The party was . . dull.
That was Hua Cheng’s first impression, at least, and, after humoring Yin Yu and ‘giving it a try,’ he found that his initial impression was perfectly accurate.
His cynicism was mirrored perfectly by one of his companions -- He Xuan -- and condemned greatly, but silently, by his other -- the previously mentioned Yin Yu, who had since disappeared after his helpful ‘give it a try’ advice, and he was now laughing uproariously with another noble, who had long, curly hair and wandering hands.
“I swear,” He Xuan, known more commonly by his moniker Black Water, said with disdain dripping from every word. “How can he suffer this? We were just at war not even a year ago, yet they expect us to laugh like nothing ever happened. Ridiculous!” He took a sip from his crystalline champagne glass, glaring at the nearest masked party-goer with a grim expression.
“Concur,” Hua Cheng agreed, placing his own glass on the tray of a nearby server and taking another. He watched the boy silently move away. All of the servers moved like wraiths; unseen and unnoticed; navigating through the throngs of people, silent as the dead. “Yin Yu of all people letting go of a grudge is unheard of.”
“All of the people here,” he scoffed, ever the pessimist. “I can’t believe any of them. Look at them prance around like fancy fucking peacocks. I doubt any of them even like each other.”
Hua Cheng sighed deeply, but he couldn't help but agree. He brought a finger up to touch the border of his velvet-red and void-black mask with light fingertips. It was specially made for him: the hole over the right eye had been closed, replaced with a line of black paint to imitate one. He’d had a headache since he arrived at the party, and it was only getting worse as the hours dragged on. He didn’t know how long they’d been there, but he was definitely ready to leave.
The man Yin Yu was with -- clad in gold and white with a matching mask, sparkling like a shining prince -- was smiling like he was on drugs, and staring at Yin Yu like he was the only one in the room.
Yin Yu’s eyes were down at the ground -- or at least his white and black chrome mask was pointed to the ground -- but, no matter how he tried to stop it, his lips were twitching into a wide smile visible even from their distance.
“Ugh,” Black Water said, his eyes on the same scene. “Disgusting. I swear.”
Hua Cheng shook his head a bit, sighing deeply and downing the rest of the alcohol in his glass. “I am this close to ditching this entire event. Politics be damned.”
Black Water looked like he wanted to agree, but just shook his head ruefully. “Normally I’d agree, but it wouldn’t be worth it and you know it.”
He sighed again, rubbing at his temples. His introspection was inturrupted abruptly, though, as someone stumbled over to their secluded little corner.
It was . . . an interesting person, for sure. They had curly hair almost all the way down to their ass, tied and pinned up intricately with gold and silver accessories glinting all over their person.
They were very clearly incredibly intoxicated.
They stumbled over, giggling incessantly, not seeming to notice th etwo witnesses. For all the obvious drunkenness, the person’s eyes were clear as spring pools. They were rather attractive, even with the blue and white mask on, glinting and glimmering with pearls. Their lips were already shaped like a smile, but they hitched wider when they caught sight of Hua Cheng and Black Water, gaze roving them over, slow and lascivious.
Hua Cheng’s eyebrow hitched in amusement, but Black Water’s expression closed off immediately.
“No,” he said, tone positively harassed.
“Aw,” the person whined, taking another step forward, though they stumbled, catching themself right on Black Water.
He extended his hands, like he wanted to push the person away, though he just let them cling to him, looking to Hua Cheng helplessly.
“My brother’s being no fun tonight, so I slipped away,” they muttered, arms going up to encircle Black Water’s neck like their positioning had been a conscious choice rather than a result of drunken uncoordination. “Come on. I think you could help me make this night so much better.”
Black Water’s eyebrow twitched in annoyance, but red was slowly bleeding into his cheeks, his arms still out helplessly.
Hua Cheng was having a ball trying to contain his laughter, hand slapped over his mouth and the other over his stomach, though aside from a brief glare, Black Water barely seemed to have the brain-space to worry about him.
“You should go find your brother, my . . . lady . . . ?”
“My lord, tonight, I think,” he hummed, tucking his face into Black Water’s neck and nuzzling his nose over it.
“I’ll . . . help you find your brother,” he said, voice tight and laced with panic as he placed his hands on the man’s shoulders and held him an arms-length away.
“Actually,” he said, not discouraged in the least by the added distance. “I know where some bedrooms are around this place if you wanna -- ”
“No! No, no, no, no. No. Brother. Find you brother. We’ll find . . . your . . . brother.” His tone on the last word had gone up an octave as the man brought his hands to Black Water’s chest and ran them down his abs before Black water caught them. “I’ll be back,” he said to Hua Cheng, aiming for serious, though his cheeks were still flushed and the man was whining at him like a kicked dog.
“Oh, no,” Hua Cheng said, laughter bleeding in to the words as he enunciated, “Take your time.” He waved a hand as Black Water shot him a glare. “C’mon! Have some fun, Black Water! Find one of the bedrooms he was talking about. It's not like there's any other fun around here.”
Black Water shot him another grave look as he led the man away. He slipped an arm around Black Water’s waist and Black Water let him.
Hua Cheng finally let himself fall against the wall cackling, earning a few weird looks, though most of them were too absorbed in their own lives to care.
The alcohol in the glasses was diluted: this was a political party, after all, and most people wanted to be in their right minds when making important connections and decisions. This gave Hua Cheng a new respect for that guy Black Water left with; he must’ve been either incredibly intent on getting drunk here, or an incredible lightweight.
“You seem to be enjoying yourself,” commented a new voice with polite gentleness.
Hua Cheng, laughter gradually dying in his throat, turned to look at the newcomer. He said nothing, at first, just looked.
The newcomer was a man, rather a lot shorter than he himself was. He wore nice white robes, though not too extravagant. His hair was longer even than that other curly-haired man who’d led Black Water away, about down to his thighs, tied up simply. He had a mask, white as snow and glittering in the low lighting, obstructing his kind eyes, and he had bandages around his neck.
“I apologize. I didn’t mean to spoil your fun,” he said, offering an apologetic frown, his hands clasped together tightly in front of himself.
“You haven’t spoiled anything,” he said, still reclining against the wall casually, head inclined a bit and a smile twisting his lips.
The man’s face brightened back into a smile and he tilted his head a bit. “Oh, good, good. I just saw you over here, and wondered why you weren’t enjoying the festivities. If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”
Hua Cheng smiled even wider, eyeing the man up and down. He was . . . overwhelmingly pretty, even with just the few features visible despite the mask.
“It’s . . . a bit dull.” When the man's face fell, he raised a hand placatingly, backtracking immdeaitely. “No, no, that’s not what I meant,” he assured him, straightening up to stand fully and gloss over his words. “It’s not what I’m used to, that's all, but we’re all having fun.”
“We?” the man asked, his brief frown washed quickly off his face and replaced with another soft smile. “You’re not alone? I thought I saw someone else with you earlier, but I didn’t see them again.”
“Ah, yes,” he hummed. “My good friend was led away by a very, very drunk stranger.”
“Very drunk?” he said, voice politely surprised. “In blue? Lots of jewelry? With a pearl mask?”
Hua Cheng snapped his fingers. “That’s the one.”
He shook his head lightly, touching light fingertips to his mask with a sigh. “I’m terribly sorry. That’s Shi Qingxuan. His brother just let me know he’d lost sight of him. I’ll let him know Qingxuan’s safe.”
Hua Cheng was expecting him to move away elegantly to find this mysterious brother, but he just smiled, head tilted slightly downward as he muttered, “Later.”
“Of course, of course,” Hua Cheng said with a low chuckle, taking a glass from a nearby server and offering it to the man with a raised eyebrow.
He took it with a “Thank you,” and sipped.
“Well, actually, I was rather bored over here in the corner by myself, but now I think I’m,” he took another step closer to the man -- might as well, really -- “thoroughly . . . entertained.”
“Oh!” he whispered at this new closeness; a pleased, surprised sound as he tilted his head upward to peer at Hua Cheng.
He noticed the glass in the man’s hand shake slightly with how tight he was gripping it and Hua Cheng was slightly worried it would break, so he took it gently from the vice-grip and placed it, along with his own, on a nearby table.
The man turned his head, looking at the two glasses.
Hua Cheng was . . . very taken by that sight. His neck was long, and where the pristine white bandages didn’t cover, the skin was pale as jade, begging for angry red marks.
“Join me on the dance floor?” he asked, extending a hand.
After a second, the man took it.
His palm was smooth; hand soft and warm, and Hua Cheng was instantly consumed with it: his mind full of skin on skin, palm against palm.
When they got to the dance floor, they drew some strange looks, but Hua Cheng was in no place to notice.
This was absolutely insane. As soon as the man had appeared in his sightline, the interest had been laid like gasoline and tinder across his mind, but the second they touched skin, it was like it was ignited. He was unable to even pull his eyes away, now.
He could see a bit of a flush on the man’s face, and he bit his lip nervously. Hua Cheng followed the movement with his eye with great interest. He wrapped an arm around the man’s waist and pulled him close, his other hand tangling with his as the dance began. The man had to tilt his head up rather a lot to actually look Hua Cheng in the eye, and his hair tumbled back behind him like a waterfall, his light eyes were deep and warm as they made contact with Hua Cheng’s own before they slid away like molasses to focus somewhere past his head.
“So,” Hua Cheng said, taking them through the moves expertly. “Why did you decide to approach me?”
The man opened his mouth, but it took a second before he actually spoke. “Well,” he said slowly, before clearing his throat. “I caught sight of you with your companion, as I said, then I see you again, and you’re . . . alone.” He ducked his head a bit, as if embarrassed as he finished in a low voice, “You looked like you were having fun.”
“I was,” he said, lips twitching into a rakish smile. “But I think I’m having more fun now.”
“Oh,” he said again, very, very soft. His head ducked even farther and his hand tightened on Hua Cheng’s.
He held back a laugh as the man’s ears began tinting slightly red.
“I’m . . . enjoying myself as well,” he said, still quiet.
“I’m glad,” he whispered, ducking his head too to whisper the words into the man’s ear. “I think we could be having more fun, though . . . if you know where a bedroom is in this place.”
“Oh!” this said with a tone completely different than before, and his ears flamed even redder, and, when he turned his face up in surprise, his face was flushed too, and slowly taking on a more vivid color by the second. His mouth was open slightly and it moved as if floundering.
Hua Cheng found it . . . very endearing. He smiled a bit, tugging the man just a bit closer. “Unless,” he said slowly, “you’d not like you?”
“I didn’t say that!” he said, too fast, too loud, making some people look over for only a half-second before returning to themselves.
“Oh?” he asked. He tried not to make it sound teasing, but his face was getting redder and redder every second, and when Hua Cheng spoke, the man grimaced a bit, his eyes even wider.
“I -- I just mean -- I mean -- It’s just -- ”
Hua Cheng waited patiently for him to finish, one eyebrow arched and trying desperately to suppress his stupid grin.
Eventually, he just shut his mouth with a click and let out a pitiful noise.
“Hm?” he asked, still trying desperately not to make fun, but failing miserably. “I didn’t quite catch that. Is that a yes?”
“You -- you’re teasing!” he said, ducking his head again with another pathetic noise. “I can’t -- I -- I can’t think!”
“Am I that dashingly handsome? You can’t even think properly when I’m around?”
“You -- you shouldn’t say such shameless things!” he said this in a stage-whisper, with great feeling.
“Bedroom?” he asked again, the tone sing-song.
“I -- I mean,” he paused, licking his lips and averting his eyes downward. “I might . . . know where . . . a bedroom is.”
He ducked his head even more so his breathy laugh would be right at the man’s ear. He felt the shiver run all the way down the man’s back. “Perfect.”
The moment they were in the room, Hua Cheng slammed the man’s back against the door, earning him a surprised cry that transformed into a throaty groan when he fulfilled his earlier desires and latched onto his neck, sucking angry red marks into the skin just below his jaw.
He tilted his head up to let him, digging his hands into Hua Cheng’s hair.
His low noises were turned sharply into cries when Hua Cheng sank his teeth into the skin.
Hua Cheng hummed, pleased, and did it again, tugging down the bandages, pausing to see if the man would protest, but he didn’t.
When they were gone, he realized the skin wasn’t quite so unmarked as he thought: there was a line of intricate blank marks all around his neck.
He dragged his lips across them with another hum. “Impressive.”
“I was -- really -- really . . . drunk,” he panted.
He had a ball picturing the man in front of him drunk. “I’d like to see that sometime.”
“You might,” he said immediately, and it made Hua Cheng pause.
He pressed himself even harder into the man, draping himself across him. “I’m not kidding,” he said, tone losing its joking edge.
The man’s face was still flushed, but his eyes were clear as one corner of his mouth picked up. lHe lifted a single finger to tug the mask off. “Neither was I.”
They didn’t go to sleep any time soon.
Pouding was what woke Hua Cheng up, and he jumped violently, his mind taking a moment to process exactly where he was.
Memories of the night before gradually flooded in, then the memories of the night before came all at once.
In fact, the man’s sleeping form was still right in front of him, head pillowed on his hand, lips parted slightly, eyelashes against his pale cheeks. His hair splayed haphazardly around, stark against the white of the sheets and pillows.
But there was still that infernal pouding.
“DIANXIA! DIANXIA I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!”
The shout was what made the man’s eyes snap open and he bolted up immediately, though sleep still clung to him, and he fell with an oomph, collapsing on top of Hua Cheng, whose arm went around him immediately.
“Hey,” he said, grimacing at the continued pounding. “Who’s that? You said it was fine if we stayed here until morning, but . . . that doesn’t sound . . . fine.”
“Yeah. No. Totally fine,” he said, groggily, running a hand down his face.
“DIANXIA! OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR OR I’LL BUST IT DOWN!”
Another voice went in to join it, more subdued, though still sour and still loud. “Dianxia, this is a big deal. What’ll everyone say if you don’t come out? You wanna get us fired?”
Hua Cheng’s eyebrows shot up immediately and he stared in disbelief, reaching over to the bedside table to paw at his eyepatch and slide it on. “Hide?”
“Please,” he said, looking like it caused him physical pain. “I didn’t . . . think. Oh, no, this is bad!”
He went to stand, realized he was naked, and took the bedsheet to wrap around his waist, leaving Hua Cheng watching him with bemusement from the bed.
“Just a minute!” the man called to the door. Then he peered at Hua Cheng, his eyes panicked. “I am so, so sorry, but they really, really can’t . . . see you.”
Hua Cheng shrugged an elegant shoulder, lazy smile back on his face. “Sure.”
“Uh . . . sure?”
“Yeah. Sure.” He shrugged again, standing from the bed elegantly, still naked.
The man’s eyes trailed down his body slowly before he realized what he was doing, yelped, and slapped a hand over his eyes.
“What, gege?” he asked, the nickname fond on his tongue in place of a real name -- which he intended to get -- as he stepped over and ran a hand into 'gege's hair, catching on knots and pulling, making him let out a low sound in his throat, eyes fluttering slightly as he continued to tug.
He snapped out of it quick when there was another banging on the door and he shook his hands haphazardly, taking a step back. “Hide. Hide, hide, hide, hide. Please.”
Hua Cheng raised his hand in surrender, eyes casting around the ground for his own vivid red clothing and picking up his outer-most robe, slipping it on easily. A casual sweep of his eyes produced a good enough place: behind the opened curtains.
He went and stepped into one so he was hidden behind the fabric. “Am I hidden?” he asked, amused, like it was a game.
“Uh -- lemme check. . . . Yeah, no, I can’t see you. We’re good. Thank you, uh, you. I’m really sorry.”
“It’s alright. This is fun. Go on, open the door. Your friends are rather anxious to see you.”
The door did, in fact, open, and two sets of angry footsteps came in, accompanied by two lecturing voices, though one rose high above the other.
“YOU CAN’T FUCKING DO THAT!” it raged, heavy footsteps backing here and there. “YOU DIDN’T COME BACK AND I THOUGHT YOU FUCKING DIED!”
“Feng Xin, lower your voice!” the second one snapped.
“LOWER MY -- " there was a slap and an "-- OW! FUCKER!”
“Feng Xin, Mu Qing, don’t fight,” the man said placatingly. “Really, I was fine, I promise.”
“Like fucking shit.” This was, presumably, Feng Xin again, the pacing still going, step, step, step -- a pause, suddenly. “Why are you naked?”
“Aheh,” he laughed lamely. “Well, I mean, that’s not really . . important -- ”
“Bullshit!” This was the other voice now, and he sounded like he was losing his temper too now. “Don’t tell me you worried us all night, made us search the entire fucking building. I thought your parents would have our fucking heads!”
“Mu Qing -- ”
“No!” Feng Xin again. “For once, we agree! You can’t just ditch everything to -- to what? Fuck some random masked person? Do you even know their name?”
“I -- ” he faltered, cleared his throat, tried again, “I wasn’t in any danger -- ”
“Everyone thought you were!” Mu Qing. “And that’s the fucking point! It’s like this is -- what -- a joke?”
“Can we talk about this another time, I have something really impo -- ”
“ANOTHER TIME?” they both screeched in tandem, as if they’d rehearsed it.
“Shameless!” Feng Xin’s pacing continued, heavy shoes against the floor; again, again, again, again. “I cannot believe -- ”
“You! You are not allowed in here!” This from Mu Qing, as another set of footsteps came near.
Hua Cheng, behind the curtains, naked, was extremely amused. He wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, especially with the mental picture of the man with a bedsheet around his waist as more people poured in, trying to mediate.
“Qingxuan!” the man said, and his voice was stretched incredibly taut. “What are you -- who’s this?”
“Where the fuck is Crimson Rain? If you fucker’s have done something, I swear I will skin every single one of you alive.”
Hua Cheng almost laughed out loud as he recognized Black Water’s voice.
“Threats, huh? I know you! You’re Black Water! You come here to our kingdom and threaten the Crown Prince?” Feng Xin ranted, his voice getting louder and louder.
“I swear -- ”
“Black Water, heel,” this was Hua Cheng, stepping from the curtain wearing nothing but his confident, easy grin, his eyepatch, and an extremely revealing robe.
“Crimson Rain!” Black Water screeched immediately, face slowly bleeding to unchecked rage as he held his hands out as if ready to choke him. “I turn away for one fucking second -- ”
“There was someone else here!” this from the voice of Mu Qing, his figure sharp and elegant and furious.
In fact, the anger was mirrored on everyone's face but the man’s -- the Crown Prince? That was an interesting development -- and on Qingxuan’s, who seemed like he was watching a dramatic play as he hung off Black Water's arm -- that was interesting too.
Xie Lian, still with nothing but a sheet around his waist -- and amazing abs on display -- smiled apologetically, but also with panic in his eyes. “This is . . . something.”
“Well. Black Water and I must leave for now. It’s been fun.” Hua Cheng left the rest of his clothes there, making the entire way with nothing but his robe, which . . . to put it light: barely covered enough.
A month later, Hua Cheng is in a very similar situation with who he now knows is Xie Lian, the Crown Prince.
This distinguished price’s clothes are in a heap on the floor, and he has the dastardly Crimson Rain’s fingers in his mouth with drool dripping down his chin and whimpers falling from his mouth.
Oh yeah. Diplomatic relations were definitely going well.