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.”
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 WuXiang
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 Poison
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.”