[identity profile] leen-go.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] leengonanowrimo
Length: 3932 words
Prompt: in simplified terms, Kris is a duke, Lay is a courtesan who has a jaded view on life and has trust issues.
Notes: see here. unedited/unbeta-ed. what is happening with this fic sorry don't worry it'll be over soon D;




“One please, and with extra sauce,” Yixing requested of the vendor from whom he was purchasing a skewere of barbequed squid, “Like enough that it’ll probably drip all over and ruin my clothes,” he instructed further, grinning when the vendor raised a skeptical eyebrow but did as he was asked. “Perfect,” Yixing chirped as he handed over some change. His fingers were all immediately sticky and he delightfully wiped them clean on his clothes, soiling the expensive cloth right in front of the cart owner who only shook his head in disbelief.

“Thanks!” Yixing continued to grin as he turned away to take a seat on the ground, taking care to squirm an extra couple of times to make sure that the dirt took on the rear of his outfit. He stopped at the whispers of passers-by who shot his several alarmed looks. It was unseemly for someone wearing his quality of clothes to be acting the way that he way and Yixing realised that he probably shouldn’t care, given this refreshing feeling of freedom, but years of working at The Star made him immediately turn red with regret. He didn’t have a lot to his name (especially having left whatever he did have back at the Duke’s manor) save maybe his reputation and his image which he was very literally rubbing dirt on.

Clearing his throat and pretending to be nonchalant about his state, he stood and brushed himself off, though what he really wanted desperately was to properly defile this awful thing forced upon him by the Duke’s mother. He ducked quickly into a nearby alley, put the skewer between his teeth to free his hands and climbed a pile of empty boxes and barrels until he could reach the roof of the closest building.

Yixing stood at the peak for a moment, skewer in hand as he took a deep breath, appreciating the feeling of no one noticing or even realising who and where he was. With a relieved sigh, he finally sat down, “Alone at last,” he mumbled to himself, pulling his knees into his chest and tucking his chin between them. He hardly wanted to, given his current mood, but his gaze shifted towards the Duke’s home, looking grand as it stood before the bustling town below. His chipper mood was suddenly dampened as the realist of his situation set in: he’s just made a grand gesture to leave and after raising his voice and yelling at the Duke’s mother the way that he did, Yixing doubted he’d ever be welcomed by the Duke.

It’s probably for the better, Yixing thought to himself. It was only a matter of days before the Duke would have to kick him to the curb anyway, so why prolong the wait? Besides, Yixing had yet to see the Duke alone even once since his return from the Forbidden City. Sure, he’d caught the odd glimpse here and here of the Duke hurrying from one room to another, a slew of servants or other guests behind him, but Yixing had hardly managed to tell him even a simple hello.

It seemed obvious to him that the Duke had already grown tired of Yixing and was regretting his rash decision to buy Yixing out of his contract to Lady Pearl. Perhaps the Duke would be glad to finally be rid of Yixing without needing to do anything himself.

A sharp pain shot through his chest and Yixing lost his appetite for the food he’d just purchased with such gusto. He set the skewer down to press his hand into his chest, kicking his legs out so that he could bend over slightly, as if it might ease the sting. The idea of never seeing the Duke, nay being hated by the Duke bothered him, and it was high time he admitted to himself what that meant.

How? How did he let this happen? And when?

Even after keeping his guard up and his hopes down upon their initial introductions, how could he have been so careless to let the Duke into his heart? His grip tightened around the cloth over his chest and he closed his eyes tightly.

“Really? First taste of freedom and you come here? If I were you, I’d be at least ten miles from here by now.” Tao’s voice rang behind him jovially and Yixing’s eyes shot open with bitter alarm. He’d been so excited by the idea of ruining these clothes that he had forgotten that this very location was where he and Tao had routinely visited in the last few days after a string of less than savory dishes.

Yixing wiped his face in a hurry - he didn’t even know when he’d first shed tears - but he doubted that he was quick enough to hide it from Tao when he settled down next to him.

“I’m not here to bring you back, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Yixing kept quiet. Of course Tao wasn’t here to ‘bring him back’, since there was no where to go back to.

“Ah, we’re back to the silent treatment again, are we?” Tao continued softly even as he joked, “Thought we got past that with our mutual distaste for my aunt’s lessons and her choice of well… everything.”

Yixing could tell that Tao was only trying to make conversation, to make their exchange run-of-the-mill casual, but Yixing wished the man would just say what he had come up here to say.

With a sigh resigned to accepting that this would be a one-sided conversation, Tao continued, “Well, I guess if you won’t talk, I will.

“I can’t honestly say I’ve been around Yifan enough to see all sides of him, but ever since we’ve been kids, he’s always been the stand-up son, always doing the right thing and happy to do so. He was kind of a weird kid, if you thought about it, never cried when he fell and cut his knee, never got angry when his cousin stole his toys. He was never particularly emotional even as we got older. I mean sure, he’d throw the occasionally disgusted comment my way about my boots, but he never really got worked up.

“But today, when he found out you had left this afternoon, well, that was probably as close to completely losing his composure as I’d ever seen. He fought for you, you know? I’ve never known him to defy his mother and he did it today for you.

“I’m promising you right now, as your friend, that I won’t tell anyone I found you, but whatever the hell it is that’s holding you back, you need to snap out of it. I know you love him, and as much as I love him too, you need to make this choice for yourself.”

Tao finally finished, getting to his feet and getting ready to clamber down to the ground again, “Just, you know, don’t take too long. There’s that wedding in a few days.”

Yixing swallowed hard at the lump in his throat as he watched Tao’s form disappear under the roof.

Yeah, who could forget?

---

“You did what?!” Yifan could almost kill his cousin at the moment.

“Quite honestly, I thought he would be back by now,” Zitao tried to explain, looking sheepish.

“Well, he isn’t,” Yifan yelled, not caring that his office’s window was wide open and his voice could likely be heard in the adjacent wing. “What the hell gave you the idea that waiting three days to tell me this news was a good thing?! How could you just leave him there? Why didn’t you bring him back with you?!” The Duke resisted the urge to pick up his chair and launch it at his cousin.

“What do you want me to say, Yifan?” Zitao shot back, “That I regret not having knocked him over the head? Are you saying I should have thrown his unconscious body over my shoulder and strolled through town back here so that he could be trapped here with your mother again? I’m sorry, cousin, but as much you love him, he’s also my friend and I saw how upset he was here.”

Yifan let out a sound that was something between a groan and a distraught howl before he fell limply into the chair he had almost thrown across his study, “And what about me then? You remember, your cousin?”

Zitao rolled his eyes and turned to search the table behind him for a bottle of wine before falling into the seat across from Yifan, “Despite what you’re about to say, I know for a fact that you would’ve hated to see Yixing come back to you like that.” He poured a healthy amount of wine into two cups before sliding one across the table towards YIfan.

Yifan’s fingers curled into a fist on the table. “With him here though, I could at least try to fix…” he started, voice shrinking at each syllable.

“Fix what?” Zitao interrupted before knocking his cup back in a single gulp, “The fact that you’ve gotta marry a general’s daughter for political reasons?” He poured himself another, “And how exactly are you going to do that? Because the way I see it, anything you come up with is going to piss off the general, and in turn, the Emperor.”

Yifan growled and, annoyed at the irrefutable logic that he had no response to, grabbed the cup that Zitao had passed him earlier and followed his example, wincing as he signalled Zitao for more.

“I’ll find him,” he announced with determination after guzzling a third cup, “I’ll make damn sure of it, even if it’s the last thing I do. And I am going to fix this somehow.”

“I know,” Zitao chuckled as he brought his cup up for a toast, “You look like shit, by the way.”

Yifan narrowed his eyes as he downed his fourth, “Yeah, well how about you try not sleeping for three nights, let’s see how you good you look then.”

---

Yixing stood at the end of the street that stretched in front of the gates to the Duke’s home, several hundred meters back from today’s guards who looked unfamiliar. He wondered momentarily if the Duke might’ve dismissed those previously at the post for failing to apprehend Yixing as he blew past them a few days ago. He shook his head and reminded himself what he was here to do and it wasn’t to imagine impossible scenarios. He shifted on his feet, hesitating repeatedly to put one in front of the other.

Move, he scolded himself, gripping the package firmly in his arms and taking a deep breath. It took another half a dozen attempts, but Yixing finally got himself to emerge from his hiding spot to head towards the guards.

“Can we help you, miss?” one of the guards asked when Yixing stopped before them.

A slight upward tick made its way onto Yixing’s lips; at least these two didn’t seem to recognize. He was glad that he’d managed to convince one of the less vindictive girls at The Star (news of the Duke’s impending marriage was village wide and most of the girls had merely snickered mockingly when he’d showed up on the doorstep) to give him a couple of her old items that she never used any more. Sure, this dress’ colours weren’t as nice as he’d like, but they were still far better than the alternative wrapped up in the package in his arms at the moment.

After Tao had left him on that rooftop, Yixing had contemplated numerously to come to this very spot, perhaps to beg to be let back in. Unfortunately, he found no possible good (or at least non-self-hate-inducing) end to the whole affair. He’d hid away, tempted by blades to his wrist before the Duke’s voice came back at him every time, “I think that you’re perfect exactly the way you are.”

It might be true that he could finally admit to himself that he cared deeply for the Duke, but his current situation could only end poorly for him. The Duke’s wedding to that lovely girl was still going to happen and there was little doubt that the Duke’s mother still hated Yixing. There was also the whole nobleman act that just wasn’t to Yixing’s taste nor to his strength.

No, the best way to end this was to end this.

Yixing took a deep breath and cleared his throat, “I have a package My Lord,” he announced, alarmed at the confidence in his tone that he didn’t quite share in his quivering heart.

The guard eyed Yixing suspiciously, not moving a muscle to take the bundle in Yixing’s arms. “All deliveries should be made at-” he explained.

“Yes, I know,” Yixing interjected, “But this is a personal delivery.”

“I’m sorry, miss, we do not-”

“I know,” Yixing interrupted again, reminded of how difficult it had been last time he tried to return clothing to the Duke’s manor, when he’d still been tied to The Star. “You can have it checked, I promise it’s harmless,” he pressed, though both guards hesitated to do anything, looking to each other for guidance.

Yixing stood for another awkward moment before deciding to simply place the package on the ground and let the men decide when he’d left whether to accept his request or have the whole thing disposed of. Either conclusion would be enough for Yixing; he’d be rid of the items either way. He’d done his part, feeling guilty about dirtying such fine threads and cleaning up the entire outfit so that he could return it properly. There was no point in keeping something he’d never use anyway, especially when it reminded him of her spite.

“And please tell him thank you, too,” he bowed deeply before turning away hurriedly.

---

Sorry to interrupt your lunch, My Lord, but a delivery has been made,” Minseok announced.

Yifan was grateful for the distraction; every minute of this lunch his mother had organized with the General only served to constantly remind him that he had yet to find Lay. And instead of looking for him, he was stuck here, pretending that the food wasn’t tasteless and the General’s jokes were actually funny.

“Can’t  it wait?” Yifan’s mother snapped, apologizing to the general for Minseok’s irresponsible interruption.

“It’s important,” Minseok pressed, sending a furtive look at Yifan as if the latter should understand what his manservant was trying to say about the delivery.  Yifan’s eyebrows stitched together in confusion, urging silently for Minseok to elaborate; he was sure Minseok was aware of how little Yifan wanted to be at this lunch, but his manservant was surely smarter than to try to get Yifan out of it with a fake emergency that his mother would catch onto immediately.

“Please excuse me for a moment.” Yifan got up and proceeded out the dining room door wordlessly until the doors were closed. “What is it?” he all but hissed; his mother was still giving him the cold shoulder for his outburst and while he’d been just as adamant about his stance on the matter, he didn’t need any more reason to annoy her before he could find Lay.

Minseok ignored the Duke’s tone and signalled urgently for another nearby servant to hold out whatever delivery that had Minseok so excited. “You should open then, now.”

Yifan undid the knot holding the bundle together and pulled away the cloth to reveal an unfamiliar set of men’s clothes. They looked used and it baffled the Duke as to why someone thought that it might be flattering to gift him old clothes. “Is this some kind of joke? What the hell is so important about old clothes?!”

“Look closer,” was all Minseok said, pointing towards something in the middle of the folded pile that Yifan had missed earlier, a glint of gold tucked away in the collar.

Yifan reached out to pull away the cloth, exposing strings of gold that finished with pearl drops, something that he knew could only belong to one person. The Duke felt the colour drain from his face before red hot excitement climbed into his chest. He picked up the hair ornament gingerly, afraid that it might break or disappear if he grabbed it too quickly. The metal was cold in his palm and as the realisation that he wasn’t actually dreaming, that what he had in his hand was real, his fist closed, knuckles whitening as gripped the accessory like a life line. “How long ago was this delivered?” Yifan asked brusquely and, deciding that the General’s lunch would have to wait, headed in the direction of his front gates.

“Only a few moments ago,” Minseok answered quickly before he grabbed the Duke around the elbow to hold him back. “But My Lord, you should probably finish your lunch.”

Face flushed with blotchy and angry red, Yifan barely noticed the sting of the gold cutting into his skin as his grip deepened, “I don’t care about a goddamn lunch, I’m not even hungry. I have to go find him, he can’t have gone very far.”

“I know,” Minseok replied with a calm that was starting to get on the Duke’s nerves; how could Minseok tell him that food was more important than finding Lay right now? “But the General doesn’t take to offense very well.”

Yifan ground his teeth together and stopped pulling against Minseok’s firm hold around his arm. He knew Minseok was right, but he just so badly wanted to ignore it. He had to go back, Yifan have to go back to make sure that his relationship with the general was intact, especially given what he wanted to do in the next couple of days. “Shit,” he muttered, shoulders sagging in realisation, “I really hate it when you’re right.”

Minseok managed a smile when he realised that his master was back to himself once more, “I know.”

Reluctantly, Yifan headed back to the dining room, pausing in front of the door before opening it.”You let me know the instant you find him, okay?” He waited for Minseok to give him a nod before he pushed the door open, hand still wrapped tightly around the hair ornament as he apologized and sat down once more in his seat.

*

Yifan could barely focus the rest of the lunch, though it didn’t seem to phase the General, who continued telling stories with a loud and animated voice. His daughter, on the other hand, seemed to pick up on Yifan’s metaphorical absence the moment he’d stepped back through the doors. Ah Mei had asked in a low whisper if he was okay at a particularly loud point in the General’s story when his attention was focused on the Duke’s mother, who interjected at appropriate times to encourage the General.

Yifan had answered with a simple ‘of course’ followed with a smile as he took a bite of beef; it wasn’t as if he could tell his fiance, of all people, that what was eating at him was the disappearance of his lover. Ah Mei had offered a sympathetic look, clearly not believing his words, and reached under the table to grab Yifan’s hand to give it a comforting squeeze.

Yifan swallowed the guilty bile climbing up his throat and pulled his hand away; what he wanted to do with the general, he was going to be doing to her too.

*

“What took you so long?!” Yifan almost shouted when Minseok finally showed his face. The Duke had been pacing in his bedroom since lunch, waiting impatiently for any news of Lay’s whereabouts. The General, his daughter, and Yifan’s mother had gone out shopping after lunch, with the Duke citing work that had to been done in order to get out of the excursion. His mother had given him a dirty look, clearly seeing through the weak excuse but the General seemed to buy the story, exclaiming how hardworking Yifan was and how lucky this village was to have him to look over them. Ah Mei had simply given Yifan an understanding nod before following her father.

“My apologies, My Lord, but I had to be sure,” Minseok replied, sauntering into the room slowly, most likely on purpose just to annoy the Duke further.

Yifan growled, “Make sure of what?”

“That he wasn’t leaving again,” Minseok replied simply, offering up no further information.

“Leaving? What?” If Yifan didn’t appreciate Minseok’s work as much as he did, he might’ve hit him, but he stayed his hand.  “If you found him, why didn’t you bring him back with you?”

Minseok raised an amused eyebrow, “Excuse me, My Lord, but what then? Hold him prisoner in your home? That’s rather tactless, don’t you think?” He shook his head side to side, mocking the Duke.

Minseok had always been right about things and the Duke trusted him wholeheartedly, but, at the moment, Yifan wanted to throttle him until he spilled all the information he had about Lay’s whereabouts. “Kim Minseok,” he addressed firmly, voice almost rising to a full roar, “You tell me where he is. Right. Now. I am not losing him again.”

Minseok, as expected, barely flinched at the raised voice. Instead, he began to smile, and Yifan swore that if his manservant didn’t explain himself before his next heartbeat, he was going to kill him.

---

Yixing sat with his dress pulled up past his knees, feet hanging under him in the pond and making circles in the water. He let out a long sigh, a subtle smile tugging at his lips as he watched the ripples push into the lotuses peacefully.

Admittedly, Yixing really shouldn’t be staying here, but he still had the key and he really didn’t have anywhere else to stay; he certainly wasn’t going back the The Star. He tried to remind himself that he couldn’t stay long; this place wasn’t his to simply squat in. Besides, while it started as a perk that he could almost still catch the scent of the Duke within the walls, he knew he had to eventually leave. It wasn’t good to dwell on the impossible and the past. Just until I can get my own place, he’d promised himself, though he wasn’t sure he’d be able to handle the step down from this scenery.

Yixing let out another wistful sigh and leaned back, supported by only his arms behind him. As he stared up at the sky, he wondered when he last enjoyed seeing clouds push across the vast blue expanse. He knew he’d have to figure out a job somehow, but at the moment, he allowed himself to simply close his eyes and let the warm sun beat down on his face.

A song he used to dance to started playing in his head and he hummed along, fingers tapping behind him until the urge to get up took him. The stone was warm under his damp feet and he submitted to muscle memory, placing one foot in front of the other, then back and crossing over so he could spin, arms thrown up on either side. A laugh escaped his lips, surprising even himself, but he continued, eyes closed as he let his feet take him where they took him.

“Lay?”

The familiar voice shattered whatever reverie he’d held in his head as he twirled. His eyes snapped open as he came out of a spin, arms still held up as his eyebrows stitched together in worried realisation.





A/N: Why does it always feel like I write so many words but nothing actually happens?!?! Ulgh, I miss my writing ability; I've clearly dropped a bunch of levels >.< Anyway, thanks for reading! ^^

Date: 2016-07-21 05:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lllcubed.livejournal.com
Awww it's been so long since yixing danced! that last scene was so peaceful ^^
but btw what happened with luhan? is he still in the dukes house because he doesnt seem to realise yixing is gone?

Date: 2016-07-21 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kim-dajung.livejournal.com

😢😭😭😭😭

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