HEAVEN OFFICIAL'S BLESSING by Mò Xiāng Tóngxiù
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MTL edited by Plain Heyoka
I DO NOT OWN the copyrights to Tiān Guān Cì Fú. This fan translation is strictly NOT FOR PROFIT.
CHAPTER 30: Poking the Ghost King, the Crown Prince Seeks His True Face
"CRIMSON Rain Sought Flower?" Xie Lian asked.
"Your Highness the Crown Prince," responded Hua Cheng.
Xie Lian turned around and said with a smile, "This is the first time I've heard you call me that."
The red-robed teenager sat on the mat, propped up one leg, and likewise smiled. "How does it feel?"
Xie Lian thought about it for a moment and said frankly, "It seems that... doesn't feel quite the same as when others call me that."
Hua Cheng said, "Mm, what's the difference?"
Xie Lian tilted his head, and narrowed his eyes slightly. "It's hard for me to say, it's just..."
Others call him "Your Highness" either without emotion or as a matter of business, such as Ling Wen. And most of the time, others call him "Your Highness" with a sense of contempt, just like calling a very ugly person beautiful. It was deliberate, with a touch of sarcasm.
However, when Hua Cheng called him "Your Highness", these two words were cherished to the utmost. Therefore, although he couldn't describe it, Xie Lian felt that when Hua Cheng called him "Your Highness", it was different from when others called him "Your Highness".
"At Mount Yujun, the groom who took me away was you, wasn't it?" Xie Lian asked.
The smile on Hua Cheng's lips deepened. Only then did Xie Lian realize that there seemed to be an ambiguity in this question and hastily rephrased it, "I mean, the one who took me away at Mount Yujun in the guise of a groom was you, wasn't it?"
Instead, Hua Cheng said, "I wasn't disguising myself as a groom."
Well, if that was the way of saying it, that was true. At that time, the young man didn't lie to him about being the groom, he didn't say a word at all. He just stopped at the door of the sedan chair and held out his hand. It was Xie Lian who went with him!
"Alright," Xie Lian said. "Then, why did you show up at that time at Mount Yujun?"
"There are only two answers to this question," Hua Cheng replied. "First, I came specifically for His Highness; second, I was passing by and had time to spare. Which do you think is more credible?"
After calculating the number of days Hua Cheng had spent with him, Xie Lian said, "Which one is more credible I dare not say... but you really seem to have a lot of time on your hands."
His entire person and gaze circled around Hua Cheng, back and forth, and after a long time, he nodded. "You're... quite different from what the rumors say."
Hua Cheng changed his posture, but still with his hand propping his cheek, gazing at him. "Oh? Then how did His Highness learn that I was the Crimson Rain Sought Flower?"
Xie Lian was filled with thoughts of the rain of blood pattering down on the umbrella, that tinkling silver chains, that cold silver vambraces, and thought to himself, 'You weren't very serious about hiding yourself.' He said, "No matter how I tested you, you're impeccable, so you must be a Supreme. You're dressed in red like maple and blood, omniscient, omnipotent, and are dauntless. With such an aura, other than the Crimson Rain Sought Flower who makes the gods and goddesses of Heaven turn pale and shudder in fear at the mere mention of his name, I can't seem to think of any other candidate."
Hua Cheng smiled. "Then, should I take that as a compliment?"
'Can't you tell that it was?' thought Xie Lian.
Hua Cheng's smile faded and he added, "Having said all this, why doesn't His Highness ask me what purpose I have in approaching you?"
"If you didn't want to tell me, you wouldn't have told me if I had asked, or what you told me wouldn't have been the truth," replied Xie Lian.
But Hua Cheng said, "That's not necessarily true. Besides, then you can kick me out."
"You're so powerful," Xie Lian said. "Even if I kick you out now, if you really wanted to do something bad, wouldn't you just come back with a new skin?"
The two were looking at each other and smiling when the brief silence in Pu Qi Shrine was suddenly broken by the sound of a rattling. The two looked in the direction of the sound, and there was no one there, only a small black clay pot rolling on the floor.
That was the same small clay pot in which Banyue had been kept in. It had originally been placed on the edge of the mat casually by Xie Lian, but somehow it fell over on its own and rolled to the door, where it was stopped by the wooden door made by Hua Cheng, and knocked against it repeatedly. Fearing that it would just smash itself to pieces, Xie Lian went up and opened the door. The little clay pot then rolled all the way to the grass outside.
As Xie Lian followed it, the little clay pot rolled onto a patch of grass and stood upright. It was obviously just a clay pot, but it gave the illusion that it was looking up at the stars.
Hua Cheng also came out from within the Pu Qi Shrine, and Xie Lian said to the clay pot, "Banyue, are you awake?"
Fortunately, when they returned from the Gobi, it was already late into the night. Otherwise people would have probably made a fuss had they seen Xie Lian standing outside in the dead of night, asking "what's up?" to a clay pot.
After a long while, a muffled voice came from that small clay pot, "General Hua."
Xie Lian sat down next to it. "Banyue, you came out to see the stars? Do you want to come out of there to see?"
Hua Cheng stood aside, leaning against a tree. "She has just left Banyue City, so it's better for her to stay inside for a while longer," he said.
After all, Banyue had stayed in the Kingdom of Banyue for over two hundred years prior, so it might be difficult for her to adapt to a sudden change of place. "Then you'd better stay inside there for a while longer to recuperate," Xie Lian said. "This is where I cultivate, so you don't need to worry about anything else."
The clay pot shook twice, not sure what it was trying to express. After a moment of consideration, Xie Lian said, "Banyue, in fact, this time it's not even anything to do with you. Your scorpion-tailed snakes were..."
"General Hua, I couldn't move at that time, but I heard it all," said Banyue.
At that, Xie Lian froze. Only then did he realize that at that time, Pei Su only blocked Banyue's ability to move, not her consciousness. "That's fine."
If she heard it all, fine.
"General Hua, what will happen to General Pei Junior?" the clay pot asked.
Xie Lian had his hands tucked in his sleeves. "I don't know. But... if you've done something wrong, you have to be punished."
After a period of silence, the clay pot shook twice more. Finally, it became clear to Xie Lian this time that the shaking was actually a nod.
"Actually, General Pei Junior isn't that bad of a person," Banyue said.
"Is that so?"
"Mm," Banyue said. "He helped me once."
Somehow, Xie Lian's mind suddenly remembered more.
Banyue had often been beaten up, and in the words of the other Yong'an children, she "had a face that deserved to be beaten up".
It was only after he had known her for a long time that Xie Lian realized this. No matter how many beatings Banyue received, she would never tell anyone about them. It wasn't until one day when Xie Lian saw a group of children pushing her face into the mud that he realized where those bruises on her face had come from.
But when she was asked again some time later, all she remembered was that she had to wash and return the handkerchief that the boy who pulled her out of the mud puddle had lent her to wipe her face, and nothing else.
She didn't remember any of the people who had beaten her, but the ones who had saved her once, she remembered for the rest of her life.
Banyue added, "Although Ke-Mo always scolded me for being under his spell and that I was simply being used, whether he used me or not, I knew that it was my own will to open the city gates."
Xie Lian didn't know what to say, except that a part of his heart suddenly softened.
After a while, he patted the clay pot and said, "Alright, it's over. By the way, Banyue, Hua Xie is a fake name, and I have long since stopped being a general, so you can stop calling me General Hua."
"What should I call you then?" Banyue asked.
Well, that was also a problem. If Banyue were to call him Your Highness in all seriousness, it would feel a bit strange. Xie Lian didn't care about his address either, and hastened to change the subject. "Well, you can go ahead and call me General Hua whatever you want." Only, there was a real one here with the surname Hua, so it might be a bit confusing if Banyue kept on calling him General Hua. But on second thought, it occurred to him: Of course, "Hua Xie" was a fake name, taking the first word of the title "Flower-Crowned Martial God" as his surname. But wasn't "Hua Cheng" a fake name, too? It was also weirdly interesting that they happened to pick the same surname for their fake names.
[「花 」Huā — flower; blossoms]
At that moment, he heard Banyue say again, "I'm sorry, General Hua."
Xie Lian turned back around and said a bit glumly, "Banyue, why do you keep apologizing to me?" Did he really look that piteous in the eyes of others at first glance?
"I... want to save the common people," Banyue said.
Xie Lian, "..."
"General Hua, that's what you said at that time," Banyue said.
Xie Lian, "???"
He hurriedly pressed the clay pot down. "Wait, wait!"
"Wait for what?" Banyue asked.
Xie Lian glanced at Hua Cheng, who was standing with his arms crossed under the nearby tree, and whispered, "Did I really say such a thing at that time?"
This phrase, which he had been so fond of saying when he was a teenager, shouldn't have been mentioned at all in the following hundreds of years. When he first heard them again, Xie Lian felt that the shock was a bit too much to accept. Banyue, however, said, "General, those were your words."
Still trying to struggle, Xie Lian said, "No, I don't think so..."
"Oh no, you did say them," said Banyue earnestly and coldly. "Once, you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said, 'I don't know'. You said, 'How come you don't know what you want to be when you grow up?' I asked, 'What about you, General Hua?' You then said, 'My dream as a child was to save the common people!'"
So that was it. "Um! Banyue, why would you remember such an offhand remark so clearly!" Xie Lian said.
"Was that an offhand remark?" Banyue said. "But, General Hua, I had thought you said those words very earnestly."
Xie Lian was helpless. He looked up at the sky and said, "Haha... really? Maybe. What else did I say? I don't even remember."
Banyue said, "You also said, 'Do what you think is right! Nothing can hold you back! Even if you fall down a hundred times into the muck, you have to be strong and get up!'. Lots of them. Something like that."
He didn't need to look back to know that it was definitely Hua Cheng under the tree who heard all that and laughed out loud.
Xie Lian couldn't even cover the clay pot anymore and thought to himself, '...What a load of crap... Why do I always say things like that? ...That's not who I am... Is that who I am?'
"But I don't know what's right anymore," Banyue said.
At those words, Xie Lian was stunned.
"I was trying to save the common people like General Hua said," Banyue said. "But in the end, I destroyed the Kingdom of Banyue."
"And it seemed like no matter what I did... it all turned out badly," she said confusedly. "General Hua, I know I didn't do a good job, but can you tell me exactly what I did wrong? What exactly am I supposed to do to actually do as you've said... to save the common people?"
"I'm sorry, Banyue," Xie Lian said. "How to save the common people... I didn't have the answer to this question back then, and even now I still don't have the answer."
After a moment of silence, Banyue said, "General Hua, to be honest, I feel that I simply don't know what I've been doing for the past two hundred years. What a failure."
Hearing her say that, Xie Lian became even more depressed, and thought, 'Then wouldn't that make me even more of a failure? I've been muddling along for eight hundred years..."
Xie Lian and Hua Cheng returned inside the Pu Qi Shrine after leaving Banyue alone in the clay pot to gaze at the stars to calm down.
After closing the door, Xie Lian suddenly said, "Banyue stayed at Banyue Pass of her own free will, not because she became a Savage and was stuck there."
She always remembered that it was she who opened the gates, and never gave the excuse that she did it for the greater good of the people. In order to let the soldiers of the Kingdom of Banyue vent their resentment and depart this world sooner, she allowed Ke-Mo to lead them to capture and kill her over and over again.
Xie Lian shook his head. "In fact, if General Pei Junior really wanted to get rid of those Banyue soldiers and didn't want to be discovered by the Upper Court, he could have secretly sent his incarnation down to the mortal realm to purge them. Why did he have to use such a method?"
"The power of an incarnation would be diminished," Hua Cheng said. "You've seen that incarnation of Pei Su, Ah Zhao. It couldn't take care of so many Banyue soldiers at once. So, it was easier and faster to dissipate their resentment by feeding them the living."
"Why did he have to do it so fast?" asked Xie Lian.
"Perhaps it was to get your little friend, Banyue, hung fewer times less painfully," replied Hua Cheng.
After a moment of silence, Xie Lian said, "What about those mortals?"
"To heavenly officials, the lives of mortals are of course no better than those of ants," Hua Cheng said indifferently. "Pei Su is a typical example of a superior heavenly official. As long as he wasn't discovered, killing a few hundred people was no different to him than crushing a few hundred bugs."
Xie Lian glanced at him. Remembering the time when San Lang had killed all the Banyue soldiers at the bottom of the pit in a split second after leaping down into the Sinners' Pit, he turned around and said, "The power of an incarnation would be diminished? I see your incarnation is quite powerful."
Hua Cheng, however, raised an eyebrow at him. "Of course. But I'm the real one."
Xie Lian turned his head and was slightly taken aback. "Huh? This is your true form?"
"Authentic through and through," replied Hua Cheng.
Upon uttering those words, blame it on the expression on his face which seemed to be saying, "Please, test it out for yourself." And so, before Xie Lian could even realize what he was doing, he had already raised a finger and poked Hua Cheng on the cheek.
After the poke, Xie Lian then jolted to his senses and cried out loudly in his heart that he was in trouble.
He was merely curious about what the skin of the Supreme Ghost King would feel like. But he didn't expect his body to react faster than his mind and poked him! How extremely outrageous!
Suddenly being poked in the face, Hua Cheng seemed to be slightly taken aback as well, but he was always calm and his expression recovered quickly. Rather, he didn't say anything, but raised one eyebrow even higher, as if waiting for Xie Lian's explanation, while the smirk in his gaze was unmistakable. Xie Lian, of course, couldn't come up with any explanation. He looked at the finger and hid it unobtrusively, saying, "...Not bad."
Hua Cheng finally burst out laughing, crossed his arms and asked with his head tilted, "What's not bad? You think that this skin of mine is not bad?"
"Yeah, it's very nice," answered Xie Lian heartily. "But..."
"But what?" Hua Cheng asked.
Xie Lian stared at his face for a while, looking at it attentively. Finally, he said, "But, can I see what you really look like?"
Since he had just said "this skin", it meant that although this body was the original, the skin wasn't the original. This teenager's appearance wasn't his true face.
This time, Hua Cheng didn't answer immediately and lowered his arm. Perhaps it was only Xie Lian's imagination, but he felt that Hua Cheng's gaze had darkened a little, and his heart couldn't help but tighten slightly.
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