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At close to noon the next day, Yan Xiaohan took a step onto nothing in his dream world, then awoke with a start.
He was laying down flat on an inn’s bed, plain blue muslin curtains as far as his eyes could see. A quilt was tucked in close under his chin, and he wasn’t naked, his inner robes still properly arranged on him.
He stared blankly, unfocused, at the canopy for a minute. Only after that, in the midst of his violent headache, did he recall all the happenings from last night; first, he fell into a trap, then was rescued by someone and taken away, which he lost consciousness for a while partway through, and when he woke up again, Fu Shen had appeared in front of the bed… shortly followed by endless lovemaking and impassioned sensations. He had been on the verge of losing control, so many of the remembered details were in hazy disarray, but the lone thing he couldn’t forget was that ecstasy that could make one tremble, nearly carved into his bones.
Wait… Fu Shen?
He subconsciously went and felt the other side of the bed. It was empty as the void, and had long gone cold. It was like someone just twisted his heart, his face losing all color. He lifted the quilt off and stumbled out of bed, not even putting shoes on as he ran out with bare feet.
What about that man?!
Did he just have a preposterous dream, or was it real? How could Fu Shen suddenly show up here? The man who was pressed against and wound around him last night… who actually was he?
He’d been overstimulated by the drugs; his mind was numb even now, memories and thoughts an allotment of chaos, all to the extent that he didn’t pay any notice to many obvious markings. All fuzzed up in alarm, he recklessly yanked open the door and burst into the corridor.
Fu Shen just so happened to be carrying a few paper bags upstairs, and the two came face-to-face at the head of the steps. He wasn’t wearing the mask, that completely uncovered, sharp, and handsome face striking into Yan Xiaohan’s pupils from so out of the blue.
“You’re awake?” He raised his eyes, switching the medicine bag over to his left hand. The way he asked couldn’t have been more dull and ordinary. “Why did you run out without putting shoes on?”
Yan Xiaohan’s eyes went red around the rims in a flash. He flung himself over to give the man a firm hug.
“Hey, ease up a bit…” Fu Shen used his only free hand to pat him on his slightly shivering back. “You’re going to snap that waist.”
He stopped himself in his chattering, feeling that those words tasted a bit off the second he’d said them.
“It really is you…” Yan Xiaohan muttered, “I thought… I had actually done the stupidest thing…”
The character ‘Ren’ (任) was similar to ‘person’ (人, rén, radical form 亻). ‘Miao’ (淼) was three waters (水, radical form 氵). ‘Ren Miao’ was, in fact, precisely the radicals for the characters for ‘Fu Shen’ (傅深). On top of that, there was all that deeply hidden skill, and even that so-called ‘Young Miss Meng’… there were so many easily-seen clues waved right before his eyes, yet he passed over them like a blind man.
Were it not for his dangerous imprisonment yesterday evening, where Fu Shen had no alternative but to unveil his identity of his own volition, would he have ever recognized this man he shared a pillow with on the daily?
Fu Shen couldn’t keep his grin down. “You sure weren’t being smart.”
He slowly smoothed along Yan Xiaohan’s back, like he was holding a big child. When he was a little calmer, he took his freezing hand and led him back into the room, pushing him down onto the bed. “The ground’s cold. Don’t go nuts, now, sit back down. I went downstairs to get someone to decoct some medicine and asked for the server to send some hot water up while I was at it.”
Seeing Yan Xiaohan being absent-minded, no response palpable from his expression, Fu Shen couldn’t feel at ease. He moved in close and bowed his head to give him a kiss on the side of his face. “I’ll be back soon,” he soothed.
Physical contact was more effective than words. A spot of spiritedness finally arose from within Yan Xiaohan’s deadened pupils, ears slightly red at the bases, and the back of his hand touched Fu Shen’s cheek with yearning. “Mn. Go on then.”
He seemed to wake up from his upside-down, jumbled nightmare at last. The numbness brought about by the heightened excitement was gradually replaced by a soreness, this entire series of events stringing together in his head. His rationality that had been smashed on the ground was once again picked up and pieced together, after which brightly-colored, freshly-scented, alluring fragments came crashing out like innumerable raging waves.
Yan Xiaohan: “……”
Previously apprehensive about Fu Shen’s health, all the things that he hadn’t dared to do on the night of their marriage consummation… the other man had done in their entirety last night.
Wouldn’t his knees vanish completely from the abuse…?
Like loud thunder clapping in his mind, he suddenly remembered something he had gotten accustomed to since his awakening – Fu Shen had actually stood up!
The door creaked open and Fu Shen stepped in, not yet able to open his mouth before Yan Xiaohan overtook him. “Jingyuan… what’s going on with your legs?”
“Oh, did you finally remember?” Fu Shen moved his robes aside to show him the two unique black boots. “The Munitions Department helped me out by making it. I can walk like normal after I put them on. Relax, I’m not using my feet to walk right now. I’m not hurting my legs.”
He’d had long and straight legs to begin with, and with metal segments under his soles now raising him up a few cun, he stood at more or less equal height to Yan Xiaohan. Paired with the tight black boots and three pairs of dark-silver iron buckles, it exhibited his lithe, tall figure; nearly a walking ‘enticement’.
Yan Xiaohan coughed with unease. The minute his thoughts strayed, his headache got all the more intense, and he resisted it as he spoke. “That’s not right, yesterday… the rain was so heavy the day before. You ran a whole day in it? Usually, every time it’s overcast at home, it hurts too much for you to sleep. You…”
Fu Shen blocked his mouth. “I brought medicine, provided by Du Leng. My calves go numb after I eat it and I can’t feel anything. I don’t need them to walk, anyways, so it’s really no big deal. I’m not lying to you.”
“If you actually had a miracle drug like that, then why didn’t you use it earlier instead of waiting until now to take it out?” Yan Xiaohan refused to be duped. “Don’t pretend that it’s fine to ease my heart.”
Fu Shen’s words were now blocked up, his surrender following. “Alright, there’s actually one thing… remember how when I found you yesterday, I told you I was unusually tired? That drug makes you sleep after ingesting it. At the time I woke up and came over, all of you had gone without a trace.”
“It’s my fault.” Yan Xiaohan rubbed his temple, voice exhausted. “If I recognized you sooner, I wouldn’t have had you suffer so much hardship in vain.”
Fu Shen was most unwilling to listen to words like this, but right when he about to blow up, he saw the other’s haggard-looking face, and pinched his nose in restraint. “Don’t be concerned about me, care about yourself first. I went looking for a doctor and asked him this morning; the drug you took was whitedew, without a doubt. That crap is addictive at first use and hard to kick. Pass a letter on to the Prince of Qi that you can’t do this assignment and come back with me to the capital for treatment, okay?”
“Why is there whitedew here?” Yan Xiaohan asked. “The whitedew in the capital was brought in by Priest Chunyang. Is this place the origin?”
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s whitedew or blackdew, its addiction is terrible, and you’re even clearer on that than me! Can’t you treat yourself first, then worry about what happens to others?!”
Yan Xiaohan shook his head. “Jingyuan, if you were in my place, you’d also go investigate.”
“My ass, I would!” Fu Shen’s rage soared upwards. “What’s the difference between this stupid thing befalling you or befalling me? Will it kill you to be away from society, or what? You’re being so damn pig-headed!”
Only after he finished scolding him did he remember that the doctor had said to him that someone who had taken whitedew, due to the mind being overstimulated during the onset, would have forgetfulness, disordered thinking, wavering attention span, depression, and other symptoms when the drug’s effects waned. He couldn’t be irritable or reprimanding; he had to patiently keep him company and help him through his gradual withdrawals, a project that would take a long time to whittle away.
—In Fu Shen’s opinion, it was just like an old ox pulling a broken cart.
Yan Xiaohan didn’t have the strength to argue with him. What Fu Shen said wasn’t without reason, but he simply couldn’t hear anything right now. It was like his neck was lugging a watermelon, with even logic becoming an extremely difficult and painful matter. He was aware, of course, that silence would only make the atmosphere between them even worse, but tiredness and mental weariness flared up, along with the low spirits he had nowhere to vent overflowing in his chest. He genuinely couldn’t muster up the energy to try and redeem anything.
Fu Shen frowned and stood up. Yan Xiaohan believed he was going to throw the door open and go, then, but those black boots stopped before the bed. “Forget it… if you’re not going back, then you’re not going back. I can’t control you.”
Heartstrings inadvertently plucked, Yan Xiaohan’s response was to raise his head very slowly to look at him. His surprise was like a distant tide – though it hadn’t yet arrived at the shore, he could still detect its faint tremor.
Fu Shen cattily pinched him on the tip of his ear, his doting intentions on full display. “If you’re not going back to the capital, you have to be good and follow me. You’re not allowed to go running around at random, and you have to take your medicine and treat your condition. Got it?”
Yan Xiaohan nodded on instinct. Fu Shen leaned over and kissed him on the center of his brows. “It’s okay, don’t be afraid. Do what you’re told and I’ll handle everything.”
He had a bizarre, reassuring sort of calmness, perhaps an aura that had been perfected by many years of leading troops. It made Yan Xiaohan feel that even if the heavens fell down in front of him, so long as Fu Shen was there, he could still still establish a stretch of peaceful land for him.
Fu Shen also had a possessive desire, in fact, but it wasn’t obvious. He appeared indifferent when Yan Xiaohan leapt all around and about, and it waited until just this moment to erupt in its entirety. The only thought in his mind was, no matter whether it was in the capital or Jing Prefecture, this man absolutely had to stay within eyesight. As for the Prince of Qi and the assignment – they can go to hell.
Right then, the server’s knocking resounded from outside the door. “Esteemed guest, the hot water is here!”
Along with the water came a tableful of food. Yan Xiaohan used a towel to wring out his semi-dried hair as he walked out after his bath, then spotted a pot of deep brown, heated medicinal soup on the table, the scent offensive to the nostrils. “What is this?” he couldn’t help but ask out of curiosity.
Fu Shen ladled a bowl for him. “I specially ordered a healing tonic. Isn’t your waist sore?” he replied, sounding selfless.
At the word ‘healing’, a layer of suspicious blush promptly appeared on Yan Xiaohan’s ears. He was only wearing his thin innermost robes, the skin on his chest and neck all exposed to the outside, making the redness thus particularly conspicuous. Fu Shen was almost dazzled by him; while he gave him a glance with ambiguous intent, he also felt his slightly flustered-looking appearance both pitiful and cute.
He picked up the bowl and took a sip of it. Thinking the flavor to be barely passable, he picked up a piece of clothing and draped it over Yan Xiaohan, calling for him to sit down and eat.
It was like their roles were suddenly reversed. Previously, Yan Xiaohan tirelessly looked after Fu Shen no matter how small the matter was, and now it was Fu Shen who was being more meticulously considerate.
Above all, when it came to ordinarily rough-handed gentlemen, that consideration looked especially rare and valuable.
A bit of an unnamed feeling diffused in Yan Xiaohan’s heart. It wasn’t entirely sweet, even seeming a bit inexpressibly tart and bitter. He should have been the one taking care of Fu Shen, but instead, he made him run about in the heavy rain, then waited for him to come rescue him and ease the drug’s properties for him, making him expend his mental and physical strength on his behalf…
His self-scorn grew rampant like weeds. A burst of white steam rose up in front of his eyes all of a sudden, and when he focused them, a bowl of healing tonic had been placed before him.
He unconsciously reached out and took it, then saw Fu Shen pick up his own bowl and lightly bump it against his. The crisp sound of a ding rang out as they collided, and Fu Shen said something with a heroic spirit that soared towards the sky. “To screwing.”
Yan Xiaohan: “……”
The translator says: In that last line, Fu Shen said the character “干” alone. One of its 20 different uses is “fuck”. Nice.