The two Mo Yao disciples rushed up at the same time but failed to restrain the berserk Sun Yunniang.
Her ten claws were as sharp as iron blades. Everywhere she lashed out at were all clawed into pieces. There were several times she almost slashed Song Ci’s face.
The good thing was that Song Ci had mastered the art of fleeing, and so he managed not to get himself hurt as he darted all over the place.
“Move further away, what are you scurrying around down there for?!” The senior disciple fumed when he saw Song Ci leading Sun Yunniang around in circles. “Go and hide at a corner.”
Song Ci rolled his eyes at him. He thought, I’d like to, but this demon just wouldn’t give me the chance!
Sun Yunniang clutched the broken bracelet tightly and chased after him closely from behind. Song Ci could not throw her off him no matter how he ran. He was worried that those terrifying claws would split the back of his head open, and so he sprinted like mad.
The junior disciple saw that Sun Yunniang’s movement was too fast for him to strike. At a loss, he asked the older disciple, “Shixiong, what should we do now?”
The senior disciple raised his sword and said sharply, “You and I will split up and take down this demon woman from both sides.”
“Just the two of you alone cannot stop her. I’d advise you not to do it.” Big Beard poured cold water on them. “The priority should be getting your Shifu here.”
“It’s none of your business!” The senior disciple retorted and raised his hand to give his Shidi’s shoulder a push. “Go quickly.”
There was hesitation on the junior disciple’s face, but he eventually waved the long sword in his hand with a frown on his face. White light lit up from the tip of the sword. He stepped onto it and swiftly flew to the other side.
The moment he landed, the light both of them sent out merged into one. It molded into the shape of a cage and came bearing down in one sudden movement.
Song Ci felt immense pressure from above, pressing down on him until his knees bent and he nearly dropped to his knees. Behind him, Sun Yunniang took the opportunity to catch up to him. Song Ci was shocked and hurriedly dodge aside. Half of his sleeve was torn apart by Sun Yunniang.
Song Ci glanced at the sleeve hanging on Sun Yunniang’s claws, then looked at the half of his arm that had been exposed. Still in a state of shock, he swallowed his saliva and thought, just a little slower, and half of this arm would be gone!
After the white cage bore down, the senior disciple jumped down from above. With his sword glowing with light, he moved to stab Sun Yunniang right in the back.
Only this time, instead of getting stabbed like before, Sun Yunniang abruptly turned around just as the senior disciple neared her and grasped the long sword in her claws.
Black fog, like lethal snakes, snaked out of her claws and crawled toward the hilt of the sword. Cracks appeared on the surface of the blade where the fog passed.
The senior disciple was horrified and hurriedly tried to withdraw his sword, but Sun Yunniang’s grasp on it was so firm and unyielding that he could not even move it.
Seeing that the black fog had crawled up his fingers, Song Ci twirled around the scimitar in his hand and cleaved Sun Yunniang’s back shoulder, splitting the black fog around her.
Sun Yunniang let out a sharp, ear-piercing howl, exposing an entire mouthful of fangs. She tightened her grip and the long sword shattered into dust, changing into a black beam which struck the senior disciple’s chest.
His body went flying and crashed into the house behind him, causing most part of the wall to collapse. Rubbles from the tiled roof came crashing down, burying him in an instant.
“Shixiong!” The junior disciple cried out and flew over to the house to dig through the debris.
With both of her sleeves dancing in the wind, Sun Yunniang turned around and rushed towards Song Ci, her ten claws extended as she wrapped them around his neck. He panicked and blocked them with his scimitar.
The force of the collision between claws and blade numbed Song Ci’s arm. His wrist hurt, and the scimitar was sent flying from the impact. It somersaulted in the air and dropped onto the ground.
Sun Yunniang did not give him any time to react and rushed at him again. At the same time, her entire maw of fangs ripped wide open as if her chin had dropped off. The sight caused Song Ci to retreat in a fluster.
But the distance was too close, and Sun Yunniang was too fast. Those nails were about to pierce his neck when Sun Yunniang’s movements abruptly came to a stop at this critical juncture.
It was as if he was in a freeze-frame. Even the strands of her hair remained locked in pose, looking as if they were about to stab into his neck.
Having evaded the sharp claws, Song Ci stumbled and fell over backward, causing pain to shoot up his butt and spine. The fall made his head spin.
Very soon, Song Ci realized that the surroundings had quietened down. The pandemonium earlier, with flying sand and rolling pebbles, had vanished entirely. It was so silent he could hear his own breathing. He looked around and was startled to discover that everything around him was in the same state as Sun Yunniang—at a standstill.
Whether it was the junior disciple trying to dig his Shixiong out, or the falling debris, or even the black fog circling in the air, they had all became still images in stop motion.
Big Beard had initially been sitting on the rooftop watching the show with a bored expression. But the moment he saw this scene, he said in delight, “He’s finally here.”
The clear sound of light footsteps became the only embellishment in the silence. The pace was neither slow nor fast. The owner was clearly not in a hurry; it was more like he was just taking a stroll.
Song Ci had an acute sense of hearing. When he heard someone coming, he quickly sat up. He had wanted to pick up the scimitar first, but before he got up, he saw a pair of brocade boots beside the scimitar.
He was momentarily stunned. The hem of the snow-white robe swayed gently as a hand with slender, fair fingers slowly picked his scimitar up, moving with a certain degree of elegance.
Song Ci’s gaze moved upward and saw that the person was a Daoist priest.
He was dressed in a snow-white robe and had long, ink-black hair with just a wooden hairpin to hold it up.
It was clearly a very simple attire, but somehow, it took his breath away.
The Daoist priest in white looked at the scimitar after picking it up. His handsome face lit up with a faint smile, and he cast a glance at Song Ci with smiling eyes.
The moment Song Ci met his gaze, he thought he had seen an immortal.
In all his five years of wandering, he had met all kinds of Daoist priests. There were fake ones who were simply swindlers, and there were real ones who had the poise to go with it. However, this was the first time he had met one with the aura of an immortal.
When Song Ci saw him lifting his scimitar, he hurriedly stood up and patted the dust off himself.
“Are you guys singing opera this late into the night?” The eyes of the scholar in white flitted across the few of them with a soft smile on his face.
Like the passage of spring breeze, it breathed life into all living things. His smile was so very gentle as if there was no attack power behind it.
At the moment his voice fell, the black fog in the air thinned out and completely dissipated under a gentle gust of a warm breeze. The bright moonlight shone onto the empty city again, and everything in Song Ci’s line of sight became clearer.
Upon reflection, Song Ci felt that this Daoist priest did not seem to be a bad person and might just return his scimitar to him. So he asked sweetly, “Immortal, the blade in your hand is mine; I dropped it earlier. Can you return it to me?”
“No.” Unexpectedly, the Daoist priest in white refused him with a smile.
Song Ci was so surprised that he thought he had misheard. “No?”
The white-robed Daoist priest nodded smilingly and spun the scimitar around. It disappeared from sight; Song Ci had no idea where he had stashed it to. The priest then turned around and yawned as he asked Big Beard above him. “How much time1 do we have left?”
“Master Rong, do you still remember the time? I thought you’d sleep until a change of dynasties!” Big Beard said with dripping sarcasm.
“Hmm?” With a slight raise of his eyebrows, the Daoist priest’s beautiful eyes were infinitely brilliant.
Big Beard laughed and continued, “Time is running out. Let’s do it quickly.”
The Daoist priest in white cast a glance at Sun Yunniang, frozen in the pose of baring her fangs and brandishing her claws. He said in a flat tone, “Clear out those who are in the way.”
The moment he said that, everything that had frozen in the air instantly returned to normal. Sun Yunniang pounced at the empty air and fell at Song Ci’s feet. She was about to bounce back up when Song Ci acted quickly and raised a foot and slammed it down hard on her, pressing Sun Yunniang down onto the ground with his foot.
Big Beard gave a cough. “All irrelevant personnel please leave quickly, or you may lose your life.”
“Return me my blade first!” Song Ci shouted at Big Beard.
Big Beard glared at him. “Why are you shouting at me? I’m not the one who took it.”
“You guys are one…” Song Ci muttered in a small voice and sneaked a look at the Daoist priest in white, who was smiling like a fox. Song Ci thought, this guy is obviously not one to provoke.
“Go, go, go!” Big Beard waved his hand and said impatiently, “Commoners are so troublesome. And you too.”
He pointed at Song Ci and said with condescension, “You are clearly a demon, but you still bullshit about having a heart of benevolence?!2 You have the stink of a scholar who is dumb beyond measure.”
“Why are you suddenly scolding me without rhyme or reason?” Song Ci was indignant.
“All right, take that banshee at your feet and leave. This time, I’ll play the good guy and give you a hand. There won’t be a next time.” He pointed at the moon above. “If you delay our business, then don’t blame me for being ruthless.”
On hearing this, Song Ci lowered his head, only to find that Sun Yunniang was lying motionless at his feet as if she had lost consciousness.
When he saw her bloody mess of a face again, Song Ci felt reluctant and shook his head, thinking, who the heck would touch her?!
He turned his head and yelled at Big Beard again. “Give me back my blade!”
Big Beard stood with arms akimbo and asked in bafflement, “Why the hell do you keep yelling at me for? The one who took your blade is the man over there on the ground.”
Song Ci replied, “You two are in it together. Him taking it is the same as you taking it.”
On second thought, if this bearded man turned him down with a ‘no’ like the Daoist priest in white did, then there was really nothing Song Ci could do.
The white-robed Daoist priest saw that Song Ci was concerned about the scimitar, so he turned his fingertips, and the scimitar reappeared in his hands. He asked Song Ci, “Where did you get this blade?”
This scimitar was a bona fide treasure. It was all because of it that Song Ci had managed to escape from the jaws of death every time. As such, he had naturally come to regard it as a treasure. He would be hard-pressed to explain where he had gotten it if he was asked about it; he had only remembered that the scimitar was already beside him when he woke up after eating the Demon Fruit.
However, others may not necessarily believe it if he explained this to them, so he made up a lie. “An eminent man gave it to me.”
The white-robed Daoist priest slid his fingertip over the blade, and the corners of his mouth curled up in a vague smile. He asked, “Do you still remember who gave it to you?”
“It has been too long. I’ve forgotten.” Song Ci replied.
Upon hearing this, the white-robed Daoist priest raised his eyebrows slightly. His action pricked Song Ci’s conscience. He shifted his eyes and summoned up the courage to say, “Taking something without permission is not what a gentleman would do. Please return it to me. It’s the only valuable thing I have.”
“Well…” The Daoist priest considered it for a moment, a brilliant smile suddenly spreading on his face. “All right, as long as you can come over and stand before me alive.”
Song Ci was still wondering about the meaning of his words when he suddenly felt the earth shaking beneath his feet. When he looked down, cracks were appearing on the ground and spreading all over the earth inch by inch.
In the blink of an eye, the white-robed Daoist priest was standing next to Big Beard on the roof. There were traces of indolence in his ink-black eyes. His beautiful, slender fingers made a gesture of slightly grasping at the empty air, and the houses below abruptly disintegrated into pieces as if someone had crushed it with bare hands. Broken pieces of tiles and stone walls flew all over the place.
The shaking grew even more violent. Song Ci was unsteady on his feet and supported himself with his hands on the wall as he looked up. The Daoist priest in white was looking at him through the flying gravel. His nonchalant expression was like a merciless and emotionless god, aloof and distant.
“You’re doing it again…” Big Beard said helplessly.
As he spoke, he raised his hand slightly, and his fingertips glowed red. But before he could make his move, a cry interrupted him.
“Father!” A maiden ran out from nowhere and appeared in everyone’s line of sight.
Her face was flushed. It was evident that she had run all the way here. When she saw that the corpse with its skinned face on the ground was dressed in clothes familiar to her, her knees went weak, and she sank to her knees. Tears gushed out from her eyes as she let out a heartrending cry. “Father—!”
Song Ci realized that she was the Second Missy of the Hu clan. He had never expected her to dash into the city. The cracks on the ground rapidly continued to spread out unevenly in all directions, like snakes slithering all over the place and under Second Missy Hu’s feet.
It was only then she noticed that the earth under her was splitting apart. With a cry of alarm, she got up from the ground and stumbled to the side of Hu Qi’s body. She did not dare to approach, but she was not willing to flee either. Frightened out of her wits, all she could do was cry.
Song Ci rushed over and pulled her up by the wrist. “Hurry and go!”
“No!” She thrashed around in grief. “How did my father turn out this way?! Aren’t you an immortal? Why didn’t you save him?”
“I’m not that powerful to save both the good guys and the bad guys!” Song Ci was miffed. “If you don’t leave now, I won’t be able to save you either!”
“My father is not a bad guy!” Who knew that Second Missy Hu only listened to the first half of the sentence and paid no heed to the latter half. She wailed in sorrow. “My father is the most wonderful person in the world. Why didn’t you save him?”
Seeing that a house in front of them was about to collapse as well, Song Ci did not bother to argue with her. He had wanted to knock her unconscious and take her away, but before he could act, he felt a sharp pain in his body.
Lowering his head, he saw a savage-looking black claw withdrawing from his abdomen. Fresh red blood came out with it, instantly staining his robe red. Sun Yunniang’s sharp and shrill scream rang in his ear as her maw of sharp fangs mercilessly punctured Song Ci’s shoulder. Blood spattered everywhere.
The smell of Song Ci’s blood permeated the air. Within a circumference of a hundred miles, hundreds of demons stirred.
The tip of Big Beard’s nose twitched once. He asked in astonishment, “Master Rong, when did you secretly have a child?”
The white-robe Daoist priest who was called Master Rong was stunned too. He gazed down at a blood-soaked Song Ci in stupefaction, his eyes full of uncertainty.
Once again, thick black fog burst out from Sun Yunniang’s body. It was much more intense than the previous time. A layer of skin grew rapidly from her mutilated face, and her long, waist-length hair danced in the wind. Coupled with shapely eyebrows and red lips, she had transformed from a horrifying demon into an enchanting beauty in a flash.
Both her eyes were red, and there was a drop of vermilion in between her eyebrows. She subconsciously sucked the blood from her mouth.
Suddenly, a powerful force hit her right in the chest, sending her flying backward.
A gale suddenly fanned out from the center of the city of Le Yu, engulfing and sweeping away the debris swirling in the air. All the wreckage were swept away clean like torrential rain washing away the mud. Even the nearby Second Missy Hu, Hu Qi’s body, and the two Mo Yao disciples were dragged into the violent tempest and were sent flying from the pure power of it.
Only the two men standing on the rooftop of a house stood still, their robes flapping fiercely in the violent wind.
When the squall died down, a man was standing at the heart of it.
A pair of snow-white fox ears were erected between the long, swaying hair of the man, and strange markings emerged on his delicate face. There were specks of light blue in his black eyes, making them appear pretty and coquettish.
The canine teeth in his mouth were faintly discernible with every gasp he took.
Big Beard touched his beard, half of which had already been blown away. He simply tore it all off, changing back into a handsome man again. He said half in jest, “I must say that the blood of you people from Tushan is really the most fragrant out of ten of thousands of beasts.”
The moon in the night sky turned hazy as if it had been covered with a layer of veil. Outside the city, hundreds of demons detected the scent in the air and moved in succession towards Le Yu City.
All of a sudden, the scent vanished as if it had never existed. The demons looked at each other in bewilderment. On closer look, they realized that there was no longer any city where they stood, as if everything that had appeared earlier were all but an illusion.
Moonlight draped a magnificent robe over the white-robed Daoist. He lowered his eyes and looked at the man on the ground who had grown a pair of furry ears. He slowly let out a chuckle.
Coincidentally, Song Ci raised his head at the same time and met his eyes.
- 时辰 pinyin: shíchen; one of the 12 two-hour periods of the day. One unit of time (1 shíchen) = two hours.
- Song Ci originally said a ‘human heart’ (人心; rén xīn) in Chapter 5, but Big Beard thought he said ‘benevolent heart’ (仁心; rén xīn). Both sound the same but are written differently and have different meanings.