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The daytime would not arrive soon and it was still very cold in the night. A person was about to die at this time.
The snowy lake was very bright. The Divine Light was still burning on the remnants of snow on the ice and under the lake, emitting lots of vapor. The sound of water boiling could be heard, it looked like a misty hot spring in the morning.
Xia Hou was covered in blood. His white hair draped over his shoulders and stuck together because of the blood. He looked at Ning Que, his dim eyes full of confusion, and asked hoa.r.s.ely, "You were only four at that time. It is not easy for someone at that age to remember his enemy. You really hate me this much?"
The chilly wind caressed Ning Que's face. The smile on his face disappeared and he started talking.
"The four years I spent in Chang'an when I was a child was the happiest time in my last and this life. I didn't have to think or learn about anything. I only needed to enjoy my the love from my parents, play with my friends and peep at the general's books. But you ruined it."
"In others' eyes, I have been living a good life these years. But only I know how painful and unhappy it is to struggle for survival. Of course, I hate you."
"No matter what I do, the chamberlain and the young master who were killed by me in the woodshed cannot come back to life anymore, those dead people in the Mansion cannot come back to life anymore and my parents cannot come back to life anymore. And my happiest time cannot come back either. That is why nothing and no one can stop me killing you. I want them to know that my hacking was worth it and I want you to know that I am taking revenge for my parents. I want you to remember that my father's name is Lin Tao and my mother's name is Li Sanniang."
Xia Hou looked down at his chest wound and asked suddenly, "How does it feel to have taken your revenge?"
"It feels not bad," Ning Que replied.
Xia Hou looked up and asked in confusion, "What do you feel exactly?"
"I can't really tell how I feel. Anyway, it is relaxing and I feel like if you are dead, the whole world will be different and I am no longer the same me in the last fifteen years."
Ning Que thought for a while and said, "I know why I feel so relaxed now. It is because after your death, I will have more time to write calligraphy and make money. I don't have to write lots of boring talismans every night. And I can go to the House of Red Sleeves quite often to enjoy the music there, rather than staying at the back of the mountain and listening to Senior Brothers' music."
"I will still cultivate after your death. But I don't have to do it just to make myself more powerful, I can do it out of my own interest or my love for Taoism. I don't have to stay in Chang'an or City of Wei, staring at your back and waiting for the final fight between you and me. I can go to the South Jin Kingdom or the Divine Hall, to see the world and people."
Looking at Xia Hou, he said seriously, "After your death, I don't have to think about how I can kill you anymore. Only in this way, can I gain true freedom and do the things I really want to do."
Xia Hou laughed. His laughter was sad and his expression was strange.
Xia Hou looked at Ning Que in pity and mocked him. "As a student of Taoism, you have joined the Devil's Doctrine and immersed in it deeply. You are like me when I betrayed the Devil's Doctrine. You have chosen the same path as me and you are destined to struggle in the seam of light and dark like I did. You have no freedom at all, let alone happiness."
Ning Que used his podao as a walking stick to support his weak body. He stood up with difficulty and said to Xia Hou, "The Academy is not the Enlightenment Doctrine and I'm not you."
Without deep understanding of the Academy, one could never understand the Academy and the Headmaster's true att.i.tude towards the Devil's Doctrine. Ning Que had never worried that he would share the same destiny as those main characters in the stories.
"Of course the Academy is not the Enlightenment Doctrine. And Headmaster won't care about what his student learns, because he is the most open-minded. And of course, you are not me, because you are not even a human."
The light in Xia Hou's eyes was as dim as the dying fireflies in the chilly wind. But now his eyes lit up again. He exclaimed, "You are the Son of Yama!"
Fifteen years ago, when the G.o.d of Light thought that the Son of Yama was born in Xuanwei General's Mansion, the West-Hill Devine Palace had sent Xia Hou to kill him. That gave rise to the following stories and tonight's fight.
Xia Hou thought about the things that confused him in the fight. He thought about those dead people, who came here because of Ning Que. And it made him become more confident of his judgment.
He looked at Ning Que and smiled strangely. He cursed, "I vow to Haotian, that one day, you, the Son of Yama, will end up like me and you will be burned to ash by the Divine Light."
"It is probably easier for you to take in the fact that you are killed by me, if I am the Son of Yama. But unfortunately, I have nothing to do with Yama."
Ning Que continued, "Everyone will die in the end and everyone will be burned to ash by the Haotian Divine Light. So, your curse does not really mean anything."
"Are you really not the Son of Yama?"
Xia Hou murmured, "How could you escape from Chang'an if you are not? How could you defeat me by crossing the barrier of states if you are not? And if you didn't defeat me, how could I die today?"
His face looked like a willow tree split by thunder. It was creased together and full of unwillingness and confusion. He was still wondering, if Ning Que was not the Son of Yama, how could he have the luck to successfully cross the barrier between states of cultivation and to kill a powerhouse like him?
The proud and stubborn General Xiahou looked like an old man living in the village, who only cared about finding out the thief who had kicked out the door of a widow at the previous night.
He looked up and said painfully, "I don't want to die."
Ning Que said, "But I want you to die."
No one wanted to die.
Most people died unnaturally, because others wanted them to die.
Xia Hou did not want to die, he still wanted to be alive and enjoy the honor and power he used to have.
But Ning Que wanted him to die. He had been thinking about it for fifteen years, during which every day was as long as a year for him.
And Xia Hou died.
Xia Hou fell backwards, his body dispersing the vapor away. With a splash, he dropped into the lake.
The surface of the chilly lake was boiling because of Haotian Divine Light. It looked like the hot spring in the valley in Yan, or a large bowl of soup.
Xia Hou's body was floating in the boiling lake. His eyes were wide open, his b.l.o.o.d.y face was full of confusion and unwillingness and his thin sallow cheeks gradually turned to a red color.
Many years ago, at the military camp at the foot of the Min Mountain, the former saintess Murong Linshuang shocked the world with her dance Tian Mo Qu. All the powerhouses from the West-Hill Divine Palace gathered there and the war in the valley was terrifying. Xia Hou did not hesitate to kill her by boiling her in the water, after that he had betrayed the Devil's Doctrine and joined Haotian Taoism.
That was a turning point in Xia Hou's life, but he would never have thought that one day he would be boiled like that woman.
If the Heaven's Way really existed, maybe this was what a circulation was like.
Xia Hou's dead body was still moving in the boiling water. Ning Que said suddenly, "Who said that we can only eat mutton giblets soup at the Winter Solstice Festival? Who said that a spear without a spearhead can never kill someone?"
This was what he said to Ye Hongyu when they were eating lamb soup in the autumn. Ye Hongyu could see what the first sentence meant, but she couldn't understand the second one.
Today was the Winter Solstice Festival and it was the right time for mutton giblets soup. The damp vapor above the lake made it look like a large bowl of soup or the bathing room in the yard of the House of Red Sleeves, where Ning Que first killed someone for the revenge. He was the censor Zhang Yiqi.
Ning Que felt very warm, peaceful and relaxed. He felt like he had just finished a bath and every pore on his skin was open. And after that, he had also eaten a large bowl of mutton giblets soup with tofu sauce and coriander.
"Who said that the son of a guard cannot avenge? And who said a person at Seethrough State cannot cross the barrier of states to kill a person at Knowing Destiny State?"
He turned around and walked towards the southern bank of Yanming Lake. He raised his arm to wipe his face, and his face especially his eyes became very red. No one knew whether he was wiping away his tears or the dust on his face.
Sangsang already climbed down the cliff and went to the snowy lake. Her skinny body was already very weak now, but she still needed to carry the big black umbrella and the heavy arrow box. It was very difficult for her.
Seeing the figure in the front, both of them quickened their pace. Looking at the familiar face, they felt so many complicated emotions and neither of them knew what to say.
Without saying anything, Ning Que held Sangsang in his arms. He was hugging her so tight that their faces were pressed together and twisted a little. There was still the trace of tears on their face and it looked a little funny.
Ning Que's face was a little red and hot. Sangsang's face was pale and cold. When they pressed their faces together, it was comfortable and peaceful for both of them.
On the western bank of the lake, Chen Pipi loosened his hold and patted on the railing where his hand had left some blood stain. He worried too much when watching Ning Que fighting that he had hurt himself.
Tang Xiaotang peered at the green figure on the other end of the bridge and held Chen Pipi's hands. They walked down the bridge and towards the two who were hugging on the lake.
Ye Hongyu was standing on the wooden bridge. She looked at the direction of the lake expressionlessly and closed her eyes. It seemed like she was thinking about something and her brows were furrowed slightly.
In the snow palace in the Imperial Palace, The empress stood next to the door blankly.
Her beautiful face was full of tears. The emperor hugged her from the back to comfort her. But the tears in her eyes became more and more and she struggled to free herself from his hug.
The emperor held her tightly, so no matter how hard she tried, she still could not escape from his hug, but of course it was not because she was too sad or too weak. She turned around to hug him back and cried in his arms silently. The clothes on his chest were soon wet.
In the snow pavilion out of the palace, the Nation Master Li Qingshan looked at the direction of Yanming Lake in a complicated expression. Master Huang Yang removed his hand from the bell and the sound of the bell gradually stopped.
The whole Chang'an City was quiet.
The whole world was quiet.
In the Winter Forest on the eastern bank of the Yanming Lake, the sound of cicadas was sounded again. It was shrill but so joyful.