The man in the door had the makings of a heartbreaker. Tall and handsome, with a youthful face and flirty features. His slightly wavy hair was messily pulled back, revealing his face perfectly. The red brocade clothes embroidered with golden feathers spoke loudly enough about his status.
“Prince!”, someone cried out from farther down the hallway, a bit indignant but also desperate.
Shi Yue looked at him with a deadpan face. The man’s smile widened more and more.
He let go of the door and strutted into the room, looking around and clicking his tongue. “Sheesh, you are hoarding all the beauties for yourself! How dare you, Shi Yue! You can’t come here and enjoy this without me.”
He patted his chest in an arrogant manner, his rust coloured eyes shining.
Behind him, another man ran into the room, wheezing.
He was a delicate, scholarly figure with a serious face, immediately apologizing for the disturbance as soon as he stepped in.
“Huo Cheng”, Shi Yue greeted with a sigh and stood up.
The prince ignored his greeting, walking in a circle to the beauty at the entrance and kissing her hand.
“There are so many nice little cuties in here, Shi Yue! I can’t believe it. Didn’t we always say we would share?”
“That was what you said. I never said-”
“Even the good food! How rude. I want some of it, too!” He went another circle, never quite stopping, just like a twittering bird. He stole a few grapes and threw them into his mouth, then spotted Tiankong and did the next circle.
Looking down, he made an exasperated sound. “You haven’t shared that one with me, either! What’s this, you’re hooking up with such a treasure and never introduce me?”
“Beauty, why are you wearing a mask? Such a pretty face, why not share it with the world? Ahh, if you’re bored with Shi Yue, why not follow me? I’ll treat you well.”
Huo Cheng wasn’t a bad person.
He was a prince who took his responsibilities seriously and never skipped on finishing his work before having fun.
He just had three very bad habits.
Number one was his obsession with fighting that often led him into trouble.
Number two was that, as a prince, he had forgotten that you shouldn’t randomly interrupt people but let them speak. A common court disease.
Number three was that he was a little western dragon. He hoarded absolutely anything beautiful; be it jewels, paintings, or people.
He hardly even touched the people that he took home, though. There was rarely sexual interest unlike what most people thought, it was more an appreciation of their looks. He liked having them around and surrounding himself with them. Those that he liked sexually were never taken home.
More than enough were willing to do exactly that but he liked forgetting that there were people more powerful than him on this planet. People he shouldn’t offend.
Tiankong was either annoyed into silence, or he thought it below his status to play along. He didn’t get angry.
“Xiao Han, would you reign him in, please”, Shi Yue called for the fidgety little scholar with a sigh. Lu Han was someone put beside Huo Cheng years ago.
Huo Cheng was a cultivator and already an adult. Technically speaking, he wasn’t a prince anymore - the current king was already his grand-nephew.
However, Huo Cheng still looked young and had a youthful demeanour as someone who liked enjoying his life.
The king had placed Lu Han at his side when the boy was just six years old in hopes of Huo Cheng calming down a bit.
And indeed, Lu Han was one of the only people who could stop the prince. As for why, Shi Yue knew - and maybe Huo Cheng knew, too, but decided to reject it.
You couldn’t be seen carrying a sleeping man into his bed and sitting at his side for minutes, mutely staring with a dumb smile and brushing over his hair and cheek… and then saying that you weren’t close.
Huo Cheng had his own problems; if he didn’t want to acknowledge that Lu Han was the most important existence in his life, then it wasn’t a matter that he could involve himself with.
Nonetheless - it was useful when Huo Cheng needed to be controlled.
Lu Han nodded seriously and ran over to push Huo Cheng away from Tiankong. “Prince! Behave courteously!”
From the start, Huo Cheng was only playing around, so once he heard Lu Han’s angry tone, he immediately raised his hands in surrender.
Finally, he stopped to greet everyone in the room. “My apologies for barging in here like that.”
“Greetings, Your Highness”, all kinds of voices echoed, giving a courtesy before continuing with what they had been doing.
Huo Cheng’s bright eyes jumped right back to Tiankong - the only person who looked peacefully unaffected by everything.
“Dear friend, my name is Huo Cheng. How may I call you?”, he asked amicably. A friend of Shi Yue’s was a friend of his!
“Tiankong”, the man answered simply before going back to listening to the women’s playing.
Huo Cheng looked at him with a silly, stunned face. He hadn’t expected to be treated coldly like that. Confused, he gestured to Shi Yue.
“That’s how he is, it’s nothing personal”, he whispered quietly. “What are you doing here?”
“I was bored”, Huo Cheng admitted. “Besides, I’ve found that ancient array you wanted me to bring.”
“Array?”, an excited voice from the side spoke up.
Huo Cheng felt a gaze on him.
Two minutes later, he was beginning to see what Shi Yue had meant by ‘he had discovered a genius’.
Barely keeping his jaw from dropping, Huo Cheng watched Tiankong transform from a stern, quiet person to an absolute chatterbox who couldn’t sit still.
“Fascinating”, he said dumbly.
“Isn’t it?”, Tiankong responded.
They were talking about completely different things. The masked cultivator didn’t notice.
Shi Yue felt somewhat glad at the sight of his dear friend sitting in a circle with his… new friend? Relationships between cultivators were always a bit complicated to name.
“Darling, you are a gem”, Huo Cheng swooned, pouring Tiankong a cup. He had already noticed that this was very useful for getting the man in a good mood.
Tiankong didn’t reject the cup but continued to drink happily while his long fingers moved to draw more and more runes.
The atmosphere was relaxed.
Lu Han, as a servant, was watching from a bit farther away and waiting next to the servant girls. With all three of them looking so average, he almost looked like he belonged there.
The three handsome men were leisurely sitting in a circle on the ground. The music echoed on.
“Are you part of the Virtuous Sect, too? Shi Yue, bring him over the next time, as well”, Huo Cheng asked, patting the other man’s shoulder. He was fully intent on forging a good relationship with the masked man.
Shi Yue gave him an awkward smile. “I apologize. I, myself, will have to see how often I can meet him.”
Huo Cheng shut up instantly. For Shi Yue to talk in such a roundabout way, it was clear that things were going on.
“Too bad”, he said with a wry smile. “But Darling, let’s be friends anyway!”
“No”, Tiankong rejected him.
Huo Cheng stared. He thought they were getting along. “Why?”
Although he hadn’t taken off his mask, Huo Cheng felt his gaze move over to him and hold his own. He swallowed. Had he offended the man?
“Too hard to maintain so many relationships”, Tiankong said seriously.
One of the girls playing the qin missed a note.
“Is he serious?”, the prince asked Shi Yue with an incredulous gaze, rudely pointing at the man to his left.
Shi Yue bit into a delicate pastry and chewed it calmly. “I would say yes.”
Xie Yi was just as bad at juggling relationships. He could never focus on more than one person at once when they were in a group. It was a lot of work for him to watch other people’s reactions and decide how to judge them.
“Well, I mean, you won’t see me that often”, Huo Cheng carefully tried to convince him. “Why don’t you consider it? We would be friends, but without it being too complicated.”
“Oh.” A pause. “Then it’s fine.”
Huo Cheng looked at him for another while, then covered his face with his hands. “I like him.”
Shi Yue couldn’t agree more. There was something incredibly charming about a powerful man who was so serious and yet innocent about relationships.
“What a wonderful day”, Huo Cheng sighed, waving his hand to call over one of the girls that were on standby after the song had changed. She hid her laugh behind her sleeve and walked over coquettishly.
Huo Cheng quite directly pulled her into his lap. His hands were moving over her silky skin, suggestive and perverted.