Jing Lin once traveled north during the end of spring. He remembered the boat making a solitary journey among the vast expanse of water and clouds, where Heaven and Earth were of one hue. The front of his robe was damp with rain, and his wide-sleeves, infused with fragrance. Falling blossoms on both river banks caged in the long sword on his back. He looked into the water and saw that one side of the clouds had split into the character ‘八’ where a tail of black had merged into the sea of clouds.
Jing Lin could not help but look up at the tiered layers of clouds. The shadow of the dragon traversed the river, shrouding the small boat beneath it. The fine mist on the river moved along with the prodding of the wind. Jing Lin took a step to the side as his eyes followed the trajectory of the dragon’s shadow.
Jing Lin was in a daze when he heard the “jingle” of the copper bell secured on his wrist. He raised his hand for a look and saw a red thread leading from the hanging bell on his wrist into the layers of clouds.
Jing Lin did not know what this thread was.1 He lifted his arm to pull at it and heard the cry of the dragon in the sky. The mist suddenly dispersed, and a pair of dragon eyes popped up before the boat. The water around him suddenly went splashing as canglong’s massive body plunged into the water. It encircled the boat within a square cun.2
The hairs on Jing Lin’s temples were slightly wet. Looking at the dragon’s eyes staring fixedly at him made him a little afraid. He wanted to retreat, but the red thread tightened around his wrist and pulled him, along with the boat, even closer to the dragon. Cold, wet, and slippery scales rubbed over his shoulders and arms. The massive body gradually tightened itself around him, holding Jing Lin in captivity. It was getting hard for Jing Lin to breathe. He could not help but cry out in pain. His palms pushed against dragon scales that were so hard and sharp they almost scratched his hands.
◈ ◈ ◈
Jing Lin suddenly opened his eyes. The flush had yet to fade away, and he was drenched in sweat. The world before him flashed by. He no longer knew what time it was. All he could see was Cang Ji’s bare shoulder as the latter sprawled over him. He closed his eyes to calm his breathing. It was only when he felt the pain on his waist from Cang Ji’s embrace that he realized where the realism in his dream had come from.
Jing Lin extracted a hand from the gap between them. As he brushed aside his tousled hair, he recalled something. Frowning, he sniffed at what seemed to be a lingering scent between his fingers. He looked around his wrist and saw that Cang Ji’s spiritual thread had bound him securely. His head could not help but hurt.
“Listen to you panting. What did you dream of?” Cang Ji’s eyes remained closed, but he had long woken up.
“A little of the past.” It felt heavy and hot atop Jing Lin’s body. He pushed Cang Ji’s shoulder and motioned him to get out of the way.
“Who did you dream of?” Cang Ji steadfastly stood his ground.
“… I don’t remember.” Jing Lin replied.
“If you want to lie the next time, don’t hesitate.” Cang Ji suddenly propped himself up and stared at Jing Lin. “You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to.”
When Jing Lin saw the light leaking through the window, he turned around intending to get up. But there was a sudden weight on his waist as Cang Ji grabbed him and dragged him down under him.
“Who’s that important person?.” Cang Ji said, “Are you really not going to tell me? Then all the more I have to find out. “
Jing Lin said, “Telling you is not a problem, but let’s talk about it again after you put on a pair of pants?”
Cang Ji looked at him and said, “That won’t do. Once I put my clothes on, you’ll turn your back on me.”
Jing Lin sighed. “I dreamed of the scene during the time I was heading north. I saw canglong swimming amongst the clouds.”
On hearing that, Cang Ji straightened up and said, “This dragon sure has some special affinity with you.”
Jing Lin said, “A coincidence.”
“If coincidences in the world are so common, then I want to ‘coincide’ with you too.” Cang Ji took Jing Lin’s hand and pressed his nose against the latter’s palm to take a sniff at it. It was all his own scent. He said, “I feel so good when you did that last night. Do all humans know how to do that?”
Jing Lin’s fingertips curled a little. He replied, “… No idea.”
“I …” Cang Ji felt along Jin Lin’s fingertips all the way to his inner wrist and said in a low, ambiguous voice, “I want to play like this every day in the future.”
His breath was damp and hot. It made the strangulation marks on Jing Lin’s wrist itched a little. The heat from last night when he had done the job on behalf of a certain person materialized again on his cheeks. Jing Lin blocked his face with an arm, unwilling to respond. Thus Cang Ji gently nudged Jing Lin’s inner wrist with the tip of his nose, heating him up further as he breathed upon that snow-like skin. Sweating incessantly, Jing Lin bent his knees to put a little distance between them.
“Alright?” Cang Ji refused to budge. Pressing down on Jing Lin’s arm, he leaned over and asked, “Can we?”
The hair on Jing Lin’s temples had been tousled up from the nudges. Even if he closed his eyes, he could not shy away from being cornered like this. He wanted to say no, but Cang Ji sucked and nibbled his wrist, leaving a little tooth mark on the inside of his wrist. Jing Lin endured the pain and sucked in a breath, and Cang Ji repeated “alright?”. Jing Lin did not answer, and Cang Ji continued to nip him. From both of Jing Lin’s wrists to Jing Lin’s neck. Sharp teeth lingered at every spot that could be potentially exposed.
Jing Lin felt numb and painful. Just as Cang Ji was about to bite his nape, he finally let out a forceful “okay”. Then he said, “You have already grown this big. There are many things…” He hissed softly and grabbed Cang Ji’s hair. “That hurts!”
Cang Ji blew a breath on his nape and said, “I’m already this big, and there are many things you have not taught me. Like bedroom pleasures, right? I understand it. Zuo Qingzhou stripped off Qianyu’s clothes that day to do this.”
Jing Lin said, “The so-called bedroom pleasures should be a private matter between husband and wife. You and I are not husband and wife.”
“Since Zuo Qingzhou and Qianyu could do it, why not us?” Cang Ji felt that Jing Lin’s neck and shoulders did not seem to be the same as before. He wanted to take a bite everywhere, but he did not want to draw blood. He only wanted to bite him and leave his marks. Bite him until Jing Lin cried out in a hoarse voice.
“Zuo Qingzhou and Qianyu are different.” Jing Lin did not know how to explain it and could only give a vague answer.
“They are indeed different.” Cang Ji frowned and mulled it over. He said, “Unlike last night, they did not do what they did that day with their hands. Why did Zuo Qingzhou push Qianyu against the side of the bookshelf?” Jing Lin let out a muffled cough. Cang Ji pressed against him and asked, “Why can’t we do it? Besides using our hands, are there some other ways?”
Jing Lin said, “… No.”
“Then, what was that drawing?” Cang Ji wrapped his arms around him. “On the painting we saw in the brothel that day.”
When Jing Lin stretched his arm forward, he saw that his shoulder had reddened from the gnawing. He pulled out new clothes and draped it over Cang Ji’s head to cover it, then forcefully rubbed Cang Ji’s head through the clothes. Beneath the clothing, Cang Ji suddenly reached his hands up between Jing Lin’s palms and lifted a corner of the garment to cloak Jing Lin underneath too.
“What’s so hard about being husband and wife?” Cang Ji exchanged gazes with him at a close distance. “We can be husband and wife too.”
“For a fleeting illusion,3 you’d even entrust the remaining half of your life to others?” Jing Lin coolly took him by the chin. “You’ve only met a few people, and you already know the meaning of ‘husband and wife’.”
“You’ve met so many people, and yet you don’t seem like you understand it.” Cang Ji pressed in closer and persisted. “You teach me, and I, you. Isn’t that good?”
“What are you going to teach me?” Jing Lin let him draw closer.
“Something exhilarating.” Cang Ji’s lips parted slightly. “Something about treating each other with sincerity and honesty.”
“You and I have been pretty ‘sincere and honest’ with each other last night.” Jing Lin released his fingers. “I don’t want exhilaration.”
Cang Ji hooked Jing Lin’s little finger and said, “That won’t do. I want to give it to you. You have taught well last night. I like it very much.”
Jing Lin said, “Lust makes you lose your mind.”
“Then how could you simply beat a retreat? I’ve already lost my mind!” Cang Ji tore off the garment covering his head and continued, “My scent is all over your entire body, and you still want to keep it under wraps? I just have to see who still dares to be tactless and come between us! If a husband and wife do not do it, then so be it. But if you want to do it with someone else—Don’t even dream about it.”
Jing Lin shook open his clothes to put them on. Cang Ji noted his usual expression from his side profile and could not help but gnash his teeth again. He nailed down Jing Lin’s clothes with his elbow and demanded, “Turn your head around.”
With his clothes partially put on, Jing Lin turned his head. Without even thinking about it, Cang Ji kissed him hard on the corner of his lips. He was so domineering that he cut an imposing figure.
“I want to have fun doing even more deeds many times over with you.” Cang Ji said, “I don’t want anyone else.”
Jing Lin’s lips were slightly reddened, and the redness almost seemed to blossom at the corners of his eyes too. He asked, “You aren’t going to eat me anymore?”
“If I’m with you, I can still seek pleasure without eating you.”
Jing Lin fastened his buckle and rose to his feet. He said, “You better eat me as soon as you can, while it’s still boring.”
Seeing that he was going out, Cang Ji lay down and said, “My spiritual energy is secured on your wrist. You can’t leave my side more than ten steps away.”
Jing Lin looked back and said, “Get up. We’re still not done with the matter.”
◈ ◈ ◈
A-Yi apprehensively bit down on his steamed bun, unable to turn a blind eye to the obvious teeth marks on Jing Lin’s nape. He stabbed his own eyes, stomped his foot, and said, “The evil spirit has been subdued. I’m going do as I please now! Let’s part ways here!”
Cang Ji looked at him with some surprise. “The door is over there. Why are you still here?”
A-Yi glowered at him, “I helped you increase your cultivation by so much, and you are still driving me away!”
“That’s why I didn’t throw you out last night.” Cang Ji surveyed the palace and asked, “Now that the old emperor is dead, what will happen next?”
“He has countless sons. Just choose any of them, and that will settle it.” A-Yi wiped his hands clean and continued, “As per Jing Lin’s intent, I handed the letter to Chu Lun last night. But what if he becomes a second Liu Chengde?”
“Le Yan is in Huashang’s hands.” Jing Lin said, “If Chu Lun is consumed by his obsession again, there’s no way he can survive.”
“Strange.” A-Yi said, “Huashang has always deigned to associate with immortals. Why did she help you this time? Could it be that you have a past with her?”
“She isn’t helping me.” Jing Lin shifted his gaze and swept it across Cang Ji’s face. He paused for only a moment before he said to A-Yi, “After you return home, you don’t have to worry about your Ah Jie again. Yun Sheng’s transfer of her back to the Realm is definitely not a bad thing in the long run.”
“Then, where else are you heading?” A-Yi said, “Tao Zhi recognized you. There’ll be others who will recognize you too.”
But Jing Lin said, “I won’t be able to avoid it the way things stand now. There are too many matters that I don’t understand. I must get to the bottom of it for myself. Besides, unless my divine consciousness is obliterated, there will be people who can recognize me even if I re-enter the wheel of reincarnation.”
A-Yi felt bored when he heard this. He had been initially hoping that these two would not get close to him again. The suffering they had inflicted on him these days was more than enough. Especially Cang Ji. He could be said to be the person A-Yi did not want to see the most now.
“The mountains stand unchanged, and the rivers flow forever.”4 A-Yi retreated a few steps and transformed into a five-colored bird to soar into the sky. “As I wander carefree among Zhongdu, I hope to never see you both ever! Farewell!”
Once A-Yi left, Cang Ji said, “You sent him away so urgently… because you sensed something?”
Jing Lin buckled the golden chain A-Yi left behind and threw it into his sleeve. He said, “Evil spirits are not easy to eliminate. There is the Demarcation Division to keep watch from the top, while evil aura is difficult to suppress on the grounds. So Hui An came, and from then on, the Demarcation Division vanished without a trace. Then, A-Yi came too, and gifted us the golden chain of Buddhist scripts to subdue evil—This did not seem to be a coincidence; it’s more like Heaven is helping us.”
Cang Ji said, “Why is it that for someone who digs a pit every step we take, there’s also someone else building a bridge each step of the way? How surprising that those targeting Lord Linsong are actually not of the same gang.”
“It’s just a wild guess.” Jing Lin pulled down his sleeves to cover his wrists and said, “Qianyu hasn’t returned yet, so he must still be in the Underworld. The evidence Zuo Qingzhou collected over the years is all in his hand. If we want to seize the chance to root out the source of evil in this case, then we’ll need Zuo Qingzhou’s notes. Let’s go see Qianyu.”
“You deceived him into going to the Underworld Cang Ji asked, “What if he refuses to give it to us?”
“Sincerity will move even a heart of stone.” Jing Lin took a few steps down the stairs and said, “Perhaps I didn’t deceive him?”
“It may not be a bad idea to meet him.” Cang Ji said, “Coincidentally, I have something to ask him.”
Jing Lin was a little bothered about it. “What?”
Cang Ji placed his arms behind his head and snorted at Jing Lin. “Not telling you.”
Jing Lin, “…”
- The red thread is a Thread of Fate or Marriage, which is used to connect and bring two destined lovers together.
- 方寸 square cun; Chinese unit of area: 1 cun × 1 cun, or 3⅓ cm × 3⅓ cm
- 一场春梦 a spring dream, or fleeting illusion. 春梦 also refers to wet/erotic dreams.
- 青山不改 ,绿水长流 (我们后会有期). Literally, just as the mountains stand unchanged and the waters flow forever, (we are bound to meet again some day in the future). i.e., We shall meet again as long as time stands. It’s used to bid farewell to another. This is the original line, but apparently, A-Yi didn’t want to see them again lmao.