The cycles of reincarnation may change the “skin” but Shi Yi’s faith is placed in the belief that his “beautiful bones” would never change, no matter how many times the wheel of time may turn.
Chapter 7.2 – Eighteen Prayer Beads (2)
The discussion was still carrying on.
From outside the window, she could still only hear silence, but her mind had already whirled through a countless number of jumbled thoughts.
She had never even seen before the passports that were in the handbag beside her, let alone have any sort of understanding of the whole situation. She had thought that Zhousheng Chen was simply his family’s “firstborn son of the firstborn son” and had never guessed that he would have such power to be able to completely change her citizenship without even her knowledge of it.
The four or five police vehicles in front of them as well as Uncle Lin’s composed manner as he took care of the situation showed that he had already been aware of all of this and had anticipated that it would happen. Hence, he had first made the arrangements such that their identities would ensure their security.
He had “diplomatic immunity”? Which diplomatic envoy was he?
Uncle Lin had already turned around, walked up to Zhousheng Chen’s side of the vehicle, and opened the door for him. Very soon, he had stridden briskly over to Shi Yi’s side, and in the same slightly bowed posture, had opened her door as well.
After getting out of the vehicle, Shi Yi quickly took Zhousheng Chen’s arm.
With so many police vehicles parked in front of the gate, it was impossible to not feel anxious, and as a result, her hold on his arm was rather tight.
“Mr. Zhousheng, hello.”
The middle-aged police officer in charge as well as a prosecutor who had personally come to the scene to investigate approached him. After shaking his hand, in an official and professional tone, they stated their purpose for the visit.
The whole time, Zhousheng Chen smiled and remained quiet while Shi Yi kept her eyes lowered and fixed upon the ground. When she heard them mention the murder case of Tang Xiaofu, however, she could not restrain her fingers from tightening their grip slightly.
The middle-aged police officer stated that he knew he had diplomatic immunity.
However, this case was not just a simple criminal case. The series of criminal allegations –– illegal detention, involuntary disappearance, murder, and torture –– all, to some degree, could be connected to him, and some of these were even transnational crimes. Shi Yi was overcome with fear as she listened to this, but the whole time, she clutched tightly to his arm, not allowing herself to show any abnormal expression on her face.
He remained as before, not saying anything until at the end, he very politely shook their hands and bid them farewell.
The power of silence was very daunting.
Yet, at the same time, was it not also a black hole in which one’s imagination could be unleashed?
This uninteresting-looking ethnic Chinese man was an associate professor at the UC Berkeley College of Chemistry but ten days ago had made public his identity as a Russian diplomat. Such a mysterious and bizarre change in identity. Even this woman beside him, prior to the case, had changed citizenships and became his lawfully married wife in Russia. All of these things were clearly a maneuver to deal with these allegations.
“Mr. Zhousheng, we would wish for you to stop all your activities in Xi’an’s knowledge exchange project.”
Zhousheng Chen pondered briefly. “I am most regretful about it, but I will certainly respect your request.”
Out of good manners, he observed the proper etiquette as host and master of the property and watched until all the uninvited guests had departed.
Shi Yi wanted to move, but as her nerves had been on the edge and she had been tensed up for such a long period of time, her legs were already numb. Zhousheng Chen did not notice and had taken two steps forward before he realized anything was wrong. But it was too late. He had moved but she could not keep up. Her legs gave out beneath her and her knee hit the ground.
Very painful. Her brows furrowed together.
Her stockings slid against the rough surface of the ground and pulled against the scrape wound on her knee.
“My apologies, Shi Yi.” He lowered one knee down and crouched before her, carefully inspecting her injury.
Because it was so painful, she was about to sit down onto the ground but he stopped her action. “Do not sit on the ground. The light here is too dim, and it would not be convenient to have people come out here to check your wound. I will carry you inside.”
Without waiting for her response, he had already stretched out his arms and lifted her up into his embrace.
Very quickly, he strode up the more than one dozen bluestone steps. Uncle Lin swiftly pushed open the main doors. The whole way, he did not dare delay and it could almost be said that he strode so quickly it was as if he had wings. All along the way, people would bow and greet him with “Eldest Young Master” and some of the more familiar faces would stare in slight surprise at them.
Shi Yi leaned her head against his shoulder and listened to his heart that was beating very fast. Her breathing also started to grow quicker.
It was because of the pain and also because she was being carried in his arms like this.
She stared at her silvery-gray stockings that were now bloodstained at the knee as well as covered in snagged threads and runs. It looked so wretched and ugly. She was concealing a very secret thought, one that was actually able to overshadow the fear she had felt earlier and the pain from her fall: she needed to cover up her knee because she very much did not want him to see any part of her that was in a sorry state.
Zhousheng Chen, of course, did not know what she was thinking.
The tension in his heart finally loosened only after they were inside their own manor wing and he saw the Chinese and western doctors Uncle Lin had sent for.
More than just the family physicians were waiting in the sitting hall.
Truly, it was filled with sitting people.
The ones Shi Yi knew included his mother, his uncle, as well as his younger brother Zhou Wenchuan and his wife, Tong Jiaren. The ones she did not know were, of course, the distant or closely related elders of the family. It seemed those of the same generation as him were not eligible to participate in this matter. When those people saw this scene of the two of them, they each had different expression. The look on his mother’s and Tong Jiaren’s faces shifted, whereas Zhou Wenchuan seemed to find the situation very amusing and even sighed that Eldest Brother was becoming more and more romantic.
“I shall return very shortly,” he stated briefly and then carried her upstairs.
All four family physicians followed up the stairs behind him.
After he had set her down on the wooden chair in her room, Zhousheng Chen finally noticed that his hand was actually resting against her chest.
In the same instant he saw this, Shi Yi noticed it as well.
He very swiftly pulled his hand back, and then after instructing the doctors to quickly tend to the wound, he went back downstairs without a backwards glance.
Before long, from downstairs, the sound of voices quarreling could be heard, some louder, some not as loud. The wordings used were vehement, but the tone and demeanor were still restrained.
The soundproofing of this old-style house was not very good, and she could hear generally that his mother was reproaching him and that his uncle’s tone was very severe. Soon, she heard a woman sobbing. She pondered briefly. The only woman who was relatively younger was Tong Jiaren, but why would she be crying?
Lianhui handed her a warm, damp towel.
She took it from her and saw that Lianhui’s attention was also distracted by the voices downstairs. She suddenly remembered what had been said the other day. Could it be, Tang Xiaofu’s premature labour had been caused by Tong Jiaren? That prosecutor had said this was a murder case, so if that was the case, she could not escape suspicion either.
She carried out numerous, complicated conjectures like this.
The four household physicians’ countenances, in contrast, were all flat and composed, as if they knew nothing about anything that was going on.
One of the doctors who practiced western medicine had treated her wound, but the remaining three still did not dare neglect their duties and each re-examined her injury. This minor little scrape on the knee was being viewed as something more serious than a murder case.
All of a sudden, the crash of shattering porcelain was heard.
Downstairs, there was momentary silence. Gradually, the quarreling changed to become only his uncle speaking. His actual words were somewhat indistinct, and she listened hard for a little while. The general idea was along the lines that the period for such a large-scale injection of funds against the market trend would be twenty to thirty years, and that would violate family rules. Furthermore, Tang Xiaofu’s unexpected death had already brought about the Tang family’s fury, and hence, they had exposed everything out into the open and were refusing to settle the matter privately.
“The Zhousheng family’s several hundred years of seclusion from the outside world must not be destroyed by your hands.”
She very clearly heard this last sentence.
Her heart was beating too rapidly and even felt slightly painful.
In regards to his family’s rules, she was not very clear on them.
From his words, she could vaguely deduce that this was a family in which the rules were more important than the people. Otherwise, he would not have chosen to immediately become engaged to her so he could do something he desired to do. However, the “white occasion” that had caused the postponement of their wedding had now evolved into a murder case. Although she knew that diplomatic immunity would allow him to avoid criminal charges being brought against him, he would not be able to evade the consequence of deportation.
What is it you want to do?
“Miss Shi Yi, you look as if you are rather tired. Do you need to rest for a while?” Lianhui softly asked.
She nodded. She felt she needed some time of quiet.
Eventually, quiet was restored downstairs. Noiselessly, a wind blew in through the window, carrying with it a humid, stuffy feeling. It appeared that it was going to rain soon. She thought of Tang Xiaofu’s face and could even remember how she had, in a light voice, talked about how she had given in and the bad feelings she had with living in an eerie old manor.
Shortly after, someone walked into the room and closed the window.
She lay on her side, curled up on the chaise longue, and opened her eyes.
In order to talk face to face with her, Zhousheng Chen sat against the edge of the low, glass tea table. It was fortunate it had an old, solid mahogany base and was able to support the weight of such a tall man.
“I have never asked you, is voice acting interesting?” His first words when he opened his mouth turned out to be on such a subject.
She smiled, “It’s very fun, but you need to have a very good imagination. For instance, the recording engineer would often request, ‘Teacher Shi Yi, you need to imagine yourself walking in the pouring rain and you’ve just broken up with the one you love. You need that feeling of grief so deep it’s beyond tears.’” She remembered softly, “At the time, I almost felt helpless. You watch the people when they’re acting and they can at least work with and play off one another’s acting, but I can only look at my script and microphone and rely purely on my imagination for how to feel ‘grief so deep it’s beyond tears.’”
Shi Yi described several different examples.
Zhousheng Chen listened attentively.
The sound of rain gradually could be heard. She could picture that the scene outside should be one of lightning streaking across the night sky, but unfortunately she could not see it. When he had shut the window earlier on, he had also closed the curtains.
She picked up her cup of tea, took a drink to moisten her throat, and then she heard him ask, “With me, do you ever feel like you are uncomfortable or unaccustomed to some things?”
“Sometimes.” She poured him a cup of tea as well and handed it to him. “I’ll feel like there are a lot of things I can’t see through or understand, and I’ll be worried that if something suddenly happens, I won’t know what to do.”
Zhousheng Chen took a sip and thought for a moment. “Are you ever scared?”
She gave a little smile and did not answer this question.
Life, death, reincarnation. She did not even find death mysterious. What would she be afraid of?
If she really was to count something, then the only thing she was afraid of was never seeing him again.
“You said,” she turned the question to him instead, “you changed my citizenship.”
Zhousheng Chen nodded. “My sincere apologies that I did not consult you prior to doing so.”
“It’s alright.” She thought to herself, there must have been a necessary reason.
“In regards to your parents and family, I would also hope to do the same for them, but they are, after all, elders.” He paused briefly. “What is your opinion?”
She looked at him. “Is it absolutely necessary?”
“A precautionary measure.”
She contemplated for a moment. “Let’s talk about it again when we can think of a good reason. If you are trying to…… um, circumvent the law, and that is why you are doing it, they might……” She hesitated, not knowing what wording to use.
He could not help bursting out in chuckles. “I am indeed trying to avoid something, but,” he cast a quick glance at her and said, “Shi Yi, I would never do anything bad.”
“What I mean is, I trust you.”
“Even in the face of all those allegations tonight, you still trust me?”
Tonight, with all those allegations against him, she could not imagine what it would have been like if it had been any other ordinary person in her place.
In silence, she observed his hands. They had just the right amount of flesh compared to bone, and his palms were quite a bit larger than hers. A man’s bone structure was always thicker and longer than a woman’s. Originally, she had thought that these hands were different from hers. A scientist’s hands must be like his brain and be built differently from an ordinary person. However, tonight, she discovered that it was not just this one aspect in which they were different. This pair of hands held power and authority, and they were very difficult to understand.
He could switch identities at will, and he was unpredictable to people. When confronted with so many horrible allegations, he could still face them with calm and composure.
She was extremely scared that one day when she awoke, this man, Zhousheng Chen would have vanished and there would be no trace of him ever to be found again.
He watched as her slender hand came to rest on top of his own and gently clasp it.
A strange, unfamiliar atmosphere seemed to quietly flow between them.
He lifted his eyes to look at her.
Shi Yi gazed back at him, and in a soft voice, she gave her answer. “So long as you allow me to always be with you, I will trust you unconditionally.”
1 of 1 Prologue
23 of 56 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogues