So, we come to the final chapter! There will be one more post next week, an afterword of sorts, as we share Ding Mo’s note (translated) on Pristine Darkness, as well as the thoughts of some members of our translation team. You are welcome to join us in sharing your reactions to PD then, too! Big hugs, everyone!
What’s in this chapter? As several of our main characters ruminate on love and relationships, we also discover how Gu Fangfang was saved that night, as well as take a peek at life for the Bos some time later. Jian Yao closes the novel for us as she looks back on her life with Bo Jinyan, with all its bittersweet events. Get your tissues ready . . .
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She was about to go up, but then stood next to the bicycle without moving. An Yan also remained still, and bent his head to look at her. Then, she gave him a brilliant smile and kissed him on the cheek before saying, “I’m going up. Go quickly, don’t be late.”
However, An Yan gazed at her and said, “I’ve been thinking these past few days whether I should follow Fang Qing ge’s lead and get a bodyguard for you.”
Gu Fangfang took in his appearance and realised that this had been weighing on his heart for quite a while, because of the previous incident. She smiled as she shook her head and said, “That would be too uncomfortable. In future, I will be careful. As a master detective’s girlfriend, I won’t allow anyone to capture me again. Moreover, just consider, you’ve already arranged for me to move next to you. The job you’ve introduced me to is only a hundred metres away from your police station; whenever I go out with friends, you’re stuck to me like my shadow . . . An Yan, I really think it’s enough. Are we going to become conjoined twins?”
An Yan’s face heated up at her chastisement. With a soft ‘oh’, he turned to mount his bicycle and rode off. Gu Fangfang watched his receding figure and smiled suddenly. She hollered, “Hey, I’ll cook dinner for you tonight, ok?”
An Yan’s bicycle came to a screeching halt. He turned to look at her with a smile that was incomparably bright and handsome. “Ok.”
. . . .
Time flows on, one inch at a time.
There may be a crisis, there may be injury.
But, in the end, what is it that keeps us moving forward?
It is a resolute heart.
In truth, it made An Yan blush to think about how he exerted all his effort to spend every moment stuck to Gu Fangfang. However, whenever he thought back to the events of that day, he experienced a lingering fear. At that time, if there had been even a moment’s hesitation or weakness, Gu Fangfang might not have been saved.
Or, it could be said, the person who brought Gu Fangfang back to life was the intelligent and tenacious lady herself.
As well as her resolute heart which believed that her police sweetheart would definitely rescue her.
. . . .
When An Yan discovered Gu Fangfang in the container of water, terror and grief clawed simultaneously at him, at his youthful heart. At that time, he was completely shattered* and in a daze, struggling to accept the reality of the situation before his eyes, until his comrades grabbed him by the shoulders and told him to evacuate.
*T/N 万念俱灰 (wan nian ju hui) – lit. every hope turns to dust; fig. completely disheartened.
It was then that an obstinate thought surfaced in his mind: Gu Fangfang can’t die! He had to save her!
This thought was, of course, irrational and biased. But when he thought about the night they had parted, and of this pure and beautiful girl who had given everything of herself to him, so dependent and so hopeful, he found it impossible to accept the fact that she was already dead — even though the girl in his arms had already ceased breathing.
His scientific brain started to work compulsively, searching for every and any clue, even the faintest one, that Gu Fangfang was still alive. He first noticed that the water in the tank was still rising, and it was doing so at a constant speed. This meant that the time at which the tank started filling up with water had been controlled by someone. And so, taking together the speed of the rising water, the length, breadth and height of the tank and Gu Fangfang’s volume, he could calculate when she had been submerged, and it was just a few minutes . . .
A sudden realisation, as if divinely inspired, flashed across his mind. He remembered when the two of them had kissed until he was almost breathless, but Gu Fangfang had said with self-satisfaction, “I have always been able to hold my breath for a long time . . . no one can beat me when it comes to holding my breath.” Also, if she had been conscious when she was being drowned, why were there no marks of a struggle on the tank or the inside of the cover?
She was such a quick-witted girl, she’s the champion of the cosplay competition! She was consciously preserving her physical strength, waiting to be rescued! When this thought crossed his mind, An Yan felt as if his heart was being pierced by a needle. It normally took 6 minutes for an ordinary person to drown, and if Gu Fangfang had deliberately held her breath, she might be able to hold out for 8 minutes, 9 minutes, even 10 minutes! He made rapid calculations, his brain whirring frantically like a computer, 10 minutes! She had been submerged in the water for just over 10 minutes!
He lay her on the ground in a flurry and started chest compressions in accordance with first aid guidelines, as well as artificial respiration . . . the armed police officers beside him could not persuade him to stop and figured that he had taken leave of his senses. He growled, “Don’t disturb me!” He continued relentlessly with the chest compressions, but the girl lying on the ground made no movement. His tears were about to fall, he let out an anguished wail, like a plea . . . the girl who had already taken her last breath suddenly coughed up water, opened her eyes, and saw him . . .
You ask me what love is?
It’s catching one another’s eyes at the first encounter.
It’s the bashfulness yet courage of mutually approaching and sounding each other out.
It’s also endless longing and affectionate caresses.
Finally, it’s me holding your hand, looking up at the sky, and realising that there are still stars.
One morning a long time later.
Jian Yao was a capable mother. In the morning, she woke both children up, bathed them, dressed them, then sat them down for breakfast, after which both of them completed their kindergarten homework. By this time, it was already 10 a.m.
She glanced at her watch and said, “Let’s go. We’re going to see godfather.”
Her son, Bo Jian, asked succinctly, “What about Dad?”
Before Jian Yao could reply, her daughter Bo Yao said, “What’s the point of asking? He’s definitely gone on ahead of us. He does this every year.”
Jian Yao laughed and bundled both children into the car.
The public cemetery was in the western suburbs of the city and it took them quite a while to get there. At present, a light rain was falling, and it made the mountains look green and hazy. When they got out of the car, the two children ran on ahead while Jian Yao followed behind. They reached their destination quickly after a few turns.
The trees and grass on both sides had grown very tall. At this time of the year and day, there was no one in the cemetery. In the distance, Jian Yao could see Bo Jinyan sitting alone beside Fu Ziyu’s gravestone, with his hands on his knees and his head bowed. Who knows what he was thinking about.
He was still the same, in his black suit, white shirt, jet-black hair, and pale face. Under his slender and elegant eyebrows and eyes was his straight, high nose bridge. These past years, there seemed to have been no change to his tall, thin figure. On hearing the sound of the children running, he lifted his head and eyed them disapprovingly. “Bo Jian, Bo Yao, please maintain the silence of this place.” Bo Yao pulled a face at him, while Bo Jian stood upright with his arms crossed, an indifferent expression on his face as he looked at his father seated on the ground.
Jian Yao smiled and walked over. Bo Jinyan also got up, pulled her into his arms and kissed her. Jian Yao knew her husband most needed comfort at this time every year. He did not say much, just held her hand tightly. Together, they watched Bo Jian and Bo Yao place the fresh flowers and red wine they were carrying in front of the grave, each of them calling out, “Godfather.”
They lingered at the grave a while longer before the family got back into the car for the return journey. At this point, Bo Jian, who was in the back seat, said softly, “Ma, since we’re all not in a great mood today, can we eat fish hotpot?” Bo Yao’s face scrunched up as she said, “I detest eating fish.”
Bo Jinyan smiled faintly and said, “Ah . . . . such lack of insight. Mrs Bo, I’m also thinking of eating fish today.”
Bo Yao bawled, “Ma, no!” Bo Jian smiled slightly and took note of his mother’s expression.
Jian Yao, the head of the family who was currently driving, could not help but laugh. She said, “Ok, let’s eat fish hotpot. Bo Yao, I’ll buy you claypot rice, your favourite.” “Oh yeah!” Bo Yao cheered.
The light rain swirled around them and the road was wet. The black Grand Cherokee rounded the mountain, gradually moving further and further away, heading towards the city with its multitude of tall buildings.
. . . . . .
Many years later, when I recollect the past, I still think about that villa in the middle of the mountain. Think about him wearing a bathrobe, with night vision goggles, standing at the top of the stairs looking down at me from on high. I also think about Fu Ziyu waving the glass of red wine in his hand in the dim light of night, smiling faintly as he said, “Can you take one more step? At the beginning, it took me many steps before I came to stand by his side.”
I think about the killing machine case, when I first saw his arrogant, cold smile, and I knew that no other man in the world could be smarter than him. I also think about the time when I was held captive by Xie Han, watching him walk towards me wearing a black windcheater, his eyes frantic, his voice hoarse, and I knew that I was the only one his eyes saw; as well as that warehouse which brought us the greatest heartbreak, the deep pool under the overhanging cliff . . . every single time, over and over again, he always walked firmly towards me.
I think that I have no regrets in this lifetime. I have met a group of kindred spirits, although some of them had to leave us mid-way. He and I are the same; walking on the fringe of darkness, we have seen the most warped ugliness in this world, seen many suffering souls waiting for redemption, seen so many warm and sorrowful hearts.
The soaring bird rests on the roots of the tree.
The tree roots go deep into the earth. For an entire lifetime, not knowing exhaustion, they search for the light.
We have grown old together.
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