Xiao Yu was not a simple woman. And as I looked at the driver through the rear view mirror, I could appreciate that Zheng Wei’s ability to attract women was probably better than Ye Zhengchen’s.
Later, I asked the sly fox. He said, “ I am definitely not in the same league as him. While he was dating a movie star, I was sitting at home watching idol dramas!”
Zheng Wei continued driving. After about ten minutes, we stopped at the entrance of a clubhouse. It was nothing special to look at, but from the surprise in Xiao Yu’ face, this place must have been a very famous place in Qinhuangdao.
As soon as the car stopped, a young man came to the door to greet us. Looking at our unfamiliar faces, he immediately asked if we were meeting someone.
“ Mr Wu invited us.”
His expression turned welcoming, “ Please come in.”
As soon as I walked into the clubhouse, my nose was assailed by the scent of women’s perfume.
The young man escorted us all the way to the elevator, then took us the to the top floor. The light at the top floor was considerably dimmer. The elevator opened to a huge hall. Several blonde dancers were dancing on the stage. There was a big dance floor adjacent to the stage and there were several sofas surrounding tables around the dance floor.
It was approximately noon, so not many people were present. No one was dancing , the few people scattered around the room were all watching the dancers on stage.
As soon as we entered, a man sitting around one of the tables stood up. There were eight people on his table, four men and four women. I had seen all four of the men in the hospital when they had come to visit Ye Zhengchen. I recognised one of the women as well, but no one introduced me to the other three women. I doubted even they knew each other.
After saying our hellos, Ye Zhengchen took me to one of the double sofas overlooking the stage and motioned for me to sit.
“ Hey, the bad habits of capitalist exuberance are back again!” he commented
“Man! You are the one to talk! You are dressed like the worst capitalist!” a man with a round face snorted disdainfully.
“No, I have enough to enjoy yourself. Don’t tell me you are bringing women as well!”
Zheng Wei smiled at Ye Zhengchen, “You think he doesn’t want that? It’s just that the law does not allow it.”
“ Well… you know me”, Ye Zhengchen leaned back on the sofa as he commented languidly, “ If the law would allow it, I would get a battalion of women…”
Everyone started laughing. A petite and beautiful girl went up on stage. She said hello in Japanese and then continued in the same language, “Today a special guest has come in. He has requested for a song, ‘Don’t say sayonara’.”
All the lights were dimmed and a slow, haunting music started. I closed my eyes and that scene from the airport flashed past my eyes. The last word I had said to him was “Sayonara!”
I wish I had known then what I knew now. I turned to him, “ Brother, if I had given you three minutes at the airport on that day, what would you have told me? Would you have told me the truth?”
In answer, he hugged me tightly. “ In my heart, I have been thanking you a million times for not giving me those three minutes.”
As we looked at the performance and drank the wine, the afternoon had turned to evening. There were more people in the room now, and many beautiful women were dancing on the dance floor.
Ye Zhengchen looked a little drunk by this time. His eyes looked unfocussed, and his limbs twitched with the music. In fact, I knew he was quite good with alcohol. He had not drunk too much wine, so he should be alright.
I finished a glass of red wine. When he touched me, I could feel the heat surge in my body, so I quickly got up.
“ Where are you going?”
“ To the washroom.”
I splashed my face with water, then walked towards a quiet spot I saw in the balcony adjacent to the hall. The balcony was separated from the hall with a curtain.
I put my hands on the railing and gazed at the distance. I could see the lights from the harbour flashing beautifully in the dark.
“ Are you bored?” a voice spoke behind me. I turned back. Zheng Wei stood behind me. He held out a glass of mineral water to me.
“ Thank you!” I took it and answered him, “ I felt a little warm so I came out for some air.”
Zheng Wei turned to look at the view then looked at me sideways, “ I actually wanted to speak to you. Is it a good time?”
“ Even I wanted to speak to you..it’s just that I never got the chance…”
I continued, “ I heard that the Yin Zhongtian case was actually your doing..”
“ Oh.” Zheng Wei muttered indifferently, “ yes, I was the one who arrested him.”
“ Why did you arrest him? Was he guilty?”
I wasn’t quite sure why I asked this question. I had a faint suspicion in my heart. I was hoping that what the press had reported was not true. I was hoping that the Ye Zhengchen I knew was the true imprint of the person, a man who looked almost holy in his white coat, a man who had unlimited pity even for a mouse.
Zheng Wei answered me in a very official sounding tone, “ He had nothing to do with the crime. But he was very co operative and provided us valuable evidence to nab the criminals”
“ But the news I heard at that time was not this . I had heard that he had confessed to all his crimes and would be sentenced to imprisonment soon.”
“ If you were able to hear the real news, how would I investigate the case?”
I was speechless. I decided to be direct with him. “ Did Ye Zhengchen ask you to release this news?”
Zheng Wei asked me a question in answer to this, “ Is that what he told you?”
I shook my head, “ No.”
Zheng Wei stayed silent for a while and then sighed, “ It looks like you don’t understand him at all.”
“ So he wasn’t the one who asked you to do all this?”
The past was a heavy burden on me.
“ Really? It wasn’t him?” My hands tightened around the railing.
“ I was the one who arrested your fiancé… I was also the one who was instrumental in getting the room card for the presidential suite in your hands…”
“When Mr Ye returned to China and saw you in that wedding dress… do you know how he reacted?”
My mind flashed back to the scene in the bridal shop, and the lonely back of the soldier walking back to the military vehicle parked in a no parking zone.
What was his mood at that time?
Zheng Wei spoke again, “ I just wanted to help him. I wanted to create an opportunity for the two of you to sit down and have a conversation. Let him tell you clearly whatever he wants to tell you. But..”
“ I don’t know what you did to him. He used to be a very rational person, but he is so confused in anything to do with you..”
He lowered his head and smiled, “You should ask him.”
The lights from the ship were now more distant and dimmer.
I tried to recall the incidents that happened that day. It seemed that Ye Zhengchen had wanted to talk to me, but I was not willing to listen.
Later, when he was enunciating his conditions, I started to take off my clothes. Had I misunderstood him?
I looked up and took a swig from my iced water.
I thought through the events carefully. He hadn’t actually asked me to sleep with him. I was the one who had jumped into his bed!
I looked up at Zheng Wei. His eyes reflected the starlight. He looked deep and mysterious.
I suddenly felt that I should thank Zheng Wei. If he had not intervened, we would never have realised the indisputable fact that we still loved each other. We would have regretted this for the rest of our lives. I suddenly thought of something more important.
“ Zheng Wei, why were you the one in charge of the Nanzhou case? Was this just a coincidence?”
Zheng Wei smiled at me but did not answer. Instead he said, “ When I was fifteen, I got addicted to gambling. Once, I was cheated by a group of professional gamblers. I ended up owing them a lot of money. I dared not tell my dad, so I went to Ye Zhengchen for help. In fact, his father was even stricter than mine, but he did not say anything. He stole his mother’s jewellery and paid my dues. For this, his father almost killed him, but he never said a word.”
I nodded. I already had the answer I was looking for.
“ Can you tell me more about him? I want to know him better..”
Zheng Wei turned to look at the hall. His friends were taking turns to toast one another. A lot of people were already drunk but refused to give up. Ye Zhengchen also stood up for a toast.
“ I have known him since I was five. He was three and we lived around a large courtyard. From childhood, his father was very strict. Uncle Ye enforced strict discipline, and he was always punished like a soldier instead of being scolded, as if he was a little soldier. He was not allowed to pay with children outside the compound. Uncle Ye was afraid that he would learn bad habits from them. He was not allowed to drink, gamble or even have a girlfriend. Uncle Ye was afraid this would tempt Ye Zhengchen to veer away from the right path. Given that he was always stubborn and did not believe in blind obedience, you can imagine how his childhood must have been.”
I listened carefully. Yes, I could imagine.
“ Uncle Ye asked him to apply to the military academy. He wanted to go to medical school. To protest against Uncle Ye’s dictatorship, for two months, every night, he went to a nightclub, drank till he was unconscious and dreamt of his own death. Uncle Ye threatened to severe his relationship with him. Instead of being threatened, Ye Zhengchen only smiled and said, “I think doctors are quite well respected in society, It is the old people who have no family that society pities.” This statement almost killed Uncle Ye. Finally, they compromised and Ye Zhengchen was allowed to attend the army medical college.”
I smiled bitterly. “If he had lived during the war of resistance, he would have definitely chosen the revolutionary path.”
“Yes. What would get him to go to Japan?” Zheng Wei smiled mockingly and continued, “ He is a man of very strong principles. He never told me that he was in Japan, even though I am very close to him. If I hadn’t seen the photo of you in his wallet, I would never believe that he had gone to Japan.”
“A photo of yours taken on the bridge in Arashimaya in Kyoto. I had once gone to Japan and had been very impressed with the crescent bridge. That’s how I guessed it..”
The more I listened to him, the more confused I was. “Can you tell me something clearly?”
Inside the hall, the feasting and drinking was still going on. I leaned against the balcony railing, gazing back at the deep blue sky, listening to Zheng Wei tell me more about Ye Zhengchen.
I learned a lot of things that Ye Zhengchen had never told me, and I realised that man really loved me so much.
It turned out that when he returned to China, Ye Zhengchen was very happy. He told Zheng Wei that he had a girlfriend and asked him to help him order a couple of seagull watches. Apparently, his girlfriend loved this brand.
After a night of dinner and drinks, Zheng Wei sent his friend home. As they were driving home, Zheng Wei notice that the drunk Ye Zhengchen pulled out a photo from his wallet and was staring at it. Zheng Wei managed to glance at the photo as well. He was sure this was Ye Zhengchen’s girlfriend, and the surroundings reminded him of Kyoto.
He was shocked! After a moment, he realised that of his girlfriend was in Kyoto, then Ye Zhengchen, who had refused to disclose his whereabouts for the last two years must also have been stationed in japan this whole time.
He knew that Ye Zhengchen was not a fan of the Japanese. Infact, he had steadfastly maintained from an early age that, “ Unless there is a war, I will never set foot in that country.”
In a flash, a lot of things that he had been unable to figure out for so long were crystal clear to him.
After some careful thinking, he started talking. “ Reinforced concrete casting, a bridge with a wooden deck, the view of red autumn leaves – I have been there once and I was very impressed.”
Ye Zhengchen was shocked. He straightened from his slump. His reaction confirmed Zheng Wei’s suspicion and he could not help but shake his head, “ This is a real disaster!”
With a smile and a final look, Ye Zhengchen tore the photo in small pieces and threw them out of the window. For the rest of the journey, he maintained his silence.
The next day, Zheng Wei asked his acquaintances about the manufacturers of the seagull watches and requested to order a set of couple watches. The factory rushed to complete the special order and within three weeks the watches were ready. Armed with the set, Zheng Wei met Ye Zhengchen at the bar for a drink
As soon as he entered the private room, he found Ye Zhengchen looking morose, sitting alone and drinking.
“ Let me show you something”, Zheng Wei said, and handed over the watches to him. Ye Zhengchen opened the box and touched the wrist bands. One word was engraved on the wristband of each watch as per his instructions, ‘girl’ and ‘ Chen’.
“The inner mechanisms are the new highest precision Jaegar”, Zheng Wei said, “ are you satisfied?”
“ I am, but unfortunately…” He threw the watch to the corner of the sofa, “ I can’t use it.”
“ You can’t?” Zheng Wei was puzzled, “ Mr Ye is already tired of the lady?”
Ye Zhengchen did not answer. Instead , he took a cigaretter from the table, lit it, inhaled deeply, and immediately started coughing.
Zheng Wei was really annoyed. He snatched away the cigarette from his hand, “ Weren’t you the one forcing me to quit smoking? I promised that if you start smoking again, I will never give up!”
“ Didn’t you tell me that smoking helps you think?”
Zheng Wei looked at the man before him. In his eyes, there was a feeling of deep pain.
“ Did you fall out of love?”
Ye Zhengchen did not answer. He bowed his head and poured out some wine into his glass. His whole body language was one of utter desolation.
“ There’s no need to lose your faith in love. What kind of woman will not fall for you if you really set your mind to it?”
Ye Zhengchen’s hands stilled. “ I am already married!”