Chapter 62: A+A (X)
Shang Ke woke up on Rhine’s bed and laid there in a daze. He had finally turned over to look when the sound of the bathroom door from behind him opened. He craned his neck to see Rhine exiting the room with only a towel wrapped around his waist. His body was made entirely of muscles, exuding power that was ready to be used at any given moment.
“You’re awake?” Rhine made his way by the bed and asked, “Are you hungry? Do you want to eat anything? I will go have someone prepare it.”
Shang Ke did not reply to any of his questions, he merely stared at him, his gaze roaming his body back and forth as he tried to find something.
“What’s wrong?” Rhine asked in confusion seeing his strange state.
There wasn’t a mole, this man didn’t have a single mole anywhere on his body! This was simply not scientific! How can a person not have a single mole on their entire body?!
Shang Ke’s instinct told him Rhine was the man he was trying to find. Especially after that last night, the feeling had grown even stronger. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have gotten drunk and gone to bed with the wrong person, or indulged in passionate bed sports. However, Rhine’s body just didn’t bear the sign. After five worlds of his man having that one little mark, could this really be the exception?
Shang Ke was unwilling to give up. He pulled over Rhine’s right hand and scrutinized it carefully.
Rhine allowed Shang Ke to grab his hand as his own eyes started to wander over his body.
After he carefully looked over the right hand, Shang Ke actually did find something unusual. In the hollow of his palm, there lay a veined pattern that was paler than the rest of his hand. He had thought it was just a part of the lines of his palm, but now that he looked closer, it appeared to be closer to old scar tissue.
“You were… injured here before?” Shang Ke raised his head, his eyes full of anticipation for the answer.
Rhine moved his gaze to his right hand and replied, “When I was young and learning how to assemble and install machines, I scratched myself there.”
Shang Ke took a deep breath in his heart, then pointed at the hollow of his palm as he asked in the calmest manner possible, “Before you were injured, was there a mole here?”
Rhine nodded, “Hm, after it was treated, that mole also disappeared.”
Disappeared, disappeared, dis-a-ppeared! Do you know how important that mole is? Your entire appeal drops by such a large chunk without that mole, you know? Without that mole and with your sense of supremacy, arrogance and forceful scum aura, who would like you!
These past two years, he had been so conflicted, worried, angered, confused and hateful of himself, all because this bastard cleared away his valuable mole!
The eyes Shang Ke used to look at Rhine became incomparably sharp and his nails stabbed into his palm. If it weren’t for Rhine having thick skin, blood would already be flowing out of even, crescent-shaped markings.
Rhine had thought that Shang Ke was angry over bedding him last night, so he spoke very confidently, “Filmore, get used to my embrace quickly. Besides me, you will never have anyone to sleep with.”
“……” Although Shang Ke had determined his identity, he still really wanted to give this guy a thrashing. Just thinking about how he had been forced before, Shang Ke felt that he should not let him off so easily.
He shook off Rhine’s hand and turned around to pick up his scattered clothing. What he found of his clothes were either torn or smeared with suspicious substances; they could not be worn again.
Upon seeing the results of their night in Shang Ke’s hands, Rhine switched on his communicator and told the butler to deliver some clothes to the room and prepare something to eat while he was at it.
Without another word, Shang Ke went into the bathroom to clean himself up into something more presentable. He changed his clothes but found himself marked by that man again. Grinding his teeth, he easily erased the mark, now knowing how after his experience with the previous one.
Rhine did not say anything as Shang Ke erased it, he simply thought to himself that his marking wasn’t strong enough, he needs to dig deeper next time. The pheromone emitted by Shang Ke was very special, it did not reject other alphas and there were at least four or five other alphas who were interested in him. As such, Rhine always felt that he had to leave some kind of trace on Shang Ke to prevent others from even thinking about it.
After they ate, Shang Ke was given a new mission before he had finished planning how he wanted to deal with Rhine.
Shang Ke stood up in full fighting spirits, “The battle is about to start.”
Rhine immediately noticed a few differences in Shang Ke’s countenance; it was like a new source of energy had been poured into him. Although Shang Ke would be in high spirits for battle before, he was never quite so… bright
Rhine’s heart pounded as he watched him and walked in large strides to catch up so he could walk beside him…
The 45th Legion rushed to a new battlefield under Rhine’s lead and started another life and death battle with the arthropods.
For an entire three years, Shang Ke followed Rhine around the borders and fought through all sorts of critical situations as they completed one dangerous mission after another. Ever since he had confirmed Rhine’s identity, Shang Ke had thoroughly (albeit unintentionally) set aside his misgivings and fought dauntlessly in full vigor. His position and prestige within the army had risen step by step, and he had become Rhine’s most capable front-line combat assistant, fighting side by side and acting in tacit understanding.
“Hah!” Shang Ke cut down the bug that was planning to launch a sneak attack on Rhine in a single strike. A large amount of blood sprayed onto Rhine’s back but he didn’t turn around as he placed all his concentration on dealing with the bugs in front of him.
The two were back to back as black bugs surrounded them on all sides.
This time, they had been given orders to shift their camp. But they suffered a surprise attack while in the middle of transit, leaving them only a dozen men out of five hundred able to continue fighting on.
“Keso River is right over there, head straight for it.” Rhine shouted.
A dozen voices answered back in return and broke through the encirclement of ground arthropods, heading for the violently surging Keso River and leaping into it. Shang Ke was also picked up by Rhine and dumped down into the river.
Ground arthropods could not swim, but the river contained dangerous aquatic arthropods. Rhine and his men had to swim as quickly as they could to the opposite bank to avoid drawing the attention of the dangers lurking under the surface.
However, things consistently turn out contrary to how one wishes. Their timing was very unfortunate as they just so happened to run into a King and Queen Scarlet Bone Fish mating. The two fish were alarmed by the humans falling into the water and suffice to say, no eggs were fertilized that day. The river water on the other hand… The fish were simply beyond angered. To keep it brief, Scarlet Bone Fish only mate once every three years and their birth rates were low. These two had finally found a nice place and time, and when the male was just a moment away from shooting, it all turned into nothing but waste in the river.
They rolled their large bodies and produced an ear-splitting sound wave under the water, causing everyone to bleed from every possible aperture and wish they were dead instead of suffering such pain.
Shang Ke was also shaken until he was completely muddled. Water poured into his mouth and nose, causing him to choke and almost take in a breath on reflex. With a grave expression, Rhine held Shang Ke close and quickly swam for the other bank.
The two large fish swallowed several soldiers in a row and then headed for Rhine and Shang Ke.
Rhine’s face chilled and his pupils shrunk, he held Shang Ke in one hand while his other hand held his weapon. He turned around to face the two rushing Scarlet Bone Fish…
After an unknown period of time, Shang Ke woke up aching all over and hacking river water. A large amount of blood, dirt and fluids were all expelled from his lungs and Shang Ke really tried not to think about what else.
The coughing lasted for several minutes before it finally abated. After calming his breathing, Shang Ke raised his head and peered around him, quickly locating Rhine’s figure not too far away. He was lying down on his stomach, his armor scattered and smashed into pieces on the bank, his mangled back was bared to the world. His right leg bore deep gorges that looked very frightening and would need immediate treatment to prevent infection.
Compared to him, the injuries on Shang Ke were hardly worth mentioning. His main problem was his old injuries relapsing due to the sound wave, leaving him powerless. His other injuries were just basic external scrapes left behind by fighting the arthropods.
Shang Ke’s breathing stopped for a moment as he staggered over to Rhine and checked over his situation. After confirming that he was still breathing, he finally relaxed and released the breath he held in his chest.
However, Rhine’s injuries were very severe and he needed to receive treatment as soon as possible, otherwise, he was at risk of becoming permanently disabled. Shang Ke looked around and found that all was empty and quiet. He could not find so much as a trace of anyone else in the relative vicinity, nor did he know the situation of his other comrades.
Shang Ke patted himself down and found two tubes of medicine and a compressed bandage. He quickly started the emergency treatment of Rhine’s wounds, then took out his communication device to try and send out a signal for help. But that idea was quickly shot down when he realized that his communication device was badly waterlogged and had suffered heavy damage.
Shang Ke cursed quietly, raising his head to observe the direction and terrain before hoisting Rhine onto his back and heading in the direction of their camp. Who would have thought that after just a few steps Shang Ke would spurt out a mouthful of blood and his legs would weaken, causing him to almost fall to the ground. He grit his teeth and steadied Rhine on his back, then continued to walk.
He must find a safe hiding place before sundown. Night was when the arthropods were the most active, and in their present condition, they would die without a doubt if they met with a hoard.
Shang Ke still could not find a suitable place after walking for over an hour. Left with no other choice, he managed to carry Rhine up a pine valley tree. This particular tree emitted an odor the arthropods hated. You would be hard-pressed to find any large number of them nearby to one.
Shang Ke carefully wedged Rhine in a high-up fork between branches before feeding him a tube of nutrient fluid. They had four between the two of them, so Shang Ke fed Rhine one while drinking half of one himself. According to his calculations, the two of them were at least three days away from the closest camp. Four tubes of nutrient fluids would not last them long.
At that moment, Rhine slowly began to stir. When he opened his eyes and looked around, he became immediately aware of their current situation.
He tried to move his body a bit, but violent pain shot down his spine. He flinched and fell still.
“Don’t move around, just rest. We still have to make our way back, so make sure to get as much rest as you can.” Shang Ke stopped him from making any other movement.
Rhine looked toward him, asking, “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” Shang Ke brushed his hair back reassuringly and smiled a bit.
The light was a dusky crimson in the evening, so Rhine could not see that Shang Ke was stained red with blood.
“Ok. Good.” Rhine slowly relaxed as well as he could before turning the conversation, “The operation this time should have been absolutely fine, we have already investigated ahead yet were still met a surprise attack. This isn’t by chance.”
“I was thinking that.” Shang Ke frowned, “But who would scheme against us?”
“It’s not ‘us’, but me.” Murderous intent flashed through Rhine’s eyes. “My accomplishments these past few years have begun to grate on some people’s nerves. If this operation was successful, I would be promoted to Major General.”
Rhine was only thirty-four, and was likely set to become the youngest Major General in history. To some people, he was undoubtedly a huge threat.
He looked down at Rhine who was brimming with killing intent and wearing a stony face. Shang Ke suddenly flipped down and sat by him on the fork. Laying back against the trunk, he patted his chest, smiling, “Want to lean against me?”
Rhine paused all activity for a moment and just stared. He never had anyone who let him ‘lean’ against them before and couldn’t quite wrap his head around the idea of it. After hesitating for a moment, he slowly and carefully leaned over and placed his face against Shang Ke’s chest, his arms wrapping around his waist.
Shang Ke snuck one hand around his ribs and the other in his hair, gently massaging his scalp and gently brushing out a few imperfections and bits of debris.
Rhine’s body gradually relaxed until more than half of his weight was on Shang Ke, like he was a big, dozing cat. It was very different from his usual cold and strict self.
Listening to Shang Ke’s gentle breathing and rhythmic heartbeat, Rhine felt a sense of satisfaction he had never experienced before.
In the darkness, a trace of blood slowly dripped from Shang Ke’s mouth and the muscles in his body seemed to spasm. But Rhine, who had already fallen asleep, did not notice any of this.
Under the veil of the tree, the two figures laid together. The world around them was peaceful and only ruined by the faint clicking of thousands upon thousands of bugs carried by the wind.