I couldn’t sense Kara’s emotions. Listening to her signal was like trying to hear with cotton stuffed in your ears. You know that that there is a sound but the pitch, timbre even volume becomes indistinguishable.
What could be the reason for this? Lin’s emotions were crystal clear. Over the few days, I had basically grasped what the signal meant in its infinite variations and when I listened to her tone, I could more or less guess what state of mind she was in. For example, right now she was anticipating her senior sister’s reaction to our preparations.
The rooms had been aired out, the sheets had been changed, the laundry had been done, the food had been prepared and we were waiting for her to welcome her when she returned.
It was faintly nostalgic. Back when I was Thomas Thornton on earth, my mother used to wait like this for my father’s return every day. The both of them had me quite late in life (I was conceived in a test-tube). So, when I was yet a child of ten, they had hit their early fifties. Mom and Dad had crossed all the passionate phases of their relationship and settled into a comfortable companionship. Dad was the bread earner of our family and mom was the housewife. Some of my most vivid memories of them was of them pecking each other on the cheeks at the doorway before Dad came and picked me up, complaining about how fast I seemed to grow.
Now it was me and Lin in the role of the housewife while Kara went to work. It brought a smile to my lips. No matter what world we were in, humans fundamentally wouldn’t change. It was a reassuring point of familiarity.
The thought of my parents on earth also made me melancholy. Now that I was gone, there wouldn’t be anyone to sweep their graves. Even while I was in prison, I had made it a point to visit them once a year using the points I earned for good behaviour.
And what of Liu Yang’s parents? Wouldn’t they be devastated at the news of their son with such glowing prospects being downcast in the plot of the Yin Demon Sect? I couldn’t visit them. Not only would it be dishonest to pretend to be their son but my appearance would just salt their wounds. If I could, I would send them some money later.
“Well,” Kara’s voice snapped me out of my musings, “thank you for the food.” She said as she put down her chopsticks (yes, they used those unwieldy things here – not a spoon in sight and god help me if I asked for a fork).
“No, no. You’re working that hard, it’s the least we freeloaders can do.”
She shook her head. “No. I am doing it as much for myself as for anyone else…” Then she shifted topics, “Anyway, I brought more resources – enough to get you both to the seventh layer of the Qi condensation stage. I put it in the storehouse. I think that’ll keep you both busy for some time.”
Saying that in a calm business-like manner, she stood up, pushing back her chair and began to walk out of the room.
“Wait!” exclaimed Lin, her signal radiating disappointment. Hastily putting down her chopsticks, she rushed after Kara. “Sister, if you’re taking a bath, wait a bit. Let’s take one together. We haven’t had one with each other for a long time,” she said eagerly.
Kara paused for a moment before she started walking again without a backward glance. The last thing we heard her say before the door shut between us was: “You two have fun. I have work tomorrow.”
Lin stood there in the middle of the room, stiff as a statue. Then, mechanically, she returned to the table and began polishing off the rest of the food. I could practically taste it turning to ash in her mouth.
Sighing, I swiftly shovelled down the contents of my plate. “Wash the dishes. I’ll go talk with Kara.” I said as I walked out of the door.
The amber-eyed woman wasn’t difficult to find. I found her with a bath-towel wrapped around her, waiting for the water in the barrel to heat up so she could take her bath. I took a moment to appreciate the picturesque sight of her curves outlined by the moonlight that bathed the mountain at night. It was a full-moon night. It was particularly bright.
Hearing my decidedly un-stealthy footsteps on the ground, she slowly turned around, her amber eyes glinting silver as our eyes met.
Sighing again, I walked over to a stone by her side and sat down without invitation. Picking up an errant pebble from the ground, I idly tossed it from one hand to the other as I let the silence settle on us like a shroud.
The crackling of the fire, the hiss of the water as it heated up – those were the only two sounds that broke the quiet of the moment.
“W-what do you have to say?” she asked, her voice cracking from the dryness of her throat.
“Nothing really. I’m really in no position to judge.”
“Then why are you here?” she snapped a bit irately.
I still didn’t look at her, focusing on juggling the pebbles that had grown in number to three. I would never have been able to do this in my old body. But in this superhuman one, it was a cinch. All I had to do was try.
Agitated by my silence, Kara began pacing on the lawn. “Aren’t you here to condemn my actions? Demoness, witch – that’s what you farmhands calls us, right?” she said accusingly.
With a clack, I caught all the stones I had been juggling and then dropped them. Turning to her, I found her glaring at me.
Sighing again, I ran a hand through my hair. “Look, I won’t say that I don’t find what you people do here disgusting.” I spread out my hands and continued before she could interrupt. “But, as I said, I am no one to judge. This is all you people grew up with but there is one question I will ask… Why? When you have alternate resources, when you have me… why must you resort to sucking the life-force out of males? Since there is an alternative, why did you find it necessary to take a life?”
Kara’s posture loosened, her arms hanging limply by her side as she looked up at the moon.
“When I was called by the elder to discuss business with a Deacon from the Moonlight Sword Sect, I never expected them to offer one of their disciples up as a bargaining chip. That too one at the sixth layer of Qi condensation. If I could absorb his essence, then I could easily progress to the eighth layer. With your help, I wouldn’t have to worry about the long time it would take to refine the mana either…”
She sighed. “I was excited about it but I don’t know why, I thought about you and how you would disapprove… So, I came back to ask you about it, then I saw you two on the bed. Then it hit me. I was being quite silly. We are business partners at the most. Why must I care about your opinion? In fact, given how efficient a live person is in comparison to plant-based resources, you should be happy that I cut such a fine deal.”
She turned to me and smiled strangely. “I took them up on their offer… I must say, even though it was quite the rush to have my cultivation advance so violently, it felt better with you.”
She paused. “I think I will take up Lin on that offer of hers.” Walking up to the barrel, she tested the warmth of the water. Finding it appropriate, she turned back to me.
“Well, what are you waiting for? If you aren’t here to condemn me, then you may as well help me purify my Spirit.”
I had concluded something similar when I had noticed Kara’s signal growing fuzzy. I knew that the most likely reason was her taking in some Qi from outside – and the only thing that could pollute her Spirit enough to muddy her signal that much in such a short time was the Essence of a man.
It turned out that the Moonlight Sword Sect were more despicable than I thought – simply treating their disciples as goods to trade. Bah. Righteous path my foot.
I couldn’t help but have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I stared Kara with a complex expression on my face. A leopard couldn’t change its spots after all. I had naively thought that after sex with me and seeing how much better it was than the unholy communion they performed in the guise of cultivation, she wouldn’t revert to rape and pillory.
I was wrong. If the benefit was enough, she would move. And now, she nonchalantly asked me to help her deal with the consequences. Asked me to become an accomplice in her crime.
She wanted to do it again, I realised.
Noting my expression, Kara seemed to have a revelation. “Oh, don’t worry. I won’t let your precious Lin do it. It’ll only be me. You can still have her to yourself,” she chuckled, “At least until you get bored. You men are all the same, aren’t you? They all used to say the same things when they took me at the brothels. ‘You’re mine! I’ll make you forget everyone else with my cock!’ They all boasted. And like the fool I was, I moaned and catered to them the best I could so that maybe, just maybe, they’d take me away. Living with one of the limp-dicked bastards seemed preferable to having them take me in turns, won’t you agree?”
I was speechless.
She waved her hand and chuckled self-depreciatingly again. “Don’t worry, they said that to all the other girls too. I found out later. Too late. By that time, I had already gained the title of the best in the whorehouse and they asked for me all the time. Well, its not all bad. If I weren’t the head girl, maybe I wouldn’t have had the chance to follow Mistress.”
She smiled nostalgically, then her lips set in a flat line as she turned back to me. “Well, what is it? It’s just some sex. If you have trouble getting it up cause I’m ‘used goods’ I can pretend to be a virgin just for you. I’m told I pull off the act very well. I even do variations – do you want the scared screamer or the eager experimentalist? Most liked the first one.” she said as she struck a sultry pose with her hands on her hips, accentuating her waist and her chest pushed forward, displaying her curves to perfection.
Her legs were spread just the right bit apart to part the towel enough to give a titillating glimpse of her inner thighs and cause her toned calves to contrast against the silver of the moonlight.
She had definitely drilled that pose before a mirror. Many times – till it became an instinct. It’d drive any fashion photographer wild.
I sighed again and moved towards her – better to nip this line of thought in the bud. The lady was jealous but too caught up in her past and her stubbornness to admit it.
At the risk of sounding just as evil as the men who tormented her in her youth – I looked her in the eye, “You’re mine! I’ll make you forget everyone else with my cock!”