Lin’s courtyard was at the very edge of the residential areas. I was on edge the entire time we were sneaking past the courtyards of the other members of the sect for fear that one of them would pop out and question us on why we were traipsing around buck naked with an unconscious girl and a man not in chains. Thankfully, the entire area was deserted. Everyone seemed to have left to participate in whatever hellish ‘initiation’ they had in store for the new recruits. Actually, their enthusiasm reminded me of excited seniors eager to haze the freshmen. I guess, some things never changed – even across worlds.
I had gained some measure of power from my sexual vampirism but I wasn’t naïve or arrogant enough to think that it would be enough to fend off any of the other disciples. My ability to physically overpower Lin wasn’t any indication otherwise. In fact, I had a distinct feeling that both Lin and her yet unnamed senior sister were at the absolute bottom of the food chain here. The fact that they had to act all sneaky to get one half-dead male screamed of marginalization. The outlying position of Lin’s residence just firmed my confidence in my observations.
I needed to ask her about it. Information was of utmost priority if I wanted to avoid ending up as a cultivation resource for some horny succubus. My doubts about why Lin trusted me despite everything were eating away at me. I had a lot of questions but first…
“D-do you have any c-clothes I could wear?” I asked through chattering teeth as we finally reached her abode. We had been naked the entire time and although at first, the enhancement to my physique helped me stand the chilly mountain breeze, the prolonged exposure was getting to me. She pushed past the door, laying her senior sister on a bed and covered her up with a blanket. Then she turned to me. My eyes were automatically drawn to her massive mammaries that swung gently from the motion before stilling. Hail inertia. Her nipples were puckered from the cold but other than that she didn’t show any outward signs of discomfort. I guess as a mountain lass, she was much more acclimatized to the environment than men of the plains like either me or Liu Yang.
Conjecturing that talking to a woman’s chest was as off-putting in this world as it was back on earth, I turned my gaze up to her face and repeated my question. “Clothes… do you have anything I could wear?”
“I-I don’t have anything for men… you could wear some of mine but… I’m not sure that they would fit you.” she replied.
Uhh… I’d like to avoid crossdressing if I absolutely can. Specially in this buff new body.
“Okay… do you have a spare bedsheet?”
“Needle and thread?”
“Well then, I think I can make me some gear.”
“You’re a tailor?” she asked, surprised.
“In a manner of speaking.” I hedged. I had chosen to sew stuffed toys for orphanages during my stay in prison. With my physique, hard labour wasn’t something I was cut out for. Let alone, my skin never got along well with the sun. If I had to break rocks under the sweltering heat, I’d come away looking like a parboiled monkey. So, it was the needle and thread for me despite the ribbing I received from the male inmates and some of the females. Thimble Thornton, that was me.
“We should take a bath first,” she said, “you can’t keep looking like that.”
Touching my face, I felt the encrusted blood on it. A nice warm bath would be good. “You have water here?” I asked. She nodded, reached out to grab my hand and pulled me out of the house again. Circling around to the side, she brought me to an open area with a man-sized wooden barrel placed upon a circle of stones.
“Wait here.” She said and left me standing there awkwardly, rubbing my arm and shivering in the chill. It didn’t take her long to come back with buckets of water in each hand which she dumped into the barrel.
“Need help?” I asked because that was what a gentleman should do and also to keep myself warm with the physical exertion. “Okay.” she agreed with a smile. I noticed that the bruise on her cheek had already subsided a lot. The way it was vanishing, it would be gone in hours. The wonders of Cultivation, I suppose. After all, my much more serious injuries had healed in an instant.
We worked in silence, ferrying buckets of water to and from the small spring that ran through her courtyard. When asked about the source of the spring, she pointed up at the summit of the mountain. The formation apparently had the additional function of keeping the clouds away from the peak, which had given me the misconception that the mountain was shorter than it actually was. According to Lin, the peak was high enough that it remained snowbound throughout the year. The snowmelt was the source of the gushing mountain springs that supplied the sect with its water.
Having a personal spring in her courtyard indicated that I might have been somewhat wrong in my guess that she was a bottom-feeder in her sect. Well, I’ll just have to find out.
It took some time but soon, the barrel was three-quarters full and Lin called a halt. All the exercise had warmed me up and given me a rough understanding of my new body. I would have collapsed before three trips were up in my old body. Now, I wasn’t even breathing hard. I turned to Lin who had finished kindling the fire under the barrel with flint and iron and was now blowing into it through a bamboo pipe to stoke it. She was unphased by the exercise.
She seemed unphased by her nudity as well. I was feeling increasingly uncomfortable with my current state of undress. Had I landed in the middle of a clan of naturalists? Sighing, I found a smooth rock to sit on near the now crackling fire, stretching out my palms towards it to warm them as we waited for the water in the barrel to heat up.
“So,” I began, “can you tell me about the Yang Demon Sect that your senior sister was talking about?”
“Sure,” she replied, without taking her eyes away from the fire. “As you might have guessed from the name, they are the male equivalent of our sect, but unlike us, they don’t have a fixed residence. They are more like a loose organization of demon Cultivators who practice the same cultivation technique. And unlike us, since they have nothing to offer, they are hunted down by the righteous path as though they were demonic beasts.”
Demonic beasts? No, not important right now.
“So, how are you sure that I’m not one of them like your senior sister said?”
A lifetime ago, when was a second year in college, one morning my girlfriend had straight up told me that she was grossed out by my attempts to kiss her awake without brushing my teeth first. I had never done that again but her words had set me thinking about my ex. She always used to lean away and frown whenever I did it but, in the end, she would suffer through it silently. Until one day, she just blocked my face with her palm and walked out on me. I’m sure there were other gripes she had with me, not just the unhygienic kissing but whatever they might have been, she kept all her complaints bottled up until they exploded. My relationship with the second-year girl lasted a lot longer. Moral of the story: some girls will be up-front with you but for the others, its all body language cues you are supposed to notice. If you don’t, a break-up is right around the corner. Lin was the second type and I couldn’t afford a break-up.
She trusted me for some reason despite all contraindications. If I wasn’t clear about why, there would come a time that I would unknowingly mess up and the tenuous relationship we had now would crumble. The moment I lost her support, I was done for. So, I had to lay all the cards on the table right at the outset.
“Lin, why are you helping me?”
She looked away from the fire and right into my eyes. “Your cultivation method… it’s too advanced for a tiny place like the Coral Islands. Who are you really, Liu Yang?”