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)
So I realized I made a big derp for the previous arc and was translating Yun Shang’s name wrong. It should actually be Yun Chang. The Chinese character (裳) has two pronunciations and I went with the latter, but I’m more certain now that the former is the correct one. I’ve gone and updated all of the previous chapters. Also, I don’t think I ever mentioned, but Yun Chang’s name means “cloud skirt.” Quite fitting since she wore white all the time 🙂
Now, back to the story of the dragon and the snake.
“Yes.” And then, he added, “Always.”
She smiled: “How wonderful.”
Seeing her charming face, he quietly leaned over, gathering her into his arms and embracing her. Her breathing stilled. Being hugged by someone of such a tall stature filled her with a sense of safety. Quietly, she nestled closer to him. A low whisper dusted next to her ears like a brushing wind: “I’m the dragon deity.”
Her eyes widened and her heartstrings strummed. So it turned out that the one she had been waiting for had long been right at her side…
And this person said he would always accompany her.
Recalling the past and how he was still by her side even to this day, she could not help but hug him. She said softly: “How wonderful…that you haven’t left me behind. I know you want to go and do not wish to burden me. But if you do that, won’t that turn me into an ungrateful little snake that’s forgotten the kindness of a benefactor? I want to work hard and ascend to immortality and I look forward to the day that I can stand proudly next to you. How can I accept something like this happening while on my road to cultivation?”
The dragon deity sighed quietly, pulling her into his arms. Since he had decided since the beginning to be together, then he should not let her go.
The porridge had already cooled, but their two hearts remained just as warm.
The night was as cool as water, but Shao Zi still hadn’t gone back to rest.
She took a cinnabar and mixed it into a vermillion pigment. But when she got to the backyard, she saw that the scholar had carried a ladder over, very slowly climbing his way up.
The scholar climbed onto the roof and caught a whiff of ocean stench. He looked up into the distance. Where dawn was breaking on the horizon, there was a blanket of dark red, reflecting in his eyes a hostile energy. He shifted his ears slightly and heard the clamoring noises of weaponry. Drawing in his focus once more, a faint floral fragrance touched the tip of his nose. He tilted his head to look and saw Shao Zi’s charming face before his eyes as her gaze bore into the distant sky.
Though Shao Zi’s demon power was not strong, the hostile energy of the Mermen was simply too strong. Even she could detect it. She trembled from the chill, repeating, “Hurry and draw it,1 they’ve almost reached town.” After, she noticed that the scholar had covered his nose and lowered his head. She gave him a nudge: “Innkeeper, focus!”
“Oh…let me take a moment. Shao Zi, I have something to discuss with you.”
“Innkeeper, please speak.”
“No more of the grand replenishment tonic.”
Shao Zi seemed to have a moment of clarity: “Had you not mentioned, I would’ve completely forgotten. After I finish drawing this, I’ll go make it. Innkeeper, no need to specially remind me.”2
The scholar gazed at the sky as his eyes welled up with tears.
Shao Zi thought that drawing the entire contents of the scroll would take at least one shi chen, but who would have thought that the scholar could take just one glance, and with a “shua–shua–shua,” finish drawing over half of it. She was amazed. Had she not felt that the scholar and Gao Ren walked to different tunes, she might have mistaken them for the same person.
The morning light reflected against the earth and the rooftop remained as per usual. Nothing indicated anything out of the ordinary. But in the eyes of Shao Zi, it was akin to seeing a gigantic portrait. It looked like some kind of divine beast, but one that she had never seen before. When the very last bits of the cinnabar fell upon the divine beast’s eyes, she heard a low roar. It came to life, erecting itself so tall that it reached the clouds. Crouched upon the rooftop, its gaze was burning, reflecting a majestic presence in all directions.
Shao Zi’s eyes opened wide, suddenly feeling that even the Mermen would not be able to pick a fight with them.
The scholar stretched his waist: “Alright, it’s finished. Seems like drawing bits of flowers and greenery often is still rather useful.
Shao Zi finally gave the scholar a stamp of approval. Even though she did not know his objective for becoming master of the tavern, if he was willing to help, it meant that he did not harbor evil intentions and also wanted to join in on watching over the tavern, right? Seeing that his face was dyed slightly red from the cinnabar, she reached and helped him wipe it off. The surface felt slightly cool but also a little soft. Then, she saw his gaze lower. His expression became wistful, truly appearing like someone who had walked out of an ink wash painting. Shao Zi inexplicably blanked out. Hastily pulling back her hand, she climbed down from the ladder.
She must be possessed! How could she, for a moment just now, feel as if the scholar was like a divine being? She touched her nose. Mn, it was fine. She must have been mistaken then.
Just as before, Tong Fu Tavern opened up shop early in the morning. Shao Zi had tossed and turned all night, but she was not tired at all. When noon came and she made the great replenishing tonic for the scholar, she made another serving for the dragon deity.
Once she finished washing the dishes in the kitchen and came outside, she once more saw the scholar watering the plants with calm composure. Ladle by ladle, he sprinkled the water on the flowerbed, the splashes of water refracting rainbow colors.
The demons who had been ravaged for several days had become accustomed to this. Ever since the first instances of, “Your uncle, your brother-in-law, your uncle-in-law,”3 it’s turned into, “Oh, he’s back again, he’s pouring water again so it’s bath time,” et cetera. Shao Zi crouched by the door, watching him water. Since the scholar isn’t a simple person, then there was no way that he was oppressing them on purpose, right? She quietly touched her stomach. Her stomach had felt strange every time since he gave her that tea before, becoming more energetic. Could it be that something else was going on?
She became immersed as she watched. But when she saw someone shouting from the front hall, she immediately got up to welcome the guests.
It was two men, one tall and one short. Though their faces were unrefined, their skin was surprisingly good. It wouldn’t be going overboard to use the phrase, “moist and tender,” which is often used for describing women. With a smile, Shao Zi welcomed them inside to sit: “Are the two guests here for a stay or stopping for a meal?”
The two exchanged a glance: “Just bring over some good wine and good food. Money is not an issue.”
Shao Zi felt a deep gratification. The straightforward patrons are always the most generous. As she turned to go to the kitchen, the two added: “Miss, has a man and woman passed by in these decent days? The man is injured and the woman is a little maiden.”
Shao Zi took pause, then smiled: “Our family runs a tavern, the number of customers who’ve passed by to dine are too many to count, so I really haven’t paid attention. But as for whether or not whether or not someone like that has stayed at our place, then I have not seen them. How about I go over to the nearby taverns and help inquire?”
The two shared another glance, nodding: “Alright.”
Shao Zi walked calmly into the kitchen, pressing her thumping heart. She could not detect their true forms, so their cultivation must be higher than her own. The ones that they inquired after were clearly the dragon deity and little white snake, so these two must be mermen? She wrinkled her brows and leaned over the window. The scholar had just finished watering the plants and left. She waved: “Lady Xin.”
Lady Xin, who was still immersed in the sensation of soaking in a hot spring, heard the call and returned to her senses: “What’s the matter, lao da?”
Shao Zi softly hushed her and said quietly: “Go tell the people in the deluxe suite to not come out, there are people looking for them.”
“Order received.” Lady Xin bent over slightly, then extended her head in through the window.
With that, Shao Zi returned to the kitchen at ease. After cooking some dishes and bring them out, she saw the scholar standing at the the till, running the abacus with no shifts in expression. When she looked over to the customers, not a single shadow remained. Shao Zi blinked: “Innkeeper, where are the people that were sitting here just now?”
“When I came over, there wasn’t anyone here.”
Shao Zi looked at him, then looked at the poached chicken and pork shoulder in her hands, nearly suffering an internal injury.
Scoundrels! They actually dared to freeload. They’d better not let her run into them, or she’ll hit them each time she sees them!
Just as she finished her vexing, two more customers, one fat and one skinny, came in and said: “Bring over a table of your best dishes.” Before Shao Zi could even get giddy, they added: “Has a man and woman passed by in these decent days? The man is injured and the woman is a little maiden.”
Scoundrels, back again. Shao Zi’s heart was in a bad state…
Shao Zi decided she should add a sign at the door: Ten Coins for Inquiries. When the fat and skinny duo finished asking, she answered with a negative. Indeed, they simply turned around and left. She looked at the calm scholar, angrily setting the chicken and pork shoulder in front of him: “Innkeeper, let’s eat!”
The scholar was distressed: “I’m very full…I just drank a serving of soup…”
Shao Zi glared at him, tearing off a chicken leg: “Here, Innkeeper. You’re too skinny. Eat and fatten up some.””
In the afternoon, a few customers came in, one right after the other. Daily business was average, but the money earned was enough to keep the tavern running, so Shao Zi was already very satisfied.
At night, Shao Zi cooked some dishes and let the little white snake carry it back to the room. Then, she got ready to return to the flowerbed and sleep. Just as her feet sunk in, Pa Pa said: “Lao da, did you cast some powerful spell? I was just out to play, and the other buddies asked where I went if I spent the whole day outside of the tavern. I said I was here the whole time, but they said they couldn’t scent my demon energy at all.”
Shao Zi pointed at the rooftop: “There’s a spell drawn over there. It’s said that it can protect the tavern from foreign demon energy. There’s a really big divine beast over there, no?”
Everyone raised their heads and looked over: “What divine beast?”
Shao Zi was startled. Was it gone? She hurried looked in that direction, but it was clearly still there: “It’s right there, over there.”
Cypress Tree ge patted her shoulder: “Lao da, cassia seed soup can help improve eyesight.”
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A big hug and thank you to everyone who’s been reading and supporting this translation so far! ❤️
- Recall that Shao Zi received a scroll with protective capabilities from Gao Ren in Chapter 2.03.
- He asked her to stop making it, but she thinks he was asking or remarking that she wasn’t making the tonic anymore. The scholar’s line is more ambiguous in Chinese because there’s no tense.
- Reminder from Chapter 1.02 that it’s common to say “[repeat word] your [relative]!” or “[repeat word] your [bodily organ]!” as a comeback or pseudo-expletive. Like a “your mom” insult.