The First Arc: Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower
Chapter 12 (II): A Ghost in Red Sets Fire Upon the Military and Civil Temples
Finally obtaining the name of that red-clothed young man, Xie Lian was ineffably in a good mood. He smiled and said, “So his name is Hua Cheng? Hm, this name suits him quite well.”
Upon hearing his tone and words, all the Heaven Officials on scene were rendered somewhat speechless. A short moment later, Ling Wen softly coughed and asked, “This… Your Highness the Crown Prince, have you heard of the so-called Four Great Calamities?”
Xie Lian thought to himself: “It’s a shame, but I only know of the Four Famous Tales.”
The aforementioned Four Famous Tales were highly praised anecdote stories of the time before the four Heavenly Officials from the Heavenly Court ascended— The Young Lord Who Poured Wine, The Crown Prince Who Pleased God, The General Who Broke His Sword, and The Princess Who Slit Her Throat. Of the four tales, The Crown Prince Who Pleased God was in fact referring to the sudden appearance of Xian Le’s Crown Prince during his martial performance. How the four tales came about was not particularly due to which heavens’ officials had more power but rather, which one of their tales was more profound, spread the furthest amongst mortals who shared their tales with enthusiasm.
News from outside the realm was always something Xie Lian was bad at keeping up with. To say he was ill-informed and ignorant couldn’t be closer to the truth. The only reason why he came to know about the Four Famous Tales was because he was one of the four tales himself. The phrase ‘Four Great Calamities’ was probably the new popular term that came after the four tales, but Xie Lian had never heard of it. However, since it contained the word ‘Calamity’, it couldn’t be anything good.
He said, “I feel sorry for saying this, but I haven’t heard of it before. Might I ask what the Four Great Calamities are?”
Mu Qing answered coolly, “Your Highness the Crown Prince trained in the mortal realm for centuries yet remains ignorant of such news. It really makes one curious as to what you have been doing all this time down there.”
Naturally, it was eating, sleeping, selling skills and collecting scraps. Xie Lian laughed as he said, “As a regular person, there are many things you could be busy with and it could get rather hectic. It is not any easier than being a Heaven Official.
Ling Wen answered, “The Four Great Calamities, and please take note, Your Highness. They are the Black Water Submerging Boats, Green Light Wandering Nights, White-Clothed Calamity, and Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower. Those refer to the four Demon Lords of the ghost realm that have caused the Heavenly Courts a great deal of headaches.”
Mortals, when one walked upwards, they become a god; when one walked downwards, they become a ghost.
The immortal gods established Heaven as their residence, severing themselves from the mortal realm and living high above as they overlooked the mortal world and all living beings. As for the ghost realm, it has not yet separated from the mortal realm. Demons and ghosts share the same realm as the humans. While some hide in the shadows, others take on human forms and mix amongst human crowds, wandering amongst them.
Ling Wen continued, “Black Water Submerging Boats is that of a powerful water demon. Despite reaching Devastation level, he rarely comes out to cause trouble and keeps a low-profile. Very few people have seen him before, therefore, he’s of little concern.”
“Green Light Wandering Nights is precisely the ghost with his low class-taste, and whom is fond of hanging bloody corpses upside down in forests, Green Ghost Qi Rong. He is, however, the only one out of the four calamities that has not reached Devastation level. Why would he be part of it? It might be due to his love for causing trouble all year round, being a huge annoyance. It might also be because with the addition of him, it makes four calamities, a number making things easier to remember. So, no one bothered questioning it.”
“As for the White-Clothed Calamity, Your Highness might be more familiar with this one. Its name is Bai WuXiang1.”
Sitting perched upon the stone bridgehead, Xie Liang suddenly felt a sharp stabbing pain from his heart slowly spreading throughout his limbs upon hearing this name. His hands slightly trembled before he subconsciously gripped them.
Naturally, he was familiar.
It is said that when a ‘Devastation’ was born into the world, they would be the one to destroy kingdoms and throw the world into chaos. When Bai WuXiang came into being, the first kingdom he wiped out was Xian Le Kingdom.
Xie Lian remained silent. Ling Wen continued,” Nonetheless, Bai Wuxiang has already been extinguished. We won’t mention him again, and even if he still exists in this world, he wouldn’t be the one in the spotlight now.”
“Your Highness the Crown Prince, the silver butterflies you saw at Mount Yu Jun are also called Deathly Spirit Butterflies. Their master is the last member of the four calamities, and the one the Heavenly Court of today wants to provoke the least, ‘Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower, Hua Cheng.
Within the Heavenly Realm, to become the only ones capable of shouldering the title of being “renown” were Martial God Heavenly Emperor and the Crown Prince of Xian Le. Although the significance of the two could be said to be the opposite of one another, their fame was both relatively on the same level. In the Ghost Realm, the one that could be said to be the equivalent in reputation against the two gods, was none other than Hua Cheng. Aside from him, there wasn’t anyone else.
If one wanted to get to know a Heavens’ Official, they’d only need to take a walk, find a temple to visit, examine the god’s statue, study how they dressed, and what kind of enchanted weaponry they carried. With that, one could understand them to a certain extent. If one wanted to understand them even more, they’d only need to listen to some of their legends passed on from person to person, and watch theatrical plays about their epics. What kind of a person they were before their ascension, what they’ve done in the past, all this information would have been dug out and laid bare for those interested. But when it came down to demons and ghosts, they were different. What kind of person were they before, and how do they look now, this information were all shrouded in mystery.
The name Hua Cheng definitely had to be fake, and his appearance must also be fake as well. This was because the him in the rumors was sometimes a temperamental and disagreeable teenager, sometimes a gentle, kind and elegant beautiful man, or sometimes a gorgeous female ghost with a poisonous heart. There was no end to what was said about him. About his actual appearance, the only definite thing was that he was clad entirely in red and would often appear with a rain of blood and foul winds as silver butterflies chased his lapel and sleeves.
As for his birth, there were even more versions of it. Some said he was a deformed child born without a right eye who had been bullied and humiliated from childhood and thus hated the world. Some said he was a young soldier who had died fighting for his ancient kingdom, and his soul had not been resigned to such a fate. There was also one that said he became a sentimental fool due to the pain of his beloved passing away; yet another which said he was a monster.
The oddest version, it was said that—and it really was just a rumor. But it was said that Hua Cheng was actually a Heavenly Official who had ascended. However, after he had ascended, he jumped down himself and degraded to a ghost. But that was just a legend that was not circulated around very much, so whether it was true or not was unknown, and few actually believed it.
However, even if it was true, it still had to be false. Because it was a humiliation to the Heavens for there to be someone in this world who was actually willing to give up being a god and preferred to jump down and be a ghost. In short, the more people discussed about him, the more muddled and confusing it became, and the more mysterious everything becomes.
As for why all the Heavenly Officials were especially afraid of Hua Cheng, there were many reasons. For example, his dark or light nature was undetermined. Sometimes he was cruel and fond of killing, sometimes he strangely committed benevolent acts. Another reason was how enormous his power in the mortal realm was and how many worshipers he had.
That’s right, people prayed to gods, praying for their blessings and protection in order to be far away from the onslaught of demons and ghosts, so Heavenly Officials had many worshipers. However, Hua Cheng, a ghost, actually also have such a large number of worshipers. It was almost at the point where he had enough power to cover the skies with just a single hand.
By now, an explanation was required. When Hua Cheng first emerged, he did something extremely famous.
He openly invited thirty-five Heavenly Officials to a fight. The invitation content was that he would fight the Martial Gods in martial arts, and the Literature Gods in debating.
Within those thirty-five Heaven Officials, there had been thirty-three of them who had felt it was ridiculous, but they had all been infuriated by his provoking and accepted the challenge. They prepared to join hands and teach the ghost a lesson.
The first one to compete with him had been the Martial Gods.
Martial Gods were the Heaven’s strongest gods, each one of them had a high number of worshipers and their spiritual power was outstanding. Fighting an insignificant novice ghost was something just a grasp away from victory. But who would have expected that the one battle would end in complete wipe-out. Even their godly weapons were totally crushed to powder by Hua Cheng’s extremely strange curved sword.
Only after the fight did they find out that Hua Cheng had come out from Tong Lu Mountain.
Tong Lu Mountain was a volcano, but that wasn’t the important point. The important point was that there was a city within it, named Gu City. What kind of place was Gu City? It was not a city where everyone raises Gu, for that city itself was a large-scale Gu Poison2.
Every one hundred years, ten thousand ghosts would gather and kill each other, killing until only one of them remained, which completed the Gu. Although, many times, the result would be that not a single one of them remained. However, as long as even a single one survived to the end, then it would be the devil’s incarnate. In the past several hundred years, Gu City only had two ghosts that remained at the end of the fight. And those two as expected, both become Ghost Kings known by everyone in the mortal realm.
Hua Cheng was one of the two.
The Martial Gods had been utterly defeated. It was now the Literature Gods’ turn.
If they couldn’t beat him in a fight, then they should at least be able beat him in debating, right?
Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t win that either. That Hua Cheng had traversed the heaven and earth and could speak of the past and debate the current. He occasionally educated them, was occasionally malicious, was occasionally unyielding, was occasionally crafty, was occasionally insightful, was occasionally sophistic, and occasionally set traps. It really was a watertight debate, sharp and eloquent. He quoted evidence as backup, deluded people with lies, and attacked wherever he pleased. Several Literature Gods were scolded by him from the skies to the earth, from ancient times to the present. They were so angered they could cough up blood and have it reach the clouded firmament.
Hua Cheng became famous in a single battle.
However, if it had been just that, that would not have been enough to call him frightening. What was frightening was that after that overwhelming victory, he had requested the thirty-three Heaven Officials to fulfill their promise.
Before the challenge, both sides had made an agreement: If Hua Cheng lost, he would offer up his ashes. If the Heavenly Officials lost, then they would all voluntarily jump down from the Heavens and become ordinary people from now on. If Hua Cheng hadn’t acted so arrogant, with such severe stakes and with how the thirty-three Heaven Officials believed there was no way they would be defeated, they wouldn’t have agreed to fight and debate with him.
However, there wasn’t a single Heaven Official who fulfilled their promise. Although going back on their promise was humiliating, think about it, there were thirty-three of them who had lost. If only one of them had lost, then naturally it would be very humiliating. But when so many of them lost together, it wasn’t humiliating at all. They could even tease each other about it. As such, they reached a tacit understanding; they would all pretend that this had never happened at all. In any case, people were very forgetful, in another fifty years, perhaps no one would remember it.
They calculated that point pretty well, but the thing they didn’t take into calculation was that Hua Cheng was not so easily dealt with.
Not fulfilling your promise? Okay, he could help out.
As such, he burned down all the temples of these thirty-three Heaven Officials in the human realm.
This was the nightmare the immortal gods now talked about with pale faces—A ghost in red setting fire upon thirty-three military and civil temples.
The temple and worshipers were a Heavenly Official’s greatest source of spiritual power. With their palace halls gone, where would their worshipers go to pray to their god? And where would their incense come from? With their strength greatly injured, to rebuild their temples, they’d need a minimum of a hundred years to recover, and even then, they might not recover their former strength. To the Heavenly Officials, this was truly a devastating disaster that was even more frightening than a tribulation.
The stronger of the thirty-three heavenly officials had a couple thousand temples, the weaker ones also had a couple hundred. If one added them all together, there would be more than ten thousand temples. But Hua Cheng actually burned everything down in a single night. No one knew how he’d done it, but he had accomplished it.
It was simply insane.
The Heaven Officials complained tearfully to Jun Wu, but he was also helpless, and there wasn’t anything he could do. The challenge had been something the Heavenly Officials had agreed to themselves, and the promises had also been made by themselves. Hua Cheng had also been very crafty, he only destroyed the temples and did not harm anyone. So this was all equal to him digging a hole, asking if the gods would jump into it. Then, the gods chose to dig the hole even deeper before plunging into it themselves. So as matters stood, what could be done?
Originally, those thirty-three Heaven Officials had wanted to defeat that arrogant little ghost in front of the entire world, so they had chosen to hold the martial and literature competition in the dreams of many lords and nobles of the mortal realm. The purpose had been to display their godly powers in front of their worshipers. Who would have expected that what they would show to the nobles and lords would be their utterly defeated appearances? As such, after that dream, many lords chose to stop praying to the Heavenly Officials and switched over to praying to ghosts. These thirty-three Heaven Officials lost their worshipers and temples and gradually vanished without a trace. The numerous vacancies were only finally filled up when a new generation of Heaven Officials ascended.
From then on, whenever the name ‘Hua Cheng’ was mentioned in the mortal realm, many Heavenly Officials would tremble in fear. Even just hearing red clothes and silver butterflies would make their hair stand on the end. Some were afraid of irritating him or making him unhappy, because then he would come challenge them and then burn down their temples. Some were afraid because he had blackmail on them, so they weren’t able to move against him. Some were afraid because Hua Cheng had the power to cover the sky with his hand in the mortal world, so sometimes, when the Heavenly Officials had something to do there, they had no choice but to find and ask him to guide them. After this went on for a while, a portion of the Heavenly Officials also became his worshipers due to a strange mentality.
As such, the Heaven’s attitude toward this person was hate, fear and respect all at once.
And within those thirty-five Heavenly Officials, the two who had not taken up the challenge was the martial god Xuan Zhen’s General Mu Qing, and Nan Yang’s General Feng Xin.
They had not taken up the challenge, but it had not been out of fear of Hua Cheng. They simply had not paid attention to him and had felt it was unnecessary to take notice of it, and thus had not agreed to the fight. Who would have expected that this was a lucky and incomparably wise decision?
However, just because they did not fight him, it did not mean Hua Cheng had forgotten about them. While they were out on the Ghost Festival doing an inspection tour, they had bumped into each other and fought many times. Thus, Feng Xin and Mu Qing both had a physiological shadow left behind in their hearts due to the frantic devastation of those silver butterflies.
Despite listening to all of that, Xie Lian’s brain was still full of those silver butterflies, sparkling and translucent while cutely and cheerfully flying around him. No matter how much he thought about it, he couldn’t connect them to the ones in the rumors. He couldn’t help but think to himself, “Are those little silver butterflies that frightening? They’re not that bad……they’re pretty cute.”