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Primary Education on Spring Mountain

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The initiation test that Airplane had created for Cang Qiong Mountain was very possibly the stupidest thing he or anyone else had ever written. Nothing, not a 1000 B-Point Reduction, not even Binghe’s saddest, most shimmering tears, would ever be able to force Shen Qingqiu to say otherwise.

But, standing there on a cool spring morning, watching several hundred children determinedly dig pits in the dirt, he could admit it . . . wasn’t . . . quite entirely . . . pointless?

It was still stupid, don’t get him wrong!

But like a lot of Airplane’s world-building, it made a lot more sense now that Shen Qingqiu had a first-person view and the full benefit of context. For example, the test took place in the mountain valley between Qiong Ding and Wan Jian Peaks, which meant it sat right on top of the confluence of two extremely pure spirit veins. The soil itself was saturated with powerful but chaotic qi; which spot a prospective disciple was drawn to dig in, how fast they got tired, how deep they could go, what stones they dug up, to an informed observer all this communicated a wealth of information about the child’s talent for cultivation and the state of their roots.

Not that Shen Qingqiu was looking for new disciples - Luo Binghe was his canonical door-closing disciple, he wasn’t going to mess with that! But it was pretty cool to watch, okay?

He can admit that much, okay?

Anyway, he could at least maybe pick out a few nice kids for Liu Qingge or something. The man had ended up being a surprisingly good teacher to Yang Yixuan, it was a pity he had stopped at just the one student. Plus maybe if Bai Zhan Peak started holding actual classes then maybe those kids wouldn’t have the energy to go cause trouble elsewhere!

Things had calmed down a little from how bad it had gotten a few years ago, once Shen Qingqiu had repeatedly made clear that any attempt to chase Luo Binghe from Cang Qiong would just result in Shen Qingqiu leaving with him. Liu Qingge had reigned his disciples in, Shen Qingqiu had sold that house he bought during Luo Binghe’s qi-deviation to pay for a new gate and Luo Binghe had lightly menaced Shang Qinghua to make sure the repairs were completed in record time. After that everyone had gotten along together harmoniously, or at least with minimal amounts of violence.

Shen Qingqiu fans himself idly and wonders if it’s being surrounded by so many young sprouts that’s making him remember that particularly odd interlude. He hasn’t taught a proper class in years. He still does one-on-one sessions, sometimes, but his little disciples are all grown up now, do you think he’d be travelling about seven weeks out of eight if they weren’t?

Even he’s not that shit a teacher!

But.

If he and Binghe hadn’t been travelling quite so much . . . 

And they didn’t have to spend so much time in the Demon Realm . . .

It’s a nice life! Very leisurely!

But . . . Shen Qingqiu wouldn’t have minded, too much, to have a new set of disciples to teach. He didn’t hate teaching. Of course he didn’t enjoy it or anything! Who would enjoy having to work? Taking that teaching job while he was pretending to be Binghe’s father had only been because things had gotten really boring!

But, in the end, teaching wasn’t that bad. There were worse things to do for a living.

He flicks his fan in annoyance, as if batting away the thought, and tries to turn his focus back to finding some promising new distractions . . . er, talents, for Liu-shidi to teach.

He notices one little girl digging in the moist shade under the trees. Dual wood and water roots, if he was any judge, and the shape of her hole is even and round, with firm edges, so she’ll probably have a good sense for cultivation. Not Ban Zhan material but she’d make a good candidate for Qian Cao; Shen Qingqiu makes a note to bring her to the attention of Mu Qingfang if Mu-shidi doesn’t notice her himself.

His eyes drift around seeking more candidates, most of these children seem like they’d be lucky to even make it to An Ding peak . . . but, ah, wait!

There’s two boys kneeling side-by-side in the middle of the pack, at the point where the spirit veins cross and the qi is at its strongest but most chaotic. Both their holes are already visibly wider and deeper than anyone else on the field, even the candidates digging on the edges where the qi is most stable. Single roots, Shen Qingqiu thinks, and strong natural inner reserves.

Both boys keep glancing at each other, glaring, as if this was a private competition and not a test involving hundreds of children, and they’re both absolutely covered in dirt - but a sense of competition is healthy for Ban Zhan disciples and a sense of hygiene is entirely optional, so Shen Qingqiu makes a pleased noise to himself.

Though . . . the children seemed almost familiar to him, in a way he couldn’t quite place?

After a moment of thought, he decides it’s because they both remind him of Luo Binghe. The slightly taller boy has a bit of baby hero aura, like Binghe used to, all shiny determinedness, while his little rival is more like the adult Binghe when he’s being sulky and brooding.

The little hero looks up to notice him watching them and then, a little surprisingly, nudges his rival with one dirt-covered hand. Shen Qinqiu expects them to start squabbling again but instead now they’re both staring at him?

Woops, is he making them nervous?

He tries to smile as encouragingly as he can without breaking character. He guesses it works, because the little hero breaks out into a wide grin and the little rival, well, that’s . . . probably a smile? And then they both go back to digging with even more energy and speed than before.

He can’t help chuckling a little.

Behind him, Ming Fan jolts slightly and then leans forward excitedly, “Shizun! Have you noticed some promising disciples?”

Shen Qingqiu feels a tiny bit of sympathy for him as he shakes his head, “For the other peaks, perhaps, but this teacher has noticed none suitable for Qing Jing.”

(Sorry, Ming Fan, teacher knows you want to be called Da Shixiong by some cute young buns, but some of this situation is your fault too, you know!)

Ming Fan deflates and goes back to standing silently behind Shen Qingqiu, doing his best Dignified Head Disciple act. Shen Qingqiu goes back to surveying the test but besides those three that he’s already noticed there doesn’t seem to be anyone particularly outstanding. Ku Xing Peak’s Peak Lord will probably make a few offers, the poor guy was getting pretty desperate, and some of these children could be accepted as Outer Disciples, but most of them were going home. It’s a weak crop of candidates this year.

Shen Qingqiu sighs to himself. If he was being honest, he’s not entirely without responsibility for this problem. After all, what kind of child dreaming of a future as a heroic and righteous cultivator would sign up with a Sect that had not one but two of its leadership married to demon lords?

No child, that’s what!

The only thing keeping Cang Qiong from complete disaster was, well, most of the other sects weren’t doing that much better. Not only was Tianlang-jun still moping about at Zhao Hua Temple, popular rumour made it out like he was preparing to take his vows as a monk.

And as for the venerated Huan Hua Palace?

Oh, did you mean Luo-junshang’s least-favourite vacation home?

Shen Qingqiu sighs again and fans himself a little more vigorously, giving the candidates a second look, trying to see if there were any others showing signs of hidden talent, but it really did seem like a bust. Ah well, with things as they were even three promising kids was pretty fortunate.

Unfortunately, it did make watching the rest of the test pretty boring.

As he had predicted, though, it didn’t take long for Mu Qingfang to murmur a request to Yue Qingyue, and then for Mu Qingfang’s head disciple to make her way to the little girl digging by the trees. Shen Qingqiu watches, smiling, as the disciple bends over the little girl and formally asks her if she wants to join Qian Cao Peak. Always such a touching scene!

And then Qian Cao’s Head Disciple ruins it by whipping around and glaring murderously straight at Shen Qingqiu.

Shen Qingqiu blinks.

What?!

Is that an appropriate attitude for a future doctor, shizhi?!

The disciple makes her way back to Mu Qingfang, face still thunderous, and whispers something to him. Mu Qingfang startles, just a little, but shakes his head at her and goes back to standing calmly so Shen Qingqiu assumes it was nothing major. The child had probably wanted to join Xian Shu Peak instead, the girls often did.

The two boys also turn down invitations from several peaks but that at least causes no surprises. Liu Qingge doesn’t formally attend these events but Shen Qingqiu knows Ji Jue is hovering somewhat at the edge of their group, ready to let the boys know if they wanted to dare to try and join them then Bai Zhan Peak was ready to welcome them with swords drawn.

He stifles a yawn behind his fan and waits for the testing to draw to a close.

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In theory parents aren’t allowed to attend the tests, selection was supposed to be free of any outside influence, but in practice a few still manage to show up. Mostly those from local merchant families, because it’d be awkward and inconvenient for the Sect to turn away, say, the people who supplied their cooking oil. A few of parents, though, are cultivators in their own right, people who had once been disciples of Cang Qiong but had left to become rogue cultivators or to become a big fish in a smaller sect.

The upshot was that after the testing Shen Qingqiu still had to steel himself for a few hours of polite chitchat with anxious parents eager to push their children’s prospects. These days cultivators weren’t particularly eager to have their children taught by a man who had supposedly failed to notice one of his disciples was a half-demon but trade between the Human and Demon Realms was really starting to pick up and with it the merchant parents’ eagerness to talk to him.

He’s drawn into a conversation between two publishers (apparently rivals? How was Shuang Hu City big enough to even support two obviously prosperous publishers?) when he hears gasps of shock and surprise break out behind him.

He turns around and gives a gasp of shock and surprise himself.

Ziu Xian’s Peak Lord is tenderly embracing a very beautiful and very buxom woman. Behind him, Mu Qingfang is . . . not quite embracing, but smiling at her like he wants to . . . a woman of equally impressive looks and chest size.

Then he notices a third woman, just as, er, blessed as the first two, bearing down on him.

Shen Qingqiu brings his fan up to cover his face.

His first thought is, “Madame! Don’t ask this old man to tenderly embrace you, it’s like asking for death!”

His second thought is, “ . . . doesn’t she look a little familiar?”

In Shen Qingqiu’s head there are two boxes of memories, one labelled “regrettable details learnt from reading this toxic trash-fire of a xianxia novel” and the other “my lived experience of this shithole excuse for a cultivation setting”. At that moment both of those boxes topple over, flooding his head with a confusing assortment of knowledge.

He makes a little show of gracefully putting away his fan, then of bringing his hands up for an elegant salute. The third woman looks more unimpressed with every second he takes but every second is buying him time to get his thoughts in order.

“Qingqiu greets Che-shijie,” he says, about 85% sure he’s guessed right, “or would shijie prefer to be addressed as Madame Hou?”

She stares at him for a moment in obvious surprise, then smiles and returns his salute, “Peak Lord Shen, this shijie is glad to see her shidi really has finally learnt some manners.”

Shen Qingqiu laughs gently and flicks his fan back out. Great things, fans, really good for covering up that you’re breaking out into a nervous sweat!

He knows who these women are! He knows who they are! He’s in really serious trouble here!

These are the MILFs! The Lady Xus! The sexy older women that Airplane carelessly tossed into the harem to cater to a wider range of perverts!

Most importantly, these are the mothers of Luo Bing-ge’s first three children!

The one addressing him is Che Limin, the upstanding and admirable shijie of the Scum Villain Shen Qingqiu. A woman of honour with morals hammered out of steel, in the original plot-line she had left the Sect in disgust after the Original Goods had been made Succeeding Disciple but turned up again later during the Trial story-line. Airplane had written thousands of words dedicated to describing how much Che Limin still hated Shen Qingqiu but how dedicated she was to making sure he’d get a fair trial anyway, just because that’s how strong her sense of justice really was.

Of course, the second she encountered Bing-ge’s giant dick her morals and IQ were instantly vaporized. Then nine months later Che Limin popped out a cute young sprout!

(Che-shijie! You’re supposed to be a woman of intelligence and experience! Why weren’t you on birth control?!)

Bing-ge had met the other two wives through Che Limin, the women were close friends who had all grown up together at Cang Qiong. Which means it’s likely the one standing with an arm slung over the Xian Shu Lord’s shoulder is the Drunken Snake Fist Mistress, no real name given! The one smiling serenely at Mu Qingfang is the Renowned Moon Lake Alchemist, also no real name given!

What, did you think Airplane would hand-out names to these third-tier fetish side-characters when even a main character like the Little Palace Mistress was going nameless?

Don’t underestimate that bastard author’s laziness!

Luckily for this poor transmigrator, Shen Qingqiu can maybe possibly still sort of wing this. See, to him the woman staring at him isn’t just “Che-shijie”. She’s also Madame Hou, the formidable mother of one of his students from that brief month he had been teaching at that city academy. The Drunken Snake Fist Mistress is . . . Madame Rui, probably? And the Renowned Moon Lake Alchemist is Madame Cen . . . he thinks?

“Is Hou Wei doing well?” he asks, finally dragging her son’s name out of his memory. He had been one of the brighter students, a determined and energetic young boy who . . .

Who . . .

Shen Qingqiu’s sense of panic ratchets up, staggers side-ways and then leaps out the window.

“He’s doing very well,” Che-shijie says, “I hope Peak Lord Shen noticed him at the trials today.”

“Mmm, I did,” Shen Qingqiu answers, “Still competing with Rui Qiang, I see.”

Che-shijie actually laughs, “Yes, things between those two brats haven’t changed at all.”

Hou Wei! Hou Wei and Rui Qiang! Or, as better known to millions of brain-dead readers across the internet, Crown Prince Lou Wei and his half-brother Lou Qiang!

Airplane! Couldn’t you choose less generic names for your secondary protagonist and antagonist?! How was this teacher supposed to realise they were sitting right there in his classes!

And that means he's now 99.95% certain that that little girl sitting digging under the trees had been Cen Yumeng, formerly known as Princess Yumeng, aka the only one of Bing-ge’s daughters to ever get a canon name.

Shen Qingqiu’s head is ringing with static as he salutes the other two mothers, hoping he remembers correctly that both had been single moms, “Cen-shimei, Rui-shimei.”

They salute him back, so he guesses he got it right, and he navigates his way through the social niceties mostly on auto-pilot while he scrambles to remember as much of the kid plot-line as possible. If he can make polite small-talk with Ming Fan’s grandmother he can make polite small-talk with anyone, and so he’s more or less managing to coast until Cen-shimei says, “Of course this shimei was hoping Meng-Er would want to go to Qian Cao Peak, and I’m sure that Rui-shimei had hoped A-Qiang would join Zui Xian, but all three of them are so determined to join Qing Jing that there’s really no arguing with them.”

Shen Qingqiu blinks. What? Why is that?

Che Limin laughs, but her voice is gentle, “This shijie is biased, but it’s gratifying to see her brat of a shidi has grown up into such an exemplary Peak Lord and such an inspiring teacher.”

Shen Qingqiu blinks again, fan pausing. Inspiring teacher, him?!

. . . Bullshit!

Obviously these were just another set of wife plots come gunning for him!

“Of course, as Peak Lord Shen has already been their teacher, and they’re all so promising, there’s no question that they’d be accepted, correct?” Che-shijie adds, her voice growing a just a bit sharper.

“Mnn,” Shen Qingqiu demures, then decides there’s no way you can hold onto your dignity around a shijie-type anyway, “Of course not, but this teacher will have to speak with his husband first, as taking on such young students will require certain arrangements to be adjusted.”

“Of course,” all three of the women reply at once, faces relaxing. Luo Binghe’s monopolisation of Shen Qingqiu’s time, among other things, is unfortunately STILL a favourite topic for yellow novels and drinking songs. Rui-shimei gets a gleam in her eye that Shen Qingqiu immediately decides to wipe from his memory.

----------------------------

He thinks about how to broach the subject, later that night, as he waits at the table for Luo Binghe to finish cooking dinner.

Luo Wei and Luo Qiang had been pretty popular characters at first. Airplane had miraculously managed to do a half-way decent job of writing them as mirrors of their father’s best and worst sides. Luo Wei had been the bright and shining young hero that Luo Bing-ge could have become if he had been raised as Tianlang-jun’s rightful heir instead of being cast away on an icy river. His half-brother Luo Qiang had been his perfect foil, a driven and intense boy who had fully embraced his demonic heritage, turning him into a cool misunderstood anti-hero type who could be ruthless in ways that even Bing-ge couldn’t get away with.

And Princess Yumeng . . . well, okay, she was just there to be cute and provide an excuse for rescue plots. Really, she was lucky that Airplane had given her a name! She had inexplicably managed to be close to both of her warring brothers and helped provide plenty of exciting scenes where they were forced to work together to save her. Shen Qingqiu struggles to reconcile her with his own memory of Cen Yumeng, who was a quiet but witty girl who . . . did play peace-maker between Hou Wei and Rui Qiang, sometimes?

Huh.

He’s a little surprised he remembers so much about these characters because, in the end, their story-line hadn’t really gone anywhere. The general readership hadn’t wanted to see Luo Bing-ge’s all-conquering stallion status face any competition, even from his own sons, and they definitely had trouble paying attention to any story-line without at least three sex-scenes, so it had ended up as one of Great Master Airplane’s many unfinished side-plots.

Shen Qingqiu sighs to himself. Then he sighs again.

He really doesn’t want to turn these kids away, okay? They’re all good kids! Even if even the tiny bun version of A-Qiang was a little intense! But! Still! A! Good! Kid!

And Shen Qingqiu definitely didn’t want to be responsible for any more people’s Start Of Darkness!!!

But, he sighs once more, he promised Luo Binghe that wherever Binghe went he would follow, and he definitely can’t take in three pre-teens when he’s only on the Peak one week out of every eight. It’s true Ming Fan and Ning Yingying had done an excellent job keeping things going when Shen Qingqiu had been kind of dead but they had their own cultivation to look after and it wouldn’t be fair to burden them with this too.

The clink of plates on the table startles him and he looks up to see his husband frowning down at him.

“Shizun seems troubled,” Luo Binghe says, sitting down next to him, “Did something happen at the trials today?”

“Mnn,” Shen Qingqiu pauses a moment, still trying to beat his thoughts in order, still trying to figure out the best way to approach this, before replying, “Does Binghe remember that time a few years ago, when we settled in a human city and this teacher took a job at the city academy to pass the time?”

Luo Binghe scowls, “this disciple could never forget such tribulations.”

Shen Qingqiu flicks open his fan to muffle another sigh. Honestly, this boy. Just because he hadn’t been able to get it up for a few months!

“Some of those students at the academy were at the trial today.”

Luo Binghe’s scowl deepens but then, to Shen Qingqiu’s surprise, it softens and fades, “Did they perform well?”

“Yes, quite well . . . but it turns out that their mothers are this teacher’s fellow disciple-sisters, so it was to be expected.”

“Ah”, Luo Binghe says, and begins arranging the dishes, “so Shizun is accepting more disciples at last?”

Shen Qingqiu blinks.

At last? What at last? What happened to your bottomless jar of vinegar, Binghe?!

“Binghe is . . . alright with this?” Shen Qingqiu asks cautiously, “It would mean we would have to change our travel plans. This teacher would not be able to leave his Peak as often anymore.”

Binghe looks at him, then shyly takes his free hand and smiles, “Shizun is not only a great teacher but also one who enjoys teaching greatly. This husband is glad for his consideration but . . . he also regrets that Shizun has foregone something that brings him such joy for so long.”

Oh.

Shen Qingqiu stares at him. Binghe, don’t say it like he’s some repressed housewife who gave up her career for her husband! This old man’s been perfectly content being your spoilt trophy wife!

. . . Of course he can’t quite say it like that.

“Being with Binghe is what makes this husband happiest,” is what he says instead.

“This disciple would not be going anywhere,” Luo Binghe replies, taking the opportunity to shuffle even closer, until he’s solid and warm against Shen Qingqiu’s side, “Not even a hundred Liu Qingges would be enough to drive him away.”

“Liu-shishu,” Shen Qingqiu corrects out of habit, but he leans against Luo Binghe and, daringly, risks a kiss to his cheek.

. . . And Luo Binghe really IS being extra-considerate tonight, because Shen Qingqiu still manages to finish dinner before being pulled into bed.

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Shen Qingqiu doesn’t regret it in the morning. He doesn’t! Even if he’s now got to go through the whole admittance ceremony with three kids at once and it’s going to involve a lot of sitting.

So much sitting.

His poor ass.

Still, no regrets! Binghe had deserved a little sugar, okay? He’s even sitting next to Shen Qingqiu now, face impassively polite, not a tear in his eye or the merest hint of a death glare. Shen Qingqiu leans a little against him, for support.

He might need those death glares to save his face later, anyway, since he’s never had to do this ceremony before.

Ning Yingying leads the children into the room and their eyes light up when they see him. Shen Qingqiu feels a little relieved that he hadn’t had to turn them away. Such cute children! Even if they had been fathered by a bunch of randos in this world, spiritually you could tell they were meant to be Luo Binghe’s! It was obvious to anyone with eyes!

The children make their first bow to him, brightly chirping, “Shizun!”

Shen Qingqiu has a moment to appreciate how nice it’s going to be to have young students again and as he does that the children shuffle about to face Luo Binghe, bow again, and chirp, “Shimu!”

Shen Qingqiu’s pleasant train of thought derails.

Shimu?! SHIMU?! Children, this is your father, not your mother!!! He’s your teacher’s husband, not his wife!!!

Luo Binghe also makes a little sound of shock.

Shen Qingqiu turns to look at him, worried he’s taking offense, and is instantly blinded by the sparkling aura radiating from his husband.

Oh.

Oh he guesses Binghe . . . probably doesn’t mind it? No one within Cang Qiong Sect has ever really acknowledged their marriage before, at least not outside the medium of terrible bootleg porn. Even though “Shimu” is . . . not quite right . . . if Binghe doesn’t mind it then he supposes he won’t either.

Plus Binghe's bright happiness makes the ceremony instantly more tolerable.

(It still has way too many steps, though.)

They get through the rest of the bows and prostrations. Shen Qingqiu silently curses out Shang Qinghua when he gets to the bit he has to light incense for the past Peak Lords (Airplane, this is what you wasted your research time on?!) and mutters apologies under his breath for being a fraud.

And then it comes time for the children to serve the tea and Shen Qingqiu feels Binghe, who’s been pleased and relaxed by his side, suddenly stiffen.

Oh no.

Oh shit.

This isn’t bringing back good memories for Binghe at all, is it?

Shen Qingqiu holds his breath as Hou Wei and Rui Qiang jostle each other over who gets to pour the cups, praying that nothing spills, but then Cen Yumeng slaps both their hands away and smoothly takes over. Best Girl! Tea is successfully served without anyone having to relive any traumas or gain any new ones!

Shen Qingqiu hears Binghe exhale softly and reaches over to give his hand a brief squeeze.

Somehow there are still more steps after this? Yet somehow they make the whole tedious mess without Shen Qingqiu forever wrecking his reputation. He even manages to mostly sit up straight, hiding all his winces behind his fan, and the few times he almost falters Binghe smoothly covers for him.

Then it’s over and Binghe’s smiling brightly at the children, and the children are smiling brightly at him, and Shen Qingqiu guess . . . this is good?

This is good!

Even if Shen Qingqiu has ruined the entire harem storyline, this way Luo Binghe won’t miss out on having kids!

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A week later, he’s still basking in those bright happy feelings.

Everything worked out a lot better than he could have imagined! He didn’t even have time to worry about Luo Binghe feeling neglected because his husband's thrown himself right into teaching the new students.  Shen Qingqiu’s barely gotten a chance to teach them himself!

The sound of the children’s laughter greets him as he steps out of the bamboo hut, which is kind of cliched but . . . still rather nice? Luo Binghe is sitting in the front clearing with the baby disciples, teaching them rudimentary fire talismans. He’s smiling patiently at them and he hasn’t even noticed his husband’s arrival, but still the sight fills Shen Qingqiu with warmth.

Of course, Binghe’s also busy fending-off a Ming Fan determined to lead his new junior martial siblings through their first sword-forms instead, so maybe he’s a little distracted.

(Sorry, Ming Fan, but these new chibis all came pre-set to like Luo Binghe the best!)

“I’m their Da Shixiong, of course I’m leading this class! Have some respect, Surn . . . “ belatedly Ming Fan remembers he’s supposed to be setting an upstanding example here and grits out, “ . . . Luo-shidi.”

“I’m their Shimu!”

“You’re their what?!”

“Shizun married me, didn’t he? That makes me your Shimu too!”

“Fuck You! Like HELL am I calling you Shimu!”

Hou Wei gasps in delight at the swear words.

. . . Shen Qingqiu ends up taking over the class after all. He can’t have his new baby students listening to language like that.

And then, after a few weeks, Ning Yingying ALSO starts calling Binghe “Luo-shimu”?! Then some of other, more bystander-type-role students start doing it too!

. . . It’s . . . it's made the atmosphere . . . a little odd, since Binghe is still very properly addressing them all as “Ning-shijie” and “X-shixiong”, and Ming Fan would probably rather die in the ant pit than ever address Binghe like that at all but . . .

. . . But Binghe is smiling again when he’s with Yingying, he’s smiling again on Qing Jing Peak in a way that he hasn’t since before the Abyss. Back when he felt he had a place here. Back when the entire Peak had been his home, not just a tiny bamboo hut.

And Shen Qingqiu will die defending that.

And it’s a distinct possibility he might, because Luo Binghe had over a hundred and twenty children in canon!

“Ah yeah, that!” Shang Qinghua says with false brightness, when Shen Qingqiu corners him in his office to demand funds to expand his teaching hall (this problem is technically all his fault anyway), “Actually, we should maybe just . . . build you a new hall?”

Shen Qingqiu narrows his eyes, “And why would that be?”

“Well, ah ha ha ha . . ." Shang Qinghua avoids looking at him, “So I might have had plans drawn up for about three hundred kids in total?”

“. . . What.”

“Yeah but it’s okay,” Shang Qinghua waves his hands, “They’re pretty spaced apart, I think the most that can show up at once is going to be, like, forty?”

“Forty”

“Fifty tops,” Shang Qinghua says. Shen Qingqiu grabs his wrist before he can pull out a teleportation talisman and Shang Qinghua chuckles nervously again, “Well, maybe fifty-five . . . ?”

Shen Qingqiu glares at him. It’s not fair, he can’t even try to drag Shang Qinghua into helping him with this hellish future teaching load! Let this semi-illiterate smut-peddler anywhere near the education of his precious students?! As if!!!

Shen Qingqiu settles for trying to glare hard enough to set him on fire.

Shang Qinghua pats him gently on the shoulder with his free hand, “I’ll try to write out as many as I can remember so you can at least plan for the teaching load. Maybe I can help you work out a formal learning progression?” he says like he actually knows what he’s talking about.

. . . Which maybe he does, since An Ding has by far the most disciples of any Peak in the Sect. All that work takes a lot of hands.

Shen Qingqiu eases up on the glare a little.

Shang Qinghau cautiously pats him again.

Shen Qingqiu sighs and lets him go.

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Shen Qingqiu is usually a sedate flier, he’s never mastered whatever trick Liu Qingge uses to go zoom-zoom through the sky without messing up his hair, but as he’s about half-way back to his peak a chaotic burst of demonic qi nearly knocks him off his sword.

WTF!? Shen Qingqiu would know his husband’s energy anywhere and that definitely wasn’t from Binghe!!!

Five minutes later, clothes in disarray, hair a disaster, he hops off his sword at the edge of a flaming crater where his meditation pool used to be. Every single disciple on his peak is clustered around the edge, gawking, but his hurried head-count reassures them that none are missing and all seem intact, so he gives himself a moment to be weak and relieved instead of yelling at them to all go back to their lessons.

He finds his three new disciples and his three favourite old ones on the other side of the crowd. Cen Yumeng and Hou Wei are clinging to a freaked-out-looking Ming Fan but immediately abandon him to cling to Shen Qingqiu instead. Luo Binghe and Ning Yingying are bent over a sobbing Rui Qiang, frantically reassuring him that he did nothing wrong, really! Surprise demon powers could happen to anyone!

De. . . Demon Powers?!

Rui Qiang was still a half-demon?!?

Shen Qingqiu supposed that made sense for his character settings but how did that even happen!? . . . Did Rui-shimei just have a fetish for demon dick?!

He shoves the thought from his mind. At least if the kid was trying to become a Righteous Cultivator he ended up on Qing Jing. They’ve got this!

Definitely, whatever it takes, he’s going to make sure Binghe gets to keep this.

. . . Besides, more than half of these children were going to have demon mothers anyway. This was just a head-start, that’s all.

Shit, he’s going to have to come up with TWO sets of lesson plans now!