Both of them were wearing their unlined garments while sleeping comfortably.
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
Li Jinglong hovered around outside the court hall for a quarter of an hour before he saw the officials come out one by one and pass by him, leaving behind only the Judiciary Department’s Deputy Chief, Huang Yong, and his old superior, Hu Sheng.
Li Jinglong straightened up and stared at them, waiting for the final result.
Hu Sheng looked at Li Jinglong but said nothing as he was calculating the countermeasures of the situation. Over the years, he had not known much about this former subordinate of his. At that time, Li Jinglong’s reputation in the Longwu Army was quite inferior. Hu Sheng had once confidentially asked the Ministry Officers why they didn’t like Li Jinglong.
His other subordinates also said that he was mysterious and hadn’t made the situation clear. In any case, they didn’t like him and thought that he was too proud. Some people said he had some peculiarities. Hu Sheng didn’t ask any further questions about it. It was just troublesome as he thought of how he would have to help make arrangements for him once the Exorcism Department was clamped down. Would he move him back to the Longwu Army?
Li Jinglong just stood there quietly, waiting for the two men to speak. Huang Yong and Hu Sheng both had the same thoughts: this man in front of them was too pitiful. He was a grown man, his ancestral house was sold, and he didn’t have any family. All he had was the Exorcism Department that had finally turned for the better, and yet that was also going to be clamped down upon.
Hu Sheng paced a few steps and asked, “Do you have a little brother under you?”
Li Jinglong’s complexion changed for fear that Hongjun might have done something wrong. When he glanced at Huang Yong, he immediately recalled that he had been with Hongjun when Huang Yong came that day. Huang Yong presumably told him about it.
“Yes,” Li Jinglong said. “Why?”
“Bring him over and then you’ll move back to the Longwu Army.” Hu Sheng said. “On the fifth day of next month, the Exorcism Department will remove its tablet. You will be allotted ten days to move. The rest will be dismissed, and the Ministry of Appointments will help them settle down.”
Li Jinglong’s mind instantly resounded with a boom, as if something had exploded. He thought he had misheard those words and blankly asked, “What?”
“Don’t kick up a fuss.” Hu Sheng said. “I’ve been on my last legs from all your troubles for the past several years, so do you think I want this? Pull yourself together, and we’ll talk about it in a few days.”
After that, Hu Sheng bypassed Li Jinglong and left.
Huang Yong spoke, “Li-zhangshi, I believe that there are yaos in the world, and I also believe in your conduct. However, there are some things that really won’t go your way. That’s the hardest thing in life. Since you have inherited Lord Di’s sword, you must know the principles of concealing your strength and biding your time…”
Li Jinglong hadn’t heard what Huang Yong said as he quickly turned around to chase after Hu Sheng. When he came out of the Judiciary Department, he already couldn’t find a trace of Hu Sheng. He stood in the street, at a loss, as if the heavens had revolved and the earth was spinning.
Li Jinglong didn’t even know how he got back to the Exorcism Department as he entered the front hall on the fifth of the watch period.The Acala enveloping itself with a layer of flames while holding its six dharma implements was calmly gazing at him.
Several cups and bowls were scattered in the courtyard. The couch in the hall had been moved out, lying across under the parasol tree, with some tea leaves scattered on the ground. It seemed that they had spent some time enjoying themselves under the parasol tree.
The lamps were already put out in everyone's room. They apparently went to bed first before waiting for him, lest they might face another visitor again tomorrow and turn the day and night into a mockery.
Li Jinglong stood in the courtyard, silently staring at the scene in front of him.
Hongjun was lying on the couch, sinking into a strange dream. In his dream, Chang’an was surrounded by a sea of blood and mountains of corpses, filled with black mist and dead people everywhere, just like the ao fish scurrying in Daming Palace. The hands of the dead bodies extended toward him one after another, trying to drag him in.
He panicked and tried to set up his Pentacolored Sacred Light, but found that his meridians were already empty. He looked around, wanting to go back to the Exorcism Department. However, at that moment, he didn’t know why, but the one he thought of wasn’t Chong Ming nor Qing Xiong, but actually Li Jinglong.
He shouted, “Zhangshi? Zhangshi, where are you?”
He staggered and ran along the city of Chang’an, where there were dead bodies everywhere. The black mist rolled up from behind and froze his back, causing him to fall to the ground and shouted, “Li Jinglong?! Li Jinglong!”
When he got up again, he felt a valiant force on his chest, which almost broke through his torso, causing him great pain.
In the room, Hongjun was on the point of rolling under the couch when Li Jinglong heard him calling out his name. He immediately lunged forward and caught him.
Hongjun suddenly woke up and was about to shout once more when Li Jinglong hurriedly made a “hushing” gesture and looked at him in surprise. Hongjun was drenched in sweat, his eyes wide open, face pale, and was gasping for breath.
Li Jinglong asked in a low voice, “Nightmare?”
He got down on his knees and cradled Hongjun. Hongjun grasped his clothes, buried his head in Li Jinglong’s arms, and let out a long sigh.
That night, Li Jinglong’s lamp in the room was lit up.
Hongjun took the calming decoction in the east courtyard and passed by Li Jinglong’s room. Li Jinglong said, “Come in, and also give me some.”
Hongjun agreed. “When I get it ready, I’ll give some to you.”
He still remembered the scene on that day when Li Jinglong turned him away. Later, he had specially asked the carp yao, who had told him that some people did not like others entering their rooms, so Hongjun had kept that in mind.
“Stay with me for a while,” Li Jinglong said.
Hongjun went in barefoot. He rubbed out a flame, lit up the small copper furnace near the table, put on a copper bowl, and began to mix the ingredients.
“Did you often have dreams as a child?” Li Jinglong asked.
“No.” Hongjun shook his head. “Only after I descended the mountains did I have nightmares.”
“Homesick?” Li Jinglong sighed and asked once again.
He took off his robe, dressed in his unlined snow-like garment. He sat down on his knees on the other side, facing Hongjun.
Hongjun gently boiled the ingredients in the bowl with a copper spoon. The flames reflected in his heroic young eyes, seeming somewhat gloomy.
Hearing the word “homesick”, he lifted his eyes to see Li Jinglong and then smiled. That smile immediately made Li Jinglong, whose life was almost hopeless, feel the strings in his heart gently plucked, which echoed a sound and then swept away like ripples, layer upon layer.
“Zhao Zilong said that people always lose a lot of things and only when they turn around can they see the good sides of them,” Hongjun said smilingly. “I’m homesick now because I’m away from home, but I also like the Exorcism Department and everyone here.”
Li Jinglong, with a little confusion in his eyes, asked, “What do you like about the Exorcism Department?”
“Parasol trees ah.” Hongjun turned his head and leaned forward as he looked out of the room, and added, “You even gave me paintings, took me to play, and kept me company…”
Li Jinglong responded in a low voice, “I don’t know why, but I always feel like I’m kindred spirits with you.”
It seemed that the fragrance of the mixed ingredients played a role as Li Jinglong’s worries alleviated. He couldn’t help but look at the young man in front of him and wonder why he had always taken special care of him.
Because unlike the other three, he had his own plans? No.
Because he was beautiful and made people’s hearts grow affectionate towards him? Not that either.
“What happened today?” Hongjun looked up again and asked.
Li Jinglong saw a vague thought in Hongjun’s eyes and suddenly achieved a speedy enlightenment. He couldn’t help but smile and understood—
—Hongjun didn’t understand many things. Unlike other people, he had never looked at him with thoughts of derision. Unlike the officials in the Longwu Army, he never looked down on a dish and crawled high while stepping on the low. He didn’t try to calculate what people were thinking and had even less of a desire to pry into the people’s hearts. He didn’t think of himself as wise, nor did he undervalue himself, just ignorant of the world and of human feelings.
People always liked to be friends with simple ones; no scheming and no deceiving.
“Did I cause trouble for you again?” Hongjun asked.
Li Jinglong was overjoyed, helplessly smiling and shaking his head. Hongjun looked puzzled, unable to make sense of what Li Jinglong was thinking. As a matter of fact, he had come to understand most people whenever they struck deep implications. He knew himself that people in this world often had a way with words.
“Are you also this carefree at home?” Li Jinglong asked. “Entrapping people and getting into trouble?”
“Chong Ming is too terrifying when he grows angry,” Hongjun said. “Who would dare? It’s just bad luck, that’s all.”
“A bit.” Li Jinglong didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He felt that since he met Hongjun, unlucky things had happened one after another, in a much more exaggerated fashion than his experience in the past 20 years.
“You all don’t understand ordinary humans,” Li Jinglong said. “It takes a lot of suffering for ordinary humans to live.”
Hongjun nodded and said, “Right, ordinary humans suffer a lot. Yao and mos, yaos are the monsters in the mountain and wild guais. Mos are the rage and pain of all living things.”
Li Jinglong wondered, “They say ‘Exorcism Department.’ Why not say ‘Exorcising Yao Department?’ I’ve already seen yaos, but what about mos? Where are they? Are they also in Chang’an?”
Hongjun thought about it and said, “Because the Exorcism Department’s ultimate responsibility is to dispel the sufferings of the Divine Land; expel the inner mos of all living things, dispel the years of the mos obstacles, and purify the world.”
From what Hongjun recalled, he never had any troubles. Chong Ming’s warmth was like a barrier protecting him at all times and places. However, since he had left Taihang Mountains, in only two months, he found that there was so much pain and sadness in the Divine Land, and that humans’ joys and sorrows were too vehement.
Along the way he had seen poverty, death, sickness, and old age. The carp yao told him that these were the world’s hardships: living, old age, illness, death, hatred, partings, begging, and the suffering from the flourishing of the five skandhas. All sorts of pain spread into the world’s sap and pulse as they unceasingly moved in cycles, purified by this dusky, powerful force.
However, once beyond the threshold of purification of the world, evil pulses’ would converge into “mos.”
Hongjun always remembered the ‘Mara’ that Qing Xiong had mentioned before his words were interrupted by Chong Ming. He was utterly curious about this mo’s existence, but the carp yao had only explained the origin of mos and no longer spoke about it.
After Hongjun’s explanation, Li Jinglong frowned and said, “Perhaps this was the predestined fate of the Divine Land that Lord Di had referred to.”
Hongjun studied Li Jinglong’s worried expression and said with a smile, “You are always unhappy.”
“I can’t get happy,” Li Jinglong said wearily. When he looked at Hongjun, he once again felt better. He smiled with relief and said, “But every time I talk to you, I feel much better.”
“You haven’t taken the medicine yet.” Hongjun took the boiling water, poured it into the copper bowl, and dissolved the medicine. “Did they make you pay for the damages? I still have some…”
As Hongjun was about to get up to take out his pearls, Li Jinglong said, “It’s not enough to compensate for the loss. Forget about it. I’ll think of another way. The most troublesome thing is that the whole court doesn’t like me, but this is also reasonable.”
“What about your Emperor?” Hongjun said. “The palace is his. Just apologize to him, and he’ll assent, right? I even burned Yaojin Palace before I went down the mountains...…”
Li Jinglong, “......”
Hongjun roused the man from a trance with just a brief remark. No matter what happened, Li Longji was still the one who would give the final nod. A word from him would be more efficacious than anything else in the world.
Li Jinglong frowned. As long as the Emperor knew what they were doing and trusted them, what could the officials do? However, how could they persuade the Emperor to believe these sequences of events? Yet, at least it was a solution, and they would have to hurry and do it before the fifth day of the next month…
“I’ll think it over again,” Li Jinglong said. “The case hasn’t been settled yet. There are yaos in the imperial palace, hmm…”
He thought through a faint, vague outline, and Hongjun handed the medicine bowl to him. Li Jinglong motioned for him to drink first as he began to think of a solution. After Hongjun drank half of it, Li Jinglong then took it and drank it down.
“The medicine seems to have… a bit too much…” Hongjun said in a daze.
Li Jinglong had just finished drinking the medicine when he saw Hongjun’s dazed eyes and that he was about to fall, and he rushed up to help him. All of a sudden, his mind burst into dizziness, and he stood unsteadily.
Li Jinglong whirled around and hurriedly sat down, which caused Hongjun to lose support and lean against Li Jinglong, already asleep.
“What medicine is this… Wait…” Li Jinglong’s whole body was already powerless. Leaning against the couch, he clutched his hand frantically for support when it slipped down, and then he thoroughly lost consciousness.
The next morning.
The sun shone into the room. As A-Tai passed by Li Jinglong’s room, he abruptly saw the latter lying on the edge of the couch with his legs slightly parted, together with Hongjun who was lying on his body. Both of them were wearing their unlined garments while sleeping comfortably.
“Qiu Yongsi!” A-Tai hurriedly beckoned him to the courtyard. Qiu Yongsi, who had an extremely keen sense of gossip, quickly trotted over. Seeing the scene inside the room, they both looked like a carp yao with their mouths wide open.
“Should we call Mo Rigen to come and see?”
“Close your mouth. What’s there to see? Quickly, close Zhangshi’s door.”
“Did you hear that last night? Hongjun repeatedly called out his name! ‘Zhangshi! Zhangshi! Li Jinglong! Jinglong!’ Did I mishear that?”
“Right, right! I heard that! So that’s how it is! But weren’t they in Hongjun’s room? The sound came from the right!”
As their voices gradually faded, Li Jinglong woke up. He regained consciousness and looked down. Seeing Hongjun lying on his body, his heart suddenly sped up. He reached out his hand and patted him, whispering, “Hongjun? Wake up!”
Hongjun slept like a log. Last night, while they were talking, the bowl of calming decoction was boiled too much together with the ingredients, causing them to lose consciousness after drinking it.
Li Jinglong wanted to take him back to his room, but everyone must be up already. Moreover, if he was seen by Zhao Zilong, he was afraid that the carp yao would only cause disturbance out of nothing. Li Jinglong couldn’t stand him the most, so he could only lift Hongjun up, put him on the couch, and cover him with a quilt.
In the main hall, Mo Rigen was in the middle of twisting a leather shield that he had gotten out of nowhere, A-Tai was playing with a crystal, and Qiu Yongsi was boiling tea. When Li Jinglong came over after washing up, everyone hurriedly questioned him concerning yesterday's matter.
Li Jinglong gave out an ‘hmm’ sound, but that wasn’t a large obstacle. He thoroughly thought about it as he received the tea from Qiu Yongsi. A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi exchanged a strange look while Mo Rigen cast them a quizzical one.
“Then, the case was concluded?” A-Tai asked.
“Not yet,” Li Jinglong said. “We’ll continue to investigate today.”
Everyone’s faces were entirely full of doubts. Li Jinglong thought about it yet again and finally stated, “All of you, can you teach me mana?”
The corners of their mouths twitched.
“I don’t want to drag everyone down.” Li Jinglong stated accurately. “You’re right. As an ordinary human, pure force will never suffice in capturing yaos.”
When Hongjun woke up, he only felt that his fatigue of the past days had cleared away. Stretching, he suddenly found a nice smell on the quilt. Looking up again, he also found that it wasn’t his own room. How did he sleep in Li Jinglong’s?
“Zhangshi?! Li-zhangshi?!” Hongjun called out. “Where are you?”
Li Jinglong and the other three were talking in the courtyard when they suddenly heard Hongjun’s calls. Li Jinglong was embarrassed and was about to go back to explain when Mo Rigen said in astonishment, “Hongjun? What’s going on?”
Hongjun ran out, dressed in white, said, “Li-zhangshi? What happened last night?”
The cup in the carp yao’s hand fell with a clang.
Li Jinglong gestured to him to stop talking nonsense, but Hongjun was still at a loss as he continued, “How did I sleep in your room? You even covered me with a quilt!”
Surprised, Mo Rigen looked at Li Jinglong and then to Hongjun. A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi said in unison, “No way! How could that be?”
“Li Jinglong!” cried the carp yao. “What have you done to our family’s Hongjun?”
Li Jinglong could bear it no longer and roared, “Kong Hongjun! You drank a calming decoction! Did you smell lihun pollen and forgot all about it? Last night, you had a nightmare and called… called… called out, and then you wanted to boil a calming decoction and borrowed the furnace in my room…”
Remembering this, Hongjun guiltily nodded and said, “Strange… Why would I call you…”
“How should I know!” Li Jinglong inexplicably roared. “Go back and get dressed!”
“Zhangshi, you don’t have to explain yourself so clearly.” A-Tai said.
“Right, right,” Qiu Yongsi said. “We all understand.”
“You understand nothing!” Li Jinglong was too infuriated that it took him a long time to calm down.
Hongjun changed his clothes and came out. He sat down under the corridor and ate his food. He curiously looked around, seeing A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi teaching Li Jinglong mana in the courtyard.
“There’s no spiritual power in my meridians,” Li Jinglong said.
“Actually, Zhangshi,” Mo Rigen said. “As a human, you’re already extraordinary.”
Li Jinglong sighed and said, “It’s not enough.”
In front of the fox yao and the ao fish, Li Jinglong had depended on Hongjun who had shielded him at that time. If he rushed up, it was very likely that he would’ve been swallowed by the yaoguai.
Qiu Yongsi said, “To conduct oneself, the most important thing is the brain.” Nodding, he added, “and mana comes next. My grandfather said that if you only rely upon your magic weapon, cultivation, and everything of brute force, sooner or later, you’ll encounter death in the hands of the yaoguais.”
“Moreover, you have Hongjun,” A-Tai said.
“Right, you have Hongjun,” Mo Rigen and Qiu Yongsi echoed.
Li Jinglong put down his sword. Hongjun came out of the courtyard and said, “I’ve been curious for a long time. What magic weapon is this?”
This was the third time that Hongjun had seriously studied the sword. Then he said, “Qing Xiong once said that even a mortal without power can be an exorcist when a magic weapon is properly used.”
“That’s true,” Qiu Yongsi said. “A lot of exorcists also lack innate spiritual veins and only rely on a few magic weapons to vanquish an enemy… Let me see the sword?”
This was the first time that Qiu Yongsi, A-Tai, and Mo Rigen had taken such a close look at Li Jinglong’s sword. Li Jinglong said, “This sword seems to have a connection with Hongjun’s throwing knife.”
Hongjun spun the throwing knife between his fingers and tried to inject his spiritual power into it. The throwing knife lit up, and so did the long, unadorned black sword.
“Yo!” All were surprised.
Hongjun said, “When the throwing knife is pierced into a yaoguai, it will likely be active in response to the yao’s energy. Perhaps this long sword and throwing knife are made of the same type of iron?”
“Maybe,” Qiu Yongsi mumbled. “Can you make it brighter?”
The throwing knife resonated with the longsword, and a line of characters appeared on the sword, glowing brighter and brighter.
“This…” Qiu Yongsi looked up to Li Jinglong and then looked down at the sword.
Li Jinglong frowned and asked, “What?”
“How much was this sword?” asked Qiu Yongsi.
“Five hundred fifty thousand taels,” Li Jinglong said.
“Even if it was five million and five hundred thousand for one, give me another ten,” Qiu Yongsi said with a smile, handing the sword back to Li Jinglong. He was the one who knows the most about magic weapons here, so when Qiu Yongsi said this, they all involuntarily straightened up.
“What magic weapon is this?” Li Jinglong asked.
“The Sword of Wisdom.” Qiu Yongsi answered.
“What?!” The carp yao was shocked.
“You know about it?” Li Jinglong asked.
The carp yao, “I don’t.”
Li Jinglong, “......”
The carp yao, “I just think it’s a good time to be surprised and set the mood.”
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), Joyce.