Fanatical

Fangirling Chinese Novels

Life: A Black and White Film (一生一世,黑白影画) — Chapter 13.3

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So, in two days, on Monday, February 12, it will be the 5th anniversary of this blog! Wow. As a way of celebrating, for our birthday week of February 12 to 18, I will post daily updates for Black and White Film. (Blog time runs on Beijing time. For those on the other side of the ocean, this may actually begin on the evening of February 11 for you.) Come celebrate with us. 🙂

Cheng Muyun is under surveillance, but he still has his own mission. What do you think he wants to do? And how?

Chapter 13.3 — The Dream and the Ones in Sleep (3)

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized, except by linking to hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

That person who was shadowing them moved in closer, saying he was curious and wanted to look at the postcards they were buying.

This was a type of “polite” explanation. Those four people all respected Cheng Muyun, this former hero, so prior to any routine, duty-required inspection, they would first provide a respectable and proper reason.

Wen Han, however, very much took offense. After handing them over to that person, she kept a cold, detached stare on him until that man awkwardly gave the postcards back to her. “My apologies. The little stories on these postcards are very fascinating, so I looked a little longer at them.” The other party made up an arbitrary excuse.

“Is that so?” Wen Han leafed through the postcards in her hand. “You are a believer in Buddhism, too?”

This Moscow girl successfully caused the other party to choke into silence on his own words.< >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.

Wen Han took those postcards that had been turned into a disorganized heap and stacked them neatly again. The first one happened to be a panoramic view of Sarnath. Raising one arm high, she stood with the sun behind her and tried to get a clearer look at the picture.

It was a shot of the stupa standing lonesomely beneath the sun’s glow on an open stretch of grass, and not far from it were peepal trees that reached to the sky.

A photograph of Dhamek Stupa in Sarnath. (Image credit: “Dhamek Stupa” by Binh Huynh, originally posted in Flickr, image used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Turning the postcard over, she discovered there truly was, as the man had said, a short story written on it in English about the connection between Sarnath and Buddhism.

“This is one of the four holy sites of Indian Buddhism. After the Buddha attained enlightenment, it was here in the Deer Park that he taught for the first time that the sea of suffering is boundless; about good and evil and cause of suffering; and about the endless cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Here, he also took his first five monk disciples,” Cheng Muyun softly translated. “Thereafter, all three—Buddha, Dharma, and monk—were present, and Indian Buddhism began.”

“Actually…” Wen Han lifted her eyes to look at him. “I want to know, too. Is there anything special about these postcards? Other than the scenery on them? What use do you have for them?”

“It was completely because you like them that I bought them.” Smiling leisurely, Cheng Muyun shook his head. “There is nothing special about them. Oh, yes, if you do want to talk about what is special, I do recall that it was in Sarnath that that Chinese monk, Xuanzang, received and then took away the scriptures[1].”

“You know I’m not asking about classic Buddhist stories.” She gazed at him in seriousness.

Cheng Muyun shrugged his shoulders, chuckling, “It appears that in your heart, my credibility has already fallen to the lowest levels.”

Seeing the placid openness on his face, Wen Han began again to doubt her own judgment. “So, could it be that innkeeper really was here just to bid her farewells to you?”

“You could consider it as such, but also no, not quite.”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

They were both very cautious in their dialogue. The entire time when he spoke to Wen Han, he maintained a very intimate posture, his lips and her ear every now and then brushing against each other, seeming more as if he was speaking seductive lover’s words.

“You must be fibbing me.” Something in the depths of her heart seemed to want to emerge and was just waiting for her to call upon it, but she could not catch what it might be. Still, she muttered, “Our return here to Varanasi… wasn’t purely because you wanted to be here with me, either?”

There were all different types of conjectures in those blue-black eyes of hers.< >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.

Two “sacred cows” were passing by her side when, all of a sudden, they straightened their necks and bellowed a couple of times.

While Wen Han was turning her head back reflexively, Cheng Muyun grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her over. As a result, though she escaped a collision with those sacred cows, she ended up falling against his broad chest.

On this dirty, chaotic Indian street with muddy puddles and livestock excrement everywhere, he used his lips to barricade all her various qualms.Nearby, there was an Indian man facing the corner of the wall and urinating. Breaking out into a wide grin, he hastily pulled up his pants and, chortling, began heckling them in English.

Everywhere in this winding, narrow alley, there were these sorts of people who would relieve themselves in any random location. Many people in this place did not even have the concept of using a restroom, let alone those many different mammals. Flowing or piling up on the street underneath everyone’s feet were the excrements of all types of livestock… But while he was kissing her, he was still even able to pick her up by the waist so that she could elude those filthy puddles beneath their feet.

Those four people shadowing and surveilling Cheng Muyun, though, were not so nimble. They had originally been carrying out assignments in neighbouring countries and had only last-minute been deployed here and put in charge of the case of this mysterious ops leader, Cheng Muyun. Consequently, they only had a rudimentary understanding of the place that India was.

You had to be kidding. Wasn’t Varanasi supposed to be a sacred city?

Why was there excrement everywhere? And it would flow along with the water and converge into the Ganges River… The woman in that group of four on surveillance duty was showing noticeable discomfort with all this. Her high heels were already stained with filthy matter, and frowning, she looked glumly at those two people who were still kissing in such surroundings.< >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.

“My love, enjoying the present moment is what you most should do.” As Cheng Muyun lightly spoke this, he set her down on the highest stair step next to the Ganges River so that all this while her shoes would stay clean.

“But you should tell me, at least even just a little bit. Just look. Chen Yuan suddenly brought charges against you. If I hadn’t…”

“If you had not come, I still would have had a way to rid myself of Chen Yuan’s accusations.” Cheng Muyun’s breath fell on the tip of her nose. “Trust me. The more you know, the more difficult it will be for you to go back to the normal world.”

“Well, then, you should at least tell me, what is this?”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

Wen Han completely pulled out the string around her neck. It was that thing that looked just like a protection amulet. In the room earlier, he had removed every single item on her body that was in the way, with the exception of this, which he had not taken off of her.

With a smile, Cheng Muyun shook his head, using silence to bring this discussion to a close.

He scanned around, helping her search for that old man.< >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.

Countless boats lined the shore, packed closely and facing every direction, all waiting for their patrons.

From memory, Wen Han found the corner by the wall that the old man had always slept in.

There was no one. She looked all around, but there was no face that looked familiar. It seemed that that old Indian man who had blessed her had already accomplished his desire, and his ashes had joined the flow of the Ganges River.

She squatted down. The angle she was standing at was the same as last time, but in front of her was only a discrepit and messy corner by a wall. The air was teeming with dust and infused with smells that came from the bodies of nearby people. Crude, yet real.

“From the moment I entered Nepal…” Wen Han stared dazedly at that empty corner, her smile forced. “The people around me were either bad people or good people killed by bad people. Even this stranger… is dead. I’m starting to suspect whether I’m a curse on people.”

“Trust me. At the very least, his death was a natural one and had nothing to do with you.” Cheng Muyun bent down into a half crouch.

An ordinary girl had stepped into this huge conspiracy, where good and evil were turned upside down and hard to determine, and death came following right at her heels. If this were Moscow, she undoubtedly would require a long period of psychological counseling before she would be able to carry on with her peaceful, uneventful life 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.

A warm touch covered the back of her head.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

Cheng Muyun gently stroked her long tresses. “Do you know what I used to study in university?”

This managed to successfully capture her attention so that she was no longer caught up in her sorrow over the death of that Indian man who had actually been a stranger.

“Mathematics,” he whispered beside her ear in Russian.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

Her eyes abruptly widened. “You’re only just telling me this now.” From that night in the campsite when they had chatted idly to that time in the temple when she had performed that tonsure-like ceremony for him, he had pretended to be completely ignorant about this field.

“That is what is amusing. You always are able to rouse in me a little bit of those memories from my past.” Languidly, he twined her long locks between his fingers several times.< >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.

A group of people parading behind them interrupted their conversation.

A procession formed by an uncountable number of sadhus had attracted the attention of too many tourists and also Indian locals, causing them to come over to look. With the noise and excitement, flocks of crows flew overhead and charged into the smoke and soot from those corpses that were aflame.

Curiosity led Wen Han to jog over and, with much effort, push aside the crowd.

But the sight that fell upon her eyes caused her to hastily retreat back out from there. Those sadhus were not wearing a single item that could cover up their bodies. That truly left her not wanting to continue watching…

“What’s wrong? You have discovered that my physique is still the better one?” Behind her, Cheng Muyun laughingly teased her. When he spoke, his eyes looked toward that procession, and slowly, he rotated his right shoulder, stretching and loosening it.

Very good. Everything was proceeding as normal.< >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 this night.<>Please support the original translation of this story at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

Downstairs of the house that they were staying in, Cheng Muyun found a small restaurant that had already closed for business. There, he cordially treated those people who were surveilling him. At the table, Wen Han sat in the furthest corner against the wall. A small, yellow light bulb with no lampshade swayed in front of her, relying on only a single cord to hang above the table.

In the beginning, they were very careful about the content of their conversation.

Later, though, they discovered that Cheng Muyun was not averse to talking about his past, so gradually, everyone loosened up.

Most importantly, meat could be eaten at this restaurant. Truly just too wonderful.

Of course, as a careful precaution, two of the people still bought a takeout box of food from a faraway shop and did not enjoy Cheng Muyun’s hospitality.

Cheng Muyun stepped over to the small fire pot in the center of the restaurant and stretched out his arms, warming his hands from a distance where he could practically touch the flames. His back was to everyone, and the glow of the fire enclosed him in a faint halo of light.

“Have you ever thought about, if one of the four of you became a traitor to your little group, what would happen in this room?” Cheng Muyun quietly asked in English.

This one question caused the entire little restaurant to slip into silence.

The blackness of his shadow landed on half of the wall, as if it was looking down upon the whole room.

“Cheng Laoban.” The woman in that group of four gave a cough, then told him in a soft voice, “I want to remind you, we will accurately report to our superiors each word that you say. It is best if you are a bit more careful.”

Cheng Muyun turned to the side, smiling slightly in the firelight. “Oh? Is that so?”

“Of course, at times, some information may unintentionally be overlooked when things are being reported up.” Another man scooped the last couple of mouthfuls of his takeout meal, leaving not even a speck behind. “Such as now. I am drunk already.”

Someone else chimed in, “Cheng Laoban, look, we do not want to get on the bad side of the Moscow special ops team or that madman, Fu Yiming. So, I will also ask you to please speak less and allow us to also be able to relax a little.”

The last person also made his standpoint known. “Personally speaking, I feel that any rat in the ranks should be sent to heaven to see God.”

These four people were basically all, at the same time, declaring their stances in this situation.

As long as Cheng Muyun did not leave behind any obvious evidence that could be used against him, the four of them would also turn a blind eye to what he did.< >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 reflection of the flame’s glow danced in Cheng Muyun’s eyes as he laughed, “Do not be nervous, everyone. Though the price on my head is quite high, I believe that the four of you do not dare casually sell it out.”

He moved away from the fire pot and stepped up behind Wen Han, who had been eating in silence the whole time. Bending forward, he spoke softly in Russian. “Eat more, darling. Just look, you have lost weight again.”

As he spoke, his gaze fell on…<>This UNAUTHORIZED copy was taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

A flush of red rose into Wen Han’s cheeks, and also in Russian, she murmured back, “Sometimes, you really are as much of a scoundrel as one of those middle-aged men in the back alley of a bar who have drunk themselves silly.”

The four people by their side who were there to monitor them did not understand these few sentences of dialogue at all.

They exchanged a glance amongst themselves, then lowered their heads to eat their dinner.

That official plainly knew that Cheng Muyun and the people around him all spoke Russian, yet he still had not assigned anyone who knew Russian to monitor Cheng Muyun. This was already clearly showing that even the higher-ups were deliberately closing an eye and letting some thing slide. Setting aside proper procedures and rules, everyone actually hoped that that so-called “mole” truly would be caught.< >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.

By the time they returned to that little room, it was already past three in the morning.

Wen Han psychologically was beginning to resist looking at the clock. It was as if the night sky represented one node of time, and then, when the sun rose, it would be the next day. What would happen tomorrow?

She turned over, bringing her gaze to the windowsill right at the head of the bed. “Have you thought through how you’re going to face Fu Yiming and your little sister?”

In this room where no lights were lit, Cheng Muyun beckoned to her. Wen Han climbed up onto the windowsill.

He pulled out an object from behind him. Under the light of the moon, she saw it was a very lifelike image of Buddha adhered to a piece of… bone. More accurately, it looked more like a bone relic left after cremation. Although she had never touched one before, she had seen through a glass display case what bone relics looked like.

“This is what I brought out from that mountain lair.” Cheng Muyun placed into her palm that relic that carried an image of Buddha. “Relics that contain a Buddhist image are priceless.[2]

He had never lied to Meng Liangchuan. This indeed was a priceless item, and he had secretly kept it.

The weight she carried in her palm was immeasurable.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

To any devout Buddhist, this item was something that should be reverently worshipped. What sort of venerable spiritual leader would that monk have had to be to leave behind a relic like this containing the image of Buddha? …< >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 smuggling line that I uncovered and destroyed ten years ago had many extremely valuable items.” Cheng Muyun lowered his eyes to look at the relic on her palm. “This was the most important one out of all of them. But after I left, it was secretly stored away—by me—in my home in Moscow.”

“Secretly stored away?”<>This is an UNAUTHORIZED copy, taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

“Meaning, it was not recorded in the files that were submitted to the higher authorities. Later, just a few years ago, someone took it, and then it was passed from hand to hand until it ended up in that smuggling base in Nepal.”

“And so, you discovered from that that there’s a mole?”<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

“No.” Cheng Muyun’s smile was so faint it was barely discernible. “This was a bait that I left behind.”

There is something called situational awareness. The reason he was able to successfully complete his mission after three years of going undercover was precisely because of his reliance on this type of situational awareness that was almost instinctive to him and allowed him to perceive the dangers that were everywhere. Hence, it was solely from this feeling that he had in him that he inferred there was a traitor amongst them.

Later, this priceless treasure confirmed his inference.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com

Truly, it had been by Buddha’s blessing and grace.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

The greedy enemy, in the end, had made a move for this most valuable item.

“They thought I had abandoned everything. But, I was simply waiting for them to take this thing.” In the gleam of the moon, Cheng Muyun, sitting cross-legged, gazed at that image of the Buddha on the relic.

His wait had been rather long. Ten years.<>Please read this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com instead

But no matter how long it was, the wait had been worth it.

Everything had been proceeding according to plan. Zhou Ke’s death, though, was unforeseen. However, it was also Zhou Ke’s death that ended up pointing out the four people most deserving of suspicion.

Cheng Jiayi; his good friend of many years, Chen Yuan; ops leader, Fu Yiming; and that one who was always by Fu Yiming’s side, Zhuang Yan. Only these four people knew Zhou Ke’s true identity and details.

Wen Han wanted to give that item back to Cheng Muyun. “You should not have told me so much.”

She remembered what Cheng Muyun had said, that the more she knew, the more it would be a threat to many other innocent people.

“No, my love, I need you to know this.” Cheng Muyun took her chin between his fingers and leaned in close, saying softly, “When we were eating earlier, I prepared for them some high-quality incense. Now, they should all have sunk into dreams about the Ganges River and will not care what you do. So, darling, take this priceless treasure, walk out of this room, and hide it in any place that you so desire, a place that only you know.”

The moonlight was behind Cheng Muyun’s face, so none of the details on it could be seen.

Thump, thump. Wen Han’s heart was pounding. She cupped that extremely valuable item in both her hands, not daring even to touch it with her fingers. Despite not knowing what Cheng Muyun was planning, she still acted on instinct, climbing off the bed and, in bare feet, stepping as lightly as possible out of this room.

There was a breeze in the hallway. It came from behind her, blowing over from the window that Cheng Muyun’s arm held open.< >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.

Wen Han’s skirt fluttered up in the breeze. Looking back, she saw the man sitting on the windowsill give her a nod.

She did not hesitate anymore. Doing as he had instructed, she slowly headed towards downstairs. This type of setting caused fear to instinctively rise up in people, and she breathed lightly to calm herself. Then, following the staircase, she carefully, step by step, proceeded down it.<>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] Xuanzang was a Chinese Buddhist monk from the early Tang dynasty. He is famous in particular for his pilgrimage to India to obtain Buddhist texts, and when he returned to China, he brought back with him many written in Sanskrit. His journey was the inspiration for classic story,《西游记》Journey to the West.

[2] 舍利 “she li.” The Chinese term for body relic, which is also called sarira. It is said that when an enlightened monk or Buddhist spiritual leader is cremated, crystalline or pearl-like objects, called sarira, as well as other pieces, such as bone, teeth, etc are left behind. The Buddhist sarira are said to be a physical representation of the purity and devotion of the person. Here in the story, a bone relic actually had an image of Buddha on it. (There is a photograph on this site of real-life example of a bone relic with a Buddhist image. In this case, it is an image of Bodhisattva, found on the bone relic after the cremation of a 94-year-old monk.)< >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.

This story was translated with the express permission of the author for hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. All forms of reproduction, redistribution, or reposting are not authorized, except by linking to hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, the copy is unauthorized and has been taken without consent of the translator.

 

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

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10 thoughts on “Life: A Black and White Film (一生一世,黑白影画) — Chapter 13.3

  1. Thanks for the update!! The blog’s anniversary will coincide with the Lunar Chinese New Year. Are you celebrating?
    The story is different from the ones you have translated from MBFB’s opus. Can’t wait to find out who’s the mole and how the couple will be together.

    • The blog’s anniversary week coincides with a bunch of things! You’ll see as the week progresses. 🙂 I do celebrate Lunar New Year, but since I’m not in Asia, it’s rather low-key and just within my family. How about you?

      Haha. I did give the warning right from the very beginning that this one is extremely different from the MBFB novels translated to date. 😉

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Thank you so much Hoju!! 😘😘😘

  3. this is getting too intense…contain my heart
    thank you!

  4. Thank you for the chapter 🙂.

  5. I’d been trying to guess who’s the mole, my brain get blank…

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