Chapter 449 - The Villager's Story
Original and most updated translations are from volare. Please don't read elsewhere and stop supporting theft.
Smell? Ji Yunshu scrunched up her nose as she sniffed around herself.
Jing Rong was honest with himself; he stepped in closer and leaned into Ji Yunshu, rubbing his nose all over her shoulder. She quickly sidestepped and shrugged him off, “Nobody asked you to smell me like that.”
“If I didn’t, how would I know if you smelled?” His tone was serious, but his eyes betrayed his salacious intent. His gaze so intense that it almost burned a hole clean through Ji Yunshu’s body.
Feeling a little uncomfortable, she hurried away and tried to ignore him. Jing Rong caught up to her in no time at all, bending down to lean against her narrow shoulders, “Yunshu, oh Yunshu, there is a smell, but it’s neither strong nor faint, and neither murky nor clear either - what is it? It smells like… the fragrance of a woman.”
Pfft - Ji Yunshu nearly threw up blood in anger, shooting Jing Rong a baleful glance. She then stretched out her fingers, turning them over in front of his face. She looked up at him with her clear eyes, meeting his devilish stare. “Wrong, it’s no fragrance, but the odour of a corpse. I haven’t had the time to wash my hands after inspecting Old Master Shang’s body. Have a closer sniff - tell me if I smell like a dead body.” She pushed her fingers under his nose.
Jing Rong flinched, immediately backing away as if he had just stepped in some dog poo, “Ji Yunshu, you’re doing this on purpose, so that this Prince would feel disgusted.”
“You’re the one that’s doing it, what fragrance of a woman? You need to ask Mo Ruo to treat this nose of yours.”
“...” Jing Rong had no comeback. He almost felt like choking her to death, but this thought passed through his mind for only a fleeting moment. This woman was his personal sedative for those endless nights!
Ji Yunshu frowned, continuing under her breath, “Actually, it’s not your fault that you can’t discern this odour, since… you’re not a cat.” She continued walking ahead.
Behind her, Jing Rong called out, “Eh, eh, eh, Ji Yunshu, explain yourself to this Prince. This Prince is no cat, but a dragon!” I’m a dragon, a dragon! An authentic one!
Ji Yunshu chuckled to herself; sometimes, Jing Rong was even more adorable than Wei Yi!
Not long after, the two of them arrived at the Anfu prison. Ji Yunshu did not let Jing Rong accompany her inside as she set out to find Zhan Mo. The humidity of the prison combined with the musty odor made for a potent combination. The stench was difficult to tolerate, and Ji Yunshu frowned at the acrid smell.
Ji Yunshu walked over to a cell, before her sat a woman with her back against the cold, dirty walls. Her costume was in tatters, each cut drenched in dried blood. Ji Yunshu bent down onto one knee, reaching out to cup Zhan Mo’s chin firmly. Tilting her face upwards to meet her own gaze, she found that some parts of Zhan Mo’s pale face were still covered in thick, almost sludge-like make-up paint. Her gaze was empty, but a flicker of a bitter smile hung at the corners of her lips. She asked softly, “Are you here to save me?”
“No!” Ji Yunshu was brutally honest.
“Then what would you like to know?”
Ji Yunshu replied monotonously, “It depends on what you want to tell me.”
Interesting! “The answer?” Zhan Mo’s voice was feeble and shaky.
“I’m not here for answers, but for the process.”
“Process?” Zhan Mo blinked bewilderedly. She could not shake off Ji Yunshu’s grip on her chin, and she broke out into a smile once more, “At the public court, that young master told me to wait for you here and tell you everything I knew. Fine, I’ll do just that.”
Ji Yunshu released her grip, and Zhan Mo rested her head against the wall behind her. Her eyes were barely open, her gaze unreadable, “It’s been so long, so long…” Her voice was almost a whisper, so soft Ji Yunshu could hardly hear her at all.
Ji Yunshu made no attempts to interrupt her and she listened, all ears. Zhan Mo recounted, “My mother told me that I was born in the mass graves. My mother and I depended solely on each other, but she passed away when I was five years old. Before she died, she sold me into an opera troupe in the hopes that I could make a living for myself in the future. It’s been twenty years since then. The South City Opera Troupe was like a dream; I’ve sang ‘The Villager’s Dream’ countless times, but Teacher, have you ever heard the story behind ‘The Villager’s Dream’?”
Ji Yunshu nodded, “It’s the story of the harsh life of a villager.”
“Mm, it’s a story about a girl born into servitude within a wealthy household. She fell in love with the master of that household and became pregnant, but was beaten by the madam of that household and thrown into the mass grave. It was fortunate that both her and her child survived. This story is beautiful, but also sorrowful.” A tear rolled down Zhan Mo’s cheek.
Ji Yunshu was still paying close attention. Zhan Mo’s smile never disappeared, and she turned to Ji Yunshu, “Teacher, can you understand the pain of having to depend on medicine to survive? Can you understand the pain of wanting to die but still staying alive?” She shook her head slightly, “No, how would you? I’ve been taking medicine for twenty-five years; I’ve never once stopped taking it. I was lucky that the heavens blessed me with a good voice. I’ve stood on countless stages over the years, sung ‘The Villager’s Dream’ more times than I can remember. Each time, I was reliving my mother’s life; each line tore my heart apart. I knew better than anyone else that I could not have my cake and eat it too; the heavens blessed me with a good voice, but took away my life. I knew I could not consume Fu Ginseng with my condition, but taking it helped me sing better. I chose to keep taking it to become famous until finally, the invitation from Zhang Estate arrived at the South City Opera Troupe a month ago. I knew that my chance had finally come; I knew that it would be the last time I would perform ‘The Villager’s Dream’. From that point onwards, that piece would exist no more, and my mother’s story could finally be concluded. How much of a relief it was, that I need not live my nightmare over, and over again.”
Zhan Mo sighed, tilting her head away as she looked towards the small open window high up on the wall next to her. Sunlight seeped into her cell, each ray landing onto the wet hay that lay on the prison cell’s floors, covered with white wisps. She slowly reached out her hand, stretching out her fingers before her as she grasped for those rays of light. As she closed her fingers around them, they disappeared through her fists like liquid gold, seeping out of her reach. She paused and took a deep breath before continuing, “But… why didn’t she die?” There was something like resentment in her eyes.
She? Who was ‘she’? Ji Yunshu got up off the ground, looking down at this battleworn woman from where she stood, “Don’t worry. You’ve performed ‘The Villager’s Dream’ too many times; I’m certain you’ll get the happy ending you so wished and anticipated.”
Zhan Mo slowly looked up at her and thanked her. She asked once more, “Teacher, could I ask for another favour?”
“Speak your mind.”
“I have an incense burner that was left to me by my late mother. If I die, please tell the South City Opera Troupe to bury it together with my body.”
“Fine.” Ji Yunshu did not speak any further and turned to leave.
Inside her cell, Zhan Mo finally closed her heavy eyelids, her tightly clenched fists slowly unfurling as she drifted away...
ChouFleur Rants Corner
Lol naughty JR! and poor Zhan Mo ;;-;;
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