It starts with a noncommittal comment during a peak lord meeting that swiftly escalates into sideways glares and scoffs while the other is talking, then outright snide remarks before it comes to full blown insults.
It’s not that the other peak lords don’t try to calm Shen Qingqiu down, it’s just that anything they say comes across as condescending and an attack on him because Shen Qingqiu is already so riled up and defensive.
They try to distract Liu Qingge but that doesn’t work either because he thinks they’re being too soft on Shen Qingqiu with all this ‘avoiding conflict’ nonsense, and someone needs to stand up to him because Yue Qingyuan sure as hell won’t.
No one is quite expecting things to go past the point of blatant insults because it rarely ever gets to full blown fighting unless they’re already in a sparring area and even then, it’s impossible with Yue Qingyuan present.
Except Liu Qingge shifts slightly during the yelling match, more so to see better around Pu Qingtao’s alcohol gourd the man is trying to offer up as a truce, but it means he rises up slightly from his seat. Shen Qingqiu takes that as a threat towards a physical confrontation and puts a hand on his sword – which only triggers Liu Qingge.
So it goes from zero to a hundred real fucking fast when both of them lurch to their feet and launch themselves at each other with no visible cue at all, which means no one else gets up in time to stop them.
Liu Qingge slams Shen Qingqiu down onto the ground -no swords because even this deep into it they both know Yue Qingyuan will shut that down- so they scrap on the ground.
The other peak lords panic and are shouting over each other, Li Qingmao and Mu Qingfang scrambling away from their seats before they get dragged into it.
Yue Qingyuan is up on one knee but unsure and hesitating as he always does when Shen Qingqiu gets like this. “Don’t hurt him!”
The other peak lords aren’t quite sure who he’s talking to, right up until Shen Qingqiu rams a knee up between Liu Qingge’s legs. To be fair, Liu Qingge should have expected it, it’s not the first time he’s taken a hit like that - but he was too distracted with protecting his eyes from Shen Qingqiu’s fingernails instead.
While Liu Qingge is stunned, Shen Qingqiu flips them over and reaches back towards the table, where he picks up the tea pot he only just prepared and then holds it, boiling hot, over Liu Qingge’s face.
“Let’s all take a deep breath!” Mu Qingfang cries and half holds out a hand towards the tea pot but he can’t just grab it because then he might cause it to tip over while he’s struggling with Shen Qingqiu.
The same occurs to everyone else who hesitantly edge closer but don’t dare make any sudden movements. Liu Qingge has gone still, a vicious snarl on his face. Shen Qingqiu is straddling Liu Qingge’s stomach, one hand delicately holding the pot like he’s in the midst of a tea ceremony while the other hand smoothes down his ruffled clothes.
“Oh my,” Shen Qingqiu murmurs, eyes half-lidded. “That was quite a shock, being attacked by such a brute during a perfectly amicable meeting between peak lords. How positively frightening.” Shen Qingqiu bites down on the word like he’s tearing into something. “My hands are…shaking.”
Shen Qingqiu slowly tilts the tea pot.
“You wouldn’t,” Liu Qingge spits out.
“He would,” Shang Qinghua says quickly. “No, he would.”
In fact, this is a favourite of Shen Qingqiu’s. Usually, he has someone make the tea and, depending on how long he tolerates their company, he will then dump the tea out on them at whatever temperature the poor fellow has manage to crawl their way to through the conversation.
However, they have spent decades with this man. Rather than a serious threat, they’re all very clear that Shen Qingqiu is now doing this as a performance to better humiliate Liu Qingge. Even Shen Qingqiu has admitted previously that ruining such a beautiful face as Liu Qingge's should be considered an unforgivable crime.
And the problem with Liu Qingge is that he will never back down from a fight. They have about a minute at best until Liu Qingge decides he’d rather take the tea than Shen Qingqiu’s smug taunting.
“Shen-shixiong,” Feng Qingxi wheezes out from further down the table because he’s going to try and help but also this is so funny. “Ahem, this shidi came across some previously unknown documents regarding the Meihua peak’s landscaping of the sect grounds before the sect expansion during the Hei generation of peak lords.” It was not newly discovered, Feng Qingxi simply keeps things like this in stock if he ever needs a favour.
Shen Qingqiu slightly turns himself, internally at war between the petty asshole and the scholar versions of himself.
“Interesting too,” Feng Qingxi continues, a smile making his blind eyes curve up slightly. “For instance, the maps seem to imply the ley line under Zui Xian peak’s vineyards isn’t a natural formation at all. Very ancient work, a bit scuffed. If Shen-shixiong could lend his assistance to restoration and further contextual research, this shidi would be very grateful.”
“This shixiong would be pleased to help,” Shen Qingqiu finally says and sets the tea pot back down on the table.
“Oh for fuck’s sake!” Qi Qingqi yells because when Shen Qingqiu stands up, Liu Qingge grabs him by the ankle.
Shen Qingqiu topples over sideways and lands in the arms of Yue Qingyuan who is still half risen onto a knee during the chaos. They connect in a flurry of robes from the fall and scrambling hands out of shock. The catch is firm but late, Yue Qingyuan’s hands around Shen Qingqiu’s waist, Shen Qingqiu’s hands on his shoulders.
Lips lightly brushing.
Yue Qingyuan slams through two levels of cultivation, barely hitches over a breakthrough to the next realm, and then ascends four more levels.
Shen Qingqiu throws himself back and the other peak lords are already running, Po Qingchen bursting out of the meeting room door without even taking his artificer notes and then just sprinting for it as the shockwave of excess qi explodes out behind them.
Liu Qingge and Wei Qingwei turn, swords at the ready and take the detonation head on because if the energy hits even a senior cultivator without warning they won’t stand a chance and the meeting room is isolated but not even being half a peak away is enough to protect the disciples.
The meeting room splinters, is unmade, under the force. Wei Qingwei is launched through the air, caught by the monk Jing Qingshen who braces the peak lord’s head as they land hard, rolling with the momentum. Liu Qingge’s feet scrape a furrow through the ground as he’s pushed back, drops to a knee after, nose bleeding and sword slightly bent.
It gives enough time for Shen Qingqiu, Feng Qingxi and Po Qingchen to raise a desperate barrier, not outlined with a template talisman and barely stable but they can’t do anything else when they’re just trying to keep the mountain from shattering apart under the sudden pressure.
Even that wasn't everything Yue Qingyuan has, it was only what slipped from his control in the sudden splurge, not even half, not even a quarter of his full power. The air is heavy, choking, but it slows and pulls back as he regains the tethers on his power.
But the heavens open up to a vortex of dark purple clouds, stuttering and expanding in rapid bursts like the tribulation lightning is trying to catch up to the insanely fucking fast cultivation realm breakthrough. It builds too quickly, too fiercely, blots out the sky and smothers the sunlight as it spreads like a swarm of locusts over the Cang Qiong sect mountains.
At Yue Qingyuan’s level, the tribulation lightning is a devastating force that can wipe out entire cities if the cultivator isn’t able to get to seclusion fast enough. The storm clouds are already flashing within from flares of lightning and the deep, bone trembling rumble of thunder shakes the air as the heavens themselves reject such power as Yue Qingyuan's being carried in the mortal realm. They don’t have time, they can’t do anything, it’s too much.
Shang Qinghua has hit the ground with his hands over his head, and Pu Qingtao has dropped his gourd of alcohol, just trying to stay standing under the force of the tribulation lightning’s very presence.
Mu Qingfang and Qi Qingqi are scrambling, triggering sect-wide evacuation orders with the emergency talismans but it won’t be fast enough to save anyone. Li Qingmao stares off into the distance where her peak sits, knows that the animals won’t survive, knows that she might not survive.
The first lightning strike shrieks as it’s hurled down like a sword, cutting through the air straight towards the blown apart meeting room.
Yue Qingyuan stands in the debris of splinters, eyes alight with inner power, his robes held slightly aloft from the vacuum around him. The lightning strike reaches his chest. Stops.
Everything stops, the noise, the torn grass and shreds of the dismantled building still frozen mid-air, the lightning strike itself forced still before it splits the mountain apart.
The lightning bends, like wire, like it isn’t a representation of the heavens. Yue Qingyuan curves his power around it and the strike is forced back, the edges of the deep purple clouds are compressed. The tribulation lightning splutters, sparks, gasps like a dying man before it’s all snuffed out.
The floating debris now drops lightly in the warm, sunlight-flooded grounds. A soft breeze returns to lightly ruffle the healthy green grass. The other peak lords stare at Yue Qingyuan, fucking incredulous.
Yue Qingyuan purses his lips. “Excuse me,” he says softly. “I should…go meditate. To...settle my cultivation.” He half turns, looks like he might say something, and then just leaves with a blink from how fast he moves.
The peak lords collapse, to their knees or fall back onto their ass, some crumpling completely to the ground and lie there.
They all just concentrate on breathing now that they can, staring off into nothing at all as the faint sound of screaming, panicked disciples reaches them.
“When can I retire?” Mu Qingfang sighs.
Qi Qingqi is sitting with her arms braced on the top of her raised knees. “That wasn’t even a real kiss. What happens if you dual cultivate?”
Shen Qingqiu is sitting back on his calves, running lightly shaking hands through his hair to smooth out the knots. He places his hands in his lap. Turns to look at Qi Qingqi. “I would fucking die.”
“Along with half the continent,” muses Po Qingchen from where he’s flat on his back, tone of voice like he would want more data on that for a later experiment. “Could probably wipe out Huan Hua sect from here.”
“Don’t give him ideas,” Liu Qingge snaps, a sleeve already dyed red where he holds it up to his bleeding nose.
Shang Qinghua is still curled up in foetal position, making noises that could be either sobbing or laughing.