Part of a Peony’s Tavern translation project at fruitydeer.com.
Do not download, copy, or redistribute without permission.
Source: 芍藥客棧 by Yi Mei Tong Qian // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
Guys, I won’t lie, I’m really not fond of editing at all. It definitely, maybe contributes to chapters being posted late. Here’s hoping this chapter doesn’t have too many typos…
Shao Zi’s brows pinched together as she looked at him. The scholar of this moment was clearly completely normal. In the future, she must hide the wine well. Then, she that his hand remained on her bruise well after he finished applying the ointment as he tried to align his hand to the handprint. Her face instantly blackened: “There’s no need to doubt, this was indeed your work of art.”
The scholar, on the contrary, did not laugh: “There won’t be a next time.”
But Shao Zi was not accustomed to seeing such a serious expression. It seemed that she was more used to his light-heartedness. This had to be some sort of a hallucination. Because obviously, only people who behave seriously are capable of setting others at ease.
The scholar suddenly thought of something, once again comparing his hand to that handprint. He rubbed his chin: “What in the world was the posture at the time? To be able to grab like this…Shao Zi, why is your lip cracked? Do you need to apply ointment?”
The gloominess of the previous night instantly rose in her mind: “You even have the nerve to say that! I’m going to fight you to the death!”
The demons outside the window each shook their heads in succession: “Lao da‘s cadence is that of someone courting disaster ah.”
Of course, nothing happened to Shao Zi and she remained good and well. After shooing away the scholar, she plopped onto her bed to sleep. Then, she realized that these matters that had kept her in a knot had resolved themselves without leaving any resentment in her heart. The scholar was still that same scholar. Turning over, she then felt that something was off. What does him being his normal self again have anything to do with her!
After tossing and turning without being able to come to any conclusions, she simply stopped thinking about it and sank into a deep sleep.
Early morning, she woke up and took the washbasin to go wash her face. Upon doing so, she realized that all vestiges of the bruise were gone. The ointment was so miraculous! After washing up, she bounded to the kitchen. She took the shopping basket and went off to purchase the cooking ingredients for the day.
Because Zhuang Yuan Town was small and was not part of a major commerce route, it typically was not bustling with activity, let alone this early in the morning.
Shao Zi crouched over and carefully picked out some vegetables. Like always, those aunties selling vegetables were chatting about all the big and small matters of the neighborhood. After purchasing vegetables, she went to the meat vendors. One topic of discussion finally caused her to look up: “Several people have fallen asleep and haven’t woken up?”
As the butcher cut up some pork chops for her, he said: “That’s right. The Dong Family’s Auntie Qin, Zhang ge from Yun Alley, and Yuan’er’s mother. There’s also third daughter-in-law of the Songs1 and Old Jiao’s dad. For some reason, they won’t wake up from their sleep.”
Someone to the side said: “The people that you’re talking normally don’t seem all that energetic. If not some sort of mishap, then there’s some other issue. After many an instance of dramatics regarding life and death, maybe they’ve just fallen into a beautiful dream and refuse to wake up.”
The butcher shot a glore: “Off with you. Speaking with a mouthful of nonsense after mingling with Daoist priests for just a couple days. How is it possible to not wake up from a dream?”
While everyone bantered along, Shao Zi’s brows wrinkled slightly. She picked up the bones and meat she purchased and began making her way back. That many people suddenly falling into deep sleep. This may not just be simple coincidence. Could it be that there was once again some sort of monster or fiend that’s made their way into town? Goodness, the tavern had better not get dragged into this and they’d better not let her come across something. These last few months, she’s really been turned into such a good samaritan of a flower demon.
Holding onto this intent of not minding random people’s business, Shao Zi quickly returned to the tavern with her basket in hand. Only, she came across the old candied art man setting up a stall off the side of the doorposts. He was in the midst of lighting the stove for cooking the sugar.
The old man looked up and saw her, then shared a kindly smile. Immediately, Shao Zi was reminded of the old innkeeper. How wonderful would it be if Grandpa were here…If, at the time, she came to work as the hostess and worked hard in watching over the tavern with Grandpa, when Grandpa made the decision to leave, perhaps she could have persuaded him to stay.”
Just as she became absorbed into her thoughts, someone suddenly shook her and said softly: “Shao Zi.”
She turned around vacantly. It was an innkeeper, but it wasn’t Grandpa. It was the scholar. Her nose couldn’t help but sour: “Why the heck did you come outside?”
The innocent scholar watched as she sniffled and went inside. Only after she left did he slightly move his gaze towards that old candied art man. The sugar had already melted, its faint sweetness wafting through and permeating the nostrils. The scholar’s gaze stilled, only going back inside after hearing Shao Zi beckon for him to move the pot.
Not too long after, a middle-aged man with a sickly face that was dressed brightly and neatly walked over, his voice hoarse: “Zhi Zhi will enjoy eating this, I’ll take one.”
The old candied art man smiled faintly: “Please spin for a drawing.”
The man spun a monkey, and the old man turned the sugar into a drawing before passing it to him: “You take a bite as well. Eating it can resolve your worries.”
The man was a bit stupefied. He dipped his head and took a bite. Sure enough, that sweetness had entered his mouth and slowly settled in his heart…His worries really did scatter right away, and there was no more aching.
Seeing him in that stupor, his servant reminded: “Old Master, it’s time to place the order for the banquet.”
The middle-aged man waved him off: “Give the list to the innkeeper, I’m going back.”
With that, he took the candied art and left. The servant shook his head. Did the illness go all the way to his head?
Shao Zi placed the bones inside of the big, earthen pot to simmer into soup. Then, she added some medicinal ingredients. Whenever a customer orders noodle soup, this soup could be poured on top and the result would be a delectable taste. On top of that, adding salt when starting the point better locks in the rich aromas of the soup. However, the meat cannot be salted. If the main dish served is meat-based, then salt must first be added to make the meat more flavorful.2
Despite having just placed it in the earthen pot, Shao Zi could already envision the broth. Just a whiff of the meat made even the porridge and vegetables for breakfast this morning look delicious. Seeing that the scholar had yet to come in, she was just about to call for him until she saw him come in with a paper filled with names of dishes. He smiled: “Official He is holding a banquet and ordered twenty-three dishes from us to be sent over early morning, the day after tomorrow.”
Shao Zi’s eyes brightened. When she took the paper and gave it a peek, she saw that they were all entrées. It was as if each and every word was sparkling with money. She instantly blossomed with delight: “Not a problem. I’ll go buy ingredients tomorrow and the day after, I’ll get up even before the sun rises to start making them.
With this order, Shao Zi’s mood quickly elevated. On top of that, business in the tavern today ended up being pretty decent. In the evening, she huddled next to the scholar while watching him count the silver. She grinned so hard that her eyes turned into crescents. The scholar turned his head and looked at her: “Is your hand better?”
“All better.” With a finger, Shao Zi touched her lips, which were ruddy from injury. “It’s still a little painful here, where’s the ointment?”
The scholar said with seriousness: “I’ll help you apply medication.”
Shao Zi refused staunchly: “You can’t touch me! Mn, because there’s still wine in the tavern.”
The scholar lowered his hand and stared up to the sky with a sigh. It would be fine if he could remember what happened the prior night. He would willingly accept her contempt. But to not remember anything and even face contempt, to use a term of the Mortal Realm, that’s right, he was even more wronged than Dou’e!3
Early morning on the third day, Shao Zi woke up to cook. Because many of the dishes were cold dishes, she finished her preparation very quickly. At the hour of the dragon,4 she placed all the meal boxes onto the horse-drawn cart and rode over to deliver to He Manor.
At He Manor, she knocked the door knocker, and someone showed up shortly. Shao Zi smiled: “Delivery from Tong Fu Tavern.”
The servant welcomed her in and she carried the dishes into the kitchen. Upon completion, Shao Zi said: “The total is forty-five liang and seventy-three copper coins.”
The person replied: “For the time being, it’s not possible to pay this. Place this on credit first.”
Shao Zi blinked: “We’re just a small business, we don’t offer credit.”
That person replied helplessly: “I can’t anything about it either. After Old Master came home yesterday, he said he was dizzy and went to nap. He still hasn’t woken up. Isn’t that the sleeping sickness that’s been all over town lately? The keys to the treasury are with Old Master, where would we find the nerve to go ask for money, ya. I reckon that there won’t be a banquet tonight either. Once Old Master wakes up, we’ll give you the money.”
Shao Zi gave a wide-eyed stare: “That’s no good, who knows when Old Master He is even going wake up?”
That person chuckled with a “heh heh“: “There’s no other option. If the maiden has a way, then wake up Old Master ah.”
Seeing his rogue expression, Shao Zi really wanted to give him a beating. She said angrily: “This sleeping sickness occurred, but no one was sent to notify us. Now you’re even renegading on debts.”
That person gave her a shove: “Off with you, go wherever it is you need to go to calm down. I don’t even know if I’ll get paid this month, let alone have the leisure to send you notice. If you don’t go away, I’m going to give you a beating.”
In her fury, Shao Zi raised her arms and was about to yell at him, but she thought it over and restrained herself. Should send a slap his way, then her earnings will really be done for.
The scholar was tidying up by the front doors when he saw Shao Zi driving the cart around to the back. When she came back, she came inside in a rage and downed several cups of tea: “Innkeeper, the He Family is placing a credit and they say that Old Master He is in deep sleep. They have no money to pay the bill.”
The scholar frowned. Shao Zi puffed up with anger: “Tonight, I’m going to investigate the root of the matter and see which monster is causing mischief. Hoping to be on credit with our tavern? Don’t even think about it.”
That much silver was no joke. Thinking about all that money made Shao Zi’s heart ache. Once the sky darkened, she prepared to go to He Manor. Crossing the banisters with a single stride, she stooped forward and flew in that direction.
All ways already quiet and silent at He Manor. This was quite a large house, but there wasn’t even a watchman.
Every since the Old Master caught the sleeping sickness, the steward took the lead in lazing around. The several other servants were contemplating whether or not they should steal the keys and open the treasury, then take their slave contracts back and leave with the money.
When Shao Zi snuck into He Manor, she coincidentally heard a few people hiding in a room, discussing this matter. She couldn’t help but shake her head. After searching from one room to the next, she finally found Old Master He. She stood by the bed and peered at him. There was no sign of illness and nothing out of the ordinary. It looked no different than simply being fast asleep.
- Is it just me or does this sound weird…it’s referring to the third son’s wife.
- Your humble translator is a cooking noob, so I have no idea if this is true or not. But soup is usually a must-have for Taiwanese meals and usually includes 3-4 dishes and a soup.
- The Injustice of Dou’e《窦娥冤》or 《感天动地窦娥冤》which is the full title, also known as Snow in Midsummer, is a play about a really unlucky, widowed child bride who is later falsely accused of and executed for murdering a rejected suitor. All sorts of crazy things happen, but this is essentially telling the grievances of a woman treated with injustice throughout her life.
- 辰時 // Chen Shi: Archaic way of referring to the hours of 7-9am.