Chapter 1 – Reunion
The reunion occurred after exactly seven years, one weekend at a supermarket packed full of people shopping.
Mo Shen pushed her cart along, struggling and weaving through the crowd. Recently having returned from abroad, she was still not used to places being so crowded. However, the spectacle of such crowded places made Mo Shen smile a little. She felt like she was an expatriate, intently listening to the sounds of home. She asked herself if people returning to China felt like she did? Joyful, anxious.
Seven years. It’s already been seven years…time is cruel!
Strange. Is it fate that I should meet him as soon as I return? No, it should be them.
Zhao Mo Shen stared at the male and female pair standing by the vegetable stand. Once again, she felt the strangeness of fate. Seven years ago, they caused her to decide to leave. Now, they go shopping together. In the end they are together. Thankfully she left at that time. Otherwise…Mo Shen didn’t dare think about it…
He Yi Chen, He Yi Mei! Why am I so stupid! Why did I think that they were brother and sister just because they have the same name?
“We aren’t related. Before, the two families were neighbours, both bearing the nam He, that’s why they gave the two children the same name. Later, Yi Chen’s parents suddenly passed away and my parents adopted Yi Chen.”
“Do you believe that you are better than the love of 20 years between Yi Chen and I?”
“Today I will officially tell you. I love Yi Chen. But I don’t want to quietly love in secret. You and I will compete openly.”
The year she turned 19, a day before Mo Shen’s birthday, her friend He Yi Mei, who was usually very calm, suddenly declared this to her. Someone who is gentle and non-competitive and who would normally never speak out like that like Yi Mei, must surely love Yi Chen very much..
And her? Could she compete with Yi Mei? The day that Yi Mei declared war, was the day she lost. After that, she ran away to America for seven years.
Oh, He Yi Chen. Thinking about his cold eyes, his heartbreaking words, Mo Shen felt her heart ache. Though it was only a ghostly feeling, hard to identify but definitely there.
He walked towards her. Mo Shen’s hands grasped the cart tightly to the point her knuckles hurt, all her fingers turned white as if they were about to burst. The supermarket felt too crowded, but she was pushing a cart full of items so she couldn’t turn around and run away. In that moment a thought struck her, why do I have to run? I should calmly speak with them a sentence or two, “Oh, long time no see!”, and then proudly turn around and walk away, leaving behind a good impression. But, perhaps they don’t recognise me. Very possible. I’ve changed a lot. The long hair let loose in the past is now only up to my ears, white skin is tanned from the California sun, even jeans, baggy t-shirt and sports shoes. Very different to the past!
They walked slowly towards each other, step by step, and…brushed past each other.
Then it seemed, a voice spoke, “Do you need more milk?”
That’s right, that’s Yi Mei’s voice. Still as quiet and gentle as before.
She couldn’t hear the reply properly. She really missed Yi Chen’s deep, warm voice that would echo in her ears during the seven years she was abroad.
Feeling a sense of loss, but at the same time, feeling relief, Mo Shen raised her downcast head and strode forward.
“Bam!”, the trolley hit a discounted soap stand that was piled high like a mountain in the aisle. She, being the culprit stood innocently and watched as the soap bars fell all over the place in disarray.
This is really bad. Would she be able to pretend that it wasn’t her?
“Oh lord, this is the third time today,” the store manager came from out of nowhere, complaining.
“That’s why you really can’t blame people. Why would you place it in the middle of the aisle.” Mo Shen mumbled, attempting to appear regretful.
The scene garnered the attention of bystanders, including Yi Mei. Yi Mei glanced over at the noisy scene, startled. Her! Is it her? Yi Mei couldn’t believe her eyes.
It’s really her! She’s returned?
“What’s the matter Yi Mei?” He Yi Chen, not understanding her reaction, turned around to ask, following Yi Mei’s line of sight.
Yi Chen’s tall stature suddenly stiffened.
Zhao Mo Shen!
The girl with her head bowed like a regretful child, isn’t that Zhao Mo Shen? The unnaturalness, disappearing eyes and the mischievous smile is undeniable. It was hard to make out her face from a distance, but Yi Chen knew. He still remembers that’s how she is, disrupting the muddy pone then leaving without taking responsibility, wilfull, selfish and hateful.
Seven years, she still remembers the way home?
He Yi Chen called, “Yi Mei, let’s go.”
Yi Mei looked surprised at Yi Chen’s calm face, “You don’t plan to say hello to her? Or maybe…”
“She has long disappeared from my life,” Yi Chen’s voice was indifferent, as if it was really nothing.
Yi Mei regarded Yi Chen’s face carefully, but couldn’t see anything more, finally saying, “Let’s go.”
In the end, Yi Mei’s eyes still inadvertently looked towards Mo Shen, at the same time as she looked back. Their eyes met, Mo Shen seemed surprised, a smile suddenly appeared on her face and hastily nodded her head.
Yi mei hurriedly turned to say, “Yi Chen…”
“She…” Yi Mei suddenly stopped. She couldn’t see Mo Shen in the crowd in front of her anymore.
“What is it?” Yi Chen asked.
“Nothing, nothing at all!” Yi Mei replied while bowing her head.
It’s just that she saw them just now. Why did they let each other pass by without acknowledgement? And Yi Chen, he obviously saw her as well…
“I can’t believe the day has arrived that I’m back here.”
The chief editor asked Mo Shen in their first meeting, “Miss Zhao, why did you choose to work in this city?”
Mo Shen became flustered, not knowing how to answer. Why? Because this is where she studied at university for a year? Because this is where she met him? Because she made many memories here, so many?
At first, even Mo Shen didn’t know why the first place she thought of going to, after returning, was this city. Until the day she met Yi Chen, did she understand. She wanted to see him, even if he no longer belonged to her, but she still wanted to see him.
Only to see!
“Maybe because i can’t return home,” Mo Shen replied.
The Chief Editor looked at her strangely for a long while, surprised.
“We can keep her as a photojournalist,” the Chief Editor thought.
However, the Chief Editor’s excessive attention to her work abroad made Mo Shen feel uneasy.
“It’s just a small magazine,” she told the Chief Editor.
“A Shen, I know that for a Chinese person it isn’t easy to be a photojournalist in the US, you must be better than the white people. They all seem to think that we Chinese have no artistic talent,” the Chief Editor continued.
“Are you praising the depth of my knowledge? It’s really nothing. I only know about a small US publisher because I worked there.”
Mo Shen laughed in response to the Chief Editor, her feeling of unease, vanishing.
With this, her employment was decided. She was accepted to work as a photojournalist for the Chief Editor of the magazine.
Mo Shen still returned to that supermarket, but never saw them again. Until one day, a security guard called to her, “Miss, please follow me to the security office.”
Mo Shen was startled, feeling unsettled. The newspapers have often reported security personnel forcefully searching, and even beating up customers.
Mo Shen looked at him with cautious eyes. The security guard hesitantly said, “Sorry Miss, I have no ulterior motives. I only wanted to ask if you lost something a month ago?”
One month ago she had just returned to the country, she didn’t unknowingly lose something did she? She slowly followed the security guard out of curiosity. In the security office, he gave Mo Shen a black leather wallet.
At a glance, Mo Shen knew it wasn’t hers. She shook her head saying, “You’re mistaken, this isn’t mine.”
The security guard appeared surprised, saying, “Miss, open it and have a look.”
She took the wallet and opened it. Inside there was a photo of her.
The security guard said, “That’s your photo right? Even though you’ve changed a lot, but I can still recognise you.”
Very different, because the photo was taken when Mo Shen first started university, her hair was still long and up in a ponytail, with a goofy smile.
Mo Shen returned the wallet to the security guard, “This isn’t mine.”
The security guard stubbornly responded, “Isn’t the person in the photo, you?”
“Yes that’s me, but the wallet isn’t mine.”
“It must belong to someone who knows you. Here, maybe it’s owner is your secret admirer even.”
What a surprise! Who ever said that Chinese people lacked imagination?
“You take it, take it. Since if nobody comes to claim it, if left here we wouldn’t know what to do with it. It would get confiscated, rather that it be returned to you. You and the owner have an association. Oh, you never know, maybe I have contributed to a marriage match.”
The security guard seemed to be obsessed with dramas, believing in his own imagination.
A month ago, Yi Chen could have dropped the wallet when they saw each other. Yi Chen dropped it? Mo Shen took the wallet home to this ridiculous speculation.
After showering that night, lying on her bed, Mo Shen opened the wallet. It was simply designed, luxury branded, contained not a lot of cash, entirely unable to identify who it belonged to.
Mo Shen carefully pulled out the photo. In a corner, there were embossed letter, probably torn from a document. Turning the photo over, she was startled. Behind it there was writing, writing that looked like the elegant and sharp handwriting of the man Mo Shen will never forget.
It was Yi Chen’s writing and written in black fountain-pen, My Sunshine!
Even in a bustling and complex city, you can still live a simple life. Work, eat, sleep, just that. After a period of adjustment at the beginning, the following days are merely mechanical repetition.
“A Shen, I’ve been looking for you everywhere,” Mo Shen had just entered the publishing office when she heard someone calling her.
“Old Bai, what’s the matter?”
Old Bai is actually still quite young and is also a photojournalist. He had a talent for liaising with celebrities and models so was given the responsibility of cover shots.
“My wife just gave birth, so could you help me out for tomorrow’s shoot with the model Xiao Xiao?”
Xiao Xiao? Mo Shen was a bit hesitant, “I don’t have a problem. Though I’ve heard that her personality is hard to please. If it isn’t someone she knows, she may not agree to be photographed.”
Old Bai thought about the issue for a moment and replied, “How about this, you just try. If she won’t let you, just call me.”
The day after, after seeing the model Xiao Xiao, famous for her cold personality, Mo Shen was totally taken by surprise. She wasn’t aware of the Chinese modelling industry, she couldn’t believe that she…she was very similar to an old friend of hers.
Although Mo Shen’s university friend was a simple and clumsy country girl. The model in front of her though, her long legs crossed and actions of smoking were skilfull and seductive.
Mo Shen didn’t dare acknowledge her, maybe it was just two very similar people.
However, the beautiful Xiao Xiao squinted, looking at Mo Shen, then taking long strides to stand in front of her, “What is it, you don’t recognise me?”
“Yes, if it isn’t me, then who else would it be?”
“Wonderful!” The colleague that came with her chimed in.
“Our first year at university, you took the top bunk and I, the bottom.”
“Everyone becomes close friends with their bunk-mates,” Xiao Xiao’s manager butted in.
“Didn’t you all come to take photos? Hurry and take them!” Xiao Xiao passionately ordered.
Shao Mei has changed a lot. Mo Shen thought while establishing a camera angle. In front of the camera is an entirely different Shao Mei from the loveable, clumsy girl. Then who is she?
Maybe she was no one. A good photographer is able to capture the soul of their model, but Mo Shen couldn’t capture Xiao Xiao’s. Maybe she wasn’t good enough, or more correctly, the person in front of the camera did not have one.
Xiao Xiao was so empty! Empty to the point of hopelessness. Maybe it was this emptiness that caused her popularity to rise so rapidly.
After finishing the photo session, Xiao Xiao waved her hand, “ We’ll finish here for the day.”
“But Xiao Xiao, there’s still…” Xiao Xiao’s manager suddenly reminded.
Xiao Xiao determinedly turned around to say to Mo Shen, “Let’s go have a coffee. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other so we ought to have a glass of wine instead. Unfortunately there’s something not right with my stomach lately, so we’ll settle for coffee.”
“Uh, coffee is good, maybe you should have it with milk,” Mo Shen didn’t know what else to say. There was so much, so much that she needed to ask. Frankly, she didn’t know where to start.
“Your health is very important, so diets should be done in moderation,” Mo Shen decided on trying to find a neutral topic of conversation.
“I’ve never been on a diet,” Xiao Xiao smiled slightly, “I’m an alcoholic!”
“Shao Mei!”, Mo Shen exclaimed, shocked by the degree to which her friend would abuse her body. She emotionally grabbed her friend’s hand, “Shao Mei, why did you become like this?”
Xiao Xiao pushed her hands away out of reflex, stunning her. Both became quiet, the atmosphere turning awkward.
“You’ve changed so much,” Mo Shen said softly after a moment.
“That’s right, do you still remember that first year that I secretly loved someone?,” Xiao Xiao coldly remarked, “One day I told him, I liked him. He accepted but told me he didn’t love me back. After that, Shao Mei died. Now I am Xiao Xiao.”
Xiao Xiao’s words were a stab to the heart, Mo Shen felt anguished and didn’t know what else to say.
After a while, Xiao Xiao spoke sarcastically, “In the end, you still haven’t changed. Still pretending to be noble. Why did you leave the golden US to return here?”
Her words hurt Mo Shen a little, but thinking about it, she was also at fault. Back then she quietly left, seven years without a word. She felt sorry towards her friends.
“I left in such a hurry then…”
“You don’t need to tell me all that,” Xiao Xiao responded shortly.
“You need to say all that to Yi Chen.”
He Yi Chen. What does it have to do with him?
Mo Shen remembered back to the scene of Yi Mei and Yi Chen side by side at the supermarket, “I don’t think he will care.”
“Doesn’t care? Do you really think that?” Xiao Xiao seemed agitated, “The first few days when you disappeared, he looked for you like crazy. Afterwards, he was determined to wait for you at the dorms. The result, what did he wait for?” Xiao Xiao frowned, “The result was that people came to take your things away. They told him you left for the US and would probably never return.”
“Mo Shen, you are really cruel!” Xiao Xiao stopped for a moment and continued, “I won’t ever forget Yi Chen’s reaction at that time. He had the expression of someone having fallen off a cliff. His face was dark and hopeless, making us all unable to look at him. I couldn’t believe that someone as proud as Yi Chen could become like that…”
Mo Shen was dazed, “Is this all true?”
“Maybe he felt guilty…”
“Zhao Mo Shen, you are the one who left for the US. You’re the one who should feel guilty!”
“Shao Mei, you don’t understand.”
“I have eyes, I understand,” Xiao Xiao stopped speaking then.
So everyone believed she left him? Clearly that’s not true. Mo Shen smiled bitterly.
He clearly said that. He said that he didn’t want to see her, never wanted to see her face again. He told her to leave, the further the better…it was obviously him!
Parting with Xiao Xiao, Mo Shen walked along the streets in the early summer weather. Xiao Xiao’s words echoing in her ears, “ Afterwards, he stayed single…”
What about He Yi Mei? Wasn’t she adamantly in love with Yi Chen, determined to get him at all costs?
In the end they’re not together. Then what was the story all those years ago? Why did Yi Chen say that?
Mo Shen opened her hands, inside was a piece of paper with he address of He Yi Chen’s law firm on it. Xiao Xiao had said, “Maybe you need this.”
She didn’t deliberately come here, it was just on the way. Before she knew it, she was standing in front of the law firm.
The receptionist replied apologetically, “Lawyer He isn’t here at the moment, did you have an appointment?”
Mo Shen couldn’t remember her exact feelings at that point, if they were of disappointment or relief, “No!”
“Oh no, maybe I’ll come back later,” Mo Shen took a few steps, and turned around, “This is lawyer He’s wallet, could you please pass this to him. Thank you!”
A result like this was great! In the end, fate was shallow, so it it is to be expected that love wasn’t deep.
“A Shen, what do you think the differences are between working in country and abroad?” a colleague asked unexpectedly close to the end of business hours.
“Ah,” Mo Shen looked around and not seeing the chief, answered straightforwardly, “The salary is much higher.”
“What a shame!” her colleagues tittered.
“Did you face discrimination over there?”
“Actually, that doesn’t really deserve attention. Even people in Hong Kong look down on people from the mainland.” Her colleague, Da Bao, who had just returned from Hong Kong interrupted.
“When you personally face a situation like that, it is possible to think simply like that. One time, in front of all my colleagues, the boss suddenly announced that China didn’t have any real artists. I was so angry, never before have I felt myself a Chinese until then. Right then I went up against him, ‘What do you know about Chinese art? When we Chinese were creating art, what were you Americans doing?’”
“Just like that! Very bold!” All her colleagues clapped admiring her response.
After that, someone asked, “What reason did they later give for firing you?”
Mo Shen laughed, “Although the boss was arrogant, he is also relatively generous. One day, I don’t know where he got it from, but he brought out guideline paper and told me to write some Chinese characters. He said he wanted to put them up in the living room.”
“Really?” another colleague asked.
“A Shen, is your writing ok?” someone else asked.
“I showed off my Zheng Ban Qiao skills (famous Chinese calligrapher). First, I put the brushes and ink on the table, then pretended to do this and that and after a while wrote a few characters. In all honesty, if it wasn’t my writing, there would be no way for me to read those characters.”
“What did you write?”
“You are a barbarian!”
“Ick..” someone laughed resulting in a mouthful of tea being spurted out.
Through the laughter, someoen called, “A Shen, someon is looking for you.”
Mo Shen turned around and saw, Flower Fairy. Hua Xian Zi – known as Flower Fairy, ran in gasping, “A Shen, in the lounge over there. Very handsome, cold, manly, at a glance you can already tell he is very successful. A Shen, you’ve just returned but already you’ve met someone of such good quality. Why did you hide it from me.”
If Hua Xian’s words were believable, then pigs can fly. Her words were never taken at face value, more like half truths.
However, Mo Shen was curious. She had just returned, and didn’t meet anyone. Who would come looking for her?
It can’t possibly be him!
The man standing behind the glass of the lounge with his back to her turned out to be He Yi Chen!
Hearing the door open, he turned around. His expression cold when aimed towards her, without emotion.
Hu Xian Zi wasn’t exaggerating. The man was very handsome with a dignified air about him. His form-fitting suite accentuated his tall stature, and exuded confidence but there was also a sense disdain that caused people to feel uncomfortable.
Mo Shen was speechless.
He calmly and slowly nodded in greeting, “Miss Zhao.”
Gesturing at the seat on the far side she said, “Please have a seat!”
Mo Shen went to make some tea, unable to stay as calm as he was. She attempted to hide her emotions, “What would you like to drink?”
“Thank you but no need,” his expression serious, “I’ve only come to say a few words, then I’ll leave.”
“You came looking for me, how did you know I would be here?”
He was silent for a moment before answering, “Xiao Xiao. I’m Xiao Xiao’s lawyer.”
“What is the matter?”
His tone of voice was chilly, “A few days ago you came to my office and said that you would return. After a few days of not seeing you, I no choice but to come by.”
Mo Shen raised her head, dazed, meeting his gaze, “How did you know…”
She didn’t leave a name, how did he know that it was her who returned the wallet?
“Miss, obviously I have the abilities of deduction like a normal person,” he said mockingly.
Maybe all lawyers are like that. “The abilities of deduction like a normal person.”
Mo Shen stared at the wall in front of her, “I went to return the wallet, you’ve received it, why did you need to come here?”
Yi Chen’s eyes suddenly flashed, “Other than returning the wallet, did you have no other reason?”
What else was there? Mo Shen definitively answered, “No!”
“Good!”, his eyes held an expression of disappointment, but for a moment. He stepped in front of her, “but I have a matter.”
He brought the wallet in front of her face, “Inside this wallet there was a photo, do you know anything about it Miss Zhao?”
Of course she did. Mo Shen bowed her head, “Indeed? I didn’t really notice.”
“Really? Inside this wallet, other than money, there is nothing else. How did you know it was mine Miss Zhao?”
Mo Shen went quiet. She forgot he was a lawyer, always knowing how to find loopholes in other people’s words. If she wanted to trick him, she had to know her own strength.
He bent his body slightly, as if to speak a secret, “Can you please return the photo to me?”
“The person in the photo is me, why do I have to return it to you?”
“Miss Zhao, I suggest you don’t argue with a lawyer about the issue of ownership,” Yi Chen coldly replied.
Mo Shen became indignant. She wasn’t familiar with a Yi Chen like this and didn’t know how to deal with him, “The photo isn’t here,” she finally said.
“Then please return it to me tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow I have…”
“Miss Zhao!” He Yi Chen cut in, “I think both you and I don’t want to disturb others, why don’t we finish this quickly?”
Finish this quickly? Mo Shen was quiet for a while, “Why do you need the photo?”
“Who knows!” Yi Chen’s eyes became guarded, “Maybe I want it as a reminder of a stupid past.”
Stupid past, that’s right, very stupid past. She still had hoped…
He Yi Chen decisively stated, “Tomorrow I’ll come by to get it, if you are busy, you can have someone pass it to me. Goodbye Miss Zhao.”
He Yi Chen suddenly turned around, face blank, “Thank you for your cooperation. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Mo Shen quietly watched as his tall stature walked further and further away. It’s not that she dreamed of teh moment the two would meet again, but she did not expect this. There was no affection when he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Stupid past huh?
Mo Shen stood in front of the large mirror in her bedroom, studying her reflection contemplatively. If short hair became long and tied up in a ponytail, if skin became whiter and smooth, if she could smile without hesitation…most importantly, if it were possible to erase the melancholy in her eyes, and replace it with the innocence of a student, she would become the Zhao Mo Shen that first came to know He Yi Chen that day they started university.
“He Yi Chen… He Yi Chen…”
Mo Shen wasn’t sure herself of why she followed He Yi Chen. Even more, Yi Chen didn’t know. Either way, she was the one who chased after him. Until one day, Yi Chen couldn’t take it anymore and asked her seriously, “Zhao Mo Shen, why are you always following me?”
If it was now, she would be embarrassed to death! But then, she didn’t know what embarrassment was back then. She raised her eyebrows asking, “Yi Chen, are you stupid or am I stupid? Ah, but you’re so smart, it’s probably me that is stupid. Why am I so pathetic, following someone but not knowing why?”
Remembering at that time Yi Chen widened his eyes in surprise. Later, when mentioning this story, seemingly angry while amused, he declared, “Who knew there was such an uneducated person in existence!” In the end, the person embarrassed was him.
That’s why, the student of the faculty of Law, after a moment of silence, finally had a response, of course he could only stammer, “I don’t plan on having a girlfriend while I’m still studying.”
At that time, Mo Shen was still so naive that she didn’t realise it was just an excuse, immediately countered, “Then I’ll be first on the list, wait until you graduate and then have priority for being chosen right?”
In front of such a stubborn opponent, the future lawyer had his hands tied. He hurriedly left after leaving one last comment, “I have to go to class.”
Mo Shen wouldn’t accept defeat, but before she could think of a better way, she heard everyone discussing, “He Yi Chen from the law faculty has a girlfriend. Maybe Zhao Mo Shen, her name seems odd…”
Hearing that, Mo Shen ran to the classroom looking for Yi Chen to hastily clarify, “I didn’t start the rumours. You have to believe me.”
Yi Chen turned his head from his book, clear eyes looking at her and replied, “I know.”
Mo Shen asked foolishly, “How did you know?”
Yi Chen replied with a sigh, “Because I started the rumour!”
This time it was Mo Shen who suddenly went quiet.
Yi Chen explained, “I’ve thought it through. If after three years you are determined to be my girlfriend, why not exercise that right now?”
Oh! That time…
The mouth of the girl in the mirror turned into a smile, but disappeared before reaching her eyes.
Mo Shen stepped out on to the balcony, her emotions all over the place. Looking up at the stars, tomorrow might be a better day.