"This kind of destiny in one’s life, how many people could have such a thing?"
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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Li Jinglong and Mo Rigen stood in the yard. Mo Rigen had explained what had happened after they returned, before he then looked at Li Jinglong. Li Jinglong, however, took pleasure from his misery. “I’m still waiting to arrange a marriage between you two, so when will you get married?”
Mo Rigen: “...”
“How about you two?” Mo Rigen shot back in response.
Li Jinglong was instantly at a loss for words, and Mo Rigen scanned him up and down.
After thinking about it for a bit, Li Jinglong finally said, “His dad handed him over to me.”
The two of them were quiet for a time. Li Jinglong was still thinking about how as soon as Hongjun had come back, he had gone off to tell Lu Xu some secret, and none of his attention was on Mo Rigen’s matter.
“And what does this have to do with you?” Li Jinglong asked.
“Of course it has something to do with me.” Mo Rigen hesitated for a long time, before he finally eked out a question. “When are you going to take Hongjun as your wife?”
“Don’t use that phrase!” Li Jinglong said. “That’s too awkward! I’m not taking him as a wife, and he’s not taking me as a wife either… Do you have to put it like that?”
Mo Rigen looked at Li Jinglong doubtfully, saying, “Doesn’t seem like it, but Zhangshi, you two did that?”
Li Jinglong: “...”
“I thought you had some dire matter, but you keep asking about these things. Is this what a subordinate should be asking?”
“Don’t, don’t, don’t!” Mo Rigen hurried to grab Li Jinglong, saying, “Zhangshi, you have to understand where I’m coming from”
“How Hongjun and I are is not something that outsiders need to involve themselves in,” Li Jinglong said.
Mo Rigen finally wailed pitifully, “If you two don’t take the lead, I don’t know how I’m supposed to do it!”
Only after a long while did Li Jinglong understand what Mo Rigen meant. “You even need me to teach you this?! If you like him, then go.”
Mo Rigen really didn’t know what to do. Technically, it didn’t matter if the White Deer was male or female, but to marry a man was something a little beyond his imagination. Historically, the Grey Wolf and the White Deer had never both been men at the same time.
“You’ll get hit by lightning then!” Mo Rigen said in the end.
Li Jinglong’s expression changed. “Mo Rigen, are you cursing me?”
Mo Rigen hurried to wave his hand, meaning that he had no such thought in mind. “The Shiwei people did have a custom of sleeping with young men, but…”
“Then isn’t that fine?” Li Jinglong said. “Otherwise, should I ask the crown prince to arrange your marriage, so you can consummate it today?”
Mo Rigen replied, “But that’s something that only coarse people do… Oh, Zhangshi, I’m definitely not cursing you out, but in the Shiwei tribe, only coarse people will go fuck… those uh, horses, sheep, boys…”
Li Jinglong interrupted him. “Shut up. Is there anything else? If there isn’t, then I’m leaving.”
In the end, Mo Rigen said, “You should go first ba, Zhangshi. When you two get together, then I’ll have the confidence as well. Give us an example to follow?”
Li Jinglong watched Mo Rigen for a while, noticing that the carp yao was standing behind him, studying the two of them doubtfully. Suddenly, he waved towards Mo Rigen, drew close to his ear, and said quietly, “Brother, compared to those sheep and horses or whatever…
“...what you should worry about is whether or not Lu Xu will agree.”
Li Jinglong studied Mo Rigen, one eyebrow raised. Though Lu Xu’s antlers were gone, he still ran as fast as the wind, and if he really wanted to run, even Hongjun wouldn’t be able to catch up with him. Mo Rigen, you really have so much confidence in yourself?
Mo Rigen: “...”
“I don’t want to pay any attention to your guys’ messy matters.” Li Jinglong was just about to leave when the carp yao called out to him.
“Hey, second eldest,” the carp yao said swaggeringly, its arms on its hips. “I have a few questions for you.”
Li Jinglong: “...”
Li Jinglong really wanted to, like how Hongjun had taught him on their journey, find a tree branch, whittle it down, and stab it into the carp yao. Just like that, he wanted to string it on the stick and place it over a fire to roast.
“Eldest, please speak,” Li Jinglong indicated that he was all ears.
The carp yao scrutinized him with suspicion, but Li Jinglong merely stared back, his expression cold and impassive.
Hongjun had run about for many days and finally returned home. When he laid down on his bed, he felt that this home in the Exorcism Department was the most comfortable place on this earth, and he didn’t want to go anywhere.
“... So,” Hongjun said to Lu Xu, after describing what had happened in Yaojin Palace in detail, “we came back. When will your antlers grow out?”
Lu Xu climbed onto the bed, sitting by Hongjun’s side. He shook his head, a lost expression appearing in his eyes.
“Do you want to know about the matters of the past?” Lu Xu asked. “My mana’s come back a little, and though it’s not anywhere near what it was before, it might not be a problem to let you have a dream.”
Hongjun, however, shook his head, and he smiled as he said, “I don’t want to anymore.”
If at this moment, Hongjun still clung on to those matters of the past, then that meant he was still holding on to that past between Li Jinglong and himself. And Lu Xu also knew of this past, which was why he was worried about Hongjun, but upon hearing these words, he couldn’t help but startle.
“Directly face what you are thinking,” Lu Xu said. “You clearly know where those emotions you feel inside you come from. Whether it be like or hate, why are you unwilling to admit it? There’s no point in deceiving both yourself as well as others.”
Now, it was Hongjun’s turn to startle. Though Lu Xu’s words were for the matters of the past, they became the best explanation for Hongjun’s worry over what he would gain or lose now.
Why was he unwilling to admit it? There was no point in deceiving both himself and others.
“That’s right,” Hongjun explained, “but it’s not that I’m not willing to admit to it, I’ll admit to it all. It’s just that after going home this time, I’ve become aware of many things. The more I persist in finding out the truth, the sadder I get, so I don’t wish to go digging to the root of the matter anymore.”
When Hongjun said this, Lu Xu was a little at a loss for how to respond. He asked, “Then, the seed of Mara...”
Hongjun sat up and said earnestly to Lu Xu, “Lu Xu, I have a thought.”
Lu Xu: “???”
Since this was his innate destiny, perhaps he would never be able to be free of the devil seed for his entire life. Hongjun also naturally knew that Li Jinglong’s words today were spoken just to comfort him, and so that everyone would stop worrying about him. He figured that there wasn’t any special way; at most, it’d be like what had happened in his childhood, and they would set up the magic array just as they had before in the Exorcism Department to forcefully expel the devil. But to repeat it once more meant that his father would not be there to save him, nor would his mother offer up her life for his.
Since it was like this, then why not just live out a few more happy days? When the time came for him to truly become Mara, then he would accept that last blow of Li Jinglong’s from the golden sword in his hands and leave the world just like that.
Lu Xu: “You…”
“Qing Xiong said,” Hongjun continued, not thinking of this as anything much, “ephemeral mushrooms that sprout in the morning know not of the passage of months, and winter cicadas know not of the changing of seasons. Everything will die one day, and even the heavens and earth cannot last forever. Is there any great meaning in whether I live a long time or not?”
In reality, on this entire way back, he had often watched Li Jinglong, and the more obvious the feeling in his heart was, the more guilty he felt. He felt guilty not only towards himself, but also towards Li Jinglong.
Lu Xu protested, “You can’t think like this, Hongjun!”
But Hongjun merely smiled at him. After having experienced so much, he had slowly grown resigned to his situation.
“You still haven’t thought of a way to get rid of Mara,” the carp yao said. “Isn’t that right?”
Mo Rigen also remembered that now, and he said to Li Jinglong, “In these past few days, Lu Xu has often asked me how exactly we should deal with Hongjun’s devil seed.”
All of the members of the Exorcism Department were extremely clever, and they could all see that Li Jinglong didn’t actually have a handle on this. The reason they had cooperated with him before was only because it gave Hongjun peace of mind.
“No,” Li Jinglong replied. “I actually really do, but I’m not very sure.”
The carp yao replied, “Then let us hear it? I promised Qing Xiong-daren that I would take good care of Hongjun.”
“Hongjun isn’t yours to take care of now!” Li Jinglong protested. “When I was climbing up the mountain with great difficulty and bringing him back, where were you?”
Mo Rigen said helplessly, “What are you holding a grudge against a carp for?”
The carp yao shouted back, “Third eldest, are you trying to revolt?!”
Li Jinglong had no temper at all, but he still studied the carp yao. Instinct told him that perhaps it knew quite a lot about Hongjun. He glanced at it, then to Mo Rigen; everything that he had so far was only his own deductions, but when Mo Rigen asked about it, he had grown nervous for no reason.
He was afraid that as soon as he opened his mouth, Mo Rigen would mercilessly determine that his plans were erroneous. And what Li Jinglong had been most afraid of his entire life was this kind of feeling, because he wasn’t like them. He didn’t have the background or qualifications of a proper exorcist, nor did he have any teacher or elder to pass down their knowledge to him.
“Let’s talk about this later ba,” Li Jinglong said, trying to avoid the topic. But Mo Rigen said, “Say it now. You’re not the only one who’s concerned about Hongjun.”
Li Jinglong could only stay his steps, and he said, “The devil seed isn’t in his body.”
The carp yao exclaimed, shocked, “Really?”
Mo Rigen frowned faintly, but Li Jinglong continued, “Rather, it’s in his soul.”
“That’s right,” Mo Rigen said, nodding.
The carp yao: “Can you not take long breaths between your sentences!”
“Do you remember what happened that day we went into the ‘Deer King Jātaka’?” Li Jinglong asked earnestly. “After leaving our physical bodies behind, the heart devil seed in Lu Xu’s body separated from his three hun and seven po.”
Mo Rigen en-ed and said, “But for Hongjun, that clearly didn’t happen.”
“The seed of Mara is merged with his hunpo,” Li Jinglong said solemnly. “Or, that is to say… this is something I’m really not willing to bring up…”
Mo Rigen gestured for him to speak. After Li Jinglong mulled it over, he finally came to a decision and continued, “Rather, there was never any ‘seed of Mara’ in the first place. Hongjun is the seed of Mara.”
Mo Rigen’s breathing stopped, as if a basin of icy-cold water was poured on him. The carp yao watched Li Jinglong fixedly before glancing left and right, as if it wanted to escape this place. From this detail, Li Jinglong immediately deduced that he had guessed right.
“Looks like my guess was correct,” Li Jinglong said. “Zhao Zilong! What else do you know?!”
The carp yao didn’t dare to pose as the eldest anymore and immediately said, “I also unwittingly overheard Qing Xiong-daren say this! You’ve guessed it all! Zhangshi, you’re so smart!”
“You definitely thought that there was a black thing within Kong Xuan’s body.” Li Jinglong confirmed his own guess, and he gestured towards Mo Rigen, pointing at his own heart. He explained, “To escape, he had a son…” And saying this, he used his fingers to speak, making a gesture to indicate how tall a small child was, then hooking his fingers as if he was pulling his heart out and pressing it into that small child’s body.
“Then he removed the seed of Mara, and put that in Hongjun’s three hun and seven po,” Li Jinglong said. “But I feel that everyone, including Hongjun’s father, was incorrect in their assumptions from the very beginning. He doesn’t have any sort of three hun and seven po; he is that seed of Mara that was separated from Kong Xuan. This devil seed, to assimilate with the body of someone who was suitable, created the three hun and seven po. Getting rid of it is equivalent to burning Hongjun’s hunpo to ash.”
Mo Rigen sat down off to the side, not making a sound. Since he had spoken to this point, Li Jinglong saw no harm in laying all his cards out on the table, and he asked, “Do you think that this conjecture is reasonable?”
Mo Rigen murmured, “I understand.”
Li Jinglong made a gesture to hush and reminded him, “You must not tell him. In his heart, Hongjun is very sensitive to this topic.”
Mo Rigen raised a hand, indicating that he naturally knew this. The carp yao said, “You’re so smart, you’ve even thought of this. Since it’s like this, then how will you exorcise it? Even Chong Ming-daren hasn’t thought of a way…”
“I will not exorcise it,” Li Jinglong said. “I’ll simply let Hongjun stay like this, continuing to live on, and beyond that, I’ll also take good care of him. Whether he’s a yao or a human, or even a devil, what does that matter to me?”
Mo Rigen: “!!!”
The carp yao: “...”
Mo Rigen raised his head in disbelief to watch Li Jinglong. Li Jinglong continued, “To tell you the truth, things were not very happy when I went home with him this time, but it also reinforced one of my ideas from before. If we play our cards well, it’s completely possible, and Chong Ming is also trying to do so.”
“Let’s say that there is a cover, a shell, or a seal,” Li Jinglong said, “that can temporarily keep Hongjun protected.” He made a gesture, and he continued, “To Xie Yu, isn’t the greatest use of Hongjun for him to let Mara be reborn? Xie Yu would definitely come find him, and he would forcefully pour the devil qi into his body, just like that day…”
Mo Rigen recalled that night in Dunhuang, and he en-ed, his brows furrowing.
Li Jinglong continued, “Under the condition that my Heart Lamp is strong enough, I can stand guard by this seal to purify all of the devil qi, or set up a trap nearby… to tell you the truth, I haven’t thought through things past this point. Chong Ming’s seal is his Yaojin Palace, but for reasons I don’t know, Qing Xiong changed his plan…”
The carp yao responded, “Because Chong Ming-daren’s rebirth is almost upon us.”
Li Jinglong froze for a moment. “How much more time do we have?”
The carp yao began to count on its fingers, and Mo Rigen hurried to stop it, saying, “Whether he rebirths or not, wouldn’t he know?”
The carp yao: “He knows, that’s why he’s very conflicted.”
Li Jinglong was once again a little worried, and he studied Mo Rigen’s face, testing the waters. “Do you think it can be done?”
Mo Rigen immediately supplied, “It’s very reasonable, Zhangshi. Only, how do you plan on sealing Hongjun?”
“You can’t think like that,” Lu Xu said to Hongjun beside him, sitting on the bed, his back straight. “Do you know? I always feel like that fellow Li Jinglong is somewhat remarkable.”
Hongjun asked curiously, “Remarkable?” He then thought for a bit, before he smiled. “He truly is remarkable. To be born as a mortal, yet to be able to accomplish what he has today…”
Lu Xu shook his head. “The remarkable I’m talking about isn’t his charisma, nor is it his magic. I heard that big wolf talk about a lot of matters involving him, and I feel like he has a kind of innate instinct…”
When Hongjun heard the words “big wolf”, he changed the topic. He didn’t want to discuss this heavy topic anymore, so he said, “Did you know? Before Mo Rigen met you, he wanted to take you as his wife…”
“Stop teasing!” Lu Xu hurried to stop Hongjun’s teasing, and he explained, “The White Deer that the Grey Wolf likes is no more than that White Deer in his destiny, the image of me that he’s created in his own imagination, nothing more. If it were someone else, he would also treat them like this. Is there any difference there?”
“There’s a difference,” Hongjun immediately supplied.
“Where’s the difference?” Lu Xu asked.
“Anyways, there’s definitely a difference.” Hongjun seemed to have become a kid again.
If this was before, Hongjun would not have understood, but now he hoped with all his heart that Mo Rigen could be together with Lu Xu. This kind of destiny in one’s life, how many people could have such a thing? With that, he began to praise Mo Rigen with all his might, and though Lu Xu wanted to talk about Li Jinglong, he kept being interrupted by Hongjun. In the end, he grew enraged, and he slammed the soft pillow down on Hongjun’s head. They each held a pillow as they began to hit each other, and as several loud shouts rang out, the door to the room was pulled open, and Mo Rigen rushed in swiftly.
“Don’t fight!” Mo Rigen said.
“Fuck off!” Lu Xu hollered back.
“We’re not fighting!” Hongjun replied.
With that, two pillows flew out at once, sending Mo Rigen to the ground.
Li Jinglong poked his head out from behind him, saying, “Dinner.”
Everything was as normal as it could be, and when night fell, the Exorcism Department glowed warmly with light. Everyone moved the tables and poured out wine, celebrating the return of Li Jinglong and Hongjun, even though A-Tai had yet to return. To Hongjun, this scene was both sentimental and a little disappointing, because as soon as he returned home, he would no longer be able to share a bed with Li Jinglong.
Li Jinglong acted like he had before. He poured a little bit of wine out for Hongun, and Mo Rigen once again made a “cage” gesture to Li Jinglong, who nodded to indicate that he understood. After they finished dinner, Lu Xu grabbed Hongjun, wanting to speak, but Mo Rigen piped up, “He just came home, let him rest for a bit.”
Lu Xu shot a glare at Mo Rigen, as if there was enmity between them, and Hongjun said to Lu Xu, “Tomorrow I’ll wake you up.”
“I’ll make you lunch,” Lu Xu said. “The dumplings my mother used to make are so tasty.”
However, Mo Rigen grew a little uncertain again as to whether or not Lu Xu liked Hongjun. But he also couldn’t fault Hongjun for that, so he felt a little frustrated. He also wanted to talk to Hongjun, but he hadn’t thought that once they returned, Lu Xu would keep Hongjun all to himself, so he could only let it be for the time being.
As they were speaking, Lu Xu raised his hand again, placing it on Hongjun’s forehead. The spiritual energy in his hand dissipated, entering Hongjun’s forehead, and Lu Xu said, “Hongjun, may you have a good dream.” It was only with that that the two of them bid each other farewell.
The Exorcism Department returned to the brightly lit way it had been in the past. In the spring night, Hongjun was still thinking about Li Jinglong; he had forgotten to ask Lu Xu in the afternoon what impressive abilities he had. But upon his return, Li Jinglong seemed to have recovered his identity as their superior and no longer acted like he had outside, taking such good care of him in every way.
Does he like me? Hongjun couldn’t resist beginning to consider this problem. He seemed to be like this to everyone; to A-Tai, to Mo Rigen, to Qiu Yongsi, he was this good to every member of the Exorcism Department. It seemed like he was treating Hongjun a little better, but perhaps this was only because he saw him as a didi.
He didn’t seem to have heard of him liking any girl, but according to Li Jinglong’s own words, there were many girls who liked him.
Before they slept tonight, would he come over and say a few words? After they returned to the Exorcism Department, Hongjun felt as if Li Jinglong had changed back to how he was before, returning to the zhangshi he had been. The him of today, compared to the him that had chased him on that snowy night and shown him the tattoo on his chest, seemed to be two completely different people.
Hongjun sat on the bed, lost in thought, twirling the cap for the candle in his hand as he debated if he should prod the light a little brighter. Just now, after they had parted, Li Jinglong seemed to have been walking towards the eastern wing to go check up on the case scrolls. Would he still come back later?
Hongjun waited for a long while, his heart an absolute mess. He thought of those words that he had said while hugging Li Jinglong when they were staying in the way-station, back when Li Jinglong had carefully applied medicine for him when the two of them were soaking in the hot springs. Without knowing why, perhaps due to the magic Lu Xu had cast, he couldn’t stop thinking back over the time that he and Li Jinglong spent outside.
Li Jinglong organized the scrolls. Upon seeing that everyone had returned to their rooms and that even the carp yao had snuggled into its pond, he walked out along the corridor, his feet bare, his hair ribbon floating in the wind.
There was still a light on in Hongjun’s room, so Li Jinglong headed right for it. When Hongjun heard the footsteps, he immediately grew nervous, and for some reason he couldn’t identify, he hurriedly turned over, pressing the candle cap over the light. All the light in the room soundlessly faded away, but the remaining moonlight cast Li Jinglong’s tall, broad silhouette over the door.
Li Jinglong stopped in his steps, and Hongjun’s heart thumped loudly.
“You’ve gone to sleep?” Li Jinglong asked from outside.
“En.” Hongjun curled into his blankets, but Li Jinglong, standing outside the door, seemed like he wanted to say something more.
But A-Tai, who had drunk so much that he was completely plastered, came stumbling in, getting ready to throw up right into the well. Li Jinglong hurriedly steered him to one side, and A-Tai hurled into the carp yao’s pond instead.
The carp yao had been sleeping peacefully in its own fishy home, only for trouble to descend from the heavens. When it understood what was going on, it opened its mouth and cursed A-Tai out, enraged beyond belief. Everyone woke up at that, and Hongjun even ran out to ask what was going on, only to see A-Tai lying by the side of the pool, crying as he sang.
“Don’t mind him,” Ashina Qiong said, dragging A-Tai in. “He’s lovesick.”
“He’s lovesick,” Li Jinglong responded helplessly.
“Oh, lovesick,” Mo Rigen said. The rest all went to sleep as well, putting an end to this mess of a night. Before he returned to his room, Hongjun couldn’t resist sneaking a peek at Li Jinglong, only to see that Li Jinglong was also looking at him just then, smiling at him. Hongjun couldn’t help the way his heart lurched at that, and he turned and went inside, heading into his dreams with that smile on this spring night.
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.