Illusions, Side Stories
Original novel in Chinese by: 御我 (Yu Wo)
“Inheriting Jiu Ge”—translated by Minna (proofread by Trespasserby & Minthe; C/E edited by lucathia)
Canst thou be so willing to cast off ties and emotions to inherit the title of Dong Huang, the God of the Eastern Sky?
The tradition of Jiu Ge is passed down through nine broken lives.
This bond between the blade and its master, is it the person who seeks the sword or the sword that chases the person?
Two stories that should not exist,
Wouldst thou rather believe that they are illusions born from suffering, or actual events that have happened?
Since he was young, he would dream of that dynasty that shouldn’t have been, every night; the dazzling sight of the royal palace, the nymphs dancing in the sky, the soldiers, wearing golden and copper armor, guarding the huge city gate. Everything looked magnificent and dazzling. The real world looked dull in contrast.
After entering through the city gate, jade-green grass stretched wide and far, with small white down floating amidst a faint, almost imperceptible mist.
Nymphs clothed in feathers roamed about, picking flowers and fruits. Many people would look toward him and bow slightly, as if they were paying him respect. He would be startled each and every time.
He would roam everywhere. With each dream, he would arrive at a different place and see people of all sorts; sometimes they would be nymphs, while at other times they would be soldiers.
But the last scene of his dream would always be the same. Someone dressed in black who was leading the others would stand in front of him and ask him a question with a sorrowful expression.
However, his young self couldn’t understand what that person meant. He could only raise his head and look at him with incomprehension. That person, unable to receive an answer, would sigh, and he himself would wake up shortly after.
In his dreams, he would see many fantastical things. The young child thought that he was seeing things from ancient times, all the way until grown-ups told him that no matter the present or the past, people couldn’t fly. There couldn’t possibly be nymphs dancing across the skies in flight. Those were only myths. People who were a little nicer would hand him some myths to read; people who were a little meaner would immediately ridicule him with, “Stupid kid, believing those kinds of things at his age.”
The dream world was still only a small issue. If adults heard about it, they would just tell him it was only a bad dream and that he shouldn’t worry too much about it. However, he wasn’t only seeing it in his dreams, but was also seeing what everyone else called a “fantasy” when he was wide awake. When he told them there were fantastical creatures on the TV, it wouldn’t pose a problem, but if he said that tiny humans were sitting on the bookshelf, eating books, he would immediately be the recipient of a torrent of scolding.
But he definitely saw them.
Taiyi snapped out of his reverie and turned his head. His cousins came running, each of them covered with mud from playing. They looked just like a bunch of brats who liked to play, but to tell the truth, Taiyi didn’t dislike them. Compared to adults, these children believed what he told them much more.
“What were you looking at?”
Fu Taiyi didn’t have an answer, so he searched for an excuse. “I was just daydreaming.”
They didn’t look like they believed him and were still curious, but Fu Taiyi didn’t want to say any more than this. He didn’t know who had told their parents what he had told them last time. He had had to sit through a big scolding.
“Why are you daydreaming? Let’s go fishing for tadpoles.”
Fu Taiyi didn’t have any interest in tadpoles. There were far more interesting things beside tadpoles inside the creek, but those things were also a lot more dangerous.
Last summer, he had also played by the creek with this group of children. The adults hadn’t stopped them either since it was the familiar countryside they had grown up in.
At that time, Fu Taiyi had sat next to the creek, unwilling to go into the water. There were too many things underwater he couldn’t ignore and furthermore shouldn’t step on, even more so because he could step on those things for real!
And luckily, he had been sitting at the riverbed watching his cousins at that time, because then he saw a hand reach out of the creek, grabbing his younger cousin’s leg. At first, Fu Taiyi hadn’t paid it much attention, thinking that it would miss again. After all, only he could see and touch “these things.” The others wouldn’t feel anything at all.
But it was different that time. His cousin suddenly sank into the water without a sound. The group of children, who were playing to their heart’s content, hadn’t even noticed. If it weren’t for Fu Taiyi’s clear view of the creek and that he had seen the hand grabbing him and took a second glance, he wouldn’t have noticed that his cousin had disappeared at all.
At that time, it gave Fu Taiyi a big fright. He rushed over immediately and looked beneath the surface. His cousin was scared beyond his wits, his whole face twisted beyond recognition, his arms frantically flapping, but no matter how hard he tried, he wasn’t able to lift himself above the surface.
Fu Taiyi quickly grabbed his hand, but felt a force pulling downwards, as if there were someone in the water who was pulling downwards with all their might.
“Quick! Help me!” He shouted.
Although many children were scared frozen, there were a few older ones who reacted more quickly. They rushed forward and helped pull him right away but were faced with the same problem. With the combined strength of the children, it was still not enough to pull him up.
“Maybe he’s caught on algae?” Everyone was starting to panic. They were all children and weren’t prepared to face these kinds of problems.
As he saw his cousin’s eyes rolling back, Fu Taiyi clenched his teeth and dived right into the water, startling the children next to him, who cried out wanting to stop him but were too late to do so.
Diving underwater, he saw that a dark shadow had grabbed onto his cousin’s lower body. Fu Taiyi embraced his cousin and forcefully kicked in the direction of the dark shadow. He kicked several times without success. On the contrary, even his legs started to be wrapped up by the dark shadow. When he realized that he couldn’t save his cousin’s life and was about to lose his own as well, there was a sudden strong force coming from above, pulling them both above the surface.
At once, the crowd of children frantically pulled them ashore with everything they had. Everyone was terrified. They looked at each other and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, the drowning cousin had good water senses and started to cough up the water by himself after reaching the shore. He didn’t even need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The children knew that this incident was severe. If the adults knew about this, they would definitely be roasted like bamboo with shredded pork; therefore, all of them decided to pretend like it hadn’t happened. They pooled together their money and bought their cousin a popsicle to deal with the shock. Afterwards, everyone pretended nothing had happened and waved goodbye as they each prepared to go home.
Before he left, Fu Taiyi had turned his head to look at the person under the tree… though maybe he shouldn’t think of it as a person. Something only he could see probably wasn’t a person, right?
Fu Taiyi often saw the person in black robes. Originally, he had only seen him within his dreams, but since this year, he could see the other person even when he was awake.
“Thank you,” Fu Taiyi opened his mouth to express his gratitude. Right when he broke through the surface of the water, he had seen that the other person was standing beside him. One hand had even been clutching his cousin’s shoulder. He realized then that this person had saved them.
Fu Taiyi was looking forward to receiving a response. Even though he often saw the other person, he only ever said the same thing…
Canst thou be so willing to cast off ties and emotions to inherit the title of Dong Huang, the God of the Eastern Sky?
Again and again, that person only ever said this one thing.
Fu Taiyi scratched his head. He had thought that the situation would change, but in the end, it was still the same.
“What is the God of the Eastern Sky?” Unlike when he had been younger, he could roughly understand the meaning of what was said, but he still didn’t understand what kind of thing the “God of the Eastern Sky” was.
In the past, he had also asked this question before, but the other had never responded. This time, it would probably be the…
I am Dong Huang, the God of the Eastern Sky. I am thee.
Fu Taiyi froze. This was the first time the other had said something different, even though he didn’t really understand.
“Taiyi, are you coming to catch tadpoles or not?”
Waking up from last year’s memories, he looked at the group of cousins before him and felt the need to roll his eyes. Were last year’s lessons already forgotten this quickly?
He warned them unhappily, “What do you want to catch tadpoles for? You aren’t allowed to go near the creek. Did all of you already forget what happened last year? If you dare go there, I’ll tell the adults immediately!”
The children’s expressions all changed. Even though they thought that Fu Taiyi was a killjoy, they thought back to last year’s events and felt afraid themselves. The tadpoles didn’t seem to be as exciting anymore.
“Fine. Don’t tell on us. It’s fine as long as we don’t go, right?”
Fu Taiyi nodded. This group of cousins wasn’t bad. They were a little naughty, but were willing to listen.
“Where should we go play then?”
Fu Taiyi thought for a moment and said, “If you want to play with water, we could ask the adults to take us to the swimming pool. How about that?”
One cousin pursed his lips and said, “They’re all playing mahjong. Who would care about us!”
“I’ll tell my parents to take us.”
Fu Taiyi knew that his own parents were bad at mahjong and were only forced to play with the others. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that they lost nine out of ten games. Every time they came back to their family home, they suffered immensely. Compared to playing mahjong, he felt that they would rather come along to the pool with the children.
As soon as the children heard that, they all cheered up and pushed him to search for his parents at once.
On the other hand, Fu Taiyi was also quite willing. Since last year’s incident, he didn’t want to look after his cousins by himself anymore. He didn’t know why, but it was always easier for something to happen during summer vacation. During this time, lots of “imaginary things” could come in contact with humans, especially younger children, which was very odd.
Originally, he didn’t know why, but after he heard about the “ghost month”1 and “the opening of the ghost gate” several times, he had a vague feeling it could be for this reason.
Well, he should have adults come with them in any case. Even during this period, they wouldn’t come in contact with the “imaginary things” as easily as children.
Especially because he didn’t see the person in black right now. If something were to happen, there was no one who could come to their rescue. Fu Taiyi didn’t want to take the risk, even though the incident from last year was a rare occurrence.
When the children returned to the family house’s courtyard, there were several tables set up. On the way, practically every household was playing mahjong. There weren’t any big wins or losses. Friends and family were playing merrily.
“Taiyi, why have you come home already?”
As Fu Taiyi walked through the entrance, his mother jumped up from the table at once and rushed over full of worry, as if she wished he had a headache of a problem for her, so she could free herself in the name of looking after her child.
She most likely lost miserably? Fu Taiyi pitied his mom a little bit. At first, he had wanted to take advantage of the situation and use freeing them from gambling as a bargaining chip to extort ten novels from them, but now he didn’t have the heart to do so.
“We want to go swimming. Mom, can you…” Before he finished his sentence, he received an SOS-signal from his dad via eye contact, and could only add, “Mom, Dad, can you take us to the swimming pool?”
“Of course!” His parents said in unison.
His dad threw down the gambling money he lost this round, stood up at once, and nodded in agreement, “With the weather so hot, it would be just right to go to the pool.”
Even though the aunties and uncles in the vicinity were playing excitedly at the moment, they looked at the yearning in the children’s eyes and felt bad leaving them all to Fu Taiyi’s parents with how many children there were. They might as well tidy up and leave together. Afterwards, they could even eat together, and it would still be a perfect family get together.
Fu Taiyi originally feared that there would be strange things in the swimming pool as well, but luckily, even though there were, they were only small creatures in comparison with the “big incident” by the creek and simply not noteworthy.
Only when they left the pool could Fu Taiyi finally relax. Even his parents pinched his cheeks and laughed, “What a small overseer.” How could he not watch over his cousins? If anyone dove underwater, he would drag them up and scold them.
At this moment, his cousin suddenly walked up to him and held his hand. He firmly expressed his support, “Táng-gē2 is doing this for our own good.”
“Oh! When did you get this close?”
The adults were grinning from ear to ear but were also happy to see that the children were so close.
The man in black stood in front of the restaurant. Fu Taiyi didn’t know if it was a misperception, but the other person seemed laden with grief. However, Fu Taiyi couldn’t ask him anything with all the people around them.
Cast off ties and emotions…
Yes, yes, yes. In all these years, Fu Taiyi had grown tired of hearing it. Why does the other person not say anything else no matter what I ask? He doesn’t say anything clearly and just utters the same sentence all the time. How am I supposed to reply?
Inherit the title of Dong Huang, the God of the Eastern Sky.….
Huh? Isn’t there more to it? When nothing else was said, Fu Taiyi slowly turned his head, but the man in black was already gone.
With things deviating from normal, it made him feel faintly uncomfortable, but he didn’t know what was actually wrong. Fu Taiyi could only think to be more careful and also carefully warn his cousins not to go near the water!
But in the end, it was already too late to warn them of anything before things happened, and it didn’t have anything to do with water either.
Afterwards, a big fire at a restaurant, which took dozens of lives, made the headline news for several weeks. Escape was made harder because the building’s expansion had been constructed illegally. How had that been overlooked in fire safety inspections?
That day, Fu Taiyi walked out of that fire. He lost everything, casting off all ties and emotions, and became Dong Huang, the God of the Eastern Sky.
“Such a complete inheritance hasn’t happened in a long time.”
The black robed person said this. Fu Taiyi was the one who said it. He was wearing the black robes and had become “that person.”
Cast off ties and emotions and inherit the title of Dong Huang, the God of the Eastern Sky. He had heard this sentence for so long, but as of today, Fu Taiyi finally understood it. Luckily, he had been very cautious. He hadn’t understood it, so he had never agreed to it, thus letting his parents live several years longer, but he was unable to prevent this calamity in the end.
Looking back at the fire, a child of about fourteen or fifteen years of age wept a thousand years of grief, reflecting the melancholy he had seen in the eyes of the man in black in the past.
Two streams of tears fell for his lost familial ties. He stood in silence, in memory of Fu Taiyi’s past life.
“Oh my god, there is a child here!”
Fu Taiyi refocused his sight and saw several people looking at him in disbelief. He simply closed his eyes and collapsed to the ground, making it unnecessary to play the complicated part of a terrified child. Besides, he truly was tired and hurt. He had only just received the inheritance of the God of the Eastern Sky and had to immediately face the hurdle of escaping a fire. It was impossible to get away unscathed.
“Quickly! Take him to the hospital!”
“Did you hear? His whole family died in a disaster. He doesn’t have any close relatives anymore. He is the last of his entire family.”
“Aiya, how pitiful…”
In the following days, Fu Taiyi lay inside a hospital. Several people came and went, such as his teachers and classmates. The others were distant relatives he wasn’t close with. After all, that huge fire had taken so many lives in one go.
Fu Taiyi was depressed for a long time and wasn’t in the mood to answer anything, no matter what the people around him asked. Besides, the psychologist had given him several diagnoses. When it all came down to it, he was just in shock.
Cast off all ties and emotions. As though it was that easy.
Even though he had all the memories passed on over thousands of years inside his head, it wasn’t the era of those glorious days anymore. Even if Fu Taiyi carried the title of the God of the Eastern Sky, his exterior was but that of a middle school student. How he was to keep on living, he still wasn’t sure.
Although he alone from this family escaped the calamity, and it was for this reason he was chosen for the inheritance, why couldn’t it have been a little later? Fu Taiyi frowned. If only he were eighteen years old, things would have been easier. His family had a house and some money. He would have had no problems living on his own. However, as of now, if he didn’t want to live with some distant relatives, he would only be able to go to an orphanage.
After he worried for several days, his injuries were almost healed up. If he didn’t say something soon, he was afraid he’d be sent to a mental asylum. Fu Taiyi was left without a choice and could only explain that he was all right and just couldn’t remember what happened. This finally satisfied the psychologist who left and also told him that a social worker would make arrangements for him, so he didn’t have to worry.
This was just what Fu Taiyi was the most worried about.
Should he obediently go live at an orphanage until he was eighteen, or should he choose to live with a distant relative? He was afraid that both options wouldn’t let him move around as independently as he liked in the near future.
What was more, although the orphanage might be the better option, as he could leave without a worry once he turned eighteen, his distant relatives might not want to let him go, especially when a large amount of insurance money would be involved.
Even though he had become the God of the Eastern Sky, Fu Taiyi didn’t see money as dirt. Following this, he would have to search everywhere to find his Jiu Ge companions. It wasn’t like he could transform spirit money into his travel fees, right? It wouldn’t be just and would also be too easily seen through.
As he was drowning in his worries, the ambulance sent in another option.
Fu Taiyi nearly shot up straight from his hospital bed and hurried right to the emergency room but couldn’t find a chance to go in until the other person was sent to the ICU. After several notifications of the patient being in critical condition, he clenched his teeth and snuck in using powers that were still foreign to him.
A heavily wounded patient lay on the hospital bed before him, his whole body covered with bandages. He even had a cast around his leg. There was almost with no skin on his body. His condition was hard to look at. He looked like he should be in excruciating pain, but that pair of eyes was still completely bright. He looked at Fu Taiyi with surprise in his gaze. Apparently, he didn’t understand why there would be a child standing there.
Fu Taiyi stood next to the hospital bed and looked down at the other person. His heart was full of pain, as he foresaw that his companions would all suffer various devastating plights.
“It will be fine. Your physical body won’t hold you back,” he consoled.
The other person’s eyes softened when he heard that and even expressed grateful cheer. Fu Taiyi was simply at a loss after he saw that. This person was already in this terrible condition, yet still hadn’t forgotten to be grateful for this world? This was definitely a good person through and through!
“I’m saying the truth and am not consoling you!”
After Fu Taiyi shouted that, a strange rupturing occurred around him, and his face turned pale. He knew that this small barrier dimension couldn’t hold on much longer. He couldn’t delay any longer than this and had to present his real identity at once.
The person on the bed stared with wide eyes. He saw a person wearing gorgeous black robes standing beside his bed, his body leaning forward. A distant voice inquired:
Canst thou be so willing to cast off ties and emotions to inherit the title of Si Ming, the Master of Fate?
Thus, Fu Taiyi found his first companion. The two of them used their unpolished abilities to play the role of a distant relative and a child. They used the insurance money and opened a small book store called Jiu Ge.
They looked forward to truly gathering all nine of the Jiu Ge in the Jiu Ge Bookstore.