The giant wolf let out a "woo" sound and stretched up the corners of its mouth with its eyes seemingly smiling.
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A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi had already chased after them. After escaping from Pingkang Li, the two women separated and transformed themselves into foxes on the way to the East Market. One plunged into the darkness of the East Market while the other leaped upon the roof and fled southward, just like an arrow that disappeared without a trace in the twinkling of an eye.
A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi came out of the alley when they encountered an urgent brake. Li Jinglong, Hongjun, and Mo Rigen were also chasing after them. Before both of them could speak, Li Jinglong said, "You two chase the one on the top. We're going to chase the one below. Quick!"
A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi went up to the roof and chased along.
Li Jinglong, along with Hongjun and Mo Rigen, sprinted towards the deepest part of the East Market.
The carp yao ran inside Yishi Lan where everyone was still trembling in fear. A customer hurriedly shouted, "Quick! Call the Longwu Army who patrols the city..."
The carp yao drilled in the crowd and shouted, "Illusions in the smoke. Transient as a fleeting cloud!"
He took out a silk brocade bag and then scattered the Lihun Pollen. In no time, all the people around him began an earth-shattering sneeze.
"Ten thousands of laws being empty!"
The carp yao jumped towards the table in the middle of the hall and scattered out the Lihun Pollen once again.
Then, the carp yao animatedly bounced off the stairs to the third floor. Shaking off the brocade bag, the carp yao poured all the remaining Lihun Pollen onto the hall.
"Separated generation by time!"
"Everyone ate, drank, and had fun. I'm off—"
The carp yao drilled out from the window. He searched for Hongjun and the others and ran away.
All was quiet in the East Market with nothing to be seen.
Li Jinglong asked in a low voice, "Can you feel the yao's spirit now?"
Hongjun replied also in a low voice. "It's too far to see. Just now, there was a flash of light." He then pointed somewhere.
Mo Rigen's eyes were fixed on the darkness. Li Jinglong asked him, "Can you see?"
Mo Rigen frowned. "No. It's too dark."
Mo Rigen had excellent eyesight. The arrows on his back were made of refined steel with seven nailed arrows engraved with runes. When the desert grassland was as high and wide as the culmination, a single arrow could drop thousands of miles of flying birds in the vast sky. However, in this dark East Market, his eyesight couldn't be put into good use.
"It's like... there." Hongjun turned to the other side, his eyes full of doubts.
"Zhangshi." Mo Rigen patted Li Jinglong's arm and said, "Your sword... Is it shining?"
Li Jinglong pulled out the long sword and pointed in Hongjun's direction. The runes on it subsequently glimmered and lit up. Hongjun and Mo Rigen were both surprised.
Li Jinglong held the long sword and turned to another angle. The rays of light grew brighter and then dimmed.
"What does it mean?" Hongjun curiously asked.
"The sword can either sense the yao's spirit or your throwing knife," Li Jinglong responded as he began to move the sword to the left and to the right. The luminous frequency of the sword slowly caught up with his movements and then kept a stable ray of light as he slowly swivelled in a circular sector.
"The fox is circling." Li Jinglong said. "Circle the East Market and outflank it!"
The three men scattered and traced along the three directions separately. The fox was the most cunning, let alone being in a yao's body. Li Jinglong feared that if there were scruples, it was impossible to say that they could abscond again, not to mention he had also lost Hongjun's throwing knife. In that case, he would relentlessly give an order if necessary.
A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi chased all the way along the roof. A-Tai was already gasping for breath as he spoke, "Qiu-ge, you go first. Let me relax for a moment."
Qiu Yongsi looked bewildered. "I'll accompany you ah. It's good that I won't catch yaos."
A-Tai had no stratagem and had no choice but to run again reluctantly, saying, "How come this Zhangshi thinks so indecisively? I didn't say before that..."
"Hey, hey." Qiu Yongsi reached out his hand and pulled A-Tai to jump over the roof. "I actually think this young fellow Li is very clever. It's solely useless to think carefully. The plan will never catch up with the changes. It's better to make a move and throw down the dried corpses. The fox yaos in the hall weren't in the least prepared and thus would surely show its tail. The two of us have been searching for so long, didn't we find nothing?"
"But in that case, firstly," A-Tai gasped for breath and said. "It will just cause consequences. He's going to have a hard time in his life."
"Don't worry about eating salty radishes."
Qiu Yongsi smiled and said, "We can't say for sure, perhaps everybody else has long been planning?"
"I don't think so." A-Tai said.
"Ai, there it is!"
"Hurry and chase!"
As soon as the brilliant rays of the throwing knife flashed, the two immediately continued to chase along the roof.
The fox with the throwing knife in its shoulder staggered and stumbled as it escaped more and more slowly. Its escape route had dragged open a huge half of the circular sector along the East Market. That being the case, Mo Rigen and Hongjun silently came round and already blocked its exit. They were only waiting for Li Jinglong to send out a signal and would then act immediately.
As if sensing danger, the fox sniffed the air and halted.
In a split second, Li Jinglong rushed to the scene and silently struck out his sword in the darkness. The fox suddenly whipped back as it roared and spurted smoke out of its mouth!
Then, another arrow shot through the sky and broke into the mist. Looking on as it happened, the fox knew it couldn't escape and simply burst out a strong light and bellowed a woman's voice. "Shameless human! You've gone too far! Did I ever hinder you all?!"
"A murderer must pay with his life." Li Jinglong coldly said. "Is Chang'an the place where you can wreak havoc?!"
The fox suddenly thundered out of the mist. Its form then became as tall as one zhang; ejecting its sharp claws and advancing towards Li Jinglong!
Li Jinglong immediately lifted his sword and blocked. The clang of metal instantly echoed as it overthrown in the ground! He never thought that the fox yao could become so immense. It seemed that this extremely daring yaoguai had only tried to lead them in and that its real purpose was to kill them here!
Mo Rigen's arrow flew over and nailed into the fox's shoulder. However, this fox yao was the one who had just set fire to the dried corpse in Yishi Lan. Its ability was extremely high. It certainly had no fear of Mo Rigen's seven nailed arrows!
Its eyes turned red as flames spurted out of its mouth. Just as it was about to burn Li Jinglong into a hard coke, Hongjun rolled over as he rushed to cover the both of them and shook his Pentacolored Sacred Light. In an instant, the flames recoiled and the fox yao burned its own face into a raging inferno, roaring in pain.
As the flames doused, the fox yao knocked down the stalls in the silent, unmanned market. Li Jinglong effortlessly grabbed Hongjun's hand and led him to avoid a collapsing stall.
"Zhangshi!" Mo Rigen came shortly.
"I'll draw its attention away. Both of you take its heart." Li Jinglong dropped the words and then walked out from under the now collapsed stall.
Hongjun and Mo Rigen hid under a pile of rubble and looked out. With Mo Rigen's arrow and Hongjun's throwing knife still lodged in its shoulder, the fox yao could hardly stand up, seemingly consuming all its strength.
Fearing that it might shoot flames again, with his left hand enveloped the Pentacolored Sacred Light, Hongjun's right hand took his last throwing knife, ready to release it at any time. Mo Rigen patted Hongjun in passing before he quietly walked away.
The fox yao continuously gasped for breath as it looked straight at Li Jinglong. At that moment, Hongjun felt extremely nervous.
Li Jinglong didn't have the slightest amount of fear as he stepped forward while holding his sword and coldly said, "Evildoer, the Exorcism Department of the Great Tang has long withered over the last fifty years. Today, so long as this sword is here, Chang'an is not the place for you to indulge in!"
Li Jinglong pointed his sword at the fox yao. The throwing knife on its shoulder grew bright rays! The fox yao sneered. "Do you really think so yourself? Let me tell you, Chang'an is no longer the land of you humans. Wait and see..."
Mo Rigen had long been standing on the top of stake at the extremity of the East Market while bending his bow and pulling apart the arrows.
Hongjun clutched his throwing knife, his palm covered with sweat.
Li Jinglong was stumped for words after hearing what was said. Just then, the fox yao bared its sharp teeth and rushed towards Li Jinglong as its claws luminously glinted. Once caught, it would rip his belly open.
Li Jinglong held his long sword and leapt backwards. Exactly at this time, the sound of horses' hooves approached. A group of soldiers from the Longwu Army arrived, headed by a man who shouted, "Who's presumptuous, disturbing late at night!"
Mo Rigen immediately put away his arrow, Hongjun turned his head, and Li Jinglong continued to leap backwards. At that moment, the fox yao saw the opportunity, swinging its tail towards the Longwu Army soldiers. Li Jinglong roared, "Run!"
When the guards of the Longwu Army saw this huge fox, they were all greatly shocked and thought they were in a dream. Before they could recover, the fox yao had already rushed towards their group. Li Jinglong shortly caught up and leaped along the fox yao's back and stabbed its nape with his sword!
The horses neighed and scattered, and the guards of the Longwu Army dropped to the ground. Li Jinglong roared again, "Run!"
The guards rolled and crawled away. With a loud roar, as the fox yao got stabbed on its nape, it turned around and lifted Li Jinglong. Hongjun tried to aim for it several times but couldn't make a move, as he feared that it would hurt Li Jinglong instead. Whenever the fox yao's claws were caught again, Hongjun had to wait for a good moment before he could release the knife. However, he still couldn't ignore Li Jinglong's life. He was about to take the jade peacock plume that was around his waist, pour his spiritual power into it, and throw it on the ground.
"Don't worry about me!" Li Jinglong exclaimed.
His sword was stuck in the fox yao's nape and didn't have any weapon in his hand, thus he grabbed a long spear from the Longwu Army. Li Jinglong was almost about to be ripped open when a peacock plume flew over and burst out divine light, blocking the fox yao's claws.
Hongjun shouted, "Hit!" The throwing knife then flew out in rotation. Li Jinglong leaned back. However, the fox yao had already made preparations. Knowing that Hongjun was waiting for a sneak attack, the fox yao turned around and let the throwing knife plunge into its stomach before advancing towards Hongjun!
Li Jinglong immediately turned around and dashed to save him. Hongjun fled and dodged as all his weapons had already scattered. If he was caught like this, he'd be seriously hurt!
Li Jinglong threw his arms around Hongjun and dragged him down. They slammed to the ground to avoid the fox yao's attacking body.
The next moment, another giant creature appeared and howled, startling both of them. A giant grey wolf appeared in the market! That colossus was at least one person tall but was still much smaller than the fox yao. It leaped from the side roof and pounced on the fox yao, biting its neck as it dug its canine teeth deep!
"What's this?" Hongjun was astonished.
"Take advantage of it now!" Li Jinglong exclaimed again.
Hongjun instantly regained his senses and then made a single strike with both hands. The two throwing knives dislodged and spurted out the fox yao's blood, spilling as far as the eyes can see, before then flying back to his hands.
The fox yao flew over above them. Hongjun held the throwing knives in each hand and released them together.
The two throwing knives flickered as it mingled with cold ice and raging flames, streaking across a short distance. They brushed past Li Jinglong's face, cutting with it a few strands of hair, and went straight into the fox yao's heart as the cold ice burst forth and raging flames burned more. The fox yao's heart suddenly exploded into a charred blood hole, surrounded by ice crystals!
It was still constantly struggling in mid-air, the red light in its eyes slowly fading before its body shrank rapidly. As the ‘shua' sounded, it turned into a little fox in the giant wolf's mouth. The two throwing knives, several arrows, and a sword clanged to the ground one after another.
The giant wolf spat out the now small fox and quietly watched Hongjun and Li Jinglong.
Li Jinglong pulled Hongjun to his feet. Hongjun then asked, "Mo Rigen?"
The giant wolf let out a "woo" sound and stretched up the corners of its mouth with its eyes seemingly smiling.
The guards of the Longwu Army stood up in shock. Li Jinglong motioned toward Hongjun that the matter here would be discussed until later. They should go over and see the others first.
"Officer Li!" Everyone greeted him one after another. Their expressions were distinctly different compared to that when Li Jinglong was still in the Longwu Army. For a moment, their eyes held both shock and fear mixed with some admiration that could be clearly seen. Many of them were also his former subordinates.
Li Jinglong inquired one by one and confirmed that no one was harmed. He looked back at Hongjun and asked, "Where's the fish? Let them sniff some of the Lihun Pollen."
The carp yao dragged the silk brocade over and said, "There's nothing left."
Li Jinglong, "..."
"Ah! Yaoguai!" Everyone was once again terribly frightened.
"Three thousand two hundred taels of silver! Nothing left?!" Li Jinglong suddenly lost his intact image.
The carp yao hurriedly contended. "You all inhaled three and a half taels last time. There is less than eight taels' worth of Lihun Pollen left in the bag..."
Li Jinglong thought of it and had no choice but to drop the matter. Seeing Li Jinglong scolding a yaoguai, everyone was completely in shock.
"Don't tell anyone of what happened tonight, except Officer Hu." Li Jinglong told them. "I will go to the Longwu Army tomorrow and personally report the matter. If there's still any noise later, inform our brothers to leave no one alone."
They all nodded in succession. Li Jinglong didn't know whether the Lihun Pollen would show results either. He would just have to take his bad luck for now and try to make up for it later.
"In that case..."
As the Longwu Army left, Li Jinglong looked at Hongjun and the giant wolf and said, "Let me see if there are any injuries."
Both of them were fine. Hongjun only got a scratch on his elbow when he fell to the ground. It was the first time that Hongjun had fought so fiercely since he had come down the mountains, so it took a little while for him to recover.
At this moment, fireballs suddenly rose in the distance. They immediately turned their heads.
"Caught it," Li Jinglong said. "Go."
"You ride on my back," Mo Rigen, who transformed to a grey wolf, seeing Hongjun's weariness, said. "I will take you there."
Hongjun climbed on the back of the wolf and they ran north, Li Jinglong following at a brisk pace behind them.
"Mo Rigen?" Hongjun asked in a low voice.
"Hmm?" The wolf stopped and slightly turned round.
Hongjun motioned for it to proceed and asked, "Are you a yao?"
"Probably." The wolf replied. "There hasn't been anyone in the Grey Wolf line who can change into a grey wolf for nearly a hundred years. I don't know what I am either. Don't tell A-Tai and the others."
The wolf didn't seem to want Li Jinglong to hear too much. As they arrived in front of a courtyard, it leaped over the wall and hopped onto the roof.
The dark clouds in Chang'an gradually opened as moonlight brightly shone. The wolf carried the young man, running wordlessly along the roof.
"You're not going to stop me, are you?" The wolf abruptly spoke.
Hongjun smiled, leaned close to its ear, and said, "I'm also a half-yao."
"Ah?" The wolf seemed utterly surprised, shook its ears, and said. "But I don't think you resemble one."
"My father is only..."
"Hush," The wolf shushed him. "No need to say more. My father once said that there's not much difference between a yao and a man, only good and evil."
The wolf stopped and looked around. Seeing the bloodstains on the ground, they then took that as their path to follow.
"Hongjun," The wolf once again spoke. "Have you ever seen a shining white deer?"
Hongjun, "Ah?" There were many deers on Taihang Mountains but he had never seen a white one as the wolf had described.
"The main reason I came to Chang'an was to find it," The wolf said. "If you know of a white deer's whereabouts, remember to tell me..."
After Mo Rigen turned to a grey wolf, on his back still was a leather strap carrying the quiver. It wasn't easy to ride on the wolf's back; Hongjun almost slipped several times and was only able to hold onto the strap.
The distant light flickered, already approaching the Imperial City. The wolf let Hongjun down as it stood up and changed back to Mo Rigen's human form. Hongjun turned around to look for Li Jinglong. Li Jinglong somehow had gotten a horse, rode over, and took a shortcut to catch up with them.
"Coming, coming!" Qiu Yongsi and A-Tai stood outside a wall.
Hongjun asked, "What about my throwing knife?"
A-Tai faced him innocently while pointing inside.
Qiu Yongsi said, "We wounded it with a fireball and consequently, it jumped into the Imperial Palace..."
A-Tai, "I wounded it with a fireball. Qiu-ge, you totally didn't do anything!"
"...So we dared not rush in," Qiu Yongsi continued to explain. "Lest we cause trouble for Zhangshi again, I said we should wait for you all to come first."
Li Jinglong arrived and got off the horse. After knowing that the fox had escaped into the imperial palace, he was immediately inundated.
"You..." Li Jinglong was infuriated. "How can it escape?"
"It hasn't escaped yet," A-Tai said. "Should we go in and catch it for you?"
How can they find it in a place as vast as Xingqing Palace? Li Jinglong frowned. He looked at A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi, who were smiling and seemingly had a tacit understanding between each other. At that moment, Li Jinglong realized their intentions and significantly nodded.
The two foxes reinforcements were possibly divided into two routes. One of them fled to the East Market which might be their plan to lure the enemies. The other one fled to a place where there might be reinforcements, that is to say, the reinforcements were in the palace? A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi apparently didn't take drastic action and only tailed along the way to see where it was going.
That is to say, yaoguais are probably lurking within the Imperial Palace.
However, Hongjun's throwing knife was still nailed to the fox yao. He promised to do something about it, so he must try to get it done.
Li Jinglong turned countless thoughts in his mind when he suddenly caught a very subtle, distinct sound.
Not a sound could be heard in the nighttime; insects had already disappeared in late autumn, and Chang'an was almost a hundred paces over and above before the wind rose. The sound was especially clear. The fox was hiding on the eaves of the back hall of Xingqing Palace, the throwing knife clinking as it touched the tiles.
Hongjun was about to speak when Li Jinglong made a shushing gesture. Holding his breath to listen, he heard another series of tiny sounds.
"It didn't go far but hid itself on the roof of the back hall and was pulling out your throwing knife," Li Jinglong said in a low voice. "I heard it."
"It's no use." Qiu Yongsi shook his head. "Once we get close to it, it will only run away. This fox yao is too smart. If something happens in the palace, we will not be able to sort it out."
Li Jinglong took the bow from his back. Everyone looked at him in surprise.
"My arrows are all ordinary weapons and incapable of killing a yao." Li Jinglong said to Mo Rigen, "Lend me your arrows."
"Can you hit the target?!" Mo Rigen said in disbelief.
Hongjun played throwing knives since he was a child. Naturally, he knew of how hard it was. The four men heard nothing at all of what Li Jinglong had heard earlier. However, even if there were, Hongjun would never be able to distinguish things by listening to the sound alone.
"I'll give it a try." Li Jinglong gently drew the longbow.
He tilted his head and tried to distinguish the sound from a hundred paces away. When he was young, his riding and shooting skills were one in a hundred. He often flaunted that he was the Flying General, Li Guang. However, as time passed, he only received supercilious looks from people and didn't have the opportunity to go to the battlefield. In his daily life, he regarded performing shooting skills as a monkey show for dignitaries and nobles and was idly unwilling to put it to use himself.
As time went by, his skill had long gone unmentioned. The Li Clan's origins could not be proved by himself, who had become the laughingstock of Chang'an.
At this moment, he was nervous enough that the hand drawing the bow was slightly trembling.
On the top of the back hall of Xingqing Palace, the fox yao seemed to sense the danger and looked towards the boundless darkness behind the high walls before it raised its claws and receded.
"We should go back first," Hongjun said in a low voice. "We can find it, Zhangshi. I still have two here. It doesn't matter."
Li Jinglong took a deep breath and drew the longbow once more. He looked sideways at Hongjun and made eye contact with him. At that moment, the light sound of a tile collision came through his ears.
In a split second, Li Jinglong decisively loosen the bowstring!
An arrow flew out noiselessly, brushing through the blocking willows in the palace. With a clear sound, the withered leaves rose from the ground like meteors. The arrow flew past a hundred paces away, the fox was silently hit in the abdomen, spurting blood.
After a long absence of a mournful sound, Li Jinglong sighed wearily. When he looked back at Hongjun, his eyes were filled with guilt.
"I haven't practiced for too long. My hands lacked skills." Li Jinglong frowned, eyes full of anxiety. He wanted to break the bow in two.
They were about to console Zhangshi that he had already done a good job tonight when—
A fox rolled down along the top of the hall.
In addition to the sound of water from the pond in the back hall.
"Hit?" Mo Rigen asked in surprise.
"Hit," Hongjun said. "I'll go in and look for it."
Hongjun immediately threw out the hook and climbed the courtyard wall. Everyone stared at Li Jinglong, speechless.
"Come out as soon as you find it!" Li Jinglong ordered.
A moment later, Hongjun came out and threw the fox. They saw that it was hit through its right chest by the arrow and was already at its last gasp. Li Jinglong breathed a sigh of relief and with a smile said, "I promised that I would get the throwing knife back."
Li Jinglong had never smiled in front of everyone, but such a smile made the atmosphere a bit awkward. Everyone looked at each other. A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi were still unable to accept what happened this night and were struck dumb on the spot.
"You look good when you smile, Zhangshi," Hongjun smiled and said. "Don't always keep a straight face."
Li Jinglong unnaturally coughed and coldly said, "Let's go back and discuss this later."
They followed Li Jinglong back to the Exorcism Department.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Caro and opal.