Chapter 1: 1
Back then, there were many different independent states in the Celestial Empire – large and small. They tried to live in peace, but sometimes there were clashes, and the stronger states absorbed the weaker, multiplying their territories.
One day, the Lan clan from the Gusu state suffered a crushing defeat. The peaceful area, surrounded by a green riot of colors, blazed in a fiery haze. It was as if scarlet ink poured into the crystal waterfalls, and the mountain ranges were blackened with soot. The air was filled with the stench of burning, blood and death, the crossing blades and the groans of the wounded rang in ears.
Ashes circled in the air to the camp, set up at a distance from the battlefield. It settled on hair and clothes, and it could be mistaken for snow, if you did not know the true reason for its appearance. Two men, one in black and purple hanfu, the other in black and red, stood and watched from afar as one small state disappeared in front of their eyes. They were not the instigators of the battle – they just paid back the old debt.
- Leader of the Jiang clan!
A middle-aged man in armor approached the young people, he was not old yet, but numerous battles left scars on his face, which greatly aged his face.
- Thank you for sharing your military power! – he bowed, folding his hands in gratitude. – Let's go to the tent and celebrate the glorious victory! I would like to reward you for your help.
- This doesn't compare with your help a few years ago, Leader of the Shang clan, – Jiang Cheng replied. – We did what we had to do. You don't have to thank us.
- But still I would like to give you something as a token of my deep respect. You will not refuse to accept from me a modest gift?
Leader Jiang had to abide the rule of good manners and gave way. Leader Shang nodded to his men, and soon two tied prisoners were brought into the camp. They were led into a tent and rudely thrown on their knees at the feet of Jiang Cheng and his named brother and right-hand man Wei Wuxian.
The prisoners were alive, but badly wounded. However, even though their clan fell, and their bodies were streaked with numerous wounds, their gazes remained unbroken.
- This is the Leader of the Lan clan and his younger brother, – said Leader Shang. – They fought to the last, but could not surpass our numerical superiority. Therefore, I would like to present both of them as a gift to the two Heroes of Yunmeng.
- The outstanding Twin Jades of the Gusu state? – Jiang Cheng clarified and chuckled. – Now they are indistinguishable from stray dogs.
He looked at both brothers with disdain. Their long hair was loose and tangled, their faces and clothes were smeared with blood and dirt, and yet even so, their features betrayed nobility and likeness.
- Raise your heads.
The elder, the defeated Leader Lan Xichen, had eyes like the moon delineated by night clouds. Meeting his gaze, Jiang Cheng was momentarily taken aback, and his Adam's apple flinched. He was used to seeing fear and supplication on the faces of the losers, but the expression of Leader Lan was strikingly different. He accepted defeat, but continued to maintain dignity and an inexplicable calm. He wasn't going to beg for anything. He took the blame for the fall of the state, because he could not properly protect his home. Jiang Cheng didn’t dare to call him a stray dog anymore, and a comparison with the face of Buddha himself flashed through his thoughts.
The younger, his brother Lan Wangji, had lighter eyes, they resembled amber on frosty snow and exuded icy coldness. He fixed his gaze on Wei Wuxian, and he felt as if he had been pierced through and someone looked into his soul. The warriors he met along the way were skilled swordsmen, but none of them had the ability to hurt with a glance. This impressed Wuxian so much that he pointed his finger at the younger Lan and addressed the Leader of the Jiang clan:
- Hey, brother A-Cheng. I liked this one. Can you give it to me?
Jiang Cheng took another look at the Lan brothers. Wei Wuxian chose the youngest. Everything is correct. The defeated Leader must serve the victorious Leader, and his brother must serve the right hand of the Leader Jiang.
- Thank you, Leader Shang. My brother and me accept your generous gifts with deep gratitude, – Jiang Cheng said, and then addressed Wuxian condescendingly: – From now on, they are our slaves. You can take him and do whatever you want with him.
- Thank you very much, brother! – Wei Wuxian folded his hands respectfully and bowed briefly, then smiled broadly. – Well, Second Jade, now you're mine! I promise we will have a lot of fun together! Let's go and heal your wounds.
Senior and junior Lan looked at each other, but did not utter a sound. It seemed that they could communicate in a special silent language and understood each other from half a glance. One of them now had to serve to a perky and carefree deputy, while the other got the Leader of Jiang himself, according to rumors – restrained, strict and merciless to the one who incurre his anger on him.
Wei Wuxian took Lan Wangji from the tent. Leader Shang, satisfied with Leader Jiang's disposition, also left. The battle was won and both clans prepared to return home.
- Well, and you… – Jiang Cheng drawled, squinting at Lan Xichen when they stay alone in the tent, – you will serve me.
Slaves had to be cured and put in proper condition so that they would be able to serve their masters. When both Lan brothers' wounds were treated, they were branded on the left side of their chest – henceforth, the nine-petal lotus mark was burned on their skin, and the men were considered the property of the Jiang clan. Both brothers withstood the torture and remained silent, not uttering a single groan, only tense muscles and beads of sweat on their bodies betrayed their condition.
«What a proud men», – Jiang Cheng thought, feeling respect for people with dignity and honor. His gaze unconsciously lingered on Lan Xichen's muscles. He was slightly taller than the Leader Jiang, and his features were so noble that he did not in any way resemble a slave even in a shapeless hanfu, who managed to fit around the relief of the body and still gave him a person of a noble family. Jiang Cheng pulled himself down.
Soon, after all the preparations were ready, the Leader Jiang, Wei Wuxian, and their people equipped for the return journey to the residence of Lotus Pier in Yunmeng – the new home for the Lan brothers.
* * *
After returning to Yunmeng, nothing much changed in Jiang Cheng's life, as he thought at first. However, since Xichen began to serve him, it has brought fuss into the Leader's routine.
Lan Xichen seemed perfect from any angle. The maids glanced at him plethorically, and the servants followed him with envy and jealousy in their eyes. Usually, Jiang Cheng only needed to look a little askance in their direction, so that they would stop staring at his slave. For some reason, the increased attention to Xichen annoyed him. The former Leader Lan had only one drawback… He absolutely did not know how to cope with housework, because he was not trained to do it.
Since then, Jiang Cheng's clothes have often been torn, because Xichen has not always been able to control the strength of his hands and how hard he need to wash it. When trying to sew it up, it all ended with Xichen's fingers dotted with needle pricks, and the clothes themselves became unusable.
- What is that? – Jiang Cheng blinked frequently, examining the crookedly patched clothes, which now had sleeves of different lengths, and then glanced to the slave's injured fingers.
- I'm sorry. – Xichen lowered his head apologetically and hid his hands behind his back.
- Run to debride a wound! I don't need an armless slave! – Leader Jiang tossed aside his tainted clothes and rolled his eyes.
Sometimes, when Xichen served food, he would accidentally spill soup or tea on Jiang Cheng, again not controlled his strength, which caused the Leader to kick up and break loose:
- You are taking revenge on me because I made you a slave?!
- I'm sorry.
- Handless, and also so clumsy… First Jade of Gusu Lan, how rumors spread all over the Celestial Empire! If they knew… Are you scalded?! Run to handle the burn!!!
Of course, all this was not on purpose, but simply because Lan Xichen and household are incompatible things.
Lan Wangji did better, but he was more fortunate because Wei Wuxian did not take ordinary household chores seriously. He didn’t need to deal with clan affairs (unless Jiang Cheng asked for his help), and he spent his leisure time swimming and collecting lotus seeds, hunting pheasants and flying kites, and now found the perfect companion for these activities.
At first, Jiang Cheng's eyes twitched from every mistake of Xichen, and he wanted to send him to work in another place (certainly not to the kitchen and certainly not to the laundry, but the Leader Jiang has not yet come up with other options), but seeing each time as a man sincerely apologizes, and his eyes become like of a guilty puppy, for some reason Jiang Cheng did not have the courage to drive him out of sight.
- For what purpose you have big hands? – the Leader sermonized. – To swing a sword? I believe that you are a worthy swordsman, but, of course, I will not check it. Channel your energy in a different direction! Now you must learn how to do household chores, become better than any maidservant in Lotus Pier if you don’t want me to send you away.
- I'm sorry.
- Stretch out your arms, I will punish you.
Lan Xichen nodded obediently. All Jiang Cheng's hand went up to when it came to punishing a man was a couple of blows with a ferula. Previously, if the servants made a mistake or annoyed Jiang Cheng, he usually did not stand on ceremony with them – he could punish more seriously or immediately kick them out, but with Xichen everything was different. Although the Leader Jiang identified him as his slave, he reckoned with his former position in society.
- A-Cheeeng, – Wei Wuxian once drawled, watching his brother even try not to beat with full force, – don't you think that you are demanding from Lan Xichen the level of the mistress of the Lotus Pier, and not a slave?
- Shut up! – Leader Jiang snapped, increasing the degree of the blow with the ferula and feeling the blood rush to his cheeks from the sudden irritation. – Wei Wuxian, your jokes are not funny at all! Go better watch your slave!
- Excellent advice, so I will do it! – Wuxian smiled slyly.
Time to time Jiang Cheng found himself doing something that he must don't do. Despite the mistakes in work, Lan Xichen was still the epitome of grace. Leader Jiang kept his eyes on Xichen’s notorious hands, which for some reason haunted him, on the long musical fingers, on the movements, even at a simple turn of the head – he had never seen anyone more sophisticated. Rather, no one had ever been able to capture his attention with such trifles.
It was not about servants – they were not an issue at all, but even among equals from neighboring states, for example the daughters of noble clans, there was not a single person whom Jiang Cheng could compare with Lan Xichen. Yes, they were sophisticated in their own way, but they lacked something, and the Leader Jiang was never interested in them.
When Jiang Cheng came back from his thoughts, he shook his head and pulled himself back. He shouldn't have treated a slave like that! And, in general, why on earth did a slave occupy so many thoughts in his head?! He was so clumsy!
Still, there was something that Lan Xichen did very well.
- Why is the taste different today?.. – Jiang Cheng muttered thoughtfully to himself as he sipped his tea while working on important documents. The Lotus Pier, surrounded by numerous lakes, was the center of trade, and the Leader always had a lot of work.
- You don’t like it? – Xichen asked.
Leader Jiang flinched and turned his head towards him. He was so absorbed in documents, and the slave was usually so silent and quiet that Jiang Chen completely forgot that he was not alone in the workroom. Actually, except for "excuse me" from Xichen, he really did not hear anything.
- Who made this tea?
- Your slave.
Unconcealed surprise flashed across Jiang Cheng's face.
- You by yourself?..
- If you don't like it, I won't brew it anymore.
Xichen reached out to grab the cup and carry it along with the tray, but Jiang Cheng stopped him by the hand.
- No. I didn’t say I didn’t like it, – he said, catching himself thinking that touching someone else’s skin was unusually agitated. The Leader pulled his hand and coughed, then added: – Brew it from now on.
Now it was Xichen's turn to be surprised, but he only nodded obediently. For the first time, although not directly, the Leader Jiang did not scold him, but, one might say, praised him. Сonsidering the Jiang Cheng's captiousness and exactingness, this was a certain progress in the performance of Xichen's duties.
Jiang Cheng was supposed to maintain the image of a stern but fair Leader in order to keep the clan’s honor in front of neighboring states. Not to flatter them, but to show his firmness and steadfastness, so that they would respect him and not even dare to think about the conquest of Yunmeng. Wei Wuxian was the right hand of the Leader Jiang and was an outstanding warrior. Together, having spent many years and efforts on this purpose, they managed to create a very strong alliance, and none of the neighbors in their minds would dare to go against them.
However, it was impossible to be strong without a downside. Weak, fragile. The side, which always he had to hide behind the mask of ruthlessness. And which sometimes bared itself at night, clutching around like ivy, from which Jiang Cheng never could get out and woke up in a cold sweat.
He woke up from his own scream.
- Did you have a bad dream?
Jiang Cheng shuddered. His breathing was ragged, his chest heaved heavily, and he inhaled air through his mouth. Leader Jiang’s vision was not yet accustomed to the darkness, outlined by the faint moonlight stretching from the window. Orienting in space, he saw that Lan Xichen was kneeling beside his bed and looked worried.
- How did you get here? – Jiang Cheng asked tensely.
- You shouted… – Xichen replied quietly. – I decided to check if everything is okay.
Jiang Cheng was slightly taken aback. The servants were forbidden to enter his quarters at night, no matter what sounds they heard, but Xichen did not know about this rule. No one had ever come to Jiang Cheng to inquire about his condition, he had deprived himself of this opportunity, and now unconsciously thought it was a pleasant feeling when someone worried about him.
- So, you still know how to be a little more talkative, – Leader Jiang chuckled, noting that the slave’s voice, especially at night in a quiet room, was pleasant and pacifying, enveloping and as if lulling.
- I… can play the flute, – Xichen said suddenly.
- So what? – Jiang Cheng raised one eyebrow.
- I know a lot of lullabies. They can help to shake off a bad slumber.
- Do you think some kind of pipe will help me from nightmares?
Xichen paused. Then a smile touched his face and he said:
- You can punish me if this method does not help.
Jiang Cheng was surprised at his self-confidence, but he became curious. Of course, he was interested not because Xichen smiled for the first time during his stay in Yunmeng.
“He must really love to play, since his face shone like that when he talked about musical instruments,” – was flashed through Jiang Cheng’s head.
- So, besides tea, there is something else that your hands can do? Well, I admit, I’m intrigued. Ask the servants to give you a flute and come tomorrow night with it. And I will think in my spare time what kind of torture I can punish you with.
However, Lan Xichen did not cheat. His lullabies immediately affected on Jiang Cheng, who had not felt such lightness in his soul when falling asleep and waking up for a long time. He just started to fall asleep, seeing the face of Xichen playing the flute in front of him, and woke up seeing him again. The slave smiled radiantly and asked:
- Good morning, Leader Jiang. How did you sleep?
Jiang Cheng felt like he was on a battlefield without a weapon. He slept like in a dead dream, that even if Wei Wuxian sang over him in a fake voice, which always made Jiang Cheng’s ears numb, he certainly would not have heard it. It turned out rashly of him to be completely unprotected being in the power of another person, however, looking at the slave with a wary look, the master of Lotus Pier relaxed slightly. Xichen looked completely harmless.
Jiang Cheng’s hair was in complete disarray, and there was still wet saliva on his cheek. He hastened to smooth his hair and dry his face, putting on a strict mask of equanimity, but it turned out rather fake. Along with sleepy eyes, he looked more like a disheveled owlet than a formidable Leader of a clan. And his slave saw him just in such an inappropriate form!
- Ahem… – Jiang Cheng cleared his throat, trying to behave dispassionately. – I don’t know, this time thanks to the flute or you were just lucky… But I slept a little better.
- I’m glad if I could improve your sleep a little, – Xichen said. His face looked sympathetic and supportive. The restrained expression that had accompanied him since their captivity with his brother was softened. – But if Leader Jiang thinks that I have done poorly, then he can punish me.
Jiang Cheng felt a strange excitement, and in his quarters became kind of stuffy.
- I can say that I have found the right use for your hands, – he blurted out. – Come tonight, too.
- Yes, Leader Jiang.
- Let’s check if your play works again. Just don’t sit until my awakening!
- I will definitely show Leader Jiang more than I can, – Xichen promised, smiling softly and bowing.
“And don’t smile like that!!!” – Jiang Cheng added silently, but didn’t voice it out loud.
He never let anyone close to him. Wei Wuxian was different. They could talk the whole night with a jug of wine, and Wuxian supported Jiang Cheng in his own way, but to have someone to watch over his sleep at night… It was something personal, which at first frightened, and yet aroused the desire to know.
Since then, Lan Xichen spent every night in his master’s quarters and played until he fell asleep.
* * *
Jiang Cheng was walking along the long terrace above the pond, surrounded by many blooming lotuses, when he suddenly braked sharply. He stretched out his palm over his eyes and narrowed, peering into the depths of a huge pond with a hawk gaze. He fasted his eyes on a boat with Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji swayed among large lotuses. Jiang Cheng heard his brother laughing happily. He smiled and joked about something with his slave, and even inserted small lotuses buds into his hair.
“What is this? – Jiang Cheng thought, grimacing slightly. – What do they do and why do they look so… so… strange? It makes my skin crawl. Pah!”
He shuddered slightly, but continued on his way. Today Jiang Cheng did not see Lan Xichen anywhere, and that made him feel annoyed. His slave should always be with him. Where is he hanging around?! Jiang Cheng will find him and punish him for sure!
But Xichen was nowhere to be found.
Servants were passing by, and Jiang Cheng stopped them.
- Where is my slave?
They, slightly changed in faces, shook their heads, hurriedly bowed and hurried off with a quick step. Jiang Cheng frowned.
Lan Xichen did not sleep in the common room with the other servants. As the personal slave of Leader Jiang and, taking into account his former status, Xichen was allocated a separate cramped room near Jiang Cheng’s quarters. That is why that night he heard his cry and hurried to visit – because he was near.
Jiang Cheng’s feet themselves led him to the door of Xichen’s room. He was about to raise his fist to knock when he suddenly stopped.
“Why should I knock? Which of us is the boss, after all?!”
That’s why he decided to open the door with his foot.
Jiang Cheng was about to bawl out and punish the slave for not doing his job, but what he saw made him a little taken aback.
Lan Xichen, in front of a small mirror, tried to reduce the swelling of his black eye with an ice bag and looked at the master in confusion as he entered the room.
- What happened to your face? – Jiang Cheng surprised, blinking in bewilderment.
- I stumbled and fell, – Xichen replied a little later.
- Did you… just stumbled?
- Yes. It’s okay, it will heal soon. Have you been looking for me, Leader Jiang?
Jiang Cheng shook his head, completely forgetting why he came here and frowned. Lan Xichen could not calculate the strength of his hands, but he still remained very graceful. How could he just stumble? The anger and desire to punish the slave instantly disappeared.
- Tea, – Jiang Cheng remembered. – My lunch tea. You didn’t bring it to me.
- I’m sorry. I’ll prepare it now. Where can I bring it, to the throne hall or?.. – Xichen put down the mirror and the ice bag, and was about to get up and leave the room, but Leader Jiang blocked his way.
- Are you going to go with a black eye? I forbid you to go out. Sit down and wait for me.
He headed for the exit from the room and slowed down, for some reason hesitating, and then nevertheless turned around to explain:
- I’ll get the ointment.
Lan Xichen obediently remained in the room, feeling a little bewildered. He was already used to receiving minor bruises, but this time his master volunteered on his own to treat the wound of his slave for the first time. Jiang Cheng returned with the jar, and without another word and applying the medicine to his finger, carefully approached Xichen’s face. He hesitated a bit before touching it. A strange shiver went through his body. He just touched the slave’s wound, so why did this incomprehensible excitement came from?..
- I know it hurts. Why hide it?
- If you do it, it doesn’t hurt at all.
Xichen smiled, and his eyes took on the shape of crescents. Jiang Cheng stopped applying the medicine as his ears and cheeks glow treacherously.
- Next do it yourself! And don’t forget about a tea!
- Thank you, Leader Jiang. You are very kind.
“And I’m not kind at all! I bring fear to all the neighboring states!” – Jiang Cheng wanted to protest, but for some reason these words never left his lips. Perhaps he was ill, otherwise he could not explain why his heartbeat was so rapid. Most of all, he did not want this heartquake to be heard by anyone other than himself.
- Leader Jiang, – the slave said again.
- What else? – Jiang Cheng growled.
Xichen seemed to want to say something, but somehow hesitated.
- Are you going to talk or keep wasting my time?
- Do you… always control the lotus counting in your lakes yourself?
Jiang Cheng frowned. The question was quite unexpected.
- Why do you ask? A slave is not supposed to be interested in such things. Go back to your direct responsibilities.
- Sorry. I’ll go get some tea for you.
Xichen bowed and left the room first, Jiang Cheng followed him with a wary gaze, but the slave did not raise any other questions during the day.
After receiving a little favour from his master, the next morning, Xichen, without any order, took the initiative himself:
- Will you allow?
Jiang Cheng was in his quarters and was going to the morning meeting, while examining the documents on lotus counting – the slave’s yesterday’s question stuck in his head. His long hair had not completely dried overnight and was matted, and Xichen was already standing with a comb in his hands.
Leader Jiang gave him a short nod. He had no time to waste hair brushing, documents were more important. A thought flew through his head, but it quickly disappeared – the slave couldn’t pull out his hair, could he?..
Xichen tried to be very delicate. As soon as the comb touched Jiang Cheng’s head and swept along the length of his hair, a strange sensation struck Leader Jiang. It was like discharges of tiny lightning that scattered all over the nerve endings and caused shivers ran up and down. It was an unfamiliar pleasant feeling. For a long time, no one brushed his hair, he forgot what it feels like when you do not do it yourself, but when someone doing it for you… He didn’t want it to end. Jiang Cheng even forgot about his documents and closed his eyes.
In addition to the comb, Xichen’s hand sometimes rubbed the surface of the man’s hair weightlessly, but Jiang Cheng’s body reacted quite sharply to these light touches: a new sensation spread throughout the body, concentrating on the lower abdomen and forcing the groin to tighten. Desire?.. Just because the slave is brushing the master’s hair, he got horny? It couldn’t be like that!
When Jiang Cheng worried about this, Xichen inadvertently pulled harder than he expected, and the master’s head was pulled back. This made Leader Jiang instantly emerge from his bliss and jump up from his place.
- Did I hurt you? Sorry.
- I’m… late for the meeting!
- But I have not finished your hair yet…
Before Xichen had time to finish, Jiang Cheng’s trail vanished – he hurriedly flew out of the quarters, leaving the slave at a loss. Leader Jiang’s consciousness sounded the alarm. How, generally, a simple brushing of his hair could bring him to such a strange horny state?!
His worries did not end only at this matter. In the evening at dinner, Wei Wuxian became the last straw – he sat on Lan Wangji’s lap and fed him with lotus seeds from his hands. For the first time since their return, he allowed himself such liberty with a slave, not hesitating to do it openly in front of others.
- Why are you doing this with a slave in front of me?! – Jiang Cheng was exasperated.
- Why not? Brother, you gave him to me! – Wuxian declared innocently. – And you said that I could do whatever I want with him. So, I do it.
- I didn’t mean!.. – Jiang Cheng stopped short. – Such a…
- Such – what? As soon as our gazes crossed with Lan Zhan, it was as if he immediately undressed me with his eyes. It seems that it was fate! Brother, can you no longer keep them as slaves because I think I want to get married?
- Stop talking nonsense! – Jiang Cheng stood up abruptly from the table, about to leave the refectory. He lost his appetite. Lan Zhan? Who the hell is Lan Zhan? Wei Wuxian calls his slave by his personal name?!
What was Lan Xichen’s personal name?..
- Brother, you need to learn how to properly remove anger! – Wuxian shouted at him with a sneer and again fixed his gaze on Lan Zhan. Lately he hasn’t been interested in anything except his slave.
Jiang Cheng could have punished Lan Wangji, he could have locked Wei Wuxian in a room in order him to think about his behavior, but he didn’t it. Because for some time, Jiang Cheng also wanted this, but he would never admit it even to himself. He remembered Xichen’s big hands… and suddenly felt he is getting horny at the thought. Damn it!
The rating was changed from this chapter. Have enjoy!
Jiang Cheng worked until late at night on purpose, so that all sorts of thoughts would not enter his head, and something embarrassed him in some documents. When it was past midnight and was about two o’clock, and the body became numb and began to ache, Leader Jiang stretched his neck and shoulders. He decided that today he had worked enough, and tomorrow he need early to get up.
He was walking along the deserted corridor of Lotus Pier in the direction of his chambers, when suddenly a whisper somewhere behind the curtain came to his sensitive ears. He stopped, listening.
- The day has passed, nothing happened. We threatened him well. I hope he won’t stick his nose where one doesn’t belong.
- Why, the hell, it should be his business? Do you think when he saw us at the backyard, he realized that we appropriated a few armfuls of lotuses in order to slightly make a buck?
- Don’t forget that before he was the Leader of a whole state, which means that he must be great with such matters.
- Who would believe the worthless slave? Now he is nobody and his name means nothing, let him do his dirty slave’s work!
- He is in master's good graces, so you need to be careful. I propose for us to lie low for a while – out of harm’s way.
- Who does he is, and how did he immediately win the favor of the master, so that he spends every night in his chambers? So annoying to me!
- Exactly. He is a stranger, but has already found a way to seduce the master?
- Do you think there really is something between them?.. But they are both men!
- Have you seen what his brother is doing? These Two Jades have somehow bewitched them both!
- So it were you? – Jiang Cheng pulled back the curtain and saw several of his subordinates.
First, he hated when someone was gossiping behind his back. Second, he had little patience with unscrupulous assistants. Third, he had suspicions about Lan Xichen’s black eye, even though he tried to cover it up for some reason. Jiang Cheng could not understand this. Why cover for the one who attacked you? But more than that – Xichen is big and strong, what are his hands worth, why did he allow this to be done to him? This angered Jiang Cheng. Who dared to raise a hand against his slave?! Who dared to spoil his beautiful face?! He will punish the guilty.
- Leader Jiang! You got it all wrong, we can explain! – the subordinates murmured. – We didn’t want to steal anything, we just thought to quietly appease several officials from neighboring states, so that you would have good trusting relations with them…
- What have you done with my slave? – Jiang Cheng interrupted.
The subordinates looked at each other, one of them found himself daring to blur out:
- He’s just a slave! We just wanted to talk some sense into him, so that he wouldn’t think, that since he is close to you, he can be arrogant…
- I won’t tolerate whispering behind my back in Lotus Pier – this is first. I won’t turn a blind eye to theft, for whatever purpose it was done – this is second. Lan Xichen is my man, and this is third, – Jiang Cheng said quietly, but imperiously. His assistants were numb at his voice. – I made myself clear? And nobody! – He examined the men with a menacing look. – Doesn’t dare to touch him, except me!
- Please, forgive us! We were wrong!
Jiang Cheng took out of his pocket Zidian’s foldable whip, that he always carried with him. His gaze darkened and became so frightening, that the subordinates broke into cold sweat – they trembled like aspen leaves and fell to master’s knees. Of all people they knew that the Leader Jiang was terrible in anger.
- Now I’m going to teach you a lesson, that I hope you learn well, – Jiang Cheng said, rewarding them with a dangerous grin, and tugged the whip.
- We deserve to die!
- Don’t be afraid, you will live. And maybe even be able to walk again, but you will be exile for theft. Death is too light a punishment. And no one of you have no dare even look in the direction of my slave, is that understandable?
The men, trembling with fear, nodded their heads, poking their foreheads on the floor.
- I can’t hear you.
- Yes, master, we understood everything!!!
Later Jiang Cheng returned to his quarters. Although he has punished his subordinates, his irritation didn’t completely go away. Xichen was waiting in chambers with a flute in his hands.
- You’re late today, Leader Jiang.
The man froze for a moment. All sorts of strange pictures have recently begun to visit his head, and Wei Wuxian’s words about…
Lan Xichen in white sleepwear, with loose hair and flute in hands in order to calm Jiang Cheng after a hard day’s work, his soft smile and words that the man was late today… Why did it all feel like they were married? Or did Wuxian’s words had so perverted Jiang Cheng’s brain that he began to regard his slave as his wife?!
He shook his head, trying to throw out all the stupid thoughts, and put on a serious look.
- You don’t dare hide anything from me anymore, otherwise I will punish you, – Leader Jiang said sternly.
- Did I… somehow incur your anger? – Xichen’s soft expression gave way to concern.
Jiang Cheng frowned and walked over to his slave. Still in an irritable state, he grabbed Xichen’s chin imperiously, pulling him slightly towards him and turning his face to the side where his eye was hit.
- If someone dares to raise their hand at you again, tell me right away, – Jiang Cheng said. – You understood me?
- So, you… – Xichen’s gaze was lowered, but hearing the master’s words, he raised his eyes to him. – Knew?
- You know, as an actor you are so-so, – Jiang Cheng winced and let him go. – Why didn’t you tell?
- I didn’t mean to disturb you unnecessarily, – Xichen explained calmly. – Besides, I could be wrong.
Leader Jiang sighed.
- I told you to use your hands properly… But why, where necessary, you don’t use them at all?
- I’m just a humble slave. How can I resist someone who is higher in rank than me and wants to point out a mistake I made?
- I decide in what you should to blame. Not them! – Jiang Cheng got angry again, but not at the man at all. – And only I can punish you! You understood me?
- This won’t happen again, Leader Jiang.
- I hope so. – Seeing the submissiveness and humility of the slave, Jiang Cheng calmed down slightly. – And one more thing… I think I will add something to your duties. Since I had to get rid of a couple of negligent subordinates, someone will have to temporarily take over their work. You will double-check the documents they prepared, it’s needs to be redone.
- Thank you for your trust, Leader Jiang, – Xichen bowed.
The master looked at the flute in the hands of the slave.
- So, are you going to play for me tonight or do you want me to keep getting annoyed?
* * *
When Jiang Cheng fell asleep, Lan Xichen, as was ordered earlier, silently left his chambers. That night, Leader Jiang suddenly woke up not from a nightmare, but from hearing some screams. At first, accustomed to sudden attacks, he jumped out of bed and immediately grabbed the sword, but then hesitated.
The screams were not like the ones Jiang Cheng heard during the battles. He walked towards the sound that emanated from Wei Wuxian’s chambers. As he approached, his pace became slower and his breathing harder, and a supposed picture of what was happening behind closed doors finally began to form in his head.
Jiang Cheng hesitated before peering through the crack, but curiosity and disbelief overpowered. He had to confirm his guesses and did it: Wei Wuxian and the Second Jade, Lan Wangji, were doing what was unacceptable for Jiang Cheng. He couldn’t even imagine that his brother and another man… instead of, for example, torturing him and mocking him… or what else could anyone do with the slaves… it would turn to this.
- Lan Zhan… Ah, Lan Zhan!..
Wei Wuxian’s screams and groans indicated that he was taking inexplicable pleasure in twisting like a snake while riding the Second Jade. He guided him and spoke what he liked, and the slave did his every command. Their bodies glistened with sweat in the uneven candlelight, their hair adhered to their skin, and their movements were rhythmic that would make anyone excite to look at them.
- Lan Zhan, right there… Repeat that movement. I want you to touch that point one more time. Kiss Me. No, not here… Ah!..
Wuxian’s body trembled, and then he sank exhausted onto Wangji’s chest. Both were breathing heavily. Wangji was larger, and in his wide embrace Wuxian seemed smaller than he was. With one hand, the slave held him tightly to him, while with the other hand he fiddled with his hair and brought several strands to his face, inhaling their scent. The movements were very graceful, it was very similar to…
Jiang Cheng swallowed nervously, not believing that his brother had come to this. He himself didn’t even think of using Lan Xichen… in such way. After all, Xichen… he was so… chaste? Leader Jiang didn’t think of what his brother had come to mind. But seeing everything with his own eyes… he felt that this scene aroused him. Shaking his head, he hastened to leave.
Since then Jiang Cheng was been haunted by this thought. As soon as he was seeing Lan Xichen, the pictures immediately were appearing before his eyes, appearing against his will. Jiang Cheng had imagining himself and Xichen in the place of Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji. Jiang Cheng riding Xichen. Then lies on his chest. Xichen touches his hair. Xichen hugs him tightly. His hands… And even a flute. Even the damn flute was appearing in the erotic fantasies of the owner of Lotus Pier, which made him ready to bang his head against the wall. The slave became master’s obsession, driving him slowly go crazy.
Jiang Cheng tried to immerse himself in work, but even it couldn’t help. There remained another way: good wine. Better yet, combine both. After working late again, Leader Jiang decided he deserved to relax with a couple of glasses of wine. Perhaps it would help carry him into oblivion. Or to be liberated for some more… desperate action.
It was a sweltering summer night, and Jiang Cheng was wearing a light robe. Lan Xichen served him in the throne room, he was wearing a summer version of hanfu, which was a bit small for him. Any clothes intended for a slave was barely pulled over his pumped-up body and tight-fitting. His body and every muscle… Jiang Cheng was annoyed again because he staring at him and wanted to… touch him.
And why, in fact, he couldn’t do it? Jiang Cheng puffed up. Why should he be ashamed? Wei Wuxian is not at all shy about showing his feelings in public! Why Jiang Cheng can’t? Lan Xichen was his slave. He will do whatever he is ordered to do. Jiang Cheng shouldn’t be shy about his own orders!
Leader Jiang was seated on the throne and Xichen was sitting on his knees beside him and was washing his feet. Looking down at the slave, overlooking on his chest, from which he could see the outlines of the collarbones and inflated chest, Jiang Cheng formulated in his head a clear: “I want him”.
After draining a couple of glasses of wine, he braced himself and blurted out:
- Serve me as your brother serves my brother!
Xichen stopped washing his master’s feet and looked up at him. From the expression on his face it was difficult to guess what he was thinking at that moment – there was no shock, no horror, no disgust. A mysteriously calm look and a delicate question:
- How exactly do you want me to do this?
- Do I need to explain to you? Or will a night in the torture room make you a little smarter?
There was no need to repeat it twice. Xichen carefully pulled Jiang Cheng’s legs out of the bowl with water and lotus petals, then brought one of master’s feet to his face, inhaled the fragrance, and kissed it. Water trickled down his chin and had penetrated the hanfu, slightly wetting the fabric and outlining his collarbones; the skin gleaming in the candlelight. The faint scent of lotus mixed with the delicate scent of sandalwood, turning the Leader Jiang’s head.
- What are you doing? – Jiang Cheng perked up, instinctively straining. He jerked his leg out of inertia, but Xichen’s strong grip didn’t allow him to escape from the captivity of his strong hand.
- You said that I should serve you as my brother serves yours? – the slave insinuatingly specified with his pleasant, mesmerizing timbre of his voice.
Jiang Cheng swallowed hard. He had no such experience with men. He wasn’t sure if he needed it, but the call of the flesh was stronger. He wanted his slave. He desperately desired him. He was crazy about him for a long time!
After a little hesitation Jiang Cheng took a deep breath and nodded his head slightly. Still holding his foot in his hands, Xichen stroked his lips over each finger, first touching it weightlessly, inhaling the lotus scent, and then swallowing and sucking in turn. Jiang Cheng was losing control of his body. Looking down from above, as a seductive Lan Xichen kissed his feet, who was insanely handsome, especially now, like this, and just looking at his body was driving crazy, Jiang Cheng began to languish with excitation.
The most handsome. He belongs to me. No one else dares to possess him, except me!
Pulling back the hem of the master’s robe, Xichen moved from the ankle up, leaving wet marks from tongue. From time to time he looked up directly into Jiang Cheng’s eyes, wanting to make sure that he liked everything, and met his flushed cheeks, which completely betrayed the state of its owner. The slave reached the inner side of the thigh, feeling the legs of Leader Jiang slightly trembled, and saw that under the thin cloth a dick was already got hard.
He reached out to touch it, and Jiang Cheng winced. He hadn’t completely trusted yet and looked quite tense. Xichen tried to act slowly and delicately: he loosened the belt and pushed the fabric of the master’s robe, freeing his erect dick. The slave touched it with his fingers, brushing the tips on the head of the dick, and the master sobbed at this touch. Xichen stroked Jiang Cheng’s dick, and then gave him a quick glance from under his brows to make sure the master was in his power. He trembled in his arms and desired.
- May I?..
Jiang Cheng was ready to cum right at that moment, but, gathering the rest of his composure, he nodded curtly.
Xichen didn’t torture his master very long, and put his dick into his mouth. His movements were slow and clumsy at first, but he began quickly to acquire a taste, speeding up. The slave was looking up at Jiang Cheng, watching him take the desired pleasure, throwing his head back. Then he grabbed the slave by the hair, controlling the movements and sticking the dick inside, until Jiang Cheng cum into Xichen’s mouth. His body was shaking and beaded with sweat.
- Did I please the Leader Jiang? – the slave asked on his knees.
Jiang Cheng muttered something inarticulate while he breathed quickly, then found the strength to lower his gaze and look at Xichen. The man at his feet swallowed most of sperm, only a few drops trickled down at the corners of his lips. Xichen licked them and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Even this gesture came out of him shamelessly, but at the same time seductively.
- Should I continue?
Jiang Cheng, barely feeling dizzy, got horny again. Is he still asking? Looks so depraved and dares to ask?! Aloud Jiang Cheng didn’t find the courage to say everything he thought about it, and yet he noted to himself that apart from hands, it turned out that Xichen’s tongue was no less outstanding.
- Go on.
Xichen rose from his knees and sat very close to Jiang Cheng, sitting on the edge of the throne next to him. The scent of sandalwood hit nose of the master, and he inhaled hungrily. The slave approached his face, looked down at his lips, but didn’t dare to kiss them yet. Instead the slave took his master’s hand, pressing his wrist to his lips, and looked into his eyes. This gesture made Jiang Cheng flustered and fidgety, feeling both lust and some disappointment at the same time – he was sure that the slave would kiss his lips, not his hand.
Xichen’s gaze became somehow different, as if predatory: slightly with a squint, he watched the reaction of his master. Previously, Jiang Cheng always considered him so innocent, so pure, he would never dare to deprive him of this chastity… But now for some reason everything has changed. Or maybe Jiang Cheng felt so because he was drunk with the wine? He shook his head. He wasn’t so drunk after drinking only a couple of glasses, and now he was completely sober from alcohol and drunk from something completely different. How dare a slave look at him like that? Is he playing with him, teasing him on purpose? Jiang Cheng has no time for games, he wants him right now!
Xichen approached even closer, but it was one more disappointment – not to the lips, but to the neck. For that moment, Jiang Cheng even stopped breathing. The slave’s hot breath has scorched the skin, causing a herd of goose bumps. Xichen breathed in Jiang Cheng’s scent, shaded with aromatic lotus oil, and reached out to lower the top of his robe, exposing master’s shoulders. Jiang Cheng tightened his fingers on Xichen’s clothes. The slave hadn’t touched his lips yet, but these light touches made Jiang Cheng tremble with anticipation.
His body, which had never known affection, stretched and craved for touch, he rubbed himself like a cat, demanding for Xichen’s tenderness. The slave ran his hand through the master’s hair, then the back of his hand over his face. Leader Jiang could no longer wait and restrain himself, he grabbed the slave by the fold of hanfu, pulled him to him and eagerly pressed a kiss on the lips.
Xichen answered him equally impulsively.
It was good that Jiang Cheng was sitting, otherwise his legs would have buckled, because he never expected to feel how a kiss could be so mind-blowing. He never thought that such a humble Xichen outside could be so passionate inside. The kisses with him were greedy and long, it were needed to interrupt in order to breathe a little air and press to each other again. Jiang Cheng pulled Xichen so tightly to him, and the slave leaned on him with his whole body, that the Leader Jiang had to lean back and lie down on the armrest of the throne. The slave loomed over him, responding to his kisses more demandingly.
Xichen’s palms began to touch over the master’s body, while Jiang Cheng grabbed his hair on the back of his head with one hand, holding him to himself, not wanting them to come apart, and with the other hand opened the tight hanfu of a slave and finally was able to touch his chest. Where the lotus mark was burned. Stroking the scorched skin with his fingertips, Leader Jiang froze for a moment. A feeling of guilt has awakened inside. Jiang Cheng was the one who punished his people for daring to raise their hand against his slave, and yet he himself was the one who captured Xichen and burned the mark on his body, causing much more tangible pain. And now he was asking this man to please him…
- Does it hurt? – the words came off involuntarily, breaking the kiss.
Xichen stopped Jiang Cheng by the palm of his hand, removing his fingers from the scorched skin. Too much time had passed, and this wound healed, only served as a reminder so that he would not forget his new acquired status.
A chill ran down Jiang Cheng’s spine. He was afraid that he ruined the moment, stirring up unpleasant memories in Xichen, and that all the affection he had given him would instantly melt, turning into forced icy touches.
The slave shook his head and said quietly:
- It doesn’t hurt anymore.
Jiang Cheng tried to see in the depths of Xichen’s eyes, how he felt about him actually, but the slave was the only person among those who knows Leader Jiang, whom he couldn’t understand. A total mystery. Compliant, obedient, humble… But what was hided in the bottom of this stillwater?
And what Jiang Cheng wanted, he was confused himself. He wanted a body, so what difference did it make to him what the slave thought of him?!
Suddenly Xichen recoiled from his master, and Leader Jiang shuddered, his heart beat echoingly in his chest. His whole being resisted separation by more than a few centimeters.
Don’t you dare to distance yourself from me!
- Why did you stop? I didn’t give such an order.
- Here… Leader Jiang will be uncomfortable.
Jiang Cheng felt an unprecedented relief. Belatedly, he realized that they were in the throne room, and although it was deep night, this place really wasn’t very suitable for their first time. The master nodded awkwardly in agreement, and Xichen lifted him into his arms to carry him to the chambers.
For a moment, Leader Jiang hesitated. Could he afford such weakness? To be carried like a young lady? But his arms themselves wrapped around the slave, not wanting to let go, and Jiang Cheng buried his face in Xichen’s neck in order to forget himself at least for this moment. The smell of a hot body, giving off musk and the delicate scent of sandalwood – everything drove Leader Jiang crazy. And it was not enough for him. Even having pressed so tightly, there was still not enough.
They approached the bed, starting to rip off each other’s clothes, and Jiang Cheng finally got access to Xichen’s body, that haunted him, that belonged to him, and with which he wanted to merge. The master ran his fingers over the tense muscle definition, feeling how the slave’s body responds to his every touch. Indescribable delight.
Jiang Cheng no longer had to give any orders, his body and eyes spoke perfectly for him.
And Xichen loved. Fervently. Gently. Assertive. Grace and strength were surprisingly combined in him, he subtly noticed the desires of his master, as if he knew how to read his thoughts and knew where to show tenderness, and where to show a little rudeness, so that Leader Jiang was moaning and beg not to stop, sweltered from desire and pointing out where he likes and where he wants to repeat.
Xichen was big, and Jiang Cheng was so intoxicated with him, that he wasn’t so worried about the feeling of impending pain. He participated in many battles, received battle wounds, so he wasn’t afraid of pain. Jiang Cheng was droving crazy by the thought that he could finally be as close to Xichen as possible – to feel him inside of his body.
Using a bottle of aromatic oil, the slave slowly had stretched the master and gradually lead inside, allowing him to get used to the new sensations. Jiang Cheng bit his lower lip to the point of blood, cursing what exactly his brother found pleasant in this thing, but when the slave began to move slowly, gradually to became speedy and changing the moves, hitting some point inside, from the lips of Leader Jiang the first groan of pleasure was escaped.
However, the most important thing for Jiang Cheng was something another. He was intoxicated not so much as with the intimacy, which he had forbidden himself to have before, as precisely the fact that it was the very person. Leader Jiang was drawn to him on some subconscious level, an inexplicable connection was felt with him, the master didn’t feel for anyone else what Xichen was causing in him. The slave was squeezing his master in his wide embrace and strong arms, from which Jiang Cheng got thrilling and felling into oblivion.
The kisses, the caresses, the fact that they merged into one, were, undoubtedly, incomprehensible sensations for Jiang Cheng. He wanted to dissolve in them completely, and at the same time there was something from which he was melting even more – it was hugs. For him they were much more intimate – it was the acceptance of two people, revealing Jiang Cheng to Xichen as he was – not strict and formidable, but fragile and vulnerable. To cuddle so hard to hear the heartbeat opposite, as if silently to give the keys to the hearts, opening them and denuding them to each other. For Jiang Cheng this meant finding the very one that he had been looking for so long and couldn’t find anywhere else, and now it was in his hands. Not a thing. Human. Alive, real.
I found you. Don’t leave me. Be by my side.
It was more than merging of bodies – it was a plexus of souls. As if an invisible mystery, when all boundaries were gradually erasing. There was no more master and slave. Just two souls who were apart in loneliness, and now found in each other the warmth that they both lacked.
Since then, Jiang Cheng loved for the most Lan Xichen’s hands. Big and strong. They brought him pleasure and then lulled and gave him a sense of peace and security.
No matter how cruel a person was, everyone needed affection. Jiang Cheng was the one who instilled fear and didn’t need anyone’s protection, but even the most formidable people needed someone to calm and smooth out their harsh nature. No one had ever given for Jiang Cheng such tenderness, and he didn’t want to lose it when he finally found it.
To say personal name was tantamount to opening your soul to another person.
- When we’re alone, don’t call me Leader anymore, – Jiang Cheng asked quietly. – I want you to call me by my name.
The slave hugged his master closer to him, which made him completely drugged in his hands, then bent down to his ear:
- Okay, Wanyin, – Xichen breathed and gave him a kiss on the temple.
Jiang Cheng thought that he wouldn’t stand his shame if Xichen heard his heart rate increase, as if his frozen heart had melted under the onslaught of the warm spring sun.
- And your name?
Exchanging personal names was like giving a piece of your soul.
- Lan Huan.
Since then, Xichen spent every night in his master’s bed.
* * *
Jiang Cheng tried to act as if nothing had happened, trying to avoid a single fail, and yet the changes in his behavior couldn’t stay unnoticed in the eyes of those around him. For example, the way he fidgeted because it was hurt to sit for him.
At breakfast the servant, while arranging the dishes, accidentally dropped the plate.
- Please, forgive this stupid maid! I deserve to die! – the girl fell at her feet.
Jiang Cheng coughed in annoyance and waved his hand.
- Clean everything here and bring a new portion. Quick.
- Thank you for your grace! – the maid tidied up and hurried away, bowing.
Wei Wuxian whistled as he sat next to his brother.
- For the formidable A-Cheng to become so docile? Something new! Previously, you kicked out such clumsy servants. What influenced the smoothing out of your behavior? – he squinted at Jiang Cheng, whose lips looked swollen and bitten, and there were traces of lovebites on his neck. Then he looked at Xichen, who was standing at a distance, and Wuxian has grinned. – Oh, brother, did you take my advice after all?
- Shut up! – Leader Jiang instantly reacted.
- Your pride will never allow you to admit that I will not advise bad?
Jiang Cheng rolled his eyes and swore to himself. Why, no matter how angry he was and cursed at his brother, in the end Wei Wuxian’s advices really turning out to be useful?!
- Can you stop pestering me? – Leader Jiang sighed.
Wuxian leaned closer to him and whispered in his ear:
- Do you want to arrange a hot night for the four of us sometime?
- WEI WUXIAN!!!
It was no longer a secret for anyone that both slaves found a lead up to two masters and were secretly elevated to the rank of their beloved lovers – no one else had the privilege of spending nights in the chambers of Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian. Although this causing some discontent, everyone was still too afraid of the wrath of the Leader Jiang and his right-hand to risk a hint about who they should spend time with in bed.
Lan Xichen was quietly talking to Lan Wangji on the sidelines in the corridor. Jiang Cheng frowned slightly. Usually he didn’t see the brothers often intersect, let alone talk, usually they only had enough to throw their silent Lan’s glances at each other. Both slaves noticed the master of the Lotus Pier and bowed to him, after that Wei Wuxian took Lan Zhan with him, and Lan Huan went towards his master.
Jiang Cheng had skeletons in cupboard, which he hadn’t told anyone about. The nightmare he sometimes dreamed at night was a scene from the past. His home was on fire, his father and loyal associates were killed, and his mother was badly wounded. Her last words were firmly imprinted in the mind of the young man as she was dying in his arms:
- Avenge the Jiang clan. Destroy the Wen clan and then conquer other states! Only when you get rid of all rivals, no one else will stand in your way and will not take anything away! Make them fear you!
The woman coughed up blood and the drops fell on Jiang Cheng.
- Destroy everyone…
Then her head sank heavily onto her chest, and her hand slipped out of Wanyin’s palm. She died, bequeathed to her son to carry out a blood feud. It was only then that Jiang Cheng didn’t know that the price for this would be too high, and the destruction of others meant to take a heavy burden on his shoulders for every blood spilled. And as a punishment…
Loneliness. Nightmares. Neither his brother’s support nor alcohol could fill the void that was devouring Wanyin from the inside. On his hands were deaths, and his fingers were stained with someone else’s blood. Sometimes he wondered: did revenge bring peace to his heart, did it make him at least a bit happier?..
After the scene where Jiang Cheng’s mother dies in his arms, he was consuming by the screams of those who fell from his sword. This time, the image of Lan Xichen was added. He stood with a sword in his hands, bringing a sharp blade to his neck, his eyes were full of hatred and resentment, tears flowed from them.
- I never loved you. I’ve always hated you.
With that words, he cut his throat, and his blood gushed right into the shocked Jiang Cheng’s face. It was the worst nightmare he had ever seen.
The man woke up sweating from his own screaming and panting. In moments like this, Leader Jiang is always used to being alone, but this time it was different. He jumped up and almost immediately found himself in someone’s strong arms. Wanyin was shaken, his body was covered with sweat, and he clung to the arms like a lifeline and immediately felt safe.
After Jiang Cheng and Xichen moved on to the next stage of their relationship and began to have a sex, the slave had not played the flute for a long time.
- I’ll play for you.
Lan Huan let go of Wanyin and was about to get out of bed in order to find a musical instrument, when he heard master’s hollow voice:
Jiang Cheng didn’t want Xichen to let him go. He wanted to be in his arms.
- Don’t do anything… Just hug me.
Lan Huan lay back down and pressed his master firmly with his back to his chest. For the first time in many years, Wanyin could admit to himself that he had finally found an outlet that brought peace to his heart, and with it something else, feelings that were unfamiliar to him.
Did he love Lan Xichen? Or just needed him? Did he love him because he needed him? Or did he need him because he fell in love with him? Could someone else replace him?
The answer popped up instantly. It could only be Lan Xichen and no one else. If it could have been someone else, then Jiang Cheng would have found this person earlier, and there were a lot of people and completely different in his life.
- Ten years ago… – Leader Jiang spoke distantly, feeling that he needed to speak out. – The Wen clan from one major state completely destroyed my home. They wanted to personally control the water trade and didn’t mercy anyone. My parents died, only my brother and I somehow miraculously survived… We swore revenge, but the neighboring states were afraid of the Wen clan, no one wanted to declare war on them. We began to look for allies throughout the Celestial Empire, and at that time the only one who volunteered to help us was the Leader of the Shang clan. He had his own scores with Wen clan, and thanks to his connections, we were able to strengthen our position and find new supporters. With the support of the Leader Shang, we managed to defeat the Wen clan. We razed them to the ground – just like they did to our home. Leader Shan didn’t demand anything from us for the help provided, saying that we could repay him later… After few years, he wanted to increase the boundaries of his state. Afterwards… the payoff was the defeat of Gusu.
Wanyin smiled bitterly and covered his face with his hands.
- I hated the Wen clan for what they did to us, but in the end I didn’t notice myself how I turned into the same bloodthirsty monster as they were…
Xichen remained silent, but didn’t loosen his embrace. Jiang Cheng didn’t see his face, but he wanted to ask what the slave thought of all this, how he really felt about him, and was afraid to hear the answer. Initially, the master thought that he wanted only a body, but this was not enough for him. He wanted to possess Lan Xichen’s heart. But Wanyin knew that there was not a single order in the world through which one could get a human heart by force.
- Do you… hate Yunmeng?
An agonizing pause, which caused Jiang Cheng to even hold his breath, afraid not to hear the answer, and his ears were blocked by the rumble of heartbeat in his chest.
- I… have no hatred for Yunmeng.
Wanyin tried to inhale as quietly as possible.
* * *
One night, they lay huddled together until Xichen very gently released Jiang Cheng from his embrace and recoiled. He took out a dagger from under the pillow, which he had managed to hide in advance. Leader Jiang had even breathing, he had to sleep soundly. It couldn’t be find a more perfect moment.
Lan Huan’s hand raised above Wanyin’s head.
Lan Xichen’s hand froze. He tightened his grip on the hilt, but couldn’t get over himself. He threw the blade aside and walked out of the chambers onto an open terrace, the piles of which went into a pond with blooming lotuses.
The sky was dark blue and the moon was still shining on it, but it was already possible to see the approaching azure and scarlet shades of dawn from the east. Cool night air entered Lan Huan’s lungs. It was quiet and peaceful all around. Once upon a time at Xichen’s home there was a very similar feeling – quiet and peaceful… Until his residence and everything around was burned down by the man with whom he was sharing one bed recently.
- Why didn’t you do it? – a quiet voice from behind came. Not a shadow of threat, accusation, hatred were in this voice. He just wanted to know. – You may not get the better chance.
Xichen turned around. He looked calm, like the reflection of moonlight on the surface of a lake that was not touched by a single ripple.
- But you have a chance to get rid of me. I tried to kill you.
- This is not the answer to my question.
Jiang Cheng came closer – in a thrown over a robe, with loose hair, the way he didn’t allow himself to be seen by his entourage and servants, only to Lan Xichen. A warrior without armor and without a sword was naked like a blade without a scabbard. Wanyin’s only weapon was a dagger, which he picked up from the floor in the chambers. His face was furrowed, he tried to find an explanation in Lan Huan’s eyes, but the slave was always too well in control of his emotions.
- You could at least hide the blade… Why you betrayed yourself, since you didn’t kill me?
Lan Xichen was silent.
Jiang Cheng’s world has cracked. Maybe he didn’t know how to hide emotions on his face as well as Xichen did, but at least he found the strength to control himself when it seemed that his legs were about to fail, and he would fall, as if broken by an invisible strike…
Could this have been an insidious plan of the Lan brothers from the very beginning? To gain in trust and seduce Jiang Cheng and Wei Wuxian? Could they both have possessed some kind of arcane magic, since they managed to do it? They could, could not, or maybe… Many options flashed through the Leader Jiang’s head, but none of them lingered for long. These questions were no longer important.
- Actually… I suspected you hated me.
Jiang Cheng never tolerated betrayal, but this situation was different from the others. Because in those situations there were another people, not Lan Xichen. Leader Jiang chuckled. He didn’t want to believe it. He wanted to believe only in what he feels himself, and to believe naively that his slave felt the same way. He just let himself be fooled because he wanted to.
Wanyin put the dagger into Lan Huan’s hand and pressed the sharp side to his own neck sharply.
- I’m giving you one more chance. Hit right here, then you definitely won’t miss from the first strike.
- Why are you doing this? – Xichen asked in confusion. – Why would you will end your life?
Jiang Cheng looked into the slave’s eyes and answered honestly:
- It’s your fault.
Lan Huan was surprised, confusion flashed through his eyes.
- My fault? That you enslaved me?
- That it was you who made me a hostage to your heart, damn it!
Xichen’s gaze became unreadable again. Jiang Cheng revealed his true feelings even though he had no intention of doing so. Precisely because he didn’t want to see those eyes that made him dumbfounded. Lan Huan possessed an amazing ability to control the emotions of his master, and from one glance at him, the Leader Jiang could feel himself the ruler of the entire Celestial Empire, and the next moment feel like a completely worthless loser at the bottom of his trampled hopes.
- You had a hand in destroying my clan, – Xichen said coolly. – Made me and my brother yours slaves. How do you think I can treat you?
Jiang Cheng pressed the dagger closer to his neck. The slave’s words hurt more than a sharpened edge.
- I’ll find out now.
Lan Huan tugged hand, but the sharp movements left a cut, and a thin trickle of blood was drawn from Wanyin’s neck.
- Why did you stop me again?
- Checking the degree of my hatred?
- You wanted to kill me yourself. I’m giving you a chance. So why can’t you do it? What prevents you from taking advantage of such a brilliant opportunity that I have given you?
Will your hand rise on me? If so, then I will believe that everything that was between us was a lie. To accept death from your hand seems to me even a tempting idea – still better than live as if in a living nightmare.
Jiang Cheng grabbed the slave’s hand again, with which Xichen was still gripping the hilt of the dagger. The slave tried to let go his wrist, and as they fought, Jiang Cheng suddenly kissed him. Along with this, their struggle grew into passionate kisses, and now not hands, but their tongues clashed in a duel, wishing to take the lead.
- You won, –Wanyin breathed into Lan Huan’s lips.
- Won what? – the slave answered with his breath.
Leader Jiang recoiled slightly.
- Yes, there is blood on my hands, but I don’t need anyone’s forgiveness. I want you to know: I don’t regret that Gusu was defeated.
He paused, watching Xichen’s reaction. Discouragement touched the slave’s gaze, and the master decided to explain what he meant:
- Because otherwise our destinies would never have crossed, and we would not have recognized each other. I don’t need forgiveness from others – only from you. If you commit a blood feud, will it make you happier? If so, go ahead.
Lan Huan carefully examined his master, then turned his gaze to the dagger in his hand, and finally threw the weapon aside, throwing it into the pond.
- You know the answer very well.
- If not my death, then I can offer you something else.
Jiang Cheng looked at his slave. He couldn’t have executed him for treason, but he could’ve let him go. Wanyin felt aching pain, because he fond of him very much and began to feel something, the meaning of which he was not completely sure. But didn’t see any other choice. He just felt that he wanted to do as much for Xichen as he could, to give him everything if it would help to get his forgiveness.
- You’re not a slave anymore, – Jiang Cheng said in a slightly shaky voice. – You and your brother are free to leave from here and follow wherever you want. I’ll arrange it.
The control of emotions was cracked. At first a unconcealed surprise and confused misunderstanding ran through Lan Huan’s eyes, and then bitterness. Wanyin didn’t understand this. Why was the slave suddenly sad? This decision was not easy for the Leader Jiang, but he was ready to step over himself for the sake of Xichen.
After all, the meaning of love was self-sacrifice for the sake of a loved one, and not selfishness, right?
- I’m afraid that’s not possible, – Lan Xichen said suddenly.
- Why not? – Jiang Cheng shuddered. – I said I letting you go!
- You asked me what is stopping me to kill you. I’ll answer. This… it gets in the way, – Lan Huan breathed, hitting his chest. – My goofy heart and my reckless feelings. I must hate you for all the pain you have caused me and my people! But instead, I…
Jiang Cheng froze, even stopped breathing. He was languishing in pain, disappointment and bitterness just a moment ago, but suddenly a ray of hope seemed to dawn in front of him. His heart thumped, threatening to jump out of his chest and leave a gaping hole.
- You have paid your debt, – Xichen said. – Revenge only breeds new revenge, and new deaths and shed blood with it. I don’t want to continue this vicious circle and going to break it. I forgive you. My brother loves your brother. And I…
Lan Huan took a deep breath and looked directly into Wanyin’s eyes, a look full of hopelessness.
- Love you. I can’t root out these feelings, no matter how hard I try.
Leader Jiang was numb. He had never expected to hear exactly those words. The world turned upside down again, but not from disappointment and despair this time. Something squeezed Jiang Cheng’s ribcage so hard that his eyes stung. He was not sure what it was from: remorse, relief or just joy. He didn’t believe he deserved it. Forgiveness from Lan Xichen and his mutual feelings… There was nothing else in the whole world that Wanyin wanted so badly. He didn’t feel like a winner, rather, defeated, but this knowledge brought a sense of calmness for him. If it was Lan Huan, then Jiang Cheng was ready to submit to him. He hugged him.
- You can become my punishment, – he began muttering into his neck. – The main thing is to you to be by my side. I know that I didn’t deserve it, and yet… I ask you about it. I can’t do without you anymore. I love you so much.
Xichen’s heart fluttered in the same desperate way in his chest. He didn’t expect such a reaction from his master. Lan Huan responded to the hug, hugging Wanyin to him firmly.
- I… want to make you my official spouse, – Jiang Cheng breathed very quiet into his ear.
- You cannot marry a man, – Xichen protested, recoiling slightly.
- I don’t care, – Wanyin looked absolutely serious. – My brother can also marry your brother. I let him do what he wants. I decided so. And after my death, let the state fall apart, I don’t care, as long as you are with me!
- You… – Lan Huan’s tense face relaxed and he smiled for the first time since their dispute. – Too impulsive. I have a hard work to do with your behavior. But I’m glad that you are finally honest and open about your feelings.
They met the dawn on the terrace with their hands tightly clasped and their eyes fixed on each other.
Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji were hugging at a nearby terrace at a distance.
- Lan Zhan, I’m so happy for them! A-Cheng only needed a little nudge to confess his true feelings! But, hasn’t your brother gone too far?.. In any case, in honor of this joyful event, today I can be on top?
Wangji shook his head.
- You had bet that it would happen before the sun rose, but it’s already up.
- What?! Are you really going to find fault with my words now?! Lan Zhan! Hey, Lan Zhan!
Lan Xichen was the spring that had illuminated and warmed with inner sun Jiang Cheng’s autumn loneliness and melancholy. Lan Wangji was a frosty winter, who hide his passionate heart under a blanket of snow, on which received a response from the carefree and bright Wei Wuxian, similar to a hot summer. Opposites that had found in each other a perfect balance as halves of Yin and Yang, and with such a union, the whole of the Celestial Empire was at their feet.
Maybe Yunmeng Jiang enslaved Gusu Lan, but at last it were the Two Jades who conquered the Two Heroes and became the masters of their hearts.