Xia Xun finished the snacks and drank all the tea but Qi Yan still did not wake up.
He was so tired and bored that he just sat in a chair in a daze.
An afternoon passed quickly; at dusk, the sky was dim and Qi Yan still showed no signs of opening his eyes.
Xia Xun propped his head with his hands and couldn’t help but doze off.
He didn’t know how long he slept; in his drowsy state, he suddenly heard someone calling his name.
The voice was full of eagerness and longing.
He was startled, his hands shook and his chin almost hit the table.
He raised his head blankly and looked around for the source of the sound.
In the dim candlelight, he saw Qi Yan’s face.
Qi Yan had just woken up from a nightmare and was sitting on the bed, his jet-black hair scattered, his forehead covered with cold sweat and his chest heaving violently.
He stared straight ahead with his eyes wide open, his face full of shock and pain.
When he saw Xia Xun, his face filled with disbelief; he looked at him blankly, shaking his head again and again.
“Xia Xun, how can you… no, am I… dreaming again?”
Xia Xun got up indifferently:
“You are awake, I can go.”
Qi Yan called him:
“Xia Xun? Xia Xun! Wait——”
He ignored it. Qi Yan got out of bed to stop him but his legs were soft and he fell to the ground.
Not paying attention to his own embarrassment, he tried his best to stop him.
“Xia Xun! Don’t go!”
It had to be a bitter ploy.
Xia Xun obviously thought so……
He stopped without looking back and asked coldly:
“What’s the matter?”
Qi Yan supported himself on the table, stood up with difficulty and said, panting:
“Don’t go yet, you… stay for a while, at least don’t make me think that I’m still dreaming…”
Xia Xun said coldly:
“It is not a dream. You won’t dream of me and I will not be willing to enter your dreams.”
Qi Yan seemed to be extremely shocked, his face twitching.
“Yes…” He lowered his eyes and laughed at himself: “I always wake up with your name, but I haven’t dreamed of you once, except——”
An unknown anger sprang up in Xia Xun’s heart:
“What are you going to say?!”
Qi Yan raised his head and looked at his back blankly:
“I’m out of strength, please turn around, it’s a bit laborious to talk to you like this.”
Xia Xun reluctantly turned to him sideways.
“If you have something to say, hurry up!”
Qi Yan took a few breaths, then slowly calmed down. He closed his eyes and asked softly:
“Do you like tea?”
Xia Xun said impatiently:
“What a strange question, does it matter whether I do or not?”
Qi Yan said calmly:
“I remember that you didn’t like to drink tea in the past. You always thought that tea was bitter. No matter how much I persuaded you, you refused to drink more. You said that you were not old enough to appreciate the goodness of tea.”
Xia Xun answered casually:
“Lingnan’s weather is hot and humid, so you have to drink plenty of water. The locals like to drink tea, so I learned to drink it. Why do you ask——”
With a flash of inspiration, he suddenly understood why Qi Yan asked it.
He stopped and stared back at Qi Yan stiffly, with a look of disbelief on his face:
“——Did you wake up when I was asleep just now?”
Qi Yan paused, a little surprised, but slowly smiled in approval:
“You really have grown up, not as naive as before.”
Xia Xun’s face sank. Gritting teeth, he said:
“And you haven’t changed. Still as cunning as before.”
Qi Yan was clearly testing him.
This was not the first time he woke up. He must have woken up once when Xia Xun was sleeping with his head propped up on the table.
He had ordered not to tell Xia Xun about Zhi Gui’s punishment, but Xia Xun still came.
After Qi Yan woke up, he would definitely question Xia Xun’s servant.
The servant must have told him that Xia Xun disliked the new maid’s poor tea ceremony and demanded Zhi Gui to make tea for him personally. He couldn’t help it and had to tell Xia Xun that Zhi Gui was punished.
Qi Yan remembered that Xia Xun never liked drinking tea many years ago, so how could he think that the tea made by someone was not good enough to drink.
The reason why he said that he needed to be served by Zhi Gui was because he wanted an excuse to find out her true whereabouts.
Then, who made him suspicious about the whereabouts of Zhi Gui and what else did they tell him?
Qi Yan discovered a loophole and in order to find out who leaked the information in the first place, he deliberately tested Xia Xun.
But Xia Xun didn’t notice and answered honestly.
Xia Xun shuddered, feeling his blood freeze.
He realized that even though the man in front of him seemed weak, even though he had just woken up from a coma, he was still sharp and sophisticated.
He seemed to ask carelessly, and no one knew how many calculations were hidden behind every question.
He had not changed; he was still the scheming Qi Yan.
Xia Xun’s little calculations in his eyes were nothing more than a child’s play.
Xia Xun smiled coldly and simply told him everything:
“You must have guessed that the maid you newly appointed to serve me is from the same town as Zhi Gui. Zhi Gui was going to be driven out by you, she was sad and couldn’t hide it in front of me. I learned the truth after asking. In order not to harm her, I deliberately made up a reason.
“I’m not as smart as you and I can’t think of a perfect strategy. She told me about Zhi Gui. If you’re angry, kill them both, and if that doesn’t work, you can kill me too.”
Qi Yan explained immediately:
“That’s not what I meant. I’m just worried that everyone in the mansion will talk nonsense in front of you.”
He sighed and then said, “I let Zhi Gui stay, you don’t have to worry about her.”
Xia Xun shook his head slowly:
“I don’t have time to worry about her. I am worried about myself. I will never win over you. If you want to kill me, I will die without a grave. You are so unfathomable. By your side, I only feel fear.”
He shook his head and backed away, not noticing that there was a low table behind him. If he made another step, he would trip over.
Qi Yan didn’t wear shoes at the moment; he rushed forward barefoot and grabbed his hand.
Xia Xun’s hair was standing on end.
“What are you going to do?!”
Qi Yan grasped his wrist and refused to let him go.
“Xia Xun, listen to me! Once upon a time, I approached you with ulterior motives, but now it’s different! I can give you whatever you want! I dare not have any expectations, just please don’t be afraid of me, don’t hide from me, and don’t look at me with such distant eyes!”
He was fervent and passionate, full of affection and obsessed.
Seeing his expression and hearing the tone of his voice, anyone would trust him.
In the whole world, only Xia Xun remained indifferent.
“You can’t deceive me. No matter how stupid I am, I won’t be fooled by you a second time!”
He threw away Qi Yan’s hand and ran out without looking back.
He ran too fast, bumped into Qi Hui outside the door and knocked over the servant who was carrying the medicine.
The medicine bowl fell to the ground, the concoction spilled.
Qi Yan called him from behind, Qi Hui was busy supporting him and the servant knelt down on the floor, hurriedly picking up the pieces.
There was too much commotion, the chaos and the noise making a dog bark wildly somewhere in the house.
Xia Xun ignored everything and rushed out.
The dog’s bark sounded closer and closer, and suddenly a brown-headed fulin dog turned around the corner of the corridor, barking at Xia Xun. (fulin dog – Pekingese dog)
Xia Xun was not afraid at all, continuing to run forward.
When he was passing by, the dog suddenly stopped barking; its nose twitched as if it smelled something.
After a while, it blinked, then suddenly wagged its tail, and started swaying it more and more happily.
It shook from head to toe and followed Xia Xun, stood up anxiously and pounced on his knees with its two front paws.
Xia Xun had to stop and look down at it.
Its fur was dry, its beard was whitish and its front teeth were missing. When it barked, it revealed a black gap in their place. The joints of its four legs were swollen and deformed. At first glance, it looked like a very old dog.
The moment Xia Xun saw it clearly, he stood frozen on the spot, his heart skipping a beat.
He didn’t dare to move, he didn’t even dare to breathe. His voice trembled as he said to the old dog:
“…Yuzhu… is that you…?”
When he met Qi Yan, Xia Xun’s family had a fulin dog, bought by his second elder brother for a lot of money to show off to his friends.
The dog came to his house when it was only a few months old and needed a lot of care.
The puppy was clingy and very attached to its master, sticking to Xia Xing all day long.
After Xia Xing took it out to show off a few times, he quickly got bored, threw the dog aside and ignored it.
The servants in his courtyard followed his example. Seeing that the owner didn’t like it, no one took care of the puppy and even stopped feeding it.
The puppy was hungry for a few days; unable to find anything to eat, it ran to Xia Xun’s courtyard.
At first, Xia Xun didn’t dare to take it in. Xia Xing was bossy and violent. If Xia Xun took something that belonged to him, he would be furious.
Apart from going to his parents to complain, he would often swing his fists trying to beat him up as well.
Of course Xia Xun was not afraid of a fight.
Although he had never won, he had never admitted defeat either. Even if he was beaten by Xia Xing bloody, his nose swollen and his face bruised, he would never ask for mercy.
When Xia Xing discovered that his character was like that, he gradually felt that it was too boring to bully him, so he did not provoke Xia Xun. Instead, he turned to Xia Xun’s servants to vent his anger.
His servants couldn’t resist; they could only bear it obediently.
Xia Xun was furious but there was nothing he could do. It was useless to talk to his parents.
Xia Xun’s mother was not his real mother. His real mother was a singer of unknown origin and she died not long after giving birth to him.
His father, Xia Hongxi, just spent some nights with her and didn’t have the slightest affection for her. He disliked her for her low birth and didn’t like Xia Xun.
Regardless of the subject of the arguments between the brothers, Xia Hongxi would always stand on Xia Xing’s side.
For the safety of his servants, Xia Xun had to learn to swallow his anger and try not to conflict with Xia Xing head-on.
As soon as he heard that the puppy belonged to Xia Xing, he asked Shaobo to send it back.
Shaobo couldn’t bear it.
She held the skinny puppy in her arms, not caring about the dirt on its fur.
She was wearing a new dress that Xia Xun gave her. The puppy’s muddy paws stepped on her, leaving a lot of paw prints, but she didn’t care.
She spread the fur on the puppy’s chest and showed Xia Xun its protruding ribs.
“Little master, look! It has become so thin, if we don’t take it in, it will starve to death!”
Xia Xun looked distressed too.
“It’s not that I don’t want to keep it, but it’s my second brother’s dog! How could he be willing to give it to me? Besides, if I ask him for it, what if he loses his temper? Then you will suffer again!”
Shaobo’s heart was clenching.
“This slave begs you! It’s not a big deal if he whips me once, it’s not like I haven’t been whipped before!”
The puppy lay in her arms, so weak it couldn’t even raise its head, and licked her hand, wagging its tail feebly.
Xia Xun couldn’t argue with her.
“Never mind, I’ll go find the eldest brother!”
His eldest brother, Xia Wen, was born to Xia Hongxi’s first wife. Unlike the second brother’s, his personality was more gentle and fair.
Although he also looked down on Xia Xun, he was reasonable and never bothered with Xia Xun, nor did he wrong or bully him.
If he could obtain his consent and keep the puppy, his second brother would have nothing to say.
Xia Xun dressed cleanly and walked to the eldest brother’s courtyard.
He knew that no one in the mansion wanted to see him, so he rarely left his own courtyard.
It was the first time that he took the initiative to go to his eldest brother.
Xia Wen received him indifferently, his expression neither good nor bad.
Xia Xun explained the matter to him and he agreed quickly.
Xia Xun asked again, would the second brother mind?
Xia Wen said that Xia Xing hadn’t wanted the dog for a long time. If Xia Xun didn’t come to ask for it, he was going to tell his servants to drive it out and let it fend for itself.
Xia Xun thanked him again and again, and hurried back to his courtyard to tell Shaobo the good news.
Shaobo jumped up with joy and hurriedly found a lot of food for the puppy. It gobbled it up until its belly turned round.
The puppy’s whole body was snow-white, and Xia Xun named him Yuzhu. (jade bead)
On the day when the Xia family was eliminated, his second brother Xia Xing had already been dead.
His mother was given a piece of white silk by the emperor and her body was hung on the beam of the main house. His father was beheaded by Qi Yan, his head rolling on the ground to his feet.
That night, he and Xia Wen went to jail.
Since then, he had never seen Yuzhu again.
The best ending he could have imagined for his dog was to be poisoned by a dog eater. It was better than being hungry for days and dying of starvation.
In the first few years in Lingnan, Xia Xun was so busy that he had no time to think about Yuzhu during the day.
But when it was dark and he was lying in bed, he always felt too sad to sleep.
He set up a small grave for Yuzhu next to his grave and buried a note with his name as the only tribute.
Years later, in Qi Yan’s mansion, Xia Xun met Yuzhu again.
As soon as Xia Xun called his name, he barked excitedly, jumping on the spot, begging Xia Xun to hug him.
Xia Xun bent down and picked him up.
Yuzhu kept licking his face, his hot body wriggling in his arms.
Qi Yan came out of the study but did not approach, only watched from a distance.
Upon his sign, Qi Hui walked towards Xia Xun.
There was still a shocked expression on Xia Xun’s face:
“This is Yuzhu? This… how could it be——? The lifespan of a fulin dog is only three to five years, how can Yuzhu still be alive??”
Qi Hui nodded.
“It is Yuzhu. It has been kept in our mansion for many years.”