When Song Ci made his way outside with a look of impatience, he saw a ring of demons crowding around the gate. Two young men stood in the middle.
He froze the moment he laid his eyes upon those two men.
One of the men was dressed in a plain robe with his black hair secured together with a dark-colored wooden hairpin. His handsome face held a trace of the arrogance of someone involved in a brawl. Song Ci was only too familiar with this expression. It was his dear younger cousin brother, Liang Yanbei.
Standing next to him was Wen Chan, who was dressed in an azure robe with a crown made of white jade on his head and a green jade pendant on his waist. Perhaps because of the hostile atmosphere around them, even his current expression was penetrating.
When Song Ci walked out, both of them simultaneously looked towards him.
Most probably, none of them had expected to meet an old friend again at this time; they all froze in place.
It was Wen Chan who first regained his composure. The moment his eyes arched into a smile, his face looked as if spring snow had come falling upon it; it was so bright that it made one feel warm. He said in surprise, “Brother Shuhong, why are you here?”
When Mo Kun, who was being stepped under Liang Yanbei’s foot, saw him, he hurriedly cried out, “Great King! Great King, save me!”
“Great King?” Liang Yanbei looked at Song Ci in astonishment and released the man under his foot to walk towards Song Ci.
They clearly have not met for several years, but Liang Yanbei was not the least distant as he came up to cling to Song Ci like he had always done so. “Elder Cousin Brother, are you now living in seclusion in the mountain forest?”
In four years, Liang Yanbei had grown taller into a mature and incomparably handsome man. However, in Song Ci’s eyes, Liang Yanbei somehow felt a little intimidating. He subconsciously retreated. “Don’t come over!”
Liang Yanbei subconsciously stopped in his tracks, but he was displeased. “Why so fierce? We haven’t met for a few years, and you don’t even miss me?”
Once he started grousing, he could not stop. “In all these four years, you have never even returned home once. No matter how far Ah Chan and I go, we will always return home once every year. And yet, there has been no word from you for so long. Elder Cousin Brother, how is it that I have never realized how heartless you are? Uncle, he…”
Song Ci waved his hand impatiently. Feeling Liang Yanbei’s aura growing more oppressive, Song Ci turned his body aside and said, “Stand back and talk!”
He had previously suspected a connection between the Divine Realm’s God of War, Yan Bei, and Liang Yanbei. The way he saw it now, the connection was likely not a small one. In all probability, Liang Yanbei was the descendent of the Azure Dragon, and for some unknown reason, he had come to the Human Realm.
And even became his younger cousin brother.
However, even as a mortal, Liang Yanbei was a difficult person to deal with. He looked as though he wanted to get close to him, but it was a little too much for Song Ci to take.
Wen Chan noticed something odd with Song Ci’s mood and walked up to him as well. “Brother Shuhong, you haven’t returned home for four years. Are there some difficulties you can’t speak of?”
Song Ci looked at him. The scenes he saw in the dream realm a few days ago crystalized bit by bit, and that negative emotion in his heart surged. His fury subconsciously rose.
“What has it got to do with you?!” He fumed.
Wen Chan did not expect his reaction to be so extreme. Intimidated, he said blankly, “Because… we are friends.”
“And him.” Wen Chan gave Liang Yanbei a push. “He is your younger brother.”
Song Ci suddenly froze. He looked at Wen Chan, and his piercing gaze softened in no time.
Wen Chan always seemed to be like this. He was always as gentle as the spring breeze about to head into summer. He was amiable to everyone, but he himself would distinguish between them clearly. With people he was truly close with, his patience was infinite as he would tolerate and embrace them, faults and all, over and over again. Even his eyes spoke of obvious intimacy.
The biting winter that year, a Wen Chan, whom Song Ci had not seen for half a month, had felt like a stranger to him. But now, this Wen Chan, whom Song Ci had not seen for four long years, felt familiar to him once again.
He suddenly sensed the friendship that had almost vanished between him and Wen Chan. They had not met for so long, but when they encountered each other again, nothing had changed.
“Elder Cousin Brother, if you are angry, just vent it on me.” Liang Yanbei took a step forward. “At most, just beat me up. You haven’t gone home for so long, all your anger should have dissipated by now. Uncle’s health is failing. You’d better go back and see him for the last time.”
“What did you say?” Caught unaware, Song Ci was stunned.
“After you left home, the quarrel between Uncle and Auntie had never stopped, and Uncle’s health deteriorated by the day. We came back this time…” Liang Yanbei sighed, “…to attend to Uncle’s funeral arrangements.”
Song Ci felt a surge of complicated emotions after his initial shock passed. His heart seemed to be covered in a layer of hard iron sheet as he said tartly, “Return for? They don’t want to see me.”
He had only just said that when someone pulled his hand. He looked back and saw Rong Bai beside him. Rong Bai’s eyes were gentle as he said to him, “Go home for a look.”
Among them, Wen Chan was the one who did not know much about Song Ci’s family, so he was even more earnest compared to the others in an attempt to persuade Song Ci. He said in a heavy voice, “Brother Shuhong, when the parents are alive, one still has a safe harbor in life. When the parents are gone, the only path left is the way back.1 Now that a parting is imminent, you’d better go back for a look.”
“Great King…” Mo Qiong was a filial son. Although he did not understand what was going on, he could more or less guess when he saw them urging Song Ci to return, so he thought of persuading him too.
“Shut up.” Song Ci interrupted him. He finally relented and said, “I’m only going back for a look.”
Rong Bai originally wanted to wait in the house for him to return. But Song Ci insisted on taking him along and held on to his hand stubbornly without reservation.
On the way, Song Ci asked how Liang Yanbei had found him. Liang Yanbei replied that he saw the rabbit demons stealing money from others for several days in a row in the capital and so he thought that they were a syndicate. Thus, he followed them all the way to Song Ci’s location.
This bothered Song Ci. After all, it was not the first or second time those three rabbits had been swindling and stealing money. But now, Liang Yanbei and Wen Chan thought that he had become the leader of bandits, resulting in his personality becoming irritable and short-tempered. That was why they had not dared to say too much to rile him up.
Song Ci had not returned for four years, and the capital had undergone a great deal of change. Shops he had once been familiar now had been taken over by new faces. But the streets he was familiar with were still the same.
Because of his identity, Wen Chan put on a veiled hat before entering the city. As they walked through the streets, many people recognized Song Ci. But when they saw him looking not only younger but also more exquisite, they did not dare to head up to him to greet him.
When they arrived at the Liang Residence, Song Ci calmly looked up at the aged entrance plaque,2 but his slightly trembling hands betrayed his emotions. Rong Bai looked at him and used his thumb to rub the back of Song Ci’s hand as if he was soothing him.
The Liang Residence was a lot quieter than before. There were still two guards in front of the entrance. They seem to be new and did not recognize Song Ci, but they knew Liang Yanbei. After seeing him, they respectfully open the gate for them to enter.
There were no obvious signs of changes in the residence, but there were fewer servants coming and going. Liang Yanbei stopped one at random and asked, “Where are Uncle and Auntie?”
“Old Master is resting in the room. Madam is praying for blessing in the back hall.”
Liang Yanbei turned to Song Ci and said, “Elder Cousin Brother, let’s see Auntie first. Uncle is gravely ill. I’m afraid he can’t bear the excitement.”
Song Ci gave an impatient and casual nod of his head.
Although this house was still the same, there seemed to have been a complete change of servants in the residence. They walked all the way in, and no one recognized Song Ci as the Young Master of this residence.
The unfamiliar sense of estrangement made Song Ci want to leave right at once.
But he forced himself to endure it and followed the servant to the back hall.
Song Ci subconsciously had an aversion to this place. Back then, after Liang Shuli had been beaten to death, his mother had ordered its construction. For a time, she went to the hall every day and night to pray and chant sutras for Liang Shuli.
There were only two people standing guard at the entrance of the hall. One was an older granny,3 and the other was a young maidservant.
The granny was an old-timer in the residence. The very instant she saw Song Ci, she cried out and gave the few of them a fright.
It was silent inside the hall except for the soft sound of the wooden fish4 being struck. After being startled by the granny’s yell, Madam Liang’s old and tired voice rang out from the hall, “What’s the din about?”
The granny kneeled down at once and cried out with tears streaming down her face. “Madam! Young Master has returned! Young Master is back! “
There was a flurry of movements inside the hall, followed by the sound of running. In no time, the hanging screen at the hall entrance was lifted, and Madam Liang partially leaned out. Her panicked-stricken eyes swept over the few people before her and immediately stopped upon Song Ci.
The instant Song Ci saw his mother, he was shocked.
He could hardly recognize the person before him. She had cut off her beautiful locks of hair and was dressed in plain clothes. She did not even wear her shoes as she had been too flustered and hurried when she ran over. Her once well-maintained appearance had turned rough, making her look older by more than ten years.
She was poles apart from that attractive and dignified Madam Liang of the past. The Madam Liang before him was old. Wretched.
The instant she saw Song Ci, her reddened eyes began to shed tears even before she could speak. She stepped forward barefooted to Song Ci and hugged him without a word. Her cry seemed to have exhausted all her strength. The first words out of her mouth were, “Oh, my Ci-er! You’re back at last! Mother has realized the errors of her ways!”
For a fleeting moment, Song Ci felt suffocated. It was as if a rock weighing a thousand tons was crushing his chest. Even breathing proved difficult. Madam Liang embraced him very tightly with her hands, as if afraid that he would leave again.
He still could not accept how drastic his mother’s appearance had changed. She clearly had long, beautiful hair in the past, which she often tied up in a pretty bun adorned with exquisite jade hairpins.
She should not be looking like this.
Madam Liang was inconsolable as she cried and kneeled, “Mother has let you down. Mother will never quarrel with you again or make you unhappy again. It’s all Mother’s fault! It’s all Mother’s fault!”
No matter how much hatred and resentment Song Ci harbored in his heart, or how much indignant and aggrieved Song Ci had felt, all he wanted was merely a word of sorry from Madam Liang, and all the grievances over the past twenty years would have dissolved away among Madam Liang’s sorrowful and teary apologies.
But this apology came too late. It should have appeared the time Liang Shuli was killed, or when Madam Liang watched him coldly as he made a fool of himself, or even when Madam Liang loudly claimed him to be inferior to Liang Shuli.
Song Ci’s forgiveness was this easy to obtain. Not because he was a magnanimous person, or because he was docile, but because he was closely and intimately related to Madam Liang by blood.
That was his family. It was the kinship he could not let go of in this world.
A drop of dark red materialized between his eyebrows and instantly disappeared. The hostility swirling in his eyes vanished until not a trace was left. He hugged Madam Liang back. Tears swiftly blurred his vision and slid down the corners of his eyes. Suppressed sobs rang out amidst Madam Liang’s cries.
He had suddenly remembered how he came to consume the demonic fruit by mistake four years ago.
I realized a lot of people are always typing Master Rong (容) as Master Rong (荣).
Rong (荣) Bai: …
Both Rong are pronounced the same way, but the characters are written differently and so are the meanings. In any case, I doubt anyone in the EN fandom will typo the Rong in Rong Bye wrong. (￣ヘ￣)ゞ
- 父母在，人生尚有来处；父母去，人生只剩归途。Basically, when the parents are around, we would still have a home to return to no matter where we may wander (as we are children to our parents no matter how old we may be). But once the parents pass away, the house may still be there even if we return, but it is no longer the same without our parents. By this time, we might already have our own family, so the only way left is to forge ahead and return to this new ‘home’ we have created for ourselves. Long story short: appreciate your parents while they are around.
门匾 a plaque or signboard hung at the top of the door to a residence or shop, etc, to indicate the name of said building. (E.g. Song Ci’s residence would say something like “梁府” or “Liang Residence” on the plaque.)
- 嬷嬷 an elderly lady, also a wet nurse.
木鱼 literally wooden fish. A percussion instrument made of a hollow wooden block, used by Buddhist priests or Buddhists to beat rhythm when chanting scriptures.