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The waterlogged book had its pages all stuck together. It was almost too tragic to look at.
I wanted to snatch it away with my hands.
He gave me an indifferent look, neither warm nor imposing, but enough to make me tremble in place. This was how he stood before me, slender fingers flipping page past page as he remained expressionless.
Although the book had been soaked with water, letting some of its ink run, the figures and positions, as well as the actions going underway, were still easy to see. No matter how good his temper was, these clandestine-type pictures would still infuriate him, right?
I bowed my head, docilely staring at the ground in a daze.
From a distance, Han Zichuan walked over with the qin in his arms, his face looking at us in curiosity. Now he had stopped in place, his hesitation obvious.
The dripping book had already made Fang Hua’s clothing wet to the point that they were starting to sag. The drops of water made a pitter patter sound the moment they splashed onto the ground.
My heart suddenly felt heavy.
“You…what did you buy?” he looked at me, speaking in a measured tone and pace. The hands holding the book also lowered themselves.
“Shao’er won’t dare to in the future,” I answered meekly.
He sucked in a deep breath, pinching the book between his fingers as he took as step forwards. The cloth rippled like swaying forms of liquid clouds, and was really quite pretty to see, but today the sight frightened me.
I trembled and quickly backed away, but he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards his chest, resting his head by my neck with a smile. With every breath he took, I felt unbelievably ticklish.
“…thank you very much.”
What did he say?
He suddenly thanked me…how weird.
Before I could react, yifu let me go, pinching the book between his fingers as he spoke to Han Zichuan. The words made me want to spit blood. “Look at what Shao’er brought me,” his eyebrows raised in satisfaction, even picking one of the most ‘stimulating’ pictures to wave below the other’s face. “See this? Acupuncture diagrams of humans.”
At this point, I felt like killing myself.
Are you serious…
“Is that so.” Han Zichuan’s reply was obviously meant for me. He took ahold of the sopping wet paper before shooting me a glance, looking calm and composed. Only his eyes were full of condemnation, demanding a serious self-reflection. It was getting harder to maintain my smile with my face turning stiffer.
“Hmm?” Fang Hua made a soft noise, then gave a steady smile. He looked up to see Han Zichuan, the teardrop-mole beneath his eye filled with particularly tender feelings. “If you want one as well, buy it yourself next time. I can’t give you this one.”
I was left at a loss. There he stood waving the book back and forth. Han Zichuan turned aside and gave me a vicious look. The fingers he was using to hold onto the book started pressing down with enough strength to turn them white. I could only remain silent and stare at the skies.
The weather wasn’t bad today.
I had the distinct feeling that the stare leveled my way was increasing in killer intent. I steeled myself and looked towards the surrounding trees. Each tree had leaves that were leaves, roots that were roots.
Han Zichuan’s eyes on me were filled with an extreme bitterness.
Fang Hua noticed the turmoil within Zichuan’s heart and smiled at him, his eyes roving charmingly. Just when the other was struck dumb, he deftly tugged on the book and claimed it back. Then he used his sleeves to wipe away the water staining its surface.
I broke out into a sweat at the sight.
“Yifu, that book’s already wet. Why don’t you return it to me, and next time…” My eyes turned towards him as I spoke with a genial smile. “I’ll buy a new one for you, all right?”
“That won’t do.” Fang Hua smiled back, a dazzling sight. He was usually such a clean and tidy person, but now he was hugging the wet book to his chest, unwilling to even use the same sleeve he’d wiped the book with to clean my face. “This trip must have been sweltering for you, you’re sweating so much. There’s still some iced pickled plum soup in the house, I’ll bring some over.”
I wanted to cry, but I had no tears.
I’m not like this because it’s hot, but because you both made me break out in cold sweat.
“As for this…” The outline of the book was just visible within his embrace. He touched it and said, “This is the first gift that Shao’er’s even given me. I’m going to have to read it everyday.”
His mood seemed excellent as he waved his sleeves and walked off.
I stared after him, tongue-tied.
That book of pornographic pictures…was taken away by him in this manner.
Han Zichuan stared at me again, stuck between anger and amusement. “I’ll settle things with you later.”
Thus speaking, he followed after him at a quick pace.
A fresh wind blew past, stirring up the fallen leaves. I stood in the midst for a long time, my mind in disorder. Finally, I clutched at my head and decided to stop thinking about it.
I should take care of the important things first.
After checking to make sure no one else was around, I lifted up my robes and ran to the side of the house, next to a giant Wutong tree. Kneeling on the ground, I picked up a small branch and started digging.
The hole I dug was neither large nor small, but just right. I used a handkerchief to carefully wrap up the large amount of paper money and gold leaves, pressing down the corners before putting them in the hole…
I was just about finished. My ears strained to pick up any sign of noise as I threw the dirt back over the opening.
I couldn’t help it. This was a trait I’d picked up from childhood. When I was a beggar, I was always hungry, so I got used to hiding my best things in the dirt to give me a chance for survival. Nowadays, there was no way for me to change my habits.
“Brother Shao, what are you doing now?” It wasn’t clear when a person had suddenly come to stand behind me, but his question scared me out of my seven emotions and six spirits.
“Han Zichuan.” I held the tree branch in my hands…my hands shook with the urge to sweep the dirt onto his face, but I held back and sat with a plop on the ground. “Didn’t you go to help yifu? Why’d you come over here?”
He fixed me with a stare. I gave a no-good sigh and smiled as my hand grabbed another fistful of dirt, quietly scattering it over my hole.
“The thing you bought…” He narrowed his eyes and leaned in, quietly. “Was it a pornography book?”
“Your experiences are really broad, I can’t hide a thing from you.” Then I paused. “What’s pornography?”
“You’re faking it, aren’t you.”
He gave me a sideways glance, then looked at the dirt and smiled. “Don’t sit on the ground. I should really bring one of these things back. I’ve never seen someone act so filial to their yifu before, even buying things like this for him.”
I bought it for myself. If yifu wanted to steal it away, what could I do?
I was sullen.
Maybe I’d been squatting for too long, but now my legs had turned numb and my feet were listless. I propped myself up, but my stomach felt strange. The insides felt oddly hot and painful.
“Can you give me a hand…”
“What’s wrong? You don’t look so good.” He hurried over to support me, eyebrows knitted together. After a long moment of consideration, he placed a hand on my forehead. “Brother Shao, do you feel unwell somewhere?”
I did feel a little unwell…
I leaned against a tree and pushed him aside.
But he came back over, still worried, and prepared to support me again.
“What are you two doing?” a slow and gentle voice rose up, its tender delicacy pierced with a certain coldness.
Both of us were startled.
 iced pickled plum soup (????) ?bing meizitang, how do I describe it…it’s not made using fresh plums, but preserved/pickled ones that have a tartness to their sweetness. You boil with with sugar in water I think, and then let it cool…it’s really refreshing for summer! I wouldn’t call it a soup, it’s more like a drink, but it’s cooked like a soup so….???😄
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