No one expected Rong Bai to jump out and voice his objection at this moment.
Song Ci and Qinyu simultaneously looked at him.
Qinyu asked, “May I know who you are?”
Rong Bai looked at Song Ci and said, “It’s a waste of time.”
Song Ci was perplexed as he asked, “Master Rong? Could it be that you have a better way?”
He glanced at Mirror Old Man and answered, “Yes.”
Qinyu and Mirror Old Man were both alarmed by his look. Qinyu said, “No!”
Rong Bai narrowed his eyes. In a blink of an eye, his expression changed completely as the earlier trace of geniality vanished. There was an undercurrent of danger in his tone. “Hmmm?”
Song Ci was stupefied on seeing this. There was a split second he felt the image of the Rong Bai he had seen holding a head earlier superimposed on the figure of the Rong Bai before him.
“He is merely a fragment of the Kunlun Mirror …” Qinyu’s voice weakened as she cast a piteous look at Song Ci. “Forcibly activating the mirror will hurt him.”
Their exchange mystified Song Ci. Although he did not know what Qinyu meant, he could tell that Rong Bai’s method had put Mirror Old Man and Qinyu on the spot.
He backhandedly grabbed hold of Rong Bai’s sleeve and tried to persuade him, “Master Rong, about that…”
But Rong Bai said, “The time within the array differs from the outside world. If you delay it further, you will miss the demon gate.”
Song Ci was like no way?! when he heard it. With a grave expression, he said to Mirror Old Man, “This rotten debt is yours. If you want to clear it off, you have to pay the price.”
By this time, Mirror Old Man was no longer as flustered. He had apparently accepted Rong Bai’s suggestion. He nodded and said to Rong Bai, “Do it.”
Qinyu frowned. Although she did not approve of it, she said nothing to stop them. She silently took a few steps back and stood to one side.
“What exactly is the method you mentioned?” Song Ci asked out of curiosity.
Rong Bai raised his right hand slowly, and white light congregated in his palm. Then, it split into several rays of light and flew over to Mirror Old Man, surrounding him from head to toe. He said indifferently, “This mirror demon is a fragment of the Kunlun Mirror. The Kunlun Mirror knows the past and the future. After activating the mirror, we can connect to time that has elapsed.”
While listening to the explanation, Song Ci watched as Mirror Old Man’s aged face slowly turn into that of a young man, then a youth, a baby, and finally into a mirror fragment that glowed with a golden light.
The white light encircled around the mirror fragment before it made its way, like a mischievous child, into the mirror fragment.
Rong Bai made a fist in the air, and the mirror fragment before him let loose rays of golden light that enveloped the surrounding landscape.
“Whoa, how generous.” Song Ci suddenly heard Wen Changchu’s voice. He turned his head to see Wen Changchu walking over to him. Wen Changchu whispered, “The Kunlun Mirror is a deity artifact. It consumes a lot of energy and power to activate it each time. Your Master Rong isn’t stingy at all.”
Song Ci was used to Wen Changchu saying “your Master Rong”, so he did not give it too much thought. However, Rong Bai heard him and could not help turning his head to look at him.
He saw Song Ci asking in an unconcerned manner, “How many years back can this artifact send Jiang Liang back to? Can it change the ending?”
Wen Changchu shook his head. “History is irreversible. Except for that array, there has been nothing else in this world that can truly change time. The Kunlun Mirror can indeed connect to the past, but to put it bluntly, it’s merely a realistic illusion. It will not change the ending.”
Noticing “that array” Wen Changchu had mentioned, Song Ci wanted to probe further. However, he felt that it would be inappropriate for him to be long-winded at this point in time. Thus, he silently made a note of it, thinking he would ask again after they had broken through the array.
The golden light faded, and the scene before him changed. There was a wilderness in front of him, with the bright moon high up in the sky. It was desolate all around. Only a shabby thatched hut lay before him.
Song Ci looked beside him and realized that everyone around him had disappeared. He took a step towards the shabby thatched hut. Before he could enter, he heard panting.
That was the kind of gasp someone on the verge of death would make.
He wanted to push open the door of the thatched hut, but he did not expect his outstretched hand to pass directly through the door. He looked down in surprise and discovered that his body was translucent.
Song Ci drifted through the door and immediately saw a scene that shook him.
Other than the straw all over the floor inside the hut, there was a man leaning against a wall of straw with his eyes closed as he gasped for breath. It was Feng Zhuojun.
Both of his hands were covering his bloodied stomach. He remained motionless.
Just then, footsteps rang out on the other side of the door, getting closer and closer until the back door was eventually pushed opened. A dubious-looking Jiang Liang walked in.
“What is this place?” He murmured.
“Who is it?” Feng Zhuojun suddenly asked in a barely audible voice.
But it was so quiet that Jiang Liang instantly heard this deeply familiar voice. He looked towards Feng Zhuojun in astonishment. “Who’s there?”
The room was too dark. Only Song Ci’s eyes were able to see clearly. The other two could not see each other, as if they were partially blind.
Jiang Liang did not make any hasty moves. Instead, he took out a fire stick1 from his bosom and bundled up the straw on the ground to light it up.
Feng Zhuojun did not answer him. After a while, he asked, “Are you with those gang of mountain bandits?”
This time, Jiang Liang heard him clearly. His hand trembled as he wanted to light up the straw, but he only managed to blow out a spark of fire that died down instantly. No matter how he tried, he could not light up the straw.
Feng Zhuojun laughed and said. “Don’t light it. I’m afraid my looks will scare you.”
On hearing that, Jiang Liang threw away the fire stick and rose to his feet hurriedly. He groped around in the dark and made his way to Feng Zhuojun. “Zhuojun? It’s you, isn’t it?”
The strange thing as that Feng Zhuojun could not hear his voice, but he could hear his movements. He suddenly implored, “I’m seriously injured. Can you save me?”
Jiang Liang asked, flustered. “Where are you hurt?”
But Feng Zhuojun fell silent. Jiang Liang asked him several times in a row, but he did not answer. Jiang Liang reached out his hands to touch his body and accidentally pressed the wound.
Feng Zhuojun sucked in a cold breath out of pain, scaring Jiang Liang so much that he hastily withdrew his hand and did not dare to move again. Feng Zhuojun said, “Forget it. I’m afraid I’m too far gone to save. I reckon that I’ll be left all stranded in this desolate wilderness.”
“Feng Zhuojun! Feng Zhuojun!” Realizing that Feng Zhuojun could not hear his voice, Jiang Liang repeated his name and kept raising his voice. However, it was as if Feng Zhuojun had no ears. He could sense his movements, but not hear his words.
Feng Zhuojun maintained his silence. His breath was still weakening. He suddenly spoke up. “I really can’t accept dying like this.”
His tone was choked full of despair. It actually sounded somewhat calm at first. Perhaps, he had truly realized that he was dying, and so he had ceased to make any pointless struggle. But it seemed as if he still held on to a little bit of hope as he said to Jiang Liang, “If you are willing to save me, I’m willing to give up my entire fortune to repay your kindness once my life is preserved.”
Jiang Liang’s face was already streaked with tears. “Feng Zhuojun, hang in there. I’ll find someone to save you!”
He had intended to rise to his feet and dash outside, but he had only just turned around when he braked to a stop as if he had thought of something.
Song Ci knew what Jiang Liang was thinking.
A youth Jiang Liang had once experienced the same situation. He had finally grasped on to a ray of life-saving hope, but all that awaited him back at home was his dead mother.
He was afraid that if he left now, then all he could see would be an icy cold corpse when he returned.
Jiang Liang’s body trembled as he hesitated.
However, Feng Zhuojun thought he was going to leave and stopped him. “Don’t go! I know it’s all wilderness here. There is no way you can find someone to save me. At the very least, you should stay and chat with me. After all, I’m going to die.”
Jiang Liang slowly turned his head back on hearing this. It was as if it had also dawned on him that this was not truly happening in real-time. Thus, he sat down at the foot of the wall.
“Perhaps this is my fate…” Upon seeing that he had really stayed on, Feng Zhuojun summoned his remaining strength to start a conversation. “I came out here to find that younger twin brother of mine. I didn’t expect to come across mountain bandits and end up paying with my life.”
Jiang Liang was dumbstruck. “Your… younger twin brother?”
It was then Song Ci felt the mystery unraveling. The real Feng Zhuojun had died while he was on his way to look for his younger brother decades ago. The one that remained behind was his twin brother who was not acquainted with Jiang Liang at all.
“To be honest, I’m truly regretting this.” Feng Zhuojun’s tone was puzzlingly sanguine, as if this did not concern him. Song Ci looked at him in bewilderment. But to his surprise, he saw Feng Zhuojun’s red eyes brimming with tears that did not fall.
“There are too many people I can’t let go of. How can I be content to die like this?” Feng Zhuojun said, “Ah Liang secretly hid my fan. He’s surely waiting for me to return and ask for it. And my parents. They are so advanced in age, yet they still have to send off their child.”
“I don’t want to die. I really don’t want to die.” Feng Zhuojun’s tone gradually became humble. He raised his quivering hand. The tears finally slid down his cheeks. He choked with sobs and implored Jiang Liang, “Can you save me? Please?”
Jiang Liang finally broke down and burst into bitter tears.
A few decades ago, Feng Zhuojun left town to find his younger brother and encountered bandits on the mountain. He waited all alone in this shabby thatched hut for death to claim him. Little by little, he felt his life slipping away from him. He yearned with all his heart to survive. But, even until his death, that one hope had never materialized before him.
He repeated those words over and over again. Those longings and ties he could not let go made him cast aside all his dignity as he pleaded with a stranger he could not see or hear. Jiang Liang unleashed heartrending cries, but there was nothing he could do.
The Kunlun mirror allowed time to overlap, but no one could change the ending. Wen Changchu was right.
At last, Feng Zhuojun grew tired, and his voice gradually weakened until it was barely a whisper. Even then, he never stopped pleading.
Jiang Liang groped around slowly until he finally touched his blood-stained hands. He grasped them tightly, feeling the iciness of those hands and the gradual weakening of his pulse.
He leaned his head against their holding hands and said through clenched teeth, “Don’t leave me…”
But Feng Zhuojun no longer spoke as his eyes closed and his heartbeat came to a standstill.
This way of uncovering the truth was simply too cruel to Jiang Liang. A few decades ago, unable to accept her fate, his mother had cried before Jiang Liang as she expressed her reluctance to die and desire to live. A few decades later, Jiang Liang was once again thrown into the same situation.
The two people he loved in his entire life had both passed away in the same manner right before his very eyes.
And he could do nothing except shed pointless tears.
Jiang Liang held Feng Zhuojun’s body in his arms and wailed as he continuously screamed out his name. His grief-stricken expression moved Song Ci. Not bearing to watch further, Song Ci averted his gaze.
Right then, the reason Mirror Old Man had withheld the truth suddenly hit him. In this world, Jiang Liang had been all on his own after his mother’s passing. If he got wind that his lover had left this world too, he was very likely to give up any hope of living.
Whether loving someone who would never be yours or loving someone but falling out with him in the end would hurt Jiang Liang more was of secondary importance to Mirror Old Man. What was the most important was, which one would give him the desire to live on.
Song Ci suddenly understood a little about this love others spoke of.
Just as he was deep in thought, the scenes before began to dissipate. The Feng Zhuojun in Jiang Liang’s arms turned into beams of light and started to vanish, starting from his feet. At a loss what to do, Jiang Liang embraced him even more tightly. But in the end, he grasped on to nothing except empty air.
“Later on…” Wen Changchu suddenly piped up.
Song Ci jumped in fright and cast him a look. “What happened later on?”
“Later on, when I was passing by this thatched hut, I heard his soul wailing. That’s how I got to know a little about it.” Wen Changchu did not look that solemn as he stroked his chin and said, “He asked me to save him, but it’s hard for the dead to be resurrected. Eventually, he asked me to take away all the blood in his body and hand it to a maiden named Qinyu.”
“That blood was used to raise the blood silkworm.” Qinyu heard them talking and continued the thread of conversation. “Fresh human blood is needed to nurture the blood silkworms. That was why the quantity of blood silkworm is few and far in between even though many people are raising them. Feng Zhuojun was originally a broken fragment of the Kunlun Mirror. His blood differs from human beings, and an entire body’s worth of blood could nurture a lot of blood silkworm. Thus, respecting his last wish, I made a wedding dress out of all those silks.”
She pointed to Song Ci’s clothes. “That’s the one you’re wearing now.”
“But he changed his mind. After deciding to hide the truth, he let his twin brother hide the wedding outfit away. That was why Jiang Liang only came to know about his existence now.” Qinyu turned her head and looked pityingly at the broken mirror fragment floating in the air. “For decades, Ah Liang had continued to persevere and live on despite all his pain. For Feng Zhuojun, that was enough.”
Rong Bai tapped the broken mirror fragment. There was a flash of white light, and the fragment turned into a young and handsome Feng Zhuojun. He wiped his red eyes and sniffed. “I’m too old to be subjected to this.”
Song Ci looked at him in silence. He thought of a cheerful, smiling Mirror Old Man having encountered such an event. He thought about Mirror Old Man’s hopeful words while he was imprisoned in the Mo Yao underground dungeon. “You must return to save me.”
He thought about what happened before Mirror Old Man’s demise, and of all those decades of endless and hopeless waiting after he turned into a mirror. Suddenly, he felt apologetic about the punch he had thrown at him earlier.
He opened his mouth, but before he could speak, a crack suddenly appeared in the sky. Then, a gust of violent wind hurtled past. All the scenes shattered into countless broken pieces like a shattered porcelain bowl and disappeared into the air.
Ten thousand of li 2 under the clear sky, a great fire completely destroyed the Feng Residence.
Song Ci heaved a big sigh of relief when he looked down and saw himself wearing the same clothes he had been wearing before entering the array.
The Chessboard Array has been dispelled.
Then, he felt so weak all over that his legs could not hold him up. Just as he was about to collapse, Rong Bai came over to give him a hand and held him up.
Originally, it was not a big deal for two big men to support each other like this. But for some reason, Song Ci’s heart started pounding. With his ears burning, he hurriedly said, “How could I let you support me? Be careful of getting flattened by me. Wen Changchu, come and give me a hand.”
An unsuspecting Wen Changchu was about to reach out to hold him when Rong Bai threw him a look. Wen Changchu coughed and retracted his hand. “Buddy, what’s the matter with you? Am I not tired enough? I’m not helping!”
Song Ci turned his head to stare at him. “You think I’ll flatten you? Didn’t you just run around with me in your mouth?!”
Rong Bai tightened his grip around Song Ci’s waist. His smile was even more kindly than a father. “Does Little Song disdain me?”
“How would I dare?” Song Ci answered immediately. “You are my Master Rong!”
Rong Bai’s smile froze for a moment before his expression returned to normal. “You have been possessed by a ghost. That’s why you are a little weak at the moment. Stop messing around.”
Song Ci instantly wilted under his gaze. So there was a price to be paid for letting Jiang Liang possess him.
Rong Bai threw a porcelain bottle to Feng Zhuojun. The latter reached out and caught it. “What’s this?”
“His soul.” Rong Bai said, “Fully intact.”
Feng Zhuojun looked at the porcelain bottle in his hand in delight. Then, he bowed his head to Rong Bai. “Thank you, Immortal Rong.”
“Are you going to send him to be reincarnated?” Song Ci cut in.
Feng Zhuojun’s lips curled into a smile, although his eyes were teeming with reluctance. “The dead cannot be resurrected. This is the only way.”
“Give it to me.” Qinyu spoke up. “I have a way to let Jiang Liang stay.”
Feng Zhuojun looked at her hesitantly and asked, “What way?”
“I have connections with some people in the Underworld. I can arrange a position for him there, so he doesn’t need to be reincarnated.” Qinyu said, “This was a mistake caused by my negligence to begin with. I have to make it up to you both somehow.”
After hearing this, Feng Zhuojun handed Qinyu the porcelain bottle without hesitation. “Then I’ll have to trouble you.”
“Let’s go.” Rong Bai whispered into Song Ci’s ear, “Go and have a good rest. The Demon Gate will be opened within these two days. You must recuperate before you can step in.”
Knowing the ending now, Song Ci felt that there was no need for him to linger on. Thus, he nodded his head.
Fortunately, Rong Bai merely held his hand and did not make any intimate action to make his face blush and his heart pound. Both of them left.
Zhu Yishu watched them from behind for a spell and suddenly said to Wen Changchu, “Look at how benevolent the father is and how filial the son acts. You should learn from them.”
Wen Changchu gnashed his teeth and swallowed this injustice. He thought, when I hooked up with you back then, it was because I wanted to pin you down onto the bed, not because I want you to be my father!
He gave Zhu Yishu a dark stare, then transformed into a wolf pup and darted away into the distance.
Zhu Yishu stared after him. “And yet your little tail is wagging so happily.”
No matter how many times he ran away, he always ended up getting caught. Wen Changchu never learned his lesson.
After seeing Qinyu and Feng Zhuojun leave, Zhu Yun, who had been silent for a long time, rose to his feet and asked his elder brother, “So devoted?”
“As I grow older, I feel the need to raise a son.” Zhu Yishu narrowed his eyes in a smile. “He’s pretty suitable.”
“He has a father.” Zhu Yun was speechless. “His father is still alive, and even governs the Devil Realm. Do you seriously think he is merely a random little demon by the roadside?”
“Then get his father to speak to me.” Zhu Yishu said shamelessly. He glanced at Zhu Yun’s wrist and scoffed, “You’d better worry about yourself instead.”
It was fine if he did not mention it. But the moment he did, Zhu Yun’s rage swelled up again. He said with a glum face. “I’ll go back and find a way to undo this. Don’t stir up trouble in the Human Realm.”
Zhu Yishu waved his hand at him and instantly disappeared from view.
The Feng Residence, which had been reduced to ashes, was empty.
On the same afternoon the array had been dispelled, the city folks appeared, restoring the city to its original bustling state. Then, someone realized that they could now enter and exit the city gate. This good news quickly spread like wildfire all over the City of Qinchuan.
While the people in the street were cheering and celebrating, Song Ci was in a sound sleep.
Very quietly, the curtain fell on the unveiled story of Feng Zhuojun and Jiang Niangzi.