With this update, we have now caught up to the radio drama for Beautiful Bones. For anyone who can understand Mandarin, have a listen. (Here is part 1 and part 2.) The CV for Zhousheng Chen is one of my absolute favourites and is Peanut’s CV love. Yeah, I know Zhousheng Chen’s voice is supposed to be ordinary as well, but I’m willing to forgo that piece to listen to Xuan Zone’s dreamy voice as Zhousheng Chen.
By the way, loved reading the discussions, thoughts, and predictions from all of you for the last chapter. I translate because I want to discuss my favourite novels. This Bremen trip keeps getting more and more interesting… and eventful.
Chapter 9.3 – How Can Love be Unraveled? (3)
“I need to leave to go back tomorrow,” he said. “The flight is tomorrow morning.”
She set the ring down on the table. “I should go back, too.”
Zhousheng Chen had already told her before that he would only be staying one week in Bremen this time, and it was only the he exact date and flight of his departure that she had not known. Therefore, when she heard him say this, she was not surprised, only somewhat sad to have to part from him.
Shi Yi had never once tried to hide her attachment to him.
He could see it as well. “The conference has ended already. Shortly from now, I need to step out to take care of some personal matters but will be back around dinnertime.”
“How about we go together?” she asked. “I won’t disturb you when you are doing your things.”
She was simply trying to, as much as possible, spend more time with him, even if it was sitting in the car waiting for him.
He considered her suggestion for a moment. “Alright. Tell Uncle Lin what books you would like to read, and I will have him prepare some for you in the car.”
She thought this was a good idea. Reaching for a sheet of notepaper on the desk, she scribbled down several titles with a pencil. They were all books that she had wanted to read but had not been able to buy. Her penmanship was very beautiful and could even be said that it was bold and had its own unique style. Zhousheng Chen picked up the paper and, seeming rather surprised, he carefully studied it for some time. “Your calligraphy should be held in no less regard than Uncle Chen’s.” He was referring to that uncle who had inscribed the poem on her painting that time she had painted before everyone.
She gave a smile, not denying this.
After all, she had learned from him of the past, and there was pride in this.
He called for Uncle Lin and then handed him the notepaper, instructing him to ready these books for Shi Yi to read that afternoon. After Uncle Lin had left the room, Zhousheng Chen looked at her with a serious expression. “Shi Yi, my great apologies. Although we are already married, I do not even know your handwriting. After this matter has completely concluded, I will set aside a long period of time to allow us to learn more about and understand one another.”
This person always seemed to be so serious over the most unexpected things.
She smiled, then glanced at the redundant ring that was on the table.
Zhousheng Chen followed her gaze with his eyes. Pulling out his wallet from the inner pocket of his jacket, he placed the ring inside it. “This sort of situation will not occur again.”
The two of them rested briefly and then left the hotel.
Sure enough, the books she liked had been readied and placed inside the vehicle. When Zhousheng Chen arrived at his intended destination, before stepping out of the car, he inquired her opinion on whether she wanted to stay in the vehicle to wait for him or go up with him and find a place she could rest. Leaning her side up against the seat, she thought for a moment and asked, “Will you be gone for long?”
“No.” Zhousheng Chen removed his jacket and placed it beside her hand. “At most half an hour.”
He was keenly sensitive to time, and if he said it would be half an hour, then he would absolutely not exceed that.
“I’ll wait for you in the car, then.” She wagged the book that was in her hand. “I can have half an hour of reading. Otherwise, if I go up with you, it will all be people I don’t know…… I actually really don’t like meeting strangers.”
“I noticed.” He chuckled and leaned over toward her to whisper, “You will blush.”
Her eyes widened. “Really?”
He was smiling as he stepped out of the car and left her with Uncle Lin.
However, after Zhousheng Chen had departed, Uncle Lin also got out of the driver’s seat and stood beside the vehicle near its front.
This particular highrise building’s parking garage was on the third level and provided a wide field of view. Her eyes swept around. She surmised that Uncle Lin had taken into consideration who she was and her status and hence did not stay in the same vehicle with her. She lowered her head and continued to browse through this book, “Strange Tales in Unofficial History,” of stories that had been passed down for hundreds and thousands of years. The author’s writing was quite good. The tragic parts would touch the heart while the parts about passions and fervor would cause an upsurge in emotions.
Words and sentences unfolded before her, and as they did, decades and decades passed by.
Until his name appeared.
It was simple white paper with typeset words and little more than a dozen lines of text. She however, fixed her eyes on them for a full seven or eight minutes, not daring to read any further.
Her heart pounded against her chest with a heavy, nervous thumping that could be heard in her ears.
It was not that she had never searched for information on those memories that seemed as if they had come from a half-dreamlike, half-awake state, but most of what she had found only mentioned him in passing with a few sentences. As a traitor of his country, no one would choose to write books or essays about him. His life of magnificence and accomplishments had not left any presence in the several thousand years of recorded history.
She leaned back against the seat. After a long time, she finally, word by word, phrase by phrase, finished reading this section of unofficial history.
Writers and historians from later generations were, for the most part, more ruthless with their pen.
The author described him as a self-seeking, fawning official who had held control of an army at a young age and whose power was second to none in the imperial court. The words were firm and written like absolutes, as if what he had written were the true historical facts. Shi Yi was silent for a moment. Then, she tore out that page, ripped it up into tiny pieces, and placed them into her pant pocket.
She had lost her desire to read.
As she set the book down beside her hand, she noticed the jacket he had taken off before he left the car. Her hand unconsciously stretched out and stroked it, her finger following the curve of the sleeve’s edge to gently draw out a circle. This simple action already caused her cheeks to burn, as if she had touched his wrist.
He once “never forsook the world,” but in the end, everything had been buried in time.
And now, what he desired to do today would perhaps, several hundred or several thousand years later, not even have a record of it.
His aspirations, his compassion, his every action and deed –– how many people truly understood these?
Her mind felt rather jumbled, and she forced herself to close her eyes to rest and allow herself to calm down.
In that moment when her eyelids closed and darkness descended with them, the piercing sound of gunshots suddenly rang out in violent succession. Shi Yi’s eyes flew open and she stared disbelievingly out the window where she saw four people, who had not bothered at all to conceal their faces. Their arms were stretched forward and firing. Their target was not in her direction, but the loud crack of gunfire had shattered windows and the accompanying noise echoing through the body of the car was entirely real.
“Miss Shi Yi.” Behind her, Uncle Lin had already swiftly yanked open the car door. “Do not move. Remain within the car.”
She was unable to react. Four vehicles had already screeched to a halt in front of the car she was in, blocking her view.
The people who stepped out one after another all stood there silently, forming a protective shield in front of Shi Yi’s vehicle. The firing gunshots and running and screaming people in the distance all seemed disassociated from where she was.
Gunfire still sounded, but she no longer could see the scene.
Her hands were shaking uncontrollably, and she forceful clutched his jacket that was beside her.
She was completely incapable of thinking. She could only remember Uncle Lin’s words: do not move.
Soon, the gunshots died out.
The people and the cars protecting her, however, still did not move. She did not dare even to blink. Even though she could not see anything, she still stared fixedly in that direction where she witnessed that scene. She told herself slowly, Shi Yi, you need to stay calm, stay calm…
All of a sudden, the car door was pulled open.
She immediately clutched his jacket to her chest, staring in terror at the door.
Zhousheng Chen was calling her.
She wanted to answer. Her mouth opened, but no sound came out.
“Shi Yi.” He called her again in a soft voice as he sat into the car. “It’s nothing. It’s nothing at all. Don’t be scared. There is absolutely no danger at all.” This was the first time he had ever lost all form of order or logical flow when speaking, and he just chose things to say that would most comfort her. Sentence after sentence, he told her that she was not in any danger.
In a deliberately gentle voice, he consoled her.
Zhousheng Chen covered her hand with his own as he took his jacket from her. Then, he clasped both of her hands in his palms. “Say something to me, Shi Yi. Say my name.”
“Zhousheng Chen…” She listened to him and finally said her first words.
“Keep saying my name.”
“Keep saying it.”
His voice guided her and helped her forget that gun battle that had arisen so abruptly.
Through their dialogue, those stabbing, cruel sounds of bullets being fired gradually faded away from her mind. There was a thin layer of sweat covering Zhousheng Chen’s palms. They were warm and strong as they gripped her hands tightly, perhaps even a little too forcefully.
But it was the ache in her hand because he was squeezing her with such strength that caused Shi Yi to slowly recover and calm.
“Any better?” he asked her in a low voice.
“Mm.” She forced a smile. “I’m sorry, I’ve really never come across…”
This included her past life where she had also never truly seen battles of cold, unfeeling weapons or corpses.
“It’s alright. Your reaction is very normal.” With his right hand, he tucked the long strands of her hair behind her ear. When his fingers brushed against her cheek, he could feel perspiration on it. “There isn’t anyone who is not afraid of gunfights.”
Besides movies and television dramas, this was the first time she had ever encountered such a situation.
But yet, he was very calm.
Shi Yi could tell that there was no fear in him. What he felt was more worry for her.
A gun battle in one of the busy and affluent districts of the city swiftly brought the police, and vehicle after vehicle drove into the parking garage in a continuous stream. Zhousheng Chen was unwilling to let her stay here any longer, and before the police had sealed off the parking garage, their group quickly received special permission and left the scene. Sitting there in the car, Shi Yi could not stop her eyes from searching for the location where the gunfight had taken place.
The broken glass from car windows was scattered on the ground.
Passersby, who looked to be Westerners, were following police instructions and were waiting to answer questions.
The departure of their vehicles was unexpected and therefore attracted the attention of some people, including those police officers, who threw strange glances in their direction. She knew they could not see her through the car window, but she still avoided their gazes. From the corner of her eye, she could see Zhousheng Chen looking at her. She turned to face him, smiled, and assured him softly, “I’m a lot better. Don’t worry.”
Zhousheng Chen stretched out his hand and stroked her hair. “Go back and have a good sleep.”
Shi Yi agreed to his suggestion.
She suddenly grew very frightened. If she or he had been struck by a stray bullet just now and could not be saved, would they have been separated once again? This mood hovered over her and would not dissipate.
Zhousheng Chen seemed to have some apprehensions as well and did not go out with her to eat, instead, instructing people to set out the food in their room.
The silver chopsticks she was holding in her hand were rather cool to touch. She was feeling unsettled. Zhousheng Chen could tell that she did not have much of an appetite and he did not try to persuade her to eat. Very soon, he sent for people to remove the food and prepare some tea and cakes for her instead.
After the food had been taken away, Uncle Lin stepped into the room, seeming as if he had something to say. Shi Yi very tactfully withdrew into the bedroom to change into some casual clothing. As she took off her jacket, however, some tiny bits of paper fell off from it.
It was from the page of the book she had ripped up this afternoon.
There had been no place for her to throw away the scraps of paper, so she had simply stuffed them into her pants pocket. Now, as she reached inside it, her hand was indeed covered by bits of paper. Shi Yi was afraid he would see them, so she brought her pants into the bathroom, pulled the pocket inside out, shook all the little pieces into the toilet, and flushed them away.
When she walked out of the bathroom again, Zhousheng Chen had already come into the bedroom.
“Why are you holding your pants?” he asked with slight puzzlement.
“Nothing. I was worried you might walk in so I changed in the bathroom.”
An amused expression could faintly be seen as he repeated, “Worried I might walk in?”
His voice carried a hint of teasing.
Shi Yi detected it, but she did not respond with jesting. She set her pants down on the couch. As she turned away, Zhousheng Chen had already walked up very close to her. “Are you still thinking about what just happened?”
“It was just an accident.” He explained briefly, “That building is a large Chinese marketplace. The shops inside have been regularly using two different logistics and transport companies. In this case, the two companies had gotten into a disagreement. You know that logistics and transport is an industry that can reap exorbitant profits. All over the world, the disputes amongst these companies are very serious, and many have used violence to settle the matters. We just happened to run into one of those situations.”
She nodded, accepting his explanation.
And then, they were both quiet.
He was so close, within reach of her hand, but she could lose him so easily as well.
Whether it was his identity and background or the incident earlier that had made her realize how fragile life was, these all left her feeling very unpeaceful.
Zhousheng Chen could sense her emotions and wanted to say something, but she had already gently taken his hand that had been hanging by his side into her own while her other hand clutched the edge of his shirt. Very quickly, she moved her face close to him and kissed him.
Her eyes were tightly shut. She felt his arm wrap around her waist as he returned her kiss.
No matter how many times of intimacy they had had, each time when they were close like this, her heartbeat would become rapid and her breathing would grow heavy.
After a long time, she finally let go of his hand and reached up, trying to undo his shirt buttons.
Zhousheng Chen could sense her movements, and he asked softly, “What do you want to do?”
“Zhousheng Chen.” She, too, spoke in a quiet voice. “I’m really pretty, right? Out of the people you know, would I be considered really pretty?…… Maybe there are other people more beautiful than me, but…”
“There aren’t. There is no woman more beautiful than you.” He gave a faint laugh. “Before, when I would study history, the one thing I most did not believe in was ‘the beauty trap.’ However, after meeting you, I believe it.”
The meaning of his words was subtle and indirect, but his analogy was very exaggerated.
She knew that she was attractive, but it was not to such an extreme. But to be praised in this way by the man she loved most, even an average-looking woman would be filled with joy. “The eyes of the lover beholds Xi Shi.” [“A lover views the one he loves as the most beautiful.”] The reason why this saying resounded with people’s hearts and minds was because the key point was not that you were being compared with Xi Shi but that the one who thought you were the most beautiful was your “lover.”
Shi Yi lightly exhaled a breath. “So, I’m not an unworthy match for you, right?”
“No.” In a low voice, he told her, “You satisfy all the vain and prideful desires of a man.”
She pressed her lips together, trying to conceal her smile.
She continued to unbutton his shirt.
Zhousheng Chen did not ask her again, nor did he stop her. Amid her somewhat nervous motions, he simply lowered his head and kissed her.
He remembered, in history, the “the beauty trap” was a scheme used to bring down empires, but there had still been people who had willingly offered up the ruin of their country or their city for the beautiful maiden.
 美人计 “mei ren ji.” Literally, this means “trap of the beautiful maiden.” This is a true war strategy found in the Thirty-Six Strategems. To bring down the enemy, send a beautiful maiden to (usually) the ruler or a senior leader of the enemy side so he becomes so enthralled by her he neglects his duties.
 情人眼里出西施 ”qing ren yan li chu Xi Shi.” Xi Shi is one of the Four Beauties of ancient China. This saying is often translated to the common English saying, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.” When looking at the person you love, in your eyes, she is as beautiful as Xi Shi.
There is so much about Zhousheng Chen that is attractive, but for me, the thing about him that touches me most is his sincerity and effort in learning to love Shi Yi. We’ve seen it sprinkled throughout the novel to date, this scene (and one other one later on) truly demonstrates to me how much he has taken this to heart. “Shi Yi, my great apologies. Although we are already married, I do not even know your handwriting. After this matter has completely concluded, I will set aside a long period of time to allow us to learn more about and understand one another.” I truly sense his sincerity in that to him, not knowing something as minute as her handwriting indicates that he has not done an adequate job yet. And he intends to rectify that situation.
What do you think Shi Yi felt as she read through this unofficial account of Xiao Nanchen Prince’s life? It pains me to think that someone whose heart belonged to the good of the people was written off in history as a traitor. But I feel even more for Shi Yi, who knows the truth but has to read these “facts.” Shi Yi has never shown extreme emotion, but pain and anger must have struck her in that moment for her to rip up that page.
Shi Yi is so unsettled after seeing the gun battle. Understandably so, as we would all be, but her feelings are not stemming from simply the shock. Fear, but not for her own life. Fear of loss, fear of separation once again, fear that she would never get the chance to say the things she wanted to say to him in this life. Faced with mortality, the fragility of life as she said. And hence, her out of character behaviour at the end… What do you think Zhousheng Chen was thinking?
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