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With a downlike sigh, Jing Qi reached up and swiped his face hard before sluggishly standing. “What’s the matter with him now?”
Ping An gazed at him awkwardly, and, not long after, Jing Qi understood why, because Wu Xi not only came doggedly barging in, but his steps staggered so that he narrowly plunged headfirst into his arms.
A suffocating whiff of alcohol attacking his face, Jing Qi frowned. Wu Xi swayed as he strived to grab his sleeve in a want to stand up on his own, his half-open eyes appearing to be out of focus.
Nuahar and Ashinlae were chasing after him, but they stopped in their tracks at almost the same time, looking at each other.
Ashinlae extended his finger to point at Wu Xi, giving Nuahar a guileless and inquiring gaze. Nuahar angrily pushed down his know-nothing hand, then took a step forward to speak. “Prince, the Shamanet seems to have something he’s unhappy about today, and he drank a lot. He didn’t come to stir up trouble for you on purpose at all.”
Jing Qi was propping up a drunkard that was incessantly wobbling, and also incessantly attempting to throw him off to stand up by himself. His head swelled to twice its size. Isn’t this trouble enough…? This guy weighs a lot.
“What’s wrong, now?” he asked distractedly while keeping a hand on Wu Xi.
The latter struggled out of it, pushing it aside while simultaneously using all of his strength to snatch his sleeve. “Don’t help me…” he vaguely mumbled. “I’m standing, I can… can walk… myself…” A lot of Nanjiang Vassa words were mixed in together after that in an incoherent mess, leaving whatever he was muttering unknowable.
Jing Qi couldn’t hold him back even when he was sober, to say further nothing of the other currently having an inebriate’s brute strength. Wu Xi was forcefully grabbing the sleeve of his practically-new robe like he was taking it as a banister, and Jing Qi nearly got dragged down to the point that he couldn’t stand. After withdrawing his own hand, there came a ripping sound, and that sleeve was torn open all the way to his elbow.
Rolling his eyes, Jing Qi thought to himself that this ‘cut-sleeve‘ seriously deserved its name this time around.
The sound of splitting silk scared Ashinlae and Nuahar. Wu Xi’s head also seemed to clear up a bit, the look in his eyes not so disordered. He stared at Jing Qi for a long time before he asked, “B…Beiyuan?”
Jing Qi raised a brow, giving him a skin-deep smile. “It must be hard for your esteemed self to keep remembering me all the time.”
Wu Xi stood in place for half the day, still holding his half-torn off sleeve, and looked at him mutely, as if his consciousness was unable to react. Thinking about how the weather wasn’t warm anymore (and also how one unit staring into each other’s eyes while in a group with other people was inappropriate), Jing Qi pat the other on the face. “Wakey, wakey. Ping An, go to the kitchen and bring a sobering brew for the Shamanet.”
Before he could finish saying that, Wu Xi abruptly grabbed his hand. His intoxicated body temperature was quite high, somewhat scalding his palm. “I won’t drink. Don’t bring,” he heard the drunk cat mumble fuzzily. “I got words to say to you.”
Ashinlae inclined his head to look at Nuahar again, faintly having a vague premonition. The latter glared at him — talk less, don’t ruin it.
“Okay, okay, okay. Let’s go to the study to sit, you can say your words then. I’ll have Ping An fetch things for you―”
“You… you, make them all go out. I don’t need anything fetched…” Wu Xi took a step forwards, and his knees went soft, nearly causing him to prostrate himself on the floor.
Jing Qi rapidly hooked his arm to fasten him by the waist, not sure whether to laugh or cry from this madness. “You still need to wait two months for New Year’s. What are you being so polite for? I haven’t even gotten the red envelopes prepared yet, you know.”
“Make them all leave… all leave!” Wu Xi replied, muddleheaded.
Taking into consideration that this disturbance would need physical labor when his mind had already been turning about without rest for a whole day, Jing Qi thus waved towards the ones surrounding them. “You heard, eh? The Shamanet wants you all to leave.” He then turned to talk to the Ashinlae-Nuahar pair. “If you don’t feel at ease, find a place to rest in now ― Ping An, get the kitchen to prepare sobering soup.”
“I said I won’t―”
“Yes, yes, yes, you won’t drink. I’m going to drink it myself, alright?” He took one of Wu Xi’s arms and slung it across his shoulder, his own arm passing beneath his ribs, then helped him into the study to settle onto a chair. By the time he straightened up, the late autumn weather had actually given him a head full of thin sweat.
Wu Xi shrank into the chair, staring at him with a goofy grin.
Jing Qi sighed again. “This is going to be the entirety of what I owe every single one of you… drinking tea is always fine, right?”
Wu Xi huffed lightly out of his nose in apparent response.
“My standard is high, as a matter of fact,” Jing Qi chided as he smiled. “This Lord hasn’t served other people with water yet.”
He turned around, hefted up the teapot to weigh it, picked up a cup, rinsed it, dumped the water onto the floor, poured tea in it anew, tested the temperature with the back of his hand, then turned around again. “Wu―”
This turn scared him; his eyes had been shut in rest just then, and the lighting in the study was dim to begin with, so he had no idea when Wu Xi had soundlessly come up to stand behind him. A pair of pitch-black eyes peered fixedly at him without blinking. His normally somewhat-noticeably pale complexion was even as haggard as a dead man’s; with dark circles under his eyelids and his clothes and hair arranged in a horrible mess, he was the spitting image of one that had crawled out of a graveyard in the middle of the night.
In a moment like that, Jing Qi suddenly felt like he had returned to the netherworld. Once he came back to his senses, he couldn’t resist swatting Wu Xi on the forehead. “What are you standing up for all of a sudden? A more timid person would’ve been half-dead from you scaring them.” He then stuffed the tea cup into his hand. “Drink.”
Wu Xi obediently accepted it, tilted his head back, and drank it down in one gulp, though his gaze didn’t stray from Jing Qi’s face for even a moment. Once he was done, he was still aware enough to place the cup onto the table. All the hairs on Jing Qi’s body were made to stand up due to his staring. Knowing that drunkards had no sort of rationality, he smiled to coax him. “There’s a small bed behind the screen. Go lie down on it for a bit and call for someone when you sober up. What was so terrible that you drank so much wine down over it? Go, go lay down. I’ll call you when the sobering soup comes in a bit, okay?”
Jing Qi shook his head, exercising patience. “Tell me, then; what’s wrong?”
“The Emperor said he was closing you off.”
He wasn’t sure whether the power of the alcohol had come over him completely, or had waned slightly, but his tongue wasn’t as big as it just had been, his words were more succinct, and his expression was straight-browed and blank-eyed. A bit uncomprehending as to what he meant, Jing Qi consequently replied half-heartedly, “It’s only three months. After the New years, it’ll be almost―”
Before he could finish, Wu Xi cut him off. “Because you said you wanted to take a man as a wife.”
…Why did even this guy know about that?
Jing Qi began to suspect that, were he to be let go after three months, that every single citizen all over the capital would know that the Great Qing had produced itself a Prince that was fond of setting up fortune-telling stalls and visiting whorehouses. His smile went stiff automatically. “Uh… I made him mad on purpose,” he said, a bit embarrassed. “Besides, he’s eager for my bloodline to get cut off as soon as possible, so he was pretty relieved…”
Wu Xi’s mind likely wasn’t working too well; it wasn’t clear if he heard him or not, as he simply repeated himself. “You’re going to wed a man. Nuahar told me that the one you talked about was a man.”
Jing Qi gave a dry laugh. “I didn’t say I was going to wed him.”
Wu Xi wobbled, then misstepped. Before Jing Qi could help him, he stood again, and laughed bizarrely a couple of times. “You said… you like…”
Wu Xi didn’t talk much in general, and his cadence was mostly deep and low, but the laughter he emitted was a little like the shrieking of an owl. Hearing it made even Jing Qi feel a bit wary, and he mentally said to himself that he had never met such a hard-to-please child as this before. When he eyed him swaying without any wind once again, he reached out to tug him by the elbow. “You’re not putting proper attention to your studies. Where did you hear such shameful words from? And―”
He didn’t get to the end of his words before Wu Xi suddenly clasped his wrist. He jerked, subconsciously turning his body and bending his own elbow, then bumped into the shanzhong acupoint on the other’s chest. Out of fear of injuring him, he didn’t dare to use too much force, simply giving it a gentle tap that compelled him to let him go with a muffled grunt. Once he rescinded his strength, he took a look; his wrist already had a red ring around it from Wu Xi’s grip.
Jing Qi shook his head, having realized that dealing with this drunk alone was a bit challenging. Right as he opened his mouth to call for someone, Wu Xi caught him off guard by abruptly throwing himself at him, his entire person ramming into him. It made him take three or four steps backwards in succession, then knock the side of his back on a corner of the desk, the pain making him lightly hiss. “You’re a…”
Wu Xi hugged him tightly with both arms, his chin pressed down onto his shoulder. Half of his body weight was entirely hung upon Jing Qi’s, and his arms slowly shifted downwards until they just-so-happened to affix to the area that he had recently made run into the desk corner. Jing Qi didn’t need to see it to know that it had definitely turned green, and he couldn’t help but push him away while cussing him out. “You’re a bastard! Did you eat iron balls growing up or what— sst, let go!”
Wu Xi held him all the more tightly, however, whispering into his ear almost inaudibly. “I’m going to kill him…”
Jing Qi was shocked. “What did you say?”
Wu Xi laughed. It sounded like it was suppressed inside his throat, and it didn’t stop, making his voice hoarse. Yet blended with the sound of weeping, it made goosebumps break out over Jing Qi’s body, who heard him answer in stops and starts. “Whoever you like, is whoever I’ll kill. I… I’m going to take them and go feed them to my snake. Once they’re all nice and dead, you’ll be mine… heh heh heh… you’ll be mine…”
Jing Qi completely forgot to even struggle, then, only feeling his scalp tingling as he was rooted to the spot, like a god of lightning from the highest heaven had struck him.
Unsparingly, Wu Xi continued on. “I want… I want to take you back to Nanjiang. You can’t like anyone else. I’ll treat you really really well. Don’t like anyone else, Beiyuan, don’t like anyone else…”
He sprayed his strongly alcoholic breath onto Jing Qi’s neck. Soon after that, he practically deferred to his instincts, holding him tight in his arms and then frantically, fiercely biting on his neck, the heat of his body seeming to burn. Jing Qi suddenly returned to his senses, forcefully pushing him away.
Wu Xi had been standing somewhat unstably to start with, so his push sent him a good couple of steps back, all the way until he stopped when his back bumped against the study door. His body going limp, he slowly slid down along the wooden boards. His dazed and not-very-sober eyes appeared to be congealing with glimmering tears, but upon a closer look, their rims were dry once more, merely reflecting the light. That pure-black gaze was filled up with sorrow, as if it would be expressed the instant he shut his eyes.
He kept calling out “Beiyuan… Beiyuan…”, following which he became unable to brace himself against the chaos in his mind, closing his eyes with his head lolling to the side.
Jing Qi gradually raised his hand to cover the side of his neck that had been bitten into something of a sorry state. His head hurt like a fight was brewing inside it, and his heart was as tangled as a rope.
A long while later, he came forward, bent over, and picked Wu Xi up with some effort, then lightly placed him upon the small resting couch behind the study screen. After pulling up an embroidered blanket to cover him with, he turned and left. He ordered Ping An to get someone to feed the guy a bowl of sobering soup, then got someone to notify Ashinlae and Nuahar that they could return ahead of time. Returning to his room himself, he changed out of his distressed clothes.
The night was calm, its moonlight dissolving; in usual instances, that youth would currently be gradually expressing laughter throughout his looks. The academic yard was quiet; beneath the poplars and willows, that child looked to be quietly focusing on rumination, his brow knitted in perplexion and anxiety, something shallowly buried at the bottom of his heart. At this moment, a burst of autumn wind blew away the settled dust, as if coming alive before one’s eyes.
He only took him as a magnanimous, composed friend. He had never thought that… he actually had thoughts like this, actually had…
There were clouds of deceit and tides of shrewdness within the Court. None of the party wars had ever made him hesitate even a smidgen, yet, because of that boy’s drunken monologue, he lost sleep for half the evening.
The translator says: There’s 100+ different ways to confess to someone properly, and ‘being spooky to your boo while also drunk off your ass and overly handsy and respecting zero boundaries’ isn’t one of them, pal.
[-] Title is a reference to folk song “Song of a Boater from Yue”, author unknown; My heart is joyed by thee, but thee does not know. (Read a full version here.)