The pair of husbands finally went to bed, reliving the passion from the previous night before they fell asleep in a tight hug. The next morning, Zhu Hong once again woke up early. The first thing he did was to look down to check whether Zhen Zhu had changed back to his phoenix form again. Unsurprisingly, that was indeed the case. And just as expected, the little phoenix had once again grown by a couple of centimeters.
Zhu Hong smiled, feeling quite satisfied. He reached up and brushed through the fluffy feathers. He couldn’t but notice that they had slightly changed in quality. The feeling yesterday had been that of a baby chick’s feathers, incredibly soft to the touch and thick enough to protect Zhen Zhu against the cold while not giving him much protection against anything else. By now, the feathers had slightly hardened and settled down so that they were flowing mostly in one direction instead of standing up in all directions like the previous fluff. They also felt silkier than they had before, reminding him of the elegant bearing that he had seen in quite a few phoenixes before.
Zhu Hong glanced up at the ceiling, thinking of his own mother. To be honest, his memories of her were only faint but he remembered that she had been a very classy lady who had looked elegant and refined no matter what time of the day it was, her clothes never in disarray and her ink-black hair meticulously styled.
Most likely, Zhen Zhu would one day also turn into a phoenix just like that. That day might still be years off but just imagining it gave Zhu Hong a sense of familiarity that he really hadn’t expected. Well, he had never really thought about it. Unlike Yin and some of the other dragons who had often imagined their future spouses, Zhu Hong had only ever shrugged when he was asked about what kind of phoenix he would like. From the very beginning, he hadn’t had any type of preference. Maybe that should have tipped him off that something was odd with him?
Zhu Hong absentmindedly continued to stroke his husband’s feathers, making the little phoenix snuggle up closer to his chest. This kind of morning routine … it really was something that a person could get used to. In the future, maybe it would really be like this every single morning. He was definitely looking forward to that. Even if there was no fated bond, they clearly got along very well. If enough effort was put in, Zhen Zhu would never miss anything.
While Zhu Hong continued to reminisce about his past and the relationship of his parents to gain some enlightenment on how to treat his spouse best, Zhen Zhu finally broke up. He blinked his round eyes, snuggled up against his husband’s chest again, and continued to lie there for a moment, indulging in the gentle caress. Only after a few minutes had gone by, did the little phoenix turn around and peered at his husband’s face. Seeing that Zhu Hong wasn’t actually paying attention to him and was just absentmindedly stroking his feathers, Zhen Zhu couldn’t help but be a little curious though. He changed his form, coming to sit on top of his husband, and looked at him deeply.
The sudden movement and increase in weight indeed made Zhu Hong raise his gaze and he forgot what he had just been thinking about. The fact that Zhen Zhu hadn’t put on any clothes yet really didn’t help with thinking. He stared at him and then couldn’t help but reach out, pulling him down into his arms. “Are you trying to seduce your husband this early in the morning?” His voice sounded a little husky. If Zhen Zhu had indeed had that kind of intention, well, it had worked.
Zhen Zhu laughed though and burrowed deeper into his arms. “I wasn’t doing anything. I just wanted to ask what you were thinking about. You seemed to be really preoccupied.”
Zhu Hong gave a faint hum, collecting his thoughts that had traveled somewhere completely else just now in a hurry before he explained. Zhen Zhu was his spouse now. Unless it was something that he really couldn’t tell him like how he actually lacked that connection with him, he would tell him everything. And this kind of small matter, that was definitely something he had no interest in keeping to himself. “I was just remembering my parents.”
“Ah?” Zhen Zhu only knew that Zhu Hong’s parents weren’t alive anymore but he had no knowledge about what exactly had happened to them. He wasn’t quite sure if this was something he could just bring up or if it was better to stay quiet right now either. He really found himself in a conundrum.
Zhu Hong glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and then reached up, lightly rubbing his temple. “Don’t think too much. I don’t actually remember them that well. There are just a few, very scattered memories left of them.”
“Oh.” Zhen Zhu looked sad when he heard that. He nuzzled his husband’s chin in an attempt to cheer him up. “Then what are some things that you do remember?” He wasn’t just curious. Since Zhu Hong had told him not to worry, he felt that maybe his husband also wanted to talk about it.
Zhu Hong had spent the last hour thinking of nothing else but this so he had no trouble finding a memory to start with. “I do remember how my mother looked. And I just couldn’t help but think of that when I saw that you had taken on your phoenix form again.”
Hearing that, Zhen Zhu was intrigued. “Did she look similar to me?” He actually felt that he wasn’t that impressive. His phoenix form was small, his other form was kind of boring. Compared to the other phoenixes he had seen so far, he felt a little plain. To be compared to his husband’s mother would be the biggest compliment he could receive. He really hoped that was what Zhu Hong would say.
Zhu Hong turned his head and examined Zhen Zhu’s appearance. He could see that his little spouse wanted him to say yes but … he really couldn’t find anything that resembled his mother in there. It might be a different matter in the future but right now, there really was nothing.
For a moment, he entertained the idea of just lying about it but then again, he didn’t want to carelessly do so. No, he should treat his husband with as much honesty as possible. Having made up his mind, Zhu Hong faintly shook his head. “No, actually, I don’t think you do. My mother was …” He tried to think of the right words but it was a bit difficult. He still remembered her from the perspective of a child. That was something that naturally clouded his judgment. Now that he was an adult and already married to his husband, it really was hard to compare. In any case, there were a few very obvious differences that he couldn’t go wrong with. “She had dark hair. And eyes that were of a deep black, like coals or onyx.”
Zhen Zhu figured that his mother pretty much must have been the polar opposite of him then. “She sounds very beautiful.”
Zhu Hong nodded. “She definitely was. She was a very elegant woman, a bit cold maybe. Not that she was mean or anything, just a little reserved. She wouldn’t laugh easily. I can still remember that. But she did have a nice smile.”
Zhen Zhu smiled reflexively, wondering if his smile was also a nice one.
Zhu Hong originally hadn’t been paying attention but the movement once again caught his eye. He looked over and figured that praising his mother when she had been this different from his spouse might make Zhen Zhu feel a bit self-conscious.
Thinking about it for a moment, he reached out and gripped his chin. “My mother was a completely different type from you. That much is for sure. I think my father loved her deeply but … that was my father. To me, she’s just my mother so I guess I do look at her differently.
“For me personally, I definitely prefer this kind of adorable, bright spouse that I have.” He smiled back at him, leaning over Zhen Zhu and looking at that smile. It was indeed quite cute, really sweet. It made him want to take a bite out of those lips.
While Zhu Hong was just thinking, Zhen Zhu once again proved that he was a pretty straightforward person. Being praised by his husband and then caught below his body, he immediately reached out and wrapped his arms around his neck, pulling himself up to give him a fervent kiss.
Zhu Hong sighed faintly and kissed him back, but then pulled back after just a moment. “It’s already early in the morning. I think it would be better to get up so we can get a lot of things done today.”
Zhen Zhu clearly heard him but he didn’t seem intent on really getting up. “Can’t we start getting things done later?”
“Mn. We probably could but … if we did that, then I’m afraid that it would take longer to explore the whole valley. And didn’t a certain somebody want to go to the city as soon as possible? Don’t tell me you already changed your mind about that?”
Zhen Zhu pursed his lips but then finally let go of his husband’s neck and scrambled out of the bed. He went to pick out a robe and hurriedly got dressed. Then, he turned back to look at his husband who was still lying in bed with a lazy expression. “What’s the matter? Didn’t you say that we should hurry up to get things done?”
“I did. I just didn’t think that my little spouse would suddenly be this eager though. I thought I’d still have a few minutes to admire you.”
Zhen Zhu lowered his head, a flattered smile on his lips. “Well, you can get up and admire me then.”
Zhu Hong laughed and indeed got out of the bed to start putting on his own robes as well. “Alright, then I will admire you for the rest of the day. I’m going to show you some of the most important buildings that we have. There are some that you will be especially happy to see.”
He didn’t explain anything further even though Zhen Zhu looked as if he was about to die of curiosity. The little phoenix was hanging onto his arm, looking at him with bright eyes but Zhu Hong refused to say anything and just motioned for him to sit down so he could do his hair.
“I don’t know how to do that wavy hairstyle you asked about yesterday yet so you’ll have to take something else today. I’ll try to inquire today though so maybe I’ll be able to do it for you tomorrow.”
Zhen Zhu nodded happily, feeling that this was really good. In any case, he didn’t mind how many different hairstyles he would have. Being able to have his husband do them was definitely a win for him.
Zhu Hong pondered for a moment and then went for a slightly different hairstyle today. This time, it was slightly more playful. Part of the hair was arranged in several buns on top of his head and the remaining strands were falling down over his left shoulder to the front. Zhu Hong added a few beautiful ornaments to it as a finishing touch.
Glancing at the ones that were still left, he felt that he should probably start ordering new ones already. The clothes would only be enough for a few more days as well so it was best to take care of that today too. It would probably be best if he did it similar to yesterday, first showing Zhen Zhu around a little more before bringing him over to the other phoenixes while he went off to take care of these matters.
Having thought it through, Zhu Hong immediately explained his plan to Zhen Zhu who looked down at first but then also agreed when he realized that this was something that was necessary.
“But you won’t always leave me behind, right? In the future, you will definitely also take me along to such things, right?”
“If you want to, I naturally will. But it could also be that you’ll think it is too much time to waste and utterly boring. In that case, you can always reconsider.”
Zhen Zhu turned around and clung to his husband’s arm again. “How could it be boring? In any case, you’ll be there. And where you are, I also want to go.”
Zhu Hong leaned down and kissed his forehead, feeling sweet inside. “Who knew that my little spouse would be such a sticky one? But if you want to, you can do so of course.” Putting his hands on his shoulders and admiring the view in the mirror for while together, Zhu Hong finally nodded his head. “Alright. I would say we are ready to go.”
Zhen Zhu nodded and got up and the two of them left the house holding hands.
Just as Zhu Hong had said, they went on to visit a few of the more famous buildings of the dragons’ valley. As for what that entailed … Zhen Zhu was actually quite surprised.