An important chapter!
Chapter 3.1 – The Zhenjiang of Old (1)
“The expressway tollbooth?”
“You ought to have heard,” Zhousheng Chen said, not concealing anything, “that this particular period of time in Zhenjiang is rather special and so, there is a record of each vehicle coming in and going out of the city.”
Shi Yi somewhat understood what he was saying. “I heard, but—— ”
Even if there was a record, how could they find out so quickly who was actually sitting inside that vehicle?
Unless, from the moment they entered Zhenjiang, someone had shadowed them to establish the identities of the people in the car.
Shi Yi followed this line of thought and did not ask any further.
“I have, right here, information on you and your family. It is very detailed. Therefore, so as long as your father’s car entered Zhenjiang, I would very quickly find out.” His tone sounded somewhat apologetic, but even more so, there was a rare sense of warmth in it. “As for the reason why, I will explain it to you face to face. Right now, I want to ask you a question.”
Shi Yi was a little perplexed but still did not hesitate as she said, “Go ahead to ask.”
What sort of question could it be that he would suddenly call her?
The manner in which Zhousheng Chen was speaking was very different, but when she told him to ask, he actually became quiet. Shi Yi was not hurried. She leaned over the side of the desk, picked up a pen, and tapped her cousin-sister on the forehead with it.
The latter covered her forehead and threw a fierce glare at her before lowering her head and continuing with her assignment question.
“At present, I have a need to be engaged in marriage to someone,” he suddenly spoke up.
A completely unexpected topic.
Like a cold wind had blown over her heart –– so chilling –– there was a sense of sadness that she was unable to cover up.
She responded with a dull, quiet “mm.”
When she was reincarnated as a human again, all her previous memories should have been erased. She violated the natural laws, and the grief, pain, and helplessness that came about as a result of that were things that she could only swallow and accept. She soon changed her position so that she was leaning against the desk and facing the window.
She knew that if Zhousheng Chen carried on, she would not be able to contain her tears.
Therefore, facing somewhere where there were no people would be much better.
Zhousheng Chen did not say any more, and she even wondered if the call had gotten cut off.
In the end, she was the one who spoke first. “I heard you have a fiancée.”
“Mm. When I was in Xi’an.”
“I do not know her, but at the time, I accepted the arrangement of elders that had been done with kind intentions.”
Shi Yi did not understand what she was hearing, but feeling somewhat sullen, she did not want to ask further.
The view before her gradually grew blurry. She did not know what to say.
“But I want to change my plan now,” he continued. “Shi Yi, are you willing to become engaged in marriage to me?”
Shi Yi thought she had heard wrong.
There was no preparation time whatsoever, her unhappy mood was still hanging over her, and then, he out of the blue asked that. For a moment, she could not seem to separate space and time. Zhousheng Chen, he said…he wanted to get engaged?
“You can say no.” Zhousheng Chen’s tone was very indifferent.
She remembered a lot, yet at the same time, could not recall anything.
Except, it seemed, in her memories of her previous life, he had never said anything like this.
“Shi Yi?” He said her name.
“Mm….” She finally spoke, her voice still carrying a faint nasal sound. “What you said, it’s…”
“It is true,” he stated. “April Fool’s Day has already passed.”
Such a pointless, silly thing to say.
And he said it so properly and matter-of-factly.
Shi Yi bit down lightly on her lip as she listened to him continue to explain.
“I have some personal reasons for doing this,” Zhousheng Chen told her. “We are not strangers to one another, and we both have favourable feelings towards each other. Perhaps we could try betrothal.”
Her thoughts were truly in turmoil from his logic. “Favourable feelings means we should get engaged?”
“I do not know many girls. If I must become engaged, I wish that it is to you and not a stranger.”
All of a sudden, there was the scraping sound of a chair being pushed against the floor. Her little cousin-sister was already leaning back and looking up at her, wide-eyed, with an expression of disbelief.
Shi Yi raised her index finger and placed it against her lips, indicating to her cousin-sister to not make a sound. Her eyes glistened with tears, but she was smiling, that gentle, tender sort of smile that could not be concealed.
The logic of Zhousheng Chen’s words was very strange, but yet, because of what he had said, she was utterly defenseless against him.
She imagined, if it had been any of the other various men who had once tried to woo her, she would certainly have hung up the phone already.
Never again would she have any sort of dealings or contact with that person.
However, only he, when he said that, would make her lose her ability to think.
Even though he had only said he had favourable feelings towards her, that she was better than a stranger.
“You can say no,” he stated a second time. “Perhaps you have better choices.”
She blurted, “I don’t.”
Her tone was somewhat anxious.
This actually made Zhousheng Chen chuckle. She embarrassedly listened to his laughter, feeling very awkward, but fortunately, he quickly said, “My apologies. This should have been a very romantic event, but I have made it so dry and unappealing. It was done out of urgency.”
“I don’t mind…”
Darn it! What am I saying?
Shi Yi’s head was lowered, her eyes fixed on the white slippers on her feet. The conversation had once again come to an abrupt halt.
Zhousheng Chen seemed to be in a room completely separated from others, for when he spoke, it was very open and direct. “I believe you perhaps do not dislike me all that much. If you discover that after getting to know me better, you have absolutely no favourable feelings toward me, I will end this matter in a very fair and reasonable way and will not cause you at all to feel like you are in an awkward situation.”
Shi Yi gave an “mm.”
Logic that was getting more and more bizarre.
Regrettably for him, he did not realize that the subject of his negotiation had willingly thrown herself into his net already.
“I am a person who is very slow to warm-up to things. The time it takes for me to foster an emotional attachment to something is extremely long. For example, chemistry, to this day, I have been involved in it for fourteen years, but I still am not too certain whether I truly like it or not. Therefore, if you find that you cannot accept me and the way that I am, we can also break off our betrothal.”
She pulled out a tissue from the tissue box and wiped away the tears at the corner of her eyes.
Sunlight shone through the window and landed on her calf. A somewhat warm sensation.
Before she knew it, he had already finished what he wanted to say.
He was waiting for her answer.
Very softly, Shi Yi presented her first question. “You have all my information and even my parents’, but what I know of you is almost nothing…”
“You will find out very soon.”
She hesitated for several seconds, but in fact, it was only because her mind had gone blank.
In a moment of courage, she finally answered, “Yes.”
Perhaps it was because Zhousheng Chen had not expected that she would agree to it so quickly and directly.
Perhaps it was because neither of them had much experience in this.
The atmosphere all of a sudden felt awkward.
So, what should they do after suddenly agreeing over the phone to becoming engaged?
Eventually, after hesitating for a short while, he asked another question that left her wide-eyed and dumbfounded: “Would it be possible for you to tell me your body measurements?” After saying this, he was quick to clarify, “I may need to prepare some clothing for you.”
That was a very sufficient reason to ask, but Shi Yi could not help glancing over at her cousin-sister beside her.
“92, 62, 90,” she stated in a quiet voice.
Zhousheng Chen answered first with an “mm,” then asked, “Those are…”
“The three measurements used for girls.” [bust, waist, hip]
She tried as much as possible to lower her voice, but unfortunately, Zhousheng Chen was asking in too much detail.
Several expressions flitted across her little cousin-sister’s face in a single second.
“Mm. I understand. Could you please wait a moment?”
Shi Yi docilely waited for him.
Up to this point, she still felt as if she was in a dream. Her cousin-sister was in no mood to do any more of her calculation problems and was waving her arms and legs in front of her, signaling that Shi Yi had better give her an honest explanation about everything. Shi Yi pursed her lips and gestured to her to go lock the door. Her cousin-sister was very obedient, and with a “click,” the lock was turned.
He had returned now and continued with more questions. “I will also need your neck circumference as well as measurements for your upper arms, lower arms, wrist, thigh, calf, and ankles.”
Those, she really did not know.
In a flustered rush, Shi Yi instructed her cousin-sister to find the measuring tape in the house. One at a time, she measured everything he had asked for and then told him. He wrote them all down, then advised her to tell her parents as soon as possible. He would be personally paying a visit to them at the home the next day.
Only after the phone call had ended did she become aware in her mind how great a stir this would cause in her family.
Her parents were both teachers and were traditional in their way of thinking. How could they accept this sudden news?
“Beautiful Shi Yi,” cousin-sister addressed her as she held her down by her shoulders and leaned in closer, “this must be a huge piece of gossip. I haven’t even heard it and my blood’s already boiling with excitement.”
Indeed, it was a huge piece of gossip.
She did not even have the strength to explain. “Let me sit for a bit and think it through.”
That was what she told her cousin.
This heaven-shaking news was delayed from lunch through to after dinner had ended, and still Shi Yi was unable to find a good time to tell her mother. What should she tell her? Or should she just not tell her anything? But that did not seem very plausible.
Even though this was only an engagement, and even though, in this day and age, people viewed “marriage engagement” as something that was very informal, from Zhousheng Chen’s voice and manner, she sensed that, at least for his family, this was very important.
She could not continue dragging it out, otherwise, when he came to visit tomorrow, she was afraid it would bring about a huge earthquake in the house.
When it was close to retiring for the night, Shi Yi finally dragged her feet over to pull her mother into her own room, telling her she had an urgent matter she needed to discuss with her. Her mother seemed to have a sixth sense and quickly asked her whether it was about “that person” she had mentioned in the morning. When Shi Yi gave a slight nod of her head, her mother’s expression immediately grew solemn, and she sat down next to her. “Tell me about it. Let’s see if Mom can help you with anything.”
“He said,” Shi Yi exhaled lightly, “he would like to get engaged to me.”
“Engaged?” Her mother did not cover up her astonishment in the least.
“Maybe in the next couple of days?” she guessed.
“Next couple of days?” Her mother did not know whether to laugh or cry. “Is this like kids playing house? We are going to be in Zhenjiang the next several days and won’t be going back to Shanghai. And plus, your dad and I haven’t even met him before, let alone know what kind of person he is.”
“He is in Zhenjiang.” Shi Yi chose her words carefully. “He will be coming to visit the two of you tomorrow.”
“Why must it be so quick?”
“I don’t know,” she replied honestly.
Shi Yi nodded.
“How long have you known each other?”
“About a half a year or more.” Although, they had only seen each other a total of four times. Of course, she did not dare say that. “He’s also a university professor. His character is very good, very simple and pure.”
“Very simple and pure?” Her mother gave an amused chuckled. “Those words are actually not a good thing when used to describe a man.”
Shi Yi looked wordlessly at her mother, and the expression on her face was one of determination.
“Alright, I get it.” Her mother shook her head. “Let him come, then. Since you have known each other for quite some time already, you have probably thought it over already. Good thing it isn’t marriage. To you young people, getting engaged is just a formality.”
Mother’s cheerful acceptance of this caused the tightness in her heart to suddenly relax.
As she was walking out of the room, her mother all of a sudden asked, “He is from Zhenjiang as well?”
Shi Yi was taken aback briefly, and her answer came automatically. “Yes.”
It was fortunate she had not said, “I don’t know” again, otherwise, she did not even know what her mother would think.
Before she went to sleep, Zhousheng Chen called again to confirm.
Shi Yi was nestled under the covers, talking to him on the phone in a format where a single question would get a single answer. When his visit tomorrow was mentioned, she felt extremely uneasy.
This feeling was like, you merely wanted a drink of water to quench your thirst but Buddha bestowed on you an entire water well instead. You would over and over again doubt whether this whole incident was real or not. Furthermore, the two of them had only seen each other four times and were just beginning to become more acquainted with one another. And now, at the next sunrise, they were to be engaged.
She was even worried about what she should say tomorrow when she saw him so that she would not be flustered.
“Besides getting engaged, everything about our relationship will follow a normal progression. We will not need to meddle with that.” He had actually spoken a lot today. His voice was slightly raspy, but it was still rational and astute, with the power to calm and bring peace of mind to people. “It is like, in my research, I will define a focus or direction of research before I begin experiments. It is simply a logical and scientific method of approach.”
She burst out in amused laughter.
“Don’t feel too much pressure from this.”
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8 of 56 Main story segments
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