Part of a Peony’s Tavern translation project at fruitydeer.com.
Do not download, copy, or redistribute without permission.
Source: 芍藥客棧 by Yi Mei Tong Qian // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
Another arc comes to an end. I’m pretty ready to move on, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to miss Little White and all her antics. ❤️
I’m going take a brief break from Peony’s Tavern next week to focus on some personal things. Chapter 3.1 will be posted on Tuesday, 4/13. See you all then!
“Is he really just passing by?”
Gao Ren chuckled aloud: “The Azure Dragon itself is a dragon despite standing detached from the Dragon Clan. Regardless of how many years he’s existed in the Six Realms, if he suddenly decides to meddle in the affairs of the Mermen and the Dragon Clan, it’s impossible not to appear biased. Thus, it is inappropriate to intervene. But even without speaking, with it here, the two clans will more or less give it some face.”
After a flash of understanding, Shao Zi’s eyes were once again filled with peach blossoms:1 “Gao Ren, you understand so much.”
Gao Ren smiled. He lowered his head and looked at the little white snake, then tapped his finger on her forehead once. Immediately, a ripple of clear water burst forth and all the scars visible to the eye slowly began to heal. Shao Zi stared, dumbfounded, and two words popped into her mind: So dependable!
The two clans could not determine whether or not the Azure Dragon was truly just passing by and stopping to take a look. Only a long hesitation did the mermen speak: “The white snake repeatedly impersonated the dragon deity and ferried many little demons through oceans and rivers, not putting the Merman Clan in her eyes at all.2 You Dragon Clansmen even shield the white snake. If you hand her over, we can let bygones be bygones.”
The dragons sneered: “Such an arrogant tone. You first hurt our leader and now you want to exchange weapons of war for gifts of jade and silk.3 You’re not putting the Dragon Clan in your eyes at all. Even if you took the little white snake away, we wouldn’t want to shield her anyways. However, the matter of harming our leader is something we’ll never easily let go of.”
The leader of the Mermen waved a hand, and a wide path opened from within the Mermen formation. The dragon deity slowly moved away, but he did not return to the group of dragons. Instead, he flew towards the little white snake. Just as his talon touched her face, he transformed back into a human and took her back. The little white snake coiled in his hand, spitting out bright red bits. Her breaths were weak, and the dragon deity’s pupils rapidly contracted.
Gao Ren said: “She’s fine, but she’s expended too much spiritual power so she won’t be able to return to human form for the time being.”
The dragon deity nodded: “Many thanks.”
A dragon transformed into human form, wearing the garb of a warrior. He came forth and knelt down on one knee: “Leader, you must not shield the white snake at any costs anymore. Otherwise, a war between the two clans will certainly cause a calamity.”
The dragon deity replied dimly: “Our destinies are already linked.”
Everyone froze: “Leader!”
The little white snake wrapped even tighter around his hand. When did he…she didn’t even realize.
Shao Zi scratched her head, asking others: “What is ‘linked destinies’?”
Gao Ren said: “A type of forbidden ancient art. Once two people’s destinies are linked, their lives are interconnected. That is to say, should the white snake die, the dragon deity will also die. If the dragon deity dies, the white snake’s life is lost as well. Because the spell is far too dangerous, it was sealed in an ancient scroll long ago.”
The guard’s expression abruptly shifted: “Could it be that the Mermen knew about this matter, so they specifically wanted to capture the white snake? They want to kill her in order to to take Leader’s life?”
The dragon deity’s eyes were coldly pinned at the Mermen: “If they hadn’t already known, why would they activate an army just for a little snake?”
Immediately, the Dragon Clan’s army rumbled loudly. Shao Zi hadn’t expected that the dragon deity and the little white snake’s relationship already reached this point. But thinking about it from another perspective, this was a decision made by the dragon deity to protect Little White, right? Otherwise, how could the Dragon Clan accept her? But, thinking some more, if the dragon deity had told his clansmen earlier on that their destinies were linked, wouldn’t the Dragon Clan have long since accepted Little White? Yet he did not do so. Ever since the beginning, he did not plan on relying on his clan’s strength to resist the Mermen. This was their own matter. Even if they died together, he had never considered letting his clansmen become embroiled in this messy dispute.
The dragon deity was the head of the Dragon Clan, so he must consider all aspects for the sake of the Dragon Clan. However, the Dragon Clan refused to accept Little White. He, nevertheless, wanted to protect Little White and was unwilling to let her experience the slightest bit of grievances because of the Dragon Clan. In the end, Little White herself went away in order to help him. This must be the reason why he was unwilling to let go, no?
Yet, something seemed off. If their destinies really were linked, the dragon deity wouldn’t personally go and deliver himself to death’s door. With this thought, the corner of Shao Zi’s lips twitched. So it turns out the dragon deity was tricking them. The extremely solemn and upright dragon deity actually knows how to lie…
The mermen shared glances with one another. Because the Azure Dragon was in town, they did not dare snatch anyone away. It’s just that, once they leave, there may not be another chance to kill the leader of the Dragon Clan and gain supremacy over the Four Seas. They hesitated.
The Dragon Clan was united against outsiders; their priority was protecting their leader. Since matters with the snake demon had already reached that point, there was no way to continue pursuing the issue.
The two clans would not stop quarreling, so the Azure Dragon swished its tail and said: “Back when Pan Gu4 opened the world, Nu Wa5 used stones to fill the skies, gradually giving rise to the Six Realms. You reside in the Four Seas,6 yet have no respect for the heavens. Instead of being content with your situation, you wage war in the Four Seas. How abominable. Such a waste of the creation gods’ efforts.”
Once these words were spoken, even less dared making a sound. The Azure Dragon fell silent, then lowered his head once more: “You all continue on, I’m simply passing by as an onlooker.”
Everyone gave a sideways glance, is he really just being an onlooker?! You’re clearly implying, “If you dare mess around, I’ll slap you all silly,” ah!
The mermen looked at each other. The leader contemplated for a long time before finally saying: “Us and the Dragon Clan have been at strife for tens of thousands of years. We will not simply let bygones be bygones. We’ll settle the score of today’s dispute another day.”
After this, he retreated with the Mermen army. Half of Dong Ling Town’s sky suddenly illuminated. Seeing the crisis reach a resolution, Shao Zi breathed a sigh of relief. Someone from the Dragon Clan said: “Since the matter is resolved, we ask the leader to return with us and preside over the clan.”
The dragon deity fell silent for a moment, then looked at the little white snake in his hands and asked: “Should we go back?”
Little White flicked her tongue, then transformed into weakly little maiden, staggering against his person: “Can I go, too?”
“Yes. If not, then we’ll just continue touring the Six Realms.”
When those words fell, the elders of the Dragon Clan immediately felt oppressed, it was clearly a threat to them! The steady-looking dragon deity’s temperament was like that of a child, which placed them in an uncomfortable spot. Swiftly, someone said: “Strip the white snake of its serpent skeleton, replace it with a dragon skeleton, then turn it into a member of the Dragon Clan. This is also a possibility.”
Little White shook her head, let go of his hand, then spoke to that elder: “Even though I’m a demon, I never thought that you Dragon Clansmen were superior to us. I admire and envy you all, but if you want me to give up my identity as a snake demon, I don’t care for that either.”
Shao Zi couldn’t help but say: “Well said, Little White.”
Before she could finish speaking, someone shot a glare her way. Gao Ren raised a hand to block it, pinning his own eyes that dragon. Stunned by his leer, they no longer dared to glare at Shao Zi.
The dragon deity said: “Wang di7 can replace me, so I’ll hand the dragon seal to him. I will no longer carry the identity of the Dragon Clan, so none of you have the right to question regarding whether or not she’s around me. Unless you can accept her like ordinary people do.”
The elders shook their heads firmly: “Impossible.”
The dragon deity fell silent, then with a snap of the finger, a golden slab flew out. Someone quickly caught it, his expression suddenly changing: “The Dragon Seal.”
Over and over, everyone’s expressions changed, and after weighing things a hundred times over, that old senior finally said: “In that case, we will comply with the king’s wish. The Dragon Clan’s bloodline cannot be sullied by a snake demon.
Then, he clutched onto the golden slab and withdrew with the army.
Gao Ren sighed: “Everything in this world has always been of one, how could something be sullied? What they fear is clearly the loss of the Dragon Clan’s glory and the ridicule of others. Their bravery and bearing is incomparable to ordinary people, yet they don’t understand this principle and treat the dragon deity and white snake as strange creatures. They scarcely realize that the strange creatures are they themselves.”
Shao Zi pondered it over, then nodded as well: “Mn.” Then, she asked the dragon deity: “Where will you two go after this?”
“Travel all over.”
The little white snake asked cheerfully: “Shao Zi jie-jie, can we continue staying at the tavern?”
“Take care, I won’t send you off.”
Shao Zi hmphed: “Fine, I’ll extend my benevolence and let you stay for three more days. Once your injuries are fully healed, quickly leave.”
The little white snake immediately hugged her: “Shao Zi jie-jie is such a great person.”
The dragon deity held the little white snake’s hand, gently pulling her back to his side: “We can’t keep burdening Miss Shao Zi. My injuries are not serious. Is anything wrong with you?”
The little white snake nodded, flashing a toothy grin: “Nothing wrong at all.”
The dragon deity hummed in acknowledgement: “Let’s go then, I’ll take you elsewhere to play.”
Shao Zi looked at her sincerely happy demeanor and laughed as well. Who ever said it wasn’t good to like someone? Though liking someone will inevitably bring some sorrow, it’s clear that the happiness outweighs the rest. The little white snake smiled: “Shao Zi jie-jie, should we ever come back, we’ll definitely pay for accommodation.”
With that, Shao Zi finally remembered something. With a serious expression: “You still owe fifty-seven copper coins.”
The little white snake immediately dragged the dragon deity away: “It’s time for us to set off!”
Shao Zi’s face was full of black lines as she watched the dragon deity’s face look like icicles as per usual. She suddenly recalled that earlier, he also spoke those words of life and death with such a face. Little White, what is so good about the dragon deity that makes you so devoted?
Ah well, she just couldn’t figure it out. Although she could not understand, for whatever reason, Shao Zi felt that it was rather nice. As she watched the two leave, they continued holding each other’s hands tightly. It was as if they had never let go ever since the beginning.
Shao Zi felt rather emotional, then suddenly thought of the Azure Dragon. When she looked over, it did not seem to have the intent of leaving, nor did it look like it planned on stopping anyone. She mumbled: “So it turns out he was really just passing by.”
Gao Ren smiled: “Let’s return to the tavern.”
The two turned around and headed in the direction of the tavern. Gao Ren turned his head and glanced at the Azure Dragon without any shift in expression. The Azure Dragon understood, spread its body, then flew into the sky.
Translator’s Note: The banner image for this chapter doesn’t exactly fit, but I thought it was beautiful and fit the vibes of the dragon and snake 🙂
Sharing some info below on a brief search I did on the Six Realms as well as Pan Gu and his role in the Daoist creation story. Like all creation stories of the past, things vary from source to source, but Peony’s Tavern follows this general mythology.
Pan Gu is said to have come forth from chaos and was responsible for dividing the world into yin and yang, separating Heaven and Earth, setting the suns, moons, stars, and planets, creating mountains and rivers, and dividing up the four seas. As for Nu Wa, if you’re familiar with Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, her role in the cosmos will sound familiar to that of Ye Hua’s mother: When the four pillars between Heaven and Earth, catastrophes swept the lands and Nu Wa was the one who repaired pillars and patched up the skies by using five-color stones. Nu Wa also created humans. I’ve read a few variations where she either created them from clay or had children with her brother-husband, Fu Xi (who is considered the first human).
The Six Realms are divided into God, Immortal, Mortal, Demon, Devil, and Underworld…
Realm of Gods (神): Exists on the yang (light, sun) side of Chaos. Known as the Nine Heavens, ruled by the Emperor of Heaven, who lives in Ling Xiao Palace on the uppermost of the 36 Levels of Heaven. Another thing those who have read Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms, particularly Ye Hua’s Epilogue, will be familiar with.
Realm of Immortals (仙): Slightly different than gods. They came along later. Known for living on the islands of immortality, the most well-known being Mount Peng Lai.
Realm of Mortals (人): Its beings were created by Nu Wa. Sometimes considered the descendants of her and Fu Xi. But since their lifetime is much shorter than that of gods and they seldom have pure divine power, they were not called gods, but mortals (humans) instead. However, humans can still cultivate into immortals. When they died, they would become ghosts of the underworld.
Realm of Demons (妖): Flowers, trees, birds, and beasts, can absorb the spiritual energy of Heaven and Earth as well as the sun and moon in order to cultivate into demons.
Realm of Devils (魔): Exists on the yang (dark, moon) side of the Chaos and is opposite to the Realm of Gods. Sometimes translated as demons. Remember when I said that Shao Zi and co. are demons, but they’re more like spirits and not evil creatures? Well these guys are the actual evil kind.
Underworld (冥): The place of reincarnation for all things. The beginning and end of reincarnation. Once ghosts reincarnate here, they re-enter the realms. Presided by Yan Wang.*
*I’ve been translating Underworld as Netherworld in the text.
桃花 // Tao Hua: Metaphor for love, adoration, or a romantic relationship.
They’re complaining about being looked down upon and disregarded. I could’ve phrased it better, but kept it as is since it’s meant to parallel the next dialogue.
化干戈為玉帛: Metaphor. Fig. Turn hostility into friendship.
盤古 // Pan Gu: Creation figure in Chinese mythology who separated Heaven and Earth and created the mountains and rivers.
女媧 // Nu Wa: Mother goddess in Chinese mythology. Created humanity and repaired the Pillar of Heaven.
四海 // Si Hai: Referring to the whole world. Ancients thought that China, which means “central country” (中國 // zhong guo) in Chinese, was surrounded by the seas in all directions.
弟 // Di: Little brother or junior male. Wang (王) is a surname but also means king/prince, so I assume this is his little brother. Or a younger guy surnamed Wang…