Silence descended in the room.
Song Ci took a look at Qinyu. Although she was trying to control her expression, Song Ci could see the delight on her brows. Her eyes shone as she looked at Rong Bai in a reverential manner.
Since Rong Bai had been generous enough to agree, Song Ci casually threw out an explanation to ease the atmosphere. “Like me, she’s also going to look for the Demon King. The more people going with us, the more helping hands we have.”
Rong Bai did not continue the topic. Instead, he said to Song Ci, “The food is all downstairs. Go and have your meal if you are hungry. If not, I’ll get someone to remove it.”
“I’m hungry. Of course, I am.” Song Ci smiled and walked towards Rong Bai. “How could I not be hungry after lying down for three days? I suspect the reason for my dizziness is hunger. “
He walked very slowly, and his steps were still unsteady. Rong Bai looked at his smile, and a trace of a smile dotted his eyes like scattered stars.
Song Ci took the lead and walked out of the door. Rong Bai followed one step after him, leaving only Qinyu standing foolishly in the room until she eventually flipped out of the window.
As both men went down the stairs, they saw the food servers entering in a file. Each of them was holding a variety of dishes in their hands. They placed the dishes on a table made up of two smaller tables. On seeing such an extravagant display, Song Ci turned to cast Rong Bai a puzzled look.
“They are all for you.” Rong Bai replied to him with a smile. “Nourish yourself to your heart’s content.”
An overwhelmed Song Ci supported himself with the staircase railings as he descended the stairs and looked at an entire table full of dishes. It wasn’t just Song Ci; even the entire inn of guests was so astounded that they looked on with bulging eyes and gaping mouths.
Song Ci swept a glance over the table and saw ginseng the size of a palm soaking in one of the bowls. He swallowed a mouthful of saliva.
Every bowl and pot on the table were all nourishing tonics.
After taking his seat, Song Ci only had one question. How did Rong Bai find so many tonics in such a short time?
After all the dishes had been served, the servers swiftly retreated one after another like a well-trained squad.
Rong Bai sat beside him and personally handed Song Ci a pair of chopsticks. “Eat.”
Song Ci took the chopsticks and said his thanks. As his eyes roamed over the various dishes on the table, he thought, good gracious, I can forget about sleeping tonight after eating all these.
But Rong Bai was staring at him again. At this point in time, he couldn’t say he wasn’t going to eat. Wouldn’t that be a waste of an entire table of dishes?
Furthermore, it was the most sumptuous meal Song Ci ever had in the four years he left home. He even resorted to eating roots of grasses when he was starving. But even when he was at his richest, he had never tasted such valuable food either.
Thus, the moment he started moving his chopsticks, he could not stop. Even until he was bloated, there were still many leftovers. With a wave of his hand, Rong Bai let the innkeeper take care of the remaining dishes. Then he suggested taking a stroll outside to aid Song Ci in his digestion.
Now that the City of Qinchuan was back to normal, its previous stifling atmosphere was gone. People came and went on the streets, and laughter continuously filled the air. The city finally looked like how a prosperous city should have been in the first place.
Yet, the hottest topic of discussion today was the mysterious death of Madam Feng. Song Ci strolled down the street and pricked up his sharp ears to listen to the conversations around him.
“If you ask me, that woman deserves it. After so many years of doing evil, she should have long paid with her life. Just look at how many have died in her hands?”
“I heard that she was also behind the great fire at San Chi Tai. She had people nail the doors and windows shut, causing more than half of those from the theater to die.”
“I feel that the appearance of the demon in our city was also her doing. Otherwise, why was her daughter the only one possessed while everyone else was fine?”
“That poor Feng lass. Now that this happened, who would still dare to ask for her hand in marriage?”
“When did Madam Feng die?” Song Ci was totally unaware of this matter and blurted out subconsciously.
Rong Bai saw no one in their immediate vicinity, so Song Ci was probably asking him. Thus, he replied, “Yesterday morning. I heard she was found hanging in her room.”
Not expecting Rong Bai to answer, Song Ci looked at him in surprise. After thinking for a moment, he continued, “It’s definitely not suicide.”
In order to kill Jiang Liang, this woman was even ruthless enough to lay her hands on her own daughter. What else could she not do? For her to be suddenly hung to death, it could only be the work of someone else.
“But who?” Song Ci mumbled to himself.
Rong Bai turned to look at him. After a moment’s hesitation, he said, “It’s that wolf pup who’s on good terms with you.”
Song Ci raised his eyebrows. “Wen Changchu?”
If the answer was really Wen Changchu, then it would all make sense. Among them, Wen Changchu was probably the only one who would take on the role of punishing the wicked and upholding justice. Although he looked like a baddie himself.
But Song Ci still had a question. “Don’t tell me Madam Feng was really the one who set fire to burn those people in the theater to death?”
As soon as the question came out of his mouth, he had the answer. “If it wasn’t her, then why would she fear Jiang Liang so much? She must have had a guilty conscience.”
Rong Bai watched as Song Ci asked and answered his own question. He could not help but smile.
“What promise did Feng Changyue make back then? Why did you say that he did not keep his promise?” Song Ci asked again.
“He promised Feng Zhuojun to redeem1 Jiang Liang and to use the Feng’s influence to protect and ensure a peaceful life for the little performer for the rest of his life.” Rong Bai replied with patience.
Song Ci sighed. He could understand why Feng Zhuojun broke his promise. After all, everyone had his or her own life to live. He did not want to be Feng Zhuojun all his life, so he changed his name, got married, and had children to become the Feng Changyue he was today.
Both of them had a look around as they walked. After wandering three streets, Song Ci felt that his stomach was not as bloated, so he thought of asking Rong Bai to head back. But before he could say a word, he caught a glimpse of several women in flimsy clothing standing by the side of the road.
The women’s exquisite figures were swathed under all those flimsy clothing. Their fair, tender complexion and protruding chests were faintly discernible as they stood at the side of the street to greet the pedestrians warmly.
Turned out that both of them had unknowingly walked to the entrance of the brothel.
A lady saw Song Ci and made eyes at him as she said, “This gentleman, may I interest you to come in for a look?”
Song Ci stopped right in his tracks. His eyes swept past the lady’s smooth, round shoulders and slid down her ample bosom before coming to a stop at her skirt with a slit all the way up her thighs. A burst of energy rushed to his head.
Warm liquid trickled down his nose, stunning the lady opposite him.
“Little Song.” Rong Bai whispered.
Song Ci raised his head blankly. He thought he had a runny nose and sucked in a breath. “What’s the matter?”
Rong Bai pinched his chin and kept his held in a raised position. He said in an ambiguous tone. “You are having a nosebleed.”
“Huh?” Song Ci got a fright. He quickly touched it with his hand and spread his fingers open for a look. Sure enough, he saw blood. He lamented, “Good heavens! One really can’t eat all those tonics indiscriminately!”2
Not once had Rong Bai went to great pains to prepare tonics for others. But his impulse to nourish Song Ci this time had caused two streams of blood to flow endlessly from his nose, sending him back to bed.
Song Ci held two bloodstained towels in each of his hands and wiped away the blood every once in a while. He turned his head to ask Rong Bai, “Master Rong, when is this nosebleed going to stop? I feel dizzy.”
Rong Bai sat at the head of the bed and said, “You were too excited when you saw those ladies. Once you stop being excited, the nosebleed will naturally stop.”
“But I don’t think I’m still excited now.” Song Ci thought back to how that lady had laughed loudly at him earlier on that street. Rather than being excited, it pissed him off. “Besides, I wasn’t excited over her either. It’s just that I’ve consumed too many tonics. If it had been a shaved dog at that time, I would still get a nosebleed.”
“So you are blaming me for giving you tonics?” Rong Bai sprawled on the bed and propped his chin up with a hand. He asked in a low voice, “Are you still feeling uncomfortable?”
“You did it out of kindness, but my body is too weak. It’s not your fault.” Song Ci turned over to Rong Bai. “Master Rong, I can sense the intensification of demonic aura in the city since just now. Is it because the Demon Gate is about to open?”
“It should be tonight.” There was only a short distance between them. When they gazed at each other, they could clearly see the other person’s pupils and the reflection in it. Rong Bai said, “Your blood will cause a stir among the demons. So before your nosebleed stops, you can only stay in this room.”
Song Ci did not mind. In any case, there was no other place he could go. It was just that he could not help feeling excited at the thought of entering the Demon Gate soon. “I wonder how the Demon Realm looks like. Will it be the same as our Human Realm?”
“It’s more beautiful than the Human Realm.” Rong Bai said.
“You went there before?” Song Ci asked.
Rong Bai considered it for a moment and answered, “I’ve stayed there for a period of time.”
“Is it very dangerous?” Song Ci hastily wiped his nose with the towel and started to discuss the Demon Realm with Rong Bai in high spirits.
After dispelling the Chessboard array, the most apparent change in Rong Bai was that he had become more talkative. Before, Song Ci could hardly hear him say a word when he had stayed with him for a few days. To Song Ci, this was a good change. At least, it meant that they had become closer to each other.
“So-so, I guess.” Rong Bai’s tone was casual. An image of him sitting on the throne while masses of demons kneeled before him floated into his mind. He added, “They are pretty respectful.”
“Those demons have such a sense of propriety?” Song Ci was astonished. “I’ve never heard of it.”
“I saw it with my own eyes.” Rong Bai looked very serious as he said to Song Ci, “You will find out once you enter the Demon Realm. It’s not as terrifying as you think.”
“Then, I’m really looking forward to it.” Song Ci could not help smiling as he lamented the many changing faces of fate. A month ago, he was still terrified of the Demon Realm. But he had searched for it despite his fear, forcing himself to face his fear.
And now, a month later, he was able to make such statements breezily. He thought about how he could easily conjure up a small wisp of blue flame in his palm now. No doubt that these developments and peace of mind were all due to Rong Bai.
“Master Rong, is there anything you want to do? After I exit the Demon Realm, I’ll do my best to help you.” Song Ci could not help but promise him while he was feeling touched.
Rong Bai laughed upon hearing him. “There’s no need to. You’ve already promised me.”
For a moment, Song Ci could recall nothing. He asked in bewilderment, “When?”
Rong Bai did not continue the conversation. Instead, he changed the topic. “Get a good rest. If not, you will not have the energy to get past the Demon Gate.”
Song Ci nodded and turned back to lie on his bed. He intermittently wiped his nose until the nosebleed stopped completely. A wave of fatigue came over him, and he fell asleep in a state of drowsiness.
When he woke up, the moon was already high in the sky. The demonic aura in the air was so thick that Song Ci was completely wide awake the moment he regained consciousness. He opened his eyes and saw the room awash in the soft glow of candlelight.
He subconsciously looked towards the table. As expected, he saw Rong Bai, who was staring at him. Rong Bai said, “I was about to call you when you woke up on your own.”
Song Ci said nothing, but his eyes took in the sights around Rong Bai. The table was empty. There were no tea, desserts, or melon seeds. Nothing. Song Ci could not help but puzzled over it. How long had Rong Bai been sitting there? What was he doing sitting there?
Song Ci lifted the quilt and got off the bed. He had to admit that those tonics had been of some use. Although it had tormented him for a while, he was now feeling extremely vigorous. He no longer felt dizzy or weak.
“Master Rong, is the Demon Gate going to open? The demonic aura is so intense.” Song Ci put on his shoes and walked over to the window. He opened a small gap to look outside. The street was empty. Only a few lanterns were still lit.
Rong Bai walked over and raised his hands to throw the window wide open. Moonlight spilled into the room and cast a coat of pure silver over their bodies. He said, “Soon.”
Song Ci rubbed his hands and muttered, “Great! It’s finally here!”
One feeds blindly, the other eats blindly.
- 赎身 Redeem (a person); paying a price to ‘buy’ the freedom of those who have been sold into certain trades, e.g. slaves and courtesans (i.e. prostitutes), and in this case, a performer in an opera troupe.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), nosebleeds are attributed to an imbalance of yin and yang energy in the body. Food is generally considered to be “cooling”, “heaty” or “neutral” in TCM (for example, the ginseng Song Ci saw is considered a “warm” food.) So, eating an excessive amount of similar types of herbs or tonics, especially when your body can’t handle that much ‘nourishment’, can sometimes lead to excessive ‘heat’, thus causing nosebleeds. But of course, it could just be that our MVP (Most Virgin Person) Song Ci can’t handle that much “flesh”. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)