On the next day, the Daozhang behaved as usual. Xue Yang watched him closely; would something change in him now that he knew what kind of man was living next to him? Would he be more careful, or keep his distance?
Nothing changed. The Daozhang still laughed, touched his arms and shoulders, and if they talked less than usual, it was only because Xue Yang didn’t really want to talk. He had already said too much last night.
In the evening, when it was time to go to bed, Xue Yang heard the Daozhang stop in the middle of the room and silently move to the edge of the bed. Almost immediately, the other man’s body sank down beside him and Xue Yang turned to him.
They lay there without touching each other, and it seemed that the Daozhang was going to fall asleep like that. As if yesterday’s kisses, and the embrace which they did not break even in their sleep, never happened. So things did change, after all, Xue Yang thought bitterly. You should sleep on the floor then, if you hate to touch me.
Then warm fingers touched his palm.
“Chengmei,” whispered the Daozhang.
Xue Yang’s heart was beating like mad.
“If I…” the Daozhang grew silent.
Smiling to himself, Xue Yang reached out and touched his face.
“What do you want to ask, Daozhang, if it makes you blush so hard?” he intoned.
Xue Yang’s fingers slowly traced the other man’s burning cheeks, cheekbones and brows. He wasn’t exploring anymore, just enjoying how soft the skin under his fingers was and how easily Daozhang accepted his touch. When he moved lower to his lips, they parted and hot breath blazed over Xue Yang’s palm.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered. “Too bad I cannot see you.”
Lips pressed to his palm before moving to his wrist.
“You are also beautiful.”
Xue Yang snorted.
“Yeah, especially if you take off the bandage. Than my handsomeness would know no match.”
“I took it off,” the Daozhang reminded him. “Believe me.”
Xue Yang did not know how to respond to this. He leaned forward, and the Daozhang, as if he was waiting exactly for this, put his arms around him. Xue Yang pressed his lips onto his chin and found his bearings before kissing first the corner of his mouth and then the very edge of his upper lip, already deliberately teasing the other man. The Daozhang could not stand this for long; he leaned forward, catching his lips with his own.
It was nice to lie on the bed like that, hugging the Daozhang and kissing him. Xue Yang never did this with anyone. All his experience in the pleasures of the flesh came from the brothels where he accompanied Jin Guangyao. The whores, especially the older ones, invited him to their chambers more than once. Without even wanting any money in return, they tried to teach him the art of love, but Xue Yang snatched away carnal pleasures just like everything else in his life – quickly, greedily, not caring about others. “A little beast,” one whore whose lip he bit called him tenderly. She enjoyed herself, but no thanks to Xue Yang. He couldn’t care less about her.
With the Daozhang, he could spend an eternity just kissing. Explore the taste of his lips, lick them, trace his teeth with his tongue – as a cultivator he had the benefit of having all his teeth intact. Well, Xue Yang also couldn’t complain in this respect.
When the Daozhang’s tongue entered his mouth, Xue Yang bit down on it lightly with his fangs, which made the Daozhang release a quiet moan. His hands were running through Xue Yang’s hair before they moved to caress his shoulders, but didn’t go any lower. Xue Yang didn’t suffer from the same reserve, already managing to touch the Daozhang’s back, chest and waist, and his palm now confidently found its way to his buttocks.
All of a sudden, the Daozhang broke their kiss and let out a long, heart-felt yawn.
Despite his disappointment over the interruption of their intimacy, Xue Yang couldn’t hold back laughter.
“You didn’t have a good sleep, Daozhang?”
“I’m sorry,” the other man mumbled in embarrassment.
That meant that he really didn’t get any sleep last night, after listening to Xue Yang’s story. Well, that was his own fault. Xue Yang pushed the Daozhang, making him lie on his back, and grabbed him with everything he could – with his arms and one leg, and even put his head on the man’s shoulder.
A pair of soft lips touched the top of his head.
Now when the Daozhang learned who he was, Xue Yang finally did what he should have done a long time ago. He took up his stick, went out to the courtyard and for the first time in several months assumed a fighting stance. The stick was lighter than a sword, and he had no balance to speak of. As his right leg threatened to give out under him, he had to shift his weight to the left one. Everything was just terrible, diametrically different from the past, when he used Jiangzai with playful ease. But this was the first step. Xue Yang waited too long already.
First, he will take his revenge against Jin Guangyao. Then he will find Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen. Those were the goals he had to reach. Even if blind and limping. He would get there. Xue Yang was persistent. When there was a goal, he always found the strength to reach it.
He heard the Daozhang come to the courtyard and stop in his tracks. Xue Yang didn’t interrupt his training. Why would he, after all he had told the other man?
“Are you going to fight with a stick or with a sword?”
“What do you think?”
“Where will you get a sword?”
“I’ll find one. Steal it. Buy it. Take it from someone,” Xue Yang said, accompanying every word with a charge of his stick. He needed to work on his fingers; they moved alright, but his grasp was still weak.
“And all that for revenge?”
“For what else?”
“I see,” was all the Daozhang had to say to that before he left.
Xue Yang gritted his teeth and started to swing his stick around with even more fervor. So what if the Daozhang didn’t understand him. Of course he had other, nobler goals in his life. To save the world, to protect people. Xue Yang’s situation was simpler than that; he had to think about himself. There was no one to save him or protect him… hadn’t been, before. But when he goes to Lanling, the Daozhang won’t go with him. He will stay in Yi with A-Qing. And Xue Yang will be alone again. That’s how it always has been, he won’t have to get used to it. He has lived like this, and would survive on his own again. Without the Daozhang, without the girl, who’s useless anyway. He will find himself food, and place to sleep. He always survives. Even blind. He’ll manage.
He stopped when his arms started to go numb from fatigue, and the thin material of his inner robes was soaked with sweat. He wiped himself with a wet cloth, took up a bucket with only a little water left splashing at the bottom, and went to the water source. Usually it was the Daozhang who got water. The road was rocky and full of gnarly tree roots, so Xue Yang trod it carefully even with the stick. All the better. When he leaves, no one will even his road for him.
That evening, he and the Daozhang started to kiss already in the courtyard, very quietly so that A-Qing wouldn’t hear them. It was the Daozhang himself who pulled Xue Yang inside the house, laid him on the bed and lay on top of him, kissing his lips, cheeks and forehead. Xue Yang slid his hand down his back, from the nape of his neck all the way down to his buttocks, grasping the flesh there – and the Daozhang froze.
“You don’t want to?” Xue Yang asked, even though he had no intention of stopping.
“No… I mean, yes. I want. It’s just…”
“You’ve never been with a man, Daozhang?”
“And what about women? It’s a long time you left your monastery; don’t tell me there was no beauty who’d steer you off the right path.”
“Please don’t mock me,” the Daozhang asked him quietly. “I thought that I still had time, to find a cultivation partner I could share my life with. And then I found myself here. I’m sorry, I just didn’t have any opportunity to learn about these things.”
“I’m not mocking you, Daozhang,” Xue Yang whispered against his lips. “It’s a good thing that you didn’t have anyone to teach you, very good. Excellent.”
Because imagining the Daozhang with some whore, the likes of which pulled Xue Yang himself to their bed, was unpleasant. It was wrong, something that didn’t suit his holy Daozhang at all. With him, anything like this could happen only when there were feelings involved… and imagining that the Daozhang experienced enough feelings towards anyone that things would end up in bed was even worse.
“I’ll show you, Daozhang, I’ll show you everything.” Xue Yang’s voice started to tremble, and there were slight tremors running through his whole body as well. The idea of himself teaching the Daozhang, guiding him, showing what to do… oh, Xue Yang didn’t even think it was possible to feel so much excitement. He could have whimpered aloud from that thought alone. “It’s actually very simple. You can do whatever you want with me. That’s about it.”
The Daozhang caressed his cheeks and then his fingers slid to Xue Yang’s neck.
“But what if I want one thing and you want another?”
“The point is, Daozhang, for us both to want the same thing,” Xue Yang said and mimicked his movement. “For example, I want to kiss you now. Do you want that?”
Xue Yang kissed his lips, prompting him to open them. The Daozhang let him. That was good. Wonderful. The idea of what else the Daozhang might let him do made Xue Yang feel hot heaviness in his abdomen.
“I want to… touch you?” the Daozhang intoned uncertainly.
“But you’re touching me already,” Xue Yang objected. “Is it not your hand on my shoulder? That doesn’t count.”
Even without touching his face, Xue Yang knew that the Daozhang was blushing like a wild poppy flower. But toying with him, provoking him like this was just too delicious to pass up. It was like opening a candy wrapper, which was, however, not made of any ordinary dirty paper but of good and expensive one, hinting at the sweetness hidden inside…
“Under your clothes.”
“What a coincidence, Daozhang,” Xue Yang purred, “I also want the same thing.”
He opened his arms in invitation. The Daozhang hesitated a little before he started to pull at his sash, untying it. Xue Yang was thinking about helping him, but the Daozhang managed by himself; not to mention that he wasn’t the one who was blind here. Xue Yang just needed to lift himself up and slip out of his sleeves. When he was wearing just his inner robes, the Daozhang stopped once again.
“Come on,” Xue Yang encouraged him, “I want it too, remember?”
The Daozhang trailed his fingers over his chest. Slowly, from top to bottom, tracing the contours of his muscles. He’s watching, Xue Yang realized, and then he remembered his scars. The Daozhang had already seen them, as it was him who washed and bandaged Xue Yang’s wounds.
But that was before, and now he probably didn’t like to look at them. There were others, older ones, but those at least didn’t stand out like that.
The Daozhang’s hands reached for the belt of his pants and then stopped. Xue Yang impatiently raised his hips, and the Daozhang complied with this gesture. He started caressing Xue Yang’s legs, from hips to ankles and vice versa, sometimes adding pressure, at other times just lightly sliding over the skin. For some reason, it was those light touches that made Xue Yang tremble and reach out to meet them.
“Beautiful,” the Daozhang said quietly. Xue Yang bit his lips and leaned back on the bed, clenching his fists. He wanted more. He wanted the Daozhang to lie on him, press him down with his weight. He wanted to feel him with his entire body, skin on skin. And at the same time, he wanted him not to stop, to keep petting him like this, to watch him without interruptions. If he truly found Xue Yang beautiful. How stupid. Only the holy Daozhang could think that…
When the Daozhang’s palm enveloped his member, Xue Yang moaned.
“Is this good?”
“Very,” he breathed out, jerking his hips. “But Daozhang…”
The Daozhang might have not found a partner for dual cultivation, but he clearly wasn’t neglecting himself; he pleasured Xue Yang with confidence, stroking him and squeezing him in exactly the right way. That was good. Wonderful. A hundred times better than when those women did it. Maybe it seemed that way because Xue Yang was now surrounded by darkness and the sensations he felt were sharper than ever before. He was biting down on his lip, arching when the Daozhang slowed his motions, and then suddenly started to stroke him harder. If he went just a bit faster, he would… he would…
And then the Daozhang removed his hand, leaned down to him and whispered right next to his ear, “Your turn.”
At first, Xue Yang couldn’t quite get what he meant, and reached out to catch his palm with the intention to put it back in place, because it had felt so good. And then he understood, and almost howled from sheer frustration and disappointment. Why did he suggest this?! He was a fool in wanting to provoke the Daozhang. Now the Daozhang was paying him back. But what could he do? Xue Yang took several breaths to keep his arousal under control. Let it be so. The longer the wait, the sweeter the pleasure.
“Of course, Daozhang,” Xue Yang agreed, lifting himself up. His body protested, as it already relaxed under the other man’s ministrations and wanted them to go on. “My turn. I also want to touch you. Everywhere.”
“Should I undress myself?”
The Daozhang was also not a little aroused, judging from how quickly he breathed, and how his voice shook. Xue Yang licked his lips.
“Untie your sash.”
After a few moments, the Daozhang placed Xue Yang’s palm over his untied sash, and Xue Yang started to disrobe him, one layer after another. He wanted to do it slowly, thoughtfully, but he didn’t have enough patience for that, so he ended up pulling off both sets of robes so hard that the fabric almost tore. He pushed at the Daozhang’s chest to make him lie down on the bed and got on top him, propping himself up with both his arms. He wanted to pounce, crush, grab, scratch and bite. To make the Daozhang moan and scream under him, trying to break free but to no avail, and Xue Yang would go even wilder from those cries…
He buried his nose in the nape of the Daozhang’s neck, so trustingly offered, and took a deep breath of the smell of herbs and the Daozhang himself – familiar, soothing. He couldn’t do that. Not with his Daozhang. He licked under the other man’s ear and immediately pressed his lips there. The Daozhang’s neck was tender and long. As if it was made for biting… but what would be the point if he couldn’t see the result afterwards?
He needed to skin Jin Guangyao alive after all; never mind the bother.
Xue Yang placed another kiss on the Daozhang’s neck, tracing his clavicle with his finger. It felt very thin. The Daozhang himself was thin as a reed – Xue Yang caressed his body, wondering how one could be so strong with such a girlish slenderness. Naturally, he also felt the strings of muscles, straight and strong. Not a single scar. That was cultivators for you.
He traced his fingers over the other man’s chest, enjoying the feel of smooth, hot skin. The Daozhang didn’t make any sound, just panting and twisting under him when Xue Yang’s hand brushed against a nipple. Naturally by accident. That first time, at least.
Xue Yang caressed the middle of his chest for a while, to lull the Daozhang into a false sense of security, and then gave his nipple a powerful lick.
“What?” Xue Yang sniggered. From his persistent licking, the nipple grew hard and Xue Yang gave it a light bite. The Daozhang gasped.
“But you wanted…”
“To touch you, yes. But did I say that with my hands only?”
Now he was exploring the Daozhang’s body with his lips, which was much more interesting. Lips were a lot more sensitive than fingers. Xue Yang kissed, grazed the skin with his teeth, ran his tongue along the ribs, while the Daozhang’s loud sighs turned almost into a whimper, from which Xue Yang concluded that he was ticklish, which had to be tested out one day. Not now, though.
Now he went lower, to a neat belly-button and a trail of hair leading to the Daozhang’s cock. When he bit down on the skin over the protruding hipbone, the Daozhang involuntary pulled his stomach in and bated his breath. The skin was so delicate that Xue Yang almost feared touching it – it seemed that any touch there could leave bruises. It was unlikely that Daozhang often undressed, allowing the sun to caress his body, which meant that his skin would be completely light. Xue Yang decided to imagine it like that – white as china, tender and smooth. That would suit the Daozhang nicely.
Xue Yang intentionally avoided the most sensitive part of the other man’s body. He breathed over his hip and tasted it with his lips. Listened to the Daozhang’s whimpers. Brushed him with his cheek, as if by accident, and stopped.
The Daozhang’s hips jerked forward in an unambiguous gesture. Xue Yang grinned and slightly turned his head. And let out a hot breath.
“What?” Xue Yang asked him innocently, inching closer. The Daozhang naturally didn’t answer. He probably didn’t know himself what he wanted. “If you don’t like something…” This time, he exhaled against the base of the Daozhang’s member, almost touching it, “just say it. And I’ll stop right away.”
The Daozhang let out some completely incomprehensible sound. Did he choke on air? Xue Yang pushed his hips down to the bed and finally traced the base of the Daozhang’s cock in a slow, wet slide of his tongue.
“I don’t understand you, Daozhang,” Xue Yang said, rubbing his cheek against the other man’s cock, “Tell me if you like it or not. I can’t see, remember?”
The Daozhang was so incredibly hot. And smelled so good – with himself, a bit a musk and an almost imperceptible trace of herbs – that Xue Yang wanted to lick him all over. He had a hard time stopping himself from humping against his leg; his own arousal was so big that he had to hold his breath to calm himself down.
“I like it,” the Daozhang said with difficulty. His voice was almost unrecognizable, sounding as if someone had cut his throat. “Very much.”
As a reward, Xue Yang replaced his lips, kissing and licking. He also liked it. It was surprising; he had never before wanted to caress another person, to give them pleasure which, according to other men’s words, only whores could provide, and that’s why they ran away to them from their modest and virtuous wives. He was always taking, only thinking about himself. But pleasuring the Daozhang turned out to be so good it was driving him crazy. Especially when the other man started to moan. Xue Yang never played any musical instrument, but there was something delightful about the sounds created by the movement of the Daozhang’s lips and tongue.
“Chengmei…” the Daozhang’s voice reached him through the haze of pleasure, “Chengmei!”
Xue Yang reluctantly stopped and lifted his head, licking his lips. They were wet with saliva. The Daozhang inhaled through his nose and swallowed.
“Chengmei, I… come to me,” he said, pulling at his shoulder. Xue Yang obediently hoisted himself up and lied on top of him, pressing to the other man with the entire length of his body. The Daozhang put his hands around the back of Xue Yang’s head and kissed him – passionately, immediately thrusting his tongue into his mouth, and Xue Yang understood right away that the Daozhang had to taste himself there at this moment. This thought sent a hot wave of arousal surging through his body. He rubbed his hips against the other man as hard as he could, no longer holding back. It felt so good.
His mouth never leaving Xue Yang’s, the Daozhang put his hand between their bodies and encircled his fingers around them both.
“Mm!” Xue Yang agreed, arching against his palm. The Daozhang let out a breathy chuckle and started to move his hand. And Xue Yang finally forgot about everything, yielding to his own pleasure, but that didn’t matter anymore because his and the Daozhang’s pleasure was one and the same thing.
Coming back to reality was a slow, lazy affair. Xue Yang was lying on top of the Daozhang, spread out like a fallen leaf, listening to the beat of a gradually calming heart. The Daozhang stroked his back.
“Lift yourself up.”
The Daozhang chuckled.
“We need to wipe ourselves, before it dries up.”
Xue Yang reluctantly raised himself up, releasing him. The Daozhang went to the kitchen; there was a sound of splashing water. When he returned and ran a damp cloth over Xue Yang’s stomach, he grimaced – the water was cold.
“Come here, Daozhang.”
“I will,” the other man agreed. He lay down next to Xue Yang and covered them both with a blanket. Xue Yang hugged him with both arms and legs, burying his nose in the crook of his neck. It was nice like this. Peaceful.
The world that was once a black nothingness filled with life – with the warmth of the Daozhang’s body, their talks, intimacy, the scent of sage, the sounds of their house – the creaking of floorboards, the chirping of birds on the roof, the rustling of mice under the porch. With A-Qing’s chatter. With the Daozhang’s laughter. The world became pleasant, cozy. A place where one would like to stay.
Xue Yang knew that his life in Yi City would not last long, but now this world surrounded him, embraced him along with the Daozhang’s arms, and he could afford to enjoy its warmth without thinking about how it would feel to lose it all.
His training went amazingly well that morning. After waking up in the Daozhang’s arms and exchanging morning kisses – Xue Yang almost managed to persuade him to repeat yesterday’s happenings, but then A-Qing’s footsteps were heard on the porch and they had to hastily put their clothes on – Xue Yang vibrated with so much energy that he felt ready to fight a whole squad. If only he had a sword. The stick swished through the air, and the first drop of sweat ran to his temple; Xue Yang reminded himself to bandage his forehead. The forehead, the eyes ... he’ll end up walking completely bandaged like that. What about a bandage that would hide his whole face?
The Daozhang walked out from behind the house, put something on the porch and stopped to watch. Xue Yang was aware of being watched. He spun around in place, fighting off two imaginary opponents at once, perhaps showing off a little more than he should have. But he knew his fighting style was beautiful. He had been told this more than once before.
“Fight me, Daozhang!”
“I don’t want to,” the Daozhang refused. But Xue Yang wasn’t going to give up that easily.
“Come on, I’m not asking for a sword. Take up a stick and attack me.”
“I don’t want to fight you.”
“I don’t mean for real. Oh, but you’re no fun, Daozhang!” Xue Yang sighed in frustration, still spinning around in place and cutting the air with his stick. “How will I learn to fight blind without opponents?”
The Daozhang was silent. Alright, let it be then, if he had to adhere to his principles… or actually no, it was not alright; Xue Yang still felt offended. He didn’t ask for anything much, just wishing to spar together. Xue Yang got already used to the Daozhang not telling him about his night hunts, and not wielding his sword around him – Xue Yang didn’t even know where he hid it, because otherwise he’d have found it and explored it with his hands, to find out what kind of the sword Daozhang had, ordinary or not. He just wanted to spar. With sticks. What was the big deal with that?
He hardly registered the quiet swish and parried the blow before realizing that he was being attacked only thanks to his body’s reflexes. There was a hollow sound of wood hitting wood, and Xue Yang grinned in triumph.
“Look at you, Daozhang! Attacking without a warning?”
“Your enemies won’t give you a warning,” the Daozhang replied calmly, attacking again. Xue Yang dodged, deflected the blow, and made his own attack. He wasn’t holding back – no one has ever died because of wooden sticks.
But he never managed to get at the Daozhang. He walked away from the blows like an ethereal spirit, and his own attacks were quick and accurate. Xue Yang barely managed to fight back, and at the same time he had a persistent feeling that the Daozhang was not fighting at full strength.
Even if Xue Yang could see, the Daozhang would be a worthy opponent for him.
“You can barely fight back with a stick,” Daozhang spoke again. His voice was even, and his breathing inaudible. It was as if he was standing still and not fighting. “What will you do against a dozen swords?”
Xue Yang made a deceiving move at a shoulder and then immediately went for the stomach. But the Daozhang was not fooled.
“I will make the dozen swords disappear.”
“As soon as Jin Guangyao finds out that you have returned and are going after him, he will order you to be killed.”
“So I’ll start with Song Lan and Xiao Xingchen.”
The Daozhang’s stick touched his arm in a suggestion of a blow. If it were a sword, Xue Yang would already be bleeding.
“Did they really cause you so much grief? Why do you want to take revenge against them so badly?”
“You don’t understand anything, Daozhang,” Xue Yang said, baring his teeth. One more false attack, which the Daozhang evaded again. “You think revenge is when you got hit and you hit back? No! Then they will hit you again, they will beat you until you die. You must take your revenge in a way so that no one” - attack – “ever” - blow – “dares to touch you, or even think of it! So that everyone fears you and avoid you – that’s how it should be!”
The Daozhang no longer attacked; he only fought back, with the same ease. As if Xue Yang was a child who first took up a sword and not a seasoned fighter.
“Then you will become the one who hits first.”
“So what of it? Better to hit than to be beaten.”
“This is wrong, Chengmei. Unfair.”
“And what do you suggest?” Xue Yang was already panting for breath. It was embarrassing how weak he had become! His leg started to ache, struggling under his weight. “Should I sit here in the coffin house, afraid they’d find and kill me? Together with you and Little Blind, by the way.”
“You can tell the world about everything that Jin Guangshan and Jin Guangyao made you do. If their orders were criminal, other clans would condemn them.”
“Condemn them?” Xue Yang sniggered. “You’re a fool after all, Daozhang. They will find a way out of it, and I’ll get executed. Who will the noble cultivators trust – the head of a Great Order or a scum like me?”
“You’re not–” the Daozhang cut himself short as he had to parry an attack. The stick in Xue Yang’s hands trembled with the force of the blow. “Then leave them alone. When people do harm to others, sooner or later it turns against them. If you find a chance to give them what they deserve without putting yourself in danger, take it, but for now live. Here. With me. Is it so bad you can’t wait to rush to your death?”
“You’re suggesting that I sit on my ass and wait for someone else to kill the whore’s son for me? And then what? Go piss on his grave?”
“I’ll even hold your stick for you,” the Daozhang replied evenly.
Xue Yang froze for a moment, unable to believe his ears; a sharp blow immediately knocked the stick out of his hands, and the Daozhang lightly touched his stomach, then his heart.
“Was that a joke? Did you make a joke, Daozhang?”
“I’m sorry,” the Daozhang apologized, “Was it not funny?”
“No, it…” Xue Yang started to laugh. “Don’t joke like this, Daozhang, it’s not like you at all. It was unfair!”
“Forgive me.” The Daozhang made a step towards him and hugged him. Xue Yang relaxed with relief, leaning on him; standing was already difficult. “Your enemies will fight honorably, of course.”
“I know they won’t,” Xue Yang mumbled into his shoulder. “I’m not a fool, Daozhang, what do you take me for? I’m not going to leave right now. I will train. I will plan it all out. I’m not going to die that easily.”
“I don’t want to lose you.”
Xue Yang knew what this meant. When he leaves to kill, he can no longer go back. It doesn’t matter if he manages to stay alive or not – a cold-blooded killer has no place next to the good, holy Daozhang. This was the price he would pay for his revenge. But he could not give up on it. And so Xue Yang didn’t say anything, only hugged the Daozhang as tightly as the man hugged him.
He wasn’t going to leave right away, after all.