Thursday, 3 April 2014

The Emperor's Strategy (Original Title: The Tale of Su Ji's Coffin Shop) by Qing Yao (天子谋 (原名:苏记棺材谱)-青垚) : Scene 2

   Scene 2 shows the first meeting between Su Li Li and the other male lead, Qi Feng Xiang. Time has passed since Scene 1, Su Li Li started to teach Mu Tou how to make coffins (haha, while teasing him for having a perfect coffin face). Su Li Li is always dressed as a male though Mu Tou knows that Su Li Li is a girl. Su Li Li has a male friend called Mo Da and he asked Su Li Li to go tomb raiding with him. So, late at night, Su Li Li, dressing up as a male, goes with him and then chances across Qi Feng Xiang's henchman killing someone who refuses to tell him a secret...

Scene 2: In Which a Tomb is Raided and a Heart is stolen

   Her neck was ticklishly cool, the goosebumps popped up on her hands as if on alert, Su Li Li suddenly gave a yell, the cold sharpness of her voice would triumph over the night cats.

  She turned her head, and someone's face was very close before her. 

  She quickly crawled back a few steps using her hands and legs towards the direction of the big temple. After regaining her composure, she realised the person was a young gentleman, wearing a white brocade robe, in the midst of the dark night he gave out an ambiguous aura, his narrow long eyes reflected the fire in the stars, but his manner appeared gentle and elegant, his hands on his knees, he was bending forward and watching her. After half a day*, Su Li Li finally let out a gasp of air, patted her chest, and patted her heart back to its original position. 

  She suddenly remembered the man in black robes, and quickly turned her head, she became dazed. The temple door was empty, there was no shadow of a man to be seen. In the main hall, the person who had been melted into water, even the clothes were nowhere to be seen. As if everything was an illusion, Su Li Li lifted her head and sniffed, in the midst of the air there was a decaying smell which proved it was not just an illusion. She used effort to stabilise her state of mind, climbed up from the ground, pulled her robe sleeves, and stood firmly before she faced the brocade robe gentleman with a respectful hand gesture, "The moon is dark, the winds are high, for the gentleman to be sightseeing and playing here, he must have very particular taste."

  The gentleman straightened himself elegantly and said slowly, "The night is perfect to kill someone when the moon is dark, the day is perfect to set fire when the winds are high." The voice was a little nasally, to Su Li Li it sounded like sandpaper grinding the coffin boards which had just been sawed, smooth and low.**

  With only an inch distance between them, although he was smiling brightly, she felt her back become chilly. She took in a breath of air and said, "Killing a person and setting fire is big business, digging graves is small business. Since all of us are here to look around, the gentlemen must be joking." Su Li Li gave two sounds of fake laughter, and then stood up to leave. 

  After taking two steps, her wrist was held back by his hand, his grip was like his voice, not light not heavy, "This gentleman,why did you cry in alarm earlier?"

  Su Li Li's hands were a little clammy from the cold, her hand was a little slippery, she removed her hand from his grip and looked at him with a lowered gaze, "Because the gentleman appeared suddenly behind my back without a sound, in this wilderness it frightened me." 

  "Since it's the wilderness, what were you doing crouching there?"

  Su Li Li may not be smart, but she wasn't stupid, naturally she won't reveal that she was here to raid a tomb, even more she won't say she had seen what had just happened, she opened her mouth and started concocting: "To be honest to this brother, my parents has arranged a marriage for me, but my heart is already with another. Tonight I had plans to elope with the person. Just now, I was waiting."

  Just as she finished, Mo Da carrying a heavy and bulging bag, sneakily appeared. Su Li Li secretly gave a cry of despair to herself and closed her eyes. Mo Da's rough voice rang loudly, "Where did you run to... ah? Who is this?"

  Su Li Li opened her eyes and gave a fake smile. She coughed and cleared her throat, "Why are you here only now."

  The brocade robed gentleman examined Mo Da, furrowed his brows, a little confused, a little shocked, smiling but not smiling, he said, "Ah.... so it's a brokeback romance."***

  Su Li Li nodded her head in heavy pain, "Ah, the gentleman has sharp eyes, this place cannot tolerate us. Today we did not want to see anyone, but since we met you, please don't make a noise and let us go." 

  Mo Da has never studied, and did not understand what was brokeback or not brokeback, thinking that their raiding of the tomb has been revealed, he took out a golden cup from the bag and gave it to the brocade robed gentleman and said, "Brother, since you have knocked into us here, please accept this."

  Without even thinking, Su Li Li held back Mo Da's hand and said angrily, "Why are you so generous, we still have to eat later!"

  The brocade robed gentleman examined both of them and said, "You are an intelligent man, but he is a bit common." At which, he pointed at Mo Da. 

  Su Li Li sighed, "Indeed, I've told him so many times, but he is still this vulgar, thinking of using such vulgar gold metal objects to taint your high purity." 

   Hearing this, the brocade robed gentleman smiled as if the Night Blooming Cereus**** had blossomed in the night, he reached out his hand and touched Su Li Li's chin, "Since you know I'm so noble and unsullied, why do you stay with him, why don't you leave with me?"

   Mo Da listened to these words as if through a fog of clouds, finally he grabbed the meaning from the last sentence. Leave with him? They were all of the same road! He looked the brocade robed gentleman up and down and alarmingly said, "Brother, so you are also..."

  Before he could say "Here to Raid Tombs", he was cut off by Su Li Li who said heavily, "Even though the gentleman is also brokeback, I cannot bear to ditch this uncouth person. Once you meet someone who knows your heart, you don't want to part until the hairs all turn white, this is the true meaning of seeing past the vulgar and uncouth things on earth."***** As she said this, she silently removed his fingers. 

  The brocade robed gentleman narrowed his eyes and stared at her for a while, suddenly he nodded his head in approval, "Good, good."

  Seeing he is happy, Su Li Li raised her hands and gestured, "Farewell."

  She grabbed Mo Da and rapidly left, not daring to look back for one moment. 

  In the wilderness, the wind blew harshly across, the brocade robed gentleman met the wind face-on, and watched the two leave. 

  The person behind him said in a low voice, "Master, why did you let them go?"

  The brocade robed gentleman was silent for half a moment, he stretched out his hand as if he wanted to catch the wind that was blowing by, a light peppermint scent blew by. He lightly laughed, "This young girl is very interesting, go find out who she is."

  The figure in black robes behind him disappeared and quickly went to chased after her. 

  As the horse slowly walked on the Hundred Prosperity Road, Mo Da asked, "What is brokeback?"

  Su Li Li thought for a while and said, "It means to raid a tomb."

  "Why does it sound strange?"

  "Educated people speak this way."

  They stopped in front of the Coffin Shop's back door, Su Li Li jumped off the horse and said, "You can take care of the objects, I will go home first."

  She pushed opened the door, and walked across the backyard in darkness, some strands of light reached her eyes and there seemed to be a person's shadow. Suddenly alert, Su Li Li was frightened and jumped like a rabbit, then saw a walking cane at the side. 

  In the darkness, Mu Tou spoke in a low voice, "Why are you like that?"

  Su Li Li caught her breath and walked over. She was afraid Uncle Cheng****** would hear, so she softly replied, "I was frightened."

  "Is anything the matter?"


  She sat next to him on the stone step. The two of them was silent for half a moment, then Mu Tou suddenly said, "Left."

  "What?" Su Li Li asked not understanding. 

  Mu Tou's voice was calm and not surprised, "The person who was following you, he was outside just now."

  Su Li Li was shocked, suddenly thinking of the face of the killer, she inched towards Mu Tou's side. Mu Tou gave out a cold sound, Su Li Li pulled his sleeve and cajoled, "Mu Tou, you are so good, not wasting my efforts in saving your life - seeing that I had not came back, you waited for me out here even when it's so late."

  Mu Tou opened his mouth, as if he wanted to deny, but he stopped, most likely because he had no good reason.

  Suppressing for a while, he coldly said, "As if you couldn't do anything else, to go and raid a tomb!"

  Su Li Li wanted Mu Tou to talk to her, so she could forget that dreadful person's face, she tried to create a reason to explain, "That... my motive for raiding tombs is different from others. My main purpose is to see the different materials used, to see which is the most lasting... and, to find out the ancient patterns..."

  Mu Tou couldn't help it, he gave out a sound but laughed. Su Li Li decided to strike while the iron is hot and said pitifully, "Tonight I almost could not come back, then you won't be able to see me again."

  Mu Tou's voice was indeed much warmer and said, "That person has strong internal energy, but he used a strange method. The real energy is not pure, he must have learned a complicated impure heart method." 

  "You can tell?" She felt that his words were a bit too extraordinary. 

  "His qing gong (light arts) is not bad, since his internal energy is deep and strong, when he changes energy I could hear." It was rare for Mu Tou to have the patience to explain to her, Su Li Li could not help being impressed speechless. Since he could have that level of understanding, he could not be an ordinary person. Because of some lost chance, he ended up in this circumstances. 

  A lion was only the king of the beast when he was in the mountain jungle, the sea dragon was only the controller of ten thousands of creatures deep in the sea. Once they leave where they belong, they were only animals in a cage, deep sea fishes on a shallow beach. 

  But where did Su Li Li belong? Will she be able to hide her identity forever? Even she did not know.

  The night wind was cold, Su Li Li turned around. Mu Tou's eyes were like the coloured gaze in the dark, storing a deep and quiet determination. She thought back of what she saw and heard today, she just felt that too many old things were accumulating, the suppression was heavy, but she lived light as ever. 

  Her heart was sad, but she smiled and said, "Mu Tou."


 Su Li Li was quiet for a moment then said, "Are your parents no longer around?"


  "Mine too."

  Her fingers lightly brushed the boards clutching his injured leg, "Does it still hurt?"


  She was silent for a long while, Mu Tou also made no sound, just like the wolves deep in the night, not waiting for prey, but comfortable in that darkness meant for himself. 

  After a long while, Su Li Li lightly said, "Sit next to me for awhile."



* It's just an expression that some time has passed and not actually half a day's time. 
** Haha, isn't it funny that Su Li Li compares Qi Feng Xiang's voice to grinding sawpaper on a coffin board? Hahaha. 
*** The literal translation is broken sleeve, which implies homosexuality. I've translated it to brokeback instead. 
**** The Night Blooming Cereus is a flower that only blooms at night and only for a short time. 
***** This line basically encapsulates Su Li Li's heart. 
****** The other person living in Su Li Li's Coffin Shop is Uncle Cheng, a loyal servant from her previous days as the daughter of the Imperial Adviser.

Comments: OMG. This was a long scene translation. But, I couldn't stop earlier because I just love how the scene ended... with their two quiet figures sitting next to each other in contented silence. Two quiet figures hiding from the world's chaos. The chaos will find them one day.... but for now, they will just sit next to each other. 


  1. Mu Tou sounds like a perfect mix of Jing and Xiang Liu.

    You're setting us up for heart break if you're only translating some scenes Decembi, this book sounds too good :)

    1. Haha, that's interesting, Little Peach! Is it because Mu Tou and Li Li have this cute antagonistic bickering going on? Mu Tou is probably one of the best martial arts pugilist in the world of this c-novel which I guess makes him more of a warrior than Jing heehee. Wait till you see the explosions between Su Li Li and Qi Feng Yu though - it's the kind of combustible chemistry that you see between Xiang Liu and Xiao Yao.

      I really can't translate the whole book because the writing is dense and the politicking bores me. You know even at Scene 2 we are still at Chapter 2? Haha. But, I'm thinking of translating my favourite scenes all the way through the novel (because I have that many scenes) with short write-ups that summarise what goes on in between, so readers should be able to follow the whole novel even if I don't translate the whole thing. Haha. The writing is really beautiful!

    2. Yes that's sounds perfect- just translate the memorable scenes! Who cares about politics when we've got 2 hot guys after a cool girl?? Can't wait to read the next scene!

    3. Ahahaha! Little Peach, you are a girl after my own heart! Yeah, the next scene is super cute and funny.

  2. Thanks. It was a nice one. *-*
    Sorry for my sudden lack of comments

    1. Haha! Always great to hear from you, Yasmin. Glad you liked it :)

  3. Wow, this chapter was really interesting. I can clearly see why you thought that fans of Lost You Forever will enjoy this. so far both the male leads have shown some traits found in both Jing and Xiang Liu. I'm not sure whom to ship or even to ship anyone.

    1. Heehee! Wait till Qi Feng Yu really starts to show up in the novel and one thinks of Xiang Liu + Zhuan Xu. Interesting mix. Me too. I love both male leads equally.

    2. Yes, so far both the men have left a positive impression on me but I wonder, who will win my heart.

    3. Me too! Shall be curious which guy turns out to have more shippers :)

  4. decembi, thank you so much for this.
    i read this last night and i can't wait to post my comment in my PC this morning.
    i feel make my weak heart will bleed again :(
    i have a trauma because LYF but i really really love that novel.

    1. Aww! Thanks for making the effort to comment on your PC. I'm really touched1
      No worries. This is a full on happy ending!!!!

  5. decembi, thank you for the translation. I have yet to start reading it but..since there is an english translation...thinking of waiting for your translation first :) I understand English much more than Chinese.

    1. Heehee! But I will skip the "boring parts" haha, so it's not a full translation. But I will translate all my favourite and pivotal scenes. The next one is a realllly cute scene!

  6. Your translation is better because it will not have the boring parts. I just wanted to let you know that I have finished the book and i find the story ok although the politicking bores me and I nearly gave up halfway (again). Do write about the interesting parts when you are able because they are quite good!

    Maybe because I read this after Lost You Forever where the character development for Jing, Zhuan Xu and Xiang Liu is much stronger than Mu Tou and Qi Feng Yu. The other side characters like Yan Huan, Master Ying... are consistent but half-baked so the book sort of flows along like a stream - something light and cooling to read in the middle of the night, but not something that will hit you like the waves below the cliffs of Five God Mountain.

    Thank you for the recommendation!

    1. Wow! Awesome! Thanks for reading and sharing your views! Haha, yeah the politicking is really snooze-fest and I skipped those parts (hence i finished the book so fast haha) and only rated 4-4.5 stars. I love the poetry of the author's words though! Heehee. I've translated the next scene already - a short cute Mu Tou and Su Li Li scene. I love their coffin shop scenes!

      I agree! The side characters are just fun, but never really feel human (though I'm glad *SPOILER* Yan Huan had her happy ending, she's quite tragic really! *END OF SPOILER* What a lovely analogy. It's very light and easy to read, stirs the emotions just a little but never going bone deep like Lost You Forever.

  7. Thank you so much for translating all these books...I've become obsessed with these Chinese novels and I don't know what I would do if nobody translated them...Thanks so much for sharing with us

    1. Hello mualeena, thanks for reading and commenting! It's a personal joy of mine to share these novels I love with like-minded people. Really glad that you are enjoying them :)

  8. please continue translating the beautiful scene i still love it...big thanks

    1. Aww! Thanks for reading and commenting! :) I'm definitely working on making the translations for the Emperor's Strategy better