It starts gradually, not unlike a disease, slowly spreading through his body and mind.
It starts at night. His parents are asleep. Feng Xin is in another room. The silence is almost comforting.
Xie Lian dips the rag into the water, rinsing off the dirt and grime that has accumulated during the day. His hands are shaking when he pulls the water bowl close. His reflection reveals a familiar horrifying face and Xie Lian bites his lip to suppress the scream.
Usually, it’s too dark at night to see anything. But on this day the moon shines bright and he can’t escape the demon tormenting him. He grits his teeth and refuses to back down.
He’s almost done when his eyes catch a flurry of movement, a pale hand dragging across the familiar mask and the painted mouth.
An invisible thumb brushes across his lips.
Xie Lian knocks the bowl over. Water splashes everywhere, seeping into his clothes and onto the floor. The skin tingles where he’s been touched and he hides under the covers for the rest of the night, praying for this nightmare to end.
In the morning no one asks him about the wet spot in the room, but they don’t meet his eyes either. He can’t quite stop shaking and his robes turn to funeral garb before his very eyes. It feels like he’s losing his mind, and he knows he’s not the only person to think so.
White No-Face stares at him over Feng Xin’s shoulder. Xie Lian bites his tongue and looks the other way.
That night, sleep refuses to come. He lies in bed, staring at the ceiling and it’s impossible to shake off the feeling of being watched, the heavy gaze almost like a physical touch.
It leaves his skin crawling and his chest heaving. Xie Lian turns, rolling around until he comes face to face with the mirror in his room.
White No-Face stares back at him, and fear grips his heart. He can’t scream, he can’t wake anyone up and -he can’t turn away.
The image in the mirror looks like it’s laughing at him.
Xie Lian watches as his reflection moves, hands sliding over the covers even as his own hands grasp onto the fabric for dear life.
The person in the mirror wraps his arms around his body as if he was hugging himself and Xie Lian feels the phantom weight of something holding him tight. Warmth seeps into him, and the touch reminds him of the time he found comfort in this monster’s arms.
He remembers White No-face’s voice soothing him when no one else did, and when he looks in the mirror he can see his reflection stroking his head. Xie Lian feels that as well. The caress is tender, it’s comforting and despite everything, his racing thoughts finally come to rest.
Like this, he falls asleep.
When morning comes, he feels almost fine, better than he has in weeks until the reminder of the night fills him with nausea. A glance at the mirror only shows him his own frazzled reflection. Maybe, it was just a dream.
Xie Lian doesn’t want to think about the alternatives. When he reaches for his clothes, they’ve turned into funeral garb again and this time he can’t hold back his shout.
But, when Feng Xin crashes into his room the robes are back to their normal state. He swallows the words threatening to spill out. There is no need to tell Feng Xin what he saw. He already said it too many times.
Head held high he walks past Feng Xin. He can feel eyes staring at his back, and yet he knows that he wouldn’t be able to meet his general’s eyes if he turned around.
The day passes in the blink of an eye, and White No-Face clings to his skin like a parasite leeching off of his fear. Xie Lian thinks about the mirror back in his room. He thinks about what might happen in the dark. He ought to throw it out. He can’t imagine another night facing the monster.
But when he opens his mouth to tell Feng Xin to get rid of it, he can’t get the words out. He’s not sure if it’s a curse that keeps his lips sealed or something much more treacherous. He doesn’t care to find out.
Later, Xie Lian finds himself staring up at his ceiling once again. He’s wide awake and achingly empty. At dinner, he could see the concern etched into the faces of his companions. They never say anything, but they don’t have to either. None of them can give him the comfort he needs.
Xie Lian bites back a bitter laugh. He knows what he’ll find if he looks in the mirror. He knows what’s waiting for him in his reflection. He shouldn’t look. Madness awaits him there.
He desperately wishes the moon would wane so his room could plunge back into darkness. He wishes for someone to comfort him. The loneliness is eating away his resolve until Xie Lian gives in, turning to his side to face the nightmare of his reflection.
In the mirror, White No-Face awaits him, his mirror-image lifting a hand to his face to stroke his cheek. Warmth bleeds from the touch and Xie Lian can’t help but lean into it.
While the image still inspires fear in his heart, the touch soothes those away easily. His mind is muddled by the gentleness.
With half-lidded eyes, Xie Lian watches his reflection. He knows he’s not moving, his arms are heavy on his sides, and yet – the person in the mirror does.
It’s different than the last time. His reflection doesn’t hug him again; instead, it runs its hands over the planes of his body, drawing out all the tension until Xie Lian can’t help but to relax onto his bed.
He is enjoying it.
The realization feels like someone dumped a bucket of ice-cold water over his head, and suddenly he feels like throwing up. That…that demon has been touching him so casually and he even leaned into it.
He has to stop this – has to stop it now.
He can’t move. Suddenly, Xie Lian is frozen in place staring at his reflection. His mirror-image is rubbing soothing circles over his sides. Xie Lian can see it as well as feel it.
The reflection keeps it up until his breath isn’t shaky anymore. Then it takes its hands away, leaving only emptiness.
Xie Lian hates himself for missing it.
Still, he’s unable to move. Whatever White No-Face has in store for him, it isn’t over yet. His reflection moves again, and Xie Lian can only watch with growing horror as it peels back the thin covers, exposing him to the night air.
Then it slides a hand beneath his robes and Xie Lian feels something touch his naked skin. The sensation is so sudden, he lets out a shout. But the mirror-image must have foreseen that because a hand covers the painted mouth and his noise is only muffled.
The hand in the mirror explores further, and Xie Lian can feel its touch slowly wandering over his trembling stomach. It doesn’t stop there. When it brushes over the sensitive skin of his hips, he twitches away from the sensation but an invisible force holds him in place.
By now, Xie Lian has an idea where this is going and the thought fills him with revulsion. He shouldn’t be surprised that White No-Face would sink this low. Still, he shivers when the touch moves to his groin.
He wants to protest, he wants to scream.
But when the hand wraps around him, Xie Lian realizes he’s already painfully hard. Heat explodes in his veins so suddenly, that his own hand flies up to cover his mouth. He has to keep the groans in. The thought of someone finding him like this is mortifying.
The touch on him is feather-light, stroking him with gentle insistence and it drives Xie Lian out of his mind. He tries to remember his mantras, tries to focus on anything else, but the pleasure is maddening and the hand is so tender.
This is out of his control, he has no choice but to give in, so he does.
Now, Xie Lian is thankful for the thing he sees in the mirror. Instead of his own flushed face, he sees the familiar mask. It’s not his own body that is shamefully bucking into the hand between his legs.
It’s not him. He’s not straying from his path.
Xie Lian comes with a muffled cry. For a brief, blissful moment the thoughts stop and the only thing left is euphoria crashing through his body.
It doesn’t last.
When he comes down from his high, he feels the wetness staining his robes. It leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.
But, in the mirror, his reflection pulls up the covers, hugging his own chest again and Xie Lian can’t help but to sink into the familiar embrace.
It’s all he has now.
He’s not sure how he makes it through the next day. The guilt of what he’s done, of what he let happen sits heavy in his stomach. He wonders if his shame is obvious to the only people he has left.
He thinks it must be.
To add to his torment, White No-Face doesn’t show. His presence has driven Xie Lian mad, but his absence is worse.
Feng Xin stares at him across the room with worry in his eyes, but he doesn’t dare to say anything. Xie Lian is not sure how he would have reacted anyway.
The night comes and dread fills him as he retreats back to his room. He’s scared of what awaits him. He’s even more scared of what he’ll allow to happen.
Across the mirror, Xie Lian sits down. He keeps his gaze to the floor, staring at his shaking hands draped across his knees. He could leave. He could spend the night somewhere else and never look back.
It’s not what he will do.
He can’t run from this. White No-Face won’t let him and Xie Lian won’t back down.
So, he raises his head and stares at the familiar reflection. Even though, he has no way of seeing behind the mask it feels like his mirror-image is pleased with him.
It’s been a long time since someone was pleased with him. Xie Lian tries to tell himself that he hasn’t missed it.
In the mirror, Xie Lian sees his reflection running its hands over the expanse of his chest, opening up his robes to slip beneath. It only took two nights him to get used to it, and his body relaxes despite the fear still thrumming in his veins.
White No-Face takes his time, playing with him until Xie Lian is squirming where he sits. He wants the touch to drift down. He doesn’t want to think anymore.
Suddenly, something shoves at him and Xie Lian scrambles to avoid falling on his face. When he looks up again, he’s on all fours right in front of the mirror. Even with the mask covering up his reflection, the position is extremely indecent and Xie Lian feels shame rise in his chest.
Through the movement, his robes have parted. In the mirror, he can see how much his body craves this.
But, White No-Face doesn’t have any mercy on him. The reflection reaches behind itself, and Xie Lian feels a sudden pressure against his hole. Frozen in shock, he doesn’t know how to react.
This is wrong.
He doesn’t think anything is supposed to go in there. It can’t possibly feel good.
Then, the finger pushes inside. It’s slick and strange, but it doesn’t hurt. In the mirror, he starts to move his hand.
Xie Lian feels his face flush at the sight. It’s filthy, more obscene than anything Xie Lian has ever laid his eyes on.
The worst is how he can feel his hips rocking back at the intrusion. The drag against his inner walls is starting to feel good, and when his reflection pushing a second finger inside itself he bites back a moan.
Dropping his head, he stares at his own hands still firmly planted on the floor in front of him. Before, looking away always managed to break the spell.
Now it doesn’t. Xie Lian still can feel the fingers moving inside. It’s too much and yet not enough. There’s something he needs. Something…
The fingers withdraw and Xie Lian’s head snaps up to stare at his mirror image. The masked figure facing him has pulled out a piece of jade. It’s some fine work, long and shaped like a….
It dawns on Xie Lian, he knows where this will go. His insides clench around nothing and he bites his lip to keep a whimper in.
It looks too big to fit, but Xie Lian can’t lie to himself anymore. He wants this. He wanted it from the moment he still came back despite the chance to walk away.
He really is a disgrace.
His reflection picks up the slicked-up toy, reaching behind and Xie Lian has to close his eyes against the sudden pressure.
He can feel it, it’s slowly filling him up and taking up the emptiness inside him. Heat replaces the cold dread clinging to his bones and it feels so good.
He needs it.
The plea slips out before he’s fully aware of it. Xie Lian doesn’t have a chance to regret it, because in the mirror his reflection starts to fuck itself with the toy and Xie Lian feels everything.
Tears spring to his eyes, as he embraces the pleasure. It feels so good to let go, he doesn’t have to cling to the illusion of the crown prince anymore. Like this, on the floor of his room, he can only be himself.
The toy picks up the pace, occasionally dragging over something that has Xie Lian trembling but it’s not enough.
It might never be enough.
A sob spills out of his mouth and shaking, Xie Lian takes one of his hands off the floor. He reaches down, brushing his fingertips across his leaking cock and the touch tears another moan from him.
It’s so good.
He wraps the hand around his length, stroking himself without any finesse, but that doesn’t matter at this point.
Then he looks back at the mirror, meeting his own wide-eyed gaze. His face is flushed, tears streaking down his cheeks. The person looking back at him could only be described as wanton.
It was his own face staring back at him from the mirror.
With a shocked moan, Xie Lian comes all over his hand unable to take his eyes off of the mirror. There is something hauntingly beautiful to it, the once so proud prince ruined beyond repair.
It’s all that is left of him.