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)
Hi everyone, apologies for the unannounced break. I’ve had some personal things going on so translating has had to take a back seat. I didn’t have a chance to do a thorough edit but wanted to make sure to get this post out today, so please let me know if you spot any typos!
Deep in the night, all was quiet. The wind blew by in silence. In the sixth lunar month, the evening breeze gently dusted across and the demons slept soundly as they dreamt beautiful dreams.
Shao Zi was sleeping blissfully, but all of a sudden, she got poked in the face. She shook her head and mumbled: “Azalea jie-jie, stop that.” After a moment, she got poked again. She was furious. After all, demons get cranky, too! But when she caught sight of a human head and snake’s body before her, her anger got caught in her throat. She swallowed back her scolding words: “Miss, what brings you here?”
Once the words fell, she saw the snake demon lean over and hiss, its tongue nearly striking her face. She grinned maliciously: “Such a lovely and beautiful peony flower. Perfect for snatching back and turning into a replenishment tonic for the lord of the realm.”
“…” Shao Zi suddenly thought that this must be the karmic consequences of continuing to brew the grand replenishment tonic! She shifted her sprigs backwards, her petals turning clammy as she laughed hollowly: “Jie-jie, I don’t taste good. Plus, my demon power is extremely low.”
The demon spirit laughed lightly: “There are few peonies in the Six Realms that have cultivated into demons, even fewer that contain pure auras. Had I not found you here, I wouldn’t even believe that this kind of peony existed in the mortal world; I would’ve thought that you were of the immortal realm. Come back and be an ingredient in my replenishment tonic!”
Shao Zi shrieked. Before those sharp talons could reach over, she saw the root of a magnolia tree burst out and with an “a-da~” kick that snake spirit square on the stomach. In the blink of an eye, the snake flew into the sky and turned into a tiny speck of light…
Lady Xin was still in a light slumber as she muttered: “So noisy, no courtesy at all even though it’s the…middle, of, the, night…”
Shao Zi’s entire being was covered in goosebumps. Was that snake spirit just now from the Devil’s Realm? The meaning of brewing soup for their lao da meant…making soup for the lord of the Devil’s Realm to drink? She silently mulled it over. Did this mean that the prior rumors circulating in the Demon Realm about the Devil’s Realm’s lao da nearing the end of his rope was true after all?
What a disaster! If that was really the case, then wouldn’t she turn into a medicinal ingredient for that coven of devils to covet? Shao Zi looked to Azalea on her left, then Cypress Tree ge on her right. No one was awake, but she really wanted to find someone to hug and cry with, ya.
Those of the Devil’s Realm were accustomed to behaving like despots. To be eyed by one of them could only mean disaster. Shao Zi transformed and landed on the ground with a single step. Her light pink garb fluttered mesmerizingly in the evening breeze.
She leapt upwards and went indoors from the window, digging out from under her pillow the little scroll that the scholar gave her. Looking at the symbols that were as complicated as a mountain road, she felt her stomach ache. How nice would it be if the scholar were here, he was so amazing at drawing this sort of spell.
After preparing some cinnabar, Shao Zi went to the roof and stared at the skies, concentrating in detail on how the scholar created the drawing that day. Only after repeating those thoughts seven or eight times over did she finally begin moving her brush.
At dawn, the backyard was filled with yawns. The demons shook off the morning dew and took in the warm sun. Lady Xin rubbed her eyes and concentrated her sight on the rooftop for a moment in shock: “When did a beast climb onto our tavern?”
One by one, the demons climbed onto tree branches and and peered over that way:
“Wah, what a spectacular little beast.”
“Those eyes are a little asymmetrical. One big, one small.”
“What’s on it’s neck? A collar for walking this lion?”
“It’s so ugly!”
While Shao Zi was squatting on the rooftop, drawing the final stroke, the chattering noises traveled to her ears, each sentence more callous than the last. She swiftly stood up in about of anger: “All of you go and kneel on the washboards!”
That she could draw it like this was already not bad, okay!?
Except…though previous one was invisible to others, everyone could see the one she drew this time. It seemed that one of the steps went wrong? Shao Zi snorted softly and went back to the kitchen to boil some bathwater. Her face was covered with cinnabar. Drawing all night was no easy feat. However…that Pi Xiu should have the same effect of being able to consistently protect their demon powers, right?
Shao Zi nervously watched over the tavern for two days and didn’t see anyone from the Devil’s Realm coming over. Perhaps the snake demon got brain damage from being kicked?
On the third day when the tavern was about to close up shop, she felt a gust of yin energy blow inside before she could even shut the door. She froze for a moment, then silently and calmly shut the doors. When she walked to the backyard, she saw that everyone was playing cards. Just as she walked closer, she suddenly turned and scattered the pollen in her hands behind her. Instantly, the yin energy tailing behind her back turned into a person. It was that snake spirit again!
Shao Zi grabbed the cards on the table and tossed them at the snake spirit’s face, shouting: “Beat her up!”
They wanted to beat up Shao Zi even more, okay!? My three melds, four melds, and those thirteen orphans, ah, ah, ah!1 It’s all the snake spirit’s fault for coming and making a mess of things!
The indignant demons all flocked over with malicious intent, beating the snake spirit up so badly that she was puffy to the point where even snake dad and snake mom wouldn’t be able to recognize her. Only then did their anger recede.
Pa Pa instantly manifested the most tenacious vines, trapping the snake spirit and tossing her over by the well.
The snake spirit’s eyes were full of frost as she glared at them: “If the Devil’s Realm’s venerable ones find out, you’ll all be dead!”
Chrysanthemum gave her a cursory glance, her hands fiddling with an icy-cold metal blade: “So, that’s to say, you want us to kill you to shut your mouth?”
Moneymaking Tree also glanced over at her: “So sick in the head, seeking out your own death.”
Shao Zi crouched and looked at her, asking: “Tell me, how many other people have you invited along.”
The snake spirit sneered: “Guess.”
Shao Zi stood up and folded her arms, her gaze unblinking: “Beat her up.”
“…I’ll tell you!” The snake spirit inhaled, “From the Devil’s Realm: the right and left emissaries, four venerable ones, six mages, eight devils, seventy-two bodyguards, and one hundred eighty…”
Shao Zi’s legs turned a bit soft: “Don’t think that I’ll believe all this nonsense just because you say so! I’ll beat you up!”
The snake spirit begged for mercy: “It’s the truth. Because it has to do with lao da and the next successor, everyone wants to be the one to offer the legendary medicine. Moreover, peony flower demons are, without a doubt, the most excellent and highest quality of goods, ya!”
Shao Zi’s legs turned even softer. Lady Xin hurriedly supported her, her voice firm: “Lao da, stand up straight! You’re high quality goods, ah!”
These words weren’t effective in comforting at all. Shao Zi crouched over in tears: “I don’t want to be eaten…I don’t want to be eaten…screw your high quality goods!”
Shao Zi didn’t believe even a little bit that she was capable of warding off the experts of Devil’s Realm. Just thinking about how she was going to get snatched away to be simmered in soup made her horrified.
The demons looked over at the Shao Zi who squatted in a corner lifelessly. After discussing for a long time how to counteract this, they finally said: “Lao da, where’s the scholar? Isn’t he super powerful?”
The gloomy Shao Zi turned around gloomily: “He had to go back to do something, said he’ll be back soon.”
Lady Xin couldn’t help but ask: “You didn’t ask where he lives?”
Chrysanthemum rolled her eyes: “Dummy, just wait to get eaten then.”
Shao Zi whimpered.
She picked ear: “Go look for the Demon Lord to beg for help, then. Even though the Devil’s Realm slaying their way to our doors, lao da2 hasn’t even made any moments at all.”
Cypress Tree ge lifted his hand: “No can do, I’ve heard that the Demon Lord’s life is reaching expectancy. A couple older princes are all vying for the throne. If we go at this time, who knows, she might still get taken to be made into replenishing tonic. Demons eating demons is nothing rare, let alone what those filthy royals might do.”
“Oh…” Shao Zi continued to squat by the corner of the wall. Life was a sea of blackness, ah. She tilted her head up to look at the blue skies. Scholar ya, if you don’t come back to see me one last time, I’ll soon get eaten.