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)
In this section, we find out some more of the little snake demon and the dragon deity’s backstory. Shao Zi reacts hilariously at first, but goes into panic mode upon hearing the rest of the story. The scholar…reveals a rare flash of sensibility.
“And so, I went back to the foot of the mountain and focused on cultivating. Five hundred years later, I was finally ready. I transformed into his appearance and attended all sorts of banquets in the Heavenly Realm. I would use my hands to grab food, shake my leg incessantly, and pick my teeth. When I sneezed, I would inhale sharply. Turning his image into a mess, I thought that one day he would hear of it and come capture me. Then, we could meet successfully.”
The scholar laughed loudly: “Snakes have always been called a little dragons. So being able transform into one after five hundred years without others being able to tell the difference isn’t too odd. Really…commendable perseverance.”
Shao Zi’s focus was not on this point at all as she smiled stiffly: “For these five hundred years, you didn’t do anything other than mimic his appearance? Just to be able to turn into him for the sake of framing him?”
The little white snake nodded innocently: “That’s right.”
Shao Zi screamed inwardly, finally understanding why the little white snake’s cultivation was so low. She brought it upon herself, okay?!
The scholar asked smilingly: “You succeeded? He came to see you?”
The little white snake sniffled, choking: “No, he still didn’t come capture me.”
The dragon deity was really unruffled, Shao Zi lamented. This was clearly just plain mean. She patted her head: “What sad things are you recalling now? It’s not the first time you’ve suffered frustrations.”
The little snake spoke indignantly: “Because I feasted everywhere, I turned into: A. Big. Fatty!”
The corner of Shao Zi’s mouth twitched as she suppressed her laughter. Then she glanced at the scholar. Clearly he was resisting from laughing, too.
The little white snake sniffled bitterly: “Afterwards, I abstained from eating meat for a year before finally returning to my original appearance. I was so bitter.”
Shao Zi couldn’t find anymore words to comfort her. The course of events seemed to get more interesting: “Then what?”
They were currently inseparable and had no objections to being given one room to share. For the dragon deity still be able to remain so composed after getting schemed against like this for so many years, perhaps one could say he was generous. Or perhaps he thought paying attention to it was beneath his dignity. Yet, in the end, they still synchronized as one. Hold on. This was no longer the synchronization of master and disciple. Rather, it’s a type of deep, masochistic love that that crosses beyond one’s own species, no?
At this, the little white snake finally spoke: “Afterwards, I learned to be obedient. Since he was not bothered by infamy, then I would go do some good deeds for him. Things like drizzling rain to distinguish mountain fires in a small radii were doable for me. Occasionally helping some little demons out of goodwill would also help improve his reputation.”
The scholar could no longer hold back either: “And then what?”
“And then…he still didn’t show up. But I was not expecting it anyways and treated it as doing good deeds in his name. However, one day, he really came…and even until now, he’s always stayed.” The little white snake had a slight blush on her face, her smile playful.
After listening to this, Shao Zi’s teenage heart also began swaying along, sighing: “If there was someone that awesome by my side, how wonderful would that be.”
The scholar coughed lightly. Look at me, look at me, ya, Shao Zi.
It’s a shame that Shao Zi was too preoccupied to pay him any attention. She finally sorted it out. In sum, it’s a little white snake’s road to getting a shi fu, right? She asked: “Then how did he get hurt and come all the way here?”
The little white snake scratched her head: “Ah…this…the people of the dragon clan said it was improper for the future successor of the dragon king to keep a snake at his side, so they wanted to throw me out. I secretly left, but then I found that the dragon deity followed. No matter how much I tried, I still couldn’t escape. One day, an earth demon told me that when the Mermen learned the news of the dragon deity disappearing, the merman king decided to take with him thousands of mermen to besiege him. As soon as I heard the news, I immediately transformed into a dragon to lure them away, but I didn’t expect that when they had me surrounded, he appeared again. Then we rushed out of the siege and fled all the way to this town and hid here.”
The scholar said: “Despite suffering injuries, the ability to escape the siege of thousands of merman is no easy feat. Plus, the Mermen and the Dragon Clan are mortal enemies. Once an opportunity is found, they would never let the other go so easily.”
Shao Zi had never come in contact with any mermen and only knew that they renowned for being good fighters. The little white snake was really brave, even daring to lure the mermen army out. But the dragon deity wasn’t so bad himself—he didn’t leave her behind. The once calm and collected voice next to her ear suddenly turned loud and her arm was once again hugged: “Jie-jie, don’t throw us out. Help us cook us food every day, won’t you? Once his injury heals, I’ll give you all three thousand years of my cultivation.”
After hearing this chain of events, she became even more anxious. Is this asking her to offend the Mermen? The Mermen have terribly violent tempers, okay? If by chance, calamity is brought upon the pond fish,1 the tavern will be no more. Thinking up to here, she sucked in a cold breath: “Oh no, I still haven’t drawn the seal that Gao Ren gave me!”
Then, she grabbed the scholar’s hand and started walking outside: “Give me a hand.”
“Miss Shao Zi, I’m just a scholar who lacks the strength to even truss a chicken…”
Pretending, still pretending. Shao Zi looked at him indignantly: “If you keep talking, I’ll throw you to away to feed monsters.”
The scholar did not speak further, turning back with a smile: “We’ve finished hearing the story, your Shao Zi jie-jie won’t drive you two out, so back to the room and accompany the dragon deity.”
The little white snake paused, ultimately still nodding. This smile…was tranquil that it made her feel at ease. Carrying the midnight snack back to the room, she saw the dragon deity just about to get off the bed. She hurried over: “With such a heavy injury, where are you going?”
Seeing her, the dragon deity at last stopped moving about. His eyes were dark like ink: “I woke up and I found you were gone.”
“I went to get food from the innkeeper.” The little white snake moved a stool over, sitting by his side. She held the bowl and blew lightly on it. “The porridge is hot, wait a moment before drinking it.”
The dragon deity looked at her intently, then rubbed her head. From this angle, that petite little tip of her nose was white, her face habitually lacking in color.2 The little white snake could be considered half a dragon, but she wasn’t areal dragon and therefore, couldn’t get accepted by the Dragon Clan. If they accepted her, then he could honorably and openly take her back, instead of letting her to live in danger.
Sensing a steadfast gaze, she lifted her head over slightly and saw his eyes gazing down at her. She smiled: “Hungry? I’m blowing on it, it’s almost cooled off.”
The dragon deity lowered his head and pressed a mark to her forehead, lightly and with restraint.
The little white snake didn’t know the worries of his heart as she said: “The innkeeper and Shao Zi jie-jie are both good people. Just now, I told them some things about the past and not only did they not give me a hard time, but they also cooked me delicious things to eat.”
Speaking to the past, the dragon deity’s expressionless face also shifted, his gaze softening: “I still remember.”
She smiled: “I remember, too.”
Some things could never be forgotten, even after an entire lifetime.
Inside the room was quiet as could be. There was no stirring outside the tavern, either. The little white snake leaned against the dragon deity, falling gently into a dream of memories of the past.
She cultivated for five hundred years in order to finally be able to turn into a dragon. To get the dragon deity to appear, she mulled it over and and decided to commit bad deeds.
Yes, bad deeds. If sincerely pleading didn’t help, then do the opposite.
The first objective was to invite the Eight Immortals’3 Banquet, which great deities throughout the world would be invited to attend. Once she asked around about the news, she followed the snake king and entered the Immortal Realm. She parted ways with the snake king at the entrance, traveling by cloud with extreme nervousness for fear of exposing any flaws. At Heaven’s Southern Gate, the guards did not even check for her invitation and even invited her in politely. The treatment was completely different. The aftermath was that she walked in too much of a hurry. With a stumble, she fell face to the sky and her face turned as red as a persimmon…too embarrassing.
No, her goal was to be like this, ya!
Indeed, none among the immortals dared to laugh. They even rushed over to support her, asking: “Dragon Deity, what’s the matter?”
She enunciated the words: “I’m hungry.”
If there was a first, then there would be a second. All in all, she went to seventy or eighty banquets, eating and drinking like a glutton. Even though the dragon deity still didn’t show up, she ended up getting a taste of delicacies from all the realms, sitting at the seat of honor every time.
But she didn’t know that her reputation had already reached the scope of the gods.
Under the severe yet affectionate words of persuasion his elders, under the repetitive yet motherly rebuking of the head minister, and under the continued back and forth reports of the guards, he was finally aware—someone impersonated his name to eat and drink gluttonously across the realms, seriously affecting his reputation. Those in the Dragon Clan who were unaware even thought it was him.
But he did not pay much attention. They would eventually get bored of doing something as overt as this. However, he never expected that would keep going on for years. Every now and then, he would hear the guards report about that person doing something somewhere as well as the inappropriate things they did. Hearing about these things when he had spare time did not seem half bad, either.
Yet, before she could await the dragon deity coming over to settle the score, she had already eaten herself into a little fat snake. On the streets, more people stared at her while wiping their drool. At the end, she could only give up. She didn’t want to be so fat that she could not even see her toes.
Ten days, twenty days, one month…three months…
He asked those beside him: “No more news?”
- 殃及池魚 // Yang Ji Chi Yu: Figure of speech describing suffering for no reason. The gist of the tale goes: There was once a fire at the city’s gates. While one fish saw it and wanted to run, others didn’t care because they were far away from the scene. But humans ended up extinguishing the fire with the pond water and the pond was drained. The fish then experienced calamity. They didn’t realize that although they had nothing to do with the fire, they were inexplicably linked through the third party—the water.
- I.e., having the flush from blood circulating in them, since snakes are cold blooded animals.
- 八仙 // Ba Xian: A group of eight legendary immortals who each specialize in a different power. They are said to live on the mythological islands of Bohai Sea, which are known to house immortals living on earth or at least, where they traveled to eat a ceremonial meal. Fang Zhang, Ying Zhou, and Mount Peng Lai are among the islands commonly reference in xianxia. Emperor Qin Shi Huang (of terra cotta warriors fame) was said to have sought out Mount Peng Lai for the elixir of eternal life.