Ballad of Ten Thousand Gu epilogue
Translated with my tears.
The instant we jumped, I immediately regretted my decision.
I knew that this was a pond filled with venomous gu, but I also knew that in Su Bai's memories, Yue Chi and I were mere spirits and could never be harmed. Yet as I stared at the dense pit swarming with snakes, scorpions and other beasts, I could not help but shudder with fear.
Even as a spirit, I was already frightened beyond words, so I could only imagine the agony endured by Su Bai who had jumped into this venomous pit of gu with her flesh and blood body.
With a body covered with injuries, she fought against the countless gu.
I saw these venomous insects and serpents and scorpions gnaw and bite at her, until her flesh began to strip away, revealing the grotesque white of her bones. Using the dagger which she had kept within her sleeves, she continued to fight, driving them away from her.
Before long, her senses started to blur as her mind grew increasingly disoriented. She began to eat these venomous creatures, and started to display some of the moves exhibited by these gu.
This entire process was too bloody, and I could not bear to continue watching. Yet Yue Chi watched of all these through unblinking eyes. His stare was unwavering as he took in all that had happened, his eyes filled with laughter, and within that laughter, shone with tears.
Amid all these, someone appeared to have arrived. The two of them did not take notice of this newcomer, and I was the only one who raised my head to glance at the person.
It was Ah Lai.
Ah Lai looked around the gu pond, before she said with a cold smile, 'So you've actually come here. Since you want to become the Jue Sha gu, then so be it. How can I not grant you your wish, if you have such determination and courage?'
Having said these words, Ah Lai turned to leave.
At that point, I found that I did not care. I did not know what Ah Lai was planning, but I soon grew tired of watching the bloodbath within the gu pond, and found a corner to rest. Between my daze, I did not know how much time had passed, but when I woke up once more, I saw that all the gu had disappeared from within the pond.
And Su Bai - other than the outline of a human figure, it was no longer possible to tell what she once looked like.
She was curled up in a corner, as though enduring excruciating agony. Yet her dagger continued to slash away. Yue Chi remained by her side. He raised his arms, slowly trying to pull her into his embrace.
Carefully, I made my way across, only to see that Su Bai was using her dagger to carve onto the grounds the two words 'Yue Chi' over and over again.
Dimly, I heard her whispers, 'I must never forget. I will never forget.'
Misgivings filled my mind, but I soon heard Yue Chi's explain hoarsely, 'A gu vessel does not have any memories. She will soon forget all these.'
But Su Bai was not merely a gu.
She was unwilling to forget.
She could not forget.
So, she continued to carve Yue Chi's name onto the grounds and across the walls.
Over and over - to remind herself of their past.
Yet those memories were soon corroded in face of the gu poison.
Even after she had imprinted his name over every inch of surface within the gu pond; even after she had carved his name onto the white bones which were exposed beneath her flesh -
When she finally awoke the next morning, she soon discovered that apart from this name, she was unable to remember anything else.
She hugged her head and cried until she was breathless. Even though she did not know why she was crying, she continued to repeat that name, over and over, 'Yue Chi, Yue Chi.'
These pleading cries seemed to be the last straw on the camel's back, landing heavily on Yue Chi. Yue Chi hugged her, and at last, his unyielding self-control crumbled into smithereens as his indifference shattered, his cries joining hers.
He buried his head in her collar which he was unable to make contact with, his tears falling rapidly as he repeated her name in a raspy voice, 'Su Bai… Su Bai…'
But she was unable to answer him.
In between his hoarse shouts and devastating cries, Su Bai's last whisper of his name soon faded into a hiss similar to a snake's.
She no longer had any tears; she no longer had any sadness.
As the only person who remained clear-headed, I stood by the side, silently watching over them.
Not long after, I heard the sound of the door opening from above.
Ah Lai's clear and exquisite voice travelled from above as she said confidently, 'Lord Yue Chi, even if Su Bai fled in her fear and is unwilling to trade herself for the Jue Sha gu, I still managed to find a way for you to concoct the Jue Sha. I found a person from the Central Plains who is extremely skilled in martial arts to become the sacrifice to the gu. She is really formidable and managed to kill all the gu within this pond to concentrate all the poisons into her one body.'
'This is dark sorcery. You should not have done that.' Yue Chi's voice accompanied the echo of his footsteps. His voice carried a hint of displeasure.
Ah Lai said in a wronged voice, 'If you don't have Jue Sha, everyone will doubt your ability in mastering the gu. I don't want anyone to question your skill.'
'Have you found Su Bai?' Yue Chi abruptly changed the topic, as though he no longer wanted to argue with her.
Ah Lai seemed to grow even more unhappy as she said darkly, 'Lord Yue Chi, why do you bother looking for such a traitor? Since she has chosen to flee, let her be.'
As they talked, the two of them drew closer, until they finally stopped next to the gu pond. Yue Chi bowed his head and silently observed Su Bai who was curled within, and Su Bai lifted her head to meet his gaze.
The scorching sunlight flittered through the doorway to illuminate the man's figure, yet in the eyes of the snake spirit, there was no longer any trace of nervousness, only two eyes filled with hazy confusion.
In the end, Su Bai did not remember him.
And Yue Chi was unable to recognise Su Bai, who stood right before his eyes.
Staring straight at Su Bai, whose face was beyond recognition, he vowed, 'I will find her. Even if I have to use my entire life to do so, I will find her.'
I thought that this was really an extremely cruel joke pulled by the Heavens.
And this joke, as expected, caused the Yue Chi who stood behind me to laugh.
He began to laugh, staring helplessly as Su Bai was brought out of the gu pond by the Yue Chi of the memories.
Then, he fell to his knees in front of the original Yue Chi, listening as his past-self declared, 'Henceforth, you are my gu - Jue Sha. You will never betray nor abandon me. Our lives are intertwined till death do us part.'
In the past, I had heard that when a Gu Master created his most powerful gu vessel, he would tie the fate of that gu to his own life.
From then on, if he lived, the gu lived; if he died, the gu died - their destinies were forever linked.
In the end, Yue Chi and Su Bai reunited, but it was in such a cruel manner.
In face of this absurdity, Yue Chi, who finally understood the events which had happened three years ago, only continued to laugh. Even as he exhausted his voice and shredded his vocal chords, his laughter did not subside. I stood beside them for a long time until at last, Yue Chi spat out a mouthful of blood and finally collapsed on the ground.
Eventually, I brought the grief-stricken Yue Chi out from that dream.
After he awoke, he stared at the walls of my bamboo house in a daze. I sighed heavily and wanted to comfort him, but I found that I did not know what to say in face of his despair.
And after his long moment of disorientation, Yue Chi abruptly raised his head, a smile spreading across his lips.
That smile warm and soothing, yet it caused my heart to shiver unexpectedly.
I saw Yue Chi slowly stand up and walk out of the room, before he stood in front of the young woman he had brought along with him.
Gently, he asked, 'What is your name?'
That woman let out a hiss like a snake, and I did not know what she was saying. With a faint smile, Yue Chi raised a hand to caress the woman's face, as though wiping away her tears.
In a soft voice, he said, 'As a descendant of the Su family, how can you cry so easily?'
He pulled the young woman's hand into his own and continued, 'Su Bai, come with me. I will give you a home.'
That woman could not speak, and could only hiss.
And he… it appeared as though he did not hear a thing, immersed in his own world as the two of them left together.
His gentle smile, brimming with warmth, was reminiscent of the late autumn sun which shone in the skies the first time they had met in the city of Luoyang years ago.
Then, he had said to her, 'Su Bai, come with me. I will give you a home.'
She raised her head to meet his eyes, her tears falling.
From then on, this was the life she was destined to live.
I sat upright, lifting my hand as I played the pipa.
The melody which I wove was stuttering.
I remembered, three years ago, in a snowy night under a canopy of stars, a young lady who snatched my sweet potato.
She asked me for a dream.
I thought - today, I have finally fulfilled her wish.
I did not know why, but my eyes stung.
Yet I smiled, and continued to sing, 'Carved into my bones is my unwavering longing for your love, did you know?'