The summer heat was in full swing after the busy farming season in spring.
Taking life easy in the King of Hell’s Palace, Dong Jun read through the Life Registry of all the humans in Zhongdu. Seeing him going at it with such gusto put Fei Luo on tenterhooks. He was afraid that Dong Jun might randomly add a few strokes in the registry and change the humans’ predestined fates.
“By right, I’m not supposed to show these to you because of the regulations.” Fei Luo pressed down his bamboo hat to obstruct his gaze as he spoke to Dong Jun.
Dong Jun sipped his wine and turned over to show him his back. Propping up his head, he continued to flip through the pages and said, “What’s the big deal? Heaven has already collapsed. What regulations are they going to preach about? Oh, this person is interesting. It says he’s born in…”
Dong Jun’s voice trailed off, and he let out a laugh.
“Isn’t this Li Rong? So he has already gone down?”
Fei Luo raised his bamboo hat a little and looked at Dong Jun’s back as he said, “He can no longer be a deity, and we can’t kill him either. The only option left is to let him descend once again to Zhongdu to go through eight lifetimes experiencing all the sufferings. Po Zheng Spear is now sealed in the eastern sea. It has already been some days since he descended.”
Dong Jun held the cup and said, “He has gotten off too lightly. I want to go to Zhongdu and play too.”
Fei Luo hurriedly said, “There are many people in Zhongdu, so go ahead; you won’t feel lonely!”
Dong Jun said, “Since you want to chase me away, then all the more I won’t leave. It’s so much more delightful to remain here.”
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Dejected, Fei Luo got up and took a few steps to the door before turning back his head to say, “I’ve been busy with work lately, so I won’t play with you anymore.”
Dong Jun waved his hand without even looking back. He was now unburdened with no duties, but he had no place to go, so he stayed at the King of Hell’s Palace to hide at leisure while declining to meet all irrelevant visitors. What’s more, he was uninhibited and unconventional by nature. After getting drunk, he would sleep, with each sleep lasting several days. When he woke up, he would continue to drink freely without a care about the future.
Fei Luo could not figure out his intention. But the way Fei Luo saw it, Dong Jun did not seem to be someone who could shoulder heavy responsibilities either. Ninth Heaven Realm had collapsed. Li Rong had sealed his spear and descended to the mortal world to suffer, while Yun Sheng was detained in the eastern sea. Of the divine lords, he and Lord Lin Song were the only ones left. But not only did he hole himself up and refuse to go out, he did not even want to see anyone.
If this man is born in Zhongdu, he would surely be a hedonistic loafer of a wealthy clan’s young master!
Fei Luo inwardly thought to himself, not daring to voice it out. Then, thinking the better of it, he thought again.
A hedonistic young master is fine too. Just for this looks alone, I’d even be willing to let him sponge off me.
◈ ◈ ◈
Fei Luo had yet to stride out of the palace when a ghost guard swiftly trod over to inform him of the arrival of the little phoenix from the north. Fei Luo crossed over to the hall in a few steps, and as expected, saw an extravagantly and splendidly dressed Ah Yi sitting on the chair picking and trying out the desserts on the plate.
“I heard Dong Jun is also here taking a break; then, I won’t need to make another trip.” Ah Yi groped around in his sleeves and fished out two wedding invitations.
Seeing how good-looking Ah Yi was, Fei Luo could not help but smile as he took the invitations and looked at it. He promptly looked ill and said, “This invitation is for me? I don’t want it! I’m not going to Dijun’s wedding.”
Ah Yi wiped his hands. He found this dude to be so ignorant of the proper etiquette that he could not refrain himself from snorting. He said, “In any case, I’ve delivered the invitations. Whether or not you come is your problem. But Dijun remembers you and specially instructed me to come and tell you that it’s not just him and Lord Lin Song who will be getting married. Even that Qianyu is going to be in conjugal bliss with Zuo Qingzhou for hundreds of years to come.”
All at once, Fei Luo wanted to fling the invitation away. He said, “I have no grudges and no enmity with Dijun. Why does he have to stab me thus?!”
Ah Yi drank his tea and spoke like one who had been through the experience. “It’s better for you to go. If you don’t, then you’ll be made fun of the next time you see Dijun. You can’t keep hiding here in the underworld all your life. Furthermore, the sight of Lord Lin Song getting married could be said to be a once-in-a-blue-moon rare sight. If you miss it, you’ll never see it again.”
Sure enough, Fei Luo hesitated. He grasped the invitation, his white face looking aggrieved as he said, “… Then I’ll go take a look…”
Ah Yi rose to his feet to bid him farewell. Fei Luo took a few glances towards the interior, then jumped across the threshold and chased his way out of the palace to ask Ah Yi, “Has no one come looking for Dong Jun lately?”
Ah Yi enigmatically folded his arms and said, “There will be many coming to look for him in the days to come! Dijun said he understands it all too well in his own heart, and so he’s intentionally avoiding them.”
“Make yourself clear.” Fei Luo said.
Ah Yi said, “After Lord Lin Song gets married to Dijun, he will move to Zhenchan Courtyard at the eastern sea. Given his temperament, he will not bother about the trivial matters of Ninth Heaven. Li Rong has already descended to the mortal realm to experience sufferings, while Lord Cheng Tian is still locked up. Dong Jun is the only one left to take over all post-development affairs. That’s why I said there would be many coming to look for him in the days to come.”
Fei Luo exclaimed in surprise, “Don’t tell me they want him to be the Supreme Father?”
Ah Yi inwardly wondered how the heck would I know, but he merely said, “Perhaps. No one can tell. I’m leaving. Stop pulling me!”
◈ ◈ ◈
After leaving the underworld, Ah Yi made a beeline for the north. He treasured his feathers and was unwilling to let even a bit of dust and dirt sully it, so he transformed into his human form after crossing the lakes and marshes.
Fu Li was now on such good terms with Huashang that they could even share a skirt. When Ah Yi returned, she did not pay him any attention. So Ah Yi held a fruit in his mouth and followed behind Fu Li, imitating her every move.
He tailgated Fu Li so closely that she could not help but turn back and asked, “Have you presented yourself before Dijun? Why are you following me?”
Ah Yi said, “I’ll go in a while.”
Thus, Fu Li sneered and said as she picked out the fabric, “You want to know where Li Rong has been sent down to? Then all the more I won’t tell you. You are already all grown up. Why are you still splitting hairs with him?”
Ah Yi immediately jumped up to sit on the table and chomped down on the fruit with a “crunch”. He said, “Since he can exploit another’s plight, then why can’t I?”
“I want you to be a gentleman.” Fu Li said, “But you aren’t learning all the good virtues!”
“Ah Jie.” Ah Yi pulled a long face. “Our family has never once produced a gentleman. So why give me a hard time?”
Huashang was leaning at one side, getting Xiyan to paint her nails for her. On hearing him, she fanned herself with her little gold-rimmed fan and chimed in, “Where’s the fun in being a gentleman? Ah Yi was once a demon, and demons are all about fun.” Saying that, she pointed to show Fu Li. “We are making two sets of this crown. I think we don’t have to add any more ornaments. Dijun goes along with the lord’s wishes, and the lord doesn’t seem to like anything too elaborate.”
“This is too plain.” Fu Li was still not satisfied. “Jiu-ge will be married only once. It’s only more fitting for it to be elaborate.”
Huashang said, “It’s the thoughts that count. He will be surrounded all around by a sea of people then, and the weather is hot. It’d be even more tiring for him if it’s too complex.”
Undecided, Fu Li looked at Ah Yi and asked, “What do you think?”
Ah Yi instantly held his head in his hands and said, “I’ve been running around outside, and the heat is making me dizzy. I can’t decide. Just settle on one at random. It’s just a wedding. Ah Jie, you are way too nervous.”
Fu Li forlornly stroked the crown and sighed. “I’ve been wanting Jiu-ge to get married soon. I thought of it for so many years, and the only thing I didn’t expect was for Jiu-sao to be a man.”
“On the other hand, we have been preparing for it way back.” Huashang could not help but stick up her tails.1 She said with a smile, “Dijun was already waiting for the lord to come to him the moment he invited Fengyue-Jian2 over. It’s truly wonderful now that he made it in time. When my Ah Ji was still around, she was also hoping the entire time to see Dijun marry and settle down. Our gifts to the lord to commemorate our first meeting are still buried in the fox den in the north. Other than the one wish for them to bear a son soon, everything else is prepared and ready.”
Ah Yi said in horror, “Just drop the part about bearing a son! I can’t even imagine how Jiu-ge would look like giving birth to a child. Jiejie, hurry up and change the topic. I’m going to get nightmares at night.”
Fu Li smacked him and said, “What has it got to do with you?”
“I just can’t stand it.” Ah Yi stepped on the table with one leg and propped his arm up. With an enraptured expression, he mused, “Isn’t it fine for two grown men to remain buddies? I just can’t understand it. Won’t it feel different after getting married?”
“You look human.” Huashang admired her newly painted nails and said, “But in truth, you are still a child. Love in this human world is the hardest of all to deal with. When it’s your turn, then regardless of if the other part is a man or a woman, a cat or a bird, you won’t be merely thinking of being buddies with said person.”
Fu Li stacked the various fabrics together and sighed again, “Who knows when he will be enlightened? He’s still so silly.”
Ah Yi scoffed.
Fu Li said, “On the wedding day, welcome and receive Dijun properly on behalf of Jiu-ge. We are entrusting you with the most eye-catching task in Heaven and Earth. If you mess it up, see how I’ll deal with you afterward.”
With that, she continued discussing the clothing style with Huashang. From the looks of it, she had already retouched it hundreds and thousands of times. Ah Yi cast a look at it, only for his blood to freeze.
Don’t they all look the same?!
He picked one up for a look and saw a lotus motif encasing a brocade carp. He could not help but frown and commented, “Ain’t this a little too tacky?”
The moment he said that, the two jiejie on his sides sandwiched him in between and asked in unison, “Then what do you think is good?”
Ah Yi wanted to bite his tongue off right there and then.
◈ ◈ ◈
Ah Yi stayed for a full four hours before he managed to break free. He was clearly sitting, yet he felt even more tired than running a few laps outside. With his hands at his back, he watched as everyone busied around. The group of demons was also grinning from ear to ear as they built the house. He could not help feeling bored. Seeing Shuran standing woodenly on the veranda too, he bounced over to his side.
“What are you standing here like a pole for?” Ah Yi asked curiously.
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Shuran said, “Waiting to have my measurements taken. Is your Ah Jie done?”
“So you have new clothes to wear too.” Ah Yi said. “What are you supposed to do when the time comes? Turn back into your original form and spray water to receive guests?”
Shuran cast a glance at him and said, “At my age, Dijun will understand and excuse me for it. Besides, that’s not what I’m originally supposed to do.”
“Then what?” Ah Yi asked.
“After changing my clothes, I’ll be a part of the dowry.” Shuran felt his own shoulder. “I’ll just have to follow the procession and go through the motions.”
“In your original form?”
“Nope.” Shuran said. “There will be many people that day. I’m thinking of seeing if there’s any lady who catches my eyes. I want to get attached now that I no longer need to worry about the future.”
Ah Yi looked embarrassed as he said, “What’s so good about getting attached and getting married? Each one of you are in such a hurry to do it. Fool, this isn’t something you can simply ask for; you have to let nature take its course. Besides, Hua-jie3 said it before, perhaps the one who comes to you is a bug. You want to get attached to a bug? Not me for sure!”
Without waiting for Shuran to reply, he leaped off the stairs and headed along the shade upward.
This city was built on the original site of the watchtower. After Cangdi regained his throne, he needed a place to show off his might and power. There were not that many pavilions in the palace, yet the disordered construction of the observation tower had a charming effect to it; it was also modified according to the needs of the demons. After all, everyone was merely donning human skin. Once they stripped the human skin off, their original body shape and size were all on par with one another. If the place was too small, it would be tough for them to stay over and rest up.
Cang Ji’s palace was at the highest point. In his dragon form, Cangdi’s body was massive. It would pose a problem for him to soar into the sky if he had resided at the bottom. The renovation of the palace pavilions were not all that magnificent, but they were lofty and towering.
As Ah Yi passed through the grass and trees, a swarm of grass spirits and tree spirits surrounded him. He waved his sleeves and continued heading upward along the stairs. A small grass spirit hung on to his sleeve. Ah Yi yanked it off and flung it far away.
“Go away.” Ah Yi said. “Know who I am? The phoenix! Phoenix won’t play with you!”
The moment the words left his mouth, he saw the little stone figure sitting upright at the top of the stone steps. With a grass crown on its head, it stared at him with a solemn expression.
Ah Yi got a fright and hurriedly went to pick up the grass spirit he had just tossed out. He rubbed its head twice and said, “I’ll play with all of you!”
Twitters erupted all around. Ah Yi was already surrounded and buried under a swarm of the spirits. He fumed, “Who pulled my hair? How dare you! Go away! I’m busy!”
With flower buds on their heads, the grass spirits rubbed against him persistently. He dragged his body along and moved forward with some difficulty, only to see that the little stone figure had disappeared. Jing Lin brushed aside the branches on the other end and stepped forth.
Ah Yi said, “Jiu-ge save…”
He had yet to finish yelling when he was knocked down by the little spirits. He rolled a few rounds and fell headfirst into a cluster of flowers. Before he could climb to his feet, he received a kick.
With flowers in his arms, Cang Ji lifted up the branch and whistled at him. Then he crouched over and said with a laugh, “Oh, come on. Do you have to pay such a big respect just to deliver a message? You kowtowed so hard and loud that I’d feel bad if I don’t give you a little reward.”
Credits to Mister Monday for pointing out the typo!
- 翘尾巴 Also means to get cocky
- 风月鉴 Fengyue-Jian. It was 司月监 Si Yuejian in an earlier chapter. There have been quite a few name changes throughout the novel. I’m not sure if these are intentional changes or typos. I’ll revise these again and check against the physical copy once it is released.
- Elder Sister Hua(chang)