that you feel a bit guilty?”
“Is it? That’s probably it.”
Rong Heng laughed. “Your friend and I are both men, so I can analyze it for you. Do you mind?”
“Ah, I don’t mind, I don’t mind. You can say it.”
“From a man’s perspective, if I liked someone, I wouldn’t be able to stand other people hovering7 around her. But if I’m abroad and too far away8, then I can only declare sovereignty. I would definitely make it clear to her that I would find a way to be her boyfriend, instead of leaving her hanging as a friend for several years. Miss Song, with all due respect, this friend of yours may like you, but he doesn’t like you that much.”
Song Yuan thought so, too, but no one had ever told her. After hearing such words, she suddenly also became enlightened. “You’re right.”
“So don’t feel guilty. I’ve never liked thinking badly of others, but I think some men think of relationships the same way as they do shopping around and comparing prices. If he really liked you, then he wouldn’t have kept this relationship between friends and lovers for so long.”
“En, I get it.”
Rong Heng added, “Sorry, it doesn’t seem right for me to judge, since I don’t know about your guys’ situation, and I don’t know your friend’s personality. Don’t take my words to heart. I drank a bit of wine today and said too much. I’m sorry.”
“I won’t,” Song Yuan laughed. “Isn’t there such a phrase? ‘Spectators see the game better than the players.’ Sometimes, outsiders may see things more clearly.”
Rong Heng smiled slightly when he heard those words.
Just before arriving at Fairview Garden, Song Yuan received a call from Song Haiping. He said that someone had sent a box of Dandong strawberries9, but he had to catch a flight today, so he could only deliver these strawberries to the entrance of the community and have her pick them up.
“Just in time, I’ll be at the entrance in three minutes. What about you, Dad?”
“I’m on the street just outside the community. Hurry up.”
Song Yuan parked on the side of the road. Before getting out of the car, she said to Rong Heng, “Mr. Xie, please wait a minute. I’ll go pick something up, and then I’ll take you to the hotel entrance.”
But Rong Heng shook his head. “You don’t need to trouble yourself.”
“It’s settled, then.” Song Yuan closed the door, and Song Haiping’s car stopped in front of her.
She walked over, and Song Haiping got out of the car and opened the trunk. “Other people said these strawberries are okay, and I remembered Rong Ting really likes to eat strawberries. Hurry and take them, I still have to catch my flight.”
Song Haiping closed the trunk and happened to look over at Song Yuan’s car. Her car was tinted, so the inside wasn’t clearly visible, but he could vaguely make out a person sitting in the passenger seat.
“Someone’s in your car?” Song Haiping asked casually.
“En, a friend.”
“It looks like a man.” Song Haiping was immediately intrigued and wanted to go over. “I’ll go take a took.”
Anxious, Song Yuan couldn’t bother to move the box of strawberries. She tugged on Song Haiping. “Dad, what are you doing? That’s my friend. Didn’t you say you had to catch a flight?”
“Which friend? I haven’t seen him before.” Song Haiping was even more curious. Even since the discovery of Rong Ting’s existence, what he most worried about was his daughter’s future marriage. Now, at this moment, he suspected that the man sitting in his daughter’s car might be her boyfriend. That was reasonable, right? Even if he wasn’t her boyfriend, he might be a prospective boyfriend. As a father, of course he had to take a look.
“Dad, that’s my friend, just a regular friend. You’re going to embarrass my friend!”
Song Haiping looked bold and confident. “As the saying goes, your friend is naturally also Dad’s friend, right? Then how’s it embarrassing to go see my girl’s friend?”
Just as the father and daughter pair started a tug-of-war, the car door opened.
Rong Heng emerged from the car. Tall and straight, wearing a black coat, and with eye-catching white hair, his entire person gave off a steady atmosphere.
He walked over to Song Haiping and Song Yuan and greeted Song Haiping very politely. “Hello, Uncle.”
Song Haiping was completely stunned upon seeing his face clearly. “You, you, you…”
He had only met him once before at a dinner party, and although it had been a few years, his vision hadn’t gone bad10. This person–wasn’t this person the Xie family’s Crown Prince!!
 半路杀出个程咬金: Cheng Yaojin was a general of the early Tang dynasty who served under several emperors. He’s often depicted in folklore and popular culture as a bumbling idiot who shows up at just the right time and place to save the day.
 (钱)大风刮来: money blows in from the wind
 借花献佛: lit. to present the Buddha with borrowed flowers; fig. to win favor or influence using someone else’s property
 自作多情: to imagine that one’s love is reciprocated
 For reference, 1000 yuan is 147.38 USD (as of Sept. 2020)
 造化弄人: the god of destiny makes fools of the people; fates conspire against you
 转悠: to appear repeatedly; to wander around
 鞭长莫及: lit. the whip cannot reach; fig. beyond one’s influence; to far to be able to help
 Dandong is a city in China that borders North Korea (see below). Apparently, Dandong is at the ideal location (40th parallel North) for growing strawberries. A lot of English-language articles about how great Dandong strawberries are will pop up if you search up “Dandong strawberries”
 老眼昏花: blurred vision of an old person
Cheese: “he’s not good enough for you” yah thats rich coming from u mr cucumber idt song yuan will be that fond of u either considering she LEFT YOU are you sure youre not talking about yourself??