"Whether or not it's true or false, you already have an answer to that in your heart."
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Qing Xiong casually grabbed Hongjun and dragged him off his back, then tickled him a few times. Hongjun started laughing heartily. Qing Xiong ordered him to stand properly and asked, "Caused trouble again?"
Hongjun's hand had been covered in dust that was wiped all over Qing Xiong's face. Seeing how amusing he looked, Hongjun could only point at him and laugh without restraint. Qing Xiong was baffled, so Hongjun started, so Hongjun started explaining to him in vivid detail. After learning about how Chong Ming had lost his composure, he couldn't help but laugh as well.
Both of them laughed for awhile before Hongjun said sternly, "What did you bring back for me this time? Gimme!"
Qing Xiong answered, "I don't have anything."
Hongjun didn't believe him, so he went up to search his body. Qing Xiong was usually bare to the waist, so he only had two pockets that could hold things. Hongjun refused to give up and tried to fish something out of them, yet Qing Xiong replied solemnly, "I really don't have anything."
"No books, and no food either." Hongjun pulled a long face.
Qing Xiong laughed. "I brought you a few legends the last time, have you finished reading them all?"
Hongjun replied, "Flipped through them so much they're all worn out now."
Upon seeing Hongjun's face filled with disappointment, Qing Xiong couldn't help but want to tease him and asked again, "Where's your family's Zhao Zilong?"
"He's here." Hongjun called out, so the carp yao skipped over. Five years ago, he had inadvertently found this half-human carp whose attempt at becoming a human was unsuccessful in the Taihang mountains, so he started raising it. Later on, Qing Xiong brought him some legends about the Heroes of the Three Kingdoms. Hongjun became excited and named this carp yao "Zhong Zilong", and even announced that it would jump over a dragon gate and transform into a golden dragon.
Qing Xiong fished out something like he was performing a magic trick. He held up a chain between his fingers; there was a treasure hanging from the chain and he dangled it in front of Hongjun for him to see.
"What's this?!" Hongjun uttered in surprise.
That treasure was extremely small and exquisite -- it was a pendant linked to the golden chain. The pendant was made out of lapis lazuli, and the pendant was surrounded by layers of metal. There was an exceptionally small crystal ball in the middle; a gentle white light was faintly discernible within the ball, as if it was a lamp. When Qing Xiong handed out the pendant, the courtyard lit up as well. Its splendour was in no way inferior to the scorching sun in the sky.
"I'll leave it in your care first." Qing Xiong placed the pendant on Hongjun's palm. He coiled the golden chain and smiled as he said, "I don't dare to recklessly teach you how to use magic treasures anymore, lest I get scolded by your father."
After obtaining this delicate plaything, Hongjun immediately wanted to study it in detail so he nodded. Qing Xiong exhorted again, "You must not break it. This crystal is very fragile, I'll tell you how to use it later."
Hongjun responded in a hurry before leaving with the necklace in hand.
"He's already sixteen years old."
When Qing Xiong walked into a side palace hall, Chong Ming was drinking tea. Qing Xiong sat down in front of a table and glanced at Chong Ming.
"He caused trouble again today and got punished severely by me." Chong Ming said indifferently.
Qing Xiong replied, "Youngsters tend to cause trouble. In the past, you, Kong Xuan and I often caused trouble too."
Chong Ming raised an eyebrow and said, "He's not ready yet."
Qing Xiong replied, "I received this letter last night. It was sent out by the Exorcism Department in the human world. There's less than four years before Mara appears in this world again. The letter is calling upon young talents to return to Chang'an, according to my conjecture, they should be doing this to prepare for Mara's reappearance four years later…"
Qing Xiong handed Chong Ming a letter, yet Chong Ming didn't even spare it a single glance. He rubbed his fingers and a scorching ball of flame burst forth from his fingertip that was aimed at the letter. Qing Xiong wasn't willing to burn it, so he took it back.
"Chong Ming, yaos are running amok in the world now. The talents of Tang are in decline, there isn't enough time."
Chong Ming turned his head sideways to look straight into Qing Xiong's eyes, then enunciated each word clearly, "Don't forget, we are yaos as well."
"You still remember?" Qing Xiong said, "I thought you had forgotten long ago, Your Majesty, the Yao King."
Chong Ming instantly exuded a formidable air, as if there were raging flames burning brightly within his body. His brows furrowed deeply, looking furious as he stared straight at Qing Xiong.
In the study. Hongjun first pried it with two throwing knives, then cut it with a pair of scissors, but he was still unable to take apart the metal gears outside the pendant. In the end, he hit it with a hammer, and even after hammering it so hard that his forehead was dripping with sweat, he was still unable to remove the small crystal in the pendant.
"AAAHHHHH--" Hongjun picked up a bronze bottle and just wanted to smash the pendant with it.
"Why are you fighting it?" The carp yao asked from one side, "His Highness Qing Xiong warned you before to not break it."
"I just want to take it out." Hongjun said, "And attach it to my knife's hilt."
"The light inside it is definitely unordinary." The carp yao climbed onto the table and stepped on a book, then lay down on its stomach. The pendant's blazing light was reflected in its fish eyes.
"There's a circle of charms outside it." Hongjun studied it as he said, "What on earth are those? Used for sealing it? This light looks so comfortable."
"I feel warm just by looking at it." The carp yao said, "And I feel much better too."
Hongjun kept the pendant and said, "Let's go ask Qing Xiong."
"Your punishment isn't over yet!" The carp yao reminded him, but Hongjun had already left excitedly with the pendant.
The setting sun, blood red in colour, passed over the mountains; bird cries travelled over in waves from the mountain peaks bathed in the afterglow.
When Hongjun came to the side palace, he suddenly heard the sounds of a fierce dispute ring out within the hall. He got a fright and hid behind a pillar.
"That black jiao didn't obtain his status through proper means, he will never be the Yao King! He's but a reptile from a sewer, how could he be worthy?!"
"But we lost the war, that's the incontestable truth!" Qing Xiong said in a low voice, "Unless we return to the human world and destroy him completely, otherwise when Mara revives and commands the yaos, the human world will plunge into an abyss of misery!"
"What does it have to do with me even if they do plunge into an abyss of misery?!" Chong Ming exploded, "Humans disregard morals at the sight of profits and are all just an ungrateful bunch! They took Lao San, then threw the son of him and some human to me to raise for 12 years! Why do I have to raise an orphan who has the blood of humans running through his veins?!"
"He's still Kong Xuan's child!" Qing Xiong's voice sounded low, his tone of reproach obvious. "When Kong Xuan passed away, didn't you feel the least bit remorseful?!"
"What remorse could I have?!" Chong Ming was practically roaring, "If it wasn't because that person caused Kong Xuan's death, would Hongjun have to be a child without his father or mother now?!"
"There are ungrateful humans who disregard morals for profit, but there are also human friends like Di Renjie."
"Friend?!" Chong Ming snickered. "He wouldn't do anything for the humans! Definitely not!"
Qing Xiong's voice trembled, "Kong Xuan was one of the Sacred Devils. Hongjun inherited his Pentacolour Sacred Light, he can eradicate that black Jiao for the yaos, take revenge for his father and destroy the resurrected Mara. Besides, if you make him stay here all his life, he would discover the truth sooner or later!"
"On the day I left the Central Plains." Chong Ming uttered in a low voice, "I said that I would no longer care if the yaos live or die. Mara? I only hope that Mara would revive as soon as possible, then kill all of those damned humans!"
"Can't you be a little more honest?! Chong Ming!" Qing Xiong suddenly took a step forward. An imposing air burst forth from his body, and suddenly, the side palace was filled with a threatening air. While the two confronted each other, the tea cups on the table shook constantly, emitting soft clattering sounds, while the window panes shook as well.
Suddenly, footsteps could be heard outside. Qing Xiong and Chong Ming withdrew their imposing airs at the same time and abruptly turned their heads.
Qing Xiong took a few steps forward to give chase, yet all he saw was Hongjun's back.
"When Kong Xuan left, if you had said just one word to urge him to stay, how would it be like this today?" Qing Xiong sighed. "The last words you left for him were just "get lost", and from then on, the living and dead are forever separated by the heavens."
After he spoke, Qing Xiong strode out of the side palace, leaving Chong Ming alone to face the dusk outside the door who quietly fell into a daze.
At night, the sky was filled with stars and the starry river at the peak of Taihang mountains seemed just like a waterfall.
Footsteps could be heard from afar, yet Hongjun didn't even budge an inch as he laid on a piece of flat rock on Sacrificial Cliff. The rock slanted downwards as it faced the cliff; if one was not careful, they could slide down into a bottomless abyss at any time.
Qing Xiong climbed up and laid next to Hongjun. Both of them were silently lost in thought as they stared at the brilliant night sky and starry sky.
"Is it true?" Hongjun suddenly asked.
"Whether or not it's true or false, you already have an answer to that in your heart." Qing Xiong answered.
Hongjun couldn't stop gasping for breath, but Qing Xiong raised his hand and reached out to press down on his eyes. Hongjun grabbed Qing Xiong's hand and wiped his tears on it.
"Does Father hate me?" Hongjun choked as he sobbed.
"What he says is often different from what he thinks." Qing Xiong said in a trance, "Don't blame him for what he says. If he really isn't willing, no one in the world would be able to force him. Do you still have what I gave you today?"
Hongjun took the pendant out as he trembled.
"Didn't you want to go to the human world?" Qing Xiong took the pendant. The gentle light within the pendant illuminated half the mountain in an instant in tandem with the splendour of the stars that filled the sky. Under that light, Hongjun gradually calmed down.
"Whenever I come, you'd always make a ruckus to get me to take you to the human world. You're all grown up now," Qing Xiong continued, "I say, yes, go ba. Why be afraid?"
Hongjun was elated at first, then he immediately thought of Chong Ming and his expression turned gloomy again. He stared at Qing Xiong in a daze.
Qing Xiong faced the glittering light in the pendant as he muttered, "There are a lot of things to eat in the human world, and there are a lot of fun things to do as well. There are beautiful ladies, friends you can drink with, music that can travel for ten li, lamps that never die out whether it is day or night. Go ba, go to the boundless world of mortals. You won't regret it."
The next day, the side palace had been cleaned up.
Hongjun walked into the side palace. The three thrones had been moved into the side palace -- Chong Ming sat in the middle one while Qing Xiong sat on the left. Chong Ming's expression was as indifferent as ever. Hongjun called out, "Father", then stood prim and proper in a corner.
"I'm not your Father." On the throne, Chong Ming's voice still seemed like it held no feelings.
Hongjun stood on the ground, feeling a little ill at ease. He replied to Chong Ming, "You are, you're my father." Yet Chong Ming's gaze shifted and landed upon the third empty throne.
"Your father's name is 'Kong Xuan'." Chong Ming uttered in a deep voice, "Just like me and Qing Xiong, he's one of the masters of Yaojin Palace. You asked me before who sat on the last throne, and now I can answer you."
"The one who once sat on this throne was your biological father. After your father died, Qing Xiong brought you back to Yaojin Palace. Now that you've grown up, it's time for you to go back."
"Where do I go back to?" Hongjun asked.
"You'll go back to where you came from." Chong Ming said lightly.
"I belong here." Hongjun added, "I'm not going anywhere."
For anyone who’s interested in listening to the audio drama for Tianbao, some clips have been translated and can be found here.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and opal.