He wore a playful expression, yet exuded an air of calm and omniscience. Despite his youthful voice, it had a slightly deeper and pleasing tone. Sitting upright on the cart, Xie Lian pondered for a moment before saying, “Blood Rain Seeking Flower, the name sounds quite remarkable. Could you tell me how he earned this title?”

Out of respect, he refrained from using the diminutive form of address. The young man lounged casually, with one arm resting on his raised knee. Adjusting the cuff of his arrow-patterned sleeve, he nonchalantly replied, “It’s not a big deal. There was a time when he raided another ghost’s lair, and blood rained down the mountains. As he was leaving, he saw a flower by the roadside, battered by the blood rain, so he tilted his umbrella and shielded it.”

Xie Lian imagined the scene and felt an inexplicable elegance amidst the bloody rain, a delicate beauty. He then thought of the legend of the red-robed ghost who set fire to thirty-three temples, and chuckled, “Does this Flower City often get into fights?”

The young man answered, “Not often, it depends on his mood.”

Xie Lian asked, “What kind of person was he in his mortal life?”

The young man replied, “Certainly not a good person.”

Xie Lian inquired further, “What did he look like?”

At this question, the young man glanced at him, tilted his head, stood up, and sat beside Xie Lian. Sitting side by side, he asked in return, “What do you think he looked like?”

At such close proximity, Xie Lian was struck by the astonishing beauty of the young man. However, there was a subtle hint of aggression in his beauty, like a unsheathed sword, captivating yet intimidating. After a brief moment of gazing at each other, Xie Lian couldn’t help but turn his head slightly and say, “Since he was a powerful ghost king, he must have had various appearances, many different forms.”

As he turned his head, the young man raised an eyebrow and said, “Hmm, sometimes he would also reveal his true form. When we mention his name, we refer to his true self.”

Whether it was an illusion or not, Xie Lian felt that the distance between them had grown. He turned his face back and said, “So, I suppose his true form might be that of a young man like yourself.”

In response, the young man curved his lips slightly and said, “Why is that?”

Xie Lian replied, “Just a thought. You can say whatever you like, and I will think whatever comes to mind. Let’s keep it casual.”

The young man chuckled and said, “Who knows? But he lost one eye.”

He pointed below his right eye and said, “This one.”

This claim was not surprising. Xie Lian had heard rumors about it before. In some versions of the legend, Flower City wore a black eyepatch over his right eye, concealing the one he had lost. Xie Lian asked, “Do you happen to know what happened to his eye?”

The young man responded, “Hmm, many people want to know the answer to that.”

People wanted to know what had caused Flower City to lose his right eye, as it would reveal his weakness. When Xie Lian asked, he simply wanted to know for the sake of knowing. Before he could respond, the young man said, “He gouged it out himself.”

Xie Lian was taken aback and asked, “Why?”

The young man replied, “He went mad.”

…To think that he would dig out his own eye in a fit of madness. Xie Lian’s curiosity about the Blood Rain Seeking Flower, the red-robed ghost king, grew even stronger. He suspected that it was not simply a matter of madness, but since it had been mentioned, there was probably no further elaboration. He continued to inquire, “Does Flower City have any weaknesses?”

He didn’t really expect the young man to answer this question; it was just a casual question. If Flower City’s weaknesses were easily known, then he wouldn’t be Flower City. However, to his surprise, the young man answered without hesitation, “Ashes.”

If someone possessed a ghost’s ashes, they could control that ghost. If the ghost did not obey their commands, they could destroy the ashes, causing the ghost to disappear completely. This was common knowledge. However, when it came to Flower City, this knowledge might not be of much significance. Xie Lian smiled and said, “It’s unlikely that anyone could obtain his ashes. So, his weakness is practically non-existent.”

The young man, however, said, “Not necessarily. There is a situation where a ghost willingly offers their ashes.”

Xie Lian asked, “Like when he challenged the thirty-three temple officials and used his ashes as a wager?”

The young man scoffed, “Why would he?”

Although he didn’t elaborate, Xie Lian could tell from his tone that he meant Flower City would never lose. Xie Lian said, “In the ghost realm, there is a custom. If a ghost chooses someone, they entrust their ashes to that person.”

This meant that the ghost was essentially placing their life in the hands of another. Such deep devotion made for a beautiful story. Xie Lian said with great interest, “So, there is such an affectionate custom in the ghost realm.”

The young man replied, “There is. But not many dare to do it.”

Xie Lian expected as much. In this world, not only were there demons deceiving humans, but there were also humans deceiving demons. There would undoubtedly be many manipulations and betrayals. He said, “If one devotes their heart and ends up utterly defeated, it is indeed heartbreaking.”

However, the young man laughed heartily and said, “What’s there to fear? If it were me, even if my ashes were given away, it doesn’t matter if they wanted to defeat me or play around.”

Xie Lian smiled and suddenly realized that they had been talking for so long, yet neither of them knew each other’s names. He asked, “What should I call you, my friend?”

The young man raised his hand to cover his eyes, shielding himself from the reddish glow of the setting sun. Squinting, he seemed to dislike the daylight. He said, “Me? I’m the third child in my family. Everyone calls me Sanlang.”

Since he didn’t offer his name voluntarily, Xie Lian didn’t inquire further. He said, “My surname is Xie, and my given name is Lian. Are you also heading to the Puqi Village?”

Sanlang leaned back against a haystack, resting his head on his folded hands and crossing his legs. He said, “I don’t know. I’m just wandering.”

Noticing that there seemed to be more to his words, Xie Lian asked, “What happened?”

Sanlang sighed and said leisurely, “There was a family argument, and I was kicked out. I’ve been wandering for a long time with nowhere to go. Today, I was so hungry that I nearly collapsed on the street, so I randomly found a place to lie down.”

Although the young man’s attire seemed casual, the quality was exceptional. Coupled with his eloquence and apparent leisure, as if he knew everything and was not bothered by anything, Xie Lian had already guessed that he was a young master from a wealthy family who had run away. A privileged young man venturing out alone for such a long time must have faced numerous hardships along the way, something Xie Lian could relate to. When he heard that Sanlang was hungry, Xie Lian rummaged through his small bundle and found a steamed bun. Fortunately, it was still soft. He said, “Would you like to eat?” Sanlang nodded, and Xie Lian handed him the bun. Sanlang looked at him and asked, “Don’t you have any?”

Xie Lian replied, “I’m fine, not very hungry.”

Sanlang pushed the bun back to him and said, “I’m fine too.”

Observing this, Xie Lian took it back and broke the bun in half, offering Sanlang one half. He said, “You take half, and I’ll take the other.”

Sanlang finally accepted it, and they sat side by side, eating their respective halves of the bun. Watching him sitting there, taking a bite of the bun, Xie Lian couldn’t help but feel that he seemed somewhat pitiful. The ox cart slowly trudged along the undulating mountain road as the sun gradually descended. The two of them chatted while sitting on the cart. The more they talked, the more Xie Lian felt that this was truly an extraordinary young man. Despite his youth, he carried himself with an air of superiority in his every move and word, as if there was nothing he didn’t know and nothing that could pose a challenge to him. It made Xie Lian feel that he knew a lot, despite his youthful appearance. At times, he would also reveal the playfulness of a young person. When Xie Lian mentioned that he was the Master of Puqi Temple, Sanlang asked, “Puqi Temple? It sounds like there are many lotus roots to eat. I like that. Who is worshipped there?”

Once again faced with this troublesome question, Xie Lian coughed lightly and said, “It’s Prince Xian Le. You probably haven’t heard of him.”

Sanlang smiled faintly but didn’t speak. Suddenly, the ox cart shook violently.

Both of them swayed along with it, and Xie Lian, concerned that Sanlang might fall off, instinctively reached out to grab him. However, as soon as his hand touched Sanlang, the young man seemed to be scalded by a searing object and abruptly pulled his hand away.

Although his expression remained unchanged, Xie Lian sensed it and wondered if the young man actually disliked him. Yet, they had been chatting happily all along the way. At that moment, he had no time to dwell on it further. He stood up and said, “What’s going on?”

The elderly cart driver exclaimed, “I have no idea what’s happening! Old Huang, why aren’t you moving? Go, go!”

By now, the sun had set, and darkness enveloped the surroundings as the ox cart continued along the forested path, devoid of any light. Old Huang, the ox, remained motionless, stubbornly refusing to move, no matter how much the cart driver urged. It was as if he wanted to bury his head in the ground, mooing continuously, with his tail swishing like a whip. Sensing that something was amiss, Xie Lian was about to jump off the cart when suddenly, the cart driver pointed ahead and shouted.

In front of them, on the mountain road, numerous clusters of green flames were burning softly, drifting in and out. A group of people in white robes, clutching their heads, slowly approached.

Upon seeing this, Xie Lian immediately said, “Protect!”

Ifei flew out from his wrist and circled around the ox cart, forming a floating circle that protected the three humans and one beast. Xie Lian turned around and asked, “What day is it today?”

Before the cart driver could answer, Sanlang responded from behind him, “The Middle Yuan Festival.”

The Ghost Festival, when the gates of the underworld were opened. Xie Lian hadn’t paid attention to the date when he set out, and it happened to coincide with the Middle Yuan Festival!

Xie Lian spoke in a deep voice, “Don’t wander aimlessly. We’ve encountered an evil omen today. If we deviate from the path, we won’t be able to return.”