It was just supposed to be a quick run to the store, nothing more. A minor trip to get more food - because he’d actually started running out, distracted by other things.
So how did this result in him bringing home a man?!?!?!?
Where had his sense of self preservation gone?!??!!?
Alright...he knew what’d happened to that.
It wasn’t like Shang Qinghua was looking for death - despite what Cucumber-bro said about his working habits. It was more just...this wasn’t what potential death felt like to him anymore.
He’d lived a life of magic swords, bizarre monsters, over-complicated politics and demons for many years now! It changed everything about what felt like a threat to him anymore. Sure he was no longer a cultivator, but he was also much less timid around people.
On his quest to buy an air conditioner, some punks had actually attempted to mug him with a knife. Years ago, Shang Qinghua would have been terrified of that and cowered, letting them take whatever they wanted. Now, they were just an annoyance like some of his king’s lesser subordinates.
His own reaction had honestly been a blur. One moment some punks were drawing a knife on him, and him moving to react, then the next he was standing holding the knife and the punks were fleeing. So he had ended up going home with his money, his air conditioner and a knife, apparently?
This was definitely a new level of strange for him though! Just bringing home a stranger?!??!!
But he’d seemed so very...lost.
Shang Qinghua had gone to get his preferred noodles from that aisle of the store, when he’d found one of the most gorgeous men he’d ever laid eyes on - at least among human men anyway. He’d been standing there, staring at the noodles and clearing having an emotional breakdown of some kind. He was stiff and still, save a telltale shake from his shoulders down to his hands, and there were tears streaming down his face.
Everything about this scene made Shang Qinghua’s heart ache.
Maybe it was something about the guy - his beautifully cut features, gorgeous blue eyes, the perfect scowl to his lips...he really would have been Shang Qinghua’s type if he’d met him before.
In this instance, however, it just served to remind him of someone else he desperately missed.
Someone he was worried about coping without him…
Though that someone was probably fine, would probably just find a replacement, right?
Still, seeing someone else having a worse breakdown than him made Shang Qinghua want to help, even a bit. So he’d tried to ask about what he wanted and tried to help the guy work through at least this problem.
It seemed this man was foreign, which was no surprise. He looked like some kind of international model! Of course he was lost trying to buy noodles in the middle of the night! He probably usually had help to do his shopping for him.
Whatever it was, though, the guy had latched onto Shang Qinghua and followed him. So Shang Qinghua had let him follow.
It was probably a terrible idea.
Actually, it definitely was! The guy didn’t even seem to know he wasn’t supposed to wear his boots in the apartment!
Shang Qinghua had had to stop him in the doorway and nudge him to change them. Yeesh. Going to be as bad as his king at this rate! Mr. Boots-on-the-Bed was the worst about it, but he was a demon lord, you couldn’t do much about their manners.
At the very least, his foreigner was responsive to instruction. He didn’t have much to say and still seemed emotionally strung out, but he’d been willing to carry groceries and sat quietly letting Shang Qinghua talk. He seemed sort of like a large cat, tracking Shang Qinghua with his eyes but otherwise staying quiet and settled where he was left.
Taking the situation that was before him and rolling with it, Shang Qinghua went to put on some instant noodles for them to enjoy and just let the foreigner sit at his table and try to calm down.
“It’s very cool in here.”
This was the first full sentence Shang Qinghua actually got out of the guy, and he jumped in surprise at it.
“What was that?”
“Your quarters. They’re at a lower temperature.”
“Oh.” Shang Qinghua snorted. Definitely formal speaking. “Yeah I have the air conditioner on. I like my place a little chilly. Is it a problem?”
“No. This is optimal. Leave it.”
“Fussy fussy.” he laughed and left his guest to enjoy his ‘optimal temperature’ in the apartment, and just worried about preparing the two packets of instant noodles.
Really, how often did he have guests? Or ones that he could serve cheap noodles to? He knew he’d have to try for real food if Cucumber-bro visited, which he thankfully hadn’t so far.
After a short while, he was able to set out the noodle cup before his guest and sit across from him to eat his own.
“It’s not much but please enjoy.” Shang Qinghua dug into his own with gusto. He was hungry! “Not sure if you’ve ever had anything like that before since you were confused, but what would I know? I’m just a broke writer.” he laughed softly.
His guest didn’t react but did sit up again to start trying the noodles. Well that was good anyway, it meant he could eat. When you were feeling too depressed and couldn’t eat, that was extra bad. It’s part of why he’d been having to remind Cucumber-bro to eat on his “outings” lately. What was the point of going out for sunshine if he neglected himself other ways?
“Are you local? You don’t seem like you’re from around here at all.” Shang Qinghua tried to strike up a conversation now he was more responsive, just to see if he could figure out a bit more about what to do with this person.
“No. Just...visiting.” the slow, low voice of his guest was really nice, but it lacked something in a way that made Shang Qinghua want to pout. Why should he care though?
“That makes sense.” he nodded, “Are you just struggling getting used to this place or having some other life stuff going on? I don’t mean to pry or anything, just trying to get an idea of why you’re...well, like this. And why you’re following me, I guess.”
His guest paused for a time, and just concentrated on his noodles, before he answered. “Life stuff. But I am lost too.”
“Well, I can’t help with the life stuff, but I get being lost. I can try and guide you about a bit for a while? You seem like you could use the company. Are you here alone?” Hopefully he wasn’t! Who would let this guy alone in the city?
“I am not alone. I am here with another.”
“Oh? Friend or relative? Or maybe your...significant other?” Shang Qinghua felt so nervous asking that!
“No.” that response was said very sharp. “We work together.”
Ouch, touched a nerve.
“So just rooming with a coworker for now. I understand.” Shang Qinghua tried to think of another topic to get them off of the uncomfortable one, when the other man spoke again.
“My...partner, is elsewhere right now.” There was something very quiet about his tone, an involuntary note of distress to it.
Oh!!! No wonder he was standing around crying in a noodle aisle. If his romantic partner was elsewhere and he was stuck here, of course he might feel a little out of sorts. Being in a new place with just a coworker sucked. Or maybe he was projecting…
“I know how that is. My husband’s….” he trailed off and waved the topic away quickly. He’d just slipped and referred to Mobei-jun as his husband that way! Well, he was his husband, of sorts. But still!!!! No need to bring him up like that!!!!
The foreigner looked at him for a time before nodding. “You understand.”
Shang Qinghua nearly burst out laughing hearing it phrased that way. “I do.”
He definitely understood this.