Agarwood like Crumbs (沉香如屑) Novel Translations

Chapter 20: The Chess Game

Reading Time: 10 minutes
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    Escape is inevitable, YanDan muttered to herself, trying to bring her spirits up.

    Yan Dan obviously wouldn’t want to change from the wild demon she once was to a domestic mortal. However, the first thing she must do is remove her magic restriction, which is near impossible considering Tang Zhou’s attitude. 

    YanDan faced the oil lamp, slowly rolled up her sleeves, and touched the restraint on her wrist. This time, the restriction didn’t flick away from her fingers like the last two times. Yan Dan calmed down and thought for a while, guessing that because she had no magic on her body, she was no different from a mortal, and bans were naturally useless for mortals. That means, maybe… just maybe, she might be able to get rid of it without external force. 

    Yan Dan stretched out her hand and pulled at it a few times. The restriction was too tight. Unless the hand was chopped off, it would be impossible to pull it out. She smashed the restraint on the edge of the table twice, and then looked at it with the light from the oil lamp, but there was not even a crack. This restriction is extremely powerful. 

    She squatted on the ground instead and pressed the restraint on the ground to grind it. After grinding for a while, there was a pool of white chips on the ground. Touching the restriction again, the place that was originally an arc is indeed a little flatter than usual. Yan Dan fiddled around for a while, thinking it was the most feasible way to grind it out. The ancients could grind an iron pestle into a needle, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for her to grind the restriction?

    She pushed open the door, intending to go to the kitchen to find a whetstone. However, she saw Tang Zhou standing at the door, looking at her with arms crossed. Yan Dan was so excited that she jumped a big step forward and said with a smile, “Brother**, what are you doing?”

    Tang Zhou leaned against the door and smiled slightly: “I wanted to ask if there was anything you needed, but when I walked to the door, I heard the sound of something smashing.” 

    He glanced at her wrist: “But the restirction doesn’t seem like its broken.”

    Yan Dan timidly grabbed him, shook her head twice, and whined softly, “I promise not to do bad things again in the future and be dedicated to righteousness. Every Buddha’s birthday, I will burn incense and donate sesame oil and money. I’ll also set up a tablet for longevity for you, and burn three incense sticks in the morning and evening.”

    “You choose for yourself: do you prefer to have a restriction or for me to turn it into an elixir?”

    Yan Dan glared at him and pouted: “Tang Zhou, you ungrateful man, I saved your life twice.”

    Tang Zhou stood up straight and said slowly, “If I release your restraint, are you still going to try and escape?”

    Nonsense; if she doesn’t escape, what would she do? Wait for him to capture her again?

    “Since I’m so ‘ungrateful’ in your words, why should I let you go?”

    “Tang Zhou, I’m wrong, I’m wrong! I didn’t say anything just now. 

    You see, you’ve been away from home for so long sp you’ll definitely be homesick, right? I’m also very homesick now. I really want to go home; my family Dan Shu is still waiting for me to tell him (ghost) stories, Ziyan is still looking forward to meeting me, and Zilin will be ruined without me pushing him to his limits everyday…”

    Tang Zhou’s mouth twitched slightly: “It sounds like all the demons in your family are male.” 

    He slowly pulled his sleeve out of her hand: “You’ll be fine.”

    Yan Dan was shocked and didn’t move for a while before rubbing her eyes, and muttering to herself, “Speaking of which, will I be getting aging now that I’m a mortal?”

    Tang Zhou slowly walked away a few steps, and when he heard that there was no sound behind him, he looked back strangely. But seeing Yan Dan hang his head, standing there motionless, suddenly a drop of crystal clear liquid fell from his eyes, fainting a little light on the ground. He couldn’t help but sighed, turned around and walked to her side, hesitated for a moment, but still put his hand on her shoulder: “Go to bed early, it’s not too early now.”

    Yan Dan turned her head away and ignored him.

    Tang Zhou slowly stretched out his hand, wiped the corner of her eyes, and said in a soft voice, “You’re probably really tired so go to sleep” before leaving. 

    Yan Dan walked to the door, slammed the door.

     After he left, Yan Dan looked in the mirror for a long time, and then came to a conclusion: “It seems  Tang Zhou is afraid of seeing me cry… so let’s go find an onion…”

    Chef: “Young Master, this girl is very strange- she came over in the middle of the night to find something…”

    Tang Zhou: “Probably hungry.”

    Cook: “She searched for a long time and took away two onions.”

    Tang Zhou: “…”

    Early the next morning, Yan Dan appeared in front of people with reddish eyes. She really didn’t know that using an onion would be so powerful. She started peeling two pieces and didn’t even feel her eyes watering so she thought it was not working. But after a while, her eyes started to get sore and tired. She also couldn’t help but keep rubbing her eyes, which enhanced the effect.

    Yan Dan lowered his head to drink her porridge in a depressed manner, but suddenly there was a plate of flower rolls** in front of him. Tang Zhou whispered, “Don’t only drink porridge, eat more of something else.” 

    She looked up at him and continued to drink porridge in the same depressing manner.

    “None of them suit your taste? Whatever you want to eat, I’ll get the cook to make it.” He asked softly again.

    YanDan wasn’t sure how she wanted to reply to that. However she honestly didn’t have an appetite now, and there was still that choking smell of onions in her mouth, so she shook her head and continued to drink the white porridge in the bowl silently. She said softly, “Master Tang and Madam Tang, enjoy your food and eat slowly” before getting up and leaving.

    Mrs. Tang looked at her son and frowned: “Did you bully her? It seems like that poor child cried all night.”

    Tang Zhou pushed away the chair and chased after her, gently grabbing her wrist: “I lost my temper last night and there are some things I shouldn’t have said, so I’m sorry.”

    Yan Dan couldn’t help but let out an “ah”, looked at him with a complicated expression, and said carefully, “Actually, you have said more hurtful things than this and have done even worse things…”

    Tang Zhou was embarrassed: “Really?”

    Yan Dan turned around dejectedly and left.

    Tang Zhou stood there and thought about it again, when he happened to see Xiao Cui walking over and said, “I have something to ask you.”

    Xiao Cui stopped and smiled happily: “Ask anything, Young master, and I will do my best to answer.”

    “What would you think if the first impression you have of someone is them injuring one of your companions?”

    Xiaocui asked: “Is my companion seriously injured? Did he vomit blood? Did he almost die?”

    Tang Zhou nodded every time she asked, and she immediately replied angrily: “Beat him first. Get ten big boards, and break that person’s legs. It’s even better to break all the bones of their body!”

    “After that, this person arrested you, locked you in a dark place, and didn’t give you anything to eat. After two days…”

    “I’ve been hungry for two days in a dark place?! Does this person still have any morality?” Xiao Cui was filled with indignation, “You don’t need to talk anymore, young master, this kind of wicked person ho is inferior to pigs and should be struck by lightning!”

    On the third day, Yan Dan finally got rid of the onion scent. As soon as she saw Tang Zhou, she asked, “What are we doing today?”

    Who would have guessed that this person immediately packed up a few changed clothes and had a carriage prepared. In less than half an hour, they were already at the foot of Lingjue Mountain.

    Yan Dan looked at the steep and narrow mountain road in front of her, which was impossible to go up by horses and carriages. It seemed that they could only walk up the mountain. Tang Zhou pointed in a direction: “Go there.”

    This is a small gravel path buried by weeds- probably when the predecessors walked up the mountain.

    “Senior brother, did you have to pick this time to annoy me? I’m already out of energy, so what’s the point?” Yan Dan pouted slightly.

    “This way up the mountain is the best way to go. That one is only half-paved, and the rest require climbing.” Tang Zhou stepped on the gravel path, used his sword to clear the grass in front of him, and started walking.

    Seeing that he’s slicing the grass away with his sword, Yan Dan remembered the fact that many herb collectors used sticks to explore the road first, to startle the snakes and worms away, and asked, “Are there still snakes here?”

    “There are always birds, beasts, insects, and snakes in the mountains. What’s so strange about this?”

    Yan Dan nodded: “That’s good because that means there are lots of animals to hunt and snake meat to eat.”

    Tang Zhou was silent.

    When they got to the foot of the mountain, it was barely noon but when they reached the Taoist temple on the mountain, it was already sunset.

    Yan Dan looked at the white walls and black tiles in front of him, which contrasted highly with the surrounding green trees. The evening breeze was gentle, the twilight bell sounded softly, and a sea of ​​clouds lingered on the edge of the cliff. Just as she was about to step into the threshold of the Taoist temple, she heard a clucking sound, and a large colorful rooster walked by. 

    Suddenly the rooster’s head fell to the ground and there was a flash of light, that could only come from a knife. The rooster head was situated at Yan Dan’s feet, the chicken eyes were round and staring at her.

    The one holding the chicken’s neck in one hand and the kitchen knife in the other was a woman with honey-colored skin, and her eyes were as black as the midnight sky- both big and round. She slightly raised the kitchen knife toward Tang Zhou, and said proudly, “Senior brother, look at this trick of mine. Isn’t that so interesting?”

    Yan Dan immediately praised: “That’s amazing!”

    Tang Zhou glanced at her sideways.

    The girl noticed YanDan for the first time and said, “Your vision is really good, so why don’t I teach this trick to you?”

    Yan Dan replied regretfully, “I have never practiced martial arts.”

    “It doesn’t matter, I can teach you from the beginning, starting from the basic skills. I’m sure you can learn it!”

    Tang Zhou said coolly, “Junior sister, she’s literally just a bag of flesh. If you want to start from the basic skills, I’m afraid you have to disassemble all of it first.” Yan Dan looked at him dejectedly- Tang Zhou’s behavior changed back into that snarky and sarcastic person she first met.

    “My name is Qin Qi, what’s your name?” The honey-skinned woman shook her hand.

    “Yan Dan. I’m…” She turned her head to look at Tang Zhou, who immediately answered knowingly, “She’s my distant cousin.”

    Tang Zhou asked, “Is Master inside?”

    Qin Qi immediately showed a look of disdain, “He’s playing chess with Young Master Liu.”

    Yan Dan thought to herself why Qin Qi show such an expression? Isn’t there a mortal saying that “one day, a teacher and a lifetime, a father”?*** Is it because she remembered it wrong, or she has completely failed to keep up with the changes in mortal customs?

    Tang Zhou replied without hesitation, “He must’ve lost by a lot again.”

    Qin Qi pouted and said with contempt, “This time the old man has come up with a solution and he chose to play at a place under the waterfall. He said that if a chess piece is washed away by the water, it can’t be replayed. And he still calls it “playing chess”. More like playing tricks….”

    Yan Dan interjected: “Where is the waterfall?”

    Qin Qi said simply: “I’ll take you there.”

    Under the magnificent sunset, the thin mist of the waterfall was also colored light red, and when the wind blew, the mist would brush their face. On the edge of the cold lake, there are many lotus plants, and the lotus leaves are still slightly rolled.

    In the smoke water, there were two people playing chess on the stone. The older one seemed to be quite old, with sparse gray hair, and sharp eyes, clear and bright. Yan Dan sat on the edge of the stone table and muttered: “Your master is very similar to our patriarch…” They all have shiny bald heads and were very kind.

    Qin Qi asked curiously, “What’s it like?”

    Before Yan Dan opened her mouth, she was immediately interrupted by Tang Zhou coughing. Yan Dan silently closed her mouth and turned to look at the two people playing chess in the mist.

    Liu Weiyang’s hair and clothes were soaked wet, tightly clinging to his body, as his slender fingers picked up a chess piece and pressed it onto the flat stone. His press seems to be light, but the chess piece is embedded in the stone, which is full of depths. The waterfall slammed down, roaring and hitting the two of them. Liu Weiyang’s face was slightly pale, but his eyes were as calm as usual.

    Suddenly hearing a long whistle, Yan Dan was startled, and the teapot in her hand almost fell to the ground. Then there was a flower and a figure in front of her, snatching the teapot away like a gust of wind and taking two sips.

    Tang Zhou stood up and said, “Master.”

    Yan glanced at him lightly, and finally felt relieved. At least he is respectful when actually talking to his master.

    Qin Qi immediately grabbed a robe and put it on her master: “Master, did you win this time?”

    The Taoist priest said nothing – he just slapped the stone table with his palm. The entire table jumped, and the teacup fell to the ground with a bang and shattered. Yan Dan felt her chest tighten, especially when those sharp eyes swept across the room, and felt an indescribable fear. 

     She remembered what Tang Zhou had said about how his master used to have a wife and children before he became a monk, but after he returned from a long trip, he found that his wife and children were eaten by demons and there were only two bones left. She is a demon- a flower spirit to be exact- and she doesn’t want to become a bone spirit at all…

    Fortunately, the gaze quickly moved away, and the Taoist head left without looking back. 

    Yan Dan suddenly breathed a sigh of relief and slowly raised his head, only to see Liu Weiyang walking from a mist of water, with his clothes partially untied, and water droplets from his hair slid down his face. 

    Yan Dan only took two glances but was still chided by Tang Zhou. “You forgot again, girls can’t look directly at others like this.”

    Yan Dan whispered something rude to Tang Zhou, only to see Liu Weiyang raising his eyebrows

    Liu Weiyang looked at her with those faint, terrifying eyes: “What did you say?”

    Yan Dan froze. She didn’t expect Young Master Liu to have great hearing, but his eyes and ears were so sensitive. She turned her head and said with certainty, “You must have heard it wrong.”

    Liu Weiyang did not refute, but instead, put on his robe and walked away.

    Qin Qi smacked her forehead and remembered, “It’s almost time for dinner, I’ll go and bring out the food.” After speaking, she walked away quickly.

    Yan Dan watched the backs of the two disappear before turning to Tang Zhou: “Will your master find out that I am a demon?”

    Tang Zhou sighed: “You don’t have any more demonic energy in you, so Master won’t find out.”

    “What if he still finds out?”

    “If you get to that point,” he reached out and touched her head, “you’ll be fine.”

    Yan Dan frowned: “You patted my head again!”    Yan Dan glared at him for a while and told herself: even if this mortal not even a fraction of her age treats her like a kitten or a puppy, it’s not a big deal.

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