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Sweet and Not Fattening

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In the aftermath of everything, there's a whole lot to do, and somehow, for some reason, it falls on An Bai to do most of them. He's not entirely sure if this is better or worse than being stuck to that throne all the time. He hadn't been able to think of anything but recording everything, but at least he didn't really need to deal with the Regent all the time. So you know, it was mostly downsides, but at least it had that going for it.

He can still feel that compulsion tickling at the back of his mind at times. He still has that same awareness of Dixing whenever he sits down on the throne. He still records the important things, but he doesn't need to record every little thing now. And when he's not doing that there are negotiations with Haixing and reorganising—well, everything in Dixing. And quite frankly, An Bai is not qualified for any of it.

When the Black Cloaked Envoy and the Guardian both eventually come back from dying, An Bai is very, very relieved, even if Ye Zun also comes back with them. But since they all seem to get along now, An Bai is determined to not worry about that. He has enough to worry about already. Like all of Dixing and… and diplomacy. Except then the Guardian drags the Black Cloaked Envoy away, telling him in no uncertain terms that he's done enough and Dixing can take care of itself for a while.

He says that, right there in the throne room, in front of An Bai. He'd get it if he was sitting on the throne, it's still hard for him to pay attention to anything else when he's doing that and he wouldn't really blame people for acting like An Bai isn't there. But he's not on the throne, he's been talking to the Black Cloaked Envoy, telling him about what's been going on while they were gone and then the Guardian just sweeps inside and says all of that.

An Bai is not annoyed. It's the Guardian and the Black Cloaked Envoy would… disapprove of anyone who is annoyed with the Guardian. So, An Bai is not.

The Guardian has to repeat himself a few times before the Black Cloaked Envoy relents, and An Bai really sort of wants to say something, like point out the fact that An Bai really could use some help with everything. Except An Bai isn't an idiot, so he just stays quiet.

Then, finally, the Black Cloaked Envoy turns to look at An Bai and very solemnly asks if they can handle things on their own. And also says something about them having done well so far, which is nice of him, but An Bai really doesn't think that's exactly true. An Bai doesn't sigh and doesn't fall down on his knees and beg for the Black Cloaked Envoy to stay.

"Of course. Everything will be fine, my lord," he says instead. Because really, what else is he going to say? The Black Cloaked Envoy died for them and well, so did the Guardian. He's not wrong when he says that they've done enough for Dixing, and deserve a break.

An Bai hasn't died for Dixing. Yet. That's probably still on the schedule though, all things considered. Maybe he can ask the Black Cloaked Envoy about that. Later. After a year or two, maybe.

He really wishes the Regent could die for Dixing too. Because now An Bai will just have to keep on working with him. He's a smarmy bastard and An Bai would never trust him, but he does know a whole hell of a lot more about negotiating with Haixing and managing Dixing than An Bai does.

Maybe, with the Black Cloaked Envoy back among the living, An Bai can use the Black Cloaked Envoy to threaten the Regent to stay in line and not try to turn everything to his own benefit somehow. He doesn't need the Black Cloaked Envoy to actually be here for that, right?

Oh, great, now An Bai has a headache again. That's what thinking about the Regent does to you.

"You can contact me through Zhao Yunlan if you need to," the Black Cloaked Envoy says and gives the Guardian a meaningful look.

The Guardian sighs and then pats around in his pockets before finally pulling out a card and handing it to An Bai. Oh, yes. Phones. He can call the Guardian. Well, he can if he goes to Haixing and finds himself a phone, it's not like those are of any use in Dixing. But An Bai knows a few Dixingren in Haixing, so he can definitely manage that if he needs to.

"Thank you," he says with a bit more feeling than he meant to, clutching the card like it's a lifeline. He can definitely threaten the Regent if he's been given a way to contact the Black Cloaked Envoy. He'll bet that the Guardian won't agree to give his phone number to the Regent.

The Guardian blinks at him and then smiles faintly. Yes, An Bai was probably a bit too enthusiastic with that thank you. The headache is distracting him.

"You're welcome. Now, come on Xiao Wei, your brother was complaining about you being away," the Guardian says.

An Bai pretends very hard he didn't hear the rest of that statement, it wasn't meant for him anyway. He's far more comfortable not hearing anyone call the Black Cloaked Envoy Xiao Wei.

An Bai stares at the house and swallows. Getting here was nerve-wracking enough—he almost got hit by a car, twice! He's been up here for negotiations a couple of times, but that hardly makes him an expert on navigating Haixing. So, he's definitely going to go knock on that door, even if the prospect is making him more anxious than nearly getting run over by a car.

Neither the Guardian nor the Black Cloaked Envoy is at home. An Bai knows this because he'd finally managed to talk Dandan and An Song into spying for him. That had taken a lot of convincing, neither of them is ever paying for their own meals again, but it's still worth it.

An Bai has given this a whole lot of thought. They have a peace treaty with Haixing now and Dixing is more or less working as it should, or at least An Bai has figured out what he's doing enough that he can handle the rest without help from the Regent. So, it's definitely time to get rid of the Regent.

It's just that he's pretty sure that the Black Cloaked Envoy would disapprove. An Bai definitely doesn't want to do anything to make the Black Cloaked Envoy disapprove of him. Besides, An Bai's power is pretty useless anyway and while he could probably stab the Regent in his sleep, he really would prefer it if the Regent saw it coming.

So, he's here, to talk to the Black Cloaked Envoy's brother. An Bai has seen Ye Zun murdering people, and the Black Cloaked Envoy definitely doesn't disapprove of him. Not anymore, at least. An Bai isn't entirely certain how much the Black Cloaked Envoy disapproves of the murders, but he's sure he'll forgive his brother. Easier than he would An Bai anyway.

It's not like the Black Cloaked Envoy likes the Regent either, so hopefully he won't be that upset. But An Bai does have an itemised list of why the Regent is more trouble than he's worth, just in case he does need to explain himself to the Black Cloaked Envoy.

Now, he just needs to go over there and knock on that door and convince Ye Zun that he wants to eat the Regent. No problem at all.

It takes another five minutes before An Bai can make himself move.

His knock is just a bit hesitant, and he has to force himself to do it again, louder this time. He fidgets as he waits. And waits. If Dandan and An Song are wrong about Ye Zun being home… Well, An Bai probably won't manage to talk himself into braving this again.

Finally, when he's seriously contemplating leaving, the door actually opens and an annoyed looking Ye Zun glares at him. He's wearing a pair of ratty jeans and a light blue sweater, his hair pulled back on a loose ponytail. An Bai might kind of stare. Because that's definitely not how he's been imagining Ye Zun.

He'd left a permanent impression, and this is definitely not the intimidating image An Bai remembers. This is worse. He clicks his mouth shut and swallows. He thinks his palms are sweating, and he resists the urge to dry them on his jeans. He hasn't worn jeans in so long that they feel weird.

Ye Zun just stares at him, raising an eyebrow and saying nothing.

An Bai swallows again. Does Ye Zun remember him? He's not sure he'd exactly been worth paying attention to back then. "Uh… I'm… Dixing… King?" he stammers out.

Oh, great. Perfect. That'll make Ye Zun listen to him.

Ye Zun's eyebrow rises a bit higher, and his lip curls in a distinct sneer.

"What do you want?" Ye Zun asks. His voice makes An Bai want to shiver and maybe take a step back.

He swallows. Again. "Could you kill the Regent?" he blurts out, which is not at all the entirely reasonable argument he'd prepared for this.

Ye Zun blinks, and tilts his head a bit before saying, "Gege wouldn't be happy."

An Bai nods. He had an argument for that. He knows he did. It had been entirely logical. He can't really remember it right now. He swallows. His mouth is really, very dry. "Dixing doesn't need the Regent," he manages to get out. That had probably been somewhere in that entirely reasonable argument.

Ye Zun seems to think about it for a few heartbeats. Then he shrugs and with a small grin that makes An Bai want to shudder, he makes a small gesture, his clothes melting away into a familiar set of white robes.

"Well, gege isn't home to make me dinner," Ye Zun says. An Bai doesn't ask. He doesn't think he could manage words if he wanted to.

Really, that smile is very unsettling.

An Bai startles as a portal appears with a crackle and a sort of ripping noise.

"I guess you want to come too?" Ye Zun asks, like it really is an imposition.

An Bai nods jerkily. Terrifying or not, if possible he really would like to see this.

"Fine," Ye Zun says, and without any further ado, both of them vanish inside the portal.

An Song and Dandan look at him with not a small amount of surprise. They're the ones that came looking for him at the palace, did they expect him not to be there?

"You're alive," Dandan says.

Right, yes, that. An Bai is very glad about that fact. He's even more glad about the fact that the Regent is not.

He was right, watching him get eaten had been one of the best moments in An Bai's life. He feels a bit bad that An Song and Dandan couldn't be there, but it's not like he was going to ask Ye Zun to wait.

He grins at them. "I definitely owe both of you dinner," he says. He owes them all the dinners.

Besides, they need to celebrate.