“I love you. It means ‘I love you.’”
The climate in B City was relatively dry, and the region was warm, so although the winds outside the room were bitingly cold, the inside was as warm as spring.
Song Yuan had to buy several humidifiers to let run at once before finally feeling it was less dry.
By the time she got up, Rong Ting was already practicing calligraphy.
Song Yuan lazily stretched her waist in the living room and pretended to inadvertently say, “It’s so dry here, isn’t it? I feel like I’m about to have a nosebleed.”
Rong Ting placed down his writing brush and rotated his wrist before saying, “Is it? I think it’s all the same. When we were over there, the heater was on all day.”
“Don’t you think it’s very dusty here in B City?” Although Song Yuan had settled down in B City, she was used to living in her hometown, so she wasn’t accustomed to B City.
Ai, this child wasn’t very easily fooled. Song Yuan didn’t bother to skirt around the issue and jumped straight to the point. “Um, Gugu, I was thinking, we’re not used to life here, so, let’s go back?”
She felt that she couldn’t stay in B City, but she still had to ask for Rong Ting’s opinion.
Was it good for children to move around frequently?
He had finally gotten used to life here and made a few friends at the academy.
Rong Ting looked at her in astonishment. “For what reason do you wish to return? Have we not discussed it?”
“En. Mom is lonely here. No relatives, no friends. Sometimes I miss home.”
If it’s like that…
Rong Ting looked deep in thought. He walked in front of Song Yuan and took her hand. He said quietly, “I can do either. Empress Mother can decide.”
“How are you so good?” Song Yuan was a bit moved. “I wasn’t as good as you when I was young.”
“I know that all the choices Empress Mother makes are for my own good.” The more Rong Ting got to know this time period, the more he knew what Empress Mother had given up for him.
“En!” Song Yuan bent down and pulled him into a hug. Her right hand stroked his head, and she said in a warm and firm voice, “Yes, Mom just wants Gugu to live happy and healthy.”
Rong Ting trusted her so much. She thought, in the past five years, he must have had a pampered life1 and truly was one above ten thousand. In truth, she and he had no previous affection–his sentiments for her were purely that of a child’s attachment to his mother. As for true affection, there wasn’t much, as it could only be cultivated by living together.
But he still wholeheartedly trusted her and never doubted her. This unreserved trust was probably a given for many mothers. But she’d been absent from his life for many years. To still have this trust made her especially emotional.
Trust should be mutual. She couldn’t take it for granted that she was his mother and make all the decisions for him without giving him the right to know and choose.
Song Yuan had decided to tell Rong Ting the truth, but she didn’t know how to say it. Her mind was a complete mess.
At noon, Song Yuan received a message from her friend Xie Ya. [Yuanyuan, I heard something! Ji Junpei rejected an offer from a big company here. Yesterday when everyone had a meal together, he said that he was going to B City to develop!]
Song Yuan slowly typed out three question marks and sent.
Xie Ya: [We all know he’s going for you! But don’t worry, Yuanyuan, I’m not on his side. He asked me for your address, but I didn’t give it. I don’t know what happened between you two, but I’m a bit angry thinking about how he left to bitterly guard the cold home2 for a few years.]
[You did the right thing. I’ve got a long going on right now, and I’ve lost a lot of hair from stress over the past few days. I really don’t have the energy to deal with him right now.]
Xie Ya: [Ai, I get you. When we ate together, there was an upperclassman jie who was blaming you, saying you let Ji Junpei down. Ai, I almost got in a fight with her. Ji Junpei didn’t say anything, but I dunno if he thinks the same way. Either way, he didn’t say anything then. So disappointing.]
If it were before, Song Yuan definitely would have been furious. But now that she was facing such a big matter, this had become a trivial matter and not worth her anger.
But why was Ji Junpei coming to B City?
She still couldn’t figure this out. She was still thinking about it while Rong Ting took a midday nap. Song Haiping was in the middle of making tea. Seeing she was absent-minded, he waved her over.
Song Yuan had to accompany Song Haiping in drinking tea.
“Something making you unhappy?” Song Haiping shot her a glance. “Is it because of Rong Ting’s dad? Ai, it’s no big deal. Unnecessary, really unnecessary.”
“No, Dad, I have a friend…”
“You’re still doing this with Dad? Your friend is you, isn’t it.”
Song Yuan was a bit embarrassed. “Fine, I met a senior in college, and I liked him a lot at the time, but he went abroad to study. These past few years, he’s maintained lukewarm3 relations. He’s back now, and he seems to be pursuing me, but I don’t like him anymore. Others are saying that he rejected a good job for me, and he wants to come to B City to develop… I can’t figure out what he thinks about it.”
If Ji Junpei had been one-tenth as active as he was now, she would have been together with him by now.
Song Haiping laughed. “Just this is enough to make you like this? Yuanyuan, this man is more rational when thinking about things. Him coming to B City definitely has something to do with you, but you are certainly not the most important reason. Is this senior’s surname Ji?”
“Dad, how did you know!”
“Dad knows everything. You ate together with him often, right? I saw you once, and I was afraid you were being deceived by the poor boy, so I had someone check him out.”
Eager to survive, Song Haiping hastily added, “Of course, it’s not that Dad wants to spy on you. People’s hearts can be vicious and unpredictable; Dad had to look into it a bit more. I know all about you and him, and your mom knows, too.”
“Mom also knows!”
Song Yuan was shocked. This entire time, she’d thought she had hidden it well.
“Yuanyuan, Dad hopes you can find someone with similar qualifications. This Ji Junpei has an ordinary family background. He himself isn’t bad; he is very capable and has strong self-esteem. It’s naturally good for a man to have self-esteem, but too much and you will have a hard time. Whether it’s Ji Junpei or Rong Ting’s dad, I feel that neither suits you.”
Song Yuan was embarrassed and awkward. “It was such a good talk, why did you bring him up?”
“I wanted to give you a wake-up call4.” Song Haiping straightened out his expression. “Don’t just look at other people’s good looks, or you’ll easily get caught in their plans. If that surnamed Xie doesn’t have any ulterior motives, I’ll take his last name!”
That surnamed Ji wasn’t all that great, but that surnamed Xie was not a good thing.
Song Yuan was anxious. “Dad, keep your voice down! Gugu’s still here; what if he hears?”
“Mix it cold5.” Song Haiping snorted softly, but he didn’t continue to scold.
Once Rong Ting woke up from his nap, Song Yuan took him to learn taekwondo and English. Other children packed their bags with snacks; he only packed a thermos and two small bottles of Yakult.
Under the perfect afternoon sun, Song Yun walked down the road, holding hands with Rong Ting.
“Gugu, do you remember your English name?”
“Remember, Lance.” Rong Tinge expressed his puzzlement. “Helen laoshi is Chinese, and the classmates are Chinese. We all have our own names. Why choose English names?”
“Maybe to make it more immersive6?”
Rong Ting’s face puffed up. “I don’t like this name. I don’t even know who I’m calling.”
“You’ve been learning some simple words recently. Didn’t you brag that you never forget? Then I’ll test you.” Song Yuan pointed to a tree on the side of the road. “What is ‘tree’ in English?”
Song Yuan quizzed him a few more times, and Rong Ting could quickly answer almost all of them, surprising her a bit. She wasn’t smart, and her grades had always been so-so. How was her son so smart! Look at the full potential of a study tyrant!
“The world is big, and there are many different countries. Everyone has different skin colors, languages, and religious beliefs. Gugu, in the future Mom wants to take you to see the wider world.”
“The wider world?” Rong Ting had a rare moment of bewilderment.
“Yes. You may not understand it right now. From your view, this world may seem as big as the Great Ye dynasty, but it’s not. There are mountains beyond mountains, and people beyond people.” Song Yuan felt that the topic strayed a bit. “Okay, let’s not talk about this. Let’s keep quizzing you. What does ‘I love you’ mean?”
“Helen laoshi did not teach it.” Rong Ting said very calmly. “Empress Mother should tell me what it means, and I will remember.”
She didn’t teach this?
Song Yuan let out an “oh.” “I love you. It means ‘I love you.’”
“It does?” Rong Ting quietly concealed his smile. “I remember.”
Empress Mother, I love you, too.
Only then did Song Yuan return to her senses and realize that she’d been tricked by Rong Ting!!
Who on earth did this child learn this from? She didn’t have enough IQ to face off with this kid!
Could it be that all children raised in the palace were this excellent and black-bellied7!
Give her soft and cute, loveable son back!
They quickly arrived at the academy doors. Song Yuan, as usual, reminded him, “Gugu, get along with your classmates. If you don’t understand, ask the teacher. I put the towel8 in your bag, so ask your teacher to help you if you sweat. Otherwise, you’ll catch a cold and cough. And also–”
Before she could finish, Rong Ting helplessly spoke over her. “‘Drink plenty of water, it’s in the thermos. If any classmates give me snacks, even if I don’t want to eat them, I should still say thank you.
“‘Every time you say thank you to someone, you can write it down in your notebook. When you come home, Mom will give you a like. Every time you say sorry to someone, Mom will give you two likes.’”
Even after Rong Ting hurried into the academy as though he were fleeing, Song Yuan was still thinking. Was she really too naggy?
But she really wanted to talk to him more.
She turned around, ready to return home, when she spotted a familiar person standing by the road.
There was plenty of sunlight in the winter. Rong Heng stood under a tree, his posture calm and relaxed, his hands casually tucked in his coat pocket. He was looking over in her direction.
 养尊处优: enjoy wealth and honor; to live like a prince
 苦守寒窑: pretty sure I’ve translated this before. Literally, it means something like “bitterly guard the cold cave,” and it’s a reference to a woman whose husband left for the war. She had to live for many years like a widow while her husband was out fighting
 不咸不淡: not salty not light
 泼冷水: pour cold water (fig.)
 凉拌: literally means salad with dressing, but it’s slang for “I can’t do it, figure it out yourself.” It’s often a joking response to when someone asks 怎么办 (usually “what do I do?” but can also mean “how do I prepare it”)
 She actually said something like “more ambience”
 腹黑: lit. black-bellied; often used to describe someone who’s two-faced or scheming
 隔汗布: a… bib? A sweat absorbent? I can’t speak much about it since I don’t have a kid, but I’m assuming these are to help prevent the kid from catching a cold, since getting sick is very dangerous for young kids. Are there any parents reading this who have used these before?
Cheese: some more mother-son bonding time is always welcome. emperor-empress bonding time is decidedly less so.