Chapter 11 (I): The Mountain’s Locked Ancient Temple, The Forest of Hanging Corpses
The female ghost had an oval face with a pair of arched eyebrows. She really was extremely beautiful. Although her beauty may have alluded to hints of heroism before, now, it only bled unconcealed resentment, as if all her hatred had been concentrated into a confined space where no light could be shed. As she knelt on the ground, the part of her bridal dress below the knee looked threadbare and ragged. It was now obvious how the rumours had started.
The two of them stared in silence for a moment before Xie Lian finally spoke, “Xuan Ji?”
It seems it had been many years since someone had called her by this name. It took awhile for the resentment reflected in the female ghost’s face to faintly scatter; replaced by a light that flashed across her eyes
She spoke, “……He sent you to come find me, didn’t he?”
This ‘he’……Xie Lian guessed, certainly must be referring to that General Pei.
Xuan Ji then proceeded to ask, “What about him? Why didn’t he come see me himself?”
When she spoke, her face held such a fervent, hopeful and anticipatory expression that it made Xian Lian feel it be best not to reply with a “No, that isn’t the case”. Seeing Xie Lian’s silence, Xuan Ji suddenly collapsed and sat onto the floor.
She leaned against the statue of the handsome and tall Martial God, as her crimson bridal attire spread across the earth not unlike that of a massive bloodstained flower. With her hair in disarray, face contorted with pain, it was as though she was subjected to great torment. Xuan Ji asked, “……Why does he not come see me?”
This was yet another question Xie Lian could not answer, thus he could only remain solemn. Xuan Ji raised her head and gazed up at the God Statue, before she mournfully cried, “Pei Lang……oh Pei Lang. I betrayed my kingdom for you, I abandoned my everything and turned into this. Why won’t you come see me?”
With both hands, Xuan Ji yanked at her own hair and continued to question, “Pei Lang, is your heart made out of iron?”
Xie Lian silently observed her. Upon hearing these lines, he inwardly pondered: Xuan Ji said she betrayed her kingdom for General Pei……could it be that this General Pei took advantage of their intimacy to deceive secret military intelligence from her, which led to Xuan Ji’s kingdom’s defeat in war?
She also said that it was only because of General Pei that she became this way. By “became this way”, it could only be referring to her awful broken-legged miserable state. Xuan Ji was a female General, to be on the battlefield, it would not have been possible for her to be handicapped, which can only mean her legs were broken after the fact. Could this have something to do with General Pei as well? Could it be that when General Pei no longer found her useful and tossed her aside, this was the very reason that led to her resentment being so deep?
Although Xie Lian felt that having these thoughts were quite tasteless, yet with Xuan Ji’s resentment so deep to the point she would harm innocent lives……his thoughts may be vulgar, but he could only force himself to continue thinking this way for the time being.
Suddenly, a woman’s scream came from outside the temple, “Help! Help!”
Xie Lian and Xuan Ji glanced out the window at the same time. What they saw was that within the white circle Ruoye had fallen into, a person was dragging that bandaged teenager outwards. Little Ying was firmly clinging onto that person’s leg without letting go, causing that person to start raining curses.
It was in fact that youngster from before. “Scram! You moronic trash, what if your shouts attract that female ghost over?”
Little Ying continued loudly, “If I shout her over then so be it! You’re much worse than that ghost! I……I’d rather face that female ghost than you!”
As it turned out, the youngster that Xie Lian had knocked unconscious with his silk had woken up. Seeing how his surroundings were littered with fumbling deceased brides had frightened him at first, however, he quickly took notice that they were all unable to see. Emboldened and being all brawn and no brains, he had thought that while the others were too scared to move, he would drag the bandaged teenager down the mountain and claim the bounty for himself.
He cared not whether the bandaged boy was in fact the ghost bride groom. Since everyone below the mountain thought he was, then he is. Who knew Little Ying would throw herself over at him, shouting and screaming, startling all the brides roaming around as well as Xuan Ji from within Ming Guang temple.
When Xie Lian saw and realized it was the youngster again, he regretted not being more ruthless. He should have been more ruthless and knocked him out so he wouldn’t wake for another three days and three nights.
Xie Lian shouted, “Hurry up and return to the circle!”
When the youngster suddenly saw a black fog heading toward him, he frantically withdrew.
But, he was dragging a bandaged teenager and his leg was being clung onto by Little Ying. Thus, being a step too slow, he was instantly swallowed up by the black fog and brought back into Xuan Ji’s hands.
As he turned around to look, he thought: This messy long-haired, gloomy woman, wasn’t she one of the corpse brides lying among the group from before? The beautiful corpse that he had touched and groped?
As things stand, the youngster finally knew to be afraid and started screaming. Xuan Ji bent her five fingers, piercing through and instantly ripping out his skull from within his thick scalp.
The stripped skull was piping hot, its mouth still agape in a scream. “AHHHHHHH—!!!”
Within the protective white circle, the terrified bystanders who nearly had their souls frightened out of their skins also began screaming, “AHHHHH—!!!”
Little Ying was also terror stricken, screaming as she dragged that bandage teenager into the circle. Xuan Ji reached out towards them with five fingers extended again, but this time, Xie Lian darted in front of her to block before saying, “General, cease this killing.”
He called her ‘General’, this was originally intended to remind her that she was once a heroine who charged on the front-lines in the battlefield to protect and defend in the name of her kingdom. Be that as it may, Xuan Ji instantly crushed the still screaming skull in her hand to pieces; with her beautiful face in that moment seeming quite deformed. She sneered, “Is he afraid to come see me?”
Xie Lian was at a loss. He thought to himself, might as well pretend to be someone sent by General Pei first……yet Xuan Ji hadn’t needed a reply. She laughed aloud a few times before she suddenly turned around and pointed at that Godly statue, “I burn your temples and stirred up trouble in your domain! All in hopes that you’d come pay me a glance! I’ve waited for you for so many years!”
She stared at that Godly statue in a daze for a long while, before she suddenly leapt up, strangling its neck and shaking violently as she screeched, “YET YOU STILL REFUSE TO COME SEE ME, IS IT BECAUSE YOU FEEL GUILT TOWARDS ME?! LOOK AT MY LEGS!!! LOOK AT MY APPEARANCE NOW! IT WAS ALL FOR YOU, ALL FOR YOU!!! IS YOUR HEART MADE OF IRON?!” ”
As an outsider, Xie Lian did not think he had the right to comment. However, according to his own feelings, he couldn’t help but think to himself, “If you wanted to see him, couldn’t you have done it in a more normal way? If there was someone who wanted to see me using your methods, I wouldn’t want to come at all.”
On the other end, Little Ying and the bandaged teenager finally returned to the circle and looked towards his direction. Little Ying anxiously whispered, “Young lord……”
Upon hearing her, Xie Lian smiled, indicating that she need not worry. But who would have known that this smile of his would cause Xuan Ji’s face to instantly contort. Suddenly leaping down from the Godly statue, she bolted over and said, “Since you don’t look at me but instead like looking at other women who likes to smile, I will slowly let you have your fill!”
Although the one she began strangling was Xie Lian, her words were nevertheless directed at General Pei. Xie Lian originally thought it was because Xuan Ji was not able to marry the one she loved, and thus upon seeing those brides on the marriage sedans, smiling happily, her heart became filled with jealousy
But he’d never thought it would turn out to be because this General Pei liked women who like to smile. In Xuan Ji’s deranged state, she managed to distort the smiling brides to them getting married to her beloved instead.
No wonder she had burned down all the Ming Guang temples below the mountain. It must be because she could no longer bear to see all these women coming and going, in and out of General Pei’s temple all day, all the while sharing the same Godly statue as her. This female ghost was worthy of being ranked ‘Wrath’.
Despite her broken legs, her speed was still so demonically fast. Even after she had been hit by Ruoye, she still remained incredibly strong. Xie Lian and her became stuck in a deadlock as she strangled him. He was just about to call Ruoye over when he suddenly heard a loud shout, “Ahhhhhhhhhhh—”
When that young girl Little Ying saw his current predicament with the female ghost, she swiftly picked up a branch from the ground and charged over. As she was running, she began yelling loudly, as if this would give herself more courage in the process.
Xuan Ji had no need to even make a move against Little Ying. She only turned to look at her and the very next moment, Little Ying was flung back backwards before she could even come close. She flew several meters away with her head downwards, and body upwards, before she smashed into the ground.
That bandaged teenager hoarsely cried “Ahhh” as he rushed over. Xie Lian was also startled before sitting up. However, he suddenly felt a chill from behind his head.
Xuan Ji’s five fingers were already upon his head, as if she was just about to rip his skull out of his scalp like she had done with the youngster from before. In a moment of desperation, Xie Lian’s right hand grabbed her wrist before shouting, “Bind!”
Only the sound ‘shua shua’ burst into the air as a white strip of silk immediately appeared. Ruoye wound itself around Xuan Ji, binding her upper body, with her arms tied behind her back. Since Xuan Ji’s legs were already broken, she was unable to dodge in time.
She fell heavily on her knees with a thump, then proceeded to roll about on the ground in an attempt to break apart the white silk. Her actions, however, only made Ruoye wound around her even more tightly. Having barely escaped from this crisis, Xie Lian hadn’t even caught his breath before he immediately got up and ran toward where Little Ying had fallen.
With Ruoye having been called away by Xie Lian, there were still people too wary to randomly move about. But there were also a few villagers bold enough to have become used to those fumbling brides and went to encircle Xie Lian and Little Ying.
That bandaged teenager knelt by Little Ying’s side, at a loss of what to do. He was as anxious as if he was like a small bug on a hot pot. No one dared to move her, because they were all worried she may have broken something important. If they moved her now, it could perhaps make her situation worse.
Xie Lian quickly checked her condition despite knowing in his heart that no matter how careful they were around her, it would be useless. With a fall like that, it was obvious she won’t live through it.
Even though his time spent with this girl, Little Ying, was not long, not to mention, they didn’t converse that much either, but he knew that despite her appearance being ugly, her heart was kind. For her to have such an ending, it weighed heavily on one’s heart.
Over on the other side, Xuan Ji shouldn’t be able to break away from Ruoye for a little while longer. Within his heart, Xie Lian thought, “Even if it’s useless, we can’t let her die in this position.” So, he very carefully flipped her over.
Little Ying’s face was drenched in blood, causing everyone to sigh and click their tongues at the sight. Yet, she still had a breath in her left, so she quietly murmured: “……Young Lord, I turned out to be more of a hindrance than a help, didn’t I……”
Although she hadn’t hindered him, she really wasn’t of any real help either. At that moment, Xie Lian was already about to call for Ruoye, so he wouldn’t have needed any help. And as for that branch of hers, even if she somehow managed to land a hit on Xuan Ji, it wouldn’t have resulted in anything at all. What’s more, it would have been impossible for her to have approached that female ghost in the first place. So truth to be told, she had thrown away her life in vain.
Xie Lian said, “You didn’t. You helped a lot. Look, only after you came over and drew away the female ghost’s attention, did I have the time to subdue her. It was all thanks to you. However, next time, you can’t be like this. If you want to help, you have to tell me first. Otherwise, if I didn’t react in time, it may end up disastrous.”
Little Ying smiled and said with a sigh, “Young lord, you don’t need to humor me. I know that I did not help at all, nor will there be a next time.”
Her words became muffled as she coughed up more blood. Within the drops of red were a couple of teeth that had broken off. The bandaged teenager was anxious to the point of trembling and could only cry, unable to think of anything to say.
Little Ying said to him, “In the future, don’t go down the mountain to steal food again. If they find you, and beat you to death, you’ll be done for.”
Xie Lian spoke, “If he gets hungry, he can come find me for food.”
Upon hearing his words, Little Ying’s eyes immediately lit up, “……Really? Then, then thank you very much……”
As she smiled, tears slowly trickled down from her small eyes.
Softly, she said, “I feel as though my entire life, there weren’t many days where I lived happy.”
Xie Lian also didn’t know what to say, and gently patted her hand. Little Ying sighed, “Oh well, forget it. I might just be someone……born unlucky.”
Her words sounded a little laughable. Furthermore, due to her crooked nose and slanted eyes, she was so ugly that it was truly a bit comical. With blood and tears running down her cheeks, it also looked quite funny.
As tears streamed down, Little Ying continued to speak, “But still, even so, I still……I still……”
Having said that, the young girl took her last breath and passed away. That bandaged teenager saw that she had died, and so he hugged her dead body and began to quietly sob. His head burrowed into her stomach, as if because he had lost his only support, he refused to lift his head up ever again.
Xie Lian reached over and closed her eyes, before silently telling her from his heart, “You are much stronger than I.”
Chapter 11 (II): The Mountain’s Locked Ancient Temple, The Forest of Hanging Corpses
Right at this moment, the bizarre sound of a clock could be heard.
“Dong! Dong! Dong!” Three chimes echoed loudly. Xie Lian was instantly overcome with a bout of dizziness. He asked, “What is going on?”
When he surveyed his surroundings again, the brides all swayed before falling to the ground. Only their arms were still raised, pointing at the sky. The villagers also fell and did not rise again. It was as if they had all lost consciousness from the quake of the ear-splitting clock chimes.
Xie Lian also felt a bit dizzy. With one hand on his forehead, he exerted himself to stand up, only for his legs to go weak before he half knelt on the ground. Luckily, someone supported him. When he raised his head up to see who, he discovered it was Nan Feng.
As it turned out, after the seven brides entered the forest, they had dispersed in separate directions. Nan Feng basically had to scour the entire mountain to catch them all and had just returned. Seeing his calm demeanor, Xie Lian immediately asked, “What’s with the bell?”
Nan Feng said to him, “Need not worry, they are reinforcements.”
Following his line of sight, Xie Lian suddenly discovered that a row of soldiers had appeared in front of Ming Guang Temple.
This row of soldiers all wore armor, glowing in divine power as mighty aura faintly radiated from them. At the very front stood a tall and handsome young general. It was clear he wasn’t an ordinary person. That general walked over with his hands clasped behind his back. Once he was in front of Xie Lian, he bowed slightly, and said, “Your Highness the Crown Prince.”
Before Xie Lian was even able to open his mouth to inquire, Nan Feng said in a low voice, “This is General Pei.”
Xie Lian immediately glanced at Xuan Ji who was on the ground, and repeated, “General Pei?”
This General Pei wasn’t quite what he imagined, nor was he similar to the Godly statue at all. That Godly statue was flourishing with heroism, while his countenance overflowing with arrogance. It was an invasive and powerful type of handsomeness. Meanwhile, although this young general was also quite handsome, his appearance was fair, while his countenance looked peaceful like a cold jade. Void of any killing intent, and full of undisturbed calmness. You could say he was a general, yet it wouldn’t be strange if somehow claimed he was a strategizing minister instead.
General Pei saw Xuan Ji on the ground and spoke, “Ling Wen Palace Hall notified us that the situation of Mount Yu Jun has rather a lot to do with us Ming Guang Palace, so this subordinate hurried over. I did not expect that it really does have a rather deep relationship with us. For your trouble, you have my gratitude, Your Highness the Crown Prince.”
Xie Lian thanked Ling Wen in his heart. In what way had Ling Wen Palace’s efficiency decreased?? “I thank you for your troubles as well, General Pei.”
But when Xuan Ji, in her struggles, vaguely heard the words “General Pei”, she suddenly raised her head and fervently shouted, “Pei Lang, Pei Lang! Is it you, have you come? Have you finally come?”
Having been tied up by Ruoye, no matter how wild she was with joy, she could only kneel up. Yet who would have expected her to take in the sight of the General, only to go pale in the face. “Who are you?!”
On Xie Lian’s side, he was giving Nan Feng a summary of what the situation was with the ghost bridegroom. When he heard her question, he asked, “Isn’t this General Pei? Has she waited so long that she can’t recognize him anymore?”
Nan Feng answered, “He is General Pei. But not the one she has been waiting for.”
Xie Lian found it strange. “Don’t tell me there are two General Peis?”
But Nan Feng answered, “That’s right, there indeed are two!”
As it turned out, the General Pei this female ghost Xuan Ji was waiting for was Ming Guang Temple’s main god, while the one in front of them was the deputy god. He was also someone from General Pei’s family’s successor. To differentiate them when they were called, everyone called this one “Little General Pei”. In a proper Ming Guang Temple, it was necessary to honour them with both positive and reversed moon blocks
General Pei was the main god of the temple, so his god statues faced the temple doors. Little General Pei’s god statues were positioned behind his. However, although one was from a previous generation and the other from a later generation, they looked as if they were brothers. But for two people from the same family ascending, it could be regarded as a very odd story that captured one’s imagination.
Xuan Ji looked around but still did not find the person she wanted to see among the soldiers. She bleakly asked, “Where is Pei Ming? Why did he not come? Why did he not come see me?”
Little General Pei nodded his head slightly, answering, “General Pei is occupied with an important matter.”
Xuan Ji mumbled, “Important matter?”
Under her long hair, her tears started to fall as she said, “I’ve waited for him for centuries, what important matter does he have? Back then, in order to see me, he would cross half of the border in a single night, so what important matter could he have now? So important that he wouldn’t even be willing to see me once? An important matter? He doesn’t actually have one, right?”
Little General Pei said, “General Xuan Ji, please be on your way
Two soldiers of Ming Guang Temple broke formation and walked over. Ruoye swiftly leapt from Xuan Ji and wound around Xie Lian’s wrist affectionately. Xie Lian softly patted it twice to comfort it.
Xuan Ji allowed those two soldiers to grab her as she knelt there in a daze. Then, abruptly, she started to struggle, pointing towards the sky as she cursed, “Pei Ming! I curse you!”
Her cry was very sharp. Xie Lian stared blankly before he thought to himself, “Isn’t this cursing the predecessor while in front of their successor?”
But that Little General Pei kept a straight face and said, “Please excuse this scene.”
Xuan Ji continued to shout herself hoarse, “I curse you, you better never fall in love with anyone. Otherwise, if such a day comes, I curse you to be like me, forevermore and for all eternity, to be endlessly scorched by love! Let the fire sear through your entire body and very being!”
At this time, Little General Pei said to Xie Lian and the others, “Please excuse my rudeness and wait a moment.” He lifted two fingers and lightly pressed them to his temple. This gesture was what activated the spirit communication array, so he must be communicating with someone. After a moment, he let out a “hmmm”, lowered his hand and returned them clasped behind his back. He turned toward Xuan Ji and said, “General Pei would like me to pass on a message—’That is impossible.’”
Xuan Ji screeched, “I curse you—!!!”
Little Pei General slightly raised his hand, and ordered, “Take her away.”
Two soldiers picked up the crazily struggling Xuan Ji and dragged her away. Xie Lian asked, “Little General Pei, may I ask, how will Xuan Ji be dealt with?”
Little Pei General answered, “She will be restrained beneath a mountain.”
Finding a mountain to restrain her, this was indeed the method often used by the heavens to deal with demons and ghosts. After muttering to himself for a while, Xie Lian still said, “This General Xuan Ji’s resentment is rather heavy. Since she’s constantly thinking about the hatred from committing treason against her kingdom and how her legs were broken because of General Pei, I’m afraid that suppressing her won’t last long.
Little General Pei titled his head, and said, “She said she committed treason and broke her legs due to General Pei?”
Xie Lian answered, “She indeed said before, that it was because of General Pei that she ended up in her current state. As for what the truth is, I do not know.”
Little General Pei spoke, “If it is to be said that way, then sure. It is true she committed treason for General Pei. But the details may differ to what other people may think. After herself and General Pei had parted ways, in order to urge him to stay, General Xuan Ji did not hesitate to offer up military intelligence. However, General Pei was unwilling to accept this unfair advantage and did not take her offer.”
……Xie Lian would have never thought that her, ‘I betrayed my country for you’, was actually like this. He asked, “Then when she said her legs were broken because of General Pei..….?”
Little General Pei answered, “She broke her own legs herself.”
……She broke them herself?
Little General Pei answered, flat and unwavering, “General Pei does not like strong-minded women, and Xuan Ji’s natural disposition is strong-willed. This is why they could not stay together for long. General Xuan Ji was unwilling to let go, so she said to General Pei that she was willing make sacrifices and change herself. Thus, she voluntarily abolished her martial arts and broke her own two legs. In this way, she did the equivalent of breaking both her wings and tying herself to General Pei. Despite all this, General Pei didn’t abandon her. He took her in and looked after her, yet, he still wouldn’t take her as his wife. Because General Xuan Ji’s long-cherished wish could not be fulfilled, she killed herself in hate. Not for any other reason, but only to make General Pei feel sad and aggrieved. But, forgive me for speaking so bluntly—”
Little General Pei’s speech had been rather refined and courteous from beginning to end. With an overly calm expression he said, “But that will not happen.”
Xie Lian rubbed his forehead. He didn’t speak out loud, but he thought to himself, “Just what kind of people are they?”
Little General Pei spoke again, “For who was in the right or wrong, I do not know. I only know that if General Xuan Ji had originally been willing to let go, it wouldn’t have ended this way. Your Highness Crown Prince, this subordinate shall take my leave.”
Xie Lian returned the fist and palm salute and saw them off. Nan Feng gave his personal evaluation, “Weirdos.”
Xie Lian thought to himself, he himself was also a laughingstock in the three realms, a famous weirdo; it was not his place to critique other people. As for the matter between General Pei and Xuan Ji, unless one was directly involved, it was better not to comment on who was right or wrong. He could only pity those seventeen innocent brides, the military officials and drivers who had escorted them. It truly was an unexpected disaster.
Speaking of the brides, he immediately turned around to take a look, only to see that the dead bodies of the seventeen brides were all showing different stages of change. While some turned into white bones, others started to rot and emit a strong foul stench. The odor woke everyone on the ground. When the villagers slowly came to their senses and took in the situation, it was another round of great alarm and shock.
Xie Lian took this chance to ramble at them and scatter some doctrine about good and bad karma retribution. He told everyone that once they went down the mountain, they must pray a lot for the brides. In addition, they should try to think of ways to notify the brides’ family so that their corpses could be claimed. They definitely should not do anything shady like selling the corpses or any other shameful deeds.
After experiencing such a core-shaking night, and without a leader stirring up trouble, how could anyone listening dare to say otherwise? One after another, they all agreed while trembling with fear. They all felt as if they had all undergone a nightmare. Only then did they realize how they had all acted as if they were possessed last night. With so many dead, how could they still only have thoughts full of earning money?
Thinking back, they all felt terrified of themselves. Last night, since everyone did it, they relied on the fact that they were big in numbers and that there had been someone taking the lead. Thus, their muddle-headed selves rushed along with the flow. Now, still with lingering fear in their hearts, it was best to obediently repent and pray for blessings.
Dawn has yet to rise. Within the mountain, there were still wolf packs waiting to cause trouble. Nan Feng had only just run a lap around the mountain, but he was already tasked to lead a large group of people off the mountain. In spite of that, he made no complaints, and agreed with Xie Lian to discuss that forest of hanging corpses and its follow-up arrangements together later.
After that bandaged teenager woke up, he sat once more by Little Ying’s corpse, hugging her. Without saying anything, Xie Lian also went to sit next to him. After racking his brain for a while and just as he about to say something comforting, he suddenly noticed that the bandaged teenager’s head was bleeding.
If it was the blood from the corpse forest, it should have dried already. But this blood was still flowing without pause, so it could only be that he was injured. Immediately, Xie Lian said to him, “Your head is injured, take off your bandages and let me help you take a look.”
That teenager slowly raised his head, his two bloodshot eyes looking at him as he hesitated timidly. Xie Lian gave a small smile, and told him, “Don’t be afraid. If you are injured, it must be treated. I promise I won’t be frightened by you.”
That teenager hesitated for a moment, then turned around and slowly unwrapped the bandages on his head. His movements were very slow, and Xie Lian waited patiently for him. He was already thinking over what he should ask next. ‘This teenager definitely could not stay at Mount Yu Jun, but where could he go? It was not like he could return to Heaven with me. Not even I know when my next meal will appear, so I need to think of a dependable arrangement to settle him down somewhere. Furthermore, there’s Green Ghost, Qi Rong……’
At this point, that teenager had finished taking off his bandages and turned around.
And when Xie Lian clearly took in that face, he felt as if in that split second, all the blood in his body drained away.