If life were nothing but a series of beautiful first impressions, how ordinary that moment was to the us of the time.
Editor(s): namio, nic
That afternoon, the chilly rain pitter-pattered on the roof tiles as the four of them, filled with confusion, sat under the eaves watching the rain.
"My grandfather told me to come to Chang'an to defeat yao." Qiu Yongsi had a completely innocent baby face and continued, "It's mostly so that I can gain some courage. Brothers, my education was not thorough; when you guys fight the demons, please do give this little brother a lot of guidance."
Hongjun said, "I'm also not very well-versed in these matters. As for the two of them... un."
"What is your weapon?" Mo Rigen asked A-Tai. "I see you have a fan, you must be quite proficient in wielding it."
"I haven't revealed my greatest magical artifact yet," A-Tai smiled and said. "There's no harm in telling you, dear friends. It's this lute."
After he finished speaking, A-Tai pulled out the barbat lute he carried on his back. Hongjun had been very interested in artifacts since he was young, but at first he hadn't known A-Tai well, so it was awkward to ask him questions. Now that they were a little more familiar, he gently touched it and asked, "This lute?"
"Yes." A-Tai nodded and smiled. "This lute was passed down to me by my now deceased father. When the yaoguai appear, all I have to do is pull out this lute, and use this to attack the enemy..."
Hongjun said, "What piece would you play then?"
"No," A-Tai shook his head and said, "I'd lift it up and smash it down on their heads."
A-Tai earnestly continued, "This lute is as light as the feather of a hong in my hand, but when it smashes down, it's as heavy as Mt. Tai. Even if the opponent is a dragon, it can be clobbered to death in one blow."
"Don't say any more..." Hongjun cradled his forehead in one hand and pushed away A-Tai's head that had moved over.
"Beautiful little brother," A-Tai scooted over, looking into Hongjun's eyes. A-Tai's own were as blue as the ocean, and combined with his smile, made it impossible to refuse him.
"What troubles your heart so, what sorrows do you carry?" A-Tai asked tenderly. "Why is your forehead always furrowed? Life is so wonderful, how about I play a song for you to listen to, alright?"
Mo Rigen finally couldn't stand listening to it any longer. He slung one arm across Hongjun's shoulders and used his arm to block A-Tai. "Don't bully him, he doesn't understand anything."
Hongjun was indeed very frustrated. Even though he had made several new friends, the Heart Lamp was gone, his throwing knives had disappeared, and he didn't see a way to go about fixing this entire mess. Originally he had thought that he would first come to the Exorcism Department and begin by exterminating some yao before thinking of ways to start searching, but now the future was shrouded in fog.
Hongjun said, "I do have some... troubles."
"What troubles?" Mo Rigen asked. "If you tell us, we can try to help you. Does it have to do with yaoguai?"
"Yaoguai?!" Qiu Yongsi, in that moment, sat up straight and said, "Really? Chang'an has yaoguai?"
A-Tai said, "Being able to devote my strength to your cause is my greatest honor."
Qiu Yongsi was a little frightened, so he said, "As long as you don't stick too close, I can help you with anything else. I do have to get braver... Tell us, what kind of yaoguai is it?"
"I'll think of some other methods." Hongjun was very moved, and said, "If it's really impossible for me, then I'll tell you guys."
"Good choice." Mo Rigen smiled. "Relying on oneself is better than relying on the heavens or the earth. You can do it." Saying that, he patted Hongjun's shoulder.
The rain gradually stopped, and A-Tai spoke again, "Such a lovely scene shouldn't be wasted. How about a spirited piece to accompany it?"
"Let's first clean this place up and get some rooms set up." Mo Rigen pushed up on his knee as he rose to stand. "We'll probably have to sleep here tonight."
"Let's sleep in a Chang'an inn," A-Tai said. "Let's go? My treat."
"I think I'll sleep here," Hongjun said. "Zhao Zilong's fish-stink is too strong, and he could frighten somebody if we were to stay in an inn."
He didn't know why, but he had started to like this place. After the long, meandering journey here, when he saw that tall parasol tree planted in the middle of that courtyard, he felt that it was a little familiar. Mo Rigen was not picky about such things, so he chose to stay with Hongjun. Qiu Yongsi thought about it for a while before choosing to join the other two, and finally A-Tai changed his mind as well and decided to stay in this dilapidated Exorcism Department.
At twilight, the city of Chang'an was lit with the red rays of the sunset. It had rained for three days straight, and autumn had officially swept over Guanzhong.
Feng Changqing held his cane in his left hand and the imperial edict for Li Jinglong in his right, and step by step, the two of them walked out from the Longwu Barracks. Li Jinglong was tall and well-built, and under his right arm he carried a roll of bedding. Originally, he planned to have one of the household servants carry it back, but Feng Changqing insisted he hold onto it as he led Li Jinglong from the main gate of the Longwu Army's headquarters all the way home, thus drawing the attention of the citizens on the streets of Chang'an.
After receiving word of his change in post, Li Jinglong had packed his bedding to return home. He was tired of this constant torment, which only continued as all the citizens that had gathered along the streets laughed at his plight. This prodigal son had been kicked out of the Longwu Army again.
"Hei, you're being reassigned to the Great Tang Exorcism Department." Feng Changqing firmly held the imperial edict, limping along in front, and it wasn't clear if he was speaking to Li Jinglong or himself as he said, "This is a matter of much celebration. The Chancellor of the Right personally commanded that you be promoted two levels in a single night!"
Li Jinglong said quietly, "I'm not walking forward like this anymore."
The citizens who were passing by pointed and whispered, as if Li Jinglong couldn't feel their gazes on his back. Feng Changqing turned around and used the cane to hit him, angrily shouting, "When you ran out from Pingkang Li, why weren't you afraid of losing face while wandering on the street?"
Li Jinglong really wanted to throw the bedding down angrily on the ground and storm away, but filial piety was the foundation of humanity. Li Jinglong's parents had passed away when he was young, and though Feng Changqing was only his cousin, he had time and again supported him through the years. If he disobeyed his elder brother, he would never be able to lift his head to anyone ever again, so he gritted his teeth and bore the harsh words.
"Whose reputation was affected by you parading through the streets ?" Feng Changqing lamented. "My reputation would be affected! This little old me!"
Li Jinglong followed behind Feng Changqing as he quietly spoke, "Had they died in those early days, who would have known the authenticity of their lives? Sooner or later, there will be a day where the truth will come out. Since you don't believe me, then why do you need to criticize me in front of all these people? You already know in your heart if I've ever lied to you or not!"
Feng Changqing said, "Then why don't you let His Majesty discern the truth for himself? Where are the yao you speak of?! Go ahead and find that person from that night, drag them out in front of the court and interrogate them for a round! Why don't you go find them for me?!"
Li Jinglong was so angry that he trembled all over, and at the entrance to the alleyway, he lowly said, "One day, you will see."
Feng Changqing didn't respond. The two of them had passed through a little less than half of Chang'an, since Feng Changqing had specially taken him on a detour through the Western Market. When they entered an alley, Li Jinglong held his bedding roll in one hand and turned to walk towards the other end of the alley. Feng Changqing straightened up and asked, "Where are you going?"
Li Jinglong didn't respond, only quickening his steps. He didn't want to return to Feng Changqing's home if it would only result in ceaseless arguments. Feng Changqing could only limp along with his cane, slowly trying to catch up with Li Jinglong, who walked silently and steadily forward down the alley.
From the depths of the alley came the crisp sounds of music and the sounds of people singing. The sunset dyed the cobblestones red, casting Li Jinglong's shadow on the ground. The autumn wind blew by, and the scene carried an aura of bleakness.
"Where are you going?!" Feng Changqing asked persistently.
Li Jinglong's expression was blank as he wordlessly continued onward. He walked to the end of the alley and pushed the broken-down doors, and the left-hand door fell inwards with a sky-shaking thud.
The fallen door made a huge bang, revealing the scene within the courtyard.
In the courtyard, the music abruptly stopped as everyone froze, all of them turning to stare at Li Jinglong.
Within the courtyard of the Exorcism Department -- A-Tai was strumming the barbat lute, Hongjun was hitting a small chipped bowl with a pair of chopsticks, Qiu Yongsi was holding two sticks of bamboo and hitting them "du du" against a rock, and Mo Rigen plucked at his bowstring in time with the rhythm.
They were arranged in a circle around a wooden tub half-filled with water.
A carp with two arms and two legs stood inside, one foot up on the edge of the tub, his hands waving back and forth as he danced.
When the door fell, four men and one fish all froze at the same time, staring in confusion at Li Jinglong and Feng Changqing behind him.
Li Jinglong: "..."
Everything was due to fate, nothing was under the control of humans.
Li Jinglong was yet unaware that in this life, there were many strange forces at play that were in the midst of toying with him. It was as if everything he had experienced over the past twenty years was all for this day, so that he would unexpectedly and seemingly coincidentally push open the door in front of him.
As if driven by fate, from that first hasty glance until the moment he met the gaze of that beautiful youth, in his vision, everything else in the world fell away, leaving behind only that countenance that he could never forget.If life were nothing but a series of beautiful first impressions, how ordinary that moment was to the us of the time.
Countless emotions converged in his heart like the waves crashing against each other in stormy seas, and with a force that could bring the sky down, they instantly collapsed the inhibitions of his reason. And many thousands of words were distilled into four simple ones:
"Return me my innocence -- !"
Li Jinglong angrily roared, pulling out his sword. His body turned into a swift shadow as he shot towards Hongjun!
In that same moment, when Hongjun saw the sword being unsheathed, he immediately took a step back then jumped up. When his body was already in midair, the rest of them finally reacted...
"Have mercy!" Mo Rigen shouted.
"Friends! Don't make a fuss over nothing!" A-Tai shouted.
Qiu Yongsi shouted, "Don't be afraid!"
And yet Li Jinglong's target was not the carp yao; his sword was instead aimed directly for Hongjun! In a flash, the three bystanders suddenly felt a wave of killing intent, and sensing that things were going badly, they moved to protect Hongjun. A-Tai waved his fan, Mo Rigen moved his body in front to block the blow, and Qiu Yongsi abruptly pulled out his sword as the three of them simultaneously tried to block Li Jinglong, but Li Jinglong had already crossed the front courtyard, darting in front of Hongjun!
"He's a normal person!" Hongjun shouted. "Go easy on him!"
Hongjun felt some trepidation towards the sword in Li Jinglong's hand. That night, it was exactly because he had been careless that the Pentacolor Sacred Light had been disabled. Since then, he had replayed that scene in his head countless times, so obviously he wouldn't make the same mistake twice. He held a throwing knife in each hand, and with his body in the air, he brought the two knives down on that pitch-black sword.
In the moment where the throwing knives landed on the rusty sword, the two magical weapons met and let out a spiritual resonance. Li Jinglong's pupils suddenly contracted, and just as he was about to switch forms, Hongjun's not quite seven cun long throwing knives came down in the 'four ounces yields a thousand catties' move, locking down the blade of the sword and twisting it!
That move twisted the iron sword in his hand, and the fleshy bit of Li Jinglong's hand between the thumb and the index burned as the sword spun and left his hand!
Mo Rigen, A-Tai, and Qiu Yongsi simultaneously cheered as Hongjun flipped and landed on the ground. They followed up with their own moves, and without Hongjun clearly seeing the situation, they landed three solid hits on Li Jinglong's shoulders, sending him flying outwards.
Despite being told to go easy, whether everyone couldn't pull back in time, or if they went all out anyways... Li Jinglong crashed into the front hall, his head smacking the door open, and with a huala sound, he flew out into the middle courtyard, crashed into the ground, and fell unconscious.
Hongjun furrowed his brows. His finger had been nicked by the blade of the sword, and both of his hands were covered with blood. The others hurried to take a look, and Mo Rigen frowned. "Are you hurt? What grudge does this person have against you?"
That carp yao looked left and right, and his eyes landed directly on Feng Changqing outside the door. Feng Changqing opened his mouth; he had not yet recovered from the shock, so he kept retreating backwards. The carp yao loudly shouted, "There's still one more, don't let him escape!"
A-Tai and Qiu Yongsi immediately turned back. Qiu Yongsi grasped his sword in his right hand and rushed up, just as Feng Changqing loudly shouted, "Yao, yao... yaoguai!"
With one foot, Qiu Yongsi stepped on Feng Changqing's chest, pointing his sword at his throat. A-Tai took this chance to toss out two lengths of rope, which rushed along the ground to Feng Changqing, tightly binding his arms and legs together.
In the span of a stick of incense, Hongjun's hands had been bandaged, while the brothers, Li Jinglong and Feng Changqing, had been thrown in the corner of the main hall, both of them deeply unconscious.
"He's called Li Jinglong, he's a common guard. That day I was chasing a yaoguai outside of the city of Chang'an..."
Hongjun started from the beginning and narrated the events to the three people in the courtyard. When he reached the point in his story about the Heart Lamp, the carp yao who had been listening off to the side let out a dry cough, and Hongjun knew that he shouldn't speak more of it. He hesitated for a moment before skipping that section entirely, and once he finished, his listeners' faces bore expressions of surprise.
"A series of misunderstandings," Mo Rigen said. "This person thought you were a yaoguai, so he came at you with the intent to kill. Thankfully you didn't get seriously injured."
Mo Rigen was just about to go up and untie Li Jinglong's bindings, but the carp yao pulled out a roll of something and tapped it against Hongjun's knee.
"What is this?" Hongjun wondered.
The carp yao responded, "They dropped this outside."
Qiu Yongsi took it, and after opening, realized that it was an imperial edict, and began to read. "Dear official, the Sacred Son of Heaven sits on the throne and sees all in his auspicious glory. Duke Di carried out the Emperor's wishes by creating the Great Tang Exorcism Department, and today we decree that Li Jinglong of the Longwu Military Academy is to take on the position of the Ex-Ex-Ex... Exorcism Department zh-zh-zhangshi..."
The ones who were crowded around the edict looked up at the same time and gazed at the unconscious Li Jinglong in the hall. Then they all simultaneously lowered their heads, staring at the edict. The hand that Qiu Yongsi was holding the edict with was shaking uncontrollably, and the corners of his mouth were trembling.
moon: And here we are, Chapter 8! Sorry for the delay, we’ve picked up the TL-ing from illi and should be figuring out a regular schedule soon. In the mean time, here we are, thank you all for your patience!
This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon and opal.