The Emperor's Runaway Lover - Chapter 23
Fu Yucheng was being held so tightly that, for a minute, he didn’t know what to do.
He blinked very slowly, and then he gradually reacted, laughing inside. This brat, Bai Mo, was still just a baby. Usually, he’d look cold and indifferent, but deep inside he was still clingy.
With that in mind, he patted Bai Mo’s back to comfort him. “I’m glad that you’re back.”
“Yeah,” Bai Mo mumbled, with his head pressed against Fu Yucheng’s neck.
He was just a little bit shorter than the other now, and his high nose rubbed gently against the man’s neck, warm and delicate. For some mysterious reason, he couldn’t resist breathing in quietly. He smelled fresh and clean soap, and a subtle smell of sweat.
Taking in the fresh and light scent, the young man felt inexplicably dizzy. He felt as if he was floating on a cloud, unable to touch the ground.
Fu Yucheng was being held in a tight hug in the brat’s arms, squeezing the air out of his lungs. The boy’s breathing was making his neck feel ticklish as well, which was uncomfortable and kinda embarrassing.
He endured it for a while before pushing the other away. “Alright, that’s enough.”
Bai Mo shivered slightly, then finally came back to his senses and suddenly let go of his hold.
He stepped back a little and looked at Fu Yucheng, a bit disoriented and with his snow-white cheeks slowly turning an inconspicuous pink. “Sorry, I-”
Fu Yucheng couldn’t resist laughing on the inside when facing the awkward boy. He probably hadn’t had much physical contact with anyone. He even got shy about a hug between two big men.
Seeing Bai Mo’s bewildered look, Fu Yucheng narrowed his eyes, and suddenly felt in a mood to bully the boy.
Licking his lips, he slowly leaned forward and lowered his voice deliberately. “How much did you say that you missed me just now?”
“I- I- I didn’t-” Under the gaze of those dark green eyes, Bai Mo blinked, panicked, and didn’t even know where to put his hands and his feet.
The hug from a moment ago had been impulsive, and now all he wanted was for the ground to open up and swallow him.
“Oh, so you were lying and actually didn’t miss me at all?” Fu Yucheng stared at the other, pressing him more. “I’m so disappointed.”
“I didn’t lie! I really missed you, I thought about you every day!” Bai Mo answered panickedly. After he finished the sentence, he froze completely.
Seeing him like that, Fu Yucheng couldn’t hold back anymore, and finally laughed out loud. “Hahaha, oh my god, look at you! So silly hahaha! You get embarrassed holding a big man, how are you going to get girls in the future? Ah hahahahaha-!”
Bai Mo stared at him stiffly, and then slowly realized that this nasty man was making fun of him.
His snow-white face flushed red, and his dark eyes glared at Fu Yucheng fiercely as if in complaint.
How could someone be this despicable?
Fu Yucheng felt that this boy, Bai Mo, was definitely about to panic, so he probably should stop teasing him before he snapped.
He suppressed his smile, and then changed the subject amicably. “It’s alright, I won’t tease you for it. Let’s clean the room, it’s too messy.”
“Fine.” Bai Mo took a deep breath and forced himself to calm down.
After Bai Mo left, Fu Yucheng hadn’t cleaned the room for three months. It was all messy and dirty, with large piles of unwashed clothes around and cobwebs in the corners.
Bai Mo rubbed his forehead, took out a basin from under the bed, and simply began picking up the socks that were piling up in the corners one by one.
Fu Yucheng fumbled around. He picked up a piece of clothing that was on a chair and moved it to the bed. Then, he kicked the shoes laying around on the floor under the bed. Bai Mo stared at him for a moment before he sighed helplessly. “I’ll take care of it, so why don’t you take a break?”
Normally, when he heard something like that, Fu Yucheng would have just gone to lie down on the bed. However, since Bai Mo had just returned, no matter how shameless he might usually be, he wasn’t shameless enough to let the kid clean all by himself.
He scratched his head. “Let’s do it together. You tidy up the clothes and other things, and I will take care of the cobwebs around the walls.”
Bai Mo nodded. “Alright. Be careful, Yu-ge.”
After two hours of hard work, the cramped and dirty bedroom looked quite different.
The beds were clean, the quilts were folded neatly, the cabinet and the two chairs were spotless, and Bai Mo had even fixed one of the chair’s legs that Fu Yucheng had broken a while ago.
Actually, it should be mentioned that, if he worked on his own without anyone loitering around, it would have only taken Bai Mo half an hour to finish cleaning.
And this time, Fu Yucheng didn’t just not do much, he even hurt his hand.
“Didn’t I ask you to be careful?” Bai Mo glared at the back of the man’s hand, which now sported a bloody gash on it.
Fu Yucheng looked at him innocently. “I was just trying to clear the cobwebs under the bed with a stick when I suddenly felt pain. How could I have known that there would be nails sticking out under the bed? Anyway, it’s just a small injury, it won’t be an issue.”
Bai Mo shook his head helplessly, then turned around and took out the betadine from the cabinet. “Sit down.”
Fu Yucheng sat down on the broken chair and offered his hand so that Bai Mo could treat him.
Fu Yucheng’s hands were very beautiful. They weren’t soft nor did they feel boneless. The fingers were slender and strong, and the palms and fingertips had the sort of thin calluses that formed from handling blades regularly.
Holding Fu Yucheng’s hand, Bai Mo cleaned the wound carefully, and put a band-aid on it. “Make sure to not let it get wet for a while.”
Fu Yucheng, with his forehead covered in dust and cobwebs, said pitifully, “But I need to wash my hair.”
Bai Mo shook his head helplessly. “You- ugh.”
It was noon, and the bathrooms were empty.
Standing in front of the sink, Fu Yucheng filled a basin with hot water. Taking a look at the band-aid on the back of his hand, he frowned, looking troubled.
“I’ll help you wash it,” Bai Mo said.
Just as Fu Yucheng was about to nod his head, he seemed to think of something and hesitated. “It’s okay, I’ll do it myself. I can just use one hand.”
Bai Mo didn’t try to persuade him. He leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, waiting to see how the man would manage to wash his hair with just one hand.
Fu Yucheng fumbled around for a while attempting to wash his hair until the foam got into his eyes. He hissed and waved his hands aimlessly. “Towel, where’s my towel?”
Bai Mo sighed, grabbed the hot towel next to him and wiped Fu Yucheng’s eyes. Then he said, “Lower your head, I’ll wash it for you.”
Fu Yucheng couldn’t see anything, so he had to temporarily give up on his resistance and lower his head reluctantly, letting the boy rub his scalp.
Bai Mo’s slender fingers ran back and forth through Fu Yucheng’s thick, silky hair, carefully lathering up the dense foam and then massaging the scalp attentively.
Suddenly, his fingertips grazed something. Momentarily surprised, Bai Mo paused in his movement.
It was a circle of faint scars. To be precise, it was a circular surgical scar, slightly bigger than an inch, located in the middle of the back of Fu Yucheng’s head.
A brain surgery scar.1
Fu Yucheng felt Bai Mo pause, and couldn’t help feeling exasperated. This was the reason why he hadn’t wanted Bai Mo to wash his hair. The boy had an hyperactive mind, so he’d definitely imagine something wild and Fu Yucheng would have to come up with some lie to fool him. How troublesome.
“What- what is this?” Bai Mo hesitated before he asked in a quiet voice.
Fu Yucheng replied simply, “I had a brain tumor before and had a craniotomy done. You didn’t expect that, huh?”
“But the AI medical warehouses in the Ecoregions don’t require surgery for treatment, and there aren’t any neurosurgeons on Earth that can perform a complex tumor removal like this.”
Fu Yucheng felt a headache coming. Bai Mo, this brat, had been blushing and stammering just a moment ago. Why was he suddenly so hard to fool?
He was silent for a while, and then he spoke in a very relaxed tone. “Haha, I was just teasing you. I actually got this scar because, when I was a kid, I liked to climb a lot. Once, I fell down from a very high place, and, as a result, I got a brain bleed and had to undergo a minor operation.”2
“Really.” Bai Mo gently brushed the circle of faint scars, feeling like something was definitely off.
But he couldn’t tell what.
This circular scar was located very close to the psionic power area of the cerebral cortex. In the past, some manipulators had issues with their psionic power in the laboratory, and repair operations would be performed in the area to restore some of it.
However, Fu Yucheng clearly had no psionic powers.
What on earth could the scar possibly be from?
Why was he lying? It was clearly not a scar that could have been produced by that sort of surgery.
Such a big operation on the skull, it… it must have been very painful, right?3
Bai Mo felt confused.
Perceiving the other’s doubts, Fu Yucheng smiled again. “To be honest, if it weren’t for this scar, I would have shaved my head just like Aaron. Then I’d only need to wipe my face clean every day. Wouldn’t it be convenient?”
His tone was very relaxed, but Bai Mo wasn’t able to let it go so easily. He could only smile and say, “You want to shave your head? I think you should forget about that.”
The two chatted and laughed leisurely. Fu Yucheng looked calm and composed, but Bai Mo’s chest felt as if it was being crushed by a big rock, heavy with doubts and heartache.
Over the next few days, he brought up the topic in passing a couple of times. However, each time, Fu Yucheng would distract him and change the topic.
Bai Mo knew that he didn’t want to tell him, so he stopped asking. Nonetheless, every time he thought of it, he always felt a little bit sour and uncomfortable.
This person, what sort of things had he gone through?
Why couldn’t he tell Bai Mo?
The days passed quickly, and, in the blink of an eye, the weekend arrived.
That specific weekend day was a general rest day at Fort Hurricane. More importantly, it was September 15th, Bai Mo’s 16th birthday.
Since it was a rest day, it was inevitable that Fu Yucheng slept in. That day, he slept until after eleven o’clock, ate a simple brunch, and then he lay back on the bed lazily, playing with the old plastic rubik’s cube.
Bai Mo stood by the cabinet, waiting for the water in the electric kettle to boil. Although he wasn’t saying anything, his eyes kept secretly peeking at Fu Yucheng.
Fu Yucheng was leaning against the bed, playing with the rubik’s cube in his hand. He seemed to notice his stare, and suddenly, he raised his head to glance at him.
Their eyes met.
Startled for a moment, Bai Mo immediately looked away without a change in his expression.
The corners of Fu Yucheng’s mouth curled up imperceptibly. Naturally, he knew what the kid was secretly hoping for.
He rolled his eyes and then smiled suddenly. “Little Mo, do you remember what day it is today?”
Bai Mo turned his back to him, fiddled with the electric kettle on top of the cabinet, and said casually, “I don’t know what day you mean.”
If he were someone else, maybe he would have been fooled by his cold and indifferent voice. But after several years of sharing the same space day and night, Fu Yucheng knew the awkward boy very well.
He looked at Bai Mo’s shoulders, which had gone tense subconsciously. Fu Yucheng gently touched his own chin, smiling very unkindly. The boy had gotten nervous.
“Of course, you don’t remember what day it is.” Fu Yucheng made a long pause on purpose.
Bai Mo couldn’t help but smile very slightly, his heart warm. He really had remembered.
Then he heard the man say, “It’s one of my rare days off, of course.”
Bai Mo’s smile froze, and after a short while he asked, “What did you say?”
“A day off.” Fu Yucheng seemed perfectly indifferent. He rolled over and got out of bed. “After feeding the chickens for an entire week, I feel exhausted. Let’s go, come on, let’s go out and have fun today.”
“You said, today is your day off?” Bai Mo turned around, staring at the other in disbelief.
Fu Yucheng looked at the boy and blinked blankly. “Of course. I have been working for six consecutive days. That means that today is my day off.”
Bai Mo stared at him blankly.
Fu Yucheng, he… forgot, he really forgot.
Today, today was obviously his birthday, the day they had met in the desert.
Two years prior, he himself had promised Bai Mo that he would give him a real birthday.
The year before, the man had gotten into the wrong work zone and had been sent to confinement for a week, so Bai Mo had to forget about celebrating his birthday. He had been looking forward to it this year for a long time. He had started counting the days with his fingers three months earlier, but Fu Yucheng, he… simply forgot.
Bai Mo glared at the other. Although his face had no expression, in his heart, he felt wronged.
He actually forgot.
And the hateful guy who knew nothing was casually tying his shoelaces while humming a little tune. “Little Mo, you should get ready as well. Let’s go to the open-air trading area to buy something today, bask in the sun, and grab a bite for dinner.”
For a moment, Bai Mo was silent.
At last, he felt certain that this person had forgotten his birthday. The day they had first met.
Not hearing the boy’s reply, Fu Yucheng raised his head and glanced at him. “What’s the matter?”
“Today, today…” Bai Mo held himself back, and, in the end, no words came out.
What was the point of saying it himself, as if he were asking for something?
Fu Yucheng looked at him with a thoughtful expression.
A small hope ignited in Bai Mo’s heart.
Did he remember?
“Little Mo, are you worried about today’s weather?” Fu Yucheng suddenly seemed to realize. “Don’t worry, it’ll be a sunny day, I listened to the weather forecast last night. Right, you should change your clothes quickly, let’s get out.”
Bai Mo put the water glass in his hand back down onto the cabinet with a bang. He took a deep breath, gave up on communicating with Fu Yucheng, and started to change out of his coat with a dark expression.
Fu Yucheng was simply heartless, and he should have been aware of it.
What was he expecting like a fool?
Fu Yucheng didn’t seem to notice that the other party was angry at all. The two changed their clothes and went out together.
The old elevator creaked, and Bai Mo stared at the green floor sign above the door without saying a word.
“Why does it feel like you’re talking less than usual today?” Fu Yucheng raised his eyebrows.
Bai Mo glanced at him coldly. “Am I?”
“Yeah, you already don’t talk much to begin with. Sometimes you’re like a locked box.” Fu Yucheng nodded.4
Bai Mo was so angry, he almost couldn’t breathe.
The elevator went all the way up, from floor b35 to floor 36.
Each of the twelve ring-shaped outer forts in Fort Hurricane had their own separate recreation area. Most of them were located on the communal rooftop, and the one in Jiaolong Fort was no exception. Half of the huge flat rooftop in front of them was an open-air trading area, and the other half was a semi-enclosed dining space.
That day was the weekend, and the trading area was very lively. Whether it was a permanent vendor or temporary flea market stalls, they were bustling with all kinds of people coming and going.
“Take a look, take a look! Hey, check this out-!”
“-completely real! If one is fake I shall compensate you for ten of them!”5
“Come and see, rare goodies from the desert!”
The vendors yelled vigorously, some selling lizard bone carvings, some selling linen dresses, and all sorts of dried meats. Fu Yucheng was looking around left and right, checking things out, obviously in good spirits.
Bai Mo felt very depressed. He lowered his head and followed Fu Yucheng absentmindedly.
As the two of them strolled, there were more people walking around them, and the place was getting more and more crowded.
Fu Yucheng seemed to spot something unusual. His eyes lit up suddenly, and he disappeared into the crowd. Bai Mo went back and forth two times and couldn’t find him.
Just when he was starting to get a little anxious, Fu Yucheng returned from who knows where. Holding a brown paper bag in his hand, he asked, “Little Mo, where did you go just now?”
Fu Yucheng often accused him of things like that to deflect blame, and Bai Mo was pretty much used to it and didn’t mind.6 But that day, he was in a particularly bad mood, so he glanced at the other coldly. “I didn’t go anywhere.”
Fu Yucheng didn’t seem to care and grabbed his wrist. “Let’s go, come have dinner with your senior.”
The two of them made their way through the bustling crowd and entered an Italian restaurant.
The restaurant was practically empty. The windows were covered in thick velvet curtains, and the only lighting came from two yellow art nouveau lamps on the wall,7 giving it a dark and peaceful atmosphere.
The owner of the restaurant, Samanta, was an Italian beauty. Although, after so many years, her lineage had been somewhat washed out, with her brown curly hair and her curvy, feminine figure she looked exactly like the typical Mediterranean woman from centuries ago.
“Ciao,” Samanta greeted them with a smile.8
Fu Yucheng took Bai Mo to find a corner seat and beckoned to the beautiful proprietress, “Samanta, bring us your signature pizza for two.”
Samanta walked over with a smile so wide that it made her eyes narrow, and said in not-quite standard Mandarin, “Twenty-five trading coins.”
Bai Mo watched as Fu Yucheng counted the twenty-five trading coins out. He couldn’t help but feel a little distressed, and he even forgot that he was still in a unilateral cold war. “Why didn’t you say that you wanted a pizza earlier? I could have made one for you.”
Fu Yucheng smiled. “How could I let you cook today?”
For a second, Bai Mo felt taken aback. Before he had any time to figure out what it meant, Fu Yucheng spoke again. “Little Mo, close your eyes first.”
Bai Mo, not knowing what Fu Yucheng was up to this time, was slightly wary. “What do you want to do?”
Fu Yucheng became a little impatient. “If you’re gonna close them just close them already, enough nonsense.”
Bai Mo hesitated, then slowly closed his eyes.
In the darkness, he pricked up his ears and listened carefully. First there was a rustling sound, probably Fu Yucheng opening the brown paper bag. Then, there was a ‘psch’, sounding similar to a lighter, and the faint smell of a candle burning filled the air.
Bai Mo suddenly thought of something, and his heart jumped.
Could it be what he had been thinking about?
Just when he could no longer resist the urge to open his eyes, he heard Fu Yucheng say, “You can open your eyes now.”
However, Bai Mo hesitated. He even felt a little scared. He was afraid that the higher his hopes got, the greater the disappointment would be.
“Hurry up,” the other urged him again.
Bai Mo gritted his teeth and, finally, opened his eyes slowly.
What he saw was a small birthday cake.
The cake was not exquisite, it was even a bit shabby. The pink cream flowers looked very tacky, with a solitary small candle in the middle, a faint flame swaying on top.
Bai Mo stared at the warm flame, his eyes stinging a little.
Behind the flickering candlelight, the man’s face looked distant and blurred, but Bai Mo sensed that he was smiling at him.
“You remembered,” Bai Mo whispered. His voice was surprisingly a bit quieter than usual. “You didn’t forget.”
Fu Yucheng smiled. “Of course I remembered. Happy Birthd-” Before the two words really came out, the flame suddenly swayed a little and almost went out.
Fu Yucheng hurriedly picked up a fork and carefully steadied the candle. “Little Mo, quickly, make a wish and blow out the candle, it won’t work if the candle goes out too soon.”
Bai Mo looked down at the little candle. For the first time in his life, he reverently made a wish to the heavens, and then blew out the small flame.
Seeing him blow out the candle, Fu Yucheng finally breathed a sigh of relief, and asked curiously, “Little Mo, what did you wish for?”
Bai Mo stared fixedly at him. “If I say it out loud, it won’t come true.”
Fu Yucheng lost interest and shrugged. “Alright. Come on, cut the cake.”
The two shared the little birthday cake, just in time for Samanta to bring out the pizza. She put the pizza and drinks on the table, and then set a glass in front of Fu Yucheng, winking ambiguously at him. “Sir, this is a new product we have. As a gift.”
For a moment, Fu Yucheng froze.
It was a cup of mint ice cream with crushed nuts.
In the crystal cup, pale green mint ice cream, plump macadamia nuts and almonds, and crunchy golden waffles were densely layered on top of each other, and finally topped with rich and smooth artisanal chocolate sauce, looking very appealing.
Fu Yucheng was convinced, for a moment, that he had returned to the imperial isolation prison, having such an ice cream cup placed before him. A cup of ice cream sent from the White Rose Palace.
He felt as if he had been dunked in iced water, frozen to the bone.
This chapter was 4k!! T_T I’m in pain. Though in less pain than Bai Mo is, Fu Yucheng, do you have to be like that?! And that’s quite the cliffhanger, isn’t it?
Special thanks to Wintery for the speedy edits, and to all of you for reading~
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- Raws technically say 开颅手术 which is craniotomy but it can be surgery on the skull in general and in English seems to refer more to a surgery dealing just with the skull, so I took the more generic option.
- Technically it says intracranial hematoma in the raws but it doesn’t fit the tone.
- The raws do not clarify whether he thinks the consequences of the surgery would cause pain now or that the surgery must have been painful when he got it. I’m guessing the second, but it’s a guess.
- Specifically he calls him 闷葫芦 a closed off gourd, can also mean that someone/something is a puzzle or enigmatic.
- 假一赔十, it’s a kinda specific statement.
- 倒打一耙 hitting someone with a rake, from journey to the west, meaning making unfounded accusations to defend oneself.
- Specifically, Tiffany lamps, sometimes called Venetian as well.
- ’Ciao’ is in latin characters in the raws.