Hearing this, Xie Lian looked up, and he smiled before saying anything. “Thank you. But can I ask what you’re congratulating me for?”
Ling Wen Zhenjun1 stood tall, with her hands folded behind her back. “Congratulations, you have won first place on the chart of ‘Heavenly Official Most Hoped to be Banished Down to the Mortal Realm’ o f this calendar term .
“Well, no matter what, first place is first place,” Xie Lian said. “But since you’re congratulating me, is there anything that’s actually worth being happy about?”
“Yes,” Ling Wen replied. “First place on this chart can receive one hundred merits.”
Xie Lian immediately said, “If there are any similar charts in the future, please absolutely call me up.” “Do you know who the second place is?” Ling Wen asked.
Xie Lian pondered for a moment, then replied, “That’s too hard to guess. After all, in terms of ability, I should be able to take the first three places myself.”
“Pretty much,” Ling Wen said. “There isn’t a second place. You are so far ahead that you’ve left everyone in the dust.”
“That’s too great of an honour,” Xie Lian replied. “Then who was first place in the previous calendar term?”
“There isn’t one,” Lin Wen said. “Because this chart was established as of today2.”
“Huh?” Xie Lian was taken aback. “You don’t mean to say that this was a chart set up just for me?”
Ling Wen replied, “You can think of it as, you just so happened to have made it in time, and just so happened to steal first place.”
Xie Lian grinned with crescent eyes. “Alright. I’ll be happier if I think of it that way.” “Do you know why you got first place?” Ling Wen continued.
“By popular demand?” Xie Lian said.
“Let me explain to you the reason,” Ling Wen said. “Please look at that bell.”
Xie Lian turned his head to gaze toward where she pointed, and what he saw was an extremely beautiful sight. There was a grand palace temple made of white jade, and there were abundant towers, pavilions, and gazebos with heavenly clouds lingering about. Streams flowed and birds danced.
He looked for a good while, then asked, “Did you perhaps point in the wrong direction? There’s no bell anywhere?”
“I didn’t,” Ling Wen said. “It’s right there, don’t you see it?”
Xie Lian looked again seriously, then answered honestly, “I don’t.”
Line Wen replied, “It’s right if you don’t. There used to be a bell there, but when you ascended, it fell off because of the quakes.”
“That clock is older than you, but it has a spirited character and enjoyed a good spectacle. Whenever someone ascends, it would toll a few times to applaud. The day you ascended, the quakes were so strong the bell tolled like mad and couldn’t stop at all. In the end, it made itself fall off the belltower before it finally ceased. And when it fell, it crashed into one of the heavenly officials passing by.”
“Um…then is everything better now?” Xie Lian inquired. “Not yet, it’s still under repairs,” Ling Wen replied.
“I meant that heavenly official who was hurt,” Xie Lian clarified.
“The one it hit was a martial god,” Ling Wen said. “A flip of his hand and the bell was chopped into two
right then and there. Now, please look over at that golden palace. Do you see it?”
Again, Xie Lian looked to where she was pointing, and saw amidst the haze of clouds the bright glass golden roof. “Ah, this time I see it.”
“It’s not right if you see it,” Ling Wen said. “There didn’t use to be anything there.” “...”
“When you ascended, the golden pillars of the golden palaces of a number of heavenly officials collapsed from the quakes, and their glass tiles shattered. There are some that won’t be so easily fixed, so the heavenly officials could only put together some last-minute palaces to make do for the time being.”
“And I’m the one responsible?” “You’re the one responsible.”
“Mm…” Xie Lian asked to confirm, “So, I have offended many heavenly officials the moment I arrived?” “If you can make amends, maybe not,” Ling Wen said.
“How do I make amends?”
“Easy. With eight million, eight hundred and eighty thousand merits.” Xie Lian grinned again.
Ling Wen added, “Of course, I know you don’t have even a tenth of that amount.”
Xie Lian replied earnestly, “How do I say this? Even though I’m very sorry, even if you want just ten thousandth of that amount, I don’t have it.”
The faith of mortal believers was converted into a heavenly official’s spiritual power, and every stick of incense they lit and every offering they gave were thus called “merits”.
Xie Lian turned solemn and asked seriously, “Are you willing to kick me down from here and give me eight million, eight hundred and eighty thousand merits for it?”
“I’m a civil god,” Ling Wen said. “If you’re looking for someone to kick you down under, you’ll need to find a martial god for it. The harder they kick, the more merits they’ll give.”
Xie Lian heaved a long sigh. “Please allow me to think on what to do.”
Ling Wen patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry, there will always be a way when the carriage reaches the mountain.”
“Boats always sink when they reach the pier-head for me, though ,” Xie Lian said.
If this was eight hundred years ago, when the Palace of Xianle was at its peak of prosperity, eight million eight hundred and eighty thousand merits would be nothing; the crown prince could throw it out without batting an eye. But the present wasn’t the same as the past, and all of his temples in the mortal realm had long since been burned to the ground. He had no believers, no incense, and no offerings.
There was no need to say more on the subject. Either way he had nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing!
He crouched on the side of the large main street of the Heavenly Capital by himself feeling distraught for a while, before suddenly remembering—he had ascended for almost three days now, but he still hadn’t entered the communication array of the Upper Court. He forgot to ask what the verbal password was earlier.
The heavenly officials of the Upper Court had gotten together and set up an array that could allow the consciousness to communicate and pass on messages within the array instantaneously. Once ascended, one must enter the array, but the password was required in order for the consciousness to find the designated communication array. The last time Xie Lian had entered the array was eight hundred years ago, and he didn’t remember the password at all. He let his consciousness scatter to search, and saw an array that seemed to be what he was looking for, so he just went in. The moment he entered the array, he was blown away by the whirlwind of yelling pouring from all over.
“Place your bets and no take-backs, let’s wager on how long our royal highness the crown prince can last before going down again!!”
“I bet one year!”
“One year is too long, last time it was only one incense time; it’ll be three days this time, I think. I put my merits down on three days, three days!”
“Don’t, you dimwit! Three days is almost over already, do you even know how to gamble?!”
...Xie Lian silently exited the array.
He got in the wrong one. That definitely wasn’t it.
The heavenly officials of the Upper Court of Heaven were all bigwigs who ruled over a given region, widely known by every household, and were kept occupied by a myriad of state affairs. Since they were deities who ascended respectably, keeping in mind their status, they were generally more discreet and often haughty in their speech and action. He himself had been the only one who went to greet every single heavenly official inside the communication array out of excitement the first time he ascended, incomparably earnest and exceedingly thorough in introducing himself from head to toe.
After he exited that array he went on another random search, and entered into another one randomly. This time when he went in, he relaxed, thinking to himself, “How quiet, it’s probably this one.”
Just then, he heard a voice say softly, “So, Your Highness is back?”
It was a very comfortable voice, the sound soft and gentle, the tone decorous. However, if one was to listen to it closely, one would discover that the voice was quite cool and indifferent, and the sentiment it carried was also cool and distant; causing that soft gentleness to turn into something more malicious in intent.
Xie Lian had originally wanted to enter the array manneredly and lie low quietly, but since the other party had already addressed him, he couldn’t keep pretending to be deaf and mute. Besides, he was still very delighted that there were actually heavenly officials in the Upper Court who would willingly start a conversation with a God of Misfortune like himself.
Thus, he quickly answered, “Yeah! Hello everyone, I’m back again.”
Yet little did he know, after this exchange, every single heavenly official who was currently inside the communication array all perked up.
That heavenly official said languidly, “Your Highness certainly ascended with great force this time, huh.”
Within the Upper Court of heaven, emperors, kings, generals, chancellors were found everywhere, and heroes flowed like the water.
In order to become a deity, one must first achieve greatness. Within the mortal realm, those who had established laurels or ones possessing great talent had always had a greater chance at ascension. Thus, it wasn’t an exaggeration to say that rulers, princes, royalty, generals, none of these were a rarity here. Everyone was a Darling of the Heavens. Everyone was proprietary with each other, so they would address one another as Your Majesty, Your Highness, Lord General, Alliance Chief, Head Chief; all sorts, as long as the address was flattering.
However, the words from this one heavenly official seemed to have something underlying in the tone. Although he said “Your Highness” this, “Your Highness” that, Xie Lian couldn’t sense a bit of respect from him at all; it was more like he was poking with a needle. There were also several heavenly officials inside the communication array who were authentic crown princes, and they were feeling the hairs on their neck rise from such an address, incredibly uncomfortable. Xie Lian could tell that the other party didn’t come with good intentions, but he didn’t want to fight and so chose to run instead.
He smiled. “It’s not too bad.”
However, that heavenly official wouldn’t give him the chance to run, and said impassively, “It’s Your Highness, after all, so not too bad. But my luck doesn’t seem to be as good.”
Suddenly, Xie Lian heard a private message from Ling Wen. She only said one word: “Bell.”
Instantly, Xie Lian understood.
So, this was the martial god who was hit by the bell!
If that was the case, then the other party wasn’t angry without reason. Xie Lian had always been very good at apologizing, so he immediately said, “I’ve heard about the accident with the bell, I’m dreadfully sorry, I do apologize.”
The other party humphed, the meaning unclear.
There were a great number of renowned martial gods in the heavenly realm, and many of them were newly-ascended dignitaries who came after Xie Lian’s time. Just by voice alone Xie Lian couldn’t be sure who this person was, but he couldn’t stay ignorant of his name after apologizing either.
So Xie Lian asked, “Might I ask how I may address my lord?”
The moment he spoke, the other side fell silent. Not only did the other side fall silent, the entire communication array was like it had frozen, and suddenly the air was dead.