Chapter 50 – Ink Brush of Virtue (5)
First Published on Wattpad, Reposted on Ainushi
Shen’s heart quakes with convulsion, he almost loses control.
Now he realises, for thousands of years, he hasn’t been void of emotions, and he hasn’t been unaggrieved. The things Zhao said tonight have only ever appeared in his dreams. On one hand, he knows none of this will ever be possible, but on the other, he can’t help but hope.
Hope is like a strand of spider silk, and his life depends on it.
He was born because of him, and lived till this day because of him.
The strongest of hearts cannot be defeated by the knives and blades that are the storms and blizzards of life, but only by a helping hand that comes out of nowhere, or a gentle whisper by the ear, “Come home.”
For one moment, he really wants to ask, why does he have to be the Ghost Slayer? Short-lived ants can come and go in pairs under the sun and dew, voyaging birds can find a nesting place among tree branches, and yet in heavens and earth, he was born unique, why isn’t there a place he can belong?
Everyone is frightened of him, respectful on the outside but plotting discreetly and wanting him dead.
He was born in chaos, brutality and menace. There is always a part of him that overflows with malevolence, wishing to slay all those people with his blade.
But that… no, he chooses to abide by a promise that only he remembers. Till now, many thousands of years have passed, and he never strayed, since that is the only thing left connecting him with that person.
Zhao watches Shen’s eyes redden, looking like they will drip in blood.
Much later, Shen shakes his head incredibly slowly.
Zhao hears him whisper, “I’m bad luck, you will get hurt because of me.”
Zhao frivolously tilts his lips upwards, and two dimples emerge on his cheeks, “Sure, do you wanna try if your Attack is higher, or if my HP is thicker? Hey, by your logic, I ought to marry a Maneki-neko, damn… isn’t that a bit too kinky?”
Shen doesn’t understand his humour, and doesn’t reply. His palm is almost clenched till blood comes out, and he finally says, “How can you… how can you pressure me like this?”
Zhao’s smile wears away, and he puts off the cigarette in an ash tray.
When he first saw Shen, he fell for him instantly. He thought Shen is just the type he likes, but neglected the sense of natural familiarity, the feeling as though they’ve met before. The past of Ghost Slayer, Zhao has yet to find out, and he cannot bear to ask him face to face.
He always finds Shen in so much suffering. Why does the air freeze every time he wears his black cloak?
Does he not feel the cold?
“Sorry.” Zhao stays silent for a while, and flips open Shen’s fist. Holding his hand, Zhao kisses the back of it gently, and carelessly tosses the expensive property contract aside.
Shen shuts his eyes. He finds himself immensely disgraceful.
Why didn’t he stay further away, why didn’t he hide in the depths of Hell, then no matter how many times Zhao reincarnates, they would never meet, and he would never know of his existence; but he couldn’t help it.
He finds himself very much like a shameless slut, who stands seductively on the streets, but when that someone comes, he puts on an honourable and upright pretence.
He has always loathed himself, now more than ever.
Zhao lays sideways on the bed, and massages his temples gently. Then, he speaks with a stifling tone, “I have other things, but you probably wouldn’t want any of it. There is only one thing: my heart… if you don’t catch it, then forget about it.”
These words brutally bludgeon Shen’s heart like a rock. He is reminded of a long time ago, when someone said beside his ear, with the same ostensibly careless sigh, and a profound tone that he rarely spoke with, spouting one word after another, “I am rich with the mountains and rivers of this world, but
if you think about it, that’s hardly worth relishing: just an old bunch of pebbles and some wild creeks. There is probably only this one thing on me that’s worth a little something: my heart. You want it? Take it.”
The past is still present, flashing before his eyes.
All of a sudden, he embraces Zhao with all his might. Zhao’s bones crackle, and Shen buries his head in his neck.
Those who show their emotions do weep or howl in grief and despair.
But for Shen, all he can do is sink his teeth into his own wrist over Zhao’s shoulder. It’s hard to tell how much force was in that bite, his wrist is soaked in blood-red instantly, and the wound almost reaches his bones.
Yet, he doesn’t seem to feel the pain.
The unending depth of Hell weighs down on him. He sheds no tears, but in extreme agony, he can only shed his blood.
Zhao picks up a bloody odour, and senses something wrong, “Shen Wei! What are you doing!? Let go!”
Shen only locks him in place even tighter.
Men can only live for a few dozen years, that time passes by momentarily, like a flashing glint, a swooping silhouette. Shen suddenly thinks, how come he doesn’t deserve to have just this tiny fragment of time?
“Shen Wei!” As Shen is lost in thought, Zhao finally struggles out of his arms, and sits up. He finds his bed sheet covered in red. Infuriated instantly, he almost censures Shen as if he were Guo, “Is your brain made of nuts!? Yes I’m a motherfucking vulgar pig, but I would never force a guy against his will. You shook your head, and did I say anything? Did I say anything? Did you have to shed your own blood?”
Then, he grumpily pounces up, and tries to find the first-aid kit. But Shen suddenly grabs him.
“I caught it.”
Zhao hears Shen say, very lightly.
Zhao is stunned. But Shen smiles, and with a greatly contrasting… almost tranquil tone, he continues, “I caught it. In your entire life, whether living or dying, dying or living, I will never let go anymore. Even if one day, you become sated and jaded with me, and you want to leave, there is no way I will let you go. If I have to, I will strangle you to death in my arms.”
In silence, Zhao blinks. It took him a while to understand what Shen meant.
Up until now, he finally smells a tinge of what belongs to the Ghost Slayer on “Professor Shen”.
Then, Zhao makes no comment about his sweet yet savage speech, and takes out a first-aid kit from underneath the bed. He finds an anti-sceptic towel, and sits on the edge of the bed, frowning, pulling up Shen’s bloodied wrist, and wipes off the blood stain that is slightly cold like the person. He treats him tenderly, but his words are not so pleasant: after a long while, Zhao sighs, and comments, “You’re really quite crappy you know.”
Afterwards, Zhao is probably exhausted to death. Half-human and half-ghost creatures saturate the SIU, and not one of them is reliable. Zhao is always busy, like he was born to labour hard everyday. After he changes the bloodied sheets, he is in no mood for lovemaking anymore. He falls head first on to the bed, and shortly, his breathing evens out.
He really is sound asleep this time.
Shen looks at his wrist, which is wrapped tightly and neatly. He lifts up the other half of the blanket, and holding his breath, he lies down on the other side of the bed with incredibly gentle movements.
He holds Zhao’s hand against his chest, and shuts his eyes.
Shen never thought the day would come when he sleeps through the night. He has never been blessed with the sweetness of slumber, and he has never tasted a serene, dreamless night.
It’s been too long since he last felt this blissful.
The next morning, a weird smell from the kitchen awakens Shen. To his surprise, he gets up and is stupefied for half a minute before he realises where
he is. He sees the “incriminating evidence” on his wrist, and his face that always seems to be pale is veiled in a pink film.
Look at the things he did, and the things he said last night!
Such is… the unbearable past.
This moment, someone mumbles, “Morning.”
Shen looks up, and sees Zhao holding a pair of chopsticks in his mouth. He has a one-metre-long plastic tray in his hands, with five slots on it, each big enough for a huge bowl or a moderate-sized plate.
Five slots, if there aren’t a lot of people, that’s just enough for the standard four dishes and a soup, and he can carry everything in just one trip.
What kind of sloth designed this godly tool, the world may never know.
And yet the godly tool in Zhao’s hands has other godly things on it. From left to right, a tidy queue of large-size instant cup noodles sits on the tray, steaming with a mix of indescribable odour.
What can Shen say in this situation.
And so Zhao sits himself on to the couch like a badass, and starts explaining as if counting mountains, “First left is braised beef noodles, boiled in water, second left is old-altar pickled cabbage noodles, boiled in hot milk, in the middle is mushroom and chicken stew noodles, microwaved in water, with a knob of butter, second right is assorted seafood noodles, I found it a bit bland, so I added a spoon of sweet sauce, first right is bacon cream noodles, boiled in hot coffee… this one should be good. Pick whatever you like.”
Then, he finally finds himself a little awkward, “Well, you see… I don’t know how to make other things. You don’t come over often, and I thought just making two instant noodles was a bit too embarrassing.”
And so he made five… oh how generous of him.
Shen glances across the five steaming cup noodles. He cannot fathom how this man hasn’t poisoned himself to death already.
But luckily, even if he were to cook a bowl of arsenic, Shen would eat it willingly without so much of a frown… but Professor Shen still chooses the bowl that looks the most normal, and subtly reminds him, “These oily foods are bad for your health, don’t eat too much.”
Zhao admits honestly, “I’m poor lately, if I don’t get my bonus, I’m gonna have to ask my dad for help.”
As he is saying, he catches a glimpse of Shen, and he just so happens to think of something, and says, all smiles, “A gold digger, and a bed warmer.”
Shen gags on a mouthful of spicy soup, and coughs vigorously, turning his head away.
Zhao “hee hees”, and says carelessly, “It’s almost the end of the year, the time for reviewing virtue is here again. Recently there are more and more thieves on earth, the fairy tribes and ghosts are all scrambling last-minute.”
Shen sits up, poised, and wipes his mouth. He says tardily, “Deliberate deeds can only amount to superficial karma, how can good virtue be accrued so easily?”
“Yea,” Zhao seems to have impaired taste, as he guzzles down the god-awful mixture of coffee and instant noodle soup, “speaking of which, there’s a case recently, and you’d think they’d behave this time of year.”
The Sundial of Reincarnation is the first of the Four Mystical Artifacts, then comes the Pillar of Nature, and the third is the Ink Brush of Virtue. Now that the first two have surfaced, Shen is understandably a little oversensitive towards the word “virtue”.
But he has yet to ask, and Zhao’s phone rings.
Zhao hurriedly puts down the noodles, and looks at his phone, “Speak of the devil, here it is again.”
Just one night, and there are two more victims who ended up in hospital.
The same symptoms: no illness, no injuries, just frantically jerking to and fro while holding their legs. The victim’s family called the police five o’clock in
the morning, so the comrades in charge of the case have no choice but to crawl out of their beds.
Widespread poisoning has severe impact on the well-being of the society. The incident is worsening by the minute, and it just so happens to be the end of the year, when stability maintenance is crucial. The chief of the district police has not a clue what to do, so Zhao is harassed with death-threatening frequency.
Chu and others have basically concluded that this case will sooner or later be handed to the SIU. When it’s morning they will send the report up, and Zhao won’t be able to brush it aside.
But it’s gonna take one whole day, give or take, before the procedures go through. Zhao promises over the phone that he will go to the hospital to take a look today.