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Zhuzhi-Lang did not see with his own eyes what the first encounter between Tianlang-Jun and Su Xiyan was like, as he was queuing for a newly released book by a well-known author during that time, at Tianlang-Jun’s request.
Originally he was not really that curious. But after that, Tianlang-Jun was in this kind of state for a long time:
While transporting him in his snake form, Tianlang-Jun would say from the top of his head,
“In all the drama scripts I’ve seen, the maidens of the human world were all gentle and thoughtful. I thought all the maidens were like this too. But it turned out that I’ve been deceived. Oh Zhuzhi-Lang, one can’t see plays like this too much.”
The next time, Junshang would have forgotten his own words that ‘one can’t see plays like this too much’, and he would say while watching with gusto.
“Do I look like I can’t lift my own hands? Like, I’m so poor that I don’t even have the traveling expenses to return home?”
When Zhuzhi-Lang was washing his clothes, Tianlang-Jun would squat beside him gracefully and say,
“Zhuzhi-Lang, how’s my face? Am I not handsome? Generally speaking, when young maidens see a face like mine, wouldn’t it stir up their hearts at once?”
Zhuzhi-Lang shook and wrung the clothes dry before he hung them up on a bamboo pole. As he respectfully played along with Tianlang-Jun, he silently thought about all those messed-up drama scripts he had seen together with Junshang. He could not speak for anyone else, but the way Junshang behaved now was more like those maidens whose hearts had been stirred up.
Thus, he could not help but feel curious.
In Zhuzhi-Lang’s imagination, a maiden who frequented a deserted city alone where demons abound, who told Tianlang-Jun to take his bantering elsewhere and not to be a hindrance while she was getting rid of evil, and who even threw Tianlang-Jun three pieces of silver for his travel expenses back home after she was done killing demons…… even if she was not big and burly with broad shoulders and a round waist, she would still at least have a good physique and a murderous gleam in her eyes.
Until he met that culprit who had caused Tianlang-Jun to reflect on himself and had tormented him for days, Zhuzhi-Lang discovered that she was not like what he had imagined at all.
Tianlang-Jun liked to wander around the human world. Wandering around the human world costed money, but he never remembered to bring money along. Thus, Zhuzhi-Lang remembered for him. However, he had no concept of money and never knew how to restrain himself when it came to spending money. He would stake a thousand pieces of gold on one throw whenever he felt like it and Zhuzhi-Lang could not stop him. Spending money like water in such a way made it difficult to cope with even if he carried around a mountain of gold and silver every day, and eventually, there would be times their funds ran embarrassingly low.
Just as these two foreign visitors were standing all red-faced on the street, a tall maiden in black with a sword on her back walked by.
Tianlang-Jun said, “Halt.”
As she passed by, that maiden slightly raised her eyebrows. A wisp of teasing smile appeared on the corners of her mouth, and she stood still.
Tianlang-Jun said, “When you encounter someone who has suffered an injustice, shouldn’t you ought to draw your sword and render a helping hand?”
The other party said, “I could consider drawing my sword, but I will have to reject loosening the strings of my money pouch1. You still have not returned me that three taels of silver I lent you the other time for your travel expenses.”
Tianlang-Jun said, “Did you? It’s only three taels of silver. All right, if you lend me another three, you can buy me for three days.”
She flatly refused, “You seem like you can’t lift or carry anything, nor do any physical work or distinguish rice from wheat2. What’s the use of buying you?”
After watching for so long, Zhuzhi-Lang frankly said, “Zhushang, this lady…… probably finds you too expensive.”
Tianlang-Jun was disdained by someone. This was nothing; sometimes, the maids and guards who served him would also secretly avoid him, especially when he was reading aloud with great emotion. But, never to the extent that he was shunned even with the price reduced to three taels.
Tianlang-Jun said, “Let’s not talk about anything else. But isn’t my face worth three taels of silver?”
The other party choked, scrutinized his face for a while, then laughed, “Mhm, it sure is.”
A swing of her hand revealed a heavy ingot of gold.
Since then, Tianlang-Jun’s expenditure in the human world was like a flood breaking through a dam, becoming more and more uncontrolled until one could not bear the sight of it. He had found a golden backer. As long as Zhuzhi-Lang dug out an empty embroidered pouch with an embarrassed look on his face, he would knock on the door of that golden backer happily without hesitation.
Zhuzhi-Lang always felt something was wrong, as if something had been reversed.
Why did Su Xiyan seem like the son of a wealthy and prestigious family in all those drama literature?
Why did Tianlang-Jun look like a pampered and naïve young mistress who had run away from home?
And, why was he so much like a small, prudent maid sent as part of her young mistress’s dowry to attend and run errands for her?
Zhuzhi-Lang tried to remind Junshang to face up to this aberration and regain his dignity as the demons’ sovereign, but Tianlang-Jun enjoyed the relationship of keeping someone and being kept. He poured all his entire passion for humanity, however blind it was, into this one person.
Su Xiyan was really a ruthless person, and yet she was also intriguing.
When they met, she would bring them to find all kinds of rare things and go to all kinds of interesting places: the banned books that Zhuzhi-Lang could not find, the strange Lingzhi growing in a hidden cave, the lake with waters like flowing crystal dews, and the not-very-renowned courtesan who played the pipa skillfully and beautifully. And when they did not meet, she would disappear for ten to fourteen days without a trace.
Without making a sound, without showing her infatuation, without voicing her yearning. She had her own plans, and she did it all watching coldly from the sidelines.
Because half of his lineage was that of a snake, Zhuzhi-Lang had the natural instinct of an animal. He could vaguely feel that this person befriending them was an extremely dangerous matter.
She was not cast in the same mold as that of the female demons who were all enchanting or bewitching; she was serious, focused, and even seemed to be gentle and refined. Yet, she really just “seemed to be gentle”; Zhuzhi-Lang dared not say whether he could get an advantage over her when the bloodshed really began.
Underneath the surface of that gentleness was arrogance and indifference, her wild ambitions concealed her schemes. As the second person in power in the Huan Hua Palace, she was in a high position and often commanded thousands of people. Since ancient times, the four major sects including Huan Hua Palace had been the enemies of the demons. To them, Su Xiyan was a very dangerous person.
Zhuzhi-Lang reported all the information he had gathered to Tianlang-Jun, but Tianlang-Jun was not concerned.
Once he became obsessed with something, he would forget all about death and life and put all his eggs in one basket. It was not that he did not know about it, but that he had never doubted her.
The price he paid for “never doubting” was being pinned under Bailu Mountain for over ten years in total darkness, and with no chance for justice and redemption.
“I want to kill humans.”
In these ten years, this was the sentence that Tianlang-Jun would repeat the most. Yet the thing Tianlang-Jun used to like the most was humankind; he had never killed a human being before.
Without a strong source of demonic energy to maintain Zhuzhi-Lang’s human form, he had reverted to his half-snake body. Every time Tianlang-Jun saw him crawling with difficulty on the ground, he would throw him a word, “Scram.”
“Your crawling is too ugly,” he said.
Zhuzhi-Lang would then silently wiggle outside to find a place which was not exposed to sunlight and moonlight, and continue to practice his rusty crawling skill.
Junshang’s temper had worsened beyond imagination, but Zhuzhi-Lang had no strength to be angry or aggrieved.
What Tianlang-Jun’s scram really meant, was for him to scram back to the demon realm, to scram back to Nan Jiang, to scram back to his old home, to scram off anywhere except beside Tianlang-Jun.
Tianlang-Jun could not tolerate others seeing him in such a pathetic, miserable state, where he could neither ask for life nor seek death. He had been born the most honorable prince in the demon realm. He had never suffered hardships and had always been calm and elegant; he rejected any boorish stuff that might hurt his image, and he even had a slight obsession with cleanliness. He did not like ugly things, but in actuality, the way he was right now was far uglier than anyone else.
Covered in blood and imprisoned under seventy-two iron chains and forty-nine strong spells, he could only watch his body rot and stink gradually day after day. Yet he was still extremely clear-headed and could not even pass out even if he wanted to. The people in the cultivation world could not kill him, so they tried their best to torture him. Perhaps the ugly half-snake form of the Zhuzhi-Lang looked even better than that of Tianlang-Jun in this state.
Zhuzhi-Lang could no longer speak after his degeneration, thus Tianlang-Jun began to talk to himself. Nearly half of the time every day, he would repeat the dialogues and aria of those drama literature. Sometimes, while Tianlang-Jun was singing, the words would be abruptly stuck in his throat. Zhuzhi-Lang knew then that this must have been one of the plays that Su Xiyan took them to see.
However, after a period of silence, Tianlang-Jun would suddenly continue on in an even higher voice. The lingering melody would be dragged out for a long time in that hoarse voice of his as it reverberated in the uninhabited valley – prolonged, and sorrowful.
Zhuzhi-Lang could not speak, so he could not tell him to “stop singing.” He could not raise his hands, could not cover his ears, could not stop himself from listening to this voice. In this manner, he started to understand what being “powerless” truly meant.
Since you are heartbroken, since you are suffering, then why force yourself?
The only thing he could do was to persevere day after day. He used his mouth to hold on to the leaves that contained the water of Lake Lu, and little by little, clean those wounds on Tianlang-Jun’s body that would never heal.
These ten years, they never knew the existence of Luo Binghe. Su Xiyan failed to rise to a position of power as they had expected and had instead vanished without a single trace. For a long time after they were freed from this prison, they still never found out anything about her.
Thus, when Zhuzhi-Lang saw that face for the first time in Nan Jiang, he was so shocked that he forgot all about the task he was entrusted with. After a fight, he went straight back to report to Tianlang-Jun.
And so, there was the battle at the Holy Mausoleum.
After spitting out Shen Qingqiu from his mouth and settling him down, Tianlang-Jun looked at Zhuzhi-Lang who was focused on fanning the charcoal and asked, “Do you think he looks more like me or like her?”
Zhuzhi-Lang understood what this “him” and “her” meant. He said, “Didn’t Junshang said it before? Like his mother.”
Tianlang-Jun shook his head and laughed, “That was just me feigning to be cold-hearted……”
In fact, they all knew that Luo Binghe’s attachment to and dependence on human beings, as well as his stubbornness and sentimentality when it came to charging forward and never turning back, were more like Tianlang-Jun.
Resting his chin in one hand, Tianlang-Jun looked at Shen Qingqiu who had his eyes closed and sighed, “But he is much more blessed than me.”
It was indeed fortunate that the man whom Luo Binghe would never let go off was a person such as Shen Qingqiu. At the very least, Shen Qingqiu would definitely not gather the entire cultivation world and trap Luo Binghe under Cang Qiong Mountain.
Furthermore, only two people in this world had never looked at that hideous appearance of Zhuzhi-Lang with abhorrence and loathing. One was Tianlang-Jun, and the other was Shen Qingqiu.
Tianlang-Jun asked, “How about it? Do you want to snatch away this blessing?”
After staring for a while, he finally understood what Tianlang-Jun meant. His face turned beet red, “Junshang!”
Tianlang-Jun said: “Just snatch him away. We are all demons, there’s no need to be particular about this. Furthermore, you are cousins, what are you afraid of? The previous generation Mobei Lord openly snatched away the legal wife of his own younger brother too.”
Zhuzhi-Lang replied, “I have never harbored this thought!”
Tianlang-Jun asked curiously, “Then why are you blushing?”
Zhuzhi-Lang tolerantly said, “Junshang…… Perhaps if you didn’t get me to hunt so many of those books, or ask me to look at them together with you, or force me to revise constantly by reading it out, then this subordinate will definitely not blush.”
That had always caused weird stuff to echo in his ears, so much that he could not look straight at Immortal Master3 Shen with a clear conscience.
He understood why Tianlang-Jun always loved to tease him like this. Behind the teasing, he was also sounding him out and egging him on.
Since the day they were freed from Bailu Mountain, Tianlang-Jun had no plans to use this body for the long term, nor had he any plans for the future.
But when he saw Shen Qingqiu, Tianlang-Jun actually had felt like he could breathe a sigh of relief. He thought, “There’s finally someone to take over this silly nephew.”
A blockhead like Zhuzhi-Lang would only revolve his life around others, and not for himself. If there was someone else he could follow, then he would not be so lost and alone in the world after Tianlang-Jun had tormented himself to death. He felt that Shen Qingqiu was a decent person to follow, regardless of the kind of ‘follow’.
With this mysterious peace of mind, Tianlang-Jun became more and more brazen and squandered away huge amounts of his demonic energy. The degeneration and deterioration of his body grew faster day by day, with an arm or a finger or some other body parts frequently breaking off. Zhuzhi-Lang was hard-pressed to find a way to patch him up.
This time, he tried using thread and needle to sew up his limbs. Tianlang-Jun let him hold his arm and sew him up. He said, “Your intuition has always been very accurate.”
Zhuzhi-Lang replied affirmatively. Tianlang-Jun said, “Then between me and Luo Binghe, who would win and who would lose?”
After a moment of silence, he said unhurriedly, “Even if you say nothing, I know it too. I’m bound to lose.”
Zhuzhi-Lang bit off the thread and tied a knot.
Tianlang-Jun said half in jest, “Why don’t you follow Peak Lord Shen from now on? If he can take care of Luo Binghe, it wouldn’t matter to take care of you as well.”
Zhuzhi-Lang said, “Let’s just sleep, Junshang.”
Tianlang-Jun was still talking nonsense, “Aren’t you going to Peak Lord Shen’s tent tonight to remove the QingSi thread? You heard me asking him today if he and Luo Binghe had dual cultivated, and going by his expression, they definitely have not. He who strikes first gains the upper hand, you know what I mean?”
Zhuzhi-Lang pretended not to hear and bent his waist to remove his boots, but his hands turned up empty. Tianlang-Jun bent his legs up, then placed his boots on top of the hide of a wild beast. He asked him with a serious face, “What can I do to crush to your self-esteem and make you disheartened so you would walk away from me with a broken heart?”
Zhuzhi-Lang said, “After seeing so many plays and scripts, this scene is no longer novel. It is impossible for you to crush this subordinate’s self-esteem. So, let’s just sleep, Junshang.”
Tianlang-Jun said, “I don’t feel like sleeping so early. Hurry and go to Peak Lord Shen’s tent. I’ll come to see you both later.”
Zhuzhi-Lang helplessly said, “Junshang, you’re so willful.” In stirring up trouble, letting his imagination run wild, and giving bad advice.
Tianlang-Jun said, “Have I not been so willful for so many years? So how about it? Do you want to consider leaving me?”
It was as if the Junshang today was drunk, his ability to render people speechless – to make them unable to cry or laugh – was tenfold more intense. Zhuzhi-Lang shook his head, reached out his hand in about five or six attempts to grab his boots before he finally grabbed hold of them and took them off forcibly. He repeated, “Let’s sleep, Junshang.”
Tianlang-Jun was pushed down onto the bed and covered with a blanket against his will. He commented, “You are becoming more and more like a mum.”
He sighed, “Did you think your uncle was just making fun of you? You wouldn’t ask me to stop, and you wouldn’t think of an escape route. Zhuzhi-Lang, if you keep on being this way, what will happen to you in the future?”
”As expected, I still can’t hate humans.” This was what Tianlang-Jun said to Shen Qingqiu.
When he heard it, Zhuzhi-Lang’s heart was actually a little happy for him.
Junshang had finally admitted those heartfelt, unwavering thoughts of his. He no longer had to force himself to pretend anymore.
In the midst of the falling rocks, Tianlang-Jun murmured, “Alas, Zhuzhi-Lang, you really don’t look great like this.”
There was no need to grouse. It thought, it still had a little bit of strength left, enough to hold out for a while. It would not let Junshang die together with it. There was no need to worry that dying with it would lose him any aesthetic points.
As Maigu Ridge turned into dust and smoke with an earth-shattering bang, a large snake plunged into the shimmering Luo River.
Actually, Shen Qingqiu did not hear the rest of Tianlang-Jun’s words. There was a softly spoken sentence at the end, and only Zhuzhi-Lang heard it.
He said, “But, why is it so hard to like a person?”
At that time, Zhuzhi-Lang could not squeeze out a smile, nor say a word. It could only look pensive and flick its tongue and hiss until Tianlang-Jun’s face was full of snake saliva.
It thought, it was really hard. But no matter how hard it was, it was even harder for a heart to stop this love.
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