I held tightly onto Yanwang and bitterly wept. I begged him to let me boil soup in the Netherworld for a few more years. Yanwang looked very conflicted. He was soft-hearted and looked at the magistrate a few times. The cold magistrate only said: “The Netherworld’s justice is strict. People who are not to be punished, can’t be punished.”
I howled in pain: “I’m punishable. I beg you! You should punish me for a few more years. It’s better if you punish me for thirty or more. I’ll burn incense to thank you!”
The magistrate was unmoved. Yanwang sighed loudly, touched my head, and said: “Xiao Xiang Zi, don’t cry. You can’t escape something that’s fated.”
I refused to give in: “Why?! We obviously caused a mess again, so why are we not punished?!”
Yanwang picked his nose.
“Well, there’s no protest from anyone and it didn’t have a big impact on the Netherworld, so you won’t be punished.”
“I can go and pour out all the soup in the pot, which would delay all the souls that need to be reincarnated.”
The magistrate gave me a cold look and said: “I advise you not to do it. That’s a serious crime for which you’ll be flogged.”
I lowered my head, crying at the unfairness of it all.
Yanwang bit his lips and said: “Well, Celestial Star Chu Kong needs to spend a lifetime of love with you. Since you’ll be an idiot, he won’t have it easy either.”
I wiped my tears and said: “He didn’t drink the Soup of Oblivion this lifetime. He’ll remember everything clearly, so he won’t like me anymore. If I as a fool fall into his hands, I’ll die a cruel death or an even crueler death than that…”
“Well, you can’t be so sure,” interrupted Yanwang.
He searched for a while on his desk and took a double-sided mirror out.
“Look, in the past lifetime Celestial Star Chu Kong loved you deeply.”
I didn’t dare to look at the Lu Hai Kong reflected in the mirror. I was afraid that when I saw him cry, I’d cry too. Instead, I murmured: “That’s not Chu Kong.”
“Whether he is or isn’t is just your thoughts. Even he himself doesn’t know if he is or isn’t; how can you be so sure?”
Yanwang’s words were vague. He was like those stupid gods in heaven: speaking very beautifully, but with words that no one could understand.
I pinched Yanwang’s leg really hard and said: “Get to the point.”
Yanwang made a “sisi” sound and took two deep breaths.
“This thing called love is better if you, Xiao Xiang Zi, experience it yourself. ”
I increased my strength and pinched his leg. Yanwang very quickly said: “Magistrate, magistrate, quickly pull her away. Let her go back to boil soup. After three years, she can go and be reincarnated.”
I was ruthlessly dragged out. Before the door of Yanwang’s palace closed, I couldn’t help myself and peeked at the Lu Hai Kong reflected in the mirror. He was still young, but his hair had turned white. He was in front of an isolated snow-covered grave. Slowly, he poured wine onto the ground. It looked like his mind was somewhere else.
I felt like something was pinching my heart, making me unable to breathe.
Each passing day, the days of making soup became more and more painful. But no matter what I did, three years passed really fast. The little ghosts carried me and threw me into the circle of reincarnation.
“Fucking Chu Kong! Next time I see you in the Netherworld, I’ll pull all your hair out!”
Hair…hair…hair… In the reincarnation circle, I kept on repeating that last word.
After a while, I lost my senses.
A sticky liquid kept dripping against my ears. It was silent for a moment, and then in the next there were many voices.
I didn’t know how much time has passed. The liquid stopped dripping.
Someone lifted the wooden lid above my head. The light of the sun was blazing. A boy’s face appeared before me. Mother said that when seeing a boy older than me, I needed to call him big brother.
So I obediently said: “big brother.”
The boy was disgusted when I called him that.
“In this lifetime, we met at such an occasion! Bastard Heavenly Emperor Li1.”
I stared at him blankly. He frowned and also stared at me. He looked very confused.
Suddenly a gruff voice called: “Shaozhu1.”
The boy bit his lips and put the wooden lid back over my head. The sound of his footsteps went further and further away.
I continued to sit down in the barrel, holding my legs. Mother said she wanted to play hide and seek. If she didn’t find me, I couldn’t go out. But it’s really strange…obviously, it was mother who put me in here. How come she still hadn’t found me after such a long time? Was it because the adults were eating something delicious and didn’t tell me?
I used all my strength to push the lid away and climbed out of the barrel.
“Mother,” I yelled while walking. I didn’t see anyone in the yard. There was only blood everywhere: it looked the same as when the cook killed a chicken. I was very unhappy: “Eating chicken and they didn’t call me?”
I searched in the kitchen and in my parents’ chamber, but I didn’t even see their shadows. I walked into the hall and saw a bunch of people in black kneeling on the floor. The only one standing with his hands behind his back was the little boy. I was happy and yelled: “Big brother, did you see my mother?”
The people in black turned and looked at me. One person stood up and came to me while carrying a bloody sword. I blinked and asked: “Are you guests? Is it you who helped the cook kill the chicken? But where’s the cook?”
The man in black coldly said: “You’ll see them soon.”
He raised his sword. Blood dripped onto my face. I blinked and stared at him.
“Hey, drop the sword,” the boy said.
The man in front of me hesitated for a moment. The boy continued: “Let her go back with us.”
All the people in black began to talk: “But Shaozhu, she…”
“I said bring her back.”
The boy walked over to me and stood beside the man in black. He stared at me for a moment. Suddenly, his face was in front of me. He said in a soft voice: “Originally, I wanted to let you fend for yourself, but you still fell into my hands all on your own. With that being the case, I’ll kindly accept you.”
He pinched my cheeks.
“Xiao Xiang Zi, what do you say? Should we bully you, or should we seriously bully you, or should we severely bully you?”
“No matter what, thinking about the future is making me indescribable happy, haha!”
“My name isn’t Xiao Xiang Zi, it’s Yang Xiao Xiang.”
I blinked again and looked at him.
“Big brother, pinching my cheeks hurts.”
He loosened his hand and looked at me with a smile. It looked like the kind of smile that the cook wore when he caught a fat pig.
“From now on, your name is Xiao Xiang Zi. Be my…well, disciple. What do you think?”
“Not thinking,” I said. “Mother killed a chicken and she didn’t let me eat it yet. I’m not going with you.”
“Your mother went to my house to eat chicken. You need to come with me.”
I thought for a moment: “Are dad and cook also there?”
“Everyone is there.”
“Big brother, lead.”
I stuck my hand out in front him. The boy paused. He hesitated for a moment before holding it. Then, he coughed twice and said: “You have to call me Shifu2 I’m now a generation older than you. You need to respect me.”
“Yes, big brother.”
“I know, big brother.”
My forehead was in pain. He had flicked my forehead. I touched it, and though I felt a bit wronged, I still said: “Shifu…”
He nodded in satisfaction. He looked like he was in a really good mood…
I hadn’t seen my parents since the time I left home with Shifu. Shifu said my parents entrusted me to him and that I only needed to listen to him.
I scratched my head. I didn’t understand the meaning behind those words, but Shifu didn’t look like a bad guy. I decided to be obedient.
Only after arriving at Shifu’s house did I discover that his name was Chu Kong. He was eight years old and the Shaozhu of Shengling Sect. All the people of the sect were full of praises about him. Wherever I went, I’d hear that he was a genius, a prodigy. The praises went on and on.
But Shifu didn’t take those titles to heart. He was obviously only three years older than me, but he always pretended to be an adult.
He liked to order me around. Always making me do all sorts of things like making his bed. Even on a cold day, I still had to fan at his bedside.
In the beginning, I didn’t think that there was anything wrong. After all, the food Shifu gave me was quite good. Every one of them had many different types of meats.
But after a long time, I began to think it was very strange. Finally, one day, I realized why when I heard the sect people talking.
“Shifu, I should not call you Shifu.”
At the time, Chu Kong was reading a book on the couch.
His eyes lightly swept over me.
“What objection do you have, ah? No need to mention it. I don’t accept it.”
I was very frustrated.
“They said I’m your little wife, whom Shifu is raising.”
Shifu’s body went stiff. He was silent for a moment, turned a page, then asked without much feeling: “Who said that?”
“Next time, if someone talks about that gossip again, just kick him directly in his crotch.”
“Alright,” I answered and continued to fan him.
Later, some people really talked about that “gossip” in front of me. I did exactly as Shifu told me and bravely kicked his crotch. But my kick was only halfway when he grabbed me. The martial arts of the people in the Shengling Sect was not bad. That day I suffered a hard beating.
I cried out loudly, making Shifu, who was reading in his room, come out. The moment he appeared before me with a frown on his face, all my grievances instantly broke out. I ran to him and hugged his waist, covering his clothes with my tears and snot.
Shifu’s body slightly stiffened. In a cold voice, he asked: “What is the meaning of this?”
I whimpered and vaguely told him what had happened. But it seems like Shifu hadn’t heard a word I said. He knelt. I took advantage of it, hugging his neck and putting my face on his shoulder. I grumbled, told him the whole story, and finally I just kept repeating, “My butt hurts, my butt hurts.”
Shifu seemed very unhappy. He put his hand on my back and lifted me. My legs naturally wrapped around his waist. My whole body was attached to him. I was still crying. Shifu wasn’t very tall, but he still could hold me steadily. I heard him ask in a stern voice: “Did you beat her?”
The man who beat my ass muttered for a long time before an “en” sound came out.
He muttered again for a long time: “She wanted to kick my…”
Shifu nodded. He seemed to understand everything at that moment. He took two steps forward and said: “Open your legs.”
I heard a pumping sound. I didn’t understand why, so I temporarily stopped crying. I rubbed my face against Shifu and changed my position to look at the man who had beaten me. The man’s face was green for a moment. He was in a squatting position. The man had seen Shifu’s flying kick; he had shook, but he’d still firmly stood there and taken the blow.
Shifu said: “This time will only be a light punishment. Next time, if I hear that you’re talking about things you shouldn’t be talking about behind my back…”
Shifu stamped on the floor. The white jade brick broke apart with a “balabala” sound.
“Your crotch will be like this brick.”
Shifu turned around and walked away handsomely while still holding me.
But after two steps, he paused. His faint words were: “And do not bully something you shouldn’t bully.”
I didn’t understand his words, but after that day, the way the people of Shengling Sect treated me changed dramatically. When eating, my bowl had more meat. And also after that day, I got a few new requirements from Shifu.
He held my face and said: “Why do you look more stupid in this lifetime…”
I was gnawing on a chicken foot. With a mouth covered in oil, I dazedly looked at him.
Shifu frowned in disgust. He let go of my face. While wiping his hands, he said: “Well, you’re still young. However, someone that I, Celestial Star Chu Kong considers an enemy shouldn’t be too weak. Even being bullied by a passer-by…you’re degrading me, a celestial star.”
“Shifu, can you speak words I understand?”
I tried to discuss with him, but Shifu didn’t seem to hear a thing. He looked at me for a moment. Suddenly he said: “En, I’ve decided. You’ll start learning martial arts today. I, Celestial Star Chu Kong, will personally teach you.”
“What’s learning martial arts?”
“It’s a magic skill for when, in the future, if you want to kick someone’s crotch, you won’t be picked up and beaten again.”
I thought for a moment and decided that this thing was really important, so I obediently nodded.
I decided to call Emperor Li Heavenly Emperor Li. After all, he’s the Emperor of Heaven. I called him Emperor Li for ten chapters. He may hold a grudge against me and make my next lifetime a hell. So I’ll now obediently call him Heavenly Emperor Li.
- 少主 (Shǎo zhǔ): 主 (master, lord) this is what the Chinese call a master of a sect. There’s 少 (little) before 主. Chu Kong is the little master of a sect
- 师父 (Shifu): this also means master, but it’s used by disciples