We’re here! The end of volume 1 of Da Mo Yao, and I’m sure you all want me to stop chattering and start translating volume 2. If you told me two weeks ago I would have translated mostly word for word an entire volume of a Chinese novel, I would have laughed in your face. Clearly DMY holds me in its thrall, a novel that feels like it’s breathing and living a world that is magical and potent. While volume 1 is all pining, with hints and innuendo, that all ends here. From this point on, it’s action, passion, and suspense going a mile a minute. So savor the last bits of an undecided love triangle, and tighten your belts for the wild ride ahead.
Chapter 16: Departure
Fang Ru and Li Yan Nian are getting married and the house is merry with activity. The girls want to go crash the wedding night but I just smile and let them have fun. Hong Gu asks why I’m having Li Yan Nian move out, and I say it’s better if they have their own privacy to start their new life together. Hong Gu looks at me, she thinks I’ve been distancing myself from them recently. I change the subject and tell her to keep the party going, begging off to rest because I’m tired.
Fang Ru is getting dressed in her room, with the ladies all happy she chose the first day of the New Year for her wedding, but Fang Ru says the date was picked by me. She’s complimented on her beautiful wedding robe, and she says it’s also from me. I turn around and go back to my room. Today is a good day, the weather is clear and the sun is warm. There are lanterns everywhere and the happiness in the air is thick.
I sit down and put on make up, hearing the roar of noise outside indicating that the wedding party is here to pick up Fang Ru. I feel a tinge of sadness, this sound must be what every woman longs to hear. I put on my outfit and my hair piece and look in the mirror. I think about Brother Wolf in the desert, and twirl a few times in the room. My skirt billows out and I feel much happier.
The worst feeling is waiting, with my heart suspended, just like watching a pot boil. I look around for something to keep me occupied, and I find a rope where I proceed to knot and unknot it. After some time, I look out to see it’s already dusk. I walk outside and look in the yard, with the sun setting and the dark approaching.
Maybe he doesn’t want to see anyone, so he won’t come during the day time. He’s surely coming soon, so I stand by the door hoping and praying. Everyone has gone to the wedding banquet so the courtyard is especially quiet. A few drops land my cheek first, and soon it’s coming down in a flurry, the first snow. It’s not a lot, and comes down slowly and gently, dancing in the wind. It feels tender, but with the bitter cold, goes straight for the heart.
A squeak of the door opening, at that moment my heart exploded. My heart hurt so bad I couldn’t turn around. Because the happiness is so hard earned, the joy even comes with some pain.
I stood still for awhile before smiling and turning around, and then my smile freezes on my face. My heart fills with despair and I close my eyes hoping it’s not true. But when I open it again, he’s still standing there, still Huo Qu Bing.
“When I first saw you, you were wearing this outfit. Under the silver moonlight, with a silver wolf beside you, your skirt billowing in the wind, you were so light you didn’t appear human. I never once took notice of any woman, but I couldn’t stop staring at you, wondering where you came from, wondering where you were going.” Huo Qu Bing explained with a wistful smile.
I hold my head with my hands and crouch down on the ground. He is shocked and tries to help me up. “Don’t…..don’t bother with me….” I murmur over and over again. He slowly withdrew his hand.
Huo Qu Bing pays no heed to the snow on the ground, despite his rich attire, and silently sits down next to me. It appears that no matter how long I’m crouched there, he’s going to silently keep me company.
The snow lightly falls on us, and he hesitates for a moment before reaching over and brushing the snow off me. I don’t move, like I’m an ice sculpture. He stood up and walked into the house, emerging with a bamboo umbrella. He quietly returned to my side and opened the umbrella over me. He silently looked up at the falling white flakes.
Xiao Qian and Xiao Tao return to the yard. Xiao Qian lands next to me, but Xiao Tao zooms straight for my head. With a flicker of his sleeve, Huo Qu Bing waves Xiao Tao off course so she wasn’t able to be mean to me this time. She lands next to Xiao Qian.
Huo Qu Bing goes to grab Xiao Tao and Xiao Qian wants to peck him. Huo Qu Bing avoids his beak and bops him on the head lightly “I was just getting the letter on Xiao Tao’s leg, not trying to be mean to her.” I hesitated and the opened the cloth on Xiao Tao’s leg. “I’m sorry” is scribbled messily on it.
I’m sorry? I’m sorry! I don’t want your “I’m sorry.” I feel the bitterness rising and I bite my lips so hard I can taste the blood. I tried to rip the cloth but my hands are shaking and the cloth is small so I can’t rend it even in a few tries.
I jump up and run into the house holding the cloth. I start tossing everything in sight. Huo Qu Bing stands at the door and watches me go insane and upending everything in my room. Scissors, where is the scissors? I still can’t find the scissors, and then I see a small fruit knife on the table. I grab the knife and hear him calling me “Yu Er”, and then he’s in front of me, trying to take the knife away. But he stops when he sees me slicing up the cloth. He backs up and watches me rip it into shreds.
I threw the knife to the side and rip off my veil and hairdress. Using my hands, I pull it apart until the pearls have scattered everywhere and bits and pieces of the veil are floating in the air. I stare at the falling bits of blue on the ground, and suddenly all my rage is spent. I collapse on the ground and stare at everything, seeing nothing.
Huo Qu Bing sits on the door ledge, with his arms around his legs and his chin resting on his knees, just staring at the ground. He’s so quiet he resembles an injured wolf, just sitting there licking his own wounds in the corner.
I don’t know how much time has passed, when I suddenly hear laughter. Everyone is coming back from the banquet. I startle and jump up, quickly saying with a smile and laughter “I ate so early that I’m hungry. I want to eat birthday noodles today. Today is my birthday. I should be happy. I need to change. Can you…..”
Huo Qu Bing turns his back to me and I take off my Luo Lan outfit and put on a flaming red dress robe. I’m not sad, I refuse to be sad. I refuse to be sad because of a person who doesn’t like me. I hold the blue Luo Lan outfit and repeat this to myself, but a stabbing pain passes through my heart. I recall our meeting at the Yue Ya Spring, but it feels like multiple lifetimes ago. I smile, I smile so hard my body starts to shake.
The knife comes down, and with a loud rip, the skirt has been split in half. Huo Qu Bing hears the sound and turns back towards me, with a small sigh “Why do you even bother….he gave you that?”
I tossed the skirt aside and walked out of the room. Huo Qu Bing picked up the umbrella and walked beside me. My heart is colder than the snow, so how could I fear this bitter cold. I hurry up “I want to walk in the snow.” He doesn’t say a word, just tossing the umbrella aside and walking in the snow with me.
I don’t want to see anyone so I purposely walk in the dark areas. He suddenly asked me “Do you know how to make noodles?” I say no, and he replies “My estate keeps the kitchen fires on at night. Big dishes we can’t make right now, but a bowl of noodles can be produced.” Hong Gu is strict so the fires are turned off at night, so I nod and follow him.
I stare at the bowl of noodles and eat a few bites. I tried to smile and chat with Huo Qu Bing, but my tears start to fall. It falls into the soup, drops and drops of it. I hurry to pick up the bowl and eat the noodles with big bites.
Huo Qu Bing pretends he doesn’t see and keeps talking. I ask “Any alcohol?” and he gets up and grabs two bottles. Along with it, he brought a towel. He doesn’t look at me, and just keeps his eyes trained outside the window, looking at the snow falling in the darkness, drinking his wine.
I’m half awake and I can already smell the fragrance. When I’m fully awake, I realize that there are two silver scented heat balls hanging over the bed. This room is luxuriously appointed, and I immediately recall that I must’ve gotten drunk and passed out at the Huo Estate. Looking at the silver balls, I suddenly miss Brother Wolf. Right now I can only alleviate my pain and exhaustion by putting my arms around his neck.
A maid calls out if I’m awake, and I hear Huo Qu Bing outside. He walks in “Don’t lay in bed all day, it’s past noon, any lazier and you won’t be able to sleep tonight.”
I lay there not moving and he sits down next to me on the pallet “Head hurting?” I touched my head and wonder “No, usually it hurts when I get drunk, but not today. What kind of wine did we drink last night?”
“What different wine? It’s the fragrant silver balls above your head. I had the physician put some medicinal herbs in there for you.”
The maid was waiting there for me, so I sigh and get up. I can’t hide forever, the day keeps going on “I’m getting up, shouldn’t you give me some privacy?”
He laughed and got up “Lazy cat. Move faster because I’m hungry. Any later and you’ll only have table scraps to eat.”
I reach my hand out to play with the baby Liu Bo, who grabs me with his soft chubby finger, cooing back at me. I laugh and ask why he’s laughing? After he’s carried away by the nanny, I sit and talk with Li Yan. She teases that Liu Bo should call me auntie but I don’t dare joke around like this. I confirm she’s feeling better, and she asks if something happened between me and Shi Enterprises. I don’t answer and change the topic, congratulating her on the news that Li Cai, Li Gan’s uncle, has become the new Prime Minister. Her face doesn’t move but she murmurs a soft thanks.
As I walk out, she suddenly asks me to help her. I reply “From the day I helped you into the Palace, I already told you I cannot help you within the Palace.” She doesn’t believe me “You’re lying. Everything you do is calculated, I just don’t know what you are planning.”
I don’t respond, because my original plan was wrong, and now I have no plan at all left. Li Yan finally asks that I never oppose her. While Empress Wei has the Great General Wei as her brother, Li Yan has no one to help her in the Palace. She wishes I were her real sister, so she wouldn’t have to walk this road all alone. I look at her “You can relax. Nothing I do in the future will concern you, and I won’t block your way.”
She nods “You must always remember what you just said.”
Before heading out, I stop “Li Yan, take good care of yourself. Read some medical books and learn to regulate your own health. The lonelier you are, the more you need to take care of yourself.” She thanks him, she will do this because she has a son now.
After leaving Li Yan’s chambers, I run into Huo Qu Bing. I bow to him. We head off, but I purposely walk three steps behind him. He turns to me “You are this careful in the Palace?” I remind him “You and I have different positions, if people saw us walking side by side, it would just lead to chatter.” He looked annoyed and I explained further “I know you don’t give a damn about this stuff, and have people who let you get away with it, but it’s better to be safe and leave yourself some room for escape in any situation.”
He huffed “Seeing the way you restrict yourself annoys me. In the future, don’t come to the Palace unless you have to.” I laugh “Have you been busy recently? Since the New Year, it’s been two months since I’ve seen you.”
His face lit up “I’m playing for big stakes this time, of course I need to prepare. Oh right, are you going back to Xi Yu or not?” I hesitated “I don’t know.” He was livid “You don’t know? He’s already this way……and you, you still….you, you…” He was stomping away but turned back around and pointed at me. I stood there just looking back at him. He suddenly shook his head and took off, like he wanted to shake all the unpleasantness away “I think you’re a masochist, just itching to be mistreated. Yet I’m even worse of a masochist than you, simply dying to be mistreated!”
The gardener checks on the vines, telling me it’s not sprouted by now, it’s likely dead. He wanted to buy new ones for me but I say it’s not necessary. A guest arrives, and it’s Housekeeper Chen from the Huo Estate. He bowed to me and explained “Since the young master has been so busy recently, he’s rarely home and can’t find the time to come. He wanted me to tell you that he’s leaving for Xi Yu tomorrow at dawn.” I thanked him, while he gave me a warm twinkling smile.
After dinner, I return to my room and sit there in a daze, not sure what I’m thinking about. I lit the lamp and took out a small brazier. From the chest I removed all the diary cloths. It makes me smile, but then I know that sometimes all the hopes and hard work still only ends up with heartbreak. I toss the first cloth in the fire, letting it burn in a bright red blaze. I continue to read each entry and then burn it. I burn a few more before I stop, deciding that since I wrote these for him, might as well let him read it now. Nothing left to lose, and a way to end this for good.
I pick up the gold jade earrings and put it in the chest. I pick up the Xiang Fei Zhu flute and play a few notes. I’m cleaning up the things related to you. If only I could clean up my heart the way I’m cleaning up this room, easily throwing things out, perhaps there would be less sorrow and anger in this world.
I wander outside the Shi Estate for awhile before vaulting over. Outside the Bamboo Residence, I leave the chest at the door. After some time, I start playing the flute. The light suddenly turns on inside and the door opens. Jiu Ye stands there on his crutch. In the dark, his face is white with shock. I finish playing three times before I stop. I tell him “You once said that I was not suited to play the Bai To Ying tune because it was so sorrowful. Today I finally understand. With my emotions connecting with the tune, I should have played it well. But I wish I could never play it well, that I would never understand its meaning.”
At the end, I control myself, and with a hard clean snap, I’ve broken the flute in half. Before the broken halves of the flute have even hit the ground, I’ve vaulted on the roof. I hesitate for a moment but it is still silence below. I shake my head and fly forward, completely and utterly given up.
I’m gone. When you find this letter you will be furious. Please don’t be angry, which will just give you more wrinkles. I’m giving you all the businesses I run in Chang An. You must remember that the dancing business, you need to teach the girls well and treat them well. You might want to close down some of the businesses, or at least not expand anymore, and just protect what you already have. Burn this letter after reading it. I have left another detailed business plan for you. I know I’m being immature, but I’ve tried hard to be a Chang An person since coming here. I try to control my words and actions, but now I suddenly feel exhausted. I miss the freedom of my life in Xi Yu. So I’m leaving, and maybe one day I’ll come back. Or maybe I’ll never come back. Please don’t miss me, Hong Gu. And one last thing – in 10 days to 1 month, please deliver this other letter to the Huo Estate.
I’m going back to Xi Yu. I’m sorry but I won’t be going with you. When you see this cloth, it should be a few months later already, when you return victorious yet again to the Palace. Perhaps I will be off chasing a sheep with Brother Wolf. Or maybe doing nothing except watching the sun set over the West. You asked me, are tangled vines really how complicated life ought to be? I thought about it, and perhaps life really is like the gold silver flower vines. But it’s not about being tangled up. Flowers bloom and flowers wilt. When the gold silver flowers meet, it twists and turns, like meeting and then departing. Fate binds and fate separates, this vine is but a representation of life’s many gatherings and partings. This time my decision is to turn and leave. This parting might lead to never meeting again. I wish you all the best.
Epilogue: Wishing for Twin Stars
In the dark night, she’s dressed in red, like a burning flame.
Meng Jiu knew she was in a bad mood, because normally she disliked wearing vibrant colors. But when she’s in a bad mood, she’ll force herself to wear something bright. Like the color would tell the world that she’s perfectly fine, hiding her sadness and weakness inside the bold hue.
Her eyes are filled with fire as well, giving the lonely Bamboo Residence a bit of warmth. He desperately wanted to keep the warmth by his side, but he couldn’t. This woman, who came and went like the wind, her life as vibrant as the morning dew, he wanted her to always live under the bright light. He wanted her to have the most complete happiness, without a single flaw in her life.
He asked her “Do you want a family?” and she said yes. He wanted it too, but he couldn’t give it to her. The fire in her eyes, was it love or hate? When she broke the flute, his heart also shattered. The look in her eyes when she looked at him, it was dead within. Did she hate him for not saying a single word? If only she knew, that he was afraid to say even one word, because then he would ask her to stay.
The red shadow disappears over the rooftop and he controls himself from calling out. His heart is in pain, and he coughs up some blood. He’s been sick, and now with this emotional pain, he barely has the strength to stand. He tosses the crutch aside and sits down on the door step. He pulls the chest over and takes out cloth after cloth of her feelings for him. She knew so much more than he thought, and did so much more for him than he knew.
Reading each word, his heart started to burn, and his body felt like ice. Did he really have this happiness? He reads more and then his face suddenly lights up. He calls out for his servants and immediately heads out. The sun is barely rising from the East, like her brilliant smile. He stared at the rising sun and felt happiness and pain. Yu Er, Yu Er, I really underestimated you. I’ve hurt you so badly, but I will use my entire life to make it up to you. From now on, I won’t let you have a single second of sadness.
The carriage arrives at Luo Yu House and already he can hear the commotion. Hong Gu is yelling at everyone for not seeing anything. He’s introduced to Hong Gu, who is shocked this beautiful young man is the Big Boss. She thought to herself – that arrogant son of the Heavens Huo Qu Bing, like the brightest sun and the sturdiest oak, I thought he and Yu Er was the most perfect match in this world. But who knew there was a man like this, his pale moon a contrast to the bright sun, neither winning out over the other.
Jiu Ye is in a rush to see Yu Er, but Hong Gu tearfully explains that she’s gone, and says she won’t be coming back anymore. Jiu Ye’s heart jerks and he starts coughing violently. Yu Er, I knew your true feelings only after I read the clothes, and now I know how deeply you must be hurt. Hong Gu explains Yu Er’s letter revealed she was headed to Xi Yu. She also left a letter for General Huo, to be delivered in a few days, but Hong Gu was so mad she sent it already to the Huo Estate.
Tian Cao immediately assures Jiu Ye that he will send people to find her, and that all of Xi Yu will be looking for her. Jiu Ye wants all the courts of the Xi Yu kingdoms notified so that their armed forces can join in the search. Tian Cao is shocked, knowing that Jiu Ye has never asked for help from those countries to keep his connection with them on the down low. He must really be determined to find Yu Er this time.
It is still dark outside but Huo Qu Bing has already dressed in his armor, ready for deployment. “Did you tell her I was leaving today for war?” Housekeeper Chen confirmed that he told her personally. Huo Qu Bing stood at the front door for some time, until the sun gradually began to rise. His heart sighed, looks like she still wants to stay in Chang An. He packed up all his emotions and leaped on the horse. The sound of the horse hooves on the ground ringing through Chang An’s streets.
Love and personal feelings need to be set aside for now. His mission is to focus on this war, which the entire court is waiting to see him fail. Last time he took 800 men and ambushed the Xiong Nu army base, emerging victorious. But people were still not satisfied, calling it a lucky victory. Even the Emperor remains wary, not ready to give him a full army to lead into war. Some generals spend an entire lifetime and never become a Grand Duke. He’s just 18 years old and already his battle victory is renowned around the world, leaving people envious and ready to see him fail.
This time he’s been given ten thousand men, as a test of his capabilities by the Emperor. Only by succeeding can he shut the traps of those scholar officials in court. Huo Qu Bing already knew he would succeed. Or more accurately, the word “failure” does not appear in his vocabulary. Anything he wants to do, he can do it, except…..
He thought of that crafty stubborn girl and he shook his head. He glanced towards Luo Yu House and his initial cold expression warmed up a bit. No, there is no except. In Huo Qu Bing’s life, there is nothing he can’t achieve, much less her.
After a day of travel, when he’s about to rest, a letter arrives for him. It’s not an army dispatch, but from Housekeeper Chen. His heart lurched and he opened it. After reading the letter, his eyes saw red. All the pain in his heart coalesced together. Yu Er, you lied to me yet again.
He stared intently at the cloth, and slowly a small icy smile appeared on his lips. This is her first letter to him, but it will not be her last letter to him. He stood up and called out of the tent “Have the two fastest horse prepared and ready to leave at any time.” Yu Er, you can’t possibly be harder to chase than the wily Xiong Nu?