Falling Dreams of Fang Hua Chapter 11-20

Chapter11

He said, Shao Hua, I know you.

He said, Shao Hua, I’ll be living here now with you and Fang Hua. JUNE 26, 2016RUYI
Recently, Fang Hua’s movements had gotten more eccentric. His expression looked very suspicious too…
Typically, he’d stay in the house fiddling with medicinal plants, or adjusting some things with his weird and fantastic pills. He’d only take a trip every half-a-month to visit the markets to buy some rice. Sometimes he’d bring back a pair of ducks or chickens and let them loose in the courtyard until life ran its course, feeding them rice on occasion.

I was gratified at such actions…

After all, he still remembered that these animals had different tastes than himself.

Sometimes I wondered what would happen if he never took me in. Maybe he’d never leave his house and just guarded the plants and flowers for the rest of his life. He’d never talk with ordinary people, much less go bargain-shopping for groceries.

I remember when I first arrived, he rarely talked. For half a year, the words I spoke with him didn’t add up past ten sentences. It was as if ignoring people was routine for him, as if he was a noble figure who live outside the realm of mortals.

This piece of land rarely saw humans. We had no neighbors for hundreds of li[1] in four directions. The house was surrounded by a bamboo forest, clean and quiet, elegant and calm, a good place to live in seclusion.

In the past, I used to think…our meeting at the run-down temple was a simple coincidence.

When the Fang Hua of that time met the pitiful me, with no one else to depend on, he must have been looking to adopt a child and nothing more.

But I don’t think that’s the case anymore…

Fang Hua naturally preferred quiet, and didn’t seek fame or fortune. He always descended the mountain with a fixed goal in mind. That time, when we met–was it serendipity, or something on purpose?

I couldn’t tell anymore.

After that serious illness in my youth, I didn’t even know who I was anymore…

How would he know my birthday, or my age? It was really weird. I’ve thought too much…now everything’s tangled up…
My brain seized up and my eyelids felt heavy. My entire person wanted to sleep. Sprawled on the stone table, I yawned as I stared at the tightly shut door, spacing out. Fang Hua kept going out these past days, so it was rare to see him. Sheesh, he’s such a hard guy to understand…

Suddenly, there was a noise from the door. I gave a start and woke up half-way, getting to my feet.

A figure appeared outside the gate, their shallow red robes covered with dust. But it was still hard to take one’s eyes away from the sight. His expression looked somewhat tired and sleepy as he stared blankly in my direction. “Shao’er, what are you doing still standing there? Shouldn’t you be soaking in your herbal bath?”

I wanted to ask where he went, but the words didn’t come. I only said in a low voice, “I’ve already heated up the water, but I forgot which medicinal plants I should add in again…”

He smiled. “It is a little complicated, though I’ve told you plenty of times already. Look at what kind of memory you have.”

Actually, my memory was very good…

By listening and watching, I’d grasped the general properties and types of all sorts of medicines. But since I knew them so well…I also understood which combinations of plants had no effects on me.

Lowering my head, I followed along behind him.

I listlessly brought over some hot water and poured it into the tub. I watched him lift up his sleeves and pluck a few herbs, considering them inch by inch as he added them into the water.

I bit my lip…

They were all ingredients to help a person relax and adjust their breathing, and had no use whatsoever for eliminating poisons. There were a few plants that were unfamiliar, but I secretly tasted some a while back and found them raw and astringent. They turned my tongue numb and made my insides churn.

I didn’t know what those two leaves were called either, only that they were very difficult to find on Earth.

But…after spending so long soaking in this mix of plants, my skin was as dark as ever, so I began to lose interest.

I stole a glance at Fang Hua, who was diligently moving his sleeves aside to reach into the water…and test the temperature. “Your body is weaker than a typical boy’s, so I can’t use stronger medicine on you. This poison has stayed in the body for so many years, so it’s not something we can get rid of in a short while. Making your own body harmonious is the first step. If you don’t have any internal energy then it’s impossible. During these days, you should soak in these herbs more often until you acquire qi[2] and your posture improves. Then I’ll use a different method to expel the poison.”

Wait a minute… What did he just say?
This tub of water is for me to increase my internal energy?

“Soaking one day in here is equal to cultivating five years. It’s something that plenty of martial artists can’t even dream of accomplishing.” And he said this all in such a casual tone.

I’m going to go nuts…

Why didn’t you say so earlier! I thought it was weird! These days, I’d feel some sort of qi surging around inside me whenever I closed my eyes… looks like it was internal energy.

Growing…

I immediately bent down to undo my sash and robes before I halted, suddenly aware of a certain detail. I looked over with a dumbfounded stare. “Yifu, why aren’t you leaving yet?”

“I’ll help you wash your back.”

It’s fine, I don’t need that.

Two hours later, I walked out with my head bathed in steam. Fang Hua was drinking tea at the stone table, smiling as he waved towards me. I lightly stepped over, furiously tossing my head. He shook as I splashed him with water all over. “How unruly. Did you take a bath or just wash your hair…you didn’t even dry it first, be careful you don’t catch a chill.”

I was ridiculously happy.

Just thinking that I’d gained five years’ worth of internal energy, made my face split open in a grin. He couldn’t help but sigh before standing up, taking a cloth out from who-knows-where to cover up my head. His warm and gentle fingers slowly rubbed it dry.

Nice…

It’s really comfortable.

“Yifu, you said Shao’er would get a gift at fifteen years.” I leaned back and fell into his torso, rubbing the damp hair on his robes. Clutching his sleeves, I brazenly asked, “Where’s Shao’er’s present?”

He couldn’t help but smile as he dug inside his sleeves, pulling out an object that he placed in my palms.

A haipin?

It was neither made of wood nor jade, but something blood-red in hue, finely polished to a simple yet elegant shape. A nostalgic scent wafted from my fingers as I caressed it gently, but I couldn’t remember what it was.

“Do you like it?”

“Un.” The pattern was simple and unsophisticated, as if it had been handmade.

“You’ve almost come of age, so you shouldn’t wear your hair loose all the time. Tie your hair up nowadays, you’ll look more energetic.”

“What kind of wood is this made from?”

Mahogany? It didn’t seem like it… Bamboo?
Do you think I’m stupid, that’s even more impossible.

It’s weird, this feel really familiar. I’ve definitely smelled this scent somewhere else.

“…this…I’ll tell you in the future, don’t just sniff it blindly.”

He reached out from behind me to take my hair, wiping his hands on my robes before coiling it two or three times. Then he took the hairpin from me, hesitated a moment, and said, “Shao’er stayed with yifu for so many years. You must be lonely.”

I was suddenly seized with panic before I could react. My scalp hurt, and when I touched my head… Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
My hair didn’t even get to dry before he tied it up. The air was so humid.
If you tied up half-wet hair like this, you’d grow lice!

Aye!

Fang Hua had never called himself yifu in front of me. That was the first time, which was why I was so surprised and forgot to reply him.

Before I turned fifteen years old, I thought I would live with yifu here for the rest of my life. But I was wrong.

It was when he appeared.

The second day after Fang Hua gave me the hairpin, he calmly followed Fang Hua back. He was tall and slender and straight as a ramrod, dressed in a light plum robe that made him seem seven parts elegant and three parts heroic. He looked a bit older than me, and his every moment was graceful and noble. From a long way off, he looked at me with a clear smile.

He said, Shao Hua, I know you.

He said, Shao Hua, I’ll be living here now with you and Fang Hua.

Nobody had ever called me by my full name before. Yet I remained staring fixedly at one point. His slender white hand tugged at Fang Hua’s, the ten fingers close together, but Fang Hua just smiled and didn’t say a word.

The rain fell as a fine drizzle, the mist covered waters surrounded us for tens of thousands of li, the sun began to set.

A single strand of the willow tree, a single measure of feelings.

-o-

[1] li ( ⾥) −a traditional Chinese unit of distance approximately half a mile, or 500 meters long.

[2] qi (⽓) −air, chi, energy that circulates within the body, etc. Chinese medicine believes in treating qi to gain a healthy body.

Chapter12

sight as I remembered. JUNE 26, 2016RUYI
Long and slender raindrops fell between wisps of wind. Within the mist, an indistinct figure could be seen between the willow branches. This person had a tall and slender stature, and stood there with an umbrella[1], giving off an indescribable feeling of peace. His looks were tasteful and refined, even handsome.

He, was the so-called Han Zichuan[2].

“The rain’s getting stronger, hurry up and come inside.” I languidly leaned out the door to yell at him.

“Fang Hua isn’t back yet, I’ll wait a bit longer.”

Tch…

Whether or not you enjoy waiting, it serves you right if you get wet.

I gave a snort and closed the door behind me, completely shutting him out from view. He didn’t seem much older than me, and was probably 17 or 18 years old. But I had no good feelings towards him.

Since the first day Fang Hua brought him to our house, my heart had felt empty…every time we ate, there’d be an extra pair of chopsticks. He’d also take away pieces of my favorite twice-cooked pork[3]. Fang Hua would never cook only for me again, or only buy clothes for me again…another person had gotten between us.

That person was Han Zichuan.

Han Zichuan would call him Fang Hua… But I could only call him yifu…
I was in low spirits, but I didn’t know why…

I grabbed a cup off the table and poured myself some water…which I drained in one gulp.

I can’t be so negative.

There were still important things to do today before Fang Hua came home. With my focus set, I tugged open the front door–and was greeted with a face full of rainwater.Narrowing my eyes, I touched my face…and sucked in a deep breath. Fine.

Han Zichuan was noticeably startled as he drew back the hand that shook out the umbrella. Quickly, he pulled up his sleeves to wipe my face, saying, “Little Brother Shao, I’m really sorry. I didn’t do it on purpose.”

What a nice guy.

The differences between us was even more obvious. I shoved him aside.

“Scram. Leave me alone.”

He smiled, not the least irritated as he dragged my sleeve. “It’s raining now, so you should bring an umbrella if you’re going out.”

As if I was your wife or such nonsense…bring what umbrella? I gave him a scornful look and waved him off, saying boldly, “I don’t need one.”

With a swish of my robes, I valiantly walked off. Tch, this rain wasn’t even that heavy…it didn’t even land on my robes… eeee? Something didn’t seem right. I turned around and spotted Han Zichuan raising an umbrella over my head, following in my footsteps with a warm smile.

I sucked in a breath.

I was finished. Some people just had stubborn personalities that refused to change. I could only let him do as he wanted and hold the umbrella. I was sullen for the entire trip.

After crossing through part of the bamboo forest, the skies cleared up. The weather in the mountains were fickle at times like these, always changing unpredictably. Han Zichuan closed his umbrella and stood there quietly. I glanced at him and saw that a large section behind his shoulders was soaked from the rain.

A part of my heart turned soft. Actually, this person had pretty good moral character.

“The scenery here is really mesmerizing. Did Little Brother Shao come to collect ingredients for medicines?” Han Zichuan surveyed the area around him, finally smelling the faint scent of medicinal plants in the air.

“No,” I replied tersely.

I closed up my thoughts and pushed aside the bamboo leaves, stepping past some twigs until I was standing atop the edge of the cliff and looking down.

The entire mountain was covered in plants and flowers… It was as splendid a sight as I remembered.
I hadn’t come here for a long time. What used to be a cliff for the younger me could only be considered a slope now. Over the past few months, Fang Hua not only told me to soak in medicinal baths to increase my internal energy[4], but taught me some breathing techniques as well. But he didn’t teach me many martial arts moves…even though this was a high slope, I didn’t really have much grasp of how to get down safely.

I couldn’t resist peeking a glance again. Kicking a rock downhill, I watch as it tumbled down in a stream of dust…and my heart beat wildly. Actually, this was still pretty high.

“When the internal energy reaches the top of the head, bring the full weight of you body to your upper half. This way your feet will be able to travel over surfaces with the slightest pressure.” A voice slowly floated towards me.

Ah…

Was it like that?

“The movements must be swift, so the momentum can remain unbroken. If you’re slow by even a bit and can’t attract the qi, your qi will naturally sink down and the weight of your body will return to as before.”

Surprised, I didn’t think much before doing exactly as told. One foot stepped onto the precipice, body twisting to borrow some energy as I opened up my sleeves and started lightly floating down.

The scenery shifted as I moved along, making me dizzy. My feet lost their grip and I stepped onto the spongy soil.

Curses…

But I hadn’t injured myself. Raising my head, I saw the person who’d tipped me off give me a helpless expression as he paced back and forth by the edge.

“Thanks,” I waved at him.

He grew even more anxious and dragged out a length of rattan vine, as if he was going to climb down after me.

Nice guy… He was great at memorizing things but it was all for naught since he didn’t know any martial arts skills. I stuffed my robes around my waist and started drifting up like a stray leaf. At the very top of the precipice, I grabbed him by the collar and with light steps, forcefully took him along as I floated back down.

Darn it, he’s really heavy.

The two of us crashed heavily to the ground, and he helplessly tumbled to the bottom. In contrast, I dusted myself off and leisurely got to my feet, looking around until I saw that patch of yellow earth again. My expression grew heavy as I made my way over.

Han Zichuan followed, tripping and stumbling along. This was the place…
There was no mistake.

I squatted down and felt about the soil for a long while… Huh? How could it wasn’t there anymore?
“Shao’er, what are you looking for…ah…” The person[5] walking leisurely towards the tomb in the patch of yellow earth suddenly turned pale and backed up a few paces, using his body to block my field of vision.

Meanwhile, my hand…

Just happened to brush against something buried in the dirt.

-o-

[1] umbrella (伞) −san. Ancient Chinese umbrellas were typically made from wood and oil-paper. Sometimes they were decorated with paintings and other designs, as seenhere. They’re typically stiffer and straighter than modern-day umbrellas. You can read more about them on Wikipedia. [2] Han Zichuan (韩⼦川) −our third character makes his debut! Han is just a surname. Zi could mean “son” or “child”, and Chuan is “river” or
“plain.” So his full name could be read as the “Han son of the river/plains”, I think.

[3] twice-cooked pork (回锅⾁) −hui guo rou, or “double-cooked pork“, a Sichuan styled Chinese dish mixing simmered + stir-fried pork with vegetables. Often served with chili seasoning.

[4] internal energy  ( 内功)  − forgot  to  mention  this in  the  previous chapter, but this is the same neigong Fang Hua used to pick Shao’er up and inspect   her   in   chapter    4.    I    figured    an    English    stand-in    for the pinyin wouldn’t hurt the meaning.

[5] the person −the original text isn’t very clear, but I think it’s still Han Zichuan (?) speaking here. I don’t know why he suddenly started calling his Brother Shao “Shao’er” like Fang Hua, though. If I’m wrong, I’ll come back and fix things in this chapter.


TN: This chapter was the shortest one so far, at only 13 pages on my Pleco clipboard. Which means…the next one should come out by tonight too, heh.

Chapter13

The two of us stood blankly for a while.

“How long do you think it’s been here?” Han Zichuan asked softly.

“I don’t know,” I shook my head. JUNE 26, 2016RUYI
TN: This chapter was originally divided into two parts. For the sake of organization, I combined both part 1 and part 2 into one chapter.

It’s not very polished even by my lax standards, but I think I’ll edit it when it’s not 2AM here, lol.

My damp fingers were covered in dirty yellow soil…

Within the messily excavated mud was a small wooden plaything…

It was a uncommon drum-shaped rattle[1] with four drums layered atop each other. When one rotated the drums, their sounds would alternate between high and low notes, producing a resonant and pleasing sound to the ears.

I didn’t know why, but tears started streaming down my face without end. My head bowed, and I hurriedly dug the object out. In my memory, there was   another   object   as   well.   As   it   turned   out,   there   was a diabolo buried there as well. I picked it up between my fingers, only to find that it was already broken. I remembered it was called a diabolo, but its other name was a dou weng[3]. Originally, one would use a length of twine between two bamboo rods to move along its wooden axle, where rotating it at high speeds would start creating noises.

These were all children’s toys from human society.

When I was a beggar, I didn’t even have enough food to eat, much less chances to play with these things… With my head down, I cradled them in my hands and gently touched the pieces. Why did these feel so familiar?

These tactile impressions, along with the patterns in the wood, all seemed to be carved deeply in my memory, as if I’d forgotten somewhere along the way. Something very important to me.

But what was it…?

I mused for a while before lifting my head. It was then I saw Han Zichuan looking off at one point, his face completely white. It seemed like something had scared him out of his wits.

I hurriedly reburied the little toys and stood up, walking to his side. My sleeves billowed out as I prepared to push him aside. “What’s up with you? Why did you holler earlier?”

He was seized with terror as he looked at me, before forcefully grabbing me with enough force to dig into my skin. I was mystified, and my eyes involuntarily drifted to somewhere behind his shoulders…

In a panic, he used his other hand to block my eyes.

“Brother Shao, don’t look.”

Tch, what was it I couldn’t look at…not a dead person, right? I roughly pushed him aside, and as it turned out…I guessed right. Not just dead, but a skeleton as well. It leaned against the tomb of yellow earth, as if snuggling up to it. The material of its clothes were very high-quality, so much that a portion of it still looked undisturbed by natural decay. I was astonished. The two of us stood blankly for a while.

“How long do you think it’s been here?” Han Zichuan asked softly.

“I don’t know,” I shook my head. Maybe it’d been around forever.
My younger self who had followed Fang Hua didn’t have the skills to descend into the valley, so I never got to see this…

“It seems like someone frequently comes around to tidy up this grave,” Han Zichuan spoke, looking around with his ashen face. His eyes eventually returned to rest on the skeleton, and he was quiet for a long while before he spoke a

This would have to be a question for Fang Hua. I really wanted to know the answer too…

I muttered to myself for a while, gradually circling half-a-circle around the corpse…the more I looked, the more suspicious I felt. With a deep breath, I knelt down and reached over with my hand–before someone clapped my shoulder.

“Hey…Brother Shao, what are you doing? It’s really disrespectful…to disturb someone’s eternal rest.”

“Why are you so wordy? Come and help me!” I hollered back, but the noise just made him roll his eyes.

This person… What did he know?
For this fishy person to die here in the wilderness, there was a chance it had some rare martial arts manuals or secret papers hidden on his person. There was no doubt, just by looking at its posture here… Although it was half snuggling the grave mound, one of its hands was hidden beneath its body, as if trying to pull something out from its robes. I was energized. Pulling up my sleeves, I reached in and pulled something out from its robes.

Han Zichuan trembled as he wobbled over, grabbing me beneath the armpits as he prepared to pull me away, talking all the while. “Please don’t be offended, Brother Ghost, please don’t be offended…Brother Shao is still young, he hasn’t learned how to act sensibly yet.”

As it turned out, retribution arrived.

In the middle of desperate struggling with each other, our combined forces sent me falling backwards. My hand groped uselessly at the air before pulling out a length of cloth from its robes…

Han Zichuan and I were both dumbfounded.


A poor quality piece of cloth that looked like it was made from burlap and felt like sheepskin to the touch…

Although much time had passed, it still carried a strong stench, and upon looking at it closely, I noticed it had a giant bloodstain. There were also rows and rows of characters that had a lively sort of energy, bold and strong. Even against the dark backdrop, it was possible to see their approximate outlines.

There was a sudden, indescribable attack of sadness. I felt as if my hand lost the strength to hold on. It started trembling, and the characters on the cloth started shaking even harder in response.

‘When those days ended, I felt disconsolate and empty over the fact that we couldn’t meet. The happy times of then are now as distant as the divide between Heaven and Man. Early on, a thousand li already existed to keep us separate. I was the one who didn’t treat you well enough back then. Now I’ll use my own life to make it up to you. I just hope that after you return from the grave, you can look after that child[4]. This way, even if I die…I will be content.’

My eyes stared transfixed on a single point. The message had no sender or recipient, but was tagged with five characters: Final Words[5] Gifted to Fang Hua.

I took a deep breath. Stay calm…
I impelled myself to remain calm before looking again. The words were still there as before, dumbfounding me for a long while. I quickly hide them in my robes, my hands quivering the entire time. My heart was pounding furiously from the shock, as if it wanted to jump out of my throat.

“Brother Shao, what’s wrong?” Han Zichuan placed a hand on my shoulder, his face looking at me in deep concern.

But I was silent.

With extreme reluctance, I managed a smile.

“What kind of expression is this? It’s even more ghastly than a crying one. What was written on that cloth…let me see.” He reached out a hand towards me, the other wrapping around my waist to support me.

I shook my head, but my feet lost their strength and I sank to the ground.
Then I simply hugged my legs and closed my eyes.

Still, it wasn’t enough to stop the stream of memories from flowing like water, or my body from shuddering uncontrollably.

I remember that night when Fang Hua told me, “Someone I used to know very well once fell in love with a person unable to return his feelings.”

“The person he loved already had a wife, but he was still drawn 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 were 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.”

Under the moonlight, he had smiled a smile cold enough to chill the liver.

“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 thought I’d forgotten these words, but now they appeared in my mind clearer than ever. At that time, I thought, it was only someone he used to know well, but why does he look so grieved?

As it turned out, I was wrong.

That might have been Fang Hua’s own story.

The bones snuggled next to the tomb must have been that ungrateful, heartless person.

Maybe not all of the Fang Hua Beasts in this world were named ‘Fang Hua’, but I knew…my yifu’s name was Fang Zi Hua[6]. The corpse before me now was someone who died for him.

The cloth was something it’d left behind for him.

I just didn’t understand why this person wrote, ‘after you return from the grave, you can look after that child… …’

Just who used to be buried in this tomb…? And another thing.
I anxiously walked around again, squatting down before furiously starting to dig. I didn’t even bother dusting off the dirt staining my robes, or the tiny bits of sandy soil stuck between my fingernails, even though it was quite painful. “Have you gone crazy?!” Someone grabbed my hands, then lifted my head. I saw Han Zichuan’s knitted eyebrows, and felt a little sad.

“What are you doing?!” “Don’t get in my way…”
Something had been trying to emerge from the ocean of my mind. But after he interrupted, it was shaken, and turned back into a blank space. I only stared dumbly at the toys in the dirt as if dazed. Why was it that little piece of red wood was already long gone?

“Brother Shao, I know it’s not good for me to say such things now,” Han Zichuan carefully took a breath, holding his robes as he knelt by my side to look at me. “If we disturb someone’s rest like this, we’ll earn retribution.”

I looked at him as if he was an idiot. He squeezed my hand before letting it go, a warm smile in his eyes. After carefully observing me, he added on another line. “Fang Hua’s almost home. We should leave.”

His determined tone pulled me back to reality.


If Fang Hua knew I came here…he’d definitely punish me. In a flash, I’d gotten to my feet, my body unsteady. Han Zichuan scooped me over with a smile, and patted me lightly on the back. “Brother Shao, your body’s really skinny, I can hold onto you with just one arm.”

I stood stunned, unable to react. His hand felt the side of my body again. With a surprised noise, he leaned over to sniff the space around my head before smilingly pointing with a finger. “Your scent has the same fragrant aroma as the grave mound.”

Nice guy…

You rogue, it’s you who smells like a grave mound! I rolled my eyes and looked over, pointing behind his back. He cluelessly looked behind him and I took the chance to use all my strength to give him a mighty kick. My movements were nimble and clean.

Then I shook out my sleeves and started walking away.

He followed behind me with a bitter expression on his face, tripping and stumbling along, his limp more pronounced than before.

When we got home, it was already dark.

Fang Hua sat in the courtyard, sipping from a cup of tea. Occasionally he’d raise his head to glance at us, but he didn’t say a word. I felt both awkward and uncomfortable.

I grabbed a pair of chopsticks and sat directly on the table, ducking my head as I filled my bowl without a peep. Han Zichuan hobbled halfway around the table, unsure of where to sit.

“Zichuan, what happened to your leg?” Fang Hua lowered his head, shifting the lid of his teacup as he sipped. “Where did you two go?”

The air suddenly turned cold.

-o-

[1] drum-shaped rattle (拨浪⿎) −bo lang gu, or “wave-shaking drum”, a small toy for kids. You place the handle between your palms and rub them
against each other to rotate the drum, causing the ends of the ‘drumsticks’ to hit its surface. Can get pretty loud and annoying if you give it to toddlers.
; A ;

[2] diabolo (空⽵) −kong zhu, more commonly known as a Chinese yo- yo.

[3] dou weng ( 抖嗡) −or “trembling drone/buzz/hum”, another name for the Chinese yo-yo based on the noise it makes when it’s in motion. [4] that child (吾孩⼉) −wu hai er, in which 孩⼉ is child, and 吾 is a really…tricky pronoun. It could mean both I/me or we/us. Without proper
context, I can’t tell if the letter from the corpse is saying “take care of my child” or “take care of our child”. Neither can Shao’er I bet, so I made a compromise with the translation.

[5] Final Words ( 绝 笔 ) −jue bi, not just any ‘final words,’ but specifically “last words written before one’s death,” also known as the “last work of an author or painter.”

[6] Fang Zi Hua (芳字华) −looks like we got yifu’s full name, and Fang Hua was his preferred name/nickname/etc. Zi means “word, character”. Zi Hua together could mean “splendid words/characters.”

Chapter14

This Han Zichuan.

His nerves weren’t half-bad, making up lies like that.

JUNE 26, 2016RUYI

“Zichuan, what happened to your leg?” Fang Hua lowered his head, shifting the lid of his teacup as he sipped. “Where did you two go?”

The air suddenly turned cold.

Things suddenly turned extremely quiet as I felt a piercing gaze boring into my back. It felt like I was suddenly sitting on pins and needles. I lowered my head even further, furiously filling up my bowl.

“Shao’er went with me on a stroll,” Han Zichuan smiled, taking out his own chopsticks. “He saw that I was still a stranger to the place, so the offer was made with good intentions. Unfortunately, it was raining outside, so I fell on the slippery grounds.” After speaking, he even cast a glance my way. “None of this is Brother Shao’s fault.”


I felt rather disagreeable. Wasn’t this a case of burying the silver, then sticking up a sign that said ‘no silver buried here'[1]? I gazed at the Heavens, speechless for quite a while as I continued to fill up my bowl.

Yifu smiled again, and I felt his comfortable, at-ease gaze gradually return to look at me again. He only said softly, “Is that so…” This neutral tone of speaking would usually be no cause for alarm. But since he used it here, it felt as if he had some misgivings about our answers. At least, it sure kept a person guessing.

I closed my eyes and pretended to be deaf. My left hand grabbed one mantou, while my right hand grabbed another, both of which I crammed into my mouth.

I wholly absorbed myself in stuffing my face, but my heart was trembling inside.

This Han Zichuan.

His nerves weren’t half-bad, making up lies like that.

“Shao’er…” a soft voice drifted over.

I shook and raised my head to look at Fang Hua.

“Don’t just eat mantou when there’s so many dishes today. You should leave some for Zichuan to eat, too.” Fang Hua was leaning against his chair, head propped on one hand, his eyes cold as he gazed at me.

I remained sullen.

“It’s fine, I’ll eat these slices of beef,” Han Zichuan rolled up his sleeves, speaking as he readied his chopsticks. Before he could pick up a piece, I gave him a ferocious glare. He understood immediately. The chopsticks in his hands jerked aside and got some pieces of pickled cucumber instead. Then he stopped speaking altogether.

Hmph.   Don’t   think   you   can   start   flaunting    yourself    just because yifu treats you well.

Actually, yifu was probably only worried I’d eat nothing but mantou. Hn, as if I’d let you eat all the meat by yourself, outsider. …that had to be the situation, I thought to myself. I look up at Fang Hua, then spared a glance at the other guy… My heart felt extremely irritated just staring at the way that guy used his chopsticks. I raised my foot and secretly gave him another kick.

“Owww….” that guy groaned.

“What’s wrong? Does your foot hurt again, come…” Yifu stood up, waving towards him. “Let me take a look for you.”

I was surprised. Han Zichuan finally released his chopsticks and comforted me with a smile before hobbling over.

Yifu personally helped him lie down before doing his clothing and checking the location of the injury. Han Zichuan knitted his eyebrows before turning around to look at me with a bright smile.

“Does it hurt…”

“It does

“It should be fine. The kick was well-aimed and didn’t hurt your bones. All you have to do is apply some medicinal salve. Are you sure it doesn’t hurt?”

“It hurts.”

I threw my chopsticks on the table with a pa! sound. It was impossible to eat dinner now…

Before I’d take more than a few steps, yifu’s voice spoke up, gentle, calm and clear. “Shao’er, you seem to be suffering from inflammation today, and your temper’s extremely bad. Is it because…” His tone was filled with hesitation.

I suddenly had an urge to run away.

As it turned out, he said the following. “You and I are family, but you always act like an outsider…come, I’ll treat both of you. I brought my acupuncture needles today so I can prick you a few times. For you to get swollen every few days isn’t good.” In a flash, I’d gotten unsteady.

Han Zichuan was still lying on the bench as he looked my way, concerned and yet confused. “Swollen? Where is the swelling…”

“Of course it’s where he’s covering it up with his hands,” Fang Hua replied.

Han Zichuan half raised himself up and stared in the direction of my chest, a complicated expression in his eyes.

Ahhh Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. These two jerks.
I ain’t dealing with this anymore.

“Where are you going…” Fang Hua finally abandoned his smooth tone and that well-behaved expression.

“I’m going to soak in a medicinal bath,” I half-turned back but didn’t move, wavering between staying and leaving.

“You don’t need to today,” he looked at me and with a toss of his hand, caused the flaps of his sleeves to open. Something flew out from its depths towards me. Surprised, I reached out and caught it in my hands.

It was a white porcelain vase as big as my palm, stoppered with a fiery red-colored cloth. It looked extremely cute, but felt cool to the touch.

“This is the antidote I just made today. Mix it with the water behind the house and spread it over your body.” He stood there smiling at me, a warm look in his eyes.

“Many thanks to yifu.” Han Zichuan looked at us, a confused expression on his face. But I didn’t feel like paying him any attention, especially when I felt so excited.

Heaven and God on Earth…

I finally received the antidote.

The next moment I was nearly tripping over myself to get to the back of the house. The willow strands swayed in the wind. I took a few steps into the woods and came upon a jade-colored pool, its waters lit up dazzlingly by the sunlight that streamed down from between the trees.

I looked around me, and let out a hoodlum whistle.

Taking off my outer robes, I left them on the rocks and leaped into the water, where I slowly sank down as I swam towards the center…

Summer had finally arrived, but I still couldn’t help but tremble at the cold. The water here was completely frigid year-round, but it never froze. Its jade-green hues gave off a carefree, happy feeling. Fang Hua once said that the waters here were extremely helpful for refining medicines.

Right…the medicine.

I held the bottle between my fingers as I pulled out the stopper. Then I poured some into my palm and slathered it over an arm.

It was weird, but the oily liquid in my palm suddenly started to burn my arm with a scorching heart…it turned numb, and the dark black layers of my skin seemed to turn a little red. I started to worry and immediately soaked my arm underwater, before it felt a little better.

I gave the medicine a suspicious glance, afraid to use any more.


Was this just made today…?

I’m not being used to just test it out, right? I swam back to shore, deciding it’d be best to ask Fang Hua for an explanation. But just as I was setting the bottle aside, my foot carelessly stepped onto a fragment of rock. The hand holding the medicine was still covered in medicinal oil and very slippery. In a flash, the bottle slipped out of my grasp, flipped in the air a few times, and splashed me in the face with its contents…

Curses…

A numbing, raging fire…

I shut my eyes and plunged into the water.

With pain like this, it felt like my face was burning off…

Eyes half-open, I groped around until I found my clothes by the shore again, and used them to wipe my face. When I finally opened my eyes, I seized up at the sight of a pair of boots…

The soft, draping folds of the robes were adorned with the branch of a plum blossom[2], giving it a unique look. He seemed to be squatting down.

“Shao’er, your face…” He had an uncertain expression as he poked me with his finger, before scooting closer for a better look. He rubbed at the skin gently, but the cooling sensation of his finger caused me to give a contented sigh.

In response, his face turned red.

I looked at Han Zichuan, not understanding. He looked even more confused than I felt.

What?

He kept rubbing gently at my skin until his finger dug at something. I just felt a cooling sensation on my face, as if something was being torn off…

-o-

Chapter 15

al. Who would take a bath with their clothes on? JUNE 26, 2016RUYI
He looked as if he was very surprised. I felt even more astonished.
I narrowed my eyes and looked at the thing between his fingers. It was rather black, and looked like a piece of skin.

He was completely stupefied.

Pushing aside his robes, he knelt down on one knee, the simple action filled with aristocratic grace.

He stared at me, then back at his hand, rubbing the thing between his fingers. “What do you usually put on your face…”

The thick, sticky black thing between his fingers slowly fell to land in the water, where it dissolved away. With an unexpected jerk, I touched my face, feeling out a section of skin that felt as smooth as tofu, surrounded by a layer of wrinkly stuff. It felt like if I tugged…then it might…

My eyes widened, and I tore off another piece of skin. Che, I wasn’t that wrinkly, so why was I shedding skin? I lowered my head and rubbed at my face… A handful of black stuff appeared…like pieces of my skin were falling off. I cupped a palmful of water and started to furiously wash my face.

A sweet fragrance wafted out, and the sound of rustling clothes and a soft breeze reached my ears.

“Brother Shao.” Han Zichuan’s voice was as soft as spring wind or a fine drizzle, his tone carrying traces of light laughter and a little pity. “How could you be so crude…”

In the next moment, his hands had brushed aside mine, and he started to expertly rub at my face. My eyelashes were soaked with water, so even though I squinted, everything before my still looked blurry.

A gust of wind stirred the tens of thousands of willow catkin heads around us.

He knelt by the shore, back straight as he looked at me with a scholarly air. The wind stirred his sleeves, water soaking the edges of his robes, but he didn’t mind, only wearing a pleasant smile on his face. A finger pointed at my face as if he enjoyed himself too much to look away.

His eyes made me feel a little worried.

“Han Zichuan, you stop that…” I backed away. “I can do this myself.”

He leaned forward and took my hands, gently setting them on his chest. I shook away his hands as if I’d been burned by boiling water, but his grip only tightened, and the heartbeat I felt beneath his robes was pounding wildly.

I was stupefied. He raised his eyebrows with a smile, and the haziness in his eyes disappeared. The astonishment of his face also changed to an expression of amazed excitement, and the hand stroking my face began to tremble, his voice rising to match. “Brother Shao. Unexpectedly, your looks are matchlessly beautiful.” His sincere gaze came from the bottom of his heart.

It was a clean, pure look, as if he was complimenting me for compliments’ sake, with no ill intentions at all.

“Why did you want to hide a face like this…” He looked as if he didn’t understand, but his eyes didn’t move from me a bit.


Fellow brother, it wasn’t my choice to cover it up. I’ve looked like this since I was little…
He smiled softly, finally shifting his gaze from my face to my shoulders, then my collarbone…and rubbed it gently.

Surprised, I started to swim backwards, but his hand pressed firmly on my shoulders, unmoving. I could only stutter out, “Y-y-you, what are you doing…”

“Don’t move, I’ll help you clean it up.” His smile was gentle and soft.

There was no hesitation in his hands at all. His movements were clean and dexterous, as if he were skinning

It made me feel…like I was shaking all over, and I nearly drowned. What he said was true. After being tossed around a few times beneath his care, my skin began to glow with a new life. The skin on my arm was as white and clear as a woman’s, the complete opposite of what I started with, as if I had changed into a whole new person.

“It’s just a pity…” his face was full of regrets, though his hands kept scrubbing nimbly as if they were a part of my skin.


Old fellow, if you keep taking advantage of me like this, I’m going to report you. But his expression was so genuine, with his forehead knitted like that, unintentionally betraying his true feelings. It seemed as if he’d met with a problem that caused him profound regrets.

What was it? Could it be…
I touched my face, then looked at my arm, then into the water itself. The surface of the pool was awash in ripples, and gleamed with reflections from the light. It seemed a little different from what I remembered, and it was hard to see underwater…

Curses.

Did I ruin my face somehow by using too much of the antidote? A mirror…
I need to see a mirror.

I suddenly stood up, preparing to climb ashore. But after half a step, I froze. Han Zichuan was even more shocked than me as he laid sprawled on the ground, staring at me stupidly. “Y-y-y-you…”

I looked down and realized I was naked…

This was very normal. Who would take a bath with their clothes on?

It’s just that living in these secluded woods and mountains had lessened the rules of propriety and ceremony. I’d gotten used to my days with yifu, and the differences between men and women had blurred quite a bit after ten years…

Sometimes I’d take a bath and see Fang Hua nearby, playing a tune on his zither, so I learned to stop wondering at strange sights. As time passed, I could even rub myself down without giving him half a thought, each of us absorbed in our own tasks… —

This was probably retribution for cause and effect.

Between yifu and I, a third person appeared, and now everything had changed…

Now someone was here to tell me the differences between men and women.

When I looked back, Han Zichuan was already out of breath, physically paralyzed on the rocks in a position beautiful to behold. He feebly raised his sleeve to point at me, his finger shaking as he forced out the words. “You…
…y-y-you’re actually a girl?!”

And then his eyes roved up and down…he looked completely startled. Can someone tell me what kind of expression he was making now?
I am a girl… That’s right.
I came out of the water and he saw everything…

The expression on his face looked startled, and as if he’d been tricked. Hmph!
I narrowed my eyes and rubbed my chin, my face displeased as I approached him.

“Youyouyou, talk it out if you have something to say…it’s not appropriate for girls and boys to mingle[1].” His clothes were actually drenched with sweat, and a terrified blush had crept onto his face, enough to make the base of his ears[2] turn red.

I leaned down and scooted over. His eyes grew even wider. My hand groped around him and tugged, he tried to get away and fell over the rocks. “Hmph, respected Elder…you’re lying on my clothes, so how can I put them on?”

His face was filled with grief and indignation. He wanted to retort, but hastily retreated, curling up with his back facing me.

“… …you’re a female, so how could you be so audacious?”

I lowered my head to leisurely tie my sash, putting on the rest of my men’s robe as I took large, elegant strides to stand behind him. I leaned to blow a puff of breath at his ears, and spoke in a careless tone, “Yifu’s never raised me as a girl.”

“Brother Shao!” he suddenly turned around, out of breath.

My eyes turned into crescents, and I smiled. He gave me an astonished look, before his face softened to give me an absentminded look. “Hmph…a good man doesn’t fight with girls.”

The wind blew past, and the willow catkins stirred. The leaves of the bamboo swayed in the wind.

The fresh scent of bamboo mixed with the breeze to be carried up in the air.

-o-

Chapter16

When I first arrived, I was as tall as his knees, but now my height reached his shoulders. Still, he looked as same as the first time I laid eyes on him.

JUNE 26, 2016RUYI

Han Zichuan really was a good man who didn’t fight with a woman.

No matter how I made fun of him, he still kept his eyes downcast. When I moved closer to take a look, he actually turned his face away to speak. “You… …keep your distance from me.”

“Che, it’s not like I’ll miss out on much,” I gave him a side glance, before stooping over to pull up a patch of grass. “Teasing you is a lot less fun than yifu.”

He seemed stunned. I brushed aside my sleeves and messily gathered up my damp hair, holding it in place with my red wood hairpin.

“Fang Hua really didn’t raise you as a girl these past ten years?” Han Zichuan suddenly blurted out.

The sunlight just then happened to get in my eyes, and I squinted when I turned to look at him. He stared back blankly, as if the sight dazed him. After a long time, he finally teared his eyes from my face to rest above my head.

“Your yifu is a Fang Hua Beast…right?” Not wanting to reply, my lips pursed as I glanced at him and resumed walking away.

He followed behind me without a word. The two of us walked softly, one in front of the other, the silence occasionally broken by the sound of falling leaves. When his voice rose again, it was as bright and clear as jade. “Fang Hua withdrew from the world to live here. He’s used to living quietly by himself, and yet he took you in as his adopted son.”

The wind blew gently, carrying along the sweet, indistinct fragrance of flowers and a unique scent that smelled like medicine to settle in my very bones.

“He treats you extremely well…” Han Zichuan’s voice paused. “He even gifted you with a Fang Hua Wood.”

This particular sentence piqued my interest and I stopped, gazing at him out of the corner of my eyes. He was fixated on the hairpin in my hair, standing still beneath the willow trees as if turned to stone. There was still a soft, mild smile on his face, and an excited, if hesitant, expression in his eyes.

His current face and bearing felt a little odd to me, but I couldn’t tell where it was wrong. I hesitated, then touched the hairpin, only to see his eyes light up. My heart started to pound, and I withdrew my hand. “…this hairpin was made from Fang Hua Wood? Is it very important to my yifu?”

He replied, “You can ask him.”

“You’ve seen Fang Hua wood before, right?” I narrowed my eyes at him, trying to guess from his expression. “I wear this hairpin everyday, so why tell me this now?”

His face looked as if it wanted to smile, but the smile was a pained one. “Fang Hua Wood is an exceedingly precious thing that can nullify hundreds of poisons. There are always people searching for it, and I’ve had the luck to seen one in the past as well. But the one you have now is a little different. I’m only guessing so I can’t be sure, but the changes in your body today are probably related to this wood. That’s what finally convinced me.”

My heart stopped.

He just clasped his hands[1]. “I’m a bit tired, so I’m going to go on ahead.” He seemed as if he was frightened about something.

Che, this person…what’s his problem?

His moods shifted quicker than a person turning the pages of a book. Before long, he’d already disappeared without a trace. I stood there looking around for a bit befo

My head bent down as I got even closer to take a sniff, but it wasn’t as the same fragrance as I’d smelled before.

Was this really Fang Hua Wood? It didn’t look much different from regular mahogany wood. It felt warm as I grasped it in my hands…

From the expression on Han Zichuan’s face just now, it was easy to tell that he had been hiding something. Aish…what could it be? I sucked in another breath and placed the hairpin on a low table. Absentmindedly, my eyes caught sight of my bronze mirror and my heart stopped. I paused for a second and slowly walked over, a feeling of impatience in my heart.

To tell you the truth, it’d been a while. Besides knowing my skin was now a little whiter, I had no idea what I looked like. The reflection given off by the bronze mirror was blurry and pale yellow, but as I came closer, the imager grew clearer.

There stood a figure dressed in men’s robes. Despite this, the clothing couldn’t hide the lithe and graceful curves of a woman’s figure, and the effect it gave off was a mixture of a manly, unrestrained spirit and a delicate, feminine air. It was an irresistibly dreamlike vision that made it hard for one to look away. My forehead wrinkled.

Compared to before, I couldn’t even measure how much better looking I was now…

Suddenly, a fine voice carried over from behind me.

“Did you get rid of the poison?” An extra voice rose out of the air, startling me.

Another figure appeared in the mirror to stand behind me. A cinnabar mark below the eye[2] framed a pair of beautiful pupils filled with feelings of tenderness.

“When did yifu open the door and come in? I didn’t even realize.”

“Not so long ago. I kept thinking of you, so I came to take a look.” He grasped my shoulder and turned me around, smiling as I faced him.

His eyes were full of warmth.

We were so close that his breath tickled my cheeks, and the sensation made me a little restless. My heart started beating wildly, and I unconsciously took a few steps back, hand pressing against a low table until it brushed against something and knocked it to the ground with a noise.

“Yikes…” I lowered my head. What fell down?
But he used his hands to raise my head, gently stroking my forehead as he peered at my face. I blinked. When he spoke again, it was in a tone that had never sounded so genial before, warmer than the spring breeze. “You look just like your father…”

Ah…

What was going on now? Fang Hua knew my family, could it be that…

“You’re familiar with my father?”

“That’s a thing of the past…” he smiled gently, though it seemed a little anguished, his eyes still fixed on me. “But I only remember him faintly now.”

He didn’t say anything else, only stroking the hair that covered my face as he fell into silence. On the other hand, my heart kept on thumping like a drum.

So he really hadn’t picked me up by coincidence to raise me…that meeting at the dilapidated temple was done with conscious effort. In other words, he came looking for someone on purpose that day?

The human skeleton on the yellow soil tomb…and the cloth I found in its robes…

I suddenly opened my eyes wide, backing up a giant step until I hit the wooden table again. My eyebrows furrowed as a sharp pain hit my waist, bitter beyond words.

He pulled my hand with only a little bit of strength, and I tumbled into his arms. He smiled, and started petting my head like he would a child’s.

“It’s been so many years, but you’re still just like him. You can’t be so muddleheaded. In the future, you’ll have to start a family and get a job[3].”

Start a family and get a job? Was that a joke…
Startled, I blurted out, “I can’t do that.” “Why not?” the corners of his lips drew up. Because, who ever heard of a woman starting a family and getting a job, or picking a wife?

“Think it over carefully, there’s no rush.” He stroked my hair comfortingly, raising his slender eyebrows. The look in his eyes seemed to say, take you time to make up an excuse…there’s no rush…

Hmph.

I lowered my head and began. “It’s because–” my eyes darted in quick circles, “–I want to stay with Fang Hua for the rest of my life.”

As soon as I said it, I felt like biting off my tongue. I docilely lowered my head and stole a peek at him. This was my first time calling him Fang Hua.

He smiled, his entire face filled with gentleness. He didn’t seem angry that I called him by his name, but seemed rather comfortable with the whole thing. The cinnabar mark by his eye resembled a teardrop, and he heaved a low sigh into the air. “Who can really stay by whose side… …?”

I was surprised.

“After a few years, Shao’er will become an adult. You are different from me. You can’t always stay by my side.” Even though he sighed with feeling as he said these words, his next action was to embrace me. I closed my eyes and relaxed in the warm hug, surrounded by soft cloth as a fragrant aroma assaulted my nostrils. It was a sudden scent that made me look up at Fang Hua in a half-trance. Time really passed quickly…

When I first arrived, I was as tall as his knees, but now my height reached his shoulders. Still, he looked as same as the first time I laid eyes on him.


It really was a pity to just call him yifu.

The wind blew gently, rustling the paper windows. Faintly, one could hear the sound of Han Zichuan walking around outside, preparing to bring in the herbs that had been left to dry in the sun. Fang Hua gave an exclamation of surprise, staring at a point before releasing me and bending down. “Although you can’t break something like this…”

He picked up the hairpin that had fallen to the floor and blew on it. “When you drop this next time, make sure I don’t see it.” So speaking, he drew up his sleeves and carefully wiped the hairpin with the cloth. Then taking it in his hands, he prepared to do my hair for me.

I gave a start as I stared at the fiery red hairpin, thinking back to the beginning. I grabbed him by the hand and asked, “Yifu, is there anything you’re not telling me?”

He stood stunned.

“I secretly drank half a jug of wine today.”

“No? I dug up the cabbage[4] you planted in exchange for a chrysanthemum plant, because I thought that tasted better.”

“… …”

Forgive me, but I’m angry.

“You know this isn’t what I’m asking about,” My eyes narrowed as they moved to the red wood hairpin. “A hairpin made from Fang Hua wood, and my father…everything about all these things, I need to understand.”

He suddenly gave me a cold and melancholy smile.

-o-

[1] clasped his hands (供了供⼿) −gong le gong shou, a motion where both hands are brought before the chest, one in the shape of a fist, the other
clasped around it. A traditional way of greeting each other or saying farewells, usually accompanied by a bow. [2] cinnabar marks below the eye (眼⾓下的朱砂) −yan jiao xia de zhu sha, thanks to how ambiguous Chinese can be, I’m still debating whether
Fang Hua has just one mark below one eye or both eyes. Until we find out otherwise, I’ll stick with just the one….

[3] start a family and get a job ( 成家⽴业) −cheng jia li ye, is exactly what the English means, though in this case it’s heavily implied from a
male perspective. A man should settle down with his own family and start his career so he can support them. It also implies he should get a wife as well.

[4] cabbage (⽩菜) −bai cai, this would be Chinese cabbage, also known as Napa cabbage, white at the base and framed with light green leaves. Great in hotpots, by the way.

Chapter17

now…?”

JUNE 26, 2016RUYI

I never knew a person could smile like that.

The expression on his face was obviously a smile, but it was filled with grief that stirred my feelings to a point that my heart ached. The more beautifully he smiled, the more intensely I felt that pain.

“You guessed right. This is Fang Hua Wood, but not just any variety. Ordinary people know that Fang Hua Wood can nullify tens of thousands of poisons in the world, but they don’t know that there are two types. One type comes after the death of a Fang Hua Beast, and it can expel 100 poisons. The other type comes from the wood left behind in the dirt after a Fang Hua Beast is born and takes on human form. That one can only keep away pests and snakes, but it’s even harder to find.”

I knitted my eyebrows and asked him, “How come?”

He gave a mysterious smile. “It’s the same principle as a baby being born. Preserving the placenta is like burying the wood in the soil.”

“So then…”

“This really is something very valuable, so you should take good care of it.” I was speechless. In other words, this thing couldn’t dispel any poisons from the start.

“You don’t like it?” he looked at me, speaking softly. “But I really want to give it to you.” He smiled again, and it felt like I was struck by lightning. I felt a bit unclear.

“Yifu, don’t change the topic.”

He was briefly alarmed before taking a seat on a long bench, calmly looking outside the window. I sprawled by his legs, nestling up as I looked up with the hairpin clutched in my hands. “Tell me about my father.”

His hands slowly stroked my hair, his voice as gentle and soft as a woman’s. But the sound left me cold. “Don’t you already know…?”

Shocked, a sense of unease rose in my heart, and I made a move to leave. But his hand found the back of my head again and pulled me lower and closer.

“You went to the grave at the yellow earth mound, didn’t you…the corpse nestled by its side was your father. Good Shao’er, you’ve forgotten this despite having such a good memory. Do you remember what was written on the sheepskin cloth in his robes? You’ve read it yourself.” His hands unhurriedly stroked my cheeks, reciting it word by word.

“When those days ended, I felt disconsolate and empty over the fact that we couldn’t meet. The happy times of then are now as distant as the divide between Heaven and Man. Early on, a thousand li already existed to keep us separate. I was the one who didn’t treat you well enough back then. Now I’ll use my own life to make it up to you. I just hope that after you return from the grave, you can look after that child. This way, even if I die…I will be content.”

His eyelids drooped, and with every sentence he spoke, the cinnabar mark at the cover of his eye trembled. I didn’t know what kind of tone he was using to make those few lines sound so cold. I just knew the Fang Hua speaking now made my heart ache, and I quickly grabbed his hand. “Yifu…”

He grew aware of my presence, and turned his head to smile at me. “My memory isn’t very good. But I’ve remembered those words for a lifetime, so I’ll never forget them again.”

A truth like this was crueler than any life. It made my head spin…
My father acted wrongly towards Fang Hua out of personal considerations…what kind of entanglements did they get into in his past life?

“Shao’er, I’ve already been through a cycle of rebirth. I&rsquo Son… …
Wait a minute, I’m female.

Are you sure your memories didn’t make a mistake somewhere?

Looking at the pleasant smile on his face now, I suddenly fell mute. I only straightened up and buried myself in his embrace. His body was rigid, but he made no sound as h e held me. Strands of a fragrant scent entered my nose, and a warmth filled my entire body, making me reluctant to part…

Yet my mind was utterly disconcerted with tens of thousands of tangled thoughts.

There had to be some sort of misunderstanding in the middle of all this. Even if everything had been mistaken from the start, I had no desire to pursue the matter any further.

Whatever happened between them was from a former life, and had nothing to do with me. I just wanted to stay with yifu for the rest of my life. Though I thought this way, my heart was even more uneasy, and I buried myself deeper into his chest.

“If you were as spoiled then as you are now, how nice that would be,” A warm and sweet atmosphere surrounded the two of us. Fang Hua lowered his head to smile at me, still stroking my hair…

The door–

–opened with a bang.

Willow catkin seeds swirled in the air like thick snowflakes, rushing into the room. Han Zichuan stood right outside the door, carrying some medicinal herbs in his hands. He stared at us stupidly, a few flower petals resting on his shoulders.

I blanked out.

Fang Hua didn’t, but he did push me to one side. I fell on the floor… Curses, did he really need to give me the cold shoulder?
Fang Hua slowly   stood   up,   probably   feeling   what   he’d   done was inappropriate, and bent down to help me up. Then he smiled at the other person and asked, “Why did you come in?”

Only now did Han Zichuan recover his bearings. He looked at the medicinal plants in his hands with a startled expression and said, “I decided to tidy these up since they’d been drying in the sun for a long time. There’s not much silver left in the house, so I thought I’d find you for some pills to use for exchanging goods outside.”

His eyes were still staring fixedly at the point where our hands met. It was a long while before he raised a head to smile at me. But this smile…

…it made me feel a little uncomfortable, as if he was doing something sneaky behind his back. I lowered my head and looked at him from a different angle…oh, this floor was really clean, with barely any dust on it.

Fang Hua muttered to himself before pulling out something from inside his sleeves and opening up his palm. When I took a look, I saw two or three pocket-sized bottles there.

My sleeves hastily pushed aside the approaching Han Zichuan as I grabbed the bottles and weighed them experimentally in my own hands. “Yifu, you and Han Zichuan rest at home. Leave it to me to sell the medicines.”

Fang Hua smiled, straightening up his slender form as his hands vanished back into his sleeves. His silence was equal to a tacit consent.

Nowadays, even he had to admit that years of living in seclusion made it hard for him to find his way in the markets. Once, I went strolling with him in the streets. It wasn’t long before a person bumped against him, followed by another and then another. He’d only smile at them after it happened.

When they left, he’d point at their retreating backs and say he was extremely familiar with these people. When I asked him why, he said it was because they were always bumping into him. I had stared into the skies, speechless, before giving him a glance.

When he lowered his head to feel around his clothes, his expression had shifted. You didn’t need brains to figure out that all of his money had been stolen.

Han Zichuan was even more hopeless…

When the house ran out of silver, he would take some medicines to exchange them for other things. At first I wasn’t certain if he’d come back with enough money for us to use, and yet…

He was pretty good at turning a profit, but even better at spending those profits. As soon as he stepped inside, the imposing vision that greeted us was…

Two or three young boys carrying in colorful rolls of cloth, various cakes and pastries, objects which ranged in size from a single piece of firewood to the size of a carriage, all bought for our house. Not only did we lose the money from selling the medicine, but there were quite a few loan slips in his robes as well.

So.

After rolling my eyes a few times at the two people in my rooms, I placed the precious bottles in my robes and exited the doors.

I straightened my posture and took a long breath. Finally, I was free of the atmosphere in that room. I looked back and saw their dazed, dumbfounded figures.

Heh.

If if wasn’t for me…

…how would those two even survive?

Chapter18

ooks young of age, yet his methods are so sinister and ruthless.” JUNE 27, 2016RUYI
It was high noon and the sunlight was scorching, so much that even the occasional breeze that wafted by burned as it touched me.

The drowsy assistant of the Hundred Grasses Pavilion was starting to doze off, and the shopkeeper was nowhere in sight. I was fanning myself as I rapped against he mahogany table. The noise startled the assistant awake, and he blearily rubbed his eyes to look at me.

“Call out your shopkeeper. I’ve come with some medicines, see if he wants any.”

“Oh!” The assistant exclaimed with a panicked look, bowing and scraping in reply. “Please have a seat, young master[1], this one[2] will be with you right away!”

I thought it was kind of funny.

He probably didn’t recognize me. Usually, this assistant called me a little black whelp, but now he was earnestly using “young master.”

Sweeping my robes aside, I took a seat on a chair, rapping my knuckles as I looked around, bored. I dug in my sleeves and took out the medicine bottles, giving them a glance before tilting them over, pouring a few pills into my hand. The spherical pills were dark in color. I brought them to my nose and took a sniff, catching the scent of Fishy-Smell grass[3] and hundreds of different flowers, cool and refreshing beyond compare.

This should be the Five Measure Dispersions[3].

Just by keeping one in your mouth, you could render all sorts of poisons ineffective. I took another sniff, before putting it back.

Actually, I could guess what it’d be even without looking. Every time Fang Hua made pills, they were either for dispelling unusual poisons or prolonging one’s life. After staying by his side for so long, I’d picked up a few tools of the trade as well.

He was very familiar with the properties of different medicinal plants, and able to concoct antidotes for any type of poison. Gradually, I began creating strange mixes of my own.

He claimed that a mix of seven parts Stomach-Cutting Grass with three parts Five Stone Dispersions would end a life, but I didn’t think so. I’d mix up the plants in proportions of five parts to five, two parts to eight, or four parts to six to try them out. Although the effects weren’t as effective as three parts to seven, it still amused me.

If you wanted to destroy the five organs (heart, liver, lungs, kidney, spleen) but preserve a person’s life, then a two parts to eight formula was the way to go.

If you wanted to leave them half-dead, tossing and turning for three days, then a four parts to six formula was the most effective choice.

As for a violent death, nothing could beat a one parts to nine formula. I stuck my hands inside my sleeves and gave a sigh.
“So it seems the pill residence not only had a Young Master Han, but another excellent young master as well. Please pardon me for not coming out to greet you.” The shopkeeper lifted aside the door curtains as he entered.

I opened my eyes and looked at him.

“What pills did you bring over today?” He took the ones in my hand, gave them a sniff, and brightened. “Shall we still use the usual prices?”

“It’s up to you.” I gave a casual wave before pulling out the porcelain bottles again, tossing them up and down in my hands.

“Young master please…be careful.”

I looked at him, eyes sweeping over the pills in his hands before giving a derisive laugh and a hmph. Then I continued tossing the bottles as before.

“I-i-it is a little low, I’ll add a bit more,” his lips twitched in

I gave him a genial smile and tossed the bottles over. “Thanks.”

I swept the silver into my bag and tied it by my waist. Giving it a pat, I turned around to head out the door when…someone knocked past me.

I felt around my waist and found it empty.


Curses, what a classic cheat.

I turned around to chase after a familiar figure.

These little thieves, they purposely picked on strangers and weak, elegant-looking lordly types, but today they actually messed with me…

“You rascal, stop running!”

After my shout, he ran even faster. Look at this guy’s sturdy arms and legs. He must have stolen quite a bit from Fang Hua in the past, or else how could he have ate enough to look so robust? His smooth getaway left a trail of dust behind. The more I saw, the angrier I got.

I lifted some internal energy from my dantian[5] region and used some of my lightness ability to chase after him, wiping sweat all the while. I couldn’t believe I had to do such strenuous exercise in this type of heat. Just wait, after I caught up, he was going to pay me two taels of silver as compensation.

Before long, a sedan chair appeared in front of us. It looked like he was going to use the chance to duck behind one side and slip away. I groped around in my robes until I pulled out two paper packets, filled with powder. Then I tossed them out before me.

His footsteps faltered, and he crashed against the sedan chair, causing the whole thing to shake. The paper pellets hit the ground, dispersing the powder.

I raised a sleeve to cover my face, still staring at the thief.

A wind picked up and stirred through the trees, scattering the powder in all their faces. The sedan-chair bearers and assorted company exchanged looks with each other, their faces shocked.

“Protect…the imperial physician…” Even before they finished speaking, their eyes rolled up into their heads, and they collapsed.

This time, it wasn’t just the little thief who fainted, but seven or eight people surrounding the sedan chair as well.


Without really grasping the situation, I bent down to rummage around boy’s clothes. Suddenly a cat meowed, giving me a fright. I quickly tugged out a money bag and tested its weight in my hand…it was quite heavy.

“ time, don’t learn to steal from others, or else big brother will take you to court.” I prodded him with my foot before standing up and preparing to leave. Strangely enough, heat seemed to be radiating from his hands and toes…and he wouldn’t stop groaning.

Wait a minute…

How could this have happened?

Why was this kid’s face so red? I hurriedly looked around me and saw… all the people surrounding the sedan chair paralyzed on the ground, eyes closed as their hands feverishly pawed through their clothes.

I trembled three times and took a step back.

“This elder brother looks young of age, yet his methods are so sinister and ruthless.”

A voice as cool and bright as jade rang out from behind the curtain of the sedan chair. It was both serious and earnest, neither gentle nor sickly, but the words seemed to travel straight into my ears. Immediately, my face turned red. I gave a hmph, and lowered my head. Someone lifted the curtains of the sedan chair, and the person inside stepped out.

His steps were very firm, and his robes swayed with each step. Those ripples of fabric billowed as if… …in a trance, I looked up at his face. Then I sucked in a breath to restrain myself.

I hadn’t been poisoned, so why was I heating up?

“Why did this young master block my sedan chair and release poison?”
he asked with a smile, his tone temperate and mild.

“I didn’t meant to offend you. By chance I came across a thief, so I had no choice but to do it.”

“Your opponent is just a child. No matter how grave his mistake was, you shouldn’t poison him like this.”His eyebrows knitted together, and his expression took on the look of a sage.

— Oi, nice guy. I’ve got plenty more poisons where that came from.

How did I know I’d pick that particular one? Not to mention…if I was desperate, I would’ve used it anyways.

But then again, exactly which poison did I use? It couldn’t have been…?

Startled, I ignored him and turned around, feeling inside my sleeves. One by one, I took out my paper packets of pills and examined them under the sunlight. Slowly, I read the handwriting on each one.

I didn’t use any of the Three Step Laughing to Idiocy pill, Tickled Laughter Buddha, or the Memory Loss Powder.

Unless…

“Stop looking, you used the Drunken Dream of Lovemaking.”

-o-

[1] young master (公⼦) – gong zi, while this usually means “prince” or “lord,” it’s often used to generically refer to people of high rank (or at least well dressed people who look the part). For instance, there’s also 君⼦ jun zi, which is a term for scholarly/gentlemanly types.

[2] this one (⼩的) – xiao de, literally “little me”, or the “humble I.” Just as there are special titles/pronouns for people of high rank, people of low
rank use opposing terms to refer to themselves in an obsequious, third- person manner. The waiter who says this is clearly putting himself at a lower social level than his customers.

[3] Fishy-Smell grass ( ⻥腥草) – Yuxing or Houttuynia cordate, a so- called “fishy-smell” grass traditionally used in Chinese medicine to treat
pneumonia. Also known as fishmint, heartleaf, bishop’s weed, etc. Has small white flowers. [4] Five Measure Dispersions (五丈消迷散) – wuzhang xiaomi san, the “five   measures    disappear    and    scatter”,    rather    tricky    to translate. Zhang doesn’t really have a specific meaning here, beyond as a unit of measure. It was also a traditional way to hail a male elder.

[5] dantian (丹⽥) – an area inside the body just around the belly button, where Qi circulates. Cultivators and martial artists alike use this area to
store, rotate, and take in/expel their internal energies. Think of it as a furnace, powering up energy for magical abilities for the rest of the body.

Chapter19

“There’s no antidote for Drunken Dream of Lovemaking.”

“No, there isn’t,” he nodded, “But this drug wasn’t well-made, so I can cure its effects.”

JUNE 27, 2016RUYI

TN: Made a few minor adjustments to pill names at the end of the previous chapter to match with this one.

Drunken Dream was the name for the highest-quality of wine.

Drunken Dream of Lovemaking was another name for a highest-quality good…

There was no way I’d mix these two up.

They said this particular poison had no antidote. You could only use this and that to cure it. As to what “this” and “that” were, I was very curious to know, but Han Zichuan sealed his lips on the ’embarrassing’ topic. I asked Fang Hua, but he didn’t understand it either, only took me to the study to research it myself. Thus, I once spent half a morning digging through various pill prescriptions for answers.

Truthfully speaking, though our house was missing many things, it was never short on medicinal plants. So I decided to make a version myself. Originally, I wanted a chance to test the drug on Han Zichuan… …but I never expected that I’d use it today instead. What a slipup…

I looked around at the seven or eight people sprawled on the ground, then squatted on the ground, eyes blinking. My face was red as I tried to figure out how they’d cure the poison.

Instead, that beautiful person pushed me aside, and knelt down instead, rolling up his sleeves. He raised his hand, and a faint silvery light shone from within. He turned his hand over, index finger extended, and quickly jabbed the people in various places with blinding speed.

The people stopped growing, and the flush in their faces faded away. He was going to approached the thief by my side next, but I stood up to block him.

“What are you doing…” “Saving him.”
“There’s no antidote for Drunken Dream of Lovemaking.”

“No, there isn’t,” he nodded, “But this drug wasn’t well-made, so I can cure its effects.”

I choked in resentment.

He dodged and swerved behind me, rolling up his sleeves as his hand quickly jabbed the thief like a hedgehog in various places.

I was angry…

He actually said my drug was defective! Curses!
“All right, that’s about it.”

He lifted his head, using his sleeve to wipe away some sweat. I started shaking as I pretended to look at the skies, my hands groping about inside my sleeves. There was only one pill pellet pinched between my fingers, and another paper packet landed on the boy’s body.

He lowered his head, shocked.

he turned to look at me, his limpid and clear. His glance was as clean as autumn waters as he looked at me indifferently. I suddenly felt my face grow hot as I averted my eyes.

“Great sage, go cure the poison.”

Hmph.

In the outside world, there’s no choice but act like a ruffian. Those aren’t my words, though.

This poison was personally concocted by me, so very few outsiders knew of it. Those who could cure it had to rely on their skills, especially since this “Tickled Laughter Buddha” was no ordinary drug.

He reached out a hand to check the pulse, before giving some instructions to the bystanders to quiet down the little boy rolling around on the ground, laughing uncontrollably.

Not much later, he carried over a bowl of water that he poured over the child, drenching him thoroughly.

The laughte

The little thief opened his eyes and looked at the two of us, a little puzzled.

“It’s fine now, good child…you can go back.” He gave a virtuous smile as if to say, the evil demon has reached his wit’s end, he won’t threaten you anymore.

Curses… …

I prepared to go all out. “You should stop before you go too far.” His hand rested on my own, which was digging restlessly through my robes.

I laughed, and gave him an ordinary smile. He was momentarily distracted, and lessened the pressure on my hands. I took the chance to withdraw my arm and…

…scattered my entire inventory of poisons.

The little thief closed his eyes as they assaulted his face, before his arms and legs spread out to fall to the ground, unconscious.

I laughed and waved my hand. “You… …don’t be shy, go save him.”

This time the beautiful person’s eyebrows were almost vertical slits. Again he took the boy’s pulse, enduring one more time to check beneath his eyelids, the movements less leisurely than before. I guess he was worried about being poisoned himself.

Truthfully, the medical ethics of this person far surpassed that of Fang Hua. He wasn’t the type of person to just be a bystander. If the patient had no silver, he’d still save them. Not like my yifu…

Even if you gave him taels of silver, he’d still look on with a cold eye. According to his words, he’d only come to the rescue if Shao’er was on death’s door.

Actually, according to my conjectures…if that day really came, he would still drink a cup of tea and have a game of chess with Han Zichuan, before going to reverently admire my deathbed portrait.

I sucked in a breath and regained my focus.

When I saw the helpless expression on the beautiful person’s face, my mood grew excellent.

From my robes, I took out two of the pill bottles I hadn’t sold yet and took a sniff before selecting one. I poured a pill into my palm and waved it before the beautiful person’s face like a rare jewel, then placed it in the mouth of the little thief.

“Three, two, one, wake up.”

Groggily, the boy rubbed his eyes and woke up, before giving a start and scrambling far away from his, his face fill of vigilance. He’d been frightened quite a bit.

“Remember… …little brother, if I see you stealing people’s…silver, I’ll have to test out other poisonous powders too.”

“I won’t dare, I won’t dare!”

He leaped up and disappeared.

Looks like Fang Hua’s pills were quite effective. Not only could they cure unusual poisons, but strengthen the body as well… …that little punk really got to take advantage.

“Could this young master tell me what sort of holy pill you have in your hand?” He clasped his hands towards me, eyes shining with interest as he stared at…the bottle in my hand.

I tossed it over, and he caught it with reverence and awe.

His nose rested by the opening of the bottle and took a sniff before his face lit up with pleasure. His willow-like eyes rose up as he spoke. “Ingenious! Could this young master come a little closer to speak with me?”

I was surprised. As it turned out…

Coming closer for a chat ended up with him taking me to a restaurant instead. He was liberal with his money, and ordered quite a few dishes with some excellent wine. When he stood up to politely pour some for me, his graceful bearing was remarkable. Afterwards, he sat down, fondly holding the bottle of pills in his hands. “Dare I ask if young master concocted these pills on his own?”

I took a sip and glanced at him. “My master made them.” “I see. May I ask the name of this revered master?”
I only gave a snort and ignored him, using my chopsticks to pick through the dishes while sipping another mouthful of wine. He hurriedly stood up and refilled my cup to the brim.

“Please excuse me, I’ve offended you.”

So speaking, he sat back down, furtively touching the pill bottle as if he loved it too much to let it go. I looked at him and found the whole thing a little laughable.

“As it turned out, I’ve been thinking this bottle’s gotten a little heavy. It’s a bit inconvenient to carry it around, so I was going to sell it to a shop. If you like it, I’ll sell it to you instead.”

“Seriously?!”

I nodded.

After a moment of joy, his eyes dimmed again. “I’m on an official visit at the moment, so I didn’t bring along much silver. I’m afraid that young master will be reluctant to part with his cherished possession.”

That couldn’t be…

I looked him up and down. There was even a white jade lotus hair stick on his head.

The cut of his clothing was resplendent, and bright pearls were sewn onto the sash about his waist. His undergown floated about with his elegant and smart carriage, making him seem like the wealthy young master of a high official’s family. That’s right… Back during the incident with the sedan chair, someone had called him an imperial physician.

At such a young age, he was already traveling in such an imposing, dignified manner. He didn’t look like a poor person, so could he really not have a trifling five taels of silver?

“… …”

He gently bumped me with his elbow. “Young master, please go ahead and offer a price first.”

I hesitated a bit, my five fingers spread out on the table to think… …
“One price, and it’s this number.”

He put on a difficult expression.

I hit the table. “Aish, forget it. In light of the wonderful meal on this table…” I stuck out two fingers. “Just two taels… …”

…of silver.

“Two taels of gold.”

That’s right. A person shouldn’t be too greedy. This table full of food was probably worth two taels of silver–

Ahh… …

I blinked a few times. What did he say?
Two taels of gold?!!!!!!!

Chapter20

Nice people… …were really easy to swindle. He was certainly a piece of work.
JUNE 27, 2016RUYI

I cradled a stack of paper money[1] in my hands, completely senseless…
…there were also ten brilliant gold leaves resting on the table, their veins and arteries delicately carved distinctly into the metal.

I swallowed a mouthful of drool.

Holding back the urge to jump on it all, I took a good look at his face. He had a rather apologetic smile. “I left in a hurry, so I didn’t bring enough silver taels, but these should be enough to cover the sum of two taels of gold.”

I blinked a few times, poking at the mass. “This…”

“Please tell us whatever is most convenient, young master.” He was a man with a sagely air, the sparkle in his eyes unusually moving. Occasionally, flashes of well-intentioned feeling flashed in his pupils as he gazed upon me.

I felt like an idiot, my thoughts all awhirl. Two taels of silver.
In a flash, they’d turned into two taels of gold. I bit myself, then pinched a corner of my face, twisting the skin. It hurt… …
Then I quickly opened up my sleeves to accept the lot.

“Young master’s temperament is both generous and straightforward. Come, have a drink.” His face was wreathed in smiles as he stood up to pour more wine for me. A sweet fragrance rose from inside his sleeves, mixed with the unique odor that all men had, making me feel a little dizzy.

The more I looked, the more I thought this young master was quite handsome.

“That’s right, it’s been this long but I still don’t know young master’s respected surname?” His magnanimous posture while pouring the wine had the elegant carriage of a young gentleman. It was obvious he had a good grasp of ceremony and propriety.

“Shao… …”

He stopped to look at me. My eyes did some quick calculations as I waved the   cup   between   my   fingers   with   a   smile.   “My   surname is Shào, and my given name is Yu[2].”

While in the outside world, one must not only be a ruffian, but act shamelessly when the situation called for it.

If he knew the prices for these pills were so low in the surrounding shops, wouldn’t he find me to cause trouble? I lowered my head to take a sip from my wine cup, raising an eye towards him. “And how shall I call you, young master?”

He smiled as if reading my thoughts. “This one…” He slowly opened his mouth and spat out two words. “Non… …Yu[3].”

Spit-take.

I didn’t manage to hold it in, and spewed a majestic stream of alcohol. —

I called myself Shào Yu, and he called himself Nonyu (fooling around with Yu).

No matter how I listened to it in my head, it still sounded strange…

He lowered his head to rub off the bits of liquid on his robe, as if he didn’t mind a bit. The next time he saw me, his eyes were like limpid pools of water. I shrank back, turning my body as I thought to myself. Was I being too suspicious? No matter how I looked at this, it didn’t seem so simple.

He seemed to have seen through my misgivings, and put down the chopsticks he was using to offer me food. A smile flashed on his face. “I won’t hide it from young master. I’m an imperial physician for the emperor that came here to search for valuable medicianl plants. Unexpectedly, I ran into you… …young master is very young, yet you have so many poisons and wonder pills on your person. Thus, I have a presumptuous request.”

He paused then, as if he found it difficult to speak. I lifted my eyelids to peer at him. I didn’t say much, but docilely lowered my head to drink my wind.

It was good alcohol… Very savory.
Although it wasn’t as clear and sweet as the one I brewed for yifu, it had a marvelous strength behind it. I gave it a whiff and smiled until my eyes were crescents, pouring myself another cup.

His expression seemed embarrassed as he stammered and sputtered. “I hope that if you have good pills in the future, you can save them for me.”

“No problem…” Two words, succinct and pithy.

An expensive fellow like you offered prices that exceeded the highest ones from other stores. Who else would I sell to? He seemed extremely happy. “Young Master Shào really leaves a person refreshed and comfortable. To understand me so well makes me want to swear oaths with you as your sworn brother.”

You’re mental.

We’ve only chattered a few words and you already want to be sworn brothers?

Pfft. Pah! I spat on the ground.

He actually pretended he didn’t see a thing, and reached out with both hands to warmly grab my sleeves, refusing to let me go. His eyes kept a firm stare on my face. I wanted to pull away, but found that I couldn’t.

His eyes were shining. “I never thought Little Brother Shao’s internal energy was so deep and vast.”

I glanced over and saw his finger resting over one of my acupuncture points.

Curses…

I waved him off and backed up a few steps, clasping my hands together. “It’s nothing, my martial arts skills are shallow at best, not worthy of any mention.”

He laugh good-naturedly and pulled me over again, speaking softly. “Everything in this town is good, besides the people pretending to sell good meat with dog meat[3]… I took a stroll today and actually saw the pharmacies selling Nine Fragrances Green Tea pill for only three taels of silver, how could that be possible?”

It was actually very possible, because Fang Hua usually sold them for one or two taels.

I looked at the sky. I gave it a despicable look at that sky, and shrugged off the hand resting on my shoulder.

After expressing his heartfelt sentiments, his feelings turned towards depression. He grasped my hands and gave a loving glance at the bottle of pills on the table, saying leisurely, “It’s only Brother Shao’s pills that are the genuine article, and himself and honest, upright person.”


Inside my heart, I was crying.

I felt oppressed to the point of beating my chest with my fists. Nice people… …were really easy to swindle.
He was certainly a piece of work.

“That’s right, I wanted to ask you about something… …a certain matter.” It seemed like he remembered something. He made a motion to invite me over to my seat, rolling up his sleeves to pour me another cup of wine. As his eyes swept across the scene, they caught on to a sight downstairs, enough to forget the cup of wine even after it overflowed.

“Lord Nonyu?”

“I’m really sorry! Please pardon me–I didn’t splash your robes, did I, Brother Shao?” He withdrew his gaze to mysteriously inspect our surroundings, before scooting closer. “Do you know any men with a mole over this spot?”

He dipped his hands in the wine, a long and slender finger dabbing at a corner of his eye, where the tears would come from. I raised my eyebrows in interest.

“You’re looking for someone? It’s rare to see anyone with a mole on there.”

Really rare… He was using his right hand to point at the spot by the right side of his face. Yifu’s mole was under his left eye.

However, even if the mole had been in the exact same place Nonyu indicated, I still wouldn’t have told him anything.

“I’ve heard at court that a legendary person who disappeared around these parts a few decades ago has reappeared. So, I made a special trip just to find them. Do you know… …they say there’s a type of beast called a Fang Hua that can take on the appearance of humans. Although I don’t really believe this queer beast exists, I thought I’d give it a try.” He shook his head with a bitter smile. “His Imperial Majesty has been ill these recent years, and no medicines have been effective. An official like me should help to shoulder his lord’s burdens, so I wanted to search the area where the Fang Hua Beast has appeared before, to see if there’s any Fang Hua Woord.”

“Isn’t the Fang Hua Wood capable of dispelling a hundred poisons?”

Could it be…

He gave me a surprised look. “Brother Shao really is experienced and knowledgable, you’re even aware of things like this.”


How could I not know. Everyday there’s someone telling me in my ear.

I could only clasp my hands and reply modestly, “You’re too kind. As a student of poisons, of course I would know about their natural enemy.”

He smiled in understanding, but I couldn’t smile back. Could it be that the current emperor was suffering from an illness caused by poisoning?

If news of this spread, it’d be hard to keep things peaceful.

With yifu’s temperament… …it was still better to restrict his visits outdoors. “Then, how long does Lord Nonyu plan to stay around here?” As I poured myself more wine, my chopsticks picked up another bite and I chewed for a bit.

Only silence greeted me.

I raised my head and saw he was looking downstairs, an extremely focused expression on his face. My heart skipped a beat.

I’m finished. It couldn’t be that yifu had come out for a stroll…and was seen by this guy?

But he’d never come here out of his own will, unless the Heavens started flooding the Earth.

It was still hard to be sure… Aish, this was irritating.
I suddenly stood up, narrowing my eyes as I followed his gaze to the same direction. There weren’t many people on the streets, but the mood was still lively…

It was mainly because some building had opened for business and a few pretty girls were standing at the doors, gorgeously dressed. They waved their handkerchiefs around, hands adjusting their hair as they hailed lords and young masters and gentlemen.

I clicked my tongue.

Tch. I’ve spent half my life wearing nothing but men’s robes. I’d never seen such pretty dresses, where the waist was a waist and a butt was a butt…when they swayed, the vision was extremely flirtatious.

Was this the ’embroidery’ thing yifu was talking about? No wonder their business was booming… Unconsciously, I spoke my words aloud as my eyes bore forwards from staring.

“Aye…” A light sigh reached me. “Brother Shao, that’s not an embroidery business.” Nonyu raised his head and studied me thoughtfully. “It’s a pleasure-seeking house for men. I heard it’s one of the best, called the Tipsy Breeze Courtyard.”

“I know, it’s a place to drink alcohol. Does your lordship visit it often?”

He sighed again and turned away. I could see his brows knitting together. “It’s not as simple as that. Such an outstanding, distinguished place still has its share of vile and despicable things. It’s not a place for virtuous men or scholars to go.”

I understood.

After going around in circles, he finally admitted that he’d never gone before.

I smiled and said nothing, pouring myself a shallow cup of wine as I closed my eyes. Suddenly, a shadow drifted past me as a servant went to whisper something in his ear.

“Brother Shao, I have some business to attend to, so I’ll go on ahead.” “All right.”
He stood up and smiled at me, sleeves swirling in the wind. It was a beautiful sight that I couldn’t my eyes away from. But he really was a man of action. In the space of a blink, he had vanished with his servants from my sight.

I stayed by myself upstairs, eating and drinking, extremely happy.

I wiped away the oil on my hands against my sleeves and made my way downstairs like some big shot. The golden leaves weighed in my hands as I considered how to report my expenses back home. Suddenly, I saw a few of the people from next door… …this figure, why did it look so familiar…wasn’t this Nonyu? Just when I was about to walk up and say hello, he was escorted by a few people into the Tipsy Breeze Courtyard.


I thought of how he’d spoken out so righteously: ‘Such an outstanding, distinguished place still has its share of vile and despicable things.

That face, that energy, that sacred light shining on his intelligent face, exactly like a scholarly sage, his words filled with all the traditional virtues[5]… …he was simply Confucius reincarnated.

How could he flip-flop so quickly? I rubbed my chin.
Looks like this Tipsy Breeze Pavilion definitely had its share of unspeakable merits. I slowly walked towards a vendor’s stall just opposite the Courtyard and leaned against a door. In the end, I couldn’t resist peeking in the direction of that building.

“Young master…”

“You master, are you interested in any of my wares? Why don’t you buy a painting for the trip back?”

Someone tugged on my sleeve. Ah… …
I looked back and happened to see, above the vendor’s booth, a large, expanded vision of the stall-keeper’s… …long-suffering face.

It scared me out of my wits, enough to send my heart pounding. My eyes shifted, and saw the booth was full of paintings of beautiful women. This kind of beauty… But, their looks still fell short of mine. My mouth was flat. “I don’t want these.”
That guy tugged on my sleeve again, and I saw the stall-keeper give me a smile as he refused to let go. Instead, he spoke in a smaller voice, “Young master… …you’re not only distinguished, but attractive and intelligent as well. I knew you were a gifted scholar as soon as I saw you.”

After speaking, he even glanced over at Tipsy Breeze Courtyard, laughing as if he understood everything. “I know want you want. You’re a pleasure-seeker, right?”

What kind of pleasure? I blinked… …
It’s fine if I didn’t understand.

While one was out, one had to keep one’s cool… … I smiled.
The stall-keeper’s eyes grew brighter.

He hurriedly waved me over, turning around to check the surroundings before pulling out a book from beneath the paintings.

“I have the goods for sale at this price.” He furtively raised up three fingers. “This is good stuff, freshly done by the painters in that building…”

I took a glance.

Naked men and women hugging each other. The scenes were unbelievably obscene. Flipping through the pages, I discovered, oh… … every single picking had them embracing each other, just in different positions. Now I was amused.

I fished out some silver before sticking the book inside my robes.

“Take care, young master.”

I nodded my head and turned around, my mood unbelievably happy as I walked down the streets. Humming a tune while I walked towards home, my image was that of a perfect like a big shot.

“Yifu.”

“Han Zichuan…”

The rooms were quiet, but I seemed to hear the melodious sounds of a qin[6] floating over. My heart slowed, and the smile on my face disappeared. After some hesitation, I walked towards the jade pool in the bamboo forest in behind the backyard.

Occasionally, a gust of wind would fill the cool air with a sweet fragrance.

A jade-colored pool with water so clear you could see to the bottom, a few stalks of bamboo, standing tall and slender. That was all there was, besides the two people there.

Han Zichuan had his head lowered to play the qin. Behind him stood Fang Hua, instructing him with his fingers.

The sunlight seeped past the bamboo woods to shine upon them both, dazzling slightly. A fresh gale blew past, lifting their sashes in the air as flowers fell like rain.

A white robe was spread out beneath the two as if they were celestial beings. Their eyebrows as slender as spring willows, their eyes as lucid as autumn waters.

I felt pain from the depths of my heart, and took a few steps back. But my footsteps faltered, and I nearly fell into the jade pool as my body wobbled sideways. The chilly water ended up soaking through my shoes and socks. My body lost all of its strength, and my mind turned blank as I sat down by the pool.

The sound of the qin ceased abruptly.

“Shao’er, so you’ve finally come…Zichuan and I waited for a long time.” a light, soft voice sounded by my ears.

Not only did I feel unhappy, but rather distasteful all over. I stayed dazed for a while before hurriedly getting to my feet. I dusted off the dirt and called out in a very unwilling voice, “Yifu.”

Perhaps I had moved too quickly, but all the objects in the front of my robes came tumbling out.

It was like water and flowers flowing in all directions.

A thin book fell down with its pages open, soaking in the pool.

“What are you doing just standing there, your things fell down.” I didn’t catch when Fang Hua made his way behind me, but he was trying to help me out of good intentions. A hand reached out as he bent down. Before the book could sink underwater…

…he fished it up with his hands.

I wanted to hide its contents from him… …but he actually shook the water droplets free, and flipped it open to take a look.

I’m screwed. Those were the pornographic pictures I’d just bought today… …

-o-

[1] paper money (银票) −yin piao, or silver draft, a form of paper money in ancient times. [2] Shào…Yu ( 邵⽟) −it’s tricky to tell in English, but originally
Shao’er went with the name given to her by her yifu, which was Shao (勺). But since that word has the same pronunciation as ‘spoon’, she went with another one that sounded similar. Shào (邵) is also a surname, while Yu (⽟) means jade. You can click on the speakerphones in the Chinese links to hear
the difference in pronunciation.

[3] Non Yu/Nonyu (弄⽟) −(see the Chinese link for pronunciation) this name is a bit funny. We already know Yu is jade, but non is one of those
words that stands in for “to do” in the Chinese language. It could also mean to “play with” or “fool with”, so in this case his name might mean “playing/fooling (around) with jade”. Considering Shao’er disguised herself as Shao Yu (Shao Jade), well…you get why Nonyu was smiling now? uwu

[4] sell good meat with dog meat ( ⽺ ⾁ 买 狗 ⾁ ) −yangrou mai gourou. Actually, yangrou translates to “lamb,” but used in this context, it’s
an euphenism for good-quality meat. Nonyu uses this idiom to express his disbelief that the pills being sold at the pharmacies are really those so-called rare, unusual types.

[5] all the traditional virtues ( 任意道德) −renyi daode, the traditional virtues of compassion, duty, propriety and integrity. Used in this idiom, they have a sarcastic, hypocritical meaning.

[6] qin (琴) – this may or may not be a zither, depending on the number of strings.

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