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Changming Mountain was coated in snow the year round. Upon looking all around, everything would be a vast white, like misty clouds beneath the feet. In the environs was a couple of tiny thatched huts and one small courtyard, resembling a place that an immortal would live apart from the world.
Lord Seventh was currently warming up wine.
A rich aroma faintly wafted out, then far away via the window, the spitting image of ‘unfiltered wine with green foam, and a little red clay stove.’ The man seemed to be able to live life in elegance and comfort, even if he had been reduced to living in a forest deep in the mountains.
With a book in his hands, the Great Shaman sat beside him, and would occasionally be puzzled, then raise his head to ask some questions. Lord Seventh’s lowered eyes were staring at the tiny stove; he didn’t even need to think about any of what was being asked, as the answers came naturally to him. Had he not been born into the Prince Estate, he would have been full of enough literature to exam his way to fame.
Whilst the Great Shaman idly chatted with him, he went to clasp his hand. “Are you cold?” he whispered.
Lord Seventh shook his head at that, drawing the stove closer. Gazing out the window, he suddenly smiled. “Take a look at this place. It could be described as having a thousand mountains with no flying birds, and ten thousand paths with no human tracks. It’s only been a few days, yet I can’t even tell what night it is.”
The Great Shaman’s heart jumped. “You like it here?”
Lord Seventh side-eyed him with a grin. “If I said that I did, would you be able to accompany me in living here?”
The other considered this for a while, looking serious. “Lu Ta is still young… but if you really do like it here, I’ll go back and instruct him properly, then after a few years pass, I’ll hand Nanjiang over to him so that I can come live with you. How does that sound?”
Taken aback for a second, Lord Seventh then pfft out a laugh and lightly smacked him on the forehead. “You really are a dull club that takes everything seriously,” he mumbled. “Who’d want to live in this hellscape? The air’s cold and the ground’s frozen. Nanjiang’s still fun, at least.” Then lowering his head, he smiled. “It’s ready to drink.”
He brought out wine cups, carefully poured two of them, handed one to the Great Shaman, and took one for himself. Putting it under his nose, he inhaled deeply, then narrowed his eyes. “As it goes, one boon covers for a hundred uglinesses. Only those that still smell of alcohol after being boiled belong to the top grade. There is a saying; ‘three cups, and I enter the great Dao, one dou, and I’m one with nature.’ There are a hundred kinds of anxieties in the human world, and only this can solve them, as—“
His speech was suddenly interrupted by a bunch of crashing and crunching noises. He sighed, his refined mood of drinking as he recited poetry immediately getting swept away, and took a sullen sip. “Those two fleas never give it a rest all day long,” he rebuked in a whisper. “I can tell that Zhou Zishu’s just fine, so let’s say our goodbyes in two days’ time. My ears need to be at peace.”
Zhang Chengling’s exercise didn’t normally make so much noise, so, generally speaking, this overabundant, building-demolishing ruckus had to be from his two shifus exchanging blows.
The Great Shaman had said that as long as Zhou Zishu was able to wake up, the most dangerous phase would have since passed. It was obvious how the man had endured a lot of toughening up; he had awoken feebly for a few days, but after no more than a third to half a month, he was already able to get up. A few more days after that, he became a little more energetic, running and jumping, starting without stopping.
It was mystery as to who was provoking who in the pair, but, in Lord Seventh’s words, ‘You can’t clap with just one hand.’ They squabbled from morning ’til evening, then sat down nicely for dinner, which could also result in a quarrel that began with arguing, then went to pinching each other with chopsticks. Lord Seventh had found it interesting to watch at the beginning, but later got annoyed, refusing to eat with those two mandrills lest he got caught in the crossfire.
Rather bewildered, Lord Seventh had to lament. “Zishu used to be a very collected person. Why is… sheesh. Getting close to cinnabar really does make you red, and getting close to ink really does make you black.”
The Great Shaman smiled a little. “This is good, actually. The process of reconstructing one’s meridians is acutely painful, and straightening them back out afterwards is also very difficult. It’s extremely cold here, too. It wouldn’t be easy for an ordinary person to return to free motion, but Manor Lord Zhou is not only active, he’s forcing his meridians to come apart. He will be a bit pained during this period, but it’ll be good for him in the future.”
Wen Kexing changed the direction of Zhou Zishu’s shoulder with a palm, as if wanting to encircle his entire body in his arms. The other used that momentum to flip over one of his arms, and before he landed, he used a foot to lift up Wen Kexing’s chin, forcing him to draw a step back. After that, he flicked his fingers out like a gale, sneak-attacking him. Wen Kexing inadvertently got hit, and his knees went soft, nearly putting him into a one-knee kneel — however, the second he was falling, he rolled to the side and grabbed Zhou Zishu’s calf, making them both tumble into a ball.
Apart from ice, there was snow, and Lord Seventh, the Great Shaman, and Zhang Chengling were all staying far away from them, so the ground was clear, and not that filthy. After rolling a few full turns, Wen Kexing pinned Zhou Zishu underneath him with a wily grin, his hands placed on either side of the other’s head. “Give up yet?”
Zhou Zishu was in preliminary recovery from his serious injury, so he wasn’t as strong as he had been before, panting slightly. “…That was a cheap trick.”
Wen Kexing cozied up to him, lowering his voice with a smile. “You were clearly the one to be underhanded first.”
“Hey, Ol’ Wen.”
Wen Kexing hummed as he licked his neck. “What?”
Zhou Zishu said a few words with seeming carelessness, but Wen Kexing didn’t quite catch them, somewhat puzzled. “Hm?”
In that split second of thought, he got elbowed in the chest, letting out a grunt, and was instantly lifted off. The sky whirled around as both his arms got pinned behind his back, following which he was pressed onto the ground. Zhou Zishu imitated the hoodlum look the other had just had, blowing into his ear with a chuckle. “How about this? Do you give up yet?”
It took Wen Kexing a good deal of effort to turn his head and see him. “Are you trying to tie me up, Ah-Xu?”
Zhou Zishu raised his brows. “That’s a good idea.”
He went and tapped on the other’s acupoints. Seeing that he was motionless for the time being, he relaxed slightly, sat to the side, then wiped off his face. “My little wife, your husband got a head full of sweat just from restraining you,” he said ruefully.
A hand suddenly reached out and pressed against his forehead; all he saw was the should-have-been-frozen Wen Kexing slowly getting up. “Oh? Let me see… you really are sweating? Don’t catch a cold.”
“You actually altered your acupoints!”
Under his shock, Zhou Zishu had already escaped over a zhang away from him, on-guard as he watched him. Wen Kexing threw him a flirty look. “I can do even more than that.”
Afterwards, the two pounced yet again, continuing their earth-shaking brawl.
As such, the Great Shaman had actually misinterpreted them a little. The reason why they fought all day was for that meridian stuff, but another cause stemmed from an issue that needed to be settled urgently — the outcome was not yet determined, the top and the bottom not for certain, and both of them had fires in their hearts that could only be vented as they quibbled.
At first, Zhang Chengling had been earnest in running over to spectate them, thinking about what he could learn. Later on, he had discovered that their fights were too bitter, and he could only learn moves such as ‘Black Tiger Digs Out the Heart’, ‘Monkey Steals the Peach’, and ‘Universe Goes Topsy-Turvy’, which really had no reference value. Lamenting the fact that both of these experts had returned to their primal states, he henceforth practiced his own martial arts, style by move.
The youth was confused, though; his shifu forever thought that his style was hard to look at, but wasn’t his own rolling about the ground with Senior Wen absolutely graceless?
Two masters had been thoroughly reduced to two ruffians, and, beyond their intentions, accidentally ended up impeding their student’s progress with their conduct.
Only after Zhou Zishu took his daily dose of medicine each evening would they call a truce. The Great Shaman bestowed medicine based on the person; for someone that was frail-bodied and wouldn’t be able to take it, his prescription would be light and easy, but for Zhou Zishu, who would be fine no matter what torment came at him, he gave nothing but powerful medicine. After taking it, the latter would feel terrible all over for a short while, clenching his teeth as he withstood it, and then after the effect had passed, he would always be soaked in sweat.
Following a wash, then a rest, he would recuperate enough energy to continue hopping all over the place the very next day.
Once Zhou Zishu had taken this medicine for the final time, the Great Shaman and Lord Seventh said farewell and left the day after. Even though Nanjiang had always been honest in folk, and the Shamanet Lu Ta was overseeing it, they had been abroad for too long. Seeing them off, it was then the first day that Zhou Zishu didn’t have to bear with drinking that medicine that was akin to death by a thousand cuts, causing that night to be bizarrely peaceful.
Wen Kexing carried a jug of wine into the room, then shook it in front of Zhou Zishu’s face. The other took it with no formality in the least. He meandered over to stick himself to Zhou Zishu’s side, eyes shining brightly as he stared at his profile.
Getting stared at so blatantly, Zhou Zishu drank down a mouthful of wine. “What are you looking at?”
Wen Kexing grinned. “Aren’t you afraid that I’ve drugged that?”
“With what kind of drug?”
“What kind do you think?”
Zhou Zishu shot him a look, sneering in mockery. “You wouldn’t dare to slip me an aphrodisiac. Aren’t you afraid that my wild nature would break out and put a handle on you?”
Wen Kexing frowned, feigning upset. “Right. That really is a bit of a worry.” Propping up his chin, he looked Zhou Zishu up and down, then sighed and shook his head. “You should just let me make the move. Otherwise, I’m thinking that if it keeps going down like this, we’ll both be practicing monks.”
The other glanced at him. “Why wouldn’t it be you letting me make the move?”
Wen Kexing’s perverted hand slowly reached out and touched the side of his waist, ambiguously rubbing up and down. “I’d let you try out all sorts of moves, but…”
His wrist got snatched by Zhou Zishu. They contained their strength so as not to tear the roof off the room, then began wrangling again.
Zhang Chengling passed them as he was returning from his practice, finding this surprising sight unsurprising, since he knew that they were duking it out again. He thought to himself, Why can’t they just spend time together properly? Every single day, they bicker like children. Seeing how very off-beat they were, he thus sighed at the vicissitudes of his own life, then silently turned to go back to his own room.
Following three hundred rounds, neither of the two’s strength could keep holding up, so they took a break. Wen Kexing snatched the wine pot, took a couple big swigs of it, then exhaled. After sprawling out on his back atop the bed, he waved his hand. “No more. I don’t have the energy today.”
Zhou Zishu sighed in relief, like he had been waiting for those words to come out of this Great One. He then sat on the edge of the bed and gave him a little push inwards. “Scoot over.”
Wen Kexing shifted in, facing the bedcurtains above, as if suddenly distracted. “Ah-Xu, after this bout, you’ll be fully recovered,” he said, after a long time of staring blankly. “Will you go with me for a trip down the mountain?”
Zhou Zishu shut his eyes in rest, giving an mn at that. “I’m pretty much done with it right now, I can go. What are you going to do?”
Wen Kexing was silent. The other waited for a long while. Feeling this a bit strange, he opened his eyes and tilted his head — gazing straight at him, the man still looked like his mind was wandering somewhere beyond the sky. “What is it?”
Wen Kexing’s eyelids trembled, and he managed out a smile. “It’s nothing. Back then, my parent’s corpses were aired out in the wilderness, and they didn’t even get a monument. I’ve been unfilial. For over twenty years, I’ve never gone back to take a look. I should probably…”
Zhou Zishu sighed, then slowly reached his arms out to loop around his waist. Wen Kexing obediently turned on his side, putting one hand on the other’s back. His fingers were placed on Zhou Zishu’s shoulder blades, and he unconsciously traced over their outlines, burying his face into his shoulder. “Ah-Xiang, too…” he said, muffled.
“While you were recovering in town, I went back, found her and Xiao Cao… and put them to rest in the ground together.”
“Thank you,” Wen Kexing answered hazily, his next words nearly inaudible as his arms that gathered Zhou Zishu close seemed to tighten. “For half my life, I’ve been a solitary person. I had thought that I’d have Ah-Xiang… but she’s gone. That time you were in a coma, I wasn’t as confident as the Great Shaman. I thought that… if you… I…”
Zhou Zishu suddenly realized that his shoulder was apparently wet. He couldn’t resist bowing his head, but Wen Kexing waved his hand to extinguish the lights, choking up slightly. “Don’t look at me.”
Having never been one to comfort another, Zhou Zishu could only allow him to hold him tight.
Slowly, Wen Kexing’s hands began to wander on him. He was slightly uneasy, but the man didn’t have even a tiny bit of a joking overtone; all he did was constantly call his name, as if highly uncertain, bringing with it a slight terror and desperation. Zhou Zishu sighed on the inside, thinking, Screw it, he’s so pitiful. I’ll let him, just this once.
He used enormous self-restraint to relax. For the first time in his entire life, he was handing himself over to someone else without any defenses. Hair tangling, when their heads were rubbing together, the man only muttered to him with a bit of entreaty, “Ah-Xu, don’t ever leave me…”
Even in this utterly frigid land, there were threads of warmth. They set themselves free from beneath the bedcurtains, then slowly spread outwards, as if they could let a flower bloom.
At daybreak the next morning, Zhou Zishu was in a rare, late sleep. Upon opening his eyes to see the one in his arms, Wen Kexing had a faint, perfectly content smile.
As soon as he moved, Zhou Zishu came to. He felt like every single thing on his body was off, and that he was being firmly embraced by a certain someone.
He opened his mouth in want to swear at him, but Wen Kexing had long been guarded against this action of his. In that split second the other had opened his eyes, he stifled his self-satisfied grin, then gazed deeply into his eyes with a complicated expression, looking like a million emotions were within him.
When Zhou Zishu, the nagger that hadn’t yet spoken, caught sight of his red-rimmed eyes, he harshly swallowed everything back down, not knowing what he ought to say. He had no choice but to stiffly turn his back to him. “If you’re getting up, do it by yourself. Don’t bug me,” he mumbled.
Wen Kexing immediately hugged him from behind, laid down again, and put his fake pitiable expression away when the other couldn’t see. Elated, he thought of how a soft heart was way more enticing than a soft waist.
However, once his short moment of happiness was done, his worries started up again. Furtively opening his eyes to peek at the one beside him, he thought, But… every time I want to do this from now on… will I have to put on a crying act?
That seems… like a bit too much of a tragedy.
The translator says: or you could just be a REAL MAN and take that DICK up your ASS
 From Bai Juyi‘s Inviting Liu Shijiu. (Read it here.)
 From River Snow, by Liu Zongyuan. It’s readable on his wiki page.
 From Drinking Alone Under the Moonlight, by Li Bai. (Full version here.)