Chapter 24 Malice—Part Two
Jiang Cheng added, “Lend me your dog.”
Jin Ling pulled himself out of the daze. He hesitated for a moment and only whistled after Jiang Cheng shot him two lightning-sharp beams from his eyes. The dog dashed over in just a few leaps. Wei WuXian, body as stiff as an iron board, could only be dragged forward, walking one step at a time.
Jiang Cheng found an empty room and threw Wei WuXian inside, closing the door behind him. The dog followed them inside and sat by the door. Wei WuXian had his eyes tightly locked on it, afraid that it would pounce on him at the next possible moment. Remembering how he had been controlled in just a short amount of time, he exclaimed in his heart that Jiang Cheng really knew the best way to deal with him.
Meanwhile, Jiang Cheng slowly sat down by the table and poured himself a cup of tea.
For a moment, no one spoke a word. The cup of tea was still steaming hot. Without having a single sip of it, he hurled it onto the ground.
Jiang Cheng pulled a curt smile on his face, “… Don’t you have anything to say to me?”
Growing up, Jiang Cheng had seen Wei WuXian’s awful state countless times as he ran away from dogs. Others may have believed him if he denied it, but, in front of someone who knew him so thoroughly, it’d be impossible to argue. This was an obstacle harder to overcome than Zidian.
With a sincere tone, Wei WuXian replied: “I don’t know what to say to you.”
Jiang Cheng whispered: “You really don’t learn, do you?”
Ever since long ago, their conversations had been full of retorting and arguing. Wei WuXiang blurted out with thinking: “And you have not made any progress either…”
Jiang Cheng laughed from the anger, “Sure, then let’s see which of us is the one who hasn’t made any progress.”
Remaining seated at the table, he shouted in a commanding way. The dog stood up immediately!
Being in the same room as it already made Wei WuXian sweat in uneasiness. Seeing that the large, snarling dog closed in on him in less than a second, his ears were full of its low howls and his entire body numbed. He had forgotten about much of his early years of wandering on the streets. The only things he still remembered was the terror he felt as he was chased by dogs and the slicing pain of teeth and claws digging into his flesh. The fear that had been planted deep within his heart couldn’t be overcome or eased no how he tried.
Suddenly, Jiang Cheng glanced sideway at him, “Whose name did you call?”
Wei WuXian was in such a state of distress that he couldn’t remember whether or not he called someone’s name at all. He only managed to pull himself together after Jiang Cheng commanded the dog to back away. After a moment of hesitation, he abruptly turned his head away. On the other hand, Jiang Cheng left his seat. There was a whip attached beside his waist. With one hand on it, he bent down to look at Wei WuXian’s face. After a pause, he straightened up and asked, “Speaking of it, since when have you been so close to Lan WangJi?”
Wei WuXian immediately understood whose name he had unconsciously called out.
Jiang Cheng smiled menacingly, “It really is quite curious how far he went to protect you, back on Dafan Mountain.”
A moment later, he corrected himself, “No. You weren’t necessarily the one whom Lan WangJi was protecting. After all, the GusuLan Sect couldn’t have forgotten what you did with that loyal dog of yours. How could someone so celebrated for his righteousness tolerate the likes of you? Maybe he’s familiar with this body that you stole instead.”
His words were cruel and sinister. Every sentence seemed well-meaning on the surface, but was actually derogatory. Wei WuXian couldn’t bear with it any longer, “Watch your language.”
Jiang Cheng responded, “I’ve never cared for such things, don’t you remember?”
Wei WuXian mocked, “Oh, right.”
Jiang Cheng snorted, “So you think that you’re qualified to make me watch my language. Do you still remember? Last time, on Dafan Mountain, did you watch your language when talking to Jin Ling?”
Wei WuXian’s face stiffened.
Having regained the upper hand in the conversation, Jiang Cheng looked satisfied again. He sneered, “‘I suppose that you didn’t have a mother to teach you.’ Now, you really know where it hurts the most, don’t you? The person who caused Jin Ling to be criticized behind his back in such a way is nobody else but you. You’re quite the forgetful old man, aren’t you? Have you forgotten the things you said and the promises you made? Then, do you still remember how his parents died?!”
Wei WuXian immediately raised his head, “I haven’t forgotten! It’s just that…”
Yet, he just couldn’t find the right words to put after it.
Jiang Cheng interrupted, “It’s just what? You can’t say it? Don’t worry, you can go back to Lotus Pier and say your excuses while kneeling in front of my parents’ graves.”
Wei WuXian calmed himself down and searched as fast as he could for a way out of the situation at hand. Although he had always dreamed of returning to Lotus Pier once more, he didn’t want to go back to the tattered one nowadays!
Suddenly, a series of hurried footsteps approached, and the door was pounded on loudly. Jin Ling shouted from outside, “Uncle!”
Jiang Cheng raised his voice, “Didn’t I tell you to stay where you were? Why did you come here?”
Jin Ling, “Uncle, I have something really important to tell you.”
Jiang Cheng, “If there’s something important, why didn’t you decide to speak up when I was scolding you?”
“I didn’t want to say it exactly because you kept on scolding me! Are you gonna listen or not? If not, I’m just not gonna say it!” Jin Ling replied in an angry voice.
Jiang Cheng opened the door with a fuming look on his face, “Tell me, then get out!”
As soon as the wooden door opened, Jin Ling stepped inside. He had already changed into a new set of the white uniform. “I really did encounter something troublesome today. I think I might have ran into Wen Ning!”
Jiang Cheng’s brow twitched. With a hostile expression, he placed his hand on his sword at once, “Where? When?!”
Jin Ling told him, “It was this afternoon. There’s a worn-down house about a dozen miles south of here. I went because I heard that something strange had happened there, but who could have guessed that there was a fierce corpse hiding inside.”
Jing Ling’s word sounded quite believable. However, in Wei WuXian’s ears, all those sentences were nonsense. He knew precisely where Jin Ling was this afternoon. Moreover, if Wen Ning hid himself, unless he summoned him on purpose, there’d be no way that a junior would find him so easily.
Jiang Cheng, “Why didn’t you say so earlier?!”
Jin Ling, “I wasn’t certain. The corpse moved at a really fast speed and ran away as soon as I entered. I only saw a blurry figure. But I heard the chain noises he made on Dafan Mountain, which was why I suspected that it might have been him. If you didn’t scold me like that, I would have told you right after I came back. If he ran away and you can’t catch him, it’d be because of your bad temper, not me.” He still wanted to peek inside, but Jiang Cheng was so angered that he slammed the door right in front of his face. Through the closed door, Jiang Cheng shouted, “I’ll deal with you later. Get lost!”
Jin Ling replied with an “oh,” and his footsteps faded into the distance. Seeing Jiang Cheng turn around, Wei WuXian immediately pulled a mixed expression of “I’m so shocked,” “my secret has been disclosed,” and “what do I do now that Wen Ning had been found.” Jin Ling was actually quite clever. Knowing that Jiang Cheng hated Wen Ning more than anything, he made up such a smooth lie with the previous knowledge he had. Jiang Cheng knew that the YiLing Patriarch and the Ghost General often appeared together, so he already suspected that Wen Ning was in the area. Having heard Jin Ling’s words, he was already mostly convinced, and Wei WuXian’s expression convinced him even further. On top of that, he burst into fury whenever he heard the mention of Wen Ning’s name. With his eyes blinded by wrath, how could he still have doubted? The hostility that built in his chest was almost making him explode. He flicked his whip, hitting the ground beside Wei WuXian, and spoke through clenched teeth, “You really take this obeying dog of yours everywhere, don’t you?!”
Wei WuXian spoke, “He’s been dead since a long time ago, and I’ve died once as well. What else do you want?!”
Jiang Cheng pointed the whip at him, “So what? My hatred would persist, even if he dies thousands of times! He didn’t perish back then. Very well! I shall destroy him today, with my own hands. I’m going to burn him right now, and scatter his ashes right in front of your face!”
He slammed the door shut behind him and walked toward the main hall, ordering Jin Ling, “You keep a close eye on him. Don’t believe or listen to anything he says! Don’t let him make any sound. If he dares to whistle or play his flute, block his mouth first. If it doesn’t work, just slice off his hand or cut off his tongue!”
Wei WuXian knew that Jiang Cheng spoke these words especially for him to hear, threatening him against doing anything. The reason why Jiang Cheng didn’t bring him along was so that he didn’t use the opportunity to control Wen Ning. Jin Ling replied in a nonchalant tone, “I know. Of course I’ll be able to watch him. Uncle, why did you shut yourself inside along with that damn cut-sleeve? What did he do this time?”
Jiang Cheng answered, “This isn’t a question you should ask. Remember to watch him properly. If I return to see that he disappeared, I’ll break your leg for sure!” After a few more questions about the exact location, he left with half of the disciples and went to chase the nonexistent Wen Ning.
After some time of waiting, Jin Ling’s arrogant voice travelled through, “You go stand over there. You, go wait on the side. All of you go stand in front of the main entrance. I’m gonna go inside and meet him.”
None of the disciples dared to disobey. In a short while, the door had been opened again and Jin Ling stuck his head in, eyes darting around the room. Wei WuXian sat up straight. Jin Ling put a finger in front of his lips, walked in quietly, put his hand on Zidian, then whispered something.
Zidian could only work if it recognized its owner. Jiang Cheng had probably allowed it to recognize Jin Ling. The electric currents went out at once, and it transformed into a silver ring embedded with a purple crystal, lying on top of Jin Ling’s fair-colored palms.
Jin Ling said in a quiet voice, “Let’s go.”
After the senseless orders, the YunmengJiang Sect’s disciples had been scattered all over the place. The two stealthily flipped over the window and the walls. Having left the shop, they sprinted without making any noise. As they entered a forest, Wei WuXian heard something strange coming from behind him. Turning around, he was almost scared to death, “Why is it coming along as well?! Tell it to go away!”
Jin Ling whistled twice, and the dog rolled out its long tongue. Whimpering softly, its pointy ears twitched, and it ran away disheartenedly. Jin Ling sneered in contempt, “Such a loser. Fairy never bites. It just looks scary. It’s a spiritual dog trained to only bite evil beings. Did you really think that it’s just a regular dog?”
Wei WuXian, “Hold on. What did you call it?”
Jin Ling, “Fairy. Its name.”
Wei WuXian, “You named a dog something like this?!”
Jing Ling replied assuredly, “What’s wrong with this name? When it was younger, it was called Little Fairy. Now that it grew up, I can’t keep on calling it that.”
Wei WuXian refused, “No. No. No. The point isn’t whether it’s little or not! … Who in the world taught you such a way of naming?!” Without doubt, it must have been his uncle. In the past, Jiang Cheng also had a few puppies. The names he chose were things like ‘Jasmine’, ‘Princess’, ‘Love’, and so on, which sounded like the names of expensive girls in brothels. Jin Ling continued, “True men don’t care for such trifles. Why are you stressing over such details? Okay! Stop. Now that you offended my uncle, you’re already half dead. Now, I’m letting you go. We’re even.”
Wei WuXian asked, “Do you know why your uncle wants me?”
Jin Ling answered, “Yeah. He believes that you’re Wei WuXian.”
Wei WuXian thought, ‘This time, it’s not merely ‘suspect’ anymore. He’s got the right person.’ He asked again, “Then, what about you? Don’t you suspect it as well?”
Jin Ling, “It’s not the first time my uncle did such a thing. He has never let any of them go, even if it was possible that he caught the wrong ones. But, if Zidian couldn’t draw out your spirit, I’m just gonna trust that you’re not. Besides, he wasn’t a cut-sleeve, but you even dared to harass…”
With a disgusted look, he stopped before mentioning who Wei WuXian harassed and made a fanning gesture as if he was shooing away flies. “Anyways, from now on, you have nothing to do with the LanlingJin Sect anymore! If you’re gonna go at it again, don’t find anyone from my sect! Or else, I won’t let you off!”
Having finished speaking, Jin Ling spun around to leave. After walking a few steps, he turned to him again, “What are you doing still standing there? Go. Are you waiting for my uncle to come and get you? Let me tell you—don’t think that I’ll be grateful just because you saved me. Don’t expect me to say anything cringe worthy either.”
Wei WuXian put his hands behind his back and walked over, “Young man, there are two cringe worthy phrases in one’s life that must be said, no matter what.”
Jin Ling asked, “Which two?”
Wei WuXian replied, “‘Thank you’, and ‘I’m sorry’.”
Jin Ling taunted, “What can anybody do to me if I don’t say them?”
Wei WuXian, “Someday, you’ll say those words in tears.”
Jin Ling made a spitting noise, just as Wei WuXian suddenly spoke to him, “I’m sorry.”
Jin Ling paused, “What?”
Wei WuXian, “I’m sorry for the words I said to you on Dafan Mountain.”
It wasn’t the first time that Jin Ling was told he had ‘no mother to teach him’, but it was the first time someone apologized to him in such a serious way. With an ‘I’m sorry’ shoved right into his face, he didn’t know why, but he suddenly felt a bit uneasy.
He wildly waved his arms around, “It’s nothing. You weren’t the first person to say so, anyways. It’s true that I had no mother to teach me. However, I won’t be inferior to anyone because of this! In fact, I’m gonna open you eyes and make you see that I am a lot stronger than all of you!”
Wei WuXian smiled. As he was about to speak, his expression suddenly changed, “Jiang Cheng? You!”
Jin Ling was already feeling guilty since he stole Zidian and let Wei WuXian go. Hearing the name, he whirled around to look. Using the chance, Wei WuXian hit Jin Ling’s neck, forming a blade with his hand. He laid Jin Ling flat on the ground, rolled up the bottom of his trousers, and examined the Curse Mark on his leg. He tried a few methods, but none of them made it fade. After a moment, he sighed, knowing that it’d be difficult.
However, although there were some curse marks that he was unable to remove, he could transfer them to his own body.
Jin Ling slowly woke up after a while. Putting his hand to his neck, some pain could still be felt. He was so angry that he jumped up and unsheathed his sword at once, “How dare you hit me! My uncle hadn’t even hit me before!”
Wei WuXian exclaimed, “Really? Doesn’t he say that he’ll break your legs all the time?”
Jin Ling fumed, “He’s only saying that! You damn cut-sleeve, what on Earth do you want? I…”
Wei WuXian covered his face and shouted toward behind Jin Ling, “Ah! HanGuang-Jun!”
Jin Ling was more scared of Lan WangJi than he was of his uncle. After all, his uncle was from his own clan, but HanGuang-Jun was from someone else’s. Frightened, he fled at once, shouting as he ran, “You damn cut-sleeve! Disgusting maniac! I’ll remember you! This is not over yet!”
Behind him, Wei WuXian laughed so hard that he couldn’t breathe. After Jin Ling disappeared into the distance, his chest itched in a stuffy way, and finally managed to stop the laughter after a while of coughing. Only then, did he have time to think.
Wei WuXian was taken home by Jiang FengMian when he was nine.
Most memories from back then were already blurred. Yet, Jin Ling’s mother, Jiang YanLi, remembered all of them, and even told him quite a few.
She said that, after his father heard of the news that his parents both died in battle, he had always dedicated himself to finding the child that these past friends had left behind. After searching for a while, he finally found the child in Yiling. The first time they met, Wei WuXian was kneeling on the ground, eating the fruit peels that somebody tossed on the ground.
Yiling’s winter and spring were quite cold, yet the child only wore thin layers. His knees were already tattered, and on his feet were two different shoes that didn’t fit at all. As he was looking down, searching for fruit peels, Jiang FengMian called him. He still remembered that there was a “Ying” in his name, so he lifted his head. Although his cheeks were both red and chapped from the cold, he still wore a smile.
Jiang YanLi said that he was born with a smiling look. No matter what unfortunate thing happened, he wouldn’t cling on to them; no matter what situation he was in, he would be happy. Although it sounded a bit heartless, it really wasn’t bad.
Jiang FengMian fed him a piece of melon, and he let Jiang FengMian carry him back. Back then, Jiang Cheng was also around eight or nine. He kept a few puppies to play with him in Lotus Pier. Finding out that Wei WuXian was extremely scared of dogs, Jiang FengMian suggested for Jiang Cheng to send the dogs away. Jiang Cheng was really unwilling. After throwing a tantrum of breaking things, pouting, and bawling his eyes out, he finally sent the dogs away.
Although, because of this, he held hostility toward Wei WuXian for a long time, after the two grew familiar, they had begun to cause mischief together. Whenever he ran into dogs, Jiang Cheng would always chase them away, then have a good laugh at Wei WuXian, who jumped onto a tree.
He had always thought that Jiang Cheng would be on his side, and Lan WangJi on the side opposite to him. He could never have imagined that things would turn out so differently.
Wei WuXian walked toward the rendezvous point that he and Lan WangJi were supposed to meet at. Nobody walked among the sparse lights that flickered in the night. Without having to look around, the white-robed figure stood at the end of the street, standing motionless with his head hung low.
Before Wei WuXian made any sound, Lan WangJi looked up and saw him. After some hesitation, he walked over with a darkened expression.
Wei WuXian didn’t know why, but he involuntarily took a step backward.
He could almost see scarlet streaks of blood by the corners of Lan WangJi’s eyes. He had to admit… Lan WangJi’s face really did look quite scary.