The doors and windows of the teahouse were closed tightly, oil lamps scattered on the ground, no longer emitting a trace of light.
Archers with torches surrounded the place outside.
Qi Yan’s profile was illuminated with the dancing firelight, his features blurry.
“Did you bring these people?” he asked.
Xia Xun’s heartbeat was too fast, his breathing irregular.
He gritted his teeth, clenching the short dagger hidden in his sleeve.
He tried to find anger or hostility on Qi Yan’s face, just like then when he cut off his father’s head with his own hands.
Qi Yan’s expression did not change in the slightest. He was still gazing at him with what might be called deep affection.
He said to Xia Xun, “Are you going to kill me?”
He took a step forward.
Xia Xun said sharply: “Don’t come over!”
He was so nervous that his voice was off pitch.
“Let me go! Otherwise, the archers outside the house will — what are you doing?”
Qi Yan didn’t stop, walking towards him step by step.
“You heard what I said!” Xia Xun’s tone was so harsh that he himself felt frightened, “Don’t come over!”
Qi Yan didn’t listen and walked slowly, stepping on the broken porcelain.
Xia Xun had to step back until he hit the pillar in the center of the teahouse.
He could actually bypass the pillar and continue backing off but he was too panicked. His legs were soft and didn’t obey him.
The pieces of porcelain shattered into fine dust under the soles of Qi Yan’s boots. He was already in front of Xia Xun.
“Let you go, and then what?”
His gaze was fixed on Xia Xun as he said every word very slowly:
“Just leave me here, to live in heartache and remorse every day and use all my strength to find things related to you, even the tiniest clues? Let me plead to Heaven every night, begging for your soul to enter my dreams even for half a moment?”
His brows were furrowed, his voice trembling, his eyes red, as if he was the most besotted man in the world, and Xia Xun failed him, forcing him into sorrow and despair.
“I have lived like this for seven years, and life… was worse than death.”
Qi Yan clutched the clothes on his heart, the expensive fabric crumpled into a ball, the pattern woven with golden silk messy.
His eyes were full of madness.
“I won’t let you go. As long as I am alive, I will never let you go.”
Xia Xun almost believed it; believed that what QiYan said was true, that he really loved him.
The last time he believed Qi Yan, Xia Xun’s family was ruined.
This time he had nothing, nothing to lose.
He clenched the handle of the dagger.
He finally found an opportunity to get out; he had to make Qi Yan let him go.
“Stop talking.” Xia Xun drew the dagger and held it in front of him: “Let me go.”
Qi Yan ignored it and slowly approached Xia Xun until the blade of the dagger was pressed against his chest.
Xia Xun’s palms were covered in cold sweat and the handle of the dagger was too smooth. He obviously held it in a death grip but the next moment his hand suddenly slipped and the dagger fell to the ground.
Qi Yan followed the sound with his gaze and looked at the dagger on the floor.
Xia Xun thought he would be shocked and angry but he wasn’t.
He bent down to pick up the dagger and put it back into Xia Xun’s hand, then raised his head and gave him a gentle smile.
“If you want me to die, why bother to go to such great lengths? My life was originally yours and you can take it anytime you want.”
Xia Xun’s whole body was limp; he had to use both his hands to hold the dagger that weighed almost nothing.
“I don’t want your life-” He restrained his anxious breathing: “…I just need to leave!”
Qi Yan shook his head, the corner of his mouth turning up in a smile.
“Kill me and you can go.”
Painful memories swept over him, overwhelming anger instantly consuming Xia Xun. He raised his dagger and squeezed out through his teeth.：
“Don’t think I won’t dare to do it! I am not who I used to be!”
Xia Xun’s face was distorted, his expression hideous, his look terrifying.
Qi Yan was not frightened.
“I know.” He said softly: “I know–”
Before he finished his words, Xia Xun did it.
He used all his strength and the shining blade pierced deep into Qi Yan’s shoulder.
The force of the stab was too great; the blade collided with Qi Yan’s shoulder bone, shocking his hands into numbness.
The metal of the dagger scratched against the bone with a sharp, grating sound.
This time, it must have hurt.
Qi Yan’s face did not change; he still stared at Xia Xun gently.
His blood slowly flowed onto Xia Xun’s hands, the sticky liquid still carrying the heat of his body, almost burning Xia Xun’s fingers.
Xia Xun suddenly let go of the dagger, trembling and stepping back half a step, his chest heaving violently.
Qi Yan asked softly：“Did you miss?” His voice was very soft, as if coaxing an unreasonable child: “It’s okay, do it again.”
He held the bloody handle and pulled out the dagger without hesitation. Blood poured down his sleeve and dripped on the ground.
Xia Xun was stunned: “What are you going to do?!”
Qi Yan smiled slightly, stuffed the dagger into Xia Xun’s palm, then grabbed his hand, narrowing the distance between the two of them, and pressed the tip of the dagger right against his heart.
Xia Xun struggled hard, trying to break free from his grasp.
“Let go! Let me go!! Are you crazy?!”
Qi Yan was indifferent, holding his hand in an iron-hard grip.
“–This time I’m going to aim.”
He suddenly exerted force.
With a ripping sound, the cold, short blade entered his body. Blood splashed from his chest and sprayed onto Xia Xun’s face.
Xia Xun was frozen, his lips trembling uncontrollably, his body unable to move.
He stared fixedly at Qi Yan’s face, his eyes full of burning blood.
Qi Yan did not retreat or avoid, stretched out his hand and held Xia Xun firmly in his arms.
“I finally hugged you.”
He pressed his head to the side of Xia Xun’s face and said with a sigh.
Before he finished speaking, a large mouthful of blood gushed out of his mouth and sprayed on Xia Xun’s neck.
Qi Yan panted heavily, raised his hand and wiped his blood off with an effort.
“I got you dirty again…”
His cold fingers rubbed Xia Xun’s skin.
“I don’t want to see it at all, the sight of blood on your body… it’s a pity…”
Qi Yan’s face was pale. Blood continued to flow from the corners of his mouth, his forehead covered with cold sweat. He looked wretched and miserable; there was nothing left from the leisurely appearance he had had before.
But his posture was still upright, his eyebrows still majestic and his gestures still retained the outstanding style Xia Xun remembered.
——And his eyes.
He looked at Xia Xun with tenderness and incomparable affection hidden in his eyes.
He looked at him, suddenly curved his eyes in a smile and lightly touched Xia Xun’s face.
“Don’t cry… I don’t want to see you crying…”
Xia Xun suddenly felt grief.
He didn’t know he was crying.
Until now, he thought that he only had bitter hatred for Qi Yan.
Seeing that he was really going to die, Xia Xun didn’t feel joy or relief. In the mixed feelings in his heart there was sadness.
He closed his eyes as more wetness trickled down his cheeks and onto his chin.
Qi Yan wanted to say something else, but the archers outside the house suddenly moved.
They were obviously brought by Xia Xun, but they neither broke in to take Xia Xun away, nor planned to help Xia Xun kill Qi Yan.
——They wanted to get rid of the two of them together.
Ten thousand shots were fired, burning feathered arrows coming thick and fast through the doors and windows.
Xia Xun thought, that was fine.
He was tired and had no more strength to face what fate had in store for him.
But Qi Yan disagreed.
He was so badly injured but he had to protect Xia Xun.
He pressed down his wounds, squeezing out the last of his strength, and dragged Xia Xun to the backyard, stumbling.
There was a lake in the backyard, the water in it dark and terrifying.
There were archers on the opposite side of the lake too. When they saw the two of them coming out, they started shooting.
Where the rain of arrows fell, a sea of fire rose in an instant, the huge flame quickly surrounding the two of them.
This place was in the open, there was nowhere to hide. If the archers shot again, they would die without a grave to bury them.
Qi Yan didn’t hesitate anymore and pulled Xia Xun into the icy lake.
As soon as he entered the water, Xia Xun felt a sharp pain in his hand.
He looked down; there was a bone-deep wound on his palm. He had held the dagger too hard and got cut by the blade.
If just an inch-long wound could cause such piercing pain, then Qi Yan……
Xia Xun couldn’t help but look in front of him.
As if he didn’t feel pain, Qi Yan gripped one of his hands tightly and kept swimming forward with him.
The lake was so big that it was impossible to see the shore at a glance, and the water was bone-chilling, the cold penetrating straight into the bones.
As tough as Qi Yan was, he gradually was losing his strength and began to move slower.
There was more and more of his blood flowing, dyeing the lake water around him red.
To make matters worse, the archers on the other side had already discovered that they were in the lake and were coming along the shore.
Once they were in position, it would be another round of impermeable attacks.
Qi Yan stopped and pointed to Xia Xun at the bottom of the lake.
Xia Xun understood what he meant; he was going to dive underwater and swim over.
Xia Xun followed his example, took a deep breath and dived into the depths of the lake.
He couldn’t swim too well; soon, he couldn’t hold his breath anymore.
He raised his head, trying to get out of the water to breathe.
At this moment, a familiar voice suddenly came from the shore：
“Lord Qi! Where are you?! Lord Qi–? ！ ”
——It’s Qi Yan’s guard! He found them!
Xia Xun’s heart was overfilled with joy. He suddenly messed up and didn’t hold his breath, inhaling the lake water through his nose.
He choked, his swimming motions becoming chaotic. His balance was lost and his body gradually sank.
His vision was blurred and the only sound he heard was the quiet gurgling of water.
Qi Yan didn’t notice his condition and was drifting away.
Xia Xun looked at his distant figure, thinking vaguely that he was left alone again.
Seven years ago, he had lost almost all his relatives, and even Qi Yan had left him.
Everyone told him that Qi Yan had lied to him.
He said that he loved him, but in fact he only wanted to kill his parents and avenge the Qi family.
Xia Xun didn’t believe it, but had to believe in the end.
Many years later, in the dark endless waves, before his death, his long-lasting hatred for Qi Yan seemed to have dissipated.
Xia Xun closed his eyes, gave up struggling and waited to sink to the bottom of the lake.
The expected death did not come. Someone grabbed him forcefully.
He suddenly opened his eyes.
He was obviously wounded and bleeding, obviously barely holding on. He was about to reach the shore but he still came back to save him.
He cupped Xia Xun’s face and pressed his mouth against his lips, kissing him insistently for a long time, sending all his breath into his mouth.
This was their first peaceful kiss after seven years of separation.
As the kiss ended, Qi Yan pressed his forehead against Xia Xun’s, smiled at him for the last time and then violently pushed him upward.
Xia Xun was pushed to the surface while Qi Yan slowly sank.
Xia Xun wanted to catch him but was suddenly pulled out of the water.
It was Qi Yan’s guard who dived to save him.
Xia Xun slapped his arm to make him save Qi Yan, but as soon as he opened his mouth it filled with water.
He couldn’t make a sound and he couldn’t break free from the guards’ firm grip, forced by the other party to go up the lake.
He stretched out his hand to Qi Yan in vain. He could only watch him get farther and farther away and finally disappear into the endless darkness in the bottom of the lake.