Nobody wears any clothes in the shower.
Zhao finds himself lying helter-skelter in the bathtub, hot water drenching his face,
sending him into disorientation. He grabs on to the edges of the bathtub with both hands,
and struggles to get up. His hunched back outlines his strong shoulder blades, the
smooth lineation of his muscles curve narrowly downwards towards his waist, forming a
densely alluring shape, and below that… Shen doesn’t dare look below, the mere sight of
the bruised wrists is an assault on his eyes.
The bathroom is too hot for Shen. He is almost cooked in just a second.
He hastily grabs a large towel, and is about to hurl it out hurriedly, when he realises the
water is still running, and so he frantically turns off the tap, looks away, holds out his
arms and wraps Zhao in the towel. Blushed and red-eared, he carefully carries Zhao out
of the bathroom.
Fortunately, Zhao does not add insult to injury with his trademark shamelessness;
indeed, he gives no response whatsoever, since his brain has been reduced to a puddle
by alcohol and steaming hot water.
The towel is quickly drenched in body heat, still wrapping up most of the body except
the two long legs, bare and uncovered. Shen listens to the pounding pulse in his own
temples, while lightly placing Zhao on to the bed, who is curled up into a ball.
Then, as if touching a hot frying pan, he quickly retracts his hands and stands beside in
helplessness, fidgeting with his fingers.
Only when Shen sees the growing water stain on the pillow does he come to and pull a
blanket over Zhao. Then, pulling out one corner of the towel, he tries to drag it out from
beneath the blanket.
But at this moment, Zhao suddenly catches his hand.
Warm and moist, Zhao’s hand grapples with the immense strength of intoxication. He
barely opens his eyes, but with no focus in his irises: a gaze even more miserable than
when he was blind, as his cheeks heat up in crimson.
Flames flare up within Shen’s throat. He swallows with dryness.
Zhao utters something inaudibly. Shen bends down, centimetres away from the other
man’s mouth, “What did you say?”‘
Zhao’s grasp tightens. This time, Shen hears him clearly.
The man murmurs, “Sorry… I’m sorry…”
Zhao’s grasp tightens yet again, as Shen starts feeling pain.
Shen sits on the edge of the bed sheepishly, then carefully, with the blanket still wrapped
tightly, he embraces Zhao, and pats his back lightly, “What are you sorry for.”
Zhao turns over and wraps his arms around the other’s hip, revealing his bare torso.
Shen’s hand awkwardly freezes mid-air, as if turning into stone; his forehead is bulging
After a while, he realises that Zhao is shivering all over.
Shen tries to wriggle out of it gently, but Zhao tightens his embrace in a deadlock. Then,
Shen realises, much to his astonishment, that his own clothes are getting wet. He lifts up
Zhao’s chin, and finds his eyes reddening with tears, “You…”
If Zhao were only half drunk, he could perhaps still put on a pretence. But now he is
genuinely intoxicated, and after the fall, he is only half-conscious; all he does is
unwittingly repeating the same phrase: “I’m sorry”.
A fire burns bright in Shen’s heart. Even all the water from the lakes and rivers of the
world cannot put out this blazing flame.
His palm finally rests on Zhao’s naked back, slowly but steadily. The warmth radiating
from every single inch of Zhao’s skin entices his senses. Shen’s voice turns coarse, as the
abyss within his irises darkens. He whispers into Zhao’s ear, “You’re the only person in
the world who doesn’t have to apologise to me.”
Zhao shakes his head. His eyes close suddenly, and a teardrop emerges on his eyelashes.
He feels like weeping, otherwise he would have no way of venting his sorrow. Yet, he
has no strength to do so. He is losing strength to speak, even. In the thirty years of his
life, he never experienced such profound distress… and Shen has never seen him in tears.
Although Shen has stood by him for all these years, at that moment, he is almost
Shen lowers his head, and kisses Zhao on the eye with utmost care. He savours the
slightly bitter flavour, and says, “You gave me my life, you gave me my eyes, you gave
me my everything… what do you have to be sorry for?”
“If I had known…” Zhao mutters inaudibly, “If I had known, I would rather have killed
He doesn’t go on. Shen enfolds him in his arms, letting go of the blanket, and pushing
Zhao on to the bed. With his arms holding out on either side of Zhao, he seems to be
catching his breath, as his chest vigorously heaves. After a long while, he says, “Kunlun,
is it you?”
Zhao lies on the bed, looking up. A tiny trickle of tear stream down from the corner of
his eye. He shuts his eyelids, with utmost dejection. A bright scarlet ring has emerged
around his eyes, as his lips tremble for long, and with nothing else to utter, still the
same: “I’m sorry.”
“It’s been five thousand years, up above and down below. Is that all you have to say to
me?” Shen asks. After a while, he sighs, “Do you remember what I said to Li Qian? I
said, there are only two things worth dying for: first, for the country and the world, and
that is for the sake of the people; second, for your soulmate, and that is for the sake of
yourself. People have found love worth dying for, ever since the beginning of time. If I
can die for you, then I can live for you. I have no regrets. You have never cried before.
Don’t cry for me.”
Then, Shen gently strokes Zhao’s face with the back of his hand, “Some things are better
kept inside than said out loud. But keeping them in for too long starts to become
suffocating. They all want Lord Kunlun to come back, I want that too actually… you’re
quick-witted, there is no point in beating around the bush… those who make sacrifices,
no matter how willingly, and no matter how discreetly, always secretly hope that the
other might one day realise it. I am no different.”
Shen gazes into the windows of Zhao’s soul, “Sometimes I think, if one day you can
remember everything, then I will be able to say to you: look, I did it, I did all that I had
promised you; not one bit did I miss, not one word did I go back on. What would be the
look on your face then? No-one is entirely selfless, Ah Lan, and that goes for me too…
but I really couldn’t bear it. Destiny commands life, even the Three Sovereigns and Five
Emperors had to follow a set path, Pangu collapsed, Nuwa’s soul dissipated. You were the almighty Mountain God, but nonetheless subject to the same fate of the great saints
before you… you had no choice. Lord Kunlun bore the weight of all the mountains of the
world, I couldn’t bear to see you live in pain. Being a happy human seemed a much
better choice. When they all turned against you, on top of Mount Kunlun, I really…
really wanted to kill them all.”
Zhao asks, lowering his voice, “You blocked Da Qing’s memory? You cut my
connection with the Guardian Order? I… a happy human? And leave you to bear all the
burden? What gives you the right?”
Zhao’s voice lowers and lowers, till it is barely audible, and mutters with all his might,
“When you made that promise, were you thinking that since the life of a human passes
in the blink of an eye anyway, I would soon forget about you, and so you planned to stay
with me for this final stretch, and then follow in the footsteps of Nuwa?”
Shen says nothing in response.
Zhao wrenches his collar downwards, fingers quivering with convulsion, teeth clattering
uncontrollably, “I would never agree to it, not over my dead body! Not over my
dismembered body! Not over my dissipated soul!”
Shen is pulled down, as Zhao tightens his arm around Shen’s neck, pulling him down
and kissing him chaotically. He rips off two buttons from his shirt, revealing Shen’s pale
chest, “I’ll never… agree to it!”
The first time of intimate passion lights up a sweep of wild fire, paralleling the many
scenes of euphoria Shen had awakened from at night, like a magnificent dream that
sends the world into disarray.
One does not know when a dream ends. Though the sky might collapse, and the earth
might shatter, it might never see the light of day. Such is all the thoughts that never
emerge under broad daylight… never expressed, not in life, not in death, never forgotten,
and never remembered passion.
Finally, Shen loses control, and flips over, shoving Zhao into the soft pillow. His heart
overflows with towering torrents, plunging out potently.
The next morning, Zhao is awakened by the shining sun seeping through the curtains.
His mind goes blank for a moment, in an utter state of stupor. For most of the night
before he was in a muddled daze. Now and then suffocating, and utterly intoxicated, he
could not tell if he had a ludicrous dream, or actually…
He tries to force his eyes open, but his eyelids weigh down heavily. As he manages to
get up, his head begins spinning as he watches the ceiling whirling and twirling, and his
body plummets back down.
If he looks into the mirror now, he will see that he is not simply tired. His face is
shrouded in a cloud of murkiness, he is plainly beyond exhaustion, almost reminiscent
of death… then, a pair of hands carefully lift him up, and a bowl is placed beside his
mouth. It holds an unknown kind of medicine with a terribly strange flavour, like the
smell of gore. Zhao instinctually dodges, “What…”
“Herbal medicine. I hurt you last night.” Shen’s voice is incredibly gentle, but his hands
are not. He turns Zhao’s head to face him, and basically forces the medicine down his
Zhao suddenly regains strength, and pulls his hand away. After vigorous coughing, he
feels as though the awful smell is about to make him puke. Then, a glass of water is
handed to him; he finally regains consciousness, opens his eyes, looks at Shen, and
drinks the water quietly.
He sits up in bed, leans against the headboard, elbows against knees, throwing Shen a
distressed look. Then, he looks down and reflects upon something for a while, and then
throws Shen an even more distressed look. Finally, he utters, “I’m a fucking total top,
you… you… you couldn’t have been gentler with me?”
A sweep of cerise spread over Shen’s cheeks, who turns away and coughs,
“I…” Pain from his waist down paralyses Zhao as his face contorts into an ugly
expression. He takes a deep breath, but when he looks at Shen’s expression, it almost
seems like Shen is the victim but not Zhao!
Though he has dreamed of dying in the bed of beauty, at least figuratively, he never
dreamed of it quite the same way…
He’ll be damned. Who will he speak his mind to?
Emotions flash through Zhao’s face. Then, he looks down at the bowl that contained the
unknown medicine. Reminded of the taste, his expression contorts again, “Get me
another glass of water. For this, anti-inflammatory pills should work just fine.”
Shen takes away the bowl, “This is effective, I mean no harm.”
Zhao says, expressionless, “You mean no harm, but you like to torture me to death.”
The gentlemanly Professor Shen stands aside with tremendous guilt on his face for
having wronged the saint, like a wifey who broke a bowl.
Zhao has nothing to say to that.
Shen carefully helps him lie down, “You should… sleep for a while longer. What do you
want to eat?”
Zhao says stubbornly, “You… lie down and let me ravish you.”
Shen looks down rapidly, as his ears redden. He pouts, embarrassedly, “What nonsense
are you talking about.”
“Motherfucking.” Zhao thinks.
Whatever Shen gave to him seems to be helping him sleep. Zhao quickly grows drowzy,
as he still clings on to Shen’s hand persistently, “I’ve even lost my virginity to you, don’t
give me any more troubles, do you hear me… there’s always a way… I’ll find a way… I’ll
Shen sits down beside him, and tenderly places his palm on his forehead. As he feels his
breathing becoming steady, under the effects of that “herbal medicine”, Zhao’s face
begins to lighten up and return to its normal colours. Shen is relieved. He tiptoes into the
kitchen and cleans up the bowl.
Zhao sleeps till night-time, in a deep slumber replete with scattered and fragmented