"With the ancient incantation of this Divine Land, I summon thee..."
Editor(s): juurensha, namio
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Hongjun looked towards the Dayan Pagoda in the distance, only to see Chang’an under the moonlight. A gentle spring breeze blew, and the peach blossoms of late spring drifted by. There were thousands of families and tens of thousands of tiles, and row upon row, they reflected the light of the moon. From the distance came the sound of a flute, immersed in the wind.
Li Jinglong hugged Hongjun from behind, and Hongjun’s entire body stiffened. He didn’t dare to move randomly. Li Jinglong spoke quietly into his ear, “You don’t like me?”
“No… no…” Hongjun’s heart began to thump violently once more. He turned to look at Li Jinglong, meeting his warm yet earnest gaze, and at that, his heart jolted. Li Jinglong closed his eyes and leaned forward, once again capturing Hongjun’s lips.
It was only in that instant that Hongjun truly understood the feeling of kissing another. It was as if countless flowers across the entirety of Chang’an blossomed at once, the world brimming with vigor.
After a long time, their lips parted. Li Jinglong’s gaze had a trace of mirth, while Hongjun breathed deeply, finally calming down. There was a feeling of desire within his heart that had flared to life, and he turned in Li Jinglong’s lap, coming face to face with him. Closing his eyes, he turned his head and kissed him back.
This response caused Li Jinglong’s breaths to come harsh and fast, and it awakened the emotions within him that were difficult to contain. It was as if thousands of houses had collapsed in that moment of shaking, and love billowed towards him, toppling mountains and leveling seas. The two of them both grew aroused from that kissing, and when they separated again, Hongjun’s face was red to his ears, and he hurried to turn and move aside. Li Jinglong, however, didn’t try to duck away at all, watching Hongjun and smiling.
Hongjun liked his smile the best, only because every time Li Jinglong smiled, he was like a carefree, unburdened, handsome young man. What wisdom, what stratagems, what shrewdness, it all disappeared without a trace with his handsome visage. When he thought of that, Hongjun’s expression actually grew a little angry.
Hongjun: “Why did you…”
“I didn’t want to lose you.” Li Jinglong held Hongjun’s hand and lowered his head, intimately rubbing the bridges of their noses together as he explained. “Sorry, Hongjun, what I said today has really caused you great distress. But only by directly facing what you fear can we gain the chance to win against it.”
“You’re right,” Hongjun replied quietly. “This is the truth, and I must face it. Perhaps this is the fate that has been predestined in my life.”
Li Jinglong’s eyebrows raised slightly, and he smiled, relieved, at him.
Li Jinglong: “I’ll be with you, I’ll be together with you.”
In this moment, Hongjun suddenly felt as if their minds were linked, and he understood what Li Jinglong was saying. To break free of all of this, the only way was to first face himself directly, and face this destiny. And when Li Jinglong said that sentence, he too was making a promise -- no matter how far they went, or where they went to, he would always keep watch by his side.
“But I’m not asking about this,” Hongjun said, a little embarrassed. “Why do you like me… I’m saying…”
“Why do you like me?” Li Jinglong asked in response.
Hongjun was stumped by this question, because it was really too awkward. In the coming days, he would often think of these words; he had actually discussed such silly things with Li Jinglong. Every time he thought of it, he would always end up wishing that he could dig a hole and bury himself in it.
But this was the first time in his life. Actually, ever since he had been together with Li Jinglong, he had experienced almost all of the firsts of his life. The him of this moment did not know that the minds of people in this red dust changed easily, even more quickly than the spring breeze and floating clouds. He also did not know that there were too many things in this world that made no sense, like love.
He actually asked Li Jinglong that in complete seriousness, and Li Jinglong responded to him equally seriously.
“I don’t know,” Hongjun replied in the end, a little desolately, after mulling it over for a while.
“I also don’t know,” Li Jinglong replied truthfully.
Hongjun couldn’t resist laughing at that, and Li Jinglong couldn’t resist wanting to kiss him. Hongjun felt a nagging discomfort; he was too nervous, and he kept wanting to find something to say.
“When did you… I mean, when did you begin to like…like me?” Hongjun asked once more.
Li Jinglong held back a smile, and he pretended to think for a long time, before saying, “I have to think about that one.”
Hongjun thought of that scene on that snowy night in Liangzhou, when Li Jinglong had come racing after him and tore open his robe. With that, he carefully undid Li Jinglong’s inner robe, revealing his sturdy chest. Li Jinglong lowered his head to look, and he understood.
“I remember now,” Li Jinglong said at that. “When you were squeezing my milk.”
When Hongjun heard these words, he erupted into a bout of loud laughter. Li Jinglong laughed as he grabbed his wrist, lowering his head and forcefully kissing him. Hongjun only felt that this was very weird, and he hurried to push aside his head, saying, “I don’t want to anymore!”
“Then let’s go back and keep kissing…”
Suddenly, Hongjun widened his eyes and whipped his head around. The two of them both stopped in their tracks.
At that moment, dark clouds covered the moon, and a gust of black qi coiled towards them from the distant mountains. It circled around the perimeter, before crashing over the entirety of Chang’an City like a wave.
For a brief moment, all of the lights in the houses in Chang’an dimmed, and only in that moment, all of the windchimes on the Dayan Pagoda tinkled sweetly on their own. There seemed to be some artifact in the tower that gave off a gentle glow, and it enveloped the tower. That black qi left as fast as it came. It rushed soundlessly towards the northeast, disappearing just like that.
“What was that?” Hongjun thought that his eyes were playing tricks on him.
Li Jinglong’s brows were deeply furrowed as he replied, “That should have been Xie Yu returning… or, you could say, it’s always been here, but it’s currently preparing to deal with us.”
His grip on Hongjun tightened a little, and the two of them looked towards the direction where the black qi had disappeared. It was impossible to determine at that time where the black qi had disappeared to- perhaps it was within Xingqing Palace, or perhaps it was in Daming Palace, even further in the distance.
Hongjun said, “I can draw the devil qi over.”
“No matter what, you must not,” Li Jinglong said. “Even if this Chang’an…”
Li Jinglong only got halfway through his sentence before he stopped speaking, watching Hongjun uneasily. Hongjun didn’t understand why and stared back at him.
“Trust me, trust that I can both protect you and get rid of Xie Yu,” Li Jinglong said. “To live in this world, we must always make a choice, that’s true, but I will do my best to let us avoid having to make decisions and trade offs.”
Hongjun did not yet understand the meaning in his words, nor did he understand what kind of resolve Li Jinglong had in this moment. He merely smiled and said, “Okay.”
In the deepest part of Daming Palace, the seventh level of the underground palace.
A black array billowed with flames as black qi gathered up from all around, rushing like a torrential waterfall into it. In the eye of the array, it was as if countless resentful souls had been trapped.
The devil qi gathered into the face of a fox, twisted into a grimace, a sharp-toothed fish head dashing this way and that, the body of the jade pipa yao and her pained cries, the black qi that exploded around the snow woman and the plague god --
“With the ancient incantation of this Divine Land, I summon thee...
“With this immortal life and suffering, leave behind the earthly and divine veins, and be reborn by the devil qi.
“Take Mara as our master, and you shall be imprisoned for the rest of your life…”
The azure-robed man slowly walked down the stairs, his hand shining with purple-black light. He chanted the incantation as he slowly approached the array.
“The master of the Heart Lamp, the gilded image of Acala,” the man murmured, his face to the array and his back to the entrance of the underground palace. “Di Renjie, you have really chosen the wrong person…”
Mt. Li, Huaqing Palace.
In the depths of the night, the Huaqing Pool was silent beyond compare, and several soldiers hugged their halberds to themselves as they sat in the corridor, dozing off. The waters of Huaqing Pool shimmered with light, reflecting the moon in the sky, before suddenly shining with silver light.
“What’s that?” A soldier discovered that the Huaqing Pool had actually turned into a mirror, and the silver light immediately glowed brightly. There was a weng, and out rushed a blue-black monster!
The waters of the pool erupted, rose up, and turned into the surface of a circular lake almost a li in circumference. The soldiers let out loud shouts and scattered, only to see that in a short moment, a humongous, odd fish leapt out of the lake, spreading open its six fins and flying through the air. It then turned gracefully and turned into a human figure clad in all black.
In the blink of an eye, a dripping wet, huge, golden-green bird rushed out of the pool as well and shook off the water on its body. The waters of the spring instantly turned into countless small droplets, scattering into the depths of the quiet night. That massive azure bird also turned into a young man, his upper body bare, and he and the black-robed man flew together into the distance.
After the two men flew away, the waters of the Huaqing Pool collapsed down with a huala, returning to the pool.
The soldiers looked at each other in consternation, fear lingering in their hearts.
At the top of Huaqing Palace, Yuan Kun sat with one leg draped over, hooked around the eaves of the roof, his eyes covered by a black strip of cloth. Qing Xiong stood at the top of the palace, looking towards Daming Palace in the distance.
“The most important thing now is to find the Mara that Xie Yu has created,” Qing Xiong said.
“There’s no more time,” Yuan Kun murmured. “I have seen countless causes and effects, and they all converge towards a single future. In one year, the Central Plains will become hell on earth.”
Qing Xiong asked solemnly, “Look towards the east?”
Yuan Kun replied earnestly, “There’s not enough time, Qing Xiong. Instead of tracking down the source of the devil qi, it would be better to summon all the remaining yao tribes. The ghost king has already awakened, but Yu Zaoyun is still fast asleep. Adding to that you and me, the kun, peng, fox, and ghost may perhaps, in one year, be able to activate the Ten-Thousand Yao Array, offer up the Heart Lamp as sacrifice, and with the six weapons of Acala, be able to fight a battle with Xie Yu and Mara.”
Qing Xiong replied darkly, “The yao tribes have been without a king for a long time. With only you and me, it will be difficult to command ten thousand yao. I will go to Luoyang, while you stay here in Chang’an. We still have Chong Ming.”
Yuan Kun sighed and persuaded him, “This is the will of the heavens, what purpose is there to take such an unwise action?”
Before he even finished talking, Qing Xiong spread his wings and flew towards the vast lands of the east.
At the fourth geng, Li Jinglong gently pushed open the door, and the two of them tiptoed back into the Exorcism Department.
Barefoot, Hongjun walked back to his room without making a sound. Li Jinglong wanted to follow, but Hongjun was still a little at a loss for what to do now that their relationship had changed. When they passed through the yard, Li Jinglong reached out and picked a peach blossom branch, handing it to Hongjun.
Hongjun took it and began to poke him with it, but Li Jinglong grabbed at his wrist with a stern expression. Hongjun dodged away and came to the outside of his room, and he gently pushed Li Jinglong, letting him go back to his own room. Li Jinglong, however, was not resigned to doing so, wanting to squeeze into the room with Hongjun. An expression of entreaty appeared in Hongjun’s eyes as he jabbed the branch at him, and in the end, Li Jinglong could only retreat.
Just as Hongjun was about to shut the door, Li Jinglong waved his hand at him, gesturing for him to come over. With one hand, he pried away the peach blossoms within Hongjun’s fingers, and with the other, he grabbed his nape and kissed him on the lips. Hongjun’s entire face was bright red. Afraid of waking their companions, he didn’t let Li Jinglong kiss him again. He hurriedly ducked into the room, shutting Li Jinglong outside.
Only after standing there for a while longer did Li Jinglong turn and return to his own room.
Hongjun didn’t light any lamps, and he collapsed backwards on the bed, his heart beating wildly. Everything that had happened tonight had happened so suddenly, just like an unrealistic dream. Even now, he still couldn’t believe it.
He used the back of his hand to press against his lips, recalling the warmth of Li Jinglong’s body and his broad chest, that burning yet completely unreserved kiss… that caused him such incomparable intoxication. Many kinds of complicated emotions combined into one, and it seemed as if that was close at hand, but he also didn’t dare to get too close. He was afraid that like a moth to the flame, he would be burnt to ashes by that blazing Heart Lamp.
What was Li Jinglong doing?
Hongjun hugged the blankets to him as he got up. They had just parted, yet Hongjun couldn’t resist starting to think about him. Aaaaahhh, why did I shoo him away just now! At this moment, he felt that he had a lot of words that he wanted to say to Li Jinglong.
Li Jinglong returned to his room, closed the door, and let out a long breath. He stood there for a while, looking as if he had lost his very soul, before he went digging around and pulled out a vase. He bent over and soundlessly passed through the long corridor, sticking the peach blossoms into the vase and placing it outside Hongjun’s door. After a moment’s thought, he was afraid that Hongjun would knock into it when he opened the door after waking, so he took the peach blossoms back with him. He toyed with the peach blossom, and he couldn’t resist chuckling as he went back to his room and laid down on the bed, raising his gaze to look at the peach blossoms in his hand, which he twirled around idly.
Hongjun hugged the blankets, lying on his side, in the exact same position that he had hugged Li Jinglong every night that they had been away. However, no matter what, he could not fall asleep; he felt stifled in his chest, and he was so nervous that his stomach churned and his head spun. Hugging those blankets, he rolled over, and after a while, rolled back.
At the fourth geng , Li Jinglong pulled open the door, and with his upper body bare, he ladled a ladleful of water from the well and poured it over his back.
At the fifth geng, Li Jinglong came out again, got another ladleful of water, and poured it over his back.
In the early morning, the white fog suffused the air. All of the people in the Exorcism Department were sleeping, and only Hongjun had his eyes open. He hadn’t slept for the whole night, instead revisiting the same topic again and again, which were the memories of when the two of them were together. Li Jinglong changed his robes, exited the Exorcism Department, and walked away.
In the sixteen years of Hongjun’s life, this was the first time that he had been so exhausted. Before, he had been able to fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, but today, even when the sunlight shone in hazily, he still couldn’t fall asleep.
After who knows how long, he was in a daze, floating between sleep and wakefulness when he heard Lu Xu and Mo Rigen talking in the yard. Finally, with that, he clambered to his feet, bleary-eyed.
Ashina Qiong: “Good morning, Zhangshi’s madame.”
Mo Rigen: “Good morning, madame.”
A-Tai: “Madame, Zhangshi bought you cherry biluo."
Lu Xu had one hand pressed to his forehead, and he couldn’t stop chuckling from his place in front of the table.
The carp yao wrung its hands as it stood outside the door, like a fly that didn’t know what it had done wrong. It said, “Hongjun…”
“Don’t call me madame!” Hongjun said, on the verge of losing it.
The carp yao watched Hongjun pitifully. When Hongjun saw that by the edge of the well, there was the bowl that he used to wash up, and hot water had also been boiled for him, he said, “Zhao Zilong is still the best.”
“Second-eldest boiled it for you,” the carp yao replied falteringly.
“Can I eat one, madame?” Even Lu Xu couldn’t really hold out. There were only two cherry biluo on the table, but they were really too tempting, and there was also tea.
As Hongjun brushed his teeth, he said expressionlessly, “Lu Xu, I’m going to beat you up. But before I do, you can eat one first.”
Lu Xu cheered, but Mo Rigen said, “However much you want to eat, I’ll go buy it for you.”
“Aren’t you out of money?”
Hongjun asked the carp yao, “Where’s Zhangshi?”
The carp yao told Hongjun that Li Jinglong had left early in the morning after taking a case. After finishing, the carp yao then asked, “Hongjun, you and him…”
Everyone had heard Li Jinglong’s confession yesterday.
Hongjun could only grit his teeth and reply, “En.”
“En?” It was as if the carp yao had been hit by lightning.
“En en en en en?!”
The carp yao was about to burst into tears, yet it had nowhere to go, so it could wiggle its tail and leap with a putong into the pond, sinking into it.
“Zhao Zilong!” Hongjun called. “Come out, I feel like we need to chat.”
The carp yao peeped its head out, and Hongjun squatted by the side of the pond, eating the cherry biluo. He fed the crumbs that fell off to it, and the carp yao opened its fish mouth and ate them.
“Why exactly do you dislike Zhangshi so much?” Hongjun asked.
The carp yao said, “His Sword of Wisdom is used to kill you! That’s your inescapable doom!”
Hongjun watched the carp yao, before feeding it a cherry. The carp yao ate it and spat the pit out with a pop.
“I know,” Hongjun said quietly. “But I like him.”
When Hongjun said these words, he saw Lu Xu standing under the corridor, a smile in his eyes. Their gazes met.
“Lu Xu was right,” Hongjun continued. “Jinglong also was right, people always have to face themselves directly.”
The carp yao: “...”
“Just like how I’m Mara, and you are a carp,” Hongjun continued. “What the future will look like, no one can say for sure, but at least for now, I’m very happy.”
And saying this, Hongjun stroked the carp yao’s head, before adding, “Dad often said that it’s very hard to be a yaoguai, because after cultivating for a hundred years, you have to undergo tribulations both large and small. For you to cultivate into a dragon, you will have thousands upon thousands of inescapable trials waiting ahead of you…
“Zhangshi said that he likes me, and he wants to stay with me through my heavenly tribulations. We will either both be ground to dust, or we will both live together.”
-- Scroll 2 · Nine-Colored Deer · End --
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.