Jing Lin did not sleep well at night, because Cang Ji was holding him in his arms so tightly that there were several times he could scarcely breathe. It was hot under the blankets, and Jing Lin felt himself sweating when he laid on the pillow. The fabric of his clothes clung to his body. If he so much as moved a little, Cang Ji would follow closely after him.
As Cang Ji traced Jing Lin’s eyes and eyebrows with his fingertip, Jing Lin lifted his fingers to press Cang Ji’s hand down onto his cheek. Then he partially opened his eyes and gazed at him in the darkness.
Cang Ji said in a husky voice, “Do you want to sleep?”
Jing Lin silenced him with his index finger. He propped himself up from the pillow and leaned at an angle above Cang Ji. His raven black hair spread over the pillow mat and cascaded down along his shoulders to Cang Ji’s chest.
Cang Ji’s palm was burning hot.
Jing Lin scrutinized Cang Ji thoughtfully and said, “Not sleeping.”
“Then stay like this.” Cang Ji looked at him. “Let me take a few more looks at you.”
Jing Lin suddenly bent his head down. With his arms on Cang Ji’s chest, he puffed a few times at Cang Ji’s messy hair. As he watched them flutter, he asked, “Uh-huh… so did you dream of your previous incarnation?”
“I don’t have a previous incarnation.” As Cang Ji bore Jing Lin’s weight, his chest felt as though it had been filled to the brim with a tenderness that was both poignant and fervent. He raised his head slightly to nuzzle the tip of his nose against Jing Lin and said, “And I don’t hope to have a next life. I can only do my utmost to grasp hold of this moment.”
Jing Lin felt ticklish, but Cang Ji would not let him withdraw. Cang Ji breathed warm, damp air upon Jing Lin, then slowly moved in to kiss him. His thin lips brought with it a heat that was so scalding and numbing that Jing Lin’s fingertips drew back slightly from the kiss.
“If I miss this moment…” Cang Ji pressed in against Jing Lin’s ear. “… then it’d be just like I’ve never lived this life.”
Having been bitten by Cang Ji, Jing Lin let out a sudden, subdued hiss, and tilted his head to say, “Be gentler.”
Instead, Cang Ji bit down even harder, making Jing Lin nestled completely against his chest. Both men were so close they were inseparable. Jing Lin’s hair had been caressed until it was messy. His arms were caught in his clothes, and Cang Ji tugged at that fabric and tore it apart easily.
“No way.” Cang Ji wanted so much to knead Jing Lin into his body. He reached out a hand and pulled up the quilt to envelop both of them in it. Holding one of Jing Lin’s hands, he lifted it to his lips and left his mark along the inside of Jing Lin’s wrist. He repeated through clenched teeth, “No way… How can I be gentler to you? My biting you is just one thin line away from devouring you.”
Jing Lin closed his eyes partially and said in a soft voice, “I don’t want to be devoured…”
Cang Ji suddenly sat up. He drew closer to Jing Lin, wrapped his arms around him, and kissed him fiercely. Their movements shoved and sent the one and only poor, innocent pillow tumbling to the ground. Cang Ji’s eyes were so fierce they reddened. He said, “You don’t want? You don’t want me? Jing Lin, do you want to kill me by pushing me away?”
All of a sudden, Jing Lin smacked his palms down on Cang Ji’s cheeks to sandwich his face between his hands. With ragged breathing, he moved his head closer to nip at Cang Ji’s cheek to stop Cang Ji from continuing.
Cang Ji chuckled in a hoarse voice and turned his head to chase after those lips. Both men kissed. Cang Ji pried Jing Lin’s lips and teeth apart to invade and dominate that inexperienced and clumsy tongue without any scruples.
The quilt bundled up into a ball. It was so stuffy Jing Lin reached out an arm, wanting to get some air. But Cang Ji would not allow him to leave and caught back that runaway arm to pin it on his own chest.
◈ ◈ ◈
Jing Lin crawled out from under the quilt the next day and was blinded by the bright light from the window. After composing himself, he realized that Cang Ji was not on the couch.
Jing Lin stepped down on the back of his shoes and wore them like slippers. After emerging from the quilt, he bypassed the screen and saw the man in the mirror covered in marks all over. He turned around to look at his back, which was also covered in marks. The fingerprints on his lower back where he had been pinched were so distinct that they looked a little terrifying.
They clearly did not do anything. Yet this sight sent his heart into overdrive.
Jing Lin touched his ear and pulled down new clothes from the top of the screen. He loosely draped the wide-sleeved garment over himself and kicked open the door with his shoe hanging off his toe.
The land outside was blanketed in a cloak of silver, and dense, heavy snow was fluttering all over. The world at the first glimmer of dawn was still and silent. The cold was cutting, yet there was no wind. Cang Ji was also wearing a wide-sleeved garment. He was squatting at the edge of the veranda and looking at the snow with his head raised.
He felt a weight on his back.
So Cang Ji withdrew his gaze and turned his head slightly to nuzzle against the top of Jing Lin’s head. Jing Lin lowered his head in silence and sprawled limply like a pancake over his back.
Cang Ji slowly rocked his body back and forth and asked, “Does the bites hurt?”
Jing Lin uttered an “uh-huh”.
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Cang Ji said, “I’m hurting too.”
“Liar.” Jing Lin straightened his head. “I didn’t bite you.”
Cang Ji suddenly laughed out loud. He exhaled a long sigh of relief and held on to Jing Lin as he stood up quickly. Carrying Jing Lin in his back, he descended the stairs to step on the snow and spun a circle before saying, “You gnawed on my face, and you still deny it. It hurts so much that I couldn’t sleep in the middle of the night and had to find something to do.”
Jing Lin wrapped his arms around Cang Ji’s neck and said, “I couldn’t see. It doesn’t count.”
“How unreasonable of you.” Cang Ji shook him and said, “Take a closer look. Isn’t there a reddened mark.?”
Jing Lin stretched out his neck to look, and Cang Ji turned his head to kiss him. After kissing, he kissed him again and said, “There’s no such thing as looking as you please.”
Jing Lin frowned. The heavy snow danced before him. He looked a little downcast. Cang Ji tilted his head inquiringly and was about to speak when Jing Lin unexpectedly gave him another bite on his cheek.
Cang Ji said, “You slobbered all over my face.”
Jing Lin could not help himself and huffed, “You slobbered all over my body!”
Cang Ji said, “Can’t hear you clearly.”
Jing Lin leaned into his ear and said, “You… slobbered all over my… body!”
Cang Ji asked perplexedly, “Why is your voice getting softer and softer? Slobbered what?”
Jing Lin scratched his little finger hard across Cang Ji back and said, “Saliva!”
Cang Ji said with a severe countenance, “I remember I licked it all clean. From front to back, top to bottom. Carefully. Seriously.”
Jing Lin swiftly covered Cang Ji’s lips, and Cang Ji moved to bite him along his fingers. Jing Lin wanted to dodge it, but Cang Ji jerked him high and shook him so much that the shoes on Jing Lin’s feet could barely hang on.
“The shoes are going to fall.” Jing Lin wrapped his arms tightly around Cang Ji’s neck.
Cang Ji said, “Isn’t it a good thing to grow on my back?”
After a pause, Jing Lin said, “Didn’t you want me to grow in your tummy when you were young?”
“I’ve grown big.” Cang Ji turned his head to the side and whispered to him, “Very big.”
Jing Lin held on to Cang Ji’s shoulders and thought for a moment, then said, “It’s indeed very big.”
Cang Ji said, “… Say it again.”
Jing Lin said, “Return me my shoes.”
Cang Ji coaxed. “I’ll put it on for you when you have said it.”
Jing Lin took stock of the situation, then stuck close to Cang Ji’s ear among the snow and said, “Very—”
The door to the side room opened with a “thud”. Qianyu was just about to walk out, but on seeing them, he silently retracted his leg. The two men, with one atop the other in the snow, fell inexplicably silent for a long time as they awkwardly exchanged glances with Qianyu. Once Qianyu closed the door, Jing Lin immediately gave Cang Ji a light kick.
Cang Ji put the shoes on for him and asked, “Why is he here?”
Both men’s clothes were in disarray, and their hair was in a mess. Having been in the snow for a while now, they had also been soaked by the melted bits of snow. Jing Lin slid down to the ground and stepped on the snow. He had not even taken a few steps when Cang Ji grasped his waist and hoisted him over his shoulder.
“He’s here.” Jing Lin said, “Because he was the one who fished us out.”
Cang Ji strode up the stairs and nudged the door open to enter with Jing Lin over his shoulder. He shook his slightly wet hair, stripped off his wide-sleeved garment in a few tries, then wiped his body quickly with the already cold water. As he washed his face, he asked, “What happened?”
Jing Lin changed his inner garment1 and revealed his wrist when he extended out his arm. The red marks on it were conspicuous. He took a look in the mirror. The marks on his neck were even more obvious set against his snow-white inner garment.
“There are many doubts about this matter. We will find out once we ask him over for a chat later.”
Cang Ji wiped away the cold water, then turned around to grasp Jing Lin from behind and glanced up along Jing Lin’s arm. He said, “It’s so tender, like tofu. Just a light pinch, and it’ll color.”
Jing Lin secured his waist sash.
Facing the mirror, Cang Ji suddenly pulled away Jing Lin’s hand while his other hand latched on to Jing Lin’s lower abdomen. With their bodies sticking together, he asked, “See me now?”
Jing Lin said, “Frivolous.”
Cang Ji’s eyes dimmed as he nibbled on Jing Lin’s ear and answered, “I like to fan the flames and stir up havoc. And I’m especially skilled when it comes to you.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Qianyu sneezed when he entered the room. His voice was hoarse when he sat down, but he looked much better.
“I found Zuo-lang in Mi Jin.”2 Qianyu said something earth-shattering the moment he opened his mouth. He glanced at Cang Ji and said, “I can’t thank you enough… If I can be of use to both of you in the future, just let me know, and I’ll be right there.”
“The affairs of the Underworld are now in order. Since Zuo Qingzhou has been struck off the Life Registry, how could he have been able to wait until you find him?” Cang Ji asked.
“With the help of an eminent benefactor.” Qianyu still spoke urgently when it came to this matter. “Zuo-lang said that he had already arrived at the ferry crossing. The Ghost Guard called for him, but someone stopped him. That person not only invited him to drink the Tea of Rebirth, but also settled him down in Mi Jin.”
“We plunged into Wangchuan River. How did you fish us up?”
“Truth be told, my cultivation isn’t good enough, so naturally I can’t do it. After both of you sank into the river, the same eminent benefactor showed himself, and just that alone made the King of Hell beat a retreat to give way to him. It’s with his assistance that we could turn the situation around.” Qianyu said and looked at the house. “He was also the one who found this courtyard.”
Jing Lin drank the hot tea and said, “Did he tell you his name?”
Qianyu nodded, and Cang Ji asked, “Who?”
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Qianyu replied: “He called himself Feng Chun.”
Cang Ji thought in silence for a moment, then said, “So it’s him. That Ghost Guard who asked for beef.”3
“It’s him.” Jing Lin covered the teacup with the lid. “But he’s not a Ghost Guard.”
“Feng Chun.” Cang Ji read the two words aloud and exchanged glances with Jing Lin.
“Summoning Spring on Heavenly Decree.”4 Jing Lin set down the teacup lightly on the table and raised his voice to call out, “Dong Jun!”
◈ ◈ ◈
The heavy snow outside the window suddenly intensified, and the wind slammed the window open. Snowflakes howled as they surged into the room, but it was winter jasmine flowers5 that came falling when the snowflakes dispersed. Laughter closed in on them from the horizon in the distance. In the blink of an eye, the sound was already in the courtyard.
Shan He Fan waved away the winter jasmine flowers and snowflakes at random. He reeked of wine as he leaned against the side of the window and shook the fragments on his robe. He said, “And here I thought you couldn’t guess who it was. So how was it? My dear brother. Are you touched?”
Cang Ji leaned against his chair and said, “You definitely did not do us such a big favor for nothing.”
“That’s right.” Dong Jun cupped his hands in a greeting. “As I expected, the Emperor Lord is a forthright and generous man who won’t take advantage of a friend. So how does it feel to find back your past? You must be overwhelmed with all sorts of feelings after regaining what is lost.”
Cang Ji looked at Jing Lin out of the corner of his eyes and replied, “If you want to demand an exorbitant price for it, then you shouldn’t give me only half the benefit.”
“There is nothing I can do about the other half.” Dong Jun smiled and said, “But since you have already come to this point, then it won’t be long before you fulfill your long-cherished wish, will it? Jing Lin, the reason I’m here this time is to ask of you to repay me in kind.”
“Given how astute you are when it comes to maneuvering, is there even a need to inform me of it?” Jing Lin said.
“Why belittle yourself?” Dong Jun closed up his fan and said, “But there’s indeed a matter I need your help with. No one else in this world can do it except the two of you.”
“What is it?”
“Of the eight sufferings, there’s only one left.” Dong Jun said, “And by chance, it’s at the Eastern Sea. One should return to where one comes from!”
Even before he could finish his words, he had already dodged a blow. He held the folding fan before him as a shield and said to Cang Ji with a shadow of a smile,
“The Emperor Lord has yet to pass his tribulation. It’d be unwise to exchange blows with me in that carp body of yours, yes?”
里衣 (or also 中衣) This is the set of garment people in ancient days wore under their outer robes. They usually sleep in this.
- 迷津 also known as the Ford of Delusion in Buddhism.
- For those who forgot, he made his debut in chapter 69
- 奉春 (Feng Chun) as in 奉(旨唤)春 “Summoning Spring on Heavenly Decree”
- 迎春花 winter jasmine flower, but the characters in Chinese are literally “Spring-welcoming flower”