All at once, Jing Lin was dumbstruck. With the stone unable to come out, his emotions had nowhere to flee to to hide. Over the years, he had grown accustomed to hiding his other self in the stone. The best way not to lose his true heart was to deposit it elsewhere. Everything that Lord Lin Song could not do, the stone had no qualms about doing.
But the stone was also Jing Lin.
There would be no one else in this world who knew better than Cang Ji that his Jing Lin was no longer shackled. The stone should not become Jing Lin’s hiding place. Cang Ji wanted to melt all Jing Lin’s happiness and sorrows, joy, and anger into his own heart.
Seeing Jing Lin stumped for words, Cang Ji could not help saying, “No idea how to say it? That’s fine. Take me as your teacher, and I’ll teach you.” He held both of Jing Lin’s wrists and taught him slowly, leaving a brief space above the latter’s ear. “How can the man in my arms be so soft and smooth like jade? While we were in the mountains in the past, I was blind and failed to recognize an exquisite jade. To think I regarded my Jing Lin as a white porcelain spirit.”1
Cang Ji took Jing Lin into his arms. Jing Lin shifted his legs uncomfortably, only to have the books pressed against his knees.
“I want to contain you.” Cang Ji explained in all seriousness. “Because you are so light when I scoop you up that I just have to thrust a little harder, and I won’t be able to tell where the water or you begin.”
“… I.” With both of his wrists restrained, Jing Lin could only use his eyes to gaze at Cang Ji. The gleam in those eyes glistened until Cang Ji had to hold back those impudent words on the tip of his tongue before swallowing them back down.
“I’m not water.” Jing Lin said, “… I can’t be contained.”
Cang Ji kissed Jing Lin’s ear and said, “I’ve already sunk into the water now. I’ll surely indulge myself in this body in the days ahead.”
Jing Lin was keenly aware of what Cang Ji was talking about, so he stretched out his arms in an attempt to crawl away. But Cang Ji held him prisoner from behind and whispered along his ear.
“They tell you that there’s a reverse scale on canglong’s throat, and that destroying it will send him to his death. Yet they never told you that canglong is lascivious and debauched by nature. I love you, so I want to make merry with you in all the ways possible.” Cang Ji gradually held hold of Jing Lin’s hands. “I want to dote on you, as well as hurt you. Although I always make you flustered and frightened like this, I want to make you indulge yourself in me like this too. I love a man, and this man loves me. Regardless of whether he and I are discussing the Way over tea, or reveling in passionate love, they are all acts that are perfectly right and proper.”
“Right and proper.” Jing Lim murmured to himself.
“Right and proper.” Cang Ji led Jing Lin’s hand to place it on the latter’s lower abdomen and joked, “I can enter in and out of here with ease. This Yan Quan Sword belongs to me.”
Jing Lin tilted his head and said, “No…”
“And this evil canglong belongs to you.” Cang Ji suddenly stopped Jing Lin from speaking, going on his usual offensive to kiss Jing Lin until Jing Lin could barely hold himself steady.
Cang Ji leaned back against the wall of the carriage and jerked a leg up to push aside the various items. He caressed Jing Lin hard by the waist and turned him around. Jing Lin rode his body, his hair scattering all over his back along with Cang Ji’s movements.
It wasn’t just love that was devoured and contained between lips and tongues, but also both men’s secret desires. Lust seeped through limbs and bones, steeping Jing Lin in it until the corners of his eyes reddened. His expression stirred with desire. Cang Ji’s caresses wrinkled Jing Lin’s robe as he sucked and took in Jing Lin’s tongue in an extremely erotic way. Passion billowed in his eyes as he kissed Jing Lin until Jing Lin went weak in the legs, and caressed Jing Lin until Jing Lin let out ambiguous sighs.
“So what’s so bad about bedroom pleasures?” Cang Ji embraced the man who had already melted and said in a hoarse voice as he nibbled on his ears, “Every step from undressing onwards means doting on you and loving you. And it will only intensify each step of the way. I’ll save all my lust for you.”
Jing Lin buried his face. The little stone figure finally stopped moving.
◈ ◈ ◈
By the time the snow stopped, the carriage had already arrived at their destination.
Cang Ji lifted the curtain and stepped out. In order to avoid drawing attention to them on this trip, he had tried his best to conceal his demon aura. Thus, he also took a breather or two when he landed on the ground.
She Hui’s shop assistant had been following at their beck and call, attending to them and facilitating their passage the entire journey. Now that he had sent them to their destination, it was inevitable that he would ask for a little something. Cang Ji tossed him several gold pearls. The assistant grinned from ear to ear as he accepted it and cupped his hands in respect as he said to Cang Ji, “Young Master is truly a rare God of Wealth! It’s mostly thanks to Young Master’s good fortune that this journey could go without a hitch. Master She has specially instructed me to prepare a humble gift for the Lady.”
On this trip, who didn’t know that “Lady Cao” was Young Master Cao’s most beloved?
LIANYIN @ JADE-RABBIT.NET
Cang Ji said rather jovially, “I appreciate Master She’s kind thoughts. When you return, please let him know of our safe arrival.”
The shop assistant said his acknowledgment. As both men were exchanging civilities, the shop assistant’s eyes suddenly paused. Then he stumbled over his words and stuttered, “… L-Lady?”
Jing Lin’s shoulders were covered with a fox-fur coat. On hearing that, he looked askance at them. Although he had not recalled much these few days, he was no longer as frosty as he had been when he first descended the mountain.
Cang Ji asked, “Are you cold?”
Jing Lin gazed at the mountain covered in snow and fog in the distance. It had been a year since both of them had descended the mountain. Looking at this old spot of theirs again now gave him a sense of unfamiliarity.
“No.” Jing Lin answered.
Cang Ji swept a glance at the shop assistant, and the shop assistant immediately kept his mouth shut and retreated. Cang Ji then strode forward to walk shoulder to shoulder with Jing Lin along this path that had yet to be cleared of snow.
“Zong Yin has a stable temper. He has always carried out his duties with dedication and tends to go by the books when it comes to his work.” Cang Ji said, “He shouldn’t have any enemies.”
“He will definitely not leave the sea for no reason.” Jing Lin deliberated over it. “If he was not taken away by someone, then it means he left on his own accord.”
“When a person changes all of a sudden…” Cang Ji said, “… It’s surely because of the word love.”
“Isn’t it…” Jing Lin looked at Cang Ji. “… rather arbitrary to put it that way?”
“I met Zong Yin a few times, but I can already guess the kind of person he is. If he hadn’t been pushed into a corner, he would never abandon his post and leave the sea. Never mind if he had merely fallen in love. He was originally the local tyrant in the east. It’s not impossible for him to hide it from the Ninth Heaven Realm if he wants to. But why did he have to leave in such a hurry and expose himself?” As Cang Ji spoke, he surveyed his surroundings. “There’s something strange about this village.”
“Too few people.” Jing Lin stopped in his tracks and motioned for Cang Ji to look ahead. “Snow has covered up the wooden gates.2 There are less than five commoner households still remaining in this place.”
“When there is no one to assume command, demons will run amuck.” Cang Ji said, “But nothing major will happen, because the Demarcation Division will deploy manpower as soon as possible. So there’s no reason for all of them to flee.”
Jing Lin was momentarily clueless too. He said, “Before we set off, Dong Jun said there’s this one suffering left out of the eight sufferings. But from my calculation, there are clearly three left. If we can guess what Zong Yin’s suffering is, then perhaps we might get some clues.”
“There are two sufferings left.” Seeing Jing Lin puzzled, Cang Ji explained, “Dong Lin’s ‘death’, Gu Shen’s ‘parting with loved ones, Chu Lun’s ‘sickness’, Zuo Qingzhou’s ‘inability to let go’, and the old emperor’s ‘old age’. These are the five sufferings you and I have experienced together. And I’ve seen ‘encounter with hated ones’3 in Wangchuan River, so now, all that remains are ‘unfulfilment of wishes and desires’ and ‘birth’.”
He remained tight-lipped about whose suffering this ‘encounter with hated ones’ was, but it was as if Jing Lin could intuitively read his mind.
Jing Lin said, “For hundreds of years, Zong Yin has been looking for a chance to evolve into a dragon, but the opportunity keeps eluding him. So it’s only fitting if ‘unfulfilment’ is tagged to him.”
“It’s just a hundred years.” Cang Ji said, “The cultivation of ordinary folks as they seek the Way can easily take thousands of years. What’s more, they are also restricted by their original forms. Those who can achieve the Perfection Stage are few and far between. Zong Yin merely has yet to obtain the method to be initiated; it doesn’t mean he can’t evolve into a dragon. So, he’s still missing a certain something to meet the criteria for ‘unfulfilment’. On the contrary, birth might imply that he will have a tribulation to undergo and will be confronted with a crisis of life and death.”
Jing Lin remained silent.
Cang Ji guessed what he was thinking and asked, “All along, you’ve thought ‘birth’ was you, right?”
Jing Lin nodded. After thinking for a moment, he said, “It was truly rare for me to get a new lease of life. Under that kind of situation, I was already a dead man.”
“There’s one thing Dong Jun said that’s right. The eight sufferings are closely connected to you and me. Now that life and death have passed, there will be nothing else to fear.”
As Cang Ji spoke, he picked up Jing Lin’s hand and kneaded it in his palms.
“It’s so icy to the touch, and yet you still say you aren’t cold.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Both men did not look for another place to stay. Instead, they returned to Zhenchan Courtyard.4 The veranda in the courtyard had partially collapsed, and the small pond by the abode had dried up too. Fortunately, both of them were not mortals. Otherwise, they would be sleeping in the snow tonight.
Jing Lin changed the carving on the door to a different design. Cang Ji scrutinized it for a moment when he passed by carrying the books. He asked, “A dog?”
Jing Lin covered half of it with his palms and looked back to say, “Not telling you.”
“Then it must have been a fox.” Cang Ji pressed in towards him from behind to lean close to the side of Jing Lin’s cheek. “What do you need a fox for? Change it to a dragon.”
Jing Lin said, “It’s not a fox.”
“… Whatever you like in the future…” Cang Ji said tactfully, “Feel free to tell gege. I’ll draw it for you to play with.”5
LIANYIN @ JADE-RABBIT.NET
Jing Lin felt a little embarrassed. The stone rolled around again in Cang Ji’s sleeve.
Cang Ji butted him and said, “Using the stone to take advantage of me? It’s touching me all over in my sleeve.”
Jing Lin’s voice faltered as he retorted, “How is that touching?”
“This is not touching.” Cang Ji let go of the books, which went clattering to the floor, and placed his hands on both sides of Jing Lin. “Sorry, I said it wrong. This is called nuzzling, nestling, grinding. “
Jing Lin was almost sticking to the door. He said, “It’s just a roll. Must you make impudent remarks about it too?”
“I feel aggrieved.” Cang Ji said, “I want to roll, too.”
Without waiting for Jing Lin to reply, he clutched him by the waist to pick him up. He was used to carrying him like this. Even with both feet off the ground, Jing Lin could still look calm and collected as he was taken into the room by Cang Ji. A new rug had been laid on the ground. The world blurred before Jing Lin’s eyes; he had already been set down in the middle of the rug.
Cang Ji pounced down and embraced Jing Lin fully. Then he turned over, letting Jing Lin remain on top while he lay at the bottom. He said, “I want to roll a few rounds with you every day.”
Jing Lin propped himself up with his arms and said, “There’s no one at home to watch.”
Cang Ji burst out laughing and held down the back of Jing Lin’s head to kiss him hard. He asked, “What did you say?”
Jing Lin repeated, “There’s no one at home…”
Cang Ji kissed him again. Cupping Jing Lin’s cheeks in his palms, he said, “If you go home with me, you will have to marry me.”
Jing Lin’s lips had reddened slightly from the kiss. On hearing this, he tried to grasp the stone. In the end, he did not manage to grasp the stone, just Cang Ji’s sleeve. He gripped Cang Ji’s sleeve and asked, “What’s so good about marrying me?”
Cang Ji pressed his forehead against Jing Lin’s forehead and asked in response, “What’s so bad about it?”
“I can’t remember the past.” Jing Lin lifted a hand slightly and used his fingertip to jab at Cang Ji’s collar. “As long as my double doesn’t return, I won’t be a complete ‘person’. But once it returns, I’d no longer be who I am now.”
Cang Ji said, “The only one I hug is Jing Lin.”
Jing Lin looked at him in a daze and suddenly asked, “… Am I Jing Lin?”
Cang Ji suddenly turned over and pinned Jing Lin under him. He stroked Jing Lin’s face and said, “I might mistakenly identify the wrong person.”
Jing Lin half-closed his eyes and tilted his head slightly to nuzzle against Cang Ji’s palm.
“But how could I be mistaken when it comes to my reverse scale? My life is here.” Cang Ji gradually bent down to exchange gaze with Jing Lin up close. He said, “You live, I live. You and I are bound by one life. From now on, I won’t let you run. I…”
He lowered his head.
“The only thing I regret in my life…” He continued, “… is that I said something wrong before my death. How could I bear to leave you all alone on your own?”
Jing Lin lay on the rug. He seemed to hear the sounds of a downpour. Without realizing it, his tears had trickled down. At the same time, he did not know how to answer. He was in a muddle as he clung to Cang Ji’s palms. In this moment, he still seemed to be the same as he was before.
Some people could trample over him, temper him, turn him into one with a heart of stone, dehumanize him.
But only a person could cherish him, coax him, let him reveal his real self as easily as hot water melting away snow.
Jing Lin raised his hand to stroke Cang Ji’s hair and whispered, “I’m sure I was happy when I married you.”
Cang Ji felt a great stab of pain in his heart. If it weren’t for him holding himself back, he would have almost kneaded this man into his own blood and flesh.
- Spirits are those that originate from non-human sources such as plants, animals, and objects. So if a porcelain were to gain consciousness and intelligence, it’d be technically called a spirit.
- 柴门 doors or gates made with wood; also refers to a poor family
- Jing Lin’s suffering.
- It was Zhenchan Garden in chapter 5. I supposed the author typo-ed Garden (园; yuan) and Courtyard (院; yuan), but in any case, it is a courtyard with a garden. This is the name of the place they used to live in in the mountains when Cang Ji was still a fish.
- For a refresher on Cang Ji’s drawing skills, please refer to chapter 77.