Song Ci returned to his room and waited for a while. Sure enough, Madam Liang came looking for him.
Several maidservants followed behind her, each holding a tray with scrolls stacked on them.
Song Ci took one look at it and scrunched up his eyebrows.
He stood up to meet and greet his mother. “Mother, it’s already late. Why are you looking for me?”
Madam Liang took him by the hand and led him into the room. “Child, that was rude of you earlier.”
Song Ci pretended not to understand. “What?”
“Cut your pretense. You know what it’s about.” Madam Liang smiled and said, “The lady in the hall just now is the little missy of the Sun Clan. Her pet name is Wei-Er. You should still remember her, right?”
Song Ci thought, how could he forget…
This was the betrothal that had been decided on in all those years he had lived. In the end, the maiden herself came to their doorsteps to annul it. Song Ci recognized her right away when he saw her earlier. When the maiden was young, she was lively and cheerful. She would always widen a pair of smiling eyes at anyone she met. So many years had passed, and she had changed much.
But Song Ci still shook his head. “She looks unfamiliar.”
“Lie to me all you want.” Madam Liang said, “I know you are probably still angry, but it has been so many years ago. Wei-er has also said that she was young and ignorant.”
She said, “Back then, when you followed your father to the capital to serve as an official, your Mother was all alone at home with nothing to do. It was this child who diligently ran errands for me. She has a good temper too…”
Song Ci knew what her plan was when she said that. Although he was usually gentle, he could not simply let this matter be.
So he interrupted Madam Liang. “Mother…”
“All right, all right. I know you can’t let this go.” Madam Liang sighed, “Forget it. There’s no hope for Wei-er. I’ll just treat it as taking a goddaughter. But you aren’t young anymore. Other people your age already have sons running all over. Yet you don’t even have a lover. Aren’t you afraid of being the butt of jokes if this were to get out?”
Song Ci had a headache. The irritation in his heart surged up again. He said, “There’s no hurry…”
“How could there be no hurry?!” Madam Liang grew anxious. “Everyone in Jinling is saying that my son has an unmentionable disease. How would I feel good to hear this?”
Song Ci was rendered speechless for a moment. His voice weakened. “Who is so free to go around gossiping about others?”
“You don’t have to care who it is.” Madam Liang’s gentle temperament hardened. “I’ve chosen some households in Jinling that are our equals in social status. Check them out later and tell me tomorrow morning if there’s one you like. Even if you don’t like any of them, just pick one to be your concubine. It’d be much better than dragging it on like this.”
Song Ci held his forehead. He could only agree. “Alright. It’s getting late. Mother should retire early for the night.”
After Madam Liang left, Song Ci stood alone before the window for a while. He looked into the darkening sky in the distance, lost in thoughts.
No matter how he tried, he could not suppress that restlessness in his heart.
This was not the first time that this kind of emotion had appeared. He could still comfort himself before, but now, it was becoming harder to calm down.
“Young Master, do you want to take a bath?” You Wen came in at this time to ask.
After a moment of silence, Song Ci turned his head and said, “I want to go out.”
You Wen was momentarily stupefied. “What?”
“I want to go out.” Song Ci repeated. “Feng Zhuojun, let me out. I don’t want to play anymore.”
You Wen smiled. “Young Master, what are you talking about? This slave does not understand. “
Song Ci looked at him. His desire to leave grew even more intense and urgent. He moved his fingertip, and a blue flame sprang up. He threatened. “Let me out, or I’ll burn this place down.”
You Wen’s expression changed. He grasped Song Ci’s wrist and asked in a cold voice, “Do you know what you are doing?”
Song Ci was about to answer when his vision suddenly blurred. When his eyes focused again, his personal attendant, You Wen, had turned into himself!
The “Song Ci” before him was dressed in an apricot robe with his long hair all tied up. His expression was cold, and his eyes seemed to be encased in ice.
Song Ci felt weird to see his own self standing before him and talking to him. He furrowed his eyebrows. “You…”
“Where do you want to go?” The fake Song Ci asked, “This place has the home you longed for and the parents you missed. Even Wen Chan and Liang Yanbei, who have left for several years, have returned. Isn’t this what you want? Why do you still want to leave?”
Song Ci had never thought that he would be so scary after seeing himself being so fierce with himself. He replied, “This… this place is fake.”
The fake Song Ci sneered. “Then, what is real?”
Song Ci responded, “Rong Bai is real. My being in the Divine Realm is real too. I want to go out. I still have something to do.”
“Who cares if it’s real or fake?” The fake Song Ci said. “Isn’t it better to remain here? You shouldn’t leave.”
Song Ci could not understand. “Why would I want to remain in an illusion? Also, who are you? Who do you think you are to order me around?”
“Who am I?” The fake Song Ci asked in amusement. “I am you. I know what you are thinking. What’s so good about Rong Bai? He’s merely an outsider. How could he be compared to this place? Your kin and friends are all here…”
Song Ci cut him off angrily. “You are not me. You don’t understand me at all. I just want to leave now.”
“No, I understand you. You don’t want to leave.” He said.
Disbelief took over Song Ci’s face. He honestly had not expected himself to quarrel with his own self one day. He looked at his own confident face before him and resisted the urge to beat him up. “Get out of the way, or I’ll hit you.”
With that, he conjured up Du’e in his hand and put on a threatening look.
Before the fake Song Ci in front of him could react, a sudden burst of laughter erupted beside him. Song Ci could tell who it was. He turned his head to look over. “Feng Zhuojun, what game are you playing?”
Feng Zhuojun was laughing merrily. With a wave of his hand, the fake Song Ci before him stood motionless and expressionless like a puppet with its strings cut off.
“I have a question for you.” After laughing enough, Feng Zhuojun said, “Previously when you entered Rong Bai’s dream, why didn’t you notice that it was fake? When you fell under the enchantment spell by that Qingqiu fox, why didn’t you realize it was fake too? Why is it that when it comes to this, you are so sure it’s fake?”
Song Ci blanked out for a moment. He realized that he had no answer to this question.
This indeed seemed to be the case. The previous two times were clearly full of loopholes too, even more so than this one, yet he was deeply immersed in them both times.
He couldn’t think of one.
Song Ci dumbly opened his mouth and asked, “What do you think is the reason?”
Feng Zhuojun raised his eyebrows but did not answer. Instead, he pointed to the dummy in front of him. “Look at him carefully. Do you find him familiar?”
Song Ci thought, no kidding, of course he’s familiar. “He’s me, isn’t it?”
“Can you tell if this is you at which point in time?”
Song Ci looked at him again carefully with a questioning gaze. A segment suddenly flashed through his mind. He asked doubtfully, “Could it be the day I encountered Wen Changchu?”
“Exactly.” Feng Zhuojun said, “But don’t evade the crucial point to focus on the trivial. This is you on the day when you officially forged a connection with Rong Bai. It’s a substitute I extracted from your memory. He said he understands you, and he isn’t wrong in saying that. But the person he understands is the ‘you’ before that particular day.”
Song Ci looked at him and motioned for him to continue.
“The reason why you realize this is fake so quickly is because what your heart wants the most has since changed.” Feng Zhuojun said, “Before, the thing your heart desired the most was this place. Your home, your kin, and friends, and the Jinling you longed for. Yet, you want to leave this place so much now that you even want to set fire to it. My guess is, you saw Rong Bai in the dream and the enchantment spell, right?”
Feng Zhuojun continued, “Do you understand now that I’ve put it this way?”
Song Ci fell silent. He was not contemplating anything. His mind was in such a mess that he did not know how he should sort out his train of thought.
It seemed that he already had an answer in his heart. But this answer was still covered with a veil. And all this time, Song Ci had never dared to unveil it.
Feng Zhuojun waited patiently for him. He reckoned that Song Ci would not be able to accept this calmly. There was no hurry anyway. After a while, he heard Song Ci ask, “Can I say a couple of words to him?”
Feng Zhuojun knew that Song Ci was referring to the dummy Song Ci in front of him, so he waved his hand. The fake Song Ci moved again and blinked at Song Ci.
“You…” It was really a strange feeling to be having a conversation with himself.
“You don’t want to leave?” He asked.
“Of course, why would I want to leave?” The fake Song Ci said.
“Your friend is in danger now and needs you to save him. Are you willing to go?” Song Ci tentatively asked again.
“What friend?” The fake Song Ci blurted out.
“Just an ordinary friend.” Song Ci immediately answered, but then he made a slight change. “Perhaps a little closer than ordinary friends.”
“More so than His Ninth Highness and me?” The fake Song Ci asked again.
In fact, as far as Song Ci was aware, Wen Chan was his only friend and naturally also his closest friend. But when the fake Song Ci asked this question, Song Ci could not give a definite answer. He hesitated.
However, the one standing opposite him was his own self, so it was basically useless to cover it up or even hesitate. When the fake Song Ci saw his reaction, he could not help but take a deep breath and wondered, “What friend is he to be more important than His Ninth Highness?”
Song Ci started to get flustered. He had never once thought that Rong Bai’s position in his heart surpassed that of Wen Chan’s.
“That’s…” He did not know how to describe it.
“Do you want to go?” The fake Song Ci quickly threw the question back to him.
Caught off-guard, Song Ci was stunned for a moment. He looked right at the fake Song Ci, unable to answer.
But fake Song Ci saw through him in one glance. He said in astonishment, “You want to go? Oh, I recall it now. You said earlier that you want to leave and burn this place down. What friend is he to be even more important than Father and Mother? More important than this whole family? Are you crazy?”
Song Ci could not bear to listen further. The more he listened, the more flustered he became. He hastily raised his hands to put a stop to it. Feng Zhuojun took his cue and kept away the dummy. He asked Song Ci, “Why don’t you stay here for a while?”
“I want to leave.” Song Ci said.
Feng Zhuojun released him from the Kunlun Mirror. He was still lying on the soft chair. He turned to his side and turned his face away.
“Oh, there is one more thing I think I need to say.” Feng Zhuojun finally dealt him the finishing blow. “The illusionary realm earlier was conjured up by the Kunlun Mirror out of your memory. If that was what you wanted the most, you wouldn’t even realize that it was an illusion. At the end of the day, all that you have seen earlier were merely what you thought you desired the most. “
On hearing this, Song Ci covered half of his face and buried it into the soft silk of the reclining chair. His exposed right ear had gone completely red. He waved his other hand at Feng Zhuojun.
Shoo, shoo, shoo. Stay farther away from me!