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They called her Mei.
She lived in a palace of coral and jade, deep in the southern sea. She was the youngest daughter of the dragon king and had eyes the color of a storm swept sea. Her skin glowed soft and pearly under moonlight. Long hair of silk - black as night - fanned and swirled in waves behind her, as she glided through the silent rooms of her palace of coral and jade.
The autumn moon was but a pale shadow in the sky when she decided to go. She wished to leave this palace of rosy coral and cool green jade, and walk among the people of the nearby village. For years and years, she had heard their songs, drifting to her in salt breezes and swirling winds, clear voices that cried of love and loss and hope.
Chapter 1 - Sea Heart
The day she left, she combed her hair carefully.
7 strokes from top to bottom,
7 times from root to end,
Again and again, the fine green teeth of her fine jade comb disappeared and reappeared in the waves of her hair until - at the 49th stroke her black locks shimmered to her waist.
一下，一下，又一下 - 碧玉的梳齿在她的秀发之间跳跃着，直到梳满七七四十九下时她才停下来，把闪闪发光的秀发收拾妥当，任其停留在腰际。
A soft rustle made her turn her gaze to her chamber doors.
Her sisters entered, one by one, graceful and silent. They gathered around their youngest, their gowns whispering against the seabed current.
“Mei”, they said to her, voices soft with sadness. “Mei, are you certain?”
Mei nodded, eyes clear and mouth set into a determined line
“Mei”, ventured her second sister. “You know nothing about the world of men.”
“They are selfish, thoughtless and cruel”, continued sister four and five.
“They've forgotten the dragons, they no longer see their gods”, said sisters six and seven - seven finishing the sentence that six had begun.
“Mei” said sister three, and then nothing more. She simply gazed at her youngest sister.
They'd never called Mei by her real name, but always the endearment "Mei". Soft, sweet and quiet - always "Mei", always the youngest.
Yet Mei had forgotten how many moon tides had come and gone, with her spending her days quietly in this palace of coral and jade.
Yes, it was time to go – to see
“Yes sisters”, said Mei, her quiet voice steady. “I will see this world of man. I think there is beauty there too - not just the ugliness you describe. Yes, I will go.”
She looked at her sisters with her sea-storm eyes, and they saw that her mind was made.
“Very well”, came the voice of the last sister to speak. Mei’s eldest sister strode forth, reaching into the folds of her deep blue gown. From her dress she drew out a single bangle, upon which hung a beautiful blue stone. She slid the bangle onto Mei’s wrist, and gave her hand a light squeeze. The blue stone lay against Mei’s skin, glowing as if lit from within.
Sister two glided forth and, just as the eldest had done, took out from the folds of her redgown, a golden circlet upon which was a stone of ruby red. She clasped this to Mei’s wrist and it fell against its sapphire sister with a soft musical click.
One by one, Mei’s seven sisters glided forth, adding to Mei’s left wrist bracelets of jewels alight. When they were done, elder sister took Mei’s hands in her own.
“Now Mei, it is your turn.”
Mei looked at her, unsure of what she meant.
“Close your eyes”, whispered sister two.
Mei shut her eyes. The pale sea light which filtered in from her chamber windows made patterns of red, gold and green dance behind her eyelids.
Her sisters were singing, voices ebbing and flowing.
Their voices blended, melodious, low, high, sweet, rich. And suddenly, Mei no longer heard – needed no longer to hear – what it was they sang. She heard only the sound of her own heart, beating in tune with the sea. She felt a swelling in her chest, a warm tickling heat spreading to fill her ribcage, speeding down her arms and legs, rushing to warm her face… She opened her mouth wide, as if to join her sisters in their singing, opened her eyes and –
Her jaw would have dropped if her mouth wasn’t already open.
There, floating before her, was a large rose-colored pearl.
Mei reached out and plucked the pearl. It was smooth in her palm, and somehow warm and cool at the same time.
This is your sea heart – 海之心– elder sister said.
She motioned for Mei to give her the pearl. Elder sister then took, from the folds of her gown, a long thin needle of bleached fish bone. She touched its tip and it blazed a blinding white. For a moment，elder sister’s eyes too seemed to glow. In one swift move, she pierced the needle through the rose colored pearl.
A sharp ache nearly brought Mei to her knees. Gasping, she pressed the heel of one palm to her chest, feeling the spot pulse hot and cold. The pain quickly passed，yet the slight pulsing lingered, its presence oddly comforting.
Elder sister threaded the rose pearl onto a fine silver bracelet. She put the last of the bracelets onto Mei’s wrist, speaking as she did so.
“ 亲爱的妹妹，our precious Mei. Your heart lies with ours and ours with yours. Take our hearts with you when you leave this sea – with them you may travel freely to the world of men and with them you may stay for the passing of 12 full moons. On the last day of the 12th moon, however, you must return to us. You must not ever remove these sea-hearts Mei, not even once. For if you do - you break from your birth right, your connection to us. And when that connection breaks, so will you. Broken like waves that call upon the shore, gone like the foam that gilds their crests.”
‘ Sister of mine, 我们最珍爱的小妹，你的心与我们同在，我们的心也与你同在。带着我们的心，离开这海底，拥有了他们以后，你就可以在人间自由地生活，并度过十二次月圆之夜。在第十二次月圆之夜到来的时候，你就必须回来。记住，你千万不能把这些海之心从手上拿下来，一次也不行。如果你这么做了，你就不再是海的女儿了，你与我们之间再无联系，而你也会失去你的生命，就像涨潮时奔向岸边的海浪一样，就像海浪顶端堆起的泡沫一样，断裂、破碎、然后消失不见。’
“Remember – not even once.”
“For if you do, you can never come home.”
Words said and warning given, the eldest daughter of the Southern Seas placed a gentle kiss upon Mei's forehead. One by one, Mei's seven sisters kissed their youngest, and one by one they turned to go.
Mei watched as their colorful gowns whispered out of sight.
Chapter 2 - Coming Ashore
第二章 - 上岸
Mei set off at dawn. The eastern sun kissed the sky awake in a wild blush of rose and peach.
She stepped from the 海水, beads of sea water still clinging to her skin.
Mei turned to smile into the sun. It rested warm rays atop her head and kissed the tip of her nose, her cheeks. The land was waking and she was finally here. She began walking, long hair blowing in the sea breeze.
The 8 bracelets on her wrist jostled with tinkling music.
She walked towards the sound of children laughing, of people clamoring. Her bare feet appeared and disappeared beneath the sweeping folds of her gown. Soft and light, it flowed from her body like water. Before long, she had reached the market.
There were vendors, young and old. Skin browned by the sun, they lined the street.
They shouted, to each other and over each other, in loud throaty voices of the quality of their goods. Their voices overlapped and folded, and then folded around Mei - drawing her into the crowded street.
A few people looked at Mei, and then looked again. Their curious gazes lingered on her oddly colored gown, her bare feet. Mei felt a blush creep up her cheeks. She saw a nearby wall, and ducked behind it. She leaned against the rough stones, suddenly unsure of herself, 不知所措.
很快，小妹便发现周围的人都好奇地打量着她。他们的目光停留在她的光脚，还有她那奇怪的长袍上。小妹一下子脸红了。她瞥见近处有一面墙，于是慌忙躲到了墙的后面。她靠着粗糙的石墙，suddenly unsure of herself,有些不知所措了起来。
Mei cast a furtive look about her. There was no one about, only a ramshackle abandoned hut.
She closed her eyes and pictured one of the village girls from the market. Holding the image of the village girl’s dress in her mind, Mei ran her fingers down the side of her sea foam gown.
As she did so, her dress began to change. The light color darkened and the fabric became heavier. When it rubbed rough against her skin, Mei open her eyes and looked down. She gave a satisfied nod. She looked now as she meant to, except…
Her bare toes wiggled in the dirt.
She had only ever been able perform transformations, had never quite mastered creation. Mei crinkled her nose at her own bare feet.
This would have to do…
And with that, she ducked back out from behind the wall and rejoined the market.
A moment later, a figure emerged from the seemingly abandoned shack. It slunk off in the direction Mei had gone.
He had seen, quite clearly, the entire thing.
To be continued in Pearl (Part 2)