A little Christmas surprise! Wishing a wonderful Christmas to those who celebrate, and to all our readers, may you and your family have a joyous, wonderful season. ❤
Halfway mark! Woohoo!
The much asked about alone time is finally here, and it is sizzling! Also, both our leads look into their hearts in this chapter. Yes, you get a rare glimpse into what Cheng Muyun is thinking.
Chapter 9.2 — On Whom Shall I Place My Heart’s Pining? (2)
The balcony window was not closed, and feeling a little chilly, she walked over to it. When she stretched out an arm to shut the window, she saw that he was sitting on the second-floor terrace.
Should she go down or not?<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
Wen Han wavered back and forth on this question for a full three minutes. At last, she thought, she had already walked so many roads and experienced so many perils before coming to this little Indian alley. Why, then, did she still need to be indecisive about a question like this? Picking up her long skirt, she walked downstairs from the third level and pushed open the door.
He had originally been gazing down at the river that was blanketed in moonlight. Hearing some noise, he narrowed his eyes slightly and cast a sideways glance at her.
This girl, she most certainly did not understand. Cheng Muyun had given her so many chances since they met to get away from him and maintain a distance between them. This included just now. She absolutely could have finished her shower, wrapped herself in her quilt, and gotten a good sleep, and then the next day, she could go with those young priests back to the coffee plantation.
In that moment, when Wen Han stepped up before him in the moon’s glow, what came into his mind were the words, “the ignorant are fearless.”
She did not understand at all. Between love and being alive, one should of course choose the latter.<>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.
Cheng Muyun extended his hand to her.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
She placed her own hand into it. With a slight tug, he pulled her up onto the small concrete platform that he was sitting on. A little yellow-haired dog came over and rubbed up against her. Wen Han stretched out a hand and stroked its head.
“The dogs here drink the water of the River Nile, where countless people’s ashes are scattered every day. Many of them grow up eating corpses,” he stated quietly.
Her hand awkwardly ceased its action. That was just too spine-chilling. Somewhat thrown off and at a loss for what to do, she wondered, should she go wash her hands? Right as this thought flashed across her mind, Cheng Muyun caught her hand in his, brought it below his lips, and kissed it. That was nothing to him.
In that instant, as his lips contacted the tips of her fingers, it was as if the disquiet she had felt since that night in the temple now all came crashing down. Wen Han even had a feeling of being hurt and treated unfairly. She could not put into words what exactly that feeling was. From when she stepped into this home of strangers, she had felt uncomfortable, and even now, that emotion was still present. But she did not know how to even open her mouth to ask. Who am I to you? And just who is that girl?
Wordlessly, his hands pushed open her shirt at the neckline, and his deft fingers caressed the delicate skin of her back. Lowering his head, he stared intently at her bosom that was exposed to the air…
This was a form of interaction that both of them were familiar with.
Only when there was the sound of footsteps did he pull her shirt closed and then encircle in his arms. She sat on his lap, half leaning herself on him, still immersed in those dazed feelings of passion. The two looked as if they were simply sitting on the small, raised platform and looking at the night view, caring not at all who walked by in that small alley.
“Do you still want more?” His fingers tilted her head up, turning that enchanting, yet headstrong face to look at him. “You experienced it already in Nepal. Use your calm mind to think it through. I am interested in you, I like you—these are all true. But, dearest, you must know, I am not one of those ordinary men dressed in expensive shirts who flatter and woo you in front of a pub on a random street in Moscow.”
She gazed at his eyes, not expecting that he would first bring up this topic.
“You have managed to live until you are twenty years old. For merely a man whose body is well-matched to yours, you will have no ring, no wedding. Let’s not even talk about a home and a fixed job. You may not even know your husband’s name. You might one minute still be staying temporarily in some private home, toasting some bread and wondering when I will be coming back, and then the next moment, your hands and feet are bound and you are tossed into the forest, where you die of a high fever. Or perhaps, you are actually getting to have a train ride in a foreign country, but then you are seized to the police station, where you wait for a bunch of strangers to take you away, not knowing whether you will live or die or even where you will go.”
Moreover, he was very adept at summarizing everything: “If you were asked to die for a man, would you be willing?”
He was not joking.<>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.
There, in the night wind, Cheng Muyun continued tenderly holding her in his arms. His gaze settled far away, landing at the end of the alley on the riverbank littered with filthy junk. It was as if those words he had spoken just now had not even existed. Wen Han’s mind felt like a tangled mess of chaos. What he said were not lies. If this were still the laundry room in that small inn in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, she would certainly think he was exaggerating things to scare her. But he had personally taken her along and she had experienced those things with him.
Wen Han felt cold. As she bowed her head and fastened up two of her buttons, she caught sight of the dark red wound on his neck. In this single glance, she could tell it was a new injury. She touched it.
Pulling back his gaze, he looked down at her.
“In the temple, you said that after three months, you will let me go back to Moscow?” she asked in a soft voice.
“Of course.”<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
“Then, will we see each other again?”
“No.” He was very certain.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
On that morning in the laundry room, he had not lied to her. He had told her this could only be a passing relationship, one that would vanish as quickly as morning dew. This was a reality, not some pretense that a seducer was using to deceive a naive girl. Wen Han’s hand, which had been caressing his wound, slid upward, and then she also sat herself up straight. Looking directly at him, she brought her lips against his upper lip.
Cheng Muyun did not move.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
Until he heard her say softly in Russian, “I don’t care about the future… In these next three months, you must be with me.”
There was an endless silence.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
Cheng Muyun tilted his head down slightly and began to allow her to get close to him, to be intimate. He was reminded of what that man had said when he came back from the railway station: one who was able to withstand the fear of the unknown was already not a simple, ordinary person. That brother of his had laughingly asked, had he truly violated the precept of celibacy?
So what if he had?<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
In this rather muggy night, Cheng Muyun exchanged kisses with her on this platform. Initially, they very slowly, intermittently nibbled one another’s lips. Even this simple, little bit of intimacy caused her head to feel faint, and she could sense that, amid his restless discontentment, his body was also growing hot. She was not the only one who wanted them to be together.
He, of course, did not need her to answer, “I am willing to die for you.” If she had given this type of unrealistic, impractical answer, he would have found it laughable.
He preferred this answer he was receiving now.
Right now, right this moment, after escaping from Nepal, she still desired him and was expressing her feelings of fondness toward him.
Must.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Since she had had the courage to put out this type of request, so long as he was a man, he would not refuse her anymore.
Sweeping her into his arms, he leapt down from that concrete platform and walked through the door up to the third floor.
When they had stepped into this room earlier and he saw that bed, he had already wanted to throw her onto it. Now, since she had already given such a request, how could he not carry through on that thought?
This type of Indian cotton, in his hands, was practically like paper, and with only a little bit of force, it was torn open. Unable to hold up under his strength, Wen Han sunk her teeth into his shoulder, mercilessly returning to him the dejection he had given her for those two entire days.
He gave a low chuckle, whispering by her ear in Russian, “Harder, darling.”
……<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
There are some people whose bodies grow cold after being born only a few hours; there are some who live beyond one hundred and their final desire is merely to painlessly, without any sickness, slip into a natural death. There are some people who, the night before their wedding, carry the dream of a blissful marriage and love that lasts forever but then meet with an unfortunate accident; there are people who have seen and experienced all that life brings and the one they love has already become ashes, but yet they still remain…
A person’s birth into the world is like the blossoming of an udumbara flower, its appearance very fleeting.
To be able to clearly discern, clearly identify, in this day, this hour, this moment, what one most desires—that is already enough.<>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.
Late at night, those several priests returned.
Wen Han, her face flushed, sat in front of the television, her hands cupping a glass of water as she watched an English program. Cheng Muyun sliced up some fruit onto a plate, carried the plate out, and set it on the low-profile table. That girl who was with Cheng Muyun was rather careful about avoiding improprieties and had left to go stay in a hotel. Wen Han was staying the night here with him.
At first, Wen Han was not very accustomed to the excessive attention from those three young Indian men.
“In India, there are Dry Days, when alcohol is not allowed,” a young man told her with great friendliness. “Alcohol-free days, and then there are also alcohol-free states.”
“Really? Such a law would definitely not work in Moscow. That’s a city that would never be happy without alcohol,” she replied.
The young man immediately smiled. “But you must believe me, I am not that rigid in my thinking.”
Wen Han felt very awkward from this young man’s overenthusiastic friendliness. “I believe you…” She threw a glance at Cheng Muyun, who was beside her. She recalled how he had told her to play along with him, acting as brother and sister, because if she was Cheng Muyun’s family member, she would receive even more protection, which was also more advantageous. After all, in this country that India was, the degree of importance placed on a man’s girlfriend or wife was not something to sing praises about.
Fortunately, this was merely an enthusiastic and polite manner of expressing favourable feelings. These men were all Brahmins, and rarely would they even marry outside of their caste, much less a foreigner. After sensing that Wen Han really had no interest, and also with her “elder brother” by her side, it was not proper to be overly zealous in trying to win her favour, and hence the topic very quickly switched to another.<>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.
However, they had no idea the sentences spoken in Russian that now and then would come from Cheng Muyun’s lips were much more direct and shameless than theirs.
For example, right this moment, the following dialogue was occurring:
“Congratulations.” With his arm resting on the cushion, Cheng Muyun said in a low voice, “You are starting to enthrall the mind and soul of men once again. I am even beginning to suspect that this entire time, I have actually been under your spell.”
Wen Han was sitting by his side but maintaining the “safe” distance that should exist between an older brother and younger sister who were already in adulthood. In Russian as well, she quietly countered, “But that first time, you clearly were the one who mistook me for someone else…”
“You really believe that?” He took a drink of mineral water.
“Was it not?”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
“No.”<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
“……”<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
“On the Tibetan Plateau, I was already enthralled by you. Then when I saw you again in Nepal, I could no longer control the lower half of my body, so I simply found any arbitrary excuse to pull you into my room and take advantage of you.” He let out a low chuckle. “What do you think, dearest? Is that a satisfactory answer?”
Gnawing on her lower lip, she began trying to learn how to engage in back and forth communication with him. “Hmm, pretty good.”
She obviously knew these words were not true, but why should she fuss about whether they were true or not? It seemed, after spending those two-plus hours of time alone together in the room earlier, something between them had been torn down.
“It appears that not only did I rip off your clothing, I have also ripped off the less lovable side of you.” He raised the glass that he held and then, in a little gesture, touched through his shirt that spot where he had been bitten. Her face grew hot, and she could not help giving him a kick.
“You and your younger sister are so close.” One of the people near them, in English, expressed admiration.
“It has always been so. She enjoys bickering with me occasionally, trying to challenge my authority as her elder brother. But I prefer to gently let her have her way and play around as she pleases.” He also answered in English, playing the role of a perfect brother, not minding at all that these men were wooing her.
But only fifteen minutes ago, in that room, he had lowered his face that was slick with perspiration and kissed the round of her shoulder.<>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.
How long had it been since she had last had a good sleep?
Since that little temple in Nepal, she had not truly gotten a good sleep. On the train, she had easily stayed up through the entire night, and then she had come here.
Wen Han’s slumber this night was especially deep. In her dreams, she even time and again pushed open the little wooden door of her home in Moscow, and inside, she saw a man’s backside facing her. Softly, she would call his name in Russian, but he would remain motionless, never turning around.
She felt a moist touch on the back of her ear. It pulled her out from the nightmare.
While she was in a half-awake, half-asleep state and still immersed in that forlorn feeling from him being unwilling to take notice of her, the weight of a man was already pressing down on her. “Good morning.”
“Mm…” She was groggy.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
She gave another “mm.”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
“Have you ever thought about, if I am actually a bad person through and through, how are you going to escape?”
She kept her voice in her throat, its sound faint. “Go rob a bunch of Indian people. Then when I’m taken to the police station, there will bound to be chances to escape.”
On the other side of the door, someone was walking around.
“Good plan.” Cheng Muyun quietly gave his evaluation, then asked, “Do you know what they are going to do?” He was referring to the sound of footsteps outside the door. “In another half an hour, the sun will move up from the horizon. Many people will gather on the riverside and, in passing, will also wash away their karmic consequences with river water.”
His voice was truly so very soft. Invisibly, it would bind your awareness.
She wondered, when a snake swallowed a creature alive, was it also so quiet? Did it also use such a fatal entwinement, one that seemed to seep deep into the marrow and looked tender and gentle but, in reality, could cause you to suffocate?
His actions were not as gentle as his words.
There were a few moments when she even felt that for the rest of her life, he would confine her in this room and she would die on this bed.
In that valley, during their first time, he had been very tender and gentle. It had been to accommodate her, to attend to her feelings and sensations. Then, that time later, in the forest, it had merely been to warm her, to drive away the chill in her body, and had not involved any personal feelings. Last night, she had taken the lead. Only this time, in this early morning hour when blackness painted the scene outside the window, was it the real him.
Radical. Direct. In everything he did, he left no room for maneuver, no ground for retreat.
Including this deed.<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
When Wen Han set the little oil lamp, made of leaves, that she had been holding onto the water’s surface and watched it merge in with that mass of several hundred other prayer lamps and slowly float away into the distance, she was still thinking, who would have thought that her first time falling for someone would be such an experience? A man whom, apart from knowing his name, she understood nothing about, but yet they were so intimate.
So inconceivable.<>Please support the original translation at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
At this moment, day was dawning.
Facing the orange-yellow river surface and horizon, everyone began praying reverently. All the people, whether they were those sitting on the stone steps, the ones standing naked in the river, or even the non-locals releasing oil lamps and praying, had fallen quiet.
She stole a glimpse at the man standing beside her. Detecting her eyes on him, Cheng Muyun turned and caught her in her little action of peeking at him. Wen Han was a little embarrassed and could not hold back a gripe. “Are you just able to sense at any time when other people are observing you?”
“That is something I do by instinct.”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
“Do you know what I was thinking just now?” Wen Han softly began, “I was thinking…” If he truly were a dangerous smuggler, what would his and her story head to?
Cheng Muyun seemed to be someone who had absolutely no curiosity.
He did not even press about this question she had posed and then began to answer for herself but had only gotten halfway through before cutting off. He merely, after glancing at her another time, continued gazing out upon the river’s surface.
The river was filled with local women in the middle of it, some old, some young. All of them were bizarrely plunging themselves over and over into the water, and only when they were entirely drenched would they happily return back to the shore.
Staring at the side profile of his face, she mused, what if, at the very beginning, he had only been a man who conned women into having sex with him?
A monk who had left the monastic life and was spending all his days in Nepal, taking advantage of his good looks and physique to deceive those young women who travelled there on pilgrimage? She began to outline another story in her mind.
As the two strolled alongside the river, they saw many dying beggars reaching out their hands to the passing people.
“They are saving up money to buy the wood used to cremate bodies.” The Cheng Muyun in this moment was like a dutiful man accompanying his girlfriend as they went sightseeing through a foreign country. “It is several hundred rupees for one piece.”
Wen Han extended a hand toward him.
“What are you doing?” he smiled.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
“Laoban, give me some spending money, please?” Her eyes curved into crescents. “Let me accumulate some virtue.” He had been the one who bought in advance all her train and transportation tickets for the entire journey here, and the only rupees she had had were already spent. She had no passport, no luggage. She was like a woman who had gone astray in life and then been abducted by him.
Cheng Muyun was amused by her words.
In his eyes, this girl was gradually showing more animated and vivid expressions.
Were it not for their two encounters, once on the Tibetan Plateau and once in Nepal, and were it not for the fact that she had been with Wang Wenhao, which had caused him to suspect her and who she was, their lives would not have had any further intersection. From the physical interaction through their bodies that had occurred later on, to the true, ordinary interactions of day-to-day life that had begun to occur right now in this moment, he all along had received pleasant surprises. And he wanted to know and understand more.
But alas, there was no time.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead
On that early morning in the valley, he truly had thought that returning to Moscow, being just an ordinary person, and having a true relationship with her would be quite nice.
But then, Zhou Ke died. Everything began to break from the original, planned trajectory.
He had once thought everything was within his control. Ten years ago, the deaths of many of his friends were his first blow. Today, ten years later, the enemy still yet again used the death of a brother and comrade to tell him this: “So long as you are still Cheng Muyun, you will not be able to live an ordinary life.”
He bore on his shoulders the duty of seeking payment for the blood-debt of too many brothers’ deaths. There would never be a day when he could turn back from this path.
From his pants pocket, he pulled out a small-denomination American bill and gave it to her.
Wen Han surveyed these beggars who were near and far around them and, after selecting one who appeared most likely to die first, walked over and set the bill of money in front of the elderly man. Lying on a ragged blanket, the dying old man did not have even the strength to pull himself up, but still, strugglingly, he expressed his gratitude.
The old man’s grimy palm touched her forehead.
Wen Han did not mind at all. She closed her eyes lightly. O Buddha on high, please watch over and bless me. Allow him to fall in love with me, so that he cannot be without me anymore.<>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.
 如优昙钵花，时一现耳. 优昙钵花 (also called 优昙婆罗) The udumbara flower is referred to several times in Buddhist sutras, including《妙法莲华经》the Lotus Sutra. According to Buddhist scripture, it flowers briefly only once every three thousand years, and this event is said to be an auspicious sign. . This particular line is actually a modification of a line in the Lotus Sutra.
 Note: In India, Dry Days are days in which the sale of alcohol is prohibited and alcohol consumption in public eateries is banned (consumption in the privacy of one’s home is not explicitly forbidden).
 积德 “ji de.” This is the Chinese term for the concept of accumulating virtue or merit. In Buddhist belief, where karma plays such an important role, good deeds and thoughts shall eventually bring good upon the person who does this (positive karmic rewards), if not now, then in future lives, while evil deeds and thoughts will do the opposite. “Virtue” or “merit” is simply benevolent deeds and thoughts, and accumulating virtue is the idea of storing up good karma from the good deeds you do.<>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 novel later mentions that this home they are currently in is in the city of Varanasi. Therefore, this ceremony on the river should be describing Ganga aarti, a ritual of prayer that is held twice daily on the Ganges River, once at dawn and the other in the evening. The one at dawn takes place at the Assi Ghat (ghat meaning a stepped embankment). If you are interested and, like me, do not know anything about this ceremony, have a google. The ceremony seems to be quite amazing to behold.
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