So I discovered I was still in the mood to translate Yun Zhong Ge, but not exactly in linear fashion. I can’t help it, there are some random chapters that are just screaming for me to translate it, so I’ll do just that. You all read if you want to. This is actually the second-to-last chapter of the book. I’m also preparing a summary of the remainder of the novel so folks can follow along when I translate random chapters here and there. Again, I don’t think it ruins the experience, because YZG is less about plot then its about emotion and Tong Hua’s beautiful evocative prose. This chapter is beautiful, moving, and heartbreaking. But by the end of YZG, that description pretty much fits every chapter.
Chapter 57: Tomorrow We are Strangers on the Horizon
When news of Huo Guang’s death spread, Yun Ge bid farewell to Doctor Chang, who she had been learning medicine from in the past year, hidden in the mountains outside of Chang An. Dr. Chang knew their fate was at an end and didn’t try to keep her, only worried about her health and her cough. Yun Ge’s cough was getting worse, and oftentimes she would cough up blood. By now Yun Ge’s medical skills was as good as Dr. Chang but even she could not find medicine to help her illness. Dr. Chang lamented that some illnesses of the heart cannot be cured by medicine.
The neighbors all came to bid Yun Ge farewell, and it was late into the night before everyone departed. Yun Ge handed her belongings to Yu An to take back to Chang An first, as she made a visit to Ping Ling (where all the imperial tombs are situated) before heading back to the city.
The view was vast and unobstructed, the tomb standing silent under a sky full of stars. Sconces where fires were lit lined the sides of the tomb, casting its blue-green light on the tomb stone as the discordant sound of cicadas filled the air.
Yun Ge walked up the steps and realized there were no guards there to stop her. She didn’t think it was odd. In her heart, she wanted to see him, so she came. There was nothing odd about that at all.
A girl dressed in Palace finery was sitting on the jade steps and staring at the star-filled sky. She heard Yun Ge’s footsteps and spoke without even turning to look at Yun Ge “Tonight there is dense dew in the air, there will likely be a thick fog at dawn.”
Yun Ge stopped, and after she saw clearly who the person was, she walked over to her and also looked into the distance.
Shang Guan Xiao Mei said “I love sitting here and waiting for the sunrise. It’s not a long period of time, but the view constantly changes. I often wonder what time of the day you will visit here? I think Big brother Emperor must love watching the sunrise with you here.”
Yun Ge silently stared at the darkness at the edge of the horizon. In her brows there was a sorrow that could not be erased. In Xiao Mei’s brows, it was the same, a thick deep sorrow etched there. Xiao Mei softly said “I always thought the day the Huo family was extinguished would be the happiest day of my life. But yesterday when I heard of my grandfather’s death, I actually cried. Perhaps its because I know that soon I will be the only person remaining in my family. My father’s side of the family has all been killed, and soon, my mother’s side of the family will all leave me as well.”
Yun Ge turned to look at Xiao Mei, and Xiao Mei turned to Yun Ge and tried to smile but she couldn’t “I hated Huo Guang for so long and now he’s finally dead! But I only have sorrow and not a shred of happiness.”
In the cold night breeze, Xiao Mei’s body shivered, and so did Yun Ge’s body. She grabbed Xiao Mei’s hand and both their hands were ice cold. They could not give each other any happiness, but at least it took away some of the loneliness.
After some time, just like Xiao Mei predicted, a thick blanket of fog started to roll in. Soon it covered the entire plain, darting between the tomb stone and the rock outcroppings.
Xiao Mei explained “This plain has the tombs of the Founding Emperor of the Han dynasty, Emperor Hui, Emperor Jing, Emperor Wu, and now Big brother Emperor (Emperor Zhao). Just Emperors there are already five of them! And countless legendary folks buried here as well – the Great General Wei, Biao Qi General Huo Qu Bing, Prince of the Xiong Nu tribe Jing Ri Can, Consort Li, etc. This place also used to be a battlefield. Time passes and dynasties change, but this plain remains the same. I often think that a hundred, a thousand years from now, what will Wei Yang Palace look like? Probably a bunch of weeds in an empty land! At that time, no one will know who we were. Just like we never knew the famous rulers before us personally, we only hear whether one was a sage ruler or a terrible tyrant. In the history books, I’ll probably be described as a useless Empress, and a few sentences at most will be used to describe how I lived out the remainder of my life as a Great Dowager Empress. And Big brother Emperor will be like all the Emperors before him who died young. A few sentences to describe his life, and maybe a description that he was intelligent and thoughtful.”
Xioa Mei continued “Who the people will remember is Liu Xun. The scholars will use their pens to chronicle his life, his achievements and his glory, his loyalty and his understanding of the common people. But…..is that important? Even if the entire world has forgotten Big brother Emperor, you and I will remember him. How long you and I will live, is now long he will live on. Actually, I can guarantee you that when Liu Xun wakes up from a nightmare, he will remember Big brother Emperor. The more Liu Xun tries to forget, the more he will remember Big brother Emperor.”
Yun Ge heard Liu Xun’s name and wanted to share her secret sorrow. In the entire world, Xiao Mei was perhaps the only other person who could understand how she felt. But in the end she decided to keep quiet. Just like Ling gege chose to keep silent about it. Hatred and revenge cannot bring the dead back to life, it only makes the living sink deeper into pain. There was already so many chains binding Xiao Mei’s life, Yun Ge didn’t want to add another layer. She wanted Xiao Mei to slowly forget this all, and one day Xiao Mei can use the official decree Ling gege left for Xiao Mei to leave the Palace.
Xiao Mei picked up a box from the ground and handed it to Yun Ge “When the master glass maker finished this, he had already passed on. The master glass maker gave this to me, and when I saw it, I figured he had it made for you. I bring this here with me every time, and I always wonder when I will finally hand it to you. You went from Ms. Yun to Ms. Huo and then Mrs. Meng, so I even wondered if you wanted it now.”
Yun Ge opened the box and inside was a glass house. It had a master bedroom, a study, a living room, jade curtains, all the amenities, and even a lily pond in the back. There was a bamboo patch outside the window. The roof was made using glass tiles, and looking inside the house through the roof, two little clay persons was laying side-by-side and looking at the sky through the roof.
[One night years ago Ling gege and Yun Ge talked about a shared dream to build a glass house when they can view their beloved star-filled sky from inside their room.]
The two clay persons were comparatively crudely made when compared to the exquisite craftsmanship of the glass house. But the expressions on the two clay persons were lively and animated, showing the two were quite close to each other.
Xiao Mei softly said “The master glass maker said these two clay persons were given to him by the Emperor, and wasn’t made by the glass maker.”
Yun Ge stared at the glass house, and in the eyes of someone who had long since stopped caring, tears the size of pearls tumbled forth. The tears fell on the glass roof like it was raining, sliding down the tiles and landing on steps of the house. The two clay persons inside appeared to be laying there and enjoying the rain scene outside the house.”
The sun rose and the thick fog started to dissipate. It was like a sudden gust of wind came and blew the fog away, leaving a bright sunlight in its place. Blue skies and the vast plains surrounded them, and butterflies danced over the flowers.
The glass house in Yun Ge’s hand glittered under the sunlight, a rainbow of hues taking one’s breath away. But its beauty was as fragile as a beautiful dream, the glass under the sun so easily shattered at any time.
Xiao Mei, who had been staring at the sun, sighed heavily. She turned and leaned on a railing, smiling at Yun Ge “Are you here to say goodbye to him? Have you decided where you are going?”
Yun Ge held the glass house with both her hands and looked towards the rising sun. Her eyelashes were still wet with tears but a small smile appeared on her lips. She put the glass house back in the box and then leaned against the railing.
She looked at Xiao Mei and then pointed at her own heart “I will be going with him. He always wanted to see the world outside of Chang An, so I’m going to travel where my heart takes us.”
Xiao Mei cocked her head and smiled “So you two won’t be coming back, right?”
Yun Ge nodded her head with certainty. There was a misty brightness in Xiao Mei’s eyes before she turned her head away.
Yun Ge stood there before suddenly saying “Xiao Mei, I have an unreasonable favor to ask. Even though Huo Guang is gone……..”
“I know. You want to talk about Liu Shi. Xu Ping Jun asked it of me already. I promised I will take care of Liu Shi. Now Huo Cheng Jun is no longer a threat, and as long as I am alive, no one in the back Palace will ever harm him.”
“Thank you!” Yun Ge bowed to her and then picked up the box before leaping off the steps. Xiao Mei didn’t turn around, only loudly calling out “Take care!”
The vast blue sky, the dense trees, the never ending grassy plains, the brilliant sun – a green woven skirt was walking through the field. Her skirt flew quickly through the woods, there was shadow and light but also incomprehensible sadness paired with undefeated courage. In the morning sun, her figure quickly disappeared into the wilderness.
A pair of swallows chased each other in the sky, dancing and playing with each other. Xiao Mie stared at them and said “Big brother, you must be happy now. I’m also happy!” Two lines of tears silently fell down her face.
Meng Jue was organizing things in his room when San Yue barged into his study “Madam……Yun…..Yun Ge is back. She’s packing her things in her room.” Meng Jue said without any change in expression “I understand.”
San Yue backed away silently. Since Xu Ping Jun died, Yun Ge hasn’t set foot in Chang An. Meng Jue knew she was learning medicine with Dr. Chang but he never visited her. The two of them appeared to have no contact with each other. So San Yue didn’t know why Yun Ge would suddenly come back now.
Meng Jue opened his adoptive father’s medical journals, and on the last page was Meng Jue’s addition of his studies on curing coughing that he had been researching for the past few years. What was important was that the patient’s mental and emotional state must always be at peace.”
Yun Ge didn’t have much to pack, all she wanted to take was the few items Yu An brought out of the Palace which belonged to Liu Fu Ling, and some of her own clothes and books.
When Meng Jue arrived, he saw Yun Ge cleaning Liu Fu Ling’s jade flute with a cloth. She raised her head and looked at him, then resuming cleaning “This jade flute was once a pure purple color, but I wonder if it wasn’t stored properly, it’s actually developed red spots.”
Yun Ge’s voice was calm and gentle, talking as if they were good friends, as if they just saw each other yesterday, and not over a year ago.
Meng Jue put his medical books down and sat next to her with a smile “Then leave it be. Perhaps with more time, the red spots will disappear.”
Yun Ge wiped for a long time and still couldn’t get the spots off, so she gave up and put the jade flute carefully into its box. She got up to grab some books. “Can I have these books on acupuncture and medical theory?”
“Those books belong to my adoptive father. If you are willing to read them, he will be quite pleased. These books I just brought are also his, and since I’ve read them all, why don’t you take them with you to read!”
Yun Ge said nothing and packed those away as well. After she was done, she looked around the room and was certain she didn’t forget anything. She said to Meng Jue “I’m off now.”
Meng Jue stood up with a smile “Where are you going? Let me accompany you on your way.”
Yun Ge smiled “I’m not certain yet. I will travel and enjoy the sights. Probably visit my mom and dad. Ah Ju said that my mom wrote many letters to Third Brother saying that they miss me.”
“Then let me accompany you to the boat dock!” Yun Ge didn’t say no and allowed Meng Jue to put her books on the back of the horse.
Yun Ge rode one horse as another carried her luggage. Meng Jue also rode one horse and his other horse had his luggage. Yun Ge had no expression as she got on her horse. The two of them rode out of Chang An and didn’t say a word to each other during the ride to the dock.
When they arrived at the dock, Yu An steered the boat to the dock and helped put Yun Ge things on the boat.
Yun Ge turned to Meng Jue “It’s farewell here. You take care!” Meng Jue smiled “I’m also headed out of town. Can I catch a ride on your boat?”
Yun Ge shook her head. Meng Jue smiled “Then I guess I’ll buy another boat for my travel. If I happen to be going the same way as you, then I can’t help it.” He raised his hand to summon a boat over.
Yun Ge kept her head lowered and stood there silently. She suddenly raised her head and softly called out “King of the Jades!”
Meng Jue sucked in his breath, for a moment he was afraid to even breathe as if even the slightly breath will chase away this long awaited for calling of his name. He calmed himself before turning around.
The green woven skirt before him was similar, the face was the same, the dark eyes appeared not to have changed, but in truth it had endured the frost and unending amounts of sadness. At first glance, an Autumn lake was like a Spring lake, the waters the same color. But a deeper look reveals that underneath was not the warmth of March where the creatures are starting to come to life, but was instead the cold of October, when the world was already silent.
“In this lifetime, I will never forget Ling gege.”
Meng Jue wanted to say something but she smiled and put her finger on her lips, indicating for him not to speak.
“I will never lock him away in the deep recesses of my heart, and I don’t want to lock him away in the deep recesses of my heart. I know I miss him so much, so I want to miss him openly. He loved reading travel journals, so I plan to travel the world and hear about interesting things and write it all down so I can read it to him. I will search for the newest foods, and maybe ten or twenty years later, you will read a cookbook written by me. When I was learning medicine, I promised not to waste what I’ve learned, so I will heal people wherever I’m needed.”
Yun Ge continued “Didn’t all of you ask me to forget all those painful memories and start over again? Now I’ve finally decided to do that. I want to forget everyone and everything, and only remember the things that are between Ling gege and myself. If you want me to start over again, then please let me go! If you keep following me, then I will always remember the moment when you and Huo Cheng Jun forced me to drink the abortion medicine. I’ll remember the satchel you made………..”
Yun Ge took a deep breath but she couldn’t continue. She looked at the clouds in the distance, and after some time, she softly said “In the thousands of miles of wilderness, I’m sure I can find my peace and solitude.”
Yun Ge finished and jumped on the boat. The river breeze blew her hair around her face and her robe fluttered in the wind. Meng Jue’s face was stark white as he stood there like a statue.
He hoped and prayed for her to understand and forgive him, to let it all go. She was finally letting it all go, but he never could have imagined forgetting him would be her first step in starting over.
She was the warmth in his heart, she was the sense of taste on his tongue. The things he never thought he would have, he found it. He always believed that if he refused to let go, then he will never lose it. But he could only watch as she slowly erased herself from his life.
This parting, she did not mention meeting again, because she didn’t intend to ever see him again. She only wanted to walk the rest of her life with Liu Fu Ling by her side.
Yun Ge waved at him without any longing and then turned to say something to Yu An, who rowed the boat away from the dock.
The river was expansive and the surface was broad. In the distance, the mountain ranges loomed between the clouds. Yun Ge, with her green woven skirt, was standing at the bow of the boat as it headed towards the horizon with the cranes that were taking flight from the river.
As the boat became smaller, her figure became smaller. A gust of wind blew and the little green speck disappeared into the distance, leaving only countless cranes flying in the clouds.
His entire body was cold. He felt the entire world was desolate and all he could see was an unending stillness. He rushed into the river, falling and stumbling as he tried to chase her “Yun——–Ge——“
His cry contained the sorrow of this world, but it was quickly consumed by the sound of the rolling waves. Only the water continued to flow forward, taking with it all the gatherings and partings of this world.