❗❗This translation is locked to proof of purchase from chapter 22 ❗❗ This is a passion project (i.e. a fan translation) and not a substitute for purchasing the raws, if you have the means to do so then please support the author.
This translation began in June 2021, so terms and quality can vary across chapter to chapter as I do not MTL – everything hinges on my mood and inspiration on the day. Plus, it’s been over a year, I am now more aware of MXS’s writing style as well as my own translation style.
⚠️ Mistakes highly probable, it needs a good scrub at the end – kindly lower your expectations. I’m Chinese but overseas-born so if you are a native Chinese speaker, I highly recommend you read the raws
if you can lol ! !
N.B. British spellings and punctuation throughout – if you’re used to US EN, you may find it odd but it’s not incorrect
(unless it’s a typo of course). I also have a tendency to comma splice and wrongly capitalise some nouns and change my mind later – sorry!
"We suspect that you are the murderer."
The thin and slender fingers were lighting rubbing the white jade opium pipe, which was then casually thrown on the bed.
The woman yawned, getting up slowly, and sauntered over to the sink.
She turned the tap on, fiddling lightly with it, with a blurred and languid expression in her eyes, her slender body was lethargic.
She heard a noise behind her.
The woman saw who it was in her mirror.
“Why did you come?”
She smiled lazily, looking at the person with alluring seduction1风情万种 fēngqíng wànzhǒng – i.e. using her feminine charm.
“It’s good that you came over, you can help me choose a Qipao, today…..”
She hadn’t even finished her sentence when the expression of the person in the mirror became horrifying!
“What are you….?”
The scream that was ready to come out was immediately blocked in her throat. She struggled and twisted desperately trying to grab hold of the other person’s hand. Her ordinarily perfectly maintained nails were chipping from the force, blood started to flow from a small gash, it wasn’t clear whose blood it was.
But, this only made the other person tighten his grip.
The woman unconsciously opened up her mouth wide!
But she was unable to take in the air she needed and instead sped up the dying process.
Her smile that could usually make a man fall head over heels for her, in this moment was hideous and twisted, the blue veins on her forehead were popping out, her eyeballs were flipping upwards towards the back of her head. Her world was darkening, and a thought flashed into her mind at this moment – the cloth wrapped around her neck that was being used to strangle were the pyjamas and robe she had just thrown on the bed.
That silk robe was the one that she had bought last month. She loved that robe and often wore it.
Her slippers were kicked aside, her body was being dragged back into the bedroom, her bare feet were leaving behind two moist trails on the floor.
The person strangling her didn’t have the least bit of tender feeling for the fairer sex, seeing that she was still trying to fight back made him pull even harder.
For a person who was just about to die, life is cut down to minutes and seconds.
Gradually, her legs stopped kicking.
Her fragrant corpse was laid limp on the bed, her almond round eyes were still open, looking straight up at the ceiling.
Not closing her eyes even in death2死不瞑目 sǐ bù míng mù – Idiom from the ‘History of the Three Kingdoms’ – it’s when someone dies with unresolved grievance, so they can’t RIP.
Ya Qi was happily fiddling with the makeup on her dresser.
She had been hesitating for a long time between the two brands of moisturisers – Shanghai Vive and Hazeline before finally deciding on the Hazeline that she had recently bought.
The bottle had a new packaging which when unscrewed had a somewhat astringent smell, but after smearing the product on her face, the pungent smell quickly dispersed.
Looking at herself in the mirror, Ya Qi’s mood improved.
To her, it was just an ordinary night amongst a thousand other nights.
However, this night, because of the arrival of a certain someone, incited a slight change.
“Ya Qi, Ling Shao has arrived, he wants to see you!”
Ya Qi turned her head back quickly, and quickly turned around, grabbing the unopened Tangee lipstick that was farthest away from her.
She opened it, paying great attention to detail, she put it on her lips whilst looking into the mirror.
This lipstick was newly bought from the western goods section of Yong’An Department store, she had had it for a few days but wasn’t willing to use it.
Da-ban, who was behind her, came closer smiling.
“So happy to see Ling Shao?”
Ya Qi checked herself out in the mirror: “I think you look happier than me, your mouth is almost reaching your ears!”
Da-ban said: “Ling Shao is good looking, well-spoken, and knows how to please, who wouldn’t like him? It’s just a pity that it’s a bit short of the real width, but such a handsome face is enough. I don’t know if he will pay for your outing fee, if I was 10-20 years younger, I’d prefer to lose money and go out with him!”
Ya Qi pouted her lips, didn’t say anything, just looked at herself in the mirror.
The flaming red lips brought out her beauty in the mirror.
Ling Shao should notice that there was something different about her tonight?
Da-ban glimpsed over at the shy young girl on the side.
“What you doing there in a daze, come out with me, Ling Shao has also brought a friend over with him!”
The young girl was called Luo Si, she had just accepted a job with the Florence Dancehall, she didn’t know the customs and was inexperienced.
“Who is Ling Shao? Is it a regular here?” She asked curiously.
The three of them passed through the brightly-lit corridor, the sound of their high heels tapping the floor with a sharp-clear rhythm.
Ya Qi didn’t feel like answering her question, and da-ban only answered with: “Quickly come!”
Luo Si could only say ok, she put great effort into trying to get used to the discomfort of the high heels.
She was originally from a relatively well-off family, and still in high school. A few years ago, her father died of a sudden illness, losing their chief provider, in one night everything changed. In order to provide for her younger brother to go to school, Luo Si could only choose to come to work at Florence Dancehall.
Da-ban had often seen and heard the stories of people who had a similar background.
In this era, the most indispensable thing is the involuntary floating around.
At least being a dancer meant that her salary wasn’t bad.
Luo Si3Luo Si= Rose/Rosie but since the text mentions it being half-EN, half-CN I’ve left it as Lou Si, a half English, half Chinese name, was given to her by Da-ban when she entered the company, and could be considered a stage name.
In Shanghai, Florence Dancehall4翡冷翠 fěi lěng cuì naturally cannot be compared with the dance halls such as Paramount, Heavenly Music Dance Palace, Metropolis, and Vienna Dancehall5Paramount still exists, Heavenly Music Dance Palace was torn down and the other I think she made up, but it is also considered small and famous, and it has a wide range of customers.
It was not like Paramount, those who entered there, were well-off, not any one off the street could get in there.
Luo Si very quickly was able to see the good-looking and well-spoken Ling Shao that da-ban was talking about.
He was wearing a black and grey suit, a neat hairstyle that was very popular with young people of today. There was no gel on his hair so it was light and fluffy.
His style of dressing wasn’t exceptional.
Luo Si had seen wealthy young men, and she had also seen gorgeously dressed peacocks.
But she knew for the first time that if a person is good-looking enough, it doesn’t matter what he wears, because he can wear ordinary clothes and still evoke extraordinary feelings.
There are many people in the world who rely on clothing, someone like Ling Shao that looks good in any clothing is one in a thousand.
Luo Si saw Ya Qi fly blissfully over to him like a small bird, surprising Luo Si, she was able to keep her elegance in the high heels.
Ling Shao had a lazy smile on his face: “Ya Qi, did you use a new lipstick? it’s much prettier than the last one!”
Ya Qi was indeed taken aback and delighted: “Oh you noticed?”
Ling Shao: “I saw it from a far, flaming red, your scent arrived before you did.”
Ya Qi said happily: “This is the newest colour of lipstick, there is only Yong’An Department Store that sells it in the whole of Shanghai. I asked someone to queue up in advance for me, they almost weren’t able to buy it!”
She walked over and hugged Ling Shao’s arm and started talking.
Luo Si was pushed towards the young man next to Ling Shao by da-ban.
She had come to work at the dance hall to dance.
But under the melody of the music, Luo Si was a little embarrassed and awkward, dancing clumsily with the young man.
By dancing, it closed in the distance between them. She heard from the young man she was dancing with that Ling Shao’s full name was Ling Shu, he was actually a policeman of the Jiangwan police station. The person that she was dancing with was called Cheng Si, he was Ling Shu’s colleague and close friend. Cheng Si was not bad looking, but next to Ling Shu, it was like comparing the moon with the stars.
Luo Si’s gaze couldn’t help chasing that figure with the lights of the dance hall once more.
Ling Shu danced very well.
His steps were vigorous and light.
With the absence of gel, his hair leaped slightly with the movement of his dance steps.
Up and down just like Lou Si’s young heart.
Her gaze fell upon the corner of his eyes.
A flittering light rose up slightly, and in a flash, burst open in her chest, creating a lasting impression that was crimson peach and dazzling.
“Good-looking people are indeed different, there are even dancers who lose their tips!”
Cheng Si murmured into her ear.
Luo Si took a closer look, and she saw Ya Qi slip a bundle wrapped in a small handkerchief into Ling Shu’s hands.
This year, the dance hall was divided into three, six or nine classes, and the guests who go to the dance hall are also divided into three classes, but even the most stingy guests have to open a bottle of wine for the dancers and spend a little.
Those who are generous, may even spend a lot of money, take the dancers out, and even rent a hotel room for them an entire year or buy them an apartment.
But this was the first time that Luo Si had seen a dancer lose money to a guest.
Originally quite shocked, she quietly calmed down when she saw Ling Shu.
Luo Si even thought to herself that she could understand, if she was in that position, perhaps she would also….
The song ended.
Ya Qi still wanted to continue, Cheng Si let go of Luo Si’s hand, urging Ling Shu to leave.
“Look at that baldy.”
When the elbow hit Ling Shu’s arm, Cheng Si lifted his chin and nodded forwards.
“What is it?”
“This morning, someone was pulling a rickshaw and wasn’t paying attention to the road and accidentally bumped into this bald guy, the baldy gave that guy a violent beating that the guy was limping when he left. It was a sad sight.”
Ling Shu: “Have you looked into him?”
Cheng Si smiled: “This person is so horrendous, I thought he might have had some criminal background. I looked into it, he is a mid-level police officer in my uncle’s squad, he has a strong backer behind him but not as good as yours!”
Ling Shu’s face stiffened up: “Who is my backer? I’m just a small-time cop who’s just sitting around minding my own business, don’t pull me into it.”
Cheng Si: “Okok, let’s not talk about you! In a bit, I’ll go over and rough him up a bit, what do you think?”
Ling Shu’s eyebrows raised, he suddenly had a sinister grin: “I have an even better idea.”
The bald guy was not happy with his dance partner.
He had been staring at Ya Qi from afar for a while.
But as she was already with a customer, and he wasn’t sure who the customer was, he didn’t dare to intervene.
Everyone knows that in Shanghai, there were plenty of talented individuals hiding, if it weren’t careful then you’ll bump into the wealthy son of an influential family or a comprader, these weren’t people that the baldy could afford to mess with.
Looking for an opportunity, the baldy caught hold of the waitress who was serving wine, gave her a small tip to find out more about the two people.
He was successful, after finding out that the two people were not any grand guests, and didn’t seem to be anyone in particular, he brushed off his worries and approached.
“What is your name? My surname is Huang, want one?”
The baldy reached out with his cigarettes, according to his own experience, it was better not to use his fists, that was just asking for trouble.
The other party would definitely ask where he worked, and then he would casually name drop his uncle, and then out of respect for his uncle, this beautiful dancer was definitely his tonight.
But what happened next was completely different from what he had imagined.
Cheng Si took his cigarette and then suddenly, made a noise of surprise.
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere before?”
The baldy was taken aback and smiled: “I don’t think so, you don’t look familiar at all.”
“I remember, you’re the wanted criminal who massacred a family of five last year!”
Cheng Si smacked his thigh, then grabbed Ling Shu’s arm, “Come take a look, doesn’t the portrait match the real person so much?”
Ling Shu looked the baldy up and down, and said in a serious voice: “It really does look like him.”
The baldy angrily retorted: “What crap! My surname is Huang, name is Song, listen clearly, it’s the Song in Mount Song, what have I got to do with a wanted criminal? I think you know who my uncle is!”
Cheng Si said dead earnestly：”Even if your uncle is the Mayor, it doesn’t have anything to do with you being a wanted criminal, we are police officers of Jiangwan police station.
We’ll have to trouble you to come with us down to the station, if you are proved innocent, naturally we will then release you.”
After he finished speaking, he grabbed onto the baldy’s wrist and reached for his handcuffs ready to arrest him.
The baldy was both surprised and angry, he would never have thought that on approach, he not only wasn’t able to hook up with the beautiful dancer but instead was getting arrested.
My uncle is Huang Ming, you know the Huang Ming of the Chinese Special Municipality’s Public Safety Bureau! Do you still dare to arrest me?! Be careful that you two don’t get fired by him, f*ck, you guys are certainly bold…. ouch!”
Ling Shu kicked him behind his knee.
The baldy who was making threats just now dropped with a thud to his knees, leaving his wrists open, a click, and the handcuffs had made contact with his flesh, Cheng Si smiled down at the kneeling baldy.
Regardless of whether the baldy’s uncle was from the Chinese Special Municipality’s Public Safety Bureau or from the Shanghai City Government, the two of them were arresting him and leaving him to toss and turn for a night to teach him a lesson, when the superiors came they would delay them, could this baldy still keep arguing?
The baldy was willing to submit, as his body was restrained, but mouth, however, continued to spout out insults.
Lingchu took a piece of bread on the side, and stuffed it in the baldy’s big mouth.
The world was at peace again.
“He is now a suspected felon, according to the law he must assist with the investigation, we will make a thorough investigation, don’t worry, we won’t wrongly accuse a good person.”
After Ling Shu finished talking to da-ban, he said to Cheng Si: “Ok, you take him back now, I will join you in a bit.”
Cheng Si stared at him: “That’s not right!”
“Miss Ya Qi had an appointment with me, I can’t randomly just leave, just let us be alright?”
Ling Shu smiled at Ya Qi, and the latter’s face immediately turned red.
Cheng Si’s teeth were itchy, he leaned forward, lowering his voice: “Three meals at De Xing Guan, and I’ll go right away!”
Ling Shu said moodly: “Are you trying to rob me? One meal, and not any more than that!”
Cheng Si: “Two meals, less than that and I won’t leave, I will just stay here with the baldy watching you two dance.”
Ling Shu waved his hand quickly like he was swatting a fly: “Two meals, get lost now!”
Cheng Si grinned, and didn’t regret that he didn’t get along with Luo Si much that night, he was content to drag the baldy away.
“Ok, from this moment on, this is our night.”
Ling Shu reached out his hand to Ya Qi like a gentleman.
“I don’t know if Miss Ya Qi would still like to dance again with me for another song?”
“I’d be honoured.” Ya Qi smiled.
But her happiness was fated to not last long tonight.
Halfway through the song, the sound of a small commotion came from the outside.
The first to greet them were a few of the senior dancers from the dance hall, and they soon came back in, and their complexions didn’t look good, tearing up the corners of their mouths forcing themselves to smile.
Aside from the ignorant Luo Si, a person like Ya Qi who has been around for a long time could tell at a glance.
Someone important had arrived.
Not someone like the baldy, but a person that no one could afford to mess with.
Many guests and dancers didn’t understand this, but they couldn’t help making a way for this person, consciously moving back to each side.
In front were two foreign policemen with high noses and deep eyes, commonly known as Yangbu6洋捕 yángbǔ, at first glance it was evident that they came from the International Settlement.
But what attracted the focus of everyone was actually the two people behind them.
One was a foreigner, the other was Chinese.
The Westerner was wearing a police uniform, he was a high level officer from the Municipal Police.
In recent years, in Shanghai and even in the rest of China, foreigners belong in a category of people who you mustn’t offend.
Wherever foreigners appear, simple things tend to become complicated.
And the Chinese man who walked side by side with him–
His face was under a hat, half-hidden by the shadow, only showing a vague outline, which made people wonder about even more.
Then he lifted his chin slightly.
His entire face was immediately exposed to the light.
Many people immediately uttered a sigh of admiration in their hearts, but this admiration was quickly frightened by the other’s aura, and it was temporarily unclear whether the admiration was due to his aura or his appearance.
Ling Shu and Ya Qi also stopped dancing and watching as the others passed through the crowds walking towards them.
Ya Qi was a little panicked, and began to search in her mind for the memory of when she might have offended the Municipal Police.
Ling Shu narrowed his eyes slightly.
The shiny leather shoes stepped on the checkered floor in an imposing manner.
Ya Qi was frightened, and naturally did not notice that the eyes of the man in the coat were on Ling Shu from beginning to end.
Ling Shu suddenly laughed lazily.
“Hey, isn’t that Mr. Yue? With your status, you don’t go to Paramount and Heavenly Music Dance Palace, why would you come to a small place like Florence Dancehall?”
Ya Qi was a little puzzled.
This sentence made it sound like the two of them were old friends.
Close but with a hint of animosity.
She still hadn’t really understood, when she heard the man in the coat speak.
“Du Yunning is dead.”
Ling Shu’s casual expression shifted slightly.
Then the senior police officer next to that man said: “We suspect that you are the murderer.”
a.) Clarification on Shanghai during the 1930’s
It was essentially divided in three parts due to the Treaty of Nanking signed at the end of the Opium Wars which meant that China had to concede territory to several foreign countries.
Hence there was the Chinese part, the French Concession and the International Settlement (mainly dominated by the Brits but included the Americans and Japanese). They each had their own police force – the International Settlement police was called the Municipal Police. Ling Shu (the MC) works for Jiangwan Station which a “district” bureau that belongs to the Chinese Special Municipality’s Safety Bureau, later chapters I shorten this to PSB.
Map and more details here >
b.) The Dancehalls
I translated these as dancehalls but from the chapter it sounds more like a hostess club since they seem to encourage drinking and some of them are “kept-women” lol… The Paramount still exists today so if you want to see that it’s here.
15/12/21 – Notes updated.
08/12/21 – Notes updated, map link added.
19/02/23 – Brand photos added.