Actions

Work Header

He Was Made For Untidy Rooms and Rumpled Beds

Chapter Text

Shen Yuan had many feelings regarding his recent and most unprecedented shift into a new life and body. Most of them were angry sirens blaring in the back of his head, concerned with basic things like: not getting burned alive for possessing the body of another man, learning how to cultivate, and trying to figure out how to tie his hair. Even though the longest his hair ever was, was maybe down to his shoulders after that one experimental phase when he was thirteen and his sister made a bet with him. Also, he was still trying to figure out if they actually did burn people alive in this xianxia peace of shit nightmare he found himself in or if that was just his paranoia. Normal concerns, you know.…for a person stuck in the body of a cannon fodder character in a stallion novel!

Admittedly decent looking cannon fodder, but cannon fodder nonetheless. At least he wasn’t lech number two. He could work with decent looking, lech number two with the drool and the big nose, and the flaring nostrils was always insta-killed.

Hey, don’t call him vain, all right. The prettier you were the better your survival odds were in stallion novels…most of the time.

Sort of…

It was complicated, but the point was, if he had to be a villain at least he was okay looking and held a position of influence. On the dark side of this equation, the ugly fuckers died fast. His fortune was less on the side of quick beheading and more on the side of many, many, years of torture. He couldn't help it if this body probably looked pretty when it cried.

After the initial panic of pretending to be a person he most certainly was not, dealing with the Skinner, and unlocking the OOC function - after settling Luo Binghe into a somewhat reasonable place in his bamboo house instead of the woodshed in the hopes that by holding the protagonist’s golden thigh he would, at the very least, die with some modicum of dignity -

After reorganizing his stupid schedule so that his older disciples were split into leaders that taught alternating groups of younger disciples key martial forms, who would then be organized to teach their even younger shidi’s and shimei’s the skills they learned -

After learning how to use those forms so he could actually correct his disciples -

After learning how to dress, do his hair, wash, and live in his ridiculous clothing when he was used to being in a different fucking era where there was cultivation but no running water (and he did not even care that water talismans did the same thing, at all, he lived in a bamboo hut like a serene monk with clothes spelled to repel dirt and no internet ) -

After all of that - summer came, with a vengeance.

And because he was not in his own world he was subjected to what he could only refer to as the pains he imagined must have been felt by Victorian maidens in England in their giant fucking skirts and their endless layers, because he was not dressed in the surprising practical hanfu he was vaguely familiar with, he was dressed in the xianxia version of that clothing. Which meant:

He wore six to eight layers.

Every day.

Regardless of if he chose to wear the variation of his robes that had pants or not. If he chose to add pants, another layer was inevitably added in robe form to keep the “silhouette” correct.

Here were the layers roughly broken down as to Shen Qingqiu’s, and fuck it, he was Shen Qingqiu now, according to his understanding. Which was gleaned through a combination of guess work, how he was dressed when he got up from the fever, and keen observation of how everyone else dressed (as no one had said anything, or even looked at his clothes twice he was doing great):

One. A robe of the purest and softest white silk smooth as what he assumed a baby’s ass felt like, and cool to the touch, made up the first layer. No undergarments, but the simple robe with a side tie worked just fine. There were variants of this robe with and without splits in the side, depending on the pant situation. There were also shorter versions, skimming the tops of his thighs, while the longer ones draped down to his ankles.

Two: A second white robe with a side tie on the opposing side of the first, also of thin white silk, of the same material but slightly larger than the first. This one with a higher collar, but not yet the highest collar.

Three: A green robe in the palest of shades with a high, high collar. High enough to cover almost his entire neck. It too came in different variants, and complexities. Some versions of this layer resembled a cheongsam with a border around the hem of the collar and a diagonal line that cut across from his neck to his left armpit. Much of the embroidery or buttoning was often unseen, hidden by the layers that came afterwards in darker shades of green. The fancier versions were decorated with flowers, sometimes bamboo, bamboo flowers. Whatever, he could not be bothered to figure it out.

Four: A gauzy see-through robe with sleeves longer than the sleeves of his longest layer in shades of jade green, or white. The purpose being to peek out from his hem as he moved and flow from his sleeves, as though he was an immortal untouched fairy floating through life. He hated it. It was always a pain to get on because it was so slick and delicate and he kept dropping the long gauze…fins…of his clothing into his tea.

Five: Another white or sometimes green robe, again going up in size. This one was, shockingly, seen by people. It had a thicker material, various variations of tying it across his person, various belts he could then pick and choose to put on etc. All in versions of white or green. Sometimes he even wore patterns. How daring.

Six: A large green over-robe, again going up in size and hue but maintaining that same sort of jade situation he was working with, no forest greens or deep, almost black greens to be found in his wardrobe. Typically his sleeves from layer five would show through, as the sleeves of the over-robe ended at the crook of his elbows and came with cute little vanity ties that did nothing. He did have more formal over-robes with long sweeping sleeves and heavier embroidery that he tucked back in the closet and decided not to deal with, which, based on the hidden box they were placed in, was exactly what original goods did with them anyway.

If he chose to wear pants (the seventh layer), he would then have to wear an extra robe (an eighth, eight layers!) to create more of a flow as he moved…a jasmine flower in the cool spring breeze or some such bullshit.

Upon his feet he wore white silk socks that covered him till mid calf, on top of which he had on tight fitting white boots that looked like socks but were unexpectedly sturdier. He also wore arm guards that were either full gloves, which he never wore, as they too were hidden in the fancier clothing box, or the xianxia version of an arm warmer - which he wore all the time. They were tight fitting, embroidered simply, and actually went up to his upper arms, although no one could tell, creating little diamonds on the back and front of his palms. Some tied around his middle fingers, which constantly made him think of his never ending urge to give a great big middle finger to the System and his life and the life of original goods just to be safe.

The point was, once he had settled into his life, or the life of original good's, which would hopefully not end with him becoming a human stick, his body decided to remind him that it was hot as shit outside.

And no, it did not matter that he no longer needed to sweat, he was low-key dying of heatstroke every time he went outside.

In his six to eight layers.

He took back every gaze of appreciation, every glimpse he ever gave to any character art for any book he ever read of this genre, not just the trash fire that was currently his life, but any of them…because….layers. He was a human onion. Gauze. Head pieces, and crowns, and jade pins, and grace, and fuck all of that shit.

He was tired. He was living a fancy goddamn glorious vision of what cultivation should look like that was only ever painted on photoshop by people who did not have to wear the clothing they drew. Clothing no one rightfully expected to wear in real life. Even live action movies had shitty clothing, and shitty wigs, that were nowhere near as elaborate as what Shen Qingqiu was living in right now.

It was hot.

It didn't even have the decency to be sticky. He could at least feel that his own body was on his side if he was sticky. But no, he was Shen Qingqiu the frigid scum villain of Qing Jing Peak whose dignity could not bear for him to be visibly bothered by the heat.

He was a desert made flesh.

Dry, dry heat with no external way to express itself and no bullshit way to cool himself because apparently, much like he no longer needed to eat, after a certain stage the body of a cultivator no longer felt heat or cold, which was not his life. No, he was not used to a slow adjustment period that took years upon years wherein his body apparently gave up certain sensations according to the cultivation books he binge read. He was a new…a mildly used soul…in a more used body, not used to the body he was in “not feeling” heat…”not feeling”, his ass. He didn’t sweat, he didn’t burn, and it was probably impossible for him to actually get heat stroke but oh, he felt it.

This body didn’t feel heat like some people didn’t think coffee was bitter.

They got used to it. They “acquired” the taste, by which he meant they drank it until they convinced themselves it was no longer bitter.

He was not used it.

He was used to having air-conditioning. That is what Shen Yuan was used to. AC, convenient ice that he could buy, and ice cream by the gallon.

Do you know what Proud Immortal Demon Way did not have? All of that. ALL of it. No AC, no ice, unless you used cultivation fuckery (which he totally did), and no ice cream.

He would say fuck his entire existence but he was sure that him being trapped in a world that was once a book he read was the definition of that phrase….so…he wasn’t about to tempt fate by putting those words into the air. He was just going to think them. Very hard.

The point, when we got back to it, was that he was hot, uncomfortable, and kind of hated his clothing, hair, and everything about his life. No amount of Binghe’s cooling soups would make him feel better.

So once he established his identity and was no longer being checked for possession…he decided to experiment. A bit.

Let loose…if you will.

What could it hurt?

Shen Qingqiu woke up every day with the exact same thought process. Most of which featured an ungodly amount of the exact same internal bitching about his hair. One would assume he’d get bored repeating the same phrases in his mind about how much he hated doing his hair and one one would assume incorrectly. He was petty like that.

This morning, however, he was going to do something new. This morning he was shoving it into a ponytail. Right through a jade crown with a jade pin, and tie keeping it place. Liu Qingge eat your heart out.

He left a few pieces loose around his face to frame it, a slight difference from having the front portions of his hair gracefully drape across his cheekbones, only to be pulled back into what he, in his ignorance, could only describe as a half tiny bun, half ponytail, while the rest of his long, long, hair draped around him - all the way down to his knees.

Whatever, it was going up.

He had so much of it now, and putting it up in any form of decent hairstyle made him want to scream.

By the time it was up he felt the glorious freedom of having it off his back, and away from his neck. To be fair, most of neck was still covered by the collar of robe three, but at least he was a bit more free. His hair was practically another layer of clothing given its length. There was also, delightfully, a bare sliver of nape left free to feel blissful amounts of currently self generated breeze, as his hair swung back and forth in front of the copper mirror. He shook his head a bit to check that it was secure. It would not do to have it fall apart on him as he did his duties.

He had a reputation to uphold.

Tugging the end of the ponytail, he thought, yeah, he could work with this.

….

Luo Binghe entered the dining area of the bamboo house bearing a tray that held plates filled with a savoury snow white congee, peppered with delicate roasted lotus seeds and green onion, only to nearly drop his tray onto the floor. 

Shizun had his back towards him. One hand, with its long graceful fingers swayed like the roots of a lotus, they touched his partially exposed nape, stroking the beautiful line of his barely exposed spine. Binghe could see where the hair gathered up into a ponytail outlining the perfect place where a mouth could kiss.

It is the most skin he had seen from his peerless immortal Shizun who was graceful down to his bones, whose elegance and beauty could shame the moon fairy, since the Skinner. A moment which shamefully replayed in his mind for reasons he didn’t know. Often it happened late at night…when he was alone… He had been pushing the image down for weeks. He was sure it would pass soon.

Every morning Binghe woke up and called for his master, he didn't dare to enter his room. A simple call to tell him breakfast was coming was all he allowed himself. Every morning Binghe made breakfast for his master, every day he came to see Shen Qingqiu put together in his robes, hair immaculate, kneeling perfectly like a statue of white jade in front of the low table, and every day he set the table for his Shizun to eat, deigned by the grace of his master to take his own breakfast in front of him.

He was privy to watch Shizun intake food of his making, each delicate motion of his wrist portioning small amounts of food into his mouth languidly.

His eyes were half lidded in the morning, on another man they might have been described as sleepy, on Shizun they were languid pools of jade.

Today he came to the table to see Shizun baring the nape of his neck just a scant inch and for some reason his back teeth ached.

Binghe swallowed, feeling a rush of heat run from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. “Sh-Shizun, this disciple has brought breakfast.”

“Mmm, set it on the table then Binghe. This master has a long day to look forward to”.

Honestly, if Shen Qingqiu had to listen to one more peak lord complain about what honestly amounted to nothing but petty bureaucratic nonsense in their monthly meeting he was going to snap. Or he’d slap them with his fan. One or the other. He was pretty sure original goods was the kind of man who would, if pushed, smack someone with his fan, and not in the nice way like the way that he tapped on Binghe’s head sometimes, but mean and hard. Clear across their face.

He hadn't gotten to that point yet, but the thought comforted him. The heat made him ill-tempered. He took a breath to calm himself.

“Oh-oh-of course Shizun, forgive this disciple for being tardy.”

Shen Qingqiu looked back at his favourite disciple to see his face red, was the heat getting to him too? It was rough on those with lower cultivation but at least they could sweat while all Shen Qingqiu could do was stand still and bake.

He sighed, and said, "It is of no worry Binghe. Is the heat a bother?”

Luo Binghe watched Shizun watching him with a half lidded gaze over his shoulder. One hand still aimlessly stroking his nape, the other playing with the end of his ponytail, his back arched ever so slightly and gulped again, swallowing the saliva building up in his mouth. He thought that if he started drooling, he’d be kicked off the peak. So he did not do that, but he wanted to.

Luo Binghe did not have words for what his Shizun looked like right now.

“N-no Shizun, this disciple is fine.”

…This boy…. stuttering from the heat and still putting up a brave front. He’d give the disciples a half day off today. They deserved it after all if even Binghe, his most hardworking and tenacious student, was bothered.

“Hmm, this master will allow you and your fellow disciples to have a half day off given the weather. Announce it to the others.”

“Oh, of course Shizun, this disciple will obey.”

Luo Binghe had yet to put breakfast down on the table. He moved with shaky legs to put the tray down and cleared his throat. “I have brought breakfast.” His words came out stilted.

Shen Qingqiu turned to glide towards the table, kneeled and picked up a set of chopsticks.

….

Shen Qingqiu left for the meeting promptly, his hair swaying behind him. It was glorious. He loved the feeling of the wind through his hair as he rode on Xiu Ya.

Focused on flying what Shen Qingqiu missed was this:

Liu Qingge nearly falling off Cheng Luan.

Just falling clear out the sky at the sight of that familiar back made new by the view of long black hair that swayed to reveal the milk white sliver of his neck.

The hair bent in the wind like a tease, and it was all Liu Qingge could do to stop himself from grabbing onto that ponytail and yanking it back, to reveal more of that thin swan-like neck.

He was not sure anyone had ever seen Shen Qingqiu’s neck. He had favoured high collared robes since Liu Qingge could recall. Even when they were disciples.

What Liu Qingge did instead was this: he followed Shen Qingqiu just far away enough that Shen Qingqiu wouldn't notice him so that he could continue staring at his neck like a starved wolf.

When Shen Qingqiu finally did notice him, all he did was move beside him and grunt.

“Ah, shidi, how wonderful of you to join me.” Shen Qingqiu stated.

“Your hair,” Liu Qingge bit out.

Shen Qingqiu arched an eyebrow, “Yes.” he said. It wasn't a question, it was a statement. He was not about to let Liu Qingge’s comment ruin his glee at having some skin free for once. Even if it was so little skin that it hardly made a difference.

“You don’t -“ Liu Qingge started.

Shen Qingqiu put him out of the misery that was talking, for his shidi. The poor man was so bad at saying…anything. Pulling words from him was like drawing blood from a stone.

“I’m trying something new.” There, that was a perfectly neutral answer that did not, in any way, hint that Shen Qingqiu was dying of heat.

At that moment, a gust of wind decided to change direction. It was a perfect storm.

The wind whipped his ponytail so that a portion of it hit his eyes which in turn made them red and watery. Another portion stuck to lips, held between the upper and lower lip, as he had conveniently had his mouth open at the time. By the time the wind yet again changed direction, and how irritating was it that this had never happened when his hair was actually down, a strand of hair was loosely left hanging between Shen Qingqiu’s lips as he stared up at Liu Qingge with watery eyes.

His shidi gazed at him like a deer in headlights, his eyes widening before he turned red. He opened and closed his mouth twice before, without saying a word, he ran off.

Well then. Fine. Shen Qingqiu spat out the hair. He had no idea why his shidi was running off like that, he wasn’t even the one who managed to embarrass himself by choking on his own hair.

Also, Liu Qingge got caught in the same draft but nothing happened to him? How unfair. He even had a ponytail too. Ugh, the nerve. Well at least he ran off, maybe he was late or something? At least Shen Qingqiu wouldn’t have to try to bullshit some grace in order to get out of this predicament.

Some of his hair, still wet with spit, stuck to his face. Softly extending two fingers he removed the strand, and stared at it in irritation before he let it go.

By the end of the meeting Shen Qingqiu learned two things. The Peak Lords were actually affected by the heat if the redness of their faces was any indication, and he probably couldn't get away with a ponytail.

It wasn't that it was out of character, it was that…he just…kept…playing with it…but it was not his fault, it was just so easy. It was like a little tail, or a ribbon, or a pen, so soft and smooth, and he was pretty sure he needed to be more dignified than an animal or a nervous student taking an exam.

Oh well, he was sure he could find some other things to experiment with. Maybe in the privacy of his bamboo hut, he could relax more? There was only Luo Binghe there, and sometimes Ming Fan, but not often. To Luo Binghe he could do no wrong. He was still a respected teacher who had not pushed his disciple into an abyss, which meant that his dignity would probably stay intact.

Also Binghe was raised by a washerwoman, in theory, if Shen Qingqiu just behaved like what he was doing was normal for him Binghe wouldn't know any better.

Who really knew, after all, what these respected cultivators were doing behind closed doors?