Chapter 3: After the 102nd Night
Translated by Addis of Exiled Rebels Scanlations
After THE war, the court poet was captured by the enemy. Because he was young and beautiful, the men did not put him to death, but dressed him up and presented him to the new king.
The poet learned that the king was irascible by nature, and he was very fond of the new and tired of the old very easily. When he became interested in others, he was still patient. If he was not interested in others, he would get angry and kill him over a small matter.
The poet read many books and knew of a legend: it is said that there was a cruel king in a certain Dynasty. He did not trust any woman, so he always killed his concubines one night later. Then, a brave woman became his concubine. She told stories for the king every night, but she never finished. Every time she told the story to the middle, and the ending was left to the next night. By the end of the next night, she continued to tell another story. After a thousand and one nights, the king was moved by her and did not want to kill her any more, and he did not want to kill any other concubines.
The poet didn’t know whether the story was true or not. Will a cruel king be moved by a story?
He didn’t expect to change the present King, he just wanted to live. So he learned from the legend and decided to tell stories to save his life.
When the king saw the poet, he liked him very much, so that night he let the poet come to his bedroom. In the veil, the poet began to tell his first story.
While cleaning up the wine and candles, the maid and the chamberlain overheard the sound inside the gauze curtain in the king’s bedroom. The poet told stories in a low voice, they can’t hear the details, but the king’s voice was loud.
Every night, the king usually said these words:
“Tell me the story first, is it cruel or not?”
“More updates today?”
“I asked for a change. This man is a scum.”
“What? Are you sleepy and unconscious? Is it a man’s business to stop here?”
“I like that supporting actress. Who did she stay with later?”
As time went by, all the people in the court admired the poet. The irascible king was very gentle to him. As a slave, he had never been whipped once. Because a poet used to be a storyteller who would compose stories into songs and dramas, he was good at holding the listener’s heart.
The poet had been with the king for more than two months, and it will be three soon.
He was worried that the king would be tired of it. If the king is willing to let him go free, what should he do if he is ordered to be killed because of his dissatisfaction?
Finally, on the 101st day.
Today, the poet finished the last story and had just started to tell a new story. The new story had a fresh structure and charming protagonists, but the king was absent-minded.
The poet had just said a little, and the king ordered him to stop. The king said, “Don’t tell this story anymore. I don’t want to hear it.”
“Why? My majesty?”
“If I listen, I will be reluctant to send you to the tomb.”
After hearing this, the poet was so scared, he knelt on the floor and didn’t know what he had done.
The king said with regret, “I am not going to cut off your head. Listen to me first. Do you know why my empire is invincible?”
The poet shook his head.
“Because there is a demon in a tomb outside. He protects my country and makes the soldiers strong, let the food and grass be forever fertile, in the war, he also made me invulnerable. Since thousands of years ago, we have been sending the most beautiful and intelligent people to serve him, both men and women. A few days ago, the last person who served him died. Everyone can’t live long. Now, I’ve decided to give you to him.”
After hearing this, the poet was more afraid. He had never seen a demon. What a terrible monster would it be?
“Please, don’t give me to the devil. If I go to the tomb, who will continue to tell the story?”
“I’ve ordered people to record the stories you’ve told, and when I’m free, I can look back on them and relax. What’s more, I’m going to conquer new territories, so I can’t listen to your stories after the war. When I triumph, I may meet more beautiful and intelligent people, so I wouldn’t need you. So, don’t tell this last story, the beginning sounds wonderful, tf you go on, I will miss the story too much.”
The poet’s story did not go on. On the 102nd night, he was escorted to the tomb.
The heavy stone gate was opened, and the wind blew in the dark. The king watched the poet be sent in, and the poet stopped begging for mercy. He knew it was useless.
Before the poet stepped into the tomb, the king called to him, “Tell me, is the final story a good ending or a bad ending?”
The poet did not answer and walked quickly into the tomb. The stone gate was closed behind, and there were no fingers in the tomb. The poet held one side of the wall and thought for a long time before he made up his mind to walk slowly.
When he was tired of singing, he took a rest and began to tell the unfinished story in a low voice. His intention was to make a voice to embolden himself. When it came to the story of the little princess disguised as a man, a pirate thought she was a beautiful young man and fell in love with her at first sight, suddenly the poet’s hand was held.
It’s the touch of the hand, but not a human hand. The poet immediately thought that this was the devil in the tomb.
“Stranger, are you the one who the king sent to accompany me? I can see you in the dark, but your eyes can’t see me. Don’t be afraid, I will guide you to walk and will not let you fall.”
The poet had the courage to thank him. The devil said, “Your story is very good, and I want to continue listening. But before that, you have to tell me, can you finish the story?”
“Why do you ask?”
“Because the king has given me many companions, they were very charming. At first they were afraid of me, and then they became able to talk to me. There was a man who was good at painting and brought an oil lamp. He was able to draw many rare birds and animals, wonders of the city, and make the pictures into a drama. There was a girl who was good at dancing, she was like a flying rose and could act as a prince and a fairy and perform a touching love story. I have also met singers who composed fairy tales to me, and I learned to sing with her. But in the end, these people died, and their stories were not finished. I tried my best to take care of each of them and give them the magic to keep them alive, but they all got weaker and weaker and died.”
The poet is held by his hand and follows the devil into the dark. “I know why, because these people were living in the sadness of missing their hometown and their loved ones, in their yearning for freedom and love.” he said. “Being trapped in the dark for a long time is impossible. We can’t live without the sun.”
“Are you going to die, too?” asked the demon.
“Now I’m not going to die. I promise I’ll finish the story for you. “
From the 102nd night on, the poet continued to tell stories.
When the story was exciting, or when the protagonists were happy and joyful, the devil would lift the poet’s body, spin him around, and laugh like a child.
One day, the poet asked the devil, “You like my adventure stories. You yearn for the outside world so much, but why don’t you leave the tomb?”
The devil said, “I am bound by the king’s ancestors and can’t leave the tomb. Did you see a long stone road outside before you came in? That’s what got in my way. I can’t touch that road, and I can’t fly because of bondage. I can’t leave unless I walk on people’s heads. “
The poet asked, “Stepping on one’s head? Do you mean that the pavement must be filled with corpses?”
The devil said, “That’s not necessarily true. Don’t think about it. I can’t cross the stone road, so I have to stay here. If you want to leave, I won’t stop you.”
The poet asked again, “Did you let those who came here leave?”
“Yes, I told them to leave. But they did not go. They said that even if they left, they would not escape from the capital. They would be captured and beheaded by the king. In fact, I also thought about telling the king not to send people again, but the king himself would not enter the tomb or listen to me. Thousands of years ago, I told their ancestors that I wanted the most beautiful and intelligent people in this country to accompany me. As a result, they have carried out this behavior to this day.”
“Well, how does the king know when your companion has died?”
“When my companions die, I can’t help crying, and then people outside will know that they are dead, report to the king, and he will send new people.”
The poet thought for a moment, “Maybe I can help you leave. Would you like to try?”
“Yes, of course,” said the devil.
“I ask you, does the king know you can’t walk on that stone road?”
“He doesn’t know. He just knows I can’t leave.”
The poet said, “Well, you need to make a sound of crying first to attract the attention of outsiders.”
The devil sighed, “No, I’m not like you human beings. I can’t pretend to cry. Only when I really feel very sad, can I make the appearance of crying.”
The poet reached out his hand and touched the devil’s wrist. These days, the devil had been holding his hand as much as possible in case he could not see clearly and hurt himself.
“Don’t worry, I can make you feel sad.” The poet smiled at the darkness.
Another night, soldiers patrolling outside the mausoleum heard a whimper. Gradually, the cry became louder and bleaker.
“Tell the king! The last companion is dead!”
The king came back from winning the battle again and was a little sad to learn that the poet was dead. In order to avoid the soldier’s mistake, he had to go to the tomb to hear if there was crying. By the time he approached, the cry had disappeared. From the tomb came laughter!
One was a low voice, laughing up and down, and the other was the poet’s voice.
The king didn’t expect the poet to still be alive, let alone hear him like this. The king ordered the tomb to be opened to see what was going on. Anyway, the devil could not get out of the tomb door, so he was not worried.
The soldier opened the stone gate, and the moonlight slanted in, and the poet stood not far away.
The king asked him what was going on, and the poet said, “Your Majesty, have you forgotten? What I’m good at is telling stories. I told a new story to the devil. That’s the one you told me not to finish.”
“Then why did he cry?” the king asked.
In the darkness behind the poet, the voice of the devil came out and answered for the poet, “Because the story has its ups and downs, in the middle, I was affected by the fate of the protagonist, and I couldn’t help crying out. Ah! It’s just too much to worry about. I can’t help it.”
“Then why were you laughing? the king asked again.
The devil continued to reply, “Because the next development of this story was very wonderful, really wonderful! What’s more, the poet also told a few small jokes about the story, which was really very interesting!”
The king was very curious, but he didn’t want to show it. He left angrily, returned to his study, and ordered the chamberlain to bring piles of long rolls. These were all stories told by the poet.
He turned to the last volume, and on the 101st night of his coexistence with the poet, the story which had been interrupted and could not be finished was also recorded, with only a little plot at the beginning.
After reviewing the beginning, he recalled the evaluation of the devil in the mausoleum. The king’s heart itched.
He returned to the tomb, “Poet, come out! I want to hear you finish the last story.”
The poet said across the stone gate, “No, the devil does not want me to leave. After I leave, there would be no one to accompany him.”
The king said quickly, “It’s easy to do. I have just acquired several beautiful young men and women, all of whom are versatile, and I can choose new ones to give to the devil.”
The poet seemed to think about it and said, “It’s still not possible. Since I am a slave, I would need to return to the palace. If one day you are tired of listening to stories and there are other people in the tomb with the devil, you will surely kill me because you are bored.”
The king said, “If you want to come back, I’ll give you an official post and marry you. Young maids or servants in the palace can be chosen by you. I will no longer regard you as a slave.”
The poet seems to be moved. He was silent for a moment and said, “But I still can’t let go. Why don’t you, your majesty, let me breathe, and I’ll go back with you.”
“What do you want?”
“It’s very simple. We spent a thousand and one nights in the past, and I was telling stories every night. But in the end, I didn’t even get any thanks. You didn’t apologize for sending me to the tomb. I know that you are a king, much higher than I am, so I dare not ask you what to do, I only ask you to send some soldiers.”
“Yes, I want a thousand and one soldiers, on behalf of that one thousand and one nights, and I want them to bow down on the stone road in front of the mausoleum, as I do to you. If I open the tomb door and see this scene, I will surely feel honored and satisfied.”
Originally, the king thought it would be a tricky request, but it was so simple. However, the king also put forward his own conditions, “Poet, I can agree with your request. But when the door of the tomb opens, I want you to start telling that story immediately. I’ll try to see if it’s really interesting or not.”
The poet agreed. In this way, in the evening, the king sent a thousand and one soldiers to the tomb. The soldiers were not kneeling yet. The door of the tomb opened and the poet went to the place where the moonlight could shine and began to tell his story.
He started from the beginning, and then goes on to describe the magnificent palaces and beautiful rivers and mountains in the illusory world. He tells the story of the protagonist’s ups and downs of fate, touching people’s feelings of love. The story was mixed with magic and conspiracy, suspense and danger followed one after another. Not only the king, but also the one thousand and one soldiers were fascinated.
At the best part of the story, the poet sighed and stopped.
He said, “It seems that his majesty does not want me to leave, nor does he want to keep the promise. You just want to hear the story, close the stone gate and let me go back to the tomb, right? These 1001 soldiers are standing here with weapons. I’m so scared that I can’t go on. It’s just that the devil doesn’t want me to go, so I’d better stop telling stories.”
With that, he was about to return to the darkness. The soldiers standing in the front row were worried and wanted to take a few steps to hold him, but the low roar of the devil in the dark made them too afraid to approach.
At the king’s command, the soldiers knelt down one by one.
In fact, some soldiers didn’t hear the king very well. They just wanted to ask the poet to finish the story.
They put down their weapons and knelt on the stone road.
“Please go on with the story.” From one voice to another, “Please don’t stop here!”
The poet looked back and stood in the moonlight again. This time, it was not only him who came out, but a shadow was following him.
The shadow put its arms around his body and jumped out.
Before people could react, the demon God had stepped on the heads of the soldiers and left the tomb. At the moment of leaving, his strength was no longer bound and could be used at will. He took back the protection of the country. The soldiers were no longer invincible iron men, and they were intimidated by the demon.
So the devil went on until the end of the flagstone road – he set foot on the land outside and was completely free.
The king was so frightened that he sat on the ground. It was the first time that he saw the whole image of the demon. The devil was tall and strong, with the horns of bulls, the wings of giant eagles, a human body, a beak and the tail of a dragon.
The poet also saw the devil for the first time, but he was not so afraid. In the dark, the devil had guided his hands and let him touch his own outline.
The demon God did not look at the king and the army, and disappeared into the night with the poet.
From then on, the king lost his protection and could no longer invade other countries. Within a few years, he died on the battlefield because of his previous ambition. His descendants learned from their father and became wise kings.
The legend of the devil and the poet spread among several countries, and the unfinished story of the poet was recorded. Even the new king and his friends were worried.
In fact, the poet’s story has been told for a long time, but only to the demon God.
The devil and the poet did not disappear. Many years later, a caravan passed the oasis of the desert and met a pair of young men traveling together. Both of them were handsome and funny. They told moving stories to the caravan by the night’s campfire.