Edited and Proofread by KitKat
After releasing the lantern into the river and watching it float away, the pair went back to Wang Xian Lou hand in hand.
Having been away for so long, by the time they returned to Wang Xian Lou, An Xian Yu was already there waiting. The maid behind her was carrying quite a few items. It seemed like she had had a good time.
Since it was getting late, An Chang Qing proposed that they return to the manor to rest at which everyone agreed. When he left the room, he noticed that the Nongxue Pavilion next door was empty. It seemed that the people from the An family had left some time ago.
Once the group reached the manor, they each went back to their respective courtyards. Because Xiao Zhige had wet his shoes and clothes, An Chang Qing ordered the servants to prepare hot water and a ginger decoction. He then urged Xiao Zhige to change out of his damp clothes in order to not catch a cold.
Xiao Zhige was not too concerned with this. He had an iron body and getting wet in the winter was not something he was unfamiliar with. But An Chang Qing stared at him and said angrily, “Mother said that cold enters the body through the soles. If you don’t guard properly against the cold when you’re still young, you will bear the brunt of it when you get older. You really think you’re made of iron? No one will be there to take care of you when you’re old and sick.”
During their conversation, a servant had finished preparing the hot water. An Chang Qing unreservedly pulled off Xiao Zhige’s outer garment and pushed him towards the bathroom, “Quickly take a bath and have some ginger tea after you’re done.”
Xiao Zhige was rendered speechless by this wave of insistence and could only take a bath obediently. After bathing and changing clothes, Xiao Zhige came out of the bathroom and saw An Chang Qing carrying over a bowl of ginger tea. The sight simply warmed his heart.
After his mother died, no one had given him such meticulous care for a long time. Ever since he had joined the army at the age of twelve, the comrades he had made were brutish men. Marching and brawling through a sea of knives and swords, they could give their lives at any moment but couldn’t afford to be concerned about the future when they would get old.
Without needing An Chang Qing to nag, Xiao Zhige obediently went to pick up the bowl of ginger tea and took a sip. The hot liquid flowed down his throat and warmed his body.
Seeing that Xiao Zhige had taken the initiative, An Chang Qing heaved a sigh and went to the bathroom to wash up.
When he came back, the man had made the bed and was leaning on the headboard. Xiao Zhige saw him coming over and moved to the outer side of the bed, letting him lay down on the readily warmed side.
An Chang Qing took off his shoes, climbed over him and burrowed into the quilt. He was immediately immersed in warmth and a scent unique to his husband. And probably because they had just cleared up the misunderstandings, this comforting temperature made An Chang Qing red in the ears. He pulled the blanket over his face and did not tuck into Xiao Zhige’s arms like usual but instead, curled up like a silkworm, ready to doze off.
Xiao Zhige was waiting with his arms open but An Chang Qing did not come over. Frowning, he turned to look at An Chang Qing’s half exposed face with the crow black eyelashes still flickering, proving that he was still awake.
After hesitating for a second, Xiao Zhige reached out and pulled the person in. Entering his embrace was a nostalgically familiar body temperature, making him hug the person tighter as he nestled his chin over his head.
An Chang Qing had been skittish from the beginning and now being wrapped by him, he was starting to feel breathless. After a while when he couldn’t hold his breath anymore, he pushed against his chest and whispered, “I can’t breathe.”
Xiao Zhige lowered his head and looked down just as An Chang Qing was looking up at him. One person’s lips were only millimeters away from the other person’s nose tip. An Chang Qing’s eyelashes trembled and he looked away, not daring to face Xiao Zhige. Thinking of the ‘white-hair promise’ floating with the lantern, Xiao Zhige’s adam’s apple moved a few times before he finally listened to his heart and gently kissed An Chang Qing on the nose.
The long eyelashes quivered intensely like a butterfly flapping its wings when caught. But even so, An Chang Qing neither resisted nor pulled away. He lowered his eyes and raised his head, taking up a more convenient pose for Xiao Zhige to kiss him.
With a rapidly beating heart and boiling blood coursing through his body, Xiao Zhige tried to control his heavy breathing as he moved tenderly from the curved tip of the nose to the beautifully shaped chin.
The exchange of breaths and friction between the skin was alluring like flowers mingling on a dewy spring morning.
An Chang Qing’s face was flushed by a hue of red while his fingers holding onto the quilt clenched. After taking a long time to build up his courage, he whispered, “The salve that was prepared from before… It, it hasn’t been used. It’s still in the second drawer at the head of the bed…”
His voice was soft like a mosquito’s but when it landed in Xiao Zhige’s ears, it was like the beating of a drum. The man battled internally for a long time before his concern for An Chang Qing prevailed. His jaws tightened as veins protruded on his forehead. In a restrained and muffled voice, he said, “… Today, the preparations have not been made. Let’s do it on another day.”
An Chang Qing’s face was fiery hot but seeing that Xiao Zhige had no intention of continuing, he responded with an ‘oh’. He did not know that there was a need for any preparations when doing this but since Xiao Zhige said so, he should just oblige him.
Having played outside all night and being kissed affectionately in bed after, An Chang Qing easily slipped into dreamland. On the other hand, it took Xiao Zhige a long time to calm down but due to hugging the person in his arms, he simply could not fall asleep. He struggled till the sky lit up at which he went to practice his spear for half an hour before dawn finally arrived.
When An Chang Qing woke up, Xiao Zhige had breakfast with him then found an excuse to leave the house to visit Hu Shifei.
After diagnosing and prescribing medicine for Lady Yu and Zhou He Lan’s mother, Hu Shifei had nothing else to do and hence returned to his little clinic, living life leisurely. Only occasionally would he have to visit the Wang Manor to do a checkup for the two ladies.
He was lying on a rocking chair by the fire when the shaky wooden door was pushed open. Xiao Zhige stepped inside and looked around before speaking, “I need you for something.”
Hu Shifei was nervous, thinking that there might be an emergency in Yanzhou. He led him into the inner room and sent away the errand boy. After closing the door, he asked, “Yanzhou needs me? Who’s injured?”
“…” Xiao Zhige gave him a strange look and said, “It has nothing to do with Yanzhou.”
“Oh…” Hu Shifei was relieved. His back remained straight and he asked with some confusion, “Then what is it?” If it’s not a major problem related to Yanzhou, why would Wangye come to me with such a serious look?
Xiao Zhige stared at him in silence for a long while.
Hu Shifei’s head was filled with fog as he waited wide-eyed for Xiao Zhige’s reply.
Only after a lengthy amount of time did he hear Xiao Zhige speak, “I have a friend….”
Hu Shifei thought: could this friend be seriously ill? That’s why his medical expertise was required?
“… he married a man two years younger who has yet to be ‘touched’.”
Hu Shifei: “And?”
Xiao Zhige took a long time to respond: “As of now, my friend would like to consummate their marriage. The problem is, he is quite gifted. That part… is particularly masculine. He was concerned it would hurt his spouse and wanted me to ask you for help.”
“…” Hu Shifei gave him a wooden look.
Xiao Zhige was getting impatient, “Do you have a solution?”
The corner of Hu Shifei’s mouth twitched. Marrying a man two years younger, Wangye, is that friend yourself?
But to think that Wangye and Wangfei had yet to consummate their marriage, Hu Shifei felt that he had stumbled upon a big secret.
“There is a way…” Hu Shifei explained slowly, “It’s not like there have never been cutsleeves since ancient times. There are several ways to do it safely.”
“How? Write it down. I’ll go back…” Xiao Zhige changed his words in time, “… I’ll go back and give it to my friend.”
Hu Shifei feigned ignorance and smiled, “I’ll write it down later. It’s just, when Wangye says gifted, how… gifted is it?”
Blue veins popped up on Xiao Zhige’s forehead as his face turned black. Reluctantly, he made a gesture to indicate the size.
Hu Shifei let out a ‘woah’ before picking up a piece of paper and began writing. At the same time, he said, “Before doing it, you have to prepare in advance to avoid hurting the other person. But regarding this matter, it’s not a big deal. You’ll eventually develop a tacit understanding the more you do it.”
Xiao Zhige frowned, “Will doing it often hurt the recipient?”
“You’ll have to incorporate it with the exercises I mentioned.” Hu Shifei smirked as he folded the scribbled piece of paper and handed it to him. “Wangye, take this and do it accordingly… No, I mean, take this to your friend and tell him to do it accordingly.”
Xiao Zhige looked at him while maintaining a straight face. He then took the paper and put it into his sleeve before turning around and leaving.
After lunch, An Chang Qing went to Qingwu courtyard. There, Lady Yu and An Xian Yu were instructing the servants with packing their luggage. Lady Yu had spoken to An Chang Qing previously that she and An Xian Yu would move out of the Wang Manor after the New Year to avoid unwanted gossip. Seeing her insistence, An Chang Qing had no choice but to agree.
As soon as the Lantern Festival concluded, Lady Yu immediately proceeded with the move.
An Chang Qing said helplessly, “Why the hurry?”
Lady Yu looked at him, “The house had already been tidied up. Furthermore, it’s not very far. If you miss us, you can always come to visit.”
An Chang Qing knew that no matter how he persuaded, his mother would have ten thousand reasons to refuse. “I understand. Mother, please sit, just let the servants handle the packing.”
Lady Yu was indeed getting worn out and sat down to have a rest.
Steward Wang saw the three people sitting idly and thought of the news he had just heard and said, “This old servant got wind of this this morning. Something big happened at Minister An’s Manor last night. Young Master An had a fight with the visiting cousin in the middle of the night.”
An Chang Qing’s eyebrows were raised, “An Changyu and Li Hai Yun fought?”
“That’s right,” Steward Wang bowed and continued, “I heard that they went to watch the Lantern Festival together. They left with a happy mood but when they came back, it was not sure what Li Hai Yun had said to Young Master An that they had a heated argument in the study which led to an altercation. Li Hai Yun had his hand broken and Young Master An has a head injury. The old Matriarch was furious at being woken up in the middle of the night. And, this morning, the An Manor’s post boy had rushed into the Palace to call for an imperial physician.”
An Chang Qing was unaware that such an event had taken place. As he was still surprised by the news, a report came to the door saying that a sire named Li Hai Yun was at the gate seeking to meet him.
“Why did Li Hai Yun come to the Wang Manor?” An Chang Qing was slightly unnerved. Thinking of the dispute between Li Hai Yun and An Changyu, could his visit have something to do with An Changyu?
“Take him to the hall.” After pondering for a while, An Chang Qing decided to meet him once more to clear things up.