Heaven Official’s Blessing

Chapter 22-30

Chapter 22: A Thousand Miles in a Step, Lost Within a Sandstorm

The scorpion tail!

However, right after he was stung, Xie Lian had also grabbed onto its tail. In fact, he had securely caught hold of the whole Scorpion-Tailed Snake in its entirety. Following that, Xie Lian tightened his grip until the snake completely fainted.

Despite having been stung, his expression didn’t change in the slightest. He only tossed the unconscious snake to the ground and said, “Everyone should continue to be careful, there may be more snakes nearby……”

Xie Lian hadn’t finished speaking when he felt something tighten around his wrist. When he lifted his head to take a look, he found that it was San Lang who had grabbed hold of him. Slightly startled, Xie Lian asked, “San Lang?”

The reason why he had asked this was because the expression currently present on the young man’s face wasn’t quite right. It was difficult to use words to describe it, but it basically made others tremble with fear.

San Lang stared intently at the minuscule wound on Xie Lian’s hand. This wound had originally been approximately the same size as a pinprick. However, the poison had spread fast, and thus the back of his hand had swollen into a massive, purplish-red hard lump. That small, pin-sized wound had also been stretched until it resembled a cut from a knife.

San Lang remained composed. Completely silent, he grabbed Ruoye and used it to tie a tight knot around Xie Lian’s wrist, which stopped the poisoned blood from spreading further. Although Ruoye liked to act like a spoiled and pampered child around Xie Lian and wasn’t always that well-behaved, it was incredibly docile in San Lang’s hands, to the point it seemed as though it was dead.

Ever since the two of them became acquainted, Xie Lian had never seen this expression on him before. Just as he was about to speak, San Lang pulled out the dagger hanging at the waist of one of the merchants. Having seen this, Nan Feng instantly understood what he was about to do and called forth a Palm Flame upon his right hand.

San Lang didn’t even look in his direction. Instead, he merely placed the tip of the knife into the fire. After sterilizing it, he turned around his head, before he gently yet swiftly sliced a cross mark onto the wound located on the back of Xie Lian’s hand.

San Lang was about to stoop down when Xie Lian quickly said, “There’s no need. The Scorpion-Tailed Snake’s poison is too toxic, so it’s useless even if you sucked it out. You should be more concerned about getting yourself poisoned……”

However, the young man didn’t allow him to explain. He just held his hand tightly before he pressed his lips to it. Unsure of the reason why, Xie Lian felt his arm, the one San Lang was holding, tremble slightly.

On the other side, Fu Yao said, “How can you even get stung like this? Your luck is truly something else. He might not have been bitten at all, so why would you go and grab it? You’re simply just causing us more trouble.”

These words were actually the truth. In fact, now that Xie Lian recalled San Lang’s carefree attitude as he tried to tie the snake into a knot, even he felt that San Lang wouldn’t have been bitten. And perhaps, even if he had been bitten, San Lang might not have minded it at all.

However, it was better safe than sorry. If the young man truly hadn’t noticed the snake and was bitten, wouldn’t it be useless to regret it then?

He waved his other, unwounded hand and said, “In any case, it doesn’t hurt and it wouldn’t kill me. Don’t mind it.”

Fu Yao asked, “It really doesn’t hurt?”

Xie Lian honestly replied, “Yes. I don’t feel it anymore. ”

This much was true. Xie Lian, being himself, was extremely unlucky. When he traversed through mountains, eight out of ten times he would step on poisonous snakes, startle poisonous bugs, and so on. He has already been bitten by an assortment of poisonous creatures a thousand times over, but his tenacity made it so that he just wouldn’t die. At most, he’d get a fever for three days and nights and upon waking up, he would be completely fine. In addition, Xie Lian was really insensitive toward pain. No matter what kind of pain it was, he would just let it hurt and hurt until he became used to it.

By the time he finished talking, San Lang finally lifted his head. The swelling on the back of Xie Lian’s hand had gone down. From the corner of San Lang’s lips, a thread of blood trickled down. Gaze extremely cold, he moved his eyes toward the Scorpion-Tailed Snake that laid on the ground.

Suddenly, a ‘bang’ sound rung out mournfully. That purplish-red snake had exploded into a pool of purplish-red minced meat.

When everyone saw how the snake had exploded, they were all taken aback. However, no one knew who did it. Although none of the blood had spattered onto them, they were still terrified.

TianSheng still remembered that Xie Lian had also been stung. He anxiously said, “This gege, were you also stung? What are you going to do?”

Xie Lian tightened the bandage around his wrist. With a smile, he said, “You’re a good kid. I’m fine. We’ll follow the original plan. Next, we will enter the city to look for the Kindred Moon Herb.”

A merchant hastily said, “If you guys are going, then what about us? Should we also send someone too?”

Xie Lian replied, “There’s no need for you guys to go. The ancient land of Ban Yue Kingdom is likely very dangerous. An additional person is merely another accident just waiting to happen. After we find the Kindred Moon Herb, we will bring it back and give it to you before the twenty-four hours are up.”

Several merchants exclaimed in succession, “Re…Really?! We would be too grateful….”

“How could we have the nerve……”

However, the moment Xie Lian spoke his next line, the expressions of the merchants immediately changed. He said, “In order to find the ancient kingdom of Ban Yue as quickly as possible, I would have to inconvenience you all to temporarily lend us this brother so he may show us the way. ”

The one he wanted to borrow was naturally A-Zhao. If one said the expressions present on the merchants’ face earlier were gratitude and joy, now the majority bore a look of hesitation.

Xie Lian also thoroughly understood why. The merchants were worried that once they took their guide and found the Kindred Moon Herb, they’d run off on their own. Even if A-Zhao had a conscious and decided to not run off with them while being willing to come back, much time would be delayed.

Yet, the merchants were indeed unwilling to go to the “With every passing, half the party goes missing” damnable place. This made them torn between the two choices.

This was human nature, and was thus understandable. Xie Lian immediately added, “But I’m afraid there may be other things that might come attack you all. So, Fu Yao, stay behind and look after them.”

Since they were leaving someone here, most of the merchants finally nodded and said, “Alright, as long as A-Zhao is willing to go with you.”

Therefore, Xie Lian turned towards A-Zhao and said, “Young friend, are you willing to help us? It’s alright even if you aren’t.”

A-Zhao nodded and replied, “I can. Although, the ancient kingdom of Ban Yue is actually rather easy to find. If you follow and walk down this direction, you will be able to find it.”

After they said their goodbyes to the merchants, A-Zhao walked at the very front to lead the group. Xie Lian, San Lang, and with Nan Feng followed closely behind him.

Having walked for some time, Xie Lian opened his mouth to ask, “A-Zhao, do Scorpion-Tailed Snakes frequently appear in this area?”

A-Zhao replied, “Scorpion-Tailed Snakes don’t appear often. This is also my first time seeing them.”

Xie Lian nodded and didn’t inquire further. In reality, he had lived near Ban Yue Kingdom for a period of time in the past, but this was also his first time encountering a Scorpion-Tailed Snake. Therefore, there was nothing wrong with A-Zhao’s answer.

Nan Feng had sensed something to some extent. He quietly asked him, “You suspect A-Zhao?”

Xie Lian also lowered his voice and said, “In any case, we already brought him out, so just keep an eye on him.”

If it was in the past, the first one to speak to him would inevitably be San Lang. But at the moment, although Xie Lian was unsure if it was because of what had happened earlier, the young man’s expression was still unpleasant. San Lang wouldn’t utter a single word. Xie Lian also didn’t know what was wrong. Since he was unable to talk to him, he could only continue to walk.

The four of them walked in the vast Gobi for slightly less than an hour. The storm had long gone, so without any wind or sand blocking their path, their travelling speed became awfully quick.

Gradually, they were able to make out a few hardy weeds that grew within the cracks in-between the sand and the rocks. It was until the sun had almost set when Xie Lian finally saw the ancient city emerging from the horizon.

This ancient city was difficult to spot because it was khaki in color, which blended in with the vast yellow sand that surrounded it. The city wall had crumbled, and there were a few sections that were buried amidst the yellow sand.

It was only after they had walked closer did they discover that the city wall was extremely tall. In fact, the tallest parts were more than thirty or so meters high, so i wasn’t difficult to imagine the wall in its former grandeur.

After they entered through the city gates, the four of them had officially entered the land of the ancient Ban Yue Kingdom.

Like always, the main street past the gates was wide and empty. Both sides of the street were filled with broken walls, dilapidated houses, and worn-out rocks and wood.

Perhaps repeatedly warning others had already become a habit, because A-Zhao said, “Everyone, be careful. Don’t wander.”

However, the other three naturally didn’t need him to remind them of this.

Probably due to the immense contrast between the ancient city of Ban Yue Kingdom and the one he had imagined, Nan Feng asked in disbelief, “This is Ban Yue Kingdom? How could it be so small? It can’t even be compared to a city.”

Xie Lian replied, “As a small desert kingdom, the bigger the oasis, the larger the kingdom. Even during its flourishing period, Ban Yue Kingdom consisted only of around ten thousand people. It truly is only this big. It had been alright when there was a lot of people around, and was even pretty lively.”

Nan Feng examined the area and said, “Defeating this kingdom was probably a matter that only took a couple of days.”

Xie Lian shook his head. “That hard to say. Nan Feng, don’t underestimate the people of Ban Yue. Although their population had only been around ten thousand people, there were always at least four thousand people in their army year-round. There were more males than females. Apart from the old and the sick and not counting the farmers, practically all the remaining men all joined the army. In addition, all the Ban Yue soldiers were all at least nine foot tall. Their personalities were also brave, fierce, and aggressive. While holding a wolf-toothed club, they still dared to charge forward even with a sword stuck in their chest. The soldiers of Ban Yue were extremely difficult to fight against.”

A-Zhao appeared to be slightly surprised. He glanced at Xie Lian and said, “This young lord seems to know quite a lot.”

Xie Lian kept smiling. Just when he was just about to casually spew some nonsense, Nan Feng spoke again, “What is that wall?”

What he had been referring to was an enormous, yellow dirt building in the distance.

It didn’t seem quite right to depict it as a building, because strictly speaking, it could only be described as four, giant earthen walls encircling something. There was no door and no roof, just four walls, and each was taller than thirty meters high. Stuck on top of the walls was a pole with something attached, and it was so battered that it wasn’t clear if it was a flag or something else that fluttered in the wind. For an unknown reason, the sight sent chills into one’s heart.

Xie Lian turned around, took one glance and said, “That’s the sinner’s pit.”

Just the name made it obvious that it wasn’t going to be anything good. Nan Feng frowned, “Sinner’s pit?”

After muttering to himself for a moment, Xie Lian replied, “You can think of it as a prison. It’s a place specifically for imprisoning criminals.”

Nan Feng said, “It doesn’t even have a door, how are they imprisoned? Don’t tell me they just tossed them down from the top?”

Xie Lian had been considering whether or not to reply when San Lang suddenly said, “They’re thrown in. In addition, what’s waiting for them at the bottom are poisonous snakes and scorpions, as well as starving beasts.”

Xie Lian felt himself relax when he finally heard San Lang speak. He glanced at him, but San Lang’s gaze only met his for a moment before the boy quickly averted his eyes.

Nan Feng cursed, “How the hell is this a prison, this is practically torture! It’s too cruel! If the Ban Yue people aren’t sick in the head, then they must be savages!”

Xie Lian massaged the space between his eyebrows. “Not entirely. Some of the Ban Yue people had been quite cute.”

At this moment, Xie Lian suddenly stopped speaking. While his eyebrows furrowed, he said, “Wait.”

The other three stopped walking. Xie Lian raised a hand and pointed. “Do you all see the pole at the top of the pit? Is that a person hanging from it?”

The sun had set and the night had fallen. Since they were also very far away from it, it had been difficult to tell what exactly was dangling from the pole. However, after they had walked a bit closer and saw the silhouette of the dangling object, it was obvious that it was a scrawny person dressed in black, clothes ragged and tattered. They were hung above the sinner’s pit, appearing rather like a worn-out doll as they were blown back and forth by the wind.

San Lang said, “It is.”

As soon as A-Zhao saw it was a person hanging up there, his face became slightly pale. This scene appeared extremely mournful and strange. Even someone as calm as A-Zhao couldn’t handle it.

At that moment, San Lang inclined his head a bit and quietly said, “Someone’s here.”

He wasn’t the only one to have noticed. Xie Lian had also heard the sound of very faint footsteps. Both sides of the street had dilapidated houses, so the four of them immediately dispersed to hide within them.

Xie Lian and San Lang ducked into the same house, while Nan Feng and A-Zhao hid in the house across from them. After a short while, a female official dressed in white appeared at the end of the beaten road.

The woman wore light, flowy robes that were as white as snow, while a hossu rested in the crook of her arm. As she walked down the street, she glanced left to right with her very bright eyes.

Her expression made it seem as if this place was not a long abandoned ancient city, but a little garden she could visit whenever she liked. Not too far away from her was a young woman dressed in black. With her hands clasped behind her back, she slowly followed behind the woman in white.

The young woman wearing black had facial features that appeared rather cold. Her gaze was not unlike that of an unsheathed dagger, while her long hair was draped over her back. In fact, the woman herself seemed to emit a chilly aura. And although she had been walking behind the woman wearing white, no one would mistake her as an underling.

These two were precisely the people Xie Lian and his party had seen outside the little rundown building at noon.

At that time, these two had flitted past them. The figure of the one wearing black had been very tall, hence Xie Lian had been unable to discern whether they were male or female. Only now did he realize that the two of them were both females. The one wearing white could only be the Ban Yue Grand Tutor, but the one wearing black…..who could she be?

That Ban Yue Grand Tutor swayed the hossu about in a leisurely manner. “Where did those people run off to now? As soon as our attention slipped, they vanished. Do I really have to drag them out one by one to kill them?”

Xie Lian thought to himself, Sure enough, as soon as they entered the city, someone immediately began watching them. 

The woman in black walked forward. With an expressionless face, she walked past the woman dressed in white and said, “You can call your friends out to help you kill them.”

By ‘friends’, she could only be referring to the extremely deadly Ban Yue soldiers. The Ban Yue Grand Tutor laughed and said, “Ha ha ha! I don’t like asking other people, I only like to ask you. Doesn’t that make you happy?”

However, the woman in black didn’t leave her with any face. She icily said, “Being asked by you to come here and do these kinds of things isn’t anything to be happy about. Hurry up, let’s go.”

The Ban Yue Grand Tutor raised an eyebrow, although she indeed began walking quicker. The conversation between the two women made it seem as if their relationship were that of good, old friends.

These two definitely couldn’t be ordinary people, and the one dressed in black definitely couldn’t be someone with an obscure reputation. As someone who was familiar with the Ban Yue Grand Tutor, who could they be? A mysterious person from the same sect? Or perhaps, there had been a queen regnant or a female general in Ban Yue Kingdom?

While he rapidly analyzed this, Xie Lian also held his breath. He definitely didn’t want to be discovered right now. At present, it seemed that the Ban Yue Grand Tutor’s temper was very unpredictable.

What if she saw them and in a moment of excitement, called forth a horde of the legendary Ban Yue soldiers who were rumored to be nine foot tall and wielded wolf-tooth clubs? If that happened, they would have to fight for quite a while. And with only a twenty four hour deadline, losing even two hours only meant an increase to the danger.

But who would have thought, with Xie Lian’s luck, the more he didn’t want something to happen, the more likely it was to happen. As the woman in black walked past the front of their house, she suddenly halted. Following that, her perceptive gaze swept towards them.

The Ban Yue Grand Tutor had already walked ahead a few steps. However, upon seeing her companion stop, her body began leaning back. “Hey, are we going or not?”

The woman in black said, “You, move back.”

The Ban Yue Grand Tutor said, “Oh” before retreating. The woman in black had been just about to raise her hand, when suddenly, an explosive noise erupted from across the street!

On the other side, the house Nan Feng and A-Zhao had been hiding in suddenly collapsed. As the house caved in, the buildings beside it followed. In a split second, sand and dust billowed onto the street.

A black shadow suddenly leapt out of the sand and then expelled a stream of powerful flames towards the Ban Yue Grand Tutor. And yet, the woman in black had already turned around and stood protectively in front of the Grand Tutor. Her left hand still remained behind her back, while her right easily contained the stream of flames in her palm with a grab. Then, she immediately shot the flames back.

That shadow was also incomparably quick and nimble like a rabbit. After it dodged the attack by a hair, it left behind a cloud of dust as it escaped into the distance. The Ban Yue Grand Tutor gave chase, but the one in black glanced towards Xie Lian and San Lang once before she followed after her.

This entire event all happened in a single instant. Xie Lian inwardly said, “Good job, Nan Feng!”

He knew that the Nan Feng who had been hidden across the street must have seen that they were about to be discovered. Thus, he created a diversion and helped lead the enemies away. And since Nan Feng had been the only one who jumped out, A-Zhao must still be in the house.

After he confirmed the three of them were far enough away, Xie Lian pulled San Lang out and called, “A-Zhao, you’re still alive, right? Are you hurt?”

Instantly, a muffled sound came from beneath the collapsed house. “……I’m fine.”

Reassured, Xie Lian replied, “As long as you’re alright.”

Although he trusted Nan Feng had used utmost precision and control when he collapsed the house and had thus left enough space for a living person, in the end, Xie Lian still needed to confirm this to assuage his worries.

With a single hand, Xie Lian lifted a rotten roof beam. After a while, A-Zhao crawled out from under the house with some difficulty. His entire head and face were covered in dust, but after he patted himself off, he recovered his usual tranquil expression.

Xie Lian said, “Now there’s only three of us left. Nan Feng is being chased, so we need to act even faster. A-Zhao, do you know where the Kindred Moon Herb is located at?

A-Zhao only shook his head and said, “My apologies. I only know the location of the ancient city. I haven’t actually came here before, so I’m unclear as to where the Kindred Moon Herb grows.”

To the side, San Lang said, “It is said that the Kindred Moon Herb likes shade. It’s a small plant with incredibly delicate roots, yet its leaves are comparatively large. Its shape is similar to a pointy peach. You might as well look for it around a tall building.”

Xie Lian thought it over. “A tall building?”

On the topic of tall buildings, within a kingdom, what kind of building could be larger and more magnificent than the imperial palace? In addition, the legend said that after the banquet, the queen had plucked a leaf from the Kindred Moon Herb. This could also serve as evidence that the Kindred Moon Herb indeed grew within the palace.

The three surveyed the area. Sure enough, at the center of the city, they saw a palace built from stone, dirt and wood.

From afar, the palace looked quite imposing. However, from up close, the decline of the building was only slightly better than the houses on the streets. After passing through the main gates of the palace, there was a large garden. Perhaps it hadn’t been a garden but a plaza or something similar in the past. But now, after years of neglect, only a patch of land remained, one filled with all sorts of greenery.

That was right. What they were currently stepping on was not sand, but mud. It was probably the last vestiges of the oasis.

In fact, the Kindred Moon Herb was probably hiding amongst the rich vegetation. Xie Lian said, “Let’s be efficient. We only have twenty four hours. However, you must be very careful of the Scorpion-Tailed Snakes.”

A-Zhao agreed, while San Lang also gave his consent with a hum. Thus, the three of them all lowered their heads to search.

However, Xie Lian suddenly recalled that the Ban Yue Grand Tutor could control Scorpion-Tailed Snakes. Therefore, after traipsing onto her home territory, the Scorpion-Tailed Snakes should have made more appearances. Yet, after they entered the ancient Ban Yue Kingdom, they hadn’t seen another Scorpion-Tailed Snake.

He straightened his back and was just about to speak. However, at this moment, his hand suddenly touched something cylindrical.

Xie Lian bowed his head to take a look. It was a human leg.

Chapter 23: A Thousand Miles in a Step, Lost Within a Sandstorm


Xie Lian withdrew his hand, momentarily speechless. He had discovered that every time he saw or bumped into something in the dark, more often than not he would be the one who completely didn’t react to the frightening scene, while the other party would have already started screaming. However, wasn’t he the one who ought to be the most afraid?

The shrubs and grass in the garden had grown to be very tall and dense. Just now, there had been someone who was stealthily hiding among the plants, before Xie Lian ended up touching their calf.

That leg retracted at lightning speed. Rustling noises came from the bush before someone yelled, “Don’t attack, don’t attack! It’s me, big brother!”

Xie Lian stared. Indeed, he had truly not expected that the one screaming ‘don’t attack, don’t attack’, would actually be the thick-browed, big-eyed youth—TianSheng. When TianSheng saw Xie Lian had recognized him, he let out a relieved sigh.

However, Xie Lian didn’t heave a sigh of relief and instead became even more vigilant after he realized who the teenager was. After raising an arm, he held it in front of himself protectively before saying, “Didn’t you stay behind with the others at the previous place to watch over the injured people? Why are you here? Are you truly TianSheng?”

For him to appear under these circumstances, it was more likely that this was something else; a fake passing themselves off as TianSheng. However, TianSheng hurriedly said, “It’s me! It’s really me, and I’m not the only one here. Three uncles also came here with me! They’re right inside, if you don’t believe me, just take a look!”

He pointed towards the inside of the palace. Indeed, not much time had passed before three people came running out of the dilapidated palace. These guys were precisely some of the people from the group of merchants. When they saw Xie Lian, the three looked collectively startled before appearing embarrassed.

Xie Lian sighed, and only then did he stand up. As he dusted off the hem of his white clothing, he asked, “What’s going on, you guys?”

When he asked this, all of the embarrassed merchants stayed silent. After quite a while, Tian Sheng mumbled, “Not long after you big brothers left, Uncle Zheng’s poison flared up again. It was really serious, and we……didn’t know when you would return. We were worried that you might not be able to find it, or that you would come back too late. A-Zhao ge had said before that we would be able to find the Ban Yue Kingdom if we followed that road. We thought that it would be possible to find it faster if there were more people helping, so we also came over…….”

No matter how they explained, the main idea was that they had regretted it. Maybe they were afraid that after Xie Lian and his companions found the Kindred Moon Herb, they would take A-Zhao and slip away. Or perhaps, they just didn’t feel reassured and ended up chasing after them.

Xie Lian was also completely capable of imagining how Fu Yao would become too lazy to stop them if he had been unable to convince them to stay. It simply wasn’t possible to stop obstinate people who refused to listen to advice and rushed toward their own deaths.

Xie Lian helplessly said, “You guys are truly too courageous. It’s not like you don’t know what could be in this city, or what could happen here, yet you guys still dared to come?”

It could be assumed that even TianSheng knew their actions clearly meant they didn’t trust Xie Lian, so he felt a bit guilty. Earlier, the reason he hadn’t dared to make a noise when he was lying in the shrub was probably because he felt embarrassed. TianSheng said, “Sorry. The worth of someone’s life is beyond value. Once we panicked, we just…..”

One couldn’t do anything about it. When it came to matters of life and death, growing another heart was also human nature. In addition, being willing to risk their lives in order to retrieve the herb for someone else was also considered as good comradery.

It wasn’t good for Xie Lian to say anything more about this. Thus, he rubbed his forehead and said, “You guys are truly fortunate to not encounter anything on your way into this ancient city. That being said, how did you know you needed to look for the Kindred Moon Herb near the palace?”

Tian Sheng scratched his head and said, “We didn’t know where to look. However, in the red clothing-gege’s story, didn’t the Empress pick the Kindred Moon Herb? Empresses aren’t capable of casually leaving the imperial palace, so I thought we should try our luck at the palace.”

Xie Lian thought that this kid’s brain worked pretty well, since he actually got it right. At that very moment, San Lang, who had been standing by his side, suddenly spoke up, “Found it.”

When Xie Lian turned around to look, San Lan raised his hand. What he held in his hand was a bluish-green leaf that still had some roots attached to its bottom.

The leaf were only about the size of an infant’s palm, and the roots were incredibly slender. It was shaped like a peach, and the end of the leaf were pointed. There was simply no need to ask A-Zhao for confirmation—Xie Lian intuitively thought that it had to be the Kindred Moon Herb from the legends.

But before Xie Lian managed to speak, San Lang had already seized his injured hand.

When it had been stung, that hand had swelled to the point of scaring people. But after San Lang helped him suck out the poison, although the poison hadn’t been neutralized, the swelling was reduced by a lot.

At this moment, San Lang supported Xie Lian’s wounded hand with one hand, and held the Kindred Moon Herb with his other. He closed his five fingers around the herb. While he appeared to not have exerted any strength, when he opened his fist, the leaf had broken down into a pile of green powder.

San Lang took the pile of green powder and spread it thinly onto the back of Xie Lian’s hand. Immediately, a gentle and slightly cool feeling slowly expanded from the site of the wound. Xie Lian said, “San Lang, many thanks.”

However, San Lang did not reply. After he finished applying the medicinal herb, he let go of Xie Lian’s hand.

Xie Lian kept feeling as if there was something strange about the mood existing between the two of them, but he also didn’t know how to ask about it. No matter how Xie Lian tried phrasing his words, they never seemed suitable.

However, the other people could not sense the subtle mood. Tian Sheng eagerly said, “Big brother, do you feel a bit better? Does this herbal medicine work?”

Xie Lian snapped out of his daze and said, “I feel a lot better, so this ought to be the correct plant.”

When they heard his words, all the merchants became very excited. They all said, “Hurry, let’s keep looking.”

Before long, A-Zhao also raised his hand while holding a bunch of green leaves. He said, “I also found it.”

The Kindred Moon Herb leaves he was holding was much bigger compared to the small and pitiful leaf San Lang had just found. When the merchants took a look and saw that the shape and characteristics were all correct, they all rushed over. One after another, they exclaimed in pleasant surprise:

“There’s a large patch of Kindred Moon Herbs here, ah!”

“There’s so much!”

“Quickly, pick some extra!”

“If we pick a lot, can we sell them after we return?”

As the merchants busied themselves with picking the herbs, Xie Lian turned around and took a look at the back of his own hand. Despite having nothing to say, he forcibly found a topic and asked San Lang, “The field they found, weren’t you looking there before? Did you not discover it at the time?”

After he spoke, even Xie Lian himself felt that the question he asked was pointless. However, San Lang shook his head and said, “You shouldn’t use the herbs from there.”

Finding it odd, Xie Lian asked, “Why?”

Who would have thought that before San Lang managed to answer, they would suddenly hear a miserable shriek, “Go away!”

Everyone was stunned. Actions pausing, they asked one after the other:

“Who is the one screaming?”

“I wasn’t the one ah!”

“It wasn’t me either……”

Once again, they heard that voice mournfully say, “Go away, you’re stepping on me……”

This time, everyone finally noticed—the voice was coming from underneath their feet!

In the span of a split second, the people gathered at the patch of Kindred Moon Herbs all scattered. Xie Lian had already long become used to taking the lead at times like this—when other people retreated, he would advance forward. Thus, he walked over to where the scream had originated from. After reaching out with one hand, he slowly pushed aside the dense branches of the shrubs.

The moment he pushed aside those branches, everyone’s breathing all ceased.

What had been buried under the bushes and within the mud, was shockingly a man’s face.

There was actually a living person buried in the patch of soil here, and he was buried to the point that the only thing left outside was his face!

This scene truly looked incomparably strange. Immediately, the few merchants had been scared to the point that they began huddling together and screaming.

Once again, Xie Lian began comforting them in an extremely skilled manner, “Don’t panic. Everyone, calm done. It’s only a face, it’s nothing alarming. After all, doesn’t everyone have a face?”

That face chuckled. “Did I scare you guys? Sigh……I also frequently scare myself.”

Xie Lian half-squatted down before he began carefully scrutinizing the face buried in the mud.

This was a man’s face. When he wasn’t smiling, it appeared very flat, and when he did smile, there were many wrinkles. One couldn’t tell whether he was old or young, and one couldn’t say whether he was ugly or beautiful.

Xie Lian stared at the face for quite a while, but he still couldn’t make out what this face was. Without a better option, he had no choice but to directly ask, “Who are you?”

The face buried in the mud questioned back, “Who are you guys?”

Xie Lian said, “A caravan just passing by.”

The face buried in the mud sighed before saying. “A caravan just passing by? Once, I was also from a caravan just passing by. Although, that is a matter from fifty or sixty years ago.”

After he said this, the entire affair seemed even more abnormal.

This person had actually been buried in the lands of an abandoned ancient city for fifty or sixty years. Could he still be considered a human?

Trembling with fear and trepidation, a merchant asked, “Then……Then why would Mister……Why would Mister be here……ah?”

The face buried in the mud coughed a few times, before he wrinkled his face and said, “I……I was captured and brought here by a Ban Yue soldier. I wasn’t careful and accidentally entered the city and got captured. They ended up burying me here, so I would become fertilizer for these Kindred Moon Herbs……”

It turned out that these Kindred Moon Herbs had grown using living people as its fertilizer. No wonder they looked so plump and healthy!

Some merchants immediately threw away the Kindred Moon Herbs they had been holding. They felt that holding those herbs was the same as touching corpses. Even Xie Lian couldn’t help but lower his head to look at the back of his wounded hand. However, San Lang said, “There were no problems with that herb.”

No wonder San Lang hadn’t picked any of those plump and healthy Kindred Moon Herbs even when he had clearly searched around this piece of land. Xie Lian was afraid that San Lang had long seen the face buried in the mud and had guessed that these herbs were all raised with this kind of fertilizer.

Thus, San Lang had completely ignored these things before he turned around and left. Following that, he helped Xie Lian apply the medicine only after he had found a clean herb that had grown up normally in a remote corner.

Xie Lian said, “San Lang is so considerate. I truly thank you.”

San Lang shook his head. He still appeared calm and collected.

Ever since Xie Lian had been poisoned by the Scorpion-Tailed Snake before they entered the ancient Ban Yue Kingdom, San Lang’s attitude had continued to be like this. When the two of them had been living together before, San Lang had always been calling him ‘gege’. However, now he never called him that.

Other than the times San Lang had helped Xie Lian suck out the poison and apply the medicinal powder, it seemed as if San Lang was avoiding contact with Xie Lian’s body as much as possible. It truly made Xie Lian feel extremely baffled. Since he couldn’t make sense of San Lang’s attitude, even he felt a bit uneasy.

At this moment, the face buried in the mud began speaking again. “It’s already been many years since I’ve seen living people. You guys……you guys, come closer and let me get a better look, alright?”

Everyone stared at each other in dismay. They unanimously thought that it would be better if they didn’t do what he had asked. After a while, when the face buried in mud saw how no one had replied, he muttered, “What, no one is willing to? Sigh……what a pity……”

Xie Lian turned his head and asked, “Why is it a pity?”

The face buried in the mud said, “Ever since you guys came in, there is a matter I care a great deal about. I want to use my own eyes to confirm this matter before telling you guys. That’s why I told you guys to stand closer and let me take a better look, because I want to carefully get a good look of every one of you.”

Xie Lian asked, “What matter?”

The face buried in the mud smiled strangely, “You guys, don’t be afraid if I say it……I saw someone among you fifty years ago.”

The moment he said this, the hair on everyone’s backs began standing on end.

If it was someone the face buried in the mud had seen fifty years ago, nowadays they had to be at least sixty or seventy years old. However, among the few people here, even the oldest didn’t look over forty years old. How could this be possible?

Unless……that person wasn’t ‘human’!

Xie Lian’s gaze began sweeping over everyone’s face. Starting from A-Zhao, and ending with TianSheng, he saw slightly startled faces, frightened faces, bewildered and stupefied ones. Everyone’s reactions all conformed to reason. If he had to point out someone who hadn’t reacted according to common sense, then it could only be San Lang, who hadn’t responded at all. However, when it came to this teenager, no reaction was probably the normal one for him.

Xie Lian turned his head and asked, “Who are you talking about?”

The muscles on the face buried in mud twitched a few times, before he revealed an incomparably eerie smile. He appeared as if he was doing his utmost to make himself look even a little bit more reliable, but it still couldn’t conceal the sinister smile seeping out from the bottom of his heart. He said in a mysterious manner, “You……You, come a bit closer, and I’ll tell you.”

When the face had first made its claim, Xie Lian had deemed him eighty-percent trustworthy. However, after this line, he deemed him only fifty-percent trustworthy.

How was one to know if this monster wasn’t just trying to coax someone close, before suddenly revolting?

Xie Lian naturally wouldn’t listen to the face. After getting up, he withdrew. The face buried in the mud hastily said, “You guys truly don’t want to know who that person is? He will end up killing all of you, just like how he had ended up killing all of us!”

Chapter 24 (I): Obscure Hua Lian Fall Into the Sinners’ Pit at Night

The more he acted like this, the more Xie Lian thought it was dangerous. He said, “Everyone, retreat. Don’t approach it, and don’t pay attention to what it says.”

Everyone rushed to follow his words and hurriedly dispersed. The face buried in the mud gave a forced chuckle as he said, “Sigh, don’t leave. Why are you being like this? I’m also human; I won’t harm any of you!”

Xie Lian thought to himself, “You’re overthinking it. In this condition, you do not resemble a human at all!”

Who would have thought that right at this moment, a sudden change would occur. A merchant probably thought that no matter what, they still had to bring back some medicinal herbs to save people. Thus, that merchant took a few furtive steps forward before he stooped down to pick up the Kindred Moon Herbs he had just thrown away in fright.

The eyeballs of the face buried in the mud rolled around before they fixated on the merchant. Following that, a bright light flashed through the eyes of the half-buried face.

Xie Lian mentally thought ‘what bad luck’ as he rushed over and yelled, “Don’t pick them up! Come back!”

However, it was already too late. The face buried in the mud suddenly opened its mouth, before a strip of scarlet slipped out.

It was an extremely long tongue!

Xie Lian grabbed the back of that merchant’s collar before he repeatedly withdrew. Unfortunately, the thing that flew out of the half-buried face’s mouth was incomparingly long. Accompanied by a squelch, it slipped into the merchant’s ear!

Xie Lian felt the body he was holding undergo a fit of violent trembling. That merchant released a short, blood-curdling scream as his four limbs spasmed incessantly before his knees hit the ground. Swiftly, the long tongue scooped out a huge, bloody lump from the inside of the merchant’s ear, before it withdrew back into the mouth of the half-buried face.

The half-buried face laughed while chewing. He chewed until his entire mouth was practically dripping with blood, while he laughed until his deafening voice nearly overturned the roof of the dilapidated imperial palace. In a screech, the face said, “Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Deliciousdeliciousdelicious, deliciousdeliciousdelicious! Deliciousdelicious!! I’ve been starving to death, I’ve been starving to death!”

This voice already sounded both sharp and shrill, while both the face’s eyes were completely bloodshot. He truly looked extremely disgusting!

This person had been buried here for over fifty years. They had long been assimilated by this demonic kingdom, and had thoroughly become something completely inhumane.

Xie Lian let go of the merchant’s collar which he had been holding with his right hand. He was just about to chop this disgusting thing in half, when he suddenly heard the half-buried face screech again, “General! General! They’re here! They’re here!”

Following that, everyone heard a howl that was even more ferocious than a wild beast’s. A black shadow dropped down from the sky, before landing heavily in front of Xie Lian.

The moment this black shadow fell onto the ground, it almost appeared as if the ground had trembled from his landing. And by the time he had slowly stood up, everyone became shrouded within the immense shadow cast by his figure.

This ‘person’, was truly too tall.

His complexion was as dark as iron, while his facial features seemed vicious and aggressive. In fact, his face appeared similar to that of a beast’s. Armor covered his stomach and was also draped across his shoulders. As he was over nine chi tall, rather than say he was human, it was better to describe him as a gigantic wolf that could walk upright. And behind him, he was followed by one, two, three……more than ten ‘people’ jumped down from the roof of the imperial palace.

Each and every one of these people were tall and strong. The build of their bodies were similar, and atop their shoulders, all of them carried cudgels that were densely covered in sharp wolf teeth. It created an illusion that a pack of wolves had transformed into people. After they landed on the ground, they completely surrounded everyone in the garden and made them feel as if they were encircled by immense iron towers.

Ban Yue soldiers!

Waves of black spiritual energy emanated off of these soldiers. Without doubt, they had long been deceased.

Xie Lian’s entire body was stretched taut. If things took a turn for the worst, Ruoye would immediately be ready to move.

However, when those Ban Yue soldiers saw them, they didn’t immediately pounce on them and attack. Instead, they let out howling laughter that shook the heavens. Then, they began using a tribal language to loudly converse with each other.

That language sounded quite strange. The pronunciation seemed tricky, and there was a lot of tongue-rolling involved. It was precisely the language of Ban Yue Kingdom.

Although two hundred years had passed and Xie Lian had already forgotten almost all of his Ban Yue vocabulary, it could be considered that he had just reviewed it with San Lang at the General’s burial mound. In addition, with how these soldier’s voices were as loud as a large bell, and how their enunciation was crude while their vocabulary was simple, it wasn’t hard for Xie Lian to understand them.

He heard all the Ban Yue soldiers call the first soldier ‘General’. As they conversed with each other, Xie Lian also heard words like ‘drag them away’ and ‘don’t kill them for now’.

He breathed in deeply, before he softly said, “Everyone, don’t panic. For now, these Ban Yue soldiers won’t kill anyone. It seems like they want to bring us to another place. By all means, don’t act blindly without thinking. I can’t guarantee that I would be able to beat them, so let’s act according to the circumstances.”

Xie Lian only needed a single look at these soldiers to know they would be hard to deal with. Each of them were coarse-skinned and thick fleshed. Even if he had Ruoye on hand, Xie Lian was afraid that strangling a single one of them would take up a decent amount of time. Since a dozen had arrived simultaneously, they wouldn’t be easy to handle. In addition, several ordinary people were also present at the scene. Without a better option, the next best thing they could do would be to quietly watch for changes.

San Lang didn’t say anything, and everyone else didn’t really have an opinion. Even if they wanted to act blindly without thinking, they didn’t know how to act blindly without thinking, so they could only tearfully nod their heads. Only the half-buried face was still screaming, “General! General! Let me go! I helped you detain the enemies here, so let me go back home! I want to go back home!”

Ever since he saw this group of Ban Yue soldiers, the face became extremely excited. He kept shrieking while sobbing, and there were some clumsily pronounced Ban Yue vocabulary mixed in with his shouts. The face ought to have casually learned them during the fifty or sixty years he stayed there as fertilizer.

When the nine chi tall man who was called ‘General’ saw how there was something in the soil that kept twisting around and screaming, it seemed that he also thought the face was very disgusting. The general hammered down his cudgel embedded with wolf teeth, and the numerous sharp and pointy teeth pierced the half-buried face’s head.

The half-buried face screamed once. Since the sharp teeth were already lodged into the front of the head, when the general lifted his cudgel, he ended up completely uprooting the half-buried face. Ironically, the general took the face out of the dirt, realizing the face’s ‘let me go’ wish.

However, what was connected to the face’s neck after it broke through the ground wasn’t a person’s body at all. Instead, it was a thickly-boned skeleton!

A few of the merchants who saw this frightening scene were scared into yelling. The face that had been half-buried in the mud dropped off of the teethed cudgel and was completely covered in blood. When the face saw its own body, it seemed like he had also been frightened. He gasped and asked, “What is this? What is this?!”

Xie Lian reminded him, “This is your body.”

It was easy to comprehend after thinking about it. This person had been buried in the desert sand for fifty to sixty years. The flesh of his body had long been transformed into nutrients for those Kindred Moon Herbs. He had been entirely consumed until the only thing remaining was a mere skeleton.

The face that had been buried was still unwilling to accept the truth. He asked, “How could this be possible?? My body isn’t like this. This isn’t my body!!!”

His voice sounded incomparably mournful. The scene looked frightful yet lamentable, causing Xie Lian to shake his head. However, San Lang sneered before saying, “You can’t bear to see your own body right now? If that’s the case, what was the thing that had came out of your mouth? You think there was nothing wrong with it?”

The face that had been buried in the mud immediately retorted. “What’s wrong with it?! It’s only……It’s only a bit longer than an ordinary person’s tongue, that’s all!”

Both the corners of San Lang’s eyes and the tips of his eyebrows expressed his derision. He said, “Nn, not bad. Only a little bit longer. Ha ha.”

The face that had been buried in the mud said, “That’s right! It’s only a little bit longer! And it’s only like this because for these past several years, for the sake of surviving by eating flying and crawling insects, it slowly got longer and longer. That’s why it became like this!”

When the face had first been buried into the soil, perhaps he had still been alive. And in order to keep on living, he would desperately stick out his tongue to eat all sorts of insects. Gradually, the face stopped being a human, so that tongue grew longer and longer. And the ‘food’ he ate also changed from flying and crawling bugs to things that were even more frightful.

However, because he had always been buried in the soil, the face hadn’t been able to see the state of his body for all these years. He was simply incapable of accepting, nor was he willing to believe, that he was no longer human. The face that had been buried in the mud strived to explain, “There are also people whose tongues are relatively long!”

San Lang smiled. When Xie Lian saw this, he felt an indescribable chill. The smiling face of this youth gave people a grim feeling, as if he was on the verge of peeling off someone’s face.

San Lang asked, “Do you believe you’re still human?”

After he was asked this question, it seemed as if the face that had been buried in the mud felt a sense of danger. He suddenly became jittery and said, “Of course I’m human. I’m human!”

As the face yelled this, he expended much effort in an attempt to move the hands and feet that had already turned into white bone. It seemed like he wanted to crawl on the ground.

Perhaps it was because he had finally emerged from the dirt, but the face felt genuine happiness. Howling with laughter, he said, “I can go back, I can go back now! Ha ha ha ha ha ha……”


His laughter had been too ear-piercing, so it finally irritated that Ban Yue general. In a single stomp, the skull of the face that had been buried in the mud instantly shattered. His shrill cries of ‘I’m human’ would also never occur again.

After that ‘General’ crushed the annoying face that had been buried in the mud, he shouted something at the soldiers in a loud voice. In response, the crowd of soldiers brandished their cudgels embedded with wolf teeth and roared a few times at the group of people. Then, the soldiers began herding the people toward the exit of the imperial palace.

Xie Lian was at the very front, and as always, San Lang followed right behind him. Even though they were being forcibly escorted by a group of fiendish Ban Yue soldiers, the youth’s footsteps were as measured as always, as if he was just taking a stroll.

Ever since earlier, Xie Lian had been trying to find an opportunity to talk to him. After walking for a while, he noticed how the Ban Yue soldiers began once again chatting with one another. Since they didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to them, Xie Lian quietly said, “They call the leading Ban Yue soldier ‘General’, I wonder what kind.”

Sure enough, San Lang still answered him the moment Xie Lian asked a question. He said, “When Ban Yue Kingdom was destroyed, there was only one general. His name translated into classical Chinese is ‘Ke Mo’.”

Xie Lian repeated, “Ke Mo?”

This name was indeed quite strange. San Lang said, “That’s right. Reportedly, his body had been delicate and frail when he was young, so he was frequently bullied. As a result, he vowed to become strong. He developed his strength by grinding down a rock, and so he earned a name like this

Xie Lian couldn’t resist thinking, “If that was the case, they could have also called him ‘Da Li’…...”

San Lang spoke up again. “The legends proclaim Ke Mo as Ban Yue Kingdom’s bravest and fiercest General in all of history. With a height of nine chi and extraordinary strength, he had been the Ban Yue Grand Tutor’s faithful supporter.”

Xie Lian asked, “And he is still a supporter after his death? Is he bringing us to the Ban Yue Grand Tutor right now?”

San Lang replied, “Perhaps.”

If there were even more Ban Yue soldiers there, how would they escape? In addition, how was Nan Feng doing after he had drawn away those two? They had also gotten a hold of the Kindred Moon Herb, but how were they supposed to deliver it into the hands of the poisoned within twenty-four hours?

Xie Lian contemplated these questions as he walked. He also noticed that General Ke Mo was leading them somewhere increasingly remote. In the end, he brought them to a place that was at the very edge of Ban Yue Kingdom, and only then did General Ke Mo come to a halt.

Xie Lian stopped walking and raised his head to look up. An incomparably tall and yellow wall stood in front of him, bearing a resemblance to that of a giant person.

Their destination was unexpectedly the Sinners’ Pit.

Although he had once lived near Ban Yue Kingdom for a period of time, Xie Lian hadn’t actually entered Ban Yue City that much. Of course, he had also never approached the Sinners’ Pit. Now that he was seeing the Sinners’ Pit from up close, his heart had inexplicably sped up.

There was a staircase on the outside of the yellow wall. While they slowly climbed up the simple and crude staircase, Xie Lian glanced down. As he constantly surveyed his surroundings with his eyes, he finally understood why his heart had sped up.

He wasn’t trembling with fear because he associated this place with one that used torture. It also wasn’t because he was worried that the soldiers would push them down into the pit. Instead, his heart palpitations were purely a response to him sensing the presence of a spiritual array.

Someone had deliberately set up an extremely powerful spiritual array using the terrain and layout of the Sinners’ Pit.

And this spiritual array only had one purpose——to make the people who fall down into the pit, be eternally unable to climb back up again!

What the so-called ‘unable to climb back up again’ meant was that, even if someone threw down a rope or put up a ladder and the person at the bottom grabbed hold of this one opportunity to live to climb up, when they got halfway to the top, the array would activate and punt that person down again.

Without batting an eyelid, Xie Lian placed a hand onto the wall. He brushed his hand across a small section of the wall and roughly made out what the wall was composed of. Xie Lian discovered that although this wall seemed to be made out of earth or clay from afar, it was actually created from incomparably hard stone. In addition, there was probably some kind of a spiritual incantation used to fortify the wall, making it inevitably hard to break through.

When they got to the top of the staircase, they arrived at the roof of the Sinners’ Pit. What was located above the ledge of the yellow wall was a sight to behold at first glance. One could only use the word ‘shocking’ to describe the scene.

The entire Sinners’ Pit was precisely created by the enclosure of four tall walls. Each of those tall walls were more than thirty zhang long and twenty zhang tall, and every wall was four chi thick. Towering above all, they looked extremely awe-inspiring.

What the four walls were encircling was a huge, four-sided room. However, there weren’t any platforms to stand on across the top of the Sinners’ Pit, or even a horizontal beam.

It was already evening, and one completely couldn’t see the bottom of the immense dark pit. From time to time, only waves of cold air and the smell of blood wafted up from the bottomless darkness.

Everyone was walking on the ledge of a tall wall, and it didn’t have any protective fences whatsoever. Since they were walking at a high altitude where the ground was at least ten zhang away, not many people dared to look down.

After walking for a while, the people at the front came across an erected tall pole. A corpse was hung on the pole, and it was precisely the dead body they had previously seen from the ground. That corpse appeared quite small, and was the body of a black-clothed young girl. Her clothes were worn out and in tatters, while her head hung low.

Xie Lian knew that the pole was specifically used to hang the sinners the soldiers wanted to humiliate. Usually, the jailors would tear away the sinner’s clothing, before hanging them up all naked. Then, they would let the convict starve to death or dehydrate to death.

After the sinner died, their corpse would sway with the wind, be exposed to both the sun and rain, and would ultimately air-dry. While their limbs and body rotted, their flesh would also fall down. The appearance of their dead body would be extremely unsightly.

Since the corpse of this young girl still hadn’t rotted, not much time should have passed since her death. Perhaps she had been a resident who lived in the vicinity. But these soldiers actually hung a little girl’s body in a place like this. They were truly extremely savage and cruel.

When A-Zhao, TianSheng, and the others saw this scene, their complexions all paled. They came to an immediate halt and didn’t dare to go forward. Fortunately, Ke Mo had also stopped walking. He turned around and faced the Sinners’ Pit, before he made a long and loud yell.

Xie Lian thought it was strange. ‘Why did he need to yell like this?

The next moment, he received the answer to his question.

Appearing to be the response to Ke Mo’s loud shout, a snarl came from the bottom of the dark pit. It sounded like the roar of a tiger, a wolf, a monster, or even a tsunami, but the sound was multiplied by a hundred times and was deafening. Everyone on the ledge of the wall was practically jolted by this roar until they could barely remain standing. Very clearly, Xie Lian heard the slight rustling sound of the falling debris and stone that had been unlodged by vibrations of the snarl.

Only criminals were thrown into the Sinners’ Pit. Could it be? Was the thing responding to Ke Mo the souls of the deceased sinners?

At this moment, Ke Mo once again yelled into the pit. Xie Lian listened carefully. This time, Ke Mo hadn’t roared something incomprehensible, and it hadn’t been a curse either. On the contrary, it ought to have been encouragement.

In fact, Xie Lian was very certain that he heard the words——‘fellow brothers’.

After Ke Mo finished roaring, he yelled something at the soldiers detaining Xie Lian and the others. This time, Xie Lian completely understood what Ke Mo had ordered.

The General said, “Just drop two people down there.”

Chapter 24 (II): Obscure Hua Lian Fall Into the Sinners’ Pit at Night

Although everyone else didn’t understand what Ke Mo had said, they could probably roughly guess what the soldiers were intending to do. As a result, their complexions simultaneously turned white.

When Xie Lian saw how they were all scared to the point they could barely remain standing, he moved a step forward and softly said, “Don’t be nervous. If something happens, I’ll face it first.”

If by chance, someone had to be thrown in later, then Xie Lian would just brace himself and go down to take a look first. In any case, only the stereotypical vipers, ferocious beasts, malicious spirits or demons would be at the bottom of the pit. Since Xie Lian wouldn’t die from the fall, or die from being beaten, or die from being bitten or poisoned, as long as there wasn’t any lava and raging flames, or Corpse Transformed Poisoned Water , then he wouldn’t become too unsightly even if he jumped down.

In addition, Xie Lian still had Ruoye. Even if the spiritual array hindered him from using Ruoye to climb back up, if these Ban Yue soldiers threw someone else down, he would still be able to catch them.

Ke Mo had said ‘bring the others away and keep an eye on them’. That meant the other people would be relatively safe for the time being. After all, catching live people in the Gobi desert wasn’t an easy thing to do. They couldn’t just let them be all eaten at once, so the soldiers probably wanted to hoard them and let them be eaten one at a time.

Xie Lian had thought things through. However, who would have thought that there would be someone in their group who couldn’t keep their cool.

Other than Xie Lian and San Lang whose expressions hadn’t changed, everyone else were all trembling with fear ever since they had climbed to the top of the Sinners’ Pit——especially A-Zhao.

Perhaps it was because he thought death was certain and that it would be better to try and desperately fight, A-Zhao fisted his hands and suddenly revolted. With a bowed head, he charged at Ke Mo!

It appeared that A-Zhao had the determination to take down Ke Mo with him to death. In other words, he was charging at him in hopes of knocking Ke Mo down into the pit with himself. And despite Ke Mo’s tall stature that could be likened to an iron tower, even he retreated three steps in the face of a collision that encompassed one’s last resolution before death.

Since Ke Mo nearly lost his footing, he was immediately angered. After roaring once, he flipped over a hand and pushed A-Zhao down.

When they saw the youth fall down into the dark and deep pit, everyone screamed. Xie Lian also yelled, “A-Zhao!”

At this moment, a burst of cheers distantly resonated from the bottom of the dark pit, along with some extremely cruel tearing noises. Those sounds could be likened to the result of evil spirits falling over each other in their eagerness to savagely feed. One knew just by hearing this that the youth named A-Zhao didn’t have a chance to return alive.

Even Xie Lian didn’t expect things to develop like this. He was extremely stunned.

Originally, he had been suspecting that A-Zhao was precisely that Ban Yue Grand Tutor’s subordinate, and that he was specifically enticing passers-by into entering the ancient Ban Yue Kingdom. He had also harboured suspicions that the one the half-buried face had mentioned when he claimed to have ‘saw someone among them fifty years ago’ was also A-Zhao. However, Xie Lian hadn’t anticipated that this youth would be the first one among them to be killed. After jumping down like this, how could there be a possibility for A-Zhao to survive?

Was it possible that he was just feigning his death? However, Xie Lian and the others were already all captives of the Ban Yue soldiers. If A-Zhao truly had been the Ban Yue Grand Tutor’s subordinate, he would be completely capable of tearing down his disguise now that they had the upper hand. A-Zhao could have acted high and mighty, so why would he have to do something as superfluous as feigning his death in front of them? There would be absolutely no meaning in doing something like that.

But why did A-Zhao charge at Ke Mo? Wasn’t this also the same as him meaninglessly throwing his life away?

As Xie Lian pondered over these theories one after another in confusion, the Ban Yue soldiers began once again looking for the next live person to push down. Ke Mo raised a hand and pointed at TianSheng.

A Ban Yue soldier extended his large palm as he came forth to grab him. TianSheng was immediately scared into yelling, “AH! SAVE ME! Don’t grab me! I’m……”

Xie Lian had no time to continue thinking. He stepped forward and said, “General, wait a moment.”

When he heard Xie Lian open his mouth and speak Ban Yue Kingdom’s language, a shocked expression appeared on Ke Mo’s dark face. He waved his hand and stopped that soldier before he asked, “You know how to speak our language? Where are you from?”

Xie Lian gently replied, “I come from the Central Plains.”

He actually didn’t mind lying and saying he was from Ban Yue Kingdom, but this lie wouldn’t be that feasible. Xie Lian wasn’t sure how fluent his Ban Yue language was or how much he had picked back up, so he would inevitably expose his secret while conversing with Ke Mo. In addition, his appearance made it obvious just where he had hailed from. The people of Ban Yue Kingdom extremely disliked those who lied and deceived others. If they saw through his lie, the consequences would be even more severe.

Ke Mo said, “The Central Plains? You’re a Yong’an descendant?”

Xie Lian replied, “No. Yong’an Kingdom has long been wiped out. There are no longer any more Yong’an people.”

However, in the eyes of the people from Ban Yue Kingdom, as long as someone was from the Central Plains, they were more or less the relative or descendant of the Yong’an people.

Ban Yue Kingdom had been destroyed by Yong’an Kingdom’s army. The moment he was told where Xie Lian came from, Ke Mo’s dark face instantly turned furious. The crowd of soldiers also began clamoring about. Their yells were completely composed of curses and belittling words.

Xie Lian listened to them. They only said things like ‘despicable’, ‘liar’, ‘throw him down’——superficial things that didn’t hurt nor tickle.

Ke Mo said, “Our kingdom has already faded away two hundred years ago in the Gobi desert. You are not from our kingdom, but you know our language. Who the hell are you?”

Xie Lian couldn’t help but glance at the calm and composed young man standing beside him. He thought, if worst came to worst and he became unable to continue explaining, he would just have to brace himself and yell ‘San Lang, save me’.

Xie Lian prepared himself to begin talking rubbish. However, at that very moment, another earth-shattering roar came from the bottom of the pitch-dark pit.

It appeared that whatever was down there had already finished feeding on A-Zhao’s corpse. However, they were still hungry, and thus they used this sound to convey their craving for fresh flesh. Ke Mo waved his hand, looking as if he was about to grab TianSheng again. Xie Lian said, “General, let me go first.”

Ke Mo definitely had never heard someone ask to go first in this place. His eyes widened and looked like bells as he asked in astonishment, “You want to go first? For what reason??”

Xie Lian naturally couldn’t reply and say it was because he wasn’t scared. Thus, he chose an answer that conformed with the norms of society. “General, these are merely innocent merchants just passing through. They even have a child amongst them.”

When Ke Mo heard this, he sneered and said, “When your Yong’an army massacred my kingdom, did you never think about how there were also many innocent merchants and children here?”

It had already been two hundred years since Ban Yue Kingdom was destroyed. Nowadays, both sides had long transitioned into a new dynasty. However, these soldiers were the dead whose time had long came to a halt. Their hatred would not weaken following the start of a new regime.

Ke Mo spoke again, “You are very suspicious. I want to ask you some questions, so you cannot go down. Throw someone else in!”

In that case, there was nothing to be done. Xie Lian was prepared to see things through to the end and make it his priority to jump first, when he saw San Lang walk forward a step. Heart jumping, he turned his head.

That young man had crossed his arms. With an indifferent gaze, he thoughtfully sized up the deep Sinners’ Pit.

A bad premonition sprung up unbidden in Xie Lian’s heart. “San Lang?”

When he heard Xie Lian call him, San Lang turned his head. He smiled faintly and said, “Everything’s fine.”

Once again, the youth took another step forward. He was already standing at an extremely dangerous place. Both Xie Lian’s heart and his eyelids were jumping about wildly. “Wait. San Lang, stop moving.”

At the very edge of the Sinners’ Pit, the hem of the youth’s red clothes flew about vigorously in the wind. San Lang gave Xie Lian a glance before smiling once. He said, “Don’t be afraid.”

Xie Lian said, “You……retreat first and come back. If you come back, then I will stop being scared.”

San Lang replied, “There’s no need to be worried. I’ll leave for a bit first. We’ll be able to see each again very soon.”

Xie Lian said, “Don’t……”

He had yet to finish talking when that youth once again took another step forward. While maintaining his posture with his crossed arms, he made a gentle leap and instantly disappeared into the unfathomable depths of the darkness.

The split second San Lang had jumped, Ruoye had flown off Xie Lian’s wrist. It turned into a streak of white in hopes of coiling around that young man’s figure. However, the speed of San Lang’s fall was too quick, so much that the white silk hadn’t even been able to grab a corner of San Lang’s clothes before it dimmed down and returned to Xie Lian.

Xie Lian immediately knelt beside the tall walls and yelled into the Sinners’ Pit, “SAN LANG!!!”

No response could be heard.

After that youth jumped down, nothing could be heard!

On the tall wall beside him, many Ban Yue soldiers began shouting one after the other. All of them sounded extremely shocked.

What was happening today? In the past, one had to capture someone and throw them down to make them actually fall down. But today, everyone was taking turns and fighting over the chance to jump down. And if you didn’t let them jump, they would actually jump down themselves?

General Ke Mo shouted loudly at his soldiers and told them to calm down. And when Xie Lian saw how Ruoye hadn’t been able to grab onto San Lang, he didn’t have enough time to think everything through. Instead, he merely recalled Ruoye before he threw himself into a leap toward the Sinners’ Pit.

But who would have thought that although his body was already flying through the air, the back of his collar would suddenly tighten? Xie Lian ended up being suspended in midair.

He turned his head to take a look. It turned out that when General Ke Mo saw how he had also wanted to jump down, the General unexpectedly reached out and grabbed Xie Lian to prevent him from falling!

Xie Lian thought to himself, “It’s fine if you want to come. In fact, it’s better if we go down together.

This idea prompted him into action. Like a white snake, Ruoye suddenly coiled around Ke Mo’s arm and climbed up. With a ‘swish’, it wrapped itself around the General’s entire body.

Ke Mo saw how this thin white silk was strange and unfathomable, and even appeared to have cultivated its own consciousness. In response, the black veins on his forehead bulged, while the flesh of his muscles also grew a few times bigger. It seemed as if he had wanted to forcibly snap Ruoye, who was coiled around him.

Xie Lian was stuck in this deadlock with Ke Mo when suddenly, he saw something exceedingly strange out of the corner of his eye.

The corpse that had been hanging from that long pole suddenly moved and slightly raised its head.

The crowd of Ban Yue soldiers also noticed how the corpse had moved. One after another, they started to yell before they waved their teeth-embedded cudgels to strike the corpse.

But after that black-clothed girl had moved, she somehow managed to untie the string that had been hanging her from the pole. Suddenly, she jumped off the pole and then rapidly rushed over.

She could be likened to a black breeze that blew over from the top of the tall wall. Both rapid yet demonic, all the soldiers were instantly tormented by this nefarious wind until they were swaying from side to side. Accompanied by miserable shrieks, many soldiers fell down from the tall wall.

When he saw how his soldiers were swept down from the wall and into the Sinners’ Pit, Ke Mo began furiously cursing. His curses were extremely vulgar, and probably used a decent amount of street slang. Xie Lian hadn’t understood everything he said, but he did understand one sentence.

What Ke Mo had been cursing was, “It’s this slut again!”

The next moment, Ke Mo was unable to continue cursing, because Xie Lian had suddenly exerted some strength to drag the General down into the Sinners’ Pit with him.

The Sinners’ Pit—the one you can never climb out of after falling into it!

As they fell, Ke Mo released a bellow that nearly shattered Xie Lian’s eardrums. Xie Lian had no other choice but to recall Ruoye, before he casually gave Ke Mo a kick so that the distance between them would be a bit greater and his ears could be protected.

Following that, he compelled Ruoye to glide up, in hopes that it could grab something Xie Lian could use as a cushion. At least then, he wouldn’t land in an extremely miserable fashion.

However, this Sinners’ Pit was built in a way that was difficult to deal with, and that spiritual array was also very powerful. Not only was Ruoye unable to climb somewhere high, there was also nothing it could grab onto inside the four tall walls. Just when Xie Lian thought he was once again going to become a human pancake—the kind that won’t get scrapped off of the ground for at least a couple days—like how he did countless times in the past, suddenly, amidst the darkness, a silvery light flashed past.

The next moment, a pair of hands gently caught him.

With incomparable precision, that person had caught him head-on. It was practically as if this person had been guarding this place and was specifically waiting there to catch him. One hand had wound around Xie Lian’s back, hugging his shoulders, while the person’s other hand supported his knees. In a relaxed and easy manner, the person had managed to completely disperse the fierce momentum that had been created during Xie Lian’s fall.

Xie Lian had just fallen from a great height before coming to a sudden stop, so he still felt a bit faint and a little dizzy. He subconsciously lifted his hand and then tightly embraced the other person’s shoulders. “San Lang?”

Darkness surrounded them, and it was impossible to see anything. So of course, there was also no way for him to see who this person was. However, Xie Lian still blurted out those two words.

The other person did not reply. Xie Lian touched that person’s shoulders and chest a few times. Wanting to verify this person’s identity, he asked again, “San Lang, is that you?”

He didn’t know whether it was because they had arrived at the bottom of the pit, but the smell of blood in the air here was strong enough to make people swoon. Xie Lian didn’t know what possessed him either, because he actually began to casually feel up that person. It was only until he had touched the person’s hard Adam’s apple did he suddenly snap out of his daze.

Xie Lian thought, ‘I’ve sinned, I’ve sinned, what am I doing?’ He immediately retracted his hand before asking, “It’s San Lang, right? Are you alright? Were you wounded?”

After quite a while, he finally heard that young man’s reply. From a place extremely close to him, the youth’s deep voice resonated over. “I’m fine.”

Xie Lian didn’t know why, but he felt that compared to San Lang’s usual tone, there was a subtle difference in his current voice.

Chapter 25 : Obscure Hua Lian Fall Into the Sinners’ Pit at Night (II)

Touching and embracing in the deep, dark pit

“San Lang, are you really alright?” Xie Lian asked. “How about you put me down?”

But San Lang said, “Don’t get down.”

Xie Lian paused, confused. “What’s going on? Is there something on the ground?”

Both arms were still holding tightly onto him, and it didn’t seem like San Lang was about to release him anytime soon. Xie Lian was about to raise his hand to push lightly against San Lang’s chest, but before he could move, he vividly recalled how after he had been caught during his fall, he had carelessly felt the youth up all the way to his Adam’s apple. Xie Lian furtively withdrew his hand.

Really, he doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. After hundreds of years, Xie Lian still could not recognize what ‘awkward’ was unless smacked in the face with it. In his heart, he heard a tinny voice admonishing him to conduct himself with decorum and keep his wayward hands to himself

At this moment, a howl filled with rage and grief echoed resoundingly from the other side of the pit. “WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF YOU!?”

It was spoken in the Ban Yue dialect. And judging from the voice, it belonged to General Ke Mo whom Xie Lian had dragged down with him. Being already dead, the fall did not kill him. He was merely embedded into the ground in a man-shaped dent from the forceful impact. As soon as he crawled out, he began bellowing, “What happened? Soldiers! My brothers, what happened to you?!”

When he had stood high above the pit and shouted down a rallying call, a hundred thousand voices had responded to him, the pitiful wails and terrible cries echoing up from the deep abyss like the departed souls of hell, raging to be fed. But right now, besides his furious and anguished roars, all Xie Lian could hear was deathly silence. And despite being so close to him, not even San Lang’s breathing nor the sound of his heartbeat could be heard.

Xie Lian held his breath, and realized why it felt so wrong.

That’s right, he was practically plastered against San Lang, but he could not hear him breathing or his heart beating at all!

Ke Mo screamed in rage, “Who killed you, who killed you!”

When Ah Zhao fell in, Xie Lian had heard the terrible sounds of gnawing from below. But after San Lang jumped down, everything had been quiet. Who else could have killed them?

Ke Mo immediately came to the same conclusion as well. “Damn you for killing my men, you’re DEAD!”

Although it was too dark to make anything out, Xie Lian could keenly feel the danger heading towards them from the side. His body shifted as he said, “San Lang, be careful!”

But San Lang replied, “Don’t worry about him.” With his arms still wrapped around Xie Lian, his feet shifted lightly, and his body seemed to have turned around.

In the dark, Xie Lian could hear something tinkling in soft, silvery chimes, sweetly musical and pleasant to the ear, yet sharp and clear. It was fleeting and faded after a moment. Ke Mo had lunged over to grab them, but found himself grasping empty air. He spun around and made to attack again, but each time, San Lang would deftly spin away on light feet, dodging with breathless ease. Xie Lian’s hand again moved subconsciously, climbing up to clasp tightly on to San Lang, gripping the clothing on his shoulders.

However, the arms around Xie Lian remained just as perfectly steady as before, while San Lang nimbly dodged and weaved. Only, from time to time, Xie Lian could feel something icy cold and hard on those arms pressing painfully against him. He couldn’t help staring blankly. In the pitch blackness, silvery flashes of light flickered and darted around. The sound of sharp blades whistling through the air came from all directions, mixed with Ke Mo’s enraged howls.

The Ban Yue general seemed like he ought to have suffered heavy injuries, but he remained dauntless and refused to back down. In a fit of anger, he came at them again. Xie Lian called, “Ruoye!”

In answer, the ribbon of silk flew out. With a ‘pa’, it wrapped around Ke Mo and lifted him into the air, flipped him over, then smacked him to the ground. Ke Mo dragged himself back to his feet and snarled, “The both of you! Two against one, despicable!”

Xie Lian thought, You’re trying to kill us, who cares if its many versus one. Whether its despicable or not, right now our lives are more important, we’ll discuss this again after we’ve pummeled you to death. San Lang laughed softly. “You won’t stand a chance even if it’s one on one. You don’t have to step in.” The last sentence was directed at Xie Lian, his tone low and somber, the previous mockery in his words at Ke Mo fading away completely. Xie Lian answered, “Okay.” Then he proceeded to remind the other again. “San Lang, it’s better if you let me down, I’ll only be hindering you.”

“It’s fine, don’t get down,” San Lang replied.

Xie Lian could not help himself. “Seriously now, why not?” It can’t be that this youth liked to carry people around when he got into fights right? Even if you look down on your opponent, you don’t have to do it this way.

Th youth only replied to him with one word. “Filthy.”


Xie Lian least expected to be given this sort of reason, and with such earnestness to boot. He felt it was a little funny, and also felt something a little strange which he could not put into words. It was a faint, fluttering heat in the pit of his stomach. “You can’t carry me around like this forever,” he reasoned.

San Lang said, “Not necessarily.”

Xie Lian had only spoken in jest, but San Lang had sounded dead serious, leaving him at a loss for words. While they were speaking, within the deep darkness, Ke Mo had begun to launch another assault with unyielding tenacity. San Lang clearly had both arms around him, yet was somehow able to beat Ke Mo back again and again. As he was driven back, Ke Mo shrieked furiously, “That slut sent you……”

His tirade was interrupted by a loud, booming ‘dōng‘, and an immense body toppled down with an earth-shaking rumble. This time, he was smashed directly into the ground and did not get back up. Xie Lian listened intently, then said, “San Lang, don’t kill him first. I fear we still need him to tell us how to get out of here.”

San Lang obediently halted and stood motionless. “I’m not trying to kill him. He would not have lasted this long otherwise,” he said.

The Sinners’ Pit descended into deathly stillness again.

After a short moment of silence, Xie Lian asked, “San Lang, what happened down here, was your doing?”

Even though nothing could be seen due to the suffocating darkness, but the all pervasive reek of blood and death, coupled with Ke Mo’s previous wild display of grief and ire, was enough for him to clearly delineate what had happened here. After a long pause, Xie Lian finally heard San Lang’s reply.


The answer came as no surprise. After a while, Xie Lian sighed. “How should I say this……”

He mulled over his choice of words, and finally mustered up a heartfelt appeal, “San Lang ah, if you come across this kind of pit again in the future, you absolutely must not jump in willy-nilly. I kept trying to stop you but you jumped in anyway. I really don’t know what to do with you ah.”

San Lang seemed to choke a little, evidently surprised by his words.

When he spoke again, his voice sounded a little strange. “You have nothing else to ask?”

“What do you want me to ask?”

“For example, whether or not I am human.”

Xie Lian rubbed at the space between his brows and replied, “I don’t think there’s any need to ask this.”

San Lang asked, “En? No need?”

Xie Lian said, “En. Is it necessary? Human or not, it doesn’t really matter.”

San Lang said, “Oh?”

Xie Lian shifted up a little from the crook of his arms, explaining, “When meeting people, it is not up to us to decide if we will be kindred spirits. It is determined by our respective natures, and not by our lots in life. If I like you, I would still like you even if you were a beggar; but if I loathe you, that feeling would not change even if you were the Emperor. Is this not how it should be? It is but the simple truth. Which is why, there is no need to ask.”

San Lang laughed and said, “En, what you said makes perfect sense.”

“Truly?” Xie Lian also laughed along. They laughed and laughed, but there was the feeling that he had overlooked something. And then it finally hit him.

He had been unexpectedly held in San Lang’s arms all this time, and the worst thing was, somehow or rather, he had unconsciously gotten used to this position!

{T/N: Yea, get comfy in that princess carry.}

This was really getting too much for him. Xie Lian gave a light cough, and said tentatively, “By the way, San Lang ah, we can chat about this again next time. It’s really for the best if you put me down now, alright?”

San Lang seemed to be smiling as he said, “Just a moment.”

As he carried Xie Lian, he seemed to be moving down towards a direction, before gently lowering him. Xie Lian’s feet touched something solid, and he finally stood on firm ground. “Many thanks.”

San Lang gave no response. After expressing his gratitude, Xie Lian lifted his head and looked upwards.

The moon shone bright and round against the backdrop of the deep blue night sky, breathtakingly beautiful to behold. Unfortunately, the view was framed by the four sides of the walls in a square, bringing to mind the story of the frog in the well.

{T/N: The Frog in the Well is a Chinese idiom that refers to a narrow-minded person who doesn’t see the larger world around them. From the frog’s point of view, all it could see was the piece of sky that was not blocked by the walls of the well.}

Xie Lian tried to send Ruoye up again, and the silk cloth flew out. As expected, when Ruoye was midway up, it was blocked by an invisible barrier of force and bounced back. It could advance no further.

San Lang said, “There is an array set up around the Sinners’ Pit.”

“Yes, I know. I was just giving it a try, else I wouldn’t feel at ease,” Xie Lian replied. “I wonder how the rest of those up there are faring. Will the maiden in black also sweep them all down here?”

He told San Lang about how the maiden who had been strung up from the long pole suddenly came to life and swept a whole squadron of soldiers down. When he was done, Xie Lian took a few steps forward but stepped on something that felt suspiciously like an arm. He flailed for a moment before quickly regaining his balance, but San Lang continued to support him. “Be careful.”

He added lightly, “I told you, the ground is filthy.”

Xie Lian finally understood what he meant by ‘filthy’. “I’m fine. I wanted to use Palm Flame to look around and plan for our next step.”

San Lang fell silent. At this moment, from somewhere distant, Ke Mo’s voice rang out, “You are working for that slut, all of our nation’s ghosts who died unjustly will curse you!”

Xie Lian turned around and spoke in the Ban Yue dialect, “General Ke Mo, exactly who…… are you talking about?”

General Ke Mo screamed back hatefully, “You dare to ask? It’s that demon!”

Xie Lian said, “Is it the female cultivator wandering about in the city?”

Ke Mo spat fiercely. It seems that Xie Lian was correct. He continued to ask, “Are you not loyal to Ban Yue’s State Preceptor?”

{T/N: 国师 (Guó shī) – lit. Teacher of the State. The title was originally created in 1260, the first year of Kublai Khan’s enthronement. In 1270, the title was renamed as Imperial Preceptor (帝师 – Dì shī). The role of the imperial preceptor was serving as the emperor’s chaplain, teacher and consecrator and, more generally, teaching, writing, translating and editing.

Ke Mo was stirred into a frenzy again by his words. “I will never be loyal to her again! I will never forgive that slut!”

He immediately launched into another vile, lengthy diatribe. Ke Mo was so worked up that his speech was launched at rapid fire speed, so much so that after a long while Xie Lian wore a stupefied expression on his face. He could not understand a single word. He whispered furtively, “San Lang, San Lang.”

San Lang answered promptly, “He’s swearing up a storm. He says that the Preceptor betrayed their country, opened the city gates, allowing the soldiers from the Central Plains to massacre everyone within the city, and threw his brothers-in-arms down into this hell hole. He wants to hang her to death again a thousand times, no, ten thousand times.”

Xie Lian broke in hurriedly, “Wait, wait!”

How could this be, there are clearly two gaping holes in this narrative!

First of all, the ‘female official wandering about in the city’ that Xie Lian mentioned, was referring to the woman clothed in white. But now, Ke Mo kept cursing at Ban Yue’s State Preceptor as a ‘slut’ and claims that she pushed his brothers into this hell hole. Earlier, when the maiden in black had swept his officers and soldiers down from the wall, Xie Lian had heard Ke Mo raging at her. Adding on to the fact that Ke Mo wanted to ‘hang her to death again a thousand times’—-Xie Lian suddenly realized that they don’t seem to have been talking about the same person at all.

{T/N: Recap, in the previous chapter when the maiden in black attacked, Ke Mo had said “It’s this slut again!”}

Secondly, the Ban Yue nation was betrayed by the State Preceptor of Ban Yue?!

Xie Lian interrupted him to say, “General, the State Preceptor of Ban Yue you were talking about, is the girl in black who was hanging from a pole over the Sinner’s Pit?”

Ke Mo replied, “Who else if not her?!”


So the maiden in black who was swinging like a corpse from the pole was the real State Preceptor of Ban Yue!

But if that was the case, then just who was the female official in white who said she wanted to drag them out to kill them, whilst strolling idly within Ban Yue’s city walls? And who is the young woman in black who was accompanying her?

The maiden in black possessed incomparably strange martial arts, she was capable of sweeping tens of soldiers down from the wall in the blink of an eye in a single, powerful move. Why would she be hanging over the Sinners’ Pit?

Chapter 26 : Obscure Hua Lian Fall Into the Sinners’ Pit at Night (III)

The State Preceptor of Ban Yue

The longer Xie Lian listened, the odder he found it to be. And the more he thought about it, the more confusing it became. In the end, he spoke up, “General, if I may ask……”

Ke Mo refused him angrily, “Stop asking! After killing my soldiers you still want to talk? I won’t answer anymore, come at me!”

“I was the one who killed them,” San Lang offered. “He did nothing. You can answer him, then come and fight me.”

He certainly sounded very reasonable. Ke Mo spat, “You are all lackeys sent by her, it’s the same thing!”

Xie Lian spoke quickly, “General Ke Mo, aren’t you misunderstanding something. Our purpose for coming here to the Gobi desert was to root out Ban Yue’s State Preceptor, how could we have been sent by her??”

{T/N: 国师 (Guó shī) – lit. Teacher of the State}

When he heard that they were here to get rid of the State Preceptor of Ban Yue, Ke Mo fell silent. After a while, he said, “If you were not sent by her, why did you kill all my soldiers?”

“Isn’t it obviously because you tried to chuck us down here, and we had no choice but to act in self-defense?” Xie Lian reasoned.

Ke Mo snorted. “Nonsense, I did not chuck you down. I even grabbed hold of you just now. It was the two of you who insisted on jumping down yourselves!”

Xie Lian said obligingly, “Yes yes yes, we wanted to jump in ourselves. General, we are now all trapped in this pit together, how about putting aside our differences for now. Why did the State Preceptor of Ban Yue open the gates to allow the army to massacre the city?”

Ke Mo refused to listen to reason, and continued nursing his grievances. “The both of you are too despicable, you ganged up on me.”

Xie Lian said helplessly, “I only thrashed you once, really. I didn’t do much.”

To be honest, he doesn’t actually mind being accused as underhanded or despicable or whatnot. If the situation calls for it, he’s not above leading a hundred people to gang up on one person, much less two against one. One on one? Hah, no thanks. But earlier, San Lang clearly had the upper hand even while carrying him around, and even told Xie Lian that he didn’t have to step in. But Ke Mo somehow leapt to the conclusion that he would have won in a one on one fight. Xie Lian was quietly upset on San Lang’s behalf. But based on Ke Mo’s temperament, using words would be more persuasive than brute force. Xie Lian can coax him, slow and easy, no problem.

However, San Lang obviously had no patience to spare. “It’s best if you answer him, for the sake of your soldiers,” he drawled.

Ke Mo said, “You’ve already wiped them out, using them to threaten me is useless.”

San Lang replied, “But the bodies are still here.”

Ke Mo seemed to be still trying to drag his way up. He asked warily, “What do you want to do?”

San Lang said, “That depends on you. What do you want me to do?”

As Xie Lian listened, he could already imagine the way San Lang’s eyes would be curved as he continued, “Do you want them to be well and healthy in their next lives, or do you want them to be reborn looking like a slab of bloody paste?”

Ke Mo was dazed for a moment, then comprehension hit him. “You?!”

The people of the Ban Yue nation observed strict funeral rites. They believed that the state of the bodies of the dead would reflect their appearances at rebirth. For example, if the body was missing an arm, this person would have a malformed arm in their next life. If the bodies in this pit were really pulped into bloody paste, wouldn’t they be better off not being reborn?

Ke Mo was a Ban Yue citizen through and through, it ought to scare him. Sure enough, they could hear him grinding his teeth from the other side in the dark. In the end, he said grudgingly, “Don’t touch them! They were all valiant soldiers. They were already unfortunate enough to have been stuck in this Sinner’s Pit for so many years. I don’t know if your killing them could be considered as having set them free at last. But they should not be dishonored any further.”

He hesitated, then asked, “You’re really here to kill Ban Yue?”

{T/N: Not a typo. This will be clear in the next chapter.}

Xie Lian replied gently, “My word of honor. Know thyself, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories. The past deeds of Ban Yue’s State Preceptor are not well known to outsiders. General Ke Mo has worked with her before, hence I hope you can shed some light on her so that we may have a clue on how to go about.”

{T/N: An idiom from The Art of War. Full quote: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”}

Perhaps it’s because they were facing a common enemy, or perhaps he had no way of climbing out of the abyss after falling in. Ke Mo sat on top of the mountain pile of corpses of his soldiers, disheartened, and seemed to temporarily shelve his enmity. “You don’t know why she opened the city gates to allow the Yong’an people in? It’s because she wanted to take revenge on us. She hates the Ban Yue nation!”

“Why would she hate the Ban Yue nation?” Xie Lian asked, perplexed. “Isn’t the Ban Yue’s State Preceptor a Ban Yue citizen?”

Ke Mo replied, “Yes, but not exactly. She is of mixed-blood, half of her is of the Yong’an race!”


It turns out that Ban Yue’s State Preceptor had a Ban Yue mother and a Yong’an father. And in this frontier, prejudices ran high, both countries loathed each other. The husband and wife from different tribes did not have it easy, and after several years, the Central Plains man could no longer endure that sort of life. He left the border and returned to the bustling and prosperous nation of Yong’an.

Although the couple had mutually agreed to part, not long after, the Ban Yue woman died from pent up heartbreak. They left behind a seven to eight years old daughter with no one to look after her. She lived, constantly hungry. The parents had been held in contempt, their offspring was equally discriminated against. The Ban Yue people had tall and strong statures, both men and women were robust and held it as a standard of beauty. And this girl, being of mixed blood, stood out among the other Ban Yue children like a sore thumb, appearing particularly petite and frail. She was constantly bullied as a consequence, and grew more and more gloomy and eccentric. The children of Ban Yue refused to play with her, but some Yong’an children were willing to accept her.

When this little half-breed was ten years old, a revolt broke out at the frontier. The armies of both sides clashed, many lost their lives, and the little half-breed disappeared.

She had neither friends nor relatives in Ban Yue. Even after having gone missing for several years, no one cared to ask after her. However, everything changed when she returned.

In those past few years, she had actually trekked through the Gobi desert by herself and entered Yong’an. And who knows if she had had a fortuitous encounter, for when she came back, she possessed terrible, magical skills. Not only that, she was also capable of controlling Bai Yue’s most feared creature—- the venomous Scorpion-Tailed snake.

Her return was met with awe, admiration, and dread. The maiden’s disposition had not changed, she remained as gloomy and unapproachable as before. There were plenty of Ban Yue’s citizens who had bullied her mercilessly before, but now she held an official post in the royal palace, serving as a high-ranking mage. If she still nursed grievances, wouldn’t she seek them out to cause trouble?

{T/N: 法师 (Fǎshī) – can refer to one who has mastered the sutras (Buddhism), or a wizard/sorcerer}

Xie Lian broke in, “I take it there were many Ban Yue people who attempted to slander her.”

Ke Mo gave a ‘hmph‘. “More than that, they directly approached the imperial palace and beseeched the ruler to hang her, claiming that she was the devil sent by the Scorpion-Tailed snakes to destroy the Ban Yue nation. But they did not succeed.”

Xie Lian attempted to guess, “She sentenced them all to hang?”

Ke Mo appeared scandalized. “You Yong’an people, are your brains all filled with nothing but murder and torture? No! I protected her.”

Xie Lian said feebly, “I said I’m not from Yong’an…… never mind, forget it.”

At that time, Ke Mo held the rank of General. Once, he traveled to the desert with his soldiers to launch an attack on some desert bandits, and brought the young court mage along with him.

The group of bandits were cunning, they built their den below the surface of the sand. There were heavy casualties on both sides during every encounter. Ke Mo was victorious, but the sand had collapsed on them in the underground den due to the fierce fighting. A violent sand-storm was heading their way, they could not linger. Ke Mo led some of his soldiers to withdraw, but the rest, including the mage, could not escape in time.

He led his men to safety, and they remained sheltered while waiting for the howling wind and sand to pass. Ke Mo then turned back, planning on excavating his soldiers to give them a proper burial. But when he arrived, he found the mage had single-handedly dug out a large underground cave, and had dragged the wounded soldiers in to shelter them from the storm.

The bodies of the deceased had also been dug out and neatly arranged. Everything had been done with her bare hands. When Ke Mo and his soldiers arrived, the mage was bloodied and tattered, waiting quietly for them at the mouth of the cave like a small, lonely little wolf.

Ke Mo said, “Since then, I thought she was very good and capable, and had absolutely no intention of harming the Ban Yue nation. I vouched for her, and I defended her against those with malicious designs.”

Ke Mo himself had been weak and sickly as a child, and had suffered the same humiliation. He saw himself in the maiden, and sympathized with her. And so he paid her special attention, and found her to be an extraordinarily skilled mage. Thereupon he spoke highly of her, and strongly endorsed her for the seat of State Preceptor, and per the records written by later generations—-she became the Ban Yue nation’s most devoted State Preceptor.

Until another war erupted. The Yong’an nation had sent an army to encircle and attack the Ban Yue nation.

Ke Mo said, “Both countries had been in a state of hostility for a long time. She set up an altar to offer sacrifices to Heaven, and said it was to call for protection for the soldiers of Ban Yue.”

Thus bolstered, the soldiers were in high spirits and eager for blood as they defended the city gates. Arrows flew, boulders were hurled, boiling oil was poured, swords rose and fell for days on end.

And when the battle was at its most intense, the State Preceptor suddenly opened the city gates.

With the gates wide open, tens of thousands of soldiers and armored horses poured into the city and began a frenzy of slaughter. In a flash, the whole city turned into a bloodbath!

Ke Mo had been locked in a bitter struggle with the enemy troops at that time. When he heard that the State Preceptor had opened the city gates, he went mad with rage. He fought dauntlessly, but was unable to turn the tides of fate.

Ke Mo ground his teeth. “At that time, I found out that she had long colluded with the enemy’s high ranking officials, and had made arrangements to let them in. But even if I was fated to perish in battle, before I die, I must kill that traitor!!! So I led a squadron of soldiers to the city gate’s tower, dragged her down, and hung her to death over the Sinner’s’ Pit. That’s her hanging from the pole!”

By the time the main forces left, the whole of Ban Yue had turned into a dead nation. The general and soldiers who fell in battle, and the State Preceptor who was hanged to death, were all unable to leave the ruins, but their hatred for each other endured.

Xie Lian mused, “So, you lead the Ban Yue soldiers under your command to search for the State Preceptor, and each time you find her, you will hang her over the Sinners’ Pit again?”

“Hanging her a hundred thousand times would not be enough!” Ke Mo sneered. “Because she would turn up here and there, seizing my Wrath soldiers, and throwing them into the Sinners’ Pit! She set up a powerful spell array around the pit which only she can undo, anyone who falls in can never climb back up. I was betrayed by her, the soldiers died tragically in war, our grievances are heavy. Only the flesh and blood of the Yong’an people can dispel our hate, which would allow us to gradually depart. Otherwise we will never be free, doomed forever to wail at night!”

{T/N: One of the 4 types of ghosts. After Wrath comes Devastation.}

“So you’ve been incessantly grabbing people and throwing them down here to feed the soldiers, right?” Xie Lian said.

“What else would you have me do?” Ke Mo demanded. “Just sit and listen to them wailing and crying below?”

“The people you threw down were all brought here by you?”

“We cannot stray too far from Ban Yue. But luckily, the snakes here are fond of causing mischief. They like to crawl out of the ancient city and go around biting people. The caravans whose people were bitten would enter this city to look for the Kindred Moon herbs.”

“That head which was buried by the imperial palace was your doing as well?”

“That’s right. The man who was buried in the ground there tried to rob the imperial palace of its treasures. But all of our country’s valuables have long since been looted by the Yong’an people centuries ago.”

Xie Lian asked, “Why did you just bury him instead of throwing him down here?”

Ke Mo replied, “The herbs need fertilizer to grow well. Else how would we manage those snakes? We don’t want to run into those creatures either.”

{T/N: The implication here is that those herbs act as a snake repellent as well, because XL has not seen any snakes since entering the city either.}

Something’s not right, Xie Lian thought.

If Ke Mo and his party were this dedicated to ensuring the Kindred Moon herbs grow well, to the extent of using a living man to fertilize the soil, it goes to show that even if they were no longer living, breathing men, their fear of the Scorpion-Tailed snakes had not diminished one bit.

So in fact, when they had been alive, they must have been even more terrified of the snakes. Since the Ban Yue’s State Preceptor was capable of controlling such a lethal weapon, how could she have been so easily captured at the city gate’s tower by the Ban Yue soldiers and subsequently hung to death?

According to Ke Mo, in these past two hundred years, they had been nabbing the State Preceptor over and over again, and had been stringing her up over and over again. Xie Lian felt that if he were in her shoes, with such a powerful weapon in hand, he would never allow any enemies near enough to harm him.

As for those Scorpion-Tailed snakes who liked to crawl out of the city to go around biting people, is it mere happenstance? Unlikely, it seemed more like they had been drawn out. So was this a deliberate action by the State Preceptor? Doesn’t it seem like she was making it easier for Ke Mo to kidnap people to feed his soldiers? Does this not contradict with the story of both sides being sworn enemies?

So are they just pretending to be enemies? But what’s the point in doing so?

And before the whole situation had dissolved into one mess after another, there is still one more riddle—- and that is the identities of the female official in white and her companion. Xie Lian decided to probe further. “General, when we entered the city earlier, we saw two female officials on the streets, one dressed in white and one in black. Do you know who they are?”

Before he could receive a reply, San Lang whispered, “Shhh.”

Though puzzled, Xie Lian immediately fell silent. Intuition told him to look up.

Amidst the backdrop of the squared night sky, the half-moon continued to shine bright and cold.

However, by the side of the moon, he finally saw a person at a distance. The upper half of a small, black silhouette was stretched over the pit, peering downwards.

After looking for a moment, the half-figure suddenly became a full figure—– the person had jumped down.

As the person was hurtling towards them, Xie Lian could see clearly. This person, was the State Preceptor of Ban Yue who had been hanging from the pole over the Sinners’ Pit!

Chapter 27 : Obscure Hua Lian Fall Into the Sinners’ Pit at Night (IV)

The Ban Yue Nation’s scrap collector recounts a fortuitous meeting

After the Ban Yue’s State Preceptor jumped down, she immediately spoke in the Ban Yue dialect, “Ke Mo, what happened?”

Once she opened her mouth, her voice sounded far different from what Xie Lian had imagined it to be. Her tone was cold, but it could not disguise how young the speaker was. She sounded like an unhappy little girl talking to herself, instead of a callous and powerful evildoer. If it was not for the fact that Xie Lian has pretty good hearing, he may not have heard it clearly at all.

Ke Mo snarled, “What happened? They’re all dead!”

The State Preceptor asked, “How could they all be dead?”

“It’s because you threw them all down here and trapped them in this cursed place!” Ke Mo spat.

The State Preceptor ignored him. “Who’s here? There’s one more person.”

In fact, down here in the pit, besides Ke Mo, there should be two other ‘people’. But San Lang has neither breath nor pulse, the State Preceptor of Ban Yue could not detect his presence at all. Additionally, it had been a chaotic mess above, there was no way to keep track of who had jumped down and who had run off. And so she thought only Xie Lian alone was present.

Ke Mo said, “It’s them, they killed my soldiers, are you happy now? Everyone is finally dead!”

The State Preceptor was silent for a long while. Suddenly, a burst of light flickered into existence. It illuminated a young girl in black holding a small flame in the hollow of her palm.

The girl looked to be only seventeen to eighteen years old. She was garbed in plain black, and her eyes were deep and dark. She wasn’t ugly by any means, and was actually rather pretty. But she wore a deeply unhappy expression, and her forehead and the corners of her mouth bore some bruising. All this was thrown into sharp relief by the flames.

Truly, if Xie Lian had not sought for confirmation earlier, no one would have expected this pale young maiden to be Ban Yue nation’s State Preceptor.

The flames in her hand also illuminated their surroundings. At her feet, the bodies of the Ban Yue soldiers in armor littered the ground.

Xie Lian could not resist throwing a quick look sideways.

Because the flames summoned by the State Preceptor were rather small, most of the Sinner’s Pit was still hidden in the gloom. Their bodies were still mostly shrouded in shadow, but from the dim light cast by the small, flickering flame, Xie Lian could make out a figure dressed in red by his side.

It may be a trick of the eye, San Lang has always been taller than him, but right now he seemed to be even taller than he remembered. Xie Lian’s gaze slowly traveled upward and paused when it reached the youth’s throat. Then, it continued up and hovered over the graceful jaw.

The upper half of the youth’s face was still hidden in the dark, but the lower half seemed subtly different from before. It was still beautifully elegant, but the cut of his jaw seemed even more defined. As if having noticed Xie Lian’s gaze, the shadowed face tilted slightly, then turned towards him. There was a faint curve at the corners of the lips.

Moved by the urge to get a better look, Xie Lian unwittingly took a step towards the youth.

At this moment, they suddenly heard Ke Mo give voice to a miserable howl. If one had to guess, it was likely that Ke Mo has finally seen the devastation around him with his own eyes, and was struck with anguish. Xie Lian came to himself with a start. He turned around and made for the source of the noise. Ke Mo was cradling a head in his arms, and the State Preceptor was quietly listening to him wail and cry without any trace of emotion on her face. She merely nodded and said, “Good.”

The grieving general was furious. “Good? Good?! What the hell do you mean?!”

The State Preceptor replied, “Because now we can finally be free.”

She turned around and pinpointed Xie Lian accurately in the dark. “You guys killed them?”

Xie Lian said, “It was an accident.”

Ke Mo roared, “What baldfaced lies are you spouting?!”

Xie Lian replied unabashedly, “Life is full of accidents ah!”

The State Preceptor glanced at him, but could not make out his mien. She asked, “Who are you people?”

Strangely enough, this sentence was spoken fluidly in the standard Han dialect. Xie Lian replied, “I am an Official from Heaven. This is…… my friend.”

{T/N: Mandarin}

Ke Mo could not understand them, but he could tell that they were not quarreling. He asked warily, “What are you talking about?”

The State Preceptor’s eyes slowly moved over Xie Lian and paused on San Lang. Then she looked away. “No Heavenly Official has ever stepped foot here. I thought you people have long since turned your backs on us.”

Xie Lian had been quietly prepared to have to fight with the Ban Yue’s State Preceptor, but unexpectedly, she did not seem inclined to fight at all. He was left feeling somewhat surprised. The State Preceptor asked, “Are you getting out or not?”

Xie Lian replied, “Of course we want to get out. But the spell array above is preventing us from doing so.”

The State Preceptor took a few steps to the side of the Sinners’ Pit, raised a hand and slapped her palm on the wall once. She turned around and said, “I’ve removed the spell array. You may go.”


Isn’t this being too accommodating!

Xie Lian was already at a complete loss for words. At this moment, a voice echoed down from far up above. “Wei! Is anybody down there? If not I’m leaving!”

It was Fu Yao’s voice.

Xie Lian seemed to hear San Lang by his side make a ‘tsk‘ sound. He raised his head, and sure enough, he could make out a dark figure gazing down. He called out, “Fu Yao! There’re people down here! I’m down here!”

After that, he also waved his arms. From above, Fu Yao sounded disbelieving. “Seriously, why are you even down there? What else is there besides you?”

Xie Lian replied, “Well…… there are a lot of things down here besides me. How about you see for yourself.”

Fu Yao apparently agreed that it was better to see for himself rather than continue listening to him. With a rumbling boom, he lit up a giant fireball and tossed it down.

Instantly, the entirety of the Sinner’s Pit was illuminated by the blaze like a small sun had descended. Xie Lian was finally able to clearly make out his surroundings.

Surrounding him in all directions were piled up mountains of corpses, the ground awash in a sea of blood. The bodies of numerous Ban Yue soldiers were stacked up on one another, their bright armor forming a stark contrast against the dusky skin of their faces and arms and the dark blood trickling down in rivulets. Xie Lian was standing on the only spot in the entire Sinners’ Pit that wasn’t occupied by a corpse.

This was all done in the brief moment after San Lang had jumped down into the deep, dark pit.

Xie Lian turned his head to look at the youth beside him again.

Earlier in the dark, he had the vague notion that San Lang suddenly seemed to be taller than he was before, and he had also faintly perceived some other subtle differences. But right now, under the blazing glow of the fireball, the one standing by his side was still the same, handsome youth. Catching his gaze, San Lang gave him a faint smile.

Xie Lian lowered his head to look at San Lang’s wrists and boots. Nothing has changed. There was nothing there that could have made the soft, tinkling sounds he had heard earlier.

At this moment, there came a muffled thud. Fu Yao has jumped down as well. Xie Lian asked, “Aren’t you supposed to be watching over the people with the caravan?”

Having just arrived at the bottom of the pit, Fu Yao wrinkled his nose at the heavy reek of blood. His brows were drawn into a frown as he flapped a hand before his face in a futile attempt to clear the air. “None of you came back after three hours, so I figured that something may have happened. I drew a ward around them and told them not to stray, before coming over here,” he deadpanned.

Xie Lian said, “You shouldn’t have just dumped them. A ward doesn’t last long. What if they start to worry that you’ve abandoned them and go wandering around?”

Fu Yao replied, “Let them wander if they will, not even a team of horses can hold fools back once an ill notion strikes their fancy. What’s up with these two here? Who are they?”

He eyed the other two people in the pit guardedly, but quickly realized that Ke Mo, who was prone on the ground and barely able to budge, was already thoroughly beaten up all over, whilst the Ban Yue State Preceptor merely hung her head silently. A faintly puzzled expression crawled over Fu Yao’s face. Xie Lian began explaining, “This is the Ban Yue nation’s general, and this is the Ban Yue nation’s State Preceptor. They’re now……”

He broke off when Ke Mo suddenly leapt up. After having lain on the ground for so long, he had finally mustered enough strength to clamber to his feet with a thunderous roar and aim a strike at the State Preceptor with his palm. A burly, hulking man attempting to hit a petite young girl, was a scene Xie Lian has never come across. But Ke Mo does have grounds to hate the State Preceptor, and the State Preceptor could obviously have dodged the blow, but she did not. She was flung to the ground like a broken doll. Ke Mo panted angrily, “Where are your Scorpion-Tailed snakes? Come on, summon them to bite me to death! Release me from this hell!”

The State Preceptor said softly, “Ke Mo, my snakes no longer obey me.”

Ke Mo sneered derisively, “Then how come they’ve not bitten you to death yet!”

“……” The State Preceptor whispered, “I’m sorry.”

Ke Mo said, “Do you really hate us so much?”

The State Preceptor shook her head, but Ke Mo grew even angrier. “You’re really pissing me off! If you don’t hate us, why did you betray us?! You despicable traitor, turncoat, thankless self-seeker!!”

Fu Yao watched as the one-sided fight escalated in intensity, with one doing the beating and the other being beaten up. He frowned. “Hey, what the hell are they talking about? Should we stop them?”

Xie Lian could not stand being a silent spectator any longer, he stepped forward to pull Ke Mo back. “General! General! How about you tell us who the Yong’an villain was instead, we……” Suddenly, the State Preceptor grabbed hold of his wrist.

{T/N: (zéi) – thief, traitor, saboteur, evil. This term did not turn up in any of the previous chapters, so I think it’s referring to the one Ban Yue colluded with to open the gates.}

The sudden grip on his wrist was tight and unyielding. Xie Lian’s heart sank at the thought that she must have been feigning before to plot against them. But when he lowered his head, the State Preceptor was half sprawled on the ground, the corners of her mouth bruised purple, her head lifted to look back at him. She remained mute, but her pitch-black eyes were boring into him with startling intensity.

A vague, distant memory of a small figure rose, and seemed to overlap with the sight before him. Xie Lian blurted, “It’s you?”

The State Preceptor also said, “General Hua?”

{T/N: (Huā) – Flower. So it’s General Flower… lol.}

This exchange caused everyone in the pit to stare at them blankly. In a single step, Fu Yao darted forwards and stunned Ke Mo with a blow. He asked, “You know each other?”

But Xie Lian had no mind to spare to answer him. He crouched down and took hold of the State Preceptor’s shoulders, studying her face carefully.

The distance between them earlier had made it difficult to get a good look, and the girl’s appearance had changed after growing up, not to mention that it has been over two hundred years since he last saw her. All this was to say, it was not surprising that he had not recognized her immediately. But now that he’s gotten a good look, there was no mistaking that face!

Xie Lian was speechless for a good long while, before he finally uttered, “Ban Yue?”

The State Preceptor grabbed his sleeves, a rare trace of emotion on her face. “It’s me! General Hua, do you still remember me?”

Xie Lian said, “Of course I remember you, but……”

He stared at the girl for a moment, then sighed. “……But, how did you end up like this.”

A hint of sadness flickered in her eyes at his words.

She whispered, “I’m sorry Colonel……I, I messed up.”

{T/N: 校尉 (xiào wèi) – colonel, about 2-3 ranks below General, based on the ancient Chinese military hierarchy}

First there was a general, then a colonel, how could the others listening in not catch on? Fu Yao looked stunned as he mumbled, “Colonel? General? You? What is going on?? What about that General’s burial mound then?”

Xie Lian nodded. “That’s my burial mound.”

“Didn’t you say you were just collecting scraps here two hundred years ago???” Fu Yao exclaimed.

Xie Lian said, “This…… is a bit hard to explain. That was my original intention back then.”

On one day two hundred years ago, for whatever reason, Xie Lian could no longer wander about aimlessly in the East. Opting to lie low until the fuss died down, he decided to head South through Qinling to seek new lands and new scraps to recycle. And so he set off, compass in hand.

{T/N: 秦岭 (Qín lǐng) – a mountain range in Shaanxi forming a natural barrier between the Guanzhong plain and Han River}

But the longer he journeyed, the more discouraged he became. Why do the roads and landscape seem wrong? The roads should be heavily shaded with foliage, with bustling signs of humanity along the way, so why did his surroundings seem to grow more and more barren and desolate?

Despite mounting doubts, he still steadfastly stuck to the direction he had chosen, until step by step, he arrived at the Gobi dessert. After being buffeted by the winds and swallowing several mouthfuls of sand, he finally realized that the compass he had brought was broken.

The compass had been pointing him in the wrong direction all along!

Ah well, there was no helping it. And so, with the mindset of “since I’m here, may as well take a look at the desert scenery”, he adjusted his direction, and began trudging northwest. He finally reached the border, and temporarily settled himself somewhere near the Ban Yue nation.

Xie Lian continued, “I initially intended to only pick up scraps and whatnot around the vicinity. But the border was in a state of unrest, there were always plenty of deserters, and the army would go around randomly seizing people to replenish the numbers.”

San Lang asked, “So you were forced to join the army?”

Xie Lian replied, “Well, I was grabbed. But it was all the same to me anyway, since I was enlisted, may as well go along with it. Later, after driving away some bandits several times, I was somehow promoted to colonel. Those who wanted to honor me would call me General.”

Fu Yao looked at him doubtfully. “But why did she call you General Hua? Your surname is not Hua.”

Xie Lian flapped a hand to dismiss it. “Don’t mind it. At that time, I just came up with a name on the spot for them, I think I was called Hua Xie.”

{T/N: (xiè) – The same ‘Xie’ in Xie Lian’s name. A point I find interesting, is that ‘xie’ can mean ‘thanks’, but can also mean ‘wither’ when referring to leaves/flowers. So Hua Xie means withering flower.}

San Lang’s expression changed subtly upon hearing that name, and the corners of his lips seemed to curve into a brief smirk. Xie Lian did not notice this, and continued, “Battles occurred frequently at the border, and many children were orphaned. During my free time, I’d sometimes play with them. And one of them…… was called Ban Yue.”

When fighting against bandits, Xie Lian was undoubtedly the bravest and strongest soldier amongst them. No one dared to stand in his way, and no one dared to stand too near him either. But when there was no fighting going on, it seemed that pretty much anyone could order him around.

One day, he made a fire against a sand wall, and used his own helmet to cook in. As he cooked, the odor of food drifted in the air and drew the annoyed attention of several other soldiers, who came and kicked over his makeshift pot of food. Aggrieved, Xie Lian went to pick up his helmet. When he turned back, he was stunned to see a filthy and bedraggled waif of a child squatting on the ground, reaching for the hot mush which had been spilled, heedless of the scalding heat. Alarmed, he had cried out, “Don’t! Wait wait little one, you-!”

As expected, the child blew twice on the hot food that had been picked up from the ground, and stuffed it into her mouth. Then she gave an ear-piercing shriek, retched, and burst into tears with a waaaah. Xie Lian was given such a fright that he picked her up upside-down and ran about frantically. It was a while before the child finally spat back out everything she had swallowed. Relieved, Xie Lian crouched down, mopping at his own sweat as he said gently, “Are you alright now, little one…… sorry ah, but please please don’t tell your parents what happened here, and next time don’t simply pick things up from the floor to eat…… wait wait whatareyoudoing!”

The child’s eyes were brimming with tears, but she still tried to pick up the food to eat again. When Xie Lian grabbed her, he realized that the child’s belly was practically sticking to her spine.

For one who has starved to this extent, they would be willing to eat anything. Despite being sickened to tears, they would still be willing to eat.

Xie Lian was at a loss, and could only think of retrieving the last of his own rations to give to her. After that, he frequently caught the girl secretly peeping at him from hidden corners.

From his impressions of her, this child called Ban Yue seemed to wear a perpetually unhappy expression, and her face and body were always marked with bruises. Every time he spotted her, she would always be staring at him fixedly, just like the way she was looking at him now. Because the child Ban Yue was excluded from the other groups of children, asides from Xie Lian, only a young Yong’an boy who lived in the same border would sometimes look out for her, so she would always trail after these two people.

She was a quiet child, but she could speak the Han dialect, so Xie Lian had never been able to figure out where she came from. Since there did not seem to be anyone minding the child, Xie Lian would sometimes bring her around with him. When he had time to spare, he would teach her some songs, how to tumble and wrestle, and even stage some rock smashing performances, and so on. Their relationship had been pretty good.

{T/N: Click for pic. The principle of the act is that the rock absorbs the inertia of when the hammer comes crashing down, so the person suffers very little impact.}

Xie Lian said, “I thought the ‘Ban Yue’ of ‘Ban Yue State Preceptor’ was referring to the country’s name. I didn’t realize that the State Preceptor’s name was actually Ban Yue.”

Fu Yao said, “So what happened next?”

Xie Lian replied, “Next…… what happened was pretty much the same as what was inscribed on the stele at the General’s burial mound.”

{T/N: A stele is a slab (either made of wood or stone) that is generally erected as a monument or funerary memorial. Click for pic

San Lang had been silent up to this point. “The inscription on the stele said you died,” he noted.

When reminded of the stele again, Xie Lian felt a little depressed.

Aren’t eulogies supposed to sing exaggerated praise for the dead, and paint a beautiful commemorative picture of the dearly departed? Exactly what was so amazing about being demoted till he could be demoted no further? Even if he could overlook that, did it have to describe his humiliating death in such excruciating detail as well???

While sheltering from the sand storm and reading the text on the stele, his eyes had started twitching once they reached this particular passage. If it had not been for the fact that San Lang could decipher the Ban Yue script as well and had also been standing right next to Xie Lian, he would have skipped over the part depicting his ignoble death entirely and pretended it didn’t exist. Even he himself had nearly choked, how could he blame others for laughing out loud? Still, the people who had sought shelter at his own burial mound from the wind and sand had seen the inscription describing his past deeds on the stele, and had even broken into a lively discourse about him, interspersed with guffaws. How could he bring himself to ask them not to laugh? Actually, he had been feeling a little glum about it all. Xie Lian felt that the space between his brows must be red by now from all his kneading. He said, “Ah, that, of course I didn’t die. I faked my death.”

Fu Yao looked at him incredulously. Xie Lian hurried to explain, “I really couldn’t get back up as there were too many feet trampling over me. Faking death was the only option.”

Actually, Xie Lian couldn’t really recall the specifics of his ‘death’. He couldn’t even really remember why the two countries kept clashing with each other either, just that it was over some little matter which had been blown out of proportion. He hadn’t wanted to fight at all, but at that time, he had already been demoted to the bottom-most rung, so no one had been willing to listen to him. Both sides were already berserk with blood lust, and when Xie Lian rushed out, somehow, he was suddenly met with both swords and knives.

Fu Yao began chastising him, “You must have stuck yourself in the middle and pissed both sides off, didn’t you? Else why would they immediately chop you down when you showed up? And you knew that they hated you, you could have just avoided the mass of people, why did you have to charge in headlong? If you had wanted to avoid them, you definitely could have.”

Chapter 28 : Obscure Hua Lian Fall Into the Sinners’ Pit at Night (V)

Who’s Making Mischief!

Xie Lian said, “I really can’t remember anymore!”

Even though he’s more resilient than a roach, being hacked at like that was still a bit too much. At that time, his immediate thought had been, “I can’t go on like this ah!” and then he promptly toppled to the ground. While playing dead, he was trampled on a goodly number of times until he finally fainted. It was only when he was choking on water that he regained consciousness. Turns out, after the battle had ended and the cleanup commenced, all the dead bodies had been unceremoniously dumped into the river. Xie Lian floated along with the current like so much discarded debris and was eventually washed ashore in Yong’an country. After spending three to four years nursing his injuries, he packed up, picked up a functioning compass and once again set off on his long delayed journey. At long last, he arrived at his original destination in the South, and no longer paid attention to the affairs of the Ban Yue nation.

{T/N: 百打不死 (Bǎi dǎ bùsǐ) – lit. beat hundred times, won’t die}

Ban Yue again said softly, “I’m sorry.”

Fu Yao frowned. “Why does she keep apologizing to you?”

San Lang suddenly spoke. “Earlier, Ke Mo said that the Ban Yue State Preceptor only left for the Central Plains after a revolt broke out. Was this revolt in any way related to you?”

At this reminder, Xie Lian also recalled the inscriptions on the stone stele. He blinked and seemed to vaguely remember something. “Ah, I think……”

Ban Yue said, “It was to save me.”

Everyone turned to look at her. She lowered her head and said in an undertone, “General Hua was trampled flat because he was trying to save me.”


Xie Lian was suddenly visited by the vivid memory of being violently crushed under hundreds and thousands of stomping feet. He curled an arm around himself out of reflex, then realized that two pairs of eyes were regarding him with intense scrutiny. He froze, then hastened to say, “Nono, not flat, not flat at all!”

For whatever reason, Fu Yao seemed irked by his reply. “Oh, you were really quite the hero weren’t you,” he said, a peculiar lilt to his tone.

Xie Lian waved a hand and said airily, “You flatter me. Besides, unless I’m mistaken, I just happened to be at the scene and decided to bring the child away, before immediately making good my escape. But before I could withdraw, I ran into both armies instead……”

“If that was the case, how could you have possibly forgotten?” Fu Yao demanded.

“May I remind you that I’m already a couple hundred years old?” Xie Lian said. “A lot of things can happen in one year, even a person can be completely unrecognizable after ten years. This incident happened a very long time ago, I can’t possibly remember each and every detail clearly. What’s more, a lot of things are better off forgotten. Rather than reminiscing on how I was repeatedly stabbed and trampled some hundred years ago, isn’t it better to savour the memory of the delicious meat bun I had yesterday?”

{T/N : Meat bun (usually pork). Click for pic.}

“I’m sorry,” Ban Yue said.

Xie Lian sighed. “Ban Yue ah, saving you was my choice, it wasn’t your fault. If you must apologize, then perhaps you should be saying it to someone else.”

Ban Yue looked startled, then lowered her head silently.

Xie Lian added, “But…… it may be that my impression of you still remains at how you were two hundred odd years ago. I find it hard to believe that you would actively scheme for vengeance’s sake and betray the trust of those who depend on you…… would you be willing to tell me what really happened? Why did you open the city gates?”

Ban Yue considered his words briefly, then shook her head and remained mute.

Xie Lian said, “Then, why did you send the snakes out to attack people?”

This time, Ban Yue chose to reply him. “I didn’t send the snakes.”

Xie Lian paused in surprise. “What?”

Ban Yue repeated, “I didn’t send the snakes, they went on their own accord. I don’t know what happened, but they no longer obey me.”

Fu Yao’s lips thinned from impatience. Ban Yue said, “General Hua, I’m telling the truth.”

Before Xie Lian could say anything, Fu Yao cut in brusquely. “Save it, everyone says the same thing once they’ve been caught. I’ve heard these excuses many times before. Intentional or not, it doesn’t change the fact that people have been bitten by your snakes while crossing through the pass. Hands out now, it’s time to go.”

Ban Yue fell silent and obediently stretched out her hands. Fu Yao immediately shook out a length of Immortal Binding Rope from his sleeve and proceeded to tie her and Ke Mo up. “Alright, we’ve settled what we came to do, case closed!”

San Lang spoke up lazily from the side, “She has no reason to lie.”

Xie Lian too, felt that he couldn’t just allow the matter to drop. He said to Ban Yue, “Are you not able to summon the Scorpion-Tailed snakes at all?”

Ban Yue replied, “I can call on them. They do listen to me for the most part, but sometimes they don’t. I don’t know why either.”

“How about you call the snakes out now, let us have a look,” Xie Lian suggested.

Earlier, Ban Yue had been kneeling in front of him. Now she finally stood up and nodded. Before long, a purplish-red Scorpion-Tailed snake slithered out from under one of the corpses and reared its head, its tongue flickering silently at them. Xie Lian was about to cautiously venture closer for a better look when he spotted Ban Yue’s eyes widening slightly, a peculiar expression on her face. Xie Lian’s heart sank as he thought, Oh no.

Sure enough, after tasting the air with its tongue, the Scorpion-Tailed snake’s jaws suddenly gaped wide, its fangs glistening threateningly in the air as it struck at him!

Even though the snake’s attack was abrupt, Xie Lian had been on his guard. He could anticipate the snake’s moves clearly, and stretched out a hand to seize the snake. But before his hand could even reach the snake, there was a sudden ‘ pēng‘ sound, like something had exploded. He stared blankly at the snake as it fell limply to the ground, it’s innards spilling out like a flower in bloom. And what was more, the explosion itself was very neat, not a single drop of venom had splashed out.

Xie Lian immediately recalled the time before they entered Ban Yue nation. A snake had died in a similar manner. Well then, it wasn’t much of a guess as to who had done it. Before he could even shift his gaze towards San Lang, a long arm clad in a red, narrow sleeve stretched out in front of him, blocking him off from Ban Yue. From the side, Fu Yao said coldly, “As expected, she was trying to trick you. Did you really think the snake could have successfully bitten him under these circumstances? Idiot.”

Ban Yue’s face had turned rigid at the sight of the snake. At Fu Yao’s words, her head jerked up quickly. “It wasn’t me. I said some snakes wouldn’t listen to me, that snake was one of those.”

Fu Yao gave a derisive snort. “And who’s to say if that snake hadn’t been acting on your orders instead?”

Ban Yue said hollowly, “I didn’t even summon this snake here.”

Xie Lian opened his mouth, but spotted two deep magenta Scorpion-Tailed snakes writhing out from beneath the corpses, hissing menacingly as they slithered towards them. Immediately after, a third appeared, then a fourth, then a fifth…… from within the corpses and every nook and cranny in the rocks, a multitude of Scorpion-Tailed snakes began swarming out!

Everyone’s eyes fell on Ban Yue who was crouched on a pile of corpses. Bright beams of light burst forth from Fu Yao’s hand. “Tell them to back off, surely some of them still obey you,” he snapped at Ban Yue.

Ban Yue’s brows drew together tightly in concentration, as if attempting to figure out how to drive the snakes away. Yet more and more Scorpion-Tailed snakes continued to pour out, forming a large writhing mass that continued to draw near them. While one or two snake bites would not kill them, they’d be hard-pressed if it were a hundred or a thousand. And even if they didn’t die, they’d still be a very sorry sight indeed. Xie Lian raised a hand, ready to put Ruoye to action, but then he saw the snakes halting several feet from them. As if reluctant to get any closer, they formed a grotesque, hissing circle around them.

A sudden flash of realization hit Xie Lian, he turned to look at San Lang. The youth stood straight-backed beside him, his eyes fixed on the Scorpion-Tailed snakes with an air of arrogant contempt. The Scorpion-Tailed snakes seemed deterred by his haughty gaze and recoiled. Bit by bit the snakes retreated, heads lowered to the ground in submission.

However, they also seemed to be driven by some strange force which did not permit them to give up their attacks and retreat. And so the Scorpion-Tailed snakes changed their target and began slithering towards Fu Yao instead. With a casual wave of his sleeve, Fu Yao sent a blaze roaring at the them, charring a ring of snakes.

But this cannot last long. “Let’s leave this pit first,” Xie Lian suggested.

At his unspoken command, Ruoye unraveled and flew upwards with a whoosh. But before long, Ruoye returned with another whoosh. Xie Lian was faintly startled. He said to the white silk coiled around his wrist, “Why did you come back? The spell array has been removed, there’s nothing blocking your way. Go go.”

But Ruoye remained wrapped around his arm, shivering as if it had met with something unspeakably horrible up above. While Xie Lian was still trying to coax it, something fell down from above and landed with a smack against Fu Yao’s shoulder. When Fu Yao grabbed at it, his expression abruptly changed. He brought the thing in front of him for a look—-what had dropped out of the sky was also a Scorpion-Tailed snake!

Caught unprepared, Fu Yao was bitten. He abruptly flung the snake at Ban Yue. Ban Yue reflexively reached out with her bound hands and caught it. The purplish-red snake wound its body around her pale wrist but did not make to attack. At this moment, another dull thud sounded, and a second snake landed on the ground!

Xie Lian could roughly guess why Ruoye had refused to go up. When he raised his head, from the faint rays of moonlight, he could just barely discern hundreds of small specks of purplish-red snakes hurtling down from the top of the Sinners’ Pit.

It’s raining snakes!

Seeing how the purplish-red dots were rapidly getting closer, Xie Lian said, “Fu Yao! Fire! Send the fire upwards, deal with then while they’re still in midair!”

Fu Yao bit down on his palm, breaking the skin. With a wave of his hand, he sent a single bead of blood flying up, before transforming it into a blazing shield of protective flames. The barrier of fire was suspended ten feet in the air, and the Scorpion-Tailed snakes which collided against it were rapidly incinerated to ashes. The rain of snakes was effectively cut off.

At this momentary reprieve, Xie Lian relaxed a little. “Great! Thanks a lot, Fu Yao!”

This level of magic would inevitably drain a huge chunk of their spiritual energy. Fu Yao’s face was already showing the beginnings of strain. He turned and also drew a circle of flames around them on the ground, crisping the snakes there. “Do you still insist that they do not obey you?” he growled at Ban Yue. “If you are not the one manipulating them, why are the snakes not attacking you?”

San Lang grinned. “Maybe you’re just unlucky? They’re not attacking us either ah.”

Fu Yao whirled to face them, his eyes raking over the both of them, expression grim. At this, Xie Lian felt some misgivings, but the beginnings of a hunch about their present situation was also forming. There isn’t enough time to sort his thoughts, and he really doesn’t want to see them get into a brawl right now. “We should get out of here, it’s best to figure out what’s wrong with these snakes first,” he urged.

Fu Yao’s mouth stretched in a sneer. “Figure out what’s wrong? If the Ban Yue State Preceptor is not the one lying, then it’s the thing next to you that’s making mischief!”

Xie Lian’s gaze flitted from Ban Yue to San Lang. “I don’t think its them.”

Although his tone was mild, it brooked no argument. This was the conclusion he has arrived at after much thought, but Fu Yao was sure to assume that he was deliberately shielding them. The fire illuminated the twisted expression on Fu Yao’s face, as if he didn’t know whether to laugh or implode in fury. “Your Royal Highness, can you ditch this ignorant act of yours. Do you still remember who you are? That thing beside you, surely you have long since known what it is, you must have realized by now!”

Chapter 29 : White Wind Master; Swirling Sandstorm

Well, what would you like to eat then, Hua Cheng?

Xie Lian shifted to face Fu Yao and, intentionally or otherwise, when he took a step forwards, he shielded San Lang from view. “There is no need to remind me of who I am. On this, I am most clear.”

“Then why the hell are you still standing there by his side?” Fu Yao seethed.

Xie Lian’s reply was frank. “Because…… I won’t be bitten by the snakes if I stand next to him.”


San Lang choked a little at his answer, then burst into laughter. Fu Yao’s expression was thunderous. “You……”

His face grew steadily darker, then suddenly turned entirely black. Not just his face, Xie Lian’s entire view also bathed in pure darkness.

Turns out that the protective barrier of flames that Fu Yao had put up earlier, as well as the ring of fire he had drawn on the ground, have suddenly gone out!

In the darkness, Xie Lian heard San Lang snicker as he said, “Pathetic!” He felt an arm loop over his shoulders. Immediately after, Xie Lian heard something slamming hard and fast right above them in quick succession. Bang bang! It sounded like a torrential rainstorm striking and bouncing off a parasol.

Needless to say, now that the protective barrier has vanished, the purplish-red snakes had begun raining down on them in a veritable deluge again. And there is a parasol propped above them, deflecting the snakes!

Xie Lian caught a whiff of a heavy scent of blood. He was about to make a move, but San Lang said, “Don’t move. Nothing would dare come over here, if it knows what’s best for them.”

His tone was calm and confident. The first part of his sentence was spoken gently, his voice mellow, but the later part was laced with arrogance. Xie Lian had not been worried to begin with, but then he heard Fu Yao bellowing angrily somewhere ahead. It seems that the rain of snakes had poured all over his head. Xie Lian urged, “San Lang!”

San Lang immediately said, “No.”

Xie Lian didn’t know whether to laugh or tear at his hair. “Do you know what I was about to say?”

San Lang replied, “Don’t worry yourself. He won’t die.”

At this moment, a shriek sounded from somewhere laterally ahead of them. “BAN YUE! If you want me dead just let them bite me and get it over with. What the hell are you playing at?”

Ban Yue protested, “It wasn’t me!” In all likelihood, Ke Mo had been battered awake by the snakes, found himself buried in a seething mass of slippery bodies, and immediately determined this to be Ban Yue’s way of tormenting him.

Xie Lian said, “Fu Yao, can you still light up a fire? Cast another flame spell!”

Fu Yao was gnashing his teeth. “That thing by your side is suppressing my magic, I can’t light any fires!”

Xie Lian’s heart sank, but San Lang said, “I didn’t.”

“I know you didn’t,” Xie Lian said. “And that’s precisely why this is strange. Ban Yue and Ke Mo are bound by the Immortal Binding ropes so their powers are restricted, I’ve run out of spiritual energy, and you’re not suppressing Fu Yao. Does that not mean that there is a sixth person in this pit?!”

Fu Yao was incensed. “Are you possessed! There’s no damned sixth person here, no one else has come down from up there!”

At this moment, they heard Ban Yue’s startled voice. “Who’s there?!”

Xie Lian said, “What’s wrong Ban Yue? Is there someone by your side?”

Ban Yue replied, “There’s a……” Her sentence ended here and her voice faded away. Xie Lian exclaimed in alarm, “Ban Yue?!”

Fu Yao was still thrashing about within the nest of snakes. For a brief moment, a white light shone like a beacon within the pitch darkness accompanied by a ripple of explosions. He warned, “Be careful, she may be luring you over to her!”

Xie Lian said, “Not necessarily. Let’s save her first!” He was about to dash into the rain of snakes, but then he heard San Lang’s voice by his ear. “Alright!”

Xie Lian felt a hand fasten on his shoulder, and then they were suddenly whirling out together. He realized with a start that the youth was actually handling a parasol with masterful skill. With one arm fastening Xie Lian to his side, San Lang surged forward in an attack. Within the inky darkness, sparks of silver flickered, accompanied by clear, ringing chimes. Suddenly, there was an ear-piercing screech of metal on metal which split everyone’s eardrums.

“Oh?” San Lang said. “So there really is a sixth person. How interesting.”

Xie Lian could not tell how the youth handled his weapons, nor what his weapons even were. But right now, it was clear that his weapons have been met with someone else’s attack!

The other person was silent. Xie Lian could hear the whistling sound of blades cleaving the air, and deduced that another attack has been launched. From time to time, sparks burst out in brief flashes, shining stark within the darkness, but winked out just as quickly as they came. It did not suffice to illuminate the enemy’s face. Xie Lian trained an ear on the ongoing battle, and at the same time he called out, “Ban Yue, are you there? Can you answer me?”

There was no reply. Fu Yao huffed. “Mayhap the person you’re both fighting with is her!”

Xie Lian said, “No, this is definitely not Ban Yue!”

Just like how they had beat Ke Mo in the dark earlier, San Lang moved around languidly like he was merely humouring his opponent, except that he was a little more attentive this time. Their opponent had explosively powerful martial skills, and they handled their weapon smoothly and skillfully. Ban Yue’s build is petite. The brief flashes of light had illuminated a powerful looking arm, and the strength with which it wielded their weapon was clearly beyond Ban Yue’s capability. Hence it is impossible for their opponent to be her. But who could this sixth person be? And when did they even turn up to begin with?!

{T/N: I used ‘they’ to be gender neutral, but really it’s referring to only one person.}

“This sort of traitor who sells out her country is no different from that female ghost, Xuan Ji,” Fu Yao retorted “Why are you so insistent on trusting her?”

{T/N: Reminder, Xuan Ji was the ghost who murdered the brides and broke her own legs to get her former lover Pei Ming (aka General Pei) to see her again.}

Xie Lian said, “Fu Yao, can you stop being so irritable? You…… wait wait, what did you just say?”

Fu Yao crossly slapped at several Scorpion-Tailed snakes and sent them flying away with an explosive blast. “I said, why do you trust her so much? Just like how you trust that thing by your side!”

But Xie Lian said, “No, I wasn’t talking about this—– you said Xuan Ji. You mentioned Xuan Ji didn’t you?!”

“What of it?! What’s that got to do with anything!”

But Xie Lian held his breath for a moment, then suddenly said, “You can stop now! There’s no need for you to hide, I already know who you are!”

The sound of clashing blades did not waver. Their opponent paid no heed to him, but Xie Lian wasn’t overly concerned. “You think my words are only meant to trick you? General Pei Junior?”

Chapter 29 : White Wind Master; Swirling Sandstorm

Well, what would you like to eat then, Hua Cheng?

Fu Yao looked bewildered. “Who are you talking to? General Pei Junior? Have you gone mad? With the kind of status General Pei Junior holds, don’t you think everyone would know of it if he descends?”

Xie Lian nodded. “What you said is true. However, what if it was not his true, divine self that came down?”

In the dark, the sound of blades clashing seemed to freeze for a moment, then immediately continued.

Xie Lian said, “My realization came pretty late. In fact, this should have occurred to me long ago.

“I knew that there have been strange happenings at the Ban Yue pass for nearly two hundred years, but no Heaven’s Official has ever ventured to take notice of it. Since everyone else was reluctant to touch on the subject, it could only mean that someone has been deliberately suppressing the matter, and they dared not offend this person. But I wasn’t familiar with the rest of the Heaven’s Officials, so I dared not venture any guesses or make bold speculations as to who this big-shot is.”

Xie Lian had only been reminded of the matter when Fu Yao mentioned the female ghost, Xuan Ji.

When on the subject of Xuan Ji, one would inadvertently connect her with the two generals from the Pei family. The North is the domain of the two Pei generals, and Fu Yao had once mentioned in passing : before General Pei Junior ascended to Heaven, he had once commanded the massacre of everybody in a captured city.

{T/N: Refer chapter 12, on Pei Su’s (aka General Pei Junior) brief history}

Which city was massacred?

It could very well have been the ancient country of Ban Yue!

This sort of thing is not unheard of among the officials of the Court of Heaven. In order to attain success, bloodshed has often been necessary. But then again, slaughtering the innocent folk in a captured city was not something one could brag about either. If word of it gets spread too far and wide, it would be difficult to attract new worshipers, so it was often necessary to cover up these matters. Even if everyone in Heaven knew of it, the polite thing to do would be to gloss over the subject. After all, unless one was harboring some sort of deep grudge or planned on causing mischief, who would go around digging up other people’s shameful histories and drawing the ire of their backers?

Xie Lian said slowly, “The face which was buried in the ground said, among us, there was someone who had been present fifty to sixty years ago. I thought his words were but lies to trick us to get closer, but now it seems that it spoke the truth.

“The one I suspected most was you. The caravans follow you, it’s no chore for you to lead them anywhere you wished. In all the years I spent in Ban Yue, I have never come across a single Scorpion-Tailed snake, yet you lot managed to come across such a rare, venomous creature while seeking shelter from the sand storm.

“When I agreed for you to come with us to seek the Kindred Moon herbs, you even left them with very specific directions to the ancient city of Ban Yue, just so if any of them couldn’t wait for our return, they could go ahead and serve themselves up to be slaughtered. Earlier at the top of the Sinners’ Pit, I did say that if anything were to happen I would step forth first. But you suddenly lost your head and jumped in for no reason, despite having been calm from the start.”

Xie Lian paused briefly before summing it up. “Your actions have been bizarre and senseless all along, but it took me this long to figure it out. It really was slow of me, isn’t that right? General Pei Junior? Or should I call you—– Ah Zhao!”

Deathly silence ensued.

After a long while, a flat, cold voice said, “Has it ever occurred to you, that the face in the ground may have been referring to the youth in red by your side instead.”

Flames blazed up within the Sinners’ Pit, illuminating two figures in bloody crimson facing each other.

One was San Lang in red who had already stowed away his weapons, looking calm and serene. The other was a plain garbed young man who was still holding a sword out horizontally before him, seemingly reluctant to back down.

Because the plain cotton of the young man’s clothing was soaked in blood, it gave the impression that he was dressed entirely in red. His expression was cold and remote, with a body slung over one of his shoulders. It really was Ah Zhao.

In fact, whether it is the deity General Pei Junior or Ah Zhao, that dull and stony expression he favored had always been the same. But Xie Lian’s thoughts had not led him in that direction, so he did not make the connection between these two people earlier.

The person he held draped over his shoulder was Ban Yue. Xie Lian guessed that he had released the snakes to distract them and steal Ban Yue away during the ensuing chaos, but since his mask has now been torn off, there was no longer any use in doing so. The snakes writhing on the ground and those still hailing down from above suddenly fell still. With a skillful twist of the wrist, Ah Zhao sheathed his sword with one hand and lowered Ban Yue to the ground with the other. Ke Mo gaped at him. “Who are you? Didn’t you fall to your death?”

Ah Zhao’s gaze did not waver from San Lang. “Ke Mo, you’re still the same after hundreds of years,” he replied curtly in the Ban Yue tongue

Ke Mo gave a start of recognition at his blandly indifferent tone, then rage suddenly suffused his swarthy features. “……It’s you!!! Pei Su?!”

If it wasn’t because he was firmly tied up by the Immortal Binding ropes, he probably would charged at the young man like a furious bull.

“General Pei Junior, the Scorpion-Tailed snakes do not only obey Ban Yue,” Xie Lian probed. “The snakes which would attack travelers at will were controlled by you, weren’t they.”

“En, it was me,” Pei Su admitted. He seemed strangely pleased.

“Did Ban Yue teach you how to control the Scorpion-Tailed snakes?”

“She did not. But I can learn her ways on my own.”

Xie Lian’s brows rose. “Indeed, General Pei Junior is truly gifted.”

He paused, then asked, “When did you two first meet? And how did you meet?”

Pei Su gave him a brief look and said, “General Hua.”

Xie Lian was baffled. “Why are you also addressing me this way?”

Pei Su said mildly, “Do you not recognize me, General Hua?”


Then Xie Lian recalled.

Hazy memories surfaced of Ban Yue as a child being ostracized by the other Ban Yue children, only a young Yong’An boy would occasionally take notice of her. Like Ban Yue, the boy was also taciturn by nature. Many of the children at the frontier were born to the soldiers defending the borders, and they tended to join the ranks after growing up as well. Could it be……

“It’s you?!” Xie Lian exclaimed. “I really only just recognized you.”

Pei Su nodded. “It’s me. I too, only just recognized you, General.”

No wonder. Turns out Ban Yue and the military official she colluded with have known each other from way back!

Xie Lian said, “Did Ban Yue really open the city gates because of you?”

Ke Mo spat at the floor, then began bucking around. “Untie me,” he demanded. “Let me and this despicable wretch Pei Su fight it out to the death!”

Pei Su replied coolly, “Firstly, we have already fought it out two hundred years ago, and you lost. Second, dare I ask which part of me is despicable?”

Ke Mo drew himself up angrily. “If it wasn’t for the two of you colluding to strike at us from inside and out, how would we have lost?!”

Pei Su’s lips curled in a faint sneer. “Ke Mo, stop deluding yourself. During the siege, even though I only brought two thousand men with me, as far as I’m concerned, breaking through the city gates was only a matter of time. ”

Xie Lian could not help blurting out, “Wait wait, you were sent to attack a whole country with only two thousand soldiers? Wasn’t it tantamount to suicide? Could it be that you were even more detested within the army than me??”


Pei Su stopped talking. It seems like he had hit the mark. Xie Lian added, “Since victory was in your grasp, why then did you ask Ban Yue to open the city gates for you?”

Pei Su said bluntly, “Because I wanted everyone in the city dead.”

Xie Lian squinted at him. “What do you mean? Since you were already winning, what need was there to massacre everyone?” It can’t be some kind of hobby right!

Pei Su said, “It was precisely because we were winning, that the massacre was necessary. And it had to be done quickly and immediately, sparing no one.”

Xie Lian noticed the grand way he emphasized on ‘sparing no one’. “Reason being?”

Pei Su replied, “The night before the siege, many of the Ban Yue family heads convened and came to an agreement on one thing.”

“What was it?”

“The Ban Yue people are naturally fierce with tendencies toward violence,” Pei Su explained. “They deeply hated Yong’an. Even if they knew that defeat was imminent, they would not submit to it. So all of Ban Yue’s men, women, children, elderly, were instructed to prepare one thing with utmost haste.”

Xie Lian could already faintly guess at what it was, and the word Pei Su spat out confirmed his guess:


Pei Su drew his words out carefully. “They had decided that if the walls of the city fall, all the inhabitants would conceal these explosives within their bodies and immediately flee in different directions. They would then enter Yong’an and try to cause a ruckus to draw as large a crowd as possible, then set the explosives off. Even if they die, they will bring as many Yong’an people down with them as they could. Even if their nation has been vanquished, they would see to it that the ones who had defeated them would know no peace.”

Hence it had been necessary to cut down all these civilians in one stroke before they could make a run for it……

Xie Lian immediately turned to look at Ke Mo. “Is this true?”

Ke Mo replied proudly, “Yes!”

San Lang lifted a brow. “How very vicious.”

He said this in the Ban Yue tongue. Ke Mo’s face contorted in rage. “Vicious? What right do you have to call us vicious? If it were not you people who attacked us first, we would not have been forced to this. You destroyed us and we retaliated in turn, how are we in the wrong?!”

“Very well,” Pei Su said. “How about we start from the beginning? How many times have the Ban Yue people at the frontier stirred up trouble without reason? How many Yong’an caravans and travelers on the way to the Western Regions been maliciously intercepted by the Ban Yue nation? You people knew full well that there were horse thieves amongst you who specialized in deliberately barricading roads and wantonly plundering and slaughtering the Yong’an people, yet you sheltered them. The soldiers that Yong’an sent to round up these thieves and murderers were killed by you on grounds of trespassing. So tell me, have we not the right to deem you vicious?”

Although his speech was impassive and his tone inflectionless, every word was sharp and incisive. Ke Mo said, “But that was because you people first forcefully occupied our lands, so we struck back.”

Pei Su said, “The borders between the two countries have never been clearly delineated, how was it considered forceful occupation?”

Ke Mo said, “Both sides have already marked out the territories long ago, but you people reneged on it!”

Pei Su returned, “The division of the territories was only agreed on your end, when has Yong’an ever acceded to it? Your so-called division of territories was to give us all the barren wastelands whilst you people kept all the oases for yourself. Ridiculous, no?”

Ke Mo was enraged. “The oases have always belonged to us. Generations of Ban Yue people grew up at the oases!”

Both parties obstinately stuck to their side of the story. Listening to them bicker incessantly was enough to make Xie Lian’s head throb. When he recalled how he had been caught in between both opposing armies and suffered a terrible beating two hundred years ago, he felt his face aching dully again. Pei Su turned away from Ke Mo dismissively and said to Xie Lian, “As you can see, the rights and wrongs of earthly affairs can never be clearly grasped. Only through force may the victor be decided.”

Xie Lian said, “I agree with the first half of that statement.”

San Lang said, “I agree with the second half.”

Ke Mo’s anger subsided slightly, then he suddenly said, “The Yong’an people for the most part are shameless, and you are the most shameless one I have ever met. Pei Su, you are a cold-hearted man. Your killing us had never been for the sake of your country, nor was it to save your people.”

Pei Su fell silent.

Ke Mo continued, “You were the son of an exile, scorned and despised by everyone. You only wanted to gain a foothold and establish yourself within the Yong’an army’s ranks and climb up the ladder, which was why you absolutely had to win that hopeless battle. But it’s a pity that Ban Yue thought highly of you. She was used by you, and betrayed us for the likes of you.”

Xie Lian asked, “But General Pei Junior, aren’t you a descendant of General Pei’s?” With the protection of such a renowned ancestor whose fame spread far and wide, it ought not have been necessary to stoop to such tactics right?

“He may be related to General Pei, but who knows how many branches there are in that family tree,” San Lang said.

Ah. That is to say, if Pei Su had not had the ability to ascend to Heaven on his own merit, he was unlikely to have received any blessings from this old ancestor of his.

“Ban Yue was my subordinate,” Pei Su said mildly. “She went to Ban Yue nation and concealed herself there on my orders. She is of Ban Yue blood, and also of Yong’an. She chose a side and stuck to it, she has never betrayed her country. The Ban Yue people are sinister and capricious. I do not regret putting them to death.”

Suddenly, a voice sounded from above. “WELL SAID! What then, of those travelers whom you lured through the pass to their ends in this pit for so many years, dare you claim their deaths were deserved as well?”

Chapter 29 : White Wind Master; Swirling Sandstorm

Well, what would you like to eat then, Hua Cheng?

The voice had sounded from above their heads. Xie Lian immediately looked up in surprise. “Which esteemed lord has arrived?”

There was no answer. Instead, he heard some strange whooshwhoosh sounds, like swift gusts of winds. The sounds grew steadily louder, and as it neared, Xie Lian realized that what he heard was really the roar of surging winds!

The howling gale hit them abruptly. Before he could so much as blink, Xie Lian found his feet leaving the ground as he was bodily swept up by the winds!

The cyclone swirled and howled in the Sinners’ Pit as it snatched them all up and sent them hurtling out toward the skies!

Xie Lian immediately turned and grabbed hold of San Lang who was the closest to him. “Be careful!”

San Lang calmly wound an arm around him in turn. Xie Lian felt himself spinning through the air, his world turning upside-down as they were blown out. Then the winds died. For a brief moment, they remained suspended in the air, before falling down.

Xie Lian promptly shook Ruoye out. “There’s nothing scary here anymore,” he said hurriedly. “Be good now Ruoye, come out and save us!”

He gave Ruoye two quick pats to coax it, and Ruoye finally unfurled and lengthened out. However, empty space and barren landscape surrounded them, and the Sinners’ Pit at the bottom offered no purchase for it to grab on to. Ruoye flew out, made a turn, then flew back into its hiding place. Resigned, Xie Lian began adjusting his posture in the air in preparation for a nasty landing.

In the past, he would have landed headfirst and stuck himself three feet deep into the ground. But this time, just before he hit the ground, San Lang effortlessly turned him around so that he actually managed to land on his feet. When he found himself standing firmly on the ground, Xie Lian was still busy feeling amazed until he spotted a figure in black staggering over towards them.

Xie Lian stared for a moment. “Nan Feng!” he exclaimed in delight.

It really was Nan Feng, and he was cutting quite a sorry figure indeed. His clothing was in tatters, and he was covered head to toe in dust like he had rolled several rounds on the ground in a brawl while being trampled by horses for a whole night. Nan Feng silently held up a hand when he heard Xie Lian’s call, and wiped at his own face, seemingly having lost the will to live. Xie Lian reached out to support him. “What happened to you? Did you get beaten up by those two ladies?”

As he spoke, his eyes were drawn to two silhouettes behind Nan Feng, walking towards them. One of them was the woman in white, her horsetail whisk resting in the crook of her arm. She beamed at Xie Lian. “Hello, Your Highness.”

Despite feeling utterly clueless, Xie Lian’s manners kicked in at her friendly greeting. Not knowing how to address her, he returned her smile and waved. “Hello to you too, friend.”

The young woman in black was silent and aloof as she sauntered over, sweeping a cool, detached gaze over them. She did not spare Xie Lian more than a cursory glance, but her eyes wavered for a moment when they rested on San Lang. Her footsteps faltered as she regarded him in suspicion.

The wind earlier had sent everyone spiraling out of the pit in one powerful gust. The two women walked past Xie Lian and stopped directly in front of Pei Su. Pei Su did not seem in the least bit surprised to see them. After all, when he had been acting as Ah Zhao, he had already caught a glimpse of these two within the city. He knelt down before the woman in white, his head lowered. “Lord Wind Master,” he said softly.

Xie Lian was stunned.

So the woman he had always taken to be some form of demon or evil spirit that had popped out of nowhere was actually a Heavenly Official? And the Wind Master at that? The same Wind Master who had thrown out a hundred thousand merits in the spirit communication array?!

But then again, there was probably nothing wrong with that. Back then, the woman in white had said something along the lines of “where did those people run off to, do I really have to drag them out one by one to kill them”, which certainly sounded ominous and gave him the impression that she was out to murder them. But in fact, “those people” may have actually been referring to the Ban Yue soldiers instead. But his first impression of her had been too vivid, and so her every movement had seemed to carry ill-intent to him.

Awe and reverence danced in Xie Lian’s heart at this Heavenly Official who could scatter out a hundred thousand merits like so much confetti with a wave of the hand. “Why didn’t you tell me she was the Wind Master earlier?” he sighed at Nan Feng. “I actually thought she was some kind of snake or scorpion demon. It was really rude of me.”

Nan Feng’s face was dark. “How would I know that was the Wind Master?” he gritted out. “I have never seen the Wind Master looking like this before. The Wind Master has always been…… forget it.”

Xie Lian nodded understandingly. The Wind Master is likely wearing a guise. He did not pursue further and asked instead, “Why would the Wind Master be here in Ban Yue?”

“Here to help,” Nan Feng said curtly. “They were wandering around in Ban Yue city earlier to look for those Ban Yue soldiers.”

Ah. Xie Lian’s mind swiftly recalled the time he had asked about the happenings in Ban Yue pass in the spirit communication array. During the ensuing silence that had followed his query, the Wind Master had suddenly thrown out a hundred thousand merits which drew away everybody’s attention. In all likelihood, the Wind Master had taken note of his interest.

As he mulled over his thoughts pensively, on the other side, the Wind Master had crouched down in front of Pei Su. “Xiǎo Pei ah, I heard everything.”

{T/N: 小 (Xiǎo) – little. Pei Su is usually called General xiǎo Pei (General Pei Junior) to differentiate him from General Pei. The Wind Master calling Pei Su ‘Xiao Pei’ aka ‘Little Pei’ is actually kinda cute.)

Pei Su lowered his head. The Wind Master said, “Do you admit to having lured travelers into the Ban Yue City in these past two hundred years?”

Having already been caught, Pei Su did not try to defend himself. “It was me,” he said quietly.

The Wind Master asked, “Why?”

Pei Su paused, then said, “The Wind Master has long since been suspicious of me. Are you not able to guess?”

The Wind Master lifted a brow. “Because these tortured souls are ironclad evidence of your bloody and brutal past when you were mortal, and may one day hinder your path in ascension to glory, no?”

Pei Su declined to comment. Xie Lian had been listening from the side and could not stifle his curiosity any longer. “But wait, why didn’t you just kill them off directly? Why did you have to feed them living people to appease them instead? How is this different from using one man’s flesh to assuage the hunger of another man?”

{T/N: Meaning to solve a problem by creating another problem.}

But San Lang said, “He cannot.”

Oh right. In the Upper Court of Heaven, a Heavenly Official like Pei Su is bound to have eyes trained on his every move. There were many matters he could not directly involve himself in. His divine self could not come down to wipe these aggrieved souls out, nor could he send troops on his behalf to eliminate them without drawing too much attention. In order to ensure that this matter would remain hidden, he could only covertly send down this puppet, Ah Zhao.

By using the Scorpion-Tailed snakes that were Ban Yue’s famed pets to attack travelers and draw them here to be cast into the pit and assuage these grievances, it was the perfect plan to kill with a borrowed knife.

The Wind Master continued, “Your family’s General Pei would not have done such a thing. I’m afraid this time you’ve crossed the line somewhat.”

A Heavenly Official from the Heavenly Court sending down a puppet to Ban Yue pass to wreak havoc for almost two hundred years by luring numerous travelers off the beaten path into the hungry mouths of dead Ban Yue soldiers. However you looked at it, this was no trivial matter. Pei Su’s head bowed. “This youngster understands.”

The Wind Master twirled her horse-tail whisk. “It’s good that you understand. Take a good long look at yourself and reflect on your actions. We’ll talk again once we’re back up.”

“Yes,” Pei Su murmured.

After the Wind Master was done extracting a confession out of him, she stuck the horse-tail whisk into the back collar of her robes and got up. She turned to smile at Xie Lian and cupped her hands in greeting. “Your Highness, it’s a pleasure to meet you at last, I’ve heard so much about you.”

Time for proper formalities then. To Xie Lian, the phrase “heard so much about you” was hardly complimentary, but since it was just a few words spoken out of courtesy, he returned her smile. “No no, to be able to meet the esteemed Wind Master, the pleasure is mine.”

The Wind Master said, “I’m really sorry about what happened earlier.”

Xie Lian gave her a blank stare. “Earlier? What happened earlier?”

“Did you not encounter a sandstorm in the desert earlier?”

Xie Lian absently recalled being fed a mouthful of sand. “Yes.”

The Wind Master said apologetically, “I started the storm.”


The Wind Master said, “I raised the sandstorm to keep you guys away from the Ban Yue Kingdom. But not only did you not get blown away, you somehow managed to find your way into the city instead.”

As Xie Lian listened, he found it to be increasingly strange. Again, the issue of the sandstorm being created to keep them away from Ban Yue Kingdom was brought up. What does this mean?

He held back and listened silently, waiting to see what else she had to say. “In this matter however,” the Wind Master added. “It is best if Your Highness does not involve himself in it.”

Xie Lian darted a quick glance at Ban Yue who was still curled up on the ground, a sense of dread building up in his heart.

He had always been worried. Once this issue is brought up to the Heavenly Court, it is feasible that some Heavenly Officials may add or subtract the evidence recorded with a few strokes of their brushes as they pleased, thereby portraying General Pei Junior as entirely blameless in this matter, with Ban Yue as the scapegoat. For the Wind Master to tell him to keep his nose out of the affair, does she mean to protect Xiǎo Pei?

Without batting an eyelid, Xie Lian took a single step forward, coming to stand in front of Ban Yue. “I am already neck deep in this,” he said mildly. “It’s a little pointless to tell me not to involve myself now ba.”

The Wind Master gave a little laugh. “Be at ease. You can bring the State Preceptor of Ban Yue away with you first.”

This went entirely against Xie Lian’s expectations. As he gaped foolishly for a moment, the Wind Master added, “We have already heard everything we need to know about this matter. Even though she’s on the cusp of turning into a Wrath, while I was exploring the inner city earlier, I saw the Ban Yue State Preceptor trapping the Ban Yue soldiers in spell arrays she set up, before releasing the mortals that had been captured by the soldiers. Not only does she do no harm, she even goes out of her way to rescue lives. I will only be bringing away General Pei Junior and Ke Mo with me. You need not worry that I will drag in someone to be a scapegoat.”

{T/N: Ghosts are ranked as Fierce, Severe, Wrath, and Devastation. Wrath ranked ghosts could massacre a whole city.}

Relieved, Xie Lian said, “Shame on me! It was I who was overly suspicious.”

The Wind Master replied, “It’s perfectly normal to be concerned. I do not deny there are indeed a lot of underhanded practices up in the Heavenly Court.”

The young woman in black who had been standing by the side finally lost her patience. “Done talking? Can we go now?”

“Oi!” the Wind Master retorted. “What are you in such a rush for? I’ll talk all I want!” Despite her words, she was already trotting towards her companion. Drawing a folding fan from her waist, she said to Xie Lian, “Your Highness, if there is nothing else, let’s meet again in the Heavenly Court?”

At Xie Lian’s nod, the Wind Master flicked open the fan with a snap. The front of the fan showed the ‘风’ character in bold strokes, and on the back were three flowing lines depicting the movement of a breeze. Presumably, this was the Wind Master’s divine weapon. She flapped the fan three times facing upwards, then flipped it over and fanned thrice again.

{T/N: 风 – wind}

Suddenly, a burst of wind swept through the plains, whipping up the fine sand and gravel in dizzying twists. Xie Lian lifted his sleeves to block the wind. By the time the winds died down, the two women, Pei Su, and Ke Mo were no longer there, leaving behind only Xie Lian, San Lang, Nan Feng, and Ban Yue who was curled up on the ground.

Chapter 29 : White Wind Master; Swirling Sandstorm

Well, what would you like to eat then, Hua Cheng?

Xie Lian lowered his sleeves and asked foolishly, “What just happened?”

San Lang strolled over towards him. “Something good.”

Xie Lian looked at him. “Something good?”

San Lang said, “Something very good. By asking you to not get involved, the Wind Master was helping you.”

Nan Feng walked over as well. “Yes. You were handling this matter from the beginning to the end, and now all that’s left is to report the situation to the Heavenly Emperor. Just keep yourself out of this bit.”

Xie Lian understood. “It’s because of General Pei, isn’t it?”

“Correct. You’ve managed to royally piss off General Pei this time,” Nan Feng said.

Xie Lian chuckled. “Well, I had already anticipated offending at least one person long ago. It doesn’t really matter who it is.”

Nan Feng frowned. “Do not take my words for a jest. Asides from the Palace Hall of the Supreme Martial God, the Ming Guang Palace Hall holds the most power. General Pei places great importance on Xiǎo Pei, and has always wanted to kick Quan Yi Zhen down to make way for Pei Su. He’s sure to come looking for trouble with you.”

{T/N: General Pei is the deity protector of the North and is also known as General Ming Guang, which means ‘bright light’. Temples dedicated to him (and General Pei Jnr) are called Ming Guang temples. The Palace Hall of the Supreme Martial God belongs to the Heavenly Emperor.}

“Is Quan Yi Zhen the Martial God of the West that you spoke of?”

“Yes. Quan Yi Zhen is also newly come to his position. He and Pei Su ascended at around the same time. He’s fairly young and is somewhat…… but he’s still not someone to be taken lightly. General Pei deliberately allowed Pei Su to wrest away believers from the West, and Pei Su had spared no effort in doing so. He would have only needed a few more years to succeed, but then you turned up and ruined all his plans. I don’t think Pei Su will be lucky enough to pull through this unscathed. If he ends up being demoted, it won’t be smooth sailing for you either.”

Xie Lian rubbed at the space between his brows and secretly resolved to be more careful while eating, drinking and walking in the future. But San Lang disagreed, “There’s no need to worry. Pei Ming is a proud one, it’s beneath him to stir up trouble for others.”

Nan Feng shot him a quick look. Xie Lian said, “What about the Wind Master? By asking me to steer clear of this, does she mean to shoulder the responsibility instead? Wouldn’t she end up offending General Pei? No no, I think we should call her back. Nan Feng do you have the pass code for the Wind Master’s spirit communication array?”

Nan Feng snorted. “Worry about yourself first. General Pei may dare move against you, but he won’t touch the Wind Master. She may be younger than you, but she fares a great deal better than you.”


Xie Lian’s silence was not because he received a blow to his self esteem, merely that he was lost in his thoughts. I don’t think there’s anyone in the Upper Court of Heaven who could possibly fare worse than me, right?

San Lang chuckled. “The Wind Master has a strong backer, so it’s not surprising for her to fare well.”

Xie Lian asked, “Are you referring to the young woman in black that was with her? She was also very formidable.”

“No,” San Lang replied. “But the one in black is certainly powerful. Unless I miss my guess, she is likely one of the five elemental masters of Wind, Water, Rain, Earth and Thunder. I wouldn’t recommend offending her.”

To be able to call up a windstorm in the middle of the dessert, the Wind Master would naturally be brimming with powerful magic. And the young woman in black had been even more formidable. Xie Lian thought back to how she had seemed to perceive something questionable about San Lang, and said uneasily, “I agree.”

But there was one more thing on his mind, although Xie Lian did not give voice to it. Having a strong backer does not necessarily mean a smooth future. Once, there was a time when the Crown Prince of Xian Le had the support of Jun Wu, the supreme Martial God and Heavenly Emperor of the three realms. But did he not still end up a failure in the end?

Xie Lian picked up his bamboo hat from the ground and patted the dust from it, relieved to see that it had not been flattened. He looped it around his neck and let it rest against his back, before sizing up Nan Feng briefly. “Have you been chasing and battling with those two ladies the entire way?”

Nan Feng’s expression turned dark. “Yes. All the way.”

Xie Lian patted his shoulder. “It’s been really hard on you.” Having said that, he suddenly recalled another person who had also suffered miserably. Turning around, he asked, “Where is Fu Yao?”

“Wasn’t he looking after those who were poisoned?” Nan Feng said.

Ever since they were blown up by the gale, no one had seen Fu Yao. In fact, from the moment Ah Zhao revealed himself, Xie Lian had not noticed his presence at all. Either Fu Yao had made good his escape during that time, or he had run off after the winds had tossed them out of the pit.

Xie Lian was not overly worried about him. If he had to guess, Fu Yao had probably wanted to wash his hands clean of this mess and had slipped away in a hurry. Then he gave a start at Nan Feng’s words. Poisoned! “The Kindred Moon herbs!” they exclaimed in unison.

San Lang said, “No hurry, daybreak has just arrived.”

However, how could they dawdle when lives are at stake? Although it has not yet been twelve hours since the snakes first attacked, who knows what obstacles may delay them along the way? Xie Lian immediately lifted Ban Yue over his back and made a mad dash for the palace grounds.

When he arrived, he laid Ban Yue down and proceeded to pull up large handfuls of the Kindred Moon herbs. The face in the ground was still there, bloody and mangled amidst the scattered bones.

In the past, Xie Lian would have considered digging a hole to give it a burial. But firstly, he was in a rush to bring back the herbs to the poisoned. And secondly, the man had already been buried in the ground for over 50 years. In all likelihood, he may not want to return to the earth. Strangely though, the body of the merchant was missing. Xie Lian paused, baffled.

From within the palace halls, San Lang brought out a small clay pot. Xie Lian perked up at the sight. “Great, many thanks San Lang!”

Ban Yue was weakened and could not be roused. Xie Lian shrank her and stowed her into the clay pot.

{T/N: Trapping evil spirits or demons in magical containers such as gourds is a regular theme in Chinese stories. Imagine evil genie cartoon Jafar sucked into his lamp. Yea.}

After plucking the herbs, they finally rushed back. It was now four hours since they first encountered the Scorpion-Tailed snakes.

At the place where Fu Yao painted the circle, there were still several people staying obediently within the array. After receiving the medicine from Nan Feng, the elderly man’s condition began to improve. Another dose of the Kindred Moon herb on the wound itself, and he was up and walking after a short rest. Xie Lian did not think it necessary to inform him what had been the Kindred Moon herb’s fertilizer.

{T/N: Quick reminder, the elderly man, Uncle Zheng, is the leader of the caravan band and was the first one bitten by the snakes. Tian Sheng is his nephew.}

After a period when their nerves have begun to settle, they began to fret. “Where’s Tian Sheng? Why have they have not returned yet?”

Xie Lian had been anxious to pick the herbs earlier, and there were no Ban Yue soldiers left in the ancient city anyway, so he had not given any thought to looking out for Tian Sheng and the rest. He was just about to turn back for them when he heard a boy shouting, growing steadily closer and louder.

Xie Lian turned to look. It was Tian Sheng. The youngster was clutching armfuls of the Kindred Moon herbs, and there were two other merchants behind him, panting and puffing for breath.

After a round of questioning, this was what had transpired. After Ban Yue swept the soldiers down into the Sinners’ Pit, she whisked away Tian Sheng and his companions. Tian Sheng and the merchants with him had been terrified witless, but after Ban Yue brought them away, she had pointed out a path for them and sent them off. Having escaped with their lives, they immediately went to gather the Kindred Moon herbs, buried the body of the dead merchant, and desperately hurried back, but were still several steps behind Xie Lian and the rest.

In short order, the caravans were escorted out of the desert, and things finally come to an end.

However, when they were parting ways, Tian Sheng stole over to seek him out, and said mysteriously, “Gēgē, I have something to ask you.”

Xie Lian, “Ask away.”

Tian Sheng, “Are you a god?”

{T/N: In most Chinese religions/folklore, there are many many deities. So unless it’s a title like Martial God or God of XX, I will not be capitalizing the G.}


Xie Lian was surprised and somewhat touched.

There had been a period of time when he had been desperately shouting, I am a god, I am His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, but no one had believed him. This time, he had not even said anything but was asked instead if he was a deity. It really made him feel shocked and moved.

Tian Sheng immediately added, “I saw you using magic! Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.”

Xie Lian privately thought, It’s not like anyone would believe you anyway……

“We owe you our lives,” Tian Sheng continued. “If not for you, I would have been kicked into the pit by that horrible group of ghost soldiers. When I get home, I’ll build a temple and dedicate offerings to you.”

Xie Lian’s face finally cracked into a smile as he watched Tian Sheng pat his chest proudly while outlining the “very very big” temple with grand gestures. “Well then, you have my thanks.”

San Lang was standing near him, chuckling quietly to himself. But Xie Lian did not think he was mocking the child’s overestimation of his own abilities.

Although the child does not know how large of an undertaking building a temple would be, and that this may not actually be feasible in the end, Xie Lian was nonetheless happy with the earnest promise.

After much wheedling and badgering, Xie Lian caved in and hastily came up with the title “God of Scraps” to please the youngster. Then he waved and quickly walked away. Nan Feng cast the Distance Reducing Technique and sent them back to the Pu Qi Shrine.

Open the door, shake out the straw mat, splay down on it like a corpse. Xie Lian did all this seamlessly. San Lang sat himself down next to him, resting his chin on one hand as he gazed at Xie Lian. Xie Lian heaved a sigh. “How long have we been gone?”

San Lang said, “About three to four days.”

Xie Lian heaved another sigh. “Only three to four days. Why is it so tiring then.”

After ascending to Heaven, it wasn’t an exaggeration to say he had been frequently working till he was dog tired. Done sighing, he turned his head up and said, “ Yi, Nan Feng, why haven’t you gone back to report?”

{T/N: yí is an expression of surprise.}

Nan Feng said, “Report what?”

“Aren’t you an official from the Nan Yang Palace Hall?” Xie Lian replied. “Won’t your General be looking for you if you were absent for three to four days?”

“My General is currently not in the Palace Hall. He won’t bother himself with me,” Nan Feng said.

Xie Lian crawled back to his feet. “Okay, you staying here is good too.”

Nan Feng asked warily, “What do you want?”

Xie Lian replied pleasantly, “I’ll cook a meal for you. My treat as thanks.”

Nan Feng’s face immediately twisted. He lifted a hand and pressed two fingers to his temple as if he was receiving a message through the spirit channel. Then he got up and said, “Something came up at the temple. I’ll be leaving first.”

Xie Lian lifted a hand. “Ai, Nan Feng, don’t leave yet. Why did something suddenly crop up? You’ve really worked hard this time……”

Nan Feng roared, “It’s REALLY urgent!” Xie Lian watched as he rushed out the door, then sat back down on his straw mat. “Guess he wasn’t hungry,” he said to San Lang.

Before San Lang could frame a reply, there was a ‘bang’ at the door. Nan Feng had turned back and was standing stiffly at the doorway. “The both of you……”

Xie Lian and San Lang were sitting side by side on the woven straw mat. Tilting his head, Xie Lian asked, “What about the both of us?”

Nan Feng pointed a finger at San Lang, then at Xie Lian. He was silent for a long moment, before finally uttering, “I’ll be back.”

Xie Lian said, “You’re always welcome.”

Nan Feng’s gaze swept towards San Lang again for a moment, then slammed the door shut and left. Xie Lian crossed his arms thoughtfully, and cocked his head at San Lang. “Seems like it’s really something urgent.”

He glanced at the youth again, then smiled. “Since he’s not hungry, how about you?”

San Lang answered with a grin of his own. “I’m hungry.”

Xie Lian beamed and got up again. As he turned around to tidy up the table of offerings, he said, “Alright. What would you like to eat then, Hua Cheng?”

There was silence behind him. Followed by a low chuckle.

“I would still prefer to be called ‘San Lang’.”

Chapter 30 : Poking the Ghost King, Seeking the True Form (I)

However, can I see what you really look like?

Xie Lian, “Blood Rain Seeking Flower?”

Hua Cheng, “Your Royal Highness the Crown Prince.”

Xie Lian turned around with a smile. “It’s the first time I’ve heard you address me this way.”

The youth in red sat on the straw woven mat, one leg casually bent before him. Likewise, he was also smiling. “How does it feel?”

Xie Lian thought for a moment, then admitted frankly, “It feels……. rather different from when others call me that.”

“Hm, how is it different?” Hua Cheng asked.

Xie Lian tilted his head, his eyes narrowed contemplatively as he said, “I’m not too sure, it’s just……”

When others greet him as ‘Your Royal Highness’, it was either perfunctory and detached in nature, such as Ling Wen. Or, like the vast majority, the title ‘Your Royal Highness’ would be squeezed out between smiles which contained more teeth than sincerity. Such as when one called a hag a beauty, their seemingly courteous greetings were deliberate and carried a heavy flavour of mockery and derision.

{T/N: Quick reminder. Ling Wen is one of the Civil goddesses, and the first person to greet Xie Lian during his third ascension.}

But when Hua Cheng called him ‘Your Royal Highness’, there was a deep sense of reverence in it. Therefore, Xie Lian could not help but think that Hua Cheng’s way of addressing him as ‘Your Royal Highness’ sounded markedly different, although he was hard-pressed to put this feeling into words.

“At Mount Yu Jun,” Xie Lian said. “The bridegroom who led me away was you, right?”

Hua Cheng’s lips curled up in a smirk. Xie Lian then realized how ambiguous his words seemed and hastened to correct himself. “I mean, the one who posed as the bridegroom at Mount Yu Jun to lead me away was you right?”

But Hua Cheng said, “I did not pose as a bridegroom.”

Well, he wasn’t exactly wrong. At that time, the youth indeed did not try to deceive Xie Lian by claiming to be the bridegroom. In fact, he didn’t say a single word at all. He only stopped in front of the wedding sedan and stretched out his hand. It was Xie Lian himself who had willingly followed him!

Xie Lian said, “Alright. Why were you at Mount Yu Jun then?”

Hua Cheng said, “There can only be two possible answers to your question: First, I went there expressly to seek out Your Royal Highness; second, I was just passing by and felt bored. Which do you think is more likely?”

Considering the number of days the youth had spent idling by his side, Xie Lian said, “I would not presume to say which is more likely…… but you really do seem to have much free time on your hands.”

His eyes traveled over Hua Cheng, then flitted back up. After a long while, he nodded. “You…… are somewhat different from how the legends portray you.”

Hua Cheng changed his posture but his cheek remained propped on one hand as he gazed at Xie Lian attentively. “Oh? Then how did Your Royal Highness deduce that I am Blood Rain Seeking Flower?”

Xie Lian’s mind conjured the memories of the bloody rain pattering down on the parasol, the silvery chimes of metal on metal, and the icy cold touch of the vambraces. You weren’t exactly taking pains to conceal your identity, he thought.

What he said was, “No matter how we tested you, you were absolutely foolproof. That must mean you have already reached the ‘Devastation’ state. You’re clad entirely in crimson, like maple leaves, like blood. You seemed omniscient and omnipotent, absolutely fearless. With such a bearing, asides from the ‘Blood Rain Seeking Flower’ who could make the Heavenly Officials’ faces fall at the mere mention of his name, I can’t really think of anyone else.”

Hua Cheng laughed. “Should I take your words as flattery?”

Xie Lian thought, Isn’t it already obvious?

Hua Cheng’s smile faded a little. “Your Highness, pretty words aside, aren’t you going to ask about my purpose for approaching you?”

Xie Lian shook his head. “If you do not mean to tell me, it would be no use for me to ask. That, or you may not be telling me the truth.”

But Hua Cheng said, “Not necessarily. Moreover, you can always drive me away.”

Xie Lian replied, “With someone as powerful as yourself, even if I were to drive you away, should you really mean me harm, you could simply change your appearance and approach me again, no?”

The two of them looked at each other and smiled. Suddenly, a rattling sound shattered the brief moment of silence that had fallen in the Pu Qi Shrine. The two of them turned towards the source of the noise, only to see a small, black clay pot rolling around on the ground.

It was the small clay pot in which Ban Yue had been housed. Xie Lian had originally placed it by the straw mat, but now it had somehow toppled over and was rolling towards the door. The wooden door which Hua Cheng made blocked its path, and the clay pot began knocking against it. Worried that it would knock itself to pieces, Xie Lian opened the door. The little clay pot then rolled itself all the way out till it reached the grass.

Xie Lian followed the pot. When the pot reached the grassy turf, it righted itself. Despite being nothing more than a pot, it somehow gave one the impression that it was gazing up at the starry night sky.

Hua Cheng also followed him out of the Pu Qi Shrine. Xie Lian spoke to the pot, “Ban Yue, you’re awake?”

Fortunately, it was already very late when they returned from the desert. Otherwise, there would be people witnessing Xie Lian standing outside in the middle of the night, asking a clay pot if it was feeling alright. No doubt such a peculiar sight would have stirred them to a tizzy.

After a beat, a muffled voice came from the little clay pot. “General Hua.”

Xie Lian settled himself down beside the pot. “Ban Yue, did you come out to look at the stars? How about you come out of the pot first.”

Hua Cheng stood nearby, leaning against a tree. “She just left Ban Yue City, it’s better if she stays inside a little while longer,” he said.

After all, Ban Yue had been staying within the confines of the Ban Yue City for over two hundred years. It may be difficult for her to adapt to the sudden change in surroundings.

“Then it’s best if you stay inside for a bit longer,” Xie Lian agreed. “Rest and recuperate. This place is my sanctum, you don’t have to worry about anything else.”

The pot shook twice in reply. After a moment’s consideration, Xie Lian added, “Ban Yue, none of what happened was actually your fault. Your Scorpion-Tailed snakes were……”

Ban Yue said, “General Hua. I couldn’t move previously, but I could hear everything.”

Xie Lian went still at her words. Then he realized that Pei Su had only sealed her ability to move, but had not sealed her consciousness. “Alright then.”

It’s just as well that she’d heard everything.

The pot asked, “General Hua, what will happen to General Pei Junior?”

Xie Lian tucked his hands into his sleeves, sighing, “I don’t know. But…… one should accept the punishment for one’s crimes.”

The pot was silent for a long while, then it shook twice again. This time, Xie Lian finally figured out that this wobble was meant to convey a nod.

“Actually, General Pei Junior is not as bad as you think,” Ban Yue offered.

“Is that so?”

“En,” Ban Yue said. “He’s helped me before.”

{T/N: En is a sound of agreement or affirmation. If there is a question mark before it, En?, then it’s a sound of inquiry.}

And suddenly, more memories flooded into Xie Lian’s mind.

Ban Yue had been frequently beaten up. To quote the words of some Yong’an children, she “has a face that’s just asking for it”.

Xie Lian only found out about this long after getting to know her. Because no matter how many beatings Ban Yue had suffered, she would never tell anyone. It wasn’t until Xie Lian happened to come across a group of children shoving her face down into the mud that he realized how the bruises on her face came to be.

But after a while, when he asked her about the incident again, she could only remember the boy who had pulled her out of the mud pit and lent her a handkerchief to wipe her face, and that she must wash the handkerchief before returning it to him. The rest had all been forgotten.

She could not remember those who had hit her. But anyone who has helped her would be engraved in her memory for a lifetime.

Ban Yue added, “Ke Mo accused me of being charmed by him, that I was but a tool used by others. But regardless of whether I had been used or not, I had willingly opened the city gates.”

Xie Lian did not know what to say, but he felt a corner of his heart suddenly soften.

He hurriedly patted the pot consolingly and said, “Alright, it’s all in the past now. By the way, Ban Yue. ‘Hua Xie’ was just a name I made up, and I have not been a general for a very long time. You don’t have to keep calling me General Hua.”

Ban Yue asked, “What should I call you then?”

This question posed another problem. If Ban Yue calls him ‘Your Royal Highness the Crown Prince’ with her usual earnest fervour, it would definitely feel more than a little peculiar. Xie Lian is not a stickler for titles, and had only been trying to change the subject. He backtracked, “Never mind, it’s up to you. General Hua is fine too.”

It’s just that, there really is someone with the surname ‘Hua’ here as well, so things may get confusing if she goes about calling ‘General Hua’. Xie Lian’s brows furrowed lightly. ‘Hua Xie’ was a name he made up by taking the first word from ‘ Flower Crown Martial God’ as his surname. Could ‘Hua Cheng’ be a pseudonym as well? For the both of them to pick the same word as their surnames seems a rather strange and quirky coincidence.

{T/N: Huā means Flower, General Hua = General Flower. In Chapter 4, it is stated that XL’s statues of worship were sculpted with lots and lots of flowers because…. he is pretty. So he ended up with the sobriquet “Flower Crown Martial God”. Hua Cheng = Flower City}

He heard Ban Yue say again, “I’m sorry, General Hua.”

Xie Lian reined back his wandering thoughts and said a little glumly, “Ban Yue, why do you keep apologizing to me?” Does his appearance somehow evoke too much pity in people?

Ban Yue said, “I wanted to save the common people.”

Xie Lian: “………………”

Ban Yue, “General Hua, these were your words back then.”

Xie Lian: “? ? ?”

He immediately clutched the pot, flustered. “Wait, wait!”

Ban Yue, “Wait for what?”

Xie Lian snuck a quick peek at Hua Cheng who was still leaning against the tree with his arms crossed, before lowering his voice in a whisper, “Did I really say something like that?”

Such pompous words were certainly something that he had loved to recite back when he was in his teens, but after a couple hundred years it should never have crossed his lips again. Hearing this sentence again out of the blue felt too incredible for him to accept.

But Ban Yue insisted, “General, these were your words.”

Xie Lian protested weakly, “I didn’t……”

Ban Yue continued mercilessly, “Oh yes, you did. Once, you asked me what I wanted to do once I grew up. I said I didn’t know, and you said, How could that be? I asked, What about you? And you said, When I was a kid, my dream was to save the common people!”


So that’s how it was. Xie Lian was horrified. “This! Ban Yue, why would you still remember such nonsense!”

Ban Yue said, “Was it nonsense? But General Hua, I think you meant every word you said.”

Xie Lian looked up at the moon helplessly. “Haha…… is that so. Maybe. I can’t really remember what I said back then.”

Ban Yue added helpfully, “You also said, ‘Always do what you think is right!’, ‘Nothing can stand in your way!’, ‘Even if you fall a hundred times, you must get back up a hundred times!’. And many more.”


Xie Lian didn’t have to turn around to know that Hua Cheng was definitely laughing at him under the tree.

It’s too late for Xie Lian to stopper up the pot now anyway. He thought, ……what utter nonsense…… why did I like saying such things? ……I’m not that kind of person…… am I that kind of person? ?

“But, I don’t know what is right and what is wrong anymore,” Ban Yue said.

Xie Lian went still at her words.

“I dreamed of saving the common people, like what General Hua said. But I ended up destroying the Ban Yue nation.”

Ban Yue sounded bewildered and lost. “And it seemed like no matter what I did…… the outcomes were always terrible. General Hua, I know what I did was wrong, but can you tell me where I went wrong? What must I do before I can accomplish what you said…… to save the common people?”


“I’m sorry Ban Yue,” Xie Lian murmured. “How to save the common people…… I didn’t have the answer to this back then, and I still don’t have the answer now.”

Ban Yue was silent for a moment, then said, “To be honest General Hua, I don’t really know what I’ve been doing these two hundred years. I’m such a failure.”

Xie Lian felt even more depressed. He thought, I’ve been muddling along blindly for eight hundred years, am I not a bigger failure……?

Leaving Ban Yue to calm down and quietly contemplate the stars alone in the pot, Xie Lian and Hua Cheng went back into the Pu Qi Shrine.

After closing the door, Xie Lian suddenly spoke up, “Ban Yue stayed willingly in the Ban Yue pass, not because she had turned into a Wrath. That’s why she was trapped there.”

{T/N: Ghosts are ranked as Fierce, Severe, Wrath, and Devastation. In this context, it infers that Ban Yue was not shackled by her grievances, but her desire for atonement. }

From the start, she could not forget that she was the one who had opened the city gates, and had never tried to justify her actions with excuses such as ‘for the good of the people’. In order to help the soldiers of the Ban Yue nation vent their grievances and move on sooner, she allowed Ke Mo and his soldiers to capture and kill her over and over again.

Xie Lian shook his head. “In fact, if General Pei Junior had really wanted to get rid of those Ban Yue soldiers and avoid discovery by the Upper Court of Heaven, he could have just quietly sent a puppet down to clean up those Ban Yue soldiers. Why did he have to use such a method instead.”

Hua Cheng said, “The powers of a puppet are greatly decreased. You’ve seen that puppet that Pei Su created, Ah Zhao. It wasn’t able to eliminate that many Ban Yue soldiers in one go. Feeding them with living flesh and blood to disperse their resentment is simpler and a great deal quicker.”

Xie Lian asked, “Why was it so important to be quick?”

Hua Cheng replied, “Maybe he wants your little friend Ban Yue to suffer fewer hangings.”

Xie Lian was silent for a moment. “What about those mortals then?”

Hua Cheng’s voice dipped. “To Heavenly Officials, the lives of mortals are insignificant. Pei Su is a typical example of a Heavenly Official from the Upper Court. As long as he is not discovered, snuffing out the lives of a few hundred people is no different from trampling a few hundred ants.”

Xie Lian gazed at him quietly. He recalled how after San Lang had jumped down into the Sinners’ Pit, the Ban Yue soldiers inside had been wiped out in the span of a single breath. He turned around, saying, “A puppet’s powers will be decreased, you say? From what I’ve seen though, this puppet of yours is pretty incredible.”

San Lang quirked a brow at him. “Of course. You’re looking at the real thing.”

Shocked, Xie Lian spun back around. “Huh? This is your true self?”

Hua Cheng deadpanned, “Guaranteed genuine, otherwise returnable.”

If anyone was to blame for what happened next, it was that Hua Cheng’s words and expression seemed to be inviting a potential buyer to verify the authenticity of his goods. And so, before Xie Lian even realized what he was doing, he had already lifted a finger and given Hua Cheng’s cheek a poke.

Then Xie Lian came to himself with a horrified start.

He had only been overly curious about what the skin of a Ghost King would feel like, and his body had not consulted with his brain first before acting. After the poke, he was mortified.

Hua Cheng seemed faintly startled by the poke to his face as well, but he remained calm and his expression quickly smoothed out again. He said nothing, his brows lifted even higher as he looked at Xie Lian expectantly, as if waiting for an explanation, amusement evident in his eyes.

Of course, Xie Lian was not able to come up with a plausible excuse for his behavior. He stared at his own finger for a long moment, then tucked it away out of sight. “……Not bad.”

Hua Cheng finally burst out laughing. Folding his arms over his chest, he tilted his head at Xie Lian. “What’s not bad? Do you mean that this skin is not bad?”

Xie Lian said sincerely, “Yea, it’s pretty good. But……”

Hua Cheng, “But?”

Xie Lian gazed at his face fixedly and hesitated. Finally, he said, “But can I see what you really look like?”

Since Hua Cheng had said “this skin” just now, it shows that even though his presence was genuine, he was wearing a different skin. This appearance of a youngster is not his true form.

This time, Hua Cheng did not answer immediately. He lowered his arms by his sides. It may be Xie Lian’s imagination, but his eyes seemed to grow darker. Xie Lian’s heart tightened.

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