"Even if I kill an innocent today, I must end your life…"
graphic depictions of gore
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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“Li Jinglong!” a man’s rough voice shouted angrily. “Where did you go now?” And following right after that was a series of heavy coughs.
“Here, here, here!” Li Jinglong said hurriedly.
The two half-grown youths sat shoulder to shoulder under the eaves of the corridor, the weather humid and oppressive beyond belief.
“I have to go,” Hongjun replied.
“Go?” Li Jinglong hadn’t yet come back to himself fully.
“I’m moving,” Hongjun said dejectedly.
“But I haven’t learned magic yet!” Li Jinglong grew heated and said, “You promised you’d teach me!”
Hongjun’s gaze held some guilt as he lifted his head to look at Li Jinglong. Ever since he could remember, his parents always moved every year, and they had never stopped in one place for long. When he was four, they had left Huayin to go to Luoyang, and then had left from Luoyang to Xiangyang when he was five. They had moved to Shandong when he was six, and when he was seven, they had moved here to Chang’an…
…Every time they went somewhere new, his mother always poured warnings into his ears that he was not allowed to play with the kids from other families. So Hongjun could only stay at home every day, daydreaming as he stared at his father’s medical books.
Nine-year-old Li Jinglong was the first friend that he had made last year, as well as his only friend.
“Where are you moving to?” Li Jinglong asked. “I’ll have my dad move too, we’ll go together!”
“In my body, there is a yaoguai,” Hongjun replied, not daring to look at Li Jinglong, one of his feet kicking the little wooden ji gently.
Li Jinglong instantly stopped making noise.
Hongjun turned his head. “They want to kill me.”
“Who?” Li Jinglong asked.
Hongjun shook his head. He didn’t know who his opponents were; he only knew that his father was always heavily injured, and his mother always gathered him up in her embrace, crying. Because of him, their family had to suffer through who knows how many sleepless nights.
“I am an inauspicious person,” Hongjun replied. “If the yaoguai in my body gains life, you too will die.”
Li Jinglong watched him, completely still. Hongjun felt strangely cold and calm, and he said, “I will remember you, Li Jinglong.”
He rose to leave, but Li Jinglong called him to a stop.
“Tomorrow night, I will wait outside Jincheng Ward,” Li Jinglong said. “Before you go, let’s meet up one more time.”
Hongjun found that a little odd, and he turned his head back to look at Li Jinglong. After thinking for a moment, he replied, “I will return the book to you.”
He then flipped over the wall, only to hear the person on the other side shouting,
Hongjun stood there dumbly for a while, and for some unknown reason, he began to grow anxious. He walked towards his own room, but suddenly a bolt of lightning flashed across the sky, and thunder pealed. That flash of light blinded him to the point where he couldn’t open his eyes.
Hongjun looked around him; the scenery had changed, and he was now standing in a small alleyway. The scenes from before when he had entered the dream realm were currently coming back to him.
In his hand, he held the book that Li Jinglong had lent him, only to hear a shout from all around, “Hongjun!” “Hongjun!”
In the long night, the lightning flashed again and again, and Li Jinglong’s voice shouted loudly in front of him, “Hongjun --!”
Hongjun began to run, but Li Jinglong was waiting for him right at the entrance to the alleyway.
“Li Jinglong?” Hongjun asked. Li Jinglong reached a hand out to grab him, but Hongjun suddenly felt a stab of horror, and he dodged that hand.
“Trust me! Hongjun!
“When have I ever lied to you?!” Li Jinglong said anxiously. “Come with me!”
Li Jinglong grabbed his hand, dragging him along as they raced along the alley. At the end of the alley was an unlatched wooden door, and he pushed it open, bringing Hongjun into a desolate front courtyard overgrown with weeds!
“This is…” Hongjun said, confused. “Li Jinglong! What are you doing?”
The lightning flashed overhead, and Hongjun slowed in his steps, finding that he had walked into the courtyard of the Exorcism Department. In the courtyard, a golden statue was shining with light, and in that instant, that light exploded outwards, trapping him within its midst with a weng.
“Let me out!” Hongjun cried, tossing the book to the side.
The Li Jinglong of their childhood stood in the front hall, and behind him was a warrior clad in golden armor that emitted a golden radiance.
“I’ve brought him,” Li Jinglong said, panting heavily. “That’s him!”
Hongjun roared, infuriated, “You lied to me!”
The warrior spoke with a deep, ancient voice. “Seed of Mara, in the coming days, a great catastrophe will arise because of you. Even if I kill an innocent today, I must end your life…”
That warrior wielded a golden sword in his hand, and the magical array suddenly boomed, spewing out white flames!
In the array, Hongjun kept slamming himself against it, shouting loudly, “Li Jinglong --!”
In that instant, time seemed to speed up in a flash, and Li Jinglong’s body gradually grew large and broad, but Hongjun kept shrinking smaller and smaller. He watched his own hands, shocked, as they returned to the size that they were when he was four, before he suddenly began to sprout upwards as well, returning to his sixteen-year-old build.
“Li Jinglong!” Hongjun cried.
The flames of the array reflected in Li Jinglong’s eyes, while Hongjun’s entire body was emitting black qi as he shouted painfully and wildly. The golden flames burned through his skin, causing fresh blood to seep out over his entire body, and at this point, his hair was already loose and in disarray as he was burnt to the point of becoming a figure covered in blood!
“Li Jinglong…” From Hongjun’s throat came a muffled scream. His heart was currently spewing black flames that seemed as if they could cover the sky, but that golden warrior sheathed the long sword in his hand, six glowing magical weapons appearing around him. In the next moment, the artifacts spun around, merging into one, turning into a huge bow.
Right after the golden warrior floated towards Li Jinglong, and with a weng, the two of them melded into one!
“Dad… Mom…” Hongjun knelt in the array, the features of his face already burnt beyond recognition, a horrific voice issuing from his throat, pleading, “Save me… it… hurts so much… ah…”
Trembling, Li Jinglong drew his long bow, aiming directly for little Hongjun in the midst of the array.
In the next instant, the great doors of the Exorcism Department collapsed inward, the wooden doors falling as if they had been leveled by a flood. Kong Xuan flashed by so quickly he turned into a blur, rushing into the array, meeting head-on the arrow that left the golden warrior’s bowstring --
Kong Xuan spread open the Pentacolor Sacred Light, facing down the arrow shaft that had been fired from the six artifacts that had turned into one, charging ahead. But in the next moment, the arrow of light easily shattered the Pentacolor Sacred Light, burying itself in Kong Xuan’s chest!
Jia Yuze rushed into the array, her hair in disarray, hugging Hongjun who had already been charred by the flames, letting out a heart-rending wail!
Kong Xuan roared, “Di Renjie --!”
Kong Xuan had rushed in front of Di Renjie, but he couldn’t refrain from lowering his head, looking down at the shaft of the arrow that had half-buried itself in his chest.
Jia Yuze’s tears flowed down as she hugged Hongjun, one hand stroking the side of his face, murmuring, “Xing’er… don’t be afraid, it’s okay… it’s okay…”
“Mom… it hurts…” Hongjun said, his voice trembling. Immediately, the corners of his mouth split, and bloody froth spewed forth from his mouth. His throat was already blocked up by the blood.
“It won’t hurt anymore, very soon, it won’t hurt anymore,” Jia Yuze murmured, her entire face wet with tears. “Burn away my spirit, scatter my soul…”
Hongjun’s body shrank incessantly. Jia Yuze closed her eyes, tears flowing out from their corners as she chanted a spell. One hand glowed with green light as she pressed it against Hongjun’s face. The skin over Hongjun’s entire body swiftly healed, renewing itself again and again. As if he was shedding a skin, after his charred outer shell split and fell off, it was replaced with whole, unmarred skin.
As that spell took effect, Jia Yuze’s waterfall of black hair instantly turned to snow, going completely white. Her face became that of an old woman’s.
“Di Renjie,” Jia Yuze sobbed. “Spare my Xing’er ba, what has he done wrong?!”
Kong Xuan had been shot through the chest by that golden arrow, but still he struggled to rise, only to almost fall to his knees in the courtyard. Jia Yuze went forward to support him, kneeling together with him in front of Li Jinglong.
Kong Xuan said, his voice trembling, “Di Renjie, I only have this one child…”
Hongjun dragged along the oversized clothing that he had on when his body had shrunken to child size. Horror appeared in his eyes, and he lifted his gaze to look towards the golden warrior holding the Sword of Wisdom in one hand.
“Dad… Mom…” Hongjun sat on his knees on the ground, his voice trembling as he spoke.
He slowly lifted his head, a look like that of dead ashes appearing in his gaze as he met Li Jinglong’s eyes.
Li Jinglong trembled as he lifted his arm, white light glowing from his palm.
Hongjun let out an angered cry. “Dad--!”
The black energy in his body once again exploded, a multitude of demonic silhouettes rising from the ground! The black tide rushed outwards in all directions, instantly enveloping the entire city of Chang’an!
The Exorcism Department, Jincheng Ward, Chang’an, and even the entirety of the Central Plains collapsed under the rush of this wave. Its citizens, and all living beings, were swept up by this black qi, as if a powerful whirlwind had sprung into being!
Li Jinglong faced that whirlwind, shouting angrily, “Hongjun!”
The black whirlwind seemed to have swallowed up everything. With the Sword of Wisdom in his right hand and white light shining from his left, Li Jinglong split apart the sky above and the earth below.
“Wake up --!” Li Jinglong roared, before he pulled Hongjun into his lap. White light exploded outwards, saturating Hongjun’s entire form.
That bright light seemed to radiate through his soul, and it began to burn. That pain returned once again, and he began to struggle with all his might, screaming, “Let go of me --!”
“He’s awake!” Mo Rigen roared. “Zhangshi! He’s awake!”
The white light instantly retreated, and the world returned to its grey dimness. Hongjun’s consciousness was greatly shaken, as if it had been subject to a deafening peal of thunder, and Li Jinglong hugged him tightly. Hongjun held one pair of throwing knives in each hand, fighting with all his might to turn his face upwards and look towards the sky above.
The light of the wintry silver river above reflected in his eyes as he craned his neck backwards. Mo Rigen stood on the snowy ground, his body covered with wounds, panting. Li Jinglong’s hair was loose and unbound, and there was fresh blood all over his face. He hugged Hongjun tightly, refusing to loosen his grip.
All around them were fallen corpse ghosts that fell in battle. Liu Fei laid on the ground, and the little hut had already been completely destroyed. Countless warhorses were laid out on the ground. Corpses were strewn everywhere across the ice and in the graveyard. Li Jinglong stood in the snow, hugging Hongjun, while a large patch of the snow under their feet had already been dyed the purple-black of blood.
“You lied to me,” Hongjun murmured, before he lost consciousness, collapsing into Li Jinglong’s embrace.
The Grey Wolf carried Li Jinglong and Liu Fei, while Li Jinglong hugged the unconscious Hongjun in his arms, as they raced towards the end of the valley.
In his exhaustion, Hongjun had a very, very long dream. In his dream, Li Jinglong chased after the horse cart to see him off, shoving the book into his hands.
“You couldn’t wait until the pomegranates ripened!” Li Jinglong shouted. “Plant it in your new house ba!”
Hongjun stuck his head out, his tears flowing down his cheeks as he said, “We’ll meet again some day, Li Jinglong!"
Li Jinglong stood at the end of the alleyway, wiping away his tears now and then as he shouted, “Wait for me to learn magic! I’ll go find you!”
“Chouxing?” A man’s voice sounded by his ear.
Hongjun slowly woke, only to find that he seemed to have returned to the house in his dream. He looked dazedly towards the person sitting by his bedside, subconsciously reaching out to feel around by his body, where he felt warm, soft blankets.
“You’re awake?” the man sitting by his bedside said. “He’s awake! Quickly, bring Li-zhangshi over!”
“Where is this place?” Hongjun asked. He lifted his arm, only to see that his body hadn’t changed at all, and this was still his body. “Am I still dreaming?”
That man’s face seemed a little familiar as he stared fixedly at Hongjun.
“I’m your uncle, Chouxing,” the man said.
The door opened very violently, and Li Jinglong rushed in like a gust of wind, asking, “Hongjun?”
Mo Rigen also entered. The carp yao followed at the end, shouting, “Hongjun! Are you alright?!”
“What happened?” Hongjun’s head began to hurt again as he continued to ask questions. “Where is this?”
Mo Rigen stroked Hongjun’s forehead and quietly uttered a spell, and Hongjun’s headache slowly dissipated. Li Jinglong also came forward to stroke his forehead, but Hongjun still remembered the events of that dream, and with horror in his eyes, he dodged that hand.
“Chouxing,” the man sitting by his bedside said. “Do you still remember me? I am Jia Zhou.”
Hongjun fixed his stare on that man. He had no memory of this person anymore, but his features were very similar to the mother in his dreams.
“Do you remember me?” Li Jinglong asked.
Hongjun nodded, before looking at Mo Rigen and also nodding. The carp yao also squeezed its head in, asking, “How about me, how about me?”
After confirming that he was no longer dreaming, Hongjun used his index finger to gently poke the carp yao a few times. It hopped onto the bed, and Hongjun continued to stare at that strange man by his bedside.
“Do you remember him?” Li Jinglong asked earnestly. “He is the Prefect of Guazhou, Jia Zhou, your mother Jia Yuze’s older brother.”
“This isn’t right,” Jia Zhou said. “Xing’er, shouldn’t you be nineteen this year? And these looks, you look as if you and Kong Xuan sprang out of the same mold, what a strange occurrence indeed…” And saying this, he actually began to chuckle.
With this, Hongjun finally remembered. That day on the carriage, Yang Yuhuan had told him that his mother had a brother, and his maternal grandpa had once held the role of a vice jiedushi, and ever since, his mother’s side of the family stayed in Hexi.
“Yes, you and my mother… look very alike.” Hongjun observed Jia Zhou’s face. Jia Zhou was already over fourty years old, and when he heard these words, he began to smile. He wiped his tears and held Hongjun’s hand in his own, his hand covered with calluses from his many years in the army.
“Why did it take you so long to come?” Jia Zhou asked. “After your mother and father died, who raised you? Back then, when I heard that your parents were gone, I sent people everywhere to search for…”
Instantly, the color of Hongjun’s face changed, and he sat there, staring off into space for a bit. He lifted his eyes to look at Li Jinglong, who noticed that his expression wasn’t quite right and asked, “What’s wrong?”
At that, Hongjun was a little at a loss for what to say. Mo Rigen answered, “I imagine he’s tired, let’s let him rest for a bit.”
The carp yao observed Hongjun, saying, “The color of his face is too poor.”
“Let the uncle and nephew reminisce on the past first,” Li Jinglong said, understanding. “Hongjun, you rest well. If there’s anything, call me at any time, I’m staying just over in the eastern wing.”
Hongjun didn’t say anything, so Li Jinglong sent a glance at Jia Zhou. Jia Zhou nodded, understanding, and Li Jinglong and Mo Rigen then left.
The carp yao said, “I won’t disturb you, Hongjun, you can just pretend that I’m not here.”
And saying this, the carp yao headed towards the corner of the room, slipping into a small wooden basin.
Only Hongjun and Jia Zhou were left in the room. Hongjun thought for a bit, before he moved to rise off the bed, only for Jia Zhou to say, “Don’t hurry to move, you haven’t eaten anything for several days now.”
Jia Zhou went outside and issued a few commands, and with that, a servant brought over some thick rice gruel.
“This name was what Uncle gave you,” Jia Zhou said, lifting the rice stew and feeding it to Hongjun.
Hongjun replied, “I’ll do it myself.”
“Be careful, it’s hot,” Jia Zhou said.
Hongjun took the bowl, his mind still filled with what had happened in the dreamscape. Facing Jia Zhou, he had no way to avoid thinking about that dream, and upon seeing his uncle who bore a close resemblance to his mother, he kept ending up thinking about his mother who had hugged him in his dream.
He downed the rice stew in big gulps, feeling a little bit of his strength come back to him. He then turned his eyes to Jia Zhou, saying, “My mom was Jia Yuze.”
“Your dad was Kong Xuan,” Jia Zhou replied, smiling. “A divine doctor who could bring the dead back to life, who practiced medicine to help the people.”
Hongjun breathed lightly, reaching a hand out to grope around on the bed. Seeing that, Jia Zhou pulled out that Jade Peacock Plume from under the pillow, saying, “Your guys’ Zhangshi brought you here to Yumen, before requesting help in asking after…”
“We’ve already reached Yumen?” Hongjun asked, astonished. “We ran this far? When I chased Lu Xu for a single night, we hadn’t yet reached Zhangye…”
“You all seemed to have run into many things on the way here,” Jia Zhou replied. “Don’t be hasty, talk about them slowly, one at a time.” But just at this time, a military report arrived, so Jia Zhou rose to leave, telling him that as soon as he had the time, he would come to see him. With that, he took his leave temporarily.
In the next room, Li Jinglong wanted to lie down, but as soon as he turned his body, his mouth widened in a grimace of pain.
Mo Rigen sat behind the table, watching the snow drifting in the courtyard.
“I keep feeling that Hongjun’s off,” Li Jinglong said. “That gaze that he used to look at me was like he had just woken from a nightmare.”
“I’ve already called him back from within the dream. You at least can find him,” Mo Rigen said anxiously. “We still don’t know where Lu Xu is.”
Li Jinglong replied comfortingly, “Jia Zhou’s scouts have already been sent out to search, and Liu Fei is also searching. He’ll be alright.”
Mo Rigen asked, “What exactly happened that night? Zhao Zilong didn’t explain clearly.”
Li Jinglong replied, “Only by asking Hongjun will we know.”
Mo Rigen said, “But you didn’t let me ask.”
“Are you insane?!” Li Jinglong roared loudly.
Mo Rigen could only stop speaking. Hongjun had just recovered from his illness, and seeing that he was still a little dazed, there was no way they could question him now. But Lu Xu’s whereabouts were uncertain, and Mo Rigen couldn’t sit still.
Li Jinglong asked, “Why didn’t you act without authorization and head out to find him? Could you add any more trouble for me to deal with?”
Li Jinglong was like the parent of the Exorcism Department. Although Mo Rigen was older than him by two years, he still had to listen to him.
“What exactly happened to Hongjun?” Li Jinglong asked, furrowing his brow.
“He’s a half-yao,” Mo Rigen responded. “There was a cluster of evil energy in him, I don’t know if it had been suppressed before by some seal of his adoptive father’s.” Saying this, he rose, pacing within the room as he continued, “He was unable to differentiate between enemy and friend, attacking at random, like he had sunk into a nightmare.”
“You could see his dream?” Li Jinglong asked.
Mo Rigen shook his head. “I can only wake him. Only the White Deer can cause him to sleep and enter his dreamscape.”
In the guest room, Hongjun sat behind the table, placing the basin that held the carp yao on it.
“What exactly happened on this journey?”
The carp yao said, “Hongjun, you really can’t remember anything at all?”
“Speak, quickly now,” Hongjun said, furrowing his brow as he watched the carp yao.
The carp yao was a little hesitant as it said, “Alright ba, Zhangshi told me not to tell you, he was afraid that when you heard it…”
Hongjun replied, “I won’t say a single word.”
The carp yao’s expression was secretive, its hands slung over the side of the basin as its head stuck out, looking at Hongjun. Finally, it began to explain.
As it turned out, that night, Hongjun chased Lu Xu and Liu Fei to a graveyard. After entering the little house, they took a short rest and decided to spend the night there, but the carp yao too didn’t sense anything strange.
But in the middle of the night, Hongjun woke, and as if he was sleepwalking, he slowly walked to the middle of the graveyard. When Li Jinglong and Mo Rigen had caught up, Hongjun, like a puppet with broken strings and his entire body emitting black qi, actually attacked Li Jinglong and Mo Rigen!
Lu Xu was wearing a set of black robes, and he floated into the air behind Hongjun, millions of threads sprouting from his hands, controlling Hongjun’s every move. And the “Liu Fei” outside the wooden hut changed forms with a swish of “his” body, becoming a woman clad in all black, her entire face pitch-black!
Li Jinglong and Mo Rigen naturally rushed forward to rescue him, but the black-robed woman called up an icy wind and heavy snow, which enveloped the graveyard and the plains.
“That was the other yaoguai, Xuannü?” Hongjun asked.
The carp yao responded, “I… I don’t know.”
Mo Rigen and Li Jinglong covered for each other’s weaknesses as they fought together against this danger, but Xuannü’s icy wind was too strong. They couldn’t approach at all as ice spikes and heavy snow flew at them from all directions, while Hongjun, standing in the snow and ice, began his all out, demon-lord-like assault.
Thankfully, the real Liu Fei had coincidentally returned just then, and with the Wind Sword, called up the soldiers that had been sleeping for a long time in those graves. Mo Rigen ignored the frostbite and fought Xuannü, who was wounded in the clash and fled. Right after, Li Jinglong used the Heart Lamp to break through the control that Lu Xu had over Hongjun...
Hongjun suddenly remembered that in his dream, he had only seen a flash of light, but not heard a peal of thunder. Perhaps that frequent flashing had been the Heart Lamp.
“And then Lu Xu vanished,” the carp yao said. “Before he left, he said some harsh words in parting.”
Hongjun widened his eyes.
“It’s written in your destiny that one day, you will die under his hands.
“Since the devil seed has already been found, in the coming days, just wait for the storm to arrive.”
moon: froge popcorn
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.