The fifth beat of the drum did not sound. The howlings of the horde of demons all around ceased as they fell silent.
Song Ci raised his eyes uncertainly. An umbrella that was floating down blocked off his view. The bell the size of a red date on the handle of the umbrella swung gently, letting out a clear, crisp tinkle.
Song Ci froze. The sudden appearance of this umbrella put him at a loss. He swapped the blade in his right hand to his left hand in a fluster and carefully reached out to catch hold of the umbrella.
The bell stopped ringing after the umbrella landed in his hand, as if it had been delivered to its destination.
It was then Song Ci got to observe the umbrella at close range. Without the crystal cabinet to obscure the umbrella, he could see all its details clearly. The golden carved motifs on the handle of the umbrella swam upwards along its body, as if it were roaming with life and vitality.
Qinyu rose from the ground and stared at it with her eyes widened. “Isn’t that umbrella we saw earlier? Why did it appear here?!”
Song Ci replied in bewilderment. “I don’t know either…”
However, he felt as if this umbrella came here for him, or rather, someone sent it over to him.
Song Ci set aside the umbrella and moved his gaze up to see another figure in white floating in the air beside Qingqiu Yu.
His pupils shrank the instant he got a clear look at the man. He whispered with a trace of barely concealed joy, “Look, it’s Master Rong!”
Qinyu raised her head and let out an exclamation.
Rong Bai was still dressed in a white robe. The hem of his clothes rose in a soft arc, and his tied-up hair fluttered in the wind. Compared to Qingqiu Yu, he was obviously much taller. His towering gaze from above was cold and distant.
What caught their attention was his outstretched hand. It had firmly caught hold of the stick, preventing the fifth beat from sounding.
Qingqiu Yu did not detect the sudden appearance of this person beside him. When he looked up, his expression turned savage. “You’ve finally shown up.”
Rong Bai’s voice was icy. “You should know what will happen if you cause a disturbance in my Demon Realm. Do you think the Qingqiu Clan will be able to protect you?”
“I’ve long stopped placing my hopes on that bunch of good-for-nothing. You’ve killed so many of my clansmen, but they don’t even dare to let out a fart!” Qingqiu Yu said bitterly, “You owe me a debt of blood for killing my younger brother. Even if I have to fight to the death, I’ll raze your Demon Realm to the ground!”
On hearing him, the corners of Rong Bai’s lips curled up in a taunting smile. “With what you have?”
“Do you think I’m unaware of the scattering of your soul1 when you destroyed the Devil Seal?” Qingqiu Yu said, “I may have one tail less than you, but I still have the Maitreya drum in my hand. Even if you can kill me, you will end up seriously injured.”
“Think carefully about it. How many people are eyeing your life and position as the Demon King? Surely you don’t need me to tell you what will happen to you once you are seriously injured.” Qingqiu Yu had clearly thought it all out. It was evident he had come here today determined to fight to the death.
Rong Bai lowered his eyes. “The Qingqiu Clan is still of some value alive. If you beg for mercy now, I can let you off.”
Qingqiu Yu burst out laughing. “How ludicrous. What value are you talking about here? You are just a stray dog the Tu Shan Clan kicked out. Yet you are still thinking about Tu Shan at this point in time. What? Don’t tell me you still want me to address you as——Tu. Shan. Rong. Bai?”
He deliberately gnashed his teeth very heavily at the last four words.
There was a “crack” as Rong Bai broke the stick with his bare hands. His expression was as cold as a Raksha2 wearing a mask of a fury rarely seen. “You’re asking for death.”
The next moment, a huge blue flame burst out in mid-air and eclipsed the red light emitted from the Maitreya drum, outshining even the bright moon and an entire sky of stars.
Song Ci’s eyes widened. The light from the blue flame illuminated his astonished face. Blue light flashed in his eyes as he raised his hand to point at the flame. He was so stunned that he was speechless and could only utter sounds of surprise. “This… this…”
The surrounding demons all instinctively retreated from this intense heat. The man in the cage also erected a barrier to block it out. Sweeping flames incinerated everything within Song Ci’s vision and lit up half of the night sky.
After the blue flame in the air vanished, he saw Qingqiu Yu holding the Maitreya drum in his arms and floating about a zhang3 away from Rong Bai. Red light from the drum encircled him, keeping him safe from the assault of the blue flame.
He smiled smugly. “I was right, Tu Shan Rong Bai. Your capability has diminished by so much now. How are you going to protect this Demon Capital? How about abdicating the Demon King throne in my favor? “
Rong Bai spoke no further and slowly raised his right hand to garner blue light. The hilt of a black scimitar appeared under the blue light. It ignited with flames that ran down its body, gradually forming into a blade with a strange shape.
Unlike conventional blades, this one was pitch-black all over. Traces of silver gleamed on the body of the blade. It was only when the flame reached the tip of the blade that the entire weapon was unveiled.
Murderous aura broke through the gleam of the sword, chilly and formless.
Song Ci subconsciously moved his hand, only to realize that the black blade in his left hand was missing. Qinyu’s lowered and excited voice rang out beside his ear. “That’s the number one most powerful blade I was talking about—Du’e.”
“Song Ci, the name of that all-powerful Master Rong of yours couldn’t have been Rong Bai, could it?” Qinyu asked in a faint voice.
Song Ci turned his head stiffly to look at her. “Didn’t I tell you his name before?”
Qinyu let out two expressionless laughs. “We’re goners. Du’e Blade and the Crimson Pearl Umbrella. So the King of tens of thousands of demons has been by our side all along. And we were still foolishly scheming and plotting against him?”
Song Ci went so weak in the knees he almost fell to his knees. He stopped her. “Don’t say a word more. I can’t take this.”
He’s really dead meat now.
On the other side, Rong Bai grasped hold of Du’e and swung it without even giving Qingqiu Yu a chance to react. He was so fast his figure was almost indiscernible. Qingqiu Yu hurriedly blocked the attack with the Maitreya Drum, meeting Rong Bai’s blow head-on.
For all the airs he had put on earlier, he was now flustered.
Back in those days, Rong Bai’s Du’e had struck fear in the hearts of all the demons and ghosts among the Six Realms. Even the deities and immortals dreaded it. His great feat during the period of time he had left Tu Shan had not only included massacring half of the Demon Realm; many immortals had also perished under his hands.
He respected neither deities nor ghosts. Anyone who got into his way would all meet their fates under his blade.
Later on, after ascending to the throne of Demon King, he seemed to have grown weary of those days of killing, and so he stopped. Still, the nightmare Du’e left behind remained.
A saying in the world goes, “When Du’e strikes, someone will die.”
Qingqiu Yu was on high alert. His eight tails were like a riot of demons dancing wildly behind him. A dazzling azure light all over his body converged at the Maitreya drum. Brandishing his five fingers, he drummed on the drum.
The sounds of the drum reverberated in the air. The impact this time was even stronger than those of the previous times. Even Song Ci was jolted by it. Weird drum beats filled his mind, pounding his temples and blurring his consciousness.
All those demons that had been waiting in place let out shrill howls as they revealed their real forms. Animals and plants that have turned into demons4 filled their sights.
All of them pounced on Rong Bai. A back-handed slash of his blade drew out a trail of blue flame that instantly burned a vast expanse of land to ashes.
The splattering of fresh blood left dark red trails on his snow-white robe.
The wave of demons engulfed Rong Bai.
Qingqiu Yu laughed out loud at the side, “Bring it on. Tu Shan Rong Bai, before killing me, kill all the demons in the city first…”
Before he could finish his words, a ray of blue flame shot through the packed mob of demons like an unleashed arrow and headed right at him. He reacted swiftly and raised the drum to ward off the attack. Even so, the force of the impact drove him back in a retreat.
Qingqiu Yu continued to strike the drum with trepidation. He did not dare to drop his guard again.
Song Ci grew more befuddled amidst the beats of the drum. His eyes gradually lost their spirits as they glazed over with a dim light. A hand suddenly reached out from the cage and flicked the bell on the umbrella.
The clear tinkling of the sound resonated through the air and instantly snapped Song Ci out of the fog in his mind. He was so startled that he shuddered. Looking down, he saw the man squatting in the cage looking back at him with his head raised. “Ring the bell.”
Song Ci had come to realize the extraordinary calibre of this bell. He hurriedly grabbed hold of it and shook it with all his might. The sounds of the bell reverberated through the air and messed up the sounds from the Maitreya drum. Batches after batches of demons were jolted awake. When they saw the blue flames dancing in the air, they were so scared witless that they tumbled out of the sky.
The man in the iron cage rose to his feet and leaned against the iron bars. He smiled and said, “You are from the Tu Shan Clan too. So take a good look at how big a difference there is between clans, and how much of a difference a single tail would make.”
The demons that had been called to arms by the Maitreya Drum all came to their senses amidst the sound of the bell and swiftly left the battlefield. On seeing this, Qingqiu Yu grew flustered and struck the drum with even more force in his panic. However, Song Ci was ringing the bell at random and without any order; it completely messed up Qingqiu Yu’s rhythm.
Without those demons obstructing him, Rong Bai launched another attack at Qingqiu Yu. The dazzling blue flames seemed to form nine tails in full bloom behind him. It brought with it a staggering heat as it blazed past and assaulted everything in its path with the momentum of an unstoppable avalanche.
He brandished Du’e, and the blue flames seemed to let out a deafening howl of a fox as it curled into massive waves of flames a hundred chi5 tall that surged towards Qingqiu Yu in a face-on attack with the force of tens of thousands of infantry and cavalry.
Thousands and hundreds of demons below hid themselves in ways they knew to protect themselves best. Shrieks rose and fell in succession all around. Once again, the man in the iron cage set up a shield that was an intense blue. But even within it, Qinyu could still feel an unbearable heat.
Among the thousands of demons, only Song Ci found this blue flame warm and cozy.
Even the maiden who resembled Rong Bai had to use her white silk to create a shield to avoid being affected by the blue flames.
The blue flames lit up the entire Bodhi Capital. Even from a distance away, they could see the entire night sky awash in this beautiful color.
Up against this blue flame, Qingqiu Yu had nowhere to hide. He mobilized all the power in his whole body to resist it. The Maitreya Drum in his hands glowed red and began to tremble and shriek as he retreated. Eventually, a tiny crack appeared on the surface of the drum.
The eight azure tails behind him enveloped him from both sides. Using all his demonic powers to ward off the attack, he was too powerless to even fight back.
“The tail is a symbol of power. When Tu Shan Rong Bai was still in the Divine Realm, he was an honorable deity far beyond anyone’s reach. Although he only occupied the position of the Demon King after he left, his standing among the Six Realms remained untouched and unchallenged.” Qinyu shielded her face with her sleeves and squinted at the exploding blue flame in the air.
The Rong Bai who was standing elegantly with Du’e in his hands was once a terrifying existence that the entire Heaven of deities and immortals, and all the Six Realms of demons and devils, bowed down to.
The Maitreya Drum had been stretched to its limit. It shattered into several pieces amidst the blue flame, turning into an utterly useless drum. Qingqiu Yu’s eight tails were reduced to ashes in the flame. His heart-wrenching and blood-curdling scream reverberated across the sky as he burned up until there was nothing left of him.
The Bodhi Capital did not escape unscathed either. It was as if a gigantic divine blade had hacked down upon the city, cracking open a massive rift in the capital.
The blue flames faded away, and the blade in Rong Bai’s hand turned back into that half-an-arm long scimitar. It was so dark and dull that it looked ordinary.
After the searing heat in the air dissipated, the demons hiding in various spots all poked their heads out and looked up at Rong Bai, still in mid-air. Then, the entire streets full of demons all simultaneously kneeled to kowtow to him and shouted in unison.
“Greetings to His Majesty the King—”
Even Qinyu kneeled with an expression of reverence and deference and said in a low voice, “Greetings to His Honorable Deity—”
Song Ci gulped down a mouthful of saliva. Unable to hold himself up any longer, he collapsed to his knees with a “thud” while still clenching the umbrella in his hands. With all hope lost, he said, “I’m done for.”
Song Ci: This date next year is my death anniversary. 👋
- 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. Basically,
Alive + complete soul = living person
Alive + lacking a part of soul/spirit = alive but lacking in certain senses/emotions (e.g., flat emotions)
Dead + complete soul = dead; now a soul/ghost with the possibility to re-enter the wheel of reincarnation
Dead + scattered soul = cease to exist; no chance for reincarnation.
- “罗刹Raksha, a demon in Buddhism
- 丈 zhang, a measure of length, ten Chinese feet (3.3m)
- Demons can be formed from animals (Fox Demon Song Ci), plants, and even objects (like Mirror Demon Mirror Old Man). For clarification on demons vs. devils, you can refer to the glossary.
- 尺 chi a Chinese foot, i.e., one chi equals to one-third of a meter