“Hm?” He tastes blood. That can’t be good. Zhao Yunlan forces his eyes fully open, blinks his vision into focus. Takes in the scene around him. He’s lying on the grass in a park, and incongruously, it’s night-time. There’s Zhu Hong, smiling down at him, and next to her –
The stranger’s smile takes his breath away, full of relief, turning radiant a face that must be beautiful under any circumstances: dark eyes framed with long lashes and round glasses, high cheekbones thrown into sharp relief by deep shadows, and perfectly curved lips.
“Hey,” Zhao Yunlan breathes, returning the smile without quite knowing why, his chest warming at the sight.
Shen Wei was tidying the kitchen. He’d made and eaten his own breakfast, and prepared a meal for Zhao Yunlan which was now packed in a container in the fridge ready for whenever he got off his overnight shift at the SID. He’d just finished drying plates, and now he wiped down the counters at a leisurely pace. In no hurry, since he had no university duties that day.
He was unprepared for the front door to be thrown open with a slam, or for Zhao Yunlan to come charging in, panting and disarrayed.
“Shen Wei, good, listen,” Zhao Yunlan gasped out.
“Zhao Yunlan, what —”
“No, listen!” Zhao Yunlan gestured emphatically at him. “Don’t use your dark energy. For anything. You —”
“What do you —”
“We’re in a time loop,” Zhao Yunlan said. “You need to trust me.”
His partner for the night isn’t Zhao Yunlan’s usual type – except for the ways he is. He’d clearly been lost in the atmosphere of the bar and blinked doe-eyed at Zhao Yunlan when he’d slid up to offer him a drink. If it hadn’t been for the way his eyes had lingered on Zhao Yunlan’s mouth and the way he’d stared like he couldn’t quite believe that he was given the time of day, Zhao Yunlan might have bowed out. Instead, fast-forward ten minutes and Zhao Yunlan is on his knees in yet another dark alleyway, mouth full of a stranger’s cock.
The majestic and totally terrifying-in-a-sexy way Black Cloak Envoy took one look at Zhao Yunlan, frowned, turned to Zhao Xinci and said “No.” Then he walked out in a sparkling, billowing cloud of dark energy.
Zhao Yunlan blinked. “Did he…did he…was I just dumped ?”
His father, in a very satisfying change of pace, looked as confused as Zhao Yunlan felt. Still, he shook his head. “You cannot be ‘dumped’, you are the Guardian. The treaty is very clear about this.”
He had been promised that it was a ceremonial role only. His father explained that once the very bureaucratic and not-at-all-ever-consummated wedding was complete, the Guardian was not required to do anything more as the Black Cloak Envoy’s consort than show up a couple of times a year for Dixing religious events.
Ten minutes into the opera performance, a man with long, dark hair and a face as pretty as a woman’s stepped onto the small wooden stage and opened his mouth to sing. His voice was delicate, but the tone and tempo betrayed a banked passion all the more powerful for its reserve. He was covered in large swaths of deep pink makeup outlined in black. The ill-fitting clothes revealed every sharp angle of his body, every firm muscle.
Zhao Yunlan strained to hear him over the raucous laughter of the other patrons as they munched on peanuts and swilled cheap beer.