Between the two men, Wen Han’s heart unwittingly sides with Cheng Muyun. They part ways… or do they? And what do you think is going on with Wang Wenhao?
Chapter 4.1 — Night in Lumbini (1)
“Are you nuts?!” Struggling against him, Wang Wenhao wanted to grab the dagger, but he had only just lifted his arm before Cheng Muyun’s two fingers were gripping his throat.
There was not even a sliver of a gap. No oxygen was allowed to pass through into him.
Wang Wenhao’s head was arched backwards. His two hands grasped wildly at Cheng Muyun’s wrists, fighting as he tried to break free using all his strength born from the urge to live. Utterly useless.
The torrential rain interspersed with thumb-sized chunks of ice pelted down on Wang Wenhao’s face.
In that split second, the memory was called up in his mind of that night when he first entered the smuggling trade, of that instant when he, his eyes constantly looking around him, had taken the money with trembling hands, only to have it ripped from him again and a gleaming knife thrust at him. That had once been his moment of greatest fear, where he had believed he would die in that corner of Moscow’s railway station. Later, his business grew bigger and bigger, while in contrast, that fear had faded.
There was no problem that money could not solve.
But now, this here, it wasn’t the same! This was completely different!
His gaze, which was blurred due to lack of oxygen, saw hell.
Something was swaying back and forth. It was the image before his eyes, as well as his own body…
Wen Han was frantically shaking Cheng Muyun’s arm, crying out, “You let him go! Let him go!” She had run all the way over here, falling two times on the way, and her face was completely splattered with muddy water.
He shifted his gaze slightly, turning it onto her.
Inside those eyes that were red due to high fever was the reflection of Wen Han’s face, her hair chaotically splayed over her shoulders. “You madman! Let go of him!” Wen Han was trembling from fear, but still she shoved at him with all her might, not knowing at all that beneath his sodden clothing, separated from her by only a layer of cloth, were all the wounds he had sustained two nights ago.
With the eyes of everyone on him, he released Wang Wenhao and pulled his dagger that was stabbed in the soil back out. His lips were pressed together and curled up in a dangerous-looking arc.
Turning, he left.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
That was just too terrifying.<>You should read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
All the men who witnessed this scene felt their hearts quaking and their flesh creeping. The women, on the other hand, seemed as if they were watching something exhilarating, and while they were at it, they let their hearts pound rapidly for this hand-to-hand combat that had taken place between the two men. That was just too manly! Too hot-blooded!
Of course, this did not include Wen Han.
Just now, when she had stopped them from a close distance, she had also been struck with fear because of his rage. When they were back inside the tent, Wang Wenhao’s face was pale as he incessantly downed hot water and also told them, tomorrow, they absolutely had to get away from this tourist group, get away from that man. She was still clutching her right hand tightly with her left, caught in retrospective fear.
The two guides came to make peace, their palms continuously pressed together as they apologized. They also said that those two men would be leaving tomorrow.
“What? They’re leaving tomorrow?” There was an obvious touch of disappointment along with Agnesa’s surprise.
Roman grew even more displeased, grumbling that Agnesa could not even differentiate between friends and enemies, that after her own friend had been given a beating, she would still keep thinking about the other party.
Agnesa laughed, mocking Roman for not seeming the least bit like a man from Moscow, that he would place so much importance on a street fight. “You go take a look. Which bar doesn’t have a fight or two after midnight?”
As a result, the first half of this night was passed amid Agnesa and Roman’s bickering.
In the latter half of the night, Agnesa was asleep, and Wen Han had also gradually regained her calm.
Rushing out of the tent to break up the fight had been her instinctive reaction. She actually dared not even admit that she had in fact been more afraid that he would get hurt, even though he was obviously far stronger physically than Wang Wenhao.<>Copyright of Fanatical, 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.
This heavy rainstorm had brewed for several days, and when it was completely done, they at last got to see their first clear sky since arriving in Nepal.
Early in the morning, the guides assigned the travellers each to one of the elephants that Cheng Muyun had brought here last night.
Wang Wenhao was still seething with fury, and the other male travellers were already coming over, trying to pacify him. “See, even when he left last night, that guy did not hold grudges and left all the elephants for the tourists.”
“You can imagine, then, that everyone’s emotions were just so high strung because of last night’s storm and that awful disaster three nights ago,” the two Korean girls added. They were very sad to have to part with that man.<>Copyright of Fanatical, 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 each elephant, in addition to the mahout, three to four people could be seated within the square, railed enclosure on its back.
Wen Han did not want to listen to the endless bickering between Agnesa and Roman and chose to sit with two strangers. When the elephants got up and were leaving the campsite in an orderly manner, she still had not seen him.
He was gone already?<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Holding the railing in front of her, she continuously scanned around.
She felt a pressing urge to see him. Last night should not have been like that. She at least should have gone to find him in the later part of the night, to say goodbye to him or maybe something else, to exchange contact details with one another…
The elephant, though, was not aware of her reluctance to leave and, with the rest of the group, pressed on nonstop with its forward walk.
When the first elephant passed by the riverbank, a melody began to ring out, an unfamiliar tune. Someone searched curiously around—there, on the opposite side of the river. A white-garbed blind man wearing the local dress was blowing into an instrument, playing this tune, and squatted beside him was a boy collecting money from passing travellers.
One of the girls in their group called out in excited surprise, “It’s him, it’s him!”
More people looked in that direction.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
As it turned out, the important thing that captured their attention was not the white-garbed blind man. Rather, it was the man who was lowered in a half-crouch in front of the blind man, handing a bill of money to the boy.
Across the river, with his back to their team of elephants, he stretched out that same right hand that had nearly asphyxiated a grown man last night and patted the top of the boy’s head.
Even when the group and their elephants disappeared from view, his eyes still remained closed, concealing away all the light in them, as he quietly listened to the blind man play this Buddhist song.
Never did he turn to look even once at her.
……<>Copyright of Fanatical, 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.
When the elephant team arrived at an area obstructed by a landslide and it was discovered that they would not be able to pass through, the travellers had no choice but to pay for their services and then watch as the elephants deserted them.
“Let’s go.” Wang Wenhao reached his hand over to support Wen Han, but Wen Han shook her head, sidestepping his gesture. He was somewhat displeased, but then, as he thought about the fact that this time’s business transaction was already completed and they would be returning to Moscow shortly, he let this little incident go.
The mountain trails were difficult to travel.
The people around her were all griping in low voices that their luck on this expedition had really just been too terrible.
Wen Han’s entire mind, however, was filled only with that final image of his backside. Was he mad? Even in the end, he had not given her so much as a single glance.
They walked like this for three or four hours, until finally, they saw a small village.
The guides bid everyone to sit down and rest and wait for the vans here. In the meantime, the porters also unloaded all the travellers’ bags and piled them up in an open area on the ground.
“Once the vans get here, we will be heading to Pokhara. There is hot water there as well as delicious food. It is the second largest city in Nepal. I am sure it will help all of you quickly forget about the unpleasant experiences from a few days ago.” Clapping his hands, the guide enthusiastically introduced the city of Pokhara to everyone.
Wen Han and Agnesa pulled out moist towelettes from their small backpacks, wiped their hands clean, and began to divide up some crackers.
Shortly after, Wang Wenhao, who was on out on the open ground helping to check and take tally of everyone’s bags, suddenly began acting strangely. First, he loudly reprimanded those porters. Then with a scowling expression, he ran over to where they were and, after swigging half a bottle of water, sat down in silence for a long time with his face buried in his hands.
Right as the vans arrived, he unexpectedly leapt to his feet, rushing over to ask the guides whether he could hire one of the vans to go to Lumbini.
“Lumbini?” the guide repeated in surprise. “That’s not part of our itinerary.”
“I know, I know.” Wang Wenhao’s voice was scratchy, and he was breaking out in cold sweat from anxiety. “But I must go there. You know that”—Wang Wenhao turned around and pointed in Wen Han’s direction—“my female companion there is a devout Buddhist. This is my surprise to her.”
Wen Han was taken aback.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Before coming here, she had indeed mentioned that she wanted to go to Lumbini, but after arriving in Nepal, it seemed as if all their plans had been thrown out the window. She had even forgotten that she had once said she wanted to go there—Lumbini, the place where Queen Maya Devi had given birth, or more specifically, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.
The guide gave Wang Wenhao a warm hug. “As a Nepali, I am very happy that you, sir, and your friends like Lumbini so much. However, there are only two vans here today, and we have seventeen people. We really are unable to pull out one van to fulfill your request.”
Wang Wenhao unremittingly continued his persuasion, saying various exaggeratedly devout words, such as, if he did not go to Lumbini in this journey, it would become a lifelong regret, etc., etc. In the end, he finally managed to sway the guides. Though they did not let Wang Wenhao’s group take a van, they did promise that they would allow one van to come back and bring them to complete that devout pilgrimage.
This was an unexpected travel plan.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
Apart from Wang Wenhao, nobody knew about it, even the other three in the party.
Wen Han even had a sense that this particular part of the itinerary had only just been decided upon—this was her gut feeling.
Although Agnesa and Roman were surprised, they speculated that Wang Wenhao was doing this to win back Wen Han’s heart that she had left with that ethnic-Chinese man, and therefore they did not really object.<>Copyright of Fanatical, 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.
Hence, the four separated from the large group. In the afternoon, a van returned and took them to Lumbini.
“See, Wang Wenhao still is so good to you, even though, yes, he can’t beat out that man.” Agnesa comforted in a low voice, “Oh, yes, God, I get it. That man can cause any woman to lose her heart to him. But don’t be so downcast anymore, like you’ve lost your soul, my dear. Think about where we’re going. It’s so exhilarating. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.”
Sitting by the window, Wen Han stared out at the wide stretch of paddy fields, her mind very blank.
The initial anticipation and thrill after first arriving in Nepal. The excitement of the evocative atmosphere after meeting Cheng Muyun. And also later, the distancing between the two of them, the jealousy, her injuries, and their separation. With the speed at which these last few days had come at her, they felt like the passage of more than twenty years.<>Copyright of Fanatical, 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 arrived at their destination by nightfall.
Wang Wenhao seemed to have already researched where they should stay and headed directly to an unassuming inn.
This place could not compare to Kathmandu and was very basic and crude.
There was air-conditioning in the lobby that was producing cold air with hums of whirr, whirr. Against the window was a row of old computers. Several travellers were surfing the internet with their backs to them.
Wang Wenhao and Agnesa went to the bar-height reception desk to check in, while Roman went to the washroom.
Wen Han, on the other hand, stood in the courtyard and kept watch over everyone’s bags. The French-style sunhat on her head was very inharmonious with this place and was also a little dirty, but it could cover her rather unsightly complexion.
With the light of the setting sun, she could see that written on the wall were the words, “Home for Chinese people in Lumbini.”
That was such a nice sentence. Home for Chinese people.
As she stared dazedly at this, her thoughts once again turned to him.
“Did you come to this strange, unfamiliar place because you wanted to find me?”
The voice of the person who spoke this was very light, its inflections as if he was flirting, and it struck straight into the most tender reaches of her heart. She whipped her head around to look toward the man standing at the entrance of the courtyard, leaning against the door.
He was smiling, his hand resting on the doorframe and two fingers tapping lightly against the door. “What? I guessed correctly?”<>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.
1 of 1 Prologue
10 of 50 Chapter segments
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