Nezha peeked from behind the pillar, hoping to ensure there were no obstacles before waving his companions forward.
Faith Pursuer: All clear?
Nezha stayed silent and reached out with his mind’s eye to check around the door—
Faith Pursuer: Hey, I am asking you a question. How is everything out there?
Little Lotus: Run! Quickly! It’s a manifestation of the Taoist!
Nezha had always been unhappy with Dipankara for trapping him on Vulture Peak. Taking advantage of an ascetic wanting to unseal a mythological beast on the mountain, Nezha had conspired along with him as revenge for trapping him.
Taking advantage of the Taoist’s trip down the mountain to combat monsters, the practitioner shattered the magical barrier imprisoning the mystical bird and released Zhuque from its cage. The two, Zhuque in arms, rushed out of the abbey’s gates and dashed down the mountain. The Taoist had expected this, and had prepared a manifestated double of himself that would appear and block the path if the abbey gates were opened.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Stop running, you insubordinate apprentice!
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Do you know the repercussions of returning Zhuque to the realm of man?
Faith Pursuer: With Zhuque as weak as it is now, what possible repercussions could there be?
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: In the past, it has burnt the earth,
Celestial Master - Tongtian Jiaozhu: leaving plumes of smoke that even inundated the Celestial Palace.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: While it is understandable that he would not know this considering his youth;
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: but Nezha, you have trained with me for decades.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Are you telling me you don’t know of Zhuque’s past?
Little Lotus: Naturally I would know.
Faith Pursuer: If Zhuque cannot exert self-control,
Faith Pursuer: I would personally reduce Zhuque to a normal bird.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: If that time comes,
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: I worry that you would scarcely have the ability to protect yourself.
Faith Pursuer: I will bear all consequences.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: I fear that you would not even be able to bear the power of my manifestation.
Faith Pursuer: As the bird of fire, Zhuque should not be permanently imprisoned in the abbey!
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: This is only meant to be a tentative measure.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Please reconsider. You will be consumed by Zhuque.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Its wild roots cannot be overlooked.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Fine, if this apprentice of mine is willing to bet his life on this,
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: I cannot hope to stop it.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Swear on your life that you would properly control the power of Zhuque.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Do not let it become a scourge on humankind again.
Dipankara allowed Zhuque to leave. Yet, Nezha did not take the opportunity to escape and voluntarily chose to stay.
Little Lotus: I am not a weakling.
Little Lotus: In the future, I will defeat you fair and square before I walk out of here.
Nezha, intentionally provoking Dipankara, had a smug look on his face. Yet, Dipankara could only sigh. Even though Nezha’s mindset remained unchanged, he had already grown accustomed to his new lotus body. It was time to replace it with a real body.
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: Sigh...
Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha: The time has come.
Kunlun Taoist: We are Xian sent here by Tianzun to capture you, the rebellious Sage.
Kunlun Taoist: Surrender now! If you don’t, I —
A cloud slammed itself through the Xian’s ranks; suddenly, it radiated with magic and exploded, sending the ascetics sprawling. The gold-haired demonic monkey landed on the shore with a flip. The dragon army, waiting in formation, charged.
Armored Soldiers: Protect the dragon palace!
Ocean Troopers: Protect the dragon palace!
Sun Wukong the Great Sage: Ocean Troopers! Get out of my way!
By the time Nezha arrived, the dragon army had already been defeated. Nezha was originally still unhappy about what had happened in the past, but upon hearing the commotion of combat ahead, he could not help but rush over.^ The demonic monkey, seeing the attack of another Xian, manifested another double. Flames flared out of Nezha’s spear as he dashed towards the demonic monkey —
Sun Wukong the Great Sage: Get out of my way!
Nezha the Lotus Prince: You would have to deal with all six of my arms first!
Sun Wukong the Great Sage: Why would you stop me from pacifying the chaos and achieving great honor!
Nezha the Lotus Prince: Don’t overestimate yourself, demonic monkey!
Nezha the Lotus Prince: Watch me defeat your double, and then you and I can fight this out!
Yang Jian the Deity of Fidelity: So, even you could feel dejected, huh?
Yang Jian patted Nezha on the head as the latter pouted in his lotus pond. Taiyi Zhenren treated Nezha’s wounds in the pond before retreating to the inner chambers with Dipankara.
Yang Jian the Deity of Fidelity: Sun Wukong is very powerful. Even I cannot guarantee victory.
Nezha the Lotus Prince: ...
Yang Jian the Deity of Fidelity: Don’t be dejected. Get some rest!
Nezha did not poke his head out of the lotus pond until Yang Jian flew away riding his magical artifact. Chin on the side of the pond, he stared at the Xian chambers’ gates. He wanted to pull himself out, but even the slightest movement caused tearing pain in his shoulder.^ The demonic monkey was powerful; Nezha fought as hard as he could, but not only was he defeated, he also lost his arm in the process.
Nezha the Lotus Prince: Darn...
Win or lose; Nezha did not care. What nagged at him was that in the imminent death, he was no longer as uncaring as he was when he had killed himself. He actually expected Dipankara to come rescue him.
A loud bang rung out from within the chamber as the door slammed open. Taiyi Zhenren dashed out from the chamber and dove into the pond with a great splash. A heat wave rushed out from within the chamber that even Nezha felt, despite being in the lotus pond.
Taiyi Zhenren: That Dipankara! I almost melted, but he still would not stop!
Nezha the Lotus Prince: What?
Taiyi Zhenren: Ever since your injury,
Taiyi Zhenren: he has been in the workshop flaring with his pneuma-powered flames...
Taiyi Zhenren: I tried to persuade him to stop.
Taiyi Zhenren: But I almost caught fire despite only standing there for a brief instant.
Taiyi Zhenren: Flaring with his flames like that!
Taiyi Zhenren: He seems even more manic than I am when I get obsessed!
Nezha the Lotus Prince: What is he forging?
Taiyi Zhenren: Your arm, of course!
Taiyi Zhenren: You should go talk to him, Nezha!
Nezha retreated into the pond, feeling his cheeks warming, before diving back into the clear water.
Nezha the Lotus Prince: ‘Perhaps the lotus pond is helping me recover my pneuma...’
Taiyi Zhenren: Why did he dive back in?
Taiyi Zhenren: Sigh...The master-apprentice duo keeps messing with me...
‘Vines wind around seeking attention, while elms nearby stands erect.’^ ‘In the water, you can see the tree, but in the wind, you can hear the moan of the pine.’
After the end of the war of the Gods’ Investiture, Dipankara had retreated to the mountains to guide the various Xian. Nezha, on the other hand, represented the abbey to provide assistance to Xian who needed it.^ In the night, Nezha stood at the pavilion in the realm of the Xian, and read out the poem written on the pillar. A strange sensation traveled through Nezha’s body into his heart. He sensed someone approaching from behind, and although he did not turn around, he extended the arms on his back, bowing in greeting.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: Honorable Moonlight Immortal.
The Xian danced through the air and arrived before Nezha, speaking in an enchanting tone:
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: You have changed, little pearl.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: I am here on the orders of Dipankara the Enlightened Buddha,
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: in hopes of borrowing the fire pearl from Your Honor.
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: First, you must answer me,
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: When you read that poem, what did you think of?
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: ...
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: I lack experience, and dare not speak out of turn.
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: What is it with you? Have your brain turned into lotus as well?
The Xian sat in the air with his head on his chin, and asked:
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: I can give you the pearl, but first, you must tell me,
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: About THAT person in your heart.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: I refuse.
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: If you can understand that poem, there must be someone on your mind.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: Please don’t tease me, Moonlight Immortal —
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: You can tell me. I can keep a secret!
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Also, every Xian knows that you particular enjoy annoying Dipankara.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: ...
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: I get it; when you are not with them, you would miss them;
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: when you are with them, you do not know how to act,
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: I know how you feel!
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: ...
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: What? Embarrased?
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: I am here on the Enlightened Buddha’s orders to borrow the pearl.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: Please cooperate!
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: No.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: Then forgive my disrespect!
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Hmm! You wouldn’t even tell me things.
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: What, did you think they sent you here just as an errand boy?
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Pearl boy, be honest!
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Is it because he cares about you? Because you respect him?
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: He did help me a lot, and he is more powerful than me, but...
Even after defeating the Moonlight Immortal, Nezha could not get the pearl. The Immortal did not carry the pearl on him after all, and interrogation was out of the question as it both reflected badly upon Nezha and disgusted him. In the end,, Nezha could only give in and reluctantly spoke of what is on his mind.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: I just cannot treat him with appreciation or respect...
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: It is okay even if you cannot explain it. As long as you know you like him —
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: It’s...It’s not like that!
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Kid, you have to admit you admire him at least.
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: You are blessed...
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: You can flaunt emotions without worry...
Although Nezha could not fully understand the Moonlight Immortal, he still forced himself to answer:
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: Would this bother him if I do this?
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: What do you think?
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Hehe! You actually don’t have to worry,
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: Dipankara is a straightforward person; you can pout all you want!
Nezha gave up trying to respond, and simply smiled reluctantly as he nodded at the Moonlight Immortal.
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: Thank you.
The smiling Xian channeled his pneuma; his wounds disappeared and his typical radiance restored. He flew onto the pavilion, and said poutingly:
Moonlight Immortal Changxi: You know you hurt me, I will get you back!
Content, the Moonlight Immortal soared off as Nezha thought about his words; an understanding dawned. He looked into the night sky and saw the glittering trail the Moonlight Immortal had left...
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: ...
Nezha the Guard of Vaiśravaṇa: So, what about the pearl we agreed on...