The First Arc: Bloody Rain Reaching Towards a Flower
Chapter 3: Scrap-Collecting Immortal’s Third Ascension to Godhood
A former superior master was reduced to a laughingstock of three realms; someone who didn’t have incense offerings, temples, or believers. The two retainers who had once sat underneath him both passed Heaven’s tribulations, ascending and becoming strong martial gods who each oversaw a whole region. With circumstances like this, it was impossible for people to not wonder more. If you were to ask Xie Lian to choose whether Feng Xin or Mu Qing made him feel more awkward, he would say, “They’re all okay ah!”
However, if you asked bystanders whether they wanted to see Xie Lian fight Feng Xin or if they wanted to see Xie Lian fight Mu Qing, then everyone would make different choices according to their tastes. After all, there were abundant reasons for either pair to fight, so it was hard to pick which was the more interesting option.
Therefore, when there was no response from Feng Xin’s side for a long time because he had unexpectedly stopped talking and instead immediately hid, everyone felt utterly disappointed. Meanwhile, Xie Lian collected his tail and beat himself down a bit as he said, “I also didn’t anticipate making a commotion like this. It wasn’t deliberate, I’ve inconvenienced everyone.”
Mu Qing responded in a cool manner, “Oh, then that was indeed quite coincidental.”
Coincidental? Xie Lian also thought it was really too coincidental. How could the clock fall right onto Mu Qing, while his ascension also happened to destroy Feng Xin’s palace? For bystanders, it was as if he was deliberately taking revenge. However Xie Lian was the type of person that, should there be a thousand cups of wine with only one poisoned, Xie Lian would always manage to pick the poisoned one. But there was no way to control what other people believed, so Xie Lian could only say, “I will try my best to compensate for everyone’s golden palaces and other losses. I also hope you may give me some time.”
One didn’t need a brain to understand that Mu Qing definitely wanted to continue his sarcastic remarks. However, since Mu Qing’s golden palace didn’t suffer any losses and even the clock that fell onto him was sliced into two halves, continuing to be overbearing would appear unsightly and something beneath his identity. Therefore, Mu Qing also concealed himself before falling silent. When Xie Lian saw that the terrible problems had left by themselves, he also quickly fled.
He was still genuinely pondering over where he was supposed to get those eight million, eight hundred and eighty thousand merits the next day, when Ling Wen invited him to go to her Ling Wen Palace Hall.
Ling Wen was the Heavenly Official in charge of managing Heaven’s personnel. When mortals wished to get a step ahead in their careers, they would worship her. From the ground to the very top, the whole Palace Hall was filled to the brim with official documents and scrolls. This kind of scene was utterly shocking, one that would make anyone shiver with fear. As Xie Lian walked forward, he saw that every Heavenly Official coming out of Ling Wen’s Palace Hall dragged out an exceptionally tall stack of paperwork. Their faces were pale; and if they didn’t have an expression that looked as if they were about to collapse, then they had a look of numbness. When the two of them finally entered the Palace Hall, Ling Wen turned around and got straight to the point. “Your Highness, there is a matter in which the Emperor would like to request your help. Are you willing to assist him and lend a helping hand?”
In Heaven, there were many people who had the titles ZhenJun or YuanJun. However, only one person could be called the Emperor. But if that person wanted to do something, then there would never be the need for him to beseech other people. This was why Xie Lian stared blankly for a bit before he replied, “What matter?”
Ling Wen handed him a scroll before explaining, “Recently, the North has a large number of zealous worshippers repeatedly praying for blessings. It can be assumed that they aren’t passing their days peacefully.”
These so-called zealous worshippers generally referred to three types of people. First, rich people: they paid money in order to burn incense and build temples for gods. The second category consisted of those missionaries who would preach to bystanders. And, last but not least, the third type of zealous worshippers were people whose body and mind were thoroughly doused in faith and belief. Among them, most of these worshippers belonged to the first category, since in this world, the rich were like carps passing through rivers. The third category had the least people, because if one was truly able to get to that level of faith, then their degree of proficiency was surely quite high, and they wouldn’t be far from ascending themselves. The people Ling Wen mentioned was clearly from the first category.
Ling Wen continued to speak, “At present, the Emperor cannot attend to the North. If you are willing to take his place and make the trip, when the time comes, regardless of how much offerings these zealous worshippers make, everything will be allocated to your altar. What do you think?”
Xie Lian received the scroll with both hands as he said, “Many thanks.”
This was evidently Jun Wu helping him, but instead he flipped it around and made it sound as if he was asking Xie Lian for his help. How could Xie Lian not see through that? However, he couldn’t find more fitting words to express what he thought in place of the two words he had just said. Ling Wen replied, “I’m only responsible for handling these affairs. If you want to thank someone, you should wait for the Emperor to return before personally thanking him instead. —Oh right, do you need my help borrowing any magical artefacts?”
Xie Lian answered, “There’s no need. Even if you give me a magical artefact, once I go down I won’t have any spiritual power, and so I won’t be able to use it.”
Xie Lian had been beaten down twice, so he lost his spiritual power. It was easier to cope in the Heavens, the place where all the immortals assembled. After all, spiritual power was abundant and the source won’t dry up, thus he could casually grab some to use. However, once he returned to the mortal realm, he would be powerless. If Xie Lian wanted to fight with magic, then he could only make do by finding someone he could borrow spiritual energy from, something extremely inconvenient.
Ling Wen pondered for a moment before saying, “Then it would be best to borrow a few martial gods to assist you and lend a helping hand.”
The current martial gods either didn’t recognize him, or they didn’t like him. Xie Lian understood that thoroughly, and so he responded, “There’s also no need for that. You won’t be able to borrow anyone.”
However, Ling Wen seemed to have taken it into serious consideration and only said, “I’ll give it a try.”
There wouldn’t be a difference whether she tried or not, therefore Xie Lian didn’t approve or oppose her words, and allowed Ling Wen to try. As a result, Ling Wen entered the spirit communication array before announcing in a bright tone, “Everyone, the Emperor has an important task to be handled in the North and urgently need people. Which martial god Highness can lend out two martial officials from their Palace Halls to help?”
The moment her voice faded, Mu Qing’s floaty voice emerged, “I’ve heard that the Emperor isn’t in the North right now, so I’m afraid you’re borrowing people for His Highness the Crown Prince, right?”
Xie Lian mentally thought: “Are you keeping guard at the spirit communication array all day long…?”
Ling Wen was on the same wavelength as him. Although she only wanted to slap the Mu Qing who was hindering her work right out of the array, she started speaking with a smile. “Xuan Zhen, why am I always seeing you in the array these two days? It seems like you’ve been stealing time to slack off and now you’re quite idle. Congratulations, congratulations.”
Mu Qing replied in a light tone, “My hand is injured, so I’m recuperating.”
Every Heavenly Official there mentally thought, “In the past, it would be nothing difficult for that hand of yours to split a mountain in half. So, what would hacking a foolish clock into pieces do to you?”
Originally, Ling Wen had wanted to deceive two people to come work before explaining the details. But not only did Mu Qing guess those details in one try, he even said them out loud. With the circumstances now, it was certain she wouldn’t be able to find anyone. Sure enough, no one else answered her inquiry for quite a while. Xie Lian also didn’t believe anyone would come forward, and thus told her, “You see, I said you wouldn’t be able to borrow anyone.”
Ling Wen responded, “If Xuan Zhen didn’t say anything, I would have indeed been able to.”
Xie Lian smiled. “Those words of yours had been as if you were carrying a pipa, but concealing half its face, beautifully blurring the scene to some degree. People would have thought they were going to help the Emperor with some work, so of course they would come. But when they come and realize they were going to have to work with me, I’m afraid there would be trouble. How could we work together like that? In any case, I’m used to being alone, and I’m not missing an arm or a leg, so let’s just go with this ah. Thank you for your trouble, I’ll leave now.”
Ling Wen was also powerless. Thus, she cupped her hands in a salute before saying, “Alright. I wish Your Highness’ journey goes smoothly, and may the blessings of Heaven’s Officials be upon you.”
Xie Lian replied, “All taboos are off!1” Waving his hand, he left in a confident and carefree manner.
Three days later, mortal realm, the North.
By the side of a major road, there was a small teahouse. The storefront wasn’t big and the shopkeepers were simple folks, but goods were expensive because the scenery was good. There were mountains and bodies of water, there were people and a city. They had everything, not much of everything—not much, but just right. Located in the middle of such scenery, if one were to come across the teahouse by chance, it would certainly create a wonderful memory. The teahouse’s tea sommelier was exceedingly idle, since he currently didn’t have any customers. Thus, he moved a small stool to the door of the store and began looking at the mountain, the water, the people and the city. He was happily looking when, from afar, he saw a Taoist clad in white walking over. The Taoist was covered in dust, looking as if he had been walking for a very long time. When he came closer, he walked past the small teahouse, before suddenly stopping in his tracks and slowly retracing his steps. The Taoist tilted up his bamboo hat with his hand before raising his head. He only took one glance at the store before he started speaking with a smile. “‘Chance Encounter Little Store’, the name is interesting.”
Although this person had a tired appearance, he also had a face full of smiles. It made the people looking at him unable to stop the corners of their own mouths from curving up. The Taoist then asked, “Excuse me, may I ask if Mount Jun is nearby?”
The tea sommelier pointed in a direction for him, before replying, “It is in this region.”
That person breathed out, and for once he didn’t spit out his soul with that breath. In his mind, he thought, “I’ve finally arrived.”
This person was precisely Xie Lian.
He left the Immortal City that day. Originally, he had already decided the location he would descend to; Xie Lian had wanted to fall near Mount Jun. Who would have thought that when he left without a care and jumped down without a care, his sleeve would get caught on a carefree cloud. Yes, it got caught on a cloud. Even Xie Lian didn’t know how his sleeve got caught on a cloud. In any case, he tumbled around at a lofty, high altitude, and by the time he rolled down, he had no idea where he was. After three days on foot, he finally reached his originally planned arrival location. Thus, for a short while, he felt extremely moved.
Entering the teahouse, Xie Lian picked a table beside the window before asking for some tea and snacks. He finally got seated after his previous difficulties, when he suddenly heard endless wailing and the sound of beating drums from outside the room.
Xie Lian turned his gaze toward the street before seeing a group of people from all ages escorting a crimson-red marriage sedan as they walked past the teahouse.
This procession was surrounded by an extremely odd air. At first glance, they seemed to be the relatives delivering the bride. But if one looked closely, they would notice how the faces of these people all had solemn expressions—expressions of grief, anger, dread, yet the only emotion that wasn’t present was joy. Whatever the case, it didn’t have the appearance of a wedding. However, contrary to that thought, everyone was wearing red flowers as they played wind instruments and beat their drums. This situation was really too strange. That tea sommelier carried a copper teapot in his hand and raised it up high to pour some tea. He had also seen this scene, but he only shook his head before leaving.
Xie Lian followed that strange, departing procession with his eyes, before pondering for a brief moment. He was just about to take out the scroll Ling Wen had given him to look over one more time, when he suddenly felt something dazzling flit by.
The moment Xie Lian raised his head, a silver butterfly flew past his eyes.
That silver butterfly was sparkly and translucent, looking pure and limpid. As it flew around in the air, it left behind bright traces. Xie Lian couldn’t help but reach out a hand toward it. This butterfly was extremely intelligent. Not only was it not frightened, it even temporarily stopped on his fingertips, both wings glittering and beautiful to the utmost degree. Under the sunshine, it looked as if it was a fragment of an illusion. After a moment, however, it flew away.
Xie Lian waved at it, something that could be considered as his goodbye. But when he turned back, his table had two more people sitting there.
This table had four sides. One person sat on the left and another sat on the right, each taking one side. Both people were teenage boys who looked around eighteen or nineteen years old. The one on the left was taller, with facial expressions that looked quite defined and brightly handsome. Within his gaze was an arrogant and obstinate light. The right side had very light skin. He looked delicate and pretty, yet also refined. However, his expression looked somewhat overly cold and apathetic, an appearance that made it seem as if he wasn’t too happy. In fact, the colour of the faces of both people didn’t look that great.
Xie Lian blinked his eyes before asking: “You two are?”
The person on the left replied: “Nan Feng.”
The person on the right responded: “Fu Yao.”
Xie Lian mentally thought: “It’s not like I’m asking for your names…”
At that moment, Ling Wen suddenly transmitted her voice over. She said, “Your Highness, there are two small martial gods from Middle Heaven who are willing to help. They’ve already gone down to look for you, so they should have arrived by now ah.”
The so-called Middle Heaven was naturally relative to Upper Heaven. The Heavenly Officials of Heaven could be simply and roughly divided into two categories: the ones that ascended, and the ones that didn’t. The Heavenly Officials of Upper Heaven had all ascended by relying on themselves. There were only about a hundred within the whole of Heaven, and they were each extremely precious. But within Middle Heaven, the deities there were the ones who were brought up by “appointing them as deputy”. Strictly speaking, their full names ought to be called “Fellow Heavenly Officials”. However, when people called them, more often than not they would leave out that “fellow” word.
Since there was an Upper Heaven and a Middle Heaven, was there a Lower Heaven?
Actually, when Xie Lian ascended for the first time, there really had been a Lower Heaven. At that time, Heaven was still divided as Upper Heaven and Lower Heaven. But later, everyone found a problem. When they introduced themselves and opened their mouths to say, “I am from Lower Heaven’s so-and-so”, it sounded truly unpleasant. With the ‘lower’ word existing, it made them feel especially inferior. Among the deities of Middle Heaven, there was definitely no shortage of talented people. Their spiritual power was rich and strong, and they were each excellent and well-known figures. The only difference between them and real Heavenly Officials was merely how they lacked experiencing a Heavenly Tribulation. But who knew when the day that Heavenly Tribulation they were waiting for would really come. Therefore, some people proposed to change a single word—turning introductions into ‘I am from Middle Heaven’s so-and-so’. This was much more pleasurable to hear, though they both had the same meaning. In short, after the change, Xie Lian hadn’t gotten used to it even after quite a while.
Xie Lian looked at these two small martial gods. With one face slightly more unpleasant than the other, it was unlikely they were “willing to come forward and help”. Thus, he couldn’t help but ask, “Ling Wen ah, I think they don’t look like they came down to help me, and instead it looks more like they want to retrieve my dog head. Did you deceive them to get them to come?”
Unfortunately, it seemed that this question of his wasn’t transmitted out. He was also now unable to hear Ling Wen’s voice by his ear. It was probably because he was so far away from the Immortal City, and it had been so long since he descended, so his spiritual power was all depleted. Xie Lian was incapable of doing anything else, so he first gave a smile to both the small martial gods before saying, “Was it Nan Feng and Fu Yao? To be willing to come and help me, let me thank you in advance.”
The two of them only nodded their heads, both appearing to have a somewhat lofty attitude. It seemed that the martial gods they were under had a rather illustrated reputation. Xie Lian had the tea sommelier bring two more cups of tea. Picking up his cup, he scraped the tea leaves before casually asking, “Which Highness’ Palace are you under?”
Nan Feng replied: “Nan Yang Palace Hall.”
Fu Yao said: “Xuan Zhen Palace Hall.”
This truly made one feel frightened.
Xie Lian swallowed a mouthful of tea before asking, “Your Palaces’ Generals allowed you to come?”
The both of them responded, “My Palace’s General didn’t know I came.”
Xie Lian thought for a bit before again asking, “Then, do you know who I am?”
If these two small martial gods came here because they were muddleheaded and thus deceived by Ling Wen, then after helping him, they would return to get scolded by their Palace’s General. Something like that certainly wouldn’t be worth it.
Nan Feng replied, “You are His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.”
Fu Yao said, “You are the correct path for the human world, you are the heart of the universe.”
Xie Lian choked once, before he asked Nan Feng in an uncertain manner, “Just now, did he roll his eyes?”
Nan Feng responded, “He did, let him scram.”
Nan Yang’s relationship with Xuan Zhen wasn’t good. This wasn’t a secret. So when Xie Lian heard of that matter, he didn’t really feel surprised. This was because, even back then, Feng Xin and Mu Qing’s relationship hadn’t been all that great. Only, in those days, he had been the master and they were the retainers. The Crown Prince said don’t argue ah, you guys have to become good friends, so the two of them endured and refrained from becoming hostile with each other. When they became extremely unhappy, at most, they merely use words to stab the opposite side. Muddling until today, there was no longer a need to be so insincerely courteous. Thus, even the worshippers from the Southeast and Southwest didn’t look upon each other in a positive light, while the Nan Yang Palace Hall and the Xuan Zhen Palace Hall had even more mutual hatred for each other. The two before him were a prime example. Fu Yao smiled sarcastically as he stated, “Ling Wen ZhenJun said that if you were willing, you could come. So, for what reason would I scram and leave?”
The word ‘voluntary’, saying it with his expression didn’t look convincing. Thus Xie Lian said, “Let me confirm once. Are you two really voluntarily doing this? If you’re not, by all means, don’t force yourself ah.”
The two of them both said, “I willingly volunteered.”
Looking at those two deeply depressed faces, Xie Lian mentally thought, the words the two of you actually wanted to say were ‘I want to commit suicide’, right?
Xie Lian began, “Let’s first discuss the real work. You guys already know why we came to the North this time, so I won’t start explaining from the beginning…”
The two of them both said, “I don’t know why.”
Xie Lian was incapable of doing anything and could only take out the scroll before saying, “Then it would be best if I explain everything from the start.”
It was said that many years ago in Mount Jun, there was a bride and a groom who were about to be wed.
The couple loved each other very much. The bridegroom waited for the procession that delivered the bride, but even after waiting for a long time, he didn’t see the bride arrive. The bridegroom began to feel anxious, and thus began to look for the bride’s family. The result was his father-in-law and mother-in-law informing him that his bride had long set off. The two households reported this to the officials before they began looking in all directions. However, from beginning to end, they never found her. But even if she had been eaten by a fierce beast in the mountains, there should have been remains of an arm or a leg or what not. What was the justification behind her disappearing in thin air? Thus, it was inevitable that people harbored suspicions that the bride herself didn’t wish to marry, resulting in her colluding with the procession before escaping. But who would have known that after a few years, another new couple married and the nightmare repeated itself.
The bride disappeared again. However, this time she didn’t leave without a trace. On a small road, people found a foot that something hadn’t quite finished eating.
1. This is from the first part of the Chinese saying “All taboos are off and all evil withdraws”. Honestly, it seems like Xie Lian said that as a customary reply to Ling Wen’s sentence about the blessing, AKA its unclear even in the raws why Xie Lian said that.↩