Edited and Proofread by KitKat
An Chang Qing continued to feel nauseous the whole trip back to the manor. Thinking how Taizi-fei could still oblige the prince and deliver the wine to him, An Chang Qing felt that he was being eyed by a den of poisonous snakes.
Rubbing his arms and pulling a long face, he mumbled, “I have to take a bath, this is making me uncomfortable all over.”
Xiao Zhige smiled but quickly turned gloomy as he thought of something. After a while, he patted An Chang Qing’s hair and said, “Go ahead. You can ignore the crown prince, he wouldn’t dare to do anything for now.”
“What about after?” An Chang Qing asked with a frown.
“After…” Xiao Zhige smiled confidently, “Worry not, there is no after for him.”
An Chang Qing’s eyes turned bright. Thinking of how this man would eventually ascend the throne, there was indeed no future for the crown prince. He happily nodded, “I’ll be taking my bath then.”
The hot water had been prepared the moment the servants saw their return. Soaking in the warm water, An Chang Qing’s body was thoroughly warmed and he began to feel sleepy…
Xiao Zhige had been waiting in the bedroom for a long time but did not see him come back. Worried, he walked to the bathroom and called out to him but he did not get a response.
He hesitated, but still concerned, pushed the curtain and entered.
Steam was swirling up in the bathroom. As he walked in, he saw a naked An Chang Qing leaning against the edge of the bathtub. Xiao Zhige called out to him but he remained silent. When Xiao Zhige hurriedly pulled him up, he found that An Chang Qing was sound asleep.
Xiao Zhige was speechless and he couldn’t help raising his lips. He found a large towel to wrap An Chang Qing up and brought him back to their bedroom.
It was probably the alcohol taking effect that no matter how much Xiao Zhige fiddled with him, An Chang Qing continued to slumber away. A red face with trembling eyelashes flickered over his tear-mole, like the flutterings of a butterfly.
Drying his hair and putting on clothes for him had caused Xiao Zhige to break out in a sweat while An Chang Qing had slept all the way through.
Finally, he lifted the blanket and laid down next to him.
A satisfied An Chang Qing rolled into his embrace and buried his face on his chest. Xiao Zhige looked at him warily and sure enough, An Chang Qing raised his head seconds later and asked, “Why hasn’t Wangye read to me yet?”
Clearly, Xiao Zhige had been reading to him to lull him to sleep these past few weeks.
Xiao Zhige had no choice but to start reciting texts from the book on warfare while stroking his back.
An Chang Qing made a few ‘hm hmms’, signifying his satisfaction.
But because he could feel the eyelashes flickering over his skin, Xiao Zhige knew that An Chang Qing was still awake, probably having some strange thoughts or intentions. He regretted for a moment for having let him drink those cups of wine.
He heaved a long sigh. After a while, there was no more movement from the person in his arms. Just as he was about to confirm if he was asleep, he heard him speak softly, “You’ve never kissed me.”
Xiao Zhige, “…” his mind turned blank as he stared at the person in his embrace.
Under the influence of alcohol, An Chang Qing was bolder and a lot more thick-skinned. With blushing cheeks, he complained, “Before, I was the one who kissed you. Now it’s your turn to kiss me.”
He then closed his eyes and waited shyly for Xiao Zhige’s incoming kiss.
Xiao Zhige was frozen in place but his heart was beating many times faster even than when he fought his first battle.
Not getting the kiss he was waiting for, An Chang Qing opened his eyes. Seeing that Xiao Zhige was still not making a move, grievance filled his eyes and he stared at Xiao Zhige with discontent.
Distressed by the look in his eyes, Xiao Zhige’s Adam’s apple rolled and he bent down to kiss An Chang Qing on the forehead.
An Chang Qing was not appeased. He pouted his lips and muttered, “All the couples kiss each other on the lips. Do you not like me? That’s why you don’t want to kiss… Hm!”
Before he could finish his sentence, his mouth was blocked by Xiao Zhige.
Xiao Zhige initially wanted to quickly accomplish the act and stop but the lips of the person in his arms were just too sweet and tender, like the finest of wines, once you’d had a taste, you could no longer let go.
The pair locked lips for a long time before they separated due to breathlessness. They looked at each other with blushing faces and frolicking heartbeats. The alcohol had now worn off slightly and reflecting on his previous unreasonable demand, An Chang Qing’s face turned beet red as he buried his head against Xiao Zhige’s chest. In a muffled voice, he said, “I’m sleepy!”
With that, he closed his eyes and eventually dozed off.
Only Xiao Zhige was left awake with a raging heart beating in his chest. Even the excitement of winning his first battle was nothing compared to having this kiss. He tried to adjust his breathing and suppressed the powerful urge to move. The person in his arms had hidden his face and only the bright red earlobe was exposed. Xiao Zhige wasn’t able to ascertain if he was asleep.
He began to gently stroke An Chang Qing’s hair. His lips slightly hooked as a thought came to his mind uncontrollably: Was it possible that his Wangfei actually liked him a little?
He lowered his eyes and hid away those rampaging thoughts.
One day, he would make his Wangfei forget everyone else, leaving only himself in his heart.
The next day was New Year.
Before dawn, a sleepy An Chang Qing was woken up by Anfu.
Anfu urged, “Wangye has already risen. Today you still have to go to the Palace.”
Hearing the word ‘palace’, An Chang Qing’s muddled mind woke up. He patted his head and anxiously said, “Help me bathe and get dressed.”
According to Da Ye’s customs, a banquet would be held on New Year’s Eve to award meritorious officials and on New Year’s Day, the Emperor would stay in Feng Tian Hall to receive blessings from his subjects. At the same time, he would also give out rewards and handwritten calligraphies of the word ‘福’1.
After bathing and changing at a rapid pace, An Chang Qing went out to look for Xiao Zhige.
Xiao Zhige saw him approaching and immediately put away his spear to pick up the fox fur coat and draped it over An Chang Qing.
An Chang Qing saw him and turned shy when he thought of the silly things he did during his drunken stupor.
“Yesterday, Wangye… Did you sleep well?” An Chang Qing asked with some embarrassment.
“It was fine.” Xiao Zhige looked at him enigmatically and replied.
An Chang Qing couldn’t deduce much from his answer so he braced himself and said, “I’ll drink less in the future.”
Xiao Zhige responded with an ‘en’ but shortly after, he considered and said, “It’s ok to drink at home. You don’t have to drink when we go out.”
An Chang Qing was feeling guilty so he nodded in compliance. The pair then left for the Palace.
On the first day of the new year, offerings were made to the heavens and ancestors. Officials also went to extend well wishes to the Emperor.
After entering the palace, An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige separated. As a prince, Xiao Zhige had to follow Emperor An Qing to present offerings to the ancestors while An Chang Qing, as a Wangfei, had to pay his respects to the Empress and Empress Dowager.
Before leaving, Xiao Zhige was concerned that An Chang Qing would be picked on and boldly advised, “Today, Taizi-fei and the rest of the concubines will be present. You don’t have to speak much, just be wary of Taizi-fei and Shu-guifei. The Empress Dowager shouldn’t make things difficult for you.”
An Chang Qing nodded and followed the palace maid to the Imperial harem.
It was daybreak and the lights in the palace were still brightly lit. An Chang Qing quickly swept his eyes across the hall as he followed the palace maid. The Empress Dowager was sitting at the highest seat while the Empress, Taizi-fei, Shu-guifei and the other concubines sat one step below to her right. The space on her left was meant for the princesses and Wangfei. An Chang Qing made his salutations before being led to his seat.
The moment he arrived, everyone’s eyes were on him.
Shu-guifei gave Lady Hui an inconspicuous wink which prompted her to cover her mouth and snort, “I finally get to see Wangfei. Such a busy entity that I couldn’t even get a glimpse of during the banquet.”
An Chang Qing spoke with dignity, “On the day of the banquet, Chang Qing was with Wangye in the East Palace.”
“Oh?” Lady Hui said as her nails dyed in red brushed over her sideburns, “And here I thought Wangfei was too proud to be associated with us women…”
“I dare not.” An Chang Qing bowed and calmly said, “It’s just that even though Chang Qing is a Wangfei, I’m still a man. I did not want to disturb your mood during the banquet and thus had gone with Wangye. This matter, His Majesty is well aware.”
At the mention of the Emperor, Lady Hui’s expression dimmed and she stopped discussing the topic.
Just then, the Grand Princess spoke, “Since His Majesty had approved, Lady Hui should refrain from talking about it lest you want others to think you’re dissatisfied with his decision.”
The look on Lady Hui’s face turned ugly and she couldn’t help but look towards Shu-guifei.
Shu-guifei sipped her tea then said, “The Grand Princess has always been partial to the Northern Warlord but I didn’t think your favoritism extended even to his Wangfei. Lady Hui only made a slight comment and she was already ostracized.”
The Grand Princess gave her a cold look and said with arrogance, “No matter who I choose to protect, it’s not your place to have an opinion.”
Shu-guifei was about to rebuke but at this time, the Empress Dowager patted the table and ordered, “That’s enough.”