(A Chinese Mermaid Tale)
Written and illustrated by Linda Yi | Chinese Translations by 竻竻
In our last episode, we saw a mutual rescue:
…with Hai saving Mei from Sha… and Mei saving him in return from the sea. Now that Mei and Hai have finally met each other – in human form – what’s in store?
We find out today, with Part 6 of Pearl – A Chinese Mermaid Story
(P.S. This episode is our mid-way point! We are halfway through this long-form fairy tale!!
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Chapter 15 – What the Moon Saw
第十五章 – 月亮看到的那些事
CHAPTER 15 生词 | Vocabulary (151 - 160)
151. 相视而笑 (Xiāng shì ér xiào) Expression. Look and smile at each other
152. 诞生 (Dànshēng) v. be born; come into being; emerge (see 圣诞节 or Christmas)
153. 照耀 (Zhàoyào) v. Shine; illuminate
154. 粗糙 (Cūcāo) adj. coarse; rough adj. crude, rough
155. 奇形怪状 (Qíxíngguàizhuàng) IDIOM grotesque or fantastic in shape or appearance
156. 包裹(Bāoguǒ) v. wrap up; bind up n. bundle; package; parcel
157. 淡雅(Dànyǎ) adj. simple but elegant; quietly elegant; unadorned
158. 漆黑 (Qīhēi) adj. pitch-dark; pitch-black
159. 耳鬓厮磨 (Ěrbìnsīmó) IDIOM lit. ear to ear and temple to temple; fig. very close relationship
160. 日月星辰(rì yuè xīngchén) Expression the sun, the moon, and the stars; the heavenly bodies
When Hai brought his fish to market, he would stop by the fabric stand. There, he and Mei would speak, sharing their days news and laughing over shared memories. As they spoke, Mei continued to work on her embroidery. Under her fingers, shy young men and dancing maidens appeared, met, and fell in love.
Mei and Hai often walked together, after a shared dinner at Nainai’s table. Overhead, a pale silver moon hung low in the sky. Night after night they walked, passing under tall trees with knotted bark and fat waxy leaves. In the sky, the moon’s round face gradually waned, growing thinner and thinner until she disappeared completely.
Mei and Hai continued to explore new paths, and marveled over new landscapes. They passed under odd trees, whose branches were draped with silvery vines, which hung willow like to the ground. Red flowers -- painted purple by moonlight – bloomed on these vines, for the moon had appeared once more.
每次散步，他们都能发现一条新的小路，感受新的景色。他们路过奇形怪状的树，银色的藤蔓 包裹着树干，然后像柳枝一样垂到地上。藤蔓上开满了红艳艳的花，在月光下泛着淡雅的紫色。是的--又一轮新月出现在了 漆黑的天边。
At first a bashful crescent, the moon had quickly lost her shyness, becoming full and bright once again. She smiled down at the two young lovers below, their heads bent toward each other. What are they whispering? the moon wondered… How I wish I knew.
As Mei and Hai stepped slowly under trees hung with vines and moonlight, a breeze weaved through the branches and made their willow-like hangings sway. Mei raised a hand, brushing against them, a smile tugging at her lips.
These odd vines reminded her of home – of the kelp forests swaying gently under the sea. How long had it been since she'd swam amongst the reefs. How long had it been since she had left her sisters?
Hai walked slowly beside Mei, feeling the moonlight settle lightly around them. He glanced at her, and saw a glimmer of sadness pass through her eyes. She had stopped, her hands now tracing the swaying vines – seemingly lost in thought.
Hai stopped too, bent down, and retrieved a fallen blossom. It had four ruby red petals and gave off a honeyed perfume. Standing, flower in hand, Hai turned toward Mei. Sensing Hai’s movement, Mei half turned to him and smiled. Seeing the blossom he held, her eyes creased further with merriment. She was laughing when Hai tucked the blossom into her hair.
The sweet scent of rubied honey wove through the shadows of the trees as Mei and Hai started, once again, along their path.
Like this they walked, for two more moons, drinking in silver light from evening stars and breathing in the scent of blossoming trees.
Chapter 16 – A Pretty Penny
第十六章 – “大价钱” 到底是什么？
CHAPTER 16 生词 | Vocabulary (161 - 170)
161. 愈发(Yù fā) adv. All the more; even more; further
162. 肩并肩 (Jiān bìngjiān) expression shoulder to shoulder; side by side
163. 疑惑 (Yíhuò) v. feel uncertain (or unconvinced)
164. 身世 (Shēnshì) n. one’s life experience; one’s past history
165. 囚禁 (Qiújìn) v. imprison; put in jail; keep in captivity
166. 得意洋洋 (Déyì yángyáng) IDIOM 被immensely proud; look triumphant
167. 顺势 (Shùnshì) v. to seize an opportunity; to take advantage of adv. conveniently
168. 余晖 (Yúhuī) n. sunset (or evening) glow; afterglow
169. 斟酌(Zhēnzhuó) v. consider; deliberate
170. 象征(Xiàngzhēng) n. symbol; emblem; token v. symbolize; signify
Autumn came and went.
Winter arrived and the days grew shorter. The air cooled and blew briskness into the villagers’ steps. Hai and Mei stepped together, quietly, along a seashore littered with half broken shells. Mei had covered her linen tunic with a shawl of woven cotton. The bracelets gracing her wrists hung in quiet repose. The rose-colored pearl peeked out from under Mei’s shawl.
Hai’s eyes lingered upon the rose-colored pearl. He sometimes wondered about the bracelets Mei wore, always wore, on her wrist. She never spoke of them – almost didn't seem to notice them. Yet they clinked musically with every move she made. Hai puzzled over where they came from – where she came from. Mei never spoke of her past. Hai sometimes started to ask – yet could never quite bring the words to his lips.
This day, as they walked along the sea shore, Mei suddenly spoke.
"Hai, what’s a 'pretty penny'?"
She turned to look at him, her back facing the sea. It was nearing sunset, and a setting sun gilded her in gold.
" What’s a pretty penny ... and why do people like it so much? "
Mei thought back to the day she had spent, terrified and trapped, in Sha’s wooden pail. She still remembered the high, nasally laugh Sha had uttered, as he imagined the price an exotic looking rose carp could fetch him at the market.
彼时，小妹想起了那段被囚禁在沙的木桶里的日子. 她依旧记得沙那沙哑尖利的笑声--那是他想到自己这条精致的玫瑰色鲤鱼能在市场上卖到一大笔钱时，发出的 得意洋洋的笑声。
Hai turned to face Mei, too. He reached for her hand, and she laced her fingers through his. As she did so, the bangles at her wrist slid against each other, glinting in the sinking sun. Hai’s eyes stopped on them, for the briefest of moments, before meeting Mei's questioning eyes.
"Why do you ask?"
"It's something I once heard," Mei answered.
Hai looked at her for a few moments more, and then turned his head toward the sea. He spoke slowly, measuring his words out by the spoonful.
"A pretty penny... is confused happiness. People often see this – "
Hai paused and reached into his pocket, drawing out two copper coins, and continued – “as tokens to happiness. He rubbed the coins together, between thumb and forefinger. Hai continued: "Men have fought over strings of these. Many more have died for ambitions of silver and gold. Yet ..." He held the coins up. They shone dully in the dying sun. "The penny is never pretty enough. I've seen men sink beneath the weight of greed." Hai placed the coins back into his pocket and gazed, once more, out to the sea. Mei turned towards the sea, too, and felt the warmth of Hai’s hand in hers.
They looked out, together, into the calm undulating blue.
Chapter 17 – Good Luck Charm
第十七章 – 好运符
CHAPTER 17 生词 | Vocabulary (171 - 180)
171. 好运符(Hǎo yùn fú) n. good luck charm
172. 糟心 (Zāo xīn) adj. vexed; annoyed; dejected; upset
173. 嫌弃(Xiánqì) v. dislike and avoid; cold-shoulder
174. 沐浴 (Mùyù) v. to take a bath; to bathe; v. to immerse; be immersed in
175. 骂骂咧咧 (Màmaliēliē) expression. To swear while talking; to be foul mouthed
176. 时时刻刻 (Shíshí kèkè) expression. All the time; always; constantly
177. 一味 (Yīwèi) adv. Blindly; persistently; stubbornly
178. 美如天仙 (Měi ruò tiānxiān) expression. As beautiful as an angel; very beautiful
179. 白日梦 (Bái rì mèng) n. daydream
180. 胡思乱想 (Húsīluànxiǎng) IDIOM go off into flights of fancy; give way to foolish thoughts
Sha was having a wicked kind of day. He'd woken in an evil mood when unwelcome rays of sunlight stung at his eyes. Sha reached for his wine gourd, and his mood spiraled further when he found it empty. He threw it aside with a snort of disgust.
Sha swiped the back of his hand over his nose, and then wiped a trickle of saliva from his mouth. He glowered towards his door - which was slightly open - and at the streets bathed in daylight. Sha cursed the daylight which had roused him. Had it been raining, he would have cursed the rain.
Sha considered going to market, and he frowned. The picture of a quiet young man came to mind, the one who always arrived at market before him. A hot bolt of annoyance shot from Sha’s stomach to his feet.
Hai…Ocean. Sha grunted in disgust. What a name. What were his fool parents thinking, to name the boy something so... Sha’s clouded mind struggled to find the word, so... poetic. It's no pity the fools had died.
Sha said the name out loud, spitting it out as if it were a bad taste in his mouth. Hai. Always at the market with the better fish, flaunting his strait-laced diligence in Sha’s face. And now, it seemed as if the boy had come into a good deal of luck – ever since he had cheated Sha out of his prize rose-carp!
沙恶狠狠地从嘴里吐出了这个名字：”海。” 那个永远最早来到集市的男孩，那个永远卖着质量更好更鲜美的鱼，时时刻刻在炫耀自己勤劳 付出的那个男孩。而自从他从自己手里买了那只珍贵的玫瑰色鲤鱼开始，就好像突然撞了大运，什么好事都落他头上了！
Sha was working himself into a fury. He conveniently forgot that he'd gotten more than his fair trade that day. Yes, that rose carp was a good luck omen, and that boy had swindled it from right under Sha’s nose! And that good luck didn’t just bring good fishing… it had even landed that boy the prettiest maiden the village had ever seen!
Sha licked his lips at the thought of pretty Mei. His mind began to spin, whirling him further into a fantasy world. Yes, if he still had that rose-carp, then that pretty wench would have been his...
Sha groped around him and found his discarded gourd. He brought it to his mouth for a swig. Finding it empty still, he gave grunt, and headed out in search of more wine.
Chapter 18 – The Call
第十八章 – 呼唤
CHAPTER 18 生词 | Vocabulary (181 - 190)
181. 明媚 (Míngmèi) adj. bright and beautiful; radiant and enchanting
182. 倏然 (Shūrán) adv. Literary suddenly; abruptly
183. 弧度(Húdù) n. curve n. radian n. arc
184. 冷不丁(Lěngbudīng) expression. Suddenly; unexpectedly
185. 瞥(Piē) v. shoot a glance at; dart a look at; n. a quick look
186. 自顾自(Zì gù zì) expression. Each minding his own business
187. 闭目养神(Bì mù yǎngshén) IDIOM close one’s eyes and rest; repose; take a rest
188. 浑浊 (Húnzhuó) adj. muddy; turbid; cloudy
189. 与此同时(Yǔ cǐ tóngshí) expression at the same time; meanwhile
190. 鬼鬼祟祟(Guǐ guǐsuì suì) IDIOM sneaking; furtive; stealthy
The day was cold, despite bright sunshine that blanketed the village streets.
Mei was making tea for Nainai. She lifted the teapot and poured, watching pale wisps of steam curl up from the dark fragrant liquid. As she poured, Mei thought of the eight moons she had already spent on land. She had grown to love this village, her life with Nainai, and the days – the moons – she had spent with Hai.
Something tugged inside her, a call Mei had yet to answer. Steam rose in swirls. Mei's bangles clinked wistfully.
Nainai accepted the tea Mei poured for he, lifting the cup to breath in its earthy fragrance. The old woman’s eyes were closed; her wrinkled mouth smiling. She sipped at the tea, lips pursed in pleasure. Eyes still closed, Nainai spoke:
"You are sad, child"
Mei said nothing to this - for she knew not what to say. She bent to refill the old woman's tea cup.
"You should go to them. Their sea-hearts call to you".
Mei faltered, nearing spilling the tea. She glanced at Nainai, whose eyes were still closed. As if she felt Mei’s gaze upon her, the old woman opened her eyes and looked steadily back at Mei. Despite cataract clouded eyes, Nainai seemed to see her clear as day.
"Go child, for they wait."
Nainai needn't have spoken twice. The blue curtain, which hung by the door, had already lifted and dropped back into place.
Mei had gone.
Mei hurried down the village streets, mind spinning with questions. How did Nainai know… what exactly did Nainai know?
Mei thought to herself, Nainai must be talking about my sisters.
As Mei turned down a street corner, she sank even deeper into thought. Go child… for they wait, Nainai had said. But her twelve moons on land were not yet up – where could her sisters be waiting? Even as her mind formed this last question, Mei's heart answered. Her bracelets sang with each step she took, and she moved swiftly.
She was headed to the cave.
As she hurried along, Mei did not see the all-too-familiar figure skulking, not far behind her.
To be continued in Pearl (Part 7)