The umbrella hit the stone railing, and the rain intensified in that very instant. Cang Ji’s breathing clung close to Jing Lin, scorching him so much that his mouth was parched. Rainwater dripped down the center of his forehead to the bridge of his nose, turning the melding of their lips unusually wet, hot, and sticky through this layer of coolness
Cang Ji’s palms groped all over Jing Lin’s back as he received Jing Lin’s inexperienced kiss that was really just a collision of lips and teeth. He raised his head back slightly and asked, “Are you dizzy? Does it hurt? Why have you lost so much weight? Your bones are protruding…”
Jing Lin cupped Cang Ji’s cheeks with his hands and extended his fingers to stroke Cang Ji’s facial features. Then he replied in all seriousness to each question, “Not dizzy. Doesn’t hurt. Didn’t lose weight.” With that, he gasped hard for breath twice. “You… you are hugging me too tight!”
Amused by his expression, Cang Ji gave him a hard squeeze and said, “Tight? I haven’t even pressed you into my flesh and bones yet!”
Jing Lin said, “Don’t.”
Jing Lin’s palms were so icy that Cang Ji squinted his eyes. On hearing him, he said, “Then bribe me.”
Jing Lin repeated, “Bribed you.”
Cang Ji laughed out loud and said, “The mountains have produced a bastard. You just went home for a few days and you have already picked up all the bad habits from others.”
“I’m not a bastard.”
“You are a little scoundrel.” Cang Ji tilted his head slightly. His eyes blazed with passion as that unbridled desire surged right for his heart, enveloping it. Unable to resist, he pinched Jing Lin’s chin, pulled it towards him, and whispered, “Let me take a mouthful.”
Jing Lin was about to say something, and Cang Ji took it all as his agreement. Fingers insolently pried Jing Lin’s lips apart. Bending his head down, Cang Ji sucked at the tip of that tongue and took in their intermingled saliva. Jing Lin stretched his neck out a little, exposing a length of snow white on the back of his neck. Cang Ji covered it with his palm. He could not take his hands off it, and yet, he wanted to knead it with all his might. Trapped in this dilemma, his heart alternated between warmth and coldness. All he could do was to suck hard.
Jing Lin was both numbed and hurting from the kiss. His palms were pressed against Cang Ji’s chest, and his nape shivered from Cang Ji’s rubs. The temptation of lust rose in the cold rain, stimulating Jing Lin so much that soft gasps escaped between his lips from not being able to keep up with it.
Cang Ji’s back had long been soaked through, but he did not feel cold at all. Strength flooded the back of his shoulders and arms, sending waves of long-suppressed heat rippling through them. He grabbed hold of Jing Lin’s hands and gave this purest sword some breathing space.
Jing Lin was already disoriented from the kiss when he was released all of a sudden. Even his lips were a shade of dark red. Cang Ji picked up the umbrella with the tip of his foot, held it up, and pulled Jing Lin to him before moving off the stage.
“There was this one day I watched you here.” The umbrella was small, but Cang Ji had a large physique. More than half of him was exposed outside the umbrella he was holding up. It was only when he let the rainwater pour over him that the heat in him was alleviated. Leading Jing Lin by the hand, he stopped as they descended the stairs and pointed to a viewing pavilion a short distance away. “I saw you carrying your sword as you stepped onto the stage in a white robe like a dove, as arrogant as hell. I thought, what a pompous lad. I’ll have to give him a hard time in the future.”
Holding up his sword, Jing Lin said, “Enlighten me on stage.”
Cang Ji said, “What? So what happened earlier wasn’t considered a sparring? Just a little lick and you shrank back and shivered.”
Jing Lin’s little finger hurriedly twitched a few times. He said, “You, impetuous!”
“I’m Cao Cang, and ‘impetuous’ is my middle name.”1 Cang Ji laughed heartily. “It’s ticklish and tantalizing when you strike me in my palm. How not very impetuous of Lord Linsong.”
Jing Lin stumbled and hit his back without a sound. Burying his face into his back, he said, “Not Lord Linsong.”
With his hands at his back, Cang Ji led him down and said, “If you aren’t Lord Linsong, then you can only be my…” Cang Ji paused for a moment. “Mine.”
◈ ◈ ◈
Both men made their way onto the veranda of the viewing pavilion. The vines climbing along the pillars had all withered, leaving only dried, tenacious branches still hanging around. Cang Ji wiped the only remaining fruit clean and leaned against the pillar to watch Jing Lin eat.
“With water accumulating in the north, the fruits aren’t as delicious as they used to be. But they are, after all, fruits produce from home, so I still want you to have a taste of it.” As Cang Ji spoke, he gently caressed the back of Jing Lin’s hand. “The swords have moved. What has happened in your sect again?”
Jing Lin swallowed the sweet and sour juice and said with tightly pursed lips. “I didn’t get to see Lan Hai for the last time. They buried his body too soon. It makes me uneasy.”
“What happened after you pried it open?”
“Nothing.” Jing Lin replied. “The body is missing.”
Cang Ji raised his head slightly as he leaned against the pillar and thought about it. He said, “I know very little about Lan Hai. What’s your thoughts on this?”
Jing Lin wiped his fingers and said, “Lan Hai’s original form was Han Tian Hammer.2 Weapons in the sect that could be considered famous were all his creations. Occasionally, when Yan Quan is chafed, I’d hand it to him to repair. He wasn’t famous, but the weapons he forged are renowned all over the world. Li Rong’s Po Zheng Spear, Dong Jun’s Shan He Fan, and Father’s Su Shi Blade3 all came from his hands.”
“If he’s coveting cultivation, then he shouldn’t have eyed him.” Cang Ji’s fingers gently slid around the back of Jing Lin’s hand, moving back and forth along the scar. “If I were in his shoes, instead of taking a risk during the critical juncture of transcendence, I’d have chosen you or Li Rong.”
“Perhaps ‘he’ actually didn’t want to take risks.” Jing Lin’s side profile was slightly cold as he said, “He already knew who we were when we were in the Blood Sea. So he must have been on guard against me. At this juncture, he shouldn’t really have made such an unnecessary move and aroused suspicion.”
“But he still did it.”
“Lan Hai was also in charge of the sect’s spiritual garden.”
“The elixirs.” Cang Ji said, “Lan Hai detected a problem with those pills. Perhaps he had even found some crucial clues, and that forced the Blood Sea’s hand. Were there anything odd with Lan Hai before he died? “
“He wrote my name in everyone’s palm.” Jing Lin spread his other hand open and stared at his palm. “What did he mean by it?”
Cang Ji leaned back and lay down on Jing Lin’s thigh. He pulled Jing Lin’s palm and rubbed at the lotus pattern on it. After contemplating it for a long time, he said, “He had something to tell you. Why you? The clue must have something to do with you. To write your name in such a way that involved so many people, he was obviously already forced into the corner. He was certain that no one around him could be trusted. Or perhaps he already knew who the ‘Blood Sea’ was.”
“But.” Jing Lin hung his head down. “It was just a name. How could we be sure that he had a message for me just from this alone? We hardly see each other, and we seldom talk much either.”
“Because he wrote your name.” Cang Ji said, “A dying man would not do meaningless deeds. He had a message for you and he could only entrust this message to another person. But he could not fully trust this person either, so he had to leave your name on everyone’s palms. This way, regardless of whether or not this person tells you, you’re going to have doubts about it.”
After a moment’s silence, Jing Lin said, “This person didn’t tell me.”
“This is where the crux lies.” Cang Ji said, “He didn’t tell you. If he isn’t the Blood Sea, then he is harboring an ulterior motive and is scheming something. Although this matter is still complicated and bewildering, there is one thing we can understand from it.”
Jing Lin looked him in the eye and said slowly, “Internal strife between brothers, and the wolf lies in wait among them.”
“And it’s not just one.” Cang Ji placed Jing Lin’s palm over the tip of his own nose and said, “Do you still remember what I said to you?”
Jing Lin replied, “… They will all lie to me.”
“That’s right.” Cang Ji stared at him and repeated, “They will all lie to you.”
Rain pelted down in the solitude of the night. Jing Lin gradually leaned back. The cold was the snake that had sprang up from the bottom of his heart to slither around his neck. Jing Lin raised his hand to press down on the spot between his eyebrows. His Adam’s apple bobbed restlessly.
Who was it?
Other than the Blood Sea, who else among his brothers was also harboring wild ambitions? What did he want to do? What was he thinking of doing?
There was a “smack” as Jing Lin’s head was suddenly held down. He swiftly returned to his senses and looked fixedly at Cang Ji.
Cang Ji said, “A confused heart is a distracted mind. It’s easiest to fall into the traps of others if you are in doubt. You cultivate the Way of the Sword. No matter what happens in the future, you must stick true to your heart and remain firm in your beliefs. Have you got it? “
Jing Lin said, “My heart feels confused. I’ve already fallen into doubt.”
“All matters will see the day when the truth comes to light.” Cang Ji touched Jing Lin’s forehead and said, “Even if heaven and earth turn upside down, or if the Blood Sea collapses, as long as you are still building the Way of the Sword, you will be fine.”
“How about you?” Jing Lin suddenly asked.
“I’m a demon. I’m untamed and unrestrained. I fear neither ghosts nor deities.” Cang Ji closed his eyes and kissed Jing Lin’s palm. He said, “Have you ever heard of the dragon’s reverse scale?”4
Jing Lin said, “Canglong has a crescent the color of white jade under his throat. Although he has the power to swallow the sky and the sea, and the ability to command the wind and the clouds,5 his vital point lies in this spot. I heard that he doesn’t appear before others easily, because he’s called Dijun and sits on an equal footing with the True Buddha. When he appears in the world, millions of people lie prostrate in obeisance. No one dares to take a close look. “
“That’s right.” Cang Ji opened his eyes. “That’s his vulnerability. Touch it, and he will fly into a rage. No one in the world can touch it.”
Jing Lin nodded and inexplicably blinked his eyes. He said, “I have no enmity with him. I won’t touch it.”
For no reason, Cang Ji laughed. He clasped his hands at the back of Jing Lin’s neck, but his eyes were a sea of calm.
“I’m different from them.” Cang Ji’s eyes were deep and black. He said, “You are just like my reverse scale. You live, I live. You are my life. Therefore, no matter how difficult things are in the future, or how arduous life becomes, I want you to live.”
Jing Lin was horrified on hearing this. He jerked as though a sudden clap of thunder had startled him. He could not help but grasp Cang Ji’s clothes tightly and say, “I don’t want it this way!”
Cang Ji smiled and caressed his head lovingly, “You keep saying you ‘don’t want’ the whole day, always acting like a pampered child with me.”
Jing Lin stalled, then said, “… I don’t want.”
He was in a daze as uneasiness washed over him. The humidity of the rainy night made him fidgety. Invisible forces of evil circled around him, and everywhere was a boundless expense of deep, heavy fog. He clutched the corner of Cang Ji’s clothes, wrinkling it between his fingers as he wrung them into balls.
“If you don’t want, then so be it. My outfit is going to be wrung rotten by you.” Cang Ji sat up and said, “Do you want me to walk around naked later?”
Jing Lin suddenly closed in towards him and asked with clear eyes, “What happened to you in the north?”
Instead of dodging, Cang Ji leaned in and asked, “You want to know?”
Jing Lin nodded, and Cang Ji said, “Let me have a bite of you.”
Jing Lin covered his neck and said, “You are always leaving traces behind.”
“Marking my territory.” Cang Ji laughed in spite of himself. “I’m still not done. The back of your waist, your buttocks, and the insides of your thighs… I want to bite them all over in time to come.”
Jing Lin was originally on edge, and Cang Ji had taken his time to tease him until his heart fluttered. He could not help but retreat, feeling as though he had fallen into Cang Ji’s trap again. But Cang Ji was fiddling with his fingers, and Jing Lin did not know how much of his tricks he had yet to reveal. The moment he curbed the smile on his face, he would be all upright and proper.
“The words uttered may be shameless, but the matter is of paramount importance. The whole world knows you, Lord Linsong, but they may not necessarily know me. With my teeth mark imprinted on you, and that’s as good as a concrete promise sealed with a kiss.” Cang Ji snorted coldly as he spoke. “I just have to take that one bite on your thigh, and I’ll be able to see it clearly once I lift it up in the future. Just below the buttocks, and I can see it whether I enter from the front or the back.”
His words left Jing Lin mystified, “What’s entering from the front?”
Cang Ji said, “Trying for yourself is a hundred times better than hearing it from others. Want to try it with me?”
Jing Lin clutched his clothes tightly. He was still a little perplexed on hearing this. Cang Ji had originally intended to change the topic, but on seeing him, his heart softened until it was a total mess. He rubbed Jing Lin’s cheeks roughly.
“Nothing is happening in the north.” Cang Ji said, “Even if there is, there’s still Cangdi to take care of it. I didn’t say all those words to strike fear in you, but to lay bare my heart and make myself clear to you.”
“I have never known fear.” Jing Lin said, “But I don’t want you to die.”
“A scourge lasted for a thousand years.”6 Cang Ji said with a stubborn, unyielding expression. “I won’t die. There are still plenty of things I have yet to teach you, and I can’t bear to let others teach on my behalf. So I can only put all my heart into staying alive.”
As he spoke, he took Jing Lin into his arms and embraced him. With his hand on his, he drew the rain into a fish in the air.
“There’s a man I love.” Cang Ji grasped Jing Lin’s fingertips, and put his head on Jing Lin’s shoulder, ear to ear, temple to temple. “I expected him to be my tribulation, but then I fell under his spell. I yearn to see him in the day, and I yearn to see him at night. I want to treat him well with all the earnestness I could muster, and at the same time, I want to bully him in the most licentious ways possible. I can’t explain it clearly, but that’s what it means. The moment I met him, I became a rascal, because I can’t help it either. “
The cold rainwater soaked his fingertips. Jing Lin looked askance at him.
After staring blankly for a while, Cang Ji said, “Sometimes, I want to hold him with both hands in my heart to coax, and sometimes I want to hold him tight in my arms and thrust. Love begets lust, not the other way round. I took advantage of him like the lowlife I am. I’m wicked and ferocious.” He nuzzled against the side of Jing Lin’s cheek. “I will still be wicked and ferocious in the future. I want to crush him, swallow him, and put him in my mouth to play with. Say, what do you think I should do?”
Jing Lin’s cheek had gone slightly red from his rubs. He could only utter an “uh-huh” in a hoarse voice as a reply.
“Why isn’t he answering?” Cang Ji hugged him. “Does he not want me? Does he not like me? It’d be best if he doesn’t like me. Because I want him to love me.”
Jing Lin’s hands and legs had already gone numb. Cang Ji’s words had left a pleasant hum lingering inside him. He watched as the fish before his eyes leaped into life. It jumped in mid-air, swimming and swishing its tail. He wanted to close his eyes, but he felt that the man behind him would be all the more conspicuous if he were to do so. So he opened his mouth slightly and looked at Cang Ji.
Jing Lin braced himself and suddenly smashed his lips into Cang Ji’s. He was like a newly released little beast, whose licks and nips were all awkward and clumsy. Yet, they brought with them the courage of one going all out and committing himself irrevocably. Cang Ji let him do as he wished. His arms wrapped around his waist, with his hands sticking to his lower abdomen to stroke it. Jing Lin kissed him with the vigor and simplicity of a child, not knowing the dragon aura in the midst of his spiritual sea was soaring and assembling together before dispersing under Cang Ji’s rubs until there was no trace of it left. But the more Jing Lin kissed, the hotter he felt, until he was so hot that the clasps on his clothes stretched taut as he raised his neck and exposed his collarbone.
After Cang Ji was done rubbing, he suddenly picked Jing Lin up, pulled his legs around his own waist, and pinned him onto the pillar. Their breaths intermingled into one. Cang Ji’s lips slid down along Jing Lin’s neck.
Jing Lin’s back hurt from being pinned down. He could feel something pressing against his abdomen. Its heat was startling, and it felt savage to the touch. Some raindrops spattered onto his face. His breathing grew rugged.
Cang Ji raised his head too. The feralness in his eyes was compelling, and his shoulders were taut with tension. But this was not really a good time, and the place was not right either. He could go at it ruthlessly, but he was not willing to let Jing Lin endure the cold. So he said, “Stick it out. Let me have enough of it, and I’ll be satisfied for tonight.”
Jing Lin was feeling the hardness. He opened his mouth a little. He had only just shown a little of the tip of his tongue when it was sucked.
It was raining cats and dogs. The sounds of panting intersected in the darkness as they leaned against each other, grinding to the point of intolerability until Cang Ji was literally drenched in sweat all over.
He had already gone insane.
So insane that he even wanted to imprison Jing Lin in his arms and leave no trace of his scent, voice, and shadow to anyone else.
At that last moment, I recalled the fear of being dominated by Ah-Jin…7
Thank you for reading w
- 草字 a humble or self-deprecating term used to introduce one’s courtesy name to another party in ancient times. What Cang Ji actually said was “This humble one is Cao Cang, and my humble courtesy name is Meng Lang (Impetuous)”. In this context, however, the closest modern equivalent would be ‘middle name’, as in Cang Ji could say, “I’m Cang Ji, and horny is my middle name.”
- 撼天锤 literally ‘hammer that shakes Heaven’
- Nothing to do with cutting sushi
- 逆鳞 reverse scale; a piece of scale that is reversed on a dragon’s throat or neck that’s considered to be precious and important to them. It’s said that the dragon will kill anyone in fury if they touched that scale. It is now used to refer to someone’s weakness, sore spot, or most cherished and important thing. For example, touching one’s reverse scale is an idiom that could be said to be touching someone’s sore spot, attacking their weakness, or rubbing someone the wrong way, etc.
- 叱咤风云 literally to have nature at one’s beck and call; it is also used to describe someone who is all-powerful.
- (好人不长命，)祸害遗千年 (A good man doesn’t live for long,) while (the legacy of) a scourge lasts for a thousand years. He’s saying he’s a scourge and not a good person.
- aka. censored by JJWXC