You have to give him credit for trying to be romantic. 🙂
Chapter 4.2 – Story in the City (2)
His voice was very smooth and steady.
He asked her what time she had started work, when she would finish work for the day, and whether the late-night snack had suited her appetite. Shi Yi answered each one of his questions, and then they suddenly both fell silent. She could not help laughing and she asked him, “Is it a must that you ask me these questions everyday?”
Zhousheng Chen also laughed, at a loss for words for a brief moment.
“From your voice, you sound really tired? Or are you sick?”
“I caught a cold last night.”
“Have you taken medication for it?”
“Then let’s not talk anymore.” Shi Yi felt her heart twinge a tad. “Hurry and go take some medicine.”
“I don’t have any medication on hand.”
In a slightly reproachful tone, she asked, “You don’t have medication always ready at home?”
What she really wanted to say was, “Gosh, my Eldest Young Master, don’t tell me you don’t even know that you should take medicine when you are sick, huh?”
All of a sudden, a fire engine drove by, and Shi Yi instinctively lifted her head to look. But then, she discovered that from within her phone, she could hear the same sound, which started strong and gradually grew weaker until it was completely quiet. She seemed to realize something and immediately scanned around downstairs with her eyes. Through the gaps between the branches and leaves of the parasol trees, she saw a car at the corner of the street and someone standing beside it.
Ten storeys. Too high. There were too many things obstructing the view, and she could not see clearly.
Zhousheng Chen answered with an “mm” that carried a hint of congestion in it.
She felt touched for one moment, then the next moment, she wanted to laugh at how funny it was.
This person’s unexpected arrival should have been such an incredibly romantic gesture but was spoiled because of a random, unforeseen fire truck. And then, he very calmly admitted to it without any other unnecessary words. She could not let him wait any longer. Hearing his stuffy, nasal tone when he spoke, she felt as if catching a cold had become an extremely serious issue, and she hurriedly hung up the phone. She returned inside to the studio, and after she swiftly handed off her work, she picked up her purse and dashed to the elevator. Fortunately, the recording portion was completed already, and they were just doing the final mixing, otherwise, this would definitely ruin her reputation of being conscientious and responsible.
Still, her manager and the recording engineer were stunned.
Seeing her like this, her face flushed and so anxious that she was not willing to say anything, if they did not know better, they would have thought that her house was on fire.
As the elevator doors closed, Mei Lin finally remembered that she had not yet talked to her about the award nomination.
And what Mei Lin found amusing and annoying at the same time was, this girl truly did not care in the least about getting an award.
The elevator descended rapidly. She was still gasping lightly from her sprinting just a moment ago.
The descent speed was too swift, and it caused her heart to feel vaguely uncomfortable.
She was unsure whether it was because she was nervous or because of the feeling of weightlessness.
When the elevator doors slid open, she quickly stepped out with a large stride and nearly crashed straight into someone. A pair of hands reached out and steadied her. “Don’t run. I’m right here.” It was too abrupt an appearance. Shi Yi was somewhat in a daze as she stared at Zhousheng Chen, who was right before her.
He explained his unexpected presence there. “I inferred that you would run down and was worried that you would be too anxious and inattentive when you crossed the road, so I came over here first to meet you.”
She was still out of breath.
Twenty-one days. They had not seen each other for a total of twenty-one days.
In that period, she had tried on many outfits and jewelry he had sent over, had received flowers from him, and even her parents had received gifts from him on a regular basis, but she had not seen him in person.
She had probingly tried to ask, but his answer to her had been, “I do not want to lie to you about what I have been doing lately. Please do not ask.”
His tone was very solemn and she surmised that he must have had some very important matters.
To Shi Yi, the name “Zhousheng Chen” would forever be worth trusting.
“Are you still going to be leaving tonight?” she blurted.
The corner of Zhousheng Chen’s lips seemed to move slightly, as if he was smiling. “Where would I be going to?”
“What I mean is,” she said, pondering briefly what she wanted to say, “you’re staying in Shanghai tonight?”
Her good mood from hearing this was plainly obvious.
“Let’s take you back to your home first.”
With a nod, she answered, “Mm.”
He let go of her, and they walked alongside each other.
Shi Yi was about to get into his vehicle when her mobile phone started vibrating furiously. It was Mei Lin. Speaking like she was doing a despicable deed, she deliberately lowered her voice and said, “I see you and also your chemistry professor. But it’s ten storeys up. No matter how I look, all I can tell is that he’s a lot taller than you……”
Shi Yi cut her off. “Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Good night.”
She quickly hung up.
Zhousheng Chen opened one of the back doors of the car for her. “You still have work to do so late at night?”
She smiled, “No.” When she was seated inside, she greeted the man in the front seat who was smiling kindly. “Uncle Lin.”
“Greetings to you, Miss Shi Yi.”
She had seen his driver several times now, and she finally knew that this middle-aged man, whose dress was exquisite and who was very strict and meticulous in his work, was also surnamed Zhou. Zhousheng Chen explained to her in simple terms, most of the more senior household servants had the surname Zhou and more or less were somehow distantly related to the family. However, to distinguish them from the family members who were directly related, they were addressed by the last character in their given name.
The more she learned, the more she sighed over how traditional his family was.
A powerful, influential family for generations, yet also a family of literary repute.
It was hard to imagine that a child brought up in such a family would end up dedicating his life to modern science and research. Shi Yi recalled that he had mentioned a younger brother and sister pair who were twins, and she started to become rather curious about what they were like.
More than twenty days had passed, and it was nearly May. Nights in the city were no longer frigid-cold, and the weather was very comfortable.
He opened a window for her, but she shook her head and rolled it back up again.
Perhaps because Uncle Lin was present, or perhaps because they had not seen each other in a long while, there seemed to be an awkward unfamiliarity between the two of them, and at the same time, Shi Yi even felt a little uncomfortable chatting with him in the presence of a third person. The rapport they had developed from the three phone calls a day had completely dissipated.
It was to the point that, as he sat there beside her, the slightest movement of his arm would be infinitely magnified.
Only when Zhousheng Chen had accompanied her to her front door and there was no other person did Shi Yi tentatively ask, “Want to come in and sit for a while?”
“Would it be too late?”
“I want to steep a cup of herbal medicine for you that will dispel coldness from your body.” She spoke softly, but in the empty stairwell, her voice could still be clearly heard. “It will take about twenty minutes, at most half an hour.”
Zhousheng Chen gave her a smile. “I simply do not have a good handle on what would be appropriate because I have never been in a girl’s home alone before.”
Very honest, so honest it made you want to laugh.
Shi Yi teased him in a quiet voice, “Didn’t you say you like embroidery based on Wu songs? How come you’re so……”
“So boring?” He knew where she was going with her words.
“A little bit.” Shi Yi remembered the theory he had developed from his scientific and experiment-based style of thinking. “I want to ask a question.”
“You said, we are… um… a research direction to you.” She gazed at him. “What if our research direction is wrong? What do we do?”
The smile on Zhousheng Chen’s lips grew stronger. “I remember that you were in the Chinese Language Faculty in school? Majored purely in Chinese Language and Literature?”
She nodded, not comprehending the reason for his question.
“So, you have made a conceptual error.”
Shi Yi was even more bewildered. “What sort of conceptual error?”
“A research direction is never right nor wrong in itself.”
Shi Yi nodded again, indicating that he continue with what he was saying.
“Mistakes only occur in the experimental method.”
“Then…… what if the experimental method is wrong?”
“If the method is wrong, then one will change to use a different method. However, the research direction does not change.”
It sounded very convincing.
But the metaphor in this dialogue was actually referring to their relationship.
They were together, and that was a fact that would not change. If anything went wrong, then they would change how they approached one another in their relationship.
She understood the meaning of what he was saying.
Shi Yi had always believed that the power of the written language was most capable of beguiling minds, but now, in this moment, she saw in Zhousheng Chen’s smiling eyes a method that was even more stirring. She gave a little laugh. “Science and technology are not only a principle productive force, they are also the best form… of language.”
She turned the key and, at last, opened her door.
Because of her work hours, she had moved out from her parents’ home and had been living alone now for three or four years. Besides a few friends, never before had any other people that were not family come to her home before, let alone a man. Everywhere in the room were evidences that a girl lived in this place alone. Zhousheng Chen was seated on the sofa, looking straight ahead and as much as possible, not allowing his gaze to stray sideways.
His sickness made him feel fatigued, and as a result, he sat there, his back against the sofa, in a posture that appeared slightly more casual. He rested his arm on the side, and his fingers brushed against a fluffy, oblong throw pillow. Hmm, that tactile sensation was very…… different.
Shi Yi had brewed a package of Chinese herbal medicine for him that dispelled cold, and she now brought it over to him.
He took it from her and tried it. It was still hot.
“The elderly have a saying, ‘spring to cover up, autumn to feel the cold.’” She pulled over an even fuzzier short seat that looked something similar to a small stool and sat down on it in front of him. “Do not be so rushed to wear lighter clothes in the spring. These last ten days, the weather has been going up and down quite drastically, and it is very easy to catch a cold.”
Her expression was serious when she spoke.
Zhousheng Chen was not wearing very much, only a thin button-up shirt and trousers.
It was so late at night, yet his shirt sleeves were still rolled up to his elbows. He was not behaving at all like he was sick.
He lowered his head and took a small sip of the herbal brew. “It is merely a cold. Based on scientific law, regardless of whether medication is taken for it, it will be better in seven days.”
“This particular package of Chinese herbs is to dispel cold.” Shi Yi pointed at him, “If your illness is a result of an invasion of coldness, by tomorrow, it should show improvement.”
He raised his eyebrows. “It is that effective?”
Seeing his still dubious look, Shi Yi could not help laughing. “Are you thinking that I was just trying to find an excuse for you to come in?”
“My words were not a rejection of any sort.” Zhousheng Chen’s voice was slightly hoarse from being sick, but that actually seemed to make it sound nicer. “They were out of prudence. Regarding my request to become engaged, it was already inappropriate how I had approached it, and as a result, I want to take things slower as we get to know one another.”
She had not expected he would provide such a solemn answer.
She was somewhat at a loss for words.
He, however, unexpectedly chuckled, “Do you want to hear something that’s true?”
Shi Yi’s curiosity was piqued, and she nodded.
“I actually really wanted to come in.”
She stared at him with a look of astonishment, but he had already lowered his head and continued to drink that herbal decoction that was scalding to the hands and mouth.
When he finally left, it really was almost half an hour later. Shi Yi discovered that the longer she associated with him, the more punctual she was becoming. Wearing her slippers, she accompanied him out to the elevator lobby. Zhousheng Chen’s left hand was in his pant pocket while his other hand pressed the elevator button. Right as the elevator doors opened, he suddenly remembered something and placed the back of his hand against the door to keep it open. He looked at her. “I came back this time because you were nominated for an award.”
Shi Yi was taken aback. Vaguely, she recalled that Mei Lin had mentioned this.
“So, you’re here specifically to watch the awards ceremony?”
“Mostly.” He pulled his left hand back out and used it to pull the two sides of her coat, which she had thrown over her shoulders, closed for her. “The remainder of the time will be used to prepare for the engagement ceremony.”
A sudden action of intimacy, yet he did it so naturally.
Her mind was still in a daze over this betrothal that was close at hand when his hand released their hold.
And then, he gently patted her on her arm. “Hurry back in.”
林叔 “Lin Shu.” “Shu” means uncle, and while the man is Zhousheng Chen’s chauffeur, it is still a polite and respectful way to address him because he is clearly from an older generation.
 In traditional Chinese medicine, there are six external “evils” (also called pernicious influences) that can penetrate into the body and result in illness: wind, cold, damp, heat (also called fire), summer heat, and dryness. When Shi Yi speaks about “cold,” she is not talking about the common cold directly, but rather, from a traditional Chinese medicine sense, the cold evil that has invaded his body to produce these symptoms of the common cold or flu. Therefore, this treatment is also about dispelling this cold evil/influence out of the body.
While replying to everyone’s comments, I happily noticed that people were starting to appreciate the little details of this relationship. You probably keep seeing me write that this is a slowly developed romance. This is actually my favourite type of love story. The idiom, 细水长流, literally meaning “thin streams of water will flow for a long time” is often used to describe this type of love. Hoju’s views on that: It’s not a raging waterfall or rapids that overcome and engulf you, like the passionate type of love that is often featured in romance stories and hits us hard, like a waterfall, but love that is demonstrated in small details and over time, grows deeper and deeper, like a thin stream of water that flows gently over a rock, slowly, over time, cutting a pathway into it without anyone even noticing. A flash flood may come quickly and bowl you over, but that thin stream of water is slow and steady but never lets up until one day, you see it has cut right into the heart of the stone.
Bah, I know this isn’t completely related to today’s post. It’s more how I would summarize the love story of the entire novel, but all your comments from last day inspired that thought and I needed to get that off my chest now. You can just keep that at the back of your mind while you read the rest of the story because I could not wait another half a year, when the novel will be done, to say it. :p
1 of 1 Prologue
12 of 56 Main story segments
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