The assembly in Nine Heavens was remarkably similar to listening to Bai Zhi and Zhe Yan’s squabbles, about their love competition but without the humor and wine. It was the same collection of the same immortals debating, arguing and discussing the very same topics eternally. However, for Mo Yuan, it felt more like how he envisioned purgatory to be.
The clamorous, argumentative conversations became prolonged, monotonous, dull and of course, Donghua Dijun usually wanted to play chess afterward. Their long games took forever because both Mo Yuan and Donghua Dijun’s level of playing skills were the same, comparable and most often ended in deadlock. Mo Yuan’s only saving grace was dragging Zhe Yan along.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Zhe Yan enjoyed, relished the boring, tedious discussions and being highly vocal, most often also contributed. When he wasn’t making comments aloud, he was usually making fun of others. Whispering in Mo Yuan’s ear and saying snide, snarky, sarcastic but hilarious remarks. He acted as if he weren’t listening but there were many times, he almost laughed out loud from one of Zhe Yan’s keen observations.
Zhe Yan was gifted if one could call it a gift. He noticed the strangest and oddest things about others and then brought attention to it most notoriously. A perfect example was when he brought Heavenly Lord’s long nose hairs into the spotlight. Now, whenever Mo Yuan spoke to Heavenly Lord all he saw were the long ungroomed nostril follicles and almost once called him ‘Heavenly Nose Hair’ by mistake. So, the lengthy sessions seemed shorter with Zhe Yan in tow but there was also another reason. Another incredible benefit to taking him to Celestial Heaven was his effect on Donghua Dijun.
Donghua Dijun lacked Mo Yuan’s tolerance and could take Zhe Yan only in small doses. After a while, when he grated on his nerves, Donghua Dijun would flat out ask them to leave. Hence, Mo Yuan’s forced and required visit would shorten most drastically.
He was highly unquestionably esteemed and respected as the Medicine God, but Zhe Yan’s mere presence and personality, for some, if not many found annoying. Their absence of tolerance was the reason why Mo Yuan deliberately brought Zhe Yan along. Another private, guilty pleasure for Mo Yuan was utilizing his talkative, friendly, social butterfly-like brother to deflect social interactions.
So, before going to Celestial Heaven, Mo Yuan first stopped by the peach orchard to retrieve Zhe Yan. Upon arrival, it surprised him because it wasn’t often if ever, rain in his Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms. But when it happened, the sweet, perfumed scent intensified headily intoxicated and the atmosphere felt dream-like. It was almost too picturesquely perfect and beyond beautiful.
Faint, soft, audible drip, drop, plunk, plop noises. The lovely sounds were of wet leaves lightly trickling the freshly falling rainwater and filtering it down below. There it showered and finally absorbed on the dampen carpet of separated and settled peach blooms.
Another little detail, the weather was also an indicator of Zhe Yan’s mood. When in foul spirits, that’s when his usually sunny peach farm became overcast, and unquestionably reflected on his gray condition. Mo Yuan was inwardly wondering why Zhe Yan was provoked when he saw her, because she was radiant like the sun.
In the midst of the gently falling drizzle was a stunning Bai Qian, dressed in a vivid, canary yellow dress running swiftly towards Mo Yuan with an umbrella. Her lovely smile was beaming brightly like the day-star on the overcast day.
Breathlessly she exclaimed excitedly, “Mo Yuan, I wasn’t expecting to see you today!”
Being a gentleman, Mo Yuan wordlessly grabbed the umbrella from her hand and held it for them. Bai Qian automatically linked her arm into his. She profoundly sighed, playfully batted her long eyelashes at him and melodramatically threw her arm across her forehead, as if his proper mannerism was making her swoon.
In a teasing tone, she asked, “Friend, on days like today one should be hugging their lover, and kissing romantically watching the rain together. Do you want to kiss me?”
Closing her eyes in anticipation, she fully puckered her tantalizing lips and leaned towards him. His anticlimactic not so romantic response was Mo Yuan’s index, and third fingers on her forehead pushing her away. He then planted his palm flat against her pursed out lips. Bai Qian abruptly opened her eyes and stared crossed eyed at his hand before giving him a dirty look.
“Your loss!” She pouted playfully.
Forcibly, she yanked a slow paced Mo Yuan towards Zhe Yan’s hut. For such a little, tiny thing, Bai Qian was quite strong. It was only after being under the protection of the awning, swiftly with a single wave of her small hand and the parasol magically vanished from his grasp.
Bai Qian attentively brushed the water from his robe, strolled around him once to wipe the moisture off his arms, shoulders, and backside. When she touched his muscular arms, she intentionally squeezed his bicep firmly, gasped theatrically in delight, swooned as if she had the vapors and suggestively wagged her brows at him.
“Oooooh, friend, you’re so strong, sexy and manly,” she whispered and made an overly dramatic display, of being extremely impressed by his brawny physique. Mo Yuan wordlessly shook his head disapproving at her but blushed uncontrollably.
Her general ease with touching another never ceased to amaze him. Mo Yuan secretly wondered if Bai Qian was this affectionate with a friend how she would treat her lover? It was astonishing that some smart, lucky man hadn’t already snatched her up and married her by now.
“Friend, what are you doing here?” Mo Yuan asked softly feeling entirely shy over her blatant doting and fawning.
She scrunched up her face and said in a whisper, “I’m here on an errand. Why didn’t you tell me that Zhe Yan has never seen your vineyard? I only brought it up in passing and next thing you know, he’s red in the face. He’s been completely grouchy and pouting for hours!”
Covertly pointing towards the inside of the hut, Bai Qian made a frowning face to show Zhe Yan was grumpy. Mo Yuan finally understood why it was overcast in the peach woods. Zhe Yan was jealous that she saw the place he’d begged to see for countless of years, and Mo Yuan refused him every time.
“I’m going now and leaving you two alone to settle your love quarrels. By the way, your younger twin, Ye Hua is handsome. Does he have a partner?” Bai Qian whispered inquisitively.
It was hard because Mo Yuan almost rolled his eyes but instead, he hid his displeasure and blankly replied, “Ye Hua already has a side consort. If you’re interested in joining a lowly harem, friend, I might need to reevaluate our friendship.”
“A harem!? Friend, I don’t think so. I off so enjoy yourself with Zhe Yan.” Bai Qian stated with a little smile and cloud jumped away.
Mo Yuan took a deep breath, sighed and went to face Zhe Yan. As Bai Qian warned him, Zhe Yan was in full pout mode. He looked like a duck due to his severely pursed out lips. He saw Mo Yuan then furiously glared at him side-eyed, crossed his arms over his chest, dramatically turned his back on his brother and loudly snorted. Zhe Yan gave Mo Yuan the cold shoulder.
“Zhe Yan…” Mo Yuan started when he rudely cut him off.
“What is that terrible annoying noise? A stray dog barking? Or is it the sound of BETRAYAL?!” Zhe Yan whipped around with full theatrics.
“Just give me one reason why you took Xiao Wu to your secretive, private place after denying me access for years?” Zhe Yan charged furiously with his arms outstretched in the air towards Mo Yuan, demanding an explanation.
Tapping his foot impatiently, he added, “I’m waiting, Tuzi! It better be a damn good excuse!”
Zhe Yan’s round eyes suddenly narrowed into tiny slits. He puffed out his chest, stepped up to him and challenged suspiciously, “Mo Yuan, do you like Xiao Wu? Do you see her as a woman? Is this what’s going on?”
It was Mo Yuan’s only safe reply so he reluctantly used it and said, “I was introducing her to Die Feng.”
In an instant, Zhe Yan’s argumentative posture changed abruptly. It went from defensive to entirely captivated. He planted his hands firmly on his hips, leaned into his right side and he looked up heavenward. He began to nod his head ‘yes’ slowly and awe transformed his face.
All smiles, happiness and sunshine, Zhe Yan said in wonderment, “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Xiao Wu and Die Feng? Hm… They would make a great couple and their babies would be so adorable! Have you told Bai Zhi because if not, I’ll tell him!”
For someone known to speak only truths, Mo Yuan was surprised with his newfound talent to lie, and his poker face was perfect when he replied regretfully, “No need to tell Bai Zhi anything. It was just a passing thought but Bai Qian didn’t care for Die Feng so my earnest effort was all in vain.”
“Xiao Wu didn’t like Die Feng!? I wonder why because I find him particularly attractive!? That girl has terrible taste in men! What brings you here, Tuzi?” Zhe Yan asked finally curious as to why, Mo Yuan came to peach woods without being begged and nagged first.
In his soft voice, Mo Yuan spoke what he loved to hear best in the world which was flattery. “Zhe Yan, let’s go to the assembly. I think your voice of reason and fresh concepts are needed. Also, Donghua Dijun specifically asked me to bring you.”
Zhe Yan’s eyes grew wide, unblinking with excitement and eager anticipation. In a flash, he changed into a garment that appeared almost identical to the one he was wearing before. A light pink robe.
After turning one side of his hut’s wall mirror-like, Zhe Yan groomed and checked his reflection with great care. He carefully checked between his teeth for food and explained he had a salad for lunch. He did a turn around in front of the mirror to check his backside and casually waved his hand to stop the rain. He said he didn’t want to get his clothes wet.
Next, he carefully smoothed out his eyebrows to perfection, finally turned to Mo Yuan and exclaimed, “I’m perfect and ready. Let’s go to Nine Heavens.” And strangely it sounded like music to his ears.
To be continued…..