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The truth is, I didn’t actually have class in the afternoon, but I did agree to help Wei Yan this evening by interpreting for a negotiation. His translation company was expanding their services lately, from written translations to also testing out live interpretation. T University's French department had a good reputation and furthermore, our professors were well-connected. Thus, Wei Yan's first customer was a big shot.
"He's a board member of the French Antiques Committee who's here to buy medieval French antiques that were sold into China. Besides a base fee for interpretation, we'll also receive a 5% commission off the difference between the selling price and his bottom line. We could potentially rake in a lot of money!"
While listening to Wei Yan telling me more about the client, I uneasily deleted a text from Mo Xing Zhi. He’d written, "Lilian has already gotten the artist's contact information. The choice is all yours." Then he sent me another text, this time with the artist's cell phone number, residential address in France, and postal address. My hand trembled as it hovered over the screen, but in the end I didn't delete the second text.
I feigned attentive interest as I looked back up at Wei Yan and asked, "Then what will I be doing?"
Wei Yan seemed a bit embarrassed as he explained, "Well, here’s the issue: I can translate for the usual negotiation process without any trouble, but this case involves a lot of antique names and terminology. You seem to have a good grasp on all those stupid vocab words, so I wanted to call on you as a backup. If there’s any problems, you can help cover for me."
My uneasy, restless heart felt like a massively tangled knot. It was as if there was another me trying with all her might to break out of my chest. Stifling that agitated impulse, I turned to Wei Yan and nodded. "Sure. Although I’m not too familiar with antiques either, I looked up some relevant material last night on the internet. Hopefully I'll be of help to you."
Wei Yan smiled, and then rubbed my head intimately as if we were close friends. "If we do well, I'll take you out to eat continuously for a whole semester!" My inner thoughts became a jumble, I hadn’t anticipated that he would make such an overly-familiar motion. My mind had been preoccupied with that girl in the painting with the same face as me. Even now, that lofty gaze of hers seemed to still be staring at me, making it difficult for me to breathe.
Thus, when I eventually took a seat at the meeting table, part of my mind was still wandering elsewhere. In contrast, Wei Yan and our French client were deep in conversation, happily chatting away. I instead turned to gaze out the window at the flowing stream of passersby on the street,1 my heart hollow as if missing an important piece.
1 The original text uses 车水马龙, an idiom meaning “an endless stream of horses and carriages” or alternatively, heavy traffic.
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Yin Li. This is Mr. DuPont, of Quinn Antiques from France." While I’d been spacing out, the other party had apparently arrived. Wei Yan had already risen to greet them, but I’d been the last to notice.2 I followed Wei Yan’s lead and got up too., only to find that I’d still been a step behind. Wei Yan had to tug on my sleeve before I noticed and distractedly took a seat again. At the same time, I finally looked up.
2 后知后觉 is an idiom that’s the opposite counterpart to 先知先觉, which means “to be the first person to notice/understand”. The difference between the two is the use of 先 (first) vs. 后 (later), so 后知后觉 means to be the last to perceive something.
To my shock, on the opposite side of the circular table sat Yin Li. He wore a suit that perfectly displayed his tall, handsome figure. I stared, unable to tear my eyes away. He looked shocked for a split second when he noticed me too, but immediately calmed down and afterwards didn't look at me again. Yin Li only directed a polite, lukewarm smile in our direction. I recalled that earlier that morning, I’d learned from Wei Yan that the seller hadn’t really agreed with the amount of Mr. DuPont's initial offer.
As I stared at Yin Li, my heart that had until now been turbulent and agitated gradually returned to its natural rhythm.
Sadly, the negotiations went poorly. Yin Li himself didn't say much. His presence here today seemed to merely be for the sake of appearances. Instead, the negotiations on the price and terms of agreements were all conducted by the three assistants he’d brought along.
The talks were brought to a standstill over the issue of ownership rights. No matter what price we offered, Yin Li's assistant stubbornly insisted that ownership rights would be retained by them. They would only agree to rent out the antiques for exhibition in France. After the exhibition concluded, they must be returned. However, because one of the antiques was a family heirloom, Mr. DuPont wanted to purchase the items for personal keeping, not exhibition.
All by himself, Wei Yan had to interpret for both sides and simultaneously defend against the barrage of Yin Li’s three assistants. In wasn’t long before he was exhausted. At the same time time, I finally emerged from my daydream and started to observe the current situation.
Wei Yan had been tentatively sounding out Yin Li's acceptable price range while also being careful not to give away the price our side was willing to accept. He wanted to drive the price as close to Yin Li's lower limit as possible, but it was like haggling over a single stalk of green onion at the supermarket. Whoever was more ruthless, shameless, and black-bellied would win. Sadly, as a gentleman, he couldn't abandon his pride to kick up a ruckus, spit flying everywhere, squabbling over the price with Yin Li . Both sides could only negotiate calmly. But consequently, we didn't have any bargaining chips or advantages to use against Yin Li.
The negotiations had reached a deadlock. The opposing party refused to turn over the ownership rights and Wei Yan couldn't abandon his face to shamelessly pester them. He was still raising our offer price in a fruitless attempt to sway Yin Li.
I decided to put aside my worries and insert myself into the negotiations. Hopefully the distraction of work would settle my uneasy heart.
"Mr. Yin, since you aren’t willing to sell the entire set, won't you consider this?" I directed my words directly at Yin Li since he had the final say. Talking with his assistants was no good, the Kingly Way3 directed that in a negotiation you had to go for Yin Li himself.
3 王道 Wang Dao (The Kingly Way; The Kingly Way of Governance; Way of the King) refers to a Confucian philosophy arguing for an ethical, moral style of governance. Developed as a contrast to 霸道 Ba Dao (The Tyrannical Way) which argued for rule by force and conquest.
Sure enough, I caught his interest and he glanced over with a thoughtful look in his eye. As I stared at that face across from me, I was somehow able to shake off my prior worries. I began, "We are willing to relinquish the transfer of ownership rights for all of the antiques, instead we only want the rights for the one in question. In addition, we’re willing to make an offer slightly above market price, and include a price guarantee and other services for you."
Yin Li listened, yet he didn't express any opinion. He only gave Wei Yan and I a veiled look, then smiled. "The two of you must be college student entrepreneurs. You make quite the couple."
Wei Yan didn't correct him and instead brushed it aside like a Tai chi martial artist.4 "I hope that Mr. Yin can understand our circumstances as a newly formed business and go just a little easier on us."
4 打了个太极 or 打个太极 (“made a Tai chi move”) is used to criticize someone’s behavior. It implies that they’re being wishy-washy, evading responsibility and passing it on to others and/or being vague and not speaking honestly and directly.
Yin Li smiled, showing his teeth. My alarms immediately sounded. "Mr. Yin, you've misunderstood. Though we indeed are college student entrepreneurs, we’re only classmates. I actually have a boyfriend." As slow as I was, even I had realized that something was wrong with Yin Li’s words.
Wei Yan probably didn't understand why I bothered to explain myself to an outsider. He gave me a skeptical look while Yin Li only acknowledged me with an “Oh”. Yin Li neither seemed irritated nor showed any sign that he cared about this topic.
Yet I didn't dare relax my guard. All this time, Yin Li hadn’t known that I was moonlighting as an employee of Wei Yan’s firm, and his remark earlier was about as extreme as his temper could flare up.
I resorted to smiling ingratiatingly. "I only want to settle this negotiation smoothly and professionally with Wei Yan, then buy my boyfriend a gift with my first paycheck. I originally wanted to give him a nice surprise."
Yin Li gave me a meaningful look. Meanwhile, I could only ignore Wei Yan's expression on the side as I struck the iron while it was hot.5 "Mr. Yin, can you consider our offer? We can sign an agreement to compensate you for any losses you might incur within the next five years from having a piece missing from your antique collection. Moreover, should Mr. DuPont or any of his descendants choose to sell the antique, you will have first purchasing priority."
5 趁火打劫 typically means “to benefit from others’ misfortune”, but apparently it also has connotations of being quick and ruthless in decision-making; “to strike while the iron is hot”
"Sounds like it might be acceptable. Perhaps I can consider it." Then he turned and smiled at us. "I have 15 minutes left."
Wei Yan's face lit up. After all, it was hard enough to convince Yin Li to make a concession. I looked at him smiling, "What about this, Mr. Yin: Why don't we quickly wrap up the negotiations tonight so that you'll have one less worry on your plate."
Wei Yan quickly caught on and added, "I'll immediately book a private room at Polaris. I hope Mr. Yin can give me some face."
Yin Li picked up his tea cup and fiddled with it. "I have a dinner party scheduled tonight with Su Qing Dong of West Suburban Real Estate Developers." Then he directed his gaze back up at me. "If Miss Yan can give me a reason good enough to convince me to give up that meeting, I’ll come."
I held his gaze. "Mr. Yin, I love my boyfriend. I want to have my own career accomplishments alongside his, I don't want to just live off of his money. Even if I’m not that well-off, I want to buy him something with my own money. I believe that if you also have a girlfriend and love her, you’d understand my strong desire to conclude this negotiation."
My face burned but I still stared straight back at him with bravado. His furrowed brows smoothed out and his eyes curved. Revealing a beautiful smile, he said, "I understand."
Candle: OMG finally done… Really regretted making previous release short cause it meant that this one was even longer lmao… Also there were some metaphors towards the end that I just didn’t bother to make translation notes for ripppp :’)
Gonna be honest with you guys, it’s been so hard keeping up with translations now that school’s in full swing ;___; Thank god for our stockpile buffer lol.
Also if you are wondering where the author note is…. (Moment of silence) Author note has sadly been abandoned by us b/c they’re just too long for us to keep doing them anymore. We’d rather put our efforts towards the main story, hope you guys can understand!
Niang Niang: I definitely need to get on the translating grind again too. After finals, I’m going to no-life this translation and try to finish the translation part. I’m not sure when it will be edited since Candle does most of the editing, but if we finish the novel ahead of schedule, we’ll release the chapters early!
(Oh god, it feels like I’m promising too much x_x)
For those curious, our current status looks like this so far: Translated: Ch. 20 (48.30%) plus working on Ch 21 Edited: Ch. 20 (48.30%) Released: Ch. 13.2 (33.80%)
Candle (11/27): Luckily I took advantage of Thanksgiving break to grind through edits for chapter 15-18 (thanks Niang Niang for translating them) and then finished off ch 19-20 so now the buffer can last us almost up to I think March? My hope is that we can completely finish translations for the ENTIRE novel at some point so that instead of these weekly partial releases we can go ahead and do full releases + way more often, like maybe once a day or once every other day or smth. ATM it’s impossible for us to do releases so often because due to school, neither Niang Niang nor I can guarantee regular translation output *sob…