At dusk, the punishment finally ended. Fu Lan supported Qi Yin to go to the hot spring. The hot spring of Wu Fang was called Jing Quan, which was the place where Yao Xiao Shan stole Qi Ling Shu’s clothes while using Qi Yin’s identity. After going south, passing through a row of small courtyards and a path covered with snow, they arrived.
Lord Cat was afraid of water, so he went back by himself, leaving only Fu Lan and Qi Yin. They could see the milky white mist from afar. When they touched the water with their fingers, it was hot. The hot spring was very big. There were winter plums planted on the banks and rocks inside, allowing people to lean on them. In the middle was a man-made mountain, naturally separating the men and women areas. Unfortunately, there were no eggs, otherwise they could cook and eat them.
Qi Yin took off his clothes and jumped into the water excitedly. It was dusk, but there were not many people inside, which made Qi Yin happy. He turned his head to look at Fu Lan, who was taking off his clothes one by one in a refined manner. After taking off his outer robe embroidered with cloud and water patterns, he revealed his plain undershirt. He lowered his eyes and untied his belt. The collar fell down from his shoulder, and those impeccable and tight muscles were slowly unfolding in front of Qi Yin’s eyes, like a secret scroll.
There was a moment of blankness in his mind and a handful of fire in his heart, slowly burning up, making him blush. Qi Yin suddenly realized that he couldn’t take a bath with Fu Lan, and he became nervous.
He watched as the man walked into the water and stepped closer to him. The water’s vapor enveloped Fu Lan’s tranquil eyes. He was silent, like a quiet gardenia. Qi Yin’s face turned red, and he unconsciously stepped back, his back against the uneven rocks, and the friction made his back muscles sore.
Fu Lan frowned when he saw him stepping back. “Xiao Yin?”
Qi Yin pretended to be calm, dryly up pulling the corners of his mouth, “Uh, brother, don’t come over here for now.”
“Why?” Fu Lan was stunned.
What else could it be? Qi Yin felt that his meridians were blocked, and he had the symptoms of qi deviation. His heart was like a boiling pot, thumping and jumping. He was afraid to touch Fu Lan. This hot spring was so warm, and Fu Lan’s hands must be soft and smooth. He remembered those pale hands, which were terrifyingly sharp when they were stained with blood, but when he washed his hands and cooked soup for him, they were soft and tender like a flower petal.
The part that was unique to men had a tendency to rise. He was afraid that once Fu Lan approached him, he would become hard.
“Damn it, I’m not even human!” On one hand, Qi Yin felt like a beast. On the other hand, he felt sorry for Fu Lan. Fu Lan was such an innocent baby who didn’t understand the ways of the world. And yet, he had such dirty thoughts about him!
Fu Lan frowned at him for a while, then suddenly walked over and looked like he was about to squat down. If he squatted down, he would be facing Qi Yin’s private area! Qi Yin was startled and hastily moved towards the edge, yelling, “What are you doing!”
Fu Lan was obviously startled by him and was stunned for a while. “I’ll help you massage your knee.”
“No, no!” Qi Yin moved away from him, found a place to sit down, and stammered, “Brother, men don’t touch each other. You can’t do that.”
Rejected twice in a row, Fu Lan was a little confused. He remembered their childhood, when he took care of all of the puppy’s needs – brushing his teeth, washing his face, washing his butt, humming lullabies, and taking a bath every other day. The puppy was mischievous and always splashed water in the tub, making him and the cat all wet. Later, Fu Lan learned his lesson and took off his clothes to shower with him. He remembered that at that time, the snow was falling outside, charcoal fire was burning brightly in the room, and he was rubbing the puppy’s back to produce fine white foam. The puppy sat in his arms, blowing bubbles, and laughed, the happiest child in the world.
But now, the puppy was sitting far away from him, resisting his approach. Fu Lan lowered his eyes and obediently stayed on one side of the rock. The distance between the two was just enough for an adult man to lie down, and the vapor was steaming between them as they fell into a long silence.
Qi Yin felt embarrassed and tried to think of something to say. After thinking for a while, he stuttered, “Um, the weather is really nice today, and the vapor is really thick, haha!”
After speaking, Qi Yin felt like slapping himself. What kind of nonsense was that? He should have just kept quiet.
There was no response from Fu Lan. Qi Yin couldn’t help turning his head to look at him. Fu Lan was leaning against the wall with his eyes closed, as silent as a statue, and like a deity who couldn’t be approached. When this man didn’t speak, he always felt like he would disappear from the world in the next moment. Qi Yin suddenly had an impulse to walk towards him, to hold his hand, as if doing so would pull him into the noisy world.
“Xiao Yin.” Suddenly, Fu Lan spoke up.
Qi Yin was startled and said, “Brother?”
Fu Lan furrowed his brows. “Do you have a heart condition?”
“What?” Qi Yin was confused. “No, why do you ask?”
Through the misty steam, Fu Lan looked over at him with a hazy gaze. “Sometimes your heart suddenly beats faster. It has happened many times.”
Qi Yin fell silent. Heblowered his head and said dejectedly, “Brother, that’s not a heart disease.”
Fu Lan was puzzled for a moment, then suddenly remembered the words Qi Yin taught him on the steps of Feng Huan Mountain – when someone met the person they liked, their heart would beat faster. Fu Lan asked softly, “Do you like someone?”
Qi Yin’s mind went blank for a moment. This fool suddenly became so clever? He felt like a child who had been caught hiding candy and panicked, trying to think of something to explain. But before he could say anything, Fu Lan asked again in a gentle voice, “The person you like, do they not like you back?”
Qi Yin: “…”
In an instant, all romantic thoughts disappeared, and Qi Yin slumped over to sit next to Fu Lan. Seeing Qi Yin approach him, Fu Lan was pleasantly surprised and handed him a gourd ladle to scoop water. Qi Yin poured the water on himself one spoonful at a time and said, “Brother, when you have time, I’ll teach you how to talk properly.”
Fu Lan obediently nodded. His mouth was indeed too clumsy and he needed to learn.
Qi Yin continued, “Also, the list of handsome gentlemen of the immortal mountains will be out soon. These days, don’t hang around in front of Qi Ling Shu.”
“Why?” Fu Lan asked in confusion.
Qi Yin let out a heavy sigh. “With your looks and figure, once the list is out, you’ll definitely knock him off his top spot. Moreover, until the list is updated, all the girls will be chasing after you. When the list is updated, the girls who used to chase after him will chase after you instead. He might not like that.” He spoke as if he understood it all. “It’s human nature.”
Fu Lan nodded in confusion. Qi Yin wanted to pat his shoulder but hesitated when he was about to touch his bare shoulder. He awkwardly raised his hand and turned to pretend to look at the scenery. The hot spring was so big, with rugged rocks everywhere. Qi Yin was curious and wandered around touching and looking. When he turned around a large rock, he suddenly saw a blurry figure in front of him through the steam.
Could it be…?
The man turned around, revealing a face as cold as ice and snow with indifferent eyes.
Qi Yin felt like he had turned to stone. He wished he could find a place to hide. “What a coincidence, hahaha! Senior Brother, you’re here to bathe too.”
This guy didn’t need to be announced. His presence was enough to scare people away. No wonder there was no one here at this time. Qi Yin realized too late that it was because of him.
“Real name,” Qi Ling Shu said coldly.
This guy spoke like a hammer, hitting right on the head. Qi Yin didn’t react at first. “Huh?”
“Not asking you,” Qi Ling Shu said.
Qi Yin turned his head and saw Fu Lan, who was as stunned as he was.
“This junior brother, you just called him ‘Xiao Yin’. May I ask what his real name is?” Qi Ling Shu asked Fu Lan.
Qi Yin was shocked. This guy must be suspicious. How did he guess that he was Qi Yin just from a nickname? Qi Yin felt anxious and nervously laughed. “Why don’t you ask me my real name? My name is…”
“Shut up,” Qi Ling Shu interrupted him, staring at Fu Lan. “Junior brother, please answer truthfully.”
Qi Yin panicked. Fu Lan couldn’t lie. He would be exposed!
“Puppy,” Fu Lan answered calmly. “He is my younger brother, called Puppy.”
Qi Ling Shu fell silent. Qi Yin breathed a sigh of relief. He secretly gave Fu Lan a thumbs up.
“My brother and I came from the countryside, people in the countryside have nicknames, and no proper names.” Qi Yin rubbed his hands and smiled.
Qi Ling Shu ignored him. The three of them stared at each other in silence.
After a while, Qi Ling Shu finally spoke up, “Please turn around.”
Qi Yin and Fu Lan obediently did so, facing the giant rock wall. There was a rushing sound behind them. Presumably Qi Ling Shu had left the hot spring and was getting dressed. After a while, there was a “thank you” from the other side, followed by the sound of footsteps gradually fading away. When they turned back, Qi Ling Shu was nowhere to be seen.
The next day, Qi Yin submitted his assignments, which he had stayed up all night to finish, and was punished to kneel. He had no choice but to study hard at night, climbing up and down the Purple Library ancient books. He found a seat, lowered his head, and placed the books on the desk one by one. He then took out pen, ink, paper, and inkstone. Someone sat down beside him, their white clothes draped around their knees, like a cool inch of moonlight. Suddenly, a large area of seats emptied out around him, and the other students fled as if they had seen a ghost. Qi Yin lifted his head slowly and saw Qi Ling Shu’s cold profile.
He gathered everyone’s assignments together and began to review them one by one with a red pen, not even sparing a glance at Qi Yin.
Qi Yin stiffly collected his books back into his book box, ready to sneak away. Suddenly, a hand pressed down on his shoulder with a strong force. He couldn’t move at all. He turned his head slowly and saw Qi Ling Shu.
“Sit here,” Qi Ling Shu said without looking up.
Yun Zhi who was in the back seat was stunned, staring at Qi Ling Shu and Qi Yin without blinking. He asked Fu Lan, who was still in a daze. “When did the little junior brother offend Qi Ling Shu?”
Fu Lan shook his head in confusion.
Qi Yin tugged at the corner of his mouth. “Senior Martial Uncle, how come you have time to visit?”
“I am of the same generation as you. You should call me Senior Martial Brother.”
“I wouldn’t dare,” Qi Yin said with difficulty. “I’ll still call you Senior Martial Uncle.”
Qi Ling Shu was silent for a moment, turning his head to look at him. His eyes seemed to have been covered in snow for ten thousand years, so cold that it couldn’t melt.
He spoke slowly and clearly, “Call me Senior Martial Brother.”
Qi Yin mournfully replied, “Okay, Senior Martial Brother.”