My favourite parts of Heavy Sweetness are Jin Mi going on her endless quests for divine strength and happily trying to swindle divine strength from the world. And of course, Phoenix wrestling with his feelings towards a completely shameless and impervious Jin Mi. Enjoy!
Epilogue 2: Dragon Boat Festival/ When Jin Mi Was A Book Boy (Part 2)
Time: In the hundred years when Jin Mi first went to the Heavenly Realms and was Phoenix's book boy
We fruits also have backbones. Since Phoenix ignored my wishes and transformed me into a drum for eight days, I decided not to deal with him again. In the days where I no longer grind the ink slab for Phoenix, the sky appeared brighter, the water bluer, even the willow catkins that flew in the wind appeared cuter and more vibrant than before. When I was bored, I would watch the opera with the Moon God, hear him criticise the "spring books", the time flew by fast.
There was only one thing that was not good. Although the days in which I did not have to watch the mood of Phoenix's face were perfect springtime, but I was no longer taught divine spells. My already low divine powers dropped even further than before, and thus I decided to abandon the dark and follow the light and come under the tutelage of the Moon God. I asked the Moon God to teach me some secrets to increasing my divine powers and he happily agreed.
The Moon God very formally placed several different sizes and thicknesses of sewing needles before me, and said, "To thread needles is one of the basics of divine meditation. Think about it - if you can't even thread a sewing needle, how would you be able to properly use the heavy divine instruments? Thus, a good sewing needle is a necessary equipment for a successful god." Following which, the Moon God happily described all the sewing needles he treasured and kept, and very generously offered to let me pick one needle and would teach me how to thread it with red thread immediately tonight.
[The joke is that the Moon God's divine powers mainly lie in connecting lovers with a red thread, hence he would prize sewing needles so much!]
I deeply did not understand - the Moon God's eyesight was originally not good, but he would choose to thread the red threads in the pitch black darkness of the night under the glow of a small lamp.
When I asked him, the Moon God's eyes curved with his smile as he explained, "I feel more inspired by the night. The black night gives me a pair of black eyes, and I am fated to use it to catch illicit affairs!"
However, divine powers were fated to have nothing to do with threading needles and illicit affairs. I learnt to thread red threads with the Moon God for a total of ten days - my divine powers did not increase even a little bit but my eyesight was really starting to go crazy, everytime I saw a place with a hole, it was like I was possessed and I tried to think how I could thread a red thread through it.
Just as I was mulling over whether I should continue to learn under the Moon God, I heard that in two days Phoenix's palace would be having a celebration for the mortals' Dragon Boat Festival*. It was to celebrate some person's bravery for jumping into the river and rising to become a god. Phoenix had praised his literary skills and invited him to his palace and thus asked his attendants to celebrate as per the mortal customs of the Dragon Boat Festival.
This was nothing extraordinary but I heard that there will be rice dumplings during the Dragon Boat Festival - the mortals' rice dumplings were made using banana leaves to wrap glutinous rice and fragrant meat or bean paste in a triangular shape, but the dumplings in the heavenly realms naturally could not be the same as the mortal dumplings thus Phoenix with a flip of his sleeve had declared, "We will wrap divine strength."
Divine strength! Shiny dazzling divine strength.
There were many different types of fillings for the dumplings in the mortal realms, there were lean meat, salted egg yolk, chestnut, apricot seed..... naturally, the dumplings in the heavenly realms also had to be differentiated. The most modest dumpling would wrap one year's worth of divine strength, but there would be numerous of them. As the years' worth of divine strength increased, the number of such dumplings would decrease. Finally, there was the Emperor Dumpling.
It contained five hundred years of divine strength.
Five hundred years of divine strength!
That was the total period of time when the Great Monkey God was pressed under the palm of Buddha Grandfather. If I could obtain this Emperor Dumpling, I could be spared so much difficult training. Thus, I immediately decided to return to Phoenix's palace to participate in the Dragon Festival festival and grab the Emperor Dumpling.
The doors of the palace opened early on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. I mixed into the crowd and entered. There were several green dumplings on the table as rumored - but all of them looked the same, how would one be able to ascertain the divine strength they contained?
Although I did not have the Great Monkey God's eyes which could immediately discern the true nature of things with a glance, but what I lack in gifts, I made up for in diligence. I thought, I shall just keep eating, who knows if I will eat until I eat the five hundred years dumpling!
However, there were too many gods, immortal attendants and immortal goddesses, I only managed to grab twenty dumplings. Still, this was much more than what most have grabbed. With great satisfaction, I carried the dumplings and went to the back garden of the palace to eat them in peace.
I ate one year of divine strength in the first dumpling. Although it was only one year, I thought the taste was really not bad, soft and sticky with a fragrant scent, it was worthwhile to eat it even if there was no divine strength in it.
I also ate one year of divine strength in the second dumpling. This caused my heart to be a little uncomfortable, but there were still eighteen chances right?
The third, the fourth, the fifth, the sixth... with a bloated stomach and gritted teeth, I ate the final one......
The heavens were unfair! From the first to the twentieth, all of them were the same - so even though I ate until I was almost choking, I only gained twenty years of divine strength.
My heart was unwilling and I carried a stomach full of dissatisfaction back to the main palace. All the immortals have departed. I tried to find out which lucky little god had received the Emperor Dumpling but only received the news that no immortal had received it, only that the Little Red Boy, son of the Demon Bull King had received a dumpling of one hundred years of divine strength.
In that moment, I could not be bothered to be jealous of the Little Red Boy, my heart immediately calculated - based on this analysis, the Emperor Dumpling was still uneaten, thus I still had a chance! I tried to find out where the rest of the dumplings were.
I was met with a disdainful response, all of the dumplings were long gone. Good things were naturally eaten, who would take it and not eat it?
That was when I found out that the Second Highness did not eat it. He only asked his attendant to place it in his study.
There is no dead path for a person with a willing heart!
I saw that Phoenix's study radiated a light glow and hesitatingly knocked on the door.
"Come in," Phoenix's cold voice with the fragrant smell of dumplings floated through.
I pushed the door open with anticipation and immediately saw a complete dumpling on the table. My heart rose higher in excitement and thought that Phoenix did not look like such an eye sore as before. Of course, if he would give me this dumpling, he would really be the most perfect male in all of the six realms.
"Jin Mi greets his Fire Highness," I obediently bowed.
In the misty fiery glow, Phoenix lightly lifted the ends of his long narrow eyes, seeing it was me he lowered his gaze and continued to look through his books. After a while, he slowly opened his golden mouth,"I heard that you have entered the tutelage of my Uncle."
"How can that be? His Fire Highness must have heard wrongly. To have his Fire Highness personally teach Jin Mi is my life's blessing, how can I enter the tutelage of another?" I very seriously denied this matter.
"Ah," Phoenix lifted his head to look at me, softly gave out one word and then silence.
I very naturally and familiarly started to grind the ink slab, if I did not display my loyalty now, when could I?
"Tonight, I am only reading and have no need for the ink," He held the scroll with one hand and leaned languidly on the chair back. I did not know if it was my mistaken perception but I thought I saw his thin lips lightly curving.
I gently placed down the ink slab and listened to him speak, "The night is dark and my stomach is a little hungry. When don't you use the spell I taught you before to warm this dumpling so I can eat it."
I panicked and immediately told him, "The mortals' dumplings are very awful to eat. There is a strange smell from the banana leaf wrapping, the glutinous rice is too soft and vastly less nice to eat than the normal rice. A rice must have backbone, what kind of rice is soft rice! Plus, this dumpling is too big, you will choke if you eat it late at night."
Phoenix narrowed his eyes, his dimples appearing and disappearing, "Based on your words, I really want to find out what this dumpling taste like. How awful it must be for you to be so pained."
Seeing his hand reach out for this dumpling, without even thinking, I hurriedly stretched my hand and placed it on top of his hand to stop him, "If your Fire Highness is hungry, I will immediately go to the kitchen and personally made a plate of hibiscus pastry** for you. I guarantee that it will be hundred times more delicious than his dumpling, and you won't choke when you eat it, ok?"
I looked at him steadfastly with hope, but who would have thought not only did this bird not answer, his face had a dazed expression and I couldn't tell what he was thinking. I followed his gaze and realised that he was looking at the back of my hand. In my worry that he would not agree, I flipped my hand and both my hands wrapped his hand in my palms, I gave him a shining look of loyalty and asked again, "What does your Fire Highness think?"
I did not know if it was the flickering of the flames, or it was my spoilt eyesight from threading too many needles, I actually thought that Phoenix's cheeks had a rush of light colouring. But, he looked at his hand that was wrapped in my palms, avoided my gaze and his voice seemed unnatural as he lightly agreed, "Ok."
What a beautiful voice from heaven!
I pushed away his hand and quickly carried the Emperor Dumpling out of the door, "I shall remove this dumpling. Fire Highness just wait a moment and the hibiscus pastry will be immediately delivered."
I was so worried he would regret it that after I walked out of the door, I started to run with the Emperor Dumpling.
Heaven has not forsaken a person with a willing heart! I forced the dumpling down my throat. Indeed, it had five hundred years of divine strength! I was so happy, my dreams that night had the sweet fragrance of glutinous rice.
Of course, the saying that "Happiness breeds Sadness" is not without merit, for I was so happy that night that I completely forgot about Phoenix's hibiscus pastry......
It was only a small plate of hibiscus pastry but that small-hearted bird bore a grudge and punished me to make hibiscus pastry for a whole year! Plus, he won't eat it in the morning or in the afternoon, thus I couldn't sleep properly for a whole year! Often having to make the hibiscus pastry in the middle of the night.
And, whenever Phoenix eats the hibiscus pastry, he would eat it with an especially heavy and serious expression, truly despicable and detestable! The gaze from his phoenix eyes as he looked into my eyes especially cause me to grit my teeth with hate!
Phoenix called this "using merits to make up for my fault".
But, because of the Emperor Dumpling, I decided not to be as small-hearted as the bird.
* On the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar, the Chinese celebrates Dragon Boat Festival which commemorates the suicide of a great poet, Quan Yu, into the river. He was exiled and accused of treason. The locals respected Quan Yu so much that they rushed out in boats to rescue his body and this was the start of the dragon boat races. They also threw balls of rice in the river to stop the fishes from eating his body and this was the origin of the rice dumplings. Thus, during the Dragon Boat Festival, the Chinese will eat rice dumplings and participate in dragon boat races.
** The significance of the hibiscus pastry makes more sense now in Chapter 24.1!