Not expecting this demon with a zero sense of presence to speak out so suddenly, the group of people before them were all simultaneously stunned.
Song Ci spread out his palm for them to see. His palm was now oozing with pus after the blisters had broken. Raising his voice, he said fiercely, “You launched a sneak attack from the back while others were unprepared. Didn’t your parents teach you to be open and aboveboard? You ganged up to bully one, and yet you still see it as an honor. Exactly who gave you the courage to challenge Master Rong? What a bunch of shameless scum!”
Song Ci was railing at them so smoothly that he did not even realize that he had let slip a ‘Master Rong’. After he was done scolding, he even imitated Zhu Qin and spat out a “bah”.
Zhu Qin’s face was as black as the bottom of a pot. He gnashed his teeth and demanded, “What did you say?”
Song Ci raised his chin haughtily, with the challenge in his gaze unconcealed. “Why? Did I say anything wrong?”
“The nerve of you!” Zhu Qin’s face flushed with anger. With a raise of his right hand, he pulled out a broadsword about half the height of a man. The body of the blade was ablaze with red flames. Song Ci could feel the heat from it even at a distance away.
Zhu Qin grasped the hilt of the broadsword and stabbed its tip into the ground. He fumed, “You’re courting death!”
“Zhu Qin!” The man next to him held out a hand before Zhu Qin’s right hand to stop him. “This little demon is just deriving pleasure from ranting. It’s easy to kill him, but our goal is Tu Shan Rong Bai.”
On hearing that, Song Ci let loose an exaggerated laugh. “That’s right. I’m deriving pleasure from ranting. After scolding you, I felt incomparably wonderful. Hahahaha…”
When had Zhu Qin been treated in this way before? He shoved away the man’s hand, swung the broadsword in a circle to build up force, and struck out towards Song Ci’s head. The scorching flame came assaulting him at such a speed that there was barely time to dodge.
However, Song Ci was already on his guard. He raised his hand and conjured up Du’e in his palm in the form of a scimitar. Pressing it against his elbow, he received Zhu Qin’s blow that had come hacking down on him from above.
One could tell that there was a great difference between both weapons just by looking at their shapes alone. Furthermore, Zhu Qin’s blade was still ablaze with bright flames.
The shrill sound of metal confronting metal rang out the moment the blades collided. Du’e intercepted the broadsword’s attack, but Song Ci was somewhat unable to maintain his hold on it, feeling as if there was a massive mountain pressing down on him. He parted his legs, with one forward and one backward, to steel himself. But the blow from Zhu Qin’s attack pushed his feet into the ground, producing a pair of footprints.
Du’e emitted a faint black light which enveloped most of Song Ci’s body to cast a barrier against the destructive flame. Their eyes met.
And Song Ci saw the fury and astonishment in Zhu Qin’s eyes.
It wasn’t just Zhu Qin. Even those Zhu juniors behind him all had a look of disbelief on their faces.
Just as Zhu Qin was feeling stunned, he felt a sudden stab of pain from his waist. Immediately right after, a strong force hit him and sent him flying.
No one noticed when Rong Bai made his move. All they saw was a flash of his golden clothes as he kicked Zhu Qin on the waist with accuracy and brutality. Just a single kick, and he had sent Zhu Qin tumbling through the air.
Song Ci felt the heaviness on his body disappeared. He raised his head subconsciously and saw Rong Bai somersaulting over his head. Their eyes met for a brief second. Then Song Ci felt a warmth on his hand that vanished right after contact was made. Just like that, the Du’e in his hand was taken away.
Rong Bai’s movements were smooth and precise. After he was sent flying by Rong Bai’s kick, Zhu Qin flipped over to land on the ground at the same time Rong Bai’s feet touched the ground.
Zhu Qin backhandedly grasped the hilt of his blade and bared his teeth. “Sneak attack?”
“This isn’t a sneak attack!” Song Ci adjusted his clothes, straightened his neck, and said, “You’re the one who was careless.”
Zhu Qin was so angry on hearing that smoke shot out of his seven apertures.1 He hollered a few times, then said. “What a fine sharp-tongued little demon. I’ll pull out all your teeth today and see how you quibble!”
Song Ci removed his feet from the pit. Disregarding Zhu Qin’s vicious remark, he shouted in his heart, Master Rong! Go for it! Teach them a good lesson!
Rong Bai did as he wished. He ripped off that hindrance of a golden robe from this body. White light enveloped the Du’e in his hand as it transformed into a long, black sword. Right then, a ray of golden light fell upon the tip of the sword. The sword glinted coldly.
His blue eyes reeked of the desire to massacre. It was similar to the expression Ze Chen had shown earlier. He raised the corners of his lips and revealed a corner of a sharp, white canine tooth, giving off an inexplicable air of danger.
Song Ci could not help but inwardly exclaim in admiration. Exactly what kind of peerless treasure is Du’e?
Knowing this to be the signal before Rong Bai’s attack, Zhu Qin did not dare to drop his guard. His eyes lowered as he swung up the broadsword in his hand again. The Zhu Clan juniors at a side also adopted an offensive stance as both sides stood facing each other in confrontation.
Song Ci took a few light steps back to pick up Rong Bai’s golden clothes before retreating further. He asked Feng Zhuojun, “Should I stay further away from them when they fight?”
“What are you afraid of? Where has your earlier swagger gone?” Feng Zhuojun scoffed.
“Tsk.” Song Ci’s face reddened as he forced himself to remain calm. He said with disdain, “I’m serious!”
“Fighting with martial arts is different from fighting with magical powers. The area of effect is not as wide, so it isn’t that dangerous. You can just stand here.” Feng Zhuojun said, “And they won’t be able to fight for long. Someone will come and stop them.”
Song Ci stood by the tree root and watched them in silence.
Zhu Qin obviously dreaded coming up against Rong Bai. He did not make a move as flippantly as he did before. Instead, his sharp eyes remained fixed on Rong Bai as if he was looking for an opportunity to strike.
“Why don’t you ask me?” Feng Zhuojun asked. “If you don’t ask, how can I continue with my explanation?”
“Ask what?” Song Ci asked doubtfully, “Why would someone come to stop them?”
This answer was obviously right. Feng Zhuojun said merrily, “Because Zhu Qin’s elder sister is betrothed to Rong Bai. No matter which side gets injured in this kind of situation, it’ll be troublesome to deal with. So, someone will definitely come to stop them.”
This was the first time Song Ci knew of such a matter. Rong Bai has a betrothed? And it was even someone from the Vermilion Bird Clan? Didn’t they say those from the Old Divine Realm and New Divine Realm don’t get along like fire and water?
Although he still had questions, he did not probe any further. It was as if he had lost interest in finding out. His eyes fell on Rong Bai. From this angle, he could see Rong Bai’s side profile. The wind sent his snowy hair fluttering, exposing the contours of his dashing face.
Rong Bai was the first who could not hold back any longer. His snowy hair swung into a beautiful arc as his figure flashed by. The next moment he appeared beside Zhu Qin, pressing the tip of his sword against Zhu Qin’s chest.
Zhu Qin reacted quickly and used the thick and broad body of his blade to fend off the attack. Then he lifted it to the side to push away the tip of Rong Bai’s sword. The very instant he turned around, he swapped the blade from his right hand to his left hand and swung it towards Rong Bai’s neck.
Every strike of the broadsword and sword was aimed at vital points. As the blades collided, two vivid flames exploded from the tip of the blades and burned the surroundings with both men in its center. In the blink of an eye, they had started a wildfire.
Song Ci happened to be behind Rong Bai. So when that intense blue flame hit him, he did not feel out of sorts. He just mumbled, “So this is what fighting with martial art is like. Then, what if it’s with magical power?”
“Haven’t you seen the tip of the iceberg?” Feng Zhuojun said, “That night you entered the Demon Realm.”
Now that he had mentioned it, Song Ci recalled that the dazzling flame Rong Bai’s blade had slashed out that night. As well as that massive trail of destruction that had extended for several li.2
That was only the tip of the iceberg?
There was no way anyone could intervene in this battle between Rong Bai and Zhu Qin. Unable to find an opportunity to strike, those few Zhu Clan juniors retreated further and further back until they eventually became spectators just like Song Ci.
The flames of both two men soon attracted the attention of other bystanders. They all watched from afar, not daring to move in nearer and yet still very curious. It did not take long for onlookers to surround the two.
When Rong Bai glanced out of the corner of his eyes and saw a big crowd, he backhandedly turned his sword to press up against Zhu Qin’s blade and scrape across it for a portion. A shrill sound rang out from the friction. Rong Bai then turned around and kicked Zhu Qin brutally on his mouth, his heel showing no mercy at all. Zhu Qin tumbled a few rounds before falling onto the ground.
He half-kneeled to steady himself and coughed out a mouthful of blood with two white teeth in it to the side. The audience watching the drama erupted in laughter.
Zhu Qin looked up in a fury and saw Rong Bai looking down at him from above. The mockery on his face was glaring. Looking at the teeth on the ground, Rong Bai smiled and said, “Whoa, how formidable of you to drop only two teeth after getting kicked by me. I have to hand it to you.”
The sarcasm was so clear that it hit Zhu Qin that Rong Bai had made a clown out of him. He chose a moment where there was a crowd to make him lose his face. Now that he had spat out two teeth, the news that Rong Bai had kicked off two of his teeth would spread all over the Divine and Immortal Realm within a few days. He could be said to be completely famous then.
Zhu Qin had never been so humiliated ever since he was born. So how could he put up with this mistreatment? He clenched his back molar teeth so hard they were almost crushed. With the veins bulging out on his forehead, he said hatefully, “Tu Shan Rong Bai, I’ll never be appeased if I don’t break your legs today!”
“Let’s leave aside the question of whether you have that capability.” Rong Bai’s eyes arched as he sneered and said, “Even if you do, your sister would still have to come to Tu Shan to suffer for it on your behalf, wouldn’t she?”
Zhu Qin scoffed, “Who cares about her? She’s willing.”
He stood up and wiped the blood from his mouth. “I might as well kill you and sever that ridiculous idea of hers.”
Rong Bai narrowed his eyes and said nothing more. Instead, he took a sudden step back. A long whip slashed down from above and opened up a deep crack between Zhu Qin and Rong Bai.
Ze Chen suddenly leaped down and smiled with her teeth showing. She turned to look at Zhu Qin, then said to Rong Bai, “He can’t beat you. How about I join him?”
Song Ci frowned on seeing Ze Chen and said in disdain, “Why is she here? She even wants to help outsiders fight against Rong Bai?”
“Ze Chen advocates combat. Rong Bai has always been her target.” Feng Zhuojun said.
“Then, this is too unfair.” Song Ci grumbled, “No matter how much she enjoys fighting, she has to look at the occasion, doesn’t she?”
Fortunately, it did not go the way Ze Chen wished. She had only just finished her words when someone grabbed her wrist and hauled her back a few steps. Yan Song stepped forward to stand between Zhu Qin and Rong Bai.
He said, “Rong Bai, this isn’t the time for this. Don’t stir up trouble.”
Feng Zhuojun was right. Someone had come to stop them.
Rong Bai glanced at him. He loosened his right hand that was grasping onto Du’e, and the sword vanished. He turned around and swept his gaze for half a circle before his eyes came to a stop on Song Ci. Or, more specifically, the golden robe in Song Ci’s arms.
His eyes moved up slowly and met Song Ci’s eyes.
Song Ci returned to his senses and hurried over to him with the golden robe. He smiled and said, “I was afraid it’d get dirtied on the ground.”
As he said this, he unfolded the robe and shook off the non-existent dust. He held the robe open, looking as if he wanted to help Rong Bai put it on.
Rong Bai froze for a moment, then turned around and stretched out his arms. Sure enough, Song Ci draped it over him with movements so natural that it did not seem like this was their first encounter at all.
Even Yan Song was stunned. The way Song Ci behaved looked as if he was on familiar terms with Rong Bai. But Yan Song was sure that he had never seen such a person around Rong Bai.
What’s more, this fox demon could mobilize Du’e. This was something worth investigating. Yan Song decided that he should mull it over carefully after getting back.
After putting on his clothes, Rong Bai turned around and left.
Ze Chen looked regretful as she kept away the long whip in her hand. She muttered, “I’ve only just arrived…”
Yan Song swept his gaze over. She cleared her throat and made no further objection. Just as they were about to leave, the ruthlessly-bullied Zhu Qin lost his shit.
Two of his teeth had been kicked off right before so many people. He could not swallow this humiliation even if he died. When he saw Rong Bai about to leave, he bellowed and thrust his blade into the ground, digging most of it into the earth. “All of you, stay—!”
Then the earth shook, and cracks began to spread from the edge of the blade. Song Ci looked down and saw the ground under his feet cracking open. He jumped twice before stepping onto firm land. When he looked back, he saw Zhu Qin’s blade glowing red.
His face was flushed with rage and his eyes were so bloodshot it was frightening. Light from flames could be seen through the cracks in the earth, looking like countless serpents crawling and dispersing all around him.
Zhu Qin stood up and jerked the blade out. Violent wind came assaulting from all directions, bringing with it the characteristic scorching heat of the Vermillion Bird Fire. It ripped apart all the cracks on the ground and sent it flying. For a split second, soil, gravel, and shattered rocks filled the entire sky. The strong wind swept them away everywhere in the perimeter. Caught by the onslaught, the bystanders watching the show all hurriedly stepped back to avoid them.
The few people in the center of the storm remained firm on their feet. Only Song Ci was blocking his face with his sleeves to prevent those sands from making their way into his nose and eyes.
Yan Song smiled and nodded. “Interesting.”
Among the Four Divine Beasts, only those from the White Tiger bloodline with naturally endowed formidable combat skills could counterbalance those from the Azure Dragon bloodline. But this Zhu Qin before him gave him a sense of oppressiveness. They were all in the prime of youth. What’s more, ever since the moment when Yan Song opened his eyes after breaking through his seal, no one had dared to use rules and regulations to keep him under control. So, when he saw Zhu Qin’s behavior, he had the urge to strike out at him.
He would only persuade once. This was Yan Song’s own rule.
The Vermillion Bird Flame that had burst forth from Zhu Qin’s blade blazed through the ground inch by inch. In no time, the surrounding land was roasting with heat. Like a huge stove, it trapped Rong Bai and the others within.
This intense heat burrowed deep into the mountain range until it finally broke through the weak seal and alarmed the sealed beast within. An earthquake more massive than the one earlier shook the mountain.
Song Ci nearly missed his footing. While he was stumbling, he heard a deafening and earth-shattering roar from beneath his feet. A huge crack appeared on the ground.
A dark red spike pierced through the ground not far away from Song Ci. Then the earth bulged up in an arch and continued protruding. The dark spike grew larger and larger as it gradually rose above the trees.
“The beast has broken through its seal.” Feng Zhuojun said.
Scared out of their wits, the spectators all fled away to the only safe mountain. The urgent sound of the bell rang out to summon back all the immortals hunting in the mountain. The massive tremors on Sihuang Mountain threw everyone into a panic.
The change came so suddenly that even Zhu Qin knew this was not the time to persist in getting his way. Anyone with a discerning eye could tell that the thing that wanted to dig its way out of the ground was right below their feet.
He kept away his blade, made a note of this grudge, and hurried out of the mountain.
On the contrary, Yan Song was not as solemn. He knew that there would be deities coming to deal with such matters, and so he said to Rong Bai, “Let’s go back to the first hill first.”
Even though he addressed Rong Bai by name, Rong Bai did not move. Instead, he turned to look at Song Ci beside him. His ambiguous gaze seemed to have a trace of hesitation in it.
Song Ci was busy communicating with Feng Zhuojun. “What should I do? Where do I hide?”
“How would I know? In any case, you mustn’t go to the first hill over there. You will be torn to pieces if you head there.” Feng Zhuojun said, “Or how about you run further away and hide in a small corner?”
Song Ci could not think of any other ways. The bulging earth was rising higher and higher. It would not be long before the beast broke through the ground. Song Ci moved his toes and met Rong Bai’s eyes the moment he turned his head.
Not expecting Rong Bai to be looking at him, Song Ci was momentarily stumped. After returning to his senses, he hurriedly said, “Rong Bai, wait for me. I’ll look for you.”
With that, he turned around and ran, planning to think of ways to enter the Divine Realm by hook or by crook once this Divine Hunt Meet ended.
Although he did not know what he was supposed to do, he knew that he just had to stay by Rong Bai’s side. So he would think of every means possible.
This was Song Ci’s plan.
Song Ci’s speed was fast. He thought it would be better the further he ran. Earlier, Feng Zhuojun had said that the appearance of this ferocious beast would destroy most of Sihuang Mountain. This meant there were still places that would be spared from the beast’s rampage. There was still hope in hiding.
But as he was fleeing, he saw a flash of a small figure. Song Ci recognized him as the little youth sitting beside him in the cage. Even without thinking about it, he swapped directions and ran towards him.
“Let’s go.” Yan Song saw Rong Bai looking in a direction as if he was in a trance and patted him on the shoulder with a hand, “What are you staring blankly at?”
Rong Bai pulled his consciousness back from his train of thoughts and said to Yan Song, “You go ahead. I still have something to do.”