[Breaking Update: WAAAAA!!!!! Liu Shi Shi is confirmed for Da Mo Yao as Jin Yu. In an interview today, she said that despite being recently sick, she’s headed for Ning Bo shortly to start filming DMY. T_____T OMG, crying happy relieved tears. ShiGe FTW!]
While these two chapters of Da Mo Yao aren’t necessarily short, it includes a lot of exposition and more stage-setting, so my translation ended up summarizing more than usual. I decided to combine the two chapters, which pushes the story forward in showing Li Yan getting settled into the Palace, Yu Er and Jie Ye pretending nothing ever happened and going back to their nebulous friendship, and Huo Qu Bing setting off for his first battle with the Xiong Nu. Don’t worry about him, the boy didn’t end up memorialized in history as a warrior god for no reason.
I’ve heard folks discuss casting hopes, so I just wanted to say that it’s set in stone already that Hu Ge is Huo Qu Bing, and I’m fairly certain Liu Shi Shi will be Jin Yu. Bu Bu Jing Xin 2 is confirmed (original cast, modern drama), but it won’t start filming until August, whereas Da Mo Yao starts filming next month in early March and will wrap up by the Summer, so Shi Shi’s schedule is fine. I’m sorry I haven’t put any pictures of Jiu Ye up, but Tangren still refuses to reveal his casting despite Ladyboss and Director Li confirming the role is cast and it’s an experienced actor. I’m hoping the final casting roster is revealed in the next few weeks so I can talk about what I think.
Chapter 10: Assassination
I knock on the door, asking where Jiu Ye is? Xiao Feng tells me Jiu Ye is arranging his books in the study, and no one is allowed inside so I should wait outside for him. I ignore him and walk towards the study, which is the first time I’ve been there despite being familiar with the Bamboo Residence. The study is enormous and filled with shelves of books. Jiu Ye is arranging books, so I purposely walk loudly. He hears me and smiles, inviting me inside. He tells me to sit, he’ll be done soon. I make a face at Xiao Feng.
I curiously look at the books, asking if he’s read it all. He answers that he has flipped through most of them. I assess all the books, ranging from philosophy texts to tactical manuals. I see another shelf with only one book, and then some sheafs of paper. I see the paper is all covered with Jiu Ye’s handwriting, and it discusses war strategy for conquering or protecting a city, how the philosopher Mo Zi lamented how the strong countries attacked the weak, and some more writing on how make weapons and how to keep warm in winter.
Another shelf has only medical journals. One book, with Jiu Ye’s note on the side, is an anatomy text that also discusses male-female relations. My face flames and I drop the book, wondering why he’s reading it. He asks me if I read it, and I tell him with a red face that I glanced at it before but burned it afterwards. He looks confused and I realize he’s pointing to another book I am holding, which is in a writing I can’t read. I am so embarrassed I want to crawl into a hole. I try to explain I don’t understand this but wanted to study it because I was curious. I’m nervous and babbling, and I can tell he’s trying to control his laughter. He finally gives up and leans back on his wheelchair and starts to guffaw.
My embarrassment gives way to happiness at hearing his laugh, and he’s just so amused at seeing how his casual question caused me to lose my famous cool. I confirm that those books are not in the Han language. He nods, and asks why I’m not probing any further. I tell him “You never probed into my life with the wolves. Why I was born in the Xi Yu but spoke perfect Han, but couldn’t speak any of the Xi Yu languages. Everyone has things that are hard to explain. If you want to tell me one day, I will gladly sit besides you and listen. If you don’t want to tell me, I won’t probe. Someone once told me that he only knows the me in his eyes. I also feel the same way, I only know the you in my eyes.”
He answers that he doesn’t even know where to start, so I assure him that I will always be on his side. He asks why I’m here and I explain I had the day free and wanted to come see him….and Xiao Feng. I suddenly notice a intricate crutch standing against the wall. Does he use it? I’ve never seen him on crutches before.
As we walk out of the study, the door automatically closes and doesn’t open again, showing that the contraptions are not just for his ease of use, but designed by him to control who can access places within the Bamboo Residence. He explains that he’s heading out in a bit so I excuse myself. Instead he invites me along, to go visit some farms outside the city, where I can try some fresh fruit straight from the trees. I happily nod.
Shi Buo drives the carriage himself and is told I’m not going back to Luo Yu Fan and will instead be coming along to visit the farm. Shi Buo appears to want to say something but doesn’t, just getting the carriage on the road. As the carriage enters the woods, there is suddenly the sound of horse hooves chasing us. I instinctively grab my silk sash with the gold bells on the ends. Jiu Ye just smiles and shakes his head, indicating that I needn’t worry.
The horses and riders pass us by but Shi Buo knows they are just pretending. His horse whip comes down and their horses topple, sending the two men flying to the ground. They immediately attack Shi Buo but are quickly disarmed. The two men notice Shi Buo’s custom made horse whip and their expression changes from rage to stunned shock. They start talking to Shi Buo and kneeling before him. Shi Buo asks the kneeling man a question, which causes Jiu Ye’s smile to disappear. He orders the man to repeat what he just said in Han for me.
The man quickly explains “We were not following the Shi Estate carriage, and had no intention of harming anyone on the Shi Estate. We were hired to track the head of Luo Yu House and assassinate her.” He kept bowing to Shi Buo “We really didn’t know you are from the Shi Estate, and that the young lady is friends with the Big Boss. If we knew, an entire mountain of gold and we would not accepted this assignment.”
I ask in shock “Who hired you?”The man refuses to answer, abiding by the code of the assassins not to reveal their client. Shi Buo explains I will never get the answer from them. I tell Shi Buo to let them go, and he does after Jiu Ye also tells him to do so. The two men promise to never divulge what happened here today, swearing an oath that I know is the most deadly oath for any traveler in the Gobi Desert.
When walking away, one man runs back and kneels tearfully in front of Jiu Ye “I did not know this young lady is the young master’s person. I almost betrayed the grace you bestowed. I am no better than a pig or a dog” and tries to kill himself. Jiu Ye uses his bow to shoot the sword out of the man’s hand and tells him that he mistook Jiu Ye for someone else. Jiu Ye never bestowed any grace on him before.
I’m still stuck on the sentence “this young lady is the young master’s person” and suddenly think these two guys are not bad at all. The two men know they did not make a mistake, since Shi Buo is personally guarding Jiu Ye. They discuss how their entire family has been graced by Jiu Ye’s benefaction and they continue to bow until their foreheads are bloody. I tell them to scram if they feel gratitude and not try to kill themselves, leaving us with two corpses to take care of. And in a steely voice, I tell them both they made a mistake in identifying Jiu Ye, and they finally get my drift and quickly promise to return to Xi Yu and never speak of today ever again.
Continuing on our way, I wonder who hired these assassins, and did Mu Da Duo reveal I was alive. Was my life going to be in danger again? I tell Jiu Ye that I haven’t made any enemies in Xi Yu, and the only person who could do this can easily send his own men to kill me, so why use assassins. Shi Buo offers to find out more about this, but I tell him it’s not necessary. If its someone else I can handle it, if its that person, there is nothing I can do.
We arrive at the farm, which is vast and lifts my spirits, reminding me that my life is within my own control. No one can try and take it away from me. I can see Shi Buo is intending something, and I pull him aside to remind him to let those two assassins go as per Jiu Ye’s orders. I run back to the farm and happily try to identify all the vegetables growing in the field. Jiu Ye finishes his meeting and joins me, teasing that I look like a farm girl.
I walk with Jiu Ye along the field, the sun slowly setting, and the mood reminds me of the saying that “men farm and women sew”, and how people find happiness in living a simple life.
I sneak a peek at Jiu Ye, and to my surprise, he’s also looking at me. Our eyes meet and his face suddenly reddens, and he quickly turns away. It’s the first time I’ve seen him red-faced and stare at him, His wheelchair moves faster and finally he asks me “What are you looking at.” I tease him “Looking at you!” but when I say this his is just speechless, leaving me berating myself for making a mess of the situation again. He finally laughs and shakes his head “You really were raised in Xi Yu,” and I respond “I’m already much better, back then I would say anything I wanted.”
After I get home, I take out a cloth and write down my thoughts. I see that Jiu Ye enjoys reading the scholars who extol peace for the common people over nationalistic expansion. Especially Mo Zi, who spent his life for the people, and trying to convince the smaller countries to band together to oppose the hegemonies. So does Jiu Ye want to oppose the Han dynasty? I can see that he’s conflicted and torn, and that his background is clearly not as simple it appears on the surface.
I tell Hong Gu to hire m a teacher on the old scholars, especially Mo Zi, for me to learn. The teacher won’t come teach at the dancing house so I go and listen to his lecture, leaving me with much food for thought. When I return, Hong Gu excitedly tells me that the Princess sent lots of reward today because Li……has become Consort Li. Soon Consort Li might be sending gifts as well.
Hong Gu sighs that Li Yan is truly something, having only entered the Palace last Fall and already she’s become Consort Li, second only to Empress Wei. My attention is caught by the Lover’s Vines, where tiny white flowers are sprouting. I clap my forehead and ask if the Emperor has dispatched an army recently. Hong Gu looks confused, which gives me relief that the army likely hasn’t left yet for war. I tell Hong Gu to catalogue all the gifts and keep only what she likes, the rest will be sold for a good price now before one day we are in need of money and sell it for cheap.
Chapter 11: Handkerchief Delivery
The city of Xu Fang is one of the Emperor’s tributaries at the border, so every time the Xiong Nu attacks Xu Fang, the entire Chang An city goes on high alert.
When Emperor Wu of Han first ascended the throne, he vowed to eliminate this enemy. The Great General Wei was sent out and he managed to battle two of the Xiong’s Nu’s generals and regain valuable territory along the River South region. Liu Che ordered people moved to that region and there he built Xu Fang city.
To protect the River South region, Liu Che once again sends his generals out. For this expedition, other than the Great General Wei leading the pack, General Gong Xun Che takes the left flank, General Gong Xun He takes the right flank, General Zhao Xin takes the first attack, and General Li Guang (Li Gan’s father) heads back the back support.
The Great General Wei is given 60,000 troops for this mission to attack the Xiong Nu. Huo Qu Bing is named as a Captain and leads 800 of the finest Yu Lin Army warriors to head out to battle with his two uncles, the Great General Wei and General Gong Xun He.
I sit on the top of a big tree staring at the road. Under the sunlight the armor glistens and makes my eyes a little glazed over. Huo Qu Bing, wearing an all black armor, rides a horse past, heading for the city gates. Compared to when he wore the wide sleeved robes, dressed in battle gear takes away some of his carefree nature and adds some dashing valor. His striking aura is palpable.
I haven’t seen him in a month and his skin is almost the color of bronze. Looks like he was under the sun everyday. Even from a distance, I can still sense the tightly bound danger radiating from him. Suddenly I feel like he’s a lot like my own species. Like Brother Wolf, the shiniest beacon in the pack. Whenever the wolves are about to attack, he will just silently and surely look straight ahead, never wavering.
He occasionally looks on the sides of the streets. I straighten myself and stand on the biggest branch to look at him. He finally meets my eyes and I smile and wave at him, pointing towards Yi Ping Ju’s direction, He doesn’t shift on the horse or slow down, his cold gaze not even changing in the slightest. When our eyes met his horse is already rushing past me. I turn my head and watch as his figure disappears in a trail of dust.
I run into Shi Sheng Xing and Shi Feng as they are headed out of the city. Xiao Feng calls out to me and lets me know that Jiu Ye has sent someone to look for me.
There is a gentle breeze blowing through the Bamboo Residence, and Jiu Ye is sting there feeding pigeons when I walk in. The pigeons scatter and the sudden movement of white only leaves me noticing the stillness of his blue robe. I ask him why he is looking for me, and he hesitates so I tell him to always be frank with me. He asks to borrow money from me, and normally he ought to explain why, but he can’t tell me anything. If the business goes well, he can repay me next year with interest. I gladly lend him the money.
He amount he asks for makes me suck in my breath. He tells me to lend him what I have, and I say I can get the entire amount. I own half the dancing houses in Chang An now, and even though business is slow, Luo Yu House is still doing well since everyone knows Li Yan came from our house before entering the Palace. He knows it’s still not easy to get this money now, but I tell him to just wait and see,
When I get back to Luo Yu House it is dinner time, and after going through the accounts with Hong Gu many times, all I can get is 1/3rd what he needs. She asks why I need the money for but I won’t tell her anything other than it’s to do business and make more money.
I ask about the gifts the Princess sent, and then teasingly mutter why Consort Li hasn’t come by to thank us for helping her. Hong Gu laughs at me and calls me a money hungry girl, heading off to sleep. I stop her, wanting to write her a promissory note before take this money, She startles, telling me the money is all mine, but I say it’s half hers. She reminds me that I give her things constantly and always lets her pick the pretty baubles she likes first,
I counter that she runs all the daily operations and I never need to worry about the businesses. She worked hard to get Consort Li into the Palace, so of course half of the gifts from the Princess is hers. She thinks anyone can run the house, but I counter that its hard to find someone as capable as she is. I write the promissory note and shove it in her hand.
I take out a cloth and write “Today you asked me to borrow money, which made me very happy. You can borrow money from anywhere in Chang An but you asked me, so that means you trust me. I know you ought to easily have this money based on how big the Shi Enterprises are, so where did you spend all the money these years? During the recent wars, common people are caught in the cross hairs and starving. Plus there was a cold frost in Xi Yu the likes which have not been seen in a hundred years, wiping out crop after crop. Do you want the money to help the Xi Yu people? If that is true, then I will use everything I own, and do everything I can, to assist you…..”
I think to myself, it looks like my original assumption was correct, Li Yan and Jiu Ye have the same goal in mind. Li Yan wants to stop the westward expansion of the Han Empire from within the Palace, while Jiu Ye wants to protect the kingdoms of the Western territories. Looks like I did the right thing by helping Li Yan.
In the courtyard a woman sits and coos with her parakeet, both of them forever locked in a cage, keeping each other company. In the recesses of this Palace back residence (called Ho Gong, which is where the Emperor’s women live), under the curtains, how many women’s tears and youth have been locked away? Compared to the Han Emperor’s ladies, the Xiong Nu wives are somewhat happier. Even if they are lonely, they can ride horses under the blue sky. The women here can only quietly sit in the courtyard.
Princess Yangping looks at me and notes that even having a parakeet as company is not bad. She thinks I’m smart enough at least….. One we step inside the residence, I give the Princess a look assuring her that I will be cautious. Li Yan smiles and stands up, welcoming the Princess to sit down. Li Yan waves me in from outside the curtain and then sends her maid away. After chatting, the Princess heads to go meet the Empress, leaving me to chat with Li Yan.
After the Princess leaves, Li Yan asks why I wanted to see her personally, did she not send enough gifts and money already? I laugh and tease that money is naturally something where one can never have enough. She bops me on the forehead and smiles at me. I look at her carefully, she is dressed extravagantly but still elegant. Perhaps it is because she is already married, but her face has some shades of sultry despite dressed in simple layers. She sees me staring at her and blushes, asking if I saw anything? I laugh “Initially I didn’t see anything, but since you mentioned it, I think I do now.” She reaches out and touches her face “You must’ve been sneaking those books, shame on you!”
He eyes are filled with embarrassment and a little bit of temper, which makes her look even more beautiful, and I just stare. “What a country-toppling beauty. The Emperor is lucky to have you. Even when he is stressed, seeing you will surely make him smile.” She asks what exactly I want, and I hand over a handkerchief with the Li character embroidered on it. She recognizes it as being identical to her old one, which she thought was lost awhile ago. I explain I burned the old one already and made a new one for her.
I continue “The original handkerchief was found by third young master Li and he was anxious to find the owner of it, so I decided to burn it to avoid problems.” She asks “Li Gan?” I ask if there is another third young master Li in Chang An?
She asks why I brought a new one if I burned the old one. I tell her to burn this one if she wants. We sit in silence, and then she asks if I knew about the deadly frost this Winter in Xi Yu? I’ve heard, and there has been a huge influx of dancers from the Xi Yu. Now, the price of watching a dancing show can buy the virginity of one of the dancers, that is how desperate they are.
She coldly remarks how this will cause all the dancing houses to engage in a price war until these girls will be worth nothing. I tell Li Yan that I have ordered none of my dancing houses to lower their prices or wages, and she knows I am helping these girls in the only way I can. I laugh that it’s for my on gain, since a price war will mean that the prices will stay low for a long time. She sighs, chiding me for refusing to accept a compliment.
I tell her that despite growing up in Xi Yu, I don’t have any emotional ties to there, so I don’t have a strong desire to help Xi Yu. Everything I do is for the business of the dancing houses. She wishes I had the same feelings as her but knows these things cannot be forced. She is just glad I am not standing in her way. She asks about business and I say it is good thank to her. She asks about her brothers, since she doesn’t have a chance to see them often. I say her second brother is now running with a pack of rich young masters in the city. She sighs that he’s always been the spoiled and pampered one in the family, and asks me to talk to him for her so that he doesn’t get into any trouble.
I stand up and say that I don’t want to manage her two brothers for her, and she tells me I ought to care if not because Li Yan Nian composed all these tunes for the dancing house. As I head out I suddenly run back inside, informing her that I am so lucky that the first time in the Palace I actually managed to see the Emperor, who is walking with the Princess in the distance.
She smiles and tells me to wait with her to welcome the Emperor, the Princess will surely speak well of me.
Xiao Qian lands on the window sill and I remove the cloth, chiding him for needing to go on a diet soon or else he’ll become a small chicken. In the note, Jiu Ye asks me where I learned some new Xi Yu phrases, and then reminds me the two pigeons need to go on a diet or else they will be ashamed to call themselves pigeons. I laugh out loud.
I take a cloth and write “I’m laying on the window and talking to you right now. I’m guessing you are reading a book under the lamplight. When I raise my head I see the stars above, and the flowers of the Lover’s Vines are blooming. The white ones are like jade while the yellow ones are like gold, the fragrance blanketing the air. I can smell it even when I’m going to sleep at night. I already plucked some to dry in the bamboo basket, so that when Fall comes and the flowers wilt, I can still smell the dried flowers. I went to the Palace today, after much deliberation. The Li family is a prominent one in the Han court, different than the Great General Wei’s lowly birth, the current General Li Guang is descend from a line of high Han court officials. I gave Li Yan the handkerchief, knowing that she will surely not be able to resist aligning with this prominent family, knowing that Li Gan can be of use to her. I know Li Gan’s adoration of her will only become a tool for her to use. But I can’t worry about that anymore. I only want to do what can help you. I only want to see you happy. Once the Han dynasty stops attacking the various Xi Yu territories, will the worry in your brows ease? Perhaps then you can genuinely be happy and do what you want to do, and stop forcing yourself…..”
I put this cloth in the chest with a smile.
“The days pass so fast, and in a blink of an eye, it’s already the end of Summer. The flowers in the Lover’s Vines are growing sparse. Today I suddenly understood that the Lover’s Vines do represent a pair of lovers. A pair of lovers who go through a lot and finally have happiness. One flower opens first, but then waits for the other flower to open. Isn’t that like a pair of lovers who hasn’t met before. When the opened flower turns yellow is when the other flower opens. One white and one yellow, when they meet and dance. When one flower wilts the other continues to valiantly bloom, to not waste the chance given. Their blooming reminds the person viewing the flower that there was once another flower blooming besides it. Once it disappears into the wind, I believe that in the wind, the other flower waits there, unseen and silently, for it to be reunited………”
“It is already Fall and the rain comes down. A person feels a bit lazy, constantly thinking about random things. Heard the Princess mention that Li Yan is worried about why she has not yet conceived. Her worry isn’t just a desire to become a mother, it is that without a child, her plan cannot begin. The position of the Crown Prince remains empty, so if she can bear a boy, one day she can fight for the throne for him. No matter how much love a woman receives, the only way to protect her position down the line is only through her child.”
Seeing Li Yan, in addition to admiration, I am also scared of this woman. How strong must her hate and love be, for a woman to gamble on her entire life and the life of her child in a deadly battle of intrigue. I ask myself, and there is no way I can do it. If I had a child, I will never, ever, let the child get embroiled in a battle. I will teach the child the same things Papa taught me so that the child learns how to strategize, but I want to child to grow up happy and safe. Strategic intelligence is just something to be used to protect oneself.
My face starts to heat up. I haven’t gotten married yet and already I’m thinking about my child’s future. I wonder if I will ever have a child in my life? After thinking for some time, I don’t have an answer. But when i look outside and see the Lover’s Vines, which only have green remaining on them, I think I understand. Not every bloom will flower, but to welcome the sunlight and bid farewell to the moonlight, playing with the wind and battling with the rain, that is living a full life. I don’t think they will have any regrets……