Fangirling Chinese Novels

Hua Xu Yin (华胥引) – Chapter 3.2



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…

Chapter 3.2

“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.[1]

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[1] 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[2]?”

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.[3]

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.

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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.”

Translation Notes:

[1] 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.

[2] “护心镜” (pinyin: Huxin jing) usually describes a small circular shield that is worn at the chest area to protect the heart.

[3] 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.

51 thoughts on “Hua Xu Yin (华胥引) – Chapter 3.2

  1. Teared up so many times throughout this second half of the chapter. Shen An is such a jerk! Although it’s understandable for him to react that way, as the “responsible” man he is, he should have been more understanding towards Song Ning. Since he’s so high mighty, it’s so horrible of him to not even listen to what she has to say. But nobody is perfect. -.- As much as i want to love him, I can’t help but hate him.

    • Yeah. Actually, because I’m translating and have to read every single sentence properly, I realised I can’t like him all that much either. Not my type of guy.

  2. “She stared at the in significant wound and struggled to free her left hand unsuccessfully from his grasp.”
    The last lines reflects her anguish in a way, it’s only her who’s wounded deeply in this trap but the rest gets only an insignificant pain compared to her suffering.

    ” The stronger a woman, the more important it is to protect her, for something that is too strong will become brittle.”! (love this line too. ‘) sadly no one’s protecting her from Shen Ah’ s bullet. The jerk.

    Ugh, SHEN Ah!! Why rape?? That’s the lowest thing to scoop will you ever redeem yourself when the truth knocks you down? Sigh.

    Sing Nong is such a prideful character, which is her strength as well as her weakness, it’s her pride that keeps her smiling in spite of her pain,she won’t allow anyone to her vulnerability. and its her prideful attitude that makes Shen Ah see her In bad light.
    I kind of love her, as a person. I wish she had a better fate inlove.
    Thank you hui3 for the chapter,🙂 enjoyed it to bits, with a shivering heart.

    • It’s sad but I think western society and Asians have a different view of rape. If you read many chinese romance novels you would understand what I mean. Rape often is used as a method to “punish” the woman😦 And sadly the (Asian) readers aren’t too concerned about it. I don’t like how the authors downplay rape. It’s actually a crime and absolutely nothing women should accept. The same thing happens in manga so you see, it’s really another mentality.

      Yeah Shen An the idiot did rape Song Ning. On the one side it’s an act of punishment. On the other hand he feels attracted to her, certainly also physically. It’s somehow a battle within himself.

      • Camille: At least in the morning, she took her revenge by thrusting that sword into his ribs. I think by then he had calm down enough to realize his horrific action, hence he pulled her down along with the sword. Ah..
        Yes, he’s actually attracted to her, and there are moments when he shows that, but then her attitude /words immediately turns him cold again, while to her it’s a mean to cover her inner pain.
        If only they weren’t so Ill fated in love.

      • Agree. Whats more – I dislike that much of the oriental literature/manga that targets young girls think its ok to feature rape/non-consent.

        Yes – but on the other hand, I think that at least this scene flows naturally. You have two very angry people, and for the purpose of the story, there are few things that would kill Song Ning’s love for him. At least Song Ning behaved rationally – instead of falling deeper in love, she actually was rational enough to know that a man would never do something like this to a woman he loves. Thank God Tang7 didn’t make it super gaoxue by making Song Ning fall deeper in love with Shen An or something like that *koffFWSCkoff*.

    • Yeah. This part of the chapter had some pretty great lines. Tang7 writes very lyrically and for this book, wistfully as well, and some of it doesn’t translate well into English. The lines: “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.” My heart cracked a little when I was translating that.

      • “Song Ning left in a hurry, finally able to be the one to first turn her back on him. ” in all this turmoil, I found this line so cute.🙂 the only line that made me smile.

        • Hahaha… I’m not sure cute was how Tang7 meant it to be. But I liked that line too because Shen An always gets the “Exit stage left angrily” direction. It’s nice for Song Ning to finally be able to make a grand departure.

        • Exactly, I wanted to high five her. and also for leaving him thoughtfully staring at her departure .a good reaction for once.

  3. I actually do not hold a stance, I pity them both equally. Does JunFu really hold such a stern Song Ning bias? I did not get that firmly in the book any more than we all of course feel deeply for our proud heroine.

    I do agree it is marital rape as we see it, but the interesting juxtaposition of the storytelling of HXY is ultimately what constitute reality, can humans really cleanly sever the mingling of dreams and wants and desires and truths? JunFu read their life’s story from Song Ning’s pov, and the beauty of HXY is JF herself is cognizant we can never see the entire encompassing story inside one’s head, one’s dream.

    It can also be seen as a ‘consummation’ of the marriage’, I do give ShenAn a benefit of the doubt he did not regard it as rape because of what Song Ning instigated with her ‘I am the only one who can bear you a child’ is quite suggestive she is not against the act itself, but the ‘no’ is more on the reasoning behind the action coming from in ShenAn, he did that, as he put it squarely to hurt her as she hurt him. There is no greater pain when the person you love, you can not not love despite is slicing you in a murder attempt and hurting you from the bottom of his/her heart. It is the heartpain that is hurting her, that is what she is saying no to, not her hand, nor the physical rape itself.

    • Yes definitely the heartpain that she is saying no to😦 how can he do that to her? Really. D:

      • Sigh. IT is almost equally devastating to him a lady warrior who made an impression on him, earning his respect on battlefield is capable of essentially babykilling. It is as pure and as good as painful angst goes so doomed, so no way out even if we pick our brains wishing them well.

    • Mookie! I actually don’t know what you mean by a stern Song Ning bias.😛 But the line where she cynically disparages Qiqi goes like this: “这件事在很长一段时间里使整个别院的社会空气趋向悲观。因我站在宋凝这边,不禁想柳萋萋如此焦灼应是生女儿就分不到多少财产所致,但只是个人猜想,也许人家其实是因为沈岸性喜儿子却没能为他生出个儿子感到遗憾…我又忍不住想,柳萋萋能如此快速地化悲伤为希望,乃是因私下沈岸已重新分配遗产,采取遗赠手段分配给她可观数额。若君玮在现场看到,一定会批评我没有一颗纯洁之心,想事情太过阴暗,不够灿烂。但我想,若此情此景,我还能纯洁并灿烂,就会成为一个圣母.”

      I think Shen An lost control, and I can even accept the argument that he might have felt remorse thereafter. But what is done is done. But what I really wanted to make my stance on marital rape clear. Historically, many societies did not consider rape within a marriage to be a criminal offence, typically for two reasonings: because the wife is the husband’s property upon marriage and/or the wife has consented to having marital relations with the husband when she said “I do.” Of course, these arguments are no longer acceptable by modern standards of behaviour, but alas, there many countries still do not recognise marital rape as a criminal offence. Although I would admit, the violence of the scene was necessary to kill Song Ning’s love – or perhaps it’s not so much love, but more of her hopes – for Shen An.

      As to how much Jun F can actually “see” when listening to a person’s Hua Xu Diao, I don’t know really know. Definitely, she can see more than what the subject knows – for example, she knows/describes how Shen An saw Qiqi first thing when he woke up and how he had mistaken her for her saviour. But perhaps while she can see what happened – much like how we would watch a movie or read a book – she is left guessing as to the thoughts and motives of other characters who are not the subject of the Hua Xu Diao. I don’t remember much of the rest of the story – but we will see as I continue to trudge on with the translation:P

      • No, I am not talking about SongNing vs 677. Imo nobody is fully at fault and responsible for all the blame. JunFu is well aware she, the spirit, is entering into the dreamscape of SongNing’s last wish, without which she can’t rest in peace, it can never be the full picture. The story Tang7 wants to tell is a person is incapable of witnessing the full story of his/her life, truth in entirety as they experienced it firsthand has emotions steering a myopia, not that the reality they experienced is any less real, memory lingers and refuses to let go even in death. There is no real horrible person in the story, including 677, everyone is staying honest to their feelings, giving their all to their own life’s story. 當局者迷,旁觀者清.

        Love and Hate can be partners in a doomed tango for SongNing and ShenAn, without that imprinting of intense falling, SN won’t harbor that strong a hate. I could argue same token with SA. Miss Tang7 stated in her discussion on ShenAn, if JunFu read their story from ShenAn’s pov, the events will play out the same, but his version would be the relief of a woodblock print of the experience of AhNing, or the negative to SN’s snapshot of her life. Tang7 gets across a heartbreaking love story of SA towards SN as well between the lines, just the fact he dotes on 677 mistaking her as SN, he is hers and in no position to doubt 677.

        He is not trying to gain any godawful control, victimizing her with rape, nor forcing her into the submissive in their relationship. Frankly this is hate sex, it has elements of lust and repression from both, an intense mess of tangled feelings at play forefront we can’t just simply label it as marital rape. It must be a distant ancient time when it was utmost humiliation for a wife to not ‘earn her keep’ with a consummation, bearing an heir. SN has been seething with jealousy, SA must be aware of it, servants are gossiping. In that subtle brief exchange when he grabbed her sleeve, telling her she can remarry, it could be part of his abstaining is for her virtue. It could be he has thought and he cares about her and he is not against letting her know in that calmer moment between them. He finds her physically very attractive, on their wedding night he can spare a moment of stupor, dazzled with her beauty while overwhelmed by his utter rage. He must’ve repressed any desire for her for it precipitates to this explosive mess with just a few words of her provocation. SN is suggestive in her jealousy 677 owns his bed, she bore him a child when SN herself did not even get one lay. His touching her is he no longer cares about her well-being, that is, he did prior. He did not want to soil her by a loveless consummation. This is him respecting her in a roundabout way. But this very horrible moment, he does not care about sanity, sanctity, morality and gone with it his inhibition and what defines the core of his existence, his knightly moral compass. And now he stated he is fully aware he is inflicting pain, being a monster, giving SN her own medicine. It is not just a jab by SongNing when he is devastatingly grieving the death of his unborn child to say a curt cutting remark on her being the only woman qualified to bear him his child, and there is no difference from frankly saying she is the only woman he can ever sleep with. From his vantage he has never intentionally hurt her up to this point. SA is fulfilling now a man’s duty to his wife whom he must hate. But ShenAn must have a read on SN in the months transpired. She is a proud headstrong feisty princess, so much pride he must have doubt on why she would stoop to force a marriage with him. SA’s love for him is so pure, so genuine, so steadfast he can not ignore, not that he can process.
        SN now knows ShenAn harbors a physical want for her he has been suppressing as the honorable man he takes pride in, the one she admires and has fallen for. With this act, he killed his own hero self, just as she has killed that brave beautiful fighter instigating the miscarriage. What SN is devastated by, is the love of her life is forever gone, he hates her so much he is in effect, slaying her ShenAn, knight in shining armor, her figment of dreamiest imagination, forcing her to experience the pain full on physically, but Tang7 emphasizes it is the hurt, the grieve, the man she has fallen for vanquished, and in his place,this horrible man forcing himself on her, and…most shamefully is she absolutely disgusted by the consummation? It is much horribly messier than a rape. To suspend a disbelief, If he has softened his stance, remorse and express concern for her (which is of course impossible), just one word acknowledging her horrible wound, just one ‘Ah Ning’, would SN still be screaming for him to let her go?! Is it impossible what is most devastating is Song Ning still craves for his love during the act, but what is murdering her soul is why he is hating her so.

        • Arh. I understand better now. Agree totally about how it’s not easy clearly to see when you’re in the midst of the problem. In fact, i agree with your analysis about the story as well!

          The only point that I think we probably must agree to disagree is that, well – I re-read the scene, and I really don’t think it is hate!sex. I mean, rape happens when one party says no and the other refuses to take no for an answer. Sometimes, there is really no desire or intention for the aggressor to hurt the victim, but the absence of an intention to hurt someone does not make the act any less horrifying to the victim.

          Then within relationships, there’s that dodgy grey area called reluctance – where it is not so much non-consent/rape – but more of a giving in eventually. But I don’t think that their consummation fell into this dodgy grey area either. Hate!sex can be consensual and non-consensual, and if it is the latter kind, then there is no difference from rape and that is still wrong on so many levels. And upon re-reading the scene, I just could not find anything that suggested consent, or even reluctant consent. The scene described her crying, the pain her her heart, her heartlessness, of her saying no. And coupled with the fact that we are in a way, seeing everything from Song Ning’s POV – to not even have a single line that implied consent – I think it would be unfair to Song Ning to suggest that she had consented to the act.

          But I agree that the relationship between Shen An and Song Ning is much more complex and I was perhaps – in a blind fit of emotion (this chapter seemed to inspire a lot of that) – too hasty in having a spiel about the monstrosity of marital rape. Certainly, I was not trying to label it anything – I guess the devastation of the scene got to me. If I had offended anyone, I apologise.

          Yes – this scene was the culmination of all their frustrations, the ruination of all of their hopes and dreams. And both of them are in great pain, both in an untenable situation, some of their own making and some not. I would even accept the argument that Shen An might have felt remorse after it. But all of that does not make what he did ok and/or forgivable.

  4. Thanks for translating this! I cried again even though I have read the Chinese novel or youtube version for 4-5 times😦 I do not agree that Song Ning is ruthless, instead I see that the miscarriage that Qiqi has suffered as an accident. Reading the english version makes me think that every reply that Shen An has said actually shows that he did love Song Ning unknowingly. I hate him for not believing Song Ning when she told him about the truth – she saved him. How can he rape her, leave her, break her heart when she saved him? She is only 17, in the best moment of her youth. But he threw her away, without thinking.

    • Great that you’ve read the original text! Tang7 wrote it so much better than my translation. If you think there are bits I have translated iffily, please do tell me.

      I am not sure if I think Song Ning did not deliberately cause Qiqi to miscarry (for reasons, please see my reply to camille below, because she argues more passionately for Song Ning there). But I agree – Shen An felt something for Song Ning – but we will never be aware of the nature and extent of his feelings.

      Yes. I have decided that there is very little Shen An can do the redeem himself in our eyes. Lol.

  5. Song Ning has a strong character. She is also prideful and stubborn. That’s right. She may make it difficult for people to love her. But maybe not. Love has that strange nature to make lovers even love the weaknesses of each other. So, if Shen An would love her (or allow himself to do so) he would love her no matter what, including her rudeness and stubborness. But he doesn’t mean to love her. So he hates everything she does. It wouldn’t change anything if she was nicer.

    By the way I don’t think she is cruel to Qiqi. Song Ning didn’t want to harm Qiqi. Walking up that mountain is just a joke for the well trained Song Ning. She also didn’t know that a pregnant woman (and a very weak one on top of that) can’t take it that easily. Also there are certain rules about the relationship between a wife and a mistress. Song Ning’s demand is appropriate to the ancient rules. I’m not saying that it’s right to do so. I just try to explain Song Ning’s behaviour from her point of view.

    And even if Song Ning was rude to Qiqi, it would be just natural. We can’t expect her to be nice towards someone who takes away her well-deserved happiness. Song Ning’s pride prevents her from sly schemes otherwise Qiqi would have been dead long before.

    I hate women like Qiqi the most. Always pretending to be innocent, playing the weak and nice girl in order to get what they want. There are far more bad female characters in novels I have read but they don’t disturb me that much. At least they don’t hide the fact that they are bitches =)))))

    • I agree. Love is blind. And the reason why Shen An did not love her in this case is because he closed his heart to her.

      I think in the book, Song Ning did it deliberately. Otherwise why would she invite Qiqi to climb the mountain with her soon after she found out that Qiqi was pregnant. I actually edited a bit of the description out, which describes Mount Qu as well… basically very very high. And she had ample warning from the matrons about Qiqi’s delicate constitution. She allowed her maid to mock Qiqi and the matrons to force their hand. I don’t think she planned to kill Qiqi with the excursion – but I think she definitely did not intend for Qiqi to have the baby. At least that’s how I’m interpreting the events.😛

      Part of the beauty of how Tang7 wrote it is that the motives of the characters are very much up for interpretation. Save for Song Ning, we know very little about other people, say Shen An and Qiqi- that is very much up to the reader’s interpretation. Did Qiqi truly love Shen An and was trying to protect their love or is it because of greed as Jun Fu cynically conjectured or a mixture of both? Is she a manipulative bitch or just a damsel in distress who happened to be in the right place at the right time and saw an opportunity to make a good marriage.

      Drama Spoilers ahead!

      The drama version of events whitewashes Song Ning’s character. The trailer shows that 1) Qiqi opened Song Ning’s letter containing the jade pendant and read the contents of the letter; and 2) Qiqi deliberately “slipped and miscarried” in Song Ning’s presence to frame her. Song Ning was speaking out angrily because she was hurt that Shen An would presume that she would hurt his child. So there – that is the drama’s interpretation of events.🙂

      • Thank you for the drama spoilers! I have to say that the interpretation is pretty boring. It makes Qiqi’s character more hateful but also flatter since it makes her look like every average villain woman. There are only black and white, but not grey. You know what I mean😉

        Sometimes I think that you can’t really blame her for what she did. In fact she did nothing. She let Shen An believe what he wanted to believe. Shen An is a handsome man, obviously powerful and definitely a decent man on top of that. I guess every woman would be impressed more or less in front of him. But then, it isn’t an apology for stealing away what doesn’t belong to her. Even if Qiqi isn’t a manipulative bitch she still isn’t guiltless. At all. And yes, I definitely hate her =)))

        • It is hinted in the book (and shown in the drama) that Qiqi had intercepted the letter. Given that SN’s half of the jade token is with Qiqi, this is very very likely the case. So you can’t say that she didn’t do anything.

      • Oh right! Now that you mention it I remember again. So yeah, in conclusion, Qiqi is definitely a bitch =)))))))))

  6. May its my fanciful thought (we all know what Junfu thought of ShenAn’s death) But considering SongNing’s repeated word that wishing ShenAn to die in battleground, may be he wanted to fulfill her single wish. He never listened to the words she said about truth before and we know he can’t live with himself after knowing the truth so why not fulfil a wish of SongNing? in this life he didn’t do anything for her, at least at the end he may wanted to do this for her. And I like drama ShenAn’s ending, you know how he stretch out his hand and see SongNing doing the same, makes me cry really. And hui3r thank you sooo soo much for your hard work

    • Perhaps. It would be lovely if Tang7 would write an epilogue from Shen An’s point of view. I think at this point, that would have the best chance of actually redeeming him in everyone’s eyes. Lol.

      • As far as i am concerned there is a long essay of the author analyzing this devastating story from ShenAn’s view. After reading it, it seems like he is more painful and miserable than SongNing…😦

        • To be honest, it has been a while since I read HXY. Now that I am translating it, it is almost as if I am re-reading it afresh (I can remember sketches of what happened, but not in detailed). I do think that I feel about things more strongly because one dwells on it longer when translating – the correct phrasing to convey the tone of the scene, etc. Another thing is that I am kinda on the same journey of discovery as readers reading it the first time. Perhaps that is why I am more swayed towards Song Ning at this instance, because all the emotional pain is experienced from her POV.

        • Anyways this story is not clear and complicated so much that neither of us could completely understand it. Some may agree with Song Ngung’s attitude , while others might be empathy with Shen An. All in all, they are both heartbroken and pitiful…😦. Besides, although it is their faults to lose their happiness, i still insist that Qiqi is an absolutely b****… Once i read on Tang7’s weibo, Shen An was framed to sleep with her, therefore, he had to take responsibility though he was not intentionally marrying her in the beginning. So i think it is obvious that this village woman is evil and gulty and unforgiveable.

  7. Kkk, so true. I know their son’s death played major role in her death and consequently end of the story but how I wish he didn’t die. Then at least there would be living proof/ continuation of of their love. Oooh well, because its written as it is, its pulling our heart strings.

    • Peanuts is going to scold me for spamming, but… *nods nods*

      If the violence of the consummation ended her hopes and longing for him, then the death of her son was what broke her will to live. The tagline of Song Ning’s story should really be “The Point of No Return” – it’s like Tang7 intends to through Song Ning – push us to the brink of utter despair.

      • This is spamming and word diarrhea, so dear Peanuts, if this is too much, feel free to delete! Honest.

        I wonder if it ended her longing for him, it would be extraordinary of her conjuring up the Hua Xu tune as her last wish to alter the fate of herself and ShenAn even just in the world of dreams, and almost as an aside to see her child again.

        Again , Tang7 is so full of brilliant vagueness encouraging our interpretations. Before SA strikes his sword, SongNing was holding onto a glimmer of hope SN has any miniscule feelings for her. Why she got her hands dirty causing 677’s miscarriage is she is too hollowed with self-loathing still craving for SA’s love, reality is persuading her SA will relieve her from her misery bloodying his hands, but her heart is wishing he would never. She said she cannot understand why SA would fall for another woman, but she is not being honest, she perfectly grasps the white lies of 677, SA is misplacing his love rightfully SN’s to a vessel of 677, but SN has a heightened sensitivity of how every bit perfect is his love for his lady. How much she wants what should be hers! I would argue if ShenAn did listen to any of SN’s few words, SN would not fall for ShenAn this hard. His absolute trust and most loyal devotion to 677 makes SA more irresistible yet unattainable, it is not hard to slip herself into 677’s shoes in her head, her dream. The more SN wants ShenAn because of how perfect he loves 677, the more hammering in he can never be hers. It is not rhetorical asking her maid if ShenAn would kill her because if she is so sure he would, she would not give a wince at his sword. If not for her utmost shock and fear he really does not care about her, she would not jump on the defensive and use her hand to block the sword as SA is not truly aiming for a kill.

        Some very carefully heated words were exchanged during the scene, Tang7 is being subtle as to SN’s innermost feelings. If she is asking SN to stop the physical deed and let her go, she would not be madly screaming why he hates her so much first and foremost. She is asking SA to let her go because she can not bear witness to him hating her so much to sully his good name. SN hand is maimed, and SA is the almighty general, but the brilliance of Tang7’s storytelling is we see it almost as first person through the buffering of JunFu: is SN saving her pride thinking to herself it is futile to fight off SN her heart is not into pushing him off?! It is vague whether it is causation or a conclusion, we’ll have to see how the drama interprets. My read is what she is most repulsed by is the hate that is driving him to make love to her more than the act itself. If her mind is truly occupied by nothing but disgust, she knows a dozen ways of honor killing, chastise to the bitter end, crucial in battlefield.

        Why did SN grab the sword?! Because if she is being honest with herself, she is not giving up SA has feelings for her he is furiously hiding in denial, because her warmth, her body should/must be imprinted on his psyche, even after what she has inflicted on 677. She still has one good hand to hit him, legs to kick and fight but we got her maiming her hand some more drawing scarlet bloody flowers on his back. We are not given what exactly ShenAn did, did he really physically brutally force himself onto SN while she is putting up a hard fight?! Note that there is no physical description of the struggle. Tang7 is actually hinting on how passionate and consuming with a disgust to her want her body can’t really fight with, only inflicting more physical pain on herself to make herself repulse this more. Now, if the rape is what it is, a rape, the act itself is disgusting enough, there needs no negative reinforcement to remind herself how much this is the most traumatizing. Maiming her hand further is essentially her holding onto his body tighter. The emphasis of ShenAn as The strong male is just Tang7’s way of safeguarding SN’s pride. SN is the one who threw a remark at her servant she has much good fight in her against SA. This is a young girl who carried a physically formidable man with her bare blistered hands through days in frigid mountains if she sets her mind. She is not innocent with what provocation of her teasing words said with a cold chuckle. It shocks her the honorable general could go there. She has thought of the consummation their wedding night, in her mind alone, her words meant her body is his to take and own and now it is happening in the worst possible fashion, he does not want her,or does he? He pounded with words he is here to inflict pain, feeding her her own medicine, ‘giving her what she wants’. The slaying of her pride is not as a woman, nor a rape victim, but forcing her to be honest to her ‘one sided’ maddening pining for him. This is the most horrible time to state she has the right to bear him a child, she is the only one he should be making love to. That is what ShenAn is doing.

        Now, if ShenAn is just to make her pay, it is a complete character contradiction from the stubbornly honorable general to a fault. If just seeing her face is unbearable, how it is possible to fall into such intense lust just to spite?! Isn’t it more realistic SA has entertained consummating the marriage prior but he would never, being his own strict harshest critic? He is literally drunk with fury and disgust over SN and disappointment, he lost the inhibition to suppress his primitive urges, in other words, be damned, she dazzled her and he still wants her in that dark shameful corner of his existence. In ways ShenAn has been above and beyond in drastically avoiding SN, she has only seen his face countable by one hand. He could’ve ignored her presence, treating her as invisible but for the betrothed, in the same estate not seeing each other at all takes deliberation. It should’ve crossed SA’s mind the holes in 677’s story, it takes the fighter physique he never thought of the weaker sex,只在长剑不经意拨下她头盔时怔了怔:“原是个女子。” he gushed with surprise first seeing her face in battlefield, tinge of respect she is his fighting equal. He did not make his own way out near certain death in the midst of thousand corpses, and fall into the care of ‘677’? How? Every description of her does not match one to be able to carry and tend to him for days in the frigid mountains. And her grandpa is with her, why is he not the one warming him with his bare flesh for him to take responsibility in marriage?! If SN is set on forcing him into a political marriage, based on just a shallow fixation, it is odd she would go the extreme of stupidity to fake she is 677, the lover in his arms. How did SN know the particular of what transpired in saving him if he is the sole witness who can utter a word about it? Why did he take her mirror armor, and SN made it a point it is odd he knew something so personal about her, the precious gift literally closest to her heart with him to the battlefield? An experienced fighter SN is able to inflict a life-threatening wound to a sleeping man a breath away, sharing a bed with her in her sleep. There should be no need of him urging an embrace to impound the weapon deeper. A careful strict man of ShenAn’s capabilities is thorough with his innermost self as the months passed and the shameful horror of what if?! He will be an abomination. It is asking a lot for an honorable war hero to drag himself to the mud on a possibility. Her fury is no disgust of the act at the morning after, she could’ve stabbed him multiple times after he was wounded. The fury, is entirely hinging on his words of severing her from his life,for that he does not deserve to live, but she has not the heart to kill her. His would be last breath, was to ask her if she truly wants him dead…almost same words she said to him as his sword cut her flesh and heart…and both incidences, proud roundabout way of yearning for love from the other party they care about, while laying feelings bare in blood and hurt and they both are deep in the heat of it to know the best of what the other is going through. In a nauseating way, this bonded their souls, made them head on aware of the others purest mess of feelings, yet fated them to never meant to be.

        • Oh Mookie, you slay me with your comment here. *nods nods nods*. Save for our point of disagreement, I think we are pretty much on the same page.

          As you said, Tang7 is so full of brilliant vagueness encouraging our interpretations. On the flip side of your argument, there are bits that implied a struggle: the observation that he was a general skilled in close body combat, her helplessness, crying, etc. I would venture that it is strongly suggestive a resistance/reluctance. You bring up her past as a warrior. But she is also now facing an angry man who has already defeated her once before.

          I watched the trailer, and was in a way affected by the intensity of Jiang Xin’s acting. To be honest, I felt shaken up and uncomfortable when watching the scene – to me, it really looked like she did not want him on her and he forced himself on her. Maybe that coloured my interpretation here. Also, perhaps there is a second part to it that the trailer did not show. But whatever it may be, the drama’s version is the director’s interpretation; and is just another POV, which I believe would be as valid as yours and mine.

          I do think that Shen An felt remorseful after the act.

          My sticking point has always been very technical: did she expressly or impliedly consent to the consummation.

          But on reflection. I guess what really made me very emotional was that Shen An chose to deliberately hurt her in the worst way a man can hurt a woman. There is a saying that “you can kill me; but you shall not take away my dignity.” And I feel that Shen An knew that given Song Ning’s prideful disposition, she will have preferred death to what he did.

          But I do also agree, upon further reflection, that perhaps what died that night was not her love, but all of her hopes towards him.

          To be honest, this story is the most frustrating of the four for me. I am torn between loving them and disliking them. Because they both have such extreme personalities. There is a word that was used: zhizhou in describing Song Ning’s love. Then, I had translated it into perseverance. Now- perhaps its closer to obsession.

        • @Hui3r

          I feel horrible for dragging this on and on, but…

          Sweetie, we do have to agree to disagree, do we expect consent, anything frank and honest in the annihilating emotions in light of preserving headstrong prides to be measured up to our liking?! I see many allusions of sufferance.

          Her maiming of her hand on his back holding onto him tightly… like instinct she held onto him. IT is not she has given up fight, she held tightly onto him with a hand maimed to the bones. Her body does in some horrible way even to SN, has an unshakable inertia, a few months of devastating heart pain is not denting the way how love consumes, most disgusting to her conscience. She could’ve maimed her hand while pushing him away at his chest for instance and there would be no ambiguity. Tang7 is decidedly obscure, building the mood of a dreamscape, but in no way she is being ambiguous and she is clearly taken aback how she insists ShenAn is generally misread (thus her long weibo).

          SongNing takes in how handsome his face is the morning after, inasmuch reads his slight frown, the almost calmness, all her inhaling of minute details vivid in her head she can retell to JunFu, BEFORE the notion of the sword. I find it implausible for any rape victim, in her situation as in knowing SA face well enough to not throw up shaken to take just one look, let alone the need to imprint the ‘monster’s’ face in her memory. Tang7 subtly emphasizes this is a moment SN allows herself to be the young 17 girl, and any girl would do in love, a simple intimate study of her lover’s face, not able to ever prior, she is in effect ‘ceasing’ the opportunity. Her last happiest moment was all spent eyes covered in the red veil her wedding night and I am sure in her mind she has visualized this moment, how ‘sweet’ it should be. He asked her if wanting him dead in combat is truly her mind, her want, we are not allowed her answer. All we know is SN has allowed herself to be a 17 year old girl, and what does Tang7 implies? Allowing herself to go with her heart, to feel, be it vulnerable, unguarded… to be childlike and whine, be honest with no facade. All my marbles are on she can not lie to herself and him when he is showing her his heart, a tenderness, when he is nebulously honest he cares about her, how she thinks of him, still now that they have irrevocably destructed everything. He would let her kill him giving into completely what she wants, just as the horrible thing he did was what her words sliced him with. As disgusting as it was. I am no rapist sympathizer, but if he is set to dishonor her dignity, he should have left right after the deed to 677’s bed. SongNing could not have spend another moment in the room no matter how weak and devastated after he has fallen asleep, sleeping the night together is more marital intimacy than anything. The words he’s said during the horror and thereafter are all unnecessary. And with this story in particular, Tang7 was such a careful miser of words.

          And again, because my stance is not simply marital rape: his honor code is, this woman slayed his unborn child he is responsible to avenge for with killing her, a life for a life. Did he? He could not even go along with a swing of his sword, an extension of his body, a war killing machine, that said more about how not!formidable a warrior his capacity is of atvm. So to say he thought killing her is too inconsequential and he opted for stripping her dignity has to take on a very bias stance throwing everything we knew of SA up till that point out. SN toyed him with her hurtful biting teasing words, and those are the words, clouded by his rage and despair he is operating by, nothing preemptive and along those lines are what his every word is saying. IF she is the only one who can bear him his child, lay with him, let her have ‘her way’. He has no agency to rape.

          Quoting SongNing’s ‘No’ : “沈岸,你就这样讨厌我,你就这样讨厌我。沈岸,放开我,求求你放开我。 ” Two sentences, ‘ShenAn, this is how much you hate me, this is how you hate me so?! ShenAn, let go of me, I am begging you to let go of me.’ Crucial as to the order. IF this is rape to her, it is only natural the first thing is to holler at him to get the hell off her. When she said it after the pretext of the first sentence, there implies a causation: she wants him to let go of her BECAUSE he hates her so, and she repeats, emphasizes him hating her, ripping out her heart. He hates her so much he is going to disgrace his honor for forcing himself on him as she provoked. How can I take it as simple No. I am not saying SongNing is intentionally provoking with the ruthless words she threw at him prior, but she is clearly instigating and misreading him as an unattainable demigod of honor when he is showing her he is just a less than ordinary man capable of what she said he should be doing, make her bear him a child, as she said she is rightfully the person.

          In the heat of it, he uttered to her ears of utterly severing any ties to her coldly and that is when she said, ‘ You are heartless treating me like this.’ Again, I love how Tang7 timely, carefully escalates with every word, one could take it as her referring to all the physical trauma, but I am firmly on she is referring with his words right prior instead: cutting her off from his world is what heartless of his. His actions should already be exact that from our vantage…but not really in SN’s when she has to emphasize how SA is treating her that very moment IS what is heartless to her.

        • @mookie – LOL, Agree to disagree we must. Because we are obviously at an impasse.

          Don’t get me wrong – I respect your point of view and find myself nodding along to a lot of your arguments. Perhaps the case is even Shen An – and even Song Ning – did not see it as rape, but the problem is objectively, I strongly object to the deliberate violence he did to a woman’s dignity – the stance is not peculiar to this scene, but a general stance I take to the issue in general.

          And so while I can understand the sequence of events that led to the act and even agree that Shen An may have really strong feelings for Song Ning that led to his loss of self control, I cannot countenance that it had happened. Even if there are 10,000 things that happened that led Shen An to do what he did – it does not change the fact that it is wrong in my eyes.

          The point is not what Song Ning meant when she said no, whether she’s saying no to heartache or as an expression of self-denial as to his cruelty; the point is that even after she said no, Shen An continued – because God knows Shen An can’t read Song Ning’s mind – and therefore can not be certain whether she was saying “get off me” literally or otherwise.

        • Never did I imply what he did is not wrong/horrible. But it is not marital rape is they do not consider it rape by definition. Whether we r strongly against rape is beside the point.

          Hm and there is a difference the size

        • argh. excuse my stupid phone.

          …difference the size of 3 gouges in what she meant on saying no to. Why is it not a point though?! She is almost daring him to continue if he hates her so, which she is in most devastation towards.

          And no, how it is not certain?! She is literally begging him to get off her but emphasizing IF he hates her so, which she repeats twice.
          And no, SA has never a better read on SN’s mind that very moment, they are one in the most horrifying way. His hands are stained with his unborn child’s blood as well. it is out of her jealousy of not getting his love that she commits the horrible crime. He is punishing himself no turning back. She is through her inexcusable act AND her words forcing a husband out of him, he is going to put her through with it and the most horrible thing he did to SN is severing ties with her after.

        • To be honest, i totally agree with you. I did not hate Shen An for the first time i read this sorrowful story. Undoubtedly, he drove me crazy for not listening to Ah Ning and violating her several times as well as abandoning her with their son. After all, it seems like he was too ashamed and scared to face Ah Ning after all terrible and heartless things he did. Days by days, the pain and misunderstandings was accumulated more and more. There was no way to come back. However, as the Drama explained Shen An DID observe Ah Ning quietly from a distant corner. He was an honorable and responsible hero indeed, therefore, he definitely took responsibilities to Song Ning like Qiqi. The point is Tang7 wanna keep it obscure, as she claimed in her discussion.
          Turning to the marital rape or hate sex, whatever it could be, i really disagree with him to do such a thing. Although Song Ning might not be hurt with the act itself, in fact, it was still terrible. All in all, Shen An was wrong in this situation. But was that unforgiveable? Would Song Ning tolerate his fault? I think she could. Take her last dream into consideration, why did she still insist on a dream in which she could be together with him? If she considered the act as the rape, she would disgust Shen An and herself so much that she might wanna stab him many times to dealth or commit suicide. Why did she still spend time watching his handsome face and recall the past? It was the first time she could be so close to him after the wedding and ironically, it was the night she owned him and so did he. The way she viewed him was so sweet and passionate, in my opinion. From now on, she was his wife, yet wasn’t she? Noone but she acknowledged clearly that he just did it in his very rage. Consequently, she might wanna imprint this moment on her mind, it could be the last chance for her and it was right. I have to say that Song Ning was madly in love with Shen An. She insisted remembering everything about her lover both the most sadest memories.
          Regarding Shen An, i know he was also intensely in love with Song Ning as well. I don’ t know whether he regreted or not. Yet, one thing i assure that he was considered himself as Song Ning’ s husband. Why were he so mad when Song Ning wanted him to die on the battle field? Why did he say that no woman around the world wish the husband to die in battle? Was he implying Song Ning that I WAS YOUR HUSBAND? Was he desiring her love as any other wife? Initally, he never reacted like that, always mocked her and showed his hatred? Why did he wish for love from the person who disturbed and ruined his life? Was that true that he needs only Qiqi ‘s love? This was why i knew that he also had strong feelings for Song Ning. He installed Qiqi in another secondary place just to escape from his obsession about that “cruel” woman. He was so frightened to acknowledge or admit that since that night while he was struggling to ignore her, forgetting her, running away from her, Song Ning was despiting and digesting him so much that every day she wished him to die as fast as possible. It is i think what Is Shen An ‘s point of view…
          Haizzz…. Poor both of them!😥
          I am so sorry for spamming, just because i was so obsessed with this couple. I am really glad that you guys share the same opinions with me.🙂
          Thanks for translating this fantastic novel, my dear hui3r.❤

        • MTE. I can not hate nor blame SA entirely in my first read as well. What he did is even more wrong and horrible than rape , it is not her dignity he destroyed but any glimmer of hope they can live in peace let alone happiness as significant others just when everything obscure and between the lines r screaming and confirming their mad love for each other, to them and to us. That is the most delicious romantic angst I’ve read, there is no other plausible development every step of the way towards their doom.

  8. Damn, i always end up crying after read this chapter (especially the part when Shen Luo died) eventhough this is not the first time I read it T_____T
    I understand song Ning give up on explaining about the past to Shen an because she knows that it’s just plain useless. He wont listen to her. Never. I would do the same if I was her.
    Hui3r, thank you so much for this. I know what you feel, it’s a super sad and heartbreaking story so who would want to read it again and again. I love your comment. I hate qiqi too. I agree with you that song Ning should just push her off the cliff. How can she take someone happiness!
    Shen an, he loves her. Unconsciously or not. But what make me furious is that he never try to be close to song Ning and their child. He’s truly heartless! It’s so sad that Shen luo call him uncle and even after their child died he’s just let song ning alone.
    He should get a worse ending!!! (anyway, I’ll write about it in your next translation)

    • What made me love Shen Luo even though he was featured in all of what – 5 paragraphs or something like that – was that he knows that his mother is being bullied and that she’s sad because of his father, and he puts up what little resistance he could. I mean… it’s like he’s telling Shen An that if Shen An doesn’t want his wife and son, then Shen Luo does not want Shen An as a father either. *sighs*

      • yeah, he’s a smart and good boy. He loves and protects her mom. I’m happy he called Shen An uncle because he didn’t deserve to be called father. If only Shen Luo still alive, it would be better for Song Ning to go back to her state and leave Shen An. She would be happier around her brother, her only child and leave all those pain memory *sigh*

  9. can someone give me the link to the drama please? i cant seem to find it. Best if there’s English sub but i can struggle through mandarin version as well.

  10. thx hui3er🙂

    my tears kept falling down upon reading this chapter…it’s just so sad n i totally pity song ning, pardon my language but shen an is an idiotic heartless p*g n qiqi is a selfish b****.

    just say shen an is angry for being forced into marriage but how come he thinks song ning is lying when she said that’s her pendant. if he’s not clouded with prejudice n judgement he’ll know that a girl lije song ning who goes into battlefield will not use womanly wiles to seduce him n lies. nd qiqi, though she could not speak but she could surely read n write. her part of not willing to explain anything to shen an just make my blood boils…hope she rots in hell.

    although song ning is proud i do understand why she gives up trying to explain everything to shen an..who will not be discouraged if all that you’re trying to say n explain falls on deaf ears. being proud, she only know that she must never show her weakness n thus the hurtful words as she could not let shen an know how much he hurts her.

    i curse shen an when he stabbed song ning hand n force himself on her. in rage as he is, decapacitating a woman is beyond honorable.

    when i read the comments saying shen an actually loved song ning despite being unaware of it, i could not see it at all…when he calls her ah ning (as that is an initimate way to call a woman) upon visiting song ning after her son death, i could only feel that he’s just feeling sorry n pity but not love. shen luo is also his son, if he really felt a tiny bit of love for song ning n their son, he would be by her side regardless of what song ning said.

    all in all, this is such a hearbreaking story and i put the blame most on qiqi. should she come clean with the truth, the story might end a different way.

  11. i think you mean it’s “beyond DIShonourable” for Shen An to treat Song Ning like that.

  12. Hi guys! Was looking up for more thoughts on this chapter and saw Mookie’s post!

    I really like how Tang 7 explained the novel because she has confirmed that Shen An did like Song Ning and in fact, his retaliation to her cold words shows that.

    Really❤ this chapter of Song Ning and Shen An. Never get sick of it.

  13. Hi, I have been lurking around but never commented before. I greatly appreciate the hard work you girls put in for the Chinese/Vietnamese/ or any Asian language illiterate like me.

    When I first saw that this book was being translated and read the summary I wanted to avoid it like the plague as it seems immeasurably sad. But I suppose as long as the main OTP get some manner of happy ending, I’m ok.

    Regarding Sing Nong’s story, it’s just tragic. The scenario is heart breaking and all the characters are at fault. To me, rape is the most disgusting act you can inflict on a woman. What happened between ShenAn and Sing Nong that night, was it hate sex or was it marital rape? The situation was messy in so many ways (credit to the author and mookiehyun for so beautifully analysing it) it comes down to the one question. Was Sing Nong a willing partner? If that question can be answered then the dilemma is resolved, it is hate sex but if she wasn’t then it was rape. What instigated it and why, comes in the mix later.

    From the translations, it is not very clear if she was. Perhaps the original will shed more light on the scene. Could she have stopped ShenAn if she wanted to? She was a warrior after all but so was ShenAn.

    I understand the justification behind ShenAn’s behaviour, and also take into context that it’s an ancient novel set in olden days when rape and physical violence on women was not taken seriously. I also understand that the situation should not be measured to a modern scale but rape is still rape. Doesn’t matter if she is your wife or your are secretly attracted to her and hate yourself for it. You still forced yourself on her, in the most cruellest way possible.

    That’s my two pence and with that I’ll shut up.

    Keep up the good work girls!!

    • Hahhaa… I’m not the author, just the lowly translator. Amateur translator at that.

      Our problem is that the question of willingness is entirely up for interpretation. I don’t think we will ever know unless Tang7 comes out to say it one day. But I think one of the beautiful things about this book is that it allows us to debate from different points of view.

  14. Hello Hui3r!

    First of all, thanks a lot for undertaking this daunting task of translating this novel! I am currently listening to the audiobook and this translation has certainly helped me in understanding certain bits of this story.🙂

    Anyway, the part where Shen An raped Song Ning has killed all the hopes that I’ve harboured for him. In the beginning of this chapter, I tried to understand why Song Ning fell in love with him and the qualities she saw in him despite all that aloofness and general inability to hear her out. Granted, he’s a very honourable man and has wonderful skills in fighting. However, when he raped her, I couldn’t believe it and hopped over to your translation because I knew I couldn’t rely on my meagre Chinese skills to understand the narration. Hah! True enough, he did raped her and even though she begged for him to stop, he was adamant on inflicting emotional and physical pain on her — your true tit-for-tac style. Dude… I just lost all respect for you… I wonder if Song Ning actually looked past her love (or rather infatuation IMO) for Shen An and come to realise that he isn’t all that great. Like come on, he jumps to conclusions easily and is revenge-driven. But then again, I might be trivialising what she saw in him because in all honesty, I don’t understand it at all. My heart breaks for Song Ning because she, of all people, had to be on the receiving end of his hatred and witness the ugly side of him.

    (WARNING! SPOILER AHEAD IF YOU HAVEN’T READ CHAPTER 5! – Looking at Song Ning’s decision to remain in that illusion, I wonder if part of the reason why Jun Fu killed Shen An is because Jun Fu doesn’t want Song Ning to give up her life over some guy who didn’t cherish her in real life.)

    In short, I can’t like Shen An at all. (Sidenote: Shen An has made me appreciate and love Jing in LYF even more. Both guys had to marry someone they didn’t love and their wives bore them children. While Shen An didn’t care for Shen Luo, Jing still takes care of that kid.)

    This novel definitely lives up to its reputation. It has made me into an emotional wreck and although I know that it’s just a fictional story, I can’t stop investing my feelings into it! All that angst… I can’t stand it…😥

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