Chapter 33: Return (Part One)
On the way from the Yama Palace to the Forbidden Forest, the Yama King let Pothos hold his arm and walked very slowly as if he wanted to make up the time that he hadn’t spent with his daughter in the past 100 years. With each step they took, the closer they felt to each other; with each step they took, his heart felt younger and his courage and passion were rekindled little by little. Before they noticed it, they had come to the edge of the Forbidden Forest.
He gazed at his daughter Pothos for a long time. She resembled the Flower Lady so much with her gentle and bright eyes which conveyed her longing for freedom; she looked like a charming Manzhu Shahua in full bloom.
The Yama King inhaled deeply; then he took off his gold scale mask and handed it to her. “It’s time to say goodbye! Do you know why I wore this mask all the time?”
She took the mask and shook her head silently.
“Before I came to the Yellow Spring Kingdom, this world was managed by the Black and White Impermanences who are said to come from another space through a black hole. It’s not easy to make these powerful creatures submit to me; after all, I came to this world later than they did. So, I concealed my emotions behind this mask to deceive them and deceive myself. Now I leave it to you; you’re too innocent and kind to subdue the Black and White Impermanences. This mask will conceal your emotions and remind them of my existence! Remember, no matter how empty this world is, don’t lose your heart in it. I feel lucky that I can still find my heart even though it’s a bit late,” the Yama King said to his daughter meaningfully.
With tears in her eyes, Pothos gripped her father’s arms tightly and prayed silently that he wouldn’t leave; she felt her chest was so tight that she couldn’t utter a word.
“I’m not a good father. After locking you in the tower for so many years, I’m now leaving you alone in this place. I’m sorry, my daughter!”
The Yama King choked and drew her into his arms again. Patting her back firmly, he murmured to himself, “It’s time to leave. It’s time.”
He kissed her forehead and walked toward the Forbidden Forest without looking back, disappearing in the grey mist.
Hyacinth escorted the three youths to the huge arch gate and knew it was very probably the last time that he would act as their guide. After passing this arch gate, they’d enter another world and be out of his life. Despite his reluctance, he knew it was time to say goodbye.
“Well, let’s say farewell here!” He tried to sound calm and pleased, “After this gate, you’ll see the tunnel you came from. Walk along the tunnel and you’ll see your physical bodies in the underwater bubble at the end of the tunnel. Hehe. Don’t be frightened by what you’ll see because you can’t walk in the Yellow Spring Kingdom in your real physical bodies. When you got the soul plates, your real bodies reappeared on the bottom of the lake. The soul plates in your hands are the keys to open the bubble and merge your souls with your physical bodies. Take the route you came from and don’t look back. Now return to your world!”
Qianqi gripped his hands and hugged his shoulders, asking, “Can I see you again?”
Ouyang Xiaoleng lowered his head to him with gratitude and deep respect.
“Thank you! Please thank Pothos and the Yama King for us! We might not see you again, but we’ll never forget you! I know you’ll have a happy life with Pothos even though you’re in the Yellow Spring Kingdom!” Xia Qiu said goodbye to him with a smile and gave him and Pothos her best wish.
Looking at the human girl, Hyacinth was deeply touched by her words. Indeed, no matter how empty this world was, he didn’t want to go anywhere so long as Pothos was by his side; he’d tell her everything he knew about the outside world and never leave her alone. At this thought, his heart was filled with courage and hope. He gave them a rare smile and waved at them; he stood there for a long time as he watched them pass the arch gate and walk into the distance.
When the three youths walked through the Past Life Tunnel, they heard the soul releasing mantra again, but the words were chanted backwards. At the end of the tunnel, sure enough, they saw their real physical bodies lying in a huge bubble. It was a bit odd to see themselves lying there as if in sleep. Following Hyacinth’s instruction, Ouyang Xiaoleng took out his soul plate and put it close to the bubble. When it touched the bubble, silvery lights came from the bubble and engulfed him, drawing him into the bubble and his physical body.
Xia Qiu also put her soul plate against the bubble. When she was drawn into the bubble, she felt as if she had returned into her mother’s womb. Submerged in warm liquid, she stretched and opened her eyes slowly, finding she was still in the bubble. Two pairs of eyes were watching her in concern. They were Ouyang Xiaoleng and Qianqi who had woken up before she did.
They helped her up and walked toward the bank together. Thirty steps later, lights began to penetrate the water; after walking another twenty steps, they returned to the bank.
Time was unreal in the Yellow Spring Kingdom. They felt they had been in it for a long time, but when they came out, it was still daytime. More astonishing was that Dong Muya was still standing at the bank and gazing in their direction in the same posture at the same spot as when they entered the lake.
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