Jing Lin’s hands could not be said to be “bonelessly soft”. He had wielded a sword for many years, so when he grasped it, it would only make one find them slender and long, pretty and strong. But at this moment, his palm was covering Cang Ji’s vital part. Not once had he exerted force, but his gentle massaging movements still sent a spurt of heat current up within Cang Ji. In an instant, that bit of discomfort Cang Ji had vanished, along with his pretense of being sick and weak. Jing Lin’s kneading had all but turned his heart into a fluff of cloud.
Jing Lin sensed the part under his palm gradually hardening; he could even feel that sturdiness through the fabric. Thus, he said to Cang Ji, “Don’t be nervous. I’ll transfer over some spiritual energy to dissolve away the evil aura.”
Cang Ji grabbed his rebellious hand and pulled it to his chest. He said, “I ate too much last night, then fled in a hurry. So it’s indeed hard to digest at the moment, and it’s uncomfortable with them all amassed in my stomach. But…” Cang Ji Adam’s apple throbbed.”… Maybe you should stop rubbing.”
Jing Lin somehow found it odd too, so he retracted his hand and said, “I’m not good at this.”
Cang Ji unenthusiastically uttered an acknowledgment, but that was not what he was thinking deep down in his heart. When Jing Lin massaged him, his heart went pit-a-pat. Yet, when Jing Lin retracted his hand, he felt upset. So he simply took Jing Lin’s hand and pressed it to his chest. He said righteously, “You and I are brothers. Why be so distant? This place is abnormal. If we aren’t careful, we will end up obliterated. So, you and I must stay together at all times.”
Thus, Jing Lin said, “Then, I’ll carry you on my back. That way, we won’t lose each other that easily.”
Cang Ji stretched his legs out and said, “Even if you carry me on your back, half of me will still be dragged across the floor. Before we make our way out, we will first die of exhaustion. Don’t worry and hold on to my hand. Since you said I’m strong, then I won’t die. Furthermore, I have this prayer bead with me. It won’t be a problem for me to hang in there for a while.”
Jing Lin nodded after listening to him. It was then Cang Ji had the time to scrutinize him. A trip to the realm of perfection was like taking a stroll along the boundary of the Underworld. Yet, there did not seem to be any changes in Jing Lin. His appearance was still the same old appearance, and his countenance was still the same old countenance. But when Cang Ji stole a look at his spiritual sea and witnessed his growth, all he could feel at that moment was how much every part of Jing Lin made him cherish him so.
With Cang Ji gazing at him like a “loving father”, Jing Lin asked questioningly, “Has my looks changed?”
“Have I grown taller?”
“… Then why do you keep staring at me?” Jing Lin asked, perplexed.
Cang Ji took a deep breath and said, “You are so beautiful, and yet you still don’t allow others to look at you?”
Jing Lin was caught off-guard as he had not expected Cang Ji to say this. He quickly raised his arm to shield his face, leaving only a pair of eyes looking at Cang Ji.
Cang Ji pressed his arm down and bent his head down to look at him. He said, “I said you are beautiful, and you instantly hide from me and refuse to let me see. That really makes me lose out so much.”
Jing Lin parroted, “Lose out?”
Cang Ji said, “You look at me every day. But I’ve never hidden myself from you.”
Jing Lin summoned up his courage and said, “I’ve never teased you, nor cajoled you.”
Cang Ji burst out laughing and teased him, “So you’re saying that I’m teasing you and cajoling you?”
Jing Lin said, “I look devastating.”
Cang Ji reined in his merriment and said, “It’s the truth. Looking at you every day has already made me lose half of my life. The remaining half is still barely hanging on by a thread. How is it that you have yet to feel it?”
Jing Lin’s hand was pressed against Cang Ji’s chest. The heartbeats in there were strong and forceful. How was this the look of someone on the verge of dying? Jing Lin had never heard anyone make such impudent remarks before. It rendered him tongue-tied and put him at a loss to refute Cang Ji.
Cang Ji truly adored the way Jing Lin looked so dazed and confused yet still pretended to be calm. He said, “As the saying goes, allure leads one astray. Little would I imagine that allure could also kill. I could hardly even begin to praise you, how would I use such words to defile you? Am I a bad person?”
Jing Lin shook his head. He only half-believed Cang Ji’s explanation earlier, but he was certain that Cang Ji was not a bad person. Because the entire journey had been full of opportunities for Cang Ji to strike. If Cang Ji had wanted his life, he did not have to wait until now.
But how was Jing Lin to know that Cang Ji had not set his sights on his life, but his heart, his soul, his entire self?
“It’s not right for you to be in such a hurry to shake your head.” Cang Ji said, “I’m indeed a bad person.”
Jing Lin said, “The fact that the evil spirits have headed south but have never harmed the commoners in the City of Xuanyang must have been all thanks to you. How could a person who put his life in danger to help others out of their own difficulties be a bad person? Even if you are hiding something, it just means that the time isn’t right at this point in our personal relationship. I believe that there will come a day in the future when you will be honest with me.”
Cang Ji could not help being stupefied. The words he had just swallowed instantly felt like fishbones stuck in his throat. It choked him so much that he wanted to spit it out and get it off his chest.
But Jing Lin had already retracted his hand. He secured Yan Quan to his back and said, “No one has ever penetrated deeply into the Blood Sea. We are the first. My initial guess was that the blood fog consumed humans, and not being able to enter was all because of inadequate cultivation. But it now seems like this isn’t the crux of the matter.”
After a moment of silence, Cang Ji said, “You have never wandered in the Blood Sea before, that’s why it took you only now to understand what’s strange about it. Jing Lin, listen carefully. There are already no evil spirits in this place. So what other sound is there?”
Jing Lin pricked up his ears. The sandstorm blew. There was the sound of rustling all around. He focused and listened again. Among the gust of wind, he gradually heard what seemed to be the sound of breathing. Jing Lin frowned. The more he heard, the more distinct it became, and the more alarmed he felt.
Cang Ji said, “The Blood Sea is shaped like mist and like water. It can transform into waves or turn into blood fog. Evil spirits breed within, repeatedly, and never-endingly. All along, everyone treated it as a sea of evil beings that had overturned and poured down here due to the heavenly sluice gates being damaged. But not once have they thought that ‘it’ could possibly be a ‘he’. You and I know very well about the calamity in Huaishu City. The Blood Sea not only first stopped the beacon tower from activating to cut off reinforcements, it also executed the diversion strategy of feigning an attack in one town to carry out the real attack in another. That’s how it consumed Qixing town. It’s not unusual for an evil spirit to have this level of intelligence. But what’s strange is that they come swarming in groups as though they are following military orders, and yet they aren’t the slightest bit disorganized.”
“The secret to throwing the world into chaos lies in the Blood Sea.” Jing Lin paused for a moment after hearing this before he continued. “If all evil spirits are at the disposal of one person, then this person is the scourge of humanity.”
“Other than that, the other conjecture is that the ‘Blood Sea’ is not a sea, but a person.” Cang Ji continued on tirelessly. “You once said that Cangdi is building ditches in the north with the intention to swallow the sea. If the Blood Sea is really a ‘person’, then this move of his is not wishful thinking. Because it isn’t easy to swallow thousands of hectares of waves, but it will be a piece of cake for him to swallow a person.”
Jing Lin frowned and said, “But if the Blood Sea is a person, then what is Dong Jun? His original form was an evil spirit of the Blood Sea, but his heart is now set on the Righteous Way. After breaking away from the Blood Sea, he’s no longer considered evil.”
“That’s the strange thing about the Blood Sea.” Cang Ji blew away the yellow sand on his robe and said. “I feel that he’s a person. It’s just that his appearance differs from that of an ordinary man, since he uses his body as the sea to breed all kinds of evil spirits.”
“If so, then we are now in ‘his’ body.” The gears in Jing Lin’s mind whirled as he envisaged a good deal the moment Cang Ji said his piece. He said, “This creature is like a fog and like the sea. It cannot be captured or eliminated, and it also breeds a myriad of evil spirits. I’m at my wits’ end when it comes to him.”
“There will be a way. Besides, it’s all just speculation now..” Cang Ji pinched the prayer bead and contemplated for a moment before he said, “There is one thing I can’t keep from you.”
“Just take your pick of what you wish to say.” Jing Lin said.
Cang Ji sighed. “So, you have already noticed that I have been hiding a lot from you?”
Jing Lin immediately said, “Seems like gege you have really hidden a lot from me.”
Cang Ji could not help but cover his abdomen and said in agony, “… What a wonderful trap. It’s the first time I’ve fallen for it. I can’t believe you have learned to use words to your advantage.”
“What you see and what you hear is what you learn.” Jing Lin said, “There’s no end to learning. It’s only by following you that I realized how true this phrase is.”
Cang Ji leaned forward and said, “I knew you were a smart one.”
Praised again and again for no reason, Jing Lin drew line after line with his little finger in the sand. By the time he raised his head, he was a picture of calm. He asked, “What do you want to tell me?”
Thus, Cang Ji said, “There’s a problem with your pills.”
Jing Lin obviously did not expect this. He felt his way into his sleeve subconsciously before he remembered that he had already given that bottle of pills to Cang Ji. So he asked, “What’s wrong with it?”
Cang Ji tossed the porcelain bottle to him and asked, “Does all the disciples in your sect consume this stuff?”
“I don’t know about the other compounds.” Jing Lin pulled off the lid to take a sniff. He said, “But all my brothers consume this medicine. It is given out on a monthly basis starting from the day of joining the sect. It is only when one’s spiritual sea has taken form that the dosage will be reduced. This medicine stabilizes one’s foundation and purifies one’s roots. I’ve used it before too.”
“From what I’ve tasted, its drug potency is strong. It can transform into spiritual energy to expedite the growth of one’s cultivation. Just one of them is enough to substitute for a hundred years of solitary cultivation.” Cang Ji said, “Have you ever checked the ingredients of this pill?”
“There is a spiritual garden in Ninth Heaven Sect that is solely dedicated to planting rare and precious herbs. All along, Lan Hai has been the one taking care of it. The ingredients of all decocted medicines are sourced from there.”
Faced with Jing Lin’s bright and clear eyes, Cang Ji hesitated. After a moment, he said, “The next time you return, you must investigate this medicine. It must not be consumed again, because it is so potent that it will agitate your spiritual sea when it urges your spiritual energy on to force your cultivation towards the waypoint for transcension. If it continues to bulldoze over your vital organs, then it will only lead to disaster in the long run.”
Jing Lin parroted, “The vital organs…”
Cang Ji said in a heavy voice. “You will die.”
Jing Lin clenched his fingers as his mind went blank. For a moment, he could not answer. He looked at Cang Ji dispiritedly and tugged tightly on Cang Ji’s sleeve.
“This medicine…” Jing Lin’s back was covered with cold sweat. He said, “This medicine was bestowed upon us by Father, and nothing has happened all these years. We are all his sons. Leaving everything else aside, Ninth Heaven Sect is treading on thin ice now. It can’t lack anyone. Besides, how could there be a father in this world who would harm his son?!”
“That’s right.” Cang Ji said, “That’s why I’m asking you to do a proper investigation. The internal divisions and various compounds of Ninth Heaven Sect are numerous and complex. It is also possible for someone to make use of the medicine to wipe out dissidents. Lord Jiutian stands above as the father, the death of one regardless of who it is will not benefit him at all.”
Jing Lin’s expression calmed down slightly, although his eyes were still heavy.
Cang Ji pondered over it, but in the end, he still said to him, “I don’t know about your brothers. But now that I’m your elder brother, I have to say a few words of advice. One must not have the heart to harm others, and at the same time, not lack the mind to guard against others. Having made a display of your abilities, you have already made many people secretly unhappy. They do not dare to touch you in broad daylight, but they can deploy all kinds of low-down means on the sly. There’s not much you can do about it, so you should be careful.”
By saying this, he had already singled out himself as “low-down”. All along, he was an arrogant man. He would not admit his mistakes readily, and he never knew what was considered “wrong”. Yet, he could not bring himself to explain the situation of that night to this kind of Jing Lin. An important part of the reason was admittedly because of Tao Zhi’s potent drug, but there were also his own selfish motives at play. He could not be said to be a gentleman or a follower of the Righteous Way, but he would not stoop so low that he would act like a hypocrite who put all the blame on Tao Zhi’s drug while thinking of himself as a good man compelled by circumstances.
“Many of the words I say can’t be taken seriously, but you must remember this.” Cang Ji thought about it and whispered to Jing Lin, “I’m used to debauchery. I’m a baddie. I may not be bad to others, but I’ll definitely be bad to you.”