(A Chinese Mermaid Tale)
Written and illustrated by Linda Yi | Chinese Translations by 竻竻
We ended our last episodeon a bit of a sad note:
Mei is presented with a terrible choice: should she risk Hai’s life by revealing her secret… or should she give up on becoming human?
Oh, and what about the dastardly Sha wo is sneak-listening in the shadowy corner of the cave?
Today, we find out in Part 8 of Pearl – A Chinese Mermaid Story.
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Chapter 22 – Another Way
CHAPTER 22 生词 | Vocabulary (221 - 230)
221. 姿势(Zīshì) n.posture; gesture
222. 意味(Yìwèi) v.signify; mean; imply
223. 被迫(Bèi pò) v.compel, force, constrain
224. 揭示(Jiēshì) v.show, make known
225. 自以为是(Zìyǐwéishì) IDIOM consider onself (always) in the right
226. 僵硬(Jiāngyìng)adj. stiff; rigid
227. 遗憾(Yíhàn) n.regret; sorrow; remorse
228. 显而易见(Xiǎn'éryìjiàn) IDIOM obviously; evidently; clearly
229. 包容(Bāoróng) v.forgive; accept; pardon
230. 奇迹(Qíjī) n.miracle
Sha crouched, hidden in the shadows of the cave which had – until then – been Mei’s secret. His right leg was cramping, yet his wicked heart cackled with glee. Who could have imagined that pretty wench had such secrets tucked away? So, the girl was an immortal eh?
Sha’s mind whirled into action, forming devious plan. The woman in blue had said, clear as day, that Mei’s lover would have to accept her in all her…strangeness. Hai would have to believeMei’s story… well. Sha would just have to make sure that the foolish boy couldn’tbelieve her.
Perhaps, Sha mused slyly, Mei might even be forced to use some of her magic before Hai. Ha! How Sha would love to see that self-righteous boy perish! Either way, Sha gloated, that insufferable Hai would lose his precious Mei.
Pleased with this thought, Sha slipped out of the cave, squeezing himself out through the gap in the stones. Night had fallen and a dark cloud hid the moon from sight. Sha smiled a wicked smile and melted into a shadowless night.
As Sha crept away into the darkest night, Mei sat frozen on the cold stone at the center of the cavern pool. Her sisters surrounded her still, graceful and silent. A faint shaft of moonlight filtered into the cave from the opening in the ceiling. The moon was waning.
Elder sister raised her head to gaze at the sliver of moon. “Sisters, it is time for us to return” she murmured.
Eldest sister turned her gaze to Mei for one final time, smiling sadly at her youngest sister. “You see why love between immortal and mortal beings are not meant to be.” Regret laced spirals of blue into her words.
"The coral palace waits for you. Stay for four more moons, if you must. Then, you know what you must do."
With these final words, she pressed a gentle kiss to Mei's forehead and melted back into the sea. One by one, Mei's oldest sisters kissed her and departed. Finally, only one sister remained by Mei’s side.
Mei’s seventh sister drew close to her, and pressed a kiss to her forehead just as the others had done. And then, 七姐spoke.
“Mei… there may be another way.”
“Another way?” Mei asked, voice thick with unshed tears.
“Shi-de,” seventh sister replied, “another way.”
She gestured to the eight bracelets Mei still wore and continued, “Our eldest sister spoke true. Belief forced is not belief given freely – love based on something forced cannot be what you wish it to be. Your Hai must accept you with an open and trusting heart… though in human love there are no guarantees.”
Here, Mei’s seventh sister ran a finger down the jewels on Mei’s wrist. “But,” she continued, “when it comes to love, there are two hearts at play.” 七姐rested her forefinger on the rose pearl – Mei’s very own sea-heart. “There’s another way to humanity. And it is this: give him your hai-shing, your sea heart, instead.”
“But,” Mei looked at her seventh sister with large, questioning eyes, “but if I take off my heart… if I give it to Hai… won’t I die?”
“Yes,” whispered 七姐.
“Yes, what we told you before holds true: should any of these sea-hearts leave your wrist, your connection to the sea – that which gives you life – will be broken. You will become as immobile as the stones you wear.”
“However,” 七姐continued, “Your young man, should his heart be true ... well. Miracles happen. Often for mortals. And, sometimes, even for us…" seventh sister’s voice trailed off, her eyes distant, as if lost in memory.
“七姐, how do you know all of this?” Mei asked, eyes searching seventh sister’s face. 七姐smiled, a little sadly, before meeting her younger sister’s eyes. “I, too, fell in love with a mortal… a long, long time ago. What I’ve just told you, a wise old woman once told me.” 七姐touched Mei’s cheek and continued. “But I’ve already made my choice… though I sometimes wonder about the path I did not – was not brave enough – to take…”
Sister seven’s voice faded just as the faint moonlight vanished behind a dark cloud.Mei opened her mouth to ask another question, but the last of her sisters had already vanished, melting back into sea.
Mei sat, alone at the center of the cavern pool, thoughts swirling: Could she love – completely, bravely – with no guarantees?
Mei sat still, until the dark cloud passed, until moonlight once again streamed into the cave from the opening above. Then, she rose to her feet, finally standing on the flat rock at the center of the pool. She stepped off the rock, out into the pool, yet her feet did not touch water. Instead, smooth stones appeared where Mei’s feet trod. As Mei continued to walk back across the cavern lake, she left a stone pathway in her wake, white stones gleaming softly under dwindling moonlight.
Chapter 23 – Rumors
第二十三章 – 谣言
CHAPTER 23 生词 | Vocabulary (231 - 240)
231. 传播(Chuánbò) v.disseminate; propagate; spread
232. 肆意(Sìyì) adv.Wantonly; recklessly; willfully
233. 抓挠(Zhuānao) dialect v. to scratch at
234. 沸腾(Fèiténg) V.see with excitement; boil over
235. 亲(Qīn) n. in this context, concubine n. bride n. intimate n. relation
236. 失宠(Shīchǒng) v. pejorative fall into disfavour
237. 背地里(Bèidìlǐ) expression.Behind sb.’s back; on the sly
238. 纠缠(Jiūchán) v.get entagled
239. 况且(Kuàngqiě) conj.Moreover; besides; in addition
240.议论纷纷(Yìlùn fēnfēn)IDIOMall sorts of comments; gossip of all sorts
A funny thing about rumors...
Once given breathe, they take on a life of their own, spreading from ear to ear like worms made of smoke, burrowing in deep and sinking suspicious claws into the heart.
A whisper here. A hint dropped there.
Soon, the entire village was abuzz.
"See that girl there, her head in the clouds?" “Does anyone actually know where she came from?” “I heard…she was a rich man’s concubine who fell out of favor.” “Yes, see those shining baubles she wears around her wrist - what do you make of that?” “She stole them, if you ask me… how else could a simple maiden possess such fineries?” “Goodness! A thief as well!”
Sha watched the rumors spread with glee. He had been careful, dropping suggestions into welcoming ears. These days, villagers cast pitiful looks at Hai, murmuring to each other when they passed him on the streets:
"Poor boy, to end up with a temptress like that. Why, he knows nothing of her past. He can't possibly give her the treasures she desires... it's only a matter of time before she leaves him for 'richer' pastures."
Hai went about his work, heading out to sea each morning and bringing his catch to market each day. He acted as if he heard nothing of the rumors, which spread virus like through the sleepy village. Yet now, when he and Mei walked together, Hai could see both men and women casting dark looks their way.
The village children had a new rhyme to sing, as well. It went something like this:
Beauty and her fool
Beauty and her fool
keep not a bird from flight
Beauty's fool best say goodbye
Hai never said a word. Yet, when he passed whispering villagers on the street, the tips of his ears glowed red.
"If she really loved him, she'd give him one of those expensive baubles,” the villagers hissed behind their backs.
"Give him a pearl to prove your heart!"
Chapter 24 – Please Believe!
CHAPTER 24 生词 | Vocabulary (241 - 250)
241. 思绪(Sīxù) n.train of thought; emotional state
242. 拒绝(Jùjué) v.refuse; eject; turn down; decline
243. 急匆匆(Jícōngcōng)adv. In a hurry; hurriedly
244. 争先恐后(Zhēngxiānkǒnghòu) IDIOM strive to be the first and fear of being left behind
245. 清贫(Qīngpín) adj.poor but upright; dignified
246. 支吾(Zhīwú) v.stammer; respond evasively
247. 一模一样(Yīmúyīyàng)IDIOM exactly alike; like two peas in a pod
248. 央求(Yāngqiú) v.beg; plead; implore
249. 一股脑(Yīgǔnǎo) adv. All in on go; all of it; lock, stock, and barrel
250. 乞求(Qǐqiú) v.begging
Mei and Hai sat down to dinner. Hai had caught a bushel of oysters that day, and Mei cooked them in a pot of sea water, flavoring the succulent meat with sea salt. Mei watched as Hai’s chopsticks lifted a mouthful of rice. He said nothing as he ate, his eyes fixed on the bowl before him.
Sensing Mei’s gaze, Hai paused and met her eyes with his own. "Hai", she began, voice softened with hesitation. "You hear what the villagers say..." Hai colored slightly but kept silent. "Have you nothing to ask me?"
Mei's fingers played nervously with the bangles around her wrist. Hai seemed to be gathering his thoughts. Finally, he spoke – his words forming a single question.
"Mei. Are you happy?"
Surprise flickered across Mei's face. She had expected him to ask – perhaps about her bracelet, perhaps about her past. Yet this – she had not expected this.
Mei reached for Hai’s hand. Her bracelets clinked. His fingers lay motionless beneath hers. Two hands – one small, one large. One darkened by sun and calloused by sea; the other slender and light.
Hai stared at their hands, mistaking Mei’s silence for denial.
"Perhaps I ama fool to keep you here, if – in your heart – you do not wish to stay." Hai rushed on, words tumbling out before Mei could respond. "I am but a fisherman - and a poor one at that. A fisherman I will always be. If it is me you choose, then I... am the happiest boy you will meet. But… can you ever be truly happy with a poor fisherman like me?”
"Of course Hai, of course!"
Mei cried happily, relief pouring like sunshine into her heart. Hai would accept her. She just knew he would. She opened her mouth to speak, but it was Hai who spoke first.
"If you don’t need wealth to be happy,” Hai said, searching Mei’s eyes with his own, “can you show me? Those bracelets you wear – could you give them up? Leave them to the sea and wear them no more… if I am truly enough for you.” Hai felt his face grow hot, the tips of his ears burning bright. His heart pounded with hope… and with fear.
The sunshine which had flooded Mei's chest blotted out. Storm clouds gathered in the skies outside.
"I..." Mei faltered, heart sinking.
Hai saw Mei’s hesitation, and doubt blanketed his own heart. From his pocket, he took two copper coins – the very same coins he had shown to Mei many moons ago. Hai placed them on the table. The coins clinked dully against the wood.
"Metal symbols and shining stones - these I cannot give you. You want – you deserve – more. One day, you’ll no longer wish to stay. And if you are to leave, I’d rather it be today.”
Words spoken, Hai rose to his feet and turned toward the door. His hands were clenched, his nails digging into his palm. The pain barely registered compared to the sharp ache in his heart. He was giving Mei her freedom. It was time for him to walk away – no matter how much it hurt.
Stinging heat swept up from Mei’s chest and into her cheeks. Hot tears gathered behind her eyes. Desperate, she called for Hai to wait – to listen to her, please.
Mei spoke to him, her words tangling and tripping over themselves, of her palace of coral and jade. She spoke of her seven sisters – and their warnings. She begged him to remember the rose-colored carp he had once saved, the one he had once told her about. Gazing imploringly into Hai’s eyes, Mei cried. “Hai, that was me.Please!
Story Video (with bonus drawing process! )