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Confusing rules, I cannot play

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Mu Qing felt a strong repulsion towards that frolic air that flooded the Heavens since the fall of Jun Wu. It was not that he missed being under the control of a corrupt God, but pretending as nothing had happened and being totally oblivious about some of their duties was definitely something that was not in his morality.

Also, there were a lot of parties. Like, regularly, almost daily. And having to interact with other Gods faking smiles after playing games… ugh, sickening.

And even more if it was that Crimson Rain behind that game. Because then it was obvious Xie Lian would win.

The one he loathed with every single corner of his body was that on the first day of each year: a poll of the “best looking God/Goddess”. Stupid, ineffective, totally lacking of objectivity and, for a change, the one who controlled the votes was Crimson Rain. It was not surprising for them to find out that Xie Lian had won for the third consecutive year with votes that did not make sense.

But, anyways, “it was funny”. They shared a few laughs and then forgot about it until the next year.

The rules were simple: there was a box in which they had to put the name of one of the Gods (they could vote themselves) written in a small piece of paper and, at the end of the night, Hua Cheng would count the votes.

Usually Mu Qing would null-vote, the only null-vote in the whole box. Feng Xin, instead, would vote himself, writing his name in a messy calligraphy. When Mu Qing found out about that, he thought it was extremely silly and narcissistic. But he was not the only God in the Heavens who voted themself so, after all, it was only to smile and appear in the charts.

So he decided to play with him, jokingly voting him only for him to have, magically, two votes.

He wrote his name with the messiest calligraphy he could make up and put it inside the box. After it, he only had to wait until he realised and that narcissistic ass was exposed.

But, of course, that year had to be different... only to destroy his plan.

Hua Cheng cleared his throat and started saying: “... Yushi NiangNiang, four votes. Ming Guang JiangJun, three votes. Here we have a tie, guess who?”.

Mu Qing remembered Ling Wen would usually get two votes, so he snickered and yelled: “Ju Yang and Ling Wen.”.

“Why is Xuan Zhen so convinced?” Hua Cheng cracked his knuckles and then his neck to finally announce: “Nan Yang ZhenJun, Xuan Zhen JiangJun: one vote.”.

He had got one what?

Mu Qing was left open-mouthed. Some of the people there laughed: it was “obvious” that they had voted themselves. But both of them knew that it was not what had happened. Feng Xin quickly avoided his obsidian eyes, and Mu Qing thanked it.

Why did this year have to be different? Feng Xin not only decided to fuck his plan but also decided to vote him?

He stood before a mirror and slowly undressed. He looked at his reflection and a minor idea crossed his mind. His hand caressed his skin and he slid his perfect ponytail and undid it over his shoulder. He picked a brush from a drawer and started untying some knots, without actually stopping looking at his own body. Was he really pretty to his eyes? Or was he also playing with him? He sighed, the second option was way more possible. Not that he wanted to be pretty in Feng Xin's eyes, though.

One day after that, the Heavens remain as always. According to the rumours, Xie Lian won (again) with ten votes. Truly believable, Crimson Rain! Although, he did not really care about it. He was way more concentrated on perpetually avoiding Feng Xin: since there were no null-votes this year, it was clear who had voted for him. Feng Xin thought that Mu Qing thought that he was pretty. Awesome!

And, obviously, clarifying such a misunderstanding would be even worse! What would he say? “I was trying to make a joke and you did it too.”? Gods, why did such a damn little game cause so much uncomfort?

Feng Xin, however, did not seem as nervous. He was actually ordinary-looking that day. The same frowned expression on his face, the same old armor, and the same hairstyle. As always. He decided to style his hair with a golden hair accessory ornamented with a red rock. In all eight hundred years of knowing each other, Feng Xin had religiously tied up his hair in the same comfortable bun, even after ascending, avoiding every accessory that could bother or sting. Good for him, he thought.

Then the day continued the same old and boring routine, but at least no more games were in sight. So he decided to visit one of his Temples on the Human Realm.

Sometimes he thought that hearing prayers from behind, pretending to be a beggar, was more effective when it came to helping. He knew how to quickly help someone that was asking for food, for example, by strategically placing a basket full of fruits and other things at the doors. Or maybe he could make two people asking for a friend, actually befriend each other by “accidentally” making them find each other. If only it was that easier for them Gods.

He spent the whole afternoon and evening there, until the last person in the Temple left. Or well, that was what he thought. When he stood up to finally leave, he saw someone’s shadow next to the door. He walked to him and only then found out that it was Feng Xin. He was not wearing his armor, he was wearing normal clothes a commoner would use. It was not usual for Feng Xin to use something in blue colors, as it was usually associated with Mu Qing and generally everything that he used caused him repulsion, so it stunned him. He cleared his throat.

“What are you doing here?”.

“I came to one of my Temples today, too, and only passed because I wanted to know if you were still here so we can... go back together…? I don’t know, only if you want.” he scratched the back of his head.

Mu Qing snorted. “Ju Yang, Ju Yang, where’s your little joke? Are you planning to make fun of me?”.

“No! I just thought that you-...” he sighed. “Oh, nevermind, do what you want, asshole. I’ll leave.” he said, and quickly disappeared.

Mu Qing swallowed down. He was still thinking about that blue attire that looked good on him. Feng Xin should use blue tones a little more often, and those kinds of robes suited him in a strange way. Even with his super trained body, it made him show a more softened figure. He smiled and shook his head to finally leave behind him. Maybe they could have left together, after all.

The second day after the game, Mu Qing chose the same clothes as the day before to go to the same Temple. It was the smallest and the least crowded of the ones he had visited, but the environment felt so warm and homely that he actually had enjoyed it.

Before he could tie his hair up in his usual ponytail, he heard some knocks at the door.

“Come in.” he said.

“General, Nan Yang Zhen Jun asks for your help.” one of the subordinates said after bowing in curtsy.

“Is it urgent?” he asked peacefully, braiding some of the locks only to delay. If it was an urgency, he would have used the communication array.

“I don’t think it is-...”.

“Yes, it fucking is!” he heard him saying before the door opened completely and the subordinate was pushed back.

Feng Xin entered his private chamber looking desperate only wearing his sleeping clothes. Even though he was not really showing too much skin, it was pretty weird and/or intimate to see someone using such robes. In response, Mu Qing hopelessly covered his eyes and offered one of his outer clothes to cover him.

“Okay, I’m ready.” he said when he finally finished dressing up.

Mu Qing opened his eyes and found that, even though they were the same height, his clothes looked really small on Feng Xin, highlighting those parts of his body that were clearly “meatier” than his, like his chest and hips. A strange feeling twisted in his lower abdomen, but he abruptly vanished it by giving himself a slap inside his mind.

“Anyways, why are you on your sleeping robes in my private chamber?”.

“Mu Qing, remember the clothes I used yesterday?” he asked, without answering the question. Of course Mu Qing clearly remembered them, he could even swear that he had dreamt with Feng Xin on them! “Well, I had an accident.”.

“You… peed yourself?” he said between laughs.

“No! No, no! It was not that kind of accident, I… I may have ripped them. A bit. Just a bit. And I remembered ‘Mu Qing knows about sewing, he can help me!’. And now I’m here.”.

Mu Qing closed his eyes and begged for patience. He, a fully ascended God, had to patch up some cheap clothes Feng Xin decided to use. He sighed. “Okay, let me see.”.

Feng Xin handed him the clothes and Mu Qing extended them on his bed. Feng Xin pointed to the place where the clothes had ripped up with his index finger and then took it to his mouth, to bite his nails. Mu Qing had to suppress a laugh when he saw the place he had to repair...

The crotch of the clothes was torn in two.

“You are truly Ju Yang!” he finally laughed.

“You-...” he opened his mouth to answer but pressed his lips in a line before saying: “Can you just tell me if you can fix it?”.

“I can, just give me a few minutes.”.

Feng Xin sniffed. “Will you finish doing your hair first? If you will, I’ll ask someone else.”.

Only then, and after taking his hand to his head to confirm it, Mu Qing remembered that he had left his hair loose, and only a few messy braids hung from the top. And again, seeing someone with their hair not tied up, was something really intimate! If someone saw the situation from outside they would start rumouring: Mu Qing with his hair loose over his shoulders, and Feng Xin not only wearing his sleeping robes, but also Mu Qing’s outer clothes.

He tied up his hair in the fastest ponytail he had ever done, and picked a needle from the emergency box he kept under his bed to start sewing Feng Xin’s “little” problem. And he could see why the clothes had been easily teared, as Feng Xin was never the best at choosing simple things like clothes and fruits, and was usually swindled.

The good thing was that, as simple as it was to make a whole damn hole to it, it was to fix it. So fifteen minutes later, the clothes were already ready to be used.

“Can I take one of these?” asked Feng Xin, pointing at one of the hundreds of flowers he kept in his room — Mu Qing was never able to buy those and now that he could, he filled every corner of his room with vases and flower pots. No doubts why he always carried a sweet fragrance with him —.

“What for?”.

Feng Xin raised his shoulders. “I don’t know, I like them.”.

Mu Qing rolled his eyes. “Then buy yours. Goodbye.”.

He handed him the — now fixed — clothes and pushed him out of his private chamber, only to shortly after remember that he had left using his outer clothes. “Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it!” he stomped.

Later that day, his face lit up when he found a flower like the ones he kept in his room on his altar as an offer. He carefully saved it inside his clothes and finally left, wondering who had given it to him, and a bit disappointed that Feng Xin did not show up that evening. Who knows why.

Third day.

He found himself walking to Feng Xin’s palace pretty early in the morning. There was an important assembly where he needed to use the outer robe he had lent him. He did not know why, but it was important and he felt the urge to. He was a God, goddammit! He was no longer that lowly servant that depended on someone. He could speak out about his wills!

Fortunately he had to avoid speaking to the subordinates, since he found Feng Xin already leaving for the meeting.

“Xuan Zhen, you look different, what did you do on your face?” was the first thing Feng Xin said when they met eyes.

Mu Qing frowned and then remembered he had applied some blush on his cheeks to dissimulate his monotonous skin tone. Only for that. Not that he hated the idea of Feng Xin noticing it quickly, but…

“Is that blush?!” he smiled, and Mu Qing fisted him on his jaw.

“Shut the hell up, give me my robes.” he exclaimed and crossed his arms turning away his gaze.

Feng Xin massaged his chin for a while and finally said: “Okay, okay… wait a second.”.

He rolled his eyes as Feng Xin disappeared between the elegant halls. He huffed as soon as he saw him back.

“I’m sorry, I could not wash it up for you. Yesterday was an agitated day.” he explained. There had been not too many times in eight hundred years where Feng Xin apologised, and this one was one of them. He pressed his lips in a line before saying anything. “So you’ll have to carry a bit of my scent, are you okay with it?”.

“As long as you don’t stink, but I’m damn sure you do.” it was a lie. Feng Xin used to have a manly delicate and fresh fragrance, and he… enjoyed it. Maybe a bit.

"You-...!" Feng Xin wrinkled his lips and pointed at him with his index finger, but ended up shutting his mouth. "Are you going to stay in that old clothes at the door? Go to my private chamber and change there.".

Mu Qing raised an eyebrow. Second consecutive day where he and Feng Xin had to share more intimate things… ha! Poor thing, and he had said that he wanted to ignore him until the competition had already been forgotten! But the meeting was scheduled in a few minutes, and it was even more embarrassing and disrespectful to show up late. So he nodded, small and shyly.

Feng Xin's private chamber was actually not as messy as he had thought once. Pretty sober and minimalistic, there were a few curtains hanging from the window. White curtains he remembered having embroidered with birds, dogs, cats and other animals. He had to make them as a lost bet two years ago, but seeing that he had actually conserved them and that it was the first thing he saw as soon as he woke up, he felt a strong feeling implosioning inside his abdomen that clogged up his chest. That strong, that he had to instantly cover it up with one of his hands.

"Oh, yeah… I keep them. They are useful, I guess.".

Mu Qing did not dare to turn around. When people showed that they cared selflessly for him, he felt weak and open to whatever showed a little bit of affection, as if care was a virus and could easily make him catch other feelings.. Like a lost kitten that can bite and scratch you but will start purring and fastly fall asleep if you start petting them. A long lost and buried sensation crossed his mind and he dissipated it by shaking his hands.

"Can you leave? I'll change." he asked, his voice sounding a bit more mellow than usual.

"Sure." Feng Xin answered, and Mu Qing only turned around when he heard the door locking.

He went to the mirror and put on those outer robes. It was not necessary for Feng Xin to leave the room, but as he felt weak he felt like he had to. Not only the sun infiltrated to the room through those curtains filling the floor with perfectly shaped animals, but also his scent was all around and over his body, intoxicating all his senses with that fresh and manly fragrance that flooded him with a stupid idea that he had to let go without really wanting to. He slapped himself, this time was a real slap and not a mental slap.

Feng Xin opened the door with the sound. "What happened, are you okay?".

Mu Qing swallowed down. His chest puffed up and down nervously. "Yes.".

"Then let's go.".

They walked in silence, Mu Qing regretted not carrying a coat with him on such a really cold day. If his cheeks were pink because of that stupid blush, they must have been red by that moment. As Feng Xin did not say anything about it, neither did he.

"Hohoho" said Pei Ming as soon as he saw them arriving together.

Of course Ling Wen turned to see, too. And so did Yushi Huang and Quan Yizhen. Mu Qing avoided their eyes and pretended to not have heard anything. Luckily, Feng Xin left him to go to talk with Pei Ming. He sighed with relief.

Second week after the poll.

Mu Qing would lie if he said that something had changed for bad. Actually, Feng Xin had been suspiciously less irritating during the last days, making him surprisingly enjoy his presence.

Feng Xin also frowned less and smiled more. Mu Qing found himself smiling more, too. Sometimes he had to remind himself that he was playing, because he played along and Feng Xin’s unawareness of the game made it really difficult to keep it straight.

He would wait for him at the doors of his temples. Now they took turns, once Feng Xin and once Mu Qing. And after that they would even swop the fights with a chat or a walk by the river after a long day of working.

“Can we play something?” Feng Xin asked after spitting a peanut’s skin.

His errant walk and now less serious tone made Mu Qing feel extremely comfortable by his side. He wondered if this was what having a best friend felt like. To the extent that he felt really bad when he thought that he was lying to him, just pretending to like him — even though deep inside he knew that maybe this idea was not that far —.

“Mn.” he answered.

“Truth or dare, you know that?” he asked. Mu Qing nodded.

“Who starts?”.

“I’ll start. Truth or dare?”.

Mu Qing rested one of his elbows in his forearm and took his hand to his chin, like he was thinking. “Dare.”.

“You have to knock on the door of that old woman and ask her if you can throw the bag of peanuts in her trash can.” he said.

Mu Qing laughed. “Is it all?”.

“It’s just the beginning…” he implied, and Mu Qing rolled his eyes and did as Feng Xin told him.

He wondered if Feng Xin had been drinking, since he had been talking funny all the way and his worshippers would usually offer him alcoholic beverages. He laughed when he thought of the image of a drunk Feng Xin spilling his guts about other Gods, with his cheeks flushed in a rose-colored tone, and being terribly cute. He sighed, a bit of sadness invaded his chest thinking that one day everything would go back to normal.

Feng Xin shook his hand from afar.

“I did it!” Mu Qing yelled, and ran to him. “Okay, now it’s my turn. Truth or dare?”.

“I choose… truth.”.

“Are you drunk right now?”.

Feng Xin burst out laughing and rested his arm on Mu Qing’s shoulders. He felt his whole body shivering under the sudden heat around his nape.

“Maybe.” he said, and Mu Qing kicked his chin. “Okay, a little bit. Now you, truth or dare?”.

“Truth.”.

“Does my language really bother you, or would you like to learn to swear like me?”.

Mu Qing rolled his eyes. “I don’t want to, thank you. Truth or dare?”.

“Dare.”.

Mu Qing looked around until he found a tree full of fruits only on the top of it. To get one, someone must have climbed. He was used to doing that as a kid, and people would accuse him of robbing, when he knew that people could freely get one of those fruits from all those trees. So he said, pointing with a finger: “Climb the tree and get me one of those.”.

Feng Xin did as he said, and nimbly climbed the tree until not only getting one of those fruits, but a whole branch with many of them. Mu Qing smiled, it was stupid but he thought it was actually sweet. Those fruits were his favorite when he was a human. They both sat down to take off the fruits from the stem, and to share one.

“Okay, truth or dare?” said Feng Xin, cleaning the juice on his face with his sleeve.

“Dare.”.

“Do my hair like yours while thinking out loud.”.

“Why so specific?” Mu Qing asked with his mouth full of the sweet fruit.

“Because it will be funny, I don’t know.”.

Mu Qing smiled and swallowed down before going behind him.

“I’m going to untie you bun, tell me if it hurts, okay?” he said, and Feng Xin agreed. He untied it before Feng Xin noticed. “I wonder if you have used your hair differently other than your usual bun. I think it’s actually pretty, you have long waves and brown hair with blonde highlights, why are you killing them by pressing them in your bun? You have to learn to stylize better. These types of clothes also suit you really nicely!” he explained and then took some locks to braid them. “Oh, this braid looks so cute, because the blonde hairs do like a zig-zag.” he chuckled. “Am I being too embarrassing?” he asked, and Feng Xin did not answer, so he continued. “This may pull your hair, okay?” he said while tying up the ponytail. “And that’s it.”.

Mu Qing came back to his initial spot and sat down, only to see Feng Xin already asleep.

“Do I have to carry you?” he asked, and Feng Xin did not open his eyes. Hence, he did.

But he must have been awake, because every day of the following weeks, Feng Xin appeared with a different hairstyle and smiled like a puppy when Mu Qing patted his head and congratulated him, genuinely delighted with the change that made his friend happy.

“My friend.” he said out loud watching him from behind help one of his worshippers.

The cherry trees were finally blooming.

One day he and Feng Xin somehow agreed on having dinner together. Mu Qing offered his Palace and said that he could cook, since Feng Xin had always been extremely bad at cooking and "he did not trust his cooks" — in reality, he just remembered he used to congratulate him and how much he low-key enjoyed it.

Over two months since the first day had passed and their relationship was actually getting better every day. Mu Qing hated to admit that he had forgotten about the little joke if he did not carry pangs of conscience telling him "what if Feng Xin really, genuinely liked you when he put your name on that paper?". Did having developed a strong tolerance and respect towards him free him from that?

"Mu Qing, can I ask you something?" Feng Xin said after tasting one of his jiaozi. Mu Qing raised an eyebrow and blew one he took from his plate to cool it before putting it inside his mouth. "You were the one who voted for me back then, right?".

Mu Qing spitted part of his jiaozi. "Voted for what? To kick you out of the Heavens? Yeah, it was me.".

"Idiot! I was talking about… the poll.".

"Which poll, I can't remember a poll." Mu Qing answered, after finally being able to swallow down with a little bit of water.

"The one we- oh, forget it, I know you voted for me.".

Mu Qing cleared his throat and rested his elbows on the table to talk nearer. "And you were the one who voted for me, am I right?".

Feng Xin snorted. "Was I that obvious?".

Mu Qing thought about how much he and their relationship had changed in the past weeks. Feng Xin not only started to wear clothes that Mu Qing liked, but also started to stylize his hair because he had told him, and he had even stopped swearing that much! And Mu Qing had changed too, without even realising. He only noticed one night, undressing before the mirror. He had looked at his reflection and liked everything about what he saw. For the first time in more than eight hundred years, he had found someone that made him enjoy himself.

It felt like it was… not real.

"Why are you asking?" Mu Qing said.

"I don't know, I felt like we are here because of that and never really talked about it.".

"Where are we?" Mu Qing asked. "What is 'here'?".

Feng Xin raised his shoulders. "We are not fighting, acting like friends... or maybe even differently. I had never actually had something like this." he confessed with a serious tone of voice, contrasting the usual smiley and funny one. "I like spending time with you.".

Mu Qing smiled. It was maybe the first time someone had said they liked spending time with him. He felt… happy?

But he thought he had been happy many times in his life. With whatever that game had taken them, he felt like he had thousands of flowers growing inside him, filling him with a sweet scent and a colorful joy he was afraid of losing. Like the ones he kept in his room, to which he gave special care, he kept it inside his mind and heart, careful; terrified of one day finding all those flowers withering in the blink of an eye.

"I think spending time with you is not as awful as I used to think it was." he said.

Feng Xin smiled and Mu Qing did his best to not smile bigger. But could not suppress it.

"I see your cooking skills are intact! This is so good, I could eat this for the rest of my life!" Feng Xin said, changing the subject of the conversation.

And Mu Qing did not know why, but unconsciously answered: "Then come more often.".

And Feng Xin did. He went every other night only to share a plate of whatever he had. Whether it was porridge, wontons, soup — Feng Xin hated soup — or just the leftovers, Mu Qing sat down next to him and put a table in front of them.

Feng Xin once asked: "Why are you so patient with me?".

Mu Qing giggled and answered: "I was patient with you for more than eight hundred years, sharing with you a plate of what I have for dinner is just that: sharing with you a plate of what I have for dinner.".

Feng Xin tilted his head. "And besides, you are used to it. I remember when you did this for the kids of your block.".

Mu Qing nodded. "True. Mom would say to me: 'Qing-er, we may not have wealth, but if there's something that you don't need, there's someone who needs it. Give it to them. It's better to have just the necessary inside our tummy instead of something rotting over the table.".

Feng Xin cleared his throat and sat next to him. "'Qing-er?'" he smiled. "Do you miss being called like that?".

Mu Qing raised his shoulders and rested his back on Feng Xin's side. "I just miss my mom, we shared the same name." he answered, "But yeah, I guess I also miss that byname.".

"I will call you Qing-er!" Feng Xin exclaimed.

Mu Qing's stomach twisted and his heart beated with energy. That nickname was extremely intimate, but weren't they already? Feng Xin was twirling his index finger in his hair, and he was literally resting on his body. If someone saw it, they would suspect they were a couple.

"Alright." he answered, looking up to find his gleaming amber eyes.

He swallowed down as he felt his heart coming out of his chest. Fuck, maybe it was true that Feng Xin was the best looking God, maybe he liked that idiot.

Having to hide his feelings from Feng Xin was not an issue since he already thought Mu Qing had feelings for him since the first day of the year. The biggest deal was to hide them from those around him.

Xie Lian had invited them to Hua Cheng’s birthday party. Mu Qing found the invitation so funny, didn’t Hua Cheng hate them? Plus, the idea of going to a dinner prepared by Xie Lian was an instant “no” for him. But then remembered: he would get to see Feng Xin dressed up in the cutest way possible. They were not dating but, Gods, why did it feel like they were more than friends?

He arrived at Feng Xin’s earlier. The subordinates of their Palaces were already used to those sneaky visits, so they did not question when he asked them if he could enter his private chamber.

Feng Xin opened the door with his hair loose, falling over his shoulders, in a bare chest.

Mu Qing had to close his eyes and swallow down, it was an absolutely breath-taking view. Even though Mu Qing thought he looked pretty when he saw his own reflection on the mirror after all those cute things Feng Xin had told him to raise his self-esteem; he was the only one who Mu Qing felt was screaming “you are ugly, I’m perfect” in his face, and he was widely okay with it.

“Are you going to do my hair or will you stay there with your eyes closed until we leave? I have already covered my chest, come in.”.

Mu Qing opened one eye and then the other. Feng Xin’s hair seemed golden with how the last rays of sun shined on his head. It was wet and still curvy, it smelled like him and, oh, that scent was like a drug that instantly made him high.

His nimbly slender fingers separated locks and unconsciously did some braids that mixed with golden chains and ended in a long and heavy ponytail that fell right over his hip. He colocated the last hair accessory and stared at it as it was his most perfect work of art.

He cupped Feng Xin’s head with his hands, and bent it straight until he looked in the mirror.

Mu Qing sighed when he saw their reflections, like a painting of a couple. His cheeks burned in a rosy color, and smiled. Feng Xin still played with the tip of his ponytail to curl it a bit more, without taking his eyes off Mu Qing, eating him with his sight, making him feel really uncomfortable but at the same time inviting him to stay there.

Feng Xin suddenly stood up and grabbed him by his wrists. One of his hands pressed on his lower back, making their hips rub each other. Mu Qing felt his toes squirming inside his shoes, this feeling, he… he had never stopped to think about his vows and those manly pleasures he had forbidden because he had never really cared but having him so near and his breaths mixing between the closeness of their faces, he finally knew what it was to feel alive.

“Qing-er, I…”.

Mu Qing opened his mouth to answer but was quickly closed in a wet and warm kiss. A small thread of saliva hung in between when they finally separated their swollen red lips; Mu Qing stayed under his gaze, but with his eyes closed. He just breathed. Both of his hands had travelled to Feng Xin’s neck, who knows when. His ears were not working anymore, he could only feel his heart beating fast and heavy.

Feng Xin’s thumb rubbed his lip and only then he opened his obsidian eyes. Mu Qing looked to the left right where the mirror was and… he loved what he saw. Feng Xin’s arms around him, his scent all over his body and their stupid smiles and blush on their faces He wanted to stay there like that forever.

But they had arranged a dinner. “Let’s go, we will arrive late and that fucking Crimson Rain will kill us.”.

Having to stay there and pretending as nothing had happened was hard, really hard. He had to control himself from blushing everytime he remembered and felt completely exposed when someone pointed at his mouth and said that he had a bit of that disgusting soup in his lips.

Fortunately, he never spoke at those parties.

Xie Lian and Hua Cheng had been together for more than four years, and that was something unimaginable for Mu Qing. Well, it used to be. Now, four months after that stupid New Year's party he couldn't wait for another year and genuinely vote for the man who was sitting before him, playing with the ponytail Mu Qing had done him, and smiling at him from time to time.

Did it feel like this? Being in love, did it feel like a strong fire consuming his organs, that is flushing his cheeks and lighting up his eyes?

"What is going on?" Xie Lian asked.

Only then Mu Qing turned to see him. "With what?".

"With you two. You are acting weird, what did you do?".

What didn't we do, wanted to answer Mu Qing, but chose silence instead.

"Nothing.".

"Gege, don't believe in them." interrupted that stupid Crimson Rain

"You-...!" Mu Qing and Feng Xin answered at the same time, standing up and pointing at him with their index finger.

Hua Cheng stood up too. "I know things.".

"I don't think that's true!" answered Mu Qing.

Hua Cheng snorted as saying 'do you really want to prove me?'. Then, he said, poking Xie Lian: "Gege, did you know that they voted each other in that competition of the best looking God?".

Both Feng Xin and Mu Qing flushed up and then frowned. The latter wanted to say something but chose to keep his lips pressed in a line, and Feng Xin seemed to have done the same.

"Did you?" Xie Lian asked in a playful tone.

"Yes. They wrote their names in the clumsiest calligraphy they could, thinking that me, the person with the clumsiest calligraphy in the three realms, would not notice that!" he laughed. "I'd like to know what changed your opinion, Xuan Zhen, since you've null-voted all these years.".

Mu Qing felt like crying but chose violence in that place. He threw a fist at Hua Cheng, who clearly defended and attacked back even before Mu Qing could even touch him. Xie Lian looked terrified and said:

"Okay, stop, if they like each other then let's not press them into admitting it.".

But Feng Xin yelled: "Who the fuck said that I like him?!".

Mu Qing's eyelashes fluttered in confusion.

He felt like he had been stabbed several times in several parts of his body, but did his best to camouflage it, only by avoiding their gaze and doing his best to keep his lips pressed in a line.

But why did it hurt so much? Hadn't he been playing too? Would he hurt Feng Xin by saying it out loud, too? What if he didn't? Then it all had been a lie and they had to act as if nothing had happened? Would he have to swallow down whatever he felt and go on?

"Let me go, let me go" he insisted with his voice cracking a bit, kicking Crimson Rain's shin.

He loosened his grip. If he had not hated Mu Qing, then the latter would have bet that he was actually regretting having asked that. His stupid romantic ass, he thought.

"Then what's with all those rumours of you two dating? That they saw you leaving each other's rooms, wearing each other's clothes, walking by the hand and even hugging? It can't be a lie!" he said.

"Well, surprise, it can!" Feng Xin said, and walked until his eyes found Mu Qing's.

Mu Qing squeezed his eyelids and prayed for them not to have seen the single tear that had fallen from the corner of his eyes. It was incredible, but Hua Cheng's grip that once seemed like those of a fight, now felt like a comforting hug. After all, Hua Cheng had known what loving and not being loved back was until Xie Lian looked back at him with the same eyes.

Was it what feeling rejected felt? Why did it hurt? Why did it hurt?! Should he say out loud that he did exactly the same? But most importantly, what if he felt that he had not been playing with Feng Xin most of the time? That he had done all of this, except the vote, completely genuine?

Did he look like a toy they could use to play? Or was he that ugly that people only approached him to play with him like when he was a kid?

"I'm sorry Qing-er-... Mu Qing, I… I wanted to play for a little bit and it all got out of my hands." Stop, I can't handle it, Mu Qing wanted to say. "I'm really sorry for humiliating you and exposing you to all those rumours. If I had known earlier, I would have stopped earlier, too." he spoke with that soft voice that he liked, and Mu Qing bit his lower lip to impede himself from crying, tightening the grip of his hand to one of Hua Cheng's fingers.

Because, yes, God, he could not deny that he liked Feng Xin, that he had even fallen in love with him! Such a good actor, and he could not even reprimand him because he had done the same in the beginning! So funny how similar they were, yet so different. Mu Qing was weaker when it was about feelings.

"It's okay, I was playing with you, too." he finally spoke and gazed at Feng Xin who may or may not have seemed to have the corners of his eyes reddened.

Xie Lian laughed uncomfortably and walked until placing between them two. "Fine, since it was all a lie, we can go back to normal and just forget that it all happened, okay?".

All of them nodded except Mu Qing, who stood there just thinking how to formulate an answer. Since nothing came out of his mouth or gestures, he just said: "I… I need to go to my Palace. I forgot I had something to do.".

"But it's San Lang's birthday, Mu Q-..." Xie Lian only stopped when Hua Cheng looked at him and shook his head.

"I'm sorry, I swear I forgot this important… thing." he lied.

He swore he saw Feng Xin extending his arm, asking him not to leave.

But Mu Qing wanted to go to his bed and drown in the bedsheets crying out loud until the pain in his throat would be the only pain he felt! He wanted to sleep until other eight hundred years had passed and everyone around him had made their paths of life so he had to find himself craving for that except that feeling like a stupid teenager in love. His chest sored, he could not take it anymore. He wanted to rest. He needed to.

He arrived at his Palace and did as he wanted. He told his subordinates that he was not feeling well, and made an acoustic isolation shelter over his bed so anybody outside could hear his heart-rending cries and screams. What would it matter, though?! He was going through a heartbreak and- oh, what an irony! He wanted his heartbreaker to heal his broken heart.

It slowly turned darker and darker. Then, silence.

He woke up with a familiar thumb rubbing his forehead. He stayed there, unsure about opening his eyes or not.

"I know you are awake, I know more about you than you think I do." he heard Feng Xin saying.

Mu Qing was now reluctant to face his heartbreaker. He turned around and faced the window instead.

"I came because you were not answering the communication array." he explained, but Mu Qing did not say a word. How long had he been sleeping? "You were using a lot of your energy and your Qi unbalanced. See, if you cry and yell and use your spiritual energy to build a shelter that on top of that is clearly stunning you with your own noises, it is exactly as during a fight." he explained, and rested his hand on Mu Qing's head. He massaged his scalp, while Mu Qing only wished for this game to be over. "You slept for three days and three nights. This would have been the fourth night.".

"Mn." he said. Oh he had a hoarse voice. Had his screams been that loud?

Feng Xin sighed irregularly, like he had been crying too. He took Mu Qing's hand that rested in his side and massaged it too. Then, Mu Qing felt a warm wetness on his knuckles, and knew that Feng Xin had kissed him there.

He swallowed down and turned again to Feng Xin.

It was noticeably clear that he had been crying, or not sleeping, for who knows how much time. His face was swollen and his eyes showed a mist in his pupil and moist around his lower eyelid.

"Qing-er... I'm sorry." he finally spoke, and Mu Qing started crying again. "I was terrified of losing you and did not know that you had feelings for me too. If I had known I wouldn't have said it because it's not true-...".

"Wait, what?" said Mu Qing, getting up to sit with his legs crossed next to Feng Xin.

Feng Xin lowered his head, still playing with Mu Qing's hand and a ring he had once given him. "I…" he sighed, and Mu Qing stopped him.

He stood up with a little help from Feng Xin, and went for a candle without letting his hand go and said: "Let's go to a place where no one can hear us".

Mu Qing took him to a small interior garden full of flowers and small birds that were sleeping at that moment. One of them woke up with the door opening and the small flame that suddenly interrupted their sleep. Mu Qing and Feng Xin sat down on the ground, and the small bird sat in Feng Xin's shoulder. They laughed.

Mu Qing left the candle next to them and gave him his two hands, a small and gentle gesture that now felt so usual. Feng Xin raised them and kissed his palms before letting them down to play again.

"Back then, I voted for you because you always got zero votes and… and I thought that it would be so fucking funny to see you mad at me for voting for you. I did not know that you would vote for me, too, and I would not have known that you had voted for me if it wasn't because the first thing you did was stare at me." he chuckled. "I… thought you liked me! And I… I'm such an idiot, I started a game, and I admit it, okay? But… I slowly realised that the idea of you liking me did not repulse me or whatever. But I knew I fell in love and I felt so fucking stupid, like a freaking pubertal teenager again. Because you… you are so… awesome! And gorgeous, and smart, and caring, and interesting to talk to, and maybe a bit stupid, sarcastic and emotional, but even your negative traits are positive." Mu Qing rolled his eyes with a smile as he could, because he had started crying since the beginning. "Because that's what makes you you! And I… I have fallen for every single corner of… you.".

Mu Qing swallowed down, the bird travelled to his shoulder this time and they laughed again. He did not have words to answer, so he just simply explained his feelings.

"I voted for you because you always voted yourself. And I wanted to expose you, I don't know." he sighed. "That's so stupid now that I think about it." he spoke between his teeth. "You know, I have always been bad with my self esteem. I think people hate me, or that I'm bothering, or that I'm ugly; and seeing your vote made me believe two things: that I was good-looking, or that you were playing with me. And I never realised you were playing." he lowered his head. Had he been talking a bit too much about him? "You were so kind, even kinder than you are with Dianxia, I felt… cared. And you are really beautiful in every single way, in your outside and your inside, I got to see the 'you' people always praise that I couldn't get to see before and… goddamnit, you are so perfect as you are. You seem tough like a wolf but you are soft like a puppy!" he laughed, and cupped Feng Xin's face, who curled inside his hand. "I love you, I really do. Even though you scared the shit out of me three days ago, how could you believe that I didn't have feelings for you?".

Feng Xin raised his shoulders and opened his lips before closing them again, like doubting. Shortly after, he finally spoke: "When I kissed you, you did not kiss me back." he explained and covered his face with his hands. Mu Qing raised an eyebrow and smiled. "I know, I'm so stupid-...".

"But-...".

"And I jumped to conclusions faster than you fell to the lava back then-...".

"Feng Xin!" he laughed. "I didn't know what to do.".

Feng Xin opened his eyes bigger and rubbed Mu Qing's chin with his thumb. He stared at him for a long time and finally spoke, opening Mu Qing's mouth a bit: "Now you do?".

Mu Qing rolled his eyes and nodded. And felt his cheeks burning up when the little bird from his shoulder flew again to the little branch where he slept, only to give space to Feng Xin's arms embracing his neck and Mu Qing's legs pressing his waist. A chaste kiss fell to their lips like a seed on the top of their heads, that finally bloomed into colourful petals and green leaves that now welled up inside their anatomies merged in one.

"You are so stupid, oh goodness." Mu Qing mumbled in his neck between giggles when they finally separated, remembering the fact that Feng Xin had thought he did not love him.

"And you? The dumbest thing to ever exist." Feng Xin fought back, rubbing his hand down and up his back.

Mu Qing smiled and kissed his neck before grabbing him by his fringe and pulling it back, making Feng Xin look up to face him. What a view, he thought, it could not be real.

"Let's just be." he said, and Feng Xin raised an eyebrow. "Let's skip the uncomfortable shit like dates and stuff, we already know each other.".

Feng Xin understood and agreed, and kissed him once more. A sense of possession and pride took over their stomachs when they separated and saw their swollen lips and messy hair.

And that was it. Just the necessary; no stupid misunderstandings and unsaid words rotting on the table.

The next year, a small and simple lantern camouflaged between thousands of others that flew over the river. Two different calligraphies wrote the wish in the fragile paper, expressing their desire of "to just be". The poll? They both still found it unnecessary, they already knew they were dating the most beautiful God that ever existed.