Shen is handling a Chinese cabbage; he hears a sound, and turns his head looking at Zhao, “It’s messy in here, don’t come in.”
Zhao ignores that, and carefully walks inside while holding on to the walls, heading towards Shen’s voice. He slowly reaches his hands out, and embraces Shen from behind; his chin rests on Shen’s shoulder, his eyes closed.
First, he tries to “look” at the chopping board, but the vegetables are all derooted and frozen, so he can’t “see” anything. Then he sniffs, and barely smells a faint scent of vegetable juice.
He lowers his head, and he sees Shen’s incredibly coal-black body overflowing with a blush of blood-red the moment he hugs him. The colours flow from his heart, gushing out like magma, and instantaneously saturates Shen’s entire body. In Zhao’s murky vision, a slender and svelte silhouette is outlined.
It’s as if… the dark shadow is suddenly given life.
Seeing such a sight, Zhao is left in silence for a while. Then, without showing it on his face, he half-seriously complains to Shen, “What are you cutting? I don’t wanna eat this, I want meat. I’m not a rabbit, I’m disabled now, and I have the right to better meals.”
He hears Shen laughing softly with pampering, lifting the lid on a small pot slightly, from which an aroma of meat disperses, and says, “I made what you like, but you have to eat a bit of everything, don’t be picky.”
As he says this, the flaming colours on his body are lightened, and the swiftly flowing scarlet transforms into a tinge of exceptionally warm cherry pink… like the colour at the break of dawn, when one first sees the sun rise and shine.
Shen lets him keep hugging, and doesn’t push him away. Zhao swings left and right with Shen’s movements, listening to the sound of the vegetable knife chopping on to the chopping board. Zhao doesn’t speak for a long while; his eyeballs black with depth, looking down, but not with gloom, only with inexplicable darkness.
After a long time, Zhao nudges forward, and asks randomly, “Hey, do you think I’m handsome?”
Shen’s hands stop moving, and he shakes his head helplessly, “Do you ever have anything decent to say?”
“Oh, something decent.” Zhao clears his throat, and announces beside Shen’s ear with great enunciation, like a news reporter, “Shen Wei comrade, do you find this man beside you, this colossus of cognition, this pioneer in his career, who bathes in the comfortable breeze of a peaceful society, handsome or not?”
Shen has nothing to say in response; after a while, he only smiles lightly. He looks down, cutting the vegetables into thin slices; even a simple task like this seems to warrant his full concentration. Then he says softly, “It doesn’t matter whether you’re handsome or not, I don’t care. Even if you were hideous with warts and lumps all over, in my heart, there is no difference.”
Zhao says with a lowered voice, “So touching, the next moment you should be proposing to me.” Even though they’re at home, and there are only the two of them here, they are in the kitchen after all, which isn’t a place for intimacy. Shen is somewhat embarassed, and shoves Zhao away with his shoulder, “Move, I have to fry the vegetables. Go sit outside, don’t give me trouble.”
Zhao obediently lets go, steps backwards, and his hands touch the cold metal edge of the sink.
Suddenly, he says half-unintentionally, “Then would you ever lie to me?”
Shen is stunned with his back facing Zhao.
Zhao continues, “Would you?”
Shen takes a deep breath, still not turning around. After a moment, he says with a deep voice, “I will never lie to you, and I will never hurt you.”
Zhao uses the third eye to search for his shadow. He sees very clearly that the shining lights on Shen’s body gradually grow dim and fade away, like firework at its end. An inexplicable surge of sadness springs up all of a sudden.
And so he nods, “Uh, good, then I believe you.”
Shen abruptly turns around, “Just a few words, and you believe me?”
Zhao smiles unexpectedly, “As long as you say so, I believe you.”
After he says this, he can no longer bear to “look” at the waxing and waning radiance on Shen’s body. Zhao turns around, and pretends that the conversation they just had was merely chitchatting, and could be forgotten in the blink of an eye. He runs his hands through every compartment in the cupboard, and mumbles, “Where’s my beef jerky, I remember I have a pack of beef somewhere…”
In panic, he bumps into a plastic broom, steps on it, and almost falls flat on his face.
Shen has a handful of vegetable juice, and doesn’t want to make him dirty, so he reaches out his arm and blocks him mid-air. Zhao falls right into his embrace.
Zhao’s apartment is not very big. The kitchen is so small that it’s barely suitable for one person. With two big men cramped inside, they can hardly move at all. Shen can only keep this pose, extending his hands forward, washing them under the faucet. His chin naturally rests on Zhao’s shoulder.
Zhao suddenly doesn’t speak anymore, nor does he move.
After Shen cleans his hands, he keeps the same pose, hands guarding Zhao’s waist, and pushes him outside, “They probably expired a long time ago, stop looking for them. There are some dim sum under the table, I just put them there, if you’re hungry you can eat some. But don’t eat too much, dinner’s almost ready.”
Zhao looks down and smiles, “I’m starving, but I don’t want to eat rice.”
Shen is stunned, “Eh? Then what do you want to eat?”
Zhao turns his head to the side, finds Shen’s chin, and runs his hand along the jawbone, reaching the ear. He leans towards Shen’s ear and whispers, “I wanna eat you.”
When he says this, his gaze precisely “looks” towards Shen’s face. Zhao’s eye sockets are very deep, irises intensely black, and as his eyelids are half-down,
his eye lashes cast a shadow on to his high nose bridge… although Shen knows he cannot see anything, there is still the false impression that “his gaze is full of passion”.
Shen finds his spirit quivering under that piercing gaze.
Zhao leans even closer, smiling, and sniffs the scent of shampoo in Shen’s hair. He kisses him on the cheek, “Why are you so nervous? You can give it a try, I’m very gentle.”
Shen doesn’t say a word, throws him on to the sofa, and runs away.
Zhao extends his legs, and sits on the couch like a boss. He thinks he really should order two red candlesticks, and light them up beside the bed at night. Perhaps only in this kind of atmosphere can he get this conservative gentleman’s clothes off.
As night has truly fallen, Zhao’s heart is itching all over. Shen is afraid that he might be bored when he can’t see, and so he leans on the side of the bed, and reads to him.
Shen’s voice is mellow and tender, with perfectly ideal sonority. And yet Zhao is in no way cultured amidst the flowing aroma of books, but he only wants to unleash his inner beast.
And in Zhao’s suffering and joy, Shen seems to feel something. He suddenly stops reading, and turns towards the window with an ambivalent expression. At the same time, Zhao holds Shen in his arms and rolls on to the bed, weighing on top of him, and whispering beside his ear, “Stop reading. Turn off the lights.”
The lights in the apartment go out instantly.
Zhao’s hand probes under Shen’s shirt, and skilfully runs along Shen’s waist side all the way up to his chest. He pinches at his chest, and a surge of numbing sensation rushes towards his head. Shen can no longer process what he just said, and he panickingly holds Zhao’s wrist in place.
Zhao lowers his head and nibbles softly on his collarbone. He says with an exceptionally flirtatious tone, “You’re already hard with just one touch, do you miss me so much?”
Shen is incredibly embarassed, and he almost forgets that someone is outside the window.
At this instant, the howling wind brings along the subtle sound of wooden clappers from outside the window. Zhao’s fingers that were lighting flames along Shen’s body quickly write “don’t move”, and he pulls the duvet and covers Shen entirely.
Zhao sits on the edge of the bed, the buttons on his shirt undone till his stomache, shakily hanging on his body. He says coldly, “If I were alone, Your Honour is welcome here anytime. But now that I have company, this seems like a bit of an intrusion, doesn’t it?”
A soft cough sounds from outside, “The Judge heard that Guardian injured his eyes, so I was sent here to take a look. If I am bothering you, I am incredibly…”
“The Judge?” Zhao raises his eyebrows, and laughs with profound meaning, “His Honour sure found out fast. I went to the hospital during the day, and it isn’t even midnight now, he has already sent you here, Your Honour? I’m just fine, tell him that, and thank him for asking.”
After a deep “yes” from outside, in just a moment, the thick cloud of dark energy disappears.
Zhao searches on the bed, and Shen grabs his wrist, “Hell Guard? How…”
“You silly bean,” Zhao sighs, and runs his hand across Shen’s hair, stroking gently. He says with a lowered voice, “they’re all plotting against you… Hell probably knows about ‘Shen Wei’, right?”
Shen hesitates, and nods. He has disguised himself as a human and stayed on earth for a few decades already. And all that just to stalk someone, of course he wouldn’t announce that publicly. And yet, Ghost Slayer staying among the living is not trivial matter, so at the very least the Ten Kings of Hell have to be informed about it.
Zhao frowns, and says worrisomely, “You really don’t have to get involved with the other side, they have their way of thinking, and between humans and ghosts, there are always so many convoluted schemes and plots, and you…”
Shen asks softly, with uncertainty, “Are you… are you worried about me?”
Zhao stops. Then he lowers his head towards where the sound is coming from, “What do you think?”
Shen clenches his fists, and suddenly embraces him tightly, his face buried in his nape for a very, very long time. Shen is incredibly strong; Zhao totally wants to do something else seeing that the mood is right, and yet he cannot wriggle out of it at all.
Shen hugs him as tightly as he can, with immense possessiveness. He probably intends to keep hugging till dawn. Zhao ponders for a long time, but cannot think of a good plan, and quickly grows drowsy. And so he falls asleep reluctantly with a mind full of filthy thoughts. He has never fallen asleep so helplessly in his life.
He is so horny that his nose might bleed.
Perhaps Shen is squeezing too tightly, making him a little uncomfortable. Zhao falls asleep and begins dreaming.
In his dream, he finds himself wandering around in a foggy place filled with ruins and debris all over the ground. Countless people prostrate themselves in worship towards the sky. He looks at them, and keeps walking.
Afterwards, he finds himself in an incredibly barren place, and in utter darkness. Zhao feels inexplicably perturbed, and tries to light a fire by snapping his fingers. The flame dies before it can light up anything. Then, someone sighs beside his ear and says, “I didn’t mean it when I said that, did you have to go that far?”
That voice is difficult to describe. It doesn’t seem to go through the ear, but instead it goes through the heart. The words pierce through his chest like an ice pick, coldly pouring into his heart. Zhao shivers vigorously, and wakes up. It seems to be morning already. Shen is not beside him; he probably went out to buy something.
It’s dark when he opens his eyes, and also dark when he closes them. Zhao’s heart thumps like thunder, thrashing about incessantly. The air in his lungs is almost depleted, and his palms are frigid.
That was… who was talking?
Zhao sits on the bed, and pinches between his eyebrows with force. He swipes off cold sweat, which dribbles on to his fingers. His heart is knotted with a million thoughts, and all he can see with his eyes is sheer darkness; he really cannot stand this state for another second.