Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Living to Suffer - ch5

Translator: ayszhang
Editor: Marcia

Living to Suffer chapter 5
The prequel to TDDUP



V


He called it sleep but it was no different than unconsciousness.
The effect of the orange jessamine on Ch’in Ching was equivalent to poison, but he grew up eating medicine rather than rice and had even tried fighting fire with fire to alleviate his cardiac pain. A bit of poison would not do him much harm. He simply needed to undergo a fever.
His head felt as though it were on fire, but the rest of him seemed to be soaked in ice water. He was senseless, but his teeth were chattering by themselves.
The autumn wind ran wild and brisk through the woods. Seeing Ch’in Ching curled up in a pathetic lump by the tree, Shen Liangsheng took him by the collar and carried him as he would a sack. Quick as a phantom, he zipped through the area until he came upon a cave. Then he flung the man inside to save him from the torture of the wind.
He flung the man but also sent along a concealed force. The man weighed close to ten stones but fell to the floor without a sound, without a single speck of dust displaced, as though he were gently placed. The intricacies involved in this move were obvious.

Hands clasped behind him, Shen Liangsheng stood at the mouth of cave awaiting Ch’in Ching’s fever and slumber to come to an end. After a pot of tea’s time, he heard his name softly called.
He turned around and approached only to find the man still unconscious and murmuring in his dreams.
Shen Liangsheng stared coolly at the man for a while and then bent down to inspect his breath. Warm and steady. The man would not die.
He straightened up and stood in the darkness, eyes downcast. Beside his feet was a slumbering man calling his name.
Ch’in Ching rolled over in his sleep, his forehead touching Shen Liangsheng’s shoe. His arm would not stay still either and crept up so that his hand wrapped loosely around Shen Liangsheng’s ankle. He went quiet after that.
Shen Liangsheng still stood there in silence, his face not revealing his thoughts, but he did not kick the man away.

Dawn had not yet broken when Ch’in Ching awoke. Blinking his eyes, he realized he was in another location.
A cave in the mountains. Not a ray of light to tell sky from earth. The heat in his head, which was not a serious problem to begin with, had gone down.
He raised his hand to rub his forehead, scraping Shen Liangsheng’s leg in the process, and noticed how close the man was.
Looking up, he saw a desolate shadow darker than night.
After a moment, Ch’in Ching cracked a smile as he shakily dragged himself up by the ends of the man’s outer robe to stand nearly face to face with him. His hands sneaked around the man’s waist.
In that darkest moment immediately prior to dawn, he barely managed to make out the blurry image of the man’s face. Shen Liangsheng wore the same emotionless expression, and surprisingly Ch’in Ching kept quiet, merely staring intently back at the man, as if thinking about something.
They were so close that their lashes could cross, that they breathed each other’s air. Ch’in Ching slowly leaned in, closing the final hair’s breadth to come lip to lip with the man.
“What is it you desire?” Shen Liangsheng finally spoke, his tone flat without shock or fury as though they were sitting across a table rather than standing with lips touching.
“What I desire you will not, or cannot, give me.” Not taking the opportunity to advance further while the man was talking, Ch’in Ching merely kept his lips on those of the man. As he talked, the lips rubbed lightly against one another, creating an unspeakable, secretive, twisted sense of intimacy. “So I ask for a stalk of huai-meng ts’ao.”[1]
“What for?”
“Medicine.”
“Very well.”

Once the negotiation was finalized, Ch’in Ching pulled back and walked to the mouth of the cave. As he stood tall in the weak dawn light which was just reaching over the horizon, the wild, repressed lust began to calm down under the gusts of cold autumn wind, and his boiling blood slowly returned to its original, dead state.
Soon, the new sun burst through casting its life-giving, fiery luminance onto all beings. Though winter would shortly be upon the land, when the grass would wither and the flowers would fall, they all would live once again next year, and the cycle would continue without end. At that thought, a smile made its way onto Ch’in Ching’s face. Of course he had no resentment.[2]

It was written in Tung-ming Chi: [3] “On the mountain where fire grows is the meng ts’ao which resembles the cattail, is red in colour and shrinks into the earth by day, coming forth at night. Its alternative name is huai-meng.”
The strange plant recorded in the literature truly did exist and grew on the peak of Mount Fut’u,[4] and Mount Fut’u just so happened to be the location of the Hsing Sect’s headquarters, a place into which outsiders had much difficulty gaining entrance.
Ch’in Ching explained that this plant required a unique picking process and that it would lose its effects after three k’e,[5] and therefore he needed to personally visit the site. Shen Liangsheng replied with an indifferent look.
“Do you think I enjoy the idea of visiting that godforsaken place where one can enter but not leave? Yet there simply is no other way.” Ch’in Ching brought his hands together[6] and laughed apologetically. “So I must ask you to do me this favour.”
Shen Liangsheng shot him another look before suddenly reaching out, playing the same trick again. He lifted the doctor up by the collar and began to flit northward.
Ch’in Ching was shorter but not by much. He found it quite uncomfortable being carried like this. Wind gushed in his ears, and his vision blurred. It was then that he knew he was not prone to carriage-sickness or seasickness but ch’ingkung-sickness. He managed to find the breath to speak. “Shen-hufa, I must return to my hut to retrieve some tools and herbs…”
The moment he finished the final syllable, his vision blurred again. Shen Liangsheng had taken a sharp eastward turn, not slowing down at all in the process. Ch’in Ching felt so sick that he had to put all his effort into not vomiting.

What would take a normal man two days to walk merely took Shen Liangsheng little more than two hours. Although he had been carrying another man, he was breathing steadily and appeared relaxed when he landed. On the other hand, Ch’in Ching held his knees and retched for a few minutes. By the time he finished he was a big teary mess.
Ch’in Ching’s hut had been built in the depths of the mountains, and he had set protective circles at the entrance to the path leading to it. Shen Liangsheng accompanied him to the mouth of the valley and announced that the doctor had an hour to gather his equipment before departing.
After he retrieved his things, Ch’in Ching shuffled out of the valley and began bargaining meekly, “Well, Shen-hufa, the fact of the matter is that I’m not in a rush, so might I suggest that we hire a carriage–”
“No need.” Shen Liangsheng summarily crushed the idea. Seeing the man standing thirty yards away like a bunny hiding from a hawk, he reached out a hand and commanded gruffly, “Come here.”
No way in hell! Ch’in Ching swore silently. It was just one kiss – and it was debatable whether that even counted as a kiss – must he torment him like this?!
Shen-hufa watched the doctor go through several different expressions while refusing to move. He pushed off into the air with his toes and closed the distance between them in the blink of an eye. Before Ch’in Ching could even process the situation, he and his belongings had already been lifted up into Shen Liangsheng’s arms.
A rare blush appeared on the doctor’s cheeks. His mouth opened, but the word of thanks did not come out. Unlike his own pathetic performance carrying the man several months ago, Shen Liangsheng had him in a very firm hold. Closing his eyes, Ch’in Ching tucked his luggage close and nestled into the man’s chest, feeling as light and graceful as a feather soaring through clouds and riding the fog. The wind was whistling in his ears, and amidst that sound was the man’s steady heartbeat – badoom badoom – as rhythmic as a water clock, quietly witnessing the passage of time with every drip, unaffected by the outer world.

Although Mount Fut’u was the headquarters of the Hsing Sect, it was not remote by any means. Without breaks or sleep, Shen Liangsheng arrived at the foot of the mountain in a mere two days.
As a common mortal, Ch’in Ching had to eat, sleep and answer the call of nature. Shen-hufa never once chatted with him, only silently pushing onward. Ch’in Ching did not want to make himself unwelcome, so he resorted to napping when he became bored. He likely was asleep for longer than he was awake during the trip, but every time he roused from his slumber in Shen Liangsheng’s arms, the man’s clear-cut jaw line and steely cold eyes would remind him that perhaps this man was not a real man. Maybe he actually was the soul of a knife, the spirit of a sword, the ghost of Asura.

Arriving at the foot of Mount Fut’u, Ch’in Ching steadied himself on solid ground and looked up. A sky-scraping mountain with an extremely steep incline, it indeed was a location that was easy to defend but difficult to invade.
The Hsing Sect controlled the land for one hundred li[7] around the mountain, and members had received news that their hufa was bringing home an outsider – and in his arms, no less. Now that was a truly spectacular sight!
It was the first time that Ch’in Ching had been this close to the place the chianghu often compared to the Realm of Yama,[8] and before he could process everything, a fairy-like figure descended before him in a billow of green robes. It was a fair, young woman who flashed a smile before even speaking.
“Miao-t’angchu,”[9] Shen Liangsheng spoke first with furrowed brows. “You’re on duty today?”
“No. I’m here for the spectacle.” The woman’s words were blunt. Without ruining the mood, Ch’in Ching chuckled and joined the conversation. “And I’m of course the performer, surname Ch’in, given name Ching, courtesy name Hengsu. May I have the honour of learning your name, my lady?”
“Aha…” The woman cracked an understanding grin. “I am Miao Jan. So you’re the one.”
“Me?”
“The one who saved him, of course.” Miss Miao pointed at Shen Liangsheng and continued her candid speech. “Our hufa is a very proper man, Ch’in-taifu. Do not love him and leave him, or else you will have to answer to my blade.”
“I…” Even a thick-skinned fellow like Ch’in Ching was temporarily speechless. Instead it was Shen Liangsheng who recovered his dead, emotionless mask and requested with propriety, “I beseech Miao-t’angchu to keep watch on him while I go directly and report to the deputy leader.”
“The deputy leader is in the Kriyā chamber dealing with administration. May your feet be swift, for I cannot guarantee his safety for long.”
“Thank you.” Shen Liangsheng gave a slight nod. Before leaving, he shot another glance at Miao Jan, and if Ch’in Ching read it correctly, there was a hint of warning within.
“Huh, he sure holds you close.” After watching Shen Liangsheng go, Miao Jan turned back to Ch’in Ching and studied him from head to toe.
“I think Shen-hufa fears that I might violate your respectable sect’s taboos if I were allowed to roam freely.”
“So you really do not know who I am?” Miao Jan queried wonderingly. “Perhaps you truly are a doctor on the outskirts of the chianghu.”
“Actually quite the opposite. To be frank with you, my lady, I have indeed heard of you.”
“Oh, then you are quite a brave soul.” Miao Jan had a fair complexion and a slender, elegant figure. She circled around Ch’in Ching, and when she stood before him once more, her face had not changed, but there was a new aura about her that made it hard to look away. “Or are you saying you only have eyes for him?”
“Nay. The hufa and I…” Ch’in Ching thought wryly that she could probably build a ladder that stretched from the peak to the foot of this mountain using the bones of all the men who had fallen under her charm. Why was she so desperate to add him to the pile? But he continued, “…have nothing between us. I do not wish for any misunderstanding.”
“Pfft, nothing between you?” The truth was that Miao Jan was not going to do anything to him. She ended the seduction spell and giggled, “I was only joking, but now that you have mentioned it, it seems all the more suspicious.”
“So it does, my lady.” Ch’in Ching breathed a sigh of relief and returned a quip. “You ask that I not love him and leave him, but surely you know what he is like. He doesn’t appear to be interested in love, with or without the leaving part.”
“Would you like to learn a few techniques?”
“I appreciate the offer.”
“Hmph.” Miao Jan suddenly closed the distance and whispered in his ear. “Ch’in-taifu, if you feel something for him, then act upon it. He might not look it…” Her voice dropped lower and became faint wisps of air. “Have you heard of our sect’s shuang-hsiu mantra?[10] He might not look it, but if you get your hands on him, I guarantee pleasure between the sheets beyond your wildest dreams.”

The headquarters of the Hsing Sect was not built on the peak, and Shen Liangsheng travelled as fast as he did two days ago showing no signs of fatigue. He had already returned while the two were still conversing, and he saw them whispering in each other’s ears. Miao Jan had a relaxed expression while Ch’in Ching seemed flustered with a slight frown.
“Ch’in Ching, let us ascend.”
Shen Liangsheng glanced at him without saying any more. Only when they were climbing did he speak, “Keep your distance from her if you want to live.”
“Shen-hufa, could it be that you are concerned about me?” Ch’in Ching was panting roughly from the climb but still quipped, “Or could it be…” He took two quicker steps to catch up to Shen Liangsheng. “That you are jealous?”
“…”
As expected, Shen Liangsheng ignored him. Giving up the joke, he confessed, “We didn’t do anything. She just told me that you were good in bed.”
“…”
“So it’s true?”
“…”
“Now, it’s not like you haven’t done it before. Once more wouldn’t make a difference, so why not just grant me my wish?”
“…”
“Or maybe you can’t get hard with men?”
“…”
“Well, it’s fine if the bottom one cannot get hard.”
“…”
“I might not be married, but I’ve had my fair share of experience. I might not be as skilled as you, but I will not disappoint. I’ll include a trial period and full refund. How about it?”
“…”
“Say–”
“We have arrived.”
Shen Liangsheng paid no attention to all the brash chatter. He stopped and made a sign with his right hand, tapping it in the air. Immediately the scenery shifted. A dozen yards away stood a gargantuan building that struck fear into those who laid eyes upon it, every block and tile seemingly made entirely from shiny, black iron.
Ch’in Ching stood with his hands behind him, squinting at the giant doors swinging open like the jaws of a beast about to consume its prey. Above the doors was a black placard like any other sect. He wondered if the red calligraphy was the work of the founder of the Hsing Sect, the man who had torn the chianghu into shreds two hundred years ago.
The giant red “Hsing” appeared to have been written with blood, and that blood had not yet dried after the centuries and threatened to drip down from the final stroke of the blade.[11]
Murder, slaughter, invasion, aggression – they seemed to leap out from the placard, heading straight for him.




[1] 懷夢草, literally ‘hold dream grass,’ is a mythical plant.
[2] This phrase could also read as “He should have no resentment.”
[3] 漢武洞冥記, a work compiled in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220) has been translated as “Account of Emperor Wu of Han’s delving into arcane” in Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature edited by David R. Knechtges and Taiping Chang.
[4] 浮屠山 (fu tu shan), literally ‘float slaughter mountain,’ is an imaginary mountain first depicted in The Journey to the West as the place of residence of a zen master. ‘Fu tu’ is one of the many transliterations of ‘buddha.’
[5] Equivalent to 14.4 minutes.
[6] The traditional hand gesture that encompasses many functions such as greeting and request, it is performed with a bow and hands held in front of chest. The left hand is wrapped around the right fist.
[7] Approximately 500m, but it varied depending on the dynasty.
[8] The Buddhist god of hell in East Asian mythology that was based on the Hindu Yama.
[9] 堂主, literally ‘head of the hall,’ referring to the head of a branch (tang) of the sect.
[10] This term comes from the Buddhist term, karmamudra, a technique of sexual practice with a man and woman. In the wuxia world, this has become a method through which lovers can advance their neikung together.
[11] The character (hsing; lit. punishment, execution) is made up of two radicals, and, the second of which is called the “standing knife radical.” Because Chinese stroke order is from left to right and top to bottom, the final stroke ends on the blade of the “knife.”


Traditional way of greeting for men only
One wraps his right fist with left hand and bows upper body

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Further reading:

Chinese original text of 'Account of Emperor Wu of Han's delving into arcane' (Text about huai-meng ts'ao is in Book 3.2)
Journey to the West wiki
Translation of Chapter 19 where Mount Fut'u is the setting and is translated as Pagoda Mountain
Traditional concept and units of time
God of Hell (britannica and wiki)
Karmamudra (wiki and blog)

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ayszhang: My language immersion in Chicoutimi is almost over! Two more weeks and I will begin my travels: Quebec - Montreal - Ottawa - Toronto - Waterloo :) If I have any fans in those places, I would love to meet up!



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Living to Suffer - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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