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One Life, One Incarnation: Beautiful Bones (一生一世美人骨) — Epilogue 3 and Author’s Afterword *NOVEL COMPLETED*

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Attention Toupai and Really, Really Miss You lovers! I had promised the epilogue of Really, Really Miss You after the conclusion of this story, and next scheduled posting, I’ll be keeping my word. 🙂 For the fans of both Beautiful Bones and RRMY, you might be even more pleasantly surprised… just saying.

This is it, the end of the novel! 7 months of translating. Thank you to all my readers, whether you followed from the very beginning, came in halfway through, or have been waiting for me to mark it with “completed” before you start, and special thanks to all of you who dropped by with comments. You guys provided half the motivation behind this translation, and I am grateful. For those of you who have been waiting to binge read (or re-read) this all in one go, please drop a comment and let me know about your reading experience. I found the way I experienced the novel was quite different between reading continuously versus one chapter at a time.

However, don’t completely say goodbye to Zhousheng Chen and Shi Yi quite yet. I have a fun Beautiful Bones post coming up in one week, on my next Friday night/Saturday morning post.

Quiz time: there should be one line in this epilogue that some of you had read previously but in another novel. (Gee, which novel could that be, considering I’ve only translated one other novel on this blog? 😜) Which line is it and where exactly did you read it?

Another full circle for our couple, but Zhousheng Chen is changing the meaning of “continue.”

Epilogue 3 – Together to the End of Our Days[1]

It was the third anniversary of Wenxing’s death when they at last returned to the old family manor in Zhenjiang once again. As they were heading back from the gravesite, Zhousheng Chen unexpectedly made the suggestion to offer up incense at the temple. She was extremely surprised by this but did not disagree, only holding their youngest child, Zhou Mushi on her lap as she looked at him with a somewhat amused expression. “My scientist, why are you suddenly enlightened?”

He smiled and was about to say something when Zhou Mushi grabbed his finger.

The little one-year-old child opened his mouth and was about to close it around the finger but was stopped by Shi Yi, who took a disinfecting wipe and carefully cleansed each of Zhousheng Chen’s fingers before stuffing the index finger into her son’s mouth…

This great scientist who studied the planet, Venus had been utterly reduced to being his son’s toy…

 

As she played with her son, the question she had asked earlier slipped from her mind.

Zhousheng Chen watched her and smiled, not continuing what he had been saying either.

 

The older sisters, that pair of two-year old twins, were a little more energetic than their younger brother. Because they had already learned to walk, they enjoyed sauntering slowly around the temple grounds. Uncle Lin and two other attendant girls were present to take care of them, so this was not worrisome.

Shi Yi did not really want the children to enter into the great hall of the temple and carefully handed her son over to the wet nurse accompanying them before stepping into the hall alone.

She was a believer of Buddhism, so when she offered up incense, she was always genuinely reverent. With palms and fingers pressed together prayerfully, she knelt on the kneeling cushion, which already had two deep permanent indentations on them, and bowed three times worshipfully to Buddha. When she opened her eyes, she discovered a figure had also knelt down beside her.

It, surprisingly, was Zhousheng Chen.

Incredulously, she watched him as he pressed his palms and fingers together, closed his eyes, and said a prayer to Buddha of whch she did know the details of.

All these years, she had never seen him bow in worship of Buddha before… This change was simply too astonishing!

 

The Buddha was smiling as he looked down from on high at the two of them in that great hall. Shi Yi stared unblinkingly at Zhousheng Chen until he lowered his hands and opened his eyes.

“When did you start believing in Buddhism?”

He smiled, “Three years ago.”

“Three years ago?”

“Yes, three years ago.” He stretched out an arm and helped her back up before saying, “Three years ago, you were unwilling to wake up and remained in your state of slumber.”

“And then?” she anxiously pressed.

“And then I brought you back to Shanghai. When I was tidying the room, I found what you had written.”

“I know that… But what does it have to do with you believing in Buddhism?”

 

“You would not wake up. I desperately tried everything, and so, I came here,” he told her in a low voice as he looked back upon the memory. “When I came, it was nighttime and there was no one. And then, I stood right here, remembering that we had once discussed our beliefs and religion. I had told you I was an aetheist.”

She gave an “mm” in reply. It was almost as if she truly could see him standing opposite the Buddha, here, in this great temple hall, amidst the flickering lamplight.

“That time…” he chuckled, “I stared face-to-face at him for a long time, but in the end, I still gave in. I asked him to let you wake up. If he let you remember everything from the past and allowed you to come to my side, then you were supposed to wake up, to be with me.”

“Mm…”

Since childhood, he had come numerous times to this ancient temple of a thousand years.

He had once told her he was an atheist, always only standing outside the main hall of the temple and simply enjoying the scenery.

 

Three years ago, when she had awoken and he had told her he believed everything she had written, she had already been unable to believe it. Three years later, to hear him describe how that night, on bended knee, he had knelt before the Buddha and pleaded with him to allow her to rouse from her slumber…… Shi Yi felt a little ache in her heart even now.

It was pain. Only the pain of loss could bring about such a great change in a person.

Gently, she tugged at the end of the sleeve of his button-up shirt. “Your words, they’re making my heart really ache…”

He laughed.

“It’s true,” she softly reaffirmed. “It’s aching tremendously…”

When your love for someone had infused into your very bones, your hope was that, from his thoughts and beliefs to his physical body, this person would not be constrained by anything, that everything he did was according to his own will and desires. She even felt that causing him to change from believing in science to believing in Buddhism was making him suffer an injustice…

“Shi Yi.” He could not hold back a smile.

“Hmm?”

“We have three children,” Zhousheng Chen reminded her. “I think it’s not necessary for you to allocate some of your motherly love to me. It will be fine if you leave it all for them.”

Well, if he was to describe it that way… She burst out in mirth.

They walked out of the great hall.

Shi Yi suddenly remembered something and asked, “Now, when you look at the Buddha, what can you see?”

“You are asking me, has my answer changed from before?”

“Yes. I’m curious.”

Zhousheng Chen turned his head to glance at the Buddha in the temple hall. “Compassion. It is still compassion, but this compassion feels more humanized.”

She chuckled at this. “How come the way you’re describing it is so strange?…”

“Or perhaps, it is not simply a compassion towards mankind.” He turned his head back and slipped his arm around Shi Yi’s shoulders, guiding her so they were both completely enveloped under the glow of the sunlight. “It is also a compassion directed towards me, personally. He has at last… let me off, for once.”

She broke out again in amused laughter.

Since having children, more and more, Zhousheng Chen enjoyed making witty remarks.

She even felt that this man and the one she had met that first time in the airport were two completely different people. Then, though he had been polite and would also smile, there would be a sense that you should not dare speak to him. But now… Hmm, the ways of the world had finally managed to infect him.

 

Lunch was in the restaurant at the foot of the mountain. This was the first time the children had ever had a vegetarian meal.

Their two daughters were already able use spoons and would haphazardly feed themselves, but their youngest son still needed to be fed. Shi Yi was holding him, quietly coaxing him to eat, when voices could be heard successively giving respectful greetings of “Youngest Young Master.”

Someone drew aside the curtains and Zhousheng Ren strode in.

Before he had managed to halt his steps and stand still, the two little girls were already incessantly exclaiming, “Little Uncle!”

“Who should I pick up first?” There was a seldom seen smile in Zhousheng Ren’s deep, black eyes. “How about I don’t pick up either of them? That will be a little more fair.”

Shi Yi smiled, “It’s up to you. The more important thing is that you hurry and sit down because, otherwise, the two of them are about to throw down their spoons and climb up out of their chairs.”

This youth, who had not even reached the age of twenty yet, was already quite a bit taller than her, and as he stood there, he carried an imposing air.

However, he was very deferential to this eldest sister-in-law, immediately pulling out a chair and taking a seat. “Alright, I’ve sat now. You two, be good and eat.”

He had just picked up his chopsticks before the two little girls had already tossed their spoons aside. Okay, fine, they really couldn’t be controlled anymore.

Shi Yi was frustratingly helpless in this. Zhousheng Chen was never one to force the children to eat, nor did he get involved in these matters. In the end, their two daughters had beamingly snuggled themselves up to Xiao Ren, and so, he did not eat either. With one in each arm, he sat down over on the couch to play with them. “Big Brother, how about you give me one of your daughters?… Forget it. Just give me both of them. I guarantee I will bring them up well, especially well.”

Zhousheng Chen merely shook his head, not even bothering to pay any attention to him.

 

By the time they returned to the old manorhouse, it was afternoon, when the bright sun’s strong rays beat down from high above. Shi Yi was in the room and had changed into comfortable clothing while Zhousheng Chen sat down in the open-plan study on the second floor and began to check his emails. When she stepped out of the room, she heard him talking on the phone.

She was about to walk over to him when she heard their son’s cries from waking up, and so, she had to turn back.

The instant he was in her arms, he immediately smiled.

Shi Yi was unable to put him down, so she cradled him in her arms, walked back out, and sat down beside Zhousheng Chen.

Vaguely, she could hear a familiar voice. It should be Mei Xing. The two were discussing matters she did not understand, so she simply sat with him and entertained their son. While the naughty little boy was merrily frolicking away, Zhousheng Chen had already hung up the phone and was now watching with great interest as she amused their son in play.

“Done talking?” she asked offhandedly.

“Yes, done.”

“That good friend of yours sure works hard and without any complaints.”

“He is earning money for it. It is not as if he is working for me for free.” Zhousheng Chen smiled, stretched out his arm, and patted her lightly on her forehead.

It was a very natural motion, but in the end, he halted his action. The “beautiful maiden, fair like jade” was there beside him. His hand slid down from her forehead, and crooking his index finger slightly, he caressed her cheek with it. A warm finger and a suggestive, yet tender action. Shi Yi had always been completely defenseless against such things. She surmised that when she was before him, she would forever be like a young girl who had just awakened to the feelings of love.

His every word and deed, every gesture were able to make her heart beat irregularly.

She was breathing gently, her finger still in the grip of her son’s hand.

Zhousheng Chen’s finger finally slid down and tilted her chin so her head lifted up slightly higher, and gently, he brushed his lips against hers. Shi Yi shifted her head away and protested, “I’m still holding our son…”

But he was persistent and simply asked, “Not going to continue?”

Nowadays, “continuing” was not as innocent as it was several years ago.

It was only just past one o’clock in the afternoon… If they handed their son over to the wet nurse, people would certainly be able to guess what they intended to do.

She was still hestitating over the matter.

Zhousheng Chen had already tilted her chin upward, intending to continue his kisses to dissolve her indecisiveness.

Before his lips could even touch hers, there was a “smack” as a little palm slapped him on his face.

Son was having a fit…

Zhousheng Chen paused in surprise for a moment and then, could not help but laugh.

Sh Yi’s peals of laughter rung out incessantly, and with her son in her arms, she stood. “Whoa! You just hit your dad. You’re going to be punished again tonight and won’t be allowed to sleep with Mommy.” Before she had finished speaking, she heard Zhousheng Chen call for the wet nurse to come in and take their son away.

With a smile, the wet nurse carried Zhou Mushi out of the room and cooed quietly at him, telling him not to stir up trouble or bother Daddy and Mommy and so on.

She did not even have the chance to feel embarrassed before his arms encircled her from behind.

“Just now, when I saw you kneeling in the great hall, I suddenly felt that, in my previous life, I was a coward.”

Her build was slender, and when she had knelt there in that great hall, which had been empty of any persons, opposite the ten-metre high statue of the Buddha, she had appeared extremely small. He remembered the words she had written regarding that life in which she had not had the ability of speech — how each time he led troops into battle, she, inside the library tower, had in silence read books, in silence prayed for his safety.

And he truly had simply let her love him for an entire lifetime and had not returned it in any way.

Shi Yi shook her head and corrected him, “You are a great hero, not a coward.”

 

You and I are neither god nor Buddha. How could we have had a foreknowledge of everything?

This, is already the best ending.

 

“Zhousheng Chen?”

“Mm?”

“Let me make a painting for you.”

“What would you like to paint?”

“You.” Shi Yi thought for a moment, then suddenly smiled, “I paint people even better than I paint lotus flowers.”

 

[1] 百年相守 “bai nian xiang shou.” 百年 in the most literal sense means “hundred years,” but is also to describe a person’s entire lifetime. 相守 literally means “to mutually stand guard over each other” and is describing two people who are together, something along the lines of the English saying, “to have and to hold.”

 


Author’s Afterword

Let me think what else there is I would like to say.

 

This piece of writing can be considered near and dear to my heart.

 

 In the very beginning of the beginning, I simply wanted to write a story about past lives and present incarnations. This is purely a personal soft spot of mine. I am fond of stories of predestined love that transcends several lifetimes. This theme has been written so many times in ancient novels already but in contrast, is rarely seen in novels with a modern setting, and I am one who likes to write on topics that are different. So one night, I first wrote a side story.

That’s right. It truly came first from a side story, that insert story of Xiao Nanchen Prince and Eleven.

It was precisely because I now had a side story that ended imperfectly that I had the motivation to continue writing the story to a gratifying ending.

 

After you have finished reading this story, you will discover that within it, there is a very important city: Xi’an. As a result, many readers had previously asked me whether I am from Xi’an. No. Honestly, no. Why Xi’an, then? Because the night I started writing this story, I was listening to the song, “Chang’an Unseen.” Chang’an: the world’s place of “lasting stability, enduring peace” [chang zhi jiu an], the capital city of many dynasties. Now, thousands of years have passed and the city still exists, but Chang’an can no longer be seen. There’s a lot of feeling in that, isn’t there? *smile*

 

When the curtains are lifted on the story and the setting is in the former city of Chang’an, the story naturally becomes veiled in a sense of being powerless against the relentlessness of change. I very much like this feeling.

 

And in this story, Shi Yi has always remembered those things of the past, yet Zhousheng Chen has forgotten them. Very easily, this brings up one question: Was it worth it to have clung so tightly, so stubbornly, to the past? Personally, I really do not like the view that “the one who falls in love first is the one who loses.” Why keep such a close track on how much has been given and how much received? To me, in loving and being loved, whether you have received back in kind what you have given into the relationship is actually dependent only upon what your mind is stubbornly clinging to – your own mindset – and has nothing to do with anyone else. Frankly, human emotions and desires are simply [an expression of] what each person stubbornly clings to in their own mind. Since Shi Yi has stubbornly clung to her love for Zhousheng Chen, then why must we trouble ourselves over whether she has been reciprocated in kind? In this life, he has appeared and is no longer merely a memory. That already can be considered fulfillment

I, myself, am a screenwriter, so I write very quickly. But for this particular piece of writing, all along, I dared not write too quickly. During the writing process, I wanted too much to dwell upon each word, each sentence, but at the same time, I did not dare write too slowly, for fear that I would lose that initial feeling and cause the story to feel incohesive.

Hence, from when I first started to write the story to when I set it aside for a while to, finally, its ending, I used a year and a half, stumbling, deliberating, and polishing along the way.

A slow-to-warm-up type of story? Yes, but I very much enjoyed writing it. It truly was an enjoyable process such that, when the entire story came to a conclusion, I was sad for several weeks and couldn’t pull myself out of it…

This particular afterword was written one month after the conclusion, but I still feel sorrow that this story here has truly come to an end.

 

Actually, I initially did not want to write an afterword, but the editor threatened and bribed me, telling me to give her either a preface or an afterword. I, therefore, curiously asked her, was it a fad nowadays to write stuff like this in books? She gave me an answer that I did not expect. She said, she herself wanted to read it.

Alright, fine. This one statement touched me… And so then, this short, little segment of me babbling to myself was added.

There is one other person who also is very important. My dearest He Yajuan. She was the first person to discuss with me the publication of this book in simplified Chinese. I remember, at that time, the discussions for the Vietnamese version were already complete. I had not contacted any publishing companies that printed in simplified Chinese because I was still waiting for someone who would patiently read this story and then willingly publish it. And then, she appeared.

Sure enough, sometimes, you first need to wait and be patient before you will encounter someone who can be a true companion.

Also, thank you to all the lovely, gentle readers who have accompanied this pen name over these last two years. Love you all. ^_^

— Mo Bao Fei Bao
June 1, 2013


Additional Comments:

My last one for this novel, I promise. 😉

I love reading about the author’s thoughts on her own story. It gives you an understanding on what she was trying to accomplish and the atmosphere she was trying to weave as well as the heart and dedication that went into it.

I, too, have always disagreed with the saying, “the one who falls in love first is the one who loses.” My personal view is that love cannot be weighed on a balance scale, a win and a loss cannot be determined. We are like containers for love. In love, we desire to be filled, but we also desire to pour out into the container of the person we love. Some of us are bigger containers, some of us are smaller, but for me, the important question is, are we being filled and are we able to fill the person we love? The only people able to judge that are the people in the relationship. Shi Yi waited for centuries, but in the end, her heart was filled.

 

And how appropriate for me that I end this novel with the translation of an ancient-style song. Talk about a full circle for me. 🙂 (If you don’t know what I mean, you must read my first translation on this blog, Really, Really Miss You, which I’ve advertised enough already in this post.) This song, 不见长安 “Chang’an Unseen” was composed and sung by He Tu, the original singer of the four songs featured in RRMY’s chapter 33 and 34. The music really does evoke the atmosphere of this novel, doesn’t it?

 

不见长安
Chang’an Unseen

Foreword
我一个人走过千万里,从没觉得孤独。
开始觉得孤独,那是到长安之后的事了。
每个人的心里都有一座长安城。
我花了一辈子,才弄清楚自己其实从没到过那里。
Alone, I have walked tens of thousands of miles, never once feeling lonely.
My first experiences of loneliness occurred after I arrived in Chang’an.
In each person’s heart, there is a Chang’an city.
I expended all my life before I understood that I had never truly been there.

[0:44] 村头古树下青草叶上 露水未凝干
At the entrance to the village, beneath the ancient tree, upon the green grass and leaves, the dew has not yet dried
晨雾里渡船唱着歌谣 撑过小河湾
Amidst the early morning mist, a folksong is sung from a ferry as it is propelled across the bend of the river
[1:04] 我枕着手臂躺在屋顶 想了一整晚
I rest my head upon my arms as I lay on the rooftop, pondering for an entire night
瓦下厅堂中谁又说起 纸上的长安
From within the hall beneath the roof tiles, someone speaks again of the Chang’an of writings

[1:27] 桥面像结霜鞋底冰凉 踏过青石板
The bridge surface seems as if covered in frost, and the bottoms of my shoes are cold as I step across the bluestone
擦肩的姑娘眉眼弯弯 笑的多恬淡
The young maidens who brush by have curved brows and tranquil, contented smiles
[1:47] 我背着行囊坐上渡船 扶舷回头看
With my baggage upon my back, I step onto and take a seat on the ferry, hand on the side as I turn back for a look
村落轮廓里炊烟渐次 升起又飘散
Smoke from chimneys rise up one by one from the outline of the village before wafting away

[2:09] 我忽然开始疯狂想念 故事里的长安
Suddenly, I begin to madly long for the Chang’an of tales
我日夜兼程跋山涉水 山水路漫漫
I travel day and night, over hills and through rivers, a long route over the land and waters
[2:31] 这一路走来千里万里 看花开过几转
Through this journey of tens of thousands of miles, I have witnessed several cycles of blooming flowers
春夏秋冬风依次抚过 我发端
The winds of the four seasons in succession have caressed the ends of my hairs

[3:19] 我路过小镇夜凉如水 天边月正弯
I pass by a small town where the night is cool as water and a crescent moon hangs at the end of the sky
路过了江南看到书生 睡在杨柳岸
I pass through Jiangnan, where I see scholars sleeping on the river banks of willow trees
[3:39] 我路过长街熙熙攘攘 叫卖都婉转
I past through long, bustling streets, the cries of its peddlers smooth and mellow
路过了洛阳看到小姐 画楼绣牡丹
I pass through the city of Luoyang, where I see a young lady within a tall, exquisite building making an embroidery of a peony

[4:01] 我渐渐开始每晚梦到 故事里的长安
Slowly, I begin every night to dream of the Chang’an of tales
长安城有人歌诗三百 歌尽了悲欢
In Chang’an city, someone sings three hundred poems and songs, singing out all his joys and sorrows
[4:23] 抵达的时候阳光正好 听风吹的暖软
When I arrive, the sunshine is ideal, and I listen to the wind blowing, warm and soft
可我为什么忽然失措 在长安
But why do I suddenly feel unsettled, here in Chang’an

[4:44] 这重重楼阁浩浩殿堂 都不是我想象
These many pavilions and vast halls are not as I had imagined
我心中曾有画卷一幅 画着它模样
My mind had once held a scroll, which, on it, had a painting of the city’s appearance
[5:05] 长安城忽然开始下雨 湿了繁华沧桑
Rain suddenly begins to fall in Chang’an, dampening the bustling magnificence and constant change
慌张人潮里我遗忘了 来时的方向
In the flustered tides of people, I have forgotten the direction from which I came

[5:27] 那年转身离去
That year, I had turned and left
水声远了河岸
The sounds of the water had been far from the river bank
[5:37] 村落是否依然
Is the village still as before?
千万里外 我怅然回看
Tens of thousands of miles away from it, I forlornly turned around for a look.     

 

Completed:
1 of 1 Prologue
56 of 56 Main story segments
3 of 3 Epilogues
(If you made it this far in the post, you might as well rejoice with me that after updating this progress tracker 60 times, there is finally nothing left to update!!)

 

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113 thoughts on “One Life, One Incarnation: Beautiful Bones (一生一世美人骨) — Epilogue 3 and Author’s Afterword *NOVEL COMPLETED*

  1. This talk about love is making me so sad because I just thought of the novel my fiance fell in love with my little sister. 😭😭😭😭😭 It’s so sad. Thanks for the adorable novel.

  2. I read it non stop.. I literally sleept only 1.30 hours to be able to read it at once! VERY ALLURING AND captivating novel! Thanks for sharing it with us

  3. Hey Hoju, Thanks for the time and efforts you put into translated. I liked everything about this book. especially the vintage points. Many a time I was either crying or on the verge of crying. Now after finishing the book I am feeling tired. 🙂
    I am not very good with the words but I want to say thank you once again. I am unable to express the feeling in concise manner.
    wish u a very happy future.

    • Thank you for reading as well. 🙂 I’m so happy to hear that this stirred something in you. I find the writing in this story so beautiful.

      Thank you for the encouraging comment. 🙂

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