Shizun was very intelligent.
His intellect was unparalleled, that was something known across the entirety of Cang Qiong Peak. An IQ over 9000, as most understood. Luo Binghe could sit and listen for hours as he rambled on about various monsters, getting ever so adorably excited over discoveries of new breeds or newfound abilities. His grace, his teaching skill, his ability to plan ahead for (almost) every outcome, was unrivaled. Binghe may be smart, he may be a strategic master, but his shizun’s mind was like a steel trap. Anything the man read could be recited and put to use.
But, loathe as Binghe was to admit about his one true love and soulmate, Shizun was… kind of stupid.
This particular fact was lesser known due to the master of Cang Qiong Peak’s poker face and kind demeanor, but Shen Qingqiu had an EQ of approximately -3. The bare minimum standard for the emotional quotient was understanding of one’s own emotions and understanding of others. Shen Qingqiu had a lot of things, but the ability to correctly interpret anything close to feelings was just a void in his resume. A black hole. No sort of comprehension whatsoever could come out. Binghe knew because he had experienced it firsthand. And then he was forced to watch with an increasing feeling of secondhand embarrassment as his loving master went through his day proudly flaunting his complete inability to understand romance to everyone he could meet like a peacock strutting his feathers.
A thumping of light, rushing feet was what broke Shen Qingqiu and Luo Binghe out of their peaceful afternoon. Binghe’s husband carded his calloused fingers through Binghe’s soft, dark curls, an infatuation which the older man seemed to have kept since Binghe was young. Cang Qiong Peak’s former head disciple was happy to simply melt in his master’s lap, practically purring under Shen Qingqiu’s affectionate gaze. Had Binghe not known his Shizun’s apparent distaste of PDA, he would have been fine staying in this position while his Shizun conversed with another, fearful demonic image be damned.
Alas, life was a cruel mistress. The moment another pair of eyes were on them, Shizun’s hands had jerked out of his hair and he had assumed his mien of a peerless and immortal master. Binghe took that as his cue to slowly sit up, reluctantly leaving cushiony thighs that must have been handcrafted by the gods themselves.
A young disciple crested over the hill, stumbling as he zeroed in on his shizun. Binghe got the strange feeling that the disciple hadn’t noticed him at all, so focused was he on his teacher. The disciple’s face was red, but that seemed more out of embarrassment than true exhaustion as the disciple was hardly out of breath. Wavy hair nearly touched the ground as the disciple, one of the newer recruits apparently, staggered to a stop and fell into a perfect ninety degree bow. He then thought better of it and kowtowed, something that the demon lord knew was more fitting to a man such as his husband’s presence.
Binghe looked askance of his husband, quirking an eyebrow. Had this disciple done something wrong recently? Shizun simply flicked his fan in front of his face and, with a graceless gesture made elegant, shrugged.
“Shizun, this disciple requests to ask you a question regarding personal matters!” was the bellowing shout of the small boy. Binghe’s ears almost rang as his hackles rose, but Shizun only looked amused and almost fond of the boy. Binghe wasn’t sure who his husband was reminiscing about when he saw the disciple, but the fearsome houseband didn’t like it.
“First of all, quiet down. This master is only an arm’s length away from you. Now, ask your question.”
What could be seen of the disciples face somehow turned from a bright red to a darker shade of puce. Binghe was bracing himself in case he had to sprint with the boy under his arm to the nearest river should the boy’s face catch on fire.
“This unworthy disciple apologizes, shizun. He was wondering… hewaswonderingwhenShizunrealizedhewasgay?”
Binghe’s eyes widened marginally, but shizun’s face seemed to have completely drained of all color. It was amazing how much his skin resembled a paper doll’s at the moment. Seeing that his husband was uncomfortable with the question, Binghe deemed to answer for him. He had sympathy for the poor disciple who seemed to be going through his own personal issues, but anything harmful to shizun was crossing a line.
“You- this is an inappropriate question for your master. Find someone else-” Binghe’s sharp reply was cut off by his husbands delayed reply and the man paused, looking at Shizun’s face incredulously.
“This master is not gay.” Were the exact words which tumbled from Shen Qingqiu’s soft, parted lips. On his face was a measure of long-suffering resignation. Before Luo Binghe could mull over these words and begin to panic, the master went on. “This master simply enjoys his husband’s company and his…” at this point Shen Qingqiu quieted a little, the green bamboo fan suddenly began fluttering as he further covered his face, “...and his looks.”
Shizun, love, absolute light of Binghe’s life. That was really fucking gay. It was sweet, certainly, and the closest his husband could physically come to a public confession, but that just re enforced the gayness of it all. Wow.
The disciple before him gaped. He had expected for his master to be either angry or informative. He had expected to be mandated to running a few laps or given a didactic lecture to help him through his crisis of sexuality. He had not expected his immortal master, whose husband sat not an arm’s length away, to still be deep in the closet of denial.
Shizun looked between the two’s confused faces before clarifying. “Luo Binghe is the only man this master would ever marry.”
Well yeah, hopefully. That’s been Binghe’s goal since the beginning. That doesn’t change the fact that he had thought about this while in the abyss, frantically cataloguing all of his Shizun’s behaviors in an attempt to see where he had gone wrong. That doesn’t change the fact that Binghe had mentally replayed every possible instance of Shizun looking appreciatively at Liu Qingge’s shirtless chest, Yue Qingyuan’s ass, any number of men sparring, their bodies glistening with sweat. The fact that Bingge had never found anything close to female pornography or belongings in his master’s chambers when he had cleaned them as a boy.
Exactly how many women had Shizun showed interest in? One. Liu Qingge’s sister. And his edging closer to the women or looking closely at her face seemed more in curiosity for what lie under her veil than anything even close to interest.
Which was, overall, the reason Binghe had decided he had a fighting chance of winning over Shizun’s affections and eventually marrying the man. The fact that his Shizun was obviously, unequivocally gay had quite literally been the only thing that had propelled Binghe through and up out of the Abyss.
But no, Shizun wasn’t gay.
A bouquet was loudly slapped on young Bai Yu’s desk by a huffy Zhao Wei, the two of them newer disciples from the past few years. While Bai Yu looked affectionately at Zhao Wei’s quickly retreating figure, Luo Binghe smiled on from his seat next to Shen Qingqiu’s desk, amused by the aggressive young love. They had a few more minutes until class would begin and students were still filing in, so Binghe nudged his husband and looked pointedly at the bouquet. Shen Qingqiu looked mildly confused, so Binghe clarified.
“It looks like your disciple finally got the balls to make their relationship public,” snickered Luo Binghe.
Shizun leaned over, whispering back, “Finally?”
“Yes, finally. Shizun’s seen the two dancing around each other this whole year, right?”
“This master begs your pardon?”
Giving shizun the benefit of the doubt, after all it was early in the morning, Luo Binghe elaborated.
“Bai Yu and Zhao Wei? The lovebirds of the class? Remember? There’s been a betting pool over when the two would finally get together for the past two years. Personally, this disciple thought they’d get together a little sooner than this, but love never occurs too late.”
Shizun’s eyes were rapidly flickering between the two disciples, one of whom was slowly scooting his seat towards the other while one pretended not to notice. By now most of the students had already knelt at their seats, so dozens of eyes followed the figure of the lone Bai Yu quietly shuffling himself to the other side of the classroom. Zhao Wei dropped his head on his desk, groaning a little. Bai Yu simply smiled peacefully, the rustling of his robes audible. Nobody spoke.
Shen Qingqiu flicked his fan over his face at the scene, covering his mouth from the students.
“This master wonders how long this has been going on? He has not seen any sign of it before today.”
How. How had Shen Qingqiu missed it. The romantic tension surrounding these two the last few years had been stifling. Luo Binghe was almost certain his shizun should have been able to recognize the cloying scent of lovesickness by now.
“Shizun, do you not remember when the two sparred when they first arrived? Zhao Wei was blushing by the end.”
“He was flushed out of anger and exhaustion. You know how rambunctious and competitive the child is.”
Binghe tried again. That was an easy mistake to make for those less observant at the time.
“How about when Bai Yu and Zhao Wei fought, so Bai Yu trailed after the other for a week like a puppy, begging for forgiveness?” That had been a fun scene, Zhao Wei’s face flushed as his partner attached himself to the other like a limpet and whispered sweet nothings into his ear until Zhao Wei finally broke down and forgave him. It had reportedly been less fun for the disciples, who were subjected to listening to it for hours on end.
“I thought that was just what good friends do after a fight.”
...Okay. No no, this was fine. It was a learning experience for both of them. “What about that story from a few months ago, where Zhao Wei played music outside of Bai Yu’s window in an attempt to serenade the other? He was singing so loud that I could hear his voice inside the bamboo hut.”
Shizun was blank faced. “Oh, yes. That. Was he not just reciting poetry? I thought it was a very loud tutoring session between the two.”
Under Luo Binghe’s scrutinizing gaze, the demon lord trying desperately to see whether this was just another time when his Shizun’s dry humor was coming out, his master began to fan himself more vigorously. A wheeze came from the far left of the classroom as Bai Yu finally scooted the entire way to Zhao Wei’s seat. He had settled behind Zhao Wei and had his chin resting on top of the other’s head, tightly embracing the other from behind. On his face was the dopiest grin either of the husbands had ever seen. Zhao Wei was red and on his face was simple resignation.
Shizun shifted slightly in his seat. “This master just thought they were friendly rivals.”
Binghe’s hair whipped around and into his face as he flipped in midair, causing the man to grimace. He’d have to get Shizun to somehow tame his curls into a braid the next time he sparred, this was too much. Distracted as he was by this train of thought, Binghe barely threw up his practice sword for a block in time, the sword bending a little under the shock of Liu Qingge’s blows. They were trapped in a stalemate for a few moments, Qingge’s arms trembling as he tried to force his sword to cut through his opponents while Binghe resorted to using two hands to keep his sword up. Damn, Qingge was getting stronger.
The moment when Qingge seemed to tire ever so slightly, when the downward press of his sword lightened a little, Binghe fluidly sidestepped before spinning around behind the War God. He pressed his sword into the back of his opponent, and though the sword was made of dull metal the robes still frayed around it. Qingge roared at his defeat, demanding a rematch. Binghe snickered.
“Liu-shishu, are you sure you can go for a rematch this soon? Doesn’t your back hurt, old man?”
Biinghe nimbly jumped back as a sword sliced past him, then jabbed at him again. The smell of jasmine tea and a melodic voice stopped them in their tracks, Qingge aiming for Binghe’s heart and Binghe in the middle of a backbend, getting ready to flip out of the way of the sword.
From the bamboo house walked Shen Qingqiu, who had been quietly reading from inside while the two had sparred. Well, Binghe had sparred. He was pretty sure that Liu Qingge was actually trying to kill him.
“Binghe, be more respectful towards your elders! And Liu-shixiong, you shouldn’t let Binghe get to your head so quickly. You know he’s just joking.” At least Shen Yuan hoped he was joking. After all, he and Liu-shixiong were about the same age.
Bingge flopped from his half backbend onto the ground, flushing a bit in humiliation over his loss of balance. Liu Qingge just gazed at him judgmentally before slowly sheathing his practice sword, then jamming it in when it didn’t quite fit. “Shen Qingqiu” he acknowledged with an inclined head. Said man smiled ever so slightly slightly, kneeling with the platter of tea.
“You two have been sparring for a while. Why don’t you take a break? I know the both of you can go one for days, but there’s no reason to now, is there?”
Luo Binghe stood, dusting himself off before slowly leaning over and jiggling the practice sword out of Qingge’s sheath, bringing it alongside his own to the nearby rack. As he hung them both up, Liu Qingge’s face evolved from mere confusion to anger.
“Oi brat, what do you think you’re doing with my sword!”
“Liu-shishu, did you truly mistake this dull piece of junk for your famous sword? Are you so distracted by Shizun’s presence?” was said by Binghe at the same time that Shen Qingqiu called out from the sidelines, “Liu-shixiong, your sword is over there. That’s a practice blade.”
The War God of Baizan Peak had suddenly and miraculously turned into a constipated goldfish. Befuddlement twisting the man’s fearsome face, a hearty dose of what Binghe liked to call “gay panic” splashed across his posture. With the tips of his ears flushing at his mistake and a sidelong glance at Shen Qingqiu whose shoulders were trembling with withheld laughter, Liu Qingge let out a whispered “Fuck” before stalking off, snatching his real sword on his way out. Bingge stopped his husband before the man could call out to the other, shaking his head slightly.
“Liu-shishu probably wants some time alone to scream.”
“Scream? Scream over what?”
Suddenly the wires seemed to spark in his Shizun’s head. Dusty gears audibly creaked as the began turning, then working overtime. Binghe wasn’t sure what it was, but something seemed to have finally clicked in his husband’s head. Maybe because he had seen the same lovestruck expression on the face of Liu Qingge as he had on countless disciples. Maybe because, miracles upon miracles, the man may actually be growing a brain where the “recognition of emotions” hold in his head lie. Carefully, Shen Qingqiu looked at Binghe, assessing the man’s mood and their general situation. He then cautiously, haltingly, said, “Do you think- Does Liu-shixiong seem to have feelings for this master beyond friendship?”
Binghe prodded his husband on encouragingly, proudly watching the man’s slowly growing EQ sprout in front of him. He knew his husband was smart, but for him to finally develop empathy so quickly and so late in life! Truly a peerless immortal master. Even if it was emotional understanding of one of the most irritating peak masters, it was still something to applaud.
“Do you think Liu Qingge thinks of this master as a rival? For Luo Binghe’s affections, that is?”
What the fuck.
“Binghe, I know this seems like a strange idea, but there’s no need to use such language.”
Oh, oops, he had said that out loud. Let him try again.
“Shizun, what the fuck.”
Luo Binghe looked pleadingly into his master’s eyes, which gazed back at him like a small owl’s, wide with apparent pleasure at finally having put the pieces of the puzzle together. He could almost track his Shizun’s exact train of thought. Liu Qingge and Luo Binghe’s seeming rivalry, their frequent sparring sessions, the heated glances sent Shen Qingqiu’s way, his constant overtures towards trying to fight Qingqiu- they all made sense now! It was a bit odd to think about, but Liu Qingge must be gay for Luo Binghe. After all, if Shen Qingqiu (A completely straight man, the straightest that has ever existed) could turn gay for Binghe’s beautiful face, than anyone can. Now Shen Qingqiu just had to figure out how to carefully break the news to his possessive husband.
Shen Qingqiu opened his mouth to let the explanation pour out, but Bingge’s calloused palm slowly reached up to cover it before he could say anything. The eyes were wide with unshed tears and Qingqiu gaped. Had what he said really been that shocking and disheartening! Liu Qingge was an attractive man, anyone who was his love interest should be proud!
“Shizun, Liu Qingge is in love with you. I’m the rival.”
Loathe as Binghe was to admit the charade, he couldn’t let his shizun take this idea any further. Gods above, the demon lord knew what happened when Shizun got an idea in his head and let it run unchecked. As much as he hated to let Shizun know Qingge’s affections, he absolutely despised the idea of Qingqiu trying to arrange a date between the two of them before dramatically sacrificing himself for Bingge’s own good. Which the man would assuredly do. Better to clear the air.
“Liu Qingge fought for five years for your corpse. He’s your personal chauffeur. He always brings back your fans. Have you ever seen the man so attentive to anyone but yourself? Liu Qingge only has affections for you, Shizun.”
Shizun gasped, scandalized. “Liu Qingge can’t love me! I’m married!”
“So am I, shizun. To you.”
“Shit, you’re right. Are you absolutely sure that…?”
“Yes shizun, this disciple is certain.”
“Then a lot more things make sense. Fuck.”
Shen Qingqiu slammed down his sixth… seventh? Cup of alcohol. Ha. Seven. Yue. Ha.
He quietly snickered to himself, reaching out to grasp another cup of liquor. Nope. Okay, let’s try that again. Reaching out to grasp another cup of liquor- missed again. Okay, he’s pretty sure he’s seeing double by now. So just… aim for the double that’s not partially transparent. And go!
Shen Qingqiu lurched forward, swiping at the bottle. He snatched it, held it up triumphantly, then fell sideways into a very cushiony pilly. Very soft. How nice. This liquor was kind of strong, wasn’t it? Hm. No matter.
He reached around the pillow, groping at it as he tried to snuggle into it a little further. He pulled the unopened bottle of alcohol closer to his body, cradling it as if it were a teddy bear. Or a baby, Did Binghe want children? Should they adopt something? A dog? Fuck, he didn’t need another sticky beast around.
A muffled groan from above stopped him in his drunken reverie, and an eye slowly creaked open as he looked around. This was a very tan pillow, that was a scar, and above him was Luo Binghe’s flushed face. Qingqiu let go of his chest and fell with an “oof” into his lap. No snuggling in this area, Shen Yuan, that’s bad! Bad, bad, bad.
Binghe took another swig from his cup, then looked down at his shizun and smiled. Bending over, he tried to kiss the man in his lap and- nope. Nope, Binghe was not flexible enough for that. The human body cannot curve inward in the way the demonic lord needed it to be for that, so he quickly aborted the action in favor of falling backwards and onto the ground.
“Hey, Binghe. Bingbing. A-Luo. Protag. Husband. Binghe.”
“Didn’t you have a crush on Yingying?”
“You sure? ‘Cause I thought- I thought there was like some chemisr- chemit- dammit. I thought there was something between you two.”
“Nope. I’ve never fallen for anyone but you, Shizun.” Luo Binghe, despite being just as shitfaced as his teacher, was remarkably coherent at the moment.
“You sure? Binghe, you sure? No woman? Ever? Even in the abyss?”
“Mm, I’m sure Shizun. Why’d you think I was in love with Yingying?”
“You hung out with her a lot.”
“I hung out with you more.”
“You… you brought her into the dream realm with you?”
“Mn, Shizun. I brought you with me.”
“Oh, yeah. Mmm… But didn’t you like girls a lot? Weren’t you always talkin’ about how you liked them?”
“Shizun, I’ve never said anything like that. I think- I think that was you? ‘Cause you sometimes tried to pair me up with other girls as a kid?”
A thoughtful hum was his only response.
“C’mon Shizun, why’dya think I was building a harem when I was younger?”
Shizun tilted his head, pressing a kiss into his former disciple’s thigh. His breath blew across the man’s legs as he hissed a gleeful “Shhh, issa secret. Issa- It’s a secret, Binghe.”
“What’s a secret?” Hummed Binghe.
“It is. It.”
“Mmhmm. I understand.”
“But I swear you liked-”
Binghe was feeling nostalgic. He looked up at the roof of their bed’s canopy, then over at his husband whose loose hair framed his face like a halo. Except for that one piece that was stuck in his mouth and the one tickling his nose. Not that they marred the image of the immortal, but they made him seem more human. More mortal. Which is essentially marring the image of an immortal. Whatever, it’s too early in the morning for poetics.
Taking the offending hair that was causing Shizun’s face to scrunch up in distaste, he pushed it aside. Then Binghe paused and, without fully thinking too much about it, tickled Shen Qingqiu’s nose with the hair. Shizun’s face scrunched up further before he jerked up, sneezing.
Binghe quickly dropped the hair and smiled to himself before rolling over, catching his husband in his arms for an impromptu cuddling session. Now he could reminisce about the past with shizun, rather than lying and staring at the ceiling by himself. How nice.
“Morning, shizun.” He said softly.
A sleepy “Mmm” emerged from his husband.
Perfect. It was too early in the morning for the other to clam up with apologies about bygones. “Remember when I used to purposely trip and fall on you all the time? And you let me get away with it?”
“Mmm mm.” Was the slight murmur of denial he got. Luo Binghe shook his head fondly.
“No, remember? When you used to give me personal lessons, but I kept messing up so that you’d have to catch me? Or heal my bruises afterwards?” Binghe laughed a little at his past self’s antics. Ah, such golden memories.
A sleepy moan of confusion, and then a slow “You faked it?”
“En. Remember? Around anyone else I could do the drills perfectly, but around you I suddenly lost all sense of balance? I thought I was being so subtle, but it was nice of you to weather it.”
“Oh, I thought you were just slow. Or that I was just a bad teacher.” Again, said in a sluggish, sleepy timbre. None of this had any tone of hostility or sadness. Just a fondness that often slipped out in the early mornings, one that manifested before Shizun could properly dress up in his cold facade.
Binghe teared up a bit, though. He had never meant to make his shizun doubt his abilities! “No, Shizun, this disciple apologizes. He was purposefully clumsy the whole time, it was never a matter of your bad teaching!”
Clamping his hands over his ears at the suddenly loud overtures, the peak master quickly wormed his way further under the blankets. “It’s okay, Binghe. I- this master thought your actions reflected more on being slow to pick things up than his own teaching abilities.”
Luo Binghe mechanically let go of his husband despite the groan of disapproval the other emitted. His shizun turned and flipped his own arm over Binghe’s chest, but the younger man barely acknowledged it. Staring up at the ceiling, he grimaced just a little. The entire time that Binghe had tried to endear himself to his shizun, the entire time he had thought his little pitiful act had made him adorable, shizun had thought he was just really fucking stupid. Whoops.