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Epilogue 1 - When Jin Mi was a Book Boy (Part 1)
Time: In the hundred years when Jin Mi first went to the Heavenly Realms and was Phoenix's book boy
"What is that?"
"Ah?" I had fallen asleep while grinding the ink slab when I immediately opened my eyes wide at Phoenix's sudden question. I gave an impression full of energy as I looked at him but I saw that his brows were slightly furrowed as he looked at the lower right. Following his gaze, I saw a small book being squashed by one leg of the table, its weak and thin appearance radiated a pitiful feeling. Of course, it was a little familiar.
I suddenly remembered that I had tried to transform the book table this morning and originally wanted to turn it into a turtle... but who knew that after I chanted the incantation, not only did the book table fail to transform, it leaned on one side and became lame in one leg! Luckily, the limp was not too bad so I placed a few books under its leg such that it immediately returned to its usual straight stable self. Who knew that Phoenix's eyes would be so sharp and he would immediately spot it from one glance......
A thief need not have a guilty heart. A guilty heart need not necessarily be a thief. So, I very boldly said, "Naturally, it's a book. It's more stable with it."
Phoenix looked at me with a raised brow and with a lift of his finger, the books flew out from below into his hands. I saw the brushes and ink slab immediately fell down from the book table as it slanted to one side - luckily my eyes and hands were fast and I quickly caught the table to stabilise it.
Although seeing this heavy book table was about to break my slim wrist, the poisonous bird Phoenix did not care. He flipped one of the books and read out loud, "A Courtyard Full of Amorous Spirit?" His face darkened and he lifted his head to look at me, flipping a few more pages in the book, his expression continued to become heavier... finally, he slammed the book on the table and stood up, "You used such a book to support my table?"
Ah? What's wrong with the book? I lifted up my head and saw the page the abandoned book was opened to, ah, it was only a drawing. Why did you throw such a temper? Unless... he disdained the fact that the spring pictures* were not detailed enough? To give in to him, I added, "Second Highness, if you don't like this book, my room has many more for you to choose from."
"Jin Mi!" Phoenix narrowed his eyes at me and actually lifted his hand to hit the table - it was like adding frost to the snow, I felt a pang of pain in my wrist and finally could not hold onto the table. I heard a cacophony of sound and my body was also pulled along, and actually blearily fell into Phoenix's arms.
I moved and tried to climb up, but who knew that the belt strap of my robe got hooked onto something on my body and with one force, I heard the ripping sound of fabric. I had teared a hole at the waist of my robes.
"Ah....." I heard a sound from behind. I pathetically turned back - an attendant had brought a snowy beard old G.o.d at the door and both of them stared blankly back at Phoenix and me, then at the mess on the floor, an expression of wanting to say something but could not as their feet were half raised across the entrance opening.
"Don't move," Phoenix commanded into my ear as his hands supported my waist and pressed me into his embrace.
The old G.o.d's moustache twitched and then twitched again, finally, it turned red. Lifting his head to look at the sky, lowering his head to see the spring books on the floor, he said, "Spring has arrived... arrived..." Speaking incoherently as he turned his head and walked off.
In the midst of the spring wind, the pages full of amorous pictures were flying.
Phoenix and I looked at each other - small eyes to big eyes for a short moment. If the enemy did not move, I would not move. The wind brought the strands of hair that had fallen from his sides pa.s.sed my nose, suddenly, I had an ominous feeling.
As I saw Phoenix's dark face come closer and closer to me, it was so terrifying I could not move... who knew, finally, he raised his hand to pinch my hair and said coldly, "How long do you plan to lean on me?"
It shocked my back full of gooseb.u.mps. I hurriedly and randomly pressed my palm for support and stood up. After I stood straight, I saw that Phoenix's brows were furrowed and his colouring was a little pale, "You.......!"
I? What did I do again? I gave him a bewildered look but saw that his face was black as he looked at my hands, he spat each word out by each word, "You -- Get -- Out!"
Of course, I did not expect a bird like him to be as kind and generous as us fruits, but I never thought he would be so aggrieved with me till this stage......
The second day, he transformed me into a pair of chopsticks. To be used to hold food but not be able to eat food - it is to want to cry but have no tears.
The third day, Chang'e from the Moon Palace brought her jade rabbit to visit. With a point of his finger, he changed me into a big fat radish! When the jade rabbit saw me, it immediately wanted to pounce over. Luckily, Chang'e hugged it tight or I would have definitely lost my life to a rabbit. After having a stare battle with the jade rabbit for two hours, I finally realised why Old Carrot Immortal was so scared of rabbit. Rabbits were truly the fiercest beasts in this world!
The fourth day, the cursed Phoenix changed me again into a drum. Being held in his hand, he knocked me till I almost fainted then he let me go.
The fifth day, the sixth day, the seventh day, the eighth day... it was only until the eighth day that he let me off. To act so ridiculously, I decided I would not bother with this bird anymore.
Later, when I happened to cross the sky bridge, I heard one immortal attendant secretly whispering to another, "I heard that a few days ago, Second Highness and his book boy at his book table... mutually cultivated... and actually broke one of the legs of the book table......"
The other immortal attendant was so shocked that his eyes were wide and his mouth agape. He gasped, "To be so bold and violent!"
I raised my head towards the sky, with the sun burning bright, to be so bold indeed.
*I wrote before in the main story that "春" means spring and also pa.s.sion. The term "spring book" is an oblique way of saying "s.e.x".
Epilogue 2: Dragon Boat Festival/ When Jin Mi Was A Book Boy (Part 2)
Time: In the hundred years when Jin Mi first went to the Heavenly Realms and was Phoenix's book boy
We fruits also have backbones. Since Phoenix ignored my wishes and transformed me into a drum for eight days, I decided not to deal with him again. In the days where I no longer grind the ink slab for Phoenix, the sky appeared brighter, the water bluer, even the willow catkins that flew in the wind appeared cuter and more vibrant than before. When I was bored, I would watch the opera with the Moon G.o.d, hear him criticise the "spring books", the time flew by fast.
There was only one thing that was not good. Although the days in which I did not have to watch the mood of Phoenix's face were perfect springtime, but I was no longer taught divine spells. My already low divine powers dropped even further than before, and thus I decided to abandon the dark and follow the light and come under the tutelage of the Moon G.o.d. I asked the Moon G.o.d to teach me some secrets to increasing my divine powers and he happily agreed.
The Moon G.o.d very formally placed several different sizes and thicknesses of sewing needles before me, and said, "To thread needles is one of the basics of divine meditation. Think about it - if you can't even thread a sewing needle, how would you be able to properly use the heavy divine instruments? Thus, a good sewing needle is a necessary equipment for a successful G.o.d." Following which, the Moon G.o.d happily described all the sewing needles he treasured and kept, and very generously offered to let me pick one needle and would teach me how to thread it with red thread immediately tonight.
[The joke is that the Moon G.o.d's divine powers mainly lie in connecting lovers with a red thread, hence he would prize sewing needles so much!]
I deeply did not understand - the Moon G.o.d's eyesight was originally not good, but he would choose to thread the red threads in the pitch black darkness of the night under the glow of a small lamp.
When I asked him, the Moon G.o.d's eyes curved with his smile as he explained, "I feel more inspired by the night. The black night gives me a pair of black eyes, and I am fated to use it to catch illicit affairs!"
However, divine powers were fated to have nothing to do with threading needles and illicit affairs. I learnt to thread red threads with the Moon G.o.d for a total of ten days - my divine powers did not increase even a little bit but my eyesight was really starting to go crazy, everytime I saw a place with a hole, it was like I was possessed and I tried to think how I could thread a red thread through it.
Just as I was mulling over whether I should continue to learn under the Moon G.o.d, I heard that in two days Phoenix's palace would be having a celebration for the mortals' Dragon Boat Festival*. It was to celebrate some person's bravery for jumping into the river and rising to become a G.o.d. Phoenix had praised his literary skills and invited him to his palace and thus asked his attendants to celebrate as per the mortal customs of the Dragon Boat Festival.
This was nothing extraordinary but I heard that there will be rice dumplings during the Dragon Boat Festival - the mortals' rice dumplings were made using banana leaves to wrap glutinous rice and fragrant meat or bean paste in a triangular shape, but the dumplings in the heavenly realms naturally could not be the same as the mortal dumplings thus Phoenix with a flip of his sleeve had declared, "We will wrap divine strength."
Divine strength! Shiny dazzling divine strength.
There were many different types of fillings for the dumplings in the mortal realms, there were lean meat, salted egg yolk, chestnut, apricot seed..... naturally, the dumplings in the heavenly realms also had to be differentiated. The most modest dumpling would wrap one year's worth of divine strength, but there would be numerous of them. As the years' worth of divine strength increased, the number of such dumplings would decrease. Finally, there was the Emperor Dumpling.
It contained five hundred years of divine strength.
Five hundred years of divine strength!
That was the total period of time when the Great Monkey G.o.d was pressed under the palm of Buddha Grandfather. If I could obtain this Emperor Dumpling, I could be spared so much difficult training. Thus, I immediately decided to return to Phoenix's palace to partic.i.p.ate in the Dragon Festival festival and grab the Emperor Dumpling.
The doors of the palace opened early on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. I mixed into the crowd and entered. There were several green dumplings on the table as rumored - but all of them looked the same, how would one be able to ascertain the divine strength they contained?
Although I did not have the Great Monkey G.o.d's eyes which could immediately discern the true nature of things with a glance, but what I lack in gifts, I made up for in diligence. I thought, I shall just keep eating, who knows if I will eat until I eat the five hundred years dumpling!
However, there were too many G.o.ds, immortal attendants and immortal G.o.ddesses, I only managed to grab twenty dumplings. Still, this was much more than what most have grabbed. With great satisfaction, I carried the dumplings and went to the back garden of the palace to eat them in peace.
I ate one year of divine strength in the first dumpling. Although it was only one year, I thought the taste was really not bad, soft and sticky with a fragrant scent, it was worthwhile to eat it even if there was no divine strength in it.
I also ate one year of divine strength in the second dumpling. This caused my heart to be a little uncomfortable, but there were still eighteen chances right?
The third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth... with a bloated stomach and gritted teeth, I ate the final one......
The heavens were unfair! From the first to the twentieth, all of them were the same - so even though I ate until I was almost choking, I only gained twenty years of divine strength.
My heart was unwilling and I carried a stomach full of dissatisfaction back to the main palace. All the immortals have departed. I tried to find out which lucky little G.o.d had received the Emperor Dumpling but only received the news that no immortal had received it, only that the Little Red Boy, son of the Demon Bull King had received a dumpling of one hundred years of divine strength.
In that moment, I could not be bothered to be jealous of the Little Red Boy, my heart immediately calculated - based on this a.n.a.lysis, the Emperor Dumpling was still uneaten, thus I still had a chance! I tried to find out where the rest of the dumplings were.
I was met with a disdainful response, all of the dumplings were long gone. Good things were naturally eaten, who would take it and not eat it?
That was when I found out that the Second Highness did not eat it. He only asked his attendant to place it in his study.
There is no dead path for a person with a willing heart!
I saw that Phoenix's study radiated a light glow and hesitatingly knocked on the door.
"Come in," Phoenix's cold voice with the fragrant smell of dumplings floated through.
I pushed the door open with antic.i.p.ation and immediately saw a complete dumpling on the table. My heart rose higher in excitement and thought that Phoenix did not look like such an eye sore as before. Of course, if he would give me this dumpling, he would really be the most perfect male in all of the six realms.
"Jin Mi greets his Fire Highness," I obediently bowed.
In the misty fiery glow, Phoenix lightly lifted the ends of his long narrow eyes, seeing it was me he lowered his gaze and continued to look through his books. After a while, he slowly opened his golden mouth,"I heard that you have entered the tutelage of my Uncle."
"How can that be? His Fire Highness must have heard wrongly. To have his Fire Highness personally teach Jin Mi is my life's blessing, how can I enter the tutelage of another?" I very seriously denied this matter.
"Ah," Phoenix lifted his head to look at me, softly gave out one word and then silence.
I very naturally and familiarly started to grind the ink slab, if I did not display my loyalty now, when could I?
"Tonight, I am only reading and have no need for the ink," He held the scroll with one hand and leaned languidly on the chair back. I did not know if it was my mistaken perception but I thought I saw his thin lips lightly curving.
I gently placed down the ink slab and listened to him speak, "The night is dark and my stomach is a little hungry. When don't you use the spell I taught you before to warm this dumpling so I can eat it."
I panicked and immediately told him, "The mortals' dumplings are very awful to eat. There is a strange smell from the banana leaf wrapping, the glutinous rice is too soft and vastly less nice to eat than the normal rice. A rice must have backbone, what kind of rice is soft rice! Plus, this dumpling is too big, you will choke if you eat it late at night."
Phoenix narrowed his eyes, his dimples appearing and disappearing, "Based on your words, I really want to find out what this dumpling taste like. How awful it must be for you to be so pained."
Seeing his hand reach out for this dumpling, without even thinking, I hurriedly stretched my hand and placed it on top of his hand to stop him, "If your Fire Highness is hungry, I will immediately go to the kitchen and personally made a plate of hibiscus pastry** for you. I guarantee that it will be hundred times more delicious than his dumpling, and you won't choke when you eat it, ok?"
I looked at him steadfastly with hope, but who would have thought not only did this bird not answer, his face had a dazed expression and I couldn't tell what he was thinking. I followed his gaze and realised that he was looking at the back of my hand. In my worry that he would not agree, I flipped my hand and both my hands wrapped his hand in my palms, I gave him a shining look of loyalty and asked again, "What does your Fire Highness think?"
I did not know if it was the flickering of the flames, or it was my spoilt eyesight from threading too many needles, I actually thought that Phoenix's cheeks had a rush of light colouring. But, he looked at his hand that was wrapped in my palms, avoided my gaze and his voice seemed unnatural as he lightly agreed, "Ok."
What a beautiful voice from heaven!
I pushed away his hand and quickly carried the Emperor Dumpling out of the door, "I shall remove this dumpling. Fire Highness just wait a moment and the hibiscus pastry will be immediately delivered."
I was so worried he would regret it that after I walked out of the door, I started to run with the Emperor Dumpling.
Heaven has not forsaken a person with a willing heart! I forced the dumpling down my throat. Indeed, it had five hundred years of divine strength! I was so happy, my dreams that night had the sweet fragrance of glutinous rice.
Of course, the saying that "Happiness breeds Sadness" is not without merit, for I was so happy that night that I completely forgot about Phoenix's hibiscus pastry......
It was only a small plate of hibiscus pastry but that small-hearted bird bore a grudge and punished me to make hibiscus pastry for a whole year! Plus, he won't eat it in the morning or in the afternoon, thus I couldn't sleep properly for a whole year! Often having to make the hibiscus pastry in the middle of the night.
And, whenever Phoenix eats the hibiscus pastry, he would eat it with an especially heavy and serious expression, truly despicable and detestable! The gaze from his phoenix eyes as he looked into my eyes especially cause me to grit my teeth with hate!
Phoenix called this "using merits to make out for my fault".
But, because of the Emperor Dumpling, I decided not to be as small-hearted as the bird.
* On the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the Chinese celebrates Dragon Boat Festival which commemorates the suicide of a great poet, Quan Yu, into the river. He was exiled and accused of treason. The locals respected Quan Yu so much that they rushed out in boats to rescue his body and this was the start of the dragon boat races. They also threw b.a.l.l.s of rice in the river to stop the fishes from eating his body and this was the origin of the rice dumplings. Thus, during the Dragon Boat Festival, the Chinese will eat rice dumplings and partic.i.p.ate in dragon boat races.
** The significance of the hibiscus pastry makes more sense now in Chapter 24.1!
While Phoenix is still a bit moody, he always grants my every wish. No matter how much lingli I shamelessly ask for, he will give it to me without a single complaint. Sometimes, after receiving so much lingli, I ask myself, “Do I really like linglithat much? What do I want to do with so much lingli? Since I’m neither a soldier, nor hold political power, having so much lingli is truly a waste.”
One day, I awake in the middle of the night, having suddenly figured it out. I concluded that actually, my asking Phoenix so shamelessly for lingli is just a way for me to prove that Phoenix actually loves me; that he loves me as much as thelingli he gives me – an infinite amount of love. After that, something happened to prove my conclusion.
That day, I took our baby to fish in the River of Forgetfulness. Umm… let’s just treat it as fishing (After hearing from the Demon Realm’s First Highness that there are many souls of beautiful ladies at the bottom of the River, I thought that it would be quite good if we could fish a pretty lady mermaid to be my son’s child bride).
After half a day, we still had not managed to catch a single fish. However, we caught sight of another type of fish .
I suddenly caught wind of a strong xianqi. I raised my head and saw a group of immortals riding the clouds across the River. The white clothing of their leader billowed in the wind, his carriage elegant – who else could it be but the Heavenly Emperor himself? Just as I was thinking of whether I can pretend not to have seen anything, he looked down and met my gaze. He stared for a moment before turning to speak with the other immortals. He then flew down to land beside the two of us.
He looked at me and I looked at him, both of us not knowing where to start; the atmosphere was a little awkward. Finally, he opened his mouth but did not speak to me. Instead, he bent down and touched Tang Yue’s chubby cheek, smiled and asked, “What are you doing here?”
Tang Yue blinked his eyes and answered, “Fishing for a wife.”
His Majesty stilled for a moment before laughing, “Surely this must be your mother’s idea.” He then asked, “What is your name?”
Tang Yue is at times just like his father (having inherited his arrogance at a young age), and will sometimes refuse to answer when questioned. He fares just slightly better than his father in that unlike his father, he will not embarra.s.s the other person by blatantly ignoring him. He will just change the topic. In this case, he fiddled with his hook and asked, “Why don’t you join us fishing?”
I was afraid he would hurt himself on the hook, so I rushed to take the rod away from him. I instructed him, “Call Bó Bó(uncle)”.
“Bŭ bŭ.” Tang Yue looked up at His Majesty.
I suddenly realised that when Old Carrot first visited us, he was still little and could not speak well. I was afraid he could not p.r.o.nounce Old Carrot’s name, so I taught him to call Old Carrot “Bŭ bŭ” from “hú luó bŭ”. Now, my son has confused bó bó (ie “uncle”) with bŭ bŭ (from the word “carrot”).
Xiao Yu Xian Guan, who probably did not know that my son has equated him with Old Carrot in his heart, only stretch his hand out to rub the top of Tang Yue’s head before looking at me and asking, “Are you happy now?”
After that, he smiled a small smiled and answered himself, “You surely must be happy.”
I opened my mouth, but did not know how to reply. In the end, we stood together by the River for a while, looking at the clouds and water; the clouds were very far and the waters, very clear.
After a while, I finally said to him, “You must also be happy.”
He smiled a little smile, and without replying, flew away on a cloud. I thought, he must also be happy. What he has always wanted was ultimate sovereign power, the position of the Heavenly Emperor. Now that he has obtained that position, and the two Realms having sworn never to wage war against each other again would only further strengthen his position as the Heavenly Emperor, he no longer has any worries.
I kept the fishing rods and took Tang Yue’s hand, “Let’s go home.”
Tang Yue looked at me questioningly, “But we haven’t managed to catch a wife yet.”
I pinched his cheek and said, “We fish like Jiang Tai Gong, that is, let he who is willing take the hook .”
Tang Yue looked half confused. I bent down and whispered my secret of many years into his ear, “In the past, your father is the one who willingly bit a straight hook and reeled himself in!”
I dragged my son’s hand but before we took two steps, we saw Phoenix rushing urgently towards us on a dark cloud, as if a crisis may erupt with each step. When he saw Tang Yue and myself, his body seemed to tense up. His momentary fragility caused my heart to hurt a little.
That night, he did not sleep well. He tossed and turned twice before he sat up to look at me. After a moment, he asked me, “Is there something you want to tell me?”
Phoenix’s eyelid twitched. I rethought carefully, “Really, no.”
He looked angry and asked me brusquely, “Why aren’t you asking me for lingli?”
I was surprised. So the reason why he could not sleep tonight is because I haven’t asked for lingli? But even in the past, I have not asked him everyday for lingli. But seeing his angry face, I thought I should just agree with what he wanted. After thinking for a while, I asked him for 500 years of lingli.
After he transferred the lingli to me, he promptly lay down and fell asleep.
I lay down for half the night and finally realised we both have the same problem. I kept asking him for lingli to prove that he loves me. He waits for me to ask him for lingli to prove that I love him. One goes to commit robbery while taking a bucket of gold with her, the other is willing to always open his purse to be robbed.
Love can sometimes be so simple. The mortals have a common saying which is apropos here: “One is willing to hit and the other is willing to be hit!”
 This is a pun on the Heavenly Emperor’s former t.i.tle, Xiao Yu Xian Guan, which has the character ‘yu’ meaning fish. Jin Mi still sometimes refers to him as such after he ascended the Heavenly Throne.
 姜太公钓鱼—愿者上钩. This is a very popular idiom refers to Jiang ZiYa, a strategist and advisor who was instrumental in a.s.sisting King Wen and King Wu in overthrowing the Shang Dynasty. He is a major character in the Chinese cla.s.sic, Creation of the G.o.ds or also known as Feng Shen Bang.
It is said that JZY would fish by hanging a straight hook 3 feet above the water. A fisherman said to him that he would not be able to catch any fish if he used a straight hook. JZY replied that he is not there to catch fish, but to catch a king: “Fish, if you are desperate to live, come and gulp down the hook by yourself.” This story eventually reached the ears of King Wen, who was looking for talented man to serve him. King Wen sent emissaries to invite JZY to join him, but was refused. King Wen finally went in person, bearing many gifts, to meet JZY. After that meeting, JZY agreed to serve King Wen.
The idiom is often used to describe a willing victim or someone who does something regardless of the result. Also, it is also used in the context that in some things, one should not “fish” by crooked means (hence the straight hook rather than the traditional curved hook).