Every so often, General Boli would take his rest by his desk.
No one dared to fuss over him during this time, for good reason. For having all the vitality of a Wolf, this man actually sleeps like a Wild Boar. His temper is well known throughout the valley. Servants and soldiers alike knew the consequences if they dared to wake the General from his heavy slumber. Tales of General Boli destroying a tent or two was commonplace. Anyone who was unfortunate enough to cross his path during such a half-awake rampage would surely break a bone or two.
On one occasion several years back, Boli fell asleep before the Banquet started. It was an event being held for the Great General after his triumph of capturing another city. Given it took three days without even a moment to close his eyes to lay siege successfully, of course the man would want to sleep for the next three days to make up for the lost time. However, not all the soldiers in attendance at the party knew of the General’s temperament. A group of enthusiastic youths crashed into the tent, intending to drag out their hero to attend the celebration, but met with the eyes of the Devil.
Correction, it was not the Devil they met that night, but Death himself.
The Wolf of the Valley, who was not yet recovered from his exhaustion, somehow managed to destroy his tent and knocked down his own soldiers, and the rest of the banquet. The clever ones had already run for their lives when they saw that Death was after their skins. Despite the damage and the horror of that night, no casualties were recorded, but it didn't mean the soldiers were left unscathed. One fifth required the healer’s attention. For that reason, the army now has many healers at their disposal in case their great Hero wakes up before he should.
One would presume to work with such an ill-tempered General, the whole army would be destroyed by now. However, this wasn’t always the case. A few requirements had to be met before the God of Wrath appeared. First, the General had fallen asleep due to exhaustion. Second, he had missed several of his meals. And lastly, he was still dressed in his armor, which is the most puzzling requirement among the three, but definitely a tell-tale sign.
However, due to the horrors they had witnessed and the knowledge the rumors were far from an exaggeration, especially when survival instinct was at play, once the army had heard the news that General Boli had taken a nap in his armor, there wouldn't be a soul within half a Li of his tent.
Some would think attacking the unprotected General while he napped would be a great tactic for his enemies. For those fools who tried, countless unfortunate enemy souls never saw the next sunrise due to their stupidity. Why should anyone wake up a Beast from his slumber?
Far and wide, everyone knew of the General’s habit and kept their distance. All except for the unsuspecting Scholar, the tribute he had gained with his own powers. Although, Qi Heng was on friendly terms with the escort party, who told him many tales of their hero to appease his anxiety; Yet, none had mentioned to the Scholar of the Sleeping Demon’s Wrath, given how loyal Boli’s people were.
For one, it would not be wise to scare the soon to be bride before the wedding. Especially when Qi Heng was already nervous around their General.
As the others made their escape, Qi Heng was left alone in his own tent. Earnestly practicing his calligraphy, it took him awhile to realize how quiet it was. The camp had always been buzzing with noises from evening activities. But more importantly, he was hungry. Shouldn’t there be roasted wild catch, roots, and fry bread by now?
After leaving his tent, what greeted Qi Heng was an abandoned camp. Everything was still in its place, half prepped meals with several wild birds roasted over the fire, and dough that was still rising in its bowl. The baked roots were done, but no one was around to take them from the cooking stone.
Qi Heng’s brows furrowed. Maybe there’s an urgent meeting?
Either way, it was none of his business. He should focus on satisfying his hunger first.
After gathering what appeared to be thoroughly cooked food on a small plate, he finished more than two persons' portions. Lately, he noticed he had eaten more, but it couldn’t be helped when the weather was getting colder. And he needed the energy to perform what he sought to do.
The goal was unachievable, but what else could he do if not that? The Scholar had wondered why he was choosing such a path. His hands should only hold brushes and papers..but now...
Qi Heng sighed.
Glancing around, still, there was no sign of others. As he placed the plate down on the ground, his hand paused on the carving knife. It slightly shook before he picked it up and hid it in his sleeve. Qi Heng headed straight to the General’s tent.
The chances Boli would be there were slim given the current atmosphere, but luck must be on the Scholar’s side today. When Qi Heng lifted the tent flap, what greeted him was a man leaning against a pile of pillows and pelts. Boli’s eyes were closed, his breathing steady, with a soft snore. Almost like a hibernating wolf, the lights from the fireplace hit perfectly on the sharp angle of his jawline, his lashes dark from afar, with thick braided hair, while his hands still held the half folded leather reports. The man in the armor exuded masculinity far beyond anything the Scholar was accustomed to, a great contrast to the gentle people of Han.
Qi Heng was mesmerized. Taken by the beautiful scene, he could not tear his gaze away from the God of War, who should be immortalized in a painting all his own, if only Qi Heng had his brush and ink in hand. But would his skills do justice to such an image before his eyes, and would it be right to admire the Warrior who is the enemy of his people?
Snapping back to himself before his sanity was stolen, Qi Heng entered slowly. His steps were steady as his breathing slowed. He didn’t make a sound as he rounded the central fireplace and made his way to his Target, as he reached for the carving knife in his sleeve.
Before his nerves broke, Qi Heng rushed three steps over, and swung the knife, but a hand caught his wrist!
A smile spread from the supposed sleeping General. His eyes opened, the smile widened. Boli’s eyes sparked, and Qi Heng could see the fire reflected in that gaze.
The Rabbit was caught again by the Wolf! But this time, it was the prey who gave the predator this chance. Afterall, he had ventured into the Wolf’s den.
“Xiao Bai Tu, ah Xiao Bai Tu,” the General spoke sweetly with a chastising tone, “if you’re going to sneak up on someone, try not to wear so many clothes. I can hear the rustle from a Li away.”
Qi Heng tried to pull back, but Boli with his advantageous position, pulled him into his arms.
“You’re…You’re awake?” the Scholar stammered.
Gone was the sleeping God from before, he already sat up with his prey in his clutches. General Boli chuckled, “If only I wasn’t. Xiao Bai Tu, do you miss me that much?”
Upon hearing the obnoxious statement, the Scholar struggled harder and scowled, “In your dreams!”
Boli's grip was not painful, but it was still unbreakable. The General always made sure his hold was not too tight, because Qi Heng easily bruised.
In the beginning, when Boli had found out he had left bruises on him by accident, he was petrified by those marks. So now, even when the General restrained him, the grip was gentle but firm. Which made their fight and struggle feel more like a playful spat between lovers than a real assassination attempt. This only further frustrated the Scholar who took their battle seriously, while the General used these moments as foreplay. Furthermore, this was why his arrogant words become more scandalous by the day.
“Did you know you were in my dreams just now?” the General’s voice softened, deliberately close to his ears, “Who would have guessed, you would fall into my arms the moment I opened my eyes.”
Unable to listen to his wicked words, the embarrassed Scholar angrily broke free. “Die!”
However, when he tried to stab again, his wrist was quickly caught by the experienced General. Before he could blink, Boli managed to wrap Qi Heng’s own sleeves in a doubled layer around both his arms like rolled up scrolls, securing him in place. The General gently removed his carving knife like it was a harmless toy, and added, “Another reason why you shouldn’t be wearing these thick robes is that they restrict your movements.”
“Boli, release me!” Qi Heng exploded with a mixture of humiliation and anger. Who wouldn’t, when the man he wanted to assassinate was giving him a lesson on the proper way to kill him!
“I will, I will. Why are you so impatient? Xiao Bai Tu, you’re so adorable when you give out orders. Of course, I’ll release you as you command,” Boli answered obediently, right before he reached for Qi Heng’s belt.
“What are you doing?”
The General removed his belt with ease.
“No! That’s not what I meant!”
The Scholar’s sleeves were swiftly unwrapped, then gone was his outer robe.
“Let-Let me go, Boli!”
The General removed Qi Heng’s second inner robe, thinner than the first, but with the extra layer gone, the chill air could be felt deeply with only his undergarments left. He reached for the skirt of his outer garment.
“Quit taking off my clothes!”
Somehow, miraculously, Qi Heng managed to break free and rolled away to the corner of the bed. He grabbed the nearest object and threw it at Boli’s head. The General didn’t dodge, because it was such a ridiculous weapon, he didn’t bother to move.
The object was, in fact, a pillow. He'd thrown a pillow, like some maiden in distress.
“Why not?” the amused General chuckled. “Can’t you tell how they hinder your movement? I’m helping release you from their constraint. See, you can move faster now, I almost couldn’t defend myself against that throw.”
“You….You shameless man. Stay away!” Qi Heng held up another pillow like it was an actual shield to protect his chastity.
But the General did not. He would not. Why would he when he had nearly stripped him of all his garments? Boli could do what he wanted. There was no one to save him, even if there were people outside, they wouldn’t save him anyway.
The General only laughed as he yanked the feeble weapon away. He grabbed both of Qi Heng’s upper arms and yanked, closing the distance between them.
Not yet a hug, but almost. Boli’s breath was less controlled than it was before. Qi Heng could tell, because they were too close for comfort. Too close to his face, his body...and lastly, his heart.
Cornered, captured, with no further retreat, the frightened Rabbit shut his eyes. Afraid the Wolf would definitely eat him this time, he reminded, “You-you said you wouldn’t force me!”
As expected, the General didn’t take further liberties with his body. But the calculative man did something more alarming. Gingerly, he cupped Qi Heng’s face, causing his heart to pound wildly from the uncalled for tenderness. No matter how rough this wild wolf could be, he only showed this adoring side to Qi Heng.
“I did, but you just tried to assassinate me again. I believe this is the 10th attempt? Depending on who is counting at this point. Punishment should be warranted for that many attempts. How can I deter you from hurting your future husband otherwise? You’ll be a widower before I teach you the pleasure of the flesh, which you still refuse to allow me…”
Shocked, the Scholar opened his eyes. “We’re not…You’re...I’m not your…your...” his face flaming, Qi Heng couldn't bring himself to counter.
“Oh?” Boli beamed, his expression merrier than before. “I didn’t expect a scholar like you would prefer to share sheets without the proper bows to heaven and earth. To be honest, I am tempted, but I think we should wait....”
“Who is going to marry you!” Burning with rage from the outlandish statements from the man with no shame, Qi Heng demanded, “Give me back my clothes!”
Boli shook his head in bemusement, “Not tonight, my Xiao Bai Tu, I have to make sure you don’t have any weapons on your person. How would I sleep in peace otherwise?”
“That’s not my problem,” Qi Heng argued defiantly, even knowing the General’s reasoning was sound.
He tried to twist and turn, but the General eased him onto the bed, holding him in place with his body partially on top.
Feeling the weight, panic set in, and the Scholar blanched. “Wh-What are you doing?”
“My dear Xiao Bai,” Boli replied affectionately, followed by a threat, “if you keep on struggling, I will have to remove the last bit of clothing. Despite my promise, I can’t guarantee....”
Mortified, Qi Heng became utterly still. “Remember your promised!”
Upon realizing the fight had left Qi Heng's body after the light warning, Boli laid down next to him and said, “I do, but don’t make me wait too long.”
“Is that a threat? Or an order?” Qi Heng cautiously asked.
“Neither, I just don’t want to suffer forever. But even if that’s so, I won’t do anything you are not ready for. I’ll wait as long as you need. There comes a day you’ll understand my….”
“Stop.” Qi Heng rolled to his side, facing away from Boli.
“Huh? Stop what?” The General turned to his side, with his body partially hovering over the prone man.
“Stop talking,” Qi Heng answered, he pulled the pelt blanket over his shoulder, conscious of Boli’s attention. He replied, “Saying those sweet words to win me. You’re only trying to deceive me.”
“When have I--”
“I’m tired. I want to sleep.”
“Alright, let’s sleep,” the General agreed.
Qi Heng could hear Boli had left the bed to remove his armor. Once he was under the covers, as if on cue, it did not take long for him to talk again.
“Tomorrow night we’ll reach my Homeland. Qi Heng, I can’t wait to show you the Valley and Mountain ranges. There are many hidden paradises I can’t wait to show you. I may have already told you this story, but when I was a kid…”
For many nights now, the General tells his tales and childhood stories to the one beside him. They are both aware Qi Heng is only pretending to sleep, because his ears would perk whenever he heard something that piqued his interest.