Book 2: The Infinite Heart
Chapter 19 – The Infinite Heart (Part B)
In the southern border’s winter night, beneath a waxing crescent moon, there was a type of bone-penetrating clamminess. A layer of light frost crystallized on the window paper was suddenly evaporated by a burning charcoal fire.
Fuyao nibbled on her bedsheet corner as she sat on the bed. She couldn’t get into the state of mind to cultivate her qi – there was no way she could, since in the next room was a certain person who was apparently bathing.
Yes, bathing …
Flowing and splashing water. Lamp light shone through a crack in the wall.
Yes, a crack in the wall.
This building was relatively unique – Ah Shina’s building architecture was half Rong-styled and half Han-styled, all constructed of wood, with the separating walls all made of wooden logs. Some of the gaps between the wood were relatively large, so basically, if one quickly shifted from side to side in front of the gaps between the columns of logs, they could roughly see all of the spring scenery of their neighbor.
Currently, Fuyao’s bed was positioned directly towards a fairly large gap in the wood. She sat there with complete seriousness, desperately trying to prevent her eyes from wandering directly in front of her to catch a glance.
If she looked boils would grow on her eyes … she was an honorable person!
The honorable person focused her eyes on her nose, and her nose focused on her heart. She listened to the flowing water as she practiced her cultivation.
Before she finished revolving qi in her dantian, her gaze suddenly slid. She glimpsed through the largest crack and saw a white shadow, strange, it wasn’t there before, what was it?
The incredibly curious Fuyao immediately found herself a completely reasonable excuse to act as a peeping Tom – let’s check out what that was?
She jumped off the bed barefoot and tiptoed closer. After she walked in front of the gap, her eyes moved closer. Suddenly, a strand of overhanging white fur poked her eyelid.
Fuyao looked at the crack in the logs with shock – a white-bellied fat ball was currently spreading its four claws out to its maximum extent, firmly plugging in front of the gap. It was precisely the white shadow.
Once it felt someone near, the well-prepared Master Yuanbao turned its head. Jet-black, beady eyes met the stare of the peeping pervert. The two large pupils widened. Inside Master Yuanbao’s gaze was instantly conveyed all of its contempt:
“I knew you were going to peep!”
Master Yuanbao was the tragic hero that plugged its own fat body, into the only gap where its master could barely be made out bathing. It was much more righteous and noble than any of those other soldiers that blocked bullets and charged bunkers!
Only I can look at the master!
Fuyao looked at it speechlessly. Her heart’s depths were filled with extreme awe at Master Yuanbao’s almost perverted persistence and possessiveness.
She decided she would transform this awe into actual action! She would make everything clear between her and her heart’s role model.
Grinning at Master Yuanbao, Fuyao suddenly shot out a hand. She broke through the gap and grabbed Master Yuanbao in one swift motion.
The latter instantly erupted into squealing cries and desperate wriggling. It wanted to protect both its own safety and its master’s spring beauty, so it thrashed its arms and legs crazily! Fuyao chuckled, “Don’t worry, I won’t peek at your spouse, I just want to have a heart to heart talk with you.”
Just when she was clutching Yuanbao and about to walk away, she heard a person’s voice suddenly pass through the crack, holding a hint of humor.
“You said you wouldn’t look, but just then when you grabbed Yuanbao, what were your eyes desperately trying to catch a glimpse of through the crack?”
Meng Fuyao stroked her nose. She loudly proclaimed, “I saw a stinkbug sneak to the other side. I was helping you search for it.”
“Really?” The man’s voice brimmed with humor as usual. Suddenly he quietly gave an “ow!” Then with an extremely seductive tone: “There actually is a stinkbug here, so itchy! Fuyao, quickly come over, help me scratch my back.”
An object emitting a bizarre odor flashed through the crevice like lightning. It directly shot towards the bathtub of the neighboring room.
With it came a person’s great yell, that carried billowing killing intent.
“Insect-Extermination Pill, buy one get one free! Guaranteed effect, will kill in an instant! An essential item for baths both home and abroad!” ——–
“Ai, Master Yuanbao. To be honest you really had no need to block the gap. Look, your body is so out of shape, and you are so heavy! Aren’t you tired when you plug the wall?”
Master Yuanbao leisurely turned around. Its butt faced Fuyao, indicating a breakdown in negotiations. She immediately stretched out a hand to turn it around.
“Don’t you feel like there’s been a misunderstanding between us? And you know, when dealing with stuff like misunderstandings, communication is key! Come, come, stop hiding and ducking around. Spill out the secret sinful love and forbidden incest and interspecies fetishes and all the bad stuff that he hides to me!”
Master Yuanbao stretched out a claw, agonizingly covering its face. It felt ashamed for the Meng Fuyao who didn’t know how to use implication at all. Ah ah ah, why did master have to like this kind of living treasure …
“If you won’t tell me, then I guess I’ll tell you first?” Fuyao was extremely garrulous tonight. She casually reached under the bed to pull out a jug of wine, and heavily slammed it down on the table.
“I’m really annoyed, and I really want to talk. But I don’t know who to talk to. Us bosom brothers have a pretty good relationship, and I have no worries that you’ll divulge any of my secrets, so come! Let’s be merry, drown our worries with a mouthful …”
In its uncontrollable rage, Master Yuanbao almost plucked out one of its super duper precious furs – bitch, who are you calling your bosom brother! One of me only appears every hundred years, but you’re finished in only ten months! How can we even compare?
“… ah, my miseries …” Fuyao thumped her chest again and again, chugging wine with gudu gudu sounds. “Ah, my conflicts …” Thump thump thump she pounded again, then drank again. “What will I do, sigh …” Thump thump thump …
Master Yuanbao gaped at the crazed alcoholic in front of it – what was happening? This cockroach Meng Fuyao, wasn’t she always harder to hit and tougher to hurt than even a real cockroach? What happened tonight? Was she really so hurt and miserable just because she didn’t get to see master take a bath?
The kindhearted Master Yuanbao felt like it couldn’t bear it any longer. It began to seriously consider if it should grant Fuyao one peek through the crack.
En … only a glance … perhaps could be allowed? The master should be finished bathing by now anyways.
How could Fuyao have known that the white mouse was traveling down a completely different line of thought than her? She was purely depressed for herself. Ever since arriving at Yao City she had always been on the edge, and the self-blame and fury she felt for the murder of old Han Hu’s family made her self-consciously take on the burden of protecting this entire city. In her diligence she had no time to consider the things she had and didn’t have; yet when Yuan Zhaoxu suddenly appeared, he was like a great boulder that crashed into the emotional calm she had barely managed to recover. She was first shy, and then came a gradual joy and peace. However, after her joy, she was suddenly submerged beneath a great tide of sadness.
Her head ached and she felt dizzy. Her hands and feet grew hot. Unease and annoyance battled. Her inner heart surged with the colliding waves of happiness and anxiousness, throwing her into the tug-of-war between yielding to her inner urge, and the admonishment of her logic and reasoning. The rope could not be severed, nor could there be an order amidst the chaos.
Hey, it couldn’t be the poison flaring up, right? Fuyao murmured while patting her face. Turning her eyes, she saw Master Yuanbao curiously staring at her. Its dark, glimmering eyes sparkled translucently, like a pair of high-quality agate gems.
“Hey, I know you understand human speech. However, you can’t possibly read characters too?” Fuyao craftily smiled. She reached out to pet Master Yuanbao, but the latter immediately ducked away with dislike. She didn’t mind, though. She sprawled on the table in a daze, dipping her finger into tea to write some words on the table.
Master Yuanbao wiggled its butt, originally preparing to leave. When its head lowered and it caught a glimpse of the characters on the table, however, its claws suddenly stopped. After some thought, Yuanbao faced Fuyao and sat down on its rear end with a plop. From its underbelly it scooped out a little piece of fruit, which it slowly began to munch on with relish.
Seeing Master Yuanbao actually looking like it was prepared to listen to her confession, Fuyao couldn’t help but chuckle to herself. Thinking it through, she then thought, the rodent is a rodent after all. I can’t think of its intelligence too highly. Its probably staying for the cool breeze? Although, no matter what, even if the mouse was sitting right in front of her, Fuyao still couldn’t hold herself back anymore.
Tonight’s moon was chilly in color. Flowery fragrance danced in the air. A long wind blew through the night, and a person stood at heaven’s edge.
It was better to pour out all the things in her heart.
“Fortunately you’re a rodent, otherwise I really wouldn’t have dared to say anything.” Fuyao grinned at Yuanbao. “I just do not believe you can translate my words into your zhi zhi zhi and say them to your master.”
Master Yuanbao crunched down on its fruit. It didn’t even lift its head.
“Your master, sigh …” Meng Fuyao made a bitter face as she gazed at the faint light that passed through the gap in the walls. The expression was like she saw a treasure vault, but could not enter to take anything. She slowly traced out words on the table. “I think I like him a little, what should I do?”
With a crunching sound, Master Yuanbao bit down even more ferociously. In only a bite, the core of the fruit was revealed.
“Don’t be so angry.” She smiled as she looked at it, saying: “Love that passes species boundaries is doomed to have a tragic outcome. Yuanbao, I urge you, you should put away your fluttering spring heart. Even if your master won’t belong to me, he still wouldn’t be yours. Aren’t you tired of rushing around trying to flirt with him all day?”
Master Yuanbao immediately flung its claw. The fruit core inside the claw very accurately shot into Meng Fuyao’s laughing mouth. She wasn’t prepared for the fellow’s swift revenge, and almost choked to death. She roughly coughed out the core and shouted, “You horny rodent!”
She cursed for a while. Suddenly, her anger melted away. Fuyao’s chin rested back on the table, and she started to trace words out again in a half-dead state. “Ay, won’t belong to me … so I cannot like him, I absolutely cannot.”
Master Yuanbao fixed her with a disdaining gaze. Its eyes filled with a “you’re such a coward” kind of meaning.
“What do you know.” Fuyao lazily waved her hand, then wrote: “You think I’m one of those unreasonable women who want to love to don’t dare to? I just don’t want to hurt him. Since I am destined to leave, why would I willingly create a burden of affection, and cause them a lifetime of pain?”
She stared blankly at the half-moon hanging on the sky’s edge. Suddenly she slapped the table, pulled over the wine jug on the table, and desperately started chugging.
Innumerable worries in her heart, a chest filled with melancholy. These were things that shouldn’t appear in the bold, carefree Fuyao. She hated the feelings, and needed to drown everything away with strong drink.
As she raised her head to swallow mouthful after mouthful of alcohol, the clear wine flowed down tracing her chin, wetting her jacket collar.
After three consecutive flasks, Fuyao was finally drunk.
“Yuanbao … Yuanbao …” She hiccupped while holding more wine. Her blurred, dazed eyes wandered around searching for the rodent. “Listen to me … hey, where’d you go? Hey ….” ——–
The neighboring room’s lamp light glimmered. Yuan Zhaoxu had finished bathing and was reading underneath the light. Suddenly he heard a light sound – there was something squeezing and wiggling in the wall crack. Master Yuanbao crawled out bit by bit.
It directly shot in front of Yuan Zhaoxu, and from a far distance Yuan Zhaoxu could already smell the faint odor of wine. He involuntarily put down his book, chuckling, “You went to steal some wine again?”
“Not you?” Yuan Zhaoxu raised his eyebrows. “Her?”
Master Yuanbao stood up straight, wriggling its stubby tail.
“You have something to tell me?” Yuan Zhaoxu looked at Master Yuanbao. With a stretch of his hand, the fat rat obediently crawled into his palm. “What do you want to say?”
Yuanbao scratched its head. It felt like expressing what it had just saw Fuyao draw out would be a little difficult. Master Yuanbao could read the characters, yet had no way to translate them into Yuanbao speak! It rolled around in a panic on Yuan Zhaoxu’s palm.
When Yuan Zhaoxu saw this, he seemed to have thought of something. After a while he smiled and said, “I remember there was one time when we played something like the character guessing game.”
He clapped his hands. Immediately a black-clothed man appeared outside the window. Yuan Zhaoxu ordered, “Yuanbao’s toys.”
From his sleeve-pockets, the black-clothed man scooped out a box and handed it over, after which he disappeared into the night.
Master Yuanbao was overjoyed, and immediately crawled up to rummage. The little box was filled with small paper slips, and upon closer inspection they were not paper, but meticulously crafted thin cookies made of Fu-ling that had characters printed on them. This was a toy that Yuan Zhaoxu had once used, on a whim, to teach Yuanbao to recognize characters. In order to act as a gastronomic reward, he had specifically used food to create the slips – every character Yuanbao recognized, was another cracker for it to munch on.
Yuanbao dove into the box, but after a while of searching, it seemed like it didn’t find the character needed, causing Yuanbao to spin around in agitation. Yuan Zhaoxu chuckled, “You don’t have to look, there’s no character for ‘Meng’. This character isn’t commonly used so I wasn’t planning on teaching you.”
Master Yuanbao turned around with pleading eyes. Yuan Zhaoxu gently smiled and said, “You don’t have to look for the three characters ‘Meng Fuyao’. I already know you running over in such a panic must have something to do with her. She seems a little off, did she tell you something?”
“Zhi zhi!” Master Yuanbao turned around and started a new round of rummaging. After some time it retrieved the character “part”. A little later it flipped out another word, “from”.
The humor in Yuan Zhaoxu’s eyes disappeared. He studied the two words silently.
Master Yuanbao continued to rummage. These words it actually could express, but it didn’t want to. A moment later it pulled out the word “like”.
The light in Yuan Zhaoxu’s eyes flashed. Master Yuanbao, though, didn’t continue to search. Its two claws hugged out the word “you”. It angrily looked at the word for a while, really not wanting to show it to Yuan Zhaoxu. After thinking a bit, it savagely munched up the word.
Yuan Zhaoxu carefully looked at the two words, then leaned back on his chair. He beckoned over the rebellious Yuanbao to gently stroke its smooth white fur.
As he leaned, his long, slightly damp hair that hadn’t been tied up covered his shoulders, bringing an extra sense of poetic elegance to the scene. In the dim yellow lamp light, the expression in his eyes glimmered with calmness, its flowing brilliance like starlight.
Only after a long time did he stand up with his hands clasped behind his back. Pacing in front of the window, he stared into the distance, towards a certain direction. Wind blew his hair flying and fluttering like a banner.
Firelight outlined his back shadow onto the wooden walls. A slender and profound shadow, that seemed like it would never be submerged by mortal schemes, nor by life’s highs and lows, nor by the world’s changes.
The light shown through the wood wall. The binge-drinking girl had finally fallen into a stupor. Her outstretched hand knocked over the wine jug, causing it to fall onto the ground and roll with tumbling sounds.
Candlelight extinguished. Cool moonlight shone inside.
In the stillness, the wood door suddenly creaked, and a slender figure quietly walked in. They stopped in front of the heavily drunk Fuyao, then used their arms to carry her up.
Fuyao disobediently rolled around, her body weight shifting. The dark figure’s center of gravity dipped, and caught unaware, he was pulled down stumbling. She instantly hooked her arms around like an octopus. Tightly clinging to him, she murmured, “This blanket is so warm … so good.”
The dark shadow paused, but didn’t pull aside her evil hands. Firelight from the other room flickered into this room, illuminating his breathtaking eyes. The supremely elegant Yuan Zhaoxu had eyes full of gentleness in this instant.
He lowered himself down to lie by Meng Fuyao’s side. They rested on the slightly chilly wooden floorboards.
Yuan Zhaoxu rested sideways on his elbow. Using the scattered lamp light, he intently studied Meng Fuyao’s peaceful, slumbering face. He listened to her breathing and his breathing, synchronize and meld into an inseparable whole.
It was a quiet hour. In the garden in front of the buildings, a flower petal delicately gathered a drop of dew.
Time passed. Yuan Zhaoxu lightly reached out a hand to brush away some stray hairs on Fuyao’s face.
His quiet but graceful words dissipated into the silent space.
“Fuyao … everything will be alright.”
- A type of mushroom: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfiporia_extensa
- 孟The family name Meng in Meng Fuyao’s name
- 孟扶摇 = Meng Fuyao