I like it when Shi Yi gives hints of a more playful side of her. 🙂
Chapter 14.3 – After Magnificence Has Become But Emptiness (3)
Two days later, she and Zhousheng Chen went to visit Wenxing.
Her condition appeared to be good, but she still was not meeting the criteria. In just this half a month, she had already missed a suitable donor heart that had become available. These were facts that Zhousheng Chen had told her earlier in a brief summary. She was not knowledgeable about organ transplants, but she did know that the dangers of congenital heart defects were much higher than heart disorders acquired later in life. Hence, she could not help feeling for Wenxing. It would always seem that the healers of others could not heal themselves.
This time, she ran into Mei Xing there.
Wenxing’s hospital room had its own separate sitting room and couches. While Zhousheng Chen went to speak to the doctor, she headed to Wenxing’s room first. A light blue tracksuit jacket was draped over Wenxing’s shoulders, and she was laughing quietly. Mei Xing was also laughing as he shook his head, pulled off his glasses, and wiped them with a handkerchief from his pocket.
“Sister-in-Law, I have some nice tea here, and I’ve brewed two cups.” Wenxing took her own cup and gently slid it over so it was in front of Shi Yi. “I can’t drink it. You drink.”
Shi Yi was amused. “Indeed, you really should not drink tea. Why did you make a cup for yourself, then?”
“I saw Mei Xing and I was so excited I forgot.” Wenxing’s gaze drifted over to Mei Xing. “Source-of-Calamity Mei.”
Mei Xing smiled, but it was a silent smile.
A nurse came in to perform a routine check on Wenxing. Shi Yi sat down on a single sofa and reached for the cup of tea, but just as her hand touched its base, Mei Xing also placed his hand on the other side of the teacup base and held it down.
Mei Xing’s eyes were dark, as if they had been dabbed with ink, and the expression in them was deep and unfathomable as they glanced over at her.
Perplexed, Shi Yi stared back at him, but hearing Wenxing calling for her, for the time being, she did not think on this further.
Later, when Zhousheng Chen arrived, he and Mei Xing spoke for some time in the small sitting room. Before he left, Mei Xing casually instructed someone to pour out the two cups of tea. As she watched the disappearing outline of his back and remembered the moment earlier on when their gazes had met, she was influenced by the atmosphere Mei Xing had exuded and actually started to think that there had been something wrong with that cup of tea.
Comparing him and Wenxing, it should be clear who should have the closer relationship with her…
She should not have any misgivings.
When Shi Yi was feeling a little better, she began making up the work she had dropped during her two months away and made plans to go to the studio the following week to record. Hearing that she was starting work again, Mei Lin ran through her work with her while complaining in between that the various producers were going to cause her to kill herself soon. That afternoon, the latest file of work was couriered over, and it was as thick as a book. In accordance with her vocal timbre, most roles were from a period or ancient setting.
She casually flipped through the file, familiarizing herself with the roles.
Her own book that she was writing, on the other hand, had been set aside.
The book was nearing its ending, and she was writing very slowly because she could not really remember his ending.
She was unable to recall why or how he had died. Since she was unable to remember, she could only go back to edit the earlier parts. However, because she cared too much about what she was writing, she struggled and agonized over the words and sentences chosen and would end up changing them over and over again.
Zhousheng Chen was very busy of late. Most of the time, she would eat by herself, and she was very used to him coming home late. That morning, after they visited Wenxing, he took her home and then left again.
She read through some scripts for a little while but then grew distracted and began to revise her own draft. Her editing ended up carrying on until past seven olock.
In her mind, she was deliberating over wording. Her hands gripped the stack of papers while she unconsciously drummed the table lightly with it. After a while, she turned her head and laid her cheek against the desktop. Her brows furrowed together, relaxed, then slowly furrowed again. Thoroughly absorbed in her own thoughts, she did not even notice that Zhousheng Chen had returned.
He hung up his coat that was still dripping droplets of water, and then, through the open door, he saw her in the study.
He stepped into the study. “What problems have you run into?”
Shi Yi instinctively closed her file folder and was about to stand, but he placed a hand on her shoulder.
He crouched down in front of her, motioning to her just to speak as she was.
After mulling for a moment, she had to admit to him, “Tangled in a trap of my own mind.”
“A trap of your own mind?”
“I’m writing something, and I want to write it in the best way possible so I’m overthinking the wording and sentences.” She exhaled lightly. “It’s a trap by my own mind.”
“Mm,” he said, indicating that he understood. “Let me think how I can help you get out of it.”
She laughingly scoffed, “I won’t trouble you, the great scientist, with this.”
“Shh… Let me think. I think I’ve come up with something.”
Amused, she nodded.
“Do you remember how I answered you in regards to what the second lunar month is known as?”
“Gan Xiang [Fragrant Violet].”
He nodded. “That was actually spoken out of my habit. If you delve into this more seriously, the second lunar month actually has many alternate names, and each of those names has a different origin. Wouldn’t it be very difficult, then, if you were forced to decide which is the better name?”
She admitted that what he was saying was true.
“Just like in the laboratory, I never require students to completely copy me. Everyone will have their own methods that are appropriate to them.” He contemplated briefly and then continued, “I am not very good at literary writing or essays, but I do know that the scholarly and literary persons of the past each had their own preferred or habitually used phrases and words. For both research and writing, the key lies in this.” With his finger, he lightly tapped his own temple and said, “Use the ways and styles you are used to using to write what you want to write.”
“You haven’t had dinner?” He patted her stomach. “Hungry?”
She answered honestly, “Yes.”
“Let’s go.” He straightened. “We’ll go out to eat.”
“Now?” Simply from listening to the noise of the rain, she could imagine the weather outside.
“I looked at the weather forecast. The rain will stop in an hour. We will drive slowly and go to eat somewhere that takes a little longer to drive to.”
“The weather forecast?” Shi Yi had always had a bad impression about weather forecasts. “What if it’s not accurate?”
Shi Yi followed his foosteps, keeping along with his pace as she spoke to him.
Zhousheng Chen suddenly stopped and turned around. “There’s also the probability associated with rain stopping, right?”
Still hesitating, she said, “I’m just worried that we’ll trouble Uncle Lin. It’s such a rainy day and he still needs to come pick us up and take us to dinner.”
“This time, I’ll drive.”
He could not hold back a laugh. “I know how to drive.”
It was not that she did not trust him, but she really had not seen him drive before. Even after she was sitting in the front passenger seat in the underground parking garage, she still could not refrain from eyeing over the way he looked with his hands on the steering wheel, and she just seemed to feel that there was something discordant about the picture. After the vehicle had driven onto the overpass, though, she gradually became accustomed to it. He was very focused in everything he did, including driving, which he also did quietly and steadily.
The windshield wipers swayed back and forth incessantly, but the rain appeared to be easing up.
By the time their vehicle had driven out of Shanghai, the rain really did come to a stop.
There were many little towns surrounding the outskirts of Shanghai that were similar to the one the Wang family’s old courtyard home was located in. She had only been there the one time, and it had been late in the night, so as yet, she still had not figured out what the name of that place was. She also did not know this place that he had driven to tonight either.
He parked the car in the car park at the entrance of the little town.
The rain had just stopped, and water was still pooled on the pavement.
Fortunately, she had not worn high heels, so with his hand supporting her, she leapt over the bigger puddles.
A few boats were moored along the riverbank, and there was a small, charming restaurant right on the shore where they were. The boats were not very big, and at most, each had room enough for only two tables. Zhousheng Chen had reserved one of them. When the two of them sat down inside the boat, a boatman handed them a menu.
“This was the only boat tonight that was not occupied. You two are very lucky.”
Shi Yi smiled, lowering her head to look through the simple menu of only two pages. They did not have the option of being choosy. Coming to this sort of place meant that what they were “eating” would really only be the scenery and setting.
Worried that he would not be full even after they had eaten, she deliberately selected some dishes that were heartier and more filling.
“Please wait a short while. When the food is ready, we will pull away from shore.”
The boatman hopped back onto the shore, leaving the two of them on the boat. On each side of the boat, there was only a chest-high railing. There were candlesticks, but no other lights. The most comfortable part of the setting was the seating. A pair of deep red, sofa-style seats faced each other, and a smaller person would be able to completely lie down on one. Even sitting upright like this, a person would sink right into the seat, and it was so comfortable it made you want to sleep.
“You’ve been here before?” She looked at him curiously.
Smiling, Zhousheng Chen shook his head. “My first time here. I asked someone last minute.”
She had reckoned this was the case. This Eldest Young Master was definitely not someone who would take pleasure in this sort of lifestyle.
The boat rocked slightly. The boatman had headed back over, and in a rather apologetic tone, he asked them, “There are two young people on the shore, and they would like to come up on the boat. I told them this entire boat has been reserved already, and they… wanted me to consult with you whether you might let them have the empty table?”
The boatman pointed in the direction of the shore.
The two of them glanced over at the same time at the young couple, who looked to be little more than twenty years old.
The boy was nervously staring at them, and when he saw that they had turned their heads in his direction, he was quick to secretly bring his palms together, begging them to please agree. Shi Yi giggled and heard Zhousheng Chen say, “I have no problem with it, and I believe, neither does my wife.”
“Mm-hmm. Let them come up.”
The boatman’s impression of this kindly looking couple grew even more favorable. He called out to the two youngsters to step onto the boat. Between the two tables was a bamboo curtain, and when it was lowered, the tables would be in separate spaces. The dishes were served, and the boat started to move.
Shortly after pulling away from the riverbank, it began to rain again.
She could hear the boy and girl behind the bamboo curtain quietly conversing, essentially calculating out their expenditures of this day and checking over the amounts carefully. From beginning to end, the girl would lament that more had been spent on this so more should be saved on that. “Look at you. You have so little money already, yet you still wanted to eat on this boat…”
Their voices were low, but Shi Yi still heard them clearly.
She remembered, when she had just graduated and started work at the recording studio, there had been an intern recording engineer and his young girlfriend. The two of them would carefully calculate out each day’s expense. From Monday through Friday, every meal would be planned out to simply save save enough so that on the weekend, they could enjoy a good meal or perhaps go for an outing in the surrounding area. This was most certainly the type of romance that belonged to young people.
She could not resist giving him a look, and then, she laughed quietly.
“What is it?”
Zhousheng Chen leaned back against the back of the sofa, his right arm resting off to the side on top of it as he glanced puzzledly at her. Shi Yi slipped over so that she was next to him, and then in his ear, she quietly repeated the girl’s words. When she was finished and was about to briefly describe what she was feeling, Zhousheng Chen’s face showed an expression of comprehension. “Envious?”
She laughed, “Mm-hmm.”
A smile spread across his face.
Outside, the rain was not showing any signs that it would be ending soon. The boatman brough their boat to a temporary stop under the cover of a “curtain” formed by the branches of the old trees on the side of the river. He told them that they would be sheltering from the rain for a while to avoid water splashing into the boat and wetting their clothing.
There, against the shore and with a wind blowing, they could see waves slapping against a rocky wall.
The candlesticks cast flickering shadows on the bamboo curtain.
“Have your ever seen a hand shadow show?”
“Hand shadow show?”
“Hmm… I’m guessing you haven’t.”
She remembered, watching television as a child, there had been a hand shadowgraphy program that had aired for several seasons. On the television, two people would manipulate their own fingers to form animal and human shapes and use these to create a short story or mock things of real life. Back then, as she watched the program, she would vaguely remember that in the library tower of the past, she had also used the light cast by candles to make shadows when she was bored.
Because she was self-taught, the number of shapes she had known how to make had not been many.
In fact, when she had followed along with the television program, she had learned to make quite a few more.
Shi Yi formed the shape of a rabbit and was about to say something when she suddenly paused. “Today is the ninth day of the ninth month in the lunar calendar?”
No wonder there were “double-ninth rice cakes” amid the dishes on the table.
He gave an “mm-hmm,” and then asked, “Are you making a rabbit shadow?”
“You can tell?” Grinning, Shi Yi wiggled her fingers, and the ears of the rabbit on the bamboo curtain also fluttered slightly in unison. She improvised a voice for it. “Oh…… The Vast Cold Palace is so dreadfully cold and lonely. In the blink of an eye, the Moon Festival has passed and it is the Double Ninth Festival already. I may as well go to the mortal world to walk around.”
Worried that the young couple on the neighbouring side would see, her voice was rather quiet, but the sense of drama in it was very ample.
He turned so he was sitting sideways, and he watched her performance closely.
Shi Yi blew a soft breath on the candle.
The shadows from the candle flickered, and the rabbit disappeared. She turned and knelt herself down on the sofa, her own shadow now falling on the bamboo curtain, clear, yet frail. “This noble young master here, could it be that we… had once seen each other, in another place?…”
It was the voice style she was most adept in, her ancient-style voice.
His lips turned up into a smile. Playing along with her, he asked quietly in reply, “Oh? Is that the case?”
“Noble young master, may I know your name?……” Her eyes sparkled and her voice became even lighter.
He pondered for a brief moment, then looked directly into her eyes. “Zhousheng, with the single character given name, Chen.”
 梅祸水 “Mei Huo Shui.” 祸水 “huo shui” literally means “water of calamity,” i.e. a great flood, and this is comparing a person, usually a woman, to a flood that brings disaster on the people. Here, Wenxing is not only jokingly calling Mei Xing someone who brings trouble but also teasing him by addressing him using something that would usually be reserved for a girl.
 The ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar is 重阳节 Chongyang Festival (重 “chong” means repeat, and the number “9” is considered the number of yang, as opposed to yin), also called the Double Ninth Festival in English, and has roots dating back a couple thousand years. Taking place in late autumn, during this festival, people go out hiking on the mountains, admire chrysanthemums, and pay respects to their elders because “9” sometimes also symbolizes longevity. In 2011, the year of this story, the festival corresponded to October 5 on the Gregorian calendar.
 花糕 “hua gao.” Literally meaning “flower cakes.” Also called菊糕 “chrysanthemum cake” or 重阳糕 “chongyang cake”/“double-ninth cakes.” These are cakes made of a rice flour base and contain ingredients such as red bean, nuts (walnuts, almonds, chestnuts, etc.) and preserved fruits (dates, apricots, apples, etc).
 广寒宫 “Guang Han Gong.” “Guanghan Palace” or “Vast Cold Palace.” Sometimes simply called “Moon Palace.” In Chinese mythology, it is the home of Chang’e, the moon deity. The legend of Chang’e has many variations, but in general, Chang’e drank the elixir of immortality and floated to the moon where she forever lives with only the company of a rabbit called the Jade Rabbit. Shi Yi’s hand shadow rabbit was supposed to be the Jade Rabbit.
 中秋 “Zhong Qiu.” The Moon Festival, also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival, takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. On this day, the moon is at its roundest and brightest, and hence, the legend of Chang’E and the Jade Rabbit are often associated with this festival. In 2011, the year of this story, this corresponds to September 12 on the Gregorian calendar.
“Use the ways and styles you are used to using to write what you want to write.” Such a simple principle, right? But I got caught in a trap of my own mind in translating, as well. Similar to Shi Yi, I’ve been trying so hard to make this translation the best reflection of MBFB’s writing that there are times I’ve written and re-written multiple versions of the same Chinese sentence for more than an hour, looking for the right words, debating author intent vs. honouring author’s words more literally. My hubby thinks I’m weird. :p Zhousheng Chen’s advice to Shi Yi was like a lightbulb moment for me, too. I feel like Teacher Zhousheng Chen and Teacher Mo Bao Fei Bao were talking to just little ol’ me. :p
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