The Plough – Chapter 52

Yue Dingtang treats you really well.
After the Lunar New Year had been and gone, the news of Paramount opening had already spread across the entire city of Shanghai.

Shanghai was a place filled with hidden tigers and crouching dragons1藏龙卧虎 cáng lóng wòhǔ fig. talented individuals in hiding; concealed talent, so those who were able to gain a foothold in this city were anything but ordinary.

There were some who worked for the government, there were some who worked on the streets. Those people who one might sometimes bump into on the street, although they might look ordinary like one in a million of other residents in Shanghai, but who knows if their uncle, wife, aunt’s neighbour might be someone of renown. But to be able to open a nightclub in Shanghai was naturally extraordinary, otherwise, how could they keep the business open, with the gangs coming to pick up their ‘protection fee’ today and then the next day, the police would come and investigate.
Most dance halls in Shanghai were quite exceptional but to be like Paramount and have such a wonderful ambiance was even harder. Especially, on the day of the grand opening, Mayor Wu personally arrived to give a short introduction, the leader of the Green Gang had also personally arrived to join in the fun. Those who had some clarity would know from a glance, the owner of Paramount Hall had successfully managed to please both black and white sides of society, so there was no one who would come to cause trouble, otherwise they’d be met with an iron plate, leaving with their head cracked and flowing with blood2头破血流 tóu pò xuèliú fig. Badly bruised..

Paramount Hall had a very western name, meaning that not many of the ordinary citizens would remember it. Whilst substituting it with “Bai Le Men”3百乐门 lit. Hundred Pleasures/happiness Gate, it seemed to roll off the tongue, even those daughters of wealthy families who had come back from studying abroad were not inclined to use its original name, and called it Bai Le Men like everyone else.

Yue Dingtang had gone to Nanjing on his business trip for three days.
During these three days, Ling Shu was basically like an old bird let out of its cage. One day, he met Cheng Si for dinner and then went dancing. The day after that, he’d head over uninvited to Yue Manor to grab a free meal over there —— even if Yue Dingtang was not at home, they would still let him in. With Ling Shu present at Yue Manor, the place didn’t feel so empty and lonely, and Ling Shu always made himself at home. He also didn’t have the habit of not speaking whilst he was eating, so he would happily eat whilst chatting with the old butler about the latest gossip in town. The old butler really liked Ling Shu, and the food at Yue Manor did not drop in quality just because the master of the house was not present, the duck soup was still the same duck soup, and the scallion noodles were also still the same scallion noodles..

But without Yue Dingtang by his side constantly trying to test him, using coded messages in his speech, hiding knives behind his smile, Ling Shu felt completely relaxed. His days were passing by relaxed and content, he’d even hum a little tune before bed.

Miss Zhen’s birthday party was taking place at the newly opened Bai Le Men.

That evening when Ling Shu arrived, the entrance was already bustling with guests.

The cars went from the entrance and queued all the way round to the back until it couldn’t be seen. The doorman was in charge of opening the door for the guests, he had bowed so much that he was almost unable to straighten his back, and his hand was also getting numb, but the guests were still arriving like clouds, floating in like endless streams.

It was also possible to get a close look of all of the Zhen family’s contacts and connections this way.

Compared to the others who were arriving in their flashy manner, Ling Shu seemed much more low-key.

He didn’t arrive in a car, nor did he bring a present, his two hands were empty, he was so low-key that he was almost unpresentable.

Luckily he could still rely on his handsome face, after the Zhen family’s people checked his name on the invitation list, they let him inside.

Since it was built, Ling Shu had not gone in before, but he had gone past it a few times and only knew from the outside that it looked very sumptuous and magnificent, so the inside couldn’t be any worse off. Now that he had gone inside to see it with his own eyes, he realised that the place had exceptional charm.
There were multi-coloured decorative lights everywhere, the enormous dancefloor had been lit up and was glistening. This dancehall was the only one in Shanghai which had a spring floor installed which could support the weight of many people jumping, hopping and dancing upon it, even the dancer tips here were higher than other places.

In the middle was an enormous fountain with smaller and mid-sized dancefloors scattered around it, and usually these could be rented out separately but today, the entire Bai Le Men was only serving one guest.

That was Zhen Congyun.

Dressed in fabulous and luxurious western-style clothing, those who could be invited by the Zhen family naturally had a certain social standing and status. It would be impossible to have some poor beggar trying to pass off fish eyes as pearls4鱼目混珠 yú mù hùn zhū to pass off fake products as genuine to have snuck in uninvited. It was even less improbable that some wanted criminal would suddenly be recognised in this place.

Ling Shu began to wonder curiously, and guessed that in the entire establishment, he was probably the poorest person there.

He took a flute of champagne and hid himself in the corner, free and at leisure, as if he was just a casual onlooker, finding a method that no one else could understand to entertain himself.

If Yue Dingtang was present, he would have been able to see that Ling Shu was just being lazy.

The star of the night, Miss Zhen had yet to make an appearance, whilst the guests continued to pile in.

“Hey! Ling Shu?”

Someone patted him on the shoulder.

Ling Shu turned around and unexpectedly saw his old classmate whom he had last seen at the US Consulate event last time, Lin Dingkang.

“How come you’re here?” Lin Dingkang’s face revealed his surprise, and then realised that he had perhaps been a little inappropriate and quickly laughed and said: “Nice work Ling Shu, if one leaves for three days, then one must look at others with fresh eyes!5士别三日,当刮目相待 shì bié sān rì – expression for when you don’t see someone for a while and they have made progress so you can’t look at them with “old eyes”/old point of view.”

Lin Dingkang worked at the Consulate as an interpreter, even if he had not been able to receive an invitation for himself, it was easy for him to enter with the Americans.

Since Ling Shu was able to attend the US Consulate Event with Yue Dingtang last time, naturally, it was not a problem for him to come to Miss Zhen’s birthday party.

He was resolute that Ling Shu must have come with Yue Dingtang.

“Where’s Dingtang, I haven’t seen him around yet?” Lin Dingkang looked all around him.

Ling Shu: “He’s got a meeting in Nanjing, I came alone.”
Lin Dingkang was half-envious and half-joking: “He treats you really well, one day, if I get fired, I’ll look to you two for help, you must put in a good word for me!”

He was personally invited by Miss Zhen, but Ling Shu, seeing that he had misunderstood, didn’t bother to explain and just laughed and continued to chat with him.

“Didn’t you bring a date?”

“Nope, you neither? It doesn’t matter, even the dancers of Bai Le Men have been all hired by the Zhen family, and will accompany the guests in a bit. No need to tip them either tonight, whichever one you like, just go ahead and strike up a conversation. As long as there is someone who is willing, even if they don’t want to go out after, that’s fine too, haha!

“Who is that?”

Ling Shu suddenly pointed to the person who had just walked in.

Lin Dingkang: “That’s the lao-si6老四 old fourth of the Zhen family, Zhen Ai-nong, it’s Zhen Congyun’s fourth uncle7四叔 sì -shu = fourth paternal uncle (younger bro of father).

Ling Shu: “I was talking about the two beside him.”

Lin Dingkang: “Oh, they’re from the Japanese Consulate, one of them is an Advisor, Sada Miki8佐田三木 – I don’t know Japanese so I’m not 100% that’s how it’s read in Japanese – sorry if that’s wrong!, the other one I don’t know, but looks like Sada’s secretary.”

Ling Shu: “The Zhen family’s connections are indeed vast, there are people from the Consulates, the leader of the Green Gang is also here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Nanjing sent some people over to help Miss Zhen celebrate her birthday.”

Lin Dingkang laughed and said: “I know right, these people just have to wave their hand and they’ll get more than we eat in a year. Honestly, I really didn’t expect that Miss Zhen’s birthday would attract such a vast crowd, even those who rarely show their faces in public have turned up. Apparently, Miss Zhen is still unmarried and doesn’t have a boyfriend. If I could make her fall in love with me at first sight tonight, you never know I could become the ideal son-in-law of the Zhen family. Wouldn’t that just be the carp jumping through the Dragon’s Gate9鲤鱼跃龙门 – imagery is to convey someone climbing up suddenly above their social status!”

He chattered on for a long while before realising that Ling Shu was not actually listening at all, his focus was completely elsewhere, so he followed Ling Shu’s gaze.

There was a beautiful woman wearing a red wine coloured qipao, she had her arm looped through the arm of a middle-aged man. The two of them were whispering softly to each other, their heads were almost touching, it’d looked like a very intimate conversation.

The woman’s appearance was truly outstanding, already surpassing most of the women here, and was attracting a large number of gazes which would stop upon her for at least a few seconds.
“Oh, isn’t that He Youan, she came as well? That man next to her isn’t Shen Shiqi though, who is it?”

Lin Dingkang had never seen Mr Cheng before so not being able to recognise him was normal. Ling Shu did not reply. He swept another glance over to He Youan and Mr Cheng, and then moved through the crowds of bustling people and finally his gaze fell again on a corner not too far away.

There was a person standing there.

He was like Ling Shu a few minutes ago, just standing on his own observing people, and not interacting with the other guests.

No one took the initiative to go over and strike a conversation with him, as if he had been separated from everyone else by an invisible barrier.

Ling Shu and Lin Dingkang’s position was a few steps from the top of the stairs, so they had a good view but it was not too evident, the perfect position to watch other people.

He saw that that person was staring at He Youan, his face was expressionless but he didn’t look too kind.

That person’s entire body was dispersing a very negative energy.

“Who’s that?”

Ling Shu lifted his chin indicating the direction to Lin Dingkang.

“The one standing next to the liquor cabinet.”

Lin Dingtang looked over attentively: “It looks like someone who works for Lu Tongcang, his name is…. Something Jiang.”

Ling Shu: “Jiang He.”

Lin Dingkang: “Yeh, Jiang He!” This guy is completely ruthless, he kills people without blinking. Although, he has Lu Tongcang’s trust and he is very capable. If you don’t have to, it’s better to stay away from that guy.”

Through the crowd, the other seemed to sense that Ling Shu had been staring at him, and he looked over at them.

Lin Dingkang immediately retracted his gaze and turned around to take a sip of wine, pretending that nothing happened.

Ling Shu didn’t bother to hide, and even lifted his glass up to Jiang He.

Jiang He stared at him for another moment, and then coldly turned away, without showing any reaction whatsoever.

“Do you know each other?” Lin Dingkang couldn’t resist asking.

“Not before, but perhaps we do now?” Ling Shu shrugged his shoulders.

Lin Dingkang didn’t say anything, and thought that the other was looking for trouble.

Given their relationship as old classmates, and the fact that Ling Shu was close with Yue Dingtang, he decided to give him another reminder.

“Do you still remember the sensational case last year about the headless corpse, apparently the victim had offended Jiang He, and so he got his head cut off, but no one dared to investigate the case and it went away like that. He’s usually with Lu Tongcang – he basically takes care of all the loose ends that Lu Tongcang can’t take care of personally, his hands are not just spotted with the blood, they are drenched in it.”

Ling Shu patted him on the shoulder.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”

As he spoke, there was a commotion at the entrance.

Everyone turned around to see what was happening.

First, the entrance doors opened.

And then under the flickering starlight, a gorgeous hem of a ballgown was swaying along the floor.

Finally, everyone saw the elegant Zhen Congyun float in.

The crowd automatically made way, letting her advance unhindered, under the watchful gaze of all the guests.

Zhen Congyun was perfectly composed, she was not at all flustered, it was clear that this kind of situation was not new to her.

She went directly to the middle dancefloor, and then grabbed the microphone to say a quick word.

“Thank you everyone for coming to celebrate my birthday today, I hope you all have a wonderful time.”

After she finished talking, she made a signal with her hand, and the band that had been silent until now immediately started to play.

None of the guests moved.

They were all waiting for her to start dancing.

She had entered alone, and there were not many young and handsome men present.

Zhen Congyun had to choose one from the few present.

Those who had brought a date, were perhaps a little regretful.

The first dance was something quite special, those who thought they had the right to dance with her all exposed desire on their faces.

But no one took the initiative to actually go up to her and take her hand.

“Miss Zhen, could I have the honour of having the first dance?”

Ling Shu recognised this person.

That person’s family was a descendant of a family of generations of government officials. Since the late Qing Dynasty to the Beiyang government, and then through to the Republic of China, each generation of officials had never fallen. This kind of family background was a perfect match for the Zhen family with enough to spare.
But Zhen Congyun did not even smile at him, nor did she take his hand.

That person was a bit embarrassed, his hand left hanging in mid-air for a while, he had no choice but to retract it.

Then there were a few more egotistical people, who took the initiative to approach Zhen Congyun.

Among them was even a big shot of the Green Gang, as well as other Government officers.

But Zhen Congyun smiled and refused them all.

“This Miss Zhen has high standards.” Lin Dingkang couldn’t resist muttering.

“Choosing one of them, means offending the others, why not find and choose someone who is a complete outsider.” Ling Shu laughed.

Miss Zhen’s way of thinking was much more intelligent than others, she was indeed someone who had been capable of achieving great things as her father’s secretary.

Just as Ling Shu finished speaking, Zhen Congyun began to walk in their direction.

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1 thought on “The Plough – Chapter 52”

  1. This is ML discrimination 😂he is once again missing from his own novel while the MC is busy with beauties and canon fodders (who will target his life at some point probably)
    Thank you for the update!

    Reply

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