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He Was Made For Untidy Rooms and Rumpled Beds

Chapter Text

Shen Yuan has many feelings regarding his recent and most unprecedented shift into a new life and body. Most of them are angry sirens blaring in the back of head, concerned with basic things like: not getting burned alive for possessing the body of another man, 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 burned people alive in this xianxia peace of shit nightmare he found himself in. 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 non-the-less. 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. Hey, he can’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 not 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 fast -

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 no cultivation but 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 can 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 simply dressed in the surprising practical ancient Chinese clothing 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 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 a baby’s ass and cool to the touch made up the first layer. No undergarments, but instead he got a simple robe with a side tie. 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, slightly larger than the first. This one with a higher collar, but not yet the highest collar.

Three: A green robe in the palest shade of green with a high, high collar. High enough to almost cover 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 was often unseen, hidden by the layers that came afterwards in a darker shade of green, cutting across from his neck to his left armpit. 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 through 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, actually 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 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 box they were placed in, which was found hidden in the back of his closet, was exactly what original goods did.

-

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.

On top of that, he wore white silk socks that covered him till mid calf, on top of which he had on tight fitting white boots, that almost 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 is, once he had settled into his life, or the life of original goods, which would hopefully not end with him becoming a human stick, more or less, 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, kind of 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 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 it and no bullshit way to cool himself because apparently much like he no longer actually needed to eat, after a certain stage the body of the 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 where his body apparently gave up certain sensations according 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 means 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 bullshit (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 get back to it, is that he was hot, uncomfortable, and kind of hated his clothing, hair, and everything about his life, and 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 kind of 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; 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 pony tail. 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 has so much of it now, and putting it up in any form of decent hairstyle makes him want to scream.

By the time it’s up he feels the glorious freedom of having it off his back, and away from his neck. To be fair, most of neck is 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 is also, delightfully, a bare sliver of nape left free to feel blissful amounts of, currently self generated breeze, as his hair swings back of forth in front of the copper mirror, as he shakes his head a bit to check that it’s all secure. It would not do to have it fall apart on him as he did his duties.

He has a reputation to uphold.

Tugging the end of the ponytail, he think, yeah, he can work with this.

…..

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

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

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

Every morning Binghe wakes up, calls for his master, not daring to enter his room, a simple call to tell him breakfast is coming, Every morning Binghe makes breakfast for his master, every day he comes to see Shen Qingqiu put together in his robes, hair immaculate, kneeling perfectly like a statue of white jade in from of the low table, and every day he sets the table for his Shizun to eat, deigning by the grace of his master to take his own breakfast in front of him.

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

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

Today he comes to the table to see Shizun baring the nape of neck just an inch and for some reason his back teeth ache.

Binghe swallows, feeling a heat run from to top of his head to the tips of his feet. “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 has to listen to one more peak lord complain about what honestly amounts to nothing but petty bureaucratic bullshit, in their monthly meeting, he is going to snap. Or he’s going to slap them with his fan. One or the other. He’s pretty sure original goods was the kind of man, who would, if pushed, smack someone with his fan, and not the nice way, like the way that he taps on Binghe’s head sometimes, but mean, and hard. Clear across their face.

He hasn’t gotten to that point yet, but the thought comforts him. The heat makes him ill-tempered. He takes a breath to calm himself.

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

Shen Qingqiu looks back at his favourite disciple to see his face red, honestly is the heat getting to him too? It must be rough on those with lower cultivation but at least they can sweat while all Shen Qingqiu can do is stand here and bake.

He sighs.

“It is of no worry Binghe. Is the heat a bother?”

Luo Binghe watches 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 gulps again, swallowing the saliva building up in his mouth. He thinks, if he started drooling, he’d be kicked off the peak. So he does not do that, but he wants to.

Lou Binghe does not have words for what his Shizun looks like right now.

“N-no Shizun, this disciple is fine.”

Honestly…this boy…. stuttering from the heat and still putting up a brave front. He’ll give the disciples a half day off today. They deserved it after all, if even Binghe, his most hardworking and tenacious student is 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 has yet to put breakfast down on the table. He moves with shaky legs to put to the tray down and clears his throat. “I have brought breakfast.” His words come out stilted.

Shen Qingqiu turns to glide towards the table, kneeling and picking up a set of chopsticks.

….

Shen Qingqiu leaves for the meeting promptly, his hair swaying behind him. It’s glorious. He loves the feeling of the wind through his hair as he rides on Xiu Ya.

Focused on flying what Shen Qingqiu misses is this:

Liu Qingge nearly falling off Cheng Luan.

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

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

He is not sure anyone has ever seen Shen Qingqiu’s neck. He has favoured high collared shirts since Liu Qingge can recall. Even when they were disciples.

What Liu Qingge does instead is this. He follows Shen Qingqiu, just far away enough that Shen Qingqiu won’t notice him so that he can continue starting at his neck like a starved wolf.

When Shen Qingqiu finally does notice him, all he does is move beside him and grunt.

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

“Your hair,” bites out Liu Qingge.

Shen Qingqiu arches an eyebrow, “Yes.” he says. It’s not a question it’s a statement, he is not about to let Liu Qingge’s comment ruin his glee at having some skin free, for once. Even if it was just a little bit.

“You don’t -“ Liu Qingge starts.

Shen Qingqiu puts him out of the misery that is, talking, for his shidi. Honestly 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 decides to change direction. It is a perfect storm.

The wind whips his ponytail so that a portion of it hits his eyes, which in turn makes them red, and watery. Another portion sticks 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 changes direction, and how irritating is it that this has never happened when his hair was actually down, a strand of hair is loosely left hanging between Shen Qingqiu’s lips, as he stares up at Liu Qingge with watery eyes.

His shidi gazes at him like a deer in headlights, his eyes widening, before he turns red. He opens and closes his mouth twice before, without saying a word, running off.

Well then. Fine. Shen Qingqiu spits out the hair. He has no idea why his shidi is running off like that, he wasn’t even the one who had 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 stand, staring at it before letting it go.

By the end of the meeting Shen Qingqiu learns two things. The peak lords are actually affected by the heat if the redness of their faces is any indication, and he probably can’t get away with a ponytail.

It’s not that it’s out of character, it’s that…he just…keeps…playing with it…but it’s not his fault, it’s just so easy, like a little tail, so soft and smooth, and he’s pretty sure he needs to be more dignified than that.

Oh well, he’s sure he can find some other things to experiment with. Maybe in the privacy of his bamboo hut. There was only ever Luo Binghe there after all, 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 would not know any better.

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

Chapter Text

Imagine a slippery slope that goes right off of a mountain cliff. Now imagine a man falling to his death right off that cliff because the ground seemed stable until it didn’t. Shen Qingqiu’s descent into depravity went something like that. Let’s call the mountain, reasonable behaviour to expect in a public place, the man Shen Qingqiu, and the funeral held afterwards a dedication to Luo Binghe’s fraying sanity. Never-mind that, let’s call the mountain decency, Shen Qingqiu the landslide that ruined the village below it and Luo Binghe a sad, sad, villager.

Shen Qingqiu’s descent starts with a ponytail but it goes something like:

Shen Qingqiu sighs and figures, it’s okay to lose a layer or two, maybe just in evening? Maybe just with Binghe there? He doesn’t have to stay buttoned up all the time. He should not have to be so stifled  in the privacy of his own abode. People, are meant to be comfortable when they are trying to relax and not think about the nature of their existence. 

The first time, he slides off his over-robe, folds it in half, and drapes it over the panelled folding screen in his room (the delicate paintings of orchids do not tell him no). No one does. Shen Qingqiu figures that if original goods can get away with child abuse, while no one notices, he can shed a layer or two and no one will notice. What happens in Qing Jing stays there apparently. He exits out of his room to have dinner with Binghe, who takes a double glance, but other than that, leaves it be. On the inside Shen Qingqiu sighs in relief and keeps moving.

It’s a single layer, a single ponytail, a reasonable small thing that would be perfectly acceptable for the time period, and if it had been left at that, it would have been okay. Other people too, remove a layer, and tie their hair up. It is the pebble that started the landslide.

It was more than reasonable to be honest, because Shen Qingqiu did have, some of the most complex layers of all the Peak Lords, tying maybe with Qi Qingqi, and Yue Qingyuan - one of whom was unbelievably vain, while the other was the actual Sect Leader. Liu Qingge got away with a lighter get up because he was from a martial peak at what Shen Qingqiu estimated was four layers, and Shang Qinghua was a goddamn janitor in two. Shen Qingqiu was not jealous and he will fight anyone who suggest he even might be.

So he would have been fine to lose one layer, maybe even two. Recall the slippery slope.

Shen Qingqiu does not leave it at a ponytail, and a single robe.

 ….

Luo Binghe watches his master, sitting on a chair by the desk he does work on. He watches, knowing he won’t be noticed.

Shen Qingqiu, beautiful in the evening light, not yet facing a setting sun, mindlessly, reaches his right hand for his left. He presses the thumb of one hand into the soft crease of the other. Rolling his wrist as he massages his palm, and lets out the slightest of sighs.

If Binghe had not been paying attention, he would not have noticed it. His master makes all manner of small, impossibly subtle noises when he thinks he is not being watched. Binghe is always watching.

He watches as his master uses the thumb of one hand to stroke every single finger on the left, long scholarly fingers framed by arm guards massaging delicate hands. Binghe’s own hands, at the age of fourteen are already bigger than his masters. He is all hands, and big puppy dog feet, not yet grown into them.

They’re rougher too.

Binghe knows this from feeling those hands with their gentle touch on his forehead, his cheek, his shoulder. They are so soft, Shizun’s precious nails rounded and well kept, each one like a perfect little seashell, pink, translucent, and delicate.

He watches as Shen Qingqiu switches the hand he is massaging, and he wants to take them into his own, and offer to do this for his master, but he knows that Shen Qingqiu would say no. That he would refuse Binghe the honour, would stop if Binghe says a word. So instead, he peeks over the cultivation technique scroll his master gave him, and watches.

He is not terribly surprised, to see his master begin to unlace his armguards. Slowly untying the straps around his middle finger, to grasp the edge of the guard, and pull it off his arm…inch by sweet inch. It is a glide of fabric over white jade.

For a moment Binghe can see a flash of his masters forearm before being left with the tantalizing view of his wrist and hand. There is a black beauty mark on the inside of Shizun’s right wrist.

Shizun takes off the other arm guard, this time after unlacing he puts his mouth to the diamond of fabric that creates the border of the guard, the one on the inside of his left wrist. His mouth grasps the fabric and pulls the guard off with his lips and teeth. Binghe catches a flash of Shen Qingqiu’s pink, wet, tongue. His hands tighten on the manual. Binghe thinks he would kill to be that arm guard, trapped between Shizun’s teeth, left hanging there to be pulled apart.

Once Shen Qingqiu’s hands are free he interlaces his hands together as though in prayer, and then turns them out to stretch his fingers.

The tiniest of deeply satisfied groans slips from his masters mouth as he rolls his shoulders and closes his eyes in pleasure. Binghe loves to watch Shen Qingqiu’s hands when they’re free. Shizun has such long, delicate fingers, they are so, so, slender, and so lovely.

Thin beautiful wrists, bone white and supple peek from gauzy sleeves, letting out an invitation to kiss their insides, right over the beauty mark on his right wrist, and then the palm, then each finger. He wants to trace those pretty little seashell nails with his tongue. Lips red as wine, skin supple as though water could be squeezed out if he presses hard enough. Sometimes it is difficult for Binghe to even bear imagine touching his master with his rough hands. He feels like a thief, stealing glances at an immortal beauty.

He has watched as Shizun, for lack of a better word, relaxed, in front of him in a slow but steady fashion. It has happened quietly, and over time, as he has lived in the side room of the bamboo house. His presence is one that his master has only just, it seems, begun to acclimate to. He has watched his Shizun lose layer upon layer, both physically and mentally. He thinks Shizun spent a lot of time alone here, in this house, so he must have some habits he has kept, that he must not have been comfortable doing around Binghe yet.

But as he stays longer, Shizun keeps opening his layers, like a flower slowly unfurling his petals. He thinks he’d like to see Shizun bloom. It is deeply inappropriate.

The poor in the streets, Binghe included, would wear rough clothing, in one single layer, but theirs was made of corse un-dyed linen. It was rough and protected their modesty. Thin, smooth silk, was always for the nobles, the rich scholars, or the rich merchants.

The silk on Shizun’s body is not even from silk worms like the mortals wear, but Man-Headed Spiders, and other dangerous animals that produce silk. It is so very thin. It cannot be worn in one layer, or even two. It is a material suitable for undergarments only. He has only touched it in passing as he washed his masters clothing on the rare occasions the cleaning spells woven into the fabric could not fully do their work.

This evening, he watches Shizun as he lights a few never-ending candles made from the eternal beeswax of the Three Footed Badger-Elephant-Bee even though it is not dark yet, he does this every time he takes off a few of his robes, it’s a quiet signal that Shizun is unwinding. He knows that Shizun enjoys the scent, the wax was mixed with oils that permeate the air as they burn. Sweet camomile and honey fill the air. It always feels thick in Binghe’s mouth. It feels like home. Like relaxation.

The soft glow illuminates his Shizun.

Shen Qingqiu peels off his over-robe first, and lets it drape behind him, then his outer garment.  Today the outer garment is white, patterned with white bamboo, the embroidery almost impossible to see, but for the candlelight which shines on the textural differences.

The gauze layer that is then revealed is Binghe’s favourite. The fabric is almost completely transparent. He loves watching the way that Shizun’s fingers look through the window of the material, hazy and tinted green as he slides it off his shoulders, it is intoxicating.

This is usually where his master stops. Left in three relatively respectful layers, looking soft and undone in the evening in a way that was private. A shared moment between Shizun and Binghe that Luo Binghe knows no one else is privy to.

Today, something new is happening.

Binghe watches as Shizun’s fingers fiddle with the hem of his high collar. The only sign that his Shizun is thinking of something is the minute furrow between his brows on an otherwise implacable face, for a moment he swears he sees Shen Qingqiu bite gently on his lower lip.

The mint green robe is trimmed with a darker jade. The collar splits down the middle Shen Qingqiu’s neck forming tiny little decorative green knots spaced an inch apart, their decorative nature hiding the fact that they are little ties that keep the robe together, they trail from the middle of Shen Qingqiu’s neck to his willow-like waist, where the robe splits off into a side tie. Tonight, Shizun, allows his delicate fingers to trace his neck as he unties the knots one….by…one.

Pure white fabric, blinding as snow, is only matched by the pure white skin of Shizun’s neck as it spills like white blood from green flesh. In this moment, Shizun is a like a ripe plum split open.

Binghe wants to be a good disciple, it’s all he wants…to be good for his master, but there is nothing he can do to stop the blood from rushing to his cock as he watches his master undress himself until all that is left are his undergarments. He squirms and crosses his legs, and cannot, for the life of him, avert his eyes.

His breath hitches slightly, unnoticed, as Shen Qingqiu rolls his head back and continues undressing himself, his Shizun reaches the side tie, and just…tugs. It feels like the ties that hold together Shen Qingqiu’s clothing are also the ties that hold together Luo Binghe’s sanity and they are being pulled apart in his teacher’s hands.

Shen Qingqiu, oblivious to the suffering of his student, finishes untying the string and shrugs off the mint green robe, leaving himself in a mere two layers of thin…white…silk.

Binghe watches as his Shizun bends down to remove his shoes, this too is something he has not yet seen, and he has no earthly idea regarding what is going on and he cannot ask so he sits on his seat as though he has been glued there. Fleetingly he thinks, in the work area, shoes were almost always worn. He catches a glimpse of his Shizun’s collarbones, watching them dip in the middle. He wants to trace them with his tongue. He does not understand. 

 Something in Binghe snaps, maybe it was that the side tie really was related to Binghe’s sanity and it has now complete gone away. He does not know. Binghe rushes to his Shizun’s side, kneeling beside Shizun’s chair and grasping onto one foot insolently. His mouth is dry. His hair feels as though the curls are rising in response to the friction in the room.

“Shizun please allow this lowly disciple to serve you,” he blurts out, his voice cracking in the middle. He thinks he’s sweating, he thinks his eyes must look as though he has gone mad.

Shen Qingqiu raises an eyebrow at him. This close together, with Shen Qingqiu leaning over him, his lovely hands braced on his knees where they moved after Luo Binghe grasped for his foot, Binghe can count his teacher’s lush black eyelashes. They flicker like butterfly wings over his cheeks. 

“Binghe does not have to trouble himself, this master is capable of taking off his own shoes,” Shen Qingqiu replies, completely unconcerned about his lack of clothing. Binghe supposes that he too, will simply adjust, if his master is comfortable, he will be too. Soon.

“Binghe insists, his master has had a long day, and Binghe would like to be useful to his master. Binghe would like to repay his master for his kindness.” Luo Binghe no longer knows what he is saying but he is desperate and something, anything must show because Shizun sighs and sits up completely.

“Very well,” Shen Qingqiu acquiesces.

Binghe is so very thankful. He takes one foot in his trembling fingers, one hand under the sole, the other grasping at Shen Qingqiu’s ankle as he slides off the white boot. He repeats the action for the other foot.

Thoughts move too rapidly through Binghe’s head for him to consciously make a decision and a streak of something, maybe madness, runs through him. Still holding one of Shizun’s sock-covered feet in his palm, and it is somehow unbelievable to have confirmation that Shizun’s feet though those of a man, can fit inside his palm, Binghe’s hands large and Shen Qingqiu’s feet are on the daintier end for a male, and he wants…more.

He edges one hand up to grasp the top of Shizun’s sock, hand groping Shizun’s calf like a lech, and pulls down to reveal creamy, soft feet, and small cute toes. He wants to nibble on each one. They too, have perfect little seashell nails, and they too are so pale he can see little green veins peeking through like marbling on jade. He sets one unclothed foot on the ground and repeats his process with the other. He watches as Shizun’s toes curl in his hand and then on the ground. He thinks he’ll just tell Shizun he misunderstood if asked. He’ll tell him that he thought Shizun wanted to take off both, never mind that they don’t usually take their shoes off in the work area, because it serves the same purpose as a modern office, and is thus subject to occasional unwanted guests, now more so than ever after the poisoning.

But Binghe just cleaned the floors and he has been in his socks so he does not worry about dirtying his Master in this way, he is unsure he can stop himself from kissing his Master’s feet, though. Looking up he sees his Shizun seated, dressed in two thin robes of white, looking so very undone. It is enough to make him worship. Kneeling in front of Shen Qingqiu, Luo Binghe feels as though he is at the foot of a temple.

“This disciple, asks for pardon. He thought that perhaps Shizun would be more comfortable like this. This Binghe just cleaned the floors, and no one has come, so Shizun will not dirty his feet,” he explains. Never mind how deeply inappropriate it is for Binghe to see Shizun’s feet at all. Shizun has made no reaction to it, he has not moved to stop Binghe and so Binghe has taken this liberty.

Shizun does not quite sigh, but exhales deeply, and Binghe’s gaze flashes down to his feet quickly and then back up again in order to catch those cute toes curling reflexively, “This Shizun is comfortable, thank you Binghe.”

Binghe nods, and scuttles, moves, somehow, gets himself back to his seat while trying to hide an erection.

He buries his nose into the same scroll he thinks he has read thirteen times in the shichen he has been sitting. He watches as the sun sets and the only light remaining becomes candlelight. He does not look at Shen Qingqiu still going through paperwork. He breathes deeply through his nose and out his mouth, but quietly.

When he has finally calmed himself, and his erection has subsided he looks up again, and promptly feels the sensation of all of his blood rushing from his head, back south. His heavenly pillar is hard enough to dig through rocks.

Shen Qingqiu sits in the glowing candlelight his two layers of silk, just barely translucent. Just thin enough that Luo Binghe can make out the outline of Shen Qingqiu’s mouth-watering nipples, the curve of his waist, the shape of his arms, all of this just barely. It is a play of light and shadow. It is as though he is wearing nothing but gauze but thicker, giving as much as it takes away.

Shizun Binghe thinks, Shizun is trying to kill me.

 ….

Shen Qingqiu lays down in bed, and wonders at Binghe’s reaction to the events of the day. That poor boy, how abusive was original goods before, to make Binghe so desperate to prove himself? He warred between having the protagonist touch his feet, because he cannot afford to have the protagonist touch his goddamn feet, it’ll end in nightmares later on, he knows it, and well, Binghe’s puppy-dog eyes. Blackened Luo Binghe could possibly make him eat his own toes later, who knows?

…But the look of desperation and sheer hunger for love in Binghe’s eyes as he clung to his foot was really hard to say no to…so he didn’t. This was probably going to come back and bite him in the ass later on.

While Shen Qingqiu was a bit weirded out by having someone take off his shoes, if it made his disciple happy he’d go along with it. Who knows what kept teenage boys ticking, and healthy, and if this was something he could do, something he could provide Binghe that proved Shen Qingqiu cared for him, then it was no skin off his foot.

As a bonus, it was nice to know that Binghe noticed nothing about his latest layer removal. Progress was good, and very, very comfortable. It was also nice to know that he didn't need to wear shoes around Binghe.

He can recall a few works of fiction that had feet as a sensual and private part that was not meant to be displayed in public, it was nice to know Proud Immortal Demon Way wasn’t like that, he skipped a lot of the prose describing the harem as well as the sex scenes, sue him. The garden behind his house was beautiful and the grass was so soft. He could probably walk through it barefoot now, which was nice.

On that note, he needed to buy a long padded lounge chair-bed thing for the garden. He needed one. He was going to make himself some cocktails and freeze some fruit so he could eat it. These were two things he was not allowed to do in life number one due to his health, but now, he was going to get drunk…well tipsy, in his garden, with his shoes off in his two layers. It was going to be great. Binghe could bring snacks!

A lot of xianxia also had a big thing about dainty lotus like feet being beautiful, and a deep fetishizing of both feet and hands…also wrists…but he was a man, and also there wasn’t anything special about his features so he was sure he was playing it cool.

What Shen Qingqui had not realized was that in two silk layers, things were somewhat...transparent.

 

That night, pillar in hand, Binghe bites his pillow as he touches himself again, and again. Binghe has tried to be a good disciple but he cannot live with this torture without release, he feels as though he will die if he does not come, and he keeps going until he is spent, wrist sore. It is early enough that he can hear the birds wake with the morning when he finally stops.

He thinks his mouth is sore from holding back screams and his eyes are teary. He will do the laundry later, but for now he lays on his bed, smelling of sex, and sweat, and breathes heavily.

“Hey brat,” the Elder Dream Demon announces, “I’m pretty sure your precious Shizun is trying to seduce you.”

“No, he is not. Shut your mouth demon.” Binghe snaps back, half exhausted, half certain that Shizun could do much much better than him, and thus had no reason to seduce this lowly disciple.

“Kid, he is a filthy pervert who wants to get into your underaged pants, why else would he practically get naked in front of you? You might consider changing masters for someone who doesn’t prey on children…or fucking him? One of those.”

“Firstly” Binghe argues, “I am not a child, secondly, Shizun is not trying to seduce me, and thirdly, there is nothing in this Binghe that could be taken advantage of.”

Because Luo Binghe is pretty willing to do whatever to his Shizun, with his Shizun, around his Shizun, right about now, and always. It’s not being taken advantage of, if he wants it. Also, Binghe is fifteen years old already, he has spent a year in Shizun’s company and he knows the man would never take advantage of his students.

However…the Elder Dream Demon might have a point. Shizun did strip in front of him until he was almost naked. Which was so unbelievably inappropriate he would have never believed his polished, elegant master who always stressed that manners were important, could ever do something like that, until it happened right in front of him, and even then Binghe thought that maybe he might have hallucinated the moment?

So…Binghe might, may be, possibly be, attractive…to Shizun… in some way, and while Binghe thinks nothing will come of it, he wants to be wrong so badly. His body is ready. He will observe for now, and wait for an opportunity to test the grounds.

 ….

The week passes. Every night Shizun continues to take his clothes off, and Binghe thinks he might be going crazy. Binghe thinks this might be some form of enlightenment, some lesson on not falling into the temptations of flesh wherein Shizun dangles his unbelievably temping self in front of Binghe and then does nothing. Binghe is not feeling very enlightened.

Perhaps, Binghe thinks wildly, perhaps Shizun is so concerned that he is taking advantage of his student that Shizun cannot bring himself to act, and if that is the case, well then, this Luo Binghe would just have to send himself to the door.

In the new nightly process of taking off Shizun’s shoes, which is a privilege Binghe has held onto with a possessive fervour, Binghe looks up at Shen Qingqiu, and beseeches, “This Luo Binghe would be willing to service Shizun in any way Shizun desires. This Luo Binghe can only pray that he brings his teacher as much pleasure as Shizun has brought this disciple”. There, that is as clear as Binghe can make it, that he is willing.

Shizun looks at him blankly, but Binghe watches Shizun, he always watches Shizun, Binghe sees the flash of confusion as Shen Qingqiu removes his foot gently, and replies, “Thank you Binghe, but Binghe needs to know that he does not have to do anything, it is the privilege of this teacher to have a student as dedicated as Binghe.”

“Binghe wants to though, Shizun, he really wants to, it is of no imposition.” Luo Binghe replies as he grasps the foot that was pulling away back, clutching it to his chest, gazing into Shen Qingqiu’s endless jade eyes…and that is definitely confusion that flashes through them.

“Binghe is doing well enough already, he does not need to do anything more, Binghe is my disciple.” Shen Qingqiu comforts, patting Binghe on the head gently before turning in for the night.

Luo Binghe is left holding an imaginary foot, wondering where he went wrong in his past life, for his karma to be this terrible. Perhaps he was some sort of terrible dictator?

The next night, Luo Binghe does the same thing, beseeching Shen Qingqiu with his robe half open still wet from the bath. The same thing happens. Shizun comforts him, and tells him he is strong and talented and Binghe knows he is being misunderstood.

 ….

“Kid, I’m taking it back…I’m not sure your Shizun knows what sex is. Which is bit surprising all things considered.”

Binghe ignores him.

Binghe is not sure either, at this point, but he is suffering. Images of Shizun lounging in the evening in his undergarments, splaying himself over scrolls, fanning himself, as he exposes such an inappropriate amount of skin that it makes Binghe want to melt, flash through his mind. He still dresses as Binghe is used to when they leave the bamboo house, but inside it is as though Binghe has entered a different world, where Shizun is not a lofty immortal master, but instead a lofty immortal fantasy born from images more lewd than Binghe’s wet dreams, uncaring of the torment he is putting Binghe through. 

The other day, he had watched in horror as his Shizun, allowed one finely built leg to spill from the split in his robes in order to rub lotion on it, and then he did the same with the other one. From his thighs to his perfect feet. Binghe knows what Shizun’s thighs look like! What is he to do with this information! Not touch himself?

He really, really, does not understand, has no one taught master not to do these things? Has he forgotten propriety due to a Qi deviation?

Binghe thinks he must be dying. He keeps feeling chest pains.

 ….

Shizun, is kind, and gentle, and stern with an implacable face, and eyes that laugh and shine like stars when he is happy. He is to be respected and Binghe wants nothing more than to make him proud, but so help him, he wants his master too.

He wants him with the fire of a thousand suns burning simultaneously, the fire of a stallion protagonist who has unknowingly already given up his harem for one man, and one man only. 

At some point, between almost dying every day, and watching his Shizun exist around him, but not being able to touch him because of the impropriety, Binghe comes up with a plan. If Shizun is not seducing him, and he has confirmed that somehow…somehow… Shizun has no idea what he is doing, he must seduce Shizun. It is the only answer.

If the mountain will not come to Binghe, Binghe must come on top of the mountain, all over it, inside it, he must infiltrate this mountain with his presence multiple times.

 

Chapter Text

“So, are we sure he doesn’t have succubus blood in his family?” the Elder Dream Demon asks for the fifth time, after he spent a few days observing the cause of Binghe’s endless suffering. Binghe was torn between abject jealousy and the desperation of needing someone to vent to, so they compromised. The Dream Demon watched for two days and two days only. Binghe still wanted to rip the eyes out of his incorporeal body. 

“Yes, I am very sure the Peak lord of Qing Jing, does not have any succubus blood in his lineage.” Binghe bites out for the fifth time.

 “…but are you sure about that?” The Elder Dream Demon asks.

To be fair, Binghe is half heavenly demon and he’s on Qing Jing Peak, but still, he’s pretty sure Shizun is human…at least, mostly sure? Binghe is a demon after all, he’s almost certain he would be able to tell if Shizun was one too, it would be unfair if he couldn’t sense his own kind, or something like that.

To be even more fair, it was almost incomprehensible as to how Shen Qingqiu was the way he was, without trying, and Binghe knows his Shizun isn’t trying to do anything, without mystical assistance. The only answers are succubus blood, or some sort of messed up trial of god, given to Binghe to test him.

It is divine punishment.

There is no other answer, for how one man, could be so unbelievably…seductive…without meaning it.

Or maybe a lot of people were like that when the doors shut and no one could see them because that is the only reason he can think of as to why Shizun has not been stolen from the Peak and tucked into some immensely powerful man’s palace - demonic or righteous didn’t matter. Maybe the world was full of people like Shizun, who looked and moved like grace personified, and took their clothes off when they were home.

“Kid, kid, listen to me. I’m an old demon, and ancient one, and I can tell you this: that Shizun of yours, is not normal. That, is a Devastation class capacity for seduction. If I was any younger, I’d try to poach him - ”

At that, Binghe’s powers rage, and he nearly loses contact with the old bastard.

“Kid, no one is taking him from you, I don’t even have a body. Look, at this point we know three things: when your Shizun is comfortable, he somehow makes himself more attractive than a Seven Marrow Bone Replenishing Fruit, he’s not doing it on purpose…and he doesn’t seem to be aware of what, exactly, he is doing, think brat, what does this mean?”

Binghe chokes down his anger, and thinks. He has already decided to seduce his Shizun, but what does this information tell him, logically, when he’s not trapped in his own suffering?

Shizun, does not seem to notice some of the social norms Binghe was taught.

Shizun is the epitome of proper manners when he leaves the house in the morning, but inside of the bamboo garden, it is as though he does not understand how he should behave…almost as though he was never taught.

Binghe tries to think of, if he ever heard of Shizun living with anyone, ever heard of Shizun having a family, and he has searched for information on Shen Qingqiu, obsessively as he can while still being covert. At first it was to try to please his master, later it was to understand him. He has come up with nothing. He catches snippets of rumours regarding brothels and pettiness, but he knows better than to fully trust anyone to tell him about Shen Qingqiu when the man in private is a clear contradiction to the outside. It is as though he appeared as smoke on a clear day, born from nothing. It is as though he is hiding his past.

He knows that the Qi deviation induced fever wracked his Shizun’s body, and they all knew of the memory loss they are not to speak of, but somehow Binghe thinks that, that is not quite right…it’s not as though pieces are missing, but that they were never there in the first place. He, as the protagonist, comes to the correct conclusion, that somehow, for some reason, Shizun does not know what the appropriate boundaries were supposed to be in private situations.

Shizun does not practice boundaries in private because he does not know them.

And, oh. Binghe is so stupid.

Sometimes he questions the fact that he is learning anything from a being as clearly amoral as the Elder Dream Demon, while other times the benefits so clearly outweigh the downsides that Binghe cannot bring himself to feel any regret.

If Shizun does not know that Binghe is being impertinent, he can be as impertinent as he likes.

Shizun did not react to Binghe taking off his socks, even though his master had every right to whip Binghe, and banish him from his home for taking such liberties. He was not in his right mind when he did it the first time, but Shizun has allowed Binghe to continue removing both his shoes and socks, with only minor pleading on Binghe’s part.

Would Shizun even notice the slow, slide of Binghe cementing himself even further into his life? Binghe was not sure, but he was willing to go forth and find out.

A fire burns in his chest as he announces into the night air, under his breath, “I, Luo Binghe, vow, to woo and one day presume to win the honour to wed Shen Qingqiu.”

“How wonderful. Good luck with Great Concubine Shen.” The Elder Dream Demon speaks as he departs.

Binghe ignores him, he has a Shizun to woo, and more leeway than he originally thought. Binghe is the protagonist after all, he can do a lot with the mile he’s been given, particularly when he expected an inch.

His initial appeal was to be a responsible disciple for his Shizun, one that would bring him honour, and stay by his side for the rest of his life until he could win enough victories and ingratiate himself in order to court Shen Qingqiu. He would still do this, of course. Now, in addition to his previous plans, now he has another, an unexpected in. Binghe for all that he was a white lotus, in another life, became a blackened tyrant, so when he saw an opportunity to become closer to Shen Qingqiu, he took it.

 

Concubine Shen, Concubine Shen, the title rings through his head like a mockery. It is not an inaccurate depiction of his Shizun lazing in his bamboo house, it is not an inaccurate depiction of Shizun at all, in some regards at least.

In other regards it is an insult of the greatest kid. If anyone spoke, or even thought those words,  Binghe would fight them. He thinks Empress Shen, or Prince Consort Shen would be more appropriate, they would be the more accurate terms. Shen Qingqiu was not something to marry for pleasure, or political advantage, he was not a pretty bauble in a collection, he was not a thing, but an incomparable salvation to be treasured beyond all reason. For demons, Empress and Concubine were gender neutral terms, so were Binghe to be a Demon Lord, and Shizun deigned to be his, Shen Qingqiu would be Empress Shen, First and only Wife of Lord Luo Binghe….if he did not abhor Binghe for his heritage first. 

Human cultivators had stricter ideas on gender roles, but Binghe did not think Shizun cared for such divisions.

Shizun had lotions that he slathered on himself, and endless hair oils, and potions to keep his skin sweet. His Shizun liked soft sweeping fabrics, and light sugared smells to permeate his abode. He enjoyed festivals, and painted fans. Shizun did not seem to care that these were not masculine traits as seen by human cultivators, that Liu Qingge snorted over his “prissiness” every so often. 

While his master was powerful in his own right, being chief strategist for the Sect, Binghe felt, perhaps with bias, that Shen Qingqiu was better suited for a more relaxed life. A life, not as a solitary Peak Lord, but as a treasured partner.

Sometimes, Shizun would sink into a chair, or shut himself into his room, and Binghe knew he was laying boneless in his bed, a wet cloth over his eyes. As though the world was on his shoulders and he simply wanted one moment of peace. Binghe did not know what to do in those times, so he stayed silent. He wanted so badly to take the weight off of his master, to be a safe space for him, the way his Shizun was for Binghe.

Binghe imagined, hoped, that maybe one day, he could go to war for, or gain power for his Shizun. So that his Shizun could live the way he enjoyed best all the time, without worry, while Binghe protected him.

Binghe wanted to carry the weight for him.

….

“Shizun,” Binghe asks “may I comb your hair?” He thinks he might get a yes, because Shizun disliked combing his own hair. Binghe saw him huff under his breath, while sliding his hands through his hair to detangle a knot after a trip via sword to Bai Zhan Peak. This occurred on one isolated occasion. Shizun can be hard to read for an un-diligent watcher. It is evening, Shizun’s hair must be unpinned and braided for sleep. Today, Binghe asks.

He watches Shizun blink slowly, “Very well Binghe.”

Shizun then turns and walks into his room, beckoning Binghe to follow with a languid wave of his hand. Binghe has never been inside of Shizun’s room, it is exiting. A sense of victory already thrums in his veins.

The first thing he sees upon entering is the bed. Shizun’s bed is large, easily fitting up to four grown men. It is a traditional wooden canopy bed with four intricately carved wooden posts. The wood is a rich brown in colour, the drapes a familiar green gauze. The bed itself is covered with a soft mattress encased in silk covers, and a thin silk blanket. There seems to be a pile of decorative and less decorative pillows on the bed in all shades of green. Shizun, Binghe thinks, sleeps like a bird in a nest of pillows. It is another piece to the mystery of the man Binghe is growing to love more as time passes.

The room is a bit messy but clean, a scroll or two on the floor, a pillow or two strewn about. Here, there is a desk in the corner covered with paperwork, and research on demonic animals. There, there is a folding screen that separates the dressing area. It is a warm space, Binghe thinks, his fingers itching to tidy things up. He does not act on the urge.

His heart stutters twice when he finally notices a small figurine of a cat on Shizun’s desk. Binghe had gifted that figurine to Shizun, ashamed of the cheap trinket he had carved with his own two hands, but hopeful. It warms his heart to know it has been placed gently on Shizun’s desk and kept in his room. Shizun is so very kind, if one knows where to look.

He slips off his shoes as his Shizun directs him to sit on the bed, instead of a chair as Binghe expected. He watches as Shizun pulls a small side table over, upon which laid the tools needed to deal with Shizun’s hair. Binghe recognizes those combs from when Shizun taught Binghe to comb his own hair properly. Then Shen Qingqiu grabs one of the pillows that had, at some point, been strewn onto the floor and kneels on top of it, waving a hand dismissively towards the table holding the combs and oils.

Binghe swallows, and spreads his legs wide, allowing his feet to bracket Shen Qingqiu’s shoulders. He feels his Shizun lean slightly back, supported by Binghe and the bed frame. He pulls out the jade zan holding Shen Qingqiu’s hair up, watching black ink spill further down Shizun’s back. 

Seeing Shizun in front of him, already undressed in two white robes, Binghe holding his Shizun’s hair in his hands, he feels like less like a dutiful disciple and more like a dutiful husband.

Breathing out Binghe steels himself, he slides his fingers through Shen Qingqiu’s hair, from his scalp, where Binghe rubs a few soothing circles, down to the tips, pausing gently when meeting resistance. It is less about finger combing, or doing anything at all to help detangle his Shizun’s hair, and more about feeling all that black hair in his hands. It is softer than Binghe has imagined.

Shaking his head to clear it, he grasps the wide tooth comb first and works his way from bottom to top, generously pouring oil on his hands as he coats the strands in a light smelling tincture that will keep the ends moist and healthy. He switches without thinking to a smaller toothed comb and repeats the process. He does not luxuriate in his actions yet, he has another goal in mind, a new one made in the moments he began to comb. When Shizun’s hair is free of tangles, before Binghe begins to braid it back gently, he slides his hands again into Shizun’s hair. His thumbs press behind Shizun’s ears as he begins to massage. Dexterous hands, calloused by a sword begin to rub in firm strokes from the top of Shen Qingqiu’s neck to his nape.

A soft groan of satisfaction leaves Shen Qingqiu’s mouth before he can stop himself.

Binghe emboldened, presses harder and allows his hands to slip under Shen Qingqiu’s robes in order to reach his shoulders. He circles the knots lightly with his fingers first before adding pressure with his thumbs in order to release them. As a particularly stubborn kink in Shen Qingqiu’s left shoulder releases, Shen Qingqiu drops his head back. For a moment, the only thing keeping him up are Binghe’s hands on his shoulders; quietly he lets out another groan, this one louder than the last. He rights himself afterwards but the body under Binghe’s hands relaxes that much further.

Binghe cannot get enough of the soft, giving flesh under his large warm palms, and the flashes of skin he sees as Shizun’s collar slips down to reveal more of his neck and back. He catches glimpses of the shoulders under his hands with every press.

Binghe does not know how long he spends with his palms and fingers kneading Shizun’s shoulders, feeling the man melt underneath him but he does not care, noticing only when Shizun moves to sprawl his legs more comfortably underneath himself.

When Binghe’s hands finally slip out of Shen Qinqiu’s robes, he can hear his Shizun stifle a yawn before he states, “Binghe is tired from his training, and this Shizun, while grateful does not want Binghe to spend his time on such useless actions.”

“Pleasing Shizun could never be useless.” Binghe quickly refutes.

Shen Qingqiu responds with a measured tone, “I am not yet so old, that I need a disciple to coddle me like this. Focus on your own training Binghe.”

“This Binghe still has time in his day to do such things, it is not trouble. Shizun looked tired and Binghe wanted to, wanted to,…was…was it…not acceptable?” Binghe asks, a slight tremor of fear coursing through him.

Shen Qingqiu turns his head to look up at Binghe through thick lashes, and half-lidded eyes.“It was acceptable, but not necessary.”

His eyes grow soft in the candlelight.

Binghe can hear the slight worry in his voice so he faces his teacher with determination, “Please allow me to share some of your burden, this disciple wants nothing more.”

“Luo Binghe cooks for this Shizun, cleans his house, somehow still manages to train well, and now this?” Shen Qingqiu’s eyes soften further, from the weight of his emotions “What is this Shizun to do without you, when you grow up, hmm? You should let me shoulder my own responsibilities a bit more, focus on yourself silly boy.”

“Please.” Binghe chokes out, eyes desperate, “Please allow me.”

Shen Qingqiu turns fully, while remaining seated, and reaches a hand up to pat Binghe’s cheek. He cannot say no, “Alright.” He sighs.

….

What a sweet boy, Shen Qingqiu thinks, so worried about his teacher. Shen Qingqiu really should be more clear, he does not want to take advantage of the kindness of his student. It is difficult however, with Binghe looking at him, hands clasped on his lap, pleading to help. His heart grows warm.

….

After that evening, it is as though a flood gate has opened. If Binghe was sticky before, there are no words to express his behaviour in the present.

Outside their home nothing much changes. Binghe calls out for him as frequently as before, and Binghe still ply’s him with refreshments at any given moment. Binghe still stays a respectful distance away from Shen Qingqiu in public, aside from the head pats.

Shen Qingqiu thinks that things must be going well, and that the newfound affection at home is doing Binghe a service. During training, Binghe no longer trips as often, growing even more rapidly in power as Shen Qingqiu digs through cultivation materials to impart training unto a Binghe who seems to be fuelled by an endless burning fire. Ah, to be young again, Shen Qingqiu thinks, firmly ignoring the fact that he died at twenty-two.

Inside their bamboo house, with its peaceful spaces, Binghe no longer keeps himself away. Hands tug at Shen Qingqiu’s sleeves, hands help him up from his chair when he is tired, hands knead at his shoulders when he spends a long time writing at his desk, hands touch him for whatever reason, and slowly, in this way, Binghe’s hands become familiar to him. At some point, Binghe begins to request hugs, and that too is sweet. Shen Qingqiu loves the brilliant smile Binghe gives, when Shen Qinqiu opens his sleeves and tucks Binghe into the crook of his neck upon being given any excuse. As Binghe is sent out on night hunts, Shen Qingqiu takes to holding him close whenever he comes back once they reach the bamboo house.   

In their everyday life, Binghe sits closer to him, no longer across their dinner table, but beside him, gently putting dishes into Shen Qingqiu’s own bowl, which Shen Qingqiu reciprocates…Binghe is a growing boy after all.

One night, when Binghe was particularly tired, nodding off into his rice, Shen Qingqiu, removed the chopsticks from his hands and arranged Binghe to lay with his head on his lap. For a moment Binghe had frozen, before relaxing, stretching his legs out and nuzzling into Shen Qingqiu’s thighs.

Shen Qingqiu simply continued to eat, the leftovers would be there later when Binghe woke up. His other hand absent mind-idly played with Binghe’s curls, smoothing his Binghe’s hair back from his forehead.

 ….

Shen Qingqiu stared at his back garden with disguised glee. The time had come.

He had to custom order the goddamn day bed from a village a few miles away, that specialized in sturdy outdoor furniture, but it was finally here. It was run by a cultivator who manufactured furniture that would not warp in extreme weather conditions. As a bonus, the cushions they sold were also weather-proof, and spelled to dry immediately, repel dirt, and never require cleaning.

Now, Qing Jing Peak had mild weather over all, but it was still a cultivation sect and if, in some freak of nature accident, his students, or a monster, or terrible weather, happened to intrude on Shen Qingqiu’s heavily warded back garden then he wanted his fancy new day bed to survive. He had a plan, and he was going to make good on it!

He, immediately after acquiring it, shoved it into his space pouch, paid the craftsman a large amount of money, and flew swiftly to his garden in record time. He then shoved it back out and put it in a convenient area, for once ignoring the heat. It came with the weather resistant…cushion…mattress really, mentioned prior, that was, of course, green. Shen Qingqiu was sticking with his theme after all.

He covered it with pillows. It pleased him. Tilting his head to the side, he added yet another pillow. This pleased him more.

After setting the cushions to his liking, Shen Qingqiu, kicked off his shoes, and started to strip. He could hear Binghe choking behind him, his disciple must have swallowed water down the wrong pipe again. Binghe wasn’t in any actual danger from choking, he’d get over it soon, in fact, it happened often. The first time Shen Qingqiu had been worried, but by now he assumed Binghe was unlucky with water, it was kind of adorable.

Shen Qingqiu returned his full attention to the massive day-bed in front of him, and luxuriated in the idea that he had nothing to do today, so he intended to make the best of it. He yanked his hair free, letting it fan out. Then, he sprawled out on top of the day bed, laying on his side. He pulled out a small shallow bowl from his space pouch, as well as a jar of rice wine, a smaller jar meant for serving wine, and a plate. He poured some of the contents of the larger jar into the smaller one, and placed the larger jar onto the floor.

Reaching back into his pouch, he pulled out a bunch of grapes and froze them, with the power of his cultivation bullshit, allowing them to rest gently on the plate. Shen Qingqiu had been gathering what he needed for this endeavour for a while now.

He was ready, and nothing could stop him.

He lay comfortably, one hand supporting his head, while the other poured his wine into the small dish, bringing it to his mouth. A small amount trickled out but he didn’t care, he simply placed his bowl on the soft mattress that would never get dirty, wiped his jaw with his thumb, and sucked the remaining liquor off.

He could still hear Binghe choking, “Binghe what is the matter?” He called out. Honestly, that boy.

He could hear foot steps running away rapidly. He was sure Binghe could figure it out, he was a brilliant disciple after all, and Shen Qingqiu was rather busy.

….

Binghe hid behind the backdoor that led to the garden clutching his chest with one hand, while the other palmed at his dick.

He breath coming in pants, hidden behind clenched teeth.

Grabbing his pillar with one hand, his fingers not quite meeting, he tucked it into the waistband of his pants, and readjusted his belt so that it would hold his manhood against his belly.

He could do this, he had done such things before, both his size and Shizun's general eroticism making it quite easy to hide his perpetual hard-on.

He could do this. He could be calm. He could do this.

…He could not do this.

Much like, when Shen Qingqiu had undressed the first time, a flash of madness ran through Binghe’s head. He grabbed the giant decorative war fan off the wall, and walked back outside like a man facing down a squadron of archers who had high ground.

Luo Binghe’s hands were white as the grasped the handle of the fan, he marched out to his Shizun, and began to fan him, gently as he could, lest he lose control and turn the breeze into wind blades.

Shizun looked at him with surprise, before he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, but Binghe knew he was going to win this battle too. Every time he took liberties, and broke priority, all Shizun would do, was worry that Binghe was working himself too hard. All Binghe had to do for his behaviour to be excused, was to tearily plead that he really wanted to do something nice for Shizun, and Shizun, his sweet innocent Shizun, would allow him to continue.

If Binghe wanted to fan his future husband, laid out in the sunlight, in one flimsy robe, exposing all to the world, and drinking wine like the most expensive of courtesans than that is what Binghe would do. Never mind that no cultivator would be caught, fanning another being like the lowest of servants. Never mind that no cultivator would be caught dead, looking like his Shizun. Binghe was a homeless rat before Shizun. Binghe was nothing before his Shizun. When he became something he would still happily serve his husband in any way, particularly when his husband clearly had no qualms in how they behaved with each other in private. Although…Binghe would love to be Shizun’s servant in public too. He would love to be his Shizun’s anything, in all honesty. 

He would also be double-checking the wards to ensure no one could see this…vision of beauty,  occurring in front of Binghe. The thought of some worthless mongrel catching a glimpse already inciting rage.

Shizun turned onto his stomach, his legs kicking up, as he beckoned Binghe forward with one hand. Like a man trapped under a spell, Binghe put the fan down and walked closer. The movement of Shen Qingqiu’s hand further insisted that he bend down, and so Binghe did, only to have Shizun pluck a frozen grape off his plate, and pop it into Binghe’s mouth.

Binghe’s eyes went wide as the moon.

Shen Qingqiu laughed, and it was like the tinkling of bells, like the sun peeking out from the clouds on a dark day, soft and sweet, and good, “Binghe is so good to me.” He says, and Binghe cannot breathe.

Here in the sunlight, black hair spread around him, feet kicking back and forth slowly like a child, is everything that Binghe ever wanted.

Oh Binghe thinks, he must have succubus blood in his line.

Chapter Text

Binghe peers over his newest cultivation manual, a seemingly endless supply at his disposal, and muses on his favourite subject. He liked to spend a healthy amount of time considering his Shizun, who, at this moment, was checking over the requisitions for Qing Jing Peak one last time before his upcoming trip.

Shizun in his relaxation time, unlike Shizun at work, was indolent. He liked to laze, never to be mistaken for being lazy. Shizun completed his every duty. However, when he was alone Shen Qingqiu liked to melt into his furniture, and pick at the treats Binghe would often make for him. Or, on occasion consume frozen fruit and wine. When Shizun was home, Binghe noticed, he did not search for more opportunities to gain, he instead preferred to mind his garden and take tea.

Recently, Binghe had acquired a new piece of information regarding his Shizun. Shen Qingqiu did not like violence. It had taken Binghe a while to figure it out, that Shizun did not take pleasure from conquest. A single grimace at a dispatched demonic cultivator who had killed seventeen young women, a chance encounter with bandits too stupid to live where Shizun’s frown was small, but present. There was even a moment where another cultivator attempted to rob Binghe of his life, and newly found healing panacea, the rare Vermillion Vine. Shizun was forced to cut the man down. Shizun’s eyes had been troubled, as he wiped the blood from Binghe’s cheeks, the man having gotten a few hits in, in-between the time he started bothering Binghe, and the time it took for Shizun to leave his flower watching to find Binghe.

This knowledge made it even more concerning when he learned that Shizun was to take a trip with Liu Shishu to gather Fire Rabbit Grass. It would take them two weeks. Liu Qingge, unlike Shizun, enjoyed conquest. He was a violent brute of a man, who kept looking at Shizun with intent, in a way that greatly displeased Binghe.

What if he kept dragging Shizun off into the fights Shizun so clearly disliked? What if he did worse things than that?

Thinking of his sweet Shizun, whose goals in life were nothing more than to be comfortable,  who did not realize the dangers of being around men like Liu Qingge, made Binghe vaguely nauseous. They said Shishu was honourable, but Binghe has watched his hands rest a second too long on Shizun’s wrists when clearing out poison, he has watched his eyes linger. Flowers Binghe thinks, attracted butterflies, though usually Shizun’s cold facade prevented butterflies from realizing there was a flower in their presence.

Turning to Shizun, he grasped one hand over a closed fist, bowed, and then pleaded, “Shizun, allow this disciple to follow.”

Shizun arched an eyebrow, “And who, then, will keep the disciples in order Binghe? Ming Fan, alone will not be enough. Two of your martial juniors are approaching their Core Formation Stage. If I cannot be there to aide them, I would be comforted with the knowledge that you will do so in my place.”

Binghe grits his teeth, and he knows that Shizun is right. He cannot be lax in his duties. Upon Shizun reworking the curriculum, the disciples of their Qing Jing grew faster in strength than all other Peaks, by fourteen percent. Binghe had calculated.

Due to their growth it was very important to have at least two seniors with experience, on hand, at all times, in order to deal with any issues that came from breaking through levels. Binghe had gained strength so rapidly, that he had long ago gained the responsibility of being one of those seniors. He had been called to assist in diverting lightning to other areas, containing Qi backlash from affecting disciples with lesser strength, and on one memorable occasion, helping Shizun absorb trial lighting into himself and bleeding it off into the ground.

He had a duty.

“Will Shizun at least take care?” Binghe begged. He cannot plead with the man to maintain a propriety he does not know of, but Shizun has never been anything but proper on the outside so Binghe dares to hope it will remain that way. He cannot imagine Shizun ever peeling his layers off, on a mission.

His Shizun’s eyes crinkled slightly in the corners, as he patted Binghe gently on the cheek, “Of course.”

Binghe worries are not assuaged. His Shizun was so intelligent in some aspects, yet so oblivious in others. 

That morning, before dawn broke, he stuffed Shizun’s space pouch with a variety of pills taken from the storage, extra clothing, and food prepared by Binghe which would stay warm. He had spent the night making a variety of snacks. If would not do for his Shizun to be hungry, and he knew that Shizun favoured his cooking.

When he feels Shizun’s arms around him one last time, he measures his height against Shizun’s chest…soon he would be taller than his master. He breathes in the clean, light scent surrounding him one last time before saying his goodbyes.

….

Shen Qingqiu sets off quickly with Liu Qingge, the two of them barely speaking. Mostly because Liu Qingge was not a man of many words. Their goal was a mountain range in the West. Shen Qingqiu knew it would take them around two days of non-stop flying to arrive there but their stay would need to be longer than that.The Fire Rabbit Grass had an unusual and erratic flowering period. It would take them at least a week of camping to gather the quantity required by Mu Qingfan. Shen Qingqiu recalled that it sprouted from the ground at around three in morning for a moment or two before retreating back underground like a rabbit in its burrow. If they dug it up, it would be useless, crumbling to dust in their hands. They had to snatch it in the brief moment it sprouted.

The speed and quantity required was the only reason the Sect was sending both of them. Usually younger disciples were sent in regular hordes to complete the task, most of them succeeding or failing by luck, but a fire had broken out in An Ding, using up a ridiculous amount of the burn salve they had in stock. A burn salve that needed Fire Rabbit Grass as the main ingredient. And so here they were Shen Qingqiu thought, two Peak lords going to root around for grass, in order to ensure that their burn salve supply could be swiftly refilled. Shen Qingqiu grimaced internally at the thought of his own disciples, always setting themselves on fire for some reason or another. He could not say that the grass was not needed urgently.

Using disciples if would take, roughly two months, for the task to be finished and the thought of the amount of times Ning Ying Ying would be able to set herself or her fellow students on fire by accident in that time period made Shen Qingqiu’s internal grimace turn into a full on frown.

Perhaps they didn’t really have to sent both himself and Liu Qingge, but Shen Qingqiu was liable to fall out of the sky from his Qi being periodically interrupted, and the last time Liu Qingge was sent to gather medical grass, he brought back what could only be described as…paste.

So, they sent both of them. Liu Qingge to ensure that Shen Qingqiu did not die, and Shen Qingqiu to ensure that the much needed grass was brought back…whole.

Shen Qingqiu was for the most part, just excited to go camping. It would be wonderful, he thought…if only Liu Shidi managed to unclench.

They were given two weeks for a reason, and while they could make it to the valley in two days time, they could also stop to rest, but that was a word Liu shidi had apparently never heard of, cutting through the sky like a…well…like a flying sword.

His ponytail whipped in the air behind him, and Shen Qingqui hid a yawn behind his fan as he followed on Xiu Ya. He had never been happier to realize that he could stick himself to his sword with Qi than in this moment where Liu Qingge seemed to be making an attempt at breaching the sound light barrier. Such a handsome man, Shen Qingqiu thought as he observed Liu Qingge front the corner of his eye, but such a surly countenance. What a waste of beauty.

When they arrive in the valley, Shen Qinqqiu immediately pulled out a tiny jade house. He threw it towards the bough of a large tree. It grew in size, and settled between several branches, secure with the mass of the trunk beneath it. Viola, instant tree house.

Sometimes, original goods had the best things.

Liu Qingge stared at him.

He stared back.

Liu Qingge looked at the tree house, and then back at him, “You’re sleeping in that?”

“Yes, and where will you be sleeping tonight Shidi?” Shen Qingqiu replied even though he very well knew where this muscle brained idiot was going to sleep.

Liu Qingge waved a hand to the ground around them. It was covered in soft grass but still, Shen Qingqiu wanted to sleep in his treehouse. It was a treehouse you know, how many times was he going to get a chance to stay in one!

“Would you like to share Shidi, there is room?” Shen Qingqiu offered politely, knowing full well Liu Qingge would not take him up on the offer. He would, of course accommodate him if his Shidi actually said yes, but there was a greater chance of pigs flying first.

“No you can keep your prissy artifact to yourself”. Liu Qingge rejected.

As expected, but still. Rude. “Very well Shidi, enjoy your ground. I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable there.” Shen Qinqqiu replied. Waving his fan lazily, he waited to see if Liu Qingge would respond.

Liu Qingge grunted and settled himself cross legged by a tree trunk. Ah, Shen Qingqiu thought, we are resting now. Would it kill his Shidi to use his words on occasion?

Shen Qingqiu promptly ignored the cave man he had been saddled with, and entered his tree house examining the insides. He was certain that Shen Jiu bought it for himself as opposed to it being a random find…after all, look at all those pillows! Pillows were a joy he shared with original goods, he was sure. There were so many in storage, and some of them were seasonal.

The house was entirely made of jade. There were small potted plants inside, and the pots were jade. Instead of a canopy bed, the main room had a luohan bed, like Shen Qingqiu’s, daybed, but instead of black wood, it too was jade. Everything was so beautifully monochrome. Shen Qingqiu loved it immediately. 

He was definitely going to ignore Liu Qingge and enjoy his camping trip.

….

Two days after they began to gather grass, the regular heat which Shen Qingqiu had kind of, maybe, barely gotten used to, turned into a heat that could only rise from the bowels of hell.

It was hotter than the devils asshole.

It was so hot, the air rippled in front of Shen Qingqiu’s eyes, like some sort of shitty movie set in a desert where someone was stuck looking for an oasis. It didn’t even get that hot in modern China. For a moment he wondered if the grass would die from the heat but then he recalled that it was Fire Rabbit Grass, key word being fire, and stopped worrying.

Looking at Liu Qingge, just standing there as though he had been carved from the same jade as the treehouse was disgusting. Shen Qingqiu wanted to know how he could look so unbothered by the asshole-scorching heat…that wasn’t right…devil-asshole? Fart heat? Adjectives were difficult right now, okay…Shen Qinqqiu was only a man, not block of man shaped jade. Hateful. What a hateful being his Liu Shidi was.

Every day, Shen Qingqiu struggled to keep his layers on but he persevered refusing to be outdone by Liu-fucking-Qingge. Being home with Binghe had spoiled him, but he couldn’t exactly remove a layer or two in public. It was improper. He didn’t even have an excuse.

“I’m going to go further down the valley to check if there are signs of the grass elsewhere.” Liu Qingge announced. They already gathered two large baskets of Fire Rabbit Grass  but it couldn’t hurt to gather more, if possible.

“Alright Shidi.” Shen Qinqiu replied.

“I will return tonight.” Liu Qingge informed him, with a nod of his head.

Shen Qingqiu waved him off, and when he was sure his Shidi could no longer see him, he grabbed the bottom of his robes, hiked them up, and ran to a glorious lake he found the other day. It was clean and clear, the water like glass. He could see all the way down to the bottom. It was also covered with lily pads the size of three grown men, and massive white lilies tall as Shen Qingqiu. Their soft petals opened in the summer heat, perfuming the air with their musk. The view was breathtaking.

And because Shen Qingqiu had obsessively hate-read Proud Immortal Demon Way he knew that lakes hosting Giant Lily Forests, yes that’s what they were called, were always clean and monster free. Those lily pads were also deceptively sturdy. How else would Binghe be able to papapa Liu Mingyuan on top of one in chapter six hundred and forty two: Love Among The Lily Pads?

Regretfully, Shen Qingqiu does not make himself comfortable on a lily pad. Instead he slips his shoes and socks off and cools his feet in the water. It’ll be fine while Liu Qingge is gone, he thinks. He’s just cooling his feet a bit, there is nothing wrong with that.

The heat beats down unto Shen Qingqiu, the rage of the midday sun a laser beam piercing into his soul. Liu Qingge promised he’d be back tonight, his mind whispered temptingly. He watched a frog immediately hop off a rock it had just landed on, as though burned, and realized that he could probably cook an egg on these fucking rocks. He could also probably get dressed before Liu Qingge got back.

Fuck, it. Shen Yuan thinks. He is a weak, weak man. He’ll figure out an excuse if he needs one, he was just cooling off after all Liu Shidi, the water was so nice. Maybe he’ll even invite his Shidi to join him?

He pulls off his layers, as though he is safe in his back garden, contemplating between one white robe or two, deciding on two to be safe.

Wine, wine, wine. Where did he put his wine, he thinks as he digs through his space pouch, noticing a lacquered wooden box. He takes the box out and opens it, to his surprise, he sees individual mochi lined up on rice paper, sixteen identical white rabbits looking up at him. Each is only an inch and half in size. He knows the fillings will be different, some lotus seed, others red bean paste, others sesame, because he knows exactly who made them.

Binghe is so good to him. His eyes crinkle and a soft smile lights up his face.

He must have been up all night making thematically perfect mochi for his Shizun. Rabbits for the gathering of Fire Rabbit Grass. He has the best disciple.

He finds his dishes, and his wine, and picks out the most perfect lily pad. Letting his hair free, he makes himself comfortable.

It would be nice if Binghe was here to join him, he thinks, as he pops a rabbit into his mouth, smiling slightly at the sweetness, he allowed his expression to relax a bit. There was no one there to see him after all.

….

This is what Liu Qingge sees in stages as he arrives back at their camp much earlier than expected. From the air, he spots a slender figure on a lily pad, and decides that caution would be the best approach, particularly if he is faced with an easily startled maiden. It would be best to avoid such an encounter, he thought, grimacing in distaste. Usually, situations where Liu Qingge accidentally stumbled upon a woman cooling her feet in a lake, led to rabid screaming that he must now take responsibility for them.

As though it were not an unfortunate accident…as though he didn’t know the game they were playing. When he lived with his family in the Liu estate, many a noble daughter had “fallen” into the ponds of any courtyard that was convenient when visiting. They would pretend to drown, in the hopes that if he fished them out, or saw a glimpse of something inappropriate he might then be pressured to marry them.

It never worked, but still, avoidance was best when possible. No need to deal with a maiden sobbing over her non existent virtue being ruined. Or worse, an innocent awkwardly averting their eyes, and still possibly sobbing, as Liu Qingge swiftly extracted himself from the situation.

Flying low and through the forest in order to remain unseen, he notes that the figure looks familiar. Almost like…it couldn’t be….no…there was no possible way it was…

Liu Qingge left his sword, and snuck his way towards the reeds by the bank of the river, moving in a feline manner, keeping low to the ground at all times. Crouching as he peered through the reeds, his breath caught in his throat and his face turned fire red, a flush sweeping from his forehead all the way down to his chest. 

This is what Liu Qingge sees while accidentally hiding in the bushes like a pervert.

Shen Qingqiu devoid of the armour of his clothing, dressed in two thin white undergarments, lounging on a lily pad like a painting of an immortal fairy.

Shen Qingge sprawled out, languidly on his back, his arms to the sides of him, one leg bent, his foot settled flat on the lily pad. The other leg is a straight line, just barely hanging off the edge of his makeshift bed. The position of his legs parts his robes, his bent leg jutting out from the fabric, like a mountain peak born from the valley of his body. Liu Qingge can see the creamy flesh that encases one of Shen Qingqiu’s thighs. The skin is as smooth and white as a soft boiled egg. Liu Qingge’s palms itch.

Liu Qingge cannot hear Shen Qingqiu from where he hides, but he can see the yawn occurring, one long fingered hand raises its way towards Shen Qingqiu’s soft, wet, mouth to block the sight of it opening, as Shen Qingqiu’s legs and remaining arm stretch outwards. Toes drag in the water, one hand reaches as though it is moving towards Liu Qingge, and Shen Qingqiu re-adjusts himself, turning onto his side after his cat-like stretch. Shen Qingqiu is left, one hand curled under his head, the other curling a strand of hair between its fingertips.

The rest of his long black hair is half on the lily pad beneath him, while the ends trail into the water. One leg, again, slides out from the split in his robes, and fully meets the sunlight. Liu Qingge does not know what to do with all this white flesh, thinks of snow, and white peaches, and bleached parchment. He watches the motions as though time has slowed to a crawl. He greedily examines the toes of that errant leg, in all its nude glory, glance the top of the water. His feet are smaller than Liu Qingge expected, as he watches the water form ripples from the motions Shen Qingqiu does not seem to be conscious of. As the foot retracts, the hand that was entangled by hair now moves to play with the surface of the water instead. His fingertips pluck at the clear water as though they are playing a guqin.

He watches as that hand dips into the water, and holds a palmful steady before letting it trickle back into the lake. Liu Qingge wonders what it would be like to drink water from those palms. What it would be like to hold those soft limbs in calloused hands and find succour in them. 

Liu Qingge’s eyes dart upwards to the shape of Shen Qingqiu’s arms, visible through the thin fabric, and back down to the frailty of his waist. He has never noticed these things before, the large oversized robes, bulking his Shixiong’s form into something larger than it is.

Shen Qingqiu truly did look like a water fairy, and Liu Qingge was not a man for flowery words but in this moment he wished he had studied poetry more, so that he would know a way to describe the view in front of him.

Liu Qingge noticed the box of mochi on the lily pad, only when Shen Qingqiu’s arm reached for it. He watches his calm, elegant, proper, Shixiong, stuff a tiny rabbit into his mouth. His cheeks bulge slightly, and he raises his hands to cover the little smile on his face. Liu Qingge can still see his eyes crinkle. He can see Shen Qingqiu’s perfect little toes curl in pleasure. It is the most adorable thing he has ever seen.

He did not know that his Shixiong liked sweet things. For a moment he considers buying a bakery. It could be a good investment, and it was not as though he did not have the means.

Shaking his head, he forces himself to snap out of it. What is doing here hiding in the bushes like some kind of miscreant? He is not some kind of depraved lech who would spy on beauties as they bathed. Something in that phrase seemed wrong, as Shen Qingqiu was not a fair maiden and he was not spying on a bath. He was spying on…he was spying…what is Shen Qingqiu even doing, he wonders?

Clearly, it is Shen Qingqiu who is being deeply improper at this moment, he decides, and Liu Qingge must confront him at once. Instead of hiding in the reeds like a coward.

Taking a deep, bracing breath, and squaring his shoulders, he rises from the reeds with the righteous fury of a man trying to will away an erection. He jumps easily onto one lily pad, then another, to make his way to his wayward Shixiong, resting in the centre of the lake.

….

Shen Qingqiu’s only sign of surprise to see his shidi, is the raising of both eyebrows.

“What are you doing?” Liu Qingge demands, a blush remaining high on his cheeks.

Well, fuck it, thinks Shen Qingqiu for the second time today. He already got caught in act, he may as well roll with it, it’s not like he had anything to lose.

“I’m relaxing.” He replied, his tone dry enough to rip the water from a man’s lungs, one leg returning to petulantly tap at the water. In pettiness, Shen Qingqiu sits upright, and throws both of his bare legs into the cool lake, his robes splitting open fully at his thighs, the side ties already loosened to allow more movement.

Liu Qingge’s face turns a darker shade of red, the flush again spreading to cover his face, his breathing turning heavy. He looks a bit like an overripe tomato.

Shen Qingqiu sighs, “You should join me Shidi, the weather is a bit hot today.” Honestly, these cultivators could never just admit when they were hot, clearly Liu Qingge had been putting up a brave front, much like Shen Qingqiu. Liu Qingge was probably just jealous that Shen Qingqiu was already resting while he had been flying around in the middle of the day at peak heat.

“Indecent!” Liu Qingge snapped out, his hands clenching into fists at his side. He is standing on a lily pad as though he is at full military attention, straight as a rod. It looks ridiculous, he’s on a giant lily pad, surrounded by giant lily’s, looking like the world’s angriest frog. Come on, relax a bit more Shen Qingqiu thinks, let yourself suit the peaceful ambiance, let go a little.

Shen Qingqiu stares up at Liu Qingge, exposing the full length of his neck, “And how, exactly am I being indecent, hmm Shidi? Who exactly is going to see me here, in the middle of nowhere?”

Liu Qingge frowns, his eyes darting rapidly, trying to avoid the sight of Shen Qingqiu’s bare thighs helplessly. His eyes trace soft pouty lips, stained red from the filling of whatever mochi Shen Qingqui was eating, flushed pink cheeks, the sight of his barely covered body, the sunlight harsh enough that Liu Qingge can make out the shape of him, the shape of the two… on his chest, back again to to those two creamy thighs in front of him, legs almost fully visible in the clear water which hid nothing.

He thinks he spots two black beauty marks on the inside of Shen Qingqiu’s thigh.

“In-Indecent!” He stutters out again.

Fine then. Shen Qingqui huffed, narrowing his eyes “Very well then Shidi, I will continue to be indecent, and you will go back to camp and -“

At that moment the sky opened up and rain came down like salvation soaking them both to the bone in mere seconds. Shen Qingqiu tilted his head up to the sky, palms raised to catch the droplets in his hands. He revelled in feeling of rain water coating his skin.

Liu Qingge watched, with poorly disguised panic and widening eyes, as the thin fabric that had barely covered Shen Qingqiu’s modesty turned fully transparent. His pupils blow wide with lust as he traced the map of Shen Qingqiu’s body yet again.

He thinks he is experiencing a Qi deviation.

His eyes cannot help but peruse the full expanse of Shen Qingqiu’s neck, his collarbones, the light toned muscles of his chest. His gaze stops at the sight of two cherry red bumps on Shen Qingqui’s chest, the fabric doing nothing to obscure them. He wants to teeth at them with his mouth. His eyes unbidden, continue their exploration, tracing again that supple waist in its new found visibility, until he reaches… 

Everything is transparent.

He thinks he is experiencing a Qi deviation, his blood rushing in all directions.

Liu Qingge, War God of Bai Zhan Peak, upon seeing the impression of Shen Qingqiu’s…his…his…his…through his wet...

Liu Qingge collapses in a dead faint.

“Shidi!” He hears Shen Qingqiu call out, as hands grab him in order to prevent an undignified face-plant into the lake.

….

He wakes up to feel his meridians being straightened by gentle, familiar, Qi. The energy fills him up and soothes his aches.

He checks his body, and notes that it was only a minor Qi deviation, which is good as he won’t need any time to recover. No real damage was done. The last time had been like this too, Shen Qingqiu’s gentle hands on his back helping him recover. He feels a wetness under his cheek as sensation returns to his body. What is he sitting on, he wonders? It felt wet.

His eyes snap open.

He looks forward and sees the lake, struggling to sit up, two hands pin him back down onto a soft lap. He looks up to see two eyes, the most striking shade of green he has ever seen in his life, a green that haunts his dreams already, stare down at him.

“Are you okay Shidi?” Shen Qingqiu asks, his hands still smoothing over parts of Liu Qingge, this time his shoulders instead of his back.

Shidi is too busy looking at the robe that has slipped clean off of one of your shoulders, Liu Qingge thinks hysterically. Shidi is looking at that unobstructed nipple right in front of his face Shixiong, forgive him if he cannot think of anything else.

It is a red speck, on white canvas, it makes Liu Qingge’s fingertips itch, and his mouth water.

He lets out a quiet whimper he would never admit to, and tried to hide his eyes by curling inwards towards Shen Qingqiu’s belly, burrowing into the lightly muscled, yet giving flesh, his arms encircling Shen Qingqiu’s waist. For a moment he is content to hide is the darkness of Shen Qingqiu’s thighs. Unfortunately, feeling a soft, yet distinct shape pressed against his cheek as a consequence of his somewhat desperate burrowing, causes Liu Qingge to jump to his feet as though he were embracing a hot coal.

“I will take responsibly.” He shouts out, looking towards the sky.

“Responsibility over what, exactly, Shidi?” Shen Qingqiu questions with a dry tone. 

Liu Qingge continues, speaking to Shen Qingqiu, while his face is pointed toward a sky, that conveniently stopped raining mid-way through Liu Qingge’s Qi deviation, “This one is named Liu Qingge, he is one hundred and fifty seven years of age. First born son of the Liu family, rich in valour and monetary assets. Respected Peak Lord of Bai Zhan Peak. This one’s individual wealth is comprised of a large amount of liquid funds, six major properties, two mines, and over two dozen stores ranging from restaurants, clothing stores, and specialized shops run by manufacturing cultivators who serve the Liu family! This one is honourable without compare.” He does not know what to say, so he spouts off the spiel that his mother told the matchmaker in her somewhat desperate attempts to get him to marry. Liu Qingge has heard this speech so many times, he can repeat it verbatim, so he does.

“Yes, Shidi, that’s nice.” Shen Qingqiu states looking at Liu Qingge in worry, “Are you feeling alright?” One of his hands reaches for Liu Qingge’s forehead to check for a fever.

Liu Qingge finally stops glaring at the sky. He looks Shen Qinqgiu dead in the eyes, like a man possessed.

“I am an honourable man.” He repeats. As though this was new information to Shen Qingqiu.

As Liu Shidi, might be a bit confused, Shen Qingqiu goes along with it, “Of course you are.”

“So I must take responsibility.” He continues.

Shen Qingqiu snaps his fan open in front of his face, “There is no need for responsibility to be taken, what is done has been done, and there is nothing more to be said.” He firmly replies.

He has no idea what Liu Qingge is talking about, or what he wants to take responsibility for. He almost sounds as though he despoiled some noble daughter by accident, instead of…Shen Qingqiu doesn’t even know what? Instead of inconveniencing him with a Qi deviation? What was there to be responsible over?

Liu Qingge’s mouth sets in a hard determined line, “I understand. I will endeavour to change your mind on this matter.”

Shen Qingqiu quirks his eyebrow. Understand what, exactly, Shidi, Shen Qingqiu thinks? This Shixiong cannot join you in your delusions. “Liu Shidi can try.” He responds, as he waves a gust of air towards Liu Qingge’s heated cheeks. 

Chapter Text

After Shizun came back from his trip with Liu Qingge, Luo Binghe immediately knew something had happened. Liu Shishu no longer looked Shizun in the eyes. He instead stared at the space above Shen Qingqiu’s head like it had the answers to ascension. Binghe didn’t know what, or how, but when Liu Shishu started dropping the heads of hard to kill monsters on his doorstep, it was obvious something had changed.

“You would think he was a demon considering how he’s going about it.” Commented Elder Dream Demon.

Binghe ignored him. It was his usual policy with this back-row play watcher in his mind.

Liu Qingge’s…offerings, and the stupid look on his face whenever he came to return one of Shizun’s fans were such clear confirmations of an attempt at courtship. Luo Binghe was mildly enraged. Not at Shizun, of course, Shizun did nothing wrong, of that, he was sure. For a moment, he thought of how to delicately question Shizun, but knew that to be a exercise in futility before he even began. Shizun would say nothing had happened. Shizun had no idea he was being courted. Shizun really couldn’t be trusted with himself. He worried Binghe’s poor heart to no end. He also couldn’t corner Shishu and squeeze the answers out of him. Shishu was a Peak Lord. Binghe was not strong enough…yet.

He had taken to deeply enjoying the looks of confusion and mild disgust on Shizun’s face as he examined the heads on his doorstep, to make himself feel better. Shishu, after all, had no idea what he was dealing with. His master would not notice this courtship unless it was clearly stated, and even then Binghe had his doubts. His own declaration of intent (in progress), was much more straightforward. It involved, not one single metaphor or allegory, plenty of repetition, and inappropriate specificity. He even had lewd hand gestures ready. He was hopeful of his Shizun understanding his meaning, but fully prepared to deal with a level of obliviousness that was only matched by Shen Qingqiu’s beauty. Sometimes he wryly imagined proposing to Shizun only for Shizun to assume that Binghe was practicing the speech for Ning Ying Ying. He pictured Shen Qingqiu giving him suggestions on how to make it better.

Binghe was ready for anything.

Liu Qingge was not.

This too, made Binghe feel better. It would take years, decades, perhaps even centuries before Shizun figured out what was going on, and by that time Binghe would be grown and ready.

….

“Binghe.” Called out a voice that consumed Luo Binghe’s dreams.

“Yes, Shizun.” Binghe called back, popping out of his room and standing at the ready. He strove to be at Shen Qingqiu’s beck and call, whenever possible.

Shen Qingqiu gazed at him fondly and patted Binghe on the head. Lately his master had to reach up to do so, which pleased Binghe.

“We’ll be going on a trip soon.” Shen Qingqiu stated.

Binghe’s eyes widened, “Just us?” He blurted out in his excitement. 

Shizun tapped the top of Binghe’s head with his fan, Binghe liked it when he did that. The taps never actually hurt, instead they often centred Binghe, and brought him back to attention. Other times they distracted him.

“Just us two, Binghe.” Shen Qingqiu replied before continuing, “In Yi City two women of noble birth were found dead. The officials suspect a demon or demonic cultivator. They of course, want it solved with haste. This Shizun thought that it would be a good opportunity for you to investigate.This Shizun, will come along to assist if needed.”

Binghe had primarily gone on night hunts, as opposed to completing investigations. The last time he had been present during an investigation had been the incident with the Skinner. It wasn’t rare for strong disciples to be sent off to deal with strange deaths, what was rare was that Shizun was going with him. Binghe felt pampered, knowing that Shizun was taking this incident to personally see to his training.

“This disciple is honoured.” Binghe responded eagerly, bowing in respect. He felt a hand patting his head again. All was well in Luo Binghe’s world.

They booked one room in the best inn available in Yi City once they arrived. It had an adjoining servants quarter. Binghe insisted that he wanted to be close to his master if anything went wrong. It would also help them discuss the investigation in private, he argued. Binghe took the servants room of course, and left the larger room to Shizun, helping his master change the bed sheets, and sort through the pillows Shen Qingqiu wanted to use for the night. Tonight the pillows had plain grey covers, with little plum blossoms embroidered at the edges. They were all quite large. One for Shizun’s head, one for Shizun to hold at night, and the other two for…Binghe did not know what they were for but Shizun seemed to like them so Binghe liked them too.

“What will Binghe do first?” Shizun asked, after they settled the room and sat down to take dinner.

Binghe had forcefully borrowed the kitchen in order to make their evening meal. Binghe claimed his master had strict dietary restrictions to the kitchen workers in order to make them stop fussing. In truth, Binghe did not like it when Shizun ate other people’s food, and Shizun seemed to like Binghe’s food best. So it was really no issue for everyone involved if Binghe took care of pesky little things no one else needed to be bothered with. Things like all three of Shizun’s daily meals, his snacks, and his tea.

“This disciple will be questioning the victims families in the morning.” Binge answered, pouring a lavender coloured tea into Shizun’s cup.

It was a medicinal tea, prepared by Mu Qingfan for promoting the flow of Qi through the body. Binghe brewed it religiously for his Shizun, every evening meal. The flavour could have been improved but Binghe dared not mix the tea with honey let alone other teas in fear that he would lower the effectiveness. The tea, while a pretty colour was bitter. He could already see Shen Qingqiu’s lips twitch slightly in distaste. At times Shizun was surprisingly childish, what with his love of soft things to hold at night, and his hatred of bitter tastes.

“This Shizun will accompany you.” Shen Qingqiu replied.

Silently Binghe took out a lacquered box filled with home-made tanghulu. Instead of candied hawthorn, he candied a sweet spirit plum that looked similar but was sweeter, and filled with spiritual energy. 

Binghe watched as Shizun drank the tea a little too quickly for it to be considered elegant. It was a small fracture in his usual grace. The corners of Binghe’s eyes crinkled as Shizun gently picked up a stick of tanghulu to wash away the aftertaste of the medicinal tea. He could have quartered the fruits and then candied each piece individually so that they could be picked up with chopsticks, but the sight of his Shizun sucking on the candied fruit stick was too enticing to give up.

Plush pink petals opened a fraction as the plum at the very top of the stick rested on them. The wetness of Shen Qingqiu’s mouth was already dissolving the sugar into a sticky glaze that coated his lips. For a while the plum sat there like a visitor waiting to be let in. Shizun liked to start slowly, after all. Taking the first plum into his mouth, Shen Qingqiu gave a quiet suck, his eyes coquettishly turned downwards in concentration as he focused on his treat. His lips moulded over each circle, slowly taking in a second plum, and then a third.

Binghe dug his nails into the flesh of his palms.

Shen Qingqiu’s cheeks hollowed slightly as he gave the gentlest of sucks on the hardened sugar that stuffed his mouth full, humming at the sweetness. When he finally pulled the stick out, he did so fruit by fruit, sliding each perfectly round circle out of his mouth as slowly as he slid them in until he was left suckling at the tip. A wet tongue peeked out, periodically appearing in quick flashes, as Shen Qingqiu licked and nibbled at that first plum. Binghe clenched his jaw hard enough to feel his teeth creak as watched as Shizun take one last kitten-like lick of the tanghulu before setting it down on a plate without finishing in order not to spoil his dinner.

Binghe, praised himself for his foresight, as he became aware of the copious amounts of pre-cum smeared on his belly. He had tucked his pillar into his belt this morning, which allowed him to watch Shizun indulge without having to excuse himself. He may have been sweating, and his fingernails may have been cutting half moons into the skin to keep control of himself, but he was present. Binghe was proud. The first time he watched Shizun eat tanghulu, he could not help but make a noise akin to a dying whale, which then caused the whole thing to stop as Shizun checked him over for injuries. It was horrible, Binghe had not known what to feel more upset over, Shizun stopping, or his own embarrassment. 

Binghe was better at being patient now.

When they ate their fill, Binghe would make a different tea, a more refreshing one in order to allow Shizun to continue playing with his sweets. It would be such torment but Binghe never wanted to escape.

….

In the morning Shen Qingqiu did accompany Binghe to interview the families of the deceased. As promised Luo Binghe was the one leading the investigation, while Shen Qingqiu quietly followed along.

By the end of the interviews Binghe decided that interviews were an unpleasant chore. Binghe hated watching the eyes of the so called nobles flicker toward his Shizun. He disliked the solicitous maids, or remaining sisters serving tea while attempting to brush close. His master easily moved away from their grasping hands under the guise of fanning himself, but it did not cool Binghe’s ire in the slightest. Where they not mourning? Were their sisters not dead? He supposed that in families such as these, daughters of the main wife and daughters born from concubines were not always…close. Unfortunately he was currently unable to summon up the sympathy to care as they tried to steal away his Shizun. Luo Binghe ignored that they took the same actions towards himself while interrupting a maid so that he could pour sub-par tea for his Shizun.

What added to the frustration was that both families told different stories. One had a girl drowned under mysterious circumstances, the young maiden walking into a pond under some sort of alleged spell, the other suddenly disappeared in the middle of the night, her entire room filled with water. Her bedsheets had been soaked, her jewellery boxes empty and dripping. They were not allowed the examine the rooms, or look at the one corpse that remained.

How was Binghe to solve these murders without co-operation? He had no clue as to what he was looking for other than water. There were plenty of water based monsters.

As night came and Binghe ran around talking to everyone he could think of, he was still left with nothing. So here they were, watching the market stalls pack up for day, Binghe scuffing the ground with his foot. 

Shen Qingqiu watched him from the top of his open fan, before snapping it shut. “Come, Binghe.” He ordered. 

Binghe followed, moving through the winding streets, avoiding the vendors tucking their wares away. One building in particular was lit up by lanterns, still open for a night that had come. Binghe’s eyes filled with dread, a cold sweat running down his back. He had firmly ignored considering the trips Shizun made every month for a reason. Surely the rumours were false and Shizun was really off buying fans or some other trinket, but if they truly were false…why were they going…there.

The red lanterns glared ominously in the night.

Shen Qingqiu did not belong in places like this, thought Binghe. He did not belong in them at all.

Binghe watched his Shizun enter a brothel, and felt his soul attempt to leave his body.

The next few moments were a panicked blur. Shen Qingqiu offering money, a room, two women with painted red lips and painted eyes. Incense that was far too strong, it practically choked Binghe. Poor offerings of diluted wine, and shoddily played music. Binghe wanted to leave, to pick up his Shizun and run, instead Binghe sat frozen, kneeling by a low table upon which sat mediocre tea.

“This Shizun has been remiss in his teachings.” Shen Qinqqiu began, and already alarms were blaring through Binghe’s head. “Today, Binghe will be learning something new.” He continued.

What. 

What.

What!!!

Was…was…was…

Was Shizun taking Binghe here so that Binghe might…so that….Binghe…Binghe…Binghe absolutely did not want that. Binghe was saving himself for marriage! Binghe was saving his virgin body for his Shizun, and here Shizun was, trying to ruin that for Binghe. Binghe was feeling very conflicted right now. He wanted to cry but somehow breaking down into gross sobbing in a whorehouse seemed like a bad idea.

Luo Binghe felt the peculiar sensation of his soul no longer simply trying to leave his body; it was instead trying flee for its life by clawing it’s desperate way out of his throat by force if necessary. 

A sudden thought occurred to Binghe. He could pretend to faint. That was more reasonable than crying. He could fake a Qi deviation! Those came in so many forms that no one could say that Luo Binghe was not having one. He could, probably, at this moment, throw up.

Binghe was sick now.

Preparing himself to throw up in a direction that was not towards his Shizun, he was stopped only by this:

“Two weeks ago, two daughters of noble birth were found dead. What do you know?”

The women fiddled with their sleeves, and their instruments, looking down on the floor in a pale imitation of coquettishness. Binghe had seen better. Binghe’s gaze moved once more towards his Shizun’s face as his racing heart finally calmed down. He had been unable to look at him since they entered this…establishment.

“I would be willing to offer sufficient repayment for any information you have.” Shen Qingqiu continued as he slid several coins onto the low table. One of the women stared at the money with slight greed, while the other bit her lower lip for a moment as though holding her tongue.

A flicker of insight ran through Shen Qingqiu’s eyes. “How many died?” He inquired.

Binghe’s eyes widened with realization as he instantly he caught on.

The one who was biting her tongue looked at Shen Qingqiu, their eyes meeting. It was disrespectful. Shen Qingqiu looked back at her without anger or lust. His eyes were like still, serene lakes of jade. Binghe wanted to beat himself, how could Binghe ever think his master would debase himself by frequenting a brothel. His master was as clean as freshly driven snow, and as untouchable as the clouds.

“Do you care?” She asked, her chin tilted in defiance. 

“Yes.” Shen Qingqiu replied, his calm gaze unchanging.

“Se-seven.” She answered her voice breaking in the middle, her eyes swelling with tears, “Seven girls in the past year, and no one came. The madam tried to get help from the officials, but they didn’t care. Then she tried to pay someone to help, a young cultivator from Huan Hua who was passing through. They slapped a talisman on the wall, took their money, and left. Girls kept dying.” 

They stayed for a two hours.

By the end of those two hours, they knew everything they needed to know and more. One of the noble girls had run off with her lover, a frequent customer, and roque cultivator.They flooded her room to make it look like a demonic attack. Such relationships often ended in tears, and this one most likely would too. The other woman died the same way the seven women in the brothel had. Hypnotized by some kind of spell that left them wandering as though they had no soul. They did not speak, did not eat, and did not rest until they drowned themselves. Shan Yu was the woman’s name. Her friend was called Chang Ying. Shan Yu had tied Chang Ying up when she noticed something was wrong and force fed her water. Shan Yu spoke of her friend choking on her own vomit. Shan Yu had many stories like this. The other woman, Tung-Mei, could only clench her hands at her knees and stare down in a matching sadness.

Chang Ying, Ruolan, Xiulan, Ya, Yan Yan, Shuchun, and Shuang. Seven women dead.

Binghe watched his Shizun, a proud immortal, ofter a whore his handkerchief. Watched him pour tea for two women beside themselves with grief, who, upon meeting a listening ear, told his Shizun everything they could.

By the end, they even tried to refuse the money, which Shizun firmly pushed back into their hands adding a few more coins, “This one knows that life is not so easy. Do not refuse. This is not charity. It is repayment for the information given.” The two women gratefully sent them off after assurances that the problem would be dealt with.

They leave, and Binghe spots a few remaining vendors jeering at Shizun in mild shock.

….

“Is this what Shizun does in Yan City?” Binghe asked once they reached the inn and readied themselves for dinner. Yan City was a large city at the foot of Cang Qiong Mountain. Binghe had grown up there.

Shizun stared at him in judgmental silence.“What, exactly, do you think I’ve been doing fool boy?” he finally responded, tapping Binghe on the head with his fan harder than usual. It hurt a bit, but it still felt good.

Binghe rubbed the top of his head with one hand, and continued with his train of though, “This disciple simply meant to inquire if Shizun gained any valuable information from our local…establishment.”

Shen Qingqiu raised an eyebrow, “It’s a brothel, call it what it is Binghe, and yes the information I gain there is invaluable…Do you recall when Huan Hua sent that messenger without warning?”He asked. 

Binghe almost flinched as the crude word exited Shizun’s mouth. Cursing really did not suit that elegant face. Shizun should just leave all the cursing to Binghe. He does remember the incident though. Huan Hua Palace sent a messenger claiming that disciples from Cang Qiong Mountain had stolen a treasure from one of their disciples. Shizun had been the one to tell Sect Leader Yue, that the Huan Hua disciple had pawned off the treasure to buy a girl a gift, and upon being asked to give that treasure to an elder, claimed it to be stolen.

“But…could you not send someone else in your place?” Binghe inquired, “Must you besmirch your dignity by going yourself?”

Shizun’s eyebrow raised further. He set his bitter medicinal tea down onto the low table in their rented bedroom. “Ah…Binghe thinks that by visiting a brothel I am besmirching my dignity?” His tone is measured, and Binghe traces the grooves on the cheap wooden table with his eyes, already feeling that he had misstepped somehow.

Shen Qingqiu’s voice is quiet and even, yet it cuts through the air like a knife, “Has Binghe forgotten what it was like to be cold and starving? Has joining a Sect, spoiled you so? To the extent that you have forgotten where you come from?”

He listens to Shizun remind him, “Binghe is not some noble second son sent to cultivate. Binghe should know better. So tell me, when your mother lived and you lived with her, tell me you were blind to the circumstances around you, and then explain to this master what is so shameful about survival?”

Binghe has not heard Shizun speak to him quite like this before. He has heard Shizun call him names, and seen Shizun look at him as though he were dirt, but this cold, measured gaze is not something he knows how to deal with. He feels as though he has been stripped bare of his defences.

He thinks of his mother for the first time in a long time. Thinks of their life, in all its joy and bleakness. Congee spilled on the floor. How he begged on the street. Cruel gazes. The watchful eyes of slave traders waiting like vultures. He think of the prostitutes at the brothel who looked tired as they smiled. Seven dead women. No one helping them, because they assumed those women were not worthy of help. He thinks of no one helping that young useless Binghe of the past, except for the kindest man Binghe has ever known. He thinks of his fellow disciples. The boys from noble or merchant families who spoke of virtuous brides in one breath and paid for whores in the other. Who casually disrespected those below them in ways they did not even realize.

Binghe is smart.

He did not realize he was becoming one of them.

His throat feels clogged and his nose is suddenly stuffy. He has disappointed his Shizun…he has disappointed his mother.

“This disciple…no, Binghe. Binghe was wrong. Binghe will reflect on his mistakes in order to correct them…however this disciple still takes issue with Shizun being the one to go.”

Shizun’s eyes have softened, upon seeing that his disciple was repentant, and he reached over to pat Binghe’s head, “And why might that be?” He asked gently.

“This disciple…there are rumours that are most unflattering towards Shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu knows exactly what those rumours are, “Then let them talk.” He answers, “This Shizun, cannot be bothered to concern himself with everything people say.” In that moment, haloed by candlelight, his eyes are firm and unyielding. All for the sake of those so far below him they may as well have been ants under his feet. Shen Qingqiu's kindness, not his beauty rips the air from Luo Binghe's lungs. 

That night Luo Binghe dreams of his childhood. Congee spilled on the floor, a dead woman on a thin woven mat, a small hut of a home, and the laughter of those better off than him. He dreams of wandering the streets cold and hungry, with no one to care for him. No one to so much as bury him, if he died.   

He wakes up crying.

At the same time, in the other room, Shen Qingqiu hears soft whimpering in the night which stirs him from his sleep. He quickly lights a few candles, before making his way to his disciple’s room. Perhaps he had been too hash on Binghe, he thinks. The whimpers he hears make his chest hurt. 

He finds Binghe already sitting upright, swiping at his eyes with his hands. Binghe startled to see Shen Qingqiu in his room, standing up immediately upon noticing, “Shizun this disciple -“

Shen Qingqiu shushed him, and wiped his eyes with the corners of his sleeves, “Binghe will sleep with this master tonight.” He tells his disciple, before leading Binghe into his bed and tucking them both in.

Usually, Binghe would be aroused at the thought of sleeping in his Shizun’s bed but tonight, he feels only comfort. This is the first time they've done this. The safe expanse of Shizun’s chest, and the familiar smell, all feel like home. Binghe feels like they've done this before, like it was always meant to be like this. A slender hands combs through his hair, and a soft voice hums a nameless tune.

Binghe can feel himself tear up again, and he nuzzles his way into the crook of Shizun’s neck. The hand in his hair, tucks his head closer, while another curls around his back, holding him safe.

Shizun is so good to him, Binghe thinks as he softly falls back asleep...he is more than Binghe deserves. 

….

It had been such a surprise for Shen Qingqiu to have a message come to his bamboo house, sent by the local brothel Madam inquiring about his health.

At first Shen Qingqiu cursed original goods with every bone in his body for leaving him in such a shitty position. He wasn’t a lech. He was a virgin, for fucks sake, how was he meant to fit in at a brothel? However, upon reading the full contents of the letter, and the allusions to information gathering, he had been dumfounded.

He put the pieces together pretty quickly. Original goods was the head strategist, and if bad cop shows had taught Shen Yuan anything, it was that the best place to go for information was a whorehouse. Hookers knew everything, because according to TV, men couldn’t keep their mouths shut in bed. They were also often the first victims before "important" women were killed which would then spur an investigation.These things both turned out to be true for stallion novels as well. 

Meeting up with the brothel ladies had quickly turned from something stressful to something Shen Qingqiu looked forward too. The ladies always pinched his cheeks, piled sweets onto his plate, and complained about how skinny he was. They would compare his wrists to theirs and tut at him, telling him he was wasting away. Scandalously they would cuss out Yue Qingyuan for being a shitty Sect leader as though he were personally responsible for Shen Qingqiu’s health and well being. They were also a great source of information on the best lotions, and often gave him a heads up if they saw a fan he might like at the market.

No one. Not one of them tried to sleep with him.It was like going to dinner with a bunch of aunties.

For a moment, he felt pissed off on behalf of original goods, who apparently…wasn’t a lech at all? He was just information gathering while a bunch of self-righteous assholes sat on their mountain peaks and looked down on him. He suspected that original goods let them keep looking down at him out of sheer pettiness.

Shen Yuan may have…done the same. He never thought he would find himself relating to original goods, and yet here he was. He didn’t care how many side-eyes Liu Qingge gave him. Shidi seemed to ignore the Bai Zhan Peak disciples frequenting brothels while looking at Shen Qingqiu with grave disapproval. Shidi could, quite frankly, go suck a dick. It might even improve his mood. If all his martial brothers and sisters thought he was fucking whores in a brothel, they could keep thinking that. It wasn’t Shen Qingqiu’s business what they thought.

Besides Luo Binghe knew the truth. He could no longer use whore-mongering as a charge on Shen Qingqiu's reputation, in some trial that may or may not ever come. Shen Qingqiu tried not to think of his original role in Proud Immortal Demon Way too often. 

Binghe coming with him to a brothel in Yi City was an accident, but a happy one. His disciple would need to know how to information gather in his future, and it was important that Binghe knew that woman, even in this era, had power. He couldn’t even recall how many times the original Luo Binghe said something stupid in bed, had his edgy love interest betray him, only to finally win over that love interest several chapters later after losing and growing back an arm or something.

Look, he didn’t want his disciple to die in the belly of a woman, okay? Was that too much to ask?

Chapter Text

Shen Yuan watches the light flares play out on the backs of his eyelids, he always wondered why he could still see things with his eyes closed. Nothing concrete, but fuzzy shapes, shifts in tones of black, things like that. Transient, and ephemeral. His head ached.

He is in his bamboo house, a cold, damp cloth covering his closed eyes, his hand pressing the cloth downwards to apply gentle pressure.

“System,” he asks, “what happens, if I don’t push Luo Binghe into the Endless Abyss?”

System: Automatic deduction of 10,000 points. Host will be deported to his world of origin.

Shen Yuan grips the cloth lightly in frustration, it was like System thought he hadn’t heard that line before, “No, not that. I mean, is there any version of events where Luo Binghe does not  enter the Abyss?” He doesn’t trust the System’s insistence. It irks him.

System: Endless Abyss Arc: Major Plot Point. Unavoidable.

Shen Yuan frowns.“Is there any version where I’m not the one to push him down?”

System: Shen Jiu pushes Luo Binghe into the Endless Abyss. Major Plot Point.

“What if I refuse?” Shen Yuan asks, “Other than the points, yes, I get that; but how do I push him down, if I’m, let’s say…dead?” He adds the second part quickly, before the stupid System repeated itself for the seventh fucking time.

He gets it, if he doesn’t push his disciple into the Abyss, he dies. This has been made very clear to him. He doesn’t need to hear the monotone, robotic voice of his useless transmigration assistant to tell him again.

System: Shen Jiu pushes Luo Binghe down the Endless Abyss. Major Plot Point. Unavoidable.

Shen Yuan breathes out. He breathes in. Holds it for a count of four, and then exhales. He’s done talking to this fucked up voice in his head, droning at him like an eldritch robot god existing only to piss him off. There aren’t too many unavoidable plot points in the story. There are actually, no other unavoidable plot points in the story left. He completed the quests that unlocked the OOC function, but those weren’t even major just mandatory. They were like mini plot points that primed him for the real thing.

Major plot points, now, that seemed to mean that with or without Shen Yuan’s permission, they were going to happen. Whether he was dead to alive. If the strange circumstances that plucked his soul from his body could move him to another world, and force him to play the role of another man, then they could surely control his body for a moment or two to ensure Luo Binghe was thrown down into the Abyss. They could, quite seriously, do anything. Who was to say that in the moment when the Abyss opened up, they wouldn’t pop Shen Yuan out of this body, and pop Shen Jiu back in?

Shen Yuan did a lot to make sure that he never spent too much time considering his circumstances. That feeling of fear that made him want to choke on his own spit, was not something he enjoyed. It would not matter what he did in this occasion, would not matter what he chose. It would all end the same.

Luo Binghe would go down the Abyss and Shen Yuan, well, Shen Jiu had to be the one to do it. How was he meant to prepare for something like that, how was he meant to prepare Luo Binghe, and what excuses could he give? What reasons? Hello, Shizun needs you to go jump into what you believe to be certain death, but trust me, you won’t die? You’re really the protagonist of a stallion novel and you will come out of this crack in the ground better and stronger than before with a big fucking sword, and a plethora of women? Even in his own mind that sounded like such absolute bullshit…It was an existential crisis waiting to happen, or an assumed mental disorder if it wasn’t believed. And who would even believe it?

While he already had a headache, he decided to poke the bane of his life one last time for the day. “System, is there any Luo Binghe, in any world, that does not go down the Endless Abyss?” Because, you know what, he’s pretty sure he's in a parallel universe. Which means that all books must be real, and his life was also a book…somewhere to someone. He could probably assume that there were multiple versions of each universe given that he knew three of this one off the top of his head. The book, the original arc, and the one he was stuck in now.

System: Endless Abyss Arc: Major Plot Point. Unavoidable.

Well then fuck.

Unavoidable.

Every Luo Binghe, in every universe, had to experience the Abyss.  Unless the System was lying…and Shen Yuan did not even want to start with that, he was going to assume it was telling truth. This was happening. No matter what he did.

Fuck.

Shen Yuan’s hand clawed at his eyes through the cloth, hard enough to wrinkle the fabric, and scratch at his skin. What was he supposed to do?

Shen Qingqiu lays out on his side in his back garden, trying to relax into the cushions of his daybed as he feels the pleasant breeze over his skin. One hand is curled under the pillow upon which rests his head, the other is plopping fresh lychees into his mouth. Luo Binghe sits crosslegged on the grass in front of the daybed, leaning back on the frame; he’s peeling lychees, and plopping the white, skinless fruits into a shallow bowl on the bed.

Licking his fingers clean of juice, Shen Qingqiu pats Binghe’s head, giving the top of his scalp a light scratch, ruffling those fluffy curls under his hands. Binghe had taken to wearing his hair loose around the bamboo house, which provoked Shen Qingqiu’s fingers to touch his hair more often than not. Binghe perked up happily at the contact, pressing into the hand for more. Usually it was an action that brought Shen Qingqiu joy, but today he can’t seem to escape his sadness.

With Binghe’s back turned to him most of the time, his disciple won’t notice if he tries something.

Shen Qingqiu steadies his mind, and tries to speak. His mouth opens and nothing comes out. He breathes in, and tries again. It is as though there is hand grasping his throat, clutching it whenever he starts to say anything.

The alarms blaring in his mind are no longer metaphorical. Flashing red danger signs, flicker in front of him, and he hears the sound of sirens.

It looked like the System truly did want to fuck him over. He couldn’t tell Binghe, he probably couldn’t tell anyone. If he could speak maybe he could make up some bullshit about a prophecy so that he could warn his disciple that one day he’d be pushing Binghe into the xianxia equivalent of hell on earth.

Gritting his teeth, he exhaled and petulantly shoved a lychee into his mouth. Fine, fine, fine. He was pushing Luo Binghe down the Abyss, without any warning. Clearly he wasn’t being given any other option…other than death, which wouldn’t even save Binghe. So here he was, contemplating shoving a kid he raised into a death pit. What a great person Shen Yuan had grown to be. How righteous.

Feeling the soft white flesh of the lychee burst under his rather aggressive chewing Shen Qingqiu rolled over onto his back. Uncaring that his hand was sticky, he covered his eyes.

Fuck it. He wasn’t thinking about this. The air around him was still hot and he felt like shit. This was shit. Everything was shit and soon everything would go to shit.

He, was going to go visit a hot spring during his last few remaining years of peace.

Shen Qingqiu may as well do something…and it’s not like his mood was going to get any better where he was. Accept the things you cannot change and all that, self help motivational crap. He’d like to see someone motivate their way out of the situation he found himself in. He’s being held hostage by robot gods that stole his soul. Popping another lychee into his mouth, he mentally complied a list of possible options.

Luo Binghe had no idea why they were going to Tan Mountain, but he definitely wasn’t complaining about it.

Shizun claimed they were going to relax. He said that it was a reward for both Luo Binghe’s good behaviour, and his work in Yi City. Binghe personally thought he didn’t deserve a reward for killing that water demon, considering Shizun was the one who figured everything out for him. The extent of Binghe’s efforts could be condensed to stabbing a low class demon with his sword. Binghe also thought that the lessons he needed to learn in Yi City were undeserving of an outing, but if Shizun asked him for accompaniment, Binghe would never say no.

He was not one to question his good luck. It landed him with his Shizun, after all.

Looking at his Shizun sitting across from him in the carriage, his long fingers folded over the closed fan resting in his lap, Binghe considered Tan Mountain. It was known primarily for its healing springs. A large establishment was built on it, as a place where visitors could pay to use the hot springs. It was a novel mixture between an inn and a massive bath. The waters, depending on the room booked, could aid cultivation, or healing to a minor extent. They could also greatly improve the texture of skin, and heal minor blemishes making the mountain a popular location for…well…pampered noble wives…but also those looking to relax. Occasionally scholars would host moon viewing parties there. Though that was a truly rare thing considering how booked the place was.

Tan Mountain and its springs were owned by some old cultivation family, that used the inn as a source of supplementary income. It wasn’t like the hot springs were some great treasure, they would not be open to a paying public if that was the case. They were simply, nice, and useful in small matters.

Mu Qingfan himself had approved the trip, he was the one suggested that the waters would help with the Qi circulation in Shizun’s body. To a small degree the hot springs could providing relief from any left over muscle aches caused by Without A Cure.

So here Luo Binghe was, going to, what was essentially, a hot spring resort with his Shizun.

Gliding past the attendants offered, Shen Qingqiu declined their services preferring to be alone, or with the company of Luo Binghe. It was honestly annoying, the treatment these ancient people thought he needed. He could take a bath on his own very well, thank you. He did not want a group of giggling thirteen year old girls helping him. It felt wrong.To be fair to the girls at the resort weren’t giggling so much as staring at the floor respectfully, while the manager went on about “honoured cultivator” this, and “honoured cultivator that”.

If he really needed someone to scrub his back he’d call Luo Binghe to do it for him. Settling into their rooms, his disciple made quick work of preparing the place to Shen Qingqiu’s liking, having learned that Shen Qingqiu had certain preferences no matter where they were staying. The room was, as usual, divided into two. One room for him, the other a servants quarter for Binghe. Honestly, he needed to convince the boy to get his own room one of these days. Luo Binghe was his disciple not his servant. He really couldn’t imagine the Luo Binghe from the novel serving anyone…maybe, on a blue moon, original goods would pamper a wife to seduce her, but that never lasted long before he moved on to the next one. That Binghe certainly never peeled fruit for, or fanned any of his wives. Sometimes Shen Qingqiu wondered how they got to this point in their master-disciple relationship and questioned if he should put his foot down, but Binghe always teared up when he asked him to stop. That boy was so confusing.

Regardless, he was here to chase away his melancholy mood. Staring at the door that led out to a secluded and private hot spring, he moved behind a folded screen patterned with spider lilies that served as a dressing room, and switched into the white robes provided by the resort. The fabric was nowhere near as soft as his own under-robes but he made do. Tying the belt off loosely, he let his hair free, sighing in relief, as he dropped his crown onto the pile of clothes pooled at his feet. He grabbed a snack box from Binghe’s waiting hands, and a towel from the stack that were placed on a table closest to the door leading to the hot springs.

“This master will be heading to the spring, would Binghe care to join me?” He offered. It was polite after all. Didn’t the Japanese view communal bathing as a bonding experience? It wasn’t a big deal. They’d be in robes, and the water might be good for Binghe.

Binghe’s eyes widened and his gaze snapped to the floor, his teeth began to bite at his lower lip. He seemed to be struggling with something. After a long pause he looked up, and his tone was resolute, when he replied, “This disciple thanks Shizun but, he must refuse. This disciple will go later, perhaps in the morning.”

Shen Qingqiu  raised an eyebrow at that and internally shrugged. Whatever, he offered, and maybe Binghe wanted to explore the estate or something? Maybe he was uncomfortable sharing a hot spring with his teacher? Shen Qingqiu wasn’t about to fuss over it, he had a giant never cooling bath to get to. Yes it was still hot out, so what? This was good for his health, or something, and the top of Tan Mountain was cool at night. Hello relaxed muscle tension, here came Shen Qingqiu.

….

Binghe watches his Shizun leave. When the door closes and Shizun is gone Binghe drops to his knees, right down onto the wooden floor, and covers his face with shaking hands.

Hey, Brat why don’t you take him up on his offer? You’ve been eating his tofu this long, why not take another bite? The Dream Demon teased, by now familiar with the situation.

Would you leave, Binghe snapped.

He is not, despite the taunting of Elder Dream Demon, about the take advantage of his Shizun…to that extent. Binghe might be…going around the fact…that Shizun does not really know what is proper, but it would be beyond the pale of respectability for Luo Binghe to bathe with his teacher. In white robes, of all things? The man would be naked in front of him, and Binghe for all that he has been greedy, is not yet such a cad that he would do something like that, without Shen Qingqiu knowing of his intentions.

A foot rub there, a back massage there, combing his hair, and fanning him in the heat. All of these things Binghe could do. Arguably a well trained servant would complete those same duties, so it wasn’t like the behaviour was completely terrible, Binghe justified to himself. And Shizun enjoyed his attentions, which was the most important thing to factor in, but this was a line Binghe dared not cross.

He would not take such liberties until he and Shen Qingqiu were wed or at least together. He would not see his master’s naked figure until Shen Qingqiu loved him the way Binghe loved Shen Qingqiu. He understood from his interactions in Yi City, that there was nothing wrong with trades of the flesh and certain improprieties, but he also knew somewhere deep inside himself that if went out into the hot spring…it would be wrong. It would take advantage of his Shizun’s innocence in a way Binghe was not prepared for. An innocence that Binghe had found to run…deeper than expected. Binghe shook his head to clear his thoughts, it did not matter whether Shizun was experienced…or not. He would not intrude upon his bath. Not yet at least. Binghe had some…he wanted to have more manners than that. He wanted to be good for his Shizun. 

Arranging himself for meditation, Luo Binghe settled in for a wait.

….

Shen Qingqiu arrived from his bath, in a fresh robe. Thankfully the ones provided by the resort were thicker than Shen Qigqiu’s underthings, so instead of turning clear from the dampness left on his body, there were only faint traces of skin from where his hair stuck to his back, the wetness lengthening black locks into a waterfall of pitch. Loose tendrils of hair stuck to his cheeks, and Binghe watched his Shizun push them behind his ears.

His skin is lightly moist from the hot springs, a blush staining high on his cheeks, and traveling over the bridge of his nose. There is a glossiness to his eyes, a haze left over from floating in the spring for close to two shichen. His skin is noticeably smoother after the bath, glowing white in the light of the candles and the soft shine of the moon coming in through the open door. Water droplets stain the hardwood below Shen Qingqiu, but Binghe only has eyes for this beauty, damp from his bath coming in for supper, and bed.

The intimacy of accompanying his Shizun, in this manner pleases him. One day when he joins Shen Qingqiu in that bath, he will wash every stand of his hair, and stroke bone pale skin with his hands until it is washed clean. For now, he can do this instead; standing from his previous seated position Luo Binghe offers, “May I comb your hair?”

He knows Shizun will say yes, Binghe has combed Shen Qingqiu’s hair every night he was able. He has never been refused. 

Shizun looks at him and nods. By now Binghe can find traces of emotion in that expressionless face, in that tranquil look that is Shizun’s default, like a wooden doll, or a jade statue. Or at least, he can understand some of the time what the man in front of him feels…other times he is not as lucky. Binghe thinks he has sensed a melancholy air around his Shizun, though he does not know what troubles him.

Shizun moves to kneel on a pillow by the low table in the centre of the room without a word, and Luo Binghe moves behind him, already laying out combs, and oil. Binghe quickly grabs a towel too, noticing that Shen Qingqiu’s hair was wetter than it should be. Grasping the locks firmly he incases that long black strands in a white towel and begins to twist. Wringing out moisture as best he can. Usually Shen Qingqiu stayed upright when Binghe dried off his hair. Today, loose from the heat of the spring, Binghe pulled that length of black silk, and with one hand yanked his Shizun’s neck to the side, and straight back. The action exposed that familiar white neck, and pressed it against his mouth.

Binghe froze for a moment. His breath caught between panting at the flesh against his lips, biting down, and kissing his way up that lovely column. It is only due to his exposure to an escalating series of truly erotic images that he has the strength to remove his mouth. His lips already missing the soft skin underneath them. It had tasted sweet and slightly herbal from the spring water. Binghe’s concession to his control was to lick to that taste off his own lips immediately, savouring it as he pulled Shen Qingqiu upright. One hand still grasping his towelled hair, the other on his shoulder.

Underneath his hands, he can feel that Shizun is still leaning back into the hand on his shoulder.

Worried, Binghe asks, “Are you alright Shizun?”

Shen Qingqiu looks back at him, his eyes misty and clouded with moisture, as he stared for a moment before requesting, “This master is a bit tired Binghe. Would you allow me to stay like this?”

Binghe could never say no to such a request, to any request from his Shizun. He would allow him to stay leaned against Binghe forever if that was what he wished. Letting Shizun dictate the pace, Binghe watched, and felt, as Shen Qingqiu leaned back again Binghe’s chest. His hair wetting the front of Binghe’s robes. His head resting in the crook of Binghe’s. At this angle, both of them kneeling, his Shizun leaning back, Binghe was taller than him. Luo Binghe could practically cradle Shen Qingqiu in his arms. Binghe spread his legs open to bracket Shen Qingqiu’s sides as to make it easier on them. He paused to wait for a reprimand but it never came, so he moved forward with his actions.

Pursing his lips, Binghe’s moved all of Shen Qingqui’s hair to one side, pulled off the towel and made quick yet awkward work detangling it. The position required him to move his Shizun this way and that to get at all of his hair. The entire time Shen Qingqiu rested bonelessly in his arms, black locks sticking wetly to his frame, as he took his repose on Binghe instead of his bed. A single droplet of water trailed down Shen Qingqiu’s forehead, then bisected his eye, to fall down the slope of his cheek, like a teardrop. Binghe caught it with a flick of his thumb, watching Shizun’s lashes flutter before his master…for lack of a better word, snuggled back into him.

Binghe was torn between worry and being so pleased to be trusted with his Shizun, in such a vulnerable state.

Binghe contemplated a massage but the muscles he felt were already lose, so he wrapped both arms around Shizun’s back, and tugged him firmly to Binghe’s chest, before sliding one hand underneath his knees and lifting. He was lighter in physical weight than expected for someone whose weight in Luo Binghe’s heart was incomparable. Binghe knew that he had a skewed sense of morality, and a hunger inside of him that could not be quenched. He had a thirst for both victory and vengeance, yet, with his Shizun, he…wanted to be a better man than that.

Looking down at Shen Qingqiu’s sleeping face, Binghe smiled and gave that smooth forehead a kiss. Tucking the older man into his bed, Binghe slides his finger through still damp hair, picks up the end of the braid he had loosely woven, and gave that a kiss too. What was he to do with this Shizun of his?

….

Years later, Shen Qingqiu threw Luo Binghe into the Endless Abyss without a word.

In his desperation to live, Binghe rummaged through his resources only to find that his space pouch held a smaller space pouch, which contained countless divine treasures, talismans, enough medicine to last for years, and bizarrely…literature. There was a single note, in a calligraphy Binghe would recognize anywhere.

On it was written one word.

Live.

Binghe put his face into his hands and sobbed. His heart torn in two…what was he to do with this Shizun of his?

Chapter Text

When Luo Binghe and Shen Qingqiu finally finished their long, and very involved game of murder-sex chicken, where the stakes were the literal fate of the world as Shen Qingqiu knew it, and the fate of Shen Qingqiu’s ass (not that he knew that at the time); they worked out an…arrangement. By that, Shen Qingqiu meant that they may have gotten married? He honestly wasn’t paying that much attention at the time, more baffled over the claims that he “captivated” Binghe, and that Binghe was so “overcome” by his “beauty” that the Demon Lord wanted to steal him away.

It took Shen Qingqiu a while to figure out that Post-Abyss Binghe didn’t want to kill him…that his disciple didn’t want to kill him at all and in fact, wanted to do things to him that certainly didn't involve death or dismemberment. It took Luo Binghe a while to confirm that Shen Qingqiu didn’t want to kill him either. The pouch, had apparently helped out with that…but the mess they made figuring things out…Shen Qingqiu was just grateful things had settled down. That he was no longer beholden to a System that seemingly vanished after the mission was “completed”.That Cang Qiong was in one piece. That his disciple still cared for him, after everything. 

Post-Abyss Luo Binghe showed his care in the way that he remained respectful and attentive to Shen Qingqiu. However, the changes were obvious to see. He exited the Abyss half feral, as though he had been starved for years, and Shen Qingqiu was the only food he knew. His body bread, his blood water. When it came to his Shizun, nothing was ever enough, after all, what was a single piece of bread to a starved man? What was a single glass of water in the desert? Luo Binghe clung to Shen Qingqiu with a desperation that spoke of an experience where survival was something to be fought for instead of something to be expected. 

...

Shen Qingqiu awoke in the early morning, hazy with sleep. His face was pressed against a hard, bare chest. Muscled arms trapped him, keeping him close to the larger form he was cradled on top of. Rolling his neck side to side, he hissed lightly at the cracking sound it made. One hand wriggled its way out from where it was pinned and reached for his nape, giving it a rub. A larger, calloused hand removed his own, as both of Binghe’s warm palms made quick work of the muscle tension he built up from throwing his head back in pleasure, as his former disciple tried to fuck him through their bed. 

With his eyes closed, Shen Qingqiu catalogued new aches, and bruises from the night before, his body an offering to that starving boy. It was a relief to let out a soft groan, as a knot of tension released under Binghe’s fingers.

For a good while, after everything, Binghe had refused to touch his neck. When he finally did, he would start slowly, pressing apologetic kisses that would trail down the long white column to pepper at his collarbones, as though if he were soft enough, he could kiss away memories of the past.

Two hands, circled around his neck, fingers overlapping as - his vision going black - Luo Binghe slammed him against the wall. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t - hands on his neck - choking - drowning like - breathe - floodwater - lungs - like - red, red, eyes - like - breathe -

One thumb edged its way to Shen Qingqiu’s lips, pressing against the plush softness of his bottom lip.

It was all alright, he understood.

Binghe had been placed in a difficult situation, and Shen Qingqiu had no answers to give. No answers he could give.

One of Binghe’s large hands travelled down his spine, as the other kept massaging, feeling every vertebrae until it trailed down to grace the crack of his backside. He felt Binghe give one of his cheeks a firm, proprietary grab, before his index finger traced its way around the plug that had been placed inside of Shen Qingqiu at some point during the night. The thick, red, jade phallus, was modelled after Binghe’s own size and girth. Perhaps only a little smaller. For comfort, he supposed. Not that it mattered. Shen Qingqiu often slept stuffed to the brim with a half-hard cock reminding him of Luo Binghe’s boundless love. Hungry, and grasping, and full. The plug was thicker than Shen Qingqiu’s wrist at its widest point, tapering off to a fat tip. Creative licence was clearing taken with it, as its surface was covered with ribbed grooves, and raised swirls, creating textures that Shen Qingqiu could feel moving inside of him as he shifted his head and grumbled. The smooth patterns slid against his inner walls.

The hand on his back moved in between his shoulder blades to pin him down, and stop him from moving further. The hand on his rear, tapped the base of the plug with one finger, playfully, as Luo Binghe murmured, “Good morning Shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu slapped him on the chest a few times half-heartedly, still refusing to open his eyes. Why did Binghe keep calling him that in bed? His hand, his fingers, were grasping the base and clearly wiggling the plug he put in Shen Qingqiu’s entrance, gently making small motions to acclimate his body. The stretch of it against his rim sent shivers through him. At what point in this whole interaction was Shen Qingqiu, Binghe’s, Shizun? Before Binghe made him pass out from fucking him most of the night, or after he kept going even though Shen Qingqiu passed out? Shen Qingqiu would like to know.

As long as Shen Qingqiu could lay down, and do nothing, he couldn’t be bothered to argue with Binghe, not when it made him so happy and cost Shen Qingqiu comparatively little. It wasn't like he’d be hurt from it, anyway. Binghe always took an obscene amount of pleasure from preparing Shen Qingqiu to take his cock. Often he would make Shen Qingqiu come several times with his mouth or his fingers before deigning to grace him with that massive pillar.

Binghe started to shallowly push and pull the plug into him, fucking it maybe an inch in, and then pushing it an inch out.The repetitive motion made Shen Qingqiu feel the sloshing of his insides, stuffed so full with cum that he could feel it begin to slip out as the plug was loosened. Moaning as it pressed hard against a spot that made sparks fly behind his closed eyes, Shen Qingqiu tried to nuzzle deeper into Luo Binghe’s chest, as Binghe’s free hand came to stroke through his hair.

“Shizun is still still sleepy, hmm?” Binghe asked, knowing full well what the answer was. “Well,” Binghe continued, “If Shizun is not complaining then this disciple will have to help himself.”

At that comment, Shen Qingqiu felt his lax body being rolled gently off of Binghe’s chest as he was arranged to lie on his belly, a pillow placed underneath his hips to prop his ass up for Binghe’s perusal. He made a small, unhappy noise, as he felt the sloshing in his belly to a greater degree when the pillow pressed against his stomach.The soft silk of the bedsheets felt comforting agains his cheek, though, so that was a bonus.

“Shh, shh.” Binghe hushed, as he pet his lower back soothingly, “I’ll take it out soon. I promise.”

True to his word, Binghe began to slowly slide the plug out, pausing every once in a while to appreciate the way his hole tried to suck the plug back into himself, the slide dragging across Shen Qingqiu’s insides, the motion pulling arousal from his sleepy form like a fish to a lure. He felt so empty when the plug was finally pulled out with a wet plopping noise, the tip coming free, it was filthy to listen to. He could feel himself gaping, as Luo Binghe’s hands spread his cheeks and lifted his hips further, one hand moving to his stomach to push down. Groaning Shen Qingqiu felt cum leak out from his hole. His thighs felt the tricking wetness as he was made empty. The hand on his stomach kept massaging him, forcing him to expel what Binghe had put into him.

Gently he was let back onto the pillow, the large form behind him draping itself across his back.  He felt kisses being rained down on top of his spine, his shoulder blades, his ribs. Felt Binghe’s loose curls tickle at his cheeks, and batted them away sleepily with his hand.

Binghe chuckled at the action and moved both his own, and Shen Qingqiu’s hair to the side, in order to lave kisses on his nape. He smelled good to Shen Qingqiu, like warmth, and evenings spent relaxed in the candlelight. Familiar oil in his hair. Sandalwood and something un-nameable because it belonged solely to Binghe. Shen Qingqiu melted under those hands, his body knowing how to give in to the feel of them manhandling him…it had practice, after all. 

Even, damp, cold, body drained and unable to fight the poison coursing through him. Staring at Luo Binghe staring back at him in the dark cell of a prison. Eyes in the dark. Asking him - he had nothing to say - his hands were tied - every time - it happened every time - asked if he regretted it - yes  - why - nothing, no excuses to give. His excuses where buried somewhere he couldn’t reach. Could only say yes, never knew if he’d be believed. Had no reason to be believed. Wanted Binghe to believe -

He felt an impossibly large cock rub against his spine, and then his rear, trailing pre-cum where it went. The tip caught at his gaping rim, as Binghe easily started to work his way back inside of Shen Qingqiu’s body, nuzzling at the neck of the figure trapped under him. The initial breach of Shen Qingqiu’s walls as he waited expectantly to be filled up again, stole the air from his lungs, and broke his thought process. 

Luo Binghe slid the tip in first, rocking his hips gently as he trailed his hands from Shen Qingqiu’s shoulders down his arms, pulling them to rest above his head on either side; so that Binghe could press his hands on top of Shen Qingqiu's. Binghe’s fingers first caressed the tops of those slender fingers leaving fire in their wake as Binghe then interlaced their hands together. In this position Shen Qingqiu could not grab back, he could only take what he was given. Could only be pressed overbearingly into the bed. The grip of being pinned down kept Shen Qingqiu present through the stretch of Luo Binghe feeding his pulsating cock into his body. The size was easy to take after a night with the plug, but the burn from overuse was an ever-present ache. It was familiar to him by now.

“Shizun is so good to me.” Binghe groaned as he bottomed out, his mouth moving again to litter Shen Qingqiu’s shoulder blades with kisses that rapidly turned into bites, adding to the bruises already spread out on Shen Qingqiu’s body.

There were marks of possession that covered Shen Qingqiu’s pale skin trailing down from his neck to his ankles. His body was a painting of blue and red. Of healing greens, and sallow yellows around the edges of bite marks. Binghe loved to leave mementos his presence on Shen Qingqiu’s body, renewing them as they faded. Shen Qingqiu’s inner thighs, for example, were a mess, so were his collar bones, and the area of neck that rested under his robes. His only request had been that Binghe keep the marks below his collar, which wasn’t that hard, all things considered. Shen Qingqiu had never been so thankful for his fussy robes, as he had been after they began -

Cold water, a ridge, the pain of being split in two - body like choking - body like burning - body like it didn’t feel like a body anymore - body like - he didn’t want to feel anymore but he couldn’t take his eyes away from Luo Binghe - couldn’t stop looking no matter what - because - Binghe needed to know he didn’t hate him for this  - Luo Binghe on top of him snarling - a sword - a boy he loved - a man - he couldn’t breathe. He loved this boy. He couldn’t let him think Shen Qingqiu blamed him for -

This would be a long morning, Shen Qingqiu thought, his own cock, somehow hard again. From what he remembered, before he passed out he was already coming dry, his body left with nothing to give as Binghe forced out orgasm, after orgasm from his pliant form. He trusted Luo Binghe with everything he had, let him take even when Shen Qingqiu was dead to the world. Loved him more than he loved himself, and had been willing to die for his disciple. Did die for him, once, and he would do it again. But this morning, in their sleepy haze, still refusing to open his eyes, Shen Qingqiu gasped and let himself feel grounded by the hands pressing him down into the bed sheets, the chest against his back, the cock splitting open in the best of ways, and Luo Binghe’s breath in his ear.

He trusted his husband to take care of him -

A boy threatening to break everything in half if Shen Qingqiu dared to love other things more than him, like a man would burn it all - just for a look - look at me Shizun - look at me - LOOK AT ME -

What could he do in the face of such devotion, but repay it?

….

Luo Binghe’s hands traced over Shen Qingqiu’s right foot, massaging the sole, thumbs digging into the soft flesh. It was reminiscent of their days together when Binghe was younger, a disciple instead of a Demon Lord. The hungry red eyes looking up at him were new though, thought Shen Qingqiu, as he watched Binghe’s kneeling figure. A hand gripped his foot tightly as a hungry mouth descended to nibble on his big toe, a wet tongue tracing the nail bed, teeth grazing the soft parts underneath. Plopping the digit out of his mouth, Binghe pressed a kiss on every toenail, nibbling at the tips, and the places where his toes spilt. He slid his tongue in-between the divots, a bizarrely intoxicated look on his face. Shen Qingqiu didn’t really know why Binghe liked to play with his feet, but he was going with it.

The discovery had been made one morning, when his unruly partner was kneeling at the foot of their bed in punishment for his excessive use for force. Shen Qingqiu could have sworn that Binghe nearly broke his hips so, Shen Qingqiu in sheer agitation…may have…stepped on Binghe’s face… A move that backfired as Binghe let out a filthy moan, his eyes burning red, as he attempted to devour Shen Qingqiu’s foot…which then made Shen Qingqiu try to kick him…which made Luo Binghe moan again, as he kept pressing kisses on Shen Qingqiu’s feet.

Binghe, finished with his toes, laved his tongue from the crease of his sole, up the side of his ankle. Warm hands kept his foot from flinching away. Shen Qingqiu watched as Luo Binghe sucked a mark on top of his ankle bone, before tracing his way up Shen Qingqiu’s calf with his mouth, pausing to suck a new hickey on the muscle. Shen Qingqiu felt the desire begin to pool in his belly. His body trained to respond to Luo Binghe’s mouth.

Luo Binghe’s moved his hands to stroke both legs from calf to knee, spreading his thighs wide open, his mouth never leaving Shen Qingqiu’s right calf, as he threw Shen Qingqiu’s leg over one broad shoulder to suck another hickey into the skin at the back of his knees.

Shen Qingqiu let out a soft yelp, and moved back from the sensation but the hands on his legs held firm, pulling Shen Qingqiu forward to rest more of his weight on Luo Binghe. Rough palms groped at his inner thighs, splaying them further, kneading into the soft flesh, Binghe’s mouth grasping as it traced its way up to the crux of his hips, before moving back again to the soft of his right thigh. Gentle kisses came first before Binghe started to nibble, and renew the marks that painted the inside of his thigh. His tongue tracing a bite mark from the night before, Binghe suckled at the skin which was only just starting to heal. Shen Qingqiu’s erection was certainly paying attention, at this point, his hips making small aborted thrusts towards Luo Binghe’s mouth. Not that anything would happen, before Binghe had his fill of worshiping Shen Qingqiu’s body.

Leaning back to take a look at his work, Luo Binghe preened in satisfaction, pressing his thumb into a new bruise, “Shizun looks so beautiful like this” he crooned lowly.

Binghe knew he could be excessive at times…but the hunger of his youth, and the famine of his adulthood left him ravenous. That he was now able to touch his Shizun, did little in the face of his need. He was lucky, that Shizun pampered him so, his body pliant to Binghe’s touch. Binghe's own skin ached to press against Shen Qingqiu's, to feel the warmth of the comfort solid in his hands. Breathing instead of lifeless. 

Shen Qingqiu’s right thigh was a mess of fresh blooming red, and purple. Luo Binghe’s palms, still holding Shen Qingqiu open by the thighs, one leg thrown over his shoulder, applied a persistent pressure as he spoke again, his voice hoarse with arousal, “Shizun’s legs should match. Allow this disciple to correct his mistake.”

Luo Binghe stared in contrition at the clothing he special ordered from the spider demons of the South. It was one of many outfits he wanted to drape across his Shizun’s elegant form, now that he had a say in such matters. That was a new joy, to be able to purchase things for Shen Qingqiu to wear. Particularly in Demon Realm, where court functions allowed Binghe the excuse to drape Shen Qingqiu in his colours.

The thick red gauze in his hands was thinner than Shen Qingqiu’s inner robes, and almost fully translucent in nature. There was no embroidery, simply soft fabric, that slid like water as he tried to keep hold of it without tearing at the weave. A piece the size of a handkerchief could feed an average human family for a year, the robe used yards.

He wondered if Shen Qingqiu would indulge him in this? It was deeply presumptuous of him, and perhaps it would even offend his Shizun if Binghe dared to offer him the robe but…

Biting his bottom lip, his canines worrying at the flesh, he decided that he may as well ask. He had it made after all, it would be a waste not to try. It was a the product of a whim, a boyhood fantasy come to life. He once dreamed of draping Shen Qingqiu in delicate fabrics only to open his master up like a present and bury himself in his thighs. His Shizun had always been very indulgent with him. That had not changed as Binghe grew in age, and power. Perhaps he’d be happily surprised, he thought. Stroking the fabric one last time, he made his decision. 

Taking the robe, he made his way to Shen Qingqiu. His Shizun was fast asleep, worn out from their activities. His body was gracefully splayed on their bed barely visible through the curtains. The massive ebony frame, red silk sheets, and endless amounts of pillows dwarfed the figure resting inside. Parting the red gauze canopy with his hands, the material rougher than the robe he held, he gazed lovingly at Shen Qingqiu’s naked form wrapped loosely in silk blankets. Propping up his Shizun with one hand, robe held in the other, he dressed his husband. It was…nothing close to what a Peak Lord would wear, and it was too indecent for a Demon Lord’s spouse, it was in an outfit not even fit for a brothel. Luo Binghe admired the view of his husband, cradled in his lap, the gauze robe somehow more perverse than Shen Qingqiu’s previous nudity. He could see the full shape of his nipples, every curve of his body, and the swell of his resting pillar, limp between his thighs. Licking his lips, Luo Binghe tucked his husband back into their bed.

If Shen Qingqiu woke up and did not care for the outfit, Luo Binghe would know. His husband had all the time he needed to change into something else, if he so desired, without the pressure of Luo Binghe’s devouring gaze.

….

Two shichen later, Luo Binghe finished his business for the day, terrorizing his subjects into complying with new laws and mediating territory disputes, he returned to his husband. He found him, not in their room, but in the garden. Dressed in familiar white inner robes.

Luo Binghe watched for a moment as his husband lounged in the gardens he built into his Palace for the sole purpose of bringing Shen Qingqiu pleasure. Flower petals often blew towards the day bed closest to their room, leaving their trellises to fall atop a sleeping Shen Qingqiu, unaware of the vision he created. The wards were traced and locked with Heavenly Demon blood, in order to prevent pests from entering and viewing that vision.

Well, it was not to be Binghe supposed, his mild disappointment quickly fading as he moved to join Shen Qingqiu on his daybed, putting to rest the fantasies of his youth. His husband gave him plenty to look at, with or without the red gauze.

Binghe was wrong. Binghe was wrong, and he requested mercy. He did not know what he had done in his lifetime to deserve such torture but surely someone could have just cut off one of his arms instead of leaving him to suffer...this.

Luo Binghe found himself in garden, paralyzed in shock. The wind had blown pale pink rose petals onto his husband which was not unfamiliar. It was another sight that caused his jaw to drop as he gazed at Shen Qingqiu, mouth open, like an idiot.

Dressed in the fully transparent robes Binghe bought for him, hair loosely splayed around him and still ruffled from their previous activities, Shen Qingqiu was temptation incarnate. Seemingly…definitely oblivious to Luo Binghe’s plight. Luo Binghe could hear small choked, panicked noises, that were too high pitched to have come out of his mouth…and yet he was sure he was the one making them.

Apparently, Luo Binghe thought hysterically, after all these years, he could still manage to underestimate Shen Qingqiu’s lack of propriety.

Shen Qingqiu yawned and covered his mouth with one hand, little seashell nails and long fingers doing nothing to hide the flush of pleasure that covered Shen Qingqiu’s face, a left over remanent from the exertion of the days, nights, and morning before. The red brought out the paleness of his skin, and the green of his eyes. Blood and milk.

Luo Binghe’s gaze traced the form in front of him, noting the lack of sweets and half lidded look on Shen Qingqiu’s face that told him his Shizun was resting at this moment in time, and would not take to Binghe’s attentions well. His Shizun was very irritable when his lounging was interrupted, by anything. Gulping, Binghe considered whether or not he’d be able to calm his husband’s temper in order to dirty their daybed, and concluded that today was not a good day.

Perhaps if he hadn’t kept Shen Qingqiu in their bed for the past three days, his cock warming itself almost constantly in the heat of Shen Qingqiu’s body, he’d be able to plead his case. Why had he decided to glut himself on his husband for so long? Why had he been so convinced Shen Qingqiu would reject the robe after putting it away once? Had he forgotten his upbringing, and assumed that his disciple-hood was nothing by a fever dream, his teenage mind exaggerating the sheer gall of Shen Qingqiu’s private matters.

He would not pretend to understand the complexities of Shen Qingqiu’s mind that decided when to, and when not to wear the robe. He would never get a clear answer, but he did know that answer was not, to seduce Luo Binghe. Of that, he was sure. Shen Qingqiu probably thought the robe was some kind of traditional Demon Realm garb, or even more likely, didn’t think anything of it all. Luo Binghe put his face into his hands and silently screamed. He bought the thing…and yet, here he was, unable to find the will to look up from his hands.

Shen Qingqiu indulged Binghe’s hunger often, Binghe reminded himself, holding onto his control with his fingernails, so long as it did not interrupt any large events, like Inter-Sect martial competitions, missions, or Shen Qingqiu’s carefully organized relaxation time. This was Shen Qingqiu’s relaxation time…and Binghe had just indulged. He couldn’t jump his husband. Not now. It was as though Shen Qingqiu had specifically planned this out to torment Luo Binghe, and if Luo Binghe believed that Shen Qingqiu had any concept of his own attractiveness in relation to anything, he might believe that.

Unfortunately he knew better. Once, he had to stop his husband from dipping his feet into a lake in front of all of the disciples in Qing Jing Peak on a “field trip”.

Swallowing his mouth full of saliva, Binghe peeked up from his hands to take a look at Shen Qingqiu before doing an about face, tucking his pillar into the waist band of his pants, and grabbing a massive red ceremonial fan in an action reminiscent of his youth. When it doubt, return to the basics, and if there was one thing Luo Binghe knew, it was how to serve his Shizun.

Those half lidded eyes, that sweet face, turned to look at him, noticing his presence.

“Did, Binghe have a good day?” Shen Qingqiu asked.

“Yes, Shizun.” He replied.

Shen Qingqiu huffed, “Husband.” He demanded.

Luo Binghe, feared Demon Lord extraordinaire smiled helplessly, as he looked at Shen Qingqiu and repeated, “Husband.”

Feared Demon Lord Luo Binghe then began to fan his scantily clad spouse, as Shen Qingqiu pulled out a lacquered box of sweets made by that same Demon Lord. Water chestnut cakes were the treat of the day, paired with a lovely plum wine.

Why had he assumed that marrying Shen Qingqiu would slake his thirst? Binghe would not be satisfied unless he spent every waking moment tucked inside the body of his husband, or pressing his husband’s smaller pillar into his own body, melding the two of them into one. He could spend his entire existence with Shen Qingqiu and never tire of his presence.

Humming Binghe enjoyed the nostalgia of fanning his Shizun as he lost himself to the motions. The more things changed the more they remained the same, he supposed.

When he felt that Shen Qingqiu was sufficiently fanned, he made his way onto their daybed displacing a few pillows to cuddle up to his husband. Shen Qingqiu made a pleased sound, tucking himself into Luo Binghe’s arms to take a nap. Some things did change, he supposed. He certainly wasn’t able to hold his Shizun like this when he was younger.

He wasn’t able to see the marks he left on that fair skin through a transparent pane of a red,  either. He’d have to buy more, maybe another in jade green, Binghe thought as he stroked Shen Qingqiu’s back, or white.

….

Shen Qingqiu found his new robe amazing. It was great for the heat and so soft. It felt like he was wearing nothing at all. The only problem was, Binghe put it on him on a slightly cooler morning…which made no sense. He’d be cold in the garden if he wore it. Shrugging he tucked it away for another time. Perhaps he’d sleep in too? He’d figure it out later.

He knew it was see-through but it wasn’t like that mattered. It wasn’t like he had anything Binghe hadn’t seen before, and Binghe was the one to offer it to him...so it clearly wasn’t inappropriate to wear in the privacy of their domain. It would be fine, he was sure.

Chapter Text

Marriage, Luo Binghe thought, marriage was supposed to make everything better.

“You’re not married yet”, The Elder Dream Demon chimed in obnoxiously."You eloped, and drank wine in bamboo hut. Last I knew, that. Does not. A marriage. Make.”

"Be silent." Binghe responded.

He was working on it. Besides, what difference did it make if he called Shizun "husband" before, or after the ceremony he was putting together? It was truly a glorious undertaking in progress. By the end of it, he’d get to dress Shizun in red, in wedding colours, in his colours, and shove the fact that he was the one marrying Shen Qingqiu into Liu Qingge’s stupid face. If he hadn’t managed to get Shen Qingqiu’s hand in the time period that Binghe was clawing his way out of the Endless Abyss instead of getting in Liu Shishu’s way, then Shishu didn’t deserve Shizun. Never mind that Binghe would have had to kill his Shishu and become Shen Qingqiu’s second husband if the worst did happen, the point was, Liu Qingge was nowhere near as good as Luo Binghe.

All Luo Binghe wanted from his wedding was to marry the love of his life, and make a very public declaration that people needed to keep their worthless hands off, while lightly rubbing it into his opponent's faces that they’d never be able to attain Shen Qingqiu for as long as they lived, because Binghe would kill them if they tried. Was that too much to ask? It took some time to pick arrangements that simultaneously said that Shen Qingqiu was the greatest thing that ever happened to him, and he couldn’t care less if everyone in attendance jumped off a mountain top, and died. It was a delicate balance to create. He was currently ruminating on a combination of a short ostentatious ceremony, and no wedding banquet. He refused to feed them.

It pleased him that he had his Shizun mostly to himself, save for the few moments stolen by the disciples, or other members of Cang Qiong Shizun still spoke to. His consolation for those moments was that he was able to touch the immortal beauty of his childhood, able to keep his Shizun safe, and warm in his hands.

However…there was one small issue, it was a tiny thing really, one small problem that…umm…

Staring helplessly down at his paper-work, Binghe tried to work through his impending metal breakdown as his mind slowly turned to congee.

To explain Luo Binghe’s congee brain we must return to scene of the crime, four hours ago as Shen Qingqiu woke up blearily patting the side of his bed to find his maybe-husband. Upon not finding his possibly-husband Shen Qingqiu opened his eyes, and glared at the sight of Luo Binghe at his desk sorting through Demon Realm politics.

…What was the point of having a sort-of-husband, if Shen Qingqiu couldn’t even cuddle him? Binghe was so fluffy, and warm, and big. Like the worlds’ best pillow, and there he was, not in bed, doing work and shit. It was hateful. Why did Binghe have to be a somewhat responsible ruler?

Shen Qingqiu had not gone through…pausing for a moment to try and recall out how long they had been going around in circles together…like a decade of bullshit, to not be able to get cuddles. He wasn’t down with this Ancient Chinese, xianxia, we hold hands or we fuck, and nothing in-between type nonsense. His ass was perma-sore from the heavenly pillar it received, and the weird ancient dildos he put up with, and the foot thing. How the unholy fuck did Binghe even get a foot thing? That was not in the novel, he’d remember if it was, but somehow he ended up with a Luo Binghe, who, if he was within a metre of Shen Qingqiu’s bare feet, tried to put them in his mouth.

Shen Qingqiu just wanted some normal physical affection, like: handholding, hugs, kisses, butterfly kisses, cheek presses, casual hello kisses, kisses of mild irritation, forehead kisses, or casual arms thrown around his waist; at this point he’d even take some lap-sitting. He was a married man…and what was he getting? Some admittedly hot sex, and weird servile behaviour where Binghe liked to dress him, and kiss his feet, but also not actually touch him that much? Who even wanted this nice, yet bizarrely restrained while also filthy, obscure fetish porn life-style? He wanted some normal domesticity, was that too much to ask for?

And now he had to be subjected to his husband leaving the comfort of their bed to go do work? Without a good morning kiss? Binghe would dress him, and put his shoes on for him, once he noticed that Shen Qingqiu was awake, but heavens forbid he act like they were married (which Shen Qingqiu is seventy percent sure they are). They drank wine, and Shen Qingqiu thinks he may have proposed? Binghe started calling him husband recently, and he called Binghe husband back, so what more was there to do?

Narrowing his eyes, Shen Qingqiu glared at a Luo Binghe who had yet to notice him waking. It had been three weeks since he came back to Binghe’s Palace, properly, instead of being corralled into the creepy Bamboo House replica, he consciously did not think about. Three weeks of more sex than his virgin ass ever had before, in either of his lives. Three weeks of dildos, and licking, and tongues in unexpected places, and sleeping with Luo Binghe’s heavenly pillar inside of him. In all that time, he got cuddled, once, outside of bed. Exactly once, in the entirety of that time period. He could recall the incident as though it just happened, it occurred when he was lounging on his new daybed, the red edition. He was laid out in a very nice robe, gifted to him by his husband, and Luo Binghe comfortably slipped beside him as they napped.

Trying to bore a hole through Luo Binghe with his eyes, Shen Yuan’s patience reached a limit.

Fuck. This. Bullshit. And the flying sword it flew in on. Binghe put up with him dying on him three times, he could put up with Shen Qingqiu touching him affectionately. Shen Qingqiu let Binghe get away with a lot, Binghe could give him this. He wasn’t asking for much, after all. Just a measly little bit of physical affection. 

Sliding out of bed with the grumpiness of an actual toddler, Shen Yuan rubbed at his eyes, finally attracting the attention of Luo Binghe who perked up like a dog spotting a bone. “Ah, Shizun, this husband will be finished soon, but worry not, your breakfast has already been prepared, and your robes -“

Shen Qingqiu stopped paying attention to what his probably-husband was saying because, he didn’t care. Moving towards Luo Binghe’s increasingly confused face, he patted at his big fucking bicep, slapping it without saying a word until Binghe moved one hand away from the desk.

Good, that was enough room for Shen Qingqiu to crawl his way into his maybe-husband's lap. Planting his rear on Binghe thighs, he wiggled a bit to adjust himself before wrapping his arms around Binghe’s shoulders, snuffling into the crook of his neck…and promptly going back to sleep. Husband, he probably had one, and he decided that it was Luo Binghe’s husbandly duty to let Shen Qingqiu sleep on him. His thighs were so big and comfortable, the warmth was truly excellent to rest on, especially when Shen Qingqiu trusted that Luo Binghe wouldn’t let him fall.

Binghe’s arm came around him slowly, as he stuttered, “Wh-what is Shizun doing? W-would Shizun like to go back to bed, I-I could -“

“No.” Shen Qingqiu interrupted, would his husband just shut up? Shen Qingqiu was trying to sleep, and he loved Binghe, he really did but sometimes…

“This d-disciple is a bit confused. Asking Shizun for guidance,” Binghe squeaked out, reverting to old speech patterns in his panic.

Fine. Clearly, Shen Qingqiu had to do everything around here, raising his head from its comfy, warm position, he looked at Binghe and murmured out, “I’m sleeping. Binghe can work. Good night.” He then kissed Binghe on the nose, which made the Demon Lord's eyes cross as though they were trying to look at the tip, not that Shen Qingqiu noticed as he fell back into a doze.

It was technically morning, but he didn’t care. It was like resting on a giant hot water bottle that held you. So good. Almost better than his daybed. Considering the comparison, Shen Qingqiu paused for a moment before deciding that Binghe's thighs were definitely better than his daybed.
….

Luo Binghe noticed Shizun waking as he rose from their bed, as foam from the sea, rubbing at his tired eyes. It was a sweet gesture, incongruent with Shen Qingqiu’s graceful bearing. He began their day by reassuring his husband that he had prepared breakfast, an act that he would never allow another to take over, even given his new status. It brought him joy to provide Shen Qingqiu with sustenance, to care for him in every way he could. He wanted his husband to know, without a doubt, how treasured he was. Even with their new roles, Binghe would never be ashamed to serve him. 

Shen Qingqiu interrupted him with a hard, “No.” Which startled Binghe. It was rare for Shen Qingqiu to say ‘no’ to him, but in this instance he was not sure what his husband was rejecting. Breakfast? Shizun loved his food.

As he tried to think of what Shen Qingqiu could be rejecting, he watched his husband sleepily glide towards him, and slap his bicep. Both of his hands were still on the writing desk, one gripping a brush, the other rested on the table.

Slowly, Binghe raised the arm closest to Shen Qingqiu and in that very second, he found his lap full. He could describe the fleeting motions of a butterfly flapping its wings, his eyesight sharp enough to spot an arrow at five hundred paces, but if asked how Shen Qingqiu got into his lap at that moment, Binghe would do nothing but stare at the space in front of him in confusion.

H-he, he had a lap. Shizun was sitting in his lap. His long slender legs thrown over the side of Binghe’s as though Binghe was a seat, and Shen Qingqiu was casually taking a repose on an ordinary piece of furniture. His long slender arms were around Binghe’s neck, fingertips playing unconsciously with Binghe’s curls, tangling into his hair, and tugging in motions that lacked force. Shen Qingqiu’s mouth was a wet brand at Binghe’s neck, breathing soft air again his jugular, lips tracing patterns as his husband murmured in his sleep.

Binghe, Binghe could not move. His body frozen in position, one arm still extended outwards mid-air, not budging up or down. He would. He would just stay like this, he thought. He did not have to move or breathe, he could stay. With Shizun in his lap. His mind felt as though it was melting. He has had years to adjust to Shen Qingqiu’s impropriety, years. He could deal with the…stripping…and he would force himself to deal with the new robes that he was not prepared for, despite being the one to purchase them…but this…it seemed that his husband delighted in finding cruel and unusual ways to torture him. Binghe was always at a loss. He had conquered his proverbial mountain only to find that it was infested with a swarm of blood sucking beasts who never died, or slept, and took great pleasure in Binghe’s suffering.

The impact of these childish gestures made with Shen Qingqiu’s impassive face were too much for Luo Binghe’s heart. So the Demon Lord held himself as a statue, face a twisted mask of bliss and terror, as the man he loved nuzzeled into his neck like a child, and allowed Binghe to, Binghe to…Binghe…Allowed Binghe for lack of a better word, to coddle him. To cosset his frame in Binghe’s arms like a blushing maiden, as Shen Qingqiu slept.

Binghe did not know how much time passed as he stared down at Shen Qingqiu with a strained smile and a panic rising deep in his heart. He..what was he supposed to do?

Shizun was calm and elegant, and unknowingly seductive. He patted Binghe’s head and on occasion, in his youth, held him for comfort, but outside of certain activities, Binghe’s understanding was that a married couple should be…restrained with their affection.

He had assumed that Shen Qingqiu would want to be restrained in his affection. Looking down at the slender figure dozing in arms, Luo Binghe reassessed his expectations. Clearly Shizun, much like not having a very good understand of propriety, had very different expectations regarding their private interactions now that they were married.

Luo Binghe swallowed as his mind recalled in crystal clarity, the way his husband, only moments ago, soft with sleep, slipped onto his lap and clung to him. His husband was still clinging to him while Binghe was fully dressed, Shen Qingqiu wearing only his inner robes.

Girding his loins, Binghe wrapped his arms around that thin waist and pulled Shen Qingqiu closer to him. He thinks he may have tried to say something, he does not know what. He pressed a shy kiss onto Shen Qingqiu’s head, and listened to the happy murmurs that were only audible due to Shen Qingqiu’s proximity to his ear.

His husband was so cute. He looked down at his paperwork and internally groaned. How was he to finish with such beauty in his arms? Sighing, he pulled Shen Qingqiu a touch closer with trembling hands, and decided to finish the work later.

Four hours later, Shen Qingqiu awoke, sleeping half the day away as Luo Binghe stared at him instead of doing his work.

“Good morning.” Shen Qingqiu announced.

Binghe did not correct him, even though it was mid-day. “Good morning, husband,” He replied. If Shizun said the sky was green, Luo Binghe certainly wouldn’t contradict him. Luo Binghe might even turn the sky green with an extended illusion in order to match his Shizun’s words.

Shen Qingqiu kissed his cheek, and patted one of Binghe’s arms to inform him that Shen Qingqiu wanted to get off now. The arms around him tightened and Shen Qingqiu looked at Binghe in mild confusion. Binghe stared at him for a moment, before slowly pressing a kiss to his cheek. How nice. Shen Qingqiu liked that. Patting Binghe’s cheek Shen Qingqiu once again tried to get off his husband’s lap, only instead of letting him go, Binghe picked him up and carried him over to the edge of their bed.

Oh. This again. Binghe was going to dress him. Fine, fine, fine, Shen Qingqiu would be a good sport. He should support his most-certainly-husband’s interests, and all that.

Binghe noted that in public Shen Qingqiu liked to remain a proprietary distance away from Binghe, maintaining an air of disconnect from those around him in general.

In private however…the situation was different. Bitterly Binghe thought he should have known better. Shen Qingqiu clearly had no understanding of what was supposed to be done, only what he…liked to do…was Binghe’s best guess. And Shen Qingqiu liked it when his husband held him close, Shen Qingqiu liked to return such affections easily, his expression often placid as he kissed Binghe’s demon mark, or his eyelids, or wrapped his arms around BInghe’s neck in a silent demand to be held, and who was Luo Binghe to deny him?

He cooked, and cleaned, and took over a realm for his Shizun, he could certainly hold him. It felt good, this easy affection, this private part of Shen Qingqiu that he knew no one else was privy too.

Binghe’s childhood dreams, had clearly been void of colour. They could not do justice to the sweetness of a vulnerable Shen Qingqiu looking up at him with wide eyes, patting his chest in annoyance, or gripping the edge of his robes with slender hands whenever Binghe tried to leave their bed. Binghe had taken to carrying his husband around with him, simply bringing Shen Qingqiu with him to his desk if he needed to look through paperwork; or muttering promises that he’d be right back, if he had to cook. He had become adept at doing his work, while serving as a bed for his husband through consistent exposure. It was a hard practice to adapt to, but he would do anything to see Shen Qingqiu pliant and happy in Binghe’s arms.

Their wedding, when it occurred, was a bit of a surprise to Shen Qingqiu. He kind of, already though they were done with that? But Binghe pleaded for a larger ceremony, and Shen Qingqiu just had to show up, so he acquiesced easily. It seemed like such a small thing to do for Binghe.

It was not, a small thing, by any definition. It was, in reality, an explosion of crimson. Luo Binghe's Palace was dripping in bright red, blooming flowers, enough to fill seven gardens. Peonies, poppies, roses, and spider lilies, were arranged in different combinations, interspersed with smaller tufts of pale green, or blue, placed to break up the overpowering colour scheme that dominated everything else. They perfumed the air, and Shen Qingqiu swore he had never seen so much red in his life. Expensive lanterns, banners, and sumptuous tapestries had been placed on every wall he passed. Shen Qingqiu couldn't honestly tell if they were they having a wedding, or hosting a festival?

Shen Qingqiu found himself, sitting up on their bed in a silken inner robe; he allowed Luo Binghe to slide thin red slippers onto his feet. They were embroidered with bamboo, and slightly feminine in make, but they’d be easier to walk in than his boots, which required socks, and would press against the robes to come. The other upside to the slippers was that he’d be able to get away with sliding his feet free from their confines at some point in the night, given a moment of privacy, and the means were precisely the fact that he could slip in and out of, well, slippers, and not boots.

Luo Binghe threaded each of Shen Qingqiu’s arms through a secondary silk inner robe, this one dyed pitch black, tying the sides closed gently, but close to the body. The layers that were spread out ominously on the bed spoke of many finicky little strings that Shen Qingqiu was happy not to deal with, leaving himself to Luo Binghe's mercy. Helping his soon to be publicly-confirmed-husband stand, Binghe draped a high collared red robe over the black, doing up the ties that trailed up Shen Qingqiu’s chest in button knots. An elaborate Pan Chang knot, the auspicious knot of eternity resting at the hollow of his throat. It had two red cords hanging from it, their ends tied off into decorative tassels. The clothes were the exact red of Binghe’s demon mark. The red of his eyes.

Humming to himself in pleasure, Binghe added a long red gauze layer that would flow out, even from the hem of Shen Qingqiu’s over-robes, and settled it just so. The train was two meters in length, sweeping behind Shen Qingqiu like water. On top of it, came a heavily embroidered robe, also in red. Taking into consideration Shen Qingqiu’s propensity for subtle patterns, Binghe had the tailors stitch red bamboo on red fabric, the entirety of the robe patterned in the Xiang Style. The leaves of the bamboo and the cranes hiding betwixt them, looked painterly in nature. Binghe tied the matching belt around Shen Qingqiu's willow like waist, putting two fingers into the band and tugging to make sure it was loose enough for comfort. Picking up a blood jade decoration, shaped in form of his demon mark, he attached it to the belt, letting it sway enticingly by his husband's side. The hem of this layer was a just under two meters in length, allowing the red gauze to spill out suggestively from the edges of Shen Qingqiu’s robes, and sleeves. 

Slowly straightening each sleeve, much longer than Shen Qingqiu was used to, the ends dragging on the floor, Binghe assessed his husband-to-be who looked back at him patiently. This was their wedding day, after all, and Shen Qingqiu was for the most part,  prepared to go along with whatever Binghe felt was necessary. Luo Binghe devoured him with his eyes, spending a moment to appreciate the flush of colour that had been pressed onto his lips by Binghe’s own fingers as he applied a balm subtly mixed with crushed rose petals. Skin glowing white, eyes vivid green. Hair glossy as raven’s feathers, but clean. Shizun was a vision, of seduction.

His attire infinitely more complex than his usual fare, the colours, and richness elevating Shizun’s beauty to new heights. Binghe knew that none in the Sect had ever seen Shizun in red, or anything other than his usual combination of green and white. It brought him such satisfaction to imagine their faces contorted in shock, as they witnessed the man Binghe was marrying in his full splendour. Shizun, even without the last of the layers was a calamitous beauty. It was lucky for Luo Binghe that he was perfectly capable of dealing with calamity.

Binghe picked up the second last of the robes he had laid out over their bed. A large red over-robe, the material thick, and rich in his hands. Plum blossoms in full bloom bordered the fabric, only to spread across Shen Qingqiu's back and sleeves in wind-blown swathes, a crane of two in flight depicted alongside them to tie together the embroidery. Lastly, he grasped another gauze layer, without lace or pattern, clutching it in his hands, before looking down at Shen Qingqiu with teary eyes.

“Please?” He asked, holding out the veil. He knew he wouldn’t be refused.

Shen Qingqiu’s eyebrow twitched in irritation, “Fine.” He agreed. This brat. He was lucky Shen Qingqiu loved him.

Binghe had combed his hair loose, anointing both Shen Qingqiu’s body, and locks with oils, and lotions prior to the dressing. He pulled Shen Qingqiu’s hair into a simple side part and pinned it behind one ear with a black comb that seemed incapable of reflecting light, marking it as rare material. Shen Qingqiu wore no crown upon his head, as it seemed that Binghe wanted the veil to be the most prominent thing on his husband. Binghe wanted their guests to witness a softness in Shen Qingqiu they'd never be privy to again, in their lifetimes. Lush black strands, unbound, pooled down to his husband's waist. 

Closing his eyes, Shen Qingqiu allowed Luo Binghe to drape the massive gauze cloth over Shen Qingqiu’s entire body. It ruffled out as it hit his ankles, and draped over his hem. Somehow, with some kind of Demon Voodoo, Binghe managed to secure the gauze so that it did not slide off of Shen Qingqiu’s hair, and drop onto the floor. For Shen Qingqiu, It was as though he was submerged in red water, his vision dyed with a carmine tinge, as he looked up at Binghe through the fabric.

Luo Binghe picked up one of Shen Qingqiu’s hands, reaching for pale limbs that were tucked into loose fabric, only the fingertips of his Shizun’s hands visible. Pressing a kiss to each finger in supplication, Binghe began to lead Shen Qingqiu out of their rooms towards the ceremonial altar.

As the wedding proceeded, Binghe could not resist shooting a smug look at Liu Qingge after he completed the three bows with his husband. His face was twisted in a grimace of possessiveness, his arm sliding to grip at Shen Qingqiu’s waist, as he watched their faces admire his husband. He knew envy when he saw it.

….

That night Binghe took as much joy spreading his husband apart, as he did putting him back together. He pushed Shen Qingqiu’s thighs apart, to bury his face in the crux of his body, and lick his way inside. He spread Shen Qingqiu’s tight entrance with his tongue, mouth hungry. He pulled him apart, with slick fingers, and hushed growls.

That night Luo Binghe trailed his hands down Shen Qingqiu’s neck to grab his waist and pull his body back towards Luo Binghe’s by force, his arms slamming Shen Qingqiu down onto his cock, while Luo Binghe rolled his hips in a fluid thrust. The actions forced hiccuping wails to leave Shen Qingqiu’s mouth, each thrust creating a corresponding sound.

There wasn’t enough air in the room, and Shen Qingqiu spent his time shakily petting Binghe’s neck, his shoulders, his back, giving as much comfort to the desperation he felt coursing through his husband.

“Yours,” he murmured. “I’m yours Binghe, hush now, it’s okay. You have this master. Don’t cry.”

Binghe hadn’t even noticed that he was crying. His husband was so good to him. Binghe never wanted to leave his arms. The relief of the warm body in his arms, responding to his actions was one Binghe did not know how to explain.

He had somehow, impossibly, achieved all he ever wanted and more.

In the morning, Binghe’s voice was rough with sleep, as called out, “Husband”. The sleepy murmur he heard in response, made his lips twitch in the beginning of a smile as Luo Binghe pulled the body of his husband close to his.

Huffing Shen Qingqiu grabbed a pile of scrolls from Binghe’s desk. “This husband is not simply for decoration. Let me help.” He demanded.

Binghe tried to somehow grab the scrolls back without “grabbing” them back as he fussed, “Shizun is not here to work. Shizun can go rest, the weather is particularly pleasant today.”

“Is Binghe implying that this husband is incapable of organizing your work?” Shen Qingqiu countered.

Luo Binghe would never dare to so much as imply such a thing. He knew that Shen Qingqiu was well organized, and capable of sorting through a variety of contracts. He first learned how to manage the matters of a large estate at Qing Jing, seated across his Shizun, after all. It was just that, well, he wanted Shizun to be a pampered spouse, and pampered spouses did not help their husbands with the realms they ruled.

Something of that must have come across on Luo Binghe’s face because the next thing he knew, he was being hit over the head with a fan that was tightly gripped in Shen Qingqiu’s hands, as his husband berated him, “Luo Binghe you will hand me all of the scrolls pertaining to the running of the palace, and the organization of the basic food supply chains for the entirety of the realm or so help me, I will make you regret it.”

Luo Binghe, Demon Lord, meekly passed over the correct paperwork, as his husband pulled up a chair across from him and began to assist Binghe in ruling.

“You assist me with the affairs of Qing Jing, why wouldn’t I assist you with this,” Shen Qingqiu huffed, slapping away Binghe’s hand as he tried to take back some of the scrolls.

“Husband is right,” agreed Luo Binghe, returning to his own work, blushing lightly at Shen Qingqiu’s assertiveness.

In marriage people can begin to rub off on one another...non-sexually. In the case of Luo Binghe, he knowingly began to mimic Shen Qingqiu’s habits in private: dressing only in inner robes, throwing all propriety out the window, grabbing his husband any time he felt like, or pressing kisses against him when the mood struck. He luxuriated in having his actions reciprocated. As a disciple he didn’t dare behave in such a manner, but as a husband he was allowed these privileges, and so took advantage of them. 

“You two are disgusting together,” The Elder Dream Demon chimed, as Binghe rested his head in Shen Qingqiu’s lap.

Shen Qingqiu was hand-feeding Binghe the grapes Binghe had specifically imported for him. Nipping at the finger-tips that pressed against his mouth gently, The Demon Lord was bemused by the tapping his lips got in response. Shen Qingqiu could never bear to hit him with force. All he would do, was tap at Binghe gently. It was adorable. Binghe felt that if anyone dared to take this away from him, he would be forced to rip them apart in ways few would dare imagine.

Gazing up at jade eyes in pure adoration, Binghe smiled, and replied smugly to the Dream Demon, “You are unspeakably jealous that you don’t have such a cute wife, you miserable old cretin.”

The Elder Dream Demon snorted before, for once, running away instead of being chased.

“What is Binghe thinking of?” Shen Qingqiu asked, gazing softly down at Luo Binghe.

“You.” Binghe replied. “Always you.”

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu lay spread out, tangled in crimson sheets, a veritable mountain of embroidered pillows keeping him company in lieu of his definitely-husband. Who remained elsewhere, exploring some strange occurrence in the South. Shen Qingqiu logically knew that Luo Binghe would return soon but he couldn’t stop his worry anymore than he could stop breathing. He knew his husband to be all powerful, so Luo Binghe would come back alive but he also knew that the absolute shit-fest written by Shang Qinghua was utterly goat-fucking batshit…his husband could very well come home with fours arms, or five dicks, or a tail. There was an even stronger chance, given the nature of Proud Immortal Demon Way, that Luo Binghe’s return would come with him reeking of some weird sex plant, potion, lake, or mystical treasure, and Shen Qingqiu would inevitably need to help him papapa his way out of it….last Tuesday was train wreck. He was one man, he was not a harem of beauties, he had but one ass, one mouth and two hands. He didn’t have the wrist strength to deal with it. Mystical Pear of Virility his ass. He cringes at the memory, and at the thought of the concept of an ass. They went through a weeks supply of lube, sorry, “medical unguent”, in all of twelve hours. His ass was on fire for days.

He made Luo Binghe copy lines from a book detailing the fauna and flora of the Demon Realm as punishment like a twelve year old disciple being disciplined, but strangely enough it made the Demon Lord disgustingly happy.

Why? Shen Qingqiu had no idea, but it took the sting out his punishment and that was upsetting because he was beginning to think there was nothing he could do to his husband to actually punish him. He really needed to write down all of the sex inducers he could recall one of these days, if only for his own edification. He asked Shang Qinghua to do it once, but that idiot could only remember half of them. He kept whining about how there were so many, and how no one could name each one, and blah, blah, blah…He hoped Mobei-jun wrecked his ass. He hoped Mobei-jun found the Heart Fruit of Serenity and ate it with only Shan Qinghua around to help. In fact he was going to find the Heart Fruit of Serenity himself and mail it to Mobei-jun for the sole purpose of ruining Shang Qinghua’s life.

The reason he recalled the name of the Heart Fruit was because that stupid plot device had the longest running effect. Readers had made a chart of the top ten spring medicines in the novel. Two months of papapa, straight, was right at the top beside a cute illustration of a heart shaped apple. Luo Binghe fucked his way through half of his harem in secluded cultivation to get rid of the affects, and retain all of the benefits. It was great body strengthener…it just had…serious consequences. For a moment he contemplated that perhaps his pettiness had reached new levels that were starting to go into Shen Jiu levels of sabotage. Recalling every single stupid plot pushing papapa inducer he had dealt with in his relatively new marriage that moment passed very quickly, almost as though it never happened. Shang Qinghua’s rectal prolapse, here they come. He’d heal and it would be fine, he just wanted Shang Qinghua to experience a bit of suffering. Shen Yuan would send a gift basket afterward…he’d pack a diaper. Trapped in his monologue of bitterness and spite, mostly due to an empty bed he hated sleeping alone in, Shen Qingqiu startled upon hearing the door slam open.

Oh. Husband. Nice.

There stood Luo Binghe in the doorway, a bit worse for wear, his shoulder, leg and chest, a mess of red, his face a mask of rage and blood splatter, for all its relative stillness. One of his hands gripped the door to keep himself upright.

Well…at least it wasn't sex pollen?

Shen Qingqiu wasn’t sure whose blood it was, but he knew his husband would heal up soon enough, still, he couldn’t just let him stay like that. Sliding briskly out of their bed, he grasped Binghe’s un-injured arm, and threw it around his shoulders.

The body under his touch, startled, and an almost shocked look crossed Luo Binghe’s face, as he tried to pull away sharply.

No. His husband could leave his manly pride elsewhere. Shen Qingqiu’s grip tightened, as he led Binghe to sit on a chair at the side of their bed.

“What did you manage to do to yourself this time?” He chided. “We both know you can heal, but apparently at some point, you seem to have forgotten that dodging is a basic skill taught to even the youngest of martial disciples.” This idiot really did. Did Shen Qingqiu know that was what happened in this case, no. Did he care, also no. Sometimes Shen Qingqiu would watch Luo Binghe stand in front of a blow from a demon beast, on purpose, only for his idiot husband to look back with eyes that clearly said, “praise me”. Praise him for what, exactly? How few braincells he had left? Praise him for having congee in place of a brain?

Luo Binghe’s eyes widened, his pupils contracting in fury, as he watched his miserable wretch of a master drag him to a stool in a room that was both familiar and not. Some of the objects in his personal chamber were the same while others were a clear departure from what he knew. The bed was bigger, and was host to what he assumed were all of the pillows in his estate. There were bottles of various tinctures that looked to be for the skin and hair, and a side table that was bigger than his own. The closet seemed larger. Swathes of thin fabric were thrown over the dressing screen, and who they belonged to, Luo Binghe new not. He assumed they were perhaps a gauze scarf left by one of his wives? The decorations were more sumptuous, rich tapestries, and paintings upon the walls. Candles in many corners of the room, held in delicate containers shaped like bird cages that were decorated with metal swallows, and the branches they perched on.

The largest difference, of course, was the presence of Shen Qingqiu. He entered his rooms aghast to find his former master slipping from his bed, dressed in nothing but a familiar black inner robe. It looked like his own. His master was a painting, white on black, like ink spill on parchment. They were close in height, but Shen Qingqiu was not a broad man. His shoulders thin, his waist even thinner. Dressed in Binghe’s inner robe, it was far too large, the sleeves trailing down thin wrists to reveal only finger tips, the tie sloppy and hastily done.

Languid green eyes pierced through him, as gentle but firm hands held him up. Hair he had never seen out of place until he himself dirtied it, swayed untied, mussed by sleep. The picture stole the breath from his lungs and left them burning. He considered that it was the shock of his former master in such a state that made him speechless, his heart beat speeding up. The shock was what allowed him to let this version of Shen Qingqiu pull him to a stool. It stopped him from pushing the man away even harder. Kept his injured limbs lax. Cut his tongue from forming words.

This Shen Qingqiu was clearly familiar with his living quarters, which was ridiculous as none of his wives shared Luo Binghe’s bedchamber. He would visit them on rotation as his needs demanded but his own space, was his alone. He did not enjoy sharing the things he called his with others.

For now, he would observe this Shen Qingqiu, in this strange world he found. A mocking smile, finding its way onto his face as he watched Shen Qingqiu dip a cloth into a wash basin. What was his former master going to do? Offer him a towel to clean himself off with, or throw a basin at his him like the scalding tea of his youth? Binghe almost snorted at the thought of this petty, worthless rat offering kindness to anyone, pushing down the strange feelings of longing bubbling up inside him.

Long slender fingers, like soft marble branches, titled his head up, as he tried to recoil from the casual propriety of the touch. Luo Binghe was no ones, he belonged only to himself, he could not be touched by anyone as they pleased and this -

The hand that reached for his cheek moved to firmly grasp his chin, and tilt his face upwards. The sheer audacity made Binghe snarl out a possibly uncharacteristic, “No.”

He watched his master’s eyes narrow and waited for the spew of vitriol that would confirm what he knew to be true about this man. What he received instead was: “I don’t think I asked for your opinion, husband.” The fingers at his chin gripped harder, titling his face even further upwards, “You come in bleeding from wounds, you don’t seem to want to explain, in a mood you don’t wish to speak of, and you expect me to leave you be?” The words were spoken at a whisper but they were firm as the fingers grasping his face.

“I will clean you off. I will dress your wounds. And in the morning things will be much better.” Something in those eyes softened, and those slender fingertips moved to stroke him, a thumb trailing down the curve of his cheekbone, right through the blood splatter.

H-husband? Luo Binghe shivered and thought, it must be disgust. Frisson ran down his spine at the command and the only reason he remained still, he reminded himself, was to take stock of the situation around him. He did not become Ruler of both the Demon and Human Realms by being impatient. This world would be the same.

The motion caused the collar of Luo Binghe’s black robe to slip down Shen Qingqiu’s pale shoulder in a sensual display. His face was eye level with the skin that parted from the robe like the flesh of tangerine from its peel. The collarbones that were revealed were delicate, the neck long…the marks numerous. Luo Binghe eyes caught the bruising encasing that thin column. Bites, red and deep, and healing made him trace his own canines with his tongue, running the tip over the sharp points that his other self surely used to paint the white canvas of Shen Qingqiu’s skin, red. The neck in front of him had one distinct bite mark on the right side, the rest of it a mottled purple of love bites. His right shoulder had a matching mark, and from what Luo Binghe could see from his former Shizun’s collarbones and chest, his other self seemed to have savagely announced his claim on Shen Qingqiu in a way that would be hard to doubt. He wonders if his other self ever wrapped his fingers around that graceful throat, his fingertips overlapping.

Shen Qingqiu brought the damp cloth to his face, and Luo Binghe’s gaze flickered to the mark on the inside of his wrist, a beauty mark in centre of it, before his eyes shut into slits that allowed him to preserve his sight as those hands helped clean the blood from his face. He’d broken those fingers before. The cloth moved from his forehead, in short careful strokes, to his cheeks, and then his chin. Shen Qingqiu’s other hand coming to trail up Luo Binghe’s neck, leaving goosebumps in its wake as it massaged a place his wives had never found, blunt nails, scratching just so at the back of his skull and Luo Binghe felt the goosebumps spread and told himself it was from the horror of being touched by Shen Qingqiu. Ignoring the pleasure building in his belly.

The cloth was placed in the basin, and the water wrung out, before he was cleaned once more, a playful swipe at his nose, startling him. It brought to mind kittens playfully licking his fingers. Shen Qingqiu’s face showed nothing of the motion, cleaning him off without a single care that Luo Binghe was covered in blood, and dirt, and his own ichor. 

Again his eyes were drawn back to the marks. He wondered how far down they went. He wondered at a Shen Qingqiu who would allow Luo Binghe to touch him in such a manner, and there was no doubt in his mind that he fucked his Shizun. Why else would Shizun be here, in what is presumably their room, tendering to him with such care, calling him husband?

He had never left such marks on anyone, a love bite or two, a suckling of skin till it turned pink, an erect nipple in his mouth turning red, had been his norm. His wives, each one, would find the chain of mottling on Shen Qingqiu’s person abhorrent and abusive if he tried to inflict the same on them. His fingers were always gentle, play-rough if need be, occasionally desperate, but never the hungry open maw that mauled Shen Qingqiu. Not even under the influence of Xin Mo. He does not think he’s ever felt like that about a single person, like he wanted to devour them, sex more of a tool than a pleasure for Original Luo Binghe. A repetitive cadence of shoving his dick in and out of wet opening, tits in his mouth, or a warm cunt, while he shook off the excess of his need and made someone else’s day.

Shen Qingqiu’s mouth looked kiss bruised. If such a thing were even possible. How long, and how hard would one have to kiss, to leave an irritation that would stay for, presumably days?

Gentle hands divested him from his crown, pulling out the decorative pin keeping it in place. Shen Qingqiu’s palms both reached up the nape of his neck to ruffle his hair and massage the skin. Luo Binghe leaned into the touch. Those same palms dropped to his shoulders and began to part him from his robes. Nimble fingers un-doing his belt and side tie, carelessly flinging them to another chair.

“What am I to do with you. Hmm?” Shen Qingqiu asked as he pressed a kiss to Luo Binghe’s demon mark and Luo Binghe held himself very still. Those same hands gripped the cloth once more, making quick work of cleaning his wounds. Kneeling to check on his leg, Shen Qingqiu rose upon clicking his tongue, internally deeming the gash to be a flesh wound.

“You’re well enough to take a quick bath in the healing spring. I’ll lay out the medicine…would you like me to come with you?” Shen Qingqiu fussed.

“No. I’ll bathe on my own.” Luo Binghe replied, his voice strained. This casual touching, these easy moments of affection, when Luo Binghe was not fucking his presumable-husband were making him queasy. His wives had their own palaces, and unless they were making love, they certainly did not have the gall to touch Luo Binghe as they pleased, to offer comfort beyond the pat of a hand, the offering of tea, or a consoling ear. Some days Luo Binghe made love to his wives to feel their skin against his.

He was unsure what to do, when touch was seemingly being offered freely without the expectation that he would then divest Shen Qingqiu clothes, and slake his notoriously insatiable appetite. That was a phrase Luo Binghe never considered would cross his mind.

Worried green eyes gazed down at him, and a hand patted his head. How many years had it been since someone touched him so gently without any payment required on his part? Not usually monetary, although on occasion, but payment in regards to his effort, food, blood, protection, something. Anything.   

“Go on.” Shen Qingqiu shooed, and Luo Binghe limped his way to one of the springs, briskly washing himself. It was the shock he repeated once more. It had to be.

He returns to find their room lit with candles, and a nausea builds in his stomach. He’s made love to his wives with a broken leg before, and three fractured ribs, why would this be any different? He feels a mild resentment building until his eyes catch sight of the figure sitting on the edge of their bed.

His breath leaves his body in a shaky exhale.

He thinks he has begun his ascension. He is no longer a part of the earthly realm.

Any manner of resentment or nausea leaves his body only to be replaced by a yearning hunger hot enough to melt steel. His pillar rises as though returning from the dead, serving as a diving rod that points towards a treasure that Luo Binghe had clearly overlooked in his own world. Though, to be fair his Shizun was a piece of shit, whereas, this, this was….was his Shizun like this, he thinks hysterically?

His eyes trail up from swaying feet, bare and delicate, to the marks left on thin ankles. They move their way up creamy thighs painted green by the sheer fabric overlying them, that hid nothing from Binghe’s greedy sight. He himself, is dressed in nothing but an inner robe, his cock a hard outline as he peruses his husband. Shen Qingqiu’s thighs are love-bitten, his cock nestled in a thatch of soft looking curls. At no other time, has Luo Binghe thought of fucking another man. The sight of Shen Qingqiu’s pillar makes him pause, a small inaudible whimper leaving his mouth. Pillars were not a thing that he particularly cared for, or thought about, but this soft nestled thing made his mouth water. It looked to be pale as the rest of Shen Qinqgiu with a darker flush towards the tip. He wanted to stroke them together and watch as that little cock hardened against his own. He knew that surely Shen Qingqiu was of an average size, but Luo Binghe happened to be far above average. In everything.

Swallowing his mouthful of saliva, he moved his gaze upwards with great difficulty, and noted a waist he could wrap his hands around firmly, not as thin as his wives but then again Shen Qingqiu was man. He was distracted from such thoughts by two nipples that seemed to stare at him seductively from their place on that muscled chest, the planes flat instead of curved. Binghe thought he’d enjoy the feel nonetheless. A new experience to try, a new dish to sample. Other him clearly had a good time, so how wrong would it be for this Binghe to have a taste?

As a disciple he acknowledged that his Shizun looked peerlessly elegant and beautiful but he certainly didn’t want to bend him over a table and take him. He wanted to be him. At this moment he was a good three seconds away from jumping onto that obnoxiously large bed, and ruining the sheets, his mind cracking like an egg.

Slender hands, appeared to be stroking a comb through glossy black hair, the fabric pooling at the crook of Shen Qingqiu’s elbows. Thick eyelashes fluttered open as this succubus masquerading as his former Shizun glided towards Luo Binghe, pulling his lax body into bed by the hand in a parody of his earlier actions. Luo Binghe was ready, anticipating the pleasure to come. His heart was beating like a war drum in his chest as he prepared himself mentally, his mouth forming a seductive smirk…as he was promptly tucked underneath the covers like a child…..

....Where was the sex?

He wanted the sex now. Was, was this foreplay? Did other him get off on weirdly parental doting?

His face was frozen in the form of a smirk as Shen Qingqiu quickly snuck his hand under the covers not the grab Luo Binghe’s turgid pillar and seduce him into a pleasing and wild marital romp, but to smear salve onto his wounds.

Shen Qingqiu then laid beside him, in the sluttiest robe Luo Binghe had ever seen in his entire life, and that was saying something because he married Sha Hualing, and cuddled up to Luo Binghe. Shen Qingqiu placed a hand on his chest and pushed his own spiritual energy into Binghe’s meridians. How nice, but where exactly was the fucking? Luo Binghe could probably bend a sword with his dick at the moment, and there lay his most-likely-husband clearing aiming for a good hard round of Luo Binghe’s dick in his ass, and what was Shen Qingqiu doing? Healing him? In that robe? Who did he think he was fooling, clearly he wanted Binghe to make the first move. That was fine, Binghe could do that. Some of his wives always required initial coaxing because they were too embarrassed to admit they liked it when he gave it to them.

Sidling closer, Binghe began to slide his uninjured hand, which was conveniently the hand Shen Qingqiu was pretending to doze beside as he waited for his husband to comply with his marital duties. He groped at Shen Qingqiu’s waist and immediately his Shizun’s hand, the one on his chest, with the bizarrely cute fingernails, slapped his pectoral firmly, and pulled Binghe’s hand away from his waist.

“Binghe. No. You’re injured.” Shen Qingqiu snapped.

Feisty. Binghe kind of liked that, shmoozing close again Binghe pleaded, “I need you. I’m aching without your touch.” There, that usually worked on his wives. Their egos appeased by his mild pleading as they did what he wanted them to, while feeling special.

The hand that returned to his chest slapped him once more, and Shen Qingqiu ignored him. He reached for that rear, plump and firm as a peach. The moment his hand came in contact. Shen Qingqiu shot up to glare down at him, what a return to his youth, he thought with some nostalgia.

“Luo Binghe, you are injured. We are not doing nothing. We are going to sleep and I am going to heal you. Do you understand, you ridiculous man? Lie there are be obedient, ”Shen Qingqiu berated. The voice was harsh but the hand tapping his chest was soft, as though it could not bear to hurt him. The slaps were nothing to Luo Binghe’s constitution and they both knew it. They tickled. They would probably be nothing to a mortal constitution either, they were so light. Shen Qingqiu’s thumb and forefinger reached up to squeeze Binghe’s cheeks and pull. He had cut off people hands for lesser infractions, but he was feeling out this stranger dimension so he would let this go. Never mind that something in him felt warm at the playful behaviour.

“Then why did you wear those robes?” Binghe shot back, his mouth still stretched horizontally. Surely, surely he was being seduced. There was no other conceivable option. 

Usually Shen Qingqiu was hard to read, even when he was dying, but in this moment, Shen Qingqiu’s indignation was clear in the wrinkle of his nose as he bit out, “These are my sleeping robes. You bought them. I wear them all the time, what makes this night different than all the rest?” Pulling his cheeks one last time, Shen Qingqiu let go to play with the hem of his sleeves.

Luo Binghe nearly choked on his own spit, “Sleeping robes?” He asked incredulously. Those were not sleeping robes, he had upwards of six hundred wives. That scrap of fabric was barely classified as a robe in a first place. It was made of the same material a scarf would be made of, it was far too sheer to be a robe.

Shen Qingqiu blinked at him in confusion and started to check his head as though seeing whether or not he had fever, he was a Heavenly Demon, they didn’t get fevers, but that didn’t seem to matter to this fascinatingly strange version of his former Shizun. Luo Binghe pressed his hands away, “Sleeping robes?” He repeated to confirm. Just to be sure.

Shen Qingqiu looked down at him, eyes clear of lust. Completely innocent. Not pretending to be free of lust in a portrayal of innocence to stoke Luo Binghe appetite but instead clear as rainwater. As snow, as a new born child.

He always assumed that Shen Qingqiu was a lech, and perhaps his own was, or Luo Binghe had made a mistake, but the untainted creature in this bed clearly had no idea what he was wearing. He was reluctantly impressed by the audacity of Other Luo Binghe…and the seeming obliviousness of his Shizun. Perhaps he could shove his dick down that beautiful throat and call it medicine? Perhaps the man in this bed would believe him?

“You look lovely in them.” He offered, hoping to stave off questions about head injuries. His pillar might actually fall off in the nighttime though, at the rate this was going, if they didn’t get to fucking at some point.

“You’ll go to sleep?” Shen Qingqiu queried, looking down at him while biting his lip in worry.

“Mnn.” Luo Binghe agreed. It was fine, he’d ruin that ass in the morning. He could wait. He didn’t become a Demon Lord by lacking patience. He paused before continuing to speak, wanting to test the new word on his tongue: “Husband.” Luo Binghe called out, his voice sweet as honey.

“Mmn.” Shen Qingqiu answered, gazing at him trustingly. Wasn’t that novel.

“Husband.” Luo Binghe called with more confidence.

“Mmn.”

“Husband.” Luo Binghe repeated once more.

Shen Qingqiu huffed at him, “Why are you calling for me? I’m right here.”

Luo Binghe chuckled, “I wanted to hear how it sounded.” He only had wives after all. A husband was a fresh idea.

Shen Qingqiu started to sink down beside him again, before pausing, propping his upper body up with his elbow…and kissing Luo Binghe on the lips. Luo Binghe’s traitorous heart skipped another beat, as Shen Qingqiu snuggled into his side, hand once again pressing Qi into his meridians.

Here he was in his bed chamber, pillar permanently at the state of erection, injured, with what was possibly the most seductive being he had ever seen in his life, holding onto his control by a thread the width of a single hair. In the morning, he would pounce on his husband, and get a taste of what other him had clearly been enjoying. Vigorously.

Looking at that sleeping face, he started to travel into Shen Qingqiu’s dreams. He may as well see what he was working with….or at least he tried until a leg was thrown over his hips, a smooth knee pressing into his groin interrupting his concentration and bringing him back to the realm of the physical.

Snatching a look at Shen Qingqiu’s face, he noted that his husband was still fast asleep. Luo Binghe’s hand once again curled its way onto that plump rear inching closer towards the entrance he knew he’d split open in theory. Licking, his canines he rocked against that knee as Shen Qingqiu made kittenish mewls in his sleep. He was going to enjoy this.

His index finger brushed against something hard.

Pausing, Luo Binghe traced along Shen Qingqiu’s entrance through the green “robe”. It was almost as though a compact of some sort had fallen down Shen Qingqiu’s robes and…

Oh.

Oh. That was. There was a….choking on air, his fingers spasmed without his permission as his mind went red with lust, his pillar already teased beyond reason by the display that had put him to bed, burst in an action that had not occurred since he was but a boy, cum staining his thighs, belly, and robe, at the idea of Shen Qingqiu stuffed with a…with a…what did one even call such a thing? Kept warm and open and ready, for Luo Binghe.

Grabbing one of the many pillows on the bed, Luo Binghe shoved it over his burning face, letting out a silent scream, his humiliation at war with his lust. He wanted to both never speak of this again and rip the robes of his husband and shove his still hard cock into the heat, replacing that…that…

Luo Binghe flung the pillow away, moving swiftly to trap the sleeping man in between his hands, perching above Shen Qingqiu like a very strange spider. His breath was coming in shallow and heavy as he looked at his husband, asleep, and trusting, and still feeding him Qi through the contact of their skin, and promptly flipped back over to lay on the bed, tucking that figure against his chest.

He swore he’d make Shen Qingqiu suffer for this in the morning. Shen Qingqiu, dead to the world, snuggled into the arms that were now locked around him.

Luo Binghe eyes were glowing red, his fingers twitching to check if his husband was still stuffed with a false pillar…and maybe even Other Luo Binghe’s cum. He had never even heard of a contraption like this, but this distilled mirror image of himself clearly had some good ideas.

Come morning, Luo Binghe had spent the night staring at the ceiling, contemplating if it had been a good idea to kill his own Shen Qingqiu or not? His Shizun and this Shizun were clearly two different people, he was sure. His Shen Qingqiu had certainly never given reason to believe he’d allow Luo Binghe to take liberties with his person, but the two Shizuns had the same body. Luo Binghe could have enjoyed watching his former master suffer the indignity of Luo Binghe forcing himself on the man, to make up for the suffering he was going through now.

Perhaps it would have been soothing? He had taken everything away from that Shen Qingqiu after all, his reputation, his freedom…his mobility. What was one more piece?

His thighs felt disgusting from the dried cum.

Come morning Shen Qingqiu was a bit dazed from expending so much Qi.

Blearily looking up at his husband, he was taken aback by the way he was aggressively pulled onto a firm lap. Binghe threw him down and ground his crotch onto Shen Qingqiu’s backside. Hands parting legs, as Binghe rubbed against him, a hot mouth coming down onto his, a tongue instantly invading.

This was not unfamiliar, but there was something wrong. Shen Qingqiu was tired, so maybe he was making a mistake…but the hands.

The hands were wrong.

He knew his husbands touch, and even though the hands were the same, and the mouth just as ravenous, it was wrong. Binghe always grabbed Shen Qingqiu a little higher up the thigh, lightly massaging his muscle instead of prying them apart. He would never jump Shen Qingqiu without reassuring him that he was okay when he was injured, and playfully cuddling him a bit. On a different morning maybe he’d be so vigorous, but not this one. These hands were callous, skilled to be sure, but something was missing from them.

Shen Qingqiu’s mind flashed to the Original Luo Binghe of his nightmares. The one he met in the Punishment Realm, who divested him of two limbs with a smile. That greedy broken boy trying to fill himself by swallowing the world whole.

Looking into red eyes, Shen Qingqiu found himself recognizing a man who was not his. Who took liberties with him that made Shen Qingqiu’s anger build. This manipulative little shit-beast. What on earth did he do with Shen Qingqiu’s husband? What was he trying to do with Shen Qingqiu now? Was any hole good enough for him, or was he enjoying making a mockery of Shen Qingqiu’s marriage?

Lying pliantly underneath those hands, Shen Qingqiu lifted his right leg as though to part his thighs further before slamming his knee into Luo Binghe’s chest injury. Luo Binghe startled, letting out a groan before grabbing Shen Qingqiu tighter, refusing to let go, his face turning from a seductive smoulder into a mocking smile.

“What’s the matter husband? Won’t you please this Lord?” He queried sarcastically. Yeah. Definitely not his husband. Luo Binghe didn’t talk to him like that. Like he was something to be toyed with and discarded.

Shen Qingqiu moved his hand to strike the evil dimension hopping twin. Original Luo Binghe grabbed his hand and pushed it to the bed.

Shen Qingqiu caught a flash of movement from the corner of his eyes and had never been so happy to be married to the protagonist. He was a good second away from activating the blood locked seals that would turn their bedroom into a safe house, barring even Luo Binghe from entering, as the seals used his blood, instead of Binghe’s. No such thing had existed in the novel, but his husband was unseasonably paranoid that someone would “steal” Shen Qingqiu and Shen Qingqiu had never been more thankful that his Binghe was mildly psychotic until this moment.

However, the conveniently timed rescue…was to the rescue. So no safe room would thankfully be needed.

Neither Shen Qingqiu or Luo Binghe gave any warning as Luo Binghe pulled the doppelganger off of Shen Qingqiu, holding up his mirror image like an unruly dog. His hand gripped Original Binghe’s neck as he smiled at him. In truth, it was less a smile and more a bearing of his teeth. Xin Mo was unsealed and tucked firmly into Binghe’s hand, another Xin Mo notched at his belt.

“Hello, Shizun, allow this disciple to remove the trash from your vicinity.” Binghe announced,  hand tightening at the invader's windpipe.

“Binghe.” Shen Qingqiu called out, as the duplicate responded with a counterattack, snatching one Xin Mo from his husband's belt.

His husband raised a hand and called the sword back.

The thing was, his husband was…umm…possibly more powerful than the original version of Luo Binghe? Yeah, Shen Qingqiu didn’t know how that happened either.

Here was the math, according to Shen Qingqiu. Original Luo Binghe used Xin Mo at the cost of constantly needing to expel Yang energy, through sex. In order to keep using the Demon Sword he had to fuck his way through an uncountable number of wives. Xin Mo had eaten all of its previous wielders, and in true protagonist-weapon style it was both unbeatable and served as an excuse for the size and necessity of Luo Binghe’s Harem. The sword granted power but it was easy to be consumed by it. By bleeding off excess Luo Binghe was able to keep control…and stop himself from becoming food for the parasitic hell-beast calling itself Xin Mo.

His Binghe, had umm…never had that problem?

When asked, all he did was smile reassuringly at Shen Qingqiu and say that, it was small issue and that Xin Mo was very easy to control, really, almost like Zheng Yang. Which was a crock of horse shit but Shen Qingqiu nodded along with it because he was a caring husband who sometimes allowed his spouse to get away with some bullshit. The only time Luo Binghe had trouble with Xin Mo was in the Ling Xi caves but afterwards, it was as though once he claimed Shen Qingqiu he became perfectly stable? Which was impossible. Binghe must have overcome the sword in some kind of xianxia trial and never told him, deeming it unnecessary.

So there was Luo Binghe holding two Xin Mo’s while his evil twin’s eyes were wide in shock, but not the good shock. The, oh fuck kind of shock. 

“Some dogs don’t know their place,” His Luo Binghe spat out as he stared down the evil twin. “Some dogs think they can come piss in other people’s estates when the owner is gone.”

Sending a flare of demonic energy so potent you could taste it, his husband continued, “Some filthy mongrels don’t know how to keep their fucking hands to themselves and need to be put down for their own good.”

He had never heard Binghe swear before thought Shen Qingqiu, as he grabbed Xiu Ya and a blanket to cover himself with.

Original Luo Binghe laughed at him, sending out his own energy in echoing flares, as the two powerhouses clashed. It had been a while since an opponent put either of them on edge, “It’s not my fault you couldn’t get any women in your harem. What was I supposed to do?” snarked evil twin.

His husband’s face darkened, as, instead of reaching for Xin Mo like a sane person, he met Bingge’s fist with his own. Both of their arms cracking at the impact. Both of their eyes glowing red.

….

Luo Binghe’s glared at this intruder, his eyes burning. He would skin this miserable son of a bitch, and use him a rug for their room. How dare he come into Luo Binghe’s home and disrespect his husband? His sweet, gentle, husband who needed to have nothing to do with a lech who ruined his own world, and had a palace filled with women, yet came here to touch Luo Binghe’s own Shizun.

He heard the rumours, slipping into the dream of a resting concubine. That version of Luo Binghe killed his Shen Qingqiu. What did he want with this Luo Binghe’s, Shen Qingqiu?

“I saw your Domain. Over six hundred concubines, and not one Empress, not one real spouse. What was there to want from your Palace, exactly?” Luo Binghe commented, as though speaking on the weather. “I touched none of your women, and yet here you are, trying to steal my rightful First Wife? My only spouse.”

Binghe’s hands gripped at his own Xin Mo, and the double, the faded, pathetic mirror image once again grabbed a Xin Mo, tearing a space open before fleeing with his tail behind his legs. Shooting one last glance at Shen Qingqiu.

How quaint. Like he didn’t think that Luo Binghe wouldn’t rip him apart for his transgressions. Like Binghe would let this go, like Binghe didn’t recognize that look of lust on his own face. His double had another thing coming to him if he believed that Binghe would ever forget this. His seething rage was tucked into a corner as he turned to his husband. Now was not the time for anger. He was a patient man. He had waited years to claim his Shizun, he could wait longer for his revenge.

Facing a Shen Qingqiu whose one hand was on Xiu Ya, the other grabbing a blanket to try and preserve some modesty the change on Luo Binghe was as abrupt as night and day. It was severe enough to give a person emotional whiplash.

Gone was the angry God tier Demon Lord, and in his place was a soft eyed man, clutching Shen Qingqiu close to his chest, wrapping the blanket firmly around his husband. His hand removing Xiu Ya from those white knuckles, to place the sword on a side table. He healed his broken arm quickly in order to hold his husband with more ease.

“This husband apologizes for his tardiness.” Binghe pleaded. His fingers gentle as they pet Shen Qingqiu’s hair allowing the man to hide. He ran his Qi through Shen Qingqiu’s body to check for injuries, seals, or other such tampering.

Pleased to find nothing he asked, his voice a croon, “Where did that beast touch you, let your Binghe make it better, hmm?”

Shen Qingqiu refused to look up, his hands holding the edge of Luo Binghe’s robes with a grip as tight as the one he had on his sword.

“Husband must have been very frightened but worry not, your Binghe will take care of it.” Luo Binghe reassured as he felt Shen Qingqiu press closer into his chest, practically plastering himself to Binghe’s front.

 Gazing down adoringly, Binghe kissed the top of Shen Qingqiu’s head. Moving one hand to settle below his rear, the other on his back, he swept Shen Qingqiu into his arms and rocked him back and forth slightly as he walked to the hot springs. “Let’s take a bath. This husband will wash you clean, and change the sheets, and make you, your favourite congee. You’ll see, your Binghe make this right. I swear it.”

He was going to burn the sheets, and later, much later, when he had the time, he was going to track down that piece of utter shit and slit his throat. He’d bring his head back on a pike as proof of his love, and if anyone dared to make his husband as small and quiet as he looked right now, Binghe would do the same to them.

Pest control was such an annoying constant in his life. Head down, Shen Qingqiu could not see the bloodlust in his husband’s eyes.

Chapter Text

Shen Qingqiu curled himself into Luo Binghe’s arms, as his husband carried him to the bath, calloused hands caressing him as though to make sure he was there, present, instead of stolen away into the nether, by a man wearing his husband’s face.

Shen Qingqiu did not look up from Luo Binghe’s neck, as he was washed with water and soap alone, Binghe pilling his hair atop his head with casual twist of a soft black tie. It’s only when Binghe began to let his hair down again, to untangle it with a wide toothed comb that Shen Qingqiu could bring himself to look up.

“I’m okay.” Shen Qingqiu whispered.

Binghe hummed to acknowledge that heard him speak, but otherwise remained fixated on his actions. As though he could wash the presence of the other him from Shen Qingqiu’s skin if he tried. Luo Binghe’s eyes were sharp, as he set the comb aside to grab for an oil that he poured onto one open palm carelessly. As though it were cheap.

He then lifted himself with ease to sit at the edge of their hot spring.

They were bathing in the underground of the Palace. A large expansive spring, made to mimic the outside world dominated the room. A small waterfall burbled in the corner, spreading waves of mist. The bottom of the spring was filled with smooth stones, and soft plants that grew comfortably in the heat. The water was a clear, pale green that smelled mildly herbal, its borders edged by large smooth rocks, meant for laying out on, or the softest of grass, coloured an unusual shade of pale teal. The walls were covered in talismans that promoted the circulation of heat, and prevented others from entering. The ceiling was both high and invisible, from the mist that swirled about, impairing their vision. This was not the only spring contained in the palace, but it certainly was the largest.

Shen Qingqiu, when he first saw it, had been taken aback by the massive terraformed bathhouse, before helping himself to the wooden buckets that contained familiar bathing supplies. The spring had seals on the bottom, carved into the bedrock, that absorbed dirt and debris only to place it…somewhere else. The place where all things that were vanished went to, Shen Qingqiu supposed. A kind of all purpose, garbage dimension.

All that meant was that he didn't have to bother with cleansing himself before going into the main spring, or worry about soaps and oils polluting the water. The filtration was built in.

Binghe, sitting on the grass, one palm still cupping oil, used the other to scoop Shen Qingqiu up from the water and onto his lap, slathering his hair with the oil first, before pouring more out for his body. The latter, a practice Shen Qingqiu found ridiculous as Luo Binghe would just have to add more oil, or lotion onto Shen Qingqiu’s skin once he was dry. Settling himself on Luo Binghe’s thighs, Shen Qingqiu allowed his husband to check over his limbs, searching for new marks, looking for cuts, or scrapes, with focus.

Binghe grasped Shen Qingqiu’s hands, inspecting his nails for cracks. Finding none, he poured more oil and massaged it in, paying special attention to his cuticles, palms, and the insides of his wrists. Today’s scent was something similar to camomile. Shen Qingqiu honestly did not know what its name was despite its frequent presence in his baths. Luo Binghe was the one who kept their toiletries stocked, and usually he did a great job. Only once had Binghe picked out some musky concoction that Shen Qingqiu turned his nose at.

Shen Qingqiu allowed himself to drift off into a haze, his husband holding him safe. His mind turned to thoughts of the other Binghe without his permission….in retrospect Shen Qingqiu could recall that the double’s hair was worn in a slightly more complex style, and that his hem was edged in gold. His Binghe had gone off to deal with a conflict, not attend a diplomatic meeting, or celebration. He had been too flustered by the bleeding to notice.

….it was terrifying to find himself in bed with a man who looked like his husband, spoke with his voice, and yet wasn’t him.

It was invasive, and unpleasant. It made Shen Qingqiu want to empty his stomach…and yet. 

There was something of his own Binghe there. They were two vastly different people, their experiences shaping them to traverse two different paths…and yet Shen Qingqiu knew what sadness looked like on his husband’s face. What desperation and loneliness sounded like, in his voice, even when it was spewing such shit.

Shen Qingqiu wasn’t stupid enough to look at a broken man, and want to fix him at his own expense. He had a husband, he had a life, and he did not want to get in the crossfires of another Demon Lord, one more unstable than his own. He just…he felt sorry for him. Which was stupid, and Shen Yuan wanted to smack himself because it was this sort of thinking that got people killed. He read the book, he knew precisely how much Original Luo Binghe had, because Shang Qinghua could not stop shoving Luo Binghe’s accomplishments into the reader’s faces…and yet…

His own Binghe was unsettled, he knew that too. He needed to focus on that. He needed to find the words to say, that would explain the things his husband must have seen in the other universe. How did Shen Yuan even begin to say that he knew things he couldn’t possibly know? That he knew what Luo Binghe saw, and he wasn’t worried, at all? That he trusted his husband not to leave him for six hundred other women, or hold his power against him, or use the Heavenly Demon Blood in Shen Yuan’s body for his own gain?

Shen Yuan drank that blood, himself, biting into his husband's neck on their wedding night to swallow. Refusing to say another word, because Luo Binghe could feel his blood in Shen Qingqiu’s body, and knew exactly what had been offered to him. How did he remind Luo Binghe that he was not going to run away from him again, more than that?

Shen Qingqiu let his husband dry him, and braid his hair, slip him into a thicker sleeping robe, and bring them both back into their room. His compliance was all he could offer.

For a moment they lay in the bed of a guest room together, Luo Binghe with his head on Shen Qingqiu’s chest, tracing patterns on Shen Qingqiu’s collarbones.

Shen Yuan feels the hand on him, and thinks of who he was a lifetime ago, unable to breathe, choking on the fluid in his own lungs, stuck in a hospital bed. He thinks of waking in a body that was not his, of breathing in for the first time in years without pain, of breathing in, and becoming Shen Qingqiu.

The world he lived in was often magical, yes, but more importantly, it was dangerous. The wretched and divine. In his first world, it would be impossible for a man to control Shen Yuan’s body with a drop of blood, here he offered that power freely to his husband. There, it would be unthinkable for a man to wear his partner’s face and pretend to be him, here it was simply another possibility to face.

Here…in the jianghu, from human skin masks, to people from other universes splitting open the divide, the world was rife with a new sort of chaos determined by nonsensical powers instead of commerce and smog.

Absentmindedly Shen Qingqiu pet his fingers through Luo Binghe’s curls, twining them between his thumb and forefinger.

“What did Binghe see in that world?” Shen Qingqiu offers. Binghe’s mouth is a tight line, his lips pressed together.

“Many things.” Binghe offers back.

“He had a large harem?” Shen Qingqiu asked. It was lucky Binghe was the one who blurted it out earlier, or else how would Shen Qingqiu excuse his own knowledge of the Original Luo Binghe’s marital circumstances? By which he meant his improbable amount of wives.

Binghe’s arms tightened around Shen Qingqiu, looking up from his position on Shen Qingqiu’s chest. “You alone, are more than enough for me. This husband will never take another spouse, and Shizun should never worry about my fidelity. I am loyal to you, and you alone. If I lie, may the Gods strike me down where I stand, and if they fail to do so, this Luo Binghe will cut off my own arms,” he swore.

Why was his husband so melodramatic? Shen Qingqiu didn’t want his severed limbs as an apology for an infraction that would never happen. He would say that pigs would fly before Luo Binghe cheated on him but in this world there were a few species that did, so he went with the idea that the day Shang Qinghua stopped being a squirmy little rat-man, and actually managed to write something decent, would be the day Luo Binghe still didn’t cheat on him. Because his husband loved him and Luo Binghe’s fidelity was not dependent on Shang Qinghua. This time.

Shen Qingqiu raised an eyebrow. “I’m not worried about your fidelity. I trust the man I married. I only wanted to know what you saw that bothered you so?”

Shen Qingqiu carefully does not think of a limbless torso, missing one of its eyes.

Binghe shut his own. Fuck. He knew it. Or at least he suspected that his idiot disciple dug too deep, and learned a few things he didn’t want to know.

“Did something bad happen to me?” Shen Qingqiu inquired gently, and he knows that it wasn’t him per se, in whatever fucking memories Binghe perused, but Binghe doesn’t know that. Shen Qingqiu and Shen Jiu look that same, and he physically can’t tell Binghe that he’s actually not Shen Jiu, so he’s making do with what he’s got, which is trying to reassure his husband that Shen Qingqiu knows he’d never kill him…even if a very different version of him, who was not him, did. It was complicated, alright. Like eating soup, with both hands behind his back, and a straw. Or trying to convince his husband that it didn’t matter that one version of him brutally tortured a version Shen Qingqiu to death.

Luo Binghe does not open his eyes.

Shen Qingqiu pursed his lips. “I was dead, wasn’t I?”

Luo Binghe is silent, and for few long seconds that drag on like years, he does not move, before nodding his head minutely. Shen Qingqiu sighed, “It’s fine.”

Luo Binghe’s eyes snapped open. “It is not fine, I-“ He cuts himself off before he can continue.

Shen Qingqiu stares him down before, starting. “Are you him?” he asks, and Binghe looks at Shen Qingqiu in confusion. “Are you him?” Shen Qingqiu repeats.

“No.” Binghe answers weakly, his fingers trembling as he clutches at Shen Qingqiu’s robes.

“Then let’s assume that I’m not that other Shen Qingqiu. Our lives shape us. You are not that Binghe, and he is not you. You did not kill that Shen Qingqiu, and that Shen Qingqiu may have never known you, let alone loved you. They are different people wearing our faces Binghe. We should not judge their actions as though they are our own.”

Binghe frowned. “Then tell me, husband, you who knows me best, that you did not see something of that Luo Binghe, in me. That there was no a chance of me becoming him.”

This overpowered, angsty drama queen. “What does it matter?” Shen Qingqiu countered. “You didn’t. I could have beaten you until your bones broke as disciple. I could have made your life miserable. I could have been cruel, and yet I was not. What does it matter, what we didn’t do? We are both alive, and have managed to find our way to each other. I could have stayed dead, Binghe. So what does it matter, who you could have become in the face of who you are?”

Binghe takes in a sharp breath as though he has been stabbed. His eyes teary, and mildly relieved.

Shen Qingqiu freezes, and it is as though ice has filled his veins instead of blood, because that last part, might not have sounded wrong in terms of the conversation they were having, and Shen Qingqiu’s ongoing tendencies for biblical style resurrection…

But.

The block on his mouth worked on both intent, and the words he spoke…he wasn’t able to give hints about the Abyss before Binghe was sent down there, because of that, and, oh, how that had driven him half mad at the time. He had to cut the note he left for Binghe from an older missive to Mu Qingfang, requesting burn salve.

The thing was, he could have been talking about his first death, or his second, or his third, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t talking about staying dead in the world of Proud Immortal Demon Way. He was talking about the first time he died. In a hospital bed, holding his sister’s hand because she was the only one who was “lucky” enough to be there that day.

“I had a sister.” Slips from his mouth like a memory almost forgotten and Shen Qingqiu freezes, once again.

Luo Binghe paused and looked at him, confused at the change in conversation, but Shen Qingqiu’s heart is racing, and he does not know how long this will last, and he is borderline hysterical, so he clutches Luo Binghe’s arms and digs his nails into firm biceps, his eyes manic as he blurts out, “We need to talk.” As though they were not already talking.

Luo Binghe panics at his panic, and sits up, his relief leaving as he tries to soothe Shen Qingqiu, and Shen Qingqiu bats his hands away and tries again, almost biting his own tongue in his speed, “No. Look. This is, this is important, and I don’t know how long this is going to last.”

Luo Binghe made an offended noise at that.

“Not you, you idiot,“ snapped Shen Qingqiu. “You’ll last forever, it’s something else.” Like a giant demonic cockroach...but handsome. Or their love was eternal, blah, blah, blah. One of those. Maybe both. 

Apparently when a parallel universe was introduced the rules went out the window. Go figure. Shen Qingqiu might be able talk now. Thank you, Luo Bingge. Shen Qingqiu felt dirty even thinking those words.

“Look.” Shen Qingqiu grabbed at Luo Binghe’s shoulders, “You can hate me if you want to, but you have to understand that Shen Jiu died. He died, and I died as well. I died, and I woke up, and for some reason our worlds crossed.”

Luo Binghe’s eyes widened, and he examined his husband as though searching for missing parts, Shen Qingqiu looked down, and waited for a blow. Emotional, more than physical because he didn’t think Binghe was about to hit him, but he foresaw a dungeon trip in his future. This was not, at all, the best time to be having this conversation, with his husband already so frazzled but they needed to, because if Shen Qingqiu couldn’t say anything in two hours, he would regret not saying something now, for the rest of his existence.

“When?” Binghe asked as though people stealing other people’s bodies was a normal thing that happened sometimes.

“After the fever, when you were still a disciple.” Shen Yuan admitted.

Luo Binghe remembered, he recalled a time when Shen Qingqiu’s eyes turned from the frost of winter to the melting brooks of spring. When his Shizun became his teacher, instead of a cold austere figure dealing out punishment with no reward. Somehow it made an awful amount of sense that instead of Shizun changing his mind about Binghe, he simply…became someone else.

Binghe has so many questions but what he starts with is: “Why didn’t husband tell me?“ Only to recall the words Shen Qingqiu started with. He did not know how much time he had, which implied a limit on his speech.

“You couldn’t?” Luo Binghe asked, and Shen Qingqiu nodded catching the distinction, removing his hands from Luo Binghe’s shoulders and curling them into fists on his lap.

Shen Qingqiu took a deep breath and began to tell Luo Binghe, what he knew of the truth, “You know how that Luo Binghe came from somewhere else. A different world?”

Binghe hummed in acknowledgement, settled in the fact that his Shizun, was in fact, his Shizun, instead of a replacement that he failed to notice.

“I was born somewhere very different. Even more so than the world of that Luo Binghe. It had no cultivation.”

Binghe could not begin to imagine such a place.

Shen Qingqiu’s clenched fists turned to open palms, which led to fingers that fiddled with his sleeves as Luo Binghe processed the idea that his Shizun had to adapt to an entire culture, essentially blind. That must have been terribly difficult for him.

Shen Qingqiu spoke carefully, his words slowing down, “In that world, this world was a novel.”

Binghe frowned in offence.

“I think that my original world, and even this one are probably novels somewhere else. It does not mean that our world is lesser, or not real, it just means that there are many more worlds than we can even begin to imagine.”

At some point Binghe placed his hands on his lap and assumed a kneeling position, like a good disciple, taking in one more lesson from his Shizun. His Shizun who took him from a woodshed, who clothed him, fed him, and taught him how to cultivate even when he was…who taught him how to love. Luo Binghe, himself saw a different world, running a parallel path to his own. He held back his curiosity as to Shen Qingqiu’s world of origin, and instead listened to him to speak.

“I read that novel, and then I died, and for some reason it was decided that I was to fulfill the role of Shen Jiu, who most likely died in this world when he was not supposed to. A piece was missing, so another piece was, was brought to fulfill the role. In these worlds, there are…events that are fluid and changeable, and events that are cornerstones that underpin the existence of the plane. Shen Jiu could not die yet, and so, I became him.”

Luo Binghe has never called his husband Shen Jiu, the first time he did, he flinched. Luo Binghe assumed it had to do with his past, and it did, simply not in the way Binghe initially thought.

“It came with a few restrictions. I could not speak of the task I was given. I was to push you into the Abyss or return to my world of origin, where I was dead.”

A small sharp pain shot through Luo Binghe’s heart, at the idea that Shen Qingqiu pushed him into the Abyss to save himself, before it dispersed as a dandelion would in its sowing season. He would bet a leg, that him going into the Abyss was a so called, “cornerstone”. An inevitability, but regardless of whether it was, or not, he was grateful for his husband’s existence and would have faced the Abyss a thousand times over to ensure it.

“Did husband have any other options?” Binghe asked as though asking for another pair of chopsticks, or commenting on the weather.

“I could have not done it?” Shen Qingqiu offered, his mouth set into a stubborn frown, and Binghe’s lips began to tick upwards.

“Would I have gone into the Abyss regardless?” He queried.

Shen Qingqiu’s eyes shifted to the left, and Binghe knew his ridiculous husband, who never liked to admit to his own role, when it was positive one. Who never believed that he was the source of so much good. He already knew the answer before he heard the whispered, “Yes.”

“Oh, how come?” He inquired, holding back a smile.

“You always go into the Abyss. Every time, in every world. And you come out again, stronger than before. Or at least that’s what I was told. You always get pushed down by Shen Jiu, and if I-“ Shen Qingqiu’s hands clenched at his sleeves, and he finally looked up at Luo Binghe his eyes furious. “It does not matter. I still pushed you into that hopeless place. What does it matter, the reason?”

Luo Binghe’s heart was so full of joy, it hurt him. His husband was a heavenly treasure. His husband was tasked with a quest that would have left him dead were he any less kind. In retrospect his husband makes so much more sense now.

“Mmn,” Binghe started. “I understand. Husband is a divine gift.”

Shen Qingqiu made an audible noise of upset and threw a pillow at Luo Binghe, “Are you even listening to me?” He demanded.

Binghe nodded, and moved to nuzzle Shen Qingqiu’s cheek. “Yes. Husband, was thrust into a trial with no choice, and husband chose to be kind to me regardless.”

“To save myself. I pushed you into the Abyss.”

“If husband knew this, and presumably husband could not kill me, why didn’t he send me off to Bai Zhan Peak?”

Shen Qingqiu made another noise, almost like a disgruntled bird. Luo Binghe had never seen his husband so flustered. Even when they made love for the second time, and Shen Qingqiu kept on slapping him on the back, and pouting when Binghe bit him.

“Do you know what Liu Qingge does to his students? He leaves them be for years, or he hits them and calls it training. Furthermore, outside of training, they actually beat children here! Yue Qingyuan had a disciple flogged, for being tardy!” Shen Qingqiu announced.

Luo Binghe broke out into laughter. This gentle man, this sweet gentle, man. It was a normality for disciples to be disciplined, and here he was fussing at the apparent indignity of his students going through a simple punishment. Qing Jing had not used a whip or baton in years, preferring to have the disciples run laps instead. Shen Qingqiu, his husband…never so much as laid a hand on Luo Binghe, the actions of his predecessor not his own. Luo Binghe once assumed it was the memory loss that spurred the change.

“Were you forced to do anything else?” Luo Binghe asked, just to be sure, his voice still wavering with amusement before he caught sight of Shen Qingqiu’s hands. They were trembling. Shen Qingqiu shook his head.

That wouldn’t do, that wouldn’t do at all. It was clear his husband feared that one day, he might be. Now that Shen Qingqiu told him of his origins, of the strange circumstances that brought them together, when Luo Binghe spread his demonic energy to look for traces of something other, using the blood in Shen Qingqiu’s body as an anchor he found…a taste of something…something dormant. He only caught the tail ends, like the wisps of smoke from a candle that was blown out, but it was more than enough. He’d deal with these gods, or fates, a different time. Perhaps he’d even devour them, and make their power his own, so that his husband wouldn’t be taken from his bed once more, by forces out of his control. So that his husband would never sit in front of him and tremble.

“Does husband love me?” Binghe wondered, posing the question as a distraction, his eyes bright. Shen Qingqiu nodded, a flush spreading over his face.

“Why is Binghe not angry at me?” Shen Qingqiu asked with a soft voice.

Gods, his husband is adorable. What does Binghe have to be mad at exactly? That his husband always knew what Binghe could become, and so, was kind to his potential murderer for no apparent reason? How horrible, his divine gift saved him from the empty gaping maw he could have become, and here Shen Qingqiu was, distraught over completing a task, he apparently never wanted to do, and could not speak of, despite his clear desperation to tell Binghe the truth.

“How terrible for me. My husband loves me deeply. He ensured that I would be well educated and comfortable, while preparing me for a trial, I apparently always face. I am deeply aggrieved. Husband should kiss me to make up for his sins,” Binghe cooed, throwing himself face front onto Shen Qingqiu’s lap, rolling over so he could see his Shizun’s face. Like a giant, overgrown puppy. Shizun liked it when he was playful. He sniffed his nose internally at those who would claim he needed to maintain dignity, at all times. Those people did not have a Shizun. Shizun’s face was very thin so Binghe’s had to be thick enough for the both of them.

Shen Qingqiu poked Binghe’s cheek with one finger, and Binghe could not stop himself from smiling. His Shizun was his alone. Literally, no one else knew him in this world. Not like Binghe did.

“What was your name?” Binghe whispered reaching a hand upwards to cup Shen Qingqiu’s cheek, tracing one soft cheek with his thumb.

“Shen Yuan.” Shen Qingqiu answered for the first time in over a decade. 

“Shen Yuan.” Binghe started. “A’Yuan, A’Yuan, A’Yuan,” he repeated, rising to pepper his husband with kisses, breathing out the name in-between.

….

Hours later, Shen Qingqiu gripped at Luo Binghe sleeve and said, “Binghe never had to do anything to earn my love. Love is not a thing people do, or do not earn. In many occasions those who give love do not receive it, and those who don’t, receive it plenty. You, yourself, were always deserving of love. Regardless of who you are. If Shen Jiu was not kind to you, it was never a reflection of your worth, but a reflection of his own faults. He was…a complicated man. He was not obliged to love you, and did not, but that did not make you unlovable. I…I…certainly love you, for what that is worth.”

It was worth everything. It was the balm to a young boy, still left in a woodshed, wondering where he went wrong. Binghe, upon hearing this, broke down into tears, salt water flooding from him like a sieve as he clutched his husband to himself, and let out hiccuping sobs. What was he to do, when A’Yuan was so good to him? What was he to do with his husband, other than love him with all his being?

Shen Qingqiu buried his red face into Luo Binghe’s chest, as Binghe cried. At times he cursed his husband’s maiden heart, but this was not one of them.

….

A shichen after that, Binghe asked, “How did you die?” As he sat across from his husband at a low dining table.

Shen Qingqiu blinked and set down his chopsticks, “I was very ill. I had been since I was born. It was no surprise that I died from it.”

It unsettled Binghe, how easily Shen Qingqiu spoke of his death. “How old were you?”

“About twenty, I just turned twenty-one, I think.” He answered and Binghe froze. His husband was only a few years older than him, as opposed to decades. He would put away that thought for another time. 

Clearing his throat Binghe continued, “Did A’Yuan have a spouse?” If his husband was wealthy then he might have.

Shen Qingqiu’s eyes crinkled and he shook his head. “The marrying age was a bit older in my world. So nothing of that sort happened.”

An answer Binghe couldn’t manage to get for years slotted into his mind, and he internally threw a small festival. He had his husband first, and he’d have him last. Shen Qingqiu certainly never took a lover in the period that Luo Binghe knew him, he would know.

Shen Yuan threw a pea at Luo Binghe’s smug face. Luo Binghe did not dodge and allowed it to bounce off his cheek harmlessly.

“Wipe that stupid grin off your face,” Shen Qingqiu snapped.

Husband had become a bit more loose in the hours since he told Binghe of his past.

“I cannot help it, this disciple is curious,” Binghe pleaded.

Shen Qingqiu snorted softly but remained relaxed. As though a weight had been taken from him, and wasn’t that all Binghe ever wanted to do?

…"What did A’Yuan look like?” Luo Binghe continued.

Shen Qingqiu reached for the bowl of peas, tapping his fingertips against the rim as though contemplating throwing one at Binghe again. “Unwell, I think. Definitely worse than this. I was…sickly. Average in countenance.”

Luo Binghe is still curious. He thinks he’d love Shen Yuan no matter the package. Even if he were a six-armed spider demon with eight eyes.

“Would husband show me?” Luo Binghe asked, offering to dive into Shen Qingqiu’s waking mindscape.

His husband shrugged, and Luo Binghe worked his way into Shen Qingqiu’s mind with ease. Shen Qingqiu offered no resistance, and Luo Binghe wanted to see his husband’s original form as quickly as possible, in case his husband decided that such a thing would be embarrassing and changed his mind.

The blank white space surrounded them. Shen Qingqiu concentrated on his memory and Luo Binghe solidified the image, pulling it forth.

The scene was three-dimensional, sourcing mirror images of Shen Yuan to compile a singular reality of what he looked like. This was combined with memories of Shen Yuan's surroundings to create a portrayal of something he would find most familiar.

They ended up standing in a hospital room, like visitors greeting a patient. 

 Binghe took in the strange furniture, the glass wall that was not glass, the flower vase by the bed, and the odd layout, before his gaze settled on the only figure in the room. There was a beauty on the white bed. The hair, was much shorter than Luo Binghe expected, cut messily perhaps two or three inches from his scalp at the longest. He did not recognize that clear contraption attached to his husband's mouth but the words:

Her charm was blooming

in a returned sensual smile,

and all the beauties in the court

suddenly were just ordinary.

Came to mind. Shen Yuan was not smiling, but that was not point.

A’Yuan...was breathtaking. A sickly beauty with lips red as blood, and eyes black as an endless night. They were framed by watery, peach blossom eyes, and thick lashes that kissed bone white skin. A fevered flush covered his cheeks and nose.

His whole body looked delicate, as though it would blow away with a single one of Luo Binghe’s breaths. He was spun sugar, melting on Binghe tongue.

“This was A’Yuan?” He asked, to confirm.

Shen Qingqiu nodded, and Luo Binghe wanted to beat his head against something, why did he believe anything Shen Qingqiu ever said about himself?….When would be learn? His husband was not to be trusted with such things. His husband was very intelligent in many matters, but his self-perception was lacking, nay, absent in its entirety.

He came here expecting some kind of ill creature, and instead got this pale nymph. This tiny, portable version of his Shizun that looked as though they could be siblings in their similarities. Luo Binghe was sure he could carry this Shen Yuan with one arm, or set him on one of his broad shoulders, like a bird. He could do the same with Shen Qingqiu, it was just that Shen Qingqiu was significantly bigger in his new body in comparison to his old one. The figure on the bed, looked as though he would come up to Binghe’s chest, were he standing.

Luo Binghe swung between each version of his husband unknowingly comparing stats as though he was playing a game. What was more important, an ease of entry due to a larger space to work with, or portability? Durability, or being able to possibly fit his husband’s entire body into his mouth. His robes would swamp A’Yuan. 

He wondered if in their dreams, his husband would let him make love to his “uglier self”, and Luo Binghe snorted at the thought. If A’Yuan was ugly no one else would dare call themselves beautiful.

Chapter Text

After Luo Binghe’s fall, no…it wasn’t a fall. He was pushed. Shen Qingqiu knows that better than anyone. After Luo Binghe was…gone. Presumed dead by the Sect. Shen Qingqiu was left to his quiet life in an empty bamboo house. The space infinitely larger without Binghe’s presence to fill it. Often Shen Qingqiu would find himself calling out to a disciple who…wasn’t there anymore. Who would, one day, come out from Abyss to kill Shen Qingqiu for the things he’d done. 

He was running on borrowed time, and he knew it. Yet, he still wanted Binghe to be safe. He would have never pushed him otherwise, without the System’s assurance that his disciple would climb out alive. Tracing the rim of his tea-cup with his finger he considered what trial his disciple was going through at this very moment.

Blood Sucking Hell-Vines? A Horde of Three Horned Lava-Hippo Wolves? A miasma so thick it would choke Binghe, burning his lungs like ash, until he tempered his body enough to withstand it?

It would not be easy for Binghe, his rise preceded by great suffering as all main characters in a xianxia novel had to go through, for the stupid creation of suspense that would keep the reader’s on tenterhooks as they waited for a victory they knew would come. After so long Shen Qingqiu could no longer rightfully call Luo Binghe a novel character. He raised that boy. That giving, gentle, white lotus, who smiled at him every morning in their home, and made his tea, and his breakfast, and called him “Shizun”. He wondered if he’d ever hear that voice speak to him again with such kindness.

Chugging back his tea like a shot, Shen Qingqiu got up from the low table and made his way to Sword Mound he erected, collected the remains of Zheng Yang with a white knuckled grip.

Liu Qingge had tried to pull the shards away from him, and Shen Qingqiu does not know what he said, but whatever it was, it stopped his shidi from making a grab at those pieces again. Even when Shen Qingqiu began to cut his palms from the force of his grip, magically tempered steel, cutting into his flesh.

Let it, he swore in that moment.

Let the physical pain serve as a distraction for the child he threw away, like he was old goods, and Shen Qingqiu a man in any position to make such a call. It took a moment to unstick his tongue from where it lay dead in his mouth, refusing to move, as he reassured his disciples, and explained that Luo Binghe had fallen over the cliff. The lie tasted bitter in his throat, but what else could he say? Dearly beloved Sect Members gathered here today, I Shen Qingqiu pushed my own disciple off into the Endless Abyss, but worry not! For he will return in five years as an all powerful demon lord who will burn down the Righteous Sects, for the most part, and devastate the world as you know it, with his power?

As a reader, the merging of the two worlds seemed like a cool trope. As a living being in this world, he understands the cost removing the barrier would have on the weak. Particularly if the Sects were gone.

It wouldn’t be those in power who suffered, but the countless merchants and farmers whose ways of life would be deeply incompatible with the demon realm. It had been, like in most xianxia novels, the sheer amount of humans that kept them tied in their ongoing conflict with the Demon Realm. While, as a whole, demons where the stronger species…humans had them beat when it came to numbers. For every Demon Lord, they had ten Immortals. For every Saint, they had fifteen Yuanying.

Kneeling in front of Zheng Yang Shen Qingqiu mourned, not for his own impending doom, but the possible loss of the young man he raised. He never wanted to see Luo Binghe become someone who would be so careless with the lives of those below him. The original Luo Binghe was compelling…but so deeply broken.

He never wanted to look at his disciple’s face, and see that kind of arrogance, that madness, and know that his boy was gone.

He had wrapped a strand of Buddhist prayers beads around his wrist days before to give himself something to do with his hands when he was alone.

Rolling them through his fingers, he prayed. Please, he thought. Please, I’ve died once, tell me I didn’t kill my disciple. Tell me I didn’t kill the Luo Binghe I knew. He’s a good boy, I know he is. He didn’t deserve any of this. If there are higher powers out there, please, please…let him be kind. Let him be kind... for his own sake.

Holding back a sob, his back hunching over over, his hands trembling as they moved from bead to bead, rolling them in his palms as he kneeled among the bamboo, he allowed the tears to trail down his face.

In-between a few conveniently placed bamboo shoots, yet again hiding like a pervert, Liu Qingge twitched as he held a small furred beast of some kind, and watched Shen Qingqiu cry. The little furred creature tried to bite him, but he shook it once, forcing it into an unconscious stupor. 

Objectively…he knew he should go and try to comfort his shixiong after the loss of his clearly beloved disciple…no matter how irritating he found Luo Binghe when the boy lived. It was just that, Shen Qingqiu had come out of his house, dressed not it mourning white, but black from head to toe. It highlighted his waif-ish waist with the tightness of his chosen belt, and slim cut. A black douli with a sheer black veil rested upon his head, his hair spilling onto the forest floor.

Liu Qingge watched as a single tear fell down a silken cheek. Shen Qingqiu let the prayer beads hang from one slender wrist, to remove a silk handkerchief from his sleeve, dabbing the corners of his eyes…like a young window, left with two young sons, and an ailing mother. Liu Qingge was faced with the bizarre urge to offer himself up as a second husband, never mind that Shen Qingqiu clearly never had a first, that anyone knew of. Throwing the beast on the floor, as gently as possible, Liu Qingge fled from he forest, red-faced. His mind flashing through images of plush red lips, bitten between white teeth, watery eyes, and a trim figured made even more slender by their choice of robes.

Per-perhaps he would take his sister’s advice and send over flowers, for once?

….

Shen Qingqiu held tea with Yue Qingyuan in a Pavillion behind the Sect Leader’s Estate. He was generally, very irate at the fact that he would be here for another two hours, presumably discussing Sect Politics while Yue Qingyuan. Which was made awkward by the Sect Leader’s overtures of friendship, that he would then avert himself, before plying Shen Qingqiu with unbelievably expensive food and drink. It had taken a while for Shen Qingqiu to realize the cost of the things Yue Qingyuan liked to have the servants place on the table, but when he had, his jaw nearly dropped to the ground.

Silver Scaled Dragon Fish, found in the Mu Springs, twice every five-hundred years, when their bizarre migration from the clouds, because they were flying fucking fish, into the spring, made them vulnerable for capture. Sky fish, apparently where as mist. You could catch one but it would literally dissolve on you. He got served that. Fucking shiny-ass sky fish, it glowed silver.

Shen Qingqiu had never had the experience where he felt like he was eating money…but that was moment where he felt like he was eating money. Shiny fish cost the same at auction as the yearly budget for any two Peak’s in Cang Qiong, and there Yue Qingyuan was, platting him up more. It was apparently great for reinforcing damaged cultivation, which to be fair…Shen Qingqiu probably did need considering Without A Cure, but still. It wasn’t him who was supposed to be getting the pity fish so it made him feel…gross.

Yue Qingyuan smiled that weird, gentle smile that always put Shen Qingqiu off because he did not know the man was hiding…It had taken a while for Shen Qingqiu to realize that original goods was a much more complex character than he first assumed, but when he did…it made interacting with Yue Qingyuan that much harder.

There was such deep, and heavy emotional baggage between them, that Shen Qingqiu didn’t even know where to begin. Shen Yuan was not Shen Jiu, he couldn’t fix whatever was going on here. All he could do was have awkward tea-dinners where Yue Qingyuan would make cow eyes at him like he was the last piece of chocolate cake in front of a morbidly obese child, who kept putting his hand forward and back, covering his mouth in an, oh no I can’t have the cake motion, while looking longingly at it, as though there was no other piece of chocolate cake in the universe and if he did not have this one, he would be eternally bereft. This would happen on repeat, while said child never ate said cake. If it has not been made clear by now, Shen Qingqiu was that cake, Yue Qingyuan was the fat kid. Shen Qingqiu did not want to be eating with Yue Qingyuan now, or ever.

Whatever the fuck went down between Shen Jiu and Yue Qingyuan to make Yue Qingyuan look at him like that, yet keep silent was none of Shen Yuan’s business, no matter whose body he was in.

The whole thing stunk of a tragic backstory Airplane Shooting towards the sky never bothered to explain. Shen Qingqiu was starting to suspect that Shen Jiu was some kind of tragic Greek character, killed by how own hubris, and the misunderstandings of others. Like that one dude with the prophecy where his son was supposed to kill him, so he threw the kid away, and in doing so ensured his own demise. As a whole it stank of misunderstandings..and missed connections.

Was he planning on clearing any of those up? No. Gods no.

He was not stepping foot near the walking land-mine that was Yue Qingyuan. He wouldn’t even begin to know what he’d set off. If he learned anything from anime, it was not to trust anyone who smiling that much, and while this was not anime, he felt that the lesson was apt.

So he sat there, in the Pavilion bench, keeping his face blank as possible as he drank a soup made from a golden turtle, or something, and tried to avoid meaningful eye contact while projecting austere strength.

At some point, in his struggle to keep his cool, his grip of his bowl went slack, and he managed to do something he had miraculously avoided for years. He poured soup down his front like a hot, lemongrass smelling waterfall.

Yue Qingyuan startled and moved towards him. “Xiao Jiu.”

Shen Qingqiu was going to ignore that. Nimbly undoing his belt, he pulled it off, resting it on the stone bench. He then slid his outer robe off his shoulders, and the one under that too, laying them on top of the belt.

Yue Qingyuan swallowed, his mouth parched, his hands outstretched impotently. Ever vigilant, even while distracted, he heard the footsteps of an approaching servant before Shen Qingqiu did.

The vision of Xiao Jiu, flipping his long hair up into a messy bun, taking the zan from his crown to use as pin for the impromptu hair style burned in his mind. He could not allow anyone, let alone a servant, see Xiao Jiu in such a state.

Yue Qingyuan whipped off his outer-robe and practically flew to the other side of the stone table pulling Shen Qingqiu onto his lap, while covering his exposed body with his own thick black robe. Tucking the fabric around Xiao Jiu he made sure his face was hidden in Yue Qingyuan’s shoulder. The Sect Leader then kept his face impassive as the servants came in with trays, ignoring Shen Qingqiu’s stiff form in his lap. Yue Qingyuan would not see him dishonoured.

Yue Qingyuan stared the servants down with narrowed eyes as they left the fresh tea with shaking hands. As he watched their backs leave, he knew he’d spend some time educating them on what was, and was not spoken of. Xiao Jiu’s elbow finally jabbed him the gut, although he did not use martial force. Which was perhaps a sign that Shen Qingqiu forgave Yue Qingyuan, his own impropriety.

Setting Shen Qingqiu onto the bench once more, Yue Qingyuan sighed in exasperation.“Must you always be so careless Qingqiu-shidi?”

Shen Qingqiu bristled like an offended cat, “It’s a few robes, nothing to be so fussed over, Sect Leader Yue.”

Yue Qingyuan wanted to rub his temples. Shen Jiu had always been like this, so careless with his own body. One day Yue Qingyuan feared that some brute would come along and try to take advantage of his surprisingly innocent shidi.

“Xiao Jiu,” he began, the name cutting like a knife. “You can’t take your robes off outside.” It was not the first time he said this, and it surely wouldn’t be the last given Shen Jiu’s stubborn temperament.

Xiao Jiu as always, narrowed his eyes and ignored him, like his Qi Ge’s words were air.

Already Yue Qingyuan had spotted Liu Qingge sniffing around, and Xiao Jiu made softer by his memory loss, had yet to notice. Not that he would have noticed prior, either. His Xiao Jiu was always so disbelieving that anyone could be interested in him for such matters; it had never ceased to be maddening. Yue Qingyuan was often the buffer between him, and the suitors he didn’t seem to notice he had. He knew he didn’t deserve his Xiao Jiu after everything, but he certainly wasn’t about to hand him over to any cultivator who asked, more interested in the status of a Peak Lord, than Xiao Jiu himself. He had scared many a man off Qing Jing to protect Xiao Jiu’s virtue.

Xiao Jiu never noticed how his casual behaviour could enchant. His own disciples were losing their minds as Shen Qingqiu had taken to wearing black in some bizarre opposite to mourning, and kneeling by Luo Binghe’s sword mound, hidden in the bamboo forest.

Ning Ying Ying just weeks before, had come to him, pleading for him to tighten the barriers around Qing Jing in fear that someone would steal her Shizun.

Ming Fan, standing behind her, had nodded his head in agreement as Ning Ying Ying waxed poetic on her fears that, “Some great cultivator could snatch an unsuspecting Shen Qingqiu from his forest, where they to see him in all his beauty, while he was in such a delicate state.”

Yue Qingyuan would have questioned her sanity if he too had not been witness to Xiao Jiu losing a bit of his carefully maintained propriety in public, for the first time in decades. Private matters were another thing entirely, Heavens forbid Shen Qingqiu wear anything but his underthings in private. In public however, Shen Qingqiu wore his manners like armour, using them to keep all others at least two hand spans apart from him.

This visibly sad Shen Qingqiu looked….vulnerable. It incited a predatory instinct in men. Yue Qingyuan would know. He strengthened the barrier upon being asked, making Qing Jing invisible to the outside world. Shen Qingqiu’s disciples were still thanking him whenever they passed, bowing with clasped hands at his assistance.

As if he would let others take advantage of Xiao Jiu, while he could stop it.

Shen Qingqiu pet Ning Ying Ying on the head, then Ming Fan. It wasn’t the same. They weren’t nearly as fluffy.

He missed his Binghe dearly. His little sheep had the best curls, so soft under his fingers. 

“Sh-Shizun.” Ning Ying Ying preened as she pushed her head into his palm, Ming Fan visibly struggling not to do the same.

“Yes, Ying Ying?” He asked.

“Could Shizun help us with our musical cultivation? A few of the shimei’s and myself, are having trouble with the timing of that one song, Upwards to the Moon.”

Looking down at those shiny, hopeful eyes, Shen Qingqiu inclined his head slightly in agreement.

...

Night found him, somehow corralled into the female disciple barracks, placed in a circle of happy students, plucking the strings of his guqin, as they listened to him play at first, and then tried to follow along.

Even the female disciples who did not practice an instrument joined in to listen.

As the girls had stripped to a few inner layers, and taken out any elaborate hairpins, Shen Qingqiu did the same, stripping off a few layers, and loosening his hair, to throw it up. It was honestly easier when there was less of a risk of the strands getting caught in the strings. That hurt. He didn’t know how these people did it all the time, particularly when then began to play with fervour.

The disciples faces were red with exertion, and sweaty. It warmed Shen Qingqiu’s heart to see them so interested, the girls shuffling closer to watch his fingers move.

All of a sudden, like a flare in the dark, Ning Ying Ying cried out. Sharply gazing towards her, Shen Qingqiu tried to figure out what was going on. Ning Ying Ying drew her fingers from her backside with wide eyes, the tips red. Shen Qingqiu had given them a basic bodily education but the cultivation equivalent of a period was some absolute bullshit. Menstruation could make your Qi unstable. Particularly the first one.

“Mei Mei, take Ying Ying, and get her cleaned up. I’ll help regulate her Qi. Li Ling, you call for Mu Qingfang. Tell him to bring the Jasmine Summer Pearl Tea, I do not believe we have any in stock. The last disciple to need it, reached Core Formation stage, decades ago.”

Li Ling, a short girl, with sharp eyes, hair pulled up in a severe bun, nodded firmly before running off, clearly worried for her younger martial sister.

Mei Mei carried Ning Ying Ying towards the baths, swiftly. Ning Ying Ying’s eyes a mask of pain as she clutched her stomach. Shen Qingqiu had already moved his guqin to the side, leaving his lap free. Mei Mei laid Ning Ying Ying down, and Shen Qingqiu placed a hand on her belly, circulating Qi through her meridians, unclogging the blockages that formed. Luo Binghe dealt with this before, dual cultivating with Ning Ying Ying to relieve the blockage. In the novel she experienced the symptoms without the whole period thing, a year earlier, which gave Luo Binghe an excuse to righteously take her virginity in a field of flowers to save her life. His control was too tenuous to preform a cleansing.

Never mind that Mu Qingfang was a Peak away, or that there was a common tea that could solve the issue available to the general public. Sects, unsurprisingly, had access to a higher quality variation of that tea, but fuck logic when papapa was at stake. Of course once, when Ning Ying Ying reached the Core Formation Stage, she would no longer have these concerns, but for now Shen Qingqiu could do this.

Hearing their resident healer approach, Shen Qingqiu turned to greet him.

….

Mu Qingfang’s stomach had dropped, when one of Shen Qingqiu’s students begged him to come to the female dorms, in the middle of the night.

As he approached, he sensed Shen Qingqiu’s presence and feared the worst. What was his shixiong doing in the female disciple barracks? At night. Surrounded by young women. Surely there was a reasonable explanation, most likely they had called for Shen Qingqiu, before they called for him, but still he felt ill at ease.

Taking a deep breath, he opened the sliding door, and his eyes burned.

This is what Mu Qingfang saw as he finally opened the door: There sat a horde of little disciples scooting as closely as possible to Shen-Shixiong. All of them matching, in their white underthings, their hair unbound, or bound sloppily. A sight rarely seen in unwed maidens.

Shen Qingqiu…did not look out of place with his loose locks, his thick lashes fluttering as he looked down in worry, at Ning Ying Ying. Mu Qingfang had never before noticed how pale his shxiong’s skin was or how black his hair.

He was as the largest flower in a field, his form glowing a soft green, illuminating the night, pieces of Qi flying off like fireflies, as Shen Qingqiu served as a Spirit Tree to his disciples, spreading his energy in an easily transferable haze. The control that must have taken was extraordinary, each disciple learning into the circle, their faces upturned in kneeling meditation.

Mu Qingfang coughed, a blush rising over the bridge of his nose. Shen Qingqiu stroked one of Ning Ying Ying’s cheeks, as a mother would her child. “Qingfang-shidi, our youngest disciple is growing. Would you check her over?”

He coughed again. Was it stuffy in here?

Shen Qingqiu’s soft voice, and gentle demeanour was too…too much. Mu Qingfang nodded, and tried to wade through the disciples, who, as one, turned to stare at him like a horde of wildebeests.

Their gazes moved in unison with every move he made. He actively had to push a few of them away with his feet to reach Ning Ying Ying.

The room was quite hostile, but he was beginning to understand their protectiveness. Shen Qingqiu was, apparently an undiscovered treasure to those outside of Qing Jing.

Sneakily soaking up a bit of his shixiong’s soothing Qi, Mu Qingfang looked over Ning Ying’s meridians.

“She’s well Shen-Shixiong. You were right on time. There’s nothing to heal. I brought some tea however, which I can go brew -“

His sleeve is widely snagged by Li Ling who pulled him back, and pushed him out the door, the girls behind her closing ranks, some of them standing on their knees to bodily cover their Shizun, their eyes boring holes into him as he was unceremoniously tossed out.

“You services have been much appreciated Shishu.” Li Ling bit out as she bowed.

Mu Qingfang had seen her come in with cuts, and bruises, and once burns from a Lava Hippo-Wolf, but he’s never seen her act so belligerent.

“Does he do this often?” He asked. He had seen the combs and hair oils laid out beside the instruments, and he had a feeling they would have been pulled out sooner or later. Wasn’t that precious? His Shixiong plaited the hair of his female disciples before bed. He wondered if Shen Qingqiu played them a lullaby to sleep to, as well? Judging by that scene he witnessed there was a high possibility.

“On occasion, he can be convinced,” Li Ling admitted brusquely. “However that is none of Shishu’s concern. We can brew the tea, I’m sure your bed is awaiting you.”

“Oh. I don’t know.” He teased.

“Shishu.” Mei Mei bit out, transferring Qi to her palms.

Shen Qingqiu’s disciple was about to fight him to defend her Shizun’s honour. Raising his hands in surrender, Mu Qingfang spoke, “Peace. I’ll leave, and speak nothing of what I saw tonight.” His face still feels hot at the sight of his cold shixiong behaving so softly.

He did not think of Shen Qingqiu as anything but a friend, however what he witnessed could certainly make a man dream. The worst part was, he would never be able to tell anyone what he saw, without running Shen Qingqiu’s reputation. How did one begin to explain that a Peak Lord was spending his nights with his female disciples platonically? And there was no doubt, that it was platonic in My Qingfang’s mind.

Leaving, the healer thought of Liu Qingge, and Yue Qingyuan. Calamitous beauties were a dangerous thing. He had never believed such things until now.

It would be years later, when Luo Binghe stole away his Shizun for the last time, that Mu Qingfang would lock himself in his rooms with a bottle of wine and laugh hysterically. Truly, he had not seen that one coming. They had all lost their bets. Mere weeks after that, during the wedding that Mu Qingfang did not yet know of, Luo Binghe would spread his Demonic Energy like a blanket, as a warning. His presence would fill every corner of his Palace as he led Shen Qingqiu dressed in red to the alter.

In that room, all of the eyes would be on Shen Qingqiu, despite Luo Binghe’s power. Yue Qingyuan’s hands, would be gripped into fists, his face calm, and Liu Qingge's a mask of false honour. He would bare his teeth in a snarl at Luo Binghe after the Demon Lord smirked at him, his hand on Shen Qingqiu’s waist in a proprietary motion.

The immortal fairy, stolen from Heaven by a demon who fell in love. What a story.

….

Shang Qinghua sat across from his newly found Cucumber-Bro. Languid sex-god extraordinaire, which wasn’t really what Shang Qinghua was thinking of when he wrote Shen Qingqiu, but that was what he ended up with…apparently.

Their initial meeting went something like this, Shang Qinghua snapped out a, “Fuck your mom,” upon seeing Shen Qingqiu’s black widow get-up, his melon seeds falling from his mouth. “Fuck your mom” was not something people said, in Ancient China. Their version was the more florid, “Your mother was a whore”.…and even then, only if they were part of the lower class. 

Shen Qingqiu’s head snapped like a shark smelling blood, stalking forth to grab Shang Qinghua’s lapels, as he snarled out “Proud Immortal Demon Way?”

Shang Qinghua nodded, wondering who had the bad luck to transmigrate into Shen Jiu, before a fan began to tap his cheek, one hand still on his lapel. Really, the whole wailing wife who totally killed her first husband get-up was not helping this whole interaction. Shang Qinghua didn’t want to be someone’s third, dead husband, thank you very much.

“Ye-yeah.” He said shakily, “It’s uh, are you a…uh, fan?” He asked.

Green eyes narrowed. “Airplane Shooting Towards the Sky?”

Something must have shown on his face, something like guilt because transmigrator bro snapped out a, “You. Shitty. Fucking. Author. Let me explain to you everything wrong with your novel. Come. Let’s go to my bamboo hut, you wretched little pissant.”

O-Okay.

It takes about half-way through the kind of verbal lashing Shang Qinghua’s mother wished she knew how to give, to figure out that Shen Qingqiu was Cucumber-bro. His weirdly invested anti-fan…real fan…it was hard to tell sometimes. Cucumber-bro was intense and he had a mouth like sandpaper. He could take a layer of skin off with his tongue alone, as he pointed out everything Shang Qinghua was doing wrong online. In person it was worse, what with Shen Qingqiu’s imperious face staring him down like he was sewer rat that somehow made it into someone's nice house.

The best part of their conversation was when Shen Qingqiu looked at him, tapped his fan on the table and said, “Look, I get you needed the money. I just wish it was better, because I really did like story. It could have been more, and that’s so frustrating.”

Shang Qinghua shrugs in commiseration. “I had so many notes bro, you don’t even know what I had to scrap. The papapa was selling. Let me tell you the backstory between you and Yue Qingyuan -“

Shen Qingqiu raises a hand to silence him. “Don’t tell me. All I need to know is, on a scale of one to ten, how likely is it that he’ll lock me in a basement somewhere?”

Shang Qinghua pauses at that, unfortunately fair, point. “Look…don't be alarmed...but it’s honestly like a seven. But it’s also never going to probably happen, because of his raging guilt complex. So as long as you don’t resolve the past issues, you won’t end up the Sect Leader’s wife.”

Shen Qingqiu stares at him and deadpans, “Sect Leader’s wife?”

Shang Qinghua gestures with his hands oddly. “Shen Jiu and Yue Qingyuan may have been…soulmates?”

Shen Qingqiu slams his fan down on the table “That’s not even a thing here. Soulmates. Are. Not. A. Thing. In your stupid book.”

“I know, I know.” Shang Qinghua flailed. “But they kind of might be, possibly? Because the notes I made but didn’t write into the story, have been showing up in weird ways?”

Shen Qingqiu collapsed onto the floor beside his seat cushion and rubbed at his face. “You have got to be kidding me,” he said.

Weirdly enough, it was super comforting to have Cucumber-Bro with him. He was fun dude. Even if Luo Binghe was totally bent now.

Shang Qinghua gestured to Shen Qingqiu laying on his side, on his daybed, in his lingerie, posed in the iconic paint-me-like-one-of-your-french-girls fashion, munching on a lychee. He spoke very slowly, as though worried he would not be understood, “You do know that you’re being so inappropriate right now. These people wear more to sleep than you are wearing right now. We are supposed to keep our full robes on, at all times, and then sleep in a thicker sleeping robe, or two. Not our undergarments, there’s a difference. They're made of different material. Not partially see-through material.” He never wanted to know what Cucumber bro’s nipples looked like.

Cucumber bro froze like a deer in headlights and spat his lychee out in a weirdly gracefully gesture. Shang Qinghua had never seen anyone spit gracefully, until now.

“What?” Shen Qingqiu choked out. “You mean to say these fucking masochists don’t unwind? I’m in seven fucking robes. What do they want from me?” Who didn’t take off a few layers when they were in the comfort of their own homes? Was Shang Qinghua telling him he was supposed to be fully dressed at all times? Even when he was alone? Oh. Fuck. No. He did see the thicker white inner robes, he assumed they were for winter, and put them away. He was not pulling them out, they were less comfortable than his apparent underthings.

Shang Qinghua shrugged. “I didn’t make the rules.”

Shen Qingqiu threw a lychee at his forehead, and said, "Every day I become more certain of the fact that in a past life, I committed a horrific crime, and thus the universe has placed you into my stratosphere as the eagle that comes every dawn to eat my liver."

Okay then. Shang Qinghua. Was not expecting that. What did one even say?...Sorry?

Before he could get a word in edge-wise, Shen Qingqiu continued, “Secondly, yes you did. Thirdly, here is what’s going to happen. I never heard you. I never heard those words come out of your mouth. You never said the words that just came out of your mouth. Do you understand A’Shang?”

Shang Qinghua tried to talk, “Bu-“

“Do you understand Shang Qinghua?” Shen Qingqiu asked agreeably like a man holding onto his sanity by a string.

Shang Qinghua nodded.

“Good.” Shen Qingqiu said with a terrifying smile. “Here, have a lychee.”

Shang Qinghua took the lychee from Shen Qingqiu’s hand and ate it. No matter how much it made him feel like a pet. Holy fuck, Cucumber-bro was terrifying…he was like the iconic strong female lead. Kicking ass, taking names, gathering a harem, and threatening low powered characters into submission with ease.

Shen Qingqiu leaned back on his pillows with a thousand yard stare, and firmly decided that enforced obliviousness was the only answer. If anyone so much as tried to tell him anything, he wouldn’t understand it. He would be thicker than a mountain. He heard no evil, saw no evil, and spoke no fucking evil.

Oh what’s that, he was being improper? He had no idea what they were talking about, he always did this, it was just fine, really. It wasn’t improper at all. Imaginary questioner was just imagining things. Shen Qingqiu wasn’t the improper one. They were the improper one. Their whole family was improper. Like hell would Shen Qingqiu give up his comfort at this point. Anyway, what did any of this even matter, he was going to die soon. He could wear whatever the fuck he wanted. Even if it was the Ancient Chinese equivalent of lingerie. 

Chapter Text

Luo Binghe cards his fingers through his sleeping husband’s hair, and considers what is to be done with the other him. The one that came into his household, and disrupted their life with such inconvenience. Not the potentially endless variants of him, each with their own lives, living in Palaces of their own creation, but the man he met. Raising a lock of hair to his lips, he kissed the end. Setting the lock down, he stroked his index finger across the side of a soft, sleeping face. Shen Qingqiu scrunched his nose at the intrusion into his rest.

Luo Binghe brushed his free hand, to smooth back Shen Qingqiu’s hair, away from his forehead in an effort to calm his husband, and wondered…what would his Shizun would do?

Luo Binghe’s initial instincts had been to rend that version of himself, limb from limb, but after the reveal of Shen Qingqiu’s identity…he considered that he might have room in his heart to be merciful. That version of him, that twisted reflection, was all that Luo Binghe never was. A cold, unfortunate duplicate, that never had the love of a Shen Yuan to guide him into being a better man.

He imagined, on several nights like this, growing up with only a cruel Master, like the Shizun he knew of, before the fever. He had spent years believing he had somehow changed that man’s mind, and earned his love, and while his hands were the ones to reach out to him, the person inside was changed, entirely.

Shen Qingqiu felt sadness for that version of him. Courteous, and good at getting his way, but ultimately searching for a someone to affirm his worth. His husband never said such a thing, but Luo Binghe knew his Shen Qingqiu, who spoke of the other version they met with fear…and great empathy. Like he wanted to bring him into his arms, and soothe his aches.

Picking up a lock of hair once more, he twirled it betwixt his fingers. Luo Binghe leaned over and pressed a kiss onto that smooth forehead, deciding that he could spare some pity for that wretch.

That did not mean, he wouldn’t get his vengeance for the intruder’s crimes. He had never been a man to forget slights to his Shizun, and so, on a quiet day, he grabbed Xin Mo, and tore a hole into space and time, searching out an energy signature, similar to one he felt prior. The space around him was cold, and black. The pressure of the swirling space scraping annoyingly against his skin. He gathered that Luo Binghe’s blood, in the form of the washcloth used on his wounds, as soon as he left. Now Binghe used it as a medium, finding several echoing pings calling out from the dark. The…taste…of one, felt familiar. He clenched the cloth in his fist, the dried blood stiffening the fabric. 

He had the advantage. He didn’t spend his youth fucking his way through his problems instead of learning how to control himself. Turning to dual cultivation as a crutch for the difficulties of his bloodline. Luo Binghe, in true protagonist fashion, was able to cultivate both the demonic path, and the righteous one. This accelerated his growth by bounds, that were unheard of, even in the Demon Realm. It was rare, impossible, for there to be a human-demon hybrid before him, because that was how the story went. He was meant to be special, his parents inexplicable compatibility leading to his birth. His cultivation caused a restless hunger to seep into his bones, his Yang energy already abundant, without enough Yin to balance it, made worse by his practice. To explain the severity, succubus poisoning forced the body to spill out excess Yang energy which was then sucked out by the succubus. If too much Yang energy was sucked out, the body would die, or lose years off their life. Yin energy balanced it out. Excess Yang equalled a libido that would ask to be quenched, constantly.

In the face of Xin Mo he can almost understand why that useless thing, turned to his hundreds of wives to deplete his Yang energy and gather Yin, but only just. The sword was a historic eater of all things, giving power while consuming the user. Draining their life energy, while simultaneously increasing their Yang. A user would feel powerful, and virile while simultaneously dying. That version of him, managed to tame the sword somewhat, in that it did not leech away his life; however weak to the matters of the flesh, that man could only bleed off the excess through carnal acts instead of learning how to mediate the energy outwards, return it to a neutral state, and reabsorb it. When Luo Binghe searched for a path, that did not involve a harem, the Heaven’s answered, opening up a road for him to traverse. 

Luo Binghe used the years of self-control he built up living with Shen Qingqiu to command the legendary blade fully, bending it to his will, and turning its curse into power. Compared to his disciple-hood it was a remarkably easy task.

One that had become even easier, upon his marriage to Shen Qingqiu, sparking some subtle ideas of the compatibility of their souls, and why it was A’Yuan, in particular, who was sent to him. Reaching the dimension he saw with such scorn, he licked the top of one slowly sharpening canine with his tongue in anticipation.

This would be such…fun.

….

Luo Bingmei descends on Luo Bingge’s Palace like the wrath of a vengeful God. Unbeknownst to him, he is much like Godzilla, or some other large monster, crashing into Tokyo with little, to no care regarding his surroundings, and the fleeing of the servants. He comes down like a meteor of rage, and fury, crashing through all of that barriers guarding the Palace, to slip directly through the window that housed the room in which he sensed the other him who was…

Fornicating with Ning Ying Ying.

Gagging, Luo Binghe moved back and swore, moving to stand on the sill of the window. Which was a terrible choice because now, he could see more, and he never wanted to see any of that. Trying very hard to only look at the double, while maintaining spatial awareness, he snarled out, “Ning Ying Ying? Ning. Ying. Ying. What is wrong with you?” That was their shijieand he knew she was in the Palace, but he never wanted to see her naked…with a version of his pillar inside of her. It was like catching his sister making love…to himself. It made his skin crawl. There was nothing wrong with his shijie she was very…pretty? She was also his shijie. It was wrong.

Cursing, Luo Bingge did the decent thing, and covered his wife, because a concubine was still a wife of sorts, standing up to shove his pants on, tying the sides as Ning Ying Ying stared wide-eyed, blanket clutched to her chest, at the two Luo Binghe’s.

Visibly disgusted, Luo Bingmei put his fingers on the bridge of his nose, before spreading his palms out and looking upwards, as though to appeal to the Heaven’s. He then glided over to grab his other self by the hair, cut open a tear in space and time, and moved through it, calling out behind him, “Do not worry. This Lord will return him in good condition. You...have a pleasant evening.” He does not ask why she married the man he’s dragging through a portal by his hair. He doesn’t want to know. The snarling mess, tries to punch him in the kidneys.

He dislocates both the man’s shoulders and his hips, taking out a length of red immortal binding cable, and making quick work of subduing him. They are in the nowhere space. They have the time, for Luo Binghe to ensure that this animal, perpetually in heat, keeps himself respectable while in the presence of his husband.

Grabbing a Pear of Cleanliness from his space pouch, it had taken weeks to find one, he shoves in down other him’s throat, holding a hand over Bingge’s mouth, and pinching his nose until he swallowed. There, that should muzzle him, for a few shichen.

Coughing Luo Bingge glared at him, and rasped out, “What are you doing?”

Luo Bingmei rolled his eyes and answered, “This Lord was planning on torturing you, but Shizun feels pity for you…for reasons that are beyond me. His heart is as vast and forgiving as Guanyin’s. In light of that…this Lord has decided to be…merciful.” He spits the words out like they pain him.

Punching his doppelgänger in the stomach Bingmei relishes the sound he makes. Maybe he’ll beat him first. He is not solely angry at this version of himself, he is angry at what he could have become. His pride bristling at the thought of being so incapable of regulating himself, that some incarnation of him managed to stick his cock into Ning Ying Ying, of all people.

Dragging the wriggling body to their rooms, Luo Binghe shoved it behind a hinged folding screen, pushing a cloth into the man’s mouth, and tying a length of binding cable around his head, to gag him.

“Be silent, or you’ll ruin everything,” Binghe commanded, standing to brush his hands on the front of his robes as though they were dirty from touching the other version of himself.

It was a strange image for Luo Bingge to be sat on the floor, his own face staring down at him with disgust.

Luo Bingge’s mind cycled through things he could do, would do, to a person he disliked, and he began to circulate his blood as best he could to flush out the suppression in his system. He had to admit, he was curious as to why he was in these rooms again, hidden like a basket of dirty laundry, instead of in the dungeons. He was bound, and uncomfortable but it wasn’t the worst he’d felt, and it certainly wasn’t the worst he could do to someone, if pressed.

Luo Bingge watched through the crack in the screen as Luo Bingmei escorted a scantily clad Shen Qingqiu to their bed. His former Shizun was carried in both of his twin’s arms. Today he was, again, in green, though today’s fabric was darker. The beading was exquisite, forming abstract patterns that hid his sensitive areas just so, in light of the sheer gauze used to create these “sleeping robes”.

Pale arms, were wrapped around a neck that led to a face like his, as Shizun, with gentle motions rubbed his nose against one…just…like…his own.

He watched as a mouth descended on his Shizun’s, teeth nipping until a plush mouth turned red, and a flush began to spread over creamy cheeks. His shoulders looked massive compared to the more compact frame. Bigger than his wives, but not…

The man, threw Shen Qingqiu up a bit to readjust the hold, standing with Shen Qingqiu’s legs parted around his hips. Splayed obscenely wide. From the crack between the panels, his view is that of the back of his double, two long legs beginning to peek out from rucked up robes. A mouth on a white neck. Sharp teeth.

He feels his own canines descend, his claws uselessly lengthening into black points.

Shen Qingqiu gasped, his head rolling back, his legs twitching, and that man’s hands had to be on that plush rear holding him, perhaps one was on that slender back for balance with the other kneading the tender flesh below?

He watched his double lay out a flushed Shen Qingqiu onto that massive bed he still dreamed of in his own Palace, he had fought the urge to commission one much like it for days already. His double shrugged off his own clothes, the muscles of his back flexing, his skin a few shades darker that the translucent white of Shen Qingqiu.

He could see the bed. He laughed in his mind, not daring to make a sound, at what this version of him was about to do.

His watched his own hips roll with a walk he has never done himself, feline, predatory, and slow, as the man loomed over the bed, leaning over his prey.

His twin caught one pale ankle in his grip. Shen Qingqiu not bothering to try and close his legs to preserve modesty, that mouth nipping at delicate toes, before it traced down to an ankle bone, leaving a harsh mark where it paused. Drawing blood. The foot twitched and tried to retract, but the hand stayed, holding it in place. The other hand moved to part the thigh of the leg, not yet trapped in his hold.

His double got on the bed in a standing kneel, between Shen Qingqiu’s thighs, and he could not see that face, but he knew it must be hungry.

He does not call attention to himself, his mind transfixed by the view.

He spends what feels like forever, watching himself lave attention onto those legs, his mouth cavernous, the red blooming on white, set off by the darkness of the green. He can barely make out Shen Qingqiu’s face from this position, the incline an unfortunate imposition, but he can see his legs and hear the soft gasps he makes.

“B-Binghe,” is breathily called out a time or two, as his double suckles on a sensitive spot, before finally making his way to the crux of those thighs, and taking Shen Qingqiu’s cock into his mouth. His own throat convulses as he watches, saliva pooling on his tongue. He has sat himself up as best he can, able to see Shen Qingqiu’s face in the haze of his pleasure, now that his double is flat on the bed, curls bobbing as he brings his husband pleasure.

Big hands clenched slender hips as they kept Shen Qingqiu from moving. Shizun’s lips were bitten red, and parted, his eyes hazy as he threw his head back, stuttering out Luo Binghe’s name, “B-Binghe. Binghe, I-I can’t -.”

Shen Qingqiu came with helpless little trembles in his legs, and form, one hand coming to his mouth to cover his parted lips. His face rosy, and his eyes damp with lust. His twin takes a moment, to presumably suck their Shizun dry, before he slides up, a massive grin on his face. It’s one Luo Bingge can feel, more than see.

And hadn’t that been something?

To see the way he was so soft with this Shen Qingqiu, so gentle, and yet…so vicious. There are bruises on Shen Qingqiu’s legs that are so purple, they look black in the light.

…He watched Shen Qingqiu let him make those marks, and re-fresh others. Watched that stoic man, allow him, Luo Binghe, of all people, to take him apart. His Shizun was pliant after his orgasm, laid back on the pillows without the strength to move.

It was with ease that his double, turned that languid body, changing the angle so that Luo Bingge’s view was that of the couple from the side, Shen Qingqiu’s hair spilling off the bed, like paint knocked off a table.

On the man’s face was a gentle smile. His hands cupping Shen Qingqiu’s cheeks. Luo Bingge knew that visage so well from his youth. The man’s fingers moved to Shen Qingqiu’s forehead, and smoothed his hair back in supplication, before massaging different parts of his body. His twin chuckled as Shen Qingqiu brought a hand to his mouth to cover a coquettish yawn, instead of a wail of pleasure. His nose wrinkling at the action.

His double opened the sorry excuse for a robe fully, and loomed above the figure laying trustingly below him, as though Luo Binghe never wronged him in his life. As though Shen Qingqiu never wronged Luo Binghe. Raising those hips up with ease, the double slicked his fingers with unguent.

His own pillar had been hard since long ago, but the sight, even obstructed, of a man who looked like him, pulling a plug the size of his cock, out of winking rosebud he could not see, made him shiver with want.

His double, was crooning nonsense, and sweet words that burned his ears, “You always take me so well husband. So sweet for me, let your Binghe get you ready, hmm?”

Luo Bingge did not expect him to flip Shen Qingqiu over with ease, forcing their Shizun up onto his knees, Face down, rear exposed to that hungry mouth. Large hands, rolled pebbling red nipples between them, as his face buried itself into the part of those pert white globes, and…licked them open. Hands moved to hips, holding them up, Shen Qingqiu’s shocked wail, piercing the air, with a sensual sound, “Ah, ah.”

Luo Binghe groaned in response, burying himself deeper.

Shen Qingqiu rolled his hips back, small hiccuping sobs leaving his throat, “Binghe it, i-it’s dirty,” he complained. Wasn’t that sweet, as though there was a single part of Shen Yuan's body that Luo Binghe would refuse to put his mouth on?

Luo Binghe pulled himself up for air, his voice low, his eyes glowing red as he crooned out, “Allow me this, let me please you. Shizun, you know how much your disciple loves your taste. How you melt for my tongue, and Shizun likes it too, doesn’t he?” One of the man’s hands moved to stroke a rosebud he could not see. His counterpart called Shen Qingqiu, Shizun in bed, why didn’t that surprise him? Nothing about the situation warranted that name…and yet…it felt so right.

Shen Qingqiu flushed and buried his face in his crossed arms. “Nothing about Shizun is dirty,” Binghe coaxed as he returned to parted cheeks, taking Shizun’s shy hiding as permission. Only this time, he allowed his fingers to join his tongue. The succubus on the bed shakily rocked backed onto those intruding digits, as his double devoured him. Their pillars were both leaking copious amounts of pre-cum, either drooling onto the bedsheets below them, or staining their own pants.

Luo Binghe continued eating Shen Qingqiu out until the man let out hiccuping little gasps, the tears gathering at the corner of his eyes, finally spilling out. When the man finally deemed him ready, he turned him over once more. Wasn’t that a sight to see himself manhandle his Shizun however he pleased, in a bed. In another context, he threw a limbless man around a dungeon, it did not bring him much satisfaction, but it certainly passed the time.

He watched as his double, hoisted Shen Qingqiu’s ankles up past his shoulders, sliding his pillar into that hidden entrance in the same motion. The groan he heard himself let out was guttural, his hips grinding in with a filthy slide, until he bottomed out.

He bent over Shen Qingqiu, planting his hands firmly around those ankles. Luo Bingge swallowed around the chord in his mouth. He had…no idea…Shizun was so flexible.

Luo Binghe fucked in, once twice, in shallow motions, before gnawing at that pale, neck, the hands that were wrapped around those slender ankles flexing, his claws growing to points. He pulled back with the full force of his body, and slammed himself in punishingly. It punched a breathy wail from Shen Qingqiu’s mouth, he clearly could not take the pace his husband was setting. His pale cock, bobbing on his stomach, the tip pink and flush, spurting a small amount of essence onto himself, mere moments after Luo Binghe began.

It brings him a sense of second hand pride to see Shen Qingqiu brought to his peak so early, by a version of himself.

The double does not stop pistoning his hips, and Shen Qingqiu does not at ask him to, despite the tears running freely down his face from overstimulation, his breathing long since, ragged.

Instead he takes what’s given to him.

That powerful form, snarled, hunched over like a beast guarding its prey, its fangs locked on a white neck, its cock obscene. Slowly, pale hands like reeds, wrapped around his back, and they could not meet, but that tired body, shuddering under a pleasurable assault, stroked his back. Softy.

Something in Luo Bingge cracks. Why is Shen Qingqiu allowing this? Allowing himself to be tossed around like a paper doll, allowing himself to be bent in half by a filthy beast, who does not seem as though he is about to stop. His voice a feral snarl trapped behind a red cord. 

“Binghe.” That voice soothed. “Binghe doesn’t have to worry. I’m not going anywhere, sweet boy. Hmm...I’m right -” Huffing as Binghe dug his toes under himself to get more leverage, “I’m, ha, I’m right here. I’m right here. I -, ah, it’s okay.”

The beast on the bed, did not stop, the hands on those ankles flexing until the sharp points broke skin, just the slightest bit. The words sparked him to pound in, impossibly harder, ending in punishing grinds that must have stirred up sensitive insides in a pleasure that bordered pain. Guttural noises leaving his throat, “Mine, mine.” He heard his own voice say.

Not once, did Shen Qingqiu flinch away from fear. Not from the man above him and not from the demonic essence that Luo Bingge could feel flooding the room; an essence that must have been flooding Shen Qingqiu’s meridians.

When the beast comes, it is with a feral roar, timed directly after what Luo Bingge counts as Shen Qingqiu’s fifth orgasm. He had to be using his blood to keep Shen Qingqiu’s pillar erect. Normal men, with human bodies had limits. He estimated that it had been at least one, maybe two shichen, since they began. He twisted his own arms in their bind, and felt nothing, his muscles stiffed by lack of movement and dislocation.

They should be stopping now, and whatever show his double was putting on could end. His own pants had been sticky with release for a long while, his interest too enraptured by the ethereal being, being plowed into, to care much for his own bodily matters. It concerned him little how, or when he bothered to release.

Instead of his expectations being met, he saw the man on the bed, adjust their positions once more, leaning back to sit Shen Qingqiu on his cock, the tired form of their Shizun falling over to rest on his broad shoulders, hands, palm-down on his pectorals. Shen Qingqiu’s back faced him, a fall of hair, like a curtain of the finest ink pushed over one shoulder. His chest rising and falling as he took in short gasps of air.

The man was sitting cross legged, Shen Qingqiu’s legs draped over his thighs. The root of Luo Binghe’s body buried deep inside him. As the man moved his hands to spread those cheeks wide, he swallowed at the sight of that delicate pink rosebud, finally revealed to him. It was stretched over the girth of his cock. His manhood embedded deeply in his body, as though it belonged there.

Cum dripped out with every small upturn of the man’s hips. He couldn’t see this view before this version of himself chose to make it visible.

His big hands, their claws retracted, trailed down that back, one hand grasping the nape of that neck possessively, Shen Qingqiu’s head lolling back bonelessly into his grip.

The man’s eyes glowed red, like the hottest of embers, matching his own. His mouth was swollen, a tongue licking his lips, as it again, wore on Shen Qingqiu’s throat, Luo Binghe’s hands the only things keeping Shen Qingqiu upright.

A filthy upwards thrust of his hips pushed out a trail of cum, slick, and white, Shen Qingqiu’s thighs trembling with the strain of taking more. His fingers grasped Shen Qingqiu’s hair, and pushed that graceful face into the man’s neck, allowing it to rest.

Hands went to slim hips, and just like a doll, Luo Binghe bounced Shen Qingqiu up and down, on his cock. Shizun’s body limp as weak hiccuping sobs left his mouth, punctuating each thrust with their “Ah, ah, ah’s”.

Push him away, he thinks. Why isn’t he pushing him away? But Shen Qingqiu remained pliant in his grip, allowing Luo Binghe to take, and take, and take. Even though Shen Qingqiu’s entrance was swollen around the massive pillar, it twitched enticingly. Sucking him in greedily despite the cum that trailed out with each push. Rocking against his pants, he feels his pillar ache.

It takes the passing of two more incense sticks for Shen Qingqiu to pass out, and four more, for that beast to stop fucking into that giving, generous body, that never so much as raised a hand to him, for his hunger.

Luo Binghe fucked into a Shizun dead to the world, his hands worshipful, kissing bruises in supplication, letting out affirmations of beauty, like prayers to some distant God. The body below him a temple, his pillar the offering, he kept plunging into that puffy hole, the rosebud blooming from pale pink to a dark hue. Its petals swollen from the ministrations.

Luo Bingge’s breath was coming out in pants, dampening the cord in his mouth. He knew he’d cum again to this sight, without a single touch, but the fabric against him.

Finally, after what felt like weeks, the man took mercy, pulling out with one final shake of his hips, the head of his cock sliding out with an obscene plop, cum trailing down to the Shen Qingqiu’s thighs, knees, and then calves. There were bruises in the shape of handprints spread across both of Shen Qingqiu’s hipbones.

With a practiced motion, the man put two fingers into the twitching rosebud, mouthwatering in its slight gape. He scooped out his own seed, uncorked a bottle by the bedside, and slathered in a medicinal cream, the dark pink hue of Shen Qingqiu’s passage already turning lighter. The thick fingers gave the rosebud one final stroke, as Luo Binghe picked up Shen Qingqiu in one hand and threw the sheets, and the ruined robes onto the ground, kicking them to one corner, and grabbing fresh blankets from the closet to throw over his husband.The bed, Luo Bingge noticed, had several layers of sheets upon the mattress, meant to…absorb bodily fluids, while keeping the lower layers clean, for this exact purpose.

The pillows had been pushed to the far end of the bed for their coupling, forcing Luo Binghe to lean over and snag one with his fingertips. He chose one without embroidery or decoration. A roll like, silk covered thing, that he placed in Shen Qingqiu’s hands, watching as his Shizun curled around the pillow, snuggling it close. Stroking his cheek one last time, he stood once more, with purpose.

Luo Binghe walked to the guest behind the screen. Quirking one eyebrow at the spoiled trousers sported by his counterpoint, he snorted.

“Did you enjoy watching?” He crooned mockingly, the tone vastly different from its soothing cadence in bed. “Was it pleasurable? To watch what you’ll never have?”

Luo Binghe’s naked form settled into a crouched as he grabbed his double by the binding cord, and leaned forward to whisper into his ear. A savage, gleeful smile filling his face. “He’s mine,” the voice hissed, “and I’m locking you and your ilk out of my fucking dimension. If you so much as look at him with ill intent, I will rip your intestines out and hang you with them. This Lord allowed you a privilege you will never know again, consider it my sympathies for your pathetic existence.”

Luo Bingge swallowed at the unhinged version of himself. His doppelgänger had something to lose, and Luo Bingge was beginning to suspect that he did not, passion drawing the flames of the man’s anger into an inferno. Sniffing in distain as best he could, with a gag in his mouth, he glared. Luo Binghe patted his cheek patronizingly, and hoisted him up to throw him on the bed, beside Shen Qingqiu.

In shock, Luo Bingge stared at the tired face, beside him, fucked out and asleep. A large body, bracketed Shen Qingqiu’s other side, their Shizun sandwiched between them, Luo Binghe’s arm removing the pillow, taking Shen Qingqiu off the bed. “I’m off to bathe my husband. We’ll be back.”

Luo Binghe lay there, paralyzed on the bed. What was his counterpart up to…and were his own shifts in mood truly so sudden, and volatile?

The two mirror images laid with Shen Qingqiu between them. Neither of them sleeping.

“He, is not your Shizun.” Luo Binghe begins, knowing how deeply unaware Shen Qingqiu could be after a hard coupling. He does not worry his husband will awaken, too tired from Luo Binghe’s attentions to so much as twitch, even if the Palace were being screamed down by a beast tide.

The face that looked like his own, glared daggers at him. He snorted and reached over to yank out the spit covered gag.

“The original Shen Qingqiu died, this, is not him,” Luo Bingmei continued, gesturing to his husband.

Luo Bingge moved back as best he could, and countered, “He must be Shen Qingqiu. This Lord would notice if he were a malicious spirit. What games are you trying to play, brother?”

Luo Binghe moved to stroke a hand through silky black hair. “When Shen Jiu died, my Shizun’s soul was forced to replace his. He was taken from a different world, where we were but a novel, and he, a dead man. You, in the words of my husband, ‘did not deserve the things Shen Jiu did. Shen Jiu was a complicated man, who repeated his own traumas unto his disciples, who then learned to do to others, as was done unto them. The cycle of abuse can be dangerous Binghe. Take care to make sure, your faults are your own. Do not carry the faults of others needlessly. The weight is too heavy.’ Take from that, what you will.”

Only Luo Bingge knew how well the “he” in that verbatim quotation, referred to him. He refused to admit it…but…in the back of his mind he knew these words to be true. He did not get where he was by lacking intelligence. He simply lacked people to contradict him. There was a difference. He may not have beat his non-existent disciples, but he certainly took his revenge to unnecessary extremes.

“He’s not Shen Qingqiu?” He asked, putting away the idea that a world could be a novel for the moment. Though, his life was certainly deserving of immortalization in legend.

Luo Binghe shrugged. “Here is the difference between us. You grew up to be a woman mongering pervert, and I was lucky enough to receive a divine gift in the form of Shen Yuan.”

Shen Yuan. Shen Yuan. He mouthed. The name tasted familiar, yet different on his tongue. He knew of body possessions of course, but ones dictated by the fates, less so. He was filled with a jealousy so vast it could drown a man. It was only comparable to the earth-shattering relief of him not being, somehow, a failure, who could not make his Shizun care for him, despite his great worth. Relief washed over him like a tide. The beginning of old wounds, torn open by his foray into a different world, started to heal, unnoticed by Binghe, himself.

“The Abyss?” He snapped out. His mind working through the possible implications, quickly.

“Is a constant in every world. A’Yuan sent me down with as many provisions as he could,” Binghe said.

That made…an ugly form of sense, that the tribulation that carved itself into Luo Binghe’s bones, was unavoidable.

He does not know what to make of this situation. Of his gratefulness, that the man on the bed with his soft voice, and softer hands, was not the one who beat him so, and his anger that he did not receive an…a…Shen Yuan. That what he got, was a Shen Jiu, a petty and vicious creature with a beautiful face, who almost convinced Binghe that there was good in this world, that one did not have to carve out for themselves.

“Why are you telling me this?” If it were him it would be out of vengeance, but here his twin is, claiming it to be mercy.

“If we both exist, there must be a world out there, with other Shen Yuan’s, who never came to this plane-”

“Make your point?” He snarls out, sore at the reminder.

“Who died young. And scared. After years of suffering,” Binghe stated sharply. 

Bingge’s breath caught in his throat. He did not want to admit his fast attachment to the man in-between them, but he at least knew that he wished him no harm. He was, perhaps curious about him at most. “He was ill?” He questioned.

Binghe spoke casually, as he responded, “All his life. You could, if you so wished, find a version of Shen Yuan.”

Luo Bingge mocked, “Why not gather a harem of them, since you seem to care for them, so greatly?”

Binghe snorted “One is enough. Perhaps one day, you’ll understand what that means…you lech. Our relationship was not built on his existence alone. What I have with my husband could not be replaced by a man wearing his face.” The dig at Bingge’s attempt, was intentional. 

Luo Bingge shot back, “You expect me to leave my life, and what? Find a strange, ill man, and acquire him for my harem?”

Binghe chuckled cruelly, his hands never stopping their path, through those black strands, spread out like a river. “You have known him for mere moments, tasted his kindness but once, and you want him more than anything you have ever wanted before. I know that look on my own face well enough. It is your choice what you do with the knowledge I have imparted.”

Offhandedly he added, “I’m fairly certain, you’ll be leaving the harem behind. No version of A’Yuan would stand to be part of one.”

Luo Bingge held his counterparts gaze, “….Would your precious Shizun support you telling me to abandon all my wives, for him?” They do not speak of children that do not exist.

Shang Qinghua wrote that it was incredibly hard for Luo Binghe to have children, his mixed breeding, and immense power making it difficult to carry on his line. This, originally, was some bullshit line intended to keep the harem filled with hot women, and one man, no babies allowed. Of course, as Luo Binghe was the protagonist, when he wanted a child, eventually one would magically appear despite the odds…but as of now…neither version of Luo Binghe wanted to deal with a babe of their own. One, in fear that the child would follow in his footsteps, the other determined to keep his Shizun to himself for a few more centuries. Their lives were long, they had time.

“No.” He answered. Bingge leaned back in shock, and Binghe continued to speak, “Shizun would not. However, my morals have always been flexible. You should know that, shouldn't you?”

Laughing bitterly Bingge changed the topic, in order not to dwell to long on the pain he felt in his chest, “Tell me honestly if you dare, what is the flaw in this arrangement? Is he ugly? He is, he must hideous. Some pimpled, gangly thing with sallow skin, and a good heart?”

Luo Binghe smiled wryly. This other version of him knew nothing of suffering. “He would say that, if asked.”

Bingge looked at him smugly, and Bingmei smiled before he offered, “Why doesn’t this Lord show you what his husband looked like, in his first life?”

Yanking himself into the other’s consciousness without waiting for an answer, he spread out an image of Shen Yuan into the mind-scape. Cursing, Luo Bingge turned to see a strange white cube, and a…a…little fairy on a bed, with chords running from their arms, and a clear device on their face.

He was…small. Was his first thought. His second was that, not even Liu Mingyan could compare. Black, watery eyes stare at him, as short sweat mussed hair stuck to flushed cheeks, that looked as smooth and glossy as a boiled egg.

He reached a hand out for the illusion, but touched nothing, his hand passing through a frail arm. Stingy. He knew the illusion could be made solid with ease. “This is Shen Yuan?” He asked.

Luo Binghe nodded.

Catching onto the previous words, he wondered, “He would describe himself as-?”

Luo Binghe looked pained, “Sickly, ill, average at best.”

Luo Bingge stared at him in disbelief, and for the first time, when speaking to him, he watched his double show obvious frustration. The man rubbed his face in weariness.

“Look.” Luo Binghe began, his speech more informal as he created a diagram from floating illusory ink. “This is what Shen Yuan knows about the world, and his intelligence in general.” A large circle was created. “And this is the pit unto which all knowledge about his own beauty, or any understanding of when people are attracted to him, goes.” A small swirling hole is drawn into the centre of the larger circle.

“Do you understand?” He asked.

Luo Bingge raised an eyebrow in disbelief, “Is his obliviousness, truly so terrible.?”

Luo Binghe threw his hands up in frustration, as he snapped, “You. You know nothing of my suffering. I spent my disciple-hood thinking of increasingly obvious way to ask if I could pleasure him, and without fail, he misunderstood. Even though our life was a novel in his world, and looking at yours the amount of sex was rampant, he could not comprehend, me telling him I wanted to please him with my mouth. I told him I wanted to please him with my mouth. He assumed I wished to learn how to sing.”

Luo Bingge looked at him judgementally. “He was a young man reading yellow books, and you expect me to believe that he was really so innocent? Come now, perhaps he just did not want you?” Luo Bingge has no delusions about how much sex he’s had in his life. If his life were a novel, eighty percent of it would be him with some woman, fornicating in some exotic locale. For such an innocent looking beauty to have such a habit was…charming, he supposed. Clearly, his other self was deluded, perhaps he was going along with the lie to spare Shen Yuan some face?

Looking at Bingge’s pity filled face, Bingmei decided that mercy was no longer a viable option. Oh. It was on. Like the fourth battle of Xu Valley. Luo Binghe let out a growl, “He read those novels, for the plot.” Before grabbing this unknowing worm, and throwing him into the memories of Luo Binghe’s disciple-hood.

An unknown amount of time later Luo Bingge emerged to see Luo Binghe’s smug face staring at him, Shen Qingqiu still sleeping between them.

“Shut your mouth.” Bingge snapped, without his double saying a single word. He was wrong. He understood. He admitted defeat. It could not have been made more clear to him, how oblivious Shen Yuan was. This sheltered young miss, who somehow read yellow books, for the sole purpose of complaining, he could understand the concept now. It was, unusual but, real. He should have tried to get Shen Qingqiu to suck his dick while he could.

As if sensing his thoughts Luo Binghe glared at him. “You’re the one telling me to seduce him, why are you so bothered now?” Bingge questioned.

“I don’t like the look on your face.” Binghe answered.

“We have the same face, you imbecile.” Bingge countered.

Binghe sniffed in distain, before changing the subject, “You can’t be a brute, you’ll scare him off.” Listening, Bingge settled his bound body more comfortably on the bed. He would, probably need all the advice he could get. Despite his mild offence that this version of himself would dare call him a brute after what he witnessed.

“Shen Yuan.” Binghe said, “Is very delicate, and his face is very thin, but if you introduce things to him slowly he’ll adjust to them with surprising ease.”

Bingge raised an eyebrow, “I have to boil a frog in hot water?” This meant that he would have to slowly up the temperature so as not to spook, Shen Yuan, until it was inevitably too late, and they were married.

Binghe nodded, “You have to interject yourself into his life, until he becomes used to it. He is a gentle soul, if you are patient, he will most likely love you.”

Most likely, like Luo Bingge couldn’t feel the suspicious amount of compatibility between their beings.

Standing up once more, Luo Binghe moved to haul him behind the screen again, “I can’t have A’Yuan wake up with you in the bed. It would scare him. You will sleep here, and I will explain things to my husband in the morning.”

It was sickening how much joy, this version of him took from saying “my husband”. Did he truly have to interject it into his speech so often….Would he too, one day become so…obnoxious?

Shen Yuan awakened a bit sore, but otherwise fine. Binghe healed him during the night-time so as to make his marks all surface bruising. They looked a bit much, but they never really hurt, so Shen Yuan didn’t bother thinking on them. If no one saw them, they were fine.

He sat up to find his husband in a black sleeping robe, at the foot of their bed. Kneeling.

“Did husband have a good rest.” Binghe asked, and Shen Yuan knew something was up, from that soft plaintive voice. The last time this occurred, Binghe was begging for forgiveness for drinking wine from his ass. What. On. This. Wretched earth, had his husband done now.

“Binghe.” He called out sharply. It was too early for this bullshit.

“Husband can’t be mad at me.” Binghe, the demon toddler, said.

“What did Binghe do?” He asked, already resigned.

“Husband needs to know that your Binghe, is truly your Binghe, and you should be assured of that fact, because of our previous discussion regarding this matter. So please take care remember it, in this next moment,” Binge said. Why would he need to be reminded that his husband figured out a way for him to…

His husband pulled a tied up, Luo Bingge out from behind the dressing panel. Fuck. He swore and threw a pillow at him, which Luo Binghe moved towards, so that the hastily thrown projectile hit him in the face. Did he think that would make Shen Yuan less angry?

Hunching over he placed his face into his hands, before looking up, and asking in a confused tone, “Why are you like this?”

Eyes going wide as lotus pads, he realized “Was he here last night?”

Binghe looked a bit guilty. His idiot husband was unbelievable…this was why he spent all that time asking him if Shen Yuan would mind if someone watched them have sex…and implying that perhaps a vision of Shen Yuan’s grace would turn Bingge onto a better path? Shen Yuan’s holy light cleansing him, or whatever Binghe was saying, he had tuned out at that point. He recalled that he answered that only a version of Binghe could see him, which in retrospect was too broad, and that he wouldn’t mind if Bingge was happier, but not at Binghe’s expense. Apparently, his husband had translated that to, let’s hide Luo Bingge and fuck Shen Yuan in front of him.

Binghe looked at him wide-eyed, like a lost lamb, throwing Bingge onto their bed. These actions, and faces were very contradictory, thought Shen Yuan. Luo Binghe also looked weirdly proud of himself. Like he withstood an attack that should have killed him…instead of dodging. This was starting to feel familiar, his husband’s usual ideas on conflict resolution, and proving himself, were quite frankly, insane.

Binghe scuttled into Shen Qingqiu’s mostly healed lap, and acted cute. Grabbing one of Shen Yuan’s arms, he pleaded, “Husband can’t be mad at me, your Binghe will be very sad. I’m going to lock him out of this world, I just thought that it would help if husband saw him, to know that he can’t hurt you…Additionally, if husband wants him as a pillow, I can -“

“Binghe,” Shen Yuan snapped. “Stop. Just stop. It’s fine. You kidnapped the other version of yourself. Of course you did. Just, go make breakfast or something. Stop talking.”

Meanwhile on the other side of the bed, Luo Bingge suffered from whiplash as he watched this two-faced bastard turn into a simpering child in front of his lover. Where was the great and terrible Demon Lord who grabbed him from his world, now? This soft syrupy voice, these over-the-top gestures, this subservience? This talking in third-person? Who was this man?

Grinning, cheekily Luo Bingmei kissed his husband’s forehead before running off to make them food. Husband would forgive him. He always did. Shen Yuan wasn’t even mad, just surprised, and perhaps a bit worried. He was like this when Luo Binghe stood in front of beasts and took their attacks to show his prowess. Binghe liked to think such acts impressed him. All would be right in their word by dinnertime.

Shen Yuan collapsed, turning his head to look at Luo Bingge, the rope bondage variation. He was infinitely less terrifying when he was trussed up like a chicken. He couldn’t say that his husband wasn’t wrong…about it being nice to see the man captured, and knowing he could never come back.

“Why are you like this?” He asked Bingge. Full well knowing they were two different people, “I know that you are two very different people, but I am asking you to explain your other self. Why are you like this?”

Bingge’s face, unlike the smug countenance of before, looked sheepish, something in him Shen Yuan could not place his finger on, calmer, “We have deep fears of abandonment, and enjoy proving ourselves to others?”

Well, that was not what he was expecting, but, it was fair. Maybe Bingge wasn’t so scary?

Groaning Shen Yuan rolled over onto Bingge who let out an exhale of surprise. He may as well use the Bingge pillow while it was here. It was probably a terrible idea. He was going to do it anyway.

Snuggling into the broad chest that smelled familiar, his eyes grew heavy, the night before, still wearing on him, “There’s nothing wrong with you, try to be happy,” he muttered sleepily, missing the punched out gasp his words caused, entirely.

Later, Luo Binghe unbound the cords that held Luo Bingge in the original world of Proud Immortal Demon Way.

“If you knock at the partition, I will feel it. Only do so under dire circumstances. Best of luck,” Bingmei told his counterpart.

Rolling his sore wrists and stretching imperiously. Luo Bingge Demon Lord extraordinaire thought of his future, spread out before him. Of empty days in the Palace with boundless women of varied circumstances…and a sweet young man, in a bed, a world away.

He had a few choices to make.

Curled up together, Luo Binghe looks down at his husband as Shen Yuan asked him, “Do you think he’ll be happy?”

Luo Bingge’s lips quirked up, “I think so….I sent him after you.”

Shen Yuan’s eyes widened as he sat up to pull at Luo Binghe’s cheeks, “Why must husband be like this hmm? Why must you test me so? What made you think it was a good idea to do this?”

“He was lonely. You were sad for him.” Binghe slurred out. That did not mean Shen Yuan wanted Bingge to abandon his world to do what? Go fishing for a Shen Yuan of his own, and he already knows that his husband didn’t send him off after Shen Jiu. This brat.

Binghe’s eyes are laughing, and Shen Yuan sends his prayers for his counterpart. Yuan-mei he thinks….good luck. You’re going to need it.