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A deal is a deal

Chapter Text

"Draw your blade."

 

So that was him, the imminent demon lord, the famed war god, the renowned beauty of the demonic race. If anything, each and every one of those titles matched the man incredibly well -- but none told Shen Qingqiu that he was also a man of integrity and honor. Or, well, a demon of integrity and honor. To duel a human, a cultivator no less, fairly? Unheard of in all of the realms of the worlds, but Shen Qingqiu didn't mind a battle where he'd die with his dignity still thoroughly intact. Yes, he was well aware of his dim chances of survival against a demon lord who never lost a single battle in his hundreds of years living, fighting. To become so famed for his insurmountable power in the demon realm was that alone a feat in on itself.

 

Right. He was to draw his blade.

 

But.

 

This was a one in a thousand chance to meet the demon in person! One of the characters who faced an undeserving fate! He was nothing but a stepping stone for Luo Binghe to overcome, to take the mantle for himself as the most powerful demon. Even with his protagonist halo, defeating this war god should've required more than one chapter of battle, more than a couple of moves, then a cheat Luo Binghe discovered mid-battle; and it should've definitely required more than taunting the man of sleeping with his sister, which included a lot of papapa afterwards as a poor apology for killing her brother! Ah, Airplane bro, another pathetically written arc to add to the list. He'll never forgive him for the wasted potential.

 

So, with renewed resolution and a face hidden behind a fan, Shen Qingqiu merely stared down at the demon lord and squared his shoulders, coming to a new decision.

 

"I'm well aware of who you are, Qingge Jun. Why play pretense and fight against the war god of the demon realm, knowing full well that my end is the same as the rest of your enemies?"

 

There, it might not be what the fight-addicted demon wanted, but if he could explore his character a little bit longer…

 

"Is it cowardice, then, cultivator?"

 

"I simply know to pick my battles."

 

The demon lord slowly began to circle Shen Qingqiu, and refusing to allow him the opportunity to find openings, Shen Qingqiu walked in the opposite direction, circling around him in the same manner. The other's eyes were burning at him, a studious gaze deep in their silver which matched the fluttering robes he wore. He seemed curious, but nevertheless with a desire to fight.

 

"You'd rather die without an ounce of honor, then. To stand unmoving while I attack."

 

Well.

 

"Or… do you plan to run away with your tail between your legs?"

 

How unbecoming of you, third favorite character! I dragged Airplane bro through the mud for you!

 

However, with silence stretching, the war god seemed to grow impatient as well, a hand grasping the hilt of his sword. Oh no. Please no.

 

"Fight, or die a lowlife."

 

"-----It's obvious to see why you'd taunt me so, my lord. I wonder, when was the last time you've faced a cultivator with any significant caliber? It is clear as day you ache for a fight, but I do not see why I should be the one to give it to you."

 

His saving grace, the ability to spout nonsense! However, before he could even celebrate his well worded refute, a scowl began to form, ever so slightly, on the demon's face. And the demon took a step closer. Time to continue this charade.

 

"You could kill me, as easy as cutting butter, and I could run just as you stated. I could do either of them with ease, but would it satisfy you? You're trying to urge me to fight but I do not see why I should comply."

 

"Is my being a demon not enough reason? Perhaps you wish to die, merely awaiting the opportunity."

 

"I do not see you being a demon as enough reason to fight you. Remember, you instigated this, not I."

 

"Where are your righteous morals, cultivator? Do you not fear what I'd do to countless after you, what I had done to those before you?"

 

"I am not the judge of these matters." 

 

Silence lingered after that, with both perplexity and anger written clearly on the demon's face. His hand remained secured around Cheng Luan but he made no move to unsheathe it as of yet -- what he awaited, Shen Qingqiu couldn't tell, but maybe, he could maneuver out of this with the same talk he gave Luo Binghe.

 

After all, gaining the alliance of this demon could mean survival, for him, for the demon, for Luo Binghe even… he could form this alliance for the protagonist and maybe he'd find help in the Endless Abyss, he wouldn't be entirely blackened with a friend. If that wasn't possible, then perhaps Qingge Jun will become a valuable friend for Shen Qingqiu himself, to protect him against Luo Binghe's ultimate blackening. He could evade the original good's painful ending, even, by hugging Qingge Jun's thighs.

 

Maybe.

 

He didn’t know if the other would even hear it!

 

"I do not know which enrages me more, your apathy or lack of sense."

 

"I am not here to fulfill your battle lust, nor is any other person in their right mind. Find someone else willing to die for no reason."

 

Shen Qingqiu turned then, a bold move, considering the might of the demon behind him. Had he not gathered enough to trust he wouldn't attack a man with his back turned, Shen Qingqiu might've regretted doing that -- but only slightly. He'd be dead too soon to contemplate on it anyhow.

 

"Stop right there! Do not dare run away."

 

Calmly, Shen Qingqiu turned his head the slightest bit, the image of lofty immortality strewn over him. "Is there something you need?"

 

"It's a reason you require, then? To take up arms?"

 

When he made no intentions to move, the war god pressed.

 

"Then I will give you a reason."

 

That… that did not sound good. Was he going to kill people, attack Cang Qiong Mountain? Was he going to harm Luo Binghe? Everyone knew about that sticky disciple---

 

"Fight me. If you manage to disarm me, you can do as you please with me."

 

…Airplane bro, you piece of utter shit.

 

Wasn't that Sha Hualing's line? To Luo Binghe? Didn't that lead to a papapa scene that lasted multiple chapters? He will kill that sorry little… ugh. Ugh. He didn't know it was a theme in the entire demon realm!

 

"…Excuse me?"

 

"You heard. Disarm me, and I am yours."

 

Oh, please, not with that wording, thank you very much.

 

"Surely you… know that is not possible. A mere cultivator against a famed war demon? Not even our sect masters combined could manage such a feat."

 

"You've no other choice. Death, or disarming me. Perhaps it'd encourage you to fight properly."

 

"…If I disarm you, will I be free to go?"

 

That question gave Qingge Jun a pause, the hand at his Cheng Luan loosened ever so slightly, as if he didn’t expect to hear that simple of a request after the bold offer he gave; but it all didn't take a moment. "If that is what you wish."

 

"Very well then."

 

He turned, drew Xiu Ya, and launched into a full attack.

 

----

 

He was a fool to think he'd ever defeat Qingge fucking Jun.

 

---

 

Heaving, Shen Qingqiu was leaning heavily on his sword with his only good arm, bleeding from various, countless, places and looking dreadfully disheveled for the image he'd like to uphold. To add salt to the wound, his fan was lost! A hand wrapped around his neck before he could register and he was pressed against the remaining standing pillar in this ruin he found the demon in, his breath coming short despite the hand not pressing hard enough to block the airflow. In fact, it was… strangely eased.

 

"You claim to not be the judge of my wrongdoings, or find my race a reason to kill me. Why is that?" a pause, then, "You are moments away from your death; do not lie."

 

During this short battle and the short conversation before it, Shen Qingqiu discovered two things. One, Qingge Jun was not as exciting of a character as he had once believed. He fell down the favorite chart so fast it might've been a meteor. He had nothing in that head of his beyond fighting, fighting, and more fighting. He'd like to blame it on Airplane's poor writing and characterization, but at this point, every other character showed some form of growth beyond the limitation of the original novel's writing. This was just disappointing.

 

The second, Shen Qingqiu was an idiot with no survival instinct. He should've run. Should've just bolted and said fuck it all, pride be damned. He ached in every part of his body, bled from most of those part, and on top of that looked breathtakingly unkempt. His image was completely ruined.

 

Sigh, this is the ending of his pathetic excuse of transmigration, wasn't it? He hadn't even reached the abyss plot point. And yet…

 

He had not yet lost.

 

"Why does it matter, Qingge Jun? I'm going to die regardless."

 

"Answer me first. I will not release you nor kill you until I hear your answer."

 

"Oh, why must you be so---"

 

A deafeningly loud clash and a flash of white was all it took, the singing of steel as it hit the cobbled ground brightly clear in the silence which followed. A breathy chuckle soon came, and Shen Qingqiu lowered his only good arm, clutching his cherished sword. In that moment of distraction, the incessant questions, Shen Qingqiu grasped his Xiu Ya tighter. There was a hand on his throat, and another grasping Cheng Luan, right next to his own sword. Qingge Jun's hold was not particularly tight, perhaps firm, but with enough distraction… it was easy to disarm Qingge Jun in that moment. He could only cry in his heart for lady luck's sweet kiss.

 

"…I believe this one's mine."

 

It was nothing but shock written on that beautiful face (and really Qingge Jun, you're a demon! Learn to control your expressions!) but it receded into an odd mixture of betrayal, admiration, and resignation. It took a few moments for him to release the Peak Lord's throat, but he did, and he took a few steps back, not picking Cheng Luan up or glancing towards it at all.

 

"That was a dirty trick."

 

It was not, in fact, a dirty trick, but considering the original good's reputation, who'd think otherwise? Play defeated and helpless, distract the demon, maybe even gasp a few breaths for good measure… alright, perhaps it was.

 

"I still won. A deal is a deal, Qingge Jun."

 

Finally, said demon's face smoothed into a schooled scowl, seemingly his permanent expression, and he stood his ground as if awaiting Shen Qingqiu's ultimate decree on what to do with him, what he was allowed to do.

 

But no! that was Luo Binghe and Sha Hualing's thing! Shen Qingqiu wouldn't do that, and he hardly suspected this demon shared the same thoughts. Maybe he was just so bad at wording it, or maybe it was Airplane bro's interpretation of the deal for the thirsty fans that led to papapa, but as it stands, he doubted Qingge Jun held desire for other men, let alone a human cultivator! The upheaval it'd cause!

 

Standing straighter & circling energy within, Shen Qingqiu finally realized no wound on him was fatal or counted as deep enough to deem him incapacitated or mortally wounded. However, he was riddled in wounds, shallow or slightly deep, but they slowly stopped bleeding with his administrations. He held his sword tighter, then, and Qingge Jun's silver eyes narrowed briefly.

 

He wasn't like that! Don't judge him like this, Qingge Jun. So merciless with your relentless gaze!

 

"You asked me what I thought of demons." said Shen Qingqiu, and for some reason, it made the wariness in Qingge Jun all the more prominent. Yet despite that, he didn't pick up Cheng Luan. Truly the image of integrity, following through the deal despite the trepidation. "Perhaps, if we put aside our differences and… bloodlust, we may have a chance to live in peace. We all possess minds and souls, so we are not so different." If he tried hard enough, hugging Qingge Jun's thighs might not be impossible. Didn't Airplane bro do it with an ice demon? Surely this one can't be harder.

 

It took quite a lot for the shock that returned to Qingge Jun's face to straighten out again, merely looking incredibly suspicious afterwards. Although, for the first time since meeting him, Qingge Jun's demonic mark shone a bright silver, above the center of his brows, almost blinding. Was it the wrong thing to say? "You say that, but what would you do to actually establish that peace?"

 

"Well, for starters, not doing 'as I please' with you."

 

Xiu Ya was dropped, but it hovered midair instead of hitting the ground alongside the demon's sword. Finding himself well enough to ride without bleeding to death, Shen Qingqiu hopped on his sword and looked at Qingge Jun one last time, tilting his head slightly. "And please refrain from making such offers in the future. Who knows who'll take advantage of it, and in which way."

 

He may think he departed in peace and elegance, with his dignity, quite in fact still tightly bound. Perhaps he even imparted a valuable lesson and a lasting impression of admiration upon the demon. All in all, he thought he felt quite proud. It took little over an hour over the barren wasteland to realize he was being followed.

 

Great.

Chapter Text

Following the cultivator was easier than expected. While he could sense the energy circulating within him before he left, Qingge Jun did a number on him that wouldn’t easily be overcome within a few moments of healing. Flying and healing at the same time ought to have its toll on the human, they were that fragile, so it was natural his presence, as close as he was, was left unnoticed. His sword attracted beasts and demons as he ran through the forests with unhuman speed, he had not yet cleaned it from the human's blood, but he'd take good care of it before the day is over, that he promised. His battles taught him nothing but to value his sword like an extension of his own body, even were he left without a speck of energy, without a single shred of power, he was to polish his blade til it sparkled clean and then die if he must.

 

This felt urgent, however, knowing he may lose track of this strange cultivator if he hesitated for longer than he should. He was already somewhat late, having scoured the battlefield for a point of interest he seemed strangely…fixated upon. He wouldn't dwell on it; at least he procured the object and managed to start running in time. The figure showing in the distant sky, not too far away even after his dawdling, was enough to bloom comfort in his chest -- good, he didn’t lose him.

 

It was easy to say that he was well and truly beyond his senses, doing strange things, having strange purposes. He couldn't even tell what his current purpose was in following the cultivator. Study him? Untangle his lies one by one? Discover how he truly feels about demons beyond sweetened words that permitted his escape? Qingge Jun was easily thwarted by those words, he couldn't deny it. Had he had a sense of rationality left, he would've exposed them for the utter bullshit that they were and nailed the trickster with his blade. Yes. He refused to believe he lost. He never loses. He never will lose. More so to an undeserving human who used underhanded tricks to disarm him…

 

But…

 

He did. He did disarm him and that was Qingge Jun's only condition. He didn’t tell him when, or how, or even after Qingge Jun thought himself a winner. The more he thought of it the more he realized that, no, he perhaps didn’t cheat --- but what is Qingge Jun to do!? He never lost before! This… this helpless feeling of being defeated, it was beyond frustrating and it throttled him, caused a deep rooted fear to slowly manifest. True, he was tricked before, many demons had that talent within them and Qingge Jun wasn't the most observant when it came to those matters, but he always, always, made them pay with blood and death, ripped apart their souls. He never allowed humans the same leniency either, especially not when they could so easily scream of his unnatural and hideous nature, his disgusting existence, his being which insulted the very morals these scum humans seemed to think they possess.

 

Yet that lone cultivator did not do that, did he?

 

He threw no insults and did no harm, only attacking when Qingge Jun urged him to. He was still going to kill him, Qingge Jun doesn't back down on his word regardless of the matter at hand, but then he had thought he won, and he would've tasted that victory were he not swept away by the faint sparks of hope shimmering in his chest, hoping and praying that just a single one of them didn’t share the collective view of demons being monsters of the filthiest kind. True, the cultivator didn’t harm him afterwards either, but the damage wasn’t physical as it was emotional -- he was the damn war god, the demon who never lost a single battle in his life.

 

He had every right to be this upset.

 

He still couldn’t crush the frail object in his hand, however.

 

…Instead he shoved it in his sleeve pocket.

 

Putting some distance between them, Qingge Jun decided to be more subtle about this and keep his presence hidden. If he was to determine this human's true intentions, he needed ample observation and no chance for the other to discover him amidst the trees. He fought well, he remembered, his abilities as a cultivator were quite good. It wouldn’t be surprising if he discovered Qingge Jun should he remain reckless. So he pulled back, letting himself slow down and kept close to the treeline in case the cultivator looked down. At some point, said human sped up, seemingly recovered well enough to do so, and Qingge Jun sped up the slightest bit as well, however maintaining a fair distance between them.

 

---

 

He thought he recovered… why would he need rest in an inn so close to the borders, to where he left Qingge Jun? had he no sense of survival? Were he another, he would've hunted this cultivator down and used any and all openings to cut him open. The demon lord could only frown in confusion, watching from the dark alleys of the small, quiet town the exchange between the innkeeper and the cultivator. Qingge Jun didn’t care much for human establishments so close to the borders. Lesser demons did quick work of these anyhow, and anyway, they were awfully terrible. No human here was expecting a good life out of these dangerous lands, he was certain.

 

Whatever befell them here, it was their own fault.

 

Seeing the cultivator leave money and step inside, Qingge Jun bit his lower lip in frustration. What is he to do now? Sit in this disgusting alley until the cultivator decided to leave? What if he… pretended to hire a room simply so he could run from the window? Could it be that Qingge Jun's trace was … curse it all. Coming to a decision, the demon left this stinking alley and approached the inn, only stopping himself moments before he could kick down the doors. Determining a better approach, he rounded the building and climbed up, opening each window the slightest bit to ensure the rooms' vacancy. And vacant they were, finding no trace of the cultivator or any other living person until- right, that's the innkeeper's voice, leading whom he concluded to be the cultivator to his room. Waiting outside the window until the chatter died down, the slide of a door shutting, and the receding footsteps, ensured Qingge Jun that this was the best place to study the situation. He snuck into the empty room and closed the window, wood creaking beneath his weight, and looking around the simplistic place he found it clean and well maintained, well, as much as any place in the borders could be. And through it all, he can sense the cultivator's presence loud and clear from across of him.

 

It was a perfect spot.

 

Rummaging quietly through the drawers produced a number of useful items, most importantly were a cloth, good for cleaning Cheng Luan, and a book he could pass the time with. Before he could settle down, Qingge Jun made sure the area was completely empty and not a soul suspected his presence. Just for safety, however, he locked the doors leading into his room and settled down on the table by the middle of the room, opened the book, and began polishing his sword.

 

Silence and calm was a state Qingge Jun hardly found in his home within the demon realm. Advisors, servants, and warrior demons ran amok throughout the land, fending off one rebel group after another, and every time Qingge Jun returned he was bombarded with an abundance of things to do. His sister did a better job at running the place, and if weren't for the inconvenience for her, he would've alleviated her as the lady of their land.

 

Not that she would take it even if it weren't an inconvenience.

 

After what they've been through, she had stood by his side, unrelenting in her belief that it was his right and his title to hold. It was their father's will to see Qingge Jun strong enough to take it, not that they remember much of him. After his untimely death at the hands of relatives, specifically rebels who started an uprising, those two siblings were too young to defend themselves and too helpless, powerless, weak. They would've been killed too, absolutely, had the new lady who ripped their rights from them not thought it amusing to see those two as her personal little servants, all the more degrading for her entertainment. Brother and sister, so adorable as they wiped the floor for her passage and bowed their heads low. Exactly where they belonged. He seethed at the memory, seethed at his weakness to so silently endure years upon years of that treatment. Had he began his secret training earlier, much would've been avoided, but alas…

 

Little Mingyan had been right. At least he began anyway, both of them did, and it was more than enough for what had took place later. Both siblings had plotted an escape at some point, gathered enough supplies to aid their mission throughout the years, and having decided on the ultimate right time, the two had ran away as far as they could --- it wasn’t far, and they were captured and dragged back to face the Madame's ugly sneer. "I see little bugs have no regard for my generosity." that demoness had stated, splayed on their father's throne as if it belonged to her. "A pity, you would've made lovely concubines in just a couple more years." the disgust he still remembered, but he doesn’t recall anymore pride left in him to damage.

 

There was no mercy shown. She had ordered them executed before her throne the same night for 'biting the hand that fed them'. Heh, to think she dared even claim that… the years did not make his memories clearer of that night, but he does remember the pure, unbridled rage that burst from within, that made him kill and kill and kill, razing them all to the ground. He remembered his sister fighting until she didn’t, he remembered thinking her dead by that corner, and it only urged him on, so relentless in his hunt he was that he cleaned the land clear of their upriser's filth, and beheaded the demoness and let her body roll down the hill slope, her head firmly sat atop a banner at the borders of his lands. A warning, to curb any more great ideas in overthrowing him again. He left behind none but the servants and went to pick up his sister's corpse, only to find her, thankfully, still alive.

 

And just like that, he was named both War God and Lord. A title he deserved, and a title he didn’t even want, and yet had no option but to earn it in order to assemble a semblance of a comfortable life for the both of them. His sister was far too young to withstand anymore, and a title thrust upon her due to a lack of desire on his part was a level of unfairness he refused to practice on the only light in his life.

 

The servants said he took his father's powers to new levels. Good. He won't be defeated like that pathetic demon was.

 

The pages of the book were left open without ever being read, and Qingge Jun looked down at his sword, pristine in its shine, thoroughly clean. He sheathed it and sat it aside, closed the book, and looked down at the hands laying without purpose on his lap. He found the human different, but he was different from his own kind as well, wasn't he? Many called his practices useless, most said it'd get him killed. But after what he faced from those who trampled upon him in his weakest to inflate an ego already near bursting? No. He needn't do the same in order to prove his might, at all. These 'practices' that have been the victim of constant scorn had never once made him lose -- in fact, it made his battles all the more exciting, all the more worthwhile. It was all a proof that even if he made no filthy tricks or moves or stabbed someone in the back or kicked them when they're down, he'd still win simply because of his pure might, pure prowess, and pure strength. He was strong and powerful with or without this so called 'honor' he had when dueling. It was strange calling it that. After all, humans created that concept.

 

Many still thought to use it against him anyway. Well. They certainly tried, before they all choked on their blood, their organs strewn around them.

 

Hearing shuffling outside, he heard the door across from his room open and close, heard extremely light footsteps tread down the hallway. Getting up, he unlocked his own door once he thought the cultivator was a safe distance away not to hear, then followed, nearly knocking his horns on the door frame. He stopped at the corner, watching what he reduced into a mess during battle once again look like an immortal cultivator-- well, beyond his tattered robes, at least. But his hair was done neatly, blood wiped clean, and he showed no sign of injury. Listening closely, he seemed to be asking for food, precisely for two (what?), and before he could turn Qingge Jun hurried back into his own room in light steps and inhumane speed.

 

Minutes ticked by, the demon looking at the closed door of his own room as he awaited to hear an approach of a second pair of footsteps, wondering who this second serving might be for. Of course, the cultivator could be just hungry and being discreet about it. Didn’t humans eat a lot but were ashamed of showing it publicly? Something told him otherwise, however, and even after the cultivator's return to his room shortly after Qingge Jun's, he was yet to hear anyone else approach-- only then, he heard it, his stance straightening and a hand gripping his sword's hilt. The cultivator must've asked for help, or he was to rendezvous with an ally. It would explain a number of things. Before he could contemplate further, however, the waft of human food reached his senses and disappointment was evident in the fall of his shoulders.

 

So. The cultivator was just hungry, after all.

 

He turned away from the door, dejected, even with his distance he could still hear the polite conversation and gentle prying of the innkeeper very clearly.

 

"Are you expecting someone, my lord?"

 

"Yes, he is arriving shortly."

 

"Ah."

 

Right. He didn’t believe that.

 

He still stretched his senses, though, trying to see if a third presence was in the human's room by some miracle that he had missed. Finding nothing, he resettled back into his seat on the floor, facing the door, Cheng Luan besides him, and he decided to focus on the book he thought would be a decent enough distraction. Before he could even finish the first line, there was a gentle knock on his own door.

 

His door. Not the human's.

 

Another knock came when Qingge Jun made no sound or movement, and a gentle voice came through.

 

"I know you're there. Perhaps you'd join me for dinner?"

 

Hearing that made the demon feel his entire being run cold, eyes widening, mark glowing -- swiftly did he stand and unsheathe his sword, flinging the door open in preparation for combat and stood in his full height before the cultivator. What stood before him, however, was an unruffled form of the human, calm, with his sword sheathed in its scabbard. Qingge Jun was infinitely confused.

 

"What do you want?"

 

"…As I said, join me for dinner."

 

"I do not eat human food."

 

"…Ah."

 

There wasn’t clear disappointment or even surprise in the human's face. As if he knew this fact quite well. Why did he ask, then? An uncomfortable silence stretched for a moment too long, then the human turned his back to him (for the second time that day) and crossed back to his room, only turning his head slightly once he's at his own door. "How about tea then?"

 

"Why are you offering?"

 

Something flashed in the other's eyes and he turned further, but not fully facing Qingge Jun. Something about that unnerved the demon.

 

"Perhaps if I were polite, you'd also return these manners and tell me what you desire of me, instead of following me around discreetly."

 

With a snort, Qingge Jun replied, "You expect manners from a demon."

 

"You've shown nothing but those."

 

It threw him back, as if that remark burned just hearing it. This human… he was filled with surprises and an infinite amount of courage to speak so boldly to him, the War God, let alone just speaking so casually to a demon. He didn’t know why he showed this tolerance towards his race, being a respected cultivator and all, at least from the looks of it.

 

"…Fine."

 

If this was another trap, Qingge Jun would escape and kill everyone. He was good at that. Immediately he crossed the hallway as well, following the cultivator into his room and finding the two set of plates neatly divided across from each other. His room was also identical to the one Qingge Jun slipped into, with little to note beyond the human's personal items.

 

Sitting across from his host, Qingge Jun had suspicion visibly written all over him, and he made no move to touch any of the assembled food before him. Beyond his lack of appetite for it, he also suspected poison. Plenty of time for the cultivator to sneak it in, if he had found out his presence this soon. Calmly, the human dug in, unperturbed, and Qingge Jun sat as tranquil as possible as he observed all he could.

 

Well, there wasn't a lot he hadn't noted in their first meeting. The elegance was hard to miss, even now with green robes riddled in bloodied cuts. Despite his smaller stature compared to Qingge Jun, he still held quite the power underneath that human frame. He was also handsome, and even a demon couldn’t deny that looking at him. But also, a demon was less likely to appreciate that fact, considering most of their lords were of unmatched beauty and humans were simply beneath them, and the other half of demons being incredibly ugly to look upon that they in turn didn’t care about appearance.

 

Still, he remembered the small differences that kept him divided from what is expected of him as a demon, and found comfort in that. He could appreciate what he wanted. It was his own to decide.

 

And he decided this man was very handsome.

 

"You know who I am, so it is only right you introduce yourself."

 

This gave the cultivator a pause, eyes briefly widening before his expression was schooled into a calm façade. Dark eyes fell to the table, then returned to Qingge Jun's, and the chopsticks were put down gently.

 

"You are unaware of my identity?"

 

"Should I not be?"

 

It seemed as if a new revelation dawned on the man, eyes focusing on a point beyond Qingge Jun's shoulders. How odd. It must offend humans not to know each and every one of them. Granted, demons are the same, but… humans. They were like pests. Endless. Who'd remember all of them individually?

 

"Pardon my manners, then. I am Shen Qingqiu of Cang Qiong Sect." he said, eyes returning to silver ones as they seemed imploring, searching for something. What did he want? Recognition?

 

Recognition he did have, but not in the manner he must have been hoping for. He had heard of this sect, who hadn't? Famed for being the best of the best in the cultivation world; even Sha Hualing had returned once from an impromptu attack on it. She was defeated, and the disgrace she faced alongside the displeasure from other significant demons was too immense it reached everyone in the entire realm. The daughter of a saint who was destined to become one herself, to be thwarted by mere children and one master? How disgraceful of her.

 

 

"Shen Qingqiu."

 

"Yes."

 

…Although, a bit more detailed gossip reached far and wide, even the servants in his home spoke of that incident. His sister claimed the figures of most significance wore green, one of them was a child thrust forward by their master to fight on their behalf against Tian Chui. And when he was facing expected defeat, said master and Peak Lord had come forward to protect his disciple and ultimately suffered Without A Cure from Tian Chui's poisoned spikes--- that Peak Lord wore green, and this Shen Qingqiu before him did so as well. It could be farfetched, but if he was said Peak Lord, that put him at a great disadvantage. Who was overseeing the poison's progress, curbing it? Then again, he may not be the same man if, til now, the poison hadn't consumed his core.

 

So. No recognition.

 

"Mn."

 

That response also baffled the human further and Qingge Jun took pride in inflicting the same set of emotion he had run through him ever since he met this Shen Qingqiu. Sadly, he couldn’t savor it before they were schooled properly, and the cultivator returned to eating right after, as if resolutely deciding something. It bothered Qingge Jun not knowing what it was.

 

"I asked before, but, what did you want of me to follow me here?"

 

Oh. Yes. He did indeed ask that before, but did Qingge Jun have an answer? This was perhaps his most impulsive action yet. He could only be grateful the cultivator isn't the aggressive kind, who'd rain down incessant attacks on him as soon as he sensed him. It's as bothersome as killing a fly.

 

…but it was precisely that reason that he followed, didn’t he? He wanted to observe the human further, to see why he was so different from his own people, those who hunt down demons like play, and who, in turn are considered prey. Beyond that, however, what can he say in his defense? What excuse would be suitable or satisfactory?

 

Finding no answer, Shen Qingqiu's gaze bore into him intensely for a moment, seemingly coming to his own conclusion of the reason-- except, his features turned into defeat, perhaps pity, and his shoulders slumped with a sigh that came afterwards. What was that for?

 

"Eat, then." said the cultivator, nudging the food towards him.

 

"I don't eat human food."

 

"…You may find yourself enjoying it if you gave it a try."

 

"It's poisoned, isn't it?"

 

"What--" that earned him a cold look, but nothing else changed in his face. "I did not poison your food."

 

"Then stop insisting I eat it."

 

"…Allow me to prove it isn't poisoned."

 

Taking a bite out of the few things in his own side, Shen Qingqiu must've thought that would be convincing, and it was, somewhat, but he still found no appetite for this bland food. Humans ate so plainly; rice, some plants, and drank broth that was too watery and flavorless. He hardly found extensive meat of delicious beasts in their diet. A pity, really. He could hunt for this human, perhaps it'd increase his muscle size.

 

Perhaps he'd enjoy demonic food.

 

And he still refused to eat.

 

Falling into an impasse after that, he was asked to alter his appearance when the innkeeper brought them their tea. Qingge Jun rightfully refused. To look human. Repulsive. He enjoyed his horns and tail very much, and proved as much with a swish and a heavy thud of said tail on the wooden floor. An exasperated sigh came from his host and he ushered the demon back into the room he hid in. The innkeeper returned, chatted somewhat, and he heard the cultivator say his visitor went out for fresh air, and that the food was fine, yes, but his guest was not hungry.

 

Once the tea has been served did Qingge Jun emerge, almost too soon that his horns knocked the doorframe, as if afraid were he a second late it'd be ample time for poison to slip in. This wariness was well placed, the war god told himself at those burning glances from Shen Qingqiu. His trust was ground to the floor and spat on for good measure, it wasn’t his fault fighting for survival.

 

---

 

Most of the tea passed in silence, with small, unimportant questions given here and there. For the majority of the time Qingge Jun spent observing Shen Qingqiu as he desired, and said man didn’t seem all that bothered by his gaze, but he could see flashes of something akin to guilt -- but why would he feel that? There was no explanation for it, so it must've been something else. Perhaps discomfort.

 

Perhaps being in the presence of the war god, who was a head taller than most cultivators (and a head taller than Shen Qingqiu as well) wasn’t an inviting experience. Demons could stand him were they of enough might, he concluded, but humans were weak and easily swept by public belief. He had no antidote to give the other to relief the experience, so he didn’t bother with it.

 

He did discover a few things. Throughout some of their conversations and this questionable tea time, Shen Qingqiu reached a couple of times towards his belt, mostly when he spoke or when Qingge Jun's eyes lingered too long. His hand would rest on his belt, but clutching air resulted in a brief disappointment and the empty hand withdrew. It confused him at first, til he remembered the fan the human used during their earlier meeting.

 

…Another thing was, Shen Qingqiu seemed to know more than he's willing to let on. One of his apparently innocent questions was family-related. Generally innocent, easily attributed to a human common topic of conversation, but something was obvious in dark eyes as they bore into the demon lord. Does he know he has a sister? Does he know of the trials he went through to keep her and himself safe from power-lusting relatives? Not many did, after all. He could ask-- but not now.

 

"Where will you head next?"

 

"Back to my sect, of course. You don’t intend to follow me there, do you?"

 

"Why are you afraid of that?"

 

"…Let me ask another question, then. What do you plan to do after this?"

 

"After what?"

 

"Meeting me here."

 

Hmm. He could follow him back to his sect, indeed. Where was better to observe a person's true face but in their natural habitat? Still, this was Cang Qiong Mountain. How was he to sneak past their defenses and observe this odd human, as often as he willed? Then again, he can't leave his sister with all those burdens alone to carry for too long. Perhaps he'd return, then go back to the human realm and find this infamous sect. Or perhaps he could…

 

A sigh came from the other, "Something has been bothering me, Qingge Jun."

 

Looking up at the human, Qingge Jun was waiting for a reason to come. Whatever Shen Qingqiu saw in his face however, it made him sigh again and look down.

 

"You do not owe me anything, please understand that. I fulfilled the bargain by leaving. If you recall, I asked if that was an option before the battle and you confirmed as much. Thus, there's no need to seek more from me."

 

That.

 

That was not what he expected to hear. But come to think of it, what did he expect to hear? 'I'm sorry Qingge Jun, you're a demon, I'm a human, it'd be hard for us to meet?' 'I'm sorry Qingge Jun, I am a cultivator in a respected sect and cannot be seen up and about with a demon lord?'

 

Was that it?

 

Before he could think to stop, he spoke with a dark voice, "You fear to sully your immaculate reputation by associating with a demon, then?"

 

They were pieces on the opposite sides of the board, no pretty words would ever be carried through regarding peace or leniency or all else he spouted before. Foolish was he to even hope a speck of it was true. It was all to help him escape, a trickster, worse than fay--

 

"No. That is not at all what this is about. I do wish we remain acquainted, Qingge Jun. Perhaps, when the time allows, we can also be… partners."

 

 

W-what?

 

A cultivator and a demon? Was he out of his mind--

 

"That is, if you like. I simply think that today's meeting was not chance. Fate plays strange games, and meeting you, surviving you, I don't think it was all a coincidence."

 

Bells rang in his head, the blood pumping inside his ears a deafening contrast to how clear his thoughts were.

 

This human…!

 

How utterly bold of him to suggest these things! Of a demon no less! A demon lord!

 

Does his courage know no limit? No. Perhaps he was simply dull in the head. Had Qingge Jun not offer plenty in their deal? Shen Qingqiu refused outright back then, but now he was suggesting these things… did he want things more intimate than what would be given due to loss? Or maybe he wished for more and that. That cannot be. He must be misunderstanding.

 

Partners… really.

 

What is there to misunderstand?

 

"This is very forward of you." Qingge Jun said, frowning.

 

The human nodded in understanding almost immediately, his hand somewhat covering the lower part of his face. "I know how this may sound, yes. As I said, it's only if you desire this and I do not wish to impose. However, I believe we will find each other much alike if we were to find common ground between us."

 

After a moment of looking into the other's dark eyes, searching, and finding no backing down in whatever hellish suggestion he just made, finding no sanity, Qingge Jun's jaw clenched and found his face oddly heating up. He frowned, standing up abruptly and knocking the table, the tea set swaying slightly.

 

"Unbelievable. With a human --- did I knock the sense out of you?"

 

"Qingge Jun--"

 

"Enough!"

 

He stormed to the windows and jumped, disappearing before he could hit the ground.

 

----

 

Weeks, months later, he still couldn’t stop thinking about those damned words and that damned cultivator.

 

Mingyan never stopped laughing. 

 

Chapter Text

After the dreadfully failed attempt at gaining a demon lord's alliance, Shen Qingqiu flied back to his sect in a somewhat dejected state.

 

He clearly caught Qingge Jun's interest, the only demon around who was willing to sit down and talk with a cultivator, and his one-dimensional character should've been easy to convince… maybe he had needed to press? Show more interest in gaining a valuable friendship? The demon obviously was willing to follow him around and not kill him so… Well, his efforts were definitely squashed to the floor as soon as he stated his intentions, Qingge Jun's face was red with rage.

 

Lamenting his losses, Shen Qingqiu first headed to Yue Qingyuan to report, told him of the demon lord with an abridged and altered version of the offer and battle, and completely skipped the inn incident. With the increasingly paling complexion of Yue Qingyuan, Shen Qingqiu decided it was best to excuse himself and visit Mu Qingfang for a quick checkup, and then headed back to rest in his Peak.

 

He didn’t know what to do now. The Abyss plot point was creeping closer and could not alter nor keep Luo Binghe off the Abyss without impossible consequences and likely death. He thought he could gain him an ally in Qingge Jun, be that mother who introduces her son to children in the kindergarten, but really, with demons it's much more complex than pissy little tantrum machines.

 

Sighing for umpteenth time that day, Shen Qingqiu slipped into the bamboo house and was greeted with the cheerful call of his disciple, the waft of tea hitting him almost immediately. Ah, his good sticky disciple, thank you for lightening this heavy heart with your expert brewing! "Shizun, the reports of the Peak's activities after you left is all here, would you like me to read it?"

 

"Not now, Binghe." Sitting down on his table with his disciple across of him suddenly gave him images of a hulking figure of a demon with silver eyes and a matching silver mark between his brows, but Shen Qingqiu shook his head before he could dwell on it too much.

 

…It really was a pity.

 

The strongest demon in the world, who could even thwart Tianlang Jun had Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky carried on with his original outline. He would've been an ally if only Shen Qingqiu spoke better! He could safe this disciple of his in the abyss, maybe even pave the floor with demons for him! Ahhh his heart will never recover.

 

But then again, it may not be too late. Having been drinking tea mostly in silence, Luo Binghe had noticed the contemplating look on his Shizun and not spoke a word to disturb him, all the better, as he thought of how to word his next Bullshit Speech to prevent at least one incident from happening.

 

"Binghe, do you value your relationships with others?"

 

"Of course, Shizun."

 

There was a spark of innocence in this little lamb's eyes that killed Shen Qingqiu's heart. Is he never gonna see it again?

 

"Do you think that you should pursue a relationship with someone despite the world telling you both it's fundamentally wrong? That it is against our respective natures?"

 

The spark increased, black eyes almost starry as they stared up at Shen Qingqiu in what seemed like… hm, was it admiration? Yes, definitely something like that.

 

"Yes!"

 

Sighing, the Peak Lord sat his teacup down and looked intently at it for a moment too long. Once he found his voice again, he still didn’t left his eyes. "During my recent travels, I came upon someone. Despite our … differences, we got along for a while, until we both had to leave." he didn't mention the horrid ending their meeting came to, either way it wasn’t the point of this prep talk with Luo Binghe. "You see, I've grown to like this person."

 

Luo Binghe's face suddenly looked stricken. What? Did he think Shen Qingqiu couldn’t make friends?

 

But this seemed to be the right approach. Luo Binghe evidently respected his Shizun greatly, and maybe, if Shen Qingqiu liked someone, he could urge Luo Binghe to like them as well. Ah, what a genius! It'll definitely work.

 

"This person… I'd like Luo Binghe to befriend them when the time comes. They could be of great value and will help in many situations." this ought to convince Luo Binghe not to kill Qingge Jun.

 

After a moment of silence, Luo Binghe spoke, his face … dark? "Pardon this disciple, Shizun, but this person… is it a demon?"

 

What's with that question, Binghe!! Did you forget what your nature is?

 

"He is."

 

"…What's their name?"

 

"Qingge Jun."

 

He saw no recognition in his disciple's eyes but it wasn't a matter of importance. Soon they'd be acquainted, and if he remembered correctly, the original novel's Binghe met Qingge Jun after the Abyss, and then once again when Binghe was climbing the ladder of power. It was then that he killed Qingge, but hopefully it wouldn’t come to pass.

 

Hopefully…

 

He was genuinely worried. The story shouldn’t lose someone as valuable as that demon.

 

"Binghe. I would like you to care for those I care about as well, I know you may not get along with all of them, but it'd mean very much to me."

 

Silence reigned after that, and Binghe grew quieter and quieter each day, as if something changed.

 

Shen Qingqiu couldn’t find out what it was.

 

----

 

The Immortal Alliance Conference came too soon and too quickly and Shen Qingqiu was having one crisis after the other, one meltdown after another, and maybe one time he almost had a panic attack in public but no one can really tell with how he managed to keep his image pristine and immaculate, calm, like the sea. Calm on the outside with a war ravaging his mind.

 

He had even flew back to the borders, to the same ruin he had found Qingge Jun in, hoping and praying to run into him again just so he could force his friendship down the other's throat and ask him to hang out in the Abyss until a certain Binghe falls through. He never found the demon again and never dared venture further into the demon realm, knowing he would not come out alive no matter how great his cultivation. When he couldn’t think of anything better, he was almost tempted to send Sha Hualing a love letter pretending to be Luo Binghe if only, if only, she would act on the interest she showed that day and come rescue her new man. He abandoned the idea the very next day. Truly, truly out of options.

 

This was fine.

 

This was very fine. Black holes opened to the abyss all around them, darkness enveloped, Zheng Yang was broken, Shang Qinghua and a couple of disciples lay motionless a few feet back, Mobei Jun was calmly razing everything to the ground with his multiplying swords while Luo Binghe and Shen Qingqiu were trying their best to inflict a single blow on him. Not much was achieved beyond Shen Qingqiu realizing he can't get up anymore and Binghe being the only standing person around, facing Mobei Jun alone with matching black qi.

 

Fear rippled through him and he screamed his disciple's name before he could stop himself, clutching his chest as pain shot in waves within -- what can he do? Remain here, watching as Mobei Jun reduced Luo Binghe to a punching bag? He planted Xiu Ya to the dirt and forced himself up on weakened legs, his side was open, one ankle twisted, and a wrist hurt like fucking hell. He ignored the rest of the cuts that covered him. As long as nothing was fatal, he'd be fine.

 

He had to get to him before it was too late, even if Mobei Jun's presence could be inferred as helpful in waking Luo Binghe's blood, he still didn't need to kill him!

 

A single step was taken before his knees buckled and he fell again, except--- he didn’t hit the ground, he didn’t fall, and he felt a strong arm wrapped around his torso, gently straightening him up. "You. Stay here." a voice so familiar spoke and Shen Qingqiu was almost too afraid to look up, to confirm this was truly… he was left standing where he was and robes that were now a deep black fluttered in the chaos, silver itched into them, beneath them was a white pure untouched by the blood and gore laying about them. He could see familiar horns, familiar tail, a familiar, beautiful sword unsheathed as he approached the two parties battling.

 

Then headed in Mobei Jun's direction exclusively.

 

He wanted to cry.

 

Qingge Jun! You beautiful demon!

 

His eyes quickly darted to Luo Binghe, who was paling seeing two demons approach -- then his eyes met Shen Qingqiu's and his Shizun immediately signaled that he fall back, but-- was that a red mark on his forehead? He couldn’t focus well before Binghe slipped into the darkness, and ensuring his disciple was safe he thought the matter could wait until later. His sight returned to the two demons, sizing each other up, he could see something akin to shock or fear clear on Mobei Jun's otherwise cold face, and as Qingge Jun approached, the ice demon took a step back.

 

Compared to Mobei Jun, who was a young noble demon, Qingge Jun was significantly older and much more experienced. It was easy to see who had the upper hand in this battle, even if Mobei Jun could stand a chance and retaliate enough, making a decent show, he'll still absolutely die. Qingge Jun lost to no one. This shithead who should've shown up on chapter 500 won't change that.

 

Good thing Qingge Jun was on their side… he was on their side, right?

 

It was easy to imagine how much there was to mourn if he wasn't. The chaos erupting around them across the whole campaign ground was already too much, and for it to be orchestrated by a young demon… who could even be able to picture the utter catastrophe someone like Qingge Jun would've done? The earth shook around them and the abyss expanded further, Shen Qingqiu barely managing to get away but his disciple was nowhere to be found, even as he called for him, his voice was drowned down by the howling of what's within the abyss and the disciples dying all around the conference. 

 

He almost missed it, in his worry, the battle that has already started between the two demons. There wasn't much to see when everything was riddled in a foggy darkness, the figures disappearing between the clouds and shifting black, but he could see ice swords raining down, hear clash after clash, flashes of white, blue, and something silver would often glisten and break through the darkness.

 

With them far enough and distracted, he returned to find Luo Binghe-- but he wasn’t where he slunk into anymore. Panic gripped him instantly and he called out, using his sword as a walking stick as he forced himself to withstand the pain and find his damn disciple. Wherever he went, the ground gave in and he almost slipped in, but he managed to evade just enough to finally spot green and white robes, surrounded by the darkness of the Abyss, and what was definitely a red mark on his forehead was shining brightly. "Binghe." he called again, but his disciple's eyes were linked to a spot ahead of them. He knelt down before his disciple, wondering if he should reach out. Who knows if he'll alarm him and find his arm ripped off? Still, finally, finally, being in his immediate field of vision caused his disciple's eyes to shift and focus on Shen Qingqiu. "…Shizun?"

 

Good. He was coming to, he needed to get him out of here---

 

With sudden gust of cold wind he saw a sword cut through Binghe and send him staggering back. He gasped, reached out to grab Binghe's wrist just in time before he could fall into the hole behind him. Hand slippery with blood, he called out, and felt another cold wind and heard something crush, but he paid it no mind. He was still okay, he could pull him up, with just a bit--

 

[ Warning! Warning! If the mission is not completed, the protagonist’s coolness level -20,000! ]

 

---This was not the time!

 

"Shizun!"

 

Seeing his disciple's clear eyes, Shen Qingqiu felt guilt wracking him, felt adventurous even, and decided to take the consequences as they came and pull Luo Binghe up.

 

[ Warning! Warning---

 

No. he can do this. He reached with his other hand and gripped Luo Binghe's hand, trying with all his weakened mind to pull up. He slipped on his twisted ankle, instead, almost fell in with Luo Binghe had he not felt and arm wrap around him and tug him back. "Enough, you'll fall through-" Pain shot through his damaged wrist and he accidentally released Binghe, but he reached down to grasp it again, please, he was fast enough, he was immortal, a cultivator, he could catch him if the arm around him wasn't -- no--

 

All he could see was a face falling further and further away and a red mark shining until the darkness consumed it.

 

One breath.

 

Faintly aware of the sound of a portal opening behind him, some shuffling, sound gone. Faintly aware of a presence pressing against him.

 

Two breaths.

 

The arm around him loosened and he was eased into the ground. The darkness was dissipating around him, but he was feeling incredibly displaced and unfocused still. Was he leaning on -- on someone? Xiu Ya suddenly appeared in his field of vision, being planted on the dirt next to him. He could see one of Mobei Jun's ice weapons lodged on the forearm, cutting through the black and white fabric, blood was seeping down. It was treated as if it wasn't there.

 

"Binghe."

 

Was that his own voice?

 

"You can't save him every time." came a voice above him, and he looked up and found he was resting on Qingge Jun's chest, silver eyes boring down at him, but oddly… gentle. They weren't judging, they didn’t match his voice. He indeed couldn’t save Luo Binghe every time, but he would've liked to, anyway. He thought… gods. What did he think? The system would be merciful and let him save him? That he could help him escape this horror? Feeling drained of all his energy he leaned further in against Qingge Jun and looked around him, the bodies strewn on the battlefield, the ugliness of demon work, but some still lived, and he needed to tend to them before it was too late. Before that, though, he began circulating energy through him. With a twisted ankle and a damaged wrist, a gash at his side too, he wouldn’t be able to do much.

 

"Why did you come, Qingge Jun?"

 

Silence stretched for a moment, and Shen Qingqiu once again looked up to find the demon's eyes elsewhere, the hand at his waist tightening briefly. There would be no response, so Shen Qingqiu instead looked at the sword in Qingge's arm. Would he just keep it there? Absently, he touched it, tried to pull it off but the pain in his wrist shot through him once again. Almost immediately Qingge Jun's hand gripped the hilt and pulled off the broken weapon with incredible ease, and Shen Qingqiu watched in fascination as the wound closed right away, leaving not a single mark.

 

"How did he manage to hit you?"

 

Throwing the sword aside, that arm returned to settle on Shen Qingqiu's waist for some reason. The cultivator's mind was endlessly stormy, however, so he paid it no heed. "The attack wasn’t on me."

 

It was all that could be said for some time.

 

At some point, Shen Qingqiu hesitantly left the comfort of Qingge Jun's embrace and began treating the still living disciples. He looked back once to find the demon had disappeared, and instead, Cang Qiong sect disciples were filtering through and helping whoever they could. It became too crowded too quickly, and Shen Qingqiu slipped back to not get in the way and bumped into Yue Qingyuan, who looked at his state and paled.

 

----

 

A month passed since he had taken the broken pieces of Zheng Yang and buried it to the hilt outside of his bamboo house. He was treated like glass, although not completely left alone, he was given time to 'mourn' as they said. He wasn’t mourning. He knew Binghe stilled lived, will come out in five years to kill him for letting go of him. He knew it was helpless to spend his days unable to do anything but stare into the wall. He enjoyed the quiet, but at these moments, it was stifling. Sighing, he got up to make himself tea and, through the kitchen window, he can see the bamboo's gentle sway, as if air passed by. Strange. It was incredibly still, and no soundless wind could've caused that.

 

Thinking to investigate, Shen Qingqiu turned around and was greeted by the sight of an intruder right at the kitchen door--- Qingge Jun! He yelped, hit his back on the table and almost spilled the tea boiling on fire.

 

"I did not mean to startle you."

 

His… visitor, said, and Shen Qingqiu sighed heavily, straightening up. He hadn't done his hair, or wore proper robes. He looked… well. Not good. "Qingge Jun. What are you doing here?"

 

"Your Peak defenses are low, I slipped in easily."

 

"…Yes, but, why did you come?"

 

A brief pause, "I came to see you."

 

Oh. That's nice. They were… friends now? At least he achieved something. But -- he hadn’t wanted Qingge Jun to be his friend more than a friend of Luo Binghe's. To help him in the Abyss, aid his escape, guide him through killing monsters. Instead, he had inadvertently caused Shen Qingqiu to let go of the boy and he'd definitely be hunted down for being an associate. Well. If they were friends now, then at least Shen Qingqiu will be protected well. No one can defeat this demon and he's gonna make sure that not even Luo Binghe could easily thwart him.

 

"Then, perhaps you'd like to stay over for tea?"

 

There was no subtilty in the way Qingge Jun took in the appearance of the other, and Shen Qingqiu suddenly felt self-conscious of his state. Qingge Jun on the other hand looked pristine. Everything to be expected of a demon lord. His hair was tied up in a ponytail, hair flowing down freely. There were loose hairs coming down his face at the front, giving him a careless look. His robes were black and white, with silver embroidery. His horns and tail glistened in the dim sunlight filtering into the bamboo house, and all in all, he looked so much better than Shen Qingqiu. He was a little jealous.

 

"Fine."

 

Once the tea was ready and they sat in opposite sides, reminiscent of their meeting in the inn, Shen Qingqiu's hand was suddenly grasped and Qingge Jun flipped it over, studying the palm. Seemingly unsatisfied, he felt energy-- oh, black qi, press into him. It was immediately sucked back and his meridians were cleaned completely of it, his hand was returned soon after, but the confusion on his face was surely evident.

 

"Who oversees the poison?"

 

Ah.

 

"Yue Qingyuan, the sect master, and our head healer whenever he could."

 

It didn’t seem to satisfy the demon enough, however, but he didn’t press. He stared at his tea in silence for a moment. "That disciple of yours was a demon."

 

"Half demon, but yes."

 

"And you took him under your tutelage knowing this?"

 

…he did, didn’t he? From the moment he transmigrated. But when the Original Goods took him in? no.

 

"At the beginning, I was not aware. A few years ago it became apparent, but his powers only unlocked during the Immortal Alliance Conference."

 

"And you kept him in the sect knowing he's a demon?"

 

"Half demon. And yes. Why?"

 

Qingge Jun's scowl deepened, but it didn’t seem to be in anger, merely confusion? "I believed your words to be nonsense. What is it with you and demons?"

 

Qingge Jun!!! Don’t be so rude.

 

"…I simply don’t understand why we must hate each other only because we're of different blood."

 

He let that sink in, then pressed. "You asked me what I would do to establish peace between us, and… I don't know Qingge Jun. But I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to a suffering child simply because they're not like me. I think, maybe, small things like those could perhaps go a long way."

 

"But those things aren't 'small', are they? You obviously cared for your disciple."

"Let's not talk about him any longer, Qingge Jun." That was his final word on the topic, and the hulking demon seemed to understand. Many edged around the topic of Binghe, but not this guy. After all, demons didn’t have a sense of propriety, did they? Perhaps he ought to change the subject himself to distract the demon. "What have you been doing, what's new in the demon realm?"

 

"Hmm," Qingge Jun seemed to contemplate as he looked down at his full cup, elbows on his knees, "It has been quiet. Mobei Jun hasn’t retaliated yet." humming himself, he did finally recall what … happened.

 

At the Immortal Alliance Conference.

 

He was basically hugging Qingge Jun, what was he thinking!?

 

Aaahhh the shame…! he couldn’t ever tell how Qingge Jun can look at him again after that! "Ah, yes, that reminds me, how did you discover about the Conference?"

 

"I have spies in Mobei Jun's territory."

 

"But… why did you follow him to our Conference?"

 

"I wished to observe the cultivation world's disciples, since all the sects were participating. When I arrived, however, Mobei Jun's plan was already in action."

 

He felt as if he asked too many questions, but he was very curious. He was very… "And why did you… help us stand against him?"

 

"You were losing."

 

"Yes, but I can't see why you would've cared."

 

There was silence on Qingge's part, just a brief pause, then his eyes narrowed. "You spoke of being partners."

 

Oh. Oooh. Right. He never thought Qingge Jun still wanted anything like that, especially after how enraged he was… haha. He thought it ended in disaster.

 

"I see, I see. I'm happy to hear this, Qingge Jun. Say, what would you like our parts to be in this partnership?"

 

Confusion flitted through Qingge Jun's expression, and his mouth opened as if to speak, but no sound came until much later. "…Too early."

 

"Then we… wait and see how it works out?"

 

"Isn't that how humans do it?"

 

"Ah, I didn't think you'd care how our kind does it."

 

"You are human."

 

"Yes…"

 

It slipped into an awkward silence, but then Shen Qingqiu remembered that Shang Qinghua was Mobei Jun's spy… Qingge Jun surely couldn’t demand that of him, could he? No. he'll refuse. He won't be a traitor.

 

"Whatever happens, Qingge Jun, I do want to make it clear that my loyalty remains with Cang Qiong Mountain. Please, do not test my resolve against it."

 

"Understandable."

 

…Must you be so clipped and awkward, Qingge Jun!? Ugh. Hmm… maybe he can freshen things up, oh yes he can definitely do that. Demons had no sense of propriety like humans and especially cultivators. He can be as shameless as he wanted.

 

"Say… do you have any demon lovers, Qingge Jun?"

 

"…If I had, I wouldn’t be here."

 

Right! Why waste time checking up on a fragile human cultivator when he had a beautiful demoness back home? Something once again passed through Qingge Jun's face, and Shen Qingqiu's attention was immediately grasped. Was that a look of discomfort? Wow!

 

"Demons don't… practice monogamy often. But… I can try."

 

You're so considerate Qingge Jun, cheers to you for being a good man! Demon! Whatever!

 

He couldn’t help but smile, his head dipping just the slightest bit. Well. Maybe he misjudged Qingge at the beginning. Could it be that he's only bad at talking, but is very complex deep down? It certainly looks like it.

 

Looking at the demon, he did seem intently observing him, as if trying to study him as well. There was a faint color on his cheeks, but he also seemed satisfied. "Humans are quite big on monogamy. It’s a sign of true love, you see, not only about physical pleasure, but all the emotional package that comes with it."

 

He felt strange giving a demon lord a lesson on human behavior, but ah well! Their conversation could fall into an awkward silence if he stopped talking.

 

"There's something incredibly romantic about being satisfied with a single person so much that you give up all else for them. Also, with them being the only person you touch and speak to in such a way, isn't it sweet?"

 

He wasn't often fond of speaking of these topics, especially since he was reading something as chaotic as Proud Immortal Demon Way, which spat on the foundation of romance and love and healthy relationships. Still, Qingge Jun looked rightfully enlightened, even seeming to consider such prospects of human nature. Good on him! It'd help when he manages to land a lady. Though he isn't sure how much a demon lady would appreciate these gestures…

 

"I see. I'll… take it into consideration."

 

Oh… yeah no demoness would want that. "Oh-- Qingge Jun, you do not have to. After all, who knows--"

 

"I wish to try it."

 

…Really? You'll give up orgies and random body offerings if duels are lost for whoever this future lady shall be? Shen Qingqiu is strangely touched, a smile tugging at his lips again.

 

"That's very nice of you, Qingge Jun. You're--"

 

Watching the demon stand abruptly, he saw his chest expand in a shaky breath, eyes focusing elsehwere, his tail swishing left and right. "I must go. I'll come back later."

 

Wow!

 

Did Shen Qingqiu inspire him so much that he was going to seek and court a demoness now?

 

Wow!

 

He… he didn’t like that idea very much, for some reason, but he bid the demon lord farewell and looked back at the still full cup of tea, sighing.