Pray to the Moon
After praying to the god of the moon, the most divine portion of the Moon Festival was considered over. The remaining lantern-gazing and fireworks clearly carried the dense airs of the human realm, unrelated with the lofty moon god, and seemed much more like an event for the people living on the ground for self-recreation.
Once Xiao Zuo saw the ritual was over, he hurriedly made a small run back to the room to change clothes. Jin’s autumn winds really was merciless, it robbed the final bit of hot air from around him without any courtesy- when he came out, he was still a red-faced young man, but when he escaped back into the room, he already seemed like an old man hunching their back and shrinking into a ball, just missing snow all over his head for white hair.
Xiao Zuo put on his woolly clothes with a tremor, tightened the waistband on his waist, then felt like he warmed up. He rubbed his hands, thinking about going out to enjoy the lights a while later.
But at this time, the people on the streets all formed into pairs, he should find a companion to go together so he would not be eye-catching. Xiao Zuo looked around for Zi Wan, and saw her dressed in new clothes at the door of the back garden, happily speaking with a person beside her. That person had a very tall physique, when listening to Zi Wan speak, he would bend his waist, yet he did not reveal a bit of impatience, and very patiently listened to her speak.
Those words ‘Zi Wan’ then stuck in Xiao Zuo’s throat, he watched Zi Wan and that person beside her pass by the back garden door hanging with wisteria, and his heart surged with a kind of complicated emotion. That kind of feeling…… Xiao Zuo silently headed back, it was just like the daughter who he worked extremely hard to raise was going to be married off, yet was not willing to see her go, yet also admired that there was someone who could care for her. Xiao Zuo could not help but recall the face of the man beside Zi Wan, his heart was all stuffy, with an unfathomable upset to it.
He walked back to the room like this, he watched the ink-like night skies spread about on the earth, the heavier and heavier black colour unfolded itself, enveloping people in this kind of endless and cold night. Many of the maids and guards in the residence went out to watch the lanterns and play, so the big garden was only left with Xiao Zuo alone. The lanterns hanging from the eaves illuminated down from an angle, dragging Xiao Zuo’s shadow very long.
In the bustling of a crowd, solitude would be magnified greatly, as though it could easily drown everything else, only leaving this kind of emotion to endlessly spread.
Xiao Zuo silently stared at the dim candlelight, and just when he planned on turning his head to return to the room, his left shoulder was suddenly patted, scaring him to the point he almost shouted out loud.
He Xuan was dressed in plain clothes, his cloak was wrapped with a fox fur collar, and looked to be all warm. Half of his face was hidden in the night, only the right side of the face was cast with a dim yellow glow, making his features particularly gentle.
“What are you in a daze for? Let’s go see the lanterns.” He Xuan turned his head and smiled, and very naturally held his hand, covering it in his long, wool sleeves.
Xiao Zuo got brought by him to the entrance of the garden, then realized something, and asked after the fact, “Didn’t you have work today?”
“En, I can do it tomorrow too.”
He Xuan replied in a very matter-of-fact tone, he lifted his hand up and pointed outside the wall, saying, “Look, the festive lanterns have already been hung up.”
Right, the festive lanterns have already been hung up.
The parasol trees on the two sides of the path were all hung with profuse flowery and colourful lanterns, from afar, they seemed like lucid big flower petals in the glistening light. Sometimes, the winds would blow by, and some small lanterns would slide down from the branches, as though a rain of flowers had been blown to the ground.
The moonlight and lanterns packed the city, while pretty carriages and umbrellas filled the roads. Carts after carts of ornamental carriages pulled by black and white horses leisurely crossed the big path, while the powder on the bodies of the ladies sitting inside covered the streets, crushed by the carriage wheels into dust, still as fragrant as it was previously.
The pedestrians on the street moved shoulder-to-shoulder, Xiao Zuo took one look around, and as He Xuan said, it was certainly all paired up lovers, with each holding a festive lantern, seeming like pairs of celestials from afar.
He Xuan was walking one step back from his right side, he originally was nonchalantly sweeping by the street’s dazzling fireworks and lanterns casually, seeing Xiao Zuo’s eyes stick to the festive lanterns a couple held in their hands for a long time, he soon understood, and slightly pulled Xiao Zuo’s sleeve.
“What is it?” Xiao Zuo turned his head back, the overspreading stars and the floor of lanterns exchanged glows in the bottom of his eyes, weaving into a beautiful landscape. He Xuan froze for an instant, then pointed to a store to the side, saying, “They are selling festive lanterns there, want to go look?”
“Alright.” Xiao Zuo already cast his eyes at the lanterns for a long time, seeing that store full of festive lanterns, he naturally got so excited he couldn’t stay still, “Let’s go have a look.”
That store was not big, the inside only sat with a white-haired old man stringing lanterns, seeing customers come, he didn’t even lift his head up and coughed, then asked, “How many?”
“Two.” He Xuan answered.
The old man nodded his head, then swiftly handed two simple festive lanterns over, “One string of coins” Xiao Zuo actually liked another much more complicated lantern hung inside, he hesitated for a while, but still got close to He Xuan’s ears and quietly said, “Let’s get the one inside.”
That lantern inside was hung high, that old man wasn’t tall enough to reach it, so he had to get a ladder from inside, thus, he had the two wait at the door while he himself went inside the room. Xiao Zuo then saw the back of that counter was also sitting with a small little lady of five or six- that small girl’s head used two red ropes to tie a sky-reaching tail, flailing left and right along with her head, Xiao Zuo looked for a while, and could not help but laugh.
When that little girl heard laughing, she lifted her head up with a sway, the two big crow-black eyes moved between He Xuan and Xiao Zuo’s faces for a while, then said, “Big Brothers, here to buy lanterns?”
Xiao Zuo leaned on the counter, and smiled as he teased her, “That’s right.”
“Grandpa said that if I tell all the big brothers and big sisters they will be together for many years and reach old age together, they will buy more.” The little girl said with a babyish voice, “I hope Big Brothers will reach old age together, Big Brothers, buy some more lanterns.”
“He and I are not……” Just as Xiao Zuo spoke up, he saw He Xuan take out a pouch of coins from his sleeves, and very generously placed it on the counter, then bent down and said to the little girl, “Alright, thank you for your blessing.”
Xiao Zuo froze on the spot, and blankly looked at the slightly curved ends of He Xuan’s there was a very thin scar eyes on the corner of his eye, one must get very close to see it, Xiao Zuo did not know why he would recall one day just before sleeping, he thoughtlessly focused on that scar, and asked He Xuan how he got it. As for how He Xuan answered, he did not remember clearly now, he looked at He Xuan with a distance of one step and thought randomly, like purposely not letting himself ponder the deeper meaning behind those words He Xuan said just now.
“Let’s go.” When that little lady’s grandpa brought two lanterns back, He Xuan took one in each hand, and handed one to Xiao Zuo, and [Xiao Zuo] said, “They certainly look much better than the ones before.”
“Is that so?” He Xuan lowered his head and carefully looked at that lantern, the glowing candlelight made his black eyes look very light, carrying a faint gold colour.
“What is it?” He Xuan lifted his eyes, the smile in the bottom of his eyes did not yet disperse, the beautiful gold colour reflected by the light cleanly swept the gloominess originally in his eyes, like they really were only the most ordinary couple in Shang An’jing.
Xiao Zuo felt like he was going to sink into this deep lake, in front of the unarmed him, He Xuan’s gentleness pretty much mowed down all resistance, successful in all endeavours, yet he long already abandoned his defences, and ran away in a sorry state.
“Nothing.” Xiao Zuo turned his head, he took the festive lantern, and slightly stiffly said, “The fireworks are going to start soon.”
“En, I already reserved seats at Sheng Jing Terrace, it will be right on time if we go now.”
Sheng Jing Terrace is the tallest building in Shang An’jing apart from the imperial palace, the best place for viewing the Moon Festival’s fireworks every year, thus, it was hard to get a single seat- ordinary families that start reserving half a year in advance might not have a seat, so this time, he benefited from the imperial family.
When the two arrived, the first and second floor of Sheng Jing Terrace was long already filled with people, when Xiao Zuo was passing by, he took one peek, inside was all rich young lords dressed in silks and satins, while among the ladies, some used fans to cover their faces, and some wore dazzling jades and beads on their heads, wearing powder that filled the room, making the flowers originally placed in the corner even seem to lose its colour.
He Xuan reserved the top-most floor’s compartment- compared to the congestion and noise on the few floors below, this room clearly was tranquil and much more elegant. The outside viewing balcony was separated from the inside room with crystal curtains laid with beads and jades, when the moonlight barely illuminated inside, it would refract with a floor of silver rays.
Along with a sound of an explosion, the skies in front alternated with large fireworks, shaped like hibiscuses- for a brief moment, a tree of hibiscuses all bloomed in full in the skies of Shang An’jing, reflecting this originally pitch-black night as colourful as beautiful plum flowers.
The sound of fireworks rising in the sky and everyone’s cheers intermingled into one, shaking the crystal curtains into a slight sway, making crisp echos of metal and rock.
He Xuan overlooked the entire Shang An’jing from up high, his eyes were tranquil, and looked particularly unfitting in the cheers and merry sounds downstairs of a grand festival, “The matter of Tong Province this time, thanks.”
Xiao Zuo looked at the immediately dissipating hibiscuses far off in the skies, and feebly said, “I promised you.”
“I was wrong before, I…… will apologize to you.” He Xuan turned around, his back leaned against the fireworks and lanterns filling the city, with his expression very serious.
Xiao Zuo hung his eyes down, the hibiscuses in the skies bloomed and withered, coming up again and again, yet was unceasing, he nodded his head in this bumble of human noise, “Accepted.”
“Happy Moon Festival.” He Xuan leaned on the railing, the night winds blew his long hair up, and melted it in the similarly inky skies.
Xiao Zuo took his gaze back, and also said, “You too.”
When returning in the night, Xiao Zuo placed their lanterns on the top-most part of the bookshelf, and happily looked at these two lanterns leaning on each other, carrying an unspeakable tenderness to them.
One thought on “[Cry of the Midnight Jackdaw] Chapter 64”
 冲天辫- as the name implies, the hair is tied in a way it sticks straight up. Image ref: https://gw.alicdn.com/i3/1722153061/O1CN01mF3QH21YTz7IFKSCy_!!1722153061.jpg_300x300Q75.jpg_.webp