The Starry Sky, The Starry Sea — Chapter 5 (Part 1)

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Chapter 5: The Feeling of Liking Someone

The happiness from our daily interactions, the peacefulness when I’m around him, the flutters I get when I’m facing him, the doubts I have when he ignores me, whether intentionally or subconsciously. I have somehow neglected them all because I don’t dare face the answer.

The two guestrooms upstairs were the main focus of the renovation. Wu Julan needed to vacate his room before the renovation started. Although my room didn’t need to be renovated, I was contemplating doing so. Since my leg was injured, it wasn’t convenient for me to move up and down, and neither do I want to experience the strong odours from the renovation. It was better to move to the first floor with Wu Julan.

After discussing with Wu Julan, we made a decision. Wu Julan would sleep on the sofa in the living room for the time being and I’d move to the study room on the first level. It was previously Grandpa’s bedroom so there was a bed and a closet, but not an independent bathroom, so I’d need to share the toilet with Wu Julan.

With one instructing and the other following directions, we quickly finished moving.

At nine o’clock, Wang Tianlin showed up on time with the workers.

After exchanging some simple greetings, Wang Tianlin briefed the important points to take note of for the project to his workers in front of me and then started the renovations officially.

Renovation is a very trivial yet annoying work. Although Wang Tianlin has employed his most trusty workers, to the workers, this is just another normal business; to me, this is my only home and there are many things to worry about.

My right hand couldn’t be used at all and I can barely walk a few steps, so I could only rely on Wu Julan to take care of everything. Fortunately, Wu Julan listens to me and has read a few credible technical posts online so he knew everything about renovations. So I was well assured to let him monitor the renovations. 

Although Wu Julan may be poor, his behaviour and the way he interacted with people weren’t cautious or sleek, like how poor people would be, but instead, it was full of arrogance. He didn’t know how to please people. He didn’t know how to tell white lies to soothe interpersonal relationships, and he has never compromised himself for others. So I was worried that he might rub the workers the wrong way and have to remind him again to be more tactful and not be too direct when he sees the workers doing something wrong. If he needs to correct someone, I told him not to reprimand them, instead he can call Wang Tianlin to coordinate changes.

Unexpectedly, Wu Julan’s temper was worse than I imagined.

He has a calm personality, has strict standards for perfection, and is used to giving orders. He was straightforward as if he didn’t know how to appease people, and his words were full of thorns as if he was trying to stir a fight. He even gave others an idiotic look for no reason. A few workers had already gotten very unhappy with him on the first day. If I wasn’t a friend of their boss, Wang Tianlin, and wasn’t full of wounds, I’m certain they would’ve already left and quit.

I recalled how frustrated I was when Wu Julan told me that the food I made tasted terrible, so I could completely understand the feelings of the workers. However, understanding them was one thing, now that Wu Julan and I are on the same side, I couldn’t see Wu Julan’s actions as wrong. It was true that the workers weren’t doing well enough, so it was inevitable that they would get singled out for their mistakes. Wu Julan may be harsh with his words, but what he said was the truth. Just like how he despised my food because compared to him, the food I made was really not good enough!

But no matter how much I side with Wu Julan, I didn’t dare to tell the workers upfront that their skills were bad. So I could only let Wu Julan play the bad guy while I play the good guy; he gives the stick, I give the carrot.

I wore an embarrassed smile and asked the workers to be more accommodating for Wu Julan who was “immature”. To appease their anger, I also initiated to cater for everyone’s lunch during the renovation duration.

I didn’t tell Wu Julan about my complicated feelings. I just passed the money to him, telling him that we’re in charge of the meals for all the workers and to go shopping for more ingredients.

Wu Julan didn’t look like someone who works for others, and his ego was bigger than mine.  But when it comes to doing work, he has always been very serious. He would follow my instructions, without question.

As I expected, Wu Julan didn’t slack off just because he was making food for the workers. Just as if he was making food for both of us, he cooked diligently. After the workers had lunch, their hostility against Wu Julan immediately faded.

I laughed secretly. No wonder our ancestors said that it’s a good habit to talk business at the dining table. When a table of hand-made food is brought into the mouth, they will be able to savour the taste of the ingredients and the thoughts of the one preparing the food. No matter how harsh Wu Julan’s words are, he has always been open and fair in his treatment of people. This group of workers has been going around for work, was experienced in reading people’s expressions so they have their own way of judging people and doing things.

Even though the workers no longer hated Wu Julan, they didn’t particularly like him either. But accounting for the sumptuous meal during noon, they would hear Wu Julan out when he spoke. Immediately, they realised that Wu Julan wasn’t trying to make things difficult for them as his words were reasonable. Even some of his suggestions were far more professional than theirs.

They complained that his idea was easier said than done, so Wu Julan personally demonstrated, which completely shocked them. The workers developed a sense of respect for him, and were meticulous in their work. The renovation process went very smoothly and I was completely relieved.

The workers’ attitude towards Wu Julan completely changed, and they even occasionally complimented Wu Julan to me. I would always reply back to them with an expression that says ‘of course’. But in reality, my surprise wasn’t any less than theirs. Wu Julan may have read some articles online, but how could he have mastered them so easily?

The only explanation is that he has done them before.

Knowing how to do the laundry, to make food, medical skills… Excluding doing the laundry, he cooks better than a chef from a five-star restaurant, and his medical skills weren’t any worse than a professional doctor. Even his construction works were more refined than the workers with decades of experience. I couldn’t help but wonder what other things he knew.

Although it was only the second level that was getting renovated, the first level wasn’t quiet. Rumbling, clinging and clanging sounds were echoing. Luckily, the kitchen was a stand-alone building so I hid in the wide kitchen.

One of the windows in the kitchen faces the courtyard while the other faces the walls of the courtyard, directly looking at the large, beautifully blooming, heart-moving bougainvillaea. Bringing over a comfortable chair and sitting by the window, it didn’t feel uncomfortable at all.

Wearing my earphones, I listened to the MP3 player and read “The Collection of Tang Poems” that was published by Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House*. It was Grandpa’s collection. When I came to Grandpa’s house, it was already sitting on the shelves and had been a resident here longer than me.

[t/n: Shanghai Lexicographical Publishing House is a publishing house in mainland China, specialised in publishing reference works.]

There was a period of time where Grandpa would ask me to recite a poem every day after dinner and I had to memorise one every week. In the beginning, I only took this as a task and did it unwillingly. But overtime, I’ve also gradually developed a love for it and fully understood what Grandpa meant by “the book that one can never finish reading”. Every poem, accompanied by the author’s life experiences, the societal context of when the poem was written, and also the origins of the words; after reading them carefully brings about a scent of reminiscing or a story of lingering and sorrow.

When I have nothing to do, I would often casually flip open a page and slowly read each poem. Whether it was on success or failures, or the sadness of parting ways, or the happiness of achievements, or death and life, the past and the present were similar. After reading a few poems, the heart becomes at peace and the body feels enlightened. 

After finishing reading a page, just as I was fumbling to flip the page, a hand helped me do it. I turned my head and saw Wu Julan, not knowing when he arrived, sitting quietly next to me.

I removed one side of the earphones and said, “It’s okay. I can do it myself.”

Looking at the book, Wu Julan said casually, “It’s fine. I’m reading it too.”

I reacted after a while and then understood what he meant. “Are you saying that you want to read the book with me?”

“Mhm.”

I would understand if this book was a wuxia novel or a fantasy novel. But this was a book about Tang poems. It’s something that even university graduates wouldn’t read to kill time. I unknowingly looked at Wu Julan suspiciously. He looked at the book seriously. His gaze faintly revealed melancholy. His lips were pursed. Perhaps his heart was stirred by the poem. He must have really been engrossed in it.

I silently scolded myself for belittling people, even the Nobel prize winner Mo Ya didn’t even graduate from elementary school! I pushed the book in Wu Julan’s direction and lowered my head to read. It was Wang Wei’s “The Song of Xinqin County’s Pine Tree”:

The Pine Tree on the green, green hills

Cannot be seen for several miles.

When I didn’t see you,

I kept the memory of you in my heart,

You should know how I feel in my heart,

For you are striking and free, 

Slowly rising above the floating clouds. 

After finishing reading the poem, Wu Julan didn’t flip the page. I peeked at him a few times, but he didn’t notice and kept staring at the page.

I was a little curious and so I read it in detail once again, feeling a little sad, and sighed, “This poem appears to be writing about the pine tree but in fact, it should be writing about a person, just like how Qu Yuan* used herbs to describe a gentleman. However, Wang Wei’s historical records state that ‘he was clever and charming’, ‘excelled in the arts and could play the pipa skillfully’. This literary figure praised another person who he described as ‘striking and free, slowly rising higher to stand out among the floating clouds.’ I really wonder what kind of person a pine tree is.”

[t/n: Qu Yuan is a famous Chinese poet who lived during the period of Warring States.]

Wu Julan gently smiled and said, “Do you seriously pursue Vimalakiriti’s words of high acclaim?”

While listening, I felt that his words were odd, but I couldn’t pinpoint what about them was weird. Wu Julan also looked strange. He didn’t look as cold and sharp-tongued as usual. His finger slid across the page, wearing a faint smile. He gently sighed, giving off a feeling of ‘matters that accumulated from centuries ago are difficult to put into words.’ 

His sigh made my heart feel a sense of sorrow out of nowhere. I couldn’t help but want to quickly wipe away the misery that furrowed his eyebrows. I asked, “Do you want to listen to music?”

“Music?” Wu Julan was surprised for a bit and stared at the MP3 in my hand.


T/N: Yay a release finally! Thanks for waiting so long. This particular chapter had too many literature and poetry references that Minji and I just suffered through when working on this part. We’ll be taking a break from this novel for a (short) while and focus on completing Unique Legend releases first before returning to finish this up. If all the stars are aligned, we should be expecting the next release in the second half of 2022. Till then, see ya~

Thank you for supporting the novel and this translations. If you like the work so far, I’d appreciate if you can rate the novel and leave a review on NovelUpdates~ Also, join our discord server for more discussions on this novel!


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