Six months ago.
Xia Xun rode in a carriage for twenty days before they arrived in the capital.
Qi Yan’s guards traveled at double speed, not daring to delay for a moment.
When he entered Qi Yan’s residence, the servant guided him to the main house and retired.
He waited all afternoon without seeing anyone.
It was getting dark and he couldn’t fight his tiredness anymore, so he lay on the table and fell asleep.
In the dim light, he heard footsteps coming from outside, opened his eyes and sat up.
The visitor moved very lightly. He hesitated outside the door for a moment and then pushed the door in.
——It was Qi Yan.
He walked around the pillar, the candlelight working its way up from his feet, gradually illuminating his legs, waist and shoulders.
Finally, his handsome face emerged from the darkness and appeared in the soft candlelight.
Even seven years later, he still had picturesque eyebrows, his looks unforgettable to anyone who had seen him.
Xia Xun’s gaze moved to his waist; he was wearing a splendid gold-woven belt, his clothes much more gorgeous than before.
He carried a food box in his hands.
“Have you been waiting for a long time? Sorry, there have been too many things recently. I heard that you arrived and wanted to rush back, but I really couldn’t get rid of…”
His tone was familiar; he was talking like before, as if nothing had happened between them.
Xia Xun hid his hands in his sleeves, clenched his fists and forced himself not to move.
Qi Yan put the food box on the table.
“Are you hungry? This is acacia leaf cold cakes. I remember you used to like them very much.”
Xia Xun ignored it, slowly stood up and gave him a respectful salute.
He had not been in the capital for a long time and he didn’t know the rituals of the nobles in the capital now, but his movements were not rusty.
He thought his salute must have been wrong because Qi Yan’s face immediately turned unsightly.
Xia Xun smiled at himself, lowered his hands and said:
“My eldest brother is married and has a daughter who is less than one year old.”
As soon as Xia Xun spoke, Qi Yan was more than a little surprised.
For many years he had lived in Douzhou, in exile in the south of the country, where the climate was hot and humid and the water was rough.
Xia Xun was born in the capital, acclimatised to its soil and water, and suffered a serious illness as soon as he arrived there.
After he recovered from his illness, his throat was damaged and his voice became so hoarse that even he found it difficult to hear.
Qi Yan’s words sounded sour: “You — how could you…?”
Xia Xun did not answer and continued：
“For the sake of his little daughter, I would like to beg Lord Zhongshu — please don’t make things difficult for him. If you still have any unresolved grievances, I can bear them for him.”
Qi Yan’s expression froze, all the excitement and disbelief of reuniting with Xia Xun receding in an instant.
His eyes were dazed and he stood still, unable to speak for a long time.
Xia Xun lowered his eyes and waited quietly for his answer.
They were very close; Xia Xun could smell the incense on Qi Yan’s clothes.
This smell was familiar to him, the fragrance that had always been on Qi Yan’s body.
Qi Yan looked at him for a while, then suddenly said, “…you have grown up.”
There was a hint of relief in his words.
“You used to only reach my chin, but now… you’re up to the tip of my nose.”
He seemed to be in a daze, not answering his questions.
Xia Xun insisted:
“Lord Zhongshu must have heard what I said. I don’t know what you think –”
Qi Yan interrupted him suddenly, pretending to be relaxed:
“Don’t talk about this yet, come and have a taste, it’s going to be cold if you don’t eat it now.”
He sat down and opened the lid of the box. The golden yellow dim sum was still steaming.
He picked up a piece and handed it to Xia Xun.
Xia Xun paused, slowly sat down at the table, took the cake from his hand, bit off a piece and chewed expressionlessly.
Qi Yan stared at him intently, the heat in his eyes almost burning him through.
Xia Xun felt uneasy; he couldn’t guess what Qi Xuan would do to him and his eldest brother.
The pastry was sweet and delicate, with a rich aroma of acacia leaves. It was a pity he didn’t feel the taste.
Just as he was thinking about it, Qi Yan suddenly moved.
He leaned forward unexpectedly and hugged Xia Xun.
Xia Xun’s whole body shuddered, his hand shook and half of the remaining dim sum fell on Qi Yan’s shoulder and smashed on the floor, breaking into pieces.
Qi Yan’s arms squeezed tighter and tighter and Xia Xun didn’t say a word, letting him hold him.
The room was silent, the cotton wick of the candle making a popping sound as it burned.
Xia Xun’s whole body was stiff; even his breathing was careful.
Qi Yan felt it and asked in a low voice：
“…You obviously don’t want to, why… don’t you push me away?”
Xia Xun pretends to be calm：
“As I said, as long as Lord Zhongshu is willing to let my brother go, you can do whatever you want.”
Qi Yan was silent for a moment and then said, “Good…”
He tugged hard and Xia Xun fell into his arms, sitting onto his lap. Qi Yan held his waist, his head buried in the nook of his shoulder.
His face was pressed against Xia Xun’s thin neck, his hand rubbing the back of his waist.
Qi Yan’s aura enveloped Xia Xun layer by layer, memories of the past churning up in huge waves in his heart.
He closed his eyes tightly, gritted his teeth and clenched his fists.
Qi Yan didn’t stop; his hand gradually moved up and he was about to touch Xia Xun’s shoulder blade.
Xia Xun couldn’t bear it anymore.
He pushed his shoulders hard, rejecting his approach, trying to escape from this forced embrace.
Qi Yan didn’t let go, imprisoning him tightly in his arms.
His scorching palms pressed against his back and kept stroking as he murmured his name.
“…are you really not dead? Are you really alive…? Really… come back to me?”
Xia Xun held back his anger：
“Why are you still talking about this now! Didn’t Lord Zhongshu forcibly bring me back?”
Qi Yan was silent.
He buried his face against Xia Xun’s neck and breathed heavily, absorbing his smell, his lips brushing behind his ear shortly.
Xia Xun’s body responded faster than his mind. Before his consciousness reacted, his hands and feet were already struggling violently.
He desperately wanted to get away, or at least hide somewhere where he couldn’t be seen to feel safe.
He used a lot of effort to push but Qi Yan remained motionless.
He tried to press down Qi Yan’s hand, but the man grabbed his wrist with his other hand. He tried to stand up and was pulled back onto Qi Yan’s lap.
Dumbfounded, he said angrily：
“Can’t you find someone you want?! Why did you have to find me? You brought me here to the capital just to do this kind of thing?”
Qi Yan said:
“You misunderstood, I won’t do anything to you! I just want you to listen to me. What happened in the past is not what you think. I can explain slowly ——”
Xia Xun shook off his hand and said sarcastically：
“Do you believe yourself when you say that? Is it your revenge? Even if my father had wronged you, he’s already dead! You cut off his head with your own hands, you wouldn’t forget that, would you?!”
Qi Yan grabbed Xia Xun’s shoulders, forcing him to look at him.
“I never wanted to retaliate against you, I beg you ——”
Xia Xun couldn’t listen anymore; he pushed the food box on the table down, and the porcelain dish containing the cold cakes fell on the table with a clear cracking sound.
Someone heard the noise and wanted to come in to check.
Qi Yan stopped them：
“Stand down, no one is allowed to come in.”
Soon there was no one outside the room.
Xia Xun panted heavily and jerked away from Qi Yan’s arms, his eyes burning fiercely:
“Beat me or kill me as you wish, but don’t try to trick me with such words!”
Qi Yan had a complicated expression, looking straight at him, his eyes affectionate and melancholy.
He was silent for a moment, then suddenly grabbed Xia Xun forecefully and pressed him to the table to kiss his face.
Xia Xun couldn’t dodge, so in desperation, he grasped a piece of broken porcelain on the table and waved it fiercely.
——Dazzling blood flashed in front of his eyes as Qi Yan’s right hand was cut by him.
In pain, Qi Yan let him go.
Xia Xun got up in a panic and took a few steps back, holding the piece of porcelain in his hand, staring at Qi Yan vigilantly and keeping his distance.
The edge of the porcelain piece was sharp. Qi Yan’s palm was cut deeply, red blood dripping down.
Qi Yan ignored the wound and approached Xia Xun quickly.
Xia Xun couldn’t dodge; his wrist was grabbed.
“What are you going to do?!”
He was shocked and angry.
Qi Yan used his blood-stained hand to clasp the piece of porcelain in his fingers and throw it away.
“This thing is too sharp, don’t cut yourself!”
Xia Xun couldn’t help laughing.
Instead of caring about his own injuries, Qi Yan came to worry about whether he would get hurt?
Showing his weakness to him like this, was he thinking of a new way to deceive him?
Xia Xun hid his hands behind his back: “Don’t bother!”
Qi Yan closed his eyes, and when he opened them again, all emotions in them were dissloved in the darkness and calm.
He regained his composure.
During the time when Xia Xun first met him, this was his most common expression.
Calm, unperturbed, hiding his likes and dislikes.
Xia Xun thought self-deprecatingly that he had never been Qi Yan’s opponent. Not only could he not guess what Qi Yan was thinking, but he also wrote all his joys and sorrows on his face, so he deserved to be deceived.
While he was stunned, Qi Yan suddenly raised his hand and pressed the back of his palm to his face, rubbing his warm blood over Xia Xun’s chin.
He wiped the blood away with his fingers and the blood drops turned into blood stains, still remaining on Xia Xun’s skin.
He did it on purpose, he deliberately wanted to smear his face with blood.
Xia Xun looked at him in disbelief.
Qi Yan smiled, a very small, fleeting smile.
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t do anything to you. This main house is specially cleaned out for you to live in. You must be tired after a long journey. Rest.”
Saying that, he stopped looking at Xia Xun, turned and walked out.
When he came, his footsteps were eager, but when he left, he felt lost.
At the door, he suddenly remembered something and said to Xia Xun：
“Don’t eat those acacia leaf cold cakes, I’ll buy them for you again tomorrow.”
The door opened and closed, his figure disappearing.
After that, no one had come in except for the servant who entered to clean up the broken porcelain pieces.
Xia Xun was too stunned to relax.
Only when it was past midnight and there was still no movement outside did he breathe a long sigh of relief
All the way from Douzhou to here, he had long been exhausted. He hobbled to the bed and fell down heavily.
His body was extremely tired, but his tense spirit could not relax.
He opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling blankly.
After a long time, he realized that the furnishings in this room were almost the same as seven years ago.
Did Qi Yan do it deliberately?
What was his intention in doing this?
Xia Xun’s mind couldn’t comprehend it.
He raised his hand and opened his palm. There was a note in his hand that he had just found in the cold cake.
He pretended to be angry and overturned the food box just to distract Qi Yan and hide the note.
There was only one sentence on the thin piece of paper：
——Knowing your plight, I hope you can come to Guangning House for a chat.
He looked at it in silence for a while, then put it over the candle and burned it.