Arh – did anyone miss me while I was gone? I had to take a break to recuperate emotionally after translating the ending of Song Ning’s story in one breath. I felt so drained and emotionally paralysed afterwards. But discussing it with you all in the comments section of the last post helped me find some degree of closure.
It is as if T7 knows the number she did on our poor hearts and eyes, the first part of Chapter 6 is somewhat melancholic with some bits of funny thrown into the mix. Chapter 6.1 marks the beginning of Ying Ge’s Story – Thirteenth Moon, which I understand is a favourite for many of our readers here.
If you want to read the summary of Thirteenth Moon’s story, click here.
Ying Ge’s Story – Thirteenth Moon
The weather was clear the day we left the State of Jiang. We crossed the Cang Lan Mountains and entered the State of Zheng.
Mu Yan had planned to leave the next day. Something has happened back home and he has been urgently summoned back; he can only repay my kindness at a later date.
He actually did not owe me anything. If he remembered, he would have known that the accounting between us should be as such: he had saved me twice, and my saving his life once would have only offset him saving me the first time. In the end, I actually still owed him my life so I should be the one repaying him. But he obviously did not remember.
But that by itself was not a big deal. It was a known fact that a girl’s appearance changes a lot when she attains adulthood. My face now was very different from that of three years ago, and I was also wearing my silver mask all the time. It was understandable that he could not recognise me, so there was nothing to be upset about.
I thought to myself, I had loved him for four years. I had never thought that I would be able to meet him again in this lifetime. Heaven was too cruel to allow us to meet again, but have us separated by life and death. But this is also good: for him, nothing had happened so there was nothing to come to an end; and for me, everything has already happened and has already come to an end. And now, the feelings of affection that was buried in my heart was nothing but a cherished memory; it does not belong in this time. Too much entanglements between us would not be a good thing.
In the end, I was still unable to forget. Every time I closed my eyes, the image of him playing the qin in the cave in Mount Yanhui would appear in my mind’s eye, his silver mask, his long dark blue robe, his fingers manipulating the silken strings and the sounds of the qin echoing endlessly in the moonlight.
I thought, I should do something to make him leave me something – anything – as a token for remembrance.
The summer days were long so it was very late when dusk finally fell. I took a pot of wine and sought him out. I acted as if I had no ulterior motives and that my initiative stemmed entirely from the desire to find a drinking buddy to drink and admire the moon with. And it just so happened that he was selected, that it must be that we were especially fated that night.
He was sitting in the garden of the inn, drinking by himself whilst enjoying the breeze. I walked over and placed the pot of wine I brought on the stone table before him, before casting him a glance, “How meaningless it is to drink alone.”
He raised his head to look at me, “You’re here to drink with me then?”
I stared at the white porcelain wine cup in his hand for a moment before saying, “Mu Yan, could you play a tune for me before you leave?”
He looked at me in surprise but did not say a word. He placed his cup down, “What would you like to listen to?”
I thought for a moment before replying, “There’s nothing in particular that I wish to listen to.”
He gestured to Zhi Su who was stood in the distance before turning to look at me, “Then…”
I sat down on the stone stool and interrupted him, “Then why don’t you play for me every piece that you know?”
Shortly thereafter, Zhi Su brought the qin and had set it up in the pavilion within the inn. The pavillion was surrounded by flowers planted by the innkeeper’s wife; large red and white blossoms bloomed beneath the moonlight, . I cast a peek at Mu Yan beneath lowered lids. He sat under the pavillion; when not shielded by a mask, his face was unusually good looking. His fingers plucked at the qin strings freely. He looked up briefly and cast a smile at me, “If I really play for you every piece that I know, you definitely won’t be able to sleep tonight.”
I did not say anything but thought in my heart that for that to happen, he would have had to play for a lifetime.
The qin sounded, and it was a tune that I had never heard before. I sprawled onto the three legged stone table and cradled my face in my arms, “Mu Yan, you haven’t married yet, have you?”
The playing of the qin suddenly paused He cocked his head to the side and uttered questioningly, “En?”
I said, “Would you be willing to marry a deceased person as your wife?”
His fingers stopped playing. The moonlight shone on his face, casting both light and shadows on his features. He was indescribably good-looking.
I gathered my courage and explained to him, “The girl is quite good looking and of pleasant disposition as well. Elders tend to like her, so there definitely will not be any issues between mother-in-law and daughter in law. She has a rudimentary knowledge of music, literature, calligraphy and art so she won’t shame you in front of others. On the other hand, even though she is not very skilled at cooking, she is able to cook some basic dishes… It’s only that… it’s only that she is dead.”
I had praised myself so extravagantly that even I felt that I was a bit too brazen; I could not carry on even if I wanted to.
He listened to me patiently. After a short pause, he looked at me as if he did not know whether to laugh or to cry, he said, “Are you referring to a ghost marriage?”
I did not know whether my hypothetical marriage to him would be considered a ghost marriage. But in the absence of a better definition, I nodded my head.
He looked at me patiently for a while before commencing to play again. He shook his head and said, “I really don’t understand what you’re trying to do. Are you trying to play matchmaker for a close friend who has passed away?”
I looked at him and said, “En.”
The silken string trilled as he laughed, “This is something that only you are capable of. Alas, the Mu family cannot be be heirless, so I can only thank you for your kind intentions.”
I sprawled back on to the table and closed my eyes. The night breeze was definitely warm and gentle but I felt cold all over instead. Even though I understood that the dead and the living cannot walk the same path, but I could not help but want to try my luck, hoping for a different outcome. It only served to be a greater disappointment in the end.
I wanted so much to tell him, that this masked girl in front of you was the same girl who nearly died from a snakebite on Mount Yanhui all those years ago, all grown up now. She had always wanted to marry you and had searched for you high and low for three whole years. But how could I tell him that this masked girl is actually a dead person.
That night, accompanied by Mu Yan’s music, I did not know when I had fallen, sprawled myself on the three legged table. According to Jun Wei, Mu Yan carried me back to my time sometime around the third hour in the morning. But when I woke up, he had already left. Just like that night on Mount Yanhui three years ago, unbeknownst to me, we had parted ways. I did not have any particularly strong feelings about this, just that the place where the Pearl resided felt empty.
The place we want to go to was the Square City, the capital of the State of Zheng. From the sound of the name, one would have expected the city to be built in accordance with some profound geometric principle. But all this was a misunderstanding. The reason why the city is called Square is because the residents were quite fond of playing mahjong.
The three of us – Jun Wei, Xiao Huang and I – rushed to this city because we received a message by carrier pigeon from Master Jun. He told us that he had accepted a business deal in this city on my behalf. The identity of the patron this time was quite special – she was a noble lady who resides in the palace.
The State of Zheng has many mountains and rivers, so we were travelling by boat for much of the time. But due to Xiao Huang’s existence, there were not many boatmen who were willing to ferry us across the river. When we finally found a boatman who wais willing to risk life and limb, we had to pay him a king’s ransom in order to board his pirate ship.
Considering that we could not treat Xiao Huang they way we treated our horses and roast him for sustenance, we could only endure being ripped off. As time went on, our travel funds lessened and lessened, and it seemed unlikely that we would be able to reach our destination. As a last resort, Jun Wei was forced to go up to the boatman and blackmail him, “We have no more money, all we have left are our lives. Are you going to row? If you stop rowing we will let our tiger bite you to death.”
Unexpectedly, this method was very effective. Our journey proceeded smoothly for a while until we neared our destination, when someone finally reported us to the authorities. We were fined a huge sum of money by the local authorities, which we paid with the last of our travel funds.
We were still fifty miles away from Square City, which we could reach within three days travelling on foot. However, we were penniless.
Jun Wei’s idea was to sell a book that he had been writing lately; the premise of the story was about a sadomasochistic love, a topic which he expected to be quite popular. Xiao Huang and I were both very happy as we saw this as a way out of our predicament. We set up a store by the roadside in high spirits and with heavy expectations.
The result was we could not sell it.
A long time after that incident, we analysed where we went wrong and concluded that the reason it was unpopular must be because the book did not have any erotic illustrations. But as we did not come to this realization then, we only felt like we had come to the end of the road. After thinking long and hard, we felt that the only way was for Xiao Huang to behave contrary to his nature and perform the act of eating grass for the public.
Just as we were in the process of forcing Xiao Huang to perform in public, we bumped into Baili Jin, who was returning from the mountains. This was an extremely important person. But then and for a long time afterwards, we did not know that he was from the Saint of Medicine’s family, that he was the Saint of Medicine Baili Yue’s only nephew.
Of course, he had his own reasons for hiding his identity, because his appearance when we first met him definitely did not do justice to his family name: he was not holding a closed fan in his hand and there was no long sword hanging from his waist. Although he was wearing a white robe, it was soiled grey in several places – he definitely could not be described as immortal-like. The old and rickety basket on his back definitely did not inspire someone to shout “Wah – I can tell from one look that you are definitely a good person” or something to that effect.
That scene coincidentally took place just as the sun was dipping into the western horizon. We had already set up our little stage for the performance. The roots and wild vegetables we had collected were placed by the side and Xiao Huang was symbolically tied up beside them.
The farmers from the nearby fields, carrying their tools, passed our set-up on their way home. They surrounded us and quickly formed a large circle.
Before so many pairs of eyes brimming with anticipation, Xiao Huang painfully chewed on a carrot. The farmers were all amazed.
At this time, Baili Jin broke through the crowd and very naturally squatted down beside the pile of wild vegetables. He rummaged through the pile before picking out an exceptionally large white radish. He looked up at Jun Wei and asked, “Wei – how much are you selling this radish?”
Jun Wei: “?”
Baili Jin studied it for a while. I did not know what was the message he was trying to convey through his expression. He looked through the pile of vegetables again, and raised up another carrot: “Wei, if I buy two white radishes, can you throw in a carrot?”
I saw a nerve tick in Jun Wei’s temple. Jun Wei looked at him expressionlessly and pointed at Xiao Huang who was chewing a carrot on one side, signalling to him that we were doing a street performance and were not actually selling radishes and carrots.
Baili Jin calmly return his stare, and exclaimed, “Wa – I can get a tiger for free if I buy the radishes?”
I could only wordlessly look at the nerve throbbing in Jun Wei’s temple. I quickly said, “We’re not giving away the tiger.”
Baili Jin looked at me understandingly and raised the red carrot in his hand, “Oh – never mind. If you’re not giving away the tiger, then just give me a carrot.”
Jun Wei said, “We’re not giving away the radishes either.”
Baili Jin held up the white radish, “I didn’t ask you to give them to me. I will pay for them, so I’m buying them from you. It’s not like I’m cheating you of your money. I’m just asking you to throw in a carrot as part of the deal.”
I guessed that Jun Wei had already reached the limit of his patience. Before I could even finish guessing, I saw a grey figure fly over the crowd. Jun Wei was rubbing his temples while he stared at Baili Jin whom he just tossed away. Under the darkening sky, he dusted off his hands before wiping them on my sleeve.
This was the first meeting between us and the youngest member of the Baili family. It was also the first time in Jun Wei’s life that he displayed such a macho side of himself.
 冥婚 (pinyin. míng hūn), refers to a folk custom where a deceased person is married to either another deceased person or to a living person. I won’t go into the history of this culture, but you might have seen it in dramas or movies; to my knowledge, a cockerel is commonly used as an avatar to represent a deceased groom.
 In this case, “贼船” (pinyin zéi chuán”) literally translates into “a thieve’s boat”. It just means that the boatman in the instance has totally ripped them off, which makes him akin to thieves. He isn’t actually a pirate.
Jun Fu’s thoughts and expressions in this chapter are actually very beautiful in a very melancholic way. I especially loved it when she thought to herself “Even though I understood that the dead and the living cannot walk the same path, but I could not help but want to try my luck, hoping for a different outcome. It only served to be a greater disappointment in the end.” It’s probably because I’m a real sucker for unrequited love.
Having said all that, Jun Fu and Mu Yan’s story is progressing along nicely. I don’t know if you all feel the love yet (from Mu Yan, since we know that Jun Fu has some pretty serious feelings for him). But at the very least, he definitely appreciates the uniqueness of Jun Fu’s thought process. LOL.
And let me just end with a shout of “Let the Bromance begins”. With such a meet cute between Baili Jin and Jun Wei, can you fault everyone for thinking/hoping that they ended up together?🙂