Rong Bai did not know what had happened during the time Song Ci was out of his sight.
He watched as Song Ci waved his two sleeves and walked over to him with a fawning smile on his face. That overwhelming fragrance went straight into his head, assaulting his mind.
Rong Bai raised a hand and said with narrowed eyes, “Hold it right there.”
Song Ci’s heart thumped, but he obediently stood still. The fawning expression on his face was even more apparent now. If his two tails were showing, they would probably be wagging circles.
He asked, “Father, what’s wrong?”
Rong Bai could understand his feelings. He knew Song Ci was timid and must be really frightened now. So, he tried his best to soften his tone, “Who told you to call me father?”
This sentence, in Rong Bai’s view, was merely a question he had thrown out in the course of a casual conversation. But to Song Ci, it sounded like an interrogation. As expected, Master Rong did not want to acknowledge him as a son. His knees went weak, and he fell to his knees on the ground. He hung his head low and said nothing.
The more he said, the more blunders he would make. He might as well say nothing.
Rong Bai was vexed when he saw that he had terrified Song Ci this much. He frowned. “Get up first.”
Song Ci immediately scrambled up from the ground.
Glancing around, Rong Bai noted that his hands were empty and asked, “Where’s that umbrella?”
“I handed it over to Chief Hua.” Song Ci replied in a low voice. “He said that it belongs to Your Majesty. He will return it to you.”
Rong Bai fell silent upon hearing this. Then, his expression turned cold. “He sure knows how to do his work.”
Song Ci did not dare to answer.
“Why have you gone silent?” Rong Bai suddenly smiled at him. “Wasn’t that umbrella delivered into your hands?”
Unable to figure out his intention, Song Ci merely nodded his head.
“So why did you hand it over? Do I look like the kind of person who has nothing better to do? To the extent that I would order someone to take back what I have gifted you?” Rong Bai closed his eyes, feeling as if he was about to lose control of his emotions. He thought, Hua Wuneng sure did a good job on this one.
It had been only a while since he last saw Song Ci. Not only had Hua Wuneng asked for the return of the gift he had given Song Ci, but he even got himself a son. What’s more, his son smelled so fragrant.
Rong Bai had a throbbing headache every time he caught a whiff of this scent, so he did not dare to let Song Ci get too close to him. Leaning back lazily on his throne, he heaved a sigh of relief and asked, “So, how was the Demon Realm compared to the Human Realm?”
Song Ci could tell that Rong Bai was not as enraged as he had imagined he would be, so his fear receded, and he replied in all honesty, “It indeed looks better than the Human Realm.”
“Uh-huh…” Rong Bai’s pitch-black eyes looked coolly at Song Ci. “Have you ever forgotten your purpose for coming to the Demon Realm?”
Song Ci’s body stiffened. He did not dare to answer.
What’s meant to happen, will happen.
Rong Bai did not mind his lack of response. On the contrary, he found Song Ci’s reaction adorable. He raised his eyebrows and asked, “What did you say you were going to do when you come to the Demon Realm?”
“It’s all a misunderstanding!” Song Ci hurriedly said, “Your Honorable Demon King, I was befuddled before to have listened to the gossip of all those uneducated people who vilified you. How do I know you would turn out to be such a person?”
“And what kind of person am I?” Rong Bai snorted with a smile.
“You are thoughtful, gentle, and amiable. And you are broad-minded too. One could see with a single glance that you aren’t like what the others make you out to be.” Song Ci uttered a string of praises with a tongue so glib no one could see the end of it.
Flattery will get you everywhere!
Rong Bai felt as if he had been wronged too. “It’s bizarre. I’ve never done anything to you. Why are you so afraid of me? Have I not treated you well all this time?”
“You did, you did. You treat me very well. I’m not afraid of you. It’s all just my respect for you.” Song Ci nodded his head as if he was pounding garlic.1
“Then, should you repay me?” Rong Bai asked.
“Yes, yes, yes. I’m willing to do anything, as long as you spare my life.” Song Ci answered.
Rong Bai stood up and walked over to Song Ci’s side. After sniffing so much of that intense fragrance, it no longer smelled as pungent. He looked at Song Ci’s shrinking neck and could not help but reach out a hand to pinch his cheek. “And you still say you aren’t afraid of me?”
Song Ci trembled. His palms were slick with sweat. He feared that Rong Bai would let loose a ball of blue flame atop his head the very next second.
Rong Bai, however, held down the back of his head gently and slowly lifted his head. A trace of a smile appeared on the corners of his lips. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”
The instant Song Ci’s eyes met Rong Bai’s eyes, he felt relieved. He could clearly see from Rong Bai’s gaze that the person standing before him was not that legendary malicious Demon King, but the Rong Bai whom he had been interacting with this one month. It was the Rong Bai who had been protecting him all this time.
He blinked his eyes. “Master Rong, aren’t you angry?”
Rong Bai chuckled. “If I wanted to be angry, I would have been angry a long time ago. Why would I wait until now?”
Song Ci pursed his lips. He did not know how he should respond.
Rong Bai was so even-tempered that it was beyond his expectations.
“Listen to me.” Rong Bai withdrew his hand to tap on Song Ci’s forehead. He was about to speak when he suddenly fell silent.
Song Ci cast a doubtful look at him, only to see him suddenly close his eyes and topple over. Flustered, Song Ci hurriedly held him up. It was only then that he realized Rong Bai had passed out.
“Master Rong! Master Rong!” Song Ci called out. He was about to shout for someone when he suddenly saw a horrifying scene. Fresh red blood trickled out of Rong Bai’s nostrils and the corners of his eyes and mouth. It was especially jarring to the eyes when set against his pallid face.
Song Ci panicked and shouted for the servants outside, “Men! Someone, please! “
The demon servants heard Song Ci’s shouts and burst through the door. On seeing Rong Bai in this state, they carried him onto the bed in a fluster. The inner palace was thrown into chaos.
Song Ci had never seen Rong Bai in such a state before, and he was frightened out of his wits. Rong Bai was bleeding continuously from his seven apertures.2 Even if Song Ci wiped the blood off, the blood would still flow out again. It was as if he was dead; there was totally no reaction from him at all.
Song Ci’s mind was in a whirl. He was so flustered it disconcerted him. He did not know what he should do. The cloth towel in his hands had been wrung until it was all crumpled.
One moment, he was having a conversation with Rong Bai. The next moment, Rong Bai turned out like this. Who would be able to accept this?
Just when the group of demon servants was burning with anxiety, a man suddenly appeared in the hall. The oppressive aura that had materialized out of thin air was like a pair of strong hands pressing down on the demon servants’ shoulders, forcing them onto their knees.
Forced to hold his breath, Song Ci looked up at the man. The first thing he saw was a pair of pure, golden eyes. Then, his heart clenched, and he had the urge to bow his head and kneel. The good thing was that he was already sitting by the side of the bed, so he could still hold his impulse in check.
The man was a very young man dressed in a snow-white robe. The exterior of the collar was embroidered with gold threads that extended all the way down to his waist, where it assembled into the head of a sleeping dragon. Its horns stretched all the way to his shoulders. It was extremely lifelike.
The corners of his lips curled into a smile when he saw Song Ci. The intimidating aura instantly vanished from his pretty face. He now looked a tad more easy-going. “What’s your name?”
Song Ci gulped. “Song Ci.”
The young man turned his golden eyes and looked at Rong Bai on the bed. He walked a few steps over and gathered a speck of golden light on his finger before tapping it lightly on Rong Bai’s forehead. Rong Bai’s seven apertures finally stopped bleeding. The man said, “You appeared too late.”
Song Ci did not understand what he meant and looked at him, puzzled. “May I know who you are?”
“Come with me.” The young man said to him mysteriously.
Then his figure shifted, and the snow-like color disappeared before Song Ci’s eyes.
With doubts in his mind, Song Ci looked at Rong Bai. He used the towel to wipe the blood off his face. It was only after he wiped Rong Bai’s handsome face clean that he stood up. He had only taken a step when the surrounding scene changed.
There was a massive bodhi tree before him. Song Ci did not know how many years of growth and baptism by the wind and rain this tree had seen, but it gave him a sense of indomitable spirit.
For a moment, he remained in a daze until the voice in his ear brought him back to reality.
He turned his head for a look and saw two people standing beside him. One of them was the golden-eyed man who had just appeared in the hall to stop Rong Bai’s bleeding. The other was Divine Lord Shangshan – the one with one of his horns broken – who had been locked in the cage earlier.
Two men, one in black and one in white, one clean and one filthy, provided a sharp contrast to each other as they stood together.
“Ze Jiugu, do you know this man?” The golden-eyed man asked.
Divine Lord Shangshan, Ze Jiugu, who was also the only Water Qilin3 among the Six Realms, cast a look at Song Ci and said in a tone of familiarity, “I’ve seen him. We were even chatting earlier. I’m telling you, this man’s luck is really bad. He…”
Song Ci’s face flushed red and started coughing to interrupt their conversation. “Why did you bring me here for?”
Ze Jiugu stopped talking and glanced at the golden-eyed man beside him. He wondered, “That’s right. Why did you bring him here?”
“I naturally have my own reasons for doing so.” The golden-eyed man raised his eyebrows, then continued to speak to Song Ci, “Rong Bai’s end is near. Did you know that?”
Song Ci looked blank. “I didn’t.”
“Back then, he scattered his own soul4 to destroy the Devil Seal. Over the years, others have been talking about how news of his exploits has gone silent. But actually, he has been using a different way to dissipate his own soul. He was waiting for Lou Muge’s5 resurrection and return before he left for good.” The tone of the golden-eyed man grew heavy and solemn.
Song Ci understood what he was saying, but he still found it hard to believe. “You are saying, he’s killing himself? But why?”
“Perhaps he got tired of living.” He said, “A deity lives forever. But the longer one lives, the more monotonous one would find the world to be. Many deities and immortals would completely cut off their attachment to the world and choose to leave in a way they find comfortable once they lived to a certain point in time. This is exactly where the saying that ‘immortals live freely without desire and demands’ comes from.”
“This lad, Rong Bai, had never harbored the idea of reassembling his soul after he had scattered it, except for retrieving one of them during this period. If he goes on like this, he will thoroughly die.” The golden-eyed man shook his head. “No one can save him then.”
Song Ci’s mind instantly went blank. He cast aside all the questions he had to the back of his mind, leaving only one. “No one can save him?”
Rong Bai’s face flashed before his eyes—his smiling face, gentle expression, indifferent countenance, even his murderous look. On reflection, he never seemed to have seen Rong Bai guffaw with laughter, fly into a rage, or even express his dislike and delight. Not once had Rong Bai even exhibited any of these vivid emotions.
He had initially thought this to be Rong Bai’s temperament. Only now did he finally understood that it was because Rong Bai’s soul was incomplete. That was why he could not let loose his emotions as freely as any normal person would.
Several times, Song Ci had noticed Rong Bai sizing him up with his eyes. He reckoned that Rong Bai was also puzzling over why he had such expressive, vivid expressions.
But he had never really observed whether there was anything strange about Rong Bai’s gaze.
“Is there no way to help him?” Song Ci asked with a lump in his throat.
“There is a way, at least before he dies.” The golden-eyed man suddenly changed tack and glanced at him. “But we need your cooperation”.
“Sure, bring it on.” Song Ci agreed without hesitation. “What do you need me to do?”
“We need you to…” The golden-eyed man said, “… participate in his past.”
Song Ci was stunned. After a moment’s hesitation, he asked, “Can you elaborate?”
The golden-eyed man turned to look at Ze Jiugu. “You explain it.”
“I’ll keep it short.” Ze Jiugu nodded his head. “Have you ever heard of the Devil King from ancient times?”
Song Ci answered, “I have.”
“He once created four famous arrays which have been handed down to this day. They are: Rakshasa Illusory Realm, Great Ultimate Manifestations of Nature, Xingluo Chessboard, and Yin Yang Time Reversal.” Ze Jiugu casually picked up a branch and squatted on the ground to draw The Eight Diagrams.6 “Among them, the Yin Yang Time Reversal is the only array that even he himself cannot activate. And we are now standing on this array.”
Song Ci subconsciously looked at his feet. “What kind of array is the Yin Yang Time Reversal?”
“It can split time.” Ze Jiugu raised his head. His black eyes glowed with a faint light. “And send you back into the past.”
“Isn’t that similar to the Kunlun Mirror?”
“They aren’t the same.” He said, “Yin Yang Time Reversal can only go back in time without returning. It can let you return to the past for real. The Kunlun Mirror can connect the past, but everything it creates is merely an authentic illusion.”
“So you are saying, if someone successfully activates the Yin Yang Time Reversal, they can change history?” Song Ci’s back broke out in a cold sweat.
“That’s right.” He said, “We are about to do something big.”
The golden-eyed man took out a small bronze mirror, he clenched his fist and turned it into the size of a fingernail. Then, he conjured out a red string to string it before handing it into Song Ci’s hands. “Take this. It can bring you back.”
“What’s this?” Song Ci found this bronze mirror familiar.
“It’s the Kunlun Ancient Mirror. Although it’s missing a small fragment, it won’t affect its ability.” The man with golden eyes smiled, and his eyes narrowed into slits. “All you need to do is go back to the past and participate in Rong Bai’s former times.”
“But I don’t know how to do it at all?” Song Ci was in a panic. “Can’t you be a little more specific?”
“There’s no time.” The golden-eyed man shook his head. “Don’t worry. Just follow your heart. I believe in you.”
As soon as he said that, the sun released its first rays of light into the horizon, coloring half of the sky in bright colors.
Song Ci still wanted to say something, but the golden-eyed man and Ze Jiugu conjured up a knife blade at the same time and cut their palms. A sudden gust of violent wind around them swept the two men’s blood into the air and fused them together.
Sensing something peculiar, Song Ci looked down at the ground. Red light emerged out of a strange totem and spread beneath their feet, enclosing the entire bodhi tree.
The wind howled and sent the leaves of the Bodhi tree flapping loudly in the wind. Song Ci was so swept up in the wind that he staggered. He gripped the fingernail-sized Kunlun Mirror in his palm and clenched his teeth to endure it. His mind was still in a daze. There was no time for him to think about anything at all.
Then, golden light exploded, and the totem at their feet gave off a dark light that intersected with the golden light. The moment the rays of the sun completely showed its face, the wind went still.
On the spot where three men had been standing earlier, only the golden-eyed man remained behind.
He lowered his head and wiped the scar on his palm with a finger. His face was as white as snow and utterly devoid of color. He chuckled and muttered. “Please don’t let me down.”
We’re now formally delving into the main theme of the story.
Pounding ingredients usually with a mortar and pestle.
- 七窍 the seven apertures, i.e., the eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouth
- (水)麒麟, or (Water) Qilin (Kirin), a mythical Chinese creature said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of a sage or illustrious ruler.
- In Daoism, it’s believed that man has three immortal souls and seven mortal souls (baser instincts that motivate a human being) that contrast the spiritual and carnal side of man. (三魂七魄). So a man, if missing a part of the soul, might not be dead, but would be lacking in the sense corresponding to the soul or spirit that has gone missing (e.g. his emotions might be flat.) It’s also possible to recall and reclaim the MIA soul to a living person, but a man is truly gone for good (with no chance for reincarnation) when all his souls dispersed. Basically,
Alive + complete soul = living person
Alive + lacking a part of soul/spirit = alive but lacking in certain senses/emotions (e.g., flat emotions)
Dead + complete soul = dead; now a soul/ghost with the possibility to re-enter the wheel of reincarnation
Dead + scattered soul = cease to exist; no chance for reincarnation.
- 魔尊楼慕歌 Mo Zun Lou Muge. Mo Zun, or the Devil Lord, is Lou Muge’s title. He is not the Devil King of the Devil Realm. Also, he has his own (BL) story in the author’s latest novel, 《魔尊今天也在逃命》 , literally translated as ‘The Devil Lord (Mo Zun) is Fleeing For His Life Again Today’.
太极八卦 The Eight Diagrams