What is normal life like for Zhousheng Chen and Shi Yi?
Chapter 12.1 – To Have Ever Been Free From Worry? (1)
Since Zhousheng Chen had officially returned to the country, she would have to bring him to formally pay a visit to her family.
There had been no official wedding, and hence, Shi Yi had tactfully explained that the two of them had decided to be together, but due to the numerous and complicated rules of his family, the wedding reception needed to be delayed for a little while. In regards to their status now as legally married husband and wife, she truly did not dare admit this to her parents because they would, without a doubt, be furious. Already legally married, yet the elders on each side had not even met yet… Even she knew that this was unacceptable.
Although her parents were not very happy about it, when they saw how insistent Shi Yi was, they reluctantly accepted that the two were “together.”
“Oh, ’a grown daughter cannot be kept at home.’” While Shi Yi was washing her face, Mother, who was standing behind her, took the opportunity to lament in a low voice, “Good thing Little Zhou looks like he’s an honest, reliable boy, otherwise I’d really ––“
Shi Yi patted her face dry and picked up a wooden comb. “Mm-hm. I also think he’s honest… and reliable.”
“But it’s not enough for two people to be in love. You need the protection of having a legally recognized status, too.” Mother took the comb from her, put her hair up into a ponytail for her, and then tied it simply. “And also, don’t start living together too early.”
Contrary to expectation, Shi Yi did not utter a word in response.
Her mother detected that something was odd, and when she saw her awkward expression, she immediately understood.
She cuffed Shi Yi lightly across the back of her head, then with a frown, sighed, “Forget it. You young people… Just different from our generation.”
Shi Yi took the comb back from her and set it back where it belonged as she answered quietly, “No matter what, in this lifetime, I will only be with him. That will never change.”
“A lifetime? One lifetime is a very long time ––“
Mother wanted to say more, but Shi Yi had already slipped away and smilingly evaded the issue.
The household norm was that her father was the one who cooked. As she stepped out of the bathroom, she discovered that Zhousheng Chen was also in the kitchen, and she hurriedly walked over. He was leisurely carrying out a conversation with her father, and when she walked in, he was handing her father a freshly peeled and washed green onion. Smiling at him, she instructed, “You go out. I’ll help here.”
He looked at her, and with the back of his right hand, he gently bumped her ponytail. “It’s alright.”
This was the first time he had seen her with this hairstyle, so naturally, he stared at it a little longer.
The two of them gazed at each other behind her elderly father, who was busy cooking. Red tinged her cheeks slightly from his gaze, and she stretched her arms forward and helped him roll the sleeves of his dress shirt slightly higher. Then, she noiselessly stood on her tiptoes and placed a quick kiss on his cheek.
In that instant before her father turned around, she quickly took two steps backwards. “Um… I’m going out now. You put on a good showing here, then.”
“Little Zhou, here, pass me the green onion.”
Zhousheng Chen was still clutching the green onion in his hand, and finally, half a beat behind, he managed to recover and and hand it over.
And she had already fled the scene.
A very peaceful, simple lunch.
The scene of Zhousheng Chen and Shi Yi sitting together, side by side as they quietly ate, was very harmonious, and even Mother, who still had considerable murmurs of complaint, had to admit that they were very fitting for one another. Before they left, Shi Yi’s parents pulled him back to have a conversation.
Essentially, her parents would ask questions and he would answer them one by one, entirely conducting himself in a manner of saying what knew and speaking without any reserve.
Her mother’s [paternal] aunt had once been a lady of wealthy background in olden day Shanghai, and having witnessed this, Mother naturally used it as a model to speculate about Zhousheng Chen’s mother. Probingly, she asked whether he had grown up under the care of a nanny and his mother had not really looked after him. Zhousheng Chen did not deny this. Shi Yi’s mother smiled in what could be considered relief. As Shi Yi was leaving, her mother told her softly, “I’m guessing his mother was the young miss of one of those rich families in the past. People and children from those types of families are not approachable, and they will have a bit of a temper, too.”
Even though it was not quite accurate, there were similarities.
Shi Yi promised that she would carefully try to get along with his mother.
Her parents’ home was approximately a thirty-minute drive away from where she lived.
Stopping before an intersection, they got off the car and walked side by side, following the street toward her community compound. Recalling the dialogue earlier with her parents, she pretended to casually ask, “When you were a kid, you didn’t grow up under your mom’s care?”
“Yes, but also not quite.” Zhousheng Chen chuckled, “Why did you wait so long to ask?”
Her bluff exposed, she pursed her lips and reflected for a moment before saying, “I was scared if I asked you outright, you would get mad…”
“It was more or less like what your parents are thinking. My mother did not personally raise her own children. Myself and my younger brother and sister were all raised by other people, and moreover, each of us had a different nanny.”
With an “oh,” she commented, “No wonder I get the sense that you and your brother… aren’t very close.”
He did not deny this. “Indeed, we are not well-acquainted with one another. I moved away from home very early, and it was only when he was about to be married that we started having somewhat more contact with each other.”
While she was speaking, two small teddy bear poodles darted over, running circles around her before suddenly breaking out into loud barking.
Zhousheng Chen swiftly reached out and pulled her into his arms to shield her. It was only until after the dog owner had dashed up, stopped the dogs with a loud scolding, and hurriedly apologized to them did Zhousheng Chen finally relax. Initially, she had been shocked, but she had not really been afraid. Rather, it was Zhousheng Chen’s protective behavior that caused her to be somewhat surprised.
He squeezed her hand. Their palms were both a little sweaty.
She had broken out in a cold sweat because she had been frightened by the dogs, and his reason was because he was worried for her.
“I’m not that scared of dogs,” Shi Yi protested softly when he loosened his embrace around her.
She seemed to hear him give an “mm” in reply. After a brief pause, he said, “I was scared.”
“Huh?” Shi Yi turned her eyes to him.
His manner was very calm as he looked at her, and after several seconds passed, he suddenly smiled and stroked her ponytail with his hand. “Scared they would bite you.”
A subtle feeling of intimacy.
But even this was enough to cause her heart to melt, and she reached over to hold his hand.
He was protecting her, worried that she would be hurt.
When they arrived at home, Shi Yi tidied up the study for him and placed in there the books he frequently read and his laptop computer that he had packed and moved over. He really did not have many day-to-day items. Besides a few men’s essential items, books, two computers, and clothing, he did not have any other unnecessary things. One of his computers seemed to be dedicated to his laboratory work while the other was for his personal use.
Normally in the study, she only required her laptop computer and a single desk lamp, so her electrical outlet was the most basic type.
Now that there were these two computers, she was afraid there would not be enough sockets to use.
“These two computers of yours, will they ever be on simultaneously?”
From the living room, Zhousheng Chen answered, “Yes.”
“There likely won’t be enough sockets to plug into, then.” She pondered, “You sit for a while first. I’ll go downstairs to the convenience store and buy a larger one with more sockets.”
“The convenience store downstairs?” He had walked up to the door of the study as he asked her.
“Mm-hmm. Otherwise, there won’t be enough sockets to plug in the lamp…”
“Alright. I understand.”
While he was saying this, he had already turned around and was heading out.
When he shut the front door behind him, she finally clued in. She had still been treating him as a guest just a moment ago.
But he, apparently, was already regarding himself as the man of the house.
Leaning against the desk with her hand, she felt a sense of happiness that seemed surreal. Since they had returned from Wuzhen, some things had changed. Small details, but they were very apparent. She was not referring to the acts of intimacy between a man and a woman, but something… even more. She could sense the care, the place of importance she held to him.
It was like in the past, that same sort of importance she had once been to him.
Even though he did not remember any of it.
Apart from being passionate about scientific research and economics, this man lacked interest in any other matter, yet he was starting to protect her. To act like any other ordinary man and let her order him to go buy daily necessities…
With a white cloth, she wiped down every corner of the study. After a while, she squatted down to stare at the many history books on the bottommost shelf of her bookcase.
Most were elegantly bound and beautifully printed but looked as if they had not been flipped through.
Indeed, many of these she had bought and then only looked through once.
Seeing these books reminded her of the paper she had sandwiched inside a magazine and set in her handbag. Pulling it out, she placed it into a new file folder and then very carefully filed it on top of that shelf of books. She did not know how long it would take to write about those memories. She only hoped that she would not forget too many of them, that she could, as much as possible, detailedly and accurately record it all.
Those things about him that only she knew.
Dinner was casual, and they simply ate cold dishes and noodles tossed with scallions, oil, and soy sauce before he headed into the study.
Shi Yi sat down at the small table out on the balcony, pulled out several sheets of paper, and began mapping out her book’s chronology. Several hours passed by very quickly. Her normal working hours were from afternoon until late into the night, past eleven o’clock, and hence, she still did not feel drowsy. Seeing that it was still quiet in the study, she placed some snacks onto a dish, knocked on the door, and then pushed it open.
Zhousheng Chen seemed to be accustomed to being alone. Turning around, he stared blankly at her for several seconds before his mind snapped out of its focus on work. “Sleepy?”
“No.” She stepped inside and set the snacks and a glass of warm milk in front of him. “I was worried you might be hungry. If you are, have a little bit to eat. If not, then just drink the glass of milk.”
He smiled, picked up the glass, and took a drink of the milk.
Setting it back down, he dragged the empty chair beside him closer to himself. “Sit here. I’ll talk to you for a little while.”
She gave an “mm” and sat down.
Although the way he said this was a little strange, his meaning was that he wanted to spend time with her. She supposed he felt that he had ignored her the whole night.
While they were casually chatting, he opened up his personal email account.
It was organized very systematically.
She saw that among the more than dozen or so names of people, there was one folder named “Shi Yi,” and she immediately remembered those days when she had corresponded back and forth with him through email. Over a period of more than half a year, they had not had any other form of communication, and she had been so discouraged at the time. However, now that she understood him, she realized this was the method of communication he was accustomed to using.
It was very direct, and he could control when he responded.
It was an especially efficient way to manage personal relationships…
Zhousheng Chen suddenly asked her, “When you see this string of words, are you able to think of another one with a similar pattern?”
Shi Yi glanced at his computer. In a Microsoft Word window, there was only a single series of words:
One Red Calyx, Two-Colored Lotus, Three Cheerful Steps, Four Bamboo Courtyards, Five Night-Watches’ Orders, Six to the End, Seven(th) Wife, Eight Slaps at the Savage, Nine Weaving Looms, Ten(th) Month’s Peaches, Hundred Aptly Delicate and Lovely, Thousand Year Tune.
She understood now and laughed, “These are all names of ci poem patterns. But the person who listed them out this way is quite amusing.”
“Can you think of anything similar?”
Shi Yi pondered for a while. There were some Chinese medicinal herbs that would fit the pattern. “One Spot of Red, Two-Leaf Pattern, Three-Cornered Grass, Four Seasons of Green [Evergreen], Five-Sided Fruit [Starfruit], Six Harmonies Song… Seven-Leaf Lotus, Eight-Cornered Maple [Chinese Alangium Root], Nine Miles of Fragrance, Ten Scattered Ashes… Um, Hundred Plants’ Soot, Thousand Days of Scarlet.”
“All Chinese herbs?” He had not expected that she would use traditional medicinal herbs to answer the challenge.
He quickly wrote down her answer and pasted it back into the reply to that email.
His fingers then rapidly typed another line of words: This is the answer Shi Yi gave.
“Who are you sending it to?”she asked curiously when she saw him type her name.
“Mei Xing.” He chuckled, “He always likes to send out group emails with things like this for fun.”
She thought about that man. Mm-hmm, that was consistent with his character.
Zhousheng Chen finished the remainder of the milk and closed his computer. “I will be leaving at four o’clock in the morning. Do you have work tomorrow? Or are you just resting at home?”
“No work…” She picked up the empty glass. “I told Mei Lin I’m… honeymooning.”
“Honeymoon,” he mused and then smiled. “Indeed, it can be considered a honeymoon.”
On such a late night, when all was at rest…
He had given a simple affirmation. And when she glanced over at him, warmth unwittingly spread over her cheeks.
女大不中留 “nü da bu zhong liu.” An idiom that means, a daughter should be married off when she is grown. It is not advisable for her to remain with the family for a long period of time (nor, in some cases, can you keep her heart in the family). Often, when a parent or elder is saying this, that person is actually chastising the daughter for siding with an outsider, usually the man she loves.
 词牌 “ci pai.” There is a type of poetry called “ci poems.” These poems were actually composed so that they were sung to a tune. The tune had a fixed melody and tempo. Multiple poems could be composed but sung to the same tune and hence, it was like a pattern or formula to follow to compose the poem. This type of tune was called “ci pai” or what I have translated as “ci poem patterns.” Each ci pai was given a name, possibly related to the lyrics from the first time the tune was sung, but the origins of the names have generally since been lost and are merely names . New ci poems that are composed to the tunes may have nothing to do with the name. There are more than 1000 ci pai. For Shi Yi to instantly recognize these as ci pai names again demonstrates how learned she is in literature and poetry.
*sigh* I tried my best, but I know the translations of the riddle and the answer Shi Yi gave are >_<. Just in case you didn’t get what was going on…
Mei Xing sent a group email with a riddle in it, just for fun. The riddle was basically a string of 12 proper nouns that each contained three characters. These proper nouns were all names of ci pai [ci poem patterns] but they were specially selected because the first character of the name was a number. These names were listed in the order such that it looked like 1__, 2__, 3__, 4__, 5__, 6__, 7__, 8__, 9__, 10__,100__, 1000__. (Of course, where I have put in numbers for illustration purposes is actually the Chinese character for that number, and __ is two Chinese characters.) The challenge was to create another string of 12 three-character proper nouns that followed a theme and the first character of the names also were these same numbers. Shi Yi was able to do so using medicinal herb names.
The translation is awkward because, to maintain the pattern of the riddle, I had to manipulate some of the names so that the number was the first word of the name, and some of those words have true English translations but I had to abandon them and do a more literal translation with the number in the name (e.g.”Five-Sided Fruit” is actually just starfruit).
Someone tell me again why I was crazy enough to choose this novel to translate. >_<
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37 of 56 Main story segments
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