Editor(s): namio, juurensha
The ao fish once again shifted into human form, and Fei Ao couldn’t help but stagger as he fought to rise up, still clutching that little fox to his chest.
Fei Ao’s abdomen had been shot clean through, leaving behind a gaping, bloody hole. As the exorcists rushed out, the corner of his mouth drew up in a sliver of a grim smile.
“Ah well…” Fei Ao said brokenly. “Today… was a fated… encounter… that I couldn’t escape…”
In the plaza, all of the people in Daming Palace who had been startled awake rushed out to check on the commotion. Just then, black fog came billowing in from all directions, blanketing the ground, spreading around almost as if it was alive.
“Everyone hide!” Li Jinglong shouted. “That’s a yaoguai!”
The more daring of the eunuchs and the guards retreated to the corner, but they were unwilling to leave, watching the scene from afar.
That black fog encroached nonstop on Fei Ao, and Li Jinglong said quietly, “Are there talismans that can seal him away?”
“No,” Hongjun breathed. “There are only ones that can smack him down… he has yet to show his true form. Perhaps if… if you use your sword to stab it… try it?”
This bastard could actually take quite a few hits; that day he had thankfully not tried to chase him down on his own, otherwise he might not have been able to be its opponent.
Li Jinglong pulled out his longsword and said, “All of you protect me.”
The silent plaza was very strange. All they heard was Fei Ao uttering a few indecipherable sentences of a chant in that diffused black fog. In the next moment, he lifted his head and stared at the group, saying in a low voice, “Even if I die, I also…”
In a flash, Hongjun wielded his Pentacolored Sacred Light, creating a shield in front of them!
Just then Fei Ao exploded with a peng, and the black fog around him turned into millions of black flames, shooting towards all corners of the plaza. Everyone that the black flame touched let out wails of agony, rolling about on the ground, and when their wails died down, they had turned into black, rotten ao fish that leapt towards the group!
The plaza was filled with rotten ao fish, all of them opening their toothy maws wide as they rushed towards the five people. Hongjun lifted up the Pentacolored Sacred Light to block them, but he didn’t dare to kill these transformed beings, afraid of the consequences if he hurt a person and couldn’t save them in time - only to hear Li Jinglong shout, “Get to him!” And with that, he lifted his sword and rushed at those black flames in the middle of the plaza.
Hongjun again lifted the Pentacolored Sacred Light, and with a quick sidestep, he opened up a path for Li Jinglong. On all sides were the black ao fish, carrying with them the stink of rotting flesh! A-Tai then sent out a whirlwind, and Mo Rigen shot out his Seven Nailed Arrows, but they also could not kill them all. Qiu Yongsi looked around and loudly shouted, “Don’t come over here! Don’t come over here! Hongjun! Where are you going!”
More ao fish filled in the gaps that their dead companions left, and A-Tai and Mo Rigen roared angrily at the same time.
A-Tai: “Qiu Yongsi!”
Mo Rigen finally couldn’t stand it anymore, and he shouted, “Hurry up and attack!”
Qiu Yongsi smiled and said, “You guys are enough I think, my good brothers…”
Before he finished his sentence, Mo Rigen purposefully let an ao fish in, and with a peng, it latched onto Qiu Yongsi. In that moment Qiu Yongsi almost exploded; his usually carefree demeanour vanished, and he hurried to reach his hand into his robes only to be knocked onto the ground by that ao fish.
“Go away!” Qiu Yongsi cried.
That ao fish opened its huge maw filled with pointy teeth and extended its slick, dripping tongue to wrap around Qiu Yongsi’s neck. Qiu Yongsi’s tolerance had finally broken through his bottom line, and he loudly cried, “Get away from me!”
Then Qiu Yongsi pulled out a calligraphy brush. A-Tai and Mo Rigen were in front, blocking off the never-ending waves of ao fish, when they suddenly felt their entire bodies starting to float.
“Ah ah ah ah--!” Qiu Yongsi wildly shouted. “All of you go away! Go away!”
That calligraphy brush waved wildly in the air, and the ao fish that was leaping right at him turned into a puddle of black ink with a shua, as if it had been smashed flat by a huge force.
At once A-Tai and Mo Rigen both turned their heads back and looked at Qiu Yongsi. Qiu Yongsi was frightened out of his wits as he held a calligraphy brush wrought of white marble, trembling non-stop.The tip of that brush suddenly gave off a strong light, inside of which appeared countless meteor-like brushstrokes.
Qiu Yongsi wildly bellowed as he waved the brush in his hand once again.
Mo Rigen and A-Tai both stopped in their attacks. That sweeping brush stroke of Qiu Yongsi’s turned the entirety of the plaza into a shan shui painting, and in the next instant all the ao fish had also transformed into ink traces swimming around, before they all swam out, shua la la. The space between the heavens and the earth was filled with light and space, and ripples began to form in front of Qiu Yongsi, spreading endlessly outwards. The painted pillars and palace walls of Daming Palace, and even the surrounding mountains, turned into a giant ink painting!
The ao fish were swept up by that strange energy and began to spin in circles around the plaza. The extremely dangerous scenery of a moment before had actually, under an elegant brush stroke of Qiu Yongsi’s, easily turned into a painting of hundreds of ao fish dancing in the spring??!
Mo Rigen angrily shouted, “You should have done this a long time ago!”
A-Tai was almost angered to death by Qiu Yongsi, and he also furiously demanded, “Why didn’t you pull out this artifact earlier?!”
Qiu Yongsi couldn’t stop panting, and his eyes were glazed over.
“Wah, he finally attacked! Finally attacked! Look at it! What happened?!” Hongjun only felt that the entire area had changed, but he couldn’t point out where the anomaly was. The scenery on the edges started twisting and melting together.
Li Jinglong shouted, “Stop staring! Take this opportunity, quick!”
“Wait wait wait…” Hongjun felt that his own body was floating in the air, and he couldn’t set foot on the ground.
Just as Li Jinglong was about to stab that mass of black energy, he also started floating upwards. Those inky mountains were diffusing with a speed almost visible to the naked eye, and the black energy couldn’t help but let out a cry of shock; originally it wanted to escape, but it now also had no ability to control its own motions.
“End your spell!” Li Jinglong turned his head back and shouted.
“Don’t play around!” A-Tai and Mo Rigen once again admonished Qiu Yongsi in unison.
“First you want me to attack! Then you want me to withdraw! What exactly do you guys want?!” Qiu Yongsi’s lungs were also about to explode from anger.
In that instant, the plaza had already become a giant-sized flat ink painting. Everything within vicinity had been sucked in, flattened, and transformed into a part of the piece. The black fire rushed left and right in the painting as it tried to escape, and Qiu Yongsi stood in the back hall holding his brush as he shouted, voice wavering, “I can’t hold it any more! I’m releasing the magic! You guys be careful!”
“Scatter!” Li Jinglong shouted.
At this moment, Fei Ao, who had been enveloped by the black fire, let out a wild roar. With the last of his energy, he let loose his scales, and the yao energy shot out, temporarily puncturing the painting. At the same time, Qiu Yongsi was hit with the shock of the yao energy, and blood dribbled out of the corner of his mouth as he was stunned into taking half a step back.
Black energy exploded in the painting, and it shattered into pieces. Hongjun and Li Jinglong landed on the ground at the same time, and with a swipe of his hand, Hongjun blocked the roiling black energy from entering the barrier formed by the Pentacolored Sacred Light.
“Stab it!” Hongjun shouted.
Li Jinglong took their fall as an opportunity to grab Hongjun with his left hand, and the two of them landed together. Inside the safety of the Pentacolored Sacred Light, he pulled out his sword, and with a single thrust, he stabbed through the protective barrier. An enraged roar bellowed, and the sword embedded itself in Fei Ao’s chest.
Fei Ao’s shouts abruptly ceased. A burst of energy came up from below, sweeping the cobblestones up and out before it vanished as quickly as dust and ash on the wind. As soon as the painting split open, all of the black energy on the swimming ao fish dissipated, and the people who had been trapped recovered control of their own bodies, slamming into the corners of the plaza.
Upon his death, Fei Ao exploded into black energy that went in all directions. Li Jinglong and Hongjun fell to the ground at the same time -- in a flash, Li Jinglong spun the hilt in his hand and sent the long sword spinning outwards, before then turning around in midair to face Hongjun. His back crashed solidly onto the ground.
Li Jinglong let out a “hn”. When Hongjun fell, his entire body landed on top of Li Jinglong.
That moment, Li Jinglong felt like Zhao Zilong, being buffeted around everywhere. With a huff he was solidly slammed into the ground by Hongjun, and Hongjun accidentally kneed him in the abdomen area too, knocking all breath out of him. His entire body went limp as he lay there on the white marble cobblestones.
The morning sun rose from the east, passing over the mountains towards the Divine Land, and the golden light billowed over the land, shedding its light onto Daming Palace, where Hongjun had fought his way out of Li Jinglong’s embrace and was shaking him repeatedly.
“Zhangshi! Zhangshi! Are you alright?”
Li Jinglong’s entire body felt like it had been stepped on by multiple elephants, and he moaned, “My ribs… might be broken. It feels like there are internal injuries…”
“I have medicine!” Hongjun hurried to say. “I promise that as soon as you take it, you’ll be healed.”
Li Jinglong: “...”
A-Tai, Mo Rigen, and Qiu Yongsi ran up as Hongjun tugged on Li Jinglong’s hand, lending him his shoulder so that he could stand up straight.
The plaza of the back hall was filled with unconscious palace residents and guards, and the parts of Daming Palace that had been destroyed were: a back hall, a side hall, a courtyard, numerous shattered pieces of ceramic decor, with their gilded pieces littering the floor. Seven pillars had been broken, and three walls had fallen in.
Countless windows, doors, and glazed screens had been wrecked as well.
The sunlight shone down on the people there, the ground covered with precious gems in a sea of gold.
“Zhangshi, what did you want to say?” Hongjun lifted his head to look at Li Jinglong, seeing that his expression wasn’t quite right.
“I wanted to say…”
Li Jinglong took a deep breath and said desperately, “How much money do we have to pay in compensation?!”
“How much money ah--”
“Much money ah--”
The sounds echoed in the mountains, and, accompanying that proud rising sun, didn’t cease for a long time.
On this bright and sunny autumn day, the carp yao was currently hanging up Hongjun’s clothes to dry in the yard. Every time it washed any clothes, the clothes always carried a whiff of mud and fish-stink, but Hongjun never cared about that. When he was away from home, the fact that there was still someone to wash his clothes for him was already a luxury beyond comparison.
But the carp yao minded, because it was afraid that Hongjun was always the subject of derision when it wasn’t around, and it also was self-conscious that its fish-stink was so strong, so it always pushed Hongjun to go out with his new friends. As for itself? Staying in the yard and watching the house was good enough.
Those were the words it spoke, but when the carp yao did end up staying in, it was a little disappointed, since it felt like it wasn’t needed anymore; it could only use the reason that “everyone will eventually grow up” to comfort itself.
“I should go burn some incense,” the carp yao said to itself, “to prevent Hongjun from being looked down on again.” And with a hop and a skip, it went to go find some incense, and when it stopped on the pathway, it couldn’t help but let out a sigh.
Outside the yard, everyone had returned.
Li Jinglong’s complexion made him look like he was on his last breath.
“Put zhangshi down here ba,” Hongjun said.
The carp yao asked, “You’re back? How did it go?”
Everyone was ungainly slumped over, lying down in the front hall, and Li Jinglong’s expression was a little wooden.
“You lost the fight?” The carp yao felt a little rush of hidden glee in its chest, and it said, “I just knew that I should have gone with you guys.”
Hongjun said, “We got rid of that yaoguai, but the throwing knives are gone too.”
The carp yao spouted a few sentences of condolences. There was no rush to find the throwing knives, but Li Jinglong said, “Today everyone has worked hard, so go rest now. As for the other things, I’ll keep thinking of ideas.”
Everyone came over to consolingly pat Li Jinglong’s shoulder before returning to their own rooms to sleep.
Li Jinglong cradled his forehead in one hand, sitting at the low table staring off into space. The carp yao went over and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Let me be alone for a bit, let me have some peace and quiet…”
The carp yao then closed the door, but before it left, it said, “If there’s any bumps that can’t be gotten over, sniffing a little Lihun Pollen should fix the issue. The new batch has already been bought.”
Li Jinglong smiled bitterly and asked, “How much was it?”
“It’s still three thousand two hundred taels ah,” the carp yao smiled and said. “A-Tai and them had already told the boss that this time they’d open a tab, and they’d go pay it off at the beginning of next month.”
Li Jinglong: “...”
Daming Palace had been destroyed to such an extent, so Li Jinglong naturally could not run off after the battle or let the people there inhale the Lihun Pollen, or everyone who guarded the palace would all lose their heads.
But the yao was already gone, leaving behind a mess for him to clean up, and that wasn’t including Hu Sheng’s room in the Longwu Army headquarters that had been ruined as well… He would obviously have to give some kind of an explanation, so he picked up a brush to give a signature; even if it was the Longwu Army and the Judiciary Department checking the case, requiring repairs, or being dragged out in front of the Son of Heaven for questioning, all of these actions would be based on that one signature, and they would all go to find him anyways.
Ah, whatever, he would go to sleep first. Thinking this, Li Jinglong tossed the dirty outer robe he had on to the side, lying down directly on the ground. He would worry about those troubles after he woke up.
All the doors were closed; the exorcists were all nearly fatigued to death, and they skipped breakfast in favor of getting a good rest. After the carp yao finished washing the clothes, it laid down in its own pond to stare up at the white clouds in the sky. The sun had marched on in its journey to the west, and only then, at noon, did the people start getting up.
Right after noon, the sound of hooves clattered from outside the door, and the sound of carriage wheels didn’t stop coming, one by one, until parked outside their door were four or five carriages.
The carp yao warily poked its fish head out, and its mouth opened and closed soundlessly, as if debating whether it should go wake up Li Jinglong.
“The glorious and powerful Son of Heaven has arrived--”
The eunuch’s voice sounded from outside.
“The beloved consort has arrived--”
The carp yao suddenly thought of Feng Changqing’s mention of “letting the Imperial Consort enjoy it”, and it rushed out of the pond and hid in a patch of tall grass by the wall.
“The Chancellor of the Right has arrived--”
“Lady Qingguo has arrived--”
“Lady Guoguo has arrived--”
Inside the Exorcism Department, all of the doors were tightly shut and everyone was still sleeping.
“Where is the zhangshi of the Exorcism Department, Li Jinglong? Immediately come out to receive the emperor --”
“No matter, no matter, we will go in presently to take a look…”
“Ho, this Exorcism Department is so stylish…”
“Ya? Big sister, which honored buddha is this?”
“This is Acala, who slays yao and defeats mo.”
“Seems to be a fitting decoration.”
“Apparently when Duke Di was still in Chang’an, he bought this little yard but never got around to fixing it up. He even wanted to send some craftsmen over to clean things up a little.”
“Your Majesty is now worrying unnecessarily. The Li family also enjoyed some fame before, and though their finances have since been affected, they still know how to enjoy themselves... where’s Li Jinglong? Li Jinglong?!”
Yang Guozhong, Li Longji, Yang Yuhuan, Lady Guoguo, Lady Qinguo, and their entourages stood in the courtyard as the eunuch shouted, “Li-zhangshi! His Majesty has come to see you!”
“Li Jinglong!” Li Longji suddenly gathered his breath and let loose a “Son of Heaven Shout”, the sound akin to a bright bell’s. Everyone started laughing at the same time, and Li Jinglong, who had been greatly frightened, rushed out of the main hall with his feet bare, wearing only an inner robe, his hair in great disarray. In that moment, he blinked at the sight before him in disbelief.
“Where is everyone?!” Yang Guozhong shouted. “Are there still people at the Exorcism Department?”
“Who who who?” A-Tai, who was wearing a set of silken pajama pants, came running out. Closely following were Hongjun, Qiu Yongsi, and Mo Rigen, all of them barefoot as they glanced about wildly.
Today, Li Longji was wearing a set of commoner’s robes, and Li Jinglong didn’t recognize him at first. However, Yang Guozhong was a face he recognized, and his heart let out a thump.
“Why are you all sleeping when it’s daytime?” Li Longji smiled and said.
Li Jinglong sighed in his heart, and he could only answer, “Yesterday night we went out to catch a yao, so we didn’t sleep for the whole night. This official’s lectures were not strict enough.”
Saying this, Li Jinglong sank to the ground on one knee, but Li Longji hurried to lift him up, indicating that it was no matter. Seeing the four people behind him walking over happily, he asked, “You all are Jinglong’s subordinates? What are your names?”
They all respectively gave him their names without bowing or gesturing in respect. Even though at this time the Great Tang’s customs were more relaxed and it was not necessary to kneel upon seeing the emperor, very few people without any official title, who would be counted as basically the common people, would be so bold as to greet him so casually. In fact, this was the first time he’d seen it.
Yang Guozhong was just about to berate them, but Yang Yuhuan, with a gentle smile, lifted her hand, indicating that there was no harm done.
“Everybody has helped my sister find Qing-er,” Yang Yuhuan said warmly with a smile. “Today we have come specially to thank you all; this Qing-er was the foundation of her life, and in those days where it went missing, she cried so many times.”
“Ay ay ay,” Lady Qinguo hurried to interrupt Yang Yuhuan’s words, and this had Li Longji amused beyond belief. Yang Yuhuan’s words here turned the atmosphere a little more proper.
This was the first time Hongjun was seeing the Son of Heaven who carried the blessing of the North Star, and he was very curious, so he couldn’t help but keep glancing at Li Longji’s face. He saw that his features were fine, and they held the dignity and majesty expected of a monarch, but his speech was very easy going. Only between his brows was there a faint trace of a shadow.
He looked over and saw that Yang Yuhuan’s face was fair like the bright moon, bringing its quiet brilliance into the Exorcism Department; she was really an eye-catching beauty. Lady Qinguo, behind the consort, was a little inferior in her looks, but was still comparable to Xi Shi, with clean and pretty features. As for Lady Guoguo standing in the back, she was a little older, and she wore a severe expression without smiling or speaking.
Yang Guozhong looked handsome and proper, and he was tall and well-built. Standing in front of Li Jinglong, whose head was still lowered, Yang Guozhong actually was a little taller than him.
“Specially here to thank…” Yang Yuhuan laughed to herself, as if she always found amusement in the regular events of her daily life.
“Thanking the consort for her grace,” Li Jinglong hurried to say.
Everyone else and Hongjun all had the same thought as their eyes wandered boldly over this group of people, not letting even a single detail escape.
“Come,” Yang Yuhuan personally opened a box, which was filled with the pastries that Hongjun liked to eat, and she said, “The butler told me that there was a young master who liked these, who is it?”
“This many minzhi mingao?!” As soon as Hongjun saw those crystal mochi golden cakes, he exclaimed, “So good!”
Li Longji: “...”
Yang Guozhong: “...”
Li Jinglong: “..................”
“What?” Yang Yuhuan hadn’t heard the words clearly, and Li Jinglong hurried to chide Hongjun, “You haven’t thanked her for her graciousness yet?!”
“Thanks!” Hongjun was so happy that he skipped over and received that box, which had three whole layers in it, all of them packed to bursting with the pastries.
Yang Yuhuan glanced at Li Jinglong, then at Hongjun, then again to Li Jinglong, and she smiled. “Jinglong, His Majesty was talking about rewarding you with some tangible thing, but I brought up the idea that if we helped you to properly coddle someone, then that would be better than anything else, wouldn’t it?”
Li Jinglong was temporarily speechless, and Li Longji merely patted his shoulder, saying, “It’s time for you to start a family and advance in your career.”
This thoughtless sentence, Li Jinglong hadn’t even fully comprehended it, but A-Tai understood first and couldn’t help but laugh. Hongjun’s face was filled with confusion, as he was still lost in the joy of the minzhi mingao. Unknown to them, Lady Qinguo had listened to her butler’s story, and thus she had learned that Li Jinglong had brought a youth with him to return the cat. The youth liked to eat the pastries that the manor had, so she had passed on that information to Yang Yuhuan.
And these three sisters were all very smart. With a few sentences, they had started from the point of Li Jinglong not yet taking a wife, before thinking of the youth who followed him around; rewarding this porcupine was naturally a difficult endeavor, so they would give the youth the pastries instead. And with a few flicks of their wrist, they had gossiped about this on their way over.
At this time, the Great Tang was very liberal, and though Li Longji hadn’t met many cutsleeves, when Yang Yuhuan said it like this, then it must be so.
And in the midst of these twists and turns, Li Jinglong observed their expressions and guessed at some of their thoughts as his face flushed red to the root of his ears. Yang Yuhuan then smiled again. “I was just joking, Jinglong should be rewarded as well.”
The eunuchs then came forward with a plate filled with twenty small two-tael silver ingots, forty taels of silver, and ten bolts of indigo brocade. Li Jinglong hurried to receive the gifts, and Yang Guozhong waggled his finger meaningfully at Li Jinglong, not saying anything more, while Li Longji turned in a circle before walking away.
“Come, Qing’er, say goodbye to Li-zhangshi.” Lady Qinguo held that cat’s paw and waved it at Li Jinglong. Li Jinglong didn’t want to shake it, but he also didn’t want to refuse. Hongjun, however, thought this was funny, and came over to stroke the cat’s head, But the cat immediately tried to swipe at Hongjun with its claws extended, afraid of him coming to squeeze it again. In his heart, Li Jinglong was wretchedly thinking, hurry up and send everyone away, why are you trying to provoke it again?
Thankfully Lady Qinguo only smiled before carrying the cat away, and climbing onto the carriage with Li Longji, all of them were sent off with the appropriate honors
“The Son of Heaven is departing for Mount Li--” a voice called from outside.
Hongjun had to go see this time, and he poked his head out to see the street outside was filled with clamor. It was all done with the proper ceremonies, and finally the Longwu and Shenwu armies fell in step behind the procession as they turned out of the alley, heading to the Huaqing Pool.
Finally there was only them left, wearing their inner robes and white pants, standing in the courtyard. It was then that the carp yao ran out of the grass tuft and jumped into the pond with a du.
moon: NEW TIANBAO CHAPTER ON THIS CHICKEN GEGE SITE WOO
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.