This is it! The ending! Post contains the last epilogue, the author’s preface, a little scene taken from Weibo, and, as customary, some closing comments from me for the end of a project. Thank you to all readers, whether you followed along from the get-go or are just hopping in now as the story comes to its ending. This story is very special to me, so completing its translation is oh-so-gratifying. 🙂
I’m sure you can guess from the picture above what this epilogue might be about. “Time, in the end, had still been kind to them.”
Epilogue 2 – Returning the Happiness I Owe You
The morning light filtered through the white tulle canopy and landed on the grass.
Like all other ordinary wedding scenes, there were all sorts of guests who did not know one another but who were all amiably appraising each other. Resplendent dress and elaborate adornments. Good wine and delectable delicacies. Everyone was conversing in low voices, all discussing the same topic.
Such a soon-to-be newlywed couple, yet none of the people close to them knew anything about their courtship.
“I honestly do not know.” That well-known DJ, who, only a few days ago, had been late for work because of the UEFA Euro, was truly being interrogated so much by all the people around him that he did not even know what to do. “Just think. At night, she does the late-night show, and in the morning, she does traffic reporting. Then during the daytime, there’s the selection meeting for show topics. She doesn’t take time off during the year, even during holidays and festivals. There’s never been any vehicles picking her up or dropping her off. She never has any personal phone calls. How could she possibly have a boyfriend?”
“One week. Just one, single week, from when we got our invitations to today’s wedding. She sure is able to keep a secret.” The girl who was Tong Yan’s partner on the nighttime program was also sighing. “Her hubby is one of the partners in the largest foreign-based law firm here, and his annual salary is so high it’s not even countable.”
And the most important point was, he truly was good-looking — the type of good-looking that made women envious.
“Tong Yan is everyone’s idol, the idol of the public. There are so many letters for her in the office every day you can’t even read through them all.” Only the director was acting rather mysterious, as if he seemed to know everything. “I heard that that person is a longtime listener of our station. Maybe he really is one of Little Ke’s faithful fans. So now you all know what the advantages of being a DJ are, right? You have a good reputation but you’re also still a public figure. So suitable for marrying a good man.”
The director’s spoke his words as if they were well-reasoned and persuasive.
Amongst Tong Yan’s colleagues, there was no lack of unmarried young women, and they were all aiming their gazes at the several men on the other end of the long table, those men who were the best of the best amongst Chinese lawyers. This sudden perfect marriage, this lovely and romantic encounter that made people jealous — if Tong Yan could come by one, then people could certainly believe in some things.
However, they did not know that these right-hand men of Gu Pingsheng’s were also feeling as if they had fallen into the misty clouds.
Originally, this had been a last-minute business trip and they were only passing through this city of Beijing, but suddenly, it had become a request for transfer back to China. The most important piece was, the reason for the transfer request was very simple and direct: to return to China to get married and then permanently reside there.
From the head office to the China office, no one knew that he had a girlfriend. With Little Boss’s curriculum vitae and looks, in the head office, he had broken the curse that ethnic Chinese men would not be popular with the ladies and had attracted all sorts of eager, ardent women swarming him like overenthusiastic bees and butterflies. And in the China office, the name “Gu Pingsheng” itself was like a legend.
Every time there was a video conference, there were numerous female lawyers who, because they needed to give a one-minute report to him, would prepare in detail beforehand so that they could sufficiently respond to his questioning that would cover every possible angle.
“My mom and dad are fans of Little Ke. When they heard I would be attending the wedding, they asked me ahead of time for TK’s personal details. They were honestly being even more rigorous about it than if they were selecting their own son-in-law. But when they asked me about the development of their romance… I really could not answer.”
The paralegal who had accompanied Gu Pingsheng to China this time could not hold back a sigh. “Love actually. The wedding date was set the day after TK returned to China. Prior to that, no one in the entire company even knew that he had ever had a girlfriend. This is true love. You don’t even need love at first sight. It’s ‘love at first listen.’”
“What is the bride like?”
“… I still haven’t gotten a chance to see her. Don’t be anxious. She’ll be out right away.”
Love at first sight?
Tong Yan had been asked too many questions along those lines. She did not know how to explain or describe this very long story. In the end, she decided to simply keep her silence and let it be taken as tacit admission. Yes, the story’s beginning truly was simply that most old-fashioned and corny “love at first sight.”
A long, long time ago, on that night, outside of the ICU room in Peking Union Medical College Hospital, when she stood with her backpack on her back and saw an extremely young man sitting on the floor, his back leaning against the snow-white wall, she supposed, something truly had been stirred in her.
Love’s beginning truly is merely a simple stirring of the heart. Perhaps from an image, perhaps by a voice.
The makeup artist was very diligent. From six in the morning to the present, she had already been busily working for more than three hours.
Her makeup was too exquisite, so Tong Yan dared not eat too much, only nibbling instead on her straw as she drank sips of milk.
A voice carried in from the doorway. In the mirror, she watched as Gu Pingsheng appeared.
All these years, she had always thought that he was most handsome when he wore a suit. Perhaps because he had resided in the United Kingdom for a long period of time, he was particularly fond of putting a pocket square in his suit jacket’s breast pocket. Refined, elegant, gentlemanly, sophisticated. How she wished she could use every possible adjective to describe him.
But ultimately, those were not enough.
Because this was Gu Pingsheng. The one, unique Gu Pingsheng.
He seemed to sense that her mind had wandered and only casually loosened his tie, walked over, and sat down beside her.
“We’re nearly done, Mr. Gu.” The makeup artist packed up all her things, but all of a sudden, she caught a glimpse of Tong Yan’s fingernails. They were still plain and completely unadorned. “Mrs. Gu, you didn’t paint your nails last night?”
Tong Yan gave a cry of “Ah!” and redness inexplicably tinged her cheeks. “I forgot.”
The makeup artist said, “It’s alright,” but all the while, she frettingly rummaged through her own bag, murmuring that she should have brought the fake nails that could be directly glued on.
Tong Yan felt even more embarrassed. “We’ll just let it be. No one will notice these little details.”
“That won’t be good.” The makeup artist shook her head with a smile. “The bride has to be the most beautiful on this day. Every single detail has to be perfect. If we can’t find any fake ones, we’ll just use nail polish and paint them directly. After all, there are still more than ten minutes to go.”
Sure enough, after saying these words, the makeup artist lined up seven, eight bottles of nail polish.
“I think she should be a little tired.” Gu Pingsheng rested his elbows on the back of her chair, smiled, and broke in on their dialogue. “Why don’t we first let my wife rest for ten minutes?”
The makeup artist hurriedly agreed and then, very perceptively, left the room.
“I’m nervous.” Gazing at him in the mirror, she blew out a long breath. “My heart is beating especially fast. It feels especially like that time back when you and I were emceeing together, and I was so nervous my palms were all sweaty …”
Resting his chin on her shoulder, he exaggeratedly inhaled her sweet scent. “Why were you nervous?”
She shook her head, pretending to be clueless and innocent. “Back then, I thought it was really weird, too. I’d emceed so many events prior to that, so why was it only when I collaborated with you that I got nervous?”
“I had always found this very strange. Before you arrived, the supervising teacher for the Students’ Union had told me, ‘The person who will be working with you is our school’s most veteran host and emcee. She is very experienced.’”
Turning around, she looked at him. “I guess it’s because you are too outstanding. When I stand next to you, I will lack self-confidence.” She paused, then uttered softly, “But I like this type of lacking in self-confidence.”
Regardless of what I have grown-up to become, I will still feel that I need to be dependent on you.
This sort of lack in self-confidence, was it not also a form of pleasure?
From this angle, she could see he was smiling, his dimple etched deeply on his cheek. Setting her chin on the seatback of her chair, Tong Yan looked intently at him. No matter how much she looked, she could not get enough.
She did not shift in the slightest, and Gu Pingsheng also simply gazed at her.
After some time, Tong Yan at last took one finger and hooked it onto the cuff of his dress shirt, lightly swinging it as she requested gently, “Please, tell it to me again, one more time.”
He suddenly chuckled. “You still haven’t gotten sick of listening to it?”
Because he needed to speak to her, he had leaned forward slightly.
He was completely swathed in the sunlight shining in through the window, which softened and blurred the outlines of his features.
All the guests had already arrived, but the two appeared to be in no hurry. In contrary, they seemed more like people who, after waking up one morning on an arbitrary weekend, were idly leaning back on the couch, chatting casually.
Apart from her white organza train cascading onto the floor. Apart from his impeccable suit.
“The itinerary for this trip had not included Beijing but I wanted to truly have a listen of your voice, so I changed it last-minute.” Gu Pingsheng fulfilled her wish and began recounting once again those things from that morning that she had not known. “I had originally planned out the timing. I would exit the airport by seven o’clock and would be able to hear your entire program. Unfortunately, the flight was delayed.”
She gave an “mm-hmm,” listening so earnestly it was as if this was the first time she had heard this.
“Luckily, I still was in time to hear the last, interactive segment of the program. I never thought that you would have so many supporters. The driver my company sent to pick me up at the time is your loyal listener.”
“I have lots of fans,” Tong Yan said cheerily, her finger still hooked on his shirt as she swung his arm with quite a sense of pride.
“That driver said that Little Ke is his favourite female program host. During her show, she frequently takes phone calls that ask her for advice and turns a good, normal traffic program into a time for free legal aid and consultation.” There was obvious mirth in Gu Pingsheng’s voice. “He even said that you are especially adorable.”
Tong Yan nodded, beaming as she looked at him.
What came next was what she most wanted to hear, a dialogue that, regardless of how many times it was repeated to her, she would not tire of it.
Discovering that she was rather happy with swinging his arm, he also stretched forward a finger and hooked it around her finger.
“At the time, I thought I probably needed to very clearly declare where I stood. So, I told him, ‘This girl is my wife.’ That driver didn’t really seem to believe me, so I dialed the radio call-in number. But right when I heard your voice, the phone reception got cut off.” The entire time, his gaze remained affixed to Tong Yan and did not move away. “Afterwards, I called that number again, but the line was busy the whole time until the program ended.”
“What if I didn’t call you?”
“Yan Yan,” he told her, “at first glance, every minute that we live may seem to be random. However, when you look back, you will discover that no matter how many times we were to repeat those moments, the outcome would still be the same.”
“So, no matter how many times you were to repeat that moment, when the driver told you he was my loyal listener, you would still very seriously tell him that I am Mrs. Gu. And you would also definitely make that phone call to prove that you are my husband. Then, I would once again get the chance to find out your phone number and would end up finding you.”
He smiled lightly, staring into her eyes and tacitly admitting this fact.
“And so,” Tong Yan began, curling her fingers into a fist and slipping it into his palm as she teased him, “no matter how many times you were to live, you would still stubbornly be fond of eating broccoli.”
Gu Pingsheng could not help laughing. “Yes. So, no matter what, Gu Pingsheng can only ever have that one Mrs. Gu.”
His words were never purposely polished, but they were always so moving.
“I never even thought about falling in love with someone else,” she softly told him. “Never at all.”
“Neither did I.” He used the same answer to provide his response to her.
Out on the lawn, the music flowed continuously. It was about time.
“Do you want to go out yet?” he asked her.
Tong Yan nodded, but then, she immediately clutched his hand anxiously. Smiling, Gu Pingsheng leaned in a little closer to her.
In her mind, she was still running through the script she had written, those words that she needed to say for the wedding. “What if, later on during my speech, I suddenly forget what I’m supposed to say? What should I do? …” Her co-workers would laugh at her for sure. But, no big deal. My wedding, I’m the boss …
“If you forget it, then you forget it. It’s okay.”
“Oh no.” She looked at that row of nail polish bottles. “I still haven’t painted my nails yet. If they’re all bare, they’ll look really ugly …”
“I’ll apply it for you. You taught me how before.” When he finished these words, his face suddenly leaned in closer, and then, lowering his head, he brought his lips directly to hers.
Beside their ears was the sound of the door being opened, but then it was quietly shut again.
There were several seconds of only stillness, and then, he finally tilted his head, enclosing her lips completely in his.
Just like their first time in the cinema, the way he started always caught her utterly unprepared.
In this time. In this place. The start time of the wedding ceremony had already quietly slipped by, but the groom and bride were still in the dressing room, unwilling to come out. Even from simply thinking this, she was already unable to contain her giggles. Who knew what sort of comments and discussions would be taking place outside? …
Gu Pingsheng’s hands were holding her waist, lifting her up entirely from her chair and into his arms.
The train of the wedding gown he had custom-ordered for her was several metres long. As it followed their movements, its layer upon layer of white material splayed over the entire floor.
Her arms encircled his neck, and she let him set her down on the dressing table, the two of them pressed tightly to one another and not separating at all that entire time. Not caring how many guests were outside, nor caring whether the most auspicious time had already passed. This was their wedding ceremony — a wedding that should have taken place long ago. Everyone else was simply there to accent the ceremony.
Hence, Gu Pingsheng rightfully disregarded everyone else, apart from his bride.
And amid his lingering kiss, Tong Yan also told herself one thing: from this moment, from this day onward, besides Gu Pingsheng, she was no longer going to worry about anyone or anything else. Mrs. Gu would use an entire lifetime to care for and love Mr. Gu.
An author writing her own foreword is such a weird thing.
Well, then, I will just say a few words about the story behind this novel.
In regards to Together Forever, on the day I finished writing it, it could also be said that I fulfilled a special desire of mine. In the very beginning of the beginning, I had merely wanted to commemorate in a very simple way that SARS outbreak. I know that there are many people who, even if they had been in the hardest-hit areas of Beijing and Guangzhou at the time, do not have such intense sentiments about it. Sometimes, a disaster may repeat itself a hundred times but still only be a term, a noun to some people. Only when someone close to you has truly experienced it does it bring about the sorrow and pain that is like having your flesh cut from your body.
Perhaps because I knew people and had family in the severe disaster area of Beijing during that time, I heard a little more about it than other people. That year, there were many angels in white coats who resolutely moved in, wave after wave, all carrying the mentality that they were heading to their deaths as they succumbed and fell. But afterwards, few people remembered this.
And so, he appeared in my mind.
He is the male lead of this book and, in my heart, is also the best way to commemorate that calamity. Although the setting of this story is a little heavy, I believe that if you flip open this book, what you will read will be how a person who experienced life and death is continuing to live his best life.
And then, in the story, she also appeared.
When this story was still being released in instalments online, there were many readers who quietly sought me out, regarding me as a safe confidant, and they told me about their own life experiences and family backgrounds that were similar to Tong Yan’s. Therefore, Tong Yan is not an isolated case. In this world, there will always be some people who try hard to live their lives but are helpless to the irresponsibility of their parents. Not everyone’s family situation is like beautiful spring days all-year round, nor is everyone’s life filled with great stresses and pressure. There are people more fortunate and happy than her, and there are people who are more unfortunate than her. And the story that I desired to write was definitely one where the “happiness and fortune” were greater than the “misfortune.”
I believe that when each storyteller writes a story, he or she is trying to convey something. In my case here, I am not trying to say that “life is hard,” but rather, I want to express, “Look. Gu Pingsheng and Tong Yan have such a hard life, but they can still be so happy. So then, what reason do you have to not live an even better life?”
What if you meet a teacher who was once a surgeon? In that year when you were thirteen years old, both his and your mother were being resuscitated in the same hospital. However, six or seven years later, he can no longer hear any sound, nor can he work in an operating theatre. He has picked up the books and become an ordinary university professor.
What if he and you are alike, having a mother who abandoned you and a father who cannot be spoken about?
What if, for a nationwide calamity where many dying needed to be saved and wounded needed to be rescued, he had lost the health that he should have rightfully had?
What if he loves you?
Could you bear not to love him?
— Mo Bao Fei Bao
February 18, 2013, evening
Extra Scene from Weibo:
If you followed along with Really, Really Miss You and Beautiful Bones, you’ll remember this.
Released February 19, 2015, Lunar New Year’s Day at 12:01am.
MBFB asked fans what they wanted for a Lunar New Year’s present. Everyone had requests for new scenes from their various favourite novel(s). In the end, she posted a giant post with a scene each for the leads from nearly every single one of her novels at the time, in which a theoretical email was sent out to them asking them to recap the first night they did *it*. Here is the one for Together Forever.
On a certain day, in the middle of the night, Mo Bao Fei Bao sent an email to all the leads of her novels: “Hey dears, do you still remember that night?”
Tong Yan: (Tosses fresh chestnuts into the pan. Tonight, it is once again braised chicken with chestnuts. He loves eating it.) He was going back to the U.S. for his surgery. I wanted to go with him, but he wouldn’t let me. So I…
Gu Pingsheng: (Fingers drumming rhythmically against his ceramic cup) I’m listening. Carry on with what you were saying.
Tong Yan: …… I’m done talking. (Stabs forcefully at the chicken with a metal spatula.)
Gu Pingsheng: (Walks over and rests his chin on her shoulder.) Then how about you listen to me say it?
Tong Yan: (Turns on the hood fan.)
Gu Pingsheng: I asked you whether you wanted to turn on the light. You didn’t refuse. But when we really started into it, no matter what, you absolutely refused to turn on any light–
Tong Yan: (Begins cooking and stirring with all her might.) Behaving so inappropriately for your older age…
While the preface is actually at the beginning of a book, I thought, in our case, it would be more apt to include it here at the backend, after you had read through everything. Hopefully this helps give you insight into the author’s mindset at the time.
I had mentioned before that Tong Yan is based on a real person and real experiences of someone who, at age 20, hated her father and fell into depression; someone who, as she got older, realized that blood relation was actually something that you could never truly let go of. And it truly did take a death to, in exchange, bring about a complete awakening and cause her father to snap out of his ways. In an interview from a couple of years ago, when asked if the “real Tong Yan” was happy now, Mo Bao Fei Bao’s answer was, “Yes, very happy because she is very positive. In a person’s lifetime, the joys and sorrows should be weighed against each other. Everyone is the same, and there should be no reason for us to wallow in self-pity and bemoan our fate, no reason that we *let* ourselves be less fortunate than others, right?”
I remember finishing this novel for the first time and reflecting… over and over again. I’ve mentioned so many times that my love for this novel is very personal, that it has a special place in my heart. The reason is not simply because of the beautiful love story, not only because the emotions and situations inside the story feel so genuine that they resonate on a very personal level with me. I realized something.
I realized that we, as human beings, are actually caring and supportive. In the wake of a calamity, how many times have we seen news reports that people everywhere are pouring in to places like Red Cross to donate, sending in help, sending well wishes? But at the same time, I also realized that we, as human beings, are very forgetful. It’s not intentional and perhaps it is even a self-defence mechanism for us to move on and continue with life, but very shortly after a disaster, when news reports stop showing up everywhere in our news feeds, we then forget about it. But the victims can’t forget, and they are left to pick up the pieces of their lives.
As I read up on the SARS calamity, I was struck by one particular photo of a very lonely man on a hospital bed who had fallen to SARS but had, like Gu Pingsheng, recovered… to a life of after-effects and failing health. Initially, people had rallied behind him, the media declaring that everyone would be there to help him and not forget him. However years later, it was only him. No one remembered him, and now he is merely left to pass many of his days in the hospital, despairingly alone. And he is not an isolated case. Though that particular man was not a medical worker during that time, there are so many more victims and most of them had worked the front lines during that disaster.
Perhaps, the scariest thing is not having to face sickness, even death. Perhaps, the scariest thing is facing it alone.
Mo Bao Fei Bao once said, she does not know how to rescue the sick and heal the dying. She can only write and use this way to commemorate those angels in white coats who had sacrificed themselves for others. And the only thing I can do is to remember them and offer my deepest respects, even if they don’t know. Hence, this translation came about — to be honest, quite nervously, for fear I would not properly express what the author hoped to convey — so that maybe more people can remember them with me.
To all of you, wherever you may be, whatever life may bring you, I wish the best for you. Hope this might have encouraged you to live your life so that your happiness is greater than your misfortunes. 🙂 Cheers all, and thank you for reading. See you in my next project, Stewed Squid in Honey.
1 of 1 Prologue
66 of 66 Main story segments
3 of 3 Epilogue segments