Chapter 89

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written by kakashi
edited by Panda

From the shadow of a tree, Cheng Yin watched his son pick up a fistful of dirt, study it intently and then stuff it into his mouth. With brown spittle running down his chin, he proceeded to crawl rather swiftly towards a patch of grass in the middle of the small courtyard. He hadn't known the child was that mobile already - it was a moment to either make a father smile or make a father shout at the attending maids, who were chattering excitedly instead of watching the baby. However, his recent, very successful foray into the Ghost Realm had cost him a lot of energy, so he did neither. Besides, there was no point in smiling or shouting, so he just watched his son in silence, knowing it would soon be over anyway.

His Head of Spies stood next to him, throwing him furtive, annoying glances. The day before, Chan's face had shown shock, then deep worry upon beholding him after his return from the Ghost Realm. He knew he had looked half-dead -- he had used too much power. Just like a fire out of control could burn down a whole realm, the use of too much power threatened to forever damage a body and pulverize the soul. Unless one was Shao Wan, naturally gifted with a possibility to tap into the powers of the universe, and the ability to learn how to control it.

Or if one was the one who controlled Shao Wan.

Cheng Yin fumbled for the black vial he kept on a chain around his neck. He uncorked it and braced himself as he took a sip. His body's reaction was thoroughly familiar by now, yet it was impossible to get used to it: it hurt like every bone in his body was broken, like every nail and every hair was ripped out, like his body was skinned with blunt knives, as if he had swallowed liquid fire that burnt his insides. He retched helplessly, but he would not throw up, he would not ... it was a mere moment, though the utmost agony he felt as he forced his body to rebalance in unnatural ways made the moment seem like an eternity in hell.

"My Lord," his Head of Spies said and had the audacity to grab his arm, "please rest. You are overtaxing yourself."

Cheng Yin threw him a vicious look as he freed his arm to wipe some of his own spittle off his chin. "Touch me again and you die."

Chan bowed deeply. "I overstepped, I apologize my Lord. It is just my conc..."

"Keep your concern to yourself, you maggot!" Cheng Yin hissed at him. "You know exactly that I will not and cannot rest until I get what I want."

Chan, being among the wisest of his servants, maybe because he had known him the longest and still lived, kept his head down as Cheng Yin stepped towards his youngest son. The maids looked up in alarm as he appeared in their sight. One got up hastily and ran towards the boy, finally remembering her duties. Upon seeing her hatefully stupid face, Cheng Yin burnt her to a crisp with a flick of his hand. What a useless, incompetent creature. These kind of people would all die once he was Ruler of All.

His son looked up when he stepped in front of him. "Dada!" he said, though with some doubt. Somewhere behind them, the surviving maids wailed in terror.

"Yes, Ying'er (英)," Cheng Yin said and picked up the child, putting the fat little arms around his neck, "we are going somewhere together."

He walked through the mansion he inhabited these days, mentally comparing it to the Obsidian Palace, a place he hated for bringing him so much humiliation, but also a place he would return to in triumph soon. It was the ultimate symbol of power in the Demon Realm, the biggest and best fortified of all palaces, overseeing the vastest stretch of land, befitting the type of ruler he would be. He would live there with Shao Wan, who would obey his every wish, if not willingly, then by force, and with his little, naive sister to keep them company. He would mount the severed head of the Celestial above his gates until it was completely rotten. When the carrion birds would have picked off the skin, he would keep the skull as a pisspot - until he would grow sick of it and would throw it away, onto the stinkiest pile of garbage he could find.

He had planned all this for 190,000 years. And now he was so close.

He would milk the Celestial Monk dry the moment the fool would give his life for Shao Wan. She thought she was smarter than him, but she was not. Once he had his kind of cultivation, he would be the most powerful creature in existence - a God above Gods. He would control her and her sky power. He would be the Ruler of All. Every living creature would have to crawl before him in the dirt if he ordered them so.

With her sky power, he would destroy the Nine Heavens - he would make sure that place of hateful glory would be a lifeless ruin, uninhabitable forever. It was all ready. The Celestial Tribe would be wiped out and if some of those inferior beings managed to hide, he would hunt them down, kill them or better even, use them as lowly slaves before he killed them. And if somebody would try to kill him, he would make it rain ... it would rain poison onto the realms and everything and everybody would perish with him.

To his annoyance, his son started crying about midway during the cloud-jump and interrupted his pleasant and strongly arousing train of thought. He shouted at him to be quiet, but the child just screamed even more, weak and pathetic. The sound gave him a severe headache, so he put one of his hands over Ying'er's mouth until he was quiet again.

The Jiàopài Huàn Zong (灵魂换宗), the Soulswapper Cult, had perfected the art of hiding over millennia - among perfecting other, more sinister things. It was said that they could only be found if they wanted to be found. That was probably a result of their own myth building, but it had indeed taken Cheng Yin the better part of 500 immortal years to find the first proof they truly existed and were not just one of those legends made up to scare disobedient children. It had taken him another 500 years to establish a first contact, and another 500 to get to meet one of them in person.

Even without their help, he had gotten far: He was able to harvest cultivation from his victims and use it as his own, but alas, the stolen cultivation burned away too quickly, with very painful consequences. He had realized about 100,000 years ago he needed to know how to absorb the essence of another God fully and permanently if he ever wanted to succeed.

Now, millennia after his first contact with them, he would finally be told their biggest secret. In turn, he was bringing them the sacrifice they demanded: the soul of a next of kin.

A lonely figure was waiting in front of the cave, their agreed meeting point. It was far away in the Demon Nowherelands, at the borders of the known world. Only a few brave souls had ever ventured beyond this point, and none had ever returned to talk about the Beyond. Unlike other sects, members of the Jiàopài Huàn Zong did not like to dress in special ways. The one thing distinguishing them as cult members was a green tattoo at the base of their throat. The symbol was different for every member and in his younger days, Cheng Yin had been curious to learn about the significance of the different designs. Now, he did no longer care.

The one waiting for him this time was a woman. She was fairly tall, rather plain looking, brown haired woman, dressed simply like a peasant. Her strange blue eyes shone with that inner fire he had come to associate with the cult - it was very unpleasant and made his skin crawl with dread. He would have killed all of them a long time ago if he didn't need them and their secrets - and the longer he interacted with them, the more sure he was that he would kill them after they had given him what he needed.

Wordlessly, he handed the woman his son. She surveyed the baby using a powerful, earth-fed magic, and it made his skin crawl even more. He would definitely kill them. They were dangerous. Once done, she nodded slowly. "Your son."

"Yes," Cheng Yin said with irritation. Why stating the obvious?

"Why is he unconscious?"

"He cried and gave me a headache."

She turned her eerie eyes at him and scowled. "We do not accept dead sacrifices."

Cheng Yin scowled back. "He isn't dead, I made sure."

She continued looking at him and it was like her piercing eyes were able to reach the deepest parts of him. Suddenly, she chuckled. "I see you have great plans. Very well, follow me. But alone."

Cheng Yin looked behind him, but nobody else was there. Now that she mentioned it though, he too felt like he was being followed all of a sudden. Quickly, he scanned the barren landscape. Nobody and nothing was there; it was as if nature held its breath. He had no time to investigate further though. With a shrug, he followed the woman who was carrying his son into the cave.

***

"Shao Wan...Shao Wan?" It was only the faintest of whispers, but it made her heart beat faster in relief. The worst seemed to be behind them. He was speaking.

Mo Yuan's pale hand twitched feebly. She grabbed it and leaned closer.

"I am here."

"Don't leave me", he whispered, "please don't leave me."

"Do you think me heartless and cruel?" she asked and carefully wiped the new beads of sweat off his forehead with a clean cloth. She felt his temperature, twice to make sure. It seemed to have finally gone down a little.

"You must drink," she commanded and put her hand underneath his head. "Up. Come, up a little."

He seemed to drift in and out of consciousness still, but she managed to lift his head so that she could put a cup to his lips. She had not dared give him a lot of Dragon-Phoenix blood so far, because that would be cheating and she had heard rather horrible stories about people who had tried to get out of magic backlash through using magical means. It just came back a thousand times worse, which could even mean death. So, she had only put the tiniest of drops into the water she had given him, so that the universe would not notice.

He drank obediently - she insisted on him emptying the entire cup - and even opened his eyes to look at her at the end.

"You are here," he whispered.

"Yes, Celestial. I have been sitting here for three days and nights, worrying myself senseless. I haven't had time to look into a mirror, but I am sure my face is very wrinkly."

"Lie down with me."

Shao Wan laughed. "You awake from the dead and the first thing you think of is lying down with me? I am truly honored."

A faint smiled played around Mo Yuan's lips. "You look tired. I am sorry you had to go through a hard time because of me. Rest."

She felt a sudden and very strong feeling of affection for Mo Yuan, who had been so helpless and weak, and yet, had fully trusted her to take care of him. Lifting the fur covers a little, she snuggled in next to him. She had completely undressed him when he had started to burn up and now, the feeling of his hot, velvety skin against her made her sigh in longing. With an effort and very slowly, he turned to his side, to bury his face at her neck.

"Thank you, Shao Wan," he said.

She accepted his thanks with a short nod and another sigh. It had been strenuous to get back to the town with the woozy headed, constantly talking Fan Fu Rui behind her and the increasingly delirious Mo Yuan on the horse next to her. She had resisted Fan Fu Rui and the other teachers' sincere wishes for them to stay there and nurse their benefactor to health, because she had feared that in his current state, Mo Yuan would not be able to keep any secrets. The impact of their appearance as Phoenix and Dragon a few decades ago was already big enough, she really could not risk having him talk in ways that gave away their true identities. She had collected their goods - having great foresight as always, Mo Yuan had stowed away the salacious scrolls before their journey to the grove so that nobody would discover them by accident -- had borrowed the horse from the school and had made the trip back to their lakehouse alone.

It was true that she was very tired, she had not dared sleep since their arrival, keeping watch at his sickbed. Magic biteback was proportional to the powers used in forbidden ways -- and he had used a lot. She had wished she could take some of his suffering onto herself, but she could not. All she could do was hope it would not last too long and that he would recover soon. Now that things were looking up, she allowed herself to drift off to sleep -- she felt safe enough.

Shao Wan woke from a very vivid dream that quickly faded due to a strange sound that puzzled her -- until she identified it as her growling stomach. The Celestial was still sleeping soundly, his breast rising and falling rhythmically. Very carefully, she got up so as not to wake him. He looked much better already. How much time had passed? It was dark outside, yet she could see no moon and no stars when she peered out -- it was overcast and the air smelled like snow.

Grabbing a light, she made her way to the kitchen. Stomping her feet and swinging her arms because of the cold, she surveyed the unfamiliar territory. After their arrival, she had hastily put their supplies onto the counter. Now, she had to realize that some of the vegetables had gone bad. Angrily, she threw the stinking brown mess out of the window.

The sweets he had bought her were as hard as stone, but she was so hungry she wolfed them down anyway. It resulted in a coughing fit because she breathed in parts of the pastry in her haste and had to run outside to the well to get some water. Once she had caught her breath, she noticed that her stomach growled even more loudly, in urgent demand for more. Hunting was out of the question -- it was too dark and she was too tired. She didn't know what to do with the flour, it didn't taste good at all on its own, but the rice, the rice she thought she could handle.

Lighting a fire without magic was the first major obstacle, but luckily, she discovered some matches on one of the tables. One could say a lot of bad things about Celestials, but one thing was certain, they tended to be well organized. After a few tries, a merry fire was burning. She looked at it with pride, but sadly, nobody was there to praise her. She got more water from the cistern and put it into a pot. Then, she studied the rice. Did it have secrets? She scooped some of it out of the bag with her hands and put it into the water, watching it sink to the bottom and turn the water milky.

How very curious. She puzzled over it, then poured out the sullied water, trying to keep all the rice in, and added new, clean water. Again, it turned milky, though a little less so. Maybe milky was good after all? She shrugged and put the pot over the fire. As soon as the water boiled, it boiled over, which cause her to shout in anger and burn her hands when she reached for the pot in haste. She pulled the fire apart a bit to make it less hot and watched the water in the pot carefully until she was sure it would not boil over again.

She tried the rice after a while with a wooden spoon but it was just as hard as it had been when she had put it in. "If only you could see me, Celestial!" she shouted. "What have you turned me into? I am trying to cook rice!"

Only when the pot started smoking did she realize the water was gone -- the bottom bit was thoroughly blackened and burned. After pouring in more water, she stirred -- soon, horrible looking, blackened junks were swimming around in the water, making her curse in anguish. She was so ravished by now she would have eaten anything, but the Celestial, he needed something good to get strong again.

With a ladle, she fished out the damaged parts, throwing it after the spoilt vegetables, and watched the rice even more carefully this time. When she tried it next, it was much too soft, but she was beyond caring. She ladled out the extra water and then distributed rice -- or something that once had been rice -- into two bowls.

It tasted like absolutely nothing. In fact, this was what she imagined the Nothingness tasted like, in case it had a taste.

There were spices in the kitchen, but she did not know any of them. The pastes Mo Yuan had bought in town would have been an option but Shao Wan was reluctant to open any of the pretty jars in case Mo Yuan had something special in mind with them. With a sigh, she finally grabbed the flask at her belt and put two fat drops on top of each little mountain of rice. It turned a pretty pink.

"Can you eat?" she whispered into Mo Yuan's ear once she was back in the bedroom. He smelled nice. She sniffed his neck, holding back a strong urge to lick it.

He stirred awake and she moved backwards, holding out the bowl of Nothingness and two chopsticks in front of him. Hie eyes were showing only a faint trace of fever now and he furrowed his brow. "Have you let anybody in?" he said, trying to sit up.

"No! I made it," she declared, not sure she should feel proud or ashamed about what she had produced in the kitchen.

"I wonder whether there is a Demon proverb," he said, "something like: With every sick man comes a domestic little demon?"

"You make fun of me all you want," she smiled, "I forget nothing. As soon as you're a worthy opponent again, I will punish you."

"How long have I been out?" he asked as he gingerly put some of the Nothingness into his mouth.

"Three days," she said, rather delighted he was chewing and not spitting it out.

He nodded slowly. "It could have been much worse. Fate must have been lenient. I hope this is it, Shao Wan. I hope we fixed it."

She watched with increasing joy as he continued eating, his chopsticks picking up speed.

"I cannot believe you are eating food that I cooked," she said, flabbergasted.

"I never scold students for failing on their first try," he replied. "But on the second, I do. And every single time afterwards."

Shao Wan laughed. "Then let's leave it at the first."

She started eating too. It wasn't as bad as she had feared. Maybe, she thought, it was the Dragon-Phoenix blood, even in such a small dose. It had the sweetest and most invigorating taste she knew and it made her body hum happily.

Before they went back to sleep, Shao Wan read Mo Yuan from one of her Mr. Mo scrolls. It was the one where she described in detail how she undressed Mr. Mo during the war council, first in her mind, then for real, and how she rode him hard during a tea break with everybody just outside to room. Soon, she was panting. And so was he.

"What do you think, have I improved?" she asked, stroking the velvety skin of his shoulders.

"I will need to hear more to know for sure," he whispered and started to undo her belt.

"What are you doing," she said, her breathing picking up speed, "please do not tease me. I am too tired to keep the upper hand."

"You gave me Dragon-Phoenix blood," he observed, "I feel tingly all over. I want you, Shao Wan."

"But you are not..."

"I dreamt of you, only of you, constantly. In some of my dreams, you were gone. I missed you so, I thought I was going insane."

He started massaging her breasts and her entire body instantly awakened under his touch. She realized his hands trembled. Foolish man. Overtaxing himself.

"I apologize," he said with a sigh, "I am not yet strong enough for anything more than...how does Wan Shao put it? A quick, honest ride."

"Quick? No. I will ride you slowly tonight, Celestial. I do not want to tire you out now that you're back among the living. Lie back. Let me do everything."

It was during her first orgasm that Shao Wan noticed that something about her body was different. During the second, she realized it was like all the qi gathered in her stomach region and radiated out in waves. During the third, she forgot all about it and soon afterwards, they fell asleep in each other's arms. She felt a happiness so deep it almost hurt.

That ended rather abruptly the next day when someone outside the window said with a teary voice: "Ance-tor! Ance-tor! Is big trouble, you come! Come!"

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