[Cry of the Midnight Jackdaw] Chapter 35

Chapter Thirty-five,
Scattered

On the next day, Xiao Zuo got woken up by the hunger in his stomach, he lifted his eyes and wanted a cup of water to drink, but discovered his throat was in a lot of pain, and after letting out a slightly hoarse sound, he coughed continuously. The newly-changed underclothes were a bit wide, loosely draped on, so one could even see dark-coloured kiss marks on his collarbone.

“Don’t move.” He Xuan held some ointment in his hands, and used the fingertip to grab some, then applied it on Xiao Zuo’s body, “Remember to apply some at night for the next two days to avoid getting a fever.”

Xiao Zuo pursed his lips, and forcefully suppressed the rising urge to grab that bottle of ointment and toss it at He Xuan’s face, and did not say anything in the end.

He Xuan lifted his chin up to take a look, Xiao Zuo’s lower lip got bitten, the forehead was seeping with sweat, the facial colour was also slightly pale, and at this time when he hung his eyes down, the lashes seem to be slightly trembling like butterfly wings. He Xuan fixed the loose hairs stuck on the right side of the face to the back of his ears, and wanted come close to give him a kiss, but Xiao Zuo subconsciously turned his head, and let that lock of loose hair face He Xuan.

“You……” He Xuan knitted his eyebrows, then, as though considering Xiao Zuo’s concession and grievance last night, he swallowed the last words back, and placed the ointment on the table, “I(g) called for lunch, sit up and have some.”

“Thank you, your Highness.” Xiao Zuo expressionlessly sat up, but when getting up, he moved a bit much, and affected the wound, hurting so much he slightly pulled at the corner of his mouth, and lightly sucked in a breath of air. He slightly got used to it, then the hand hidden in the sleeves tightened into a fist, and he opened his mouth, “When can I go back to the ducal residence?”

He Xuan was just planning on urging the kitchen, but when he heard this, he paused, “Want to go back this quick?”

Xiao Zuo hung his head down and did not speak, He Xuan stared at him for a moment, then waved his hand like he was giving up, “If you want to go, then go.”

“I’m finished.” Xiao Zuo randomly scooped two spoons of the appetizing soup Ling Xiang brought in and put down the bowl. The stomach was incredibly hungry, but when he looked at these, he could not swallow it down at all. Ling Xiang held up a pile of clothes already aired with incense and stood at the side, Xiao Zuo flipped open the blanket, but as his foot stepped onto the ground, he felt like there was a wave of piercing pain at the back. He could not help but slightly hiss, then hurriedly hid it, he found it embarrassing to let Ling Xiang discover it, so he stiffened his body there in its original spot for a long time, and just as he thought about how to open his mouth, he heard He Xuan say, “There is no need for your help, go outside.”

“Yes.” Ling Xiang placed that set of clothes on the side of the bed, then bowed and withdrew.

Xiao Zuo then limped over two steps, and just as He Xuan wanted to go up to help him, he turned to the side and avoided it. He Xuan no longer incurred contempt to himself, and crossed his arms and leaned on the side of the bed while looking at him coldly.

Xiao Zuo tied the waistband himself, put on the big fur coat from yesterday, looked in the mirror and fixed his headpiece, then gave He Xuan an appropriate bow, “Your Highness, may I go back now?”

He Xuan looked to be irritated, but could not find an excuse to throw a rage at for the time being, and could only stiffly squeeze out a single word, “Leave.” Once Xiao Zuo got his permission, he immediately pushed open the door and left, and went so urgently he even almost stumbled at the door.

“Duke.” When Xiao Zuo returned, Zi Wan just finished lunch, and was using a towel to wipe the table in the bedchamber. She saw that Xiao Zuo was a bit unsteady when he walked, so she took another glance, and immediately got so shocked she tossed the towel and ran over to ask, “Duke, what happened?”

Xiao Zuo dejectedly sat on the bed with crossed legs, and finally could not help but redden his eye sockets. He was not willing to let Zi Wan get worried, so he held back his tears, and shook his head, “Nothing.”

Zi Wan instead panicked, she circled around him, and her mouth was constantly muttering, “How could it be nothing? Your face is all white, this servant will go find De Qing gong’gong.”

“Don’t go.” Xiao Zuo hurriedly grabbed Zi Wan, and said with knitted eyebrows, “De Qing is already so old, do not stir him. There really is nothing wrong with me.”

“Duke!” Zi Wan saw Xiao Zuo lower his head without saying anything else, and crouched down and sighed, then lifted her head to look at him, “If the duke doesn’t say, this servant will not ask then, the duke must understand, this servant and De gong’gong…… are always by the duke’s side.”

Xiao Zuo held in the tears and turned his head, then tightly gripped Zi Wan’s hand, and nodded his head, “En.”

At night, Xiao Zuo took out that bottle of ointment from his clothes. He looked at it for a while in his hands, and in the end, still scraped it and poured it in a piece of paper, then bundled it into a ball and had Zi Wan go toss it.

When Xiao Zuo was laid flat on the bed, he could feel a faint pain. But for some reason, there was a wave of stubbornness inside of him, and did not want to turn, as though forcefully and ruthlessly wanting to use the pain to let him remember more clearly, engrave it into the bones, and engrave it in the soul.

Xiao Zuo slept not too good this night. In one moment, he would feel like he fell into a very cold area all alone, his hands and feet climbed on icy plains, yet could never climb to the top, and in another moment, he would feel like was being hung and placed on top of a stove to grill, the bottom of his feet would be scalded to the point it would blister, letting out a bad burning smell.

“Duke, Duke……” He seemed to have heard someone call him, yet could not hear it clearly, he only felt like his entire being was unbearably fatigued, and did not even want to move, then suddenly heard another voice call out, “Li Nu, Li Nu……”

That familiar voice he heard for an entire night made him abruptly get startled, and opened his eyes.

He Xuan saw he woke up, and let out a long sigh of relief, then turned to speak with the doctor, “Can the medicine be fed to him now?” The doctor nodded his head, He Xuan then held the porcelain bowl filled with medicine, then scooped one mouthful and blew on it, then brought it over and spoke with a gentle tone, “Here, drink the medicine.”

Zi Wan went over to pad Xiao Zuo with a cushion to help him sit up, then Xiao Zuo felt like his entire body was feverish- his limbs had no power in them, and his entire body was all sweaty, making it feel very awful. He turned his head, and said lightly, “No need to trouble your Highness, I will do it myself.” He took that bowl as he spoke, that bowl was very heavy, so he did not hold it steady, and almost spilled the medicine out. He Xuan glanced at him, did not say anything, then stood up and instructed a few things with the doctor, “You all get out.”

Xiao Zuo hung his head down, and inadvertently stirred the medicine with the spoon, and once Zi Wan closed the doors, He Xuan then walked over and reached out to touch his forehead, “Did you not use the ointment I(g) gave you?”

Xiao Zuo did not pay attention to him. He Xuan wrinkled his eyebrows and took that bowl from his hand, and spoke with a bit of irritation, “It’s been this long, have you not had enough of a temper tantrum?”

“I’m throwing a temper tantrum?” Xiao Zuo laughed out of anger at him, the hand he placed in the blankets tightly gripped the blanket, then slipped the words out of his mouth, “Even if it were a dog, they would have a temper after being forced too, no?”

“Insolence!” He Xuan stiffened his body in anger and embarrassment, and abruptly threw that bowl of medicine to the ground. The black and brown-coloured water spilled over the floor, dying that delicately-embroidered rug into a mess. Xiao Zuo tightly pursed his lips, his chest was stuffed with air, and at this time, his heart beat very fast due to that ball of depressed air surrounding it, and his face also went flush red. He Xuan closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths to press down his anger, then turned Xiao Zuo’s face, and made Xiao Zuo face himself, then asked him, “Is this what you think [of it]?”

Xiao Zuo did not say anything, He Xuan stared at him for a moment, and instead smiled from the anger and nodded his head, “Alright, alright.”

Xiao Zuo heard him slam the door, he blankly looked at this mess, and did not understand why they had reached this kind of point.

Just now, his anger got to his head momentarily and spoke of some provoking words, but actually…… actually what? Xiao Zuo lightly sighed, he couldn’t understand it right now either. Xiao Zuo felt his head hurt even more, burning wave after wave, he messily pulled the blanket over his head, then closed his eyes and forced himself to sleep.

This fever went on for six, seven days time, and in these days, He Xuan no longer came over to see him either, Xiao Zuo curled inside the blankets himself, and thought to random things in the day and night.

He started having dreams again, one dream after the next, he dreamed of the moon in the south in the old times, the sounds of flutes inside the elegant and ornamental buildings, the crushed ice and plum soup of the summer, he very carefully embraced these bits and pieces, and stubbornly pieced together an illusion[1] of his very own.

“Duke.” Zi Wan sighed. She watched as Xiao Zuo locked himself inside the room all day, not going out the door and very rarely speaking, just constantly going into a daze all day, and could be seen to have thinned down, like a dead object vacated of its soul.

Xiao Zuo indifferently swept a gaze by her, he leaned on the windowsill, and lightly smiled at her, like he would disperse in the hazy daylight in the next second, “What is it?”

“The weather is good today, would you like to go out for a walk?” Zi Wan opened the window. Jin’s severe winter was only left with its ends, the remnant snow outside the window was illuminated by the sunlight, and turned into dampening rain and dew one after the other, like a ceremony for the soon-to-come spring.

Xiao Zuo shook his head, he disinterestedly kneaded his brow ridge, and just as he was going to open his mouth, he heard the door being knocked, along with De Qing’s voice.

“Duke, a person from the palace has come.”

“The palace?” Xiao Zuo froze. Zi Wan hurriedly went up and changed his clothes for him, and rapidly tied his hair for him- the matters from the palace couldn’t be neglected, so once Xiao Zuo finished cleaning up, he then hurriedly rushed over.

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