Hola- I’m back. In case anyone’s curious about my trip – Taiwan was very fun, but sadly, I was overcome by a bad flu and throat infection as soon as I got home. Must be all the fried food, late nights, dehydration and exhaustion. So I spent my week feeling a bit Ah’Fu-ish, in that I was in a state where I was between feeling Not Human and Somewhat Human most of the time. 😦
So forgive me for the relatively short chapter post. I decided to just post what I managed to translate first since this chapter has one of my personal favourite scenes in it. Hee Hee Hee…
The winter rain poured so heavily it created a misty veil that connected the heavens and the earth together. Through this veil, one could see snow-capped mountains in the distance. Although Xiao Lan and I had misgivings as to the occurrence of thunderstorms during mid-winter, there was nothing we could do about it but to buy a pair of umbrellas.
An hour ago, we had learned the whereabouts of Liu Qiqi from an auntie selling pancakes at a street stall; Liu Qiqi should be at the snow mountains harvesting snow-lotus seeds for medicinal purposes. According to the auntie, Liu Qiqi was Dr Liu’s only granddaughter. She was pretty, kind, gentle, and had superb medical skills. Her only shortcoming was that she was a mute.
Auntie kindly pointed out the only trail leading into the mountains used by the local people. As recompense for her help, I had Xiao Lan buy 10 of her pancakes as provisions for our journey. However, the mountain trail was really too convenient; we did not even have a chance to use our provisions. So I started eating the pancakes while hiking up behind Xiao Lan, in hope that I could lessen the burden on our shoulders.
The rain lightened up midway through our journey. “Why don’t you ask me what I plan to do once we find Liu Qiqi?” I asked Xiao Lan.
He did not even turn his head, “Isn’t it to kidnap her and only release her once the Shen couple has left this place?”
I nodded my head and said, “That was my original intention. But this thing called Fate is too indomitable; I cannot help but worry. What if one day, Liu Qiqi still meets Shen An in the future and cause a heap of trouble that is more troublesome than what has already happened? Wouldn’t I have wasted my time doing this deal?”
I caught up to him in two steps and walked alongside him, “Think about it. If Liu Qiqi falls deeply in love with another man before meeting Shen An, even if they should meet in the future she wouldn’t develop feelings for him. If this is the case, then regardless of what is the ending for Shen An and Song Ning, Song Ning’s half of Song Ning’s wish would have been fulfilled, and it should count that I have completed at least half of my deal.”
He stopped walking and turned around while raising the paper umbrella slightly, as if smilling, asked, “And so?”
In that moment, it was as if the cold fragrance of plum blossoms arose in the rain seepied into my cloak and my sleeves, enveloping me in it. If wove an iillusion from an indelible memory of mine.
It was also raining that day, with drops of rain falling on me like a cascade of beads. As my life ebbed away, I saw a man carrying an umbrella with 64 ribs come up to me. In that heavy downpour in the State of Wei, he had also raised his umbrella slightly. My blood had blurred my vision, making me unable to see his face clearly. I often thought that that was just an illusion created at the moment of death; until today, I could not be sure if what I thought I saw had actually happened.
“Xiao Lan, I had already come up with a perfect plan that will make Liu Qiqi fall deeply in love with you. Are you willing to help me? Of course, if you are unwilling, we can just forget about it,” I told him seriously.
“Oh, then let’s forget about…” he said.
“I’ve heard that you are quite skilled at martial arts? Then I’m sure you won’t need me to lead you out of this Huaxu Realm? Aih… Actually, it’s alright even if you can’t find your way out – look, don’t you think that this place is actually quite good. Oh, by the way, what were you about to say just now?”
He stared at me for a long while. I calmly took out another bun and started to munch on it.
He finally said quietly, “I wanted to say, in such a small matter – if Miss Jun has already thought of a perfect plan – then let’s act according to Miss Jun’s suggestion.”
“Very well,” I nodded.
“It’s only that…,” he continued
“What is it?” I asked curiously.
“I don’t mind at all. After all, the Liu Qiqi here is but an illusion to me. It’s only that even if Liu Qiqi falls in love with me, there is no guarantee that she will not turn her affections towards Shen An if she meets him,” he laughed.
I handed him a mirror and said, “Come, have more confidence in your appearance.”
The rain stopped as soon as we entered the mountains. We hid ourselves near a path that Liu Qiqi is bound to use. Shortly after that, a staggering figure did indeed appear in the distance. I hurriedly reminded him, “Act according to the plan.”
I threw a snowball in the direction of the figure. I froze when I finally saw the person’s face clearly. The woman’s hair was disheveled and she was wearing thin clothes. She carried a large man wrapped in a velvet robe on her back, forcing her body to be bent at the waist; it was as if she was relying entirely on the spear in her hand to prevent her from falling face first into the snowy ground.
I recognised her even though her beauty was obscured by the dirt streaking her face, this is Song Ning from seven years ago. Even though she is not the person I was looking for right now, it is still fate that allowed us to meet. I hid my surprise and pretended to be a stranger passing by. She held on to the spear in her hand tightly; from a glance, I could see her whitened knuckles.
Her hoarse voice sounded suddenly, “Miss, please halt. Does Miss stay in this mountain? Can you please tell me how to get out of this mountain, where can I find a clinic? My husband is gravely ill, if we are further delayed in this mountains, I am afraid that…”
I looked around before interrupting her, “There is a man wearing a white fur cloak just ahead. Go and ask him – I am not familiar with this area.” As soon as I finished, I rushed away and disappeared into the distance. It is not that I did not want to help her, but because I really had forgotten how we had come here. I also had a reason for running away so quickly; because the person that I was looking had finally appeared – Liu Qiqi.
Just as Song Ning started to described her husband’s condition, Liu Qiqi had walked out of a trail and turned left onto another trail. From the back, I could see that she was dressed in thick winter clothing and carrying a basket. As I chased after her, I thought to myself that Song Ning was actually closer to the exit than Liu Qiqi. Why Liu Qiqi had arrived back at the clinic before Song Ning and Shen An 7 years ago was most likely because Song Ning, in a moment of distraction, had gotten lost as she neared the exit out of the mountains.
Seeing that Liu Qiqi was only about 10 metres away from me, I thought that it was about time for me to start the show. I took out a small dagger from my waistband and shouted as I pounced towards Liu Qiqi’s frail figure, “I planted those herbs. How dare you steal from me…”
The plan was for Xiao Lan to heroically rescue the Beauty; as I am about to pounce on Liu Qiqi, Xiao Lan was to suddenly appear and push me away with one strike. He should then help the fallen Liu Qiqi off the ground and ask her with a gentle smile, “Has Miss been frightened?” This would surely make Liu Qiqi fall for him, since it was pretty much under the same circumstances that I had fallen for Mu Yan.
Alas – for all of our planning – we had failed to predict that this trail was by a cliff. The icy ground was slippery and I had dropped a pancake as I rushed forward. Just as I made to pounce on her, I accidentally stepped on the said pancake and slid on it for at least a couple of metres. With a neat “dong”, I had pushed Liu Qiqi off the mountain…
I laid on my stomach at the cliffside and stared down in disappointment. I did not know when Xiao Lan appeared. He squatted next to me and looked downwards as well. But it was a sea of white below the cliff and since Liu Qiqi wore a flowing white dress today, she had literally blended into the snowscape.
I was so anxious I almost cried, “Why didn’t you appear earlier? You see… I had killed Liu Qiqi off just like that. This business deal didn’t need for her to die. Pity her that she didn’t even manage to scream as she fell down.”
Xiao Lan pulled me to my feet and said lightly, “Isn’t this very good? Now, everything has come to an end and we can all return home and sleep.”
I anxiously said, “No! I didn’t hear the ‘thud’ of her body fall onto the ground. What if Liu Qiqi has been caught on some trees and managed to survive the fall? Don’t stop me – I must continue to look for her.” With that, I threw myself towards the ground.
I did not think that Xiao Lan would let go. I had thought that he would use his full strength to stop me. His sudden loosening of his grasp on me did not give me any time to react. To be fair, to say that would cause a misunderstanding. The truth is I was not prepared but he was already one step ahead of me. The result of my unpreparedness was that I used too much force in struggling free and was unable to regain my balance in time. So as soon as he let me go, I followed Liu Qiqi’s path and fell off the cliff as well. When I heard him call out “Ah’Fu” behind me, I had already plummeted down the cliffside like a swallow.
Rah – This is one of my favourite parts of the Song Ning sub-story. Although the Liu Qiqi in the Dreamscape did not deserve to die, it was still immensely satisfying to imagine her flying off the cliff. I especially liked the part where Ah’Fu commented that she did not even managed to squeak a single sound before/as she fell.