Right after saying that, Shen instantly regrets it. He doesn’t know what he tried to convey by saying that to Zhao, neither does he know what he was hoping for. This moment, he finds himself despicable and ludicrous.
Shen is used to subtlety. Those few words had him slashing his chest open and pulling his heart out for the other to see. But he doesn’t want to hear Zhao’s reply. He has always been indecisive, and he feels he did not have the right to say that at all.
All his life he has been a resolute executor, never has he been so hesitant. Perhaps… it’s just because he had yet to meet that special person whose joy and sorrow heave and haul a string in his heart.
After a moment of silence, Shen lowers his head and opens the car door, “Thank you, I’m going up then.”
Zhao feels as if he were about to split apart. He spent almost half a year going after Shen with all the tricks up his sleeve, and he was so incredibly close to having him. If he were to describe the process, it was “completely shameless, ask for the stars and I’ll give him the moon too”, he feels like even a straight guy would’ve turned gay for him… but he dares not treat the Ghost Slayer that way.
He has known the Ghost Slayer for many years, they aren’t close, but always on good terms. And yet they could never develop their relationship any further. Any sane person would treat a formidable figure like the Ghost Slayer with due respect.
His supremacy doesn’t come from pure power… the Ghost Slayer was born with godly powers, and there’s not much to say about it… but from his own person.
Usually the darkest places give birth to the darkest evil, and there is logic behind. When there is no hope to hang on to one falls into darkness easily, not to mention creatures born in the shadows are mostly born vicious and deadly.
Since the dawn of time, the Ghost Slayer is the only exception: born in filth but rising up as a god. And it wouldn’t have been possible without an indestructible heart of steel. Zhao doesn’t doubt it for one moment: someone like the Ghost Slayer… like Shen Wei, even if one day he were to fall and perish, it would be immensely noble and irreproachable.
As Shen opens the door, his usuallly good-looking profile is marked with profound melancholy. Zhao doesn’t know what he is thinking anymore, and suddenly holds the door in place, “I have never been to the Ghost Slayer’s place, why don’t you let me in?”
Shen’s eyes sparkle in a split second, but he only nods politely towards Zhao, “Please.”
Zhao locks the car, and follows Shen to his flat with an intricate sensation. Shen’s home is impeccable, especially when compared to Zhao’s horrifying dog lair… the phone and television are both in dust covers, the bin is very clean, dozens of documents neatly pile up on the desk. The door to the bedroom is locked; not an inkling of what’s inside.
It’s just that his apartment is inexplicably inhuman
Shen says, “Sit.”
Looking at the perfectly unwrinkled sofa, Zhao doesn’t want to sit his butt on it. His movements seem particularly civilised.
Shen fills up a kettle with cold water, but doesn’t set it on a stove. He holds the kettle in his hands, and shortly, the water starts boiling. He quietly takes out tea cups and a can of tea leaves, makes some tea and puts it in front of Zhao, “I usually just stay here for a short time, haven’t got any new tea, hope you don’t mind.”
Of course Zhao wouldn’t mind… it’s not like he can tell the difference between new tea and old tea. He picks up the cup, and his fingers feel the scorching heat. He suddenly asks, “Why didn’t you tell me, Your Honour?”
Shen hesitates, “It’s embarrassing to talk about.”
Zhao almost finds this both infuriating and amusing, “Right, you saved yourself the embarrassment, and just watched how embarrassing I was? Wereyou cracking up when I did those silly things? I’m an idiot, there’s nothing I can say about that, I admit it, but Your Honour, you were quite cruel to me.”
Shen doesn’t disagree, and only wears a well-tempered smile. He changes the subject, “The ghost face we met that day, if you see him again, be very careful.”
Zhao blows the floating tea leaves, “He is coming for the Four Mystical Artifacts?”
“What happens when all four are gathered together?”
Shen explains, “The Artifacts were produced under Pangu the Creator, before the order of Yin and Yang was established. At the beginning of time, there were souls but no spirits, life but no death; men were deities and deities were like ants. The Artifacts contain power from a primordial time of chaos, if manipulated with purpose, they can disrupt the order of everything. It’s my responsibility to keep them away from the wrong hands.”
At this point, Zhao has been listening in silence, which makes Shen rather uncomfortable… he isn’t afraid of Zhao’s questioning, he’s afraid of him not asking. This man knows his boundaries, he never says what he’s not supposed to, and he never asks what he’s not supposed to. And yet he has a lot of speculations in his mind. What Shen is most afraid of is not knowing what he has figured out in that brain of his.
After a long while, Zhao slowly asks, “Ghost face wore a mask, and that day you didn’t seem to want it to come off, is it because I would recognise his face?”
He noticed right then and there, and the whip towards the mask was intentional too!
Shen’s face turns pale. What ghost face looks like doesn’t actually matter, they both travel between the realms of Yin and Yang, so they both understand that a body is just a vessel. And yet, Shen doesn’t want Zhao to know all the convoluted intricacies behind this. But Shen is too used to being a gentleman, he doesn’t know how to lie, and so he freezes and doesn’t know how to respond.
Zhao instantly says, “Alright, you don’t have to say anything, I know who it is, and I won’t ask. You… you don’t have to frown.”
His last few words soften, showing a hint of his usual and subtle caring. Shen’s heart is wrenched, his throat dries and he can’t utter a single word.
Zhao rushes one whole cup of tea down, and feels like he might have crossed the line. He is rather uneasy about this, and stands up, “We’ve been out for so long, and many things happened, get some rest, I won’t bother you.”
He turns around and leaves. When he is already outside the door, Shen calls him suddenly, “That day when I was drunk, besides leaving this body, did I do anything inappropriate?”
Zhao stops at his feet.
Shen looks rather anxious.
Zhao turns around and smiles; his smiles are usually either cold or indecent, rarely is it so gentle and pleasing. He points to himself and says half-jokingly, “Sure you did, Your Honour, you threw yourself at me, till now I’m still flattered and in shock.”
Shen can’t tell if he is telling the truth, but his tone does sound indecent and flirtatious. Shen looks at him helplessly, “Everyone else is frightened of me, how dare you.”
Zhao is all smiles, but his heart sinks.
He bids Shen farewell, and leaves the building. Before he gets in the car, he can’t help but turn around and look up: lights are still on in Shen’s flat, which isn’t many floors up, Zhao’s keen eyes can clearly see a shadow by the window, quietly watching him leave.
It’s like he has been seeing him off from behind forever.
Legend says he was born from the depths of evil, vicious and soulless; from the periphery of Hell, his blade cold as snow… but every time Zhao thinks of him coming from and into darkness, always in solitude, wandering along the freezing road to Hell with countless souls, he can’t help his feelings of sympathy and tenderness towards this lonesome man.
He doesn’t know what happened between him and the Ghost Slayer in all his past lives, and the other person obviously doesn’t want him to know.
Zhao didn’t want to keep asking Shen. On one hand, the suppressed emotions he saw in Shen’s eyes at the hotel have him in fear and awe, and he almost doesn’t dare go near it. On the other hand… he really doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, and damage his pride.
And although it’s hard to say whether his pampering and caring for Shen is true love or lust or just a crush, Zhao can’t bring himself to be so heartless suddenly.
He leans against his car, finishes a cigarette, and throws it into a bin. Then he gets in and slowly drives away.
When Zhao arrives at his place, the black cat Da Qing has been sitting beside the refrigerator for long. It interrogates him furiously, “Where’s my cat food? You haven’t been blessed with my presence for merely a short time, and you threw away my cat food! Treason! Treason!!!”
Zhao ignores its yelling, silently puts on slippers, pours a plate of milk, cuts up some sausages, and heats them up in the microwave for Da Qing… his refrigerator only has so much food thanks to Shen.
Da Qing is shocked, and circles his leg. Sniffing his scent, it asks, “What’s up with you? Why do you look like you ate rat poison?”
Zhao extends his legs, and lays on the sofa. He picks up the black cat and puts it on his legs, and asks while staring into its eyes, “When I was ten, you found me, and gave me the Guardian Order.”
The black cat strangely nods, having no clue as to why Zhao is feeling nostalgic all of a sudden.
“At that time, I was a happy-go-lucky naive child. I thought I was some male version Sailor Moon,” Zhao laughs bitterly, and pats fat cat on the head, “Da Qing, tell me the truth, who am I?”
“You said you are a servant cat fairy of the Guardian Order, and that you would seek out every generation of Guardians. I always thought that the Order was like an ancient spiritual sword, that anyone worthy of it could wield it, but… actually, the Guardian has always been just one person, right?”
Da Qing’s round eyes stare at him, sometimes its pretence isn’t good enough, and its gaze doesn’t look like that of a cat.
“Where’s the true fire on my left shoulder? And what crime did I commit?”
These questions have Da Qing’s hair standing up furiously, “How did you find out?”
“I was guessing, I tricked you, stupid cat. You’re just as easy to fool as him…” Zhao takes out a cigarette, and leans against the sofa in exhaustion, “but paper cannot wrap fire, the truth will eventually come out, so what are you angry about?”
Da Qing meows and hesitantly moves closer. Like a real cat, it curls up into a ball of fur, and its head nudges his stomach softy.
Dat fat fuq is unusually good, so Zhao puts it into his arms and softly caresses its back.
“I don’t know,” Da Qing says quietly, “I was only a little cat that still hadn’t finished cultivation; I spent my days fooling around, and you… you were about the same as you are now, a complete jerk, fearless and unruly. But one day, you suddenly left, for… a few dozen years. Nobody knew where you went, and when you came back, the true fire on your left shoulder disappeared. You held me, and patiently grilled me a fish, which you would rarely do. You took out your whip and turned it into three talismans, and gave them to me.”
Da Qing closes its emerald eyes in the warm embrace of the man.
“What did I say?” Zhao asks gently.
“You said you made a god-awful mistake, and… that you would never return. I kept the Guardian Order and continued my cultivation, and I searched everywhere for you for centuries.”
Da Qing’s tone sounds as if it’s about to cry. Zhao can’t help but sigh, but before he can say anything, Da Qing wriggles out of his arms, shakes its shiny black fur, and stands on top of his thighs, demanding arrogantly, “So you need to treat me better! The microwave rang for several times already, go fetch my milk and sausage!”
Zhao has nothing to say.
And so he flips dat fat fuq off his lap.