Dear readers, if you don’t know the big news about the author of this novel by now, click here. Because of this, hamster will not be continuing with the translation after this chapter. As a reader, I know you’ll be disappointed but we must respect hamster’s wishes since her heart is not in it anymore. Anyhow I want to thank her for translating the 2 chapters.
The blog always tries its best to finish any novel which it had started. When hui3r can’t continue with the translation, I tried to find another capable individual to continue where she has left off and found hamster. Unfortunately this happened and we are back to square one. I won’t comment on the author’s questionable characteristics and I assure you that the blog doesn’t support plagiarism of any kind. So far, there is no compelling evidence like in Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms that this novel has been plagiarized.
Part 3 – Chapter 2.1 (translated by hamster)
We finally received a letter from Jun Wei this morning and learned that he was in the company of Bai’li Jin. To be completely honest, I had almost forgotten this white-attired gentleman. In the letter, he said they were conducting a research in Peizhong on how to precisely control the transformation from a human to a beast and vice versa by substance.
At first, I didn’t know what he meant by ‘vicious endurance 受’. I racked my brain for half a day and came to surmise that perhaps he had meant ‘vicious beast 兽’ (the two characters are homonyms). Jun Wei had no understanding of sorcery and was better at running errands. He might have been pulled into doing these free labor work after meeting Bai’li Jin. The letter revealed they were still in the early stages of the research. They first needed to locate a drug that could turn people into beasts and asked if I had any ideas to offer. I didn’t think there was one. If his goal was beast transformation, he could always buy some aphrodisiac. With that said, there are many things that shouldn’t be allowed to freely transform. People who consumed the aforementioned aphrodisiac, for example, would turn into animals. And when these animals consumed more aphrodisiac, they’d turn even more… animalic, which would then lead to the procreation of a litter of little beasts…
After hearing about this, Mu Yan thought for a moment and decided that he had better take me to Peizhong instead. It made me feel as though I was being sent to a babysitter because my parents were having to leave for something important. Similar parents who left for important businesses often did not come back, however. As a result, the children who got left behind would grow into rotten adolescents… My first instinct was to follow Mu Yan, but he believed that I should wait for him in safety somewhere else. Peizhong was apparently that impregnable haven.
Despite my immediate claim that I wanted to stick with him through thick and thin, he skillfully deflected and dismissed my proposal. “Some places are dangerous for women but only a little bothersome for men. You’ll worry me more by following along.”
I should trust him, but I still wanted to craft my way out of being taken away. “Didn’t you know that Jun Wei has always wanted to marry me. How can you be so stupid and try to send me to his side? Isn’t that more dangerous?” Only until I finished these words did I remember he had always been competitive. I was immediately picked up and thrown into the carriage. “I’d like to see him try,” he declared.
We rode overnight directly to Peizhong.
Wei and Chen shared a narrow strip of water called the Duanhe River which started at Peizhong of Chen. But Peizhong wasn’t famous owing to this river. Rather, the city was known for its swordsmithing family, the Gong’yi clan.
The Gong’yi clan boasted a long history, having had ancestors who were involved in the war between the humans and the giants which took place at the Jushi Basin. In time, they washed their hands of weaponry and established businesses in Peizhong. For many generations, they specialized in the swordsmithing trade and, because of their military merits, were able to enjoy special privileges granted by the crown. Before they were conferred titles by the State of Chen, they were already well on their way to being the country’s wealthiest. Every Chen king would send his most beloved princess to marry into the Gong’yi family, resulting in entangled bloodlines between this clan and the royalties. Most people reckoned the Chen kings had chosen to do so in order to win over the Gong’yi family’s wealth, which I sometimes begged to differ. But what ever the case might be, 700 years of heritage and 25 generations of the Gong’yi clan were all burned to the ground in a great fire seven years ago.
A great many things had happened seven years ago. I was young and ignorant, and while living at Qingyan Temple, had heard the news that a distant family I had never met before had been destroyed in a fire. It came in the form of a rumor passed through the imperial ancestral walls; I had felt that it didn’t have anything to do with me.
“As a Wei princess,” my master had said, “you should understand a little about what is going on in the world. The destruction of the affluent Gong’yi clan is akin to the amputation of the Chen King’s arm. No matter what, this is a good thing for Wei.”
I had thought to myself then: who knows if it wasn’t the Chen King who did the deed himself?
Master was in rumination for a long while. Then, for the first time, I heard from him the legend of the Qianhe Beast. The Qianhe Beast was a mythical creature whose blood, after a thousand tribulations, formed a flowing stream. It was Gong’yi clan’s guardian deity which slept beneath the Taihao River and guarded the Gong’yis through lifetimes of peace.
But that was precisely the issue. How could such a powerful family that also had the protection of a guardian beast be destroyed just in the span of one night? Since the Chen King had already been ruled out, there could only be one explanation: the Gong’yi clan’s destruction came at its own guardian’s hand. What I took away from this story was that it was risky to keep a guardian beast. My master had been more farsighted: “Many things in life are karmic. There must be a reason for disaster to befall on the Gong’yi clan, as there would be a reason should one day Wei is destroyed. If you cannot understand karma, you should at least be able to understand consequences. Whatever it is you do, think about its consequences first.”
My impression of the Gong’yi clan persisted from those days till now due to my master’s remarks. On top of everything else, I felt such a pity that so much money had been burned clean. Of course, whether this old family had truly perished as we speculated remained yet a mystery. I also heard that two years later, the twenty-fifth head of the Gong’yi clan, Gong’yi Fei, had rebuilt their clan from the ruins. The Gong’yi clan did not remain in the swordsmithing trade after the restoration, however, but switched to banking and jewelries. These were all things that were later retold.
The reason why I suddenly recalled these legends and stories was because the place Mu Yan wanted to send me to was the Gong’yi clan in Peizhong. Before he returned, I were to wait there for him. Upon reflection, I didn’t think it was a problem. Isn’t life about waiting and being waited for? The distance between two points is but measured by people’s hearts. If in the past, you were next to each other but felt distant, then you’d hope that in the future you could be close at heart even if you were far away. The best state is still right next to each other both in distance and heart, of course.
In under a day, we had reached the foothill of Guzhu Mountain within Peizhong.
According to Mu Yan, the Gongyis’ private estate, the Hibiscus Manor, was built on the side of Guzhu Shan. Tomorrow, someone would come to lead us up the mountain. At the thought that Jun Wei and Xiao Huang were nearby at this moment, no matter where they were exactly, I didn’t doubt we’d get to finally meet. There was even less doubt that when we did meet, Jun Wei would grill me about what had happened during the time we parted, and I wouldn’t be able to explain to him the injuries I had sustained.
I lay in bed, admitting to myself that I did miss him a little during our separation. Even though this guy sometimes had a screw loose, when his screw was on right, he was a good promising young man. With that said, I didn’t want him to lecture me, so I had no choice but to delay our meeting for a few days. As my thoughts wandered, the haziness in my mind signaled to me that I was getting sleepy. What we call ‘death’ is nothing but darkness, and everything in this world eventually comes back to the dark one day. This darkness where it is difficult to move around is the sleep of the dead. At the moment I felt as though I was lying in a coffin buried underground, when the familiar darkness was climbing over me, a light suddenly tore before my eyes. I was convinced that my eyes weren’t open at this time, nor was I blinking. And yet I clearly saw that light suddenly bursting open. It quickly engulfed the space and then gradually dissipated like a fog. In its wake was a paved stairway with over a hundred steps made from green stone; sitting at the top was a splendid gate.
Under the drizzling rain, mauve hibiscuses loomed on the mountainside. A towering gate, exquisite columns, and countless buildings came into view. Hanging on the storied gate was a large colorful bead curtain. It slightly rolled in the wind, producing jingling clanks.
Standing beside the bead curtain was a woman who was holding a paper umbrella, its bamboo handle curving upward while its canopy was absence of embellishment – it was like a funeral object in its pure white color. The handle slightly raised to expose a woman’s forehead that was adorned by a black jade headband. Next came a pair of slender eyebrows over two cold eyes, a tall nose, and eventually pale lips that slightly pressed together. The only other color to contrast her white dress was her loose dark hair that fell to her ankle like an inky waterfall. She called to mind a sculpture that had been carved from ice.
The green stone three steps away had a small crack in it. A man, also dressed in white, was seen bending over to pick up a shiny black bracelet. When he raised his head, I noticed that his facial features actually looked very much like the woman’s. The only differences were that his brows weren’t as slender as her crescent moon ones and his eyes weren’t as cold as her frozen spring ones.
Even though he was also robed in white, his cuffs were embroidered with purple hibiscuses. Just past the sleeves, his slender fingers were seen holding the black bracelet: “Is this bracelet yours, miss?” A faint smile was glinting in his eyes as he added: “Have we met before?”
The drizzling rain continued. Doused by rainwater, the moss on the green stone turned a darker color. In the great bronze mirror suspended from the white jade hooks lining atop the building was a mountain full of red flowers.
The handsome young man slightly gazed up at the woman who was leaning against the rainbow curtain at the summit. In the misty rain, she opened her paper umbrella and approached him step by step. Rainwater exposed the yellow linings on her white embroidered slippers.
Standing one step above him, she received the jade bracelet that had been polished by the rain, grazing his fingertips with her luminescent ivory fingers. He held onto them. “Thank you,” she said at length while gazing down at his slightly dazed look.
She waited for him to let go. A lone flute gradually soared from the distance. He did not let go. “I am Gong’yi Fei of Peizhong. Do I have the honor of knowing your fair name, miss?”
She slightly raised the paper umbrella and, after looking at him for the longest time, spoke with a voice that rang like clashing gems: “Qing Jiujiu of Yong’an.”
My eyes flew open. If I could breathe, I would’ve gasped for air. A full moon hung outside, spreading its quiet beam through the windowpanes and casting scattered shadows in front of my bed.
That wasn’t a dream, but a consciousness the Huaxu enchantment had captured. This consciousness hovered alone on Guzhu Mountain, wrapped up in fog and rain. It seemed to have been treasured in spite of its coldness, like fleeting illusions in this glorious world, like a lonely ink-wash painting waiting for someone to fill in the last stroke.
A consciousness wandering between heaven and earth that was perceived by the Huaxu enchantment could only be the memories left behind by a deceased person, and persistent memories, no less.
A mountain entrance, a multicolor curtain, a drizzling sky, a paper umbrella, the hibiscus season, and the meeting between a man and a woman. These must all be of major significance to the person who died. Recalling the scene I had just seen in front of the gate, I assumed the dead one was the man who wouldn’t let go of the woman’s hand. It made me feel a little wistful. But as I recalled their names, something didn’t quite feel right to me. If he didn’t share the same name with someone else, Gong’yi Fei of Peizhong should be the 25th head of the Gong’yi clan who was coming to take us uphill tomorrow. Then that’s to say… the consciousness I saw had belonged to the woman in white. It turned out she, Qing Jiujiu of Yong’an, was the one who died.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept sensing whirling shadows in front of me without being able to actually see what they were.
I woke up the next day amid the sound of rippling water. Under a bright sky, a few unknown birds were cheerfully chirping by the window lattice. It was a summer morning.
I climbed down from bed and rubbed my eyes as I opened the window, hearing wings fluttering away as I did. Peering into the yard, I saw Mu Yan sitting cross-legged under a mimosa tree. He was almost always playing the zither every time we parted. To his side stood Zhisu while not far from them stood a white-robed man, basking in the backlight. I could not see his face, but I gathered he was here to pick me up – the Gongyis’ coachman, perhaps.
Pompom-like flowers covered the large mimosa tree. Golden morning light filtered through the foliage, eloquently falling onto the silk strings and dancing on Mu Yan’s gliding fingers.
Flowing from the zither were long soft notes like a hurricane sweeping across the Gobi desert. Only he could pluck sounds like these, sounds that could trickle slowly and warmly to my heart. I opened the door and ran out.
His playing halted. At the same time, I perceived my foot was tripping over something. As I was about to lose my balance and stumble forward, Mu Yan quickly walked over and wrapped an arm around me. “It’s still a bit too early to be throwing yourself at me like this, don’t you think? You really make me flustered with all this love I’m receiving.” I was obviously the one who should be flustered! But the longer I got to hold him, the better it was. I took the opportunity to shrink into his arms and then glanced askance to my feet. It turned out it was a clump of grass.
A cough sounded behind me. It sounded fake enough that I was too lazy to reason with it. Perhaps because I didn’t speak even after a long time, his voice came from above: “Ah Fu? Are you all right?” I rubbed my nose and tightly clasped his waist, mumbling back: “I’m fine. Aren’t you thrilled I’m letting you hold me a little longer?”
In those novels of Jun Wei’s, I remembered farewells always occurred under a drizzling sky while the parties saying goodbye clasped their hands with tears in their eyes, drinking wine and snapping willow branches to give away as gifts. But it was a glorious morning at the moment. Under the bright sun, I couldn’t find a willow anywhere in sight. There was really no way to create a sorrowful atmosphere. I didn’t want to leave Mu Yan so it stood to reason that leaving him was a sad thing, but ever since I knew he also liked me back, those feelings of sadness and reluctance all turned into sweetness. I kept telling myself he would come back to me and we would be seeing each other again. My courage thus multiplied and there was no more sadness.
Still, it was goodbye and I should express something. Without willow trees, the only thing I could do was take some other branches nearby as a substitute. I strained to break off a small mimosa branch and solemnly placed it onto Mu Yan’s palm.
As I was about to say a few words to him, a laughter sounded. I looked up to see a white-attired man not far from there. His position was very cunning. He stood quite close yet far enough that I could not see his face. I could only see that he was playing with something similar to a black bracelet in his right hand. Not being able to see his face despite staring hard, I decided to speak to Mu Yan. But when I turned around, I saw him staring unfathomably at the mimosa branch in his hand.
I looked at him in puzzlement. I didn’t know what there was to admire in that broken branch.
At last, he tried hard not to laugh and looked up at me. “People normally give each other a branch of willow as a parting gift because willow (柳 liu) represents the unwillingness to let someone go (留 liu). You, on the other hand, is giving me a mimosa branch to say goodbye. Does this mean you want to have some…”
I looked at him in greater bewilderment: “What?”
He put away the branch and, in all seriousness, succinctly spat out two words: “Happy time.” (mimosa 合欢 lit. means “happy together” i.e. “have sex”)
“… Keep dreaming, buddy!”
Zhisu stood quietly to the side while we were carrying on. The white-robed loon, who had been stifling his laughter, finally could not stop himself from laughing out loud: “Your R… Mister Mu, were did you pick up such a darling?” His voice sounded strangely familiar. Mu Yan bowed his head to help me fix my collar, sparing the man no reply. As for me, I was silently trying to recall where I had heard his voice before. Before I could figure it out, the white-robed man had slowly stepped out from the halo of the bronze mirror’s glare.
Under the morning light, I was stunned to see his gradually clearer face. A forehead seemingly chiseled from marble, a pair of painted eyebrows, autumn lake eyes, and nonchalant manners – in addition to being a few years older than the young man I saw last night, I didn’t see any other differences. Gong’yi Fei of Peizhong. The black circular object he had been playing in his right hand also caught my attention. I arched an eyebrow and asked him before I could stop myself: “Whose bracelet are you holding?”
He stopped and then brought the jade bracelet up to the sunlight. “Do you also think it’s beautiful?” His eyes were filled with an indulgent smile full of love, yet the words he said were unfeelingly cold: “I don’t know. I seemed to have been born with it.” Not a word was mentioned of the bracelet’s original owner.
Mu Yan entrusted me to Gong’yi Fei. Even though I was doubtful of this man’s comportment, I silently gave up trying to figure things out and patiently waited for Mu Yan to finish talking to him as I thought back to the philosophy of life in troubled times that master had taught me when he was still alive. In life, you should mind your own business. If you see injustice on the street, go another way.
I didn’t know what they were saying to each other, only hearing Gong’yi Fei’s faint teasing laughter: “I bet no one will believe that the legendary cautious Mister Mu also has a weakness. And she’s a delicate little girl at that. If the two princesses of Tang and Lou found out, they might vomit blood and die of it.”
I perked my ears and craned my neck to see Mu Yan’s reaction. He waved his fan slightly in my direction before quickly turning sideway again, an airy smile hovering on his profile. I heard him say in his deliberately low voice: “Shouldn’t you know this kind of things better than anyone else? We should either destroy our so-called weakness or carefully protect it. Most of those who dreamed big had chosen the former; such had almost always been the case throughout history. I, on the other hand, have always felt that life is too short and fleeting. Having a weakness might not be such a bad thing.”
Gong’yi Fei looked up at him in surprise, and to be honest, so did I. Perhaps aware of my gaze, his eyes slightly glanced over. I quickly fixed my lapel and sat still, pretending not to hear anything while looking away to the side. In my mind, though, I was secretly telling myself I was to be very, very good to this man.
Soon after, the two ended their conversation. Gong’yi Fei trailed behind Mu Yan as they slowly made their way over to me. The sun had risen high in the sky; it was almost time to leave. Mu Yan seemed he wanted to say something to me, but I did not give him the chance. I fought to speak first, afraid there wasn’t enough time left. Tugging on his sleeve, I hastened to say everything I had been wanting to say to him.
“Go to bed early and don’t stay up all night.”
He probably thought I was being childish.
“Cover yourself at night and don’t kick the quilt away.”
In these parting moments, more experienced girls would likely have smarter things to say.
“Remember to put on more clothes when it’s cold. Don’t neglect your health just because you think you’re healthy.”
But I didn’t know any of that stuff.
“Don’t be picky. You have to eat some of everything whether it’s meat or vegetables.”
If I were by his side, this was how I would slowly learn to take care of him.
The entire bamboo cottage fell silent. I didn’t hear anyone’s jeers this time either. Not having said the most important thing, I licked my lips and took a breather to go on. With my throat feeling dry, I was about to start again when I was suddenly interrupted by a grinning Mu Yan: “Shouldn’t I be the one telling you these things…?”
“I’m being serious,” I glared at him.
He held his gaze on me for a time, stopped joking, put away his fan, and finally nodded: “Alright, I’ll make sure to remember. Anything else?”
I felt it difficult to go on after mustering up my courage only to get interrupted. I looked up for a quick glance at him, cleared my throat, then stared back down at the ground. “Yes, there’s more.” I adjusted my voice to sound vehement: “You can’t look at pretty girls. Even if they come to talk to you, you have to ignore them!”
He laughed and placed his hands on my shoulders: “Got it, anything else?”
Suddenly feeling a little sad, I dolefully bowed my head and stared at the toes of my shoes. “You have to come back as soon as you can to pick me up.”
He lifted my head to regard me for a moment and then kissed my forehead. “I’ll come for you when the hibiscus season is over.”
On a scorching summer day, we each went our way. One downhill, the other towards the mountain – two opposite roads that extended thousands of miles, like a destiny without an ending.
I had no way of seeing the future, but I felt a vague uneasiness. Since the beginning of time, parting couples who used flower seasons as their promise always seemed to miss their date. For once the season was over they’d be late. For once they were late the season would be over.