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Chapter Text

Quite unfortunately for everyone involved, the system says Shang Qinghua needs to set up a few things and those things are in the demon realm. Of course Shang Qinghua, shaky part-time cultivator, isn't going to do that himself - at least not without plot armour in the form of an important (and thus unkillable) character coming along.

And, really, that scenario pusher was pretty cheap.

The ground unfurls like a flower, blood red and ashen, edges distorted. The disciples on this mission cry out and leap backwards, the slower ones being thrown by Shen Qingqiu’s fan as the flower starts to shudder and jerk closed in sharp, flickering movements like the tear is glitching.

Shang Qinghua closes his eyes in suffering. Mother fucker, that's why the scenario pusher was cheap. The difficulty setting was probably in the fine print again, and of course he didn't read it. Ugh.

Shang Qinghua jolts when he feels a hand on his own and Shen Qingqiu's grip becomes painfully tight as the array hurls them into the demon realm. Shang Qinghua's arm is almost ripped out of its socket from the force of the throw but they stay locked together.

When they hit the ground, they hit hard.

Shang Qinghua wakes up in a bed of leaflitter under bulbous trees in grey and blue. Shen Qingqiu sits off to the side, fiddling with something in his lap.

Shang Qinghua wonders if he should play dead but sits up anyway. "Thanks."

Shen Qingqiu looks up, eyes narrowed. "For what?"

Shang Qinghua waves around vaguely. "I don't know, but I'm not alone and I'm not dead. Clearly something is going right."

Shen Qingqiu scoffs and looks back down at the arts and crafts project going on in his lap. "You wouldn't have lasted long alone. If you died, I'd get blamed."

Shang Qinghua nods along because yes, that’s generally what happens in the story. "Great, so what's next?"

"Shelter, food..." Shen Qingqiu holds up a complex talisman, three times larger than a standard slip of paper. "Send out a distress signal."

"Is that Po Qingchen’s?" Shang Qinghua asks because the inventor peak lord’s devices are great…until they explode.

"Yes." Shen Qingqiu sighs. “Untested.”

“Oh, great. So it’s 50/50 that it kills us.”

A week later, they run into Liu Qingge and the entire hive of Fire Bees he pissed off.

Shen Qingqiu shoves Shang Qinghua down as they're running away.

"Did you just-" Liu Qingge begins, glancing behind him, ready to be outraged that Shen Qingqiu just tripped someone to be a distraction but he can't see Shang Qinghua anymore. "What?"

Shang Qinghua had been shoved into a hole at the base of a tree, hidden by a prickly bush, and he curls up tightly as the heat of the bees washes past.

"Shut up and run!" Shen Qingqiu hisses, cutting past Liu Qingge as the man is distracted. "Or better yet, sacrifice yourself! At least then you'll be useful!"

No matter how fast they go or what route they take, the bees eventually catch up with relentless stamina and unnecessarily impeccable tracking. It doesn’t even matter how many they cut down, more bees join in from out of nowhere.

(Sorry, Shang Qinghua thinks. It was needed for plot convenience, that then ended up as papapa convenience.)

"Let's split up," Shen Qingqiu orders, only to burst through foliage and come to a stuttering halt at the edge of a short drop off into a still blue lake.

Liu Qingge skids to a stop as well, glancing to the huge swarm of fire in the vague distance but catching up on them quickly. "Jump!" Liu Qingge yells.

"Are you mad?!" Shen Qingqiu snaps backs.

"Get in the water, they can't get us there." Liu Qingge makes a grab for Shen Qingqiu’s sleeve but the man dodges back.

"I'll find my own way," Shen Qingqiu snarls and turns, ready to take his chances running alongside the lake.

Liu Qingge just picks Shen Qingqiu up around the waist and jumps off the short cliff, plunging into refreshingly cool water. Shen Qingqiu is kicking and clawing at him but Liu Qingge shakes the man hard and starts swimming when it seems like Shen Qingqiu just isn't going to stop.

They can both clearly sense the danger hovering above the water, can see the orange glow from the Fire Bees but Shen Qingqiu is frantically trying to get to the surface. Liu Qingge assumes Shen Qingqiu doesn't have enough oxygen and kicks harder, managing to duck under the violent, foaming churn of the waterfall and lurching back up behind the cover of water in a shallow cave system.

Shen Qingqiu elbows Liu Qingge off and hauls himself up onto the rocks, gasping.

"You're welcome," Liu pants out, breathing a lot harder than he should be even after running for so long, and climbs up too, limbs weak for some reason.

"You idiot!" Shen Qingqiu snaps. "All the water in the demon realm is poisoned."

Liu Qingge tries to stand but he can't get his legs under him. He slumps to the ground. He swallowed some when they fell in and he can feel the ache in his mouth and throat where the water touched. " we..."

Shen Qingqiu curses and tries to use the wall to pull himself up but his fingers are numb and his body is shaking. Instead, he crawls. "I...did not come this die to your fucking incompetence."

Water sources on the demon realm are often toxic but there's a plethora of fauna that grow around the toxic water that absorb the poison if eaten, which is a major reason why the demon realm isn't more of a dead wasteland than it already is.

Shen Qingqiu can already see a common toxin-absorbing fern growing in the back of the shallow cave, between chipped rock. He keeps dragging himself towards it, even when his vision blurs out at the edges, even when he can't feel the ground underneath him anymore.

He blindly rips out the plant with a hand too numb to really curl properly and eats it, the leaves melting in his mouth with an astringent, chalky taste. He swallows and the paste leaves a freezing cold trail down his throat, the cold blooming in his chest. He rips up more, eats that too.

Thinks about letting Liu Qingge die.

Shen Qingqiu rips up another stalk and staggers to his feet, fumbling against the wall to keep himself upright and collapses once he reaches the other man.

Liu Qingge is passed out, breathing stuttered and wheezy. Shen Qingqiu chews the fern and leans down, opening Liu Qingge’s mouth and lets the melting plant sit under Liu Qingge’s tongue where it's absorbed by the network of blood veins close to the surface.

Shen Qingqiu rests there for a few minutes, as long as he thinks he can leave it, then hooks his arms under Liu Qingge’s and starts dragging the man further in, to the remaining plants.

Liu Qingge wakes reclining back on something warm, feeling damp and cold with an unpleasant sour taste in his mouth but otherwise fine. He opens his eyes and blinks, confused why his cheek is pressed against Shen Qingqiu’s shoulder.

Shen Qingqiu is sitting back against a corner of the rock wall with his knees up as a backrest for Liu Qingge’s and arms wrapped around the Bai Zhan peak lord to keep him from slipping off, Liu Qingge’s lower body sprawled out on the ground next to several dozen holes pockmarked in the dirt between rocks where plants had been ripped up.

"You're awake," Shen Qingqiu murmurs.

"Yes," Liu Qingge says and sits up properly. "What-"

Liu Qingge’s head snaps the side with the force of Shen Qingqiu’s slap.

Liu Qingge takes a deep breath and turns to the other. "I deserved that-"

Shen Qingqiu slaps him again, though this time Liu Qingge doesn't move an inch.

Liu Qingge grits his teeth. "Hit me again, I'll hit you back."

Shen Qingqiu already has a hand raised and looks like he's willing to test it. 

A moment passes and Liu Qingge stands up, shaking out his still damp clothes, and starts moving around to try and warm himself up. "Will there be side effects?"

"The fern is also deadly if left unchecked," Shen Qingqiu deadpans. "It has a strong yin energy, that's the cold you're feeling."


Shang Qinghua stays put, right in that hole, for two days until Shen Qingqiu comes back to pick him up.

He feels no shame in it, fuck shame, that doesn't keep Shang Qinghua alive. This is the bloody demon realm and Shen Qingqiu is the smart one (and plot armour hell yeah).

Except when Shen Qingqiu comes back, Liu Qingge follows and they're both staggering tiredly and shivering.

"Aren't all demon realm water sources toxic?" Shang Qinghua asks when they explain what happened, and then flinches at Liu Qingge's glare.

"We're not sick from the water anymore," Shen Qingqiu mutters, arms wrapped around himself to keep warm. "But the fern has an insidious yin essence, it's taking effect now."

"What does that mean?" Shang Qinghua asks.

Okay, look, Shang Qinghua wrote a lot of chapters, he can't be expected to remember every plant, and xianxia stories are complicated with a lot of lore anyway.

"Both of our cultivation practices follow yin techniques," Shen Qingqiu admits. "We'll only get colder because we had to eat a lot of the herb after Liu Qingge dragged me into the lake."

"I let you hit me twice, the matter is over and done with!" Liu Qingge snaps.

"Do we need to shove some yang into you?" Shang Qinghua asks before a real argument breaks out. "Make some hot soup?" This is starting is slowly starting to jog his memory, something about a wife so it's probably sex.

"You practice a yang technique," Shen Qingqiu tells him.

Yep, definitely papapa. Shang Qinghua nods.

Oh, wait.


"You need to warm us up," Shen Qingqiu explains, eyes narrowed in annoyance and with Liu Qingge scowling beside him. 



My body isn't ready.

Shang Qinghua stares up at the blinking stars that night, arms numb because he has two beautiful sleeping men cutting off his circulation, a little outraged he didn't actually get sex. It makes sense, that only the protagonist of the stallion novel gets sex, but still. Rude. 

Not that Shang Qinghua doesn't like cuddling.

Liu Qingge's head is on one shoulder, the man half on top of him, one leg pinning down both of Shang Qinghua's and an arm reaching across to grab a fistful of Shen Qingqiu's robe. Liu Qingge's eyelashes flutter occasionally, insultingly perfect face relaxed and content with using Shang Qinghua as a body pillow.

Shen Qingqiu's head is on the other shoulder, plastered against Shang Qinghua's side but furled inward towards himself, hands half curled into loose fists and tucked under his chin, lips slightly parted.

Why the hell did Shang Qinghua decide writing in such pretty men was a good idea? That was an awful idea. Someone should have run him over. Truck-kun, take him away to an isekai with only ugly people.

But no, Shang Qinghua was too gay to pass up the chance. At least the fanart was nice. Pity he didn't see a live action before he got shuffled off his mortal coil.

Did novel Shang Qinghua get sex? Is he going to have to live two lives and yet die without even a blow job? Not that it's strange in the cultivation world where people focus their entire lives on getting stronger, and some techniques are built on abstinence (but mainly the opposite because stallion novel hello). 

It must be some kind of cruel joke. In his first world, you can become a wizard if you're a thirty-year-old virgin. In this second world, you can ascend to heaven if you're a three-thousand-year-old virgin.

Shang Qinghua laments his impressively shitty luck as he stares up at the night sky full of blinking stars and realises, oh shit, those aren't stars - those are eyes.

Thankfully, Liu Qingge wakes in time to deflect the first strike. Even better, the fight scares the boner out of Shang Qinghua.

Man, fuck the demon realm.

The cuddling didn't fix the problem entirely because yes, they were meant to papapa instead. Thankfully, Shen Qingqiu has Mu Qingfang’s standard first aid set of pills and salves hidden in his qiankun bag so no one is going to die just yet.

Shang Qinghua speaks up after a few days as they skirt around a giant hole in the sand dunes. “So, Liu Qingge. You’re lost too, huh?”

Liu Qingge purses his lips.

Shen Qingqiu turns on him. “What?! Why are you even in the demon realm then, what’s the point?”

Liu Qingge scowls. “The disciples came back hysterical, I was told you two were lost, and Po Qingchen received the transmission of your location. It was an emergency so it just made sense for me to enter first to protect you while the others set up a proper teleportation array.”

“Protect us?” Shen Qingqiu scoffs, coming to a full stop. “Liu-shidi, the first thing you did was get us into trouble! I have been keeping Shang Qinghua alive the whole time, you are not taking credit for that. You would be dead if I weren’t here, drinking lake water-”

“Why must you keep bringing it up!?”

“Because you’re wrong, and I have yet to get a single fucking apology out of you!”

It quickly descends into an argument and the noise calls others. As it turns out, yes, the giant hole in the dunes was a burrow.

Mu Qingfang drags an injured Qi Qingqi away from the massive eight-headed Owl Lizard but they can't run because they're both injured. 

Liu Qingge attacks it head on, slowly cutting off limbs that flail and still attack regardless of being detached from the main body and everything is regrowing rapidly anyway.

Li Qingmao and the Fish-Hawk beast she brough from her Dongwu peak defend Shen Qingqiu, who's writing an array in the air with golden characters but he already knows it isn't going to be enough. The circle closes and he hurls the array, punching a three meter hole through the Owl Lizard's chest and decapitating three of the remaining five heads but two more have almost fully grown back.

Liu Qingge is thrown to the ground, Li Qingmao sprints over in time to tackle Mu Qingfang and Qi Qingqi away from one of the many detached tails that tries to crush them, while Shen Qingqiu retreats back into the trees to-

A giant rip opens up and sucks the Owl Lizard and its many pieces inside before closing.

Shen Qingqiu slowly turns to find Shang Qinghua, who has been pointedly missing this whole time, now standing sheepishly at the tree line.

"Wow, that was pretty crazy, huh," Shang Qinghua says, tossing a thirteen-pointed bronze star behind him and then kicking it under a bush. "Huge coincidence, did not see that coming."

Shen Qingqiu takes a deep breath. "I am going to let it go, just this once."


Shang Qinghua and Mu Qingfang returns from a trip out, the healer now with a large seed bulb the size of a fist, a happy smile on his face as he presents it to the others. "Shang Qinghua found a rare Dew-Maker seed. The matured plant's flowers is used in several pills for soothing qi deviations while the branches can be used for pain relief lotions."

Shen Qingqiu glances at Qi Qingqi and Li Qingmao. "Perhaps you should save it for when we return to the sect."

"Oh, it doesn't take long to mature at all," Mu Qingfang assures. "And it's small enough to be portable, plus I have enough equipment to start making the medication even in the demon realm."

Shen Qingqiu looks away.

Mu Qingfang approaches Qi Qingqi and holds out the bulb. "The Dew-Maker needs to be cared for by a virgin to grow."

Qi Qingqi hums. "I see an immediate problem."

Mu Qingfang pauses. "Ah, I understand." He turns to Li Qingmao instead.

"I wish I could help," Li Qingmao offers.

"Never mind," Mu Qingfang muses. "I suppose I'll save it for later."

"Or," Shang Qinghua cuts in, a bit too loudly. "I mean, it doesn't specifically need a virgin woman, right?"

"The literature implies 'maiden'," Shen Qingqiu says.

Shang Qinghua holds up his hands defensively. "Virginity is a construct? We live in a society. I mean has anyone tried a man?"

Mu Qingfang chimes in, "It wouldn't hurt to experiment." He turns and gives it to Shen Qingqiu.

"What?" Liu Qingge cuts in. "That man is constantly in and out of brothels-"

The flower bulb slowly starts to unfurl in Shen Qingqiu's hands, revealing the light, clear sky-blue inner petals of the Dew-Maker. Liu Qingge stares, and he's not the only one.

Li Qingmao is even more confused. "But then what do you do in the brothel?"

"Enjoy intelligent conversation," Shen Qingqiu drawls. "Which I'm valuing all the more now that I am being deprived of it."

"Ouch," Shang Qinghua mutters. “It hurts more because I had to think about it for a second before I realised it was an insult.”

The Dew-Maker seed ends up hopping between Shen Qingqiu and Shang Qinghua because Liu Qingge is too busy killing things to babysit a plant.

After Feng Qingxi of the landscaping Meihua peak arrives, things really settle in; because they build a house.

“I’m trying to leave,” Shen Qingqiu says as he watches Feng Qingxi drag a heavy stick through the dirt to outline the array. “You seem to be having fun, but I don’t like the demon realm. I would like to leave.”

“We’re not holding you hostage,” Feng Qingxi scoffs, blind eyes unerringly locking onto Shen Qingqiu. “Not openly, anyway, but good luck finding a way out without us.”

“Feng-shidi, do be more aware of the fact that I could kill you and blame it on demons.”

Feng Qingxi only laughs. “Come on, when was the last time we had a nice holiday together?"


"Well we’re about due for one, aren’t we?”

“We run a sect,” Shen Qingqiu complains but then Li Qingmao comes back holding Rock-Footed Geese and he gets distracted with making lunch.

The house that gets built is a large open rectangle, a third of it cut off by one or two silencing arrays to be used as a bedroom inner room, layered up with all the protective seals Shen Qingqiu can feasibly carve into the smooth stone walls.

Liu Qingge huts down some large, furred beasts and Li Qingmao instructs them all on how to strip the hides and convert it for bedding. The inner room turns into something of a nest. The outer two thirds is set up as a work area for Mu Qingfang's pill refining and a workshop for Shang Qinghua to struggle through figuring out how to make simplistic wooden furniture.

Qi Qingqi carries in a stack of water reeds and strips the tough outside to reach the thin, flexible core to start weaving make-shift baskets and pouches. 

Shen Qingqiu sews himself a qiankun bag out of the reeds, which is promptly taken by Mu Qingfang to bring back more medicinal herbs every time he goes on a gathering mission with Qi Qingqi. Shen Qingqiu makes another, but that's stolen by Li Qingmao who's prepping meals and further drying rations to store for a rainy-day scenario.

Shen Qingqiu gives up and makes everyone a bag.

Feng Qingxi often walks the perimeter with Liu Qingge and sets up traps and dangerous terrain for anything that gets close to the camp. 

Liu Qingge disappears to hunt more beasts and returns with Po Qingchen who got too excited and wanted to see how his transmission invention worked on this side and then, two weeks later, Liu Qingge also comes back with Yue Qingyuan.

Jing Qingshen wanders in one day by himself, the monk calm and unhurried as usual, only to turn right back around and leave with Yue Qingyuan (much to Shen Qingqiu's displeasure) and Li Qingmao to find the others who had gotten lost along the way.

They throw a party with tough meat stripped from Liu Qingge's kills, fruits gathered from the surroundings and alcohol stolen from a nearby town.

Feng Qingxi raises his cup in toast. "To avoiding responsibilities."

"Avoiding responsibility!" Everyone cheers and drinks.

That night, with everyone cuddled together in the bedding nest, Shen Qingqiu slips a hand across the furs until he taps against the warm metal sheath of Xuan Su. The sword hums under his touch and Yue Qingyuan shifts a bit in his sleep.

Shen Qingqiu purses his lips and slowly pulls the sword towards him until it's firmly in his grasp. He'd like to see Yue Qingyuan run off again without his sword.

Shen Qingqiu huffs and settles in to sleep.

Yue Qingyuan wakes up a lot slower than normal, pleasantly warm, held tightly.

Held tightly?

Yue Qingyuan opens his eyes and turns to the side, his spiritual sense guiding him until he registers Shen Qingqiu curled around Xuan Su.

Yue Qingyuan sits up and immediately tries to gently ease his sword away but Shen Qingqiu has the handle and left guard clutched in a hand each with the lower sheath trapped between his thighs. Yue Qingyuan sighs and just leaves it. Shen Qingqiu will wake up soon.

Shen Qingqiu's head turns a bit and his lips brush the right guard.

Yue Qingyuan shivers.

It's fine. Everything is fine.

Wei Qingwei watches on from the outer area of the house, sipping tea, fucking incredulous these idiots haven’t sorted their shit out yet.

They had been hunched over a map of the current area, currently plotting out a quick raid for supplies before they headed back to Cang Qiong because they do have a sect to run, but they get distracted pretty quickly.

Pu Qingtao swings his gourd of alcohol and then thumps it down on the table they’re all sitting around. “Easy. This, right here, is all I’d need. A good drink.”

Qi Qingqi boos at the boring answer. “What about you?” she asks Shang Qinghua. “And don’t say something like ‘a portal back to Cang Qiong’.”

Shang Qinghua shrugs. “If I got lost in the demon realm, I’d want a Shen-shixiong.”

Wei Qingwei scoffs, sitting further back and polishing the swords. “You’re just saying that because he’s sitting next to you.”

“Think about it,” Shang Qinghua begins, propping his elbows on the table to flail his hands. “If you’re likely to die in a strange new place, who do you want with you?”

“Liu Qingge?” Qi Qingqi points out.

“Yeah, he’s fine,” Shang Qinghua says carelessly, maybe a little bit tipsy from the spiked tea (Liu Qingge looks offended at being called ‘fine’). “But you want someone ruthless. You want someone with no limits, no morals, who won’t stop until they get you out - no matter what they have to do. You don’t want a good fighter, you want a villain.”

Everyone peeks at Shen Qingqiu hiding behind his fan, wondering if he’s going to get upset at such blatant (accurate) defamation.

“You know what I mean?” Shang Qinghua asks because this was something he never got to elaborate on in his novel but it’s such a good character trait to explore, people love that yandere shit. “Liu Qingge will fight, but Shen Qingqiu will kill. He’d burn down sects, wipe out towns, and it’d all be for you.”

Shang Qinghua spreads his hands, eyes wide. “You have nothing to fear because Shen Qingqiu is the worst thing you can come up against. And yeah, he’s bad to you, but he’s so much worse to others. Why would you be afraid of monsters under the bed when there’s one sleeping next to you! Right?”

Shang Qinghua looks around and locks eyes with Shen Qingqiu over the razor-sharp edge of the fan, only just now remembering that he’s in the novel as an actual character.

“Do you want the town?” Shen Qingqiu murmurs, eye narrowed, pleased. He reaches out and taps a long finger on the map in front of Shang Qinghua, the one they had been talking about before, an isolated demon town but still large enough for any resources they could need. “I can get it for you.”

“Get it?” Shang Qinghua asks hesitantly.

Shen Qingqiu brushes a long streak of hair over his shoulder. “The head merchant has all the power since he imports all the supplies, but he’s scared of the town leader’s relatives. Fortunately, the leader is quite estranged from his clan and weak all alone. Even better, leader’s daughter is sick and we have a Mu Qingfang.”

Shen Qingqiu leans in, presses against Shang Qinghua’s arm. “Underneath it is the alter, the one you’ve secretly been trying to find.” He tilts the fan so only Shang Qinghua can see his dangerous smirk. “You’re right about one point, Shang-shidi, I certainly know how to take care of my things.”

The hidden alter eats the Dew-Maker plant and spits out a 20-sided polygon which Shang Qinghua picks up.

Then accidentally drops.

It lands on a 1.

"Oh you bitch."

An hour later, the earth is cracking open, a yawning, gaping tear into molten lava. The spires of twisted metal that disappear up into acid clouds are falling, shrapnel plunging back to the ground and breaking open more stone platforms. The acid rain is heavy, the wind lashing out and howling.

The peak lords watch this from a safe distance, already stocked up on supplies to last them the trip out.

“Shall we head back?” Shen Qingqiu muses idly, fluttering his fan, now speckled with blood.

Li Qingmao tilts her head. “Am I allowed to feel sorry for demons?”

Shang Qinghua grimaces. “Well, you know, freak storm like that is normal around these parts. Not suspicious at all. We should leave, Cang Qiong probably needs us.”

“Maybe we should just help them evacuate,” Mu Qingfang suggests.

“It’ll get worse,” Shang Qinghua states with utter certainty because that little tantrum of nature does not account for all the horror of rolling a 1. This spot in the demon realm is about to be punctured out of existence.

The cracks spiderweb out and rivers of ghostly, reaching hands lurch from the bloody rivers that form. The pale, anaemic orange sky above bows under the pressure of something great pushing down, stretched over what appears to be an impossibly massive face, screaming. There is something in the in-between trying to claw its way in.

“Yeah, we should go,” Feng Qingxi says.

They leave without a glance backwards, because it’s really not good for the mind to watch a transcendental being gouge through from the Otherside to swallow reality.