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)
Dumb scholar is dumb. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Hearing such words, Shao Zi, surprisingly, was not scared at all. Because the dumb scholar was right by her side! When she looked up again, the scholar had already assumed the image of Gao Ren. Seeing Gao Ren carry an expression that was somewhat grave, she really wanted to say, can the two of you please match up your cadences a bit?! She was getting dizzy from all this.
Just as the scholar picked her up, the doors suddenly opened and a group of servant girls rushed in.
Shao Zi raised her hands high and held up the umbrella. When they began rushing forth with their attacks, she finally began sensing the extreme danger of the situation. But in an instant, a wind rose from thin air and the scholar brought her outside the window. A sea of clamors and shouting burst from behind.
The forests of the Devil’s Realm were like mazes; low tree branches drooped down over roots that emerged from the ground line like tangled vines. Once they leapt out the window, they fell straight into this maze.
The scholar held Shao Zi as he flew forward, using the wind as a sword. Everything it touched was cut down, subsequently turning to smoke. Shao Zi felt her head dizzy and vision blurry, trembling as she held the umbrella and using her all to keep it up. As her shaking increased, the scholar held her even tighter. He said in a low voice: “We’ll be out of here very soon, hand me the umbrella.”
Shao Zi clenched her teeth: “It’s fine!”
The scholar didn’t expect that the King of Devils would strand Shao Zi in a forest such as this, filled with hexed trees. No wonder Shao Zi’s scent just now was lingering all about. That room was a protective cover. It was fine inside, but going outside would be disastrous for anyone, let alone a Shao Zi with none of her demon powers whatsoever.
With the umbrella above them, no one would be able to detect that anything was off. The scholar’s pace increased. After leaving the forest, they reached the portal to the mortal world. As he crossed over, he looked at Shao Zi. She had already fallen unconscious, but her hands remained raised in a death grip. He leaned over and set her down, took the umbrella, then picked her back up to return to the tavern.
Upon seeing this familiar little town, even he felt a sense of affection rise from within. When they arrived at the tavern, he carefully laid Shao Zi on the bed and tucked her under the blankets: “You’ll be fine after a good rest.”
Watching the dreaming Shao Zi’s brows pinch ever so slightly, he wasn’t quite sure what sort of nightmare she was having. The scholar gazed at her for a good while, then stood up to go downstairs and boil some tea for Shao Zi. As he passed by the table, he saw a letter lying on top. The handwriting on it was childish and clumsy; it was written by Shao Zi. Picking it up, he was taken aback when he saw the “farewell” written on it. He continued reading and found that the gist of the letter was: I’m about to get snatched away by the Devil’s Realm to be simmered into soup; Innkeeper, don’t be lazy; no matter rain or shine, open up shop and welcome customers in; and go find a good hostess. After reading two pages, he still did not see anything about Shao Zi telling him to take good care of himself. When he finally saw the words, “take care,” he read on and found that she was telling him to take care about Da Huang and to not forget about feeding him!
This petulant sort of feeling that was stemming out of the sourness rising in his heart…The scholar went back and sat by the bed to continue reading. It then said that since he was an expert among experts, he should not bully the demons in the backyard and instead live in peace with them. In addition, he must water the flowers everyday and apply fertilizer, plow the soil regularly, and whatnot.
The scholar sighed quietly. He was clearly someone that needs to be taken care of too, ya, how come she didn’t say something about him? Once he finished another page, all that remained was one last piece of thin paper. When those crooked characters entered his eyesight, his heart began to thump, thump…thumping nonstop.
“Innkeeper, I hand the tavern over to you.”
He was speechless. Shao Zi kept on telling him that he was not allowed to sell the tavern and to manage it well. But when she thought that she was about to die, she handed her most precious object over for him to protect. She trusted him. She finally believed him. He gazed upon the sleeping Shao Zi for a long time, the tip of his heart trembling as he leaned over and pressed a mark against her lips, as light as a dragonfly skimming the water. Though he quickly moved away, he was able to faintly feel even the heat of her lips. He did not dare continue for fear of rousing her from sleep.
Shao Zi was unawares. In her dreams, she was still being chased down by a monster holding a mace. Help…I’m going to get eaten…
The next day, the Shao Zi who had slept until the sun was as high as three bamboo poles1 blissfully turned over. Her nose twitched. The smell on this blanket didn’t seem to be her own. Cracking her eyes open, she found that the color of this blanket was darker, nothing at all like the style of her room. She concluded—this was not her room.
She quickly got up to size up her surroundings. Oh…it was the scholar’s room. She patted her body, her clothes were still there. So she stepped onto the ground and stretched. When she squatted down and squinted downwards, her gaze passed through the thick wooden panels and she saw the scholar currently sitting at the till as he ran the abacus. Inexplicably, she began to smile. Quite obedient of him. He opened up shop on his own initiative and she didn’t even need to exhort him.
Instantly, her heart bloomed with elation, but then she thought to herself that it seemed like she had forgotten something important. Upon carefully mulling it over, she knocked herself in the head. Oh no, Fat Bottle Gourd and them were still trapped in the dirt, ya! Though the spirit orbs would automatically rupture after five days, had it even been five days yet?
Just as Shao Zi’s stepped over the windowsill, she had a sudden sensation of jumping into a wolves den right after leaving a lair of fiends. Stepping forward, it seemed like she was about to receive a beating from them. But once she was in the air, she found that the backyard was flourishing with blossoms and was as lively as the bustling streets. There was no indication that they had ever been sealed away. She landed with a start. Could it be that the scholar let them out? That made sense, otherwise, why would the scholar suddenly run to the Devil’s Realm to save her?
When the demons saw Shao Zi, each of them carried a strange gaze. It was nothing like what Shao Zi expected. She looked down at herself then touched her face: “Is there something dirty on my face?”
Cypress Tree ge glanced at her several times, said nothing, then touched his chin and clicked his tongue.
Shao Zi’s face twitched. She looked at the others, who all carried the same expression. Her face was immediately covered in black lines. She clenched her fist: “What kind of response is this! If you want to hit me, then hurry up and release the horses!2 Come and fight!”
Pa Pa raised his hand, his voice bright: “Last night, we knew that lao da was back and wanted to climb in the window to see you, but we ended up seeing the scholar secretly kissing you.”
Shao Zi: “…”
Lady Xin knocked him on the head and lamented: “Congratulations, you’re about to get clawed by lao da.”
Pa Pa: “…”
Shao Zi attempted to suppress her reddening face: “How could I not know about this at all, you’re speaking nonsense!”
At that, she turned around and left, her face red like rouge. While she walked, she touched her lips, muttering, impossible, ya. She really didn’t detect anything at all.
When she came to the front hall and saw the scholar, Shao Zi swiftly ducked away. Only after slowly pulling herself together did she go walk over. Seeing her, the scholar smiled: “You’re awake?”
Shao Zi gave him a once ever, then shook her head. Sensing her strange expression, he asked with a smile: “What’s wrong?”
Though she said nothing and the scholar’s back was facing her, he could clearly sense her burning gaze. His stilled heart instantly began to thump again. Could it be that the hero rescuing the beauty yesterday was a success and that Shao Zi has finally fallen head over heels for him? Did this mean they could continue to progress further!?
Shao Zi couldn’t hold back anymore. Seeing that no one was in the tavern, she reached out and poked his back. With her frown and her eyes pinned on him, the scholar felt extremely on edge. Was this the rhythm of what being confessed to was like? Bring it on! He’ll immediately nod in agreement and then join hands with Shao Zi to…Hold on, how come he didn’t see any traces of love in those eyes!3
“….Last night, you…kissed me in secret?”
The scholar froze, then he turned back around. Shao Zi stared intently at him: “Innkeeper! Tell the truth!”
“Ah…For a moment, I couldn’t hold back so…”
Shao Zi clasped her mouth, he really did kiss her! The vegetable shop auntie next door said a maiden’s first kiss in life was extremely important, but hers was snatched away while she was unconscious! This was really upsetting, okay!? At once, she stomped on his foot: “Pei!4 Perverted scholar!”
The scholar cried bitterly and turned around: “Shao…”
But Shao Zi had already rushed off in anger. He sighed. Indeed, he should not have done such a thing. At the time, he really couldn’t resist ya…Moments later, the rice uncle from next door came over, and he swiftly changed expressions. He smiled: “Rice Shopkeeper, what brings you here? Come in for some tea.”
The rice shop uncle waved him off, then gave the Da Huang, who sat by the door with his tail wagging, a rub. He said: “The magnolia tree at your house has been doing so well, why did you chop it down? It’s been growing for so many years, what a shame.”
The scholar blinked, thinking that they neighbors must have taken notice when the demons were trapped in the orbs a couple of days ago. He said with doubt: “Isn’t the magnolia good and well over there?”
The rice shop uncle blinked, too: “That’s impossible!”
“It’s really over there. If you don’t believe it, you can go take a look.”
“Yi? Yi?” The rice shop uncle scratched his head. “Did I see wrong…” Then he added, “Well, that’s good then. We’re all old neighbors here, I’m just used to seeing it.”
The scholar grinned and nodded: “I would not go against the old innkeeper’s wishes.”
Once the rice shop uncle left, he slipped his hands into his sleeves and looked at that slightly dilapidated doorpost. He smiled. The ones hoping to safeguard to the tavern were not just the backyard demons, but the neighbors as well.
At bedtime, Shao Zi had just burrowed into the soil when Azalea asked: “Lao da, is the Devil’s Realm not planning on coming after you anymore? There hasn’t been any movement all day.”
Shao Zi stilled. After shifting around and finding a comfortable position, she stretched her flowery sprigs: “No idea, ya, maybe. The scholar’s very powerful.”
Fat Bottle Gourd swayed back and forth on the trellis: “Yet you’re still daring enough to stomp on him.”
- 日晒三杆 // Ri Shai San Gan: Figure of speech. When the sun is high and time is late. Can be used to describe people who wake up really late.
- 放馬過來: Fig. Means “bring it on” or “give me all you’ve got.”
- I think the idiom that he didn’t finish was 共邁遠途 which just means to take a long journey together.
- 呸 // Pei: Onomatopoeia for spitting in contempt.