Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

Life: A Black and White Film (一生一世,黑白影画) — Chapter 8.2

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Welcome to India. There is a significant shift in the feel of the journey, which is actually a reflection, I believe, of a shift in the direction of the story.

Chapter 8.2 — When Buddha’s Warrior Attendant Glares in Terrible Rage (2)

In a narrow downstairs corridor, Meng Liangchuan squatted down and took three puffs from his cigarette, each time inhaling the smoke deep into his lungs. The man beside him, who happened also to be the police officer who had once questioned Wen Han in that small room of the embassy, set his police hat on the windowsill. “Such a pity.”

Meng Liangchuan closed his eyes.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

It was the second time this kid had saved his life, but this time, it was a life given in exchange for a life. He still clearly remembered how, in the utility room of that Western restaurant, the kid had blocked the way past the metal door and glanced him over up and down: “I quite look down on you.” And also how he had shamelessly boasted to him that he had saved his life on the night the Tibetan mastiffs attacked.

At this same moment, that other police officer’s thoughts were on that man.

Before leaving, Cheng Muyun had dropped into a half-crouch on the floor and, in front of him and Meng Liangchuan, said his final farewells to the body of this grown boy. Playing repeatedly through the officer’s mind was the image of Cheng Muyun as he licked the blood of his brother and comrade from the back of his hand, then straightened back up and left. The police officer thought, he needed to go to the temple before he would be able to calm his heart.

“How did you know about him?”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

“Ten years ago, I worked with someone on a case.” Meng Liangchuan spoke quietly. “That person had had dealings with him before.” Back then, when that man was operating in Moscow, he had had a following of people who worked under him, all of whom had concealed their identities and willingly lived a lonesome life. Many of the people amongst this group had known each other for several years but did not even know the names of the other persons. Later, something happened. Many people died. And then, that man had vanished off the face of the earth. Hence, Meng Liangchuan had always speculated that his return this time was somehow related to that incident in the past.

That night, when Meng Liangchuan at last laid eyes on that man, he had almost had the impression that this identity he had used all these years in order to infiltrate and root out the smuggling base was, in the end, actually for the purpose of waiting for this man to appear in Nepal.

“What should we do with the body?” That middle-aged man with him gave Meng Liangchuan a pensive look.

“Doesn’t fall under our charge. We are unable to deal with this. Cremate the body first, keep the ashes, and wait for him to come get them.”<>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.

 

“Once you are at customs clearance, you will need to deal with everything yourself. Follow the route that I told you and go to that place. Do not show in front of anyone that you know me, unless I tell you to do so.” These were the last words he had spoken to her before he left the temple first.

Gripping the passport that was in her hand, Wen Han pretended to inadvertently glance at the man who, a dozen or so paces away, was waiting with a group of Chinese monks at the doorway of the border control office.

The tour group up ahead had finally finished clearing departure customs.

Wen Han handed over a passport. Cheng Muyun had given it to her. Once she passed it over, she even rapidly came up with countless excuses she could give when she was found out. But everything went very smoothly. After swiftly completing the procedures, she walked out of the office.

Cheng Muyun was still leaning against a column, resting at the bottom of it and waiting to complete the customs departure procedures.

Clenching a small-denomination American bill of money in her hand, she headed in the direction he had described and found the place where she could make a telephone call. She dialed the number. Very quickly, the telephone was answered, and the weary-sounding voice of a middle-aged woman was heard. “Hello?”

She clutched the phone. “Mom.”<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com 

The voice on the other end was very cheerful. “Where are you now in your long pilgrimage? Is our dear little girl having a good time?”

Wen Han’s nose tingled. She dared not say too much and merely followed Cheng Muyun’s instructions, giving only a couple of sentences of explanation: she would be staying in Nepal for a long time; she would be fine and very well; they did not need to worry—no matter what, they did not need to worry.

The call was hung up. The local gave back some change to her.

Turning around, she stepped out onto the street.<>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.

 

Right now, she was standing in the street between Nepal and India. To her left was Nepal; to her right was India’s border gate. People were coming and going, and there were many border guards dressed in camouflage clothing.

He had not lied to her.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

He had said, “When you make your telephone call, you will discover that your adoptive parents know nothing. As far as their knowledge goes, you and your friends are still continuing your pilgrimage, and furthermore, this trip will last for three months.”

He had said, “The movements of Wang Wenhao and your friends are all temporarily being restricted, so no one knows that, of the four of you, you are actually missing.”

He had said, “After the phone call ends, you must start learning to trust me.”

Lifting up the brim of her sun hat, she saw that those monks had begun to head toward India’s border gate. She also began walking in that direction. In her peripheral vision, he was there.

The two of them seemed to be walking parallel to one another but in two different worlds.

A female traveller exploring a foreign country. A monk alone on a pilgrimage.

One after the other, they passed through the large gate and crossed over India’s border.<>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.

Following the route he had planned out, she travelled about for an entire day until she arrived alone at the railway station. It was different from when she was here in India one month ago. One month ago, she had been vacationing.

But now, when she saw in the station’s plaza those women and children warming themselves beside the fire with only ragged old blankets around them, or when many people rushed up to her, grabbing her hand and firing questions at her in English that had a strong Indian accent, her nerves were taut the entire time.

Here, there were people, and there were also cows, dogs, some dirty, unknown types of birds, and mice.

Even without all that she had experienced in Nepal, India was still a very unsafe country to her.

Train tickets were not being checked. While she was being bumped and crammed onto the railcar by the masses of people, she brushed shoulders with a cow…

Someone caught sight of her foreigner’s face and, assuming she must have bought a ticket in the upper-class AC cars[1], nudged her. “Air-conditioned cars with beds are up front.” However, the ticket she clutched was for middle-tier sleeper class.

“S.” Sleeper. That shouldn’t be too bad, right?<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

“You should have bought a ticket in a better-class car.” When she found her spot, a local who was securing his luggage to the sleeper berth with a chain said this to her in English that she could not really understand.

She smiled and then tilted her head up to look at her own bed.

The space below it was filled already with sitting people. Those were seats in that space. Above was the sleeping berth. Noisy. Raucous. Filthy. Messy. While she was still in a daze, a boy darted over and climbed up onto her bed. After he had straightened it for her, he immediately hopped back down, stretched a hand out at her, and said something.

She stared blankly.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

“He said he wants a tip,” someone behind her stated in a quiet voice.

Her back stiffened. Carefully, she controlled herself so her face did not show the elation that was in her heart. It had been a full day already. From early this morning, to when they reached the border gate, to now, many hours had passed.

“Oh, really?” She pulled out her smallest-denomination bill and stuffed it into the youngster’s hand.

Then, she turned around to let her gaze meet those deep, black eyes. Her mind now feeling keener by this good turn of events, she pressed her palms together and stated those same words from half a year ago: “Good day, lama.”

A glimmer of light seemed to flicker across his eyes as he returned her greeting by pressing his own palms together as well.

A large group of people flooded into this sleeper car. The train began to move. He sat amid two locals, as his ticket was not for a sleeper berth. There were people everywhere here. Even the single seat beside the window was occupied by two adult men cramming together on it. She had no place she could settle into down here and, therefore, had no choice but to climb up onto her bunk.

The bed had a strange odour.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

Using her bag as a pillow, she was able to, just barely, block out that complex, mouldy stench. From this angle, she could see Cheng Muyun sitting there quietly, seeming truly like someone who was here in India on a pilgrimage.

Night’s curtain fell. Sounds of singing, casual conversation, and loud laughter began to echo around. There were the voices of children, local people, tourists, and many others.

Down below, more than ten people were packed onto seats that should have sat eight.

There was no one checking train tickets here. A seat belonged to whoever was able to snag it. Fortunately, five young Chinese people were able to get a seat each and occupied an entire row.<>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.

“Hey, monk.” Two Chinese girls who were being crammed until they were practically rolling their eyes saw that he was the only person sitting across from them who had a Chinese face, so they began trying to strike up a conversation with him. “Where are you from?”

“Many places,” he replied.<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

One of the girls, the one with short hair, giggled and glanced Cheng Muyun over an extra time. Such a handsome monk. So pleasant on the eyes.

Noticing that Wen Han was not sleeping either, the other girl, who had long hair, looked up at her. “Hey, are you bored sleeping up there? Are you travelling by yourself? It’s not safe for a girl to be alone in India.”

“I am here on a pilgrimage,” Wen Han answered her. “I have friends waiting for me at the next stop.”

“Oh.” The long-haired girl thought for a moment, then cautioned her, “Remember, if anyone gives you any food or drink, don’t have it. Don’t reserve any of the hotels near the train station, and don’t just randomly go out at night. And when you’re at tourist attractions, don’t trust those Indians who beam at you.” In Chinese, she told Wen Han just how dangerous it was here. And the Indian men across from her were also merrily eyeing over this girl who had been talking nonstop the whole time.

Wen Han gave an “mm-hmm” and said thank you to her. This scene was so ordinary it even gave her the feeling that she truly was here on a pilgrimage and not on the run in a foreign country, heading toward some unknown place, just so she could stay alive.

“Monk, this your first time in India?” The short-haired girl could not refrain from attempting to continue talking to Cheng Muyun. This monk was so good-looking; even his fingers that flipped the pages of his book were gorgeous. She was thinking, if their conversation went well, would they be able to take a photograph with him when they got off the train?

“No, it is not.”<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

“So then… what must-eat foods are there in India?” It was apparent she was arbitrarily finding things to talk about. This was something that could be found even in online travel guides. The boy beside her was a little displeased. It was just a monk; what was the point of chatting it up with him?

“You could try some amla.” He turned the page of his book.

“Amla?”<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

Amla. It’s a type of fruit that is frequently mentioned in Buddhist texts and is produced in India. Wen Han thought this.

Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry. (image credit: food.ndtv.com)

Her eyes tingled somewhat. Her heart, which had been in her throat the entire day, had finally, with his appearance, settled back down. However, she still felt a little uneasy. He was sitting amongst the throng, but she could only lie in a place that was diagonally above him, unable to speak and unable to communicate with him. Even letting her eyes meet his was not allowed.

“This fruit is often mentioned in Buddhist texts,” he quietly stated. “It is not often you are here in India, so you should try it.”

“Buddhist texts?” Someone asked, “Monk, have you really been able to memorize so many of them?”

“Aniruddha beholds the entirety of Jambudvipa like an amla fruit in his palm,” he offhandedly responded.

“Uh, what does that mean?”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

Aniruddha was one of the ten principle disciples of the Buddha. Jambudvipa has a variety of meanings, but it most often refers to the human world. To view the human world like one might an amla fruit in one’s palm—a metaphor for being able to see with clarity. Wen Han thought this.

“It is very complicated.” With a smile, he used these four words to dismiss those curious people.

Finding this fun, the short-haired girl asked for a few more textual references to the amla fruit. The long-haired girl beside her was not very interested in Buddhism, and jokingly, she remarked, “There’s nothing useful about studying all those Buddhist texts anyway. It’s better not to ask. You’ll just give yourself a headache.” She lifted her eyes to look at Wen Han, who appeared to have been lonesomely listening to their group’s chitchat the whole time. “Isn’t that right? Are you finding it really boring, too, listening to this?”

Wen Han could not hold back a laugh. “I am a believer of Buddhism.”

The long-haired girl also smiled. “Really? Well, then, would you be able to tell me a classic parable or quotation that I can actually understand? You know, to help me get a bit more interested?”

Wen Han contemplated for a moment. “Just now, what this lama—” Her conscience inexplicably felt a little guilty, and she stole a glimpse at him from the corner of her eye. Cheng Muyun, though, showed absolutely no reaction and continued leafing through his book. “… said was a little complicated. Let me give you an example. Have you ever heard of the saying, ‘to become entrapped in a cocoon of one’s own spinning[2]’?”

Cheng Muyun’s hand, which had been flipping the pages of his book, slowly came to a stop.

The long-haired girl laughed. “I’ve known how to recite that since primary school.”

“This saying actually originated from Buddhist sutra.” Wen Han selected a few sentences and recited them for her. “And as karma accumulates, they become enveloped in their own projections, like silkworms in cocoons, or submerged in boundless states of existence in the sea of birth and death[3].”

“Enveloped in their own projections, like silkworms in cocoons, or submerged in the boundless states of existence in the sea of birth and death.” The people travelling with those two girls also began to grow interested, and they asked, “How do you interpret that?”

“It means…” Although Wen Han’s Chinese had already improved a fair amount, if she were to explain Buddhist scripture, she still needed to first carefully organize her thoughts to form them into words. “When your bad deeds accumulate and become more and more, you will have many false imaginations, and so like a silkworm that has trapped itself in the cocoon it made, you will be trapped in the sea of birth and death. There are a couple more lines that follow, but they are a little complicated so I won’t tell them to you guys. You can go flip through the Lankavatara Sutra. It’s quite fun.”

Cheng Muyun closed his book. From his cloth bag that he wore diagonally across his body, he pulled out a bottle of water. Twisting open the cap, he took a sip. In that moment when he tilted his head back, his eyes, calm, yet scorching, landed on that diminutive figure on the upper bunk.

Their gazes came together fleetingly before separating again.

This was the first time since the train left the station that their eyes met, and the duration was even shorter than the previous time earlier on, with just a brief intersection of their gazes before immediately pulling apart 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.

The train pulled to a stop.<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

No one tried to squeeze off the train, and in fact, once more, quite a few people surged in. An adolescent-age youth wearing headphones rather roughly shoved his way with his shoulder through the mass of people while continually searching for a seat. At last, when he looked up and saw Wen Han, a grin broke across his face. “Pretty big sister, you’re so slim anyway. How about lending me half a bed to sleep on?”

In that instant when Wen Han was still frozen in blank surprise, he had already grabbed the edge of the sleeper berth and, stepping on the foot rung, pulled himself up.<>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] In India, railway fare classes that are denoted as “AC” (air-conditioned) are generally higher-class fares.

[2] 作茧自缚 “zuo jian zi fu.” This is a saying that has become very commonplace in Chinese speech. The four characters literally describe a situation where you have spun a cocoon around yourself and end up trapping yourself in it. The saying is used when you have created something yourself that puts you in a difficult situation, i.e. caught in your own trap.

[3] 积集已, 妄想自缠,如蚕作茧,堕生死海. This is taken from 《楞伽经》the Lankavatara Sutra. There are several translations that can be found online. I chose this one because it was the most literal translation to the text, so we can more clearly see the reference from which the saying 作茧自缚 “to become entrapped in a cocoon of one’s own spinning” came from. (Source: Rivera, M. A. (n.d.). The Lankavatara Sutra [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://theschoolofsuchness.com/the-lankavatara/)<>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.

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

 

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16 thoughts on “Life: A Black and White Film (一生一世,黑白影画) — Chapter 8.2

  1. Thank you so much!! 😘😘😘

  2. Thank you Hoju 😊

  3. Thank you hoju😙😙😙

  4. Thank you for the chapter, waiting patiently for the next chapter

  5. Not quite an alone time but I’ll take what I can get. Those fleeting gazes feels torturous to me. 😂

    Thanks for the efforts Hoju!! 😊😊

    • Alone time is a little hard to come by at the moment, but pretty soon you will get more than what you’ve been getting. Anticipate it. 🙂
      Thanks for reading!

  6. Thank you for your translations, cant wait for the next chapters, i finished all the 8 chapters in a night

  7. CMY definitely have given the best to WH

    Thank you

  8. Such interesting chapters so far. Thank you :).

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