Part of a Peony’s Tavern translation project at fruitydeer.com.
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Source: 芍藥客棧 by Yi Mei Tong Qian // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
As we know by now, Yi Mei Tong Qian loves being cheeky with her writing. Here’s another bit of information about peonies that’s relevant in this chapter:
The 藥 (yào) in 芍藥 (sháo yào), the Chinese word for peony, also means “medicine.” Eastern medicine uses various plants and herbs for healing tonics, and peonies are amongst those that have medicinal properties. In particular, the dried root of the white peony is said to be capable of treating ailments like fever, inflammation and pain.1
Seeing his face darken, Shao Zi was able to return to the courtyard in good spirits. Occasionally taking liberties with this scholar was really not bad at all!
Back in the courtyard, she saw Azalea and company crouched in a circle on the ground, chatting nonstop. Shao Zi squeezed a little closer and listened, only then finding out that they were discussing the dragon deity and the little white snake. She had only left for a few moments and there were already seven or eight versions of the story. Something about a deeply moving romance that once could sing and cry to, some earth-shattering and shocking tale, a story about following one another two the ends of the earth, and even a love-hate story of desperate measures.
Everyone shared their own thoughts. It was as if they personally saw the two’s journey and experiences with their own eyes. Shao Zi was baffled. Where did they find this confidence come from?
After discussing this and that, someone finally said in surprise: “Lao da, when did you get here?”
Seeing them revealing their shock one by one, Shao Zi nearly drop kicked them into the skies. Was she so lacking in presence? Fat Bottle Gourd asked with a gossip-mongering heart: “Lao da, is it really alright for someone who seems to defy natural order2 to stay at the tavern?”
Lady Xin also couldn’t be more anxious: “That’s the dragon deity, ya. For a dragon to be hunted down like this means that those hunters definitely aren’t so simple. Perhaps he eloped with the little white snake and his entire Dragon Clan decided to go after them. If they chased all the way here, us lackey types will probably be done for.”
Pa Pa raised his hand, his voice ringing loudly: “Lackeys can also defeat the Dragon Clan.”
Everyone looked sideways at him, using severe words but affectionate hearts while patting the back of his head: “Pa Pa, just hold your milk bottle.”
Chrysanthemum asked: “Didn’t inquire anything about them just now?”
Shao Zi shook her head: “The host doesn’t ask where the guest came from. The host doesn’t ask where they’re headed. This is the rule of the tavern.”
Chrysanthemum pouted: “Tactless maiden.”
Shao Zi certainly didn’t want to quarrel with her despite being somewhat curious herself. What was the dragon deity doing with a snake demon? Moreover, things between them looked quite ambiguous?
At midnight, when Shao Zi was muddled from slumber, she heard banging noises from the kitchen. It sounded like a rat running around chaotically. So startled that her spirits completely awakened, she grabbed a shovel and leaped inside. As soon as she went in, she saw a blurry white shadow digging through the cupboards. Shao Zi’s lips twitched: “Are you a little white snake or little white mouse?”
The little white snake turned around vigilantly. When she saw Shao Zi, she once again threw herself into her arms tearfully: “Jie-jie, I’m so hungry. If I keep starving, I’m going to faint. My hands and legs are shaking and I have no energy.”
“…If you really run out of energy…” Shao Zi snorted, pointing at her own clothes that had gotten torn by the little white snake, “Pray tell, how did you do this?”
The little white snake chuckled wryly, smoothing out Shao Zi’s clothes. Even though there was no way to save those tears, she she said pitifully: “Jie-jie, we’re staying at the tavern. Shouldn’t we get some things to eat?”
Shao Zi shrugged: “Room fees can be waived, but provisions must be paid for.”
She couldn’t conjure up the things in the tavern, nor could she go to the vegetable farm to steal. Expenses were all paid through shiny white silvers, ya. Before, Yun Shang only needed three dishes a day. But dragons and snakes must have a large appetite, right? This party didn’t agree, but the little maiden continued shaking her: “Jie-jie, make us something good to eat, can you?”
Shao Zi could not resist saying: “I’m worried about you two staying here because someone who’s capable of injuring the dragon deity to this extent must not be a so simple. Should they really make a move here, the fear is that this home will be destroyed by you all. If we don’t get involved with you two, then those hunters probably won’t unleash their wrath on the tavern. So it’s fine live here, but you should make your own food to eat.”
After speaking, Shao Zi left. It was not that she didn’t want to help, but that she did not dare to. She wasn’t capable of beating anyone was capable of cause injury to the dragon deity, ya. Plus, even though Gao Ren had always arrived to help in the nick of time, she couldn’t always leave her hopes in someone who could come without a shadow and leave without a trace.
No more than two paces later, she saw her shadow reflect on the ground. Where did this firelight come from? She turned around and saw that the kitchen going up in flames, packing densely with smoke…She couldn’t help but burst with rage. You dunderhead of a little white snake, is this lighting fire for cooking or setting the house on fire, ah!
Half a shi chen later,3 Shao Zi had exhausted her best efforts to cook a meal. Along with the little white snake, she went into the room. The dragon deity’s complexion was still just as pale, his injuries extremely severe. Shao Zi was astonished. Was this really the dragon deity that nearly slaughtered her yesterday?
After the meal, the dragon deity’s complexion recovered a little, but he was still terrifyingly pale. He nodded slightly towards Shao Zi: “Many thanks.”
Shao Zi said with a taut face: “Thank you for your patronage of twenty-one copper coins.”
The dragon deity shot a faint glance at her and, with great physical difficulty, placed a gold scale on her hand: “Dragon scales can cure all kinds of poisons.”
Without realizing, Shao Zi had reached over to receive it, but by taking it, doesn’t that turn her into an accomplice that’s harboring the dragon deity?
While carrying out the leftovers, the little white snake followed from behind, tugging on the edge of Shao Zi’s clothes: “Jie-jie, can you cook us food tomorrow as well?”
Shao Zi frowned: “Matters of the kitchen are all handled by Azalea. I’m going to be busy in the main hall. As long as there’s payment, I’ll let her cook for you.”
The little white snake shook her head: “No way, you have to cook.”
“Well, because you’re a peony flower and your aura is pure, the things made by you are as effective as medicine and can help the dragon deity’s injuries heal more easily.”
Shao Zi replied swiftly: “So you two came here specially because you detected the scent of peony?”
The little white snake gave a toothy smile: “That’s right.”
Shao Zi nodded decisively: “I won’t see you off!”
“Jie-jie!” The little white snake cried out, hugging her again. “How about I tell you our story, okay? You’re so kind and beautiful and generous, you must help us out!”
Those three phrases of kind, beautiful, and generous struck at Shao Zi’s heart. It was like a spell that made her float upwards…She shook her head. How could she give up her principles for such vanity?
“Hm? There’s a story? Can I hear it?”
Shao Zi turned around stiffly, shooting a glare at the scholar. Innkeeper, you’ll end up getting silenced with death from your nosiness!
The little white snake looked at him suspiciously and the scholar immediately ran the abacus, cheerfully saying: “Tomorrow’s three meals will be served for free. Once you finish telling the story, I’ll supply another midnight snack.”
“Alright, no problem!”
Shao Zi was exasperated: “Innkeeper!”
Nonetheless, the decision-maker of the tavern was the innkeeper, and it was an innkeeper that loved hearing stories at that. Shao Zi could only succumb to being forced to sit and listen along to the story.
The little white snake coughed lightly, then began to speak: “My mother said that when I was born, thunder sounded from the horizon. The sound so loud that the eggshells cracked. Because I hadn’t stayed in my egg for one hundred years, my inborn skills were much worse than others of my kind.”
“Because my inborn abilities were so lacking, when I started school, I always did far worse than everyone else. We had to chant incantations at little tree branches everyday and turn them into insects, but when everyone else’s were turning into butterflies, mine was still turning into a bug. When their butterflies met their life expectancies, mine was still…Turning. Into. A. Bug.”
Hearing up to this point, Shao Zi couldn’t help but want to laugh.
The little white snake did not seem to mind. She said in detail: “Afterwards, mother ascended to immortality and had me continue learning demon sorcery. She would wait for me in the Immortal Realm. So, I studied very hard, but I still couldn’t make sense of my learning. Later, I heard the teacher say that the Dragon Clan is the most outstanding of spiritual beasts, especially that dragon deity. As soon as he was born, his spiritual prowess was enough to defy natural order. So I thought if paid respects to let him take me as a disciple then there wouldn’t be anyone that would pick on me in the future!”
“I traveled the mountains and waded through rivers, arriving at the Dragons’ Gate at the end of the horizon, hoping to see the dragon deity. Who would have thought that when I got to the Dragons’ Gate, I would get stopped by the guards and get kicked into the clouds.”
As she spoke, the little white snake sniffled, finally showing her grievances.
The scholar chuckled: “Dragons are ancient divine beasts. Their hearts are naturally arrogant and merciless.”
The little white snake immediately gave him a thumbs up: “Innkeeper is right. After fainting, I woke up and found that I was tossed back to Serpent Mountain. I was so upset that my breathing was uneven. After working so hard for so long, I was kicked back just like that…but my wish to find a shi fu4 didn’t wither and I decided to change my methods.”
At this point, even Shao Zi had concentrated her attention on the story, attentively listening to her speak. But upon reaching this part, the little white snake’s calm and steady voice became a little faint, carrying along the bashfulness of a young girl.
Translator’s Note: Love Shao Zi’s brief loss of cognitive function when Little White started buttering her up with flattery, LOL.
- Source: Healthline.
- An extremely powerful or omnipotent being.
- One shi chen is two modern hours, so half is one modern hour.
- 師傅 // Shi Fu: Master or teacher.