A Song so Tragic that a Heart Breaks
“Wow, you actually managed,” Shen Yiren complimented.
“Poison King pretty much has anything bizarre and rare you could ask for, let alone pots; he has a stack of them. There’s also plenty of spring water. All we have to do is be careful not to contaminate things with the poison floating around.”
Well, it wouldn’t have harmed Boss when she already consumed the snake gall I fed her.
“Oh, it’s good. Good job when this snake lost a chunk of its body. You’re better than Liu Shan Men’s chef. Actually, I’d say you’re not far from an imperial chef. Ever considered employment as a chef?”
“To quote the sages of old: a glutton is bound to be a good chef. Our ancestors’ wisdom is reliable.”
“You actually think you’re all that just because I praised you a little?”
“I don’t even have all my necessary utensils. If I had a proper kitchen, the heavens would cast a beam of light down on me.”
“Clouds inside the light.”
“An elder jumps out of the cloud and introduces himself as Taibai Jinxing, here on Jade Emperor’s orders to invite me to heaven as their celestial chef.”
“Hahaha. That’s how far you’re taking it? You better pray you don’t run into a rabbit-raising maiden who boots you into a field.”
I grinned back: “I only know one maiden who raises rabbits, and she’s right in front of me.”
“Me?” Shen Yiren tilted her head to the side. “I don’t raise pets.”
“Sometimes, people don’t recognise their strengths and weaknesses. As the guardian of Rabbit Sect, I’m v-, stop going for my face!”
Shen Yiren glanced down to her placket and pulled it up. “I don’t understand you men, always gawking at the same spot. It’s just flesh, big deal. It’s a nuisance when walking and an obstacle in training. Don’t you find it burdensome?”
“No.” I got to my feet then continued, “The heavens must have a reason for giving us what we have. Flower fragrances, lush grass, green and fat, red and thin, everything has its reasons for being the way it is. The heavens must’ve given you extra for good reason. You love your body deep down. Open your heart. Open your arms. Embrace your heart. Do not let the bright sun blind you…”
“… Why do you get verbose whenever you talk about this sort of stuff? Who taught you these crooked logics?”
I lifted my chest: “My shifu.”
I swear to god I could literally see Shen Yiren’s respect for Mount Daluo drop.
I had no problem finishing my share, but Shen Yiren stopped eating after a few bites to deliberate, so I assuaged, “Don’t worry. We’re not stuck yet. We still have food and water.”
“That just means we’ve extended the length of time we’re stuck here. Surviving isn’t the issue. Somebody is bound to come in search of Poison King if he does not report back. If there are other mechanisms to open the door, somebody can come in. Thing is, what if Luo Ming doesn’t care if Poison King dies? If we don’t make it out in time, Luo Ming might’ve succeeded in his plan by the time we get out.”
True, I think it’s already the third day of the preliminaries, yet we still haven’t found Second…
“There is a way out.”
“I have an idea, except…”
“Quit the guess-what act and out with it.”
“Don’t forget what you said. I’m going to need you to suffer a bit. You okay with that?”
After I explained my plan, I had Shen Yiren go back to the main hall.
“I’ve moved everything as you requested. What’s next?”
“Shut your eyes.”
“Just close them.”
And… I had to wait for Shen Yiren to finish shooting glares first before she obeyed.
“If you dare to take undue advantage of me, you’re going to get a taste of hell.”
“Nah, I just need you to sing a song.”
Shen Yiren opened her eyes again. “You want me to what?”
“… You want to summon wolves here to bite the door down?”
Well, that’s not remotely close to what I had in mind, but you did just reveal what your singing standard is.
I merely didn’t want Boss to see me open the door.
“Look, just close your eyes and sing a song. Don’t open your eyes until you’re done. By the time you’re done singing, the door will be open.”
“How? What’s your method?”
I placed my index finger over my lips curved upwards: “Secret.”
“Whatever… Disclaimer: I can’t sing. If you laugh at my lousy singing, I will smack you to death. You accept?”
“… I won’t laugh even if you beat me to death.”
Why do I have to suffer if you can’t sing?!
Shen Yiren closed her eyes and started to sing with rosy cheeks, “With a cup of wine in hand, I ask the clear sky, when will the moon be clear and bright? In the heavens on this night…”
I listened to Shen Yiren’s earnest singing until she opened her eyes. Since I was still standing where I was before she started singing, she asked, “Didn’t you say the door would be open once I finished my song?”
“Place your hand on your heart and tell me: does that qualify as singing?!”
Hah, silenced you for the first time!
“Boss, be honest, are you tone deaf?”
“H-huh?! Did you just diss me?!”
“You call that singing?! You just recited Song Dynasty poet Su Shi’s ‘Water Melody’!”
“Wh-what do you expect me to do when I can’t pitch?”
“Yeah, but you can, at least sing Water Melody, can’t you?”
“I hardly had time for literacy when I focused on training when I was a kid. How do you expect me to sing? I only knew a song or two when I was younger.”
“I can’t remember the name, but I remember the first line was. ‘There’s an old ox by the riverbank.’”
“I heard you were educated! How old were you when you sang that?”
“… Sing something famous, like Melody of the River or Hillside Sheep. Can’t you sing any of them?”
“I know two lines from Hillside Sheep, but I can only recite it.”
“The peaks and ridges are gathering. The waves are violent. The Tongguan road is in the mountains and rivers. The man with a broken heart only passes by palace ruins. In an empire’s prosperity, the people get the worst of it. In an empire’s downfall, the people get the worst of it.”
I’ll give it to Shen Yiren for having a charming voice even though she couldn’t sing. As a matter of fact, had Yan Shisan not ruined her with his northern dialect, she’d probably have made it rich as a storyteller.
“I know it. I’ll write it out for you. You can sing my version.” I carved my lyrics for it down on the ground using my pocket knife.
“The shifu of the twenty-eight year old nun in her prime shaved her head… When I cheered him up. Two gestures were full of yearning. Enemies… What the devil is this?”
“Heh, ‘Hillside Sheep – Twenty-eight Year Old Nun’, duh.”
Leave my face out of this!
“Just sing something, even children’s nursery rhymes. If you prefer, sing the song you sang in your childhood.”
“D-do I have to sing?” Shen Yiren’s face was on fire.
“If you want to get out.”
Shen Yiren looked over to the door and finally nodded. She cleared her throat and then started after a pause. “There’s a big ox by the riverbank. There are two turtles at the bottom…”
I take back what I said. She’s not just tone deaf. She can’t even produce a melody. She’s as bad at singing as Su Xiao is at cooking! If she ever lost both hands, she could “sing” her opponents to death!
“The turtle slowly makes its way home. February’s moon illuminates the lake.”
I better get on with this before I get knocked out.
I rolled my sleeves up and went over to the door. As I said, it’s simple, but most people don’t think of it.
“… Flowers rain down in Chang’an.” When Shen Yiren opened her eyes, she had her hair blowing in her face. The eternal stone door was open. “How did you do it…?”
I just smiled.
A mechanism lowered the door, so we just need to reverse engineer it. It was a little tiresome, but I got the job done. All I did was lift the door back up and stick it back in the rock.
“It’s time for us to leave.”
Taibai Jinxing – In this context, MFZ is referring to Jade Emperor’s envoy in Journey to the West, not the Chinese name for Venus in Chinese astronomy.
Hillside Sheep – Even though Shen Yiren mentions two lines, it’s impossible to translate it as two lines, so ignore the fact that it doesn’t correspond. I can’t change the number as it’s a legit song, and changing her line count is disregarding the original.