Earlier, when Mirror Old Man had realized that something had happened to Jiang Liang, he had instantly abandoned Song Ci and ran off. Song Ci chased after him for a few steps and watched as Mirror Old Man vanished into the darkness. With a look of helplessness, Song Ci came to a halt.
After inwardly admonishing Mirror Old Man for valuing lust over friendship,1 he remained where he was.
He did not know if Jiang Liang had truly met with a mishap. The scenes around him were in complete disorder, changing so rapidly that some scenes were blurred.
Just when he was at a loss, a powerful force sucked his body away. The world blurred before him, and then he felt as if his entire person had collapsed onto a couch. He scrambled up from the bed and saw himself in a traditional room.
Song Ci was startled to see the scene before him. He lowered his eyes and saw that the attire on his body had been changed to a snow-white middle garment2 similar to the one in the previous scenes. The only difference was that he did not see the story development of the scene this time.
“Jiang Liang! Jiang Liang—” Shouts rang out from beyond the door, returning Song Ci to his senses.
He hurriedly responded, “What’s the matter?”
“Uh…” The woman on the other side of the door stuttered. “I’ve just heard from others that Young Master Feng went to the Wang household with betrothal gifts to propose marriage this morning.”
Song Ci felt a sudden stab of pain in his heart. He frowned and bent over. A strange yet familiar voice echoed in his head, urging him on. “Go see him, go see him…”
Song Ci knew that this was Jiang Liang’s voice. He was in this scene, connected to Jiang Liang in some mysterious way. Thus, he could more or less feel Jiang Liang’s emotions.
He rose to his feet in a hurry and picked up the robe hanging beside the bed to put it on. Then he found a piece of ribbon to tie up his hair. After putting on his shoes, he pulled open the door, giving the woman outside a fright.
“Jiang Liang, don’t act rashly…” The woman persuaded him weakly.
Song Ci threw her a look. He was too short on time to bother about her, so he rushed out of San Chi Tai and headed straight to the Wang Residence.
He did not ride a horse; there was no time for him to look for a carriage either. Fortunately, the theater was not that far away from the Wang Residence, so he went on foot. He was just in time to stop Feng Zhuojun, who was just about to depart, at the entrance of the Wang Residence.
“Feng Zhuojun—!” Song Ci yelled. By this time, he was so tired that he was panting for breath. Sweat trickled down the side of his face. He was about to stop for a rest, but the voice in his head kept urging him on. It was so noisy it gave him a headache.
He endured the pain in his lungs as he walked over and hollered in a gasping voice. “Feng Zhuojun, please don’t go yet!”
The man with more than half of his body in the carriage stepped back out slowly when he heard his voice. As he watched Song Ci stumbling towards him, he let out a sudden laugh with pure joy in his eyes. “Little Song.”
When Song Ci heard this voice, he went weak in the knees and kneeled down on the ground. Without even taking a look at the man’s face, he quickly said, “Master Rong, I’ve offended you earlier. I’m really sorry. You can beat me and scold me, but please don’t kill me or drive me away.”
Rong Bai walked up to him, bent over, and pulled Song Ci up. “What are you kneeling for? I didn’t say I blame you.”
Song Ci took the chance to rise to his feet. He was delighted, but he did not reveal it on his face. “You’re not blaming me for my offensive act?”
“You had no choice but to do so. How could I bear to blame you?” Rong Bai’s eyes arched in a smile. There were no trace of anger or embarrassment in his expression; he truly did not take it to heart.
Song Ci was almost moved to tears. And to think that liar, Lu Shaoqing, still said that Rong Bai had a bad temper and loved to kill people. That had put him on tenterhooks. From the way it seemed now, Rong Bai was even more gentle than a lamb. He was not only amenable to reason, but also considerate and understanding.
“Did you run all the way here to look for me?” Rong Bai, the little lamb, said.
At his mention, Song Ci realized that the noisy voice in his head had disappeared. He frowned and wondered, “There seems to be something wrong with this array. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do now.”
“The person who set up the array had fainted after being attacked. I’ve also received the object to hold down the array. That’s why this array has started to break away from the originally set route, with other stuff showing up as well.” With a doting smile, Rong Bai brushed aside the stray strands of Song Ci’s hair that had been messed up from all that running.
“What’s the thing holding down the array?” Song Ci asked in curiosity.
A corner of Rong Bai’s lip rose. He was about to speak when a childish-sounding wolf howl a distance away cut him off. It seemed to be from a wolf pup.
But, how could there be wolves in this place?
Song Ci stepped past Rong Bai in astonishment and looked behind him, only to see a gray wolf pup running towards them at full speed while howling.
“Is that…” Song Ci took a closer look and exclaimed in surprise, “Wen Changchu?!”
Wasn’t the one darting towards them Wen Changchu, the youth who had disappeared into thin air while on Mo Yao mountain? But back then, Wen Changchu had cut a commanding figure all dressed in a black robe; it was so different from how he was now.
Rong Bai turned back to look. His eyes glanced past the wolf pup to the person behind him who was strolling towards them. His smile deepened. “They are just in time.”
Following behind the wolf pup was Zhu Yishu, all dressed in a white robe embroidered with golden threads. With the warm smile on his face, he looked exceptionally noble.
In just a few steps, he passed Wen Changchu and reached out to lift him by the back of his collar. He smiled and asked, “Changchu, where are you going?”
Wen Changchu flailed his four paws in the air and howled incessantly. Zhu Yishu tucked him into his arms, holding him with one hand holding while stroking his fur with the other hand. He said in a gentle tone. “Don’t run around, or I’ll break your paws.”
With tears in his eyes, Wen Changchu cast a pleading look at Song Ci.
Song Ci took a step closer to Rong Bai and whispered. “Master Rong, is this person the Zhu shizhang we met before?”
Rong Bai answered, “It’s him, and yet it’s not him. This person is nothing good.”
“Wen Changchu is in his hands. Would he be in any danger?” Song Ci was worried. Although he had known Wen Changchu for only a few days, he still regarded Wen Changchu as a friend.
“It’s hard to say.” Rong Bai smiled and said.
Song Ci stood beside Rong Bai with a solemn expression as he watched Zhu Yishu approach them. A pathetic Wen Changchu looked imploringly at Song Ci as he retracted both of his shivering paws, fearful that Zhu Yishu would really break them.
Zhu Yishu looked at Rong Bai after he came to a standstill. His first words were, “Where is Lou Muge?”
It was then Song Ci realized that this person was too different from the Zhu shizhang in the past. Zhu shizhang was gentle and patient, like a piece of warm, gentle jade. But while the Zhu Yishu before him still had a soft smile, there seemed to be more than him that remained imperceptible. To some extent, he was like Rong Bai.
They were all hiding secrets.
Rong Bai raised his eyebrows. “Why is everyone asking me?”
“If not you, then who?” Zhu Yishu said. “Didn’t you play a part in his return to the world?”
“Ask Ning Shaosi. This was all his idea.” Rong Bai put on an innocent expression.
“What should I do then…” Zhu Yishu slowed down his tone as his slender fingers smoothed Wen Changchu’s fur. His words were cold. “I have to return and report on my mission. It’s either Lou Muge’s head, or… yours.”
Rong Bai chuckled and stood a sudden step back to hide behind Song Ci. “Little Song, this man wants to kill me. You have to protect me.”
This move stunned Song Ci. He turned his head to look at Rong Bai. Although he was flustered, he did not shift his body. As a result, he was standing on the frontline in direct opposition to Zhu Yishu.
Song Ci could not understand Rong Bai’s action. From all his previous behaviors, he did not seem to be a coward. But now that he was hiding behind Song Ci, there could only be two possibilities. The first was that Rong Bai was afraid of the man before them and could not rival him. The second was that Rong Bai was injured and thus needed protection.
But if even Rong Bai could not defeat him, then wouldn’t it be harder for Song Ci to fight him off? If Rong Bai was truly injured, then Song Ci would definitely not back down during this crucial moment, nor would he allow anyone to hurt his backer.
With that thought in mind, Song Ci’s gaze sharpened as he puffed out his chest and bravely met Zhu Yishu’s eyes. “This young master, killing will not solve the problem.”
“If you don’t want to die, stand aside.” It seemed as if Zhu Yishu had no intention to listen to him talk reason. His words were thick with menace. “I can chop a tiny body like yours into two in just one slash.”
This threat was indeed effective on Song Ci, but Song Ci did not budge. He thought about how Rong Bai had protected him earlier, and a surge of courage welled up in him, so much that he even had the thought to save Wen Changchu as well. Clenching his back molar tooth, he said unyieldingly, “I’m not moving aside.”
Zhu Yishu did not waste any time on further nonsense. He raised his right hand, and a red, dazzling flame burst forth from his palm. The scorching heat singed Wen Changchu’s fur. He yelped and jumped off from Zhu Yishu’s embrace, springing a distance away.
The wave of heat launched a gust of strong wind in an attack towards Song Ci. He subconsciously wanted to evade it, but then he remembered Rong Bai was still standing behind him. So he braced himself and blocked the heat with his sleeve.
However, this force was obviously too powerful. The impact of the sudden attack pushed Song Ci back over a very long distance. When he finally came to a stop, the sleeve that he had used to cover his face was burned until all that remained was a piece of tattered fabric.
Zhu Yishu glanced at Rong Bai who was now standing on the roof. He raised his hand, and a flame like a flower in full bloom whirled beside his hand. Then, he flung it at Song Ci.
The blazing flame almost burned everything around him to ashes. Song Ci watched helplessly as the flame charged towards him. He raised both of his hands. The instant he crossed his hands, a tremendous power erupted from his body. Blue flame rose out of thin air and formed an ellipse to protect his body.
The collision of red and blue flames burst into brilliant colors of light that were as glaring as the sun, igniting everything in its path.
The temperature around him rose. Several drops of sweat slid down Song Ci’s forehead. His chest heaved violently. After blocking the flame, he thought he could take a breather. But Zhu Yishu did not even give him a chance to gasp for breath. He tapped on the ground with his toe and a crack swept towards Song Ci.
It was as if there was sizzling lava under the crack. Song Ci rolled aside to avoid it, but he did not expect the crack to explode violently when he climbed to his feet. He could not ward off the force in time and the powerful flame sent him tumbling in the air. His body fell on the pointed, protruding bulge of a stone statue. He coughed out a mouthful of blood on the spot.
His left arm was burned until it was all a bloody mess of flesh and blood.
Song Ci felt as if the crash had displaced his internal organs. He wanted to push himself to stand up, but he could not bear the sharp pain and collapsed back down. Blood stained his chin and the front of his outfit.
Rong Bai stood atop the roof with lowered eyes to look at a struggling Song Ci. Keeping his expression neutral, he waited patiently.
Zhu Yishu conjured out a long burning arrow and aimed it at Song Ci’s head. Just as he was about to shoot it, the wolf pup beside him leaped and bit down on his wrist.
Wen Changchu swept his tail at the arrow. His fur instantly caught fire, but at the same time, he managed to hit the arrow askew.
The wolf’s fangs were sharp, and they pierced through Zhu Yishu’s wrist. As the blood flowed out, he sucked it all into his stomach.
Zhu Yishu lowered his eyes to look at him and rapped him on his head with his other hand. Wen Changchu released Zhu Yishu’s wrist in pain, and Zhu Yishu picked him up to cast him aside. “I’ll settle this with you later.”
Wen Changchu bounced twice after landing and licked away the blood at the corner of his mouth with his tongue.
The arrow that deviated from its original trajectory failed to penetrate Song Ci’s head as expected, but it pierced his thigh. He was just about to stand up when he screamed and collapsed back to the ground. The bone in his thigh felt as if it had been scorched. The pain was so cutting that it was hard to bear.
This kind of pain was even more unbearable than the previous heart-clenching pain. It hurt so much his entire leg spasmed, but he did not dare to touch it.
On seeing this, Zhu Yishu paused for a moment and said to Rong Bai, “This is your illegitimate son from the Demon Realm?”
Rong Bai kept silent.
Zhu Yishu raised his eyebrows and tsked as he shook his head. “As a father, you’re really heartless.”
Rong Bai glanced at him. He was too lazy to clarify or explain himself, and so he shifted his gaze back to Song Ci.
At the moment, Song Ci’s ears were roaring, and his vision was blurred. He could only barely manage to gasp for breath. When he looked up after gradually returning to his senses from the burning in his bones, he saw Zhu Yishu standing before him and looking down at him as he towered over him.
With his right hand raised high, he conjured out a sharp sword in his palm. Atop the blade of the sword was a flame that struck fear in Song Ci’s heart, making him want to retreat im an escape. Zhu Yishu smiled and said, “Your father doesn’t want you anymore. You can now die in peace.”
The fear of death followed that smile and overwhelmed all his emotions. Song Ci could only see that flaming sword in his eyes. As he watched the top of the sword pointing as his forehead, he hurriedly retreated. “No…”
Zhu Yishu brandished the sword mercilessly. Like churning waves, the fiery red flame engulfed them in an instant. Wen Changchu let out a miserable howl, “Arwooo—!”
But the next instant, blue light erupted, suppressing even the golden rays of the sun. Every spot the blue light passed was reduced to ashes as blazing heat swept out in an attack. Wen Changchu covered himself with the tail that was now partially bald after being burned. He shrank into a small ball and conjured out a dark purple barrier to shield himself.
The mighty flame brought with it a gale that sent Rong Bai’s long hair fluttering. As his robe flapped in the wind, a faint smile finally materialized on his expressionless face.
The blue flame blotted out the sun and blazed on. The force of it kept pushing Wen Changchu back. Cracks appeared on his barrier. Fortunately, the flame weakened before the barrier shattered.
When the blue flame disappeared, Zhu Yishu was still standing, unharmed. But Song Ci, who had been originally sprawling on the ground, was now half-crouching. A pair of snow-white fox ears stood erected between his fluttering long hair. His black eyes were now thoroughly azure.
Two soft and fluffy white tails swayed behind him, reflecting golden light. The fur was as white as porcelain, and as smooth as silk.
His right hand was grasping a black scimitar, with the blade intercepting the sword Zhu Yishu had bore down on him. His handsome face was bathed in fury and murderous intent.
Zhu Yi Shu said, “It seems that you have perfectly inherited his blood.”
Song Ci answered, “Before I set foot into the Demon Gate, I will not die in anyone’s hands.”
Zhu Yishu: Why do you need to set foot into the Demon Gate?
Song Ci: To look for the Demon King.
Zhu Yishu: ???
Rong Bai: Shhh…
Wen Changchu: Shhh….
Zhu Yun: Shhh….
Credits: Many thanks to saed (@saedee_) for the grammar correction! ♥