When the passerby and the vendors heard the commotion, they all turned to look
Editor(s): namio, juurensha
Behind the door was another backyard, which looked like the back door to some family’s home. In the garden was a lotus pond, the sweet, drifting scent of the cassia blossoms lingered over the pond, and as the rain pattered down, it still held an elegance that belied a family of learned folk. Hongjun dragged that man into the hallway. He looked left and right, and in his heart he thought, wow, this place is so pretty.
This family’s home was a two-story one, and from upstairs came the sound of a girl’s voice. Hongjun was almost about to expire from exhaustion; he had chased that ao fish for an entire night, and then so many things had happened in such quick succession that all he wanted to do was find a place to first go rest. He immediately sat down, leaning up against the wall of the hallway as he panted for breath.
And just at this time, a young woman wearing a goose-yellow ruqun came walking along the hallway, holding a branch of cassia blossoms in her hand. She slammed straight into Hongjun.
At that time, she saw Hongjun, exhausted beyond compare, sitting on the ground and panting. Next to him lay a man, and from behind him, there peeped out the head of a carp yao, its fishy mouth opening and closing.
The young woman: “...”
Hongjun bore an expression of confusion, and when he turned his head he squarely met her gaze head on.
The young woman almost let out a loud shout, but Hongjun hurried to make a “shh” gesture, indicating that she shouldn’t yell at all costs, before he sprung up in a lively manner as he bowed several times in greeting to that young woman.
After a night of heavy rain, Hongjun’s face had been entirely washed clean of the dirt and dust from the past several days, and his skin was white and clear, his features handsome and well-formed. He was so handsome that he shocked the heavens and moved the earth, and with that one look when he lifted up his head, the young woman stared into space for a long while.
Hongjun said, “I’m… borrowing your place here for a bit.”
Hongjun’s father had once crossed the length and breadth of the three realms, and if he was considered number two then no one would dare to be number one, the handsome man known as Mahāmāyūrī. Whenever he showed his face, he moved the heavenly maidens to scattering blossoms everywhere, and five hundred years ago, for a chance to see his face, the yao clans had cruelly stampeded over each other, causing devastation on a massive scale.
It was a pity that Hongjun had been orphaned when he was young and had been unable to grow up by his birth father Kong Xuan’s side, but had rather been allowed to roam freely by Chong Ming for twelve years. He had often run wild amongst the streams and the mountains, getting burnt by the sun during the day and drenched by the rain at night, and every now and then he would also breathe in smoke. As he ran about in the wind and the rain, a lot of devastation had been wrought, but the eyebrows and eyes, soft lips and straight teeth and pale white skin that he had inherited from his father, along with the clean energy that all youths possessed, still caused everyone who looked upon him for the first time to be pleasantly surprised.
“You… what’s wrong with this person?” The young woman turned her gaze down towards the unconscious military officer that was lying by Hongjun’s side, before she let out a yain surprise and said, “Isn’t this General Jinglong?”
“What’s a general?” Hongjun’s face was filled with confusion.
“What are you doing!” a woman’s voice called unhappily from the eastern tower’s connecting hallway. “Is that Sang’er down there? What person did you bring back this time?”
That young woman named “Sang’er” hurried to make a hand gesture towards Hongjun and said, “Everyone’s about to go sleep, don’t make any noise, and come with me.”
Hongjun then got up and slung that “General Jinglong” over his shoulder as he tottered up the stairs after the young woman. The general’s feet dragged against the wooden stairs, letting out thunks, before Hongjun finally remembered that he was still wearing those steel-toed boots. He hurried to pull off his boots before carrying him into the room and laying him down on the bed. He then untied his bundle and put it on the side table.
“What to do?” Hongjun said to himself.
“Is this your fish?” Sang’er looked over at the carp on the table. Zhao Zilong’s gills still flared from time to time.
Hongjun nodded. That military official was wearing a set of white clothes, and Hongjun reached a hand out to grope around, only to find a metal plaque at his waist, on which was written the words “Li Jinglong of the Great Tang Longwu Army”. After reading it, he still didn’t know what it meant, so he tossed it onto the table as he lifted up that sword that had broken his Pentacolored Sacred Light and inspected it. He could only tell that the sword was very old and heavy, blackened with dirt, and carved with a dense mass of small seal script.
Hongjun couldn’t figure out anything from it, so then he untied Li Jinglong’s clothes, revealing a sturdy, nude chest. Li Jinglong’s body was slender and lithe, but his chest and abdomen had clear lines of muscles, and his eyebrows were sword-like, as though drawn with ink His five features were well-formed, with a high nose bridge, and the corners of his mouth were gently tilted up.
The Heart Lamp passed on within the Blazing Lamp… Hongjun thought back to that moment the pendant shattered, before he thought further back to what Qing Xing had told him: as long as the crystal pendant was broken, the Heart Lamp would naturally enter the body. At that time, they were the only two at the scene, so according to this logic, if the Heart Lamp hadn’t entered his body, then it must have entered Hongjun’s own.
He himself felt nothing different whatsoever, but for Li Jinglong to have been unconscious this long, it was not very normal. Logically, someone who fell and had fallen unconscious should have woken by now… Could it be because of the Heart Lamp?
Hongjun also didn’t know what use that beam of light had. He bent his head over to press his ear against the skin of Li Jinglong’s chest, listening to his heartbeat.When he turned his head he saw Sang’er with a surprised expression on her face.
“Can you let us be alone for a bit?” Hongjun asked.
Sang’er’s face was filled with a strange expression, and she nodded and said, “Is General Jinglong wounded? Should I go send for a physician?”
“What’s a physician?” Hongjun asked subconsciously. “No, no, he doesn’t need one.”
“Then let me go get him some water,” Sang’er said, before she went out the door.
Hongjun immediately grabbed the carp yao and said anxiously, “Zhao Zilong! Wake up!”
“A physician is a doctor, they diagnose illnesses.” The carp yao had been awake for a while now. “Where is this? What happened?”
Hongjun’s head was also filled with questions, and he explained the series of events. One person and one carp stared at each other for a moment, before the carp yao shouted loudly, “Waaah -- you’ve gotten into trouble! You’re done for! Now what are we supposed to do?!”
“I also don’t know, ah--!” Hongjun was going crazy.
The carp yao, “Is his surname Chen?”
“His surname isn’t Chen!” Hongjun had even made up his mind to perish on the spot. “He’s surnamed Li… right, what if he changes his surname?” Hongjun suddenly had a flash of cleverness.
“Are you stupid?!” the carp yao said. “He still isn’t Chen Zi’ang’s descendant!”
“It’s over, it’s over! What should we do now!”
“Kill him,” the carp yao said. “Maybe then the light will come out.”
“How can I kill him!” Hongjun said. “Clearly, I caused this mess!”
The carp yao continued, “All living creatures suffer, and though I see that he is a man who looks talented, but his ophyron is a little dark, and his forehead is still wrinkled. His face has an expression of defeat, and even if he keeps living, he’ll keep suffering, so it’s better to end it quickly for him.”
Hongjun had no idea how to go forward at all. The carp yao continued, “The Heart Lamp got the wrong person, and now it’s become so troublesome!”
Hongjun held that sword, and the carp yao continued to egg him on. “You’re not a human, so don’t be afraid of killing them.”
“My mother was a human!” Hongjun said.
“You’ve even killed yao,” the carp yao reminded him. “Hurry and do it! Otherwise what will the Chen family do in the future? The Heart Lamp has to return to the Chen family, so that Mara…”
The carp yao realized that it had let slip something it shouldn’t have, and it immediately shut up.
“Mara?” Hongjun asked with suspicion. He was reminded of the day when he had listened in on Chong Ming and Qing Xiong’s discussion, when they had also brought up this phrase.
The carp yao hurried to say, “Whatever the case, the Heart Lamp must be retrieved! Or else all of us will be done for! I’m not trying to frighten you… Where’s the throwing knife? Did you get it back?”
Hongjun: “No… I’m short one…”
“Aaaahhh --” The carp yao grew wild. “I told you not to chase, but you didn’t listen! See! Now we’re really done for! Even a throwing knife is missing! And the Heart Lamp…”
Hongjun picked up the towel and rolled it up, suddenly and accurately stuffing it into the carp yao’s mouth, stopping this non-stop flow of Zhuge Liang-like wisdom far after the fact.
From outside came the sound of knocking, and Sang’er carried a teapot in.
“Who were you talking to?” Sang’er asked, baffled, after seeing that Li Jinglong was still lying unconscious on the bed.
“I was talking to myself,” Hongjun hurried to answer. “Let us be alone for a little longer ba.”
Sang’er handed a towel to Hongjun, and she smiled as she looked at Hongjun and said, “Yo, alright.”
After Sang’er left again, Hongjun lifted a hand and wiped Li Jinglong’s face. He then flipped up onto the bed, straddling him, and took a deep breath. Leaning his body forward, he gathered up his magic energy, and with one hand he collected the Pentacolored Sacred Light and pressed his palm down onto Li Jinglong’s chest.
The carp yao’s hands waved wildly, before it grabbed the towel that was stuffed in its mouth, pulled it out, and shouted, “Hongjun, don’t delay it any longer!”
At the same time, a chaotic swirl of sounds came from outside.
“The Shenwu Army is conducting a search! Unrelated persons are to stay out of the way!”
Li Jinglong opened his eyes and fiercely looked down, only to see Hongjun’s hand pressed on his chest. Following the line of the arm upwards, he met Hongjun’s eyes.
Li Jinglong: “...”
Li Jinglong wore an expression of confusion, before he noticed that his upper half was bare and he was only wearing a pair of long pants. He instantly recovered his wits, shouting loudly, “What are you doing!”
Hongjun said swiftly, “You took my Heart Lamp…”
Li Jinglong let out a loud shout, locking Hongjun’s wrist connected to the hand that was pressed down on his chest and tugging it down. The two of them rolled off the bed as Hongjun shouted loudly, “Stop!”
The inside of the room was filled with havoc as Li Jinglong knocked over the water pitcher on the table. The carp yao hurriedly jumped off the table, and the guards outside who were searching heard the noise and immediately said, “That room at the end! Quick!”
The carp yao shouted, “Hongjun! Go quickly! There are more people coming!”
Li JInglong turned his head, and as soon as he saw that carp yao, he immediately gaped, before he roared, “Yaoguai!”
Hongjun was afraid that he would cause more trouble, so he grabbed his bundle with one hand, the carp yao with the other, and he slammed through the window as he flipped out. He left Li Jinglong holding his sword, his face contorted in an expression of shock as he panted non-stop, not understanding what had happened just now.
The instant that Hongjun flipped out of the window, he reached one hand up and snagged the eaves, flipping himself up onto the rooftops. He trotted along to the end of the connected roofs before sliding down along the tiles all the way, successfully slipping away.
Li Jinglong was still in the room, and his armor had long since grown wings and taken flight. He opened his eyes wide as he panted, and just then an angry shout came from outside the room. “Who’s inside! The Shenwu Army is conducting a search! If you don’t open the door…”
Sanger’s voice said, “There are two guests inside who are currently entwined together… please don’t disturb them…”
As soon as Li Jinglong heard “the Shenwu Army”, he knew that today’s troubles were not going to leave him alone, so he could only run first, or his reputation would surely be used to sweep the floor. So he also jumped out of the window and flipped out, but while Hongjun flipped upwards when he was running away, Li Jinglong flipped down, and with his bare feet, he slipped on the roof tiles, and the heavens and the earth exchanged places as he fell down the tile roof.
With one hand Li Jinglong held the sword, and with his other he scrabbled for purchase, his two legs kicking wildly, and seeing that the roof tiles ended in a noisy street, in an instant he realized that that wasn’t good, but it was already too late.
Before, when Hongjun had carried him as he ran wildly, the place he had ducked into was the most famous area of Chang’an called “Pingkang Li”, or Pingkang Ward, and the ward was filled with brothels that flaunted their banners and did business. This place was called “Nightingale of the Spring Dawn”, and it was ranked amongst the top first and second brothels, and just outside of Nightingale of the Spring Dawn was the Eastern Market of Chang’an.
At this moment the rain had passed and the skies were clear, and the Eastern Market was open for business. A hubbub of human voices bubbled over, and when the passerby and the vendors heard the commotion, they all turned to look, only to see Captain Li Jinglong of the Longwu Army, his hot manly blood boiling, his well-built upper half bare, carrying a sword in his hand, as he hurriedly escaped out from a window of the Nightingale of the Spring Dawn in broad daylight, before sliding down furiously on the roof tiles, falling into the Eastern Market with a hualala, sending the horses and mules into braying and whickering, scattering baskets all over the ground.
“Hey, isn’t that General Jinglong?”
“Captain Li? Hahaha --”
Li Jinglong had been knocked dizzy by that fall, and before he could get a breath, he was surrounded by many people, and the Shenwu Army even stuck their heads out of Nightingale of the Spring Dawn. Li Jinglong immediately ducked to one side as he dragged his sword along, looking extremely pathetic as he hid in the Eastern Market. The rest of the Shenwu Army searched everywhere, as the passerby in the market laughed uproariously, and some smarmy scholar was even elaborating on the incident in great detail.
“I have a poem, if my audience would like to judge it.”
“‘Li Jinglong of the Longwu Army taking his leave of Nightingale of the Spring Dawn’ --”
“Captain Jinglong, this good son, slept too long in Pingkang; dashing across the roofs with a hero’s bravery, bidding farewell as tears fly from the brothels!”
“Excellent skills! Allow this brother to tack on two sentences to the dog’s tail…”
“Come, come! Brother, come!”
“He’s like General Fei who shot a tiger, born with a good set of features; not afraid of the lowly Shenwu Army, but forgot to put on his Longwu Army uniform!”
Li Jinglong: “...”
Li Jinglong hid in a water vessel out back of the Eastern Market as ragged verses about himself were hurled about in earshot. He quietly lifted up the wooden cover, and from the crack he saw the Shenwu Army go back and forth through the Eastern Market, and he let out an exhausted sigh.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.