Pi Xiu sat on a Taishi Chair1 with his eyes closed.
In his hand, he held two health balls2, while in front of him, there were a couple of cold drinks placed on a table.
His drink was half-drunk, revealing a few ice cubes.

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The temperature of the air conditioner was too low.
Even though the people sitting in front of Pi Xiu wanted to ask if they could turn up the temperature, none dared to speak.
All they could do was adjust their clothes and endure the cold.

At that moment, the door of the private room was pushed open.
As Pi Xiu finally opened his eyes, he threw the health balls into a basket placed aside.

Wen Xi walked to Pi Xiu’s side on his own initiative, but he didn’t have anywhere to sit.
After all, the Taishi chair was too small, and Pi Xiu’s ass was too big to make room for him.
Therefore, Wen Xi had to lean against the armrest: “Did I make you wait too long?”

Pi Xiu glanced at Wen Xi.
Today, the Scholar’s hair was tied up, and half of it was scattered across his shoulders.
Wen Xi looked a bit better, and livelier than usual.
He didn’t look as depressed and lonely as before.

“Not that much, but you were slow enough.” Pi Xiu taped his fingers against the table and said: “Since there are no other chairs available, you’ll have to stand.”

Wen Xi didn’t say anything.
He simply looked at the people present in the room, who were staring closely at him, and smiled.

“Is he the one you talked about?” A man wearing glasses asked.

Pi Xiu nodded: “He has the scent of the Taotie.
You should be able to smell it for yourself.”

“Where did you find him?” The only woman present in the room raised an eyebrow.
“You don’t see many ghosts this old these days.
Don’t tell me that because this dilapidated restaurant isn’t working, you have decided to go grave-robbing, right?”

Digging and robbing graves was a high-risk activity, but for a monster like Pixiu, it was like playing with mud.
It was not a big deal.

Pi Xiu sneered: “I found him by chance when I went to throw out the trash.
As soon as I finished, a jar with this guy’s bones sealed inside, fell into my arms from the sky.
Like a fucking airdrop.”

Stunned, the woman mumbled: “Did you win the lottery by appropriately separating the garbage?”

“Who cares about an airdrop, let’s take a look at the painting!”

A short man in the corner pulled out a long scroll from his short sleeve and handed it over.
Wen Xi was so stunned to see such a magic trick, that he didn’t move to take the scroll.

Wen Xi simply stared at the short man and asked: “Where did you pull this painting from?”

“From my sleeve.” Without thinking much, the short man pulled his sleeve towards Wen Xi  to let him see: “This is a Qiankun sleeve3.
Since you’re a mortal ghost, you must have never seen something like this.”

Wen Xi took the painting and nodded: “Indeed, I’ve never seen something like this before.”

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‘I thought this short man had taken out the painting from his armpit.
But this is so much cooler.’

Then, the cold drinks on the table were moved aside to make room for the scroll.
When Wen Xi opened it, the painting of a dinner party was revealed.

The painting showed an abundance of beautiful female dancers, singers, as well as the loosely intertwined wine glasses and gambling chips.
The second Wen Xi glanced at the painting, he froze.
For a long time, he didn’t produce any sound.

“What’s wrong?”

After seeing that Wen Xi had become silent, Pi Xiu stood up and walked to the table to take a look at the painting.
The moment he saw the painting, he froze as well.
After a while, Pi Xiu managed to squeeze out a sentence from his gritted teeth: “Fucking hell, how can anyone recognize people from this kind of painting?”

The brush strokes of ancient art showed fine, meticulous lines, but to the naked eye, every person present in the painting looked exactly the same.
They all had chubby faces and thin eyes.
You could only distinguish between the men and women because the men wore beards, and women had long, loose hair.

The two men and the woman present in the room remained silent.
Only the short man tried to explain himself: “What else can I do?! This is how humans used to paint at the time! It’s not like there were cameras in that era like we have today, to capture images that resemble real life.
Besides, I got this painting from the Taotie’s desk the last time I went to catch him.”

The short man banged on the table and yelled: “He’s in this painting! He said so himself! That time, I drank wine with him, and he told me that if I could find him in the painting, he would give me all of the treasures he swindled from you, you….!”

Pi Xiu: “….”

As soon as the short man said those words, he realized that what he said was wrong.
Immediately after, he took a step back and looked at Pi Xiu.
With a trembling voice, he said: “Pi Xiu, let me tell you that I’m a registered citizen.
If you eat me, you’ll be breaking the law!”

At that moment, Pi Xiu kicked the low stool next to the Taishi chair, which ended up smashing against the wall.
The short man was so scared to see this, that he hastily clasped his fist to salute Pi Xiu, as if begging for forgiveness.

“I don’t fucking care whether you’re a registered citizen or not!” As he grew angrier, faint black scales appeared on Pi Xiu’s face, and his eyes glowed bright yellow.
Pi Xiu then kicked the short man.

At that instant, the woman and the other man rushed to stop Pi Xiu.
However, as soon as the woman touched Pi Xiu’s arm, she felt as if her hands were burned by fire.
She cried out in pain: “If you don’t calm down, you’re going to get blown up by the Way of Heaven!”

Immediately after hearing this, Wen Xi took several steps away from Pi Xiu, for fear that Pi Xiu’s flesh and blood would splash all over him after exploding.
Although he was a ghost, he wanted to be clean.

The man, on the other hand, wasn’t afraid of the heat, so he pulled Pi Xiu back as he shouted from the top of his lungs: “He’s a God of Wealth! If you eat him in one bite, you’ll get in big trouble!”

Pi Xiu stared at the short man and roared: “Li Guizu4, come here!”

The God of Wealth stood still, with his back against the wall: “If you cut me some slack, when you recover your treasures, I have connections that will save you from having to pay so much taxes!”

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“Pay taxes?! Pay what taxes?!” Pi Xiu’s eyes were now completely yellow.
“Why does Laozi have to pay some fucking taxes, when they were my treasures to begin with? You’re a money-hungry bastard!”

‘Not only was he paying taxes for the restaurant according to human rules, but he even had to pay taxes for the belongings he lost, as a victim of fraud?’

‘Were these people crazy for money?’

“Your treasures are national treasures! Since you don’t want to put them in a museum, you must pay taxes!” Li Guizu grinned good-naturedly.
“Don’t get angry Mr.
Pi.
Your treasures haven’t been recovered yet, and if you die of anger, wouldn’t the loss outweigh the gain?”

Pi Xiu took a few heavy breaths, and finally, he lost all intention to eat the God of Wealth.

“I won’t pay a fucking tax!” Pi Xiu drank the cold drink on the table and chewed on the ice angrily.
“Don’t even try to get a single cent or copper coin from me! Keep dreaming if you think you can take money from a Pixiu!”

Wen Xi was stupefied when hearing Pi Xiu’s words.
‘So this beast is a Pixiu.’ At that, Wen Xi couldn’t stop his eyes from looking at Pi Xiu’s ass.

‘It’s said that what the Pixiu eats doesn’t ‘goes out’.
I wonder if it’s true….’

“What are you standing there for?! Come here!” Pi Xiu suddenly turned around and stretched out his hand to grab Wen Xi.

The other three people were surprised to see this ghost Scholar hold Pi Xiu’s hand and lean over him.
As soon as Wen Xi shook his white sleeve, a black and golden lacquered fan appeared in his hand.

“Why do I feel that your temperature is a little higher than usual?” Wen Xi unfolded the fan, and as he fanned Pi Xiu, he said with a smile: “Are you this hot because of the heavy summer heat?”

The woman was surprised to see that Wen Xi was being hugged by Pi Xiu directly, and asked: “Don’t you feel the burning heat?”

Wen Xi looked at her and replied: “I’m a ghost.
I’m not as sensitive to temperature as you are.
I simply feel that he’s hotter than before.”

“No, even if you’re a ghost you should….” The woman murmured.

Pi Xiu slowly calmed down thanks to Wen Xi’s cold body.
Then, he turned his head to the side, resting his face against the Scholar’s chest.
At that moment, Pi Xiu felt an icy hand rest on the back of his neck.
However, he began to feel somewhat dissatisfied, thinking that the Scholar’s clothing was getting in the way.

When Li Guizu saw that Pi Xiu had finally calmed down, he dared to take a few steps forward and said: “With Yue Lao5 and the Queen Mother of the West6 as a witness, I promise I won’t take a single treasure, nor will I charge you any tax.
Only if you find the Taotie!”

“That goes without saying!”

After saying that, Pi Xiu snatched the fan from Wen Xi’s hand and fanned himself.
Seeing this, Wen Xi stopped and just obediently sat down in silence.
However, his eyes were still fixed on the fine brush strokes of the painting still lying on the table as he asked: “Is the Taotie really in this painting? Which one of all those people is he?”

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“This one.”

Li Guizu took the painting and pointed to a ‘man’ wearing white clothes, who talked to a maid behind a screen in a corner of the painting.
Li Guizu then looked at Wen Xi expectantly and asked: “Have you seen this man before?”

“No, I haven’t.” Wen Xi shook his head with honesty.

‘To be honest, where would I see someone like that?’

‘As if I could recognize anyone in the painting.
Although everyone is a guest sitting at the banquet, why would anyone care about an insignificant person sitting in an inconspicuous corner?’

Pi Xiu said impatiently: “Enough with this stupid painting.
Taotie doesn’t even look human, so how could he recognize him?”

The Queen Mother of the West sat at the table and sighed: “Then what are we going to do?”

“What’s the hurry? The Taotie was the one to seal his soul, so he would naturally come here to get him.
As long as the Taotie comes, I will catch that son of a bitch.” Pi Xiu said angrily, and then he thought: ‘When the time comes, I’ll make him spit out the treasures he scammed from me that year with interest!’

If it hadn’t been for the Taotie, why would Pi Xiu have to open a restaurant in such a miserable place? Also, why would he have to live with such a pathetic flow of running water? Not only that, but every month he has to pay the loan to the bank on time, pay the water and electricity bills, as well as pay the salaries of those little monsters.

At birth, as soon as Pi Xiu opened his eyes, he already had consciousness and wisdom.
As a Pixiu, he’s known to have the ability to collect as well as store treasures, only in and never out7.
So how was it that he came to have to endure such suffocating days?

‘It’s all that beast Taotie’s fault! It’s all because of him, now I have to go through all kinds of sufferings only Humans experience!’

“What’s your relationship with the Taotie?” Yue Lao looked at Wen Xi, who was sitting on Pi Xiu’s lap, and asked him.
Although Wen Xi was quite good-looking, he was clearly a man, which on its own had nothing to do with the four-legged Taotie’s type.

Yue Lao then dared to make bold assumptions, and carefully tried to confirm them: “Are you his….lover?”

Wen Xi’s face turned immediately gloomy: “I have nothing to do with him!”

Pi Xiu, as if suddenly enlightened, grabbed Wen Xi’s wrist, stretched it out, and said to Yue Lao: “Check on his red thread8, maybe it’s connected with the Taotie?”

As soon as those words were said, both the Queen Mother of the West and Yue Lao changed their faces.
It was as if they had seen a green light falling from the sky, landing right on top of Pi Xiu’s forehead.

The Queen Mother of the West couldn’t help but ask: “First you hold him in your arms, then you want to know if he and the Taotie are connected by the red thread of marriage? Pi Xiu, is there something wrong with you?”

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“What’s wrong with me holding him when he’s as cold as ice? Do you really want me to die of heat?” Pi Xiu hugged Wen Xi even tighter and added: “Can’t I make use of this male ghost?”

As Wen Xi held Pi Xiu’s shoulders, his face turned blue and white.
Since Wen Xi didn’t dare to speak angrily, he could only grit his teeth and ask: “The one in the portrait is clearly a man, how can I be predestined to him?”

“Every time the Taotie appears in public, he changes his face.
Who the hell knows if he’s a man or a woman?” Pi Xiu replied angrily.

Queen Mother of the West froze: “Yeah, even after all these years, we still don’t know whether Taotie is male or female.”

Wen Xi froze as well: ‘They want me to recognize the Taotie when they don’t even know if that beast is male or female? What the fuck are you all looking for?’

Yue Lao, who had seen strong winds and big waves9, said lightly: “It doesn’t matter whether you’re both male or female.
As long as they’re connected by fate, even animals and people can be tied together.”

As Wen Xi heard Yue Lao’s words, Wen Xi internally cursed at Yue Lao.
Even then, Wen Xi still extended his hand to let the God of Marriage take a look at his red thread.

When Wen Xi was still alive, his grandfather arranged a marriage for him.
His fiancee was a young lady, the daughter of a Marquis.
Wen Xi heard she was as delicate as she was beautiful, and she was well raised by her family, which meant she was a perfect match for him.

‘Perhaps my red thread of marriage is still connected to that young lady’s hand.
Which means I can still renew our previous relationship with her reincarnation.
Just like the love stories told by the storytellers, we will be a couple that’s not afraid of the secular world.
A marriage between ghosts.’

At that, Yue Lao took Wen Xi’s hand, only to see that there was indeed a red thread connected to his hand.
However, when he followed the red thread to find the other end, he ended up staring at Pi Xiu.
Yue Lao fell silent for a long time.

“Why are you looking at me? Do I have money on my face?” Pi Xiu frowned.

Still stunned, Yue Lao said: “His red thread is connected….to you?”

‘As long as they’re connected by fate, even animals and people can be tied together.’

Wen Xi’s eyes darkened as he thought: ‘This is indeed a marriage that doesn’t fear the secular world.’

Footnotes

太师椅 tài shī yǐ; Originally, it was the chair of the Official of the family, as a symbol of power and status.
When placed in the family home, it shows the status of the Master of the house.
Looks something like THIS. 保健球 bǎo jiàn qiú; Two small balls of different sizes and weights, which can be made of stone, metal, and copper.
It’s used to improve the strength as well as flexibility of the hand by exercising the fingers and the palm.
But it also has the function of calming the mind, eliminating all kinds of distractions and tension. 袖里乾坤 xiù lǐ qián kūn; A sleeve that was modified to contain the Yin and Yang of Heaven and Earth (the universe).
It’s basically a space used to store tangible objects. 李诡祖 lǐ guǐ zǔ; Also known as Zengfu Zhenjun (增福真君 zēng fú zhēn jūn).
He’s a Taoist deity, and one of the Nine Gods of Wealth (the Northeast God of Wealth). 月老 yuè lǎo; The God of Marriage.
Also known as the ‘Old Man Under the Moon’ (月下老人 yuè xià lǎo rén). 西王母 xī wáng mǔ; The Queen Mother of the West is a Goddess in Chinese Mythology and folk beliefs, as well as a Taoist Female Immortal.
She lives in the Kunlun Mountains, and she’s the keeper of the Peaches of Immortality growing in her garden. 只进不出 zhǐ jìn bù chū; According to legend, it’s said that Tianlu (天禄 tiān lù, male Pixiu) violated the law of Heaven, angering the Jade Emperor, who then punished him by sealing his anus and restricting him to only eat without being able to defecate (also restricting his diet to gold, silver and jewels.
This is why the Pixiu’s name is associated with obtaining and keeping wealth). 姻缘红线 yīn yuán hóng xiàn; Also referred as the ‘Red Thread of Marriage’.
When two people are connected by the red thread, it means they’re destined lovers, regardless of place, time, or circumstances.
This ‘magical’ cord can stretch or tangle, but never break.
This myth is similar to the Western concept of soulmate or a destined partner.
In the original Chinese myth, the thread was tied around both parties’ ankles, while in modern times, the thread is tied around the fingers, often the little finger. 大风大浪 dà fēng dà làng; A metaphor for the great turmoil and changes in society.
It’s also a metaphor for a sharp, complex, intense, and arduous struggle.
From《母子君臣》by (高阳 gāo yáng) Gao Yang [1926-1992].

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