Edited and Proofread by KitKat
After the ceremony, the newlyweds were escorted to their wedding chamber.
The room in the Wang Manor’s main courtyard had always been barren. The tiny bit of red-colored decorations did nothing to elevate the missing sense of festivity.
The two sat facing each other next to the bridal bed while the xipo handed Xiao Zhige a golden weighing rod1 saying, “Wangye please lift the veil.”
Xiao Zhige did not respond. He solemnly looked at the person in front of him, deep in thought.
Seeing his inaction, the xipo awkwardly called out to him, “Wangye?”
Xiao Zhige came back from his daze and cast her glance, “You all can leave now.”
The xipo had long heard of his infamous temper. His joyless face even on his wedding day could only mean that he did not like the future wangfei. She glanced at An Chang Qing with sympathy and put down the golden rod, then left quickly, closing the door behind.
In the room, Xiao Zhige lifted the veil without using the golden rod and was relieved to see that An Chang Qing was not in girly make-up. He then frowned and mulled over what to say. Briefly after, he managed to think of something, “Are you hungry?”
An Chang Qing looked at him in surprise. Before, all he could do was look down. Now that he could raise his head, he attentively observed the man in front of him, his new husband.
Previously, in the many years that they had cohabited, he had never looked twice at this person who was tied to a fearsome reputation. Only with a closer look did he discover that he was a man of outstanding facial features. At present, he was only known as the emperor’s unloved son. In the eyes of the courtiers, he was the prince who had lost all qualifications to succeed the throne. In the eyes of the common people, he was the bloodthirsty warlord who had killed tens of thousands without blinking.
But at this moment, An Chang Qing was using his heart to look at him. What he saw was a weak young man who still had much to grow. Although he had a brooding expression, it had not reached the later stage where it could stop infants from crying. His eyebrows were sharp as swords with a shallow ‘川’ in the middle. His black eyes were like bottomless pits sitting in a deep pair of sockets. Combined with his high nose and thin lips, it gave his face a majestic and dignified look.
An Chang Qing smoothed his brows and gave him a soft smile. Whether this was real or fantasy, he still had to take the first step. He had once believed the rumors and not only trapped himself but had also wronged Xiao Zhige. This time, he would try to get to know this person.
No one was born cruel. The cold-blooded Emperor of the future was also once a soft-hearted young man who had asked his wangfei on their wedding day if he was hungry. It was just that everyone else had chosen to ignore these trivial details… Including himself.
“Shouldn’t we drink the hejin2 wine first?” An Chang Qing smiled at him sweetly and asked.
Once again, he was stricken with surprise. Xiao Zhige did not expect An Chang Qing would present such an attitude towards him. He was stunned briefly before pouring them each a cup of hejin wine, “Alright.”
Their arms crossed as they drank the wine, like a pair of mandarin ducks.
Xiao Zhige stood up after drinking the wine, ready to go out to entertain the guests. When he walked to the door, he turned back and said, “The kitchen has prepared some snacks, if you’re hungry, send someone to get it.”
Without waiting for An Chang Qing’s response, he strode out the door.
An Chang Qing looked at his back as he was leaving. There exuded a sense of firmness and vigor, like that of a pine tree, many times more alive than the gloomy Emperor he had once become.
Xiao Zhige went out to entertain the guests in the front yard while An Chang Qing stayed behind in the bridal room. Judging from his attitude, Xiao Zhige did not treat him like a woman just because An Chang Qing was married to him.
An Chang Qing was not reserved either. He took off the heavy crown and cumbersome clothes to stretch his muscles. Without the weight, his body felt a whole lot lighter.
He put on a casual dark red overcoat and tied his long hair back then called for Anfu to get some snacks from the kitchen.
The kitchen had prepared a variety of pastries. An Chang Qing ate a few pieces to appease his hunger before he could calmly analyze the situation.
In the beginning, he had thought that it was only a dream.
After he had died, his spirit hadn’t disappeared but had been trapped inside the huge palace. It was there that he had watched as Xiao Zhige became more violent and increasingly reckless. In the three years after his death, Xiao Zhige had launched five wars. Although he had managed to drive the Bei Di people to the edge of the grassland and occupied almost half of the Xi Wei Empire, the DaYe Empire had suffered heavy losses. Due to the continuous years of war, countless fields had been abandoned and as winter dawned, severe famine had spread for thousands of miles. As it had escalated, the commoners could only resort to cannibalism. Da Ye Empire had turned into an abyss of suffering.
The people at the bottom of the pit were then united by a movement established by the abolished prince, Xiao Qi An. With the support of Zhu An Liang and Shi Le Zheng, two big generals of the Zhu State, he had gathered two hundred thousand refugees and surrounded the capital city of Yejing. That was the start of what would then be called “The Battle to Slay the Dragon”.
This had been a fierce battle. Xiao Zhige, with over ten years of battling experiences, had guided his troop of fifty thousand men like a god of war to defeat the two hundred thousand refugees. In less than a month, corpses had piled along the borders of Yejing, reaching almost as high as its walls. The refugees had had to climb over the corpses of their brethren while Xiao Zhige stood over the wall, looking down at them like the grim reaper.
However, a month later, the gates of Yejing were opened. But it hadn’t been because the refugees had managed to break through but because it was opened by a guard who had been ordered to do so.
The abolished prince and the two generals led their troops into the palace. After a quick search, they found Xiao Zhige alone in the secluded Qiwu Palace.
The lonely Emperor had sat by the window of Qiwu Palace and had ended his life with a sharp knife.
The abolished prince chopped off his head and hung it on the gate of Yejing while his body had been thrown into the mass graves and eaten by wild dogs. He had claimed to have killed the tyrant under heaven’s mandate.
Only An Chang Qing, who had been watching him in silence, knew that Xiao Zhige was actually winning. The imperial army personally trained by him was one of the most formidable troops and they were absolutely loyal to him. Although the refugees had numbers, their fighting capabilities were inferior. Furthermore, their troops had been reduced to fifty thousand, it was just a matter of time before they were annihilated.
But that night, Xiao Zhige called in his second-in-command and gave him one last military order: to open the gates of Yejing and surrender.
The man then sat in Qiwu Palace with a piece of jade in his hand. He looked at it all night and at the break of dawn had decided to end his life.
No one knew what his last thoughts were, only An Chang Qing had been able to get a glimpse.
The late Emperor had in his hand a piece of jade carved with a twin-fish symbol, the very same one his mother had given him on his tenth birthday. It had followed him for eighteen years until the day he died. An Chang Qing thought of the memento that had been buried with him, he did not expect it would be in Xiao Zhige’s hands.
Because it hadn’t been buried with him and kept in the hands of the dead Emperor, it had accompanied his corpse when it was thrown into the wild graves. At that time, An Chang Qing had wanted to cover his body with a straw mat but he could not even do so. He could only watch the headless body of the Emperor being eaten by vultures and wild dogs until only the bones were left. Without the flesh and blood, the piece of twin-fish jade was exposed and picked up by a beggar passing through the grave.
That day, looking at the empty palm of the skeleton, An Chang Qing had suddenly cried. He had only felt an overwhelming sadness like never before. The intense crying had sent his consciousness into chaos and when he woke up, he was back to the winter of Qingli year fifteen, the day he was wedded to Xiao Zhige.
An Chang Qing looked down at his opaque hands and gave his cheek a pinch. The touch was so real, it was not like a dream at all.
Maybe this was a blessing from the heavens. Maybe because he had lived a muddled life and made too many mistakes, he had been given a second chance to do it again.
Being able to do things over, he couldn’t possibly follow the footsteps of an overthrown chariot.
As he was in deep thoughts, Anfu’s voice outside the room sounded and the door creaked open. An Chang Qing turned and saw the youthful Xiao Zhige walking calmly towards him.
“Wangye,” An Chang Qing got up and greeted him with a smile.
As he got closer, An Chang Qing realized that he had a strong smell of alcohol, probably from having too much wine. He reached forward to support him and found that Xiao Zhige was taller than him by half a head. His body was robust and his arms were hardened with muscles.
Fortunately, although he had too much to drink, his mind was still clear. He let An Chang Qing walk him to the bed and sat down.
After settling him down, An Chang Qing took Anfu to the kitchen to make some hangover soup. When he got back to the room, he found that Xiao Zhige was watching him unblinkingly. His eyes were obscured and the slightly frowning eyebrows added a tint of ferocity to his serious face.
An Chang Qing was somewhat taken aback. He had a timid nature to begin with. But remembering the gentleness of the man who had held him in his arms, comforting him over and over, his heart eased up again.
Picking up his courage, An Chang Qing sat beside Xiao Zhige and handed him a small bowl, “Wangye, have some hangover soup first.”
Xiao Zhige’s eyes trembled as they fell on An Chang Qing’s white fingers holding the porcelain bowl. His hands were beautiful, slender and white with fingertips shaped into a lovely arch. Under the flickering light, his skin gave off a pinkish hue.
Xiao Zhige’s Adam’s apple rolled. He took the bowl without another word.
After drinking the soup, Xiao Zhige put the bowl aside and the air turned heavy again. Xiao Zhige had always been a man of few words while An Chang Qing was getting nervous with the upcoming part of the wedding.
In their previous lives, they had never consummated.
At that time, he only had fear and dislike towards Xiao Zhige. Not crying at the sight of him was already his best effort. Even when they had exchanged the hejin wine, one was carrying a frightened expression while the other was expressionless. Xiao Zhige seemed to have seen his fear and had gone to sleep in the study without saying anything. And he continued to do so for a long time. Back then, he had been relieved to have escaped this stage.
But in this life, this had to change.
An Chang Qing had a little knowledge about how two men would do it. He comforted himself that with proper preparations, it shouldn’t hurt. Moreover, rumors were not credible, he had learned this the hard way in his last life. Xiao Zhige shouldn’t be brutish in this aspect like in the rumors… Right?
An Chang Qing’s face turned red. He sneaked a glance at the top of the bed and saw two small porcelain jars. It should be for them to use for doing that.
He clenched his fingers nervously. An Chang Qing tried to make his voice sound natural, “Wangye, it’s getting late. Why don’t we go to bed?” He sounded calm but even his exposed neck had turned red.
Xiao Zhige remained motionless, only his eyes turned a shade darker.
His silence caused An Chang Qing to feel unease. The blush on his face also faded as he looked at him at a loss.
They sat on the bed side by side in speechlessness. Even though Xiao Zhige did not make a move, he did not seem to reject him either. Thinking of how the once Emperor had clutched the piece of jade in his hand even in death, An Chang Qing’s courage grew a little. Not minding his thumping heart and blushing face, he moved in closer to Xiao Zhige, grabbed his shoulder, and planted a kiss on the man’s lips.
Since the mountain refused to come to him, he would go to it!
The man’s lips were partially dry but unexpectedly soft and carried a touch of warmth. An Chang Qing nudged at it for a while but did not know what to do next. For two lifetimes, he was never in a relationship, whether it was with a man or woman. Regarding the topic of making love, he really had no experience, kissing was the limit.
When he was thinking if he should withdraw, a powerful force held onto his waist. The man who had been stirred up by him had suddenly turned from being a guest to a host, brazenly locking onto his lips. An Chang Qing’s lips were pried open and the man’s tongue drilled straight in. Even kissing was like war to him, always on the offense and leaving the other person no room to retreat.
An Chang Qing was kissed till he was almost out of breath. His arms unknowingly wrapped around Xiao Zhige’s neck and hung there powerlessly.
It took a long time before Xiao Zhige let him go. The rugged hand moved along the side of An Chang Qing’s cheek and lightly pinched his chin. With observance in his eyes, he asked, “Do you not fear me?”
He had expected An Chang Qing to oppose this marriage. After all, he was the one who forced this marriage on him. Moreover, according to his investigation, An Chang Qing had an elder cousin who was attentive towards him. The two appeared to be quite close…
Xiao Zhige was ready to face his wrath or cold shoulder but he never would have expected that An Chang Qing would take the initiative to be … Intimate towards him.
Xiao Zhige’s heart was tugged at. He did not ease the strength of his hand and looked straight into his eyes, as though he could see through his heart and find any trace of deception.
They stared at each other for quite sometime before An Chang Qing shifted his gaze first. He licked his lips instinctively and felt a salty taste of blood. It was then that he found out how boorish the man could become; to think that he had caused his lips to bleed…
He glared back at Xiao Zhige but discovered that Xiao Zhige’s ears had turned crimson red. His annoyance subsided and his heart was floating. He thought of their past lives again and felt aggrieved for the man. An Chang Qing tightened his arms around Xiao Zhige’s neck and leaned in nostalgically, “I’m not afraid of you, I’m only afraid of pain…”
The youth who had yet to come of age had a white face and an elegant figure. His voice was soft and endearing. Even if he was not deliberately seducing him, the man still wished he could hold him in his hands and never let him suffer any injustice.
Xiao Zhige’s fingers trembled as he released the grip of his hand. Recovering his senses, he realized that he had probably been too vulgar before. Had he hurt him?
Sensing the man’s sudden change, An Chang Qing now had an inkling of how his mind worked. He secretly smiled to himself and he was even more courageous to go down this path.
This person might look vicious on the surface but on a closer look, he was very attentive and gentle. An Chang Qing recalled the past and realized how much Xiao Zhige had indulged him. He laid down his worries and nestled into his arms. With a bright blush on his cheeks, he whispered, “Wangye, later… Please be gentle…”
Xiao Zhige’s body tensed up instantly. He pushed An Chang Qing away and stood up. With his back against him, he said stiffly, “You don’t need to be afraid. I will not force you.”
After that, without looking back, he walked briskly out of the bridal chamber. It was just that his reaction was too abrupt that it reeked of the embarrassment of someone trying to escape.
1weighing rod Raising the bride’s veil with a rod is a wedding tradition, signifying getting what one wished for.
2hejin Wine meant for the newlyweds to drink on their wedding night.