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 today’s episode of the Shao Zi & The Scholar Show, Shao Zi is a drama queen and I’m LIVING for it. The scholar is also a teensy bit of a drama queen.
After three days of searching, she still hadn’t found the source of the hostile energy. There was simply no way to stop the rain. What was even more tragic was that because it kept raining, even the vegetables stopped growing. The cost of veggies these past few days was terrifying. She really felt that the days where she wouldn’t even be able to eat vegetables were soon approaching…As she breathed a long sigh, her spirit couldn’t help but feel pained.
With this sigh, several cries of despair followed in sequence.
“If the sun doesn’t show up, I’m going to forget what it looks like.”
“Every passing day has been so difficult. My whole stomach could fill up with water.”
“Life is so hopeless, ah.”
Hearing creaking sounds on the roof, she looked up and saw Chrysanthemum and Moneymaking Tree looking like they were about to head out. She asked: “Where are you going?”
Chrysanthemum said: “We’re going to the neighboring town to sunbathe, of course. Did you not hear how it’s not raining at all in the towns nearby?”
Shao Zi held them back: “You can’t leave, if someone finds out that the two of you are missing from the yard, there will be problems!”
The moneymaking tree said: “If someone notices, you can just wipe their memories.”
“No.” Shao Zi shook her head firmly. “That’s against the rules. Unless there’s a special reason, you can’t leave the place of your life source to go elsewhere.”
“Ah-ya-ya-ya!” Chrysanthemum threw her carryall, tunneling back into the soil while raging, “Are you the Demon Lord’s minion?!”
The fat bottle gourd said: “Lao da is doing this for your own good, too. If the Demon Lord finds out, you’ll both be done for.”
“Where will the Demon Lord find the time to micromanage the matters of little demons like us, hmph!”
Shao Zi was not upset as she returned to the soil. Her feet were covered in sogginess; it was so uncomfortable.
The next day, Shao Zi discovered that the aunties selling vegetables on the street decreased by quite a bit, and the all remaining aunties that still sold vegetables had increased their prices. So she carried an empty basket, slumping against the wall the entire way back. When the scholar saw her, he smiled: “You’re back.”
Shao Zi sprawled on the til, sniveling: “Innkeeper, we can’t even afford to eat vegetables now. The vegetable farmers are so cruel, one head of cabbage costs seven copper coins. That’s enough for a small piece of meat!”
The scholar laughed aloud: “There’s still rice porridge.”
“Meat…I want to eat meat…”
The meat-deprived Shao Zi was anguished. She drank two bowls of rice porridge, pairing it with a few peanuts, then looked at the scholar with wide, anxious eyes: “Innkeeper.”
The scholar responded: “Hm?”
“If two more days pass and no one comes in, we won’t even have porridge to drink. How come you can still drink so happily? This is just porridge, there aren’t even any pickled vegetables.”
The scholar smiled: “It’s all dependent on who I’m eating with.”
Shao Zi wasn’t at all cognizant of what he was implying as she took another sip of porridge. “With this kind of darned weather, even beasts won’t come out. I want to go up to the mountain and catch two wild chickens. No, even if I saw some, I wouldn’t be able catch them. If, by luck, I caught one, it would definitely run away once I try to kill it…”
How come the more she thought about it, the more sad she felt? How depressing. There was no meat and even the vegetables were gone…
The scholar crinkled his brows ever so slightly. Hearing her say all this, he looked outside. In the darkness of night, rain continued to fall. Xi-xi-li-li, xi-xi-li-li. Swiftly and unexpectedly, he raised his finger and gently touched the center of Shao Zi’s forehead. A soft, white light quietly dispersed. He murmured softly: “There’s something dirty.”
Shao Zi blinked. For whatever reason, the gloom in her heart dissipated. Looking at the porridge water, she suddenly felt that still being able to drink porridge was a blessing of the heavens. Vegetables will come, meat will also come. Life was full of prospects and the Six Realms were peaceful and wonderful! No, wait, she was getting sidetracked.
The scholar lowered his gaze pensively. That rain was indeed depressive rain. Wherever the rain went, it could easily make demonic creatures lose their fighting spirit. It was as if they were unable to rise after a stumble, only feeling that life was hopeless. At its worse, the negativity could cause manic behavior, melancholy, and ultimately, if not homicide, then suicide.
Low sounds of footsteps echoed from the staircase, balanced and steady. The scholar looked over and saw the monk carrying an oil-paper umbrella1 in one hand and the pot of orchid cactus in the other, slowly descending. Once he reached the front door, the twenty-four sections of the umbrella’s boning opened up and his silhouette gradually drifted further and further into the rain.
Whilst carrying bowls in her hands, Shao Zi gained a flash of inspiration. She looked at the scholar and asked: “The first day of rains just so happened to be when the monk showed up, right?”
The scholar smiled gently, lightly responding with one word: “Yes.”
Shao Zi blinked thoughtfully.
In the past several days, murder cases in Zhuang Yuan Town had become increasingly frequent. Every time the bailiff arrived at the scene and the coroner followed up with an examination, the verdict was suicide, not homicide. Though kinfolk insisted that this was impossible, because they had no proof, the cases were handled as suicides. But after three or four cases in succession, even the county magistrate had the bailiffs go on patrol to mollify the citizens and prevent townspeople from panicking.
Several notices were even pasted on the doors of Tong Fu Tavern, announcing something about the inconvenience of traveling in rainy weather and how people should not roam about without good reason.
Shao Zi saw those notices as an eyesore, really wishing she could get rid of them.
After the monk left last night, he did not return until wee-hours of the night. She was already having Pa Pa lie by the window and monitor closely. The next time he left, Pa Pa was to follow along and see if he was the culprit behind the rain inundating across town.
The scholar held a pair of chopsticks and picked up the porridge in his bowl. There was no rice, yet water droplets seemed to keep rolling away. Exasperated, he grabbed a spoon and scooped up a bite, but there was hardly any rice in his mouth. He helplessly called out to the person at the doors: “Shao Zi.”
Shao Zi bounded over: “Innkeeper, what’s the matter?”
“Are we not even able to afford rice anymore?”
Shao Zi chuckled derisively: “That’s not quite it…I only just realized that there’s not much rice left in the rice vat. Normally, our rice is purchased from the rice shop next door. But recently, the rice uncle’s mood has been dismal. He’s been saying some stuff about how life is meaningless and how he’s too ashamed to face his ancestors. And then he closed up and went back to his hometown. I’ll go to another rice shop in a moment and pick up a bag of rice.”
The scholar could no longer sit still. That depressive rain was becoming more and more severe. At this rate, he probably wouldn’t even have these grains of rice to drink, no?
Shao Zi sat down, swaying her head from side to side: “For some reason, the uncle who sells meat said he felt that slaughtering livestock was too cruel, so he closed down as well. The auntie that sold vegetables said that toiling over growing vegetables only earned her a meager amount of money, so she was going to stop planting them. And that storyteller’s tales2 have become more and more sad, I nearly cried from listening. Everyone’s mood has been bad lately, ah.”
The scholar laughed bitterly; it really was spreading everywhere. If he waited for Shao Zi to figure out the facts, he would probably have long since gone crazy. For the sake of Shao Zi’s hot springs and for the sake of his stomach, he had better give her a little push in the right direction. Having thought this through, he put down the soup spoon and. said: “This rain is depressive rain.”
Shao Zi’s eyes opened wide: “What’s depressive rain?”
The scholar explained it to her in detail. Once he finished, Shao Zi jumped up and snarled: “If it’s really the work of that monk, I’ll wreck him up and send him to the River God Grandpa as a sacrifice!”
Seeing her rushing upstairs in a huff with the intent of keeping watch, the scholar weakly raised his hand: “Buy rice…Shao Zi, buy rice, I’m hungry…”
The other party did not hear at all, and the scholar himself was about to fall into depressive grief, too. His life…was really a sea of darkness, ah. Oh well, he may as well lug over the rice himself. He…should be strong enough to pick it up, right? His waist wouldn’t get crushed, would it? Ai-ya…going outside on a rainy day is such a hassle, ah.
Shao Zi knocked on the doors of that deluxe room. Not a moment later, the monk opened the door. She carried a pot of tea, her dimpled smile looking like a flower: “I’ve come to replenish water for the Great Master.”
The monk brought his palms together in a prayer, bowing with etiquette: “Benefactor has been troubled.”3
Shao Zi entered the room and saw the cactus orchid sitting by the window, still having yet to blossom. She could not detect a single bit of demon energy; it was clearly just an ordinary flower. She crinkled her brows. There was nothing peculiar about the monk, either. He was just an ordinary person. Was it just a coincidence? Did the depressive rain have nothing to do with him at all?
- Paper umbrellas coated with a layer of tung oil, extracted from the nut of the tung tree, which produces glossy and waterproof affects.
- Probably the kind of storyteller that tells stories or acts out plays at tea shops as entertainment.
- Saying that you’ve troubled someone or burdened someone is a way of politely accepting or requesting someone’s service or favor.