Agarwood like Crumbs (沉香如屑) Novel Translations

Chapter 28: Dragon Boat Festival Special: Yu Mo, ZongZis, and Fish (Part 2/3)

Reading Time: 11 minutes
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When the lid was lifted off the pot, the entire cabin was filled with a sweet and savory aroma. Yan Dan looked at the floating dumplings in the pot with distress. She’d thought that the others would stay and they would eat their meal together, so she made two servings. But now what will she do with the extra serving? Yan Dan slowly turned around and saw the assassin huddled in the corner of the cabin. A smile came to her face, “Since I made a few extra dumplings, you can eat them.”

The assassin’s face turned white with horror and he stammered, “No thank you, I don’t want to taint your things with my crookedness.”

Yan Dan gave Yu Mo a bowl of dumplings and turned to face the assassin, “You seem to be very scared… Do I look so scary that I frighten you?”

He immediately shook his head violently, “Miss* is naturally beautiful. Very beautiful!”

*In this case, Miss is used as a more polite way to call someone, instead of saying “you”

“Then what are you afraid of?” Yan Dan scooped up a dumpling and held it in front of his mouth, “I see that you’re shaking so badly that I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to hold a spoon yourself, so I’ll feed you. Is that okay?”

The assassin’s face turned even paler and he stammered, “But, but the meat inside of it…”

Yan Dan let out a long sigh and untied the white cloth around his leg, “Look for yourself, are you missing any parts of your leg?” She smiled, “Come on, open your mouth. My culinary skills are excellent.”

The assassin looked at his legs, closed his eyes, and then swallowed the dumplings in one large gulp. 

Yan Dan looked at him intently, “Does it taste good?”

The assassin immediately praiser the food, “Delicious, it tastes delicious!” Even if it tasted like pig food, he wouldn’t have dared to insult the food. Even more so, the dumpling skin was thin, the filling was juicy, and the saltiness was just right. Thankfully so, because if Yan Dan got angry, she might actually chop off parts of his body and turn them into minced meat. 

Yan Dan smiled and said, “You can eat some more then.”

She fed him the dumplings one by one until there were no extra dumplings in the pot.

Yu Mo looked at them, then at the dumplings in the spoon, but said nothing. 

She smiled, “What’s your name? I can’t always call you ‘hey you’, right?”

With a mouth stuffed with dumplings, the man replied, “Leop…Leopard.”

Yan Dan wondered, “Let’s eat sao mai tomorrow, alright? The tastiest one I’ve had before was in Tong Cheng, so I’m not sure if I can replicate the same test though.”

Leopard couldn’t help butting in, “The sao mai sold by that old man in Yangliu Alley, in Tong Cheng, right?”

“Yes, yes, so you have also tried it before!”

“His steamed meat with jelly is also very delicious, almost as delicious as his sao mai.”

Yan Dan was extremely happy and was smiling like a flower, “That’s right, I had to stand in line in the early morning to get it, and when it was night time it was already completely sold out.”

Yu Mo put down his bowl, coughed lightly, and said, “Yan Dan.”

She immediately looked back at him. 

He replied, “I think you’ve messed around enough for today.” Yan Dan nodded obediently and moved the oil lamp to a more suitable position, “Shan zhu, are you going to read a book? I won’t disturb you.”

(Shan zhu means mountain master)

Leopard asked in a quiet voice, “You’re also afraid of him?”

“Terrified. If he looses his temper…”

The assassin shuddered and stopped talking. 

Yu Mo glanced at Yan Dan, and then opened his book. But when turning the pages, he couldn’t help glancing at Yan Dan to see what she was doing. Yan Dan had conjured up a pair of dice with magic and was betting with Leopard on copper coins. There was already a small stack of the coins she won beside her. It seemed like the bet had gone smoothly. Yu Mo shut his book and called, “Yan Dan!”

She was taken aback so much that the dice in her hand slipped out of her hand, landing a three. Leopard laughed loudly, “You rolled a three! Now all these coins are mine.”

Yu Mo rubbed his temples, “I think you’ll be very happy if you were buried in a coffin right now…”

Yan Dan was shocked and staggered to the table, “I won’t play dice anymore and won’t make you angry anymore, alright? Please don’t bury me…”

Yu Mo patted the cushion beside him, “Sit here.”

She pouted but still reluctantly moved to his side. Glancing at the book Yu Mo was reading, she saw that it was about Fuxi math. Yu Mo sure was lucky he could have the patience to read such a boring book. 

Without Yan Dan to accompany him to roll the dice, Leopard could only gamble by himself, rolling the dice with his left and right hands. But after doing that for a while, he was bored so he huddled in a corner and fell asleep, snoring loudly.

Yan Dan sat there for a while, but closed her eyes. After who knows how long, she suddenly woke up, confused. The oil lamps had been distinguished and the cabin was pitch black. She was resting on Yu Mo’s shoulder, and had probably leaned on him when she fell asleep. Surprisingly, Yu Mo didn’t push her away. She carefully moved a little, but Yu Mo frowned and rubbed his chin against the top of her head slightly. 

She moved away slowly, found a blanket, and gently covered Yu Mo. Stretching her hand out cautiously and brushing Yu Mo’s eyelashes, Yan Dan murmured sympathetically, “I know you must be very sad to see that injured flower girl. I’m not very good at comforting others, but I’m sure Bailing will be able to cheer you up a little.”

At dawn, the boat was moored at the Wuzhen dock, near the market.

Yan Dan looked at all the people who had came to the market so early in the morning and couldn’t help but wonder whether it was a special day, since it was very lively.

Leopard counted for a while, with his fingers, and stated, “Today is the third of May, and the fifth is the Dragon Boat Festival.”

Yan Dan repeated softly, “It’s the Dragon Boat Festival…”

The fifth day of the fifth lunar month was the most yang day in the year. There was, obviously, the custom of eating rice dumplings and racing dragon boats, but for demons, it was going to be a difficult day. Yan Dan has a deep cultivation base, so she naturally wasn’t afraid, but it would still be a very uncomfortable day. 

*Based on context clues, yang is associated with heaven, heat, and light, and that negatively affects demon’s (such as Yan Dan and Yu Mo) magic*

But since they had already arrived at the market, they must atleast eat rice dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival.

Yan Dan bought glutinous rice dumpling leaves, pork, and chestnuts at the market, handing them all to Leopard to carry.

After passing by a stall selling apples, Yu Mo’s footsteps paused. Yan Dan was shocked and immediately said, “Shanzhu, what do you think of the oranges over there?” Oranges can be eaten as long as they are peeled, while apples have to be peeled and cut into pieces. Of course, Yu Mo doesn’t need to bother, but if Yan Dan herself could save herself from trouble, then why wouldn’t she?

Leopard stated foolishly, “Eating too many oranges makes you super easy to get angry.”

Yan Dan replied with a touch of frost, “I think it tastes great with mug bean cake.”

Yu Mo clasped the folding fan in his palm and said lightly, “We’ll have oranges then.”

Yan Dan smiled brightly, “Shanzhu, you’re too kind.” Leopard was annoyed at this, but he couldn’t do anything except follow behind them with the basket in his hands.

Yu Mo stated in a low voice to Yan Dan, “The Dragon Boat Festival will be in two days. I’m afraid we won’t be able to make it back to Yanlan Mountain in time. Can you bear it?”

He was met with a nonchalant response from her, “I’ll be fine, it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve been at a Dragon Boat Festival.

Yu Mo smiled and his eyes softened, “You can act all strong and confident now, but don’t come crying when you feel uncomfortable that day.”

She suddenly felt embarrassed and pouted, “I won’t cry.”

Leopard suddenly pointed at the stall ran by the old man, “Look, there’s steamed meat with jelly…”

Yu Mo gave him such a cold look that Leopard shivered and took a few steps back.

Yan Dan bit down on her chopsticks and watched as Leopard stuffed his mouth with the steamed meat and jelly. She asked quickly, “How does it taste?”

Even before he’d  fully swallowed his mouthful, Leopard replied vaguely, “It’s okay, but not as good as the ones the old man makes.”

She opened the steamer and took out a warm sao mai, “Here, try this.”

Leopard took her hand and bit off the sao mai in one bit, chewing a few times, “It’s really good.”

Yu Mo squeezed the book with his hand and a crease appeared on the flat page. 

“Miss Yan Dan, can you give me another one?” Leopard stared at the steamer, salivating. Yan Dan took another sao mai, blew it a little, and brought it to his mouth, “Be careful, it’s hot.”

Yu Mo put down the book in his hand, picked up Leopard’s collar, and dragged him towards the boat. Leopard struggled vigorously, but it didn’t seem to affect Yu Mo at all. Yan Dan quickly grabbed Yu Mo’s sleeve and shook it lightly, “Shanzhu, are you going to throw him into the river?”

He replied, “So what?”

“The boat has already left the shore. Isn’t it so shameful to throw a person into the water and make him swim back to shore himself? Isn’t that right, Leopard?”

Leopard nodded quickly.

“What if I insist on it?” 

Yan Dan quickly weighed the pros and cons and resolutely stepped aside, “Then go ahead.”

Leopard closed his eyes in despair.

There was the large plop sound and Yu Mo lifted the curtain, walked into the cabin, and brushed off his sleeves as if nothing had happened. He sat down at the table again, picked up his book, and continued reading. 

Yan Dan pricked up her ears to listen to any movement outside of the boat before quietly stretched out her hand to brush aside the curtain. Yu Mo coughed lightly and she immediately withdrew her hand and sat upright, “Shanzhu, are you hungry too?”

Yu Mo put down his book and Yan Dan immediately started setting the table and serving him food, “Shanzhu, what kind of rice dumplings do you like? Sweet or salty?”

Yu Mo thought about it for a while and replied, “Salty.”

Yan Dan nodded, “I aso think salty rice dumplings taste very good.”

The fifth day of May – the Dragon Boat Festival. 

Yan Dan had already felt short of breath when she got up in the morning and was even more dizzy after sitting on the bow of the boat for a while. Yu Mo soaked a towel in water, wrung it dry, and handed it to her, “Do you already feel unwell?” Yan Dan was already incredibly dizzy and mumbled, “I just feel uncomfortable and weak…”

Yu Mo looked at her, gently wiped her face with a towel, and replied in a soft voice, “It’s going to be like this all day. Just bear it and it will pass soon.” His fingers were slightly cool and felt very comfortable on Yan Dan’s face. Yan Dan muttered, “How are you unaffected by this…”

Yu Mo smiled, “Do you feel better now?”

Yan Dan did feel better, and was struggling to climb into the cabin when she suddenly heard someone shouting, not too far away, “Help, help…help…” There was someone in the river, their head poking above water for a little while and then sinking back down again. She squinted her eyes and saw that it was a ten year old child. 

Yan Dan was about to climb off the boat to save him, but Yu Mo stopped her, stating calmly, “You’re already really weak right now. Just wait here patiently, lest I have to save two people.”

He stepped into the water and slowly made his way to where the child was. Seeing his calm appearance, Yan Dan thought that Yu Mo was simply showing off his strength. In terms of demonic magic, Yu Mo was better than her, but in terms of cultivation, they were equals. 

If Yan Dan is feeling so uncomfortable right now, how is it possible that Yu Mo doesn’t feel it?”

But Yu Mo reached out and grabbed the child easily. The child struggled a few times and even wrapped around Yu Mo’s arms tightly, but Yu Mo just knocked the child unconscious with a clean palm onto the child’s neck before dragging him to shore. Yan Dan looked at the child and felt the pain on the back of her neck. The two of them landed on shore and before they had stable footing, there was a peasant girl rushing up and grabbing Yu Mo’s hand, “Thank you for saving my younger brother, sir, we will never forget your kindness…”

She let go of Yu Mo’s ahnd, snatched the child, and hit him hard a few times, “I told you to not be naughty, I told you to not go to the water to play, but you still refused to obey me.” 

The child, originally in coma, was woken up by his sister and started crying loudly. 

Yan Dan thought it was funny and walked to Yu Mo with dry clothes in her arms, “Shanzhu, are you alright?”

Yu Mo looked at her, smiled slowly, “I’m fine.”

Seeing that smile, Yan Dan couldn’t help but think that, maybe, just maybe, Yu Mo is gentle on the inside.

The girl, Lian Xin, led them to her home because it was much cooler than on the boat. Yan Dan put the clean clothes onto an old wooden table, closed the door, and then stood outside. The little boy who had just been fished out of the water was being chased by his sister. When he saw Yan Dan, he quickly hid behind her and didn’t dare to poke his head out.

“You keep on hiding. If you can, just hide there forever and never come out!” Lian Xin rolled up her sleeves angrily, “Don’t you know that Grandma is in bad health? You are already this old and all you do is cause trouble!”

Yan Dan smiled slightly and said, “Miss Lian Xin, children should be taught slowly.” S

he turned around to the boy and said warmly, “Let me tell you a story, okay? Once upon a time, there was a mountain demon who wasn’t able to constrain himself from eating. He had a lot of children and many, many subordinates. He would ask around for disobedient children and, after catching them, he would cut off the ears of the children to use as a cup for drinking wine…”

The child’s face turned extremely pale and he hid behind his sister, trembling.

The door creaked behind them as Yu Mo came out, smiling, “Yan Dan, stop messing around.” He had changed into a light blue robe and he suddenly looked like a handsome young man.

Yan Dan tapped her chin with her fingers, not forgetting to praise him carefully, “Young master, many nobles like to wear green robes, but it doesn’t look suitable on you.”

Yu Mo pinched the tip of her nose and replied softly, “When will you change your habit to talking nonsense to other people?”

Yan Dan was silent: Ordinary people often say it’s difficult to be a human, but she thinks it’s more difficult to be a demon. You can’t say anything unpleasant. Beautiful you say something nice, you will also get rejected. Life really is too difficult…

Lian Xin laughed, “It’s about noon now, you guys should stay here to eat lunch – my grandmother made lunch today.” She couldn’t help but add on, “My grandmother is extremely good at culinary, I’m sure you guys wouldn’t be disappointed.”

Yan Dan listened to Lian Xin as she continued speaking and became very happy at the thought of food.

They walked into the room, to find a old, white-haired lady in the kitchen. Yan Dan was slightly worried, this lady seemed to be quite old and it must have been extremely tiring to raise these two siblings.

When she approached the table, Yan Dan immediately saw a bowl with redlipped croakers in it, with pickled vegetables on the side. In addition to the rice dumplings, eating fish was also a very improtant tradition of the Dragon Boat Festival.

Among all the things that Bailing told her, atleast ten times each, the most improtant one is: No matter whether the fish is steamed, grilled, fried, or fished from the river, stream, or sea, it is not allowed to be brought to the mountain. This became even more important when Yan Dan found out Yu Mo’s real body was a fish. After all, seeing the corpse of one’s own kind placed in front of one to eat, and others eating it as well, it probably wasn’t too tasty.

Yu Mo sneaked a glance at Yu Mo and saw that his expression was flat – as if Mount Taishan had collapsed right in front of his eyes…

Chapter 29→

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