A little glimpse of another side of Cheng Muyun. And also someone else. 😉
Chapter 1.3 — They Meet Again in Nepal (3)
Wen Han practically leaped up out of her seat.
This man had noiselessly drawn near, and she and Agnesa had not detected it at all. She was afraid of him and wanted to avoid him. However, his frivolously harassing tone also very much carried a distinct Moscow flavour and was a very pleasant surprise to Agnesa, to the point that a favourable impression of him was immediately created. In particular, the one sentence that he had spoken in Russian when he approached them felt especially near and dear to her.
Because her friend was by her side, Wen Han could not let herself have any verbal conflict with him, but it was evident still that she very much had an aversion to him.
Cheng Muyan’s manner, on the other hand, was very courteous and gracious, and his every movement and gesture wholly demonstrated the model example of a gentleman. Amid Wen Han’s words and attitude that were intentionally trying to make things difficult for him, he still again and again passively conceded to her and, moreover, put on the pretense that they had merely by chance run into one another this afternoon in the laundry room. In a casual tone, he chatted with them. “The coffee in this inn is terrible, but I do know a shop here in Thamel that still sells coffee at night. Its food is quite good also.”
“Oh?” Agnesa cupped her chin lightly in her hand and rested her elbow on the low bar table, accentuating even more the perfect curve in front of her chest. “Just how good is ‘quite good’?”
“How good?” Cheng Muyun repeated her question in a light voice, the ending pitch of his last word trailing upward slightly. “This question that has no standard to judge against is very difficult to answer. At the very least, you won’t taste the taste of India in it.”
Most of Nepal’s food and drink and dietary habits tended to imitate India’s.
Their journey had taken them from India to here, so they had long since had enough of those spices that would show up at all times. When they heard him say this, they actually seemed to feel that all different sorts of rich, strong, biting scents of spices were once again beginning to waft about everywhere around them.
“Then let’s go try it out,” Agnesa said with a laugh.
“It’s dangerous going out at this time of day,” Wen Han reminded her softly.
Cheng Muyun’s physique was not like the average ethnic Chinese. His height advantage that allowed him to look down on others was exhibited simply by sitting right where he was. Resting his arm on the back of the couch, he leaned back languidly, seeming through his whole posture and the cadence of his voice as if he would doze off at any time. This person was utterly able to carry himself as if he, alone, was a painting. For example, right this moment, he called up into people’s minds the image of an antique stove of Russia, and in the entire open space, there was only his face on which the dancing light of the stove’s flames was cast.
Perceiving Wen Han’s somewhat loathing gaze on him, he glanced at her from beneath his eyelashes, which had remained lowered this entire time.
“To be of service to such beautiful ladies is my honour. If you two ladies do not mind, please wait a moment.” He rose to his feet from the crimson couch. “I shall return with two cups of rich and fragrant and authentically local coffee.”
After saying this, he gave a polite nod of his head and then left the bar area.
Accompanying his action of pushing open the door was once more the jingling of the bronze bell, a mysteriously pleasant sound that warmly saw this guest off.
“Wen Han.” Through the glass of the door, Agnesa took a glance at Cheng Muyun’s backside as she quietly complained about Wen Han’s cool behaviour. “What’s up with you? I’ve never seen such an interesting Chinese person before. He has my favourite colour of eyes, pure black. Did you notice? I’ve never seen a man with such long eyelashes and whose eyes could hold such a gorgeous look, like…” Agnesa wanted to describe it but found that she was lost for words. Unexpectedly, one of the spices that they had eaten in India popped up in her mind. “Like rosemary [bewitching, persistent fragrance]. Let me tell you, Wen Han, he just needs to look at me and then I’ll feel my whole body getting hot.”
“Mm-hmm. I know you like that type.”
Wen Han pulled her shawl tighter around herself. She could not just sit here and continue pretending anymore that nothing had happened, waiting for that unique cup of coffee that that man had described. She needed to find an excuse to leave behind the still-enthusiastic Agnesa and go back upstairs alone.
It seemed the sky was quite overcast tonight. There was not really any starlight.
Wen Han followed the staircase and walked up to the third floor. A faint breeze drifted in through a window. She discovered a card beneath her room door. A corner of the card poked out from underneath the door, as if it had been purposely placed this way. She picked it up. Sure enough, some simple words had been scrawled on the card—a handwritten love poem. At this moment, Wang Wenhao was strolling around outside with their other travel companion, Roman, and this card must have been placed here by him before he left, while she was not paying attention.
Stepping into her entirely darkened room, she pulled open a drawer and set the card inside. The cards from the previous twenty-four days had also been dealt with in this same way, placed in a drawer of an unfamiliar inn to wait for someone else to take it away. After prudently locking the door and all the windows, she went to take a shower.
Stretching her hand forward, she tested the water temperature. It was okay. It was not cool, though just barely.
She flipped her hair forward and massaged her scalp.
What Wen Han did not know was that, after that man whom she feared left the inn, he had merely pulled out a U.S. greenback from somewhere on him and handed it to the other, relatively-older bellboy, who was watching the door. “Go buy two cups of coffee for those two ladies inside.” It was not necessary for him to tell the boy from which shop to buy the coffee. This Indian bellboy was already familiar with his habits, and very cheerfully, he took on the role this time of errand boy.
This regular guest at the inn liked to use U.S. greenbacks.
As long as he took them, his boss lady naturally would help him change the American dollars into rubles, and then he would earn a nice bit of profit from his errand boy fees. Such a generous inn guest. As the bellboy squatted outside the door of the coffee shop, he was even praying that this guest would stay for a longer time at the inn.<>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.
The lifestyle of the Nepali people was very laidback.
Most shops opened for customers at noon and then closed by six o’clock in the evening.
The lights were now dim as he walked on the streets at this time of night. Somewhere in the distance, there was the clear sound of a dog barking. He strolled along the street, leaving the Thamel district where foreign tourists usually resided and continuing ahead.
When he passed by an old, small temple, he at last halted his steps.
In the darkness, a lonesome figure with a hunched back stood on the dirt road behind the temple. Cheng Muyun stepped over toward him. The hunchbacked old man immediately pressed his palms together in greeting and beckoned to Cheng Muyun to follow him. The two treaded down this path that was laden with small puddles and mud, passing between two walls, and after taking many twists and turns, stepped into a small underground casino.
Due to a lack of renovation funds, the entire space emanated a feel of derelict, raucousness, and extravagance that was intermixed with the noise of money being exchanged, and smoke pervaded and hovered in this place.
Once Cheng Muyun stepped foot into the casino, his guide transformed from a stooped-over old man into an Indian boy with a red bindi dot between his brows.
Following the boy, he finally arrived at his destination for tonight.
The boy lifted open for him a cloth curtain on which there was an illustration of the Six Realms of the Wheel of Life.
Cheng Muyun stepped inside.
Beneath the glow cast by the wall lamps, there was a middle-aged man beside the gambling table, playing dice with himself. In the remainder of the space, there were seven or eight men, some sitting, some leaning against the gambling table. Only one faced the Buddha statue that was in the wall, praying.
When Cheng Muyun walked in, the gaze of every person shifted over to him.
Amber, black, and blue eyes—people of all different nationalities.
The black-haired man who had been praying to the Buddha statue also turned his head, showing his white teeth as he smiled. The middle-aged man casually set down his yellow, ivory dice cup onto the gambling table and introduced them to one another. “Cheng Laoban, this is the bodyguard, Meng Liangchuan, you wanted to hire. You specifically requested for him by name, so the price—”
“The price does not need to be negotiated.” Looking at that man who was shorter than him by half a head, Cheng Muyun spoke in Chinese, telling him straight up, “I shall pay the price you ask.”
Meng Liangchuan shrugged. “You’re fast and decisive. For the next six months, I’ll be in charge of your safety as well as all your needs in Nepal.”
In fact, the people in this room were all additional back-up alternatives that Ke Laoban had prepared in the event that Cheng Muyun was not satisfied with Meng Liangchuan. Seeing as the two had already reached an oral agreement, there was no need for the others to remain. Ke Laoban was both the middleman in this transaction as well as Cheng Muyun’s long-term source of intelligence information. After he instructed the others to leave, he began to brief Meng Liangchuan on the plans for the next half a month.<>If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
Their main target was this group of tourists who had suddenly arrived at the inn that Cheng Muyun was staying in.
“Amongst them, there is a man with glasses named Wang Wenhao. His official, proper identity is a university professor, but he is also a trafficker of illicit goods. In name, he came here to Nepal for leisure travel, but secretly, his purpose is, within the next ten days, to do a deal on a batch of smuggled goods with someone in Druma.” Ke Laoban explained to Meng Liangchuan, “Cheng Laoban’s target is that item that Wang Wenhao is hoping to exchange for.”
“What is it?”
Ke Laoban cast a glance at Cheng Muyun. “I can tell you that this particular item was originally in Cheng Laoban’s private collection. Back then, it was stolen and then passed through the hands of several people, and so has long since been out of the control of anyone’s authority.”
Meng Liangchuan gave an “oh.” He understood now and, hence, did not pursue the question any further.
Most items kept in private collections were generally priceless.
He truly had not expected that, in this profession of his, he would have a chance to come into contact with Cheng Muyun, face to face. How could he describe this? The name “Cheng Muyun” was associated with too many incredibly amazing things of the past. And he of the past would absolutely never have needed a “bodyguard” trained off the streets either.
Of course, these had been Meng Liangchuan’s thoughts previously.
Everyone knew that several years ago, Cheng Muyun had rid himself of all his money, donated all of his estate, and vanished from the face of the earth. From the corner of his eye, Meng Liangchuan admiringly glanced over the man beside him.
What item could cause him to re-emerge into the world of men again?<>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.
They continued to discuss their plans.
“This Wang Wenhao is here as a vacationer. What about his goods? How did he bring them in?” Meng Liangchuan was puzzled.
“His goods were sent here to Nepal half a year ago. These last couple of days, Wang Wenhao has been searching for a middleman and is planning on hiring a few bodyguards. Once the deal is done, he’s going to immediately leave the country and return as fast as possible to Moscow.”
“Who’s the other party that he’s doing the deal with?”
“Time and place where the goods are going to exchange hands?”
“Don’t know.” Ke Laoban stated this matter-of-factly.
Meng Liangchuan grinned. “So we can only be by his side and wait for any opportunity to arise at any time.”
“That is correct.” Ke Laoban chuckled, “I have already arranged it so that you and another person will go meet him tomorrow. You will be recommended to be his ‘bodyguards.’ That way, you will have the greatest chance of coming in contact with the goods.”
Meng Liangchuan comprehended his meaning. “I have no problems with that. I just want to know who the other person is. I don’t really like working with strangers.”
“I am the other person.”
The voice came from Cheng Muyun.
He was toying with four small dice. The old, yellowed dice were weaving between his fingers, but even with such tightly-spaced movements, the four dice never once collided, nor were there any sounds of them brushing against one another.
His motions were skillful and noiseless.<>If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, then the translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
 迷迭香 “mi die xiang.” The Chinese name for rosemary sounds actually quite poetic, and literally means “a bewitching, persistent fragrance.”
 六道轮回 “Liu Dao Lun Hui.” The illustration is the traditional Buddhist representation of cyclical existence, or the “Wheel of Life” (also known as the Wheel of Karma, or Bhavachakra). Very simplistically, in Buddhist belief, in the cycle of life, death, rebirth and suffering, a person’s existence is determined by karma. Depending on karma, a person is reborn to exist in one of the Six Realms, which is described using the Wheel of Life. The illustration depicts a wheel that is subdivided into three “higher” realms—the Realm of Gods and Heavenly Beings, the Realm of Demi-Gods, and the Human Realm—and three “lower” realms—the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, the Hell Realm, and the Animal Realm. (Note: I am not learned at all on Buddhism so please only take this to help with visualizing in the story and not as proper Buddhist doctrine.)
 老板 “lao ban.” The most direct translation of this is “boss.” However, used here in the context of the story, there should be an underlying tone of respect. “Boss Cheng” seems to take away that feeling of awe and deference to someone powerful (and feels more like flunky goons addressing their boss), and therefore I have chosen to keep this in its pinyin form as Laoban.<>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.
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