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)
How do you romance a girl who has no concept of courtship? The scholar would like to know. Also, apparently some Chinese readers have made comments about Peony’s Tavern that are along the lines of: It’s cute, but the scholar is a moron. LOL.
“…No peeking in secret next time! If you do I’ll trample you!”
Cypress Tre ge muttered: “The scholar kissed you and secret and he didn’t get trampled…”
Without waiting for Lady Xin to lift her leg, Shao Zi had already leapt out and kicked him up to the skies. Everyone looked up towards the Cypress Tree ge that was flying into the distance and saluted him…Hero, farewell!
The morning sun rises; dewdrops roll down from leaves. Yet another beautiful morning.
Shao Zi yawned and stepped out of the flowerbed, her energy refreshed. When she went to the front hall and set up the stools, she saw the scholar standing not too far, yet not too close. She glanced at him: “Morning, Innkeeper.”
The scholar stilled slightly, then walked over to Shao Zi and said: “In the future, I won’t do anything to make you unhappy again.”
Shao Zi stared at him, stupefied: “Dumb Scholar, what have you done to make me unhappy?”
Upon seeing her confusion, the scholar shed secret tears. He forgot, Shao Zi had a one-track mind, and that one track did not have even a sliver of space for passion. Even when he bathed, and even when she was washing up and they exchanged mutual glances did she not startle or detect anything strange. He had thought that secretly kissing Shao Zi was a crime of epic proportions, but in reality, she did not carry such a principle. She probably just thought, “Without her consent, kissing her was unfair and wrong.”
Seeing his expression change seven or eight times in an instant, she tugged on his sleeve and asked about some proper business: “Will those people from the Devil’s Realm not be coming here anymore?”
While grieving, he replied: “They will definitely come back.”
Shao Zi’s little heart lurched with intensity: “Then what do we do? Wait for death to come?”
“Yes, wait. But we won’t be waiting for death. We’ll be waiting for them to come.”
Tears streamed down Shao Zi’s cheeks. How was that any different!?
The scholar chuckled: “Don’t worry, you have me.”
Shao Zi raised her gaze slightly to look at him. He was as calm and steady as usual, as if he would not be scared even if the skies collapsed. On the other hand, the scholar was contemplating, given that Shao Zi’s didn’t have the principles regarding separation of the sexes1…His complexion instantly relaxed. He leaned over to her and said: “Shao Zi, let’s sleep together tonight, alright?”
Was his…skin itching or something!2
Even after weighing it a hundred times over, the scholar who suffered a punch from Shao Zi remained perplexed. After failing to trick Shao Zi, he very unhappily climbed up to the roof, an ink stone in his hand as he prepared to draw a talisman. He glanced at the Pi Xiu; upon closer look, it was actually not too shabby for a novice hand.
Taking the brush and dipping it in ink, he drew a new spiritual beast, doing his best to not touch the Pi Xiu. Even though it wasn’t much in terms of effectiveness, he didn’t want to break it all of a sudden.
After he finished drawing, he swiftly ran back to bed. The blanket still had traces of peony blossom fragrance; thus, he could enjoy another good night of sleep. Even if he didn’t need sleep, he was definitely going to lie there for at least five shi chen!3
Shao Zi had already snuggled into the flowerbed, preparing to sleep.
Lady Xin leaned over next to her ears, breathing: “Lao da, what in the world is your relationship with the scholar?”
Shao Zi: “The innkeeper and the loyal hostess.”4
“…From what I can tell, you’re clearly lovers. Otherwise, why would the scholar take such a big risk and save you from the Devil’s Realm?” Lady Xin grew bewildered, “Is it that he wants to make you fatter and eat you?”
Shao Zi reflexively wiggled a little: “If he wanted to eat me, he would have eaten me long ago.”
Moneymaking Tree rubbed his chin: “Could it be that when he secretly kissed you last night, he was actually preparing to eat you? But when he got caught by us, the only thing he good do is retreat?”
Shao Zi gulped, then decided to just get up and find the scholar. Upon reaching roof, she saw a giant head fussing around by the Pi Xiu. As soon as she approached, it suddenly craned its head over and looked over, its eyes like a tiger watching its prey.5 Shao Zi’s brows jumped, immediately turning around to flee. But before she could take two steps, the giant head swiftly caught up and swallowed her with a single bite.
The giant head chewed a few times, frowned, then nibbled some more. Its expression changed into a grimace as it spat her out. Shao Zi rolled twice across the roof top and she clutched her little heart. She was nearly frightened to death. When she looked over, it was fussing around again. Her face turned bitter. Something as strange as this must be of the scholar’s doing.
Good thing that giant head didn’t have any saliva, otherwise Shao Zi definitely would’ve slaughtered the scholar and gone to settle the score with him!
As soon as she went inside, the scholar’s ears perked up: “Shao Zi?”
In an instant, Shao Zi was already sprawled over the edge of the bed. In the darkness of the night, her eyes seemed extra clear as she stared faintly at him: “Innkeeper, I just got eaten by that giant head on the roof.”
The scholar burst into laughter: “It won’t enjoy eating you.”
Shao Zi’s eyes widened: “How do you know?”
The scholar turned to his side, propped an elbow on the bed and rested his head against his palm. He smiled: “That’s the divine beast, Tao Tie.6 It’s known for being a glutton, and because he loved eating so much, he ate his own body. So all that was left was a head. I drew it, but it’ll only eat people who come with ill intentions. It won’t touch anyone from the tavern, because you…don’t suit his taste.”
“…No wonder it spit me out.” Shao Zi laid there, looking at him. She felt that even though his face wasn’t as charming and alluring as Gao Ren’s, the more she looked, the more she liked it and its faint smile. Inexplicably, she reached out and poked him with a finger: “Scholar, so which one is your true appearance?”
The scholar stared at her with rapt attention, his expression unchanging. No wonder it was said that peony flowers could roam the Six Realms for a thousand years and never become contaminated by its muddiness: “Which one do you like?”
Shao Zi’s brows pinched as she thought about it: “Both, but…I like this innkeeper style more.”
The scholar asked in surprise: “Why?”
“It doesn’t feel as unapproachable or so powerful and capable of defying natural order. Yet, you’re actually still very powerful.”
The scholar laughed again: “I finally understand why they’re7 always so scared of me. So it turns out it was because of the austerity. It doesn’t matter what appearance I take on. If you like this one, then this will be the one from now on.”
Shao Zi nodded cheerfully: “Innkeeper, children really can be taught.”8
Ever since returning from the banquet, the scholar needed not conceal his identity anymore, so it didn’t matter which body he used. Originally, he thought that other body would better attract Shao Zi’s attention, but he didn’t expect it would be this one instead. After looking at Shao Zi for a long time, he unconsciously leaned closer to her. When he came back to his senses, the tip of his nose was nearly touching hers. What he saw next was Shao Zi’s explosive anger. Like a rabbit, she jumped back three zhang: “Pei! Perverted scholar!” “…” After finally stirring up some positive feelings, it seemed like it had all collapsed again…
With a red face, Shao Zi leapt out the window. Only when she was brought back to her senses, did she realize she leapt in the wrong direction and nearly hopped into the streets. Just as she turned around to go back, she saw fiendish energy charge forth from the distance. In mere moments, it would be entering town. Her body instantly stiffened. At some point, she realized that the scholar was already at her side. He glanced over and said: “Be good9 and go sleep in peace, Tao Tie will eat them all.”
Sure enough, when Shao Zi woke up the next day, everything in the tavern from front to back was fine. When she leaped onto the roof and poked Tao Tie’s puffy cheeks, she couldn’t help but snicker. But when her eyes met with a pair of bright and expressive ones, her heart instantly cooled. She turned around and ran, but once again, she was swallowed in a single bite…
Shao Zi decided that once the people from the Devil’s Realm were all too scared to come, she would boil the hound once it caught the rabbit,10 and get revenge for the two times she’s been swallowed and spat out.
She went over to the front hall and saw a rare expression of somberness on the scholar as his eyes were pinned towards the outside. When she stood at the side and looked over, her gaze stilled. Dozens of people were standing outside. At a glance, it was obvious that they were of the Devil’s Realm. Then, she saw the snake spirit stick her head out. Shao Zi bared her teeth, instantly scaring the snake spirit into hiding behind those people.
The scholar snapped his fingers lightly and the inky black shadows shrouding the outside of the tavern faded a bit. Those people hesitated for a moment, then walked inside.
When Shao Zi saw how the patrons that left the tavern walked through the devils without any change in demeanor, only then did she know that this lot was not actually present. Devils were different from demons and ghosts; they could not conceal themselves. If their physical bodies were not present, then it could only be that only their devil’s souls were present. It’s no big deal if it was just their souls. No wonder the scholar let them in.
The scholar already went to put up the “At Rest” sign. Once he closed the door, he asked with a faint smile: “Can I help you?”
The head of the group said: “We do not come bearing ill-intent. Please let me introduce each of the people who are standing outside here. I’m an elder of the devil’s realm, these are the the right and left emissaries, four venerable ones, six mages, eight devils, seventy-two guards, and one hundred eighty soldiers.”
- 授受不親: Time old concept of not allowing direct contact between men and women.
- When one gets told off for having itchy skin, it’s the same concept as one itching for a beating.
- Reminder that one shi chen is two modern hours worth of time.
- In early chapters, I translated Shao Zi’s job as little two (小二 // xiao er), but I decided to change it to hostess for simplicity’s sake. I did go back and edit the previous posts a while back, so this may only be relevant for readers who’ve been around since the beginning.
- One of the Four Perils (四凶 // si xiong) first mentioned in Chapter 2.06.
- He’s referencing a general “they,” not anyone or any group in particular.
- This idiom gets used pretty often here. Reminder that it means: youth are promising and can have good prospects. She’s praising the scholar.
- The word guai (乖), which translates as being good or obedient, usually expresses a sense of endearment for pets, someone younger, or females. It’s not as condescending as it sounds in English and instead exudes more cuteness.
- 兔死狗烹: Fig. Get rid of something once it’s served its purpose.