Chapter 138: Spring Comes Upon A Withered Tree (V)
At night, Shang Ke soaked his legs in the lake to absorb the water elements.
Footsteps sounded behind him as Ivan spoke up, “Why did you want to go to the War Camp?”
Shang Ke drew his legs along the water. “I wanted to get some information.”
“The phantom jade?” Ivan sat next to Shang Ke.
Shang Ke nodded.
Ivan said, “The specters issued a reward for all captured half-elves, so don’t go out anymore. I’ll let you know if there’s any recent information.”
Shang Ke had heard of the reward order, but he didn’t expect the specters to target all half-elves. If so, it wasn’t suitable for him to appear in public. After all, his chief priority was to protect the twelve elves, who were likely to be the major force dealing with the specters in the future.
“Alright, I’ll try not to go out.” Shang Ke agreed.
Seeing how obedient he was, Ivan couldn’t help but want to touch his head, but his hand paused in midair before dropping. Ivan thought about his ugly appearance, and his eyes flashed with a trace of self-loathing. The elf was too beautiful for him to taint.
Shang Ke keenly noticed the melancholic and bitter aura spilling from the man. He clearly wanted to get closer to Shang Ke, but he tried to suppress it.
“Ivan.” Shang Ke leaned back on his hands and looked at him sideways. “I’ll be waiting for your news at home. Don’t break your promise.”
Ivan’s heart jumped, and he turned to look at the elf. Under the faint glow of the night, a pair of blue eyes sparkled with a light halo, showing endless trust and tenderness. People often said that elves were the purest creatures in the world. He hadn’t believed it back then, but now he felt it deeply.
Without warning, a strong desire surged up inside him. He wanted to possess the elf and take him as his own.
Ivan’s fists tightened, and his heart beat violently. He dipped his head to conceal the burning desire lighting up his eyes.
Suddenly, a melodious zither sounded out like a cool breeze beside him, and it soothed Ivan’s restless heart.
Shang Ke held the wooden zither and plucked the strings rhythmically with his slender fingers. Beautiful music rippled under the dimness of the night, and each note contained the force of the elements. Much like a star falling across the sky, or glittering exquisitely upon the silent lake.
Ivan’s heart gradually calmed down, and his entire being was immersed in the elf’s music. Suddenly, there was a burning pain in his left eye.
“Ah!” When he put his hand over it, he felt the bandage on his left face twist, as if dozens of worms were wriggling under it.
“What’s wrong?” Shang Ke stopped playing and looked at him anxiously.
“Nothing.” Ivan turned away from his gaze.
“Let me see.” Shang Ke took his legs out of the water, knelt in front of Ivan, and tried to pull his hand away.
“It’s nothing.” Ivan fended off Shang Ke’s hand.
“If you don’t let me see it,” Shang Ke began softly. “I won’t let you see it again.”
After a pause, Ivan turned to Shang Ke. “What won’t you let me see?”
“Won’t let you see my face, my eyes, my body, my room, or my bed!” Shang Ke knelt on the ground with both hands placed on his knees, his posture the very essence of the phrase, “awaiting command.”
Ivan stared at him with burning eyes for a long time, as if to see right through him. A moment later, he slowly put down his hand.
Just as Shang Ke believed he fell for the bait, he heard Ivan say in a stiff voice, “I’m sorry. I don’t want you to see me.”
Ivan’s heart was bleeding. God knows how much he wanted to agree!
“What’s wrong with your appearance?” Shang Ke asked incredulously.
“It’s very ugly.”
“It’s alright. Even though it doesn’t conform to the public’s aesthetic, it still has its own individuality.” Shang Ke judged pertinently.
“You don’t have to comfort me…” Ivan’s voice came to an abrupt halt, and he asked, “Have you seen me?”
“Yes,” Shang Ke replied in a casual tone. “When I treated you. In order to determine the injury on your face, I had to remove your mask and look at it.”
“You… aren’t you afraid at all?” His face… even he felt it was terrifying!
“What’s to be afraid of?” Shang Ke didn’t expect this man to have a day where he would feel so inferior because of his appearance. “Not only am I not afraid, my little elves aren’t afraid.”
“They’ve also seen it?” Was it really okay to let children see such a hideous mess?
Shang Ke nodded.
Ivan envisioned three little elves watching him while he slept. He suddenly felt a whole lot worse.
“So, you don’t have to worry about it.” Shang Ke held out his hand again.
Ivan did not refuse him this time, allowing Shang Ke to remove the bandages from his face.
Ivan fixed his gaze upon the beautiful face before him, and the elf’s faint scent filled up his senses. As the bandages were lifted layer by layer, his heart seemed to open up little by little, until a warm and shining figure completely occupied the previously dark and cold world.
He felt the coolness of the night wind breeze drift across his face. Without his notice, the bandage covering the ugly side had been removed, and his real self was completely exposed to the elf’s gaze.
“How did this happen?” Shang Ke’s fingers gently grazed over Ivan’s uneven skin.
“I don’t know,” Ivan replied. “It’s been there since I can remember.”
Shang Ke prodded it carefully for a while, feeling that it was not a scar caused by external forces, but a natural one. He initially thought it was a birthmark, but birthmarks couldn’t wriggle and squirm.
The opening and closing of Shang Ke’s lips in front of him caught Ivan’s attention. The distance was only a few centimeters away; if he bowed his head slightly, he could touch it.
Shang Ke was entirely focused on the scar, so when he felt a soft touch against his lips, he was very surprised. Ivan’s movements were so fast, he almost thought it to be an illusion.
Shang Ke’s eyes swept across the man’s face, but Ivan was calm and his eyes looked guileless. He acted as if he wasn’t the one who just stole a kiss from him.
“I have a suggestion,” Shang Ke said.
“Let’s cut open this scar and take a look.”
Ivan froze. He pursed his lips and asked, “Is that necessary?”
“I think it’s very necessary.” There was no joking tone in Shang Ke’s voice.
Ivan’s face twitched a few times, and the snakelike spots wriggled along with his movements. It only made him seem more ferocious and horrible.
In the end, Shang Ke couldn’t use a knife on Ivan’s face, even though he thought the scars were of great research value. Since his music could make the scars move, it probably had the power to repel natural elements. It’s not a good thing that this kind of phenomenon happened to Ivan.
In fact, Ivan had tried various methods. He had even asked a priest to help heal the scars on his face. However, the power hidden in the snake-like scars retaliated against the priest, and the man almost died. Hence, he didn’t dare let Shang Ke try under any circumstances.
Ivan figured that this was some unknown curse. It forced him to leave his family and relatives and wander alone. He thought he was destined to wander on his own for a lifetime, but he was lucky to meet this elf. It was Shang Ke who picked up his broken self; let him feel the taste of home again.
Ivan’s eyes were full of tenderness as he looked at Shang Ke, who was communicating with the plants in the orchard. The touch of his stolen kiss that night lingered on his lips, enough to make him remember it for a long time.
“These are for you.” Ivan handed Shang Ke some gold coins.
“Why are you giving this to me?” Shang Ke looked at the glittering gold coins in his hand and was puzzled.
“Money for the fruit.”
“But this much?”
Ivan picked up a basket of fruit. “If you want to sell anything in the future, I’ll help you sell it, and make sure you don’t suffer any losses.” In essence, Ivan was saying he couldn’t bear the elf’s act of turning precious spirit fruits into ordinary fruit.
“Well, okay.” Shang Ke put away the gold coins and smiled at Ivan.
Once again, Ivan swore to protect this elf who knew nothing about the world!
After saying goodbye to Shang Ke, Ivan left the forest with a fruit basket on his back. The horse he rode before was unwilling to move after living with the elves for a few days. So Ivan went on foot and let the horse run freely and happily.
Ivan didn’t leave for long this time. He returned five days later. Not only did he buy many gifts for the four elves, he also opened up a secret sales channel for Shang Ke. In the future, all the products in Shang Ke’s hands could be sold out through this channel, without fear of being spied on.
Ivan wanted to surprise Shang Ke, but he didn’t expect that after leaving for five days, he returned to find two more elves around him.
It’s just that one elf could not speak, while the other could not hear. Ivan had discovered their abnormality long ago but had not taken it into consideration. Now, there truly seemed to be something going on.
Ivan wondered if Shang Ke specifically adopted these elves with disabilities. Otherwise, why would new elves appear around him every once in a while, all of them with disabilities? Although half-elves were not as talented as pureblood elves, they were mostly of good physical condition, and they had very low chances of becoming disabled.
Shang Ke was always very kind to these elves, whether or not they had disabilities.
Ivan didn’t care either. He did his best to take care of them and protect them. Whenever he was by Shang Ke’s side, he would remove the mask on his face and calmly reveal his true self, enjoying a quiet life of peace.
There were only a few times when he almost failed to control the impulse to embrace Shang Ke. His burning desire for the elf made him feel both pained and happy. His reason and emotions collided fiercely against each other every day.
However, he still did not dare overstep, afraid to destroy everything he had.
Late at night, Ivan would listen to Shang Ke’s even breathing in the tree, and his body would become restless again. He would run a few steps and jump into the lake to cool himself down. But the cold water could not douse the flames in his body, and all kinds of adult images kept appearing in his mind.
He never knew that his will power was so fragile.
In his dreams, the elf would toss and turn under him as he touched his skin. He could feel him repress his breathing. His body was so enchanting…
In his daze, a familiar figure came to his side. Without hesitation, Ivan took him into his arms and kissed his lips, sucking on them crazily…