Kunlun lounged as he watched the young Da Qing talk to one of the attendants in the auction house. They have been waiting for almost an hour inside a private room and his cat familiar had already eaten all of their snacks. Kunlun wondered if Da Qing would have the audacity to ask for more snacks, but knowing him he probably would.
Their conversation was taking too long and Kunlun grew tired of listening to them. So instead, he just looked around their waiting room, staring at nothing in particular. The wares in his house on top of his mountain were far more interesting than the decorations here. None of these were even magical rare items. Thus, he got more bored.
Da Qing closed the door and returned to the couch, “they’re having problems with today’s auction. One of the merchandise is causing trouble. I believe item#619?”
Kunlun lifted his gaze from the intricate patterns of the carpet to look at Da Qing, “they have living items this time?”
Da Qing nodded, “they have captured a young creature wandering outside the Profane Lands. He’s one of their items up for bidding but apparently, he’s too much for the auction house to contain.”
“Thus, the delay…” he stretched, “so has he escaped?”
“No. They just managed to capture him again. So the auction may begin in a few minutes.”
“Wandering outside the Profane Lands, you say?” Kunlun stroked his chin and slowly he pulled a smile on his lips. “Buy the feral being.”
Da Qing looked surprised, saying “really?” and then scratched his head. From the way the attendant explained what happened, keeping the creature seemed to be rather annoying. He didn’t want something like that in their home. But since his Master told him so, Da Qing had no choice but to do it.
Kunlun nodded slowly, “and if someone else bids for him, always bid three golds higher.”
“Okay...hold on. Why three golds? We can always widen the gap of the bids. It’s not like you have anything else you spend your fortune on.”
Kunlun chuckled as he leaned on the armrest, "I was told that it was annoying to lose to someone just three golds richer than you."
The two smiled at each other with a glint of mischief in their eyes. Of course, it would be a more satisfying win if you get to annoy someone else while doing it.
Another knock from the door came and Da Qing looked into it quickly. An attendant was there to fetch them and escort them to the main auction hall. Da Qing looked back at Kunlun, “auction is in five. Shall we get going, Master?”
Kunlun hummed to himself before he fully stood up and gracefully walked towards the door. He passed by the attendant but then was headed in a different direction.
“Wait. Where are you going?” Da Qing asked, dreading that Kunlun would do what he thought he would do.
Kunlun merely shrugged, “I already informed you which item to bid everything on, so I’m going home.”
Da Qing ran ahead of him, spreading his arms as he blocked his way, “you’re leaving me here?”
“Yes. You can go home by yourself, right? And I am not keen on mingling with other sorcerers.”
He placed a hand on Da Qing’s shoulder and gently pushed the boy aside. He then proceeded to walk down the narrow hallway despite Da Qing screaming for him to come back. It was futile though as Kunlun didn’t look back to the pleas of his familiar.
Again, Da Qing had no choice but to comply with his Master’s wishes. He just needed to win that one item anyway and he could go home as well.
The cat boy was a bit nervous, he had never seen the Profane Lands but had heard so much about it from his Master and other sorcerers that came to visit their mountain. Bottom line was that place was so dangerous that it took the lives of the sorcerers that sealed it, including his Master’s mentor Nuwa. That is how Da Qing understood his Master’s fascination with anything related to it.
Losing the item was not an option, for Kunlun had the fortune of a thousand lifetimes under his name. The only other sorcerers that could outbid him didn’t even attend the auction. So if Da Qing loses this one, it will be his fault alone.
The “item” arrived a week after the grand auction, with a large steel box that contained it. It was sealed with some kind of spell that also made it hover slightly off the floor. Da Qing was thankful for this feature and how the auction house even thought of poor familiars like him that had to carry stuff like this around for their Masters.
Da Qing set up the package in Kunlun’s workroom, tidying a space large enough for the box and whatever the creature inside would do. After he set everything up, including reinforcing the seal of the room, he called his Master.
The steel box rattled as it felt the presence of the people outside. The strongest of all was emanating from the sorcerer in green robes. Kunlun smirked, he didn’t even try to hide his aura, intending to intimidate the creature inside.
With a gesture to undo the lock, Da Qing opened the door of the box.
Instantly a black blur sprang from inside and lunged at Kunlun.
But this was Kunlun we are talking about. Before the creature could even reach him, he slapped it with the back of his hand, flinging it aside and letting it hit hard on the floor.
As everything was happening so fast, after the creature fell on their carpeted floor, Da Qing could finally see clearly what they had bought.
It was a young man. Or rather it looked like a young man.
A young man with pale skin, a bony body, and was dressed in black rags. His long hair was jet black as if it swallowed light. And when he opened his eyes, they were red-rimmed, scanning the room wildly, as he crouched on the ground with a growl rumbling deep from his chest.
He took in his surroundings, looking at the floor, the ceiling, the walls, Da Qing, until finally, his eyes landed on that powerful presence he felt from inside the box—Kunlun.
The feral creature stared at the sorcerer in green as his face shifted from ferocity into awe.
At the sight of the creature calming down and realizing where he was, Kunlun spoke to him, "I do not intend to keep you here. You may take whatever valuable item you think can help you, be it gold, clothes, or food. Take one and then you can go."
The young man stood up, swallowing, as he looked around the room again. His large eyes were not as alert as it was in the beginning and was now more of curiosity than panic.
"You have bought me. Are you not going to use me at all?"
Feral as he may be, he had understood where he was taken to and what was happening in the world around him. He knew that as soon as he was stuffed in that cage, presented to the crowd, and was shipped in a magic sealed box—he knew that he would become a slave to the same sorcerers who had always looked down on his kind.
“He can talk!” Da Qing exclaimed, caring more about that than the fact that the feral creature was aware of his status.
“Why are you surprised? You’re a talking cat.” Kunlun said giving him a side-glance.
Kunlun flipped his long hair as he strode gracefully towards the young man. He walked around him, scrutinizing his appearance from head to toe.
"I already have an assistant and a pet. He’s a bit lazy but he is quite reliable.” Kunlun used a finger to lift the young man’s chin, forcing him to look at him right in the eyes, “What use do I have for you?"
The young man continued to stare at him even as Kunlun pulled back his hands. He didn’t bother trying to answer. He was too mesmerized at the beauty and power of the man in green robes.
But that same man wanted nothing to do with him anymore. “Go. Take one thing you will need to survive.”
The young man thought about it. He then wiped his hands on his rags for clothes, frowning when he realized that they were as unclean as the rest of him. And then when his hands were mostly acceptably clean for him, he took hold of Kunlun’s robe.
"I want to take this."
"No.” His eyes were clear and intense, seeing nothing but Kunlun, reflected from his large dark eyes, “You."
Kunlun tilted his head as he looked at him with amusement. He saw the seriousness and determination this feral creature had and found it quite interesting.
"I will not leave this place,” Kunlun’s voice sounded cold.
"Then I will stay too."
Kunlun stepped nearer to the young man, his face getting closer as he stared him down. But the young man did not waver even under that presence. He looked at Kunlun with a challenge and with eyes filled with a strong resolve.
"I have no use for you. You are free to go," Kunlun once more told him.
"There is nowhere in the world I'd like to go to if you're not with me."
Kunlun sighed and shook his head. He pulled his robe from the man’s grip and turned around, "Da Qing. Prepare the backroom for him."
Da Qing followed his Master as he opened the door and left the room, “you’re really keeping him?”
“I remember we have a decent bed there, am I right?” He asked, ignoring Da Qing’s concerns.
As the two left him alone in the sealed room, the young man lifted the hand that held Kunlun’s robe. He stared at it and felt like he touched the purest thing he had ever seen in his life. He smiled to himself and looked with reverence at the path that Kunlun took.
Any creature who came from the Profane Lands had a core of pure darkness that would ooze out of them with every breath they take. Their darkness would become a curse or a disease to anyone who would not be strong enough to endure it. Even just their mere presence could cause death to the weak.
Fortunately, Kunlun was not weak. On top of that, he was knowledgeable in the many ways one could suppress and control this dark core. One simple and effective method was tying their hair in a braid.
With every twist, Kunlun infused a spell on the strands of the creature’s raven black hair to tame the malevolent energy radiating from this feral creature. Kunlun’s long fingers worked delicately and elegantly on the braids, as the young man closed his eyes and felt the gentle brushing on his head.
“There. We are done, Xiao Wei.”
Kunlun had given him a name—Shen Wei. And after cleaning him up, dressing him, and feeding him, Kunlun could see that this young man was quite a beauty. Thus telling him how dangerous he really was, for his mentor had warned him before of the creatures inside the Profane Land, and how more powerful were the attractive ones.
But if there was something that Kunlun found truly interesting was that this feral creature had the ability to quickly learn anything that was given to him.
Inside the mansion on top of the mountain, Shen Wei learned how to dress and act like a normal human. Together with the puppet maids that maintained the mansion, Shen Wei learned the basic household chores.
Da Qing helped in teaching him too. He would supervise him as a fat cat sitting on top of the table. In that form, he would constantly shout his remarks regarding every little thing the feral creature did. From cleaning to cooking, even to dressing himself, Da Qing would be there to tell him that he tied his robes wrong, or he missed a spot.
There were times when Shen Wei was tempted to cut the familiar but was afraid that Kunlun would banish him if he did. The cat was important to Kunlun and had been with him even before Shen Wei. So instead, he just focused his frustrations on his chores, like on the vegetables he was cutting to cook for dinner.
After all the work was done, at the end of the day, the braids on Shen Wei’s hair must be untied by Kunlun himself. Unweaving the spell from the strands and letting Shen Wei’s darkness breathe around him. If there was any normal human around them, they probably would die from a nightmare by sleeping near this creature. But Kunlun was no ordinary human and his power could subdue this darkness. This was the reason why he intended for Shen Wei to sleep in the backroom behind his bedroom so that his presence could keep Shen Wei’s malevolent spirit oozing out of the mansion.
"Do you know what you are doing?" Kunlun had asked Shen Wei when he noticed him smelling the dried herbs they kept in the cabinet.
Shen Wei closed the drawer and bowed down, "No."
“Then why are you sniffing those like a dog? There are some concoctions there that could kill you when you inhale them.” Kunlun paused, watching Shen Wei look down and feel guilty, “Do you want to die?”
Shen Wei shook his head.
“Then don’t touch anything.”
“But I want to learn.” Shen Wei looked up, his eyes wide and earnest as he looked at Kunlun with a plea. “I want to know how you do your medicines. How you make your potions. How to read the spells. I want to learn so I can help you.”
“Silly little creature.” Kunlun scoffed and Shen Wei lowered his chin sadly.
“You can not learn like this. Someone should guide you properly. Come, let me teach you.” At those words, Shen Wei’s eyes brighten once more as he looked up at Kunlun.
His smile was big and sunny when he sat on the sorcerer’s lap as Kunlun taught him how to read and write. He was serious and focused, and Kunlun did not have a hard time teaching him about the herbs and how to identify and utilize every ingredient they have on their large cabinet wall.
Kunlun taught him how to make cures and how to make poisons, and when to properly use them. He allowed him to serve tea to observe the next transactions with his clients. There, Shen Wei met a prince, a farmer, and even a King. All equal when they face the sorcerer and ask him for help.
Kunlun had so much experience and was so knowledgeable that Shen Wei couldn’t stop being amazed at everything the sorcerer was willing to share with him. So in return, Shen Wei did his very best to repay everything Kunlun did for him.
Now Kunlun had a very reliable assistant whose hunger for knowledge was incomparable to anyone Kunlun had ever seen, while Da Qing, his other assistant, was getting lazier than before.
Da Qing didn’t mind that Shen Wei was being this active. The cat lived with a philosophy that if someone else could do it, let them do it. Eventually, he had accepted that Shen Wei no longer needed his guidance and had stopped making his remarks about him. They often still quarrel though, but Shen Wei had also learned to stop his murderous feelings towards the cat.
Every night Shen Wei could feel the magnitude of Kunlun’s presence through the wall that separated them. It never suffocated him, as it surrounded him like a warm embrace, but there were times that Shen Wei wanted more than this. He wanted to be completely engulfed and devoured entirely by Kunlun’s presence.
So Shen Wei got up from his bed and crept towards the room beside his. He slid the door noiselessly and saw Kunlun’s ethereal sleeping form bathed by the moonshine that glowed through the paper windows.
Shen Wei calmed his breath and took careful steps inside, sitting on the side of Kunlun’s bed. Slowly he leaned down and placed his ear against Kunlun’s chest. This was the first time Shen Wei could hear the heartbeat that he had been hearing faintly, so loud and clear in his ear. It pounded so strongly, so full of vitality and life, a melody the young man enjoyed listening to.
“What are you doing Xiao Wei?” Kunlun’s low voice vibrated into Shen Wei’s head and it instantly made him jolt up.
“I… I was—I couldn’t sleep.”
Kunlun sighed and pulled the young man to him while he moved to give space to the addition in his bed. Shen Wei was gently aided to lay beside Kunlun, the space he had so desired to be in ever since he was given a room in this mansion.
“Would you like to listen more to my heartbeat?” He asked and Shen Wei nodded his head as he blushed.
“Such a shameless creature you are,” Kunlun said and yet his actions were inviting. He let Shen Wei rest beside him as he turned to face him, embracing him so he could place the young man’s head on his chest.
Shen Wei smiled, indulging at being spoiled by the sorcerer. He snuggled closer to him and let himself be lulled to sleep by the magnificent tempo of Kunlun’s beating heart.
From the moment he woke up until before he slept, Kunlun would always be there. He was a powerful but comfortably warm presence that enveloped Shen Wei. But Shen Wei, whose very nature had been selfish, again wanted more. More than being beside him, more than the sound of his heartbeats at night.
“Is there anything you want, Xiao Wei?”
Shen Wei was on all fours on top of Kunlun, staring down at him as he breathed heavily. He looked distressed, with eyes opened wide and fangs bared. But Kunlun did not ask any more than that, he simply reached out and cupped Shen Wei’s face.
With just a single touch, the feral creature softened his eyes and rubbed his face on the sorcerer’s large palm.
Shen Wei’s eyelashes fluttered, and helplessly he answered, “I want to embrace you.”
There was nothing but fondness in Kunlun’s heart. This adorable creature was deserving of everything good in this world, and if Kunlun was what he wanted, how could he deny him of something that could be easily be given?
Despite being enveloped by Kunlun’s presence every night, nothing could beat the feeling of being physically embraced by the man he wanted. In bed, Kunlun taught him how to kiss, how to touch, and how to indulge in the raw and carnal pleasure of the flesh. Under the moonlight, Shen Wei was allowed to see the sorcerer in his most depraved and debauched as they both get drunk in insatiable lust. Shen Wei would burst with the name of Kunlun erupting from his throat, and Kunlun would paint his insides with his seed.
This was what Shen Wei wanted ever since he was inside that dark box, ever since he felt that powerful presence, ever since he first saw Kunlun’s greatness. Undeterred by the fact that Kunlun would lay with him every night, Shen Wei’s hunger for him never ceased, but only grew more and more and more.
“Master.” Da Qing approached him one day while he was eating some watermelons. “I know that we do not interfere with our personal affairs but… I do worry about your uhm… recent activities with Shen Wei.”
At that, Kunlun choked on the watermelon and was sure that he had swallowed a seed or two.
“Listen,” Kunlun tried to keep his composure as the cat just looked at him with a grin, “I have realized that doing this was effective in controlling Shen Wei’s darkness. In fact, soon enough he might not even need the braids to tame it.”
Da Qing wanted to tease him again, to show him how he’s not totally buying that explanation. However, if that was true, then Kunlun was using his own body as a way to control Shen Wei’s darkness.
Now, the cat wasn’t as talented as Shen Wei, nor as powerful as Kunlun, but he had understood how dangerous something like that was. So Da Qing asked, “isn’t this path bad for you?”
Kunlun didn’t give him an answer. He knew that it might be bad for him, but for now, his body was strong and his spirit was still able to overcome Shen Wei’s dark core. It might not be like that in the future, but Kunlun could assume that that may come after a hundred years or so. By then he should be able to find another solution that wouldn’t harm his body.
Da Qing waited for his answer but Kunlun had continued munching on the watermelon. The cat could take a hint, he had been around his Master ever since he was born and knew of all of Kunlun’s bad habits. “Honestly, I don’t really mind you two mating as long as you put a spell to keep the noise down.”
Kunlun laughed, “I can do that.”
It was barely morning when the banners of a certain kingdom graced the mountains where Kunlun lived. He didn't know the name of the kingdom these banners gave identity to, since kingdoms come and go too quickly that it was a waste of time to memorize them.
Kunlun waited for them out in the courtyard, where the main messenger bowed in greeting to him while a small group of soldiers stared down at him from their horses.
"There is no need for formalities. What do you want? I don’t recall your Kingdom as one of my clients." Kunlun spoke with head held high.
"Sorcerer Kunlun. The Prince of Qi sent us to make a trade with you."
"What trade?" Kunlun was suspicious.
“The Prince had also been invited to the grand auction years ago. I believe you have won the bidding war against his Highness for a certain item.”
Kunlun side-eyed the cat he knew was trailing behind him. If not for these false pleasantries he would praise the Da Qing. But he held his tongue and lifted a brow at this messenger, “and so?”
“The Prince would like to offer you anything you desire to buy the item from you.”
The idea was ludicrous. Does this mortal human truly believe that there was something he can trade for Shen Wei? Kunlun merely laughed, “tell the Prince there is nothing he has that will ever interest me. Now, begone. Your banners might frighten my other clients.” He said, waving his hands to shoo them off.
But the messenger dropped to knees and kowtowed in front of Kunlun suddenly begging for his life, “the Prince will have my head if I don’t bring him the good news. Please, great sorcerer, I beseech you. If you want to reject his majesty, at least grace us with your presence to inform him yourself.”
Kunlun groaned, “now you want me to come to your Kingdom just so I could say no? Doesn’t your Prince trust you?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Like a streak of lightning, Kunlun suddenly remembered the banners behind this pathetic man and how he promised himself to never entertain business from this Kingdom. It happened some fifty years ago but it seemed the monarchy hadn’t changed much So if he were to make any transaction, may this be the last.
“Shen Wei, Da Qing. I’ll leave the mansion to your care” He spoke under his breath, trusting his two assistants to pick up what he said. “Shen Wei. Stand down. Don’t hurt anyone.” He particularly instructed the more feral of the two.
Shen Wei was also there and bore witness to what happened from inside the mansion and behind a small window. He watched Kunlun walk towards the small group of guards as they surrounded him like they were escorting some sort of prisoner.
His chest hurt as fury filled him. These pathetic humans had no right to treat Kunlun like that. He should be given the highest respect and the most regal entourage. If not for Kunlun’s words Shen Wei would’ve gone out there and ripped everyone apart. But he only walked out to the courtyard when he saw them leave the boundaries of the mansion.
“They’re taking him.”
The cat stretched, “don’t worry they’ll be back.”
Da Qing nudged Shen Wei’s leg, silently urging him to go back inside. Even the small cat could feel the heightened emotions swirling around this dark creature, so maybe if he couldn’t see their Master being taken away, he might be able to calm down.
Unfortunately, they haven’t even reached the threshold of the main entrance when a group of black-robed men came jumping down from their roof. They landed in some formation and started chanting under their breaths. It was too late for both of the assistants to realize the array that had formed beneath their feet.
As soon as the lines all connected, Shen Wei shrieked.
The pain was hot, burning on his scalp, stinging behind his eyes, and pounding on his head. It brought him to his knees, as he was growling and screaming at the surge of unspeakable pain.
“Shen Wei!” Da Qing turned to one of the people who was chanting and lunged at him. He started to scratch and bite whatever he could reach but the enemy just tossed the cat aside.
The growl rumbled behind Shen Wei’s throat as he crouched. He was trying to open his eyes through the pain to glare at the people who caused this.
“Don’t do anything to them. They’re humans!” Da Qing screamed at him despite being unable to even stand up properly. He could tell how hard he hit the stone ground as his world was still swirling and unstable.
But even without a warning, Shen Wei wouldn’t be able to hurt them. He could feel something powerful binding him like he had been tied around his core, rendering it unusable. Shen Wei could only snarl as he endured. He was trapped inside this circle and he couldn’t even understand how to get out.
Kunlun turned his head to the side when he felt the distress thick in the air. When he stopped, the guards told him to move and only look forward. Kunlun squinted his eyes at the rudeness and flipped his hair as he turned around and look back at his mansion.
He could feel the spell all the way down the mountain, a powerful one that sealed Shen Wei’s powers similar to what he did with his braids, but this one was more aggressive, more sadistic.
Kunlun frowned. This was all a trap.
The wind picked up around them, rustling the trees until the leaves sang a hostile message upon the unwelcomed guests. The soldiers got distracted, looking up and getting anxious at how the leaves rustle and the wind blew.
“What is happening, great sorcerer? Is there a storm?” The messenger asked.
Kunlun smiled at him politely, a smile that didn’t even reach his eyes, and said, “there is no storm. It’s just that... the mountain hates scum like you.”
The messenger then started choking in front of Kunlun, unable to breathe. The guards and the soldiers were quick to point their weapons towards the sorcerer, but they all fell from their horses and dropped on the ground while scratching their throats and gasping for breath.
Kunlun started to walk, trekking gracefully back up his mountain, behind him, the mortals who dare tried to make a fool out of him started to vomit and cry blood.
Kunlun reached his mansion and saw his two assistants in a bad state. One was crawling on the ground and the other was screaming in pain as he fought against the trap these intruders had created for him. Despite having caught Shen Wei, the chanting never stopped to maintain the magic circle. With every verse they finish, they sent a powerful wave towards the feral creature causing him severe agony with the goal of subduing him.
However they had yet to reach that goal as Shen Wei was putting up a good fight, and Kunlun felt proud to see Shen Wei being able to endure all this.
But enough was enough, and if Kunlun was angry before, this was the last straw. With just a wave of his hand, the magic circle of these black-clad men was instantly crushed. Shen Wei was released and the men were all taken aback. A few jumped up on the roof, intending to escape and probably to send the message to their Prince, while the rest stayed and tried to fight off Kunlun.
Kunlun shook his robes to get rid of the dust and residue of their magic from his clothes, and as he did that, the men who tried to fight him started spewing blood from every orifice they have. They fell on his yard, as they choked on the blood on their throat, trying to claw their necks as if that could even do something to help them in their grotesque death. One of them tried to counter his spell but Kunlun approached him and bashed his head on a stone.
“That is for the headache you caused my dear Xiao Wei.”
While everyone was dying around him, Kunlun approached Da Qing and healed him. Then he walked towards Shen Wei and checked how he was. The poor feral creature had lost his consciousness but thankfully was still alive.
Kunlun’s fingers then worked to undo the braids on Shen Wei’s hair. He felt guilty and was angry at himself at how his own spell was used to cause him pain.
“Da Qing, clean this up and prepare for our departure. We’ll leave as soon as Shen Wei wakes up,” Kunlun said while he gathered the young man in his arms and lifted him so he could treat him in his room. The smell of blood and death was starting to annoy him, and he didn’t want Shen Wei to wake up to this.
“Where are we going, master?” The small black cat asked, shifting into a human before he finished the question.
“Where else? They want me to go meet the Prince… then we shall go and meet the prince.”
The three of them then traveled to the Kingdom whose Prince had wanted Shen Wei and had failed to acquire him—twice. Kunlun did not care for whatever his reason for getting a creature of the Profane Lands, but Shen Wei was his and no one else was allowed to touch him as long as he was under Kunlun’s care.
For having the audacity to do all that in his mountain, they had angered the great sorcerer.
“Listen, Xiao Wei. This is a bad example and you should never cast this curse on anyone. Do you understand?” Kunlun explained to him as the three of them faced the expanse of the large Kingdom.
“Now come to me. I have finally found a use for you.”
Shen Wei stepped closer to Kunlun, close enough for Kunlun to cup his face and place his mouth against his. It was a searing kiss that made Shen Wei lightheaded, as Kunlun draw his darkness out with his tongue and swallowing it to intertwine with his own presence.
Shen Wei was breathless when Kunlun released him from the kiss but found himself unable to breathe when he watched the great sorcerer control the darkness he gathered. Kunlun blanketed the whole kingdom in the curse amplified by Shen Wei, and even as the sun rose on the horizon and the three left, the curse never dissipated.
Years later the news about the fall of the Kingdom of Qi due to a plague reached Kunlun’s mountain. Pleased to hear that, he kissed the braids on the sleeping Shen Wei whose head rested on his lap. He had long removed the spell on his hair, as he found a better and more effective way to pacify the darkness.
T here were two men in the room, both powerful sorcerers, who had known each other for hundreds of years.
“Kunlun, are you aware of how dangerous that creature you are keeping?” The question hung over them as silence took over.
Their guest that time was Shennong, an ancient elder who was also a colleague of Kunlun’s mentor. They haven’t seen each other for so many years and yet Kunlun was still that foolish disciple who did things brashly and without thought.
“I certainly know. I was not planning to keep him, honestly,” Kunlun said then sipped his tea, “my mentor sealed the Profane Lands to keep those dangerous creatures from getting out… but I’d rather have any creature from there free. Imagine, if someone else bought Shen Wei and used him to create a spell or do their bidding… isn’t that more dangerous?”
Shennong had left his tea untouched, it even spilled when he slammed the table, “if you want him to be free then why is he here playing as your apprentice?”
Kunlun smirked, “because having him do my less dangerous biddings sounds like a better option than letting him run around.”
Shennong’s mouth hung open in shock, “so you’re endangering yourself like a fool.”
“Not like a fool. I found a way to pacify the malevolent darkness from him so there is nothing more to worry about.” Kunlun shrugged.
Shennong squinted his eyes. He slowly reached for his teacup and drank his tea, all the while not letting Kunlun out of his sight. “Do you think of yourself as a god? That thing can still kill you just from being exposed to it frequently. You may be able to suppress it but it will never end and you will only grow tired. The moment you weaken, that thing will easily overpower you.”
Kunlun laughed under his breath, “that thing is called Shen Wei. Please use his name.”
“You will regret this,” Shennong warned him.
“No offense, but I believe that is my business and not yours. Please, your tea is getting cold… kindly finish it so you may be on your way.” Kunlun said as he pointed to the tea and smiled.
After Kunlun escorted the elder outside of his mansion, he passed by the workroom where he could see Shen Wei practicing inside. He was grinding some herbs, looking at his notes to make sure he was adding the right amount. The black cat beside him was of no help, distracting him as he “tried to help”.
“Can you stop!” Shen Wei was already shouting.
“I’m just saying you have to put the astragalus before the ginger,” the fat cat retorted.
Shen Wei pointed at his notes, “it doesn’t say it like that here.”
“I’m older than you. I’ve done this. I know this from experience!”
Kunlun laughed, changing his direction to go to the workroom. He better stop these two soon or someone might get hurt.
As the years passed by, Shennong’s warning whispered to Kunlun’s mind every time he noticed his powers didn’t do what he wanted them to do. There were times when the spell would break because of Shen Wei’s presence, and times when he felt pain in his chest as he slept beside him.
He knew it was inevitable and yet he did not let his assistants know about it.
It was not the time yet.
It was business as usual at Kunlun’s mansion. Shen Wei had become Kunlun’s full-fledged apprentice. There were even times where the Master would leave everything for Shen Wei to handle. He would perform splendidly, even far beyond Kunlun’s expectations.
Shen Wei was doing well as a sorcerer, so much so, that even Da Qing had acknowledged him to be more superior.
The customer they had that time was a noble, with riches that could surpass kingdoms. Unfortunately, regardless of one’s wealth or status, a curse could still be inflicted upon anyone and no matter how much wealth they had, it could not protect them from the darkness akin to creatures of the Profane Lands.
The noble’s curse was a large dark blob that reached up to the ceiling. A hundred eyes littered its body and a single mouth smiled upon the sorcerer and the young apprentice.
Kunlun was growing weak and this curse could tell that it could put up a fight against him. So he decided to not even try, “You take care of the curse,” he whispered to Shen Wei, “I’ll give our guest tea.”
The tea Kunlun gave caused the customer to sleep, saving him from the feeling that might haunt him until the end of this life. Shen Wei then prepared and stood in front of the curse.
The curse chuckled at the puny creature as it towered over him. But Shen Wei didn’t cower, he looked at it and blinked his large doe eyes. He grabbed a piece of the curse and opened his mouth wide, sucking in the dark blob like it was just thick noodles. When Shen Wei managed to slurp it all, he chewed a bit and swallowed.
“What does it taste like?” Kunlun cringed as he lounged on the sofa while the client slept across the table.
“Salty.” Shen Wei answered, wiping his lips with his sleeves.
Creatures from the Profane Land were truly fascinating for Kunlun. He only learned of Shen Wei’s ability to eat curses quite recently, but it proved useful, especially now that the sorcerer had trouble vanquishing them.
After that, Kunlun gave the noble some medicine for migraines and backaches. He was sure that whoever cast that curse might come back to do it again. But for now, their client would be able to sleep peacefully in days to come.
Every time Shen Wei did a great job, Kunlun would reward him at night. Their relationship had deepened throughout the years until they become intimate lovers. Shen Wei had matured over time, far from the feral creature Kunlun slapped during their first meeting.
Physically, with chiseled jaws, wider frame, and eyes that could make Kunlun tremble in want. Mentally, with all the knowledge he imparted combined with Shen Wei’s natural desire to learn. Emotionally, with how he had learned to handle the bursts of his feelings in front of the sorcerer and other people.
Kunlun would never think that a creature from the Profane Lands could ever capture his heart like this, but here he was, bearing everything for Shen Wei to desire and worship.
That night should’ve been like any other night as this was not the first time Shen Wei had eaten a curse that big. But the darkness around Shen Wei was wild as he slept, and even if Kunlun tried to contain it with his presence, he was simply overpowered by it.
Kunlun tried to pacify it with his presence but it was a torment to fight. He had thought of using a more aggressive spell or step back, but the sorcerer would never forcefully tame Shen Wei’s darkness in his sleep nor would he leave his side.
He was up for most of the night and had finally conquered it before the break of dawn. Yet, he was not as successful as he was in the past. The battle had caused him to burst into a coughing fit until he spewed out blood.
Shen Wei woke up to the sound of Kunlun heaving and as soon as he saw the blood on the sheets, he panicked.
“What is happening? Kunlun!”
Shen Wei heard the hurried thuds of the cat’s paw, running towards them in panic. The barrier in the room that kept most of the sound out had collapsed, another indication that Kunlun was focusing his strength on something else.
The cat arrived at their room, panic-stricken when he saw Kunlun still coughing out more blood. He ran to his Master’s side and offered instantly, “This is bad. Do you want me to call anyone?” But Kunlun raised his hand, unable to speak due to the coughing.
“Kunlun!” The two assistants cried for him.
After a few more coughs to clear his throat, Kunlun finally spoke, “I’ll be fine… tea would be good.”
“What is happening to you? Da Qing do you know?” Shen Wei turned to the cat, having a feeling that Kunlun wouldn’t tell him even if he asked.
“Of course I know.” Da Qing was sick of hiding this anymore. “The darkness of your core had been poisoning him ever since… and this person had too much pride that he thought he could tame it forever.”
“I can tame it…” Kunlun snarled at his familiar. How dare he said that.
But the black cat faced him with the truth, “you are dying." and through gritted teeth, the cat hissed that one thing he had always known but never acknowledged, " you're dying because of him.”
Shen Wei instantly let Kunlun go. He had a hunch before. He had asked Kunlun before. All the books had told him how dangerous he was to anyone, but Kunlun had always told him that it would be alright. That Kunlun was powerful enough to not be affected by him.
But seeing the blood that painted his Kunlun’s lips, Shen Wei didn’t have to be as smart as the great sorcerer to figure out that Da Qing was telling the truth.
“No…” Shen Wei gasped as he stood up.
“Xiao Wei, calm down…” Kunlun tried to grab onto him but Shen Wei pulled back from his touch.
And just like that, the feral creature he once was all those years ago came back. Eyes wild and wide-open, breath coming in short and erratic. The difference was that this time he wouldn’t attack out of fear, since the greatest thing he feared now was himself.
Shen Wei turned to go but Kunlun stood up and embraced him from behind.
“What do you think you’re doing?” Kunlun breathed against his ears, “I thought there’s nowhere else you want to go unless you’re with me. Then why are you leaving now?”
“Because I’m killing you.” Warm tears filled Shen Wei’s eyes as his voice trembled. He swallowed and tried not to cry, but still, the tears flowed down his cheeks.
“So you’ll leave and find someone else you can kill or maybe you want other sorcerers to use you instead?”
Shen Wei shook his head, “don’t want… but I can’t stay if I’m this dangerous to you.”
Kunlun slightly swayed, humming in Shen Wei’s ears. “Stay with me and I can teach you how to become dangerous only when you want to,” the sorcerer promised.
Shen Wei breathed in, calming himself down when he felt the drumming of Kunlun’s heart against his back. He could feel how strong it still was, just like the first time he had heard it.
“If you know this… then why haven’t you taught me before?”
Kunlun kissed his hair and rubbed his face against the soft dark strands, “because back then I didn’t know how.”
Some people said that Kunlun thinks too highly of himself. The clients the sorcerer had rejected before, said that one day his pride would cause his demise.
But Shen Wei knew better. Kunlun was indeed powerful but in times when that wasn’t enough, he would find a way to overcome his adversary. He wasn’t conceited. He didn’t rely on his powers alone. He also trusted himself that he would do anything for any goal he set.
So as long as Kunlun believed, then Shen Wei should believe too.
“Shh, I’m sorry Xiao Wei. But don’t worry… we still have time.”
After that Kunlun taught Shen Wei to control the darkness within him. He taught him to manipulate it, tame it in order for it to serve him. He taught him how to keep it inside to not harm others and make objects that could help protect others against it. When he gave this lesson, Shen Wei didn’t waste any time creating a special necklace for Kunlun to wear to protect against him, but the sorcerer rejected it, saying that it was already too late for him.
Even if he wore it, he was still dying.
Kunlun was dying.
Shen Wei had yet to perfect the new things Kunlun had taught him. In his sleep, he would be unaware of what he was doing. Sometimes Shen Wei would slip and cause a client to faint, but Kunlun would just smile at him and tell him that it was fine. “You’re still learning,” he said.
He was frustrated, angry at himself for not being able to learn faster. For not being able to control it and find a way to reverse the things he did to Kunlun.
Kunlun was dying.
And every day Shen Wei could feel his presence dwindling. His powers weakening. His bright smile dimming. It went on like this until Kunlun could barely sit up from his bed, so he and Da Qing had to feed him there.
Kunlun projected that it would take thousands of years before Shen Wei could truly master his final lessons to him. He smiled a tired smile, as he wondered how Shen Wei would be like when that day comes.
“Someday they will acknowledge you as a sorcerer… greater than I could ever be,” but he was dying, and so he could do nothing but imagine it.
Kunlun had prepared everything before his death. The mansion was well-protected. Da Qing was also immortal, he could accompany Shen Wei and vice-versa. And all his worldly riches were transferred under Shen Wei and Da Qing’s name.
There was nothing else to worry about.
Shen Wei cried beside him, his strong youthful healthy hands gripping the bony fingers of the once-powerful sorcerer.
“How is Da Qing okay and you’re like this?” Shen Wei asked.
Kunlun’s laugh was nothing but air, and his smile was just a twitch of his lips. “There is a strong protection spell on his bells that keeps him safe from you. And besides… do you make love with Da Qing?”
Shen Wei blushed as his eyelashes fluttered, “N-no.”
A withered hand caressed Shen Wei’s cheeks lovingly, “That is why I am more susceptible.”
“If I only knew I shouldn’t have…”
Kunlun’s eyes softened, moving a trembling finger on Shen Wei’s lips, “Shh. There is a beauty in my bed willing to be touched. I don’t think I would ever be able to hold back.”
“Shen Wei. Ah. Shen Wei. Do not be. My only regret is to not see you finally being free from the darkness of your nature.”
His voice was only a whisper, too thin to be heard if one did not lean to chase it. But Kunlun wanted to console his beautiful apprentice, to not let him think that this was his fault. If anything, it was Kunlun’s own faults that got him in this situation.
If he didn’t bid for him—
If he just let him leave—
If he didn’t love him—
But it was too late for regrets now, too late to think of what could have been and what he could’ve done.
Kunlun felt so tired and so he rested. His heart gradually… slowly… beating its last heartbeats.
Until Shen Wei heard nothing.
Shen Wei worked hard to maintain the shop and the mansion. It was his only sanctuary that bore witness to Kunlun’s greatness and life. It saw him grow from a feral being into a dignified young man. It saw him fall in love with Kunlun at first sight and fall in heartache at his loss.
Da Qing had a different way of grieving. After Kunlun’s death, he had decided to stay in his cat form as long as he lived. He could only serve one Master so even if Shen Wei and he had finally gotten along, he could never be his Master.
As Kunlun’s apprentice, Shen Wei continued his work. Despite the wars that came and the changes around him, Shen Wei quietly stayed in the mansion and kept doing what Kunlun had taught him to do. Together with Da Qing, Shen Wei had lived like that for the next hundreds of years.
Shen Wei was looking down, trying to look for the fat black cat so he could ask him to run some errands. But recently, the cat had been going out a lot. He hadn’t asked him about it as he didn’t want to pry with the cat’s personal life but it was becoming more frequent than ever before.
When Shen Wei couldn’t find him anywhere he just decided to leave it be and prepare to go down the mountain himself.
But the cat’s voice suddenly came from the main door and Shen Wei had to change his plans all over again. He put back his coat in the rack and headed to their guest room.
Shen Wei put on his client-facing smile, something he had perfected through the years on top of all the other things he had also mastered. Very far from the feral creature inside that steel box in the auction house, Shen Wei was now a well-established sorcerer living in modern times.
He finally reached the guest room where he saw Da Qing on top of the table, waiting for the tea Shen Wei would serve. Just from that, he could tell that the guest was too important that tea from the puppet maids was not enough.
When the client heard the door opening, he stood up, rising barely taller than Shen Wei. He then slowly turned around and as soon as Shen Wei saw his face, that client-facing smile slowly melted off his face that revealed the raw look of surprise.
“Shen Wei this is Zhao Yunlan. Lao Zhao this is Shen Wei. I believe Shen Wei can cure your ailment. The boy is quite good, he calls himself a sorcerer now.” The cat went over the introductions as if Zhao Yunlan was just another customer.
Although this was the first time anyone would come into their mansion with a recommendation from Da Qing himself.
Zhao Yunlan’s smile was so bright that Shen Wei swore this was the only time he saw the sun again after thousands of years. And then he extended his hand for a handshake and Shen Wei had trouble remembering what the gesture meant. The sorcerer glanced at it a bit before he shook it.
“Zhao Yunlan?” The name was foreign in his tongue and yet feel so right.
And then like how it was when he first came out of the steel box that contained him as a feral creature caught outside of the Profane Lands, Shen Wei heard the soft drumming of Zhao Yunlan’s heart.
“Yes. It’s nice to meet you, Shen Wei.”