A dilapidated temple.
A dilapidated temple with no scent of incense, or the sign of worshippers.
The lighting in the temple was heavy and hazy, its four corners completely wrecked. The body of the Buddha statue in the center was completely covered in dust and shattered, though it still looked dignified. A dilapidated templed like this couldn’t shield from the wind or rain, but destitute people frequently used it as a place to hide.
There was no fire burning within the temple, so it was a bit chilly.
On the side, a few people dressed in rags who resembled beggars hugged rolls of dry grass, claiming the warmest, driest places for themselves.
As for me.
I used my sleeve to wipe my face and spat once.
I scanned each corner of the area while undoing my waist band, squatting in the forest in front of the temple. Pretending to go to the bathroom, I waited until no one was looking before digging in te dirt…
To do such a thing at this time of day was a big risk, so I had to be quick and precise. The old, long robe I was wearing didn’t fit my body at all. I knew this outfit made me look ridiculous… …this ash-green colored cloth robe was even stolen off a dead person.
I didn’t know what my name was.
An old beggar at the temple said I was delivered here by my mother on a windy, snowy day. She was a woman with a teardrop birthmark at the corner of her eye, a peerless youth whose beauty was unlike a mortal’s. Whenever the old smelly beggar got to this point, he’d look at me with a turbid eye and shake his head hopelessly. And then I’d know he say, you’re not even equal to one-tenth of your mother’s looks.
This old beggar was already at death’s door, but still so lecherous. Though I say this, he was my only protector within the rundown temple.
Even when hunger struck, he never forgot to leave a mouthful of soup for this little beggar.
“During the chaotic years of war, when the soldiers mutinied and troops rebelled, families were inevitably wrenched apart and starving corpses displayed excessively.” These were the last words the old man left me before he died. I thought they were the most educated things he ever said, because I couldn’t understand a word.
But as a little beggar, I didn’t need things like inner meaning and self- cultivation. No matter how many words I learned, it couldn’t find me food.
For me to live on this crappy piece of land for five years without starving to death was nothing short of a miracle.
I once had a major illness whose fever muddled my head… …I had no idea how old I was exactly. Looking at myself, I appeared to be seven or eight, like a child, but I don’t think I was only that old, because I understood a lot of things. Maybe I just didn’t grow well. Up until he died, the old beggar firmly believed I still had things to settle. He said back then, the temple wasn’t so rundown, and I wore very good clothes, as if I was the child of a rich family.
He told me I had a mother, and she’d definitely come back to pick me up. But, none of what he said to me left an impression… …
This old beggar used to be a storyteller, who knew if all the things he used to tell me were just wild tales.
This was a place where a man-eat-man philosophy was forced to exist. As for me, the only thing to do was to figure out how to keep living.
In the present, the reality before me was this: the only person who was good to me in the temple was dead. My future prospects were bleak, but luckily the old beggar left me some food before he died.
This year, there was very little food.
There were even people willing to eat white clay…
Stealing, hiding, looting were all common techniques for survival. But only by doing this could one keep living in these turbulent times.
Sneakily, furtively, I used the span of one or two seconds to open the oil- paper package and took a bite of the old mantou inside. I kept that bite in my mouth, reluctant to part with it. Lowering my head, my hand trembled as I rewrapped the food and took a very reluctant sniff of its scent, then reverently, carefully put it back in the hold. Immediately afterwards, I flattened myself against the ground, spreading out my sleeves to gather some dirt and bury the mantou, gathering some white clay at the same time to fill in my mouth… …chewing a bit, I couldn’t help but furrow my eyebrows. The taste wasn’t too good, but at least it filled my stomach. “You dirty rascal, what are you sneakily eating here? You didn’t even pay respect to your elders.”
Startled, I grasped at the dirt like a dog paddling, wanting to cover all traces of my recent excavation.
“Looks like that old beggar must have left him some good food.” Suddenly, a force launched a surprise attack, and a foot kicked at my back. My body burned from the pain as I crawled forwards, trying in vain to suppress my tears… …choking, I had no time to swallow before I spat out the pieces of mantou mixed with mud… …
The white-colored clay mixed with the glutinous pieces of mantou. What a waste.
“Get closer! He has mantou.”
A few pairs of dirty hands searched all until they finished fishing out the paper package in the dirt.
“It’s already a little rancid.”
“It’s still edible, leave me some.”
“His granny… …stupid lowlife, you actually learned how to sneak off and eat by yourself, just watch me kick you to death, thief.”
A rain of fists fell upon my body.
Everything, even my organs, hurt… …this kind of burning sensation was more severe than stomach pains after a few days without food.
Either way, it was death… …
“All of you beggars bullying one of me–your mom, I’m going to beat you up!” I crawled atop a person and grabbed their leg, biting viciously onto that stinky, dirty trouser. “That hurts, you b***ch’s spawn!”
Dust rose and blinded me for a second, before the fists fell like a storm of jade plates. My small and broken body was pushed forwards step by step, my hands trembled as they stretched forwards, picking up the mantou that fell on the ground. In a moment of wrenching away, I stuffed it in my mouth and starting chewing furiously… …the moist dirt carried the flavor of raw fish and mantou, it really was suffocating.
My eyes were damp. This was called…
Even if I die, I can’t become a hungry ghost!
I think these strong bullies were pretty angered by my heroic deed. Every one of them poked me, and all they could do was grab me by my collar and shake.
Even while being shaken, do not spit out the bird!
The mantou was rancid, but it was still a mantou, a scarce commodity.
Just as I closed my eyes to prepare myself for another round of trampling, silence fell around the area. The strange atmosphere really made a person’s heart uneasy.
My body bent a few times and I crawled forwards, hand fumbling for that rancid mantou so I could prepare to take another bite. But then a pair of boots, so white they shouldn’t have,couldn’t have, appeared in a rundown temple like this, showed up before my eyes.
That pair of boots stepped precisely over my one piece of food, this kind of white… …it was even more snow white than my mantou.
I grew senseless.
A crescent-moon robe slowly draped itself on the ground, the clothes made from an unknown, high-quality material. I don’t know what kind of thing that person tossed out, but the urchins who were beating me up broke up in a hubbub and started looting amongst themselves.
I was still stubbornly lying on the ground, unmoving, cradling that piece of rancid mantou.
“This stuff is still edible?” a voice rang out like the tinkling of jade yet filled with a continuous strength, the intonation gentle and refined like a clear spring of cold water pouring into my entire body. Even the pain wracking it had lessened.
“If I don’t eat, I’ll starve to death.”
“If you agree to come home with me, I’ll give you three meals a day and guarantee you eat until you’re full.”
A jade-like hand, beautiful and slender, gently reached over to prop me up, as if afraid to hurt me. The motion made me look up at this person, surprised. Even after many years and events had passed, I would never be able to accurately describe that moment, or the soul-stirring profundity of its beauty.
That year in early spring, was my fifth season at the dilapidated temple. I, met Fang Hua for the first time.
The Fang Hua Shou is a primarily male animal with a peaceful disposition. It prefers to live alone and its figure is not much different from a mortal’s. It is skilled in growing unusual, treasured medicinal herbs. Initially nameless, its flowers (hua) gave rise to Hua (or splendid), and the
ancient name Fang Hua Shou. — 《Discussions of Yi Zhi》
“If you agree to come home with me, I’ll give you three meals a day and guarantee you eat until you’re full.” The light but innately intoxicating words of the male had the obvious markings of a fraudulent kidnapper.
His hand was very warm. A person had yelled at me once for being a smelly beggar, but no one had ever led me along like this.
Thus the young and clueless me fell into enemy territory, led by food and his charm. For a trifling mantou, I nodded my head and obediently allowed him to take me away, aSsuming an air of shyness, but my heart was surging like a river inside. The main streets were rather chilly, and occasionally two or three shabbily-clothed people would breathe, eyes half shut, as they leaned against some stone steps. A little beggar wearing a rough burlap gown raised a hand to block the way ahead of him.
Geez… …what for?
He’s not thinking to block the way and rob him, right.
I raised my head, lifting my eyes to take a look at the beautiful person. He seemed to show no interest, indifferent to asking or listening.
Although this child had a filthy face, he was intelligent and strong. A pair of dark, swarthy eyes stared at our hands as he half-jogged to follow, trying to tug with his own hand. But the beautiful person waved his sleeve and pushed him away.
I thought he had a good temper, but it seems that wasn’t so… …
“Remember, I don’t like coming in contact with people.”
The leaves on the willow branches flew wildly while a gentle breeze ruffled his sleeves. Beneath the sunlight, his face was so beautiful that it was hard for people to see clearly, as if a pale glow of moonlight shrouded him. He used this sort of soft manner to speak these words, even as his hand was firmly attached to mine, leading me along.
A delicate expression on that face. I grew silent.
He also grew reticent, and without uttering a sound, led me along a fragrant lane towards the depths of a outlying forest bordering the edge of civilization.
I started to feel dread and tugged my hand free, wanting to run away, but the beautiful person only gripped it tighter. Rumors went that they were people who intentionally preyed on little urchins and used them as catamites in remote, out of the way places.
I also heard that poor people had nothing to eat, but some rich people who were bored of the same foods enjoyed washing clean a five or six-year- old child and steam them in clear soup, of course… …also in remote, out of the way places.
The whole time I followed, I was confused and shaking, my entire body weak.
I wasn’t sure how long we walked, but by the time I couldn’t keep up and was stumbling along, he turned back and lightly caught me, before carrying me in his arms. Nowadays I call this an unexpectedly flattering favor.
I blanked out.
“Don’t move around.”
The beautiful person emanated an unusually sweet smell that calmed one’s heart and smelling the aromatic scent tired me out. Those warm, soft tones continually spoke in my ear, “We’re almost home.”
There was something else he said afterwards. As if it was very important.
But I couldn’t hear anythin I had a dream.
In the bitterest cold, during the days of starvation, the old beggar held me and said, child born under an unlucky star, you should have been fortunate and wealthy. Endure and grit your teeth to pass through… …your mother will come pick you up.
I had this dream for a long time, though I wasn’t sure of the details. When I opened my eyes again I found myself already lying on a wooden carving with the roof beams shaking… …no, it was the bed that was shaking, and the warm and soft bedding was like someone’s embrace. A surprisingly sweet scent appeared, and a sense of carefreeness swept over me, but it was a familiar feeling.
I thought and thought… …
A warm breath stroked my neck, at times slow or quick, but always continuous, making me unbearably itchy. As soon as I turned over, I ran into a person’s chest whose face was right before my eyes, giving me a severe shock.
The beautiful person was like jade parted by the clouds, looking… …
A pair of phoenix eyes like lustrous jade, limpid and bright, that curved up slightly in the corners. Beneath the left eye was an exquisite cinnabar decoration on the fair white skin in the imitation of a snow-frosted plum blossom, the red hue a soul-stirring beauty.
My heart started to beat rapidly.
For no reason… …I stared ahead dazedly until I blanked out.
In all the time I had lived, I’d never seen such a beautiful person who dazzled with every look.
“Awake?” his voice was like clear and melodious like cool spring water, but also gentle and soft like a woman’s. It was a bit low but extremely pleasing to hear.
“Un.” I faintly broke out of a trance, realizing I’d never looked at him so closely before. As I looked once again, I really had trouble figuring out whether he was a man or a woman.
The old beggar said my mother had a teardrop-shaped birthmark below her eye.
That there would come a day when she came for me. Looking at his face, I dazedly gave out a silly giggle. “Behind the house is a clear spring, and your change of clothes are at the head of the bed. After cleaning yourself, come to the front room to eat.” He straightened up with the help of his hands and walked to the door, where he paused. “The smell on your body, if you can’t get rid of it–don’t come inside the house.”
I blankly watched his form walk away, the white robes elegant and graceful, the fine, beautiful figure like the demeanor of a transcendent being.
My head hung, and my heart trembled.
Could it be… …is it possible that I’ve met an Immortal?
It really was strange. Why did he pick me out of all those people?
Could it be that his compassion was like a Boddhisattva’s, and he couldn’t bear to see a group of grown-ups picking on a child?
But he clearly treated that starving, dying beggar child on the streets with indifference, and didn’t give him half a penny.
He really wanted to foster a catamite or eat a child?
But the urchin that blocked his path on the way was much more intelligent, and looked much better than me. He even offered himself up, it just wasn’t logical… …to pick me, and not him.
My face was full of doubts.
After changing into my clothes, I observed my reflection in the mirror, a thin and weak under-grown child wrapped up in oversized, draping clothing. No matter how I washed, my face still looked a little dirty, and my hair was like grass, withered to the point of sallowness.
No matter how you looked, I was a feather-head child. It’s no wonder that he gave me a boy’s robe, but no matter what… … since they were new clothes, I was content.
When I arrived in the front rooms, the beautiful person was already sitting there waiting for me with a bowl of white rice, fresh greens, white tofu and a giant bowl of red braised pork.
“Eat,” he raised a finger to point at the dishes on the table. Meat… …
I was too busy to care about him, but picked up my chopsticks and swooped over, my right hand trembling as it held on with clinging motions, scarfing down food like wolves and tigers as I muttered vaguely, “You… … aren’t eating.”
He only smiled towards me, but remained motionless to pick up any chopsticks.
“I’m not accustomed to eating these.” So speaking, he rose to receive a basin of fresh water and soaked his hand inside before slowly leaving.
A strange person.
What kind of person wasn’t used to eating a meal? Unless all of this was… …especially made for me to eat?
I smiled so much my eyes turned into slits. It looked like this place wasn’t bad.
Were all Immortals so above the attractions of the mundane world? JUNE 19, 2016RUYI
Were all Immortals so above the attractions of the mundane world?
I carried this question within me for three days until I wanted to pound my head with my own fists. It was too oppressing.
These few days, the beautiful person always watched me eat before control one’s hands and leaving. He would return to the residence after a long while, pleased, and then spend the entire afternoon reclining on a bamboo mat to doze.
He never arranged any work for me to do, and spoke to me very little.
He seemed to have thoroughly forgotten a person like me existed. Even if I tried to improve my popularity by wandering back and forth, he never looked me directly in the eye.
Although he vigorously ill-treated me this way, he always arranged for three meals a day and waited upon me comfortably.
It was as if, I wasn’t led here to be ordered about, but to enjoy a happy life filled with ease…
Seriously, what an abnormal guy… Midday. As usual, he cooked some dishes and placed them on the table. Without even touching his chopsticks, he immediately ignored me and grabbed his robes to head out the door.
I anxiously swallowed a few mouthfuls of rice, used my sleeve to wipe my mouth and bent forwards, holding my breath as I tailed along behind him.
The house he built here was pretty out of the way.
There weren’t even any neighbors around, and a field of medicinal herbs grew behind the building.
The shade of the green trees were thick beneath the summer sun, a pool of water rippled with jade-green waves that gave people an immeasurably cool feeling.
A white-robed silhouette disappeared into the ancient forest. Huh…
Weird, why did this person slip noiselessly into a place where birds wouldn’t even poop at?
Enduring the rats of the scorching run, I broke into a run.
Leaning against the back of an ancient tree, I quietly craned my neck to look beyond.
I saw the beautiful person rise to the sky with a leap, his reflection reversed in the pond below. The white robes were light as his foot stepped lightly on the surface of the pool, not even stirring a ripple. Then, his slender hands stretched forward and before I could see clearly, his body slowly floated to the ground. His form was as lovely as an Immortal. Only now, there was the stem of a lotus flower in his hand.
Ah… …I couldn’t tell before, but this had lots of emotional appeal. A hot day spent using qinggong to approach the surface of a pond and gather lotuses was already very bourgeoisie.
At that time I really wanted to express the surging within my heart. The beautiful person was like a painting.
Long hair swirling in the air, falling flowers in riotous profusion.
His flawless movements caused the petals of the lotus to tear off… … please remember, he used tearing movements… …and then he stood up, holding the rest in his mouth, and began to chew.
His expression then…
It was as if he was trying a delicate, delicious taste of the mortal world.
I clung to the old tree, eyes widening as I watched this Immortal fly upwards. In the span of a moment’s time, he gathered many different types of flowers with a pinch of his hand. Then he reclined atop a tree and placed them all into his mouth.
After seeing him move like floating clouds and flowing water, I became as dumbstruck as a wooden chicken.
His table manners were refined, his lips slightly opened in a way that almost radiated a kind of appeal.
Suppose he was eating the Five Grains
Whoever heard of someone who ignored normal meals and preferred to eat these non-human things…
Wait, as the proverb says–many esteemed men of noble character didn’t follow conventional standards. With his martial prowess so high…it definitely had something to do with his diet. Perhaps those flowers could improve the strength of one’s inner energy?
Yes, that must be it. Thus with my face filled with a greedy appetite, I ran below his tree to squat on my heels, head raised. The only thing I was missing was wagging a figurative tail.
He lowered his head to look at me without saying a word, but the expression in his eyes was obvious: why did you run over?
I feigned ignorance.
He tilted his head to one side, still chewing.
I stared fixedly, excitedly gazing at him with adoring eyes. “…you want to eat some?” Finally, he opened his mouth. My eyes shone and I couldn’t nod my head fast enough.
He really was generous, my hand hadn’t reached out before… …he gave me an entire bunch that I bent my head to sniff.
But I couldn’t smell anything particularly extraordinary.
When I had no food earlier this year, I was even willing to eat tree bark… but I never ate flowers, because I couldn’t tell between poisonous and non- poisonous types. In addition, the texture on the tongue was unpleasant.
Perhaps, it was different.
I imitated his style, savoring the pieces in my mouth before giving a fierce bite.
In a moment, the incomparably bitterness left me speechless.
It was extremely distasteful, both bitter and astringent. The only other thing was a fragrant aroma that spread across my tongue. These were just ordinary flowers, wasn’t he just making himself suffer… phooey…the entire root of my tongue turned numb…
His eyes curved.
“Does it taste good?”
“His mom! From the beginning, this wasn’t fit for human consumption!”
“Correct.” He gently propped up his head with a hand, half-reclining on the tree, the position giving off a feeling of high command as he looked at me. His almond-shaped phoenix eyes, with a drop from a single tear, had a certain indescribable charm. “This isn’t fit for human consumption.”
Then, since he ate it…
Would it be him criticizing himself?
He seemed to be expounding on a truth.
In any case, it was hard to say. He seemed respectably, and there was no emotions on his face. After looking at me for a while from his reclining position, he suddenly jumped off the tree, scattering crabapple cores all over the ground.
His expression was cold. Ah…
Grand Elder, you’re not mad, right.
My guaranteed financial support for the rest of my life, my white rice , will I watch as it all leaves me like a bird…
If I had offended him, I’d probably need to return to that place where life was worse than death, and suffer the same days of unbearable hunger. Hence, wickedness grew from the gallbladder.
Pulling up my robes, I anxiously hurried after him and caught him in an embrace from the back.
It was very soft and warm, as well as fragrant…
This feeling was like the one I remembered every night, calling to mind many different tastes of the past. So I cried out a word that the two of us would always pretend not to hear in the future:
His body shook, as if frightened by me, and he tried to pry me loose. I stood dumbfounded, knowing that I was in trouble.
Aye, how shameful.
Thus, using my forearms, I hugged him tighter.
He seemed to have been left in a fluster, helpless but unable to cast me off. Afterwards, he could only pat me gently until I calmed down from my sobbing before pulling me away. He knelt before me with a helpless gaze in his eyes, both indignant and distressed. “Listen, you can treat this as a home, but I’m not your mother…and also…” His low voice seemed to be mixed with a great effort not to let someone be conscious of something. “And also I’m a male, different from you mortals. I am a shou, you can call me Fang Hua, but don’t call me mother.”
I blinked a few times, raising my head to look at him, and observed in a moment that the space between his eyebrows was weighed down with sorrow.
Sadly, I understood too little back then.
Many years later I came to regret, because afterwards I called him by:
I was furious.
This yifu resembled an Immortal, but after a while, you’d realize that besides those three things, he couldn’t take care of himself at all.
JUNE 19, 2016RUYI
There were three important things that yifu did everyday.
One, sleep. Those familiar with him knew as soon as he lay down in his clothes, he could sleep for half the day without waking up.
Two, planting medicinal herbs. After sleeping, he would use the remaining half of the day to plant small grasses, and touch the young flowers.
Three, eating flowers. Though this step required very little time, he had to use more time beforehand to cook me meals. So you can imagine that because of this, I still took up one-third of the space in yifu’s heart.
With a brush in my mouth, I pondered a bit.
After writing these things down in the regular script, I folded the Xuan paper into three sections before stuffing it into a small box beneath my bed. It was almost half full of my little paper strips from daily calligraphy practice.
How dull… I gave a long sigh before lying on my desk, hanging my head.
This was still a boy’s robe, light purple in hue. The cool material, when worn in summer, made the skin felt refreshing and comfortable all over. This had to be made from high-quality fabric, yifu often wore clothes from these fabrics too.
Why was it another male garment, and why was it the wrong size.
Kneeling on the chair, one hand propping myself up, I lifted the robes with one hand as I grabbed a bronze mirror off the wall, peering at my reflection.
Eyes were eyes, nose was nose, as I tugged the hairs atop my head and pulled them forward with narrowed eyes and measured…hn, it was so so withered and sallow.
But after being nursed back to health these days, my face was rounder and more mellow, just that my skin was still as dark as before.
When I used to be a beggar, there were no way to take baths, so everyone was dirty and it wasn’t a big deal…but now that I lived with Fang Hua, who exuded a fragrant aroma everyday, and had skin like a pool of frost and snow, I couldn’t help but feel inferior in contrast.
Actually, it wasn’t such a big deal, it’s just that he was as beautiful as a girl.
Whereas I was dirty like a boy…except I didn’t know why, no matter how I rubbed myself down with a damp towel.
From head to toe I simply couldn’t get clean, and if I lowered my head to sniff myeslf…
There was still some type of odor. Could it be I was just paranoid? “Shao’er…” the pile of bedding next to me moved a bit.
I continued to pinch the skin atop my arm, spacing out a bit as I polished myself up.
“Shao’er, give me a drink of water.” A head full of messy hair poked out of the bedcovers, following by a form with an alluring posture, the pillow in disarray on one side. His eyelashes were exceedingly long, and trembled, while the bewitching cinnabar mark at the corner of an eye was a bit startling.
I nodded, and with a clap, fell down flat onto the ground.
As I raised my head to wave, an affectionate gaze from a pupil that shone like moonlight gave me a rather pitying look.
My heart thumped wildly.
I randomly rubbed my hand on my clothes, quickly poured a cup of water, and carried it over in both hands.
“No wonderful you’re so unrefined,” Fang Hua smiled, shaking his head in spite of himself. “Who would wipe their hand on their robes first, the new clothes are dirty again.”
“I don’t dare to do it again,” I honestly admitted my my mistakes, lazily raising an eye to look at him. “ time I’ll definitely wipe my hand clean before touching my clothes.”
His air exhausted, he ignored me to drink his tea.
I carried over a small wooden stool and sat in front of him, both hands supporting my chin as I watched him like an idiot.
Strictly speaking, his postures while drinking the water were exceedingly beautiful, one hand holding it in his palm, the other using his sleeve to shield half his face, every gesture evoking the aura of a elite noble gentleman. I studied his appearance and patterns until he looked sideways at me and spat in my face.
…in between the good feelings, surprise.
I gave him a look full of profound meaning.
He lowered his head and coughed, shoulders shaking uncontrollably.
“Yifu,” I used my sleeve to wipe my face, but after noticing his slant- eyed stare, consciously pulled out a small handkerchief from my robes, shaking it a few times before continuing to wipe….hn, a deep sigh, this was definitely water from him. There was a deep flowery fragrance floating in the water. I clicked my tongue and said, “Why do you always call me Shao’er.”
He seemed stupefied. “Did you have a name before?” “No.”
He called me little ragamuffin, beggar, urchin, but these didn’t count as names…
“Then it’s correct,” he gave me an askance glance, before reclining to speak as a leisurely pace. “That hairclip you’re wearing at the back of your bun is just like those little hair ornaments, like the handle of a shao (spoon). Don’t you think this name is pretty good?”
This time I was tired to the point of exhaustion. He suddenly smiled and gave me an embrace.
“Your name is Shao Hua.”
He kept hugging me like this without moving, until I was crushed to a point where I couldn’t breathe. At that time, I looked up at him, only to see his eyes closed, lost in sleep.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh……. I was furious.
This yifu resembled an Immortal, but after a while, you’d realize that besides those three things, he couldn’t take care of himself at all.
Finally on one day I received another new set of robes…this time it was even larger than last time, with the sleeves dragging on the ground…it drove me beyond the limits of patience.
“Yifu, these clothes are too big.”
“That’s what I told the boss too, but he said children grow very fast, so you can also wear this in the future.”
You didn’t need to buy me clothes for five years in advance…I cry…
“Yifu, could you not buy this style next time?”
He raised an eyebrow to stare at me.
I showed off my undeveloped chest, and firmly stared into his eyes as I spoke. “I’m a girl…”
He seemed to have half-understood. “So then?
There was no way to communicate.
I thought he was pretending to be stupid…later on I discovered he had no knowledge of women from the start.
This conclusion came three days after this incident.
I was holding back the whole way before running into the forest. Lowering my head, I rustled and undid my waistband, squatting down in a straddling position. After watering the flowers and grass, I stretched upwards, refreshed, and immediately came face-to-face with Fang Hua, whose eyes suddenly widened. “Do you have an unmentionable disease somewhere?” “Ah?”
“Why do you squat, wouldn’t you wet yourself that way?” “Yifu, I’d only wet myself if I stood to do it.”
“How could this be…let me take a look for you.”
After speaking, he seriously made a move to lift up my robes.
I gave a start, feeling anything but reassured, and stopped talking to turn away and flee.
However…I forgot the most important thing. He had neigong.
My shoulders ached. A rock dropped down, bounced a few times, and fell beneath my feet. In that moment my entire body turned stiff and I fell over, unable to move.
I only felt a pair of hands lift me up by the waistband, tug down my trousers and…
Inside, I was weeping.
He really did inspect things before touching my shoulders with his fingers to unseal my passageways.
I escaped his clutches as soon as I hit the ground.
But he moved over, sympathy flooding in his eyes. “When did you castrate yourself?”
I remained sullen. Seeing that I wouldn’t answer, he nodded understandingly and walked away, quietly speaking to himself. “So these are the enunchs I’ve read about in books…they really are a little different from ordinary people.”
“All of them are missing that thing.”
I was stunned until my anger made my whole body tremble. For Mother’s sake, was he done humiliating people yet.
I AM A GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!
This guy deserves to die, he’s playing me again.
I opened my eyes wide and looked at him. “You’re not allowed to spit it out.”
JUNE 20, 2016RUYI
I never knew the differences between shou (beasts) and humans.
Could it be that the differences were humans ate the Five Grains while a Fang Hua Beast understood tasting the flavors?
Yifu was nicer to me than any other person in the world. He was a Fang Hua Beast, but was prettier than any mortal girl.
Every year on the tenth day of the tenth month, yifu would always go by himself somewhere and return tired and sleepy. His snow-white boots would be caked with yellow mud as well as a thick odor of incense wood.
And then he’d spent an entire day in his room alone to drink away his sorrows.
At that time, he remarkably resembled any one of many lovesick, spurned young men.
But I enjoyed seeing him drink, because only then would he resemble an ordinary person, wanton and self-indulgent. Yifu really was pretty.
A small lamp emanating a pale yellow light, yet still gentle and mild.
The cinnabar mole beneath the corner of Fang Hua’s eye was red like fire. The shadow of his eyelashes covered up his pupils, while the space between his eyebrows tried its best to conceal his worry. Like this, he poured himself a cup of wine to enjoy, each movement filled with unrestrained refinement.
I remember someone once told me that a mole beneath the eye shaped like a teardrop meant that person would have a life full of misfortunes and frustrated feelings.
Fang Hua’s alcohol tolerance was not good.
But even so, he talked more after he became drunk.
“Isn’t there a saying among mortals? That one moment of drunkeness can separate you from 1,000 woes? Why can’t I get drunk even after 1,000 cups?”
He swayed and tried to point at me, but found that he couldn’t stay still. So he waved his sleeve and gave up the useless motion, continuing to pour the jug of wine in his mouth.
His clothes were already soaked.
He still has enough face to call himself sober, I scoffed.
I used my chopsticks to pick up a piece of radish and wrapped it in a mantou, before placing it in my mouth. Lifting my eyes, I spared him a glance before knocking against the table. “Yifu, why are you wasting wine? It took so much effort to brew half of that jug.”
He froze, stupefied, but it took a long time before he understood and sat down with the wine jug in a protective embrace. Two pupils swept over me in an overwhelming moment of sorrow. “You smelly rascal, I raised you for two years, but it still looks like you’re not even worth this jug of wine.” Tch.
You keep drinking.
You who raised me for two years, but still didn’t know I was a girl.
I shook as I gave him a skewed glance. He was blabbering loudly with one foot on the bench, body stretched out as he raised his sleeve to pick up a giant piece of meat with his chopsticks and bit a vicious mouthful of mantou to stuff his mouth.
A lady doesn’t lower herself to the same level as a drunkard.
Suddenly a pair of jade-slender hands shot out to press down upon my sleeves. Before I could react, he groped downwards. Startled, goosebumps rose on my skin and–
–loudly cried out, “Not good!”
Those delicate, completely flawless jade hands wrapped around my chopsticks.
His sudden tug caused my body to hit the corner of the table, the impact right on two areas of flesh. The pain made me draw in a
… … …tears.
Will this affect how much I grow? I already looked like a tomboy.
I glared at this precedent of bad luck.
“For two years you’ve ate this and that, aren’t you fed up with it by now?” He knitted his eyebrows and looked. Fang Hua was drunk, and after staring at the meat for awhile, lowered his head with open mouth to stare the chopsticks, before putting that oily thing in his mouth.
Ahhhhhhhhhh……. This guy deserves to die, he’s playing me again.
I opened my eyes wide and looked at him. “You’re not allowed to spit it out.”
His expression changed to one of extreme sullenness. In any case, he still swallowed it.
What a joke. Who knew how expensive the price of meat was nowadays.
“… …it still tastes this bad.”
“A flower-eater like you shouldn’t try to eat meat like me. If you’re not used to it, don’t snatch it from me the next time your drunkenness gets the best of you.”
“Actually, in the past people fed me this,” he threw the chopsticks aside and plopped onto the bench. With his sleeves fanning out, his body lied onto the table, and his voice lowered to a slight, subtle sound. “The taste didn’t seem as hard to stomach as now.”
A heaven-shattering announcement.
I swooped over to ask, “Yifu, who was it that fed you then?”
He raised his head in disappointment, a slack look in his eyes. “It’s been a very long time, long enough for me to already forget that person.”
My face can’t hold back from its scornful look anymore.
He suddenly gave me a crescent-shaped smile, and gathered himself together. Spreading out his sleeves, he scooped me into his lap. That drunkenness must have been contagious, because even I was a little giddy. Fang Hua’s head rested on my neck, his shiny, crow-black hair messily scattered over my form, but his voice was gentle and soft like a woman’s. It was like an ancient spring breeze that had birthed life for a long time, whose caresses stirred my heart. His eyelashes trembled with laden sorrow, and the cinnabar mark beneath his eye was like a teardrop, startling.
He said, “This expression of yours, is very similar to his… …”
He’d never used this sort of voice to speak to me before.
His arms held me tighter, his warm breath brushing past my face, carrying an intoxicated scent of sweetness. It felt as if my ears were burning, and I could only hear my heart thumping from the body he held in his arms.
Fang Hua must have been grieving right now. Who was he trying to reach through embracing me… …?
Suddenly, I felt ever more anxious than before.
“Yifu, you’re drunk.” I don’t know where I found my burst of strength to push him away.
There was the sound of a chair falling over.
He fell on the ground and laughed. His teardrop-shaped mole quivered, and Fang Hua laughed until his breath caught, before unintentionally betraying an expression weighed down with sorrow. “… …nonsense, if it’s me, I can drink 1,000 cups without getting drunk.”
My heart felt a little unbearable.
I didn’t even know what had provoked him in the first place. I knelt down with the intention of pulling him up.
But he pulled me instead and flipping over, the two of us fell on a long and narrow couch bed.
Ahhhh Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?!
He hugged me and said in a quiet, lonely voice, “Stay with your yifu in bed for a night.”
I swallowed a few times and stared at his pretty, exceedingly beautiful woman-like face.
My heart beat wildly, and my eyes hurriedly looked elsewhere. My fists clenched and unclenched, full of sweat.
Really… …it was just sleeping?
However, with this undeveloped body, the most I could be was a long pillow for him.
As it turned out, he closed his eyes and kept a stubborn hold on me.
For a long time, his breaths were long and even, as if he really was falling asleep.
“Yifu, can you bring me with you on the tenth day of the tenth month next year?” I tugged at his sleeve, raising my head to look at his face.
“Un,” was the soft, one-word reply, but that too was a promise.
The color of the moon was like tidewater pouring on his body, and a fragrant aroma mixed with the smell of alcohol to fill the room. The man next to me was my yifu, whose looks rivaled an entire city.
The only thing I forgot about him was that he tended to forget things with his low alcohol tolerance.
I’ve never seen such a ethereal-looking person sleep so unwell. He tossed and turned me back and forth, squashing me against the wall the whole night, pain wracking my entire body while he had nightmares the whole time.
The next day he woke up with me in his arms.
I lifted my eyelids to look at him, waiting to see his reaction, and explanation, on forcing an underage youth into the criminal act of sleeping with him.
As it turned out, he gave me a side glance and said carelessly, “I don’t like coming in contact with people.”
After saying this line, he said nothing more beyond maintaining his embrace. It was as if he meant to make it clear that next time, you shouldn’t slip away from me.
I was furious!
“Yifu, you can’t tolerate alcohol and that’s why you dragged me to bed.” I rolled my eyes.
“Nonsense again.” He pushed me aside and slowly got up, shaking his head with the expression of an Elder who had no choice but to speak to a brat.
I was so shocked I could only stare tongue-tied.
With a frosty face, he grabbed a bronze mirror and began to comb his hair. Suddenly leaning in, he stuck a finger out from his spacious sleeve to rub at the shiny gloss on his lips.
He thought for a bit before slowly turning his body, propping his head on a hand and speaking uncertainly. “Shao’er, how many times have I told you? The next time yifu drinks wine, don’t make me eat meat.”
I just want to beg you, don’t snatch my meat to eat next time… … “What kind of expression are you making? Yifu wouldn’t instruct you with no reason. Wrong things are wrong.”
I had no words.
“Also, why do I smell like alcohol?” he stood up, sniffing his sleeves, his face as luminous and cool as the full moon. However, the look in his eyes was a bit less doting. “Shao’er, this would be you in the wrong. Although we have a lot of fermented glutinous rice, you shouldn’t trick me by bathing in it… …”
I suddenly stood up and kicked a stool.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… …this person deserved to die…. …
For Mother’s sake,
I’d rather call myself Piao instead of Shao before I brew wine for you next time!
osture, but one that radiated an aura of deep grief. JUNE 21, 2016RUYI
The tenth day of the tenth month. I had finally waited a full year.
I endured to the breaking point. Though my memory was good, there was no way to say what I wanted, even though I’d gotten to the point where I had learned it by heart. This was all Fang Hua’s fault, because he easily forgot things he said before.
Fang Hua said, if someone stopped caring about something, they wouldn’t think about it all the time. If someone forgot about it completely, it wasn’t something to regret, but a type of joy.
Hard to understand, right?
For a person like him who either said nothing, or a bunch of words and phrases that were difficult to understand–I preferred to ignore him.
I sucked in a breath.
Sticking my hand in my sleeve, I carelessly, casually took another glance at the almanac.
Today was the tenth day of the tenth month. It was a big day. The agreement between us on the night he got drunk was set for this day. Even if he tried to shortchange me, I would follow the outcome to the end.
Early morning, he got out of bed while I quietly sat on a stool in my room with a small bag at hand, observant and hopeful.
Then I heard the sound of the house door closing.
Forgetting myself in a moment of excitement, I poked my bag with a long, thin branch before swinging it on my shoulder and dashing after him.
This was the manner in which I followed behind him, at some distance away.
He walked along a very remote, out-of-the-way path where the bamboo grew tall and graceful. The emerald green stalks resembled a heavenly cage and gave a slight chill to the air. His pale violet silhouette was hidden from view within the forest, and he often raised a hand to his brow to wipe off the sweat. Occasionally, a breeze borne up his sleeves, giving him a unique sort of demeanor.
I went step by step carefully amongst the dead branches.
At times, the branch on my shoulder clacked against the bamboo stalkers, making a loud noise.
But Fang Hua didn’t seem to notice a thing. Observing his back, he seemed to be driven to a sort of distraction.
It was very easy to go past the bamboo. Their scent assaulted my senses along with a mix of medicinal herbs and flowers, suddenly shaking my spirits.
I straightened my chest and sucked in a deep breath.
Right at this moment, his form seemed to shrink down before he disappeared. I was shocked. Tossing my bag aside, I hurried forward with my hands to search for him, tripping and tumbling in my haste. Finally I landed with my butt in the air… …
There was an overhanging cliff, and the end of the bamboo forest fell short of its edge.
Below was a valley whose plains and mountainsides were covered in flowers.
He quickly flew down with graceful bearing, sleeves fluttering lightly behind him like a spray of purple mist, beautiful beyond compare.
Aiya, for Mother’s sake… …
No wonder he was traveling so leisurely, without a care in the world if anyone tried to tail him.
It was because he was certain other people couldn’t follow him down.
What now? Even if I made a rope with my bag to climb down, even if I used up all the fig leaves available, it still wouldn’t be long enough… …
I couldn’t bear it anymore and kicked with my foot, wiggling my butt as I scrambled backwards.
The most I could do was lay there and look.
Actually, my field of vision really wasn’t bad from this far up. Within the medicinal grasses and mystical flowers was a section of yellow soil, from which rose a small hill like a burial mound.
Fang Hua stood in that spot, listless.
After half a day had passed, he slowly bowed his body and took a step atop the mound. He looked quite dashing and spirited with one hand resting on a knee, the other reaching forward to lightly stroke at something.
Such an irreverent posture, but one that radiated an aura of deep grief. His hand gave such gentle touches… …as if writing something from memory upon a small piece of fiery-red dead wood stuck within the yellow earth.
I narrowed my eyes before rubbing them.
I gave up trying to read something so difficult, and changed my line of vision to carefully study his face.
But the sight astonished me.
After staying with him for all these years, I’d never seen him so lonely.
He seemed to have sunk into his own memories and trapped himself there.
His entire body seemed to be soaked in the reminiscences of past years. The only difference was that his finger was still moving, gently stroking that piece of mahogany wood…
A smile appeared on his face, but the tear-shaped mole made it seem like he was crying.
It was only after many, many years that I knew that wood was Fang Hua wood. Because afterwards, someone told me a chunk of Fang Hua wood was a Fang Hua Beast. It was just that the Fang Hua Beast had transformed into wood and then withered up.
artial arts manuals. JUNE 21, 2016RUYI
After returning from the bamboo forest, my spirits were very low, as if I’d discovered a disappointing secret. But I couldn’t figure out where I was in the wrong. This sensation… …was as if a fish bone was lodged in my throat, neither going up nor down, giving my entire body an unspeakably uncomfortable feeling.
The house was empty and deserted. Fang Hua hadn’t returned yet… …
With a small exhale, I went to the kitchen and soaked some cold rice in water. My head was bowed as I waved my sleeves, docilely taking care of my dinner.
After I ate my fill, my stomach felt even worse and my heart was completely empty. All I wanted was to find some work to do.
We’d long split enough logs for the firewood. We’d collected enough water, too.
I could only prop up my chin with my hand and space out in the courtyard. Fang Hua always had a magnanimous expression when he reproached me, saying I slept too much, or that I was too lazy, or that other people had filial sons while he was stuck raising a self-professed Elder.
Actually, even if I got out of bed before dawn to roll up my sleeves and get to work, I’d discover the kitchen fire was already lit, the clean clothes were hung up to dry, and everything was already done within the house.
I knew he wanted to spare me from doing such heavy work.
Yifu was a good person, even if he always thought one way and acted another.
Still, I wanted to stay with him for the rest of my life. The sky gradually grew darker.
I inclined my head towards the door. But Fang Hua still hadn’t returned.
Some stems of medicinal herbs had already ripened, and many flowers had bloomed, but they didn’t smell as fragrant as they usually did… …it looked like things here were much lonelier with one less person.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh… … Annoyed.
I dragged over a broom and ran towards the study. I kicked open the door and–
–I grew blank-faced.
This was what they called a mess. Many books were missing from the racks, some tumbled on the floor, across the desk, with a big chunk of space taken up by paper… …
Ah, a rare event. I couldn’t even tell yifu had this level of carefree-ness. Was he trying to compose a poem or do a drawing?
Even though the paper was held in place by an inkstone, the wind outside the window blew against its surface, lifting up a few sheets and make it tremble three times, creating a burst of rustling.
A brush laid quietly on its side, the ink on its tip half-drying.
I went to take a closer look and saw a completed painting. There were mountains and water, and a unique male youth in the middle of playing the qin with a teardrop-shaped mole beneath his eye that caught my attention. His red robes made an extremely tasteful scene.
Between the land of cloudy mountains and rivers, a moon hung high in the skies.
One could just make out the outline of a figure on the opposite shore of the river.
However, there was only a faint sketch of that person’s face, and the easy flowing brush stopped here, without a way to continue.
I hesitated for a moment, but was too afraid to touch. Instead, I collected the scattered books in my arms and gave them a glance, preparing to arrange them all in categories.
In the middle of brushing my sleeves aside… …
A length of tough silken cloth floated out to land on the desk, like water flowing gently as it tumbled towards the ground.
The sudden excitement I felt made me curious. Logically speaking, secrets
I bent forwards and scooped the cloth up in my hands. Glancing out the door, I saw that yifu still hadn’t returned yet. I shook open the cloth, scattering dust everywhere, before spreading it out across my palms.
The lighting was a bit dim… …
I couldn’t see very clearly, but felt that everything was densely packed together. There were very delicate, fine characters written neatly on the work.
I hadn’t been able to find the flint for half a day, so I had no way to light any of the lamps. Still holding up the object, I walked straight to the window and saw the thin warmth of moonlight. Fortunately, it shone right upon my piece of silk.
‘The Fang Hua Shou (Beast) is a primarily male animal with a peaceful disposition. It prefers to live alone and its figure is not much different from a mortal’s. It is skilled in growing unusual, treasured medicinal herbs. Initially nameless, its flowers (hua) gave rise to Hua (or splendor) and the ancient name Fang Hua Beast.’
Fang Hua Beast?
Wasn’t this talking about yifu?
I narrowed my eyes and leaned against the wall, raising my sleeves as I lifted the length of silk closer to the light to continue reading.
‘The Fang Hua Beast is taciturn and often has still and silent expressions. Its white skin resembles that of a woman, and it exudes an unusually sweet scent all year round. Beneath its eyes and eyebrows is a cinnabar mole, and the color of its teardrop-shaped mark pales according to youth. Upon reaching blackish-red, dim red, or pitch-black, the Fang Hua Beast will flee. After fleeing it turns into a sea, then transforms into a piece of dead wood called Fang Hua Wood. This is considered the Fang Hua Beast’s soul, and it is capable of dispelling tens of thousands of poisons on Earth. If one buries the wood in the dirt, and feeds it a mixture of crushed medicinal herbs mixed with dew touched by the first rays of the morning sun, one month later the dead wood will be as red as fire, with the disposition of jade.
Two months later, the wood will grow four branches, and its color will fade. Three months later, the wood will develop the five senses of a human adult, where upon the wood will turn soft and supple, white without compare. Four months later, the root of the wood will break, and the Fang Hua Beast will be born. If the Beast grows to be ten months old, use true love’s blood to wash it daily so its soul can continue to exist. This will help the young Beast recall its memories from a previous incarnation.
A young newborn Beast does not know human language and eats flower nectar as well as a small amount of medicinal herbs. But he grows very quickly, and in half a year will appear no different from a young child. His language skills will become fluid and smooth, and he will become exceedingly intelligent. Afterwards, its every ten days will be equivalent to a cycle of one year in human terms as it continues to mature.
Fang Hua Beasts are animals who possess pure feelings. If adult Beasts can maintain a heart of clarity in the world of mortals, they can extend their longevity and cultivate to become Immortals. Those who are moved by sentiment end up as grassy weeds, withering year by year, bathing in a sea of fire until they return to the cycle of reincarnation. If they are injured by sentiment, its every ten days will be equivalent to a cycle of one year in human terms, and it will sink into the cycle of reincarnation, turning back into dead wood. If they are heavily injured by sentiment, the color of the wood will turn black, and act as a strong toxic agent for poisons.’
Fang Hua have an exceedingly unrivaled beauty resembling that of a woman’s that is difficult to find in the world. As an animal that possesses a sentimental disposition, they will be tied down by the threads of sentiment all their lives. Those who cannot escape the bonds of sentiment are robbed of their lives and die young, leaving the numbers who manage to attain Right Fruit fewer and fewer.’
Ah… … So it was like this… …I clutched my head. This wasn’t written like vernacular speech.
I can’t understand it… …
Again I clutched at my head. This wasn’t a secret martial arts manual, nor did it resemble a love poem or similar things.
It was a pity I didn’t usually put in much effort studying, so my literacy rate was too low.
I sucked in a deep breath and prepared to fold it carefully so I could put it back in its original place. But suddenly a voice came in from the window.
“What are you doing?”
The voice was neither high or low, nor fast or slow, but possessed a level of severity I’d never heard before.
Perhaps the moonlight bewitched people. Perhaps I too, was drunk.
JUNE 21, 2016RUYI
“What are you doing?”
The voice was neither high or low, nor fast or slow, but possessed a level of severity I’d never heard before.
My agitation surpassed the level of anxiety I would’ve held upon capturing a demon. Raising my head, I came face-to-face with him. The object slid out of my hands, and a single step had it beneath my feet, where my tediously oversized robes conveniently hid it from view.
Looks like even ill-fitting robes had their advantages.
Hurriedly, I clasped my hands behind my back, raising my head as I straightened up and thrust out my chest. With an affected tone, I spoke. “Yifu, so you’re back… …you’re really early today.”
I gave a glance outdoors.
A round moon hung high in the sky, looking down upon his face. I laughed a little ridiculously, because actually… …it wasn’t early at all, the sky was already dark. In other words, he’d been outside an entire day.
“What are you doing in my study?” I uneasily took a step back, my robes swaying around me.
“It was messy here, so I thought I’d straighten things up.”
He kicked aside the door and walked inside, eyes looking past me to sweep over the length of paper on his desk, exactly where my hand was pointing.
Shoot, I just laughed out loud.
Before I could withdraw my hand, he caught it in his grip unsteadily.
Thus, I was half dragged, half pulled out of the room.
Under the moonlight, his body seemed to emanate a soft, pale glow, but his expression was neither cold nor warm.
This kind of Fang Hua was someone I wasn’t familiar with.
He always repressed and glossed over his feelings of depression, making it hard for people to read him. But I could tell from the way he was holding me today that right now he felt restless and disturbed, as well as lonely…
And then, when I raised my head to take a sniff, there was the faint scent of alcohol.
He stole wine to drink again.
“You should already know…” He seemed to be conscious of my expression, his pupils clear and cold as they swept over me. “I don’t like other people touching my things.”
“Shao’er, understands.” I hastily nodded my head. A corner of his mouth raised up, as if he was smiling.
But I just lowered my head and tugged on my sleeves, revealing my hands. “Yifu doesn’t like coming in contact with people.” So… …I’m begging you, let go.
“Where are you going?” His grip on my hand was warm, as if reluctant to part with me.
Once he drank, he talked more and turned more clingy. My eyes spun, and with a cheeky grin I replied, “I’m going to find more wine for you.”
He stared fixedly at me with a small smile, eyes curved like crescent moons.
You can drink to death.
I squatted down to dig out the earthen jugs of wine I’d buried beneath a willow tree. Hiding behind my sleeves, I burst out in sneaky laughter.
With a memory like Fang Hua’s, he’d forget everything by tomorrow morning, so there was no way he’d blame me anymore. I neatly arranged the jugs of wine together.
These were all recipes given to me by Fang Hua. I used flowers and honey to distill the wine, so it really was precious… …
Nevertheless, I decided to go all out, and picked the largest jug of wine. Then I went into an inner room to grab a big
I’ve always thought I was the smartest person in the world.
It was only later on that I discovered that intelligence could be foiled by intelligence, too.
I finally understand the saying, staying sober even after 1,000 cups. Fang Hua poured himself alcohol and drank, bowl after bowl. He smelled like a mix of flowers and the faint, mellow flavor of wine, caught up in a breeze that drifted over and even made me a little tipsy.
It seemed like the more he drank, the more vigorous he got.
An indifferent, yet slightly worried expression spread from the space between his eyebrows to a quiet sorrow, almost pityingly aching to look at.
Perhaps the moonlight bewitched people. Perhaps I too, was drunk.
Unexpectedly, I raised my head and got closer, asking him sadly, “Yifu, were you paying respects to the tomb today? What was that bleak patch of yellow soil doing in a mountain full of medicinal plants?”
He gave a start, and I knew I’d started a disaster. Wasn’t this outright admitting I’d followed him… …?
“Shao’er, do you want to hear a story?”
The cinnabar mole beneath a corner of his eye glimmered with soft light.
Though he was drunk, he still seemed clear-headed.
“Someone I used to know very well once fell in love with a person unable to return his feelings.”
He looked at me and smiled, gently nodding his head before drinking another cup.
“The person he loved already had a wife, but he was still attracted to that person like a moth to a flame. The second half of his life was spent in grief so heavy that he wished he was dead. His eventual death was miserable, and he was buried far from humans, surrounded by nothing but flowers as he sank into an eternal sleep.” He reached out a hand to touch my cheeks, the look in his eyes growing more and more distant as he slowly leaned closer. “I just don’t understand… …the mortals all say that the Fang Hua Beast is an animal capable of feelings, but they can never obtain their heart’s desire.”
I turned my head, heart suddenly pounding.
A Fang Hua Beast is a primarily male animal. If his friend fell in love with a person who had a wife, then wouldn’t that person have been a man?
Perhaps, it was a cut sleeve affair… …?
No wonder society couldn’t accept it, it was too shocking. I didn’t even know how to follow up with what he said…
The Fang Hua at that moment seemed even lonelier under the light of the moon. He slowly stood up, his white robes dancing in the wind as if it’d whisk him away at a moment’s notice.
“Yifu…” I gripped his sleeve tightly. After a long while, I could only speak hoarsely. “You’re different. If anyone picks on you, Shao’er will put her life on the line to kill them.”
He slowly raised his eyebrows but said nothing, only sighed slightly as he silently gazed up at the moon in the heavens. The splendor of that moon gleamed down in torrents upon a jade-like face, its features dimly discernible and almost unreal. “You don’t understand again…”
That face leaned closer towards me, and those lips slowly pressed upon mine.
Startled, I was even afraid to move an inch. Ahh..
Now what was going on?! His dejected body fell towards the ground, crushing me beneath him. The impact made my head hurt.
I suddenly gave a start.
I hadn’t come of age yet… …
Another long while passed before I realized he’d fallen asleep.
I propped myself up into a sitting position and gathered my arms around yifu, carefully and cautiously stroking the satiny strands of long hair that had scattered across his back. My hands gradually tightened as I held him.
A teardrop-shaped mole decorated the corner of an eye in a startling shade of crimson red.
Suddenly, the words from the length of silk cloth appeared in my mind.
‘Fang Hua have an exceedingly unrivaled beauty resembling that of a woman’s that is difficult to find in the world. As an animal that possesses a sentimental disposition, they will be tied down by the threads of sentiment all their lives. Those who cannot escape the bonds of sentiment are robbed of their lives and die young, leaving the numbers who manage to attain Right Fruit fewer and fewer.’
Yifu, you raised me.
Shao’er promises, even if I have to put her life on the life, I will protect you.
As long as you, are happy… …
 unable to return his feelings ( 不能托付終⾝) −bu neng tuofu zhongshen is hard to fit in one sentence. Bu neng means unable or unwilling to, tuofu means to entrust, or commit to someone’s care, zhongshen means lifelong, all one’s life. Putting it together means that Fang Hua’s friend loved a person who couldn’t be relied on to stay by his side for a lifetime. …you can imagine how clunky that sentence would’ve been, so I used a little cheat and a footnote to bring you here instead.
 cut sleeve ( 斷袖) −duan xiu, euphemism for homosexuality that comes from WesternHan Dynasty (206BCE – 9 CE). At that time, Emperor Ai (real name Liu Xin) took on a male lover named Dong Xian. One
morning before attending his daily court sessions, the emperor discovered Dong Xian had fallen asleep on his sleeve. Not wishing to wake him up, he used a knife to cut away part of the cloth, and left. The so-called passion of the cut sleeve stems from these times.
My body these days was really weird.
It seemed like it was changing, but I couldn’t tell in what way. JUNE 21, 2016RUYI
Spring left and came again, and the years flowed like water between the fingers, escaping all attempts to grasp them.
Pear blossoms burst wantonly into bloom, inviting a delicate fragrance into the courtyard… …
In the blink of an eye, I had passed a few more years at this house. Fang Hua naturally forgot the events of that night, and I was all to happy to take advantage of the slip. I never brought up the words on the silk cloth again, and the two of us spent our lives peacefully until one day, I discovered that I’d grown quite tall.
The robe I’d worn in prior years seemed more and more fitting to my body, except for its tightness across the chest. I also felt depressed these days. When I was changing my clothes, I once knocked against my chest once and felt a sharp pain.
My body these days was really weird.
It seemed like it was changing, but I couldn’t tell in what way.
I didn’t pay it much attention, because all the little ills and pains in this house were nothing to worry about. I didn’t even need to mention the field of rare and precious plants behind the building because the house had Fang Hua, who could concoct all sorts of miraculous cures.
Fang Hua loved to fiddle with the plants and flowers.
He also once told me that medicinal plants and flowers all had their own set of seasons and years. One that time that passed and they faded, they would be useless. Actually, it was a pity because they could only continue living as refined pills. But we simply had too many plants in our backyard, so only the relatively rarer ones were picked to be refined.
Every time he finished speaking, he would wear a regretful expression on his face.
But I couldn’t understand how mixing together all these medicinal plants, smashing them to bits, and mixing them with different powders to form into spherical pills… …
…could do anything to prolong their lives.
Supposing they were human, getting pulverized like that would’ve killed them until even their bones disappeared.
I really didn’t understand a guy like Fang Hua.
Even though I said that, I could well imagine how many different types of rare medicinal ingredients were gathered by him and placed into a beautiful collection of bottles and flasks in the house. These things were precious beyond compare, and a single grain was worth more than ten taels of gold.
Even so, I occasionally made off with one or two jars and dumped the contents in my mouth like soy beans to satisfy my cravings for a good snack.
Fortunately, he only turned a blind eye to these things. Sigh… … It became hard to sleep with my endless suffering.
I could only lie there stiffly. Turning my body, I knocked against my chest… …
Seriously, this was so oppressing. For Mother’s sake… …
It was fine if I didn’t hit it, but when I did the pain was enough to make my eyes leak tears.
Pulling open my robes to peer inside, I couldn’t tell if I was being paranoid, or if my chest was really starting to swell a bit.
Could it be that the warm weather, combined with too much water I drank before sleeping, caused my body to bloat?
I bent my arm and gave it a glance, but it looked normal.
In one motion I got up and grabbed the mirror off the short table. The bright yellow hue of bronze dazzled me to a point where I couldn’t open my eyes. I felt my face all over to ascertain that it was the same as before, besides
It was no use, I couldn’t fall asleep no matter how much I tossed and turned. I might as well sneak into Fang Hua’s room and steal some medicine to eat and suppress these chest pains.
I hooked up an outer robe and draped it around my shoulders.
Like a thief, I stooped over to put on my boots. With my hand carefully shielding a lantern, I closed the door to my room and started heading outside. A crescent moon hung high in the sky.
Fang Hua’s room was across the courtyard from mine. The cool and quiet brilliance of the moonlight spilled upon the ground.
His door was closed, and his windows were tightly shut.
Still covering the lantern light from view, I peered towards the paper- covered window. At times it looked pitch-black, but sometimes it seemed that light would waver in and out.
Was he asleep?
But it was still so early… …
I grabbed one of my hairpins and tried to spy in the crack between the door and doorframe, my body glued against the door plank as I listened for sounds of movement. My hand was using force too, squeezing the long, thin hairpin through the cracks before wiggling it up and down. After a long while, I unlocked the door.
Heheheh, it’s true what they say about practice makes perfect. I quietly glided through the door.
Just by using the lantern in my hands, I could see the bedcovers were pushed aside a bit messily. Not far away was a pale yellow light emanating from behind a screen.
There was even the sound of pouring water.
It seems like he was taking a bath… …
I immediately bent down, tiptoeing to the cabinet in front of the bed and sizing up the bottles and flasks there.
Narrowing my eyes… … Hn.
I was blank.
Should I get the Ten Perfect Essences of Green Tea pill, or the Nine Condensations of Jade cream, but the Thousand Creations Sacred Water had strong recuperative properties as well… …it’s just that using it to relieve some swelling seemed like a waste.
My fingers slipped over each bottle as I fumbled along. I got mixed up with the time.
Suddenly, the sound of pouring water behind the screen stopped, and the reflection upon the water’s surface grew extremely clear. The outlines of that person’s face also became increasingly clear as he turned his head to look my way.
Startled, I quickly lowered my head and blew out the light in my hands.
But it was already too late… …
“Shao’er, is that you?” a voice carried over from behind the screen, the sounds of a spring bath sure and distinct.
I panicked, picking up my robes with gritted teeth.
Seriously, this was like trying to steal a chicken only to lose the grain used to bait it. To try and gain an advantage, only to end up worse off.
I felt like I was choking, but I stubbornly refused to make a noise.
Squatting down, I relaxed my body and decided to start crawling… …as long as I made it to the door then I could sneak away.
He wouldn’t try to catch someone without putting on some clothes, right. As it turned out… … I was wrong again.
There was a sound of splashing water. Droplets scattered against the screen, and the painting of mountains and water… …was really changed into a literal mountains and water painting.
I saw the candle flame wavering behind the screen. His long, graceful figure must have been reflected against the water there, and it must have been extremely beautiful.
By this point, I didn’t even have the energy to try crawling anymore.
“Shao’er, you came at the perfect time. Help me bring my clothes over.” His hand brushed against the screen, almost helplessly, while his body descended back into the tub. With a long and gentle breath, he spoke, “I think I put it in the wardrobe next to the bed.”
This guy… …
He didn’t even bring a change of clothes with him when taking a bath.
If I had come any later, wouldn’t I have seen a beautiful naked man walking around the room… …just thinking about it is just… …
I took a deep breath and put on a long face. Seriously, what timing.
I didn’t dare to steal any more pills, but followed the rules to find him a robe and carried it in both hands to behind the screen.
While I was still saying ‘here,’ he suddenly extended a hand and gripped my wrist, the scattered water soaking my sleeves. I blinked a few times, and before I could react… … …I felt a sudden force dragging me over.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, what’s going on now… …save me… …I didn’t want to spy on an old guy like you bathing!
I really didn’t know how to express the amount of shock I felt now. I only came to deliver some clothes… …
It’s completely true that I had no intentions of peeping.
Still, I was dragged along until I ended up behind the screen. Because the other had used a lot of potent force… …I didn’t even have time to find my bearings before I was leaning over the edge of the wooden tub, a hair’s breadth from falling inside.
I wiped my face… …
Whoa, this bath water was really fragrant.
A puff of air rose up to my forehead, turning my neck and the roots of my ears red.
Now this was heat.
My hands danced about as I tried to straighten up. But my sleeves were inside the tub, the light material soaking up the water until they were thoroughly wet. Those heavy, waterlogged sleeves carried the sound of gurgling water as I touched something warm within the tub. It was slippery like a loach, but the tactile sensation was very pleasing. Before I could figure out what it was, he caught me until I was facing him head-on. My face looked red and flustered, but I had turned cold all over. “Shao’er, what are you doing here so late?” his voice was gentle and refined, pleasant to hear. There was no sign of anger in the tone.
I blinked a few times before looking away, my gaze resting on the hand around my wrist. His five fingers were long and slender, his speech light and soft, but every move he made was filled with strength and it didn’t seem like he was going to let me go.
I stood dazed for a while before giving him an expression with a smile on my face.
Could I say I came here to steal pills? Gulp, honesty wasn’t the best policy here.
Well, I couldn’t exactly say I came to peep on him bathing… …
If I said a lie like that, I might as well tell the truth instead. My eyes spun in their sockets as I tried to think of an excuse to get by. But my mind was blank upon gazing at the beautiful scene before me.
All the excellent sights and sounds of spring…
There was a sudden bang as if I had been mindblown.
I guess this is what happens when one’s blood ‘boils with righteous indignation.’ All we were missing was a catcall whistle.
His expression was one of lazy indolence, one hand resting by the side of his head, measuring me up with half-closed eyes. The Adam’s apple by his fingers moved slightly.
I startled. It wasn’t very comfortable to be stooping over the tub like this, especially when the wood pressing against my chest made the pains worse.
I vaguely remembered that during my days as a beggar… …boys going through puberty would grow Adam’s apples, and they’d give people strange looks… …
Wait a minute.
I had a sudden, abrupt shock.
When Fang Hua picked me up from the temple, my body looked around seven or eight years old. Only five years had passed since then… …I couldn’t be starting puberty this early, right.
“Why aren’t you saying anything, hn?”
His single ‘hn’ hung in the air, soft and unbroken as if overwhelmed with sorrow… …
I was starting to suspect that he’d drank some alcohol again.
With my heart set, I gritted my teeth and shamelessly said, “I couldn’t fall asleep, so I decided to wander around. When I heard yifu calling for me I conveniently came inside.”
“Nonsense. time you try stealing something, remember not to bring a candle… … Did you think I was blind to a large circle
Like I’d try to steal again.
He smiled a bird, as if pleased with my obedient expression, and spoke again. “Come, help me scrub my back.”
Tears. You still can’t tell the different between girls and boys… …
He didn’t seem aware of my inner struggles, but turned around with his back to me, his arms resting over the sides of the tub. The cloth that was originally draped over its edge was now floating freely in the water.
At this moment, he really wasn’t wearing a thing while soaking in the tub. Strands of his black hair floated on the water, while gentle ripples beat against his white skin, forming a striking vision… He leaned comfortably against the edge of the tub with his eyes closed. I sadly shifted my steps to get closer and gave a quick side glance, eyes drifting until they came to rest in the water… …
Who knew if a Fang Hua Beast had the same anatomy as a human… …
Perhaps he’d put medicinal herbs in the water, because the surface was too turbid to see the truth.
“Hurry up…” he urged a little impatiently.
I immediately averted my gaze and sucked in a deep breath, before getting to work.
Scrubscrubscrub… … I’ll scrub you to death. He hummed once.
I jerked once, and then relented, scrubbing him more gently. The tactile sensations felt pretty nice.
I changed up my way of scrubbing.
“Yifu, you have really nice skin.”
Not like mine, all dark and ugly like a black-boned chicken.
“Well, you weren’t born with skin like this. I think someone drugged you once to make you this way.” he said offhandedly in a light tone.
“Can we fix it?” “Of course, just soak yourself daily in some herbs and you’ll fully recover.”
“Seriously? Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
“You never asked. I thought you liked looking the way you are.”
Now I wanted to destroy him. He actually looked after me for five years… …before telling me I’d once been drugged.
However, this was what I looked like ever since my beggar days. Whether it was then or sometime earlier, who would waste their time drugging a brat like me?
It really was strange.
My thoughts kept spinning while my hands kept scrubbing, mindful of my sleeves draping on the edge of the tub as I cleaned the skin by his collarbones.
If I went a little lower… …I’ll reach his chest… … There was another weird thing.
Over the past few years, the chances of such a thing happening was pitifully low.
Typically, I had little to no contact with his body, even less in such an intimate manner. Raising my eyes, I was just in time to see him looking down at me, his gaze gentle and mild and his eyes very pretty to see.
My heart skipped a beat, and I started to scrub with all my strength.
“Hnn…” he said once, and didn’t say anything else.
I stopped and looked at him. “Yifu, what’s wrong?” As soon as I spoke, I regretted it. The water splashed as he reached out a hand, gently brushing aside the outermost layer of my robes to open it up. Shocked, I immediately covered my chest with my hands.
He paused for a moment, gazing at my hands, before asking me in a concerned tone, “Shao’er, has your body been feeling unwell recently?”
His eyes were extremely sharp. But it’s not like I could say my…chest… was swollen, right. I knitted my eyebrows, before replying stiffly. “Not at all, you’re being oversensitive.”
“Let me see your hand so I can take your pulse.”
Though he was soaking in the water before, now he suddenly stood up, splattering water everywhere. I was as frightened as a bird. “Yifu, what are you doing?!” So speaking, I turned my head away, refusing to look at him… …but then I thought that’d be a shame if I missed this chance, so I changed my mind and looked back–only to see that he’d already changed into his clothes.
… … …I’m crying.
“I’m just changing into my clothes, you don’t have to hide.” He lowered his head to tighten his sash, speaking in an easy tone. “In this house, we’re father and son, so there’s no need to act like an outsider.”
Yifu, you’re just too naïve.
In the future, if you ever figure out that the world has both men and women, or that the foster son you raised for five years was a foster daughter, you would never let me watch you change your clothes.
I’m going to cry again… …
I gave off an air of sullen depression. He’d already taken my hand in my moment of stupefaction to check my pulse. After some serious thought, he mused, “There’s nothing obstructing your internal channels.” Afterwards, he went back to staring at my chest.
The atmosphere was extremely awkward as the candle flames flickered around us. I think my face must have been as red as shrimp roe by now.
He studied me for a while with eyebrows raised before exhaling and grasping my hand, speaking in a heavy, focused tone. “Shao’er, even though I’m not a very rich, I’ve never held back a thing when I fed you. I’ve never stolen anything from you either, so… …”
He hesitated, shooting a looking my way, as if it was difficult to continue.
I pricked my ears to listen, and in the end, he spoke anyways.
“So, it’s not worth it to hide rancid mantou in your chest. If you keep it there for too long, they’ll spoil.”
I was filled with a sudden rage of temper.
He tugged on me again, with more strength this time, until I toppled into his embrace.
My face grimaced in pain.
He was startled but didn’t hesitate, using the moment to undo all my robes… …
A lamp light on the side flickered back and forth.
His expression was gentle and soft as he spoke. “So this was the reason.”
My whole body had gone stiff as I stood there, unmoving. The only thing that stirred were my clothes. The fragrant scent emanating from Fang Hua floated out again to surround me, making me almost a bit dizzy.
He spoke lightly again. “Looks like it’s swollen. But it won’t be a problem. In a bit, I’ll use some acupuncture needles to prick it and you’ll be all right.”
Ahhh AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I’M FURIOUS
Ignoring everything else, he carefully replaced my clothes and helped me tie the sash around my waist. My anger rose from my heart and I shoved him aside with one push.
He smiled softly at me, lifting a hand behind my forehead to draw me closer to him again.
“Shao’er, it’s almost your fifteenth birthday. What kind of present do you want?”
I didn’t even know what day my birthday was, so how did know? And, when did I become around fifteen years old?
He smiled, in a flash of time that became eternity, and said, “I will give you…the very best.”