Ch.58: On the Martial Deity Avenue; An Awe-Inspiring First Impression
The sword thrusted, penetrating the heart of the ghost, and killed it dead on the ground.
“By the heaven’s blessings, ghosts are slayed and evil is subdued!”
On either sides of the Martial Deity Avenue, cheers erupted like ocean current, coming
waves after waves, one higher after the other. Before the crimson red gates of the
palace, in the courtyard, the two cultivators who played the roles of god and ghost
bowed to the surrounding crowds and stood down after to the side. The martial match
that opened the act heightened the excitement in the city; not only the streets were
elbow-to-elbow crowded, even the roofs were littered with brave climbers, clapping,
hollering, the crowds going wild.
A celebration of this magnitude was truly brimming and bustling. In the history of the
Kingdom of Xianle, if any festival of ShangYuan* was to be described thus, it must be
Upon the towering platform, a row of finely dressed royals and nobles, all wearing
courteous smiles on their faces, overlooked below to the crowd. Within the palace, a
long line of hundreds waited silently. When the bell chimed, Guoshi smoothed his
non-existent moustache and called, “Path-Opening Warriors!”
Crown Prince’s Celestial fairies!”
“The God-Pleasing Martial Warrior!”
No one answered. Guoshi frowned, noticing a complication, and turned his head, “The
God-Pleasing Martial Warrior? Where’s the Crown Prince?”
Still, no one responded. The one who answered to “ghost” earlier hesitated, then
removed the horrifying mask, revealing a clean, pale face.
This young man appeared to be about sixteen or seventeen, his skin and lips were both
light in colour, fresh and neat, with a pair of eyes black like obsidian, shining bright. His
hair was soft and silky, a few loose strands lightly littered on his forehead and cheeks.
He looked quiet and obedient, contrasting with the monstrous mask in his hand.
He replied quietly, “His Highness the Crown Prince has left.”
Guoshi almost fainted.
But for the sake of this grand occasion he couldn’t faint, so he held on, and shouted with
angry exasperation, “Wha-?! He left?! When did His Highness leave?? The ceremonial
parade is about to leave the palace gates!! When the grand stage is revealed and
there’s only a ghost but no god, my old bones won’t be able to swim out of all the spit
that’ll come flying at me! Mu Qing, why didn’t you stop him???”
Mu Qing lowered his head, “When His Highness left he told me to pass on the
message, saying not to worry, and everything can go as planned. He will return
Guoshi was hysterical, “How can I not worry? What do you mean, ‘promptly’? When is
‘promptly’? What if he doesn’t make it??”
Outside the palace gates, some of the people who had been waiting since early
morning were losing patience, and were noisily demanding for the event to start. A
cultivator came rushing forward, “My Lord Guoshi, the queen sent a messenger asking
why the parade hasn’t started? The fortuitous hour* is fast approaching, if we don’t
leave now we’ll miss it!”
Hearing this, Guoshi prayed that a rebel army would suddenly invade and disrupt the
ShangYuan Parade completely.
That this headache would happen right at the most crucial moment!
If this Headache was anyone else, he would’ve roared with rage already, even raising
his sword to kill wouldn’t be strange. But this Headache just so happened to be his pride
and joy, and the very, very, very distinguished, precious son of another. He couldn’t beat
him, he couldn’t yell at him, and he definitely couldn’t kill him. Rather than kill him, he’d
more likely kill himself!
Just then, someone ran across the black palace path, rushing into the palace, shouting,
“Lord Guoshi, why hasn’t the parade started? The time is about to pass, everyone
outside is on edge!”
The one who came was also a young man of sixteen or seventeen, his form upright and
tall, his skin the colour of wheat, his back carried a long black bow and a snow-white
quiver. His lips were pressed tight, his brows knit. Even at such a young age his eyes
were strong and determined. The moment Guoshi saw him, he grabbed him, “Feng Xin!
Where’s His Highness??”
Feng Xin was taken aback, but instantly appeared to have understood something, and
anger filled his eyes, turning his gaze to Mu Qing. As for Mu Qing he had already put his
ghost mask back on without a word, his expression unseen. Feng Xin said gravely,
“There’s no time to explain! Please start the parade immediately, His Highness the
Crown Prince will not disappoint you!”
There was no escape. Bringing out a grand stage without the God-Pleasing Martial
Warrior was death; delaying the procession and missing the fortuitous hour was also
death. Despairingly, Guoshi waved his hand, “Start the music; depart!”
Upon receiving the command, the flutes and strings started to play, and the hundreds of
royal warriors at the front of the procession cried, beginning their march, leading the
massive, impressive parade. They have departed!
The warriors at the front symbolized the thorny paths of the mortal world. Immediately
following were the virgin girls especially chosen, beautiful and elegant, a basket in their
hands, tossing flowers in the air like fairies, paving the path with blossoms and filling it
with fragrance. The musicians rode in carriages of gold. The moment the procession left
the palace gates, the crowds were amazed and astonished, fighting to catch the
flowers. However, no matter how glamourous, how grand, this was only the warm-up
act. The grand float, a glorious stage was about to emerge.
Sixteen white stallions decked in gold pulled the grand stage from the depths of the
palace gates, slowly coming into sight before the eyes of millions. On the stage was a
black clad ghost, a monstrous mask on his face, a nine feet zanbato in his hand before
him, and gravely, he shifted to a fighting stance.
Guoshi’s heart was tense, waiting for a miracle. Yet, no miracles happened. The crowd
broke into chatter. Above on the high platform, the royals and nobles frowned, looking at
each other, all wondering, “What’s going on? Why is the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior
not on stage?”
“Has His Highness the Crown Prince not arrived yet?”
“Where’s brother Lian?”
In the centre of the tall platform sat a dignified, handsome man, and a pale skinned,
amiable and gracious noble woman. They were the king and queen of the Kingdom of
Xianle. Not seeing the one who should be there, the queen appeared worried and gave
the king a look. The king took hold of her hand, using his gaze to comfort, telling her not
to worry, and watch and see what would happen. The crowds below however had no
one to comfort them, and yelled crazedly, the shouting so loud it could almost raise
roofs. The Guoshi wished he had the courage to kill himself. Yet, Mu Qing who was on
stage was quite calm. Even without his opponent he looked at ease, taking care of his
own mission, and CLANG, threw his heavy sabre down, resting it upright before him.
Performing a round of chilling slaughter, the black clad youth impressively ended the
opening act of becoming a ‘ghost’.
By face and by form, Mu Qing was delicate and elegant like a gentle scholar, but an
impossibly heavy nine feet zanbato was still swung like it was feather light in his hands,
as if it was weightless. Another group of cultivators playing ghosts leapt onto the stage
– they were instantly defeated, and chased off the stage. The sword danced skillfully,
calm and collected, and made the performance quite exciting to watch, so some in the
crowds cheered for him. However, the people didn’t come to watch ‘Ghosts Causing
Havoc’, so after that act there were more noise demanding, “Where’s the God-Pleasing
“Where’s His Highness the Crown Prince??”
“We want to see His Highness playing the Great Martial Emperor! Defeat evil!”
Upon the towering platform, a furious voice shouted, “Where’s my cousin? What the
hell!! Who wants to watch this bullshit? Where the fuck is my cousin the Crown
No need to see who it was, obviously that loudest voice belonged to none other than Qi
Rong, the Prince Xiao Jing. Sure enough, many looked up and saw a young man finely
dressed in a light turquoise brocade with a necklace rush to the edge of that platform,
raising his fists angrily. This young man was no more than fifteen or sixteen, his face
pale and his brows black, rather good looking, but his face was twisted, as if he would
jump off the tower at any time to punch someone. However, the tower was too tall, so if
he jumped he’d break his legs if not die. So instead, he grabbed a white jaded teapot
and threw it.
That thrown teapot was aimed directly at the back of the head of the ghost, flying at him
speedily looking like it might knock him out on the spot, but surprisingly, the ghost
shifted his body, raised the zanbato slightly, and caught the teapot on his blade.
The quivering teapot came to a stop at the tip of the blade, prompting another wave of
cheers. Mu Qing then flicked the long sabre and the teapot was hurled into the air, later
caught by someone below the stage. He continued to play the role of the ghost
languidly, swinging the zanbato, slaughtering humans. Qi Rong was enraged and was
going to throw something else but the queen had ordered someone to drag him down,
and so he was dragged down reluctantly. Yet, the faces of the nobles were looking more
and more grim, some becoming restless.
That the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior would disappear right before the Heavenly
Procession of the ShangYuan Festival was no funny matter!
Just then, a roaring cheer like the storm exploded from amongst the people, louder than
the cheers from before. A snow-white silhouette descended from the sky and landed
right before the black clad ghost!
Upon his landing, his heavy white dress fluttered and covered the grand stage in the
shape of a giant flower, a golden mask hiding his face. He held a sword in one hand,
and the other gently flicked the foreboding sword, the resounding ringing pleasing to the
ear. This gesture was serene and confident, as if the ghost meant nothing to him. The
ghost slowly raised his zanbato and pointed it at him, and the white clad martial warrior
unhurriedly rose to his feet.
Qi Rong’s eyes were shining brightly, his face red. He jumped up and down, shouting,
“Cousin Crown Prince! COUSIN CROWN PRINCE HAS COME!!!”
Above and below, all were stunned to silence.
This entrance was like a real descent of a heavenly being, exceedingly audacious!
That fortress tower was at least over ten meters tall, and as the eminent Crown Prince
whose person was worth a thousand gold, he still jumped down from it! In that moment,
thousands had thought a god had truly descended. When they recovered from their
shock, fervor filled their veins; the crowd went hysterical, applauding with intensity. Qi
Rong too was shouting, leading the crowd in mad applause, shouting until his voice was
hoarse, clapping until both his hands were red. The king and the queen shared a look,
smiling, and applauded too. The rest of the nobles eased their brows and sighed a
breath of relief before joining in the cheer. On either sides of the Martial Deity Avenue,
crowds were going wild like crashing waves, hundreds and thousands of men so excited
they pushed against the royal guards, wanting to approach closer and holler.
Upon the grand stage, two forms, one black, one white, faced each other. Each with
their own weapon in hand, God and Ghost would finally face off.
Seeing that everything worked out, Guoshi finally relaxed his shoulders and mounted
the towering platform. After nodding to his fellows in greeting, he found a seat for
himself and sat down. The king chuckled, “Guoshi, how did you come up with such an
exhilarating entrance? How exciting.”
Guoshi wiped sweat from his face and smiled, “It’s indeed exciting. But unfortunately,
this lowly servant didn’t come up with it. I’m afraid it’s His Highness the Crown Prince’s
The queen patted her heart, “That mischievous child. To jump from such a height
without a word of warning! I almost stood up in fright.”
Guoshi couldn’t help but lace his words with pride, “My queen lady can be at ease. The
martial might of His Highness the Crown Prince is extraordinary. Tens of meters is
nothing to him, and even with towers that are many times higher, he can easily mount
and easily jump with his eyes closed.”
The queen appeared pleased and said gently, “Thanks to the teachings of Guoshi.”
Guoshi laughed, “It’s nothing, it’s nothing. His Highness the Crown Prince, darling of the
heavens, is divinely gifted, marvelously talented, and graciously brilliant. It is the fortune
collected for three lifetimes that gave this lowly servant the chance to become his
teacher. I have a premonition that with His Highness the Crown Prince’s presence,
today will go down in history as the most impressive Martial Match of the God-Pleasing
His words of praise were smooth and alluded the heavens. The king smiled faintly and
turned his head back to watch the performance. “I hope that’s the case.”
In the Heavenly Procession of the ShangYuan Festival, the God-Pleasing Martial
Warrior and the Ghost were the two most important roles. Both must be young men
exceedingly skilled in martial arts. Especially the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior; the
presentation and make of his costume were strict, transcendently glamourous; and after
dressing, everything worn weighed to be about forty to fifty pounds. The Martial Warrior
must, under this heavy burden, before the eyes of millions, march around the capital
many times, and perform in the martial match for at least four hours. There must be no
mistakes made throughout, and so the performer must be extraordinarily skilled.
Fortunately, both young men were exceedingly talented. The sabre parried with the
sword, one slashed, another struck; the thrilling match was a sight to behold. The
moves were also calculated to the minutest detail, obviously having practiced and
rehearsed a number of times.
“Who’s the one playing the ghost and parrying with the Crown Prince?” The king asked.
Guoshi cleared his throat, “Your majesty, he’s a young trainee from the Royal Holy
Pavilion. His name is Mu Qing.”
The queen said gently, “I see that child is also rather skilled in fighting, just a bit weaker
than my son. Maybe about the same level as Feng Xin?”
Guoshi didn’t appear to agree to her sentiment. Qi Rong had been laying on the lap of
the queen munching on grapes, and spat out the skins in a rush, “Psh, psh, psh! No
way, no way! Not just a bit weaker, he’s farrrr weaker! Not just anyone can compare to
cousin Crown Prince!”
Hearing this, the queen patted his head, smiling, and the rest of the nobles all laughed,
their bodies swaying back and forth in mirth. They teased, “Little Rong certainly clings to
his cousin! If he doesn’t praise him for a day he’s miserable.”
Down below in the crowd, the cheers and hollers were rising to the heavens: “FIGHT!
FIGHT! KILL HIM!”
“SLAY THE EVIL!”
The roars of excitement was growing stronger. Qi Rong was also adding to the noise,
both his hands around his mouth like a trumpet, shouting and laughing, “COUSIN
CROWN PRINCE, GO! YOU CAN EASILY KNOCK HIM DOWN WITH ONE HAND,
SHOW HIM OFF!”
Suddenly, the ghost on the stage slashed forward. The Martial Warrior repelled the
attack with his sword, but “Hmm?”-ed.
Technically, during the Heavenly Parade, the martial match was a performance for
pleasing the gods, and at most one should only use a seventh of their power, ceasing
after swords touch. However, the strike he received just now, the sword in his hand
almost flew out. Obviously his opponent had used all of his might in that blow.
Xie Lian raised his head slightly and called out, “Mu Qing?”
The young man playing the ghost didn’t say a word, and slashed at him again. Xie Lian
had no time to think, and received one attack after the other, their weapons clanging.
‘Well this is more exciting than fake play.’ Xie Lian thought, and his spirit heightened,
getting more into the fight.
Thus, under the crashing roars of cheers, the weapons clashed and sparks flew. The
more invigourating the fight was on stage, the louder the cheers below. Suddenly, there
was a deafening schwing, white light flashed, and the crowd “Ah”-ed, their breaths held.
That nine feet zanbato of the ghost was snapped out of his hand by the long slender
sword of the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior, and it flew towards a stone pillar of the
towering platform, nailing into it. A few bystanders tried to pull it out, but even when they
pulled with all their strength the zanbato didn’t move an inch.
“What kind of sabre is this? What strength you must need!”
Upon the grand stage, the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior shook his sword, and flicked on
the blade again. Another tinkling sound, and behind the golden mask came soft
“You fought well, but you still lost.” Xie Lian said calmly but cheerfully.
The ghost lost his weapon, half kneeled on the ground, still silent but his fist gripped
tighter. Xie Lian craftily spun his sword, and under the cheers from all around, was
about to lunge his final strike, ‘slaying’ the ghost, when just then, there was screaming
Shocked, Xie Lian lowered his sword and looked up, and saw a blurry shadow falling
rapidly from the city wall.
In that moment, he didn’t have time to think, and in a flash, he tipped his feet and
pushed off the ground, leaping into the air, darting upwards weightlessly.
He surged and flew, his sleeves fluttering open like the wings of a butterfly, then landed
gracefully, light like a feather. Tightly in his hold was a person, and only when he
touched solid ground did Xie Lian sigh a breath of relief, and looked down.
In his arms was a child, head wrapped full of bandages, dirty and unkempt, curled in his
hold, watching him dazedly.
●ShangYuan Festival is also known as the Lantern Festival, marking the 15th and
last day of the Lunar New Year. It’s a day for worshipping and celebrating the
On a separate note, ZhongYuan celebrates the dead, and XiaYuan celebrates
the waters. Yuan [元] means the origins of the universe in Chinese Foundation
Philosophy (Iching), and the Yuan festivals divided the lunar year into three: the
Upper (Shang), the Middle (Zhong), and the Lower (Xia), each celebrating the
divine forces that invigourate the world.
●Fortuitous Hour: the best time to do something based on the daily fortune
calendar that stipulates how lucky each hour is based on the date, month, year,
and the stars.
Ch.59: On the Martial Deity Avenue; An Awe-Inspiring First Impression 2
This child was no older than seven or eight, and quite the gaunt and small creature.
Falling from such a height, his little body was shaking uncontrollably in his arms like a
newborn of an animal. However, from that mess of bandages wrapped around his head
peaked a large eye black in colour, reflecting the shadow of a snow-white figure within,
watching him unblinkingly as if he could no longer see anything else.
Loud gasps were heard from all around, and when Xie Lian raised his head, his heart
sank. In his peripheral vision he saw lying on the ground not far away a golden object.
The golden mask that hid his face had fallen.
Xie Lian had landed in the middle of the Martial Deity Avenue, and the ceremonial
parade was miles behind him, the procession not having made it that far yet. The
sudden commotion broke the steady march of the warriors, the flower tossing celestial
fairies looked panicked, the golden carriages stopped, a number of white stallions
stomped their hooves and neighed in alarm, and the strings missed notes and their
rhythms disrupted. Some kept going, and some stopped. Without being able to
coordinate their march again, the entire situation was going out of control. The crowd on
both sides of the street still haven’t had the chance to react, but the King of Xianle upon
the towering platform stood up immediately, watching his son’s silhouette, his
expression worried and grave.
The moment he stood, how could the rest of the nobles remain seated? So they all rose
to their feet in a frenzy. Guoshi’s bottom had only just warmed his seat but now it’s cold
again. He was rapidly thinking whether if he needed to prostrate on all fours
immediately to beg for forgiveness, and Qi Rong had already leapt onto the railing, his
sleeves rolled up, shouting in rage, “WHAT’S GOING ON NOW? WHAT’S
HAPPENING? WHY DID THE PROCESSION FALL INTO CHAOS? WHAT THE HELL
ARE YOU USELESS TRASH DOING? DID YOU ALL EAT NOTHING BUT PLAIN
RICE, SO DUMB YOU CAN’T EVEN HOLD YOUR HORSES???”
The queen’s face was pale, her brows slightly knitted, and hurriedly sent for another to
drag him back. The crowds were growing agitated and a riot was about to erupt when
just then, Xie Lian rose to his feet.
Usually, the honourable Crown Prince was hidden deep within the palace or training at
the Royal Holy Pavilion, and rarely had the chance to show his face to the people. This
was such a rare occasion that many couldn’t help but be intrigued, their gazes all falling
on him. Seeing his face, they all held their breaths. That young man had long brows and
charming eyes, dignified and handsome, radiating nobility, his aura blindingly bright,
forcing down the eyes of those looking. With the child in one arm, he raised the other
with the sword in hand, and pointed it to the grand stage.
That ghost had been observing the situation from above the stage, and seeing that
gesture, he paused for a moment before leaping off the ground.
The crowd wowed in amazement as the ghost, his form like a streak of black cloud, flew
across mid air to the stone pillar where the sabre was deeply embedded, pulled it out
from the crack, then flipped again, landing in the middle of the street before the martial
Seeing that he instantaneously understood his intentions and came forth to cooperate,
Xie Lian lauded under his breath, “Good Mu Qing!”
Now both the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior and the ghost had descended the stage.
One black one white, sabre and sword clashed once again, heightening the excitement,
electrifying the crowd. Upon the towering platform, the faces of nobles finally relaxed,
The ghost made the act to aim for the child in the warrior’s arms, both hands holding the
sabre, gripping it to the side and rushed towards Xie Lian. The two faked parrying,
moves after moves, strike after strike, and leapt back onto stage anew. While the crowd
was distracted, Mu Qing used the chance to do a somersault on the street, grabbed the
mask, then dashed through the procession crying in a low voice, “Don’t scramble!
Compose yourselves! Pretend nothing’s happened and continue the march! Finish
marching this round and return to the palace!”
All within the procession immediately steadied and returned to their own posts, their
spirits renewed. The moment Mu Qing returned on stage, his attacks became even
more vigorous, clinking and clanking, Xie Lian received more slashes. Just then, the
child in his arms cried out, probably terrified by being stuck between the clashing
weapons. Xie Lian’s left hand held him tighter and whispered, “Don’t be scared!”
Hearing his words, the small child gripped on to the folds of his clothes by the chest.
Even with a child in one arm and the other hand handling the sword, Xie Lian was still
fighting with ease. Parrying for another while, he felt the child in his arms raise his
trembling arms and grabbed hold of his shoulders in a deadly grip, as if he’s hanging on
for dear life. Xie Lian soothed again, “Don’t worry, nothing will hurt you.”
After speaking those words, Xie Lian called in a low voice, “Mu Qing!”
The ghost facing him inconspicuously inclined his head, and Xie Lian struck.
Thus, before the eyes of millions, the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior pierced the heart of
the ghost, slaying it on the spot!
Mu Qing, with his ghost mask on, clutched his ‘wound’, stumbled back a few steps,
struggled for a moment before finally thud falling to the ground, and stopped moving.
Above on the platform Qi Rong laughed out loud, applauding, “DEAD! HE’S DEAD!
COUSIN CROWN PRINCE HAS SLAIN THE GHOST DEAD!”
While all this was happening, the magnificent Heavenly Procession had continued to
march, and soon moved onto the path back to the palace. Because of how well the act
was saved and the unexpected improvised act was exhilarating to watch, not only did
the people not complain, but rather their excitement grew even stronger. Countless
within the crowd were shouting “Your Highness”, hollering “God”, and followed behind
the grand stage, thousands and millions rushing to the palace. A few of the generals
had to send out many more troops of warriors and soldiers to block the overly excited
people. However, in the end they still couldn’t hold them back, and the crowd broke
through, pushing themselves towards the palace gates.
The King of Xianle called from the top of the towering platform, “Guards! Warriors!”
At the same time, the hundreds within the procession all had re-entered the palace, and
the giant crimson gates closed soundly shut after the grand stage, the colourful banners
of the performance now out of sight. The people rushed the gates, knocking and
slapping upon it, their cheers ringing to the heavens.
Inside the tightly closed palace gates, upon the grand stage, the white clad
God-Pleasing Martial Warrior and the black clad ghost both threw their weapons onto
the ground in two clanking sounds, and collapsed heavily on the ground.
Xie Lian was covered in sweat, and ripped open layers and layers of his elegant
costume, and exhaled deeply, “That was close. Too close. I’m exhausted.”
Mu Qing also removed his heavy ghost mask, and let out a long breath silently, but
didn’t complain about being tired.
When he looked over, he saw Xie Lian was still holding onto that young child, and
frowned wordlessly. Feng Xin on the other hand, called out as he followed after the
grand stage in a jog, “Your Highness, what are you doing bringing the child in too?”
That young child was lying over Xie Lian’s chest, his small body frozen and unmoving,
afraid to even breathe loudly. Xie Lian sat up, “What was I to do, throw him back out on
the streets? It’s a mess out there, he’s such a tiny creature he’d get trampled to death.”
He held up the small child and patted his head, asking casually, “How old are you, little
That child didn’t blink, and his lips uttered no sounds. Xie Lian continued his query, his
tone soothing, “How did you come to fall earlier?”
“Your Highness, the child probably doesn’t dare to speak, he’s obviously scared
witless.” Mu Qing said.
Xie Lian patted the head of that young child again, but the unresponsive child made him
lose interest, so he stopped patting. “So silly.” Xie Lian commented. “Feng Xin, go find
someone to take him out through the side doors when you get a chance, see if he’s
injured, his head is wrapped in bandages.”
“Alright.” Feng Xin extended his hand, “Give him here.”
Xie Lian held the young child up and passed him over, but before he could do so, Feng
Xin said, “Your Highness, why haven’t you let go?”
“I did let go?” Xie Lian was puzzled, but when he looked down, he laughed
exasperatedly. Turns out it was the child who was still gripping tightly onto his clothes
refusing to let go.
A few were taken aback and started laughing out loud. While training at the Royal Holy
Pavilion, so many devoutees, men and women alike, tried their hardest to get a glimpse
of Xie Lian, whether it be out of curiosity or devotion. But once they’ve seen him once,
they’d want to see him again, if they could train next to him then even better. They
couldn’t believe that a child at such a young age would also be the same. Guarding
around the grand stage were many young trainees from the Royal Holy Pavilion, and
they all snickered, “Your Highness, this child doesn’t want to leave!”
Xie Lian also laughed, “Is that right? That won’t do. I’ve got my own things to do. Go
home, little kid.”
Hearing this, that child finally loosened his grip slowly, letting go of his clothes, and
Feng Xin picked him up. Even when the person holding him was now Feng Xin, the
child was still staring at Xie Lian with his large, dark eye, looking as if he was
possessed. Many who was witnessing this started muttering silently, noting that intense
stare. Xie Lian himself however, wasn’t even looking at the child anymore, and only
spoke to Feng Xin directly, “Don’t pick him up like you’re picking up trash, you’re scaring
Feng Xin put the child back down on the ground, “Enough joking around. Guoshi is
freaking out. Your Highness better think about how you’re going to face him later.”
Hearing this, everyone stopped laughing.
An hour later, at the Royal Holy Pavilion, on the Martial Deity Summit, inside the Great
Clouds of incense wafted in the air, and the sound of chanting came in waves. Guoshi
and three other Deputy Guoshi sat in a line by the side wall within the great hall, their
faces clouded, and Mu Qing was kneeling before them. Xie Lian was also kneeling, but
before him was no one but the golden statue of the the Great Martial God. Feng Xin
followed his master, and knelt behind him.
Guoshi picked up that exquisitely crafted golden mask, and after a moment he heaved a
heavy sigh, “Your Highness, Your Highness.”
Even when kneeling Xie Lian’s back was straight, his posture perfect and his head
Guoshi looked pained, “Do you know that in the history of Xianle, having held so many
ShangYuan Heavenly Ceremonial Processions, never once did the grand stage only
circle the capital thrice. Thrice!”
Every ritual of the ShangYuan Heavenly Ceremonial Procession, every decoration of
every place, had a meaning behind them. To have the grand stage circle the capital
once symbolized the kingdom’s prayer for the peace and happiness of the people for
one year; thus, however many rounds the grand stage made meant however many
years another such grand ceremony need not take place. Not only signified good
fortune, it also saved money. Having only made three rounds, didn’t that mean the
kingdom would only be protected for three years???
The worst thing on top of that was the golden mask on the face of the God-Pleasing
Martial Warrior had fallen mid-ritual.
Since ancient times, the people of Xianle had believed that the spiritual aura of a person
resided upon the five facial features; the spirit of a person was on their face, and the
best must be offered to the heavens. Thus, in the midst of a ceremony, the Martial
Warrior must wear a golden mask to hide their features, because his face could only be
appreciated by the gods, and the mortals have no right to see it.
Guoshi was both furious and disappointed, “The God-Pleasing Martial Warriors of the
past circled the capital at minimum five times, at most fifteen or sixteen times. You? You
can do fifty with your eyes closed! A hundred even! But you killed yourself dead at three
– why didn’t you just kill me, your master, first??? Now look at you. Our dear Highness
the Crown Prince is going to go down history, dragging me along with you!”
No one dared speak in the great hall. Yet, Xie Lian still looked to be at ease and calmly
responded, “Guoshi, why don’t you look at it this way. If that child had fallen to his death
with no one to catch him, spilling blood on the path of the procession, wouldn’t that be
equally ominous? Wouldn’t the parade still have to come to a stop? At the very least,
the ceremony ended decently, and that’s the best case scenario. Let’s just call what’s
happened an accident.”
For a moment, Guoshi’s words were stuck in his throat, but then blew up, “You child!
With so many royal guards on site, anyone could’ve caught him! Even if the catch is off
and he breaks an arm, he wouldn’t die. You could’ve just marched forward a few steps,
perform a little flashier, and everyone would forget whatever had fallen and move on.”
Xie Lian raised his brows, “Guoshi, you understand as well as I. Under those
circumstances no one else but me could have reacted as fast, and there was no second
person who could’ve caught him without injuries. Let him fall, there’d be one dead.
Catch him, and there’d be two dead.”
His words were confident and self-assured.Guoshis also knew that what he had said
was true, and couldn’t refute. But seeing him kneel before the statue of god, looking like
all was well and nothing was the matter, Guoshi was all angry, all amused, and all
proud. Before his precious, darling disciple, he just couldn’t get angry, and could only
pull at his own hair, and use the pain of his scalp to relieve the worry in his heart. After a
pause, Guoshi spoke again, “Another thing!”
Xie Lian inclined his head, “This disciple is listening.”
“You did well today on stage.” tate Preceptor said. “But no matter how well you
performed, you can’t just suddenly change things up right before the start without a
word of warning. Both majesties were terrified by your act today. Do you know what
would happen if we miss the fortuitous hour?”
Xie Lian knitted his long brows, looking puzzled, “Guoshi, in regards to this, haven’t I
already asked for your permission before today?”
Guoshi was taken aback too, “You’ve asked already? Before today? When?”
Bewildered, Xie Lian turned his head and looked, calling out, “Mu Qing?”
Ch.60: Lost Red Pearl; Inadvertent Eyes Red with Desire
Just then, Feng Xin who was kneeling behind Xie Lian spoke up grimly, “His Highness
did indeed mention it a couple days ago.”
All eyes went to him. Feng Xin continued, “Recently His Highness has been putting a lot
of thought into the Heavenly Procession, and yesterday he suddenly came up with the
extraordinary idea of jumping off the tower to simulate celestial descent without
changing anything else in the programming. At the time, His Highness was in the middle
of rehearsals and couldn’t get away, so he sent Mu Qing to pass on word to Guoshi to
request for the go ahead.”
He raised his head, anger obvious in his eyes, “Mu Qing returned and told His Highness
that Guoshi had been informed, so His Highness performed today under the impression
that he got permission. Who knew Guoshi had not known, and almost ruined the event!”
The cultivators all looked at each other. Guoshi asked, “Who knew of this?”
The other three Deputy Guoshis shook their heads, all denying knowing anything.
Guoshi turned to Mu Qing, his cloudy expression turning into one of anger, “Mu Qing,
you intentionally withheld communication?”
His words and expression showed he already firmly believed Mu Qing to be sabotaging
the affair purposely. Xie Lian glanced at the silent, expressionless youth kneeling on the
side and pondered before speaking up, “Guoshi, I think there must be some kind of
Hearing this, Mu Qing shifted his eyes to stare at him, his eyes going dark. Xie Lian
said, “If he had purposely held back word, once the event’s over and we compared
notes, his deceit would be revealed, and there’d be no way he could escape taking
responsibility. Mu Qing is not a short-sighted imbecile, and wouldn’t have come up with
such a low tactic. Besides, with the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior missing, what
advantages does the ghost opponent have? Please hear him out, Guoshi, and then
draw a conclusion.”
Finishing his speech, Xie Lian inclined his head, “Tell us, Mu Qing. What happened?”
Mu Qing lowered his eyes and said softly, “I did pass word what His Highness bade me
to say yesterday.”
Guoshi frowned, “Won’t we know ourselves what you did or did not say? When did you
“Yesterday, an hour after the evening lesson, when the four Masters were resting at the
SiXiang Pavilion, this disciple spoke from outside the window.” Mu Qing said.
Guoshi turned his head to his three fellows, looking puzzled, “Yesterday after the
evening lessons? What were we doing then?”
The moment the question left his lips he remembered, and his face turned slightly blue
from awkwardness. The other three Deputy Guoshis also coughed nervously, their
response ambiguous, “Not really anything. Just… resting is resting!”
Seeing how Guoshis stammered, everyone understood immediately.
The Royal Holy Pavilion was a place of quiet meditation and training, and there was
very little entertainment, only some small games that could be counted as amusement.
One of them, the most popular one, was playing cards.
Cards could only be played secretly, to be seen by no one. The Guoshis had long been
bored out of their minds residing at the Royal Holy Pavilion, and so they’re heavily
addicted. When they start playing, they would forget everything and everyone, falling
into a state akin to obsession or drunkenness, uncontrollably emotional, and definitely
would not be able to hear anything from the outside. If Mu Qing had said anything at
that same time, what could they possibly hear?
One of the Deputy Guoshis said, “Oh, um… maybe there were too many people, your
voice was too low, and we didn’t hear. Or, um, we didn’t hear clearly.”
Guoshi demanded suspiciously, “Did you actually go to the SiXiang Pavilion yesterday?”
“I absolutely did.” Mu Qing said, and as proof, he relayed the dress, look, and accent of
the guard standing at the gate, and without fault. Guoshi had to believe him, but still he
frowned, “If you had gone to the SiXiang Pavilion, you could’ve just passed on the
message to the trainee outside the door, or enter the chamber and communicate in
detail, why speak outside by the window? You didn’t even confirm whether if we heard?”
Mu Qing responded softly, “It’s not like I didn’t try. This disciple had begged the
shixiong* guarding the door, but for some reason that shixiong had to make things
difficult, and wouldn’t let me into the chamber or pass on word for me. His words were
taunting and he booted me out.”
After a pause he continued, “This disciple had no other choice, so I went around to the
other side of the SiXiang Pavilion, and tried to pass on the message through the
window. After I spoke, I heard one of the Guoshis say “I understand, now leave.” so this
disciple had taken that as consent to His Highness’ plans, and returned.”
The Guoshis pursed their lips and didn’t speak.
At the height of a round of card games, who would pay attention to whatever was said
outside?? If they should hear anything of course they’d respond offhandedly with “I
understand”, but in reality, they probably didn’t even know where the voice came from!
Xie Lian knitted his brows, “That such a thing would happen! Which trainee is this
impudent? To be so disrespectful to one of my messengers, he’s got guts.”
Although Xie Lian was usually kind and gentle when interacting with others at the Royal
Holy Pavilion, and never really put on airs, he was still nonetheless the esteemed son of
the king, the prominent Crown Prince, and even as he knelt before the statue of god, he
had not shown any meekness or timidity. In that moment of sterness, he was strong and
authoritative without fury. Everyone stayed quiet, and the Guoshis wore unreadable
expressions on their faces.
“Why didn’t you report this to me when you returned yesterday?” Xie Lian asked.
Mu Qing turned around while still kneeling, and prostrated, his voice quiet, “Your
Highness, there’s no need to look further into this matter with that shixiong. I didn’t say
anything after returning yesterday simply because I don’t want to make this into a big
deal. And seriously, it’s nothing major. If Your Highness was to defend me openly, then
it’ll hurt the friendliness between everyone.”
Xie Lian disagreed, sounding upset, “What is this friendliness with everyone? The kind
of friendliness you use to abuse others?”
Hearing this, the Guoshis sitting on the side looked even more agitated.
At the end of the day, something like this happened because the Guoshis disliked Mu
Since they were displeased, then the trainee attendants naturally followed their lead,
and truly, Mu Qing himself wasn’t that likeable, so it was often that not only did fellow
trainees inconvenienced him, they’d also make things difficult for him at every turn. Of
course, this high and mighty disciple wasn’t trying to be sarcastic, but he certainly did
make a jab.
Through his words, it was obvious Mu Qing was backing off, but Feng Xin couldn’t listen
to another word, and suddenly interjected, “It really was nothing major, but you had to
go and make it complicated. If you had told the trainee at the door that you went to
deliver a message by his royal highness’ command, would he still be brave enough to
block your way? Also, right before we departed today Guoshi asked you where His
Highness went, why did you answer so vaguely? Couldn’t you have said clearly that His
Highness was on top of the tower waiting for the procession to start?”
Mu Qing immediately argued back, calmly and steadily, “I thought Guoshi had already
known and didn’t expect to be asked that question so I was confused. But right after, I
told Guoshi His Highness had already said not to worry, and that the procession could
start without delay as planned, that His Highness would be back promptly. High
highness might not have been there at the time, but there were many on site who heard
me, so how can you say I did this intentionally? That I was being vague?”
Feng Xin stared at him angrily. But if he thought about it in detail, Mu Qing did indeed
say what he did, only Guoshi was too anxious and didn’t want to make hasty decisions,
so if he must pick at faults, there really wasn’t much to prove anything. Just then, Xie
Lian spoke up again, “Alright, alright. It’s all just an untimely misunderstanding. It’s all
just bad luck, so stop fighting.”
Feng Xin looked extremely displeased, but mindful of his position, he dared not be noisy
in the Great Martial Hall, so he stopped talking. Guoshi didn’t want to pursue this topic
anymore either, because after all, if they must get to the bottom of things, wasn’t he at
fault too for being too engrossed in card games? Thus, he simply waved and sighed,
“Let’s talk more later. We will discuss more on what’s transpired and think of a way to
save the situation. The three of you are dismissed; go remove your costumes and do
whatever else you must.”
Xie Lian curtseyed and rose to his feet. Feng Xin and Mu Qing both properly kowtowed
once before rising, following behind Xie Lian about to leave. Xie Lian had one foot over
the threshold when he heard Guoshi speak up, “Your Highness.”
Xie Lian turned his head. “Both his majesty the king and her ladyship the queen had
asked after you today. If you have time the next few days, go and see them.” Guoshi
Xie Lian smiled, “I understand.”
After leaving the Great Martial Hall, the three of them traversed through a large part of
the summit, and returned to the Xianle Palace Training Hall, built especially for the
Crown Prince. Xie Lian could finally remove his ceremonial garb.
As aforementioned, for the ShangYuan Heavenly Ceremonial Procession, the
ceremonial attire of the God-Pleasing Martial Warrior was exceedingly strict in every
detail, as every accessory and folds had meaning, and cannot ever be disarranged or
mixed up. For example, the outer robe was to be white, symbolizing ‘divine purity’; the
inner garb was to be red, symbolizing ‘canonical tradition’; the golden crown that
fastened hair symbolized ‘royal power’ and ‘wealth’; white plumes hidden by the heart
meant ‘flight to ascension’; loose cordon ribbons along the sleeves meant ‘to carry all
lives’; etc., etc.
It would be easy to imagine that from head to toe, whether to wear or to remove, was no
simple task. However, as the esteemed Crown Prince, naturally he needn’t do anything
himself; he only needed to stand and open his arms wide in that refreshing, fragrant
chamber, and chat with Feng Xin while waiting on the personal attendant Mu Qing to
help remove layers after layers of this God-Pleasing costume.
That outer white robe of the God-Pleasing costume was of high quality, the threads
delicate and exquisite, the fringes sewn with intricate light golden patterns, elegant but
not frivolous. In comparison, the black martial gi of the ghost costume was a difference
of heaven and earth. Mu Qing himself hadn’t removed his black gear yet, his hands full
with the God-Pleasing costume disrobed from Xie Lian, and his fingers twitched,
inconspicuously feeling up the material of that white robe.
Next to him, Xie Lian removed the golden crown, letting his long hair loose, and sat
down on the edge of his sandalwood bed, kicking off his snow-white boots, waiting for
someone to bring him fresh clothes. He waited for a bit but noticed Mu Qing wasn’t
moving, so he inclined his head and asked, “What’s wrong?”
Mu Qing instantly came around and replied, “The costume seemed to be dirty in some
Xie Lian “Ah”-ed and said, “Bring it over and let me see?”
Sure enough, on the snow-white attire were two distinct little black hand prints. Xie Lian
took a look and remarked, “It’s probably done by that little kid who fell from the sky. I
remember he was grabbing on to me and wouldn’t let go. That child’s face was wrapped
all over with bandages, maybe he had tumbled elsewhere or something. Feng Xin, did
you check him out?”
Feng Xin was just wrapping up the sword and zanbato, and replied grimly, “No. I took
him out of the palace, and was about to take a look at his face as you asked, but he
kicked me in the shin! It actually fucking hurt.”
Xie Lian fell over on the bed laughing, pointing at him, “It must be because you’re so
mean. Otherwise how come he didn’t kick me, but kicked you?”
“I wasn’t!” Feng Xin cried, “It was like that damned kid was possessed or something,
and ran away right quick. Or else I would’ve picked him up upside down and shook until
he cried from fright.”
Mu Qing turned the white robe over in his hands, “That kid must be a beggar; he’s too
dirty. Just a simple grab and he could leave black prints like these. Your Highness, the
God-Pleasing costume can’t be dirty, isn’t that also a bad omen?”
Xie Lian stayed in his lying position on the bed, and casually grabbed a book from the
headboard, covering half of his face, “Three rounds around the capital, I’ve already got
a good name going down history with the best record. If it’s dirty, it’s dirty, just wash it.”
After a pause, Mu Qing replied quietly, “I will do my best to be careful when I wash it.”
Xie Lian flipped through the book, and came to the page illustrating the art of the sabre,
and recalled the exhilarating sparring earlier that day on the stage. He smiled, “Mu
Qing, you fought well today on stage.”
Mu Qing’s shoulders tensed.
Xie Lian continued, “Only today did I find out that you’re much more skilled with the
sabre than you are with the sword.”
Mu Qing’s expression relaxed and turned around. There was even a little smile playing
on his lips, “Really?”
“Yea!” Xie Lian answered, “But you might’ve been too hasty. Swinging a sabre is not like
swinging a sword, look here…”
The moment the topic on martial arts started, Xie Lian became highly enthusiastic, even
more possessed than when the Guoshis played cards, and he jumped off the bed
without even putting on shoes, demonstrating his point on the spot using his hand as
the pretend sabre. Mu Qing wore a complicated expression, but after Xie Lian
demonstrated a few moves, he started to watch seriously. Feng Xin on the other hand,
swung the now properly wrapped zanbato, and chased Xie Lian back onto the bed,
shouting, “IF YOU’RE GOING TO SHOW OFF AT LEAST PUT ON YOUR SHOES
BEFORE YOU DO! You’re the Crown Prince! Hair loose and feet bare, what a
Xie Lian was just at the height of his excitement but got chased onto the bed like ducks
to the pen, and was rather bitter. “Alright! Jeez.” He said, and ran through his long hair
with both his hands, ready to tie it up before continuing his lecture to Mu Qing when
suddenly, he frowned, “That’s weird.”
“What is it?” Feng Xin asked.
●Shixiong - Older cultivation brother, like senpai.