The golden light evaded the flashes from the sword, vaguely dimming a little. Cang Ji seized the opportunity and rose. The turbulent clouds under his feet had already scattered, turning into a succession of blooming azure lotuses.
Red thread spiraled around the hilt of Jing Lin’s reforged Yan Quan Sword, covering it. His spiritual sea, which had always been at a standstill, rushed up maniacally like the river returning to the sea. It intersected with the dragon aura, propelling him into the supreme stage of great accomplishment.
Both men stepped across the lotuses together and charged towards Lord Jiu Tian.
Amid the light of the fire, Lord Jiu Tian cast himself in the golden body of the True Buddha to tower majestically over them. At the wave of his hand, the storm stirred again, and Sanskrit scripts swelled up into a great barrier of golden light. The light barrier shook in response to the rise of Jing Lin’s sword, and Cang Ji’s fist came smashing hard into it immediately right after. Unable to stand up to the impact of the force, the light barrier shattered into countless Sanskrit scripts. However, in the blink of an eye, the Sanskrit scripts spiraled around in the air once more to construct a barrier of light to obstruct them.
Lord Jiu Tian’s forms were ever-changing. He prided himself on being Heaven and Earth, and boasted of thoroughly knowing the world. As such, he believed himself to be all creatures, and all creatures to be him. His forms were no more than skin bags to host himself in. As he morphed forms, he could manifest the appearances of all beasts.
The Heavenly Fire had already blazed its way to the mortal realm. Even the sea of clouds was smoking. Waves of blood oozed all around as the evil spirits lay prostrated in silence. The various deities and demons blended together at one spot and looked up to watch the battlefield where an intense battle was underway. They had already fought until it was utter chaos.
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With his black eye bright, Lord Jiu Tian wearily closed his gray eye and said, “Both of you are still as stubborn and unrepentant.”
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A spear suddenly came striking down from the air, and the light shield above Lord Jiu Tian’s head went spattering all over with a “bang”. The murderous aura of Po Zheng Spear was palpable as Li Rong came to their aid.
Lord Jiu Tian raised his eyes and said, “So you want to sink into depravity and die together with them.”
Li Rong turned his spear over with one arm and landed on the lotus. His wounds had yet to heal, but he said, “This has nothing to do with the others. I have one wish in life, and that is for you to die. For this reason, I’ll not balk even if I were to end up deserted by all and even if I have to slaughter all my kin and friends.”
“You appear to be open and aboveboard, but in actuality, you’re not. You want me to die, but you aren’t willing to face me head-on. All you dare to do is to hit a man when he is down.” Lord Jiu Tian said with a mocking smile. “Even if you help them both today, they still won’t let you off easily in the days to come.”
“I know what I’m doing.” Li Rong clenched Po Zheng Spear tightly and stared fixedly at him. “Father guided me towards the Way of the Asura, not knowing that the Way of Asura is a lonely path with no kin and no friends. I have no need for anyone’s forgiveness. Retribution is only to be expected after having done what I’ve done to this day.”
The moment he said that, he saw the evil form spreading over the sky. Dong Jun leaned against the ruins of the broken wall.
“Since we are about to be parted by life and death, then let us father and sons bid each other farewell.” Dong Jun tapped his forehead with his fan and said with a smile, “I was born of the Blood Sea, but what is the Blood Sea? The Blood Sea is the source of evil in Heaven and Earth. Many years ago, the True Buddha came to beget lust and selfish desires and became Lord Jiu Tian. To control karma and the cycle of reincarnation, Lord Jiu Tian decided to raise this source of evil as a beast under his command. Who would have expected it to become a little maiden with a heart of mercy despite knowing of all the suffering in the world? Tell me, isn’t Heaven and Earth ridiculous? It always loves to toy with all the living creatures like this. It gave Qing Yao an extremely evil origin, yet it also gave Qing Yao an extremely kind heart.”
Dong Jun’s smile had already grown cold at this point.
“Qing Yao had already come to possess an altruistic heart to sacrifice herself and deliver the masses from suffering. She knew her death was impending, yet she still wanted to leave you a way out to repent. She called you father. Knowing that those millions of people in Zhongdu who have died because of the Blood Sea would never re-enter the cycle of reincarnation, that there would be no rebirth for them, she asked Shengyue for help. Shengyue enlightened and guided Lan Hai into forging the copper bell, and Qing Yao kept those countless souls with nowhere to go within. This bell did not appear for Jing Lin’s sake. It was meant to give you the chance to atone for your sins and make up for your mistakes.”
The True Buddha’s gray eye widened, and tears welled up on one half of his face. He said, “It’s time I suffer the consequences of my own actions today…” The next moment, the black eye dominated the entire body again. With an expression that had instantly turned ruthless, Lord Jiu Tian said, “If they were true and sincere towards me, they would not have left such a cursed object behind. Everyone in the world has failed me too much!”
“That’s enough already.” Cang Ji ripped off the bloodied sleeves on his arms. “I’ll give you a quick end.”
Gradually, Lord Jiu Tian grew deranged, with half his face laughing and the other half of his face weeping. His voice fluctuated as he said, “I am beyond the reach of reincarnation. I have already become Heaven and Earth. What can you do? No one can destroy me!”
Li Rong lifted his spear and struck. Dong Jun followed close behind him. Lord Jiu Tian’s magic seal instantly went up, its golden light increasingly bursting forth as he was flanked and attacked on both sides.
Wind howled, clouds churned. The Heavenly Fire blazed.
Carrying his sword, Jing Lin moved forward and gradually stepped into the air. He was as calm as still water at this moment. The wind surged and circled Yan Quan Sword. As he swept the sword up, the red thread intersected, and Cang Ji grabbed hold of his wrist from behind. His dragon aura instantly revolved around the sword, and once again, Yan Quan was covered in snow-white light as a dragon motif wandered all over it.
With the symbiosis of the merciless sword and Lotus of Compassion in one body, the light from the sword solidified into the shape of canglong in the air. One dragon and one sword coexisted in harmony and took aim at Lord Jiu Tian, while the Heavenly Fire, emboldened by the wind, intensified.
Li Rong’s Po Zheng Spear smashed down on Jiu Tian’s magic seal, and Dong Jun’s Shan He Fan swept through the golden light immediately right after. Lord Jiu Tian had already unveiled his golden body amidst both men’s pincer attacks. He lifted his palm to meet their blows, but Jing Lin and Cang Ji were already both right before him. That towering Buddha’s statue collided with both the massive dragon and flashes of the sword, from which azure light burst forth and exploded. With a deafening bang, Ninth Heaven Realm collapsed.
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Yan Quan Sword sank deep into Lord Jiu Tian’s golden body, and Lord Jiu Tian shouted himself hoarse in the violent gale, “I am Heaven and Earth!”
That pair of eyes abruptly changed into a gentle shade of gray as a black fog rose from the body in an attempt to flee. Red thread swiftly weaved into a net to hold him in. Canglong’s dragon body sprang up into the air and swooped down to devour that mass of black fog in one gulp.
Jing Lin watched as he grasped his sword and saw those gray eyes looking at him. The True Buddha caressed the sword body with his fingers and said softly, “My son has grown up…”
The True Buddha gazed into the distance and suddenly smiled. An indistinct phantom image of sheer fabric dancing in the air appeared behind Jing Lin’s earth-shaking sword. Shengyue hovered in the air and reached out her arms, covered in those sheer fabric, towards the True Buddha.
The True Buddha suddenly shed silent tears.
Many years ago, the monk in plain cotton clothing stood in solemn silence by the riverside, where he saw a boat crossing over at an angle. The goddess on the boat was bare-footed, with bells around her ankles, and sheer fabric encircling her bare arms. He watched, enthralled. In that instant, he was overcome by emotions, and ever since then, he could not forget that slim, delicate beauty who was as mesmerizing as the apricot blooms in spring.
The True Buddha joined his palms together, and his fingertips instantly turned into luminous light. Both of them dispersed with the wind, turning into nothing more than twinkling fragments of light.
All living beings have a spirit. Whether a human or a deity, no one can escape the basic desires of a spiritual being. Heaven and Earth are the world, and the world embraces life. This is eternity. It is not something a single person can ever covet.
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Dong Jun looked back as the realm collapsed and saw the water clouds in the realm breaking free of its dam and turning into a vast expanse of luminous light that danced away from him. His evil form silently dissolved away into the night, and the malevolent aura he was brimming all over with vanished along with it.
The phantom image of the copper bell swayed gently.
Dong Jun reached out his fingers to take it, but then he saw the copper bell shattering into luminous light too. He seemed to see Qing Yao sitting on her heels among the cluster of flowers, and in his trance, he could feel the scorching hot wind of the sixth lunar month blowing in his face. Qing Yao yelled out a “gege” to him.
Dong Jun let out a self-mocking laugh. He looked up and heaved a deep sigh, then muttered under his breath, “I’m the most ferocious devil in Heaven and Earth… How am I deserving enough to be called your elder brother? That’s all there is to me.”
Zui Shan Seng picked up Xiang Mo Staff and said behind him, “Your wish is fulfilled. Where are you going from here?”
Dong Jun’s low mood was promptly swept away clean. He opened his fan to fan himself and said, “Me? The world is so big; no doubt I’ll go where it pleases me to. My old man died today; I’ll have a few drinks with you first.”
Zui Shan Seng turned his eyes to look at Li Rong and said, “I have yet to defeat him. I still need to go into seclusion and cultivate further.”
But Dong Jun said, “If you give him a kick right this moment, he’ll lose for sure.”
Zui Shan Seng said, “How can I do that?”
So Dong Jun said, “See. People like you are destined to never get what you desire. In that case, why don’t you follow me? All the devils in the world have become the Emperor Lord’s lackeys. I’m the only one who roams free and at large out there. Can you rest easy knowing that?”
But Zui Shan Seng said, “I have come to realize one thing these 1,400 years.”
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Dong Jun turned around and said, “Let’s hear it.”
“The reason you cultivate the Way of Life is not to suppress yourself, but because this is you.” Zui Shan Seng spread out his hands. Xiang Mo Staff could not hold up anymore and broke into several pieces again. Revealing a little smile on his rigid face, he said to Dong Jun, “You are no longer a devil. What you can’t understand is not ‘humans’, but yourself. Dong Jun, you and I will part ways from now on. I’m not going to kill you anymore.”
Dong Jun let out a shadow of a smile in the wind, but he did not answer. Zui Shan Seng turned around to leave, his old cassock gradually turning into the linen clothing of a commoner. He left Ninth Heaven Realm, just as decisively as he had left the Northern Lands back then.
Alone, Dong Jun touched the tip of his nose and back-handedly grabbed hold of Fei Luo, who was slinking away.
Fei Luo struggled and said, “I’ve done all the bad stuff! It’s time I go home!”
“Take me along.” Dong Jun looked back and said, “I want to go home too.”
Fei Luo said in terror, “Then go on!”
Dong Jun knitted his brows in sorrow and said, “I’m all alone. I have no home. Even Zui Shan Seng doesn’t want me anymore. The world is so big out there; I have no one to rely on.”
Fei Luo saw how downcast and lost he looked with the loneliness in his eyes. He was clearly a picture of a melancholic beauty, so he could not help but feel sorry for him. Not remembering what Dong Jun’s original form was, he said hesitantly, “The King of Hell’s Palace is very cold…”
Dong Jun lifted his legs and started walking, “No worries. I heard that you have countless beauties. Don’t they speak of the fragrance and warmth of a beauty? It won’t hurt to warm me too!”
Fei Luo moved so fast his feet hardly seemed to touch the ground. In just a moment, he was already flying towards the underworld. He belatedly clung on to Dong Jun’s arm, wanting to say I regret it now. Yet, he could not bring himself to open his mouth.
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With the collapse of Ninth Heaven, Yan Quan Sword dissipated too. Jing Lin’s robe billowed as he plunged downward in the wind, with each of the old events of the past vivid in his mind. He gazed at that sky and saw canglong penetrate through the clouds and change into human form to chase after him.
Red thread entwined. Their fingertips touched.
Cang Ji pulled Jing Lin into an embrace. The Heavenly Fire fell together with them as they sank towards Zhongdu.
Jing Lin pressed his face against Cang Ji’s chest. He lifted his finger to draw on Cang Ji’s back, gently dragging out the line as if he was drawing a dragon.
“Follow you home.” Jing Lin said. “Marry you.”
Cang Ji’s laughter gradually rose. He whispered to him in the air, “You need to bring gifts along when you propose marriage. You have to give me a little something.”
Jing Lin wrapped his arms around him and said in a muffled voice, “I love you.”
Cang Ji was stroking Jing Lin’s hair when he heard him and burst into hearty laughter. Among the clouds in the wind, he said to him willfully, “Then, I’ll take you home, and we’ll be the most carefree and unfettered lovers in the world.”
Both of them had already fallen into the sphere of Zhongdu. The Heavenly Fire abruptly reversed in the night sky, and the chirp of a fledgling suddenly rang out among the ashes. Brilliant, gorgeous light followed right after, and a phoenix bathed in fire flew over and caught hold of them both.
Fu Li’s voice instantly choked with emotions as she clutched Huashang’s sleeve and said to the crowd around her, “The baby of my family has just grown up. From now on, he will no longer need his Ah Jie to shield him. I’m so happy and so sad at the same time.”
Ah Yi pivoted around and soared through the boundless night clouds past the clear, endless wind to lead the lovers towards the vast earth.
Resting his head on Ah Yi’s back, Cang Ji pinched Jing Lin’s cheek with both fingers and shouted, “My darling is going home. I’ll make sure that everyone in the Three Realms knows that Lord Lin Song is mine from now on.”
Jing Lin saw that the red thread had already been wound into a knot, and there was no one else in mid-air other than the wind. Thus, he said, “Gege.”
Cang Ji moved his head closer and said in response, “What did you call me?”
Jing Lin’s eyes were bright as he hooked his little finger around Cang Ji’s finger. He had not opened his mouth yet.
The phoenix suddenly transformed into human form. Ah Yi hugged himself and yelled, “I can’t take this anymore! You guys descend yourselves!”
Cang Ji was not even annoyed as he plunged into the pond with Jing Lin with a “plop”. Water splashed all over. Their hair jointly spread out in the same spot; their fingers, interlocked. Cang Ji quickly broke out of the water and laughed out loud as he leaned over to pin Jing Lin down and pressed his forehead against Jing Lin’s forehead. Reflected in his eyes was the pond water, sparkling and shining.
The darkness in the sky receded, and the curtain of the night vanished as dawn broke. The thunderclouds and lightning also ceased in succession as the wind shoved away the dark clouds. The rain had already come to a halt.
“Sunshine after the rainstorm.” Cang Ji lowered his eyes to kiss Jing Lin’s forehead. “Home we go to make merry to the fullest with you day after day.”
Jing Lin’s wet cheeks pressed in close to him. The tip of his nose nuzzled slightly against Cang Ji as he licked away the water droplets that rolled down Cang Ji’s temple.
Cang Ji squeezed his fingers and tilted his head to kiss him back into the water. The water rippled, and the breeze caressed the ripples.
——Main Story End——
Three (3) more extras! It isn’t over until the extras are done! ٩(•͈ ꇴ •͈)و ̑̑❀
Special thanks to Kotoni for the advice!