By the time Song Ci climbed off Rong Bai, his neck had gone thoroughly red. He did his best to act natural.
Rong Bai rose and arranged the clothes that Song Ci had pawed at until it was all a mess. With a trace of a smile at the corners of his lips, he said to Peining on the outside, “Let him in.”
He had only just said that when the door to the palace was pushed open. Yan Bei partially poked his head in and glanced at Rong Bai before sizing up Song Ci. He walked in slowly. “Uncle Rong Bai, you really brought this fox demon back?”
Yan Bei still had the appearance of a child. He was dressed in a blue brocade outfit that fitted his body, and his long black hair was tied up with red tassels and silk. He was the exact copy of Liang Yanbei as he sauntered towards them.
Except for that pair of pure, golden eyes.
Song Ci thought, whether he was the descendant of the Azure Dragon or the legitimate1 Eldest Young Master of the Liang Clan, there were definitely countless threads of connection between them.
He could tell just by that detestable behavior of his.
An irritated Song Ci sat at a side with folded arms to watch.
Yan Bei was obviously close to Rong Bai. He walked over to Rong Bai and threw himself into Rong Bai’s arm as he stared at Song Ci with wide-open eyes.
It made Song Ci uncomfortable. Just as he was about to ask Yan Bei what he was looking at, he heard him say, “There’s a rumor floating around outside about an unrivaled beauty hidden in Uncle Rong Bai’s palace. Apparently, he is so devastatingly captivating that Uncle Rong Bai is mesmerized. As I see it, it is indeed the case.”
Song Ci was stunned. On the one hand, he marveled at how utterly absurd those rumors spreading outside were. On the other hand, it surprised him that Yan Bei had actually complimented him.
Rong Bai stroked Yan Bei’s head. “Don’t listen to all the nonsense out there.”
Yan Bei nodded and said, “Uncle Rong Bai, you promised to lend me the Book of Ten Thousand Dreams earlier. I’ve made a trip here today just for it.”
Rong Bai stood up unhurriedly from the reclining chair. He turned his head and said to Song Ci, “This is just the time to take you there for a look.”
Song Ci was excited upon hearing this. “For a look at what?”
“Uncle Rong Bai’s Library Hall has many rare and strange books.” With that child’s memory of his, Yan Bei had long forgotten how Song Ci had snatched his blade away from him at the Divine Hunt Meet. He even took the initiative to take Song Ci’s hand and said, “There is certain to be something you like.”
Yan Bei’s hand was so soft and small that it reminded Song Ci of his childhood.
He was originally a few years older than Liang Yanbei. When Liang Yanbei was still a toddler learning to walk, Song Ci had often held him by the hand to lead him around the residence. So many years had gone by in a flash. He had never expected to be able to hold the hand of a little Yan Bei again. Song Ci’s heart instantaneously softened.
He smiled at Yan Bei. “Sure.”
The library was not that not far away, so the three of them arrived at their destination after walking for merely a short while. They pushed the doors open to see orderly rows of bookshelves twice the height of a man in the hall. A survey of the place showed that there were indeed plenty of books.
Song Ci used to be an avid reader in the past, so he naturally felt at ease on seeing all these books. But at the same time, he was puzzled. Do immortals even read? What do they read? The Four Books and Five Classics? 2
As he was thinking about it, Rong Bai led them inside and stopped before a bookshelf. He raised his hand slightly, and a book that was glowing white floated out on its own from the bookshelf. Visibly written on the cover were the words: Book of Ten Thousand Dreams.
Yan Bei skipped over to take down the book. He thanked Rong Bai and promptly started to leave with the book in his hands, looking as if he could not wait to read it.
As he passed by Song Ci, he even politely bid him farewell with a sweet smile.
Song Ci watched blankly as Yan Bei left, then walked over to Rong Bai. “There are so many books here. Have you read them all?”
Rong Bai shook his head slightly. “About half.”
Song Ci looked at the rows of shelves in the hall and thought that it was already pretty impressive to have read half of it. Seeing that there was no one around, Song Ci’s misbehaving hand felt for Rong Bai’s sleeve and slipped into it to grasp hold of the latter’s hand.
With their palms together, Song Ci moved closer to him and said in hushed tones, “So what do you want me to see?”
Rong Bai chuckled and gripped Song Ci’s hand tightly. He lowered his head until he almost touched the tip of Song Ci’s nose. “I really want to know what happened to you when I wasn’t around.”
Song Ci looked into his eyes and said, “I’ve found the meaning and reason for supporting the righteous way.”
Rong Bai raised his eyebrows in surprise, not understanding what Song Ci meant for a moment. He was about to probe when he heard Song Ci urging him. “So, what exactly is it?”
After this second prompt, Rong Bai gave up questioning him and raised his hand to press it against the bookshelf. White light spread out from his palm and whirled around to form a white ring. The bookshelf moved apart in two directions, and two scrolls that looked like painting scrolls appeared out of thin air in the middle.
“What’s this?” Song Ci asked subconsciously.
Of the scrolls, one was large and the other, small. The larger one looked so thick that Song Ci did not know how many layers it had. If he were to lay it out flat, it would probably spread from this spot to beyond the hall’s entrance. The scroll floated in mid-air after Rong Bai took it out.
“This is the Scroll for the Chronicles of the Divine Realm.” Rong Bai moved the tip of his finger slightly, and the scroll started to unfurl. The surface of the scroll was glowing with a light that was dazzling to the eyes, yet it was totally devoid of content.
“From the name, it seems to be a scroll that records the history of the Divine Realm?” Song Ci made his own guess.
“That’s right.” Rong Bai said, “It records all that happens in the Divine Realm. This volume starts recording from the creation of the New Divine Realm onwards.”
“But there are no words on it.” Song Ci said.
Rong Bai smiled as he looked at him. “We don’t read words when we read books.”
“Then how do you see?”
“With our eyes.” Rong Bai responded.
As soon as he said that, Song Ci felt a tug on the hand that Rong Bai was holding. He saw Rong Bai enter the scroll, and soon after, he was pulled in as well.
For a moment, everything in his vision went gray. Once Song Ci managed to focus his eyes, the first thing he saw was the entire Heaven covered with red clouds. Gold light glowed above those red clouds, and the scene of clouds arranged like dragon scales from south to north filled up his entire sight.
Under the dome of dragon scales was an incomparably massive black mountain. The mountain seemed to be barren. There was not even a smidgen of soil on it; it was completely bare with solid rocks all around.
However, there were many people gathered at the foot of the black mountain. From time to time, they would look up at the black mountain and chatter among themselves.
Song Ci stood with Rong Bai among them. He looked around, finally realizing that the scroll did not use words to record history, but actual scenes. And now they were here looking at some incident that had happened in the past in the Divine Realm.
Song Ci tugged at Rong Bai lightly and moved closer to his ear to say, “From the looks of this situation, it isn’t a trivial matter, is it?”
Rong Bai lowered his head a little. “The Chronicles of the Divine Realm seldom record trivialities. Those listed within have to be major events that impact the Divine Realm or the Six Realms.”
Song Ci nodded his head and behaved himself as he watched.
After the crowd of deities and immortals had been waiting for a while, the black mountain suddenly shook along with the ground. Excitement erupted on the faces of the deities and immortals. They exclaimed, “He’s coming out! He’s coming out!”
Then a crack appeared on the rock of the black mountain and spread up from the ground. As if a massive blade was splitting it into two halves, the black mountain broke into two and parted in both directions.
Right afterward, golden light burst through the wind. The fissure widened, and the light almost colored the entire red sky gold. It was so glaring that the various deities and immortals could not help but cover their faces with their sleeves.
The golden light faded away, and the fissure turned into a small passage just the right width for one person to pass. The crowd rubbed their eyes to ease the stabbing pain caused by the golden light earlier. They saw a man standing within the crack of the black mountain slowly making his way out.
The man was not tall, and he still looked like a youth. He was dressed in a simple azure outfit that exposed half of his fair calves and a pair of bare feet.
A headful of silky black hair fluttered in the breeze. It was only when he stepped out of the crack that the entire crowd got a clear look at his appearance.
Or rather, a clear look at that pair of pure, golden eyes.
With dignity and arrogance that seemed innate, he swept his eyes over the people before him and spoke in a clear voice. “What year is this?”
As the various deities and immortal kowtow to him in a state of jubilancy, Song Ci said, “Oh, so this is Yan Song.”
Rong Bai poked him lightly in his head. “Everyone in the Divine Realm now has to use honorifics when addressing the two descendants of the Azure Dragon. It’s fine if you don’t wish to call them thus. But don’t call Yan Bei a little brat before others like you did today.”
Song Ci grinned and merrily agreed, “Alright, alright, I got it.”
As they spoke, lines of large, golden characters appeared in the air: Thirty-first Year of Unrest. The descendants of the Azure Dragon broke through the seal after having slept through the ages. Tens of thousands of deities pay their respect. From then on, this year was also known as the Year the Seal Broke.
Song Ci looked at the words and asked in surprise. “How are the eras in the Divine Realm determined? Why does it feel so strange?”
“There are currently only two eras in the New Divine Realm. The initial Era of Unrest and the current Era of Peace.” Rong Bai led Song Ci out of the scroll. “Once the Divine Realm establishes a new Emperor, there will be another new era.”
Rong Bai slowly rolled up the scroll. “If you have nothing to do in the palace, you can come over to look at the Chronicles.”
He closed the bookshelf. “Or any other books in the Hall.”
Song Ci was rather interested in the history of the Divine Realm. He was also aware that Rong Bai was worried that he would be bored in the palace and so he had come up with this way for him to spend his time. A sweetness instantly filled his heart. Pressing down on Rong Bai’s arms, Song Ci pinned him against the bookshelf and raised his head to give him a peck on the chin. He whispered, “But I still want to be with you.”
Compared to the Chronicles, Rong Bai appealed to him so much more.
And this held true for Rong Bai too. The Song Ci in his eyes possessed such great charm. If he weren’t already certain of it in his heart, he would have almost suspected that Song Ci was a spy specially sent by the Qingqiu clan to bewitch him.
With one hand holding the back of Song Ci’s head, Rong Bai gave in to that inexplicable allure and bent his head down to kiss him.
It did not matter if Song Ci was pinning him on the soft chair or against the bookshelf, it did not affect Rong Bai the least bit when the time came for him to go on the offensive. The intensity of his intrusion caused Song Ci’s raised neck to take on a scarlet hue.
In the end, it was Song Ci who wanted to end it first. He gave Rong Bai a gentle push on the shoulder. Only then did this suffocating kiss come to a stop. Rong Bai kneaded Song Ci’s waist. “Then, do you want to go to the Divine Realm Academy with me?”
“Huh?” Song Ci was so surprised that his brain had yet to come around. “Divine Realm Academy?”
“You wanted to be with me, don’t you?” Rong Bai hugged Song Ci as if he was embracing something much beloved. He nuzzled his hair a few times. “I’ll take you wherever I go. Then we’ll always be together.”
As Song Ci remained snug in his embrace, an inexplicable term suddenly materialized in his mind: The temptress who ruins a country.3
He immediately shuddered and shook his head. “Forget it. It’s inappropriate for me to go. I’ll just wait for you in the palace.”
- 嫡出 literally (sons) of di birth. Children in those days were classified according to whether they were a di or shu child. A di son (嫡子) was born by the legal first wife (this was the wife who has been officially married into the family, also known as a zhengshi (正室)). Being the eldest of the legal wife made him the legitimate heir. They also had a higher social status and often received better treatment compared to the shu sons (庶子) born by concubines.
- 四书五经 the Four Books (the great learning, the doctrine of the mean, Confucian analects, and the works of Mencius) and the Five Classics (the book of songs, the book of history, the book of changes, the book of rites and the spring and autumn annals)
- 祸国妖姬 basically a femme fatale. A woman, especially a favored concubine of the Emperor, who seduced the Emperor so much that it led him to ruin his own empire either through debauchery and cruelty or neglect. Daji, a legendary malevolent fox spirit, is considered a classic example of how a beautiful woman could cause the downfall of a dynasty by bewitching the sovereign.