He had a client.
In an instant, Mo Xi seethed with anger, and was overwhelmed with disgust.
A mouthful of blood within his chest furiously boiled, his hands trembled with hatred.
But what should he resent?
Should he blame those who came to flip over Gu Mang’s sign? But they were just wasting their money to amuse themselves.
Should he hate Wangshu-Jun? But he was just following the imperial decree to humiliate the sinner.
So all he could do was resent Gu Mang.
Falling down to this point was what Gu Mang had brought onto himself. And as if rotting on his own wasn’t enough, he also had to drag Mo Xi to suffer together with him.
Mo Xi stared at the bright red words on the sign board. That red almost seemed to be some kind of incurable contagious disease, and easily, it spread through the depths of his eyes.
He suddenly felt that all of this was very familiar, as if he was reliving a nightmare.
Several years ago, they had also been at a brothel, and it had also been Gu Mang inside the room, while he suffered in agony as he stood outside.
At that time, he had just returned from an appointment, yet overheard that after the new Emperor had stripped Gu Mang of his powers, he was in a state of confusion and denial about it. Apparently he would waste his entire day away at brothels and places of leisure, drinking away his troubles —— He didn’t believe it.
But when he stood like a fool gasping for air in the dim light, passed through the sounds of girlish chatter1燕语莺声 (yàn yǔ yīng shēng) is an idiom that translates to “the chattering of swallows, the song of orioles” and refers to the sound of young girls chattering and laughing., and pushed open the heavy door made of sandalwood that led to the side chamber, he nevertheless saw that familiar figure in furthest corner of the chamber.
His face was still that same face, but the man seemed as if he was no longer that same man he knew.
Gu Mang was lying on the furthest end of the soft bed, surrounded by fine beads and jade, the incense from the ornamental golden beast incense burner burned slowly, bit by bit, one inch at a time, a pale blue cloud of smoke spiraling upwards, covering the room in a thick haze, making it difficult to see things clearly. Upon hearing the sounds of movement, he opened his bleary eyes and swept a glance over Mo Xi—— Yet, as if he could not see the anger and hurt on his old friend’s face, he just chuckled.
Mo Xi felt that along with Gu Mang’s smile that abandoned all restraints, something inside of his heart broke.
“It’s just sleeping together, you can do it with anyone. Why take it so seriously?” That was what Gu Mang had said to him back then.
Gu Mang never cared about these sort of things, which was why at that time, he could gasp in his bed, and while holding his worried face, he had comforted him, saying, It’s alright, Gu Mang-gege’s skin is thick, whatever you want to do, I can handle it. If shidi likes it, if shidi wants to……you can……….you can go harder………
In those years where they had been frantically entangled, Gu Mang had also been fucked to the point of crying, mumbling his name absentmindedly, choking back sobs of I love you.
But perhaps he didn’t take it seriously.
Which was why after that, he could still smile happily as he laid in the tender valley, without a single care about what happened in the past.
It was Mo Xi himself who was too stupid.
Like a foolish child, he actually took all those words of love muttered between the pillows seriously.
“What’s the big deal?”
After being abandoned by the new Emperor, the path Gu Mang chose was not to pull himself together. Perhaps it was what his Majesty had done, or that the deaths of some people had shattered his soul, and he wanted to throw his entire life into the quagmire.
Opium2The term used was 迷烟, which refers to some kind of vague smoke that can cause delusions, but for clarity sake I’m translating it as opium., alcohol, women.
He drowned himself in whatever could release the most illusions, for it was only in these mirages that could he still be the young General Gu that he thought he was; his brothers, comrades and the hot-blooded years they spent together never far from his side.
In the present, from the chamber of Luo Mei Garden Villa came the faint sounds of talking, and all Mo Xi felt was that he was unable to breathe. He suddenly turned around, walked to the end of the veranda, and faced outside to gasp for breath. His slender fingers gripped the window frame tightly, to the point that the wood split under his grip.
Mo Xi’s eyes reddened, and without a single word, he stared into the endless dark night.
This extremely ruthless word suddenly surfaced from inside of his heart. It was the first time in his entire life that he thought of such a vicious term to describe a person.
Gu Mang, that slut.
He once thought that he understood Gu Mang well, thought that he knew Gu Mang better than anyone else, and he had once been so foolish, keeping Gu Mang in his heart, treating him as the most treasured person in his life.
He had once been that dimwitted. Gu Mang had clearly taught him before that sleeping together didn’t really mean anything, and that sleeping together many times could only mean that they liked each other’s bodies. But he was unable to control himself from regarding him as his lover, one that he would forever aspire to be worthy of. In this respect, he was old-fashioned and stubborn, and no one could change this strong resolve of his.
As a result, he had once trusted Gu Mang so resolutely, that even when Gu Mang was later criticised by everyone, he also stood in the main hall of the Chonghua Imperial Palace and said to everyone—— I, Mo Xi, swear on my life that Gu Mang would never commit treason.
But Gu Mang lied to him.
Gu Mang betrayed him.
Betrayed his trust time and time again, betrayed his hopes day by day.
And in the end, he had even personally stabbed him through the chest, and told him that it was all beyond the point of no return.
He had once thought that it could not get any worse.
Who could have imagined that even now, Gu Mang could still crush his already shattered heart—
Before entering Luo Mei Garden Villa, Mo Xi had actually kept a small, faint hope in his heart. He had hoped that Gu Mang was still that same strong-willed Gu Mang he knew, the one who would never lower his face and bow to the rich and powerful, and never let them take away his smile3能低眉催首事权贵，使我不得开心颜 is a quote from a poem by Li Bai and translates to “Why should I lower my face and bow for the influential and rich, and take away my joyous smile?”. Full poem here.. If that had been the case, then perhaps, his heart that had long been riddled with the scars stabbed by Gu Mang, would have been able to find some relief.
But Gu Mang would not even give him this little bit of relief.
Mo Xi felt that all the bones under his flesh and blood were shaking and trembling with hatred.
In order to stay alive, Gu Mang could really resign himself to……to go as far as…..
With a bang, the door opened.
Mo Xi’s suddenly straightened his back stiff, like a hawk watching its prey attentively. He did turn around, but he could tell that the voice was coming Gu Mang’s direction.
Someone left Gu Mang’s room while cursing and swearing, spitting a mouthful of thick phlegm on the ground, and while continuing to curse, he descended down the stairs with heavy footsteps. The pungent smell of alcohol drifted through the veranda.
The client that had just left was a wasted drunkard.
Mo Xi’s disgust intensified, as he stood still in place, doing all he could to suppress the fury boiling within.
A long while passed, and the smell of alcohol had dispersed, the scent no longer lingering. Only then did he raise his head and close his eyes. He then slowly opened them, and with an almost mysterious tranquility, he wordlessly walked back to Gu Mang’s room.
Pausing, he lifted a black leather boot4ok meatbun we get it, he has Long Sexy Legs in Black Leather Boots, this is the 4th time…..im counting… and lightly kicked open the intricately carved door painted in lacquer that had just been closed.
He finally entered his room.
The lighting of the room was dim, lit by just a single oil lamp, and all around, the stomach-churning scent of alcohol still pervaded the air. With his face pulled taut, Mo Xi walked in, sweeping his eyes over his surroundings. No one was there.
He swept his eyes over the room once more, and halfway through, he noticed the sound of water trickling from behind the screen.
Gu Mang was taking a bath.
The realisation hit him like being struck by a blunt rod, causing his eyes to spin. He choked with madness, blood rushing up to his head5逆流而上 (nì liú ér shàng) is an idiom that translates to “sail against the current”, means to go against the flow, so in this context it’s implied his blood is rushing upwards rather than flowing normally!, searing his eyes red. He bit his lip and jerked his head to the side, his nails had long since dug deeply into his palms, and he suppressed his overflowing flames of fury with great difficulty.
But what did Gu Mang have to do with him now?! Whether he was humiliated, tormented, or even if he was…..he was……….it had nothing to do with him!
He had no idea that he would still be this furious, that his hatred and resentment had actually become increasingly stronger as the years passed.
In order to stop himself from losing control, Mo Xi sat by the small round table, then silently closed his eyes. As he waited for Gu Mang to come out, he thought to himself, when Gu Mang saw him, what would his expression be like?
When he himself saw Gu Mang, what should he even say?
While thinking about this, he gritted his teeth in silence for a long while, and was not even aware when the sounds of running water had stopped.
It was not until another candle was lit in the room that he snapped out of it. He opened his eyes as he slightly turned his head, and saw a young man wearing a white inner robe looking at at him silently, and he did not know how long he had already been doing so.
That face was still the same as the one in his memories.
But he had lost a little weight.
For a moment, no one spoke a word.
The young man stood silently, the front of his robe was loose, and on his neck was a cursed shackle collar6T/N: Don’t worry this gets explained later but just keep it in your thoughts!. His feet were bare, and his uncombed pitch-black hair hung loosely off his shoulders, framing that pale and thin face of his, making his eyes seem exceptionally bright. He had just washed himself, and his water dripped from his hair one drop at a time, trailing down his his neck, to his collarbone, down to his chest…….until it was hidden under the shadows of the front of his robe, no longer able to be seen, just leaving behind faint trails of wetness.
The room was unbearably quiet, causing the sounds of passionate lovemaking from the neighbouring room to seem even more ear-piercing.
The whites of Mo Xi’s eyes were still slightly red, and his clenched fists were still shaking. He stared at that man, his Adam’s apple bobbing, and though he wanted to say something, he was unable to say a word.
At long last, they meet. At long last, they meet again.
He had so many questions on his mind before, yet at that moment, he could not think of a single one.
The only thing that flashed before his blurry eyes was that scene on the warship from many years ago; a stolen blue and gold ribbon on worn crookedly on Gu Mang’s forehead, a bayonet dripping with blood lifting his cheek, and a complicated gaze as he said him, I really will kill you.
Back then, Moxi had thought that perhaps, this was the end of the line for them.
But right now, Gu Mang was in front of him once more, his expression calm as he silently looked towards him.
It was quite laughable. His hatred ran so deep, yet at this moment, because he was distracted, Mo Xi failed notice Gu Mang’s appearance in time, and missed the chance to see Gu Mang’s first reaction upon seeing him.
And at this moment, Gu Mang was calm and did not show any sort of reaction, just looking at him like he would have looked at every customer that walked through his doors over the past two years, not carrying a single trace of the emotions that Mo Xi had been familiar with.
It was unexpectedly such a tranquil reunion.
So tranquil that it was slightly unnerving.
They stared at each other for a while, and then Gu Mang walked over and sat down by Mo Xi’s side.
This calm move had probably exceeded Mo Xi’s expectations, and though his face still remained unmoved, he still subconsciously shifted back a little.
Gu Mang suddenly picked up a small bamboo scroll from the table, silently passing it to him.
Mo Xi did not know what it was for, but still received it, and borrowing the faint light from the candles, he unraveled the scroll. His eyes skimmed over the contents, but in a flash, his blood boiled, then wash over with a chill.
When he reached the end, he closed his eyes, then viciously threw the bamboo scroll on the table.
The tranquil atmosphere was shaken.
“………Gu Mang.” Mo Xi stared at him, continuing to hold himself back, but the lava flowing in his eyes burned brighter, and his knuckles also cracked, “Are you fucking insane?”
“You must choose.”
Gu Mang opened his mouth.
They had finally met again after such a long time, and the first thing he said was unexpectedly just these three words.
Once more, he picked up the bamboo scroll, and placed it in Mo Xi’s hand again: “Choose one.”
“What did you think I came here for?!”
Gu Mang seemed to only know how to say this one word: “Choose.”
Mo Xi was so angry that he could probably ascend7a term that also means “to die”, so basically he was so angry that he practically could just die on the spot. His chest rose and fell with ragged breathing, and his pair of bright, black eyes filled with an air of hostility. The redness of his eyes intensified with his fury, resentment and sorrow, all of it reflected in that bloody shade of red.
He picked up that small tied-up bamboo scroll, then after a while, he once again tossed it on the table.
The bamboo scroll split open on impact, and written neatly on it was the Luo Mei Garden Villa price listing. From chatting or accompanying for drinks, down to venting anger, to tyrannising, to….to….
Mo Xi suddenly jerked his eyes away.
“If you do not choose, then what should I do?”
Mo Xi was on the verge of being driven insane by him, but he stubbornly endured. He was extremely irritated, but he was also extremely good at holding back his urges, and so he spat out through his gritted teeth: “What do you mean by what should you do?”
Gu Mang calmly looked at him, his gaze like a deep well without a single ripple8无波古井 (wú bō gǔ jǐng) literally translates to ‘well with no ripples’ and is meant to symbolise a silent and calm kind of feeling: “Didn’t you come to whore me?”
Mo Xi’s face was frozen stiff.
He didn’t dare to believe that there would be a day he would ever have to be associated with such a word.
Just the thought of it made him feel like his stomach was beginning to spasm.
“Gu Mang, you……”
“Everyone comes here to do that.” Gu Mang said, “If you do not do it, why are you here?”
For the third time, he grabbed the bamboo scroll, raised it, and unrolled it in front of Mo Xi.
“Choose, or go.”
The author has something to say:
《The Past and the Present》
Mo Xi: I don’t care about Gu Mang.
Mo Xi: We’ve split up already.
Mo Xi: Whether he’s dead or alive is not my business.
Mo Xi: You betrayed me.
Mo Xi: You abandoned me after playing with my heart.
Mo Xi: If you weren’t serious about it, why did you seduce me?!!!!!
Gu Mang: My friends, I hope you’ve learned a lesson. There are some men, that no matter how long their legs, how handsome their faces, how good they are at sex, you should still never get in bed with them. Otherwise, even though he was the one that clearly fucked you, he still insists that you take responsibility orz…………
Translator’s Note: Gu Mang talks in a very short, awkward and almost babyish style, which is why I tried to convey the awkwardness of his speech by using very easy/basic words, hope that came through! Thank you so much to liyou, bao and my TL for helping me with a lot of things I struggled with this chapter!