"Li Jinglong, you go retrieve the armor that Zhen left in Huaqing Palace.”
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The light dimmed as twilight fell, and they were surrounded by Shenwu troops. Li Jinglong had to deal with that fox yao and protect Li Longji at the same time, so he drew out arrow after arrow and shot at the Shenwu troops that had been charmed by the fox yao for a bit, before aiming at that fox yao and shooting at it for a bit more. In that moment, he wished that he had three heads and six arms
“Your Majesty!” Li Jinglong turned his head back to shout. “Don’t come out here! Go back!”
“Don’t worry about Zhen!” Li Longji yelled back. With his Son of Heaven sword in hand, wearing nothing but a dragon robe, he met the troops rushing towards him head-on, punting his own soldiers with one kick out into the corridor.
How could he not worry? If the emperor died, then the entire Great Tang would be done for! Everywhere, more troops that were not in their right minds rushed up to fight to the death, and Li Jinglong’s only thought was, any god would do! Grant me some help!
“Hai mie hou bi -- my dear comrades in arms!”
A whirlwind rose from flat ground, sucking up the glass tiles on the roof of Huaqing Palace, before sweeping down earth-shakingly, clearing the entirety of the plaza in front of the palace!
“A-Tai!” everyone angrily roared at the same time.
“Took you long enough!” Li Jinglong thundered.
A-Tai waved his fan left and right, and strong winds blew roof tiles off to fly every which way, mixing with the icy snow as it let out a huge boom, and a windstorm immediately swept through the main hall of Huaqing Palace. Right after that, Mo Rigen let out a whistle and shouted, “Zhangshi!”
The two of them rushed out of the long corridor at the same time. Mo Rigen turned his body, loosing seven arrows in rapid succession, which whistled towards their target. Li Jinglong finally managed to secure his arrow, and with a few steps, he stepped up onto a fallen wooden pillar, closely watching the fox yao’s movements.
A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi had blocked the path forward of the eight-tailed fox that Lady Guoguo had transformed into, and four of Mo Rigen’s arrows blocked the fox yao’s path of retreat. The fox yao let out a wild roar, spewing out balls of fire as it backed up at the same time, but the other three arrows shot towards its neck!
In that instant the heavens and the earth fell away, and the only thing in Li Jinglong’s gaze was that shining peacock feather as he fired an arrow! He then drew his bow and nocked another arrow!
The first arrow shot towards that huge fox yao, and just as the fox yao had dodged Mo Rigen’s arrow shafts, Li Jinglong’s godly shooting skimmed its neck. With a light sound, the string snapped.
The fox yao roared, and the Azure Jade Peacock Plume fell to the ground. At the same time, Li Jinglong’s second arrow flew out!
That arrow’s speed was extremely fast, hitting the edge of the peacock feather, and with a light ding, caused it to ricochet off and fly upwards, spinning rapidly in the air, speeding upwards to the rooftop. Hongjun let out a loud shout, “Thanks!”
Right after that, Hongjun slid down the tiles, sweeping by like a flying hawk, instantly catching the peacock feather rotating in midair in his grasp! The fox yao spewed out black flames, but Hongjun used the Pentacolor Sacred Light to block them, before tossing out a grappling hook. He once again flew upwards, this time to the rooftop directly across the way.
The fox yao arched its body, rushing towards the rooftop, kicking many roof tiles into the air. With a turn of his body, Hongjun saw the fox yao rushing over, and he hurried to rush rapidly along the rooftops of Huaqing Palace.
“Hongjun! It’s your turn!” the carp yao shouted.
“When did you guys get here! Have the people here sniff the Lihun Pollen!” Li Jinglong found that the carp yao was to one side, and he hurried to shout at it.
“It’s very expensive…”
“Scatter it!” Li Jinglong yelled.
The carp yao, “Then I’m scattering it…”
“Don’t idly chit chat!” everyone shouted at the same time.
Seeing that the Shenwu troops were once again rushing over, the members of the Exorcism Department backed up just in front of Li Longji, and the carp yao sprang off A-Tai’s back.
“This… what is this?” Li Longji asked in shock.
The carp yao turned, and with a graceful “carp waving its tail”, scattered the Lihun Pollen. Everyone hurried to hold their breaths, and the Shenwu Army began to sneeze. When the fox yao left, the guards that were holding weapons in their hands while attacking Li Longji immediately grew confused, and under the effects of the Lihun Pollen, they escaped the control of the fox yao.
“Don’t scatter any towards His Majesty!” Li Jinglong was afraid that as soon as Li Longji smelled the Lihun Pollen, he would forget his earlier words, and Li Jinglong feared having to bring his family to ruin to pay off the damages.
With the Pentacolor Sacred Light in his left hand and the throwing knives in his left, Hongjun rapidly leapt up onto the roof of the hall.
The tiles that the fox yao had trod over were basically all destroyed during the chase. Hongjun suddenly turned and stopped, his right hand spreading apart the four throwing knives, warily watching the fox yao’s eyes.
The fox yao couldn’t stop trembling. Hongjun panted heavily as he said in a quiet voice, “An eight-tailed fox? You’re not the yao king.”
The fox yao let out a cold laugh and said harshly, “You know who broke off one of my tails?”
Hongjun startled, and the fox yao suddenly opened its mouth, black fire billowing upwards to the heavens, creating a sudden whirlwind that swallowed Hongjun, but Hongjun flicked out the Pentacolored Sacred Light, which opened up a barrier that protected the main hall of Huaqing Palace! The black fire died out, and Hongjun behind the barrier was wholly untouched.
The fox yao stared blankly at Hongjun, but Hongjun said, “Fox yao, let me ask you something. How did you get to know my dad?”
That fox yao laughed coldly. “You think you’re fit to ask things of me?! Bastard of that bastard Chong Ming!”
Hongjun angrily shouted, “You’re not allowed to slander my dad!”
Hongjun was in a great rage, and he put together the Immortal-Slaying Throwing Knives in his right hand, combining them into one. The power of wind, lightning, earth, and fire exploded outwards, and the blades themselves extended endlessly, turning into a glaive almost six chi long! In that instant, the glaive glowed with light, and the fox yao flew into a shocked rage as it shouted, “It’s this blade again --!”
The fox yao pounced towards Hongjun, and the Azure Jade Peacock Plume in his left hand instantly turned into a shield of light, hardily blocking the fox yao’s sharp-clawed swipe. With a huge weng, energy exploded outwards, causing that fox yao’s almost three zhang tall huge body to spring outwards, before Hongjun’s right hand dipped the glaive down then flicked it upwards --
The fox yao let out a pained wail, and with its body in midair, it let loose a burst of black flame. But that glaive seemed to rip open the space, and the air glowed with ripples as the black flames were torn apart like a sheet of paper in the next instant. Space, under the power of the glaive, was crushed into pieces, and the blade shaved away layer after layer as it cut through. The tail of the fox yao’s eight that was closest to the side split off from its base under that uncontrollable power like paper paste, and purple-black blood spurted out!
Hongjun let out another loud shout, waving his glaive a second time. Terror appeared in the fox yao’s eyes, and with a turn, it landed on the ground. The second blow missed its target, but its momentum was still there, and the dislocation of space caused the entire Huaqing Palace to shift. With a huge boom, it collapsed in on itself, before that blade qi sliced past the side palace, flying towards the forest outside of the palace proper. That area’s trees collapsed, and huge rocks slid down, carrying with them one of the smaller summits of the mountains as a landslide started. The loud booms didn’t cease as a good portion of the cliffside collapsed at once, sliding down into the deep gorge below Mt. Li!
When the rest of them caught up, they just managed to catch sight of the side palace and the cliffside collapsing, and they were all entirely dumbfounded.
“You… this…” Li Jinglong said. “Hongjun? What magic did you use?”
Hongjun held tightly onto his knife as he panted nonstop, saying, “First she….first she cursed out my dad.”
“Quick, chase after her!” A-Tai shouted as he came back to himself.
Aside from Li Jinglong and A-Tai, who were relatively fresh, the rest of them had already depleted all their energy. Seeing that the eight-tailed fox had become a seven-tailed fox, bleeding heavily as it stumbled into the back hall, the two of them hurried to chase after it.
“Wait,” Hongjun shouted. “We’ve got to break off each of its tails, otherwise we won’t be able to get rid of it… wait! Zhangshi!
If it was as usual, then after combining the Immortal-Slaying Throwing Knives into one, Hongjun would still be able to hold out for a second, but having been wounded on top of having his qi sucked away by yaoguai, he was now already completely exhausted, and he almost couldn’t stay upright.
“Let’s go!” Mo Rigen grabbed him and ran after them with swift steps.
Within the back palace, the wind blew the gauzy curtains. Yang Yuhuan was currently waiting anxiously within the palace, but what came in was a wounded, huge, grey-colored fox.
Yang Yuhuan startled, and she asked tremblingly, “Big sister?!”
Before, at the Huaqing Pool, she had not had a chance to see it closely before she had been dragged along by Li Longji to go to the back palace and hide, and was commanded that no matter what, she could not come out. When she heard the sounds of fighting and the loud booms outside, Yang Yuhuan felt that something was wrong, but she hadn’t expected that what would come rushing in was actually a huge fox.
Just now, she had seen Li Jinglong and them attack Lady Guoguo together, and at that time Yang Yuhuan had already dimly guessed it, but no matter what she couldn’t believe it. The huge fox in front of her now was actually the big sister that she had interacted with daily?!
That fox yao slowly walked towards Yang Yuhuan, its eyes filled with tears.
Yang Yuhuan couldn’t stop breathing heavily as she lifted a hand, trembling as she touched it. The fox yao lowered its head, pressing the tip of its nose gently to Yang Yuhuan’s hand.
“Little sister…” From its eyes, large tears slid down, and its voice held a sliver of a sob. “Whence will it be possible…”
Everyone arrived in pursuit, and Li Longji pushed his way out of the crowd. Yang Yuhuan turned and looked towards Li Longji, whose eyes were filled with shock.
Hongjun managed to stand up straight, holding the glaive in his hand, but the fox yao let out a low roar, its eyes glowing red.
Yang Yuhuan’s gaze flickered, and Li Jinglong shouted, “Not good!”
Just as the carp yao was about to rush up and scatter Lihun Pollen, the fox yao moved faster than any of them. With one bite, it picked up a dazed Yang Yuhuan in its mouth, and Li Longji let out a sorrowful wail:
“Beloved consort --!”
Yang Yuhuan acted as if she hadn’t heard him as she dangled from the fox yao’s mouth. The fox yao smashed through the wall of the rear palace, racing out.
Everyone sprinted to the front of the rear palace, only to see the fox yao rushing out of the trees. Its grey fur blended in with the forested mountain, and it vanished into the night.
Li Jinglong: “...”
Li Longji pressed a hand against the wall for support as he breathed harshly. Suddenly his knees gave out, and he almost knelt down. Li Jinglong hurried to lift him up and drag him back. Everyone looked at each other. Hongjun had already expended all his energy, so he sat down on the ground and asked, “Now what should we do?”
The hot springs palace, the side palace, the main hall, and the rear palace all looked as if a tornado had swept through them. They were destroyed to the point of disrepair, and with this, the Exorcism Department had also grandiosely become the number one building demolishing division in all of the Great Tang. Wherever they went, they demolished buildings, and seeing that this was a trouble that his own squad had caused, Li Jinglong had no temper to display at all. His only hope was for the emperor to not forget the “destroy as you please” that he had said earlier.
“You all, tell Zhen, what exactly happened?” Li Longji asked. His hair was in wild disarray, and his feet were bare as he sat down in the midst of a pile of broken rubble.
“Your Majesty…” the Shenwu troops came over to receive their orders, and Li Longji’s imperial countenance flew into a great rage as he bellowed, “All of you, get out of Zhen’s sight! Trash! What’s the point of keeping you around?!”
“Your Majesty, please understand,” Li Jinglong cupped his hands and bowed as he responded. “It has nothing to do with them. The power of the fox yao is exactly to bewitch.”
Hongjun leaned up against a pillar, only feeling that he was both hungry and thirsty, and he said, “That the mortals didn’t even start killing each other is a pretty good result, so you shouldn’t be so negative.”
Li Longji asked, “Since you had already discovered that Lady Guoguo was a yao, why did you not say so?”
Li Jinglong answered helplessly, “If I had any other alternative, then I would not have wanted to take such great risks at such a time.”
And saying this, Li Jinglong reported all of the findings they had from their investigations these few days to Li Longji, and in Li Longji’s gaze appeared a sense of horror.
Everyone was silent as they watched Li Longji. Last time when Hongjun had seen Li Longji, he hadn’t noticed, but this time when he saw him again, he only felt that the emperor was very old. Li Longji was already sixty-six; the marks of age on his face were very visible, and he looked old and dejected.
“The entire squad of the Exorcism Department,” Li Longji replied, “will return to Chang’an with Zhen. Have the messengers go forth and pass on orders to the Six Armies for them to go out of the city and find where the imperial concubine has been taken, and there will be no stopping until her person is found. Li Jinglong, you go retrieve the armor that Zhen left in Huaqing Palace.”
Half a shichen later, amidst the clanking of armor, night fell as a forest of torches rose.
Everyone was resting. Hongjun was both hungry and thirsty, but thankfully Huaqing Palace was not lacking in food that had been prepared for the emperor. Under the darkness of the night, he was eating who knows what, and after wolfing it all down, he finally felt somewhat better.
“Go back ba,” Li Jinglong said as he passed by Hongjun. “When we get back to Chang’an, eat then.”
Li Longji wore the emperor’s dragon armor on him, which glittered with golden splendour. Li Jinglong followed along behind, wearing a set of black armor, pushing his helmet up a little, revealing his handsome face.
A messenger raced over on his horse, into Huaqing Palace, shouting, “Reporting --!”
Li Longji said darkly, “Speak.”
The messenger shot a glance at Li Jinglong and the people behind him, but Li Longji roared angrily, “Speak! Otherwise it’s off with your head!”
Hongjun started, and he thought, though the human emperor was old, that power was still there. As expected, the Ziwei Star had the ability to suppress others.
“Chang’an… is covered by black qi,” the messenger gasped out. “The city gates can’t be opened, they’ve all… all been bewitched.”
When they heard this, everyone felt a chill run up their spines. Was Lady Guoguo this daring, to actually escape into Chang’an?!
Li Longji turned his head and looked towards Li Jinglong, who could only press on boldly, “Perhaps it’s exactly as Your Majesty suspects.”
In the terror that blanketed them in a dead silence, Li Longji’s voice trembled. “It is really this audacious, does that fox yao think that Zhen has no way to deal with it?”
Everyone’s hearts were uneasy, and none of them dared to follow up this statement. After a long while, Li Longji walked, step by step, out of Huaqing Palace, still a little short on breath.
Braziers had been lit outside the hall, and there were still a few stray soldiers who hadn’t yet been woken by the Lihun pollen. As soon as the fox yao’s power had dissipated, everyone had started discussing things, and they had vaguely guessed what had happened for Huaqing Palace to be in this state of destruction. Since the Shenwu Army had caused such a ruckus, they didn’t dare to make a sound, all of them kneeling on the ground, waiting for the emperor to deal with them.
Li Longji stood on the plaza in front of Huaqing Palace and was silent for a long time. Afterwards, he said, “Where are the messengers?”
“Here!” the messengers all stepped out.
“Go at the fastest speed to Luoyang to Guo Ziyi,” Li Longji said. “And towards Tong Pass, to Geshu Han. Have them gather their armies and come to the outside of Chang’an to fulfill their duty to their lord.”
Li Jinglong’s expression changed. “Your Majesty!”
“Can we rely on only all of you to break through Chang’an on your own?” Li Longji said coldly.
“Your Majesty,” Li Jinglong said, “As soon as the troops are called back from Luoyang and Tong Pass, then perhaps the battle situation there will change. This subject… is willing to give it a try.”
Li Longji turned his head to look at Li Jinglong, and after exchanging a brief glance, Li Jinglong nodded.
When Li Longji once again looked towards the members of the Exorcism Department, none of them dared to make a sound. Li Jinglong waved his hand, indicating that they go over, and after a brief discussion, Hongjun lifted his head to look at Li Longji.
“We can help you save your wife,” Hongjun said, “Emperor.”
“Shh.” Mo Rigen hurried to gesture for Hongjun to be quiet.
Hongjun had always felt that Yang-guifei was a good person, and since she wasn’t a fox yao, a heavy stone in his heart fell to the ground.
“Then, do you all require rest?” Li Longji said.
Li Jinglong responded, “No need for a rapid march, as long as we arrive at Chang’an before dawn, then it will do.”
Li Longji shouted, “Shenwu Army, hear my orders! Move out!”
At the 3rd geng , two thousand Shenwu troops left Mt. Li, turning back towards Chang’an.
The members of the Exorcism Department kicked their horses into a gallop, making their own way forth. Hongjun spurred his horse forward and caught up, asking Li Jinglong, “Zhangshi, did you want to get in from the waterway outside of the city moat?”
Li Jinglong nodded, before asking Hongjun, “Hongjun, you’re sure that the Heart Lamp can break through the fox yao’s magic?”
“Maybe,” Hongjun didn’t dare to be too certain as he responded. “You may not be able to bear it.”
Previously, the group had personally seen the power of Li Jinglong’s Heart Lamp in the cave - even the sons of the dragon were killed when that light shone down on them. Their yao energy had been almost wholly exorcised, before they were incinerated entirely, and the power that burst out then could almost destroy even the intangible. When it came to exorcism magics, the things that exorcists were most afraid of were intangible things, because the fox yao’s bewitchment and the resentment collected by vengeful souls was not something that the Pentacolor Sacred Light could block, not something that the Landscape Brush could seal, not something that the Seven Nailed Arrows could pierce, not something that the Godly Hurricane Fan could sweep away...
… but the Heart Lamp might work.
But they had no more time to experiment with it any further. Qiu Yongsi was the first to bring this idea up when they were having their discussion, and everyone agreed that they would try it first, and if it didn’t work, then they’d just retreat back outside of the city to try and think of other methods.
Mo Rigen even brought up the idea that no matter how powerful the fox yao was, causing their own people to change sides would definitely use up its vital energy .Once or twice might work, but would it be able to control thousands of people, or even the six hundred thousand families in Chang’an, forever?
It was always worth a try.
“Change horses ba,” Li Jinglong said. “Hongjun, you come here.”
The two steeds pressed a little closer together, and with a turn of his body, Hongjun flipped onto the horse’s back, sitting behind Li Jinglong.
“Though your throwing knives are somewhat formidable,” Li Jinglong pushed up his helmet, turning his head, “they consume too much of your energy and cause a lot of destruction, so you can’t use them rashly.”
“The emperor said we could destroy as we pleased,” Hongjun pouted.
Li Jinglong said, “You still have to be a little more careful, otherwise with this slash, even if it was our own people, they would still be split into two, which is too horrifying.”
Hongjun en-ed. That night, when he had chased Fei Ao out of the city, he didn’t dare to use it carelessly, because he was afraid that one slash would cut all of Chang’an city into two halves.
“Teach me, how is the Heart Lamp supposed to be used?”
“Let me try it first,” Hongjun replied.
He grasped the Azure Jade Peacock Plume in his hand, activating the Pentacolor Sacred Light. He wrapped his arms around Li Jinglong’s strong waist, his hands overlapping one another as he pressed them against his chest. In that instant, under the icy-cold clanking armor that Li Jinglong wore, that heart beat powerfully in his warm body.
The Pentacolor Sacred Light passed through Li Jinglong’s chest, entering his meridians, and Li Jinglong felt his blood and qi instantly begin to roil, and it was very hard to bear. But as soon as the godly light entered him, it retreated again - Hongjun had already sensed the blazing light being emitted from near Li Jinglong’s heart, blocking the entry of the Pentacolor Sacred Light. That light was extremely slow as it meandered through the meridians of his entire body.
“It’s there!” Hongjun said. “Can you feel it?”
Li Jinglong en-ed. Ever since they had escaped from the blood pool, he could more or less feel that the Heart Lamp had already begun to protect him, but the unforeseen events afterwards had happened too rapidly, and he hadn’t had a chance to practice and grow accustomed to it.
Hongjun hugged Li Jinglong from behind, pressing one hand against his chest as he said, “First is to gather the mana in the body, leading the power of the Heart Lamp along the the Shaoyin channel of the arm upwards, passing through the yan and yuanquan nerves, traveling into the right hand.”
As Hongjun explained, he used his finger, on the outside of the armor, starting from the left side of his chest, to trace over the right half of his body. When Li Jinglong studied martial arts, he had generally learned the locations of the channels, but still, to confirm, he undid his armor and tugged Hongjun’s left hand over, using it to trace over the meridian channel on his body, asking, “Is this it?”
“Yes.” Hongjun grasped Li Jinglong’s right hand, and Li Jinglong loosened his grip on the reins as his large palm pressed down on Hongjun’s right hand, interlacing their fingers.
Hongjun’s heart began to beat violently, and he suddenly felt the warm glow in his hand flash.
“I got it,” Li Jinglong smiled. “Thanks, little shifu.”
Li Jinglong’s fingers tightened a little more around his own, before letting go. He said, “In the coming days I’ll definitely practice well.”
This was the first time Hongjun had someone interweave their fingers with his like this, and his face instantly flushed red. What Li Jinglong had done just now caused him to suddenly feel that between the two of them, some complicated emotion that they tacitly understood had arisen.
“Grip… grip your sword and try it?” Hongjun then said.
“It’s on the saddle,” Li Jinglong answered. “Hand it over to me.”
As the horse galloped onwards, Hongjun plucked off the Sword of Wisdom on the saddle, and Li Jinglong transferred the power of the Heart Lamp to his hand. Hongjun said, “Release it, and send it into the sword! You can do it!”
In the dark night, more than two thousand steeds cantered on. Li Jinglong sent the power of the Heart Lamp into the Sword of Wisdom, and instantly the sword in his hand let off a brilliant light, which soon split open the heavens and the earth, as if it was a lighthouse in the dark night, immediately shining brightly.
The Shenwu troops let out cries of surprise, and the other members of the Exorcism Department raced up, shouting, “Zhangshi, well done!”
“Wow! Zhangshi’s more than he looks!”
“Zhangshi’s glowing!” Hongjun said, smiling towards the rest of them.
Li Jinglong: “...”
Hongjun’s words roused a wave of laughter, and Li Jinglong didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He turned his head and asked, “Just this?”
Hongjun answered, “I only know this one move, Chong Ming only taught me this one. For the rest, we’ll have to slowly figure it out later.”
Li Jinglong said, “It’ll do! Brothers, let’s go!”
The horses whinnied as they rushed towards the city of Chang’an blanketed in the night. It was the 5th geng, right before daybreak, and the Guanzhong plains sank into dense darkness.
moon: ljl: please send me a helper, the nicest helper you have
a-tai: haI MIE HOU BI
and with that, happy 2021 from the tianbao translation team! may your year be made better with the addition of tianbao in it
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.