In the afternoon, Li Jinglong took Hongjun with him as they passed through the courtyard.
Mo Rigen laid in the yard, enjoying the sunlight. He held a blade of grass in his mouth and had one leg crossed over the other, dozing. Qiu Yongsi sat there reading a book, while A-Tai was fiddling with the lute in his hand.
“Get up, it’s time to get to work,” Li Jinglong said. “Go to the Western Market and find a specific kind of medicine called 'Lihun Pollen'.”
“What?” everyone asked as they gathered around.
“Lihun Flowers are a special kind of flower that come from the Western Regions. The pollen they produce after pollination, when breathed in, will cause a person to sneeze and subsequently forget what happened before,” Li Jinglong explained. “In the future, if the Exorcism Department ends up accidentally involving the common folk while we perform our duties, we can use that to make our clean-up easier.”
Qiu Yongsi, Mo Rigen, and A-Tai all carefully studied Li Jinglong, their faces filled with suspicion.
“What if there isn’t any?” A-Tai asked.
“There’s an 80% chance that it isn’t there, probably,” Qiu Yongsi said.
“If there’s none, then that will be the end of it.” Li Jinglong said. “This is a command, there is no room for bargaining. Go right now.”
“Zhangshi, where did you hear of this?” Mo Rigen’s forehead was faintly wrinkled, as if he had found a detail that was amiss.
Behind Li Jinglong’s back, Hongjun meekly raised his hand. In a flash, everyone’s expressions changed to ones of resignation, and just as Li Jinglong turned his head back to look, Hongjun immediately put his hand down.
In the afternoon, the sky over Chang’an was clear and the wind carried a hint of autumn chill. Hongjun and Li Jinglong walked along the street, and as they went on, Hongjun’s conscience flip-flopped back and forth. He felt that he had caused extra trouble for the other three, and seeing that the others were reluctantly dragged out to do this, if they searched for half a day and didn’t find this rare flower, he was a little apprehensive of the scolding he’d receive about creating trouble when there is none when they returned.
“Zhangshi, what if they can’t find it?”
“Zhangshi… honestly I’m also not sure if the Lihun Flowers really work or not.”
“Zhangshi, why don’t you talk anymore?”
Li Jinglong: “...”
“Yi? Zhangshi, what’s this?”
At this time the streets were noisy and vibrant, and many people were bustling about. Hongjun was afraid that he would get lost in the crowd, so he used his hand to grab Li Jinglong’s sleeve. At that moment, Li Jinglong was very uncomfortable; he wanted to lift his hand to make a gesture, but now it was being tugged on, and the situation was extremely awkward.
“Kong Hongjun,” Li Jinglong said, “Don’t tug at me when we’re on the street!”
When Hongjun was four or five in the Yaojin Palace, he would tug at Chong Ming’s sleeve every day, and like a little clingy shadow he would follow his adoptive father around, so he had become used to tugging at someone. But now that he had been scolded by Li Jinglong, he could only let go.
Li Jinglong took him through many twists and turns before entering a small side alley. They wove in and out before finally arriving at the entrance to a house. He knocked on the door, and from the inside a woman’s voice asked who it was. Li Jinglong reported his name as he lifted his feet and stepped inside the threshold.
At the time, the woman, who was carrying a child in her arms, hurried over. She stopped in front of them and looked over her visitors.
Hongjun asked, “Is Chen Ziang home?”
“Chen Ziang has been dead for many years,” Li Jinglong gritted his teeth and whispered to Hongjun. “Don’t speak foolishly.”
Hongjun startled. Upon seeing the dilapidated state of the yard and the destitute owner, he then asked, “Is his grandson or great-grandson here? Who are you?"
That woman thought for a moment before saying, “Let’s talk inside.”
In that dark hall, the infant in the woman’s arms, which was no more than six months old judging by their size, began to wail. Hongjun thought that little kids were cute and really liked them, so he extended a finger for the infant to hold and play with. As Li Jinglong began to discuss pleasantries with the woman, Hongjun slowly realized, fifty-one years ago this famous poet had been persecuted by the bureaucrat Wu Sansi and subsequently died in prison. Luckily, he had left behind his only son.
However, the Chen family had not had many male heirs for generation after generation. A few years ago, the last scion of the Chen family failed the imperial examination, married a wife, who was this middle-aged woman before them, and for the sake of passing the examination the next time over, he studied hard, ignoring the wind and the cold, until finally he fell ill and passed away, leaving behind his widow and an infant still in its swaddling cloths.
“He’s buried outside of the city, if you two acquaintances of my deceased husband are interested,” the widow said. “Tomorrow I can take you two there.”
Hongjun’s heart had already plunged into the depths of an icy lake. Before coming, Qing Xiong had mentioned that after giving the Heart Lamp to its rightful owner, he was to make friends with them, and figure out what had really happened back then… but this infant, even if it had obtained the Heart Lamp, wouldn’t be able to grow up in a single night!
“Finished asking?” Li Jinglong said. “If you’re done, then let’s go back.”
Hongjun racked his brains, but he couldn’t come up with anything. However, the fact that there were still people of the Chen family was a good thing, so he pulled out a few pearls and handed them to the woman, saying, “You two should live comfortably. If you run across any issues, come to the Exorcism Department in Jincheng Fang to find me.”
The woman, upon seeing the shine of the pearls, immediately pushed them back, but Hongjun repeatedly insisted, and in the end she could only accept them. Li Jinglong was very surprised, and he couldn’t help shoot Hongjun a considering look.
“You knew my deceased husband?” the woman asked in gratitude.
“I didn’t know him.” Hongjun honestly replied.
The expressions of the other two were extremely strange. Li Jinglong didn’t know what strange goal he had in mind now, and only could come up with a weak excuse. “My little brother here really likes to read poems in his spare time, especially the ones that Chen Shiyi wrote.”
“Ah--” the woman understood and nodded. She imagined that this youth came because of Chen Ziang, and through reading his poems he had understood a little bit of his spirit, thus seeing the Chen family ancestor as an old friend.
Hongjun sighed, firmly knitting his brows as he paced back and forth in the hall. The two others didn’t understand what exactly he was troubled about, and when he walked behind Li Jinglong’s back, Li Jinglong finished his drink, saying, “Let’s go then.”
Hongjun stood behind Li Jinglong, and seeing that Li Jinglong, the infant, and the woman perfectly lined up in a straight line, suddenly had a moment of realization. If he could uproot the Heart Lamp out from within Li Jinglong’s body...
“Expel the true spirit from the confines of the body!”
Just as he finished speaking, Hongjun lit up the Pentacolor Sacred Light and gently pressed it to Li Jinglong’s back --
At that moment, the Pentacolor Sacred Light sank into Li Jinglong’s meridians and core, with a “weng” sound his entire body began to glow, the light growing so bright no one could look at him directly.
The woman got a huge scare, and while hugging the infant she shouted, “Li - Li - Li… Li-zhangshi, you’re glowing! Aiya, is anyone else there?! Li-zhangshi is glowing--!”
Before Li Jinglong and the widow could recover, Hongjun had already, at the speed of flight, sent the Pentacolor Sacred Light into Li Jinglong’s body.
His meridians were empty and devoid of the Heart Lamp’s presence.
In that instant, Li Jinglong felt that all the qi and blood roiled about in his body as his three hun and seven po were pulled out of his physical body. The mouthful of tea that he had just swallowed floated out against his will, spraying all over the woman and that infant, and the infant began to wail.
A shichen later, in the Exorcism Department.
“Exactly what did you do?!” In the courtyard, Li Jinglong roared at Hongjun, “I’m docking a half-month’s worth of your salary!”
Hongjun quickly replied that there was no problem, he should dock a month’s worth instead, please calm down, calm down.
“How exactly have I wronged you?” Li Jinglong was so angry that he was trembling as he spoke. “Why do you need to ridicule me specifically as a pastime?”
Hongjun hurried to explain, “Things are really too unbelievable, if I were to tell you I don’t think you’d believe me!”
Li Jinglong turned around to leave, but Hongjun tugged on his sleeve, and Li Jinglong again got angry. He said, “Your punishment is to stand here facing the wall! Stand here until it’s time for dinner!”
“You’ve caused trouble again,” the carp yao, who drew joy from the troubles of others, said gleefully as he climbed out of the pond. “Finally, there’s someone to keep you in line.”
Hongjun bared his teeth at the carp yao, feeling discontented in his heart.
However, Li Jinglong hadn’t been gone for very long before he returned to the courtyard.
“How unbelievable can it be?” Li Jinglong stood in front of Hongjun and quietly said, “Explain things clearly. As long as it’s not some deliberate prank, this official won’t punish you.”
Upon reaching this point, Hongjun realized that even if he didn’t want to explain, he would still have to, so he started describing the series of events that had been set into motion when he brought the Heart Lamp with him. He had accidentally lost it the night he and Li Jinglong became acquainted via their violent first meeting, and, to properly lay his cards out on the table, and just now he had wanted to stun the Heart Lamp out from his body to return it to Chen Ziang’s descendant, as a way to fix things.
Afterwards, Li Jinglong didn’t say a word, and Hongjun could only sigh. “If Qing Xiong was here, then everything would be alright, ay.”
“So you’re saying, because of a mistake during all that fighting and stumbling around, the Heart Lamp entered my body?”
“I’m not sure.” Hongjun saw that Li Jinglong’s expression changed for a moment and hurried to explain. “If it’s not in your body, then that’s more troublesome. If it’s missing, then I’ve messed up my mission, and I can’t go home. Zhangshi, I have no quarrel with you, and this thing is really very important. I definitely won’t mess with you.”
Off to the side, the carp yao said, “Not necessarily. There are a lot of people who you don’t have quarrels with who you’ve dragged down before.”
“Hush!” Hongjun and Li Jinglong simultaneously said towards the carp yao.
“Go back to your pond.” Hongjun added.
The carp yao wriggled its tail and ran off.
Li Jinglong said, “We might as well check right now. I’ll cooperate with your actions.”
Hongjun tentatively asked, “Then… I’ll start now, alright?”
Li Jinglong brought Hongjun to the long corridor in the Eastern Chamber, and the two of them turned sideways and sat down. Li Jinglong untied his shirt, baring the top half of his body, and under the light of the sun, his wheat-colored muscular body looked slim but powerful.
“You should relax a little,” Hongjun said. “It’s going to be a little painful.”
Hongjun took a deep breath, hoping to himself, please let me find out what happened to the Heart Lamp. Then he moved, pressing one hand to Li Jinglong’s chest, sending the Pentacolor Sacred Light into his veins.
As soon as that happened, Li Jinglong jolted. He felt all the blood and qi through his body roiling as his face turned bright red and his facial features couldn’t stop spasming. Hongjun’s xian energy wandered about in his meridians, once again causing his body to glow with a faint light. Closely following, Hongjun retracted his Pentacolor Sacred Light, paying close attention to his veins.
Hongjun concentrated hard, but just at that moment, someone spoke from behind.
“Wa! Li-Zhangshi! What are you doing?”
An official from the Judiciary Department and a civil servant both stared at the youth sitting in front of a shirtless Li Jinglong, his hand outstretched, firmly placed on Li Jinglong’s chest and not letting go.
In an instant Hongjun retracted his hand, but in that last moment, he felt it! Within Li Jinglong’s meridians, there was a dormant seed of weak energy!
Li Jinglong’s entire face was bright red as he shoved Hongjun behind himself for protection, and in a few motions he put on his clothes angrily. He looked very discomfited, but he didn’t dare to blurt it out. He cupped one hand around the other and bowed, and with dignity, said, “Deputy Chief Huang, please come in to have some tea.”
Hongjun was over the moon. He found it! He really found it! This is very good! He can finally fix the trouble he made! Just as he was hopping around in the yard, Li Jinglong angrily interrupted, “Kong Hongjun!”
Hongjun hurriedly copied Li Jinglong in bowing. The visitor was indeed Deputy Chief Huang Yong from the Judiciary Department, and together with that civil servant they were judging Hongjun as if he was an idiot.
“Rise,” Huang Yong said. “This is a case that the Judiciary Department is giving to you. Minister Yang has said before, if it’s any case that doesn’t require the Judiciary Department to appear, then we are to send a copy of it to your department. In the future, they will be delivered by Recordkeeper Lian, Lian Hao, behind me, and he will be in charge of communications with your Exorcism Department. With the founding of the Exorcism Department today, His Majesty and Chancellor Yang both see you in a favorable light, and you should work hard at handling cases for the good of the country.”
Li Jinglong nodded before showing Huang Yong and Lian Hao out the door. The two hadn’t gone very far when from outside the wall, loud jeering laughter could be heard.
“In broad daylight and in his own department, what was Li Jinglong trying to do? Milk himself, hahahaha…”
Li Jinglong: “...”
moon: Tianbao donghua is getting official English subs! BUT THEY’RE TRANSLATING “EXORCISM DEPARTMENT” TO “MAGIC FBI” IM
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Opal.