Hurry, Zhousheng Chen! What’s happened to Shi Yi?
Chapter 14.1 – After Magnificence Has Become But Emptiness
“Alright.” Zhousheng Chen nodded. His body was somewhat stiff from standing the entire night. “I will return very shortly.”
Xiao Ren’s eyes were evasive. He had clearly perceived that.
What possibly could cause him to have something to say, yet not dare say it? All the while as he proceeded downstairs, he mulled over Xiao Ren’s bizarre behavior. There were two girls sweeping and cleaning the room on the main level. From the pocket of his trousers, he pulled out a blue, checkered handkerchief and gently pressed it over his mouth and nose, avoiding the dust that might be churned up.
Something he was avoiding mention of… Before Mother, he needed to avoid mentioning it…
His steps halted briefly. He thought of Shi Yi.
The instant his thoughts turned to her, he was already quickening his pace, and, with long strides, he hurried out of the courtyard along the bluestone path.
Because of Wenxing’s illness, this entire courtyard wing was in absolute isolation. Anyone who wanted to come in was required to have been sent for by Zhousheng Chen’s mother before that person was allowed to enter. He had forgotten this. In his worry for Wenxing, he had forgotten about this complication.
Sure enough, when he stepped out of the courtyard wing, he saw Uncle Lin’s trusted aide standing not far away, looking at him with an extremely anxious expression that was lost of hope.
As he walked over in that direction, the people standing guard were forced to make an opening for him to pass through.
“What has happened to Shi Yi?” Zhousheng Chen gripped that person’s arm, his fingers squeezing tightly.
“Emergency medical procedures are being carried out on Miss Shi.”
“Emergency medical procedures?”
The man immediately explained, “Last night, in the middle of the night…”
Zhousheng Chen did not bother letting him say any more. Shoving him aside, he swiftly strode away. In this manor, there were a total of 68 courtyard wings and 1118 rooms. There were many people and the types of people were varied as well. He was always cool, always collected, always a bystander. He had always been able to remove himself from all those interpersonal relationships. No relationships were safe from being broken for the sake of personal gain and self-interest.
Deeds done with an agenda. Things done for personal gain. Human nature.
These were all things he was confident he could handle.
Only Shi Yi – just Shi Yi alone – was he unable to see through, unable to decipher.
He was unable to remain collected, unable to keep only the role of a bystander.
He wanted to think. What could have went wrong? The game was already nearing its end, yet he still was unable to ensure her safety. But he was completely unable to think. And the fear. A feeling of fear he had never before tasted was winding tightly around him, binding his hands and feet.
He walked up the stairs, but when he merely heard the discussions of the medical emergency team, he did not dare proceed.
He did not dare take even a single step.
He believed in the natural sciences and did not fear death.
But he feared her death.
Immense fear mercilessly ate away into his nerves, his blood.
Zhousheng Chen’s hands suddenly clenched fiercely into fists and slammed down on the handrail of the stairs. The extreme force caused the entire staircase to shudder. Everyone who was present there froze in alarm, and the young girl who had been coming down from the second level was petrified as she gaped dazedly at him.
“Eldest Young Master…”
Slowly, her dreams ceased.
She should wake up now. It was about time to wake up now, right?
Once again, she tried hard to waken from the nightmare. Her eyes felt swollen, but she forced herself to open them. A sliver of light could be seen. It was not too intense for the eyes and seemed as if it was being filtered through a layer of cloth, leaving only a comfortable brightness. The cloth’s color was similar to the curtains of her home in Shanghai… In fact, it seemed to be exactly the same…
She was home? She was really in Shanghai?
For a moment, she thought she had still not struggled her way out of her dreams yet and had simply entered into a different nightmare.
Until she clearly saw his face and his features. She managed to turn the corner of her lips up, but she did not have the strength to speak.
“Acute appendicitis,” he stated quietly. “I was worried the household doctors would not be able to provide adequate care, so I brought you back to Shanghai.”
It truly had hurt so much she had wanted to die. She did not want to call that sort of pain back up into her memory, and now, she held only admiration for people who had once experienced this same sort of situation before.
But to return to Shanghai for acute appendicitis? Would that be making too much of a fuss over a minor issue?
She closed her eyes and pursed her lips slightly. Her lips were a little dry. Hmm…
For reasons unknown, perhaps owing to the weakness of her body right now, she felt an unexplainable sense of melancholy and fear.
She was afraid of leaving him.
Shi Yi, oh, Shi Yi, you’re acting more and more dainty and weak.
She silently scorned herself, but still, as if enticed by something, she called him softly, “Zhousheng Chen?”
“Mm.” He leaned in closer to her so she could speak with less effort.
His features were so clean.
Shi Yi looked at him intently. “I’ll… tell you a secret.”
“Tell me.” His voice was rather low and very steady.
“In my previous life, after I died,” she spoke in a soft voice, and she paused for several seconds before continuing, “I didn’t drink the soup of Old Lady Meng.”
She did not know whether he understood what “the soup of Old Lady Meng” was.
He gave a slight smile. “In the Underworld?”
She smiled. He was so wonderful to play along with what she was saying. “Yes.”
With an “mm,” he asked, “So, she let you off the hook?”
Shi Yi frowned slightly. She tried to remember, but the memory was not clear. “Yes. Maybe it was because… I never did any bad things.”
He could not hold back a chuckle. “Then, I must have did bad things and was forced to drink it?”
“No.” For one brief moment, she was serious but then immediately relaxed again, worried that he might feel something was unusual. “You were wonderful.”
“I was wonderful?”
So, so wonderful. There was no person better than you.
In a low voice, he asked, “You knew about me?”
“Yes.” She laughed lightly. “In our previous life, I knew you.”
She gazed at him.
I knew you and also feel sorrow and regrets that you do not remember me.
But that’s alright because I have remembered you all this time.
Zhousheng Chen continued to lean forward and watch her until she had closed her eyes, and then, he placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Gradually, he entered into a completely detached, unemotional, and objective mode of thinking.
He had a very good memory, and he could still recall how he had heard the doctors state that she was out of danger and how he had walked downstairs from the second level. Uncle Lin had, in the most concise manner, articulated Shi Yi’s sudden emergency situation.
The dosage of the poison had not been high. An old, timeworn composition.
Prolonged exposure to poison that slowly attacked and ate away at you was actually the most deadly type of harm that could be delivered.
What had induced it? A cup of tea, or perhaps an incense stick, or an exquisitely presented teatime refreshment –– these were all possibilities.
“Do you think, if our family wanted a girl to disappear, we would need to use such gentle means to do so?”
This was the basis for why he was having other suspicions.
Given that the purpose was clear, if it was Mother, why would she bother to use a method that acted so slowly, like slow-dripping droplets that only gradually permeated to its purpose?
Perhaps he too easily trusted people? But the number of people who could freely get close to Shi Yi was very few. Besides his most trusted subordinates, there was also Mei Xing… The most fearful thing had eventually occurred. Every person around him had been with him for many years, and each one was interwoven with too many relationships in the background. There was always ultimately a purpose behind each human behavior. What, then, was the reason that, time after time, someone would want her life?
In his head, he tallied the connections and relationships behind each person and various potential motives.
Shi Yi’s sleep this time around seemed much more peaceful.
Very soon, her breathing had grown steady.
Zhousheng Chen unconsciously lifted up his arm, curved his index finger slightly, and gently stroked her face with it.
During those days when she was recovering and resting, Zhousheng Chen stayed at home with her until, at last, even Shi Yi started to protest and told him to go do the things he needed to do. There were some things that she felt bad saying, but with him there twenty-four hours a day by her side, she basically could not do anything either and was always distracted from paying attention to him.
Zhousheng Chen, on the other hand, would read when he ought to read and work when he ought to work.
Concerned that he would not be used to staying there for an extended period of time, she suggested that they move to the house he had prepared for after their wedding. He declined and only made slight adjustments to the layout and arrangements in her home so that the environment was more suitable for her to rest and recuperate.
Comfortable in all respects with careful attention paid to the details.
This illness truly had sapped her body of its strength.
When her parents came, they were shocked by her wan, frail appearance.
Shi Yi was worried that her parents would blame Zhousheng Chen for not taking good care of her, so she repeatedly emphasized that in this last half a year, she had seldom gone to the gym and her body was weak such that even a case of appendicitis had turned into this severity.
Regarding treatment, Zhousheng Chen told her that at the time, he had chosen a more conservative treatment and decided not to go for surgery. She, too, felt that if medication could reduce the inflammation, it was best to not have to go into an operating room. “I’m scared of pain.” She lightly thrummed her fingers on the back of his hand and arm. “If you think about it, I’m actually really wimpy and fragile… I’m not just scared of pain, I’m afraid of the dark, too,” she joked as she looked at him. “Do you find me overly dainty and weak?”
In Wuzhen, because of an indistinct, possibly non-existent, sound, she had had him talk with her until morning.
Zhousheng Chen very meticulously wiped down each one of her fingers with a warm, wet towel. “No.”
“Is that a serious answer?”
“I… besides knowing how to read and study, paint, cook, clean, do voice acting…”
He let out a laugh. “You are all-round talented.”
In fact, the things that brought about the most pride were the ones he had once taught her.
He finished wiping her hands for her before helping her pull the cashmere throw up slightly higher and bringing some teatime refreshments over for her. He had just finished a shower, and seeing his hair was still damp, she reached up and touched it. “It’s autumn already, but you still always leave it like this. You’re going to catch a cold.”
“I’m not worried. We have your secret remedy,” he chuckled, his voice rather soft.
She knew he was referring to the purple perilla leaf medicine she had once brewed for him.
Through the thin lenses of his glasses, their eyes connected.
A certain feeling quietly arose between the two of them.
He coughed lightly, stood up from the couch, and went to flip through the DVDs in the cabinet. “Want to watch a movie?”
Shi Yi was amused, and she pondered for a moment. “Let’s watch ‘A Step Into the Past.’ It’ll take a few days to finish and can pass the time.”
“Alright.” He did not have a preference and bent over to press the power button of the DVD player.
From where she was sitting, she had a view of the television screen that still had not been turned on yet, and in it was his reflection.
A very clear outline of his figure.
He was looking at the DVD player, and she was looking at him.
The light blue, wool pants and white button-up shirt were the same ones he had worn that time he had stayed in her home. Clean and simple. Shi Yi fixed her eyes on him, feeling almost delirious with love. Sliding down on the sofa until she was lying on her side, she buried her face in the throw blanket and watched him, completely enamored.
Zhousheng Chen finally finished fiddling with the discs. Picking up the black remote control from beside the television, he turned around was about to say something to her.
But, when he saw her posture and manner, he immediately saw into her thoughts. “Sometimes, the feeling I get when you look at me really makes me feel like I am some sort of celebrity.”
“Am I that shallow?” Shi Yi covered half her face with the blanket, and in muffled voice, she said, “Zhousheng Chen, I love you.”
He made a sound in acknowledgement, and then, was unable to hold back a little laugh.
孟婆汤 “Meng Po tang.” Literally, “the soup of Meng Po” or “the soup of Old Lady Meng.” In Chinese folklore, after someone dies and enters the netherworld, he/she must pass over the Naihe Bridge. On this bridge, Old Lady Meng serves every soul that crosses the bridge a soup that erases all memories of the previous life and allows the soul to enter into the next incarnation.
1 of 1 Prologue
44 of 56 Main story segments
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