A short chapter to conclude the main story. Three epilogues will follow. (P.S. For those who read this chapter in Chinese and were a little confused, I believe none of the free, online versions of this chapter are correct. Not sure if it was copied from the original online version incorrectly and the error just perpetuated through, or if the confusion was something that was fixed when the book went to publishing.)
The setting, the surroundings, even the weather are as before. But has the passage of time determined that the persons will not be the same?…
Final Chapter – This Floating Life is but a Dream. How Often Can Life’s Pleasures be Enjoyed?
The rain came down in a continuous drizzle, causing Xi’an to seem like misty Jiangnan.
This was Shaanxi province, the vast land of the Three Qins, yet the ancient Chang’an city could not even be seen.
In a Mi Family Paomo restaurant, a very small eatery, it was crowded shoulder to shoulder with people. Its setting was very noisy, but business was exceptionally good.
A man sat in the corner. There was a strong scholarly sense emitted from his face, but his appearance and facial features were very ordinary. One could not say he was ugly, but rather, it was an appearance that one would look at, then immediately forget. He was wearing one of those white coats that were used specifically in a laboratory setting, but the buttons were not done up such that the coat was wide open, exposing the light, checkered button-up shirt and trousers that were underneath.
Very neat and clean in appearance. There was nothing whatsoever that was inappropriate or wrong, just that he did not fit in at all with the current surroundings.
From time to time, someone would maneuver past him, and there would even be people holding bowls in their hands, waiting for a seat to open up.
The business in this place had always been very good, absurdly good, in fact.
When the owner brought over the paomo, the man took it from him, picked up a pair of disposable chopsticks, pulled them apart, and rubbed one chopstick against the other to remove any wood slivers that might be protruding. He lowered his head and quietly began eating his lunch.
He had very good eating habits. From the moment he picked up his chopsticks, he had not spoken.
Of course, he was the lone person sitting at this table. The seats beside him were empty, and there was no one to converse casually with him.
Nearby, there were several young people discussing the economy of the Yangtze River Delta region. Following this extremely long period of economic downturn, a significant group of overseas Chinese people had suddenly injected funds into the region, and from the looks of it, it would be a longterm investment.
The subject of conversation of this group of young people gradually shifted over to discuss the backgrounds of those corporations as well as those enticing future job opportunities.
He listened casually. These were things Mei Xing was most adept in, and by entrusting him to handle those operations, he himself did not need to extend any effort at all.
Someone jogged in from the restaurant entrance, closed his umbrella, and headed over towards where he was. It was He Shan. “I’ll be responsible for charging your phone everyday, how about that? My only request is that you keep it on twenty-four hours a day for me.” It appeared as if he had been running hurriedly the whole way as the bottoms of his jeans were drenched. “I ran around to several different places. If I hadn’t seen the research institute’s vehicle, I don’t even know how long I would have had to continue looking.”
He Shan had not finished speaking when the mobile phone inside Zhousheng Chen’s pocket started ringing.
He Shan hastily cut himself off. He knew this was Zhousheng Chen’s own personal mobile phone, and the only time it would ring was if there was something to do with Shiniang [teacher-mother].
Zhousheng Chen was listening to what was being said on the other end of the phone when all of a sudden, he rose to his feet.
With large strides, he walked out the door, completely overlooking He Shan, who was still standing beside his table.
It was only after Zhousheng Chen had stepped into the research institute’s vehicle did He Shan finally turn around to stare, dumbstruck, after the car that had left so abruptly.
Outside the window, there was wind and rain.
He sat there at her bedside. Just as she had throughout these two months, she still laid there. Sleeping. Living within the world of her own dreams. Had it not been for the telephone call this afternoon, he would not have even believed that she had awoken once for a handful of seconds. Perhaps, because she had not seen him then, she had fallen back into a slumbering state again. He was not hurried. He would wait for her until she awoke.
His eyes were like crystal waters.
Quietly, he watched her.
After a long time had passed, Shi Yi’s eyelashes gave a small flutter, and, as if sensing his presence, her fingers also moved ever so slightly.
“Shi Yi?” He held her hand in his and bent down over her.
She heard his voice and tried very hard to open her eyes. However, her eyelids were simply too heavy, and despite her efforts, she was unable to do so.
“Don’t be anxious. Take your time.”
Within that endless darkness, she finally could see a sliver of light.
Worried that she would be uncomfortable when she wakened, he had adjusted the lighting of the room so that it was very dim, so dim that initially, she could only make out the outline of his face. Gradually, after her eyes grew accustomed, she was able to see his features. She wanted to tell him, she had woken out of her dreams because she had wanted to see him. Her dreams this time had seemed like a reincarnation of her previous life. So wonderful. But she… wanted to see him.
She had been worried he was waiting, waiting for so long he would grow impatient.
Shi Yi wanted to speak, but the long coma had made it difficult now for her to produce speech, and she could only ever so slightly move her lips.
“This is Xi’an.” His voice was somewhat lowered and was steady and gentle. “From now on, we will be living here.”
Within her eyes, there were roiling emotions that were difficult to conceal.
Smiling, he told her, “Riding a horse through the city would be very difficult, but I can still take you around here to see everything.”
For a moment, she froze. And then, the view before her eyes grew misty.
Taking her hand, he guided it to touch his face.
Her fingers slid from his brows and eyes down the length of his nose.
Over each inch, she moved very slowly.
Those subtle rises and drops of the bridge of his nose and his browbone had not changed in the slightest.
“I have finished writing out ‘Rhapsody of the Imperial Park.’ Not a single word was missed,” he told her softly.
She smiled, tears falling from her eyes.
“ ‘Beautiful bones. Those with bone do not have skin. Those with skin do not have bone. Yet, most people’s eyes are shallow, seeing only the skin-deep appearance and not the bones.’” His voice was clear, like water, as he reiterated the words she had written on the title page of her book. “Shi Yi, say my name.”
All this time, her eyes had been blurred with tears, unable to see him.
But, bewitched by his voice, she moved her lips to call him. “Zhousheng Chen…”
He made a sound in acknowledgement and told her in a low voice, “I think, I must have used my beautiful bones as an exchange for you to have unrivalled beauty, as an exchange for you to remember me, as an exchange for you to be able to utter my name when your lips moved.”
She smiled. Such extravagantly sentimental words were so unlike him.
Laughing also, he stated, “It seems it wasn’t too bad a deal.”
“Then…” She pretended to frown. “What about next life?…”
He could not help chuckling. “You continue being unrivalled in beauty. That’s something… I don’t really need.”
Shi Yi smiled gently and gazed at him.
She heard him say:
“I don’t remember, but I do believe. Shi Yi, everything you wrote, I believe.”
This floating life is but a dream. How often can life’s pleasures be enjoyed?
Through the thousand years of desolation, when even that stretch of white bones has become as sand, Shi Yi, alone, is all that I ask.
 师娘 “shi niang.” Interchangable with 师母 “shi mu”, which He Shan had once called Shi Yi as well (in chapter 8.1, on the phone.) Both mean “teacher-mother,” the wife of one’s teacher.
It’s been 6.5 months since I posted the first chapter of this translation, so I know some people’s memories of the beginning may be fuzzy. If the scene in this final chapter doesn’t strike you as being familiar — in fact, almost déjà vu — I encourage you to go back and read the first chapter, just to get the effect the author intended. 🙂
Such an atmosphere that tugs at my heart. I’m misty-eyed.
Almost a year ago, he had been here, in a rainy Xi’an, in the Mi Family Paomo restaurant and had unexpectedly encountered her. That time, she had taken a chance, had taken the initiative, and from that time on, she had slowly become a part of his life until, unbeknownst to him, he discovered he could not be without her.
Their fated affinity.
Almost a year later, in the same city, in the same eatery, even the same weather… Everything is the same, except she is not here… Or is she? Fate is perhaps being kind to him, and what he had been waiting for — the phone call, her awakening, his name being spoken once again from her lips — finally happens.
Hundreds of years ago, he rode with her on horseback throughout Chang’an, but in the end, they chose to dismount, to part, for there was a greater need.
Hundreds of years later, he has returned to that same city, though the name has now changed. Although he may not remember what happened centuries ago, he can take her through the city once again, and this time, he will not part from her. The sacrifices in the past life perhaps touched Heaven, and in exchange, he received another chance to see her, beautiful before him, still loving him as she always had, and… finally able to speak his name aloud.
Time may have passed, but fate, more than once, has brought them full circle back to the same place to give them another chance.
Fate, in the end, was kind to them.
1 of 1 Prologue
56 of 56 Main story segments
0 of 3 Epilogues