The First Arc: Blood Rain Reaching Towards a Flower
Chapter 13: Clothes Redder Than Maple, Skin as White as Snow
Of course, this was something he would never say out loud. However, it was no wonder that Nan Feng and Fu Yao’s complexions changed the moment they heard him mention those silver butterflies. It could be assumed that they had also suffered at the hands of the silver butterflies’ master along with the two Generals they served.
A Heavenly Official asked, “Your Highness the Crown Prince, you encountered Hua Cheng. He, he, he……what did he do to you?”
This kind of tone, it sounded more like he was asking, “did you lose an arm or did you lose a leg?”.
Xie Lian said, “He didn’t do anything, just……”
When he spoke up to that point, he was actually somewhat without words. Xie Lian began to ponder in his head, “Only what? It wasn’t like he could say, ‘he only robbed my sedan, and then held my hand and led me along the whole way’”.
After falling silent for a moment, he could only say, “He only destroyed the bewildering array the female ghost Xuan Ji set down on Mount Yu Jun, and then brought me inside.”
Most of the Heavenly Officials began brooding over his words, either muttering to themselves or staying silent. Only after a while did a Heavenly Official ask, “Everyone, what do you think?”
Just by listening to their voices, Xie Lian could already imagine the appearances of all the Heavenly Officials as they repeatedly shook their heads with their hands out.
“No opinion, I completely don’t have an opinion!”
“I don’t know what he wants to do, it’s rather horrifying.”
“As always, nobody can make sense of what Hua Cheng wants to do……”
Although Xie Lian had just been given a rundown of Hua Cheng’s reputation as the devil incarnate, however toward this person, Xie Lian didn’t really think he was that scary. If he really had to say something, he thought that this time, it could even be considered that Hua Cheng had helped him. In short, the first prayer for blessings he received after ascending and returning to the Heavens ought to be finally considered finished in this manner.
It was already long agreed that all the merits from the Mount Yu Jun case would be considered as Xie Lian’s. Despite how some time had passed before the Official remembered to redeem his vow because of his daughter’s death, he still fulfilled his promise with a broken heart, although inevitably, he ended up paying less. However, after gathering from here and there and with them letting him off a bit, the eight million, eight hundred and eighty thousand merits were more or less considered paid off.
Without debt, Xie Lian’s body felt light and free, his heart practically a clear and boundless sky. In high spirits, he was entirely free from worry and very happy. Xie Lian decided to properly be a god, and it would be even better if he could become at least half a friend with the other Heavenly Officials.
Although it was usually peaceful within the Heaven’s spirit communication array, when it got busy, the shouts inside could go on for days on end. In addition, when the Heavenly Officials’ moods were good, and perhaps when they see something interesting, they would talk about it within the array. When that moment came, they would chuckle lowly for a short while.
Although Xie Lian couldn’t tell who was who, he still silently listened to everyone speak. However, he couldn’t go on staying silent forever. Thus, after he listened for a while, he would sometimes appear to say something warmly, like:
“It really is quite interesting.”
“I read a very beautiful little poem, let me share it with everyone.”
“There’s this little secret know-how that’s very effective for dealing with waist and leg pain, let me share it with everyone.”
However, regrettably, every time he sent out these carefully selected things that were quite beneficial to the body and mind, the spirit communication array would fall silent. After a while, Ling Wen really couldn’t stand it anymore and privately told him, “Your Highness ah, the things you send in the spirit communication array are all very good, however, I’m afraid that even a Heavenly Official a few hundred years older than you wouldn’t send them.”
Xie Lian began to feel a bit depressed. In reality, he clearly wasn’t the oldest. However, when he was with the other Heavenly Officials, why was he practically like an elderly person who couldn’t keep up with the topic of the youngsters?
He probably stayed away from the Heavens for too long. In addition, he was always ignorant and ill-informed, and never cared much about things from the outside world.
Since he couldn’t fix this, then it was still better to just forget about it. Xie Lian gave up on this issue, and as a result, stopped being gloomy as well.
However, he still had one problem left: even until now, there had been no one in the mortal realm who had built a new temple for him. No, perhaps there were, but in any case, the Heavens didn’t find any when they searched and thus there wasn’t any records of it.
It must be borne in mind that even a local earth god had some kind of shrine. But even until today, Xie Lian, someone who very solemnly ascended to become a Heavenly Official and even did it three times, didn’t have a single temple or a single believer who would consecrate incense to him. This was truly extremely awkward.
Although, only other Heavenly Officials were feeling awkward for him. Xie Lian himself still thought that things were alright. In addition, one day, he suddenly got carried away by a whim and was suddenly inspired. “If no one wants to provide me with offerings, then it should be fine if I provide offerings to myself, right?”
All the Heavenly Officials didn’t know how to respond to that.
Who the hell had heard of a Heavenly Official providing offerings to themselves?!
Being miserable to this degree as a god, what kind of feeling would be left?!
As for Xie Lian, he was long accustomed to the awkward silence whenever he spoke. He thought that amusing himself and making himself laugh could also be considered as something interesting. Thus, after making his decision, he once again jumped down to the mortal realm.
This time, when he reached the ground, his location was that of a small mountain village called Pu Qi1 Village.
Although one said it was a mountain village, in reality, it was just a small dirt slope. Xie Lian saw that this place had elegant scenery, with green hills, clear waters and paddy fields reaching out into the horizon.
In his heart, he thought, “This time, I truly landed somewhere nice.”
Xie Lian looked around again and noticed a crooked, broken hut sitting on top of the small dirt slope. When he asked people about it, all the villagers said, “That broken hut has been abandoned and has no owner. Occasionally there are wanderers who go in there to sleep for a night. Live there if you wish.”
Wasn’t this exactly what Xie Lian had been desiring? He immediately walked towards it.
Only after walking nearer did he realize that though this little hut looked quite dilapidated from afar, it actually looked even more dilapidated up close. Two of the four pillars at the corners of the hut were already rotten and decaying away. As soon as the wind blew, the entire hut would begin to emit creaking sounds, making one doubt whether or not it would fall at all times.
However, this degree of ‘beaten up’ was still within a range Xie Lian could accept. After entering the hut and looking around, he began to start cleaning things up.
When the villagers saw this, they were all very surprised. Someone was actually going to live there? Thus, they all gathered there to enjoy watching him bustle around.
Contrary to what one would expect, the villagers here were all very enthusiastic. Not only did they gift him a broom, after seeing his filthy appearance after his cleaning, they also gifted him some newly picked water chestnuts. The skin on the water chestnuts were already peeled off and thus they were each white and tender, sweet and juicy.
Xie Lian squatted in front of his broken hut and finished eating the water chestnuts. Happily pressing his hands together, he decided right then in his heart to call this place the Pu Qi Monastery.
There originally had been a small table within the Pu Qi Monastery. After rubbing it twice, it could be used as an offering table. As Xie Lian continued to busy around, the villagers that surrounded him in order to watch realized that this youngster actually wanted to make some room to create a little Taoist monastery.
They all found this even more uncommon and strange, and thus came to ask one after another, “This temple, who are you offering it to?”
Xie Lian lightly coughed once before saying, “Ah, this monastery is for the Xian Le Crown Prince.”
Everyone was miffed, “Who is that?”
Xie Lian said, “I……I also don’t know. I think he’s a Crown Prince.”
“Oh, what does he do?”
“He is probably someone who ensures peace.” And collects rubbish on the side.
Everyone began fervently asking, “Then this Highness the Crown Prince, does he deal with ushering in wealth and prosperity?!”
Xie Lian thought in his heart, not owing money was already pretty good. Then, he said in a warm voice, “It’s regrettable, but it seems like that’s not possible.”
One after another, people started giving him suggestions. “Or offer it to the Water Master instead, that will invite wealth! The incense burning here would definitely be prosperous.”
“Or maybe you can offer it to Ling Wen ZhenJun! Who knows, maybe someone from our village will become a Zhuangyuan2!”
A woman shyly and timidly said, “That……have you……have you considered that……”
Xie Lian maintained his smile and said, “That?”
“General Ju Yang3.”
If he really opened a Ju Yang Monastery, he was afraid Feng Xin would immediately shoot an arrow from the Heavens to smite him!
After roughly cleaning up the Pu Qi Monastery, it was still missing some incense burners, qiantong4 and other various things. However, Xie Lian had completely forgotten about the most important thing——the Godly statue. He carried his bamboo hat and strode out the door, oh right, there was no door either.
After thinking for a bit, Xie Lian decided that this hut definitely needed to be rebuilt. Thus, he wrote a sign and placed it at the door front. It said: “This monastery is dilapidated. Sincerely seeking benevolent people, to donate in order to renovate it. Accumulate merits and virtue.”
After leaving the hut and walking for seven or eight li5, he arrived in a town. For what reason would he go to the town? Well, it was naturally in order to muddle about and find some food to eat. Thus, he once again took up his old profession.
In legends and folklore, it was said that immortals no longer needed to eat. In reality, this was really hard to say. Although those with almighty power really could absorb the necessary spiritual energy from sunshine and the rain and dew. But the problem was——although they could do that, if they didn’t need to, who would like to do it? Why would they want to do something like that?
But some of the Heavenly Officials required the five viscera to be clean and pure because they practiced the Buddhism path. Indeed, those people could not stand the mortal’s greasy meat and fish. If they were dirtied by those things, it would be the same as if a mortal ate raw, uncooked poisonous bugs or mud, for they would begin vomiting and having diarrhea. That being the case, it wasn’t that they didn’t eat food, they just ate things that were born in a clean and pure place, stuff that promised longevity. These were immortal fruits and spiritual animals that would increase the efficacy of spiritual energy.
However, this kind of problem didn’t exist for Xie Lian. With the curse upon him, he was no different compared to mortals, and thus could eat everything. And because he was a seasoned veteran of a hundred battles, no matter what he ate, he wouldn’t die. Whether it was a steamed bun that had been lying around for a month, or pastries that already sprouted some green mold, he would definitely be fine after eating those things. Since he had a constitution like this that defied the heavens, he actually got by alright during the period he collected scraps. In contrast: opening a monastery meant losing money, collecting rubbish meant making money, so collecting rubbish was truly better than ascending.
He looked as elegant as Chinese jade with the air of an immortal, so he had an advantage when collecting scraps. It didn’t take long before Xie Lian collected a big bag’s worth.
On his way back, he saw an old ox pulling a handcart with rice straws on it piled sky-high. Xie Lian remembered that he seemed to have seen this handcart in Pu Qi Village before, so they must be going the same way. He asked whether or not he could hitch a ride back, and the handcart owner lifted his chin, indicating he could climb up.
Thus, Xie Lian sat onto the cart with his big bag of scraps. Only after he climb on did he realize that behind tall pile of straw, there had long been someone lying there.
The upper part of this person’s body was hidden by the pile of straw. His left leg was bent at the knee and supporting his right leg, and it seemed that he was using his arms as a pillow to take a rest. He appeared extremely leisurely and contented. This person’s satisfied attitude was actually one Xie Lian rather envied. That pair of black boots were tight, fitting snugly on his slender, straight lower legs and looking rather easy on the eyes.
Xie Lian recalled what he had seen under his veil on that night on Mount Yu Jun and couldn’t help but take a few more glances at those boots. After he confirmed that there weren’t any silver chains hanging on these boots that were made from who knows what kind of animal fur, he thought to himself, “This has to be some family’s Young Master who ran out to play, right?”
The handcart sluggishly swayed about on the road. Still carrying his bamboo hat on his back, Xie Lian took out a scroll and prepared to read. In the past, he had never been that mindful of all the news that circulated in the outside world. However, because of the many awkward silences he caused, he decided that it was probably best if he did some cramming.
After the ox cart swayed for who knows how long, it passed through a forest. Xie Lian raised his head to look around in all four directions, only to see rolling green fields and splendid maples resembling fire, bringing about an eye-catching sight between the gaps of the mountains in the wilderness. Such a scene was extremely intoxicating, penetrating one’s heart with its crisp and fresh atmosphere. Xie Lian couldn’t help but stare blankly a bit.
When he was young and still cultivating within the Huang Ji Temple, Huang Ji Temple was built on a mountain. Covering the mountains and the plains were maple forests, looking as brilliant as gold and as intense as fire. This situation and this scenery made it difficult for Xie Lian to not recollect the past. He gazed into the distance for a while before he lowered his head to continue looking at his scroll.
After he opened the scroll, he saw a row of words in his first glance that said:
The Crown Prince of Xian Le, who ascended three times. A martial god, a demon personifying pestilence, a scrap god.
Xie Lian said, “Alright, if you carefully think about it, in regards to a martial god and a scrap god, there’s actually not much of a difference between the two. All gods are equal, all living things are equal.”
At this moment, a light chuckle sounded from behind him as a voice said, “Is that right?”
That teenager spoke up in a lazy tone, “People always like saying that all gods are equal, all living things are equal. But if that was truly the case, all those various immortals and gods would simply not exist.”
This voice came from behind the straw pile on the cart. Xie Lian turned around to take a look and saw that teenager was still lying there in a languid manner. He didn’t look like he wanted to get up, so he’d probably just spoken that sentence without thinking too much on it. Thus, Xie Lian replied with a smile, “What you said also makes sense.”
He turned around and continued looking at his scroll, which said:
Many people believed that as a demon representing pestilence, anything with Xian Le Crown Prince’s personal handwriting and portraits had the ability to curse people. If you pasted them onto someone’s back or perhaps some person’s family’s main entrance, it will cause misfortune upon the family or person in question.
This kind of commentary made it hard for someone to tell if they were talking about a god or a ghost.
Xie Lian shook his head, and didn’t have the heart to continue looking at the comments related to himself. He decided that it would be better if he first found out about all the heavenly officials currently present in Heaven. This way, he could avoid always being unclear who was who, which was rather lacking in manners. He recalled how the villager had just mentioned that Water Master and thus began rummaging through the scroll for comments on the Water Master. He flipped to a sentence that said:
Water Master Wudu. Wields water as well as wealth. Hence, within the stores and houses of many merchants, they would all have a statue of the Water Master to ensure their wealth and fortunes.
Xie Lian felt a bit baffled. “Since he’s a water god, then why would he also wield power over wealth and fortunes?”
At this moment, the teenager lying behind the pile of straws spoke up again, “When the caravan peddler transport goods, they must first ship it using the waterway. Thus, every time before they set off on their journey, they would go to the Water Master’s temple and burn a tall incense candle. They would pray to have a good journey, and promise to do this and that once they return. Because it has long been this way, the Water Master also began to gradually wield power over both wealth and fortune.”
He was actually specifically clearing his confusion. Xie Lian turned around and said, “Is that the case? Interesting. Presumably, this Water Master is an awfully powerful big Heavenly Official.”
That teenager sneered and said, “Yeah, Water Tyrannizing the Skies.”
This tone of his made it seem like he didn’t particularly care much for this Heavenly Official. It also didn’t look like he was saying anything nice. Xie Lian asked, “What is ‘water tyrannizing the skies’?”
That teenager leisurely said, “When a boat passes through a big river, whether it moves or stays all depends on his one word. If one doesn’t make offerings to him, their boat would just flip, pretty tyrannical. That is why he got gifted with a nickname, which is precisely ‘Water Tyrannizing the Skies’. It has more or less the same idea as Ju Yang, ‘Tremendously Masculine’ General and ‘Floor-Sweeping’ General.”
For the famous Heavenly Officials with resounding titles, they usually all had some nicknames in the mortal realm and heaven. Things similar to Xie Lian’s Laughingstock of Three Realms, Famous Weirdo, Bearer of Ill Luck, Stray Dog, cough cough, and so on. Usually, using a nickname to address a heavenly official was something extremely lacking in manners. For example, if someone dared to call Mu Qing ‘Floor-Sweeping General’ in front of his face, Mu Qing would certainly become extremely angry. Xie Lian noted down that he couldn’t use that nickname before saying, “This friend, you are very young, but it turns out there’s quite a lot of things you know.”
That teenager said, “I don’t know much. Just idle. When I have free time, I would take a look, that’s all.”
In the mortal realm, one could find a great deal of pamphlets about mythology wherever you looked, all talking about the stories of these gods and ghosts. Those stories ranged from major ones about kindness and enmity, to small trifling matters. Some stories were fake, and some were true. Thus, though this teenager knew quite a lot, it couldn’t be considered too strange. Xie Lian set down his scroll and said, “Then, this friend, you know a lot about gods. However, do you also know about ghosts?”
That teenager asked, “Which ghost?”
Xie Lian said, “Blood Rain Reaching Toward a Flower, Hua Cheng.”
When he heard that, the teenager lowly chuckled twice before he finally sat up. When he turned around, Xie Lian’s gaze suddenly alighted.
He saw that this teenager was around sixteen or seventeen years old. The red of his clothes surpassed the maples, and his skin was white like snow. Those pair of eyes were shining like stars, containing a smile as he glances askance at him. The teenager was exceptionally handsome; however, his expression ineffably contained a hint of wildness. His black hair was loosely tied up, and was even tied slightly askew. It looked exceedingly casual, like he did whatever he wished.
The two of them were currently passing through the fiery and splendidly colourful maple forest. The maple leaves danced as they fell, one by one, and there was even a leaf that fell onto the teenager’s shoulders. The teenager lightly blew at it, making the leaf fall, and only then did he raise his head to look at him. With a smile that didn’t quite look like a smile, he said, “What do you wish to know? Don’t hesitate to ask.”
- Pu Qi means water chestnut in Chinese.
- This is the top scorer in the Imperial exams.
- The Chinese characters she used here is the ‘Tremendously Masculine’ version.
- Something you can find in a temple, take a look at the pictures here.
- Chinese unit of distance, around 0.5km.