He still finds it odd when people say that they have a hard time noticing the differences between the new Huan Hua Palace Master and the Qing Jing Peak Lord. He’s heard them laugh and say that if it weren’t for the sect coloring that they’d never be able to pick them apart.
How strange. These days, it’s harder for Yue Qingyuan to see them for their similarities than it is for him to see them by their differences. He could spot which one was which even if they were both clothed in the same attire from a room away, and it baffles him a little how others can’t do the same.
There was only one time that blurred between the two of them, when Yue Qingyuan had seen Xiao Jiu in the place of Shen Yuan and he’d almost murdered Luo Binghe for it. That was at Huan Hua Palace with Shen Yuan lying on the floor looking so small and so scared and hurt with a Qiu in the room, and it’d triggered something inside of him that’d almost had him razing the whole place to the ground. Nowadays he knows that if he were put in a similar situation, he’d still have the same response be it Shen Jiu or Shen Yuan in the center of it.
It’s still a little strange, to have ‘Shen Yuan’ here, but it’s nice to finally have a real name to put to him. The whole story between Xiao Jiu and Shen Yuan holds so many hints of Xiao Jiu’s fingerprints on it – it fits too perfectly, and Yue Qingyuan knows far too well that nothing in life is ever that flawless – but he doesn’t question it because whatever secret it is that they’re hiding from the world is theirs and theirs alone. They’ve been through enough at this point, Yue Qingyuan figures he can let them have this if that’s what they want.
Besides, Xiao Jiu is more relaxed these days since his return. More at ease with himself and less concerned with proving to himself that he belongs where he is. It was always Xiao Jiu’s biggest hang-up, the way he saw himself and the weight of his past that always made him feel as though he were a fake playacting instead of the person who had legitimately earned all of those merits. It’s everything Yue Qingyuan ever wanted for him, to see him finally settle into himself and his role. He notices that Shen Yuan is looking at him curiously and he smiles softly, a silent apology for his wandering mind.
“Yue-shixiong, may I ask you a question?” Shen Yuan asks, still using the titles that he once used as Shen Qingqiu. None of them have called him out on it, since each of the Peak Lords still consider him as one of their own. Hearing them refer to him as ‘Xiao Qing’ has been rather hilarious as well.
“You never once believed I was him…did you?” Shen Yuan asks, tilting his head a little in that telling way that he always did when he was curious about something. A subtle tick that Shen Jiu had never once exhibited in all their lives. Yue Qingyuan feels the small, almost amused smile touch his lips as he shakes his head lightly.
“No, I didn’t.” He replies and Shen Yuan huffs out a soft sound.
“I guess I’m not surprised.” He says before he looks at him. “Have you told him that?”
“Yes.” He says.
“Good.” Shen Yuan gives a small nod as he picks up his tea and sips it. “He’s had enough misunderstandings about who he is, and people assuming things about him for several lifetimes. It’s good to know that he’s getting the answers he needs.” He puts down the tea.
“What about you? How is Huan Hua Palace treating you these days?”
“It’s…a lot.” Shen Yuan admits. “Mostly because of all of the rapid changes though. It’ll calm down here soon enough once I finish getting all of the new teachers settled and finish up with restoring everything into working order.” He looks at him. “Thank you for the recommendations by the way.”
“I’m pleased that they were sufficient.” Yue Qingyuan replies and Shen Yuan just give him a soft smile. Shen Yuan goes to say something else when the door gets thrown open and Shen Jiu is standing in the doorway.
“You!” He snarls as he takes a step forward into the room and Shen Yuan makes a soft noise of amusement as he quickly pushes himself to his feet and against all rational judgement…smiles at Shen Jiu.
“Yes? What is it?”
“I thought you were going to sleep with the door unlocked? Both eyes firmly closed? Isn’t that what you said gege?” Shen Yuan teases Shen Jiu and Shen Jiu just pauses for a moment, before the most beautiful and serene and almost kind looking smile spreads on his face.
“Come here for a moment, A-Yuan.” He says and his voice is like a mother calling her beloved child to her open arms. “I just want to talk to you.” Shen Yuan mutters a soft ‘hell no’ as he shakes his head and Shen Jiu approaches calmly at first – before he tries to grab at Shen Yuan and Shen Yuan makes a noise of surprise before Shen Jiu starts…chasing Shen Yuan around the table…like they were children. “Why are you running A-Yuan?”
“Why are you chasing me!”
“I just want to talk to you for a second.”
“I’m not stupid!”
“History begs to differ!”
“So cruel Jiu-ge!” They’re a passing blur of yellow and green, round and round the table that Yue Qingyuan is still sitting at and he just reaches forward and grabs his tea, sipping it calmly. There’s a…warm feeling that spreads in his chest as the two continue their little game and there are no words to describe the feeling of being able to watch Xiao Jiu lower his constant vigilance over his ‘image’ and chase his younger brother around with a fan. “Yue-shixiong! Save me!”
“Even he can’t save you now!”
He takes another sip of tea to try and hide his smile. He wouldn’t trade this moment for anything.