Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 49 (John and Yue Ying (I)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 49

John and Yue Ying (I)

The little ma and pa shop was something totally new for John. He had never been into such small authentic little shops. Everything was jam-packed – obviously in an attempt to fit as many customers as possible into the given space. Two little windows facing the street were providing the necessary day light. In spite of the fact that it was just around 3 pm, the place was almost dark. No artificial light was provided and this was giving the visitors a mysterious feeling and the place an almost creepy look. The walls were covered in bamboo wood; mystical masks representing characters from the Chinese Mythology were hanging from the ceiling and from the side walls. The light from outside was desperately trying to make its way in, but the windows were grossly under-dimensioned to serving this objective and maybe this was done on purpose. The feeling of creepiness and unease encompassed John. “What the hell am I doing in this place? Why did that numb nut from outside took us to this shack?” He took a look at Yue Ying; apparently she was not bothered at all by the environment as she was looking around for a free table. John’s heart came to an ease seeing her completely undisturbed by the look of the establishment they just stepped in. “Well, hopefully the noodles are good in this place”. And yes, the place chosen by the cab driver was only making noodle soups. It didn’t take long before the owner (or the manager of the place) showed up. He was already anticipating a good business endeavor, seeing a westerner in his shop. He deeply bowed and started asking questions. Obviously Yue Ying was carrying the conversation while John was trying to smile and put a look onto his face, (a look which was mimicking a certain level of conversation understanding). Obviously he had no clue on what Yue Ying and the owner (or manager) were talking about.

-He say upstairs better, more room, not so busy, but more expensive. He owner.

-Great, then let’s go upstairs! It will be for sure money well spent. Both of them laughed and Yue Ying told their host that they want to go to the second level.

The little old man made a sign and took them in the back and then upstairs through a wooden staircase. The staircase was horribly squeaking and made John startle. It reminded him of his first day in Shanghai when Mr. Wang took him and Vic to the back room of his restaurant; on their way he saw that wooden staircase where a mysterious woman (which never showed her face) was always present at the top of the stairs. This place started making him feel nervous. However, he trusted Yue Ying and the fact that she was not bothered at all about the looks of the establishment, made him cool down.

At the second level, there was a totally different environment: The windows were larger and thus were allowing a greater amount of sun light. There were only five tables, thus signaling the fact that this level was a sort of “VIP” level. At the moment when they took a seat, only one other table was taken. This made John understand that the prices for dining upstairs were significant higher than at the main level. Shortly after they took a seat, the owner came back with the menu. John startled and felt like he needed to catch a breath: the little man in front of him was a carbon copy of Mr. Wang! The round face, the little strand of hair he was trying to use in order to cover the whole frontal area, the sharp, intelligent and investigative eyes behind the glasses made John believe that this individual was Mr. Wang’s twin brother. There were so many similarities between Wang and him! “This is unbelievable! How many brothers are they? It is Mr. Wang, it’s this guy and then it is the owner from Black Swan – which I do believe that has some ties to Mr. Wang…there was too much resemblance in spite of the fact that he was all the time trying to conceal his face by standing into the shadow. This is unreal! Are all of them linked to the curse?” John shook his head and grabbed the menu. Everything was in Mandarin, so he refrained at looking at the pictures. However, he couldn’t stop scrutinizing the man in front of them while pretending that he is reading from the menu. The many conversations he had with different people (into the short time he had been in China) about the curse, started surfacing again…this time though, through another piece of the puzzle which stepped in: Yue Ying! John looked at her while still simulating that he was interested into the culinary offer. “Who is she? Why did she so intempestively and abruptly butted into my life? Why did we have the amazing night we just had? Are we in love with each other? What is her role into this story? Does she have anything to do with the curse?” John was again completely lost into the intricacy of the story. It was the time when Yue Ying grabbed his hand and ask him what he wanted. John startled and looked at her. Her gorgeous eyes put a smile on his face:

-I have no idea what to order. I am assuming everything is fresh and good.

-Everything fresh, Mister. We make here. His hand stretched into a direction and John realized that the establishment had a little kitchen at the second level too.

-What do you think, Yue Ying?

-Everything looks good. I order noodles with vegetables and beef.

-OK, then. Make it two.

-They have many options: shrimp, chicken, fish…

-That’s OK. Whatever you are having, I am having.

-OK, two beef and vegetable noddle soups for you. It will be ten minutes.

-Thank you, Sir!

It was John’s turn to grab her hand. Until their meal showed up, both of them looked into each other’s eyes, smiled and held hands tight. One would’ve said that they just met after a long time of separation and were trying to catch up where they left it off. Yue Ying’s big, black eyes were looking at John in a way which would’ve made a neutral observer realize right away that she was deeply in love with him.

-Soups for you! Enjoy!

Two big bowls of soup were now resting in front of them. The smell of freshly chopped parsley and green onions sprinkled on top was making their nostrils dilate and deeply inhale. It was a happy combination of vegetables, rice noodles, and beef broth in which few pieces of meat and marrow were freely floating. However, John had a problem: in spite of the fact that he was more than able to handle the chop sticks, he never tried to eat a soup using the traditional Chinese eating utensils. Whenever he was ready to put the noodles into his mouth, they were simply slipping through his chop sticks and falling back into the bowl to Yue Ying’s great amusement. After few tries, he signaled that he is ready to give up trying to eat with chop sticks…

-No, no, no…you must try. I help.

-No, I don’t need help…I can do this! John tried again, but the soft, slippery noodles just wouldn’t listen to him and they were inevitably ending up at the bottom of the bowl.

-I help. You listen! Yue Ying’s voice was demanding this time. John looked at her and then affirmatively nodded. Yue Ying pulled a chair beside John’s and grabbed his hand, carefully adjusting the way his fingers were supposed to grip the sticks.

-Now you choose: bring bowl close to mouth or bring head down close to bowl.

-Obviously I am not going to do the first one…so, I guess I am just going to tilt my head closer to the bowl.

-Yes. You do that!

John listened and fished again for the noodles. This time he managed to grab a decent quantity and took it to the mouth; it was an instant success. Yue Ying clapped and cheered, the same way a mother would do it when she is seeing progress made by her child in performing new tasks. She moved back and the rest of the time they talked and laughed and enjoyed a nice soup. One would say that they had been known each other for ages, as no barriers whatsoever remained between them. The small talk, the laughter and the happy moments were greatly enjoyed by both of them. John remembered that the cab driver was waiting for them…

-Oh… Xiǎo lǐzǐ must be already bored. We need to go. John put his hand up in the air. The owner saw the gesture and immediately showed up.

-Everything good? OK everything?

-It was delicious. Bill please.

-Yes, Sir! One hundred RMB.

-Sure. Here it is the money. You have a good day. John stood up and headed for the stairs when all of a sudden turned around and asked the man:

-Do you have a brother in the city? Or maybe…two brothers?

John couldn’t help but seeing the face of the man changing colors while the physiognomy turned from an upbeat and jovial look into a gloomy and unfriendly one. “What did I say? I just asked him if he had one or maybe two brother in the city. What did I do wrong?”

-I thank you for your business, Sir! His right hand was already stretched towards the staircase, basically telling John that he is expected to leave.

Once they were out from the establishment, Yue Ying grabbed his hand and while lifting herself up on the toes to reach John’s ear, she murmured:

-I think…something not good with man inside.

-This is what I told myself…what did I say wrong? Why did his mood change so drastically? I just asked him if he had more brothers into the town…

-Never mind. We had good meal! Her face was all smile and the cheeks were showing now those superb hues which were making the whole physiognomy so friendly looking, pure and happy!

-Yes, it was a good meal! Today I learnt how to eat noodles with the chop sticks! It is a good day already! John started laughing and shortly he was accompanied by Yue Ying. Her vocal chords pulled a crystalline and jovial laugh out of her chest which followed her inside of the car.

-Where we go?

-Please take us to a store where we can buy some more comfortable cloths.

-OK. I know good store. I take you there.

-Alright. Let’s do it!

The usual second gear start up followed. This time John was ready for it; he had enough time to grab Yue Ying and plant his legs against the front seat. In another two seconds, the driver was already in the third gear and then into the fourth. “He is definitely crazy!” John told himself. But now he was saying it while laughing and enjoying the fact that he had Yue Ying into his arms.

The stores were all one level or maximum two level shops and were located into a busy commercial market. John was stunned! There were probably hundreds of little gift shops where one could’ve bought anything you could imagine. John was almost one head above everybody else and thus he was able to admire the crowd and the immensity of the place. “Man, if I get lost here, I am doomed!” Both Yue Ying and Xiǎo lǐzǐ were walking in front of him. His eyes were into a continuous alert, trying not to lose them and in the same time trying to find some stores where they could buy some more comfortable clothes for Yue Ying.

Eventually the cab driver pointed towards a store to the left, a store which looked a little different from any other stores. The front window was large and artificial mannequins were placed into display. The whole establishment had a more refined look than others…it was almost like this one did not belong to this place. Once they entered, two associates greeted them and started asking questions to which Yue Ying was quickly responding.

John didn’t bother listening…he couldn’t understand a word anyway. His curiosity was again kicking in and according to his habit of sticking his nose into everything, started wandering through the store looking at products. At the end of the shop there was a desk and the cash register. Nobody was there. However, a door towards the back was cracked open and he understood that the shop’s warehouse was probably in the back. His fine ear picked up whisperings behind the door. It was enough for him to direct all of his attention that direction. In spite of the fact that he couldn’t understand what they were talking about, he thought that he recognized a familiar voice tonality. He was now all ears…

Suddenly, the door opens up and a woman into her seventies (or even eighties) comes out. She didn’t look at all surprised to see somebody standing not far away from the now opened door. John’s eyes immediately caught a silhouette sliding into the dark, upstairs…”So there is a staircase going up to the second level. Interesting. And somebody just went upstairs as mysteriously and elusively as possible. Great! Here it is another Mr. Wang story!”

The woman had a face which was so wrinkled that one would say she was a mummy just coming out of the sarcophagi. The hands were at least as wrinkled as the face while the tanned skin was greatly contrasting with the white hair. Her attire was not the regular run down, neglected attire of a merchant from the area. One could actually see a certain level of sophistication in the way she was dressed, especially a superb thin gold chain hanging down from her neck. John was trying hard to decipher the meaning of the green jade figure which was resting on her chest. It was a superb piece of jewelry and John just couldn’t stop admiring it. He was fascinated by the beauty of the precious stone which was encircled by a black ring, a ring that had the freedom to slide alongside the chain, obviously. The shirt was white and classy with two large lapels which were covering the lapels of the nice red suit jacket she was wearing. The black ring of the precious jade was contrasting so beautifully with the white of the shirt while the green jade was matching so greatly the red coat! John smiled and with a sincere voice, complimented the woman standing in front of him:

-It looks nice on you. The necklace is so beautiful! What does that green jade represent? John simply rolled all these questions without even asking himself if she was able to speak any word in English. Quickly he realized that she didn’t speak the language he was speaking and to get out of an uncomfortable situation, decided to use the universal language of mimicking. He pointed towards the jade and then did a “thumb up”. Woman’s face lightened up and tilted the head discretely in a sign of “thank you”. Now John found himself into an even more delicate situation: he was looking at the woman and she was looking at him, probably waiting for him to say something else. John made the sign of a chain imaginary placed around his neck, then pointed towards hers and did again a “thumb up”. Once again she tilted her head in a “thank you” sign.

Unfortunately for John, this was the last idea he could come up with and he was now in a desperate need of help. The lady behind the counter was by no means too vocative or too willing to entertain him – probably she realized that it would’ve been a futile effort as she couldn’t speak any English. The salvation came from Yue Ying. Once she finished taking a peak through the store, she saw him at the counter trying to desperately initiate a conversation with the old lady. She approached the counter, grabbed John’s arm and quickly asked:

-Can I help?

-Absolutely! Would you mind telling this lady that I absolutely love that necklace of hers and I especially like that green jade enclosed into that black case? Yue Ying translated and once again the old lady’s face brightened up. A short conversation between the two women started up. John was listening, in an attempt to catch something…anything.

-She say: “Thank you; you gentleman”

-Oh, thank you very much mam! John turned towards the old lady and tilted his head forward, thus showing a great deal of respect.

-She also say that you handsome.

-Once again, mam…I thank you very much. For the second time, John tilted his head in a thank you sign. Yue Ying looked at him and quickly grabbed him by the neck with her arms and passionately kissed him. It was a gesture which put a smile on woman’s face. John felt a little embarrassed and slowly pushed Yue Ying back while whispering into her ear:

-We are in public…

-I don’t care, promptly came back from Yue Ying while pulling his head closer, so she can kiss him again. It was a long and passionate kiss, one of those kisses that are happening before one’s departure for an unknown amount of time.

The old woman behind the counter was scrutinizing every move they were making and one could see an enigmatic smile on her face. Her whole attention was now directed at the couple in front of her. Yue Ying eventually let go and was now looking straight into the woman’s eyes. This exchange of sights was not even close to being friendly. John picked up right away the hostility hidden behind that smile which the old lady had on her face. “Oops…she is not happy. Probably the last exhibit of affection from Yue Ying did not go too well with a person who potentially has a conservative and traditions based education. That look of hers, in spite of the smile I can see, is meant to be thrown at somebody you either do not like, or you despise. Things are getting a little dicey in this moment. I think it’s time for me to step in.”

-So, did you find anything you liked?

-Yes, but not want buy here. Let’s go.

-Why? They have nice stuff and the store is big and clean.

It was the moment when one of the two girls who greeted them in the beginning offered her services to help. The timing was perfect as one would’ve been able to pick up a certain level of hostility floating into the air.

-Of course you can help us! It was John who spoke. He did it from two reasons: first one, he didn’t want to start looking around for another store as all the establishments in that commercial center were small, jam-packed into each other and he didn’t really like their quality.

Secondly, his immense natural curiosity wanted to find out more about the back room and the person who elusively slipped upstairs when seeing him. He was actually dying from knowing who that person was, what is the purpose of this nice, elegant and spacious store so awkwardly placed into a regular traditional commercial center and who the old lady behind the counter was? Her smile was so enigmatic and intriguing, so cold and emotionless! His gut feeling was telling him that something was not right with this place and he may be able to find some leads into his investigation.

 

 

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 48 (John and Yue Ying)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 48

John and Yue Ying

A large smile encompassed his whole face. His eyes were now bathing into Yue Ying’s. There was no verbal communication between them, just an infinite ocean of feelings ranging from amazement to perplexity, from wonder and astonishment to bewilderment or from kindness to something still undefined, something John just couldn’t put his finger onto…yet.

Leaning into her right elbow, Yue Ying was now tirelessly stroking his hair with the left hand fingers, while her long, thick, black hair was now completely resting on John’s chest. She just couldn’t have enough of that regular brushing motion. From time to time their lips were joining into a long and passionate kiss, only to come apart for another round of eye contact, another round of attempts to understand what is actually happening to them.

Their bodies were becoming one during those numerous kissing rounds. John’s strong arms were encircling her hips while hers were clinging into a tight grip around his neck. There was so much intimacy, lust and candidness between them that one would believe they will never get out of that bed and that they have been waiting for this to happen for an eternity. And yet, this was just the prelude to more and more kissing and eventually to passionate love making. Her tanned skin, hard breasts and dark brown nipples were turning John on, over and over. It looked like there was no end to this intercourse endeavor, to the techniques they were adopting while making love, to the numerous times they were switching positions to get on top of each other. It was wild, it was passionate and it was something one would remember for the rest of his life.

Eventually both of them wore out and separated from the long love making and hugging. Their eye sights were now staring at the ceiling while heavily panting. The blankets were peacefully resting on the floor, while the bed sheets were a mess of sweat and wrinkles. The pillows had the same fate as the bed sheets…one would say that the covers were just pulled out of the washing machine and were waiting for the next round into the dryer. Yue Ying was holding hers into the arms. The immense pillow was covering her heavenly looking breasts, her flat stomach, the hips and the intimate zone. It was a sign of bashfulness which didn’t go by without being observed by John. He smiled and tossed his pillow onto the floor showing his sculptured abs and great pecs.

A long moment of quietness followed. Just their panting breaths were heard into the silence of the morning. John grabbed his cell phone…five phone calls from Vic were shown on the call display. He smiled and even giggled: “He must be asking himself where I am and why I am not into the office. It’s alright, my friend. We’ll catch up later”. Then he turned towards Yue Ying leaning into his left elbow; their eyes met again and yet another long and passionate kiss joined their thirsty lips, kiss which inevitably led towards a carnal closeness. John slowly removed the pillow from her arms. Her gorgeous body was now fully exposed to John’s hungry eyes and unstoppable lust. His right hand fingers were delicately playing with the gorgeous hard nipples, making her moan from pleasure. Slowly and skillfully he started cupping and squeezing the breasts. She was trembling from pleasure which made John become more and more aggressive and insistent. Eventually his hand made its way downward towards the intimate area, only resting for few moments on the tight, narrow hips. Yue Ying was murmuring into John’s ear things he couldn’t understand but he was guessing that they were words of ultimate physical pleasure, words from the love making arsenal, words which obviously had no borders or language barriers to be understood.

Their bodies became one once again and another round of passionate, wild, meaningful love making encompassed them; it seemed like the time had stopped and the otherwise quiet bedroom was now witnessing panted breaths, moans of pleasure and uncontrollable kissing sessions.

There was so much passion written into their eyes that one would say these two bodies have just met after an eternity of separation, after centuries of being apart from each other. It was something hard to comprehend and explain in words.

The love making took a turn for the unexpected: John lifted Yue Ying into his arms and headed for the bathroom. Under the warm streams of the shower head mixed up with a flood of body lotion, the two bodies were desperately trying to find the rhythm which would enhance the pleasure. The bodies were now slippery; Yue Ying’s legs encircled John’s hips, barely holding onto a tight grip. John knew that if he wanted that good, healthy, meaningful penetration, he had to help. His forearms were placed underneath her hamstring muscles while his fingers were deeply digging and grasping into the two superb buttocks. Eventually both of them found that common synchronized motion, a motion which was making them moan, groan and sigh from pleasure. The penetration was deep and the pleasure so great that made Yue Ying tilt her head backwards at the maximum extent the neck would allow. Her long black hair was now flowing downwards; her left hand was holding the back of John’s neck while her right palm was pushing into his strong pecs into an attempt to limit the amount of ingress. But John was in no mood whatsoever to let go or into the spirit of showing mercy. He kept pounding hard, making Yue Ying moan from pleasure.

However, this position was not suitable and sustainable for a long run due to the great physical effort required especially from the man’s side. Eventually John wore out and let go. He had to…in spite of the fact that he was in an excellent shape, the last sexual endeavor took a toll on him; he was heavily panting while resting his head on her left shoulder. His hands were holding tight onto her hips while hers were joined together around his neck. It was a long moment of quietness, a moment in which both bodies felt like one. That long embrace was accompanied just by the whisper of the small streams of warm water coming out from the shower head. It was relaxing, it was peaceful and it was an opportunity for both of them to catch their breaths. John turned off the tap and stepped out of the shower cabin. Yue Ying followed. John took her into his arms again and headed now back to the bedroom. The bed sheets were all sweaty from the passionate night they had. Neither one of them cared anymore. Yue Ying was now on top of him and the regular up and down motion was bringing back that great feel of lust and pleasure. Apparently she did not want to give John once again the control over the penetrating act. Both her breasts were now exposed in all their splendor. The nipples were hard like rocks and John wasted no time in grabbing and squeezing them, making Yue Ying again moan from pleasure. Over and over they were switching places in a continuous and relentless search for the greatest level of intimacy. It was like they were both looking for the perfect recipe, or perhaps for that medical prescription which would help shake away or get rid of the non-essential moves meant just to impede reaching a great climax at the end.

When all was over, an overwhelming feeling of taking a break from each other encompassed them. They were now resting on their backs looking at the ceiling once again and trying to digest the great pleasures they just went through. It was a well-deserved break, a chance to catch up the breath and meditate at this great episode of love making which happily followed the few other ones from the night before. The bed sheets were all wet, the pillows were resting on the floor while the covers and the blankets were long time part of the bedroom decorations.

John eventually leaned against his left elbow and started to fondle her temple. His fingers were slowly working their way to the ear’s lobe, gently rubbing and squeezing it, almost like trying to get more blood into that area. The side of her neck then felt the soft touch of his fingertips. She trembled from pleasure…her left leg was now resting on John’s right hip. He didn’t stop…his fingers were still slowly making their way underneath the chin and then were following the contour of her lips only to finish back up, in the temple area, where they started. It was not long before they began kissing again. It was another meaningful, and ardent kiss, it was yet another way of catching up (one would say) from a long time of staying apart, or from centuries of looking for each other.

Shortly after they fell asleep, with Yue Ying resting again her head onto John’s chest, while the long thick hair was now almost entirely covering John’s upper body.

Neither one of them knew what the time of the day was when they woke up. All they knew was that the amazing love making they had was going to stay imprinted into their memories for a long time.

John checked his cell phone again: another three phone calls from Vic were shown on the display. He cracked a large smile and put the cell phone back on the night stand.

-Why you smile?

John realized that until now, he didn’t hear Yue Ying speaking, that until now the only conversation between them was done through the endless love making sounds, through the kissing and panting, through the moaning and groaning. He was completely shocked and looked at Yue Ying with the eyes of somebody who is waking up from a long lethargic state, trying to figure out what is happening around him.

-I smile, yes I do! Vic called me several times. I think he is worried.

A powerful and healthy laughter came out of her chest. Shortly, John accompanied her and for few seconds they both had a little bit of fun. Her left elbow was now leaning into John’s chest while her gorgeous, big, black, slandered eyes were looking straight into John’s.

-Vic worried that you no safe with me? It was a question she asked while lifting an eye browse, which made John react immediately.

-No, no, no…I think he is just calling to figure out what the plan for today was. That’s all. Nothing else.

-You sure?

-I am positive. Don’t have to worry. By the way…I am very, very hungry. Where do you want to go eat? It is almost 2 in the afternoon.

-I hungry too. I eat where you eat. Don’t care.

-Do you know some good little places in the city? I don’t think I want to eat at large restaurants. A little ma and pa shop will do it as long as the food is good.

-Yes. I know good places. I take you there. You will like food.

-Great! Now let’s get dressed and head out. I am hungry like a wolf.

-You hungry wolf?

John burst into a huge laughter…

-Yes, I am a hungry wolf…I guess I can say that.

It didn’t take them too long to get dressed. John put his blue jeans on, a T-shirt and a pullover while picking his a pair of leather boots he brought with him. He checked the weather on his phone: the temperature was still in the low seventies, so he opted to take no jacket with him.

Yue Ying was ready too. John realized that she was obviously wearing the cloths she was wearing during the show last night.

-We are going cloths shopping first. You need to get into something more comfortable. That being said, John pulled the card of the taxi driver from his wallet and made the phone call. It was a conversation to die for: John’s voice was not recognized by the taxi driver and he kept speaking in Chinese while John was trying to make him understand that he needs to switch to English. Yue Ying wasted no time: she stretched her hand towards John. John put a finger at his temple in a sign of: “Why didn’t I think at this from the beginning? I had to waste again time in trying to talk to that numb nut”

It took Yue Ying thirty seconds to solve the problem…

-Ten minutes he waits for us in front of hotel.

-In ten minutes he will be downstairs?

-Yes.

-Great! I guess we can have a tea in the meanwhile if you want.

-Sure. Tea is good.

-Alright then…if you want, you can take a look at the river from the window. It is a very nice spectacle. I will prepare two cups of tea in the meanwhile.

John headed for the kitchen and started searching through the tea options he had on hand.

-Yue Ying!

-Yes, John…

-Which tea do you like? I have regular green tea, I have chamomile, I have jasmine, I have…

-Hmm. You have jasmine? I like jasmine.

-OK then. Jasmine it is.

When John showed up with the two cups of tea, he could see that Yue Ying was completely absorbed by the wonderful and lively spectacle on Huangpu. He carefully put the cups on the desk and approached. Slowly, he grabbed her shoulders…then his hands dropped to the hips, only to close in the front on her flat abdominal area. Yue Ying tilted her head side wise and in the next second, her temple was resting on John’s shoulder. He (in return) tilted his head forward and kissed her on the side of the neck. This was followed by another passionate kiss which made them forget about the spectacle down there. Eventually they broke up that meaningful kiss and looked up to Great River once again. That hard to explain majestic play (in which the actors were the barges loaded with goods) was yet again making John feel so at ease and peaceful, feel so comfortable and at home that a strange sense of belonging and eternity encompassed him. Yue Ying was not moving. Her whole body and attention as well as her whole spiritual and cognitive resources were now directed towards the waters down below. One would’ve said that they were both somehow related to the Great River, that sometime in the past they had been together part of this grand spectacle and their destinies intersected each other yet again at this very moment. An outsider would’ve seen two bodies tightly embraced, refusing to let go, two bodies which found each other after centuries of search and wander, after eternities of missed chances to intersect paths and fate.

The phone rang – it was the driver waiting downstairs. The quickly took a couple of sips out of the two cups placed on the desk and headed towards the door.

John closed the door behind him and followed Yue Ying who was already at the elevator, but not before taking another look at the neighbors’ door. “I hope the Master of the spear is thinking at taking my offer. This story has to finish, regardless. I will bargain with him to the bone if needed.” He didn’t know how close to this statement of his he was! When John reached the elevator, Yue Ying was holding the door open. John happily made into the elevator and embraced her. This is how they reached the Main Lobby – embraced and kissing yet again. When the door opened, a couple waiting to catch the elevator up saw them embraced. The woman said something, while the man pulled a short laughter. Then the closed behind them and the elevator did what it was supposed to do: haul people up and down.

-What did they say? Can you tell me?

-Nothing. Not important…

-Please tell me what they said!

-Nothing…let’s go. I tell you one day. Yue Ying rapidly headed towards the Entrance where the taxi driver was waiting. The man was all smiles:

-Hello Mr. Parker. You had good night?

-I had a wonderful night! How about yourself? I am sorry, I never got your name…

-Xiǎo lǐzǐ is my name.

-Well, my friend…it’s going to take a while before I would be able to say it.

The cab driver (“numb nut” as John was calling him) opened up the door in the back. Yue Ying got in and then John followed her. Once inside, he took her hand and kissed her again. When the driver got in, he saw the scene and with a smile as large as his whole face asked:

-Mr. Parker, where we go?

-We are very hungry but first we need to buy some cloths for Yue Ying – she needs to get into something more comfortable.

-You hungry bad?

-Very bad. John burst into a laughter which was making his whole athletic frame shake like a pine tree into the wind.

-OK. I have plan. First you go eat fast. Little. Then we go buy cloths…what you say? That whole smile never disappeared from his face and John just couldn’t refrain from laughing. At one point, Yue Ying started accompanying him and all of a sudden the atmosphere inside of the cab was electrifying.

-OK, Sir! I am going with your plan.

-OK. You see. Good plan!

-I trust you. This was a statement which John made with half of voice, as he remembered the Saturday night when this cab driver defied all the law of the Mechanics and made John feel like a bag of potatoes inside this cab.

It was not long before John understood that this cab driver is not a maniac, not a numb nut…not at all! He was just a horrible driver, who didn’t know the basics of the “driving a car” business. For him, the accelerator and the brake pedal where not different by much. All you had to do as a driver, was to step hard on them. Shortly, they pulled in front of a small ma and pa shop:

-Best noodle soup! Enjoy!

He opened up the door in the back in order for John and Yue Ying to get out.

-We won’t be long…we need to buy cloths.

-Yes Mr. Parker. I wait. Enjoy meal.

-For sure we will enjoy it. John made an: “I see you later” sign, grabbed Yue Ying by the shoulders and both entered the shop.

 

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 47 (The dream at the dawn)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 47

The dream at the dawn

When the dawn put a dent into the dark October night, John woke up. Yue Ying was still asleep. Her head was resting on his chest and the long black thick hair was freely flowing, covering his whole upper body and the shoulders. He was looking at the ceiling but his mind was still captured by the wild night of love making he had. From the moment he brought her into the room in his arms, to the present moment it was something magic, something he could not explain. The connection between them when the show at Black Swan was over, tickled John’s imagination in a way which he never thought it was possible, sparking untapped passion and desire. The incredible night he had with Yue Ying, made him ask questions at which he was not ready to answer yet: “Am I in love with her? Why is this happening? I have such a strong feeling that I know her, that we’ve been knowing each other for a long time, for an eternity perhaps, that we have so many things in common, that we belong to each other” These questions started tormenting John’s brain and imagination, but no matter how hard he was trying to find answers, he was digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.

Methodically, he started rewinding the trail of the events: the trip to the Suzhou Gardens, the unusual Zhaohui’s meditation episode at the Humble Administrator’s Garden, the great interest showed by her into the books he purchased and then the whole Black Swan episode. However, there was one single piece of glue which held this whole succession of events together: the crazy taxi driver. John smiled and he almost cracked a small laughter. “If it wasn’t for that numb nut, I wouldn’t’ve known her, I would have never had the chance to watch her singing, to get connected and finally to make love to her”. Everything moved so fast, the events were so jam packed into each other that John was still trying to understand how he got to this point in less than a week…from a driven and well-focused (on his task) man, to somebody in love with a beautiful girl, the lead singer of a band which managed to impress him. Or so he thought he was in love…

All the thoughts he had since waking up, wore him out. He went to sleep again and shortly he had a dream:  John and another man were back horse riding. They were riding fast and John was only guessing that the person riding by his right was somebody he knew. The man’s face and head were covered by the hoodie of his cape while the black pants were tightened at the waist level with a large belt where two pistols, few throwing knives and a short and a long sword were quietly tucked into their scabbards.

John was desperately trying to open up a conversation with his riding partner. Every time he was doing so, he was shut down by a firm gesture of the mysterious man. A stretched left hand, pointing towards the direction they were heading to it was the answer. It was a sort of: “no time for discussions, just ride!” The gesture was authoritarian, firm and almost autocratic. The relationship between the two was crystal clear to an outside observer: the black dressed rider was the boss. However, in spite of the imperious gestures, the connection between the two of them was based on mutual respect. They were both warriors – as their whole attire was suggesting – but one would say that there was no master-servant relationship, that the men riding into the darkness of the night were possibly a father-son duo, trying to get somewhere, to a place John didn’t know, to a place he was desperately trying to find out its name. The horses were all covered in a white foam signaling the fact that the riders have been galloping for a long time. John took a deep breath…his nostrils were smelling the sour odor of the horses’ sweat, the fresh soil of the immense plain stretching ahead of them, the aroma of the wild flowers of the steppe opened only to release their divine scent and fragrance.

Eventually, the two warriors stopped to give the horses a break…it was the time when John realized that both he and his partner were carrying a precious cargo behind them: two little girls who were scarred to say the least. John realized that the girl he had strapped to his body, had the left hand cut between elbow wrist and a bandage was put in place to stop the bleeding. She was either sleeping or the wound and the blood loss were already taking a tool on her. John was holding her into his arms but the head was just hanging, motionless. Her beautiful big eyes were closed and into the light of the full moon her face was pale as the light itself. His partner came over to check on the girl…even now, his face was still covered and he wasted no time in spending all the efforts he could to hide his identity. John was trying to address him by the name, but his partner was skillfully avoiding any leads which could lead to his true identity. “She lost lots of blood. We have to get to the city as fast as we can” His voice was so familiar to John! However, he just couldn’t put a finger on his identity. The man pulled a flat wooden flask from underneath his coat and poured few drops of water on her lips. To John’s delight, the reaction was immediate: the little girl started moving her lips signaling that she was thirsty. Slowly she opened her beautiful eyes and started asking for help.

Her face was petrified by something she was showing with her right hand. Both men turned their heads towards that direction…there was nothing there but the majestic moon which was trying somehow to help out by throwing infinite rays of yellow light towards their direction. John’s riding partner placed the back of his palm on girl’s forehead…”She is hallucinating from fever. We have to strap her to your naked chest so she can draw heat from you. But in this case we cannot gallop anymore. We have no more than four maybe five hours ahead of them. Their horses will be tired too. Here you go princess, keep drinking…” The girl was thirsty as she started sipping the precious liquid.

The other girl was standing and was curiously looking at the two men trying to help (probably) her sister. She was holding the two horses by the bridles and from time to time was stroking their manes in an attempt to clean the white sweaty foam stuck into their majestic manes. Two big intelligent eyes were absorbing information on every move the two men were making, on every gesture meant to help the other girl. One would clearly observe that she was older as she was taller and her face was already showing up signs of adolescence. At this point, John took his shirt off showing a superb upper body which one would say it was used by Renaissance sculptures to bring marble to life. His fellow rider skillfully strapped the girl to his chest. Put the shirt back on and then the thicker coat on top, only to close it at the back. This time he was helped by his partner to get back into the saddle as he was now carrying a precious load into his arms. The mysterious man jumped straight into the saddle and stretched his hand towards the girl he was carrying. In a fraction of a second she was into the saddle too; It was clear that she was more than familiar with the business of horse riding, it was clear that she was taught from a young age to ride and love these majestic animals.

The two horses were probably puzzled by the fact that they were not galloping anymore…however, the light trapping was not too bad of a choice in their mind, as they were neighing of happiness.

John was now asking himself: “Is this a dream? It is a dream, who is riding horses anymore?” However, he was feeling a load, a weight on his chest…he was convinced that the weight is from the girl he was holding in front of him on his horse. In his mind, the load he was carrying was so fragile and precious that a simple blow of the wind would make it vanish, disappear.

All of a sudden, from the heights they reached they saw a spectacle which their eyes and their brains could have not had enough: the lights of the city into the dusk of a summer morning. It was a sign which made both riders sigh of happiness. Their eyes were expressing gratitude, joy and accomplishment. John’s partner unsaddled, put the right knee into the ground and with the voice of a stranded man who barely made it to the shore from a shipwreck, prayed and praised the God for helping them reach the city. At the end he made the cross sign and in no time he was back into the saddle while taking the lead heading towards the gates of the city. “How is she doing? She needs to be awake, so we can explain to her that she cannot make noises. The city is not into the rebels’ hands yet, but they may have overzealous supporters here”. The girl was sleeping and the two men didn’t want to wake her up…the other girl was instructed not to say a word and just stay tucked underneath the coat and cape. The next conversation between his partner and the guards at the gate was hazy, as John couldn’t hear what they were saying. His whole focus was to make sure he is not making sudden moves as he could’ve woken up the girl. The words exchanging became pretty heated as he saw his fella’ rider slowly pulling the left side of his coat and cape in order to uncover one of pistols. He tried the same, but his coat was buttoned backwards which made the use of his hands pretty useless. The look he had from his partner made him stop trying to reach for the weapons…”No. Make sure the girl is not waking up. I can handle this by myself”.

It seemed like an eternity before the captain who was inside of the booth came out and looked at the papers which were handed over to soldiers in the first place. He walked around the horses and asked: “So, you are the official traders of the Imperial Palace…you must be rich. Why are you traveling by horse? Where are your servants?” This time John heard the answer and he could only laugh when he heard his partner’s answer: “Yes, we are rich, but we are also very tight with the money, you know what I mean?” This was the time when all soldiers burst into laughing. It was the time when the old man weighed in even more: “We are tight with the money, but it doesn’t mean that we are not taking care of people who are good to us” This being said, he pulled a drawstring pouch from his large cape and handed it over to the man. The face of the captain brightened as he was already weighing in his palm the pouch in an attempt to count the amount of money that was inside. “Very well, sir! You can go. And let me stamp those papers you have, so nobody else will bother you in the city”. That being said, he went back into the booth and came out handing over the papers back to the old man. Both John and his riding partner tilted their heads in a sign of simulated respect and entered the city. The streets were not yet busy as the day was barely at the dusk. However, the foul smell of the dirty streets, full of rats which were freely patrolling, made John cover his mouth with a handkerchief and so did the old man. They were now heading towards the docks, as the typical sea smell hit their nostrils. The old man knew the city by heart as he had no hesitation whatsoever navigating through the small, narrow, dirty streets. It was not long before they pulled in front of an Inn: “Black Swan”. It was closed, but John’s partner had no problem unsaddling and then bang into the door with the butt of his short sword. Soon a servant showed up with a lamp in his hand and asked them what they want. “We want you to wake up your master. Tell him that the Imperial traders are looking for a place to stay” It didn’t take too long before the owner of the place showed up also with a lamp in his hand, deeply bowing in front of the two riders. “Of course that your highnesses will have a place to sleep”. A neutral observer would’ve realized that his eyes were searching the two men in a way which was not questionable, but rather familiar. Once inside, the two guests were taken into a private room into the back. It was the time when they took off their capes and coats and uncovered the precious cargo they were carrying. The owner was a short, bald man with eyes as intelligent as a fox’s eyes. He called for help. Immediately two women showed up and took the girl who was wounded into a different room. “We will take care of her. Then we will take both of them to the monastery. How was your journey?” It was the time when John didn’t pay attention anymore to the conversation between the inn’s owner and his fella rider…

A wind gust violently hit the sales which made the masts squeak and scream from the bottom of their lungs. “Storm is approaching. All hands on deck!” The order given by the old man was immediately followed and all the sailors were now on deck manipulating the sales and the ropes in order to brace for the storm to come. John was standing at the stern watching the preparations. Still, he was not able to see the face of the man who rode beside him. The man was down, on the deck giving orders, always with his back at John. When he finally turned around in an attempt to give orders to the helmsman, John woke up.

He was mad that he couldn’t see the face of the man in his dream! But on the other hand, he was delighted to see two beautiful black eyes looking and patiently waiting for him to wake up.

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 46 (The circle starts closing)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 46

The circle starts closing

 Vic woke up earlier than he used to. Last night’s events made him consider going to work at a different time than usual. It was something new and unexpected, something he didn’t know how to handle – John was apparently in love with this girl. The scene at the Restaurant when they looked into each other’s eyes for a long time and then the grand finale at the hotel when he took Yue Ying into his arms and headed straight for the bedroom without saying a word, puzzled him. While doing his morning bathroom routine, he smiled and tried to lift up his own spirits: “It’s just a fling. We have work to do. John is a trooper, he will not let us down”. With this thought in his mind, he went downstairs to the kitchen and fixed himself a coffee while checking the newspaper. All of a sudden, he remembered Zhaohui’s words before going to sleep: “The circle starts closing. Whatever we are doing is useless”

He startled and visibly worried put the coffee cup down. His fiancée’s words made him rush his morning routine and get ready for leaving the house. In few minutes he was in the garage and drove away in a hurry.

He was the first one to make it at work. The first look he took once inside, was towards John’s office. It was still dark. No sign of his friend.  “It’s too early. He had a rough night anyway!” He cracked a short smile, headed for his cubicle, turned his laptop on and started crunching numbers on an assignment which was waiting for his attention. He managed to stay focused on his work without realizing that few hours passed by and the office was now “running at full capacity”. Stood up and looked into John’s office direction: still empty, no sign of his friend. Immediately pulled the cell phone from his pocket and checked the time: “Ten thirty-four and no sign of Mr. Parker…hmmm. I will let him recover from his rough night and then I will call him”. Vic headed for the kitchen area to grab a tea. He already started getting worried that John lost his focus on the assignment and the girl he just met will be an obstacle on their way to take the challenge to the end. “She is really beautiful, I agree…but we have work to do and I don’t want to start lying to J.J. and make up excuses on why we are not progressing”.

-Good morning, Vic, how are you?

Vic startled! It was Tony Gang! He didn’t expect to see Tony this early into the office. His heart started beating at a very fast pace, as he was now able to hear the beats into his temples. Tony’s face was unusual radiant and was releasing (one would say) an array of mixed states of mind…from a warm feeling given up by a smile which was flourishing on his cheeks, to a strange and undefined ironic gesture on his lips. Vic was sweating bullets…he understood that Tony was up to something and in that moment he made a gigantic effort to stay calm and not betray his feelings.

-Good morning, Tony! I am doing fantastic! How are you? How was your weekend? He was desperately trying to buy time and get back to a more comfortable state of mind.

-Not bad, Vic…not bad at all. I visited Nanjing, then I caught a flight to Beijing – some personal business.

Vic startled again…his detectives (through their contact in Beijing) mentioned about a meeting which took place in Beijing, meeting where Tony and John’s neighbor participated. What puzzled him, was the nonchalance engaged by Tony when mentioning all these things…it was almost like he was serving information to Vic, leading him towards a place, a corner he wanted him to head to. Vic became even more defensive and careful with his statements.

-How about you, Vic? Did you do anything special over the weekend?

Vic scratched his head in a sign that he was trying to put his thoughts together, thus avoiding a direct answer.

-Let me think…no, not much…but on Sunday we took John to visit Suzhou Gardens.

Tony looked straight into Vic’s eyes. He was obviously trying to find out more, or at least was fishing for details of the trip. Or so this is what Vic thought. To his desperation, Tony cracked a smile and with a tone which betrayed lots of self-assurance said:

-I guess it was a perfect day for meditation at the Gardens. His smile became larger and the irony which now could be clearly read onto his lips made Vic angry but in the same time made him understand that he was helpless. He understood that Tony and John’s neighbor are spying on them, are watching every single step they are making. He became furious…”I told John that he should move! And so did Zhaohui! He just wouldn’t listen! That’s it! I am looking for another place. We cannot afford anymore to be followed by Tony and his network of spies”.

-What do you mean by: “perfect day for meditation?” His question was straight forward while looking Tony directly into his eyes. Tony startled – he didn’t expect such an aggressive attitude from Vic. In the same time, Vic realized that he made a mistake by snapping at his interlocutor, thus giving up the fact that he indeed visited the Gardens yesterday. He decided to play very cautiously from now on…

-I just meant that it is very nice to go there and meditate. I do this too, from time to time, whenever I have the chance to visit the Gardens.

-Oh…I didn’t know that you are doing meditation. Vic was just trying to buy time and eventually get out of the trouble he put himself into.

-Not always. Only when I want to bring back memories. This statement made Vic startle again…”Is he somehow related to Chang mao dashi and his sister? What is the relationship between the three of them? I guess very soon we will find out”

-Right…only when you are trying to remember things…the discussion took a turn towards banality and both men realized that any moment spent from now on discussing the subject is just a loss of time. Tony made a sign that he had to go. Vic tilted his head into a “sure, I will see later” and both men headed towards different directions. However, before departing, Tony turned around and with a voice (which he tried to make as ironically as possible) he asked:

-Where is John? He probably had a rough night. Usually he is in the office by now said Tony while checking his wrist watch. Vic felt like all the blood he had into his veins was rushing to his temples. However, he calmed down and with a voice as natural and assuring as he could muster, he replied:

-He told me that he is still jet-legged.

-Oh…right! I forgot that he landed on Tuesday. Please tell him to rest well. He needs all his strength. We need him into the office.

-I sure will tell him. Thanks for your concern.

-You are welcome, Vic. I will see you later.

-Great, Tony! Have a good day.

The two men split up the hallway and headed towards two different directions. Vic couldn’t stop but take a look towards John’s office – no sign of him! He went to the hallway, picked up his cell phone and called John. The call went straight into the voice mail system. Vic felt like he wanted to smash the cell phone. “This is unbelievable! Now, when we have so much work to do…”

Vic checked the time. It was almost 11am. “Maybe I can find him at Mr. Wang’s”. Without hesitation, he got out of the building without even taking his coat. It was nice and warm anyway. Hailed a taxi and in ten minutes the driver pulled in front of the well-known restaurant. The place started getting busy. Vic took a seat at one of the tables in such a way that he would have an overview of the whole establishment. In spite of the fact that he knew the menu by heart, he opened one and started browsing through…on the same time, he was keeping an eye on the entrance door. No sign of John and this made him nervous. Pulled his cell phone out again and made the call. Same thing: the call went directly into the voice mail. “This is unbelievable!”

-Good morning Vic!

Vic startled and turned to the left. It was Mr. Wang who was standing into his blind spot; the smile on his face was contagious and made Vic smile back in spite of the distress he was going through.

-Good morning Mr. Wang…actually is it still morning? I guess so, said Vic after looking at his cell phone.

-Yes Vic, it is still morning. Where is John?

Vic wasn’t prepared to answer this question, so he mumbled something like: “he does not feel well”

-Oh…that’s too bad! I will send him some soup.

-No. That’s alright. I will take it to him if he needs it. His rushed answer (an answer released on a high pitched voice which betrayed the trouble he was into) made his interlocutor take a long look at him. Mr. Wang was too experienced in reading one’s mind not to understand that something unusual happened. He pulled a chair and took a seat. This gesture was casual and in the same time one would say that it was a gesture only done between friends, between people who know themselves well.

-Talk to me…what happened? Vic startled and realized that his interlocutor read his mind. He understood that he cannot hide too much from Mr. Wang. In the same time, he remembered John’s comment: “I could swear that I heard Mr. Wang’s voice”. This made him still engage a defensive position and decided not to tell him anything about their last night’s endeavor at the Black Swan.

-Nothing. I am just worried a bit. He is a healthy guy…this cold or flu, or whatever it is made him a little weak.

Mr. Wang took a long look at Vic and an imperceptible but sarcastic smile flourished on his lips.

-OK then. Please tell John (when you see him) that I know quite few things about alternative medicine and I can offer my advice. Other than that, what would you like to eat for lunch? Vic even forgot that he would eventually need to order.

-The usual, please. Thank you, Mr. Wang!

-Always my pleasure, Vic! Slowly and as elusively as he showed up, Mr. Wang disappeared behind the kitchen door, door so familiar to Vic by now. The adventure he, John and the detectives had that particular night when they snuck in to take pictures of the book, was still so fresh in his mind. He smiled, as the hilarity of the situation brought back the cat incident and the fact that his heart almost stopped at the sound of those pans and pots hitting each other.

He picked up the cell phone and dialed John’s number. Once again, the phone call went straight into the voice mail. “Okay, Johnny boy! I guess I will have to pay you a visit in person”. The lunch was quick. He ate fast and then headed for the door; hailed for a taxi and in ten minutes pulled in front of the hotel. Once he reached the penthouse level, carefully walked towards John’s apartment. He didn’t want to make noise as the neighbors could’ve been home.

He rang the bell. Waited ten seconds and then rang it again. No noise, no steps, not a sign of any kind of movement was coming out. Vic was fuming: “This is unbelievable! He didn’t make it to the office and he is not inside his apartment either. Don’t tell me that he is now taking a stroll with the girl! I can’t believe this!” He rang the bell again…nothing. Vic dropped his head and headed back to the elevator scratching his head: “Unbelievable! Tomorrow I have to report to J.J. – what am I going to say?” Once in the lobby, he decided to take a seat into the couch closest to the lemon tree and make few phone calls. The fragrance released by the blossomed flowers made him relax and forget about John problem. It was so quiet in that corner! Vic pulled the cell phone and called John again…nothing – the call went straight into the voice mail. “Well, let me call Zhaohui”. His call went again into the voice mail. “This is odd…she probably is in the classroom, can’t pick up. I will try calling her later on”. That being said, Vic jumped on his feet and headed for the Reception.

-Do you know where Mr. Parker is? Have you seen him today? He checked in last week, I hope you remember him.

-I perfectly remember him, Sir! Everybody here knows him.

-Seriously? How come everybody knows him?

-He is such a handsome man, Sir! The girl who answered, looked straight into his eyes. She was beautiful to say the least. Two big slandered black eyes were scraping onto the barrier he thought he laid down as a defense system. Vic felt how he was about to swallow his Adam’s apple. A cold sweat was now running down his spine as he remembered the discussions he had with Zhaohui and John on the fact that the neighbors might have spies all over the city to watch them. “She must be one of them. Why would she stare at me like this otherwise?”

-So, have you seen him today?

-No, Sir. Sorry. Do you want me to take a message for him?

-That’s alright. Thank you. Have a good day!

-You too, Sir. Stay safe out there.

Vic startled…”What did she mean by that? What sort of dangers are waiting for me once I step out of this Hotel?” Vic looked at the receptionist…all he could see was a pair of gorgeous eyes and an enigmatic smile which made Vic’s heart rush at a higher pace. “She is definitely spying on us. John’s gotta’ move! Zhaohui told him that this is what he should do and she was right. This hotel is infested with spies. But where am I supposed to find him? This is unbelievable! If he is still upstairs and he doesn’t want to open the door for me, I understand…” Vic cracked again a smile and shook his head in a sign of: “naughty boy!”

“But on the other hand, we have work to do and he must move! This is a situation I don’t like at all. What am I going to tell J.J.? What sort of excuse I can come up with by tomorrow? I hate this situation!” Vic headed for the door but not before taking another peek towards the Reception. The girl disappeared; a male receptionist took her place. Vic shook his head and once again mumbled: “Yeah…she is definitely spying on us. Too bad she is so gorgeous!”

That being said, he hailed for a taxi and in fifteen minutes made it back to the office. The first peek he took once in, was towards John’s office…no sign of his friend. He dropped his head and slowly headed towards his cubicle. Tony was in his office and on a call which apparently was important as the door was closed. Vic pulled his chair and simply dropped in. He was worried. “Now that I know the hotel receptionists are spying on us and every movement we make is immediately reported to Chang mao dashi, guess what? Johnny boy is missing in action! I gotta’ find him!” It was that very moment when his phone rang. He looked at the screen display: it was Zhaohui.

 

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 45 (A new beginning)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 45

A new beginning

The lights went down again and the crowd understood that the show was over. However, people were very happy; their faces were radiating that sentiment of pride and fulfillment that they were part of a great show. There was pure joy in their eyes and everyone was now talking about the spectacle which just ended up. Yue Ying’s name was on everybody’s lips. The lights came up again and Yue Ying showed up, this time accompanied by the whole band and thanked everybody for showing up. Then a strange phenomenon happened: people started rushing towards the stage. John immediately realized that the four girl band was now offering their fans the chance to get a sign autograph. It was such a wonderful disarray! At one point the bodyguard intervened and tried to put some order into the crowd and tried to make people line up. It worked in the beginning, but then the girls were again swarmed by the fans again. John and Vic were calmly watching the event. When Yue Ying announced that they are now signing autographs, their cab driver was the first in line and received a signed poster of the band. Then he pulled out few business cards from the pocket and gave them to Yue Ying’s friend – apparently at her request. She signed them and handed them back to the taxi driver, strangely pointing towards John on a particular one. The man came back to the table with a smile on his face as large as his mouth allowed him to do. He was so proud of the signed poster and cards. As per directions from the girl, he handed over one of the signed business cards to John.

-You lucky! She likes you!

-What did you say? Who likes me?

-She likes you…said again the man and pointed towards Yue Ying’s friend.

-You lucky dog! She likes you! Vic burst into such a laughter that his whole body was trembling and tears were coming out of his eyes. His face turned red; John managed to pull a smile while still keeping his eyes on Yue Ying. She was so happy speaking to her fans and signing autographs! John realized that she is truly made for this: the passion into her eyes, the dialog and the way she was managing to keep the fans wanting more of her performance was contagious. While watching every move she was making, he was playing with the card he received, flipping it non-stop from one side to another side. However, his eyes only had one target: Yue Ying. “She is amazing! What a stage presence! What a personality! What a talent! With this sort of skills, she should’ve been a star by now. Why is she singing in this restaurant? Does she sign somewhere else? I gotta ask Vic to speak to the cab driver” The moment he wanted to grab Vic and ask the question, his eyes fell on the card he was holding in his hand…his heart stopped and a twinge shot through his spine: “Call her” said on the card and a phone number followed below. He felt how a cold sweat was now encompassing his forehead. He lifted his head and looked again at the stage. Just few more people were still in line for autographs. To Vic’s astonishment he stood up and quietly placed himself at the end of the line.

-What are you doing, John? Vic asked the question while following John. Now he found himself in line waiting for autographs perhaps, or just trying to understand what his friend wanted.

-Thanks for joining me, Vic! I may need you to translate.

-They can speak English.

-I know, but please stick around, you never know…

-OK, John but I don’t like this!

-Relax, man! I just want to know if they sing elsewhere.

-Boy! This band must’ve made an impression on you!

-They are very good!

-OK, if you say so…the expression on Vic’s face was of deep wonder. He had a bad feeling that something is going to happen, that John will again get into one of those strange and new situations where he is also going to be dragged into. Since he met Zhaohui, he became cautious and learnt how to avoid trouble. Right behind Vic, the cab driver lined up too and immediately started a conversation in Chinese with Vic.

When John made it to the front and tried to say something, but the Yue Ying’s friend was faster:

-Chu Hua is my name and we met few days ago, John. Remember?

-I do remember. And I still didn’t thank you guys for giving me directions.

-You had no target to go to, John. We couldn’t give you directions. Both of them started laughing. In spite of the conversation he was having with Chu Hua, his attention was all pointed at Yue Ying. The smile on her face was angelical and John felt like he couldn’t speak or find his words anymore. You are special guests, we will go in the back.

The back stage was something improvised, something which was playing the role of change rooms and the same time a storage area. Immediately, Chu Hua started introducing the other two members of the band who played the instruments at such a high virtuosity. Then she went into offering a history of how they met and how they got to playing this particular style of music.

-This is …. And this is …..

John’s ears were listening, but his eyes were all on Yue Ying. Both of them never stopped looking into each other’s eyes. It was like they were both hypnotized by an unknown magician who had the powers to play with their minds, with their hearts, with their spirit and physical presence. They were both all smile, thus releasing a sentiment of reciprocity, of closeness, of friendship and companion. Then something completely unpredictable happened: John started slowly heading her direction. When he was just inches away from her, he stopped. He could now feel the vibration and the warmth of her body, he could smell the fresh April scent of her body perfume. All this time, they never took their eyes off of each other. It was something magic in the air. Slowly, John put his hands on her hips, then embraced her into a tight and meaningful hug. Their lips joined and a long and passionate kiss followed. There was so much intensity into that kiss that one would’ve said they just met after a long, long journey apart from each other, or maybe they just got re-united after centuries of wandering into parallel worlds, into separate Universes or Galaxies.

Vic was stunned! He couldn’t say a word anymore. Initially, when he saw John heading towards her direction, he tried to say something…a sort of: “let’s go now”. But his words never made it out of his chest, as John couldn’t resist Yue Ying’s eyes anymore.

The cab driver was the only person at this party who openly applauded and expressed his happiness.

Chu Hua looked at them and a smile flourished on her lips. It looked like she was not all that strange to the fact that Yue Ying had some feelings for John. The other two girls were watching the scene quietly and same like Chu Hua, were discretely smiling, letting one’s know that they were in the possession of a certain level of knowledge about their leader’s heart choices.

Few minutes past by and nobody was saying a word any more. The silence was so deep that everyone could actually hear John’s and Yue Ying’s accelerated breaths. His neck was now encircling by her arms and the hips by her legs. Finally, she stopped the kissing and with a soft moaning set her head on his left shoulder and closed the eyes.

Nobody dared to say anything anymore. Everyone was waiting for something to happen, something out of the ordinary, something which would break that magic moment of pure love and tenderness. Then the door to the back stage quietly opened up and John could actually see a silhouette trying to get; but at the sight of the scene, backed up and sneaked into a cone of darkness.

John startled: “Mr. Wang! I swear it was him! Why isn’t he showing up?” In spite of the fact that he was now holding Yue Ying and his hypothalamus took almost completely over his actions, he couldn’t help but look into the direction where the individual who wanted to enter, disappeared. “This place is at least strange. I gotta’ find out more about this elusive owner”

Then, he made a sign towards the cab driver and Vic. Through another door, they got out of the building and headed towards the car. John was now carrying Yue Ying into his arms. He was holding her the way you hold an infant, carefully not to wake the baby and in the same time tenderly not to hurt the child. The drive to the hotel was too long (into John’s mind). He was sitting in the rear seats with Yue Yong into his arms. Vic was in the front and his face was showing the grimaces of a man who was incapable of comprehending a certain situation, a man astounded by the events, a man with no answers whatsoever to the multitude of questions which were exploding like popcorn into his brain.

The cab driver was the only one who was openly very happy by the turn of these events and never seized to show his admiration for the two individuals who looked to him that they were very much in love with each other.

John was now thanking in his mind to his driver that he took them to the show. “I believe this is Karma…what else it could be?”

Once at the hotel, Vic asked the driver to wait and accompanied John and Yue Ying upstairs. He was determined to put a stop to this, which in his mind was complete madness. However, he didn’t know how to tell John that he is making a mistake, that he has a job to do and he has no time for affairs. He opened up the door and let John and Yue Ying get in first. It was again the moment when the two embraced each other once again. Vic rapidly went to the kitchen and showed up with three glasses in his hand and an opened bottle of wine.

-Let’s have drink now…he put the glasses on the coffee table in front of the dining room couch and took a seat. But to his astonishment, John lifted Yue Ying into his arms and headed for the bedroom, opened the door and then closed it with his heel. Vis was mesmerized! That very moment he was completely out of ideas on how to react, what to do, how to handle a situation so delicate. He poured himself a glass of wine and headed to the window. The spectacle he was seeing was amazing, to say the least: the city was still in full motion, people were walking to and from the restaurants, the cars were rapidly carrying individuals to their destinations, while the great Huangpu was keeping a watchful eye over everything, just to make sure that life flows peacefully into the city that never sleeps. He slowly finished his wine, then headed towards the entrance to the apartment, not before taking a long look at the door behind which John and Yue Ying disappeared a little earlier.

“What a peculiar day! What a strange night! A cab driver stops by and takes us to a show. The lead singer of the band is a beautiful girl. She and John have something deep in common as they apparently hit it off. What a strange turn of events! I hope this little thing is over by tomorrow noon. We have lots of stuff to do next week. John buddy, enjoy and I guess I see you tomorrow” He shut the door closed behind him and headed downstairs where the cab driver was waiting for him. A large smile was still present on his lips, which made Vic burst into a huge laughter. Then he got into the front passenger seat and started chit-chatting with the driver all the way until he reached his house. “I can’t wait to tell Zhaohui this story! This is unbelievable!”

He looked at his cell phone: it was midnight. “She is probably asleep”. Vic quietly made it into the bathroom, took a quick shower and then (trying to make the least amount of noise possible), slipped under the blankets.

-How was your night out?

Vic startled as he didn’t expect his fiancée to be still awake.

-You are not sleeping?

-No. I waited for you. Just wanted to make sure you are OK.

-Thank you my sweet heart! I am just fine. Are you willing to listen to a strange story?

Zhaohui flipped the switch to the night lamp, fixed her pillow higher and took a typical Yoga position, signaling the fact that she is ready to hear the story. Vic did the same and after two minutes of quietness started telling the story. Zhaohui was all ears. A deep silence fell between them after Vic finished. He looked into her eyes trying to guess what she was thinking at, trying to understand how his story affected her. It was the moment when Zhaohui’s statement fell like a hammer on him:

-The circle starts closing. I want to meet this girl.

-What? You are kidding, right? It is probably just a fling. Tomorrow we have work to do. J.J. wants updates and answers.

-I think all we are doing is useless. All these investigations (involving the two detectives) are futile and will not bare any fruits. My feeling is that this girl is the piece of the puzzle that is missing. I need to speak to her! Her voice was almost demanding, making Vic startle once again.

-Unbelievable! I will speak to John tomorrow.

-Please do so. Now let’s have few hours of sleep. Tomorrow will be a new beginning.

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 44 (Shanghai Sun)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 44

Shanghai Sun

The lights came down again. The band was performing its last instrument tuning. Then few slow, strange tunes tickled John’s ears. He recognized the traditional Chinese music. It was the moment he decided to lean back and pay attention as his fine musical ear started liking what he was hearing. The tunes slowly evolved into something else, something he couldn’t understand and recognize; the music was still flowing naturally and fluently, but it was something he never heard before. The rhythm was no longer slow, as it picked up some “steam”; it only took few seconds for John’s good ear to realize that the melody was gradually evolving into a typical pop style on Chinese lyrics. He was astounded! “They are actually blending their traditional music onto Pop style! This is unbelievable!”

John was all eyes and ears as the music caught him by surprise through originality, rhythm, tunes and melodicity. It was such a nice surprise, that at the end of the song, he stood up and applauded as hard as he could.

-What do you think, Vic?

-It is…I don’t know…different!

-Exactly! Listen to the tunes, listen to the way they are blending into each other, listen to the transition between their traditional music and the Pop style.

-Yes, I knew I heard somewhere this style! Vic burst into laughing and joined John in openly applauding the band’s performance. The cab driver was also happy and joined the two westerners into a big round of applause. The atmosphere inside the restaurant was already electric and one would’ve realized that these people were regulars of the establishment as they recited and sang along at a certain point with the band.

The next song followed the same line, only this time the Pop tunes were a little faster. But the idea was the same: blending traditional Chinese tunes onto Pop musical lines. People started again clapping and singing along while their feet were beating the beat of the melody. John was by now completely hooked by the tunes and the way the band was ingeniously blending two apparently incompatible music styles. He wanted to absorb every tune, every sound that was coming out of those strange instruments. And there was something else: Yue Ying’s voice. It was crystal clear, it was powerful and had lots of personality and was complemented by a stage presence which let no doubts on who the lead singer of the band was. One would’ve realized right away that the whole show was revolving around her performance: the movements, the singing, the personality and the way in which she was managing to engage the spectators was second to none. John was mesmerized to say the least.

Then, as the band continued to perform that blend: Chinese and Pop, John realized that the musicians are slowly switching to a more upbeat type of music while keeping the start and some portions of the refrain onto traditional local style. “Are they switching to Rock? No way!” It only took John few moments to realize that the band was indeed revving up their style towards a softer Rock. He was mesmerized…”how do they do this, by only using these strange instruments?”

The answer came again from the same area as it came before: from the stage presence of the lead singer, from her angelic voice, from the way she was presenting and selling the songs to the audience. There was so much natural talent into her moves and voice that John simply couldn’t take his eyes off of her.

And the songs kept coming over and over, with the same intensity, same nice line of melodicity and great symbioses between traditional and now Rock music. John completely lost count of time. At one point, the band asked for a break and that was the time when food and drinks were now brought to the tables. Vic was checking the crowd like nothing different happened. The cab driver was happy that he recommended the show and John was still trying to digest the authenticity and genuine performance of the band. He checked his wrist watch and realized that the girls sang for a full hour.

-Wow! One hour of the strangest, yet some of the best music I have ever listened. He didn’t realize that he was speaking loud and so Vic felt like replying:

-Yeah, it is a pretty good music.

-You are not impressed? Are you kidding? This is awesome music, man.

-Yeah, it’s ok.

John didn’t want to insist. He realized that Vic’s knowledge of music is limited to whatever he could recognize, name and eventually listen to. Few beers showed up at the table. The three men toasted and a high level of cheerfulness encompassed the table, only to blend into the general good mood atmosphere.

-Hey, Vic!

-Yeah, John! ‘Sup?

-Why do you think our neighbors are so quiet?

-Are they? I didn’t even notice…yeah, I think you are right. They are unusually quiet comparing to their earlier behavior. You must’ve made an impression. This was the point when Vic pulled another big laughter out of his chest. That hook right into that guy’s guts was awesome, man! And secondly, the large fellow they have as a body guard, must’ve made them think twice before creating another disturbance. I swear that I saw the table bending from the middle when he pounded it with his fist! I have never seen something like this! This guy is a monster!

-No, Vic…you are wrong…

-I’m wrong about what?

-I believe that they are up to something. I don’t like their physiognomies.

-They are drunk, man! What else can you read on those drunken bozos’ faces?

-I am not sure what they are plotting about, but I don’t like what I see.

-You are getting paranoiac over nothing. I am telling you that they can barely walk on their feet.

-OK. I hope you are right, Vic…also, what is bothering me as well, is the fact that I can swear I heard Mr. Wang’s voice…it really bothers me. Why did the owner keep his face into the dark the whole time he spoke to me? There was a cone of darkness by our neighbors’ desk. He placed himself every single time into that shadowy spot carefully hiding his physiognomy. I could only guess that he was wearing thin eye glasses. That’s all. Something is fishy with this place.

-Neah…you are worrying over nothing. Here we go…the girls are coming back onto the stage. I have to admit that they are beautiful.

-Girls, beautiful. Very beautiful…it was the cab driver speaking again and giving the thumb up. Vic cracked again in laughing while giving the driver the thumb up back. The lights came down into the room and the band was now under the stage lights. John’s eyes were watching every single move Yue Ying was making…her whole body was so graciously accompanying the tunes of the songs she was singing while the natural and crystalline voice was so greatly accompanying such a beautiful face and angelic smile!

Again and again, her voice was changing tonalities and was naturally switching the beat from now semi-traditional tunes to rock and roll. John was amazed! He was amazed of not only the fact that the band was able to master the switch from these two (apparently) so different types of music, but also amazed of the knowledge they had on composition, on transition from tonalities otherwise irreconcilable, to beautiful melodic lines. Every end of a song was accompanied by applauses and one could actually see that the band already had its fan base inside of the restaurant. John was shocked! He expected a traditional show, typical old Chinese music…he couldn’t have been more wrong! People knew the lyrics by heart, people were singing along, people were actively participating into the show and the band was offering a spectacle to die for.

-Unbelievable! This is an amazing show! I thank you for recommending this to us! The driver bowed and thanked John for his words:

-Yes, this good show! I told you! This good band! Vic and John pulled a big laughter out of their chests and then went back to watching the girls. It looked like everybody was having a good time, when all of a sudden the lights came down and the instruments started playing their tunes slower, and slower, and slower until they were barely audible even to people who were sitting at the front tables. John was intrigued…

-The lights came down and along with the lights, the rhythm of the song, the beats and the tonality. Are they up for something? John whispered his question hoping that nobody could hear it. But apparently the cab driver had a very sharp ear and answered immediately:

-Now Shanghai Sun…

-What?

-Now sing Shanghai Sun.

John looked at him and realized that he was trying to tell him that the next song was going to be called: Shanghai Sun.

-You know their show by heart! How often do you come here?

The taxi driver started laughing and with a waggishly smile answered:

-Many times, Sir!

-OK then. Now let’s listen.

The lights above the stage came back up but at a much lower intensity which made John wonder why? Soon he got his answer: the band started singing a slow song. The prelude was once again a typical combination of Chinese tunes played at a slow beat. The harmony at which those four instruments (this time the lead singer grabbed one of those strange mandolins and stepped in as an instrument player) were playing was absolutely stunning. It was a dialog of happiness, a dialog of birds happily chirping at one another while waiting for the sun to come up, it was a dialog about green colors of the spring, about nature reviving and coming out reinvigorated from a long winter, it was a dialog about peace and serenity, about fast flowing little creeks trying to cover with their sounds the concerts of the living creatures in the woods.

“It almost sounds like Vivaldi’s Spring” exclaimed John in his head! “What a skill! To produce such a delicate, yet complex music with these instruments (which honestly look quite basic to me), is amazing! What a skill”. To John’s wonder, the melody started picking up some beat and soon turned into a Rock where the lead singer now had the full control of the stage by not only playing that strange instrument, but by also singing. The inflections of her voice were phenomenal to say the least! It turned out that the song was one of those ballads which only great Rock bands can write and play. The way the song progressed from its Chinese roots, then to soft Rock sang by their leader was astonishing. At one point, John realized that the lyrics switch to English…now he was in a state of shock! He realized the last line of the refrain was saying: “Now and then and forever…this is Shanghai Sun”. And it was repeated again: “Now and then and forever…this is Shanghai Sun”.

“What a beautiful song! This is unbelievable! I could’ve never imagined that such song can come out of those instruments! Wow!”

John looked at Vic. He did not look very impressed but he was at least listening and watching carefully. In return, the taxi driver was all eyes and ears. He was trying to absorb every single sound that was coming out from the stage. It looked like his whole body was connected to the musical activity that was happening in front of him. “This guy is more sensitive to good music than Vic is!” John muffled a laughter for himself. It was actually the end of that great song. He jumped on his feet and immediately started applauding as hard as he could:

-Bravo! Bravo! Well done! Well done, guys! What a great song!

The cab driver followed him and frenetically applauded. Vic did the same and shortly the whole establishment did the same.

The band deeply bowed and thanked everyone in Chinese. Then, the lead singer turned towards John’s party and in a decent English thanked for the applauses:

-We thank you…if I remember…you…John. Thank you, John and thank you your friends.

John bowed and so did the cab driver and Vic.

-It was a great song! Congratulations! This was a sincere exclamation which came out of Vic’s chest, a shout which made Yue Ying say:

-I thank you, Sir…

-Vic is my name.

-I thank you, Vic!

John’s eyes were all on her, on the way she was conducting herself on the stage, on the graciousness of her moves, on the naturalness of her whole body moving from left to right, on her long black free flowing hair reaching her breasts, on her out of this world smile which was in turn bringing two gorgeous hues into her cheeks, on her face which was exhibiting a large sentiment of satisfaction and thus letting two rows of perfectly white teeth release the most angelic smile possible.

Their eye sights met again…this time it was the look of two souls which have just re-discovered each other after an eternity of separation, after wondering through different worlds, after unsuccessfully trying to reach each other, connect and close a destiny.  It only took few seconds for the two pair of eyes to cross paths and for their minds and hearts to connect. Vic was mesmerized! The cab driver was all smile and it seemed that he liked what he was seeing.

Finally, Yue Ying returned to the center of the stage and started clapping while the rest of the band was playing an up-beat song which in turn brought the audience on its feet and made everybody clap on the sound of the music. The crowd was now fully entertained and the owner of the establishment showed up from the kitchen. However, same like the first time, he made sure that he didn’t show his face and remained into a cone of shadow, to John’s disappointment. John grabbed his beer, put a leg on top of the other and decided to listen. The sight exchange he had with Yue Ying brought a strange sentiment into his heart; it was something he couldn’t comprehend, put in order, measure with his imagination or explain. “I have the feeling that I know this girl from somewhere…but from where? Obviously this is my first time in China and I don’t think she ever made it to America! But when I look at her, she looks so familiar, she looks like we are close relatives or friends, or…” John stopped. He didn’t want to say the word which came on his tongue. He took a napkin and wiped his forehead. On the stage Yue Ying was proving that she did have great showgirl skills, entertaining the establishment with her song, dance and stage presence. One after another one, the songs kept pouring out of the band’s repertoire; nobody was sitting anymore. Everybody was on their feet dancing by the tables and singing along with the band. The atmosphere was electrifying and entertaining to say the least. The girls knew how to express their personality on the stage, knew how to get the crowd engaged, knew how to make the patrons feel like they are treated like VIPs and most of all they had the knowledge of pacing themselves throughout the show so they wouldn’t burn faster than they should. The level of maturity this band was exhibiting was truly stunning! John was amazed and besides the fact that he was watching every single move Yue Ying was making, he just couldn’t stop admiring both the harmony of the instruments which were dialoguing between them and the synchronization of the band players when moving around on the stage. They could’ve only achieved this through long hours of hard practicing.

Towards the end of the show, the crowd started chanting: Shanghai Sun! Shanghai Sun! Shanghai Sun! The atmosphere was electrifying to say the least. The lights went down again and everybody took a sit waiting for their favorite song to be played again. This time just Yue Ying showed into the spot light. The rest of the band was still in the dark. “This is unbelievable, said John to himself! She is taking the task on singing this song by herself without the help of the band! Wow! She is really talented!”

John was right. Yue Ying started singing the song alone, without the accompaniment of the band. Her voice was truly amazing. She hit all those hard inflections, those quick changes of pace or high to low octaves. John was not moving a finger anymore. His whole attention, was channeled towards watching Yue Ying’s performance. It was like he was hypnotized by her presence, by her singing, by the entire way she was conducting herself on the stage.

At the time of the refrain, once again the whole establishment accompanied her while clapping and singing along. It was an electrifying atmosphere and John was happy that he followed Vic’s advice and visit Black Swan. Two more times the crowd inside the restaurant called her back. The refrain of this song was working like a drug on this crowd, the more they were listening to it the more they wanted to hear it…again and again. Every time she came back to sing, her face was radiating from the pleasure to entertain her fans. It was pure joy, eagerness to be grateful to the people who were appreciating her talent, but most of all it was that natural gift she possessed: the gift of a born entertainer.

-Wow! What do you think, John? Vic’s question remained unanswered as John’s eyes were all on Yue Ying. On the stage, she was like a fish in the water. Their eyes exchanged paths many times during audience’s three time call back to the stage. One thing was clear: something made them connect with each other and engage at a spiritual level which was more than just simple admiration. John was like a stone, like a big chunk of marble just waiting for the sculptor’s hand to bring it to life. His eyes and mind were now completely captured by Yue Ying.

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 43 (Yue Ying)

An American Executive travels to China to solve the mystery of funds drainage from the company he works for.

Once in Shanghai, he finds himself tangled into a world of mysticism, into a world of traditions going back hundreds of years, into a world of philosophical meanings meant to close cosmological paths and previously set destinies.

Action, romance, drama, humor, History, Geography and Philosophy – they all come together in an attempt to blend the dynamic western way of life onto the rich Chinese culture and uncanny traditions.

 

Chapter 43

Yue Ying

John was mesmerized! The two girls he bumped into on his first day in Shanghai, were now on the stage. The traditional white overcoats (waist long) were contrasting with the black modern stretched skirts. Who would ever thought at such an out of the box idea? A traditional Chinese overcoat and a modern stretch skirt? The overcoats were tighten up with wonderful wide ribbons knotted with skill and taste while the characters out of (probably) Chinese Mythology were filling the background. The colors and the execution of the characters was exquisite to say the least. Yellow stitches were beautifully blending with red ones, while the majestic purple purls were encompassing the whole scenery. John’s fine and trained eye for details immediately picked up a difference between the coats the two girls were wearing. The shorter girl (who did not speak much during their street encounter) had the whole scenery on her coat surrounded by thick magenta purls while the other girl’s coat scenery was surrounded by red thick purls. Immediately he remembered that the magenta/purple color represents royalty while red is the color of the upper class in medieval China.

“Wow…is she trying to tell audience that she is a royal? However, she is so beautiful! She deserves to be a royal. I am so excited to hear what they are going to sing. It looks like it will be traditional Chinese music. Not a bad idea we listened to this numb nut who calls himself a cab driver”. John pulled a large smile and nodded affirmatively to their taxi driver who was all eyes and ears waiting for the show to start. The smile, the genuine happiness on his face was priceless. He truly believed that his driving skills landed him some pretty lucrative business with these two foreigners.

The lights went down and everybody was taking his seat to listen to the show. The noisy neighbors insisted in showing everybody that they are there to make a statement, to have fun and eventually get even drunker than they already were. They were using the silver in front of them to bang it against the table. The noise was loud and John felt like he couldn’t take it anymore. He stood up and headed to their table:

-Guys, would you mind keeping it down a notch? We are trying to listen to some music.

-Listen to this mates…pretty boy wants us to keep it down a notch? What’ya all thinking?

A huge laughter burst from the table and the four drunken men started hitting the table with their fists. The tension reached the peak. John took a peek at the band. The only one who didn’t seem to be scared out of the four of them, was Yue Ying. She managed to stay calm and composed but one would’ve realized that she was furious inside. The beautiful white face, the gorgeous cheeks with two hues which were emphasizing an angelic smile, the long dark flowing hair which was cascading on one side only to fall on the left breast and thus leading  the imagination of the interlocutor to earthly things, caught John by surprise. He was just now realizing how beautiful this girl was! Their eye sights met and an out of the Earth smile flourished on Yue Ying’s lips.

John tried to smile back, but he couldn’t. He thought that he swallowed his Adam’s apple. His lips were dry and felt like he urgently needed a glass of water. “Jesus…she is so beautiful!” His attention was again drawn back to the table of the four drunken sailors.

-Swallowed your tongue, pretty boy? So, what are you going to do about this? One of the individuals closest to him was now laughing right into his face while pounding the table even harder with his fists. At this very moment John’s sight was completely blurred – he was furious to say the least. His quick thinking and trained eye for detail realized that the individual was leaning rearward into his chair and thus the two front legs of the chair were not touching the ground anymore. With a kick into one of the rear legs of the chair, he made the man who was laughing at him land on the ground as the chair lost another point of stability. His first intention was to punch the guy into his face, but he realized that the next man sitting to his left, was already on his feet and had his chair lifted up ready to hit John into the head. To John’s advantage, due to the alcohol consumption the man was not very stable on his feet and this gave John the opportunity to step aside. The man completely missed his target and thus greatly leaning forward into a completely unstable stance. John made a fist and with a well-placed hook into the liver area, made the individual moan from pain and put a knee on the ground. This was the moment when the large fellow who was the body-guard of the restaurant stepped in and made a great statement by pounding the table with his huge fist. The silverware was now all on the ground while the glasses broke one after another one after hitting the ground. The two individuals who were still sitting at the table, ducked. The stature of this fellow was impressive to say the least. He grabbed both of them by the collars of their shirts and apparently with no effort whatsoever crushed their faces against the table. It was a moment when everybody realized how powerful this Hercules truly was. Immediately, an individual (who came out of the kitchen) showed up and assessed the situation by getting an update from the body guard.

-Gentlemen, I am asking you to leave my restaurant. At this point, one of the men (who had the pleasure of “biting the table”) was able to speak as Hercules loosened his grip on them:

-It’s OK, Sir. We will not bother you anymore. It’s OK. I will make sure that it will not happen. My friends just wanted more drinks…that’s all.

-You guys are already drunk! And you are asking for more drinks? Are you kidding? John’s voice was loud and had a tonality which was not hiding at all his disgust with the drunken individuals.

-We will keep it down. Just get us another round of double shot whiskey and we will keep quiet. John couldn’t believe his ears when he saw the owner’s eyes shining like a Christmas tree and especially when he heard him saying:

-OK, gentlemen. But you pay first.

-Of course, no problem mate.

-Very well, Sir: four double shots of whiskey. That would be eight hundred fifty RMB.

-No problem! Bring the drinks, mate!

John was stunned. On one hand he couldn’t believe that after all the trouble they went through, the owner was ready to bring them even more drinks…

-I cannot believe this! You want to give them more alcohol? They will not stop! They will create even more trouble! You are making a big mistake, Sir!

John’s voice was again loud, but this time was embracing a tonality which betrayed a sentiment of perplexity rather than anger and disgust.

-Sir, I appreciate your help. And as a thank you for all the trouble you went through, the drinks at your table are on the house.

John was speechless! “This is unbelievable! He is still giving them drinks!” But the very next second, John remembered the price the owner was charging for the drinks: “He is charging eight hundred fifty RMB! That would be roughly thirty dollars for a double shot. Not bad! He is charging American prices and I am sure he will give them a cheap whiskey” A smile came up on John’s face as he assessed the situation: “He will ask his body guard to keep an eye on them so they will not be trouble anymore and in the meantime he is taking a couple of skins off of them? I have to admit that this is kind of brilliant!”

-I thank you for your offer Sir, but we have no problem paying for our consumption.

-I understand, Sir. But this is a thank you from the house and it would be disrespectful if you refused.

John startled! He looked closer at his interlocutor’s face, as he tried to read him. The lights were down, so he couldn’t really guess the features of his face. But behind the glasses, John guessed two sharp and intelligent eyes. John’s natural curiosity kicked in and now he wanted to get to know the man better, to get to see his physiognomy and eventually understand what he was up to…

-Sir, please understand that business is business. They were trouble from the beginning, but on the other hand I have to make a living…I have to make money somehow. To me, this is an opportunity more than it is a trouble. His voice gradually changed and it made John freeze when mentioned about “making money”…he swore in his mind that he heard Mr. Wang’s voice. Now John was frightened. A cold sweat was now running down his spine. He wiped his forehead with his sleeve. What was bothering him the most, was the fact that the restaurant owner was always keeping his face into the shadow, into the dark, carefully making sure that John doesn’t see much.

-Very well, Sir! I thank you for your kindness. We accept your offer.

-Once again, Sir…I thank you for your help.

John slightly tilted his head in a sign of respect and headed back to his table where the driver and Vic were still having trouble digesting what had just happened into the last two minutes. The owner gave few orders and two helpers showed up with brooms and cleaned up the mess from the nearby table.

-What was that? And why are you so pale? You look like a corpse! Vic’s voice was genuinely sounding like the voice of someone who is troubled by whatever he is seeing.

-I can swear that I heard Mr. Wang’s voice when the owner spoke to me.

-That guy who came out of the kitchen is the owner?

John nodded in an affirmative way.

-What did he tell you?

-He said that he will fulfill the request of these four drunken guys and give them more alcohol – business is business…

-Wow! This guy must’ve been trained in America! Vis’s laughter was not accompanied by his friend’s laughter, signaling the fact that John was still troubled by the encounter he had with the restaurant owner. The four neighbors seemed to be alright and quit creating trouble, especially after the waiter showed up with their drinks.

-John, I have to admit that you were brilliant! The way you knocked down those two guys was awesome!

-They are drunk, Vic…you could’ve put’em down yourself…all four of them.

-Of course I could’ve…you’ve never seen my jab and my one-two combination followed by my deadly upper cut, man! This time both of them burst into a huge laughter and a good and happy mood settled at the table. The cab driver clapped his hands towards John and simulated two jabs with his fists:

-You, good fight! Bam, bam! Once again, the two friends started laughing. Tears were coming out of Vic’s eyes…

-Mr. Football…you good fight, too! Bam, bam! Vic was holding his abdomen with both his hands, while John was trying hard not to follow him. However, the atmosphere at their table was set for what apparently was supposed to be a good night out.

The stage was ready…the lights came down again and the band was ready to show their talent.