Saturday, 24 May 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 10

   Although Su Li Li is still in male disguise, I liked this picture that shows her alone, gazing around with lanterns around her. It does not reflect what happens in this scene, but I like to think of it as a reflection of her soul.

  We have come to Scene 10, which marks the end of Chapter 3. This is one of my longest translations ever - there's so much going on and it's so powerful and intense that I couldn't stop. This was also one of the hardest translations I ever had to do --- I won't spoil it here, so I shall see you on the other side. 

  This is the game-changer. This changes it all. 


  It has been two days since Scene 9 when Su Li Li got drunk (it's unclear if she remembers what happened, but it is hinted that she does!). Su Li Li caught a cold that night and it took two days for her to recover. When she recovered, Uncle Cheng tells her that Mu Tou has gone with Teacher Zhang to a temple. Su Li Li was angry since they are rushing goods but Uncle Cheng says that he should be given a day off.

 The next day afternoon, Su Li Li was going through the account books with Mu Tou when Qi Feng Xiang arrives at her coffin shop. Qi Feng Xiang dashingly arrives and calls her, "Boss Su". Su Li Li asks if he has come to give her business and Qi Feng Xiang nods his head. He orders a coffin, the material is standard, it needs to be wide so it can fit a fatty, the most important thing is that seven words must be carved on top of the coffin, "A Corrupt Worm That Robs The Country".

 Su Li Li asks for one thousand taels as deposit. Qi Feng Xiang teases if Su Li Li is trying to run away with such a huge sum of money. Su Li Li protests if she seems like a thief, and even if she was, would she run away with just a thousand taels? Qi Feng Xiang says someone will send the deposit. He will be returning to You Zhou tomorrow and will collect the goods in the tenth month. 

  Before Qi Feng Xiang leaves, he turns to Mu Tou, "Is this Mo Da from the tailor shop?" Without even lifting up her head, Su Li Li says, "I lied to you, he is called Mu Tou". Qi Feng Xiang breaks out into laughter, "That is a good name, looking at his expression, his personality fits his name." 

  Mu Tou personally made the coffin Qi Feng Xiang ordered - he even added some curses he found in the library and carved it inside the coffin. Su Li Li was curious and wondered who the person was since he did not want this person to ever reincarnate. Mu Tou only said, "Since it's A Corrupt Worm That Robs The Country, naturally he should not reincarnate."

  At the start of the ninth month, Su Li Li found it hard to sleep. During her sleep, she thought she felt a few slightly cold fingers touch her face. When she woke up, she found a white paper under her pillow, it was clearly Mu Tou's words, it said, "Do not trust Qi Feng Xiang". 

  Su Li Li dashed out of her room, she opened the door to Mu Tou's room and saw that it was arranged neatly and the windows were clean, on his bed was the sword Su Li Li bought for Mu Tou. Uncle Cheng came to her and told her Mu Tou had bade farewell to him last night. He said he needed to go and you needed to be extremely careful. Su Li Li cursed "white-eyed wolf" and couldn't find the energy to curse anymore. 

  7 days later, the Imperial Adviser (sometimes called Grand Tutor, kind of like the Prime Minister and this was the same position Su Li Li's father held previously) Bao Hui has killed the Emperor and taken over the throne, the nine gates of the capital were shut and there were soldiers everywhere. Since Su Li Li was locked inside the city, naturally she did not know that the states outside were rebelling in protest and claiming independence without the Emperor. Finally, the lands has fallen into chaos.

  On the thirteenth day of the ninth month, Su Li Li found it hard to sleep. There were guards everywhere and the Imperial Adviser had ordered that any rebels will be killed. All the great households had closed their doors. Su Li Li was happy that the corrupt Emperor was dead, probably the happiest thing that happened in these last few years. In the silence, she hears knocks on her door. It is Teacher Zhang, he has brought a young child of eight or nine years old with him. Teacher Zhang says he has a matter which requires him to risk his life and escape from the city and asks them to take care of his distant relative's child. The child's name was Yu Fei. 

  Ten more days later, Su Li Li silently guards her stall. Yu Fei was also silent, like a tail, he followed Su Li Li, as if he was an abandoned small dog that was seeking his owner. Su Li Li naturally had a soft heart, so she treated him sincerely. 

  Food was scarce in the capital and the streets were chaotic. The Imperial Adviser had killed the entire royal line, and still felt it was not enough, so he has moved his killing intents to the streets - anyone he disliked, he would order to be killed. During this time, everyone who wanted their lives hid at home.

  At the start of the tenth month, news spread that there were armies outside who had arrived to avenge the Emperor's death. The capital's strength was weak, so the Imperial Adviser set fire to the city gates. Suddenly, the once rich and bustling capital turned into a hell on earth. 

  Half of Su Li Li's shop was burned, but she was not affected by this, she just changed the door inside of her place into the new main door. Su Li Li decided to go out to find Uncle Cheng as he has still not returned. She told Yu Fei to hide and left with the sword she bought for Mu Tou in her hands. When she was outside, she passed the Ming Yue Brothel and she saw that half of the Brothel had collapsed. She stood outside the door and cried for Yan Huan. She was informed that someone had redeemed her in the previous month. No one knew where she went. 

Scene 10: Everything Changes

     She turned around to walk back, as she passed a lane, she saw a group of soldiers escaping through the city gates. A soldier whose face was filled with blood cried out, "The city is broken, the city is broken, quick escape!"

  When Su Li Li saw Claw Face, she already felt scared, now that she saw this face full of fresh blood crying for help, it should have been scarier than seeing Claw Face but somehow it was not as scary as she thought it would be. Now, she only wanted to return to the shop.

  Although she was in male garbs, her body was weak, she did not know who pulled her, Su Li Li did not recognise the soldier, she waved her sword and quickly ran away. She heard someone say, "He is running towards the city gates, he must be a spy, catch him!"

  There were the noisy sounds of horses' hooves and a flash of the sword swiped pass her eyes. She felt a long arrow sweep by her face and entered someone next to her. Su Li Li did not think further, she grabbed the arrow and slashed at the person's neck. Su Li Li was dazed, and in that moment, she felt herself being lifted onto a horse and she fell onto the horse's back.

  She screamed and struggled, but the person riding the horse held her hands tightly, she could not move. That person stopped the horse and said in a deep voice, "Boss Su, please stop fidgeting." 

  Su Li Li felt that the voice seemed a little familiar, but the tone seemed overly silent and calm, she could not identify it immediately. The person placed Su Li Li properly on the horse saddle and commented, "You chop people cleanly, but when you do so you must avoid being so frantic."

  Su Li Li gazed at Qi Feng Xiang's handsome face which had traces of smoke, their gazes met with only the distance of a few fingers apart. Qi Feng Xiang watched as Su Li Li frightenedly looked at him, the stern expression originally on his face changed into a smile, and he had a few traces of his usual teasing attitude. He said, "Is the coffin I ordered ready?"

  "Ah?" Su Li Li's brain had jammed. 

  "I said I will come and collect the goods in the tenth month, you can't have chop it up for firewood?" Qi Feng Xiang was still smiling.

  Su Li Li returned consciousness, she nodded her head, "It is done."

 She realised that both his hands were on her waist, she was sitting on his horse and half leaning on his body, she quickly pushed him away and said, "The coffin has been ready long ago, only waiting for you to collect it." 

  Her hands brushed by his cold armour, she lifted her eyes to examine it, Qi Feng Xiang's suit of silver armor was grand and dashing. 

  He naturally and gracefully released Su Li Li, and placed her down the horse, he commanded a soldier, "Bring her to Gentleman Ying."

  He turned to Su Li Li and said gently, "Don't be afraid, just follow him. When you return, polish up the coffin, I will collect it tomorrow." When he finished, he smiled, patted the horse, and dashed off on the long street. 

  The soldiers behind him followed him, quick as a lightning they attacked towards the centre of the city. 

  Su Li Li followed the soldier and they went outside the city gates, there were about a hundred soldiers here guarding a simple large carriage. The soldier announced, "Gentleman Ying, Third Master commanded me to bring this person to you."

  The person inside the carriage said indifferently, "I see."

  There was no movement from the carriage in half a day. 

  After standing outside for a while, Su Li Li coughed and said, "Gentleman Ying, if there is nothing else, I will leave first."

  Suddenly a person came out of the carriage, Su Li Li realised that it was the white-faced scholar she had seen in the building that day. "Mr Ha" of the "Heng Ha" duo. 

  "Mr Ha" smiled, "So it is Miss, pardon me for being slow, would you come up to my carriage for a while?"

  Su Li Li looked at the large carriage and declined, "It's not necessary, I will return first."

  The white-faced* gentleman said, "Miss had better come up. The city is in chaos, within ten steps, you may be killed by someone. Wait for Brother Qi to settle everything and then I will send you back."

  So, Su Li Li went up the carriage, the carriage was spacious and had a table full of writing materials. The white-faced scholar politely said, "I am Ying Wen, we met so hurriedly previously that we did not exchange names. Miss's surname is Su?"

  Su Li Li thought inwardly, the previous time I was chasing you away, naturally you did not tell me your name. She said simply, "Yes, Gentleman Ying is too polite."

  Ying Wen did not speak more and amended the document in front of him. Su Li Li saw it was an announcement to the citizens, she paused then asked, "Whose... whose army is this?"

  As Ying Wen wrote, he answered, "From You Zhou, under General Qi's orders, Third Master is here to avenge the Emperor."

  Su Li Li thinks to herself that from the frequency of Qi Feng Xiang's visits to the capital, this must have been prepared long ago. They had taken the chance after the Imperial Advisor killed the Emperor to "legitimately" attack the capital. 

  This understanding of Su Li Li naturally fell within Ying Wen's eyes. He lightly smiled, kept the documents and knocked on the carriage, "Let's go."

  The carriage slowly moved, passing the Hundred Prosperity Street, this was where the front door of Su Li Li had burnt down. Su Li Li bade farewell and got off the carriage. 

  When she entered the house and saw that nothing was out of the ordinary, she cried for Yu Fei.Yu Fei came out from the backyard and hugged her leg. Su Li Li looked left and right and asked, "Uncle Cheng has not returned?"

  Yu Fei shook his head and said, "There were soldiers who had came from outside, they searched the yard but seeing no valuables, they wanted to burn down the house. But someone had fought over, so they ran away."

  Su Li Li hugged Yu Fei and was silent.

  After half a moment, she went to the kitchen to find stuff and they both ate whatever they could find. Until late at night, Uncle Cheng had still not returned. 

  Su Li Li sat on her bed, she did not know for how long, when she heard Yu Fei had fallen deep asleep, only then did she leaned down on her bed and blearily tried to sleep.

  In her daze, she saw the mountain valley she had stayed temporarily before, she was sitting on the ground, it was empty and quiet, so cold it did not seemed like a place on earth. Far away there was a carriage, it held a bright red lantern, and on this lantern was the character "Su". Su Li Li could not see clearly, so she stood and shouted "Uncle Cheng, Uncle Cheng". 

 The donkey that pulled the carriage stopped in front of her. There was no one in the carriage, only an unpainted thin-skinned coffin. Su Li Li softly cried, "Uncle Cheng". But there were still no traces of Uncle Cheng. 

  She hesitated then went forward, she pulled open the coffin by an inch, she saw Mu Tou's face, it was so pale that it did not have a trace of blood. He was lying in the coffin as if he was dead. Su Li Li was shocked, she wanted to push away the coffin and pulled him out, but there was no way to push off the coffin cover. 

  Su Li Li reached out her hand to touch his face, it was extremely cold, there were no one around her, not a single soul could help her save him, only the emptiness. In a moment, her gaze was filled with tears, and she shockingly awoke from her dream. She reached out her hand and her face was all wet. She quickly got up and washed her face. The water was cold, the wind pierced her bones, the moon lit up the yard. 

  The dream still appeared clearly before her eyes, but there was a feeling that told Su Li Li with certainty: Mu Tou will not die! Such a person like him would not die, even when he was so seriously injured he did not die, since he has recovered, even more he will not die. 

  But her heart had another uneasiness, as if something was directing her, she slowly went to the door in the inner yard, she opened the door and saw the shop hall. 

  Su Li Li walked step by step out, there was a broken piece on the floor, there was a coffin that was half burnt, there was a rocking chair that she had sat on before, there was the door sill that she had stepped on so many times. Outside this door sill, Uncle Cheng silently laid on the floor, under the moon light, his face was so white that there were no traces of blood.

  Su Li Li walked and knelt next to his body, as if begging, she nervously cried, "Uncle Cheng."

  Uncle Cheng did not respond, his fingers tightly holding onto the door sill of the Su Ji Coffin Shop, he was already dead. 

*I didn't go into the connotation of what this meant earlier but it's literally translated as "little white face" which means pretty men. The connotation is usually that these men are so pretty they live on women's money! Haha, or cheat women's feelings. 

Comment: This chapter was so so so difficult for me to translate because Uncle Cheng's death really was very painful even though I did not translate much of his scenes. There weren't much actually, he was always in the background, being warm or fatherly. But that was all that was needed to show his ever constant presence in Su Li Li's life - her only constant since she was young. It really was very hard for me to write, and you can only imagine how heartbreaking it was for Su Li Li. 

Besides that, yes, Mu Tou has left. The sea gull has flown away - and who has arrived in his stead, Qi Feng Xiang who Mu Tou tells Su Li Li not to trust. The Emperor has been killed, the capital has fallen into chaos, Uncle Cheng is dead --- so how now, Su Li Li? How now? 


  1. thanks so much decembi!

    - samie

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! From now on, readers will get to see the Qi Feng Xiang scenes!

  2. Thank you! Have a good weekend.

  3. wow there was so much to take in, in this chapter. This is what happens when you read about the chao after a rebellion.

    Wish I could read more on what was going through MT's mind when he left SLL

    Thank you decembi! :)

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! It's an incredibly chaotic period and all eyes are on the throne!

  4. Who was the person fighting the soldiers away according to Yu fei's account . Could it be Mu Tou.

    1. I don't think it's mu tou. The inference is that it's Qi Fei Xiang who pulled her up on his horse.

  5. decembi, I thought you took a break from translating this novel :( ...

    Anyway, thanks ... Im happy today :) this where we will have tons of scenes for QFX onwards?

    1. Hello fangorn, oh why did you think i took a break? :) heehee the last update was only a week ago! I usually follow the seq - heavy sweetness, emperor strategy, once promised! though i try to update heavy sweetness more

      Yes! They are super heart twisting!!! I can't wait to see if mu tou or qi fei xiang is more popular

    2. decembi, that's because I saw updates to other novels and a drama recaps (!).

      Right now, QFX didnt actually make a mark yet for me as one of the male leads.I know he is interested in her for the treasure but I am not sure if he is (currently) interested in her as a woman or not... he didnt really do anything that makes the reader goes...oooh~~~ lovey-dovey things ~~ yet... :P

    3. Hahahahah! Oh, I couldn't help it - the mermaid legend was TOO GOOD not to share. I needed to spazz over the cute secondary couple.

      Ooooh, hearing you, I cannot wait to post the next scene. Ok, I shall update Heavy Sweetness today, so the next Emperor's Strategy can be out soon. :) You are very smart fangorn, indeed Qi Feng Xiang is interested in a lot of things!

  6. Noooo, Mu Tou is gone :(
    i feel bad for SLL coz she lost her father figure. It must be double heartbreak coz she's alone now and she has to be strong to protect the little boy!
    i can guess QFX. he's too mysterious for me, but i don't hate him. i'll see what he gonna do next.
    thank you decembi. Sorry for my late comment :)

    1. One is never late! :) glad you enjoyed it. Oooh the mystery of Qi Feng Xiang is vvv good, cant wait to post the next part. And yes, fate can be so hard on Su Li Li right?

  7. I grieve for Uncle Cheng. Although there wasn't much said about him, his being around helping Su Li Li in the shop and with other matters showed how much he's been there foe her.
    I suspect that Yan Huan was probably taken by Mu Tou to safety.
    I hope QFX has swoon-worthy scenes. I wonder if it will be with regret in the end once SLL choose the right man for her.
    I understand how hard it must be for you to translate this chapter because the battle scenes and the state of the torn and chaotic capital is hard to imagine. Heaven forbid if anyone had to witness and experience these horrific scenes only seen on movies.
    By any chance, does QFX know that the emperor is going to be assassinated that's why a coffin was ordered a few months' ahead? He said that they seek vengeance for his death therefore he is probably not behind it? If so, who is the intended person to be encased in the coffin?
    I hope Mu Tou comes back soon. He seems to be a quiet, secretive-type of man. He is like Jing somehow.
    Thanks Decembi for sharing your thoughts in this chapter.
    Until the next update! (^_^)

    1. Awww! You are welcome. I'm glad people grieve for Uncle Cheng, his quiet presence was very soothing during the first arc.

      QFX has super super swoon-worthy scenes. The tension b/w QFX and Su Li Li is epic. The next update will be posted soon :)

      Yes, it was really hard! The politics and battle scenes are pretty numerous in this novel and my fluffy brain tends to like go numb hahaha.

      The coffin will be address in the next part! :)

      Yes yes, Mu Tou is so much like Jing right? But Mu Tou is more of a man of action and not soft-hearted like Jing.