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this boy's so spectacular

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The list of individuals Luo Binghe is comfortable offending has very few omissions. Possibly only one omission. Considering that Shen Qingqiu began his life on Qing Jing Peak with aspirations of knee-hugging, the novelty of frequently having the protagonist wrapped around his thighs doesn’t escape him. And after so many years of misunderstandings and brief dalliances with dropping dead, Shen Qingqiu can’t complain. His thighs are warm. His thighs are safe. His thighs have at least two bite marks on them at any given time.

Still, in the demon realm, Shen Qingqiu’s respect and authority stretch about as far as Luo Binghe’s arm span. Shen Qingqiu owns no land, he has no titles of demonic significance. His rotting corpse is probably more highly sought after in the demon realm than Shen Qingqiu, doted upon husband and Shizun. So, alas, it’s in Luo Binghe’s best interest to build bridges, and Shen Qingqiu’s duty to hastily assemble scaffolding wherever it may be needed.

Thus, Shen Qingqiu finds himself watching Jiuzhong-Jun enter the great hall on the heels of his daughter, Sha Hualing. Following in their wake are two dozen or so retainers, family members, wives and guards. Shen Qingqiu is not cherishing the chore of familiarising himself with them. Still, he stands before his seat to the right of Luo Binghe’s simple throne, attempts to catch a little light off his halo, and musters what he hopes is the perfect balance of imperious and aloof. 

Coming to a standstill before the two of them, Jiuzhong-Jun barely raises his hands in greeting. “This lord had no expectation of invitation to Luo Binghe’s famed palace.”

Luo Binghe waits for Shen Qingqiu to be seated. “You thought it more likely I’d visit you?”

“In force,” Jiuzhong-Jun glances over his shoulder at Sha Hualing, slumped against a pillar and engrossed in her tapered fingernails. “I’m sure if you gave her the barest of nudges, you’d be more than capable of convincing my daughter to slit my throat for you.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” Luo Binghe’s head tilts slightly. “Should the need arise.”

Truly chilling! Shen Qingqiu’s vantage could only be improved by popcorn and something to sip on!

Laughter bubbles slowly up Jiuzhong-Jun’s throat, sharp canines flashing as his face splits into a jagged grin. “Has she joined your harem yet? I confess, I expected more of your wives to be present on my party’s arrival.”

Oh, boy. Perhaps it’s best Shen Qingqiu doesn’t have any snacks to impulsively throw. Luo Binghe’s back straightens. “You are aware of my Shizun, yes?”

“Shen Qingqiu,” Jiuzhong-Jun finally acknowledges him. Again, his bow is distinctly shallow. “I heard you were discreetly wedded. I was unsure if the rumours were slanderous.”

Shen Qingqiu clears his throat, casually straightening his collar. “Qing Jing Peak Lord Shen Qingqiu, Xiu Ya Sword. Master Shen will suffice.”

“He is the only spouse I intend to take,” Luo Binghe’s expression is really too solemn. Shen Qingqiu’s ability to process his undiluted earnestness has grown tenfold in recent months, but a declaration in front of a hall full of dubious potential allies approaches Shen Qingqiu’s limit. And while it’s unlikely that Luo Binghe would protest a fond pat to the head from Shen Qingqiu mid-diplomacy, it’s Shen Qingqiu’s tedious duty to not indulge the urge. Instead, his fans flicks open, a conduit for his rapidly beating heart.

“A single human,” Jiuzhong-Jun’s eyebrow raises, eyes drifting across the handful of guardsmen stationed at entryways. “I suppose for a young lord with such a... sparse court, a sprawling harem would be unwise.”

Is Jiuzhong-Jun trying to die? Can any member of Sha Hualing’s family take a hint when it’s staring them in the -- wait a minute. Sparse court . As if Luo Binghe isn’t capable of single handedly seeing to seventy-five percent of the comings and goings and clashes constantly occurring on and around the vast territories he oversees? All while simultaneously keeping Shen Qingqiu’s underwear clean! If Jiuzhong-Jun thinks Luo Binghe is incapable of satisfying a palace full of paramours, Shen Qingqiu’s ass (and jaw, and wrists) begs to differ. If he thinks Shen Qingqiu is incapable of keeping Luo Binghe satisfied, well… Shen Qingqiu is trying, okay!

Luo Binghe’s icy tone doesn’t falter. “Further mentions of the subject would be equally ill-advised,” to Shen Qingqiu, he asks, “Does Shizun forgive this transgression?”

“Uh…” Shen Qingqiu calms the red-tinged impulse to avenge the slight on Luo Binghe’s competency, chin tilting upward. “In light of our guest’s status, and in light of Luo Binghe’s merciful endeavours to strengthen ties, this master will let it pass.”

Luo Binghe extends his hand palm up to Shen Qingqiu, his scowl yielding to dazzling warmth. “Shizun is gracious.”

Shen Qingqiu places his own hand in Luo Binghe’s, eyes narrowed on Jiuzhong-Jun. “Don’t forget it.”

Certainly Shen Qingqiu has no plan to. No one dead or alive is greater at hyping Luo Binghe. If Jiuzhong-Jun isn’t won around by Luo Binghe’s mere existence, then Shen Qingqiu will stand behind Luo Binghe doing cartwheels. Next to Shen Qingqiu’s PR, Luo Binghe’s protagonist halo will look like a two-day-old glow stick.



--



The following morning, Shen Qingqiu stands behind Luo Binghe, methodically combing his glossy mass of hair into a high ponytail. Pinning a simple crown in place, Shen Qingqiu lets his hands trail down to linger on the short curls at the base of Binghe’s skull.

Somewhere outside, Mobei-Jun is coordinating the saddling of mounts for a hunting group of ten. The sun has barely risen, and breakfast has yet to be served to anyone in the palace but Shen Qingqiu. A small bowl of congee and a plate of youtiao await him on a tray by the bed -- the bed Shen Qingqiu has every intention of slithering back into once Luo Binghe has departed. No doubt Luo Binghe will be back by midday, somehow less ruffled than he was when he left, hopefully dragging the corpses of enough demonic beasts to appease even a man as tiresome as Jiuzhong-Jun. 

The way Shen Qingqiu sees it, anyone unimpressed by Luo Binghe is simply a contrarian. Jiuzhong-Jun can pretend he’s too cool to listen to pop music all he likes, but Shen Qingqiu knows his type. Shen Yuan was two dozen guilty pleasures standing on each other’s shoulders in a trenchcoat. If Shen Qingqiu were a little less focused in his pursuit to support Binghe with all his heart, he would have urged Luo Binghe to send Jiuzhong-Jun and his motley attaché out on their motley ears the second a cheap sneer crossed Jiuzhong-Jun’s face.

Thankfully, Shen Qingqiu’s pettiness takes many forms. Demonic hunts are all just symbolic cock-swinging anyway. Like most concepts in Proud Immortal Demon Way, everything boils down to size. 

Luo Binghe turns in his seat, arm curling around Shen Qingqiu’s thighs. “Shizun’s certain he won’t accompany me?”

“Binghe knows I enjoy watching him kill things, but yes,” Shen Qingqiu has no desire to put on a friendly face for anyone else this early. “You’ll just have to bring something special back for me.”

Binghe’s eyes sparkle . “Of course.”

Shen Qingqiu stares somewhere around Luo Binghe’s collarbone, hands fidgeting with his comb. “If it helps, Binghe has permission to imagine this master lying idly in bed while he awaits his husband’s return.”

Shen Qingqiu yelps as he finds himself abruptly yanked onto Luo Binghe’s firm lap. Pressing his forehead to Shen Qingqiu’s temple, Luo Binghe purrs, “What state of undress will Shizun be in?”

Patting Binghe’s shoulder like a jackrabbit, Shen Qingqiu says, “Binghe may use his discretion.”

Luo Binghe’s chest rumbles, “Then Shizun can keep his socks.”

Shen Qingqiu sighs. Of the fantasies Luo Binghe has shared with Shen Qingqiu, this one ranks as mild. “My toes may yet preserve their modesty. In that case, you’d better not waste your time killing any prey smaller than Jiuzhong-Jun’s.”

Luo Binghe turns Shen Qingqiu’s face with a hand to his cheek, pressing a lingering kiss to his lips. “Yes, Shizun.”

Shen Qingqiu remains on Luo Binghe’s lap as a result of complete loss of structural integrity in his knees. He remains in perfect position for a second, deeper kiss because he chooses to, arms draping across Luo Binghe’s sturdy shoulders.

Soon enough, Jiuzhong-Jun will be obliged to be appropriately awed by Luo Binghe. Either that, or humiliated. Shen Qingqiu isn’t fussy.



--



Luo Binghe strides across the entry courtyard toward Shen Qingqiu. The mace-tailed viper slung over his shoulder smears viscous purple blood on the flagstones, three times the length of his horse and twice as wide. His smile grows as he nears Shen Qingqiu, not an ounce of humility to be found on his radiant face.

Factually, Shen Qingqiu knows the two of them are currently sharing the courtyard with a number of other individuals, Jiuzhong-Jun included. This display is the perfect outcome in every aspect... save Shen Qingqiu’s abrupt urge to shepherd every one of them back out of the palace and slam the gates in their irrelevant faces. Shen Qingqiu should be busy fawning over a) Luo Binghe, and b) the viper’s absolutely disgusting and exhilarating fangs, not worrying what Sha Hualing’s daddy thinks.

The snake’s body hits the ground a conscientious distance from Shen Qingqiu’s boots. Instead of hoisting up his robes and proceeding to ogle, Shen Qingqiu whips a handkerchief from his sleeve, offering it to Luo Binghe as he steps closer.

Still beaming, Luo Binghe accepts it, wiping miscellaneous slime from his fingers. “This disciple regrets that this was the largest trophy he could sensibly return with.”

“Binghe’s strength is accommodating those around him who possess limits he does not,” Shen Qingqiu’s eyes flick briefly to Jiuzhong-Jun where he’s unstrapping a (much smaller) flame toad corpse from the back of a draft horse. “By which I mean his steeds, of course.”

Jiuzhong-Jun insists on bringing his spoils inside to hang and skin in the cellars, dripping toad juice all across the nice clean entryway. “The wildlife differs in the south.”

“No one knows this terrain better than Luo Binghe. He can locate anything,” Shen Qingqiu boasts. “The benefits to leisure are obvious, of course, but it makes for a significant tactical advantage. I take it Jiuzhong-Jun enjoyed himself?”

Jiuzhong-Jun grunts. “Tolerably.” 

Ugh. What does Jiuzhong-Jun enjoy? Probably the smell of his own farts.



--



In the privacy of their bed chambers, Luo Binghe thrusts into Shen Qingqiu where he’s planted in Luo Binghe’s lap. His teeth scrape across Shen Qingqiu’s bare shoulder. 

“Shizun should have been there,” Luo Binghe pants, yanking Shen Qingqiu down to meet his hips. “Just Shizun and I.”

Shen Qingqiu clings to Luo Binghe’s back, sweat stinging his eyes as Luo Binghe bounces his boneless body. 

“This master isn’t going anywhere,” Shen Qingqiu gasps. “There will be time later. Binghe can take me. Binghe is patient.”

Luo Binghe squeezes Shen Qingqiu’s ass where he’s stretched wide around Luo Binghe’s cock. “No, I’m not.”

Well, obviously . Shen Qingqiu was speaking aspirationally. “Binghe will be .”

“We’ll share a horse.” Abruptly, Luo Binghe tips Shen Qingqiu onto his back, folding him in half as Shen Qingqiu’s vision bursts with little black stars. He continues thrusting at a punishing angle, barely missing a beat. “Shizun snug between my legs, where he belongs.”

What Shen Qingqiu intends as chastisement comes out as a thready moan. How is he supposed to comment on another man’s shamelessness while his knees are level with his ears? While he’s red-faced like skewered tanghulu? 

Binghe .”

Luo Binghe laughs, a frantic edge to it, temple pressed to Shen Qingqiu’s, hand closing around his cock. Surrounding and filling and consuming him.



--



The underground palace notably lacks a watercooler around which to congregate. It makes up for it in vast echoing corridors and a certain bargain peak lord who’s good for three things: botched rebirths, efficient admin, and inane gossip. The latter had to come in handy sooner or later.

Catching sight of Shang Qinghua heading in the direction of the guest quarters, Shen Qingqiu breaks into a brief jog across the business hall.

Slowing to a dignified walk, he calls, “Shidi, wait a moment!”

Upon seeing Shang Qinghua flinch at the sound of his voice, Shen Qingqiu has the forethought to rearrange his face into something approximately avuncular.

Turning with a sheepish grin, Shang Qinghua says, “Whatever I did, I’m sure it’s not the end of the world.”

“What? Can’t I say hello?” As they approach Jiuzhong-Jun’s personal rooms, Shen Qingqiu crawls to a snail’s pace, hand clamping in the crook of Shang Qinghua’s elbow. Raising his voice, he urges, “Walk slowly with me. Luo Binghe has this old man worn out.”

“Hey, good for you, bro,” Shang Qinghua adjusts the scrolls bundled in his arms with little to no grace. “I don’t know if I’d have the stamina.”

Count on Airplane to cut to the inappropriate point. “I contemplated staying in bed, you know. All night, non-stop, folding me and pounding me like dough until he’d had his fill.”

Shang Qinghua nods sagely. “Mm, been there.”

“But,” Shen Qingqiu projects in the direction of Jiuzhong-Jun’s closed door. “Who am I to complain when my husband is so well-endowed. And who knows what imbalance would befall him if he were left to suffer his legendary virility alone.”

Shang Qinghua hums. “When I was a kid, I wanted to learn to do the splits. I only stuck with it for like three days, but you just keep doing the same stretches over and over and over until you reach the ground. Demon sex is kind of like that, but without any of the conditioning. Just like, bam . Balls, meet floor. One time I think my king dislocated my hip.”

“Ahaha, yes. Too lively for their own good.” Eyes bulging, Shen Qingqiu leans in close and hisses, “ Bro, what the fuck?

“He popped it right back,” Shang Qinghua shrugs. “Besides, have you ever seen a contrite ice demon? It’s cute. Like emotions gachapon. Really keeps you on your toes.”

Nose wrinkled with a sense of disappointment that’s surely as familiar to Shang Qinghua as it is to Shen Qingqiu, Shen Qingqiu takes the dog shit-covered ball and runs with it. “I suppose Luo Binghe could rip me limb from limb if he desired.” 

Shang Qinghua pats Shen Qingqiu’s hand. “That’s the spirit.”

Shen Qingqiu almost wishes he’d just slipped a copy of Resentment of Chunshan under Jiuzhong-Jun’s door and washed himself of any further effort. This is his penalty for taking Liu-shizhi’s services to pornography for granted.



--



The visiting party’s final night rolls around with the celerity of a cube of concrete.

“Perhaps Jiuzhong-Jun could accidentally fall into a valley somewhere,” Shen Qingqiu murmurs. Staring aimlessly in the polished bronze mirror, he catches sight of the dark smudge of a bruise on his neck. Eyes narrowing at his reflection, he tilts his head to catch the light. “Just for a few days.”

Perched on the bed, Luo Binghe pushes his feet into his boots and stands. “Say the word.”

“Binghe is sweet.” The mark is so faded it doesn’t even hurt at the firm press of Shen Qingqiu’s fingers. When Luo Binghe’s hands settle on his shoulders, Shen Qingqiu asks, “Does Binghe think this master’s collar hides this too much?”

Luo Binghe inhales quietly. “Shizun could wear a lower collar.”

Shen Qingqiu snorts. “Not for Jiuzhong-Jun.”

Hooking his finger in the collar in question, Luo Binghe bends down. “This disciple could make another? A little higher.”

The hope in his voice is unmasked. Always a biter, Luo Binghe barely needs encouragement to leave Shen Qingqiu looking ever so slightly debauched. What simpler way to telegraph Luo Binghe as a uniquely monogamous yet no less dynamite stallion. Shen Qingqiu takes the initiative to loosen his own collar for Luo Binghe’s ease, tugging it out of the way.

Gaze fixed on their smudged reflection, Shen Qingqiu leans back against Luo Binghe’s body, watching as Luo Binghe’s mouth meets the skin below Shen Qingqiu’s ear. Blindly, Shen Qingqiu paws at his dressing table until he stumbles across a folded fan, gripping it like a guardrail. He makes the brief mistake of meeting his own unfocused gaze in the mirror. The man staring back is splotched pink, lips shiny and parted. Shen Qingqiu’s eyes dart quickly away again, like he’s broken some code of conduct, pulse racing as Luo Binghe’s cock presses hard at his back. Letting out a little grunt, Luo Binghe’s fist closes in Shen Qingqiu’s robes over his heart.

Resigned to unsalvageable wrinkles and a swiftly unravelling situation of his making, Shen Qingqiu whispers, “Harder.”

Binghe groans, teeth pulling at Shen Qingqiu’s skin just long enough to shift from gentle irritation to pain. Then Binghe releases, voice rasping as he asks, “Like that?”

Shen Qingqiu clears his throat. He can’t be blamed for the unsteadiness of his breaths. “Is there a mark?”

“A big one.” Luo Binghe licks him. Right over the bruise. Like a lollipop.

It occurs quite calmly to Shen Qingqiu that he may lose his mind if he’s forced to attend a farewell banquet for a man he doesn’t care for without coming his brains out at least once beforehand. “If you like… perhaps you could leave a few more. Just for Binghe.”

Luo Binghe’s breath shudders out of him, hand tightening at Shen Qingqiu’s waist until it pinches. “Shizun .”

Don’t tear my robe,” Shen Qingqiu hastily adds, letting his thighs spread a little as his blood rushes south. “Or make a mess of yours. We’re already going to be late.”

Luo Binghe whines, “What if this disciple can’t help it?”

“Hold on for me. This master will keep Binghe clean.” A stupidly ambitious promise.

Luo Binghe turns Shen Qingqiu in his seat, whipping his belt off before Shen Qingqiu has even finished speaking. Let it never be said that an obedient and restrained Luo Binghe isn’t a dangerous creature.

“They’ll smell you on me,” Luo Binghe’s fingers deftly part each layer of Shen Qingqiu’s robes until his shoulders and chest are bared. “The moment we enter the banquet hall, side by side.” 

Looming over Shen Qingqiu, eyes unclouded, Luo Binghe pushes Shen Qingqiu’s hair out of the way. For a moment, Shen Qingqiu thinks Luo Binghe is about to sit in his lap. A thrill of anticipation shoots down his back, followed by mortification, his face burning cinnabar red. Instead, Luo Binghe leans in, his hand resting reverently at the base of Shen Qingqiu’s throat. Leading with a kiss to Shen Qingqiu’s collarbone, he travels down, lips searing a trail to Shen Qingqiu’s ribs where he latches like a leech. Suddenly lightheaded, Shen Qingqiu settles his hand on the back of Luo Binghe’s handsome head.

His fingers twine in Luo Binghe’s hair. “Does… does this master smell like Binghe?”

“Mhm,” Luo Binghe doesn’t shift from his chosen patch of skin, worrying it with the tip of his tongue. One of his hands creeps between Shen Qingqiu’s legs to find his half-hard cock through his robes.

“Oh. Well, then.” In light of the revelation that Shen Qingqiu has been swanning around reeking of Binghe’s heavenly jizz, his hickey plan feels a little foolish. 

Still. Maybe it is kind of nice… to know that there’s no doubt. And not just for Jiuzhong-Jun. Let no one dare assume Shen Qingqiu leaves Luo Binghe wanting. Let no one question who Shen Qingqiu has chosen, or who he belongs to. “Good.”

He doesn’t remember ordering his hands to remove the rest of his robes, or for his body to lift for Luo Binghe to strip Shen Qingqiu’s trousers to his ankles, and yet. Suddenly, he’s very naked, and Luo Binghe is very knelt between his thighs, gazing up with equally naked hunger.

Some things should be for Shen Qingqiu’s eyes only. Like the sight of his cock disappearing without resistance between the lips of his devastatingly powerful husband. Or of Luo Binghe’s eyes watering as he swallows Shen Qingqiu’s release. Or of babbling Luo Binghe, standing and stripped from the waist down, clutching his robes out of the way as Shen Qingqiu furiously jacks his dick, sacrificing the unfortunate floor to a frankly outrageous volume of Luo Binghe’s come.

Dressed and straightened again, Luo Binghe kisses the back of Shen Qingqiu’s head, inhaling deeply. Shen Qingqiu frantically wills his dick to stay soft.



--



If the two of them stink of impromptu sex, Jiuzhong-Jun has the good grace not to mention it.

Lifting a cube of gelatinous pork to his mouth, dark with soy and rice wine, Jiuzhong-Jun chews, swallows, and announces, “It’s blander than I’d hoped.”

The pork belly held in Shen Qingqiu’s own chopsticks disintegrates under his wrath. Because it’s perfectly cooked and melt in the mouth and if Shen Qingqiu were to glare at it a shade too harshly it would fall to pieces. Luo Binghe put it on the heat to braise no less than four hours ago. He meticulously planned the menu, supervising its prep and orchestration. There’s nothing bland about it.

So what if most of the dishes on offer are Shen Qingqiu’s most requested? If he pitied every man who lacked the title of Luo Binghe’s favourite, he’d never get anything else done. And right now he needs the energy to judge Jiuzhong-Jun his utter lack of good taste while quietly loathing him for disturbing what could have been a nice quiet dinner for two. The chime of crockery, lowered lanterns, the grassy scent of tea. The ease of silence and comfortable conversation. A bath and a bed waiting several feet away.

Suddenly exhausted, Shen Qingqiu sighs.

“Shizun can retire,” Luo Binghe says. His hand has barely left Shen Qingqiu’s leg all evening. The few times it has ventured away, his thigh’s been left cold in contrast. Now, Luo Binghe’s hand moves to the small of Shen Qingqiu’s back, a soothing weight. “I’ll make his excuses.”

“I wouldn’t abandon Binghe to that fate,” Shen Qingqiu bumps his knee against Luo Binghe’s. “Or waste this meal. You’ve outdone yourself.”

“Shizun likes it?” Luo Binghe asks, long eyelashes lowered. He’s fishing. Shen Qingqiu doesn’t care. This bait was concocted specifically for his palate.

“He does,” Less than a week without the simple joy of Luo Binghe bringing meals to him and him alone and Shen Qingqiu is already out of patience. He wants nothing more than to grab Luo Binghe’s arm in one hand and the nearest platter in the other. If they sprint for the door they might make it out before anyone thinks to question them. “This master takes Binghe’s indulgence for granted. To his shame.”

The affection in Luo Binghe’s answering smile is tangible. As blatant as the glossy dumplings he piles into Shen Qingqiu’s bowl.



--



“Your court proves less embarrassing than predicted. Unorthodox as it is.” Jiuzhong-Jun takes a deep breath, exhaling again through flared nostrils. “You may refer to us as allies. Until such time as we aren’t.”

Shen Qingqiu waits for more, tolerant smile fading as it fails to arrive. And? Luo Binghe is a peerless lord of peerless lands and Jiuzhong-Jun’s initial judgements of him were the knee-jerk ravings of a little man with little to offer?

Luo Binghe simply cups his hands and bows. Such a class act. “I don’t look forward to killing you, Jiuzhong-Jun.”

Jiuzhong-Jun laughs like an engine struggling to start. “I’ll be sure to use that against you. And I welcome your next invitation.”

It’s unlikely that Shen Qingqiu’s complexion actually tinges green, but it feels like it does.

Just as they’d arrived, Jiuzhong-Jun and his party filter out of the great hall. Before Shen Qingqiu’s ire at Jiuzhong-Jun’s understatement has a chance to reach sizzling point, Luo Binghe’s arms wind around his waist. Pulled to Luo Binghe’s chest, it quenches.

“At last,” Luo Binghe says softly. “This disciple’s attention is all Shizun’s. Did he miss it like I did?”

It’s not as if it was absent. Shen Qingqiu still ate Luo Binghe’s food and slept at his side and felt the drag of Luo Binghe’s fingers across his scalp as Luo Binghe washed his hair before bed. He strives for objectivity, fondly bopping Luo Binghe’s head with his fan. 

“Binghe is an important man. Worthy of everything he possesses.” Rocked by an urgent wave of tenderness, Shen Qingqiu raises a palm to cup Luo Binghe’s cheek. “This master does not begrudge him his duties.”

Luo Binghe covers Shen Qingqiu’s hand with his own, eyes doleful. “Distractions.”

“Responsibilities that no one is better equipped to carry out.” Luo Binghe’s eyes grow bigger and wetter. Shen Qingqiu’s foolish heart gallops. Oh, fuck objectivity. “Though this master wouldn’t complain if Binghe relieved himself of them. For just a day or two.”

And like that, the sun comes out, tears instantly banished. Luo Binghe turns his head to lay a kiss on Shen Qingqiu’s palm. “This disciple will make arrangements for our absence.”

“Delegate,” Shen Qingqiu insists. “Let me help. I can be extremely useful when I want to be.”

Steering Shen Qingqiu toward the door, Luo Binghe says, “I know.”

That Luo Binghe would bend over backwards to prevent Shen Qingqiu from laying across a metaphorical puddle for him doesn’t mean Shen Qingqiu wouldn’t. What use is his healthy body and his good name if not in service of defending Luo Binghe’s? If not in pursuit of making Luo Binghe’s life lighter? It’s easier for Shen Qingqiu, anyway. To show Luo Binghe that he’s loved, than to say it.

Luo Binghe will always be welcome to cling to Shen Qingqiu’s thighs, if that’s what Luo Binghe wants. Shen Qingqiu’s too soft to prohibit it anyway. But it’s more comfortable for both of them, Luo Binghe’s head in Shen Qingqiu’s lap, and the mutual peace of gently stroked hair.