There were originally no lotuses in the north. When Emperor Cang returned to the north, he was dead set on digging out a lotus pond that was on par with the one in Nan Chan. Eighteen clear streams flowed leisurely from the mountains into the pond, which circled around the mountain ranges. The ever-lasting lotuses in it never withered all year round, and no other creatures were allowed in the pond, only brocade carps. So when the guests gathered, all they saw were red brocade carps frolicking among the lotuses with their emerald-green leaves. The tactful ones would all know not to reach out and touch them.
But of course, Dong Jun had no tact.
He nipped and propped up a lotus leaf above his head and said as he waved his fan, “Has the Emperor Lord gone bonkers? It’s just a few li1 worth of journey, but he just had to make us sit in a boat and circle around for tens of li. And on such a hot day at that. Those buddies who come from water are really in for a rough time.”
Zui Shan Seng, who was sitting upright, was polishing up a newly cut wooden pole. He blew the filings away and said, “There are so many guests that the mountain can’t accommodate all of them. It’s only by expanding the place that they can barely manage to have enough space for everyone to sit. It can’t be helped.”
“Then why make it such a grand affair?” Dong Jun tugged at the front of his clothes. “It’s not like the whole world won’t know he’s marrying Lord Lin Song if he invites a few people less.”
“You don’t understand.” Fei Luo propped up his legs and said, “With the way Lord Lin Song looks, even I would be willing to make it grand had it been me in his shoes. The best would be to invite everyone in the whole world.”
“Yo.” Dong Jun leaned forward slightly and said, “You sure are generous with your money, Lord King of Hell.”
Fei Luo raised his head just in time to see Dong Jun tilting over the lotus leaf to cover him underneath too. The moment he saw this face of Dong Jun, his heart was thrown into turmoil, and he recalled the heartbreaking past. But Dong Jun was just so gorgeous that he could not avert his eyes for a time. He could only brace himself and say, “That’s the way it should be for the beautiful ones. I’ll not begrudge the money spent.”
“Then, by your estimation.” Dong Jun caressed his own cheek. “How grand a scale does it have to be to marry me?”
Fei Luo instantly scrambled back in a fluster and exclaimed in shock, “You, you want to marry me?!”
Dong Jun promptly burst out laughing and said as he patted Zui Shan Seng, “Isn’t this rat interesting? His ambition is bold, as is his guts.”
Fei Luo was so frightened that his tail was about to pop out. The weasel yelled in shame and indignation, “I don’t know! Go ask someone else!”
Zui Shan Zeng weighed the pole in his hand as he looked at both of them, then sighed and said to Dong Jun, “How long do you still want to loaf around out there? With Ninth Heaven Realm collapsed, someone has to step out and take charge of the overall situation. Yining’s and Hui An’s cultivation are not sufficient enough. Many matters are still waiting for you.”
Dong Jun stirred the water a few times, then leaned back to cover himself with the lotus leaf. He hummed a tune contentedly, totally turning a deaf ear to Zui Shan Seng. Zui Shan Seng could do nothing about it. He knew of Dong Jun’s reluctance, so he made no further mention of the matter.
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Boats came from all directions to congregate at Wanli Terrace. The surface was paved with jade, while bright, luminous pearls hung from all eight corners. The pearls, which contained frost and snow, swept away the summer heat for the distinguished guests who had come from afar, making the wedding banquet hall pleasantly cool and comfortable.
All sorts of little demons and spirits weaved their ways through the banquet hall. Fanshu had also brought the along little radish heads over to surround Xiyan and plead for candies to eat. The tree deity was unable to enter the terrace, so Cang Ji got his men to set up a single table on the surface of the pond for it. Sitting at the same table accompanying it was Gu Shen.
When Fei Luo disembarked, the one who lifted the curtain for him was none other than Qianyu. Qianyu was not flustered to see Fei Luo. Instead, he looked back to smile and exchange gaze with Zuo Qingzhou, who was behind him.
This left even more of a bad taste in Fei Luo’s mouth. He bit down on the root of the grass and moved aside to let these two men pass.
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Zuo Qingzhou had difficulty walking, so Qianyu supported him as both men, mutually depending on each other, took slow steps forward.
As soon as Fei Luo saw Qianyu’s broken tail, his heart ached. He could not help but let out a series of sighs as he said to Dong Jun, “How mystifying. The word love inflicts so much suffering on people, and yet men live and die for it. I cherish all the pretty ones in the world. But when I presented him with the treasures of the underworld, he saw them all as muck and only held the word love dear to his heart. I often can’t understand humans, even more so love. What’s so good about it? That it’d be worth making humans fall all over themselves to throw themselves forth for a mere taste of it?”
“If you understand it…” Dong Jun turned the wine jar over with his folding fan and grabbed it up to down it all with alacrity. Then he turned to look at Fei Luo and continued with a smile spreading on his face once again, “… then you’d have gone bald! The word love is a mystery. You should be worried if you understand it. Come, come, come. There is no lack of excellent wines and dishes today. So why think of those irrelevant matters? The most important thing in the world is to make yourself happy.”
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At the other end, Fu Li and Huashang were already lifting up the curtain. Jing Lin bent over slightly and strode out. Ah Yi, who was initially sitting astride the chair picking out candies to eat, lifted his eyes when he saw Jing Lin emerging in his peripheral vision. The candy in his mouth promptly got stuck. He hurriedly clutched his neck, not even daring to cough.
Not hearing any sounds around him, Jing Lin arranged his sleeves by himself. He looked into the bronze mirror for a moment, then asked Fu Li, “I’ve never worn this kind of robe before. Do I look ugly?”
Fu Li teared up on hearing him. She wiped her tears and said in a miffed and anxious tone, “You did not have the option to in the past. But from now on, Jiu-ge can wear whatever he wants. Look at the man in this mirror. When will you come to understand the real extent of your looks?!”
Jing Lin looked at her and said, “You are going to be the aunt of a herd of demons soon. Yet you have become such a crybaby instead.”
Fu Li stood on tiptoe to help Jing Lin hold his crown steady and said, “Today is the day to cry, so just let me cry a few more times. After today, our Jiu-ge will be the Emperor Lord’s husband. He will no longer have to walk alone in this world. I’m happy. I can’t help it.”
Jing Lin looked at her quietly. After a while, he said in a slow, relaxed voice, “I’m happy too.”
“It’s only right to be happy on such a good day.” Huashang clapped her hands together. “Help the lord put on his outer robe quickly. It’s almost time. Ah Yi, go wash your hands. What are you zoning out there for? Go! Change your form soon. You have to carry the red silk in your mouth and fly ahead of the lord. You mustn’t make any mistake.”
It was only then Ah Yi gulped down the candy. He rubbed his face, unsettled, and suddenly jumped up to circle a few rounds around Jing Lin. With a solemn countenance, he said, “I think I understand a little why dage insists on marrying you. Jiu-ge, I stand convinced!”
Fu Li grabbed Ah Yi and said, “Repeat what you are supposed to do.”
Ah Yi was not in the least concerned as he said, “I am to hold the red silk in my mouth and pave the way by putting up a beamless bridge in the sky to guide dage over. The one leading the way on dage’s end is Zong Yin! Once we meet, dage and Jiu-ge will meet. And everything else that happens after has nothing to do with me.”
“You must focus on the task at hand.” Fu Li exhorted him yet again.
Huashang draped Jing Lin’s outer robe over his shoulders. The wide sleeves were adorned with golden embroidered edges. It was originally rather common and flashy, but those exposed fingers swept away the gaudiness of it.
Huashang was used to seeing good-lookers, but even she could not help sighing as she arranged the robe for Jing Lin. Lowering her eyes, she laughed in spite of herself and said, “My lord, you must be sure to hold on tight to the Emperor Lord later.”
As if feeling the same, Jing Lin looked once more into the bronze mirror.
◈ ◈ ◈
That thousand-year-old tortoise held up the crown with trembling hands and trembled again as he shuffled towards Cang Ji. Cang Ji was too tall, so he simply bent half of his body over to let the old tortoise put on the crown for him.
As the old tortoise put the hairpin in, he said, “Oh, Emperor Lord…”
Cang Ji uttered a sound of acknowledgment in response, but he did not hear him continue even after a long while.
Zong Yin, who had already dozed off, woke up in a daze to see the old tortoise trembling all over as he stroked the top of Cang Ji’s hair. This old man was already blind and could not see light, but he was the demon in Heaven and Earth who knew best about the enduring passage of time.
As the old tortoise stroked Cang Ji’s hair, he narrowed his eyes and revealed a smile. His toothless lips moved as he said, “When this old one first met the Emperor Lord… the Emperor Lord was still a little dragon. And now, he’s going to get married.”
Cang Ji laughed and lifted his eyes to say, “Each sleep of yours in the mud lasts a few thousand years. Do you even still remember me?”
“I remember. I remember.” The old tortoise said slowly, “The Emperor Lord is going to live in conjugal bliss to a ripe old age with another. With someone accompanying you, the days, no matter how long, will no longer feel bitter.”
Cang Ji said, “I’m all about the sweetness after bitterness.2 It’s an acquired taste.”
The old tortoise laughed and said softly, “This old one wishes to lead the Emperor Lord on this journey, but when all is said and done, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. Go, my lord. Someone will have your back.”
Cang Ji straightened up, and Zong Yin took the outer robe that had already been hung up. Cang Ji put on the robe and raised his head a little to size himself up in the mirror. Once he was properly dressed, he asked Zong Yin, “You are a married man who has gone through the ceremony. How did you feel on that day?”
Zong Yin replied, “When I saw her, I couldn’t stop gravitating towards her.”
Cang Ji said, “I’m so incomparably handsome today. If he sees me, he will surely feel the same. If he comes right over later, just make way for him. Don’t stop him.”
Seeing that it was almost time, Zong Yin said, “Got it.”
◈ ◈ ◈
They left the palace in a procession. The auspicious clouds in the Heavens had swept out a path for them, revealing a clear sky extending for ten thousand li. Guests beneath the palace extended along the lotus pond all the way to Jing Lin’s end. Without saying another word, Zong Yin transformed into a hai jiao amidst the exclamations of the crowd.
The jiao dragon soared into the clouds, followed closely by the cry of the phoenix at the other end. Ah Yi whirled around, riding on the wind. Two colors alternated in the sky, and the red silk high in the air instantly paved out a long path stretching several li.
Cang Ji exhaled deeply and strode on to it. He looked on with apprehension in the wind and saw Ah Yi’s phoenix tail streaking past to reveal the red robe behind.
They were clearly separated from each other by several li, yet Cang Ji felt a thunderous thump in his chest as he got a clear look at the appearance of the man who was looking up at him in the wind.
◈ ◈ ◈
Jing Lin often wore azure and white all his life. Now that he was cloaked in deep red, Cang Ji could no longer remember any other color in this world. He almost could not even take a step forward. That numbness overwhelmed him and took hold of him, making his mouth parched.
But Jing Lin just had to push through the wind to move towards him. The moment he saw Cang Ji, he wanted to smile. The moment he smiled, his eyes sparkled, leaving only his heartfelt happiness on display in this pair of eyes. He gazed intently at Cang Ji and Cang Ji alone until Cang Ji went weak in the limbs and could not hold back the uncontrollable surge of tender love that had begun to swell forth.
◈ ◈ ◈
My silly little devil.
Cang Ji’s Adam’s apple throbbed as he thought with difficulty.
Just how devastating can you be to suck away my life like this?
◈ ◈ ◈
“Oh, my!” Huashang lifted her skirt and exclaimed in alarm. “Quick, stop the Emperor Lord! We still have some way to go for the procession!”
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Cang Ji had already consigned all the rules and customs to oblivion in full view of the public. Without even waiting for Zong Yin and Ah Yi to meet, he had already sprung out to make a beeline right for his darling.
Anxious, Zong Yin thought, why are you the one who can’t help it first when he hasn’t even come over yet?! He wanted to leap up and stop him. But by some coincidence, Ah Yi happened to be whirling around in the air playing some fancy tricks, and he caused Zong Yin to trip and stumble until Zong Yin nearly plummeted down.
The moment Huashang saw the chaos up in the sky, she immediately transformed into her original form and swung out her tails in an attempt to stop Cang Ji. Shuran, who was following behind Jing Lin, looked as though he was about to face a formidable foe and hurriedly unveiled his original form as well. The beast of Buddha sprang a hundred chi3 high and shouted in a panic, “Emperor Lord! Please hold it right there! You can only hold and lead him by the hand when we arrive at Lianli Terrace!”
Ah Yi caused a gap to open up with his playing, and that red silk road suddenly sank. Seeing Jing Lin about to sink with it too, Fu Li threw all caution to the wind and turned into a five-colored bird to catch him.
But the space up in the sky was only this big, and the sudden influx of massively-sized beasts caused all of them to crash into one another. For a moment, they jostled against each other in the crammed space, entangling up the red silk further.
Below them, Dong Jun roared with laughter and clapped his hands as he said, “This is what I’d call interesting!”
Beside him, Fei Luo drank his wine and cried himself a river as he sprawled over the table and pounded on it, bawling, “Oh heavens, Lord Lin Song is so gorgeous! How can he already be taken?!”
◈ ◈ ◈
Jing Lin looked at no one. Just as he was about to plunge, he saw the red thread on his wrist materialize. Cang Ji nimbly made his way through the layers of obstacles and pounced down from above to grab hold of Jing Lin. Then he hurled him up and took him fully into his arms.
“You want my life!” Cang Ji gasped for breath and embraced him as he turned a circle with all he had and let loose an unbridled laugh. “And here I am to give it to you!”
With the red thread around his wrist, Jing Lin clasped Cang Ji’s cheeks with his palms and lowered his eyes to say, “How so?”
Cang Ji said, “By looking at you.”
Jing Lin lowered his voice slightly and said a little smugly, “I do think I look pretty good.”
“Silly lad.” With that, Cang Ji banged his forehead hard into Jing Lin’s forehead and said both resentfully and adoringly, “I’m not letting anyone else see!”
Jing Lin said, “Didn’t you say we have to go through all the steps as dictated by the rules?”
Cang Ji instantly withdrew with Jing Lin in tow. He said, “I am the rules today!”
Cang Ji hoisted him over his shoulder and made his getaway. He could leap a thousand li in just a blink of an eye, but then he heard Jing Lin say,
“You are… very good-looking too today.” Jing Lin leaned over and whispered, “When we return home, I’m going to kiss you too.”
Cang Ji stepped upon the water and turned his head back to pinch Jing Lin’s chin. He merely said, “Then why wait until we get home? Hurry up and save me now.”
Jing Lin grasped his shoulders and leaned in for a kiss.
Cang Ji said, “I’m still going to die.”
So Jing Lin kissed him harder. But when he saw Cang Ji staring fixedly at him, he could not help but utter, “… Hm?”
“From now on, you must kiss me every day.” Cang Ji said at lightning speed. “You have to kiss me in the morning and at night. The kiss mustn’t be lighter than this kiss; they all have to be more intense than the kiss this moment. You can’t just brush your lips against mine; you have to stretch out your tongue, and it has to have saliva. Can you do it?”
Jing Lin instantly said, “I don’t…”
“You don’t want to.” Cang Ji suddenly revealed a smile. “Then you can only leave it to me. I’m an expert at this.”
With that, he scooped him up and ran.
“Where are we going?” Once again hoisted over Cang Ji’s shoulder, Jing Lin asked with his sleeves hanging down.
“Home.” Cang Ji said, “I’m taking my darling home!”
The water surface broke into a series of ripples, although there were already no signs of both men to be seen. A brocade carp suddenly leaped out of that pond, sending water droplets splashing all over until even the lotus swayed incessantly.
That’s the end. I’m so happy. This is the first time I’ve seen so many friends coming together to play. I feel as if I’m on cloud nine.
One work has been completed. Reviewing it as you like is everyone’s right. Leave the rest to me. Once I hear your voices, I will know which are the areas I need to reflect upon.
I hope I have not disappointed you too much. Looking forward to have fun together again the next time.
A gentle reminder that it’s one thing to review the works on its own merits and faults, but please refrain from launching personal attacks on the author.
Also, there will be a massive re-edit now that the entire novel is translated. The edits will take some time, and there are likely changes in the naming system, so please bear with me if you come across any inconsistencies before the edits are completed. I’ll update the status of the edits at the sidebar under announcements. Feel free to email or DM me if you have any suggestions! Much appreciated and thank you so much for accompanying Cang Ji and Jing Lin on their journey together! ❤