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let your dreams be dreams

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The first thing Xie Lian hears is a sob. Barely audible, a whisper tainted in sorrow, so tiny Xie Lian wouldn't have noticed it crawling out of someone's throat if he wasn't paying attention. He catches the broken sound between his hands and cradles it close to his chest. The sob slowly turns into a pitiful whimper, clinging to Xie Lian desperately. His ears tingle and mourn with the poor creature, born only of and for sadness.

Then comes the first word.

"Cursed."

The unforgiving syllables, forged in hatred and fear, pierced Xie Lian's armor like an arrow. The cracks reverted through his entire body, and he gasps, his breath clustered in his lungs. Between Xie Lian's hands, the sob wails in anguish.

The voices attack again, merciless. "Cursed. Cursed. Cursed."

And again, and again, and again. "Trash. Freak. Useless. Scum. Worthless. Monster."

Each sound, even more venomous than its predecessor, sinks into Xie Lian, their poisonous nature releasing unfathomable pain under his skin. The sob has been reduced to a shadow of a note. Xie Lian curls around himself on the cold ground, shielding the barely audible cry as much as he can.

"Only good at bringing misery to honest people," the snarling voice of a father slashes his belly. "Like you killed your own mother."

"A red-eyed beast born to destroy and slaughter," the cruel whispers of a woman suffocates his chest. "You should kill him before he kills us."

"Ugh, of course you can't play with us!" the merciless laugh of a child slides inside his veins. "Go away, monster, get out!"

"Why are you like this?" The whimper of a brother cuts open his heart. "You always ruin everything. I wish you were never born. Why can't you just disappear?"

Each sentence is another hit, each word shatters Xie Lian deeper and deeper. And it doesn't stop, why won't it stop, how can he make it stop? His fingers curl around the sob, who's completely silent now. Dead. Words are killing it, smothering the miserable sound under their hatred. And how can Xie Lian fight what cannot be pierced, slashed or punched?

Other words. That's the only weapons he can use.

"You go away!" He rages as he remembers he can use his voice too, he doesn't have to lie there and take it. "WHAT DID WE EVEN DO TO YOU? GO AWAY! BACK OFF!"

Nestled between his fingers, the sob unfolds and leaps out of Xie Lian's hands, turning into a fierceful battle cry. That sound, Xie Lian knows very well.

"Hua Cheng?"

The name pours inside Xie Lian's ears like a caress. The world stills in wait, stuck in frozen realization before it shrieks. The horrified sound unleashes a tempest of anguish, as strong as it's short. Mortified silence falls upon them as the last cry dies out in the darkness.

Xie Lian has slipped inside Hua Cheng's dream again, but this time it was a nightmare.

"Your Highness," Hua Cheng's voice is shaking as he tries to get his panic under control but keeps on failing. Xie Lian can hear every echo of his self-loathing, every note of his fear, and it stings a cord he didn't know the existence of deep within. "Your Highness, I'm so sorry you had to see that. Please forgive this servant for dragging you into his silly dreams. It won't happen again."

Xie Lian reaches out blindly for him. He catches nothing but ashamed shards of sounds. Good enough. "There is nothing to forgive. It wasn't your fault."

That's not enough to soothe Hua Cheng's anxiety, peals of fear ringing still into the void, so Xie Lian grabs the dream instead, and he tears apart the fabric between his divine hands. The nightmare dies a quick death, its remains cold and unfeeling. Xie Lian hastily stitches the seams into another dream, a softer one, a gentle one, devoid of any poison and knives lurking between the threads.

He opens his eyes to ink-black silk and scarred skin. Hua Cheng is hugging him tightly, shaking hands pressed along Xie Lian's shoulder blades, legs intertwined and his head resting on top of Xie Lian's. Xie Lian sighs against Hua Cheng's neck. "There we go. Better, isn't it?"

Hua Cheng hums as he sinks deeper into Xie Lian's embrace. The flutter of panic clinging to him sheepishly retreats back where it came from. "Your Highness is too kind."

"I'm not." This is basic human decency. Hua Cheng needs to upgrade his standards for kindness. "Does this happen often?"

"Sometimes," Hua Cheng admits, evasive. "I'm very sorry I dragged Your Highness into it."

Xie Lian lets that 'sometimes' sink into him, silent and grave. How often has Hua Cheng been forced to endure such pain on his own? Either curled upon himself until the storm passed, or battling what cannot be hit in complete solitude? "You should drag me into it. I want to help."

"I...As Your Highness prefers," Hua Cheng says, hiding his face into Xie Lian's hair. For once, it sounds like 'I'd rather die' to Xie Lian's ears.

"I mean it," Xie Lian scowls as he grabs Hua Cheng's chin to force him to look down.

Hua Cheng smiles, an incomprehensible blend of sadness and joy. "I know you do. I don't recognize this place. Your Highness, where are we?"

Xie Lian allows him to change the subject with a sigh. "My bedroom."

At the admission, Hua Cheng stills in Xie Lian's arms. His hand clamps around the white sheets behind Xie Lian's back. "I'm in Your Highness' bed?" He asks, deceptively calm.

He raises his head without disentangling himself from Xie Lian. The way he stares at the room, intensely and hungrily, as if he's trying to commit every single detail of Xie Lian's intimacy into his mind, is enough to make Xie Lian embarrassed. He would lie if he said he'd never picture Hua Cheng in his bed before, safely tucked in his palace, at the heart of what is his.

His beautiful devotee laying on his bed, either adorned in priceless crimson robes and jewels Xie Lian may or may not have acquired for this sole purpose, or utterly naked, wearing only the bite marks Xie Lian left on him. What a sight it would be.

...Xie Lian really has turned into a pervert, there is no denying it. "The dream version of it, yes."

"Hmm," Hua Cheng says as he lays back down and melts against Xie Lian's chest. His knee slides up to teasingly press against Xie Lian's thighs. "So, how does Your Highness want me?"

At that point, Hua Cheng must be able to feel the slightest hint of Xie Lian's arousal like a shark smells blood. Still, Xie Lian makes an attempt to deny the obvious. "I don't..."

Hua Cheng's fingers caress his hip and he forgets how to think. The mortal bends over Xie Lian to pour filthy suggestions into his ear. "I could take Your Highness in my mouth, on the bed or on my knees. Your Highness does like my mouth, hm?"

Of course he does.

"We could stay like this too." Hua Cheng's hand rubs circles around his hip. "Your Highness could use my body to take his pleasure however he likes. My legs, my belly, my hands... everything I have is yours. I only live to serve Your Highness."

Oh god, Xie Lian's room has been ruined forever for him. He's never going to be able to go to bed without remembering Hua Cheng offering him to rut against him any way he wants until he comes all over him. "I..."

"Or maybe, we could do it differently today." Hua Cheng drops a kiss at the corner of Xie Lian's mouth, his eye gleaming feverishly. "If Your Highness wants to, he could take me fully."

Take him fully? What does that...oh. Like... like this? Despite his intendants' best efforts, Xie Lian couldn't be kept away entirely from crass rumors, and he has heard whispered tales of men who liked to... use their behind, in a non-traditional way. He had no idea how such an act worked exactly, and the only thought he spared on the matter started and ended with 'if it really is true, surely that can't be very pleasant!'.

The idea of 'taking' his lover this way shouldn't seem this appealing to him. And yet. His mouth dried at the mental image, and Hua Cheng, still whispering dirty proposals in his ears is not helping. "How would you want me, Your Highness? On my back? On my knees? Or maybe I could sit on your lap?" He purrs, and Xie Lian's brain goes blank. "That way you wouldn't have to do a thing."

Oh dear, that would be... yes. He and Hua Cheng had only used hands and mouths so far, and Xie Lian hasn't even thought of any other way to chase their pleasures, already overwhelmed with what they had. On his end, Hua Cheng clearly has been considering it. Or perhaps even... Xie Lian taking Hua Cheng's cock. That would be... an experience.

But now is not the appropriate moment. Xie Lian may be in a more or less constant state of horniness for Hua Cheng, but he's not blind to what his lover is trying to do.

"No." The rejection escapes his mouth before he can find a better way to formulate it.

Hua Cheng's hands, that were roaming over Xie Lian's spine, stopped at once, and he went rigid, his eye widening. He hastily disentangles himself from Xie Lian, springing up on the bed to sit on the side, without facing Xie Lian.

"Hua Cheng..." Xie Lian tries as he sits up as well. His hand claps Hua Cheng's shoulder. His believer refuses to turn back.

"It's okay, Your Highness, I understand," Hua Cheng says in a fake cheerful tone. "This servant has been too spoiled already. To insinuate Your Highness would do something like this with me is just so..."

"Please stop," Xie Lian embraces him from behind. "I didn't mean no forever. Just not now."

The tension boiling in Hua Cheng seems to have unfolded. The taller man relaxes slightly in Xie Lian's arms, to his relief. "Oh. Your Highness please, you really don't have to. I was too greedy. Your Highness' mere presence is already more than I deserve."

Xie Lian leans over his shoulder to pinch his cheek. "That's enough, don't bad mouth the person I like in front of me."

The reality of his confession rings into his ears. The person he likes. It is true, but to say it out loud is so embarrassing! Nevermind. What is done is done. At that point, Xie Lian has no other choice but to keep going onward. "I know you're trying to distract me from what happened."

To distract him, and to prove Hua Cheng can still be useful to Xie Lian despite his 'weakness'. Xie Lian won't stand for that. Hua Cheng's value to him does not rely solely on his capacity and willingness to bring Xie Lian to climax with his body.

The tension has returned to Hua Cheng. "Your Highness, I-"

"I don't want to take you as if you were a thing," Xie Lian interrupts him. He needs to talk now, or he never will. "I want to take care of you. Please let me take care of you."

The urge to help and provide for others has always been strong within Xie Lian. His foolish, fearless seventeen years old self even claimed he would 'save the common folk, all of them!'. He still intended to. If he couldn't save all, then a few. If a few were too much, then one person was still worth it.

A self-sacrificing idealist, as his master would say, shaking his head with fond despair.

To Xie Lian, Hua Cheng is a walking paradox. Ruthless and distant to anyone else, a fortress built of iron skin and sharp fingers, yet warm, gentle and vulnerable to Xie Lian's eyes alone, a fragile heart exposed in the open, waiting for his judgement. Cynical, maniacal and impulsive to the world, kind, patient and caring to his god. A contradiction made man.

Xie Lian wants to keep being pampered and spoiled by Hua Cheng, but he also wants to pamper and spoil him. He wants to fight him until their hands bleed, and wants to smother him in a safe cocoon. It scares him sometimes, the insatiable abyss of Xie Lian's wants when it comes to his most devoted follower.

"I should be the one taking care of Your Highness," Hua Cheng mutters, full of self-loathing. "That's why I didn't want Your Highness to see this."

"You're already taking care of me, sweetheart," Xie Lian smiles and lays a kiss on his cheek from behind. "But I want to help too. Come here."

Hua Cheng lets himself be coaxed by Xie Lian to lie down on the bed, melting once again in his embrace. Tucked under Hua Cheng's chin, his arms full of him, their hearts beating next to each other, Xie Lian feels at home.

"There, dearest," he pats Hua Cheng's soft hair. "No one is going to hurt you here."

"I would rip them apart before anyone can enter Your Highness' bedroom," Hua Cheng chuckles darkly.

Xie Lian laughs. That's true enough. There went his mediocre attempt at comforting. "My fierce believer. You won't let me protect you, will you?"

Hua Cheng stays silent, lost in his thoughts. The moment stretches longer and longer until it breaks. "I have always known I could never become Your Highness' equal," he admits, his voice tiny and fragile, then it strengthens with pure determination. "But at the very least I want to be useful to you. I want not to be a burden. If I ever become a hindrance to Your Highness, please do not hesitate to throw me away."

"You're not a burden to me," Xie Lian shakes his head and cups his lover's cheek. "You're not disposable. You're not trash I can simply cast away and forget. Those things I heard in your dream, they're complete bullshit."

Hua Cheng laughs incredulously. "Your Highness, you swore!"

"Well, the situation called for it!" Xie Lian defends himself, burning up with embarrassment as Hua Cheng keeps on smiling. "Ah, stop making fun of me!"

"I'm sorry, Your Highness is too cute, I can't help myself," Hua Cheng says, his face softening with tenderness. "Your Highness is so good to me, I still can't believe he's real."

Xie Lian frowns. "I suppose I'll have to prove it to you then."

"Hmm, alright'," Hua Cheng mumbles exhaustingly.

Eventually, Hua Cheng falls asleep, and the dream dissolves.

.
.

Three days later, a festival is thrown in his honor. Thousands of lantern are set alight, half the country visits his temples to present their respect, countless offerings piles up on his altars. A river of spiritual power flows across Xie Lian's body, born out of the unwavering faith of his followers, a mind-blowing stream of trust that spins his head and lightens his steps.

Usually, on that day, Xie Lian either works even harder to fulfill his worshippers' wishes or he takes a stroll in the festivities. Today though, he has a specific task to do. While his attendants are distracted by the sudden inflow of energy, he descends to the Xian Le's capital, toward the army's quarters.

At the official military ceremony thrown in his honour, Hua Cheng lovingly offers his wildflower, a modest offering compared to the delicate flowers and exquisite gifts higher-ranked officers brought. Standing by the altar, Xie Lian's heart bursts in joy as his believer kneels to present his gift, unknowingly to his god in person. Giddy with faith and affection, Xie Lian leans down to press a brief kiss on Hua Cheng's lips. In this form, divinity barely contained in his invisible skin, he must taste like lightning and raw power. To him, Hua Cheng tastes sweet like devotion and stubbornness. A shred of his spiritual energy slips into Hua Cheng's parted mouth and settles through his meridians without any difficulty, looking perfectly at home inside Hua Cheng's welcoming body.

"Your Highness?" Hua Cheng whispers incredulously.

Xie Lian's hand traces tender lines over his believer's hair. With only a flicker of his spiritual power, the flower blooms bright red between Hua Cheng's fingers, and a field of white flowers sprout around him. They grow out of the stone floor to bloom once, then dissolve into the void.

There, proof. Xie Lian chuckles when the crowd burst into incredulous chaos at the little miracle that just happened in front of their eyes. He only has eyes for Hua Cheng, still kneeling, his eye wide with disbelief as he stares at the red flower in his hand, releasing an intoxicatingly sweet fragrance that wasn't there before.

Now everyone will know who has Xie Lian's favor. Including Hua Cheng himself.

"What the fuck," Sergeant Yue says softly, but with a lot of feeling.

Xie Lian is laughing when he finally finds the will power to leave Hua Cheng and ascends back to Heaven. This is a busy day for him, he won't be able to return until tonight. But when he does, surely Hua Cheng would have accepted Xie Lian genuinely is not a mere fragment of his imagination.

.
.

The first thing Xie Lian hears is a moan. The sound rises slowly, barely a whisper, winning strength until it can resonate in the room, an echo of raw pleasure bouncing over the walls and into Xie Lian's ears, then going straight to the lower part of his anatomy. A shudder shakes Xie Lian to his core, unrelated to the cold breeze of the dawn.

Hua Cheng's voice, of course. Xie Lian would recognize his moan anywhere, low and deep. It tugs on his mind and demands his attention, and Xie Lian is too weak to ignore the call.

"Your Highness, are you listening to me?" Mu Qing snaps.

Xian Lian blinks owlishly at his attendant, painfully dragging himself out of his Hua Cheng induced haze. Clearly, the other man cannot hear the ghost moans poured into Xie Lian's ears, to his relief. How could he explain exactly why and how a mortal man is panting directly in Xie Lian's mind as he pleasures himself?

You're going to kill me, Hua Cheng, he mutters to himself, trying his best to ignore his growing and uncomfortably public arousal. He has never been so grateful for his large robes before.

To his despair, a muffed groan answers him. The sounds echoes and shivers and takes, without mercy or hesitation. It takes Xie Lian's sanity, grabs it in its musical fingers, caresses it seductively and tugs on the strings as if Xie Lian were a mere puppet under its command. No one else can make Xie Lian like this. He thought he was completely detached from the lowly temptations of the flesh, he thought he was untouchable and unreachable, safe.

Yet here he is, eagerly taking in the sounds of his lover fucking himself thinking of Xie Lian. What is Hua Cheng doing right now? Is he on his back, lazily stroking himself, his head thrown back when a wave of pleasure shakes his composure? Or maybe on his belly, rutting into his fist, his face hiding in his pillow, sly fingers thrusting inside his mouth as he imagines it's Xie Lian's cock filling him up.

"Your Highness!" Mu Qing's hand slams against the desk. Xie Lian flinches at the abrupt sound. For a second, he had honestly forgotten Mu Qing was in the room. "Why did you single out that frea-mortal so blatantly?"

"I have my reasons," Xie Lian scowls at the name-calling. "Why does it matter so much to you?"

"We told you, he's obsessed with you!" Mu Qing exclaims. "You indulging his fantasies will only make it worse! What's going you with you? You've been acting so weird, sullen and withdrawn for weeks and now cheerful for no reason! You actually take rest! You have a regular sleeping schedule!"

When Mu Qing puts it like that, it does look very strange. Especially the regular sleeping schedule. Xie Lian has always been terrible at self-care. Back in their mortals days, it was up to Feng Xin and Mu Qing to remind him he was still a human being that required rest. Things did not improve after his ascension, they still needed to constantly remind him gods needed breaks too and occasionally strong-arm him to 'eat a few bites or fucking get to his bed already.'

Now though, Xie Lian has a reason to go to bed often, regular as clockwork.

"I said I was sorry about that," Xie Lian says. "Shouldn't you be happy I'm happy?"

"I am!" Mu Qing says as he crosses his arms defensively. "I just don't know why! It's like you got enchanted, or something!"

Enchanted? It's not very far from the truth. By all means, Hua Cheng did cast a spell on Xie Lian, enthralling his senses with his crimson red, his beautiful hands, his delicate flowers and sharp swords, his ironclad skin and tender heart. Xie Lian, vulnerable in his bland white tower, never stood a chance to resist him. "Nonsense. What kind of creature could enchant a god?"

A human one. A stubborn one. A faithful one.

And just when Xie Lian thought it could get any worse, another sound joins the symphony of lust already making him lose his mind. Xie Lian's breath dies in his throat and his midsection pulses in sheer want. Something wet and quick. Is that...sucking? No. Not quite.

"I know you don't like him, but I will not change my mind," Xie Lian says, his voice raspy and barely recognizable. "We'll continue this discussion later if you insist on having it. You're dismissed."

Mu Qing clearly hasn't finished saying his piece, but he complies anyway, closing the door behind more forcefully than usual. If he were anyone else, he would have slammed it. Xie Lian watches him leave with endless relief.

The sounds grow stronger and stronger, buzzing over his skin like thunder and spinning his head. They revert through his body mercilessly and tugs on his heartstrings. It's because Xie Lian gave Hua Cheng his spiritual energy that the mortal can slip into his thoughts and twist his mind like this. What an idiot he is.

He lets himself be drawn in and follows the call into Hua Cheng's room. As expected, Hua Cheng is lying on his bed, on his belly, silky back hair roaming freely across his naked back, just like Xie Lian imagined. What he was doing however, Xie Lian couldn't have pictured it in a million years.

Those slender, lovely fingers Xie Lian never tires of watching are thrusting between Hua Cheng's cheeks. The lower kind of cheeks. The kind of cheeks Xie Lian literally never paid attention to before that moment. He can only watch dumbly as Hua Cheng slides his long finger inside of himself, rocking on and on through his entrance.

And the sounds, oh the sounds. Xie Lian can picture himself replacing those fingers, sinking into that wet warmth again and again and again, until he releases himself right there, inside his lover, putting a claim on him from the deepest part of his body. He can picture doing this to himself, opening his untouched bottom for Hua Cheng's sake, withering on the bed helplessly and aching for release, until Hua Cheng takes pity on him and fucks him raw.

"Fuck, fuck," Hua Cheng moans deep enough to unleash an earthquake upon the remnants of Xie Lian's self-control."Y-Your Highness…"

Your Highness. That title has defined Xie Lian's entire existence since his birth. The empty respect is woven inside the syllables, the weight of a country rolled under the characters, a crown of sounds bigger than he is.

"Your Highness," Feng Xin says, bowing in sincere and terrifying respect.

"Your Highness," Mu Qing says, doubt obvious in his display of deference.

"Your Highness," the Head Priest says, distant as if he were talking to someone else.

"Your Highness," say ministers, says merchants, say nobles, say common folk, say gods.

"Your Highness," says literally anyone who isn't directly related to him. Your Highness, Your Highness, Your Highness. Sometimes he feels he's more Your Highness than he ever was Xie Lian.

No one says Your Highness the way Hua Cheng does, the heavy title cradled between his lips tenderly, the sounds caressed and cherished in his rich voice. Like it's a privilege beyond words to be able to do so. Giving and giving, never asking.

And it breaks Xie Lian into tiny pieces. He tries to catch the sharp shards of his sanity and force them back inside, but they keep on slipping away, evading him entirely. Xie Lian is left to fend for himself with his broken shards and one meaningless title clinging to his skin as Hua Cheng rolls on his back, another soul-shattering Your Highness breathed out as a prayer. His untouched cock is so hard, red and leaking furiously over his stomach. Xie Lian couldn't look away for the life of him.

Hua Cheng's beautiful hand, the fingers coated with a transparent liquid, returns between his legs just as Xie Lian opens his mouth and says, quietly, timidly: "Xie Lian."

Say my name. Say my name. Please say my name.

Hua Cheng cannot hear him, of course. At that instant, Xie Lian is coated in his divinity, invisible, inaudible, unreachable, a mountain of power turned wisp at the mercy of one mortal. Yet, Hua Cheng stills, looking up and quickly retreating his fingers from his midsection.

"Your Highness?" He wonders, hesitantly.

"Hua Cheng," Xie Lian answers.

In a daze, he stumbles toward the bed and bows down to lay a kiss on Hua Cheng's sweaty forehead. In this form, his touch is akin to raw power, electric, buzzing, otherworldly. Hua Cheng leans into the contact eagerly nonetheless.

"Your Highness," he breathes out, not looking embarrassed in the least to be caught fucking his own ass. "Your Highness, you claimed me in front of everyone."

He says this with unhinged delight like it's the greatest thing to ever happen to him. The word claim sounds like fuck coming out of those crimson lips. He's not wrong.

"I did," Xie Lian admits softly.

He hasn't been possessive since he was a brattish child laying claims of ownership and refusing to let go of his parents, his toys, his attendants. He worked hard to overcome this annoying flaw of character, and Hua Cheng brings it all back. Not in the sense he wants to keep the man all to himself, hidden inside deep within Xie Lian's palace where he would be the only one allowed to enjoy his company, oh no. That would actually be easier.

Instead, Xie Lian wants to flaunt his beautiful believer. Slowly, he leans down to caress Hua Cheng's mouth with his thumb. His believer parts his lips obediently, taking in Xie Lian's fingers without a protest. Isn't it painful for him? Xie Lian is so charged with spiritual energy he's practically leaking power.

"More. More, Your Highness," Hua Cheng demands, bucking his hips tellingly.

Stars tingle at the tip of his fingers when he moves to sit between Hua Cheng's open legs. Hua Cheng shivers when Xie Lian skims over his thighs tentatively. "Yes, like this," Hua Cheng purrs, encouraging him to touch him deeper, deep enough to cradle his heart in his hands.

Xie Lian wasn't made to serve. Born a spoiled young master, grown an idealistic prince, ascended as a martial god and in charge of an entire territory, Xie Lian knows how to command and demand, not how to obey. He's always been terrible at obeying. How he wants to overcome his lack of experience though. He longs to be the tool Hua Cheng would use to reach his pleasure, obedient and efficient until Hua Cheng comes undone under his ministrations. He aches to serve, for the first time in his life.

His hands shakingly roam over Hua Cheng's thighs, waist, belly, hesitant and restless at once. He unleashes sparkles wherever he goes and leaves glowing marks of his presence. Hua Cheng can't see it with his mortal eye, but he can feel Xie Lian coating him with his spiritual energy. Marking him. It must be so strange for Hua Cheng, the phantom sensation of light tugging on his soul without being able to see and hear.

Considering the moans that keep on slipping out of his parted lips, the mortal doesn't mind being ravished in such an odd manner. "Inside, Your Highness, please," he says, stroking the sensitive skin of his inner thigh for emphasis.

If Xie hadn't seen his lover fingering himself not five minutes ago, he might not have understood what Hua Cheng was asking for. He takes a deep breath, reins in his nervosity and valiantly tries to ignore the fact he has no idea what he's doing. His finger hovers by Hua Cheng's entrance, and he runs circles around it.

"Fuck, don't tease me anymore," Hua Cheng pants. "I promise I'll tell if you hurt me."

Xie Lian is a brave, bold, determined god. He can definitely do this. His finger slips in carefully, ever so slowly, and Hua Cheng unravels under him, moaning, gasping, clenching around Xie Lian. He's warm, so impossibly warm Xie Lian feels like he's either going to be swallowed by the bottomless abyss of his own desire or burst into flames. The urge to caress the flesh offered to him and explore unknown territories seizes his mind, but he holds himself back. At that point, two phalanges into Hua Cheng, he barely dares to breathe.

"Fuck," Hua Cheng swears between two heavy pants. "I can feel you there, Your Highness. I don't know how but… You can move now. Please do move."

Turned an obedient puppet attuned to Hua Cheng's voice, Xie Lian does so, tentatively rubbing his finger against Hua Cheng's inner walls. The sound Hua Cheng makes at the touch could shake countries and destroy mountains, throaty, desperate, lovely. Xie Lian wants to hear more of that very much, so he ignores his awkwardness and moves again. Ever a fast learner, Xie Lian quickly finds a satisfying rhythm for them both. In and out. In and out. As easy as breathing.

Under Xie Lian's hands, filled by his spiritual energy, Hua Cheng sings like a musical instrument. Xie Lian could coax sighs, pants, moans, pleads, thousands of desperate Your Highnesses out of him if he plays him right, and Xie Lian is determined to hear every sound of pleasure his lover can produce. He discovers that rubbing a particular spot will earn him the loveliest symphony and cheerfully made use of this newfound knowledge until Hua Cheng was reduced to a sobbing mess.

"Ahh, Your Highness!" He cries out, his cock dripping precum on his belly. On impulse, Xie Lian leans to lick the tip. Hua Cheng's taste diffuses over his tongue, salty and raw. "Just-Just fuck me already!"

Overwhelming by the need to please his lover, Xie Lian has his cock pressed between Hua Cheng's buttcheeks before he had the time to think, and it feels so blissfully good. Reality hits him as he's about to slide into his lover without a care for the consequences. What is he doing? What is he doing? A long time ago, when he had no clue of the sacrifice he was making, Xie Lian swore not to lay with anyone, can't indulge himself like this. He just can't.

Not when it's so real.

He recoils by instinct and tries to gather his hazed thoughts running wildly inside his mind and the scattered particles of himself clinging to Hua Cheng, his godly essence attracted to his most faithful devotee like a moth to light. Hua Cheng, unable to see, hear or smell, yet perfectly attuned to Xie Lian, felt the loss immediately. He straightens and half sits on his elbows, his blissed-out expression replaced by concern.

"Your Highness?" Hua Cheng sounds fragile. It shouldn't be this way. This is a voice made for deep chuckles, powerful battle cries and sly whispers, not meek whimpers. "Your Highness, I went too far again. I'm sorry, don't be mad, please."

He always has to apologize to Xie Lian. It's not fair. It's not his fault Xie Lian cannot be with him the normal way. If there could be anything normal between the two of them in the first place. No matter. If Xie Lian can't indulge himself too thoroughly this way, it doesn't mean Hua Cheng shouldn't. He leans over his lover to caress his cheek soothingly, wordlessly asking him to lay down again. Hua Cheng obeys, his eye curled into a crescent, and his body lays bare for Xie Lian to ravish as he pleases.

And ravish he does. First his mouth, a butterfly kiss and a warm breeze inside his throat to reassure his lover of his willingness to keep going. Then his neck, strong and pliant, arched submissively in deference and trust. Xie Lian bites the tender skin with unbashful delight and discovers the pleasure of marking his lover as his. In this form, his love bites won't mark the skin but will leave an unmistakable trace on his core instead. Shamelessly, Xie Lian pushes his own energy inside Hua Cheng. Mortals might not be able to tell the difference, but anyone with an ounce of spiritual power would see the divine essence storming within Hua Cheng. The peck he gave his devotee this morning is nothing compared what he's doing now.

And Hua Cheng can feel it. Can feel Xie Lian's energy enter him and merge with his own, can feel how deeply Xie Lian wants him to be protected, can feel his regard, respect and affection. His love. Soon enough, he couldn't even beg for more, too mindblown by the rush of Xie Lian's spiritual energy for words, turned into a sobbing mess of pleasure.

He can only cry out: "Your Highness!" when Xie Lian's mouth full of stardust goes down on his nipples.

The closer Hua Cheng gets to climax, the more Xie Lian feels himself dissolve into his lover. He becomes the air in his depraved gasps, the sweat glistening on his skin, the blood running inside his veins. He becomes his uncontrollable pleasure, his latent anxiety to be too greedy and drive Xie Lian away, his unwavering faith, and he's so high on the feeling.

Contrary to common belief, hunger does not disappear after ascension. It merely changes of course. Xie Lian does not need rice, meat or even water to live. Instead, he craves faith like some crave sugar or wine. Needs it, truly. Such is the essence of divinity. Gods only exist because mortals believe in them. People think gods are more powerful than them, while gods would be nothing without their believer's faith.

And Hua Cheng believes in Xie Lian more than he believes in the sun. More than he believes in anything.

"Your Highness," he breathes out, throbbing in want and moaning in pleasure as Xie Lian lightly brushes over his neglected cock. "Your Highness, I love you! Xie Lian, ah, Xie Lian, Your Highness, I love you, I love you!"

He comes like this, surrounded by Xie Lian's presence, bathed into his god's energy and intangible warmth. Xie Lian experiences a pleasure he has never known as Hua Cheng reaches his completion with his actual name on his lips and unfolds into him, torn apart by the ghost touch of Xie Lian's divine fingers. It's a deep satisfaction that goes beyond sex, a joy so intense he struggles to keep himself contained. His essence longs to unravel completely and fly out to wrap itself around his lover's exhausted body.

"So good, you're so good to me," Xie Lian whispers tenderly as he covers Hua Cheng's glorious nakedness under a blanket. "Sleep now, dearest one, sleep and rest."

Hua Cheng passes out quickly after that, and Xie Lian slips inside his dreams as easily as he lived there.

.
.

"Hua Cheng."

"Your Highness."

Xie Lian leans into Hua Cheng's personal space, their faces dangerously close to each other, breaths mingling together. "I... I have a confession to make. I am... not allowed to have intimate relationships."

Hua Cheng blinks. A galaxy flashes inside his black eye. "Not allowed to?"

"My cultivation path relies on abstinence," Xie Lian says very fast. The sooner he gets it over with, the sooner. "That's what I meant by 'not allowed."

Realisation falls on Hua Cheng like a meteor. "But Your Highness, we..!"

"It seems dreams don't count," Xie Lian cuts in. "My cultivation is fine. However, I'll never be able to share intimacy the... usual way. In reality. I'm... sorry."

Their relationship could have never been normal in any case. Because they were both men, because they were born in social classes so vastly different they might as well not exist in the same universe, because Hua Cheng was a mortal and Xie Lian his god. Still, Xie Lian wishes he could offer more than fantasies.

"Your Highness, it is who is sorry for putting your hard work in jeopardy for the sake of my selfishness." Hua Cheng says, remorseful.

"No, no, you couldn't have known!" Xie Lian strokes Hua Cheng's cheek. "It's not your fault. I should have mentioned it sooner."

Hua Cheng leans into the touch eagerly. They melt further into each other and the soft mattress of the bed. They're laying in Xie Lian's room again. Hua Cheng dreams of it often. He seems to like the place very much.

"I... Your Highness, you're spoiling me too much," he mumbles after a moment of contemplative silence. "First by indulging my fantasies, letting me touch you, pleasure myself on you, at the risk of your own cultivation no less. Then by talking with me so much, and visiting my dreams every three nights for months. And now you recognized me in public! This servant is undeserving of your regard."

"I did those things because I wanted to, not out of the goodness of my heart," Xie Lian firmly corrects his lover.

"My point is, Your Highness has already given me so much. He doesn't owe me anything, I'm overjoyed with anything he can and wants to give me. If we can never be intimate again, I'm fine with that." Hua Cheng smiles as he presses his lips against Xie Lian's forehead. "A kiss from Your Highness can sustain me for days. A hug will make me giddy for weeks. Just a look is good enough."

That would be so good. Holding his lover in his arms, petting his hair and his pretty face, whispering secrets he knows Hua Cheng would rather die than reveal, just being close together is a blessing. But Xie Lian has tasted more than that, and he has no wish to give up on it. "What if I don't want to stop doing the... other things?"

Hua Cheng smirks like a predator as his lips slide from his forehead to his ear. "Then I'll be absolutely delighted to serve my god."

Xie Lian gulps down.