Shi Yi and Zhousheng Chen are separated for a little while, but don’t worry because his phone calls will be nice and regular.
Chapter 10.1 – Like Your First Adornment (1)
Shi Yi made a last minute change to depart on a flight that night. Zhousheng Chen went to the airport with her.
After sending away the people accompanying him, they stood there at the entrance to the security checkpoint, both of them especially quiet.
“This reminds me of the first time I saw you.” Shi Yi glanced over to the other side of the security entrance. “You were carrying your computer and ID and nothing else, but you were still asked to go back to be re-screened.”
“First time,” he said. “That was the first time I had ever been requested to go back and screened through security again.”
It was the first time? She remembered the very first time he had looked over at her.
It was because she had been staring too blatantly at him.
He raised his wrist and glanced at the time.
She knew it was nearly time for her to leave. Hooking her pointer finger around his hand, she gently held on and said, “I’m going now.”
She did not want to part from him, but nevertheless, she still needed to be sensible and leave.
Zhousheng Chen gave an “mm,” looked at her, then suddenly asked, “Are you thirsty?”
“A little bit.” She licked her lips. They were a little dry.
Earlier, on the drive here, she had been too preoccupied with talking to him and had forgotten to drink water.
She wanted to tell him it was not an issue, that she could buy something after she had passed through security. But before she could open her mouth, Zhousheng Chen had already made a gesture for her to wait a moment, and then he turned around, bought a bottle of water for her, twisted open the cap, and handed it to her.
Somewhat surprised by this, Shi Yi took a couple of sips, but then felt she was being wasteful. “I can actually just go in and buy one. It’s such a waste to just take a couple drinks now and then not be able to bring it in with me.”
“It’s alright. I will take it and drink it along the way.”
Their final conversation turned out to be about not wasting a bottle of mineral water.
Later, when Shi Yi was boarding the plane and thought about this dialogue again, she still found it humorous.
The nighttime flight was very quiet.
Before long, she grew sleepy. Her thoughts gradually drifted to that intimate moment that had ended soon after it had barely begun. She remembered how he had helped her put on her clothes and asked her why she was suddenly so troubled. With his intelligence, he had easily perceived her abnormal behavior, that she wanted to hurriedly solidfy their relationship and was filled with anxiousness and panic out of fear that there would be some unforeseen misfortune.
She had not answered his question.
If she had said, “I’m afraid I will never see you again,” it would have seemed too soppy and melodramatic.
Or perhaps he would have found the situation unbelievably strange.
She remained in her own thoughts for a while until she heard two people near her discussing the gun battle that had occurred during the day. The content of their conversation was similar to Zhousheng Chen’s explanation. However, the situation described by the mouths of the Europeans provided another perspective, which essentially described that building as a Chinese marketplace that was frequently reported by neighbouring people to have “Chinese triads” present, like the “Fujian Clan” or something similar. Their depictions were so fantastical it was as if Chinese people were the most unstable presence in the city…
These people describing the situation had not confirmed the validity of their words but yet were speaking as if it was all true.
Surrounded by whispered English conversations, she thought of Zhousheng Chen and his friend, Mei Xing. After being raised under the influence of a family culture that stretched back several hundred years, both pairs of dark black eyes did not show even the slightest flicker in any situation. Mei Xing, though, was more similar to the people of during the Six Dynasties period in history in that he chose to follow his own heart and will. But when Shi Yi thought about Zhousheng Chen, her heart instantly softened.
She was not able to use a word, a sentence, or a single trait of an era to describe him.
As soon as her vacation was over, she immediately stepped back into the mode of working under high pressure.
Mei Lin had set the final rounds of the contest to take place in Wuzhen’s newly rebuilt and developed West Village, and it was also a collaborative event with this new scenic area. When compared with the old East Village, everything in this newly built area seemed brand new, but already, indications of commercialization could be seen.
Fortunately, the area had not officially been opened to the public yet.
As a staff member of the organizer, she was able to enter the area earlier. When Hong Xiaoyu heard about this, she took advantage of it and insisted on coming along with her to stay for leisure. This type of ancient water town of Jiangnan was very beautiful at night, and to be there without all the tourists and visitors was an opportunity you could only chance upon.
On the phone, Hong Xiaoyu made a vague mention about her new boyfriend.
Shi Yi did not think too much about it and simply asked Mei Lin to reserve an extra room for them.
The two came rather late, arriving there in the evening.
Shi Yi stood waiting for them at the entrance to the new scenic area. Off in the distance, she saw Hong Xiaoyu carrying a camera and walking beside a man, all the while talking and laughing. The man looked to be upright and honest, his features emitting a gallant feel about him.
Shi Yi’s eyes made a quick sweep over his face. Hong Xiaoyu had already noticed her and jogged over. “You know, it’s so hard to even get a chance to see you . We both live in Shanghai, but these last couple months, your whereabouts have been so irregular. Now, finally, we actually end up meeting in a place just outside of Shanghai. Gee, no offense, beautiful Shi Yi, but the extent that you put your man above your friends can definitely go down in history books.”
“You can wait two or three days, then. I’ll be back in Shanghai after that.” She could not be bothered with Hong Xiaoyu’s mocking and whispered to her, “Don’t think I don’t know. You just want to have some ‘real’ development in your relationship with him, and you’re using me as an excuse to come here.”
Hong Xiaoyu threw her a quick glare and then gave brief introductions between the two of them.
That person’s occupation was similar to Hong Xiaoyu’s except one was a journalist while the other was a news photographer.
But Shi Yi had a persistent sense that there was a sharp fierceness within this person that he could not completely conceal.
Her intuition had always been very accurate, and as the three of them chatted and walked into the scenic area, she inevitably eyed him over several times. However, when she heard Hong Xiaoyu mention later that he was a war correspondent, her mind was finally set at ease.
She remembered his name. It was Du Feng.
Several people from her company had arrived, and all of them possessed extremely beautiful voices.
Hong Xiaoyu would normally not have the opportunity to meet these people. This time, because of her connection to Shi Yi, she finally got to see them all. Everyone was very easygoing, and when Shi Yi made the introductions, she was also very casual. Most of the time, she would say something along the lines of, “This is the narrator in XX documentary,” or “This is the male/female lead of such and such hit drama”…
Over and over again, an expression of sudden realization would show up on Hong Xiaoyu’s face.
But Du Feng would only smile from time to time. Mostly, he simply laughed at Hong Xiaoyu for making such a fuss.
“Most of these water towns have stories in them.” Mei Lin pinched a snail shell in one hand and grinned as she looked at D. Wang. “I remember last time you told me that story about Xitang, the one where frequently, someone who is staying there will disappear for several hours and then when they come back…”
Wang shook his head and cut her off. “Shi Yi gets scared easily. Don’t talk about stuff like that at night.”
He said this very naturally.
However, a lot of people there knew about the relationship between him and Shi Yi. Some of them had smiles that carried hinted meanings while others were already starting to tease them. This type of good-natured joking was common and harmless.
To avoid him feeling awkward, Shi Yi only smiled and did not really reject his kindness.
Hong Xiaoyu had never seen D. Wang before, and she was now intrigued. In a low voice, she asked Shi Yi, “How does he know you’re scared easily?”
Shi Yi whispered back, “I often have to record late into the night. Every time, I have to wait for someone to come with me before I dare take the elevator to go downstairs. The people who have worked with me for a long time all know. It’s pretty normal.”
“Nope, not normal.” Hong Xiaoyu’s eyes narrowed. “Extremely not normal.”
Shi Yi pinched the back of her hand lightly. “Don’t be nosy.”
“This is the last thing I’ll say.” Hong Xiaoyu asked her curiously, “If your hubby finds out someone likes you, will he get jealous?”
Would he get jealous?
Shi Yi did not have any confidence when it came to the answer to this question.
She thought, Zhousheng Chen definitely did like her, but how much? In her heart, she really was not sure.
And that was why she was feeling anxious, right? Just like in Bremen.
“Don’t tell me you don’t even have this little bit of confidence in yourself.” Hong Xiaoyu frowned. “I’ve watched you from how you started to like him, how you guys started your relationship, and even how you unexplainably got married without any sort of ceremony. You’re too set on him. You’re clearly a priceless treasure, but it’s like you’re selling yourself off as one of those pearls you can buy at a street stand…”
Shi Yi could not hold back a laugh. “What kind of analogy is that?”
“But that’s what it is…”
“Shh.” Shi Yi picked up her mobile phone and told her quietly, “I need to go out and take a phone call.”
She got up and stepped away.
This was an old-style wooden building, and their dinner location was on the second floor, overlooking the river, with seven or eight tables arranged in the room. Their group occupied two of the tables near the east side, and so she walked over to a window on the west side.
Zhousheng Chen’s phone call to her came punctually.
She leaned against the wooden window and talked to him in a soft voice.
She had trained Zhousheng Chen so that he could now very adeptly, starting with what he had eaten for dinner, report his day’s events to her, regardless of how small or big the matter may have been. He truly had a good memory, for he could even tell her the approximate time of every happening. At the end, when Shi Yi was in a very good mood from listening to his account, she thought of what Hong Xiaoyu had asked her. Putting on a nonchalant tone, she said, “Lately, there seems… there’s someone trying to pursue me.”
Zhousheng Chen was silent for a short moment. “Is it that D. Wang?”
“Mm… How did you know?”
“I have always known.”
Shi Yi suddenly remembered that he had all the details and information on her. Immediately, she felt that awkwardness of being found out.
For a moment, she did not speak.
Zhousheng Chen, though, perceived the reason behind her words. “You would like to know whether I mind?”
Shi Yi was too embarrassed to admit this, but she did not deny it either.
Zhousheng Chen gave a chuckle. “You can think of it this way: it is because I mind that I have been keeping track of your activities at all times.”
“Really.” He paused, and then added softly, “The honest truth.”
She giggled out loud. Far off on the waterway, she could see several moored wooden barges with lanterns hanging from them.
There were no tourists within this area yet, only the organizers, media, and finalists for the contest, and hence these canal barges did not work during the evenings, staying docked and becoming part of the scenery themselves.
Zhousheng Chen said a few more things to her before they ended their phone conversation.
After everyone had finished dinner, there were some activities that had been organized by the person in charge of this scenic area.
They had the choice of of either taking a cruise on the canals or going to the theatre to listen to pingtan [narrative singing and storytelling].
Shi Yi did not enjoy the feeling of being near a river late at night, so she chose to listen to pingtan. Half of the seats of the theatre were occupied. The muggy wind of summer blew in. She listened without really paying attention as she gently twirled the prayer beads on her wrist.
On such a hot night, this setting could not be considered pleasant.
Somehow, though, they caused her to remember things that had grown hazy in her mind long ago.
In that life, since a young age, she had studied the history of the Tang dynasty, and she had been greatly interested in the “Song of the Rainbow Skirt and Feathered Robes” composed by Emperor Xuanzong. Unfortunately, it had been lost as a result of the An Lushan Rebellion, and no one had ever found the musical score again. Finally, one day, it was heard that the last ruler of the Southern Tang state, Li Yu and his queen, Zhou E’Huang had managed to restore a greater part of it.
She really wanted to hear it, and Zhousheng Chen had also indulged her, instructing to have the musical score borrowed.
However, that day, she committed a wrong and missed that performance of “Song of the Rainbow Skirt and Feathered Robes.” All of this was simply because of a single cup of tea. She had loved tea from a young age, and so, Zhousheng Chen had sought out and collected for her all sorts of famous, high-quality teas. That day, she had wanted to steep his favourite tea for him, but because of the quality of water, she had poured out one cup after another.
Famous teas were worth thousands in gold, but she was squandering it at will.
That was the first time he had ever reprimanded her. Anger could be seen on his face, but he restrained it.
He simply did not allow her to view the music and dance performance and left her standing in the study with writing brush in hand as she, one word at a time, wrote out the famous teas of past dynasties. When she reached the Tang dynasty, her eyes grew red from feeling misunderstood. She could hear the sound of music off in the distance, but she could only continue to grip the brush and write down each word: Meng Ding; Zi Sun [Purple Bamboo Shoot]… Divine Spring Water, Small Bundle; Bright Moon in the Jade-Colored Mountain Stream; Budding on Fang Mountain; Tea of Lake Yong Holds Essence; White Dew of West Mountain; Yellow Shoot of Huo Mountain…
She blinked her eyes furiously, trying to hold back her tears, but they still fell onto the paper and formed damp halos.
“Eleven.” Leaning over slightly, he looked down at the paper that was covered with her writing and finally opened his mouth to speak. “One cup of tea that you pour out is equivalent to several days’, possibly even an entire month’s worth of the common people’s provisions. You are fond of trying teas and so I will buy tea for you, but I do not want you to become proud and willful and not know the hardships of the commonfolk.”
She gripped the writing brush and gave a slight nod of her head.
“You are the future crown princess…” Zhousheng Chen continued.
Her head, though, suddenly whipped up, and she looked at him, eyes glistening with tears.
She did not want to it to be because she was the crown princess that she had to remember these things. She was simply his disciple, and therefore, she willingly accepted the punishment he gave her.
Stubbornness completely filled those tearful eyes.
Zhousheng Chen was about to speak but in the end, did not say anything. Unable to hold back a faint smile, he straightened himself and told her, “Carry on with your writing.”
A night breeze blew in.
The pingtan was still going on. Shi Yi leaned herself on one side of the wooden bench, still unable to pull her thoughts back to the present.
Before her eyes, there seemed to be a xuan paper covered completely in lines of writing.
And out of the corner of her eyes, she saw only him.
 魏晋 “Wei Jin.” Short for 魏晋南北朝 “Wei Jin Northern and Southern Dynasties,” also known as the “Six Dynasties.” This was a period spanning from 220-589 AD that had six separate dynasties (Three Kingdoms, the Jin dynasty, and the Northern and Southern dynasties).
 乌镇. Wuzhen is a famous, ancient water town located approximately 130 km from Shanghai. It is characterized by its canals, bridges, and restored historic architecture.
 乌镇西栅 “Wuzhen Xi Zha.” The Xi Zha, or West Village scenic zone within Wuzhen.
西塘 “Xitang.” Similar to Wuzhen, this is also an ancient, scenic water town located in the province of Zhejiang.
评弹 “ping tan.” This is a narrative musical art form that originated in the Jiangnan area. Its purpose is to tell a story through the combination of both singing and talking. The performer(s) will play an instrument while singing/talking in the Wu dialect (see footnote  in chapter 2.3).
 《霓裳羽衣曲》”Ni Shang Yu Yi Qu.” The “Song/Dance of the Rainbow Skirt and Feathered Robes.” Legend has it that Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty had a dream of maidens on the moon performing a dance to music, and when he awoke, he wrote down the song and named it after the garments he saw the maidens wearing in his dream. His favoured concubine, Imperial Consort Yang (the famous Yang Guifei) was said to have choreographed the dance set to it and performed it before him.
安史之乱. A major uprising that nearly brought down the Tang dynasty. General An Lushan was a favourite official of Emperor Xuanzong. He had significant power and control of the army and was even said to have been adopted by the emperor’s favourite concubine, Imperial Consort Yang (Yang Guifei). The rebellion began when An Lushan turned his army to take the (Tang) city of Luoyang and shortly after, proclaimed himself emperor of the new Yan dynasty. The rebellion spanned more than seven years and over the reign of three different emperors before it was finally put down but the death toll was huge and it had significantly weakened the Tang empire.
李煜 Li Yu was the final ruler of the Southern Tang state. His rule was approximately 200 years after the An Lushan rebellion. He was an incompetent ruler but is also known in history books as a master of poetry. His love for his musically gifted queen, Zhou E’Huang was well-known.
Just in case it is not clear, the intimate scene at the very end of the last post really was just buttons being undone and maybe a little bit more. It had “ended soon after it had barely begun,” so no, they did not consummate their marriage. We have seen that certainly Zhousheng Chen has a physical attraction to Shi Yi, but do you think that, given his care for Shi Yi and attentiveness to her needs, he would actually let their “first time” be immediately after such a frightening situation had occurred, and when Shi Yi was not in a proper state of mind? Being the gentleman that he is, I suspect that he would consider doing so as “taking advantage” of Shi Yi in that moment. He did not refuse her actions for they were her way of finding comfort, but he did not allow it to progress further either. He’s a bit anal (remember the timely gifts he would send when they first were together?), and I reckon he would ensure that their “first time” is properly romantic.
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