“The Queen lives next door, right? What if, what if we run into Lord Yin Shi when we leave? What should we do then?” – Fan Tong
“You don’t have to do anything. Just sell the first piece of news to me at lightning speed, and I promise you’ll profit!” – Mi Zhong.“Isn’t there a mortality rate of over 90% for selling the Queen’s gossip….” – Yue Tui.
The first day of the new year was naturally part of the holidays. However, Fan Tong and Yue Tui still got up early because they had an appointment with Luo Shi today.
These days, one might have the misconception that they’d been leaving Zhu Sha out of many events. Yue Tui felt a little guilty, believing that roommates should do things together, but it was Zhu Sha himself who hadn’t gone to work with them and Zhu Sha himself who hadn’t participated in the New Year’s party. It would be inconvenient to bring an extra person this time to their engagement with Luo Shi, so after freshening up a bit, they left by themselves without disturbing the still sleeping Zhu Sha.
The purpose of today’s meeting with Luo Shi was to go together to Xuan Dian by Shen Wang Dian to worship and pray for blessings.
It’s probably something similar to the first shrine visit of the year? I hear there are also that you can write on and hang up as well as . The culture here is really similar to my world’s, huh.
“Good morning, Luo Shi.”
Fan Tong and Yue Tui found Luo Shi standing by a stove for warmth. In this season, the Eastern City’s early mornings were always a little chilly. Luo Shi wasn’t wearing extra clothes, so that was probably why he felt cold.
The warmth of the fire caused his originally delicate and fair skin to gain a pink tint at his cheeks, giving him the adorable aura of a small child. This sort of look was guaranteed to make all aunties who saw him yell “This child is so cute –” and then put all their energy into rushing up to pinch, rub, knead, and squish him. Although a fourteen-year-old could be considered already half-grown and no longer small, Luo Shi’s petite stature and tender face still seemed to give people a protective urge.
“This is the place. Let’s go in.”
Xuan Dian was not very large. It was said that the number of visitors would multiply at noon; they had specifically come at such an early hour so that there would not be as much of a crowd. They wanted to avoid people watching Luo Shi curiously or blocking the road to request a duel with Yue Tui.
As for how people would react upon seeing Fan Tong, generally speaking there wasn’t much of a reaction. Normally, everyone would ignore him. Even Fan Tong himself didn’t know whether to be happy or sad about this.
“Luo Shi, who or what are we here to worship?”
Things like prayers required an object of worship, so Fan Tong was curious about what kind of faith existed here.
“Chen Yue of course, did you not see the carved mirror up there?”
Hearing Luo Shi’s answer, Fan Tong looked in the direction Luo Shi’s finger was pointing, and sure enough, there was an enormous wooden carving above which looked like a circular mirror of a rather archaic style.
It seems reasonable for the people of Huan Shi to worship Chen Yue. Do Luo Yue’s residents also worship it?
“The carving of Chen Yue is so small….”
Luo Shi wanted to retort but realized that Fan Tong had made another contradictory remark.
“It’s not that big, but since it’s made for everyone to worship, it should have more impact. That’s why it was made a little bigger.”
Oh. How boring.
“Come over here to draw a fortune and gain some luck.”
Are you certain you meant luck? Or are there no “Xiong” fortunes in the container?
Despite his unenthustiastic thoughts, Fan Tong came over anyway. Yue Tui also wordlessly followed.
Fan Tong continued lamenting even after putting his hand into the container of fortunes.
Sigh, if my memories and abilities returned, I would only need one glance to figure out something like this year’s fortune. Then, who would need to draw any fortunes? Can Chen Yue tell fortunes? Who knows if Chen Yue’s fortunes are accurate….
However, the fortunes that they drew weren’t the ones saying “Xiong” or “Ji ” that Fan Tong had imagined. When Fan Tong drew out his fortune and opened it, he saw that it contained only two large characters that made his facial muscles twitch.
…What is this? Who wrote nonsense on this slip of paper and threw it in?
“This year it’s also ‘Dead End.’ What do yours say?”
Luo Shi seemed dejected by the fortune he drew and so became interested in their fortunes.
Fan Tong wordlessly revealed “Fool.” Yue Tui seemed baffled, as if he were still deciphering the characters written on the fortune. After all, he had yet to master the script of the Eastern City.
“Pft! You actually drew ‘Fool’! How fitting!”
Luo Shi completely disregarded Fan Tong’s feelings and laughed out loud. Fan Tong was really unsure how to react to the words “how fitting.”
“What does it mean….”
“Mm, a fortune is something you must figure out yourself. If you feel at a loss, then it might be that you don’t understand yourself enough.”
I seriously hope that’s the case! Temples usually have interpretation services, right?
It was only the first day of the new year and he had already been mocked as a fool. To Fan Tong, it was like drawing “Da Xiong,” but it seemed like nobody could understand his feelings. For example, Luo Shi had even ridiculed him mercilessly.
“Don’t feel too bad. When Yin Shi comes to draw fortunes every year, he almost always gets ‘Big Idiot.’”
… So you’re saying, compared to that, “Fool” isn’t too bad?
It’s really too tragic for me to be compared to Lord Yin Shi. However, if Lord Yin Shi received “Big Idiot,” then I can believe that these fortunes have a certain accuracy rate.
“You said ‘almost always,’ but what did his other fortunes say….”
“Occasionally, there are years where he draws ‘Brain-dead,’ ‘Retarded,’ ‘Romantic Luck,’ and so on, according to Ling Shi.”
…Aren’t they all rather similar? The only good one is “Romantic Luck,” but up until now he’s only snagged a Bi Rou, so it looks like it wasn’t very useful….
Who knows what Lord Ling Shi got? I’m so curious. And what about Lord Wei Shi and Her Majesty the Queen….
“Yue Tui, what did you get?”
Yue Tui handed the fortune to them a little vacantly.
“I can only read one character. Bloody bloody bloody… Bloody what?”
In contrast to the few large characters on the others’ fortunes, Yue Tui’s slip of paper could be considered densely packed.
The characters for “Bloody Calamity Bloody Calamity Bloody Calamity Bloody Calamity Bloody Calamity” were densely packed on the fortune.
Yue Tui, you…. What exactly is going on with you?
“Yue Tui, what’s written here is ‘Bloody Delight.’”
After Fan Tong finished speaking, Luo Shi glared at him.
“Don’t mind Fan Tong; what’s written here is ‘Bloody Calamity.’”
We’re all friends here. It’s just one misspoken word; was that really necessary?
But speaking of which, the term “bloody delight” is really inscrutable. How should I interpret it; is it saying you’ll give birth or something?
“Bloody calamity… Next year?”
Yue Tui’s complexion was a little unsightly, but Fan Tong could understand his feelings quite well.
If he had to choose “Bloody Calamity” or “Fool” for the coming year, he really would not know which one to pick.
“It…. It might not be accurate. There’s a possibility that, if you are careful, you might avoid it. Otherwise, what’s the point of drawing fortunes….”
Luo Shi, you really spare nothing to comfort Yue Tui. That’s favoritism, you know, favoritism….
Yue Tui looked very worried. Fan Tong even thought he heard Yue Tui mutter, “Is it happening to me or am I the cause,” but he didn’t understand what Yue Tui meant by that.
“Hey! Xiao Luo Shi! You guys are also here to worship?”
At this time, a voice came from far away. Fan Tong thought to himself, “Ah, it’s the ‘Big Idiot.’”
We saw each other just last night; now we meet again this morning. I don’t know if I should call it being brought together by fate.
On the first day of the new year, we run into Lord Yin Shi. It doesn’t really put me in a cheerful mood…. Eh, Lord Ling Shi came with you too? Then what about your Bi Rou? How come you didn’t come together with her?
“Ah, you went to worship without bothering to invite us; Xiao Luo Shi is so heartless.”
Although it was early in the morning, Yin Shi’s energy levels were at one hundred percent, as demonstrated by both his complexion and his voice.
“Yin, don’t make a fuss within Xuan Dian.”
Ling Shi entered soon after and gave an indifferent warning. Unfortunately, Yin Shi turned a deaf ear.
“Are you guys drawing fortunes? Then I will too….”
“Please do things in the proper order and worship first.”
“What, it’s no big deal to draw fortunes first….”
“You sure are troublesome, old man! You’ll definitely draw ‘Old Maid ’ later!”
“It’s still better than ‘Big Idiot.’ What is there to be proud of about ‘Big Idiot’?”
There was indeed nothing to be proud of about “Big Idiot.” About “Old Maid,” however… For Lord Ling Shi, who was feminine-looking but full of masculine spirit, wasn’t it really an insult?
“Come. Worship. First – ”
Ling Shi hooked an elbow around Yin Shi’s neck and squeezed tight, using brute force to drag Yin Shi towards the worship location.
“Violent old geezer! My neck— cough! Cough cough— ”
Lord Ling Shi’s arms, though slender, were actually extremely strong. They looked really reliable.
Fan Tong had been mentally narrating his thoughts. If Bi Rou had been there, she might have also informed him that that slender arm was not only strong but also invulnerable. When struck by the Western City’s Magic Sword Guard, it had taken no damage.
“It seems like we encounter Lord Yin Shi wherever we go.”
Yue Tui voiced his thoughts as he forced a bitter smile.
“Just ignore him. He always brings disaster.”
Of the three of them, it was Luo Shi who had associated with Yin Shi the longest. But because both Fan Tong and Yue Tui had been affected by the disasters Yin Shi had brought, they both silently agreed with those words.
Furthermore, the disasters had been quite severe – a deadly one almost every time.
“Luo Shi, what do we do now?”
“Mm… We could go to the front to receive plaques to write our wishes on, then go hang them up in the public space. But since we’ve already greeted them, I think we should wait for them.”
The people Luo Shi wanted to wait for were Yin Shi and Ling Shi. Even though Yin Shi was a bringer of disaster, he and Luo Shi were still friendly with each other. It would be unreasonable to just abandon Yin Shi and Ling Shi, so the three of them could only wait in order to go together.
Thus, choosing your friends carefully made a lot of sense. If one wasn’t friends with someone, then there would be no problem. After becoming friends, it was always more troublesome to break off the relationship, and one would have to find many excuses to do so. Why not just be more selective from the start? That way one would be safer and have fewer worries.
Sadly, one couldn’t control something like fate. Moreover, Fan Tong was still uncertain whether or not he was actually friends with those two illustrious attendants.
In truth, those who became friends with him seemed to also be affected by his misfortune. Just take Yue Tui as an example. Then, should Fan Tong be grateful that others didn’t avoid him and stop being picky about choosing friends?
If you are all destined to be rich and famous, then you can’t be dragged down by my bad luck! –In the end, Fan Tong still decided to blame other people. Anyway, it didn’t matter how many mistakes he made if he blamed them on someone else.
Nearby, Yue Tui was still repeating those words, seeming extremely bothered.
Ling Shi appeared extremely pious and beautiful as he closed his eyes in prayer, giving him a peaceful aura. When gazing at him like this, Fan Tong felt that he looked just like a rare beautiful woman. Unfortunately, the undeniable fact that he was a man had crushed many men’s dreams— but there were also men who refused to give up even if they were beaten to death.
In comparison, Yin Shi appeared to be praying much more half-heartedly. One could tell from that bored expression and offhand manner that what he was thinking probably had nothing to do with worship. Most likely thinking things like, “What nice weather,” “Want to nap,” and so on, he was obviously just waiting for Ling Shi to finish praying. It really made people speechless.
After all that trouble of waiting for them to finish their prayers, Ling Shi and Yin Shi finally came over to draw fortunes. This was something Yin Shi had a little more interest in, and his expression showed that he was extremely eager.
“Ah! This year it isn’t ‘Big Idiot’!”
After opening the fortune he drew, he immediately reported this to Ling Shi with excitement.
“Oh. What is it?”
Ling Shi was not the least bit affected by Yin Shi’s excitement; the tone of his reply was full of indifference.
“It’s ‘Bloody Calamity’!”
Yin Shi proudly revealed the piece of paper. He successfully earned silence from those watching and a contemptuous look from Ling Shi.
What’s there to be so happy about when you draw “Bloody Calamity”…. Moreover, that’s nothing compared to what our Yue Tui got. You only have those four characters that spell out “Bloody Calamity,” but Yue Tui’s slip of paper was completely packed with the characters for “Bloody Calamity.”
But you are already this strong; what sort of bloody calamity could happen to you? That fortune really can’t be that accurate. At least “Big Idiot” would be somewhat more accurate.
“Bloody calamity isn’t a good thing….”
The corner of Luo Shi’s mouth twitched; he really did not know what to say to Yin Shi.
When a big idiot encounters a bloody calamity, what will happen?
“No matter how I look at it, I can’t help but think it means you’ll accidentally cut yourself, you big idiot.”
Ling Shi made a deduction based on Yin Shi’s situation, but Yin Shi didn’t accept that at all.
“Ah! How can that be! I’m not as dumb as that damned Wei Shi!”
Does that mean that Lord Wei Shi has accidentally cut himself before? Does this count as gossip? Although there’s no proof, can I still sell this information to Mi Zhong?
“Then, Ling Shi, what did you get?”
When Yin Shi asked, Ling Shi clenched the slip of paper in his hand as if he wanted to destroy all traces of it, but Yin Shi immediately grabbed his wrist and forced his fingers open with agile movements, rescuing the fortune from his hand. After one look, Yin Shi laughed out loud.
“Puhahaha! I knew you wouldn’t be able to get anything good! It’s actually….”
“No one will ignore you if you don’t speak.”
Ling Shi simply used a strong blow to shut Yin Shi’s mouth, causing Yin Shi’s next words to turn into a cry of pain. However, because Yin Shi was in pain, his grip on the slip of paper loosened, so Fan Tong saw what was written on the fallen slip.
“Good Wife and Loving Mother.”
Woah, how nice.
That’s the only compliment here; how can it not be a good thing? Is it embarrassing because Ling Shi is a man?
‘Snore──huu … Wuwu, is someone calling my name?’
Puhahaha, who had been hanging at Fan Tong’s waist, suddenly awakened and asked him such a question.
…. You heard wrong, that was just somebody laughing out loud.
‘There’s nothing? Then I’ll continue sleeping. Zzzzz….’
If Puhahaha had hands, Fan Tong would have wanted this fellow to draw a fortune so he could see if it said something like “Lazybones” or “Sleeping Pig.”
If Puhahaha got something like “Calligrapher” or “Janitor,” then Fan Tong would be justified in using it to draw characters or clean.
Someone like Yin Shi, who was both curious and loved to cause trouble, would naturally want them to share what was written on their fortunes. There wasn’t much to discuss about Luo Shi’s “Dead End,” but Fan Tong’s “Fool” was laughed at a bit. Wasn’t it just like the pot calling the kettle black for a “Big Idiot” to mock a “Fool”? However, this year Yin Shi wasn’t a big idiot, so his mockery was still justifiable. Fan Tong could only swallow his protests as he was ridiculed.
When Yue Tui took out his fortune with “Bloody Calamity Bloody Calamity Bloody Calamity….” on it, Yin Shi was unexpectedly full of praise.
“Ling Shi! Xiao Yue’s is amazing! He has so many!”
Exactly what is up with that expression, as if you’re envious of someone who got more toys than you?
“Do you really like bloody calamities that much….”
Ling Shi asked with a superficial smile. Fan Tong felt that Ling Shi was currently pondering whether to create some bloody calamities for Yin Shi.
“If they’re so great, then you can swap with him.”
Luo Shi said with a creased brow. However, exchanging slips of paper was not equivalent to exchanging destinies.
“Ah! That makes a lot of sense! Xiao Yue! Do you want to swap with me? I want to take your fortune back as a souvenir!”
Lord Yin Shi, what exactly is your brain made of?
Yue Tui hesitantly looked at the slip of paper in his hands. The characters for “Bloody Calamity” were not only densely packed but also tiny and red. In addition, Fan Tong had no idea what had been used to write those characters…. No matter how one looked at it, it was a very unlucky item which might even attract trouble to someone if they kept it, so why, why would someone would want this kind of thing as a souvenir?
“If you like it, I don’t mind just giving it to you. There’s no need to swap….”
Yue Tui clearly had an attitude that said, “I don’t want it; if you want it you can have it, and you can also keep your own.” This was the attitude ordinary people should have. Who would want to carry around the sort of item that would attract bad luck?
“Eh? There’s no need to be polite, just trade with me. Ah, it seems like I frequently exchange things with you, Xiao Yue.”
Yin Shi said while disregarding what the other party wanted. He took away Yue Tui’s fortune while simultaneously stuffing his own into Yue Tui’s hands so that Yue Tui was neither accepting nor declining it, causing Yue Tui’s smile to be a little forced.
And as for what Yin Shi had said about frequently exchanging things with Yue Tui, he’d only exchanged his broken knife for Yue Tui’s broken sword last time. One time shouldn’t count as frequent.
However, with Yin Shi’s terrible memory, it was already commendable that he could remember that incident, so there was no need to quibble with him.
“Lord Yin Shi, why isn’t Bi Rou here?”
At this moment, Yue Tui suddenly asked this question. The fact that he had actively asked about Bi Rou made Fan Tong rather surprised. Yue Tui was normally very cold to her, and just seeing her would make him look unhappy.
“Ah, Xiao Rou said it was too early. She wanted her beauty sleep and wouldn’t come with me.”
When speaking about Bi Rou, Yin Shi became dejected. Even so, he hadn’t rescheduled their visit to Xuan Dian to accommodate Bi Rou because, the later they went, the more people there would be, making it less convenient for travel.
Yin Shi was also one of those people who would encounter many reckless people requesting duels when walking down a road. If he were obstructed by an impenetrable crowd on the first day of the new year on his way to worship and draw fortunes, then it would be very hard for him to recover his spirits.
“Let’s go write on wishing plaques together.”
Since Luo Shi suggested this, everybody proceeded there together.
Wishing plaques, which weren’t very big, were distributed free of charge. As long as something was free, Fan Tong wouldn’t dislike it. Furthermore, he was much more comfortable with writing than with speaking. Even now, whenever Fan Tong recalled what he had yelled last night at the meteor shower, he would still feel like crying but was unable to shed any tears.
If I write, at least it won’t be wrong!
Fan Tong very earnestly wrote down his wish for the new year. In the end, he still decided to write down paying back his debt. Yue Tui put great effort into using the brush he was still unfamiliar with and the characters he knew to write down his wish. No one wrote for very long, as if they had already decided what their wishes were ages ago.
The next step was to hang the wishing plaques in the designated area. Some people had already hung their plaques before New Year’s, so there were already some wishing plaques hanging there. Once they’d added their five plaques, the whole thing looked a bit livelier.
Luo Shi’s writing was very graceful. Because Yue Tui wasn’t used to the Eastern City’s writing yet, his writing was a little rough. Fan Tong’s writing was very beautiful, so beautiful that it could be sold as calligraphy. Ling Shi’s writing was firm and neat, full of his personality. In contrast, Ying Shi’s writing was sloppy to the point of being illegible.
“When are you going to write something that people can read….”
Ling Shi looked at Yin Shi. His tone carried a bit of a sigh.
“Ah! It’s that damned Wei Shi’s plaque! So he’s actually been here already!”
Yin Shi completely ignored Ling Shi.
Hearing that Wei Shi’s wishing plaque was there, everybody curiously came over, wanting to see what kind of wish he had made.
“I hope that the Eastern City’s children can grow up peacefully.”
Fan Tong felt extremely weird. Is this really what Lord Wei Shi wrote? That Lord Wei Shi? Doesn’t seem like it, right? He wrote this sort of ordinary, harmless wish?
“How did you know that this was Wei Shi’s plaque? There’s no signature. Did you recognize his handwriting?”
Luo Shi asked suspiciously. Yin Shi pointed at the plaque angrily.
“Who needs to recognize his handwriting! This has a detestable smell on it!”
Who can comprehend these things that only you can sense?
“Ah! There’s more! Look! Evidence!”
Yin Shi flipped over the plaque. Shockingly, four large characters spelling “Drop dead, Yin Shi” were written on the back.
These four characters made it easier to believe that this was Wei Shi’s plaque, but openly cursing someone like this really wasn’t very good. Should it be called having no filter? It wasn’t like no one would see something if it was written on the back. For Wei Shi to openly display the conflicts between the two attendants… exactly how horrible had their relationship become?
“Mm, if it has those four characters, then I can believe that he wrote it. It’s very authentic.”
Ling Shi nodded his head. Fan Tong didn’t know whether he was agreeing with Yin Shi’s reasoning or with the four characters for “Drop dead, Yin Shi.”
“That damned Wei Shi actually cursed me to die; he’s just too traitorous… Ah! He actually wrote on two plaques!”
Hearing that Yin Shi had discovered another one, everyone went over to look. It really made people speechless for one person to actually write on two plaques. The previous plaque’s wish had been very ordinary; what about this one?
These words had been written on the plaque: “The Eastern City won’t be defeated! Long live Her Majesty, the Queen!”
Oh…. Fan Tong could understand why Wei Shi hadn’t left a signature.
It would actually be kind of embarrassing for someone to openly display this sort of passionate opinion. However, perhaps Wei Shi didn’t feel embarrassed, it had just never occurred to him to leave his signature.
“Quickly flip it over and look.”
Luo Shi seemed very eager. After all, the previous plaque had had something written on the back, so this one might also have writing there. It really made people curious about what exactly was written there.
Yin Shi flipped the plaque over with a frown. Sure enough, the back lived up to their expectations, containing a few big characters.
“Drop dead, Yin Shi.”
“Why is it also telling me to die—!”
According to this pattern, if Wei Shi had also written on a third or fourth plaque, the back of those would also have “Drop dead, Yin Shi” written there. It looked like he truly held a deep resentment towards Yin Shi. His persistence really made people speechless; did he really detest Yin Shi that much?
Lord Yin Shi, exactly what did you do to him? Exactly how many detestable things did you do?
“Could it be that your very existence is a huge eyesore to him? Without you, the Eastern City would be much better.”
Ling Shi made cynical remarks nearby, seeming extremely unconcerned.
Without Yin Shi, the Eastern City would be much better. Fan Tong didn’t know why he wanted to second that. Because that wasn’t very nice, however, he could only applaud silently.
“How evil! I’ll definitely make him pay when I return!”
Yin Shi said indignantly. In contrast, Ling Shi didn’t support him at all.
“Forget it, would he ever admit it? Even if he does, what can you do to him?”
“I’m going to flay him and hang him from the city walls!”
Are you serious? That wouldn’t be good, would it?
Compared to being executed, being flayed and hung from the city walls seems like a much lighter punishment, but it’s not like one would die from something like this. I’m afraid that, if this sort of thing happens, Lord Wei Shi would turn the Eastern City into a bloodbath afterwards in order to exterminate everybody who saw….
“Oh—? Keep your word then.”
A fleeting thoughtful smile appeared on Ling Shi’s lips, making people shudder in fear.
Lord Lin Shi, please stop prodding him….
“Mother the Queen wouldn’t ignore this.”
Luo Shi hadn’t been trying to defend Wei Shi. It was just that less was better when it came to this sort of mischief.
“Ah, that’s right, Ying will get mad.”
Yin Shi recoiled a bit, as provoking Xi Ying’s rage wasn’t a good idea.
“What a pity. I thought that you would do something on the first day of the new year to give everybody a pleasant surprise.”
Lord Ling Shi, that shouldn’t be called a pleasant surprise, okay? That should be called horrifying or shocking, regardless of whether you’re talking about the spectators or those involved.
“I’ll definitely find an untraceable way to get revenge!”
Yin Shi was still panting in rage, as if he couldn’t accept not getting revenge.
An untraceable way of getting revenge? Unlikely. If you had the ability to find one, you wouldn’t have drawn “Big Idiot” for so many years.
“Take your time; I’ll be waiting expectantly. But I think you’ll forget by tomorrow.”
Yin Shi’s burning fighting spirit seemed to matter not one whit to Ling Shi.
Looking at the wishing plaques hanging here was a very interesting task as well. Fan Tong had snuck a peek earlier: Luo Shi hoped that Hui Shi would return soon, Yue Tui hoped everyone would stay safe – basically everyone had written wishes that were uninteresting to look at. Therefore, he went to check out strangers’ plaques.
As expected, other people’s plaques were much more interesting, with much more to mock. For instance, those who wrote extreme wishes such as “Get a black tassel overnight” or “Dominate the Eastern City” greatly overestimated themselves. There was also someone who wished, “Don’t die again this year.” Fan Tong felt that this person was a fellow comrade in suffering.
When he discovered Mi Zhong’s plaque, he really felt like leaving without looking at it. He believed he would definitely see something written on it that would make him uncomfortable. After discovering it, however, he had already read the words there; the wish really was in Mi Zhong’s usual style.
Written on it were these words: “Lord Ling Shi! Give me a single glance! I beg of you to give me a single glance!”….
Fan Tong pondered whether to call Ling Shi over to look at this plaque and consider that as fulfilling Mi Zhong’s wish.
If Ling Shi asked whether he knew this person, however, he definitely would not want to admit it. He didn’t want to be looked at strangely because of someone else’s perversion, so why should he bother.
“Since we’re pretty much finished with the events at Xuan Dian….”
Luo Shi looked over at them and smiled shyly.
“Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year.”
Yue Tui also smiled faintly, returning the benediction.
“Unhappy New Year.”
Fan Tong’s mouth was still the same as usual. At this moment, it truly was an .
“You could at least say ‘Unhappy old year’; it’s much better than saying ‘Unhappy New Year’!”
Luo Shi glared at him and scolded him again, but this wasn’t something Fan Tong could control, so he could only feel extremely wronged.
In any case, a new year was beginning, and Fan Tong continued sincerely hoping that the coming year would be even better.
…Even if it would involve a wild goose chase, a fool, and a whole lot of bloody calamities.
“Then we’ll go back first. The martial arts tournament and the matchmaking event are about to begin. Remember to participate, okay.”
Hey, hey? What martial arts tournament and matchmaking event? What are those?
“Who’s going to fight or marry you? Do you understand anything at all? Stop disgracing yourself; just hurry up and go.”
Ling Shi didn’t bother to explain Yin Shi’s disorderly remarks and dragged him away, leaving Luo Shi, Yue Tui, and Fan Tong there.
“Do you guys have time now?”
Luo Shi asked them this, as if he wanted to do something with them.
They had never refused Luo Shi’s invitations – it wasn’t as if they would run into anything bad with Luo Shi. In fact, there were often good food and drinks.
“Mm, we don’t have anything planned today.”
Hearing Yue Tui say this, Luo Shi looked happy.
“Then… I’m going to clean Hui Shi’s place now. Do you guys want to come along?”
What? We’re going to Hui Shi’s pavilion?
Fan Tong and Yue Tui were stunned for a moment. They hadn’t expected Luo Shi to want to do this kind of thing together.
“I thought you already cleaned it last year….”
Yue Tui replied confusedly. When they had swept Shen Wang Dian for a job last year, they had heard that Luo Shi would personally clean Hui Shi’s pavilion.
Things like cleaning…. Normally people would do it before New Year’s.
Luo Shi seemed a little embarrassed to speak and hesitated for a moment.
“I was preparing…. Last night’s…. I didn’t have enough time….”
Oh, so you spent your time preparing last night’s food and gifts? How thoughtful.
You even claimed that you had been dragged there in the spur of the moment; it turns out you were just trying to salvage the embarrassing situation…
“Do you, do you guys want to go or not!”
You were shamed into anger so quickly. Luo Shi, you are still an amateur….
Fan Tong nodded his head. After cleaning, Luo Shi would definitely ask them to dinner, right? Furthermore, Fan Tong just happened to bring a mop, so going to clean would be a perfect arrangment.
‘W-what are you thinking of doing with me again!’
Puhahaha spoke up again. It probably hadn’t heard his thoughts – rather, it had probably felt his ill intent?
Hmph hmph hmph, you can’t escape this time! Even if you’re a horsetail whisk, you’re still a cleaning tool. You don’t have any excuses!
‘Your aura is extremely sinister! Your thoughts are definitely impure! What are you going to do! I’m warning you, don’t defile my sacred body!’
Never heard of a weapon admonishing its master. Go ahead and lament;. I’m not going to talk. I’ll just let you worry a bit, hehe.
‘If you dare mess around! I’ll use my soul-purging glow!’
That’s great, when I sweep in the dark corners, I’ll even have illumination. Oh yeah.
Fan Tong was unmoved by Puhahaha’s threats. Sadly, in order to prevent Luo Shi and Yue Tui from finding out, he couldn’t verbally trade a few lines with Puhahaha. Otherwise, it would have been even more refreshing.
“Yue Tui, are you going too?”
Luo Shi stared at Yue Tui and asked again. Although Fan Tong had nodded, that didn’t mean that Yue Tui would agree as well.
Yue Tui replied very straightforwardly. This time, he agreed directly and frankly instead of saying something like, “If Fan Tong wants to go, then I will as well.”
“I do really want to go see.”
Oh, Yue Tui, are you afraid he’s not fully convinced you’re Hui Shi? Or are you actually Hui Shi?
Since both parties had already agreed to go, there was no need to waste any more time. They then set off towards Shen Wang Dian.
The last time they had come to Shen Wang Dian, they hadn’t gone farther than the third palace, which was also where Yin Shi’s pavilion was. However, this time they were heading to Hui Shi’s pavilion in the fifth palace, so Fan Tong couldn’t help but be a bit nervous.
After they’d gone farther inside, it became even more apparent that Shen Wang Dian was huge. Since they weren’t sightseeing, they only passed through the area on their way to Hui Shi’s pavilion, yet that already took a very long time. The vast interior made Fan Tong feel that it was a waste to house only a few people inside, but a palace had to be big in order to have grandeur, so there was nothing wrong with its size. At most, it caused Fan Tong to think about their triple bunk bed situation and feel a burst of grief.
They entered Hui Shi’s pavilion without any trouble, as they didn’t meet Yin Shi midway and waste time, nor did they meet Wei Shi and suffer. They arrived at the fifth palace without running into Xi Ying once again; their entrance had been so dull and smooth that it felt a little surreal.
“It’ll just be us three cleaning?”
No way, this place is so big, how many days are you planning on cleaning for?
“Mm, we’re only cleaning a few rooms, the study and a bedroom. Don’t worry.”
After hearing Luo Shi’s words, Fan Tong finally felt at ease. So they didn’t need to sweep the whole place. He could probably endure it then.
“Then, let’s start with the study!”
They didn’t need anything too complex to clean the study. All they had to do was use a cleaning rag and mop to tidy the bookshelves and floor.
Because he didn’t really want Puhahaha to hate him forever, Fan Tong didn’t use him as a mop. Instead, he obediently grabbed a mop that Luo Shi had prepared and commenced mopping.
‘Look, that is a real mop, while I am a horsetail whisk. Can you tell what a real mop is or not?’
Puhahaha obviously held a grudge against Fan Tong for always calling him a mop. As soon as he had a chance, he had to reprimand Fan Tong.
“Of course I don’t know that this is a mop….”
Fan Tong replied impatiently; the curse attacked again.
‘You grew up without knowing this is mop? What did your family use to mop the floor!’
I was saying that I do know this is a mop. Why are you fussing so much? Watch out or I’ll call you .
“Fan Tong, what are you talking to yourself about?”
Luo Shi looked over suspiciously.
“I’m talking with Puhahaha.”
“Oh… You are getting closer to your mop.”
No way are we getting closer to each other. It’s more like we are growing further apart.
“Fan Tong, conversing more with your weapon is a good thing. Your strength will increase as your connection and relationship deepen.”
Yue Tui, who was polishing the bookcase, turned his head towards Fan Tong and said this, leaving Fan Tong somewhat puzzled.
Don’t you only have a broken weapon that can’t talk? How did you know? Did you diligently study the Eastern City’s books while I wasn’t paying attention? But can you even read those words?
“How did you know, Yue Tui?”
Sure enough, Luo Shi also found this strange. After all, the three of them had bought weapons together.
“The teacher at school said it….”
Yue Tui replied with a half-baked explanation. However, there was no evidence against him since Luo Shi did not take classes with them and Fan Tong didn’t pay attention much in his Wushu classes.
Since they’d finished cleaning the study quickly, they then went to the bedroom. The bedroom was slightly bigger than the study. Besides the necessary bed, there were also a few shelves, tables, and chairs. The cleaning process was quite similar to how they’d cleaned the study; Fan Tong continued to mop while Luo Shi and Yue Tui continued wiping things.
After entering, Fan Tong looked around.
He had some sort of wondrous feeling he couldn’t describe…. At any rate, it was just a very wondrous feeling.
The decorations in Hui Shi’s pavilion were very plain and simple. Although the tables, chairs, and rugs were still made of high quality materials, they didn’t have a gorgeous feel. The furnishings usually had plain white designs or stripes; this aspect made the place somewhat similar to Yin Shi’s pavilion.
However, Yin Shi’s pavilion was brighter than this place. Upon entering Hui Shi’s pavilion, Fan Tong felt a sort of gloomy aura. He couldn’t figure out why he had such a heavy feeling, and after he entered the bedroom, this feeling became even more obvious.
Why exactly did he have that feeling? Was it because the atmosphere was bad?
Although they were all in the same room, the room was quite large, and one could say they had been scattered to three corners. There wasn’t much conversation, so after Fan Tong mopped a little, he started spacing out.
He felt himself subconsciously inspect the room, scanning from left to right, then from right to left. His eyes seemed to move with a will of their own, until they stopped at a small cupboard.
At this time, Fan Tong wasn’t sure what he was thinking and just felt a little confused. He felt that he was looking not at that small cupboard but at something else…. And just as he could wrack his brains no more, Yue Tui’s silhouette suddenly entered his line of sight.
Yue Tui wiped the small cupboard a few times with his cleaning rag, then stopped and suddenly used a slim, pale hand to quickly maneuver something on the side of the cupboard. He then proceeded to press a spot on the wall above.
A square depression silently appeared, from which he retrieved a manual as if by magic. Fan Tong stared dumbly until Yue Tui returned the wall to normal just as quietly before coming back to himself and yelling out loud.
“Yue Tui, what is that?”
Probably because he hadn’t expected Fan Tong to see what he’d done, Yue Tui jolted slightly, and Luo Shi also came over at Fan Tong’s shout.
“What is it….”
“Uh…. I accidentally discovered this; it probably contains Hui Shi’s notes.”
After turning around to face Luo Shi, Yue Tui flipped through the book in his hand and replied as such.
What do you mean you accidentally discovered it; was I just imagining what you just did? Wasn’t that trick to open the secret compartment done too competently for it to be an accident?
Fan Tong was somewhat dumbfounded at Yue Tui’s lie, but after thinking about it, he decided not to expose Yue Tui, although he had no idea what Yue Tui was planning.
“Hui Shi wrote this?”
Luo Shi’s voice was somewhat shaky from the surprise. He was in such a hurry he couldn’t be bothered with manners and rushed over to snatch the book from Yue Tui’s hands.
After he’d briefly flipped through a few pages, his expression became a little ugly.
“Luo Shi, what’s written inside? Does it have anything to do with Hui Shi’s whereabouts?”
There must be something strange inside for his face to change like that. Fan Tong couldn’t help but ask about it, causing Luo Shi to purse his lips.
“I…. will go back and study it carefully, then I’ll tell you.”
Oh. Actually, it’s fine even if you don’t tell us. If this book can give you a lead on Hui Shi’s whereabouts, then just find a way to bring him back.
“Yue Tui, where did you find this? How come I’ve never seen it before?”
After Hui Shi disappeared, of course Luo Shi had also come to Hui Shi’s pavilion to look for clues. He’d resigned himself to searching the whole place yet had never discovered this booklet, so of course he had to ask.
“There was a mechanism in the wall. I think I accidentally triggered it, and then….”
Yue Tui lied again, making Fan Tong feel even more suspicious.
He could have sworn that Yue Tui had known how to open the secret compartment, but why would Yue Tui know?
Luo Shi’s expression while gazing at Yue Tui was filled to the max with suspicion, but what was more important right now was the booklet. Luo Shi had no choice but to temporarily set aside his doubts and focus on the booklet.
In order for him to sit down and study the book properly, it was of course impossible to continue cleaning. Therefore, Luo Shi decided that today’s cleaning session was finished.
Since it was still early and not mealtime yet, Fan Tong’s dreams of gourmet cuisine naturally flew away. This was a huge blow to him, and his disappointment was completely visible on his face.
“Why is your expression like that?”
Fan Tong’s dispiritedness was so conspicuous that it couldn’t be ignored, so Luo Shi couldn’t help but ask him about it grumpily.
Hearing his response, Yue Tui was somewhat speechless. In contrast, Luo Shi couldn’t help but smack his head.
“You think about nothing but food all day! You should have drawn ‘Rice Bucket’! That would suit you the most!”
That’s just over the top! Using others’ names to make a fuss ! Then picking at their sore spots as well!
As Luo Shi said this, Yue Tui also sighed nearby. It looked like he didn’t object.
People should care about their stomachs first! If the stomach isn’t full, then there’s no point mentioning anything else!
But no matter how justified he was, his cursed mouth made it was impossible for him to argue. Fan Tong could only be silently depressed.
Fan Tong’s Afterword
The first day of the new year, the first day of the new year….
Today felt very long, with lots of things happening, so how come only one day has passed?
All right, it might be because we got up early. Under those circumstances, the day has become extra long, since several hours have been added that would have normally been slept away—but when we were preparing to depart from Hui Shi’s pavilion, it wasn’t even noon yet. This really is…. Time passed a little too slowly, right?
It feels like most of the morning was spent on drawing weird fortunes. Maybe the leftover fatigue from dealing with the “Big Idiot” contributed to that feeling. I feel that the Eastern City’s fortunes are really unique, since they’re truly able to make people angry. Does anybody ever draw a satisfying fortune?
Lord Yin Shi doesn’t count. He drew “Bloody Calamity” but was still satisfied to such a degree – I’ve never seen such a thing before.
Returning to the main topic, if there’s no need to report the fortunes drawn or return them, then how do Xuan Dian’s managers know which ones are missing so they can replenish them?
Luo Shi actually said that I should have drawn “Rice Bucket.” That really hurt me. If that’s the case, doesn’t that mean Mi Zhong should have drawn “Rice Weevil” and Luo Shi should have drawn “Pretty Girl”? I didn’t even use his most upsetting point to attack him; how could he attack me like this—
Then we went to Hui Shi’s pavilion and didn’t even get to touch anything good before having to leave. That was really quite unsatisfying.
No matter what, I should still properly ask Yue Tui exactly what happened. It would have been awkward to ask that in front of Luo Shi, but when it’s just the two of us, I should be able to ask, right?
But what if he plays dumb and evades the question….
Mm, looks like I can’t do anything about that.
Ah—a new year, a new year—I’ve written on a wishing plaque, so my wish must come true!
Actually, after looking at everybody’s wishes, I figure the probability of their wishes coming true is very low.
However, for Lord Wei Shi, it’s not that the probability is low. You wrote on two plaques, cursing Lord Yin Shi to drop dead, so that the chance it’ll happen will double?
Sigh, that Hui Shi person had better hurry back already. We have his notes, so there must be a lead, right….
Proofreaders: NyxEclipse, Sherry
Hello everybody, it’s me, Fan Tong. Nn, yes, it’s still me. Don’t blame me for such a short greeting; I just feel that if people talk too much, it’s easy for the tongue to slip, which would incur bad luck. Not to mention, no matter how little I speak, I will still slip up. Therefore, this year my New Year’s resolution is to be taciturn and also improve myself by acting cool and looking handsome.
However, I felt hopeless on the first day of the new year. It’s hard to change a person’s nature. Even if I shut my mouth and stay silent, my thoughts will be too messy, and my face will still betray me. Nobody will think that I am dignified. What is the point of living such a difficult and halfhearted life? I should just change my New Year’s resolution.
The time that I’ve spent since arriving at the Eastern City can’t be called long or short, yet a few months have already passed, and the year is over.
I’ve already undergone brainwashing after encountering the Luo Yue Magic Sword Guard and completed my first memory release. Everyone’s tassels have already been upgraded, but I’m still stuck at grass green, just because I didn’t have the guts to go challenge the Wushu Tractor Teacher… Wu.
In a more or less peaceful atmosphere, we all happily sat on a grassy slope outside of the Eastern City, watching a meteor shower during New Year’s. The starry sky was very beautiful, the mood was great, the food was delicious, and Yue Tui also looked very happy, so it was an excellent night.
But… people say that, no matter whether you’re rich or poor, you should get a wife to celebrate a good year. The year has already ended, but where is the wife?
I’m not saying that I have no qualifications, okay! Looking at the reflection of my respectable face, I feel that, although it isn’t so incomparably handsome that people would drool over it, at least it’s a notch above tasteful and good-looking, right?
Staring at the mirror to judge my looks first thing in the morning, I really feel that there is something wrong with me. But every time I look back at Yue Tui’s face, I once again feel inferior and ashamed to show my face. Sigh, staring at the mirror is better; if there’s nothing better to do, I shouldn’t abuse my own self-confidence.
But who decreed that you have to be like that to get a wife! If that was the case, then there must not be many men in the world who have married!
My New Year’s resolution is to date a girlfriend with the expectation of marriage! It’s decided!
But actually, repaying my debt might be a more realistic wish…
Proofreaders: Sherry, Dinoj
“Happiness, even just a brief moment of it, I wish I could recall…” ─Yue Tui
Even on New Year’s Eve, there were still trials being convened to tie any loose ends on any remaining legal cases from the past year. Most people were fed up with this routine, but they were required to attend. About two out of every five people attending today’s trials felt this way.
This was equivalent to working overtime every New Year’s. Empress Xi Ying’s expression was still as cold as ever, Luo Shi’s expression wasn’t good, Ling Shi looked indifferent, and Yin Shi seemed extremely bored as he watched Wei Shi’s performance.
Looking at the list of criminals being investigated today, it was comprised entirely of New Residents again and most of today would probably just be declaring “death penalty” over and over again. Although it was clearly the same result each time, Wei Shi somehow managed to say different things for each one, as if he had thoroughly investigated the case before deciding that the death penalty was the best punishment. It was to the point where one couldn’t tell if he was seriously hardworking, or if he was just being fastidious. Regardless, this didn’t really improve his reputation among the people.
However, a bit of a unique situation came up today.
Firstly, when they’d reached the ninth criminal or so, just as Wei Shi was still grandiloquently announcing the death sentence:
“Aside from the aforementioned points it’s clear to see from this criminal’s psyche that this was a deliberate crime that he has no regrets about. This means that there is absolutely no chance that this criminal will have a useful future in Eastern City, so I believe that he should be sentenced with the death──”
Before Wei Shi managed to say the last word, his voice suddenly cut off unnaturally.
Everyone turned to look at him in confusion. While they were still trying to figure out what had happened, a light meow reached their ears. It turned out that a cat was currently rubbing against his foot.
Wei Shi had an extremely stiff expression, as if he were struggling to maintain his calm and respond appropriately. At this moment Xi Ying spoke.
“Why is there a cat? Where did it come from?”
“I don’t know how it could have ran in… Or, was it here originally?”
Luo Shi checked the boundary to the area but there were no problems with it. In that case, the cat had most likely been in there since the beginning.
Since Empress Xi Ying’s tone was somewhat unpleased, Wei Shi’s expression paled. The cat, which didn’t know that every person here was a potential threat to its life, was still affectionately rubbing itself against Wei Shi’s foot as if it was trying to win his favor.
“Don’t let the cat interrupt the trial, Wei Shi, and…”
“Your Majesty! I sincerely apologize! My stomach suddenly hurts, so please excuse me leaving for a brief moment!”
Before Xi Ying had even finished her sentence, Wei Shi fervently interrupted her and to everyone’s surprise, immediately ran out of the area in large strides.
“Ah, where did the cat go?” Yin Shi looked left and right but both the cat and Wei Shi were nowhere to be seen.
At the same time, Ling Shi turned around with his hand covering his mouth, seemingly making a supreme effort to keep himself from laughing. Ying Shi and Luo Shi hadn’t comprehended the situation yet while Xi Ying was also clueless.
Of course, the four of them couldn’t possibly wait for a single person, so the trials continued after Wei Shi left. With one less advocate for capital punishment, two of the criminals actually managed to escape the death sentence.
After the kitten disturbance, Wei Shi returned wearing glasses, back to his previous, shrewd appearance and calm demeanor. Thus, he continued to give out his ‘wise’ opinions on the criminals’ sentences, sending each convict to their death to prevent those ill-reputed New Residents from taking up space in the city.
But just when the trials were reaching their end another astonishing situation arose.
The current case was, like the previous ones, regarding a New Resident. However, this time the subject was a child who had just turned eight years old this year. He hadn’t been in Eastern City for very long before he was discovered stealing food, and recklessly attacked and injured several people in a panicked attempt to flee. Thus, he’d been seized and brought to trial.
Although this wasn’t a very serious crime, this kind of case wasn’t uncommon and Wei Shi had always concluded it with a death sentence, so it would be expected for this child to meet a bad end too. Luo Shi bit his lip and looked as if he wanted to speak up and Yin Shi seemed to be having a hard time as well. Both were waiting for Wei Shi to speak and preparing to refute his suggestion. But to their surprise, after Xi Ying asked for everyone’s opinions, Wei Shi remained silent for a long while, unlike his immediate, self-righteous responses of ‘death penalty’ from before.
This was already strange enough, but what followed was even stranger.
After a long while of internal struggle, his words were:
“Since the perpetrator is still young and his living needs hadn’t quite been met, I ask for Your Majesty to administer the punishment for this one under a more merciful light. A lighter sentence such as forced labor or prison time, perhaps.”
The fact that the words “lighter sentence” had come from Wei Shi’s mouth in regard to a New Resident was enough to make Yin Shi and the others gape in astonishment. The sentences that he had suggested were extremely lenient, to the point where it was unimaginable.
“Wei Shi, have you finally seen the light? Have you realized that the death penalty isn’t that great after all?”
Yin Shi couldn’t resist asking this question. This entire situation was just too strange, completely different from Wei Shi’s normal behavior.
“As if! It’s just because the child is very cu–….Children are the country’s assets, its future pillars, and they must be looked after! They can’t just be killed at will!”
But if they’re discovered to have gone astray after having grown up, they must be killed as quickly as possible? Really?
Did Wei Shi even realize that a New Resident’s child wouldn’t ever grow up properly…
In short, even after all the trials ended and Yin Shi left, he still found the entire situation strange.
“Wei Shi, is that guy really Wei Shi? Is this some kind of prank, and it’s actually someone else pretending to be him?”
“Who would do that? Hui Shi?”
Ling Shi retorted with a tactless joke.
“But he was nothing like Wei Shi! In what way was that person like Wei Shi?”
“His naivete, and the way he executes things.”
Ling Shi calmly replied, having clearly not found anything odd about Wei Shi’s actions today.
“Ah, old man, I bet it’s just that your eyes are completely different from mine, right? And your ears? Are we hearing completely different things?”
“No, you just don’t have eyes or ears.”
“What! I clearly have eyes and ears! Ask Xiao Luo Shi and Ying, they can back me up!”
“I definitely know that they will confirm your lack of eyes and ears. The only one who would be able to unconditionally verify your words is Xiao Rou.”
“What! Why are you so horrid you old fart!”
Ling Shi was clearly very used to hearing Yin Shi’s disagreeability, so he obviously didn’t respond to these words either.
“We’re going to get together with the others tonight, have you prepared your dish?”
From the sound of his exclamation, he seemed to have forgotten about this.
“I’m doomed! I haven’t even bought any cooking utensils yet! Ling Shi, can a sword be used to cook a dish? Can it?”
“Even if it could, you wouldn’t be able to do so.”
Besides, couldn’t things like cooking utensils easily be found and borrowed from Shen Wang Dian?
“Exactly what dish do you want to make?”
“Oh, I found a pretty cool one from the cookbook I got last time called ‘Baked Pepper Asparagus Seafood Steak Salad with Lemon Vinegar Salmon Sauce’. What do you think?”
“…What kind of alien cookbook did you get that from? If you can really make that, I’ll address you as ‘The Great Yin Shi’ from now on.”
In terms of naivete, Yin Shi was on par with Wei Shi.
Compared to Shen Wang Dian where borrowing cooking utensils was easy, Fan Tong and Yue Tui had a lot more difficulty trying to borrow the kitchen utensils at the student dorms. Although the dorms did have a kitchen that students could use, it required them to line up, and they had limited time for using it. By the time they’d finally gotten their turn after lining up for an entire morning, they only had half an hour to use it. In addition, by the time their time was up, their final product was an appalling sight as well.
There were things like burnt egg, meat that was charcoal black on the surface but not even cooked in the middle, and some very wrongly seasoned noodles.
Putting aside the horrible product, the kitchen was beyond recognition as well. So, after their time was up, they were forced to clean the entire kitchen before being allowed to leave as punishment.
“What to do?”
“What do we do…”
The two of them looked at each other in dismay with the feeling of facing a hopeless end.
“We can’t present any dishes…”
That’s right… If we can’t provide any presentable dishes ourselves, then how can we ridicule others when they bring out strange dishes…
“If we don’t present any decent dishes or gifts, we’ll be empty-handed on both fronts. Great.”
I’m definitely not trying to sound so sour on purpose! I meant to say that since we don’t have a dish, we still have the afternoon to prepare gifts so that we won’t lose too much face.
“No, it would be too tragic if the situation developed to that point. Let’s go choose some gifts first, and I’ll think some more about what to do for the dish…”
Yue Tui took out the wages they’d gotten from working today, and split it evenly with Fan Tong before they each went their own ways to find gifts. After all, presents should have a certain level of mysteriousness, and if they went together, they’d know what each other had chosen. Thus, they split ways.
Fan Tong found himself wandering randomly back and forth on the streets since he hadn’t quite decided what he wanted to buy. Presents were equivalent to breaking one’s own bank to give money to others. Buying anything too expensive was painful, but buying anything too cheap made one seem petty. In addition, since the gift exchange was lottery-based, there was no way of knowing who would get what. Without knowing who the receiver would be, choosing a present became much harder, and he found the task extremely difficult.
Why celebrate New Year’s like this? It’s so troublesome.
“Are you planning on buying this or not? If you’re not, don’t just stand there, you’re blocking other people’s views.”
Perhaps because he looked so shabby, the salesperson grew impatient with him and tried to kick him out when they saw him looking left and right, clearly short on money and very hesitant.
How do you even run your business! Haven’t you ever heard that amiability makes you rich! Even if I originally wanted to buy something, I won’t anymore!
Whenever Fan Tong encountered this kind of store, he’d simply switch to another one. However, even after searching around for a while, he hadn’t found anything satisfactory. Not only did his cooking have no sincerity, he lacked the genuineness to give others gifts as well. Really, he was just going through the motions that he was being forced to do.
Eventually, a brilliant idea came to him. He suddenly realized that he could give away something he was expert at making as a gift; after all, using the local specialty of one’s hometown was always a good choice for a present. He couldn’t possibly obtain the technology and goods here that he’d used to use, but fortune-telling goods weren’t hard to make on the spot.
Thus, he bought a small wooden plaque, borrowed a brush and some ink, and wrote some peace charms. After he finished, he began to walk back home while marveling at his own elegant calligraphy, before suddenly facepalming.
Ah! What’s wrong with me! I could’ve just written the calligraphy on paper and used that as my gift! To think I even went and specially bought a wooden plaque! Such a waste──
The sight of a full-grown man suddenly clutching his head in frustration in the middle of the street was enough to make others whisper amongst themselves as they passed, not daring to approach him. At this point, Fan Tong had finally realized how strange his actions were as well, and he lowered his head and walked away in embarrassment.
The only good thing about buying the wooden plaque was that they’d given him a small box for free as a bonus, which saved him the trouble of wrapping the gift. But when he thought about it again, he decided that he’d rather wrap it with string, so he walked to a nearby store to get some.
This shop’s owner was pretty nice, and was willing to lend the string to him. As the owner went to retrieve the string, Fan Tong took a casual look at the things being sold there. Just then, his eyes caught something on one of the displays and his heart skipped a beat.
Ah, this is…
By the time Fan Tong returned to the dorm, Yue Tui was already there waiting. He’s bought his gift incredibly fast, making Fan Tong feel inferior.
Zhu Sha was taking a nap, so Yue Tui greeted Fan Tong in a hushed voice so as not to disturb him.
“Yue Tui, the food…”
“Ah, don’t worry, I asked Bi Rou to help me buy new ingredients and finished preparing the dish already. Just tell them we made it together.”
How could you be so fast? We even spent the entire morning distressed without a clue on what to do about this, didn’t we?
“Where… is it?”
“I put it in there.”
Yue Tui pointed at a basket covered by a cloth near his foot. Fan Tong couldn’t help but bend down to uncover it in curiosity, only to stiffen, goosebumps forming all over his body.
Holy crap! What is that! Actually, should I be saying as expected of Yue Tui, creating something only he could ever make? If we said we made it together, who would believe me! Exactly which part of that did I make?!
Fan Tong silently covered it with the cloth again. Actually, it wasn’t a bad dish, he was just slightly shocked. However, at this point he didn’t really care anymore. As long as they could say they had tried, anything was fine.
“Fan Tong, what do you think?”
Yue Tui looked somewhat uncertain and wanted an evaluation from the person before him.
“It’s, it’s very normal. I think anyone would be able to recognize it.”
No, no, no! I was saying that it was amazing and that only you could make something like that!
Upon seeing Yue Tui’s dejected or disappointed expression, Fan Tong hurriedly added another question to shift Yue Tui’s attention.
“Did Zhu Sha see it? What did he say?”
“Yes. He said… why waste my time and do all this to some food…”
Yue Tui let out a dispirited sigh after accepting these two reviews.
That’s… what terrible luck… can’t someone please console him? I actually think it’s amazing, but this mouth of mine is just impossible──
“Yue Tui, did you finish buying your gift?”
“Mhm, I didn’t know what to get so I just chose randomly. Anyways, I guess we’ll just wait until it’s time to meet up with the others.”
It sounds like everything is prepared, not bad at all.
When night fell, Bi Rou came to notify them of the gathering location and all three went together. Since the weather was nice and they’d heard that there would be shooting stars tonight, they decided to have a picnic at a nice grassy place nearby. Neither Fan Tong nor Yue Tui had any objections; having a picnic on the grass seemed to be much better than going to Shen Wang Dian.
Surprisingly, Yin Shi and Ling Shi were already there in addition to a third person who originally said he wasn’t coming.
Yue Tui shot an astonished look at Luo Shi sitting next to Yin Shi and Ling Shi, pleasantly surprised by his presence.
“Didn’t you say you couldn’t come because you were busy?”
“Some space suddenly opened up!”
Luo Shi was very thin-skinned and couldn’t even properly reply.
“Ah, I brought him with us because I thought Xiao Luo Shi looked as if he really wanted to come.”
Yin Shi nonchalantly said, causing Luo Shi to immediately retort.
“As if I wanted to come! I just didn’t have anything to do!”
“But you said you bought your gift ages ago…”
“No way! I bought it just today!”
Lord Yin Shi, please stop trying to expose him, it’s unfair. Just empathize a bit with his thin skin.
“It’s really great that you were able to come.”
Yue Tui looked extremely delighted. Indeed, the more the merrier when friends gather.
By now, the sky had begun to darken. After the last traces of the sun’s presence had faded, the moon rose into the heavens illuminating the evening sky.
Everyone sat down on the grass. The comfortable breeze and fresh air created a nice ambiance. Since even the moon had come out by now, it was naturally already dinnertime. Under Bi Rou’s lead, everyone started to reveal the dishes they’d prepared and braced for inspection.
“I made sandwiches! This is a light and convenient food in Western City; I’m sure none of you have eaten these before, right?”
The first one to show off food for everyone to see was Bi Rou who had made normal-looking sandwiches that seemed perfectly harmless. When Fan Tong saw this, he immediately felt remorse for not having thought of that himself.
Sandwiches! Sandwiches, such simple things! All you have to do is stack all the ingredients on top of one another and there’s no issue of it tasting good or bad, plus anyone can make them. Why did we give ourselves headaches by spending so much time cooking food?!
“Ah, I have indeed never seen them before. Xiao Rou, you really are so perfect.”
Simply being able to make sandwiches means they are perfect? Lord Yin Shi, I think your standards are way too low.
“Really? Am I ready to marry now?”
Being able to make sandwiches means you’re ready to marry? Do you think being a housewife is that easy?
“Ah, of course you can! Xiao Rou, do you want to marry someone? If you want to marry, I’ll take you as my wife.”
Someone help and please drag them away, preferable to the ends of the earth where they can disappear forever and not discuss marriage here!
“Oh? I’m so happy! But, but…”
The strange thing was that Bi Rou didn’t seem to immediately reply in joy, and instead began to hesitate after an initial brief flash of delight.
“You’re not the one she wants to marry.”
Ling Shi coldly stated while drinking some tea that he had brought for everyone.
“Huh! What! Xiao Rou, don’t you like me?”
Lalala~ Just please break up──stop blinding us with your lovey-dovey acts──
Fan Tong felt like his own jerk side was indeed very hard to deal with since saying anything unpleasant could result in him being called lowly. However, as he was the type who would never get a chance to date, he felt that feeling disdain upon seeing a sight like this was inevitable.
“I like you! But, but…”
But what? Could it be that you’re a guy as well?
Fan Tong made some conjectures on his own. After witnessing the strange situation with Zhu Sha, he felt that even if Bi Rou did suddenly say she wasn’t a girl, he wouldn’t be surprised.
However, a long while passed and Bi Rou was still unable to explain. Yin Shi seemed somewhat hurt, and turned around to start drawing circles in a corner. Everyone quickly began to continue displaying their dishes so that the atmosphere wouldn’t die.
The next person to go was Luo Shi. Although he insisted that he had only decided to come last minute and had been dragged by Yin Shi, he had still prepared a dish. In addition, it seemed like he’d put in a lot of effort in making tofu, which made it even harder for anyone to believe his claims.
“So Xiao Luo Shi also knows how to cook? It looks pretty good.”
In reality, rich people like them could actually just buy pre-made food or ask someone else to prepare it for them, it wasn’t like anyone would be able to tell. However, Fan Tong was sure that Luo Shi had made it personally since Luo Shi was a very hard-working person, and wouldn’t choose any lazy alternatives.
“This tofu looks like it would take quite a bit of time to make, definitely at least two hours.”
Ling Shi judged with experienced eyes.
Oh, Luo Shi, just confess that you decided to come ages ago. Perhaps you even started making it yesterday and failed several times before producing something you were satisfied with…
“At the very least, I’ve tried it and it should be ok, so just eat it.”
Luo Shi modestly said. Although he feigned an air of indifference, his face still failed him and reddened a bit.
Your skin really is so very thin…
Yin Shi’s turn was next. When he took out his dish, nearly everyone’s eyes popped out.
“What… what is that…”
Fan Tong couldn’t help but utter these words, unable to restrain his panic.
“Ah, this? Mm… I guess it’s a failure because I didn’t have enough ingredients. I wasn’t able to make what I really wanted to, but it’s something like gratin.”
What do you mean you guess you failed! Did you even try to make this properly? Not enough ingredients? If there aren’t enough ingredients, you can’t use that as replacement can you? Why is there the base of a goblet poking out? And that’s clearly some pieces of porcelain on the surface! What exactly are you trying to make us eat, is that even edible? Gratin? Porcelain gratin? Glass shard gratin?
Please try eating it yourself first…
“Yin, do you really know what food is?”
Ling Shi asked Yin Shi with a smile, but while that smile was extremely beautiful it also had a harshness behind it.
“Huh? Are you talking about the goblet, bell, pearls, ring, porcelain fragments, and glass powder? Those are just ornaments. Don’t think that the shiny glass pieces look pretty on top?”
…So there were actually so many terrifying things in it. And there’s just enough for each person to get some? You’re really too considerate.
Fan Tong firmly agreed with the impression that “Lord Yin Shi really is an idiot.”
“Can you tell me what else you put in there aside from those ‘ornaments’?”
Lord Ling Shi’s smile is turning more and more scary. You should really give at least one answer that will satisfy him.
“Ah, actually I wasn’t really able to stuff anything else in after putting all those ornaments, so I just covered the mix and baked it.”
You’re doomed, Lord Yin Shi.
“…I demand you to eat that entire thing by yourself right now.”
“Ah! Why! Is there something wrong with it? I think it’s pretty cool! Xiao Rou, do you think this would taste bad?”
Yin Shi, who had just suffered a blow from his companion, turned his hopes onto his lover.
As expected, you can’t answer huh. You need to think carefully; if you say it looks good, then you might have to eat it with him as a lover’s meal. Can true love really endure the test of eating broken glass?
“It… it shouldn’t be that bad…”
Wow, have you mentally prepared yourself to jump into hell and stay there for all eternity?
“That’s right! I feel that way too!”
Yin Shi grabbed a spoon and ate a bit, seemingly unable to sense any abnormality.
“Xiao Rou, do you want to try a mouthful too?”
Yin Shi brought his dish over to Bi Rou. Her face was somewhat ashen, as if she was facing a test of her love, but she still made an effort to pick up the spoon and eat a mouthful.
“How is it? Is it good?”
Bi Rou replied with tear-filled eyes. Those definitely were not tears of delight at its deliciousness.
Ling Shi seemed somewhat unable to continue watching and turned away with a sigh.
You’re really brave. I’ve changed my opinion of you two; you guys should just do whatever you want.
But if you dared to even eat glass for him, why aren’t you willing to marry Yin Shi?
Also, Lord Ling Shi, you’re really heartless to not even try to stop her. Don’t tell me that you also wanted to see how solid Bi Rou’s feelings are, like I did?
I’m really starting to believe that this New Year’s gathering is supposed to be a convention to administer punishment, or some kind of punishment game if we have to eat those kinds of things…
Fan Tong and Yue Tui went next. After Yue Tui stated that they’d prepared the dish together he brought the basket up and took away the cloth on top.
Although everyone didn’t stare blankly at it the same way Fan Tong had, they still froze.
Simply put, it looked like some fruit. However, these were fruit that had been processed.
There were unbelievably thick slices arranged at the bottom. Some of the fruit had been transformed into a beautiful display after the middle had been carved out. In the center of the dish were fruit-carved flowers that could only be achieved by amazing skill with the blade. The entire appearance was extremely pleasing to the eye, but rather than food, it seemed more like an art masterpiece.
“Oh… it’d kind of be a shame to eat this.”
Bi Rou expressed everyone else’s thoughts, excluding Yin Shi. Ling Shi speculated that it was probably because Yin Shi had been born with a lack of appreciation towards beauty, to the point where it was doubtful if he could even distinguish a beautiful woman from an ugly one.
Although this dish was clearly prepared with sincerity, Luo Shi couldn’t help but question:
“Yue Tui, you said you did this with Fan Tong… what exactly did Fan Tong do?”
Very good, you’ve asked the central point.
It’s true that one could tell Yue Tui did it with a single glance. With my clumsiness, how could I ever help…
This lie was one that Yue Tui had to justify. Fan Tong himself had absolutely no idea how to. Yue Tui struggled to smile and replied:
Oh, the platter…brilliant answer! If only your smile was a bit more genuine…
One could tell from Yue Tui’s expression that it wasn’t the truth, but asking any further would just put Yue Tui in a difficult spot. Nobody could bear bullying Yue Tui for being a good kid that was trying to help the shameless Fan Tong cover the reality of him not having a dish prepared, so nobody pursued the topic any further.
The last person remaining was Ling Shi. As the only expert at cooking, the dish he presented obviously smelled, looked, and tasted great. Preparing a dish himself was a piece of cake to him. Plus, he’d anticipated that nobody else would be able to really provide any decent food, so he had specially prepared a bit more. The amount he had was enough to fill everyone’s hunger tonight. When Fan Tong saw Ling Shi pull out different food one after another, he couldn’t help but feel extremely grateful.
It’s really great that we have Lord Ling Shi! As long as we bring him whenever we go out, everything will be okay!
Of course, Yin Shi was the only one who could make Ling Shi go outside. Fan Tong knew this was something he’d never be able to do.
“The dishes are all done, let’s all start eating──”
As long as they ignored Yin Shi’s weird gratin, all the other dishes were generally accepted. Thus, everyone began to move their chopsticks towards the food they wanted.
Most of them went for Ling Shi’s dishes, Luo Shi’s tofu, and Bi Rou’s sandwiches. As for Yue Tui’s dish, that was fruit meant for dessert, so they would naturally eat it later.
Although Fan Tong was indulging himself with the great food, he noticed that Yin Shi, Ling Shi, and Bi Rou didn’t really eat. At a meal like this with everyone gathered together, it was very easy to notice that they didn’t touch the food. Even Luo Shi found this strange.
“Are you guys not eating? There’s enough food.”
“Ah, but, I’m not hungry.”
This was Yin Shi’s reply.
So, Lord Yin Shi, you actually ran off to eat somewhere else before coming here?
“I… just ate Yin Shi’s gratin.”
After Bi Rou gave her explanation, everyone else seemed to empathize with her lack of appetite.
Although it was just a small bite, I’m sure it was an extremely uncomfortable experience, right?
“I don’t have any interest in eating the food I made myself.”
Ling Shi replied, then looked over at the sandwiches Bi Rou had prepared and smiled.
“However, I must try some of what Xiao Rou made to cheer her on.”
Lord Ling Shi, it’s really a shame that you don’t go out and try to catch some girls. One can only say that your appearance is to blame.
“Ah! What! As if I’d let you eat any. All of the remaining sandwiches are mine!”
When Yin Shi heard Ling Shi’s words he grabbed all the sandwiches away before Ling Shi had reached out for one, clearly not letting anyone else touch them.
His jealousy is really a bit overboard.
Or maybe it could be called a desire for exclusive treatment? A common problem among men.
But even if you do that, Bi Rou won’t ever grab your gratin and say “This is mine, nobody else can eat it.”
“Would you not waste food? You can’t even finish them. Hand over the sandwiches.”
In short, the sandwiches were seized by Yin Shi. Who knew if he was planning on bringing them back and offering them as sacrifices or something. Either way, even without the sandwiches, there was still enough food. Thus, everyone just let him be.
After eating, it was time for the next highlight: the gift exchange.
Since everyone had decided to celebrate the New Year the Western way, and the only one that seemed to really know how to do that was Bi Rou, everyone followed her words.
“I’ve prepared lots, everyone draw one!”
Bi Rou had folded some pieces of paper and held them in her hand, waiting for each person to draw. However, Yin Shi didn’t seem to understand the point.
“Ah, Xiao Rou, why are we drawing lots?”
“Huh? To decide who gets whose gift. You have to give your present to the person you draw…”
“What! I thought we were just giving the gift to whoever we wanted!”
At this moment, Yin Shi began to panic.
Can you at least try to think? Did you think that exchanging gifts was like exchanging diaries? If everyone gave gifts to whoever they wanted, wouldn’t it be extremely awkward if someone didn’t get any?
“Nope, we have to follow the rules. In addition, there’s one added rule.”
Bi Rou smiled widely, clearly excited to announce this rule.
“When you give your gift away, you have to hug the one you drew and give them a kiss to express your enthusiasm and good will!”
When Bi Rou announced this, Fan Tong felt his facial expression twist, and his stomach began to churn.
Miss, why do you look so happy about this? Regardless of whether you’re kissing or hugging the other person, if you aren’t doing it to Lord Yin Shi, won’t you be the one to suffer? You’re the only girl, you know.
If I draw Lord Ling Shi, does that mean I should go back and brag to Mi Zhong about it? …No, I’d probably be beaten up to pulp if I did that…
“Since when did such rules exist!”
Yue Tui asked in horror and shock. He probably didn’t really want to get very intimate with another person.
“This is a tradition in Western City”
Bi Rou blinked her eyes as if this was obvious.
Sigh, I feel like drawing lots like this is extremely stressful. If I draw the wrong person, the situation could turn very scary…
“Alright, who wants to go first?”
Yin Shi was still as energetic as before. Perhaps he felt that choosing any remaining lots after someone else had picked meant that his fate was partially decided by someone else. As the proverb said, if one wants to die, they should die by their own hands.
He drew a lot, and everyone else waited for the result. He opened the paper slip and read out the name with slight confusion.
“Fan…Tong? Who’s that?”
Oi! That can’t be!
Not only, not only is there a problem with the fact that you still don’t remember a name as simple as mine, why would I be chosen by you! This joke is too much, isn’t it?
“Ah! It’s you?”
After Yin Shi realized Fan Tong was ‘the mop’s owner’ he seemed unwilling.
“If it were Xiao Luo Shi, it would still be okay! But my arms will not hold a man! Xiao Rou!”
What are you trying to say, do you think I want to be held by a man? Also, it’s okay as long as you don’t recognize Luo Shi as a man?
Luo Shi’s expression turned dark. It looked like this statement had really offended him.
“Yin Shi, you can’t. You have to follow the rules.”
Bi Rou had no intention of being lenient and insisted they both stick to the rules.
“Or how about this, if you don’t like the rule, we can change it to the receiver hugging and giving a kiss to the giver to express their gratitude. I’ll let you choose.”
…Both options sound uncomfortable. In addition, why are you letting him choose? Is my opinion so unimportant that I don’t even have the right to choose?
“Ah! No! It sounds horrible just thinking about it!”
Fan Tong felt like he was being resented, but he clearly didn’t want to accept this situation either.
“Just pretend he’s a woman and it’ll be extremely easy for you, won’t it?”
Ling Shi sarcastically remarked while sipping his tea, adopting an air of indifference.
“But he’s nothing like one!”
“Wait, easy if it’s a woman…?”
Bi Rou’s ears perked and immediately inquired about the keywords she’d caught.
“Those women that always come to Shen Wang Dian to see Yin Shi, obviously…”
“Ah! Ahhhh! No! That’s not true! Those women are there to visit Ling Shi!”
“I’m sorry, but typically speaking the people that come to Shen Wang Dian to see me are men.”
Lord Yin Si, just a second ago you were struggling to defame your friend’s name to clear your own name, and the next second you’re laughing heartily at your opposing side’s truthful assertion? Is that really okay?
“Whatever, can you just do it? We still have to continue the event.”
“I know, alright.”
Whoa! Wait a minute! Are you really doing it? Seriously?
Fan Tong was a bit scared, and frantically looked left and right. However, there was no way he would be able to run away in this situation. In the end, he could only let Yin Shi reach out to touch his shoulders and then give him a peck on his cheek.
“This counts as hugging and kissing right?”
Bi Rou pouted in slight disappointment.
Oi, what exactly do you want? Did you think that a passionate kiss with tongues intertwining was something two straight men would be able to accept?
It was also a Western City tradition to open the gift on the spot. As soon as Fan Tong unwrapped the present, his face immediately turned dark.
It’s… very adorable, pink woman’s clothing. If a cute girl was to receive this they’d definitely be very happy, but I’m not a cute girl arghhhhh!
“I originally thought we were giving gifts to whoever we wanted, ok? It was for Xiao Rou!”
Then Miss Bi Rou, it’s better for you to just take it. I really don’t want it. Although giving away a received gift is impolite, I’m sure neither of you would mind, right?
“Fan Tong, do you like it?”
Luo Shi took advantage of the situation to interject.
“Of course I like it…. ah!”
Luo Shi! You’re toying with me again!
By the time Fan Tong had realized he’d been tricked, Luo Shi had already hid himself in the back to snicker to himself.
Ahhh! Can you guys not look at me like that! I just misspoke there! Although people normally speak the truth when they misspeak, that’s not applicable to me! Luo Shi, you’d better remember this! I’m going to tell Yue Tui bad things about you!
“The receiver is the next person to draw lots, and this continues until the end.”
That meant it was Fan Tong’s turn to draw. Fan Tong didn’t object, and randomly reached out to grab a paper slip. The instant he unfolded it and read the name written, his face twitched.
Ugh, so I have to hug Luo Shi, give him a kiss, and then give my gift to him?
If it weren’t at this special gathering, there’d be a high chance I would be slapped by him and then called out for harassment, right?
“It’s Luo Shi. Go on, give your present!”
Luo Shi was also given a shock, and his expression turned ugly.
“Tsk, whatever, just come.”
Why must you make it sound like you’re generously offering to be a martyr?
Of course, Fan Tong wouldn’t go overboard. His ‘hug’ was really just the level of touching, and kissing was even less so; whether that touched skin or not was unknown, but it was done in a flash. Who cared about the details.
Luo Shi opened the gift. His expression didn’t particularly show any dislike for the calligraphed wooden plaque, and properly said thank you.
When Luo Shi then drew Yue Tui’s name, his expression completely changed. Fan Tong didn’t know how to even describe the subtle, complex look on Luo Shi’s face, but he was just waiting for an entertaining scene to unfold.
Luo Shi walked up to Yue Tui and seemed unable to act. Perhaps he didn’t even know what to say. It looked as if he was quickly turning into a stiff wooden sculpture. Since it seemed to be going nowhere, Yue Tui just went and hugged Luo Shi himself and pecked his face before thanking him and taking the gift with an overall extremely practiced manner.
Luo Shi’s gift was extremely useful, a pack of high quality Fu Zhou papers. However, Yue Tui excelled at everything but Fu Zhou, so giving it to him was basically a waste.
As for the respected Luo Shi that had turned into a human statue, he seemed to have petrified into stone after receiving Yue Tui’s hug. Who knew when he’d return to a functional state?
You’re clearly very happy, exactly how thin is your skin?
Next, to his unfortunate luck, Yue Tui drew Bi Rou.
Of course, the only one who would know this was unfortunate was Fan Tong, who was always with him. He felt that while Yue Tui had become as rigid as Luo Shi, Bi Rou was very happy.
“Oh, Yue Tui’s gift is for me? So happy~”
Oi, you already have Yin Shi, stop trying to get Yue Tui as well! Have you really not realized he dislikes you?
Because rejecting would make his thoughts too obvious and it was inappropriate for this kind of situation, Yue Tui smiled with great difficulty and gave Bi Rou a hug and a superficial peck. His gift was a small potted plant. Although Bi Rou said she’d take good care of it, Fan Tong felt that Yue Tui’s gaze towards Bi Rou turned colder after their hug.
There were two people left. Technically, there should’ve been a high chance of Bi Rou drawing Yin Shi, but she just had to draw Ling Shi. Although Yin Shi’s eyes grew wide in protest, he couldn’t change the reality.
“Wow, Xiao Rou is giving her gift to me? And she’s even going to hug and kiss me, not bad.”
Ling Shi glanced at Yin Shi, his tone complacent. His gaze seemed to be purposely baiting Yin Shi, and Yin Shi, being very simple-headed, became enraged.
“You old fart! You can’t take advantage of Xiao Rou like that!”
Really, Bi Rou, are you seriously going to hug another man in front of your lover? You’re not afraid of causing hostility between friends? The Western City must be very open-minded…
“There’s nothing wrong with her calling me Gege and hugging me, right? Xiao Rou, don’t you agree?”
There’s something very wrong, to the point where it could be called cheating.
“Mm, Yin Shi, don’t be mad, it’s no big deal…”
Bi Rou said before giving Ling Shi a big hug and kissing his face.
No big deal? The fact that you two hugged each other the tightest is no big deal? Lord Ling Shi, you must feel great. Is this what you would call neglecting your friends when in love?
However, Ling Shi quickly stopped smiling, and Yin Shi’s expression changed from green to gloomy; they realized that there was only one slip remaining and Ling Shi had yet to draw. In other words, Ling Shi’s gift was to be given to Yin Shi.
“Ahhh! Old man, get away from me! I don’t want to be hugged by you!”
“As if I want to! Do you think your body armor is soft?”
“Get away, get away, get away! I don’t want your gift! Shoo!”
“I would prefer to give it to the guards in front of Shen Wang Dian over you, but this is a rule that we have to follow, don’t we?”
Yin Shi refused to submit even unto death. When Ling Shi hugged him with an expression of loathing and his lips brushed against Yin Shi’s face, Yin Shi had an expression of extreme disgust. It was an extremely displeasing experience for the both of them…
Ling Shi’s gift was just a different approach to Luo Shi’s. While Luo Shi had given away blank Fu Zhou, Ling Shi had given away already drawn Fu Zhou that could be used immediately. It was a pity that giving it to Yin Shi was just a waste, as he could already draw the charms, rendering the gift useless.
After the gift exchange was completed, everyone sat on the grass and chatted. Occasionally, they’d spot a shooting star and would hurriedly make a wish.
Fan Tong had once heard that any wishes made on a shooting star would come true, so he couldn’t help but get excited by the sight of shooting stars streaking across the sky. Thus, when he caught one from the corner of his eye, he opened his mouth to make a wish.
“I hope that my debt will not disappear! The more the better!”
The shooting star disappeared into the horizon.
Both him and the others that had heard his wish couldn’t bring themselves to speak any further.
Eventually, everyone somewhat dispersed. Yue Tui, who wanted some peace and quiet, went to sit in another corner and would come back to the central area only to retrieve tea once in a while.
“Bi Rou, why don’t you want to marry?”
Because he happened to pass by Bi Rou sitting alone next to the tea, Fan Tong couldn’t help but ask out of curiosity.
“I just feel that if Yin Shi knew my true face, he wouldn’t want me.”
Bi Rou sadly replied. Fan Tong couldn’t figure out why.
“Don’t tell me your true face is extremely beautiful?”
“I was beautiful in the first place… ah, are you being sarcastic and saying that my current appearance isn’t beautiful? How mean.”
No….. just forget it.
Because they couldn’t understand each other, Fan Tong gave up on asking and after filling his cup with tea, turned to walk to where Yue Tui was sitting.
Although Yue Tui probably wanted to enjoy his time quietly alone, Fan Tong still needed to do something, so he walked over and sat next to Yue Tui.
“Yue Tui, this…”
Fan Tong took out a wrapped box. Yue Tui looked at him in confusion.
“….? This is?”
Yue Tui grew even more confused.
“Isn’t the gift exchange… didn’t you draw Luo Shi? Your present… huh?”
You’re so lost. Really, is it that hard to understand?
“I bought this as an additional thing since I wanted to give you a present. I think you’ll like it. Ah, and I hope that you continue to give me advice this year.”
It’s really great that the curse didn’t do anything! Victory!
Yue Tui finally understood. His originally blank expression turned happy, and he immediately opened the present to discover something he’d never seen before.
“This is a Thousand Grass Cylinder. If you look through there and turn it, you’ll see different images.”
Yue Tui immediately looked into the kaleidoscope like Fan Tong instructed and grew amazed. He then excitedly played around with it, seemingly enjoying the gift very much as some energy returned to his gaze. After playing for a bit, he remembered that Fan Tong was still next to him, and felt ashamed for having ignored his presence.
“Fan Tong, thank you for your gift, I really like it.”
You’re welcome, I used the money I borrowed from you to buy it.
“Mm, I’m going to go grab some food, you can keep looking at it.”
After Fan Tong left, Yue Tui looked at the kaleidoscope some more before finally putting it down and shifting his gaze back to the night sky as he had before.
His mood seemed to shift from endless loneliness to one of tranquility.
A distance away, he could hear the chatter of his friends. He could feel the chilly night breeze on his skin. He could smell the scent of fresh grass in the air. And he could see the never-ending night sky and the moon that slowly climbed its way up… nevertheless, he felt disconnected from the world.
He lifted his head to look up and murmured softly to himself:
“The current me can use these eyes and look up at the same starry sky you see…”
With the chattering and laughter in the background, the youth’s quiet words were faint and indistinct.
The name he uttered silently afterwards also vanished from his closed lips.
“He’d tell you that he only has a little calico kitten, not a Nian.” ─Ling Shi
“Return my kitten! Bastard!” ─Wei *** (To protect anonymity)
Upon hearing that the New Year was imminent and that the Eastern City had some special traditional activities planned, Fan Tong merely blinked his eyes, unable to react.
Who would’ve thought that Huan Shi also celebrates New Year’s? As expected, so long as you put your mind to it, you can find things you are familiar with even in a different world.
They had half a month’s time before the last day of the year arrived. To prepare for the New Year, they needed to clean the house, make some peace charms, and prepare their offerings… Basically, they had many things to do, especially the debt-ridden Fan Tong, who had once again been enlisted for work in order to pay off his debt.
Since receiving the grass green tassel up until now, Fan Tong still owed the Eastern City 250 strings of money after deducting the sum of his salary for the month and his wages from his part time jobs. And this was even after he’d borrowed money from Yue Tui. Like usual, both of them were hungry and penniless.
Zhu Sha had some money saved up, but he obviously wouldn’t treat them to meals, so they had to make do with public rations in the end. Upon hearing that the public rations would be different during the New Year’s period, Fan Tong couldn’t help but be a little excited.
Speaking of which, Yue Tui hadn’t demanded any compensation fees from Yin Shi yet, which bothered Fan Tong for a long time. For someone rich like Yin Shi, Fan Tong felt that it wouldn’t be too extreme to scam some money out of him. But the one who’d died wasn’t him, and Yue Tui had already made his decision, so Fan Tong couldn’t say anything.
If Yue Tui could extort some compensation money out of Yin Shi, we’d be living comfortable lives─
Fan Tong knew that it wasn’t good to have a “If Yue Tui had money he would definitely take care of me so Yue Tui’s money is closely related to me” mentality, but not thinking that way was easier said than done. In the end, principles were worthless in the face of poverty.
As for the “Seal Chen Yue” matter, he was still feeling glum about it.
He had tried to discuss it with Yue Tui before, but he’d given up after forcing out two unintelligible and reversed sentences. Regardless, he wasn’t in any rush; he could wait until Yue Tui could read the Eastern City’s language before using writing to communicate. This would make the explanation clearer. After taking some classes, Yue Tui could now understand nearly half of the Eastern City’s language. Fan Tong believed that the day he could use writing to communicate with Yue Tui would soon arrive. New Residents all had plenty of time, he could wait.
Ever since being promoted to a grass green tassel, Fan Tong’s growth had stagnated. He hadn’t advanced the slightest bit towards a dark green tassel.
It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be promoted, but rather that he’d given up after learning that he had to pass the Wu Shu Tractor Teacher’s test in order to rise to a dark green tassel.
Despite carrying a grass green tassel, he only had the ability of a white tassel. How could he pass the test? He’d probably end up being toyed with for a while before being marked as a failure.
While the condition for promotion was very difficult for Fan Tong, it wasn’t the case for the others. Compared to gathering goods, passing the Tractor Teacher’s test was evidently much easier. Thus, Yue Tui, Bi Rou, and Zhu Sha were all dark green tassels now.
Zhu Sha should’ve passed the test through the normal route. As for Bi Rou, Fan Tong would never know if she had used her beauty as a trap, or if she’d used her connections with “high-level” people to help her pass. Yue Tui was the only one whose circumstances he could ask about, so when Yue Tui came home with a dark green tassel, Fan Tong immediately rushed over.
“How was it? Did you beat up that Tractor Teacher until he was half dead?”
If he personally had that kind of strength, he would probably use the promotion as an excuse to get revenge.
“Teacher didn’t let me make a move. He just directly promoted me…” Yue Tui replied with a wry smile.
That Tractor Teacher didn’t even give people a chance to take revenge. He was indeed a devious man. Fan Tong suddenly wondered if he was related to Mi Zhong.
Being promoted to a dark green tassel proved to be troublesome for Yue Tui; the number of people seeking to duel him had greatly increased now that grass green tassels could challenge him as well. The number of times he was stopped while walking outside increased along with the number of challengers. Even watching from the sidelines, Fan Tong found it a bit annoying.
“Yue Tui, do you want to try actually killing some of them? That way, the number of people who come looking for trouble will increase.”
He meant to say that after killing a few, the rest of the challengers would be intimidated and disappear. However, his words had been reversed once more.
“It’s exactly because I feel that killing them could bring about greater trouble that I have some qualms about it…”
Somehow, Yue Tui was able to continue the idea from his reversed words, leaving Fan Tong speechless.
In short, their lives had gotten busier because it was almost New Year’s. Yue Tui hadn’t forgotten his promise, and accompanied Fan Tong to work. Fan Tong was touched by the gesture, and decided that he would definitely repay Yue Tui if he had a chance in his next life.
As for why not in this lifetime… It was obviously because Yue Tui was way better than him in every aspect. There was no way he’d find any opportunity to repay Yue Tui, no matter how much he searched…
“Yue Tui, Fan Tong!”
On the first day of New Year’s preparations, Bi Rou called to the two of them just as they were about to head out to work.
“Something wrong?” Yue Tui turned around, polite yet indifferent.
I say, Yue Tui, exactly what do you have against Bi Rou? Just say it straight out. What kind of man looks at a beautiful woman with that kind of expression? Even if the beauty has hurt you before, you shouldn’t be like this.
Ah! Did something happen between you and Zhu Sha without me knowing? If that’s the case, I can understand. Zhu Sha seems like the jealous type whether if he were a man or a woman. If you were caught cheating, it would be disastrous… But is that really the case? Probably not, right?
“Do you want to celebrate the New Year together? Yin Shi, Ling Shi-dage, and I already agreed to celebrate together. If everyone comes, it’ll be more lively.”
Have we already become the type of people who do everything together?
Fan Tong was a bit perplexed. Why did it sound perfectly normal to him to celebrate the New Year with Lord Yin Shi and Long Ling Shi? This shouldn’t be normal at all, right?
“I don’t care, ask Fan Tong.”
Yue Tui didn’t look very interested, and shoved the question at Fan Tong.
“Huh? I don’t care either…”
If he said “Sure,” it might be twisted to “No.” But if he said “No,” it might not be twisted to “Sure.” In the end, Fan Tong chose a reply that would be harder to mix up.
“Then it’s agreed! We’ll celebrate together!”
Since it didn’t matter to them, Bi Rou naturally settled it herself. They’d assumed that she would let them go after agreeing, but she ended up dragging them over and discussing everything related to the event in one go, like where and how they would celebrate.
Of course, this kind of thing couldn’t be decided by a single person alone, so Bi Rou requested that they open their communication charms in order to discuss the New Year’s arrangements with Yin Shi and Ling Shi.
“Ah, Xiao Yue and the mop’s master are going to celebrate the New Year with us? Then what about Xiao Zhu?”
Stop saying “the mop’s master”. I don’t even know how to retort anymore.
“We haven’t asked Zhu Sha yet,” Yue Tui replied simply.
Lord Ling Shi coughed and said that he was very busy and didn’t have time to waste. Hearing that, they went straight to the main topic.
“How do you guys want to celebrate?”
When Bi Rou asked this, Fan Tong chose to stay silent. Because he’d been alone in his original world, he’d always just stayed home during New Year’s. Sometimes, he’d even forget to buy food beforehand, and end up running out of food because all the shops were closed… He didn’t think this sort of experience was worth referencing. Anyone who wanted to celebrate the New Year that way surely had mental problems.
“I don’t really have any experience…” Yue Tui said. It was possible that he’d lived in a country that didn’t celebrate New Year’s, so not having any experience was normal.
“I normally stay by Ying’s side and organize her matters. When I don’t have any work to do, I just stay in my room.” This was Ling Shi’s response. It seemed like the New Year was the same as any other day for him, judging by the things he did.
“Ah… New Year’s celebrations are mostly the same every year. I’ve already celebrated it for many years, and it’s boring to death. Xiao Rou, how do you guys celebrate where you are from? Tell us.”
Yin Shi clearly felt that celebrations for the New Year were always the same routine over and over. He was fed up with it, and didn’t look forward to it at all. Because he’d asked, Bi Rou began to talk about the Western City’s traditions.
“Hmm, I’ve never celebrated with them… But, people in the Western City normally gather in small groups to exchange gifts and each person that attends must bring a handmade dish. Sometimes they choose a gathering place indoors and sometimes it’s outdoors. That’s basically it.”
When Bi Rou finished speaking, Yin Shi excitedly chimed in, “Ah, that seems really unique! We should celebrate this year using the Western City’s customs!”
Lord Yin Shi, you’re joking, right? Who even has the money to buy gifts? Can I gift wrap the mop and use that as a present? Even if it was worth two hundred strings, who would be happy to receive that kind of gift? You’re the only one who would want it, right?
“Don’t be ridiculous, can you even cook?” Ling Shi mocked Yin Shi with contempt. At the same time, Fan Tong felt as if he’d been stabbed too.
That’s right, if we really need to provide handmade dishes, then I can only force everyone to accept my scary cooking skills… I can cook a strange type of porridge, but I can’t afford ingredients anyways. Would it be ok if I just boiled the public rations and arranged it in a creative way?
“If I can’t cook, I can learn! I don’t believe that there’s something you can do that I can’t learn!”
Lord Yin Shi, your battle spirit is astounding. Exactly how many dishes will be edible at this New Year’s gathering?
“How well you cook doesn’t matter, it’s your warm feelings that are the most important.” Bi Rou was technically correct, but in the end, Fan Tong still wanted to eat normal dishes.
“We don’t have the money to buy any ingredients…” Yue Tui awkwardly stated their predicament, but it clearly wasn’t a good enough excuse for Bi Rou.
“Just tell me what ingredients you want! I can help you buy them, it’s not a problem.” Bi Rou said generously, rendering Yue Tui silent.
You obviously don’t have a problem! You have three thousand strings in savings…
“Then it’s decided!”
“You guys will need to take care of the presents yourselves, but if it’s really difficult, you can come find me and I’ll lend you money.”
After the discussion was finished, they dispersed.
Fan Tong felt greatly pressured by what they’d decided on during their discussion.
Why do I feel like we’ve been dragged into an event only upper-class rich people can afford to attend?
For today’s work, Fan Tong and Yue Tui were responsible for assisting in the production of the special foods given to New Residents during the New Year’s period. Fan Tong was excited to learn that he’d be able to find out what the special foods were in advance. However, he felt uneasy at the thought of giving away the food he’d personally made; whoever received the food from him would be particularly unlucky.
His selfishness then kicked in and Fan Tong decided that it’d be fine as long as he wasn’t the one on the receiving end. Besides, among the people here helping out, there were bound to be some as clumsy as him. He suspected that after witnessing the creation process, he might not actually want to eat the special public rations on New Year’s Day.
Because the two of them had arrived a bit early, Fan Tong started chatting with Yue Tui while they were waiting for the person in charge to arrive.
“Yue Tui, you always seem super happy whenever you see Bi Rou. Your attitude towards her is also especially cordial. Is there any particular reason?”
Oh, I meant to say that you never seem excited, and that you also treat her especially coldly. I had no intention of sounding sarcastic…
“…Huh? Happy? Cordial?” Yue Tui’s expression slackened.
You can just say that you think I’m blind, it’s all right…
“I mean, you seem really cold to her. Why is that?”
As if God had heard Fan Tong’s pleas, he was finally able to say the correct sentence. But Yue Tui fell into a long silence at his question.
Why, why won’t you speak? If you don’t want to tell me, you can just say that there isn’t a particular reason. Although I’m really curious and that kind of answer wouldn’t satisfy me, I would at least understand what you mean. Why are you just staying silent?
“Fan Tong…” Yue Tui said after a long silence. However, he didn’t directly answer the question. “If you were killed by someone, and then one day you came across them again, what would you do?”
Fan Tong was a bit shocked by the sudden question, but judging from Yue Tui’s serious and heavy atmosphere, he knew that this was a question that couldn’t be answered casually.
Bi Rou killed Yue Tui? That can’t be, right? Wait, is Yue Tui also someone from this world? Ah? Oh? Huh?
“No.” Yue Tui knew what Fan Tong was thinking, and shook his head at Fan Tong’s guess. “I just want to know what would you do. I feel… A bit lost.”
Oh, as long as Bi Rou wasn’t the killer. If one of my friends killed another one of my friends, I really wouldn’t know what to do. Then again, what are you at loss for? Are you thinking about your wounds and nightmares again?
“Fan Tong, can you tell me what you would do?”
Seeing Yue Tui’s serious expression, Fan Tong felt that it would be wrong if he didn’t give a thoughtful reply. He imagined himself encountering someone who had killed him and replied, “I would first point at that genius and praise him greatly. I would then gently caress his vital points and not let him go until I’ve finished expressing my happiness. Essentially, I would make him wish for death.”
While Fan Tong was speaking, he felt as if a cold wind was blowing through him while a crow cawed awkwardly in the background. To his expectations, Yue Tui’s expression became extremely strange.
“Fan Tong, your thoughts are…very unique. However, I don’t think that’s a good idea…” Yue Tui forced out after a long silence.
You don’t have to force yourself to admonish me. Also, please, can’t you figure out that I misspoke? And are you saying that it’s not a good idea because my personality is twisted or because it would be bad for the person on the receiving end?
Seeing that Fan Tong didn’t reply, Yue Tui lowered his head awkwardly. “I’m sorry, I’d probably asked the wrong question…”
Don’t be like this! Don’t just apologize when you don’t understand the reply to your question! I was saying that I would point at the scum and curse him to the heavens. I would then ruthlessly beat him up by striking all his vital points. I wouldn’t let him go until I’d finished expressing my fury and make him wish for death. This is clearly a normal reply, isn’t it?
“Yue, Tui, then what about you?”
Fan Tong gave up on the idea of trying to reverse the horrible image he’d just given himself. More accurately, he’d lost hope on opening his mouth ages ago. He didn’t care about his image at all, it was completely beyond saving…
Yue Tui hadn’t imagined that Fan Tong would continue the topic. Faced with his own question, Yue Tui frowned, seemingly not sure of how to answer.
Fan Tong might have just used any stranger as his murderer, but Yue Tui knew the identity of his killer. Due to the different circumstances, Yue Tui didn’t quite know how to answer.
“Yue Tui, are you contemplating how you would repay your gratitude towards them or whether you would forgive them?”
I mean how you would take revenge, not repay some stupid gratitude, rotten curse…
Yue Tui looked at Fan Tong with confusion. It looked like he was unable to figure out the reasoning behind repaying gratitude.
“I think that you should inflict pain on the person who made you suffer, you shouldn’t be too kind.”
Thank god the sentence came out correctly. If it had turned into something like “bring joy to the person who made you suffer” or “inflict pain on the person who brings you joy”, Yue Tui would probably start wondering if I’m a masochist or a sadist…
Upon hearing Fan Tong, Yue Tui’s expression became somewhat complicated. Another long while passed before he answered, “I’m… Not actually a kind person.”
Fan Tong was shocked. In his mind, Yue Tui was a very kind-hearted child, so he didn’t understand why Yue Tui would describe himself as unkind.
Does that mean you’ve decided to enact revenge? That’s a good thing, bad people should die a rotten death, hahaha.
Hmm? Wait, he still hasn’t answered my original question. Exactly why don’t you like Bi Rou? Also, is it actually possible for you to meet your murderer again? Are you really someone originally from this world after all? I have so many questions, but I can’t even properly ask a single one…
“Fan Tong, it’s better if we talk about something else instead. What do you plan on doing for the presents?
Oi, oi! Don’t just switch topics! What about Bi Rou?!
“You still haven’t answered my question about Bi Rou…”
“…There really isn’t an issue between us, perhaps you’re being oversensitive. Why don’t we think about what to do with the gifts?”
Do you know how obvious you are why you lie? If you’re so clumsy at lying, then you might as well not even try. But I can tell you don’t want to answer my question, sigh.
In the end, they never discussed what to do about the gifts as the person in charge had arrived. The two of them, along with the other workers, all moved to another location.
Fan Tong didn’t see Mi Zhong among the crowd, which he was grateful for. There was finally a day when he could work without being together with Mi Zhong. Being with Yue Tui was always much better than being with Mi Zhong. He could be cheerful for the whole day without constantly being nagged at.
Despite working together with Yue Tui, Fan Tong’s expression darkened upon knowing what their job entailed.
The public rations being distributed on New Year’s Day were rice balls, so their job today was to make the rice balls.
Each person had to prepare 400 rice balls, and they weren’t allowed to go home until they finished.
The fact that each person had to make 400 rice balls was enough to make Fan Tong despair. While calculating how much time it would take in total if making one rice ball took two minutes without stopping in between, Fan Tong looked to the 40+ ingredients that they’d been given.
The person in charge had said that they were free to choose whatever fillings they wanted to put inside.
They wanted each person to make 400 rice balls, yet they refused to give them simpler ingredients. Wasn’t that just asking them to drop dead from exhaustion?
Fan Tong kind of wanted to just start wrapping plain rice balls without any fillings. Either way, it was impossible to tell from the outside what kind of filling the rice balls contained. Making plain rice balls would save him a lot of effort.
However, an evil idea started to wag its tail inside his head. With so many ingredients, it’d be easy to make some “creative” rice balls. He might not be able to see the expressions of the people eating them, but it was still amusing when he imagined how people would react upon eating something like a cilantro, chili pepper, and Chinese cinnamon combo rice ball…
Fan Tong was sure that quite a few people were thinking similar things. These public rations that were supposed to be handed out on New Year’s Day were actually terrifying bombs. He really needed to reconsider whether he wanted to stand in line and obtain a few.
But the next sentence the person in charge said dispelled all his notions of making “creative” rice balls. Aside from wages, they could also have 10 rice balls randomly chosen from among the ones they’d made to take back as food at the end of the day.
This was extra food. Although they could pick up more rice balls to eat on New Year’s Day, seeing as how there were 40 different fillings, Fan Tong didn’t trust others to make ones safe for consumption. It was good that he could choose from the ones he’d made himself; he would at least have a general idea of what was inside them.
Knowing that he would be eating ten out of the four hundred, Fan Tong decided to make large rice balls. He stuffed filling after filling into the abnormally large rice ball in his hand, to the point where Yue Tui stopped to stare at his outrageous actions.
“Fan Tong, you don’t need to make them so large, right?”
This is called being greedy, you wouldn’t understand.
“Yue Tui, yours are too large. You’re clearly benefiting from others’ expense.”
That’s not it! I’m saying that yours are too small and that you’re losing out that way.
“Huh? Are these too large? But yours are clearly larger than mine.”
Yue Tui looked at his own rice balls with surprise. He had thought that the ones he’d made were the perfect size.
Fan Tong replied with a few indistinct grunts before focusing once again on his rice balls, hoping that Yue Tui would ignore his words.
At first, Fan Tong tackled the rice balls with great ambition, but after finishing nearly 100 of them, he was starting to slack from impatience.
His plans for creative rice balls were starting to stir again. If he were going to make the rice balls randomly, then there wasn’t a need to make them particularly large either. Fan Tong discovered that it was much more fun to make them however he pleased. He hummed a little tune to himself while working, content enough that it didn’t even feel like he was working.
Although he was enjoying himself, the amount of time required to make 400 rice balls wasn’t going to decrease. In other words, an increase in mood didn’t translate to an increase in work efficiency. By the time he’d finished 300 rice balls, ten hours had passed since he’d started working. Although he could steal some rice and fillings as lunch and afternoon tea, he still had to hurry up so that he could go home and sleep.
While he had only completed 300, Yue Tui had already finished all 400 rice balls. Fan Tong didn’t know how well Yue Tui had made his, but it was a fact that Yue Tui had finished faster. Fortunately, Yue Tui wasn’t cold-hearted enough to just watch from the side while Fan Tong worked.
“Fan Tong, how many have you finished? I’m done, do you want me to help?”
Of course, Fan Tong was extremely grateful to have some help.
“Don’t mention it! I don’t need any help.”
Opening his mouth to reply was his greatest mistake.
As his pride kept him from trying to explain his misspoken words, Fan Tong could only continue making his rice balls alone. After another two hours, he finally finished.
“Here, these are your rice balls.”
After the two of them pushed their trolleys full of rice balls over to hand them in, they each received 10 of their own rice balls. Seeing that there weren’t any particularly large ones among the ten he’d received, Fan Tong’s expression soured. While walking back to their dorm, they tried out the results of their work today.
Fan Tong gathered up his courage and took a bite of his rice ball, at the first bite, Fan Tong felt as if he had won a prize. Of course, it was an atrocious prize. Out of curiosity, Yue Tui also tried a bite of Fan Tong’s rice ball, and made an ugly expression as well. At that moment, all of Fan Tong’s hopes were pinned on the rice balls Yue Tui had made.
Yue Tui wasn’t stingy. Since Fan Tong wanted to try one, Yue Tui passed a rice ball to him.
“Wow, Yue Tui, this rice ball of yours isn’t small, yet it’s so light… Ack!”
When Fan Tong bit down on Yue Tui’s small and sturdy rice ball, he cried out.
It’s rock hard!
Yue Tui! Exactly how much strength did you use to make these?! Is this really a rice ball anymore? I can’t even make a dent with my teeth! They’re so small, yet so heavy; how much rice did you compress together?
Do you have something against rice balls? Why would you knead them with so much strength?
“Is something wrong?”
Fan Tong didn’t try to be courteous and bluntly pointed out the core issue.
If he couldn’t even bite into it, then it was obviously inedible. Maybe they could use it as a throwing weapon. A shotput?
“What’s wrong with it?”
Yue Tui tried to take a bite himself and immediately made a face.
This is great. You don’t seem like a human in many aspects, but at least your teeth are still identical to the average person’s.
“It looks like…none of these are edible.” Yue Tui smiled awkwardly. Fan Tong then suggested a horrible idea, “Why don’t we try soaking it in water?”
That way, it could turn into the porridge he normally ate.
Otherwise, what could they do, leaving them like this would be a waste…
“Forget it, let’s just give them all to Zhu Sha.”
At Yue Tui’s suggestion, Fan Tong wanted to agree that it was a good idea. Zhu Sha could eat anything, so he definitely wouldn’t have an issue eating either Fan Tong’s strange tasting rice balls or Yue Tui’s steel-like ones.
Eventually, aside from the two they’d already bitten into, they gave the other eighteen rice balls to Zhu Sha as gifts. Zhu Sha was confused as to why he’d received so many rice balls, but he still accepted them with thanks.
During the New Year’s preparation period, Fan Tong and Yue Tui were busy working and earning money, while Bi Rou was happily spending the money that Yin Shi had given her to attend various New Year’s activities. The difference in how they’d spent their time only solidified Fan Tong’s belief that there was indeed a huge difference between people’s fates. Bi Rou’s were simply that of one blessed with great luck and fate; no matter what obstacles stood in her way, she could still avoid the disaster and live a happy life blessed with wealth. In comparison, Yue Tui seemed to lead a life with many obstacles, but Yue Tui’s features were too complex for Fan Tong to decipher in just one glance. If he had the chance, he felt that doing a palm or a character reading for Yue Tui might be a good idea. But then again, Yue Tui had already died, and using stuff from his previous life to determine the path of his current one didn’t seem very reliable
While they were diligently earning money, Zhu Sha was studying intently like a good student. He didn’t seem interested in moneymaking, and he’d rejected Bi Rou’s invitation to the New Year’s gathering because he thought cooking and preparing gifts was a pain. He was someone who lived in his own world and moved at his own pace.
“Should we invite Luo Shi?” Even amidst their busy schedule, Yue Tui was somehow still able to think of this.
“If you don’t want to invite him, then don’t. If you do, then go ahead.” Fan Tong didn’t care; besides, the gathering wasn’t his idea.
“Then I’ll try asking.” Yue Tui took out his communication charm and contacted Luo Shi. After exchanging a few words, he ended the connection with a regretful expression.
“How is it?”
“Luo Shi said he’s really busy over New Year’s and might not have time.”
Oh? Is he actually busy, or is he just declining out of embarrassment? Why didn’t you speak some more with him? Based on my experience, if you ask him a few more times, he’ll surrender and say he’s free. I think you gave up a bit too early…
“When are we working tomorrow?”
“Fan Tong, we don’t have work tomorrow.”
I know, I meant to ask about today…
“I mean, when do we work next year?”
Yue Tui looked at him strangely.
“We still don’t know about next year’s work. Have you already made arrangements or something?”
No! I’m… Ugh, I can’t say any of it properly…
“It’s about time for our work at Shen Dian Wang, we should leave.”
In the end, he still received the answer he’d been looking for. Only, the process made him feel dejected.
The day before the New Year’s gathering, they had to go to Shen Wang Dian and do some cleaning. Logically, there should be servants cleaning the palace, but it seemed that something had happened, leading to a shortage in the cleaning staff. Thus, they’d been hired to help.
Even after working hard to clean everything up until the Fourth Palace, they still hadn’t encountered Yin Shi and the others. Perhaps they knew that random people were coming to clean and had chosen to stay inside to avoid accidents or other troubles.
After cleaning out the Fourth Palace, the person in charge stopped them from advancing to the Fifth Palace.
“Her Majesty’s living quarters is ahead. There is no need to go over there; Her Majesty doesn’t like outsiders approaching it.”
Is that the case? Don’t tell me Lord Ling Shi cleans it out alone.
“But doesn’t Lord Hui Shi also live in the Fifth Palace?”
“Lord Luo Shi has been responsible for organizing people to clean out Lord Hui Shi’s living quarters these past years. We shouldn’t meddle.”
Hui Shi isn’t here anymore, but Luo Shi still goes to clean his quarters. I wonder if he should be called considerate…
It was already night by the time they’d finished cleaning. However, the next night was when the gathering was going to happen. If they didn’t come up with dishes or presents right now, they’d end up with nothing, which would be bad. Fan Tong and Yue Tui dragged their tired bodies around and racked their brains for ideas.
“Fan Tong, have you cooked before?”
“Yes, but it probably doesn’t count.”
The porridge that I make… Rather than calling it cooking, it’d probably more appropriate to call it a chemistry experiment.
“What should we do about tomorrow?”
What should we do? Even if you ask me, I don’t know either. Maybe salad?
“Should we…buy some ingredients and make rice balls?”
Did you forget that the rice balls you made were completely inedible? How many rice balls do you plan to sacrifice while you test out how much force you should be exerting?
“Either way, it should be fine as long we do it with good intentions. It doesn’t matter if it tastes disgusting or delicious, they’re different either way.”
“Disgusting and delicious are indeed different…”
Stop nitpicking at my wording… Or rather, stop making fun of me for constantly misspeaking…
At that moment, Fan Tong suddenly thought of a good idea. There was one other guy they could ask.
“Puhahaha, wake up. Do you know how to cook?”
Having fallen to the point where he was asking a mop how to cook, Fan Tong felt that he could be called a genius.
Yue Tui watched blankly as he pulled out Puhahaha. Who knew what he thought about Fan Tong’s actions.
“Huha… This horsetail whisk obviously cannot. A nobleman stays clear of the kitchen.”
Who’s a nobleman… Exactly how are you like one, please tell me.
“What, you’re really useless. You can’t even cook despite living so long.”
Not bad, my complaint wasn’t reversed. Otherwise, I’d be really annoyed…
“I don’t need to eat, why would I study cooking? I’m clearly a weapon, not a kitchen tool. Your request is unreasonable.”
Weren’t you half asleep before? Why are you suddenly speaking so clearly and fluently? Are you awake now?
“When outside, a weapon should help their master contend against an enemy. When at home, a weapon should act as the master’s capable wife. This is only right and proper!”
Huh? I’ve also started speaking clearly and fluently? Being able to speak two sentences in a row without any reversed words all of a sudden is a bit hard to accept.
“Hmph. This horsetail whisk doesn’t want to marry anyone, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be to you. Who would want to become your wife?”
What! You dare to hmph at me? Also, aren’t you forgetting that you’re male?
“The hell are you saying, I really want to marry you though.”
As expected, happy occasions never number more than two. My words were reversed again, and in the worst possible direction.
“…Ill fate, such an ill fate. After all this time, I haven’t been able to find a master I admired. Even after choosing one that barely seems decent, it turns out that all he does is flap his lips all day and assault me. He doesn’t even have any actual skills. Truly, why, oh why can’t an outstanding weapon like me find a master that is good enough to match me?”
All I did was misspeak, yet you prattle on and on about my bad qualities. Aren’t you going a little overboard? You belittle me while praising yourself. Do you think of yourself as the main character of some melodrama?
Fan Tong wanted to reason with Puhahaha, but Yue Tui suddenly called out his name with a peculiar expression.
I’m doomed. I didn’t ask for Puhahaha to speak out loud, so Yue Tui only heard what my words and not what that mop said… What kind of misunderstandings have formed this time?
“No matter how good a person’s relationship is with their weapon, it’s still best if you realize the difference in species. Even if you really like it, you shouldn’t think of it as a human that you can marry…”
Please don’t advise me so seriously with such a worried expression. I don’t, I really don’t have that kind of preference at all, okay? Moreover, do you not know that this thing is male?
“Did you hear that? Your friend is much more sensible than you. Don’t bother trying to delude yourself any further.”
I can’t believe you’re taking advantage of the misunderstanding to insult me more. Despicable!
“Just go back to sleep. I don’t want to talk to you anymore. I can’t deal with it.”
The frequency at which I can correctly talk to Puhahaha has increased recently. Does that mean our spirits are becoming interlinked?
“Fan Tong, you shouldn’t be too cold to your weapon just because you can’t marry it…”
In the end, after discussing the issue for a long time, they decided on some basic ingredients and requested for Bi Rou to buy them. They would wait until tomorrow to deal with it.
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
When I was really, really young, back when my parents were still healthy and alive, I celebrated New Year’s with them. My memories from when I was little are blurred now though. All I remember is that there were a lot of things we had to do, and it was both busy and lively. We would be so busy that everything blended together, and in the blink of an eye the New Year would already be gone. Everything would end, and everyone would return home.
Whenever it was time to say our goodbyes, I never wanted to leave. I’d always be crestfallen on the way home. After returning to our own house, the home I’d lived in for so long would suddenly feel cold. It was then that I realized that humans were truly social creatures. Upon separating from everyone else, one would truly feel lonesome.
Then again, one can only feel lonely after experiencing liveliness, right? Actually, when I was small, I lived with my parents and I never really felt that lonely. By the time I was truly alone, I’d already gotten used to it and it wasn’t unbearable anymore.
Don’t give me such a pitying look, I’ve never found myself pitiful. My father claimed himself as someone who had , and he had told us long ago that he would die the day I turned thirteen. He would emphasize that it had been decreed by fate, and that we shouldn’t feel too sad… I asked him why it had to be on my birthday, and his reply was that it would be easier to remember. If one’s father’s last day was the same day as their birthday, it would take less brain cells to remember. His reply had made me speechless.
After hearing something like that, I’d thought that my father was capable of choosing his own day of death, and had purposely chosen my birthday… I had such a a headstrong father who was determined to die on his own son’s birthday. But I can’t complain much, I still respected him very much. Before he died, he had taught all his skills to me, so that I could earn my living from the fortune-telling shop once he was gone. That way, he could pass on to another world at ease without worrying about me and my mother starving to death.
However, the fortune-telling shop didn’t do well, and only improved after I had been cursed by that woman… Another world… Ah! speaking of another world, my father couldn’t have come to Huan Shi too, right? Should I go find Luo Shi and ask him to check the residents list?
But he didn’t have any unfulfilled wishes when he’d died, the possibility doesn’t seem very high.
It’s probably best I don’t check.
If I really do find him, and then discover that my weak-limbed father had been living in this world for so long as a white tassel… That’s not something that can be solved by simply crying a few tears. It would be too sad!
No, Dad didn’t have any speech problems after all. Even if he were a modern man with no dreams like me, a person that couldn’t learn Shu Fa, he would at least be able to use Fu Zhou! With Dad’s aptitude, I’m sure he’d be able to become a red tassel without a problem! If that were the case, maybe I should find him, and ask him to help his debt-ridden son, and get some spending money…
But with my current condition, it’s possible that I’d call him “Mom” instead of “Dad” upon seeing him. Then he’d probably grab a broom and sweep me out the door while fiercely cursing at me.
Oh, I don’t even know if Dad really came here, yet I’m thinking so much. Aren’t I just getting upset over nothing?
Perhaps it’s because New Year’s has made me nostalgic… Sigh.
Proofreaders: Nannyn, Syrra
“An unreasonable ruler, a rotten society, foolish citizens…” – Yiye
“Yiye, how can you be so rude to His Majesty?” – Ya Mei Die
“…and incorrigible servants.” – Yiye
There were only two countries in Huan Shi. One of them, the Eastern City, faced the direction of the sunrise. The other, the Western City, looked at the Eastern City from afar, always greeting the sinking of the moon.
In contrast to the Eastern City’s architecture and its residents’ social structure, the Western City flaunted its magnificent and ornate fashion. Its atmosphere was unlike the silent air of mystery in the Eastern City.
The streets of the Western City were often lively only during daytime, and all activities tended to occur under sunlight. Soon after dark, not even open businesses could be found. At most, there were shops that required insider knowledge to find or shady businesses doing dishonest trades.
Aside from preventing businesses from running at night, the Western City also forbade people from loitering around in the streets after dark. If a resident was caught stepping out of their home, they would be taken back once found by the guards. This sort of restriction on the residents had existed for a long time. Initially, the reason for it was that the Emperor disliked people gathering and scheming at night about illegal activities. How many generations of Emperors ago this restriction was set, no more than a few people could really say.
If one had the will, they could still conspire in the daytime. It’s just that there would be more people during the day, and it’d be harder to hide from the public eye. Also, work and school were both carried out in the day. Most people who lived in the Western City would not have much free time in the daytime for other things. That’s why nighttime activities were restricted.
Logically, only guards would be strolling the streets at night. If someone received an urgent order from the government to leave at night, they would bring the appropriate documents to pass document check with the guards. The guards naturally recognized each other, so they would check all new faces they saw. It’s the law.
As for the one silently walking on the streets now, however, the guards wouldn’t dare do the usual check on him even if they had ten times more guts. Everyone agreed to just assume he was carrying out a governmental order. If they saw him, they’d just greet him from far away.
It didn’t matter whether he was actually out for a mission, bored and getting some fresh air, taking a stroll because he’s feeling unhappy, or even plotting to take down Englar – for their own safety, the guards only wanted to keep a safe distance away and not ask questions. Whose fault was it that the Magic Sword Guard had such a high social status and that Yiye himself carried a fearful air of power and attitude?
To Yiye, he did find it more comfortable that these people were too scared to approach him. It’d be best if they didn’t even say “Hello Lord Yiye.” Despite it being basic courtesy, being greeted constantly really annoyed him.
When it came to social relationships, he had utterly lacked them his entire life, and he had no plans to amend this. He enjoyed doing things alone and disliked being bound to any person or thing. Dealing with other people only irritated him.
As for why he had accepted the Young Emperor’s commendation to become a Magic Sword Guard, mostly it was because that old man at home kept nagging, telling him to honor the country. After meeting Ya Mei Die, he often suspected that the old man was actually Ya Mei Die’s father, not his, since the two of them had the exact same mental wiring. It was not even tangent to his own way of thinking.
Since that old man at home wasn’t even here anymore, Yiye was not going to be as obedient as he was before. As for whether he would get fed up with this job and resign, that would depend on how far his coworkers and supervisors pushed his limits.
His main reason for walking about in the streets at this time was to find Ya Mei Die. As for why Ya Mei Die would be out now… he didn’t want to know at all.
As for why he didn’t want to know, based on his instincts, it probably had to do with Englar again, whom he hated so much recently.
Technically, the Magic Sword Guards were the close subordinates of Englar, but in reality, ever since they saw Englar that first day they were hired, they’d never come in contact with Englar again. Englar never gave orders to them. Their usual work was only to come along as guards whenever he appeared in public –––the elders wouldn’t even let them know when it was the actual person on the seat instead of a body double again.
Yiye always felt like Englar and the elders had made loafers out of the Magic Sword Guards, whose jobs supposedly involved great responsibilities. This certainly wasn’t a good feeling, especially since none of the Magic Sword Guards were useless.
Every time they headed out together and he saw Englar decorated with the same three golden threads as himself, Yiye couldn’t help but sneer.
Why would Englar need the protection of the Magic Sword Guards? This system should only exist if the Emperor didn’t have power himself, right?
Englar didn’t need them. Even though they had never talked to each other and he could not tell what the Young Emperor was thinking, Yiye’s instinct told him such.
This was proven true five years ago. When an emergency came upon the Western City, when the Eastern City was about to break through the last bits of their army, the Magic Sword Guards were told to stay inside the city; yet, the person they were supposed to protect took up his sword and rushed straight into the battleground without wearing any armor.
It had ended with an overwhelming victory. That had also clarified one thing: Englar only needed himself. What guard or protective barrier? It was all a joke.
In the past, the elders had used the Emperor’s young age as a reason to hide his face from the public. For the supposed sake of safety, even if it was a holiday or a required ritual, they’d often have a substitute take his place. The cloth on Englar’s face also hid half his face, so the substitute only needed to have a similar vibe. The problem was that the Magic Sword Guards never knew who resembled whom.
The only thing they knew for sure was, the one who had gone out to battle five years ago was real. As for the rest, they wouldn’t know.
Actually, it was pretty odd for Englar to hide his eyes and brow with a piece of cloth. Some guessed that he was blind. Some joked this was to make it easier for the substitutes, so that their eye colors wouldn’t have to match…
These things weren’t that important anymore. If what had bothered Yiye before was the lack of contact with his superior-in-name or that he didn’t understand what kind of person Englar was, now it was because of his new “understanding.” This was a feeling that made him find never understanding much preferable.
He felt anger against a foolish ruler – what others might call dreams being crushed. Recently, Englar had appeared much more frequently, as though coming of age had led him to start taking power into his own hands. But as for some of his actions, though they could have been tests, let’s just say he’d wanted to make a fool of people. He would use his power to toy with his subordinates in order to show off his level of influence.
Yiye found that the Magic Sword Guards were among the people he toyed with. Though some believed he’s now becoming an adult, no one actually knew his real age. He had started doing some things that were outside of the elders’ decisions. For example, the task to pluck feathers last time was an order Yiye would never forget.
Receiving this sort of outrageous order was supposed to garner objection, yet he had to have an idiot of a partner who trusted the Emperor enough to die for him. Seeing that partner maddened Yiye all the more.
After Yiye had struck Ya Mei Die unconscious and brought him back that day, Ya Mei Die had still been flustered about being unable to carry out their order and had reprimanded Yiye with no restraint. Yiye had almost resorted to violence again so that Ya Mei Die would stop talking and Yiye could therefore achieve some peace and silence.
The reason why Yiye didn’t straight up obliterate Ya Mei Die was probably because of Ya Mei Die’s similarity to the old man who was no longer here. Even though Yiye didn’t like the other man, he would unconsciously let things pass and then become agitated again… It’s a terrible situation.
Winding through several passageways, Yiye finally saw a depressed Ya Mei Die on the streets and walked straight over. Ya Mei Die noticed him as soon as he approached and therefore looked in his direction.
“Yiye? Why are you here…”
“I should be asking what you’re doing here.”
Even though he did not want to know the reason why Ya Mei Die was here at all, as it’d only make him angry, Yiye still couldn’t help asking the question after seeing the person.
“You know as well. We’ve been back half a month now. His Majesty should know already, but he didn’t ask us about the task regarding the chicken feathers, and I’m too afraid to report back because we never finished our task…”
Don’t talk to me about the chicken feathers anymore––! Yiye’s face started to twitch.
“This half month, I’ve been trying to patch up the remainder, but it’s honestly so difficult to sneak into Ye Zhi without being caught. I went back and forth multiple times, but it’s still not enough to make a pillow. , so I wanted to roam the streets to see if anyone was selling Ye Zhi’s chicken feathers, but in the end…”
Yiye didn’t want to speak anymore. Ya Mei Die continued to blabber on by himself.
“In the end, it got too late and the stores closed. I walked around everywhere, and none of the stores were open. I was about to give up, but then you appeared.”
So what if the stores are closed? You’re a Magic Sword Guard. What’s wrong with booking the entire place with an order and looking at their stock?
Or have you also come to realize that using your authority to buy chicken feathers is a really embarrassing ordeal?
“Yiye, did you want to find me for something?”
No matter what, he had to take care of the matters he came here for, and so Yiye handed an envelope over from his pockets.
“I’m applying for a three-month vacation. Starting tomorrow. You go help me find someone to replace me.”
He didn’t even want to say “His Majesty” anymore. Ya Mei Die was dumbfounded for a moment before he realized something was not right.
“Wait! Three months? That long? And what about the worship ceremony tomorrow? You’re not planning on going?”
“No. That’s why I’m handing it over to you to pass on the word.”
“How can you be absent? We’re the Magic Sword Guards who are supposed to ensure His Majesty’s safety!”
“He’s so strong. Why would he need anyone’s protection?”
To be honest, Yiye’s feelings toward this so-called superior were very complicated.
On one hand, he felt useless staying, but on the other, he didn’t want to lower his head to someone weaker than himself. He wouldn’t be able to serve wholeheartedly.
Perhaps the latter made up a larger portion of his feelings, which had kept him on the job, at least until now?
Rather than acknowledging this person as his master, he’d much rather have a fight with him to see who’s stronger.
“Don’t say anything. No matter what you say, I won’t show up tomorrow. I’ve given my leave of absence to you. I’ll leave the rest to your judgement.”
His goal had been achieved, so Yiye didn’t want to dally any longer. Ignoring Ya Mei Die’s calls to his back, he easily made himself disappear with a magic spell and began his boring three-month vacation.
That’s right, a boring vacation. Even if he took a break, he had nothing else to do. It was a vacation he simply took to avoid events like this.
Boring was boring, but at least leaving this chaotic and messy place could give him some peace of mind.
The Western City held more than one type of worship ceremonies. Today, the ceremony would be held at the tomb of past emperors. As the ceremony was an event held by the royal family, the young emperor was naturally the star of the show; ordinary civilians were not allowed to participate.
The tomb of the past emperors resided outside the city limits, so the young emperor’s procession of carriages was required to leave the city. In contrast to the Eastern City where events were open to the welcoming public, in the Western City, the roads that the young emperor’s procession would take were closed off and restricted to unrelated personnel. The young emperor himself would be riding inside a carriage, concealing his face.
The protective measures could be considered excessively strict, but it’d already been this way for many years. The Western City’s residents had become mostly accustomed to the tradition. Even though the storeowners of stores located on closed-off roads bemoaned the lack of business, they did not have the power to object.
Originally, the residents of the city didn’t possess much love or respect for the young emperor. The war five years ago, however, had somewhat altered their impression of their ruler. After all, the young emperor had defended their country during the war, which was equivalent to protecting the livelihood and properties of the city’s citizens. The people of the Western City harbored grateful thoughts towards the emperor for his actions, but his recent behavior had caused those who’d fantasized about the rule of a wise emperor to thoroughly lose hope once again. The fact that the young emperor had refused to use his blood to heal the heavily injured Magic Sword Guards who had recently returned only made it worse.
In everyone’s hearts, the youthful emperor’s image had been transformed from mysterious and inscrutable to willful and heartless.
However, as mere citizens, they did not have the privilege of choosing their ruler; so despite their wishes, they could not exchange the current emperor for a better one.
The Western City’s imperial palace―where the emperor and the elders resided―was called the Sheng Xi Luo Gong. The palace was built exceptionally sturdy, a far cry from the intricate and ornate architectural style of the commercial district. The towering gray palace walls prevented people from peering inside. The palace was like a city within a city, standing alone and operating independently within the Western City. Outsiders were unable to interfere and were unaware of the ongoings inside. They could only use the occasional stories and rumors that had flowed outside to satisfy their curiosity.
The preparations for the march to the emperors’ tomb had begun in the morning. The young emperor, who would be performing the ceremonial rites, was required to bathe his body and change into simple white garments. The personnel who had been selected to accompany him also needed to prepare for their own tasks. Before the start of the procession, the entire palace was awash with an unusual hustle and bustle that contrasted against its normal cheerless image.
The imperial carriage had been waiting in the plaza in front of the palace gates for a while already. As the minutes and seconds passed by, people arrived one after another, waiting for all the preparations to be finished.
Ya Mei Die had been waiting beside the young emperor’s carriage for quite a while now. However, he was not the least bit impatient despite waiting so long. He knew the young emperor disliked waiting―he would much rather have everyone wait for him instead. Therefore, the emperor would never arrive early; he’d only make his appearance at the very last minute.
As the emperor’s subordinate, Ya Mei Die felt that waiting obediently was something he ought to do.
After waiting for another long while, Ya Mei Die finally noticed signs of activity at the back. The person he had been waiting for waded through a crowd of people and headed towards him. Looking at the emperor from afar, Ya Mei Die felt a glimmering of astonishment.
According to tradition, the young emperor should have been dressed all in white; however, his slightly slender figure was cloaked in dark red instead. Although the color couldn’t be called garish or vivid, his exquisite style of dress was still a far cry from the plain clothing required for the ceremony.
When the youth stood before him, Ya Mei Die dropped to one knee, enacting the courteous behavior of an emperor’s subject. Even though he believed there was a slight problem with the emperor’s clothing, he was in no position to criticize. It would be exceptionally disrespectful of him, and he would never permit himself to treat the emperor with disrespect.
“There’s no need for my vassal to be overly courteous. You may stand,” the youth who had a strip of white cloth wrapped around his eyes said gently.
Having received permission, Ya Mei Die stood promptly. He pulled out Yiye’s leave of absence letter.
“Your Majesty, this is Yiye’s leave of absence notification. Starting from today, he will be on leave for three months.”
The emperor took the letter and smiled faintly, with a hint of displeasure.
“Did he give himself a vacation? He didn’t even think it necessary to request permission first before leaving on his so-called vacation? What an arrogant Joker; has he even thought about how I would feel?”
“Your Majesty, please quell your anger… Yiye is not used to handling these kinds of matters. Your humble servant believes he had no ill intent.” Seeing that the emperor’s expression had gone cold, Ya Mei Die hurriedly explained for Yiye. Truthfully, he knew better than anyone else about Yiye’s intentions; Yiye’s ill intent had already advanced to the point of loathing.
“There’s no need to say any more. Is there anything else?”
The young emperor passed the letter to a nearby attendant, as if he wasn’t interested in knowing what the letter said.
“Your Majesty… The Sword Guard of Clubs’ injuries, would you…”
The five Magic Sword Guards were titled based on playing card suits. Yiye was Joker, Ya Mei Die was Hearts, and the one who’d broken his arm this time was Clubs.
“I believe I’ve explicitly refused already. Does my vassal have a bad memory? A soul-purging weapon had created that wound. Even if I were to save the Guard of Clubs, he would never return to normal. Then why waste my blood? If a Sword Guard is injured, I’ll just select another one. He’s not an irreplaceable existence,” the emperor replied indifferently. As if he didn’t want to linger on the topic anymore, he turned around to enter the carriage.
“Ah! Your Majesty! There is one more thing…”
Even though Ya Mei Die felt it was quite rude to flag down the emperor, he’d already brought everything with him, so he’d at least deliver it to the emperor and report the matter clearly.
“Your humble servant has brought a portion of the land chicken feathers Your Majesty previously instructed me to collect. Were these the items Your Majesty desired?”
He presented the emperor with an opened bag containing cleaned and sorted feathers. At Ya Mei Die’s words, the emperor halted his steps and turned around to face him. Due to the white cloth covering the emperor’s eyes, Ya Mei Die could not see his expression or guess at what he was thinking.
“So that’s what you wanted to tell me. I’d almost forgotten.”
As the youth spoke, he reached into the bag and grabbed a handful of feathers to fiddle with.
“It’s just that, I don’t really want them anymore.”
With a faint smile, he turned his hand over and loosened his clenched fingers. The airy feathers were blown away by the wind, floating about in every direction. Soon they lay scattered messily all over the ground.
“Seeing as you’ve collected all these feathers, you might as well pick them up and bring them inside the palace. Perhaps in the future a concubine will like them?”
The emperor boarded the carriage after speaking, leaving it to his attendant to close the door. Ya Mei Die was rooted in place by shock. Even after the emperor’s procession had left, he still didn’t know how to react.
“Lord Ya Mei Die, should we help you pick these up?”
Several maids responsible for cleaning the palace had witnessed the scene earlier. Only after seeing that the procession had left did they approach out of concern.
“Mm… Please accept my sincere thanks.”
If Yiye had seen the young emperor humiliate Ya Mei Die like this, he would probably sneer and ask Ya Mei Die whether he still wanted to repeat the phrase “His Majesty is wise” even after the emperor had trampled on his loyalty.
Ya Mei Die couldn’t find an answer to that question.
Perhaps His Majesty had truly acquired a sudden dislike for chicken feathers?
At the moment, that was the only answer he could come up with.
The tomb of the emperors was not far outside the Western City. When the tomb had been in the planning stage, a crypt had been chosen over a garden after taking environmental factors into consideration. Its exterior contained only a narrow entrance to reduce damage to the tombstones from environmental effects.
The worship ceremony did not require many offerings―only fresh flowers of various colors would be placed there and allowed to decay as time passed. After the minister finished reading from the ceremonial text, the emperor needed to enter the crypt and make an offering of purified water. He would be unaccompanied for this part of the ceremony. In any case, the interiors of the tomb had been inspected in advance, and the only entrance was guarded; there wouldn’t be any problems in regards to the emperor’s safety.
“Your Majesty, here is the purified water.”
The one who had presented the dish containing the purified water to the emperor was the Sword Guard of Spades . The emperor had recently started to appear in public more often, and the Magic Sword Guard who appeared most often at his side was Ao Ji Sa. At the same time, he was the most senior member of the Sword Guards. As he had devoted most of his time to his job, he had not yet married to this day. According to the words of his companions, he was quickly approaching the age of having a mid-life crisis. However, there have been several women who insisted that although Lord Ao Ji Sa was older, he was still quite handsome and charming. Despite that, it was undeniable that the passing years had left their mark…
“Ao Ji Sa, has your rheumatism improved?” The emperor asked derisively as he accepted the purified water.
Indeed, advancing age was accompanied by disadvantages such as rheumatism.
“It has already ceased to be much of an obstacle, Your Majesty.”
Ao Ji Sa replied without changing his expression. He was also someone unfazed by ridicule.
“Really? That’s wonderful. You can finally resume your job again and carry out your duties. I feel very gratified. When I heard that you’d requested a leave of absence because of rheumatism, I sincerely felt that it was very troublesome. How do you plan on compensating?”
When the youth spoke with Ao Ji Sa, his word choice and manner of speaking were both a little different. This seemed to be closely related to how familiar he was with the person at hand.
It seemed that Ao Ji Sa did not intend to suggest a compensation method and allow the emperor to take advantage of him.
After receiving an indifferent reply, the emperor did not say any more and promptly prepared to carry the purified water inside the tomb.
However, as soon as he turned his head and saw the tomb’s entrance, he couldn’t resist smiling faintly and voicing his feelings. “Every year I come here and look at this black entrance, I always have the feeling that I’ll be sucked inside and never come back out…”
Ao Ji Sa gave a placid response to his musings. “If it’s dark inside, just light the lamps.”
Sure enough, this uncle was still the kind of uncle who didn’t understand other people’s feelings.
Despite Ao Ji Sa making it out to be optional, lighting the lamps was a necessary step. Even though the emperor’s eyes were covered by a strip of cloth, letting him enter a pitch-black area alone was a bit improper. Only after the person in charge of the tomb lighted the lamps did the youth walk inside with everyone’s eyes on him.
He had not been inside the tunnel for long before he impatiently pulled off the strip of cloth covering his eyes. Being able to use his eyes to see where he was going was much more convenient.
At the end of the tunnel was a spacious chamber. After he poured the purified water into its proper container, he began admiring the tombstones there, not in a hurry at all to go back up.
The tombstones were lined up chronologically, so it was extremely easy to find a specific person’s tombstone. He reached the tombstone of the former emperor after strolling around. Gazing at the words on the tombstone, he let out a mocking laugh.
“You had nothing during your life; you were only a chess piece controlled by the elders. Who would have known that all emperors would receive the same lavish burials after death? My esteemed father, are you happy? Are you satisfied as long as the next emperor isn’t reduced to being the elders’ tool like you?”
While facing the tombstone, he spoke with not an ounce of respect. His words oozed with intense disdain and perhaps even a little hatred.
“If that’s the case, surely you must be satisfied with the current result… It’s a pity your son wasn’t the child you were expecting, and you can’t do anything about it anymore…”
The emperor didn’t know whether if he had looked forward to this day. Wearing subdued clothing that also expressed festivity and coming to stand before this desolate tombstone, he would say whatever he wanted and no one would be able to refute him.
Because there were only dead people here.
“Ao Ji Sa, what did you come down here for?”
Hearing the sound of footsteps echoing from the tunnel, the youth turned around and fixed his gaze on the person who’d just come down.
“You’ve been down here for a while, so I came to see if something was wrong.”
“A while? Hasn’t only a little time passed? Those wily old fools really couldn’t wait any longer, could they?”
In most cases, people were supposed to go back up after they’d finished pouring the purified water. It was normal for the elders to feel that the youth had taken a while.
“In any case, there’s nothing else for me to do. I’ll go back up,” the emperor replied in a bored manner. He picked up the white cloth, about to wrap it around his eyes again.
Watching the youth wind the strip of cloth around his head, Ao Ji Sa was silent for a long while before finally asking a question he’d wanted to ask long ago.
“What exactly do you want to do? Your Majesty.”
At the question, the youth paused the hand he was using to wrap the cloth. He gazed at Ao Ji Sa with his azure eyes.
His only response was a smile. Even though the smile was beautiful, it did not reach his eyes at all.
The smile was equivalent to tossing Ao Ji Sa’s words back at him in the form of a rhetorical question.
“Fan Tong! Long time no see! Got any recent news about Lord Ling Shi?”
Fan Tong ran into Mi Zhong on his weekly day off. He hadn’t seen Mi Zhong in a while, but to Fan Tong, coming across Mi Zhong right at the beginning of the day wasn’t a pleasant occurrence.
“I’ll tell you if I have any.”
No, I meant that I wouldn’t tell you even if I had any.
“Huh? When did you become such a great friend? Has my bribery won you over?”
What exactly did you bribe me with? Aside from telling me a few stories, you haven’t done me any real favors…
“Hold on! You! Your tassel is grass green now? Even though it hasn’t been all that long since we last met!” Mi Zhong noticed the different color of Fan Tong’s tassel and shouted in a tone that suggested that he couldn’t accept this reality.
Do you really need to yell as if the world is ending? Don’t act as if skipping to the rank of a grass green tassel is an impossible feat for me. You knew that we had gone to collect chicken skins and feathers. We’d simply finished gathering them, so rising a few ranks isn’t unusual, right?
As Fan Tong muttered to himself, he couldn’t help but be glad that Mi Zhong didn’t know that Yin Shi and Ling Shi had helped them out with their tasks. Otherwise, Mi Zhong would probably say something appalling again, such as, “How could you let Lord Ling Shi use his beautiful and exalted hands to help you with that kind of task? I must punish you on behalf of the entire fan club!”
“Sigh, having a grass green tassel must be so wonderful. You can collect five strings every month. To this day, I still only have a pale green tassel…”
Sighing, Mi Zhong touched his own tassel while eyeing Fan Tong’s, his eyes filled with ill intent.
“What are you going to do?”
Fan Tong warily took a step back. Mi Zhong’s gaze looked quite sinister, as if he were calculating something.
“I say, why don’t we duel and learn from each other? Your tassel makes me very excited…”
I knew it!
You scoundrel! You only want to steal away the results of other people’s hard work! My mop is actually really powerful! If you want to duel with me, does that mean you’re not afraid that one sweep of my mop will wipe out a third of your soul?
“Why are you so nervous? Fan Tong, even your hands are shaking. Really now, it was just a joke. I’ll politely decline any opportunity that can make me a target for people’s resentment. I don’t want to make enemies. Besides, you have terrifying people supporting you; I definitely don’t want Lord Luo Shi creating trouble for me.”
Wh-whose hands are shaking? Why are you looking at me so closely… No, as I was saying, I definitely wasn’t that scared! Stop making things up!
As for Luo Shi… You’re imagining our relationship to be better than it is. If it were Yue Tui who’d been bullied, it’s possible Luo Shi would help him out, but as for me… He’d probably laugh and say that I deserved it for not learning self-defense well…and add that I shouldn’t pine for something that didn’t belong to me in the first place. If I lost it, it was meant to be…
“Oh right, since I ran into you, let me share something I heard just today. It’s piping hot!”
Fan Tong had a slight interest in gossip and entertaining anecdotes; as long as the gossip wasn’t about him.
“I heard that the land chicken feathers that originate from outside the Eastern City have become a popular favorite among people. Even Luo Yue’s Magic Sword Guards have come running to snatch them up without fearing death! I got this from a victim who went to Resource Area 1 to collect chicken feathers in the middle of the night yesterday. He worked so hard to collect those feathers, only to have them snatched away in a flash. How pitiful. Sigh, what do you think? Are chicken feathers that amazing?”
I already knew that the Magic Sword Guards were here to pluck chicken feathers. Your intel is old news… However, they came again late last night? They truly don’t know when to give up…
My condolences to the New Resident who was robbed. For the sake of their Young Emperor’s pillow, you must accept your loss…
◎ Fan Tong’s Afterword
It’s been less than half a month since I switched out my tassel, but honestly, I’ve become a little afraid to go outside. When I walk on the streets, I feel as if I’m carrying around a lot of money and may run into a thief at any time. Even though grass green tassels can only collect five strings per month, after one thousand years, I’ll have collected sixty-thousand strings. That is definitely a lot of money… Don’t ask me if I have the determination to live for a thousand years. We’re just laying out the profits and demonstrating my point using numbers. We’re not going to analyze it that thoroughly, okay?
Speaking of duels, Yue Tui really has encountered quite a few of them. Even though he had used such adept techniques to deal with his opponent in his first duel, several people still came by afterwards. I can’t help but feel lucky that they were so fixated on Yue Tui and had no intention of challenging me to a duel. Otherwise, my rank as a grass green tassel would have dropped to that of a white tassel ages ago, and I wouldn’t be able to raise it up again. I don’t think anyone would be interested in helping me collect feathers and skins a second time…
The wounds on Yue Tui’s body from the rebirth mishap disappeared the next day. It was truly an occasion worth celebrating. Using the phrase “an occasion worth celebrating” doesn’t seem quite right, but in short, he seemed to have calmed down. I also felt very relieved, so it was great.
As for the meal celebrating our rise in rank, Luo Shi invited us out again three days later. As Yue Tui and I have both died before at Shen Wang Dian, it seemed a little inauspicious to go there again. We have some bad memories of it, so we went to eat at a restaurant instead. In the end, Lord Yin Shi came around, and so did Bi Rou… We just wanted to eat a celebratory meal in peace. Why did those two have to follow us around like lingering spirits and rub their lovey-dovey relationship in our faces? That’s just morally wrong!
Even though Yue Tui had shaken off the trauma from his wounds, his expression that day wasn’t very pleasant to look at. It might have been because of Bi Rou. I say, what kind of a celebration is this? Yue Tui, your cold demeanor and unfriendliness were rather obvious, especially when compared to your normal behavior…
In any case, all the dangerous incidents have been near misses so far. Continuing on like this with both feet on the ground isn’t such a bad way to live, right?
Translator: Nuddle, Sherry
Proofreaders: Sherry, Nannyn