Most of you who followed along with Really, Really will know this, but for any newer readers, I have a regular posting schedule for Beautiful Bones. Updates are posted every Tuesday and Friday night, N. American time (or Wednesday and Saturday days for anyone else across an ocean). I try to post at similar times every update, with a few hours leeway, so you know when to expect the posting and don’t need to keep checking. Hehe, I am a little similar to Zhousheng Chen in this manner.
Zhousheng Chen is always gentlemanly but never a pushover. ❤ But the poor guy just can’t seem to get his surprises right. Haha.
Chapter 4.3 – Story in the City (3)
By the time he left Shi Yi’s home, it was already 12:45 a.m.
He looked up at her apartment. It was on the twelfth floor. From the position of the warm, orangey-yellow glow of what was likely a heat lamp, she should be in the bathroom showering. The acidic, bitter taste of the herbal medicine was still on the tip of his tongue. Earlier on, when she had brought it over to him, he had actually very much wanted to tell her that, because he had drank too many of this type of Chinese herbal medicine when he was a teenager, he had long ago become averse to the smell.
But it was very difficult to turn her down, was it not?
Just like in Guangzhou’s Baiyun Airport, she had chased after him in her bare feet, asking him to stay behind and wait for her. That, too, had been very difficult to refuse.
This girl’s eyes were too pure. She was like someone who had stepped out of an ink-and-wash painting.
He had once thought that he was being deceived.
However, when he held the more than 200-pages of information on her, he could not find the slightest point for suspicion.
Zhousheng Chen stood in one place for some time until he saw the light of the heat lamp turn off.
Then subsequently, it was the bedroom light that illuminated.
He glanced down at his watch. Twenty-five minutes. Mm, so that was the duration required for her showering habits.
“Eldest Young Master.” Uncle Lin walked over to him. “It is about time now.”
Uncle Lin’s car was parked by the roadside. Far away, there were four or five other vehicles that were also stopped. He nodded, turned around, and without looking back again, sat down in the car. In the beginning, those four or five vehicles only followed from a distance. They drove at a high speed. From Shanghai to the old manor in Zhenjiang, it took less than three hours. The old manor was brightly lit and bustling, not at all seeming like it was four o’clock in the morning.
As he stepped out of the car, he felt a little chilly, so he rolled down his sleeves and buttoned them up.
All of a sudden, he remembered Shi Yi’s words.
He said to Uncle Lin, “’Spring to cover up, autumn to feel the cold.’ Uncle Lin, have you heard this saying before?”
“A saying often mentioned by common folk. Was Miss Shi Yi the one who told Eldest Young Master, you about it?”
Zhousheng Chen did not comment.
The trip from Zhenjiang to Shanghai could not be considered a long and arduous journey, but it had still consumed some energy, especially since he was still ill. However, there was no way around it. Right now, if he was to depend on the rules of an old, traditional family to smoothly take over all matters, big and small, in the Zhousheng family, then he needed to follow the old conventions and act in accordance with the rules. For example, the six o’clock morning meal was a rule, and it was required to be in Zhenjiang.
However, because he had the habit of rising early, it was changed to five o’clock.
He did not think there was much significance in this, but in other people’s eyes, this was a centuries-old rule forcibly being changed. On the surface, it was merely the hour at which the morning meal was to be partaken, but in other people’s hearts, they were not thinking about just the simple matter of having a meal.
This man, who at the age of fourteen had stepped onto the pathway of scientific research and had always been indifferent to the matters in the family, was using a wordless method to declare his status and position.
From his pant pocket, he pulled out a gray, checkered handkerchief and lightly pressed it against his mouth and nose to avoid the pollen scent that was coming from within the courtyard as he silently proceeded inside. There were continually people bowing and hailing him, “Eldest Young Master.”
As he strode into the main hall, most of the people that were to be seated at the thirteen tables were present already.
He did not recognize all of them but nodded to each one in a form of greeting.
He approached the head table and sat down. Beside him, there was only Zhousheng Heng and Xiao Ren. His mother as well as the women who had more seniority in the family were sitting at the adjacent table. Her hair was still pulled up in a meticulous bun and emphasized her elegant, long, and narrow eyes.
It was a very quiet morning meal. When their bowls and chopsticks were set down, the sky was just beginning to hazily light up.
He wanted to leave, but his mother insisted that he stay behind. However, when it was only himself, his uncle, Xiao Ren, and his mother left, the atmosphere seemed even icier than before.
After his birth mother had died in a mishap, Zhousheng Ren had not liked talking anymore. He actually was very close with Zhousheng Chen, and now, he picked up a book, sat down in a chair next to him, and started reading. When he reached a spot he did not understand, he took a pen and underlined it, then handed it over to him. Zhousheng Chen smiled, took it from him, and scribbled down some formulas.
“Did you sleep well last night?” Uncle solicitously inquired about his wellbeing.
He slid the book back to Xiao Ren. “Last night I was in Shanghai. I still have not had time to sleep.”
Uncle was already starting to heartily discuss with him the various matters within the family.
In his generation in the Zhousheng family, not only were those with the Zhousheng surname declining to enter politics, even those who were in the direct line of descent were beginning to be prohibited from taking part in those roles. Rather than saying that this was so they would appear unassuming and average, it would be better to say it was to seclude themselves from the world. Furthermore, the views of those in his grandfather’s generation were old-fashioned, and they always held the belief that merchants and businessmen were of a lower status. As a result, very few in the family entered into business.
The family had more than two hundred years of accumulated history. Its roots were deep and the family was fluorishing, having experienced several cycles where the country had opened its doors to outsiders and then subsequently closed them again. In these hundred years, each time a newly developing industry or business started to show its presence, they would willingly lend some assistance but afterward, would never get involved in the business matters, acting only in the most basic of roles as a shareholder.
Gradually, the family had accumulated its wealth of today. “To seek stability, not change.” That was the ancestral instruction.
Unfortunately, his return this time was to bring about change that would completely overturn things.
“Do you remember the Nan family?” Uncle smiled lightly. “Several years back, on that gambling ship, they worked in cooperation with your mother. They have signed a joint venture agreement with the local government in Iran and now have access to the local automobile market. Nan Huai was very generous, and the returns he gave were bounteous. Your mother and I have had discussions, and we have decided to give it all to your fiancée. Also, if possible, let her shadow your mother for three years to learn how to manage the household.”
“Shi Yi?” He pondered briefly. “She does not need to.”
His mother looked at him indifferently. “When she marries into the family, she will have to start to learn.”
“She is not suitable for it.” He did not give them any face.
“You, too, are not suitable, but you must take over anyway,” his mother said softly, “Since you have chosen her, then she must be suitable. If you have already found that she is not suitable, then it is not too late to replace her with one who is submissive and obedient.”
“Wanniang.” Uncle shook his head, trying to defuse their conflict. “I have seen the drawn portrait of that girl. She looks very docile. Perhaps compared to those highbred young ladies who were brought up since childhood to specifically know how to run a household, she might even be better.”
Mother smiled coolly.
Zhousheng Chen also did not speak.
Mother smiled, “Her occupation is all about prancing and flaunting to please the masses. Even if she gets any sort of repute, it is because someone has chosen to back her. I don’t see what good she could possibly have.”
“She is very suitable for me.”
“Your reason is a frail one.”
He did not continue arguing.
Xiao Ren’s head was lowered as he set-up and arranged the problem with the formulas Zhousheng Chen had given him. Stumbling through, he at last managed to solve the problem. He called a servant to change out the refreshments to be “Qi Fan Gao” [Seven Returns Cake] and the tea from “Shen Quan Xiao Tuan” [Divine Spring Water, Small Bundles] tea to “En Shi Yu Lu” [Mercy Granted as Jade Dew] tea. Youngest Young Master was known for his eccentric temperament. When he was in a good mood, everything was good to him, but when he was not in a good mood, he made things very difficult for the servants.
Xiao Ren had ordered everything to be changed, and of course the three adults there did not prevent him from doing so.
Very soon, someone had come over and noiselessly replaced everyone’s teas and refreshments.
With outsiders present, Zhousheng Chen’s mother quiet and composed bearing resumed once again.
While he was thinking of an excuse to take his leave, Xiao Ren quickly pushed his book over toward him again. Thinking it was another problem or something of that sort to solve, his eyes scanned over it, and then, he could not help smiling. He bent his finger and rapped the boy lightly on the forehead with his knuckle. Inside the book, some words were written with a flourish in deft, cursive script:
Your Shi Yi really likes you, even I can see that…
Film festival awards ceremony were something she would always avoid if possible. She would even decline being present as a spectator, much less walking the red carpet. Several years ago, Mei Lin had made some efforts to try to promote her. Unfortunately, she was the prime example of being a hopeless case. As a result, she was the last one to be notified, even for her own nomination, for they were all certain that she would decline to attend.
This time however, completely contrary to Mei Lin’s expectations, she promptly agreed to go.
To Shi Yi, the reason was very simple: because of Zhousheng Chen’s one sentence.
She was even starting to eagerly anticipate, on that day, sitting side by side with him in a corner, watching the celebration on the stage, or him sitting down below and watching her name being listed as one of the nominees or even as winning the award.
Some of the betrothal formal gowns Zhousheng Chen had sent over were actually not suitable for an engagement ceremony but were very suitable for attending a film festival.
As she stared at her wardrobe, she even started to wonder, had he known about this very early on and that was why he had given her those particular ones?
Even just this thought was enough to put her in a good mood.
She wavered back and forth over which to wear, hesitant on making a decision, until she finally ended up sitting on the floor in her closet. A continuous stream of memories started flooding over her. She remembered herself of the past and what she had worn for their first arranged time together –– a wide-sleeved cross-collar garment in a pale blue color, like the moon, with a light yellow sash resting on her arms. And him? She could not remember. What would cause her to forget something so important?
She leaned backward so that she was lying amongst several of the gowns. Something seemed like it was about to surface, to come to light, but she was not quite able to put her finger on it.
Shi Yi, you’re worrying yourself over imaginary troubles again.
She chuckled and rubbed her face against the hem of the dresses. The way things were right now was wonderful already. So wonderful it could not possibly get any better.
She specifically requested Mei Lin to save two seats for her.
Unfortunately, Zhousheng Chen suddenly called her and said that he would be a little late, so she could only give him Mei Lin’s phone number, telling him that if he arrived and it was not convenient for her to answer the phone, someone else would bring him in.
After confirming that he had indeed taken down the number correctly, she hung up the phone and sprawled out in her own seat, watching all sorts of people coming and going, exchanging greetings, flattering one another, shaking hands, and embracing.
“What are you smiling about? I seldom see you this happy.”
Mei Lin had finished settling down all her signed artistes and now finally remembered this beautiful maiden who she had left on her own to “be independent.”
She smiled and pointed at the sign on her seat: “Shi Yi.”
Mei Lin nodded. “You’re not in the wrong spot. This is your seat.”
Her finger shifted and pointed at the seat adjacent to hers that had no sign. “Shi Yi’s ‘someone’.”
Mei Lin could not help laughing. Patting her on the face, she said, “Just look at you. Are you ridiculously happy?”
Her lips came together in a smile. Leaning sideways so that one side of her face was resting on the seatback in front of her, she gave an “mm” in reply.
“What kind of appeal can someone who does science and research have?” Mei Lin was truly very curious about that “alien.” “What if, one day, you guys have a fight? Will he, in a moment of fury, cause you vanish without a trace off the face of the earth? You know, like using something like strong sulphuric acid or whatnot.”
Shi Yi shot an amused glance at her. “So uncultured you are. All you know is to use sulphuric acid.”
“Oh, and you know just so much.”
“A little bit more than you.”
Mei Lin gaped at her. “What’s that? Bone dissolving acid?”
“Sulphuric acid.” She gazed smugly at Mei Lin. “When you change the way you say it, doesn’t it make you sound like you are very learned?”
“Uh-huh.” Mei-Lin was floored. “I think it was middle school that I learned that. How did I manage to forget?” She searched through her mind trying to recall chemical formulas before suddenly realizing that she was being very negligent of her current duties by sitting here and chatting about chemistry with Shi Yi. And the beautiful maiden wearing a vintage-style, pale blue gown, like the color of the moon’s glow, was also very absorbed in the conversation.
“Okay, we’re going to make an agreement now. I’m not going to the group celebration banquet tonight. I’m going to go with just you and your chemistry professor to have a late-night snack.” Mei Lin was being tortured by her own curiosity and so, invited herself. “I must see what he looks like.”
“Alright.” Shi Yi thought for a moment and added, “That is, if he can get here in time.”
“Such an important event, and he won’t make it?”
“Can’t say for sure.” Shi Yi was also feeling somewhat apprehensive. “He’s been very busy lately.”
If Zhousheng Chen really did not show up, she would certainly be disappointed, but would she be angry? She conjured up the situation in her mind and discovered that she simply could not ever be angry with him. Still, she truly had not expected that, as awards were handed out one after another, her hypothetical situation would slowly become reality. He really was not coming.
Shi Yi was rather preoccupied the whole time. Even as the guest presenters announced her name and she stood up from her seat, she was still somewhat lost in her own thoughts.
This was the first time she had ever been present in person to receive an award. From the back aisles, she walked, step by step, up to the front, passing through the audience that was giving its incessant applause.
There was also the guest presenters’ joking banter and pleasantries.
Awards for voice actors were very limited. There were a lot of people who knew her name but very few who had ever seen her face before. Shi Yi had done the dubbing for film or television roles of many of the extremely popular actresses who were sitting in the audience below. Once she stepped up onstage, the vast majority of people were astounded that this unfamiliar face actually corresponded with that familiar name.
She smiled modestly, intending on leaving the event immediately after she received the award.
But as her eyes slid over the first row of the audience, her gaze froze in surprise.
The filled seats of people in glamorous attire all seemed to fade away.
The only thing that remained was that pair of dark eyes that was looking at her, carrying a hint of weariness in them but also a faint smile.
The people sitting in that row were all industry veterans, the currently most popular actors and actresses, or big investors. Zhousheng Chen was sitting there calmly in the outermost seat on the right, dressed understatedly in a silver-gray suit jacket and white trousers.
This particular seat was somewhat remote and would not be captured by live footage cameras.
And because he did not want to be disturbed, he had deliberately left the seat beside himself vacant.
Alas, he did not understand the way this place worked. It was not one of those international science conferences he had attended before. Sitting there like that, in that type of seat, was clearly a high-profile way of appearing. Those people who had sat with him the entire night in the first row were all speculating who this man was and whom he had come for.
No one knew the answers.
No one besides the one onstage – her – who was seemingly unable to speak due to anxiousness from receiving an award.
 凤眼 “feng yan.” Literally, this means “phoenix’s eyes.” It describes eyes that are elongated, almond shaped, and curve slightly upwards. In general, this shape is thought to be beautiful.
 七返糕 “Qi Fan Gao.” A “gao” is usually a cake-like food (not necessarily sweet) of some sort. “Qi Fan Gao” has roots dating back more than a thousand years to the Sui/Tang era. It was originally a food important in Taoist practices for maintaining good health. It is also mentioned in history books as a set cold dish in a feast that would be thrown when a new official took office or an official was promoted. However, what this dish actually was has been lost in time, and no one really understands what it was anymore. This is not a dish that any random person in China would know about nowadays. The fact that Xiao Ren would specify that he wants this dish shows how refined and picky his taste is, and that he does not have a commoner’s taste buds.
 神泉小团 “Shen Quan Xiao Tuan” [Divine Spring Water, Small Bundle] is a tea produced in the Dongchuan district of Yunnan China, and is listed in the Tang dynasty teas as one of the high quality teas. 恩施玉露 “En Shi Yu Lu” [Mercy Granted as Jade Dew] is one of the highest-grade green teas, recognized by some as one of the top ten teas of China. It was already well-known in the Tang dynasty and then became even more famous because of Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong’s love for it. Again, Xiao Ren’s expensive taste shows through.
 月青色 “yue qing se.” An ancient color description. Literally, it means “moon ‘qing’ color.” The color, “qing” in the Chinese language is a very interesting color. It is usually used to describe colors on the blue-green colour spectrum, but can also include purples and even black. Grass can be “qing,” the ocean can be “qing,” a snake can be “qing,” a grouchy expression can be “qing.” I searched long on Chinese sites for a description of what this “moon ‘qing’ color” might be, but to no avail and even saw the same question posted on some forums. So, I am hazarding my best guess and thinking that it is like the glow of the moon, that sometimes carries a very pale, blue hue. (I, however, can be completely wrong because I discovered another ancient color description, 雪青色 “snow ‘qing’ color” is actually a type of violet color. Who knows where that one came from?)
 化骨水 “hua gu shui.” Literally, “bone dissolving water.” This is a name for hydrofluoric acid, which is a highly corrosive acid. When inside the human body, it reacts with calcium and causes organ failure. Initially, symptoms appear minor until the acid reacts with bone calcium, when it can lead to serious organ damage or death, hence its name, “bone dissolving water.”
Besides the two leads, Zhousheng Ren (Xiao Ren, which means “Little Ren”) is actually my favourite character in the novel. Keep an eye out for him and tell me if you guys like him like I do.
I think I’ve mentioned this in various places before, but Beautiful Bones is actually the second book in Mo Bao Fei Bao’s 一生一世 One Life, One Incarnation series. Books of the series can be read independently without affecting your understanding of the story. The first book does contain details on the Nan family, the gambling ship cooperation, and Xiao Ren’s mother’s “mishap” that caused her death that were mentioned in this update. A 20-ish year old Zhousheng Chen also makes a few appearances in that story.
1 of 1 Prologue
13 of 56 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogues