Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 51 (White Orchid)

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 51

White Orchid

Xiǎo lǐzǐ managed to stay close to the car he was following in spite of the fact that they soon reached an area which looked a little rough and was totally unknown to him. The streets were barely lit (as the few bulb lights were shyly providing a certain level of luminosity) showing that the city in that particular area was not very generous when came down to citizens’ safety. John felt how he got chills. However, he wanted to know more about this mysterious girl, the girl who had the trust of the old lady from the store, trust which turned into assigning her to a delicate mission: reaching “Nine Orchids Order” – apparently an exclusive and highly elitist place.

She eventually reached her place. A blind, barely lighting bulb light was trying as hard as it could to provide some light at the entrance. The building was a four- storey flat and one could see that the inhabitants were trying to save as much as they could as only a couple of lights were turned on. The girl entered, not before turning again her head to see if she was followed. At John’s requests, from the moment they reached that particular neighborhood, Xiǎo lǐzǐ shut down his head lights. They were now into the complete darkness of the night. The lights and the engine were turned off and both of them were barely breathing, trying somehow to increase their level of cover. The taxi which the mysterious girl took turned around, passed Xiǎo lǐzǐ’s car, accelerated and in few minutes was lost into the darkness of the night. An oppressive silence settled into the car and for one or two minutes nobody said a word.

-Mr. Parker…what we do now? Xiǎo lǐzǐ whispered the question in a way that made John almost guess it.

-Now I get out of the car and I will go in the back of the building. You stay in the car and watch at which apartment the light will come up. I will do the same into the back. There are four apartments per level. You watch these two sides. I will do the same in the back.

-OK Mr. Parker. Careful…

-Don’t worry.

John quickly got out of the car and rapidly moved towards the rear of the building. It was completely dark and he was more or less guessing his way. His logic was telling him that it must be a way for the inhabitants to get into the back where probably the dumpster was. He pulled his cell phone from the pocket and used the light to navigate. He was right…the dumpster was in the back; unfortunately garbage pick-up day was far away as the smell from the garbage container was suffocating. He took the handkerchief he was always carrying and turned it into a bandana. It was not long before the light at one of the apartments at the last floor turned on. Then the girl he was following showed up at the window, pulled the curtains and disappeared. John waited few more minutes. Shortly, the light went off.

-OK. She either went to sleep or she is using a night stand lamp. Good, now I know where she lives. Let’s get back to the hotel. Xiǎo lǐzǐ was patiently waiting.

-So, Mr. Parker…you see? I see nothing.

-Yes, Xiǎo lǐzǐ…I saw what I needed to see. She lives at the fourth floor, that corner…let me see where the North is. John looked at his wrist watch:

-OK, so the North is that way. Great, she lives at the apartment from the South-West corner of the building. Now let’s go back to the hotel. Do you know how to get there?

A huge laughter came out of Xiǎo lǐzǐ’s chest.

-Mr. Parker, I taxi driver…remember?

It was John’s turn to burst into laughter:

-Sorry Xiǎo lǐzǐ, I almost forgot you brought me here.

-No problem Mr. Parker. Here we go!

John was completely unprepared and again the sudden step on the accelerator made him hit the back of the rear seat and bang his head against the head rest of the seat. “That’s it! I made up my mind! This guy is mental! Why does he have to do this every time he puts this car into motion?” He shook his head and decided to keep quiet and watch the places which were passing by. Same ghetto neighborhood was laying in front of him: poorly lit streets, apartment buildings in a rough shape, bad roads filled with pot holes and a great sentiment of emptiness, of a place that is deserted and is just waiting for some creatures from another planet to populate it. John felt some chills along his spine. “It’s good I didn’t make it into this neighborhood alone…so creepy!”

Shortly, the environment started changing and a different type of streets were showing up. They were better lit, the quality of the pavement was much better and soon restaurants and little ma and pa shops started showing up, thus signaling an area that was thriving through commercial activities.

Suddenly, John put his hand on Xiǎo lǐzǐ’s right shoulder and with a voice which was not accepting any sort of opposition asked him to stop. The cab driver stepped on the brakes so hard that made John completely hug the front passenger seat. “Damn it! I knew he would slam on those brakes! I should’ve given him a two mile notice!” John got out of the car and started walking back, as the taxi passed the store he wanted to get into. Xiǎo lǐzǐ’s was following him closely. Once in front of the store, Xiǎo lǐzǐ’s smiled and exclaimed:

-Oh, Mr. Parker…you remember. You buy orchid Saturday night.

-Of course I remember and I want to buy another one.

-Orchid expensive…but very beautiful.

-Let’s see if they still have some left and up for buying.

That’s being said, John stepped into the store. He realized that the owner was preparing to close. However, the old woman who sold him the purple orchid (the orchid which he bought Zhaohui), recognized him. A large smiled flourished on her face and immediately started speaking to him. She knew that she would eventually make a good sale off of John. The store was filled up with fresh flowers but John had his eyes once again on the place behind the counter. He graciously refused woman’s offer to take a look at the flowers placed into shelves on the side walls and headed straight for the back of the store with his eyes pinned at the gorgeous flowers which somehow he felt they were guarded by the owner of the shop. And yet again, she placed herself between John and the orchids, as she did last time. John smiled and speaking as slowly as he could, he said:

-I want to buy one of them.

The old lady had the same smile on her face and replied to John in Chinese. It seemed like she didn’t want to sell him any of the orchids. It was the time when Xiǎo lǐzǐ stepped into the conversation:

-She say you bought one Saturday. Why you buy one more?

John was perplexed! He thought he didn’t hear properly what his driver told him.

-I want to buy another one…that’s all. Is there a problem with this?

Another round of conversation started between the store owner and Xiǎo lǐzǐ.

-She wants know who you buy for.

-What? This is unbelievable! It’s my business to whom I am buying this flower for!

After another short conversation, Xiǎo lǐzǐ looked at John and with a great disappointment imprinted on his face said:

-Sorry…she no sell to you.

-Unbelievable! That’s fine. Let’s go find another store. I hope that there are still some shops open. I want to buy some flowers for Yue Ying.

At the sound of Yue Ying’s name, the old lady’s face physiognomy changed. Yet, one more time she had another conversation with Xiǎo lǐzǐ.

-Mr. Parker, Mr. Parker…John was almost at the door. He turned around and looked at his cab driver quite puzzled.

-What happened?

-She say she sell to you…but only one.

-Great! What made her change her mind? John’s face was now radiating with happiness and his great smile came back making his whole appearance look so relaxed, joyful and cheerful. He was stunned by the beauty of those flowers.

-I have never seen orchids this beautiful. I can understand now why she is so protective. It looks to me like she treats them the way one treats his babies. While listening to the translation, the woman was speaking to John. Obviously John couldn’t understand a word she was saying, however Xiǎo lǐzǐ was trying to keep up with her in translating back to John.

-She say you lucky man…she say you handsome…she say you born under lucky stars….

John was mesmerized by the freshness and the beauty of those orchids and all Xiǎo lǐzǐ’s words just flew by his ears. “Wait a minute: there were nine orchids, I bought one for Zhaohui and there are six left. Somebody bought two of them or two people one each. If she is so careful to whom she is selling these flowers, then who are those two persons who bought the two missing ones? Hmm…strange. Anyway, I will buy one for Yue Ying. I believe she will like it. Which one, though? OK, so it looks like the yellow and the yellow with pink are gone. That yellow was gorgeous! And so it was the other yellow one, which had pink spots on it. Which one do I buy?”

Once again, John had the feeling that while looking at those beauties one should be quiet as a simple whisper would simply make them vanish, this is how feeble and delicate they looked. The colors were so pure and genuine that making a choice on the spot was an impossible task to achieve.

Which colors does she like? This is the question I guess I have to answer! John’s memory started bringing back scenes from the cloth store and from the night when Yue Ying performed at Black Swan. Nothing out of ordinary popped up into his mind. All of a sudden, he remembered the white traditional coat she was wearing yesterday night on the stage. The coat was still with her into his hotel room. The decision was made: he picked the white orchid. He stretched his left hand and pointed towards the flower:

-I would like to buy the white one, please.

The old woman starting speaking again…this time her voice was softer and the inflections carried into conversation showed a great level of happiness and in the same time of relief. The cab driver was trying hard to keep up with translating, but his English was not that great and only made John burst into laughter. He didn’t know why John is laughing so hard and in turn he joined in. It was a great, relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The store owner was now carefully wrapping the orchid following the same procedure: she brought the plastic protector and then methodically folded the nicely coated white paper around the whole package. When she handed the flower over to John, a sigh of almost sorrow and regret came out of her chest. It was probably her way of saying goodbye to a child she raised until the moment the kid has to leave home. And yes, the way she was taking care of these splendid flowers was nothing short from love and passion.

John paid and lifted the flower slowly and carefully, then bowed to the old lady and headed for the door. The store owner did not stop speaking until John was out of the flower shop.

-What did she say while I was heading to the door?

-She say: you take good care of flower and Yue Ying. You born under good stars. You lucky and you have good destiny in front.

-Did she say if I will be able to stop Tony and my neighbor stealing from Glenworth?

-Don’t understand…who stealing?

-Never mind said John while bursting into laughter. It was a joke!

-Oh…you joke! Ha, ha, ha! You joker, Mr. Parker.

-I believe I am…John was still laughing hard when he entered the car. He decided to sit into the front seat as he had to protect that valuable thing he was planning to give to Yue Ying. He put the seat belt on and wrapped his hands around the flower he was holding the way a mother holds her baby after birth. And he was right to do so, as Xiǎo lǐzǐ stepped hard onto the accelerator, following his natural habit. John shook his head and once again the same question came up: “Why is this guy so fond of killing those pedals? I guess I will just have to live with this. He is a valuable asset. He knows the city very well and he actually took me to Yue Ying. Was this just a coincidence? What if he has his own role into this story or curse or whatever else could be called? No, I am getting paranoiac now. I hope that Chang mao dashi will take my offer and we will be done. The question is: what would he want in return? I guess it won’t be too long before we will find out”

John turned his eye sight to the right passenger window while looking at the trees on the side of the roads pass by one by one; his mind started wandering through the intricacies of this story which turned his life upside down. His assignment, Vic, Zhaohui, Mr. Wang, his strange neighbors – who apparently belong to one of the greatest aristocratic families of the Ming Dynasty – and now, Yue Ying. “Who is she? Does she hold a role into the story too? What sort of role? Why did I get so attracted to her from the moment I saw her for the first time in the street, on my first day in Shanghai? And now she is waiting for me in my hotel room…how will this story end? Zhaohui mentioned that she is responsible to close this cosmological circle from her side of the family – which is the Imperial family of Chongzen Emperor. On the other hand, my neighbors are the descendants of Yuan Chonghuan – the general executed by the Emperor due to Court intrigues – and they have the same task as Zhaohui. Very peculiar story. I just hope that will end soon. How will it end? Probably not even Mr. Wang knows”

It was the moment when the cab reached the entrance of the hotel. John pushed hard into his legs as he knew that Xiǎo lǐzǐ will slam onto the brakes. He did the right thing. Once he reached the destination, he hit the brakes in a way that made John congratulate himself for the decision he had made – to prop into his legs as solidly as he could. When out of the car, he reached for the wallet but to his surprise Xiǎo lǐzǐ nodded in a negative way and said:

-No Mr. Parker! You paid me at market, remember? It is good.

-Are you sure it’s enough?

-Yes Mr. Parker. You have good night.

-Thank you Xiǎo lǐzǐ and you have a good night too.

Xiǎo lǐzǐ got into his car and according to his habits, hit the accelerator pedal hard, leaving a trace of fumes coming out of his exhaust pipe. John shook again his head and murmured: “at least he is an honest man”

When he entered the apartment, Yue Ying was already sleeping on the couch with the TV still on. John carefully took the remote from her hand and turned the TV off. Then slowly headed towards the office area and placed the flower onto the desk. When returning to the living room, he grabbed a thick blanket that was laying onto an arm chair and covered her. From the bedroom he brought a pillow and placed under her head. Finally he headed for the bedroom, got into his pajamas and called it a day.

Shanghai Sun – The Curse of the General; Chapter 50 [(John and Yue Ying (II)]

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 50

John and Yue Ying (II)

Soon, Yue Ying found herself so busy in trying different types of jeans, pants, shirts and dresses that she completely forgot about the old lady and John. The two girls who greeted them at the entrance were buzzing around her like two working bees…one would say that Yue Ying’s got two personal assistants who were delighted to work for her and bring from the back of the store the items she was requesting. It was clear that both girls smelled a nice tip from the handsome westerner who was accompanying Yue Ying. John was giving his opinion from time to time and was making suggestions on color matching or style assortment. A regular, normal cloths trying event turned into almost a frenzy of clothes and shoes shopping.

However, John’s eyes were still on the old lady, trying to scrutinize and catch the slightest gesture of emotion or attempt towards communication. Not a sign of such relief was coming from that direction as she was carefully watching the activity taking place into her store. The same enigmatic and cold smile was imprinted on her lips. “This woman is made out of marble! There is no any sort of emotion whatsoever showing up on her face!” John was disappointed to say the least. In a sign of distress, he started walking through the store, apparently looking interested into the items which were displayed on the wall.

All of a sudden, while looking into a mirror, he realized that the door to the back of the store slowly opened up and a girl came out. John froze! He was not moving anymore, he was not even blinking…apparently he was looking at a pair of blue jeans he was holding into his hand. However, his eyes were on the mirror, scrutinizing every motion, every move the girl was making. She looked so familiar! While out in the store, she spoke to the old lady by whispering for a couple of minutes into her ear. The mimic on the lady’s face did not change…same imperturbable expression, same stony look and same cold and enigmatic smile. Then, as elusively as she came through the door, she slipped back into the storage room of the store leaving the door cracked open.

“Interesting…she is not shutting the door closed. Is she interested in whatever it’s being discussed here? Where did I see this girl before? I definitely know her from somewhere…but where from?”

John turned around and he could only smile…Yue Ying was like a kid into a candy store: she was trying everything she was touching or the two helpers were bringing to her to try out. “Not much work left for me in this area”. He looked again at the old woman behind the counter…nothing changed in her stance, posture, face expression or behavior. “Is she alive? God, she is not moving! Maybe I need to poke her to make sure she is not a ghost!” That being said, John turned around and headed for the door. Xiǎo lǐzǐ was patiently waiting outside, looking at the crowd and cracking from time to time a conversation with the owner of the store across the alley. It was one of those small little ma and pa shops that were selling everything: from fake purse brands and watches to travel luggage and cheap cloths. John stopped on the upper entrance step and looked around. A sea of people moving in two directions at a speed which was greatly reduced by the narrow alleys and the little stands (covered with merchandises); some of these stands were nothing else but foldable tables which were taken inside at the end of the day. Unfortunately, they were chocking the normal flow inside of the huge commercial center and you would have to bump into other people had you wanted to get by. “Unbelievable! So many people! Now I can grasp on the idea called: market size. This is truly a huge market. The problem is that their mentality is funneled towards saving not spending. Hopefully the new generation will change this unproductive and ancient way of life”

All of a sudden, his attention was drawn to one of the alleys which was on a straight angle to the one they walked to get to the store. The girl he saw in the mirror inside of the store came from the closest side alley and John realized that the back of the store was facing that particular access way. She looked like she was in a rush as she was trying to quickly squeeze herself through the sea of people coming from all the directions. John made a quick move: he crossed the alley and without hesitation pulled 150 RMB from his pocket, gave it to the business owner across the store and grabbed a fleece hoodie. In few seconds he put it on and pulled the hoodie in a way which was only allowing his face to be seen. Then turned around and went back to the store where a dismayed Xiǎo lǐzǐ was looking at him the way one would look at a ghost.

-I need you to do something for me, please. Listen carefully: I am giving you my card, you will pay for everything she buys. Here it is another five hundred RMB…you give those two girls a good tip, understand? Xiǎo lǐzǐ nodded affirmatively but John could actually see that the eyes of his driver were betraying a great amount of amazement and astonishment. The rest is yours for the trips, ok? You take Yue Ying back to the hotel. Here it is the access card from the room. I hope I won’t be long. Tell her to wait for me in the hotel room. Do you understand what I am asking from you? Again the cab driver nodded and this made John feel at ease.

-OK, I have to go now…I trust you, Xiǎo lǐzǐ! This last sentence motivated somehow the man standing on the stairs and to John’s pleasure, the cab driver said:

-No worry, Mr. Parker. I take Yue Ying back hotel. No worry. Thank you for this…it was the moment when Xiǎo lǐzǐ showed John those five one hundred RMB bills while a large smile on his face. John was already on the alley and heading towards the direction he saw the mysterious girl heading. However, he turned around and looking at Xiǎo lǐzǐ, he cautioned him:

-You will have to give the two girls from the store a good tip from that too, I hope we have an understanding here.

-Of course Mr. Parker…good tip girls. I know.

-Alright, you are a great help and a true asset to this operation.

-Thank you, Mr. Parker! John was already gone, and at this point he was trying hard to blend into the crowd. There was a problem though: his height was making the mission of blending into the crowd almost impossible. However, John was now heavily relying on his hoodie to keep him as incognito as possible.

John left some good distance between him and the girl he was following; however, the stands on the alley were giving him all sort of trouble in trying to keep the pace at which she was walking and in the same time to make himself the least visible as possible.

It was not long before the girl stopped, turned around and carefully scouted the crowd around her. John moved behind one of the stands and started talking to the owner. Obviously that the poor man was shocked to see first of all such a tall and large westerner stopping at his stand and talk to him like he knew that English was not a problem for him. He started speaking Chinese back to John. All this time John had his eyes on the girl he was following. The hoodie was covering his face, but he wanted extra protection, so he bought an umbrella from the store owner. Opened it up and simulating that he is trying all the features the umbrella possessed, he was actually watching every move she was making.

Eventually she took another side alley and disappeared. John followed her immediately, only to realize that the alley was ending up into the door steps of a large three level house. He could actually see how the girl he was following entered the house, not before checking again the surroundings. He was now stuck! He obviously couldn’t read what was written on each side of the entrance door but he assumed it was a temple as it had that particular traditional pagoda roof shape. The letters were yellow and were greatly contrasting with the wooden walls all painted into a nice red color.

John placed his index fingers at his temples, in a sign of: “Think, John! Think!” His years and years of Football training taught him that no matter how dire the situation was, there would always be a way out of it. “Common, man! You wait here for her to get out, then what? She will go back to the store…what’s the point of waiting? I have to get into that temple or whatever it is. But how do I get in? Is it accessible to anybody? What if there is security on the other side of the door? Well…I guess there is only one way to find out”. John was ready to move to the direction of the red building in front of him when the phone rang. It was Vic. The first instinct was to dodge again his calls, but a great idea crossed his mind. He picked up the phone call.

-Hey…where are you John? Why didn’t come to the office? Why aren’t you picking up my phone calls?

-Relax, man! I’ve been busy.

-I know you were busy, for crying out loud! John could hear at the other end a great, healthy laughter, a laughter so familiar already.

-Ok, ok, ok…you can laugh as much as you want. I don’t care.

-Hey, listen…I didn’t mean to insult you, but I want to ask you a question.

-Yeah, go ahead, Vic

-Was the honey sweet or really, really sweet? Another round of laughter was heard at the other end and John already felt like hanging up on his friend.

-I will hang up on you!

-No, no, no…sorry man! I just couldn’t stop it.

-I know, you bastard! I know! You couldn’t wait for an occasion like this one. Just couldn’t!

-Alright, man! Alright…I am chilling now. Sorry again. So, are in trouble again?

-As usual…another round of laughter (this time from both ends of the line) broke the silence and it was for twenty or so seconds before they both cooled down and started a conversation.

-Listen, Vic…this is what happened today. John tried to be as concise as possible as he started to tell the story from the moment he walked out of the hotel. The strange man who served them lunch and looked alike Mr. Wang, the lady from the cloths store who intrigued John at a level which almost made him lose his patience and this enigmatic girl who was now inside of this nice house, a girl he saw in the past, but he just couldn’t remember where.

-Wow! It’s unbelievable! The moment I leave you alone, you get in trouble. They both pulled another round of laughter from their chests, only to be followed by few seconds of silence.

-Vic, listen up please…I am going to take a photo of this building (which intrigues me) and send it to you. I need you to read whatever it says on the front, on each side of the door. Don’t hang up. We will do this real time.

-Ok. Go for it. I will wait.

It took few seconds before John made the picture and sent it to Vic.

-Jesus!

-What? What does it say? There was silence at Vic’s end, a silence which made John tremble from anxiety.

-It says: “The Order of the Nine Orchids”

John felt how a cold sweat was running down his spine and his hands were now shaking in a way which almost made him drop the phone.

-So this girl (a girl I just can’t remember where I saw before) went inside of the “Nine Orchids” building! What is her connection to the Order? Was she connected to his neighbors: Chang mao dashi or Jian Dashi?

-I don’t know, man…I started being afraid. Get your butt back to the hotel. John, you need to move. Zhaohui asked you to do it. I am asking too. You just wouldn’t listen, man!

-Vic, I don’t want to exhaust the negotiation venue with Chang mao dashi.

-John, he is going to kill you! And maybe myself and Zhaohui as well.

-Why would he do that?

-Because we are slowly uncovering his tracks, maybe we are not far away from finding that bug planted at Glenworth.

-How about the curse, Vic? Is it still supposed to close? Is there something special that must happen to close this curse? You heard Zhaohui…and Wang…what if this girl who stepped into this house is the key to unveiling the road to bring Chang mao dashi down?

– I don’t know what to say, man…what do you want to do? Are you still going to follow this girl?

-Yes. I need to figure out how I know her, where we met, what is her link to this story.

-OK. If this is what you want…by the way: are you coming to the office tomorrow?

-I don’t know. It all depends on how this night will end up.

-I understand…Vic pulled another laughter which made John uncomfortable in spite of the fact that it was Vic.

-Hey…I meant: depends on what I find out about this mysterious girl.

-I got it, man! Common John, you can’t take a joke anymore?

-Alright. I know you are a joker! I let you go, but I need you to do me a favor: please call Xiǎo lǐzǐ and ask him where he is. I told him to take Yue Ying to the hotel when she is done shopping.

-OK. By the way: who is Xiǎo lǐzǐ anyway?

-The cab driver who took us to Black Swan last night.

-That’s his name? I think I have his card…let me check. Bingo! I have his card, I will call him and then give you a shout back.

-OK. Thanks, Vic!

-Alright! Take care and stay safe out there. How are you going to get back to the hotel?

-Don’t worry, I will grab a cab. I am a big boy.

-Careful, John! There are areas in the town where there is never a good idea to be at night, especially if you are a foreigner.

-No worries my friend…no worries. I will make it through the night. I just need to know that Yue Ying is safe.

-Great! We’ll talk later, I guess.

After hanging up, John started weighing his options. “I am so close to the lion’s den! I have in front of me the famous “Nine Orchids Order” established by the greatest aristocratic families of the Ming Dynasty. And my neighbors are part of it. What does this Order do? What is “Nine Orchid”? What does it mean to belong to such highly regarded Order? If the people who are part of it are descendants of those great families, how are they coping with the official Chinese Political system? I am not sure that the Communist Party would allow this sort of Organizations to thrive. How come that they are out there in the open? I need to find out somehow what’s going on in there…but how? This is the question!”

John looked around him and his first thought was to find a spot where he could watch the entrance without being seen. A vendor selling all sort of Baseball hats, T-shirts, shirts, sweat pants and many other cotton made products had a stand by his side. The site of the westerner man standing so close to his business venue apparently awoke the entrepreneurial spirit inside the vendor, as he became extremely talkative. John was listening to him but in the same time he was assessing his situation into the field. This place could’ve been the perfect spot for spying and keeping an eye on the door. The decision was made on the fly: he started talking to the vendor. His English and the man’s Chinese, turned into a veritable mumbo-jumbo, a conversation which would’ve made a bystander die from laughing. But John had a plan and was playing according to the set strategy. After many minutes of arguing on the price for a baseball hat (John was obviously just trying to buy time while keeping his eyes on the building in front of him), he purchased a hat, put it on and then pulled the hoodie on top of it. Now his whole face was covered by the visor of the hat and his scouting was secure. In order to kill some time, he walked across the alley and bought two pieces of corn on the cob which was sold by an ambulant vendor. He gave one to the man from which he bought the hat and continued his watching duty. Patience was something he was not excelling at and this was a flaw in his game during his Football career. He wanted to make things happen, he always wanted to throw that ball and put points on the board. Running game was not up his alley and this was something he struggled with his whole sports playing career. But this time he knew he had no choice. He had to be patient. And so, he started another conversation with the vendor, who was now trying to sell him a cane. Initially, John burst into laughter and asked him: “Why do you think I need a cane to walk with?” But then an idea crossed his mind: “Why not buy it? I could use it either as a weapon, or to disguise an old man’s walk. Once he made his intention clear that he wants to buy the cane, another round of negotiations started which made John even more comfortable standing by the vendor’s stand and watch the door.

Eventually the girl came out and the same routine followed – as when she entered: she looked around and scrutinized the market. John pulled his visor down as low as he could and tried to take cover behind few hangers which had sweat shirts on them. His eyes were watching every movement the girl was making. Before she started walking down stairs, she turned around and made a “good bye” sign to somebody from inside who accompanied her to the door. John was dying to see the face of that person. His wish came through as the head of an old man with long, white beard came out through the door and started scrutinizing the market place himself. John thought that he recognized him as the old man from one of the pictures taken by his detectives last week, at the funeral where they followed his neighbors. He pulled the zipper of his sweatshirt all the way up and made sure that his visor was completely covering his face. It didn’t take too long before the girl passed by and headed back towards the store. John took as much cover as he could, but he never took his eyes off her. He started following her back not before giving the vendor two one hundred RMB bills for the cane; apparently was a good deal for the vendor, as he started bowing in a universal gesture of thankfulness and gratitude.

John could barely keep up with her, as he always had to stop and simulate bargaining for a product whenever the girl was turning around. Yes, the girl was well instructed not to leave any traces behind her and she was using her knowledge so well that made John murmur: “Damn she is good! She knows how to slide into the crowd only to come back up wherever to expect the least. I hope that my disguising wardrobe was good enough for the perfect cover”

It didn’t take long before she reached the store. Xiǎo lǐzǐ was not there anymore, as John suspected. The night was now covering the whole market and the vendors were preparing to close the shops. And so was the old lady, the woman “made out of stone” as John named her before leaving to follow the girl. John took again cover as much as he could, with the cap fully covering his face while the hoodie was providing another layer of protection. Soon, the lady closed the door and pulled the blinds down. The light was still left on in the store, but John could actually see her heading towards the rear of the store. “I am just wondering if there is a back alley behind the store…” John took a street that was running perpendicular to the main alley and then hanged a left. And yes, the back alley looked like a street which was used by vendors to bring their goods through; it was a loading and unloading alley. “Well, now which door do I guard? Which door are they going to use? Keeping in mind that the old lady closed the front door, I can only assume that this will be their exit. Let’s wait and see”

John was right. Both women eventually came out through the alley door and then stopped. The old lady made a phone call. Shortly a limousine showed up out of nowhere. John didn’t realize that the superb, hot, expensive car just passed by him. He froze! As he had not seen the car coming and passing so close to him, he assumed that the people inside of the limo recognized him in spite of the fact that he had a good cover behind some wooden skids and a pile of cardboard boxes. This was the limousine in which he saw few days ago his neighbors leaving for that funeral. A door in the back opened up and the old lady got in not before giving some instructions to the young girl. The limo departed and John could see the girl rapidly walking in the opposite direction. When she passed by, John ducked as much as he could behind the pile of cardboard packaging. He started following her and (as he was not familiar with the area) soon found out that it was hard to keep pace with her. The streets were not too dark as they were lit up to a decent level. However, John had to keep a safe distance not to blow his cover up. All of a sudden a taxi pulled in front of her and she got in. John was now desperate. “How am I going to keep up with this car? Think, John! Think!” He started looking around for help. A feel of helplessness encompassed him when all of a sudden a cab pulled right by his side. A huge sigh of relief came out of his chest:

-Thanks God! You are a savior, Xiǎo lǐzǐ!

-I know Mr. Parker! This time his face had a waggish look which made John burst into a huge laughter.

-Follow that car then, Mr. NASCAR!

It was all Xiǎo lǐzǐ needed: his foot hit the accelerator so hard that made John hit the head rest at an impact which pulled another (soft but this time angry) cry to himself: “No, I made up my mind! That’s it! This guy is (or becomes) mental when getting behind the wheel. Unfortunately he is always present when you need him! I should probably say: fortunately he is always at the right place at the right time. He took me to the place where I met Yue Ying, after all”

A smile came up on his lips:

-Hey Xiǎo lǐzǐ…did you get to the hotel alright? How is Yue Ying?

-Yes, she ok. She try cloths. Many clothes! A good and healthy laughter came out of his chest which made John smile and switch his attention to his mission.

-Don’t lose that car!

-No worry Mr. Parker. I no lose car. You good hands!

-Alright then. I know I am in good hands…at least until you step on the brakes, for crying out loud!

-What you say?

-Nothing. Please stay close to the car in front of you. That’s all.

-You no worry Mr. Parker! I drive!

“And that’s why I’m mostly afraid of…John grabbed the back of the front seat and prepared himself for the first occasion when Xiǎo lǐzǐ would step on the brakes.

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.