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Jia He’s mouth bobbed open. She became a mute.
Eventually, A-Qing first got out of the car, reporting shortly, “There shouldn’t be too many people. We’ll just walk a bit faster. If worst comes to worst, when other travellers take pictures of you guys, if you feel awkward, just look down and stare at the floor and muddle your way through that way.”
Silently chanting “Amituofo” a few times, Jia He gritted her teeth and stepped out of the vehicle.
At first no one really took notice of them, but when the two came back out from the VIP check-in room, reporters were already rushing over and swarming around them. Reciting in her mind A-Qing’s instructions, she grasped Yi Wenze’s arm tightly. The expression on her face was ridiculously stiff, and she did not know at all whether she was smiling or unable to smile anymore…
There were unabated squeals of “Yi Wenze!” and also reporters throwing nonstop questions at them. Simply brushing past all the camera lenses pointed at her was enough to make her dizzy.
A-Qing and other staff of the company were politely obstructing the media, but the numerous and varied questions assailing them could not be blocked. “This trip you’re taking out of the country, is the purpose to get married? Or have you already secretly registered your marriage?” “Teacher Yi, would you be able to say a few words? Is this the fiancée you spoke of on the talk show?” “Excuse me, Teacher Yi! Have the two of you seen one another’s parents yet?” …
She honestly just wanted to find a shell, enclose herself inside it, and let things be at that…
The entire time, Yi Wenze wordlessly cradled her around her shoulders, practically half-carrying her in his embrace. Someone, it was not known who, grabbed her hand, and a fingernail scratched over the back of it, giving her such a scare that she yanked her arm back.
Yi Wenze lowered his head and gently took her hand into his. Then, he abruptly ceased walking.
This short, several-second pause was already enough to cause the entire place to grow still.
Right when everyone was feeling a little discomfited, he finally, in an amicable tone, made a joke. “Everyone, if you keep asking like this, she might very well run away and not want to marry me anymore. If that happens, that’s blameless suffering for me.” He was actually cracking a joke in public—such a seldom-seen occurrence—and the reporters were all a little stunned after hearing it. Very courteously, they took two steps back before continuing to repeat their questions from a moment ago. Their volume now, though, was quite a bit lower.
Jia He kept in close step with him, not daring to delay any longer, and hastened all the way until they were through the security checkpoint entrance.
Even when they had boarded the airplane, her brain still felt a little dazed.
Despite having seen a lot of such scenes, when it actually happened to her, she still had difficulty adapting to it. Only after the flight attendant had drawn the curtain closed and blocked out those gazes that were paying too much notice to them did her chest loosen in relief. Turning her head to the side, she rested her cheek against the seat back and looked at him. “I kind of understand why you got depression back then. If it were me, I reckon I’d just jump straight to having a nervous breakdown.”
He returned her gaze with a smile. “Thank you, honey, for your understanding.”
His voice was very light, but there were still a few other passengers in this space as well as the flight attendant—all of them basically viewers who didn’t even need to pay for a ticket to watch this show.
She gave him a disconsolate look. “I’ve decided I’m going to sleep. Don’t talk to me. Absolutely do not say anything else to me…”
“You plan on sleeping for eleven hours?” In amusement, he gave her forehead a little stroke. “It’ll be better when we get to New Zealand. Over there, I’m not an actor or a singer. No one will really pay attention to us.”
Yi Wenze had already ordered her meal for her in advance, all foods that she liked.
After eating and drinking her fill, Jia He pictured the scenes that would occur after they disembarked the plane. All of a sudden, she began to somewhat look forward to those.
Since they became a couple, this was their first time openly going on any sort of outing together in broad daylight. In China, that face of his was like a ticking time bomb, and apart from the company office or home, the two of them had never really gone to too many places together. Occasionally accompanying him on a work trip and having a meal together was already the greatest form of fun. Musing on this, she lamentingly murmured by his ear, “I actually really got the short end of the stick. Since dating you, there are a lot of things I haven’t gotten to do.”
His lips curled in a smile as he gazed at her, he was about to say something, but Jia He added, “But I really dislike exercise and going out. If you look at things that way, I truly am the most suited for you.”
He very much concurred with this. “Then this time, I’ll burden you a bit and have you walk around a little more with me in New Zealand?”
Playing along with him, Jia He deliberately heaved a long sigh. “Oh, all right. I will sufferingly set aside myself and take a stroll with you down the memory lane of your youth.”
Yi Wenze turned his head sideways and placed a light kiss on her cheek, signalling that she could sleep now.
During that long flight, when she hazily awoke from thirst, Yi Wenze was still asleep.
A very serene expression. So… gorgeous. Sighing with great feeling over the favouritism God had shown him, she turned and asked the flight attendant for a cup of iced water. When the flight attendant brought it over, she gave a very friendly smile to Jia He.
Jia He immediately understood: she must be one of Yi Wenze’s fans.
Smiling as well, Jia He quietly told her, “Thank you.”
The flight attendant’s eyes curved into crescents as she noiselessly mouthed, “You can do it,” and then took the cup back.
Tilting her head to the side, Jia He gazed upon Yi Wenze. On his chest still lay a half-open book, its cover a very simplistic design with merely a plain, deep-blue background. His hand rested on it, fingers curved in slight arcs. Even just this picture was enough for Jia He to watch him for a long time. Lying on her side, she fixed her eyes on him until her mind grew cloudy and she slid into slumber again.
It was raining here as well, but this place was suffused with the scent of summer. Coming from bitterly cold Shanghai to here, it truly did seem like their purpose for this trip was merely to holiday. Of course, if there weren’t that beautiful woman—who looked practically like a replica of Yi Wenze—beaming widely at her, she would feel a little more at ease.
“Jia He.” Yi Wenrun strode over and gave her a firm bear hug. “You look so cute. You’re tiny.”
… Okay, then. She would take that as a compliment.
Smiling, she returned Yi Wenrun’s hug. “He said I would like you for sure. I now believe him.”
Yi Wenrun released her and whispered, “Actually, he’s really scared that I’ll pick on you.”
Her Mandarin was very out of practice, but the way she articulated her words was also very cute, especially when paired with this face that truly had a seventy-percent likeness to Yi Wenze’s. Being face to face with her like this made Jia He’s cheeks unwittingly grow warm. “You’re blushing?” Yi Wenrun turned her eyes onto Yi Wenze. “I really did scare your wife?”
The word “wife,” which had come out so naturally, once more threw Jia He’s heart into overdrive.
Yi Wenze only smiled as he looked at his sister. “It’s because seeing your face makes her think of me.”
This blow that had been made without even batting an eye caused the face of the person before him to fall. Unreconciled to this, Yi Wenrun continued asking Jia He, “Don’t you think that this face looks even better when it’s on a woman? Don’t you think my big brother isn’t as good-looking as me?”
With an extra show of earnestness, Jia He nodded, agreeing, “At first I didn’t think so. It’s only after I saw you that I discovered that, surely, those facial features are much more suited to a woman.”
A look passed between these two women, and then they immediately dissolved into giggles.
Yi Wenrun had driven herself. They had already entered Auckland before Jia He seemed to remember that his parents lived in the capital city of Wellington, not here. “We’re not going to go see your dad and mom first?” She had leaned in close to his ear to softly ask this.
“They’re still away travelling.” Yi Wenze let out a little chuckle. “And also, they were afraid you’d be too nervous, so they told us to stay at Wenrun’s place for a few days and then go to see them.”
So thoughtful… Jia He suddenly felt a little more at ease, lightly releasing a breath of relief. “You didn’t even tell me earlier and just let me be nervous for half a day.”
It would seem that when it came to being considerate about other people’s feelings, his family members were all like this.
She suddenly thought of all the love and marriage dramas that she had written, in which grudges developed between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law even over the matter of what the duration of a shower should be. She supposed that she probably really had written too many of these, such that fear of the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship had become deeply rooted in her.
“What are you thinking?” He handed her a bottle of milk.
Taking it from him and having a sip, she answered, “I’m thinking about mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships.”
A half-smile on his lips, he handed her a moist towelette. When Jia He took it from him and wiped her mouth, she heard a laugh come from Yi Wenrun, who was driving. “If my mom heard you say that, she’d definitely be over the moon. In her whole life, she still hasn’t gotten to truly experience what a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship is, and she’s always said to me that her life is not complete.” While Jia He cast a glance at Yi Wenze, she heard Wenrun, abruptly cluing in to what she had just said, cry, “Oh no! I just said the wrong thing.”
“No worries.” Jia He gave a small laugh. This had merely been a little thought that she had had, but now things had become somewhat awkward with Wenrun’s words. “I haven’t experienced one either. I actually do get really scared about it.” After saying this, she tucked herself close to Yi Wenze and breathed in his ear, “Hey, this friend here who has had a past marriage, I have a pure, untouched past. You need to cherish me.”
Yi Wenze gazed at her in amusement. “How do you want me to cherish you?”
Her eyes remained on him for a long time until she at last pulled her gaze away to stare at the views outside the window.
Wenrun’s husband was a high school teacher and hence should be someone who gave class lectures every day; yet, he was incredibly incapable with words and at making conversation. The entire dinner, other than saying in English, “Feel free to eat a little more,” he had not spoken a word. Afterwards, when she and Yi Wenze were sitting on the swing in the yard, cuddled close together and chatting, she commented pensively, “Wenrun loves to talk, but she’s paired with someone who is so inept with words. Doesn’t she get really lonely?”
“My dearest wifey.” Yi Wenze took a leisurely glimpse at her. “He and I were schoolmates. He was in the Faculty of Law.”
Astonished, Jia He stared at him and pointed out, “And he’s still so taciturn?”
“Wenrun wouldn’t let him say too much.” He revealed the secret. “He doesn’t know how to speak Chinese, so she was worried that if he spoke too much, you’d feel uncomfortable.”
“Oh.” Jia He very embarrassedly mumbled, “My English actually isn’t that bad…”
The two big dogs by her feet were rubbing and rolling around, not shy at all around strangers. One had even stretched out its tongue and was licking her foot. So tickly was the sensation that she pulled her feet up and plopped them directly on Yi Wenze’s thighs. Yi Wenze said a command in English to the dogs, and those dogs very obediently lay down. Jia He looked reverently at him, then glanced at the dogs. “I suddenly really idolize these dogs. They can understand any English. They probably are at least at a CET-4 proficiency level…”
Utterly amused by her, Yi Wenze was about to say something, but then they heard someone far away calling in a babyish voice, “Aunt.” His two-year-old little nephew unsteadily waddled barefooted across the lawn to them. Simply watching him made Jia He tremble as well, and she wanted to get down to go pick him up. Yi Wenze, however, held her back. “It’s okay. He’s known how to walk for a long time already.”
With her eyes fixed on that little one, Jia He waited nervously until he had very slowly toddled over, and then she finally reached out and lifted him into her arms
She was already in Yi Wenze’s embrace to start with, and now with her own arms holding a child, the three of them were snugged tightly together. This feeling suddenly caused her heart to melt. Still not really knowing how to talk yet, the child only over and over jabbered, “Aunt,” and then touched her face, nose, and chin. As she allowed him to touch her as he pleased, she unconsciously lifted her gaze to Yi Wenze. To her surprise, he seemed to also have thought of something and, in that same moment, had tilted his face down to look at her.
Their two faces were extremely close, so close they could practically feel one another’s every breath.
“Hey, be careful what example you’re setting.”
Jia He blinked, trying to shift back a bit. She was about to say something else, but all of a sudden she let out a cry of “Ah!”
Embarrassed, she looked at him, then also glanced at the little nephew in her arms, explaining plaintively, “He just touched my…” She extended a finger and pointed it at her chest. This little guy was just too naughty. He even stuck his hand inside to touch it…
Yi Wenze gave a little laugh. Taking hold of the little boy’s hand, he stressed with great seriousness, “That is Uncle’s. You cannot just touch it whenever you want, understand?”
Jia He was torn between being annoyed or laughing. “Who teaches a kid like that?”
His head was lowered to look at her. “I am teaching him that a man must know to protect what belongs to him.”
四级 literally means “fourth level” and refers to the CET-4, which stands for “College English Test” Band 4. The CET are nationwide English proficiency tests for non-English major college/university students in China. The CET-4 is a criterion of most universities in obtaining an undergraduate degree.
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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