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)
I can’t believe I never posted the finale to this arc before disappearing for almost three months!! I can’t promise a timeframe for the next update because my schedule is spread pretty thin these days, but get excited because after this arc, we’re going to begin diving deeper into Shao Zi and the scholar’s relationship as well as their mysterious past.
Also, how are you guys liking the new theme for the site? It’s still a work in progress because there’s still a lot I want to tweak, but I’m pretty happy with it so far.
FYI: There may be some typos still because I only did a very quick proofread just now.
The old candied art man had also returned from his dreamscape. When he spoke once more, his voice was calm and unhurried: “I created a separate world and drew people into dreams. And these dreams are what they have wished for elsewhere. What is wrong with me helping them realize their dreams?”
Shao Zi shook her head: “You think that constructing these dreams is helping them, but in reality, you’re harming them. The matters of this world move as they ought to move. Everyone has their own destiny. If they were to live in a dream forever, what would be the meaning of life? The wishes they make are merely beautiful hopes of theirs. For instance, Yuan’er’s mother. Even though she might want her husband to be perfect, she still has Yuan’er to take care of. You’ve let her enter a dream to experience a beautiful dreamscape, but what about Yuan’er? And Old Master He. In his dream, he’s spending time with his family without suffering from illness or pain. But what about the young miss that’s currently at the mountain villa? You’re only thinking about the people in question, but how will the people around them survive?”
The old candied art man was briefly taken aback: “Then I’ll let all of them enter dreams!”
Shao Zi gnawed at her lip: “All of them? If you could really let that many people enter dreams, why would you wait until now? You’re just lying to yourself, telling yourself that you’re a Tu Di Gong that can help people realize their dreams. You’re a kind spirit, but…your methods are wrong…I want to protect the tavern, but I don’t want to use such means. I want to rely on my own abilities to protect it. If I knew that the thing I wanted to protect was about to be beaten down by the wind and rain, yet I entered a dream instead, I would become even more devastated. I’d rather fall with it as opposed to the alternative.”
With this, the old man shook his head. So he did wrong. Did he really do wrong? But they all looked so happy. All he did was help them create a dream. He didn’t drag them in forcefully. It was obviously of their own wishes. What was wrong with him helping them realize their wishes?
The scholar said: “If you’re unsure of whether you’re right or wrong, then let them decide for themselves. Let them return to the realm, then you can find out whether they’re happier in the dream or if they’re willing to continue on living in this world with its ups and downs and all.”
The old man hesitated for a moment: “What if I refuse?”
The scholar shrugged: “Then I’ll break the dreams by force.”
“…” Then what would be the point him agreeing or not! The old man said with a cold expression: “Then I’ll make a bet with you. If I am right, then you are never to interfere again. If you are right, then I will return to the Feng Yu Bridge.”
He swiftly began to break the dreamscape, but he was still a little hesitant. Did he agree with what the two of them were saying? But how could that be? This was such a beautiful dreamscape, how could those people be willing to leave?
Bit by bit, the copper mirror began to shatter. The sound entered the ears and the first to awaken was Old Master He.
Together, the scholar and Shao Zi looked towards the sky. Old Master He suddenly woke, and the old mo-mo1 that was carrying in some water dropped the basin in shock. She began to shout in excitement: “The Old Master’s awake, Old Master is awake!”
Old Master He’s expression was one of confusion. Coughing as soon as he opened his mouth, he stared at the people rushing in. Only after a long moment did he ask: “Where’s Zhi Zhi?”
Someone replied: “Young Miss heard that Old Master could not wake from sleep and has already returned from the mountain villa. Mo-mo has already gone to relay the information. She’ll be here very shortly.”
Old Master He was alarmed: “Hurry and stop her, this illness of mine is contagious.”
But as he said this, a green-robed young maiden had already come inside. She grabbed his hand and cried cried: “Father, you’re finally awake. Don’t toss Zhi Zhi aside. Zhi Zhi will never return to the mountain villa. I want to spend my life at Father’s side.”
Old Master He sighed: “Father won’t send you away again, but this illness is contagious…”
Zhi Zhi said: “Then Daughter will live a little further. I just want to be home and to be able to see Father.”
Old Master He’s heart softened and he nearly cried. If he continued to dream, he would indeed hold hands with his wife and daughter in hand, bereft of worries. But that was a mere dream. To take good care of his daughter for the sake of his deceased wife, to await her marriage to a good man and good family, was his true responsibility as a father. It wouldn’t be right to sink into a lifetime of his own selfishly motivated desires.
That copper mirror completely shattered, and the old man turned to another side.
In a dilapidated little house, a drunk man leaned against the doorway. Next to him was two bottles of wine, and every so often, he’d mutter some nonsense. A moment later, a young boy came over: “Father, find a physician for Mother.”
The man pushed him away: “Find what? This illness is sure to end in death. Keeping her here as she awaits death is already gracious. Say, where did your mother hide her money? Hurry and bring it to Lao-zi.”2
The boy hurriedly retreated, raising his voice: “How would Mother have any money? You’ve gambled it all away.”
The man stood up unsteadily and was about to hit him with the rod next to the doorway, but before the rod descended, a woman from inside the house rushed in and rushed to the boy, pulling him into her arms. With sunken eyes, she glared at the man: “Hit Yuan’er again if you dare and I’ll go toe-to-toe with you!”
Yuan’er hugged her and began to cry: “Mother, you’ve finally awakened.”
The woman held him tightly and cried as well: “Mother is awake now, I’ll never leave Yuan’er aside again. Mother was blind in the beginning and married a scoundrel like your father.”
The man pulled at her hair: “So long as you’re alive. Why don’t I just sell you off to the brothels?”
The woman couldn’t bear it anymore, shouting: “Lao-niang3 is going to divorce you!!!”
That copper mirror collapsed as well. Shao Zi silently clenched her fist. Yuan’er’s mother was so great, why even keep this scoundrel around? To celebrate New Years together!?”
The old man heaved a long sigh. Confusion, so much confusion. “The dream was clearly so wonderful, why go back?”
The scholar said: “Because they, too, understand that the dreamscape is not real. What’s real is the people in front of them. Letting them submerge in the dreamscape is your will, not theirs.”
The old man laughed silently: “How foolish…”
Shao Zi said: “Grandpa…aren’t you, too, actually dwelling in your own beautiful dreams that you’ve constructed? You believe that doing these things can help them will help strengthen your conviction that you are that a Tu Di Gong worthy of mortals’ sincere worship. But it’s not quite so…even if there are no mortals there to offer joss sticks and prayers, you’ve already developed a physical form and can go off to do other things, ya.”
“My own dreams…” the old man uttered quietly, his expression shifting even more. He thought he was weaving dreams for the sake of others, but it turns out it was for himself.
People no longer walked the Feng Yu Bridge. The former scene of prosperity no longer existed. He had waited and waited. Ten years, twenty years, thirty years. But no one passed through. No one burned joss sticks and made wishes.
Simply too lonely…
He used sugar to create art and lure people into sweet dreamscapes. It turned out to be a dream within a dream, a dream within a dream ah…He laughed bitterly. As if reaching a sense of enlightenment through wisdom, the stifling bitterness in his heart slowly dissipated. He slowly came out of the beautiful dream that he himself weaved.
Shao Zi saw his body gradually fade into nothingness. Her heart clenched and she wanted to step forth, but the scholar reached out and stopped her. He gently shook his head: “He’s reached a moment of enlightenment and has turned into a real Tu Di Gong. Someone will arrange for him to go to the Tu Di Temple very soon.”
Only with this did Shao Zi exhale in relief. And from this boundless dreamland came a sonorous voice: “Thank you both, for bringing me out of this dream.” Shao Zi waved towards the sky: “Goodbye, Grandpa.”
The scholar scratched his chin, he really wanted to tell Shao Zi that that she was facing the wrong direction…the Tu Di Gong is…in the ground…but oh well, as long as she’s happy.4
Shao Zi was so happy. Now she could go and collect the debts owed to the tavern! They offer no such credit system, alright?!
“Shao Zi, let’s go back.”
“Yi? Go back?”
“Right now, we’re still in your dream.”
Shao Zi made an “oh” noise and then hopped up and down. Nothing changed. Her face became astringent: “How do we go back?”
The scholar broke into laughter and pulled her into his arms, pressing her head to his chest. Shao Zi stood motionlessly. In what felt like a trance, a breeze blew by, then came to a stop. When she opened her eyes again, the scholar was still holding her. But why was this posture so strange? Upon closer examination, she found she was lying on her own bed. She blinked. The scholar was pressed atop herself.
Seeing her expression of “you pervert,” the scholar’s face twitched: “Shao Zi, you listen to me, this was because of our posture while standing just now. It’s not on purpose…”
He wanted to rise, but when he propped himself up with his hand, it came into contact with something soft. Seems that he put it at the wrong place again…
Shao Zi: “…”
The scholar: “…”
- 嬷嬷 // Mo Mo: Traditionally refers to older female servants, the most famous in TV history being the Empress’ loyal yet insane Rong mo-mo in My Fair Princess (1998).
- 老子 // Lao Zi: Translates as old man, but the “old” here is more like “great” or “grand.” Usually used when referring to oneself in an arrogant manner.
- 老娘 // Lao Niang: Translates as old lady, but the “old” here is more like “great” or “grand.” Like lao zi, it’s used when referring to oneself in an arrogant manner, but in this case it’s the feminine version of the term.
- The tu di in Tu Di Gong literally means soil and earth.