“Nothing. I just feel that Emperor Father is acting a bit strange.”
When Song Yuan picked up Rong Ting and returned, there was no one at home.
Chen Linjing and Song Haiping had both attended university in B City. It wasn’t easy to make a trip, so naturally they wanted to have a get-together with their old classmates.
For some reason, Song Yuan had felt that the matter of Rong Ting’s dad transmigrating was a big deal. But seeing her mom and her dad’s calm appearance, she suddenly began to think it wasn’t such a big deal after all.
The mother and son duo were very leisurely. It was getting dark now, so Song Yuan took out the chicken wings she had been marinating since last night. It was just her and Rong Ting at home, so dinner was relatively simpler–with New Orleans wings as the main dish, stir-fried bok choy, and a steamed egg with minced meat, they could eat very well.
Rong Ting loved to eat New Orleans wings and could eat five or six by himself.
Seeing his cheeks bulging as he ate, Song Yuan felt a sense of accomplishment. One should know that in the three months since he’d transmigrated, he had gained 1-2 kilograms1. Those 1-2 kilograms were all thanks to her.
“Don’t just focus on the meat. Have some vegetables, too.”
Like many children, Gugu liked to eat meat but not vegetables. Song Yuan was the opposite; she didn’t enjoy eating meat all that much, but she did enjoy vegetables.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t worried about Gugu’s figure, but thinking about her and Rong Heng’s figures… Gugu probably wouldn’t become fat?
“Gugu, I want to ask you something.”
“Was there a term like “registered household2” in ancient times?”
She had thought about it. Since she had already decided that she couldn’t deceive the child, this matter couldn’t be dragged out any longer; it was better to tell him earlier. Of course, to prevent him from getting too excited about it, she had to analyze the pros and cons with him, in order to let him understand the potential consequences if the whole thing was known to outsiders.
Rong Ting was happy to see that she was interested in the ancient times. “Of course there is. Every dynasty should have a system of household registration3. Otherwise, it would be chaotic.”
“Well, what would happen in ancient times if there was no registered household?”
“If you do not have a registered household, then you are a refugee. As far as I am aware, you may not lodge in an inn or take the imperial examination. Even if you search for a job. The innkeeper requires your household registration, and purchasing large items also requires it.”
Song Yuan pretended to have a sudden realization. “Then it’s not that different from our modern system. Here, too, if you don’t have a registered household, you can’t stay in a hotel. Taking the high-speed rail or flying is also not doable. Nowadays, you can’t even see the doctor if you’re sick and you don’t bring your ID card to the hospital. In short, it’s hard to do anything! Gugu, did you know that your grandpa and grandma put in a lot of effort to get you a registered household? If you didn’t have it, you couldn’t have gone to school.”
“I know. Grandfather said that when I am six years old, I have to go register and apply for an ID card.”
“You’re very lucky you found me as soon as you transmigrated here. If it were someone else who was sent to the ancient times, I guess they’d end up being treated as a lunatic, or they’d be sent to the police station or a detention center, without an identity.”
Rong Ting made a sound of agreement, then raised his head to look at Song Yuan. “Empress Mother has given so much preface. Is it to tell me that Emperor Father does not have a registered household?”
Song Yuan: “…”
“I didn’t say he was your Emperor Father.”
“The results of the paternity test have come out, no?”
The two spoke at the same time.
Song Yuan was the first to give in. She suddenly discovered that the thing called IQ was probably innate. She couldn’t even play a five- or six-year-old child. One could only imagine how desolate she used to be in the rear palace.
“The results came out, and he’s indeed your Emperor Father. But!” Song Yuan emphasized, her expression growing serious, “but he took over someone else’s identity. The person he replaced is not an ordinary person. His family has money and illegitimate children fighting over the property. If he gets closer to us, and if it’s found out by other people that he has a relationship with you, then he will probably end up very miserable through the means of the B City elites.”
Rong Ting frowned. “How could…”
In his heart, Emperor Father was omnipotent. In the Great Ye dynasty4, everyone’s life and death was held in Emperor Father’s grasp. When had such an indomitable man’s safety ever been hanging by a thread?
“Why not? I’ve told you many times, this place isn’t the Great Ye dynasty. You are not the crown prince, and he is not the emperor. You used to be the crown prince, so you should know what it means to have overwhelming power. Let’s make an analogy. Let’s say you hadn’t transmigrated to find me, and one day a person appeared who looked exactly like me. You thought she was me, but it turned out she was a fake. What would you do?”
Naturally, he would wish to cut her into pieces.
“His current situation is not good. If the Xie family suspects he is wallowing in the mire5 with us–”
Rong Ting disapprovingly interrupted her. “Empress Mother mustn’t misuse the idiom. What ‘wallowing in the mire’? It is an incorrect phrase.”
“When the Xie family finds out, they will think that we are conspiring together, trying to steal their family’s property without lifting a finger6. Then we will suffer a calamity. Gugu, how did your Emperor Father teach you before? If you encounter someone who wants to steal your things, what should you do?”
How did Emperor Father teach him?
“Emperor Father once told me that there were emperors who feared death as they grew old. They would be afraid to give up their authority and wouldn’t want to let go of the dragon throne, and they would do something muddleheaded. He said he was not sure he wouldn’t become like that in the future.”
Song Yuan stroked her chin. “He knows himself very well.”
“If the time comes, there is no ruler and official, father and son, and the country cannot be placed in the hands of an old, feeble, and dim-witted man. Emperor Father said that no matter what, put the people of the kingdom first. Because that was what he did.
“For the world, for the country, there is nothing that cannot be sacrificed.”
Song Yuan was stunned by these words. For a long time, she couldn’t react. “You, how old are you? Why was he telling you this…”
It was an evasive answer, but Song Yuan was unable to return to her senses.
Wasn’t this teaching the child to become a cold-blooded emperor7?
Rong Ting hung his head and said nothing.
Emperor Father and Empress Mother were two completely different kinds of people. Emperor Father told him not to hold unnecessary benevolence for other people, but Empress Mother taught him “do not neglect to do a good because you think it is small; do not commit an evil because you think it is minor8.”
He hadn’t yet determined who was ultimately correct, but he would slowly think about it.
Once he learned more things, and his mind held more knowledge, he should be able to give an answer.
“Let’s not talk about this. Now that I’ve analyzed everything for you, what do you want to do?” Song Yuan sighed again. She wasn’t the emperor, and she didn’t know how to teach the crown prince, so she couldn’t give an evaluation on whether Rong Heng’s teaching method was incorrect or not. But now that Gugu had come to modern times, if he had always had this kind of thought, then it should be corrected. She decided–she was going to apply for classes, child psychology courses!
“How did Emperor Father and Empress Mother discuss this?” Rong Ting asked her in turn.
“Your dad said he can act as your Uncle, not letting anyone know about your relationship, but he wants to visit you from time to time. On the basis of not causing trouble for everyone, I can’t stop it if he wants to see you and you want to see him.”
“Then let us do it that way.”
Rong Ting’s behavior was beyond Song Yuan’s expectations. She thought that he would be pleasantly surprised, and that she would have to persuade him for a long time. She didn’t think that the matter would be settled so quickly. What was more surprising was that Rong Ting didn’t seem surprised at all.
He addressed her doubts. “I’ve long known he was Emperor Father, and I had already predicted the outcome.”
He even comforted her instead. “Empress Mother, you don’t need to be sad. Although Emperor Father cannot accompany you, you still have me.”
Song Yuan, helpless: “I’m not sad at all. I was afraid you’d be sad. He’s your father, yet you still have to keep a distance from him and call him ‘Uncle.’”
Rong Ting shook his head. “I am not sad either.”
“Truly!” Rong Ting patted his chest. “I will not lie to Empress Mother.”
The mother and son were lovey-dovey for a moment when Rong Ting thought of something. He asked, “Emperor Father does not remember anything either?”
“Yes, I’m guessing he got injured while he was crossing over. Your grandpa also confirmed this. He almost died then and was resuscitated several times. When a person is severely injured, amnesia is possible. When he wasn’t aware of his relationship with you, he told me he didn’t remember anything.”
Song Yuan asked, “Why?”
“Nothing. I just feel that Emperor Father is acting a bit strange.”
“Acting strange how? What part?”
Rong Ting was very distressed. “I cannot say. Wait until I have observed a bit and thought some more. When I can say it, I will tell you.”
Seeing his serious look, Song Yuan couldn’t help smiling and stroking his head. “That’s okay. Slowly think about it. There’s no rush.”
The way the child was solemnly thinking about the problem was extremely cute. He didn’t even notice when Song Yuan placed some vegetables in his bowl.
Perhaps she had been affected by Rong Ting’s words. That night, Song Yuan searched the Internet for children’s psychology books. When she fell asleep, she had another dream.
She was in the palace, sitting in front of a copper mirror. The son of heaven, wearing dragon robes, was drawing eyebrows for her.
This scene should have originally been deeply affectionate9, but her forehead was creased in sorrow and grief.
His voice was low and gentle. “Every time there is a war, it is a strain on resources and people10, and many people will die. Zhen only hopes you can understand that every person in this world has their own duty. Beneath magnificent military achievements lie the skeletons of soldiers. Zhen sits on that throne, and every decision made is for the sake of this world’s people. If Qingrong leads the troops, no one in the army can compare to him. With him on the front lines, zhen can rest assured. Yuanyuan, you wish for your brother and family to be safe, but without a country, can there be a home?
“Do you know the Battle of Dongshe? Old General Meng was seriously injured, but you don’t know that many soldiers died. Among them was a deputy general. Zhen has met him once. He had to go to battle just after marrying and having a child. Many people think that winning a war is a joyous occasion. Is it? Not necessarily. How many parents had to send off their children11? How many people lost their sons, their husbands and fathers?
“There is no one who can truly stay out of the matter. Zhen does not wish to go to war, nor for the people to live in poverty. The only thing that can be done is to end all the fighting as soon as possible so that the people can recover. Many talents and high-ranking officers are lost in a war. When zhen was still the crown prince, every report was heartbreaking.
“Yuanyuan, zhen is not a sinister or cunning person. Zhen only wishes to be a good emperor, for peace and prosperity12.
She listened, but her tears fell like rain.
 两三斤: 2-3 jin (catty). 1 jin = 500 g
 户口: Although the modern system is fairly new, it’s based off of existing systems that originated in ancient times, so it makes sense for Song Yuan to ask
 户籍: the more proper term for the term in footnote 2. This term is used to refer to the system as a whole, versus 户口 (hukou), which refers to an individual household
 大烨朝: I initially translated this as Daye dynasty, but I saw some other dynasty names (that actually existed in real Chinese history LOL), and I saw that they would be translated as [Great] _____ dynasty. Which, you know, makes sense, considering that’s one of the possible meanings of the 大 character.
 同流合污: to wallow in the mire with somebody; to associate with an evil person
 空手套白: empty glove, white wolf? Basically means to get a high return with little to no investment. An example I found was borrowing a neighbor’s chicken to sell eggs.
 It’s not explicitly stated, but it’s strongly implied that Rong Heng is telling Rong Ting to kill/depose him should he ever become an incompetent and muddle-headed emperor in his old age.
 勿以善小而不为，勿以恶小而为之: part of Liu Bei’s posthumous decree to his son Liu Shan following his death in 223, although I believe the original words had these two phrases switched in order
: great tenderness between lovers
 劳民伤财: waste of manpower and resources
 白发人送黑发人: lit. white-haired person sending off the black-haired person; to see one’s child die before oneself
 国泰民安: the country prospers, the people at peace
Cheese: kinda messed up that rong heng is telling a 5-6 year old kid to be ready to kill him for the sake of the country