He thought that he was the one who knew her best.
In the classroom, several teachers and some radish heads1 huddled around a rectangular table. Placed on the table was a pink, two-tiered fondant cake. It looked beautiful.
“Come, children, let’s sing the birthday song for Mengmeng all together, okay?”
The little radish heads echoed excitedly, “Okay!”
“Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you~”
“Happy birthday to you~”
How might one describe Rong Ting’s mood at this moment? He was regretting it, really regretting it. For some reason, this sort of atmosphere didn’t make him feel warm. On the contrary, there was an unspeakable embarrassment. He desperately wanted to escape from this situation. Yes, he shouldn’t stay here! He tried to control himself, but he could already feel the goosebumps on his arm now.
The most agonizing few minutes passed.
The lights in the classroom turned on again, and the birthday song that magically pierced the ears disappeared. Rong Ting quietly let out a sigh of relief.
He thought, he will be disappointing Empress Mother. He will never become like one of the children here.
The English teacher Helen laoshi was cutting the cake, giving each child a large piece. When it was Rong Ting’s turn, the teacher asked him what piece he wanted.
Looking cool, he replied, “Anything’s fine.”
This fondant cake truly was beautiful.
Helen laoshi couldn’t help but laugh, “You’re so aloof.”
Everyone knew that it was Mengmeng’s birthday. The little radish heads were very happy and felt that they should give gifts on birthdays. Some gave her the keychains from their backpacks, and some gave her their lollipop. As the saying went, it’s not the gift, but the thought that counts3. Mengmeng was also very happy. She was an extremely introverted child, but today, she had a happy and confident smile on her face.
Rong Ting saw them giving gifts, but he didn’t know what he could give. He had Yakult in his bag, but he didn’t want to take it out.
He didn’t want to give away the keychain, either; Empress Mother had given it to him.
After some thought, Rong Ting simply found Helen laoshi and asked her, “Laoshi, are there any calligraphy tools here? I mean, are there any brushes and Xuan paper4?”
The academy had calligraphy classes, and Helen laoshi was friends with the calligraphy teacher, so she quickly borrowed some brushes and Xuan paper.
Rong Ting didn’t like this brush very much, but he still stood at the table. He gave Mengmeng a side glance.
He wasn’t very familiar with her. To be exact, he’d never exchanged a word with her.
But he’d eaten her cake, after all, so he should prepare her a birthday gift.
Thinking to here, he took up his brush and wrote four characters on the Xuan paper–Bright and quick-witted.
The little radish tops couldn’t discern the quality of the work and only thought that Rong Ting could actually write calligraphy, which was absolutely amazing.
The teacher who knew calligraphy and Helen laoshi exchanged looks and saw surprise in each other’s eyes.
“Lance, you know calligraphy? Why haven’t I heard your mom mention it?”
Rong Ting subconsciously frowned when he heard this English name.
He didn’t know why, when he clearly had a name, Helen laoshi would give him an… English name?
“Learned a bit.” Rong Ting’s response was extremely modest.
“It shouldn’t be just a bit, though? Who taught you?”
“My dad. The always cold and aloof Rong Ting then added, “My dad’s calligraphy is especially amazing.”
It was hard to imagine a five- or six-year-old child could have such skill without receiving strict education from a very young age.
Rong Ting wasn’t one to take the initiative to socialize, but he likely had a certain “personal charm” to him, so all the radish heads liked him. He was not shunned in the classroom. Before, he had never liked to pay attention to others, feeling that he couldn’t talk with these kids, but over time, he would occasionally respond, not embarrassing others, even if it was a child.
Song Yuan and Rong Heng headed downstairs, neither of them taking the initiative to break the silence.
If Song Yuan had felt emotionally affected–one could even call it a favorable impression–it had faded greatly following the paternity test results.
They walked outside the building, and the freezing, bone-chilling wind made Song Yuan wince.
Rong Heng slowed his footsteps, and he suddenly asked her, “You really want to leave here?”
Hearing him suddenly speak, Song Yuan blanked, then laughed at herself. “I’m actually a timid and fearful person. I don’t dare to do things like standing up bravely for a cause, and I’ve never done it. I’m afraid of causing unnecessary trouble to my family. I’m not afraid of you making fun of me; I’m very satisfied with my life now, and I don’t want others breaking this peace.
“I don’t like B City’s climate and pace. At the time I came because the educational environment was good here, but now it’s different. B City’s not suitable for us.
“You said you want to take on the responsibility of being a father, but haven’t you forgotten everything? You don’t even remember him.”
Song Yuan knew that there were many responsible people in this world, but she still had doubts. Could a father’s love be the same as a mother’s love?
Rong Heng stopped and looked at her. “Haven’t you also forgotten everything? But you took on the responsibility of being a mother.”
“I want to run away, too. I don’t remember anything at all, and suddenly a child comes and says I’m his mom. And it turned out I really am his mom. You think I don’t want to escape? It’s that I can’t.” Song Yuan looked straight at him. “If I escaped and left him alone, what do you think he could have done? But the situation you’re facing right now is different from me back then. I have no choice, but you do.”
“If I knew he’s my son, but I didn’t take care of him, and I treated it as though nothing happened, would I still be a person?” Rong Heng’s tone was still mild, but Song Yuan felt an inexplicable pressure.
Was this the majesty of an emperor?
Song Yuan wasn’t just standing behind her parents and asking for help. She could see everything clearly. “Don’t you people in the ancient times have a saying? A parents’ plans for their beloved son are far-reaching. But right now you’re treading on thin ice in the Xie family. To potentially bring your son danger and disrupt the peace of his life–are you sure that that’s the responsibility of a father?”
Rong Heng was silent.
He suddenly realized that he didn’t know her that well.
Back in the ancient times, before he had revealed his identity, he had thought she wasn’t an ordinary woman. Her words were bold and she ignored social ranking, and she would occasionally reveal boredom with the surrounding environment. After she found out his identity, there was a veil between them. Although there were some sweet moments, he knew that she would never be as sincere to him as before.
He thought that he was the one who knew her best. Understood her joys and sorrows5, understood her likes.
But it was after he unexpectedly transmigrated that he gradually realized, what he had seen before was not all of her.
It turned out that she had also compromised.
So then, in those few years together, how many words had she left unsaid, crushed under the stone that was the ancient era’s system?
Seeing Rong Heng’s silence, Song Yuan lowered her aggression.
He had forgotten everything.
The two were silent as they made their way to the community gates. Song Yuan had already spotted the car parked by the road.
Before Song Yuan could say anything, she heard him say, “Rest assured, he won’t say a word.”
“Good.” Song Yuan gave him a strained smile. “It’s late now. You should go back. I also need to pick up Rong Ting.”
“Okay.” Rong Heng thought for a while and said, “Whatever your choice is, can you promise not to leave without a word?”
It was a bit of a strange question.
Song Yuan put her hands in the pockets of her down jacket, warming them. “That’s only natural. I won’t leave without telling you.”
She didn’t know whether it was her imagination that Rong Heng’s expression eased considerably when she said this.
As Rong Heng prepared to leave, Song Yuan recalled the dreams she’d had off and on over the past few months. They seemed to be connected, and the story could be pieced together.
She seemed less curious about her past with him.
Rong Heng looked at her questioningly.
“I want to ask you something. Did my brother really die in battle?” Song Yuan asked.
Rong Heng’s expression subtly changed. He clenched his hands unconsciously, but it only took a few seconds for him to calm down. He asked her with a confused look on his face, “You remember?”
Song Yuan shook her head. Of course she didn’t remember anything. She had doubted the authenticity of the dream, but she had been too embarrassed to tell Rong Heng the truth, thinking that it would seem silly.
She pondered it and said vaguely, “I feel that I had such an important person. Rong Ting once told me that I had a brother and that he–” she paused, a struggle on her face, “–that he died during the war. When I heard that I felt very uncomfortable and was nearly out of breath. So I wanted to ask you, but you don’t remember anything. It seems pointless to ask you.”
She wanted to know more about it.
Did he really die on the battlefield? If that gege was really like he was in the dream, she’d had a hard time getting such a gentle person out of her mind.
Even though it was said that the general’s duty was the battlefield, swords had no eyes, and battlefield confrontations were even more tragic. If he really went to the battlefield to help support her in the harem, and finally fell in battle, she really…ai! She felt terrible thinking about it.
This was her current concern, and the thing she most wanted to know.
Rong Heng smilingly said, “En, I don’t remember anything. I’m really sorry, I can’t answer your question.”
“It’s fine.” Song Yuan waved. “Bye, then.”
Rong Heng turned away, his back straight, and headed to the car. The moment he turned around, the smile on his face vanished. His expression was gloomy, and the pressure around his body was even lower than the temperature of this winter.
 Not literally
 The line in bold was originally in English
 礼轻情意重: goose feather sent from afar, a trifling present with a weighty thought behind it
 Rong Ting first says 笔墨纸砚 (Four Treasures of the Study). He then corrects himself to the words for brush and calligraphy paper (Xuan paper)
 喜怒哀乐: the four types of human emotions – happiness/pleasure, anger, sorrow, joy
Cheese: happy new years, everyone! do you have any new years resolutions?