So calm on the surface… But is it truly?
Chapter 13.1 – Mysteries that Could Not Be Unraveled (1)
Zhou Wenxing quaveringly spoke only a couple more sentences and then broke down into sobs.
Very sorrowful sobs.
Genuinely alarmed by this, Shi Yi tried to console her, “I’m fine now. Honest, Wenxing.”
“I’m scared to death just thinking back on it now,” Zhou Wenxing choked out in a nasal-sounding voice. “So scared after the fact. If you had really, just like that… Big Brother would hate me for sure.”
She comforted Wenxing, “He wouldn’t. He loves you very much. And it was just an accident.”
Every time Zhousheng Chen spoke of this younger sister, he would have a gentle expression on his face. She knew that he must like Wenxing very much and also felt the same about Xiao Ren. In this old manor, the three of them were a rare source of comforting warmth.
Wenxing only spoke for a short while before a look of fatigue overcame her, even as she still, again and again, apologized in a voice filled with guilt.
She ended up being the one to console Wenxing and, after all sorts of persuasion, finally convince her to return to her room and rest. The girl Zhousheng Chen had left to attend to her very adeptly changed her intravenous solution bag and then gave her a friendly smile.
The girl continued to smile. “Young Madam, don’t worry. Eldest Young Master will be back soon.”
She was taken aback for a moment and then smiled.
When it was lunchtime, he still had not returned.
Originally, the young girl had wanted to help Shi Yi with her food, but she declined with a smile. Instead, she asked for a tray table to be set on the bed, and slowly, she fed herself. She was not hungry, though, and in fact, when she ate, her stomach would hurt somewhat. The girl comforted her that dizziness and stomach pain were normal symptoms after near-drowning. After all, her brain had suffered from lack of oxygen for a period of time and she had also swallowed water, so these were inevitable.
Now, the main things were neurological nutrition and protective treatment for the lungs.
She recalled that Wenxing had said her heart had stopped, and feeling some retrospective fear, she did not ask further.
With head lowered, she ate her food. She felt that everyone’s reactions were exceptionally cautious, as if… this was not an accident.
The door was pushed open.
Zhousheng Chen strode in and cast his gaze first in the direction of the person on the bed.
Her white, two-piece pajamas made her look very frail. He waved his hand to dismiss the young girl. At the same time, Shi Yi detected his presence and raised her head to look at him. “You’re back? Have you eaten?”
“I have.” He sat down beside her and asked, “May I feed you?”
Blinking at this, Shi Yi smiled, “Alright.”
After she had just awoken, he had left. Undeniably, she had felt a sense of disappointment about that.
But now, as she thought about it, he had not even changed his shirt. He must have stayed right at her side and watched over her the whole night, and only when she regained consciousness did he finally take the time to go see his own younger sister.
“Last night, [maternal] Grandmother’s state of health was not very good.” He took the soupspoon from her hand, scooped up a spoonful of rice porridge, and brought it to her mouth. “Everything seemed to happen all together.”
Astounded, she asked, “What about now? Is she better yet?”
“Much better. I went to see her earlier on, and she even told me funny stories from the past.”
She breathed out in relief. However, she remembered Wenxing and was about to speak, but then hesitated.
“What would you like to ask?” He gazed at her with a slight smile.
“Is Wenxing’s health…”
“Yes. That is why it was arranged for her to come back, so she could rest and regain her health.”
“Then, last night…”
“Last night, she was in a slightly better state than you, but her health cannot be considered in an optimistic state either.”
“And you still brought her here to see me?”
“She insisted.” Zhousheng Chen was suddenly short of words. “I could not stop her.”
He fed another spoonful to her, and Shi Yi very cooperatively opened up and brought the food into her mouth.
She could perceive that his mood was rather low today, so she did not say much. Zhousheng Chen set down the bowl of rice porridge and the spoon, felt in the pocket of his trousers, and pulled out a small box. Opening it, he lifted out a pendant. A deep red string was tied in a pipa knot, and below the knot, there hung a white, lustrous jade “safety and peace pendant.”
“A ‘safety and peace pendant’?” Her lips turned up in a smile.
“Yes, a ‘safety and peace pendant.’” His voice sounded tired with a slight smooth, soft tone to it.
“Help me put it on.” Shi Yi pointed at her own neck and, in a slightly pouty but charming tone, said, “It will need to keep me safe.”
That was also the reason why he had chosen it.
He pulled out the pendant, loosened the knot for her, and reached from behind to place it on the front of her chest before pulling the string to the back. “Last night, how did you fall into the water?”
“Last night?” She stroked the gift he had given her as she carefully thought this over. “The boat was turning around, and it was a little rocky. At the time, Wenxing was sitting on the edge of the boat and said she was dizzy. I went to help her but lost my footing and fell into the water.”
“Lost your footing?”
“Mm-hmm. Maybe I wasn’t standing in a very good place and it was unsteady beneath my feet, so I ended up falling over.”
It had happened in an instant, and it had all been too sudden. She really did not think there was anything unsual about it.
The knot was retied again.
From behind, he took her into his arms, allowing her to rest against him in his embrace. “I’m tired. I want to sleep for a short while.”
“Take off your jacket then and lie down here.” She let her hand cover the back of his, feeling warm and comfortable.
“I will just lean back like this,” he told her in a soft voice. “I won’t be sleeping for a long time. Just holding you like this and closing my eyes to rest for a little while will be sufficient.”
As he said this, he had already removed his glasses and set them down beside his hand.
Adjusting his position once more so he was holding her a little more comfortably, he truly did not speak again and slowly drifted off to sleep.
She was afraid she would wake him and did not dare make any movements.
Shi Yi sat there like this until her entire body was stiff, and still she did not dare move. She could only pout her lips and amusedly mutter in her mind, “My most beloved scientist, is this how you keep a sick person company?…”
He had been concerned she might be hot and had turned on the air conditioning in the room, but, perhaps because he had also been worried she might find the air stuffy, the window had been opened too. The room temperature was very comfortable. That feeling a moment ago of wanting to move but not daring to gradually faded, and instead, she thought of Wenxing’s words.
She remembered, during her brief moment of consciousness on the river’s shore, he had been kneeling beside her, eyes fixed on her.
And Wenxing had said his face had been pale and he had refused to say anything aside from calling her name. That was likely the position he had been in as he leaned in close to her and, in a soft voice that called out over and over again, pulled her out from the illusion.
From the sun-filled study to the riverbank illuminated brightly by lights. From the past to the present.
As she thought about this, she felt very happy and blessed.
She wanted to laugh.
After a while, she really did begin to giggle. Quietly, she picked up his hand, bent her head down, and kissed it before gently lowering it back to where it had been.
Zhousheng Chen did not awaken until the girl came to remove the needle from her hand.
Shi Yi asked him whether she could accompany him to visit his maternal grandmother. Zhousheng Chen seemed hesitant, so Shi Yi immediately added that Grandmother really liked her, and if she went, the elderly lady would surely be happier. Plus, with him by her side, there should be no problems. In the end, he agreed and instructed Uncle Lin to ready the vehicle.
By chance, when they arrived, they ran into Zhou Wenchuan and Tong Jiaren.
The two were keeping Grandmother company and chatting with her. When Shi Yi stepped in, she nodded slightly to them as greeting. She could not seem to approach the interactions with this younger brother and sister-in-law in a positive manner and would actually silently pray that she would see them as little as possible, but there was not much that could be done when they bumped into them like this.
“I don’t know whether I will be around long enough to witness his birth.” The elderly lady gently rubbed Tong Jiaren’s abdomen with her hand and smiled faintly. As she spoke, her other hand was still continually turning her circle of prayer beads.
“Why would you not see him?” Tong Jiaren gave a soft laugh and said, “We’re still waiting for you to choose a pet name for him.”
“Oh yes.” Grandmother’s seemed to be in a very good mood. “I was also the one who chose your name. And now, in a blink, you’re grown-up like this.”
The two women carried on in their conversation.
Grandmother particularly loved Tong Jiaren and Zhousheng Chen.
Simply from listening to their discussion, one could deduce that Tong Jiaren had truly grown up together with Zhousheng Chen. It seemed, back then, the elderly woman had taken care of the two for a long time. The phrase “green plums and bamboo horse” was describing this type of relationship, right?
Shi Yi sat in a chair beside the bed. Not far from her was Zhou Wenchuan.
The two of them, who for the time being were being left out, were both silent.
The difference was, Shi Yi was watching the elderly woman, and when Grandmother glanced over at her, she would smile in return to let her know that she was there the whole time, keeping her company. Zhou Wenchuan, however, looked only at Tong Jiaren. It seemed he cared very much about this wife of his.
“Mother has been wanting to come visit you.” Tong Jiaren suddenly brought up Zhousheng Chen’s mother.
The elderly woman gave a dull “mm.”
She provided no other response, and the topic was very effortlessly changed.
“You two brothers do not get to see each other very often.” Grandmother turned to look over at Zhou Wenchuan. “Why are you not saying anything to one another, then, with this rare opportunity?”
Zhou Wenchuan answered with a laugh, “I’ll let your granddaughter-in-law spend more time with you. We’re just listeners on the side. People to sit with you.”
Zhousheng Chen was also smiling and said, “Today, we are primarily here to see you. If we want to talk, there will be many opportunities.”
The two brothers were seemingly on the same page.
But, it was merely “seemingly.”
Shi Yi thought, even she, as the last person to join this household, could tell that this was the case. The elderly woman could certainly see this as well.
Sure enough, Grandmother sighed lightly and said to them in a slow voice, “A gentleman guards against three things. In youth, before his pulse has settled, he guards against lust. In his prime when his pulse is strong and full of vigor, he guards against contentiousness. In old age when his pulse is deteriorating, he guards against greed.”
Puzzled, Shi Yi glanced at Zhousheng Chen.
Zhousheng Chen seemed able to guess what the elderly woman wanted to say, and he smiled slightly.
“The two of you are in the prime of your age. You must avoid, by all means, falling into strife over what are merely worldly possessions…” Grandmother quickly laid bare her implied meaning. “To be brothers is a special type of fated affinity.”
Zhou Wenchuan shook his head in amusement. “Oh, you. You’re simply overthinking things.”
Tong Jiaren also gently patted the elderly lady’s hand. “Grandmother, they won’t. They’re brothers. If there really is something dividing them, there’s still me.”
The elderly woman put on a half-smile and continued to grasp her 108 prayer beads with her fingers.
Sincere and devout.
Perhaps every elderly person who worshipped Buddha was like this.
As they chanted the sutras and prayed, they could, at any time, forget about the people beside them, who had been accompanying and conversing with them.
By the time the four of them left the little home, it was approaching dinnertime. Tong Jiaren glanced at the two brothers and suddenly suggested that they all go out together for dinner. It could be considered a chance to catch up after not seeing one another for a long period.
“Let’s go.” Shi Yi quietly expressed her thoughts when Zhousheng Chen looked over silently toward her for her opinion.
They were not far from the restaurant that the Zhou family used to host guests, so they simply went there.
The four of them sat together at a table by the window.
Outside the window was a lotus pond. The lotus flowers in the water had not yet withered away, but neither were they flourishing beautifully like they had during the height of summer.
“I heard Mother mention that the last time Miss Shi Yi, you were here, you made a painting?” Tong Jiaren personally lifted up the teapot and filled her cup for her. “A piece that could cause even Uncle Chen to praise it nonstop is one I would really like to see.”
She smiled and replied modestly, “I only know how to paint some lotus flowers. After painting lots of them, I’ve become well-practiced.”
Tong Jiaren smiled wordlessly as she set down the teapot.
Right then, someone brought out two tureens of soup and placed one by Tong Jiaren’s hand and the other by Shi Yi’s.
The four of them found this rather strange. They had not given orders on what should be made yet. Why were soups being served?
“Madam instructed us to do so,” the household manager who had served the broths immediately explained. “One is for Second Young Madam and is nourishing for pregnancy, and one is for Miss Shi Yi and is beneficial for helping the body to recover.”
She was rather delightfully surprised. This was too unexpected.
“Alright,” Tong Jiaren said to him and quickly lifted the lid on hers and took a sniff. “Mm… I reckon it won’t taste all that good.”
With a chuckle, Zhou Wenchuan shook his head. “It’s up to you whether you want to drink it.”
Shi Yi also uncovered her own soup. The concentrated broth had the faint aroma of Chinese herbal medicine.
Picking up her spoon, she stirred the broth slightly and then scooped up a spoonful.
She was about to take a sip when Zhousheng Chen’s hand reached over and gipped hers. “You are taking western medicines right now. It would not be very fitting to drink a broth that contains traditional Chinese medicines.”
He had not spoken loudly, and even though he had stopped her so suddenly, his words were reasonable.
But… Shi Yi contemplated briefly, then still quietly expressed her own desire. “I’ll just take a sip or two. When your mom hears about it, she will be happy.” Zhousheng Chen was still hesitant about something, and his emotions could not be read.
She had already lowered her head and taken a small sip. She grimaced.
“What’s wrong?” he quickly asked, with brows also creased together.
“Bitter –– “ Shi Yi stuck out her tongue and grinned.
Zhousheng Chen was speechless for a moment, and then he let out a chuckle. “In a moment, tell them to make something sweet for you to eat.”
 琵琶绳结 “pipa sheng jie.” A Chinese knot based on the figure eight shape. It is narrow on top and rounds out on the bottom, like a pear shape or like the traditional Chinese instrument, the pipa (see footnote , chapter 12.2).
 平安扣 “ping an kou.” Literally “safety and peace pendant.” This is a traditional Chinese jade accessory. It has a round, smooth donut shape and was believed that wearing it was good for the body and protected it. In China nowadays, it is still widely seen, and when gifted, it also represents a blessing of safety and peace.
 小名 “xiao ming.” Literally means “little name.” Also called 乳名 “ru ming” or “milk name.” When a baby is born, he or she can be given a “little name”, like a familiar name or childhood pet name, before an official/formal name is chosen.
 青梅竹马 “qing mei zhu ma.” 青梅 “qing mei” means “green plums” and refers to a young girl who is playing with a branch of green plums. 竹马 “zhu ma” means “bamboo horse” and is referring to a young boy who is riding his bamboo stick horse and coming to play with the young girl. This idiom, “green plums and bamboo horse” is used to describe a boy and a girl who had a friendship since childhood. Often, but not necessarily, it is referring to childhood friendships that have blossomed into romances.
 This entire passage spoken by Grandmother is quoted from《论语·季氏》”Confucian Analects, Book XVI.”
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