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Explicit content warning. Not too much of it, though.
[Start of the Final Book: The Song is Over, but the People Aren’t Leaving]
Jing Qi curled one leg up to kneel on the bed, lifting Wu Xi’s chin to look down at him. Peering into those eyes that were nervous about something unknown, he felt like they resembled the rarest black pearls that propagated the ocean. With no mottled colors, staring at them for a long time seemed to be able to suck people in, and he couldn’t resist reaching up to brush against Wu Xi’s lashes.
All of Wu Xi’s fingers clutched the bedsheet tightly, his body rigid. The man’s light fragrance from his recent bath hit him in the face, as if it was going to enshroud his entire body. While his heart fluttered away, he did everything he could to control himself.
Nanjiang was much more straightforward than the convoluted Great Qing — the one he liked was the one he wanted. Even so, he still felt that this wasn’t how it should be. Having read Great Qing books, he knew that ‘etiquette’ was the topmost important thing to them, and that before an unmarried couple took part in wedding ceremonies, they weren’t even supposed to take one look too many at each other.
Well… he was a man, but…
He grabbed Jing Qi’s fingers that were already getting into his collar, shaking his head with enormous-looking determination. “Beiyuan… I still think this isn’t proper.”
In previous times, Jing Qi had always considered himself to be someone that, despite messing around once in a while, was clean and moral the majority of the time. Yet, he abruptly found out that, compared to the Shamanet, his youthful, cluttered life of napping with flowers could practically be described as rancid.
Even though he had no strong feelings about sensuality, his methods for playing the part were not few. Jing Qi’s fingertips were like a slippery fish that slid out of the hand, Wu Xi felt, and they easily left his palm. Pulling open his lapels, they softly stroked along his collarbone, seeming to ignite a series of invisible little sparks along his skin.
“How isn’t it proper?” Jing Qi asked, unconcerned.
He deliberately slowed himself, both of his lewd hands caressing Wu Xi from top to bottom. Seeing the man flustered and incessantly nervous, he enjoyed the delight of feeling him up, and slowly stoked the fire within himself.
With his one knee on the bed, his entire body was practically pressed down on Wu Xi. Out of options, the latter had to prop one arm behind himself, and embraced him with the other. Getting the majority of his clothes peeled off by him, he was endlessly embarrassed, and rambled on in desperation. “Didn’t your Confucius say that… relations without marriage, are indecent—“
Jing Qi pinched his chest, shocking him into nearly jumping upwards. The arm supporting him went soft, and he laid down directly on his back, hearing only Jing Qi’s quiet laugh. “Does that refer to being with a woman, or with a man?”
Wu Xi had no response — Confucius hadn’t been specific.
He sensed something flash before his eyes, then saw Jing Qi’s loosely-draped white robe fall to the floor. The other leaned forward to casually let the bedcurtain fall, hazy light passing through it. He hadn’t been wearing anything under that robe, his skin looking to be finer than the best brocade, and that fragile ring hung off his neck, his long hair landing next to Wu Xi’s ears when he lowered his head.
Wu Xi couldn’t say a thing at all.
“Beautiful Wu Xi, will you be screaming out indecently for this gentleman to hear?” Jing Qi asked in a low voice, eyes curved in a smile.
Reason finally flying away, Wu Xi pulled him down by the neck, blocking off his scoundrel laughter.
The man’s body heat and sweet scent both encompassed him. His arms were full, yet he was still duped into thinking that this was unreal.
The Prince was, of course, an old hat at romance, and had patience, fluent in both the skill of flowery words off the bed and the skill of sweet-talking someone on the bed. Now, upon coming across such a hatchling, he wanted to make him nice and comfortable all the more kindly.
Wu Xi detected something faintly amiss, but couldn’t tell what exactly it was. Mind a ball of paste, he endured his actions, until Jing Qi’s burning, meandering hand reached behind him and rubbed down along his spine. He didn’t understand at first, but he did, now. He struggled with some discomfort, but looked up just in time to catch sight of Jing Qi’s gaze — the look in the man’s eyes was unspeakably tender, yet inside that tenderness were the depths of lust starting to burn.
He believed that Jing Qi, at this very moment, had at last thrown everything and everyone in his eyes to the side, leaving only him behind. It made him feel like he would be okay with anything the other did; even if he died for him right now, he would have no regrets.
For that, he smiled gently, and closed his eyes.
His smile was abnormally happy, but it made Jing Qi pause for a short instant. Stopping his hand, he thought: if this really did go all the way, wouldn’t the little toxin hate him to death, once he learned what was on his mind? In line with the man’s intense and obstinate nature, wouldn’t there be a lifetime of having no margin to come back from this?
In his experience, he had to leave himself an escape route in everything he did, or else he might be out of luck in the future, and die for the country or something. If he instead was left breathing, where would he be able to find a person like this again? He lightly frowned for a second’s time, making a decision…
The stab of pain Wu Xi imagined did not come, but he felt the body heat covering him retract slightly, quickly following which his hot dick was slowly engulfed in tight warmth. He suddenly opened his eyes. “…”
Jing Qi quickly pressed down on his shoulders with his hands, voice trembling a bit. “Don’t move… don’t move.”
Gritting his teeth hard, he slowly sat down, the dull pain akin to his flesh getting cut into a thousand pieces. Nobody had ever dared Prince Nan’ning to do something like this. He had been the one pushing Wu Xi down at the start, but it had gradually turned into relying on him to hold him up.
The pressing pain made his arms go soft, and he fell upon Wu Xi, the two of them giving muffled grunts at the same time. Wu Xi quickly caught him, feeling that the other’s entire body was shaking slightly. Unable to tell what emotion was inside him, he only embraced him with care, soothing his body with kisses almost piously.
The red luan star in the night sky quietly ascended, then quietly fell.
On the morrow, Wu Xi awoke as early as ever. The split second he opened his eyes, he almost couldn’t clearly tell whether that poignant evening was a dream or reality. He cautiously turned his head only after ages had passed, and saw Jing Qi’s slightly-messed hair lying beside him, half a shoulder having slipped out of the embroidered sheets.
He laughed noiselessly, gently pulled the blanket up for him, and was in no rush to get up, inclining his head to look at him.
He wouldn’t get enough of looking at him in all his life.
This wasn’t a dream. The most beautiful thing ever had not come from a dream; the inside of one wouldn’t have such genuine happiness that soaked into the soul.
Maybe his gaze was too emotional, as Jing Qi was ‘watched’ awake. The latter open his eyes groggily, looked at him, mumbled out an unclear “it’s not even bright out yet,” then went to turn over and continue sleeping. Upon moving, however, he found out that there was an indescribable ache in his body, and he lightly huffed, brows scrunching up.
Wu Xi promptly turned and sat up, nervously asking, “Does it hurt? Where?”
Jing Qi inhaled deeply and rolled his eyes. “Water,” he impolitely ordered.
Wu Xi immediately threw something on, got up, poured a bowl of water for him, carried it over, and fed it to him personally. Jing Qi drank two sips and then refused to drink any more, taking the cup in hand. “Bring— cough, bring me clothes.”
Wu Xi hurriedly picked up his robe that had fallen to the ground last night, but didn’t immediately hand it to him, stuffing it into the blanket. “They’re cold, warm them up before you wear them,” he said softly. “Is there anything else? …Did I injure you yesterday?”
Leaning against the headboard, Jing Qi skewed a glance at him. Seeing that he looked bewildered and distinctly resembled a kid that had gotten into trouble, he couldn’t resist a chuckle. Wu Xi wasn’t sure what he was laughing at, but he saw the gleam in his eyes; whenever he laughed, they billowed with water exceptionally beautifully, making him uncontrollably laugh with him, too.
Jing Qi smacked him on the back of his head. “What are you laughing at? Go. Get someone to draw hot water, I want to bathe.”
Wu Xi accepted his order, giddily ran off, then got the hot water for him himself.
After that, Jing Qi sighed a bit, restraining the smile on his face. He looked down at the half-bowl of water that slightly rippled along with his movements, mind wandering for a minute, and soon after pulled out the robe that Wu Xi had stuffed under the blanket. Taking a small bottle out of it, he smiled painfully, and poured all of its contents into the tea — it melted in the liquid, colorless and tasteless.
Wu Xi was happy to attend to him personally. Setting the hot water down and turning his head, Jing Qi had since put his robe on, and was in the middle of lowering his head to drink. He walked over and sat at the edge of the bed. “Beiyuan, the water is ready.”
Yet, Jing Qi smiled at him, unexpectedly wrapped his arms around his neck, and tangled their lips together. Passing him the whole mouthful of water like he was messing around, he forced him to swallow it down, then let him go.
Wu Xi spluttered, tone exasperated. “Why did—“
He didn’t get to finish, because he sensed that something was off, blankly watching the smiling expression on Jing Qi’s face vanish. The other sat there calmly, looking at him like he wanted to squeeze out a grin, but, for some reason, the curves of his face held sorrow.
Wu Xi realized it in an instant, but felt his body get weighed down by something, eyes struggling to stay open.
He swiftly stood up, stumbling a half-step back. “…”
Jing Qi avoided his eyes. In that instant, the man’s handsome, lowered brows made a drowning desperation arise in his heart. His legs apparently couldn’t support his weight, his knees went limp, and he fell, getting taken into Jing Qi’s arms.
“Jing Beiyuan… Jing… Bei… yuan…” He exhausted the last of his strength, firmly clutching Jing Qi’s sleeve and fighting hard to open his eyes that had since gone slack. “I’ll… hate… hate… you forever… hate… for…”
Consciousness at last unable to keep struggling, he slowly shut his eyes, relaxed his fingers, and collapsed powerlessly.
Jing Qi picked him up, gently placed him on the bed, then reached out to delicately trace his facial features. All of a sudden, he smiled, fragmented rays appearing inside of his slightly raised peach blossom eyes. In that second, every type of prosperity didn’t matter, and both the previous life and this one disappeared without a trace.
Only that voice was in his ears: Jing Beiyuan, I will hate you forever.
There was a run-down restaurant in the outskirts called a rest pavilion. Parting people would hereunto go their separate ways. Mortal sounds that resonated on Xianyang Road were unheard both here, and on the other side of the world.
Ashinlae turned to gaze at the back of the figure seated atop the horse innumerable times, while the Shamanet was in the carriage, dreaming deeply without waking. He had many suspicions in mind, but didn’t understand. He asked Nuahar, but he didn’t understand, either.
The Prince had only said that the Great Qing was going to war and the Vakurah were going to strike the capital, so they had to return to Nanjiang for safety.
Ashinlae wanted to interrogate him on why he wasn’t coming with them, but Nuahar grabbed him to stop. The latter seemed to have just come back from weeping at a funeral, numb grief on his face. Questions not to be said, he merely shook his head and sighed.
At the city gate, the horses and carriages filed out, the setting sun now about to ebb.
Jing Qi reined his horse to a stop, dismounted, lifted the carriage curtain, and stared fixedly at Wu Xi for a time. No emotion was visible on him, making one think that he was no different from usual, and yet not the same at all. “It’s a long road. Take care of yourselves, gentlemen,” he soon quietly said. “I put all the Dream Stupor leftover from last time into that water. This sleep of his will likely last ten fortnights. If you all spur your horses a bit faster… you might be able to make it.”
“Prince…” Nuahar uttered quietly.
Jing Qi looked at him, exposing a shallow grin that rapidly disappeared, then released the curtain. “Alright, no more drivel. Go on.”
Nuahar’s eyes went red, yet Jing Qi didn’t look at him anymore, leading his horse back over regardless. Nuahar jumped out of the carriage and shouted, “Prince!”
Not looking back, Jing Qi simply lightly waved his hand. “Once your Shamanet awakens, tell him… that I owe him for today. If there’s another day that we meet again, I’ll definitely repay him. Go.”
Ah, to tread a trail on Xianyang Road…
He led his horse back into the city alone, walking extremely slowly. The sound of carriages and horses was behind him. The sound of rolling wheels rolled into the distance. It was unknown how long had passed until he eventually couldn’t resist turning his head, only to discover that all the Nanjiang folk had long become invisible. The sound of wheels was nothing more than an illusion of the mind, as if that man was still there, as if…
He smiled bitterly, mounting the horse.
When he passed the rest pavilion, he noticed that a familiar carriage was parked at the entrance of the restaurant for who knew how long. Startled, he reined the horse to a stop, and shortly saw someone come out of the carriage.
Helian Yi stared off with him for a long time. “Why didn’t you go with him?” he asked quietly.
Jing Qi smiled. “This subject has obeyed the edict to send the Shamanet out of the capital. It’s merely that these are extraordinary times, so I had to lack some courtesy this once. Don’t blame me for not seeing him off further on.”
The other stood there mutely for a while, then sighed deeply. “What use could there be in remaining behind?”
“There isn’t any. I just have to stay.”
He was only in the everyday outfit of a sapphire robe, silver rolling on the edges of his wide sleeves, which rose with the breeze. His back and shoulders were exceptionally straight, like bamboo that refused to bend in any way within the wind.
Then, inside the sunset, he explained himself clearly.
“I, Jing Beiyuan, was born a person of the Great Qing, and will die a ghost of the Great Qing.”