Friday, November 6, 2015

Till Death Do Us Part - ch2

Translator: ayszhang
Proofreaders: coolostyne, happyBuddha, m@o, Marcia, Mecca, ying


Knowing that the man’s surname was Ch’in and that he had the appearance of a student, Shen Liangsheng began to deliberate on whether or not to start the search from the universities in Tientsin. However, these thoughts only existed in the darkness of his room. When he drew open the curtains to illuminate it, they dwindled under the shining rays. The next time he thought of the matter, it was at the dining table after a morning of business. By that time, he found it ridiculous to invest so much to find one person.

The days of struggling abroad in his earlier years had transformed Shen Liangsheng into an egoist through and through. In his mind was a ledger of investment and profit. If he set his mind to it, finding the person with whom he had a chance meeting wouldn’t be an issue, but it would not be worth it.
The hazy figure would present itself in his most lustful moments, but it would disperse like a vampire when the sun dawned. No matter how alluring the ghost in his dreams was, it could never be enough to rival a real living companion, which the playboy never lacked. As for the dream, he never had another as passionate.

Spring passed by and summer came. Soon it was the end of summer. The Great Theatre of China was completed and the opening ceremony caused a city-wide sensation. The very first performance was A Gathering of Heroes starring many well-known actors. The tickets sold out long before the show. Many people came on the day of the performance hoping to catch someone who wanted a refund. Others shouting for standing-room-only tickets only added to the racket.
Shen Liangsheng was not interested in opera, but the Shen family had bought quite a bit of the stocks of this theatre. It was only expected that he attend.
The car was stopped by a traffic jam when it turned onto Twentieth and moved forward in intermittent jerks. Impatient, Shen Liangsheng hopped out after telling the chauffeur to stay with the car and headed towards the theatre.
Nearly a year had passed since the assassination of Sun Ch’uanfang, and nothing of the same nature had happened again. Shen Liangsheng no longer took bodyguards around with him, and only a female companion kept him company. There was also a good-looking secretary named Chou who was about thirty years of age. Not only was the secretary nice on the eyes, he was a helpful assistant, Shen Liangsheng’s right-hand man.
The woman was dressed in the latest fashion, but her heels hindered her movements. With his experience abroad, Shen Liangsheng never slacked off with etiquette. He just strolled along leisurely like a gentleman with her in tow.
“About the gala I told you about last time, Vincent, do you think you’ll have time?”
Shen Liangsheng always asked his dates to call him by his English name.
“I’ll see,” he replied unenthusiastically.
The smart lady did not push for an answer and continued to walk. After a few steps, however, she realized that her money tree had halted his footsteps. She looked in the direction his gaze was pointed but all she saw was a swarm of heads.

Shen Liangsheng had no clue how he had been able to pick out someone from a massive crowd whom he had not seen for several months out of a massive crowd.
It was the same tall and skinny frame, this time wrapped not in a lined robe but a blue cotton changshan. The black framed glasses were sitting properly on his nose this time and hid his refined looks, making him appear a bit old-fashioned.
Sure, Shen Liangsheng did not actually search for the man, but he would not be Shen Liangsheng if he did not take an opportunity handed to him on a silver platter. In that moment, his heart quickened. He left the woman and headed over in large strides.
“You’re here for the show too?” he blurted out.
Only after the words left his mouth did he realize how abrupt his question was. The man might not even remember who he was, so he added, “A few months ago at T’ienkung…”
“Why, yes.” Ch’in Ching nodded with a smile. “Pleasant surprise running into you here. Thank you again for last time.”
He remembers me too – for a second, that dizzying feeling hit him hard again. His heart raced and he felt something like joy.
But regardless of what was going on inside, Shen Liangsheng always kept a straight face. He returned a nod and introduced himself, “The name’s Shen. Shen Liangsheng. And you are?”
Ch’in. Pleasure to meet you, ” Ch’in Ching answered politely but did not reveal his full name. Shen Liangsheng had been hoping to hear his full name, and when Ch’in Ching omitted it, he purposely did not continue the conversation. Things became a bit awkward.
“Are you here for the show, Master Shen?” Ch’in Ching was dressed in traditional oriental clothing but wore a western watch on his wrist. He glanced at his watch as though oblivious to the awkwardness and remarked with a smile, “There’s not much time. You should hurry if you want to make it.
Hearing him refer to him as ‘Master Shen,’ it became obvious that the man knew who his father was. He guessed that the man didnt tell him his full name not wanting to befriend him because of the difference in status. But this wasn’t a perfect explanation. First of all, Shen Liangsheng did business in the name of his father and kept a low profile himself. Secondly, the Shen family was well-known for their close ties with England and the United States. It was not because Shen Liangsheng was a good man, but because the Japanese were too greedy. Doing business with them only meant losing money. Shen Liangsheng never planned to settle here, so he naturally wouldnt sacrifice current profits for future plans. Therefore, the media’s comments on the Shen family were not harsh. There were also a few paid reporters who wrote some articles praising Shen Sr., so the general opinions were fairly good.

“Since you’re here for the show too, let us go together,” Shen Liangsheng replied without skipping a beat. Ch’in Ching skillfully evaded his previous question, but Shen Liangsheng was not going to let this chance go.
“Sorry, I’m afraid I’m not here for the show.” Ch’in Ching still had a polite smile about his lips as he signalled with a nod. “The winds are strong at night, Master Shen. Don’t make a lady wait.”
Shen Liangsheng looked back in the direction of his nod to see his companion and Secretary Chou behind him, peering over from a short distance away. It was plain to see that she did not have enough layers on her as she hugged her shawl close.
“Give me a second.”
With that said, Shen Liangsheng went over and told the secretary to bring the lady to the private box first. Then, he came back and began to chat on the spot with Ch’in Ching.

“Sadly, I’m an incompetent fellow and owe my success entirely to my father.” Shen Liangsheng said straightforwardly. “It’s only fair that Mister Ch’in finds me unworthy and doesn’t want to be amongst my kind.”
“Oh Master Shen, surely you jest.”
Ch’in Ching definitely had wanted to slip away earlier, but the time it took for Shen Liangsheng to exchange a few words wouldn’t have been enough to get him very far. Instead it would have made his escape more obvious, so he decided to stay in the same spot. But who would have thought the young master would come back and blame him for acting like he was too good for anyone.
Hsiao-Liu claimed to be the most well informed on the secrets of the elite, Ch’in Ching groaned silently, so why didn’t he tell me that Mr. Shen Jr. is such an extrovert and is this hard to get rid of?
However, on another note, it was astonishingly the first time that someone as mild-tempered as Ch’in Ching was so against befriending someone – without a legitimate reason too. He had only met Shen Liangsheng once. The man wasn’t a Japanese sellout and had even given him a hand before. There was no reason to dislike this man.
What was more, the impression of this man was vivid after just one meeting, so much so that since Hsiao-Liu came across proof of his identity in an old newspaper, he would take a second glance at the paper if it had anything to do with the Shens.
From these points, it was clear that he didnt dislike this man but rather had positive feelings towards him. However, his first reaction from bumping into this man again after several months was that he didn’t want anything to do with this person. He had a strong feeling that nothing good would come from getting closer to him. This sort of inclination was so absurd that Ch’in Ching himself found it ridiculous.

“Then what might it be that dissatisfies you, my good sir?”
Shen Liangsheng was dressed to the nines for this event. He stood in a white suit, a startling contrast to the darkness of the night, and made more than a few heads turn. Not everybody could pull off a white suit, but the elegant attire seemed to gain more colour on Shen Liangsheng. Perhaps because of his quarter-Portuguese blood, he was an inch or two taller than Ch’in Ching and had a lean and towering build. He was the spitting image of a tuxedo model from a page in the fashion magazines. With his hands in his trouser pockets in a casual stance, he naturally gave off a playful, laid-back air.
“Please, you are a good-looking gentleman by all means…” Ch’in Ching knew that the man was merely joking, but it was still so uncomfortable for him that he couldn’t finish the pleasantry.
“Surely it’s not because I look like a monster?” Hearing his voice trailing off, Shen Liangsheng flashed a smile and continued to put him on the spot.
Appearance-wise, Shen Liangsheng was far from looking like a monster. The small hint of Caucasian blood was not exactly obvious with his dark eyes and black hair. Only his skin was a tad fairer than others, and his eyes were more deep-set. His nose was tall and his lips thin. When not smiling, he was as irreproachable as a Greek sculpture. When he did, however, his smile looked like winter thawing out under the spring sun. Half-hidden behind flowing lashes and the flashing neon were the windows to another universe. It was a face from which one could not remove ones eyes even if he tried.
Ch’in Ching couldnt help but feel some butterflies in his stomach under the man’s gaze. He frowned and let out a sigh. Why was a handsome devil like Shen Liangsheng so insistent on befriending him out of all people when he could easily make any sort of friend he wanted?

“We’re sticking out like sore thumbs. Let’s step aside.” Shen Liangsheng stopped teasing him and clapped him on the back like an old friend before leading the way.
Without much thought, Ch’in Ching followed him towards the theatre. It took him a moment to snap back.
“I’m not here for the show. Honestly. You know how difficult it is to get your hands on these tickets…” And that was when Ch’in Ching realized where this was leading – no matter how difficult the task, it would only require a mere lift of a finger for this man before him.
It was unsurprising, then, when Shen Liangsheng glanced over with a somewhat sly look on his face. “It was fate that brought us together for the second time. It would be an honour for me to share my seat with you, only if you don’t mind, that is.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t want to impose.” But Ch’in Ching couldn’t help but retaliate the teasing. “I’d be a third wheel just rattling along.
Although Ch’in Ching was a Northerner, born and bred, his Cantonese was like his Mandarin, exact and effortless. The majority of overseas Chinese spoke Cantonese. Therefore, it was not hard for Shen Liangsheng to understand that Ch’in Ching was pointing out the female companion’s presence and how he did not wish to be stuck between the couple. He did not force anything upon the other man but did not slow down either, only telling the other man to keep up.
Ch’in Ching thought that this man truly was a rich jerk who was used to getting his way. If he didnt comply soon, the jerk just might get upset. Instinct told him not to get involved with this person, but he felt reluctant, too, at the idea of upsetting him – it wouldn’t please him to do so. Thus, he held his tongue and caught up with the man.

Since the Shens owned part of the venue, there was staff whose sole job was to service them. Shen Liangsheng muttered something to the employee, who rushed towards the ground floor seats.
Meanwhile, in the brightly lit lobby, Shen Liangsheng moved onto the next topic of their casual conversation.
“You don’t look very old. Are you still in school?”
“You certainly have a sharp eye, Master Shen.”
“Which institute?”
Sheng Kung.”
Shen Liangsheng paused in silent confusion. If his ears were not mistaken, Sheng Kung was not only a secondary school; it was an all-girls secondary school.
Seeing the dumbfounded Shen Liangsheng, Ch’in Ching burst out in laughter. “I don’t study anymore. I teach at Sheng Kung.”
“Is that right? Then my calling you ‘mister’ was rather appropriate, wasn’t it?”
Shen Liangsheng did not appear to mind being fooled and only gave a light nod. It occurred to Ch’in Ching that he had yet to reveal his own name and no longer had the need to hide. He was on the verge on doing so when the staff member returned, bowing to the two.
“This way, please, sirs.”
Ch’in Ching knew that the first rows to these shows were never open for public purchase but rather were “courtesy seats.” However, he didnt expect Shen Liangsheng to swap the ticket for one somewhere in the middle. Most likely, he was afraid that Ch’in Ching would feel uncomfortable in the front row “courtesy seats.” Though grateful for his sensitivity, it was not exactly easy to express, so Ch’in Ching merely gave a simple word of thanks. He watched Shen Liangsheng turn and head towards his private box on the second floor, and only then did he sit down in his own seat.
“One more thing.”
He had barely found a comfortable spot when Shen Liangsheng came back again. Bent over, he patted Ch’in Ching again good-naturedly, this time on the shoulder, and leaned into his ear.
“Be sure to tell me your name next time.”

It was but a kind tease. Yet somehow the warmth and amusement in his voice added a dangerous, suggestive tone to the quiet utterance. Dumbly, Ch’in Ching sat there until the lights dimmed and the performance began. Only then did he realize he had been blushing.
He chuckled at his own little embarrassment, wondering what was going on with him, and directed his attention to the stage. However, at one point he couldnt help but look back towards the second floor.
The architects were Westerners who designed the building to imitate the European style. Likewise, the theatre was run this way. Viewing the opera was not unlike viewing a movie with the way the stage was lit with glaring lights while the rest was a blurry gloaming.
Despite the darkness, distance and number of private rooms, Ch’in Ching spotted the man with little effort.
It was the white suit: too noticeable. Ch’in Ching struggled to provide an explanation while the thought of the man, drawing him in like a lighthouse on a stormy night, haunted his conscience. He was no longer paying attention to the performance but he managed to catch a few snippets.
“When a man chances upon a master with whom he can bare his soul in this wide world, the outer bond of ruler and subject and the inner bond of brotherhood shall be formed, and he is sure to obey every word and every thought, and share all fortune and misfortune alike.”
The actor playing Chou Yü tonight was Chiang Miao-hsiang. He recited the line with precision and the words “fortune and misfortune alike” especially, were pronounced with much feeling and power.
With his mind wandering faraway, Ch’in Ching turned back to the stage and watched the scene play out. When the lights came back on during intermission, he turned around once again only to find that the man, who had only attended out of obligation, was long gone.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Links for more information:

Great Theatre of China (wiki and homepage in Chinese)
Honourifics and etiquette with strangers
Sheng Kung secondary (wiki in Chinese)
Chou Yü
Romance of the Three Kingdoms (wiki or read)
Chiang Miaohsiang (wiki in Chinese)
Peking opera

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Great Theatre of China, present day Tianjin.

Chiang Miao-hsiang playing Chou Yü
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang says: Hope you enjoyed the chapter!

I realized that I forgot another thing DX I found that there was a short blurb on the book cover which I translated and added to the info page here.

Here is the other cover for the story (prequel on the left). It has illustrations of our protagonists ;)

Creative Commons Licence
Till Death Do Us Part - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

No comments:

Post a Comment