佳偶天成 (A Match Made in Heaven) by 十四郎
For the next few days, the forests of the mountains continued to act as makeshift night lodgings for Xin Mei after her supernatural encounters came to an end.
She had heard that somewhere in the Wanlan Mountains, some land had been set aside as Huang Ling (Imperial Mausoleum). In the last few royal generations, there had been many royal bodies to bury, resulting in tombs that grew overly dark and creepy. In recent years, rumors of hauntings had also grown. His Highness of present no longer made offerings to keep the royal tomb pure and protected, and the site of the tomb had become an unfortunate gathering site that attracted many demons and ghosts. The bird demon and the strange man were likely demons of the royal tomb.
To have been able to come across the Huang Ling amidst the vast and boundless Wanlan Mountains–and to have even encountered the supernatural on top of it! Suffice it to say, Xin Mei’s luck was extraordinary! Her quest would surely come to fruition, and she would surely be able to purchase a good-looking and useful husband to take home to please her father.
The flight to the Chongling Valley had happened four days ago. When they saw the massive pelican drop from the sky, the disciples who guarded the gates to the Chongling Valley were so startled that their mouths fell open.
This spirit animal… was really flashy. The disciples had never seen anyone with enough courage to use such a big and ugly spirit animal.
Xin Mei jumped off the back of Qiuyue (autumn moon), and the disciples’ mouths fell even further. It was a really… really pretty girl. Even though her robes were plain to accommodate her travels, they did not succeed in eclipsing her beauty. Smilingly, she approached them. Her cheeks were slim and clear as porcelain, with dimples both naive and without malice, all carefree. Upon seeing her smile, one felt as if there were no troubling things on earth.
Originally Xin Mei had wanted to go over for a simple greeting, and while she was there, also hand over the reins of her spirit animal for safeguarding. But the two disciples at the gate kept staring at her with red faces. And hey, after giving them a more careful look, these two were actually not bad looking!
Xin Mei looked at the one on the left and then the one on the right, concluding that the one on the right was a little bit more manly, a little more rough. She liked true men, and said “no thanks” to the pretty ones. Feeling her purse, which contained bank notes worth three thousand silver taels for the purpose of purchasing a person, she thought to herself that this should surely allow her to return home!
Xin Mei cleared her throat, “Xiao ge (Little brother), you wouldn’t be any chance be willing…”
“Is it Boss Xin of Xin Xie Zhuang (House of Xin)?” Behind the gates, someone interrupted her words.
Ah, business was more important; the matter of husbands could wait. Xin Mei let herself be cut off and replied her affirmation while throwing the little handsome guy a smile, looking at the name plaque at his waist. “Oh, so you are called Da Hu (Big Tiger). Well, I will remember that. I will look for you later, and then we could perhaps spar a little.”
Just being good-looking was useless. To test how useful he was, she would need to test his skills. His face blushed and then paled. He thought: so is this what they say about you jing you xi (both alarming and joyous)?
With an increasingly good mood, Xin Mei took the lead in front of several women stewards and entered the gates.
The Chongling Valley was an important client of the Xin Xie Zhuang (House of Xin), making large orders for spirit animals nearly every year. In past years, it was always her father making the long journey to the valley. This was her first time coming here. The abode of these immortals was definitely something else: clean and spacious and pretty. What was similar were the common clear tile-and-brick rooms, the jade-colored grass, and bright red flowers. This house certainly arranged itself well. Along the way, she passed the disciples of the Valley, each of them neat and good-looking, acknowledging her respectfully and bowing his head in greeting.
Finally she arrived at an extravagant pavilion. A woman steward entered to relate her arrival and came back out to say, “Boss Xin, the Valley Master says that his mood is not bad today, and he would like to receive you. Also, since you came all the way, he would like to let you stay here for a few days.”
Xin Mei had heard her dad say that the Valley Master of the Chongling Valley was a fox immortal with several thousand years of cultivation. He was of a very friendly character and would not even take affront when younger generations (spirits with less years of cultivation) relaxed and joke around with him. That he would let her live here was just too good. Later, she could look for Da Hu to discuss the matter of purchasing him.
Lifting her foot to enter the doors, she suddenly heard from above her head a cow’s moo, directly followed by a rickety ox-cart suddenly dropping from the sky to land exactly next to her. The door of the cart opened and a dumpling-white figure scrambled out.
The figure raced for his life towards the pavilion while shouting, “Out of the way! Out of the way! Zhen Hong Sheng! You damned fox! Hurry and come out!”
He flew very fast, and Xin Mei couldn’t even catch what he looked like. Turning to the elderly woman steward, she saw a calm and collected face as if she was completely accustomed to the spectacle.
“Boss Xin, please.” The steward extended the invitation with a gesture to go upstairs. And seeing her so calm and collected, Xin Mei felt too embarrassed to make a fuss and ask any questions, so she immediately went upstairs.
The building looked to have been constructed normally from the outside, but the inside was bright as if lit up by the sun. Each level of the pavilion was marked by a season, with four seasons and four levels in all. After walking up the beautiful sceneries of the first three levels of spring, summer, and fall, Xin Mei stood still on the top floor in front of the last few steps. The top floor was covered by brilliant white snow, and a chill breeze fluttered through the room just like the bone-biting cold winds of a real winter.
Despite being the top of the pavilion, there was a little courtyard to a side with a frozen pond, lined with wintry trees filled with little red berries. There was even a small, snow-covered little pavilion in which she found two men involved in a struggle, with one pinning down the other.
“Give it to me!” the man on top demanded angrily.
“Beg me, then. Beg me and I will give it to you,” the one pinned below the other replied, his eyes graceful and charismatic.
“You want to die!” The first man’s face darkened over the second man’s.
“Of course I don’t want to die. Why would I want to die when I can live forever?” The one on bottom readily owned his own words.
The one on top startled and suddenly raised his head to look over at the doorway where Xin Mei stood dumb as a wooden chicken. He stilled.
“Oh, are you Xin Mei?” The man who was being pinned down turned his head over, smiling at her, “When I first saw you, you were still a baby all swaddled in cloth. Now you have grown so big. Come over and let me take a good look at you.”
Xin Mei stood for a moment, thinking that she had better turn back and descend the pavilion. “Sorry to disturb. I’ll come back up later.”
“Stand there!” someone shouted, and Xin Mei turned back around again to see that the man who had pinned the other one down was now standing up in the snow. He wore a loose, slightly worn, and big robe that accentuated a thin, bony frame. At the moment, his face carried an at once angry and subtly anguished expression.
Pinning her with an unwavering gaze, he solemnly said, “You misunderstand!”
This classic line is often found in dramas. For example, take the man who isn’t careful and while holding the hands or the waist of a woman that isn’t his wife, accidentally and unfortunately comes across his wife, and the first line that comes to his head is this exact line. Or for example, take the woman who falls into the trap set up by a love rival, causing her husband to treat her coldly (which is worse than abuse). She must hold a swallow of blood in her mouth and then spit it out along with this line whose weight is as heavy as a mountain range.
Xin Mei was very understanding of this kind of frame of mind, and because she definitely would not want these two to feel even more guilty and gloomy, she nodded her head at once, saying, “Yep, I understand.”
However, in response, the man just seemed angrier as he bellowed, “What is there to understand? Stop looking like that! You definitely don’t understand!”
Distressed, Xin Mei rummaged through her brain while the man inside the little pavilion stood up while laughing. With a wave of his sleeve, a half-worn book flew into his hand.
“Mei Shan, your temper has worsened in the past years. You are Xian (immortal), go take a Mood Lightening pill. I’ll give it to you, but a wine-brewing book? You have gone mad.”
Mei Shan took the half-worn book firmly and carefully slipped it in his robes like it was a treasure. Now looking at Xin Mei again, he was a bit awkward. He might as well just go. A voice from the bottom of the pavilion came through. “You have a lot of medicinal herbs here! Let me stay for a few days to pick some for brewing wine!”
“Xiao Mei (Little Mei, addressing Xin Mei), come over here,” the man inside the little pavilion unhurriedly beckoned her over.
Around his neck was a live white fox, motionless. If it weren’t for its blinking eyes, Xin Mei really would have thought it was a scarf. Above the white fox’s sparkling and plump fur was a grinning and yet gentle face that looked… that looked truly beautiful as a flower! Whoa.
“Haha, long time no see. You have already grown so tall.” He lifted his hand to gently cup a porcelain cheek, his palm warm and nice-smelling. “And so pretty.”
Xin Mei was getting uncomfortable at his touch, until she remembered that her dad once said that this immortal fox lord wasn’t the type of person to follow propriety according to age. Be it male or female, he enjoyed getting all physical to express his affection, so when the time came, she should just let him touch her a bit and it would be fine. However… why was he still not getting go?
He took her hand again, turning it over to attentively study her palm for quite awhile. Then, without a word, he flipped it over again, taking her hand and treating it as if it was a toy to be held between his. Kneading her hand lightly, he said, “I heard your father has been recently very concerned over the issue of your marriage. Seeing as you are staying at the Valley for several days, where we have many young and handsome disciples, just let me know when any of them catches your eye.”
Both of Xin Mei’s eyes brightened. Suddenly, getting her hand felt up by him wasn’t uncomfortable anymore.
“Really? Actually, just earlier I had my eye on Zhang Da Hu who was guarding the gate!”
Zhen Hong Sheng paused, raising his laughing-yet-not-laughing eyes to look at her, making a humming noise. “How could he catch your eye? He has only been here for a few moons. He’s not talented, and he’s ordinary-looking.”
“Well, I think he looks fine.”
He laughed lowly. Suddenly in a mischievous mood, his strong and distinguishing gaze caught a charming intent as he grasped her chin and lightly lifted it to raise her eyes to his face. “Is he as good looking as me? If seeing me, you’d still want him, you are a young lady with no taste.”
He was clear in Xin Mei’s gaze, and her eyes turned over him twice, feeling embarrassed and put in a difficult position. “You… ugh, Lord Fox Xian, you are… how should I say it…”
“Just say it.” Zhen Hong Sheng, seeing her wanting to say something but unable to, hastily hinted that she tell the truth bravely. He has always very attentive about his own appearance, and he perked his eyes to hear her evaluation.
Very seriously, Xin Mei said, “You look like a woman. I don’t like the pretty types.”
Whoosh, his soul was seriously wounded. The top floor’s wintry landscape cracked, suddenly changing in little firefly-like lights, disappearing into the sky. The building returned to its original state of walls with painted-on columns.
The weak and gossamer-like fox immortal Zhen Hong Sheng quickly raised himself, mournfully walking away into the distance step by step.
Like a woman like a woman like a woman… only these three words cycled endlessly around in his heart, only this phrase struck him so profoundly. It was basically a finishing blow, and he couldn’t recover.
“Eh, Lord Fox Xian?” Xin Mei called to him. “So about the matter of Zhang Da Hu…?”
He suddenly turned around, “It’s called handsome! Do you even understand the concept of handsomeness!? You do not understand anything, you damned servant girl! I definitely won’t hand over any disciple to you! Not even one! Not even half! Never!”
He said this while covering up his face and running away.
Edited by Ariel