As the most famous sect in Dong Wang, it did not take long for Mo Yao to become the hot topic of conversation among the Dong Wang commoners after their mishap. Even the Emperor paid close attention to this matter and sent a team to investigate it.
Song Ci and Rong Bai left Pingyang after descending Yu Shi Peak.
It was in the middle of the month at the moment, so they were in no rush. After all, the Demon Gate appeared once a month. Even if they hurried over, they would still have to wait.
And so, Song Ci followed Rong Bai. It was a relaxed journey the entire way.
The otherworldly Master Rong wore a snow-white Daoist robe all the way with nary a speck of dirt on him. Wherever he went, there was always a divine aura about him.
However, Song Ci, whose roots were in the mundane world, was not as carefree as Rong Bai was. He bought himself some clothes and carried a small cloth bundle1 so he could alternate between wearing and washing them. Simple enough.
Master Rong traveled as he pleased. Both of them made several stops along the way. This went on for about ten days.
It was noon this day, and Song Ci was hot and thirsty. His tongue was hanging out feebly and he looked weary. But when he saw Rong Bai still looking poised, he felt embarrassed to ask for a break and forced himself to push on.
“Young masters, come in and have a seat. Take a short break.” A voice rang out suddenly.
Song Ci and Rong Bai both turned to look. There was a tea stall by the roadside, and a young maiden was standing at the entrance greeting them.
This maiden was not gorgeous, but when she smiled, she looked affable. Both of her sleeves were slightly rolled up, revealing her tender and fair skin. Her long braids dangled behind her.
Song Ci looked at the big ‘tea’ inscription on the sign and gulped. His mouth was so dry that it was about to emit smoke. He subconsciously took half a step over.
Rong Bai noted this small movement and realized that this man had been on the brink of dying from thirst. Thus, he smiled and said, “We have been walking for half a day. Let’s take a rest.”
As soon as he heard Rong Bai giving his permission, Song Ci said excitedly to the maiden, “Lady, please bring us a pot of herbal tea.”
“Alright, young master. Please come in.” The stall maiden warmly welcomed Song Ci inside. She quickly brought up a pot of herbal tea and poured a cup for each of them. “Please enjoy your tea.”
The maiden was quick-witted and light on her feet, and she had a sweet smile too. Song Ci could not help but give her a second look.
Rong Bai looked at him and asked, “What are you looking at?”
Song Ci came to his senses and watched as the maiden went out again to solicit customers. He whispered, “When I was young, I had a betrothed. The maiden was similar to this lady. She was clever and lively. There were two dimples on her cheeks when she smiled.”
Rong Bai took a sip of herbal tea with a calm expression. “What happened afterward?”
“Then the betrothal fell through.” Song Ci gave a sorrowful sigh. “That maiden fell in love with my cousin and turned on the waterworks as she insisted on marrying him. She came to our door to break off the betrothal.”
Hurt by this incident, the young Song Ci had laid in bed for three days straight. But recounting this matter after so many years revealed no hints of emotion in his tone other than self-mockery.
Rong Bai saw that Song Ci had emptied his tea and so he lifted the teapot to refill it for him. “We are about the same.”
On hearing that, Song Ci’s eyes brightened. He felt as if he had found a bosom friend for life. “So Master Rong was also dumped… uh, I mean have your engagement broken off? Who is that blind person? She must have deeply regretted letting you slip…”
“She was originally betrothed to someone else, but she insisted on marrying me. It happened that she had a loud voice, so everyone knew about it. In the end, the betrothal was called off like she wanted.” Rong Bai said. “This kind of woman is truly annoying.”
Song Ci fell silent and sipped his herbal tea quietly. He finished his tea before he said calmly. “We are really too different.”
Rong Bai smiled on seeing Song Ci’s expression. He refilled Song Ci’s cup again.
“Oh my, both young masters are really on good terms.” The stall maiden heaped praises on them when she walked over and saw this scene. “I have been running this stall for so many years, and I have seen many people from all over. It’s rare to see such handsome young men and a pair of lovers at that.”
Song Ci was still a little perplexed when he heard the first sentence, but he immediately understood by the end of her words. His ears reddened as he smiled and said, “Lady, you’re mistaken. This is my master.”
Surprise flashed through the stall keeper’s face. She said, “I thought too much of it. I didn’t expect this young master to be of such high status. He looks very young.”
Having his seniority elevated for no rhyme or reason, Rong Bai said nothing and simply smiled. Song Ci finally came to his senses when Rong Bai poured the third cup of herbal tea for Song Ci. He hurriedly took over the teapot, “Master Rong, how can I let you pour drinks for me? I’ll do it myself!”
Rong Bai did not push it and passed Song Ci the teapot. Then he turned to the stall keeper and asked, “That’s Qinchuan right ahead, right?”
The stall keeper nodded and sat down at the table beside them. “It will take less than half a day to get there. But you should not go to Qinchuan for the time being.”
“Why?” Song Ci asked.
“Qinchuan is not safe. There’s a demon creating havoc a while back. Many demon-catching Daoist priests and cultivators have gone there, but no one has been able to subdue the demon. A few days ago, many of those from Mo Yao went too, but so far there has been no news. I wonder if they have been able to subdue the demon.” The stall keeper clicked her tongue twice. “The demon is really powerful. It set up an array, and no one in the city could leave. It’s really scary to be able to enter but not exit. I think it’s better for you not to go.”
Song Ci felt so too on hearing this, so he leaned over to Rong Bai. “Master Rong, why don’t we make a detour? It looks like this Qinchuan is a trouble spot.”
“No.” Rong Bai said, “The next Demon Gate is in the City of Qinchuan.”
Song Ci immediately smacked the table and made the final decision. “Then we’ll go to Qinchuan. Who cares about demons or ghosts? They are all small potatoes to Master Rong, anyway. They are nothing to be feared.”
“So both of you are here for the Demon Gate” The stall keeper clicked her tongue again and shook her head. “There are too many people who have died looking for the Demon Gate. Why go to this extent?
“You can’t say that. Some people seek the Demon Gate to be rich, but some people have no other choice but to do it to save their lives.” Song Ci righteously defended himself. If it was not because he wanted to turn back into an ordinary human, he would not barge into the Demon Gate and court his own death.
“So, young master, I take it you are doing this to save your life?” The stall keeper sized him up again. “You don’t look like you are seriously ill.”
“You won’t be able to tell what illness I have. Anyway, it’s a thorny issue. I must find the Demon King in order to cure it.” Song Ci sighed again and gulped down his tea as if he was drinking wine to drown his sorrows.
The stall keeper looked puzzled. “Are you sure you are seeking life, not death?”
“Lady, how can you say that?” Song Ci tapped his fingers twice on the table and tutted. He said, “If it weren’t for the sake of survival, who would barge into that kind of place where demons run wild? Can’t you say something nice?”
The stall keeper pulled down the corners of her mouth. “Fine, I’ll shut my mouth if you don’t like to listen.”
She rose and took a rag to wipe the table. After a moment of silence, she said, “But there’s something I still need to say. Since you are going to look for the Demon King, then you should have already asked around and gotten a handle on the Demon King, right?”
Song Ci looked at her and said with uncertainty, “I heard a lot about him. I know he was originally a divine lord in the Divine Realm who was later banished, then elected to the throne in the Demon Realm…”
“Elected?” The maiden sneered as if mocking Song Ci’s ignorance. “Do you know why the Demon King was exiled from the Divine Realm?”
Song Ci had a bad feeling when he saw her expression. He shook his head.
“The Demon King was born of the Tu Shan Fox Clan. The Tu Shan is different from Qingqiu. The Qingqiu Fox Clan is all about charm, while Tu Shan is about power.” The maiden sat down again and recount the past with a somber expression. “The Demon King was of pure and noble blood. He was the darling of Tu Shan the moment he was born. He cultivated nine tails when he was still very young. Few people among the entire Six Realms dared to rival him. However, he was cold and indifferent and had an ardent fondness for slaughter. In the end, he was banished from the Divine Realm after he killed a fellow clansman.”
“I never expected him to be so powerful.” Song Ci mumbled.
Rong Bai cast a glance at him and smiled.
“There’s more.” The maiden continued, “As you have said, the Demon Realm elected him to the throne. But think about it. He was from the Divine Realm, how could he have gained the acknowledgment of the myriad of demonic tribes in the Demon Realm?”
“Back then, he massacred half of the Demon Realm all on his own. There are twelve Demon Capitals, and he wiped them out one at a time. He nearly eliminated all the major demons who were in power at that time in the Demon Realm. In order to preserve their lives, the remaining capital chiefs made a joint request for him to take over the throne. That’s how he has the title of the Demon King today.”
After hearing this, Song Ci’s lips turned white. “That’s impossible. He did it alone? After all these years, could the legends have been exaggerated?”
“I’ve already told you, but you still don’t believe it. Of the Six Realms, the Human Realm is at the bottom, while the Divine Realm is at the top. The Demon King came down from the peak. Not to mention the Demon Realm, even the Devil Realm…”
“Stop. Don’t say anymore.” Song Ci interrupted her and said stubbornly, “I haven’t seen the Demon King with my own eyes. I don’t believe it.”
“It’s true.” Rong Bai piped up breezily and turned into the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
Song Ci stared at him with wide-open eyes. His face had turned pale from shock. He abruptly reached out for the teacup, gulped down the tea, and stood up. “I, I have rested enough. Let’sgo.”
With that, he slapped a piece of broken silver on the table and fled out of the tea stall.
Rong Bai followed behind Song Ci. He was not in a hurry to ask even though he could see the panic from Song Ci’s back. Instead, he waited for Song Ci to initiate conversation.
As expected, they had walked for only a short distance when Song Ci turned back and asked Rong Bai. “Master Rong, do you think the Demon King is really that formidable?”
Rong Bai was momentarily stumped on being asked such a question. He slowly asked, “Do you think I’m formidable?”
Song Ci nodded his head like a chick pecking at grains. “Of course you’re formidable.”
“Then he should be formidable too.” Rong Bai answered.
“Between you and him, who is more formidable?” Song Ci asked again.
“Equally matched, perhaps.” Rong Bai felt that he was going to be bamboozled by this line of questioning, so he simply said, “You’ll naturally find out when we enter the Demon Realm.”
“That won’t do.” Song Ci’s head shook like a rattle drum2 again. “What if we can’t return after we enter? Of course, I’m not doubting Master Rong’s capabilities. I’m just afraid that the Demon King will resort to dirty tricks…”
Pinching both of Song Ci cheeks until his mouth pouted, Rong Bai put a stop to his words. “If I can bring you into the Demon Realm, I’ll naturally be able to bring you out. Don’t worry.”
包袱, a cloth bundle. In the old days, people traveled around with their clothes and possessions bundled up with a piece of cloth. The bundle was then worn across the shoulders and carried around.
拨浪鼓 Bolang Gu, also a Chinese rattle drum or a pellet drum, is a typical child toy in China. It’s shaken or rotated from left and right quickly to produce a drumming or rattling sound. You can see it in action in MDZS Drama, Chen Qing Ling, ep. 30 (Jin Guangyao) and ep. 31 (Jiang Yanli).