Argh – I’m in such a rush to finish all my work and pack for my trip to Taiwan, so did not have much time to edit. Please just bear with it – I will do an edit later. Since the translation bit was substantially done, I decided to just post it.
Have fun with Peanuts for the next two weeks. 🙂
Behind the multicoloured light lay Song Ning’s Hua Xu Realm. We were in the middle of a bustling town with the winter sun shining atop of us. We could see harsh mountains in the distance, wearing white caps against the blue skies.
The Pearl was cold by nature so I was very susceptible to the cold as well. I sneezed repeatedly as a result of being struck by a cold gust of wind. We had prepared for many things, but had forgotten that while it was the start of summer in the real world, it was deep winter in this Hua Xu Realm. I shivered and said, “Have you brought any money? We should first go to a clothes shop…” Before I could finished, two heavy fur cloaks appeared before me.
I looked up at Xiao Lan in disbelief.
He pushed the red cloak into my arms while he put on a white one. He looked at my stunned expression and explained, “Miss Jun mentioned at breakfast that it was during winter when Lady Shen saved General Shen. So I told Zhi Su to prepare two sets of winter clothing, never thinking that it might actually come in handy.”
I wrapped the fur cloak around myself as I praised him, “Xiao Lan, you’re so considerate.”
He looked at me, “Mine is no more than average.” He paused a while before saying, “You’ve put it on backwards.”
When we finally finished changing, I told Xiao Lan my idea. Our time of arrival now should be around when Song Ning found Shen An in the midst of the mountain of bodies and stayed with him in the mountain cave near Canglu Ye. Everything started from Shen An mistaking the identity of his saviour. Although we could not guarantee that Shen An would wholeheartedly love Song Ning the way he does Liu Qiqi if the first person he saw upon waking up was Song Ning instead of Liu Qiqi, I thought it was worth a gamble.
I drew a timeline to help with our planning. The first thing is to make Song Yan’s subordinates leave the town so that Song Ning can stay by Shen An’s side as he undergoes treatment. The second thing is to prevent Shen An from ever meeting the mute girl from the clinic, Liu Qiqi so as to remove any possibility of them falling in love.
In Xiao Lan’s opinion, the simplest way is to kill the men sent by Song Ning’s brother. His expression was relaxed when he proposed this ruthless method, as if killing a person was as easy as stepping on an ant. To be honest, I too thought this would work, except that we were in a mirage created by the Pearl.
The Pearl’s magical powers are refined by absorbing the good dreams of others. Of course, the good outcome of a dream also depends on our manipulation. However, methods of manipulation that required violence is not conducive to the refinement of the Pearl. In other words, if we kill Liu Qiqi and the rest in this dream, I could sustain myself for one and a half years on Song Ning’s life essence. If we do not kill them, I could sustain myself for three years on Song Ning’s life essence. Thus, we should only resort to killing as a last resort. Perhaps I will ultimately have to kill someone within this dreamscape, in order to fulfil my promise to Song Ning, but this is a price of doing business, and also the last resort that I was referring to.
I said to Xiao Lan, “We shouldn’t use any extreme methods and instead use a gentler approach. If it is a problem that can be resolved using words, why should we resort to weapons instead? That is too uncivilized.”
“In that case, wouldn’t that cause delay to our mission?” Xiao Lan mused.
“I am, but a kind-hearted girl,” I replied lightly.
Xiao Lan ignored me and entered the nearby restaurant.
Upon enquiring with passer-bys, I learnt that that restaurant is the largest in this small town.
When we reached the second floor, the only table available was by the window, so we sat down there.
I had always fantasized about the seat by the window in a restaurant because, in folktales, this seat has always been occupied by legendary characters. In a tale of romance, seated there would either be a king or a prince. If it was a tale of chivalry, then it would be occupied by the sect leader or chief of a cult. Such legends would always sit by the window when having meals, his long fingers holding up a wine cup, leaving the world with the image of a beautiful side profile.
I looked around and asked Xiao Lan, “This is such a big restaurant. Why is it that only our table was unoccupied?”
He gestured his chin while pouring the tea.
I did not understand what he was trying to convey, so I guessed, “Could it be that as told in legends, only a legendary person can sit in this legendary position, and because everyone thinks that they are not outstanding enough, they consciously decide to leave this place empty? Hah – everyone is too self conscious.” I promptly broke into a sneeze as soon as I finished.
This time, Xiao Lan gestured towards the window with hand, “The window is broken, so it cannot shut properly.
I looked at him questioningly, ”Ah?” I sneezed again.
He passed me a steaming cup of hot tea and said slowly, “The wind outside is so strong. If there are other seats available, I will also be unwilling to sit in the draught.”
“This…” I started sneezing repeatedly before I could finish what I was about to say.
The waiter came up quickly to take our order. Xiao Lan ordered a jug of hot wine. I did not really pay attention to the rest of the order, and only inadvertently overhear him order crystal jade dumplings. After some thought, I suggested, “We already had crystal jade dumplings in the morning. Why don’t we order something else?”
“Don’t you quite like this dish?” Xiao Lan asked.
“Don’t mind me. The key question is: what would you like to eat?” After all, whatever I eat tasted the same – that is tasteless.
Xiao Lan looked up at me. The waiter, with his honeyed tongue, quickly said, “Miss is really understanding and considerate.” I made a small sound in agreement, before drifting back deep into my thoughts.
The question I was pondering on was how to lead Song Yan’s men out of the town without hurting anyone, and we must first identify Song Yan’s men in this sea of people. Although I had glimpsed their figures through Song Ning’s Hua Xu Melody, but due to the distance, I could only make out that they were large men. There were so many large men in this town; I could hardly go up to each of them to ask, “Brother, are you from the Li Army? There’s something I need to tell you – your mother has asked you to go home for dinner.” This method was just too inefficient.
The wine was served quickly. Xiao Lan passed me a cup. Just as I reached out to receive it, he held on to it and refused to let go. I reached out again to grab it when he looked at me and asked quietly, “The young miss was only asking me for directions, why are you sulking?”
I froze for a while and before finally asking cluelessly, “Ah?”
“You’re pretending to be clueless again. I really hate it when you pretend to be clueless with me,” he said coldly, frowning.
I pointed at my own nose, “Are you talking to me? What young miss are you talking about, I…”
He interrupted me, “The tallish young miss in purple who carried a spear from earlier. Just because I complimented her weapon, you have been giving me attitude. Are you still denying that you are sulking? What are you sulking about?”
I still did not understanding what was going on, “Sulking? But I am not sulking.”
The men sitting at the table next to ours suddenly broke out into laughter, “Ah… Someone’s pot of vinegar has been knocked over. Brother, your lady is jealous! Who asked you to compliment another girl in front of her… hahaha.”
I was still as confused as ever. The commotion had drawn the attention of the rest of the patrons onto us.
“A young miss in purple, tall and carried a spear?” I repeated.
He ignored me, and instead held my hands. His cold expression vanished and was replaced by a slight smile, “Are you really jealous?”
I quietly extracted my hands from his grasp, “I am really not jealous.
Xiao Lan let go of my hand without forcing the subject any further. A group of men had gathered next to our table, blocking our sight of the men at the next table. In front of such a crowd, it was really impossible for him to force the subject any further.
Although the men were dressed in Jiang costumes, their accent and manner of speaking definitely came from Li; we knew that they were in disguise as soon as we heard them speak. The leader gave a simple greeting to Xiao Lan, “Brother mentioned that you have seen a young girl in purple carrying a spear, and that you have given her directions. If you do not mind me asking, where did the young girl wish to go?”
I instantly understood Xiao Lan’s intentions as soon as these men showed up. The young miss that he was speaking off was obvious Song Ning. Anyone who has met her would have instantly recognised the description. He has purposely acted out this scene to attract the attention of the men who were looking for Song Ning. Even after I understood his plan, I could not not help but be slightly stunned by his performance
At this point, he had put on an expression of wariness, and was looking at the men carefully, “How are you related to the young miss in purple?” It was as if he had really met a young girl in purple by coincidence that he quite admired, and he was unconsciously trying to protect her in case the men in front of him were her enemies.
The men looked at each other. The leader finally spoke up, “Frankly, the young lady that you met was most likely our young miss who has run away from home. Our young master is extremely worried about her, so he sent us out to look for her. We would really appreciate it if you could let us know where she was heading to.”
I kept thinking in my heart: tell him, tell him. Just point him in any direction to get them to leave. But Xiao Lan only looked at them in suspicion.
I understood immediately after some thought. He must also want to quickly recite his next line to get the men to leave. However, in order not to raise the men’s suspicions, he had to control himself and be difficult, so that the other side will be even more trustful.
The man were truly convinced now; they solemnly ask, “Our mission is to retrieve our young miss. Rest easy, brother – if the young lady in purple is not our young miss, we will not make things difficult for her. I swear this on my life.”
Xiao Lan studied the leader’s expression for a long while before he finally said, “If that is the case, it is not good for me to impede your search. Two hours ago, we met the young lady in purple at the foot of Mount Shimen. She enquired about a swordsman surnamed Jing who lived on Mount Tang, and asked for directions to Mount Tang as she would like to pay this swordsman a visit.”
In just that single line, his expression went from the indecisiveness of whether to tell, to a sense of loss when he finally does and also a helpless sense of foreboding for the future. Such excellent acting – it is a pity he cannot join a theatre school.
As soon as he finished, the leader mused, “That does sound like what Young Miss would do.” He made a greeting in farewell, led his men away in a hurry and disappeared down the stairs.
Xiao Lan continued to diligently wear an expression of loss tinged with depression. He only dropped it when he ascertained though looking out of the broken window, that they had disappeared into the vast horizon. I turned around to see his face resume his usual relaxed expression as he leisurely poured a cup of wine.
I felt like there are a lot of questions I would like to ask him. Xiao Lan has shown me a very different side of himself; he was no longer the man who was bedridden for two days after a woman stabbed him. The unexpected change was as if I the grape seeds that I had planted suddenly bore a grapefruit. However, since the improvement to the original did not give fruit to a durian or dragonfruit, there did not seem to be anything too wrong with the result, albeit a bit surprising.
I sat down across from him and casually remarked, “Mount Shimen, Mount Tangshan – you are really quite familiar with the surrounding terrain.”
The waiter served a plate of chicken srips cooked in ginger. Xiao Lan looked at the food while he said, “I have studied a little about the battle at Canglu Ye from seven years ago, and in the course of it, looked up the surrounding terrain.”
“Then you knew that Song Yan’s men would be in this restaurant?” I asked.
He lifted his wine cup and said slowly, “Since they were out on official government business, they would be able to have their expenses reimbursed. It is now lunch time, so they will obviously come to the most expensive restaurant. Have you ever met an official out on government business who will try to save the government money?”
I thought for a while: that is really the case.
When I was still a princess of Wei, my father has granted me the title Wenchang. According to legend, I was the most intelligent in the royal family. Although the stuff of legends are usually untrue, I was still quite confident of my intelligence compared to the rest of the people in the Wei Palace. However, I immediately pale in comparison to Xiao Lan. Could it be that Wei’s downfall cannot be blamed on causes beyond our control, but because of the royal family’s own foolishness?
“Your expression – what are you thinking about?” Xiao Lan asked.
“I was just thinking that many legends are actually not that legendary, but only became such due to exaggeration when retold by others. But there are no legends right now – they only happen in the past and the future. They are a meaningless fantasy born from an error. Except that the greater the error, the greater the story becomes. This is truly confusing!”
Xiao Lan indicated that he had not understood what I said.
“What I’m saying is that…”
He interrupted me, “Eat first. We can talk later.”
So we started to eat the dumplings.
By the time we were done eating, I had already forgotten what I was thinking about.
 In chinese culture, eating/drinking vinegar is the colloquial expression used to t least half of stuff denote jealousy. There are lots of jokes about someone eating/drinking vinegar when they’re jealous. A common one is, “Ah… Why do I smell something vinegary in the air? Could it be someone’s jealous?” or “Aiya, we better go buy some vinegar – it looks like someone has drank all the vinegar in the house!”
 抱拳 (pinyin. bao quan) (lit. wrapped/held fist), which is a form of greeting among men, made with one clenched fist in the other hand moving about from the chest. Of course, to literally translate it might imply violence that wasn’t in the scene.
 梨园 (pinyin. li yuan)(lit. the Pear Garden), which could refer to the theatre. It is also the original name of a college of dramatics founded by imperial decree in the Tang Dynasty.
Hahaha… I did not cheat – but this chapter is truly a short chapter. Chapter 5 will be wrapping up Song Ning’s story. Unfortunately for you all (because, really lucky me), I will be on vacation the whole of next week, so it is very unlikely that there will be any updates until the week after. Well, on the bright side, I’m not leaving you teetering on the edge of a cliffhanger.