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Who Is Your Favorite?

Chapter Text

In Cang Qiong, there was a deep-rooted tradition of taking care of each other.

Cang Qiong was made of twelve siblings who found themselves twelve peaks and erected a Sect to take in disciples. In the legend, the eldest brother, the lord of Qiong Ding, was a very handsome and amiable man, respected and loved by all... Including his own younger siblings.

It became a race and competition for the remaining eleven siblings, because of their large number, they all competed for their eldest brother’s love. Until their eldest brother announced who was amongst them that he loved the most, it even spread to their head disciples. Before they all ascend after they appointed their successors to be the next peak lords, they asked their eldest brother who was his favourite.

Their eldest brother was perplexed and said, “We all are siblings. I love you all equally.” However, his answer did not satisfy any of his siblings and they swore the generations after them would have a clear answer to their own question.

And the curse tradition continued for generations. In each generation, the eldest would be fawned on and flattered by their juniors and would inadvertently pick a favorite because there was no guilt such as blood that connected them.

It changed every time, even after the eldest had picked a favorite, the others would still try to replace the favorite junior by keep treating the eldest to the best they could, the one who had been chosen would need to defend by doing twice work.

This went on for generations.

Thousands of years later, Qing Jing peak lord seated his dearest head disciple in the Crystal Air garden, looking solemn. “My child, Qingqiu. I have to say I’m anxious over your situation,” Jing Qingan started seriously, folding his paper fan and lowered his hands to his lap.

“Shizun, please enlighten Qingqiu,” Shen Qingqiu, the most brilliant and smartest disciple of Qing Jing, humbly questioned.

“Qingqiu, do you know Cang Qiong’s long tradition?” Jing Qingan asked seriously. The tradition where all eleven peak lords vouched to be their Zhangmen-shixiong’s ‘favorite’. A tremendous honor and generally very needed within this bunch of hopeless people who really needed their shixiong’s approval- please, please let it be me.

Shen Qingqiu stared blankly, for all Shen Qingqiu’s book smart and street-genius, he was never a fan of long term tradition and could be really dense sometimes. “Disciple didn’t quite understand what Shizun meant to say...” Shen Qingqiu, once again, humbly said.

Jing Qingan felt distressed, no wonder... No wonder his clever, smart, genius, best disciple was falling on his race! His other shidis and shimei already fought hard for the head disciple of Qiong Ding’s attention and approval but his own disciple didn’t! This couldn’t happen! “Qingqiu, our tradition is-“

“Qingqiu-shidi, there you are. I have this Eight Treasure Mist Flower to aid your- ah,” Yue Qingyuan paused for a slight second when he finally saw Jing Qingan by the tree when he came closer. Yue Qingyuan bowed humbly, “Shishu, Yue Qingyuan of Qiong Ding humbly greets you...”

Jing Qingan nodded in return.

Shen Qingqiu spoke up, “Yue-shixiong, I humbly thank you for visiting. But I don’t need that,” Shen Qingqiu restrained the urge to snap at Yue Qingyuan in front of Jing Qingan.

Yue Qingyuan lowered his gaze and smiled sheepishly, “Qingqiu-shidi, this flower would benefit you greatly. Please take it. Also, I brought you a spiritual bead, I heard you caught a cold from the mission to the north, this bead prevents cold...” Yue Qingyuan handed the items to Shen Qingqiu who had no choice but to receive it under his own Shizun’s gaze. Happy that his little brother figure received his gifts, Yue Qingyuan smiled, “Please excuse me then. Shishu, Qingyuan bids his goodbye,” with that, the graceful boy left.

Shen Qingqiu indifferently stored the items into his space pouch and folded his hands on his lap, “What tradition, Shizun?” He asked, indicating his Shizun to continue.

“Never mind that. It’s not important anymore, how’s your training?” Jing Qingan smiled widely at his dearest disciple, unfolding his paper fan to fan himself proudly. Silly him, of course his Qingqiu could win his own race and without any effort at that, take that Ji Qingyun!


 

None of the current generation’s head disciple was happy when they all witnessed how much their future Zhangmen-shixiong doted on Qing Jing’s Shen Qingqiu.

But as much as it sucked, they lost... When the race barely even began. Literally the moment Shen Qingqiu stepped into Cang Qiong, Yue-shixiong just focused all his attention to him. No amount of sincere fawning, flatteries and impressive shows could make their future Zhangmen-shixiong took his eyes off of Shen Qingqiu.

Hell, Shen Qingqiu could kill someone in open and Yue Qingyuan would still probably defend him. It was as clear as day who was Yue Qingyuan’s favorite.

How jealous.

“This sucks,” Liu Qingge, head disciple of Bai Zhan, complained as he kicked the desk in their little meeting of ten future peak lords.

“We barely even started!” Ye Qingjiu, head disciple of Zui Xian peak, slumped on the desk.

“This is not fun anymore,” Mu Qingfang, head disciple of Qian Cao peak, sighed in lament.

This had broken the mainstream of tradition. Shen Qingqiu did not even do anything and Yue Qingyuan was the one who fawned over him! Why didn’t they play by rules?!

“If the results is already like this, then, what should we do? Who should we flatter and asked for attention to?” Qi Qingqi, head disciple of Xian Shu, demanded with a cute pout on her lips. The others also sighed in depression.

Now, most people would say... Why? Why don’t you just leave them alone and went on with your life as the result had been decided? Wasn’t it easier that way?

The answer was...

The tradition of Cang Qiong had been deeply rooted to the core that basically every time a peak lord picked a head disciple, they would immediately brainwash teach them to compete to be their future Zhangmen’s favorite. It wasn’t a simple competition for innocent approval anymore... It was a race to receive their brother’s doting and attention.

Because they were all young and needed that attention okay? Even for a little. These young masters and miss were all the same, they had been taught to win their eldest brother’s favor and enjoyed any smile or any kind of approval and attention they received along the way until their eldest brother pick a favorite. And even then, they would still try to replace the favorite junior.

But Yue Qingyuan.... There was just no way they could receive the amount of care, approval, attention, and concern that Yue Qingyuan showered to Shen Qingqiu. That was just impossible!

Even if they want to feel satisfied with every smile Yue Qingyuan gave to them, it was impossible! Especially when Yue Qingyuan did nothing but always smiling when it came to Shen Qingqiu and instead tried really hard to make their second shixiong smile.

Even if they want to feel content when Yue Qingyuan asked if they were alright after getting struck down- it was impossible! Especially when you then see him literally ran up to Shen Qingqiu and checked his pulse after Shen Qingqiu as much as just sniffed.

It only made them feel like trash! What worth are they?! All of their hard works were all nothing with Shen Qingqiu around!

They all lamented about their own generation’s uselessness before Wei Qingwei, head disciple of Wan Jian peak, perked up, “Since the place as Yue-shixiong’s favorite had been taken... How about we change our target?” He suggested.

“Who should be our target? The tradition is to be our eldest brother’s favorite, Qiong Ding only have one successor...” Shang Qinghua, head disciple of An Ding peak, said helplessly.

“Yes, but the place as Yue-shixiong’s favorite is taken and forever irreplaceable... How about we changed the rule? Since we haven’t yet got our fair share of struggling for attention and approval from our shixiong and mellowed them out?” Wei Qingwei said.

“... Speak,” Liu Qingge cupped his hands over his mouth solemnly.

“You know which brother that didn’t seem to be interested nor partial to anyone?” Wei Qingwei smiled. “Shen-shixiong.”

They all looked at each other and... contemplated.

“Interesting...” Qi Qingqi hummed.

“Shen-shixiong is indeed very cold and distant. He absolutely has no favorite,” Fu Qingwu, head disciple of Ku Xing peak, smiled.

“That means, a fair contest,” Mu Qingfang nodded.

“He hates me,” Liu Qingge said as he disbelievingly looked at his apprentice brothers and sister.

“That’s your problem,” Qi Qingqi snapped at him before unfolding her feathered fan and fanned herself slowly. “Your fault for being such a jerk to the people you just met. Besides...”

Everyone exchanged glances and smirked, “Cold and distant. Will be very interesting to crack,” They all agreed.

“It would be much more meaningful when he smiles, right?” Ye Qingjiu smiled dreamily. “I wonder how would Shen-shixiong look like when he smiled?”

Everyone couldn’t help but to imagine their constantly expressionless shixiong smiled at them and couldn’t help but to be enamored at their own imagination.

“When he said ‘thank you’ after we did something important for him...” Shang Qinghua cupped his own cheek and sighed dreamily.

Now everyone pictured Shen Qingqiu thanking them. Some pictured an aloof thanks, some pictured a smile and a thank you, the other couldn’t help but to imagine a quiet and brief thanks to satisfy their own desire for a shy answer.

“What if he got worried for our sakes?” Mu Qingfang stated.

Now everyone imagined Shen Qingqiu dropped beside them when they were injured, pinching his brows in concern and scolding them for not being careful.

“Beautiful...” Zhang Qingxu, head disciple of Tian Yin, murmured dazedly.

“A treasure...” Han Qingyu, head disciple of Xian Zhen, nodded.

Slam! “To hell with it! I’m in!” Liu Qingge fiercely declared.

“So everyone in?” Wei Qingwei smirked in amusement at Liu Qingge and asked to the others.

“Yes!” The others passionately answered.

“From tomorrow on, our target to mellow out and flatter is our Shen-shixiong, second in seniority, from Qing Jing,” Wei Qingwei nodded. “Alright, may the best man- and woman- win,” Wei Qingwei said and the curtain closed.

The meeting room that previously held ten future peak lords was void of people in a blink.

Let the game began.


 

In Qing Jing, Shen Qingqiu sneezed violently when he read the eighth volume of advanced art of literature, blissfully unaware of the suffocating love and affection that would be sent his way tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu woke up feeling normal that day, he did his usual morning routine of the day and instructed his juniors for a bit in the early morning.

Because Jing Qingan was on retreat for an undetermined amount of time, he was in charge of the peak, and he didn’t have to wait for his Shizun.

As Shen Qingqiu was solemnly doing his duty and arranging the books in Quiet Library, he heard someone calling for him. “Shen-shixiong?! Shen-shixiong, are you inside?”

Shen Qingqiu frowned in displeasure, what was the need to be so loud? Didn’t the rule of Qing Jing make it clear to keep your voice to the minimum unless you were dying?

“What are you being so loud about? Come in and call me like a civilized person,” Shen Qingqiu poked his head out of the window to look at the person who called him from the front of the library. Shen Qingqiu blinked, it wasn’t a Qing Jing disciple.

Shang Qinghua beamed when he saw Shen Qingqiu, “I may come in? Okay, then,” Shang Qinghua did not wait for Shen Qingqiu’s response as he opened the door and entered the ancient library of Qing Jing, closing the door behind him. 

Shen Qingqiu stared quietly at Shang Qinghua, “What do you need?” he asked, not too warm and definitely a little cold.

Shang Qinghua did not mind it at all, “Qinghua wanted to find a book about the seventh scripture of the Sun and Judgement, does shixiong could help me to find it?” he asked with a soft tone.

Shen Qingqiu turned thoughtful at the question, “Wait,” he said simply and walked towards a row of shelves. After going through several shelves, Shen Qingqiu finally found the said book. After checking it for any damage, Shen Qingqiu turned around to give it to Shang Qinghua only to find Shang Qinghua’s face was already so close beside him.

Shang Qinghua was only mildly startled, but Shen Qingqiu almost dropped the book as he jerked back.

Shen Qingqiu scowled, “What are you doing?” he hissed.

“I’m following you,” Shang Qinghua blinked innocently as he tilted his head. “Also, I want to check out some books while I’m here,” he said.

Shen Qingqiu arched an eyebrow, unimpressed. “Here’s the book you’re searching for,” he said blandly as he handed the book to Shang Qinghua who smiled and accepted it.

“Thank you,” Shang Qinghua said bashfully. “Shixiong seemed to be busy, is there anything Qinghua can help you for? What is shixiong busy for? Is it for cleaning the library? Qinghua is good at cleaning,” Shang Qinghua offered with an honest smile, fully projecting his appeal as an innocent and sincere shidi.

Shen Qingqiu blinked and... looked at Shang Qinghua doubtfully. Since when Shang Qinghua used such a sweet way of talking?

“Hello? Is anyone here?” a melodious and feminine voice resounded as the library door pushed open slowly to reveal Xian Shu’s most graceful fairy, Qi Qingqi. Qi Qingqi smiled when she found Shen Qingqiu, “Shen-shige!”

Shen Qingqiu’s reaction to Qi Qingqi was undoubtedly warmer compared to his response to Shang Qinghua, “Qi-shimei, what do you need?” he nodded, not quite noticing how Shang Qinghua’s innocent and honest expression turned sour at Qi Qingqi’s arrival.

“Qingqi is actually searching for you,” Qi Qingqi smiled. “This-“

“Shen-shixiong!” Another one, no, no, two, no, three people entered, breathing heavily as they subtly glared at each others before beaming up at Shen Qingqiu flatteringly.

“How fortunate, Shen-shixiong is already in the library this early, you’re really diligent,” Fu Qingwu said pleasantly.

Ye Qingjiu snorted, “That’s to be expected! Shen-shixiong is our shixiong, very dedicated to his duty and very refined!”

“Shen-shixiong, I’m here to add this to the collection. But first, shall we discuss it first?” Zhang Qingxu was undoubtedly the one with most preparation as he pulled out a seal and formation manual from his sleeve, excitedly bouncing towards Shen Qingqiu.

“Pssh! Boring!” Ye Qingjiu effortlessly yanked Zhang Qingxu back by his collar. “You can discuss about it with your Shizun. Shen-shixiong, how about we drink wine in this lovely day and compose poems? Qingjiu really admires Shen-shixiong’s poem,” Ye Qingjiu suggested.

Fu Qingwu pushed Ye Qingjiu back gently, “The sun just came up and you already asked our refined and graceful shixiong to get drunk, are you out of your mind? This is not Zui Xian!” Done saying that, Fu Qingwu smiled humbly at Shen Qingqiu, “Shixiong, if you don’t mind. Would you like to talk about the Dao with me?”

Why did he suddenly gain so many guests today?

Shen Qingqiu had patiently waited for them to be done, furrowing his brows solemnly composing his response in his mind, “First-“

“First come, first serve, your shijie came here first to discuss with Shen-shige,” Qi Qingqi raised her head and asserted her dominance over the group of shidis.

“Going by that, I came here first, shimei,” Shang Qinghua furrowed his brows in discontent.

“Okay, first,” Shen Qingqiu raised his voice slightly. “Zhang-shidi, let me see that manual,” Shen Qingqiu put the first priority to the donator and Zhang Qingxu smiled in victory.

“I’m here to return a book!” Before Zhang Qingxu could hand over the book, another person entered and announced his presence pretty loudly... It was Liu Qingge.

Shen Qingqiu’s eyes turned cold at his arrival, “Just put it on the desk,” he said coldly.

Liu Qingge put it on the desk and sat down on the bench, opening the book to a certain page and pushed it to the center of the desk, “I need to discuss something about this tactic,” He said seriously as he looked at Shen Qingqiu in the eyes.

“...”

The door was pushed open again and Wei Qingwei entered, he looked dumbstruck at the crowd of head disciples inside the Quiet Library. “Eh...?”

Seriously?!

“Let me guess, you’re here to discuss something with me?” Shen Qingqiu asked before Wei Qingwei before he could say anything.

“I’m actually here to give Shen-shixiong the new spiritual grindstone that you asked two days ago?” Wei Qingwei was prepared too as he took out the glowing bar of grindstone to Shen Qingqiu.

“... Oh, many thanks,” Shen Qingqiu nodded blankly as he received the grindstone. He then turned to look at the six shidis and shimei and furrowed his brows, “You all sit down, first. I’ll tidy up the library first,” he remembered his unfinished duty.

“I’ll help,” Shang Qinghua quickly volunteered.

“Sit,” Shen Qingqiu’s word was cold the others couldn’t help but shivered and sat down on one long table. Wei Qingwei slyly slid his way to sit down too.

When Shen Qingqiu left them, they all glared at each others defiantly, challengingly, warning.

“So, a tactic, huh?” Qi Qingqi smiled brightly as she tilted her head to Liu Qingge.

“I’m from a War peak after all,” Liu Qingge said indifferently.

“Can you even make a poem?” Fu Qingwu raised his brows at Ye Qingjiu who snorted.

“I might not be as proficient as Shen-shixiong, but I’m good!” Ye Qingjiu claimed.

As the air of stubborn defiance and competitiveness almost burned the long table, Shen Qingqiu returned, bringing a notebook, a bottle of ink and a small brush.

“First, Zhang-shidi can give me the seal and formation manual since he’s contributing to the library,” Shen Qingqiu said dignifiedly as he motioned to Zhang Qingxu who happily handed the manual to Shen Qingqiu.

“The first seal is inspired by the ancient seven-headed snake yin seal, it’s very stable and effective,” Zhang Qingxu pointed to the seal on the first and second page.

“How stable and effective?” Shen Qingqiu asked seriously.

“About half as effective as the ancient one, though we could make it stronger by half if we add the simplified version of South Water Seal here with a snake demon’s blood...” Zhang Qingxu leaned in as he explained.

Shen Qingqiu furrowed his eyebrows as he tapped his brush on the desk, “Sit properly,” he snapped sternly and Zhang Qingxu paused before straightened his sitting position again.

Everyone also unconsciously straightened up their sitting posture to not be scolded by Shen Qingqiu, however, in their mind, they were all agitated. Shen-shixiong who acted like a strict teacher was really cool! They suddenly want to know how Shen Qingqiu would look like with a cane...

Shen Qingqiu looked at the seal again and hummed as he drew the design on his own note and pointed at it, “So we drew the water seal with a snake demon’s blood or the entire seal?” Shen Qingqiu asked.

“Just the water seal,” Zhang Qingxu relaxed as he explained the details.

“I see... Is there any problem with using a snake demon’s blood for the entire seal?”

“No, we could use it. But we’re depending on budget,” Zhang Qingxu said seriously. “It’s cheaper to just have the water seal drawn with snake blood. Besides, if it was used for an entire seal it would invite strong evil spirits instead of enhancing its capability...”

“How about western Flame Snake, they’re Yang type demons living in Yin-oriented area,” Shen Qingqiu said.

Zhang Qingxu mused, “Flame Snake is descended from Yin type of demon but mutated and turned to Yang... Yes! I think we could use that, theoretically, if I change the seals in this side,” The two of them got seriously involved in their talk about the seals and Zhang Qingxu’s excitement increased more and more as he voiced up his ideas and Shen Qingqiu noted it down for further research for the sake of Tian Yin peak alone.

The others watched on, fascinated and also jealous. They ended up to also insert their insights every once in a while in their discussion and Shen Qingqiu was open to their opinion. Zhang Qingxu’s face went progressively and positively red as the discussion went on, he had completely fallen for their new target...

After being done with the manual, Shen Qingqiu stored it and turned to Qi Qingqi, “What does Qi-shimei want to discuss about?” he asked in a slightly warmer tone.

“Shen-shige, in this classic literary book...” Qi Qingqi changed her tone into a sweet and mellow confused little sister as she opened the book into a bookmarked page. Shen Qingqiu tilted his head and read the lines Qi Qingqi asked about and told her about the meaning and his own interpretation of it.

“As for this lines over here,  You usually had wine every night for yourself, but when you have to share it for others you’ll only get to enjoy it once a week.” Shen Qingqiu started.

“Greed? Or is it some sort of riddle again?” Qi Qingqi asked enthusiastically.

“Sharing and temperance?” Fu Qingwu followed curiously.

“Wrong, it’s Pride,” Shen Qingqiu shook his head. “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression,” Shen Qingqiu said patiently.

They all exclaimed in enlightenment and Qi Qingqi sighed dreamily.

“That’s a very interesting way to put it,” Wei Qingwei nodded.

Shen Qingqiu nodded and Qi Qingqi took her book, skimming over it with more interest now. Shen Qingqiu looked at Liu Qingge and Liu Qingge automatically nudged Shang Qinghua, who was sitting on the edge, aside.

“Move,” Liu Qingge said as Shang Qinghua was pushed off of the bench. Liu Qingge scooted over Shang Qinghua’s seat to be closer to Shen Qingqiu, who was at the head of the table. “Here, in this #20 tactical battle...” Liu Qingge indifferently started even as Shang Qinghua frowned indignantly.

Shen Qingqiu observed the battle tactic, “I think, I have a similar procedure like this. Wait a second,” Shen Qingqiu was in full teaching mode as he stood up and walked over to a shelf on the corner.

The others looked over Liu Qingge’s book to see if they could join the discussion whereas Shang Qinghua, already lost his seat, looked over at Shen Qingqiu who fixed a ladder on a shelf to reach the book at the top shelf.

As the head disciple of An Ding, Shang Qinghua had trained eyes to see over the small details and damages, he immediately noticed the old wooden ladder and grew concerned, “Shen-shixiong, that ladder did not look safe.”

Shen Qingqiu nodded absently, “Then, I’ll have to trouble you...” to replace it with a new one later. However, Shen Qingqiu did not manage to finish his words as the step holding his weight unexpectedly cracked and broke when he tried to reach to the highest shelf.

Everyone immediately snapped their head over to look when they heard the snapping sound, “Shen-shixiong!”

It was too fast and too startling to recover to, Shen Qingqiu could only brace himself for a humiliating fall in front of his shidis and shimei when an arm wrapped around his waist and he was suspended before he fell.

Clack.

His savior’s free hand secured the ladder to not fall after Shen Qingqiu and Shen Qingqiu looked up.

“It’s no trouble at all,” Shang Qinghua smiled when Shen Qingqiu’s surprised eyes looked up at him.

Shen Qingqiu straightened immediately, brushing off imaginary dust from his green robe, “Th... Thank you...” Shen Qingqiu tried to aloofly thank Shang Qinghua but it was clear he was rather flustered. Falling right after Shang Qinghua reminded him that the ladder did not look safe, how embarrassing...

Everyone gawked at Shang Qinghua. Goddamn it! It was just the first day yet! That damn ladder was a paid actor! How could such a sudden classic light accident happened to Shang Qinghua?!

Liu Qingge slammed his hands on the table, “Hands off!” He said fiercely, startling Shen Qingqiu.

“Shang-shixiong, time limit!” Ye Qingjiu also yelled furiously. Shang Qinghua hastily let go of Shen Qingqiu’s waist, he even had the gall to look wronged. Sly! So sly!

“My God, Shige, you should be more careful in the future. Tsk, tsk, Shang-shixiong is so rough, did you hurt your waist? Here, you can lean on Qingqi,” No one knew when Qi Qingqi moved but she was already on Shen Qingqiu’s side, holding his arm.

“That’s dirty, hands off of Shixiong’s arm!” Zhang Qingxu growled as he marched up and held Shen Qingqiu’s other arm.

“This is the time to get drunk, I brought a herbal wine with me,” Ye Qingjiu shoved a green gourd to Shen Qingqiu’s face.

“You all are disturbing him,” Shang Qinghua said unhappily.

“Shut up,” Qi Qingqi hissed.

“Are... Are you okay?” Liu Qingge awkwardly asked. “Sorry, this is because of my question. I’ll pay the medical cost.”

“I’m fine, let-“

“The edge of your robe is ripped,” Wei Qingwei observed.

“Oh my God!” Qi Qingqi stressed as she kneeled down and looked at the ripped part in concern. “Qingqi will mend it for you if you want.”

“No, I’ll replace that,” Shang Qinghua said.

They argued and argued and the usually quiet library was filled with so much noise that Shen Qingqiu’s head began to throb.

“You all, get out!” Shen Qingqiu snapped and shouted at them.


 

 “Did you notice how he nipped on his lower lips gently whenever he was analyzing things seriously?” Liu Qingge suddenly asked, breaking the argument on their way out of Qing Jing.

Yes!” Everyone replied with so much vigor.

“And when he chastised me to sit properly! Sigh...” Zhang Qingxu sighed dreamily. “That’s the kind of discipline I was looking for, someone gotta keep us in line and Shen-shixiong is the perfect man for it!”

“I agree. The way he just slipped into teacher mode when you ask him something. He only needs a cane and the image of the strict teacher will be perfect,” Wei Qingwei patted his chest to calm down his heartbeat.

“His writing is so beautiful and he is so dedicated,” Fu Qingwu said passionately.

“And did you notice his adorable stutter when he thanked me?” Shang Qinghua grinned to himself.

“The way his eyebrows furrowed cutely when he disapproves something!” Qi Qingqi added in excitement.

“I want him to furrow his brows disapprovingly at me and discipline me with a cane...” Ye Qingjiu said with a steady and determined tone.

“What?” The others looked at their tenth brother in disbelief.


 

“I heard you fell earlier today?” Mu Qingfang stood before Shen Qingqiu as he gently and very respectfully gave Shen Qingqiu a once over.

“Where did you hear that?” Shen Qingqiu blinked.

“Oh, for the first few years, we’re obligated to share information details,” Mu Qingfang answered unconcernedly.

“Information details on what?” Shen Qingqiu raised his brows.

“Our target. May Qingfang takes your pulse?” Mu Qingfang changed the topic and motioned to Shen Qingqiu’s wrist.

“It’s not that serious,” Shen Qingqiu said but let Mu Qingfang checked his pulse anyways.

Mu Qingfang smiled gently, “Oh, shixiong, everything about you should be seriously handled,” he took a moment before releasing Shen Qingqiu’s wrist. “No internal injury, however, your left foot seemed to be lightly affected.”

Shen Qingqiu had not even responded when Mu Qingfang already guided him to sit on the nearest bench and solemnly inspected his foot, “You can soak it with a basin of warm water mixed with this,” Mu Qingfang said as he took out a small jade bottle and gave it to Shen Qingqiu.

Shen Qingqiu felt it was too much but accepted it anyways, “You have no need to go this far.”

“Next is the bathing procedure,” Mu Qingfang started seriously.

“What?” Shen Qingqiu stared in disbelief.

“To make sure you don’t accidentally worsen your leg injury-“

“No, wait. It’s just a small bump, I’m not so weak,” Shen Qingqiu furrowed his brows.

“Shen-shixiong, Qingfang is really concerned for your wellbeing. Know it, Qingfang’s heart ached when you’re as much as getting a scratch,” Mu Qingfang expressed.

Shen Qingqiu raised his brows and shook his head. Okay...

It wasn’t another auditory hallucinations, right?

First, seven of his shidis and shimei came over to the library when they often couldn’t be bothered to step into it for more than a few minutes. Not only that, all of them seemed to be really interested in what he said and did... Shen Qingqiu had treated it as a strange thing that happened in Qing Jing’s library, alongside with levitating books on some odd days and some flash of former peak lords’ memory manifestations in there....

But now he was outside Qing Jing’s library...

Shen Qingqiu slowly took a step back from Mu Qingfang who watched his move carefully (curiously). What is happening? Everything today was so surreal, like, Shang Qinghua wanted to borrow a book? Qi Qingqi took the initiative to come and get closer to Shen Qingqiu? Ye Qingjiu was not drunk? And Liu Qingge did not act like a complete asshole to Shen Qingqiu? Shen Qingqiu was about to forget that, because that happened in the library, the place where some crazy things happened.

But now, Mu Qingfang was expressing unnecessary concern?

... Had Shen Qingqiu really woke up yet, this morning?

“I have to go...” Shen Qingqiu said calmly.

“Shen-shixiong?” Mu Qingfang blinked but Shen Qingqiu did not let him finish as he turned around and rushed off gracefully.

Mu Qingfang stared at the spot where Shen Qingqiu was and sighed dreamily, “Oh my, running away so suddenly? Is he being shy?” he smiled softly. As expected, rather than trying to steal Yue-shixiong’s attention away, it was much more thrilling to compete for Shen-shixiong, at the very least they could see their result.


 

Shen Qingqiu decided to call it a day and intend to rest early, before resting, he went into the Quiet Pool to take bath. Because the Quiet Pool was only allowed for their Shizun and Shen Qingqiu, there was no one else there which Shen Qingqiu was grateful of.

Shen Qingqiu took off his clothes and folded it neatly to the side, he took a towel and immersed himself in the cold water of Quiet Pool. He gave a quiet sigh over thinking about his day. At least this place was quiet.

Shen Qingqiu raised his hands to pull up his hair over his head and he heard someone choked. Shen Qingqiu’s expression darkened immediately as he caught the leaf drifting down and shot it towards the voice’s source.

CRASH!

Shen Qingqiu pulled his bathrobe and wrapped it around his slim body in a flash, “Who is it?!” Shen Qingqiu yelled out.

“Cough! Cough! Oww-“ The intruder coughed violently after receiving Shen Qingqiu’s sudden attack when he wasn’t ready. When he realized he had been discovered, the man decked in black paled.

Shen Qingqiu stared in disbelief, “Huang Qingxuan?!” Shen Qingqiu exclaimed disbelievingly at the man inside the Quiet Pool area.

“I can explain,” Huang Qingxuan, the head disciple of Yin Hui, the peak of espionage, undercover and gathering of information, raised his hands sheepishly. However, Huang Qingxuan trailed off when his eyes trailed down Shen Qingqiu’s figure to his pair of long exposed legs, he gulped and thanked the God for his ‘reckless choice’ earlier now he was served with such divine sight.

“What are you doing here?!” Shen Qingqiu lost all his calm as he pointed at his ninth shidi who blushed slightly when Shen Qingqiu shifted. This is unfair, that bathrobe only makes it more sensual!

“I...” he looked up in guilt. As Yin Hui peak’s number one rule, you can’t lie to your brothers and sister if you’re found out by them during a mission. Damn it! His Shizun would be very disappointed if he knew. After all, the protocol number #8 mentioned that a Yin Hui’s (future) peak lord couldn’t be discovered by their (future) Zhangmen-shixiong unless they’re in immediate danger! “Qingxuan is here to observe Shen-shixiong’s activity for research,” he replied.

“Research? What research needs to see me bathing?!” Shen Qingqiu exclaimed.

A very important one, “I was going to just observe your pattern and activity... I don’t know you were going to bath, no worry, I followed you a few seconds too late, I didn’t see anything inappropriate,” Unfortunately. He shouldn’t have hesitated to follow Shen-shixiong to an unknown part of the peak...

“Why would you do that?! Since when?!” Shen Qingqiu was appalled to hear that. Don’t tell him he was under surveillance in his whole life after getting into the Sect?!

“I just started today. And it’s a part of my training as the future peak lord of Yin Hui, you’re my second target to train-spy on... The first is Yue-shixiong,” Huang Qingxuan said half-truth and half-lie. There was never any kind of training to spy on your senior brothers, but his Shizun did mention to treat it as a training when you spy (stalk) on your (future) Zhangmen-shixiong.

Shen Qingqiu calmed down somewhat, so it was Yin Hui’s nonsense rather than suspecting Shen Qingqiu as an individual. “Stop that. I don’t like it,” Shen Qingqiu scowled.

Huang Qingxuan perked up and looked like a kicked puppy, however, he finally nodded after much reluctance.

“I heard a yell, are you okay?!”

“Shen-shixiong, is something the matter?!”

“What’s wrong?!”

Huang Qingxuan immediately sweatdropped when he saw his three shi-xiongdi, who were in a brief meeting in Bai Zhan, came barging into the area of Quiet Pool and gawked when they saw Shen Qingqiu stood by the pool, hair dripping wet, and wearing such a short bathrobe. Liu Qingge, Wei Qingwei, and Ye Qingjiu immediately dumbstruck before they all glared at the exposed spy not far away.

Such scene! No doubt Huang Qingxuan had seen much more before he was discovered! This scoundrel! The rule perfectly said to not stalk with perverted reason!

“GET OUT, ALL OF YOU!” Shen Qingqiu yelled at his new trespassers.