This story had a long history, dating back to twenty-two years ago when he was still living in Yi Luo Mountain.
At that time, Su Ru Hui was nodding off in his master Ming Ruo Wu’s lecture hall. Ming Ruo Wu was putting in a lot of effort to pass down the “Qi Qi Jing (1)” to him, calling him in every other day to memorize it. His master was a genius, proficient in the art of star formations. Of the forty-eight states’ aristocratic families, thirty states’ defense formations were set up by his master, and almost all of the aristocrats came to him for medical treatment. Not only was his master’s medical skills excellent, but he was also a good person. Those aristocratic descendants with difficult-to-cure and embarrassing diseases begged him for treatment. This was mainly because his master never gossiped. If they went to another family for treatment, rumors would fly the next day.
Ming Ruo Wu had already thought about passing down his unique skills to his disciples. He would pass on his medical skills to Zhou Xiao Su, who had talent and the special power “Deadwood Meets Spring,” which could heal painful diseases. The Wind Star Formation would be passed down to Su Ru Hui, whose special power was “Infinite Deduction.” No matter how complex the calculations were, Su Ru Hui could arrive at an answer in an instant. The Wind Star Formation contained infinite changes, and Su Ru Hui had excellent talent for practicing it. He was born to practice the formation.
It was a pity that Su Ru Hui, this little scoundrel, was single-minded about becoming a cook.
Daylight gradually receded, and the bamboo curtains cast a long shadow over the area. The sound of children reciting scriptures could be heard far away on the wind. Most of the children in the private school came from Zhi Luo Town, and there was a huge difference between the rich and the poor. It was rare for Ming Ruo Wu to give lectures, and the children studied diligently, reading the scriptures word by word. Only Su Ru Hui was slowly nodding off.
Ming Ruo Wu put down the “Qi Qi Jing” with a sigh and walked up to Su Ru Hui, tapping his head to signal him to come outside to talk. Su Ru Hui followed Ming Ruo Wu to the wooden porch. Ming Ruo Wu touched his head and said, “A Hui, if you don’t study hard, you won’t be able to get married in the future.”
Su Ru Hui shook his head and said confidently, “Master, what you said is not right. My father has no special skill and cannot earn money, but he still married a princess of the Secret Sect. It shows that whether or not you can get married depends on your appearance, not your skills. I look decent, so don’t worry. I will definitely find a girl who likes me in the future.”
“You are full of nonsense. I can’t argue with you.” Ming Ruo Wu shook his head and smiled bitterly. “You grew up with Xiao Su and Xue Ya since you were young, which one do you like? Xiao Su comes from the Zhou family and has already started learning medicine. Xue Ya comes from the Jiang family in Yun Zhou and has a rare, strong offensive power. Study hard, and when you are fourteen, I will help you propose to either Xiao Su or Xue Ya.”
Whether he married Zhou Xiao Su or Jiang Xue Ya, it would be a great disaster for Su Ru Hui.
Su Ru Hui was silent for a while before saying, “Please don’t force me. Jiang Xue Ya said that her husband must be the hottest man in the world, and Xiao Su said that she wants the most gentle man in the world. I am neither gentle nor hot, so they won’t like me.”
As he spoke, the evening drum sounded, and the noise spread through the mountains and startled countless birds.
Su Ru Hui’s eyes lit up. “Master, school is over. See you tomorrow!”
He went back to his room to get his schoolbag, but accidentally bumped into a teenager named Da Long. He had been eavesdropping on Su Ru Hui and his master’s conversation from behind the door. Da Long was fourteen years old, much taller than Su Ru Hui.
“Su Ru Hui, don’t you have eyes?” Da Long glared at him.
He had been eavesdropping on other people’s conversation yet he still acted so arrogant. Da Long had never liked Su Ru Hui and often picked on him, but he didn’t dare go too far because Su Ru Hui was Ming Ruo Wu’s apprentice. Su Ru Hui didn’t want to provoke him, so he took his schoolbag and left. However, as soon as he stepped off the wooden porch, he was blocked by Jiang Xue Ya.
“Where are you going?” Jiang Xue Ya glared at him.
Her voice was cold. Su Ru looked around and saw Zhou Xiao Su glaring at him with hands on her hips. Su Ru knew it was not good and was about to leave when Jiang Xue Ya caught up and used her martial arts to catch him like a tiger catching a sheep.
Jiang Xue Ya said to Ming Ruo Wu: “Master, we still have things to do. You go ahead.”
She then dragged Su Ru Hui away. Ming Ruo Wu waved his handkerchief and said: “Have fun, don’t fight!”
As Su Ru Hui had expected, Zhou Xiao Su had found out about him asking Sang Chi Yu to wash his socks. Zhou Xiao Su told Jiang Xue Ya, who then captured Su Ru Hui like a prisoner and brought him back to the courtyard. They coincidentally saw Sang Chi Yu coming into Su Ru Hui’s room to collect the socks. Jiang Xue Ya chased Su Ru Hui, and he jumped up and down, finally hiding behind Sang Chi Yu who was holding a large wooden basin.
“Su Ru Hui, your face is so thick,” Jiang Xue Ya scolded him. “You let others wash your stinky socks. Aren’t you afraid of suffocating Yu’er?”
“Yeah, that’s right,” Zhou Xiao Su chimed in. “You should be ashamed of yourself!”
“First, my socks don’t stink.” Su Ru Hui poked his head out from behind Sang Chi Yu and smiled. “Second, Yu’er is my younger brother. It’s only natural for younger brothers to help their older brothers in times of trouble. Yu’er, would you like to wash my socks?”
Sang Chi Yu nodded. “Yes.”
“Did you hear that?” Su Ru Hui made faces at Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su. “He volunteered.”
“Yu’er, he’s tricking you!” Zhou Xiao Su stamped her foot. “He just wants you to be his slave. If you wash his socks for him today, he’ll make you wash clothes, cook, sweep the floor, and wash dishes tomorrow.”
“Yu’er, come here,” Jiang Xue Ya said. “We’ll take you to catch some loaches. Let’s not play with Su Ru Hui.”
Sang Chi Yu looked at Su Ru Hui and then at Jiang Xue Ya. His black eyes were full of confusion. He didn’t know who to choose.
“Don’t listen to them. Only kids catch loaches.” Su Ru Hui dragged Sang Chi Yu and ran. “My younger brother and I will go first. Please go ahead.”
While Su Ru Hui was running, he heard Zhou Xiao Su shout loudly: “I’m going to tell Master and the Secret Sect’s leader! You wait to kneel before the ancestors!”
Su Ru Hui sneered. She was good at telling on others. He turned his head to look at Sang Chi Yu, who had a fair and clean face with clear eyes. Sang Chi Yu was much better than Jiang Xue Ya, who was like a female devil, and Zhou Xiao Su, who was a snitch. Su Ru Hui might as well marry Sang Chi Yu!
The two people ran directly to the mountain stream. Su Ru Hui was panting heavily while Sang Chi Yu seemed to have no problem at all, as if he could run another 800 miles in one breath. Sang Chi Yu placed the wooden basin by the creek and asked somewhat confusedly, “Can’t we play with Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su together?”
He hung his head, seeming a little upset. Su Ru Hui comforted him, “It’s okay. In a few days we can play together again.”
“Really?” Sang Chi Yu asked.
“Really,” Su Ru Hui assured him, patting his chest. “When have I ever lied to you?”
Sang Chi Yu felt relieved. Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su were both his friends, and he didn’t want to break off ties with them. Sang Chi Yu squatted down and started washing socks with difficulty. Su Ru Hui also squatted down beside him, looking at his fair arm that didn’t enter the rippling water. In the sunset, the water was shining and Sang Chi Yu’s arm seemed to be shining too.
Su Ru Hui propped up his head and suddenly said, “Hey, why don’t you marry me?”
Sang Chi Yu was taken aback and looked at him with confusion.
Su Ru Hui was bored and he flicked the water waves with his hand. “My master has gone crazy. He wants me to marry either Jiang Xue Ya or Zhou Xiao Su. If I marry either of them, I’ll be tortured for life. If you’re willing to be with me, I’ll marry you. Although we’re both men, Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su’s dads both have male concubines, so why can’t kids do what adults do, right?”
Sang Chi Yu vaguely understood and murmured in agreement.
Su Ru Hui patted Sang Chi Yu’s shoulder hard and said seriously, “Our Dragon Gods Gang has recently added a new rule: if the big brother can’t find a wife, the little brother must be his wife. Since I only have you as a little brother, you are my wife.”
Sang Chi Yu was naive at the time and didn’t know what getting married meant. He didn’t care who he married, so Su Ru Hui fooled him into marrying him. Although Su Ru Hui was a bit smarter than Sang Chi Yu at the time, he didn’t really know what marriage meant either. In his mind, his definition of a husband and wife was limited to the concept of two people living together for a lifetime, which he learned from the romance novels Zhou Xiao Su collected. He didn’t want to live with Jiang Xue Ya and Zhou Xiao Su, this a pair of angry hens, for the rest of his life, but he was willing to stay with Sang Chi Yu for a lifetime.
Anyway, there was no difference between being a husband and wife and being brothers. He naively thought that the only difference between being a husband and wife and being brothers was that husbands and wives had to raise children. Adults always said that they had to marry women with big hips and good fertility. Su Ru Hui disagreed. He thought he was already annoying enough, and if his future wife gave birth to a little Su Ru Hui, wouldn’t that mean there was one more annoying person in the world? He was very self-aware; he wouldn’t go and bother others, but he didn’t want anyone to come and bother him either.
“Chi Yu, would you like to be my wife?” he asked.
Sang Chi Yu nodded. “I am willing.”
“Younger brother, call me Gege,” Su Ru Hui shouted at him.
“Gege,” Sang Chi Yu responded.
“Wife,” Su Ru Hui shouted again, “call me husband.”
“Husband,” Sang Chi Yu responded once more.
Yu’er was so obedient that Su Ru Hui was deeply moved. He felt that he had everything he needed in life with his younger brother and wife by his side. His father had said, “A man who comprehends the Dao in the morning can die content in the evening,” but Su Ru Hui felt that “having a wife in the morning and dying content in the evening” was just as good.
Seeing that Sang Chi Yu was done washing the socks and had nothing to do, Su Ru Hui suddenly had a rare moment of kindness. “Wife, you don’t have to wash my socks anymore.”
Sang Chi Yu looked at him in confusion. “Why?”
Su Ru Hui, with a mischievous smile, pinched his cheek and said, “Because I love my wife.” He wiped the sweat from Sang Chi Yu’s forehead. “Wait for me. I’ll go pick some mulberries for you to eat.”
After Su Ru Hui left, Sang Chi Yu turned his head and looked at the grass on the other side of the stream. Sang Chi Yu had always been sensitive since he was young, almost too sensitive to be normal. Dan Tai Jing had once told him not to let anyone know about this, not even Su Ru Hui. Now, he could hear some people hiding in the grass on the other side, thinking they were hiding well, but Sang Chi Yu could hear their faint sounds clearly. Since a while ago, they had been eavesdropping on Su Ru Hui and him talking.
Sang Chi Yu furrowed his brow slightly and focused on washing the socks.
He heard the people on the opposite bank coming closer to the stream.
“Hey!” A small stone hit him, leaving a mud mark the size of a copper coin on his white cloak.
He looked up and saw a group of scruffy children on the opposite bank. The oldest one looked about fourteen years old. Most of them were barefoot, with patched clothes.
“Big Brother Long.” A child grabbed the oldest boy’s wrist. “Don’t hit him. He’s a nobleman.”
“Hey, are you a disciple of Dan Tai Jing?” Da Long asked him.
Sang Chi Yu looked at them and remained silent.
“You’re a nobleman. Why did you marry a commoner like Su Ru Hui?” Da Long asked. “How could you fall for him? His father is a teacher, just like us commoners. He only knew how to write some poems, and was lucky enough to hook up with Su Wu, the princess of the Secret Sect. His father even sold grass shoes in our town not long ago. Look at what I’m wearing on my feet. They’re made by his father. He can’t rise to the surface, and aristocrats look down on him. Let me tell you, Su Ru Hui is not good enough for you.”
The children behind him greeted him shyly. “We’re from the town of Lu Luo under Lu Luo Mountain. My name is Xiao Chong. Do you remember me? I go up the mountain to study every day.” The child said bitterly, “I envy Su Ru Hui. He is Teacher Ming’s personal disciple. He is friends with the young ladies of the Jiang and Zhou families, and he can marry Dan Tai Jing’s disciple.”
Sang Chi Yu slowly furrowed his brow. He felt anger in the boy called Da Long and didn’t know why. It was like an instinct to be alert to hostility and killing intent. He knew that this often signaled attack and death.
“Since you can marry Su Ru Hui, you can also marry me. I’m better than Su Ru Hui. His special power is useless, just calculations. Look at my special power.” Da Long held his palm against the stream, and a water ball was sucked up by him. He said proudly, “Isn’t it amazing? I can also hunt with water arrows. Last time I caught a wild boar and brought it back to the town. Even the village head said that I have the ability to enter Secret Sect’s guards garrison if I were from an aristocratic family. Don’t marry Su Ru Hui, marry me.”
The children behind him cheered. “Big Brother Long, if you become Dan Tai Jing’s son in law, don’t forget us!”
Da Long proudly said, “Of course, we’ll all be nobles in the future!”
Sang Chi Yu shook his head. “No, I want to marry Ru Hui Gege.”
“Why?” Long asked angrily. “What’s wrong with me compared to Su Ru Hui? He’s just lucky enough to have Master Ming Ruo Wu as his master!”
Sang Chi Yu replied, “Ru Hui Gege doesn’t get angry.”
Long was stunned and couldn’t speak for a while. He liked Su Ru Hui just because he didn’t get angry. Long remembered Su Ru Hui laughing and joking all day. Su Ru Hui didn’t get angry because he was a carefree second-rate guy!
Everyone left in a gloomy mood, leaving only Sang Chi Yu behind, who was fully engrossed in washing socks. Sang Chi Yu used a soap with osmanthus fragrance to create bubbles, making the water in the basin smell wonderful. After wearing these socks, even Su Ru Hui’s stinky feet would smell good.
After half an incense stick’s time, Su Ru Hui still hadn’t returned. That’s when Da Long appeared behind Sang Chi Yu. He turned around and silently looked at the fourteen-year-old boy.
Da Long said, “Su Ru Hui fell off a tree while picking mulberries and broke his leg. He’s now in our town, and the village chief has already gone to inform Master Ming. Do you want to go see him?”
Sang Chi Yu was taken aback but stood up and said, “Yes.”
“Then come with me, little brother. Watch your step,” Da Long said.
1. Qi Qi Jing – a Chinese book on traditional Chinese medicine, specifically on the theory of qi and its flow within the body.