Ashtray and Jade Porcelain 烟缸与青瓷 is the side story of The Disguiser that was recently published with the drama-version of the book, set when Ming Lou (Jin Dong), Ming Cheng (Wang Kai), and Wang Tianfeng (Liu Yijun) were still in Paris. I want an extension of this as The Disguiser movie so much.
photo cr: yky
Ashtray and Jade Porcelain
author: Zhang Yong
At two past midnight on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, a horse-drawn carriage is rushing through. The street is brightly lit. The wheels squealed as they scattered the snow. The carriage slowed until it reached a stop in front of a flower shop with pink stained glass. A woman wearing a bright red coat comes out from the flower shop. Under the street light, her figure is petite. She treads softly.
In a window across the street is a rifle aimed at the woman, following her movement. Suddenly, a “Bang!” The woman’s head blasts off by the person on the carriage. Without even a chance to scream, the woman falls in the snow. Along with the blood, her red coat drops to the ground.
The man holding the rifle, Wang Tianfeng, is stunned for a second. Before he could react, the carriage rushes away. Wang Tianfeng curses. As he finishes cursing, he hears a loud clanking sound. The door of the flower shop flies open, broken through with force. Someone had smashed the door open from the inside. The pink stained glass shattered immediately, the shards exploding everywhere like fireworks. Wang Tianfeng recollects himself and takes aim at the two figures that broke through. In his line of vision, two people appear.
But the next scene is not what Wang Tianfeng had expected.
In the blizzard, Ah-Cheng is wearing only a snow-white buttoned-up shirt (idarklight: I presume pants, too). His hands held back, he falls on the snow. He is almost kneeling next to the woman’s corpse. Ming Lou is wearing a black leather jacket, his hands holding a double-barreled shotgun mercilessly pointed at Ah-Cheng’s head.
The shotgun held to his head smells of death.
The fresh blood on the snow blinds Ah-Cheng with its fiery red, reminding him that “Ashtray” had already become a martyr and that he is now facing a death trap. The cold draft brings down a stream of snow, hitting Ah-Cheng’s head and neck, chilling him to the bones. In front of him are two tracks, the only marks left by the murderer.
The flimsy shirt cannot defend against the invasion of the chill. Ah-Cheng shivers from the chill, looking as if he were a convict on death row, frozen from the cold and stupefied from the blood.
He must be brave, he must be strong, he must live.
Ming Lou’s gun is pointed at Ah-Cheng’s head as he yells: “Speak! One wrong word and you’re dead.”
Ah-Cheng remains on his knees in the snow, his eyes red with blood and white with snow. Ming Lou’s eyes are filled with coldness as he stares at the trembling Ah-Cheng . Wang Tianfeng had come downstairs and is now approaching the two with his rifle.
Ah-Cheng hears the sound of a click of the shotgun bolt.
“Last chance!” Ming Lou says.
Silence, dead silence. Other than the drifting of the snow, the world seems to have stopped.
Nine hours earlier, the Latin Quarter, student’s dormitories.
The wind-chimes chimed as Ah-Cheng opened the door. Ming Lou and Wang Tianfeng stood with smiles in the doorway. Outside, the snow had built up. The last traces of the sun shone on the two, making them look especially alert.
“Sir.” Ah-Cheng greeted Ming Lou while reaching out to take the box from his hands. Ah-Cheng felt the box’s heaviness but did not ask, instead turning to let Ming Lou and Wang Tianfeng inside.
“This is Monsieur Wang, a colleague at school.” Ming Lou introduced.
“Good night, Monsieur Wang.” Ah-Cheng said cordially.
Still carrying his bag in, Wang Tianfeng acknowledged Ah-Cheng.
As he walked inside, Ming Lou spoke. “It’s hard to find this place here among the rows of bookstores. It’s not as quaint and quiet as where you used to live.”
“It’s cheaper here,” Ah-Cheng responded, “And I like the environment here. Plus, it’s close to the college. Only a few blocks away.”
“Why live so tight? Didn’t I wire you money? ”
“I’m taking extra courses this semester. Ming Tang* (their older cousin) wants me to double major in chemistry to help him develop a new formula for his perfume line.”
“Then you should make him pay for your tuition.” Ming Lou said as he sat down.
Ah-Cheng smiled, “I’m working my own way through college.”
Wang Tianfeng surveyed the premise. The room was clean and neat. By the wall was a grid shelf. On the shelf were various plants, books, and perfumes of all types and brands. In the corner of the wall were various tea roses, delicate in size but brilliant in color.
“Why don’t you make supper for us,” Ming Lou said, “We’re exhausted from this trip.”
“I thought Monsieur was going to teach in Harbin. Why did you return so quickly? I thought you would be there for at least half a year.” Ah-Cheng said as he brought them tea.
Wang Tianfeng stared at the blossoming tea flowers*. Ming Lou gave him a sideways glance, and he pretended to be surveying the books.
Ming Lou picked up the teacup and began drinking.
“The lad is quite capable,” Wang Tianfeng said all of a sudden.
“He’s a scholar,” Ming Lou said.
“But he’s no bookworm.”
“He takes after me. He started off on the shoulder of giants.” Ming Lou said with pride.
“Bullshit,” Wang Tianfeng said dismissively. “He did it on his own.”
Wang Tianfeng noticed a couple of oil paintings hanging on the wall. On the floor lay a few half-finished paintings. He asked casually, “Did you paint these?”
“I prefer murals.” Wang Tianfeng said, “The flight of dragons, the majestic battles, what a thrill.”
“Right, you only enjoy decadence.” Ming Lou snapped.
“I’m just unsophisticated like that.”
“Ah-Cheng, painting is fine as a hobby, but don’t let it interfere with your studies.” Ming Lou gave Ming Cheng some advice. Ah-Cheng took it and humbly agreed.
Wang Tianfeng picked up a bottle of perfume with curiosity. The fragrance permeated his senses, and he put it in his pocket.
“Put it down, you thief.” Ming Lou said as he drank tea, not bothering to turn to look at him.
“It’s just a bottle of perfume.” Wang Tianfeng didn’t think much of it.
“I’ve just developed it. Take it if you like it.” Ah-Cheng said.
“Hear that?” Want Tianfeng patted Ming Lou’s shoulders,”Ah-Cheng is more generous than you.” He then turned to Ah-Cheng, “What’s the name of this perfume?”
Ah-Cheng answered, “Flight of the Lovebirds.”
Wang Tianfeng is a bit surprised. “Why this name? Are you in love?”
Ah-Cheng smiled bashfully. “Almost. This perfume was custom-made for newly-weds.” Upon finishing the sentence, he hurried to the kitchen to prepare supper, leaving only Wang Tianfeng and Ming Lou in the room. Only then did Wang Tianfeng stretch out on the couch and began talking business with Ming Lou.
“Say, the communists are quite canny. Shanghai, Hong Kong, Shantou, Tai Po, Paris … ” Wang Tianfeng sighed, “Impressive. If it weren’t for us cracking the intelligence collection station in Harbin, we could’ve never imagined in our wildest dreams that there was a station in Paris. The Harbin police should’ve turned over that commie traitor for us to interrogate.”
“Stop dreaming.” Ming Lou said quietly, “Didn’t you see that smug face of that Harbin police chief Kou Rong?”
“Each man’s got to do what he can for himself.” Wang Tianfeng isn’t willing to give up without a fight. “Unfortunately I got hit in round 1.”
“Pull yourself together.” Ming Lou said.
“Hey, when are you going to take a bullet for me?”
“I wasn’t there.”
“Every time I get lucky, you’re not there. Every time you’ve hit the jackpot, I’m always there.” Wang Tianfeng suddenly smacked the coffee table, making all the cups and trays on the coffee table shake.
“What’s going on?” Ah-Cheng yelled from the kitchen.
“Nothing,” Ming Lou responded, then turned and yelled, “Nuthead, does it kill you to be a bit normal.”
“Oh, the scholar is cursing, too.”
“Do you know who told?” Ming Lou added randomly.
“A traitor among the commies. ” Wang Tianfeng took out a pack of cigarettes, then looked around for something.
“What are you looking for?”
“Who is Ashtray ?”
“I’m actually looking for an ashtray,” Wang Tianfeng lit a cigarette. Ming Lou took a random cup on the coffee table and gave it to him to use as an ashtray.
“I don’t really know who Ashtray is. I found some minion of Kou Rong and gave him some money. He only told me Ashtray is a woman. She used to be in Harbin but is now in Paris.”
“Going the long route. ” Ming Lou pondered, “Why didn’t she go from Harbin directly to the Soviet Union?”
“She wants to, but they’ve got the traitor among them. They couldn’t get through the rails directly there, so she wanted to take a roundabout through Western Europe…” Want Tianfeng said, “I only know so much. The Harbin police want the credit for this catch badly. They’re competing with us to get her. They won’t share their intelligence. One of their men even got killed by Ashtray’.”
“Ashtray sure is ruthless.” Ming Lou sighed.
“Sure. We catch her tonight, and add a charge of murder for her.” Wang Tianfeng said.
“You’re sure of the place tonight?”
“Who knows. Kou Rong’s underling told me Ashtray often appears on Avenue des Champs-Élysées.”
After a while, Ah-Cheng came out with hot coffee, milk, baguettes, and charcuterie. “I didn’t know you would come all of a sudden. I only have these right now. I’ll buy some grocery from the market tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry about tomorrow. We have business to attend to.” Ming Lou said.
“Is Mr. Wang here to teach in Paris?”
“Looking for a friend,” Wang Tianfeng responded.
“Maybe I can help you.”
“Thanks,” Ming Lou said. “You just worry about your books.”
Ming Cheng heard those words and slightly lowered his head with a bit of shame.
The food is nothing special, but to Wang Tianfeng, it’s already better than usual. He had no reservations about digging in.
“Sit and eat with us,” Ming Lou told Ah-Cheng.
“I can’t. I’m meeting with a classmate for dinner. I have class later. After that I have to deliver new flower teas to a couple of flower shops. ”
“You really are working?” Ming Lou is a bit surprised. He thought he was just joking.
“Yes. Before graduating, I want to have some real-life work experience.”
“Oh, this work of yours, how much do you earn per day?” Wang Tianfeng asked non-nonchalantly.
“In the beginning, 10 francs per day*. After half a month, 15 francs per day.”
“Good, working to earn your own living, unlike your Monsieur here, a capitalist leech.”
“Monsieur Wang, that phrase sounds like it’s got communist leanings.” Ah-Cheng said.
“Don’t speak so rashly! ” Ming Lou stopped Ah-Cheng.
Ah-Cheng smiled with gentleness and genial elegance intermixed with honesty. (idarklight: what does that even mean???)
“I don’t have a communist leaning. I’m an imperialist.” Wang Tianfeng said.
“Oh, down with imperialism!” Ah-Cheng responded automatically.
Ming Lou laughed this time.
“You punk …” Wang Tianfeng could not respond to Ah-Cheng.
“I have to go. You guys enjoy your meal. The guest bedrooms are all set-up. Don’t wait for me at night. I’ll be back late.” Ah-Cheng left as he finished.
After Wang Tianfeng saw Ah-Cheng had closed the door, then said, “He doesn’t seem like a servant at all. He’s gentle, but doesn’t have a bit of subservience.”
“Freedom and liberty are good traits in an individual,” Ming Lou said, ” Plus, no one sees him as a servant at home.”
“Isn’t he a child of one of your servants?”
“His adopted mother was cruel. He’s been through a lot as a child.” Ming Lou’s heart is always heavy when he remembers Ah-Cheng’s past.
“Oh, it seems like Mr. Ming has a heart full of love and compassion.”
“What do you mean?”
“You say that the child is well-read but isn’t an egghead, but I read the smell of Ashtray on him.” Wang Tianfeng’s tone revealed a hint of suspicion.
Ming Lou couldn’t digest the words that Wang Tianfeng said. He stared at his face, enunciating each word, “This child of mine never cared for politics.”
“Understood,” Wang Tianfeng said,”Don’t be nervous, I never said he had anything to do with politics. I’m talking about his tea blossoms. That flower has the scent of Ashtray.”
“Your sinuses have recovered?”
“I’m serious. When I fought with Ashtray, I smelled the aroma of this flower on her.”
“Did you say she attacked you from the back?”
“Yes, so I’m very sensitive to her scent.”
Dead silence, then Ming Lou spoke,” There are many flower shops in Paris.”
“Yes, but our target tonight is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.”
“You mean to search for a flower shop on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.”
Wang Tianfeng nodded.
“I have no stomach after looking at the way you cram down your food.” Ming Lou is strangely apprehensive. Sometimes, he really believes in the instincts of this crazy man. His instincts are always so accurate.
The Ashtray that Wang Tianfeng spoke of is Guiwan, a lecturer in the University of Paris*. In Paris, she met Ming Cheng, who was studying there and successfully converted him to join her. In October 1934, Ah-Cheng officially joined the CCP. His nickname, Jade Porcelain.
Tonight is the night where Jade Porcelain and Ashtray meet up.
Because their team had a traitor, they were ordered quick evacuations for all members by the organization. Ah-Cheng is the last to receive the orders to evacuate. Little did he know that someone would leave with him tonight.
An hour before midnight. The wind chilled the bones. Snowflakes floated in the sky, cold to the touch. Ming Lou and Wang Tianfeng have visited no less than eight flower shops. Ming Lou knows that whenever there’s a CCP meeting spot, there’ll be a place for food and lodgings, so he purposefully took Wang Tianfeng on a detour, going to small flower shops.
Wang Tianfeng is a hound. He began to say, “Something’s not right.”
“What?” Ming Lou asked.
“I fell like there’s a pair of eyes behind me, like …”
“Kou Rong’s men?”
Wang Tianfeng nodded.
Kou Rong, Harbin police assistant director, has been following the lead of this CCP location. Hearing this from Wang Tianfeng, Ming Lou’s heart sunk a bit. If it’s really Kou Rong who’s come to kill, things are bad.
“Let’s split up.” Wang Tianfeng suddenly requested.
That’s what Ming Lou had wanted as well, but it coming from Wang Tianfeng is safer.
“Alright,” Ming Lou agreed.
After the two left, Ming Lou walked around, took a few turns, and then walked to a pink two-floored flower shop after making sure no one was following him.
Ming Lou was just about to observe and check the place out when he saw a much too familiar silhouette. A handsome and dashing man walked in the flower shop. This silhouette caused Ming Lou to be filled with shock, surprise, and an uncontrollable sense of nervousness.
It can’t be true! Could he have ever thought this docile, quiet, scholarly child back at home would step into the bloody gyre of espionage? Certainly it can’t be true. Ming Lou looked around. The surroundings were too quiet, so quiet that it’s suffocating.
Something’s about to happen! Ming Lou’s heart sunk. Suddenly, he thought of his identity as a double-agent, perhaps he can use the identity as a member of the Blue Shirts to save his true comrade, to save his family.
Without another thought, Ming Lou walked into the back alley of the flower shop. As he reached the bottom of the staircase, a forceful blow came to his face. Ming Lou unconsciously turned to the left and avoided the fist. As he did, he saw Ah-Cheng attacking him. Ming Lou pulled on his gun box and took out his gun. Ah-Cheng came from above him and tried to grab the gun. Ah-Cheng’s cold face made Ming Lou shocked. They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment, then attacked each other.
Ah-Cheng was light as a feather.
Ming Lou was solid as a rock.
The two were neck-to-neck. Ming Lou attacked and made Ah-Cheng defend himself. As he did, Ming Long’s gun pointed at Ah-Cheng. At the same time, a black pistol was aimed at Ming Lou.
With a head of black tresses and a robe of silk, Guiwan pointed her gun at Ming Lou. The three became a triangle.
“It’s you?” Guiwan said with surprise.
“It really is you.” Ming Lou was not as surprised.
Guiwan took a clear look at Ming Lou and retracted the gun.
“Aren’t you in Harbin?” Ming Lou asked.
“We wanted to open a new line of communication. This station reports directly to Central Intelligence.” Guiwan said. “His name is Ming Cheng, he’s under me.” She meant for Ming Lou to put the gun down.
Ming Lou stared Ah-Cheng down. Ah-Cheng realized in an instant Ming Lou’s true identity and was suddenly apprehensive and scared. Ah-Cheng didn’t know that Ming Lou was an agent for the Blue Shirts, nor did he know he was a CCP agent. He had anticipated Ming Lou’s strong reaction once Ming Lou knew he had involved himself in politics, but never did he think it would be as strong as the meeting tonight.
Ming Lou retracted his gun and threw it at Ah-Cheng. Ah-Cheng caught the gun.
Ming Lou walked upstairs, Ah-Cheng followed. “Kneel here!” Ming Lou stopped, turned, and hurled the cold words at him.
Ah-Cheng knelled fearfully.
Guiwan looked at the two, lit a cigarette, and poured a cup of rose tea for Ming Lou. “You know each other?” Guiwan asked.
“Don’t pretend with me. You didn’t take him under your wings without knowing who he is.” MIng Lou sat and drank the tea.
“We met a year ago at a book club at the University of Paris.”
“A year ago?!” Ming Lou smashed the teacup and stood up immediately to look for something around the room.
“What are you looking for?”
“Do you have a stick?”
“No.” Guiwan answered.
Ming Lou saw an umbrella in a flower vase, he picked up the umbrella and walked toward Ah-Cheng. Guiwan blocked him.
“Put it down,” Guiwan yelled.
“Move away.” Ming Lou’s voice was steady but fierce.
“He works for me,” Guiwan said,” I have a right to protect him.”
“He’s my brother.” Ming Lou said coldly as he pushed Guiwan away. Because he pushed too hard and Guiwan was wearing heels, she made clanking sounds as she fell backward.
Ming Lou took the umbrella and began hitting Ah-Cheng without mercy. This time, Ah-Cheng was too scared to avoid, but instead faced Ming Lou’s wrath head-on. Guiwan walked over and stopped the umbrella with force, “That’s enough. Stop hitting him. He has to leave tomorrow, he has an important mission.”
“The Jade Porcelain has to send Number 43 to Moscow.”
“Get somebody else to do it.” Ming Lou refused.
“It can’t be done.”
“It has to be done.” Ming Lou pulled back the umbrella. Guiwan pulled harder and took the umbrella in her hand.
Guiwan enunciated clearly. “Listen, Number 43 is Jade Porcelain. He’s sending himself off, understood?”
“A******s.” Ming Lou cursed and let go.
“We had a traitor in our team, so we let out a red herring.” Guiwan said,” We made the enemy think there are two people leaving. But really, because of the betrayal, we’re sending Jade Porcelain to Moscow to study and temporarily disbanding this station.”
“How is he leaving?” Ming Lou asked.
“Tomorrow morning, he’s leaving from the North Station to Berlin. There someone will meet him, and then he’ll go to Moscow.”
“He’s going so soon?” Ming Lou looked at Ah-Cheng. Ah-Cheng’s head was down, for he was afraid to look Ming Lou in the eye.
“Yes, on the Trans-Siberian Railway*. He’ll stop in Berlin and get his visa into the Soviet Union there.”
“Can he do it?” Ming Lou couldn’t believe it.
“This isn’t his first time on such a mission.”
Guiwan’s words made Ming Lou suddenly understand something. He realized that Ah-Cheng has done a lot without him ever knowing. He asked, “How many people has he sent away?”
“Three this year so far. This time he’s sending himself off, so he’s the fourth.”
Ming Lou’s heart sunk like it was hit by a rock. He muttered, “The fourth!”
He stood up, “Your team had a traitor. The secret police in Harbin have already begun hunting. This place could already be watched. How can you leave?”
“I know!” Guiwan is especially calm.
“Yes, but I have to stay here. My husband is the head of this communications station. He’ll come and meet me at two o’clock today. Of course, it could be a trap. My missions today are first to make sure Ah-Cheng evacuates safely, and then to wait for my husband.”
“The moment Ah-Cheng walked in this place was his death sentence.” Ming Lou said.
“Since you were able to find us, you can save him,” Guiwan said.
“And you?” Ming Lou asked.
“As for me, if my husband didn’t get captured, we can escape from here tonight. If my husband has died or betrayed us, I’ll be captured or killed by two today.” Guiwan said. “You know I’m scared of death.”
“Let’s retreat together.” Ming Lou decided.
“No, I have to wait for my husband,” Guiwan rejected him.
“Even if it’s a trap?”
“What’s coming is coming. Help me send Jade Porcelain off safely.” Guiwan’s breathing is a bit irregular by now.
“You’ve decided?” Ming Lou asked again.
“Yes.” Guiwan is confident. She looked at Ah-Cheng, then told Ming Lou, “Don’t blame him.”
“I’ve never blamed him.” Ming Lou looked at Ah-Cheng, too.
“Don’t blame me, neither.” Guiwan sighed.
As Ming Lou walked closer to Ah-Cheng, Ah-Cheng raised his head to look at him. Ming Lou grabbed him. “You remember. Even if you died tonight, don’t yell.”
“Don’t blame me!” Ming Lou’s voice was somber.
Ah-Cheng suddenly felt his heart ache. The line between life and death is so thin yet so clear.
Two past midnight. The sight that they didn’t want to see still occurred. The final meeting of the couple was a deadly trap. Guiwan was shot in the streets. Ming Lou knew Wang Tianfeng is nearby. Both teams have spread their nets and are all waiting for their catch. With nowhere to go, the only way out was to walk directly into their trap.
In the field of snow, in the winds of chills, Ming Lou’s gun is aimed at Ah-Cheng’s head. “Speak! One wrong word and you’re dead.”
Wang Tianfeng is standing in the path of the wind, his gun loaded.
Ah-Cheng is on his knees in the snow, his eyes bloodshot. Guiwan’s corpse lay in front of him. At this moment, Ah-Cheng has to muster all his strength to hold himself together. The threat of death no longer causes fear, but the horrors of losing a comrade are the source of the pain.
He finally understands now why Ming Lou ripped his coat from him, for without it he kept shivering, the correct biological response of his “fear of death” that he is exhibiting now. Ming Lou is setting the path for Ah-Cheng’s life. A revolutionary filled with conviction will not shiver because of a gun to his head, but a simple man would beg for life. So, Ah-Cheng begins to beg for life.
“Sir, sir, I know nothing … ”
“Brother, brother, I’m here to deliver the new flower teas, I know nothing …”
“Monsieur Wang, Monsier Wang, please save me, please … ”
Ming Lou kicks Ah-Cheng, and Ah-Cheng shivers in the snow from the pain. “Why would you need to deliver flower teas in the dead of the night? Who are you kidding?”
That’s what Wang Tianfeng wanted to know, too.
“Miss Guiwan called … to tell me that there was a ball tonight … until midnight … I calculated the time to come at one … I’m telling the truth … this is when Ming Tang would come … to the flower shop, sometimes, too … We’re experimenting with the new formula for the perfume and would often ask Miss Guiwan for advice … Delivering the tea formula, the fragrances, it’s all for studying … ”
The cold metal again brushes against Ah-Cheng’s throat. Ming Lou is now staring at his eyes, and Ah-Cheng’s eyes are filled with hopelessness. He is kneeling in the snow, looking up at Ming Lou, his eyes filled with a mix of tears and melted snow, begging, “Brother, brother, spare my life …”
Ming Lou’s boots shatter the snow. His face is as cold as ice. As if he can’t do it himself, he removes the gun and says with some hesitancy, “Nuthead, you do it.”
Wang Tianfeng curses, hating Ming Lou for making him be the bad guy.
“Pity.” Wang Tianfeng sighs on purpose, “Ah-Cheng, you’ve come to the wrong place at the wrong time. Once you’re dead, don’t blame me. I don’t want to do it, neither, unless you can rethink what has happened. If you didn’t go to the wrong spot, but simply went down the wrong road, then it’s not too late to turn back.”
Upon finishing, Wang TIanfeng turns his head to look at Ming Lou. Ming Lou has turned his back on them. Wang Tianfeng curses again, then takes out his gun.
In the blizzard, in the snow, Ah-Cheng shivers even more.
No matter how strong or weak one is, everyone is easily broken when a gun is pointed at them. Unless they’re strong enough to stare death in the eye, or maybe they really know nothing.
“One last time …” Wang Tianfeng says.
Ah-Cheng shakes his head.
The bullet passes Ah-Cheng’s ears. Ah-Cheng shakes a bit but does not fall.
Wang Tianfeng takes his gun back, and tells Ming Lou, “This child of your family is tough.”
As the bullet passed his ears, Ah-Cheng knew Wang Tianfeng believed him and he’ll live. At the same time, as the bullet passed Ah-Cheng’s ears, Ming Lou let out a sigh of relief secretly.
Wang Tianfeng takes off his jacket and covers Ah-Cheng with it, “Don’t work your way through college anymore. It’s not like the Ming family can’t afford it. Why work. If you work anymore, you’ll work your life away.”
Ming Lou’s face is still stoic.
Ah-Cheng’s face is red from the cold and covered with snow and ice.
“That’s enough. He’s a kid. It takes time.” Wang Tianfeng tells Ming Lou.
Soon, the sounds of horses echo back. The murderer’s carriage has returned.
Ming Lou sees Kou Rong sitting in the carriage and is glad he made the correct guess. It was smart of him not to try and leave from the back of the shop.
Kou Rong smiles. “I knew you guys have been playing with me since Harbin. It’s still me who’s killed Ashtray in the end, you didn’t do any….”
Before he could finish, Wang Tianfeng raises the gun and shoots Kou Rong.
Kou Rong was shot in the head and falls from the carriage. The corpse falls on the ground.
“You’ve killed Ashtray, we’ve killed you, so we’ve killed Ashtray in the end.” Wang TIanfeng said as he stepped on the carriage.
“You’re nuts!” Ming Lou screams at Wang Tianfeng.
“Don’t you want to kill him?” Wang Tianfeng says. “If we let him go, the credit is his and the fault is ours. Plus, would he have let your Ah-Cheng go free? When the time comes, even you can’t go freely. Come on, his team is still waiting.”
Wang Tianfeng is right on this point, and Ming Lou stops arguing. Instead, he pushes Ah-Cheng on the carriage as he opens his handcuffs. Wang Tianfeng drives the carriage away from the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
Five past midnight, before dawn. Wang Tianfeng went to the Paris police to report a crime, claiming his compatriot was the victim of armed robbery and requested assistance from the police.
At the same time, Ming Lou took Ah-Cheng directly to the North Station. On the platform, the two both remained silent until they’re about to part.
“I’m a soldier. From now on, so are you.” Ming Lou suddenly spoke.
Ah-Cheng’s eyes were filled with tears as he looked at him with respect.
“Don’t cry.” Ming Lou reprimanded.
“Yes.” Despite the words, Ah-Cheng still cannot control the tears in his eyes. It’s not a sign of weakness but the thought of a final communion. He knew that once he stepped on this journey, the future is rife with danger, and he may never return.
“Go. Your entire team has been extinguished. You’re a kite without a string. I will request the Southern Bureau＊ to move you to my side. I —–. “Ming looked at Ah-Cheng in the eye. As he looked at the child who grew up with him, Ming Lou’s eyes warmed with tears. “I await your triumphant return.”
“Remember, nets can ensnare fish, but cannot enslave birds of flight. One day, we will no longer be fish in a net, but birds that soar freely in the sky. ” Ming Lou taught him the last lesson.
Ah-Cheng stood up straight and gave Ming Lou a salute.
- 10 Francs in 1934 is equivalent to the purchasing power of 6.71 euros in 2010. source: here
- The University of Paris today consists of several Universities. Ming Lou is generally believed to have attended the Sorbonne, which is now a part of the University of Paris. Based on the location in the Latin Quarter, I’m guessing Ming Cheng also attended the Sorbonne. Ming Tai was at some school in Nice.
- In the series, Ming Cheng refers to the school as the Leningrad Frunze Academy of Military Signal and Communications. The only source I could find for the school is a Chinese documentary that claims it’s a secret Soviet intelligence academy. In the book, it seems like they’ve switched to the Frunze Military Academy.
- Tea roses blossom spring-fall and usually would not be blossoming in the winter.
- The trans-Siberia railroad doesn’t go through Berlin.
- The most well-known Southern Bureau is the Zhou Enlai-headed one based in Chongqing. Zhou himself had studied in Paris between 1920 and 1924, and had joined the CCP in that time. This bureau was, however, founded in 1939, after this story is set. Prior to 1939, the last Southern Bureau stopped operations in 1930 and was based in Hong Kong.