The youth seemed about fifteen or sixteen of age. His complexion was white as jade, and his brows and eyes were black as ink. His bright eyes were half-closed, and there was a faintly discernible trace of indolence in his gaze.
At first glance, he was a very handsome young man. But on closer look, those charming facial features were very similar to Master Rong’s.
“What are you doing at the door?” The young man’s voice was childish, but they could tell that it was Rong Bai.
Song Ci recovered his senses and went in. He took out the roast chicken and placed it on the table before asking carefully, “Master Rong, why do you look like this?”
Rong Bai cast him a glance, looking as if he was lazy to explain.
Wen Changchu was afraid of Rong Bai so he stood at a distance and said, “Are you stupid? If you want to enter Mo Yao Sect, you can only be admitted as a disciple. These kinds of immortal cultivation sects usually accept the young ones. At your age, no one will take you in even if you ask to do odd jobs.”
“Whoa, you sure can talk.” Song Ci looked at him coolly as he placed an arm around his neck. “What are you doing so far away? Come and sit down.”
Wen Changchu stiffened and tried to resist Song Ci. In the end, he was still dragged away. Song Ci forced him into a chair. Beside him, Rong Bai was leisurely drinking tea.
It was not that Rong Bai was stingy with his expressions. Most of the time, he simply looked lazy, as if he had just woken up. It was only when he was talking to others that his expressions were more animated.
When he was expressionless, that rare bit of geniality would also vanish.
Wen Changchu thought to himself, this mortal was really something; he should be careful not to clash with him mano-a-mano.
So, as soon as his buttocks touched the stool, he immediately stood up, transformed into a grey wolf pup, and slipped away to a corner.
Just as Song Ci thought, Rong Bai did not care about the identity or the sudden appearance of this youth. He was too lazy to even ask.
Song Ci sat down opposite Rong Bai and asked, “Master Rong, are you really going to be a disciple of Mo Yao Sect?”
Rong Bai nodded lightly. “If I want to gain access, this is the only way.”
“Then…” Song Ci asked tentatively, “What about me?”
If it was as Wen Changchu said, that no one would want him at this age even if he were to run errands for them, then wouldn’t he have to wait at the foot of the mountain for Rong Bai to re-emerge?
That would not do at all!
Rong Bai looked at him as waves of warmth washed through his beautiful eyes. He said to Song Ci, “Put your hand out.”
Song Ci was baffled, but he obediently put his hand out. Rong Bai extended an index finger and pointed it lightly in the center of Song Ci’s palm.
Rong Bai’s soft and warm fingertip stuck to Song Ci’s clammy palm, and a faint surge of energy entered Song Ci’s body before it branched out and flowed through his limbs and bones.
Song Ci had never felt this way before, as if all his meridians had been smoothed out. It was extremely comfortable. But before he could grab hold of that energy, Rong Bai abruptly drew his finger back.
Immediately right after, he noticed his body getting smaller and his big hands becoming more childlike. The clothes on his body shrank too. In a few blinks of an eye, he had turned into a youth as well.
Elated, he got off his chair and twirled around a few times. He was a lot shorter now. Pulling out a delicate bronze mirror from his bosom, he checked himself out in the mirror.
He seemed about eleven or twelve years of age. His eyes were round and big, and his skin seemed fragile. He looked so delicate that he momentarily could not tell whether he was a boy or a girl.
When Wen Changchu saw Song Ci’s overjoyed look, he could not help but yelp twice. He even carried a mirror around with him. What a vain guy!
Song Ci could not understand his wolf yelps. But then, he thought Wen Changchu had never said anything nice before, so he ignored him and returned the mirror to his bosom before he bowed to thank Rong Bai.
Rong Bai was still as nonchalant as ever. “It’s nothing.”
Song Ci pushed the roast chicken on the table towards Rong Bai, trying to curry favor with him. “I bought this roast chicken for you. Please try it.”
Rong Bai had been drinking tea like a doddering old man. When he saw the roast chicken, he looked as if he had no appetite. He smiled and said, “No, thanks.”
He put the teacup down and stood up, wanting to flop down onto the bed again.
Song Ci discovered that this great master liked to sleep very much. The first time Song Ci saw Rong Bai with his eyes opened, Rong Bai had yawned over and over again in succession. He was always wearing a lazy expression on his face. It was rare for Song Ci to see him looking spirited.
Could it be that all the great masters have hypersomnia?
As he thought about it, he picked up the roast chicken and chomped down on it. Wen Changchu, who was shrinking in the corner, caught a whiff of the aroma and jumped onto the table, wanting to have a share of the chicken.
Song Ci felt that he could not finish it by himself, so he generously gave Wen Changchu more than half of it. Thus, two men who already had their meals ended up gobbling up a roast chicken.
After eating, Wen Changchu crouched at one side to smooth out his fur, while Song Ci washed his hands and took off his outer robe to get into the bedding.
As night descended, the whole City of Hengxi quietened down, shedding the liveliness of its daytime mask. There was actually a kind of obscure beauty to this ancient city against the backdrop of candle lights.
Two humans and one wolf slept harmoniously in the same room.
Wen Changchu scanned the surroundings with his lightly colored eyes. After confirming that there was no abnormality, he wrapped his big fluffy tail around his forepaws and closed his eyes to rest up.
The reputation of Mo Yao Immortal Sect in Dong Wang was comparable to that of the Imperial Clan.
Mo Yao Sect had once produced a cultivator who had ascended to become immortal. Only those who were advanced in age knew that this was true. After the accumulation of rumors for a hundred years, Mo Yao Immortal Sect became an irreplaceable immortal cultivation sect in Dong Wang. Having any personal relationship with the Mo Yao Immortal Sect, no matter how remote, was enough to make a person the envy of their neighbors, what’s more having his or her own children accepted as disciples into the sect.
The recruitment for disciples would open only once every twenty years, so there were countless people who would anxiously wait for it. Those who were overaged could only blame themselves for being born at the wrong time.
Everyone in Dong Wang knew that any household whose child was accepted into Mo Yao Immortal Sect must have received their ancestors’ blessings and lucked out big time.
So, in these two months trial, those who could throw money would throw money, those who could pull strings would pull strings. There was no lack of people who would attempt to get in even if they flattened their heads from all those squeezing.
When Yu Shi Peak opened admission early in the morning, a long queue had quickly formed on the mountain. One could tell at a glance that it was packed with people.
Song Ci looked to the East. The sun had only just appeared.
The sky was still hazy, but it was as if the people on the mountain were all injected with chicken blood1. Every one of their faces was shining with excitement.
He noticed that there were all kinds of people in the long human chain up the mountain. There were the rich young masters being ferried around in sedan chairs, the poverty-stricken fellows dressed in burlap clothes, and even burly middle-aged men who looked like butchers. Then there were scholars dressed in blue or green looking like they were here to take the imperial examination, or even those who had donned Daoist robes to keep up with the pretense.
From young to old, there were all kinds of people gathered here.
Song Ci quietly moved over to Rong Bai and whispered in his ear, “Master Rong, what is this about? Didn’t you say they don’t accept those who are overaged?”
Rong Bai cast a glance to the side and replied softly, “As long as there’s a chance, they have to try no matter how slim it is.”
They were probably all hoping for the pie in the sky to fall into their laps…2
Song Ci wondered what was so good about this Mo Yao Immortal Sect. All of them were so fierce. They spoke about upholding justice, but they actually could not even distinguish the good from the bad.
If it was not for the sake of following Rong Bai, he would not even want to come to such a place!
The first rays of the morning sun had not completely faded, and layers of white mist had enveloped Yu Shi Peak. The higher they went, the more they felt the chill of the breeze seeping into their clothes.
Song Ci did not fear the cold because of his demonized nature, but many people around him were stomping their feet and blowing into their hands. There were even some who gave up and turned back midway.
After walking for about three hours, Song Ci and the others finally saw the tail of the queue. The three of them unhurriedly took their places at the back of the line, shuffling forward one small step at a time.
By the time they arrived at the registration area, the sky had already brightened. The sunshine dispersed the white fog around the peak and brought warmth to the people.
There was a huge white pillar gate with a width of five zhangs3 ahead of them. Song Ci had to raise his head to see the top. It was rather impressive and imposing.
Two meandering dragons snaked around the sturdy pillars. Song Ci looked up along the dragons’ bodies and saw the two majestic dragons intersecting each other at the top facing each other. Their mouths were clamping down on the same transparent globe, which was bigger than a basin.
The globe glowed blue in the sunlight.
“What’s your name?” A blunt question out of the blue shook Song Ci out of his wandering mind. He turned his head and saw a Mo Yao disciple in blue beside him staring at Rong Bai.
Perhaps he had been taking records for too many people. His expression was impatient.
Just then, the man in front of Song Ci also asked Song Ci a question, except that his tone was a lot more gentle. “May I know your name? Where do you live?”
Song Ci kept one ear on the situation beside him as he quickly replied, “My surname is Song, and my name is Ci. Ci as in farewell.4 I’m from the City of Yiyang.”
“I’m also from Yiyang City. I’m his neighbor.” Wen Changchu casually pointed at Song Ci.
Song Ci, “…” He had randomly invented that place.
On the other side, Rong Bai good-naturedly put up with the young disciple and reported his name and residence. When asked how many people there were in his family, he paused a little.
Who would expect the young disciple to lose his temper because of this pause? “Don’t you even know how many people there are in your family? You don’t even have any kin accompanying you at your age; could you really be an orphan? Who knows whether those clothes on your body were stolen or snatched from someone? Our Mo Yao does not accept people with dishonorable conduct. You’d better turn back.”
“Shidi, don’t do this.” The young disciple’s cynical words had completely attracted the attention of the people around him. The disciple who was registering Song Ci was clearly good-tempered and hurriedly tried to placate him.
He said to Rong Bai, “Come over here. I’ll do the registration for you.”
“I’ve said nothing wrong. Shixiong, you’re being Mr. Nice Guy again, casually accepting every Ah-cat and Ah-dog5 that comes along. Shizun will scold you again later.” The young disciple retorted. Obviously, he must have bottled up his resentment for a long time. He has probably dealt with too many troublemakers the entire morning to be so bad-tempered.
However, Song Ci did not want to be understanding of him. He felt that his chance to show his mettle had come, so he pulled Rong Bai back and said warmly to the disciple, “I don’t think it’s a big deal. If someone like you can enter Mo Yao, then why can’t cats and dogs enter?”
“You!” The disciple flushed red with anger and threw down his brush. “How dare you!”
“What about me? I’ve said nothing wrong.” Song Ci innocently spread his arms out. “You must have been cultivating for a long time. Otherwise, how can you look so much like a human? If you had not spoken just now, I would have thought you were truly a human!”
“Bah! How dare a bastard from some unknown gully talk to me in such a way!” The young disciple was extraordinarily cranky. He pointed at Song Ci and said, “I must teach you a good lesson on behalf of your parents today!”
Having said that, he placed his hands under the table to flip it over. But Rong Bai suddenly extended a hand and gently pressed down on it. The Mo Yao disciple yanked the table up with force, but the table did not even shake.
He furiously glared at him, only to meet a pair of beautiful yet frosty eyes.
- 打了鸡血 literally to inject chicken blood. It’s often used mockingly to refer to someone who is extremely excited or energetic.
- 天上掉下来的馅饼砸自己头上 literally hoping for the pie in the sky to fall onto their heads (/into their laps). i.e. hoping for something good (that’s unlikely to happen) to happen without them having to lift a finger.
- 丈 measure of length, ten Chinese feet (1 zhang = 3.3m = 10.9ft)
- 告辞 gào cí. The Ci in Song Ci is the same Ci as the one in Gao Ci, which means farewell.
- 阿猫阿狗 Ah-cat and Ah-dog. It basically means every random person, i.e. Tom, Dick, and Harry. (I’m using the literal translation instead of Tom, Dick, and Harry because Song Ci will use this against him in his replies.)