Madam Feng’s death was too sudden. Even before Feng Yingqiu’s wedding could be held, they had to conduct a funeral first.
Feng Yingqiu also reverted to her original self, and Feng Changyue released the groom-to-be whom he had previously forcibly captured.
Then, as if he was a man possessed, Feng Changyue created a ruckus saying he would take a tonsure to become a monk. If others tried to advise him, he would start smashing things like a madman. As he did so, he wept and screamed, “I didn’t keep my promise back then. I should spend the rest of my life chanting scriptures and abstaining from eating meat to repay the debt I owed in the earlier half of my life.”
No one could stop him. Feng Changyue was determined to leave home and become a monk. He donated a large sum of money to the temple1 at the border of the city and moved there.
Of course, when all these happened, Song Ci was still dreaming.
He kept seeing a scene in his dream. A figure stood against a backdrop of red clouds on the horizon. The breeze stirred up the man’s robe and long hair, lending an air of valiance to him.
Song Ci stood from far away to watch him. He somehow found him familiar.
But for the life of him, he could not figure out who the man was. Just as he was about to ask, the man suddenly turned his head. Several big, furry tails materialized out of the air and intersected with each other as they swayed.
Before Song Ci could see the man’s face clearly, he woke up from his dream. As he looked at his surroundings, his mind gradually cleared up.
He found himself in an inn. He did not know how long he had slept. When he looked out of the window, the sun was shining brightly.
With some effort, he sat up on the bed. He felt dizzy and light-headed as if he had just recovered from a major illness. He could barely summon the energy to do anything.
“Are you awake?” Rong Bai’s soft, gentle voice rang out beside him. He turned to look and saw Rong Bai relaxing at the table with his chin in his hand as he looked back at him.
“Master Rong?” Having just woken up, Song C’s voice was still raspy and sleepy. He blinked and hunched over, then asked feebly, “Why are you sitting there?”
“I’m looking at you.” Rong Bai smiled and said. “You’ve been asleep for three days. I was worried.”
Song Ci cried out in alarm. “I slept for that long? Then the Demon Gate…”
“The Demon Gate isn’t open yet. It should be within these two days. How is your recovery getting on? Why do you look listless to me?” Rong Bai looked at him from left to right. He noted that Song Ci’s complexion looked fine; it was just his words that sounded weak.
“I don’t know. I have a sore waist and neck, and I feel dizzy too.” Song Ci breathed a sigh of relief. Fortunately, he did not miss the Demon Gate.
He lifted the quilt and got out of bed slowly, muttering, “Could it be hunger?”
“Perhaps you should take some nourishment.” Rong Bai stood up as well when he saw him getting off the bed. He said, “Stay here. Don’t move around. I’ll buy some food for you to eat.”
“It’s fine. I can walk there myself.” Song Ci subconsciously turned him down.
But Rong Bai strode over to him in two steps and pushed him down into a sitting position on the bed. His commanding gaze permitted no refusal. “Sit here.”
Song Ci nodded his head blankly. He felt that the Rong Bai before him was a little different from before. But the change in him was so subtle that Song Ci could not really pinpoint it.
He sat on the bed for a while, then slowly got up to put on his clothes. After combing his long hair, he waited obediently for Rong Bai to return.
But Qinyu appeared before Rong Bai did.
The maiden suddenly popped up from the window with her hands clinging onto the window frame. She asked Song Ci, “Have you recovered?”
She gave Song Ci a fright. Song Ci pointed at the door and said, “Actually, you can enter from there.”
Giggling, she leaped in, stretched, and said, “My name is Qinyu. I’m the Marriage Immortal of the Immortal Realm. The mortals like to call me Yue Lao.2 What about you? What’s your name?”
“Oh, you are an immortal!” Song Ci stared at her in surprise and circled her. “I never thought I could meet an immortal.”
“Haven’t you ever seen an immortal?” Qinyu asked in amusement.
“How would I have seen one? I was a mortal before. But something happened later on, and I was forced to turn into a demon.” After explaining, he glanced at her uneasily. “You couldn’t be thinking of subduing me, could you?”
His expression amused Qinyu. She said, “Don’t worry. Us immortals can tell right from wrong. Besides, the relationship between immortals and demons is not how mortals understand it to be. After the creation of the new Divine Realm, the Six Realms have been relatively peaceful.”
On hearing that, Song Ci nodded his head, looking as if he could barely understand her. Then, remembering that he had not introduced himself, he said, “My name is Song Ci. I’m a demon who turned into one midway.”3
“You’re powerful.” Qinyu praised him unreservedly. Then, the gears in her mind turned, and she asked, “The one with you, the man you addressed as Master Rong… who is he?”
“He’s a Daoist priest I met by chance before. We are both heading for the Demon Realm, so we decided to travel together.” Song Ci blinked his eyes. Understanding that this person was deliberately here to inquire about Rong Bai, he inexplicably felt a little wary.
“Daoist priest? That’s not possible.” Qinyu frowned and shook her head. She said, “It’s impossible for mortals to activate the Kunlun Mirror. He’s either someone from Heaven or elsewhere. In any case, he couldn’t be from the Mortal Realm.”
Song Ci and Qinyu stared at each other in consternation. The stalemate continued for a moment before Song Ci said, “I’ve long suspected that he isn’t a mortal. But I still feel surprised when you put it so bluntly.”
He continued, “Then, in your opinion, what do you think he is?”
“Immortal.” Qinyu responded with absolute certainty, “He’s definitely an immortal. He has some connections with the Zhu Clan. He’s probably someone from the Old Divine Realm.”
As they spoke, they took a seat beside the table. “Those from the Old Divine Realm has lived for a very long time. The majority of them are cold-hearted people without any desires or demands. Do you get a sense of that when you’re with him?”
With a look of extreme curiosity, Qinyu stared fixedly at Song Ci, as if she did not want to miss any change in his expression. This made Song Ci a little uncomfortable. He shrank back in an attempt to evade her gaze. “It’s true that Master Rong’s moods rarely fluctuate. But, he’s good-natured and not as cold-blooded as you said.”
“Then why do you keep calling him Master Rong? Could it be a special way to spice things up between you? Do you call him that in bed too?” Qinyu wondered.
Song Ci did not get it at first, but then his eyes bulged when it finally hit him. A blush crept up his neck and flushed his entire face red. He leaped to his feet. “What did you say?!”
“Don’t tell me I’ve got it right?” Qinyu grinned and waved her hand, saying. “Alright, you don’t have to say another word. I understand.”
“What do you understand?!” Song Ci said anxiously. “You’ve got it wrong. We don’t have that kind of relationship. I only called him Master because when I first met him, the man with him addressed him as such.”
“Don’t get so worked up. Let’s sit down and talk it over.” Qinyu beckoned to him. “I was just kidding with you.”
Song Ci exhaled brusquely, feeling as his thumping heart was hammering his mind with every beat. He did not understand why he was so worked up either. Even if it was a misunderstanding, it should not have made him so red in the face.
He gave two dry coughs to dispel the awkwardness and sat down to compose himself. He said, “Don’t say such words to sully others’ reputation.”
“The love between men has already been accepted as a way of life in such a grand state like Dongwang. Why take it to heart? Even it’s true, others will only find it beautiful.” Qinyu soothed him. “Don’t worry.”
Song Ci did not want to delve into this topic, so he changed the topic. “You said earlier that you were responsible for how Jiang Liang and Feng Zhuojun turned out. Why?”
“Well, about that…” Qinyu licked her lips and said. “My responsibility in the Immortal Realm is to bestow love on mortals. But ill-fated mortals are excluded from my sphere of responsibility. Jiang Liang is one of them. He’s doomed to suffer setbacks throughout his entire life. His father was thrown into prison, and his mother died of sickness. Originally, he was meant to survive in the world all alone. But in a moment of negligence, I bound his thread4 to Feng Zhuojun. That was how Feng Zhuojun, whose life was supposed to be a bed of roses, ended up involved with Jiang Liang and losing his life prematurely.”
“There are already people who oppose me taking on this position. If the Immortal King finds out that I’ve committed a mistake, he will haul me out to punish me. So I sneaked down to the Mortal Realm to make up for my mistake.” Qinyu spread out her hands. “Now, Jiang Liang is recuperating in the Underworld. How both of them will eventually end up will now all depend on themselves.”
“That’s not too bad an ending.” Song Ci nodded.
“Song Ci, let me ask you a question.” Qinyu said with a severe expression.
“Do you know what the object holding down the Xingluo Chessboard Array is?” She asked.
Song Ci thought back to his earlier guess. He did not dare to voice it out impetuously, so he said, “I don’t know.”
“It’s the soul of that Master Rong next to you.” Qinyu lowered her voice and said, “Jiang Liang told me so himself. He also said that the soul was the one who taught him the array.”
Song Ci did not feel a trace of surprise at his guess being proven right. He frowned and could not help overthinking. When he had seen Rong Bai earlier, he could not tell that his soul was incomplete. Or perhaps this was the reason his mood was always flat?5
“What’s with that lack of reaction?” Qinyu asked curiously.
“What reaction am I supposed to have?” Song Ci answered her question with a question of his own.
“This is a big deal.” Qinyu said, “His soul is not complete, yet he behaves like the common man. This is proof that he’s an extremely powerful being. A wisp of his soul to hold down and activate the array was able to envelop the entire City of Qinchuan, and possibly even more. Plus, he could activate the Kunlun Mirror with just a piece of broken fragment. Such a man like this among the Six Realms is few and far in between. Aren’t you even the slightest bit curious about his identity?”
“I’m indeed a little curious.” Song Ci responded.
Rong Bai’s real identity was almost eating away at him. Every time he thought about it, his curiosity grew a fraction.
“I can help you find out his identity.” Qinyu raised her eyebrows at him.
As expected, one does not visit a temple without a cause.6 This Qinyu was obviously here for a reason. “What do you want to do?”
She smiled. “I heard that you were going to access the Demon Gate. By coincidence, I’m heading there too, so I’m thinking of going with you both. What do you think?”
“You are an immortal. Why are you heading to the Demon Realm for?” Song Ci asked doubtfully.
“I want to find a way to break this thing.” Qinyu raised her right wrist to reveal the hidden red thread. “I heard that the Demon King has a treasure blade that could even cleave apart the Azure Dragon’s horns. If I use it, I’ll surely be able to sever this red thread.”
Song Ci looked at the thread and was about to ask its origin when his words were cut off as Rong Bai pushed the door open to enter. Both of them looked towards the door at the same time.
On seeing Rong Bai, Song Ci instantly forgot about what they had been talking about. He stood up and said, “Master Rong, did you manage to find something to eat?”
Rong Bai glanced at Qinyu.
Being perceptive, Song Ci explained, “This maiden is Qinyu. She wants to follow us into the Demon Realm. Master Rong, will it be fine for us to take along another person?”
After all, the one in the position to decide was Rong Bai. If Rong Bai did not agree, then all Song Ci could do was to bide Qinyu farewell.
Rong Bai lowered his eyes and thought, a wolf pup just left, and now another one pops up. When is this going to end?
Song Ci was still waiting for an answer when he noticed that Rong Bai seemed to be in a spot. He turned back, intending to turn Qinyu down when he heard Rong Bai replied in a gentle tone. “If you want to take her along, go ahead.”
Not one of them present at the scene realized the extent of indulgence in Rong Bai’s words.
Song Ci & Qinyu: It has been proven beyond doubt that Master Rong is indeed a good person!
I forgot to mention it, but the Chessboard arc ended in the last chapter. This chapter onwards is the “Tu Shan Rong Bai” arc! (｡ΦωΦ｡)
- The actual word here is 捐了一道门槛 which literally to donate money to build or repair the threshold of the temple. Supposedly, the threshold is meant to represent the donor so that others can step or trample over it (and thus the donor by extension) as a sign of him atoning for his sins.
- 月老 Yue Lao, or 月下老人 (literally, the old man under the moon) is a deity who matchmakes lovers and unites humans in marriage. He links them to one another with the red string of fate. Although this deity is commonly a kindly old man in Chinese mythology, it’s a ‘she’ in this novel.
- 半路出家 Not a purebred demon, but a man or other non-demon species that turned into a demon later on in life. Kind of like a mid-career switch lolol.
- 姻缘丝 (Red) Thread of Fate or Marriage, which is used to connect and bring two destined lovers together. There are a few versions of how the strings are usually bound to each other, but some of the more common ways are around the finger or the wrist, or even around the ankle.
- In Daoism, it’s believed that man has three immortal souls and seven mortal souls (baser instincts that motivate a human being) that contrast the spiritual and carnal side of man. (三魂七魄). So a man, if missing a part of the soul, might not be dead, but would be lacking in the sense corresponding to the soul or spirit that has gone missing (e.g. his emotions might be flat.) It’s also possible to recall and reclaim the MIA soul to a living person, but a man is truly gone for good (with no chance for reincarnation) when all his souls dispersed. That was why it meant so much to Mirror Old Man when Rong Bai said Jiang Liang’s soul was still fully intact. He would still be able to reincarnate with a complete soul, but if it had completely scattered, then he would cease to exist. Basically,
• Alive + complete soul = living person
• Alive + lacking a part of soul/spirit = alive but lacking in certain senses/emotions (e.g., flat emotions, which was what made Song Ci suspect Rong Bai)
• Dead + complete soul = dead; now a soul/ghost with possibility to re-enter the wheel of reincarnation
• Dead + scattered soul = cease to exist; no chance for reincarnation.
- 无事不登三宝殿 One doesn’t visit a temple without a cause. There’s always a reason or ulterior motive to look for someone.