Chapter 22. The Divine
Wen Kexing methodically sucked out all the poisoned blood in Zhou Zishu's arm and treated his wounds skillfully. He removed the other man's meridian blocking and took out a small medicine bottle. He swallowed one pill and put one more in his palm, holding it near Zhou Zishu's mouth while snickering, voice drawn out obscenely. "Come one, Ah-Xu, open your mouth."
Zhou Zishu stared back with a sullen face. Wen Kexing, wholly energized as he was, kept on his blinding smile; other man's stare could be a drill and it would not be enough to pierce through his thick face. He took a meaningful look at Zhang Chengling and deliberately lowered his voice. "We've already kissed and seen everything there is of each other, why are you still so shy?"
Zhou Zishu took the pill and left without looking back.
Wen Kexing then signaled Zhang Chengling, who was still standing there dumbly. He said, evidently in good spirits, "Seeing that your shifu isn't running, this sure is a once-in-life-time chance for you to follow him. What are you waiting for?"
The sky had turned dark. The Scorpions had lured Zhang Chengling from Dong Ting's gathering to way over here, and now he had no idea how far away he was, causing him to become extremely disoriented.
After a while, Zhou Zishu returned carrying a few big hares, and he went on to make food for the other two quietly. Wen Kexing said to Zhang Chengling smilingly, "Do you know what the second most adorable type of people is?"
Zhang Chengling stared up at him. It made sense since shifu was injured; but still, this man could easily rein him in without breaking a sweat, that really said enough about his ability. Furthermore, he didn't seem to be right in the head, so the boy was even more intimidated. He shook his head.
Wen Kexing continued. "It's the type who's hard on the outside but soft on the inside—then, do you know what the most adorable type is?"
Zhou Zishu—currently disemboweling the hares with great skill—glanced at Wen Kexing coldly. "Stop spouting nonsense and go find some wood."
Wen Kexing happily complied, but when he turned away, he still saw Zhang Chengling staring perplexedly out of the corner of his eyes. Thinking the boy was being curious, he explained in a haughty fashion, "That type would be those who in addition have an incredible body1 to match."
Zhou Zishu spoke up casually. "Don't listen to him boasting rubbish, kid."
Zhang Chengling's uncertain gaze turned to Zhou Zishu. Did he understand this wrong? But clearly this man said…
Zhou Zishu continued, "Distance yourself from him, lest he take an interest in you."
Wen Kexing tripped on withered leaves and turned his head around, speaking as if he was hurt. "You've wronged me, Ah-Xu."
Zhou Zishu pointed at the dead hares. "If you don't go get some wood right now, I'm gonna open you up like I did with these little friends."
Wen Kexing startled, running away while protecting his stomach like a skittish rabbit.
Zhou Zishu found a creek to wash his hands, awkwardly wrapping the torn part of his sleeves back around his arm. The sensation of Wen Kexing's lips still lingered; and he was acutely aware that the man went as far as slightly licking the wound after he was done, causing his temple to throb - that move was clearly intentional.
Zhou Zishu tore away the mask on his face spitefully and threw it into the water. This was the first time in his entire life did he come to know of such a bizarre man, who was so ravenous for another man's touch that he would gladly accept anyone within the vicinity, who let no chance of publicly flaunting his sexual appetite slide.
When he turned his face sideways, Zhang Chengling recognized the familiar visage and happily shouted, "Shifu!", as if he had only just now known that it was him. He fussed around the elder like a puppy, but still kept a certain distance out of caution.
Zhou Zishu saw it out of the corner of his eyes and caved in, flicking his hand. "Come here."
Zhang Chengling went to him animatedly and spoke in a sweet voice, "Shifu."
After contemplation, Zhou Zishu said, "At your speed we won't be able to make it back tonight, so let's sleep out here and I'll return you to Sir Zhao in the early morning."
Zhang Chengling's eyes instantly dimmed. He said nothing, only staring at his shoes instead in dejected silence. Zhou Zishu's easily-persuaded soul couldn't stand this look from the boy, so he coughed and frowned. "What are you doing?"
Zhang Chengling, head still down, answered quietly. "Okay."
The boy went silent once more, sneaking glances at Zhou Zishu. He turned away once caught, mouth quivering, eyes blinking with a single tear clinging on to his eyelashes.
Zhou Zishu leaned onto a tree and sat down. He had no idea how to treat this kid right; did he end up like this because Zhang Yusen raised him like how he would a daughter, since maybe he was fated to be unable to have one? As a result, he grimaced and faked irritation. "Stand up straight and raise your head!"
Zhang Chengling started, his back straightened immediately. The moment he raised his head, tears rolled down his face like a dam had burst open. Zhou Zishu got even more worried, his voice unknowingly softened. "Wipe your face and man up, why does this make you cry anyway?"
Zhang Chengling wiped his face with much effort and got even more sullen because he couldn't get his face entirely cleaned. That seemed to be the last straw and he spoke between broken sobs, "Shifu… shi… I don't, don't cry all the time, I, I… It's just that I saw you, I saw you and felt really sad… I, I… I…"
Zhou Zishu felt a terrible headache coming up, so he averted his gaze with an indifferent expression, no longer keen on facing the kid.
Wen Kexing returned with wood to this exact moment and was slightly stunned.
The sky had turned completely dark. The sunlight was gradually disappearing from the horizon, leaving the western sky a gloomy ash-gray shade. The evening star was hung up on a tree branch and the wind began to pick up, spreading the feeling of coolness.
Wen Kexing silently sharpened the wood and made a fire, putting up the hares that were carefully prepared by Zhou Zishu and roasting it patiently. Then he started to hum an unfamiliar tune that somewhat resembled "The Eighteen Touches2" and completely suited his manners. Zhou Zishu sat beside him wordlessly, one leg bent and hands on his knees. Zhang Chengling sat next to them, trying his best to stop his sobbings.
After a good while, the smell of meat started floating in the air, and Zhang Chengling's stomach rumbled loudly, causing him to blush. Wen Kexing looked at him and smiled, "Gotta wait a bit more, it's not fully cooked yet."
Zhang Chengling nodded endearingly. Wen Kexing felt like he was even more well-behaved than a little rabbit, so he turned to Zhou Zishu, "Oh dear, hear me out. If he wants to accompany you so bad, why don't you let him? Why repeatedly come to his rescue if you want him out of your sight?"
Zhou Zishu slowly stood up and put his hands near the fire as the acupuncture points on his chest were starting to hurt, making him dread the chilliness.
Wen Kexing kicked him with the tip of his shoes. "I'm asking you here."
"I rescue him because I like to." Zhou Zishu answered, still sluggish.
Zhang Chengling suddenly spoke up, his voice hoarse and trembling a little. "Actually, you don't have to, shifu, I only bring troubles. There are so many people who want to kill me, I… I'm not skillful at anything, and even led them to hurt you…"
Wen Kexing comforted him. "Don't worry, his skin is the thickest out there—don't you look at me like that. Normal people only have a single layer of skin, unlike you who's like a whole rice cake3, as if one isn't enough."
At Zhang Chengling's astonished face, Wen Kexing continued his explanation patiently. "Look at his arms, do you see how the color of the skin from his wrist down is completely different from his wrist up? You shifu can't lie to save his life, but he's still not willing to reveal himself to me even now."
Zhou Zishu ignored him and tore a part of the hare's legs to savor leisurely.
When he was about to tear another, Wen Kexing flinched with distaste. "It's not done roasting yet, are you a hungry ghost?"
Only when Zhou Zishu had swallowed the meat did he turn to Wen Kexing. "Were you a woman in your past life, why do you smell of beauty products all the time? And regardless of all those handkerchiefs you have, stop with that motor mouth that's full of gibberish."
Wen Kexing shut up instantly.
A few minutes later, the hares were roasted beautifully with glistening golden skin, crispy outside and tender inside. Zhou Zishu called Zhang Chengling to join them; and two men plus one kid dove in completely unceremoniously since they were all ravenous after a whole day. Soon enough, there were only clean bones left.
Now full, the three sat around the fire for warmth. Zhou Zishu leaned back and closed his eyes to rest, while Wen Kexing said to Zhang Chengling, "Why is your kungfu so bad? Didn't your father teach you anything?"
Zhang Chengling mumbled. "He did. I'm just too stupid and lazy, so I already forgot most of them."
Wen Kexing replied after some thoughts, head shaking. "When I was little and my father taught me things, I was lazy too, but I'm not really stupid…"
Zhou Zishu couldn't help but scoff, eyes still closed.
Wen Kexing ignored him, judging Zhang Chengling head to toe then said casually. "Do you want to learn something?"
Zhang Chengling's head snapped up, looking at the man with shining eyes.
The passion in his gaze turned Wen Kexing daze with surprise; it had been a while since he saw that much honesty, perseverance and reckless desire in someone. "You… kid, why did you suddenly turn into a wolf now?"
Zhang Chengling abruptly knelt. "Sir! Please teach me, I will do anything for you!"
Wen Kexing rubbed his nose and cleared his throat. "Look at you, I'm not interested in the younglings-" A cough.
The fire cast shades of red on the young boy's face, coating his still slightly childish features with determination, then vulnerability and imploration.
Being stared at intensely like that, Wen Kexing reacted the same way as Zhou Zishu which was turning his gaze away uneasily. After some hesitation, he sighed and stood up, dusting himself off and picking up a moderate wooden stick. "Alright, I'm gonna teach you some moves. Watch carefully, I won't do them twice."
To his promise, he demonstrated very thoroughly. Zhang Chengling didn't miss one thing, and started practicing on his own afterwards. He really wasn't a bright kid; and while Wen Kexing said he wouldn't repeat, he found himself correcting the boy and explaining to him in details. Zhang Chengling looked at him with his eyes bright, the excitement making his voice tremble. "Thank you sir, thank you sir!" He repeated.
Wen Kexing, evidently having never received that much gratitude, started revealing a rare cautious side of himself.
They continued past midnight but Zhang Chengling seemed to show no sign of fatigue, still practicing vigorously. Wen Kexing sat to one side in silence, his smiling expression vanished. He appeared to be deep in thoughts.
Suddenly, he heard the gentle voice of the seemingly-asleep Zhou Zishu. "Your last name is Wen… Who was "The Divine" Wen Ruyu to you?"
Wen Kexing's whole body seemed to jolt. After a while, he lowered his head. "He was my father."
Zhou Zishu, eyes now wide open, stared at his side profile. He spoke again with a much more serious tone. "I have always heard of and respected The Divine Senior Wen Ruyu with his sword "Dazzling Fall", who travelled with his wife and genius physician Gu Miaomiao to help those in need and later retired to a reclusive life. My apologies for having never realized that you're his progeny."
1 Wen Kexing's literal words were "long-legged and slender-waisted."
2 A Chinese folk song.
3 粽子(zòngzi) is a dish made of rice, stuffed with different fillings and has layers of bamboo leaves as wrappings.
4 谷 (gǔ), not to be confused with 顾 (gù) in Gu Xiang.