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)
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The scholar lowered his head down and gave her a kiss, speaking with sincerity: “Don’t cry. Who bullied you? I’ll go give them a beating.”
Shao Zi’s face was full of black lines…
Hearing her crying come to an abrupt stop, he thought inwardly that this was effective. With another kiss, he continued solemnly: “I’m being serious. I won’t let anyone bully you, definitely not.”
Shao Zi was at the end of her wits, the wails that were lodged in her throat all coming forth at once: “Right now, it’s you that’s bullying me!”
In his shock, the scholar hastily let go and Shao Zi instantly sat up, her wrists nearly splitting. When she looked at them, she became furious: “Look, my wrists are all bruised because of you.”
The scholar wanted to take a look at her hands but she shrunk away in terror, leaning towards Tao Tie. The scholar did not dare to frighten her again, either, kneeling on one knee as he looked at at her. On this rare occasion, the tipsiness from the alcohol seemed to vanish rather quickly. He sobered up some, and saw her face covered with vestiges of her tears. He reached out slightly: “Shao Zi…”
“I hate you!” Shao Zi stood up shakily. Not only did her wrists hurt, but her lips hurt, too. Did he need to kiss so forcefully? She wasn’t just hard bone. Just as she turned around, she came face to face with Tao Tie’s big eyes. Her face twitched and she was subsequently swallowed into his mouth.
The Mortal Realm was too dangerous! She’s going back to the Demon Realm!
Early morning, the beautiful singsong of birds fluttered about the window. When the scholar woke up and stooped down to put on his shoes, he found that he never even took them off. He rubbed his chin. What did he do last night? How come his tongue was a little sore? And his mouth, too. Could it be that he ate a fishbone and was pierced by it?
Still puzzled after thinking it over a hundred times1, he opened the door and went out. He just so happened to see Shao Zi coming out of her room, too. His mood instantly improved by leaps and bounds as he smiled: “Morning, Shao Zi.”
Hearing that sound, Shao Zi shuddered. She looked up and glared at him, then hugged her washbasin tight and went downstairs.
And for the rest of that morning, the scholar became consumed by one question: Why wasn’t Shao Zi talking to him?
Not only did she not speak to him, but she would not even look him in the eye; nor did she call him “Innkeeper” or sprawl over the till and watch as he ran the abacus.
Shao Zi was incredibly bitter. She both feared and hated him, but the most depressing thing was how she had to keep consoling herself that it was all only because he was drunk.
At the noon meal, Shao Zi sat down and said softly: “Shao Zi, what’s the matter? Did I make you unhappy?”
Shao Zi replied with her cheeks puffed up in a pout: “Think about it yourself.”
The scholar already mulled it over a hundred thousand times. Last night, he carried a pan back, and then…and then there wasn’t anything else…After Shao Zi left, he suddenly thought of the demons in the backyard. He quickly went the backyard and hauled up a bucket of water, feeding them to the brim with water. He crouched over by that azalea flower and smiled: “Can I ask you about something?”
Before Azalea could even open her mouth, she heard a “ah-da~” and in the next instant, she was kicked into the air…While she flew towards the sky, she thought indignantly: Lady Xin! You traitorous bugger, forgetting your friends when you see the opposite sex!
Lady Xin curved a branch and verdant, green leaves shook. She smiled: “Ask away.”
The demons narrowed their eyes…
The scholar coughed dryly. He asked: “Shao Zi started ignoring me all of a sudden, do you know why?”
“Ah…this…” Lady Xin winked at him. “Do you really not remember? Last night, ahem, last night you bullied lao da on the rooftop.”
The scholar suddenly sucked in a sharp breath of air, he actually bullied Shao Zi! He wouldn’t let anyone bully Shao Zi, yet he went and did something like that!?
Shao Zi was currently sweeping the floor by the doors. That old candy artist was concentrating on pouring syrup into thin lines of drawings. The light and sweet scent was actually able to lift her spirits a great deal. The old man’s continued presence echoed the olden, time-honored ambiance of the tavern, offering another a unique sort of scene.
As she immersed herself in the sight, she saw a woman being dragged over by the hand by a child who was pointing at the candied art and wanted one to eat. The woman was dressed very plain and there were even patches on the corners of her clothing. The child was making a huge fuss, and the woman’s expression was agonized: “Yuan’er, be good, when we go home, Mother will cut a piece of sugar for you to eat.”
The child wasn’t swayed and refused to leave. The old man suddenly spoke up: “Take a spin, no cost.”
Immediately, the child went to go spin it while the woman thanked him over and over again. The wooden needle began to spin rapidly, passing through all kinds of drawings so quick that one couldn’t even see clearly until it eventually landed on a pig. The old man quickly lifted the spoon and scooped out some syrup, spreading it across the slate. His hand moved like a brush against a painting and soon, the syrup turned into a chubby pig. Piercing it with a thin stick, he scraped up the vivid, lifelike thing.
The old man gave the candied art to the woman: “You take a bite as well. Eating it can resolve your worries.”
The woman smiled pitifully, but the child let her take a bite, so she took a bite. Sure enough, the sweetness entered her mouth and slowly traveled to the depths of her heart…It was as if in that instant, her worries really did disappear.
Shao Zi wanted to go spin again, but after touching her pockets, she decided against it. She should save up her own money to buy back the tavern. The scholar was simply too dangerous. Just as she was thinking, she turned around and saw him. Startled, she jumped back and looked at him with vigilance, broom still in hand as she slowly scooted her way back into the tavern.
The scholar laughed bitterly: “Shao Zi…I got drunk last night.”
Shao Zi clenched her teeth: “I know, but that was…too far overboard.” Her jaw was going to break with how much she was clenching it!
Every time the scholar took a tiny step forward, she would take another step backwards. Each step back was like a stab to his heart. After finally closing the distance between them with much difficulty, it was once again…ruined by him. He lifted his eyes, looking at her, and said cautiously: “Yes, but I would only ever be like this with you.”
With that, he focused his gaze on her, his breath stilling ever so slightly. This was him confessing, straightforward and frank. After waiting so long for the opportunity, he didn’t expect that it would be under such circumstances.
Shao Zi’s eyes widened as she stared at him, her brain short circuiting. Only after a long time did she coming to an understanding, and she couldn’t help but become indignant: “So it turns out that I’m the easiest to bully!”
The scholar facepalmed.
In the evening, the glow of the setting sun spilled across the earth. The backyard demons stretched about. Having soaked up a day’s worth of sunlight, they were merely waiting for the sun to set before coming out to play. Seeing Shao Zi sitting off to the side with her hands soaking in a bucket, they each leaned over to take a peek. All they saw as lotus-like hands as pale as jade, covered with bruises in the shape of five fingers. The couldn’t help but shake their heads: “Tch, Lao da, your injuries turned out to be so severe.”
Shao Zi “hmphed” softly: “All of you, don’t forget to kneel on the washboards tonight. You all saw me getting bullied last night and didn’t come save me, even going as far as squatting over at Jin Xiu Tavern to watch the show.”
Cypress Tree ge laughed awkwardly: “It’s not because we thought you were actually being bullied by the scholar, okay…The scholar is just so powerful, if we hastily rushed over, the consequences would be, if not death, then injury, ya.”
Shao Zi pursed her lips, still feeling some traces of pain at the corners. He was really trying to swallow her into his stomach, huh. She shouldn’t have lugged him back to his room after he passed out. She should have dug a huge hole instead and then tossed him inside, filled the hole with dirt, and stomp on it until it was completely packed. Feeling suffocated and unhappy, she continued to soak in the cool well-water. All of a sudden, she heard footsteps. She looked up and saw a gray chang shan enter her line of sight, startling her so that she withdrew her hands and leapt upwards, slipping back in her room through the window.
The scholar stilled, then jumped up as well, entering his own room.
The demons instantly sensed that they were about to witness some juicy gossip, and one by one, climbed up Lady Xin’s branches to look inside.
After Shao Zi shut the doors, she mulled it over and thought that it was still unsafe. So she pushed a stool against the door. Just as she moved it over, she heard the scholar’s knocking: “Shao Zi.”
Startled, she did not reply.
The voice outside was filled with helplessness: “Shao Zi, open the door, okay?”
Shao Zi replied, unwavering: “No. If you have something to say, say it from outside.”
“Your hands are hurt, I’ve brought medicine.”
Shao Zi sat on the stool, still unwilling to open the door: “It’ll be fine by tomorrow.”
After hearing no movements for a long time, Shao Zi peeked her head out. But she found that he was still standing in front of the door. His eyes moved towards her direction, and upon seeing her, he began smiling: “Open the door, be good.”2
This smile left her with essentially no defenses. Shao Zi peered carefully at him, only very slowly moving the stool away and opening the door once she was sure that he had no malice.
The scholar looked at her as he said: “Pull up your sleeves, I’ll apply medication for you.”
When he caught a glimpse of her bruises over by the well, he knew only vaguely that there were injuries there. He had not realized they was this serious. The scholar frowned as he rubbed ointment on her. When he heard her suck in a sharp breath, he gently and slowly blew on the area to help relieve her pain: “Once the ointment dries, the injuries will be healed. Just bear with it for a bit.”