First Arc ー Water Moon
“How much does this stalk of apricot flowers* cost?”
*T/n: It is referring to the ‘armenian plum’. I’ll be using ‘apricot flower’ for simplicity’s sake and partly also because the literal translation means that.
In the boundless place of darkness, light and radiance burst forth due to this one sentence. That light was first a glimmering spot. Afterwards, it leapt up to form a blaze and unfolded a halo of light which gradually diffused outwards.
“Ten coins.” Vaguely, there was a clear and young female voice which replied. As if it was a repertoire from a Chinese opera performance which had already been written hundreds and thousands of years ago, it went on according to that routine she was familiar yet unfamiliar with.
Hence, in the halo of light, a stalk of apricot flowers with a dark brown stem, an ash red calyx, pure white petals appeared. The flowers grew densely together. Some were just budding while some were blooming enchantingly. Due to being moistened by water, they looked even more bright-colored and lovely that makes one wants to pluck it.
She saw a hand reached over and take that stalk of flowers away.
Slender white hands which resembled jade and wide white sleeves which fluttered.
That person’s visage could not be seen in the darkness.
She suddenly felt fretful and wanted to pull his sleeve. That figure was obviously almost within reach but in the next instant, it had already floated over 330m* away.
*T/n: Approximately 10 ten Chinese feet
This 330m distance faintly like being separated by a lifetime.
Don’t go. Don’t go! Don’t go please…She saw her own hands being pulled very long just like pulling noodles, stepping across this distance separated by a fleeting and ephemeral life, and grabbed him tightly.
A certain longing overflowed from her chest and there were also tears which ensued. In the shadow formed within the light, that person in white clothes was peerless and stood alone and could be compared to a banished immortal while she grabbed on tightly, grabbed on without a care for everything and did not dare to release her hand.
“I wish that…” She heard the clear and young female voice say which then used a voice that aged in a moment, “I wish that I can become sixty years old in an instant. The hardships I should bear in the world would have all been born finished and I only need to wait for death quietly at the end.”
“No, you should first wait for sixteen years old.” The person in white stood in front and turned his head back. She evidently could not see his visage clearly but could distinctly feel that the expression in his eyes was very gentle. “When you’re sixteen years old, I’ll marry you.”
Her heart palpitated a few times and was full of a pleasant surprise. She started to smile, showed her teeth to smile, curved her eyebrows to smile, jumped in joy as she smiled then ran over towards him. “This is what you said. The words you said must count! You’re not allowed to renege!”
The ring of light became even larger. The layers upon layers of dark fog slowly dissipated and revealed that person’s full appearance. She grabbed his hand, turned his body around and said, “Then I’ll wait for you. Sixteen, when I’m sixteen, you…”
The voice stopped abruptly.
The light shone on that person’s face. The brows and eyes were curved and were smiling with deep feelings but it was not him.
That person opened his mouth, the timbre of his voice stirring. “That’s right. This emperor married the sixteen-year-old you. This emperor did not go back on my words.”
She was frightened until she repeatedly stepped back but was embraced back by him at one go with her head pressing close to his head and her nose facing his nose. They were in the proximity where they could feel each other’s breathing.
“Not only that,” As the person spoke, he took out a golden and dazzling imperial crown from behind and put it onto her head without allowing her to protest. “This emperor also wants to confer you as empress. Xihe, you’re going to be Nation Bi’s empress.”
That golden crown was heavy like a mountain and weighed down heavily. She produced a mournful and shrill sound as she suddenly woke up with a start ー
The night was cold like water while the palace lanterns were dim. In the air hung a fragrance of borneol, musk and ambergris which were decayed yet sweet.
Xihe hugged her soft silk quilt. Her eyes slackened as she did not know where she was for quite a while. After she finally remembered that this place was Bao Hua Palace and she was lying on her own elephant ivory bedstead*, she suddenly shrieked. She jumped down the bed and dashed out as if she had gone crazy.
*T/n: I used the literal translation in this case. It refers to beds with carvings of elephant ivory or more exquisite beds with draping curtains.
Here’s a picture for reference:
The palace servants were roused from their sleep by the sound and hastily lit the lanterns, draped their clothes and crowded around. When they saw her dashing out of the inner chamber with her dishevelled hair hanging loose, they involuntarily cried out in alarm, “Consort, Consort, where are you going? Consort, what has happened? Where’re you going…”
Xihe opened the door as if she not hear them and ran into the courtyard, running from the east to the west, then running from the west back to the east like a child as if she was searching for something.
When the palace servant saw that her clothes were thin and she was barefooted, she were worried that she would get frozen and hastily took an outer coat to drape it over her shoulders. While she was tying the ribbon, she said, “Consort, what are you looking for?”
XIhe looked at the desolately empty courtyard lifelessly and said in a loss, “Apricot, apricot tree…”
“Apricot tree?” One of the palace servants knitted her eyebrows and said in an extremely flabbergasted manner, “The second day Consort lived in Bao Hua Palace, Consort ordered for all the apricot trees in the imperial palace to be completely chopped off. Consort has forgotten?”
“Com, com, completely chopped off?”
“That’s right.” After the baffled palace servant said this, she saw their master slowly squat down and gaze at a certain direction with no focus, thenー
Cried her eyes out.
After several hours*, the first rays of the morning sun streamed through the window with green latticework. When Jiang Chenyu who had risen early was combing her hair, Huai Jin received an invitation card from outside and walked in. She said, “Miss, there’s a letter for you.”
*T/n: Technically, ‘shichen’ was used, which means two hours but I kind of simplified it to just ‘hours’.
On the light purple envelope, beautiful and elegant letters wrote:
Sincerely presenting to Third Miss Jiang to browse
It was Gentleman!
Jiang Chenyu was delighted in her heart. She hastily took it and tore the opening of the envelope. The content of the letter was very short. It only had one line:
The peach blossoms are already blooming. Sincerely waiting for the young lady to follow along.*
*T/n: It’s supposed to be more profound in the original text but I decided to use a more straightforward translation.
Gentleman was inviting her to go admire the flowers?
She immediately could not even care about combing her hair. She read that letter over and over again and started to pick her clothes. Light yellow, too lively; Lotus green, too mature; Vermilion red, too coquettish; Light green, could not bring out her skin tone…She had finished eliminating all the spring clothes in the chest but still could not find a dress that was to her liking.
The two servant girls at her side had long watched until they were impatient and pouted. “Miss, why is it that the clothes we find rather good become not satisfactory when it comes into your eyes? Just take that seven-colored beautiful silk clothing for example, when it was just made you still praised that it was pretty so why do you dislike it when you haven’t even worn it yet?”
“Talkative!” Jiang Chenyu ignored them and looked from the start once more. She recalled that the few times Gentleman had sent the invitation cards, they were all light purple so he presumably had a preference for this color. She immediately chose a light purple gauze muslin clothing which was buttoned-up and had wide sleeves. She did not want any ornaments and only inserted in her hair bun seven peach flowers which still carried dewdrops that she had just plucked.
Finally, she went up the horse carriage under the stunned gazes of all the servants and rushed towards the Red Garden.
The Red Garden was located in the south of the imperial capital and occupied a land space of approximately 6.67 hectares*. It had all along been renown for its beautiful scenery and had the title of ‘heaven on earth’. It was originally a property of the Wang Family. Following the decline of the Wang Clan, this garden was passed through a few hands before it was bought by a merchant with the surname Hu. That person did not come to the imperial capital all year round. Hence, he simply opened the gates of the garden for people to enjoy and appreciate.
*T/n: I did my conversion from the old units used in the past. I hope it’s correct ><
Jiang Chenyu only heard of its name in the past but had yet to enter. Right now, she was riding a horse carriage all the way in. She saw the luxuriant trees, lush flowers and plants, an assortment of buildings and pavilions setting off one another as if all the scenery in spring were all concentrated in this place. On the island in the middle of the lake, there were burial mounds of parrots*, Lan Cui mountain and the tripartite formation of the Cheng Guang Forest. Pass the middle of the lake and further north was Three Springs Forest which had the most famous reputation.
*T/n: It may refer to specifically the burial mound for the white parrot favored by Noble Consort or just burial mounds for parrots in general.
The so-called three springs were apricot, pear and peach.
Hence, in this forest, these three types of trees were planted with an irregular arrangement but were well-distributed with a charming effect.
Under the first peach tree she saw was Gentleman’s horse carriage stopped there. As Gentleman stood beside the carriage, the White Marsh on the carriage and his white clothes reflected each other which appeared fresh like life.
The hand withdrawn in her sleeves slowly clenched tight as she tried her best to not let herself reveal too many excited emotions, then opened the carriage door.
As expected, Ji Ying came over to support her.
His fingers were gentle and slender. That hand, when spread out in front of her had an exceptional posture and elegance. Regardless of how she repeatedly enjoined herself to be composed, she still could not refrain her face from turning red. She lightly took that hand and lifted her skirt as she alighted from the carriage.
The spring breeze undulated. The pear trees which had blossomed were inherently graceful and white like snow with a noble and unsullied spirit.
At this moment, one would revel in it even if there was nobody, let alone if it was beside the person one likes.
Jiang Chenyu bit her lips as she said, “Chenyu has come late and made Gentleman wait long.”
“No.” Ji Ying smiled. “It’s Ying who was too sudden and offensive and sent the message in a hurry. Hope that Ying didn’t disrupt Miss’ proper business.”
Jiang Chenyu shook her head at once. “No, I don’t have any proper business.”
Hence, the two people walked alongside each other and went towards the forest together.
Under the shade of the flowers, there were occasionally scholars who sat encircled around a woven mat. They carried wine and dressed up the flowers*. It looked extremely lively with excitement. Jiang Chenyu watched from afar and smiled as she said, “In the past, when I read a line from a poem in a book, ‘Drinking together under the peach tree, the peach blossoms adorn the whole head. The delicate fragrance comes to the beautiful jade-like tree, the pure discussion extensive with golden wine cups’, I couldn’t imagine how the scene is like while I have really seen it now and suddenly feel that I have broadened my knowledge and experience.”
*T/n: The literal translation is something like ‘wash and dress oneself’. In this context, the people dance, sing and play games to make the flowers jubilant and filled with vigor so that they bloom even more luxuriantly and have more fruits in autumn. Thus, this banquet is named with something along the lines of dressing up.
“Pear blossoms originally firmly possesses all the white in the whole world, with the imposing manner that surpasses all the all flowers on earth*. It’s inevitable that people of the world are very fond of them.”
*T/n: Ji Ying replies with another line of a poem about pear flowers to the one Jiang Chenyu mentioned which is also about pear blossoms
“It’s a pity that the apricot flowers have are late and have yet to bloom. It’s really regrettable that we can’t see the two flowers bloom together.”
As Ji Ying gazed at the apricot tree which remained depressed among the peach and pear flowers which were competing, he softly sighed. “That’s right. This year’s apricot flowers are blooming late.”
Seeing that he looked desolate, Jiang Chenyu comforted, “Not necessarily so. You see, on this branch it has already formed the flower bud. Maybe tomorrow comes, it will be able to bloom.”
Ji Ying smiled. He did not say anything and continued moving forward.
It seemed like, it seemed like it was a little awkward…It was clearly a date she anticipated so much and now that she had finally met him, why does she feel that she was at a loss of what to do and had nothing to say instead? Could it be that she needed to go around in circles about these flowers nonstop? Jiang Chenyu decided to change the topic. “Gentleman, there’s a matter Chenyu had heard long ago and has always been curious.”
“Please ask, Third Miss.”
“I heard that Gentleman fears playing chess the most?”
Ji Ying had a smiling mien. “When Ying was young, Ying was extremely mischievous, but I run into my elder sister, her craftiness and eccentricity would still be above me. Hence, I was often teased by her. That time, I liked a pastry called ‘Green Dumpling’ the most. Whenever I was reading, I would always place a plate beside me and eat while reading. There was one day when I took one of them as usual and immediately bit on it. In the end, I dropped off two front teeth. It turned out that the filling of that dumpling was actually not red bean but a chess piece……”
Jiang Chenyu produced an ‘ah’ sound.
“Ever since then, every time I see a chess piece, I would think of those two deciduous teeth that died in vain and feel so painful that it’s unbearable. Therefore, I no longer touched chess again.”
Jiang Chenyu had absolutely never thought that there was such a reason. After thinking for a moment, she involuntarily smiled. “So Gentleman is also a wilful person. How innocent the chess piece is? The one you should complain about is the person who put the chess piece into the pastry.”
“My sister is fierce and tough, how would I dare to blame her.” As Ji Ying spoke, there was a moment of distractedness in his gaze as if he could faintly hear another voice chuckle. “Such a plaything like chess which takes a lot of trouble and taxes the mind, it’s fine even if you don’t play it. In the future, you can eat the green dumplings that I make. I guarantee that there will be no chess piece…”
The voice was faintly discernible and left far away from the ears. Another distinct voice pressed over, “Gentleman? Gentleman?”
Ji Ying regained his senses and felt that his face was cold. He raised his head and realized that it had rained. The two people hastily ran to the nearest pavilion. He gazed at the rain outside which had arrived suddenly and slightly lamented, “Fortune is as unpredictable as the weather. The ancient people indeed did not hoodwink me.”
Jiang Chenyu tidied her own hair bun and smiled pleasantly. “The rain in spring is as precious as oil.”
“You like the rain?”
“Mhm.” She gazed at the pear blossoms that were bathing in the curtain of rain which were like a mist and smiled as she said, “If there’s no rain, how will these flowers bloom? Furthermore, pear blossoms stained with rain has always been an extremely beautiful scene on earth.”
The expression in Ji Ying’s eyes stilled for a while. That faintly discernible voice from previously softly sounded beside his ears again. “Rain? I hate the rain the most! Because once it rains, Mother can’t go out to set up the stall and sell noodles; Once it rains, Dad will then drink until he is dead drunk and I have to go fetch him every time; Moreover, once it rains, the ground will be wet and slippery, making it hard to walk and it will be full of mud…I, really don’t like rainy days the most!”
Back then, that voice was extremely elegant and beautiful and very crisp, unlike afterwards when it was stained with much languidness and raspiness.
He looked at the forest in front of his eyes again. It was the period the pear flowers were in full bloom and they bloomed exceptionally splendidly while the apricot flowers were still in the bud and dull with no magnificence.
They were indeed not two types of similar things…
When Jiang Chenyu saw that the hair in front of his forehead got wet from the rain and was dripping drops of water, she took out a handkerchief from her sleeve and handed it over with a red face.
Ji Ying thanked her. He took the handkerchief and was about to wipe when he could not help but be taken aback. “This…”
“This is Gentleman’s handkerchief. Does Gentleman still remember?” On that day when Xihe was poisoned, he had once used this handkerchief to help her wipe the blood stains on her face. Although it was thrown away by him then, because he left first for Pan Fang’s matter after that, she thus told Zhu Long that she still wanted to take something and took the opportunity to go back and pick it up. She washed it clean, folded it properly and carried it on her. Right now, it had indeed come in handy.
This much care and earnest thought, how would Ji Ying not know? He took that piece of handkerchief and could not help but fall silent.
For a moment, the two people did not say anything and the atmosphere was a little awkward while in the awkwardness, it was also permeated with a few traces of a subtle charmingness and gentleness.
The slanted wind and drizzle along with the pear blossoms filling the eyes. The pentagon pavilion eaves ran in a line like beads.
With the forest as the backdrop as well as him and her in the pavilion, how was it not the most beautiful scenery?
ーWhereas when this scenery fell into another person’s eyes, it transformed into loneliness.
This chapter is not really shorter or anything, but I have decided to divide this into three parts so that I don’t ruin the effect or disrupt anything as much as possible. I’ll try to not compromise too much on the release frequency since each part will be longer ><