115 Chapter One Hundred and Fourteen - Together as One

    The first snow came down steadily, thickly, but gentle in its own way.  The second bout of snow was different.  The first snow created a blanket of powder a few inches deep without the precarious risk of compressed ice lurking hidden in its white depths and wasn't too tedious to move through.  And as it was not difficult for people, it would not be an obstacle to zombies either.  Tyler and Ren Zexian dealt with the soft snow efficiently, clearing pathways and walls and rooftops, reducing worries over the next bout that was certain to come, while others dealt with the unfazed undead.

    The second wave of frozen snow came in blizzard form, the strong winds sweeping the falling flakes into a frenzy, blinding anyone unlucky to be out in it.  Zombies did not completely rely on their vision, but any with the ability to hear could only listen to the howling winds and the smells of warm mortal bodies, while not reduced, were carried on the winds in all directions; it was impossible to be lured directly towards their source.  Tyler, Chang Min, Cole and Ren Zexian could also not visually sense the undead, but their other abilities made up for the lack and they 'watched' the zombies wander frantically in numerous directions before some began to stiffen with the ice freezing their rotting muscles.

    Chang Min adjusted the thick scarves wrapped around his lover's neck and patted his chest once he was finished.  Leaning close to combat the deafening winds, he murmured into Cole's ear.  "You should return home.  You're too cold."

    "No need."  Cole smiled beneath the heavy wool where pin pricks of icy air were burying their way through the tiny gaps in the knit.  It was **ing freezing, he admitted inwardly, but he wasn't about to let Chang Min suffer out here alone.  That said, his resolve only lasted a short as he embarrassingly was scooped up into princess hold once the chattering of his teeth reached Chang Min's ears and the shorter man carried him quickly into the shelter of the first property's hallway.

    Actually, not only in the blizzard conditions, but the unforgiving chill of the night, ordinary people could not expose themselves to the subzero temperatures that plagued them mostly during this time without the relief of any winter sun and could only allow others to suffer in their stead.  Primary stage ability users did not have it much better unless like Rohan, whose fire root provided him with an internal radiator of warmth allowing him to walk outside for much longer periods than he might otherwise.  Those who had cultivated to secondary stage had it a little easier, though it wasn't wise remain outside for more than an hour even then.  So the duty of night patrols were mostly on Chang Min, Ren Zexian and Tyler's shoulders.

    Why that particular person?  His cultivation method was one a kin to the cold, naturally he could best withstand the icy temperatures compared to others.  In fact, a sunny winter day, with temperatures just above freezing were comfortable rather than cold in his opinion.

    And then, he quietly passed through the thin barrier between secondary and tertiary stage without warning.

    "Master!  It has only been a year!" Chang Min spoke his worries about this quietly to his Master, while others were offering their heartfelt or otherwise congratulations and teasing words in the camaraderie sense.

    "Hmm," Ren Zexian agreed, but didn't share the worries of his student.  "But thing of all that he has done in this year."  Tyler was not only responsible for much of their drinking water, he had to supply bath water and water for washing dishes and clothes.  He practiced purifying dirty water, though his achievements were still not great in this field, plus he insured their freezer room was constantly cold and not at risk of defrosting.  And with all of this, he still took a turn patrolling the walls, fighting when necessary.  "Besides, do you believe that the cultivation method that I gave him was ordinary?"

    This last point alone gave Chang Min pause, before his could only shake his head.  Their old friends had often complained cheerfully that his Master considered those very rare and profound methods he collected as common as the basic cultivation method that pretty much every cultivating child was taught.  He never once thought of hoarding precious materials or resources, giving them away willingly as if they were nothing more than waste paper.

    Unlike Tyler, his own protege come lover did not break through to the next level quietly.  Anyone with an ability felt a great movement in the atmosphere causing the hair upon their bodies to stand on end and even anyone without an ability could feel the ground tremor beneath their feet, hear the pans rattling in the cupboards, glassware chinking on the sides.  And from where he rested in the third property, while holding a nestling youth to his side, Ren Zexian sensed the disturbance of Heaven and Earth coming from the first property.

    Fortunately, no one thought to disturb the person responsible or they would have received a rather x-rated display to add to memory.

    Cole had been considering certain matters between himself and Chang Min for a while.  Dao Companionship was a kin to a marriage without divorce, a serious matter that needed much thought and Chang Min had given him this time to do so, thinking that due to the incarceration he experienced in his youth, he did not like to feel trapped.  But actually, Cole had not been entirely forthright with his hated life history that was the true caused for him to hesitate this long.

    His parents had actually been devout in their worship of God, self-assured in the morals and rules of their faith and strict upon themselves and their children.  It often came about that children will often follow in their parents footsteps or rebel and head in the opposite direction.  Cole was listed amongst the latter, but he hadn't really hated the religious thing, although in prison he came to realise that he didn't share his parents undying faith.  What he hated the most was something else; the fact that their beliefs had them refusing separation and divorce.  His parents marriage had more or less been encouraged, to the point that it might as well have been an arranged marriage, by their religious parents and their church.  But after marriage, they found that other than their faith, they really did not see eye to eye.

    The more a marriage progresses, the more differences in opinion begin to occur.  Where to live, how household chores are divided, over income and expenditure and of course over children, raising, discipline, school... where there is balance and discussion in many marriages, these arguments could be settled, resolved to a degree, but where there are two people who do not wish to give ground, there is nothing but a swiftly crumbling foundation that is literally relying on faith and scripture to hold it up.

    Cole was the second oldest of three children, each would be shaped differently in this toxic family environment.  For instance, Cole rebelled strongly, got into fights to vent his frustrations, ended up putting another youth in the hospital and ended up serving a short time in prison.  His older brother had sheltered in their faith to the point that he was planning to give up the rights of marriage and adorn a priests frock, while their little sister submissively accepted a proposal of marriage to a man who, in Cole's opinion, was a Neanderthal in his concepts of women's rights that even his old man should have frowned upon.  Unfortunately, at that time,  Cole had already been excommunicated from the church and disowned by his parents, only receiving the news from his older brother, who for his own reasons did not try change the girl's mind.

    Cole didn't know what had happened to his family after the End, but the marriage date had been due after the apocalypse, so chances were that it hadn't gone ahead and zombie or otherwise, Catherine was free from that man... he cast aside any other thoughts regarding her fate or the fate of others he'd encountered in his life.  In this Era, it was better to consider the present, better for one's survival and sanity.

    Anyway it was safe to say that Cole came out of that environment, not hating marriage but hating marriage without divorce.

    Yet basking in the glow of fulfilment and contentment, enjoying the heat cast by his lover, that hatred had become nothing but a wisp of memory.  In fact, over the weeks in which he'd dwelled upon it, he'd come to realise that divorce happened to couples that chose to part due to their own reasons.  True, he'd thought that divorce would have been the best thing to happen to his own parents at that time, but reality was that it may also have not been the best thing... regardless, that had been his incompatible parents' choice.  If he had to chose parting from Chang Min?  He really couldn't do that.

    Ignoring the slight discomfort in his arse and hips as he moved, Cole curled his glistening arms about his lover, who willingly curled into his embrace with a joy felt hum.  "Tell me more about Dao Companionship," Cole murmured after a moment or two.

    "Really?" Chang Min giddily questioned, his lips spread wide in smile.  Cole's heart skipped a beat and he nodded, feeling that this was definitely right.  Chang Min didn't give him time to change his mind either, instead rolling on top of his man and lowering his hips in order to take his lover's hardening part into the warmth of his body this time.  Cole felt an instant rush of pleasure and couldn't help but groan; Chang Min was so tight and hadn't prepared himself well, yet that somehow didn't stop the man from completely enveloping him.

    Chang Min murmured joyfully into his ear, slowly explaining everything he needed to know, answering his stuttered questions as he tried to forget the warmth, the delicious sensations that were being transmitted to his brain more easily than his lover's instructions.  It seemed like an eternity into their joining when Cole's mind finally felt enlightened enough for them to proceed and Cole closed his eyes in relief as he began his cultivation, the focus of which stole him away from the torturous pleasure.

    Cole's inner sea landscape was made of elements of earth, just as Chang Min's, though the latter was of an imposing mountain when in its normal state, Cole's was more fluid.  At the beginning, one could see a landscape of gold and red sands interweaving before dusting over soil, chunks of dry clay, pebbles, rocks, flint, which surrounding outcroppings of chalk, limestone, marble...  it was primitive, unformed and seemingly random, yet there was also an attractive rawness to it.

    Excited by the cultivation process, the tiny grains of sands and soil swirled around chunks of clay and stone and two large moving columns began to dominate and consume the landscape before particles were swept from both towards his meridians... and towards Chang Min's.  In exchange, particles that at first glance did not seem any different from his own poured into him in a wave of unexplainable ecstasy.  The flavour of them was definitely distinguishable from his own, thick with potency and he unconsciously gasped as they entered his inner sea, interweaving with the remnant energy in the earthen columns.

    Possible, he'd been on the edge of breaking through anyway, but within moments of the energies mixing, he felt as if he was unable to hold back; the entire crumbling mass of the columns exploded outwards, tearing through his body.  But there was no pain as he might have expected for a brief moment, only a sensation not unlike a heady orgasm ripping through him and deafening and blinding him for that prolonged moment.  Indeed, his body did interpret things this way and as he collapsed into unconscious, he softened inside Chang Min's body.

    Chang Min was startled, but thinking over matters, couldn't help but giggle.  Shaking his head, his eyes filled with warmth, he lifted himself off of Cole, kissed his unmoving lips then fell asleep beside him.  They were now considered as one.
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