Chapter 23: Wish to Say the Winter to the Spring
“Miss Painting Fairy, please.”
A servant girl called out, presenting a roll of bamboo slips.
She understood and sympathized with Miss Painting Fairy’s predicament, but aside from treating her well, there was nothing she can do. She was only a lowly servant after all.
She softly said again, “Miss Painting Fairy, please.”
Painting Fairy didn’t make any audible response, only taking the bamboo slips and unfurrowed them over the small table.
Writing down a line, she handed the bamboo slips back.
The servant bowed and walked out to the elevated platform.
She read aloud to the hall of people.
“This feeling, this view, this person.”
[Ci qing, ci jing, ci ren.]
The poem was only a few words, but it set the theme for all of the following poems, although it was rather vague.
This feeling and view, it points towards the winter outside. This person, it undoubtedly means the Painting Fairy.
But everyone’s interpretations are different.
Within a short span, the hall was filled with a concentrated silence. Occasionally, there would be a quick gasp as someone got a stroke of inspiration.
Gu Nan was at the same table as Zhao Yiren, both of them sat quietly with their legs crossed.
After picking up a cup of wine, she gently pushed open the window next to her. A subtle breeze entered, bringing a slight chill along with it. Though, she didn’t mind and casually looked at the streets and activity below.
The sip of wine dispelled any lingering chills.
Turning to gaze at the hall, she first looked at Zhao Yiren. But when she did, she thought back to the two hundred gold of getting seats.
Everyone was hard in thought, and Zhao Yiren biting his brush was a clear indication of that.
She started to fear that she was the most leisurely person here.
Sighing, she adjusted her seating posture to a more comfortable one. Casually leaning against the window, she let the cold winds brush over her.
Looking down from the high view, she saw many things in the distance. A bit away, there was a beggar dragging a sack, limping through the snow.
‘Among the rich wine and meat smell, yet the road with frozen bones.’
[TL: Du Fu (Tang Poet)]
She wasn’t sure why but she remembered this sentence, even though she’s living a life of luxury right now.
Turning her gaze away from the beggar, she returned to sipping her wine.
Maybe she’s too carefree or maybe she’s sitting among a group of people earnestly thinking, but anyhow, she’s too conspicuous.
The Painting Fairy sitting in the rear pavilion felt a slight cold breeze. Turning her head, she saw a side window was open.
Sitting by the window, was a peculiar figure. Although dressed in high-class, black robes, his fitting was loose and contradictory of his apparent status.
This person, is he just sitting there drinking?
To the Painting Fairy, she knew very well the hundred gold of getting a place here. It was no ordinary amount, enough for a person to live a year over.
Her eyes moved over to the casual figure, and she found that this man was quite beautiful. She knew this was a strange term to describe a man, yet she felt this person certainly qualified themselves to be so.
It was a handsome face that seemed both masculine and feminine. Coupled with that special temperament, it even made she feel a sense of defeat.
Perhaps feeling someone’s gaze, the “man” turned around and looked back.
Although a screen laid between them, both parties could feel the assessing gaze of the other.
Gu Nan, at the edge of the room, raised her cup and did a subtle toast. Then, she gulped down the slightly sweet wine.
After finishing a cup, she turned and continued to stare out the window.
The Painting Fairy was surprised but smiled.
For a man to notice her but not stare, that person is special.
But it’s a pity that they were too far apart, and Painting Fairy could not get a good look at this interesting person.
Truthfully, Gu Nan was quite flustered from the exchange. Her face was tinges of red and didn’t dare to look at the Painting Fairy again.
It was only until now that she realized how magnetic a gaze can be. She only looked for a few seconds and almost lost her mind in a daze.
“Xue Jia has a poem.”
A couple of moments later, a small servant stood on the platform and began to read the poem aloud.
“In Xianyang the winter snow flies, and the silver branches hang low.
No colors of spring such repeating, but in Dongzhan there is flower’s grace. ”
[Xianyang sui mo chu fie xue, yin zhuang ya zhi ban di chui.
Bujian cunse que fenfen, gai shi dong zan chu hua juan.]
It’s not a good poem, or at least it’s too unauthentic.
It’s a pity that this person is just ignorant as well, proudly standing with an expression of expectation.
But even after a long time, there wasn’t any reaction from the top level. Since his literary talents were lacking, he sighed and sat back down.
After the first poem, they began to be read aloud, one after another, from the platform.
Generally speaking, they were all much better than the first person’s, but the Painting Fairy still remained quiet.
Without noticing, more than half of the people gathered have already sent their poems.
Zhao Yiren still has not finished writing. Or perhaps it’s better to say that he hasn’t even finished a single line.
His hand still gripped his brush, but not words were yet written.
Grabbing onto his now disordered hair, it wouldn’t be strange to think he’s collapsing under anxiety.
He looked to Gu Nan sitting to the side.
“Brother Gu, sigh, this is perhaps where my learning is the most shallow. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to see the Painting Fairy today. I’m really not feeling any spark of inspiration. How about this, can you help me write a poem to turn in?”
“Brother Yiren, we already agreed that I’m only a drinking companion. Besides, didn’t I say that I can’t write poetry?”
Being looked at expectantly by Zhao Yiren, Gu Nan shrugged her shoulders helplessly.
“Brother Gu, for me to take notice of you already means that you are a special talent, certainly not an uneducated ruffian that you claim to be. You should stop deliberately dulling yourself.” Zhao Yiren pointed at Gu Nan and complained.
Gu Nan’s mouth hung low before shaking her head.
Love poems…, really any random one should work.
Thinking for a while, a particular one popped in her mind.
“Long I stand on a balcony in the gentle breeze,
Saddened spring everywhere I see, the horizon is overcast, all is bleak.
Surrounded by grass at sunset.
Who understands my mutely longing?
I’d drown in wine as parting grief.
One sings with wine in hand, but strained mirth brings no comfort.
I do not mind that my clothes are getting looser.
The lover is worthy of desire but no regret.”
[Zhu yi weilou feng xi xi.
Wang ji chunchou, an an sheng tianji.
Caose yan guang canzhao li.
Wuyan shui hui ping lan yi.
Ni ba shukuang tu yi zui.
Dui jiu dang ge, qiang le hai wuwei.
Yi dai jian kuan zhong bu hui.
Wei yi xiao de ren qiaocui.]
Gu Nan’s voice was neither light nor heavy, and the hall was already quiet, allowing everyone to clearly hear its contents.
Even the Painting Fairy sitting a bit farther away could hear it.
As the poem faded, it was replaced by a collective silence.
This wasn’t like a poem. The format and the structure were not correct. It’s more akin to a piece of music.
The format may be wrong, but there felt to be something unsolvable with this poem.
There was not a single word of winter, but it still sent chills into everyone’s hearts.
This was a poem of spring, as if the author was standing at a balcony and facing the breeze, yet it conveys such a sorrowful tone.
Some people felt quite strange. It’s clearly winter, but why then does it speak of spring?
But thinking about it, in the Dongzhan Pavillion, when is it not like spring? And also, it was during spring that the Painting Fairy arrived in Xianyang.
In the end, the concluding notes were struck and finished with a statement of no regrets.
It must be an amazing and beautiful poem.
It spoke of sorrowful thoughts and exhaustive devotion.
It’s just like listening to a long-told tale.
“March of Floral Spring”, “Once Met a Beautiful Woman”, and “A Deep Love.” “Alone on the Balcony,” “Drink and Song,” “But Dao,” and “Forlorn without Time.”
Gu Nan went through several possibilities but decided on the most memorable and profound one. It coincidentally happened to match the general theme for the poems.
Zhao Yiren gawked slightly at Gu Nan, the brush motionless in his hand.
It was only after several long moments that lowered his brush.
A bitter smile appeared on his face. “Brother Gu, why don’t you say it earlier? You are so passionate about Miss Painting Fairy.”
“What?” Gu Nan gave him a puzzled and stunned look, still unsure why he would say this.
“This poem, what is it called?”
Gu Nan thought for the original name. “This called Butterflies in Love with Flowers.”
“Is that so? Butterflies in Love with Flowers?” Zhao Yiren muttered and nodded. “Butterflies in Love with Flowers.”
Finally, he looked at Gu Nan with a deep and resolved look. “I cannot use this poem, this poem will be for you!”
Wait, what do you mean? Gu Nan still has not responded yet.
After a couple moments, Zhao Yiren placed down his brush and rolled up the bamboo slips.
He solemnly looked up and shouted to the high platform. “Miss Painting Fairy, this poem, ‘Butterflies in Love with Flowers,’ by this Young Master Gu. Please review!”