A million thoughts ran through Gu Ruohai’s head then and there, but it seemed like his faculties had been abandoned the moment Su Huaizhu’s lips met his, and he was incapable of piecing anything together. All he knew was that he was being kissed by Su Huaizhu, and nothing he’d ever felt could even come close to the emotions surging within him right now.
Because the kiss had caught him unawares, he’d been so stunned on the spot until he didn’t know how to respond. So he just sat there frozen, his eyes wide.
In a moment, Su Huaizhu withdrew. He was still staring at Gu Ruohai’s lips. Then his gaze moved upwards to meet with his eyes.
Gu Ruohai blinked. A flash of confusion, embarrassment, and anxiety crossed his features. He slowly raised his hand to touch his own lips.
Su Huaizhu paused and took a deep breath. Then he reached over tentatively to take Gu Ruohai’s other hand. Gu Ruohai could feel that Su Huaizhu’s hands were trembling, or was it his own? He held his breath and watched the scene before him unfold as if it was in slow motion……
Su Huaizhu clasped his hand in his, drew it over, and carefully placed it over his heart; all the while, his eyes never left Gu Ruohai’s.
Gu Ruohai swallowed nervously, and he was sure Su Huaizhu saw it too. He could feel Su Huaizhu’s heart beating fervently beneath his hand—a beat similar to his own. Then Su Huaizhu lifted his hand and brought it to graze his cheek before turning and dropping a kiss in Gu Ruohai’s palm.
Gu Ruohai didn’t want to think; he couldn’t. Maybe, it was the liquid courage; he didn’t know. He just felt himself move towards Su Huaizhu, cup his face with both his hands, and he tilted his head to meet his lips. Su Huaizhu immediately pulled him close, one arm around his waist and the other behind Gu Ruohai’s neck, holding him in place as he deepened the kiss.
Their tongues met, twirled, and teased. The taste of wine from earlier was still there.
They were both breathing heavily. The air was fraught with their passionate moans. They both savoured each other and held one another tightly.
Gu Ruohai felt he couldn’t get enough. He wound his arm around Su Huaizhu’s neck and ran his fingers through his hair. Su Huaizhu’s tongue tangled and danced with his as they twisted this way and that, exploring each other’s mouths.
After a long while, they slowed down. Su Huaizhu sucked and licked Gu Ruohai’s lips as they gradually ended the kiss. They rested their foreheads together and panted, trying to regulate their breathing and heartbeats.
“Ruohai…… Hai’er……” Su Huaizhu whispered as he revealed a smile. “I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.”
Gu Ruohai was surprised to hear that and pulled away a little to look up, but was tugged back by Su Huaizhu for another lingering kiss.
“Huaizhu…… wait.” Gu Ruohai said, gasping between kisses as some of his sanity returned. Su Huaizhu stopped and looked at him as he caressed Gu Ruohai’s cheek tenderly.
Gu Ruohai held his hand, which was on his cheek. “We shouldn’t be doing this. You’re from the Devil Sect and I’m from Tengyun Pavilion. And we’re both men. This shouldn’t be.” He uttered in a low voice, his heart still slamming into his chest.
Su Huaizhu paused for a moment, then he straightened a little. “You don’t like men or the Devil Sect? Or…… you don’t like me?” He asked.
Gu Ruohai felt his throat go dry and quickly replied, “Ng……no, it’s none of that—”
Su Huaizhu tugged him back for another kiss, but Gu Ruohai resisted, saying, “Maybe, we should talk about this……”
Su Huaizhu stopped for a while. He inhaled, then shifted to embrace Gu Ruohai, “Hai’er, I know this seems sudden, but…… the truth is, I can’t stop thinking about you.”
He smiled as he pinched Gu Ruohai’s chin. “I’ve been trying to fight this attraction, but it seems I’ve lost. I like you, and I know you feel something for me too.”
Gu Ruohai hesitated as he looked into Su Huaizhu’s eyes before letting out a sigh. He rested his head against Su Huaizhu’s shoulder and enjoyed the closeness, breathing in his scent.
“But you’ve never said anything before…” Gu Ruohai said in a low voice.
“I needed to be sure. I’m sure now.” Su Huaizhu replied.
His mind wasn’t capable of being logical right now after having heard what Su Huaizhu had just said. This caused something inside him to click in place. The niggling feelings and thoughts he’d been having of Su Huaizhu, the emotions he’d been experiencing all this while, finally settled, and he understood.
He liked Su Huaizhu.
Gu Ruohai bit his lip, then curled his arms around Su Huaizhu and touched his lips to his. Su Huaizhu was so overjoyed, as if he’d just received the biggest prize of all. He happily kissed Gu Ruohai back.
Early the next morning, Gu Ruohai awoke with a smile on his face.
Last night, they’d both continued to kiss and hug a while longer before bidding each other good night. Although whatever that had just occurred between the both of them was exciting and thrilling, they had a tacit understanding and didn’t progress any further. So each of them went to sleep in their own bedrooms.
Of course, there was also another reason. Their physical intimacy had stoked their fires, and naturally, their bodies had reacted. They were hot-blooded young men, after all, and such a reaction was only to be expected.
Gu Ruohai felt rather awkward. He’d never been so familiar with anyone before. Sure, he knew in a sense how everything worked—he heard the shixiongs and shidis back in Tengyun Pavilion talking—but nobody said anything about being with a man.
Once Su Huaizhu had left and he was alone in his room again, he’d privately taken care of his *discomfort* before tidying up and going to bed.
This morning, Su Huaizhu was already awake when Gu Ruohai entered his room.
He smiled as he saw Gu Ruohai approach and place the water basin on the table. Then he tugged him over, and they shared a long kiss. Gu Ruohai nudged him away, saying he would go fetch their breakfast, and left the room.
Ever since they had confessed, they were more relaxed around each other. They continued to share their mealtimes together, even after Su Huaizhu’s punishment had ended. They would even hold hands wherever they went. Initially, Gu Ruohai was somewhat unsure about revealing their relationship to others, but Su Huaizhu consoled him. “Lesser Jade House won’t judge us. They’re not like the Jianghu.” He told Gu Ruohai gently.
And he was right. The shixiongs and shijies didn’t so much as blink upon seeing them together. Wang Ke, Luo Yu, and Qin Jianyue were fairly surprised when they found out, but were happy for them. And for the first time in a long while, Gu Ruohai didn’t feel like he was stifled by all the expectations that came with being a Young Pavilion Master.
“Good for the both of you.” Qin Jianyue said with a smile. Then he looked towards Luo Yu, who was sitting opposite. Luo Yu was drinking his tea and refused to glance up.
Gu Ruohai noticed there was something curious about the two of them, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. All of a sudden, he realised Wang Ke had just said something about Shizun, and his ears perked up, “Apologies, I missed that. What was that about Shizun?”
“Shh!” Wang Ke said in a hushed voice, “I was saying that I think I know what Shizun really is.”
He sounded so secretive that all of them huddled their heads together.
“Oh?” Su Huaizhu lifted an eyebrow. “Let’s hear it.”
Wang Ke said, “She……” he paused for effect, “……is a fox spirit.”
The rest of them slowly withdrew from the huddle…… and immediately burst out laughing. Su Huaizhu smacked the table in glee. Gu Ruohai felt that his insides were hurting and even Luo Yu was wiping the tears from his face.
“And… pfft… how did you figure that out?” Qin Jianyue managed to say between laughs.
Wang Ke looked somewhat miffed that he had been laughed at, but he still explained, “Think about it. Fox spirits usually appear as beautiful women, right? And they can live for many, many years. They can shape-shift. I’m thinking Shizun is an incredibly old fox spirit who has managed to pass herself off as a human and has continued to remain here throughout these years. That’s why no one has personally seen her.”
Gu Ruohai smiled and asked, “Then why did she need to establish Lesser Jade House? She could’ve just wandered around the world or laid low.”
Luo Yu nodded in agreement: “That’s right.”
Wang Ke shrugged. “Who knows how the mind of an old fox spirit works?” Then his eyes widened, and he added, “Or maybe, there was an actual Shizun long ago who’d set up Lesser Jade House and this fox spirit absorbed her life essence and took her place!”
Qin Jianyue had finally stopped laughing and patted Wang Ke on the back: “Okay, I think you’re pretty hung up on the idea of a fox…”
But Su Huaizhu cut in: “—Wait a moment. What Wang Ke said does have merit…”
Wang Ke folded his arms and straightened with a smug look: “At last, someone believes me.”
Gu Ruohai placed a hand on Su Huaizhu’s shoulder and asked, “What do you mean?”
Su Huaizhu pondered for a moment, then said: “Maybe she’s not a fox spirit—” Wang Ke’s face fell at that point, but Su Huaizhu continued, “……Perhaps, she’s a cultivator. She’s gained enlightenment, which is why she’s lived so long, but has yet to ascend.”
“Why can’t she ascend?” Qin Jianyue asked.
Su Huaizhu shrugged. “I don’t know.”
The others were quiet for some time as they contemplated the possibility.
Qin Jianyue spoke, “Sounds more plausible than the fox spirit theory.” He said, nudging Wang Ke with his elbow.
Wang Ke grumbled under his breath, “I still think that she’s a fox spirit.”
Luo Yu grinned and pushed a teacup towards him. “Have some tea, Wang shidi.”
Gu Ruohai gave Su Huaizhu’s shoulder a squeeze. “There’s no way to determine that.” Then he glanced out at the position of the sun and added, “We should probably be getting back. Lunchtime is about over.”
Everyone nodded and left the dining hall.
Although they’d already exposed their relationship, Su Huaizhu and Gu Ruohai didn’t display any more public affection aside from holding hands. Of course, they continued to be intimate with each other in private.
Because the weather was gradually getting colder, they’d now moved their chess game into Gu Ruohai’s room. These chess sessions were now interspersed with flirtatious looks and suggestive words.
One such time, Su Huaizhu slyly caught hold of Gu Ruohai’s hand as he extended it out to place a chess piece on the board.
He dropped a devout kiss on it and felt Gu Ruohai tingle in response. Gu Ruohai tried tugging his hand back, but Su Huaizhu wouldn’t let him. Instead, he stood up and hauled Gu Ruohai into his arms. They were so overcome with their desires that their lips would instantly find each other’s and their hands would roam the other’s neck, shoulders and back, relishing the closeness and intimacy.
Despite this, Su Huaizhu sensed Gu Ruohai’s apprehension each time he wanted to take things further. He cherished how far they had come and didn’t want to ruin things by alarming Gu Ruohai. So as difficult as it was for him, he would courteously retreat each night.
As things progressed, they began to share a bed. After an episode of kissing and embracing, they would hug each other to sleep. They would also whisper sweet and loving words as they lay facing each other in bed.
Time went on, and the inexplicable heat between them only increased. There was only so much teasing a normal man could stand under the circumstances, and each session left both of them feeling terribly uncomfortable.
Throughout this, Gu Ruohai couldn’t bring himself to broach the subject. He felt that he was terribly inexperienced and suspected that Su Huaizhu was more knowledgeable about these matters considering his Devil Sect origins. Tales of their hedonistic and extravagant lifestyles were common within the Central Plains.
It had made him curious and anxious at the same time.
Days flew by and soon, the ninth month had arrived. Chongyang was just a few days away,and they had agreed to meet up with Luo Yu, Qin Jianyue, and Wang Ke for an outing that day.
Two days before Chongyang, Su Huaizhu was playing chess with Gu Ruohai as usual after dinner.
Gu Ruohai was focused on the game as he eyed the board and planned his next move. “This will be our first Chongyang together”, he said as he put down his chess piece and looked up. “Perhaps we can spend each Chongyang together in the future.”
A small smile curled up at the corner of Su Huaizhu’s mouth. “Of course”, he said, then he cleared his throat. “Hai’er……”
Gu Ruohai picked up the teapot from the stove and refilled their teacups.“Hmm?”
Su Huaizhu hesitated, then said, “What would you say if I told you that I know where Shizun’s abode is?”