Edited and Proofread by KitKat
The towering body of the man was wrapped over An Chang Qing’s back as his head rested on his shoulder. The warmth from his breath brushed his skin, ensuring An Chang Qing with a sense of comfort that his Wangye had returned safely.
Finally his clenched fist loosened. Seeing that others were looking their way and hesitating whether they should approach, An Chang Qing nudged Xiao Zhige, “Let go of me. Let’s go back first.”
But Xiao Zhige stood unflinching behind him, breathing lightly – he had fallen asleep in this state.
An Chang Qing turned to look at him and found that the man’s face had lost considerable weight with vividly visible dark shades under his closed eyes.
Maybe because Xiao Zhige had finally returned, the anger and grievances that had accumulated over the past few days completely subsided, giving way to feelings of heartache and tenderness towards the man. His heart softened and although he did not want to, he still had to wake him up, “Wangye, please wake up. You can sleep back at the manor.”
Xiao Zhige rubbed his cheek against his neck and mumbled faintly.
Qi Wei and the others suggested, “Why don’t we help carry the General back?”
An Chang Qing shook his head. He grabbed Xiao Zhige’s arm and wrapped it over his shoulder, speaking to him softly, “Don’t sleep here, let me take you back.”
Xiao Zhige seemed to sense his intention and hummed softly. He leaned in and let An Chang Qing guide him home.
Qi Wei watched from behind with envy. He mumbled, “When will I be able to find such a loving and good-looking partner? Why is the General so lucky?”
“I advise you not to go near the General’s place the next few days unless you want to court unwanted misfortune1. Since the Beidi army has withdrawn, there are countless matters to attend to. Let’s deal with them and wait a few days before visiting the General,” Xie Ling warned as he recalled the sight of Wangfei turning his back in anger. For now, the General has just returned but who could tell how Wangfei would vent his anger after.
Qi Wei gave Xie Ling a puzzled look and asked Tie Hu, “Old Tie, what could Xie Ling possibly mean?”
Tie Hu scratched his head and replied, “How should I know?”
An Chang Qing supported Xiao Zhige the whole way back to the manor. People on the street had wanted to give him a hand but were all rejected by him.
Once they reached their room, An Chang Qing instructed Chen Su to prepare a hot bath while he undressed Xiao Zhige.
Where on earth did he go that caused his shiny armor to be smudged with blood and dirt, his shoes to be soaking wet, and his white inner gown to be soiled with black and yellow stains?
An Chang Qing carefully checked the injury on his left shoulder and found that the gash on his shoulder had reopened. It was covered with dried blood which had glued his garment onto his wound. When An Chang Qing was trying his gentlest to pull off his garment, he found that the cloth had assimilated with the man’s flesh, causing him to let out soft grunts in pain.
An Chang Qing dared not make any rash movements and could only use scissors to remove the rest of his inner gown. He then covered him with a blanket.
Xiao Zhige remained unconscious no matter what An Chang Qing did to him.
Seeing his battered body filled with untreated wounds, An Chang Qing untied his hair and laid him back in bed while he personally got up to get the doctor.
Not long after An Chang Qing left, Chen Su returned with the hot water. When he took it to the bedside, he felt a piercing gaze. In fear, he turned his head to find Xiao Zhige’s cold eyes staring at him.
“General,” Chen Su shrank back and greeted in a squeaky voice.
Xiao Zhige looked back at him unfeelingly without any other response. Chen Su’s scalp was turning numb by his stare. He quickly placed the water basin down and hurriedly fled. At the same time, An Chang Qing had just returned with Hu Shifei when he saw Chen Su rushing out as if he had seen a ghost.
Chen Su replied, “The General is awake.”
An Chang Qing was delighted. He rushed and found that Xiao Zhige had indeed opened his eyes. He called out ‘Wangye’ but Xiao Zhige only looked at him for a few seconds before closing his eyes and breathing steadily again.
Hu Shifei, who had come to Yanzhou together with Tie Hu, had been helping out in the barracks since his arrival. Once he heard that Xiao Zhige had returned, he gathered his equipment and wanted to pay him a visit when he happened to bump into An Chang Qing who had come to look for him.
After giving Xiao Zhige a checkup, Hu Shifei explained, “He’s just suffering from exhaustion. But this wound had been left untreated for too long. We have to remove the fabric and treat it soon before it becomes infected and destroys his meridians.”
An Chang Qing was terribly frightened, “Please do it quick.”
Hu Shifei looked at Xiao Zhige’s grime covered body coughed lightly, “Once the wound is treated, it should not be disturbed. Why doesn’t Wangfei have someone clean up Wangye and change the bedding first. I will return to dress his wounds once that’s done.”
An Chang Qing agreed. He told Chen Su to accompany Hu Shifei to the yard while he stayed and helped Xiao Zhige wipe his body clean. An Chang Qing was meticulous and gentle in his every move to avoid the fresh injuries, making sure that Xiao Zhige was not hurting. After using two buckets of water, Xiao Zhige was finally cleaned and An Chang Qing could proceed with changing the bed sheets.
Maybe because An Chang Qing was by his side, this time around, Xiao Zhige did not wake up.
Hu Shifei was then invited in. He had prepared a bottle of wine and a small heated knife. He then soaked a piece of clean gauze with alcohol and placed it over the wound on Xiao Zhige’s left shoulder.
Xiao Zhige grunted as blue veins popped on his neck and forehead.
An Chang Qing was heartbroken when he saw this but Hu Shifei calmly instructed him, “Please hold him down and do not let him make any sudden movements.”
An Chang Qing removed his socks, got onto bed and used his whole body to restrain Xiao Zhige.
Hu Shifei began cleaning the wound with alcohol before slowly removing the rotten flesh with a pair of scissors.
As the dead flesh which had blended with the fabric were being dug out, bright red blood began spilling out from the fresh wound. Riddled with pain, Xiao Zhige’s body would occasionally twitch and he would let out a low groan. An Chang Qing was too grief-stricken to look, and could only hold him tightly with his eyes closed.
Fortunately, the procedure was done relatively quickly thanks to Hu Shifei’s swift and precise skills. He wiped off the blood stains and spread medicine over the wound before bandaging it with clean gauze.
At this point, both An Chang Qing and Xiao Zhige were sweating profusely. An Chang Qing heaved a sigh and said softly, “Thank you Dr. Hu.”
Hu Shifei waved his hand, “Wangfei don’t have to thank me. Do not let Wangye do anything to agitate the wound. It’ll take time for it to heal. I will come to help change Wangye’s dressing everyday. Please let him have a good rest for today.”
After Hu Shifei left, An Chang Qing took a handkerchief and wiped the sweat off of Xiao Zhige’s forehead.
Maybe because the pain had subsided, the frown on his face had lifted as he rested peacefully.
An Chang Qing took off his outer gown and sat beside the sleeping Xiao Zhige. He pinched his nose and said, “I’ll let you off for now. We’ll settle this later.”
Seeing no reaction from Xiao Zhige, An Chang Qing snorted and went on to cover him with the blanket. He hesitated briefly but still decided to slip into the blanket and slept in his arms.
The next day, An Chang Qing was woken up by the bright sunlight.
He rubbed his face against the warm chest before opening his eyes to find that Xiao Zhige was looking at him.
Xiao Zhige had his head lowered and his downcast eyes had been gazing at him for some time now.
An Chang Qing let go of his grip and rubbed his eyes, “What time is it?”
“It’s almost noon.” Xiao Zhige answered.
“That late? Why didn’t Wangye wake me? What about lunch?”
“I’m not hungry. I wanted to look at you a little longer.”
When he was trapped in Mnt. Er Gui with neither food nor a way out, all he could think of was An Chang Qing. What was An Chang Qing doing now back in Yanzhou?; Does An Chang Qing know that he was no longer in the city? If he did not return, would An Chang Qing be mad at him?
But he did promise him that he would return so no matter how hard it gets, he had to pull through. If he is not around, there will be no one to coax his Nuo Nuo when he’s unhappy.
An Chang Qing was starting to turn hot under his gaze. He ran out barefooted and called for food to be brought up.
Xiao Zhige’s eyes continued to be glued to his back, reluctant to let him leave.
Considering Xiao Zhige’s injuries, An Chang Qing had ordered the kitchen to prepare porridge and light side dishes that are easy to digest. The meal was served on a small table next to the bed. Xiao Zhige got up and wore his outer gown before sitting to eat with An Chang Qing.
After finishing the food, An Chang Qing let the servants clear the table and leave the room. He then picked up the comb and helped Xiao Zhige comb his hair.
Xiao Zhige, with his back against An Chang Qing, asked, “How were your days when I was away?”
An Chang Qing’s hands paused briefly. He continued to brush Xiao Zhige’s hair while answering wryly, “When Wangye was away, I ate and slept very well. What is there that could ruin my day?”
An Chang Qing said so but his tone was filled with grievances.
Xiao Zhige remembered seeing him last night – he had come down from the city wall in body armor. It was during a battle and standing on top of these walls was extremely dangerous. He shouldn’t have been there.
“What were you doing up on the city wall yesterday?” Xiao Zhige asked in a serious voice.
“I went to beat the war drum.” An Chang Qing retold Xiao Zhige everything, “The Beidi army announced that you were dead. I did not believe it and neither could I allow the soldiers and civilians to believe it.”
Xiao Zhige’s brows knit together and he scolded sternly, “How could you! What if something happened…”
An Chang Qing cut him off and said, “You risked your life to siege the Beidi Court, it is only right that I and the soldiers do what we can to wait for your return. As long as you come back, I will be fine.”
Xiao Zhige was lost for words as he looked at An Chang Qing who looked back at him firmly with unspoken anger in his eyes.
Xiao Zhige could no longer say what he had intended to. He sighed and took him into his arms and apologized, “It’s my fault, I shouldn’t have kept it from you.”
An Chang Qing sniffed and shamelessly buried his face into his chest, “You didn’t know how scared I was!”
All he could do was to blindly have faith in Xiao Zhige’s promise, the promise that he would return. He not only had to convince himself but also the soldiers and people of Yanzhou that Xiao Zhige would return.
“I’m sorry…” Xiao Zhige kissed him lightly on his forehead and cheek. He hugged him tighter and said, “I promise, there will not be a next time.”
An Chang Qing looked up from his embrace with red eyes and nose and strictly stated, “If there’s a next time, you’re on your own!”
1↪The phrase used here is 池鱼之殃(chí yú zhī yāng): trouble for the fish in a moat, meaning to be struck with disaster not of one’s making
2 thoughts on “TTBE 51”
Xiao Zhige walking home while asleep is both hilarious and sad. I wonder how much time he’ll get to rest.
Thank you for the chapter 💕
Thank you so much for sharing this with us ❤️🙏🧧