“What are eight-pack abs?”
On this day, Song Yuan took Rong Ting to the kindergarten interview. This was an opportunity that Chen Linjing had managed to get with great difficulty. Whether it was Song Yuan or Rong Ting, both were doing their best and had been conducting interview training the past few days. Song Yuan felt as though she didn’t have enough brain cells. This was still kindergarten; what was she to do for elementary, middle school, and high school? It was too hard being a parent these days.
In private, Rong Ting wasn’t without sorrows. He had thought that the imperial examinations were already brutal; he didn’t expect that even the admissions requirements for an institute for little children in Empress Mother’s hometown would be so high…
“Education starts with children1!” Song Haiping dropped them off at the kindergarten. He was also very nervous. Back when Song Yuan was young, they had never been worried. For kindergartens twenty years ago, even the tuition fee was low, and interest development classes weren’t trending.
“Children are too pitiful.” Song Yuan had always been a pig teammate2. When Song Haiping was giving Rong Ting a pep talk and guaranteeing his success3, she jumped in at an untimely moment and sighed, “Thankfully, I have graduated and how I’m free!”
“Who said you’re free. Your days of suffering are still ahead of you.”
Song Yuan: “…”
The kindergarten environment was very good. Song Yuan specially bought new clothes for today’s interview.
The parent and child interviews were done separately. Song Yuan answered all the questions asked until the interviewer asked the final question. “What kind of person do you want him to be?”
Song Yuan naturally wouldn’t drop the ball on this. She had already mulled over the answer before she came, and it was the kind of answer that couldn’t possibly be wrong.
Her true wish was for Rong Ting to become the kind of person who would not regret the past.
As she left the classroom, Rong Ting’s interview was also over. He had no expression on his face, and although he was always like this, Song Yuan still felt as though he wasn’t very happy.
She held his hand as they walked through the kindergarten and asked softly, “What’s wrong? Was the interview too hard?”
She heard that… when children came to interview for the middle class here, they had to master a minimum number of words.
It hadn’t been that long since Rong Ting started learning English. As far as his English proficiency went, perhaps he couldn’t even match up to the youngest class of students here. She could only say that children nowadays were too heaven-defying.
“En.” Rong Ting hung his head, looking dispirited. “I feel my performance wasn’t very good.”
“That’s…” Song Yuan comforted him. “It’s okay, don’t take this interview too seriously. Just treat it as a valuable experience. In the future, you will have many, many exams, like midterms, finals, lower-to-middle graduation4, middle-to-high graduation, college entrance exams–there are too many, too many. You won’t remember this interview when you grow up.”
Rong Ting was still very concerned and said in a quiet voice, “I am the crown prince. I’ve always been the best.”
Even the ever-unsmiling and reserved Emperor Father had said that he had extraordinary talents. The Grand Tutor had said the same.
“There’s no need to be the best. Wouldn’t I be too useless5 to teach you?” Song Yuan laughed and squeezed his chubby fists. “That’s how I think. There’s a merit to admitting that others are better than oneself. There are people beyond people, and heavens beyond the heavens6. If you truly believe that you are smarter and better than everyone else in the world, wouldn’t you become a stubborn and self-opinionated person?”
“The interviewer today asked me a question about what kind of person I want my child to be in the future…”
Rong Ting finally emerged from his low spirits. He lifted his head and looked at her in curiosity, wanting to hear her answer.
“I hope you can be an honest person. I hope you can become a person who won’t regret the past. And you? What kind of mom do you want me to be?” Song Yuan tried to divert his attention. She and he rarely discussed such profound topics.
“I hope you can be yourself.”
The two reached the gates of the kindergarten. Song Yuan heard his response and froze. She stopped walking to look at him.
Rong Ting held her hand. He lifted his head, a little smile on his face. “I originally hoped that Mother Empress could become a happy mother, but I thought some more. The Grand Tutor once said that the most difficult and rare thing to be in the world was oneself. I don’t understand what this means, but the Grand Tutor is very knowledgeable; what he said should be correct.”
This little interlude allowed Rong Ting to temporarily set aside his frustrated mood.
In order to shift Rong Ting’s attention, Song Yuan brought up letting him learn swimming. In general, summer was the peak time for learning to swim. There weren’t that many children learning in the winter, which allowed Song Yuan to snag a great deal7 and contact a swimming coach through the introduction of the mother next door. This kind of coach was very busy in the summer and took on several children every day. Now, the coach only needed to focus his whole heart and mind on teaching Rong Ting. Song Yuan believed he would definitely learn much more quickly.
Song Yuan’s enthusiasm manifested in her buying equipment for Rong Ting.
Kids’ swimming trunks were too cute!
Song Yuan stood in front of the kids’ section of the swimsuit shop. Girls’ swimsuits were too cute!! There were little strawberries and bees; this kind of swimsuit gave off a cute feeling once it was miniaturized.
The boys’ swimsuits were a lot more monotonous; Song Yuan didn’t want to give them another glance.
“Gugu, come in! Come pick one yourself!”
Rong was still standing at the door, in the middle of a psychological struggle.
In the end, he still couldn’t go against Song Yuan. His pace was slower than a snail’s, and he finally reached her side.
“Do you want blue or black?” Song Yuan asked him. “That’s right, we also need to buy a swimming cap and goggles. Or you can buy them yourself? I don’t know which one you’d like.”
“Empress Mother.” Rong Ting lowered his voice, but fortunately the shopping assistant didn’t follow them. “Must I really learn to swim wearing this? Wouldn’t I be without an inch of clothing?”
“How can it be ‘without an inch of clothing’? You’re wearing trunks.”
Rong Ting was silent.
“Listen, you’re not afraid of water, so it’s best if you learn how to swim. Besides, the coach I found for you is a man.”
“But what.” Song Yuan straightforwardly made a decision and placed two pairs of swimming trunks in her shopping basket. “You don’t have eight-pack abs, so nobody will stare at you.”
“What are eight-pack abs?”
“Does Emperor Father have them?”
Song Yuan placed the swimming cap on his head and unhappily, “I suppose not!”
The hotel near the neighborhood had a swimming pool, and normally there weren’t many people present. The hotel manager was an acquaintance of Song Haiping’s, so after saying hello and paying some money, they could go swimming inside the pool.
The temperature of the swimming pool water was just right. During Rong Ting’s first two times there, he was extremely embarrassed. He didn’t know where to place his hands, fearing that others would see him and cause him to suffer a huge loss. But first time awkward, second time skillful; slowly he was able to loosen up.
Song Yuan felt they shouldn’t waste resources, so the second time they went, she brought her own swimsuit.
The mother and son received a call from Rong Heng on their way to the hotel. He was still honest and trustworthy; he hadn’t come to see Rong Ting too often. It had been a week since the last call. If he called and came to visit every day, let alone Song Haiping, who wanted to blast him, Song Yuan would have immediately moved houses.
The hotel swimming pool didn’t have people today, either. The hotel guests would normally choose to go to the hot spring.
The coach was very young–in his twenties–but according to him, he would be a father in a few months. After coming into contact with him twice, Song Yun felt that this coach wasn’t bad. Rong Ting also said that the coach was steadfast, and he rarely praised others.
The first time, the coach brought his wife over for the hotel buffet.
The coach’s wife was a very cute young woman. She and Song Yuan got along very well, but she couldn’t avoid the usual custom; when she saw Rong Ting, she asked him whether she had a younger brother or sister in her tummy8.
Rong Ting wasn’t as cold and aloof as before, but he still said that he didn’t have see-through eyes, so how could he know if the child in her stomach was a boy or girl?
After Rong Ting went into the water, Song Yuan headed to the locker room to change into her swimsuit.
Right as soon as she left, Rong Heng arrived.
Rong Ting clearly had no extraordinary talent for swimming; he was using the same doggie-paddle method as any other dry duck9. He was a bit embarrassed when he saw his Emperor Father had come.
“Your mom?” Rong Heng asked him.
“Coming,” Rong Ting responded promptly. At any rate, at least he didn’t start with “Responding to Emperor Father.” She had gone to the locker room. She should be coming out soon.
What was she doing in the locker room?
Before he could answer this question, Song Yuan came in from outside, wearing a white bath towel. The part below her knees was exposed, and her calves were white and straight.
Song Yuan saw that Rong Heng had come. She walked over to him and greeted him first. “Hi, did you just get here?”
“There are seats over there. Then I won’t chat with you anymore–I’m going in the water.”
Rong Heng didn’t have time to react before Song Yuan took off her bath towel, placed it on the seat beside her, and slipped into the water.
Song Yuan’s swimsuit was actually conservative. She knew that she was too skinny, and her body curves weren’t all that good looking. In short, bikinis were out for her.
However, unless it was a skin-tight swimsuit like those for divers, all the conservative swimsuits, in the eyes of people from ancient times, were all…!
Rong Heng had been in a high position for many years, after all, and he was already able to conceal his emotions so that neither anger nor joy could be seen. But the nearly imperceptible shock on his face was a small window to the tempestuous storm in his heart at this moment.
The swimming pool was very big. Song Yun didn’t pay attention to Rong Ting or the coach and happily swam around like a fish in water.
Rong Heng sat in a chair, but he kept his gaze fixed on the swimming coach. It was as though if the other party raised his head to look at Song Yuan, he would feel the wrath of the Son of Heaven…
The swim teacher constantly felt as though the gaze of the man on the side looked unkind and thought that the other party disliked his slow teaching method.
One lesson was about forty minutes long, as it wasn’t good for children to soak in the water for too long.
When Rong Ting finished showering and changing his clothes, he saw Rong Heng sitting in the lounge outside. Song Yuan was still drying her hair in the locker room.
Rong Ting felt that he had nothing to say to his Emperor Father apart from his studies, but seeing the men and women coming in and out of the hot spa in their bathing suits, he couldn’t help but sigh quietly, “Emperor Father, this place is truly…”
An unbearable sight10!
Although Rong Ting didn’t finish what he was saying, Rong Heng knew what his son was going to say. He thought the same.
Just as he was about to say something, he caught a glimpse from the corner of his eye of Song Yuan coming towards them. The words he was about to say took a sharp turn, and he immediately changed face, advising Rong Ting not to be so old-fashioned at such a young age. After all, this wasn’t a feudal society, and one should broaden one’s mind and outlook…
 教育要从娃娃抓起!: Attributed to Deng Xiaoping, from what I can tell. I guess this is a pretty popular advertising slogan as well, with different concentrations (e.g., AI, computer programming, etc.)
 猪队友: a person on your side (in an argument, a game, etc.) who drags you down LOL
 立军令状: to draw up a military order? I don’t have many results for this, but a military order is a promise made by the leading general of an army to be punished by military law for the failure of a major battle or other similar command.
 小升初: progression from elementary school to junior high
 咸鱼: salted fish; someone who lacks effort/dreams and does nothing
 人外有人，天外有天: no matter how good you think you are, there is always someone who is better
 捡了个漏: to encounter a great deal by chance or accident
 Another reference to the superstition that children can see the gender of the unborn child. The younger the child is, the more reliable their prediction.
 旱鸭子: someone who doesn’t/can’t swim
 没眼看: to not have eyes to see/watch; to be unable to bear the sight of something anymore. Most pictures that come up are of people or animals covering their eyes
Cheese: rh be like: a swimsuit… s-scandalous……
special anniversary release 2/3! one more chapter to go