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)
A chapter that’s both action packed and super sweet. With Shao and the scholar, I feel like we never know if it’s going to be one step forward or two steps back. So it’s best to enjoy the sweet moments whenever we’re given one. Enjoy!
The scholar looked at the her who smiled so bright and beautifully, chuckling: “Leave it to me.”
With that, he saw her peer strangely at him. Even her brows creased as she said: “Feng is the male, huang is the female,1 leave it all to you…”
The scholar’s brows sprung up, his face stiffening: “It’s not what you think, Shao Zi…”
Shao Zi immediately patted her chest, her expression full of understanding: “Don’t worry, Innkeeper, I won’t tell others about your preferences!”
The scholar: “I like maidens, maidens!”
Confusion swept over Shao Zi’s face: “Alright, I believe you. Leave the feng to me then.”
The scholar chopped the nail and sliced the iron:2 “No!”
How could he let Shao Zi go and seduce another man or even male?! Even the cats she raises in the future must be female, okay?! The scholar saw that her expression grew odd again. He smiled bitterly: “Alright, I’ll go lure the the feng and huang away, then you go to their nest and and look for a rainbow feather. They’re highly vigilant, so they will likely detect that something is off right away and return to their nest, so you must make haste.”
Shao Zi’s expression was one of seeing death as her return home as she nodded: “Mn.”
The clearwater pond was indeed a pond, but one that you could not see the other side of. It was as vast as the water-filled oceans. At the center stood a lone mountain. From afar, it looked like a little boat dyed with green, floating atop the waters. Exceptionally ethereal, it looked just like paradise.
The scholar held Shao Zi as they rose with the wind and went straight to the island. Looking over from above, Shao Zi immediately saw a light source flash luminously against the ground, the brightness as brilliant as ceramic glaze. It was incredibly dazzling. While they prepared themselves, a bright red pearl appeared in his hand.
“Once you find the rainbow feather, pierce the feather into this pearl. After the feather turns white and the pearl turns into a rainbow pearl, that means it has succeeded, so leave right away.”
Shao Zi nodded, tucking the pearl away. The scholar put his left hand gently on her back. With a flick of his right hand, a beam of light in his palm swiftly struck the exterior of the divine shield that was masking the uncharted island. With the island as an epicenter, waves and waves of quakes rippled outwards. Panicked sounds of “qiang qiang“3 echoed from afar, and two large birds immediately rose upwards, charging towards the two.
Shao Zi froze for a moment, but a palm gently nudged at her back. As if right next to her ear, the scholar’s voice sounded, “Hurry.” With that, she was pushed towards that brilliant ceramic glaze-like light, brushing directly past the phoenixes. Shao Zi was startled. What happened to using seduction?
Moving as swift as the wind, Shao Zi hadn’t prepared to land before she had already charged into the nest, the force so painful that she nearly sprained her neck. Once she looked up, her brain was a mess. She sneezed three times in a row before coming back to her senses. Then she hurriedly began looking for that feather.
This bird’s nest was not like that of the Mortal Realm. It was even bigger than the nests of most bird demons and Shao Zi could not figure out where she was. Her pace suddenly came to a stop as her gaze circled around. Her eyes closed and her attention focused
The nest, formed with overlapping dried rattan vines that wrapped in a circle, slowly began growing new sprouts, their buds becoming bigger and bigger and turning into green leaves that imbued themselves in every inch of the nest. At a certain area, the growth suddenly stopped. Shao Zi quickly opened her eyes and rushed in that direction. Sure enough, she saw a gigantic rainbow feather blocking the growth of the thriving leaves. She hurriedly took out the blood pearl and placed it on a leaf. With all her energy, she grabbed the feather and struck the pearl with it.
It was as if that blood pearl could suck blood. Starting from the tip of the feather, the colors gradually turned to white until finally emptying completely into the pearl. Shao Zi quickly put it away. With a call of “rise,” the vines began growing taller and taller, soaring into the skies. She was going to find the scholar and leave together. But once she reached the top of the skies, she could not see any traces of him. A sorrowful cry rung next to her ear, and she turned around to see the scholar rush towards her. He picked her up with precision, and a fierce gale sprang up, blowing past the water’s surface as vibrations rippling around the two.
Shao Zi’s arms wrapped around his neck. She looked behind them and saw those two enormous shadows orbiting around. Their cries were ear-piercing.
As a chill set into her hands, Shao Zi stilled, then looked at the scholar: “Innkeeper, you…”
Seeing the scholar’s face, Shao Zi was shocked. His face was fine earlier, but now, it was completely paled. His complexion was also suffused with blue, traces of sweat lingering on his forehead. The injuries that the scholar suffered were even more severe than last time!
The scholar pursed his lips, his efforts focused on flying towards the exit. He couldn’t lose concentration, nor could he see Shao Zi’s expression.
Shao Zi didn’t dare to move around, lest she disturb him. Those sound of those bird calls came closer and closer. Just listening to it made her heart clench. All of a sudden, she saw the phoenixes came to a stop in mid-air and assumed that they had given up on their chase. What she didn’t expect was that they would flap their wings, giving rise to a hurricane that rippled in their direction. In alarm, Shao Zi used all her energy to fill the skies with a mass of blooming flowers, blocking the winds, but only for just a moment. However, this short moment was just enough for the scholar. His arms tightened even more as he carried her out from the Realm of Gods in a flash.
As soon as they saw the blue sea and skies, they began tumbling downwards, falling heavily onto the sea turtle’s back. The power of the impact was so intense that the sea turtle sunk halfway downwards, bringing the seawater to a swell.
Shao Zi crawled out of his arms. She was completely uninjured. His stance had protected her so safely that it would’ve been hard to get hurt even if she tried. But seeing his complexion pale even more, she choked: “Scholar?”
The scholar inhaled lightly from the back of his throat and he faced upwards, spreading his limbs wide while bathing under the sun. He tilted his head slightly and looked at her: “I’m fine.”
Shao Zi crouched next to him: “Your face is so pale…”
The scholar laughed: “I got startled.”
There was no way that Shao Zi believed he could get frightened to such a state. She thought of the blood pearl and brought it out, passing it to him: “I finished the mission successfully. But what in the world is this pearl? It really sucked out all the color from the feather. This won’t harm the phoenixes, will it?”
“Naturally, it will not. It’s just a colorful thing that they’ve always been fond of, something they don’t allow others to touch. Without this feather, they’ll be dispirited for few days before quickly making a new one.”
Shao Zi looked at that pearl, then with a sudden realization, her face twitched: “The blood pearl sucking out the colors (顏色 // yan se) away…So this is the “seduction” (色誘 // se you) that Innkeeper speaks of?”4
The scholar burst into laughter: “Yes.”
Shao Zi giggled: “No wonder you said to leave it all to you. So it turns out it was this kind of se, not that se. Oh, will the phoenixes chase all the way over? Let’s hurry and go.”
“Phoenixes won’t come to the Mortal Realm. You’ve forgotten, they are prideful divine creatures and would not come to a place like this.” The scholar coughed several times over. Just earlier, he had turned his blood and vital energy into the pearl and drew that rainbow feather within it. Then, he was pursued relentlessly by those two gigantic birds. So awful. They’ve proved themselves to be the birds indulged upon by Emperor Pan Gu. Even their spiritual power was hundreds of times stronger than ordinary divine beasts.
Shao Zi’s energy level was not doing so well, either. Spreading the rattan vines in the birds nest exhausted quite a bit of energy, and the burst of blossoms during the ensuing panic used up even more strength. Seeing how the scholar’s chest seemed quite hardy and that there was some sunshine and warmth exuding forth, she ended up sprawling right on top of him to sleep while waiting for the sea turtle slowly swim back to short.
Feeling pressure on his chest, the scholar’s entire person stiffened. Looking at her exquisite black hair and her crooked hairpin, all he could see was her pure and flawless5 profile. He felt like there was nothing more wonderful in the world than this. Raising a hand, he gently stroked her hair. Fine and soft, it was extremely comfortable to the touch. His hand slid downwards, but before he could touch her face, she yawned, revealing an image of indolence.
He pillowed one hand beneath his head as he soaked in Shao Zi’s warmth. Exceedingly content, he knocked gently with the other hand: “Little Sea Turtle, swim a little slower.”
The sea turtle: “…”
When Shao Zi woke up, she discovered that she was once again in the scholar’s room, but the scholar was not inside. Thinking that he was injured, she rushed out but could not find him. She jumped into the backyard, landing on the ground with a thunk and startling the demons who were in the midst of fiddling with cards: “Where’s the scholar?”
Lady Xin tsked: “Lao da, how many times have you woken up now only to immediately start looking for the scholar?”
Of course, Shao Zi did not sense the teasing in these words. All she could think of was how he was injured. Though he was very powerful, even the most powerful people should not go on like this. Moreover, the scholar had gone to look for a substitute for her sake. If something happened, she would be even more perturbed.
While wallowing in remorse, her nose twitched. She scented the energy of the scholar as he returned to the tavern. Instantly, she leapt onto the window and crawled inside.
Below, the spectating demons exchanged several glances, each perplexedly wondering: “Lao da‘s really fallen for the scholar, no?”
When the scholar saw the door ajar, he thought that Shao Zi was awake and went inside. Just as he took two steps, he saw a beautiful silhouette leap in from the window. Landing right in front of him, she grabbed his hand and opened her eyes wide as she carefully looked him up and down, her stares causing him to choke.
Seeing that his complexion had yet to return to normal, Shao Zi angrily grabbed his hand: “Innkeeper, your injuries haven’t healed yet you’re still running off. Hurrying and come lay down on the bed.”
The scholar both happily and painfully made of a sound of acknowledgement as he was pressed down on the bed by Shao Zi to sleep. He was even being watched over. This was clearly keeping him from being able to sleep at all. But it there was nothing that could be done. She pinned him onto the bed and covered him with a blanket. Sure enough, she sprawled over the bedside and began staring faintly at him.
A faint scent of peony flowers wafted across the blanket. His head that was not dizzy at first suddenly became dizzy…
When Shao Zi saw him fall into a haze, she hmphed and said: “Look, you’re dizzy now, right? Who said you could go off and run around.”
The scholar laughed helplessly, turning to his side to look at her: “Those people from the Devil’s Realm won’t be coming anymore.”
Shao Zi’s eyes brightened: “You sent the blood pearl over?”
“Mn. Once the King of Devils takes it, his life will extend by half a year.”
Shao Zi breathed a sigh of relief, her smile bright and beautiful: “Thank you, Innkeeper.”
The scholar’s expression carried a smile: “Then give me a kiss, okay?”
Though it was a fanciful thought, he wasn’t really using something like this as an exchange. But he didn’t expect that Shao Zi would really lean over and very seriously kiss him on the forehead. She even said with earnesty: “Innkeeper, hurry and get well soon.”
The scholar’s eyes widened: “…on the lips, too!””
Shao Zi’s face reddened slightly. It was really demons and gods at work6 just now. She stood up and turned away as she said: “The yin tang acupoint7 is the most effective for healing injuries. It can spread the power of medicine throughout the entire body.”
While disoriented just now, he had forgotten this matter. This was how flower demons healed injuries. His thoughts had gone sideways again. It turns out Shao Zi still hadn’t bloomed. He sighed unwittingly, feeling a sense of loss. He still needed to work hard for a long time, ah.
Translator’s Note: The last mention of blooming in the last paragraph is more figurative, like saying Shao Zi is a late-bloomer. The word used in the original text isn’t a pun, I just thought it would be a cute to translate as such.
- The longhand way to say phoenix is feng huang, but individually, feng and huang mean phoenix as well. The feng refers to male while huang refers to female. That’s why there’s a saying, “feng seeking huang” (鳳求凰 // feng qiu huang) which alludes to male-female courtship.
- 斬釘截鐵: Fig. To go about something resolutely and without hesitation.
- 鏘 // Qiang: Onomatopoeia for bell/tinkling sounds.
- There’s some wordplay here. Yan se means color and the se on its own can also mean color. However, se is also often used in euphemisms involving sex or sexuality. The term Yi Mei Tong Qian uses for seduction is se you (色誘), where the you means to entice or tempt. Shao Zi thought he meant sexual seduction but he really just means drawing or sucking out colors. Shao Zi’s interpretation is the actual meaning of the phrase, so don’t go blabbing the phrase around LOL.
- 白璧無瑕: Idiom. Lit. White jade without markings.
- 鬼使神差: Idiom. An unexplained event that calls for some sort of supernatural explanation.
- 印堂 // Yin Tang: The space between a person’s eyebrows.