His highness's Allure - Chap 135
Pei Zheng ended up staying in the bamboo hut. He even offered good-naturedly to Shen Huan that he could split the bed with Shen Shijiu, so that Shen Huan could sleep on her own spacious bed.
But Shen Huan resolutely refused.
Shen Huan layered a few thick sheets over that little bamboo bed, before she sighed. She still didn’t know how long she would have to sleep here.
In truth, Shen Huan wasn’t really trying to drive Pei Zheng out. Right now, who knew how many assassins were outside the Ghost Valley, searching everywhere for Pei Zheng. And with Pei Zheng’s current condition, he couldn’t even use his internal energy. Otherwise, the wounds on his body would all split open.
But the person who was the happiest about this arrangement was probably Shen Shijiu. To be with both his shifu and Pei-gege was everything he could have hoped for, and because of this, his smiling face became a more frequent occurrence.
However, every time Pei Zheng spoke with Shen Shijiu, Shen Huan would always stare fixedly at the two of them. The moment she spotted some sort of overly intimate gesture, she would fake a few loud coughs.
In front of Shen Huan, Pei Zheng was an ascetic, pure-hearted gentleman; whenever he spoke with Shen Shijiu, his voice would only become deeper and gentler, and there wasn’t any excessive touching involved.
But behind Shen Huan’s back, he became rather clingy toward Shen Shijiu; his hands were itching to latch themselves onto the other’s body.
This entire time, Shen Shijiu had been very careful and attentive toward Pei Zheng. Perhaps it was because his mood had improved, but his body seemed to have gotten healthier lately; at least there hadn’t been any more instances of him retching or lacking an appetite.
Shen Huan had still been a bit worried; what could she do if Pei Zheng found out?
However, gradually, as she spent each day watching her sunny little disciple, Shen Huan began to hesitate.
Perhaps… she needed to rethink her decision to secretly abort that child.
Today, Shen Huan was using milkwort to develop a new recipe. However, she realized that the bamboo hut was lacking a key ingredient.
No wonder. Ever since Pei Zheng’s arrival, they hadn’t once gone up to the mountains to forage for herbs.
In the past, the task of picking herbs had been handed to Shen Shijiu; with a bamboo basket hanging on his back, he would gambol off into the dense mountain forest.
But now, Shen Huan felt extremely uneasy sending Shen Shijiu alone to pick herbs. However, she still had to stay behind to watch the medicine as it cooked.
Shen Shijiu had already slung his bamboo basket over his back. He said to Shen Huan, “Shifu, I’m leaving.”
Shen Huan immediately called out, “Disciple, wait a moment!”
Shen Shijiu hadn’t even stepped out the door yet, when somebody grabbed the bamboo basket on his back and pulled him back inside.
Pei Zheng took that bamboo basket off of Shen Shijiu, and, in front of the master and disciple, placed it upon his own back as he had done so hundreds of times. Then, he grabbed Shen Shijiu and walked out.
Shen Huan’s mouth dropped open in shock.
The noble, dignified Prime Minister Pei was now carrying a worn bamboo basket on his back, and was going to help her pick herbs?
When she finally ran to the doorway and looked out, Pei Zheng and Shen Shijiu had already boarded the little boat at the riverbank.
“Disciple, you need to be careful!” Shen Huan shouted at the two of them, “Lord Pei, please take care of my little disciple!”
Before she could finish her sentence, the boat slowly began to drift away.
Pei Zheng was rowing the boat. Shen Shijiu placed his hands beside his lips, and he shouted back at Shen Huan, “Got it, Shifu fu fu fu…”
Echoes rippled through the mountains.
Pei Zheng looked at the small man and smiled. The boat suddenly rocked, and he promptly pressed Shen Shijiu back down into the boat.
Shen Shijiu obediently sat down and hugged his knees, blinking as he looked at Pei Zheng.
“Pei-gege, let me tell you, I can row a boat too. Before, I always went alone to pick herbs for Shifu, no one’s ever gone with me before.”
Pei Zheng said, “Then are you happy right now?”
Shen Shijiu asked, “Happy about what?”
“Me coming with you.”
Shen Shijiu’s eyes curved, and he nodded enthusiastically, “I’m! Happy!”
“But, Pei-gege, your wounds have almost completely healed, do they still hurt?”
Pei Zheng stretched his shoulders and neck, “A little. So I’m afraid I’ll have to rest for a few more days.”
Shen Shijiu found this strange, “Why do they still hurt?”
His hand gently brushed the wound on Pei Zheng’s chest, “Shifu used all the best medicine on Pei-gege. Don’t listen to what Shifu says. In truth, Shifu is really, really nice. She’s got a really soft heart, so Pei-gege, you mustn’t be angry at Shifu.”
Pei Zheng clasped Shen Shijiu’s little hand.
“I’m not angry. She saved you and took care of you, and allowed me to meet you again. How could I be angry at her?”
Only then did Shen Shijiu feel at ease.
The little boat rocked and swayed as it drifted down the river. Wisps of steam rose endlessly from the surface of the water. Enveloped in this warm air, one didn’t feel cold at all.
Shen Shijiu reached out and dipped his hand into the warm water. Pei Zheng watched him carefully the entire time, out of fear that he would fall in.
“Pei-gege, this water is so warm, you should try it out too.”
“Is this a warm river?” Pei Zheng asked.
“I don’t know either.” Shen Shijiu shook his head, “Even Shifu doesn’t know where this water flowed in from, but the water here has always been this warm. Me and Shifu will sometimes come to the riverbank and bathe in it.”
Pei Zheng raised his brows, “You both…. together?”
“Of course not.”
Shen Shijiu looked at Pei Zheng in confusion, “Shifu‘s a woman, I’m a man. We can’t bathe together because men and women cannot have intimate contact with one another. Pei-gege, don’t tell me you don’t even understand that?”
Man? Clearly, he was still a cute, childish little boy.
Pei Zheng’s hand paused, and the oar almost fell into the river. Shen Shijiu was staring at him with genuine confusion.
He dared to say that he didn’t understand that?
Then he would just have to act like he didn’t have a clue about it.
“That’s right, I don’t understand. Could little Young Master Shen teach me?”
Pei Zheng smiled at Shen Shijiu. His sharp, slender eyes were slightly narrowed, rippling with tenderness.
Shen Shijiu smiled as well, and patted his chest, “No problem, leave it to me. I know a lot of stuff.”
“Then, could little Young Master Shen take me into the warm river to bathe as well?”
Shen Shijiu rolled his eyes; Shifu said that men and women couldn’t have intimate contact with each other. But Pei-gege was a man, so naturally, there would be no problem.
“Of course I can.”
As he spoke, the little boat slowly approached the shore and came to halt.
Shen Shijiu nimbly hopped out of the boat first, but his head was suddenly racked with dizziness, and his entire body swayed a bit.
Pei Zheng gently supported him from behind, “Be careful.”
After Shen Shijiu stood firmly, the dizziness was finally gone. He had no clue what was going on with himself lately; he just felt that something wasn’t quite right with his body, but he couldn’t pinpoint exactly what was wrong.
The two were standing at the entrance to a mountain forest. Shen Shijiu was very familiar with this place, so he led Pei Zheng inside.
Pei Zheng couldn’t afford to be as carefree as him. He kept a careful eye on their surroundings at all times, and would also brush the branches that were about to hit Shen Shijiu to the side.
Shen Shijiu kept his head down, scanning the ground. He would squat down to pick a plant or dig a stalk out of the dirt; all the while, he explained the names and effects of each of those herbs in a clear, expert manner.
Pei Zheng’s head was tilted slightly as he listened. He had always saved the small bit of patience he had for this small man. Even if he was listening to him muttering a bunch of useless nonsense to himself, he wouldn’t feel bored; rather, his only desire would be to drag him into bed-
Pei Zheng lifted a few strands of the small man’s hair, quashing the raunchy ideas that were rippling through his mind.
As they ventured deeper into the mountain forest, more and more trees seemed to sprout up around them. But they still hadn’t found the herb that Shen Huan needed; it usually grew at the foot of the mountain, so they still had to continue walking for a bit.
Shen Shijiu was walking quite slowly. His footsteps were light, and he looked to be in a very good mood.
“Oh right, Pei-gege, Imperial Physician Jiang isn’t an imperial physician anymore, did you know that? He opened a clinic in the city, and a lot of people go there for a consultation.”
Pei Zheng brushed away the leaves that had fallen onto Shen Shijiu’s head.
“Are you sure they’re there for a consultation, and not something else?”
Shen Shijiu turned his head, and he looked at Pei Zheng with bright eyes, “Pei-gege, you’re really smart. In truth, they’re all there to see Imperial Physician Jiang, oh no, Doctor Jiang.
Shen Shijiu continued to walk forward, shaking his head back and forth, “Those girls probably come to the clinic because they like Doctor Jiang. Doctor Jiang really is handsome, and he’s so nice-”
Before he could finish speaking, he realized that the person behind him was no longer following.
Pei Zheng stood in place, holding a leaf in his hand. He casually rubbed his fingers together, and the leaf disintegrated into green dust.
His eyes narrowed slightly, and he lifted his eyelids to look at Shen Shijiu, before he slowly walked up to him.
“May I ask little Young Master Shen, how do you think I compare with Doctor Jiang?”
When Pei Zheng heard Shen Shijiu lavish others with praise in front of him, his heart twisted uncomfortably; he should be the only one in the small man’s eyes.
Shen Shijiu froze, before he burst into laughter. He covered his mouth, happiness flooding out from his eyes.
“Pei-gege, I know what you’re doing.”
Shen Shijiu put his hand down, and leaned toward Pei Zheng, staring up into his eyes.
“You’re jealous, aren’t you?”
Pei Zheng stiffened in an instant. Under the small man’s stare, he swallowed the words he was about to say, and answered honestly.
“Yes. I am jealous. When you praise other men in front of me, I’m unhappy.”
Pei Zheng wrapped an arm around the small man’s waist, pressing him into his embrace.
“But, no matter how handsome or nice Doctor Jiang is, I won’t like him.”
Shen Shijiu stood on his tiptoes and said softly in Pei Zheng’s ear, “I only like Pei-gege, Pei-gege is the handsomest, nicest person!”
Pei Zheng was about to faint after hearing these sweet words, and he nuzzled the man in his arms a few times.
Right now, their surroundings were transquil; the two of them were the only ones here. Pei Zheng pinned the small man against a tree and kissed him for a long while, before he finally let go.
Shen Shijiu’s clothes were disheveled. He tidied them up, his face flushed, before he grabbed Pei Zheng’s hand.
“Pei-gege, are you happy now? Can we continue to pick herbs now?”
The two headed down toward the foot of the mountain.
But after they arrived, they were still unable to find that herb.
Shen Shijiu’s little forehead creased. He circled several trees, “That’s not right, before, I always picked them here, why aren’t they here anymore?”
Pei Zheng leaned against a nearby tree trunk with the bamboo basket on his back, watching Shen Shijiu.
“Don’t rush, search slowly. If we can’t find it here, we can look elsewhere.”
Shen Shijiu could only straighten up and nod.
But just as Shen Shijiu was about to walk toward Pei Zheng, a “branch” on a nearby tree suddenly moved, before it suddenly shot toward the small man at lightning speed.
This was no branch; it was a snake that had been hidden in the tree, and it was quite an agile one at that.
Fortunately, Shen Shijiu reacted quickly. The moment Pei Zheng yelled his name, he spotted the snake; in two or three steps, he had charged toward Pei Zheng.
At the same time, a stone Pei Zheng had thrown hit the snake squarely on its weak point. The snake fell to the ground and laid there, motionless.
However, Shen Shijiu had collapsed right into Pei Zheng’s arms. Pei Zheng’s body was still weak; he opened his arms to the small man and pulled him into his chest. Then, he collapsed backward and the two tumbled into the mud.
Pei Zheng sucked a cold breath.
The mud was quite soft, so they weren’t injured. However, the sword wound on Pei Zheng’s shoulder that had already been stitched up and was showing signs of healing, seemed to have torn just now.
“Pei-gege, how are you? Did you get hurt anywhere?”
Shen Shijiu hurriedly climbed up off the ground, sounding half-guilty and half-worried as he helped Pei Zheng up.
“It’s all my fault, I crashed into you, and made you fall. You still haven’t recovered yet, it’s all my fault for not being careful-”
Pei Zheng stood up and stroked his hair, “It wasn’t your fault, okay? I was unsteady on my feet. As long as I caught you, it’s fine.”
Shen Shijiu raised his eyes, and just so happened to spot the blood that was oozing out of Pei Zheng’s shoulder. Right now, Pei Zheng was wearing a coarse, dark gray garment, so the blood had seeped into the fabric, dying a large patch of it in red.
Shen Shijiu’s eyes immediately reddened, “Pei-gege! You’re bleeding!”
But who knew if there were more snakes swarming about in this patch of forest; their only option was to leave.
In the past, when Shen Shijiu came to this mountain forest alone, he had also encountered snakes. However, at that time, he had a medicinal sachet that Shen Huan had given him that would ward the snakes off. It was just that currently, the bamboo hut was running low on all sorts of medicinal ingredients. Shen Huan was also preoccupied with other matters, so she had forgotten about this matter.
Shen Shijiu supported Pei Zheng as they walked out of the forest; he didn’t forget to bring that dead snake with them. The snakeskin and gallbladder had other uses.
The two came to a cave at the foot of the mountain. Shen Shijiu had Pei Zheng lean against the cave wall and sit down, before he turned around and ran back outside.
Only after Shen Shijiu had left did Pei Zheng’s brow crease slightly.
It was a lie to say that he wasn’t in pain. Especially because his wounds had split yet again; it was even more painful than the first time.
Right now, his sleeve was almost completely soaked with blood, and the bleeding wasn’t stopping. Pei Zheng’s lips were pale, and a layer of cold sweat had formed on his back.
Shen Shijiu had definitely rushed outside in order to find some medicinal herbs that could staunch the bleeding, but Pei Zheng was extremely worried about him going out alone.
At this moment, the sky suddenly darkened, before a bolt of lightning slashed through the air.
Earlier the weather had been a bit chilly, but he hadn’t expected that this winter, instead of snow, rain would fall instead. No wonder this place was called the Ghost Valley1.
In a few moments, rain began to pour down, accompanied by another bolt of lightning. The entire underside of the cave was enveloped in the sound of raindrops splashing onto the rocks.
Shen Shijiu had been out for a while, and he still wasn’t back yet; the rain was falling harder and harder by the second.
Pei Zheng tore off a part of his sleeve with his other hand and wrapped it around his injured shoulder. Then, he held onto the cave wall as he slowly stood up.
The wound he had just wrapped up was about to go numb. Pei Zheng slowly walked out toward the entrance of the cave, and, without hesitation, was about to step into the storm.
But not far away, a little figure covered in rain was running back.
Shen Shijiu charged into the cave. His entire body was soaked through and chilled to the bone, but at this moment, he didn’t have the mind to worry about himself.
“P-Pei-gege, c-come over here, sit down.”
Shen Shijiu’s lips were purple from the cold. Only when he gritted his teeth hard could he stutter out a few complete sentences.
Pei Zheng obeyed and sat back down. But his eyes were pinned on the small man, his gaze filled with affection and heartache.
Shen Shijiu took a handful of herbs out of his robe and put them in his mouth, chewing them up, before he hurriedly untied the cloth wrapped around Pei Zheng’s shoulder.
The moment that bloody wound was exposed, Shen Shijiu’s eyes instantly filled with tears, and they splattered down onto Pei Zheng’s hand.
Pei Zheng’s heart ached, and he reached out to wipe his tears.
“Don’t cry, it doesn’t hurt.”
“Y-you liar, there’s so much blood, how could it not hurt? Pei-gege, you must be… in so much pain…”
Shen Shijiu’s little face was icy and bloodless from the cold, but because the only thing on his mind was Pei Zheng’s wound; he wasn’t thinking about himself at all.
He spread the poultice over Pei Zheng’s wound, before he wrapped it back up with that torn cloth strip. Only then did Shen Shijiu start to feel the cold freezing his body.
After being caught in a storm in such cold weather, his ice-cold robe was soaked and stuck to his skin. Even a strong, healthy person couldn’t withstand this for a long period of time, much less Shen Shijiu, whose body was in the midst of a delicate period.
He leaned against Pei Zheng’s side and sat down, shivering uncontrollably. Although Pei Zheng was hugging him tightly, it was no use; he was still freezing cold.
“Pei-gege, it’s, s-so cold, it’s really cold…”
Shen Shijiu had been mumbling quietly, but after a little while, he fell still; he had already fainted from the cold.
Fortunately, Pei Zheng found a few dry branches in the cave that could be used as fuel. After he lit them, Pei Zheng lifted the small man into his arms and carried him to sleep beside the fire.
After the poultice had been applied onto his wound, the bleeding had stopped, and the area was giving off faint waves of heat; the pain had lessened quite a bit.
Pei Zheng touched the small man’s face; it was still terribly cold. He thought for a moment; he had to take off his ice-cold robes.
After some effort, the small man’s cold, wet clothing was stripped off and placed by the fire to dry.
Pei Zheng began to take off his own clothes as well, and untied his inner robe, exposing his chest. Then, he lifted the small man off the ground, pressing him into his embrace, using his own body heat to warm his frozen body.
He pulled the small man’s limp, drooping arms into his robe and wrapped them around his waist. Pei Zheng held the man in his arms tightly, as though he were holding the most precious thing in the world, tightly, never letting go.
Only when Pei Zheng’s chest was losing its heat did the small man’s body finally begin to recover.
Pei Zheng was so cold that he was shivering as well. He threw a few more branches into the fire.
The rain outside had stopped inexplicably, but the sky was still dark and gloomy.
Who knew how long had passed before the person in his arms finally stirred.
Shen Shijiu slowly opened his eyes. He felt that his entire body was enveloped in warmth, toasty and very comfortable.
His little head popped up, and he called out, “Pei-gege.”
Pei Zheng saw that he was awake, and his voice cracked as he asked, “You’re awake? Are you still cold?”
Shen Shijiu shook his head. He didn’t feel cold anymore, it was very warm.
Pei Zheng reached out and touched his face to make sure that he had recovered his body heat, and that he didn’t have a fever.
But Shen Shijiu found that Pei Zheng’s complexion was a bit off; he wanted to reach out and test the temperature of Pei Zheng’s forehead, when he realized that his arm was smooth and bare, he wasn’t wearing clothes, while his and Pei Zheng’s bodies were pressed together, skin to skin.
“P-Pei-gege, w-where are my clothes?”
Pei Zheng tilted his chin to the side, and Shen Shijiu grabbed his clothes. But before he could put them on, Pei Zheng hugged him and stopped moving.
“Pei-gege, I’m going to put on my clothes, let go of me for a second.”
“Mm.” Pei Zheng responded softly, but he was a bit unwilling to let go.
The smooth, delicate feeling in his arms would soon disappear. And once they returned to the bamboo hut, under Shen Huan’s watchful gaze, he wouldn’t have the chance to touch it again.
When this thought crossed Pei Zheng’s mind, his arms tightened a bit, and the robe in Shen Shijiu’s hand fell out of his grasp.
“P-Pei-gege, you’re hugging me too tightly, I can’t breathe-”
Shen Shijiu complained in a soft voice, but it sounded rather cute and coquettish. Before he could finish speaking, a pair of lips pressed firmly upon his mouth.
Everything he was about to say was swallowed back. Only a few short words remained within the twining of their lips and tongues.
Pei Zheng finally let go of the person in his arms, but it was only because he felt a bit dizzy; it seemed that he was showing symptoms of a fever, and he didn’t want to infect the small man.
Shen Shijiu hurriedly extricated himself from Pei Zheng’s clothes, and quickly put on his own robe. It had been dried by the fire, so his entire body felt warm and cozy as he wore it.
Shen Shijiu pulled Pei Zheng’s clothes back over his body and tied his sash, before he touched Pei Zheng’s forehead.
As expected, he was scalded.
“Pei-gege, your face is very hot, you have a fever.” Shen Shijiu helped Pei Zheng up, “We have to get back as soon as we can.”
The two walked out of the cave. Before the rain could pour down again, they hurried back toward the bamboo hut.
After they boarded the little boat, Shen Shijiu didn’t allow Pei Zheng to exert himself, and rowed the boat back by himself.
When they finally came to shore, the bamboo hut was right before their eyes.
Pei Zheng’s entire body was boiling-hot, and he was a bit unsteady on his feet. But he dragged himself along, as Shen Shijiu supported him to walk toward the bamboo hut.
“Shifu! Shifu, hurry up and come here! Pei-gege is injured! Hurry and come help!”
Shen Shijiu shouted at the hut.
Shen Huan’s voice rang out from behind, “Little disciple, little disciple, your master’s here!”
Shen Huan hurriedly ran over.
“I forgot to give you guys the sachet, are you all right? Ah? You didn’t get bitten by the snakes, right? Also, it was raining so hard earlier, did you get caught up in the storm?”
Shen Huan had been waiting at the bamboo hut, but the two still hadn’t returned. She became worried and hurried out to search for them. She looked for them everywhere but still came up with nothing, so she turned back.
Fortunately, at that moment, the two of them had returned as well.
Shen Shijiu seemed fine, but Pei Zheng looked to be in rather poor condition.
Shen Huan hurriedly helped Shen Shijiu take Pei Zheng into the room to lay down. Then, she had Shen Shijiu go decoct the herbs, while she restitched Pei Zheng’s wound and carefully wrapped it up.
Pei Zheng’s body was already a bit hot due to his torn wound. And since he had warmed Shen Shijiu with his own body heat for so long, he had caught a cold.
After he drank the medicine, Pei Zheng slowly fell unconscious.
Shen Huan took her little disciple out of the room so Pei Zheng sleep and rest in peace.
Shen Huan pulled Shen Shijiu into her own room, and had him sit on a stool, before she came over to take his pulse.
“Shifu, I’m fine, really. I know it.”
“No, you don’t know.” Shen Huan’s expression was stern as she interrupted him, before she continued to take his pulse.
Only after she felt his pulse on his other arm did Shen Huan feel at ease. Fortunately, Shen Shijiu and the little life in his belly were both fine, otherwise, she really would have blamed herself to death.
Now, after seeing the state that Pei Zheng was in, Shen Huan was already feeling quite guilty.
Shen Huan asked Shen Shijiu about the ins and outs of what had happened. Shen Shijiu told his shifu everything; he even said that he was the one at fault for Pei Zheng’s current condition.
But Shen Huan could see the truth. This wasn’t a matter of finding someone to blame; there were some things in this world that no one ever wanted to happen.
“So you’re saying… Lord Pei… did that all for you, right?”
Shen Shijiu’s eyes reddened, and he nodded.
Shen Huan didn’t speak for a long while.
She pondered it for a long time, before she made her decision.
The next day, Shen Huan rose early as usual and cooked some medicine for Pei Zheng. Then, she stewed a portion for Shen Shijiu as well.
However, it wasn’t abortifacient; rather, it was an antiabortifacient.
Shen Huan thought, why doesn’t he just keep the child for now? I’ll wait for the right moment to tell him, and I’ll let him decide for himself.
But this matter had to be revealed in bits and pieces; she couldn’t dump something so serious on her little disciple all at once. Shen Huan was afraid that because of his sensitive personality, he would think that there was something wrong with him, or that he was a monster.
After she finished cooking, Shen Huan went to call her little disciple for lunch, but discovered that her little disciple wasn’t in his room.
Shen Huan immediately understood; he had definitely gone to the other room.
Shen Shijiu was slumped at Pei Zheng’s bedside, staring at him, waiting for him to wake up; he wanted to make sure that the first thing he saw when he woke up was him.
But after staring at him for a long while, the man on the bed remained motionless.
Shen Shijiu’s legs were a bit numb, and he almost collapsed his knees.
But an arm gently steadied his body and held it in place. Pei Zheng opened his eyes, “You’re leaving?”
Shen Shijiu was pleasantly surprised, “Pei-gege, you’re awake!”
“I’ve been awake for a while. I was waiting for you to kiss me before I opened my eyes, but it looks like I’m too late.”
Shen Shijiu leaned toward his lips and gave him a peck. His eyes were bright, “Is this okay?”
The corners of Pei Zheng’s lips hooked.
Okay? Of course it was okay, anything was fine with him.
Pei Zheng patted the spot beside him on the bed, and said in a low voice, “Come here.”
Shen Shijiu glanced at the door, afraid that Shen Huan would suddenly enter.
“But Shifu‘s still here!”
Before he could finish speaking, Shen Shijiu was dragged onto the bed and stuffed into the quilt. He wasn’t wearing his outer robe, he was only dressed in his thin inner robe; after being frozen earlier, his body was still a bit cold.
The moment he was enveloped by the warm quilt, Shen Shijiu’s ice-cold body unconsciously curled toward the source of heat. But his mouth was still motoring off, “Pei-gege, we should hurry and get out of bed. In a little bit, Shifu will come to call us, and we’ll be discovered.”
Pei Zheng “mm”d in assent, but he still continued to hug the person in his arms.
“Let’s hug for a little longer. Then we’ll get up.”
Shen Shijiu lifted his head and said, “We really do have to get up. You’d better keep your word.”
Pei Zheng lowered his head and placed a kiss on his lips.
“My seal of authority2. You have my word.”
Shen Shijiu bowed his head in embarrassment, burying his face in Pei Zheng’s chest.
Then, he thought of something, and touched Pei Zheng’s injured shoulder. He had to examine the wound in order to put his mind at ease.
That little hand was gentle and soft as it felt around Pei Zheng’s shoulder.
Pei Zheng grabbed that hand and lifted the small man’s chin.
“Little rascal, what are you doing? Don’t you know how hard it is for me to hold back?”
Shen Shijiu thought that he was in pain from his wound, and immediately became nervous.
“Pei-gege, you don’t need to hold back, it’s bad for you to keep holding it in.”
When he heard those words, Pei Zheng laughed in spite of himself.
Shen Shijiu wore a serious expression on his little face, “Really, it’s true, Pei-gege. Shifu said that, no matter what it is, you can’t keep holding it in, you have to release it. If it hurts, you should yell. If you’re happy, you should smile. If you’re sad, you should cry. This way, you’ll feel a little better.”
Seeing how sincere the small man was, Pei Zheng’s cheerfulness slowly melted away.
He couldn’t recall a time when he was like that, when he had ever expressed his true feelings.
He had always been adept at holding things in; he could endure anything. In the beginning, he swallowed the blood and tears back into his stomach. Later, there were no more tears.
When he was in pain, he wore a cold expression. When he was happy, he wore a cold expression. When he was sad, he wore a cold expression as well.
Later, after he learned how to smile, he would smile often.
He would smile when he was happy. He would smile when he was sad. He would smile when he was disdainful. He would smile when he didn’t care about anything else. Even as he killed people, he did so with a smile on his face.
That was until he met this small man. Then, he slowly gained a few other emotions. He could feel warmth, and his smiles would reach his eyes. He could feel heartache, regret, and guilt, but it would all be healed by a sweet, honeyed smile.
“Okay. I will.”
Pei Zheng promised wholeheartedly.
At this moment, someone knocked at the door.
“Ahem, whoever’s in there, come out to eat.”
Shen Huan called for them and left; she didn’t even enter the room.
The moment Shen Shijiu heard Shen Huan’s voice, he hurriedly burrowed underneath the quilt and didn’t move, out of fear of being discovered.
After Shen Huan left, he emerged from beneath the quilt and whispered to Pei Zheng, “Thank goodness Shifu didn’t come in, I almost got caught.”
But Pei Zheng didn’t tell him that the reason Shen Huan had left was precisely because she knew that he was in there.
Shen Shijiu got off the bed, He tiptoed to the door, and while Shen Huan wasn’t paying attention, he quickly slipped back into the other room.
After he put on his clothes and tidied his hair, Shen Shijiu opened the door and walked out, before he shouted, “Shifu, good morning!”
Shen Huan glanced back at him in confusion, “What do you mean ‘morning’, it’s already noon.”
Shen Shijiu walked to the table and sat down, before he gave Shen Huan a fawning smile, “Shifu is right!”
At this moment, Pei Zheng also walked out of his room. His fever was already completely gone, and his complexion looked much better now.
Shen Shijiu greeted Pei Zheng in an exaggerated manner, “Pei-gege, good afternoon.”
Pei Zheng tried his best not to laugh. This little fool really was someone who exposed their own guilt by professing their innocence3.
Shen Huan gave them both the side-eye, but she didn’t bother to expose their little act, instead stuffing a pair of chopsticks into their hands.
“Eat! Eat all of this, none of you are allowed to leave leftovers!”
The bowls in front of Shen Shijiu and Pei Zheng were piled high. The two were a bit stunned, before they looked over at Shen Huan.
Shen Huan completely ignored the two of them. There was a normal amount of food in her bowl; she was holding it one hand, and was focused on eating.
Shen Shijiu picked up a piece of meat with his chopsticks and began to eat, but after just a few bites, he suddenly spat it out. Then, he grabbed the side of the table and retched a few times.
Pei Zheng quickly patted his back, and waited until he was done retching before he helped him up and handed him a cup of water.
Shen Shijiu took a few sips of water. His face was a bit pale.
“What’s wrong? Are you feeling unwell?” Pei Zheng asked in concern, but his gaze flitted toward Shen Huan, his eyes full of inquiry, as though he were searching for something.
Shen Huan was afraid that Pei Zheng would find out about something. She had thought that her little disciple had stopped having bad reactions to food, but unexpectedly, after only a short period, it was happening again.
Pei Zheng called out.
Shen Huan violently slapped her chopsticks down onto the table and stood up, “Well, I’m full. The two of you, enjoy your meal. Little disciple, if you can’t finish, you can leave it in there. But you have to eat all of those greens, and you have to drink all of that soup too.”
As though she were scared that Pei Zheng would call for her again, she quickly walked out of the room and closed the door tightly behind her.
The two people left at the table looked at each other, at a loss.
Pei Zheng rubbed Shen Shijiu’s back and wiped his mouth, “Are you feeling better now? Do you still want to throw up?”
Shen Shijiu was a bit dazed, and shook his head, “I don’t want to throw up anymore. But I don’t want to eat anything either.”
He looked at Pei Zheng, a hint of pleading in his gaze, hoping that Pei Zheng wouldn’t make him eat those greens.
Unexpectedly, Pei Zheng picked up more greens with his chopsticks and placed them into Shen Shijiu’s bowl.
“No, just eat these.”
“And the soup.”
Shen Shijiu could only nod obediently, “Okay.”
Then, he lowered his head and began to eat again.
Pei Zheng stroked his hair, “Very good.”
Shen Shijiu obediently ate all the greens and soup that Shen Huan had told him to eat, and didn’t retch once.
Pei Zheng also leisurely cleared out most of his bowl.
Shen Huan finally came out of the other room.
“I need to take a trip to the Imperial City.”
When Shen Shijiu heard this, he lifted his head, “Shifu, what do you need to go to the Imperial City for?”
Shen Huan sighed “We probably won’t be able to find the ingredient we’re missing here during this time of year. I’m going to Jiang Yubai’s to see if he has any.”
Shen Shijiu asked, “Shifu, can I go with you? And Pei-gege too.”
Shen Huan hesitated for a moment. She had planned on going alone, but the thought of leaving her little disciple alone here with Pei Zheng instantly made her extremely uneasy.
“Pei Zheng said, “I also need to go back to the city to find someone.”
Shen Shijiu asked, “Pei-gege, are you going to look for A-Feng?”
Pei Zheng nodded.
“A-Feng’s at Doctor Jiang’s clinic, so it’s perfect, we can go together.” Shen Shijiu looked at Shen Huan, his gaze full of entreatment, “Shifu, please?”
Shen Huan could only nod and agree. She had the two of them wear masks for safe measure.
“Lord Pei, I must remind you. We have to keep a low profile and go straight to Jiang Yubai’s clinic. Then I’ll get my herbs and you’ll get your man, you absolutely cannot attract any attention.”
Pei Zheng agreed.
However, Shen Huan could hardly feel at ease about him. Even if that face of his was all covered up, those eyes always carried a sense of coldness and dignity no matter who he looked at, which made it quite easy for people to tell that something was off about him.
Sadly, I had to localize ‘drinking vinegar’ because it just didn’t sound right ;-;
Thanks for reading~
1.I’m going to take my best shot at this; 鬼谷 is the Ghost Valley, and 鬼 means ‘ghost’. But 鬼 can also mean tricky and weird, which is what is being referred to here.
2. 盖章 (gài zhāng): ‘official seal/stamp’. He sealed it with a kiss heheee
3. 此地无锒三百两 (cǐ dì wú láng sān bǎi liǎng): ‘There aren’t 300 taels buried here’. Refers to someone who makes themselves out to be guilty by professing their innocence. There a lot of different versions of this story, but here is the simplified one; a guy finds a bunch of silver in his yard, so he plants a sign above it that says ‘there aren’t 300 taels buried here’.