I love the comments you guys have been leaving, your contemplative questions, your observations of the details, or just your thanks. 🙂 I also wanted to thank you all because I notice everyone seems to be consciously honouring my desire to keep this translation spoiler free and you have not been asking for spoilers (which, in all my translations, this is the first time that has happened!). I loved the mystery atmosphere of this novel when I read it, and I hope you guys are enjoying the slow reveal of information also. Of course, speculation is welcome; we just won’t confirm. 🙂
Much information is revealed in this chapter! Do you have a new perspective on who Zhousheng Chen is?
Chapter 5.2 – The Tune of Old (2)
Uncle Lin continued, “The Zhousheng family rules are strict, and no one dares to breach them. Eldest Young Master, you need not be concerned. Zhousheng Heng dares not refuse to relinquish the position of leader.”
He placed his hand on the edge of the car window. “Let’s go.”
No lights had been turned on in the car. There was only the moonlight that shone through the window into the interior.
It was very quiet.
Uncle Lin pulled the car away from the curb into the road and began driving steadily. “Why does Eldest Young Master suddenly want to reverse the current situation? To go against the market trend and attract investment to support Jiangnan’s economy?”
Because of fatigue, Zhousheng Chen spoke somewhat slowly. “Within the next five to ten years, China will no longer have the cheapest labour in the world market. The manufacturing plants within the country are closing one after another. ‘Made in China’ will become ‘made in Cambodia’, ‘made in Vietnam’, etc. The massive numbers of unemployed will be an enormous impact and this must be mitigated in advance.”
Uncle Lin fell silent.
This Eldest Young Master was unlike everyone else.
From when he entered university at the age of fourteen, he was destined to be different from everyone else. Five to ten years of investing against market trend required a massive network of contacts and significant funds. Currently, the people who were acting for Zhousheng Chen were just distant family members who did not bear the Zhou surname or his group of aides and advisors, but for such a long-term project, it required his full support. But this would inevitably violate the family rule that dictated that any Zhousheng could not enter into business.
Perhaps, without his uncle, Zhousheng Heng, things might have been simpler.
Shi Yi had thought that he would do the same as before, returning to Zhenjiang during the day and then coming again to Shanghai late at night. However, she had not expected that, the next morning, when she came back from the gym of a hotel near her apartment, Zhousheng Chen would already be waiting downstairs for her. She was rather surprised, but he said, “I am here to have breakfast with you.” At seven o’clock in the morning, someone suddenly appeared and said he was going to have breakfast with you.
She had the sudden notion that this particular scene was very similar to, when she was still a student, those young boys and girls who would arrive downstairs of the dormitories or beside the entrance to the cafeteria.
As luck would have it, though, she had already eaten.
But he was still hungry.
Shi Yi tentatively asked him if he wanted to go upstairs and she would make him something simple for breakfast. Zhousheng Chen did not decline her suggestion. After she brought him upstairs, though, she realized after the fact that she had nothing but milk and some fruit in her home. There was also Nestle Stars cereal on her kitchen shelves. With sounds of “clink, clink, clink,” she filled more than half a bowl with some, poured some milk, cut up a plate of fruit, and served them to him.
He sat beside the dining room table, head bowed as he stared at the cutely shaped stars floating in the milk, somewhat at a loss for words.
“I wasn’t sure if you would be used to eating this or not.” Shi Yi felt a little embarrassed and she impishly stuck out her tongue a bit. “It’s pretty good.”
“I’ll be used to it,” he said, unable to hold back his laughter.
Afraid that it would not be enough for him to eat, she purposely brought out the entire box for him.
Zhousheng Chen cast a deliberate glance at the notation on the box: “For ages 6-12.”
He smiled, lowered his head, scooped out a spoon of milk with stars, and ate it.
She patiently kept him company the whole time.
From observing him carefully, a hint of fatigue could be seen between his brows, and his face looked very pale. Shi Yi could not resist stretching out her hand, wanting to touch his forehead. Sensing her movement, he raised his eyes slightly to gaze at her.
A brief moment of silence.
She did not know whether she should retract her hand or calmly feel his forehead to gauge his temperature.
While she was still hesitating in awkward embarrassment, Zhousheng Chen leaned forward slightly to complement her action and placed his forehead into her hand.
She touched his forehead. Sure enough, it was burning up.
“A low-grade fever,” he told her.
She gave an “mm.”
They had held hands before, but it had been out in public.
Here, though, in this moment, this brightly lit, quiet dining room, she had suddenly touched his skin. Her hand could not help trembling slightly. Fortunately, she had withdrawn it very quickly and he had not noticed. “Did it never subside or did you catch another cold?”
“It never subsided.” He set down his spoon.
She contemplated for a moment.
He watched her amusedly. “You would like to brew another package of Chinese medicine for me?”
“It won’t work anymore.” She looked at him with a regretful expression. “That herb is purple perilla leaf. When you steep it in water, it can dissipate the coldness in your body. But now, you don’t have just a simple fever because you were affected by cold. I should have made you finish drinking it last time and then sleep here for the night and sweat it out. You would have gotten better very quickly.” When Shi Yi finished saying this, she realized her choice of words could very much be taken the wrong way. Even though they were to be engaged, it seemed that her relationship with him had just progressed to a stage that was a little more intimate than friendship.
If he really was to stay the night……
Zhousheng Chen seemed unaware that there was anything peculiar and continued eating his fruit with slow and deliberate movements. “Sleep for a night? I may not have had such a long, unbroken period of time available for sleep anyway.”
“What about now?” she asked suddenly.
“Mm-hmm.” She told him, “You just ate. In another twenty minutes, I will give you some medicine to reduce the fever, and then after you have had a good sleep in the guest room, your fever should be gone.” She gazed at him with a serious expression.
Zhousheng Chen was somewhat taken aback but quickly nodded. “Alright. It has been perhaps several months since I have had a good sleep.”
When Shi Yi suggested this, it was truly for his sake.
As a result, she did not think there was anything inappropriate and just swiftly tidied up the guest room, puting some fresh sheets on the bed while carrying out a casual dialogue with him. When he had taken the medication and laid down on the bed, she left the room and went to clean up the breakfast dishes.
Under the cool stream of water, she leisurely washed the dishes.
Before her eyes, she seemed as if she could still see his face. Fine, graceful features that did not leave an impression, except his nose, which was very straight. When he lay on the bed, he was very still, as if, the instant he closed his eyes, he had fallen into a deep sleep. So calm and unguarded, such that she could even sense his complete trust.
She had just finished putting away the clean dishes when she suddenly remembered that, after taking the medication, he would perspire.
What was he going to do when he woke up?
Still wear those sweaty clothes?
The thought had just occurred and then she heard light knocking on her door. Opening it, she saw Uncle Lin, who did not offer any detailed explanation, saying only that he was delivering Young Master’s clean clothing that he always kept on hand if required. Shi Yi could set her mind at ease now as she sighed over how thorough he was, that everything would be judiciously and meticulously prepared. She placed the garments into a clean rattan basket, pushed open the bedroom door, and slipped it inside.
This apartment’s layout was very well designed. Both the master bedroom and the guest bedroom each had its own bathroom.
She thought, Zhousheng Chen would not need her reminder and would most certainly take a shower after he woke up.
The whole morning, because Zhousheng Chen was sleeping inside the guest bedroom, her heart felt as if it was drifting and would not settle down. Finally, she pulled out a box of DVDs and started watching television dramas. Her work schedule was at times open and other times very demanding, and it was impossible for her to sit in front of the television promptly everyday and follow a television series. It was only during her rest periods that she would find some films or dramas she was interested in and watch them from beginning to end to avoid having to keep thinking about them.
The sunlight was too intense, so she drew the curtains to dim the room.
Afraid that she would disturb his rest, she put on her headphones and fixed her eyes on the subtitles, becoming engrossed in her watching.
She watched episode after episode in succession and completely lost track of time.
She felt the seat beside her on the couch suddenly sink in. Whipping her head around, she saw him sitting there. His hair was still wet, and it was apparent he had already showered after awakening. He wore a pair of light blue, wool pants with a white, button-up shirt, so clean and fresh he seemed like a student who had not yet completed his schooling.
“Why are you awake already?” Shi Yi pulled down her headset.
“I am not accustomed to sleeping for very long periods of time.” He glanced at the silent images that were playing on the screen. “You have been watching TV all this time?”
She nodded and reached to test the temperature of his forehead again.
Thank goodness, his fever was gone.
“Don’t you have a family doctor? How come you had a fever and you still didn’t take any medication for it?”
“I have one, but for this type of mild fever, I usually will simply recover on my own.”
She answered him with an “oh,” her headset still hanging around her neck as she glanced at his slightly damp hair. “If you aren’t in a hurry to go, sit for a while.”
“There is nothing immediate. I will be clearing the schedule for this whole week to keep you company.” He relaxed his entire body and leaned back into the sofa. “It is already very busy before the engagement, but it will be even busier after.”
She gave an “mm” and looked at him.
“You have something you want to say?” he asked with a knowing chuckle. His voice sounded tired and was somewhat soft.
“Nothing serious.” She turned and also leaned sideways against the couch so that they were face to face. “I was just all of a sudden curious, why did you want to go into scientific research? Was it really because you didn’t know what you wanted to do and just randomly chose that?”
“To do something that could be beneficial to other people.” He truly was seriously reflecting on how to answer Shi Yi’s question. “And research is something that could possibly benefit even more people.”
She answered “mm” again.
“In my family, there are not many of this type of person, but there are still a few. My younger sister, for example,” he said, “since birth has had insufficient blood flow to her heart, so her health is not good. However, she has been studying in medical school, simply because she wants to do more and help save a few more people.”
His voice, when he spoke about his younger sister, had a sense of tenderness.
At home, when she was watching something, she always wore glasses. And now, sitting before her, Zhousheng Chen was also wearing glasses.
Their eyes, separated by the thin lenses of those glasses, would from time to time connect.
Resting against the couch, she chatted idly with him. Just doing this alone was such a pleasure.
From where she was, she had a view of the glass wall separating the living and dining rooms. On that glass, she could see her and Zhousheng Chen’s reflection.
Their outlines were very clear, but their individual facial features were indistinct.
She remembered, in their previous life, the first time she had seen him. She was standing on the walls of the city gates, holding onto the edge of the wall, where she needed to strain her eyes somewhat before, under the dawning light, she was able to see him off in the distance. His features were also indistinct then, and she could only see the outline of his backside. At that time, someone beside her had said, “Eleven, hereafter, he is your teacher.” She had nodded her head slightly. Prior to sneaking here for a peek of him, she had already heard this name before: Zhousheng Chen. It sounded refined, respectable, and honorable, like someone well-versed in poetry and literatures.
But what she beheld was completely different.
What she had envisioned was a teacher holding a scroll in his hand.
And what fell into her gaze was the Xiao Nanchen Prince with shining spears and armoured horse.
Dawn had broken the long night. The entire army was mobilized. The rising smoke of the beacon fires served as backdrop. Yellow sand filled the sky.
He stood high on the platform, overlooking the army. With a wave of his hand, there was a resounding sound as seven hundred thousand soldiers knelt before him. This was the true Zhousheng Chen — the Xiao Nan Chen Prince, with thousands of retainers who had sworn allegiance to his family, and the one who held the control of an army of seven hundred thousand.
Was it truly “beauty is offered, a soul is given in return” [the soul is swept away by the appearance before the eyes]? Or a mind bewitched by love?
She, at age six or seven then, did not understand any of that. She was only awed and overcome by the scene before her eyes. Her hands gripped beneath them the city walls of brick, and her heart beat furiously.
 十一 “shí yī.” Eleven. In Mandarin, it is spoken shí yī, which sounds very similar to our female lead, 时宜 Shí Yí’s name, with only the tone of the “yi”s being different. Nickname for ancient Shi Yi.
色授魂与 “se shou hun yu.” A line from Shi Yi’s favourite ancient poem/rhapsody from the Han dynasty, “Shanglin Fu”, which has been translated by some scholars as “Rhapsody of the Imperial Park.” The entire rhapsody is translated here, should you be interested, and this particular line is interpreted as “Beauty is offered, the spirit consents” (stanza VI, 420). I am not going to quote it directly from this translation. I am certain I am not nearly as well-studied as the author of this translation, but I decided to be less poetic/artistic with my version and translate it so that (I believe) the meaning is more clear. To be even more explicit, “a remarkable outward appearance is presented before the eyes and a soul is swept away by what is seen.” Here in the story, then, the question is meant to read, was Shi Yi’s soul already swept away the instant she saw him, saw his impressive manner and outward appearance? This line and several others from the rhapsody make its appearance several times in the novel.
I actually had chosen that last pic to be the cover pic but ended up deciding against it because I really wanted the last bit in the ancient setting to sneak up on you like a little surprise. I’ll provide a more detailed explanation of ancient Zhousheng Chen’s title, Xiao Nanchen Prince later in the story at a more appropriate time.
I forgot which one of you guys said that Zhousheng Chen also wants to please Shi Yi, but the idea of proper, composed Zhousheng Chen eating Stars cereal just tickles me. Such a funny image, but at the same time, it shows he yet again cannot refuse Shi Yi, just like when she asked him to take the herbal medicine that he hates. What do you think Shi Yi’s cereal choice reveals about her personality?
By the way, I don’t believe Nestle Stars/Kosmostars/Estrelitas is sold where I live. Have you guys seen it? Which country?
1 of 1 Prologue
15 of 56 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogues