Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

Life: A Black and White Film (一生一世,黑白影画) — Chapter 1.1

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Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to all our readers! Hope the skies are clear so you can take in the full moon. 🙂 And enjoy your moon cake (or whatever you choose to celebrate with… macarons + moon cake for me!).

The very start of the journey. Can’t say it’s not an exciting beginning…

Chapter 1.1 — They Meet Again in Nepal (1)

Half a year later, in the Himalayas.

“September and October are Nepal’s rainy season. Also low season for tourists.” In shoddy English, the driver was explaining things to them. “Very few people… Must go to the inn I recommend to you. My good friend owns it.”

Actually, all four of the customers inside this vehicle also had very shoddy English.

Two were Russians, the other two were ethnic Chinese who were born and raised in Russia. When shoddy skills meet shoddy skills, the advantage is that “I get what you’re saying and you understand what I’m saying”—everyone is happy.

Right now, outside the window, the rain was coming down in torrents and had turned this international highway that led to Nepal into a muddy mess.

Though it was called an international highway, it could not even compare to the winding mountain road in China’s Tibet that she had travelled back then.<>You should be reading this at  hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com,

Through the rain-stained glass, Wen Han’s gaze fell on the backpackers by the roadside. Due to the heavy rain, many people were beginning to abandon their vehicles and, with their large bags upon their backs, proceed by foot along the foot of the Himalayas.

“From what I can see, you will need to get off the car soon, too.” The driver sighed, “India and China have sandwiched Nepal in between them and restrict Nepal in everything. India won’t even let Nepal fix up a road and make it into a good one.”

“You’re saying the Indian government is imposing restrictions?” Sitting behind the driver, Wang Wenhao nudged up the glasses that sat on the bridge of his nose and asked, “Why would India restrict Nepal from fixing a road?”

“Nepal is surrounded by India on three sides and China on one. Young man, you should understand, if the roads of Nepal, this country that is in the middle of those two, are fixed up, the Indians will feel uneasy.”

As Wen Han listened, her gaze suddenly halted on one spot.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.

At first, she only caught a glimpse of a person whose face was more than half-concealed by the hood of a black hiking jacket and who was wearing sunglasses even in the rain, like a movie star who wanted to cover up all his distinctive features. However, right as she was observing him, that person removed his sunglasses. It was apparent that he was taking a glance at this one and only car that was still strugglingly holding up and making its way along, even when the road was about to collapse.

Those eyes were simply too unique…

It was that lama she had encountered in Tibet?!

A lama who had returned to the secular life?

That couldn’t really be possible, right? Was she mistaken?

Their vehicle rocked and jolted in the pits of mud. Her entire body was suddenly pitched upward by the car’s rocking and then slammed back down into her seat again. She was still thinking about that lama who had left the monastic life, and whipping her head around, she searched with her eyes. The vehicle had already driven past that stretch of road. In this torrential downpour, the sights were blurred. But in that instant when she at last located him, she clearly saw a black pistol now in his palm. Turning in the direction of a backpacker whom their vehicle had just passed, he raised his arm—

“Ah!” Wen Han let out a reflexive cry.

Everyone’s gaze fell on her.

Speaking incoherently, she stared wide-eyed out the window.

But alas, the vehicle had already turned a corner, and she could no longer see anyone.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.

Wang Wenhao patted her on the shoulder, not knowing what had frightened her. “Get some rest. We’ll be getting off the car soon, and I’m guessing we’ll probably need to walk seven or eight hours before we get to their capital city.”

Wen Han was still having difficulties recovering herself. Her mind was filled only with that image from a moment ago.

When she heard Wang Wenhao say that they were getting out of the vehicle, her thoughts immediately jumped to that person holding the gun. What if, when they got off the car, he suddenly chased after them and caught up? What should they do?

“I just saw someone holding a gun.” Gripping Wang Wenhao’s arm tightly, she whispered to him in Russian.

One of their companions, Agnesa, moved in close to them. “What did you see? A gun?”

“It was a gun,” Wen Han stated, her voice quivering slightly.

She had seen guns in Moscow as well. In that place where half of the city was controlled by the mafia, guns were not something that needed to be kept hidden. However, in this foreign land, by the foot of the Himalayas, to suddenly see such a scene was very terrifying to her. They were here travelling on vacation. If they were to suddenly encounter some anti-government forces, how should they handle it?

But what if she had simply been seeing things and that lama was just carrying a black object of some sort, not a gun?

As a result of her words, though, her companions also grew nervous and asked the driver whether he could persevere and continue driving. Pointing at the road ahead that had already caved in, the driver refused their request. As they stepped out of the vehicle, all of them were a little anxious. Pulling their own bags securely onto their backs, they began forging ahead in the rain, and without even consulting one another, their footsteps were all rather hurried.

Several times, Wen Han had wanted to turn around and look back, but Wang Wenhao had stopped her every time. “There really are anti-government forces here in this place. Don’t look back. If we do run into some, maybe both sides can just pretend that they don’t see each other.”

Seeing that they were all behaving like there was an enemy soldier behind every tree and bush, Wen Han did not tell them that she had actually seen that person half a year ago in Tibet.

Fortunately, they had all grown up in Moscow and had more or less seen some of the fierce fighting of the Russian mafia, so they at least were not scared out of their wits. They merely intuitively fell into silence as they trudged ahead.

After hiking like this for six hours, they arrived in Nepal’s capital city of Kathmandu.

The rain had already stopped. Covered in mud, the four of them walked in this teeming city that was a gathering place for tourists. Wen Han did not go to the inn that the driver had recommended to them and, instead, found the little inn she had reserved long ago by phone. They asked around for directions for quite some time before finally stepping into a long, narrow alley paved with stone. Wen Han would glance at the business card in her hand and compare it to the signs of the inns, until they finally came to a halt in a corner.

She told everyone, “It should be this place.”

Agnesa breathed out in relief. “I’m going to take a hot shower. I want to become alive again.” As she spoke, she draped an arm on Wen Han’s shoulder. “Do you think you might have seen wrong? But I guess it’s all good, even if you did see wrong. It helped me finish that trek, which should have taken seven or eight hours, so quickly.”<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

Reaching out a hand, Wen Han pushed open the wooden door of the inn.

Amid the scraping sounds of the door’s hinges, a little boy quietly lifted his head and looked at them.

A typical Indian face.

Laughing, Agnesa murmured in Russian, “God, we walked for six hours only to return to India again?”

Agnesa’s older brother, Roman, grinned as he replied, “There are a lot of Indian people.”

While the people behind her were whispering away, Wen Han had already started communicating with the bellboy. The boy was quite good. Flipping through a yellowed notebook, he found Wen Han’s name. “This one?”

Wen Han nodded. “Is hot water guaranteed here?”

“Yes.”

The boy led them to the third floor. This floor had three rooms available.

He told them that the rooms on the second floor were already booked up, and only the third and fourth floors were left. There were three rooms on the third floor, so that meant one person would need to stay on the fourth floor. Looking at his companions, Wang Wenhao voluntarily suggested that he would stay on the fourth floor.

Wen Han quietly told Wang Wenhao in Russian, “The second floor is definitely unoccupied, too. It’s low season right now. I asked people who’ve been here before. Most of the inns and hotels are empty during this period. This kid is telling us this just to make us think that the rooms in this place are in high demand.”

She was actually being very simple and naïve when she spoke these words. Of course, it was not the sort of naivety where she was completely ignorant and oblivious, but rather, she was just the stereotypical girl who used the internet to find out about the world and had never experienced the true dark side of real life.

Gazing at her, Wang Wenhao answered perfunctorily, “Really?”

He did not care at all whether the inn was empty or full. What he wanted more was to stay in one room with her.

He was planning, before this trip came to an end, to find an opportunity here in Nepal to profess his feelings to Wen Han. Though he was not a Buddhist believer, Wen Han was a firm believer in Buddhism, and he could be accommodating of her beliefs. The most important point was, he had stayed by her side and waited for her from when she was eighteen years old to this day, where she was now twenty, and he was near the end of his patience.

He had hinted to her many times before but had never been given the chance to move to the next step.

Wen Han. Wen Han.

In Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu, he was going to make her fall in love with him. Thinking this, Wang Wenhao escorted Wen Han to her room and, before leaving, finally removed his glasses to gaze very tenderly at her. “After you’ve had your shower, sleep for a while. The three of us, though, want to play some poker. If you’re not tired, come up to the fourth floor and find us.”

Wen Han nodded.

Stepping into the room, she very quickly rinsed her body clean with hot water. She washed her hair thoroughly as well and then rubbed it with a towel until it was half-dry. After completing all these things, Wen Han leaned against the windowsill, and alone, she stared down at the empty alleyway, while also contemplating what to eat tonight. Her thoughts turned to Wang Wenhao. She truly could not think of anything about him that was not good. He was gentle and considerate, he had a stable job, and he loved her very much.

But she was still unsure.

In Moscow, men were especially hot commodities. Love and romance could happen at any place, any time. But what she wanted was a different type of relationship, one that was with a man who, even if their final ending was that they were to separate, she would willingly throw herself wholly in without holding anything back, just to give it a try with him.

Wen Han set down her towel, changed into a soft, blue blouse, and wrapped on top of it a shawl that she had bought in India. Facing the mirror, she flashed a smile.

Then, she stepped out the door of her room and proceeded up to the fourth floor.

The fourth floor was also very quiet. The doors of the four rooms were all closed.

Hmm… Earlier, she had gone into her own room first, so she did not know which room they were in.

“Agnesa?” she whisperingly asked in Russian. In this place, it should only be the few of them in their group who understood Russian. They should definitely be coming out soon to find her, so this should not disturb anyone.

“Agnesa?” Her gaze circled around.

Her voice was light, for fear that she would disturb people she did not know.

Because her family had also been running a little inn since she was young, she was especially cognizant of this.

Right when Wen Han was hesitating over whether she should call out once more, movement could be heard coming from behind her and to the left. It was obvious that only the grinding of rather old and rusty hinges could produce such a strange noise.

She immediately turned around. “Why did it take you so—”

In only a split second, her wrist was caught in someone’s grasp, and she was dragged into a dimly lit room.

The sound of a heavily-closing door echoed out.

Wen Han’s back slammed into the wooden door. A tall figure pressed up against her, enveloping all of her in an unfamiliar, perilous body heat. Her mind was completely blank as that person crushed down on her lips. Without giving her a chance to even protest, a tongue that felt as if it had just drank the water of a glacier slipped inside her mouth, entwined itself with her tongue, and then thrust straight into the deepest part of her throat.

She wanted to struggle, but two fingers were already pinching each side of her throat, and she dared not move.

“Shh… Do not scream, and do not struggle.”

At last, there was a voice.

And it was actually, in a low tone, speaking Russian.

Wen Han had never known that a man’s strength could be so great. She was like a snake that was being squeezed at the weak point behind its head[1]. She could not swallow, could not breathe. All her hope of living and the feeling of being alive depended on her throat. But now it was entirely under the control of a man’s hand, and she was forced to tilt her head far back.

Compelled to look into a pair of eyes.

It was him… It was him…

Instantly, a chill came over her entire body, and she began trembling in weakness, because of lack of oxygen—and because of him.

That wordless monk on the Tibetan Plateau half a year ago. That man who, several hours ago, in the deluge of rain, had raised a gun. And the man who now was already lifting up her long skirt with his palm.

But he seemed to have forgotten her.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress

 

Those eyes were taking her in. In this moment, her only thought was that those eyes were like the Himalayan Mountains that rose up in the blowing snow. They carried a fearsome force and power in them that one dared not look up at and exuded a sense of unpredictable danger.

Her fingernails dug incessantly into the wood-plank door. Deprived of oxygen, her head began to spin, and explosions of white light danced before her eyes.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispered to her. “The kind of beauty that enthralls my mind and soul.”

She gasped desperately but was not able to take in any oxygen. The more she gasped, the more she was unable to get any air.

She wanted to speak, but she had lost the ability of speech. Only tears flowed relentlessly from her.

“Dearest, why have you been crying this whole time?” he murmured lightly in Russian, as if these words were being spoken to a lover. “Oh, yes, I forgot to say, it is a pleasure to meet you—here, in Nepal.”

The he in this moment was no longer the serpent that slumbered soundly and peacefully.

The snake that had lain coiled upon the lengthy border between lands was already slowly awakening, raising its body high and gazing down from above, its scarlet, forked tongue flickering forth at her.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress

 

[1] The literal translation of the text is “she was like a snake that was being squeezed at its 7 cun location.” There is a saying in Chinese, 打蛇打七寸 “if you are to attack a snake, you should attack at 7 cun down from its head” (where cun is a length of measurement that, traditionally, is the width of one’s thumb at the knuckle). The belief was that a snake’s heart is located at around the 7 cun mark, and consequently, that is its greatest weak point. If a snake is squeezed at that location, it will instantly become paralyzed and unable to fight back. While the actual measurement may not be accurate, the idea is that, when attacking, strike quickly at the snake’s weak point to immediately immobilize it. The saying, therefore, also means to take down an opponent swiftly by identifying his weakness and striking there.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. Translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the translation has been taken without consent of the translator.

 


Additional Comments:

Just a little note.

The two names, “Agnesa” and “Roman,” were not actually in the novel. These characters’ names were written as 阿加西 and 朗姆, respectively, which in pinyin are “Ajiaxi” and “Langmu.” I actually messaged the author and asked her if she had had any Russian or, at least, romanized (non-pinyin) names in mind for these two characters when she wrote the story. The short answer was no. LOL. Thinking that it would be kind of weird to have Russian characters with Chinese-pinyin names, with Mo Bao Fei Bao’s permission, I tried to come up with a female and male name that sounded *relatively* similar to the Mandarin pronunciations of the names in the story but were names that are actually used in Russia. That was an interesting task in itself. “Roman” was actually easy to come up with, but I ended up reading through some interesting Russian genealogies and spending a few days creeping Facebook, looking up girls in Russia, to come up with a few girl name options. (Hubby glanced over once at my computer screen when I was doing this and “WTH?” was written across his face. LOL) Anyway, the choices were run by the author, so “Agnesa” and “Roman” both have Mo Bao Fei Bao’s blessing to exist in her story.

 

Completed:
1 of 1 Prologue
1 of 50 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue

 

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40 thoughts on “Life: A Black and White Film (一生一世,黑白影画) — Chapter 1.1

  1. Wow this is only the first chapter but it’s so damn good already. I love it 😍 can’t wait for the next chapter!!!!

  2. I love the extra info about the names, and that you checked with the author. This kind of attention to detail is really appreciated.

    As for the first chapter…whoa.

    • Thank you. 🙂 The little note was in case people did attempt to look in the original text. Just to let you all know I’m not pulling things out of a hat. (Well, maybe, but the author blessed the hat. Haha)

      Was that a good whoa or a bad one? Or just “whoa”?

  3. What did I just read :0 Wow that was one impactful opening chapter! Thanks for the chapter Hoju~

  4. Thank you Hoju! Happy mooncake festival🏮

  5. Wow, what a start! Thanks for translating this!

  6. what a strong first chapter to begins the novel though I still haven’t grasp well of the prologue
    Happy Mid-Autumn Festival!

  7. Thank you so much Hoju and Happy Mid-Autumn to u and your family. 😘😘😘

  8. Happy Mid-Autumn! Hope you have nice mooncakes for you and the fam!

    As for ch 1…shit, things are really intense. I do like Wen Han so far tho, very sensible. She doesn’t need to be super smart of extraordinary, but she’s also not “average” in the sense of female lead characters. So many “average” ones tend to overreact or make us readers cringe (although not for MBFB so far :D), but Wen Han, while not extra special, seems to have a good head and is generally perceptive enough. While not experienced, also has enough common sense. I like her quiet “averageness” so far. The male lead right now is as much a mystery to us as he is to her (maybe we know a teensy bit more but…).

    I’m really curious if what that last scene is insinuation is a ruse on his part or is he actually “lusting”? after her. Not quite the word I want to use but I don’t want to make too many judgements but also don’t want to judge too lightly on what just happened.

    • cuz it seems like his actions could be simply a very efficient way of stopping her from moving or making sound (her mind is blank and she definitely can’t breathe let alone make any sounds), but his words and the description of his hand….also insinuate a whole ‘nother story.

    • Wen Han is one of my favourite MBFB female leads. She doesn’t do anything extraordinary, but I like it when “ordinary” people can stand strong when faced with overwhelming things. (And man, are the things that she will face overwhelming.)

      As for speculations, haha, I’ll stick to my principle that I don’t give spoilers. 😉 But, as a note, nothing that Cheng Muyun does should be taken lightly. 😀

  9. This is such a wonderful beginning! And I love that this was set in Kathmandu! It’s really a very beautiful place, before it was half-destroyed by the earthquakes, ofc. But it still remains one of my favorite travel destinations. And what does that mean at the end? The wordless lama guy recognized her now?! Or is he in some sort of stupor?!
    And this Wang Wenhao guy has trouble written all over him. I don’t care much for sneaky guys like him, trying to make her fall in love with him by sharing the room and all *humph*
    There was one issue, though. Nepalese and Indians are close. Like, very close. And that thing about the Nepalese driver going all Indians feel uncomfortable if Nepal builds roads has me going eh?! >_< Such shit. MFBF should have researched that up before just writing about it. Especially as I've been to Nepal and commented to this local Admin authority on the state of infrastructure and he said that they don't get enough of funds and when I asked some local people they talked about corruption.

    • Ooooh… That’s a part of the world I’ve never been to. I hear it is so beautiful. ❤

      What does it mean at the end? Tehehe… not telling. 😉

      Wang Wenhao has "slimy" written on him. I mean, I prefer guys who outright pursue a girl and state their intentions, even if it's to bed her. The fact that he's putting on a tender, gentle front but secretly thinking that he's getting impatient and wants to get into her room… Humph is right!

      Hmmm… before you take offence, I think you should re-read that part again. Two points:

      (1) The context was not that India does not like Nepal. The context is that Nepal is the small country caught between the two huge countries of China and India, sharing one border with the former and three with the latter. That means, Nepal is a crucial piece in the passage from China to India and provides three access points to India for China. Logic would depict that India would view this quite seriously.

      (2) Voice from which the information was provided. This is a random driver who said those things in dialogue. This was not given in the omnipresent narrator's voice. I don't know how many cabs you've taken, but I find that most taxi drivers whose car I've sat in are very loquacious. It makes their job more interesting. They are a GREAT way to get information about a place. But everyone has their biases and opinions, and I've also found a lot of cab drivers aren't scared to state their own opinions. You just need to filter what they say, get the information that you need, and discard what you don't agree with.

      I once was stuck in traffic in Houston with a cab driver who told me tons of great info about restaurants and attractions and which people were friendly, etc. He also looked at me and noticed I was Asian, so he launched into a discussion of how hard-working Asians were and how smart, but how all black people were lazy people who taxed the system. I kid you not. That part was quite uncomfortable to listen to, and though we had a friendly exchange of ideas, he would not budge on his opinions. Actually, I've read some books where it's been stated in dialogue similar opinions to this driver—but that does not make me think that necessarily reflects the opinions of the author, that the author also believes that “blacks are lazy.” What it does show is that, in the novel, the author is trying to express something; for example, there are still racial biases, tensions still exist, etc.

      So, filtering out the information that MBFB is trying to provide: Nepal's road system here is dilapidated. Nepal is in a strategic position to both these countries. There potentially are theories from the common people that believe that other powers are trying to impose things on them (but these theories are not necessarily a reflection of the true political state.)

      Let me provide an example that I'm more familiar with. Canada and the United States are tight. This is absolutely true on the political scene as well as economic, trading, etc. The two countries often stand together on all sorts of policies because they know that each holds strategic "access" (not just physical but many, many things) to one another. That does not stop individual Canadians from mocking their counterparts south of the border, be it on gun laws, etc. or even putting them down, coming up with conspiracy theories that the U.S. is trying to take over Canada, etc. etc. Or vice versa, I have worked in the United States and individual Americans will mention that the little Canadian brother is tagging along, riding on the U.S.'s coattails, etc. And if any such opinions were written in character, through dialogue in a story, they would be a reflection of ONE "reality," from a ground level, local, individual perspective, but not a true, big, political picture.

  10. What a start! got me rooted in front of the computer, hubby is asking for the comp. and I am like, wait a few minutes. Hehehehe!
    I am already loving this novel. More power to you, Hoju as you translate and bring us pleasures galore!!! Many thanks again.

    • “Hands off! Nothing is going to keep me from getting my crack—er, reading my story!” Hahaha

      Glad you’re enjoying it so far. The tension in this story is just so… oomph.

  11. Thank you for the chapter!! Wow, I totally didn’t expect a French kiss within the first chapter!

  12. I really appreciate your effort to have

    • Sorry, it got cut. I really appreciate your effort to have a blessing from the author. Thank you for the translation and Say my thanks to the author. The 1st chapter really hooked me

      • Haha. No problem. 🙂 I’ve posted some pretty embarrassing things before with a slip of the finger (darn you, autocorrect!), so a cut-off post is nothing.

        The author knows about the English readers and is most appreciative of all of you. 🙂

        Glad you’ve been sucked in so far. 🙂

  13. Thank you. .. hooked already 😊

  14. Thank you for translating a new MBFB novel. The setting of the story reminds me about my journey to Tibet, Nepal, India, and Bhutan. Aside from the political entanglements among those countries, they are beautiful countries and are blessed with beautiful sceneries of the Himalayas.

    • Indeed. I looked through plenty of photos online for my research for this novel, and the scenery is just breathtaking. I’d love to visit one day, if possible.
      Thank you fro reading. 🙂

      (Apologies that I missed this comment. 😦 )

  15. And so I started reading this novel finally. Looks like going to be an interesting read. Thank you so much Hoju for the wonderful translation. Love reading about your thoughts too 😘

  16. Got me hooked. I took a long break from reading Chinese novels coz my heart just cant handle the different emotions 😂 But this definitely got me hooked

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