For the first time, she understood the meaning of the word fate.
Rong Ting was still a bit dazed upon waking up. He sat upright, suddenly recalling Empress Mother’s fever last night. How could he have fallen asleep? How was Empress Mother? He hastily threw off the quilt and jumped out of bed. Without even putting on slippers, he headed directly to the master bedroom.
Song Haiping had stayed up the whole night, and the bags under his eyes had grown more prominent. He yawned and checked his daughter’s temperature once more. Finding that her fever had already gone down, he let out a sigh of relief.
He was so old, yet he still stayed up late for his daughter’s fever.
When Song Yuan woke up, her lips were dry, her face was drained pale, and her mental state was poor. She looked at her surroundings blankly until she spotted Rong Ting in little yellow chick pajamas, sitting by the bedside and worriedly staring at her. She looked visibly stunned, her expression so perplexed that Rong Ting felt somewhat puzzled and afraid. He probingly called out to her. “Empress Mother?”
She had gone to see a psychologist before, but her experience was so bizarre that she remained withdrawn with the doctor.
The psychologist told her that the human body had a self-preservation function. When it couldn’t bear some memories, amnesia could occur.
It needed to be slowly treated, and if conditions were good, perhaps she could restore her memories.
Of course, there was another possibility. If there was something that triggered her, the forgotten memories might also resurface in her mind.
Song Yuan stared at Rong Ting. She was reluctant to blink, afraid that once she did, her child would disappear. She was afraid that everything was a dream.
Upon hearing Rong Ting call her Empress Mother, she climbed out of bed and crouched in front of him without thinking. As he revealed a stunned expression, she wrapped him in a tight embrace. As though afraid of losing him, she hugged him with great strength. She remembered everything, all of her experience in the ancient times. This was the child she had borne in October. This was her child. He had once been in her stomach, had felt all her emotions.
When she left, he had been so small. He hadn’t learned to turn over1, only staring at her with wide eyes. Occasionally, when he was being naughty, he would blow bubbles at her.
Now, he was so big. During a time she wasn’t looking, he had become a little man.
“I’m sorry…” Just as she opened her mouth, her eyes blurred with tears. She bit her bloodless lips and repeated, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Empress Mother didn’t mean to…”
She suddenly understood why she had lost her memories. It wasn’t because she had suffered a great trauma, as she’d previously thought. She had unwillingly2 returned to the home she had longed for, but she was unable to bring back the child she cared about most. If she hadn’t lost her memories, then as a mother, how could she accept the fact that she had lost her child? How could she bear the fact that she would never be able to see her baby again? She would have collapsed.
Although Rong Ting wasn’t sure why she would apologize to him, seeing her crying so sorrowfully, his heart also ached. Raising a hand to hug her, he leaned into her shoulder and coaxed in a small voice, “It’s okay, Empress Mother. It’s okay.”
After an unknown amount of time passed, Song Yuan was finally willing to let go of Rong Ting. Just as she’d settled down, she spotted Song Haiping, and tears welled up again. Barely managing to force them down, she said in a choked voice, “Dad, I don’t feel good ah.”
In front of Rong Ting, she was a mother.
In front of her father, she was a child.
Song Haiping cherished his daughter the most. At this moment, upon hearing his daughter say so aggrievedly that she didn’t feel well, he immediately grew anxious. “Don’t say any more. Quickly get ready, Dad will take you to the hospital!”
“No, I’m alright.” Song Yuan didn’t want to make her father worry, especially when the grandfather-grandson duo were looking at her with such concerned expressions. She hurriedly said, “I’m really fine. I don’t want to go to the hospital.”
Even after confirming Song Yuan was really fine, Song Haiping still had lingering fears. “Don’t go to the hospital the next two days. Last night it was like you encountered an evil spirit. You told Dad that someone jumped off the roof of the People’s Hospital yesterday. Did you see it?”
Song Yuan thought back to the pool of flesh and blood yesterday, and again to the scene of Consort Li’s self-harm. Her eyes darkened, but when she raised her head again, she directed a smile at Song Haiping. “I just heard about it. I didn’t see.”
“Then that’s good.” Song Haiping breathed a sigh of relief. “But I still have to ask a great master to burn incense, drive away evil spirits.”
Song Haiping also rushed over to the hospital and told him about Song Yuan. When the old man heard his darling granddaughter had had a fever, he itched to leave the hospital to have a look. If not for Dr. Meng stopping him, he would have applied for discharge within a few hours.
Song Yuan didn’t want to lay in bed after recovering. For the next two days, she didn’t need to go to the hospital to keep her grandfather company, and she focused on buying groceries and cooking for Rong Ting, taking care of his daily life.
Now, her extremely wholehearted devotion also had a meaning of compensation3. Rong Ting, who was overly attended to by his Empress Mother, felt something was wrong. Although Empress Mother had recovered, and her fever had subsided, he discovered that Empress Mother didn’t smile as much as before.
The next morning, he got up early and, while Empress Mother was still asleep, rifled through the kitchen cookbook and studied the recipe for making congee.
He found millet4 in the cupboard and maneuvered the small stool in the kitchen. Standing on the stool, he earnestly washed the rice, added the proper amount of water according to the recipe, and finally pressed the ‘congee’ button. The corners of his lips lifted unconsciously. Somewhat proud of himself, he thought, cooking wasn’t so difficult. It seemed that nothing was too difficult for him.
Invigorated by his own cooking skills, Rong Ting made plans to make soft-boiled eggs. Although Empress Mother didn’t let him use the gas stove, he had been observing for a long time and knew how to use it. There shouldn’t be any mistakes.
Rong Ting snapped his fingers and thought aloud, “There is millet and soft-boiled eggs. Empress Mother likes to eat spicy food, so all that’s left is the zha cai5. En!”
When Song Yuan woke up, Rong Ting was already sitting upright in his chair, a cute ‘looking for praises and wanting to be lifted high but also desperately trying to cover it up’ expression on his face. He cleared his throat and said, “Empress Mother, you should go to the kitchen to take a look. There seem to be cockroaches.”
When Song Yuan heard the word ‘cockroaches,’ she just raised a brow, not a ripple in her heart. She knew that she was finished. Being a mother was different from not being a mother; she would never again return to girlhood. Back in the university dorms, she would scream in fright upon seeing there were cockroaches in the bathroom. Now, when her son said that there were cockroaches, she could expressionlessly enter the kitchen to launch her assault. She must publicly execute these cockroaches for scaring her son.
She grabbed a slipper and paper towels and stalked into the kitchen. She didn’t see any cockroaches, but she did hear the beeping sound of the rice cooker notifying her the congee was ready, and she also saw the soft-boiled eggs in the soup pot. She was instantly stunned.
Rong Ting approached from behind. “Empress Mother, I’m hungry. I want to eat breakfast.”
Song Yuan turned around, still somewhat in disbelief. “You did it?”
The corners of Rong Ting’s lips curled up. “En, Empress Mother…”
Before he finished speaking, he heard his Empress Mother say, “Did I or did I not forbid you from using the gas stove? It’s so dangerous ah. And these boiled eggs, what if you were burned by the boiling water?”
Song Yuan saw Rong Ting give no response, his head hanging low. Although she couldn’t see his expression, she could sense his upset and despondent mood.
Her heart warmed, knowing that he had felt distressed for her and woke up in the morning to make her breakfast, doing these things to make her happy and to be praised by her. Thinking thus, and recalling their five years of separation, she reached out to stroke her head, and her tone had also eased up. “Gugu, thank you ah. I’m just worried that something will happen to you; that would make me very sad. What’s this, the congee you made today is especially fragrant. It looks much better than what I normally cook.”
Hearing this, Rong Ting’s mood also lifted a bit, but he still said with puffed cheeks, “Empress Mother, do not speak without conscience.”
“I’m not ah, I think my son’s congee is extremely fragrant. The boiled eggs are also particularly good!”
At the dining table, Rong Ting looked at Song Yuan’s tired look and said in a low voice, “Empress Mother, you must be happy.”
He didn’t know what had happened–after all, Empress Mother hadn’t told him–but he sensed that she was not that happy.
Song Yuan looked startled. She squeezed the spoon in her grip and promptly smiled. “Okay.”
The second day, Song Yuan prepared to go to the hospital. She knew that her cousins all had things to do, and her grandpa must be lonely in the hospital. She also needed to go out for a walk. After Rong Ting was settled, she headed out. The weather was very good this New Year. The sun was shining brightly, and it was just after nine in the morning. She walked out of the elevator and into the corridor, the sun shining down on her body comfortably warm. Then she looked at this community where there were vigorous youths on morning runs, middle-aged people walking their dogs, and elderly people preparing to go together to the nearby park to exercise…
She stretched, breathing in the fresh air with a smile on her face.
They’ve passed, those things have all passed, haven’t they?
There were some people she would always remember and some things she would never forget, but if these things of the past were to affect her current life, then after returning to her home, to the times she was familiar with, what was the difference from being trapped in the rear palace?
The time in the hospital passed by extremely quickly. In the afternoon, she returned from the hospital, and just as she parked, she spotted Rong Heng standing by the flowerbed.
She had imagined what he would look like in modern clothes before, imagined what he would look like in short hair, but it was only a visualization, nothing more.
After many years, he seemed the same as when she first met him. He seemed to never change, whether it was his appearance and temperament, or his personality.
Sometimes she felt ridiculous thinking about it. For the first time, she understood the meaning of the word fate. In ancient times, she was attracted to him, and in modern times, she was still attracted to him. All these years, and she still hadn’t changed, still so stupid.
It wasn’t until Rong Heng stood before her that she returned to her senses. Unexpectedly, she was very calm, even keeping the same expression as she usually did. “You’re here. Have you eaten?”
Rong Heng was holding a wrapped gift in his hand, and there was a large cardboard box beside the flowerbed. He felt as though he hadn’t seen her for a long, long time, but in fact, it was no more than half a month. At this moment, he was inexplicably nervous. “Not yet.”
“En. Then let’s eat together ba. Gugu wants to eat hotpot. He’s been talking about it for a long time.”
Song Yuan walked into the building and pressed the elevator button. Rong Heng carried the cardboard box to the elevator doors, feeling some sort of emotion he couldn’t explain. Perhaps it had been too long since he’d seen her.
Seeing him standing at the door, Song Yuan gave a slight smile. “Not coming in?”
 Babies start learning to roll over at about 3-4 months. Most learn to turn over completely by about 6 months
 身不由己: without the freedom to act independently; involuntary; not of one’s volition
 As in compensating for lost time between her and Rong Ting.
 黄小米: more specifically, yellow millet, which is apparently very nutritious
 榨菜: something like this? It’s made from pickled mustard plant stems. The intact plants look real gnarly
Cheese: finally, the actual “recovered memories” chapter… also the fact that song yuan can be so calm in front of rong heng even after getting her memories back probably says a lot about how hurt she was from… whatever happened