Wen Han’s response to his question… And before the day is over, he gives another invitation.
Chapter 2.2 — The Person at the Foot of Mercy’s Seat (2)
The old washing machine was now in the midst of operation, and the noise it produced was rather loud.
Cheng Muyun’s fingers followed the contour of her collarbone and slid down, coming to a rest at the location of her heart. “We will be very happy.”
If a man you would never meet again in your life, one who had the ability to cause people to lose themselves in him, here at the foot of the highest peak in the world, invited you to intimacy with him, as lovers…
… but the duration of that was ten days, would you accept?
To be able to have him for several hundred hours or to never have him—how would you choose?
It was clear Cheng Muyun had not allotted much time for her to make her choice.
Five twenty in the morning.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
He locked the door of the laundry room from the inside.
Pulling her into his embrace, from the collar of her blouse, he slipped his hand deep inside. The blouse that only a moment ago had been refastened was now forced open again by the strength of his arm. There was the sound of plastic buttons dropping to the floorboards. She wanted to protest, but he had already lifted her up and set her onto a two-high stack of old wooden crates in the corner.
Spread out on top of those crates was an Indian-style blanket.
And all control was lost on everything that followed.
……<>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.
On this morning, when the inn’s young bellboy was carrying some of the innkeeper’s clothes up to the top floor, he happened to see the female guest who was staying on the third floor step out from that top-level laundry room, holding in her arms some garments that were already dried. Her cheeks were dusted with a peculiar rosy glow. While the bellboy was thinking to step aside for her, from the laundry room walked out, as well, that regular male guest who was staying here on a long-term basis.
His head bowed, the bellboy walked up the stairs with the clothing in his arms.
From the corner of his eye, he had clearly seen a secret scene. That regular male guest had grabbed the female guest by the arm and, lowering his head, taken her lips between his own. The female guest had seemed a little anxious and wanted to dodge him, but he had caught her by the wrist. And so, with no other choice, under the menacing gaze of that regular male guest, she had taken two steps backwards and nodded her head.
The female guest fled from there.<>You should be reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
That regular male guest, on the other hand, leaned his hand against the wall, watching as that woman’s silhouette ran down the stairs. The sound of her footsteps had completely faded away into the distance before he gave a subtle, almost imperceptible glance at the bellboy, who had been peeping furtively at them from the doorway of the laundry room for a long time already.
The bellboy hunched his shoulders slightly, and with his head tucked down, he went into the laundry room.
Wearing clothes that were freshly dried, Wen Han returned to her room. Wrapped in the mound of clean clothing that she was haphazardly carrying in her arms was one dirty garment—her blouse that he had torn open until all the buttons had ripped off. Before she left, she had even tried to find those buttons. She had recovered three, but the whereabouts of the other two were unknown.
She stuffed that blouse to the bottommost layer of her suitcase. Recalling everything that had happened just earlier, she slid down against the edge of the bed until she was sitting on the floor, her body curled into a ball, her arms wrapped around her legs, and her back against the bed.
Right at this moment, what came to mind was actually a teenage Agnesa after the first time she had a date with a boy. When she came back, her face had been crimson, and with exhilaration, she had described the remarkable sensation of kissing. “That boy wanted to touch my breasts but he didn’t even dare undo my clothes.” At the time, Agnesa had worn a brilliant smile.
Wen Han pressed her face against the bed sheet. Her eyes were closed, and in her mind, all she could see was the laundry room on the top level.
Having a date. Why did she think of this description?
“When you’ve thought it through, come find me.” These were the words that man had spoken.
He—<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
She discovered right then that she did not even know what his full name was. She had only heard the innkeeper call him “Yun” last night.
The pronunciation had sounded Chinese.<>If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
When it was lunchtime, she absentmindedly went downstairs with Agnesa.
Although they were more than ten minutes late, Wang Wenhao’s lips still had a patient smile on them as he waited downstairs with Roman. Seeing Wen Han, he stood and suggested, “Let’s walk around outside and go see the temples that are in this place. Supposedly today is a holiday for them here.”
The female innkeeper was leisurely tidying up the pipes and accessories that had been used last night for hookah smoking. “In Nepal, one-third of the year is made up of holidays. If you stay here, you will often be celebrating some sort of festival or holiday.” A dimple showed at the corner of the innkeeper’s lips when she spoke, and it gave off a distinct, coquettish feel.
Roman’s palms seemed to grow slightly hot. “It’s a shame we’re only staying here for ten days this time. Next year, when it’s not rainy season, I’ll come to Nepal again. When that time comes, dear innkeeper, would you be willing to be my guide?” Roman’s English was not smooth to begin with, and now, coupled with some flirtatious intentions, he was tripping over his words even more.
Wen Han could not hold back a giggle as she listened to him.
“Oh? Just ten days?” The innkeeper lifted up her hair. “Why so rushed? The journey just to get here is a hard one, so why aren’t you staying a few days more? I remember from your information that your group’s room bookings is for twenty days?”
This reminded Wen Han that she had been the one to book the rooms, but she had forgotten to correct the initial information given. With a rather sheepish smile, she explained, “Some things suddenly came up for one of the people in our group, so, last-minute, we had to shorten our vacation.”
Although she actually did not know, either, why Wang Wenhao had suddenly changed his mind and shortened their twenty-day stay to ten days.
Smiling, the female innkeeper gave a wave of her hand and told them, “No problem. This time of year, there aren’t many tourists in Nepal anyway, so you haven’t really held up much business.”<>If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
Prior to coming here, Wen Han had done her research, and she knew that today was the first day of Nepal’s Teej Festival.
When they stepped into a temple, they saw that gathered together everywhere were Hindu women dressed in splendid attire, joyously laughing, singing and dancing, and not even really paying attention to the fine, drizzling rain that had not so much as paused. Agnesa was watching this novel scene interestedly, and tugging incessantly on Wen Han’s arm, she urged Wen Han to introduce this festival to her.
“This is a fasting festival where they seek blessing for the men. After today’s great celebration, tomorrow, these Hindu womenfolk will fast for twenty-four hours to pray for blessing on their husbands and families. The last day is a cleansing day, and they will thoroughly wash their bodies clean.”
“So what about the unmarried girls?”<>You should be reading this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
“They pray that they will find a good man and have a happy family,” Wen Han answered quietly.
Surrounding them were women dressed in red saris, and all of them were adorned with a red dot on the centre of their foreheads, which had been placed there by the priest when they came in. After standing there for a while, they discovered that the two men in their group had disappeared. With a couple sentences of grumbling, Agnesa stated that she had had enough here and wanted to leave. From this morning to the present, Wen Han’s mind had felt as if it was drifting, and she was unable to take in this type of cultural experience and scenery either. So, she and Agnesa left the temple together.
When they stepped back onto the stone pathway leading to the inn, they unexpectedly saw Wang Wenhao and Cheng Muyun sitting by the entrance of a small, Western restaurant by the roadside. There was also a smiling man with them. Wen Han halted her footsteps, whereas Agnesa suddenly became enthusiastically friendly. Pulling Wen Han by the arm, she strode over to them and took a seat.
“Ah! It’s leaking rainwater in this spot.” Agnesa had sat down too quickly and had not noticed that the chair was wet.
Wen Han tilted her head up to glance at this outdoor awning. It was not that there was a leak. Those two seats on the outside were beyond the edge of the awning and were not even under its cover.
Cheng Muyun smiled. Turning slightly, he said something to a person on the other side of the open window in a language that everyone did not understand. Before long, the owner of this Western restaurant jogged out and invited them to go inside to sit.
Their entire group stepped into the restaurant and sat down at the table by the window next to the street.
Beside Wen Han was Agnesa, across from her was Wang Wenhao, and diagonally across from her to her right was Cheng Muyun. As she held her menu, she tried as best as she could to make herself appear as if she was not acquainted with him at all.
And Cheng Muyun, as they had previously agreed, very obligingly acted along with her. Other than occasionally showing the same interest in her that he had displayed during last night’s revelrous party, the remainder of his time was used to deal with Agnesa’s extreme friendliness.
“You really used to be a monk?”<>You should be reading this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Cheng Muyun answered, “Really.”
“Why did you leave the monastic life?”
“The Dharma has eighty-four thousand paths to enlightenment.” With his elbows on the table and his hands folded together, he propped his chin up on the backs of his hands and looked at Agnesa with solemnity. “I have chosen the Dharma path that is most suitable for me.”
Agnesa was amused by his words. “So from what you’re saying, you’re still working on the path to enlightenment?”
“That is correct.”<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
“So… what if you violate one of the Buddhist precepts?”
Wang Wenhao gave a smile. “Agnesa, your question is too subtle. Let me help you phrase it more clearly.” He patted Cheng Muyun on the shoulder. “This beautiful lady in front of you is actually trying to ask you, are you willing to violate the precept of celibacy?”
“Precept of celibacy?” Cheng Muyun’s peripheral gaze ever so briefly swept to the corner before moving away again. “Enduring the pains brought by lust and sensualness is also one of the eighty-four thousand ascetic practices of Dharma.” This was a very novel way of speaking about this concept. The faces of everyone present showed intrigue with the topic. Even the man beside Cheng Muyun felt that this was very curious and interesting.
Only Wen Han was staring at the steak in front of her, carrying on in seriousness with cutting up her beef.
The steak in this place was very much overdone and was basically a strength and quality test for her knife. In the beginning, she had cut off a large chunk, but after putting it into her mouth, she needed to chew for a long while before she was able to make the meat soft and easy enough to swallow. Therefore, for the next piece, she had no choice but to work even harder to saw off an even smaller piece from the steak.
“What about ‘mutual cultivation’ [cultivation through sexual intercourse between a man and a woman] toward enlightenment?” Agnesa suddenly glanced at Wen Han. “Mutual cultivation. We’ve read about it in the library before.”
With a clank, the knife’s cutting motions banged into the plate.
The two tables of tourists beside them were startled, and they all looked in their direction.
A tinge of embarrassment showed in Wen Han’s eyes as she flashed an apologetic smile at the people around her…<>If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
“Mutual cultivation?” Cheng Muyun quietly repeated those words. “That is a very old and also very mysterious and profound topic.”
Observing Wen Han with her head down, cutting her steak, Wang Wenhao seemed a little displeased. Giving a light cough, he evaded this topic and, instead, asked Wen Han how their time at the temple had been. Agnesa seemed extremely irritated by the fact that the women fasted for an entire day to pray for blessing for the men. In bafflement over this practice, she stated two or three sentences denouncing it, while, in passing, also expressing her interest in henna tattoos.
In India, because she had not been acclimatized to the country and, hence, had been unwell, Agnesa had managed to miss out on this traditional art form. “Wen Han likes it a lot, too. Too bad she had to stay with me in the hotel. And I’m not sure whether the people here will apply henna to non-Hindu women. From your fingertips to the tips of your toes… I wonder what it feels like when they’re painting it on. You know, I’m really ticklish.”
The atmosphere was pleasant as they ate their dinner.
Every so often, Wang Wenhao would talk quietly to Wen Han, and he asked her if she had slept comfortably last night.
“Pretty good. It’s just a little humid. Too bad the dryer upstairs can only handle clothing,” Wen Han remarked. “It’d be nice if our bed sheets and blankets could be dried, too.”
“If you are regular guests, it can absolutely be done.” As if he was not at all well acquainted with her, Cheng Muyun threw her a sideways glance, his eyes narrowed in a slight squint. “The innkeeper’s room has a wall fireplace that imitates a Russian style. She can help you set the bedding by the heat until it is dry and warm.
“Really?” Agnesa elatedly asked, but then her reaction switched to a plaintive one. “Too bad… None of us are regular guests.”
Still resting his chin on the backs of his hands, Cheng Muyun smiled. “I would think that there should not be any problems with that.”
The result, naturally, was that there were not any problems with that.
It seemed the innkeeper never refused any of his requests.
However, Cheng Muyun did hint to them that they should keep quiet about this, lest the other guests at the inn found out about it. He even was so kind as to personally bring the bedding over for the two ladies. Wang Wenhao was not so fragile and delicate and politely declined his offer. When Roman learned about this later that night, he was even more displeased and warned Agnesa to be wary of that man. “There’s something poisonous about the look in his eyes.”
Agnesa jeered back at Roman, “You’re just jealous because you see that the lady innkeeper treats him specially. I’m vowing here, he will be mine, so you can just rest assured and boldly go and woo your Little Fox.”
Agnesa was absolutely determined to get what she wanted and even asked why Wang Wenhao had been sitting with him at dinner. Also, who was that short man who was a stranger to them? Wang Wenhao explained that after he became separated from them, he had run into Cheng Muyun, who had been with a friend. Cheng Muyun had invited him to have dinner with them, and he had not refused.
“See? You’re a man and you can’t even refuse him, let alone us women.” Grinning, Agnesa slipped an arm around Wen Han’s shoulders. “Wen Han, he shouldn’t be the type you like, right?” When she said this, she even flicked her gaze in Wang Wenhao’s direction.
Wen Han gave a couple of coughs.<>You should be reading this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Sitting on Agnesa’s bed, she carried on with taking the playing cards that were stacked in her hand and laying them out in sequence until, in the end, they covered half of the bed. Wang Wenhao was standing behind her, and discovering an error in their order, he leaned his face in close to the back of her shoulder, telling her gently, “There’s a mistake.”
Wen Han paused blankly for a brief moment, feeling Wang Wenhao’s breath against her ear.
Hastily, she pulled away from him, and throwing down the cards that were in her hands, she jogged over to the window to look out with Agnesa at the view of the street.
Her head was filled only with the words Cheng Muyun had said to them earlier, when he was taking the bedding from Agnesa’s room. “I will bring these back at night.” Agnesa had been exhilarated and, very enthusiastically, had told him that she would definitely wait for him, that even if she had to wait until the sun came out, she would not mind.<>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.
It was past ten o’clock that night when Cheng Muyun finally appeared with the bedding in his arms.
When the door of Agnesa’s room was opened after he knocked on it, Agnesa, under the dim yellow lighting of the hallway, took the bedding from him. Upon discovering that the innkeeper had even very thoughtfully wrapped a cloth around the outside of it, she was very pleasantly surprised.
“Where’s Wen Han’s?” Agnesa noticed he had only brought this one set of bedding back.
“It will be ready soon. The innkeeper will bring it over herself shortly.”
Agnesa’s eyes sparkled, and the corners of her lips curved upwards. Suddenly, she leaned in beside Cheng Muyun’s ear. Although the blanket in her arms separated their two bodies, her face was very close to his. “Thank you.”
Stepping backwards unhurriedly, Cheng Muyun smiled.
Agnesa thought he would understand the obvious hint that she had given in these late night hours. Alas, this man who aroused her interest did not express any of the same eagerness toward her.
Reluctantly, she was about to close her room door.
“Would you like to try getting a henna tattoo?” With narrowed eyes, he glanced at the door of the adjacent room. “Tell your friend to come along. I know a nice, little shop.”
Agnesa’s eyes lit up. “Sure! Otherwise I really don’t know what I’d do tonight anyway.”
“In half an hour, I shall respectfully await downstairs the pleasure of your and your friend’s presence.”<>If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the translation has been taken without consent of the translator
Only a door separated this conversation from her. Wen Han heard it all very clearly.
In fact, from the moment she heard the sound of footsteps, she had leaped up from the bed and taken a seat anxiously on the couch, her bare feet pressed tightly together as she sat in a very solemn and proper posture, waiting for him to knock on the door.
She had continuously told herself, she needed to take the bedding very quickly, say thank you to him, and then just shut the door.
She absolutely could not give him any opportunity.
However, she had not expected that after all her waiting, in the end, what she would hear was his invitation to Agnesa and herself to fulfill their henna tattoo dream—yet another surprise. She was never able to guess what his next move would be. From this afternoon when she went to the temple, she had persuaded herself that she should not waver anymore. Who would have thought that on her way back, she would already be having dinner with him? Then, because of her one, casual sentence of griping, he had ended up taking her bed sheets and blanket from her. And so it had been until now, when, late at night, the topic of henna tattoos all of a sudden came up.
……<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
When Agnesa came to find her, Wen Han made up countless excuses but was still unable to escape from going. After all, she could not outright state the true reason for trying to stay away from him.
“Didn’t you complain about missing out on the chance to get one done when we were in India?” Agnesa put a red, French-style, wide-brimmed hat onto her own head and then, in passing, helped Wen Han put on her black one.
The drizzling rain was fluttering down outside. Naturally, holding an umbrella did not create nearly as alluring a picture as wearing this type of hat did.
The several of them all arrived downstairs.
As before, it was still a night scene of hookah and smiling and conversing guests.
This morning, a few guests had checked out, but then another few girls from Hong Kong had arrived, and they were now chatting quietly.
The jasper-green glass door blurred the view of the late-night streetscape outside.
Holding down her hat, she lifted her eyes. Through the glass that was blanketed with streaks of water droplets, she saw him. Agnesa pushed open the door. There was the night wind that blew in. And there was also his gaze as he turned around.
“Such a strong wind?” Agnesa held her hat down with her hand as well, and striding through the doorway, she stretched a hand out, facing it upward to catch some rain. “How come this rain has just never stopped?”
Wen Han stepped out after her, avoiding his gaze as she gave a polite nod in greeting.
Taking a couple of steps forward, he casually closed the inn’s glass door for them. His barely audible voice glided into her ear. “The entire daytime, you kept showing up in my vision. Were you testing my self-restraint?”
Caught off guard, Wen Han looked back in surprise.
……<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
“Will there be a big storm here?” At the same time, Agnesa also turned around, smiling sweetly. “Or perhaps the question is, when will the weather clear up? Will we get to see Nepal’s sun in the next ten days?”
“You will have to see what your luck is.”
With an expression that showed he did not really care either way, he pointed at somewhere far down the dim street.
In that direction was the little shop he had mentioned.<>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.
 双修 “shuang xiu.” To the layman, the idea of “mutual cultivation” is what has often been portrayed on television or in novels, where a man and a woman engage in intercourse, not for sexual pleasure, but because it will move them to a higher level of enlightenment or cultivation.<>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.
As many of you keenly recognized, this scene in the laundry room from the previous chapter and beginning of this chapter was featured in My Darling, when Chu Jian went to visit Jian Bianlin on the set. Jian Bianlin was acting the role of Cheng Muyun.
1 of 1 Prologue
5 of 50 Chapter segments
0 of 1 Epilogue