The master of forgone days, fallen so low as to be the laughingstock of the three realms with neither offerings, temples, nor believers, while the two servants under him had both passed a heavenly calamity and became great martial gods themselves who ruled over their own regions.
With such a situation, it was impossible for anyone not to think too much on it. If Xie Lian had to choose between Feng Xin and Mu Qing and say who made him feel the more awkward, he would answer “they’re both fine!”. But if bystanders had to choose whether they more wanted to see Xie Lian an d Feng Xin brawl or Xie Lian and Mu Qing, then that would depend on the individual’s taste. After all, all three had sufficient reasons to beat each other up, so it would be a hard pick.
Which was why everyone was severely disappointed when Feng Xin hadn’t responded for the longest time, not answering a single word, then went invisible directly.
And so, Xie Lian concluded the scene on his own. He said, “I didn’t think things would get this out of hand. It wasn’t intentional, I do apologize to everyone for having caused trouble.”
Mu Qing replied sarcastically, “Oh, then what a coincidence.”
Coincidence. Xie Lian also thought this was such a coincidence. How did he so coincidentally hit Mu Qing and wreck Feng Xin’s palace? By any bystander’s perspective, this was practically an intentional revenge. But the truth was thus: he was just the type that could pick up the one poisoned cup in a thousand cups of wine.
But, it wasn’t like one could do anything about what others thought. So, Xie Lian could only reply, “I will do my utmost in compensating everyone’s golden palaces and the other damage, and pray you’ll all give me a little time.”
Even thinking with the tail of a whisk, it was obvious Mu Qing must’ve wanted to keep making snide remarks. But his golden palace didn’t suffer any damage after all, and the bell that fell on him was also chopped into two; if he continued to be so overbearing it’d be unseemly for someone of his status, thus, he also fell silent and went invisible. When Xie Lian saw that the awful messes themselves had already gone, he quickly fled too.
He was still contemplating deeply and seriously on where he could go to get these eight million, eight hundred and eighty thousand merits. Then the next day, Ling Wen requested for him at the Palace of Ling Wen.
Ling Wen was a heavenly official who managed the affairs of celestial personnel, and controlled the smooth-sailing and rapid career rise of humans. The entire palace was stacked full of official documents and scrolls from the ground to the ceiling; quite a shocking sight, and it could make one’s feet tremble. On the way over, every heavenly official who emerged from the Palace of Ling Wen was hauling piles of documents that were taller than the average person, their complexions ghastly pale, looking either like they were breaking down or numb.
After Xie Lian entered the great hall, Ling Wen turned around and got straight to the point.
“Your Highness, the emperor has a matter to request of you, will you give him a hand in assistance?”
There were plenty of “Zhenjun”s and “Yuanjun”s in the heavenly realm, but there was only one who could be addressed as the emperor. If this lord wanted to do anything, he needn’t to have asked anyone.
Thus, Xie Lian was a little taken aback before he replied, “What is it?”
Ling Wen handed him a scroll. “Recently, there have been a large number of grand believers from the north praying frequently, so things must not be peaceful there.”
What was called a “grand believer” usually referred to three types of people: the first type was the rich, those who paid for incense and religious services, and built temples for the gods; the second type was missionaries, who could promote the religion and give sermons; the third type was believers who possessed absolute faith in both heart and body.
Among the three, the first type dominated; the richer someone was, the more they feared and respected gods and ghosts, and there were as many rich people as there were fish in the sea. The third type was the least common, because if someone could genuinely reach that level, then their spiritual state must be extremely high, and they wouldn’t be far from ascension themselves.
The one spoken of here was, obviously, the first type.
“The emperor cannot attend to the north right now,” Ling Wen explained. “If you’re willing to make a trip
over on his behalf, then in the future, regardless of the amount of offerings these grand believers give as a gesture of redeeming their vows, everything will be counted under your altar. What do you think?”
Xie Lian received the scroll with both hands and said, “Thank you.”
How could Xie Lian not tell that this was clearly Jun Wu helping him? He had only made it sound like he was asking if Xie Lian was willing to help him. At the moment he couldn’t find any phrase to express how he felt, besides those two words.
Ling Wen replied, “I’m only responsible for getting things done. If you want to say thanks, then wait ‘til the emperor returns and go thank him directly yourself. By the way, do you need me to lend you any spiritual devices?”
“No,” Xie Lian said. “Even if you gave me a spiritual device, I don’t have any spiritual power once I go down, so I can’t use it anyway.”
Having been banished twice, Xie Lian had lost all of his spiritual powers. Things were fine in the heavenly realm; the heavenly realm was the place where all the divine palaces stood, and spiritual qi was abundant, endless, and right at his fingertips for his own use. However, once back in the mortal realm, he was stunted. If he wanted to have a spiritual battle with anyone, he’d have to borrow said power from someone to make do; quite the inconvenience.
Ling Wen pondered for a moment. “Then it’s best if we call a few martial officials over to give you a hand.”
The martial gods that were currently in office either didn’t know him, or loathed him. Xie Lian knew that, at least. “Forget about that, too. No one will come.”
Ling Wen had her own considerations, however, and said, “I’ll give it a try.”
It wouldn’t matter whether she tried or not, but Xie Lian neither agreed nor protested and let her go off to try on her own. Thus, Ling Wen entered the communication array and clearly and loudly asked:
“Everyone, the emperor has an urgent matter in the north and is in desperate need of capable hands. Is there any martial highness who can assign two martial officials over from your palaces?”
Just as the words were spoken, Mu Qing’s voice popped up lightly. “I hear the emperor isn’t in the north at the moment, so this is probably a call for assistance from His Highness the Crown Prince, am I right?”
Xie Lian thought to himself, “Are you just guarding inside the communication array every day…”
Ling Wen thought the exact same thing, and dearly wanted to slap Mu Qing out of the array for obstructing her work, but still she smiled outwardly.
“Xuan Zhen, how come I keep seeing you inside the array these days? Seems like you’ve got free time on your hands lately? Congratulations.”
Mu Qing replied coolly, “My hand is injured, I’m currently nursing the injury.”
Every heavenly official thought to themselves, “That hand of yours can chop the mountains and the seas without breaking a sweat, what can splitting a bell do to you?”
At first, Ling Wen had wanted to wait until she had deceived two people into volunteering before saying anything. Yet not only did Mu Qing figure it out so easily, he had to say it out loud, too. Now for sure there wouldn’t be anyone available. As expected, not a single soul responded, but Xie Lian didn’t think anything of it.
He said, “I told you no one would come.”
“If Xuan Zhen didn’t say anything, I would’ve succeeded,” Ling Wen said.
Xie Lian chuckled. “You worded it like a pipa player with half her face covered, and within the fog the flower looks three times more beautiful. Other people thought it was to do work for the Emperor, so of course they would’ve come. But if they came and discovered they’d be working with me, there would probably be a riot, and how can we cooperate under those conditions? Either way, I’m used to being alone; it’s not like I lost any limbs during all these years, so we’ll leave it as it is. Thanks for all the trouble, I’ll be off now.”
Ling Wen was out of ideas too, so she cupped her hands in salute. “Alright. Wishing everything goes smoothly for Your Highness down below, may heaven officials give their blessings.”
“No paths are bound!” Xie Lian replied, waved his hand, and left in a dashing manner.
Three days later, the mortal realm, in the north.
There was a teashop by the side of a major street. Its storefront wasn’t big and the shopkeepers were simple, but what was good about it was the scenery. There were mountains and waters, people and the city. It had it all, but not much; not much, but just right. If one was to have a chance meeting here in this landscape, it would definitely become a beautiful memory.
The Tea Master inside the shop was extremely idle, and when there weren’t any customers, he’d bring a stool out to sit by the entrance to watch the mountains and the waters, the people and the city, quite cheery as he watched on. Today, he saw a white-clad cultivator who had come from the road in the distance; travel-worn, like he had walked for a long time.
When the man came close, he brushed past the small shop at first, but suddenly, he halted. Then, very slowly, he backed up. Lifting the tip of his bamboo hat, he looked up, glanced at the shop sign, and smiled.
“‘Small Shop of Chance Encounter’, what an interesting name.”
While this man appeared somewhat tired, his expression was a cheerful one, so much so that the one watching him couldn’t help but lift the corners of his lips too.
The man then asked, “Excuse me, is Mount Yujun nearby here?” The Tea Master pointed in a direction for him. “It’s around here.”
That man let out a breath, and managed not to let out his entire soul while he was at it. He thought to himself: “I’ve finally made it.”
This was indeed Xie Lian.
When he left the Heavenly Capital that day, he had originally set the desired landing location in the mortal realm, and it was somewhere nearby Mount Yujun. Yet who knew that when he left in such a dashing manner, and jumped down dashingly, his sleeve was caught by a dashing cloud. Yes, it was caught by a cloud. He didn’t know how his sleeve got caught, but either way he tumbled across the million-mile- high sky, and by the time he tumbled down he no longer knew where he was. After walking on foot for three days, he finally made it to the originally-intended landing point.
Xie Lian entered the shop and picked a table next to the window, ordering tea and snacks. After he finally settled, there was suddenly the sound of gongs being drummed, and the sound of weeping, outside.
He gazed towards the street and saw a group of men and women, both young and old, escorting a bright- red marriage sedan as they passed by.