The Plough – Chapter 24

He had only watched this scene play out for a minute but Ling Shu had already dug him a massive deep pit.
Other people didn’t know who Ling da-shaoye was, but as said person was handsome, eyes from all four corners of the room turned to look at him.

In a split second, Ling Shu and the person who spoke became the focal point of the whole place.

Everyone naturally first followed the sound of the voice and looked at the speaker’s face without much expectations. It was a normal appearance, the crowd were inevitably somewhat disappointed.

But then when they looked at Ling Shu, their eyes couldn’t help but sparkle.

In reality, when Ling Shu and Yue Dingtang had just entered the place, there were already quite a few young ladies of note who were secretly paying attention to him. But at a blink of an eye, Ling Shu went from the focal point to hiding in the corner. The place was lively, the young ladies had lost sight of him. As they are reserved young ladies, they didn’t dare to look around everywhere for him but then they didn’t expect to turn around suddenly and the one they were looking for was in the limelight.

Compared to Yue Dingtang’s calm and steady nature, the young ladies much preferred Ling Shu’s beauty and natural confidence.

Seeing Ling Shu for the first time, they would discover with shock, beautiful was not merely a word that was just used to describe a woman.

There was a kind of beauty that was like a refreshing spring breeze, simply unforgettable.

Ling Shu’s relationships with women were always really good, even when he went dancing at the dancehall, the dancers would tip him instead. Even two difficult characters like Ling Yao and Yue Dingtang, would lay down their biases for him, although this situation is not totally the same, but many superficial changes have no departure from the original standpoint.

This situation was no different.

Lin Dingkang was a little surprised by the unintentional effect.

He knew that Ling Shu was handsome. When they were at school, he was the topic of conversation and the crush of all the school girls. It seemed that now he hadn’t got worse, he even seemed a bit taller than he remembered.

“Long time no see, Ling Shu, how have you been?” He held out his hand.

“Great.” Ling Shu wiped the cake residue to shake hands with him.
“I heard that a few years ago you went to France to study abroad. After that I didn’t hear from you again. I thought that you had settled down over there.” Lin Dingkang grabbed two glasses of wine from the passing waiter and handed one over to Ling Shu. “When did you come back? You didn’t even ask an old classmate out for drinks.”

Ling Shu held up his glass: “Today works, let’s drink a glass now?”

The other party was taken aback then he laughed and said: “You haven’t changed! Someone as talented as you must have ended up somewhere good. Do you work for the Consulate or did you end up in Government?”

Ling Shu shrugged: “I’m just a Police Officer at Jiangwan Station.”

Lin Dingkang with disbelief: “How could that be, someone like you, you must be at least a Vice President by now?”

Ling Shu smiled bitterly: “My father passed away.”

Lin Dingtang remembered at this moment, since Ling Shu’s parents died, the Ling family had taken a nosedive, going from bad to worse. They had long disappeared from high society. It was just that before when he saw Ling Shu, the latter was so confident and at ease just like before, inevitably it gave off some misperceptions that the Ling family were still as before and Ling Shu was still the Ling Shu of back then.

But those who could be invited to this kind of event, the large majority of them had some sort of status. Even in dire straits today, it didn’t mean that he would be tomorrow. In his line of work, he had seen many government officials and politicians. He knew this very well and would never underestimate Ling Shu because of it, not to mention the fact that he was so talented that if he were to be picked up by some young lady of note tonight, wouldn’t he immediately fly up the ladder again?

You should know that back then, a certain Head of Committee was also able to climb the ranks because of his marriage to the Song family.
He was about to say a couple of placating words to get rid of some of the embarrassment and awkwardness when another voice was heard next to him.

“Dingkang, what are you doing here? Who’s this, introduce me?”

The visitor’s tone was arrogant, but when Lin Dingkang turned his head with displeasure and saw who the other man was, he knew that this person naturally had the capacity to be arrogant.

It was Shen Shiqi, of course his real name wasn’t Shiqi1十七 =17 but it was because he was seventeenth in the Shen family.

The Shen family was large and also had a large number of talented people. There were scholars and businessmen. Shen Shiqi’s uncle2叔叔 shush specifically father’s younger brother was in Nanjing and had a high-ranking position. It is said that he took care of the British and American relations and was very close to Madame Chiang, in fact recently he’d been extremely popular.

Shen Shiqi was also engaged in business himself. What he did was import and export. The Shen family had a big business. After the accumulation of wealth reachs a certain level, regardless of whether Shen Shiqi had extraordinary business acumen or not, as long as he was not stupid enough to offend anyone, usually there could be no major losses.

The people around him were naturally like stars orbiting the moon, always praising Shen Shiqi excessively, causing his ego to over-inflate. At the event tonight, it was like a gathering of celebrities but only one or two of them had caught his eye.

Lin Dingkang’s job was derived from his uncle’s relationships and Shen Shiqi completely disregarded him. He spoke casually like he was instructing a servant.

Lin Dingkang forced a smile: “Why did Shen gongzi come here? I just bumped into my old classmate and we’re reminiscing about the past!”

Shen Shiqi lifted up his chin and clicked at Ling Shu.

“You aren’t an interpreter at the Consulate are you?”
Lin Dingkang was not happy about this, but he didn’t show it on the surface and continued to introduce them to each other warmly.

“My high school classmate, surname Ling, name is Shu. This is Shen Shiqi, the renowned young master from the Shen family!”

He exaggerated the word renowned, as he was afraid that Ling Shu might accidentally offend this person.

“Hello Shen gongzi.”

Ling Shu had indeed understood, and immediately stretched out his hand.

However, Shen Shiqi glanced at him slowly but didn’t move.

Lin Dingkang chuckled at that moment, thinking to himself, has the one surname Shen come here to make trouble?

It was indeed that. Shen Shiqi didn’t acknowledge Ling Shu and instead looked back at Lin Dingkang.

“This classmate of yours, does he rely on his face to make a living?”

Lin Dingkang forced out a laugh: “Shen Gongzi is so funny. Ling Shu is a police officer!”

“Oh?”

Shen Shiqi’s eyebrows twitched and dragged out his speech: “He looks like a pretty boy, yet he isn’t a movie star but a police officer? Come, let me introduce you——”

He pulled along the beauty beside him, “You guys must recognize the film star He Youan, the biggest star of the moment. I reckon the whole of Shanghai knows her, she really admires you. Why don’t you let her help you find some work, you’ll be an instant hit, you’ll no longer need to be a policeman, you’ll be raking it in, in a month!”

Lin Dingkang had noticed a while ago that his female companion was He Youan.

Not only him, amongst the other guests, there were few people that didn’t know her.

He Youan hadn’t refuse a single fan who came over requesting for an autograph. She had signed a lot of autographs that night and didn’t hold any air of arrogance of a big celebrity. She just blinding followed Shen Shiqi.
Beautiful as she may be, in the end she was just someone’s plaything.

Nowadays, as it was before, being an actor was not a popular career. Although He Youan was well-known, in this kind of setting, all attention was only focused on her beauty and fame. With her at his side, for Shen Shiqi it was the same as running around showing off a precious flower vase3fig. she’s just a pretty face/trophy.

She heard what Shen Shiqi had said, laughed and then said quietly to him: “Stop joking around.”

Shen Shiqi grabbed her slender waist and said arrogantly:“Didn’t you say that he was good-looking? Wouldn’t it be a pity if such a face didn’t benefit the masses?”

Lin Dingkang, hearing his hostility, quickly tried to smooth things over:“Ling Shu is a police officer, ensuring public security and maintaining social order, catching all these thieves and villains so that we can leave our homes with ease. This is also a benefit to the masses!”

And then said to Shen Shiqi: “Ling Shu also studied abroad. Once upon a time when he was in school, his achievements were also first-rate!”

Those who could study abroad nowadays, aside from private school students, were those from elite families. Lin Dingkang said this to remind Shen Shiqi to take a step back.

But Shen Shiqi didn’t buy it entirely.

“Study abroad? Stop. Nowadays, anyone can borrow a bit of money from relatives and then go abroad to study whilst working part-time. What exactly did he study? A dragon gives birth to a dragon, a phoenix gives birth to a phoenix. But the son of a rat in the same way will still just dig holes? Mr Ling has the appearance of a talented man. I see that being a police officer is certainly a waste. If you don’t want to be an actor, I have a friend to recommend to you. He loves men like you, young and beautiful and those who are enthusiastic. If you are willing to work as his subordinate for a few years, I guarantee it’ll be better than spending another ten years at the police station, what do you think?”

His eyes burned into Ling Shu, not satisfied until he saw the other’s embarrassed face.

But Ling Shu didn’t exhibit any reaction at all. He even slowly picked up a glass of champagne and drank the whole thing before he spoke.

“Thank you Mr Shen for your kindness, this kind of work indeed sounds great but it’s just a shame.”

Shen Shiqi slowly: “What’s a shame?”
Ling Shu: “It’s a shame that I am accused of murder, and the case concerns the death of three people. These three vengeful ghosts are haunting me day and night I—”

He threw an indistinct laugh towards Shen Shiqi, terrifying the other people and then unexpectedly he walked up closer.

Shen Shiqi backed up two steps.

“Surely I shouldn’t go on and harm other people and add a few more deaths to my sentence?”

“Officer Ling…. you’re the childhood sweetheart of Du Yunning?!”

It was not known which lady had said it first but she had unveiled Ling Shu’s identity.

Everyone’s faces turned white and they all retreated three steps, lest they be stabbed by Ling Shu if they slowed down.

His immediate surroundings became empty.

“What is happening here?”

The Chinese words with a foreign accent floated into the air. Everyone knew that this was the voice of the Consul-General, they gave way one by one.

Everyone looked at Pence.

But Ling Shu was looking at the one standing next to Pence, Yue Dingtang.

The two of them stared at each other, crossing swords without saying a word.

Ling Shu: You’ve been watching this play out for so long, was it fun?

Yue Dingtang: It’s okay. I originally thought I’d be able to see you completely bewildered. This was a little less exciting.

Ling Shu finally understood why when he was at school he really despised Yue Dingtang.

Not because this guy was his former love rival. Nor was it that he was always comparing himself to him in every way, whether it was in achievements or in family status. It’s because he had this look on his face every now and then, like a smile but not a smile, like he was mocking him but also not. That face made you want to smash a big bottle over his head, it made you just want to wipe that look off his face first before saying anything else.
As he got older, that face that needed smashing got more and more intense.

Shen Shiqi came back to his senses, his face immediately sunk. He was a little annoyed that Ling Shu would dare to intimidate him.

Thanks to his family status, he was also not afraid of the British or American Consulate, so he asked right there and then.

“Mr Pence, your dinner party is noble and grandiose, and is for the elites of society. How come now even a murderer is allowed to attend? Apparently he’s a policeman? I remember that the Chief of the Shanghai Public Safety Bureau, Chief Huang, is also here. Chief Huang, don’t hide behind others. Come out and explain to us!”

Chief Huang was embarrassed, he’d never have thought that he’d have to show his face under this kind of situation.

“Well, Master Shen is making things difficult for me. Du Yunning’s case happened in the International Settlement, so I am not handling it. Plus I have so many people who work beneath me, how can I recognise every single police officer?”

Outside, there was bone-chillingly cold. Inside, warm air circulated inside the room, so warm that Chief Huang almost had to take out a handkerchief to wipe off the beads of sweat on his forehead.

Shen Shiqi laughed and said: “That means that Chief Huang wants to push the blame elsewhere?”

Chief Huang didn’t want to offend Shen Shiqi for such an insignificant person, so naturally he said several times of course not and then looked at Ling Shu.

“You, come over here!”

Ling Shu was well fed and had drunk enough so he put down the wine glass and walked over there and saluted him.

“Hello Chief Huang, Officer Ling Shu from Jiangwan station reporting to you!”

Chief Huang’s face darkened, it was only natural that he should be angry with Ling Shu for he had lost all face4Reminder: Mianzi or face refers to a Chinese sociological concept that links the ideas of honour, dignity, self-worth and prestige that a person feels when in social situations. Losing face = becoming the butt of the joke/laughing stock or disrespected. Giving face = being respectful tonight.

“How did you get in here!”
Ling Shu: “In response to Chief Huang, someone brought me in. Before we came, he told me that you would also be here. I told him that I am suspected of murder and I must stay at the Municipal police and wait there and shouldn’t come here to cause you trouble. But this person said that tonight there wouldn’t be a single person who wouldn’t give him face. He said that even you, Chief, once you see him you would also need to be courteous, then I would believe it. Who knew this person was talking nonsense. Shen gongzi you being like this, isn’t it completely disregarding his face?

Yue Dingtang: ……

He had just watched this scene play out for a minute but Ling Shu had already dug him a massive deep pit.

Chief Huang: “Who? Who said that! Tell him to come out!”

“It was me who brought him.”

Yue Dingtang finally came out.

He smiled slightly at Chief Huang: “My surname is Yue, my elder brother is Yue Dingqin. He held office in Shanghai last year, you should also know him.”

This name Yue Dingqin, it was not just Chief Huang, but the majority of the people present also knew this name.

Chief Huang’s face changed immediately from anger to astonishment, from awkwardness to terror, all in a matter of seconds.

“Oh it’s the Yue family’s er-shaoye!”

Yue Dingtang laughed: “My er-ge has gone up North!”

Chief Huang laughed nervously: “Oh it’s Yue san-gongzi, your esteemed elder brother and I could be regarded as quite close. It’s a pity since he went to Nanjing. We haven’t been in contact much, today could be counted as a stroke of fate!”

Yue Dingtang nodded, not caring whether what he said was true or false.

“Allow me to do the introductions. This is the Consul General of American Consulate in Shanghai, Mr Pence, and this is the Chief of the Shanghai Public Safety Bureau Police, Chief Huang, who was promoted not long ago due to his remarkable merits.”

Chief Huang quickly straightened his necktie and held both his hands.

“Mr Pence, I am Huang Qi, nice to meet you!”

Pence gave him a reserved hand shake, his line of vision fell upon Ling Shu and Shen Shiqi.

“I just heard that there was a misunderstanding here just now, has it been resolved?”

Although Shen Shiqi was not timid in front of the American, he wasn’t as daring to go as far as to wreak havoc on someone else’s territory.

Originally it was just because he didn’t like the look of Ling Shu, so he had wanted to teach him a lesson. Usually with a trivial matter like this, in the end, the other party would bow and bend his knee seeking forgiveness from him, as for whether he would forgive them, that was down to his mood at that moment.

But this time it had not gone his way and had even slipped out of his control.

“It’s resolved, it was a misunderstanding.” Shen Shiqi said reluctantly.

Pence nodded, he didn’t care if it was fake or not or whether it was reluctant or not, he turned around on the spot to chat to the person next to him.

“Mr Pence, this is my old friend, old classmate, Ling Shu. Like me, he has also studied abroad in France, although at the moment he is linked to a murder investigation but we already have proof that he is innocent.”
Since he’d already made the first step, Yue Dingtang went all out to introduce Ling Shu.

Pence nodded and smiled, stuck his hand out and said something to Ling Shu.

Ling Shu paused for a moment and then replied.

Chief Huang was baffled so he pulled over Lin Dingkang who was standing next to him to ask: “What language are they speaking? English?”

Lin Dingkang: “French. The Consul-General spoke first. He said I believe that the facts will restore a gentleman’s innocence. Ling Shu replied with thank you.”

Chief Huang scratched his head: “So he’s really studied abroad then why did he become a police officer?”

Lin Dingkang didn’t mind gossiping about his old classmate and said:“You have no idea, back then the Ling family was an extremely prestigious household, but then they had a reversal of fortune. This person, you definitely can’t write him off!”

Chief Huang in a flash. “It’s rare to encounter such misfortune and still be so strongly determined to succeed. That is indeed youth,he should be praised!”

Lin Dingkang smiled but didn’t speak.

What did being a police officer have to do with being strongly determined to succeed, in the end it was all to do with his relationship with Yue Dingtang. But since Chief Huang said it like that, he would listen just like that. Lin Dingkang was instead thinking about finding an opportunity to speak to Yue Dingtang to curry favour with his old classmate.

A large thunderous storm became tiny raindrops. Since the Consul General himself didn’t mind, of course the others pretended that they had forgotten Ling Shu was a suspected murderer, but either way with his good looks, it was enough to put people’s mind at ease and getting closer to him.

Some of the more courageous upper class ladies even came up to speak to him.

In the whole place一一the only person losing face and feeling resentful was Shen Shiqi.

Although He Youan, who was beside him from start to finish, was calm the whole time, he still had the feeling that everyone around him was laughing at him.

“What are you laughing at?” He suddenly looked at He Youan and asked her coldly.
The other party was just listening to Yue Dingtang and the others chatting and the corners of her mouth had turned up slightly into a faint smile.

Being put on the spot, He Youan, she feigned surprise and quickly wiped the faint smile off her face: “Mr Shen, I didn’t laugh.”

Shen Shiqi groaned: “Don’t think that just because I brought you here, you are able to climb up the ranks. In their eyes, however famous you are, you are still just a lowly actress!”

His voice wasn’t quiet, the people around them all heard.

He Youan’s face turned white, she bit her lip trying to keep her emotions in check.

Ling Shu was about to say something, but Yue Dingtang grabbed his shoulder.

He looked into Yue Dingtang’s eyes, the latter was calm and collected but never moved his hand.

The meaning was very explicit, telling him not to get involved.

He Youan and them were strangers and they didn’t really know what relationship she had with Shen Shiqi. Rashly making a move would not necessarily be the hero saving the beauty but could actually turn him into the butt of the joke.

But Ling Shu still intervened.

In front of He Youan’s face appeared a pen and napkin and a very pleasant hand.

“Miss He, my elder sister is a fan, can I get your autograph?”

“Of course!”

He Youan quickly accepted the pen and napkin, threw him a weak smile and hurriedly signed her autograph.

“Should I write a few words for your sister?”

Ling Shu: “If it’s convenient that would be even better, my sister’s name is Ling Yao, Yao in remote, just wish her to be healthy and safe if you want.”

He Youan wrote it quickly, her handwriting was graceful, it was clear that she had practised before.
“Can you write me one!”

“I want one too!”

“Please sign a few more, I’d like to give it to my friends.”

The young upper class ladies and gentlemen seeing this play out, quickly took out their own autographs that they had received from He Youan previously.

The crowd squeezed Shen Shiqi to the side.

The latter glared at Ling Shu for a few seconds as if to commit this person to his memory before turning to leave.

“Another enemy made without reason.”

Ling Shu had just wanted to turn around and grab some wine but heard Yue Dingtang’s voice behind him.

“Shen Shiqi is rude and overbearing, charging around violently. He’s not bothered about the consequences, you offended him for a beauty. The beauty will be grateful but will she give you her heart?”

Ling Shu didn’t reply, he just bent over to sample all the different flavours of wine.

“Apple or orange?”

Yue Dingtang:“……Orange.”

Ling Shu gave him a glass of orange flavoured wine, taking an apple flavoured wine for himself.

“Seeing injustice and lending a hand. Isn’t this the work of a gentleman? It doesn’t matter whether the beauty is grateful or not, as long as Mr. Pence sees it. Didn’t you see him expressing his appreciation for me just now?”

Yue Dingtang twitched his eyebrows: “However powerful Pence is, he has no say with the police, so what’s the use in creating a good impression on him?”

Ling Shu: “This suspect must at least accomplish two good deeds today. Otherwise, how can I be worthy of your original intention of bringing me here? Alright, now I need to curry favour with Chief Huang.”

After he finished talking, he really did pick up the wine glass and head over to Chief Huang.
“If I hadn’t taught you how to say thank you in French, would you have been able to deal with Pence?” Yue Dingtang asked pensively.

Ling Shu didn’t turn around, he just lifted his hand, and waved bye to him.

Yue Dingtang frowned.

After what happened before, Chief Huang’s attitude to Ling Shu had completely changed.

Chief Huang was an unrefined person. To be able to climb up to the Chief position was all down to boot-licking and luck. He was wholly incompatible with this band of literary scholars, gentries, and aristocrats, he only wanted to fawn on them but they had no interest in listening to him. Fortunately, he ran into Ling Shu. They ended up chatting a lot on topics such as food all over China, the most recent cases, and they actually got on quite well with each other.

Until Chief Huang went to the bathroom and someone else came to the balcony.

“I must apologize, just before Shen gongzi really shouldn’t have put you on the spot. It’s just because I praised you in front of him which put him in a bad mood, it’s all my fault.”

He Youan apologized sincerely, almost to the point of bowing down to him.

Ling Shu held up his glass: “No worries, in order to help a beautiful woman get out of a tight spot, is something that all gentlemen should do.”

He Youan smiled.

Ling Shu touched his lips and reminded her: “Your lipstick is a little smudged.”

He Youan quickly took out a small mirror and lipstick and started to fix her makeup under the balcony light.

A curious coincidence – Ling Shu saw the lipstick in her hands.

Under the burning light, memories came to the surface and a thought flashed across his mind.

The truth was concealed behind a curtain, layer upon layer of fog just waiting for him to unveil it.

“This lipstick?”
He Youan looked up at Ling Shu to see him staring at her lipstick, and couldn’t help smiling.

“What is it, do you want to buy it for your girlfriend? This is a new product from Danqi. Rose red,it’s a limited edition colour. The packaging and shape is also not the same as the other colours,it’s probably not possible to buy it anymore. If you want another colour, I have a few sticks that I haven’t opened yet that I bought before. When I get home I can get it delivered to you.”

Ling Shu: “Limited edition, is it expensive?”

He Youan: “It costs the same as the other colours but it’s just very difficult to buy. It was sold out on the same day as it was released. I was able to buy it thanks to someone going there for me.”

Ling Shu: “When was it released?”

He Youan: “I heard it was first distributed in the West three months ago, but China is far from the West, so over here it was released January 25th.

January 25th, last day of the Lunar Year.

It was also the day Du Yunning died.

The lipstick in the hands of He Youan was the same one as the one that the maidservant Ah-Lan had dropped that day at Yuan Manor.

But Ah-Lan had said that Du Yunning had gifted it to her.

But at that time, Du Yunning was already dead, unless it was a ghost that gifted the maid the lipstick?

So, that meant Ah-Lan was lying!

Whilst he was deep in thought, Yue Dingtang suddenly came over.

“Come with me to the station now!”

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