Part of a Memories of a Graceful Reflection translation project at fruitydeer.com.
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Source: 猶記驚鴻照影 by Feng Ning Xue Wu // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
Ah, we can always count on Shao Zi to be as dense as a brick. I wish we could get more moments between her and the scholar, but Shao Zi’s tavern life wouldn’t be the same without all those other hijinks.
Shao Zi’s brows twisted once, then twisted again. The melon seeds in her head turned a thousand times. Then, she jumped up in alarm: “You’re trying to fatten me up and eat me!”
The scholar facepalmed.
“Innkeeper, what’s wrong with you?”
“I have internal injuries.”
The beauty of the evening was lost in the midst of Shao Zi’s insistence that the scholar was going to fatten her up to eat her…
The following day, Shao Zi bounded up to the scholar’s window. She couldn’t detect his energy, so he must have gone out again. He must be off to collect dew. Indeed, this followed the cadence of being fattened up, ah…
Shao Zi went to the kitchen extremely dejected, then picked up a basket to buy a day’s worth of cooking ingredients. After picking some meat and vegetables, she hummed a little tune on her way back. As soon as she got onto the shortcut home, that fat merman and skinny merman appeared in the narrow alley, glaring coldly at her: “Sure enough, it’s a demon. The look in her eyes was off last night, clearly, she was able to see us.”
The fat merman said: “Are you hiding the dragon deity?”
Shao Zi forced out a laugh: “Dragon deity? Where would I conjure the skill to hide a dragon deity? Plus, the reason I pretended not to see you yesterday was because I didn’t dare to offend two higher beings. Our innkeeper also happened to come by, and I obviously couldn’t tell a mortal that there were people across the street, right? Otherwise, he’d think that I’m a lunatic.”
The skinny merman chuckled softly: “But how come there wasn’t any demon energy on your person last night? Could it be that….there’s some sort of formation set up at the tavern?”
Shao Zi blinked innocently: “What formation?”
The fat merman’s voice was ferocious, nearly piercing her ears. Shocked, Shao Zi covered her ears in pain. It was said that a merman’s sound waves could travel ten li,1 even violent ocean waves could not surpass them. Looks like it is indeed the truth.
“I don’t believe that we can’t force some answers out of your little demon mouth.”
Just as the tail end of those words fell, she saw the fat merman’s body swiftly grow taller and bigger, instantly becoming as high as a tower. His hand held a trident while his eyes glowered. Shao Zi steeled her heart. Even if she couldn’t defeat them, she couldn’t sit still and await death. Her purification spell was halfway done when she heard a sneer from behind:
“If you’re trying to snatch the people that the Dragon Clan seeks out, get in line.”
Shao Zi stilled. She turned around and saw two people coming over, one tall and one short. Their expressions were tepid. She immediately became irate, the four freeloading buggers from yesterday all showed up at the same time!
But…she couldn’t defeat them ah, so she should behave herself and watch the show instead of sending herself to death’s door!
Shao Zi was definitely a genius, as she was one who understood how to adapt to the circumstances. Seeing the two parties with their swords drawn and bows bent, she quickly retreated towards the wall and squatted to watch them fight.
The skies and earth suddenly changed colors. In an instant, the mermen showed their original forms. Their entire bodies were covered in an armor of scales, the tips of their long tails were like a sharp thorn. With blue scimitars in hand, from them came cold rays of fear-inducing light. Their features were fiendish and the vibrations emitted from their vicious energy caused even Shao Zi to tremble.
The true forms of the Dragon Clan were extremely domineering as well. Their bodies were even longer than the mermen, carrying scales of gold that were as bright as day. With such a majestic demeanor, it was as if they could conjure the rise of both clouds and mist2 as well as tread across rolling waves. A low, angry roar sounded and unexpected gales of wind began to rise. Clouds blew across the sky, covering everything and sealing away the sun and moon.
Shao Zi wriggled a little ways back. Seeing that they didn’t take notice, she wriggled further yet again. Just as she realized she could leap over the wall and escape, the fat merman raised a hand and gestured at her, trapping her in place: “Once I pack them away, I’ll take care of you.”
As soon as he spoke, the wave of power that pressed against her like a trap, carrying a fishy ocean smell, suddenly ruptured. Before Shao Zi could even get giddy, another gust of dragon energy enveloped her. Her jailor had changed to someone else!
The tall dragon sneered: “If you’re hoping to take our captive away from us, you’re deluded!”
The merman was furious. Gripping his twin broadswords tightly, he advanced on the dragon with a bellow. The dragon was not to be outdone. Swinging his tail from side to side, flying balls of flames released one after another.
Shao Zi hugged her knees while watching clashes of red and white explode in the skies. When their battle had just about reached a conclusion, she then lifted her hand and poked at the boundary of the trap. Focusing her energy, she slowly conjured a lush green branch in the palm of her hand. It grew longer and longer, pressing against the boundary until there was no more space. She crinkled her brows and gripped it tighter. The branch grew by another inch, distorting the shape of the boundary.
The dragons were indeed divine beasts. Even a casually constructed entrapment was difficult to defy. Shao Zi was under great pressure. She didn’t even have a spare moment to wipe away the sweat that had formed on her forehead. After five more minutes of effort, her arms were already becoming soft. It was then that she heard the boundary rupture with a soft “dong” sound. She sighed in relief and slowly leaped off the wall, preparing to go back to the tavern by traveling underground.
Who would have thought that just as she landed, a large silhouette imprinted itself on the ground. When she looked over, she was so shocked that she jumped back three paces. The short dragon slammed into the ground, causing the ground to shake thrice while creating a three inch wide crack on the earth. Shao Zi was splashed a face full of mud. Before she could take a step, another loud rumble came from behind. The wall collapsed and the skinny merman had fallen.
She gulped, hesitating whether she should continue taking that step. If, by chance—if someone else falls, would this road even be stable enough to walk on? Whatever. She’ll take each step by piecemeal. Just as she treaded forward, there was a “pa, pa,” as weapons fell from the skies. That fat merman and the tall dragon struck each other into the ground, leaving all four of them unconscious.
Shao Zi looked at the dragon and mermen covered ground, her charming little face scrunching into a ball.
Out in the tavern’s yard, the demons were basking in the morning dew. They gathered at the side and watching the malicious atmosphere off in the distance while discussing if there might be a good show being aired. After watching for some time, the malicious atmosphere dispersed and they saw Shao Zi jump off the rooftop of the tavern with a huge cloth bundle on her back.
So exhausted that her back was hunched over, she tossed the bundle on the ground. Instantly, painful groans sounded from within it. Startled, Cypress Tree ge stammered: “Lao, lao da, what’s inside this?”
Shao Zi heaved a sigh: “Pa Pa, have the dragon deity and little white snake come over for a moment.”
Pa Pa clenched his vine: “At your command.”
She raised her hand, swiping it in the air. Her demon energy turned into a knife and sliced the cloth bundle open. The four people had each been compressed into Shao Zi’s flower buds. Only their heads were exposed and it looked quite humorous. The round flower buds settled on the ground. They swayed back and forth with a push of the hand, but were was unable to fall, essentially becoming living bu dao weng.3
The dragon deity’s complexion wasn’t nearly as pale as it had been when he first arrived. Even his steps contained more vitality. The little white snake followed by his side, her paces just as ambivalent as his, careful and cautious. She was nothing like the carefree and frivolous snake demon from before.
When the two came out, the demons all thought: Black and White Impermanence are back again.4
The dragon deity walked to the front and didn’t wait for Shao Zi to speak up. His fixed his gaze on the four people on the ground, his expression composed: “I didn’t expect that they would come so quickly.”
The little white snake’s eyes were full of worship: “Shao Zi jie-jie, you were actually able to capture these four. I can’t even best one of their fingers.”
Shao Zi spoke modestly: “They slaughtered each other to the point that they couldn’t even get off the ground, and then I brought them all back.
The corners of everyone’s mouths twitched. It doesn’t really matter if you don’t divulge this information…
The little white snake weighed it over, then her eyes brightened: “Shao Zi jie-jie‘s strength must truly be extraordinary to be able to carry this big fatty back here!”
The dragon deity couldn’t help but look over at her. She was speaking sincerely, it was not just an attempt at flattery…He reached out and stroked her head. She looked up and smiled, looking for his approval. His gaze instantly softened. As long as she thought it was so, then it’s fine.
As she faced this dragon whose demeanor was cold enough to shed icicles, Shao Zi’s lips twitched. She silently contemplated as to how this little white snake was actually able to move this cold dragon deity. Then she looked at the four big flower buds on the ground and composed herself: “They know I’m one of Tong Fu Tavern’s people and suspect that you two are here. I was worried that they would go back and report, so I thought it over and ended up capturing them and bring them back here.”
The little white snake quickly grasped his hand: “We can’t stay here anymore.”
The dragon deity closed his eyes slightly in contemplation, then said: “I still need seven days to recover half my power. If we leave now, we’ll get discovered immediately.”
The little white snake frowned. She said with realization: “Should we have Shao Zi jie-jie make some additional servings of the great replenishing tonic?”
The dragon deity’s face suddenly paled. Lowering her gaze towards her, he uttered resolutely: “No.”
The little white snake was extremely despaired and concerned: “Oh…”
The dragon deity said lowly: “Everything will be fine.”
Shao Zi asked: “Once your injuries recover, will you be leaving right away?”
The dragon deity said: “It’s not our intent to involve you all, but if we leave now, they’ll track us all the way here and you’ll become entangled with this matter. Once my injuries have healed, I’ll clarify things to both sides.”
Translator’s Note: That homemade replenishing tonic really can’t catch a break.
- About 5000m or 3.1mi.
- 興雲吐霧: Metaphor from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Descriptor for gods and/or supernatural powers.
- 不倒翁 // Bu Dao Weng: An egg shaped children’s toy that has a low center of mass and always rights itself when pushed over.
- Continuing the running gag that the dragon is all black and the snake is all white, so they look like Black and White Impermanence.