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)
Last week, we learned how Yun Chang and the Daoist priest met. This time, we continue with their backstory…
He didn’t remember…if he could not remember after a hundred times, in the future, he would never remember, no?
Every time she could approach him, it would only be after he had fainted from hunger. Once he woke, he would see a pile of food. Each time, he would ask what her name was.
Each time, she would reply, “I’m called Yun Chang.” Her response each time was full of sincerity.
She became riddled with scars. Not only did she have to look constantly be mindful of the Daoist priest’s soul, but she also had to drive away those ghouls and demons that wanted to devour him. Then, she had to track the whereabouts of that wild boar demon. Still, she didn’t feel the least bit of regret. On the contrary, she was very happy. After drifting for hundreds of years, it seemed that she finally found something that gave her the strength to continue awaiting collection. If even a mortal with an incomplete spirit could be so dedicated, why couldn’t she?
Thus, her relationship with the Daoist priest could probably be considered that of the savior and the saved.
But she just didn’t understand why every time he made a move on her, she didn’t like it and was extremely downcast.
Two hundred times.
“I’m called Yun Chang, ah.”
The Doaist priest nodded, but her only thoughts were that he would forget her again. She had heard that the netherworld’s registry check that was conducted every five hundred years was fast approaching. It was done to bring straggler ghosts back into the reincarnation cycle. However, she still hadn’t found the wild boar spirit. She couldn’t stop feeling depressed. Should she be sent off to reincarnate, what would happen to him? She had finally fattened him up a bit after much difficulty. Was he going to lose all that weight again?
She looked at the priest, threads of melancholy blooming in her heart: “You…could you kiss me?”
The Daoist priest held a pair of chopsticks in his hands, pausing. He neither looked over nor responded.
She leaned over to touch him. But in that moment, he ducked away. She watched him, looking exceptionally lonely. Even though he would forget her the next day, she liked his persistent ways. All she wanted was one kiss; if he could not remember her, then could he let her remember him?
Two hundred and fifty times.
Three hundred times.
“I’m called Yun Chang, ah.”
He nodded: “You’re injured.”
She smiled: “When you slept, a demon wanted to eat you so I chased it away.”
She hesitated, asking cautiously: “Could you kiss me?”
He was quiet, then said: “Thank you.”
Her eyes were somber, hugging her knees with her head tilted as she looked at him, enjoying this brief meeting. His appearance, the position of his hairline, the length of the hairs on his temples. Even with her eyes closed, she could trace it all perfectly. But still, he couldn’t remember her. He merely treated her as a female ghost that he met in passing.
Perhaps, even until she reincarnates, he would only treat her as an ordinary female ghost. To the extent of even…killing her when he was not paying attention.
Even so, she still wanted to help him.
Recalling those three hundred moments worth of memories, Yun Chang felt a little tired.
She looked at Shao Zi, who was waiting for her explanation. She didn’t speak of those matters of years past, only saying: “Before I met him, I lived my days like a soulless body. I couldn’t be like normal people and stand under the sun for too long. I forgot the taste of food and the feeling of physical vitality. Every day, I drifted along aimlessly, sometimes even thinking that my soul may as well just shatter and disperse. But then I met him. He clearly lost all sensations and was unable to see or think clearly. He didn’t even have any perception towards eating. However, he continued working hard to fulfill his duties as a priest. Watching him, I began to have a sort of thought to continuing on and ‘living’ well, that I must wait for the opportunity to reincarnate and be reborn. Although I appeared in front of him three hundred times, he still didn’t remember and would face me with a sword in hand. But I still kept thinking that it would be good to help him, it was just like helping myself.”
Shao Zi couldn’t resist saying: “Although you decided to help him since you’re about to re-enter reincarnation, luring out the wild boar spirit that took his soul like this is really dangerous, ya.”
Yun Chang nodded, her complexion as white as paper: “But if I don’t take advantage of this final opportunity, I’ll never be able to help him again.”
Shao Zi clenched her teeth: “Foolish!”
She could not understand why this female ghost was so dumb, inexplicable anger in her heart as she looked at her. Yun Chang remained silent. Only when Shao Zi almost left did she say: “Is it really that foolish?
Shao Zi took pause as she heard the threads of anguish in that were hidden in that tone of voice. She couldn’t bear to keep blaming her, slowly replying: “I could repeat that a hundred times, but you will continue doing it, right?”
Yun Chang smiled: “I will.”
Shao Zi sighed. She came out of the room, her mood complicated while going downstairs. She saw the scholar gesturing at Da Huang, who was being raised in the tavern,1 smiling amiably: “Come, Wang Cai2 come here. I’ll give you something to eat.”
Shao Zi’s burst of energy was enough to swallow mountains and rivers: “Innkeeper!”
The scholar’s gesturing stopped. He raised his hand came to a stop, giving a stern look: “Wang Cai, go away. Don’t come here and snatch food to eat.”
Wang Cai looked up with his tongue hanging: “Wang!”3
Shao Zi’s brows spasmed as she sat in front of him: “This replenishing tonic is good for your body.”
The scholar made an incredibly miserable “mn” sound. Shao Zi then added: “Also, it’s called Da Huang, not Wang Cai.”
“Wang Cai is a good name, ah. I originally wanted to call him Zhao Cai,4 but the auntie at the rice shop next door has already used name.”
“…” Shao Zi returned to the backyard in irritation. Vulgar and intolerable! He is a refined and gentle scholar of intellect, and yet, it’s a moneymaking tree one moment and Wang Cai the next. Can he put his thoughts on the straight and narrow path for once, ya. As soon as she entered the yard, a violent scene laid right before her eyes. The moneymaking tree, chrysanthemum, and backyard demons were fighting in a jumbled mass.
“Ah~~~ Stinky azalea~ Eat my fist!”
“Arrogant grouch! The magpie makes a nest and the turtledove dwells in it!”5
“Be careful or I will curse you with a lifetime of no wealth and no fortune!”
“Goodbye, I won’t send you off!”
Shao Zi shouted, “Stop fighting!” But no one listened…She raised her palm and muttered a few words. The calm well water rushed forth like a winding snake, hitting all the demons with a “pa-pa” sound. As if on reflex, the demons each reached out to catch the water, crying out comfortably. After licking clean the water on the corner of his mouth, Cypress Tree ge leaped over, pointing angrily: “Lao da, these two buggers are telling us to call them lao da.”
The chrysanthemum was dressed in robes of golden yellow while the moneymaking tree wore gold silks printed with coins. Under the sun, the lustrous yellows nearly blinded Shao Zi. Indeed, they were the golden ingots of the plant world, giving others a sudden urge of wanting to fawn over them…
The moneymaking tree fanned the the golden fan in his hand: “Who knew that this yard was filled with colleagues of cultivation. Apologies, apologies. It’s our first time at this honorable place, please pardon us.”
Shao Zi eyed him as he spoke with such magnanimity. This type of demeanor obviously was obviously one that wanted others to come forth and worship them. Taking out the imposing look of a lao da, she put her hands on her hips and said: “Over here, I’m the lao da. Since you are guests, you should abide by the rules.”
The chrysanthemum hummed softly: “What rules?”
Shao Zi said earnestly: “Unity and fraternal love, safeguarding the tavern. No harming people, so as not attract Daoist priests over.”
Lady Xin blinked: “Did she just make a ‘tch~~~’ sound?”
Translator’s Note: Poor Yun Chang 🙁 I think my favorite thing about Shao Zi is how she thinks everyone else is so silly when her own silliness is enough to put herself right in their leagues. At least the other backyard buddies look up to her.
- 大黃 // Da Huang: Means big yellow. Short-haired native dogs, called “tu gou,” are often generically called Little Yellow/White/Black depending on the color of their fur. Da huang is also the Chinese name for the rhubarb vegetable, so the author is being cheeky with her word choice.
- 旺財 // Wang Cai: Means flourishing riches. In Chinese, “wang” is also an onomatopoeia for dog barks.
- 旺 // Wang: Onomatopoeia for dog barks.
- 招財 // Zhao Cai: Means inviting wealth. Like Wang Cai, these are both cheesy, old-fashioned, and slightly tacky names names.
- 鵲巢鳩占: Idiom. Fig. To reap where one has not sown. Referring to the newbies taking over the other demons’ hard-earned homes.