Completely off topic: Yippee! The adaptation of my favourite ancient novel is airing!! Who’s joining me to watch Nirvana in Fire? (Crossing my fingers that I’m not going to have to go treasure hunting to find a reasonably clear version of it.)
I’m happy to say this chapter is fully back into the progression of their romance. And yes, their romance is still progressing. ❤ Zhousheng Chen and Shi Yi are getting some peaceful time for themselves. 🙂 Oh, and just in case, tissue for you, and you, and you…
Chapter 17.1 – The Moon Shines Upon Home (1)
Little detail by little detail. All the things he did, like droplets, were slowly permeating through her life.
Regardless of past or present life, Zhousheng Chen had never changed. He never voiced his feelings and spoke not about his love, but he was still able to let her know that he cared for and cherished her.
For the next several days, Zhousheng Chen was, as always, busy. The day before Grandmother’s birthday, he had a little more leisure time and returned to their courtyard wing. But before he could even change his clothing, Shi Yi seemed to suddenly remember something and asked him, “Are you tired?”
“Not very tired.”
“Let’s go to the library tower, would that be okay?”
“The library tower?”
“Mm-hmm.” Shi Yi stood up from where she had been sitting on the sofa. “Also… could you ask someone to ready some writing brushes and ink? Not the type where I need to grind the ink stick against the stone. Just a big bucket of prepared ink will do.”
Zhousheng Chen was intrigued and soon had instructed people to make the preparations.
They changed and went to the library tower. Nobody normally came to this place, and right now, it was only the two of them there as well. The items Shi Yi had requested had been prepared and placed beside the bookshelves. She walked up, her hand resting on the carved, wooden handrail at the top of the staircase. Peering through the gaps of the three-metre high bookshelves, as if she was mulling over something, she scrutinized the wall on the other side that had calligraphy artwork and traditional Chinese paintings hanging on it.
Zhousheng Chen was in no hurry to disturb her, so he stepped over and from the nearest bookshelf, pulled off a book at random.
As he leafed through the book, he seemed to melt into and become one with the space he was standing in.
Shi Yi’s eyes shifted from the wall and the three-metre high shelves onto him. He wore sky-blue colored trousers, a white dress shirt, and a pair of silver, metal-frame glasses, and his suit jacket had been casually draped onto the wooden ladder beside the bookshelf.
It was nearing sundown, and the candles of the lamps in this place had already been lit far beforehand.
Together, the remaining rays of the setting sun outside the window, the bright candlelight, and him seemed like an ink-and-wash painting in her eyes. The background was only a faint color, but then as the painting moved to the outline of his figure, it seemed as if brushstrokes changed from being indistinct to vivid… Shi Yi walked over to him and from behind, slipped her arms around his waist, pressing her cheek against his back.
He covered her hands with one of his. “Have you figured out how you will write it yet?”
“This library tower is more than a hundred years old already,” he smiled, “but you are the first person to ever think about leaving your writing on the walls.”
“How did you know I wanted to write on the wall?”
He made no comment in return.
Alright, fine. Her intentions were pretty obvious.
This place, indeed, was spotlessly clean. Even when a painting was removed from the wall, there was no noticeable mark of discoloration left behind from the painting having hung there for a long time. From the brush holder that had been prepared for her ahead of time, she selected a brush. Standing on the third step of a wooden ladder, she one word, one line at a time, wrote out the poem, “Rhapsody of the Imperial Park”, that was engrained in her heart. The bucket of ink hung off a corner of the ladder, and now and then, as she adjusted her position, the bucket would also sway lightly.
She was focused in her writing, and Zhousheng Chen quietly kept her company.
The words flowed off her brush and down the wall until they happened to stop at that line.
“You’ve forgotten?” Zhousheng Chen had an amused expression as he asked her in a warm voice.
Pursing her lips, she turned her head to look back at him.
He gave a chuckle. “The last half of that line is, ‘Beauty is offered, a soul is given in return, and the heart rejoices to be at one another’s side.’”
For a moment, her expression was dazed. Something in her mind seemed to superimpose on the present, causing her heart to become too unsettled to continue her writing. She hopped off the ladder and set the brush on the holder.
“Why aren’t you writing?” Zhousheng Chen was leaning against wall beside the window, looking out into the night on the other side.
Without even their detection, the sky had grown dark already. From here, they had a view of the greater half of the old manor, which was brightly illuminated. There was already an atmosphere of celebration for an elder’s ninetieth birthday. The Zhou family placed great importance on these things, so naturally, preparations had been completed for it very early. Tonight, a gambling hall that would operate through the night had been started up as well as some performances of old Chinese theatrical plays.
A three day, three night celebration. Tomorrow would be the birthday banquet.
Despite the relatively remote location of the library tower, from where they were, they could still faintly hear some of the noise.
While he was still deliberating whether he should send for someone to bring dinner to them there, Shi Yi had already noiselessly blown out all the candlelit lamps and walked over to him. Her hand slid from his waist up to his chest where it stopped at the second button on his dress shirt.
Her palm felt slightly hot, and her body was burning up a little as she pressed up against him.
Her lips also brushed up against his skin.
She wanted him.
“Mm.” She gently nipped his collarbone, not forcefully at all, but like a cat or dog lightly licking an itch on its paw.
Zhousheng Chen shut the window, and, encircling his arms around her, he allowed her to rest atop the windowsill. “It’s a little cold here.”
“Mm.” She pulled the hem of his shirt out from his waistband, and then her hands slipped inside his clothes.
It really was cold. Cold were her hands. Hot was his body
His hands were a little cold as well, and worried they would chill Shi Yi upon contact with her skin, he only allowed one of them to cover her bosom through her blouse. Soon, his hand slid up to her chin, and tilting her head up with it, he lowered his face down to hers and began to kiss her.
All around, it was extremely quiet and dark.
The window now closed, she could see only his eyes and the contours of his face.
As she breathed in and out very lightly, she could feel his hand, through the material of her garments, trailing all over and lingering on her body.
At first, she had taken the lead, but afterwards, things slid out of her control. While he undid her garments, Zhousheng Chen also had to divide his attention to listen for any movements inside the library tower. With her clothing half-fallen from her body, he slid his own jacket under her for her to rest on, and then, their bodies were already pressed tightly together in union. Shi Yi bit down on her lip, and with her eyes squeezed shut and her back against the window, she held him tightly to herself.
The tip of his nose brushed across her chin, then her collarbone.
His arms were wrapped around her so that her blouse would not completely slip off.
Their lips came together in kisses and then separated again.
The noise and clamour off in the distance had all been shut out by a single window.
“This floating life is but a dream. How often can life’s pleasures be enjoyed?” His voice was right beside her ear. “Shi Yi, alone, is all that I ask……”
Her body felt limp and she rested herself against him as they tenderly exchanged kisses.
With one stroke of her pen at a time, she had sealed those old dreams of a past dynasty within papers and beneath her pen.
This life and this place, this time and this moment, as she received his love, the one she loved with all her heart was him, this man right before her.
They straightened their clothing and together, went down the stairs of the tower. Zhousheng Chen draped his badly wrinkled jacket over his forearm, not displaying any abnormal behavior and looking extremely proper, as if they truly had been simply reading upstairs… But the lights had been blown out for such a long time. How could the people downstairs not know what they had been doing? However, like him, they were completely unruffled.
Only Shi Yi’s eyes glimmered as if with moisture and evaded eye contact.
He brought her to that private casino that operated without rest, regardless of day or night. Hanging in the corridor near the entrance were pieces of calligraphy artwork of poetry written in bold and elegant cursive script. Shi Yi recognized many of them were the “sexually suggestive poems and amorous songs” he enjoyed, and she could not hold back a laugh.
Zhousheng Chen, of course, knew the reason for her laughter, and crooking his finger, he flicked her forehead.
The two of them stepped further inside.
The entire space had been partitioned off by several hanging curtains made up of strings of beads, creating separate spaces for gambling table after gambling table. There were sounds of shouting, bets being called out, and countless dice rolling over blue and white porcelain plates.
Behind every beaded curtain were indistinct outlines of people.
On the outside of the curtains, there were only several dozen girls who were there to wait upon the guests, carrying alcohol and incense in their hands and hurrying about everywhere.
Everyone present there were friends and family who had come to offer birthday well wishes, and they had all heard, a little while ago, that this eldest young master would very shortly be taking control of the Zhou family. As a result, those who came over to them and offered their greetings and niceties were all very respectful. Zhousheng Chen merely passed through the people, and Shi Yi followed beside him, observing this scene which she had never before seen.
It was not surprising that Zhou Wenchuan would eye this position so covetously. As the second young master of the Zhou family, he most certainly did not lack wealth, but rather… this sort of display, this sort of status.
Zhousheng Chen only strolled around there briefly, as a formality, and then returned with her back to their own courtyard wing.
She was genuinely tired and stretched herself out the chaise lounge beside the window, languidly watching as he changed his clothing. The side of his body was facing her, and she could vaguely make out traces of two scratch marks on his waist, which had been put there earlier. Shi Yi’s cheeks instantly burned red, and she turned to look out the window.
She laid her cheek against the soft fox pelt, and soon, her eyelids started to close together.
Drowsiness rushed over her.
Warmth was felt on her waist, and then his arm encircled her. Bending down to look at her, he asked, “Sleepy?”
Here, in this moment of closeness and intimacy, she suddenly remembered, though, that the poem on the wall was still incomplete and, coincidentally, had stopped at that same line. Inexplicably, her heart felt somewhat unsettled. Zhousheng Chen could sense this, so she told him the reason. He thought nothing of it, however. “Tomorrow night, I will go there with you again.”
“Shi Yi?” He was pondering something carefully. “Would you like to have children?”
“Yes.” If she had his child, she reckoned that everyday, she would be holding the baby and not wanting to put him or her down.
He mused for a moment, then asked, “How many do you want?”
“Huh?” This question… Shi Yi was a little embarrassed.
“Would you like a boy or a girl?” he continued to ask.
“Is that something you can even choose?…”
“You can, if you have any special requests.” Zhousheng Chen chuckled, “For example, would you like twins? Triplets? How do you want the genders to be assigned within the multiples? All of these can be accomplished.”
He let out a laugh but did not answer.
“The greatness of science…” She was not even able to keep her eyes open anymore.
He helped her remove her dress and then covered her with a blanket.
Shi Yi was still lying where she had been before. Through her misty state of drowsiness, she could feel his hand, under the blanket, sliding from her waist, down her thigh, to her calf, and then to her ankle and foot. It felt tickly, but she was unable to evade his actions. At last, he let go of her foot and laid down on his side beside her.
His hand was on her body, slowly caressing and stroking her.
In her sleepy state, he aroused a restlessness within her body once again, and she shifted slightly. “I’m sleepy…”
“…… I can’t sleep when you’re like this.”
In a low voice, he told her, “I’ll wait until you’re asleep, then I’ll…”
A seductive voice…
Unable to outlast his pestering, she let him continue.
Into the middle of the night, rain started to fall.
It came down quite heavy and beat against the window.
Awakened by the noise, she discovered that only a thin blanket covered the two of them, and it was rather cool. She reached behind her and felt his back. It turns out he had merely haphazardly pulled a shirt over so that it was only half-covering his body. She speculated that, before he had fallen asleep, he had been worried she would catch a cold and had wrapped her in most of the blanket. Because he was tired himself, though, he could not be bothered with going back over to the bed and had simply felt around until his hand grabbed a shirt. He then threw it over himself and was done with it.
Most of the time, he truly was not overly particular and was actually very laidback.
The air was so cool on his body. Did he not feel cold at all?
Shi Yi used her hand to gently warm his waist as she softly called him.
Dazedly, he made a sound in answer, and then for a moment, he seemed to force his mind into wakefulness before he asked her huskily, “Woke up from the cold?”
“I saw you had fallen asleep so I didn’t want to wake you.” His own body completely bare, he lifted her, still wrapped in the blanket, up into his arms and carried her onto the bed. He pulled a quilt over so that it covered both of them before bringing her into his embrace once again. And then, very quickly, he fell into a deep slumber.
Placing her warm palm on the back of his icy-cold waist, she gently rubbed it.
Slowly, she, too, drifted off to sleep.
 The ink used in traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting is actually a solid stick composed of some sort of wood soot and natural glue compressed together. To use, it is ground with some water against an inkstone. In the past, ink did not come readily in liquid form and would required to be freshly grinded each time. The inkstone 砚, acted as a mortar to grind the ink stick and then would also contain the freshly produced liquid ink. The inkstone was highly regarded in a scholar’s study and together with ink, the brush, and xuan paper, they were called the 文房四宝 “Four Treasures of a Study”
水墨图 “shui mo tu.” Ink-and-wash painting is done with a brush and ink on xuan paper. Because an inkstick is ground with water onto the inkstone, ink of varying consistencies can be prepared, depending on how much water is used. Therefore, shading, contrast between brightness and darkness, texture, coloring, etc can all be accomplished with the ink.
 浮生若梦, 为欢几何. This is a line from Li Bai’s poem 春夜宴桃李园序 “A Banquet on a Spring Night in a Peach and Plum Garden.” (My translation of the line is modified from Lin Yutang’s translation in his book The Importance of Living.) The concept of a “floating life” in Chinese culture is used to describe a state where things of life are variable and not within your control, where you are but a speck in the world. This line by the poet, Li Bai is saying that our lives are fleeting, like a dream, and therefore, how brief is the time that we actually have to enjoy pleasures.
“With one stroke of her pen at a time, she had sealed those old dreams of a past dynasty within papers and beneath her pen. This life and this place, this time and this moment, as she received his love, the one she loved with all her heart was him, this man right before her.” Shi Yi has finally moved on. 🙂 Not saying that she was treating Zhousheng Chen of the past and present as two separate people but that, my interpretation, she has finally let go of her regrets of the past, for she can at last truly simply “cook and make tea for [him] and tenderly take care of [him]… keep [him] from weariness, keep [him] from suffering, keep [him] from needing to constantly be on the move, keep [him] from being alone, without anyone to trust and lean upon.”
Zhousheng Chen’s response to the line of poetry he quoted from Li Bai (see footnote ): if in his floating life, he has but only a brief time to enjoy things that bring him joy, then all he asks is to have Shi Yi. Basically, “You’re the one who brings me true joy” or “All I want is you.” *thump thump thump goes my heart* I know, technically, it’s not “I love you,” but it’s pretty darn close, just as heartfelt and touching, and a whole lot more poetic. *girly sigh* Hooray for our scientist, who has finally moved to vocal expression of his feelings! (And it’s only been ~3 months after they consummated their marriage. Not too slow, really. The once aloof professor should get some credit. :p)
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