Tu Shan Lian never expected him to be startled awake at this moment. Few people who had been immersed in the Dream Realm of Ten Thousands Abysses would be able to regain their senses this quickly.
And this time, Song Ci felt completely different to her—unpredictably dangerous.
She hurriedly extracted her hand, wanting to retreat, but Song Ci’s grip on her was so strong that there was no way she could escape.
Song Ci lowered his head for a look and saw her long fingers pointing at his own chest. Understanding dawned on him. “I think I know what you are planning to do.”
He had only just said that when a flame leaped up in his palm and enveloped his entire hand. It burned Tu Shan Lian’s wrist, causing her to scream. She could no longer maintain her composure. With her other hand, she pulled out her whip and flung it towards him.
But Song Ci did not dodge it. He raised his left hand slightly, and Du’e transformed into a spear about half the length of his arm with blue flames whirling around it.
He flung Tu Shan Lian with all his force towards the side, sending her smashing brutally into the wall. As she instinctively screamed out in pain, the blade mercilessly pierced through her shoulder and nailed her to the wall. Blood spurted out, instantly staining her light-colored skirt red.
The pain distorted Tu Shan Lian’s face, making it look incomparably hideous. She was trembling all over. But she could not muster up the strength to pull out Du’e, which pinned her to the wall. An unbearable searing pain from the wound tore her consciousness into shreds.
Song Ci looked at her and suddenly let out a brilliant smile. Those pretty eyes used to be gentle and amicable, but all that remained now were merely a hint of a smile and bloodlust.
White light materialized on his fingertip and spread all over his body, enveloping it. Following right after, the entire dream realm began to shake and shatter. The instant the streets of the capital started to appear again, Song Ci’s entire head of black hair began to change at its roots to a shade so clean and pure that it was as if white snow had been splashed all over it.
This was the most obvious symbol of the Tu Shan Divine Clan. Yet he was like a devil walking out of the abyss, brimming with malice begotten out of the darkness.
After seeing Tu Shan Lian injured, Situ Zhoulan hid herself in a dark corner. She embraced Xiaochao in her bosom and suppressed her breathing to observe Song Ci in secret.
Then, she saw Song Ci shift his gaze to meet her eyes. The corners of his lips curved up slightly, as if saying: I’ve found you.
Situ Zhoulan knew she could not hide, so she released Xiaochao and turned both hands into her sleeves and tossed out a mass of objects that looked like black beans. After they tumbled to the ground, they began to move.
On closer look, these were not black beads, but tiny bugs. They crawled swiftly in large batches towards Song Ci. If the common man were to see this, he would definitely get a case of heebie-jeebies.
But Song Ci frowned in disgust instead. With a tap of his toe, the blue flame instantly went blazing over to burn those bugs to cinders, sparing not even one of them. He raised his left hand to draw Situ Zhoulan over.
She struggled in a panic as she was dragged towards him by the pulling force. Both of her legs left trails behind her as she was hauled over, but she could not slow herself down. The nearer she was to Song Ci, the more fearfully she flailed her limbs about. It was an extremely ugly sight to behold.
Once she was before Song Ci, a strong, crushing force sent her to her knees. Her old brittle bones could not hold up to the pressure, and the impact shattered both her knees. Two shallow dents appeared in the ground.
Song Ci gently put his hand on her head.
It was a very dangerous move. His entire palm covered the top of Situ Zhoulan’s head. He only needed to give a hard squeeze, and he would have been able to crush her head.
Situ Zhoulan was truly scared and began to beg for mercy incoherently. “Shuhong-ge, Shuhong-ge. On account that we have grown up together in Jinling, please spare my life. At any rate, I’m good friends with Liang Yanbei. For so many years, we have…”
“Hm?” Song Ci tilted his head slightly to look at her. His smile was pure and kind. “Don’t be afraid. I won’t kill you now.”
Situ Zhoulan was still breathing heavily, but she felt a little relieved, thinking that Song Ci had said so because he still found her to be of some use.
Even if she were to fall into the lowest stratum of society, she must not die here.
She hurriedly said, “Shuhong-ge, don’t you hate Liang Yanbei? And Wen Chan? You were clearly the one who stood by his side first, but he callously cast you aside to seek connections with Liang Yanbei. Such a despicable man should be cut to pieces and tortured to death. I’m willing to do this for you. I can find them…”
“Hush.” Song Ci interrupted her words, as if he was not interested in her suggestion. His voice was soft and unhurried. “Don’t make so much noise. I’m afraid I can’t help but crush your head.”
Situ Zhoulan immediately shut her mouth, not daring to utter a sound again.
Song Ci beckoned to Xiaochao, who was standing in the corner. “Come over.”
Xiaochao still looked innocent and unaffected, like a child ignorant of worldly affairs and who had no fear of what was happening before him. He smiled at Song Ci, “I would like to know your name.”
Song Ci said, “Did you create this dream realm?”
Xiaochao nodded. “I’ve been creating dream realms for millions of years. I rarely come across those who would regain awareness this fast. I want to remember you.”
“My name is Song Ci.” Song Ci conversed normally with him. He seemed to have buried away the name Liang Shuhong. Even when he returned to the capital, he was still unwilling to mention it to others. He pointed to Situ Zhoulan and said, “Create a dream realm for her.”
Xiaochao regarded this as a transaction. Since he had learned Song Ci’s name, then he would naturally agree to his request. He looked at Situ Zhoulan and asked, “A “nightmare?”
“Naturally.” Song Ci smiled.
Both of them spoke as if they were discussing the weather. But Situ Zhoulan was so terrified that she went crazy. She shrieked, her old voice sounding jarringly hoarse. “No! No!”
Song Ci tightened his grip, and Situ Zhoulan felt her head ache. She heard cracking sounds from her head. Her screams ceased. Both her eyes were so red they looked as though they were dripping blood. Her face was drenched in tears.
She pleaded in a small voice, “Shuhong-ge. Shuhong-ge.”
Lowering his body, Song Ci moved in closer to her and said gently, “Don’t worry. Once you are in the dream realm, I will let out your blood bit by bit until not a drop is left.”
Situ Zhoulan widened her eyes. Hatred and fear sprang forth from those murky eyes. She seemed to want to make a last-ditch struggle, but Xiaochao did not give her the opportunity. In an instant, he dragged her into the dream realm.
She was still kneeling, but her eyes started to close.
The nightmare weaved by Xiaochao was beautiful at the start, but as it progressed, it would begin to dig out the dreamer’s innermost fears and sufferings and repeat it over and over again.
Seeing the corners of Situ Zhoulan’s lips curved up in a smile, Song Ci let loose a mocking laugh. He cold-heartedly sliced her wrist to let out the blood from the wound.
Situ Zhoulan ought to have been dead by this point in her life. Back then, she violated the Situ Clan’s taboo and raised demonic insects. She was later driven out of the house and never heard from again for four years. This was all Song Ci knew about her.
But he could guess that the reason she became what she was today had a lot to do with his younger cousin brother, Liang Yanbei.
He never expected that the seed of disaster Liang Yanbei had sown to implicate him.
Song Ci let out a disgruntled snort when he thought of this.
“The night is coming, and demons will surround the city outside.” On hearing his snort, Xiaochao looked up and said, “No one has died in the city, including your parents. They were merely lured into dream realms which I ate a little of. However, the demons outside are all ready for a piece of the action.”
He said, “I have dispelled the dream realms. All of these no longer have anything to do with me.”
Song Ci watched him walk out of the city gates and disappear from his line of sight. He then turned to cast a glance at his own residence. Without a pause, he turned around and walked out of the city gate.
It was about to be dark soon. Sure enough, masses of demons had surrounded the outside of the city, but many of them dispersed the moment they saw Song Ci, cognizant of the fact that a blue-eyed, white-haired member of the Tu Shan Clan was not someone they could incur the wrath of.
But there were still some fledglings who were fearless. When they saw this big fish, they did not want to let him go easily. They eyed Song Ci covetously.
This was exactly what Song Ci wanted. He moved his fingers and his fingertips began to itch. He could not wait to taste the pleasure of tearing them into pieces with his bare hands. The easygoing smile on his face gradually took on an aggressive turn as a faintly discernible ruthlessness took over it.
When Rong Bai walked out from the darkness of the night, he saw Song Ci standing among an entire ground of corpses. His whole body was drenched in blood as if he had draped a red coat over himself, while his snow-white hair fluttered wildly in the wind. He was shrouded in a soft white glow under the starry sky, looking very much like a moon that had descended to this mundane world.
Two youths kneeled before him, and while his hand held the third one. The youth’s pleading voice rang out. “Great King, that’s all we have. We really don’t have more.”
Song Ci harrumphed and released his grip on the youth’s collar. His entire hand was soaked in blood. He kept those few broken pieces of silver in his palm into his clothes. Every time he saw these three rabbit demons, he had the urge to rob them of all their money.
As he stood amidst this bloodstained land, he suddenly caught a whiff of a familiar scent. He hurriedly turned his head and saw Rong Bai all dressed in a long black robe standing a short distance away. His hair and eyes were black. If not for his fair complexion, he would have almost merged into the night.
Song Ci’s eyes suddenly shone like two illuminated lanterns to reveal the genuine happiness in them. Before he could say a word, his legs had already moved. He strode over the entire ground of corpses and made his way towards Rong Bai.
Rong Bai smiled too. His expression was one of warmth and fondness as he walked towards him. When they neared each other, Song Ci paid no heed to the blood all over him and embraced Rong Bai tightly. It was as if the void in his entire body had finally found a home it belonged to. He called out under his breath, “Rong Bai, Rong Bai…”
Rong Bai did not care about the stench of blood assaulting his nose as he raised his hands to embrace Song Ci in his arms.
“The scent is gone.” He whispered into Song Ci’s ear.
“What scent?” Song Ci asked. He could only smell the stench of blood on his body.
“My scent.” Rong Bai responded. “Your blood no longer has my scent.”
“Then so be it.” Song Ci released him a little and raised his head intending to kiss him. This seemed to have become his habit as he completely came to accept his intimacy with Rong Bai.
But he did not expect Rong Bai to tilt his head to the side to dodge him and look at him right in the eyes. Those eyes were so crystal clear that he could see the affectionate love in them, yet it lacked the emotional upheaval one would expect of a reunion.
Song Ci was stunned. He released Rong Bai and asked with doubt written all over his face, “Why did you dodge?”
Rong Bai opened his lips, but said nothing. He raised his hands to hug him again, but Song Ci took a step back. A storm raged in those eyes that had been brimming with delight earlier. It was now full of malevolence.
“Even you disdain me, is that it?” Song Ci was clearly furious, But the emotion in his eyes made Rong Bai’s heart ache.
Rong Bai shook his head, but offered no explanation.
Song Ci’s eyes reddened. He said through gritted teeth, “Fine. You detest me. Then all the more I won’t let you have your way!”
When Rong Bai saw his anger, he raised his hand to touch him. He wanted to hold his hand, but Song Ci was still furious. He pulled back his hand and pointed at him to warn him, “Don’t you touch me now!”
Rong Bai’s eyes softened, like the melting of spring water in his eyes. He said in a very gentle voice, “I’m sorry. Don’t get angry. I don’t disdain you.”
“Then why aren’t you willing to kiss me?!” Song Ci groused.
“I want to hug you.” Rong Bai looked at him longingly.
“No!” Song Ci tossed his long hair and turned around to say to those three brothers who were still kneeling, “Mo Qiong, go and tie up that person nailed to the wall inside the city and bring her over. We are leaving this place!”
“Song Ci.” When Rong Bai saw that he was leaving, he pitifully called out to him from behind.
As soon as he woke up, he had rushed over without stopping for a break. His body could not really keep up with it for too long. If Song Ci really left now, he might not be able to catch up.
Song Ci shouted again, “Mo Pin, Mo Kun,1 tie him up too and take him with us!”
Rong Bai felt relieved.
They moved soundlessly. Only the entire ground of bloodied corpses, and a kneeling Situ Zhoulan who looked hideously terrified, were testaments to Song Ci’s deeds.
When the folks in the capital woke up the next day, they all marveled over the strange phenomenon. Rumors flew all around that deities have descended to the mortal world to stop the group of demons from invading the city. Thus, they were all full of gratitude.
The new Emperor of Xiliang designated this day as a day of worship to be celebrated once a year. This festival would continue for many years thereafter, thereby becoming the tradition of the Xiliang commoners.
Several days later, a handsome man driving a horse carriage stopped outside the capital. He looked up at the city gate and jumped off the carriage. Although he was dressed in an ordinary brocade robe, he could not hide the air of affluence around him.
The man listened to the commotion of voices from the city with a look of satisfaction. He turned around and rapped on the carriage window, “Ah-Chan,2 we have arrived at the capital.”
- Extra Trivia:
The rabbit brothers’ names are:
• Mo Qiong (莫穷) = “don’t be poor”
• Mo Pin (莫贫) = “don’t be impoverished/lacking”
• Mo Kun (莫困) = “don’t be sleepy/tired”
The Mo in their names means “don’t be”. The second characters in their names can actually be combined to form words:
• Qiong and Kun can be combined to form the word Qiong Kun (穷困).
• Pin and Qiong can be combined to form the word Pin Qiong (贫穷).
• Pin and Kun can be combined to form the word Pin Kun (贫困).
All these ‘combined’ characters basically means poor, impoverished, and destitute.
- “Ah” is a prefix used before monosyllabic names to indicate kinship and/or familiarity