The First Arc: Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower
Chapter 12 (I): A Ghost in Red Sets Fire Upon the Military and Civil Temples
As he had suspected, on the young man’s face was a serious burn scar. However, beneath the expanse of the blood red scar, one could vaguely make out three or four very small human faces.
Those human faces were all the size of an infant’s palm, scattered crookedly across his cheeks and forehead. Because they had been burned before, each face was severely shriveled and looked as though they were screeching in pain. With these strange, screeching miniature human faces squeezed onto an originally normal human face, it truly was scarier than any ghost!
In that instant, upon seeing that face, Xie Lian felt as though he was thrown into a nightmare. An immense fear numbed his entire being, to the extent he was unaware of when he stood up. He also wasn’t aware of what kind of expression appeared on his face, but it must have been extremely frightening.
The young man was slowly and hesitantly taking his bandage off, already feeling uneasy. Seeing his reaction, he also took two steps back, seemingly aware that Xie Lian couldn’t accept a face like this. As if to protect himself, he suddenly covered that terrifying face, leapt up off the ground, before screaming and fleeing toward the depths of the forest.
He chased and shouted after him, “Wait! Come back!”
But because he had stood still for quite some time before finally reacting, and with how that teenager was more familiar with the routes of the mountain (having been used to hiding and escaping in the dark), it comes without saying that the teenager would disappear without a trace. No matter how much Xie Lian shouted, he would not come out. With no one around to help search, and lacking spiritual power, thus rendering him unable to use the spirit communication array; he dashed through the mountain and searched for an hour with no results.
As the cold wind blew, Xie Lian became more clear-headed and knew that randomly fumbling around like a headless housefly wouldn’t result in anything. He gathered himself together and thought: “Perhaps he will come for Little Ying’s corpse.”
He doubled back to Ming Guang Temple—but was startled.
He was greeted with a mass of people clothed in black all gathered in the forest behind the temple. With solemn faces, they carefully took down the forty or so corpses from their hanging positions above. At the front of the forest stood a tall figure with his arms crossed, currently supervising the group of people. The head turned, revealing an elegant yet cold face belonging to that of a young man, which turned out to be Fu Yao. It seemed like he had made trip back to Heaven, before bringing back a group of officials down from Xuan Zhen Palace Hall to come help.
Xie Lian was just about to speak when the sound of footsteps came from behind. It was Nan Feng who had also finished sending off the villagers and had just returned. When he saw this scene, he cast a glance at Fu Yao and asked, “Didn’t you run off by yourself?”
The way he said it was very unpleasant, causing Fu Yao to raise an eyebrow to show his displeasure. Xie Lian did not want them to begin arguing at such a critical moment and thus interjected, “I was the one who had him return to bring backup.”
Nan Feng sneered, “Then where are our reinforcements? I thought at the very least, you would get your family’s General to personally come.”
Fu Yao answered with indifference, “When I’d returned, I heard that Little General Pei had already made it down here. Thus, I did not spend my time looking for our General. Furthermore, even if I tried to find him, with how busy he is, he would not necessarily have the time to come.”
Quite frankly, according to Xie Lian’s understanding towards Mu Qing, even if the General had the time, he still wouldn’t have personally come. But Xie Lian currently did not have the time to think more on the topic and wearily said, “You guys shouldn’t argue right now, help me find the bandaged teenager first.”
Nan Feng furrowed his brows and asked, “Wasn’t he with you just now, keeping watch over that girl’s corpse?”
Xie Lian answered, “I had him take off his bandages and scared him away.”
Fu Yao’s lips quirked. “That’s unlikely. Your crossdressing has not reached the point of frightening.”
Xie Lian sighed. “Blame me for being so perturbed that I didn’t react in time. Little Ying had just died, so he was already provoked. Then, he thought I was frightened by his face. Perhaps he was unable to bear this kind of blow, so he ran off”
Fu Yao wrinkled his nose and asked, “Was he really that ugly to that extent?”
Xie Lian answered, “It’s not a question of whether he was ugly or not. He……has the human face plague.”
Hearing those three words, Nan Feng and Fu Yao’s movements and expression immediately stiffened.
They finally understood just why Xie Lian would be so rattled.
Eight hundred years ago, Xian Le Ancient Kingdom’s Imperial City had been swept by an epidemic. In the end, the entire kingdom was wiped out.
That plague, when people fell ill, small swellings would first appear on their body. The swelling would grow increasingly larger and harder, and begin to ache. Soon after, they would start to notice that the swelling would start to become uneven, three sunken places and a convex, looking like……eyes, mouth and a nose.
After that, the features would become more clear until finally, it would resemble something similar to a human face. And if left ignored, more human faces would grow on their body. It was reportedly said that some faces grew for so long that they had grown their own characteristics and could even open their mouths to speak or scream.
And the name of this epidemic, was called the human face plague!
Fu Yao’s face went through several changes before he un-crossed his arms and said, “How is that possible! That was already eradicated centuries ago. It not possible for it to reappear.”
In response, Xie Lian only spoke one line. “I did not mistake what I saw.”
Nan Feng and Fu Yao found themselves entirely unable to refute him. What Xie Lian said, no one could have refuted it.
Xie Lian further added, “His face had traces of being burned before, it might have been from trying to burn those faces off.”
For those who suffered from the human face plague, for many of them, their first reaction would have been to take a knife and slice off the horrifying thing, or use fire to burn it to death. They wouldn’t have hesitated to sever a limb or break their bones if it came down to it.
Nan Feng spoke murmured, “Then, he likely isn’t an ordinary person. He might have even lived on this earth for several centuries. But more importantly, is the plague on him contagious?”
Despite this being a major headache, this problem was still something Xie Lian had calmly contemplated over. He answered with certainty, “No. The human face plague is very contagious. If the disease on that teenager was contagious, then everyone on Mount Yu Jun would have been infected by him by now considering how long he’s been hidden there. He should have been……cured already. It’s just that, he can’t get rid of the scars that were left behind.”
The three of them couldn’t risk being careless. Fu Yao seemed to have a rather high position in his Xuan Zhen Palace Hall, and thus called the Heaven Officials to scour every inch of Mount Yu Jun. In spite of that, they were still unable to track down that young man. Unfortunately, he must have already escaped from the mountain and disappeared into the busy crowds.
For the present, they could only return to the Heaven Realm and seek Ling Wen Palace for assistance on this matter before awaiting further news. The thing on the teenager’s body wasn’t contagious. At least this one fact was something to be rejoiced. But Xie Lian thought back to his terrifying appearance. If his appearance was to be discovered after leaving the mountain, he was afraid the teenager would be seen and called a monster, cursed, beaten and even killed. It would be best to find him as soon as possible.
Without wanting to delay any further on Mount Yu Jun, he picked up Little Ying’s corpse and set off descending the mountain. Because he was so absent-minded, only when the tea sommelier screamed at him, did he notice that he had nearly entered the Chance Encounter small shop while holding the corpse. He repeatedly apologized and went to find someone to help bury the body before returning. After he finally dealt with everything and sat down, Xie Lian silently sighed.
One matter finally came to an end; yet he felt as though these past few days after his ascension had been more exhausting than collecting scraps for an entire year in the human realm. Climbing up and down, leaping over roofs and vaulting over walls, rolling, yelling, and even doing costume changes and crossdressing entertainment. All the bones in his body were like they were going to collapse and fall apart, yet there were still many unsolved riddles and loose ends to deal with. He really wanted to hang a sign on his back saying, ‘Ascension is not as good as collecting scraps’ and promote it in the mortal world.
Fu Yao flipped the front hem of his robes and sat beside Xie Lian’s hand. Unable to hold it in any longer, he rolled his eyes at him and asked, “Why are you still in those clothes?”
Upon seeing his eye roll, Xie Lian was overcome with an inexplicable feeling of familiarity. Only then did he finally take off the bridal dress he had been wearing this entire time. As he wiped off the rouge and face powder, he felt a bit forlorn. “Then wouldn’t this mean I was dressed like this the whole time I was talking to Little General Pei? Nan Feng, ah, if only you had reminded me of this back then.”
Fu Yao said, “It might be because you clearly looked too happy while wearing it.”
Nan Feng ran around the entire day, but now he also finally got the chance to sit down and rest. He said, “There was no need of a reminder. Little General Pei wouldn’t care about what you wear. Even if you dress ten times weirder than your current attire, he wouldn’t utter a single word when he goes back.”
Xie Lian felt that tonight, he had really born this Little Heaven Official with much toil, so he poured him a cup of tea. After thinking back to Little General Pei’s icy cool expression and comparing it to Xuan Ji’s crazy one, he said, “This Little General Pei is really calm and collected. Such great equanimity.”
Nan Feng drank that cup of tea and objected with, “You shouldn’t judge him by his outwardly refined, courteous appearance. Like his predecessor, they’re both hard to deal with.
This much Xie Lian knew, and towards this matter, Fu Yao was also in agreement and said, “Pei Su is an upstart who ascended about two hundred years ago, but his power is awfully fierce and he climbed up the ranks very fast. When he was appointed by General Pei, he had barely come of age. Do you know what he did then?”
Xie Lian asked, “What?”
Fu Yao coldly spat out one line, “He massacred everyone in a captured city.”
When Xie Lian heard this, he was pensive but not surprised. In the Heavenly Court, emperors, kings and generals were everywhere. The saying “One military achievement result in ten thousand withered bones” was used to describe the matter of conquering and defending a kingdom. If you had the desire to become an immortal, you must first become an illustrious individual. And beneath our feet, we walked a bloody path. Fu Yao summed it up, “In the Heavenly Court, there are few that are easy to get along, and no one can be trusted.”
Xie Lian listened to his tone, which sounded as if it was coming from an experienced person warning a youngling, and had the urge to laugh. He suspected that perhaps Fu Yao had gone through a lot in the Heaven Court, for he must have felt deeply on this topic for him to speak in such a way. But he also knew that despite ascending three times, the time he spent in heaven each ascension was short lived and fleeting, much like the lifespan of a night blooming cactus, gone with a blink of an eye. If one were to discuss the subject of understanding these immortals around him, he was truly no match against these two little Heaven Officials.
Seeming to disagree with Fu Yao’s words, Nan Feng said, “Don’t be an alarmist. There’s good and bad everywhere, and there are still quite a few trustworthy Heaven Officials in the Heaven Court.”
Yet Fu Yao responded, “Haha, trustworthy Heaven Official, are you referring to your family’s General?”
Nan Feng answered, “Whether or not it’s my family’s General, I don’t know. But it definitely isn’t your family’s General.”
Faced with this sort of situation, Xie Lian was long accustomed to it, it was no longer out of the ordinary. In addition, there was still something on his mind, so he didn’t even have the energy to try and divert the topic.
With things wrapped up in the north, he returned to heaven. He first went to Ling Wen Palace to tell her about the situation with the bandaged teenager, entrusting her to look for him in the human realm. Hearing his news, Ling Wen’s face fell serious and agreed to his request. She added, “Ling Wen Palace Hall will do everything within our power to search. But who would have thought to expect that a visit to the North could have tied in so many things. We really troubled you, Your Highness.”
Xie Lian replied, “I must thank those two little Heaven Officials for volunteering to go help, and Ming Guang Palace’s Little General Pei. I really don’t know how to thank them.”
Ling Wen spoke, “Since the problem was caused by an ill-fated relationship with Old Pei, then naturally Little Pei would deal with it. He’s already used to cleaning up messes, so there’s no need to thank him. If Your Highness is not doing anything else when you return, could I trouble you to check into the Spirit Communication Array? Everyone still needs to gather and discuss this matter.”
Xie Lian also had many questions that went unanswered. After leaving Ling Wen Palace, he aimlessly went round and around, before he found himself on a small stone bridge.
The stone bridge crossed over a running river. The river water was extremely clear, for you could make out the movement of clouds below. Past the running water and clouds, you could even make out the rolling mountains and large stretches of square-shaped towns from the world below. He thought to himself: “This is a good place” and thus sat himself down on the bridgehead, before he silently recited the password and joined the communication array.
The moment he entered, he was met with such a rare instance of bustling excitement within the spirit communication array. Numerous voices spoke over one another, everything was in utter chaos. The first thing he heard was Feng Xin’s curses, “F*ck! Have you guys chosen which mountain to suppress her under yet?! That female ghost Xuan Ji is a lunatic, no matter how much we questioned her, she would only clamor over seeing General Pei while refusing to tell us the whereabouts of Green Ghost Qi Rong!”
Little General Pei said, “General Xuan Ji was always a stubborn and vehement person.”
”Feng Xin’s voice became even more furious, “Little General Pei, has your General Pei returned yet? Hurry up and let her see him, and get the whereabouts of Green Ghost Qi Rong out of her so we can be rid of her sooner!”
Feng Xin was most unaccustomed to dealing with women. To have him deal with interrogating her, Xie Lian couldn’t help but sympathise.
Little General Pei replied, “It’s useless even if she sees him. She’ll be even crazier after she sees him.”
Another voice piped in, “The Forest of Hanging Corpses again… Qi Rong’s taste is always so low class, it’s unpleasant.”
“Even their Ghost Realm disdains him for having awful taste, so it’s clear to all that his taste is indeed very low class.”
All the Heaven Officials interacted amicably. It was clear they were all very familiar with each other. As a newcomer who had ascended eight hundred years ago before, Xie Lian should have silently stayed where he was without speaking. But after he listened for a while, he couldn’t help but cut in, “Excuse me, what was that about the Forest of Hanging Corpses in Mount Yu Jun? Is Green Ghost Qi Rong in that area too?”
Because he did not often speak in the spirit communication array, his voice was unfamiliar to everyone. As the Heaven Officials contemplated whether or not they should answer, the first one to answer him was unexpectedly Feng Xin. He answered, “Green Ghost Qi Rong isn’t at Mount Yu Jun. But what happened over at the Forest of Hanging Corpses was the female ghost Xuan Ji’s doing, it was what he requested and her offering to him.”
Xie Lian continued to ask, “Is Xuan Ji Green Ghost’s subordinate?”
Little General Pei answered this time. “Yes. General Xuan Ji died several hundred years ago, even though she had some resentment, she was always powerless when it came to causing trouble. But that only lasted until a couple hundred years ago. Green Ghost Qi Rong found her to his taste and appreciated her very much. He took her in and made her one of his subordinates, causing her spiritual power to significantly increase.”
The meaning behind his words were basically, the female ghost Xuan Ji causing trouble could not be blamed on General Pei, because she originally did not have the ability to cause it. If they wanted to pin the blame on someone, then they should pin it on Green Ghost Qi Rong, for it was him who took in Xuan Ji and gave her the ability to harm people. Originally, the Heaven Officials present had all thought that this was all a disaster caused by General Pei’s karma. They just didn’t voice their opinions out loud, but Little General Pei had still perceived it. With this neither gentle or heavy way of a reminder that was directed toward them all, they immediately hid their thoughts deeper into their hearts. Xie Lian asked some more, “Then has Mount Yu Jun been thoroughly investigated? There should be another child spirit.”
This time, it was Mu Qing’s voice that surfaced, sounding neither cold nor warm as he asked, “Child spirit? What child spirit?”
Xie Lian thought to himself, Fu Yao probably didn’t tell him the details. Perhaps even him coming out to help him was kept a secret, so he did not mention Fu Yao in case it might cause him more trouble. He answered, “On the sedan chair, I heard the laughter of a child who spoke in nursery rhymes as a warning. At the time, there were two other small heaven officials present yet neither one of them sensed it, so the spiritual power of this child spirit must also be rather exceptional.”
Mu Qing said, “No spirit child was found in the search at Mount Yu Jun.”
Xie Lian found this to be very strange, it couldn’t have been that the child spirit had specifically came to warn him? When he thought of that, he suddenly recalled of something else and asked, “Speaking of which, I also met a teenager that could command silver butterflies around on Mount Yu Jun. Does anyone know who that was?”
The lively, bustling chaotic spirit communication array suddenly fell silent the moment those words were out.
This kind of reaction, Xie Lian had seen it coming and so he just waited patiently. After a while, Ling Wen finally asked, “Your Highness Crown Prince, what did you just say?”
Mu Qing coldly answered for him, “He just said, he met Hua Cheng.”