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Devotion for Devotion

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On An Ding Peak, Shang Qinghua waits patiently for Mobei Jun to return, as commanded.

The first few days drag out endlessly, with nothing but his frustration and sadness and Mu Qingfang to keep him company. His mopey thoughts play on loop in the background like emo mood music as he tries to analyze exactly how he fucked up for Mobei Jun to ditch him like this. 

First of all, why couldn't Mobei Jun let him recover at the northern palace? Mobei Jun leaves the palace on errands all the time and he doesn't make Shang Qinghua wait for him at Cang Qiong like a defenseless maiden every time! Is this because Shang Qinghua didn't tell him about the poison? Is it because he got poisoned in the first place? Why does this feel so personal? Why does this feel like a punishment?! 

The worst part is how his mind keeps choosing to replay that moment between them when he'd first woken up. Mobei Jun had been so…so soft. The way his arms curled around Shang Qinghua, how he'd pulled him close to kiss. That had been...really nice. 

But then nothing happened! He's so confused! Mobei Jun kissed on him a little, then turned right around and An ding dong ditched him with the shittiest explanation in the entire world! All 'There are matters this king must take care of.' What the fuck! My king, the matters you should be taking care of are 1) Shang Qinghua, 2) Shang Qinghua, and 3) Shang Qinghua!!! 

This goes beyond mixed signals! The signals have been pulverized in a food processor and then further blended until they’re the consistency of baby food! What signals are left after this astounding mess?!

The worst, worst part of it all is how he…was really hoping that something more might actually happen. When he gets past his righteous anger to touch the core of the matter, he has to look away, withdrawing his hand quickly as if burned. The hurt of being so thoroughly and unexpectedly spurned after what seemed to be a very cliche lead up towards the reveal of tender feelings leaves him curled defensively around himself, licking his wounds in hurt and confused silence. What kind of story pulls that kind of cop out during the big romantic reveal scene, huh? System!! Are you responsible for this?! 

The System stays silent, thankfully. Shang Qinghua flings a few more curses at it for good measure before pulling the blankets up over his head to continue moping. Once again, he tries to map out his importance in Mobei Jun's life and comes up with a blank page. Sure, he makes his king's life a little easier and he's acted to save Mobei Jun's life before, but aren't those just the expected duties of a retainer to his lord? It's not like he's anything truly special. The enormous shadow that Mobei Jun casts over his own life is a given, but how could he have assumed that his own existence could hold the same weight? Mobei Jun is a demon king and the regent of the entire demon realm, and Shang Qinghua is simply his humble human servant. Mobei Jun has always been his center of gravity, and Shang Qinghua is only meant to revolve around him, trapped in his orbit, a faraway and wistful satellite. 

He's struck by a sudden bout of secondhand embarrassment so strong that it threatens to shrivel him into a prune as he remembers some of the things he said that morning. How bemused Mobei Jun must have felt, listening to Shang Qinghua spout his high fructose nonsense! He should be grateful that Mobei Jun didn't take offense and beat his ass for the insolence! After all, he's the one who got things all twisted up in his head. Mobei Jun was only repaying him for saving his life. He probably didn't want to owe a life debt to someone as small and pathetic as Shang Qinghua. It looks bad on his track record as one of the most powerful demons in the world, after all. He sure went about it very considerately though! Has your loyal subordinate been poisoned? Not to worry! This demon king will lend a friendly helping pillar! No need for feelings to be involved, just a simple transactional act for the purpose of saving your most useful retainer's miserable life! 

Shang Qinghua buries his face into a cushion, despondent. If he'd known it would turn out like this, maybe it would have been better if Mobei Jun hadn't helped him at all. At least he wouldn't be second-guessing the worth of his entire existence, curled wretchedly into himself and waiting for his king to come back like a dog with separation anxiety waiting for their owner to return from vacation. The thought of leaving - really leaving, rises in the back of his mind like a dark spectre. He discards it as soon as he thinks of it, feeling terrible. That would probably be a bit of an overreaction. 

Still. Mobei Jun dealt the cards, and now Shang Qinghua has to make sense of this spectacularly shitty hand. If Mobei Jun is only keeping him around because of his usefulness - he feels a flare of sick, bitter feeling rise in his throat like a bubble of blood - then he'll just have to be the most useful retainer ever, hm? 

That brings him full circle back to wondering why Mobei Jun couldn't have just dumped him at the northern palace. So what if Cang Qiong is safer than the palace? That's true no matter what the circumstances are! Shang Qinghua could have been useful at the palace. He could have sat in bed under a bunch of blankets and done paperwork and had meals and snacks brought to him! If he's so important, then why did Mobei Jun ground him here without a ride back like a kid locked in detention? 

He can't even distract himself with the usual methods because he's still in such bad shape from being poisoned that he can barely sit up unassisted! He can't go look at the big fields of An Ding melons, can't get on his sword for a jaunty little ride to a winehouse to sit and listen to the newest reading of Chunshan while eating snacks and laughing to himself. All he can do is lie bitterly in bed and feel extremely sad and miserable and abandoned! He hates this! 

 

There’s a brisk knock on the door to the leisure house, interrupting his increasingly maudlin thoughts. Shang Qinghua rebelliously keeps his eyes closed, pretending to be asleep. He already knows that It’s Mu Qingfang, here for his incredibly unnecessary daily visit. 

The other peak lord was the unfortunate first responder to his NOT an emotional breakdown after Mobei Jun left him all alone and abandoned on An Ding Peak. He might have scared Mu-shidi a little that day because the physician has been handling him with a truly unwarranted level of solicitude ever since. 

He had been keeping it together pretty well after Mobei Jun left, all things considered! And then Mu Qingfang had arrived and run his diagnostic arrays and attempted to pry personal information re: being poisoned and re: being cured out of him. The spectacular network of bruises that Mobei Jun left on him had not made a good impression, and Mu Qingfang had been maliciously stubborn, refusing to be swayed or deflected! Shang Qinghua reluctantly divulged the poison, the cure, and a very very vague summary of the circumstances leading to his current state, causing Mu Qingfang to go off on him, giving a terrific lecture on the resources available to help, and why didn’t he say anything sooner, did he have a death wish taking actions as reckless as Shen-shixiong and blah blah blah, all accusations which are totally untrue and unfair!

Shang Qinghua, trying very hard to get him to go away so he could have a small and extremely self-contained meltdown in peace, had let out a slightly watery laugh and said ‘Aw, Mu-shidi! I knew you cared!’ 

A mistake! 

Mu Qingfang, apparently at the end of his very long rope of patience after a mere five minutes of interaction with him, had snapped ‘Of course I care, Shang-shixiong,’ and Shang Qinghua’s eyes had decided that now was a great time to overflow like a 30-foot storm surge dramatically breaching a levy!  

He was uh, maybe, just slightly, slightly emotionally compromised! He may have clung to Mu Qingfang's robes a little and wept and begged him not to leave and screamed when he tried to pull away, but that's absolutely no reason to take his words at face value! In fact, please feel free to forget you ever witnessed such a pathetic sight, shidi! 

Mu Qingfang knocks again and enters, breaking up the ongoing pity party. Shang Qinghua cracks an eye open to glare at him spitefully. There's no need for this ongoing observation period, shidi! Just send one of your senior disciples next time, no need to come in person. Don’t you have like...herbs to grind? Bai Zhan peak disciples with broken limbs to heal? Long, boring research papers to write and publish? Shang Qinghua honestly suspects that Mu Qingfang is enjoying the schadenfreude at his expense but can't prove it. 

“Shang-shixiong," Mu Qingfang greets, already setting up his diagnostic arrays. 

“Mu-shidi," Shang Qinghua replies grumpily. He’s feeling very uncharitable right now! 

“How are you feeling?"

“The same."

“You’re taking your medication?"

Shang Qinghua makes a face. “Yes."

“Mm." Mu Qingfang continues doing doctor things, pulling small vials and instruments out of his sleeves. 

Shang Qinghua lies in sulky silence and thinks mean thoughts at him, specifically about the reproachful way Mu Qingfang looks at him when he finds out that Shang Qinghua has skipped a dose of his medication and the way he then force feeds him the disgusting horrible herbal smoothie masquerading as medicine until Shang Qinghua begs for mercy. And then he'll say things like  'Shang-shixiong, your spiritual vein degradation is the worst I've seen in twenty years you must take your medication the importance of this cannot be emphasized enough blah blah blah.' Whatever! Maybe you should make your medication taste less like old cheese, shidi! Hmm. In fact, maybe Shang Qinghua will take a little nap until Mu Qingfang goes away. 

Mu Qingfang prevents that by holding his hands out, offering them to Shang Qinghua. “Squeeze my hands with all your strength," he informs briskly. “Use whatever spiritual energy you have to augment your grip."

Shang Qinghua reaches out and squeezes Mu Qingfang’s hands limply before letting his arms flop back to the bed. Mu Qingfang gives him a surprisingly nasty look. 

“With actual effort please, shixiong," he says pleasantly. 

“Why," Shang Qinghua whines. 

He gets a lecture from Mu Qingfang about how the spiritual vein system overlays several other important pathways of the body including the nervous system and does he want to be able to channel his qi and wield his sword properly again and blah blah blah. When Mu Qingfang offers his hands again, Shang Qinghua squeezes his fingers vengefully. His arms still feel as limp as boned fish. His grip strength leaves a lot to be desired, from the thoughtful look on Mu Qingfang's face. The other peak lord makes him run through a few other small physical tests that leave Shang Qinghua embarrassingly out of breath despite their non-strenuous nature. 

"This sucks," he whines, before recalling himself. "I mean uh, does shidi have an estimate on when this shixiong will be fully functional again?"

Mu Qingfang taps his chin, looking pensive. “Your recovery is...slow, I'll admit. It’s what I expect with an injury of this extent, and it will naturally take time for your spiritual vein system to safely regrow. However..." he pauses delicately. Shang Qinghua gets a bad feeling. “Are there any...mental blocks that Shang-shixiong feels may be hindering his recovery?"

Huh?

“Mental blocks?"

“Disruptive emotions, capable of creating heart demons. Emotions of great distress or great potency." He pauses again, slightly hesitant. “Emotions you may feel towards others of great importance or influence in one’s life, such as a friend…or perhaps, a superior." His eyes flick to where Shang Qinghua has placed the jade token that Mobei Jun uses to summon him on the nightstand, neatly within arms’ reach. 

Shang Qinghua feels a drop of cold sweat roll down the back of his neck. “Hahaha!" He half-shouts. “Mu-shidi, what a ridiculous idea! Not at all! This shixiong is uh, perfectly fine, mentally! This shixiong’s mental strength and fortitude are like dragonscale armor! Totally impenetrable!" He knocks his head like a coconut with one fist to demonstrate.

Mu Qingfang makes a deeply doubtful noise. He looks like he knows the smell of bullshit, but to Shang Qinghua’s relief, he doesn’t call him out on it. “If shixiong would please consider this shidi’s humble, completely hypothetical advice to not let such heavy emotions fester. Shixiong cannot afford a qi deviation on top of -" he gestures vaguely at Shang Qinghua "- everything else."

"You just pointed at all of me," Shang Qinghua complains, feeling very unfairly judged. 

"This shidi simply speaks out of concern for shixiong’s wellbeing," Mu Qingfang says, looking extremely earnest and sincere. 

Shang Qinghua pouts. "This shixiong will take Mu-shidi's advice to heart," he says sullenly. 

"Very good. That's all this shidi asks. Now, where is the empty bottle from your last dose of medication?" 

Shang Qinghua starts to sweat. He makes a reflexive gagging noise, thinking of the undrunk dose hiding underneath the bed. Mu Qingfang smiles beatifically, radiating wholesome vibes like a bodhisattva. "Ah, shixiong, I thought you said you had finished it already?"

Please have some mercy on this old man, shidi!!! 

 

---


When Mu Qingfang leaves, Shang Qinghua's terrifying head disciple comes back into his leisure house with her load of work for the day. Shang Qinghua is still recovering from the traumatic experience of being force-fed his medication like a recalcitrant cat, and is only capable of making a feeble wheezing noise at her when she enters. 

“Shifu,” she says, saluting once and looking deeply unconcerned as she sets all his her unfinished paperwork on his writing table. Ignoring his sad gagging noises, she begins arranging the scrolls and pages into neat stacks on his desk like a threat, sitting in his chair, on his cushion, working at his table like it's already hers!

“Ah, my dear head disciple,” Shang Qinghua croaks when he’s finally capable of speaking. He keeps his gaze slightly averted because he's pretty sure that if he looks her directly in the eyes, he'll turn to stone. He laughs nervously and tries (fails) to sit up in bed. "Why don't you uh, take the day off?” he suggests breezily, sounding like a five-pack a day chronic smoker. 

Take that cursed paperwork elsewhere! Let your shifu recover in peace!

"Respectfully, If this disciple leaves, perhaps shifu won't be here when she returns, and there's so much work to do," his head disciple says, her tone perfectly polite, icy enough to freeze the entire Tian Gong mountain range! 

Shang Qinghua feels cold sweat crawl down the back of his neck. How rude! We both know this old man isn’t capable of going anywhere right now! He can barely crawl to the bathroom by himself, much less escape his looming responsibilities! So isn’t this just a threat display? An open show of insubordination? And what's with this chilly atmosphere! Has she been taking intimidation lessons from Mobei Jun?! 

Thinking of Mobei Jun depresses him immediately and he doesn't put up any more of a fight, lying prone in bed, suddenly very weary and heartsore. He listens to the quiet sound of shuffling pages as his thoughts drift, like a river to the sea, in the direction of his king. 

It's not like he expected anything different. Or maybe, he did? The fact that the reality is so far from matching the dream...ah, well, that's his fault for having expectations in the first place, isn't it? 

He falls asleep to the familiar sound of quiet brushstrokes on rice paper, feeling deeply pathetic. 

 


 

Time passes slowly, each day dragging past like a year. 

Shang Qinghua obediently convalesces, takes the awful medication prescribed to regrow his spiritual circulation system, and stews miserably in his useless feelings. 

While he's in the grueling process of recovering, word gets around that something happened to him. Or more likely, word gets out that he's stuck on An Ding Peak for the foreseeable future and can't run and hide from requisition requests like usual. Either way, he keeps getting visitors

His first and most constant visitors are the various disciples of his own An Ding Peak. It’s mostly the younger disciples, come to get a glimpse of their elusive Shifu, tiptoeing outside and peeking into the leisure house with gloomy, despondent faces like they're attending a wake. Your shifu is still alive, kids! No need to hover and look so scared like you're at grandpa's funerary viewing! 

His head disciple, merciless, tells the hoverers to get inside or get back to work, which usually scatters them for a bit. A few of the bolder ones actually do come in though, saluting timidly and asking if Shizun needs anything? and attempting to give him small reports on the state of things on An Ding Peak. This is extremely charming! Shang Qinghua ends up indulging them because initiative should be rewarded. Plus, initiative can always be put to work! He nods along with the reports and gives small tasks to the disciples he feels are capable of handling them. The younger disciples who visit are tasked with helping out his head disciple, bringing him a constant supply of melon seeds, and other minor housekeeping tasks. Everyone is nicely satisfied with this arrangement!  

 

Zhangmen-shixiong is the first peak lord aside from Mu Qingfang to drop by, which Shang Qinghua sort of expected. He doesn’t know how Yue Qingyuan has such an uncanny sense for knowing when he’s on An Ding peak. Does he have spies? Informants scattered among Shang Qinghua’s own disciples to notify him when their evasive Shizun makes a rare appearance? 

He brings a nice basket of persimmons with him as some kind of ‘Welcome back! We’re so glad you’re not dead because we didn’t want to deal with the paperwork!’ present, which still redeems him a little in Shang Qinghua’s eyes. He sets the fruit basket by the kitchenette, making polite small talk and asking about Shang Qinghua's recovery, his prognosis, etc. Shang Qinghua obediently regurgitates what Mu Qingfang has told him, equally polite, until they run out of pleasant and boring conversation topics, staring at each other in increasingly awkward silence. 

"I've always felt that living in the demon world was too dangerous for Shang-shidi,” Yue Qingyuan finally says, casting a curious glance at the jade token still resting on the bedside table.  

...Is he worried? Or was that an insult? 

Before Shang Qinghua can think of a polite way to ask, Yue Qingyuan is leaning forward to pat his shoulder, emitting earnest eldest-brother energies. "Shang-shidi. Please remember that you are still a peak lord of Cang Qiong Sect, and your martial siblings will be here for you if you decide to return. You will always have a place here at Cang Qiong Mountain Sect." 

Shang Qinghua is touched! He really is! 

...or he would be, if Yue-Zhangmen was not so transparently attempting to foist his duties back onto Shang Qinghua's recovering shoulders! This shidi knows that you've had to oversee some of the merchandising contracts in his absence, Yue-Zhangmen! You think you're so smooth, huh, shixiong? Think again! This master has way more practice than you wriggling out of unwanted responsibilities! 

He pastes on a big fake smile and thanks Zhangmen-shixiong for his concern before asking how his respected martial siblings have been doing. Somehow, as it always does with Yue Qingyuan, the topic circles back to Shen Qingqiu. This shidi is the one who's injured here, Zhangmen-shixiong!! Why are we going on and on about Cucumber-bro when he's not even here?! In fact, the man is married already! Isn’t this taking the ‘old flame for childhood friend’ trope a bit too far?

Ah...it’s so sad to watch! The light of life and hope just...gradually escapes Yue Qingyuan like air leaking out of a punctured balloon as he talks. Shang Qinghua can only look on in dry disbelief, shaking his head sadly. He's grateful for the visit, he really is! but seeing how sad and lonely Yue Qingyuan looks is starting to make him feel sad and lonely too. The poor man brings this aura of forever alone with him that kind of hits a little too close to home right now, and Shang Qinghua would really like for that depressing feeling to go away, thanks! 

He coughs feebly into one hand, trying to channel the frail and sickly vibes of a feeble Victorian orphan suffering from consumption. Yue Qingyuan, still deeply absorbed in his retelling of a recent conversation with Cucumber-bro in tender, loving, and excruciating detail, completely fails to notice. 



Shang Qinghua amps up the fake coughing until he accidentally chokes on his spit and starts coughing for real before Yue Qingyuan finally checks himself out of the Cucumber dream zone to help pat his back and offer him a drink. 

“Shang-shidi should rest more,” Yue Qingyuan says, looking gently admonishing, as if he wasn’t the direct cause of this most recent attack against Shang Qinghua’s life! 

“Yeah,” Shang Qinghua creaks, taking another sip of water. 

“This shixiong will take his leave then,” Yue Qingyuan says, getting up. 

Finally! 

Shang Qinghua thanks Yue-Zhangmen for his attention and promises to rest and yes he’ll take his medication and yes he’ll take it easy before Yue Qingyuan heads for the door. He’s honestly a little surprised that Yue Qingyuan hadn’t brought up the annual Cang Qiong budgetary review or requested some other tedious task from him. There’s something to be said for the pathos of being a sickly and recovering patient! 

Then, Yue Qingyuan pauses right by the door. “Oh, by the way, Shang-shidi…” 

Ah. There it is. 

Speaking like a man who booked a 10-second slot for a 30-second commercial, Yue Qingyuan unloads a repertoire of tasks that includes, as expected, the annual review, an upcoming cultivator trade conference requiring Shang Qinghua’s attendance, audit reports for all twelve peaks, and a requisition request for golden dragonfruit, which have been out of season for about five months now. 

Yue-Zhangmen smiles beatifically at him after finishing his spiel, and then to add insult to injury, he says “Please don’t forget to rest well, Shang-shidi!” before closing the door gently behind him. 

Rest?! Pfft! What rest! Rest his ass! Shang Qinghua could spit blood! So much for the pathos of being a sickly and recovering patient! 

 

---

 

Qi Qingqi drops by next, which is horrifying. Shang Qinghua still hasn’t forgotten the harrowing experience of being chased by his sword-wielding shimei as if he was a dog and a scoundrel! Why is she here now? Is she taking advantage of his weakened state to finish the job? He cowers under his blankets, hoping that if he looks sickly enough, she’ll get bored and leave. 

No such luck. 

"What happened to you?" she asks, cracking her knuckles idly and looking him over with an air of vague distaste. “Did that demon you’re always hovering around finally get tired of you?”

Shang Qinghua wants to weep! Qi-shimei, please take your threatening knuckles elsewhere! This shixiong is still recovering! Also, what’s with that too-insightful question, huh? Take your intuition elsewhere too! 

He laughs nervously. "No! Nothing like that! Ah, this shixiong was just a little uh...poisoned. Recovering nicely though! It’s really not a big deal."

She scoffs. "You betray your own sect, only to be discarded by the very demons you serve? How pathetic.”

Okay that's. Hmm. A) Extremely rude and B) Really hit a sore spot. This rigid, forbidding, and unyielding personality of yours is exactly why you're still single, shimei! 

Qi Qingqi is still continuing, dragging up every one of Shang Qinghua’s perceived faults and his past deceitful actions with malicious and coldhearted exactitude. The resentful simmer in Shang Qinghua's chest rises to a full boil. 

“What do you know, huh?! I didn't have a choice!” he bursts out, slapping the mattress. “Who wants to die uselessly trying to defend a sect that doesn't care about you! And I wasn't - I’m not - My king left me here to recover in peace! Only there's no peace to be found! Just my shimei, spitting up all this old slander like poison, harassing and insulting this old man with no end in sight! Think of my health, huh shimei?” 

The moment the words leave his mouth, all the blood drains right out of his face. Oh fuck! Words spoken in anger always inspire regret after the fact! Or in this case, terror! Why is he provoking Qi Qingqi right to her face when he can’t run away from her? Does he really have a death wish?! 

Qi Qingqi’s delicate eyebrows arch up in affronted disbelief. Shang Qinghua inhales deeply, bracing himself to scream for help at the highest possible volume. Maybe someone will come in time to preserve enough of his corpse for a closed-casket funeral! However, instead of drawing her sword and running him through like a kabob, Qi Qingqi just snorts and crosses her arms over her chest. “Oh? Brave enough to say such things directly to my face? So you do still have a backbone. Good. I thought you might have become a worm. Or a slug.” 

Shang Qinghua stares at her, completely baffled. Was that an insult? A compliment? Why does he have to go through this right now? He's a frail and sickly patient! He just wants to sleep in peace! 

“Qi-shimei. Is there a reason you're here?” he asks bluntly, his exasperation crowding out the fear. 

Qi Qingqi narrows her eyes at him, her long nails tapping a rhythm along her elbow. "Who poisoned you?” she asks bluntly. “If it wasn’t that demon you hang around, then who was it? Are they dead yet?" She starts to crack her knuckles again. Shang Qinghua cringes. Stop threatening this old man, shimei! 

"Dead, they're dead! Very much so!"

"Hm. How unfortunate."

She looks so disappointed...sorry that Mobei Jun didn't leave you any scraps!

Qi Qingqi still doesn't leave, sitting in unsatisfied silence and staring him down with the aura of a predator displeased with finding such a small and unsatisfactory morsel of a meal. Shang Qinghua nervously pulls the blankets up to his nose and tries to telepathically project an aura of 'recovering patient requiring uninterrupted rest' directly into Qi Qingqi's brain. It doesn't work because she can't read the room. Or, she probably can, but she doesn't care about his feelings. 

"Ah, shimei...is there uh, anything else this shixiong can help you with?"

Why are you still here?! 

Qi Qingqi spies the fruit basket that Yue-Zhangmen left and happily helps herself instead of answering him, producing a knife from somewhere that makes Shang Qinghua's eyes bulge. She starts to peel a persimmon, splitting the fruit into neat quarters and setting it aside. 

Shang Qinghua brightens at the sight. No way...?! How unprecedented! Is Qi Qingqi really taking pity on him? Peeling persimmons for him? Will the longstanding pipe dream of being hand-fed sliced fruit in bed by a beautiful woman finally come true?! 

 

...

 

Qi Qingqi eats all his persimmons. 

Salting the wound, her requisition request as she leaves is for a fruit basket as a gift. 

 

---

 

Out of the blue, Wei Qingwei drops by. 

Shang Qinghua blinks at him, surprised. They've only interacted in person a handful of times, but Shang Qinghua has always liked Wei-shixiong because he has predictable requisitions, doesn't ask for weird, expensive shit all the time, and always notifies An Ding ahead of time if Wan Jian Peak needs something done or if he has a special request, which is rare.  Granted, the special request is usually something absolutely ridiculous, like an enchanted bellows that regulates airflow based on the surrounding temperature, or a forge hammer capable of channeling spiritual energy with the precision of a needle, or a special batch of iron ore pulled directly from the heart of a fallen star. Still, Shang Qinghua has always tried his best to accommodate these outlandish requests in a timely manner because Wan Jian peak always provides their paperwork on time and in triplicate, and he fucking appreciates that. Wei-shixiong runs a tight ship! Er, forge! 

Anyways. The point he's trying to make is that he and Wei-shixiong aren't particularly close? So seeing him here is kind of a surprise. 

"Wei-shixiong," he greets, wishing he could sit up for more than ten seconds at a time. "Do you have a requisition request? Or do you need something for Wan Jian peak? How can this shidi be of help?"

Wei Qingwei stares at him in unnerving silence, arms crossed over his broad chest. He holds out a hand, presumably for Shang Qinghua's sword. Shang Qinghua produces it nervously, taking it out of his qiankun pouch with the guilty air of a kid caught neglecting their chores. Or, in this case, neglecting their partnered spiritual weapon, who has been shoved unceremoniously into a qiankun pouch for the past few days...months...years…

What?! He doesn't usually need his sword on hand in his line of work! It just gets in the way! 

Wei Qingwei, as expected, gives him a disappointed look. He draws and sights down the blade, giving it several test swings and observing how it cuts through the air. The sword glare is dim and the blade looks slightly pathetic, even to Shang Qinghua's eyes. He cringes, wishing he could hide as Wei Qingwei shakes his head tellingly. 

Then, he folds himself onto the floor of Shang Qinghua's leisure house and takes out a maintenance kit. He spends the next hour engaged in meticulous blade maintenance, polishing the blade, cleaning the scabbard and fittings, oiling the leather harness and sling until they shine. Shang Qinghua watches all this happen in slightly perplexed silence. 

Wei-shixiong, this shidi is very grateful, but don't you have better things to do? Your forge won't run itself! 

His feeble attempts at engaging Wei Qingwei in conversation fall short. Sheesh, what a tough crowd. At least Mobei Jun listens when he talks! His mood sours instantly at the thought of his king and he flops back in bed, giving up all attempts to be social. Wei Qingwei can start the conversation himself if he wants to! 

 

 

He does not start the conversation. 

 

Shang Qinghua eventually drowses off, which is unbelievably rude, but he's tired, okay? He's still recovering! Wei-shixiong was the one who invited himself here, he can always uninvite himself whenever he wants! 

He jolts awake some time later to the sound of his front door closing. Blinking groggily, he rolls onto his side to find his leisure house empty, Wei-shixiong gone. 

His sword is hung neatly on the wall hooks next to his bed, the blade freshly polished, the sheath and fittings bright and clean. Shang Qinghua blinks slowly at it. He really doesn't know what to make of it. The whole experience was so surreal that he wonders if he encountered some sort of shapeshifting cryptid instead of his shixiong. Deciding not to give it any further thought, he turns over in bed and falls right back asleep. 

 

---

 

Mu Qingfang's visits are the most often, for obvious reasons, but one time Liu Qingge accompanies him, which makes Shang Qinghua want to hide under the nearest rock he can find. 

What?! Liu Qingge is extremely intimidating, okay? 

Unable to hide under a rock, he settles for huddling in place under the blankets and making himself look as small as he can while Mu Qingfang runs his diagnostic tests. Liu Qingge sits in stonefaced silence next to Mu Qingfang, arms crossed, looking severe and unfairly pretty as usual. Shang Qinghua aggressively avoids eye contact, which has served him perfectly well in dealing with terrifying humans and demons alike! 

"Did that demon you hang around do this to you?" Liu Qingge suddenly demands. 

Shang Qinghua blanches. Why does everyone think Mobei Jun did this to him?! Also...he glances at Mu Qingfang, confused. You didn't tell him? he tries to communicate telepathically. He figured everyone in Cang Qiong Sect would know what happened by now. He's so good at running and hiding at the first sign of danger that for him to have been laid low like this, well…there's bound to be gossip! 

Mu Qingfang rolls his eyes, catches himself, and pastes his 'I am a Professional' mask back on. "Doctor-patient confidentiality does exist," he says, dry as a bone. 

Mu-shidi!! You really do care! 

"No," Shang Qinghua replies, still looking away from Liu Qingge. "It wasn't my - uh, it wasn't him. I was just poisoned."

Mu Qingfang's eyebrows do something interesting. "'Just' poisoned?"

"Hmf," Liu Qingge says, crossing his arms and scowling. "Poison. A coward's weapon. Only a fool would fall for that." His glare pierces Shang Qinghua like blades, making him sweat. 

Come on, Liu-shidi! Why so mean? This old man is recovering here! He's ill! He's a victim and a patient! In fact, what are you even doing here? Shen Qingqiu is far far away, so shouldn’t you be back to hunting down beasts in the wilderness and only returning one time every three months? 

"Only a fool would let it come that close to touching their golden core, despite knowing the cure," Mu Qingfang says, his expression calm and somehow deeply judgmental as he taps along Shang Qinghua's wrist to gauge his spiritual vein regrowth. 

Shang Qinghua wilts. Why are they teaming up on him like this?! 

"What was the cure?" Liu Qingge asks Mu Qingfang curiously, handing him an instrument as he straightens. 

"I'm implementing my doctor-patient confidentiality rights!" Shang Qinghua screeches, chopping an arm between them. 

Mu Qingfang nods, conceding gracefully. Then he looks at Liu Qingge and they hold an entire conversation through their eyebrows and facial expressions alone. Liu Qingge smirks and sits back. The smirk is very knowing. 

Shang Qinghua splutters. "Wha - but - hey! That's illegal! Mu-shidi I can't believe you just told him - "

"I said nothing," Mu Qingfang, traitor and backstabber, says calmly, tapping diligently along the vein in Shang Qinghua's wrist. 

"He said nothing," Liu Qingge echoes. Shang Qinghua deflates into his cushions, feeling extremely bullied. This 2 on 1 combo attack is incredibly unfair! Especially when he can’t even get up and run away!

“Mu-shidi, I trusted you!” he whines in a loud stage whisper, crossing his arms petulantly as Mu Qingfang finally releases his wrist. 

“Ah, did you?” Mu Qingfang asks silkily, slapping his wrist sharply and dragging it back for further inspection. “Perhaps you should have trusted this shidi earlier, before the poison progressed so far.” 

Shang Qinghua zips his mouth shut. He curls up into a ball in an angry sulk. What kind of oppression is this?! A guilt trip! He’s being guilt-tripped by Mu Qingfang! 

Next to him, Liu Qingge seems to be having a thought. His brow furrows, and Shang Qinghua can see the two lone cogs in the war god's beautiful, empty head turning very slowly. 

"Wait. If the cure was - then who…?" He looks faintly ill at the thought, his eyes darting between Shang Qinghua and Mu Qingfang. 

"Mm, this master has his suspicions, but Shang-shixiong has not been very forthcoming," Mu Qingfang agrees. They both turn to look at him, Liu Qingge looking horrified but intrigued despite himself, and Mu Qingfang with a slightly terrifying glint in his eye. Shang Qinghua crosses his arms over his chest and closes his eyes, refusing to acknowledge how his entire face flushes red like a tomato. 

Keep wondering, you gossips! You nosy shidi! 

 

---

 

The one visitor he sort of wants to see never shows up. Hmf. Probably enjoying his life of leisure in Luo Binghe's Underground Palace, having longan peeled and lovingly hand fed to him by the attentive, bright-eyed protagonist…

Shang Qinghua gnashes his teeth with something that's definitely not jealousy! This old man won't forgive you for what you've done to his son!! 

He has a split second of weakness where he tries to imagine what it would look like if Mobei Jun were the one to lovingly prepare cut fruit for him, and has to suppress a full-body shiver at the deep and abiding wrongness of that mental image. 

Not that anything like that would ever happen in the first place. He feels his mood deflate like a punctured balloon and slaps angrily at the mattress, frustrated with himself. This really has to stop happening! He's over it! He really is!! 

Uncharitably, he starts to cook up plans for how he's going to greet his king when he returns to pick up his forgotten load of dry cleaning. If Mobei Jun teleports in and Shang Qinghua manages to catch him in the act, should he pretend not to see him? He debates angry speeches, calculated levels of studious indifference, all for the maximum level of snub. 

He's angry! He's resentful! His feelings are sort of hurt! He's all sad and bruised like an overripe peach that someone has thoughtlessly sunk their fingers into without purchasing! And Mobei Jun should know it! 

That is…if his king even remembers to come back and pick him up in the first place. He sighs, gets angry that he’s sighing, and decides to try and sleep it off for the night. 

 


 

It takes him almost two weeks to recover to the point where Mu Qingfang clears him for light activity, and even then he's not allowed to use his spiritual energy too much for fear of overloading his freshly regrown spiritual vein system. Mu Qingfang also has him doing the qi equivalent of physical therapy, which means he's relegated to doing simple meditation and forms that even the lowliest disciple must practice on the daily. He's not even allowed to fly on his sword!!

Mu-shidi, don't you think this is a little too draconic? He's lucky he's allowed outside of his leisure house at this rate!

On the other hand, his head disciple doesn't particularly care that he's still recovering. The moment Mu Qingfang deems him well enough to sit up independently, it's as if the floodgates have been opened!

Recovery? Peace? Rest? Where?! No rest to be seen, only a flood of disciples bearing an endless stream of tasks and paperwork! Can't this old man get a break?! This master nearly died! And you want him to chase down Liu Qingge and interrogate him on why his requested allotment for polishing oil is nearly three times his usual baseline? No! This old man can barely walk! 

He makes a resolution towards the end of the second week when he catches himself morosely wondering what his king is doing approximately once every thirty seconds. Stop that, Shang Qinghua! No more moping! He's not some lovesick maiden, pining wistfully and waiting to be swept off his feet. Lovesick. As if! 

So what if he's still feeling sort of abandoned and pathetic! Mobei Jun is still his king, and Shang Qinghua is still his administrative assistant! Mobei Jun will still require Shang Qinghua's help and expertise with a million different things. Plus, Shang Qinghua has to stick close by in order to keep his king safe. One assassination attempt deflected means eight plans in the making, and Shang Qinghua will not stand for anyone trying to hurt his king. Besides, what else would he do? Stay at An Ding Peak, doing paperwork and being unappreciated? Ha! He can do that at the northern palace too. At the very least, Mobei Jun is fantastic eye candy, which is a point in favor of the northern palace. 

This brings the score to a grand total of 1-0. It's settled then! Mobei Jun obviously still needs Shang Qinghua at his side, and he needs him to not be a hot mess. So Shang Qinghua is going to get it together, pack all his feelings for Mobei Jun into a pickling jar, and bury it deep underground so he can continue faithfully serving his king. 

It'll be fine! It'll be like things have gone back to normal. There's no need to have everything become all weird between them just because they had some very good medically necessary sex together. Twice. Hahaha. 

...

Shang Qinghua works very hard at pickling his feelings.  

He does this by distracting himself as much as possible. It almost works too! He feels stronger by the day, his recovery progressing nicely as he works his way through the prescribed forms and meditation drills. His mind switches gears smoothly from the political landscape of the northern palace back to the many different logistics needs of Cang Qiong Sect as he reviews the myriad forms sent to him for approval. 

Another reparation payment request for something destroyed by Liu Qingge and his Bai Zhan hooligans on a mission? No problem! 

Zui Xian peak requests funds, a carriage and twenty horses for a field trip to a new winery? This shixiong has you covered! 

Last time Shen Qingqiu returned, he'd mentioned wanting to eat peaches and now Yue-Zhangmen is asking him to source the fruit even though it's already winter and they've been out of season for months? This shidi will do his best! 

None of the peaks have their ledgers ready for the annual review? Time to harass the head disciples until they fold and hand it over! Why this means he has to personally chase them down he still doesn't understand. This is definitely something his head disciple should be doing, but because he's back, he has to do it? You do it! 

Shang Qinghua continues to work hard, rising early and sleeping late, running about the peaks like a dog chasing its own tail, ending each day exhausted so he can fall asleep the moment his head hits the cushions, with no time left over for maudlin thoughts. 

 


 

Mobei Jun returns for him at the end of the month. 

Shang Qinghua doesn't even realize it, too tired from bouncing around the peaks all day, pulled this way and that by minor disaster after minor disaster. Is he a frazzled chicken or a dutiful peak lord?! He kicks the door to his leisure house open, dumps his armful of expired inventory onto the desk, registers the presence of his king sitting in the desk chair with a tired nod, and heads for bed. 

Mobei Jun's presence in his immediate vicinity used to mean 'brace for impact!' After Noodles v1.0, that had all changed, and it had changed so quickly. Now, Mobei Jun's presence means 'all is well!' Sometimes it also means 'more paperwork?!' or 'another boring meeting...' but that's still a big upgrade from before. In any case, having Mobei Jun nearby means safety, familiarity. That's the only reason why Shang Qinghua, already 99% asleep on his feet, just mumbles a sleepy greeting as he files past his king and collapses facefirst into his bed. 

He jolts upright after a power nap of exactly 48 seconds, suddenly very awake. "My king?! Is that you?" he cries, groping around for his night pearl. Mobei Jun, who had been preparing to sit back down, catches himself and strides over. 

Shang Qinghua finally gets ahold of his night pearl, whirling to face him. He shrieks in surprise as the silvery light reveals Mobei Jun's chest a mere five inches from his nose, his king looming directly over him! 

"My king! You came back!" he cries, his entire heart leaping into the air like an overjoyed dolphin. All his plans for acting cool and calm and collected and maybe snubbing his king and making his resentment and unhappiness known vanish into thin air at the first sight of Mobei Jun's beautiful face! What resentment? What unhappiness? What heartache?

"My king!" he says again, dazzled, before indignation.exe finally kicks in past the exhaustion. Oh right, that resentment and unhappiness. 

"My king, you left me!" he wails. "You left me here all alone and didn't explain anything and I had to take so much medication and listen to Mu-shidi give me all these horrible talks on self worth and then I had to deal with all of Cang Qiong trying to hunt me down for petty bullshit because they all knew I was back and couldn't run aw- couldn't uh, relocate to the northern palace! How could you do that to me, my king?!" He realizes abruptly that he's battering at Mobei Jun's sculpted chest and blanches. Just one month away from his king and he's already lost all sense of self preservation, huh? 

Mobei Jun catches him by the wrists with one big hand before he can yank his traitorous fists back. He tugs Shang Qinghua closer with ease, like he’s reeling in an errant kitten. "Shang Qinghua," he greets. "This king has returned for you as promised." His eyes flick over him in a quick once-over. "Have you recovered?"

Shang Qinghua shivers, the simple sound of his king's deep voice sending goosebumps prickling to life all over his skin! Ah, his pickling jar strategy is already being tested, huh? Well, this master is totally up to the challenge! That deep and sexy voice is just - it's platonically deep and sexy! It's not a big deal at all!!

"Yes, my king! This servant has fully recovered." He hops lightly in place to show off his regained capacity for independent movement.

"Mm,” Mobei Jun says, studying him approvingly. Shang Qinghua studies him right back! It’s been an entire month since he got to gaze upon Mobei Jun’s perfect features! An entire month since he got to see his king’s lovely face and perfect muscles! On that note...

"My king, did you just come from a party? You look...nice." The words escape him without any conscious thought because Mobei Jun is…extremely dressed up? 

He's wearing dark brocade robes that show off the line of his muscular chest, the collars and hems practically stiff with metallic embroidery. Silver pauldrons in the shape of dragons' heads gleam from his shoulders, golden trims catching the light of the night pearl. His vambraces are unusually ornate - hammered silver with elaborate etched designs swirling over the powerful forearms, tied with black leather laces. The long cloak he wears is trimmed with sable fur at the shoulders and the base, swirling dramatically around him like a cloud of shadow. Even his accessories are several steps up in formality, his steps jingling with the weight of a dozen silver chains, his waistcloth fastened by an armored stomach guard, cerulean and white tassels lining the decorative sash. He even has his hair up, pulled back into an elegant crown, shining seaglass beads braided into the refined hairstyle, giving him an extremely sophisticated appearance. 

In short...incredibly handsome!! Really fucking cool! What an image Mobei Jun makes, standing inside Shang Qinghua's little leisure house, clad in the garb of a conquering king. Truly a cold and dominating beauty! Shang Qinghua's traitorous heart skips a couple beats before he gets it under control. 

Mobei Jun just stares at him intently, not answering his question. Shang Qinghua feels...a little peeved. Has his king been cutting loose in his absence, attending banquets and feasts and wild demonic bacchanalia without his human-shaped liability dragging him down? He feels unreasonably jealous of anyone who got to see Mobei Jun looking so hot, remembers that he's not supposed to feel anything because he's pickling his emotions, struggles a bit, and finally decides: fuck it. He's too tired to deal with this right now. He can be not-jealous all he wants tomorrow, after he's had a full night of uninterrupted sleep.

"My king, if you're here, are we returning to the palace?” he hedges. 

"Yes.” 

Shang Qinghua sags with relief. Adios, An Ding Peak! This master will be working remotely for the foreseeable future. Very remotely! Sorry, Yue-Zhangmen, you're going to have to deal with that cultivator society trade conference all on your lonesome. Apologies, Liu-shidi, but you can redirect your requests for more polishing oil to Wei-shixiong. This master is washing his hands of all Cang Qiong logistical matters as of this moment! Shang Qinghua shuffles to stand at his normal spot behind Mobei Jun, zoning out and thinking fond thoughts about his cozy little room with its slight-lumpy mattress. 

Mobei Jun still hasn't opened up a portal, which is a little strange. Instead, he turns to face Shang Qinghua, pinning him with an intense, unreadable look. Shang Qinghua is too tired to parse the subtle shifts of expression that move across his king's lovely face. Now that the adrenaline has worn off, he's tired! He wants to go to bed! 

"My king?" he asks wearily.

"Shang Qinghua. You will return with this Mobei Jun to the north, to the home we will share together?"

Shang Qinghua gives Mobei Jun a slightly concerned side-eye. What's with this weird question? "Uh, of course, my king?" he says, bewildered. "This servant is very grateful my king returned to bring me back." 

Mobei Jun stands a little straighter, looking pleased. Ah, did he just want his ego petted a little? Did he think Shang Qinghua would fight to stay on An Ding Peak or something? Peh! He could scoff at the very idea! Besides, where else would he go? 

Mobei Jun steps close and offers a hand for him to take. "Good. Come then, Shang Qinghua." 

Shang Qinghua blinks at this odd display before shrugging and obediently taking Mobei Jun's hand. 

They step into the portal together, side by side. 

 

---

 

Mobei Jun teleports them directly into his bedroom. Shang Qinghua tries very hard not to look at the bed!

"Ah, thank you again for fetching me, my king!” he says, voice slightly too high-pitched, palms sweaty. “This servant is very grateful to be back. Have a good night, my king.” He salutes and bows deeply before darting for the door. 

Mobei Jun’s voice arrests him in his tracks. "Where are you going?” 

Shang Qinghua glances at him, confused and increasingly nervous. "My king, I'm going to my room?"

Mobei Jun shakes his head. "Your bedchambers have been relocated."

Relocated?! Where to? Right when he'd been getting used to his room, too... Now he'll have to rediscover the best shortcuts to the kitchen without being seen by other demons. He's too tired for this right now! 

"Why?" he asks, wilting, too tired to think. Mobei Jun stares at him, and Shang Qinghua's exhausted mind catches feebly at the concept of things like social propriety. Oh, he's being rude, isn't he? He bows hastily. "I - I mean, thanking my king for this gracious favor! This servant is sure to appreciate the change!"

"Mm," Mobei Jun says, before gesturing for Shang Qinghua to follow him. Is he going to personally show Shang Qinghua where his new bedchambers are? That seems a little…excessive? This master is perfectly capable of navigating the palace by himself. Do you even know the layout of the servants' quarters, my king? 

As they exit the royal bedchambers, Shang Qinghua turns automatically towards the servants' wing and starts walking on autopilot. Maybe he's been upgraded to a room in the newer area where Mobei Jun's other chief attendants stay? Maybe it's even a corner room! A man can dream! 

He's startled out of his head when Mobei Jun's heavy hand lands on his shoulder, turning him in a sharp about-face. "Huh? My king?" he asks, stumbling slightly. Okay, so he's a little tired, but he can still walk by himself! 

Mobei Jun does not remove his hand. He continues guiding Shang Qinghua down the hallway, away from the servants' wing and towards the...guest wings? But it'd be faster to go a different way if they wanted to go towards the guest quarters. There's really nothing down this way except - 

Shang Qinghua's train of thought comes to an abrupt halt as Mobei Jun parks him in front of a door that most definitely didn't exist here before. Mobei Jun opens the door and ushers him inside. Shang Qinghua blinks several times, wondering if he's so tired that he's hallucinating. 

These rooms were also definitely not here before! 

They’re standing in a richly decorated anteroom that acts as a central hub to an enormous new wing of bedrooms, all decorated like a swanky penthouse suite. There’s a beautifully furnished entertainment area for guests in the corner, and velvet curtains and colorful tapestries adorn the walls. The cold stone floor is softened by all manner of rugs and furs, a rich riot of texture for bare feet to pad upon.

More rooms branch out from the central axis - a huge study with an enormous desk, writing supplies laid out upon it. Another smaller study with all manner of books and scrolls neatly arranged on gleaming rosewood shelves. A tiled restroom area with a luxurious-looking tub in the center, fragrant bath supplies sitting in small jars along recesses carved into the arched marble backrest. A beautiful, warmly-lit bedroom with an enormous canopy bed taking center stage, the silken hangings just opaque enough to hide an occupant, but still gauzy enough to let light through. 

Shang Qinghua stands in place and rotates in a slow, awed circle. He feels like he's politely touring a model home with picture-perfect interior decoration that he'll never be able to afford. This is obviously some kind of secondary living area for Mobei Jun, for it to be so nicely decorated. It's...very nice? Is Mobei Jun showing off? 

Shang Qinghua feels a hurt little twang of discord. It's one thing to tell your servant he's got new rooms, and then parade your own new rooms before his face like this! He's too tired to pretend to act impressed right now. This servant wants to go to sleep! 

He eyes the enormous canopy bed wistfully. It looks so soft, all filled with squashy cushions and piled high with furs and blankets. What would Mobei Jun do if he walked over and just...lay down and fell asleep, haha. This servant is just test-driving your new bed to make sure it's super comfortable for you, my king! 

He sneaks a glance at Mobei Jun and catches his clear, blue-eyed gaze. Mobei Jun is watching him. 

"Are you pleased?"

Shang Qinghua blinks at him, confused. Is he pleased? Pleased with what? 

"Uh...yes?" he tries. He summons up the remnants of his game face and gestures at the surroundings. "Your new rooms are beautiful, my king. Do you want this servant to arrange for things from your old rooms to be brought here?"

Where the old things will go, he has no idea. These new rooms are already stuffed to the gills with all sorts of furniture. Whatever, he'll figure it out! Preferably not tonight. Please don't make this servant do it tonight, my king! 

Mobei Jun scowls so suddenly that Shang Qinghua flinches defensively into himself on reflex. What did he do now?! 

A rising…well, he wouldn't exactly call it resentment, but…okay! Okay fine, it's resentment! His king ditched him for a month, and now he's dragging Shang Qinghua about, not considering that maybe he's a little tired? A little overworked? That maybe he has questions he'd like answered? It's late, and he's too tired and suffering from too much mood whiplash to deal with Mobei Jun's brattiness. He opens his mouth to say something mean, but Mobei Jun beats him to the punch. 

"These are your new bedchambers," he says, frowning. 

Shang Qinghua blinks slowly at him, Indignation.exe screeching to a halt. He really is so tired that he's hallucinating. Auditory hallucinations are still hallucinations! 

"Huh?" He asks pitifully. "My king, uh, I thought I just heard you say - "

"These are Qinghua's new bedchambers," Mobei Jun repeats. 

Oh. Okay. He definitely didn't mishear that! Shang Qinghua looks around the enormous rooms with a new eye, slightly overwhelmed. Just the anteroom is easily triple the size of his old bedroom in the servants' quarters!

"These - mine?" he squeaks, very comprehensibly. Mobei Jun nods, some of the tension leaving his face. 

...

Well! 

Shang Qinghua’s sleep-addled mind decides that a good answer to that would be to take a running start and hurl himself facefirst onto the bed! The blankets are just as soft as they look, the cushions delightfully bouncy. He marinates hedonistically in the sinful luxury of 1000-thread count sheets. He makes a small blanket angel.  

The bed dips as Mobei Jun sits down on it. He looks slightly concerned. 

Shang Qinghua reemerges from his blanket nest so that he can quickly bolster his king’s ego. "Ah, apologies, my king. I'm just a little uh...tired. But it’s very nice. Everything is very nice! This servant is very pleased!" 

“Mm. Then sleep for now. Tomorrow we meet with the northern court."

"Okay, my king. Um. Good night? And thank you. For the rooms. It's uh…it's good to be back."

Mobei Jun nods. Then, to Shang Qinghua's bewilderment, he rests a hand on the back of Shang Qinghua’s head and tugs lightly at his hair ribbon until it unspools, letting his hair slide free of its bun. Oh, how considerate! 

Shang Qinghua expects him to get up and leave after that very charitable act, but Mobei Jun continues to sit there, trailing his chilly fingers lightly through Shang Qinghua’s loose hair, carefully raking out the kinks and twists until it lays comfortably across his shoulder blades. That feels so incredibly nice after the day he’s had that Shang Qinghua sort of just...melts. Human puddle! Zero muscle tone! If he could purr like a happy cat being stroked, he would! But he can’t. So instead he just makes a blissful ‘hmmrmghgh’ and continues his mission to become one with the bed. In response to that, Mobei Jun hums and sort of...pats the top of Shang Qinghua’s head? He sure is being touchy-feely tonight! 

"Shang Qinghua. This king is glad you have recovered well and returned safely," he says solemnly. 

Ah. That makes sense. Now that Shang Qinghua is returned and fully functional again, he can continue to take knives and bullets for Mobei Jun! This useful servant is ever at your service, my king! 

Shang Qinghua says something garbled into the pillows. He reaches out blindly and gives Mobei Jun's impressive thigh a few reassuring pats. To his surprise, Mobei Jun doesn't leave immediately. He continues to sit there, petting gingerly at Shang Qinghua's hair. 

Well, if he’s not leaving...Shang Qinghua resurfaces and pillows his cheek against one delightfully soft cushion to stare sleepily at his king, taking him in after a month of separation. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder, huh? Ah, Mobei Jun really is...so incredibly handsome. Those rich robes, that gleaming armor and shining silver jewelry...Mobei Jun is always handsome, but sometimes the clothes do make the man. 

"My king, you really do look nice," he says, slightly muffled. "Was it a good party?"

Mobei Jun glances at him askance. "What party."

You don't have to hide it, my king! Where else would you be going, all dolled up like that? Shang Qinghua opens his mouth to say this, but what comes out is a jaw-cracking yawn. 

"You're tired. This Mobei Jun will take his leave." Mobei Jun gives Shang Qinghua's head one last pat before withdrawing his cool hand. "Sleep well, Qinghua."

"Mm," Shang Qinghua murmurs, eyes drifting shut, already halfway asleep. The mattress dips as Mobei Jun gets up, then there's the quiet click of the door as he lets himself out, leaving Shang Qinghua alone in his new bedroom. Bedroom(s). 

Shang Qinghua would honestly love to investigate, but he's just too tired. He wriggles out of his robes like an eel, ensconces himself deeper in the nest of squashy cushions, and is asleep in seconds.