"The black flames of the heart devil grew weaker and weaker, revealing a circling whirlpool."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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At this time, the heart devil had already been trapped up high in the nine-story tower, and as it roared, its entire body emitted what looked like the fireworks of the human realm. Those were the nightmares that the White Deer had collected from all the living beings’ seven emotions and six senses over several millennia, but at this moment, the nightmares became layer upon layer of ghostly images. Instantly, the area around them was filled with grief, suffering, and despair!
Lu Xu shouted, “He’s let out all of the nightmares!”
A-Tai shouted back, “You’re the White Deer, do you not have a way to control this?!”
Lu Xu gritted his teeth and transformed, turning into the White Deer, galloping around in the air. But because his antlers that emitted white light had already been cut off, he had no way to release more white light and absorb the nightmares filling the space around them. There were multitudes of ghostly images on the ground, ceaselessly coiling around the ghost king and his guards.
With a vengeful roar, the ghost king shouted, “Mana!”
His guards all readied their halberds in unison, sending the power within their corpse ghost neidans into their weapons, before they began to hack and slash away at the ghostly forms that pounced on them. Their weapons began to glow a dark purple, and all the nightmares that the weapons pierced dissipated.
The Grey Wolf and the White Deer were fighting in the air, and upon seeing the circumstances, A-Tai put his Godly Hurricane Fan away. He and Ashina Qiong each formed their hands into hand seals; behind A-Tai appeared the image of the Zoroastrian fire god, Ahura, while behind Ashina Qiong appeared the image of the Zoroastrian war god, Bahram. Both chased after those nightmares that rampaged across the sky, catching and finishing them off.
Hongjun leapt down from the Mogao Caves, plummeting towards the earth below, but he hadn’t expected that his throwing knives would be completely useless against this sky full of nightmares. He spread open the Pentacolor Sacred Light, but it was wholly unable to prevent the devil qi from passing through!
“You go hide!” the Grey Wolf roared, “Hongjun!”
Hongjun took a few steps back, enraged beyond belief, but without any power to act, he could only back off, once again climbing up the Mogao Caves.
At the top of the Mogao Caves, Li Jinglong drew his bow. The arrow shaft glowed with white light as he anxiously watched the heart devil; the nightmares in the heart devil's body seemed endless, and it spewed out wave after wave. The Grey Wolf roared, "Zhangshi, attack!"
Li Jinglong’s arrow left the string, piercing through the night sky as it shot towards the heart devil. The heart devil suddenly blew up, as if it had fallen to that blow, but it then let off even more nightmares!
The carp yao yelled, “Hongjun! Come here, quick!”
Hongjun had no way at all to provide support; he could only stand on the third level, watching his comrades defend against the heart devil with all their might, his heart full of various emotions. The Grey Wolf and White Deer in the air were sending the enemies flying left and right when the Grey Wolf shouted at the White Deer, “You go back!”
The White Deer didn’t argue either. He bounded through the air, landing by Hongjun’s side, turning back into Lu Xu.
Hongjun was panting harshly, his eyes tightly closed, the depths of his heart filled with sorrow. Liu Fei’s past, and the horror from the midnight dreams of all those strangers of the Divine Land, entangled his soul, dragging him into a patch of endless, boundless darkness.
“Do mortals always have to suffer through these pains?” Hongjun asked, his voice trembling.
Lu Xu pressed one hand on Hongjun’s back, sending what little mana that he had left into his body, helping him to escape the nightmares.
“Every time I was assimilated by the heart devil,” Lu Xu replied quietly, “I would always feel this pain the most keenly, and I always believed that I would die completely. Waiting for your return became my sole hope in this pain, and has also helped me hold out until this day.”
But where can my hope be found? Hongjun couldn’t resist looking towards the night sky.
The area before the Mogao Caves was already overrun with nightmares. Li Jinglong, the Sword of Wisdom in hand, rushed towards the battlefield filled with the spectres of evil dreams, using the power of the Heart Lamp to hack and slash all around him.
“Hongjun isn’t here, right?!” Li Jinglong shouted.
The ghost king shouted back, “He is up high! There are too many! We cannot kill them all! You must completely get rid of the heart devil!”
Li Jinglong replied, “I have no more strength to spare!”
He had used the Heart Lamp too many times, and at this point, his heart began to throb with pain again. The Grey Wolf that Mo Rigen had turned into was fighting, entangled with the heart devil, high up in the air. Ashina Qiong cried, “There are too many! Hurry, think of something! We can’t hold out for much longer!”
This was the first time that they had picked a fight with a real “devil”, and all of them were completely new to this, and completely unprepared. Devils were not afraid of weapons, and even less so common magics involving fire, wind, thunder, and the likes. They could only call upon the magic in their own body, using that power to fight the devil qi, forcefully blocking it.
But using their magic like this depleted it drastically. They had no way to hold out until they got rid of all of the nightmares, let alone the fact that whenever they finished exorcising the nightmares on the ground, the heart devil would just release another wave!
“Only by taking them all in will the heart devil be completely gotten rid of,” Hongjun said.
“No!” Lu Xu shouted. “Don’t do this!”
The carp yao suddenly shouted loudly, “Hongjun! Look! There’s a dragon! A dragon is coming --!”
Under the bright starry river of the night sky, a jiao flew past, glittering with silver light. It let out a dragon roar, and everyone lifted their heads to look at the sky in unison.
“That’s a jiao, not a dragon,” Hongjun said. “Who is it?!”
“Hai mie hou bi --” Qiu Yongsi’s voice called out from the jiao’s head, before a scholar wearing a large cloak leapt down from high up in the air, shouting, “My dear comrades in arms… what are you doing?!”
Upon seeing that fresh reinforcements had come, all of them shouted at once, “Quick, come and help!”
Qiu Yongsi held his brush and looked left and right. That jiao tossed him down, before rising and flying away, its body disappearing into the night sky. As soon as Qiu Yongsi saw the ghost king, he was so frightened that he began to shout wildly. “Yaoguai!”
“Not him!” Li Jinglong shouted. “The shadows! Fight these shadows!”
Qiu Yongsi kept backing up, shouting, “Why are there so many?! What is this?!”
Ashina Qiong: “This one is also part of your guys’ Exorcism Department?”
The carp yao shouted at Qiu Yongsi from up high on the Mogao Caves, “Qiu Yongsi! You pull yourself together! I’m your eldest!”
Qiu Yongsi lifted his head to look up high, before looking back at the battlefield, and he bolstered his courage and tossed all thought out of the window. He ran a few steps back, and with a sweep of his sleeve, flew into the air. Flinging his cloak back, he lifted the Landscape Brush in his hands and began to cast his spell.
“Help me buy some time!”
Qiu Yongsi sent the jiao dragon away with a sweep of his brush, beginning to utter an incantation. At this moment, the thousands of caverns that made up the Mogao Caves all began to glow with a golden light, and with a “weng”, all the murals on the walls rose into the air. Bodhisattvas, Wisdom Kings, yakshas, hungry ghosts, and guardian warriors all left the murals and flew out. Golden light covered the land, and as soon as the depictions in the murals left the caverns, they surged towards the nightmares like the tide, clashing with the nightmares giving off black energy.
Upon seeing that, Li Jinglong shouted, “Get the heart devil!”
A-Tai and Ashina Qiong bore down upon it from above with the godly Zoroastrian images above them, while the ghost king and his personal guards lifted their halberds and charged forth. Li Jinglong channeled the last of the magic in him into the Sword of Wisdom, rushing towards the Heart Devil, stabbing fiercely at it!
The heart devil trembled incessantly, and everyone widened their eyes, looking towards the center of the battlefield, where the heart devil was screaming wildly.
“Even if… you kill me… you still… have no way… to prevent…”
As the heart devil’s dark, horrific voice spoke, devil qi exploded outwards, spreading in all directions. Li Jinglong braced with his sword, standing in front of that vortex of devil qi, pouring in every last drop of his magic to funnel the power of the Heart Lamp into that mass. The devil qi kept collapsing in on itself. Everyone watched the scene nervously.
The heart devil gradually dissipated, and the nightmares around them slowly weakened, rising into the sky.
The black flames of the heart devil grew weaker and weaker, revealing a circling whirlpool. Li Jinglong’s sword was stuck right in the midst of it, but just as the whirlpool was about to dissipate entirely, and everyone had let out a breath --
-- Suddenly, a huge snake bursting with black fire erupted from the vortex, biting down on Li Jinglong’s arm!
Li Jinglong was in so much pain that he let out a loud shout as he felt that huge snake’s sharp fangs pierce into his own soul. His arm throbbed with tremendous pain, and because the Heart Lamp’s power had already run dry, his right arm began to burn with black flame!
Everyone rushed forwards, but the huge snake rolled around on the ground, biting Li Jinglong’s arm and his upper body, rising into the air.
“Pitiful mortal,” a voice thundered. “You have this godly power, yet you have no spells to harness it…”
“Xie Yu!” the ghost king roared. “Let go of him!”
A noise rippled across the huge snake’s entire body, echoing through the sky, a wanton, wild laugh. “After destroying this heart devil seed, are you very surprised that I was hiding right here?!”
The huge snake had clamped down on Li Jinglong’s arm and the Sword of Wisdom both, and Li Jinglong struggled mightily, trying to send magic power into the Sword of Wisdom. However, he had already used it all up. The black flames seemed to have lit his very soul aflame, causing him to suffer in this blazing fire.
The ghost king rushed up, but a wild gust of wind rose out of nowhere, and Xuannü and the Plague God appeared, their robes fluttering about them. They flew towards the ghost king and caught his blow.
Xuannü said harshly, “Ghost king, did you think this day would come?”
The Plague God chuckled coldly. “Li Jinglong, even if you racked your brains, you would never had guessed that within the heart devil seed would actually be His Majesty the yao king, right?”
Li Jinglong kept struggling, only to hear a loud shout come from the Mogao Caves.
That huge fiery snake suddenly widened its eyes, the devil flames on its body pulled away like they were being sucked away by a tornado. It left Li Jinglong behind, turning around and speeding in the other direction, towards its own tail!
Xie Yu opened its mouth and let out a long roar!
At this time, Hongjun dangled in the air, his left hand grabbing Xie Yu’s tail. The black fire sped wildly towards his arm, funneling endlessly into his heart. Xie Yu seemed to be actually unable to hold out as the devil flames slowly weakened, revealing an almost see-through shell.
Li Jinglong pulled his arm out as everyone in front of the Mogao Caves lifted their heads to look towards Hongjun dangling in the air. At this moment, all the devil flames on Xie Yu’s body had been absorbed by Hongjun. As Xie Yu roared wildly, it turned its body, its fangs gaping, biting down towards Hongjun’s head!
Hongjun’s left hand held onto its tail, not letting go, as he lifted his right hand, pressing it on the snake head speeding towards himself. The devil flames accompanied that move, and Xie Yu instantly collapsed in midair as it was destroyed, dissolving into points of light that rose towards the heavens!
Xuannü and the Plague God were both shocked. They didn’t dare to keep fighting and turned to flee, but just as they were about to escape, Hongjun lifted his index and middle fingers in a sword fingers pose, drawing out a sigil in the air. Instantly, two streaks of black-colored flames shot out, snaring Xuannü and the Plague God, wrapping around their entire bodies, including their heads.
The two yao let out wails as they were shredded in the air by that flame.
The land below was completely silent as Hongjun called that devil flame back to him. His entire body was wracked with pain as he slowly sank, landing on the ground.
He lowered his head and looked at his own right hand, where there was a streak of black qi slowly creeping up his arm from his palm, heading towards his heart. It then began to gradually fade.
Li Jinglong gripped the Sword of Wisdom, staggering towards Hongjun, as if he wanted to say something. Was it to reprimand him for not upholding their promise? Or was it to blame himself for his own powerlessness?
The two of them stood in front of the nine-story tower, staring silently at each other. But Hongjun avoided his gaze, turning and walking in.
The sun began to rise. All of them were tired beyond belief, and after the large battle that had lasted the night, within the Exorcism Department, Qiu Yongsi, A-Tai, Li Jinglong, Mo Rigen, and the carp yao gathered together.
“...I hadn’t thought that so many things would happen,” Qiu Yongsi said, letting out a long sigh. “After receiving Zhangshi’s letter, I called upon a jiao dragon that had once made an agreement with the Qiu family, and it flew here with me on its back without stopping. I first went to Liangzhou, and Geshu Han’s large army pointed me towards Yumen. It was just as I was rushing to Yumen that I saw you guys.”
Li Jinglong thought for a bit, before asking, “You can call upon jiao dragons?”
“Three times,” Qiu Yongsi said. “This is the last time.”
Mo Rigen let out a long sigh, leaning on the table. He turned his head up to look at the mural on the wall inside the hall, saying, “The White Deer’s been found, but he’s lost all of his magic.”
Li Jinglong said, “Cutting off the antlers was a plan that I came up with, so the fault lies with me.”
Mo Rigen waved his hand, saying, “It’s no issue, we’ve already rescued him, so everything else is easy. Only Hongjun, he…”
A-Tai said quietly, “I never thought that the devil seed would actually be on him. What was that thing that appeared at the end?”
Li Jinglong thought deeply for a moment, before saying, “The ghost king said that Xie Yu wants to revive Mara, but he cannot find the devil seeds. I imagine that is because it used one of its own po as a seed to absorb the resentment gathered by the White Deer through countless years of collected nightmares that were unable to be purified, thus creating this ‘heart devil’.”
“Isn’t this pretty good?” A-Tai said, shrugging. “The heart devil’s been taken care of, and Xie Yu’s power has also been weakened. As long as we can ensure that the devil seed in Hongjun’s body doesn’t befall any other harm, then we can manage to maintain peace.”
Li Jinglong en-ed, using his fingers to rub at the bridge of his nose. He then said, “But Xie Yu is still alive, and it won’t give up on this opportunity so easily.”
The truth was gradually growing clear. Hongjun had inherited one of the devil seeds in his father’s, the Devil God’s, body, and he was supposed to become the next Mara. However, because of the twists of fate, he had been brought instead to Yaojin Palace and kept under Chong Ming’s protection. Since Xie Yu could not find this devil seed, he sought out another method to create one...
“No wonder,” Mo Rigen murmured.
“No wonder what?” Qiu Yongsi asked.
Mo Rigen and Li Jinglong exchanged a glance, both of them understanding the other’s thoughts. No wonder when Hongjun was small, yaoguai kept coming to his house to find him, and Kong Xuan and Hongjun’s mother, Jia Yuze, had died to protect him. No wonder he said, “In my body, there lives a yaoguai”.
“Where’s Hongjun?” Qiu Yongsi asked.
“Lu Xu’s keeping him company,” Li Jinglong replied, sighing. “We have to find a way to expel that devil seed from within him.”
“Something that even his dad could not do,” Mo Rigen said, “you think you can accomplish?”
Li Jinglong didn’t say any more.
“No matter what happens,” Qiu Yongsi said, “everyone’s gathered together again. That matter of Hongjun’s, as long as we guard him, and guard him well, then it should be within our control; it’s just that Zhangshi will have to exhaust himself a little more.”
“I’m afraid that I won’t be able to guard him well,” Li Jinglong replied.
“You can definitely do it!” A-Tai said.
Mo Rigen added, “You definitely can, Zhangshi, it’s up to you!”
Qiu Yongsi said earnestly, “Zhangshi, only you can.”
In the other hall, Hongjun sat in front of the railings, leaning up against it as he watched the brilliant sunset outside. Those railings were like a prison, and through them he could see the scenery outside chopped into fragments.
“Lu Xu,” Hongjun said, his brows furrowed. “What exactly were you thinking? Are you so eager to die?”
Lu Xu knew that Hongjun was admonishing him for that last moment before he had activated the array.
“If I was to trap the heart devil in my body,” Lu Xu said, “then it would be much easier to kill.”
“But you would also die,” Hongjun said.
“Who doesn’t die?” Lu Xu replied. “If I die, then I’ll just go be reborn again, that’s all.”
Hongjun replied, “But you would no longer be able to recall your past anymore. You will have become another Lu Xu.”
Lu Xu and Hongjun sat shoulder to shoulder, and Hongjun reached out an arm, wrapping it around his shoulders, hugging him to the front of his body. He said lightly, “You cannot do such things again in the future.”
“En.” Lu Xu laid down on his side, his head pillowed on Hongjun’s legs.
Hongjun then asked, “Can you make me have another dream? I want to see my dad and mom.”
“I can’t,” Lu Xu murmured, lifting his head to look at Hongjun’s face. He reached out a hand and pressed it against his forehead, replying, “My antlers haven’t grown out yet.”
“How long will that take?” Hongjun asked in response.
Lu Xu shook his head, his gaze lost.
Hongjun asked, “Was that dream real?”
Lu Xu didn’t respond, and Hongjun’s heart slowly sank.
Lu Xu replied, “When the heart devil controlled me and made you sink into dreams, I also saw… your past.”
“That was real,” Hongjun replied.
“But many things about your past still remain unrevealed,” Lu Xu said uneasily. “Your memories have been sealed, and much has been lost, especially between you and… that person, Li Jinglong, from when you first met until you separated. Do you know who sealed you?”
Hongjun furrowed his brow, thinking deeply, before he suddenly remembered that time when he had been stifled by the Lihun Pollen and recalled that Qing Xiong was standing before him, saying a sentence to him. The memory was foggy, and he could not recall the details.
“Was it Qing Xiong?” Hongjun murmured.
“The one that sealed your memories, perhaps was also the person that sealed Li Jinglong’s memories,” Lu Xu replied, watching Hongjun unblinkingly. “Hongjun, your face is very pretty.”
Hongjun’s forehead was furrowed deeply, and when he heard these words, he came back to himself and looked at Lu Xu, smiling bitterly.
“I’m so tired,” Hongjun said quietly.
“Sleep ba,” Lu Xu replied. “When you wake up, everything will be alright.”
“Talk about my dad some more ba,” Hongjun said as he laid down. This time, they switched spots, and it was Lu Xu who was sitting as he replied, “Let’s not talk about it anymore, it’s all in the past.”
Hongjun closed his eyes, and without knowing when, he fell asleep.
Not long after, Li Jinglong’s tall, sturdy form blocked the doorway of the hall, blocking off the sunlight, and Lu Xu lifted his eyes to glance at him. He then rose and brushed past Li Jinglong as he left. Li Jinglong knelt down beside Hongjun, who was soundly asleep, and observed him for a while.
His face still sported that dark bruise from Hongjun’s punch. But not long after, he also let out a long sigh and laid down by his side.
moon: fun note about the title, it’s actually usually a phrase used to describe how calligraphy/handwriting looks! but in this case it’s qys…
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.