How could Jing Lin have expected Cang Ji to do this? He was devoted to cultivating the Way, and he did not hit it off with his brothers. Consequently, he seldom heard about affairs of the heart. What more of being taught of “debauchery” by someone practicing what he preached? Cang Ji’s hand was still grasping his wrist, gripping it until it reddened. Yet, it did not hurt. But his thoughts were in a whirl, and his mind and heart, in turmoil.
Cang Ji pulled him, knowing that this silly lad had gone dizzy from confusion. After hearing what Cang Ji said, he had really not dared to wipe his lips again. Cang Ji’s heart softened at this gaze of his. He relaxed his tone and said, “Can’t tell north from south was just me trying to scare you. I have no reason to bully you to that extent.”
Jing Lin pursed his lips into a tight line. He wanted to open his mouth, but the fluid in his mouth choked him. In a panic, he “gurgled” and swallowed the saliva.
“How could that do?!” Jing Lin exclaimed in shock.
“Then, return it to me.” Cang Ji held Jing Lin’s hand in his hand and raised it to pull him towards himself. He said teasingly, “What did you swallow earlier? Return it to me, and I won’t say that again.”
Afraid that Cang Ji would repeat the act, Jing Lin swiftly covered his mouth and nose with his other hand. His chest was heaving, and he was dumbstruck. Unable to refute, he could only force himself to stay calm and say, “It’s mine… I’m not, not returning it to you!”
Cang Ji said, “Yours? Who are you deceiving? It was clearly me who left it behind earlier. You are really tyrannical; you even want to forcibly possess my saliva.”
Jing Lin was rendered speechless. He never thought there would be such a rascal who would deliberately distort the truth!
Cang Ji pushed his finger to his lips and exhaled. He softened his tone again and said, “I’m teasing you. How would I be so petty?” Cang Ji was not anxious even though Jing Lin was already afraid of him. He grasped Jing Lin by the fingertip and said, “I didn’t hold back earlier. Is it bleeding from the bite?”
Jinglin shook his head emphatically.
Cang Ji looked worried and said, “I’m sorry, let me take a look. If so, I’ll make reparations.”
The severe expression on Jing Lin’s face completely faded away when he saw how genuine and sincere Cang Ji’s concern was. He was no different from the usual “Big Brother Cao” Jing Lin knew, so he could not help but shift away the hand he was using to shield himself and said, “This place is evil. You—”
Cang Ji caught hold of that hand of his and pressed his lips down hard on Jing Lin’s lips with a “muack”. His kiss caught Jing Lin off-guard. Jing Lin wanted to lean back, but Cang Ji twisted his hands and pinned them behind his waist. Then he split his legs and wrapped it around Jing Lin, sandwiching him entirely before him and trapping him between his arms and his long legs.
“As they said, there can never be too much deception in war.” Cang Ji said, “I already told you not to believe my words. Why are you still so easily duped?”
Jing Lin had been kissed until his lips were glistening with water. On hearing this, his face turned red and white. He hissed through clenched teeth, “You deceived me!”
“When have I ever deceived you?” Cang Ji pressed in on him. “I kissed you when I said I would. How is this deceiving?”
Jing Lin’s tone was urgent and hurried. His voice trembled a little. “How could you do this?! I wholeheartedly regard you as my elder brother. But you, you treat me as your ‘sworn brother’?!”4
Cang Ji noticed that he was shaking and could not help but say with emphasis, “What nonsense are you talking about? I treat you as a ‘sworn brother’? Bah! What I want is to see us tie the knot and be husband and wife for real!”
“You aren’t human!”
This shout was like a blow to Cang Ji. But when he saw Jing Lin still looking furious and severe, he realized that Jing Lin had meant that he was not a mortal. So he said, “I’m indeed not human. I’m a scoundrel. Did you only just realize it?”
Jing Lin’s words froze for a moment before he hurriedly said, “I wasn’t scolding you!”
Cang Ji said, “So you were praising me?”
Jing Lin was utterly defeated. He had no more strength to fight back. He choked back his anger until even his fair cheeks flushed red. He had trained himself to clear his mind and heart of desires, and now this achievement had been more or less destroyed by Cang Ji, leaving only twenty or thirty percent that he struggled to hold on to.
Cang Ji said, “I rarely like eating humans. But after meeting you, my nature went haywire. If I don’t kiss you, I will starve to death.”
“Nonsense!” Jing Lin said, “You are deceiving me again!”
“Then pry me apart and take a good look. You will know if I’m lying or not.” Cang Ji pulled Jing Lin’s hand to his abdomen.
Jing Lin’s fingers curled. He fumed, “You were still suffering from indigestion earlier!”
Cang Ji immediately burst out laughing. He said, “So what’s now? You don’t want to be brothers with me again in the future?”
Jing Lin’s voice was heavy. “There aren’t brothers like this.”
“Fine!” Cang Ji suddenly reined in his smile. “In that case, then I will make it clear, Jing Lin.”
Seeing his solemn expression, Jing Lin thought that he was going to reveal some earth-shattering secret or something that had been awkward for him to say.
Cang Ji said, “I want to see you thousands of times a day, and fantasize about you thousands of times in my mind. So what brothers are you talking about being? Every word of gege you call me is an aphrodisiac to me.”
At first, Jing Lin was dazed. A moment’s later, the entire area from the back of his neck to his ears reddened. Words tumbled in his mouth one after another, but in the end, they all became a sticky ball of paste that made him inarticulate and giddy. He felt his face burning, and his heart was burning too. It blazed until the world before his eyes dimmed. The realm of perfection he had just surmount turned topsy-turvy. It made him so dizzy that he fell headlong onto Cang Ji’s chin.
The crash made Cang Ji lean back. He caught hold of Jing Lin. But when he lowered his head for a look, Jing Lin had already fainted.
◈ ◈ ◈
Jing Lin still remembered the commandments he received when he joined the sect. The memorandum was handed to his fingers, and when he opened it, he saw the words “sever all emotions and desires”. At that time, he had only just come out from Fan Tan, with a new silver crown on his hair and a white robe so big for his frame that his sleeves hung down from his wrist to the ground.
He still spoke with an accent from the south, and his youthful voice was childlike. Lifting his sleeves and grasping the paper, he hurriedly ran after his various brothers and called out to Li Rong, “Xiongzhang!”5
Li Rong was chatting and joking with Yun Sheng. He knew who it was when he heard this velvety, soft accent, so he stopped and asked, “It’s Jing, Jing Lin, right?”
Jing Lin nodded and held up his crown. He spread his own note open to show Li Rong and asked, “What’s this?”
Li Rong scrutinized it for a moment and said with a wry smile, “So in the end, it landed in your hands. That’s to be expected. You are going to be cultivating the Evil-Subduing Way of the Sword. These are the commandments Father handed to you. You must commit it to memory.”
Jing Lin asked, “What’s the Evil-Subduing Way of the Sword?”
Li Rong said, “It’s the Way where you have to rid yourself of feelings and desires. You have to kill devils the common man cannot kill, and slay humans the common man cannot slay. You cannot harbor selfish thoughts. The nearer you are to the Great Accomplishment Stage, the more you have to be selfless and fearless. Your original form is a sword. So it’s much easier for you to cultivate this way compared to anyone else.”
Perplexed, Jing Lin asked, “Why would it be easier for me?”.
Li Rong looked at him with compassion. He had never said it outright, but Tao Zhi, who had rushed up to them from behind, extended his head for a look and blurted out, “Because you don’t have a heart! Who in the world would form an original form before his spiritual sea has developed? You have no heart! You’re heartless!”
The courtyard called out to them for their meals. The brothers dispersed in a commotion. Jing Lin stood behind and folded the paper before he spread it open again. The scorching sun above made him sweat profusely. His wide robe was loose and wearing it made it inconvenient for him to walk; it was as if his hands and legs were bound in a cage.
Jing Lin wiped away his sweat. Even his eyelashes were soaked with sweat. It was sour and astringent. He could not help but rub them with his hands as he stood alone with his head lowered. After a long time, he rubbed them again.
As long as one was human, they would have a heart. So how would Jing Lin not have one? He was merely a little more talented than the others and had an affinity with Buddha. When the True Buddha brushed the earthly dust6 off him, the concept of good and evil had already existed in his heart. They told him to sever his feelings and desires, and they made it sound so easy, as if it was something that’s to be expected. But what the Way severed was his human desires, and what it extracted was his mortal emotions. He must train and temper this heart over and over again before he could forge it into something indomitable and merciless.
But he was still a human, after all.
◈ ◈ ◈
When Jing Lin woke up, Cang Ji was observing him with folded arms. Jing Lin exchanged glances blankly with Cang Ji for a moment before he suddenly sat up and asked, “How long have I slept?”
“Six hours.” Cang Ji leaned against the window. The world outside had already plunged into darkness. Even the stars were not visible.
Jing Lin touched his abdomen. His spiritual sea felt way too tranquil, as if someone had placated it. Cang Ji leaned and squeezed over to Jing Lin’s side. He stretched out his legs and said, “I’ve discovered something.”
Jing Lin was still a little dazed. On hearing this, he looked towards Cang Ji.
But Cang Ji did not look at him. He merely said, “There are no children in Qixing town. Not even a corpse.”
“From what Yining said, Ninth Heaven Gate was already recruiting children from all over as early as a few months ago. Perhaps the children in this town have already been sent away a long time back.” Jing Lin said.
“There were still some left in the City of Bencheng, and yet all of them in Qixing town were sent away?” Cang Ji said, “There aren’t such coincidences in the world.”
Jing Lin sorted out his train of thought and asked, “Why did the evil spirits take away only the children’s corpses?”
“The way the children die looks weird too.” Cang Ji tapped the tip of his finger against his knee. “The fog is heavy here. My guess is that it has something to do with Ninth Heaven Gate.”
Jing Lin said, “Naturally so. This area is under Ninth Heaven Gate’s jurisdiction.”
“Ninth Heaven Gate wants so many children. If it’s just to set up a private school, then I’m afraid that alone won’t be enough to stuff all of them in.” Cang Ji said, “Where did all the rest go?”
Jing Lin thought for a moment and said, “In recent years, the number of disciples in the sect has decreased sharply. There is an urgent need to expand the number of new recruits. If they don’t have adequate aptitude, they could also stay on as sweepers.”
“That’s not right.” Cang Ji said, “I’m aware that Ninth Heaven Gate is currently recruiting talents, but at any rate, that number is a little too high. These children are only four or five years old, and there are even younger ones. Even if they are spares, I doubt they can do manual work.”
“They.” Jing Lin suddenly had a headache. He frowned and said, “… I have to go back before I can ask around and find out.”
“I have some questions for you.”
“My good Jing Lin.” Cang Ji caressed the prayer bead with his fingertip and asked bluntly, “Have you never been near a woman before?”
Jing Lin recalled what had happened before he fainted and immediately said warily, “Not telling you.”
Cang Ji burst out laughing. “Good heavens. I’ve lived for so long, and this is my first time flirting with someone until the latter fainted.”
“My Perfection Stage is still unstable. Naturally, I will faint.” Jing Lin said.
“Wasn’t it because your mind wandered somewhere else?” Cang Ji blocked Jing Lin’s way and trapped him on the inner part of the bed. He said, “You are so young and so proper, yet you think of me in such a tantalizing way. Why don’t you just tell me directly?”
Jing Lin felt that dizziness sensation vaguely about to reappear. He sweated a little and said, “I never thought of you that way.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t want to be in ecstasy with me?” Cang Ji seduced him with his eyes. “I know stuff even more formidable than just kissing you. You don’t want to learn at all? There is no one else around here.”
“I don’t want to be in ecstasy.” Jing Lin covered his ears.
“Uh…” Cang Ji stretched his voice on softly. He suddenly moved over to his side. Glancing at the gap between those fingers, he blew air into his ear. “If that’s the case, then why are you blushing?”
Jing Lin shivered from the feel of his breath, and a dreadful numbness ran up his back. He retorted feebly, “I’m not.”
Cang Ji suddenly grasped hold of his hand to reveal his face. He said with a severe countenance, “I’m going to kiss you.”
jade rabbit in Jing Lin’s heart instantly came to life, springing high and sprinting fast. Jing Lin gazed at him. He could clearly shake off his hand, rebuked him righteously, and shout at him to stop. But his mind had turned mushy again, becoming quite unlike him.
Jing Lin’s breathing stalled, and he suddenly turned pale. That dizziness unexpectedly came crashing down on him. It was so overwhelming that his throat overturned, and he felt like puking. All at once, the cold sweat on his back seeped out profusely. He shoved Cang Ji aside and sprawled over the bed to vomit, but the heart in his chest cavity felt as if it was held captive as its heartbeat became abnormally difficult. In that instant, Jing Lin’s sword turned ghastly white. His arms that were holding up his body shook.
Yan Quan buzzed loudly and jerked. Jing Lin clenched his teeth, but then he suddenly regurgitated bile.
Cang Ji’s expression was terrifying. He had already sensed something wrong when he saw Jing Lin fainted earlier, so he gave him a check-over. As expected, he saw an anomaly. Right away, he grabbed and picked Jing Lin up and saw that Jing Lin’s complexion had already turned green. The latter’s fingers were clutching his chest.
“Still your vital energy and focus your mind!” Cang Ji transferred spiritual energy to him and softened his voice at Jing Lin, “Defend your mind, and stabilize your spiritual sea. With Yan Quan here, the evil spirits won’t invade.”
Jing Lin rapidly calmed down and forcibly suppressed that nausea. His chest gradually recovered, and he could breathe freely again. His upturned neck was soaked in a cold sweat. Little by little, Cang Ji dabbed away the sweat with his fingers. Every part of Jing Lin’s exposed skin he touched was frighteningly icy.
Lord Jiu Tian!
The murderous intent in Cang Ji’s eyes intensified.
I will end you!
Cang Ji: I almost fucking thought that it was my teasing that made my wife fainted.
- 相濡以沫 literally moisten each other with saliva; i.e., to help each other pull through a crisis. From the line “出泉涸，鱼相与处于陆，相呴以湿，相濡以沫” (Zhuangzi). As the spring water dries up, the fishes have nowhere to escape. So they used their spit to keep each other wet and alive.
- 盖章 affix one’s seal; in net lingo, it also means to kiss.
- Basically, what he means from the idiom is that since he has ‘used his saliva to moisten’ (kiss) Jing Lin, then it’s time for Jing Lin to ‘help’ him back (kiss him back)
- 契(兄)弟 Actually means sworn brothers, but it’s also used to refer to a homosexual or male prostitute in ancient times.
- 兄长 Xiongzhang, i.e. respectful term for an elder brother. Unlike gege, it doesn’t carry an ‘intimate’ connotation between men.
- 凡尘 i.e., mundane world