Translating this chapter was really difficult for me, emotionally. We have all heard of writer’s block where the author doesn’t know how to continue the story. I had translator’s block, because I was fully aware of where the story was going and was very unwilling to go there. But still, to that place we must go, otherwise I might have very angry readers at my doorstep.
But I must thank you all! I was very heartened by the responses in the comments from the first half of chapter 3 last week – there were some excellent points brought up! This week’s post is a meaty chapter with a lot of going ons – please do feel free to leave your thoughts with us.
So onwards with Song Ning’s story, we go…
“I love him and I miss him, and I don’t speak with him anymore. It’s a hurtful and painful subject.”
– Mary-Kate Olsen
There is a prelude to every story. The prelude to this story was that Song Ning picked up a jade pendant in the garden one day. The pendant had been finely set in gold inlay but one can clearly see a crack down the middle of the piece. She stared at it for a long while and was certain that this was the same jade token she had broken into two when she left Shen An last winter.
A woman rushed towards her. She stopped in front of Song Ning, pointed at the jade pendant with one hand and at herself with the other. Song Ning raised her head, allowing the woman to see her face. The woman’s face immediately went pale.
Song Ning thought that the woman looked familiar. A breeze blew past, carrying in it a light herbal scent that reminded her of the little clinic behind the mountain. She held onto the jade pendant and smiled at the other woman, “You are here as well? Shen An is truly not an ungrateful person. Where is your grandfather?”
The woman’s lips trembled and turned around as if to flee. Song Ning frowned and reached out to stop her, “Am I that frightening to you?”
The woman struggled desperately to escape when Shen An’s voice suddenly came from behind, “Qiqi.”
Qiqi. In a moment of distraction, Shen An had snatched the woman away from her grasp and into his protective embrace, like how a giant tree would protect a vine encircling it, gently and intimately. But when he looked at Song Ning, his face was cold like the winter frost. He questioned her, “What are you doing?”
She did not reply his question. Instead, she stared at the woman in Shen An’s arms, “Qiqi. You are Qiqi?” The woman did not dare raise her head.
Shen An frowned heavily. His gaze fell on the object in Song Ning’s hand. “That is Qiqi’s jade pendant. Why are you holding it?”
Song Ning froze and stared at him in shock, “Qiqi’s? What is Qiqi’s? How could it be Qiqi’s?” She took a step forward and held out the jade pendant before him, “Did you read the letter I sent you? Have you forgotten that this is the token I gave you, forgot what happened between us in the snowy mountain at Canglu Ye…”
She wanted to continue on, but Liu Qiqi suddenly held on the Shen An’s sleeve and shook her head furiously.
The cold light in his eyes flickered, and he broke her off impatiently, “5,000 Jiang citizens died beneath Li swords in the Battle of Canglu Ye. Although our two countries are at peace now, I will never dare forget what happened at Canglu Ye.” He sneered at her, “If Qiqi had not saved me then, I would only be a wandering soul in this world – how would I have been able to marry Song Ning, the Princess Jingwu of Li?”
Liu Qiqi was holding onto Shen An’s hand while still shaking her head. Her tears streaked freely down her cheeks, ruining her makeup.
Song Ning could not believe it. Her voice came shakily out of her throat, “How could she have saved you… The person who saved you… that was definitely me.”
She thought that as long as she could explain, he would definitely understand; but she had overestimated his ability to understand. Because life is not as such: just because you can speak does not mean the other person would necessarily listen. If the other person had already stuffed his ears with cotton, then he would not hear you no matter how hard you tried.
His continued to sneer at her, “What rot are you spouting? You saved me? Song Ning, I have never heard that you knew any medical knowledge. The woman who saved me had outstanding medical skills and could not speak. That woman is Qiqi. Did you think that just because Qiqi is mute, I will believe you when you try to frame her with your bullshit of a story?”
Song Ning knew then that he did not read her letter, and already understood where the letter had ended up. It is now useless for her to continuing pursuing this matter, but her heart could not let it go. Although Shen An did not love her, there are still some things she must let him know. But everything she said was wrong; for all her efforts, Shen An did not give her a chance. He was a strict man with uncompromising beliefs. This truly made one angry and sad at the same time!
She gave up trying to explain to him. The way he looked at her was always icy cold. He was never willing to try to listen. At the beginning, she was very upset but could not shed any tears; she would often hold her covers and sit woodenly until dawn. In the long nights, she would frequently reminisce of how his hand lightly rested on her shoulder, of how he gently said to her, “If Miss have no objections, I will definitely come to offer for your hand when my injuries healed.”
That was the only beautiful memory she had. Although she may seem strong, she was in the end, still a woman. The stronger a woman, the more important it is to protect her, for something that is too strong will become brittle.
No one could have imagined that within three months of his marriage, Shen An would take a concubine.
There is nothing wrong with the practice of polygamy, mainly because it is customary to do so. With the emperor leading the charge, his subjects follows his example of taking multiple wives. Men who do not do so are often looked down upon. Jun Wei, who has made a study of the emperor’s household affairs, analysed it as such: an emperor takes consorts and concubines because the empress is the Mother of the Nation and also represented the people. Just imagine living with the Mother of the Nation; each time you see her kindly face, you would be reminded of your citizens – you can’t even put even put down the affairs of the state when you’re in the midst of your private business. How can a man relax unless he takes on concubines?
But we will never know the true reason. Perhaps it is because of their lust that men continue to take on concubines. But in Shen An’s case, everyone was certain that he did so for love. And for this sole reason, this was something that Song Ning could not tolerate.
So Song Ning borrowed the name of the Duke of Lizhuang and the pride of the State of Li, and stopped them from proceeding with their wedding plans.
She sat in the pavillion reading a book, while Shen An stood before her. This was the third time they met after their wedding. He frowned deeply as he towered over her, “You had deliberately schemed to prevent me from marrying Qiqi – what is it that you want?”
She put down her book and looked up at him. It was as if she had transformed back to her younger self, before she as married – into the Song Ning who always wore a smile into battle. Her voice was flat but a dimple appeared next to her mouth, “What is it that I want? This is a good question indeed. I do not want anything, but there are somethings that Liu Qiqi is not qualified to have.”
He responded coldly, “So you cannot tolerate Qiqi. However, do you actually think I can tolerate you?”
The dimple in her cheek deepened, “Shen An – you cannot but tolerate me because ultimately, our marriage represents the peace unity of our two states.”
His face took on the expression of him trying to rein in his anger, “We had agreed not to interfere with each other on our wedding night.”
She looked at her own hand and said softly, “This is actually a trifling matter. It’s only that I am unhappy watching you both behaving so lovingly while I am leading such a lonely life since our marriage.”
Shen An sneered back as he strode away, “Song Ning, don’t you remember who it was who propose this marriage?”
Song Ning watch him disappear around a corner. After a moment, she picked up her book and looked down at it. The wind blew past and a single tear fell on the page smudging the ink instantly. She raised her sleeve to wipe the corner of her eye while casually turning the page at the same time.
Not long thereafter, the ruler of the neighbouring State of Xia passed away, and was succeeded by his son. Two months later, the new ruler of Xia launched a military attack on Jiang on the pretext that Jiang was harbouring treasonous rebels from Xia. The Duke of Jiangmu ordered Shen An to lead the troops to defend the State.
The lush fragrance of April was coming to an end, a cold and barren moon hung in the sky. Song Ning stood at the foot of her bed for half the night and watched the moon slowly descend towards the horizon. In the end, she was still unable to bear the thought of him dying on the battlefield. While he was not a good husband, he is the hero that she fell in love at first sight half a year ago. The saying that “while some people do not have much experience in love, they have a romantic soul” aptly describes Song Ning here.
She took out her suit of armor that accompanied her to Jiang as part of her dowry and removed the huxing jing from its breastplate. Her skirts trailed behind her as she walked down the corridors towards Shen An’s personal apartments.
The maidservant in the garden mumbled for a minute before she said, “The General… The General is not in his chambers.”
Song Ning’s expression remained unchanged, “Is he at Hefeng Yuan?”
The maidservant hung her head, fearing to speak.
Song Ning passed the silk-wrapped huxing jing to the maidservant, “Since he is not here, then pass this…”
Before she could finish her sentence, the maidservant in front of her raised her head and said in surprise, “General!”
Shen An entered the courtyard. The sky had not brightened and his silhouette was framed by the faint yellow light emitted by the few lanterns that hung in the courtyard. She heard his voice come from behind her, strong and cold, “What are you doing here?”
She turned around and stood straight, her gaze sweeping his form from head to toe, and gave a short laugh. She handed him the cloth-wrapped item, “Nothing much. I heard that you will be going into battle, so I came to bring you this huxing jing that is made of pine stone. It is much stronger than normal ones and have saved my life many times. Since I will never go into battle again, do take this along with you and try it out for yourself.”
He frowned and looked at her, “I heard that this is your treasure, given to you by your brother.”
Song Ning looked up, “Eh – You’ve also heard of that? It can be said to be a treasure but only if it can protect its wearer’s life. If it can’t protect someone’s life, then it is nothing. By loaning it to you, I don’t mean for you to owe me any favours. You said it well, we should each keep out of each other’s way. But as I have taken on your name, if you die in battle, then the responsibility for your entire Shen household will fall on me – that is too tiring. Each should bear his own responsibility. Don’t you agree?”
She passed him the jade green huxing jing that resembled a spread out lotus leaf. As she turned to leave, he grabbed at her, “You can remarry.”
She looked down at his hand that held her sleeve before turning her gaze upwards to him and smiled, “What?”
He let go of her sleeve, “If I die in battle, you can remarry.”
She bowed her head and thought for a moment before replying, “Yes. That is true.” She raised her her head again, her dimple deepening, “Then why don’t you just die and never return. Don’t ever return again.”
The maidservant at the side trembled from fear. Song Ning only laughed in reply, her eyes cold.
This is why one should never try to fathom the heart of a woman; you can guess left and right and still not understand her. There is a type of woman who can make you fantasize wildly with her every word and there is another type of woman would would make you ponder her every word. The former is represented by skilled courtesans and the latter is represented by Song Ning.
Song Ning left in a hurry, finally able to be the one to first turn her back on him. His fingers wrapped themselves around the hu xin jing as he stared thoughtfully at her departing figure – her spine ramrod straight.
Shen An left home for two months.
Sometime in mid-August, the news came that Miss Qiqi was pregnant. Old General Shen and his lady-wife were left speechless. Liu Qiqi was a guest in their house; not only was their female guest carrying their son’s child, but to have it happen before their daughter-in-law – the elderly couple really did not know what to say.
When Song Ning went to pay her respects to her mother-in-law one day, the elder Lady Shen finally said, “However it may be, that is still a child of the Shen family – it would be unseemly for the child to be left uncared for outside.”
Song Ning nodded with a smile, “You’re right, Mother.”
By the end of the month, osmanthus flowers were in full bloom at the top of Mount Qu outside the city. Song Ning stared at the mountain before summoning Shi Cha, her maid who had accompanied her from Li, “Invite Miss Qiqi to accompany me tomorrow to admire the osmanthus blooms on Mount Qu.”
When Shi Cha sent the invitation to Hefeng Yuan, Liu Qiqi accepted the invitation.
The next day, Song Ning packed lightly and was accompanied only by Shi Cha. Shi Cha carried a snack box in one hand and a cloak in the other. Compared to Song Ning, Liu Qiqi arrived in a grand procession. She sat in a sedan chair carried by four men and was accompanied by two senior matrons and four maids from Hefeng Yuan.
“Such a crowd just to look at some osmanthus flowers – the mood has been ruined,” Song Ning said.
The senior matron in the lead replied faintly, “Lady Shen, you may not be aware but General’s letter arrived yesterday exhorting us to take care of Miss Qiqi’s wellbeing. Since Miss Qiqi is in a delicate condition, your servant must take the the utmost care and precaution not to slight Miss Qiqi.”
Song Ning continued to waved her fan without speaking.
Shi Cha chuckled sarcastically, “Listen to what you are saying! You say you cannot slight Miss Qiqi, but is it alright to slight my Princess then? To put it bluntly, back in our State of Li, if the Princess were sitting, none in attendance would dare stand. If the Princess were standing, everyone in attendance would been kneeling until the Princess gives her permission to do otherwise. But here in Jiang, everything is in reverse! Today, my Princess has decided to hike up this mountain on foot. What kind of etiquette does Jiang promote that your miss can sit comfortably in her sedan chair?”
The matron immediately knelt heavily on the ground and started slapping her own face.
The sedan chair’s curtain lifted up, and Liu Qiqi quickly got down to protect the matron. Her hands that carried a light herbal fragrance gestured elegantly in the air. The matron beside her explained gingerly, “Miss is saying that she will not be riding the sedan chair. She didn’t know any better earlier. She will follow my Lady and serve my Lady on this trip.”
How could a pregnant woman take hiking up small mountain paths for an entire day? That night itself, they heard that Liu Qiqi was bleeding uncontrollably from between her legs. Early morning of the next day, news came that Liu Qiqi had miscarried.
Shi Cha asked worriedly, “What should we do if General gets angry after learning about this?” Song Ning who was reading next to the window and only gestured for her to bring a fresh pot of tea.
Ultimately, it was Song Ning’s fault that Liu Qiqi lost her child. But as the child was conceived out of wedlock, even if Old General Shen and his lady wife pitied her, there was nothing much they were able to do. They could only send her material goods as a gesture of support; bird’s nest, ginseng, snow lotus seeds – whatever that was expensive was sent to Hefeng Yuan.
But Liu Qiqi continued to bathe her face with her tears every day and was unable to find time to eat; in order not to waste the food, her matrons and maids helped to finish all the food. The result was that except for Liu Qiqi who preserved her slender figure, everyone else in Hefeng Yuan put on a lot of weight within a short period of time. Even the pair of little sparrows outside her door were not spared from this fate.
During this time, Song Ning did not leave her rooms or meet anyone on the pretext that she was ill.
But ultimately, there was one person whom she could not avoid seeing. He is her unlucky star. For him, she shed her armour to put on bright red wedding finery and, with all of her tenderness, came a long way to marry him. But he did not want her.
In mid-September, Shen An returned amidst much pomp and circumstance having fought a victorious war.
Song Ning was feeding the fish in the bond when she asked Shi Cha, “He has returned. Do you think he would kill me?”
The cup in Shi Cha’s hand fell to the ground. Song Ning gave a short laugh, “Although my skills are not as good as his, it is not so bad that he can kill me that easily. In the worst case scenario, we will fight until both of us are seriously injured – you don’t have to worry about me.”
Shi Cha knelt on the ground and said beggingly, “Shi Cha knows that her princess is unhappy here. Since Princess is so unhappy, why don’t we return to Li? Princess – let’s go home to Li.”
Song Ning looked at the fish bobbing up and down the surface of the water to get to the feed, “This marriage represents an alliance between two states. Do you think we can leave just because we want to leave?”
The point of no return came that night. I could say this because I saw everything in its entirety; I saw that Song Ning’s slow path towards her end begun that night. It was her love and Shen An’s hand that pushed her towards her death.
He was still in his white armour, his face was the same as when they had first met except that one can see furious anger in his eyes, like a malevolent spirit from the underworld.
She was no match for him after all – the tip of his sword was already at her throat within two strikes. In her panic, she wrapped her hand around his blade. In one thrust, the blade bit into flesh of the fingers on her right hand, leaving a wound so deep one could see the bone. Her blood dripped down from his blade. It must have been very painful, but she did not seem to care. She only looked at her hand, “You… really wanted to kill me?”
He said coldly, “Song Ning, your hands are stained with the life of my son. When you forced Qiqi to climb Mount Qu, did you never think that she could have killed?”
She raised her head suddenly, her expression relaxed and her voice was light, “That is not my fault. I have never carried a child, so how would I know that a pregnant woman was so frail that she can miscarry just from climbing a mountain? You are blaming me for yourself not fated to have that child. Shen An, aren’t you being unreasonable here?”
Song Ning did not really believe what she was saying, but was saying it out her anger. “Shen An, you know that no other woman has the right to give birth to the heir of the Shen family except for me.”
She thought that her love was already dying. In the past, when she looked at Shen An, she hoped that all he wished would come true. Now, when she looked at him, all she wanted was everything to go against him. But just because his misery did not seem to make her happier; this was truly hurting oneself while hurting others.
Her words seemed to anger him further. She saw the overwhelming fury in his eyes and concluded that he will thrust his sword through her hand and into her throat. But her conclusion was wrong.
Shen An’s sword did not advance another inch. Instead, he withdrew it from within her fingers in a spray of blood. His blade pressed against her chest and cut the ties holding her clothes together.
This man – her husband – stood in front of her and used his blood stained sword to cut her outer robe from her body. The anger in his eyes turned into a cold sneer, his voice filled with mockery, “Song Ning, I have never met a woman as hateful as you.”
It was a consummation that was late by 9 months.
She tried to struggle. If the man was a weak scholar, not only could she have escaped, she could even given him a good beating. But the man before her was a general, skilled in the 18 types of martial arts and excelled in close-body combat. She was helpless before him.
The night air was as cold as the waters of an icy pond. She shivered while both her hands held on the Shen An’s back, her blood creating red flower-like patterns against his tanned skin. She could no longer maintained her smiling facade and her tears flowed down her cheeks. Her voice rang in his ears, the whimpering of a small animal.
She had lost her parents when she was still young and grew up in battlefields. Her brother had little time to take care of her, so everytime she fell down, she would pick herself up and gently rubbed where it hurt. The Song Ning in the battlefields was always smiling because she was matured enough to know that she shouldn’t worry her brother. Over time, it became a habit – until she no longer knew how to cry.
This is the first time she was crying aloud; this terrified herself because this time, she could really feel pain, and the pain was in her heart – she could not even do as she did when she was young, to just rub where it hurts with her hand. She panted heavily until even the tip of her nose had turned red. She could no longer maintain her usual stern composure, and could no longer will herself to stay strong. She was only 17. Her voice was on the brink of utter devastation, “Shen An, you really hate me, you really hate me so. Shen An, let me go. I beg you – let me go.”
But he said into her ear, “Can your pain compared to my pain of losing my child? Song Ning – this is what you wanted so I am giving you what you wanted. But from now on, we are squared. Do you understand what squared means?”
The smell of blood permeated the air. I could not smell it, but I could see it. Her fingers had pressed deep into his back, but she could no longer cry aloud. Her hoarse voice hung in the air, “Shen An, how could you do this to me. You are heartless.”
Song Ning’s right hand was ruined that night. The same hand that used to handle a spear, that was able to execute the forty-nine strokes of the Purple Spear Stances so beautifully that all who saw marvelled at her skills. The wound in her hand was also carved deep within her heart.
When she woke up, Shen An lay next to her. His handsome features were indifferent, but slightly frowning. She thought, this is the man I used to love – the man she fell for at first sight amidst a sea of people.
His sword had fallen under the bed. Her right hand was already useless, so she leaned over and picked up the heavy sword with her left hand; this woke him up. In the instant he opened his eyes, she plunged the sword deep into his side, between the ribs. He gave a low grunt and saw a single tear fall from the corner of her eye down her face, leaving a glistening streak in its wake.
In the past, she had found him buried beneath thousands of corpses, she had carried him on her back across a mountain for three days without sleep nor rest to bring him to a clinic. But all these were in the past, so there was no need to dwell on it anymore.
She cocked her head and finally looked at him with an expression befitting a young girl. Her face was tear-streaked, but her lips were tilted upwards, “Shen An, why did you come back? Why didn’t you die in battle?”
He held her left hand that was still wrapped around his sword when he suddenly pulled her down and hugged her. The sharp sword pierced deeper into his side and he spat out a mouthful of blood before he said coldly into her ear, “Is this what you wanted? You wanted me to die?”
When Song Ning told me this part of the story, even though so many years have passed since, I could still see pain seep into her otherwise calm features, as if she is unable to recall what had happened. She did not know that I had already seen everything. That surely must have had been a night from hell for her.
Shen An survived in the end. Although his wound was deep, it had unfortunately not cut into any critical points as well. The doctor advised that he would fully recovery with 3 months of quiet bed rest.
Two months later, Song Ning was found to have conceived. Liu Qiqi packed her things and quietly left the Shen Mansion. When news arrived the next day, Shen An immediately went out to look for her although he was still seriously injured. When he found her, he installed her in a secondary estate. He himself stayed at that estate throughout most of the year, and ceased to call the Shen Mansion home.
In the June of the next year, Song Ning gave birth to a baby boy.
Shen An picked up the infant, “You hate me.” He looked in the direction of the bed with its curtains down, “I thought you would be unwilling to give birth to this child.” Song Ning was lying weakly on the bed behind the curtains, but she mustered up a single breath to reply sarcastically, “Why wouldn’t I give birth to him? This is the heir to the Shen family. When you die, he will be the one to inherit.”
His eyes immediately turned cold. He passed the infant over to the old nanny by the side and left angrily. The child cried loudly behind him and he stopped by the door. After a moment’s pause, he said, “Song Ning, there is no woman in this world who would look forward to her husband dying in battle.” Her voice came softly from behind layers of curtains, “Oh?”
Four years passed in a blink of an eye. During this time, the two State of Li and Jiang had once again fell out and started fighting ceaselessly. This was bad for my business, although not relevant to our story at hand. What was important was that Liu Qiqi had given birth to the another child during this time – a little girl.
This was actually the source of much sadness in the secondary estate for quite a while. Because I was stood firmly on Song NIng’s side, I could not help but think that Liu Qiqi’s despair must be because a girl would not stand to inherit much of the family’s wealth. But this was only my conjecture – it may be that she regretted not being able to bear a son because Shen An liked boys.
The nannies in the estate repeatedly consoled Liu Qiqi, that it was already very good that she could safely deliver a little girl under Song Ning’s watch. It was only a long time they successfully consoled her, and made her understand that it was not easy to have this girl. This assuaged half of her sadness. At the same time, Shen An truly loved and doted on their child and this assuaged the other half of her sadness.
I could not help but think that she had transformed her sadness into hope in such a short time because Shen An had redistributed a substantial amount of his private wealth to her. If Jun Wei were present, he would surely criticize that my thinking is too negative, and not optimistic enough. But I thought, if I could still look to the bright side under these circumstances, then I would have already attained sainthood.
Song Ning’s son, who was named Shen Luo, grew to look very much like her.
Shen Luo had a shallow dimple in his cheek. When he was two or three, he could already recite complex books. If he was met with a difficult question that he could not answer, he would not allow anyone to help him. Instead, he would sit there and with his plump fists under his chin and contemplate the question seriously. In winter, although it was more difficult for him to maintain the same position because of his thick clothing, he would still stubbornly insist on doing so even though he had slid from the chair countless times as a result. He did not cry when he hurt himself. Instead he would just pick himself up and rub the spot that was in pain. In this regard, he was exactly like Song Ning.
Although Shen Luo was very clever, but he did not recognise his own father. Basically, each time they met, he would call Shen An “Uncle” instead of “Father”. This showed that he really had little chance to meet with Shen An, and one could also see that his mother seldom saw Shen An as well. It was difficult know whether such an intelligent child truly did not recognise his own father, or if he was just pretending. But this adorable and lovable child passed away the winter when he turned four.
That day, Shen An had brought his daughter to pay their respects to his parents. The little girl ran away from the servants and met Shen Luo in the garden where she was playing. For whatever reason, both children got into a fight and both fell into the lotus pond. When they were rescued, both appeared fine.
However, because Shen Luo was suffering from a cold at that time, the dip in the icy pond worsened his illness. He contracted high fever for a couple of nights and before dawn on the third night, he closed his reddened eyes, coughed lightly, and passed away.
Perhaps this was the event that truly defeated Song Ning.
I saw the sun rise that winter morning. Shen Luo laid in Song Ning’s arms, his face still flushed as if he was just asleep. She held him in her arms as she sat in the hall. The beaded curtain was tied up, allowing the morning light to fall on both of them.
She raised his little head, “Son – the sun has risen. Haven’t you been complaining that you haven’t seen the sun for half a month, and even your blankets have also grown moldy? Quickly wake up and take your blankets out to air.” But he could no longer wake up. Her tears fell from her face onto his closed eyes, making it appear that the child was crying after witnessing his mother’s sadness.
Shen An was hurrying into the garden when he saw Song Ning come out of the hall carrying her purple spear. Her white dress suited her sharp beauty but her usually smiling face no longer held any expression. She was like a red lotus that bloomed in the midst of ice and snow. She was such a beautiful woman.
Her spear darted quickly towards Shen An in a rush of cold wind. She had even calculated where he would evade to. She wanted to end all their love and hate in that one strike. What she did not expect that he stood still and watched the spear fly towards him. As a result, her spear did not hit its mark. He steadied himself and grabbed on to her hand, “Ah Ning.”
She looked at him, as if she had never known him, “Why is it that my son had to die but you are all alive, that you and Liu Qiqi are still alive?”
I have never heard a sadder question in my life.
Her spear had sliced into Shen An’s clothes, leaving a shallow cut. She stared at the insignificant wound and struggled to free her left hand unsuccessfully from his grasp. In the end, she released that pent-up knot pressing beneath her heart and spat out mouthfuls of blood, staining the front of her white dress red. Shen An quickly moved to carry her as she collapsed in front of him.
Song Ning fell into a deep illness.
And after that, it was as the rumours said.
The story came to an end. Today, Song Ning laid on the rattan bed in the pavillion, her expression distant as if she had finally saw past everything. She summarized the past 7 years in a single sentence. “Jun Fu, it is so easy to love someone. It is also so easy to hate someone.”
I quite disagreed with her. It was quite difficult for me to fall in love with Mu Yan. If he had not saved my life twice, we would have been like two specks of dust passing each other by in life. Let us not say whether I would fall in love with him; I may not have even have given him a chance even if he had loved me first.
But since I had fallen in love with him, I would not give him any chance to hurt me, or let myself hate him. Of course, this argument was presupposed on me actually being alive. However, I am now a dead person, so this can only remain an opinion that can be debated sometimes…
Actually, to my mind, the entire tragedy stemmed from Shen An’s steadfastness towards love. If he was not such a faithful man, it was possible to achieve a compromise between the three of them, instead of this bitter ending where one must die in order for the other to live.
As I made to leave, Song Ning said tiredly, “Now that I think about it, perhaps from the beginning, I had only fallen in love with a figment of imagination.”
I nodded in agreement.
She asked me softly, “Jun Fu, can you create this illusion for me in my dream?”
As the sun set in the west, I made some quick calculations. I nodded my head, “Will two days be enough for you to put your affairs in order? Two days later, we will meet in this pavillion and I will weave a good dream for you.”
 A’Fu actually described it more comically. The chinese phrase for “communicate” is “沟通” which combination of the characters “tunnel” and “lead to / connect”. What she literally says goes along the lines of “just because there is a tunnel, does not mean you would be able to connect. For example, [it won’t work] if someone had put a crocodile at the mouth of the tunnel, just waiting to kill you when you try to swim through.” Of course, this description doesn’t work if you do not understand the chinese phrase, so I substituted it with the closest analogy I could think of.
 “护心镜” (pinyin: Huxin jing) usually describes a small circular shield that is worn at the chest area to protect the heart.
 This is actually a pun on two similar sounding phrases: “想得非非” (pinyin: xiang de fei fei)translates to “fantasize wildly” while “非得想想” (pinyin: fei dei xiang xiang) means “must ponder or think about”
So we finally come to the end of Song Ning retelling of her life. Translating this made me hate Liu Qiqi more… and yes, its difficult to accept Shen An’s hurtfulness towards Song Ning.
Shen An is a character that makes me see saw in my opinion of him. As I translated this chapter, he made me grit my teeth and seethe in anger. Then I try to see it from his perspective, and he probably had cause to be angry. But like Jun Fu, we are all firmly on Song Ning’s side, so I can only say that we might be biased.
And then that rape scene came. And let me just set the record very straight, rape – including marital rape – is never ok. No means no! Rape is a despicable act that violates a woman physically and emotionally, it takes away her dignity in the cruellest manner possible. And for this, I decide I can never forgive Shen An. I would understand if he had hurt her physically (which he did anyway) and it would be less unforgivable if he had killed her outright.
I had mentioned once on this blog that Song Ning herself was a difficult woman to love. She is stubborn and ruthless – as can be seen to how she treated Qiqi (who totally deserved it anyway). But the one thing that made me still love her is because when she love – even if it was only a figment of her imagination – she loved so unconditionally.
And one last thing – as I was translating the scene of Song Ning and Liu Qiqi hiking up Mount Qu, I could not help but keep thinking that Song Ning should have just pushed Liu Qiqi off the cliff right there. Hah!
P/S I just watched the HXY trailer. It seems that Drama!Qiqi is a lot more devious than Book!Qiqi. So more hate on her! And Drama!Song Ning is even more pitiful than Book!Song Ning (because it is suggested in the trailer that Qiqi frames her for the miscarriage) – I am not sure if I like that.