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My world was pitch-black.
Silence surrounded me, broken by the occasional breeze whistling past. The noises made by the bamboo screens were also pleasing to the ear…
My mind was a mess, and I wanted to open my eyes but lacked the strength. The numbness in my back felt like countless ants crawling past my body. It felt as if I was slowly coming back to life, and only now did I realize I was lying on something very hard, not a cushioned bed but a bamboo plank one.
There was no scent of incense in the room, but something pure and fresh. The sweet and pleasant scent of bamboo couldn’t help but relax me. Abruptly, the sound of a bird pecking grains came from a corner, jarring in contrast with the wind-swept bamboo curtains and the poetic charm of the current situation. I frowned a little.
…where was I?
“…Shào’er, you have to eat more.”
A male voice spoke, warm and soft, with a lightness that rose above the dust of this world.
My foggy mind was completely blank, but my stomach reverted back to its state in the bamboo woods, when I’d first set eyes on him. The stunning figure of the white-robed man was enough to make my heart palpitate. I suppressed my thoughts and was met with a remarkable silence. In the corner, there was the sound of porcelain, and the heightened noise of the bird pecking at its grain grew in enthusiasm.
A light laugh rose in the air before fading as someone placed a porcelain plate on the ground. That man’s voice softened, and seemed to turn more lonely. “Look at you. You don’t learn good habits from other people, but got into the habit of being lazy and enjoying food instead…”
I really wanted to open my eyes, but had no energy. But right at this moment, a pair of hands came down to gently arrange my covers. I could only remain in my nest of a bed as I continued listening. Time seemed to have stopped, leaving nothing but the sound of the wind…
He seemed to stay at the foot of my bed for a long time, almost enough for me to forget he was there until he spoke. “Shào’er, when do you think she’ll wake up?”
I had a guess that Shào’er was the name of his bird. How could animals talk with humans? Of course, nobody answered him. Abruptly, a soft, wing-like object swept across my face, swishing until my cheeks felt numb. I couldn’t decide whether the sensation was itchy or painful.
It seemed to be the bird. Pah, it had no manners. I gave a small frown.
“Shào’er, don’t cause trouble.” There was the sound of rustling clothes, followed by footsteps. It was abruptly followed by muffled coughing above me, as if the person was trying hard to hold it in.
“Yifu, yifu wear more clothes when the weather’s cold.”
Yifu? There was actually someone raising a parrot who called him his foster father? What an eccentric. He didn’t speak, but his breath drew closer and closer to me before I felt him lifting my head. A stream of cool spring water flowed into my mouth, and I unconsciously demanded for more.
Something’s not right, what’s this soft and warm feeling? What was he using to feed me? Was it…mouth to mouth?!
No way. Before I could react, he carefully laid me back onto the bed, where I lay in shock…
“Shào’er said it right. The weather’s getting colder.” he murmured to himself. I could hear him taking a seat and breathing lightly. “The weary bird longed for its nest and finally came home.” As he finished speaking, a pair of hands came to rest on my bed and properly tuck me in.
Though my eyes were closed, I couldn’t help but wonder why his words made me feel so grieved and pained. I tried hard to open my eyes, sensing him gazing at me for a long time. Then he lay by me fully dressed, almost breathing on my face. It was warm, and took a while before his breaths slowed…the sensation was itchy enough to provoke a person. His voice drew closer and closer, but he only kept repeating the same lines by my ear.
“To be able to come back…that is good…” My finger twitched and tightened around the covers. His body smelled so fragrant, not vulgar at all, but…well, in any case it was hard to describe. It smelled like fresh bamboo mixed with flowers…refreshing and cool, but also very familiar. My head lowered for another sniff, and the scent entered my lungs. A buzzing drone sounded in my brain. When the emperor was first attending to me on the bed, I’d smelled this scent as well. Whenever I was nervous, I’d only need to sniff him to relax, and have the illusion that I was safe…
My body fell slack, and I felt a bit weary. To be nestled up to him was very comfortable. I don’t know how much time passed before I fell asleep.
When I regained consciousness, I was nearly choking. A warm liquid was dripping from my mouth, but the rim of a bowl was still stuck fast to my lips. Someone supported my back, his other hand by my waist. Even with eyes closed, I knew…this position was being used by him to force feed me a medicinal mixture. A strange flavor was present in my mouth…subconsciously, I wanted to refuse.
But at least he was feeding me normally this time instead of using his mouth.
“Be good,” a man’s voice spoke by my side, the soft but strong tones mixed with an indescribable sense of care and warmth. “You’ll get better if you drink this.”
His voice had the steadying effect of calming me down, and his scent smelled very nice. I felt as if I was being lulled to sleep, my whole body relaxing. He gave a light laugh and carefully set me back onto the bed, but seemed to have no intentions of leaving. I could feel his gaze resting on my face, as if finding it hard to express his feelings. It was that kind of warmth.
I suddenly felt a little helpless.
“This child is even skinnier than before,” those hands stroked my face, even the words were soft-hearted and tangled.
The medicine seemed to have taken effect, because my entire body grew warm. My scalp turned numb as the strange sensation spread throughout my body. After a bout of itchy soreness, my strength seemed to slowly revive. The different feelings in my heart made me want to open my eyes…
The person I saw in the bamboo woods had been very beautiful, his movements unhurried and his heart filled with good intentions. It was rare for him to know the medical arts as well.
More importantly…the beautiful person was touching me. I couldn’t help drawing my mouth into a line that grew longer and flatter. Suddenly, the parrot gave a cry that almost sounded like laughter, startling me.
“Yifuyifu…” Beating wings accompanied the bird’s queer voice, which was grating to the ears. “Don’t disturb her.”
The man’s hands shrank back, but his kind and gentle touch seemed to linger on my skin. I felt a little disappointed. Still, after a while, he added a serious reply, “Shào’er, you’ve disturbed her too.”
As a result, things ran counter to what I wanted. That guy hadn’t said anything and had learned to be a quiet man of few words. But his bird was more meddlesome than any women of dubious character. After being rebuked, its temper grew extraordinary. Luckily, no one had taught it how to curse, so he could only rebel with his actions instead of clumsy words. Its fine little talons beat out a rhythm as it walked over my chest.
I grew fearful…
You guys were two of a kind, both noisy birds. Who could tell me why the argument between the Master and his doted favorite needed to drag me in as well? This rotten bird, it was bullying me since I couldn’t move right now, right?
…still stepping on me. I’m already flat enough there…I cry… When I was on the verge of protesting, a warm hand scooped me into an embrace.
“Shào’er, stop getting into mischief. You’ll crush her.” Surprised, I didn’t resist but happily bore with his hold. He seemed to have chased away the pet with his sleeves. The weight on my chest lightened, and I finally took a breath, but stiffened in the middle of my exhale.
That person was protecting me as if I was his young, showing me the utmost solicitude as he caressed me. His movements were accurate and certain. I did my best to ignore him, enduring to my limit. Perhaps our positions were to blame, but strands of his hair landed on my face, extremely uncomfortable and ticklish.
It was very warm inside his embrace, up to the point that I felt like crying.
A long breath followed as I stubbornly pretended to be asleep, resting my face in the front of his robes. The material wasn’t very good, and the coarse threads against my face felt uncomfortable. Speaking of which, those slippery, jade-like hands of his were even better preserved than a woman’s. Those long and slender fingers lingered on my face, stimulating me and my closed eyes.
Come on, then…touch me some more, don’t be so polite. My eyes narrowed as I hummed in rapture…
Suddenly, a sharp string of pain shot up my back. I hurriedly freed the hand resting by his waist, feeling panicky and pained…and almost fell to the ground before he caught me as I rolled. Much to my surprise, my eyes abruptly flew open, and I saw the face that had made my breathing so difficult. He was elegant and mild, with long eyebrows over eyes that were hard to meet. There was an indescribable feeling when I saw his face, and the teardrop-shaped move by the corner of one eye…was alluring and enchanting.
My heart pounded as I grasped the robes before my chest, flabbergasted. I was afraid to get closer to him because I worried my heart wouldn’t be able to bear it, and explode. This made me uneasy…there were too many nameless feelings flooding through me now. What was wrong with this body? My mouth opened a few times, the voice hoarse and sandy as if on the verge of being lost. “Let…me go.”
He wrinkled his brows as he heard this, and relaxed his grip. Without him, my body suddenly slid down until my head knocked hard against the bed.
I supported my body as I rubbed my head. It really hurt.
“Serves you right serves you right,” The mung-bean eyed parrot started getting lively.
“I was saying, you should’ve woken up long already,” that beautiful man didn’t say much, but kept his mouth flat, as if he was laughing. The parrot jumped back and forth on his shoulders, flapping its wings as it pecked at its feathers, an emerald-green butt turned towards me.
I resisted the urge to pull out his feathers and lay back down, my heart filled with violent turbulence…I couldn’t even speak. I kept feeling that this doted favorite was a little superfluous.
“You cultivated a strange martial arts, but your state of mind shouldn’t have changed too much,” he said lightly, sitting on the bed. His eyes were on the hand supporting my body rather than looking at me. Afterward, he sighed as if coming to a decision, grasping my hand to check my pulse. “These years you’ve weakened your body, so you’ll need to take more tonics to bolster your health.”
I looked at him, blinking in hesitation before asking a classic question. “Why am I here and who are you?”
His smile was gentle as he gave me a deep look, face as calm as water while he replied. “I am Fang Hua.”
This young master’s name was so eminent. It really was as they say, the name matched the person…I spaced out for a while, openly admiring his handsome face. I was always happy to strike up a conversation with beautiful men. Catching his hand, I asked another question. “Was it you who captured me to this place?”
“I don’t know why you’d be here. I wanted to ask you…” he lowered his head to peer at my wolf’s claws, a little surprised, but didn’t avoid me. Instead, he gave me an elegant look, holding a smile. “I’m afraid that you might have forgotten completely about everything.” Though the words were light and his face was serene, the feeling I felt was that there were many things left unsaid.
Beautiful men were just like so.
Something surged in my chest , but I didn’t have time to consider the meaning of his words. I only gave him an enthusiastic look with my eyes.
“Rest a bit, I’ll come check on you again later.” he pulled up the covers and covered my body, but after he tucked me in…I withdrew my head to carefully peer at him. Drooping eyelashes, an astonishing dark red mole by the corner of one eye. He was clearly a handsome man, cold as the splendor of the moon but filled with an illusion that suggested someone lonely and laden with grief…
He softly shut the door from outside.
I remained dazedly pondering over the events that had just happened, hands clutched tight around the same fragrant bedcovers. My eyes narrowed as I sucked in a deep breath, sniffing a few more times before I realized something…
What did he say his name was?!
No wonder I thought he seemed so grieved. The third-wheel mistress in his relationship had ended up right at his doorstep…why wouldn’t he be depressed? Curses! That despicable kidnapper had tossed me by his house.
It had to be the work of an arch-enemy. I probably owed them too much silver from before, so now they were humiliating me. How was I going to get along with the emperor’s male concubine?
 Shào-er (少儿) －this is a different word and pronunciation from Shao’er (勺儿), which uses the second tone sháo. You can listen to shào‘er vs. sháo’er with the links. 少 means “small, little, young,” while 少儿 together could also mean “child.” This is also different from the pseudonym Shao’er used on Nongyu in chapter 20, which was Shào Yu (邵玉).
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