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These three blurbs are available only on Weibo. The first two aren’t full-fledged extras because they’re not very long, and the third one CWBB herself mentioned in her concluding notes, saying it was too ‘shocking’. The shocking content is… not even remotely shocking. You’ll see.]
At the winter solstice’s recurrence, the Empress Dowager continued the old Changzhi Dynasty custom of ordering the imperial kitchens to make lamb-and-dumpling soup and bestowing it to all the officials, thus leaving Fu Shen and Yan Xiaohan behind to accompany the child Emperor in his evening meal. By happenstance, an internal attendant came into the palace with a freshly-created Cold-Dispelling Chart. Fu Shen personally taught his little nephew how to draw plum blossoms, and the Dowager was eager for someone to help her look after the kid, so Mister Yan had no choice but to drink a half-bowl of vinegar in the face of their joyful chatter.
Back in the Estate at nightfall, Yan Xiaohan hung their imperially-bestowed Cold-Dispelling Chart up in the study. Right when he dipped his brush and went to dot off the first plum blossom, Fu Shen suddenly turned evil and jumped on him, hanging onto his back. The pounce made Sir Yan’s hand jolt, his drawing going askew.
Yan Xiaohan huffed breathily. “You just had to cause trouble. A perfectly good picture, entirely ruined by you.”
Fu Shen restrained his grin, turned him around by the shoulder, then spoke to him tenderly and languidly. “If it’s ruined, then it’s ruined. Can’t I just compensate you another time?”
Saying so, he buried his head down with one hand climbing Yan Xiaohan’s shoulder, one pulling open his tightly-concealing collar, and sucked a petal-like red mark onto his neck.
“You’re using this move again…” Yan Xiaohan said.
Fu Shen slowly tidied up his collar for him.
“Plum blossoms dispel cold, a beauty on a cold night.” He smiled fakely, patting the branded imprint on the other’s skin through his clothes. “Do those not complement each other?”
Yan Xiaohan: “……”
Due to the philandering Sir Yan making a prompt decision, the man was pushed down, dragging him into drawing an eveningful of plum blossoms during the longest winter night of the year.
 九九消寒图 – jiujiu xiaohan tu, lit. “81 Day Chart for Dispelling the Cold”. It’s a chart with something drawn in 9 different groups of 9 (a flower branch containing 9 flowers, each with 9 petals, is a common design), and each of the items is crossed off for each day following the winter solstice. By the time the 81 days are over, it’s March, hence ‘cold-dispelling’. (Also, yes, that xiaohan is pronounced exactly the same.)
 Oof, puns. The pinyin for 梅花消寒, 美人宵寒 is méihuā xiāohán, měirén xiāohán; the wordplay is evident, though almost all the characters are different.
Fu Shen was spending this New Year’s in Yan Prefecture.
Ever since the new lord filled the throne, the Tartars, who had been stabilized with great difficulty for several years, were getting restless again. The year before, Fu Shen had been patrolling Jiangnan when he received urgent military information from Court, and he was forced to abandon Yan Xiaohan, traveling by starry night to hurry back to the Prefecture. Before anything else, he scolded the local defending army, then led people to once again lay out defenses in preparation for war, welcoming the invading enemies to battle.
The days of keeping a spear by his pillow in wait for the dawn had once been the normal state of his life, but he had been young and without worries at that time, so it hadn’t felt like much. Now, his age was gradually getting greater, and he had injuries — despite both of those being minor defects, he never had much peace, as if something was missing. Every night he went to bed, he would wake with a start a couple of times.
As he wasn’t sleeping well, he had a bad temper, and on top of that, the Yan defenders had been severely slacking the past year. Every day he scolded someone in the encampment, from the commanding generals to the meal-preparing mess cooks. The scolding had put all the people in Yan Prefecture on edge, and every rank was terrified, not daring to even talk loudly. It got to point that, were Fu Shen to drink water and then choke and cough on it, there would possibly be five people simultaneously coming out to beg forgiveness after the fact.
Once the new year had passed, the Yan army had battled out two fortune-changing victories, and drove the Tartars that had snuck across the boundary for pillaging back into the grasslands. With the border hostilities pacified, the armymen finally let out a sigh of relief, and they dared to talk a bit louder, as well as lift their heads slightly.
The border area was bitterly cold. As was said, ‘the north skies of August prompt flying snow’, the Yan snow was going to go all the way until next March. On this day, Fu Shen went to make his rounds in camp. When the sky had not yet lightened, there were snowflakes drifting down outside, and by the time he returned at noon, there was already a layer of thick snow cover spread out on the ground.
“This is the final snowfall of the year, right?” Yuan Shu, the garrison officer who was journeying with him, sighed. “If this were Jiangnan, the peach blossoms ought to all be in bloom right now.”
Fu Shen dismounted his horse, passed the reins to a bodyguard, and talked as he walked to the inside of his tent. “If you really want to view flowers so much, plant a few trees yourself and go have a blast.”
Yuan Shu was quite familiar with him from before, so he wasn’t afraid to joke around. “Your young heart is akin to iron, General. You really don’t understand the appeal.”
“What do I need to understand?” Fu Shen countered indifferently. “That you’re here, moaning and groaning because you miss spring?”
Yuan Shu: “……”
Isn’t being a married man fantastic? Aren’t you sleeping alone like a bachelor, too?!
Fu Shen tread upon the brilliant white snow, getting the overall sense that something was a bit amiss the whole way, yet unable to state exactly what. Only when he lifted the curtain, went into the tent, and noticed that a plum blossom that came out of nowhere was on his desk did that vague, subtle feeling finally fall to the ground.
A strong gust of wind attacked him from behind, grabbing him and turning him over like a wild animal. The strength used to hug his waist was like he couldn’t wait to cut off his breathing by force, but the kiss that fell upon him was unexpectedly tender and touching.
The knifehand that had been raised up high ultimately dropped featherlight onto his shoulder. “Why did you run over here?” Fu Shen asked with a grin during a gap of intimate kisses.
Yan Xiaohan held him with one hand, and undid the clasp on his sable-fur coat for him with the other. They put their heads together in an utterly longing pose. “I missed you.”
Having not met for close to three months, as soon as his familiar body heat was closely embraced, that heart-scratching pining backlashed the same as a torrent. Yan Xiaohan picked Fu Shen up and placed him on top of the table, lowering his head to seek out his lips.
With no strength to use this time, Fu Shen’s world went dark before his eyes from getting kissed by him. His upper body kept continuously bending backwards until he genuinely ended up not being able to support himself, having no alternative but to prop one hand behind him on the table, which just so happened to press down on that plum blossom.
The tender petals brushed past his palm. The sensation was as thin as a cicada’s wing, but it still caused him to feel a current of flourishing, splendid springtime emotions.
Cut flowers come ‘cross by a postman, sent to the man on Longtou. Jiangnan had nothing but the temporary bestowment of a sprig of spring.
Yan Xiaohan was currently patrolling Jiangnan on imperial orders. He couldn’t easily move about unpermitted with his present status, but, regardless of whether it was then or now, so long as he wanted to see Fu Shen, the distance didn’t matter — he would surely overcome all complications to hurry there.
Limitless tenderness abruptly rushed forth in Fu Shen’s heart.
Snowflakes thawed, turning into slightly cool droplets at the temples. Yan Xiaohan warmed his neck with his palm. “Do you remember what day it is today?” he asked quietly.
Fu Shen grasped a petal of the plum blossom between his fingertips and stuck it between the other’s brows. “Since you’ve asked that, Mister Yan; was the marriage sanction sanctioned to you alone?”
The twelfth of February, on the Flower Festival, was the day they got married that year.
Pet along his fur by that one sentence of his, Yan Xiaohan smiled lightly, then continued to pamperedly put forward an irrational demand. “I’ll stay here to accompany you, alright? It’s not the first time I’ve stowed away in your army tent anyways, Duke.”
The war was settled, and he would be coming back to the capital in a few days’ time. There was nothing wrong with Yan Xiaohan staying for that duration, so Fu Shen tacitly accepted this action, but his mouth said: “You let go of a good place to wait in like Jiangnan, and insisted on running over to come get frozen in this iceland.”
“I didn’t think you would get back in time, so where would I have the thought to mind whether it’s cold or hot?” Yan Xiaohan replied, completely self-confident. “Besides, don’t I have your blanket, Duke?”
Fu Shen: “……”
The next day, sunshine illuminated everything, melting the ice and snow. Completely uncharacteristically, General Fu was not swearing. The entirety of the Yan army then knew that the spring wind had come.
 A quote from Cen Shen’s Bidding Farewell to Magistrate Wu Returning to the Capital with a Snow Song. Oof, what a mouthful.
 Lu Kai’s A Gift for Fan Ye.
“They really are picking a fight with me. How far is the marriage entourage from Yuan Prefecture?”
With a lift of the tent flap, the young general took big, stomping strides out. Beneath the border station’s gleaming moonlight, he was seen to be wearing armor with a longsabre hung at his waist, fury contained inside his clean and handsome features; he was the spitting image of a god of war’s jade-carved statue. “Zhongshan, go pick out a squad and be ready to leave with me at once!” he sternly bellowed at his soldiers outside.
The murderous aura coating him caused the troops patrolling the paths near the Head Commander’s tent to feel a chill in their hearts. The General in charge of camp patrol, Yu Qiaoting, reined his horse to a half-trot and called out to him in response to this. “General, you’re going out so late at night? What happened?”
In the span of a second, the assembly of soldiers was completed. Fu Shen pulled a warhorse over, mounted it, then rushed towards the exterior of the encampment alongside Yu Qiaoting, explaining as he went. “A child with no mother is a long story. The Western Tartars had been exiled from the grasslands by the Eastern Tartars, then put down roots in the western frontier for many years, intending to get into contact with me. The chaos was settled the year before last thanks to them sending troops in aid, so, at the end of last year, the Emperor dispatched diplomats to express his thanks. Taking this opportunity, both sides established a pact to bind their children in marriage, with the Khan dispatching his daughter to the capital for the political union. The bride-delivering convoy is already on the road.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“Good, my ass. The Khan, to display sincerity, added a white jade idol into the Princess’s dowry. That thing is a royally passed-down treasure of the ancient Woyan country, which, following the country’s divide, was taken to the western regions by the Western Tartars. The Eastern ones exhausted every means they had to get this national treasure, the two clans thus engaging in a longtime war without cease.”
Yu Qiaoting was a smart one, so one point was clear to him. “Ah, the Princess isn’t very safe on this journey.”
“The Western Tartars were presumably afraid of a major disturbance, as well, since they communicated their anger to the Court in advance. In addition to the procession, the Emperor would be sending trusted personal troops to go greet them.”
“So, you are…?”
“From West to East — and counting Tong and Jin — the region of Yuan is the closest to the Eastern Tartars, and the worst to travel.” Fu Shen sneered. “That bunch of idiots can’t keep carrying the load now, so they sent people to Yuan to ask for assistance.”
“Oh, so that’s how it is.” Yu Qiaoting nodded, then asked, “Why are you doing the work of making the trip in person for something like this? Just send folks in response and be done with it.”
Fu Shen waved him off. The two had reached the mouth of the camp during their talk, so he said no more, taking the squadron with him to run far-off while kicking up dust.
“Oi…” Yu Qiaoting watched him as they went, then suddenly realized that something felt off. “Who disclosed the intel to make him go rescue the convoy?”
If the Court made the decree, Fu Shen wouldn’t have gone off in such a rush. That look of his was obviously from not knowing the situation in advance, then suddenly receiving an emergency request for help — when did the Western Tartars and he ever have a fateful friendship?
The Northern Yan Army sprinted the whole way, penetrating through dark mountain paths and thickets as they headed straight for the boundary zone between Yuan Prefecture and Tong-Jin. The fields in every direction here were desolate, with no village in front and no inns behind; this was a fantastic place to kill someone and steal their stuff. Intuition keen, Fu Shen caught the trace of an unusual movement within the whistling wind sweeping past, and promptly made a hand signal to the ranks behind him, slowing his speed. “What area is the hillside ahead?” he turned to ask Xiao Xun.
“Once over this slope, it turns into an official road.”
Fu Shen nodded. “Don’t make noise, move lightly, and come with me.”
The further they went forward, the clearer the noise became. Halfway through their climb up the slope, they could already hear the sound of cold, iron blades colliding coming through from the other end, accompanied in their wake by bursts of shouts and cries, which were especially terrifying within the pitch-black night. Thinking to himself that things were less than good, he whipped his reins to make the horse dash up the earthen slope. With a rough look using the moonlight, he saw several balls of fire in the distant wilderness, sprinkled like fallen stars. Silhouettes flickered in the encampment and swords glinted as two parties of soldiers fought themselves into one lump. At the most gummed-up section of the battle, there was a figure getting simultaneously attacked by numerous people, conducting the longsabre in her hand breezily. Even so, she still looked to be constrained and less able to act than she wanted, nearly getting her shoulder cut into by a sword along with stepping into an open fire.
Fu Shen narrowed his eyes. “The Western Tartar Princess… has such great talent?” he mumbled, suspicious.
“What?” Xiao Xun, who was following behind him, had a head full of fog, but before he had time to question him, Fu Shen had since taken the lead in dashing down the mountainside. The snow-bright edge of his blade passed by as if it were chopping up vegetables, human heads falling to the ground as he instantly killed his way into the heavy encirclement. From her back, he hoisted the Princess onto the horse as her long hair flew loose. “The Northern Yan Army is here,” he said in a deep voice. “Don’t be afraid, Princess—”
The black-haired, fair-skinned, vividly-attired ‘foreign Princess’ heard this, then suddenly raised her head to stare at him, the sabre in her hand still eerily dripping blood.
“Many thanks, General. I’m not afraid,” a slightly rough male voice replied, right up next to his ear.
Fu Shen was dumbfounded.
They had been so distanced just before, and the sky was so dark, that he had seen only the long, flying hair and bright dress before he subconsciously believed this to be the sole woman of the diplomatic convoy. Who could’ve known that he would fish up an imitation — which opera was this big, rough bastard actually singing?!
“You…” The corners of Fu Shen’s mouth twitched, and blue veins bulged and pulsed at his temples. After being speechless for half the day, he grit his teeth and asked coldly, “Mister Yan, you’ve lived up to this point, yet only just now realized your true identity?”
“I had no choice.” Yan Xiaohan hung his eyes in embarrassment. His intentionally modified features were especially graceful and not jarring at all upon a man’s face, instead having the slight overtone of a beauty gazing backwards. “I’ll explain to you in a bit. We’re facing a lot of enemies, so surviving is what’s urgent—”
Before he finished speaking, he abruptly put and arm around Fu Shen and roughly shoved him down, side-dodging a small arrow that had been shot from behind while his other hand wielded the sabre to block the slicing edges that were cutting towards them. Fu Shen was caught off guard and rammed into the nest of his shoulder, which almost broke his nose. He straightened back up, tears forming in his eyes as he tugged at the reins and reluctantly held in his hatred. “Sit up properly, don’t get in my way! Ya!”
The warhorse let out a long whinny, sprinting swiftly outward as it bore the two of them. The encirclement of ambushers was once again charged through and dispersed, and the army promptly scrambled forth to protect them both. At the beginning, the escorting squadron could only barely resist them, but once the Northern Yan Army was added into the mix, the situation took a steep turnaround, practically being an overwhelmingly one-sided smashing that relied on their superiority in numbers. The other party noticed that their huge momentum had passed, acknowledged that they couldn’t keep on passionately fighting, then used the Eastern Tartar dialect to loudly shout some things. The remaining assassins immediately withdrew, scattering in all directions and rapidly vanishing into the boundless night.
Xiao Xun wanted to continue chasing them, but he was blocked by Fu Shen. “You won’t be able to get them, don’t waste the effort. They’ll randomly find a gulch to squat down in and us finding them is a time that’ll never come.”
“Got it.” Xiao Xun’s mouth agreed, yet his line of sight uncontrollably and directly floated to the ‘Princess’ that was in front of Fu Shen. Her figure was slim and neck slender, her black hair hanging down to cover half of her face, as her bun had possibly come undone during the chaotic struggle just then. At present, apart from her gold hairpin that was slanted and drooping, a string of carnelian beads at her temples that were inconspicuously tangled up in her hair, and a flowermark still on the center of her forehead, it was unknown where the rest of her jewelry went. With her back facing everyone as she sat side-legged atop the horse, she had a special charm that was lovely and touching.
But what was with their General’s entire face twitching like he had eaten sour grapes, and having an expression like he wanted to laugh yet had to hold himself back? And why did the Princess look to be… seem to be a bit taller than Fu Shen?
“What’ll you do next?” Fu Shen gave a dry cough, concealing the insufferable smile in his words as he spoke to Yan Xiaohan. “Do you all want to stay behind here, or go to Yuan Prefecture to rest and regroup?”
Yan Xiaohan appeared to be unable to withstand his mocking gaze, and he turned his head away in discomfort, striving to pull his face taut. “The Eastern Tartars have suffered one loss, so they ought not come again. Many thanks for your assistance tonight, General.”
“You should be thanking me,” Fu Shen sneered rudely. “You’d likely go cold here tonight otherwise, huh, Mister Yan?”
“Not talking is fine,” Fu Shen went on with disdain, turning the horse around. “It’s better for you to go back and wash those spring colors off your face before anything else, right? They really hurt my eyes.”
Saying so, he disallowed him from dismounting, unhurriedly lugging him back to camp like so, and the well-trained Iron Cavalry was clustered up not far behind them. Once Yan Xiaohan entered the tent to go wash up and change his clothes, someone from the bride-escort entourage stepped forward to say thanks. Fu Shen turned to look at him with condescension. “Your precious nation sent the Princess to our Dynasty for a marriage alliance, yet you brought such few people. Do you really not place much importance on the Eastern Tartars, or did you preemptively make preparations to never return?” he asked arrogantly.
The Western Tartar delegate merely thought that he was concerned about the Princess’s safety, and smiled apologetically. “Thank you very much, General, but there is no need for you to worry, as the Princess isn’t here at all. She has already left with the accompaniment of our country’s army.”
Fu Shen re-thought a bit, then understood the key bit. Neither angry nor happy, he ultimately huffed coldly and dismounted. “Station here for one night, and guard it strictly to prevent the Eastern Tartars from coming to ambush again,” he ordered Xiao Xun. “Remember to send people back to notify Yu Qiaoting.”
Xiao Xun affirmed and left to set that up. Fu Shen paid no attention to the shivering Western Tartar emissary and entered the Princess’s tent with no prior consultation, throwing the curtain aside in a grand movement. Yan Xiaohan was in the middle of having a hard time removing his makeup, and he turned to look at him when he heard the noise. Fu Shen unhappily smacked his sabre down onto the table. “Gentlemen that have parted for three days will then have greater appreciation for each other upon meeting again. I haven’t seen you for half a year, Mister Yan, and you’ve since mastered how to abandon yourself for the sake of others. My humble self truly hadn’t expected that,” he ridiculed.
Yan Xiaohan sighed. “It was an act I had no choice in. Pardon my laughable performance.”
Fu Shen stared as he wiped the cosmetics off his face and clumsily removed the hair ornaments from his head. “The Flying Dragon Guard was ordered to provide support to the entourage due to the fear of a surprise attack by the Eastern Tartars,” he suddenly stated. “For that reason, the troops were divided into two groups. One squadron would protect the Princess and go on ahead, and the remainder would proceed down the original set route, using themselves as a lure to draw the Eastern Tartars’ attention. In that way, the assassins would attack the convoy, while the real Princess and idol would have the chance to safely pass out from under their noses. Who thought up such a brilliant method?”
Yan Xiaohan froze. After a short moment of silence, he smiled bitterly. “Thank you for the praise.”
“Since you’re so brilliant, why did you dare to make yourself the bait?” Fu Shen asked lightly. “With your intellect, there’s no way you didn’t foresee what would happen tonight.”
“Didn’t you catch up in time? I was only more scared than in danger.”
Fu Shen strode up before him, grabbed his collar, and all but lifted him off the chair. “Mister Yan, did you actually comprehend the situation? Can you say even one sentence of truth? How could you have been certain that your request for help would get delivered to me? How could you have been confident that I’d come back? How could you daringly guarantee that I’d be able to bring people here in time? What if I was a step too late? Were you planning to make me collect your corpse for you?! Huh?!”
That interrogation seemed to smash onto his head. Even the legs of the table were slightly vibrating. Inside and outside the tent, there was a moment of total quiet.
“Alright, alright. Don’t get mad.” Yan Xiaohan fixed his gaze on him helplessly, using one hand to grab the other’s wrist as he clarified things for him with good temper. “I took a risk this time, but if I didn’t do it like this and followed the escorting convoy, we would encounter the same assassins anyways. In the event that a mishap befell the Princess and the idol, the Flying Dragon Guard would have to bear the blame of it.”
“Your Guard made a mess of things, and it’s not your place to play a minor cadet that would be the future scapegoat. What are you so anxious for?” Fu Shen countered.
Yan Xiaohan said nothing, merely hooking up the corners of his lips to display a very forced smile.
His thoughts firing off rapidly, Fu Shen inferred things in an instant.
He suddenly released Yan Xiaohan’s collar, voice dazed. “Your foster father…”
“Isn’t too well,” Yan Xiaohan replied quietly. “He’s up in age and deeply suffering from arthritis. He sent a petition forward for his retirement, and the Emperor permitted him to return home and recuperate.”
There was no need for details, as Fu Shen already got it. Duan Linglong was Yan Xiaohan’s biggest support in the Guard. Now that he was on the brink of death, and the new successor hadn’t yet been decided, Yan Xiaohan’s status in the Guard became unsound in a flash. No wonder he got shoved out to impersonate the Princess and act as the most endangered bait; in all likelihood, that had been the outcome of the internal strife between the inner personnel of the Guard. Provided that he didn’t give his all to fight this time, if even a teeny problem happened en route with the Guard’s protection, the ultimate unlucky one would definitely be Yan Xiaohan.
“Don’t worry. I’m not the real Princess, so surviving against the Eastern Tartars would have been no problem regardless,” Yan Xiaohan consoled. “What’s more is that I left myself an out, as well. Thank you much for rushing over.”
He refused to state it clearly, but both of them already intrinsically knew. From today onward, there would no longer be anyone able to shelter him from the wind and rain. He would continue to walk to higher ground, only able to rely on himself as he steadily climbed, getting his teeth knocked out and swallowing down blood as he struggled to make a way out from within the mud pile.
He cast a glance at Fu Shen in the mirror, who was standing not far away with his brows tightly creased. “Odd, this flowermark seems like it won’t wipe off…” he said all of a sudden.
“Hm?” Snapping out of it, Fu Shen diverted his attention to lean over and take a good look at the dark red spot between the other’s brows. “Let me see. Is this crap glued on? Ho, there’s gold leaf, too. Can you just straight-up pluck it off? With your hand?”
Fu Shen laughed at him all ‘hahaha’ like, ending it with, “I’ll get someone to bring you hot water to apply, see if that gets it off. In any case, I didn’t expect Mister Yan to not only be a pretty man, but, when dressed up in bright women’s clothes, also be no lesser in looks than a beautiful lady, hahahahaha…”
He passingly stroked Yan Xiaohan’s long, jet-black, crow feather-like hair, then turned and left look for water. Yan Xiaohan used the corner of his vision to watch his retreating figure until it disappeared, then retrieved his line of sight and lowered his eyes, slightly smiling in both seeming self-mockery and seeming satisfaction.
The road ahead had many challenges, but he still had someone that he wanted to protect — someone who would tread on moonlight late at night to come save him.
The heart had an obsession, enough for its blood to drink like sweet syrup.
The translator says: So many got dang flowers. With this, I truly am out of GS content this time, hohoho… ho. 😦