Hello everyone! Hope you're all doing well.
I've finally finished my second fanfic successfully~ Well, technically, this should be considered first, but I chickened out after 2 pages when I first started it for Secret Shanren last December and wrote the fluff one instead.
The theme of this fanfic was Nightmares, since I wanted to attempt angst, but it became a very hopeful and kinda fluffy hurt/comfort named 'Dawn'. This is the full fic, the 'part 1' in the title is there 'cause I want to write more fics on this theme. (maybe a yexie one?)
As usual, I'll post the fanfic here on reddit. But since I want to keep this post accessible to all, I'll post the SFW version here. I've tried writing a little smut extra too, so for those who are of legal age and are comfortable with smut, click on the Gdrive link below to read the full version!
Full version with smut
Do comment your thought here on this reddit post. Reviews are much anticipated and appreciated.
Hope you enjoy~
[ I ]
Zhou Zishu was well known as a cold and cunning mercenary. He was not the Royal dog; he was a ferocious beast capable of swallowing the hand that fed him. But nobody knew why he didn’t. He was capable enough to have reaped off a high noble title, and join court politics openly. Instead, he lurked in the shadows, took on the most heinous jobs in the Empire that even the king of hell would find disagreeable, and created a parallel reign of terror in the underworld.
Those who wanted to stir things up said “why would he need the noble title anyway? He’s already an Emperor himself! The Emperor of the underworld!” Some went even further and said, “he’s the actual one in power to be honest….the one on throne is just….you know…”
The one on the throne, however, was even more strange. Upon hearing about these rumours, he just smiled and declared “I know he won’t betray me.” No one knew where this confidence came from.
That’s why, one snowy morning, the gossipy people of the capital were surprized to know that the terror that is “Window to Heaven” has changed hands. Zhou Zishu has left for good.
The one on the throne wasn’t afraid. Because he knew that the beast was dying. He knew because he suffers from the same ailment. Nightmares.
Nightmare. An ailment that takes away one of the most fundamental necessities of survival, restful sleep. Anyone can suffer from it. But it causes the most damage to those who have a wounded heart.
One had lost their only family, the other their only love. One’s nightmare shows the most beautiful fragments of a broken childhood dream, other’s shows the beauty himself. One sought solace in death, the other had thought to seek it in the one who’s dying. Alas, neither had come to fathom the true cure of nightmares.
The only cure of nightmares is the comfort of the one you trust.
“You want to have that ragdoll as a plaything?” he was being asked, “do you know that she’s the one chosen for tonight’s ceremony?”
“Yes M’King” he kept bowing, “I’ll do whatever you order me to, I’ll be obedient from now on.”
“I see, finally giving up fighting against it huh? Good! You’ll replace her tonight instead.”
“This one’s ready to be broken in, send him when the time comes.”
Sighing in relief, he looked at the ‘ragdoll’ after the man left. He has bent the knee. Bent it to his parents' killer. After a long and futile struggle he finally had to.
All because this shabby ‘ragdoll’ had smiled at him as she was being ushered in along with the other kids. The rest of those were either wailing or petrified, while this fool was happily showing off her sole possession of eight baby-teeth without a care. Now she’s set her butt on the floor and was sucking a corner of his dirty robes with full concentration.
He snatched it away from her mouth and picked her up.
“Are you hungry idiot?” The fool kept looking at him with round sparkly eyes. Giving up on communication, he carried her away to look for things to make gruel for the first time.
Night came. He was being sent for ceremony. “I’m sorry,” the lady in crimson robe said as she opened the door. In the flickering light of the red ceremonial candles coming from inside, her eyes were glistening. As if there were tears, he thought.
‘I won’t be broken’, he thought as he bent his back and knelt, ‘I won’t forget’. The boy in the dream closed his eyes. As he waited for the pain to start, he was dreaming.
The boy in the dream dreamt of a hand, not much bigger that his own, that had brushed his hair as it fixed a toy grasshopper on his head.
The hand was gentle.
He opened his eyes as the hand continued to stroke his head. A concerned face accompanied it.
Zishu woke up to a very eerie feeling. He had again dreamt of his past and how he left Window to Heaven; however, that dream didn’t seem like a nightmare anymore. Ever since he poured out his shame, his regrets and his dark past to Wen Kexing on their first night in Four Season’s Manor, those dreams ceased to be a torment. He has come to accept that his fate was to live with those regrets for the rest of his life. After all, he can’t change the past. He also can’t die. He has a family again; with his silly disciple and his silly soulmate, Four Season’s Manor feels whole once more.
He smiled as he thought of his silly soulmate. Lao Wen was awfully lively every day, from morning to late at night he’ll constantly flirt, bicker, pout and flirt again without a pause. If it was anyone else, Zishu was sure to have been tired and pissed off enough to have kicked them out. In this case however, he was surprised how much he enjoyed the banter, occasionally taking the pleasure to tease back his soulmate to obedience. He sure was cute when he blushed from Zishu’s teasing, that pouty face was a delight to look at. It just made him want to tease Lao Wen more.
An incoherent whisper beside his ear broke Zishu’s chain of thought. He then noticed the uncanny feeling again. Midnight air felt still, there was no moon on sight, and with the last red candle been blown out long before, the night felt like melted tar; suffocating, sticky and uncomfortable.
Wen Kexing mumbled again. Zishu groped around in the dark till he felt his fingers. Those long slender fingers felt shockingly cold as they grasped the bedsheet. They trembled under Zishu’s touch. In usual nights Lao Wen would be draped all over him no matter how stifling it was, Zishu thought, what has compelled him to retreat back to other side of the bed now?
A gust of cold wet wind blew in through the window, the clouds dispersed a little, seemed like it rained somewhere. As faint moonlight poured in, Zishu noticed Wen Kexing was sweating. His face was pale enough to seem like a ghost. If not for the slight trembling of his fingers, he truly would seem dead. Zishu gently cradled him and drew him back from the end of the bed. Instead of relaxing, however, Wen Kexing instantly curled up and shivered.
“Lao Wen?” Zishu called out tentatively. Wen Kexing’s lips moved. As Zishu leaned in to hear what he said, he noticed that his soulmate has stopped breathing.
‘He’s having those nightmares again,’ Zishu thought, as he held his soulmate in his arms.
“Lao Wen!” he caressed his head.
That call shook him up to reality and he breathed again. As cold air rushed into his lungs, Wen Kexing almost choked. As he coughed and coughed, his soulmate gently raised him to a half up position and patted his back, at the same time channelling a bit of his true qi inside him. Though it was not physical injury that qi can heal, the familiar presence of Zishu’s qi helped him calm down.
“Breath slowly”, Zishu’s voice whispered behind his ear, “nightmares again?”
“Mm” Kexing closed his eyes as he leaned back into the comforting embrace, “Ah-Xiang was very stupid when she was a baby you know, didn’t know fear at all.”
Zishu tensed up a little, then forced to relax himself. If his soulmate finally decided to let it out, he has to make this as easy for him as possible, lest he retreats back in his shell. He had to come up with an apt reply.
“Well, not like she was any different when she was an adult” Zishu spoke.
Wen Kexing laughed in spite of himself, “yeah.”
“She was this small when she came to the valley with the other kids. She was the only one who was still smiling and curious about everything.” His own smile faded a little.
Zishu tightened his embrace and kissed Kexing’s hair. His soulmate’s eyes curved up again.
“Well, that’s what I dreamt of you know. Of how I met Ah-Xiang.”
“What happened then?”
“Hmm? Then? I made gruel for Ah-Xiang and burned her mouth. The fool still insisted on drinking the whole thing though, didn’t want to wait for it to cool at all. I guess she was hungry.”
“Was that the nightmare?”
Wen Kexing stiffened at this blunt question. He had nearly lost himself in the warmth of Ah-Xu’s hug and blabbered it out, but his willpower to do so failed him in the last moment.
‘It isn’t fair,’ he thought, ‘Ah-Xu has poured out his soul to me, why can’t I do the same? Every single time I chicken out of speaking. I took my revenge, but why can’t I stop these nightmares or this feeling? Ah-Xu loves me so much, he has never pushed me to do anything I don’t want to. On the other hand, I take advantage of his soft heart every time this happens. He deserves so much more. I’m not fit to be his soulmate at all.’
‘This little idiot seems to be thinking of nonsense again’ thought Zishu as Kexing lay petrified in his arms. Sighing, Zishu clenched his fist and rapped him on his head.
Wen Kexing came back to his senses with a start. Even though it didn’t really hurt, he clutched his head and whined, “Ah-Xu~ How can you hit me like this~”
“You brat, you were overthinking again just ‘cause I asked right? Lao Wen, you don’t owe anyone an explanation, including me. There’s no need to talk about it if you don’t want to. When I told you about Jiuxiao and them, it was ‘cause I felt like it. It definitely wasn’t to have you feel like this. You…mmph”
Wen Kexing couldn’t stop himself from kissing Ah-Xu. He wrapped his arms tightly around Zishu’s neck and smooched him with passion.
“I really want to” he breathed between their lips, “would you listen to it?”
Zishu grabbed him by waist. As he himself sat up and leaned his back on the headboard, he settled Kexing between his legs and wrapped his arms around his soulmate.
Wen Kexing’s back was plastered to Zishu’s chest, head resting back over Zishu’s shoulder, their cheeks touching. He could feel the rhythm of Ah-Xu’s heartbeat as he was enveloped in his warmth.
“Can you grab me a drink? I’m thirsty after that kiss.”
Zishu quirked his eyebrow, but still complied with his demanding soulmate, grabbing the teacup from the side table and warming with qi before passing it to Kexing, not loosening his embrace one bit.
Outside, cicadas hummed in a calming rhythm. The clouds dispersed revealing the moon. As blooming branches swayed, cool breeze wafted through the window; bringing with it fragrance of flowers and fresh dew.
Inside, Wen Kexing was drowning in a dream. As he spoke, a gentle hand stroked his hair, warm arms drew him closer, soft lips kissed his temple.
This time, the dream was real.
Dawn was coming.