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Truthfully speaking, Jing Qi liked Wu Xi’s courtyard — it had many entertaining and novel things, and he used to frequently drop by here to mooch food. Yet, ever since that time Wu Xi drank too much and hugged him while blubbering, he harbored something of a grudge.
He had always previously taken Wu Xi as an obstinate and ignorant child. Never had he thought that the other would get an inclination like this after such a long time. Once the chaos in his heart passed, he decided to cut the tangled knot and simply refuse to meet up henceforth, intending to wait for him to get older and think more about things. The charming, unrealistic notion he had during his youth should have diluted by then.
But on that night of heavy snow, he stubbornly caused that heart of his, as cold and hard as iron, to soften for a time. One thing and another happened, and he ended up not having the heart to hold off the kid outside the gates of the Prince Estate.
He would sometimes think that, when he grew old later and started to reminisce on the grace and grudges of his old feelings he harbored in days past, how many ‘old feelings’ would still be had for him?
Prince Nan’ning had the money and power to dance well as well as everything going his way. When he returned to dreams at midnight, he would wake with a start empty-hearted, not having even one longing thought at all. He had enjoyed the extreme cravings of the human world, then gone three chi down to the Yellow Springs. Having seen all the beautiful and ugly scenes of the world, he naturally had a knowledge of what was good and bad, and since he knew, he was all the more reluctant to part with this current bit of minute good.
He was not Zhou Zishu. It was impossible for him to be the sort of vicious that struck down with decisiveness, following Heaven for fate; once he thought too much, too thoroughly, it was always somewhat difficult for him to reach a conclusion.
He felt that, in his previous human life, it was a bit of an injustice to die by Helian Yi’s hand because of his apprehensions towards him. The latter really had regarded him highly, while Jing Qi knew what kind of goods he himself was — eternally just one good-for-nothing, scheming strategist that followed by the Head Commander’s side, and innately didn’t have the presence for passing judgments or determining the universe.
Due to these indescribably challenging thoughts, he hadn’t come to the Shamanet Estate in more than a year. Backing down out of softheartedness was one thing; Jing Qi mulled the matter over a couple of times, and thought that when handling a one-track mind like Wu Xi (who was so undaunted by failure that there was sometimes no way to communicate with him), persuasion was useless, and yet he was always soft-hearted, unable to get hard-line on him. He could only play dumb and hope that his teenage nature, after this period of time, would change from the evil path and return to the proper one, and he would do what it was he should’ve been doing.
Even so, Wu Xi could see through him or something, because every so often, he had to remind him once with utter bluntness. Jing Qi would act like he didn’t hear, or half-heartedly joke that he wasn’t serious, but he had an increasing feeling of fear and suspense. He had deceived himself by saying that he wasn’t serious, but he knew well in his heart that Wu Xi’s words were absolutely realer than hazelnuts.
As soon as he entered Wu Xi’s small garden, he caught sight of a couple of strings hanging off of its big banyan tree at varying heights, upon which were tied small wooden slats no slimmer than a palm. Wu Xi had been watching him with a silly smile the whole time, so he had to divert his attention some, reaching out to lightly grasp a slat. “What is this for?”
He had only just finished speaking when Wu Xi grabbed his hand and pulled him back a step. Immediately following, cinnabar water dripped down from above, and happened to land right where he had just been standing. After that, he saw that there was a saucer balanced on top of the string, swaying in the breeze. Him bumping the slat knocked the precarious saucer off-balance and spilled the liquid out of it.
“Don’t get that on your clothes,” Wu Xi said. “That’s what I originally used for practicing lightsteps. The strength put on the slats every time they’re stepped on can’t be enough to spill the cinnabar water. Granted, I’m done with it and already have no use for them. Ashinlae messes around with them. Though, his body is too bulky, and he can never do light-body martial arts, so he gets a head and faceful of red water every single day.”
Jing Qi inwardly wiped off sweat, mentally thinking that it was fortunate that Ping An and Ji Xiang had annoyed him that day and caused him to be unable to exchange blows with this guy. He really wouldn’t have had anywhere to put his old face, otherwise.
Further yet was everything else the courtyard had. To the side was a rack for weaponry, and next to that were several plum tree stumps standing at uneven heights. Looking at it, it didn’t resemble a place that the Nanjiang Shamanet resided, but instead an area where a secret sect practiced martial arts. Beside it was a study; taking advantage of the day’s sunlight, a woven mat was spread out at the doorway with several books basking in it.
“Sit here for a moment,” Wu Xi spoke once more. “I’m going to take a look at the flower-paste syrup made a couple of days back that’s been soaking in sugar water. I was planning to send it to you when it was ready, and you happened to come over.”
The guy was honestly quick to act yet slow to speak, and, without waiting for Jing Qi to put on a show of saying ‘many thanks, don’t rush’, he ran away.
Setting spring had since arrived at the royal capital, putting it right in a period of excitement, yet it seemed not to meld into this tiny courtyard even one bit. The large banyan in the middle that had been there for an unknown amount of decades seemed to hide the sky and shade the earth, leaving a large swathe of shadow with light loitering from its gaps. The imperial bodyguards knew he was here right now, so they hadn’t come to the courtyard, making this place faintly exude an eerie, isolated atmosphere of somberly-chiming bells, the clean sound faraway and indistinct.
Every now and then, there would be a snake or scorpion or some such slowly crawling by, the poisonous bugs also appearing to be well-trained. They didn’t get near Jing Qi at all; they looked at him from afar, then made their ways for elsewhere, as if they were somewhat wary towards the sable he held.
Jing Qi strolled a circle around the courtyard, then opened up books that Wu Xi had simply left out in the sun, randomly reading them. He noticed that every one he read through had small characters attentively jotted in the margins, in vermilion brushstrokes or black ink. He examined them carefully; the vermilion sections were his everyday, casual lectures, and the rest were Wu Xi’s own annotations. The characters were in disarray and not very pretty, but had a rare earnestness.
He closed it with a secret bout of high praise, then glimpsed a tiny mat beside the book, where a pile of snow-white powder was sunbathing on it. He didn’t know what it was, and when he got closer to it, he still couldn’t smell anything. It flashed under the sunlight, being extraordinarily sparkling, clear, and beautiful.
He couldn’t resist wanting to reach out and grab a bit of it to examine it. Unexpectedly, before he touched it, Wu Xi happened to come in, and cried out as soon as he saw him. “Don’t touch that—“
Jing Qi was caught off guard, turning his head to look at him. However, with a mental distraction like that, the sable he held — having been long impatiently wanting to go bounce around the place — seized the opportunity to get free, giddily jumped out, and pounced right on the half-sun-dried powder. It really moved too swiftly, able to even scratch someone of Liang Jiuxiao’s skill, so Jing Qi naturally wasn’t able to haul it back. In the span of a spark, he got sprayed in the face with the powder the sable jumped on.
He abruptly stood up and took a big step backwards, unknowing if he had breathed any in or not. He caught sight of Wu Xi striding towards him, soon after which he felt dizzy, his consciousness becoming murky; as if dwelling in a nightmare at midnight, his mind was somewhat clear, yet muddled. He swayed, fingers clutching in midair like he was grabbing for something. Then, without him to realizing what he had grabbed, he knew nothing.
Wu Xi looked at the one that had plunged headfirst into his arms, then lowered his head to peer at the sable that was similarly lying motionless on its stomach on the ground. For a split second, he badly wanted to skin it, stew it, and eat it.
He sighed, used the tip of his toes to pick it up, then flung it to the side. Soon following, he leaned over, hooked one arm under Jing Qi’s knees, cautiously picked him up, and placed him on his own bed. When looking at him previously, he thought that he was tall, svelte, and confident, but, right now, Jing Qi’s body was weak, and appeared very frail with the way he was curled up in his arms. He also wasn’t heavy when he carried him, as if he were skin and bones; he maintained his three energies like this, yet bantered, joked, and devised strategies afterwards.
At this moment, when he had suddenly come into contact with the sable’s sudden mishap and fell over, the souls in his body were forced to rest, and he thus resembled a skeleton that was picked clean. The circle of shadows cast on his fair skin by his eyelashes made one feel some pity looking at him.
Wu Xi wasn’t sure why, but he felt that he’d be cold, so he pulled a silk blanket out and gently covered him with it.
After that, he got up, poured a cup of hot water, took a porcelain bottle out of a small cabinet, and put the antidote into the water. Once it cooled after a bit, he put droplets on the back of his hand to test it, then propped Jing Qi up only after he felt that it wasn’t scalding. With him leaning on his chest, he gently pried open his jaw and fed him the medicine.
That odorless white powder he had been sun-drying was a type of knockout agent. It hadn’t had a name at first, but after Zhou Zishu sold a batch of it, it received one from the jianghu folk: Dream Stupor. Zhou Zishu understood the way to people’s hearts the most — he didn’t sell much of it, merely distributing five or six bottles and then refusing to give any more, with each one selling at a sky-high price.
After it dried completely, it was colorless and tasteless. Whether placed in food and drink or scattered throughout the air, no one could detect it. If no antidote was had, one only had to inhale a little bit, and then they would need to lie down for five or six days. However, that timespan wouldn’t be spent in a coma. Those who took the drug would dream wildly without waking, dreaming about the things they most longed for in their hearts; that was thus how it got its name.
Even with feeding him the medicine, Wu Xi knew that he would still need a shichen or two to wake up. Dipping his head, he tenderly wiped off the wet drops on Jing Qi’s lips, his fingertips rubbing against them, and he couldn’t help but pause. The softness of the other’s lips made his heart palpitate.
The one that pondered days and nights was leaned against him without the least bit of consciousness. The heart in Wu Xi’s chest suddenly increased in speed, his breathing becoming disordered. As if infected by something, he slowly lowered his head, raised Jing Qi’s chin, and went to kiss the lips that had just burned his fingers.
Immediately following, it was not only his fingertips that burned; he felt like his entire soul was surrendering. Jing Qi subconsciously panted a bit due to his slightly invasive kiss. Wu Xi seemed to be able to feel the other’s bones as they pressed against him hard… but it still wasn’t enough.
That air-tight distance still wasn’t close enough. The thirst clamoring within him wasn’t appeased, wanting something else.
Ever since Wu Xi had arrived at the capital at the age of less than eleven, his life had constantly been simple and disciplined: physical practice, medicinal practice, studying, watching Jing Qi mess around. He had never experienced human relations before, but at this second, as if spurred by instinct, he lifted his hand and groped about. Starting from his collar, he undid Jing Qi’s buttons one by one.
Very soon, the white and exquisite skin of the pampered Prince Nan’ning was exposed. Wu Xi reached out and touched his compact, warm waist, like he was testing, like he was enraptured and couldn’t let go anymore.
The man seemed to be made of porcelain, yet wasn’t as cold as it, nor was he as high as his own body temperature. It was like he was at just the perfect warmth.
He had just the perfect looks everywhere, too. A strand of hair came loose and fell down, draping gently on his collarbone. Hanging near the side of the bed, the black and white contrast was astonishingly pretty.
Wu Xi went mad.
He felt like his entire body was steaming, abnormal heat flowing everywhere at random. He recalled the dreamland of touching tenderness. Memory and reality overlapping, the string in his head suddenly snapped, and he obeyed his instinct to lean over…
Right then, Jing Qi moved all of a sudden. Wu Xi startled, staring blankly where he was, and couldn’t react for a moment.
Jing Qi didn’t wake, though. As if Dream Stupor was beginning to take affect, he seemed to be dreaming of something, elegant brows slowly creasing, then relaxing again soon after. A small, uncertain smile showed at the corner of his lips, but the tips of his brows lowered, faintly shrouding him in a layer of sorrow.
Looking at the one he held whose clothes were disheveled, Wu Xi jolted all of a sudden. The flush on his face subsided, and he turned both green and white. Speedily gathering up Jing Qi’s lapels, he buttoned him up once more, then placed him on the bed, covered him with the blanket, and dashed out like he was fleeing.
The translator says: NO! BAD DOG! WE DON’T TOUCH PEOPLE WHEN THEY’RE SLEEPING!!! I’LL BREAK A VASE OVER YOUR HEAD