The air surrounding this procession was downright odd. At first glance, it seemed like a marriage procession, but upon a closer look, the expressions on those people’s faces were solemn, full of grief, fury, and terror. The only emotion not present was joy. It didn’t look like they were festive at all, yet still they all wore red with flowers and made an ostentatious show. Such a scene truly was exceedingly peculiar. That Tea Master raised the copper teapot in his hand high and tipped it to pour tea. He also saw this scene play out, but he only shook his head before moving on.
Xie Lian watched as that bizarre procession disappeared into the distance and was deep in thought for a moment. Just as he was about to take out the scroll Ling Wen gave him to read it over once more, he suddenly sensed something dazzling flit by.
When he looked up, a silver butterfly flew past his eyes.
That silver butterfly was glittering and translucent, and as it fluttered through the air it left behind a sparkling bright trail in its wake. Xie Lian reached out towards it in spite of himself. This silver butterfly was incredibly intelligent; not only was it unalarmed, it even stopped on the tip of his finger. Its wings shimmered, beautiful and serene, and beneath the sunlight, it felt like the illusion of a dream that’d shatter with just the touch of a finger. A moment later, it flew away.
Xie Lian waved at it as a farewell, and when he turned his head back around, there were two more people sitting at his table.
There were four sides to this table; these two each took a side, one left, one right. They were both young men of eighteen or nineteen years of age. The one on the left side was taller, his brows deep and handsome, and his eyes carried a sort of unbridled wildness. The one on the right was extremely fair, elegant and poised; the only thing was, his expression was a bit overly-distant and cold, making him look as if he was extremely displeased. Actually, neither of them looked pleasant.
Xie Lian blinked. “You two are?”
The one on the left replied, “Nan Feng.” The one on the right said, “Fu Yao.”
“I wasn’t asking for your names…” Xie Lian thought.
Just then, Ling Wen suddenly transmitted a voice message. “Your Highness, there are two junior martial officials from the Middle Court who have volunteered to come assist you. They’ve already descended to go find you, and should be there by now.”
This Middle Court was naturally the opposite of the Upper Court. The heavenly officials of the heavenly realm could be crassly divided into two groups: those who ascended, and those who didn’t. The Upper Court consisted of heavenly officials who ascended on their own abilities, and there were only about a hundred of them in the entire heavenly realm, extremely eminent. As for the ones in the Middle Court, they were brought up as “appointed generals”. Strictly speaking, they should be addressed as “Peer Heavenly Officials”, but when everyone addressed each other, they’d often take out this “Peer” in the name.
Then, if there was an Upper Court and a Middle Court, was there a Lower Court? No.
Actually, there really was one when Xie Lian first ascended. At the time, the division was still “Upper Court” and “Lower Court”. However, later everyone discovered a problem: when one was giving a self- introduction, it really sounded bad to say “I am xxxx, from the Lower Court”. With the word “lower”, it felt like one was lower compared to the others. It must be known that there were definitely geniuses and outstanding figures with impressive spiritual power among them; what they were missing was only that one heavenly calamity before they could become real heavenly officials. Who knew when that day would arrive? Thus, it was proposed that one word be changed, and it sounded so much better to say “I am xxxx, from the Middle Court”...even though they both meant the same thing. In any case, after it was changed, Xie Lian couldn’t get used to it for the longest time.
Xie Lian stared at these two junior martial officials, each with an expression more upset than the other, looking fully unlike they had come “voluntarily”.
He couldn’t help but ask, “Ling Wen, they don’t look like they’re here to help me work, more like they’re here for my good-for-nothing head.”
Unfortunately, what he said couldn’t be transmitted, and he couldn’t hear Ling Wen’s voice by his ears anymore either. He figured it was because he’d been away from the Heavenly Capital for too far and too long, and his spiritual powers had been depleted.
Without any choice, Xie Lian first flashed a smile at these two junior martial officials, then said, “Nan Feng and Fu Yao, was it? Let me first thank you both for volunteering to come help.”
The two only nodded, giving quite the attitude; so it seemed they must’ve come from the retainment of distinguished martial gods. Xie Lian got the tea sommelier to bring two more cups, then he raised his own teacup, and scraped the tea leaves aside.
He asked casually, “From which Highness did you guys come?” “The Palace of Nan Yang,” Nan Feng replied.
“The Palace of Xuan Zhen,” Fu Yao answered. “...”
Well, this was certainly horrifying.
Xie Lian gulped down his mouthful of tea and replied, “Did your generals tell you guys to come?” The two answered in unison, “My general didn’t know I was coming.”
Xie Lian pondered for a moment, and asked again, “Then, do you guys know who I am?”
If these two junior martial officials had come after they were deceived by Ling Wen and helped him, then when they went back they would get scolded by their own generals. It wouldn’t be worth it.
“You’re the Royal Highness the Crown Prince,” Nan Feng said.
“You’re the justice of the mortal realm, the centre of the world,” Fu Yao said.
Xie Lian choked for a moment, then asked Nan Feng, uncertain, “Did he just roll his eyes?” “Yes,” Nan Feng replied. “Make him scram.”
It wasn’t any secret that Nan Yang and Xuan Zhen didn’t get along. When Xie Lian first heard of this, he wasn’t surprised in the least, because Feng Xin and Mu Qing didn’t share any great friendship in the past. The only thing was that, back then, they were subordinates; so when the crown prince said “don’t fight, you have to be good friends”, then everyone held back and didn’t flip out. When they were really upset they’d stab each other with words at most, but with how they were now, there wasn’t any more need to be all fake.
Even the two heavenly officials’ common believers in the southeast and southwest looked at each other with contempt; throughout the years, the Palace of Nan Yang and the Palace of Xuan Zhen had always seen each other as enemies. The two before him now were a classic example.
Fu Yao sneered. “Ling Wen Zhenjun said that all willing volunteers are welcome, so on what basis are you telling me to scram?”
The word “willing”, said using that expression of his, really wasn’t persuasive. Xie Lian said, “Let me just confirm. You two really came as willing volunteers? If not, then please don’t force yourselves.”
The two answered in unison, “I’m willing.”
Looking at those two grim and dispirited faces, Xie Lian thought inwardly, “You guys actually meant ‘I want to kill myself’, right?”
“Well, in any case,” Xie Lian continued. “Let’s talk business first. I’m sure you both know what we’re doing here in the north, right? So, I’m not gonna go over it from the top…”
“Nope,” the two said in unison.
“...” Without any choice, Xie Lian could only take out the scroll. “Then I guess I’ll start from the very beginning for you two.”
It was said that, many years ago, there was a couple at the foot of Mount Yujun.
This couple were deeply in love. That groom waited for the marriage procession to arrive, but he waited for a long time and still there was no sight of the bride. Anxious, the groom went to the bride’s house, but his father- and mother-in-law told him the bride had long since set out. Both families reported this to the authorities, and they searched all over to no avail. If she was eaten by the beasts of the mountain, then at the very least there’d be a leftover arm or leg; how could she just vanish from mid-air? Thus, it couldn’t be helped that there were those who suspected that the bride wasn’t willing to marry, so she colluded with the marriage procession and ran off. Yet who knew that many years later, when another couple was to marry, the same nightmare replayed.
Once again, the bride was gone. However, this time there was something left behind. On a small road, the search party found a foot that hadn’t yet been fully eaten.