Sensing their stare, Xie Lian gave a smile and turned around. “First time seeing a real cursed shackle?” Cursed shackle. Like its name, it was a shackle formed by a curse.
Heavenly officials who were banished from heaven would have the mark of sin forged by the wrath of heaven branded onto their bodies, forming a fetter that sealed spiritual powers away, never to be freed. Just like a brand on the face, or chains shackling hands and feet, this was a form of punishment, and the mark of a warning. It was both terrifying and humiliating.
As the laughingstock of the three realms who was banished twice, of course Xie Lian had such a cursed shackle on his body. It was impossible for these two junior martial officials not to have heard of this before, but, there was still a little discrepancy between having heard and seeing it personally. Thus, Xie Lian could understand why they would react the way they did.
He figured this thing might be making the two junior officials wary and uncomfortable. After all, it wasn’t like it was a good thing.
At first, he was using the exc use of searching for clothes in order to step outside, but he was stopped by Fu Yao’s eyeroll and his comments:
“If you go out there looking like that, you’d be called a pervert.”
In the end, it was thanks to Nan Feng, who tossed him a light attendant’s 3 robe that he’d grabbed from the back of the temple, that Xie Lian was able to stop being so indecent. However, even after they’d settled back down, it felt like the incident earlier had caused the mood to become somewhat awkward.
And so, Xie Lian took out the scroll given by the Palace of Ling Wen and said, “Do you guys want to take another look at this?”
Nan Feng raised his eyes and gave him a look. “I’ve looked through it already, I think he’s the one who needs to take a better look at it.”
“What do you mean I’m the one who needs to take a better look at it?” Fu Yao countered. “That scroll isn’t detailed at all, completely worthless, and you think it’s worth another look?”
Hearing him say that the scroll was worthless, Xie Lian couldn’t help but feel a little sad for the ashen- faced junior civil officials at the Palace of Ling Wen who put this together.
Fu Yao then continued, “Oh yeah, where were we? The Temple of Nan Yang—why does Nan Yang have so many female believers, right?”
Alright. Xie Lian put the scroll away and rubbed his pulsating forehead. He knew now. Tonight, no one was going to look through it! If they weren’t going to foc us on the real business, then why not see what the side business was all about.
Turns out, other than the royal highness who spent centuries collecting junk in the mortal realm, every god and buddha knew that there was a period of time when Nan Yang Zhenjun Feng Xin was called “Ju Yang Zhenjun”.4 The man himself deeply despised this title, and everyone only had one word for his experience: “Injustice”! Originally, the correct writing was “Ju Yang” for “Perfect Masculinity”5 , but the reason it was wrongly transmitted was because of a certain incident.
Many years ago, there was a king constructing temples and palaces. In order to demonstrate his faith and sincerity, he personally drafted the titles of every temple and palace’s establishment plaque. But when it came to the Palace of Ju Yang, for some reason, he wrote it as the Palace of “Ju Yang” 6.
This gave the officials responsible for the construction much grief. They just couldn’t figure out whether His Majesty changed this intentionally or if this was an accidental mistake. If it was intentional, why wasn’t there a clear decree that indicated yes, this is what We want to change to? If it wasn’t intentional, why would such a low-level mistake be committed? It wasn’t like they could say “Your Majesty, you’re wrong”. Who knows if His Majesty would think they were being sarcastic about his carelessness? That they were hinting that his knowledge was shallow? His heart insincere? This was His Majesty’s royal writing, were they going to trash it if they weren’t going to use it?
Divine beings had hearts most difficult to discern, and the officials were in pure agony. After much deliberation, instead of causing grief for His Majesty, they might as well cause grief for Ju Yang Zhenjun.
It had to be said that they made the right decision. When the emperor discovered that Perfect
Masculinity had become Gigantic Masculinity, he didn’t make any statements about it, but instead, invited a bunch of scholars to scour the ancient texts with great vigour to find countless miniscule reasons and compose many essays to strongly prove that it should’ve been Gigantic Masculinity in the first place, and that Perfect Masculinity was wrong. In any case, every Palace of Perfect Masculinity in the country became a Palace of Gigantic Masculinity overnight.
Feng Xin, who got his divine title changed so randomly, didn’t find this out until decades later. He basically never bothered to look closely at the signs of his own temples, but one day, he suddenly felt rather baffled. How come there were so many women coming to pray in his temples, and each of them were flushed with shyness on their cheeks? And what in the world were they praying for when offering incense?!
After he figured it out, he charged to the peak of the ninth sky and shouted his curses to the scorching sun and the vast skies.
Every heavenly official was shaken by this.
After he was done cursing, there was nothing he could do, so he could only relent. It wasn’t like he could pick on those women who were praying so sincerely, so he forced himself to listen for many years. It wasn’t until a decent ruler came along who thought Gigantic Masculinity was horribly obscene that it was changed to Nan Yang7 . Nonetheless, no one forgot what else this martial god could grant besides his duty as a martial god. Only, everyone also upheld an unspoken rule: never use that name to call him. At the same time, they also upheld a general consensus: how to evaluate this Nan Yang Zhenjun? One word: GOOD!
Nan Feng’s face was already as dark as the bottom of an aged wok, yet Fu Yao was suddenly feeling poetic, and he recited demurely:
“Friend of women A trusty companion Ask for a son
Most powerful is he The secret formula
To bolster masculinity A son in your prayers Nan Yang delivers.8
Ahaha, ahaha, ahahahahahaha…”
Xie Lian very kindly held back his laugh, leaving a bit of face for Nan Yang in front of his divine statue. Nan Feng, however, was outraged.
“Don’t you be acting all sarcastic here, if you’re really so bored, go sweep the floor!”
The moment those words came out, Fu Yao’s face also darkened to the colour of a pot bottom. If the Palace of Nan Yang couldn’t stand to hear those two words, then the Palace of Xuan Zhen couldn’t stand to hear people bring up the term “sweep”. This was because, when Mu Qing was still an errand boy at the Royal Holy Pavilion, what he did all day was serve tea, deliver water, sweep, and change the sheets for Xie Lian at the Palace of the Crown Prince. One day, Xie Lian saw him silently reciting training incantations while sweeping. He was thus moved by his spirit for learning and working hard under such harsh and difficult circumstances, and thus persuaded the Guoshi to take him in as a disciple.
How to best describe this incident? This could be considered grand or miniscule, could be humiliating or a compliment, it depended entirely on the individual in question. Obviously, the individual in question had taken this as the humiliation of his life, since Mu Qing and every martial warrior under his command would flip out whenever they heard the word “sweep ”.
Sure enough, Fu Yao steadied himself, then after throwing a look at Xie Lian—who was waving his hand, appearing fully innocent—he sneered.
“Listening to you, those who don’t know would think your Palace of Nan Yang sides with the Palace of the Crown Prince and fights hard for his injustices.”
Nan Feng sneered too. “Your general certainly is the ungrateful one that bites the hand that feeds him, what more can I say?”
Xie Lian was just trying to intercept when Fu Yao ahaha-ed and said, “The kettle calling the pot black, what right do you have to make accusations?”
Listening to them turning him into the mallet to beat each other onto the spine of the heavenly official who stood right up there on the altar, Xie Lian finally couldn’t take it any longer.
“Wait, hold up. Stop, stop.”
Of course no one paid him any mind, and they even started throwing fists. Who knows who threw the first punch, either way, the altar was split in half just like that, and the platters of fruits rolled all over the ground. Seeing how there was no way he could stop this fight anymore, Xie Lian sat himself in the corner and heaved a sigh.
“What a sin.”
Then he picked up a small steamed bun that had rolled to his feet, dusted off its skin, and was about to bite down when Nan Feng saw from the corners of his eyes and immediately slapped it away.
“DON’T EAT THAT!”
Fu Yao stopped too, and appeared shaken and disgusted. “How can you eat it when it’s rolled into dirt?!” Xie Lian used this chance to raise his hand. “Stop, stop stop. I have something to say.”
He separated the two and said, looking amicable, “First, that highness the crown prince you two speak of happens to be me. This Highness hasn’t even said anything, so don’t sling me around like a weapon to attack each other.” He paused for a moment, then added, “I don’t think your generals would ever behave like this. If you two act so indecorously, you’ll ruin their reputations.”
When those words were spoken, the faces of the other two changed to something indiscernible.
Xie Lian continued, “Second, you two are here to help me, right? So do you listen to me, or do I listen to you?”
It was a moment before the two replied, “Listen to you.”
While their expressions looked like they were saying “Listen to you? Dream on”, Xie Lian was already very satisfied. Then, PA! , he put his hands together in prayer.
“Good. Now thirdly, the most important thing—if you must throw something, then please throw me instead of food.”
Nan Feng finally dug out the steamed bun that Xie Lian had clutched in his grip hoping for a chance to eat it. He said, looking like he couldn’t take it anymore, “If it’s fallen to the ground, then don’t eat it!”
The next day, back at the Chance Encounter shop.
The Tea Master was once again by the entrance with his leg up relaxing, and saw the three approaching from far away. The cultivator in light and simple white robes, with a bamboo hat hung on his back, led the way while two tall black-clad youths trailed behind him.
That cultivator had come strolling, his arms crossed. He spoke languidly, sounding more idle than he did, “Owner, three cups of tea please.”
The Tea Master smiled. “Coming!”
Then he thought to himself, “Those three silly guys are here again. What a shame, looking each more sightly than the other, but their brains are each more damaged than the next. What god, what ghost, what heavens? When you’re mental, what good is being handsome?”