(A Chinese Mermaid Tale)
Written and illustrated by Linda Yi | Chinese Translations by 竻竻
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Chapter 35 – Keeping Watch
第三十五章 – 监视
Sha had been keeping a close eye on Hai. The boy had been acting strangely for weeks: rising at dawn to collect handfuls of dew, and then pouring said water onto a strange sort of ivy. Sha didn't know what Hai was up to... but that boy was certainly up to something.
So Sha kept watch, a quiet shadow haunting Hai’s every step.
Chapter 36 – A Single Bud
第三十六章 – 一朵花蕾
When Hai woke the next morning, yellow sunlight had already filtered in through the window. He couldn’t believe how late he had slept! Pulling on his tunic, he hurried outside toward his vines.
The leaves on the soul blossom vines shone lush and green, just as they’d always done. This morning, however, a bright rim of red framed the edge of one particular leaf. Thin scarlet veins ran along the leaf’s center as well, narrowing into a thicker vein that ran towards the vine trunk. Hai leaned forward to trace that line of red with a forefinger.
up the vine he traced... 他的手指越来越往上。
And then he stopped. There it was. A single bud – wrapped tightly in upon itself – precisely the size of the rose-pearl still strung around his neck…
Hai visited her that afternoon. Crossing the lake in forty-nine stone steps, he stopped in front of Mei’s marble figure. Hai told her of the strange things that had come to pass, spoke to her of his time in the realm of dreams. He told her, too, about green leaves turning red –and of a soul blossom bud waiting to bloom. Hai reached for the rose-pearl that hung about his neck. Holding it in his palm, he felt its steady beat.
He stayed there for many minutes more, sitting with Mei until the daylight outside faded into dusk.
Chapter 37 – In Bloom
第三十七章 – 绽放
When Hai finally left Mei's side, night had already fallen. Bright stars winked high above, lighting his path home.
The bud of the soul blossom was still tightly furled, yet Hai could already see the delicate white of its petals. He reached toward the bud, fingers trembling, suddenly afraid it might all be a dream. At his touch, the flower bud began to unfurl…
First one petal… then a second, a third, and finally a fourth.
The soul blossom glowed, as if lit from within. Its delicate fragrance filled the air. Hai reached for it – but before he could pluck the flower, a voice behind him spoke:
"So, it has bloomed at last… yet before your harvest, heed these words:”
The Earth Mother – once more in the form of Nai Nai – hobbled towards Hai, speaking with each measured step.
“What lies before you is a treasure among treasures. One petal on your beloved’s lips will bring her back to you. Another petal to return the sea’s daughter to her immortal realm. One petal for you, dear boy, should you wish to join her there… and the fourth and final petal you may gift to whomever you choose. For each petal of the soul blossom grants life. Life to those recently passed, and everlasting life to those already living."
Her last words spoken, the Earth Mother melted back into the ground, vanishing with a smile.
Hai knelt with both palms in the soil and touched his forehead to the earth in thanks. Then he rose and carefully plucked a single petal from the soul blossom. Petal in hand, Hai hurried toward the seashore, hastening toward the cave where Mei stood waiting.
Chapter 38 – Sha’s reward
第三十八章 – 沙的报应
Out from a shadowy corner slinked Sha, a foul smile spreading like oil across his face. He had heard it all – every single word that pestilential old hag had said to the boy. Sha could not believe his good fortune: the fool had left three whole petals of that magic flower behind! Sha snatched at the soul blossom with greedy fingers, bruising its white petals in his haste.
Without a moment’s pause, he crammed all three petals into his mouth, his mind whirling with fantasies of glory. Everlasting life. Immortality! If one petal could grant everlasting life, just imagine what three would do! By the gods, he would be king among men. No, even better! He would be a god himself!
Giddily, Sha made to move, ready to make a triumphant return to the wretched village. Who were the villagers to him now? Nothing but wretched ants! Ha! Sha would crush them under his heel…
… but wait. Why wasn’t he moving?
Try as he might, Sha couldn’t take a single step. It was as if he was rooted to the ground. Then, he looked down... and to his horror, this is what he saw:
He was indeed rooted to the ground – for Sha’s legs had transfigured into knotted and twisting bark. His feet had disappeared into the ground, their roots sinking deep into rich fertile soil. Sha’s torso, too, had begun to harden. He made as if to touch his chest – his face! But as soon as Sha raised his arms, they became frozen in place. His arms and fingers grew into branches, stretching and arching over the stately trunk below.
From the place where Sha’s head had been, more branches sprouted – on which burst forth a profusion of fat green leaves. Amidst these leaves bloomed dozens of delicately scented flowers in various shades of red and plum.
At the center of each blossom was a pale, yellow heart.
Chapter 39 – Going Home
第三十九章 – 回家
Hai reached Mei’s side, holding the soul blossom petal with gentle hands. He untied the rose-pearl from his own neck and placed it around Mei’s instead. The pearl glowed softly, resting over the spot where Mei’s heart would have been. Hai placed his single petal between her marble lips.
He shut his eyes and he prayed.
He prayed to the dragons and he prayed to the sea –
he prayed to gods in whom he once never believed.
And as Hai prayed, he imagined Mei’s hands – fingers nimble and flushed pink with life – once again weaving their magic with needle and thread. He pictured her dark hair, plaited and dancing in the hot summer breeze...
A tear traced down Hai’s face, cooling against his skin. A soft hand brushed the tear away. Hai opened his eyes and found himself looking into Mei's. Although they sparkled with a familiar warmth, her eyes were no longer the color of a storm swept sea. They were now a deep, rich brown – warm and steady.
Mei took Hai’s hand. Together, they walked back across the lake, back through the cave, back along the shore...
They were going home.
Story Video (with bonus drawing process! )