Luo Binghe’s mind was full of thoughts about his Shizun day and night from the first time that he started apprenticing under Shen Qingqiu in the Cang Qiong Mountain Sect. The famed Xiu Ya Sword was so much more in the flesh then he was in the tales that good and bad people spun about him. And this late evening was no different. Binghe didn’t really notice when his Shifu became the main focus of his everyday thoughts in the way that no apprentice should have even dared to ponder. He thought about Shizun while cultivating, he focused his mind on Shizun’s voice while training, he cooked and painted and wrote calligraphy with only one person in mind and when he got to bed at night, separated from Shifu by only a meagerly thin bamboo wall, his senses were aflame even more so.
In the beginning, Binghe tried his best and honest to swat away those thoughts, impure and uninvited as they were, but the more attention Shen gave him, the more frequently his mind drifted to Shizun. And those musings got more and more daring, soon nothing came up in Luo’s mind as saliently while he daydreamed. His Shizun was like water - soft and fluxible, movements fluid and measured, but never slow, and able to turn sharp, deadly and cold like a rapid, unfreezing river in a heart of winter. His Shifu was the most stunningly beautiful among anyone Binghe’s ever seen and not a single being, Immortal, Demon or Human could compare. Not sweet and childish Ning Yingying, not perfect Liu Mingyan with her face that could kill in an instant, no Peak Lord, none of the Huan Hua Palace beauties - no one compared to Shen Qingqiu.
He knew, deep in his heart, that his feelings had to be kept as a secret, but the same damned heart beat faster with each moment they’ve shared between the two of them. Smallest of glances, softest of smiles, those tiny things no other people would notice - he saw it all and his soul sang. Binghe would berate himself for it yet he couldn’t rip those feelings out of his heart even if he tried to. The one who courageously protected Luo’s life time and time again, the person who helped him become better and stronger, who lifted him up when no one else would, his teacher deserved all the respect and devotion Binghe had in him, his soul and his life. It burdened him to the point that his chest ached in the longing of just confessing his deepest feelings to the one he’s grown to love so much, but even the sliver of an idea about possible rejection brought him to his knees and broke his heart in half. This couldn’t continue like for long, the situation Binghe has gotten himself into took a toll on his psyche and the young man couldn’t take it anymore.
So at nights like this, when chill crisp mountain air was singing with fresh promise of new hope and the leaves softly rustled in the wind, the serenity of surrounding scenery was at most dissonance with Binghe’s lovesick and tortured mind. Wishing to go to sleep as hard as he could, Luo tossed and turned in his bed, pushing out of his mind the mere idea of going to the adjacent room to steal a peek at a beautiful man, peacefully sleeping just a few inches away, on the other side of that pesky wall. Just gazing at the calm, relaxed features of Shizun’s face would be enough to carry him for weeks, like food and drink carry the life of other people. In this muddled wrestle, Binghe didn’t even notice drifting away into an uneasy slumber, fingers clenching in his sleep like he was trying to grasp something just beyond his reach.
The hazy dream world Binghe found himself inside of, wasn’t unbeknown, as he again stood in the familiar plane of chaotic nothingness and looked towards the disappearing horizon in the distance, eyes searching for an answer to come. The dream realm he was so used to now felt like a prison for his burning mind, conjuring the images he would pay to see but won’t dare to, both a torture and a blessing for the soul.
Upon him the low otherworldly voice rang, cursing, as usual, displeased with the intrusion:
“Insolent pupil of mine, how dare you to come unannounced and unwelcomed into my realm not bearing a desire to learn but only to live out something to never come!”
Sounding as soft as a rustle of leaves in a gentle wind, trying as hard as he could to not displease the powerful Dream Demon, even more, Binghe went:
“Begging your forgiveness, master, this pupil didn’t mean to meddle in this realm unashamedly so and bother his teacher in a time like this, yet this pupil seeks solace and advice from a being far greater than himself.”
The voice rang again, cranky and scratchy but not without endearment:
“What does this brat want to hear from his old teacher so badly that he burgess in like the dream realm is his to own? An advice? I can give you one - learn to anticipate failure when you thrust yourself into places you don’t belong without weighing your options.”
Binghe sighed heavily and slowly, this time anticipating the tirade he’d be given
“This pupil is grateful for the wisdom of such a scale, yet he dares to speak his heart’s truth. Your pupil came here to ease the heart’s pain born in the longing for something he cannot have.”
Chuckle from the mighty Meng Mo was not what he would be expecting, and the following portion of wisdom felt almost condemning:
“Brat, you’re a man of strong passions and strong will and even stronger storms wreck your heart. Learn to control and confront them or drown in your sorrows. The way is with words, pave the path to an understanding with saying your truth.”
The chaos around Luo started to dissipate and change as he pondered the last saying of his demon teacher and the fading words of Meng Mo resonated in his mind:
“Help my insolvent pupil seeks so fervently will come from the source within the brat himself. No harm can be done while in my domain until I desire so. Subject yourself to the storm, submit to your feelings and see what comes of it, pupil. Confront your real master, if you desire so, and see in the eye of one who holds your heart.”
The void slowly took color around him and as Binghe started to see shapes, no longer abstract, set in motion just to take their place in the rightful positions, a familiar scenery was being brought to existence by forces, stronger than himself by a long shot.
Greenery appeared slowly, a gentle spring, bubbling among its lush leaves and flowers, a light breeze blowing waves on both planes of green and blue, a distant bamboo pavilion, constructed in a simple manner, and a lonely figure upon seeing which Luo Binghe’s heart skipped a beat.
It’s him, it’s Shen Qingqiu, standing on an ornately carved wooden bridge over a serene pond, adorned in his finest silks, green fabric almost floating in the light gusts of gentle wind, lotus flowers in full bloom on the waters below him as pretty as his museful face, that calm and collected demeanor giving way to the contemplative look of reflection upon the nature’s beauty. He’s seen Shifu like this before, either looking out the window onto the mountains or watching turned leaves fall in the forest. That wistful look Shen got when he thought no one was watching. And the truth was that yes, no one except Binghe was watching Qingqiu so closely and with such attentiveness, no one would ever dare to disturb Shizun’s privacy in such an intense manner. Oh, how he watched Shifu, how closely he observed every gentle, small smile leaving those lips, the quick glances his way, in Shen’s mind protected from the diligent student by an impenetrable wall of the paper fan, those perfect features, soft like a cloud in the blue skies one moment and fiercer than the fires of Demon realm the next.
Seeing Shen like this, peaceful and grounded yet ethereal, unattainably, impossibly beautiful only further cemented Luo’s determination to catch in his palm what couldn’t be caught. His will was strong, his desires - even stronger and the fire, burning slowly, chipping at his soul, raged into an all-consuming abyss of blinding light that took the reason with it. The wisdom of the Dream Demon and his own barely lasting strength were enough to push him through and over the edge of that silent longing into the swift and hustled action. Going on a whim, submitting himself to the truth, Binghe decided to go into that fire, this time with no hesitation, now. His Shizun was waiting there, waiting for him and Binghe himself couldn’t wait any longer.
Approaching hastily, Luo steps foot on the wood of the bridge without making a sound and closes the distance that feels like infinity in a few wide strides, stopping only a palm width away, closer than he ever allowed himself. Shizun feels it somehow, here, in a dream, and turns to Binghe to greet him in that soft manner that makes his pupil weak at the knees. Before Shen has any chance to say anything, Binghe gets even closer, ceasing the minuscule space left between their bodies, putting the palm of his hand on a soft, slippery green silk of Shizun’s robes, where the thin, delicate bones of his shoulder could be felt through the skin and layers of fabric. Qingqiu eyebrows shoot up, eyes widening, surprise on his face and Binghe can’t take it anymore. They're almost the same height so it’s easy to dive into the kiss, nothing as he’d imagined and everything he’d ever anticipated.
The softest of touches, skin on gentle skin, breath taken away with the suddenness of the feeling, Binghe can barely stand it, but seeing the Shizun’s eyes go blown up wide before closing bursts a dam in his heart and floods his whole being. Something grows and swells inside his chest, unfurls further and further, with every thump of his heart it gets bigger. It’s like a flutter of million butterfly wings, it’s like feeling the entirety of the whole world unfurl around him, it’s like jumping into a cold spring in the middle of the summer heat, it’s burning underneath his skin and inside his soul.
The shoulder underneath his fingers flexes, Shen’s arm gripping the fan raising into the air to possibly inflict the retribution for the act as disrespectful as this and Binghe cringes but doesn’t back down and doesn’t let go. The bamboo fan clatters on the planks of the bridge, the fist that was holding it unclenching to grasp back at Luo’s garb, scrunching the fabric.
Unbeknown to him, in Shen Qingqiu’s mind the System loudly alerts:
【Urgent warning: If Luo Binghe fails the first kiss interaction, the protagonist’s self-esteem will plummet and the degree of coolness will be deducted by 10000. 】
And Shen’s panicked, confused mind melts completely, leaving him with nothing else than to give in to the temptation and part his lips under the gentle but steady and persistent pressure of Binghe’s mouth against his. It’s inexperienced and sweet yet charged with so much emotion Qingqiu cannot feel them all at once so they just wash over him in huge waves as he floats through the kiss, breathless and smitten.
This felt like hours and hours of bliss, being able to touch Shizun and get back from him something that’s like a healing balm for the yearning heart - reciprocation, the confirmation of the feelings, Luo hoped were there. He was giddy with it, soul soaring and fluttering, weightless with joy. Breaking away to gaze into Shifu’s eyes, Binghe expected nothing of the caliber he’s gotten - Qingqiu face, flushed with a light dusting if pink, pupils so wide those eyes seemed black and glistening lips, rosy from the touch, were like a dagger to the weakest parts of his heart. Forever engraving this lovely image in his mind, Luo hid his face in a river of black silky hair, in the faint smell of green tea, mountain air, and freshly fallen snow, pulling the lithe body of his teacher into the tender embrace. Shen murmured something underneath his breath, inaudibly, but buried himself in his pupil’s voluminous robes and strong arms, hiding from embarrassment or maybe from unexpected emotions. Binghe closed his eyes, satiated and tranquil, his heart full and whole again. Warmth and softness in his arms weren’t disappearing, not now, not ever, as he stored it deep down in his soul forever, to be cherished and to keep him going even through the darkest of times.
When he opened his eyes again, the faint light of the morning sun was streaming into the room and onto his face, leaving the dream of his far away in another realm yet still close to his heart. Binghe felt like he could survive on this memory alone for the rest of his days but sunlight and the chirping birds made him think otherwise. It was time to rise and prepare for the day, even though everything he needed was in his mind already.
Alas, ‘twas was nothing but a dream. But, sometimes, dreams do come true. Only the time can tell how it’ll end. And maybe the system, it’ll always know everything. Just have to wait and see.