Edited and proofread by KitKat
An Chang Qing was not appeased. The man was such a sawed-mouth gourd, it takes a beating just to get a word out of him. If he did not take the initiative, the man would’ve stayed quiet for as long as he could. Had he been a little more eloquent, they wouldn’t have ended up as they did in their previous lives.
Why is there such a silly person in this world who simply does not gloat about all the things that he has done?
An Chang Qing sighed in his heart, thinking that he couldn’t let this go on. He looked at Xiao Zhige with an expression filled with grievances and said in a pitiful tone, “Wangye, can you be frank with me? If Chang Qing was not good enough, you can tell me.”
“I was being frank…” Xiao Zhige never thought that his reticence could upset the person beside him. His Wangfei was facing away from him, half of his face was hidden from view while the other half showed drooping eyelashes like a listless butterfly.
“You did great. The Empress and Empress Dowager both believed it.”
“What about you?” An Chang Qing suddenly turned to look at him, there was a certain sparkle in his black pupils, “Did you believe it?”
Xiao Zhige’s heart softened looking into his eyes. He reached out and placed a loose strand of hair over his ear, “I believe you.”
No matter if it was only to butter him up, as long as it was An Chang Qing’s words, he would believe them.
An Chang Qing’s eyes shone brighter. He rubbed his hand against his palm and said enthusiastically, “Then whatever Wangye had said… I’ll take it for real.”
“The part about you not taking in concubines and having children with another woman.”
Xiao Zhige was not a man who would make empty promises. Whatever he had said, he would keep true to his words.
An Chang Qing felt a rush of happiness like never before. His heart was beating wildly and his body was heating up. He had to bite on his inner cheek to hide the surging joy but even so, his eyes were still shining bright, more beautiful than any star Xiao Zhige had ever seen.
“In this life, it’ll be just the two of us.” An Chang Qing couldn’t help but embrace Xiao Zhige. He rubbed his cheek against his neck before burying his face into it due to embarrassment. He then whispered a promise into Xiao Zhige’s ear, “I will always be with you.”
He will not watch him tread alone on the cold path towards the throne. This time, he’ll accompany him.
Whether it was a glorious life that would leave their names etched in history or a cursed one with a tragic end, as long as Xiao Zhige didn’t let go, he would walk that path with him.
Xiao Zhige was left in a trance. In his mind, a young voice resounded, it had said: “I will keep you company in the future.”
Letting out a soft smile, Xiao Zhige replied as he had many years ago, “Ok.”
But at the same time, the several reports that he had gotten from the spy left in the An manor also came flooding in:
“The third young master is very close to Young Master Li of the in-law family…”
“Young Master Li sent a poem to the third young master…”
“Young Master Li sent a painting to the third young master…”
“Young Master Li is about to return to his hometown to be engaged. Before he left, he gave the third young master a jade pendant. The third young master accepted it and seemed quite upset…”
Xiao Zhige’s eyes fixated on the double-fish jade pendant on An Chang Qing’s waist that had never left his side. His mood sank but he couldn’t help tightening his embrace. Whoever it was that resided in his heart, at least for now, An Chang Qing was his.
He did not long for much, only this illusory affection was something he refused to let go of. From his childhood till now, he was like a moth involuntarily drawn to the fire, unable to take his eyes away.
Now that he was in his arms, even saying that he would accompany him for life, even if he knew it was mere flattery, even if he knew that it would soon be forgotten, he still wouldn’t let go.
By the time they reached the Wang Manor, the sky had turned dark.
An Chang Qing unwillingly pulled his hand from Xiao Zhige’s warm palm to put on the heated fur coat. Even so, the drop in temperature at night still made him shiver the moment he exited the carriage. On the other hand, Xiao Zhige was wearing that thin piece of clothing and stood in the wind like it was nothing.
Eyeing him with jealousy, An Chang Qing devilishly stuck his ice-cold hands to Xiao Zhige’s neck. As expected, Xiao Zhige stiffened momentarily, after which, he pulled his hands down and warmed them thoroughly in his palms, “Behave, it’s cold out here.”
An Chang Qing pouted and allowed himself to be led into the house.
The group of servants held their heads low, whispering to themselves how Wangfei was the only one around who dared to tease Wangye like so.
An Chang Qing did not give much thought to this. Since they had promised to spend the rest of their lives together, he was not going to be a stranger. Having experienced Xiao Zhige’s permissiveness the last few days, An Chang Qing’s behavior was becoming all the more unmindful. To him, Xiao Zhige was simply a wooden post who rarely spoke, there was nothing to be scared of.
Because they had not had dinner, the pair called for several small dishes to be delivered to their room.
Loathing that his clothes were drenched with sweat from all the crying and kneeling earlier, An Chang Qing changed into a lighter garment and went to take a bath.
Entering the bathroom and taking off his clothes, An Chang Qing realized that his thighs and knees were badly bruised. The bruises on the knees were from kneeling and those on the thighs were from him pinching himself to induce tears.
It did not hurt when he was ignoring it before but now that he had seen the dark patches, the pain had begun to emerge. A tiny movement could easily cause him to ache.
An Chang Qing took a deep breath and slowly eased himself into the bathtub, deciding to clean up before applying the medicine.
He spent almost half an hour soaking in the tub and by the time he was ready to stand up, he found that it was too painful to exert any amount of strength into his legs. He tried to use his arms to prop himself out but accidentally hit his knee against the tub wall and sank back down.
After splashing in the water for some time, An Chang Qing was almost in tears due to the pain. His face turned red and finally, he had no choice but to call for Xiao Zhige.
Xiao Zhige was just in the bedroom and after hearing him call, he came in with a slight hesitation in his footsteps.
There was a brazier burning in the bathroom, creating a layer of vapor. An Chang Qing was sitting inside a tall tub with his hair behind him, only exposing his slender and beautiful neck. Because of the steam, his skin had turned bright pink.
Xiao Zhige had to pull his eyes away and approached with unnatural footsteps. He asked in a slightly strained voice, “What’s wrong?”
“My legs hurt and I can’t get up.” An Chang Qing was also embarrassed. He looked down and said in a soft voice, “Can you carry me out…”
Xiao Zhige instantly felt the string called ‘reason’ tighten in his head as his eyes gazed into the water uncontrollably. He stepped back and cleared his throat, “Wait.”
He hurried to get a clean cloth and wiped An Chang Qing’s hair till it was partially dry then averted his eyes and carefully carried him out of the tub. He then wrapped An Chang Qing in a large towel and brought him back into the bedroom.
After tucking him into the blanket, Xiao Zhige left as though fleeing from a battle.
He stood and took in the cold wind for a few moments before ordering Anfu to bring in another brazier. When he returned, An Chang Qing was still wrapped up under the blanket. He stretched out his neck and looked at him, “Where did Wangye go?”
“To get Anfu to bring in another heater.” Xiao Zhige’s Adam’s apple rolled as he answered. He then took a new towel and continued to wipe An Chang Qing’s hair.
Just as he was almost done, Anfu was at the door with the brazier. Burning in it was high-grade silver charcoal without soot or sparks. Xiao Zhige placed the brazier beside the bed and let it dry An Chang Qing’s hair while he lifted the blanket, “Where is it that’s injured?”
An Chang Qing stretched out his legs and pointed with a pout, “My knees and thighs, they’re all green.”
The bruises now looked a lot more frightening than before. They had turned purplish and slightly swollen. Xiao Zhige only touched it gently and An Chang Qing was already contorting in pain.
Xiao Zhige creased his brows and dispersed the previous mesmerizing thoughts, all that remained were guilt and pity. He softened his touch and said gently, “Bruises have to be rubbed for them to heal. I’m going to get the medicinal wine.”
The thought itself already gave An Chang Qing the jitters. These types of injuries, An Chang Qing was quite familiar with. He was born with sensitive skin and delicate flesh. Back when he was often bullied by his relatives, causing his body to be littered with bruises, he could only endure silently for fear of worrying his mother.
There were more serious injuries than this which he had braved through but now it seemed he was no longer able to withstand it.
When Xiao Zhige returned with the medicinal wine, An Chang Qing pulled back his legs and curled up into the blanket. He said in a muffled voice, “There’s no need to rub, it’ll be fine in a few days.”
“It’ll get worse if you don’t rub.” Xiao Zhige frowned with disapproval but feeling heartache for his injuries, he dared not speak harshly and could only coax him, “I’ll be very gentle, it won’t hurt.”
An Chang Qing was skeptical but he did not want his injuries to worsen so he stretched out his legs again and said pitifully, “Then do it gently, I’m afraid of pain.”
Xiao Zhige responded with an ‘en’ and poured the medicinal wine into his palm before rubbing it on his knee.
He only used one-tenth of his strength but An Chang Qing was already complaining in a sobbing tone, “You lied…”
Xiao Zhige had to harden his heart to keep his hand from stopping. Seeing his eyes turning red while biting his lips to endure, Xiao Zhige began blowing unskillfully at his wound and tried to coax him clumsily, “Hubby will blow and your pain will fly away…”
An Chang Qing who was on the verge of tears suddenly burst into laughter. He nudged his other foot on Xiao Zhige’s shoulder and muttered, “I’m not a three-year old. My mother only said that to me when I was young.”
“Is that so?” Xiao Zhige was briefly dazed. He said softly to himself, “So it was learned from his mother…”
“What?” An Chang Qing could not hear what he said and asked.
“Nothing.” Xiao Zhige shook his head and his frown disappeared. He continued to blow gently and said, “Bear with it a little longer.”
With the distraction, An Chang Qing’s pain was alleviated. He rested his chin on the thick blanket as he watched Xiao Zhige attentively rubbing the bruises with utmost care.
The man was kneeling by the bed and had on a serious expression; his downcast eyelashes covered up his sharp eyes. Under the dim candlelight, his rigid features were blurred, bringing out a gentler side to him.
The more he looked, the more An Chang Qing felt satisfied and happy. Such a good person was going to be his.
Why did he think that he was terrifying before?
How blinded was he?!
Clearly this person is incredibly caring.