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Chapter 80 - Increasing the Severity of a Crime

Tianbao Fuyao Lu


"The Exorcism Department can no longer be kept around, otherwise this matter will only grow in size."


Translator(s): moon
Editor(s): juurensha, namio

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Scroll Three: Mara

 

In the third month, in late spring, Chang’an was filled with lanterns, and a layer of gauze-like fog seeped through the entire city.

A light, continuous rain had begun to fall after noon, and the city was filled with the color of freshly washed willows, showing a vivid, lively green. The various flowers were dotted with rainwater, and petals fell and covered the ground. Eaves dripped with water, which pitter-pattered, and humidity rolled into Xingqing Palace.

Imperial Consort Yang was currently lying on a soft lounger, lost in her thoughts. Yang Guozhong, half his body soaked by rain, sat to one side, using a silk handkerchief to wipe off a water clock gilded in gold. On that water clock was carved a golden dragon as vivid as life, and it held two sealed glass cups, which were filled with grey sand. Upon closer inspection, however, that grey sand was made from a mixture of black and white sand.

“... Quan Tong was always one of the richest people in the world, yet who expected him, in the end, to die of starvation in the streets? Shang Yang was known throughout his life for his numerous accomplishments, yet he could not escape the outcome of being dismembered by five horses…”

“Stop talking,” Yang Guozhong frowned, putting down the handkerchief to look at Yang Yuhuan. “Is this exciting to you?”

“I’m nervous,” Yang Yuhuan sighed out. “Gege, you don’t know how they speak of us outside. They’re all saying that the Yang family are yaoguai!”

Yang Guozhong’s gaze was wrathful, yet Yang Yuhuan was very anxious. “How could this be? How…”

“What Li Jinglong said is no more than a pack of lies that turn right into wrong and confuse black and white!” Yang Guozhong raged. “If you are not able to let this matter go, then that is our greatest issue!”

“How am I supposed to let it go?” Yang Yuhuan mourned. “After that night, I often dream of eldest sister. Her face was covered with blood, and now and then she would tell me to hurry and seek revenge for her. I originally thought that all of this was over, and if I could forget it, then I would, but then His Majesty said that Mara would descend to this earth in the times of the Great Tang…”

“Mara.” Yang Guozhong had been studying that golden dragon water clock, and he began to chuckle mockingly.

Imperial Consort Yang let out a faint exhale. Yang Guozhong shook out the silk handkerchief, while Yang Yuhuan continued quietly, “Gege, no matter how majestic or grand a building is, there will always come a day when it topples. A big tree attracts great winds. We must begin to prepare early.”

“This talk of ghosts and gods,” Yang Guozhong said, “are nothing more than rumors used by the ignorant masses to deceive both themselves and others. If my prediction is correct, that Li Jinglong created such a large impetus only because he’s been pinned under the thumb of others for too long, and he wants to come up for a breath of air, nothing more.”

Yang Yuhuan looked confusedly at Yang Guozhong, and she furrowed her brows. “What breath of air?”

Yang Guozhong replied casually, “How many years has it been since the Great Tang has had a guoshi? Once Li Heng takes the throne, he will of course have his own plans. What Mara, what inauspiciousness, what disasters. Other than using them against us, what other use do they have?”

Yang Yuhuan’s flower-like face lost its color. Yang Guozhong finished wiping that gilded water clock, and picked up a crow-black box and opened it solemnly. Setting it down carefully, he continued, “Your adopted son should be coming soon. Find an appropriate time and drive Li Jinglong himself off ba.”

Yang Yuhuan rose uneasily. Yang Guozhong searched his thoughts for a moment, before he then looked towards the rainwater outside the palace.

“I heard Geshu Han deliver a secret message. A few months ago, when they lingered in Liangzhou, they caught a yaoguai then. That time, they had to leave in a rush, so they didn’t take the yaoguai with them. After Geshu Han interrogated it, he learned of a matter. By Li Jinglong’s side, there is a yao in hiding. Guess who it is?

“It’s that young man called Kong Hongjun.”

“What?!” Yang Yuhuan was shocked. “Impossible! Back then, the one who attended to me when I was ill was Doctor Kong, his father!”

Yang Guozhong lifted the wooden box into his arms, and he said slowly, “You can choose to believe it or not. As long as he is a yao, there will come a day when he reveals his true form. Li Jinglong harbors ulterior motives, yet he hasn’t stopped to think, with how the world is at peace and flourishing today, when have there ever been devils in the past dynasties and centuries?”

Yang Yuhuan breathed slowly.

“It was only after he became the zhangshi of the Exorcism Department that these strange tales came, one after the other. As of today, they sound shocking to the ear, hei, but ‘Mara’ is nothing more than a pretense that he and Li Heng have worked together to create. This kind of odd tale about ghosts and monsters can only be used to placate children or deceive the old and decrepit…”

Yang Yuhuan’s face lost all color from the shock, and she raged, “Stop talking!”

Yang Guozhong chuckled coldly. “You may be able to trick him, but you are unable to trick me. Think, if one day, it comes flooding out that the Exorcism Department is the reason for all of these yao and devils wreaking havoc, then how will that group of people be dealt with? You really think that your eldest sister was a yaoguai?”

Yang Yuhuan said uneasily, “This...”

Yang Guozhong leaned forward a little, lowered his voice, and said, “The way I see it, perhaps not… the Exorcism Department is filled with some wandering tricksters who use illusions to deceive, but who could have imagined that these illusions would actually be able to capture His Majesty’s worries as well?”

Yang Yuhuan couldn’t help the chills that ran up her spine.

“As for His Majesty’s side, that responsibility falls to you now. The Exorcism Department can no longer be kept around, otherwise this matter will only grow in size with no apparent end.”

Yang Yuhuan watched Yang Guozhong dumbly, because with only a few sentences, Yang Guozhong had touched upon the crux of the matter. He met Yang Yuhuan’s gaze for a moment, before nodding and leaving. There was only Yang Yuhuan left, staring out at the thin spring rain in a daze.

 

In the Exorcism Department, Mo Rigen and Ashina Qiong had each gone off to investigate their own cases. A-Tai turned to Hongjun and Lu Xu and asked, “Want to go to the Western Market to drink?”

Hongjun and Lu Xu both waved their hands, and A-Tai went off to go see Turandokht. Li Jinglong had been gone for a long time now, but he still had yet to come back. The two of them then began to drink tea, watching the rain beyond the eaves.

“Where exactly did he go,” Hongjun muttered.

Lu Xu replied, “Yesterday night, yaoguai appeared in the Huaqing Palace on Mt. Li, so he left early in the morning to go investigate.”

At first, Hongjun was still a little hesitant. He was afraid that everyone would ask him, how did you end up liking Zhangshi, what happened last night, are you two together after this… and such words, but he hadn’t expected that everyone would act as if they had seen nothing strange. After tossing out a few teasing sentences at first, they had all begun to naturally treat Hongjun and Li Jinglong as a pair.

“Mo Rigen…”

“I’m not bringing up Li Jinglong,” Lu Xu replied, his face expressionless, “so you’d better not bring him up either.”

Hongjun: “...”

Hongjun could only nod, and the two of them came to a tacit agreement. Lu Xu searched his thoughts for a moment, but just as he was about to ask after something else, someone shouted from outside the door, “Li-zhangshi! Is Li-zhangshi here?”

Hongjun went to let the person in, but it turned out to be an aide from the crown prince, who personally handed over an imperial edict. Hongjun said, “Zhangshi has gone out to investigate a case.”

“Then you receive it first ba,” the aide said. “This is an edict that His Majesty and the Eastern Palace have issued, appointing Li-zhangshi as the Marquis of Yadan.”

Yadan had always been a barren land, just a stretch of yellow sand, under which was filled with the burial grounds of the corpse ghosts that fell in battle. It was the first time that a marquis had ever been appointed for Yadan. That aide continued, “There is also an edict of jurisdiction and the seal of a marquis, which have all been brought over. The order to appoint the marquis has already been sent all the way along to Hexi, but because no one resides in Yadan, all that needs to be done is for Jia Zhou at the Yumen Pass to be informed.”

Lu Xu: “What does that mean?”

Hongjun: “I don’t get it.”

The only two people left in the Exorcism Department were wholly untouched by the mortal world. The two of them looked askance at each other for a while, and neither of them thanked the emperor for his grace. The assistant said helplessly, “Are there no adults here?”

“I’m an adult,” Hongjun said angrily. “I’m already seventeen! How am I not an adult?”

“I’m eighteen,” Lu Xu responded. “He’s my ge.”

The assistant: “...”

It was often rumored that the Exorcism Department was filled with weird people, and upon seeing this today, this was within his expectations. The aide didn’t have the time to ask why a seventeen year old could be an eighteen year old’s older brother, and he just wanted to be done with this matter and leave as quickly as he could. He pulled out another letter and said, “This is a letter from Hexi. Take it first, then bring the seal here…”

Hongjun didn’t have a seal, so finally he signed and put his fingerprint on it. That aide then opened his umbrella and went back to report on having successfully completed his task. Upon seeing that the name written on the letter was Hongjun’s, Lu Xu asked, “It’s for you?”

Hongjun opened the letter and said, “My uncle!” As he read, he found that the letter spoke of what had happened after they parted. After leaving hurriedly that day with no explanation, it was self-explanatory that Jia Zhou had sent a letter, but it seemed as if there had already been an exchange of letters prior to this. He figured that it had been Li Jinglong who had written a letter to apologize for his actions, using Hongjun’s name to do so. The general gist of Jia Zhou’s letter was that after this farewell, who knows how long it’d be before they saw each other again, so he had to come visit Yumen Pass often when it wasn’t cold and he had the time.

Hongjun then said to Lu Xu, “Uncle is my only relative.”

Lu Xu nodded and said, “Mortals are not like us.”

Hongjun was suddenly reminded by Lu Xu’s words, and he thought of a problem. He himself was a half-yao, which was to say… he could probably live for a long time? But Li Jinglong, Lu Xu, and the rest were all mortals, what was he supposed to do?

Lu Xu seemed to know what he was thinking, so he pulled out another letter from the bundle, asking, “And whose is this?”

“This is… the ghost king!” Hongjun looked at that silk parchment, inside of which contained well-formed, neat rows of seal script. There seemed to be almost no words he recognized, but just as he was about to go dig out a book to compare against, someone shouted outside, “Li-zhangshi! Zhangshi!”

Hongjun thought that that aide from the Eastern Palace had left and returned again, but when he opened the door again, he found it was the chief of the Judiciary Department, Huang Yong, with a secretary.

“Where’s Zhangshi?” Huang Yong asked, his face filled with worry.

Hongjun could only explain once more, while Lu Xu peeked his head out from behind Hongjun. Knowing that this fellow was Li Jinglong’s direct superior, Hongjun invited him in for tea, but Huang Yong was as anxious as if a fire was burning under him, and he asked, “Is Mo Rigen out as well? When will they return?”

“I don’t know.” Hongjun and Lu Xu watched Huang Yong expressionlessly.

“Kong Hongjun, aren’t there any adults here?” Huang Yong asked, looking all around him.

“There aren’t.”

Lu Xu and Hongjun said at the same time.

“We are all silly children,” Lu Xu added.

“That’s right,” Hongjun explained to Huang Yong. “When we were born, our heads got caught in a door, so they’re not very easy to use. We can’t investigate cases, nor can we capture yao. We can only help out here once in a while, helping ourselves to easy meals while we wait for death.”

“If there’s anything, make sure to never tell us,” Lu Xu said.

Hongjun: “We’re not curious at all. You should wait here for Zhangshi to come back.”

Huang Yong understood the mockery in their words, and he hurried to say, “That wasn’t my meaning. The two of you, please come with me… oh, what’s this? The Marquis of Yadan? Now we should start calling him ‘my lord marquis’... wait, that’s not right, how come he was appointed to Yadan?”

Huang Yong had the secretary wait outside while he himself went into the hall. Upon seeing the letter of appointment for Li Jinglong, for a while he couldn’t keep up with the developments. Hongjun and Lu Xu merely stood there, shoulder to shoulder, watching him with their heads tilted to one side.

“You two.” Huang Yong had been running so much that his entire back was covered with sweat. “I’m going to speak frankly. Strange matters have occurred, so please bear with me.”

Hongjun often went to the Judiciary Department with Li Jinglong, so Huang Yong recognized him, but most of the time, he had merely treated him as Li Jinglong’s companion. Now that matters had grown so large, Huang Yong steadied his breathing and said, “To tell you the truth, something big happened last night in the imperial mausoleum…”

 

Seventeenth day of the third month, thirteenth year of the Tianbao era.

Case: Ghosts terrorizing the Zhao Mausoleum

Difficulty: Herringbone level

Location: The tomb of Emperor Taizong in the Zhao Mausoleum, on Mt. Jiugu

Involved persons: Unknown

Case details: On the thirteenth night of the third month, angry ghosts exacted their revenge on the living outside the tomb of Emperor Taizong in the Zhao Mausoleum of Mt. Jiugu, and the blood of the night patrol guards from the Guo village splattered the scene of the crime. Four people died, and one went mad. The madman finally escaped during the day, and he ran all the way into the depths of the Zhao Mausoleum. Assistant Minister Cheng Xiao of the Judiciary Department, and a foot soldier of the local magistrate’s office went into the Zhao Mausoleum to investigate, but have not left.

Remuneration: None, for now.

Additional remarks: His Majesty must not learn of this, or any other person for that matter, or our lives will be lost!

 

Hongjun: “There are ghosts wreaking havoc? Why didn’t you come earlier to say so?”

Huang Yong smiled bitterly. “I handed this case over once before, but it got stuck here in the Exorcism Department and was not acted on for a long time. This matter is one of vital importance… since it involves the imperial mausoleum of Emperor Taizong, everyone’s heads are going to roll…”

Lu Xu and Hongjun exchanged glances.

Hongjun said decisively, “It’s best we wait for Zhangshi to return ba.”

The imperial family’s ancestral grave was not a place that Hongjun dared to go on a whim.

“Don’t!” Huang Yong said, his expression changing. “Kong Hongjun, no matter what, you exorcists of the Exorcism Department must take a trip there today! This case has been suppressed for so long that it can’t be suppressed anymore! If you wait any longer, the mausoleum guards will come make a fuss in the Judiciary Department, and the new guards won’t dare to do their duty correctly. They’ll come to the Judiciary Department to cause a ruckus, and Lian Hao has a good relationship with the Yang family. If His Majesty learns of this, and he flies into a great rage, that will- that will... didn’t you all just capture some corpse ghost that fell in battle or something like that?”

Hongjun and Lu Xu exchanged glances. Huang Yong continued, “It’s very serious, very very serious!” He then moved a little closer and said quietly, “This matter involves the ruling family’s ancestral mausoleum, and if someone with other intentions was to find out and write a large number of documents, rousing Chancellor Yang’s suspicions that someone is purposely obfuscating things…”

Hongjun: “???”

Lu Xu: “?”

Huang Yong said anxiously, “If there so happen to be rumors that this is the work of the heroic spirit of Emperor Taizong, admonishing His Majesty… ay, you two don't understand!”

Hongjun suddenly was enlightened, and he understood then. He explained to Lu Xu, “Huang-daren is saying that it’s the spirit of the emperor’s ancestor taking form, cursing him out for neglecting the affairs of the state…”

“I didn’t say that!” Huang Yong immediately protested. “I’m saying, someone else might have other intentions in mind and come up with such a rumor! Aiyo, you two little masters… when exactly will your family’s people in charge come back?”

Huang Yong was on the verge of tears. Hongjun said, “Be patient, we’ll go right away.”

Naturally, Lu Xu agreed. Outside, the rain had already stopped, but not a single person of the Exorcism Department had returned. It was only after a series of urging and orders on Huang Yong’s part that he finally left. Then, Hongjun left a note, dragged out the carp yao, who was currently in its spring daze, and put it on his back. He and Lu Xu left together.

 

The sky showed that it was just past noon, but just as Lu Xu was about to stumble out of the city, Hongjun brought up the idea that they should go find A-Tai first. They arrived at Turandokht’s wine shop in the middle of the city, which had been coincidentally opened just across the street from that “Carp Leaping Over the Dragon Gate” that Hongjun liked the most. This large wine shop had been decorated splendidly on the outside, and there were many brocade hangings inside as well.

SInce it was after noon, there was not a single customer to be seen inside the wine shop. A-Tai was holding a flyswatter, swatting the flies inside.

“How much money did this cost?” Lu Xu asked, raising his head to look at that two-story-tall wine shop. “Can you recover what you invested?”

Hongjun knew a little bit about money as well. Upon seeing that the two of them had come, Turandokht said, “Today the lady boss is happy, so all drinks are free!”

A-Tai raised the flyswatter and waved it towards the two of them in greeting. Hongjun hurried to decline the offer, and informed A-Tai that he and Lu Xu were going to investigate a case.

“Let’s go together ba?” A-Tai hurried to say.

Hongjun glanced at Turandokht, afraid that she’d get angry, so he hurried to say, “You stay here and keep saozi company ba.”

But Turandokht said, “Let him go with you guys.”

Lu Xu replied, “We’ll leave and come back quickly, it’ll only take us a shichen to go there and back. It’ll be slower if we take you.”

A-Tai could only let it go, and he also told the two of them to be careful. After they left the city, in a secluded spot, Lu Xu turned and transformed into the White Deer, and Hongjun slung a leg across its back.

“Yo, your antlers!” Hongjun said curiously.

The White Deer’s horns had actually grown out a little, and the wounds where Hongjun had once cut them off had already healed. They looked like little dragon horns.

“They’ll slowly grow back to what they were,” the White Deer replied. “Hold on tight.”

Right after that, the White Deer began to trot, then it picked up its speed. Like it was treading on clouds, it left the military road behind, stepping into the barren wilderness. Its hooves walked on the wind, and with a shua it sped past glossy green fields of wheat, taking Hongjun along as though flying across the grass. Seemingly as fast as lightning, it sped swiftly into the mountains.

If he was riding a horse, he would have to circle around on the military road, and it would take at least half a day to go from Chang’an to Mt. Jiugu. But the White Deer’s speed was as fast as flying, so they took a shortcut. In a short shichen, they arrived outside the Zhao Mausoleum as twilight had just fallen. But that fast speed consumed his stamina, because once Lu Xu took human form again, he sat right down on the steps outside the Zhao Mausoleum, panting for breath.

“You were almost flying,” Hongjun said. “There’s no need to be in such a rush.”

“It’s alright for short sprints,” Lu Xu panted. “But I really can’t run like this for long distances. That big wolf, however, does have good stamina, I just don’t know where he went off to.”

 

The Zhao Mausoleum was arrayed from east to west, built along the mountains and sunk in them like a huge palace, and inside were many tombs of the great officials. Mt. Jiugu had originally been cold and quiet. There were once guards for the tombs, but after this incident had occurred, the guards had all temporarily retreated to the Guo family village at the foot of the mountains. At twilight, this place seemed even more oddly silent.

A cold wind blew past, and the bushes on the mountains rustled. Hongjun felt a dim wave of yin energy, and even if it was the emperor’s mausoleum, that didn’t change the dark atmosphere.

Hongjun: “Are you afraid of ghosts?”

“I’m alright.” Lu Xu couldn’t help but feel a little scared as well.

The two of them stood shoulder to shoulder under the archway to the entrance of the mausoleum. If Hongjun was coming on his own, he would have been a little scared, and he might have woken the carp yao on his back to bolster his courage, but with Lu Xu there, it was much better.

Because he hadn’t used his artifacts or fought for a long while now, Hongjun was a little lacking in his skill, so he opened up the Pentacolor Sacred Light, the flying knives protruding from between his fingers.

“You don’t have a weapon or an artifact.” Hongjun recalled that Lu Xu had only used a shovel before.

“The big wolf said that he’d go get me one,” Lu Xu replied.

“Then you come with me.” Hongjun held the Pentacolor Sacred Light in his left hand, his throwing knives in his right, as he stepped into the perimeter of the Zhao Mausoleum.

Lu Xu: “Sure, I’ll hide behind you.”

This was also the first time that Hongjun was investigating a case on his own, and he was bringing along a complete novice, Lu Xu. If it was Li Jinglong, he would more or less know the process, what to do first, what to do next, gather information and reports, check on the crime scene… but Hongjun himself only half-understood what he was doing, so he barged in blindly. He kept feeling that something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.

“Do you think it’s a ghost?” Lu Xu asked.

“What do you think?” Hongjun had no idea what to do at all, so the two of them circled around outside of the Zhao Mausoleum.

Lu Xu said, “Perhaps it’s a yao.”

Hongjun nodded to indicate that he agreed. Lu Xu had been a scout before, and though he only had one hun and one po at the time, he often brought letters back and forth, so he had seen investigations happen before.

“Where is the area where the people died?” Hongjun murmured.

The sun was almost setting when the two of them came to the entrance of the Zhao Mausoleum. There was another set of stairs at the bottom, but there were no odd sounds, only gusts of cold wind. Outside the mausoleum was a line of tile-roof houses, which were probably places where people used to live. The smell from within the houses was very pungent.

“Blood,” Lu Xu said.

Hongjun had also smelled it, so he reached out a foot and kicked open the door, only to see that the inside was filled with purple-black blood. The bloodstains were splattered everywhere, and they led out of the house, as if there was a corpse that had been dragged away.

“Here,” Hongjun said. “Follow the bloodstains.”


This chapter is migrated and/or formatted by our fellow chicken enthusiast(s), moon.

Contributors

moon

Translator, writer, avid reader. 吃刀群众. Jiejie enthusiast.

Reach out to me via the links to the right if you would like to re-translate any of my works. Please allow 2 business days for a response to an email or a DM.

juurensha

Fic writer, editor, and translator for GHOFD, PUBG, Fanservice Paradox, and other projects.

namio

gege simp

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Mooch
Mooch
6 days ago

Me at the Yang siblings: Y’ALL BETTER NOT DO ANY HARM TO MY BOYS

Beezus
Beezus
9 days ago

Hongjun and lu xu first case! I love their friendship so much🥺 when Lu xu explained that Hongjun is his Ge, even if Hongjun is “younger” was so cute 🤭 Really curious of what they’re gonna deal!
Thank you for this chapter! ❤

Laura Denieffe
Laura Denieffe
13 days ago

Hongjun and Lu Xu are so adorable together.
Anyone else thinking trap???
Thank you for the update

Red
Red
14 days ago

Lu Xu and Hongjun are so cute and silly and when they’re together. 🥰

whitebamboo
whitebamboo
14 days ago

“…When we were born, our heads got caught in a door, so they’re not very easy to use…” hahahahahahahahaha :D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D:D… HongJun <3
Thank you for the translation!

Veihakase
Veihakase
15 days ago

Lol HJ and LX are ultimate besties xD ..and why do I feel like there’s something fishy in this case.. aaaahhhh

Thank you so much for the chapter!!~ 🙇🏻🙇🏻🙇🏻🙇🏻🙇🏻🙇🏻

Elevator
Elevator
15 days ago

Thank you for the translation 😄
Lu Xu and Honjun are the best duo, there interactions are so funny 😂
Not sure how good of an idea, ‘follow the blood stains at night’ is but guess we’ll have to wait and see 😅

Sze
Sze
15 days ago

They didn’t want any responsibility 😂

Julia Ghoulia
Julia Ghoulia
15 days ago

“We can only help out here once in a while, helping ourselves to easy meals while we wait for death.”

“If there’s anything, make sure to never tell us,” Lu Xu said.

😂 lu xu and hongjun’s interactions are always the best. i love them so much

aaaa scroll 3 already! it’s my personal favorite, i’ve been so exited to read your translation of a few upcoming arcs ❤️ ty for the hard work as always!

shruti
shruti
10 days ago
Reply to  Julia Ghoulia

yes they share the same braincells love this bestie duo
cuties❤❤