Wei Lan carried the wooden box out of the official’s residence, walking slowly and aimlessly. What was considered far enough? Should he take the box out of the capital? Wei Lan felt that if Ku Liu had never lived at all, that would be best. The streets were filled with those visiting friends and relatives, crowds bustling with the liveliness of the New Year. Wei Lan did not know how long he walked for before he heard the striking sounds of iron from the roadside.
Before the new year, the proprietor of the iron shop had received a business deal. However, unexpectedly, two of his ironworkers fell ill at once. Another left for his hometown to get married. As the delivery due date of the goods drew near, unfinished tasks still remained. Businesspeople all valued word of mouth. If the shop neglected a customer’s orders, the boss would have difficulty running his business. Therefore, he started off the new year opening his furnace and working against the clock.
Wei Lan entered the blacksmith’s shop with his wooden box.
The boss saw a customer and hurriedly dropped what he was working on, coming up to greet Wei Lan: “Guest, I am still not accepting new orders. Come back in fifteen.”
Wei Lan said, “I want to burn something.”
The boss looked at the box in Wei Lan’s hands and asked, “Guest wants to burn this?”
“Yes.” Wei Lan nodded.
The boss had been smithing iron for a living all these years, but had never come across someone looking for him to burn items. “Guest,” the boss looked at Wei Lan, then looked again, saying, “you can go anywhere to burn this wooden box!”
Wei Lan glanced at the raging blazes of the furnace. “It would burn clean away here.”
“What’s in your box?” The boss inquired. He didn’t think Wei Lan looked right.
Wei Lan didn’t ask the boss any further. He lifted a hand and threw the wooden box with Ku Liu’s head in it into the furnace.
“Guest, what are you-” The boss began to shout. Burning items wasn’t a big deal, but they couldn’t be thrown in just like that right? If others began to do the same, what iron could the furnace smelt anymore?
Wei Lan handed a piece of silver to the boss. “I want to stay here and watch.”
“Then please go ahead.” The boss didn’t talk anymore. The purpose of a business is to make money. Since he received payment, the boss wouldn’t ask so many questions. Whatever made the customer happy was fine.
Wei Lan stood beside the flames, witnessing the wooden box become ashes along with Ku Liu’s head.
The boss and his employees waited until Wei Lan left before closing the door of the furnace. They raked at the thick layer of ash within the furnace, wanting to see what Wei Lan had burnt. As a result, they only discovered slightly white, ashen dregs within.
“This wouldn’t be bone ash, right?” One employee asked.
“Don’t talk nonsense!” The boss scolded the little guy, “Speaking of the dead during the New Year, you’ll have bad luck the whole year!”
“Then what is this?” The employee asked.
“Doesn’t matter.” The boss wiped at the sweat on his face. From the looks of Wei Lan, he didn’t seem to be an ordinary civilian. It would be best if a businessman didn’t involve himself in the matters of those great families. “Open the furnace, keep working!”
The blacksmithery busied itself again, and those within the shop threw Wei Lan to the back of their minds.
Wei Lan returned to the official’s residence. Upon hearing from Qi Zi that Luo Wei had had his ginseng soup and then fallen asleep, he wanted to go to Luo Wei’s bedroom to see him.
“Big bro Wei Lan,” Qi Zi called from behind him, “check if the charcoal in the young master’s room is almost burnt out.”
“Okay,” Wei Lan agreed and entered Luo Wei’s bedroom.
When Wei Lan stood at the bedside and reached out a hand to touch Luo Wei’s forehead, Luo Wei opened his eyes. “You’re back?”
“The young master is awake?”
“I haven’t slept,” Luo Wei corrected. “Where did you go? It takes this long to throw away a human head?”
Wei Lan sat on the edge of the bed and replied, “I burnt that thing to ashes.”
Luo Wei let out an “ah,” and then, “You could just throw it, but you also ran off to burn it?”
Wei Lan nodded.
“That’s good too,” Luo Wei laughed twice, then continued, “this way it’s clean.”
“Don’t talk about this anymore in the future,” Wei Lan lowered his body and spoke softly to Luo Wei, “just take it as if this person never existed.”
“All right,” Luo Wei agreed. “I forgot it.”
At this, Wei Lan’s face finally let slip a smile as he said, “Young master must put words into action ah.”
“Where did you go to destroy the corpse and its traces?” Luo Wei pulled Wei Lan down again. “Even the top of your head has ash.” He brushed away the dust on Wei Lan’s hair, “I want to take a bath tonight. Lan, you wash too.”
Wei Lan demurred, “The Madam said one cannot take a bath during these three days of the New Year. She said it would wash away all the good fortune for this year.”
“You believe that?” Luo Wei jokingly replied, “I’ve lain here for so many days that my body stinks.”
“How could the young master stink? I’ve wiped his body for him.”
“It really smells,” Luo Wei placed his hand under Wei Lan’s nose. “Smell it ah.”
Wei Lan really took a sniff, and said, “It’s the smell of toilet soap.”
Luo Wei sat up and explained, “I used it to wash my hands, so naturally my hands would smell like soap. I won’t believe that your hands don’t smell like that.”
“Don’t get up,” Wei Lan pressed Luo Wei down. “Don’t catch cold.”
Luo Wei captured Wei Lan’s hand, examining the thick calluses formed from years of constant martial arts training. “Lan’s hands are the same as my older brothers’. Martial arts training must be bitterly difficult, right?”
“Not bitter,” Wei Lan denied.
“But I feel bitter,” Luo Wei’s expression darkened a moment as he said this.
“I just drank medicine, and it’s even more bitter than before. Is that Imperial Physician Wei doing it on purpose? Even now there’s a bitter taste in my mouth.”
Wei Lan’s finger tapped against Luo Wei’s lips. In these two days, these lips had regained their red color.
Luo Wei began to feel playful. At the moment when Wei Lan’s finger touched his lips, he opened his mouth and lightly bit down.
Wei Lan was amused. He was engrossed in staring at Luo Wei for a while, noticing his much improved complexion.
“You don’t recognize me anymore?” Luo Wei laughingly asked. In these two days, he himself also felt that his health had improved a bit. At the very least, he wouldn’t be constantly dizzy and he also had the strength to walk.
Wei Lan lowered himself onto Luo Wei, pecking at his lips. Luo Wei opened his mouth, and the two of them embraced each other as they kissed.
The kiss was prolonged, delicate, and careful. Both lips and tongues intertwined as the two of them listened to each other’s heartbeats, both impassioned.
Wei Lan finally lay on his side next to Luo Wei, his breathing urgent as he said, “The young master’s body hasn’t recovered yet.”
Luo Wei knew what Wei Lan meant. This person clearly couldn’t bear it anymore, but still felt apprehension on Luo Wei’s behalf. “Lan,” Luo Wei softly called out to Wei Lan, his hand reaching into Wei Lan’s lower garments.
“Young master?” Wei Lan hurriedly grabbed Luo Wei’s hand.
“Shh.” Luo Wei laughed lightly. “Isn’t it hard to bear?” Harboring evil designs, he began to move his hand.
Wei Lan wanted to shout, but he held back. It was still daylight, and there were people standing in the courtyard.
“Lie back.” The quilt on Luo Wei covered the two of them. “I’ll take care of you once. En?” Luo Wei’s mouth swept against Wei Lan’s ear and spoke bantering words of love.
These words seemed frivolous, and clearly shouldn’t be spoken by a person like Luo Wei. However, when this person whispered these words that could redden faces and quicken heartbeats against Wei Lan’s ear, Wei Lan felt that these were the best-sounding terms of endearment in the world, making it difficult for him to contain the desires in his heart.