I’ve been hit by a flu, so my brain feels like cotton candy right now. Please forgive any weird grammar, sentence structure, etc. I’ve tried to read through and make edits, but I’ll come back to double check when my head is clear.
Sometimes the small gestures are what touch the heart…
Chapter 7.3 – Eighteen Prayer Beads (3)
She had been struck with fear that he would suddenly leave her.
So, this was the first time she had spoken honestly about her true feeings.
With slight apprehension, she let him know how important he actually was to her.
The less she understood about this family’s true background, the more fearful she was, as if she had already been pushed to the edge of a vortex.
No one understood more clearly than her how easy it would be if one wanted to end the connection – the fate – in this life that one person had with another. Perhaps, a simple turn at the corner of a crosswalk would result in two people separated by the distance between heaven and earth [separated by death]. She would sometimes even wonder, if she chose to let go, would she become the next Tang Xiaofu of this old manor? After all, to this family, she was also a newly arrived guest and was very much a misfit.
It was evident that even his mother was hostile toward her.
Shi Yi clutched his hand, refusing to loosen her hold.
“Shi Yi.” He was visibly moved by her words. With his right hand, he gently patted her hand that was holding tightly onto his. “To me, you have always been unforeseen. I seem to have never gotten a good grasp on how to approach you in our relationship, and I do not know how to answer your questions.” He hesitated briefly, and then, lowering his voice slightly, he said, “Thank you for trusting me.”
A very formal and proper answer. It could be written down and made into a standard thank you email template.
She pulled her hand back and laid back down on the chaise lounge with a slight feeling of frustration due to his indifference. She gave a quiet laugh and, taking a saying that had been overused to death in movies and television dramas, complained, “Sheesh… ‘I had given my heart to the moon, but yet the moon shone only on the gutter.’ [You have chosen to ignore my sincere heart.]”
Her voice really was nice.
He let out a chuckle. “Wrong word choice. There is no ‘gutter.’ You are now my legally recognized wife.”
If he had not mentioned it again, she would have overlooked this point.
With an “oh,” she curled up her legs and rested her face against the wicker chair. Her heart, that just a moment ago had sunk dejectedly, now seemed to float up again. The wicker lounge chair was cushioned with a soft, white fox pelt and was very similar to the chair that he of the past had once liked. She remembered, she would always like to quietly climb onto it, and while he was reading or writing or even when he was on the other side of the beaded curtain angrily rebuking his subordinates, she would lie on it and listen quietly.
His voice had once been extremely pleasing to the ears.
She had rehearsed it in her mind tens of thousands of times, how to imitate the tones of his voice, from the tonal quality when he first started speaking to how he would end his words. She of that time period had once thought, if she ever was able to produce speech from her mouth, the first words she said would be “Zhousheng Chen.”
“Zhousheng Chen,” she addressed him.
“Zhousheng Chen.” She changed to a different voice and called him again.
“Mm.” He undertood her intent.
“Zhousheng Chen.” She persisted and spoke his name yet again.
“Mm.” He played along with her little game.
She felt tremendously happy, so happy she was going to go crazy. Rubbing her face against the fox fur, she squinted her eyes to gaze at him, this man who was now legally her husband. Tonight, he was wearing a solid, light-blue dress shirt with dark blue cuffs and a pair of silver-gray pants –– colors that gave off such a comfortable feeling. These colors complemented the color of the stockings she had been wearing, but unfortunately, now, she could only keep her legs bare with her knee wrapped in white gauze.
“It is May 11,” he told her.
“What is May 11?” she asked, puzzled.
“Our anniversary. I have chosen one that is homophonic with your name. Very easy to remember, then.”
She felt somewhat in a daze, that this could not be real. “Easy to remember? Will you forget it easily?”
“No. I am very mindful of numbers. And plus,” he paused briefly and gave a little smile, “there are some important dates that must be remembered.”
That night, all she could recall was that she was extremely happy.
Afterward, when she recalled that night, she still could only remember that feeling of happiness. There had not even been any superfluous and flowery words. In her two lifetimes worth of memories combined, the number of happy moments was not many. The ones that were particularly deeply engrained in her memory were riding freely with him through Chang’an city on a horse and this night, when he had said she was his legally recognized wife.
Shi Yi remembered, afterwards, her conversations with him were really not very logical, and she could not seem at all to hold back her happy laughter. Outside the windows, there was flashing lightning, rolling thunder, and pouring rain, but inside the room, it was warm and peaceful. When he finally bid her good night and left the room, she noticed that underneath the chair’s fox pelt, there was an old, red sandalwood box with a coiled dragon carved into it.
Carefully, she opened the box and found two rings lying side by side.
An emerald ring and a very simple, yellow gold diamond ring. She surmised that he must have had these already prepared earlier.
On top of the lid, there was a piece of paper pinned to it.
Written in his handwriting was a simple message: The emerald ring is the engagement ring, to respect family tradition. The yellow gold diamond ring is the wedding ring and should be suitable for wearing day to day. Hope you like it.
At the end, he had even scrawled, Happy marriage day.
Well, perhaps he was the only man in the world who would use such a method to give the rings to his lawful wife and to also wish her a happy marriage day. She held the box in her hands, contemplated for quite some time, and then placed the yellow gold diamond ring onto her own finger.
She thought to herself, from a man who could calmly relocate his materials after seeing his laboratory explode right in front of him and then walk over to another laboratory to continue his experiments, she really should not have too high of expectations.
His choice of date, May 11 alone, was already sufficient to her.
Fifth month, eleventh day. 511 [pinyin: wu shi yi]. My Shi Yi.
At five o’clock in the morning, she could hear the sounds of him leaving to head out. She dashed over to open the door and asked him whether he would like her to have the morning meal with him. He stood at the top of the stairs and hesitated for a moment before telling her that today was not a good time. Shi Yi understood what he meant by this and was only upset at herself for allowing her happy mood to muddle her brain so that she forgot that right now was still a chaotic period.
Sensing her disappointment, Zhousheng Chen walked back from the stairs toward her again. “Do not overthink it. I simply am afraid that you would be put in too much of an uncomfortable state,” he explained in a low voice, “because this morning, I will be encountering some difficult situations.”
“I understand, I understand,” she reiterated to him. “I’ll wait here for you to come back. If you don’t have any appetite when you are there, come back and I will have breakfast with you.”
He nodded. “Alright.”
After he had left, Shi Yi reflected on her behaviour just now – completely like a little wife…… She was a little embarrassed and also somewhat worried. She had not seen in person the heated conflict of the previous night, but she had managed to hear most of it through bits and pieces. Even simply from what she heard last night, she could already deduce what sort of scenes he meant when he described them as “difficult situations.”
She stayed in her room, sometimes sitting and other times standing in waiting.
From the hazy darkness of the sky at five o’clock in the morning to the glorious brightness from the newly risen sun, only one hour had elapsed. Lianhui had asked her three times whether she would like breakfast to be prepared, but she still instructed her to wait some more. The result of her waiting, however, was a message from his mother instructing her that she was to accompany her to the temple to offer up incense.
When Lianhui told her this, she was somewhat incredulous.
Very quickly, though, she recovered as she realized her status had now changed.
She had wanted to ask Lianhui what preferences Madam had in terms of clothing, but as the words were about to leave her lips, she stopped them. Zhousheng Chen had once warned her, and she still clearly remembered his words: “In this manor, there are a total of 68 courtyard wings and 1118 rooms. There are many people and the types of people are varied as well.”
She could identify with this, not because of any television dramas, but because she had personally experienced this in real life.
Yesterday’s situation was not hard to understand. He, too, was trapped in this chaotic swirl of matters, and each step he took was tread with difficulty. Therefore, in this place, Shi Yi told herself that, besides him, she needed to be very careful around each person.
Since her leg had a wound on it and was wrapped in gauze, she could not wear skirts or tight-fitting pants.
She did have a tracksuit amongst the clothes she had brought.
When she thought of his family rules, though, she grit her teeth and put on a cheongsam instead. She removed several layers of the gauze until, with difficulty, she was able to slip on a pair of opaque black tights. Her appearance could still be considered appropriate except she could not where high-heeled shoes, so the overall effect was rather strange.
Because she had needed to very slowly and carefully remove some gauze, she took longer than she normally would have.
By the time she arrived at the front gate of the manor, there were already the sounds of car doors closing one after another. Zhousheng Chen stood far away beside the second car, waiting for her. Upon seeing her attire, a fleeting expression of surprise flashed across his face.
“Big Sister.” The front passenger door of the first sedan in the line-up was pushed open. Dressed in black suspenders with his dress pants, Zhousheng Ren poked his head out. “My mother has said for you to come sit in our car.” Shi Yi had just taken two steps when she stopped again and looked over at Zhousheng Chen.
Zhousheng Chen did not speak or show any outward expression as he gave a slight nod.
Anxiously, she walked as fast as possible to the vehicle. Zhousheng Ren hopped out of the car and opened the door for her. In the instant the door was opened, she saw his mother sitting alone in the rear seat, wearing a cheongsam with a dark-colored design and a purple shawl to complement. Her make-up was meticulously applied, and her smile demonstrated her fine upbringing. “Miss Shi Yi, please come in the car.”
Such a distant form of address.
Was his mother not aware that she and Zhousheng Chen were legally married as husband and wife now? Or… was she truly unwilling to acknowledge this? She became increasingly nervous. Out of the corner of her eye, she glanced over at Zhousheng Chen, who had been standing next to his vehicle the whole time, and watched as he sat into his car.
The procession of vehicles quickly left. As Shi Yi sat shoulder to shoulder with his mother, it, surprisingly, was particularly quiet. After they had driven for quite some time, it was finally his teenage younger brother who turned his head and looked back at her from the front row of seats. “Big Sister Shi Yi, I’ve never had the chance to tell you, you are very pretty.”
She smiled, “Thank you.”
Zhousheng Ren also grinned.
She could sense that this boy, who at first glance seemed taciturn, was attempting to ease the atmosphere in the car, which was so cold it seemed as if it could freeze over. Perhaps their very brief exchange worked, for his mother at last shook her head gently and said with a smile, “Xiao Ren, when you look at a person, you cannot just look at their face. I’ve told you before, ‘The charms of beauty; gleaming teeth; the music of Zheng and Wei –– these are pursued for the pleasure they bring. But they are the axe which severs one’s nature.’ Do you remember?”
She was taken aback.
Zhousheng Ren secretly threw a comforting gaze at Shi Yi but then answered his mother in a solemn voice, “Yes. Mother once said, this line is meant to say, a beautiful woman’s charms and uncultured popular music will beguile one’s mind and nature, and one must by all means avoid indulging in them.”
The angle from where the boy was sitting was just enough that he could still make eye contact with her.
Grateful to Zhousheng Ren for his kindness, the corner of Shi Yi’s lips also secretly turned up in a smile.
After this, the remainder of the drive was in silence.
She sat up straight and properly, thinking, perhaps his mother was truly angry. After all, in regards to his marriage Zhousheng Chen had not acted in accordance with his family’s arrangments. Perhaps she was like the mother-in-law of those wealthy, influential families, who would always exercise her authority and put the new daughter-in-law in her place first. She silently comforted herself, it was actually fortunate that the family was like this because, no matter how difficult his mother’s personality might be, she would not neglect any of the expected etiquette and would, therefore, never blatantly do anything to shame her.
Her knee started to ache from maintaining the same sitting position for such a long period.
She thought to herself, just hang in there for a little longer, just hang in there for a little longer. So in this way, she preserved that position for another twenty minutes. She finally could not bear it anymore and discreetly shifted her legs a little. On the other side of the window, the scenery was starting to shows indications there was an ancient temple nestled in the mountains, and she gave an inward sigh of relief. The vehicle came to a stop. Zhousheng Ren jumped out of the car first and opened the door for his mother.
“Miss Shi Yi.” Before the car door had opened, his mother made a statement. “In regards to your legal relationship as husband and wife, the Zhousheng family will not recognize it. I hope that you will seriously consider whether you will still persist in being with my son.”
While she was still stunned by this unexpected statement, the person beside her had already stepped out of the vehicle and walked away.
天人永隔 “tian ren yong ge.” 天 “tian” is referring to heaven. 人 means “person”or “man” and is referring to the mortal world. 永隔 means “to be forever separated.” So, a person has gone to heaven and those remaining in the mortal world are forever separated from him.
我本将心向明月，奈何明月照沟渠. The moon is a metaphor for the person you choose to give your love/loyalty/genuine feelings to, but the moon still will not shine upon you and has chosen to shine instead on a channel of dirty water. “I have offered up my sincere feeling to you, but you have chosen to disregard them and turn your attention elsewhere .”
新婚快乐 “xin hun kuai le.” 新婚 means “newly married” and 快乐 means “happy.” There really is no English equivalent. It is something along the lines of, “Wishing you happiness in this time as a newlywed couple.” The way Zhousheng Chen wrote it, it is almost greeting card style, like how someone would write happy birthday, hence my somewhat strange translation, where I chose to keep the feeling behind what he said at the expense of awkward word choices.
 May 11th. In Chinese, May is literally called “fifth month” and the date, May 11 is literally written, “fifth month, eleventh day.” Hence, you could contract that day into the numbers, 511. Five-eleven in Chinese is spoken as “wu shi yi.” An older, more archaic form of “I” or “my” in Chinese is 吾 “wu.” So, 511 “wǔ shí yī” sounds similar to, or as Zhousheng Chen had said, is homophonic with 吾时宜 “wú Shí Yí” which means “My Shi Yi.” The differences lies only in the tones of the “wu” and “yi”.
 姐姐 “jie jie.” Literally this means “big sister” and is a way to address a girl who is older but of the same generation as you. This would normally be very commonplace, but in the Zhou family, everyone has been addressing Shi Yi as “Miss Shi Yi” and this sudden greeting from Xiao Ren is significantly more friendly and close.
 The original Chinese text is 靡曼皓齿，郑卫之音，务以自乐，命之曰伐性之斧. It is quoted from吕氏春秋 “Lü Shi Chun Qiu” [“Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals”], which is an encyclopedia of the knowledge of the time, ranging from the various beliefs and customs to philosophies on numerous matters including state, society, military, economony, human nature, etc. It was compiled in the Warring States period by Lü Buwei, prime minister of the Qin state, in approximately 239 BCE. Xiao Ren offers a great explanation of the overall meaning of this. “The music of Zheng and Wei” is referring to the two states of Zheng and Wei during the Spring and Autumn period of China, where their folk music was reputed to be uncultured.
1 of 1 Prologue
24 of 56 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogues
I struggled over how to translate the anniversary date chosen by Zhousheng Chen, so hopefully you guys like it as much as I do. It is actually a terribly sweet gesture, to me at least. Zhousheng Chen’s nature is not romantic by any stretch, and for him to come up with this romantic anniversary date that sounds like “My Shi Yi” is completely unexpected. The way he tells her the date and hints at the meaning without explaining in detail as well as that way of giving her the rings with the note were just geeky… and very Zhousheng Chen. But very adorable in his own way.