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By the time he was returning from Harbin, temperatures in Beijing had dropped yet again.
She had actually left the house one hour early but ended up being two hours late. It boiled down to only one reason for this situation: Friend Jia He, once more, had had a little incident of scraping the car while she was driving. When she arrived at the parking garage, Yi Wenze was, unexpectedly, in the midst of an interview. A-Qing, seeing the car driving over, helped her to back the car into a parking spot and then took her by the arm, instructing, “Wait for a bit. There are people from the media in the vehicle.”
Knowing that she was in the wrong, Jia He nodded. “Why is he doing an interview in the parking garage?”
“We had originally arranged to do it in an hour, near the China World Trade Center”—A-Qing hintingly waggled her brows—“but since we need to head over to the television station very soon to do an interview on a TV talk show, we didn’t have enough time. The reporter therefore drove here to the airport instead.”
Jia He felt even more that the wrong she had committed was atrocious. Looking at her watch, she asked, “So is there enough time now?”
A-Qing also glanced at her own watch. “We need to go now. I’ll go hurry them.” Saying this, she straightaway went into the vehicle. Before long, two people came out. Just as Jia He was about to go over and climb in, someone hesitantly called her name. Turning around, she saw that it was the journalist who had just gotten off the vehicle, and what was more, this person surprisingly was an old high school schoolmate of hers.
That woman, while putting away her voice recorder, strode over to say hello. “You’re here picking someone up?”
Jia He wanted to shake her head, but then the thought came to her that that if she hadn’t come to pick someone up, why would she even be here? Therefore, she nodded. “Yes. What about you?”
Taking a couple more quickened steps over, that woman took ahold of Jia He’s arm. “I came to interview Yi Wenze.” After Jia He gave an “oh” in reply, the woman pointed at a person behind herself and introduced, “This is my colleague. Hey, yeah, so where are you working nowadays?”
“I’m a screenwriter.” Jia He shot a glance at the front of her car where she had scraped it, then also peeked at that other vehicle. A-Qing had just gotten out, but catching sight of the situation here, she turned back around and said something into the vehicle.
“A screenwriter?” The person before Jia He smiled. “The best would be if your films make it big and then one day I can interview you.”
Jia He brushed over this with a cursory response. “Sure. When you write about me, remember to make me sound like I’m Wenquxing descended into the world.”
The person in front of her grinned and gave her a pat on the shoulder. “Forget that. That’s not ‘in’ nowadays. The best would be if I write that you were a little gangster girl when you were a teen, every day hanging out and making your way on the streets, but then after a jaunt abroad somewhere, you had a heaven-sent encounter when you came back and a famous director gave you some advice.”
Jia He looked at her with an embarrassed expression. Remembering that Yi Wenze had a program that he needed to head to, she hurriedly put an arm around that woman’s shoulder and interrupted, “I can’t talk anymore. When I get the chance, I’ll come find you and we can go have a meal. I’m in a hurry to go pick someone up now.” With those words, she locked the car, turned, and strode in the direction of the elevators.
Only when she saw that they had driven away did she exhale in relief and then double back.
A-Qing was standing at the back of the car, signaling madly at her with facial expressions, but though A-Qing’s face was already contorted into a lump, Jia He still did not notice—until she came around from the car’s back end and saw Yi Wenze, bent at the waist, examining the car…
Uh-oh. She made a hand signal at A-Qing to step away for a moment. Then slinking over, she slid her arms around his waist from behind him and fawningly nuzzled her face against his back. “Welcome home, my love.” Ugh, so cheesy. But there was no better time than now to use a beauty trap.
Before she even got to see his face, he had taken the car key away from her and towed her into the car.
When the key was stabbed into the ignition, he finally turned a look on her. “How many years has it been since you learned to drive?”
“I learned back when I was in university.” She counted. “A lot of years.”
“From now on, just don’t drive.” With a glance at his watch, he said, “If you need to go out, I’ll drive you. If I’m not in Beijing, you can just take a taxi, or if you really find that inconvenient, we’ll hire a driver.”
The corner of Jia He’s lips slowly turned downward. What was meant by “one sentence shall pronounce your life or your death”? This.
While she was still racking her brain, trying to redeem the situation, Yi Wenze unexpectedly leaned sideways, covered the back of her neck with his palm, very easily closing the distance between them, and gave her an extremely long, lingering kiss. Because they had just been outdoors for a little while, their lips were cold. This kiss, though, was infused with heat.
The whir of the car’s heat was rather noisy. He had somewhat caught her off guard, and she could only oblige and try to keep up with him. When his hand eventually released her, she was at last able to murmur, “You’re not scared that someone might see us.”
But before the words had completely left her lips, she sensed him drawing himself right up to her. This time from directly in front of her, he sealed her lips once more, his position perfectly obstructing the lights that were sweeping past in front of their car. In the end, while he was helping her to fasten her seat belt, he stated, “Give me your driver’s license.”
… What was a beauty trap?! This was a real-deal beauty trap!
So, to his success, Jia He handed over that hard-earned driver’s license of hers. Watching as Yi Wenze offhandedly slipped it into his pocket, she could not help secretly mourning a bit for it. Yi Wenze or driving—she could not have them both. Let it be, let it be.
When the car drove out of the parking garage, finally, the corner of his lips slowly turned into a smile.
As a result of her mistake, there really was not enough time to go home first, and she could only accompany Yi Wenze to the downstairs level of the television station. She had initially said she would wait in the car, but A-Qing informed her that this talk show program would be very long, and so she still ended up being dragged upstairs with them. The talk show’s host happened to be inside the dressing room, and when she saw Yi Wenze she immediately stepped up and shook his hand. “Teacher Yi, it’s been two or three years since we last saw each other.”
Giving her hand a light shake, Yi Wenze smiled. “My apologies. Traffic was a bit congested on the way here.”
With a smile, the female host stepped aside to let him into the dressing room. “Your single this time is simply amazing. It’s been only a few days, but all the young girls here at the station have already made it their ringtone, either the Cantonese version or the Mandarin one. I’m about to go nuts here. It doesn’t matter whose mobile phone I call, it’ll still be that song.”
She certainly was deserving of being a celebrity talk show host. Though Yi Wenze did not like making small talk, he still could not avoid obliging her and saying a few words himself. Eventually, when Yi Wenze took a seat, Jia He stood beside him and watched the makeup artist give a token fix-up to his hair and style it. Prior to this, she had only ever seen the final product when Yi Wenze stepped out after having his hair and makeup done, and had never watched the actual process. She had thought it would be very interesting, but she discovered that there really was nothing worth watching.
While that female talk-show host was still in front of the mirror making minor adjustments to her hair and makeup, he was already drinking water and waiting.
What did it mean to be “endowed with natural beauty too hard to conceal”? This.
Thar evening when they were back home, Jia He personally cooked some noodles for him.
As she rested her chin on her palm, watching him eat the noodles, she tried as best as she could to use the warmest, gentlest voice to ask, “Does it taste good?” Leisurely pulling her over and sitting her down beside himself, Yi Wenze picked up some noodles and brought them right up to her lips.
The sauce had a very strong aroma and flavour. Jia He moved in close and had a bite. When she lifted her head again, about to say something, Yi Wenze spoke first, asking in a nonchalant voice, “Does it taste good?”
Jia He answered, “Mm-hmm,” the matter of wanting to drive tossed to the back of her mind and forgotten.
When he went to shower, Jia He at last opened up her computer, put on headphones, and began taking care of her work-related emails. It was the middle of the night, but she had unexpectedly received more than ten emails. She read through all of them one by one until, at the end, she felt a bit like she might go crazy with frustration. With Tune of Yong’an’s high ratings, many scripts that she had completed and handed off two or three years ago but had never been filmed, were now coming back to her with requests for revisions, as they were in preparation to kick-off shooting.
These were all works of her creation, so she could only carry through to the very end on her responsibility for them. But there were a lot and a lot of scripts, aaaah.
Jia He’s eyes were red from looking through all of these, when she heard the ring of her mobile phone. To her surprise, at this late-night hour, it was her mom calling. Given a fright at this, she quickly picked up the call. In the phone, her mom was freaking out and crying, “Oh no, Daughter, your dad’s brain is all confused. All he knows is to call your name.”
“Huh?” Jia He pressed a hand against her chest. “Don’t be anxious. Can he still walk? Still move? Have you called 120 yet?”
“I’ve called already.” On that end, her mom was nervously jabbering away nonstop. “Old man, don’t be anxious. If there’s anything, we can just say it. Don’t be anxious.”
Jia He’s heart was quaking in panic simply from listening to this. “When the ambulance arrives, get into it first and then text me the name of the hospital. I’m going to drive over right now.” She hung up the call right as Yi Wenze stepped out after finishing his shower. Seeing her frenziedly throwing on her clothes and, after snatching up her mobile phone, frantically dashing for the door, he immediately grabbed her and pulled her back. “Wait for me to get dressed. We’ll go together.”
Jia He’s mind was in a state of turbulence. With these words of his, she jumped in shock. “Why are you going?”
Yi Wenze swiftly pulled out a button-up shirt. While he was fastening it up, he had her grab his wallet and car key. Scurrying busily about with his instructions, Jia He did not give her mother another call until they were inside the car. Unexpectedly, though, the one who answered was not her mother and instead was Mumu. “Big Sis, mobile’s with me. When 120 emergency response gets here, I’ll send you a text to let you know where we’re going.” With those words, she immediately hung up.
Her heart hammering violently, Jia He turned a vacant gaze on Yi Wenze. Yi Wenze was starting the engine and was about to begin driving, but sensing her eyes on him, he immediately pulled her over to him and gave her a hug. “It’ll be okay.”
After saying this, he placed a kiss on her forehead. The heat had only just been turned on and the car interior was frightfully cold, but this one action from him warmed her. Her icy hands of just a moment ago now actually had some feeling in them.
Her phone suddenly vibrated. It was Mumu’s text message.
By reflex, she stated the name of the hospital to him, but then she abruptly hesitated. “How about I just drive myself there?”
That kind of public place, she felt, was not suitable for him to show up in.
Yi Wenze merely smiled. “Even though it’s not exactly the best time to meet them, you still can’t deprive me of my right as a boyfriend, right?” Jia He gave an “mm-hmm,” seeming as if, as a result of this one sentence from him, her heart was finally able to settle a little.
By the time they arrived at the hospital, it was deep in the night, but the main hall was still teeming with people and there was also the strong odour of disinfectant. Jia He could not be bothered to concern herself with anything else right now, on the phone asking for the floor and then, following Mumu’s instructions, running to the emergency department. The entire way, Yi Wenze kept pace with her, heading in with large strides. Around them, there continually were people stopping and whipping their heads around to peer at them, practically all gawking stupidly in utter disbelief.
Not until they were right outside the door of the emergency department did she suddenly halt her steps, turning her head to look at Yi Wenze.
Yi Wenze did not speak. Lightly taking hold of her hand, he pushed open the door for her.
That hospital room had been originally been filled with a din of voices, but because the two had stepped into it, it instantly quieted down.
Jia He’s eyes scanned around, spotting at once a bed surrounded by people three layers deep, all of them her various uncles and aunts from both her mom’s and dad’s side. She was just about to stride over when she heard a shriek, startling her so much that she nearly fell onto her rump.
Mumu made a mad dash over and clutched Jia He’s arms. “Why is my brother-in-law here?”
Panting, Jia He cried, “What’s wrong with my dad?!” Before her question had finished echoing out, every person around every bed had already turned his or her head toward her, every face wearing the same expression, like a sticky rice dumpling was stuck in the throat but no water could be found.
Even Mumu was rattled from all the stares, and she stammered, “N-Nothing… Just, just low blood sugar…”
“Low blood sugar?!” Jia He felt as if blood was rushing to her head. “Isn’t my dad high in all three, A,B, and C?”
Jia He’s mom had just come back from somewhere and was now actually standing behind Jia He and Yi Wenze. She supplemented with a bit more explanation. “I was scared to death, Daughter. It’s okay now. Don’t be anxious. We had a CT scan done, too. There’s nothing at all the matter with his brain. The doctor said your dad just took too much of the medicine that’s used to reduce his blood sugar.”
Only now was Jia He’s heart set at ease, and she turned to glance at Yi Wenze. Before she even knew what she should say, though, she saw her mom come closer to them. Likely having guessed that this man whose back was to her was the “knock-off Yi Wenze” her daughter had been keeping hidden away, Jia He’s mom assumed a dignified air and carefully swept an assessing look over him.
And then, she fell completely silent.
His manner earnest, Yi Wenze inclined his head and greeted, “Auntie, hello. I am Yi Wenze.”
Jia He’s mom stared blankly for a full five seconds. Finally, she cleared her throat and patted him on the shoulder. “Xiao Yi [Little Yi], we gave you a scare. Oh my, our first time meeting you and it turns out to be so embarrassing.” After she said all this, she even gave a couple of laughs.
So gracious in bearing and incredibly natural and poised.
All her uncles and aunts immediately went along with this, laughing as well, and then they stepped away from the bedside. “Hurry, come over and see your dad. He’s much more energized now after getting an IV.” Space was made at the bedside for them. As Second [Maternal] Aunt helped her dad sit up, it was evident he had just been patted awake, and blearily he leaned against the head of the bed.
A feeling suddenly hit Jia He, like she had been caught in the act of an affair, and she did not dare even to shift her feet.
Eventually, it was Yi Wenze who first stepped up to the bed, and only then did she tag along behind. Beside the bed, Yi Wenze leaned over. “Uncle, hello. How are you feeling now?” When he finished asking this, he even very naturally reached over and helped to put a pillow behind her dad’s back.
Groggily, her dad lifted his eyes to look at him, not saying a word. Rather, it was Jia He’s mom who came over in a few strides, pinched Jia He’s dad’s arm between her fingers, giving it a little twist, and snapped, “Someone’s talking to you!”
“Huh?” Jia He’s dad was at last pinched awake. “Not bad. Really, not bad.” He even stretched and moved his arms around a little bit. “Don’t worry. My body is strong and sturdy.” Still, after saying this, he was unable to resist turning his head and murmuring to Jia He’s mom, “Now, this resemblance really is too much, isn’t it?”
This one sentence nearly caused tears to stream down Jia He’s face. Gee, what in the world?
A resemblance can’t be to this extent, you know…
文曲星Wenquxing is a Taoist deity. In Chinese legends, he is believed to control academic luck. Extremely accomplished scholars were sometimes referred to as “Wenquxing descended into the mortal world.”
In the Thirty-Six Stratagems, an ancient essay containing numerous stratagems to be used in politics, diplomacy, and war, one of the stratagems is the 美人计 “mei ren ji,” which literally means “trap of the beautiful maiden,” otherwise known as “the beauty trap”: to bring down the enemy, send a beautiful maiden to (usually) the ruler or a senior leader of the enemy side so he becomes so enthralled by her that he neglects his duties. A beauty trap, therefore, is basically describing someone who uses her beauty to make things work to her advantage.
天生丽质难自弃. This line comes from Bai Juyi’s famous poem 《长恨歌》Song of Everlasting Regret and, in the poem, describes the beauty of Imperial Consort Yang (also known as Yang Guifei) of the Tang dynasty.
In China, 120 is the emergency number for an ambulance and first-aid assistance.
ABC is short for A1C (a blood test that measures average blood sugar level), blood pressure, and cholesterol. When you have high levels in all three of these, it is referred to as 三高, which literally means “three highs.”
This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com only. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or re-posting are not authorized. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.
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