As Zhousheng Chen knows from being part of the Zhou family, and to quote him, “No relationships were safe from being broken for the sake of personal gain and self-interest.” *sigh*
Chapter 15.2 – To Leave Painted Only Half of One’s Face (2)
By the time they returned home that evening, it was already nearing nine o’clock.
They both had not eaten yet. Shi Yi haphazardly tied up her hair and pulled out two veal steaks from the refrigerator, planning to pan-fry steak for him and also make some French fries or something similar. She washed her hands and had begun slicing the potatoes into strips when the doorbell suddenly rang.
Someone was gently banging on the door with a palm. It sounded anxious, but the knocking was not heavy.
It was obvious the noise was being made by a child.
Sure enough, a young girl’s voice immediately rang out, calling her name.
“Help me open the door. It’s the next-door neighbor.”
Zhousheng Chen did as he was told and went to open the door.
A young girl who appeared to be thirteen or fourteen years old stood outside holding a guqin in her arms.
When she saw Zhousheng Chen, she was dumbstruck, and Zhousheng Chen was rather wordless when he saw her as well.
“Big Sister Shi Yi… has moved?”
“No.” He bent slightly at the waist to speak to her. “She’s cooking.”
Soon, Shi Yi had finished cutting the potatoes, and after wiping her hands clean, she came from behind Zhousheng Chen, walked around him, and stretched out her hand to pinch the girl’s cheek. “You changed your strings? Here…” She had not finished speaking when, unexpectedly, a white shape darted out from behind the girl.
There seemed to be a blur in front of her eyes, and before she could react, Zhousheng Chen had lifted her up so she lay across his arms.
Only one more step and the dog would have pounced on her.
The dog was barking with all its might, trying relentlessly to leap up. It truly did want to bite her.
She was stunned.
The little girl, too, was shocked, but quickly, she snapped in a low voice, “Kaka, go home now!”
Amid repeated berating, the dog, at last, unwillingly and reluctantly returned to its own home, its tail wagging. The girl very embarrassedly jogged back, closed the door to her home, came back to them, and said, “Kaka is really silly. He’s cautious around strangers.”
Zhousheng Chen was still feeling lingering trepidation as he carefully lowered her back down to her feet.
She did not take this little episode to heart. Since she was a child, dogs and cats had always acted aggressively towards her, and Shi Yi had long since grown accustomed to this.
She set the guqin on the table and tested the sound.
This girl liked Shi Yi very much, and every time she changed the strings on her guqin, she would be sure to bring it to Shi Yi to tune. Shi Yi happily obliged, and on and off, she played a tune that she was familiar with.
She did not play often and had not grown her nails, so the sounds produced were somewhat flawed.
Still, the flaws could not mask the beauty.
The young girl could not discern the quality of her playing, but it was apparent to Zhousheng Chen as he listened.
[A music that] Thaws the glistening cold before the Twelve Gates. The twenty-three strings rouse even the Purple Emperor.
He suddenly thought of this line of poetry, even though the poem was describing the music of a konghou [ancient Chinese harp] but the instrument before her was a guqin.
Shi Yi was having fun and had utterly forgotten about him.
“This time’s strings, the tension is a little too light,” she informed the girl at the end. “Last time’s were better.”
“I think so, too.” Even though the girl was young, she was very serious about guqin. “I’ll change it again tomorrow.”
Shi Yi burst out in a laugh. “You little wastrel, remember the brand of the ones you are used to using, and then don’t change to a different one.”
After toiling for twenty-odd minutes or so, she really was feeling hungry now.
She saw her little neighbor out the door and immediately went into the kitchen.
Soon, the aroma of steak filled the entire room. From the corner of her eye, she saw him standing at the doorway to the kitchen, and she asked, “How do you like your steak done? Tell me quick. It’s almost at medium already.”
“Medium is good.”
Shi Yi shut off the stove.
He handed her a plate, and with tongs, she put the steaks on it and poured a sauce over them.
“When you were playing just now, I thought of a poem.”
“Huh?” She looked at him.
“Thaws the glistening cold before the Twelve Gates. The twenty-three strings rouse even the Purple Emperor.”
She broke into giggles. “My Eldest Young Master, that line is describing the konghou.”
He chuckled and replied in a low voice, “It’s the concept, the mood. I’m borrowing the line to compliment you. Li He… should not have objections to it.”
“True. He’s gone through the cycle of reincarnation hundreds and thousands of times already by now. How could he even remember that he once wrote such a poem?”
Smiling, he asked, “Under whom did you study the guqin?”
She was dazed momentarily but quickly, also smiled. “I’m a self-made phenomenon.”
Zhousheng Chen found this unfathomable, although he could not remember that she had ever formally studied the guqin.
“Hmm…” Holding the plate of potatoes strips in her hand, she set her forearms lightly on his shoulders. “Yup. I watched some instructional videos.”
He gave a laugh. “Extremely.”
With a smile, she suggested, “In a couple days, I’ll go buy a better guqin and practice a few times. Then, I’ll play again for you.” Seeing that the oil had heated, she hurried him out of the kitchen. “Bring the steak out and wait while I fry the potatoes. I’ll be ready soon.”
He took the steak out of the kitchen.
She, however, was reflecting on what he had said.
Thaws the glistening cold before the Twelve Gates. The twenty-three strings rouse even the Purple Emperor.
A konghou tune.
It had melted away the gleaming ice before the twelve gates of Chang’an and also roused the attention of the emperors of both Heaven and earth.
How wondrous it must have been in order to bring about such a sigh of amazement. She reflected upon the tunes he had once taught her. To produce music that could shift even the twelve gates. Only he… could ever do so.
“Those potatoes really cannot be fried anymore.” Zhousheng Chen crooked his finger and rapped her lightly on her forehead while also turning off the stove burner for her.
Shi Yi let out a cry of surprise. Oh, that poor pot of potatoes…
Overfried. All completely burnt.
This meal was really turning out to be plagued with calamities, but fortunately, the steak was still good. Feeling dreadful and apologetic, Shi Yi was about to pull out several fruits to make a salad in compensation. Zhousheng Chen immediately stopped her. “Don’t bother going to the trouble.”
She was about to say something, but the ringing of their home telephone was unexpectedly heard.
It was definitely not her parents.
Zhousheng Chen quickly strode over and listened only very briefly to what was said on the other end, hardly saying a word himself. When he hung up, the relaxed expression from a moment ago had been utterly swept away. Shi Yi was certain that something serious must have arisen. Sure enough, he informed her that Wenxing was undergoing emergency treatment.
Shi Yi was very alarmed by this. Zhousheng Chen had told her that the night she fell ill, Wenxing had also had to receive emergency treatment.
But when they saw her a few days ago, her condition had been fine. Why suddenly…
Without asking further, she hurriedly changed together with him and headed directly to the hospital. She did not know the reason why, but she could detect that his current mood was unusually bad right now and even contained a slight sense of suppressed anger that was rarely ever present.
By the time the two of them stepped out of the elevator, there were already more than a dozen people in the corridor.
Zhou Wenchuan and Wang Man were standing outside of the hospital room, looking through the glass at Wenxing inside, and the remaining people were scattered in the various corners of the corridor. As Zhousheng Chen strode out from the elevator, those people straightened up and bowed to him slightly.
“Eldest Brother.” Zhou Wenchuan strolled over and nodded his head at Shi Yi in acknowledgement.
Zhousheng Chen uncharacteristically remained silent and merely removed his glasses, folded them up, and placed them in his pants pocket. Finding this rather odd, Shi Yi turned her head to the side to look at him…
In that instant, she saw, with her own eyes, him grab Zhou Wenchuan by the collar while his right hand clenched into a fist and hurtled fiercely into Zhou Wenchuan’s face.
He had used all his strength and even the sound of impact with bone could be heard.
The next second, he had already loosened his grip on Zhou Wenchuan’s collar and quickly followed up with another punch.
His actions were calm. His eyes were not.
Shi Yi was stunned. She could only watch as, right before her, Zhou Wenchuan lost his center of balance and slammed into the snow-white wall. Instantly, bright red blood flowed from his nose. Zhousheng Chen was about to take another step at him, but with a cry of alarm, Wang Man threw herself on top of Zhou Wenchuan, using her body to shield him behind her. With great fear, she stared at Zhousheng Chen.
“Eldest Young Master…”
It was not only Wang Man who was terrified. Shi Yi and everyone else dared not move either.
They did not know what was going on, why Zhousheng Chen was like this.
His back was straight as he looked in silence at Zhou Wenchuan. Shi Yi could not see the expression on his face and had only a view his back and his shadow that was being cast by the lights onto Zhou Wenchuan and Wang Man.
“You had best pray that Wenxing is fine this time.” Zhousheng Chen’s voice was icy, and then, he turned and ordered the attendants, “Take Second Young Master to see a doctor.”
Someone came over and supported Zhou Wenchuan away. Very shortly, a doctor was called over to check on him and dress his injuries.
The doctors had not expected that this person, who had been fine a moment ago when he came for a hospital visitation, would, in the blink of an eye, end up in this shape. Furthermore, the injuries he sustained from the beating were not minor, either. But this entire floor was a VIP patient room reserved for this family, so they really could not probe or ask questions. They swiftly contacted the people in the examination room downstairs and quietly explained that they were going to perform a head and brain examination.
Zhousheng Chen indicated to Shi Yi to come close to his side.
Walking over, she gently took his arm.
The entire corridor had gradually quieted. Some doctors came over and handed him a report. Zhousheng Chen took it, and with a slight furrow in his brows, he pulled his glasses back out from his pocket, put them on, and listened to them speak as he flipped through the pages of the report.
Originally, Wenxing’s health had been recuperating relatively well and the only issue was that she was not meeting the pre-operative criteria. However, for reasons unknown, when she met with Zhou Wenchuan today, the two had gotten into a severe argument in her closed hospital room, and then Wenxing’s body completely gave. In only two or three hours, her health had deteriorated in the direction of the worst possible outcome…
From time to time, he would look at Wenxing through the glass.
Shi Yi stayed with him, gazing at the unconscious Wenxing and occasionally glancing at him from the corner of her eye.
And so, they stood like this, unmoving, simply watching for more than one hour.
An hour later, Zhousheng Chen’s mother also arrived at the hospital, and someone quickly informed her of the current situation. She had not yet recovered from her shock and bewilderment when a doctor approached her and very politely, in a low and inquiring tone, said, “Madam Zhou, there are some government authorities here to see Second Young Master.”
“Authorities?” Zhousheng Chen’s mother grew even more astounded.
“Let him handle it himself,” Zhousheng Chen abruptly spoke up.
His voice was clear and even cool.
“Zhousheng Chen…” Zhousheng Chen’s mother gaped at him disbelievingly.
“Let him handle it himself,” he repeated.
His mother frowned, “He is your younger brother.”
“I only have a younger sister, and currently, her life is on the line.”
His mother glanced over at Shi Yi, wanting to say something, but then holding it back. “Come with me into a room.”
It was evident that she did not want Shi Yi to hear any quarrels between her and her son.
Zhousheng Chen did not refuse her request.
In the room at the end of the corridor, they spoke for a full half an hour.
She sat on the bench outside of Wenxing’s hospital room. Recalling the scene earlier on, her fingers closed to form two fists.
Wenxing, you have to pull through.
Zhousheng Chen stepped out of the room, and his mother also came out as well. Shi Yi gave a slight nod to his mother, then followed closely behind Zhousheng Chen and left with him. Sure enough, when they strode out of the elevator, they saw Zhou Wenchuan, with half his face swollen, standing in the main entrance hall of the first level, being questioned by two men dressed in black suits. Her gaze quickly swept over in that direction, and she was surprised to see that Du Feng was there as well.
Du Feng was standing by the main entranceway, speaking in a low voice into his mobile phone.
When he noticed Zhousheng Chen and Shi Yi, he paused very briefly, and his gaze fell on Zhousheng Chen. Zhousheng Chen merely glanced impassively at him before placing his arms around Shi Yi’s shoulders, leading her into their vehicle, and leaving the premises.
The vehicle turned a corner and drove out onto the brightly lit road.
Shi Yi watched him close the soundproof glass partition and lift up the armrest that had been separating them. “Let me hold you.” Before he had finished speaking, he had already pulled her into his arms. Shi Yi submissively allowed him to hold her in his embrace, and she also wrapped her arms around him.
“What happened?” Her voice was very soft.
When he replied, he also spoke quietly. “All this time, Wenxing’s pre-operative checks did not pass because Wenchuan had tampered with them.”
Her heartbeat suddenly slowed.
She gently blew out a breath, trying her best to keep her voice steady. “Why…”
“To buy time,” he stated. “After our wedding, I will officially take over all matters of the Zhou family. He needed the wedding to be deferred… And it would be best if it was deferred indefinitely.”
Zhousheng Chen did not say too much in his explanation. Slowly, he let go of her and leaned himself back into the seat.
Shi Yi did not probe much further.
For example, she did not ask about the issues between Zhousheng Chen and Zhou Wenchuan.
She surmised, those things must involve too many secrets of the Zhou family. If even Wenxing’s health could be ignored, there must be other things that were even more dreadful, alarming, and intolerable. Life was fragile to begin with, unable already to withstand natural disasters or sickness and disease, but in the Zhou family, one also had to guard against intentionally created calamities…
And there was Du Feng, that man whom Hong Xiaoyu was anxiously longing to marry.
She remembered that when she had first met Du Feng, she had had a very peculiar intuition about him. Later, perhaps because Zhousheng Chen had been with her, during the dinner with this person, the conversations and laughter had seemed normal, and gradually, she had begun to disregard that initial feeling.
It seemed as if every person surrounding him was like this, that they only needed to turn around and then they would become a completely different person.
By the time they arrived home, it was already deep into the hours of the night.
Stepping out of their elevator lobby, Shi Yi’s head was lowered as she pulled out her keys. Zhousheng Chen, however, halted his steps slightly. Puzzled, she lifted her head only to see Mei Xing, dressed in casual attire, standing beside the window in the hallway.
古琴 “guqin” where “gu” means old or ancient. To recap, the guqin was considered the instrument of the scholarly. It was one of the first string instruments in Chinese history, in existence for more than 3000 years, even in the time of Confucious.
十二门前融冷光，二十三丝动紫皇. This is a line from the poem, 李憑箜篌引 “Li Ping Playing the Konghou,” written by Tang dynasty poet, 李贺 Li He.
 箜篌 “kong hou.” The konghou is an ancient Chinese harp that been mentioned in texts as far back as > 2500 years ago. The instrument actually became virtually extinct around the time of the Ming dynasty. In the twentieth century, the konghou was revived but modified so that it now resembles a Western harp. The pictures below are one example of what an ancient konghou looked like, but there are actually a couple other shapes. (Geeky moment, but I did count and that picture on the right has 23 strings, like the poem describes…)
 李贺 Li He was a famous poet who lived in the mid Tang dynasty. “Li Ping Playing the Konghou,” from which this line is taken, is one of his more well known poems.
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