"My dad will burn you to ash!"
canon-typical levels of gore
The three savage beasts that were Yazi, Suanni, and Baxia, approached slowly. Lady Guoguo chuckled coldly before reaching a hand out from under her robe, preventing the three yao from moving forward. Then with a casual sweep, the metal chains on the ground flew up on their own, wrapping around Hongjun and dragging his unconscious form into an upright position, causing his back to collide with the wall of the cavern.
Hongjun let out a pained groan, slowly sliding down into a sitting position with his head lurching forward. His consciousness was murky, and his vision was filled with ghostly afterimages.
“Just one more left,” Lady Guoguo said warmly, “and the entire Exorcism Department will have fallen. Even now, are you still holding onto the hope that your companions will come to save you?”
Li Jinglong’s dashing official uniform had already been torn. His shoulder and his back were covered in wounds from sharp teeth, and purple-black blood dampened the cloth of his martial robe. When he lifted his eyes again, his gaze was so angry it seemed as if he could set them all on fire with his eyes alone.
“Name your conditions!” Li Jinglong said darkly.
“Conditions? Oh please, wake up.” Lady Guoguo, however, began to laugh. She said, “Do you know why it wasn’t until now that I raised a hand to defeat you?”
Li Jinglong didn’t reply, only staring anxiously at Hongjun, who was sitting behind Lady Guoguo. Hongjun lifted his head slightly, feeling that his entire body was weak beyond compare, and he was in intense agony as if his bones had been shaken loose from their frame.
“Because you pose no threat to me,” Lady Guoguo said in a low voice. “Li Jinglong, you were born a mortal, and if you didn’t interfere with matters that didn’t concern you, then perhaps you may have even died peacefully of old age.”
“Are you… the… yao… yao king?” Hongjun asked brokenly.
Lady Guoguo turned around and looked Hongjun up and down, before saying indifferently, “I am.”
“The fox yao… are all your subordinates,” Hongjun said painfully.
“Speaking of this,” Lady Guoguo turned and walked towards the blood sea, speaking in a quiet voice. “When you all burned my tribe members to death, did you prepare yourselves to die today?”
“Yes.” Hongjun, still kneeling in the corner, lifted up his head to look at Lady Guoguo as he spoke quietly. “Do you want to know why? If you come over, then I’ll tell you.”
In that instant, Lady Guoguo’s expression changed. She furrowed her brow deeply as she looked consideringly at Hongjun, before she began to walk slowly towards him.
“It was me who gave the order to kill them,” Li Jinglong suddenly blurted out. “It has nothing to do with Hongjun!”
When he said this, Li Jinglong could tell that Hongjun wanted to gather up all of the energy in his body at once to ambush Lady Guoguo, but this plan would not work. He shook his head slowly towards him, trying his best to persuade him to stop.
“Why did you choose to do this?” Hongjun furrowed his brow as he spoke. “Isn’t it enough to just be a yao king? Why did you kill people?”
When Lady Guoguo heard these words, she began to laugh, and she said quietly, “How can you be this naive?”
But when Hongjun looked at Lady Guoguo, there was a trace of pity in his eyes.
“You like Chang’an, and I like it too.” Hongjun’s gaze was grieved as he spoke. “But can you not survive without doing what you did?”
Within Lady Guoguo’s eyes appeared a sliver of surprise. Of all the inhabitants of this world, only Hongjun would be able to ask such a thing.
“That, you’ll have to go ask Di Renjie.” In this instant, her expression filled with viciousness “It was he who first struck out against the yao tribes, killing all of them and sparing none!”
“Fox yao are the yaoguai that are most like humans,” Hongjun said quietly. “You all have accepted the torment that comes with being born as yao, but have also tasted the joy and grief of humans.”
“Correct,” Lady Guoguo said, almost coldly. “Now, I’ve come to realize that everything has been wrecked by these fictitious emotions. If Jin Yun hadn’t fallen in love with that lad and become so unwilling to discard the body, hiding it underneath her bed so that she could have him buried later under the earth and be at peace, then we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
When he heard this, Li Jinglong startled!
From the cat that escaped out of Lady Guoguo’s manor, to the act of hiding in Jin Yun’s room and discovering that dried corpse under the bed...
“You’ve been to Pingkang Li! You went to go see Jin Yun!” Li Jinglong’s voice trembled slightly as he spoke. “It was definitely because that cat saw your fox yao form that it led us over there!”
Lady Guoguo sighed. “I also didn’t expect that after arguing with Jin Yun for so long, it would be a cat of all things that wrecked our plans. Before you die, is there anything else that you want to know? Ask; I’ll let you ask your fill, either way, you all are dying today.”
Li Jinglong lifted his head and observed Lady Guoguo, before he spoke. “What’s in the blood pool?”
Lady Guoguo said gently, “That is blood, the collected blood essence of all of the humans. After the fox yao consumed their hunpo, they gained the power to transform into humans, and the blood essence that they absorbed would be sent here, entering the blood pool. After the imperial examinations, I kept thinking about how exactly I would lure you all here…”
“... because this is the most useful thing I have. It’s my other child --” she turned and looked towards the blood pool, saying, “To fill this blood pool, fresh blood is necessary. And you all would never let any go of any gossamer-thin trace of a clue…”
“That’s a transfer array using blood as the medium,” Hongjun breathed while he looked towards the blood pool in the center of the cavern. The huge blood pool roiled constantly, and the transfer array glowed slightly as it hung high above the surface of the blood.
“Correct,” Lady Guoguo gently spat out that word. “You smart people always feel that as long as you felt along the vine to the melon, then you’d be able to figure out my whereabouts and my plans, but how does it feel to instead be led one step at a time into a trap? Otherwise, you think that Yazi would be so foolish as to leave behind a scale at a location where it gathered blood?”
“A clever person can be ruined by their own cleverness,” Lady Guoguo laughed. “But this blood pool is not something that you can lay your eyes on so easily. It contains the power of the fox tribe and was refined with the fresh blood of mortals; I used so much effort, spending a whole ten years to get it to the stage it is at today. Through the process, every drop of blood that joined it lent it a fraction more of the ability to change into a human form,” Lady Guoguo said mildly, the corner of her mouth crooked up in a slight smile.
“But why would it turn into me?” Up until now, Hongjun was still in disbelief about the instant that he had seen himself in the blood pool.
“That is all thanks to Li-zhangshi’s sword,” Lady Guoguo smiled. “Yesterday he handed it over to me of his own accord, do you like it?”
Hongjun suddenly remembered that when the Exorcism Department met for the first time, and he had clashed head on with Li Jinglong, his finger had been slit open in that instant.
“And now, as long as the last mortal’s blood is added in…” Lady Guoguo said gently, “then everything will be complete. It’s a pity that none of you will be able to witness that.”
“Who do you want to turn it into?” Li Jinglong felt a series of chills along his back.
“Impossible!” Hongjun raised his voice. “You can’t touch the human realm’s Son of Heaven, he has the protection of the Ziwei star!”
“That is true,” Lady Guoguo said, “But I can keep him under house arrest and switch him out with an identical emperor, and then who will find out? No one, aside from my idiotic mortal younger sister, isn’t that right?”
Li Jinglong couldn’t stop breathing heavily.
“Are you done with your questions?” Lady Guoguo asked gently. “If you have nothing else to say, then I’m going to go ahead.”
An impulse flashed through Li Jinglong’s mind, but just as he was thinking about dragging things out to buy themselves some time, Lady Guoguo said, “Trying to buy yourself more time is useless, Li-zhangshi. This is a pocket dimension that I created with my own magic, and even if you all managed to escape your bonds, without my transfer spell, you’ll never be able to leave this blood pool.”
After saying this, she slowly walked towards Hongjun, and Li Jinglong’s breaths grew harsh.
“What are you trying to do?” Hongjun asked, his voice shaking.
“I’ll tear out your nerves, peel off your skin,” Lady Guoguo said, all prim and proper, “and lingchi you in front of Li-zhangshi. First, I’ll slice open your scalp and slowly peel off your pretty face, letting all your blood run dry, before finally eating your hunpo and turning into you to then lingchi your superior and your companions. How does that sound?”
Li Jinglong: “...”
For a while the cavern was only filled with the sounds of multiple people breathing. Lady Guoguo lifted a hand and caused Hongjun’s body to float up, before saying, “I haven’t seen your magical artifacts yet, let me take a look. Your throwing knives seem to be very sharp. Baxia, bring his artifacts over.”
Baxia shifted into his human form, and with two hands he offered up Hongjun’s artifacts.
“Should I use this throwing knife, or…” Lady Guoguo glanced at him carelessly, but when her gaze caught on the jade peacock plume, she couldn’t help her swift change in expression.
“You…” When Lady Guoguo looked back at Hongjun, her expression was of disbelief, and her voice shook. “Where did this artifact come from? You’re… no, it shouldn’t be, you’re someone from Yaojin Palace?!”
Hongjun didn’t even blink as he gazed at Lady Guoguo.
“If you lift even one finger to harm me,” Hongjun murmured, “my dad will burn you to ash!”
Exaggerated, shrill laughter suddenly burst out of Lady Guoguo’s mouth.
“Hahaha -- you think this old woman is afraid of him?!” Lady Guoguo jeered. “Someone who’s suffered defeat at my hands? I should send your bones up the Taihang Mountains, and see if he can do anything then!”
Lady Guoguo lifted up one of the throwing knives, coldly observing Hongjun.
“Stop!” Li Jinglong called. “Lady Guoguo!”
“Do you have anything else to say?” Lady Guoguo sighed and closed her eyes. “None of you will be able to escape. Li Jinglong, you can’t convince a mother to forgive the murderer who killed her son.”
“It was me who did it,” Li Jinglong entreated. “Since you have some history with Hongjun’s father, then have him smell some Lihun Pollen and forget about all of this before sending him off alive. Isn’t that much better?”
Lady Guoguo turned her head to observe Li Jinglong.
Li Jinglong continued, “Though I don’t know what past history you have, it’s better to resolve enmity than to let it stew. If you lingchi me and let him go, then you’ll have one less enemy. Isn’t that much better?”
Lady Guoguo enunciated each word clearly. “Li Jinglong, do you know what his birth father has done? If you knew, then you wouldn’t say those words.”
Li Jinglong, “...”
“His father killed my younger sister,” Lady Guoguo said darkly. “And now, at last, his son has fallen into my grasp.”
Lady Guoguo lifted the throwing knife. With all the strength in his body, Hongjun tilted his head, trying to use the last of his energy to call the throwing knife back to him so that it would pierce Lady Guoguo’s throat in one go. But all of the mana in his body had already been sucked dry, and he couldn’t summon even this little bit of energy.
But just in this instant, one of the rings on Lady Guoguo’s hands began to shine. She stopped in her movements and hesitated for a moment, before using the throwing knife to slice open a streak on Hongjun’s forearm, creating a bloody opening that spurted out fresh blood.
It hurt so much that Hongjun let out a loud shout.
Lady Guoguo said towards those three monsters, “Baxia, go find that Tocharian person and bring him back, Yazi and Suanni, stand guard over them. Don’t let them die, I will be back right away.”
The three yaoguai nodded. The ring on Lady Guoguo’s finger flashed again and again, before with a weng, she vanished into thin air.
Li Jinglong was trembling uncontrollably as if he was about to collapse, and when Hongjun lifted his gaze, their eyes met. But then Yazi came towards them, pressing one knee against Hongjun’s abdomen. Hongjun coughed violently, his entire body sore and aching as he collapsed onto the ground, dragging those metal chains with him.
“Do you want to eat a little something?” Yazi lifted Hongjun up from the ground by grabbing his hair as he spoke. “How about swallowing a knife?”
Hongjun couldn’t stop panting, but the other black-clothed man called Suanni said, “Don’t kill him.”
“The Tocharian is mine,” Yazi answered, before letting go of Hongjun.
His abdomen still bore the blackened wound that the fireball explosion had left, and he staggered along to the edge of the blood pool and sank in, letting out a muffled groan.
“I’m going,” the black-clothed man named Baxia said. He scooped up a little bit of the blood in the blood pool, and with a shua he turned into a black ball of fire, shooting into the array on the ceiling, disappearing just like that.
Li Jinglong watched Baxia’s movements, but when Suanni noticed Li Jinglong, Li Jinglong immediately averted his eyes. Even then, Suanni still found out, and he started walking towards him.
“Don’t beat him up!” Hongjun slumped on his side on the ground, saying with difficulty, “He’s a mortal!”
Suanni smiled coldly before opening the cage door. Just as Li Jinglong was about to strike out at Suanni, Suanni emitted black energy that coiled around Li Jinglong, stopping him from moving, then dragging him out and slamming him heavily against the wall. Li Jinglong smacked into the cavern wall and immediately fainted. Hongjun let out a loud shout, and Li Jinglong fell over on one side, falling heavily next to him.
Suanni jeered at him. “Trash.”
Hongjun wided his eyes. Upon seeing that Li Jinglong was all bruised and battered, with blood seeping slowly out of his nostrils, flowing onto the ground, he couldn’t help but begin to shiver.
Suanni was even too lazy to even toss Li Jinglong back into the cage. He turned and left, heading towards the higher ground of the cavern, vanishing behind a stone pillar to do who knows what.
Hongjun reached out a hand, trying to feel for Li Jinglong’s pulse, but the unconscious Li Jinglong moved and gently grabbed his fingers, opening his eyes and making a “shh” motion with his lips.
With this, Hongjun finally calmed. He and Li Jinglong were no more than a chi apart, and both of them were lying on the ground, looking into each other’s eyes. Their surroundings were filled with silence, broken only by the sounds of bubbles popping in the blood pool.
In Hongjun’s eyes, when Li Jinglong looked at him unblinkingly, time seemed to slow down - but it was still flowing, only because he saw Li Jinglong’s eyes grow red, and his throat bobbed gently as he struggled to hold back his sobs. His tears flowed down along the bridge of his nose, slowly dripping to the ground where it mixed with the fresh blood.
His lips moved slightly, forming the word --
Hongjun made a great effort to send him a slight smile. Seeing Li Jinglong this upset made his own wounds seem trivial in comparison.
After a long time, Hongjun said to Li Jinglong, “We’re still alive.”
Li Jinglong nodded and looked towards Yazi who had immersed itself within the blood pool, as well as Suanni that had walked away to higher ground. In this situation, where they didn’t know A-Tai’s whereabouts, they had to first figure out a way to save themselves.
“What can I do?” Li Jinglong spoke very quietly.
Hongjun asked quietly, “What about them?”
Their gazes turned towards Qiu Yongsi and Mo Rigen in the corner. In reality, ever since Hongjun had arrived in this place, the other two hadn’t let out a single sound, as if they were completely unconscious.
Li Jinglong said very quietly, “The fox yao sucked away their magic, and they both fainted.”
Hongjun suddenly remembered that Li Jinglong was a mortal, so Lady Guoguo hadn’t used her skill to extract and absorb his cultivation.
“Can you get the throwing knives?” Hongjun spoke quietly. “So we can ambush them?”
Li Jinglong lifted his right hand, indicating that Hongjun take a look.
His fingers had been broken, and they were twisted backwards in a horrifying manner.
When Hongjun saw that, he felt a pain that pierced his heart, but Li Jinglong shook his head and said, “It already doesn’t hurt anymore. Don’t be afraid, let’s first dress the wound on your arm.”
Hongjun murmured, “If we wait a little longer, maybe my strength will come back. There is still hope that I can call the throwing knives back to me.”
“How long do you need?” Li Jinglong asked. “Lady Guoguo will probably return very soon.”
Hongjun had never encountered such a situation where he had lost all of the energy in his body, and after waiting for a good long while, his magic and cultivation still hadn’t recovered at all. His entire body felt soft and limp, and perhaps he would never be able to use magic again.
It probably won’t be like that… Hongjun comforted himself. When Chong Ming had taught him to use artifacts, he had said that spiritual qi was naturally born from the meridians, and it was constantly being replenished as it flowed endlessly in him. As long as he spent time cultivating, then it would never disappear.
“I don’t know,” Hongjun said anxiously.
Li Jinglong indicated that Hongjun should calm down a little, using the two broken fingers of his right hand to gently grasp Hongjun’s hand, before saying, “Help me out… I’m counting on you.”
Hongjun looked at those broken fingers, and he really didn’t have the heart to do it, but Li Jinglong indicated that he shouldn’t be afraid.
Hongjun hesitated for a moment, before he turned his hand over and grabbed Li Jinglong’s slender, long index and middle finger, forcibly wrenching them back into place with a swift motion as they let out a crisp sound. Li Jinglong almost fainted in that instant, his left palm wrapped around his right hand as his body curled up slightly. He panted, open-mouthed, and only after a long while did he recover. Throughout the entire process, he didn’t let out a single sound.
“Does it still hurt?” Hongjun asked anxiously.
Li Jinglong struggled to move his fingers, before saying quietly, “The fractures are near the knuckles. I can manage to move them, but I can’t put any strength into them.”
His breathing calmed down a little, and he asked, “Hongjun, I remember that you said before, the Heart Lamp is in my body? Right? Do you still remember that?”
moon: thank you for your patience, and sorry for the delay! moving is a pain, and my shoulders and back feel like I got thrown against a wall
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.