After Becoming the Hero's Ex-fiancée - Chapter 27
The Transient Realm (1.3)
He pursed his lips and looked at her, but didn’t say anything as if he was holding back. He turned the mirror towards her and asked:
“What do you see?”
Zheng Wan’s eyes suddenly widened.
Even though all manner of things were described in the book, she was still shaken when looking at an immortal’s item for the first time in reality. The small, palm-sized mirror was silently reflecting a…
It felt as if she was peeping at the privacy of others through the mirror. She said in a daze:
“A wedding ceremony.”
The couple in the mirror was already performing their third ceremonial bow7; they bowed to each other, then got up. Zheng Wan realized that the couple in the mirror was actually her and Cui Wang!
Red wedding gown, red mangpao8—the bride and groom looked exactly like her and Cui Wang.
“It’s… it’s a wedding ceremony. Our wedding ceremony.”
Zheng Wan suddenly looked up, raised her hands, and grabbed the sleeves of his red mangpao. “How can this be good?”
When she looked up, she found that Cui Wang was staring intently at the painting on the wall. When she looked at it, she was shocked to the core—the bride and groom, whose faces had been indistinguishable just moments ago, had actually straightened up and were smiling at them with faces just like theirs!
Zheng Wan shivered, and instinctively hid behind Cui Wang.
“Co-could this be some kind of demonic skill, and you and I are a-actually already dead?”
Even though she had fantasized about immortal powers, in the face of such a bizarre situation, Zheng Wan couldn’t help but feel her scalp grow numb and her blood run cold.
“We’re not dead.”
After careful examination, Cui Wang finally found the almost imperceptible little words, “Puppet Mirror”. They were formed out of branches and leaves, hidden amongst the reeds on the handle of the mirror.
Zheng Wan watched as his brow furrowed deeply once more.
“But this is troublesome.”
“What do you mean?”
“’Puppet Mirror’, meaning ‘Mirror of Puppets’.” It was rare that Cui Wang was willing to explain. “Have you ever seen a shadow play?”
Zheng Wan nodded. “I have.”
She loved watching it when she was young.
“You and I are now the leather puppets,” Cui Wang turned the mirror towards the table with the pair of dragon and phoenix candles, “Putting on a play for this Puppet Mirror.”
As expected, the mirror started to play the scene again, and Zheng Wan watched herself and Cui Wang do the ceremonial bows again.
“Wedding– Wedding ceremony?”
Zheng Wang seemed to understand what he meant. “According to the mirror?”
“Yes,” Cui Wang seemed to be satisfied with her intelligence at this point and nodded. “If we don’t finish the rites by the time the incense and candles burn out, we will both be stuck here as an actual pair of leather puppets.”
Only then did Zheng Wan realise with horror that the candles, which were only half burned when she woke up, had been burned by another half.
“Fret not. What we do here is merely an expedient measure. After we get out, I vow to keep my lips sealed, and never reveal it to another.” Cui Wang also seemed to be troubled.
Unexpectedly, Zheng Wan did not hesitate for even a moment. She went hurriedly over to the phoenix candle and urged, “Hurry up, don’t let the incense burn out.”
Cui Wang was momentarily stunned; he then went over to the dragon candle. They were both already in wedding robes—everything had been prepared. When the white silk between their wrists caught the glow of the candlelight, it looked like it was stained with blood.
When the mirror began to play the scene again, the pair behaved like shadow puppets, overlapping with the figures in the mirror, as they synchronised their actions.
The first bow—to Heaven and Earth.
The second bow—to the parents.
The third bow—to each other.
When they straightened up together, Zheng Wan realised that because the dragon and phoenix candles had not been placed far apart, she and Cui Wang were almost face-to-face. They were close enough to sense each other breathing. When she inhaled, the scent of pei-lan swirled around her, catching her in a trance.
The candlelight reflected on his face; his eyes seemed to be dyed with fire, and its icy frost seemed to have also melted away.
Without realising it, Zheng Wan stood on tiptoe, and pressed her lips to his.
Father had always said, one had to be bold, be careful and be stern.
“What are you doing?”
Cui Wang remained motionless; it seemed as if thousands of years of ice and snow had accumulated in his eyes, and that the softness just now was a momentary illusion. He neither avoided nor pushed her, as if the meeting of their lips was of no significance.
Zhen Wan blushed in a panic:
“I– I don’t know either.”
After speaking, she seemed to summon up her courage again. “You and I have gone through the ceremonial rites, and– and, did that, so you must take responsibility!”
1 Fun fact: Nail polish originated in China and dates back to 3000 BC. Around 600 BC, during the Zhou dynasty, the royal house preferred the colours gold and silver. However, red and black eventually replaced these metallic colours as royal favourites.
2 zhang: 丈; A customary Chinese unit of length equal to 10 chi (Chinese feet). Its value varied over time and place with different values of the chi, although it was occasionally standardised. Since the 1930s, this value has been revised and fixed to an exact value of 3⅓ metres. However, as the measurement fluctuated greatly in different dynasties, and the exact time period of the novel is not entirely clear, I’ve chosen to leave it as the ancient unit instead of giving it a modern value. Fun fact: in the very first instance of this measurement, 1 丈 was 1.695m, and was referred to 丈夫 (husband) as it was about the average height of a person.
3 bogu shelf: 博古架; A shelf that serves as a kind of indoor partition, and is also a quaint setting for indoor antiques, jade articles, etc. They come in a variety of sizes, from smaller ones to be placed on tables to floor-length ones. In order to display various antiques and other small items, but also to produce a rich sense of hierarchy , the grids on the shelves are mostly put together into a variety of patterns to form spaces of different shapes and sizes.
4 babu bed: 拔步床; This is the largest bed in traditional Chinese furniture. These beds too didn’t place much importance on the mattress but was known for their intricate woodwork of the bed frames that always had the word “寿” (Longevity) and “福” (Happiness) carved on it. It’s very large and the structure is complicated. Babu bed can be divided into two parts as a whole, one is the canopy bed, and the other is the corridor in front of the canopy bed. The function of the bed frame is to hang drapes, and in order to achieve a spacious and bright feeling, a shorter bed circumference is installed on the left, right and back. Therefore, the Babu bed is like a small house in the room.
5 double happiness: Double Happiness is a ligature, “囍” composed of 喜喜 — two copies of the Chinese characters 喜, literally meaning joy, compressed to assume the square shape of a standard Chinese character, and is pronounced as a polysyllabic Chinese character, being read as 双喜 (shuangxi). It is a Chinese traditional ornament design, commonly used as a decoration symbol of marriage. The color of the character is usually red.
6 eight immortals table: 八仙桌; A traditional piece of Chinese furniture. It refers to a square table with four sides of the same length and a wide tabletop. Two people can sit on each of the four sides, so a total of eight can sit around all four sides, like the Eight Immortals, so the Chinese folks call it the Eight Immortals table. (The Eight Immortals are a group of legendary immortals in Chinese mythology.)
7 wedding ceremonial bows: 拜堂 baiting; This is an important part of the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, equivalent to the modern Western practice of saying “I do”. When the bride arrives at the groom’s home and everything for the wedding ceremony is ready, it is the time for baitang. When the baitang ceremony begins, a wedding host will ask the couple to kowtow/ bow 3 times: To the Heaven and Earth, to the parents, and to each other.
8 mangpao: 蟒袍; (literally “python robe”)The right to wear mangpao was seen as a special honour that emperors bestowed on officials who had done great deeds for the empire. The mangpao is so-named because only royals could wear dragons (which are five-clawed), thus the modified ‘pythons’ (which look basically like dragons only with four claws) for prestigious officials.