We’ve been following along with a slowly blossoming romance, but now we have hints of something taking place offscreen.
Chapter 5.1 – The Tune of Old
The guest presenter gently tapped Shi Yi on her back.
She recovered herself and said, “Thank you, thank you, everyone.”
She took her jade-white tower-shaped award in hand. Since she was standing in the brightest part of the stage, she could only see the outline of each person. She saw Zhousheng Chen lightly cross his right leg so that it rested on the left one and adjust his sitting position
“I am not one who is good with words,” Shi Yi said humbly, “so I can only think of saying ‘thank you.’ I hope my voice can continue to dub your movies, television dramas, documentaries, and foreign films.”
Very simple. So simple that everybody thought she had not yet finished speaking.
As a result, they were all still waiting quietly.
Shi Yi was silent for a brief moment but could only smile and say thank you one more time.
And then, she raised the tower-shaped award in her hand. The blue, moonlight-colored floor-length dress should have given off a beautiful and young feeling, but yet, she had chosen one that was vintage-style, where the sleeve came all the way down to the elbow. From top to bottom, the only piece of jewelry on her was the one he had given her the day they went to see his mother, the jadeite necklace, so brilliant in color it gleamed like water droplets.
There was no deliberate smile made to look poised and natural. In fact, there was the sense that she could not wait to leave.
Only then did everyone realize that she truly was done her speech.
Amid the applause that finally rose up after the fact, she picked up the hem of her long dress, left the most brightly lit area of the stage, and stepped down off of it. Behind her, some of the currently most popular artistes were coming out onto the stage and beginning their performance amid the continuously blowing mist of dry ice.
In the dark setting offstage, Shi Yi quietly slipped over to his side.
Seeing that she was wearing high heels, Zhousheng Chen reached out and gently took her hand into his, guiding her to sit down in the seat beside him.
“Why are you sitting here?” she asked quietly by his ear, right after she had taken her seat.
He contemplated briefly, realizing as well that the seat he was in was overly conspicuous. “I simply told them I wanted to give you a surprise and to sit in a place that had a clear view of you. This was Uncle Lin’s arrangement.”
Speechless, she chuckled lightly. “This seat that you’re sitting in, do you know what type of spot it is?”
“I can likely guess.” The expression he wore was one that was somewhat resigned to the fact.
“Well… should we leave now?”
“You do not need to wait until it is finished?”
“No.” She shook her head. “It doesn’t matter to me.”
Even she felt uncomfortable for him, an outsider to this industry, to have to be here in this clamorous setting.
Zhousheng Chen turned his head to look at her.
Shi Yi gazed at him puzzledly.
“Today, my mother asked me why I wanted to be engaged to you.”
She gave an “mm.”
“I said, you are very suitable for me.”
Because it was very noisy there, the two of them were nearly speaking right against the other person’s ear before they could clearly hear each other’s words.
When he said this to her, his voice was directly beside Shi Yi’s ear, and she could even feel the faint warmth of his breath. The tips of her ears were starting to burn up slightly until gradually, even her face was heating up. Unable to sit still any longer, she gently shifted her hand.
The whole time, from when she had taken her seat a moment ago, Zhousheng Chen had been holding her hand in a grip that was neither too tight nor too loose.
When she moved, Zhousheng Chen naturally was able to feel it. He smiled, rose to his feet, and quietly led her out a side door. Their overly conspicuous seats plus Shi Yi, who was tonight’s most stunning beauty, were enough to attract people’s attention. Shi Yi could sense many eyes looking in their direction. She glanced at him. Zhousheng Chen, however, looked calm and unaffected.
After they had left the main ceremony hall, there were even people who started discussing about them.
In particular, those sitting in the front row had not expected that this mysterious guest had come only for a voice actress. However, thinking it over again, with Shi Yi’s appearance, this was actually not out of the question. She was neither too dainty nor showy, not ostentatious nor arrogant, the type of appearance that was most suited for the role of one of those ethereal, fairy-like female leads in the ancient-setting movies. Someone asked in a low voice, “Never thought that one of ‘Mainland China’s top four female voices’ would be so pretty. Who’s her manager?”
“Mei Lin from East Media.” The person who answered laughed. “I cannot believe she’s got such a winning asset in her hand that, to date, she still has not promoted. I wonder what she’s waiting for.”
“Waiting for?” The first person shook his head. “You don’t know your stuff. That string of fine jadeite she wore tonight on her neck is enough to film another ‘Curse of the Golden Flower’. My guess is she herself just doesn’t want to come out.”
The latter person was speechless. “No wonder top notch manager Mei Lin can manage to resist not promoting her.”
Shi Yi did not know that Zhousheng Chen’s sudden appearance had caused her to become the hot topic at the celebration party.
Someone secretly divulged that the person sitting in that seat was surnamed Zhou.
But when delving deeper, no one was familiar with his background.
When they stepped out, it was not yet nine o’clock.
As their vehicle drove out of the parking garage, many people could be seen waiting at the entrance doors of the theatre. Lights shone brightly. Cars and people were coming and going.
Uncle Lin inquired on whether they were going to try on evening gowns, but Zhousheng Chen did not answer.
“Try on evening gowns?” Shi Yi found this rather odd.
He had taken down all her detailed measurements and had sent over all sorts of dresses, and they were even all suited to her taste, not very revealing and vintage style. There were so many it was enough to have ten engagement ceremonies. And she still needed to try on more gowns?
“Seeing you wearing this dress tonight, I thought you looked beautiful,” he explained in a sincere tone, “so I made a last minute appointment with the dressmaker who made it. I want to make you a new one.”
“This one is not nice?”
“It is very nice,” he laughed. “I simply all of a sudden wanted you to wear something brand new when we get engaged.”
She suddenly understood.
After the car had driven out of Shanghai, she started to wonder whether he was bringing her to Zhenjiang. Fortunately, she recognized that the highway to Zhenjiang was not in this direction. Instead, they were heading to a small, little-known town.
This place was unlike the big cities where, at night, lights still glowed brightly, for here, light was only seen coming from individual households.
Shi Yi, dressed in her formal gown and with Zhousheng Chen’s suit jacket draped on her shoulders, got off the car and walked for a little while before arriving in front of a small, old-style house with a courtyard. It appeared to be a home and not a shop that sewed dresses. Perplexed, she assessed her surroundings. Zhousheng Chen finally spoke up to explain, “This family has been a family of tailors for more than ten generations, and this is so even for its younger generation.”
Shi Yi thought for a moment. “Don’t tell me this place is hiding some sort of internationally famous fashion designer.”
“It is not,” Zhousheng Chen laughed. “Their family wealth is very ample, and they no longer need to make clothing for people. It is only because their family rules state that they must not allow their family craft to be lost. The younger generation who like this craft will study around the world before returning to carry on the family business.”
“And so, their work integrates both Chinese and Western elements,” Shi Yi commented, looking down at her own gown. “No wonder the dresses you sent over are all very unique but are also so unbelievably exquisite. They’re not like normal evening gowns.”
Shortly after Uncle Lin had knocked on the door, someone came and opened it.
Seeing it was Uncle Lin, that person addressed him respectfully. She, however, did not seem to recognize Zhousheng Chen.
They followed her into a courtyard that was not very large. There were bluestone floor carvings, a gateway of carved stone, and buildings that were not tall and were veiled amongst trees. It was fortunate that here, wall lamps with a traditional design had replaced the use of lanterns, otherwise Shi Yi truly would have started to suspect that a lady in red would suddenly appear from somewhere.
In a soft voice, Shi Yi remarked, “Now this house truly resembles an old home in Jiangnan.”
Zhousheng Chen said, “You mean, my ancestral home does not?”
Shi Yi shook her head. “Your home is too big. I could not even keep count of how many main courtyards it has.”
He nodded. “When you say it that way, it sounds like a house that should belong to the new-rich.”
Shaking her head again, she countered in a serious tone, “Not a new-rich’s house. More like a filming location for one of those Hong Kong ghost movies.”
He laughed, “Usually, no one lives there and only during the ancestor worship ceremony will some people go back there to stay.”
“Is there anyone to attend to it normally?”
“Every generation, there is someone. Essentially, it is the retirement place for the eldest household managers,” he explained. “Half of the reason is for them to attend to the property, but the other half is to provide them a place to live a comfortable life for their remaining days.”
While they were talking, the old woman who had received them at the door was already lifting up an embroidered curtain. “Mr. Lin, please have a seat first. I shall go tell Madam to come.”
Uncle Lin nodded. “Please tell Madam that the master has come today to personally select some garments.”
The old woman answered him and left, and shortly after, someone came out with tea to serve them.
Shi Yi and Zhousheng Chen had just picked up their tea cups and had not even had a chance to take a sip when two men and two women stepped out and walked in their direction. Besides an elderly lady, the remaining three were all young in age. Of the two men, one was wearing a chang pao while the other was in a Western style suit and leather shoes. If they did not know, they might have thought that they had arrived at a filming studio for a movie set in the Minguo period. The girl, on the other hand, could be considered a little more normal, dressed rather simply in a t-shirt and long skirt and holding a portfolio album in her hand.
Only in the Minguo era could one see attire that had such an intermixing of Chinese and Western elements.
Shi Yi was somewhat in a daze. The man wearing the chang pao swept his eyes over the guests before allowing his gaze to land on Shi Yi. “I would hazard a guess that this must be Miss Shi Yi.”
The girl laughed, “What a waste of words. She’s the only girl here, of course it’s her. Hey, Second [Elder] Brother, she’s wearing your design. This time, Second Brother wins.”
“You three,” the elderly lady smiled and waved her hand, “ need to respect our guests.”
The elderly lady walked up to them. Seeing Uncle Lin standing off to the side, she could deduce Zhousheng Chen’s identity. With a slight nod of her head, she smiled, “Eldest Young Master, I saw you when you were four years old. It has been so many years, and I have made many pieces of clothing for you, but I have not seen you in person all this time. I did not expect that the next time I saw you, you would be bringing your bride with you.”
Zhousheng Chen was about to stand in greeting, but the elderly lady had already taken a seat. “This old lady’s legs and feet aren’t very good, so I’m going to be bad-mannered and sit down first.”
“Granny, please feel free.” He did not seem to mind. “My apologies for coming at such late hours.”
“Do not worry about it. You are a busy man, a scientist.” The elderly lady’s eyes were filled with approval as she beamed and said, “The Zhou family is filled with smart people. The older generation is like that as is the younger generation.”
They carried out some casual conversation for a while, and then the elderly lady started to carefully appraise Shi Yi.
Zhousheng Chen had previously provided some measurements, but that could not compare to seeing her in person. After all, clothing was meant to fit a person and should complement not just a person’s measurements but also her features and bearing. Some people could spend an entire lifetime making garments and still not come across someone like Shi Yi, whose looks and bearing were so exceptional. Naturally, not just the elderly lady but even the ones from the younger generation were acting as if they had found a treasure, and the expressions they had when they looked at Shi Yi were like they were staring at their cherished gem.
Her measurements were taken once again. Since Shi Yi was a girl, naturally, the girl wearing the casual clothing was the one to help her. In lowered voices, she and Shi Yi exchanged discussion on the immaterial little details about clothes, and when they became excited in their conversation, she even brought out all kinds of fabric for Shi Yi to evaluate and provide an opinion.
“Shi Yi, your legs are so long,” the girl sighed. “I remember, I have a younger cousin who told me, when she was going through the entrance requirements for a dance academy, one of the prerequisites was that the legs had to be longer than the upper body by at least fourteen centimetres. You probably beat that standard by at least two centimetres.”
Shi Yi smiled.
From beginning to end, besides the elderly lady who had physical challenges with her legs and feet, no one else sat down.
They appeared to have tremendous deference toward Zhousheng Chen.
Throughout the entire process, Zhousheng Chen sat quietly off to the side.
He was extremely patient. He did not read anything. Occasionally, he would exchange a few words with the elderly lady, and when the younger designers inquired his opinion, he would express his own views. When they finally left, it was two hours later.
This particular place was not far from Zhenjiang, so Shi Yi had thought that she was likely going to stay in Zhenjiang for a night.
Contrary to her expectation, though, Zhousheng Chen insisted on bringing her back to Shanghai.
When he saw the lights in her bedroom turn on, he sat back into the car.
If it was not extraordinary times, he would not have wanted to make the long journey to bring her back either.
He suddenly spoke. “I hope that she will always be safe and free from harm.”
Uncle Lin nodded. “Eldest Young Master, rest assured. Right now, everyone in the Zhou family is waiting for the day of the betrothal. Prior to this, nothing will happen to Miss Shi Yi, otherwise, everyone will suspect Zhousheng Heng. He would not make such an unwise move.”
Zhousheng Heng had been in power for more than twenty years. His thinking was careful and meticulous, and his plots and schemes were thorough.
He, indeed, would not do such a thing.
Zhousheng waited until the bathroom lights were turned off and her bedroom lights were illuminated. Out of habit, he glanced at his watch.
This time, she had used thirty-eight minutes. And so…… she was accustomed to taking somewhere between twenty-five to thirty-eight minutes for her routine.
 In folklore, a woman who commits suicide while wearing a red dress will return as a ghost to seek vengeance for an injustice she endured.
 长袍. Also called 长衫 “chang shan.” The male equivalent of the cheongsam. This style of clothing became widespread during the Qing dynasty.
 民国. The Minguo period (1912-1949) in Mainland China is an era after the fall of the Qing dynasty but prior to the PRC. A period in China still containing traditional aspects but also showing the Western influence. For example, from a fashion sense, men were cutting off the queues that were required of them in the Qing dynasty and sporting the short, Western-style hair. Both Western suits and chang pao were common attire for men.
 婆婆 “po po.” Technically, it means “grandmother.” I know in the English language, addressing someone as “granny” may sometimes be taken as being disrespectful, but there is absolutely no disrespect in this. It is merely a way to address an elderly woman.
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14 of 56 Main story segments
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