Dear Da Mo Yao:
I’m breaking up with you. It’s not me, it’s you. And I’m not the least bit sorry. I still love you, but you are owned by the Death Star and I refuse to be part of this atrocity of a charade of a drama. Tangren is a lying liar who lies, and if I continue to stick around, then that’ll just make me feel like I’m in an abusive relationship that I’m trying to justify. I refuse to do that. I’m better than that, and there are more fish to fry out there. I should have bailed on TR when my loverboy bailed, going through years of hell there with the way Ladyboss treated my loverboy like he was a smelly orphan and her other two kids were perfect. But now she’s abusing the other cute boy who always did everything she asked, and I can’t watch that unfold. I spent the last two hours crying in the toilet (I’m serious) before I can even write this break up letter, because it’s not easy.
One of my favorite C-novels being made into a drama, how could I not want to see it unfold? But I refuse to be treated like I have the IQ of a chimpanzee, when TR could blithely tell me Hu Ge was Huo Qu Bing for the past 3!!! months, even going so far as to try and rope Wallace Huo in to play Jiu Ye, and then send off one Jiu Ye candidate only to bring back a completely wrong Huo Qu Bing. Why should I even bother? So I won’t. This is the end of the road for you and I as a translation project, and I’ll make sure I never ever see another one of your drama related postings floating around so I can keep my fantasies intact. Since I’m in such a fucking bitter mood, and if I itch to translate more stuff, maybe I’ll take your daughter Yun Zhong Ge for a twirl. To think I scoffed when Yumama got his paws on YZG, but now I’m actually happy he did so TR can’t screw it over as well. So long, and please don’t call. You’ll just make me cry even more. I wish I can take you away from this all, but I can’t. So I’ll just save myself, and hope you understand. Emotionally I’m all wrung out, and it’s time I found a healthier and less co-dependent relationship.
A Hella Pissed off Koala
Chapter 27: An Argument
Because I was convalescing, Huo Qu Bing rarely went back to his own estate so that he could spend as much time with me as possible. He’s here almost daily, and we both go out of our way to avoid discussing certain things. All we do is try to make the other person happy, and to hide any unhappiness. It’s as if his only purpose right now is to make sure I get better, and we’ve both purposely forgotten the reason I got sick in the first place. At least, we try to pretend we’ve forgotten.
I’ve laid on a pallet for nearly half a month now and the new year is upon us before I can get up and move around. I look at myself in the mirror and notice that my face has expanded by an entire size. I put my hand under my chin and press on my cheeks. Yup, chubby. “Looks like I won’t be able to fit into the new outfit I had made just for the new year.” Xing Yen was snerking off the to side “How could you NOT gain weight? It’s like General Huo has been daily feeding a…..” I glared at her and made a slashing gesture on my neck to indicate she better shut up. I don’t care if they laugh about me behind my back, but she better not dare say that word in front of me now.
“It’s not I who said it, it’s Hong Gu who said it. General Huo is no longer a general these days, he’s become a pig farmer. All day long he asks “What has Yu Er eaten today?” “How much has she eaten?” “She needs more nutritious foods.”….” Xing Yen stuck her tongue out at me and skipped out of the room. Too bad she ran into into an arriving Huo Qu Bing, causing her face to lose all color. Immediately she kneeled on the ground and bowed her head. I was planning to get her back for what she just said, but now I just clap and laugh at her “You totally got your just desserts!”
Huo Qu Bing glanced over Xing Yen and smiled at me “Guess who I brought to see you?” I thought for a moment and my heart leaped “Ri Chan?” Huo Qu Bing nodded and opened the curtain behind him “Welcome honored guest! Someone didn’t even blink when she saw me, but the moment she heard it was you, her two eyes lit up.”
I shot a look at Huo Qu Bing and told a kneeling Xing Yen “Tell the kitchen to make a few dishes and….ask Hong Gu if there is any wine from the Xi Yu region and bring some here.” Ri Chan is wearing a white fox fur cloak and he slowly walked inside. My heart swelled leaving me unable to find a single word to say. All I can do is stare at him and dumbly smile. Memories from my childhood come flooding back: passionate and impetuous Yu Dan, mischievous and difficult Mu Da Duo, and a wise-beyond-his-years Ri Chan.
Ri Chan also silently stared at me, finally smiling and nodding his head “Your being alive makes me so happy.” I also smile and nod my head “Seeing you again also makes me so happy.” A million words we want to say, and all we can say is a simple “happy”.
Huo Qu Bing leaned on the pallet “Are you guys planning to just stand there and talk all day?” Ri Chan smiled and took off his cloak and placed it next to Huo Qu Bing’s black ermine cloak, then joining him on the pallet. I help Xing Yen place the food on the table and then Huo Qu Bing pulls me down to sit next to him. His hand remains on my waist, but since Ri Chan is here, I’m embarrassed and try to shake him off. Ri Chan shook his head and smiled “This is the first time I’ve ever seen her blush. Looks like General Huo isn’t just capable at fighting wars, you also managed to tame this difficult girl.”
Huo Qu Bing actually had an uncharacteristically modest expression and just lowered his head and drank his cup of wine. I place a cup in front of Ri Chan and pour him some wine “The moment we reunite and you’re already saying mean things about me. Your punishment is to drink.” Ri Chan doesn’t decline and picks up his cup and downing the wine. He softly said “I’m sorry” and I shook my head “No need to say that. There was nothing you could have done back then.”
Ri Chan smiled but it was a forlorn smile. He poured himself another cup “Do you know that Mu Da Duo has married Yi Zhi Xie?” I play with the empty cup in my hand “I’ve seen them, and I accidentally shot an arrow into Mu Da Duo.”
Ri Chan was stunned and then he understood “No wonder! So that was what happened! Rumor was that she got injured when she was in pursuit of General Huo, but I didn’t know you were the one to injure her. Yi Zhi Xie, because of you……” Ri Chan shot a look at Huo Qu Bing “…….and Yu Dan, he was especially caring towards Mu Da Duo and me. Especially towards Mu Da Duo, he was coddling and protective. Mu Da Duo didn’t understand back then and just worshipped Yi Zhi Xie. But once she realized what was the reason, I can tell she was in a lot of pain. But after being injured this time, Yi Zhi Xie treats her a bit differently than before. So you have seen them already…..”
Mu Da Duo didn’t die, so that means she and I no longer owe each other anything. Our childhood friendship can now end and we will never have any further relationship with each other. I no longer care about their lives at all. I cut off Ri Chan “Why does Yi Zhi Xie want to kill your father and the other tribal chief?” Ri Chan hesitated for a moment “Since you’ve seen him, don’t you think he’s changed?”
I replied “He….he appears to have less patience than before. In the past he was ruthless, but now he’s added a vicious streak. He’s also completely distrusting of people. That day, when his guards lied, none of us suspected, but he immediately could tell. It’s clear that he’s likely never trusted those people to begin with, and he is now unwilling to forgive people for any transgression.”
Ri Chan nodded “Since he amassed an army and proclaimed himself the Shan Yu, the most important change to his personality is that he no longer trusts anyone. He’s always worried that someone around him will do what he did. A prolonged period of distrust has caused all of us around him to wonder not if this would happen again, but when.” Ri Chan sighed “As his subordinates, the worst feeling is following a ruler who is constantly suspecting you. Yi Zhi Xie has great hopes and plans for the Xiong Nu, but because of his deeply rooted suspicions, all the tribal chiefs live in fear and are afraid to act.”
Huo Qu Bing laughed “Suspicion is the foundation of being a ruler, and a good ruler simply puts his suspicion within the confines of a reasonable boundary. Using the tactics of a ruler to control those around him, some rulers go overboard, but I find Yi Zhi Xie is still within the boundaries of reason. The Han has a saying called “not a proper name, not a correct saying” and Yi Zhi Xie suffers from this (for usurping the throne). Right now the awkward relationship between Yi Zhi Xiu and his tribal chiefs are partly to blame on the behavior of the tribal chiefs. If Yu Dan had ascended the throne, they would have naturally submitted to him. But the way Yi Zhi Xie came to power, they are all holding a watch and see attitude towards him. If Yi Zhi Xie is a good ruler, then they will think it was meant to be. If not, then they will all wonder what if Yu Dan had taken over. All these thoughts are clearly visible to Yi Zhi Xie, so how could he not be frustrated with his subordinates?”
Ri Chan drank and sighed “It’s hard to believe that the person who understands our Shan Yu today is not a Xiong Nu person, but it’s instead the Great General Huo. If the Shan Yu heard what you just said, he would have wanted to drink with you because you are his kindred spirit.” Ri Chan continued “On the scholarly side there is Dong Fang Xu, Shi Ma Xiang Ru, Shi Ma Qian and company. On the military side there is the Great General Wei and the Great General Huo. Plus an Emperor with great vision and foresight. A Han dynasty that will conquer far and wide is dawning…..” Ri Chan toasted Huo Qu Bing “You are one of the builders of this great Han dynasty, and you and I….” Ri Chan toasted me “……are lucky enough to have a front row seat to watch this sure to be thrilling and epic writing of history before our eyes.”
It’s hard to find a friend to drink with, and even with Huo Qu Bing and Ri Chan’s high tolerance levels, they still drink enough to get tipsy. Ri Chan prepares to leave and I give him his fox fur cloak. Walking him out the door, even though I said I wasn’t cold, Huo Qu Bing draped his black ermine cloak over me.
Ri Chan was wobbling as he walked out the door, slapping Huo Qu Bing on the shoulder “I’ll place Yu Jin in your hands now. She’s suffered quite a lot already. You….you have to treat her well.” Huo Qu Bing was also slightly unsteady on his feet but his smile was wide as he replied “No problem. You needn’t worry, I promise to take good care of her.” I humph at them “Do you guys notice me standing here? Can’t believe you’re talking as if I’m not right here.” They continue to ignore me and drape their arms around each other’s shoulder, laughing and chatting like the best of friends.
At the front door, a carriage passes by and I notice the wolf brand on the back of the horse. It looks familiar but I can’t remember where I’ve seen it before? Ri Chan said in surprise “I can’t believe the wolf brand can be seen in Chang An?” I quizzically ask him “You’ve seen it before? I also think it looks familiar.” Ri Chan explained “It belongs to a very mysterious group in Xi Yu with a history going back seventy or eighty years. Rumor has it that it was the largest desert thief organization in all of Xi Yu. But others say it’s not, since people have seen the wolf brand protect Han travelers against other desert thieves. No one can say who they really are, but where the wolf brand shows up, everyone in Xi Yu knows to avoid them. It’s clear they are very powerful in Xi Yu.”
I make an “ah” sound of comprehension and then suddenly remember where I’ve seen the wolf brand before. That day when I went to eat in Long Xi with Li Cheng, I saw the wolf brand and the waiter said that the two men were looking for a young girl. That day I thought it looked familiar so I make a mental note of it……
The cold wind makes Ri Chan even more clumsy as he stumbled onto his carriage. Huo Qu Bing is also wobbling so I stop thinking about this matter and quickly move to hold him still. After Ri Chan’s carriage departs, I notice from the corner of my eye Li Guang Li sitting on a horse watching this scene from a distance. Huo Qu Bing currently has his arm around my waist and his head rest on my shoulder. I let out a resigned sigh and turn around to help Huo Qu Bing back inside. I hope Li Guang Li doesn’t share this with Li Yan, otherwise who knows what she’ll do next.
After I walk in the yard a short distance, I suddenly remember where I’ve seen the wolf brand. Thieves? Jiu Ye once said that his grandfather was a thief, and now a series of images flashes through my mind. I remember where I first saw the wolf brand, it was my first meeting with Jiu Ye at the Yue Ya Spring. That day Shi Jing Yen even pointed to the wolf brand and berated me for daring to try to steal from them. That’s why I’ve a recollection of that wolf brand.
Then….that day at the restaurant in Long Xi when they were looking for a young girl…..were they looking for me? Was Jiu Ye already looking for me back then? If he had found me then, what would things be like now? We were once so close to each other, one outside the window, the other inside. But alas, we appeared to have just missed each other.
“Yu Er, I’m so thirsty!” Huo Qu Bing called out and I quickly gathered my thoughts and hurried my steps to help him back inside the room “We’re almost back. What would you like to drink? Some tea, or some fresh fruit juice?”
With so many thoughts swirling around, I ended up not going to the Shi Estate to wish grandpa a happy new year. I only send someone to deliver presents there. Huo Qu Bing has many elders so he left the estate first thing in the morning to go wish everyone a happy new year. I’m bored sitting by myself and remember a few days ago when Huo Qu Bing saw Hong Gu embroidering a pouch. He teasingly asked me if we might just get engaged without anyone’s permission, and I can make him an embroidered pouch as a symbol of our engagement. I’ve never spent time on things like embroidering, but since I’ve nothing to do, I decide to try it out! I think about how happy and surprised he’ll be when he sees the pouch and that makes me so happy inside.
I look for all types of colored thread and go ask Hong Gu for a pattern sheet. Hong Gu looks everywhere before sending me a pattern sheet consisting of a pair of intertwining gold and silver flowers. One gold, one silver, the lines are simple but the design is lively and elegant. Hong Gu sees me staring at the pattern in a daze and teases me “I wanted to find you something else, but nothing else is easy to embroider. This is the easiest and looks so pretty. It’s perfect for someone like you without much experience with embroidering. I worked hard to dig this up, so if you’re not happy I’ve got nothing else. I’ll have to hire someone to embroider something else for you.”
I shook my head “No need, this is fine!” I tie two bamboo rods around the cloth and prepare the needle and thread. Hong Gu shows me how to get started, and once she sees I’m doing well enough on my own, she leaves to do other things so I can slowly embroider. I sit next to the window with my head bent embroidering. Sometimes I would raise my head and take a break, breathing in the scent of the plum blossoms from the garden wafting inside. It smells lovely, but I can hear some firecrackers popping occasionally as well which initially disrupted my concentration. Eventually I get used to it and focus my attention on the embroidering, barely noticing it anymore.
“What an unusual sight to see Xiao Yu with a needle and thread in her hand.” Tian Cao’s voice suddenly rings in my ears and I lift my head to see Jiu Ye standing there. In my shock the needle pierces my finger and the pain causes me to snap out of it. I smile and pull the needle out “Jiu Ye and third brother Shi, happy new year!” Jiu Ye looked at the embroidery in my hand and says nothing. Tian Cao looked at Jiu Ye and then at me “Aren’t you going to invite us inside? Are we going to talk through the window the whole time?” I hurry to put the embroidery down and welcome them in with a smile.
Tian Cao sits down in front of the table, not even shooting the breeze with me before picking up a tea pot and pouring himself a cup. Jiu Ye wheeled himself next to the window and picked up my embroidery, turning to look at me with his eyes vibrant “Is your finger still bleeding? Let me take a look.” He wheeled himself over but I stepped back and hid my finger behind my back. “Just a few drops of blood, it’s no big deal.”
He smiled and put the embroidery down “I’ve just been wanting an embroidered pouch. What luck that you’ve decided to pick up a needle and thread. When you have time why don’t you make me one?” I pretend I didn’t hear what he said “Would you like some tea?” Jiu Ye replied “No thanks. We’re here to see you and we’ll be leaving shortly. We also want to pass word from Xiao Feng’s grandpa, thanking you for your presents. Please visit him when you have time.”
I murmur a soft yes while Jiu Ye continues to smile “If you’re reluctant to go to the Shi Estate because of me, I can always stay away.” After sending Jiu Ye and Tian Cao away, I’m no longer in the mood to embroider so I just lay on the window sill with my mind blank.
There is some dust on the window corner and I wipe it off. Dust can be wiped away so easily, leaving me to bitterly wonder why my heart couldn’t be the same way. I can decide who to keep inside, and who to thoroughly wipe away. Wouldn’t that be great! I can control my behavior but my heart isn’t so easy to control. When it likes someone, it refuses to listen; and now when it will let me forget, it also won’t tell me.
Tian Cao hurried into the yard and I stare behind him “Jiu Ye is not here, and he doesn’t know I’m here either.” I slowly stand up “What do you want? If you’re here to ask me to reconsider, then there is no need.”
Tian Cao answered “I’m not here to ask you anything. We all saw what happened between you and Jiu Ye years ago. Whomever you choose today, none of us have any grievances about that. We can only chalk it up to Jiu Ye not having that good fortune. But I just want to tell you something you might not know. Did you know that Jiu Ye started looking for you on the very day you left Chang An?”
My heart was aching “I didn’t know before, but I just discovered it a few days ago. I saw the wolf brand. Did Jiu Ye ask them to look for me?” Tian Cao nodded his head “It wasn’t just the wolf brand looking for you, the assassins organizations in Xi Yu, all the desert thieves in the desert, even the Luo Lan and Gui Su kingdoms were all looking for you. But you had thoroughly disappeared.”
I smiled wanly. There was no way anyone could have known that I had been nabbed and taken to the Han dynasty army base to cross-dress and pretend to be a soldier. I never even made it to Xi Yu and instead followed the army to the Xiong Nu. No matter how many people were looking for me in Xi Yu, there was no way I could be found there. It was my letter to Huo Qu Bing that ended up directing Jiu Ye the wrong way.
Tian Cao continued “We followed your every move once you left Chang An, but our trail stopped at the inn in Liang Zhou. We asked around but there were no leads. Because of this, Jiu Ye even made a trip to the Huo Estate to plead with the housekeeper there. Jiu Ye, who has never once begged anyone before, even when the Shi Enterprises were failing Jiu Ye never even went to beg the Emperor, and it turns out that the first person Jiu Ye ever begged in his entire life was a housekeeper at the Huo Estate. I don’t want to recollect the insult we endured that day.”
That day at the Long Xi army base, I finally now realize what the conversation was about across the curtains. I also understand why the soldier’s voice suddenly got so low I couldn’t hear it anymore. Huo Qu Bing must’ve told him to silence himself.
“When General Huo returned to Chang An, Jiu Ye also went to see him personally. General Huo was actually very polite to Jiu Ye, but when asked about your whereabouts, he only replied that he did not know. Jiu Ye is an open person who behaves in a straightforward way. Even with the way things have turned out today, he’s not going to stab anyone in the back. He feels like he owes you so much, and this is the price he has to pay for not being honest with you back then. This is his punishment for not treasuring you when he had the chance. But I don’t care about any of that. I just want you to know the entire truth so that it is fair for both you and for Jiu Ye. General Huo is indeed an extraordinary man. On the battlefield he’s a fearless warrior, and off the battlefield he’s a genuine romantic. He’s truly a real man’s man, an undeniable hero. No matter who you pick, I will be happy for you.”
Tian Cao finished talking and turned around and left, leaving me standing alone in the wind.
It’s long past dinner time and outside is already pitch black. Huo Qu Bing comes home with a face full of fatigue and sees Xing Yen clearing the plates. He asks incredulously “How come dinner is so late?” I don’t answer and Xing Yen bows and quickly says “She didn’t eat at all. However the plates looked when I brought them was how they looked when I cleared them.”
I lightly murmur “Xing Yen, you can leave when you’re done clearing the table.” Xing Yen gave me a look and pouted, but her movements got faster and soon she was done and left the room. Huo Qu Bing smiled and sat down next to me “What’s wrong? Upset that I’m back so late?” He’s smiling but I can see the hidden stress in his eyes. I asked “Did the elders give you a lot of grief?” He replied “You don’t have to worry about these things. I’ll handle it. Now tell me why you didn’t eat dinner?’
I see the stress in his eyes and my heart aches, so I tamp down what I was about to say and shake my head “No reason. I ate some fried snacks at lunchtime, and with the lack of activity, I’m just not hungry still.” He stood up and took off his outer robe “Then let’s eat later when you’re hungry!” He suddenly saw the half-embroidered pouch in the tray and asked in shock “Did you make that?” He picked it up and looked at it for quite some time, his eyes twinkling with happiness “Is it for me? What…did you prick yourself?”
He walked over to me and picked up my hand to look at my finger but I quickly pulled it back and turned my head “I didn’t embroider it for you, it’s for myself.” He hesitated for a moment and sat down next to me, forcefully turning my head to look at him “What’s going on? Yu Er, if something happened you can start a fight with me, you can berate me, but don’t be upset like this without telling me why. Isn’t a married couple supposed to be honest with each other?”
“Who’s married to you?” I said it so fast that it was out before I realized it, and I saw the look of hurt pass through his eyes. My heart hurt as well and I quickly said “I didn’t mean it like that. I’m….I’m sorry.” He smiled sadly “The person who should be sorry is me. I can’t marry you, and yet I’m keeping you by my side without a proper title.”
I counter “I don’t care about official titles. And since I don’t care about these things, clearly I’m not upset because of this. I just want to ask you….have you always been honest with me?” He smiled confidently “Of course!”
I stare at him in silence and his brow furrows as he thinks about something, causing his expression to turn chilly ” Did you go see Meng Jiu?” He coldly continued “If you are referring to what happened at the inn in Liang Zhou, then I don’t think I did anything wrong. Since he doesn’t like you, why does he keep bothering you? You give him chance after chance, so what right does he have to wait until you’ve left before seeking you out?”
I can’t believe that he doesn’t feel the least bit guilty for what he did. The little bit of hurt I feel for him dissipated and all my anger bubbles forth “Huo Qu Bing, you did this for your own personal reasons. There is the insulting and ridicule, followed by the withholding of information. Your behavior is deplorable!”
I can see the vein throbbing in his forehead and all the hurt in his eyes. He stared at me and suddenly started laughing “Because of him….you” He shook his head and continued to laugh “What am I in your eyes? I did have my own personal reasons. My personal reason was that I didn’t want to see him hurt you again. I just wanted you to forget all the pain of the past and stop being tormented by it all. My personal reason was wanting you to be happy.”
He suddenly stood up and walked out of the room. In seconds his figure has disappeared into the dark night and in that moment, the lamplight in the room appeared to have dimmed significantly. It was clearly his fault, so how did it manage to become my fault? I pick up the embroidery and throw it on the floor. The moment my foot is about to crush the just embroidered gold and silver flower, I hesitate. My body weakens and I lay down on the pallet. My heart is bitter and I wonder to myself – the complicated intertwining vines, so which one of us is grabbing the other person?
[And here’s the end of the line, folks. This is the last chapter I’m translating. If ever I finish this project, I guess you’ll know because a new chapter will have popped up. It’s rather apropos this is the last chapter translation, the mood really echoing how I feel right now. I finished this before the news hit, so it’s your gain this chapter is even out. Had the news hit even before I finished the final sentence, I would have hit delete. That’s how angry I am. Thanks for a wonderful time reading and chatting with me. It was fun while it lasted.]