Part of a Peony’s Tavern translation project at fruitydeer.com.
Do not download, copy, or redistribute without permission.
Source: 芍藥客棧 by Yi Mei Tong Qian // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
This chapter sets up more information that will lead directly into the main conflict coming up in this arc. However, the silliness pervading the lives of our tavern’s resident flora and their new innkeeper remains all the same.
After speaking, she turned and ran downstairs, leaping downwards and transforming into her demon form. Treading along the tranquility of the night and passing through the front doors of the tavern, she flew into the air.
Shao Zi’s eyes were pinned on that gloomy area, speaking in a low tone: “You little ghostlings dare come here and make trouble? Hurry and leave. If you don’t go, don’t blame me for making your souls shatter and disperse!”1
From those dark clouds, a woman quickly appeared. She spoke in a gentle tone, with no inkling of malice. On the contrary, it carried a thread of pleading: “I’m waiting for someone. Once I’ve found them, I will leave.”
Shao Zi spoke: “If you need to wait, then wait, but don’t conjure up a bunch of demonic energy in the house, otherwise mortals staying at the tavern will get their yang2 sucked away.
The female ghost shook her head, staunchly saying: “No, if he doesn’t see the demonic energy here, he won’t come over.” After a long while, she finally added, “He’s a Daoist priest. He accidentally lost more than half of his soul. But the last part of his soul, the part that holds the memory reminding him he was someone who subdues monsters and demons, didn’t get taken away. If he loses this last part of his soul, he won’t have any memory left and will die.”
Shao Zi was astonished. The female ghost was trying to help a sworn enemy of a Daoist priest? What was this? She asked: “So you want to let him catch you and have his damaged soul stay somewhere on you?”
The female ghost smiled bitterly: “No, even if he remembers, he will slowly forget. I have already appeared before him 397 times. After just a few days, he’ll again forget that he once captured me.”
Shao Zi became even more suspicious: “So what you mean is, he can’t remember that he caught you before, but you also don’t want to see him die, so you keep showing up in front of him and reminding him that he is a Daoist priest to help him continue living?”
“But he won’t even remember you.”
The female ghost’s pale complexion fell into a daze, only replying after a long time: “So what, I’m not doing this just for the sake of him remembering.”
Shao Zi stilled for a moment. No matter what she does, the other party would never remember her. No matter how many things she does, the other party would only see her as a ghostling. It was a perpetual sacrifice that would never result in any compensation. Then she…why was she doing this?
The scholar sat on the long and narrow railing, leaning on a pillar and tilting his head upwards toward the faraway woman wearing pink and with a vacant expression. His gaze lingered. Finally, he looked back at the chicken in his hand, blinking: “Still too raw.”
After speaking, he tossed that white chicken into the sky. It transformed into a plume of blue smoke, dissipating into the world.
Recently, Shao Zi had become more and more convinced that she was an almighty flower demon. Her housework was impeccable and culinary skills were impeccable, and she could even take care of a ghostess.
That female ghost called Yun Chang continued to live at the deluxe suite at the tavern. Shao Zi did not have the heart to drive her away; no one was living at the inn, anyways. Oh, no. After Shao Zi helped with Yun Chang’s arrangements, she finally remembered how there was that dumb scholar. With that body of his, it probably wouldn’t take more than a few days before his yang energy weakened. Shao Zi contemplated for a long while, then suddenly thought, build up his yang then!
The following day, morning meal.
The scholar squinted at the soup on the table, stirring it with a large spoon. Inside was a big hodgepodge of medicine and unknown meats. His said with difficulty: “This is…”
Shao Zi did not flinch: “Replenishing tonic. Innkeeper, your physique is too lacking. If the wind blows, you’ll topple over.3 So, I decided to help you replenish your body.”
“Oh…” The scholar’s response was a long, contemplative hum. “But replenishing with this much tonic so early in the morning, isn’t it…a bit much.”
Shao Zi scooped him a large bowl filled to the brim: “This portion is all yours. If it’s not enough, there is still more in the pot.”
Keeping an eye on him as he drank that entire single serving’s worth, Shao Zi finally tidied away the bowl and utensils in satisfaction. Yun Chang could live here for half a month and he would still be fine.
The scholar watched her bounce into the back kitchen as he touched his stomach. The flavor of the tonic rushed from his stomach to his nasal cavity and he could not help but become dispirited: “I won’t be replenished to death, right?”
At noon, Shao Zi gazed at the rooftop of the tavern from the backyard. The demonic energy in the clouds that Yun Chang spread still hadn’t dissipated, but that Daoist priest still had yet come. Her brows pinched and she called out: “Pa Pa.”
In a flash, a cluster of jade-green Japanese creepers4 drooped from the wall, winding down along the curvatures and transforming into a human form. A person wearing green clothing leaped over. The young boy had bright eyes and bright teeth, speaking childishly: “Lao da!”
Shao Zi patted the boy who had a steadfast and honest appearance:5 “Pa Pa, remember to have your brothers keep an eye on all the streets in town. If a Daoist priest comes, tell me.”
“At your command! Lao da,” Pa Pa’s ears shifted, “Lao da, that scholar is back again.”
Shao Zi snorted lightly. Indeed, she saw the scholar stroll in.
The scholar saw her, seemingly remembering something: “Miss Shao Zi, how great that you’re here. Let’s water the flowers.”
Shao Zi resisted the impulse to kick him into the well, speaking sagely: “Actually, these flowers and plants shouldn’t be watered at high noon, otherwise they’ll be scalded to death.”
The wooden bucket fell into the water with a “hua-la” and made a knocking sound in the well. The scholar shook the rope: “At our house, the flowers are all watered at noon. Has Miss Shao Zi heard how all living things have souls? When they take advantage of the sun being high above and drink a little extra water, they’ll naturally become more energized.”
“But, but this is flora, ya.”
The scholar drew the water up. Indeed, it was still too heavy. He spilled some out again, bumbling around on his feet as he walked over to the flowerbeds. Picking up the scoop, he lectured: “All things have souls, all things have souls, ah.”
Hua-la~ Shao Zi saw with her own eyes her little brethren get their faces splashed with water. Then, they held onto each other and wept. The scholar mumbled, “Why does it seem like something is missing.”
Shao Zi swallowed, discreetly waving towards Azalea. Azalea understood, and while the scholar bent over to scoop water, she immediately shuffled towards Shao Zi’s spot and blocked that open area ever so slightly.6
At dusk, Shao Zi fetched a basin of water and sat in the yard, soaking her feet in the cool well water. Facing the setting sun and evening breeze, she could not be more satisfied: “This is real living, ah…”
Lady Xin sat at the side, poking her: “Lao da, how do you plan on dealing with the ghostess in the deluxe suite?”
Shao Zi was immersed in the cool sensation on her feet, replying languidly: “Didn’t Yun Chang say that the more than half of that Daoist’s soul was taken by a ghost spirit? So we just need to find that ghost spirit and get it back.”
“Yun Chang won’t leave, and I don’t have the heart to kick her out. Because of that, nobody dares stay at our Tong Fu Tavern.” Shao Zi shook her fist, “It’s for the sake of safeguarding Grandpa’s tavern.”
“Then where do we go to find the evil demon?”
With a “heh heh,” Shao Zi laughed: “No rush, with a missing piece of the three immortal souls and seven mortal forms,9 that demon has nowhere to go. As long as the the Daoist priest comes, the evil demon will definitely follow. At that time, we’ll catch the turtle in a jar10 and simply force it to hand over that piece of the soul.”
All of a sudden, the demons heard someone coming in from outside, so they sullenly returned back to their original forms.
“Shao Zi, Shao Zi.” The scholar’s voice came from far away, drifting into the backyard. Seeing her there, he walked over and said: “I’m going out tonight, take good care of the house.”
Shao Zi nodded her head seriously: “Alright, I’ll definitely look after the house.”
Hearing the sounds of water, the scholar looked towards the ground and saw a pair of delicate, fair feet swaying in the clear water. The water’s surface refracted the oranges and reds of the sunset, the contrasting of colors making her feet appear even pinker. The powder white clothes of the person sitting on the chair shifted slightly. Tilting his gaze, he could see a charming nose. Angling his head further, he saw a pair of lips stained in a faint cherry red.
The scholar pulled back his gaze, looking at her: “Mn?”
Translator’s Note: Sorry, this chapter was a little heavy on the footnotes. I’m trying to keep the main translation as clear as possible, the footnotes are just extra tidbits for those who want more cultural context or are interested in learning more. They aren’t necessarily needed for your understanding of the story.
On mobile and desktop, you can jump back and forth between the text and footnote by clicking the superscript. Hovering your cursor over it on desktop will also show the footnote directly over the text.
- 魂飛魄散 // Hun Fei Po San: In xianxia and xuanhuan terms, when the soul scatters, the spirit will dissipate and die. Even immortals cannot defy this kind of death.
- 陽氣 // Yang Qi: Refers to the yang in yin and yang. Positive, masculine energy. Where yin is darkness, yang is brightness. Qi means energy.
- Shao Zi actually says 風吹天邊跑, which is not an idiom as far as I’m aware. It literally means: The wind blows, the ends of the earth runs. I think she’s that she’s saying he even he can’t withstand the wind.
- 爬山虎 // Pa Shan Hu: Literally, climbing mountain tiger. Also called Boston ivy, grape ivy, woodbine. The pa in Pa Pa’s name is the same character from the plant’s name, meaning “climbing.”
- 虎頭虎腦 // Hu Tou Hu Nao: Lit. Tiger’s face and tiger’s brain. The author utilizes some wordplay by inserting this particular idiom, as the Chinese name of Japanese creeper, pa shan hu, also has the word tiger (虎 // hu) in it.
- She’s helping shade the demons from the sun.
- 哥 // Ge: Older brother.
- 井水不犯河水: Idiom. Fig. Everyone minds their own business.
- 三魂七魄 // Three Hun Seven Po: Daoist concepts that all humans have a soul structure of three hun and seven po. The hun, or immortal souls, refers to the spiritual self and the yang, which leaves the physical body after death and re-enters reincarnation/afterlife. The po, or mortal forms, are the corporeal and the yin, which remains with the deceased corpse. Together, the hun and po form the entire soul.
- 甕中捉鱉 // Wen Zong Zhuo Bie: Idiom. Fig. Catch an easy target that’s already in one’s grasp.