Sounds of labored breathing floated from behind the bed curtains as 2 bodies twine together like vines of a tree. Zhou Wen Wu is loath to move away from her lips as his lips earnestly seek out their mate. After a long time, he finally feels her response and pulls back slightly to observe her pale face. A watery sheen clouds her eyes as he kisses a particularly sensitive spot. “Ah Wu…”
Her reaction seems more like she is having a headache instead of being aroused. He pulls her chemise over her shoulder as he presses her head against his chest. “Have I been conned?”
It is sad but Zhou Wen Wu faces the truth of her passion. Actually, there is no passion- the woman is obviously making use of him as a distraction for her headache! After all, if she cannot sleep and refuses to take the meds, there must be something she can do to while away the night? Stroking her silky black hair, he sighs inwardly at her condition which seems to be getting worse by the day.
It eats at him that he is a prince, that he should be the one who uses woman and not the other way round! Had it been for any other woman, he would have walk away and never look back. But when the woman is Xu Zhi, he finds that he cannot continue kissing her when her headache consumes her or even walk away.
He pulls her to rest more comfortably against him and she notices some burn marks on the back of his hand. “How did you get these scars?”
From the flames that would have fallen on your head otherwise. But he is not going to tell her that. “I suffered them for you and I want you to kiss them better.”
Xu Zhi peers at his face and sees the reddish veins at the corner of eyes. Ok, it is not impossible to please her bedmate if he so request. She dips her head obediently and gently kisses the back of his hand but when she trails a hand downwards, he catches her wayward hand before it can trail pass his abdomen. “What are you trying to do!”
“Putting out a fire?”
“There is no need for you to do that! But I warn you – the moment you are cured of your headache, I am going to gobble you up. And when that day comes, I am not going to show you any mercy.”
Xu Zhi acknowledges with an “oh….” and did not say anything more. Actually, she is not very concern who her bed partner is so long as he can bring her pleasure. But if he is saying that it is going to happen only after she is cured of her headache – frankly, she is not too hopeful of that happening.
Sensing her thoughts, he squeezes her hand gently and tucks her more securely against him so that she can hear his heartbeat. He has noticed that she sleep better when she is leaning against him – probably because of body warmth – and even if it only a short nap, it is better than no sleep at all.
He is more worried than he lets on at how little she sleeps as he cannot see how she can recover with so few hours of rest. He knows that Jiang Jiu has already arranged with the Tu Yue Troupe people to bring her to their mountain, but that is going to happen only after the Hunting Festival. There is no way Zhou Wen Cheng will agree to her absence at the opening ceremony as it is a major festival, but the delay is eating at him. If her headache is palpable even to a third person like him, he dares not imagine her pain or the day when she can no longer contains it.
For a prince to be entrapped by such small love and small affection … he sends a mental apology to his illustrious forefathers for having such a wasted offspring.
Zhou Wen Wu has a suspicious nature and he thinks that someone or something has marked Xu Zhi. Perhaps it/his/her objective could be to make sure that some nugget of information in her brain stays buried. To protect her, he tells himself that he shall guard her at night and if anything tries to get to her, at least they will have to pass him first.
Besides, there is no way he is going to open opportunities for other men to get close to her. As a gifted child, Xu Zhi has a warp upbringing and is incredibly loose on morality. He strongly suspects that she will not reject a lover – no matter his status or background – so long as he can bring her pleasure. After all, if she can even accept a man whom she believes is lusting after her sister, who else can she not accept?
The dream catches him by surprise. With the death of the bird in the last dream, he has assumed that there would be no more sequels, but here he is, dreaming of the bird again. This time, the bird is tranquil and observing its surroundings. It is standing outside a hut made of hay, and it looksas if it is guarding the premise.
Guarding… the man who died perhaps? He is still alive?
From dawn till dusk, it guarded the hut until the door opens and a young man steps out. He is the man he saw in the first dream and although he appears pale, he looks jubilant.
Another man came into the picture as he runs up to the young man and the giant bird turns its scrutiny on the newcomer to decide if he is friend of foe. There are no sounds in his dreams but this time, he hears the newcomer shouts. “Doctor Sun!”
The two men started talking thereafter but he cannot hear nor see the faces of the two men as the newcomer is back facing the bird and is obstructing the face of the young man. After a while, the newcomer dashes into the hut while the young man walks up to the giant bird and from the shape of his lips, he seems to be saying: “Thank you! We have saved another life today! There is nothing wrong with Yang Yan’s head now.”
Sun Shi Yang!
Zhou Wen Wu opens his eyes and pushes himself to an upright position. He turns to look for Xu Zhi, but only sees an empty spot beside him. Jumping off the bed, he quickly ascertains that she is not in the room, before putting on some clothes and rushing out of the door.
He went to the lake first but did not find her there. He went to the library next and is rewarded to see a light from inside the library. He is about to push open the door when Tong Mo appears from nowhere and passes him a food container. Opening the container, he sees that it contains some medicine.
Tong Mo looks at him steadily and without warning, she kneels in front of him and kowtow her head to the ground in the highest bow of respect. He sees Jiang Jiu and Jiu Xing behind her but no one speak so he pushes his way into the room. There beside the coin bank, he finds Xu Zhi busily writing. “Xu Zhi!”
She lifts her head in surprise. “Oh, you are awake.”
“What are you doing?”
“I can’t sleep and came here to read. Something crossed my mine and I thought to pen it down.”
Her face is as pale as paper and beads of perspiration dot her forehead. Her pupils are dilated and very dark. Looking at her, Zhou Wen Wu feels a sharp ache in his chest while she wrinkles her brow. “I smell medicine.”
He shows her the contents of the food container and pours its contents into a bowl. He stirs the medicine slowly and tastes it to confirm that it is indeed the same brew which Bai Hua has tried to give her. He scoops up a spoon of medicine and places it beneath her lips.
She casts a long look at the spoon and its contents. “Who do you think you are to be feeding me that?”
A flash of temper came and went but he keep his cool. “Sun Shi Yang is not someone from this era.” At her look of surprise, he marks each word clearly. “Sun Shi Yang cured the headache of someone named Yang Yan by opening his head.”
She stands up excitedly, and wavers dangerously for a second as a wave of pain washes over her before she manages to steady herself. He tightens his grip on the spoon until the veins in his hands protrude prominently and he tips the medicine in the spoon into his mouth.
For a long moment, they just stare at each other in challenge. Her unwillingness to drink the meds is visible at the way she bites her lip, but in the end, she leans forward to press her mouth against his and sucks out the liquid.
“There you go. It is not so difficult to take the initiative isn’t it?” Zhou Wen Wu smiles sardonically and continues. “I dreamt of Sun Shi Yang.”
At her expectant look, he spoon more meds in his mouth and this time, she wastes no time in leaning over and drinking all the contents from him. “What happened next?”
“I also dreamt of a big bird guarding a hut.”
A big bird? The kind that is big enough to carry a man? It must be the bird whose bone is made into a mask! Are the memories of the bird stored in its bones and transferred to the wearer of the mask? Her eyes gleam at the discovery and before she can ask more questions, she takes the bowl in his hand, grabs it and tosses back the contents. Wiping the excess liquid from her lips, she asks urgently. “What happened next? What kind of world is it? Is there…”
“It is a secret.” She smiles. “How can I tell if you are lying if I tell you? Come on, spill the beans on what you saw.”
“There are 2 men in my dream and one of them called the other ‘Doctor Sun’ before disappearing into the hut. When he resurfaces from the hut, his robe is stained with blood. The man called Doctor Sun told the bird that they have saved Yang Yan and the bird seems to understand what the man is saying. When Sun Shi Yang died, the bird was overwrought with grief and crashed into his gravestone and died.”
Xu Zhi repeats his words to herself and mutters excitedly on the existence of Sun Shi Yang. “So there is really a big bird and Yang Yan survived. But this is not recorded in any history text. Can you guess why?”
Xu Zhi looks furtively at the coin bank when he prompts her to speak her mind, and changes topic “Do you believe that there is something weird about the coin bank?”
“And yet you want me to voice my suspicious out loud?” She looks at him curiously. It is one thing to put herself at risk but why would another person want to share the burden? She remembers his claim of “small love small affection” and reminds herself that she is not particular about who likes her and who doesn’t. So long as they take what they need from each other, it is sufficient.
He prompts her to speak her mind again but she only remarks. “Ah Jiu told me that you will be coming with us after the Hunting Festival?”
“Well, they did think that I developed a heart condition as a result of the bell and they are eager to make amends. Can I not go when I’m the patient here?”
Xu Zhi does not want to burst his bubble and tell him that it is lust, not guilt, that prompted the invite. “Don’t you think that it is a coincidence? The second half of your life that is supposedly tragic and yourself being buried in an unnamed hill. Ah Wu, I would strongly suggest that you to stay behind and just focus on looking at His Majesty’s ending.”
“Are you really thinking for me, or are you just concern about Zhou Wen Cheng’s ending? And why is it so important that you know how he ends up anyway? As for that unnamed hill, do you think I have not considered that? If my ending is indeed to be buried under that mountain, it means that mishap will befall me on this trip. And if it is dangerous for me, what makes you think that you will be safe? Come what may, there is no way I will let you face it alone.” If she does not go, it is as good as giving up and saying goodbye to her last hope.
And there is no way he will just watch on while she dies before him.
Yuan Tu may have predicted his ending but he has not predicted hers. The prediction on Xu Zhi is merely that her name will be remembered for centuries. But could her ending be the same as his? Could she end up being buried in an unnamed mountain?
And that is what he is gambling on. If he, the Second Prince of Xi Xuan is going to be ambushed and buried in that unnamed hill, he must at least ensure that she is cured of her headache before she leaves the mountain at the very least. If she can make it safely out of the mountain, then everything will be worth it.
Comments from Moonblossom:
I am not sure what the coin bank is all about even till today, but I get the feeling that a spirit resides in the coin bank and that it is not necessarily friendly. There is no historical records of Sun Shi Yang, nor has any doctor heard of him, but it seems like Xu Zhi have gotten wind of him through the coin bank. Don’t ask me how, but that is how the story goes.
It has been a long time coming, but the built up is complete. We have an ex-Prince who is supposed to be buried in an unnamed hill. After the Hunting Festival, ex-Prince and a group of people will be going to a mysterious mountain in hope of finding a cure for Xu Zhi’s headache. Time is of essence as the headache that has been plaguing her for years is at the point where she is going to die if she doesn’t have an operation soon. And surrounding Xu Zhi is a group of servants whose true loyalty are dubious. I know they report to Zhou Wen Cheng but when Tong Mo fall to her knees to beg Zhou Wen Wu to make Xu Zhi drinks the medicine, I find it hard to believe that she is disloyal.
And Zhou Wen Wu is so sweet. He is taking it upon himself to guard her even though he thinks it is wimpy to be sucked up in all this “small love small affection”. The irony in this is that the woman he likes does return his feelings, or even cares who she sleeps with. And he knows it. But he still likes her enough to die for her which is why he is a memorable male lead to me.
Just a Straight Road – Part 14
Just a Stright Road – Part 13
Just a Straight Road – Part 12
Just a Straight Road – Part 11
Just a Straight Road – Part 10
Just a Straight Road – Part 9
Just a Straight Road – Part 8
Just a Straight Road – Part 7
Just a Straight Road – Part 6
Just a Straight Road – Part 5
Just a Straight Road – Part 4
Just a Straight Road –Part 3
Just a Straight Road –Part 2
Just a Straight Road – Part 1