(A Chinese Mermaid Tale)
After the rescue comes… a storm?
In our last episode, the dastardly Sha had captured the rose carp (who we know is actually Mei, the youngest daughter of the dragon king). Luckily, Hai was able to save the rose carp from harm – having just traded his entire days catch for this odd but friendly fish. Though Hai doesn’t know the rose carp is actually Mei… he does feel a sense of familiarity… he just can’t put his finger on what!
Now that Hai has rescued the rose carp, what will he do?
Today, we find out in Part 5 of Pearl – A Chinese Mermaid Story.
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Chapter 12 – The Storm
第十二章 – 暴风雨
CHAPTER 12 生词
Vocabulary (121 - 130)
121. 小心翼翼 (Xiǎoxīnyìyì) IDIOM with the greatest of care; very cautiously
122. 以至于 (Yǐ zhìyú) conj. To such an extent as to…. ; so…that…
123. 姹紫嫣红 (Chàzǐyānhóng) IDIOM fig. deep purples and bright reds; lit. beautiful flowers
124. 泼墨 (Pōmò) noun Chinese painting. Splash-ink; a Chinese painting technique
125. 羞怯(Xiūqiè) adj. shy; timid; sheepish
126. 犹豫 (Yóuyù) adj. hesitate; be irresolute
127. 眼眸 (Yǎn móu) n. eyes (synonsym of 眼睛)
128. 山雨欲来风满楼 (Shān yǔ yù lái fēng mǎn lóu) IDIOM the rising wind forebodes a coming storm
129. 喜怒无常 (Xǐnùwúcháng) IDIOM moody; capricious; unpredictable
130. 倾覆(Qīngfù) v. overturn; topple; capsize
Hai left the market, pockets empty of coin. Instead, he carried a single wooden pail holding the rose carp.
He walked back to the dock and swiftly untied the ropes which bound his boat to shore. Then, he lowered the pail carrying the rose carp into the boat, taking care not to splash water over the bucket rim. Hai stepped in after it. Bamboo shaft in hand, he pushed out to sea.
He rowed further than he'd ever rowed before.
He rowed so far that, when he gazed back to shore, he could barely make out land.
Hai rowed and rowed until the sky changed from pale blue to a symphony of orange, pink and violet.
He rowed until that same sky painted itself with graying clouds, slate colored brushstrokes streaking across a darkening sky.
Finally, Hai stopped.
Reaching into the pail with both hands, Hai lifted the rose carp, taking care not to squeeze.
"Forgive me, friend" Hai said, almost sheepishly. "But I didn’t save you from that shark on land only to deliver you into the jaws of a shark at sea.”
The rose carp seemed to be listening to him. Instead of thrashing, as would most fish out of water, it lay quiet and still in Hai’s hands. Its eyes seemed to follow him as he examined its gleaming scales. When Hai was satisfied that Sha’s cruel jabbing had left no open wounds, he leaned over the boat and slid the rose carp gently into the water.
Hai spoke again, “I don’t know if you can understand me, but…” he hesitated. What was he doing, talking to a fish? Yet… there was something about this carp – something familiar to Hai. He just couldn’t put his finger on what.
他看着水中的鲤鱼，不自觉地又加了一句：“我不知道你能不能听懂我说的话，但是。。。” 说到这，他突然犹豫了：自己竟然在和一条鱼说话! 可是，不知为何，海总觉得这条鱼有点眼熟，好像他们之间曾经有过某种联系，可是具体是什么联系，他说不上来。
The rose carp waited patiently by the side of Hai’s boat, tail drifting in the water, its head slightly raised toward Hai. It seemed to be looking at him. Its eyes, Hai noticed for the first time, were a gray-blue with hints of green – the color of a storm-tossed sea.
Hai gave himself a little shake, trying to clear his head. He looked into those sea-storm eyes and continued to speak.
“You need to stay away from us, my friend.”
Hai gestured at his boat, and then at himself. “These boats – and the men on them – they mean you nothing but harm. We are, after all, fishermen by trade… you shouldn’t trust so easily.”
Still, the rose carp remained, making no move to leave. It must be hungry, Hai thought to himself. Of course! It must not have eaten since this morning. He reached into his pocket and produced the few scraps of the man-tou bun he had saved from breakfast. Hai scattered the scraps of man-tou into the sea, and then said:
"Chi-ba...Eat and swim away, my odd little friend."
And with that, Hai turned his boat back toward shore and began to row.
He didn't look back.
As he rowed, ever darkening clouds erased what remained of the dwindling daylight. Salt winds whipped Hai’s face, and the sea – previously calm – began to churn with rough and choppy waves. The wind howled. A ribbon of silver lightning danced across the sky. Thunder roared its approval.
Then, the rains came.
Fat, stinging rain with no preamble of a shower. It slashed across Hai’s skin, clawing at his eyes, soaking him in seconds. He ran a hand across his face, trying in vain to wipe away the water, the frustration, and the mounting fear.
He couldn't believe how quickly the storm had come – yet he should have known better. Hai remembered the sweltering heat which had blanketed the past few days, thought of the eerie calm that always foretold a storm. He should have known better...
他不敢相信， 暴风雨居然来的这样迅猛—但是，或许他早该预料到的。海回忆起前几天酷热 难耐的高温，还有空气中弥漫着的那股 山雨欲来风满楼的味道。。。他早该料到的。
At that thought, an enormous wave plucked up Hai’s boat – a tempestuous child rough-housing with a toy. It slammed back down with a splintering crash, tearing Hai’s boat into pieces. Hai, too, was thrown into the sea.
As saltwater filled his lungs and his vision clouded, he thought he saw a flash of rose.
Chapter 13 – The Rescue
第十三章 – 得救
CHAPTER 13 生词 | Vocabulary (131 - 140)
131. 缠绕 (Chánrào) v. twine; bind; wind v. pester; bother; harass
132. 阴郁 (Yīnyù) adj. gloomy; dismal; depressed
133. 欣慰 (Xīnwèi) adj. gratified
134. 凝视 (Níngshì) v. gaze fixedly; stare
135. 五彩缤纷 (Wǔcǎibīnfēn) IDIOM colorful; blazing with color
136. 满天繁星 (Mǎn tiān fánxīng) IDIOM whole sky, a multitude of stars
137. 支支吾吾 (Zhī zhīwú wú) Expression hem and haw; to stall; to stammer; to mumble
138. 扑哧一笑 (Pūchī yīxiào) Expression snort with laughter; chuckle
139. 矫健 (Jiǎojiàn) adj. strong and vigorous; robust
140. 出神(Chūshén) v. be spellbound; be in a trance; be lost in thought
A tangle of limbs.
She grasped his waist, firmly, and swam – heart thudding like a drum inside her chest, echoing off her ribcage.
She swam with all her might, pausing only to breathe life into his lungs. She moved through the water, body twisting sinuously, her legs – or was it her tail? – propelling her toward shore. She carried him with her, his body made light by salt crystals in the sea.
Finally, they reached land. Mei pulled Hai ashore. The rain had stopped. The sky had spent all of its gray-green fury, and had settled back into a curtain of satiny blue. A few bright stars winked, cautiously, above Mei and Hai.
He lay before her, still and unmoving.
Mei smoothed a hand over Hai’s brow, brushing a few locks of wet hair away from his face. His skin felt cool to her touch, still damp from sea water. Mei bent and pressed her ear against his chest. There it was – a steady drumbeat.
She smiled in relief.
Drawing back, she gazed at him for a few moments more. He was safe… A salt breeze brushed soft lips across Mei’s bare shoulders. Hai stirred too, eyelids fluttering – as if about to open. It was then that Mei realized –
They were still in the cave! Leaping to her feet, Mei hastened back to the water. She slipped back into the sea, transforming once more into the rose carp – and swam toward the underwater passage leading to her cave. Soon, Mei had reached her hidden alcove.
She rose from the crystalline pool, rose scales falling away to reveal soft skin, flowing tail becoming legs once more. Mei retrieved her village maiden’s clothing from the patch of dry rock, donning them before slipping out through the cave’s narrow entrance. She looked at the sky – now midnight blue and sprinkled with stars – and smiled.
“Out for a late swim?”
Mei started at the familiar voice. There, beside her, stood the old woman – Nainai, as Mei now fondly called her. Standing beside Nainai, chewing placidly on a mouthful of straw, was a fat old donkey.
“Nainai – !” Mei stammered, “Where, where – ”.
“Oh, we were out for a late night stroll,” Nainai chuckled, giving the donkey’s flank an affectionate pat. “This old fellow followed me home from market today.” Nainai smiled at the memory, and then looked at Mei with laughing eyes.
奶奶咯咯一笑, 一边亲切地拍了拍驴的一侧，一边说道：“是这只老家伙先跟着我的，从集市，一路跟到家里来。” 奶奶说着说着，好像回忆起什么了似的，看向小妹的眼里，满是笑意。
“Ah,” Mei stammered, more confused than ever. “Well – ”
“Well!” Nainai interrupted with a chuckle, “Good thing he came along… look there!” She pointed a gnarled finger at the prone figure of Hai, lying on the sand a distance away.
“That young man’s been lying there for a while now,” Nainai told Mei. “I was having darndest time thinking of how to get him on the donkey… but now that you’re here, you can help me lift him!”
The old woman lifted the hand that held her cane, as if to demonstrate said lifting. Then, she turned and shuffled toward the unconscious Hai, moving much more quickly than one would think a bent old woman with a gnarled old cane could move. The fat donkey plodded, much more slowly, after her.
Mei gazed dazedly at them both, before hurrying along to lend a hand.
Chapter 14 – Second Meeting
第十四章 – 第二次见面
CHAPTER 14 生词 | Vocabulary (141 - 150)
141. 身处 (Shēn chǔ) v. in (someplace) v. to be in (adversity, a difficult situation)
142. 掀开 (Xiān kāi) v. open; lift; draw
143. 袅袅 (Niǎoniǎo) adj. literary curling upwards; in waves
144. 舀 (Yǎo) v. to ladle out; spoon out; scoop
145. 灵丹妙药 (Língdānmiàoyào) IDIOM magic (or wonder) drug; miraculous cure; panacea
146. 精气神儿 (Jīng qì shén er) expression. Vigour; energy; drive
147. 末了(Mòliǎo) n. last; finally; in the end
148. 纤细 (Xiānxì) adj. slender; fine; thin; tenuous
149. 清秀 (Qīngxiù) adj. delicate and pretty
150. 怔怔(Zhèngzhèng) adj. dialect staring blankly; dazed; in a trance
He woke to the scent of steamed rice. A sweet and delicate scent – one he had loved since he was a boy. He felt beneath him and realized that he was lying on a woven mat of thin bamboo strips. The material felt cool against his skin.
Hai sat up and looked around. He was in a modest hut. To his right was the entrance. In the place of a door, someone had hung a length of blue cloth. On the cloth was stitched – with delicate needlework – two dancing carp.
The carps moved. The curtain moved. Into the hut hobbled an old woman, hair white as snow. In her hands, she cupped a bowl filled with dark-brown liquid. White steam rose in tendrils from the bowl of medicine. The old woman made her way toward Hai, each step slow and measured, taking care to not spill a drop.
"Lie back down, young man" she rasped, voice scratchy with age and gentled with concern.
"We've brewed you some mountain herbs. The sea took much out of you and you need to rest".
As she spoke, her wizened hands stirred the medicine with a carved wooden spoon. Once. Twice. Thrice. The old woman lifted spoonful of the brew, putting it to her own lips to taste. Satisfied with its temperature, she proffered the bowl to Hai.
The medicine smelled bitter. It tasted worse. Hai forced himself to swallow the stuff with what he hoped was a grateful expression. He even mustered small smile.
The old woman was not fooled.
She clucked with amusement and rapped him lightly on the knuckles with her wooden spoon. "No elixir of the gods,” she chuckled, "but it does wonders for the body. Eases pain and livens the soul.” She laughed again as Hai took another shuddering swallow.
“Sure is bitter though!” the old woman laughed. She gave Hai a knowing look, and added – “Perhaps its bitterness might be easier to swallow… if it was offered by the medicine maker herself?”
老阿婆笑着说完，末了又加了一句：“这药确实很苦，不过，如果你知道是谁亲自给你煎的这药，应该就觉得它不那么难以 下咽了吧？” 她说完，还颇有深意地看了海一眼。
The old woman turned and called over her shoulder.
Her voice traveled past the blue curtain out to the modest yard where Mei was tending a small fire.
Mei lifted the small kettle hanging over the fire, in which simmered the remaining herbal brew. She carried it carefully toward the entrance of the hut. Inside the hut, Hai watched as blue curtain lifted by a small hand. A slender wrist, adorned with eight colorful bangles, followed. Then came a quiet face, with eyes the color of a summer storm.
She smiled him. He looked back at her.
"Ah" she thought, "this is the first time you've looked at me ... as me"
"Oh" he thought.
To be continued in Pearl (Part 6)