Beyond the Three Realms, there were the Ruins of Ten Thousand Heavens above, and below was the City of Eternal Desolation. Both were barren, desolate lands without sun, moon, and life. No one could leave those lands if they entered. But, the Ruins of Ten Thousand Heavens was still rather peaceful, compared to the City of Eternal Desolation, as the latter imprisoned the most wicked criminals, including the last living dragon in the world.
Under a hundred-year-old tree by the village entrance, a teacher was telling his students a story of a distant legend. The sky was blue, the clouds were white, and gusts of gentle wind blew while the students listened carefully to the teacher’s stories. It was a simple, peaceful day and the teacher was very happy.
Suddenly, a slightly sticky liquid dripped onto the teacher’s face. The teacher swiped it off without much care for what it was and peered at the sky in the distance. There was no sign of any rain. “Ah!” The student, Little Pangsan, stared at the thick branch above the teacher’s head with a dazed look, “Teacher, it’s Er Sheng!”
The teacher looked up. There was a seemingly twelve or thirteen-year-old girl lying on top of the tree branch like a cat, her limbs drooped lethargically and her face leaned against the tree trunk as she slept soundly. A trail of drool was seen from the corner of her slightly open lips, making its way over the branches and dripping downward.
“Oops!” A drop of drool dripped right onto the teacher. The students can’t help but burst into laughter. The teacher wiped his eye furiously He intended to catch Er Sheng and give her a good beating.
The girl was awakened by the students’ laughter. She noticed the unfavorable situation and instantly jumped off the tree in one swift movement. Then, she ran, and nimbly jumped over two small mounds without forgetting to turn around to stick her tongue out at her teacher cheekily. The teacher stood up in anger, and even his beard straightened, causing the students to laugh even more. At that time, the sun shone pleasantly warm and the sky was clear.
“Smelly old man.” Er Sheng kicked away some stones under her feet and muttered as she walked. “What’s so great to be poor? What’s so great about being able to tell stories? I don’t want to hear your silly little stories!” She clenched her teeth and kicked a nearby stone with all her might. Immediately, she sensed a sharp pain from her toe. Before Er Sheng could cry out in pain, she heard a loud cry coming from the ridge of the field, “Damn it! Who threw the stone?”
Er Sheng thought, This was not good. . Without minding the stabbing pain in her foot, she hurriedly left. But, it was too late, the farmer who was by the ridge of the field had seen Er Sheng. He hollered “You! You little bastard again! A damnable orphan who grew up without parents!”
After running a few meters away, Er Sheng reckoned that the man wouldn’t be able to catch up with her for the time being. She patted her butt and made a face in his direction. “It’s none of your business! You old bastard who only bullies younger bastards!”
“Fuck your mother!”
“You go try! My whole family is six feet under. Go have fun if you want!” The man was enraged by her words. After putting his farming tools aside, he chased after her. “I’ll freakin’ punish you for sure today!”
Er Sheng boldly spits at the ground, then turned around, and ran into the woods behind the village. The villagers believed that there were demons in the woods. So, he wouldn’t dare to chase her into the woods.
The man stood beyond the woods and cursed. Some villagers couldn’t bear to listen to the entire exchange and persuaded him, “Why do you want to argue with that orphaned girl? That child has the ill-omened Sha(2) in her fate. All her family members were affected and died young. You better be careful when you get close to her.”
The man spat, “Disgusting!” He swung his arms and left.
Er Sheng raised her middle finger at his silhouette and snorted. She turned around and walked deeper into the woods. The further and deeper she went, the wider her field of vision became. In the deepest part of the woods, there was a huge lake. No one knows where the water came from and no one knows where it leads to but the lakewater remained pristine and clear all year round. When there was no wind and the waters were still, broken branches at the bottom of the pool were visible and no one knows when such thick branches fell into it. By the lakeside, lovely, white flowers with no name bloomed all year round.
Er Sheng was disdainful of the villagers’ cowardice. She thought, What superstitions? She didn’t believe in ancient legends, ghosts, and demons. Without entering the forest, they would never know how beautiful it was here.
Er Sheng sat on a large stone by the pool. She took off her shoes, and threw away her dirty socks. She lifted her feet to check her injury. The toenail of her biggest toe was cracked and bleeding. She gritted her teeth and tore off the cracked toenail. With more blood flowing out, Er Sheng soaked her feet in the cold lakewater and muttered, “How dare you talk bad about me? I’ll go to your backyard tonight to leave some shit and stick it on your vegetable basket. I hope it disgusts you to death.”
Er Sheng stared at the blood that spread across the water like a blooming crimson flower. Then, she laid on the stone and peered at the clouds in the blue sky.
“Demons and monsters, fuck! If there are demons, why don’t they come out and let me see them?” The only response to her was the rustling of the wind passing through the woods, Er Sheng snorted. “The old guys in the village only know how to write stories to scare people.” She closed her eyes and swayed her legs in the water, slowly falling asleep.
A dark shadow flitted across the sky, casting a fleeting shadow on her face. Er Sheng sensed something and opened her eyes, yet the sky was still the same, and the same few clouds were still there. The breeze was gentle, the trees were still rustling, and nothing was different.
She pouted and chastised herself for being paranoid. Suddenly, a gust of strong wind blew away the dirty socks she threw on the side. She cursed tersely, “What the heck?”. The ground shook violently as if something huge crashed into the earth, the aftershock caused Er Sheng to roll off the stone. Although she was rather courageous, at this moment, she was a little stunned by this strange wind and earthquake.
She crawled out from behind the stone with great difficulty, and heard a terrifying feral cry. The deafening sound made her chest throb in pain. She felt immensely dizzy and vomited a mouthful of blood. She looked at the direction where the voice came from with bloodshot eyes. In her eyes, a reflection of what she saw was imprinted as a memory she will never forget. Er Sheng widened her eyes in shock. “D-…Demon!”
A…A monstrous giant snake demon!
It was covered with black scales, with two sharp horns on its head. It had two feet, with five claws, and fins on its back. Its body is as thick as the trunk of a towering tree.
Er Sheng’s heart stopped and her body went stiff before falling backwards, hitting the ground like a plank. She almost fainted from fright— she could have passed out as she wished, but there happened to be a broken piece of stone where she fell. The back of her head slammed against the stone and the pain which followed caused her to sober up slightly.
It turns out that there were really demons in the woods behind the village. Er Sheng thought in a daze, one of the so many bullshit the old man in the village said was actually true! But since there were demons, why hadn’t there been ghosts yet? Why didn’t the ghosts of Mom and Dad linger here—
The snake demon’s cry had disappeared but the ringing sound in Er Sheng’s ears lasted for a long time. She sat up clutching the back of her head. She remained seated for a while, and then remembered that she should head to the village this time this instant to save herself.
Er Sheng stood up shakily. It wasn’t sure whether she had forgotten her shoes in a hurry or had completely forgotten about them as she merely limped toward a direction after looking around for a second. .. Her gait was more unsteady than that of a drunk alcoholic.
There were more and more white velvet flowers that bloomed on the two sides of the forest paths, with fewer trees. In the distance, she could only see a sea of white velvet flowers that covered the terrain. In her dazed state, she couldn’t care less about whether this area of the forest was familiar to her. At this moment, the only thought in her mind was to stay alive.
Er Sheng had unknowingly wandered into the center of the forest. She stumbled along the path, like a reckless mortal who had strayed into a fairyland. Countless butterflies fluttered behind her after she had passed by.
Running up a small slope, Er Sheng looked down from a distance and was stunned. In the distance, a huge towering tree can be seen with leaves falling from its branches. Under the giant tree, a black-robed man covered in blood rested quietly.
The white flowers, the man dressed in black, and the fluttering butterflies surrounding him—it was like a magnificent painting, separating this otherwordly place from reality. As if she was bewitched, her eyes stayed fixated on the man under the tree, completely forgetting her initial purpose and the earlier snake demon she saw. ..
A gentle breeze blew across the air, bringing a few fallen velvet flowers to her face. As the flower petals tickled the tip of her nose, Er Sheng jerked. She suddenly recalled that she shouldn’t stay in these woods for too long. She shook her head, then looked around her. There was no snake demon in sight, so she hurriedly ran over to the injured man boldly. He must have been injured by the snake demon, Er Sheng thought, if she saved him today, she would be his benefactor, and she can let him repay her kindness.
In return…he could just wed himself to her, Er Sheng thought gleefully.
When Er Sheng inched closer, she realized that there were bloodstains all around him. The velvet flowers around him were also stained with blood. The crimson-red petals formed a stark contrast against the sea of white flowers, which was oddly alluring.
Er Sheng moved closer to his side. For some reason, there was an inexplicable aura surrounding this man that scared her. But she had always been bold, except for when facing demons just like earlier. The stranger things were, the more she wanted to understand them. Er Sheng bent down and stretched out her index finger, hesitantly poking the man’s elbow.
She felt more courageous and reached out to tug at his sleeve.
Still no response.
Er Sheng squatted and took two more steps to his side, leaning over to examine the man’s face carefully. Delicate face, perfectly sculpted like a Deity. Er Sheng suddenly thought of the poem that the teacher asked the students to read while he bobbed his head in unison. She didn’t know what it meant at the time, but now she might have just fully understood it—
This person… is so beautiful.
Such an unparalleled beauty. Er Sheng suddenly put a hand over her heart and whispered “It’s strange, you’re beating so fast.”
The gentle whisper disturbed the man’s rest. He frowned slightly, his eyelashes trembled slightly as he opened his eyes. His dark eyes were like a night sky filled with stars. When Er Sheng’s figure came into his eyes, doubts flashed and a murderous aura burst forth. Er Sheng was shocked by the sudden burst of murderous intent, her legs went weak as she fell to the ground.
“I’m not malicious, I’m a good person!” Er Sheng immediately defended herself. How could that person listen to her explanation, with a wave of his long arm, he was about to strangle her neck. Er Sheng’s reaction to escape for her life was instantaneous. She got up, turned around, and ran. When the man noticed her escape, he reached out a hand and accidentally grabbed Er Sheng’s pants. Er Sheng moved forward regardless, and both of them used their greatest strength—
Er Sheng suddenly felt her buttocks cold as her pants were ripped off. This was how they first met.
1: Three Realms = Sanjie (三界) refers to the Heavens, Mortal Realm, and Earth (where the Underworld/Netherworld is located).
2: Sha(煞）= It literally means evil spirit, or wicked. If one’s fate has Sha in it, it means that the person would face more unfortunate events and disasters than normal.