Fu Li rose to her feet instantly, the color already drained from her face. She blurted out involuntarily, “What did you say?!”
Cang Ji simply smiled without answering. A hand behind him set itself on his shoulder. Fu Li looked along it and saw Jing Lin standing and gathering his clothes. He said to her, “Sit and talk.”
With this, Fu Li found it hard to spit out her discontentment. She could only bow her head in acquiescence and followed Zong Yin to take a seat under the eaves. There was a little fire stove made of red zisha clay set up at the side of the table. Fu Li clasped her hands together and warmed them up a little before the stove.
“There’s no word from Jiu-ge about Jiu-ge’s marriage.” Fu Li said dejectedly, “Although we cannot be compared to before, we simply cannot let this matter pass in such a slipshod manner. I still have a collection of rare jewelries back at home. My original intent was to wait for Jiu-ge’s wedding and gift it to…”
She cast a glance at Cang Ji, but she could not bring herself to spit out the word “Jiu-sao”. This was just great. There was no need for the jewelries now. Look at how tall and strong this fish was; he definitely had no use for them. Thinking about this made Fu Li so pissed that her liver ached.
“I won’t disdain them even if you send them over.” Cang Ji grabbed a teacup to rinse it with water and said with a smile, “We are family, so why stand on ceremony? We will still have to trouble you to help out when we hold a lavish wedding banquet in the future. We definitely won’t be slipshod about this. I still have the confidence to treat the Three Realms in Heaven and Earth to a banquet.”
It would not do for Fu Li to remain crestfallen when she saw Jing Lin looking like he usually did. Although she was still dissatisfied with Cang Ji, she could not not trust Jing Lin’s taste. So she said, “If I can be of help in the future, Jiu… You just have to notify me, and I’ll surely hurry over. At present, Zong Yin’s matter is of great urgency. He has already given me a clear account on the way here. It’s not hard for me to assist with her delivery. The difficulty lies in trying to hide this, which is impossible. When the time comes, the storm will stir again, and figures from Heaven and Earth will assemble here. We won’t be able to hide the fact that Jiu-ge is still alive. What are we to do about this?”
“Even without this matter, we won’t be able to hide it for long.” Jing Lin drank the tea and said, “Being alive itself is a variable.”
“If Zong Yin can pass his tribulation and evolve into a dragon before the baby’s due date, he will have the ability to self-protect.” Fu Li warmed herself by the fire and considered it. “Ninth Heaven Realm will definitely deploy Zui Shan Seng. He is currently in the lotus pond transcending realms. With his aptitude, he will be able to come out of seclusion before the due date. When the time comes, Zong Yin will have to obstruct him. But once he comes out of seclusion, his cultivation will be closely matched with Lord Shage. I think it’s going to be hard.”
“Lord Shage killed Cangdi with his spear back then.” Zong Yin stretched out his arms to reveal the pattern marks on his shoulders and arms. “My scales are standard scales. No doubt they won’t be able to hold up to Po Zheng Spear. But it’s inevitable for Zui Shan Seng’s cultivation to be unstable when he has just transcended. If it’s just Xiang Mo Staff, I can give it a try.”
“One Zui Shan Seng.” Cang Ji twirled his teacup. “He is obviously our helping hand. There’s no need for all of you to worry.”
“What do you mean?” Fu Li said, “You swallowed half of his cultivation during the battle at the City of Xitu. He hates unpredictable ‘variables’ like you the most. Unless he loses his mind, why would he help us?”
Cang Ji smiled and replied, “Send someone to invite the nine-tailed fox, Huashang, from the capital over. As long as she’s here to stand watch, Zui Shan Seng will not make a move even if she’s just cracking melon seeds.1 Zui Shan Seng doesn’t hate people like me. He hates ignorant and muddle-headed people, that is, people who know not of good and bad, and who violate his moral principles. In these 1,400 years, he seems to be insane, yet his cultivation has only increased but not decreased. He can’t step into the Great Accomplishment Stage this lifetime, but he has the determination to fight a battle with a certain someone.”
“Who?” Zong Yin asked.
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Cang Ji tapped the rim of the teacup with his finger and said, “Someone everyone has forgotten about.”
“Li Rong.” Jing Lin understood. “Li Rong has been sleeping for five hundred years. His divine consciousness is hiding in Zhongdu, and his body is lying in the Blood Sea. The original form of Lord Chengtian, Yun Sheng, is a ‘mirror’. He’s no good in combat. At the critical juncture, he will undoubtedly rouse Li Rong.”
“But what enmity is there between Zui Shan Seng and Li Rong?” Fu Li still did not understand. “Ever since he has been conferred a title, he has been handling Zhui Hun Prison’s affairs as Li Rong’s subordinate. Although both men can’t be said to be buddies, they are still on friendly terms. For so many years in the past, Zui Shan Seng has never once mentioned the desire to fight it out with Li Rong.”
“In any case, you are a maiden.” Cang Ji said. “Go befriend Huashang. Give her those jewelries of yours and confide in her, and you will come to understand it, no?”
Being rebutted made Fu Li tongue-tied. It took her a while before she said, “Those jewelries are not just for Jiu-sao, but also for Jiu-ge’s future daughter…”
“Look at us now.” Cang Ji brazenly leaned against Jing Lin’s side. “Between your Jiu-ge and I, who looks like he can give birth to a daughter?”
Feeling helpless, Fu Li called out, “… Jiu-ge…”
“Good judgment there.” Cang Ji laughed heartily. “Just for this word of yours today, it doesn’t matter if you five-colored birds2 throw your weight around the Three Realms in the future!”
Fu Li immediately said in panic, “I was merely just calling Jiu-ge!”
Jing Lin raised his hand to cover Cang Ji’s mouth and said, “Go take a look at Zong Yin’s wife.”
◈ ◈ ◈
As soon as Fu Li and Zong Yin left the courtyard, Cang Ji pecked at Jing Lin’s palm and said, “Once Huashang arrives, the major-league demons in the capital will be able to assemble here. Some of them are old faces from the northern lands. It’s just that I’ve yet to pass my tribulation, so I’m still a fish, and my appearance differs from before. I’m afraid it’s not possible for me to command the pack.”
“The reason you enlisted and called Fu Li over is not just because you want her assistance in the child’s delivery.” Jing Lin’s finger slid to Cang Ji’s opened collar. “Fu Li and Zong Yin could be said to be the only two divine beasts in the world, just like the phoenix of the south and dragon of the north 1,400 years ago. Now, one of them addresses you the Cangdi, and the other calls you Jiu-sao. When the major-league demons come here, they will have to yield and submit even if they aren’t convinced.”
Cang Ji wrapped his arms around Jing Lin’s lower back and said, “This is all thanks to the glory of Lord Linsong.”
Jing Lin drew closer to him and asked, “Aren’t you going to pull up your collar?”
“Nah.” Cang Ji said. “Isn’t it good enough to have a ring around it?”
Jing Lin caressed his neck and said, “I used to…”
Cang Ji lowered his head to let him touch. He smiled and probed, “Used to what?”
Jing Lin said in a trance, “I want to touch…”
Cang Ji said, “Then I will strip.”
“… your scales.” Jing Lin completed his sentence.
Cang Ji narrowed his eyes and grabbed Jing Lin’s hand. For a fleeting instant, he seemed to be a little downcast, but it took just a wink of an eye for this despondency to turn into pure gentleness. He led Jing Lin’s hand to his own neck, pressing it against his pointed scales.
“This ring of scales isn’t hard enough.” Cang Ji guided his hand to the area under his throat. “This is a vital spot. Canglong has a reverse scale. And only the reverse scale is bluish-white. You should be the reason for it.”
The dark scales were luxuriously glossy. They felt satiny to the touch, and as icy as blades.
“This spot can block blades and swords.” Cang Ji led his hand to his chest, then continued down to his abdomen. “Even if it’s Po Zheng Spear, it won’t be able to pierce through here. The scales on my back are ferocious. Even if a corner of the sky falls, they can hold up against it.”
Jing Lin counted the scales one by one. Cang Ji cut off his counting and said, “Hard, aren’ they? Once I evolved into a dragon, patterns of scales will materialize on my back every time I make love to you. This is something that’s beyond my control. If you find that they’ve gotten bigger, it’s because of love.”
Jing Lin caressed under Cang Ji’s throat.
Understanding dawned on Cang Ji. He pressed down on Jing Lin’s upper body and said into Jing Lin’s ear to coax him. “… It didn’t hurt at all when it pierced through my throat. It was just like a mosquito bite. Compared to my dragon body, his Po Zheng Spear is as thin as the hair on an ox.”
Jing Lin asked, “Did my bites hurt?”
“Were those bites?” Cang Ji said, “I suspect you merely saw me as a candy for you to lick.”
Cang Ji originally intended to stroke Jing Lin’s hair and diverted the topic. He did not expect Jing Lin to reach out his arms first to embrace him and stroke him on the back along his hair.
Jing Lin said, “When I was a child wandering the streets, I saw someone fall and cry. After doing something, it didn’t hurt anymore.”
Cang Ji said, “Show me.”
After a moment of silence, Jing Lin blew softly on the back of Cang Ji’s shoulder and said, “Blow on it, and it won’t hurt anymore.”
Cang Ji closed his eyes. After a long time, he said in a soft voice too, “In the future, I’ll blow away your pain for you too. I want our Jing Lin to be free of pain and adversity, to lead a carefree life without a single worry.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Zong Yin found it inappropriate the moment he stepped out of the courtyard. As he journeyed with Fu Li, he suddenly piped up, “We shouldn’t have mentioned Lord Shage earlier.”
Fu Li asked, “What’s wrong?”
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Zong Yin said, “… We just shouldn’t have done it. You’ll understand in the future.”
Not noticing what had transpired, Fu Li merely said in astonishment, “Falling in love really makes one different—You’ve become melancholic.”
Zong Yin slowed down and asked, “How’s A-Yi these days?”
“How in the world could he hold his nature in check? He has been stirring up trouble everywhere.” Fu Li tsked softly. “I left in a hurry and forgot to leave him a message. I just hope he won’t create trouble.”
◈ ◈ ◈
As Fu Li was talking about A-Yi, A-Yi was far away in the capital being picky about his food. He flung down his chopsticks, treating the entire table of delicacies as nothing more than pigswill.
“I handed you a gold pearl, and this is how you try to dismiss me.” A-Yi, with his hair tied up, was dressed in brocade clothes. Even when he was angry and frowning, he still shone until the entire room was awash in his splendor. Looking as though he was about to laugh but did not, he kicked the table leg. “If your dishes don’t satisfy me today, I’ll wreck your shop!”
The shopkeeper looked miserable as he held the tray and moved around on A-Yi’s left and right to coax him, “My esteemed lord is a man who has seen the world! Our small shop has nothing to offer great men like yourself. I’ll return you the gold pearl. Can you please go elsewhere? Argh!”
A-Yi said, “All the more I don’t wanna. Serve the dishes!”
The waiter behind hurriedly served up the dishes. A-Yi picked and sampled a mouthful of the dish, then snorted and said, “Look at the way these shreds are cut into chunks. What a scam! Call your chef here. Tell him he can quit this line. The chef can’t afford to be such an embarrassment.”
The chef sweated profusely with his plump body wedged at the head of the stairway. He held onto the rail for support and trembled as he made his way down. A-Yi’s scoldings of him had almost reduced him to tears.
A-Yi was not in a good mood, so he took it out on others. He had so much money that he was out of places to spend, so he went all out to make a mockery of the people here. The shopkeeper could not hit or scold him. He held his tray and took A-Yi’s scolding in the face, then turned his head back to wipe his tears with the corner of his sleeves. He was driven to such a state of anxiety that he was about to kneel to A-Yi.
The waiter from the back kitchen who had just returned from purchasing vegetables lifted the curtain and entered. Seeing the chef trembling as he held onto the railing, the waiter hurried over to support him. Without even stopping to wipe his sweat, he asked, “Master, what’s the matter? Have you encountered a troublemaker?”
“Even worse than that!” The chef said with a miserable expression.” My half-a-lifetime reputation has all been utterly destroyed! How is this a troublemaker? He, he’s clearly a…”
The waiter picked up the corner of his robe to wipe his hands clean and strode up the stairs to make his way upstairs. A-Yi set down the chopsticks and said, “Tell them to continue cooking!”
This waiter took a few steps closer and said, “What dish? My esteemed lord, please name it.”
“No name.” Looking askance at him, A-Yi sized him up and saw that while he was valiant in appearance, he was dressed in coarse clothes. Thus he said, “You aren’t a chef, are you? So what has it got to do with you? Call the chef over!”
This waiter kept his composure and said, “I’ve been assisting the chef and learning from him for five years. I can cook. The chef isn’t available at the moment, so I’ll cook for you.”
With that, he turned around and headed downstairs to enter the back kitchen without even asking for assistance. A-Yi rinsed his mouth. He truly intended to see what sort of thing he could come up with. After some time, the waiter came up carrying a tray.
He set the bowl and chopsticks down and said to A-Yi, “Please try it.”
A-Yi sneered, “The hell with Yangchun noodles?”3
“The hell with it” The waiter said, “Why don’t you taste it to find out?”
Seeing how composed he looked and confident he sounded, A-Yi picked up the chopsticks and said, “I’ll do you the favor of tasting it.”
A-Yi lowered his head to taste the noodles. The saltiness hit him once those noodles entered his mouth. It was so sickeningly salty that A-Yi felt like puking and covered his mouth. Who knew this waiter would step down on his chair with one foot? A-Yi could not even move it the slightest.
The heck A-Yi would care what this man was called! Other than suffering and having a hard time under Cang Ji’s hands, he had never been bullied by others before. What’s more, this Shan Tian seemed to be a mere mortal.
A-Yi struck the table with a palm. There was a deafening “crash” as the table was shoved a few chi6 away. He turned his feet and suddenly sprang up from the chair. Shan Tian sidestepped him and unexpectedly lifted the chair to smash it down on A-Yi’s head. A-Yi lashed out at it from the air, breaking the chair apart into two and striking Shan Tian right in the face, causing him to step several steps back.
Another waiter downstairs shouted, “Shan-ge! Your pole is at the edge of the hall!”
Shan Tian instantly raced over and picked up an inconspicuous object that looked like a pole under the table with his toe. A-Yi did not think much of him and took the blow from the pole with his bare hands, not expecting himself to be unable to hold up to this strength.
“Good skill there.” “A-Yi dodged and kicked the chair over. He said coldly, “It’s not a pole wrapped under this cloth, is it? It weighs at least a thousand catty.7 It’s almost comparable to Zui Shan Seng’s Xiang Mo Staff! Who exactly are you?”
Shan Tian turned his pole over and attacked. He said, “My name is Shan Tian. I’m a poor fisherman on the coast of the eastern sea! Who am I? An ordinary man!”
◈ ◈ ◈
At the same time, Fu Li was supporting Shan Yue to step outside when her heart suddenly skipped a few beats. She heard Shan Yue ask, “Li-jiejie has a younger brother too? So do I. He’s been drifting around outside. He’s a martial arts practitioner with astounding innate strength.”
Fu Li said, “My younger brother… is very much a jerk. He’s so spoiled that he turns up his nose at everyone.”
“My younger brother is hot-tempered.” Shan Yue stepped down the stairs. “When Xiaoshan8 was born, it was raining so heavily that the village was almost flooded. My parents thought he couldn’t survive. Strangely enough, although the rain was so heavy, it still seemed to show him some consideration. For many years afterward, each time it rained heavily, Xiaoshan would say that it’s his brother. Don’t you think it’s funny? He’s clearly the only younger brother I have!”
Fu Li smiled as well and said, “He’s called Xiaoshan? Mine’s called A-Yi. He loved to spout nonsense when he was young too. It’s as if there is no one in this world that isn’t his friend.”
Both of them laughed for a while. Then Fu Li supported Shan Yue as they strolled around the courtyard.
- Usually used to describe someone who’s just cracking melon seeds to watch the show. The English equivalent of melon seeds would be popcorn!
- 五色鸟 – technically, the words would translate to a barbet bird. But here, it refers to a mythical creature in Chinese mythology. (To be revealed later in the chapters. For now, I’ll stick to the original text and label it a ‘five-colored bird’).
阳春面 Yangchun noodle, also called the plain noodles or plain noodle soup, is a kind of noodles that served only with noodles and soup.
- 山田 Shan Tian, or literally mountain fields, also read as Yamada in Japanese LOL
- 您 He used a more courteous form of “you”
- 尺 chi, a Chinese foot, i.e., one-third of a meter.
- 斤 catty, or jin, 1 catty = 0.5kg
- 小山 Also ‘little mountain’. “Xiao” here means little and is typically used as an endearing form of address.