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welcome home, my little lotus

Chapter Text

"A-Xu! A-Xu! Please!" 

The filthy moan resonated throughout the walls of the chamber located right next to the corridor which led to the Emperor's palace. 

Any servant who would pass by could definitely hear it. 

Or anyone as a matter of fact. 

The possibility ignited something into Zhou Zishu's mind, a spark which threatened to consume his rationale, as he drove into the concubine, whose gasps and cries intensified. 

"A-Xu, my A-Xu, are you planning to break my hips? I have… to… ah, see His Highness today." Wen Kexing managed to obtain a level of coherency in his speech which had been reduced to a single name and some gibberish in the attempt of poetry. 

Upon hearing another man's title on Wen Kexing's lips, Zhou Zishu let out a grunt of discontentment. 

"Don't," He warned, grabbing the back of Wen Kexing's neck and used the leverage to suck another mark into his porcelain skin. 

"Don't what?" Wen Kexing tilted his head, pushing back onto the cock which filled him up so well that he wanted to lock Zhou Zishu into place, for a whole eternity. "At the end of the day, His Highness is my…" Taking a pause, he looked Zhou Zishu right into the eyes. "Husband." 

As expected, Zhou Zishu's gaze darkened, sending a shudder down Wen Kexing's spine. 

Pulling out almost entirely, he asked, "Who is your Husband?" 

Wen Kexing wasn't an easy nut to crack either. "Jin---" 

The name couldn't even make it past his mouth completely, when Zhou Zishu thrusted in, angling himself to hit the spot which made Wen Kexing go pliant at once. 

"A-Xu!" Wen Kexing's scream was, thankfully, muffled against Zhou Zishu's shoulder. "A-Xu--" 

"Don't call me that," Zhou Zishu cuts in, stroking Wen Kexing, flicking the tip of his pre-cum leaking cock. 

Wen Kexing, torn between pleasure and the genuine concern of making Zhou Zishu mad, could only nod, due to oversensitivity. The Tian Chuang leader knew his body so well that every touch of his had a secretive aim fulfilled.

"What am I to you?" Zhou Zishu asked, jerking him off simultaneously.  

My beloved. A-Xu, my beloved. My best friend. My soulmate. 

Of course, all of those words hovered at the edge of Wen Kexing's lips which were tasting metal from how hard he had been kissed a few seconds ago. 

"Husband Zhou, my husband Zhou." Wen Kexing replied, throwing his head back when Zhou Zishu increased the pace of providing pleasure.

"That's right!" Zhou Zishu's mouth curled into a wicked snarl as he resumed the rhythmic thrusts. Only I can see you like this. I am the only one you can call husband. No one else. No one else. 

"A-Xu!" Wen Kexing felt his climax reach its height and almost collapsed onto the bed, if it weren't for the arm wrapped around his waist, supporting him. 

Zhou Zishu buried his face into Wen Kexing's neck, continuing to fuck into him, chasing his own high. And when he did, he made sure to spill it inside the hole which was wrecked by him. 

Catching his breath, he took a glance at Wen Kexing. Glazed gaze, smudged eye-liner, the tint of blood painting his lips red matching the robes which were hanging loose below him, completely ruined like its owner. 

Emperor Jin had gifted him this set. Zhou Zishu remembered. 

What had he said again? 

Ah, "Wear it during the banquet, my pretty concubine. You have to meet the standards of the Palace. Your beauty must be appreciated too." 

All that favour because Wen Kexing had passed on a vital piece of information to him.

And prior to that, the said information had gone through Zhou Zishu, as he had taken Wen Kexing raw, till all that man could remember was his name. 

The channel of communication had its own ways of working. Since Wen Kexing was favoured, he could move in and around the Palace without needing approval, thus, enabling him to gather the crucial bits of information from the nooks and corners and relay it to Zhou Zishu, who had struck a deal with him in the first place. 

That night was still a clear memory to the Tian Chuang leader. 

 


 

The Emperor's chamber was lined up with candles, a multitude of flowers which were dear to him, the fragrance of the incense was light yet noticeable. 

On the huge bed, behind the sheer see-through curtains, was seated a figure, drowning in red robes of the most expensive fabric, embroidering an intricate design in golden thread. The veil sat perfectly over his head, settling over the hairpin which had an eerie resemblance to  the royal crown adorned by the Empress. 

"By the full moon river, waits the concubine, as the night, too, waits for the moon to shine."

The person recited in a lazy drawl which could lull any restless soul into a soothing slumber of reassurance and while sprinkling drops of oil into the fire of yearning.

"Your Majesty, allow this lowly one to please you tonight." Delicate fingertips pushed aside the strings of beads which were acting as a second layer to the curtains. 

Zhou Zishu held his breath, having arrived with a sole goal in mind. 

End Concubine Wen. 

His sources had proclaimed with records of how this Wen Kexing was more likely a seed sown to ensue destruction and downfall, than to be another lonely flower which Emperor Jin would step on. 

"Concubine Wen, may your soul rest in peace." 

Despite the cold farewell of his, straight to the point, Wen Kexing finished his bow, greeting him in the most respectful fashion. 

When their eyes locked, despite the veil in between acting as a barrier, he could see the pair of dark eyes slightly widened, lips parted in mild astonishment. 

Of course, like others, he is scared of death. 

The next moment, Wen Kexing adjusted his expression. "Very well." 

In slow strides, he sauntered over to Zhou Zishu, wounding his arms around the assassin's neck. "If you win, you take my life. If I win, you give me one night. How does that sound, beautiful?" 

The silence in the room was shattered by the clink of the sword against the fan. 

Wen Kexing's moves were wild and radical, completely contrary to Zhou Zishu's style of restraint and orthodoxy. 

By the end of their impromptu sparring, both of them were in a deadlock, fighting for each breath, trying to premeditate the other's move. 

Wen Kexing was the first to speak. "How about we hatch a deal, Zhou Daren? Wouldn't you like to know about Master Cang's plans of infiltrating the northern borders?"

What had started off as a simple mission to pluck out what could potentially be a thorn in the flesh, culminated into a deal, where Zhou Zishu had made a fair trade, yet was left with fingers trembling in the heated desire of more. 

 


 

In Zhou Zishu's humble and calculating opinion, as he brushed the stray strands of hair from Wen Kexing's forehead which also wore a sheen of sweat, they worked well as partners in business. 

Under the light of morality, what he was doing wasn't the most ideal way of serving Jin Wang, touching someone who was a showpiece in the royal palace. 

Nevertheless, it was also important that not every unfiltered gossip fell onto Jin Wang's ears who was already in a state of constant paranoia and if Wen Kexing really had any other intentions in mind apart from looking for the treasure he claimed that the kingdom stole from him, then Zhou Zishu wouldn't hesitate slicing his throat. 

It wasn't as if Wen Kexing was anything more than the means to an end. 

The end was to stay loyal to the kingdom in life and death. 

"What are you thinking about, A-Xu? Don't frown so much, it doesn't suit you." 

Wen Kexing's drowsy whisper sounded close to his ear as he snuggled into Zhou Zishu's chest. "Everything will be alright." 

"Can't you shut up for once?" Zhou Zishu chided back with a snort. Truth to be told, the words had, for some unknown reason, eased the knot of anxiety in his stomach. 

"I would, but my beautiful Zhou, now that you have made a mess of my robes, what do I wear for the banquet?" Flipping the topic, Wen Kexing lifted his chin up, to rub his nose against Zhou Zishu's. 

"That reminds me," Zhou Zishu disentangled himself at the speed of light, as if scalded by the tender touch. 

"I brought you a new pair. Wear these." Throwing them onto the mattress, the assassin leader grabbed the clothes he had discarded earlier in a haze. "I'm running late. You too, get ready. Royal banquets are--" 

"--Important." Wen Kexing supplied in a mumble. "I know. What else could be more important for our A-Xu than performing his duties?" 

The corner of Zhou Zishu's eye twitched. His eyes lingered on Wen Kexing a little longer than usual, before he put on the robes and the cape, heading out through the window. 

Wen Kexing watched him go. The faint smile of his faltered as he sighed, leaning back. "Seperated like autumn leaves, who knows how far apart we end? Shixiong, don't be afraid. I will not let any harm come to you or your prestige." 

 


 

The carpet rolled up to the throne, lanterns hung from the entrance to encompass the whole vicinity in their golden glow. The scent of a multitude of delicacies and wine brewed using the finest of ingredients hung in the air. 

It was no ordinary night, as obvious from the grand arrangements made.

Jin Wang had finally succeeded in banking upon the chance to build an alliance with the most prominent clan of the Southern borders, the assistance of which would strengthen Jingzhou in its trade and financial prospects, especially after suffering a huge loss from not providing reinforcements on time to aid in relief for the embankment accident. 

That was what the Ministers knew of. 

Those who knew Jin Wang well, could easily read behind this flimsy excuse and pinpoint his actual motive. Alas, those who could were few in number and had enough sense to keep the fact shoved up their throats, not allowing a single word to slip out and incite chaos. 

In the second row, alongside the other concubine, Wen Kexing took his seat after greeting his Majesty with a formal bow. 

With utmost discretion, he flicked a walnut kernel into his mouth, relishing the taste as more and more guests poured in and wished His Majesty. 

Before he knew, he had finished the entire small bowl of it, gesturing to his personal maid to get more and fill it again. 

These days, he'd been feeling too hungry, that too at odd times. It was a miracle that he didn't get caught sneaking into the royal kitchen to make himself a bowl of chicken soup in the middle of the night because the kitchen in his chamber wasn't as furnished as the royal one. 

Not to mention, the recurring headaches were growing worse and worse, now accompanied with nausea and bouts of vertigo. 

If I eat, I vomit. If I don't, hunger kills me. Why is a philanthropist's life so difficult? 

 

Wen Kexing hadn’t realized that he had zoned out until the announcement of the expected guest’s arrival hit him like an invisible slap in his face. 

In a mad frenzy, he too, did a full bow, barely escaping a slip-up which could have snatched his majesty’s favour from him. The thorn which was lodged deep into his heart was the cause of that pain which brought the pleasure of satisfaction too, quelling the hunger burning at the bottom of his belly, igniting the flame which had set his soul on fire long ago. 

This fire would only cease at the downfall of a certain person. 

When that person would cry blood, begging at Wen Kexing’s feet, curse himself for all that he had done and crawl around for help. The mere thought of it made Wen Kexing dig his nails into his palms till it stung. As he rose to his original position, his cherry lips adorned a smile too sweet, an intent too vicious. 

Jin Wang was someone who wouldn’t spare even a thread if it didn’t bring him anything in return, much less a whole set of robes. 

Naturally, Wen Kexing had figured out that he had a part to play in today’s banquet. 

Doubtful anticipation bloomed into an eventual reality when his eyes met the guest’s. 

It was obvious that Jin Wang was murmuring something about him since the other young man’s eyes raked over his form, unblinking. For a second, Wen Kexing felt uneasy. 

The feeling quickly dispersed when he deciphered the objectifying look. 

Of course, for these high and mighty emperors and leaders, those below them were often mere stairs to step on and sit on the pedestal or as a medium of entertainment. 

This wasn't new for Wen Kexing. To blame was Zhou Zishu who looked at him with something unreadable in his eyes, something which Wen Kexing had never been able to understand. 

"Concubine Wen," Jin Wang called out, "Your…." 

Wen Kexing felt as if the entire hall was spinning. 

"....and Concubine Wen deserves to be seated next to our guest--" 

Control. You can't fall weak now. YOU CAN'T FALL WEAK NOW, WEN KEXING. 

With luck on his side, Wen Kexing had caught the gist of Jin Wang's command.

"This lowly one thanks his majesty." Taking a full bow, he got up with wobbly feet. 

The walnuts he had downed earlier were pushing up his throat with the pungent odour of bile.  

Each step he took towards Xie Wang, his heartbeat faltered. Dots of black oozed into the line of his vision. 

Wen Kexing flipped open his fan, gently flicking his wrist to get some air and force himself to remain fully alert. At a critical conjecture like this one, he couldn’t afford to show weakness. 

Each of the men and women present in the hall would hone in on him like hungry wolves jumping at their prey. 

Especially the empress. 

Xie Wang watched the concubine strut over in a graceful fashion. Wisps of nightfall framing the defined yet delicate features, doe-like eyes, plump lips wearing a shy smile and the contrast of red against his skin gave him the appearance of a rose in its early blossom. 

It was as if Concubine Wen had enchanted him into forgetting everything else for a while. 

“The lament of the night fades with each drink, when the moon shines, waves still part from the land, content with the mere sight.” Concubine Wen recited, pouring a cup of wine. 

His voice was tranquil like the soft breeze on a winter night, putting the numerous thoughts in his head at ease. 

How foolish of Jin Wang to keep this great beauty as a concubine! He deserved a status higher than that. 

Xie Wang brought his hand forward to accept the drink. Concubine Wen’s fingertips brushed against his. 

The next thing he knew was a splash of wine on his robes, followed by the hit from a closed fan on his knee and a passed out Concubine Wen in front of him, whose trembling lips kept whispering something on repeat. His collar had loosened slightly, revealing a painful-looking bruise.

Xie Wang was about to take a better glance, when the servants rushed forth and helped the concubine away. 

What a pity… A beautiful face and a tragic life…

 


 

Wen Kexing stirred awake to the smell of herbs and low-murmuring.

“Had a good sleep, my dear?” 

Alarmed by the voice, Wen Kexing rose to his feet a little too fast and adjusted his clothes. “Your Majesty, this lowly one seeks your forgiveness for his imprudence.” He said, lowering his head and connecting his palm to his fist.

Jin Wang bent forward, touching his cheek. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

“What could this----” The rest of his words died at the back of his throat, as Jin Wang grabbed his hair, coercing him into locking eyes with him. 

“You ungrateful slut!” Jin Wang growled like an unruly animal. 

Wen Kexing’s heart raced. Had-- Had Jin Wang found out about him and A-Xu? It couldn’t be-- It couldn’t--- Bunching his robes, he took a deep breath. He had to remain calm. No matter how this ends, as long as he ensured A-Xu’s safety, the outcome would be bearable. 

“Your Majesty---”

His cheek buzzed from the ruthless strike which had caused his face to turn the other side. Not sparing him any chance to recover, Jin Wang gripped his chin. “Whose bastard child are you carrying?!”

Wen Kexing felt his body go numb. He couldn’t comprehend the results which Jin Wang kept barking out. He couldn’t comprehend the throbbing pain which shot from his arm when Jin Wang hit him again. His fingers trembled as they rested on his stomach. 

A child?

He was carrying a child-- no, he was carrying his and Zhou Zishu’s child?

“Ungrateful!” Jin Wang slapped him for the fifth time. His own eyes were bloodshot from uncontrollable rage. 

Wen Kexing’s eyes held unshed tears and heart an unbearable weight of memories.

“You don’t want to have an equal-position alliance with Xie Wang, do you?” He said, wearing a maniacal that sent a shiver of restlessness down Jin Wang’s spine as he stood motionless. 

“Your Majesty, you might need something to achieve that.”

“What do you mean…”

“Me, Your Majesty, you need this lowly one to overpower Xie Wang.”

 


 

Wen Kexing stared at his reflection in the mirror. 

The sting of the new mark on his chest was at a flaring high. The price for barely evading the jaws of death. The scar which would never fade. The reminder of what he was, what he had become. 

"Once a liar, always a liar. You want to be useful to me, don't you?" 

"This! Will remind you of who you belong to, where you belong and how you will always remain there." Jin Wang roared with a laugh, pressing his foot over the burning circle engraved into Wen Kexing's chest. 

Wen Kexing had willed himself to not cry and by the time he had been sent back to his chambers, he had no strength to even think of crying. 

What would crying do? Erase the mark? Make A-Xu accept this child? 

"Baobao…" Wen Kexing put a hand on his stomach, gently rubbing it. "You will not have to live like me. You will have a better life. You will grow up to be strong, brave and respected like your baba. This is A-niang's promise to you." 

Even if it is at the cost of my life. 

 


 

"Do you wish for an untimely death?" 

Wen Kexing rested his chin at the Baiyi blade held up by Zhou Zishu. "Good evening to you too, A-Xu." 

Disbelief was written all over Zhou Zishu's handsome face as he withdrew the blade. 

Casting a scrutinizing glance around, he yanked Wen Kexing into his arms, closing the window with his other hand. 

Wen Kexing pressed his nose into Zhou Zishu's shoulder blade, both arms wrapped around the man's petite waist. "Feels like home. I missed this." 

"We saw each other this morning." Zhou Zishu deadpanned, slowly returning the hug. 

"You were in a rush." Wen Kexing countered, breaking the embrace with reluctance. 

It had been difficult to sneak out in the middle of the night and into Zhou Zishu's quarters. Not impossible though, Wen Kexing had no other option. 

If he didn't bid a proper farewell to the person he loved the most before he left… It would be a shame. 

Too busy adoring A-Xu, he couldn't react in time when the man took off the veil he had worn. 

"A-Xu!" 

"Why so preten--- Lao Wen… What… Who…" Zhou Zishu, stunned speechless, took more than a moment to let the sight sink in. 

The corner of Wen Kexing's lip was swollen. A large bruise sat on his cheek, a cut on his forehead. 

"It's nothing." Wen Kexing stole his gaze away, mustering a smile. 

Zhou Zishu's blood boiled further at the claim. Through gritted teeth he asked, "Who. Did. This?" 

Wen Kexing decided to tease him. "Is my A-Xu worried that someone hurt his wife? Husband Zhou, will you beat him up for me?" 

I will make sure he doesn't see the light of the day. He touched you. He touched my person. I will make him regret that he was ever born. 

"Wen Kexing, are you going to tell me or you want me to find it out my way?" Zhou Zishu cornered him against the wall, unable to contain his agitation.

"Did Leader Zhou catch feelings for me? If not…" Wen Kexing leaned in closer as he spoke, "Why do you need to worry?" 

Zhou Zishu felt as if that question had knocked the air out of his lungs. Was it only an arrangement for Lao Wen? Was the affection a part of it? A trade? 

It was a little too late to mull over that now. 

Irrespective of the view Wen Kexing held, Zhou Zishu couldn't stop his heart from clenching in concern and anger. 

On a second thought, Wen Kexing was also excellent at diverting the route of the conversation to avoid addressing the main issue. 

Perhaps he didn't have the faith in Zhou Zishu to protect him, to take care of him without it being connected to a deal.

"Since you feel so bad, as a good wife, I will give you a chance to make up to me." Wen Kexing kissed the bridge of his nose.

"Is that so?" 

Zhou Zishu would do anything Wen Kexing would ask of him. 

"Hmm, I have three demands! First, you and I will watch the moon together. Then… I like your cape a lot! Can I have it? You can have my hairpin in return!" Wen Kexing didn't let him answer and extended his hand to give the jade hairpin to him. "Third, no matter what I say or do, you won't get mad at me!" 

The last one made Zhou Zishu raise his brow. "What have you done now?" 

Wen Kexing faked a gasp at the accusatory tone. "I have only devoted my heart to you! Is that wrong now?" 

"I can't promise the last one." 

"Works fine! Whatever makes my A-Xu happy!" 

 


 

Zhou Zishu observed how oddly quiet Wen Kexing was and normally, as he had perceived earlier, it should have been a delight to witness. Except… it was not. 

Not only Wen Kexing was silent, but he also wasn't touching the wine. 

Did he hit his head somewhere? 

"A-Xu--" 

"---Lao Wen" 

They spoke together. 

"A-Xu, do you know why I'm not drinking tonight?" Wen Kexing's glance was fixated at the moon, as though he had never seen it before. 

Zhou Zishu took a sip from the cup. "You poisoned the wine."

"You have been particularly accusatory today. Any reasons?" 

"You have been particularly silent today. Any reasons?" The tian chuang leader quipped back, satisfied to see Wen Kexing losing the game he had started. 

Wen Kexing sighed in defeat. He would have to tell A-Xu sooner or later. "I want to remember and cherish every single second of this night. If I drink, I might forget some of it. Because… A-Xu… I…" 

Zhou Zishu waited patiently for him to finish. 

"I… I'm leaving for the South tomorrow. It's His Majesty's order." 

"Okay." Was all Zhou Zishu could say as he chugged down half the jar in one go. 

Wen Kexing didn't have the courage to keep his act of composure on. If he stayed any longer, he wouldn't be able to leave. 

He had to. For A-Xu. For their child. And he would. 

With a leap, he swiftly landed on the ground. 

"Wait!" 

Zhou Zishu's call stripped his heart of its veneer. 

"You are forgetting something." A-Xu had come down too, now standing close to him. 

Taking off his cape, he put it on Wen Kexing's shoulders. "Get lost. Don't die." 

Wen Kexing didn't blink, drinking in what could be his last sight of A-Xu. With a nod and sheer reluctance, he walked away… 

And in all likelihood, out of Zhou Zishu's life. 

What he doesn't know, won't hurt him. Shixiong, if fate wills, we shall meet again. I will wait for that day.