This chapter is one of the most beautiful chapters I have ever translated. Slowly, I stopped translating with my mind, but tried to translate with my heart --- because all these feelings, why they overwhelm...
Chapter 20: The Hurt of Honey (Part 3 of 4)
On the second day, I waited till the early morning before I knocked on the door of the Dou Shuai palace. The immortal attendants who guarded the door led me inside. Lao Jun was in the elixir* making room watching the blazing fire boil the herbs and medicine. It was not convenient for me to interrupt so I silently waited outside and sweated from the heat, until Lao Jun had the interest to turn back and watched me coolly as he stroke his beard. I greeted him, "I wonder if Lao Jun had given thought to yesterday's matter?
He shook his sleeve and brought me away from the elixir-making room. Once we were at the centre of his palace, he said, "Since the Water God had so sincerely requested, I cannot be stingy. But, there are only three of the Jiu Zhuan Jin pills, if the Water God so easily took away one, I am afraid that many of the other gods will come and request for the others. How will Lao Jun be able to handle all the requests?"
My heart was struck and my fervour cooled by half.
"But, today before the sun rose, the Heavenly Emperor personally came to Dou Shuai Palace to speak for the Water God. So, I decided I could give the Water God one of the Jiu Zhuan Jin pills," I never thought that there could be a revival in the situation. I suddenly felt my heart warmed and a sense of guilt rose against Night...
"If so, I must really convey my gratitude to Lao Jun's generosity," I quickly lifted up both my sleeves to pay my thanks.
"The Water God, please wait," Lao Jun gestured with his hands, he stroke his beard, "Although I can give you the Jiu Zhuan Jin pills, I must take something from the Water God as well in exchange, so I will have a reason to decline the requests from future gods."
"As long as it is something I possess, Lao Jun may ask for it, for the Jiu Zhuan Jin pills, Jin Mi is willing to give her all."
Tai Shan Lao Jun paused in silence for a moment then responded, "If the Water God is willing to exchange sixty percent of her divine essence for the Jiu Zhuan Jin pills, I will give it to you."
"Fine! It's a promise!" I said in one go**.
Lao Jun's expression was shocked, his mouth was left gaping open as if this was something unexpected. My heart became uncomfortable, afraid that he would say he was regretful so I quickly added, "Let's go to the elixir-making room - I will transfer sixty percent of my divine essence to Lao Jun's 'Ba Gua' furnace, is that alright?"
Lao Jun's expression was incredibly regretful, as if holding in a great pain in his heart, he heavily nodded his head.
It turned out that the Jiu Zhuan Jin pill was not made of gold (Jin), it was the size of a small dumpling and would go easily missing if you dropped it on the ground. But, this pill was more precious than gold, I carefully kept it in a silk handkerchief.
When Tai Shan Lao Jun sent me off, he repeatedly reminded me, "Wood conflicts with gold, this Jiu Zhuan Jin pill which has gold as its essence will dissolve when it touches wood. The Water God must carefully keep it. You must remember not to be careless."
Although when I awoke, my divine powers had increased ten times (it must have been that the seal on me had broken), but to lose sixty percent of divine essence at once, caused my legs to feel weak and to have the empty floating feeling. I tried my best to curb my discomfort. While holding the Jiu Zhuan Jin pill, I flew to the Demon Realm. Although the journey was long and my body felt empty, my mouth no longer had the strong bitter taste that it had in the previous days. From morning until now, I had not eaten a single sweet.
I landed at the side of the River of Forgetfulness and saw the old grandfather who steered the boat resting at the riverside, "Maiden, do you want to cross the river?"
I passed him a divine ling zhi, "This elderly gentleman, I am not crossing the river. I just have an important thing to ask of you, I will give you this ling zhi in exchange for your answer."
The old grandfather carefully examined the ling zhi, he was suddenly shocked and fearful, "This is the holy herb of the Flower World! Maiden may ask as she wishes and I will answer if I know. This holy herb is too precious, I cannot accept this."
"It's fine, if the holy herb is not used, it will also only be a weed. Old grandfather, please accept it."
The old grandfather looked at me calmly as if he had realised something, "What maiden would like to ask, I'm afraid I will not be able to answer. So, I definitely cannot accept this holy herb." He paused for a while and asked, "Does maiden want to ask about the gentleman who crossed the river with you that year?"
My heart felt like it was hit, and the pain flowed within my bloodstreams and reached all the way to the ends of my hair, each strand hurt all the way from the top to bottom, as if blood pearls were dropping bead by bead from the top of my head.
I dazedly looked at the boat that rose up and down with the waves, "Indeed, the River of Forgetfulness is the entrance to the Netherworld, has grandfather ever seen his soul or ghost appear?"
The old grandfather sighed, "Maiden must know that the Netherworld only allows the ghosts of mortals to pass. Even mortals who had accumulated lots of good karma will walk the bridge to heaven and not fall into hell, what more the gentleman who is a royal and supreme god? When he was born, he had transcended the need for reincarnation in the six realms, why would his soul appear here? I'm afraid maiden has found the wrong place. Besides..." He paused, as if he could not bear the sight of me facing the empty River of Forgetfulness, "this might be uncomfortable to hear, but in the five elements, there will be natural attractions and conflicts, from the moment Pan Gu had opened heaven and created the earth, water and fire has been naturally conflicting, for maiden's ice blade to pierce into the fiery divine core of the gentleman, I'm afraid there could not be a single trace left of the gentleman in existence..."
I swallowed a sweet and determinedly raised my head, "No, his soul must live on! He once said that he will kill me. Since I am still standing here fine, and he is someone who never betrays his word, he will definitely find a way to do so! He will definitely return to kill me personally! I believe in this!"
I knew he would, even though there was no evidence or trace as a basis for my beliefs, but, I just knew!
In my dreams, I always saw a far away figure at the mouth of the River of Forgetfulness waiting for me, in a moment, he would turn, raised his hand and smile at me......
Without a single moment of hesitation, I stepped into the River of Forgetfulness and allowed the crying and screaming ghosts to leap and attach onto me. They had swarmed onto me with such a fury that half of my body was drowning, I used my hand to separate these ghosts from me by water, slowly trying to discern and identify the ghosts in the water. I firmly believed, as long as I searched, continuously searched, in the River of Forgetfulness which held thousands ten thousands hundred thousands millions of ghosts, I will find a drop that belonged to him.***
"Maiden, ah! Why are you are doing this?" The old grandfather reached out his hand to stop me but I pushed him away. He sat back in his boat and shook his head, "Listen to my advice, the road of emotions is narrow and dangerous, it is a road that one cannot return from. When you are lost, you need to return to the main road again, maiden if you follow this road till its end, you will harm others and harm yourself."
No, the old grandfather's words were wrong. What are emotions? What is love? I was only cursed, when I awoke, I could no longer control myself and wanted to do all sort of strange things. My chest had a weird suffocating feeling... this voodoo curse is something even Night could not resolve, I could only slowly consciously realise that this sickness was going deep into my bones...
I did not know how long did I search. I did not see the sun. I did not see the moon. I only looked at the many ghosts swimming in the river, I converged my powers to use the 'yin yang' eyes to try and differentiate them. I kept looking, kept looking, until both my eyes hurt. I reached out my hand to rub my eyes to increase my awareness to continue searching. I could not sleep, did not dare to sleep. I had already slept away two years of light, if I slept for one more night, I did know if I will miss his soul. I was so frightened, more frightened than I ever have been before...
"Jin Er! What are you doing?! A blinding white light flashed across. I rubbed my eyes and dazedly turned back.
Before I could identify the source of the voice, I felt my body being pulled out of the River of Forgetfulness with a huge force. He lifted me up and then heavily threw me at the shore, "Look at your hands! Look at your feet! Are you trying to destroy yourself or destroy me?!"
I looked at both of my hands, they were only bitten by the ghosts and full of blood. My feet were only numb and did not have a trace of blood. All these were nothing. I thought Night was making a mountain out of a molehill. I had never seen him so angry as if I had committed a terrible crime that would disturb the heavens. But, that terrible crime that disturbed the heavens, I had already committed two years ago, didn't I?
"Do you know that if I had not found you in time, your own soul would be swallowed if you continued to soak in the river?!" His chest rose up and down, he clenched both his fists and glared at me in anger. He was indeed very angry, "Are you doing it for him? For him, you don't even want your divine essence, and you even dare to jump into the River of Forgetfulness which could swallow your soul! Do you even know what you are doing? Do you know that he is the murderer of your father? The son of the one who murdered your mother?"
"I know, all these I know," I covered my face, my hands were so swollen that they did not feel like my hands, "But I cannot stop myself. You know that I have been struck by a voodoo curse. Not even for a day do I dare to forget that he killed my father, but this voodoo curse is controlling me, asking me not to stop..." I repeatedly numbly a few times, my voice was so low that I was the only one who could hear it.
"I cannot forget him... even though I know that he killed my father... but, closing my eyes, opening my eyes, it is all him... I miss him, I miss him very much, miss him so much that all the strands of hair in my head hurts..." I helplessly grabbed Night's sleeve, "He can live again, right? If he lives again, will this voodoo curse be cured?"
He froze for a moment, then grabbed me into his embrace under my earnest eyes. His gentle actions contrasted with his harsh words a moment ago. After half a moment, I felt a light sight on top of my head, "He is dead. He can no longer live again." He lightly placed my hand on his chest, "But, you have me, don't you? Can you hear the beat of my heart? Every beat is me calling you to turn your head back."
I could not sleep for many nights. I swallowed entire bowls of honey. It was an addiction I could not cure. Besides sweets, everything I ate was bitter. Even the water was sour.
Night watched over me, guarding me, not allowing me to ever step into the River of Forgetfulness again. But, I told him I would not step into the River of Forgetfulness and begged him to let me watch from the riverside. If he allowed me to search, I would not feel so uncomfortable, so he no longer stopped me, but the Nightmare beast always followed me by half a step behind.
This afternoon when I passed the mortal realm, I heard two young children jumping and reciting a rhyme, "If you want rain, you must go to the Water God's temple. Do not offer tea, do not offer incense, to place a bottle of honey would be more effective than gold."
I smiled, why can't gold beat honey? I only realised now that honey was a divine medicine that could cure anything.
Daylight became very long, very long, so long that one could not bear it. Night would often take time away from his official matters to accompany me, but musical instruments, chess, pill-making, all these no longer incited my interests. Besides going to the River of Forgetfulness, I would lock myself in my room to write calligraphy and paint. I kept writing and painting, believing that one day I would finish the last paper in the world... if I was able to finish up all the threads in the world, will I be able to break the thread of longing in my own heart?
When the flower blossoms, I will draw flowers;
When the flower withers, I will draw myself;
When you arrive, I will naturally draw you;
When you leave, I will draw my memories.
* The pills used in this context are not actually ordinary pills and have an almost divine connotation. Because earlier in the text, we used the phrase 'Unfeeling Pill', I have continued the usage of the term 'pill', but sometimes I think elixir may be more appropriate.
** If you have any more doubt about Jin Mi's feelings, her lack of hesitation in giving up sixty percent of her divine essence should tell you how much Phoenix means to her.
*** While translating this, I was so much struck by the fatalistic beauty of this that I almost teared.
Comments: Hand to my heart, I absolutely loved this chapter. It was an incredibly poetic and beautiful chapter and I tried my best to convey the dreamy bittersweet pain of Jin Mi's feelings - so much like honey, it entwines you, sticks to you, and never lets you go.