Xia Xun walked over slowly and sat down beside Qi Yan.
Qi Yan asked, “Which one did the teacher test?”
Xia Xun said it was the “First year of Yin Gong”.
Qi Yan said:
“Zheng Bo defeats Duan Yuyan? Duke Zhuang of Zheng’s mother, Jiang, disliked him and favoured her younger son, and later even—”
Xia Xun hurriedly said:
“I know what it says! Although I can’t memorise it, I can understand it! Don’t underestimate me!”
Qi Yan said mildly:
“I didn’t underestimate you. I didn’t think you would not understand. I think you just don’t like it.”
Xia Xun nodded again and again.
Qi Yan continued:
“After you read it, what do you think?”
Xia Xun curled his lips:
“I don’t want to say… if I say it, you will laugh at me!”
Qi Yan repeatedly promised that he would never.
Xia Xun’s voice was thin like a mosquito’s squeak:
“I just think… Duke Zhuang of Zheng was pretty weird and pitiful…”
Qi Yan wondered:
“Duke Zhuang of Zheng was very talented and quite capable. How can you think he is pitiful?”
Xia Xun slapped the table:
“Look! I said you would laugh at me!”
Qi Yan apologised to him. Xia Xun waved his hand and forgave him generously.
Qi Yan asked: “You haven’t said yet, why do you see him this way?”
Xia Xun hesitated and stammered:
“Pitiful isn’t quite the right word, that is, that is… I just didn’t expect that a mother would dislike her biological child… I thought that my mother didn’t like me because I was not her biological child…”
Qi Yan did not comment, nor did he laugh at Xia Xun or said it was a childish talk. He tucked Xia Xun’s hair behind his ears, revealing the wound he had hidden.
Xia Xun looked at him blankly; Qi Yan’s eyes were full of pity.
Xia Xun’s chest suddenly filled with warmth. No one had ever looked at him with such eyes. Qi Yan was the only one.
At that moment, the grievances in Xia Xun’s heart disappeared, and he couldn’t even feel the pain when Qi Yan was dealing with his wound.
He suddenly felt that it was no big deal to be injured and it was no big deal to be punished by kneeling in the ancestral hall. As long as Qi Yan could look at him like this, it would be worth everything.
What’s more, Qi Yan was so handsome.
Xia Xun stared at him with bated breath, trying to read more heartache and pity on his face.
Qi Yan raised his gaze slightly, the light in his eyes almost scorching Xia Xun:
“Where are you looking? Does it hurt?”
Xia Xun stared at the mole at the corner of his eye and murmured:
“Has anyone ever said that you are very good-looking?”
Qi Yan laughed:
“What are you talking about at this time? Have you finished copying the text fifty times?”
Xia Xun scratched his head in distress:
“How can I finish! Even if I work all night tonight, who knows when I’m going to finish it!”
Qi Yan continued asking: “Did the teacher say what the next text will be about?”
Xia Xun recalled:
“It seems to be about “Warring States Strategy”, Chu Long persuades Empress Dowager Zhao.”
Qi Yan sat up straight and started talking:
“Qin soldiers left the State of Zhao, and Empress Dowager Zhao asked Qi for help. King Qi agreed to send troops on the condition that Empress Dowager Zhao would let her favourite son, Prince Chang’an, enter the State of Qi as a hostage. Empress Dowager Zhao…”
Xia Xun interrupted him:
“I know what it is about! I have already read it! I understand it, but I just can’t memorise it! I just don’t have enough brains, so I can’t memorise a book even if I eat it!”
Qi Yan thought for a while, found a brush and ink, and spread a sheet of paper in front of him.
He dipped the brush in ink and handed it to Xia Xun: “Write a few words.”
Xia Xun was outraged:
“You don’t think I can’t write, do you?!”
Qi Yan stuffed the brush into his hand and insisted:
“Write a few words, just write whatever you want.”
Xia Xun took the brush and wrote Qi Yan’s name in a few strokes. One time was not enough. He wrote five or six “Qi Yan” in a row.
Qi Yan smiled indulgently and patted the back of his hand:
“All right, all right, I don’t have much ink at home, so don’t write anymore.”
Xia Xun refused to give up.
“What’s the matter, I’ll bring you some inkstones tomorrow! You gave me a gift, but I haven’t returned the gift yet! Since the brush and ink are out, let me draw a goldfish for you!”
As Xia Xun talked, his hand kept moving and soon he drew a chubby little golden fish.
Qi Yan praised:
“No wonder you’re good at wood carving. The painting is so vivid.”
Xia Xun asked a little hopefully:
“Really? You don’t dislike me for not doing my work? You don’t think that these things are only done by the lowly poor?”
Qi Yan asked him rhetorically:
“Your father said all these words?”
Xia Xun murmured:
“These are the words my father used to scold me, and there are worse ones, and I’m afraid to say them for fear of dirtying your ears……”
Qi Yan pursed his lips tightly, the veins on his neck visibly taut.
After a while, he gradually adjusted his mood and said softly to Xia Xun:
“Go back, your father is probably angry and if he can’t find you, he will be furious again. Be obedient for the next few days, don’t touch the wood carving again, don’t provoke him.”
Xia Xun said “oh” and stood up reluctantly.
Before he left, Qi Yan told him:
“Don’t worry about the punishment, I will solve it for you. Early tomorrow morning, wait for me under the wall of your house.”
Xia Xun looked back at him. There was obvious worry on Qi Yan’s face:
“Be careful when you go back. Walk less these days. Don’t come over until your legs are better.”
Xia Xun opened his mouth to speak, but Qi Yan stopped him, his words reproachful:
“Your knees are swollen like steamed buns. Do you still want to flip over the wall and climb up and down the tree? Apply the medicinal oil carefully in the next few days. You are not allowed to come and see me until the swelling of your knees has subsided.”
In order to show his dissatisfaction, Xia Xun planned to pretend to be angry and walk out stomping his feet
Who knew that as soon as he stood up, his knees would suddenly hurt viciously, his legs would become soft and he would fall back directly into Qi Yan’s arms.
Qi Yan hugged him firmly; his hair brushed across Xia Xun’s face and Qi Yan’s warm breath touched his neck.
Qi Yan’s smell was very pleasant, the smell Xia Xun had never smelled before.
He was sitting on Qi Yan’s lap, looking at his face up close, breathing in his unique fragrance. His face felt very hot; he thought even the tips of his ears must have been red.
Qi Yan supported him and said good-temperedly:
“Don’t you want to get up?”
As soon as he spoke, the vibration of his chest cavity spread through Xia Xun’s body.
Xia Xun didn’t respond for a long time.
Qi Yan nudged his forehead:
“Did your soul leave your body?”
Xia Xun’s head shot up, he sprang on his feet abruptly, saying incoherently:
“I, I’m gone!”
He didn’t feel that his knees hurt, nor did he feel reluctant to leave anymore. He rushed out in great strides and couldn’t even remember how he got back to his room.
Next day, before leaving for the academy, Xia Xun came under the wall as promised.
He completely forgot Qi Yan’s instructions, and climbed onto the wall nimbly.
The begonias along the wall were in full bloom. He poked the branches, stuck his head out and waved at Qi Yan.
Qi Yan wanted to reproach him but couldn’t bear it.
He handed a stack of papers to Xia Xun.
Xia Xun took it over and glanced at the paper; Qi Yan actually finished copying the text fifty times for him.
Of course he was very moved, but he felt that Qi Yan was a bit stupid.
“Your handwriting is different from mine, the teacher will see it at a glance!”
Qi Yan looked at him with a smile and asked him to take a closer look.
Xia Xun looked down, and every word on the paper turned out to look exactly as if it was written by him.
He was stunned.
He only wrote a few words in front of Qi Yan last night, and Qi Yan was able to repeat his handwriting so precisely that even Xia Xun couldn’t tell the difference.
“You — you are too good, right?!”
Qi Yan said simply:
“Go to school quickly. If the teacher asks you again this time, you have to answer carefully. If you have any more incredible insights, just tell me alone. How can those ordinary people understand you?”
Xia Xun sandwiched the copied text under his arm.
“Don’t you want me to memorise it? If you had asked me to, I would have tried to memorise it with all my strength!”
Qi Yan shook his head:
“It’s just a few texts written by people who lived a long time. Why bother to embarrass you like this? It doesn’t matter if you don’t memorise it!”
Xia Xun remembered that listening to what Qi Yan said made him grin happily. The wind blew and the petals of the begonias fluttered, falling on Qi Yan’s shoulders, one of them falling on his lips.
Xia Xun picked up the petals while he was not paying attention and hid them deep in his sleeve.
Seven years later, in the Binzhou inn, Qi Yan wrote down the word “overflow” and Xia Xun really couldn’t remember that he had ever seen this word.
The traces of water on the table slowly dried up, and Qi Yan was still as handsome as he had been then, under the blooming trees.
The years had not taken anything away from him.
He was much thinner than he once had been, but this only made him more intense.
When he was silent, his whole body was shrouded in an aura of indifference and arrogance, awe-inspiring and full of inviolable dignity.
At this moment, in the flickering dim candlelight, his usually cold expression looked much softer.
In a daze, Xia Xun seemed to see him again as he had used to be.
Qi Yan continued:
“After all kinds of discord, Duke Zhuang of Zheng and his mother were as harmonious as ever. When the two met, the mother, to show the joy in her heart, said then ‘her joy was overflowing’, meaning she was very happy.”
Xia Xun sneered:
“No wonder I don’t remember it. I’m not happy to be in the same room with you.”
Qi Yan was not annoyed and said to Xia Xun gently:
“You lose, go to bed and sleep.”
Without waiting for Xia Xun to answer, Qi Yan put his bedding on the floor and sat down.
The floor was very hard; sitting down must have pulled his wounds.
Seeing him close his eyes, Xia Xun thought he must have been suffering from pain.
He stopped looking at Qi Yan, lay down on the bed, turned his back to him, and covered his head with a quilt.
After a while, he couldn’t help it, pushed away the quilt vigorously and asked fiercely:
“What do you want from me now with this kind of posturing? I have nothing left, only this life! If you want, just take it, why bother to pretend in front of me and play games with me!”
Qi Yan’s voice sounded low: “…I don’t pretend… I have never shown false emotions to you…”
Xia Xun sat up with a huff:
“That’s enough! You still want to lie to me now? Do you believe yourself when you say these things?!”
Qi Yan lay on the floor, covering his eyes with his forearm, and Xia Xun couldn’t see his expression. The two of them remained silent for a long time before Qi Yan spoke with difficulty:
“There are so many things here, I don’t know where to start. If you want to hear it, I can tell you everything.” He took a deep breath: “…a long time ago, I—”
Xia Xun suddenly snapped: “Stop talking!”
Qi Yan lowered his arm and looked at him suspiciously.
He couldn’t see it, but Xia Xun could see it clearly.
Just a few steps away behind Qi Yan, in the corner of the room, a black and gold pit viper poked out its head.