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)
This chapter, we take a short breather from the central conflict and bring things back to Shao Zi and her scholar.
Shao Zi immediately narrowed her eyes at him, Lady Xin lifted her leg and kicked: “Ah~ You actually dare to say that lao da‘s vision is bad! Go away!” With a shriek, Cypress Tree ge flew with the wind and fell into the horizon…Shao Zi hugged one of the magnolia tree’s branches: “Lady Xin’s might is formidable.”
“But, lao da…we really don’t see a divine beast over there.”
Shao Zi brows knit together with doubt: “I’ll go ask the scholar.”
With that, she went jumped straight to the second floor window, readying herself to crawl in from the windowsill. In any case, it was not possible that he really is a weak scholar. He could even be a vagabond immortal who enjoyed fooling people, so she wasn’t the least bit afraid of frightening him.
Upon jumping inside, she once again saw a cloud of mist. She waved her hands and opened up a path, whispering: “Could it be that he’s bathing again?”
From behind the screen came the sounds of water, then a pause: “Shao Zi?”
The scholar was just about to get up and put on his robes, lest she come over again. Who could have known that just as he stood up halfway, a head would peek over. He could only sit back down inside the tub. It’s not just that she was missing a few brain cells—she was clearly missing several.
Shao Zi had no inkling of the matter. However, did her eyesight blur just now? How come it seemed like the scholar didn’t look that skinny and actually had chest muscles? It made her really want to touch it.
The scholar saw her eyes shifting and was unsure of what she was thinking about. Under the clouds and mist, she was simply…a rare beauty: “Shao, Shao Zi?”
Shao Zi came back to her senses: “Mn?”
The scholar laughed bitterly: “Has no one told you, men and woman should not be so intimate? You coming in while a man is bathing is…improper.”
Shao Zi said without flinching: “I won’t do anything to you, don’t worry.”
The scholar’s eyebrow twitched, what was clearly worrying him was that he wouldn’t be able to resist doing something to her, okay!
Shao Zi recalled the business that brought her here, then brushed away the crazy thoughts in her head: “Innkeeper, what in the world is that spell? How come only I can see it?”
“Oh…in ancient times, weren’t there many monsters who rebelled and destroyed people’s livelihoods? Then, someone subdued them and sealed them into spells. When the time called for it, one could be drawn and the artist who drew it would naturally become its owner. Within it’s vicinity, if you don’t wish for it to harm someone, it will be able to detect that. This one is called Pi Xiu1 and can absorb demon energy. Within the protection range of the Pi Xiu, no matter what happens, the demon’s power won’t weaken.”
Shao Zi gulped: “So that’s to say, if one comes across a powerful opponent, no matter how the fight against the opponent goes, one can remain as per usual and not expend any demon power?”
The scholar smiled faintly: “Children really can be taught.”2 After speaking, he saw Shao Zi lie against the edge of the tub, sniveling. He couldn’t help but ask: “What’s wrong?”
Shao Zi was aggrieved: “I should have given those two freeloaders from today a good beating!”
The scholar laughed loudly: “There will always be an opportunity.” Just as he finished speaking, he saw her lift her gaze and fix her eyes on him. Her eyes glistened with brilliant light, forcing him to pull back stiffly: “What, what are you doing?”
“Dumb Scholar, how do you know about the scrolls of ancient times?” Shao Zi paled and pulled back. “Are you a high god?”
The scholar smiled: “Do I seem like one?”
Shao Zi stood up an examined him closely, then shook her head decisively: “No.”
Shao Zi hummed softly: “No matter who you are, as long as you treat the tavern well, you’re a good person.”
He watched her leave in large strides, the sounds fading away upon reaching the windowsill. The scholar reached for the hot towel and covered his face with it, muttering: “In reality, the tavern is the biggest obstacle of all…”
Shao Zi ran to the rooftop to look at that ancient divine beast again. So this was a Pi Xiu. Its head was like a tiger’s, it’s body elongated; because it was drawn with cinnabar, its whole figure was rosy with a burning gaze; indeed, it’s might could send fear in all directions. She sat to the side and poked its paws. It was actually quite soft, she couldn’t help but burst with joy, hugging its hooves which, although soft like water, couldn’t be crushed. She really wanted to keep raising it at her side.
The moonlight was somber, reflecting a silvery white on the earth. Shao Zi yawned a few times, then noticed two people standing on the rooftop of Jin Xiu Tavern across the street. She rubbed her eyes and recognized that those were the chubby and skinny people who came to the tavern today. She perked her ears and their conversation became clear.
“The dragon energy clearly disappeared around this area. Could he have gone back to the heavens?”
“The Dragon Clan is also tracking them, how could they go back? We need some sort of explanation.”
Shao Zi squinted. Mermen? From what they’re saying, the Dragon Clan was also looking for the dragon deity and the little white snake? So that tall and short person from today were of the Dragon Clan? Oh no, she lied to two sets of passers by and offended both sides of black and white. She trembled, should she subserviently send over the dragon deity and little white snake as an offering!?
Suddenly, those two gazes shifted over to her. Shao Zi blinked. A bead of cold sweat fell from her back. All she was doing here was admiring the moon…
As she drew back her legs, wanting to leave, they had already begun moving towards her. Shao Zi shifted sideways ever so slightly to try and crawl away, but a figure at the side sat down and raised his hands to embrace her, resting her head in his arms. He whispered in her ears: “Don’t move.”
Warm breath wafted over, making her ears tingle. Shao Zi didn’t dare to move anymore. Though the scholar’s identity was an enigma, his actions were reassuring, bringing about an inexplicable sense of ease.
After some time without movement, Shao Zi said in a low tone: “Have they left?”
“They’re moonbathing across the street.”
“Shh, mermen love the moon likean obession, so they won’t be leaving for a while. You’re in the midst of Pi Xiu, so they see you as a mortal. Mortals can’t see them, so don’t stare.”
“Oh…” Shao Zi pulled away from his arm. That warmth dissipated. “Then what are we doing right now?”
The scholar chuckled: “Admiring the moon.”
…Alright, occasionally mingling with the pretentious and feigning as a scholarly person wasn’t such a bad idea. Shao Zi sat, hugging her knees. Every now and then, she would peer at the scholar. Under the bright, clear moon, the scholar looked like an immortal, handsome and forthright. Her heart couldn’t help but beat a little faster: “Innkeeper, how long will you be staying at the tavern?”
“Once I’m done waiting for someone, I’ll be leaving.”
“Oh…who are you waiting for?”
The scholar’s lips curved: “A maiden.”
“Tch.” Shao Zi shook her head. She had just thought him as a person who did not eat same the food as mere mortals,3 but his nature was still that of a Casanova scholar. “Let me ask you a question, alright? You’re obviously a person who also walks the path of the Dao, so how come you insist on watering us at high noon? We could get burned, okay.”
The scholar shifted his eyes slightly, looked at her for a moment, then tilted his head back and covered his nose. Carrying this sense of helplessness from not being able to even look straight on for too long, he wondered, how he could even begin engaging in a heart to heart? Indeed, the effect of yesteryear was too strong…After collecting his thoughts, he said: “All living things have a spirit, some achieve the Dao sooner and are naturally different than other plants. One’s spiritual power is borne of yin but weak in yang. If one lacks yang for too long, they’ll fall more and more into the extreme.”
Shao Zi pondered for a long time before finally probing: “In order words, you’re helping us balance our internal yin and yang?”
Shao Zi finally understood. They demons enjoyed the coolness of the moonlight and would get weak from being under the sun for too long, so they always absorbed energy at night and hardly moved about in the daytime. No wonder every time the well water splashed on them, her demon’s body remained unharmed despite felt boiling hot all over. So that was the reason.
“Then what about the tea you gave me? There must be something in it.”
“It’s morning dew paired with thousand year old ginseng, simmered for half a shi chen.”
Shao Zi stared blankly. No wonder he went out every morning; it was to collect dew. But wait, why spend so much effort to make a cup of tea for her? She suddenly felt guilt-ridden, asking shamefully: “Why do you treat me so well?”
The scholar breathed lightly, was the truth finally coming to light? His expression was gentle while his laughter was faint: “What do think?”
Translator’s Note: The scholar’s biggest rival for Shao Zi’s attention? The tavern.