The palm was full of warmth. When it came into contact with Rong Bai’s fingers, its heat flowed effortlessly into Rong Bai.
For many years, no one had dared to touch these hands of his. So at this very instant, instead of flying into a rage or flinging the hand away, he turned his head to look at the person in surprise.
He saw Song Ci looking at him with wide-opened eyes.
In fact, Song Ci was a little scared at the moment, especially when Rong Bai looked at him. There was a slight smile on his face, but Song Ci still reflexively released his hand and hid it under his sleeve.
Earlier on, when Wen Changchu had uncharacteristically stopped him, he had vaguely guessed that something was up and followed Rong Bai here.
The moment he saw that Rong Bai was about to strike, he could not refrain himself from grabbing hold of his hand.
Before he left, Lu Shaoqing had repeatedly warned Song Ci to never, ever rashly rub Master Rong the wrong way. And one way to raise his hackles was to stop him from killing someone.
It was evident that Song Ci had already gotten under his skin this very moment.
He carefully observed Rong Bai’s expression. There seemed to be no traces of anger. Song Ci thought he should say something. It would be disastrous if Rong Bai flew into a rage. Thus, he leaned over to whisper in his ear. “Master Rong, are you going to kill him?”
Because of their height difference, Song Ci had to stand on tiptoe to bring his mouth close to Rong Bai’s ear.
Rong Bai smiled and answered, “Isn’t it obvious?”
“You must not do that.” Song Ci waved his youthful hand and cast a glance at Chang Ziming, who seemed to have been immobilized. He said, “This person is related to one of the shizun in the sect. If he dies now, it will surely stir up a ruckus in the sect. They will believe that they had accepted a demon as a disciple. By that time, who knows what scheme they will come up with to test us individually?”
It would have been fine if they were just mere mortals. But the bad thing was that Song Ci and Wen Changchu were bona fide demons. If their identities were revealed here, they would definitely never be able to leave.
“If Mo Yao were to tighten their security, it would also be very inconvenient for us to do anything.” After some thought, he added, “What’s more, killing such an insignificant person will only dirty your hands.”
At the side, Chang Ziming could not move and could only use his eyes to glare at Song Ci and Rong Bai. As expected, these two men had an ulterior motive to infiltrate Mo Yao. After sensing that murderous intent earlier on, he was even more sure that the youth who seemed gentle when he smiled was not someone to be taken lightly. He must think of a way to notify his shizun and the others!
Chang Ziming tried his best to maneuver the spiritual energy in his body to resist the shackles on his body. As long as he could move two fingers, he would be able to deploy the magic seal. However, his spiritual energy turned his whole body around, and the pressure made him red in the face. His body even trembled slightly, although he still failed to make his fingers move even the slightest bit.
Out of the corner of his eye, Song Ci caught a glimpse of Chang Ziming’s sudden tremors and said offhandedly, “How useless. He’s so terrified…”
Rong Bai threw a glance at Chang Ziming. Whether he had been persuaded and moved by Song Ci’s reasoning, Rong Bai changed his mind to kill him. He raised his hand and grasped at the empty air to extract something from between Chang Ziming’s brows and held it in his hand.
Chang Ziming’s expression changed from anger and fear to lethargy. His eyes were empty, yet they also seemed somewhat cold.
There was a hint of contempt in Rong Bai’s warm smile. He lowered his eyes to look at the wisp of hazy white light in his palm. With a slight clench of his hand, it vanished, “I’ll let him live for the time being.”
Ever since Rong Bai was born, those who dared to scold him were all sent by him to the Netherworld to join the queue for Meng Po’s soup.1 There was no exception. So, extracting one of Chang Ziming’s souls2 and letting him off with his life still intact was already the biggest mercy he could give.
He removed the binding spell on Chang Ziming, and Chang Ziming immediately toppled to the ground. Then, like a wooden puppet, he crawled up from the ground and left in another direction.
Song Ci felt that he deserved it. This man was always bullying people, so he could only blame his bad luck for coming up against someone like Rong Bai.
“We’re leaving.” Rong Bai saw him staring at Chang Ziming’s back and reminded him.
Song Ci returned to his senses and kept up his pace with Rong Bai. They quietly returned to the back of the team. Whether the disciple who was leading the group was thick-headed or because of some other reasons, he never realized that two out of the three following behind him had slipped away midway.
When Wen Changchu saw them returning, he approached Song Ci and asked in a low voice, “Is he dead?”
Song Ci shook his head. He thought, Rong Bai had only just left the group, and Wen Changchu immediately knew what he was going to do. They were like two peas in a pod; even their thoughts were in tune with one another.
Wen Changchu sighed regretfully. “What a pity. In the end, he was stopped.”
“I’m warning you, don’t act recklessly.” Song Ci approached him and said, “This is Mo Yao, not the outside world.”
He waved his hand with indifference. “I know, I know.”
The hell you know?! Seeing his flippant attitude, Song Ci reckoned that his admonishment was in vain. And yet Wen Changchu certainly would not hesitate when it came to creating troubles.
He gave a long sigh. He could only hope that Rong Bai would finish whatever he wanted to do in Mo Yao as soon as possible so they could leave the mountain.
The disciple led three men to get their clothes, then showed them around the place. Finally, he made arrangements for their lodgings. By the time everything was done, night had fallen.
Their residence had four rooms and a courtyard, with the courtyards sharing a wall.
The ‘bed’ in the room was like a huge collective bed3 with beds joined together in two rows of five. There were ten people assigned to a room. When the three of them arrived, some of those in the room were already acquainted with one another.
The room was full of youths, and the youngest was only eight years of age. When they saw the three of them entering, they stopped chatting and looked right at them.
Song Ci did not know how to communicate with these children, so he ignored their gazes and made a beeline for an empty bed with his clothes in his arms. He had only just sat down when he saw Wen Changchu greeting everyone with a smile. “Including the three of us, this room has reached max capacity.”
His words dispersed the strange atmosphere in the room. A group of children went back to their conversations with smiles and laughter. There were even some who went up to Wen Changchu and exchanged introductions with him.
Even Rong Bai had an innocent smile on his face, prompting several children to circle around him. Only the space beside Song Ci was empty.
He touched his chest. What was this feeling of loneliness all about?
He wanted to stand up and wave to those innocent children and shout a warning to them. “Don’t go over! Those two aren’t good people.”
Just when his imagination was taking flight, someone suddenly came up to him and asked in a cautious tone, “Uh… You’re Song Ci, right?”
Song Ci had been inexplicably comparing the injustice of it, so he was delighted that someone had struck up a conversation with him, but then he wondered how anyone could have known him.
He turned his head and saw a dark, petite boy with a pair of bright eyes looking timidly at Song Ci.
Song Ci smiled. “How do you know my name?”
“I saw you quarreling with Chang Shiyou earlier, and I admire you very much. So I remembered your name.” On seeing Song Ci’s reply, he was not as flustered as before, although he still did not dare to approach Song Ci; he seemed to be really timid.
“Um… what can I do for you?” Song Ci replied in a light tone, afraid that he might scare off the youth in front of him.
“That, that person who came with you earlier, is his name Rong Bai?” The youth asked.
Song Ci did not expect that he would suddenly mention Rong Bai. He turned his head and saw Rong Bai standing rather conspicuously among the group of children. He nodded his head.
“Is he… Is he…” The youth hesitated, and his face flushed red. Song Ci wondered what he wanted to say.
Song Ci asked, “Is he what? Feel free to say it.”
The youth thought for a moment as if choosing his words, then said in a low voice, “I once read the Records of the Three Realms. There was an account of a very powerful character…”
“Called Rong Bai too?” Song Ci asked with uncertainty.
The youth shook his head and lowered his voice even more to the point where only two people could hear him. “Tu Shan Rong Bai.”
Song Ci was stunned.
The two of them did not notice Rong Bai, who was surrounded by the children not far behind, raising his eyes to glance in their direction.
Song Ci reckoned that the “Records of the Three Realms” read by the youth was the same as his “Theory of No Demon” in the sense that they were written blindly by the common folk, so the contents might not be true.
Moreover, it even mentioned the word “Tu Shan”. Song Ci resolutely dismissed the youth’s conjecture.
Before he was turned into a demon, there was only the court, the Emperor and his ministers in his world. If they were not worrying about floods somewhere, then they would fret about droughts someplace. He knew nothing about blades, spears, rods, or cudgels. What he picked up were books, and what he put down were brushes.
It was only after he became a demon that he learned of the existence of demons and ghosts, gods and immortals in this world. He would worry about food today, and shelter tomorrow. And he would also fear for his life every day. Having gleaned bits and pieces of information everywhere, he had more or less come to know about the coexistence of the Six Realms.
The Tu Shan Fox Clan was a race of mythical beasts that has been bestowed with the status of a god since ancient times. Rumors had it that those from the clan were born with great power and were extremely skilled in combat. In its heyday, it was once as famous as the White Tiger clan, one of the Four Symbols.4 Its Foxfire was on a par with the Vermilion Bird’s Divine Fire, and few within the Six Realms would dare to provoke them.
The current Demon King was also said to be a Tu Shan who had descended from the Nine Heavens. When he ascended the throne of the Demon King, all the demons bowed down to him, not one of them daring to disobey.
Song Ci was terrified at the thought of this.
He rubbed his face and said to the youth, “You are overthinking it. There are too many people in this world who are called Rong Bai and Rong Hei.5 Besides, my friend’s name is Rong Bai, not Tu Shan Rong Bai. He is a real human being.”
At most, he was also a Daoist priest with a high level of cultivation.
“I guess I was overthinking it.” The youth nodded his head slightly. Suddenly changing the subject, he asked Song Ci, “Can I sleep next to you at night?”
Song Ci did not expect him to say this and was momentarily stumped for words. Just as he was about to agree, he heard footsteps behind him. The youth cast a sidelong glance towards the sound. Before Song Ci could answer, he quickly said, “My name is Liang Jiujiu. Let’s talk about it next time.”
With that, he hurriedly turned around and retreated to the corner.
Song Ci had yet to respond when someone hooked an arm around his neck. Wen Changchu leaned in and asked, “Was that brat seducing you earlier?”
“What nonsense are you sprouting?” Song Ci threw him an inexplicable look.
“He wants to sleep with you. I heard it all.” Wen Changchu said, “That boy is up to no good.”
“You think everyone is like you? A belly full of evil tricks.” Song Ci pulled the arm around his neck away.
“You can’t give up your position as you like. The beds on your right and left belong to Master Rong and me.” Wen Changchu lowered his voice and continued, “This place is dangerous. You are too stupid. Don’t fall into others’ traps because of your negligence.”
“Do I know you that well?” Song Ci looked at him, puzzled.
Having said so, he got up and made his bed. Wen Changchu still wanted to talk, but the sudden chime of a bell rang out from afar. This was the signal for lights out.
“Extinguish the lamps and go to bed—” Someone in the courtyard yelled.
As soon as he said that, the lights in the room went out. The children who were still chatting excitedly instantly fell silent, and the room went dark and quiet.
Song Ci took off his boots, got into the bedding, and gave a big yawn. It had been a tiring day, and Song Ci was tired. Sleepiness overcame him the moment he climbed onto the bed.
Just as Wen Changchu said, he and Rong Bai both slept next to him, on his left and right.
Contrary to Song Ci’s expectations, Rong Bai was not bothered with so many people sleeping together. His breathing grew almost imperceptible right after he touched the quilt. Wen Changchu also behaved himself and stopped stirring up trouble.
There were occasional whispers, but everyone soon settled down in bed. Even if they could not sleep, no one made another sound.
Song Ci was the only one who fell asleep quickly.
He slept late into the night. When he woke up again, there was only the sound of heavy breathing in his ears. Sensing something wrong, he sat up to take a look. Under the moonlight, the beds beside him were both empty.
- 孟婆汤 Meng Po’s soup. Meng Po is a character in Chinese mythology. Her task in the Realm of the Dead is to erase the memories of souls who are about to be reincarnated, and she does this by serving a decoction (typically as a bowl of soup or tea) to induce amnesia.
- In Daoism, it is believed that a person has three immortal souls and seven mortal forms (baser instincts that motivate a human being), contrasting the spiritual and carnal side of man. So a man can theoretically still remain alive if he’s missing one of them, although he will become deficient in various aspects depending on the soul that was missing.
大通铺 a wide bed shared by several people, or a collective bed formed by joining several beds together.
- 四象 Four Symbols are four mythological creatures that are viewed as the guardians of the four cardinal directions – The Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Tortoise of the North.
- 容白容黑 The Bai in Rong Bai means white. The Hei in Rong Hei means black.